Archive for Brain Games

Do You Believe in You?

There are 2 magazines that I take the guilty pleasure of reading cover to cover each month. This is the sum total of my entertainment reading. They are Working Mother and Family Fun magazines.

Yesterday, I was forced to slow down and focus entirely on my daughter who was not feeling well. It’s always great to have an excuse to just take it easy and turn off all the other work, and at the same time, sad that these are the kinds of occasions for which we take time to do so. So as I sat in my comfy chair resting with her, I poured through my newest issue of Working Mother.

In the article, Score Your Dream Job, I found a paragraph that was so very applicable to all of our lives. Now, I am nowhere near looking for a new job. I like the corporate job I have and at the same time, I’m working part time on one of the greatest business opportunities that may ever cross my path in my lifetime. But this excerpt from the article is true of so many women I know. Women who are intelligent and witty and great relationship builders and networkers and creative and all the things that go into being successful. Yet they are so unsure of themselves! So I’m going to stop here and let this article do the talking.

Read this if you are trying to make the next sale, trying to build your direct sales team, aiming for a promotion, looking for a new job, or just feeling like you’re not being effective in your current job.

Amp up your ego
If you want people to believe in you, first you have to believe in yourself. Pour yourself a cup of tea (or a martini), get comfortable and write down all your accomplishments. Seeing right there in black and white how capable you are just might motivate you to take the leap, whether that means making a strategic move in the same industry or jumping to another field entirely. A teacher, for example, may have excellent managerial skills from years of keeping a room full of first graders on task. A marketing manager may have what it takes to run a nonprofit because she can raise funds by highlighting the organization’s strengths.

Focus on what you have to offer, not on what you don’t.
Include any volunteer or community work you’ve been doing— or even the coordination it takes to get everyone in the family where they’re going on a tight schedule.To get the job you want, you need to conquer your insecurities, transform your thinking, tailor your behavior and demand the professional recognition you deserve, says Rebecca Shambaugh, author of It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor. “It’s incumbent on women to look beneath their own feet to see what behaviors, assumptions or beliefs they have that may be self-limiting or keeping them from achieving their own career goals,” she says. Gaps in your skills set? Fill them in. Take courses at a local college or online university and immerse yourself in the world you want to join. Attend conferences; speak with others in the field; check the Web and read trade journals. Find a mentor who’s doing a job similar to what you’d like to do, suggests Shambaugh. “If you want to be CFO of your organization and you’re not quite there, find a mentor and ask her what she did to get there,” she says. “Set up an action plan. You’ll be shocked by how empowered you feel.”

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while caring for your children, don’t apologize. “Recognize yourself as a competent professional instead of wasting time explaining an absence from work,” says Michelle Tillis Lederman, founder of Executive Essentials in New York City, which provides executive and career coaching. “If you come from a place of insecurity, it translates that way.”

Upgrade your identity
Now that you’re brimming with confidence, you have to visualize yourself in your new job. For instance, if you’re in the No. 2 slot aiming for the No. 1 position, you have to start thinking and acting like a leader so that the world starts seeing you differently as well.

“There are parts of your identity you’ve just accepted from childhood and take into adulthood,” says Mary Lynne Heldmann, an executive and team coach and author of When Words Hurt: How to Keep Criticism from Undermining Your Self-Esteem. “Identity becomes destiny if you keep looking at yourself that way.” Take an inventory of everything you believe about yourself—both good and bad. It’s likely that many of those beliefs are limiting, such as I am not very organized or I could never be the CEO of a successful business. “You need to challenge each and every item on the list,” says Heldmann. “Limiting beliefs aren’t reality. They’re just something that we make up. So why not change that to beliefs that work for us?”

While you need to ground your intentions in reality, you don’t want to limit your goals or become tied to a specific outcome. Your new way of thinking may lead you into something completely different from what you’d originally envisioned—but just as rewarding. “As you get clearer and clearer about the future you intend and you keep connecting to it,” Heldmann says, “you actually move closer and closer to its becoming a reality. I’ve seen so many lives change for the better simply because people created a new belief system.”

I believe in YOU. Me, Lori Mercer. I may not even know you personally. Do you know why I believe in you? Because you are taking the time to read this blog post. It’s not “the man keeping you down!” as some people like to quote. Look inside. What is it in ourselves that’s holding us back? And when is the last time you heard someone say they believe in you? I’d love to hear your feedback and I’d love to be the person in your life who believes in you.

Mind Mappin’ Mama

I have a Mindmap for practically everything. Sometimes it is a mindmap I make and manage for a long period of time – like my personal scheduler. Other times it’s a quick throw away mindmap that helps me think through a difficult conversation.

What is a mindmap?
Here’s the official definition from our generations “Encyclopedia Brittanica” AKA Wikipedia:

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.A mind map is similar to a semantic network or cognitive map but there are no formal restrictions on the kinds of links used.

The elements are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts and they are organized into groupings, branches, or areas. The uniform graphic formulation of the semantic structure of information on the method of gathering knowledge, may aid recall of existing memories.

Here is an example of a hand drawn mindmap:

And one that is generated with a computer:

All the way back to Junior High School, my class notes looked like a mindmap. There’s just something about this format with multiple colors and lots of arrows and boxes that helps me really process information more quickly, not dwindle on decisions and be most productive and effective.

Here’s just a short list of how I’ve used Mindmaps recently:

  • My personal organizer mindmap I use at least 3-4 times a day. It tracks my meetings appointments, goals, tasks, idea brainstorms, bible verse to memorize, personal journaling, notes from meetings, you name it. It is like command central for me.
  • Brainstormed a website layout
  • Organized my thoughts for writing an eBook
  • Focused myself for a difficult conversation
  • Created a meeting agenda
  • Picked apart ideas for a marketing plan
  • Took notes during a phone conference
  • Put together a presentation outline before moving it into Powerpoint

Why I like Mindmaps:

  • It’s fast and easy to add items. Mindmapping actually keeps up with the pace of the thoughts pouring through my brain!
  • The levels, branches, legs make it easy to separate and differentiate ideas
  • There is no wrong or right way to organize! You can start quick and get your thoughts out then very easily drag and drop to move your ideas around

Mindmapping allows you to be more efficient in organizing your thoughts. You can focus on the outcomes you are trying to achieve and not be distracted when your brain runs in another direction. I can spend 5 minutes mindmapping in preparation for a difficult conversation that will lead me to a better outcome in a shorter period of time.

My personal favorite Mindmap Software is by Mindjet. There are also a variety of free mindmapping applications but I do not use them so I can’t give a personal recommendation. But I do suggest you visit Mindjet’s website to understand the potential of how it can used.

Would you pay $5 per voicemail to have someone return messages for you?

Time or Money.
It’s always a trade off. Or is it? Spend more money. Save more time. Save money. Spend more time. Here are the typical examples that come to mind:

- Paint your own house or pay someone to do it
- Spend 6 hours bargain shopping around town and coupon clippling or 30 minutes dashing into the department store….or even better, paying a personal shopper
- Making your own scrapbooks or paying someone to do it for you
- Cooking from scratch dinners with fresh veggies and meat and bread bought daily or buying “Meals Made Easy” that must be heated up within 2 weeks of putting them in your fridge.
- Clean your own house or hire a cleaning service

We are always having to decide where is the most effective place to spend our time because there are simply not enough hours in the day. For me personally, I chose to short cut the bargain shopping, the home made meals and pay a housecleaner. But it is because I have been blessed with a profession that allows us those luxuries so I can spend my precious free time with my children. It also means I have to spend a lot of time working. And most entrepreneurs trying to start their own business don’t have much of either – time or money – and must chose very wisely how to spend both for the first couple years of their business.

Think about how this applies to your business and your own strengths and skills. What tasks should you outsource versus those you should spend your time and talents on? Where are you going to get the most bang for the buck? Here are some things to consider outsourcing:
- Writing the content for your website or marketing materials
- Website design and development
- Logo creation, graphic design and branding
- accounting and tax preparation

There is a website called that allows you to find freelancers who will do practically ANYTHING for you. This includes things for crazy busy people like “listen to my voicemails and transcribe them into emails for me daily so I can chose how to respond”. Can you imagine being so busy that you have to outsource your voicemail answering???? Now there’s either a business that is really exploding or someone who has set the wrong priorities and is not being productive enough. Either way it’s proof that you can outsource anything.

No matter what you decide to outsource remember YOU ARE IN CHARGE. Be sure that you have a well-planned and scoped project to be outsourced so you get what you want. Think ahead about the outcome you are looking for and definitely spend the time interviewing and finding the right person for the job. Even if you get a personal referral for someone local, be sure you fully know and understand everything you are getting.

Of course there are so many things money can’t buy and time is all you have. And for those, we need to hold tight. My 3-year-old son this morning. Shaking his finger at me and looking me straight in the eye and saying “You promise you will stay home and have breakfast with us tomorrow?” It’s priceless. And THAT, is exactly why I am burning the candle at both ends. Working full time at the corporate job and part time on my dream that will allow me to be home more and be the influence I want to be on my children….before someone or something else takes that role.

Time or money trade off? Personally I want both. I want to have it all. With both you can make a HUGE difference in the world. Think big and you will find a way.

How do you start your day?

Think about it. When you hear that alarm clock, what goes through your head? Maybe not the first instant because if you’re like me, it takes a few minutes to clear the fog. But once I realize its the alarm clock and not some facet of a dream I can’t recall, my mind first thinks – What is today? What do I have to do? Is it a work day? Is there something fun? Something scary? Something that worries me?

Then I feel my warm sheets and blankets, give it a good stretch, rub my eyes and peak at the amount (or lack of) sunshine coming through my shades and just enjoy that moment of peace and comfort before I heave myself into the day.

For me, its the shower that gets me engaged. I think through all that I have to do. All the people I will interact with. The important decisions that need to be made. The time I need to carve out for important tasks. What my children need from me today. What my husband is doing that day. And anyone else who comes to my mind and my heart. I take those signs as someone who needs some prayer that day. Maybe it was someone I met with the previous day who seemed unhappy and stressed. Maybe its a stranger I don’t even know whom I saw yelling at her child in the grocery. Maybe its my grandma or another relative or friend whom is sick. Maybe its my babysitter whom is a saint for spending her days entertaining the kids while I go to work.

Some mornings I have an audience outside the shower waiting for me. My 8 or 5 or 3 year old wakes up and sits on the floor half asleep listening to the drone of the water. And on really crazy mornings, its one of them playing with the baby on the bathroom floor as I race through a shower with one eye on them at all times.

By the time I’m at the end of my shower, I always hear a song in my heart. Typically its a worship song. And I never try to think of a particular song. Something just comes to me. And when it does, that’s what I know I should pay attention to that day. “Jesus be the center. Be my hope. Be my guide.” “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.” “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing to you oh God.” “We stand and lift up our hands. For the joy of the Lord is our strength.” “My chains are gone. I’ve been set free. My God my Savior, has ransomed me.”

Then, as I finish my morning routine with hair, make up, etc, sometimes I even feel called to kneel down and humble myself before God and pray for grace because I am not worthy of all that He has given to me.

This is not always how I started my day. I didn’t even do a ’21 days to a new habit’ routine to get here. This daily ritual evolved as I grew as a person and realized that I can’t handle it all myself. That rushing into my day by myself is stressful and overwhelming. That I owe everything I have to God and without his intervention, I will not be able to proceed. It’s an evolution that has brought me more peace and tranquility and fullness of joy than I can even describe. Those who feel it themselves know what I’m talking about.

The routine isn’t identical for everyone. Some people respond quicker or slower in their morning routing. Some of us need a cup of coffee before the juices start flowing. Some of us need until lunch Some of us read something inspiring. Some of us exercise. Whatever your routine is, do you start your day in a positive, energizing way?

If this is not how you start your day, I challenge you to ask yourself why not. If you get out of bed with dread and regret and no energy. And only negative thoughts come to mind. Re-think it. Be cognizant of your thoughts. What gets in your way? Work a little each day to move it out of your mind and you too will be set free.

What’s holding you back from your happiness?

Only 3 days are left in 2007. And only 4 days left on holiday break before most of us head back to the routine, normal, work / school schedule. I get so reflective this time of year. Maybe its because I declutter and the clean desk and clean email make space in my cluttered mind. Now I’m actually able to have clarity and focus and think to myself

Are you really doing the right things with your life?Am I serving God in the best way possible with the talents he’s given me? Have I found the “sweet spot” that Max Lucado talks about?

Am I doing everything possible to insure I’m being the best mom to my kids and the best wife to my husband?

In 5, 10, 15 years, will I have any regrets about how I’m spending my precious minutes today?

First of all, everything in my life I owe to the grace of God. He has blessed me to be a blessing. We will never be sure we are absolutely doing the right thing. That’s where faith comes in. God gives and God takes away. However, you know if you are in ‘the sweet spot’ or if you have those nagging feelings in your heart and those nagging thoughts in your mind.

If you can’t answer the questions above with a positive, happy, heart and trust and faith that you are on the right path, then stop and think about it.

What’s holding you back?
A dead end job. An unstable, demanding boss. An unhealthy relationship. Letting other people’s emotional roller coasters take you for a ride. Financial worries.

Here is a file to stimulate some thinking for you. It’s from a website I like called This is a list of 101 questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2007 and plan for 2008.

101 Best Year-End and 101 Best New Year Questions.The file is an MS Word document and you may download
your workbook with this link.

Take this. Take your bible. And talk this through with someone you trust. If you don’t have that person, email me and I’ll be glad to be a listening ear for you.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

We all deserve to be happy! Make it your year!

Focused and Guilt Free

Can life be any crazier than in December? I’m not sharing anything new. All of us are in the pre-Christmas madness. In the past, craziness like this would have tipped me over the edge to uncontrollable panic, stress and anxiety. But I’m sitting here today as cool as a cucumber. Here’s just a little background into what’s on my plate right now: Christmas is 2 weeks away. I’m not done with my shopping by a longshot. I just spent 4 days in Sweden for business. Our new au pair arrived the day I got back so I’ve been spending every spare second getting her up to speed on our household and childcare needs, driving her around town to get familiar with the area and helping her do all the logistics of social security card, drivers license and bank account and trying to learn to cook special new food so she feels welcome and comfortable here in America (Did I tell you cooking is so not my gift? . Not to mention this little Heritage Makers business I’ve drummed up. Oh yeah, and we are hosting my oldest daughter’s 5th birthday party this Saturday. That’s enough to commit most people to the insane asylum. And I’m sure each of you has an equally comparable list of things going on right now and I commend you for even taking the time to read this article! May the 5 minutes it takes you, provide 15 minutes of productivity for you this week. The best way to capture that time…

1. Replace your ‘freak out’ moments with ‘in focus’ moments. It may sound cliché but life is really about how you look at it. I could seriously freak out and panic and let my heart race and get grouchy with my kids but none of that will help get everything done. All I can do is the one thing I am focusing on at this moment. I can’t change anything that’s already behind me. I can’t make anymore time. And worrying about the stuff to come doesn’t help either. (Preparing for it does but that’s another lesson Just focus completely on enjoying and completing the task at hand…decorating the tree with your little ones, visiting Santa, choosing the perfect gift. Focus on them for the right amount of time without straying from the goal and GTD (Get Things Done!) My example from today…getting my Christmas Cards done. I had a zillion other things on my mind but today was the ordering deadline. So I focused solely on that activity after the kids went to bed and got it done. Something knocked off the list. BAM! It feels great. If all I do is focus on one activity like that an evening, I’ll have 12 more things knocked off the list by Christmas. When you focus and look at it that way, you see how much you can really accomplish and you are able to more completely finish an activity and quickly switch gears and move on to the next (like writing this article!)

2. Don’t overcommit. You’ve heard it a thousand times before but here is another reminder to help you have a guilt-free day. It’s ok to not be the mom who is sending in the snack for the classroom holiday party. It’s ok that your Christmas cards do not get into the mail until Dec. 30th. It’s ok to make the easy-cheesy-pleasey dip with store bought crackers for that holiday party. It’s ok to not put up all your Christmas decorations this year. It’s ok to skip your husband’s boring office Christmas party. It’s ok to not bake a tray of cookies for each of your neighbors. My example for the week, my daughters birthday party. Instead of inviting 25 kids and spending a small fortune putting together goodie bags that every mom hates having around their house, we are doing a smaller, more intimate lunch and afternoon at the ballet with my daughters closest friends. We get to dress up in pretty dresses and go down to the ‘big city’. That is an experience for all of us to remember and saves so much prep time. Now I can look forward to a fun time with my daughter, her friends and their moms without fretting about a clean house, activities and food for 25 people.

Remember, saying “No” is really giving you the opportunity to say “Yes” fully and completely to your other commitments.

How does this apply to my business?
1. Focus Moments: When you are ‘working the business’, really work the business. Don’t be distracted by unimportant email newsletters. It won’t hurt your busines if you skip reading the daily newsletter or even if you miss a week on a Yahoo Groups. Pick your few, specific, business building tasks and focus directly on them alone. Call clients and book events.. Call potential customers to sell gift certificates. Call that person you’ve been trying to connect with to join your team. And focus only on that person and their needs for those 15 – 30 minutes.

2. Don’t Overcommit: Did you tell yourself you were going to send a personalized holiday thank you card to all your clients from 2007? And a tempting postcard to everyone else on your potentials list? Consider this…will it just be lost in the shuffle of the holiday season? You can still do it but make them and send them just after Christmas so it stands out from the crowd and has a bigger impact for you. smarter, not harder! And this Christmas season, family first, then business will follow.

This week’s practical resource is a simple quote so as to not add further tasks or guilt to this already busy time:
“I really cannot give you the formula for success. But I can give you the formula for failure. It’s this: Try to please everyone.” Bernard Meltzer