Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Tips for Better Communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of all healthy relationships. Regardless of whether the relationship is with a family member, significant other, co-worker, friend, or acquaintance, each person is responsible for his or her own behavior, including their communication skills.

In order to communicate in healthy and balanced ways, we must pay attention to how we are feeling as we are sending or receiving information. Becoming aware of our emotions helps us to sort through our thoughts and feelings, especially when our emotions have been triggered. We are always responsible for our own attitudes, actions, and choices, including our words. Reacting is natural, but responding is thoughtful.

To help improve your communication, consider the following tips:

1) Seek clarity. If you're unclear about what someone else means, ask questions for clarification. If you're not sure how you are feeling about something, wait until you're ready. And when you've made your point, stop explaining. If the other person isn't ready to hear you, speaking longer or louder isn't going to make any difference.

2) Start listening. Stop talking and start listening. Stop thinking and start listening. Stop preparing what you're going to say in response to someone and start listening. And then when you think you're really listening, be quiet and start sincerely listening. Listening is an essential part of communication and is the highest form of respect.

3) Let go. Let go of the need to be right. Let go of your ego's desire to "win". Let go of the need to be understood. Let go of your pride and allow yourself to learn something. Effective communication is about truth and transparency. When you let go, you allow yourself to be seen and heard. Resistance closes doors; letting go opens them.

4) Apologize. When you've said something rude, apologize. When you've offended someone, apologize. When you've lost your cool and raised your voice, apologize. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and apologize. "I'm sorry," goes a long way. And when someone apologizes to you don't make it into a power play, just say, "Thank you," and move on.

5) Do the work. When you are challenged by someone, do the work. When you feel you need to be heard, do the work. When you're faced with conflict, do the work and get through it. When you feel like giving up, do the work. Make a commitment to yourself to do the work and grow from it. Nothing productive ever happens from avoidance.

Most importantly, be aware of your feelings as you communicate. Notice what’s different when you come from a place of thoughtful response rather than simply reacting, and see how this changes the landscape of your relationships.

To your better balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Job, My Life?

Do what you love and love what you do,
for what you do most, says most about you.

Stuck in a dead-end job? Feel like your work is no longer a good fit? Recently laid off and not sure where to turn? You're not alone. Many people have found themselves without a job or unhappy in their work, and unfortunately this stress is trickling into every other part of their lives. We can spend up to 60% or more of our awake time working, and since your work is an extension of who you are, you must be able to find some sort of purpose and fulfillment in it. After all, it's not your "life"... or is it?

Many of us are seeking more meaningful work. So how do you find a job you love? How do you create meaningful work? And what do you do in-between this love-hate relationship? 

Let's try some Q&A.

How do I find the right job for me?
Take a moment and think about what you are doing when you are really truly happy (something other than being on vacation =) What aspect of your current or most recent job appealed to you when you first started it? What type of work have you been drawn to in the past? What sounds like it would feel very rewarding and satisfying? Once you start identifying what you love to do, it's much easier to investigate new job roles that utilize those attributes. Once you know what you want, then update your resume, start to peruse job sites, read job titles and descriptions, and—MOST IMPORTANTLY—start talking to other people about what you're thinking. Your network, including friends and family, are always your best resource!

But I'm in a job that I hate. What can I possibly do right now?
As you are thinking about what you'd rather be doing, focus on those aspects of your current job that you "do" appreciate—perhaps it's the people, the customers, or when you get the opportunity to do something you really enjoy. Whatever you are paying attention to will become more of your experience, whether it's something you want or something you don't want. Pay attention to what you like about your job and the people around you, and it will bring you (albeit temporary) relief!

How do I write a good resume?
Create a first page with your contact info, a statement of who you are and what you want to do, and then use the rest of the page to outline your top three areas of expertise with three or four bullets below each topic area highlighting accomplishments from your previous jobs. Use numbers, percentages, statistics whenever possible (for example, "Exceeded projected goals by increasing program participation by over 400% in 12 months.") Make it active and measurable! On page two, list your previous employment, your education, and any other relevant awards or accomplishments, but no detail. Remember: a resume is simply a calling card; not an interview.

Now What?
Now that you've: 1) thought about what you want; 2) taken time to appreciate what you have; and 3) started to organize yourself, your network, and your resume to align with a new opportunity, then you can begin to imagine what it feels like to enjoy what you do and get paid for it. After all, your job is only one aspect your larger "life"... right?

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What's Really Happening


The other day I was asked, "Since you write books about balance, you must be happy and balanced all the time, right?" I paused and replied, "You'd think so, wouldn't you?" The person looked bewildered. I continued, "Let me just say this: we all have good days and "not as good" days. I just focus on appreciating the good days, and then try my hardest to pay attention and learn about what the not-so-good days are teaching me. In the long run, that feels more natural—more balanced."

That, in its essence, is what I consider "What's really happening". We are all going about our lives day-to-day and navigating through the sea of life with its waves, lulls, and uncharted waters. We all have good days—we all have challenging ones. Sometimes we're right on course; sometimes we're headed for an iceberg. Other times we just need to take our eyes of the map for a moment and allow the winds of change to point us in a new direction. Either way, the voyage continues.

Is life perfect? Absolutely not. But it's from the "is not" that comes the "is"... those wonderful moments of clarity, meaning, and true happiness. Those are the moments to focus on and remember when you're having a bad day, keeping in mind that whatever we pay attention to expands.

What are some ways in which you help yourself to maintain better balance? What is helping you on those challenging days?

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ups & Downs Are Natural

Some days are just better than others. There are days we feel energized and happy, and other days we may feel low energy and more sublime. I couldn't expect myself to be blissfully happy every day, but I used to think that when I felt down or under the weather there was something wrong with me. I was under the impression that I needed feel good all the time, and it felt like that expectation created a lot of pressure in my life.

Then I started paying attention to those times where I didn't feel so great and noticed that each time I came out of a lull, I had a clearer vision and new zest for life that I didn't have before. Having those occasional "down days" serves a purpose (and here's a way to turn your ups & downs to horizontal rather than vertical).

The lulls of life are very important times: they are a time of reflection, gathering information, comparing and contrasting thoughts and feelings, and time for refreshing our perspective. Think of it like sleeping. When you sleep, your body restores and heals itself. When you wake, you usually feel refreshed and renewed. Ever had a problem, decided to "sleep on it", and felt better about it the next day? It's the same with the ups and downs of life. On those down days, we experience contrast, and from that contrast we create another new creation—often, as simple as the desire to feel better.
So embrace the down times. Embrace your outages. Embrace the days you don't feel so great, for it is in those days you are internally realigning yourself with what you really want. And when you start moving yourself back into alignment, better balance is near.

Life isn't about being perfect; life is about being present. Be present with all of your thoughts and feelings, for every aspect of you is important. And when you allow yourself to flow in and out of all your emotions, you will experience feelings of relief.

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.

Monday, May 19, 2014

5 Relationship Myths

If you were all alone in the universe with no one to 
talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars,
 to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life?

It is other life, it is love, which gives your life meaning.

Mitsugi Saotome

Relationships are an essential part of our lives. Through our relationships we learn to grow and discover the reflections of our best selves in those around us. But there are also some common beliefs about relationships that get us hung up, so let's take a moment to explore a few of the biggest myths about relationships.

1. There is Only One Person for You

If this was true then you would still be dating your second grade crush! This is one of the greatest myths and the one that causes so many relationships to turn bitter and sour, and in the worst case scenario, it keeps people together when they are miserable. 

We don’t get only “one” person, we get to choose who remains a part of our life when that relationship is the most loving, fulfilling, and purposeful. Life is in constant motion, and since life is constantly changing, so are we. In relationships, we change individually and we also change together—or we don't. We can continue to choose the same person over and over again, but we are not obligated to stay in any relationship that’s not adding to our growth. Healthy relationships are always based in freedom, not obligation. If your relationship is starting to crack, look at where you need to be more flexible, loving, and understanding. Communication is key. Listen to one another, ask for what you need, be respectful, and always keep both of your best interests in mind. Relationships are, indeed, a two-way street!

2. "I’ve had a tough life, and a relationship will help heal my wounds."

While it is true that your relationships will bring up everything in your life that is unhealed or broken (emotionally or spiritually), you do not want to use your relationship/partner to heal you—that is something you need to do for yourself. If you rely on your partner to fix you, you’ve not taken responsibility for yourself—and when we rely on someone else for our happiness, we cannot ever be truly happy. Happiness always begins within you.

3. Being in a Relationship is Better Than Being Alone

Not if it’s a bad relationship! Remember: relationships are opportunities for us to connect with like minds and spirits in order to understand ourselves and explore our potential to create a larger experience. If you are using a relationship to mask loneliness (which is based in fear, not love) your relationship may allow you to temporarily forget your loneliness, but loneliness will still be there. Being in a healthy relationship with yourself reduces loneliness. Also, by staying involved in a relationship that's not helping you grow you cannot attract a healthy relationship that will—you already have that vacancy filled! Only when you have created the space for something healthy can it step into your life.

4. In Relationships, Opposites Attract

Personalities with opposing attributes may attract at first (simply due to the variety and contrast they bring), but rarely sustain. Having a range of different qualities and interests can certainly be appealing—especially when first meeting someone—but in the long run you will need to find more common ground on which to walk together. Use your differences to teach one another about aspects of yourself you have yet to explore, and use your relationship to mutually help each other grow. Focus on your differences as strengths, and whether you agree or not, always be respectful.

5. "I’ve tried being in a relationship, but I always seem to mess things up."

You will get what you intend. When looking at past relationships, examine why you went into the relationship in the first place. To fill a void in your life? Take the place of something you didn't have? Find someone to take care of?

Entering a relationship out of "lack" will just bring more of it. Start by developing a healthy relationship with yourself before going into a relationship with another. If you're already in a relationship and need to find more balance, take time out for yourself—find peace with yourself, your past, and your decisions. If you believe that you will “mess up” a relationship, your beliefs will fuel your attitudes, actions, and words, and direct you into sabotage mode. In time, the relationship will, indeed, fail—it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Set your course for success! Believe that you deserve and will have positive, loving relationships.

As we enter into the summer of 2014, choose to create healthy and happy relationships in all areas your life and watch the results. After all, it's your choice.

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Power of Choice

 It is not our abilities that show
who we truly are, it is our choices.

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter
J. K. Rowling

One of our biggest gifts is the ability to choose. In every moment we choose what to give our attention, focus, and energy—and most importantly, our responses to what is happening around us. The outcomes of our choices, in turn, create our reality. Our choices stem from our thoughts and feelings—and as Neale Donald Walsch states in his brilliant book series, Conversations with God, "Feelings are the language of the soul."

Stop and think for a moment about the connections:

  • Feelings create thoughts;
  • Thoughts create words;
  • Words create actions;
  • Actions create character;
  • Character creates our life path.
If we are, indeed, choosing in every moment, think about what life path you are creating? Is it a story of joy, fun, and adventure, or is it a tedious tale of anger, stress, and disappointment? The power of choice allows us to create the reality we truly wish to create, regardless of what is happening around us.
Here’s a simple 3-step process to help you consciously activate your power of choice and begin to create a reality for yourself that contains what you truly desire:

1. Decide. Think about what you really want and begin to make choices that are in-line with those desires. Many people are on autopilot and not taking time to decide what they really want. If you continue to accept your life events "by default" then stop complaining when things consistently don't turn out the way you intended. You need to decide what brings you true joy and happiness, and then focus only on those things.

2. Declare. Start writing and talking about what you'd like and what you want to create—tell your friends and family members. Just like fire, intentions spread and grow when you start talking about them. Stating your intentions kick-starts the process of creation and gives you the momentum and passion to achieve what you want.

3. Demonstrate. I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Fake it 'til you make it"? This action is part of becoming and moving into your reality as you create it. Demonstrating your intention by acting as if you already have what it is that you truly want puts you in line with receiving it—by thinking the thoughts of what you want, you will start feeling them, speaking them, acting them, and eventually your intentions must appear in your reality. That is the creative process.

Also, an important follow-up and a key step during the creative process is to remember to be grateful for what you already have. Gratitude is a vital part of completing the circle of creation. Be thankful and appreciate whatever it is that you do receive, for every gift is a step towards your next creation.

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What About Abundance?


Last week I was coaching a client about her fears of abandonment. It felt to her that every time she became involved in a relationship, she would start recycling old fears of rejection, which would ultimately bring up her abandonment issues. Whereas the roots of her feelings of abandonment were a topic she was slowly unraveling with her therapist, she wanted to pair her therapy work with coaching advice for moving forward with her life as she continued down the path of healing.

Abandonment and rejection are both based in lack. When there is any feeling of "lack" in our experience—lack of money, time, or even love—it simply means we're choosing to believe there is not enough. Feelings of lack are the opposite of feelings of abundance. If you believe in abundance, there is always enough—enough money, enough time, enough love. Believing in abundance means you will always have all that you need regardless of how you will get it, including being loved in relationships. A fear of lack translates to, "There is not enough, They are not enough," or "I am not enough." A spirit of abundance says, "There is always enough, They are enough," and "I am enough." If someone in your life cannot give you the love you need, someone else can. There is always enough love.

For my client, the awareness of what she was focusing on could either propel her into more of the same feelings of lack, or by becoming aware of this pattern she could reframe her belief to one of "always enough." Her relationship was bringing her the opportunity to face her old beliefs and re-examine their validity. Are these fears still true? Are these beliefs helping or hurting her?

What do you want in your life—a fear-based belief that says, "There is not enough," or an abundance-based belief that says, "There is always enough?" Remember: It's always your choice.

To Your Better Balance!

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg
Find better balance in your life, relationships, and work. 
Visit 21daystobetterbalance.com and learn more.