Monday, January 31, 2011

Ten Minute Fix: Gratitude

Gratitude is essential to happiness. Without it, the ambitious waste their lives working towards goals that bring no satisfaction and the complacent accept the hand life has dealt them; hating every minute of it. When I say gratitude, I’m talking about a deeply felt sensation of appreciation and not politely saying “thank you” for a re-gifted label maker. Real gratitude is what allows us to enjoy life day to day. It motivates us to achieve our goals, and is what we should all be striving to develop.

The Ten Lepers
The biblical story of the ten lepers (Luke 17: 11-19) tells us about, you guessed it, ten lepers. These lepers were told by Jesus to go see the Priests and on their way they were healed. One of them returned to thank Jesus, but the other nine did not. As a kid, this story made me think that we had to be grateful because if we weren’t, we were being rude to Jesus. While it’s true we shouldn’t be rude to Jesus, I believe teachings and commandments are meant for our benefit and not to boost the ego of deity. I imagine the one who was grateful lived a happy life, while the other nine soon forgot their blessing and found new things to be miserable about.

Take ten minutes to follow these simple steps. Repeat as needed to develop the virtue of gratitude.
1. Find a quiet place with no distractions.
2. Think of the ONE thing you are the most grateful for at that moment. No lists of 20 things or even 10 things you’re grateful for. We don’t want to dilute the feeling of gratitude. We want it focused on one person, place, thing, event, idea, etc…
3. Think about that ONE thing for a few minutes. Think about how it makes you feel. Think about how much better your life is with it in it.
4. Pray and thank God for this one thing and anything else that comes to mind.
As you recognize all the good in your life and feel grateful for it, you’ll invite more good things to come your way. Jesus told the leper who thanked him, “thy faith hath made the whole”. All ten lepers were healed, but without gratitude, could they all have been made whole? Let's live a whole life by working our tails off to achieve our goals, and being grateful when we succeed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Too Shy for Words

Amy from Utah asks,
“How can I be more outgoing in social situations? At parties, church, or just meeting new people anywhere, I’m really shy and don’t talk much.  I’m sure people think I’m stuck up or something, but I just don’t know what to say, or I’m too nervous to say it.“
First of all, don’t worry. It’s completely normal to be a little shy when meeting new people. The good news is that with some dedication and focus, you can learn to be a master mingler in no time.  Below are some tips to consider when you're ready to leave your comfort zone and explore the exciting world of social interaction. 

Be Other-Conscious; not Self-Conscious 

It turns out “other-conscious” isn’t a word. Maybe “empathetic” is better. Although it may feel like each new conversation is a personal interview set up to decide if you’re “cool” or “hip” or “legit” or whatever the kids are saying these days, the other person has not been informed of this. They don't have a score card and most likely assume YOU are the one who will be judging THEM. You’ll be much more relaxed and your company will be more enjoyable if you focus all your attention on the person you’re speaking with. Assume that they have every insecurity you have, and do what you can to make them feel comfortable. If you want to impress someone, don’t try to convince them that YOU are witty, intelligent, and "with it". Convince them that THEY are witty, intelligent, and "with it".

Stay positive.

I’ll never forget the time I was meeting my new boss and was a little bit too opinionated about the topic of smoking, only to see her taking a smoke break an hour later. Talk about what you DO like and not what you DON’T like. Most people who don’t like Seinfeld won’t be offended if you do, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for being offended if they do like Seinfeld and you go on a 30 minute rant about how much you hate it. Never assume everyone feels the same way you do about a topic. 

Don’t Give Up.

Not every conversation will go smoothly. Don’t let this discourage you, and don’t assume that every awkward moment is your doing. Everyone has just as much a right to be awkward as you do. If your attempt to spark a conversation goes poorly, try again. Keep mingling. Keep going to parties. Keep stretching your comfort zone to include more enriching experiences. 

Some Notes

One thing you can do right now, is stop referring to yourself as shy. If you want to change, you can’t label yourself as the thing you don’t want to be. It only gives you excuses like, “I’ll just sit over here in this corner, and that’s okay, because I’m shy” or “I’m shy, so I’ll just stick to my close friends and not meet anyone new”

Being shy isn't the same as being an introvert. 
Bernardo J. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute, says, "If you see two people standing by a wall at a party, the introvert is there because he wants to be. The shy person is there because he feels like he has to be."

If your shyness interferes with daily life, and causes extreme fear, you may have Social Anxiety Disorder.
Check out this information from the Mayo Clinic, and talk to a doctor or counselor. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ten Minute Fix: Messy Room

I love loading the dishwasher. I’m weird, right? It’s just so satisfying. I can immediately enjoy the fruits of my labor as I gaze upon the sparkling empty sink. I used to have a problem; however. I couldn’t stand unloading the dishwasher. I’d always put it off to the point where the sink would be overflowing with dishes, not because I didn’t want to wash them, but because the dishwasher was already full of clean dishes I didn’t want to put away. The solution? I timed myself putting dishes away. It took two and a half minutes. Seriously?! The dishes piled up for so long because I wasn't willing to commit two and a half minutes of my day. 

A clean environment helps you relax and enjoy life more. If the kitchen is messy, cooking a good meal seems like an impossible task. If the living room is messy, it's harder to relax and watch Seinfeld. And if the bedroom is messy, the last image in your head before falling asleep is one of stress and disarray. Use this ten minute fix to clean up the mess.

1. Grab some index cards

2. Label each card with a room in your home.

3. Write down a 10 minute cleaning plan for one of the rooms.
This won't be a deep clean. It's just a quick list of the cleaning jobs hat can be done every day. If you want some cleaning ideas check out this list of 15 Minute Cleanups and just knock off five minutes :)

4. Next time you look at that messy room, just think "10 minutes". 
That's all it takes! Grab your card, set the timer and start cleaning. If it takes longer than ten minutes at first, don't worry. You'll get faster with time, and you can always make changes

The great thing is you can do this for every room in your house. In my family's case, we have 7 rooms to clean. That's an hour and ten minutes to clean the whole house. If you consider that not every room needs to be cleaned every day, and the work is split between my wife and myself, it's actually under 30 minutes for a typical day. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stress Free Self-Reflection

Anonymous asks...
"I know there are a lot of things I need to change about myself, but thinking about it just stresses me out, so I do everything I can to just overlook my shortcomings and pretend they’re not there. How can I get over this and start making the changes I need to make?"

Stress is a reaction to something we perceive to be negative. In most cases, if you can remove the negativity, you also remove the stress. So far, you’ve removed the negativity by just not thinking about any problems. Unfortunately, ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. Try some different methods to take the negativity out of your self-evaluation.

Focus on the Future
Sitting down and listing everything wrong with you, doesn’t sound like much fun.  It won’t be motivating and at the end you’ll be left to wonder if you’ve ever done ANYTHING right in your life. Instead, try writing down everything you want to be. Imagine a better you, and write down the qualities you see in your future self. Seeing yourself as this person, and believing that you can become this person will give you hope. Hope will motivate you.

Be Happy, Not Complacent
Be happy with who you are, and also be happy with who you WILL be. Enjoy the present. You already have so many strengths and talents that others wish they could have. Being happy with who you are doesn’t mean
being complacent; however. You CAN be happy with who you are while striving to be better.Don't be afraid of change. Embrace it! 

Take Small Bites
Sadly, science still hasn’t figured out a way for me to watch every episode of Seinfeld simultaneously. I have to take it one episode at a time. Thanks for nothing, Science. Similarly, we can't change every aspect of our lives at the same time. Start with one quality you would like to develop and focus your energy there. Take small bites, as in, “don’t bite off more than you can chew”.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ten Minute Fix: Ruts

This story begins with the door to a bedroom in my second college apartment. It was an ordinary door in every way except for one...THE DANG THING WOULDN'T CLOSE! One day my roommate and I decided we had lived with that door long enough, so armed only with a hammer, some liquid white-out, and zero knowledge about how to fix a door, we did a ten minute fix. We had exactly ten minutes, and at the end of those ten minutes that door had to way or another. It was a wild ride, but we did it.

What I learned is that fixing stuff doesn't have to take as long as we think, and the same can go for fixing our lives. So, the ten minute fix is no longer confined to the realm of "home repairs that you could have just had the landlord take care of", but is free to explore the exciting world of self-improvement.

Ten Minute Fix: Ruts

Take a good look at these mashed potatoes. mmmm.....
Now, what if these particular mashed potatoes have been served to you every day for dinner without butter or salt for the past three years? Less appetizing, right?

A rut is your 1095th serving of unsalted mashed potatoes. It’s a routine or tradition gone bad. It isn’t enjoyable. It doesn’t make you more productive. It doesn’t enrich your life in any way. You only do it because it’s what you’ve always done. Variety is the spice of life, so this ten minute fix will help you escape your rut and spice things up a bit.

Follow This Outline

1. Start the clock. You only get ten minutes. No cheating.

2. Write down 1 to 3 ruts that you find yourself stuck in (Rut = Any unrewarding activity you do on autopilot)

3. For each rut listed, write down a new activity or a change to that activity to spice it up.
EXAMPLE: Instead of looking in the mirror and studying the bags under your eyes while you brush your teeth in the morning, you could do some lunges while brushing your teeth. Great teeth, great breath, and a great butt all at the same time!
4. Choose one rut from the list and work out any details, so you can put it into action.

This exercise isn't meant to replace one rut with a new one. It’s a one-time 
deal just to try something spontaneous and new, and If it works out, you can add it to your routine.

My rut was coming home 
from work, checking the mail, plopping myself down on the couch and pretty much sitting around until either Seinfeld came on, or it was time to eat dinner. Maybe at one point I considered this “unwinding” and it did me some good, but not anymore. It’s a rut. So, in my ten minutes I decided that instead of playing the part of a throw pillow in a one man production of Boring, I would take my wife and baby to the local art museum. I looked up the location, cost, hours, and whether or not we could take snapshots inside. In ten minutes my activity was planned and the next day I put it into action. 

Enjoy your ten minute fix. Tell your friends. More fixes coming soon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I Don't Care WHAT You Think!

“Go out in the world and work like money doesn't matter, Sing as if no one is listening, Love as if you have never been hurt, and Dance as if no one is watching”
Anonymous asks...
 "How do you learn how to be independent and true to yourself and basically stop caring what other people think without becoming a huge jerk? Or, if that is too touchy feely, how does one go about acquiring a baby panda?"

This is a great question and it's not too touchy feely at all! When you boil it down, it's a question about self-esteem. Let me explain...

In this case, the most applicable definition of being independent is "not looking to others for one's opinions or for guidance in conduct" (Thanks Merriam-Webster). So, if you're not looking to others for opinions or guidance you have to TRUST your own opinions and guidance. To be true to yourself, you have to first KNOW who you are. And to stop caring what other people think, you have to CARE about what you think. 

So you must...
KNOW yourself....TRUST yourself...and CARE about yourself.

Know Yourself

Getting to know yourself is a lot like getting to know anyone else. Ask yourself some meaningful questions, and then answer them. 
             What are the most important things in my life? 
             What is the one person, place, or thing, I would give up 
             everything else for? 
             Who am I? 
             Who do I aspire to be? 
             What are the core principles that guide my life?  
Think up your own questions that will help you get to the root of who you are. Don't worry about knowing everything about yourself in one sitting though. Instead focus on whatever is on your mind at the moment. If you're nervous about going to a party, ask questions like; What parties have I really enjoyed? What made them so enjoyable? How can I recreate that enjoyment during this party?

The most important advice I can give you is to be honest when you interview yourself. If the core principles that guide your life are greed and jealousy, it's good to recognize it so you can make changes to develop more fulfilling values. You see, being true to yourself doesn't mean holding on to your imperfections, no matter what anyone thinks. It means holding on to what you know to be right, no matter what anyone thinks.

Trust Yourself
Dig deep into your own experiences and make decisions from within. It's not wrong to listen to advice from other people, but when it's decision time, know the decision is yours. Own it! No one is making you do anything. You've studied the options and chose a path, and it's your own path, no one else's. Trust comes through experience; however. I trust my waffle recipe because I tried it, and it's delicious. I trust myself because I allowed myself to control my life, and I'm happy.

Care About Yourself

Let's say you committed a major faux pas at a party. What would be going through your head on the drive home? Would it sound anything like this?

"What were you thinking?! That was so stupid! Everyone there thinks you're an idiot now, are you happy?! They're probably talking about you right now and laughing! You deserve it too!"

Now let's say your friend committed the same faux pas at the same party. What would you say to them? Probably something more like this.

"It's not a big deal! No one even noticed! They really liked you and loved your stories and jokes. You were the hit of the party! They're probably sitting around bored now that you left. "
Treat yourself at least as well as you would your own best friend. The positive messages you give yourself will drown out the few and far between negative ones that may come from others.

Not Being a Jerk
Keep these three truths in mind, and you'll have nothing to worry about.
  1. Being independent doesn't mean being selfish. 
  2. Being true to yourself doesn't mean embracing your jerkiness and inflicting it on others. 
  3. Not caring about what anyone else THINKS, doesn't mean not caring about what anyone else FEELS.
As for acquiring a baby panda, your safest and most legal bet would be to become a zoologist and get on the acquisitions committee for a large metropolitan zoo.  A quick search for "zoologist" on brought back zero results, so you may have to wait for the economy to improve.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


It's a new year and CONNECT! 2011 has begun! I'm excited to get started on the four goals, so I"m going to start my first letter today. If you haven't heard about this event you can click on this to learn more, or this to join the Facebook event, or this to watch a funny video of a baby panda sneezing.

Okay, anyone who clicked on the baby panda link probably won't be back to read the rest of this blog, but that's okay. It's a tough act to follow anyway. I want to give more direction to this blog, so this is what I'm proposing.

Weekly posts based on questions from readers of the Vaughn Life Coaching Blog

So, readers can submit questions about any topic, and receive an answer from a life coach. Now, this won't be an advice column. Coaches don't tell anyone what to do (except for their kids), but rather provide clients with the tools to find their own solutions. You see, there is only one expert on your life and that is you. With the right tools, you will make the best decisions for you.

SUBMIT your questions!