Friday, February 6, 2009

Make Up Your Mind to Change Your Life in 2009: Part 1

If you're a magazine nerd like I am, you might remember when Self magazine was first published. I loved that magazine, especially the feature that always appeared in the back, called Fresh Start. It was always just a one-pager, featuring the story of how one young woman changed her life in a really significant way. Oh how I missed that department when they canceled it. I just loved stories of people who were given the chance to begin again.

Well, here's the deal now. With hundreds of thousands of people being laid off and many more facing the prospect of losing their jobs in upcoming months, we're all being given the chance to begin again. Woo-pee! Right? Yeah. I didn't think so. But, like it or not, change is being handed to us, if not actually being shoved down our respective throats. So we have a choice: we can change our lives intentionally, or have them changed for us. I pick the first choice. Which would you pick?

But, you know as well as I do that no life change can actually stick unless we make the change from the inside. And we have to make that choice happily and hopefully (not in the context of dread and punishment). So, to get the best possible advice for all of us, I went to one of my favorite sources for mental health counseling and positive thinking -- Meredith (the very aptly nicknamed "Merry") Kaplan. (That's her pretty picture at the top of this posting)

(I also interviewed her for my chapter on handling rage in Rebound: A Proven Plan For Starting Over After Job Loss.)

Merry ( is a licensed mental health counselor and an executive and life coach with a national clientele (but she herself is based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL). And she gave me this six-step process to align your thinking around change and to organize the way you manage your life from here on out.

We've broken this interview down into seven parts. Use this process and see what your life is like by 2010! We're thinking that this action process will prove to you through real experience that you do have the power to make your life exactly what you want it to be.'s Step One:

Step One: Acknowledge Your Feelings

Merry says, "It's so important to acknowledge your feelings because if you don't you are in denial. And your denial will hinder the process of setting a new course for yourself. Once we are in denial and we are not accepting, we limit ourselves from opportunities for success, opportunities to visualize what it is that we want from our future. Also by acknowledging your feelings, you are able to share them with those near and dear to you. When you are able to verbalize how you feel, you are able to get the support from the people who are in the best position to help you emotionally. They'll be able to understand how you're feeling and respect the journey that you're on. Even if all they can do for you is be a circle of good listeners, that's a very important part of your toolkit for change."

Merry says that even though there might be social pressure to put on a happy face and hide your true feelings, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, you really need to be fully and expressively authentic with both yourself and your closest friends.

"Because of our socialization, it's much easier for women to express their feelings and have their friends and female relatives acknowledge those feelings and be empathetic. It's more difficult for men to express their feelings, especially to other men. When they do have someone in their lives that they really can share those feelings with, it certainly lightens the burden. They can actually reduce the possibility of psychosomatic illness that comes when they internalize toxic feelings. That's when they develop all sorts of stress-related medical problems. So it's extremely beneficial for both men and women to acknowledge their feelings to both themselves and to confidants whom they know and trust."

So Rebound Readers: Here's your assignment for the day...Make a list of all the emotions that are swirling around you right now. Get them down on paper. And then make another list of your closest confidants -- your spouse, your golf buddy, your walking partner, and resolve to set aside some time to share with them those feelings that you might be trying to ignore away, feelings that maybe you think might put you in a bad light. Take that risk.

You know you would want your friends to do the same with you, if they were wrestling with a life change challenge. You would want to be there for them. And, I'm willing to bet, once you show them how to open up, they just might give you that chance themselves!

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