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3 Powerful Lessons from my Immigrant Grandmother

3 Powerful Lessons from my Immigrant Grandmother

My Grandmother taught by example.This beautiful indigenous immigrant from Mexico was one of the strongest and most insightful women I know.

There is Always Enough

No matter how many people showed up at our door, my grandmother created a feast. Homemade tortillas from corn she ground, vegetables and herbs from her small garden and arroz con pollo appeared on the dining table before anyone could refuse.

When my grandfather died at 42 and left her a widow with nine children, she kept food on the table and clothes on everyone’s back. Not a small feat during the Great Depression and World War II. Like many during her time, she made clothes out of flour sacks, and cooked filling meals made from scratch.

She and my aunts made money by ironing and mending military uniforms.  She rented out the small house my grandfather had built behind the main house. All seven of her sons served in the military and they each sent her money from their pay. My Grandmother always said that even after my grandfather died, she never feared being without a roof over her head, money, or food. There was always enough.

She and my grandfather immigrated to America because they saw the opportunities. They saved their money and bought their own home and built another one to rent out. Her ability and willingness to take action and control what she could, gave her a sense of peace and happiness.

We’re More Alike than Different

In the 1940’s, our neighborhood included people from Mexico, Poland, and Italy to name a few. Despite the different languages, customs, and cultures, people helped each other. They shared food, information and skills.

By the 1970’s, the neighborhood changed, but the kindness among neighbors stayed the same. Our family was the only Mexican family and the rest of our neighbors were African-American. It wasn’t something we thought about until the KKK dynamited ten empty school busses to protest desegregation.

This was the first time I encountered racism. I didn’t understand why some people didn’t like others because of the color of their skin or the language they spoke. My grandmother called it ignorance. “We all want the same things. Love, understanding and a better life for our children. We’re not all that different from each other.” She said.

Be Kind to Others

If a friend or neighbor needed help – my grandmother was the first to offer. If she wasn’t able to help, she’d call one of my Uncle’s to see if they could. She always put herself in the other person’s shoes.

While other people told us we lived in a “bad” neighborhood, we knew better. Our family lived in the same home for decades, just like many of our neighbors. We helped each other shovel snow, shared food, celebrated births and grieved over deaths.

I was only nine when my grandmother died of a heart attack. Family, friends and neighbors filled the funeral home. For a woman that spoke little English, she left an impression on everyone she met. I learned to treat others with respect, to be kind to everyone – even though the other person might not be kind in return. “You never know what someone else is going through.” she would tell me.

Watching her live her life was a wonderful gift. I still miss her and do my best to pay her love and kindness forward.

What lessons did you learn from your grandparents?

Fear Will Crush Your Soul

Fear Will Crush Your Soul

You hate your job but you you can’t bring yourself to leave.

You tell yourself you have to think about your family. Your kids will be in college soon. You need the stability of a paycheck. You drag yourself to work, put your time in and try to decompress on the commute home. By the time you walk in the door, you’re toast. You’ve given up on that side-hustle you started because you don’t have the energy or the time.

I call bullshit. You don’t have the energy because you’re in a soul-sucking job you hate. It crushes you every morning and every night. Binge-watching Netflix gives you an escape until the next day. By the time the weekend rolls around, all you want to do is NOTHING.

Sound familiar?

There are other jobs out there. If you want to work for someone else, the best time to look for a new job is when you have one. You worry you’re too old; you don’t have a current resume, or you let your skills slide.

Fear does that. You’re not too old. You can learn new skills online. Hire a professional to write your resume – it’s amazing how many skills and strengths you take for granted. Let a pro help you uncover them.

A well-chosen career change can give back the time and energy you need to work on that side hustle again. Work toward building something that will make you happy in the long term.

A job search might sound overwhelming – but not nearly as overwhelming as being unhappy for the foreseeable future.

Life to so short to let fear control you.

What’s holding you back? I’d love to help.

Don’t Let your Body Wreak Havoc on Your Mind

Don’t Let your Body Wreak Havoc on Your Mind

An Asthma and Allergy specialist introduced me to the Mind/Body connection when I was six years old.

After a series of tests, he told me it was hard for me to breathe because I had Asthma and allergies. He explained what Asthma was and showed me pictures of what happened in my lungs while I was having an attack.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I can show you ways to train your brain to help you and your lungs relax when you’re having an attack.”

I got nervous when I couldn’t breathe and it made my asthma worse.  He told me there was something called “belly breathing” which I thought was hilarious. I went into a laughing fit, followed by a coughing fit – which triggered my asthma. It was the perfect opportunity to teach me how to slow down my breathing and relax.

It took a while to get the hang of belly breathing, but I loved the idea of training my brain to help my body.

As I got into my teen years, our family dynamic became more and more chaotic. I stopped using belly breathing. The stress got worse and my Asthma flare-up’s were getting harder to control. I realized that instead of belly breathing, I constantly held my breath.

Debilitating migraines that made me throw up became a norm. Asthma squeezed my lungs while migraines kept my head in a vice grip. I let myself get stuck in a vicious cycle.

My Body was Wreaking Havoc On My Mind

At sixteen, an asthma attack kept me in the hospital for a week – something that hadn’t happened in years. Once again, my doctor reminded me to not let my symptoms get out of hand and to stay calm and relaxed.  I was too embarrassed to tell him about my home life.  I didn’t see the point, there wasn’t anything I felt I could do to change it.

The hospital stay was the first time in years I had felt good. While I was there, I didn’t have a migraine and my Asthma was under control again.

After a few weeks at home, I was back to asthma flare-ups and migraines. I was better about using my inhaler and calming my way through the attacks, but I wasn’t able to escape the migraines. They brought me to tears.

The body-mind chaos came back with a vengeance when a migraine hit at the same time as an asthma attack.

I fell into a trap of hating my body for being sick. I couldn’t imagine feeling like that for the rest of my life. The more negative feedback I gave myself, the worse I felt. I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop.

Instead of decreasing my meds at the follow-up appointment, I had to increase them. If I didn’t get myself under control, I would end up in the hospital again. The sad part, is that I wouldn’t have minded it.

After another lengthy conversation with my doctor, I went back to belly breathing. He added one more technique. When my lungs felt tight, he suggested I close my eyes and imagine that my airways were opening.

This helped me when I used an inhaler. I’d never gotten used to the jittery feeling it gave me. This technique gave me something else to think about while the medication got into my system.

Fast-forward to the present.

I haven’t been hospitalized for asthma in twenty-three years.

In what once felt impossible, I started running even though I had exercise-induced asthma. A few months later, my lungs felt amazing. My lung capacity was at an all-time high and with the consent of my doctor, I stopped taking asthma medication.

The greatest gift my doctor gave me was a positive coping mechanism that helped me understand that I did have control over my body. It gave me the confidence to run 5k’s and half-marathons, back-pack through Yosemite and live a healthy, happy life.

*Please consult your physician before making any changes to your health regimen!

How have you stopped your body from wreaking havoc on your mind? Let me know in the comments.

Embrace Growth Mindset Thinking

Embrace Growth Mindset Thinking

Have you ever called yourself an idiot, or worse, when something didn’t turn out as planned?

Stop that! An outcome doesn’t define you or your worth.

The growth mindset looks at an unfavorable outcome as a learning experience, not a failure. It’s ok to feel upset, but it’s never ok to berate yourself.

Need to nail that pitch? Reach out to someone whose work you respect and ask for advice. It can be as simple as asking for tips on how they prepare to deliver a killer pitch. Most people love to help. If you don’t ask the answer is always “no”.

If you put in the effort, challenge yourself and stay resilient when things aren’t going the way you hoped – it will pay off. The growth mindset will help you focus on improving. A fixed mindset will make you focus on being judged.

Ask any professional musician, speaker or athlete if they still work on improving their craft.

Spoiler alert – the answer is yes. So, never stop learning and don’t compare yourself to others – learn from them and create your own style.

I’ve heard people at the start of their career say things like “Oh, I could never do that” or “I could never be that good” while observing someone who has invested years and thousands of hours practicing whatever it is they’re doing.

Be mindful of where YOU are in your own career or journey. Rather than comparing yourself, identify one or two areas where you’d like to improve. Make a list of all the ways you can enhance the knowledge or skill you you’ve identified.

Workshops, classes, and seeking a mentor are just a few ways to expand your knowledge. If you’re on a tight budget or tight on time, online classes and audio books are a great option. Instead of checking status updates on your phone, listen to or read something relevant to your goal – every tidbit of new information will increase your confidence and expertise.

Best of all, it’s the perfect way to train yourself to choose the growth mindset.

What are you working towards? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Shift Your Mindset for a Kick-Ass 2018

Shift Your Mindset for a Kick-Ass 2018

Shifting your mindset sounds like a secret Ninja skill. What does it mean?

According to Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., Author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success we either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

In the most basic terms, people with a “fixed” mindset believe we’re all born with a specific set of traits and intelligence that can’t change. In contrast, people with a “growth” mindset believe our intelligence and talent can change and grow through our efforts and experiences.

The fixed vs growth mindset gave a name to patterns I saw in my own family. The dramatic impact mindset had on their life gave me a first-hand look into the future. More on that in a later post.

For now, Let’s focus on one way to shift to a more productive mindset.

 

Better Done than Perfect

 

It might not seem like it, but perfectionism works against you. As a recovering perfectionist and workaholic, I can tell you that working an unhealthy number of hours to make everything perfect is a bad strategy. It leaves you drained and prone to errors. Without self-discipline and hard deadlines, perfectionism soon turns into procrastination and burn-out.

In my case, I had a twisted mantra that said the only thing worse than death was mediocrity. It created a mentality where every little thing had to be perfect and nothing ever felt good enough. I held myself back by not putting out work or ideas that felt less than perfect.

According to Dweck, the fixed mindset creates a need to prove yourself to others time and time again – a common trait of perfectionists.

A growth mindset always open to learning understands that ten good ideas that can be implemented right away are always better than one idea that took a year to perfect.

A closed mindset drives you to create unrealistic expectations that keep you from starting or finishing your most important goals.

 

Striving for excellence is different than making perfection the end goal.

 

Know the difference and keep yourself in check. To do this, find an accountability partner and create an actionable plan. Meet on a regular basis to review your progress.

Your accountability partner should be supportive and able to give you productive feedback while establishing realistic milestones. Commit to completing action items within the established timeline. Nothing will change if you don’t do the work.

If this is the first time you’ve worked with an accountability partner, look at it as a great foundation for building a growth mindset. Stretching yourself by trying something new definitely falls into the mindset you want to adopt. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

If you feel yourself becoming nervous or self-conscious in a new situation – remind yourself that you’re in a learning situation and perfectionism is not your friend. Allow yourself to be a student, keep an open mind and know that you are changing your mindset. And then, congratulate yourself.

I’d love to hear from you – what do you want to change this year?

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