Monthly Archives: April 2014


Achieving goals Requires Embracing Change
photo credit: IronRodArt – Royce Bair

A Change
(A change would do you good)
Would do you good
(A change would do you good)
I think a change
(A change would do you good)
Would do you good
(A change would do you good)

 –         Lyrics by Sheryl Crow, from the album, Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow’s song has been replaying in my head all day. I’m sure I didn’t hear it some where recently, it’s just in my head playing over and over. I think I know why. I’ve been postponing doing some things I know are important for me to do in order to accomplish a goal I have. The thing is, these things represent new experiences for me, and that means I’m heading into the unknown, and change can’t be far behind. Gulp!

My rational mind wants to tell me that there has never been a change in my life that wasn’t ultimately for the better. That is to say, the ugly little caterpillar eventually becomes the beautiful butterfly. Or, put another way, you’ve never heard of a butterfly becoming a caterpillar have you?

The clinker is the “ultimately” part. That’s where my subconscious mind reminds me that to get to the good stuff, I have to go through some less than pleasant stuff, like bookkeeping, asking other people for help, or doing paperwork. Lions, and tigers, and bears, Oh my!

Truth to tell, I can’t avoid a fear of change. A fear of change is hardwired into my brain because the subconscious mind is all about maintaining things where they are – where it’s been proven safe. So, what I have to do is stop trying to avoid feeling fearful. I need to stop fighting my fear of not being able to predict precisely what future changes will occur, and what might be the ramifications. Instead, I must effectively manage my fear by providing myself with a plan of attack that takes into account not just the attainment of my goal, but the need to assuage my anxiety.

A Successful Strategy for Achieving Goals in Spite of a Fear of the Unknown

What I need to do is recapture the strategy I’ve used in the past to achieve new goals, because that’s what helped me center my thinking, organize my tasks, and navigate change with confidence.

After all, my most successful moments have been when I drove a wedge between myself and any trepidation I might have. In the past I’ve done this by creating a written plan for forward momentum that includes the what, why, when, and how of what needs to be done as well as an outline of the enjoyable outcomes I can expect to gain from tackling X, Y, or Z.

While this approach is hardly revolutionary, it has always allowed me to replace nervousness with anticipation, and drudgery with challenge and curiosity. Plus, because built into it is immediate action, just beginning the “doing” of something establishes that one is on one’s way and there’s no turning back.

 Here’s what works for me:

  • Write down what needs to be done to achieve a specific goal, but only those things that are essential – back burner anything that’s not crucial to the greater goal – never “overbook” goals – never “overbook” a daily “to do” list
  • Write down why it needs to be done – this helps to clarify what’s crucial from what’s overdoing it
  • Write down the expected results, and link them to the expected long-term, pleasurable benefits of completing the task – imagine myself as having already attained the goal – savor the feeling
  • Write down the broad action steps necessary to achieve the goal
  • Break the overall goal into smaller goals, and write a game plan that includes baby steps over a prescribed period of days/weeks – being careful not to load too much into one day or underestimate the time it will take to accomplish each step along the way
  • Allow for the fact that some revision of the game plan may be necessary as things proceed, and alter or change the game plan on an “as needs” basis
  • Every night, review what’s been accomplished that day by writing down the actions I’ve taken, and the actions I’ve completed – reward myself by taking a moment to enjoy the feeling of moving forward, and firm up the next day’s schedule – then let it all go for the evening
  • Every morning, tackle the most important items for the day first, but address the easiest tasks related to the most important items first – this way, I have an immediate sense of accomplishment, and my mind feels calm and less cluttered, and ready to take on either the more difficult or the more mundane tasks for the day

A Written Record Is the Key to Managing a Fear of Change

You will notice that creating and maintaining a written record  is essential. Just thinking about it, or talking about it, won’t cut it. Writing down our plan is essentially a concrete action step that instantly engages us with our goal and serves as a contract between our self and our future – a promise harder to break – and obligation harder to ignore.

Truthfully, I’ve never heard of anyone accomplishing anything lasting and worthwhile who didn’t get it down on paper in some manner.

For example, Rachael Ray has a self-confessed, life-long habit of writing lists that organize her thinking, and become idea-generating springboards for her many, successful projects. That one habit may well be the cornerstone of a career that has seen Ms. Ray evolve from a complete unknown, into a celebrated cook, author, and businesswoman presiding over an impressive culinary empire, uniquely her own.

Ultimately, the reason it’s better to manage a fear of change, rather than to avoid dealing with a fear of change, is because there are really no bad outcomes.

By venturing out into the proverbial “uncharted waters” we learn new things – both what works, and what doesn’t. This allows us to reach a new and better place each day, and brings us closer to our goal.

When we do this with a deliberate and systematic approach, we give ourselves a solid, nerve-calming foundation from which to proceed, and we are able to follow through in doable increments. Change becomes bearable, and opportunities we hadn’t even imagined unfold, not unlike the newly formed wings of that brand new butterfly.

Well, time to get to work. I’m off to put pen to paper (actually, fingertips to keyboard).

How do you manage change as it relates to achieving goals?

Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.

In the meantime,

Bestest to all,

Cynthia Dalton signature


New challenges create self-enrichment and self-fulfillment
Photo: Kalahari

The greatest thing you can do is surprise yourself. – Steve Martin

Routines are necessary and predictable. Routines are virtuous. At least we feel virtuous when we stick to a schedule that includes all the million things we need to do in order to facilitate the immediate as well as long term needs of those for whom we have responsibilities. Packing school lunches, and doing the laundry are important ways we nurture our loved ones, and enrich their lives. But if we’re going to be our best self, and by extension give our best to others, we need to cultivate personal growth in ourselves through self-enrichment. There are lots of ways to do so, and a good place to start is to find time to surprise ourselves, by introducing into our lives the unpredictable.

The unpredictable challenges our own status quo, which in turn means we’re never quite the same again. We’ve changed for the better, because we’ve deliberately chosen a new challenge, and gained a new perspective.


 A good way to begin to embrace the unpredictable and encourage personal growth is by setting aside an hour or so each week to take a detour. That is to say, do something we didn’t know we were going to do, until the moment arrives.

Start by getting 20 to 30 small index cards. On each card write one fun activity; something you’d really enjoy doing. The activity shouldn’t involve a lot of time or money. So, while a trip to Paris would be nice, that’s not what we’re looking for here. We’re looking for activities like:

  • Go to a hobby store and buy a kite kit to put together and go fly the kite in the park
  • Find a quick craft project online and take an hour or so to do it
  • Learn five new words by reading something from an unfamiliar discipline
  • Explore a new hiking or biking trail for an hour or so
  • Look in the garage or attic for a family heirloom unseen for a while, and write a short narrative about its origins
  • Pretend to be a tourist encountering your city or town for the first time, and look online for sites to visit
  • Visit a farmer’s market or an ethnic grocery, buy something unfamiliar, go home, and create a new dish with it
  • Go to a coffee house, and strike up a conversation with a total stranger
  • Instead of driving, take a bus or a train to a familiar destination, and make note of how different the experience is, when you’re a passenger instead of the driver

Once you’ve written up cards for 20 to 30 activities of your own choosing, put them in a shoe box with a lid. Periodically, add new ideas for fun things to do as they occur to you, and remove those that feel “tired.” Once a week, make a date with yourself to explore something unpredictable. Shake the box first thing in the morning on the day of your date, and without peeking, select a card. No cheating, stick to the card you’ve chosen from the shoe box, and begin your adventure.


There are a variety of benefits to giving our lives much needed enrichment including:

  • We learn we can do things we thought we couldn’t, because even fun stuff can have obstacles to overcome
  • Learning new things adds to our knowledge base and boosts self-confidence
  • We have new experiences to talk about with others
  • Even though it may be subtle, we are forever changed for the better
  • We build a “muscle” for being open to the spontaneity of others
  • When we’re open to the spontaneity of others, we gain new perspective
  • When we practice changing things up in our lives, we can cope much more effectively with other, unexpected changes that will inevitably occur
  • Inviting good things into our lives maintains a positive attitude, which greatly diminishes negative thinking

Shake thing up a little, and you benefit a lot! Bringing self-enrichment and self-fulfillment to your life by invoking some unpredictability isn’t frivolous; it is actually a solid technique for encouraging one’s best self.

Please leave your  tips on challenging your own status quo in the Comments section below.

 In the meantime,

Bestest to all,Cynthia Dalton signature



maintaining credibility with others by telling the truth
photo credit: Matt. Create. via photopin cc


I’m not upset that you lied to me; I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you. – Friedrich Nietzsche

The one way to lose credibility  with others is to not tell the truth. Conversely, when we tell the truth, we hold the main key to credibility  with others well in hand.

It’s so automatic for people to lie to us these days that it almost seems like it’s all right to lie. In fact, most of the time, perfectly decent people don’t seem to consciously realize they are lying. Whatever they say, they themselves believe, at least for the time it takes them to say it; whether it’s true or not.

What’s worse, they often don’t even save lying for big, important stuff. They’ll lie about everything and anything no matter how trivial. It’s just habit with some folks.  

I can’t begin to provide psychoanalysis for why human beings prevaricate. Maybe it has something to do with the incessant invasion of privacy to which we are all subjected as more and more, each of us feels like our life is being dissected and cataloged by every conceivable data base imaginable. Perhaps a fib creates a little, internal island, free from molestation from the outside world.

Or, maybe it has to do with so many well-known sorts getting away with lying with so little outwardly obvious consequence, so long as they have some personal charisma or charm, and we didn’t expect the truth from them in the first place.

Even though lying is common place, it’s still common to lose credibility with others when we don’t tell the truth.

Some years ago I encountered a situation that illustrates the problem with good people habitually lying.

My family and I had just rented a house from Melinda (not her real name), a real estate agent by profession, who was an energetic, blue-eyed blond, with a great big smile, and an outgoing personality.

When we moved into her house she was kind enough to leave the cable on an extra week on her nickel, and phones in four of the rooms for us to use until we purchased phones of our own.

Then the lies started. First, she said the air conditioning worked well. When I tried it, the compressor was busted. OK, maybe she didn’t realize it. Then the roof had supposedly been recently repaired; one rain proved that incorrect. OK, maybe the roofers did a bad job. Then the hot water heater had recently been replaced, but it sure had a lot of dust on top of it for a new hot water heater. OK, maybe it sat in a warehouse for a while before it was installed.

But then, one afternoon Melinda came over to pick up the phones she’d left for us to use temporarily. At the door, we exchanged small talk briefly, and because I liked Melinda, and she had been so considerate about the cable and the phones, I asked her in for some coffee. Without hesitation she said she’d need to take a rain check on the coffee because she was running late, and still had to pick up her dry cleaning.

Still wishing to return her thoughtfulness, I insisted on helping her take the phones to her car so that she didn’t need to make two trips to the car with all the phones by herself. As I was placing my armload of phones in the back of her Volvo, I happened to glance up to see freshly wrapped, dry cleaned cloths, hanging from a hook over the open window behind the driver’s seat, their clear covers gently flapping in the breeze.

I pretended not to notice, which of course was only polite, but that seemingly small, ‘white lie’ had nonetheless done its damage. Not that I suddenly disliked Melinda; it was just that I no longer trusted Melinda because of the pattern of deceit she had so quickly established.


Credibility is something we earn from people by establishing a pattern of trustworthiness over time. You could say it’s like putting money into a savings account so that it’s there if and when we need it. If we chronically lie, we destroy our trustworthiness and eventually go socially broke.


What did Melinda’s serial prevarication cost her in terms of social currency?  I could no longer trust or recommend Melinda.

If I consider how many times, with how many different people Melinda may have discredited herself, then I have to conclude that Melinda may have missed out on a lot of referrals, friendships, partnerships, and opportunities because she lacked the credibility or social currency, and in addition, may have missed out on reaping the social dividends that would surely have followed.

What do you think? Is lying worth the potential cost to one’s credibility? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.

In the meantime,

Bestest to all,Cynthia Dalton signature




business associates and friends are two different things
photo credit: Dee West (Formerly deedoucette) via photopin cc


True friends stab you in the front – Oscar Wilde

Most of us are well aware of the old admonition about not going into business with friends. We know that once ego, money, and ambition get involved, friendship takes a hit.

But, this same reasoning often escapes us when we meet people through a business situation or contact. We have lunches with them, work as a team member on a project with them, or share office gossip with them (no, you wouldn’t!), and while we do so in the context of doing business, it begins to feel comfortable and familiar.

We may even take things a step further and vacation together, or share season tickets. Pretty soon, we bask in the mistaken impression that we have expanded our circle of friends. Wrong! In most cases, we have expanded our circle of contacts which, while not a bad thing, is just not the same thing as making new friends.

To be clear, I’m not saying that business associates are inherently bad for us. To the contrary, there is a mutual need for these relationships, in addition to close friendships, for networking, mentoring, and all around professional growth.


We should always be friendly in our business interactions with others, but we need to choose our friends from an entirely different “pool.” There are plenty of places to find friends away from work including: online (with caution), clubs, through our religious affiliations, or through other friends in purely social situations.


Just as with bottled salad dressing, we need to realize that with many friendships that begin at work:

  • We are enticed by “flavor enhancers” and “sugars” that work on our brain chemistry, giving us a temporary “happy place” that makes us believe we’ll get more from it than we will
  • When we indulge in it too often, we miss out on more sustaining fare
  • There’s only so much in the bottle, and when it’s gone, it’s gone
  • It has a relatively short shelf life, with a guaranteed expiration date
  • It must be purchased somehow. Repeat after me, “Quid pro quo”


The truth is, business relationships can be extremely beneficial to our careers and our livelihood, but  they usually can only provide so much. We need a variety of relationships in our lives, you could say we all need a relationship mix, and while occasionally, some relationships start off as a business relationship and later change into a close friendship or even marriage, for the most part, it’s just common sense to keep business relationships for business, and let true friendships occur organically, naturally, made from scratch, fresh, and homemade!

Please share your thoughts on the topic of friends versus associates in business, in the Comments section below.

In the meantime,

Bestest to all,

Cynthia Dalton signature