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By now, most of you have probably caught on to what podcasting is, even if you've never listened to one before. I describe podcasts to people as a cross between a radio show and an audio book, except in conversation form. You'll find podcasts on nearly any topic you can imagine and, with the rapid advance of smart phones, listening to them has become more convenient than ever.

If you're new to podcasting, let me take a quick moment to explain how they work. Podcasts are recorded audio broadcasts that get stored online. They are aggregated by platforms like iTunes, so people can easily search for the episodes and topics they are interested in. You can play podcasts on your phone or computer using dedicated apps such as Overcast. They are then stored on your device and you can listen to them at your leisure, while driving in the car, working out at the gym, or relaxing in bed.

Now that you know what a podcast is, here are four I recommend for the positive impact they can have on your daily life.

1. The Good Life Project

Hosted by Jonathan Fields, the Good Life Project features a different guest each week. During these interviews, Fields asks pointed questions about how the guest achieved success in his or her life, and what lessons were learned along the way. These conversations are upbeat and inspiring, as Fields does his best to elicit takeaway moments that will resonate with listeners.

Past episodes worth checking out include Seth Godin, Mark Nepo, and Brene Brown.

2. Ted Radio Hour

If you check out any list of the most popular podcasts, they will inevitably be littered with NPR shows. You can't go wrong listening to Fresh Air, This American Life, or Prairie Home Companion. But if you're looking for a show that can both educate and inspire, the Ted Radio Hour is the way to go.

Hosted by Guy Raz, the show takes the best TED Talks and adds additional interview material. Each episode is based around a theme, and includes several speakers, so you'll get a well-rounded take on topics such as creativity, animals, and innovation. The show explores ideas such as astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, and new ways to think and create.

Some can't-miss episodes include Simply Happy, Quiet, and The Meaning of Work.

3. Tara Brach

Hosted, appropriately enough, by Tara Brach, this podcast focuses on meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening. Brach is a leading teacher of Buddhism, and each episode starts out with a 30-minute guided mediation session. She then speaks for close to an hour on key themes associated with Buddhist teachings.

This podcast is especially useful for helping to stay relaxed and centered, if only because of her soothing voice. There's no need to recommend a particular episode. Just start with the most recent, and I think you'll find it easier to achieve peace and mindfulness if you make this podcast a part of your regular routine.

4. Daily Boost

The Daily Boost aims to help you discover what makes you happy, reduce your stress, and become inspired. The show helps listeners to master the life skills they need to balance their life and achieve greater success. Host Scott Smith specializes in motivating people with his straight-talking style that is both fun and effective. The Daily Boost has been iTunes' most popular Self-Help podcast since 2006.

As its name proclaims, episodes are released Monday through Friday. Again, no one podcast stands out, but you'll probably find that its upbeat tone will become an indispensable daily listen.

Whether you are new to podcasts or an old veteran, these are shows you won't want to miss. And don't forget that if you find yourself in need of more attentive instruction, you can contact me about being your personal life coach. You can learn more about my coaching services and packages here, as well as read client testimonials.


 
 
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“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Neale Donald Walsch

We’ve often been told that it’s important to step outside of our comfort zones, so much so that perhaps it has become trite to say so. But it turns out there is hard scientific data that indicates how beneficial it can be to push the boundaries on what we think is possible.

Scientists define the comfort zone as a psychological state in which a person feels familiar and at ease, while experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. Examples of a comfort zone can vary from person to person, but include a stable home or work environment, as well as normally frequented locales and situations filled with friends and acquaintances. The term can apply to places, relationships, sports, or events, and implies a level of familiarity and comfort that allows a person to relax.

When put in scientific terms like this, it’s a wonder why a person would ever want to leave their comfort zone. Why leave behind a place that is so relaxing in order to face a situation that is uncertain, frightening, and perhaps even dangerous?

Because there are solid reasons for doing so. For example, The Wall Street Journal has an article that posits “Somewhere between checked out and freaked out lies an anxiety sweet spot, some researchers say, in which a person is motivated to succeed yet not so anxious that performance takes a dive. This moderate amount of anxiety keeps people on their toes, enables them to juggle multiple tasks and puts them on high alert for potential problems.”

Or put another way, when we stay inside our comfort zone, and have no reason to fear or be anxious, it’s easy to become complacent and no longer be operating at top alertness. We become sloppy, careless, and may even act recklessly.

One reason we often choose to stay within our comfort zone is that we learn to fear failure. But that fear can lead us to avoid taking risks, which means we’ll often come well short of our potential. One of the best reasons to push ourselves is that it allows us to learn what we are truly capable of.

John Gardner, in his book “ Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society,” writes, “One of the reasons why mature people are apt to learn less than young people is that they are willing to risk less. Learning is a risky business, and they do not like failure. In infancy, when the child is learning at a truly phenomenal rate — a rate he will never again achieve — he is also experiencing a shattering number of failures. Watch him. See the innumerable things he tries and fails. And see how little the failures discourage him. With each year that passes he will be less blithe about failure. By adolescence the willingness of young people to risk failure has diminished greatly. And all too often parents push them further along that road by instilling fear, by punishing failure or by making success seem too precious. By middle age most of us carry in our heads a tremendous catalogue of things we have no intention of trying again because we tried them once and failed — or tried them once and did less well than our self-esteem demanded.”

Finally, if that’s not enough to convince you, a 2013 study found that learning demanding new life skills as you age helps to keep you mentally sharp. Denise Park, a researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas, said, “It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something—it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially. When you are inside your comfort zone you may be outside of the enhancement zone."

Specifically, unfamiliar activities such as quilting or digital photography were found to have significant benefits on mental acuity over time. Other more familiar tasks, such as listening to classical music or completing word puzzles, had no visible benefit on memory.

The benefits of learning to take risks and move outside your comfort zone are plentiful, including in business and sports. If you want to learn to be smarter about how and when to take risks, try working with a life coach. Contact me today for a free consultation.


 
 
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More and more, it can feel like technology advances and industry shifts are making it difficult to stay on top of the skills and knowledge we need to stay at the forefront of our chosen field. But for working adults, the longer we’ve been out of school, the harder it can be to face the prospect of returning to class. Sometimes even admitting that we need to learn a new technology or skill can be a challenge. 

But the necessity for adult learning has never been greater, and those who embrace the challenge will be better equipped to deal with current and future realities. 

The good news is that learning opportunities have never been more prevalent. The decision is no longer a simple choice between grad schools, but rather selecting from a buffet of online classes, weekend workshops, and adult retreats that offer precision learning opportunities for specific skills, whether it’s mastering a new piece of software, taking an online course in a related field, or getting qualified for a particular license that’s necessary for career advancement. 

For example, while many of the courses at Creative Live are tailored for photographers and graphic designers, they also offer a plethora of workshops aimed at small business owners. These courses tend to last 1 to 3 days and feature expert instructors guiding you through practical lessons. Topics covered include finance, software, legal instruction, marketing, social media, and more. The best part is if you watch live, there’s no cost, and you only need to pay if you want to download the class so you can watch later. 

Additionally, if you live in a university town, you should check what programs are available to local residents to take or audit classes. For example, the University of Oregon allows Eugene residents to sign up for up to 8 credit hours at a greatly reduced rate as part of their community education program. And no matter where you live, leading universities such as Harvard and MIT are giving students all over the world the opportunity to participate in certain online courses for free. Available courses include The Fundamentals of Neuroscience and an Introduction to Aerospace Engineering. 

And while becoming a full-time student may be impossible for most working adults, with families to support and incomes to maintain, community colleges provide a comprehensive array of night and weekend courses marketed to busy professionals. Monster.com has an interesting article that highlights many of the opportunities that community colleges can afford. For example, “Information technology is one area of special strength for community colleges. For the IT certifications that can give aspiring technologists a toehold, many community colleges offer unsurpassed training.”  

Of course, one of the most common reasons for professionals to return to school is to receive an MBA. In addition to leading to significant salary boosts, MBA programs offer tremendous internship and networking opportunities and high-level management training. Many companies offer financial assistance to employees who enroll in an MBA program, and a lot of promotional opportunities are only available to staff with MBAs.  

Whatever industry you’re in, you’ll want to research what the advantages are for having an MBA. Of course, this is true of other master’s level degrees as well. For example, depending on the industry, you may be better off with a graduate degree in Public Policy or Public Health, or maybe even a law degree, rather than an MBA. Figure out where you want your career to be in ten years, and find examples of people who have already followed a similar career path. What degrees do they have? It’s a good bet you’ll want to follow a similar track. 

Whatever option you end up taking, whether it’s a full-time return to school, an online course, or a weekend workshop, time management is going to be essential. You’ll want to carefully plan out your schedule, and don’t forget to budget extra time for study and networking. 

I know how daunting it can be to think about returning to school or learning a new skill. That’s why it can be really helpful to have someone to talk through all the options and offer guidance and support when it comes to exploring your career options. A life coach can be extremely useful in helping you come up with a fruitful and successful path to furthering your career. 

Contact me today and we can start discussing where you’d like to see your career take you.

 
 
 
 
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With the up and down state of the economy over the past several years, many of us have struggled when it comes to making ends meet. Whether you’ve been unexpectedly laid off, had your salary frozen, or faced an increase in costs, your credit has probably taken a hit.

If you’re looking to repair your credit, I’m sure you’ve come across plenty of bombastic claims that for a minimal fee, a company can provide a quick fix to your credit woes. If only credit repair were that easy!

The truth is that long term financial security takes time and effort, and the reality is any attempts at a quick fix will likely do more harm in the long run than good. But with a solid plan and by following a few simple rules, it is possible to right the ship and stop your credit score from sinking any further. Here are some useful tips.

Check your Credit Score

Step one to repairing your credit score is to check your latest information. There are plenty of options for checking your credit score online for free. Unfortunately, not every option will provide you with accurate information that matches what your financial institutions and lenders will be using or asking for. As MyFICO reports, “For example, it's typical for a mortgage lender to check all three FICO scores when evaluating you for a loan. However, some auto lenders may only use one FICO Score to qualify you for an auto loan. Make sure you're seeing the credit scores that your lender is using to evaluate you!”

Don’t be late with your payments

Missing a deadline can be one of the most detrimental things you can do to adversely affect your credit score. Most banks now allow you to set up online reminders for all your bills so you never miss a due date, even if you are just making the minimum payment.

Reduce Your Debt

Of course, the most important thing you can be doing to solidify your financial situation is to lower the amount of debt you have. Easier said than done, I know! But the reality is that many of the quick fix credit repair services neglect this very important aspect of your financial well-being.

Start off by listing out all the money you owe, whether it’s student loans, mortgages, credit card balances, or other obligations. Then calculate which of these accounts charges the highest interest rates. Come up with a monthly budget that prioritizes these balances first.

Clarify any mistakes on your credit report

The companies that report your credit aren’t exactly known for their accuracy. Mistakes happen more often than you’d think, and that’s one of the primary reasons you’ll want to check your report regularly. If you find they’ve gotten something wrong, deal with it immediately, by contacting the agency, in writing, with supporting documentation. Here’s more information on how to dispute an inaccurate report.

Stop applying for new credit cards

 

Every time you apply for a new card, your credit score takes a small hit. The same thing happens when you close a credit card. (And if that seems unfair, you’re probably right!) The longer your account has been open and in good standing, the more positive an impact it has on your score. So limit the number of new accounts you open and keep the accounts you do have in good standing. If you have cards that you never use, make the occasional purchase on them and pay off the balance immediately. Your credit score will love you for it.

Credit is good, if managed responsibly

Your credit score is a measure of how well you have handled your credit in the past. The solution to having a good report isn’t to avoid debt all together. It is to manage that debt responsibly and show that you always make your payments on time. If you avoid any and all lines of credit, when you do need to take out a loan, you won’t have a track record that proves you are responsible.

Maintaining your financial stability is much like staying healthy. The best approach is to avoid getting sick all together. If you find money matters difficult to wrap your brain around, why not go to an expert. Life coaches are professionally trained to help people organize their lives in a positive, productive manner. If you’d like to learn more about what a life coach can do for you, or to schedule a consultation, contact me today.


 
 
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I'm surprised how often people say things to me along the lines of "I wish that I had majored in business but I wanted to do something creative," or "Being an entrepreneur won't satisfy my creative side." There seems to be this idea that business and creativity don't mix; that running a successful business requires a good head for numbers and logistics and nothing else.

The opposite is true of course, and you don't need to look much further than Steve Jobs or Elon Musk to prove it. To be a successful entrepreneur requires a variety of traits, including leadership, determination, knowledge, and, last but certainly not least, creativity.

Nicole Fallon, writing for Business News Daily, says,

"Creativity is a bigger predictor of success in life than intelligence. Most educational institutions and businesses still value intelligence over creativity. This may be because intelligence is easier to quantify, easier to manage, and easier to identify, whereas creativity can be difficult to spot because the most creative people often struggle in school. This makes it hard to discern the difference between a potential troublemaker and a truly creative person, who could bring great benefits to a company if their creativity were properly harnessed. A business should consider hiring for creativity in addition to intelligence."

Unfortunately, for many of us, creativity is something that we believe we don't have. We've been taught through years of schooling and social conditioning to conform, and when it becomes necessary to think outside the box, so to speak, we freeze up. It's a common problem, and one that we can overcome. Creativity, much like any skill, is something we can exercise and train. The more we expect our brains to be creative, the better we become at it.

Here are some tips for how to bring out your creative side.

Question your Assumptions

Once cause of routine thinking is allowing ruts to form in the way we operate, whether as an individual, a team, or a company as a whole. A common refrain, when someone asks why we are doing something a certain way, is "Because this is the way we've always done it."

The best way to break out of an organizational rut is to question everything that you're doing. You will probably find many examples of outmoded methods and plenty of opportunities for improvement. This kind of foundational realignment can lead to all sorts of new solutions, often to problems you weren't even aware of previously.

Block Out Distractions

Outside noise can be one of the greatest deterrents to creativity. If you want to unlock hidden reservoirs of creative energy, you need to turn off all the distractions that can stop you from being focused. Whether it's shutting the door to your office, turning off your stereo, or (most likely) disconnecting from the internet and putting away your smart phone, tuning out the noise can allow your brain to wander in innovative directions.

Get Moving

Sometimes, standing up from your desk and getting your blood moving will help stimulate new ideas. If you're anything like me, then your best ideas come at the least convenient times, while riding your bike, out for a jog, or, (this is my favorite) taking a shower. Not only are you less likely to be distracted by your devices (see above), you're also allowing your brain to roam free while your body does all the work. Regular exercise, whether it's a trip to the gym, or just a walk around the office, can often stimulate great thinking.

Keep a Dream Journal

Following the thread of the best ideas coming at the most inconvenient times, I can think of several occasion when I woke up from a dream thinking, "This is the greatest idea in the history of time. There's no way I will ever forget this." Then I immediately go back to sleep. The only thing I remember the next morning was that I had a great idea. I'd probably be a billionaire by now if I had all those ideas back. That's where a dream journal comes in. Keep a notebook next to your bed, and next time you wake up with an inspiration, write it down.

Hire a Life Coach

If you're looking for a creative jolt, sometimes what you need is an outside perspective to help inspire you. A life coach is someone who can help you generate new ideas and assist in training your mind to think differently. Contact me today to get started on a new way of thinking about creativity!