Archives For Personal Development

By Dr. Susan Ziebarth
The holiday season is upon us. Sometimes we wonder… “How did that happen? Wasn’t it just back-to-school time?” This year has seen so many changes in my life and those of my friends and loved ones: lost parents, lost companion animals, lost children, children flying so far out of the nest they can’t make it home, moving to a different country, homeland country in chaos, messy divorce, new job, and getting married for the second time. I am sure if you pause, and maybe you don’t even have to pause, you can easily pull a list together of the upheaval (some good and some painful) in your life and the people in your loved ones this year.
<a href=””><img src=”×225.jpg” alt=”Oscar 2012″ width=”300″ height=”225″ class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-2232″ /></a>I think it is fair to say that the majority of people have traditions around the holiday season and with them come the comfort and the hope that this one will be truly magical. Sometimes life’s events rock our traditions and shake our ability to follow them.
There are also those of us who quickly get bogged down in busyness, stress and old patterns. After all if we aren’t crazy busy can we have a good time? Here are 10 ways to turn these dynamics around and create the magic.
1. Give yourself a break. Perfection—even perfect happiness—just isn’t possible. Let your best be good enough. Make a budget for both your time and your money—and stick to it. It really is the thought that counts. Make sure sleep is in your time budget! Lack of sleep will dampen your ability to enjoy.
2. Make conscious decisions. Get clear about what you really want to do over the holidays before compromising with others. If you don’t have a clear plan and clear intentions, you might find yourself getting swept along by others’ desires. Even if you compromise later, get clear first. It is ok for your intentions to be unstructured if it is a conscious choice. If you are a free spirit consciously choose to let that free spirit soar.
3. Shorten your to-do list. What do the holidays mean to you? For many, it’s about family and friends and spirituality. If an item doesn’t add to your holiday spirit, scratch it off.  I used to think that a short to-do list meant that I wasn’t giving enough of myself. I have since learned that I can give more of myself with a shorter to-do list.
4. Say no when you want to. It’s very liberating. Try it and see. It sounds simple, but too often obligation trumps desire. When faced with options, choose the one that would make you happier. This doesn’t mean everyone will be happy with your choices but you can say no respectfully to them and respect yourself in the process.
5. Limit obligatory activities. If you can’t avoid certain events, limit the time you’re there.
6. Take good care of yourself. The old standards help keep stress at bay: eat healthfully, exercise, drink lots of water, and breathe deeply. Schedule time for relaxation and fun.
7. Start early. To avoid a last-minute frenzy that can bust your budget, start shopping or making presents now. After Christmas sales are a great time to start preparing for next year. (Just a note of caution…write things down so you don’t forget you have them…not that I have done this of course )
8. Ask for help. Reject any notion of martyrdom. The burden of preparations should not fall upon one person. The more specific you are in your request, the more successful you’ll be. Over time martyrdom can hurt your relationships.
9. Establish new traditions. If you have experienced a major life-changing event, such as a death or divorce, consider doing something you’ve never done before over the holidays, such as travel to another country or take a cruise.
10. Get support. What better gift can you give the world than giving the best of yourself? If a glorious holiday season feels completely out of reach, you may experience the holiday blues. Many people do. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way. Reach out for the support you need.
My wish for you for the holidays is that you are able to define your magic and live it!

By Dr. Susan Ziebarth

This past week one of our team members lost his mother. It is amazing how in an instant everything in your world changes. The mix of deep sadness and appreciation for a dear loved one mix to create a stirring whirr of emotions and activities. Our hearts and love go out to his family.

MauiTime really is the great equalizer. Everybody gets the same amount: 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour. We can’t save time or accumulate or rearrange it. We can’t turn it off or on. It can’t be replaced and we don’t know when time our time is up.

Heading into the holiday season, we can easily get swept up in all the activities of the family recitals, school functions, shopping, religious commitments, professional regulatory requirements. With these things in mind I thought it might be a good time to offer you a quick Self-Quiz to see if you are Caught up in “BusyNess” and are Too Busy!

These days, it seems as if the lament of not having enough time has become a national anthem. Everywhere people find themselves constantly in a rush, over-booked and over-scheduled with no time off. Life is accompanied by the ongoing stress of not enough time. And sometimes doing too much and being too busy can be a way of numbing feelings or disguising depression or anger.

Though it may not always seem so, how we fill our time and how we spend it is our choice. I am working on a research project for a book on high-achieving women and it is very enlightening how some women say yes and mean no, other say no and mean it, and others say yes and mean it! I think the key appears to be to understand when to say no and mean it so that the valuable yeses can shine through.

Answer the following questions to discover if you’re caught up in the “BusyNess” cycle.

I constantly find myself doing “urgent” things and trying to catch up.

I allow myself to drift into obligations when I don’t know how much time or energy they’ll require.

I find myself running from when I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night. I’m always tired and never feel like I accomplished enough.

I seldom schedule a day off for myself and when I do, I tend to fill it with activities.

I don’t make time for “self-care” activities: physical exercise, nurturing or “pampering” myself, cultural stimulation, spiritual well-being, learning something new, playing, or simply doing nothing.

I seldom have time to do the things I really love.

My work and project areas are cluttered with “I’ll look at this later” stacks and “to-do” piles.

I often miscalculate how long certain activities will take.

I often miss deadlines or work long hours to meet a deadline.

I respond to interruptions such as phone calls, faxes, email, beepers and pagers, and allow them to take me off track.

I try to keep things in my head rather than making lists. If I do make a daily “to-do” list, it’s impossible to complete in a day.

I tend to move from one urgent thing to the next, rather than working toward specific goals and objectives.

I find myself constantly wishing I had more time or projecting an imaginary future when I have more time, making comments such as “as soon as…” or “next year…”

I spend time running errands and rushing because I didn’t plan well enough.

I spend time doing things I could pay someone else to do.

I often do things because I “should,” or continue to do things that no longer fit who I am.

Other people complain that my schedule doesn’t allow enough time for them.

Do you recognize yourself in these questions? Share with us in the comments below what one thing you can do to make a difference for YOU this week to reduce “BusyNess”?

By Dr. Susan Ziebarth

With Canadian Thanksgiving upon us, most of us will focus our attention at least for one day on being thankful. Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays and not because of the feast but because there is something magical and powerful about experiencing genuine Gratitude by feeling it and expressing it.

apple pieThe practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery. Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want found the most important and the simplest factor to obtain happiness was making gratitude a practice.

While we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

You might be thinking…yes this all sounds great but “I have to go back to work on Tuesday and I can’t stand (fill in your personal irritant).” What can you do to change that irritant through gratitude? For example, can you encourage camaraderie and help to rid unhealthy and dysfunctional team behaviors perhaps through some kind of fun outside of work where team members can express appreciation for one another. If we look deep enough, even those people who drive us crazy have their good qualities.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

• Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.

• Make a gratitude collage or scrapbook by drawing or pasting pictures.

• Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine. For example, when you get into bed just think of the best thing that happened in your day. It might even be as simple as a smile from a loved one.

• Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation. Often times with challenging situations we find those who come to our aid a true blessing.

• When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel. This one can be done so quickly – even on a coffee break.

• Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Recently the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it was not illegal for a dentist to fire a dental assistant who had worked for him for 10 years because she was too attractive. The court ruled that the “irresistible attraction” was not discrimination because as Justice Edward Mansfield stated the issue was motivated by feelings and emotions not gender. I am not a lawyer and therefore can only comment that I am shocked by the decision of the court that gender discrimination was not present. I am not shocked that in the battle of owner versus employee who had to go. The question is what cost should have been paid for the termination?

I work with many dental hygienists and know that dental offices are notorious for drama as well as marriages between different cast members – whether they be dentist, dental hygienist, dental assistance, receptionists etc.. In such personal service businesses, there are times when you are left with no alternative but to seek alternative employment if you are not working for a large organization with a human resources department to assist you. 

But Dental Hygienists are not the only ones who experience such stressors. While interviewing a number of high-achieving women for a book I am writing, I have discovered that workplace bullying, yelling, and sexual advances are more common than uncommon as perceived by the women.  If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation seek help.

Keeping yourself safe should be your priority. If you find yourself being the subject of such advances or inappropriate behaviour try these tips.

1.      Trust yourself. If you are feeling uncomfortable there is a reason for it.

2.      Check yourself to make sure you are coming across as professional in your appearance and communication. Think about your conversations and at your wardrobe to see if you are conducting yourself in a professional manner.

3.      If you have a human resources department where you can speak confidentially approach them with your concerns. Don’t wait until the situation gets worse. If there is no action with the human resources department or there is not one available to you then…

4.      Invest in a good labour lawyer early in the process to give you guidance on how to respond to your boss and what legal resources you have available to you. Talking to the lawyer doesn’t mean you are going to court. It can prepare you to recognize and respond to those uncomfortable feelings. Preparation is critical in how you proceed so you do not destroy your career or end up becoming a victim of slander or assault.

5.      If you are in a situation that is making you feel uncomfortable, tell the other person that you are feeling uncomfortable and would like to keep your relationship on a professional level. You can even tell the person that you have a rule to not get involved with anyone at work.

6.      Say no in a calm, conversational, and assertive way (even if you feel like mush on the inside) and not aggressively or confrontationally. 

7.      Look for an appropriate time to have a conversation regarding your discomfort. For example, when your co-workers are nearby but not in the immediate vicinity and when clients are not expected. If your boss is already in a bad mood defer your conversation if you can.

8.      Don’t let the situation brew until you begin experiencing ill health due to the stress. Ask your lawyer for advice on how to leave the position. Channel the energy from that stress into seeking another job quietly by making some phone calls or networking with colleagues and alerting them that you are seeking a new challenge. Do not disparage your employer it may come back to haunt you.

Whether your workplace is large or small – intimate or industrial…  Remember to trust your gut. If you are feeling uncomfortable figure out why and talk to someone about your situation confidentially. While a lawyer may seem excessive or expensive, in the long run the advice you get could save your career and your health.

By Dr. Susan Ziebarth

Sometimes lessons come from the weirdest places. Nick Nanton and JW Dicks highlighted lessons learned from looking at the Twinkie as an Eternal brand. What struck me about this fun and helpful post is that they highlight the significance of emotions to the life of a brand, the internal alignment employees need to have with the brand, and the value of storytelling to build recurring business.

Branding is often thought of as “all of the promises and perceptions that an organization wants its customers to feel about its product and service offerings” (Davis, S.M.). So how can we determine what feelings we want our customers to feel and how do we act so as to inspire those feelings? Perhaps the answer is to first do some soul searching. In Brains on Fire, the authors take a stand that they prefer the word identity over the word brand because they feel that by “finding your purpose in the world as a company, you unearth your soul” (p. 110). What is your story?

At times we get so involved with developing a marketing plan that it becomes an exercise in itself and segregated from the identity of the culture and purpose of the business – the identity and your story. “Brands provide a sense of meaningful identity that is distinct from the particular product or service being offered” (Blumenthal).  It may appear to be easier for packaged goods in retail and business to business marketing to sell because they have tangible objects. However, brands that excel know what service providers who offer intangible offerings that often offer a promise for the future know – you need to know the values and the why behind your brand.

What is uniquely you? What do you stand for? What do you do? Why do you do it? The energy you invest in answering these questions will allow you to convey a more personal, authentic, and soulful brand. A brand where people are likely to feel the emotions you desire they feel. Before you start looking at marketing opportunities, budget, and evaluation options etc. get clear on your identity. Who are you and what do you do? Remember your answer does not have to be cast in stone. Just as people grow and change so can your brand, just make the changes consciously to stay true to your identity.

Reference: Blumenthal, D. (2003). Internal Branding: does it improve employee’s quality of life? Institute for Brand Leadership. Retrieved March 2004, from


A quick search on Google tells us that there is much conventional wisdom about not looking back. From books such as that by Marcia Wallace titled Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way to the common adage we use to advise friends in need to forget the past and not look back. After all the future is in front of us right?

Or is it? In any piece of wisdom is it not advisable to sometimes stop and question these comforting quips? What about the somewhat juxtaposed piece of wisdom we need to learn from our mistakes? Or history keeps repeating itself until we get it right?

There is a Hawaiian moving meditation that draws upon ancient Hawaiian wisdom that has the body move in a rhythmic dance resembling an infinity sign. The meditation provides a sense of balance, ease, clarity and energy to those who practice it. In the movement, the future is considered to be behind us as we cannot see it and the past including that of our and our ancestors is before us as we can see it. The body moves in an even rhythm from the future though the present which is within our embrace, to the past, then moves in reverse through the present to the future. Watching the movement is like watching poetry in motion. Performing the movement is challenging until you can disengage the mind and stops worrying about your form and whether you are doing it right. When the mind settles and the movement emanates from the within the body the feeling of flow and connection is incredible. The movement is called flying and my teacher is Jody Soltau Mountain.

How many times do we get caught repeating a pattern in our life that is not serving us? Are we in a Ground Hog Loop? This loop is aptly named from the movie Ground Hog Day where the main character is doomed to repeat the same day until he makes the right correction. Are we stuck there because we are not recognizing the flow from the future, embracing the present, and looking to the past?

When I am offered a new view on something I have taken for granted, I embrace the opportunity to consciously look at my patterns and view my world with somewhat fresh eyes. Stop and think about it for a minute. Most people will concede that we are not prophetic and cannot see the future yet many of us focus on it almost to the exclusion of the present. Often this attempt at control is rooted in the past. We may not look to the past for help – we encourage not looking at it because it may be too upsetting or there may be too many unanswered questions.

We do not know what the next phone call or knock on the door will bring and try as we might, we cannot control it. Are we ignoring the calls or knocks in an attempt to forget the past rather than seeking the gifts of the lessons the past has to share with us so we can greet whoever is calling or knocking?

Consider what effect on your daily life patterns could be if you approached the past in the light of the dance? Begin with a slow and steady rhythmic approach of looking back at the future, embrace the present, and look forward at the past then continue the flow back to the present and the future. What would your life be like if you were not rushing through your days unconsciously, not blocking the past, and not attempting to control the future? The past, present, and future form the whole.

How do you recognize an opportunity?

Yesterday I learned the answer to this question from Kendall Summerhawk and I am going to share it with you!

I have been bombarded with the answer ever since.

Several times a week I drive by a street and just last night while stopped at a traffic light I looked up and saw a street sign. I asked my partner if the city had changed the name of
the street because I didn’t recognize it. The street name was the same, it was me that was different. I saw it.

This morning I decided I was going to write a blog post and was rolling three ideas around in my head. While pondering which to write about I stopped at my desk and popped in to check on my email and Facebook pages. There at the top of my personal newfeed in Facebook was a post from my friend Kecia Joy in Maui…that post is the picture that accompanies this post. “If you are waiting for a sign THIS IS IT”

So the answer to the question “How do you recognize an opportunity?” is…drumroll please…Because you can see it!

How many bits and pieces of information do we receive in a day? Are they even quantifiable? Although I have not researched it, I doubt we can quantify them because many of bits of information are taken in by us below a conscious level. For those numbers people let’s look at a quantifiable illustration from social media – Twitter. Twitter is a micro message social media platform that demonstrates staggering statistics. reported that on October 17, 2011 there were 250 million tweets per day which is about 175,000 tweets per minute or about 50 tweets a second! Simply astounding. In Twitter there are filters that we can define and apply to sort through the most relevant information to us.

The same is true for people. We have filters. We have learned to selectively attend to certain pieces of information that are important to us at that moment in time. Unlike Twitter we can’t always define what those filter parameters are because we may not even be consciously aware of what needs our attention.  How many harried Moms or Dads have said yes to something like “Can I paint the dog blue?” because they weren’t attentive at the time when asked. What if the exact same situation was in place and only the question differed. Supposed they were asked “Can I light the barbeque?” I would guess that most likely the parental response would not be the same because something
within alerts us to the fact that we have to pay attention.

In the many pieces of information that come to us daily if something stands out and presents itself to you as an opportunity. It likely is because otherwise it would not have had
your attention. Begin looking for the opportunities that present themselves to you daily. When you start recognizing them you just can consciously decide to take action and seize them or dismiss them. Either way you get to choose. How cool is that?

For more information on selective attention simply psychology offers an interesting post or you can test your attention using this famous video now available on YouTube.




Flourishing Blossom

Are You Flourishing?

Ever notice that one of the best motivators for doing something you have been procrastinating about is to find something you have to do that you want to do even less that the first thing? I ran into that situation again this morning. I think one of the best examples in my procrastination history has to do with studying. My apartment was never as clean as it was during exams. The clutter that had accumulated for 4 months all of a sudden became such a critical issue that I could not study in such an environment. The only solution was to clean before studying!

Sometimes we put off consciously thinking about our own happiness because it is easier to procrastinate than to face it down. I have been thinking about priorities a lot lately and ones I am sure you can relate to is happiness at work. How do we balance our need for security and income with a good workplace experience? Which takes priority if the workplace is unpleasant – money or sanity? There are so many factors to consider and even considering them takes energy. Energy we often do not have if we are negatively stressed. Then one day the tipping point comes and something, maybe even something which at the time seems insignificant, forces us to look at it. Which side of the tipping point are you on or are you balancing carefully on the point? Is fear weighing you down from beginning to explore your options or are you buoyed by a workplace that respects and nurtures you?

I have seen two people this week who look tired and sad even when they smile because of workplace unhappiness. Can you really see yourself in the mirror or is it time to ask someone who will tell you the truth about whether they think it is time for you to be creative in finding a good alternative to where you are working now? Harter, Schmidt, and Keyes in the book Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived (Keyes and Haidt) looked at aspects of well-being in the workplace for people and organizations to flourish. Aspects of their findings form the basis for a good thought-provoking self-assessment checklist.

In the workplace:

Do I know what is expected of me?

Do I have the tools and equipment I need to do what I should do?

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

Does someone care about me?

Are my opinions respected?

Do my peers have high quality standards for their work?

Am I experiencing opportunities to learn and grow?

From the perspective of an employee, answering these questions can help you determine if energy should be focused on change if you are hurting or on appreciation for what you are living if you are happy.

From the perspective of a leader, how do you think your employees would answer these questions? Do they smile? Do they look tired even if they are smiling? Are they hurting or flourishing? What can you do about it?

For an organization to flourish the people who collectively comprise its soul must flourish.


Keyes, C. L. M. and J Haidt. Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2007.


Self-defeating Beliefs

February 10, 2011 — Leave a comment

Do you believe the conventional wisdom that the only thing holding you back are your own beliefs? Are your beliefs preventing you from leading your way to a successful future? We hear so many stories of triumph of people surprising others with their accomplishments when the person knew they could achieve these results.
So what happens when you believe this conventional wisdom and these stories and yet you sabotage yourself with self-defeating beliefs? Have you had an argument raging in your head almost like the television and movie images of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? Did the dialogue go something like…

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One day my teenage daughter decided to change her signature. This change surprised me and when I asked her why the change she said she did it because it looked better.
Ok I confess I may be rather nerdy as she says but I thought Wow what a concept. She just consciously decided to improve how her signature looked and made the necessary behaviour change to make her perception of how she related to the world better from her perspective. She tried a “bunch of styles” because she said “writing is just like clothes, eventually you just grow out of a style and get a new one”.

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