Dear Cupid

Published February 7, 2012 by Patty Brisben

Dear Cupid,

I’m writing to you to ask for a little assistance. You are the perfect cherub for the job, as we’re both in this love business together. We’d make a dynamic duo, I swear. We can change the world, one relationship at a time! Before I make my request, let me share a bit of a story with you.

At the beginning of 2012, I had an idea to commit myself to writing down one thing about the day that I’m thankful for. At the end of every night, I write this one thing. I set out doing this to help me see all the good in my life, and to see how the bad can turn out to be good or teach me something new. I believed that by focusing on one good thing every night, I’d see more good in my life all the time.

My decision to do this was confirmed just a few nights ago. I attended a seminar by the esteemed Dr. Andrew Weil. His seminar was about how to be the happiest, healthiest you there is. One of his suggestions was to take one week, carve out a time each day, and write down what you’re thankful for. Dr. Weil referred to studies in which people who kept daily gratitude journals reported more satisfaction of their lives and were more optimistic about their lives. Additionally:

“A third study reproduced the results among a group of people suffering from various neuromuscular diseases, including post-polio syndrome, which has symptoms similar to those in CFS. People using daily gratitude journals reported more satisfaction with their lives and were more optimistic about the future than the control group. Interestingly, the gratitude group also reported getting more sleep, spending less time awake before falling asleep and feeling more refreshed in the morning.”

Dr. Weil  and this research reaffirmed my belief in what I was doing with my own gratitude journal, but what he was saying made me think about more than just an individuals life. I thought, “What if this was applied to relationships?” I truly believe this could be the key to better couples’ relationships.

Cupid, this month, please give couples around the globe an assignment to write down one thing they’re thankful for about the other person each day. Our world is so negative that we’re constantly seeking happiness. What we don’t do, though, is actively try to remove the negativity; we simply look for something else. By writing out what one is thankful for in their significant other, it helps bring satisfaction to the relationship. When you focus on the good, there will be more good in your life and in your relationship.

It’s a simple, proven solution. It helps individuals appreciate their lives more—it could help couples appreciate their significant others more, too. I know that with your help, we can make this happen! So are you in?

Thanks,

Patty

Monthly Goal Check-Up

Published January 30, 2012 by Patty Brisben

This month, I’m taking on the challenges that come with New Year’s Resolutions in order to figure out exactly how one can make sure she makes good on her promises, goals, and resolutions. Read my past posts and weigh in!

We’re nearing the end of January—how are you stacking up to the goals you set? At the end of January and every month in 2012, answer the following questions to see how you’re doing with your resolutions, goals, and dreams!

1. How do you think you’re goal(s) are coming along?

2. What are you doing, every day, to contribute to your goal(s)?

3. What can you do better next month to ensure you’re striving for your goals?

4. Is there anything you want to change about your goals, or anything new you’ve realized about them? If so, what would that be?

5. When do you find yourself to be least motivated?

6. What gives you a burst of motivation?

7. What makes you completely forget about your goals and what can you do about that?

8. On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being not at all and 10 being extremely, how much do you still want to achieve each of your goals?

9. Think about the reasoning behind your grading.

10. How are you rewarding yourself for making progress with your goals?

Complete this questionnaire at the end of every month if you are serious about your goals. Make your dreams a reality! It is up to you.

Giving Change a Chance

Published January 17, 2012 by Patty Brisben

This month, I’m taking on the challenges that come with New Year’s Resolutions in order to figure out exactly how one can make sure she makes good on her promises, goals, and resolutions. Read my past posts and weigh in!

Change. It’s a funny thing that humans both crave and resist. By nature we’re restless, indecisive people. We’re tired of the car we have now, but seek a new car that has the same features as the old. When you search for a new pair of boots for winter, you want something fresh, but don’t want to stray too far from the boots you had last year (or is that just me?).

January for me is proof that we are all resisting change. Change that forces us to come out of our comfort zone and step into the unknown. Often, when we’re trying to change something about ourselves, we find it incredibly hard. Maybe the change itself isn’t as hard as the challenge to commit to ridding ourselves of what the old version of the habit was like and how comfortable it feels. It’s easier for us to return to what we know so quickly that we barely give change a chance.

Take exercising, for example. Let’s say that your revamped routine—your 2011 routine simply consisted of the elliptical and maybe a fitness class here and there. For 2012 you add in pilates, weights, and spinning. As you go about your new routine, challenges arise: you test your limits and take chances. After a week or so of the new routine, you say, “Forget this. I like what I know. It’s fine.” It wasn’t necessarily the new routine; it’s the fact that you are unwilling to take on the challenge and push yourself. And this is ultimately what gets in the way of your success.

Maybe what it comes down to is that Americans are too much a culture of ease. We like things to be fast, easy, and simple. That’s why there’s a Starbucks on every street corner and we live on meals that are ready-made in five minutes or less. We have a reputation for wanting the greatest output with as little input as possible. It’s easier to drive up to a window and buy a meal than it is to rearrange our schedules to buy the groceries, to chop vegetables, and then cook the meal.

On the other hand, we’re also a society of classic overachievers, striving to do so much in every aspect of our lives that personal goals take last priority. We want to be the best at our jobs, to fulfill our kids’ every need, to be a perfect wife, to be the most understanding employee, to be beautiful, skinny, smart— I could go on and on. Our culture is driven by a false sense of security surrounding success, and the easiest success to measure is the sort that can be seen and therefore noted by others. We thrive on recognition and knowing that we’ve worked as hard as possible. But by stretching ourselves beyond the limit, we shelve our personal goals.

Now let’s practice last week’s self-compassion lesson. Be kind to yourself! Celebrate every small achievement. Put your personal goals first. And finally, know you will get through a change. Remind yourself to embrace change. At first this might feel weird, but it will get easier and you will be happier in the months to come.

Mental, physical, financial—whatever your goals are, working through the un-comfortableness will be worth it. Be patient, be kind, and welcome the change. You are worth it!

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The Key Is Compassion

Published January 9, 2012 by Patty Brisben

As we strive to achieve our goals this month (and hopefully throughout the new year!), it’s easy to become overwhelmed with wanting to do so much in so little time. By the end of January, we have plans of grandeur that we hope we’ve accomplished. One thing we must remember is that goals aren’t always cut and dry. Sometimes goals are just like humans: a constant work in progress.

What’s common for women to do when they set up their resolutions is that they feel guilty when they’ve slipped up. You’re probably familiar with how this goes. “Well, I already ruined my diet with those fries at lunch. Screw the rest of the day. I’ll restart my diet tomorrow. I am a failure!” Dramatic? Sure. But it’s probably not that far off from what’s happened in your own life. We slip up and then we berate ourselves. For some reason, this is just what women have a tendency to do. One slip-up and we call ourselves worthless failures with no talent or qualities to be proud of.

What separates people who achieve their goals from people who don’t might be how kind one is to herself. New research suggests that people who are more compassionate toward themselves are more likely to be happy and less likely to be depressed. After falling off the wagon, a self-compassionate person tells herself, “Whoops! I made a mistake! It happens. Oh well, let’s start over right now.” A person who is not compassionate with herself thinks, “Ugh! I am terrible. Why am I even trying to be healthy? I should just quit.” Now, which attitude do you think will get you somewhere? Exactly!

We’ve already taken care of the details of our resolutions and goals. What you need to do now is tend to the emotional side of your goals. Be mindful of not just the emotions that made you create your goals, but the emotions that accompany your actions when trying to achieve them. Pat yourself on the back when you’ve smoked one less cigarette, volunteered an hour at a food bank, or made it to the gym more than once a week. Don’t fall into a uncompassionate mindset that says you didn’t do well enough, that you should have smoked less, you should have spent every afternoon volunteering, or you should have made it to the gym every day. One small success leads to a multitude of greater successes down the line, so don’t waste your time feeling bad about a slip-up or the feeling that you haven’t done enough. Compliment yourself instead!

I believe that being kinder to yourself might make you more likely to achieve what you want. At the same time, though, it’s important not to confuse being kind to yourself with lowering your expectations or standards. Just because you’re cutting yourself some emotional slack doesn’t mean you should start to think you can’t achieve something and nix your goals altogether. Your standards for yourself can absolutely be high, and you can still manage to be nice to yourself when things don’t go according to plan.

What all this goal making and self-compassion comes down to is this: When you care about yourself, you care about choices. When you treat yourself well, you make choices that affect you in a positive manner. Keep this in mind as you continue to make progress on your New Year’s Resolutions. You are your own worst enemy, just as you are your own solution.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Making Them Happen!

Published January 5, 2012 by Patty Brisben

Happy New Year! We’re finally back—by now I hope you’re back to work and off to a great start. Welcome to the year of the Dragon! A sign of success and happiness, the Dragon year already promises great things ahead, and you’re probably already promising yourself a success-filled year ahead, too.

On January 1, Americans tend to be the most optimistic about the year to come. We all set plans of greatness for the next year. Everything goes perfectly at first. We exercise regularly, we eat more vegetables than usual, and we haven’t touched alcohol in days. We zoom along this path for maybe a few weeks before the inevitable happens: the rest of our lives get in the way and we forget our grand goals.

Below, from TIME, are the top 10 commonly broken New Year’s resolutions:

1) Lose weight and get fit.
2) Quit smoking.
3) Learn something new.
4) Eat healthier and diet.
5) Get out of debt and save money.
6) Spend more time with family.
7) Travel to new places.
8) Be less stressed.
9) Volunteer.
10) Drink less.

Aren’t you tired of never resolving your resolutions? I know I am. Instead of dwelling on failure, though, it’s important to acknowledge what’s going wrong here.

One aspect of goal making that sets people back is that they tend to set themselves up for failure. A lot of times, goals aren’t specific enough. Take the first from the list, for example. “Lose weight and get fit.” OK, great! But how much weight do you want to lose? And what’s your plan to lose that weight? We know the “what” but we don’t know the “how’s”. What happens is that people have an idea but they don’t have a plan. When it comes to resolutions, whether you achieve them is in the details.

Here’s how I aim to make my resolutions happen in 2012: by being specific. This means writing out my goals as such:

Resolution: At the end of each day, I want to be thankful for something.
Why I want this:
To help me see all the blessings in my life, even in the events that don’t go the way I planned. There’s always something to be learned.
How I’m going to make it happen:
Keep a calendar in which I write down every night what I’m thankful for on that day.
Deadline:
Ongoing. No deadline. Just write at least one thing I’m thankful for every single day.

By detailing my goals, I’ve given myself directions on how I can really make this happen. Instead of aiming for a general goal, I’ve made it very specified. This helps me see my goal more clearly, and also helps me see how attainable it truly is. I’m seeing the how’s and why’s of my goals instead of the hopeful end result.

In 2012, I’m making a commitment to myself to stick with my top goal. It can be something small or something huge; it can be giving up something or adding something to your routine. Whatever your resolution is, my wish for you is that it enriches your life. And whatever it is, commit yourself to it. Figure out your what’s, why’s, and how’s, and you’ll be set. Here’s to an incredible new year!

A Very Special New Year’s Eve

Published December 30, 2011 by Patty Brisben

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Instead of singing the traditional song “Auld Lang Syne”, which translates to “old long since” or “days gone by,” my family and I will be celebrating of the end of one chapter and the beginning of another in a different way.

Every year, we kiss the past goodbye and dive into the future. New Year’s Eve is like a marriage to the New Year. We fully dedicate ourselves to it and trust it with everything we have. On this New Year’s Eve, my daughter will be leaving not only entering a new year and starting a new era. She is parting from one family to join her husband in founding their own. Lauren and her soon-to-be husband Andy will start their life together in marriage as soon as 2011 ticks over to 2012.

I’ve always loved New Year’s Eve because it’s starting anew. Ahead of you is a blank canvas that you can turn into anything you want. For those, like my daughter, preparing to wed in 2012, you have to consider what being a wife means today and what marriage brings to the forefront. One of the things you’ll learn is that what you put into your marriage is what you get out of it—and marriage is hard work!

Over the years I’ve heard it all, but more commonly nowadays I’ve been able to find a common theme. Women young and old, engaged or married, are struggling to find the definition of what it truly means to be a wife and how to be a wife without losing yourself.

Biblically, the bonds of marriage are to supersede everything else, for better or worse – in sickness and in health. But do those vowels really overcome lack of desire, boredom, unhappiness: the power of marriage is supposed to remind the couple if their commitment to overcome any issue that comes their way.  However,  Culturally, we are still figuring out who should play what role; can the woman be the breadwinner?; can the man be the stay-at-home dad?  The answer is Yes, if that works for you and your spouse.

Millions of women have felt the pressure of needing to give up her own dreams, hopes, and life in order to fulfill her husband’s wishes or to fill the role she thinks he wants her to fill. It’s natural to be nervous about stepping into new roles. But know that you don’t have to give up anything; you just have to rearrange. Self vs. Wife and Mother vs. businesswoman—it’s all possible. You just have to figure out how to make each situation and dream work for you.  No one can define your marriage or relationship for you but you. And by the way starting anew does not mean forgetting the rest of your roles.

Unfortunately, our society is not this way. We live in a world of consumerism. In America and a large majority of the world, when something is broken, we toss it aside for something new. With marriage, a couple has to work through the sometimes difficult and ugly circumstances that occur instead of merely escape them. Again, what you put into your relationship is what you will get out of it. That said, over the past three decades I’ve been blessed to recognize that people have want to believe in love, marriage and the power of the relationship – and the hope that they are willing to do what it takes to communicate, spice it up or start anew.

My New Years wish is that each of you recognize that as humans, with the power of choice it can be hard deciding what idea to support. But it’s time to recognize what the majority of couples fail to realize: that marriage and your definition of it, as well as your role within it, is entirely up to you and your partner. You can define it however you want. It doesn’t matter what your best friend’s or parents’ marriage has been like; the inner workings of every couple is and should be different. There is no right or wrong. At the end of the day, you have to know that you’ve both contributed to your relationship and to making it work.

And truly take into account that we ALL (including you) have our faults. Our partners do, too. Sometimes, because of our egos, we can’t set the past aside and we let our past errors affect our future. Until we choose to work through our feelings of the past or we choose to leave the past behind, we can’t get beyond the negativity. You have to stop and forgive yourself as you go. Be kind to yourself and realize that what’ you’ve gone through happened in order to confirm what you do or don’t want to do in your future. Forgive as you go along, and be sure to forgive your partner, too. The hardest thing for couples to do is to give and treat each other with grace. This is something to strive for in all your relationships: the one with your partner, your family, your friends, and most importantly, yourself.

Whether you’re single, engaged, on your way to the altar, or wed, the New Year offers everyone an opportunity to refresh their relationships (even your relationship with yourself). Treat the New Year as a new chapter in your relationship. Evaluate what your relationship is like now, what you love about it, what you’d like to change about it, and how you can make your relationship even better.

Give grace where you would want it given to you.

It’s never too late to make things better. It’s never too late to start working on your own dreams again. And it’s never too late to find true, respectful, lasting love.

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Best of YOU List!

Published December 27, 2011 by Patty Brisben

Allure magazine prints its Best of Beauty list every year, honoring awesome products and salons around the U.S. The Grammy awards acknowledge the best artists, albums, and performances of the year. The Oscars honor stand-out actors, films, and musical scores. Every city, publication, and industry honors its best qualities and moments of the year. But do you acknowledge your own best qualities and moments of the year? Now is the time!

Fill out the below list about yourself to see how you’ve done in 2011!

My favorite moment of the year was __________________________________________________

I deserve the _________________ award this year because ________________________________

My most stylish moment was _______________________________________________________

The greatest personal success for 2011 was ______________________________________________

I’m most proud of myself for ____________________________________________________this year

I never thought I’d do it, but in 2011 I __________________________________________________

I had the best time with my friends when we _____________________________________________

I had the best time with my family when we ______________________________________________

I had the best time with my significant other when we _______________________________________

I felt sexiest when _______________________________________________________________

My healthiest choice of 2011 was _____________________________________________________

My happiest memory of 2011 is ______________________________________________________

The biggest learning experience of 2011 was _____________________________________________

Now that you’ve reflected on your 2011, think about how you filled in the blanks. How did you feel while you were filling this out? Probably happy, I hope! Think about these moments you wrote about: What’s the take-away? What can you learn from those experiences to make 2012 even better? Focusing on the good you created in 2011 will help you create a surplus of favorite moments in 2012! Remember the effort, energy, and attitude that went into creating your bests and figure out how to emulate that time and time again. Let’s make 2012 the best year yet!

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