Friday, February 10, 2012

15 Secret Ingredients for a Happy Year

What secret ingredient would you
put into the basket?
At a recent workshop, I asked participants to write down a“secret ingredient” for happiness in the upcoming year. The theme of the workshop was “Cooking Up 2012″ and during the course of the session, we focused on what makes for a happy life – what are the ‘main’ courses or must-haves for each individual? What about appetizers – those small tastes of something new or experimental that make life interesting?
We talked about the role of the side-dishes that make for a complete life, and the sweet indulgences – desserts – that make it rich.

At the beginning of the day, I placed a basket in the middle of the room. During the course of the session, attendees wrote down their ‘secret ingredients’ for happiness and dropped them into the basket. At the end of the day, each woman shared their vision or ‘recipe’ for the year and randomly selected an ingredient as a blessing to take home.
Here’s the list:
  1. Positivity
  2. Make your bed every morning – it only takes 30 seconds, and provides a lovely oasis for the rest of the day
  3. Selfishness – take care of yourself first
  4. Smile ‘til you feel it
  5. Be in the moment
  6. Be true to your dreams
  7. Be nicer (you can always be nicer)
  8. Shared values
  9. Bubbles: laughter, relaxation, joy, peace, tranquility
  10. Forgive
  11. Tell the truth
  12. Don’t take things personally
  13. Humour
  14. A dash of laughter
  15. Trust
We have an unlimited number of ingredients in our lives to combine to cook up the perfect dish. What’s your secret ingredient for happiness?

“Cooking Up 2012″ will be offered again in Vancouver B.C. in February. Click here to find out more.

*basket photo by Andrea Walker: Walker Park Media

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On Saying No to Shortbread: 5 Tips for a Saner Holiday

One of my coaching clients recently posted a question in our online group about how to be good to yourself during the especially hectic holiday season. This post has stayed with me, and I have been pondering it while on vacation in beautiful Arizona.

This year hubby and I chose to take a month off and have our Christmas holidays away from home and from most of our family and friends. We were craving time off together, and both wanted a simpler, less frantic experience of the season.

Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love the fun and indulgence of Christmas - lavish decorations, an abundance of delicious food, connecting with friends near and far - and at the same time it can be a stressful, busy anxious time. I like to shake it up once in awhile, and have come to love the freedom of going away for Christmas.

Being away offers a great reframing of the way to "do" Christmas. It's an opportunity to sort of sit back and observe the season and to think over past seasons.

The wisdom that has been coming to me as I recall seasons past and am present to this one, is that we truly do create all of our experiences and the holidays are just another set of experiences that we get to practice with.

So if you are looking for ways to approach the holidays with a new perspective, here are a few questions and suggestions to think about:

  1. What is the essence of the experience you want to create this holiday?
  2. Stay focused on the essence and use the law of attraction and the technique of 'asking' to create it.
  3. In saying 'yes' to the essence experience, what are you saying 'no' to? 
  4. In your mind, play with the 'saying yes-saying no technique' - where do you notice excitement in the yes and relief in the no? Follow your feelings.
  5. If you are struggling with saying no - for example to a family tradition that you find a bit overwhelming, or just one thing too many - what might you being saying yes to? Sometimes in saying no to that area, we can open up  a whole new opportunity, create a new tradition, or simply lower our own and others' expectations - which can offer great relief.

For me, this is a very different year and I am truly relishing the experience I wanted of real holiday. Days filled with holy quiet and time to ponder and dream.

And I am also daily practicing yes/no to the many usual Christmas activities that can be so seductive. Here in the shopping mecca of Scottsdale, opportunities abound to jump in eagerly and buy, wrap, decorate, bake and overindulge.

Saying no to baking shortbread, means saying yes to an afternoon nap and a healthier Vicki.

Saying yes to buying fruitcake means a little Christmas indulgence for all and no to hours in the kitchen.

You get the drift.

There's a kind of an art to this Christmas balancing act - a plate of cookies in one hand and a sense of healthy well-being in the other.

Santa and I both agree - take a little time off this Christmas.

Sending wishes to you all that you create the Christmas you truly want and most of all, say 'yes' to you.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Craft Fair Addict's 4-Step Guide to Enlightenment

Today's practical wisdom comes from scrabble tiles, buttons and woolly socks. Conscious crafts.

A Four-Step Guide to Enlightenment
(Glue-gun may be required)

1. Be creative.

'Cuz you just don't know how life is going to unfold -
and as it does, you might have to rearrange your letters.

 2. Dream.

And don't be buttoned-down about it...

3. Love. It's a verb.

Fly the 'love' banner. 
Not just another good idea. It actually makes the world go round

4. Connect.

Wherever you go, go with friends.
Find your tribe.
(And when you do,  have some fun monkeying around with them.)

Photos by Vicki McLeod
Bunting by Barnesgirl
Pillow by Michelle Taylor 'Giraffe and Bunny'

If you love craft fairs and are keen on vintage cool, then you're a kindred spirit - check out the Fieldstone Vintage Market on December 3. I'll be there, like all good seekers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#ElectMR: A Happy Ending

Here's the thing. I think I have a pretty okay life. Sometimes, even excellent. I look around at the lives of my friends and neighbours and I'd say they have pretty good lives, too. Comfortable homes, plenty to eat, good schools, safe get the drift.

My Town, a pretty typical North American suburb, has some typical problems, too. Housing costs are high, traffic gets congested, and maintaining the dynamic balances between sprawl and density, residential and commercial tax rates, farming and industry, green space and built space pose ongoing challenges. And, sadly, some folks are hungry.


Life is good.

This weekend, my community goes to the polls to elect civic leaders. There's going to be some change. (Generally, change is a good thing in my opinion - so is stability, by the way, another dynamic balance). But here's the other thing - as we get closer to E-day, the debate is getting a little frenzied. A little frantic. Intense. And kind of out-of-focus and lacking in scale. Following the current political conversations, online and off, gives me the impression that circumstances in My Town are dire and that a misstep in the voting booth could be cataclysmic.

So, in the midst of the frenzied final countdown to the polls, I'd like to offer this: Thank you.

Thank you to the Mayor and Councillors who've served conscientiously and well. Thank you to the candidates for running, whether you get elected or not - I appreciate your contributions to the good life I enjoy. Thank you to civic staff and community volunteers who collectively keep the whole thing functioning. Thank you to engaged citizens - for caring and for voting. An advance thank you to those to be elected - I'm confident you, too, will offer the best that you have to make good lives better.

And in return for my thanks, I ask only this: Relax. Everything is going to be OK.

photo: minksmusings

Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm Voting YES on the Happiness Ballot.

No, there's not a referendum going on (although I do like a good referendum now and again). In my town, there is a civic election going on. Yes, I am an avid poli-watcher. I think we're so very lucky to live in a time and place where any citizen can participate in government and where we are free to speak out and vote safely. But lately I've noticed a tendency in myself toward aversion when it comes to local politics.
As I was trolling around my social networking sites today, one of the candidate's posts caught my eye. He is suggesting that new candidates, or those who don't get elected, create a collective list of their best ideas and present them to the new civic Council in December. On so many levels I like this. It's collaborative, it's positive and it suggests that other candidates have good ideas, too. 

This, though, is the line that grabbed me: "Let us use social media to sort out the cranky ideas from the practical".

Okay. I'm a social media advocate, so I love the idea of using the tools to collaborate further (he had me at social media) but it was the word cranky that was the real snagger.

I am so bone-weary of the politics of negativity and so utterly filled with longing for a different kind of dialogue. Even though I am eagerly engaged in local issues, have a heartfelt and almost obsessive passion for community, and nearly always vote in the advance polls because I just can't wait,  I find myself avoiding the general crankiness (and, dare I say, sometimes downright snarkiness) that surrounds much of the online and offline debates.

In my systems coaching work, we have a tenet: "Everybody is right. Only partially." 

I am looking for candidates to stretch into a framework that allows for a diversity of 'rightness' (or even leftness :) - that embraces the encouragement of good ideas from any source, that celebrates joy and shared success, that seeks wisdom rather than scores points. 

So I'm voting. I'm voting yes for happiness, yes for joy, yes for collective wisdom. And when I stumble across candidates who share my platform - why, I'll vote for them, too. 

Don't get me wrong. I get cranky. Sometimes I even get the blues. I can be negative. Human. what interests me is the choice about where I take action from - do I act and speak from my crankiness and negativity? Or, do I act from my joy - from the place inside that is untouched by circumstance? There is power in choice. Freedom. Something a little like voting. 

If you live in my part of the world and you vote in Maple Ridge BC, click here for info on where and when to vote. See you at the polls. I'll be the one at the front of the line with the 'Vote Happiness" button on.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

#ElectMR - Candidates and Social Media

Because I couldn't resist...

It's civic election time where I live, and along with pumpkins, golden leaves and umbrellas, local candidates are showing up all over the landscape. And where I'm noticing them most is in the social media landscape. Many are first-time users of the medium, some have been putzing about on Facebook or Twitter, and a handful seem to really understand the medium and have been using it effectively for some time.

What I love is the willingness of candidates to jump into social media to get their message out and encourage people to vote. As Brian Solis posted recently in his article, Social is the New Normal, "Skeptics will now be recognized as laggards as they now officially stand in the way of progress." So I am excited when I see community leaders, who may have been skeptical, begin to embrace these tools. For me, it is going to be an important consideration as I decide which boxes to pencil in on E-Day (and, yes, WHY are we still pencilling in boxes on a piece of paper?).

There is more to it, though. Social media is about engagement, it is about connecting in an authentic way with people.  Partly this is why I am so hooked on it. And I want leaders who are willing to be authentic - I want leaders who are willing to engage. Social media will fundamentally change the way decisions are made. It is already doing so. Rigid communications models have given way to conversational models - citizens have numerous channels to express their opinions and influence their neighbours. In the same article, Solis notes that "Those active within social networks wield far greater influence offline than their more traditional counterparts". And many of our local candidates are nothing if not traditional. So I applaud them for the foray into social media (APPLAUSE!)

So, how are my local candidates doing? (There are 28 of them, by the way. I thought about doing an analysis of each candidate's digital footprint, similar to the one done by my amazing colleague, Jamie Billingham over in Chilliwack - but 28! Come on.)

I started with a Facebook search using Maple Ridge - the name of my town. The result?

Three local candidates come up with Facebook Pages in this search. I know there are many more on Facebook as they have been friending me like crazy. But they don't seem to have Pages - or if they do, they don't have Maple Ridge in the title.  I like Pages. Both 'like' and like. Firstly, they're public, searchable, and I can opt-in. Frankly, I don't want to have to personally 'friend' a politician, whose main interest is in selling me their vote over the next few short weeks, in order to find out what they think about issues. I might like to maintain my privacy. (Some are friends. That's different.) So my plea -  enable subscriptions!  That way if you insist on using your friend profile as a political platform, at least I can subscribe and still maintain my privacy. Better yet, create a Page - and use it.

And to my FB friends sans Pages who are also candidates: I love you. I love your posts, but my feed is getting crowded with punditry. Extra points to those of you who have created private Groups and invited those who want to engage, support and rally round you!

I think Twitter is a natural for politicians because it is all about connecting with people you don't know. Brilliant if you are trying to engage 'the public'.  It is also an excellent online listening tool...(hint).
I did a hashtag search using #mapleridge and the election hashtag #ElectMR. The result?

One! One candidate comes up in the Twitter search using the hashtags. I know there are more out there cuz they're following me...tweeps, use the hashtags! (Disclaimer: I did my search on a Sunday. Maybe candidates don't tweet as much on a Sunday?)

Websites, Blogs and More...

An organic Google Search of  'candidates maple ridge' brings up the following on the first page:

Only two - and one is a tweeter, who has, I know, a website. A visit to the District of Maple Ridge website offer a list of the candidates and their contact information. Most have websites. Some are very good. Some have current blogs. And some of the blogs are very good (and some  are not so very good - not so very sticky as we say in web-land). And they are not showing up in the organic searches.  Too bad :(  Websites and blogs are a big investment in time and money, but if no-one can find them....

The social media community is huge - and growing every day - and like any community it has a culture, norms and etiquette. I'm thrilled that potential civic leaders are entering the digital community. I'm on the look-out for meaningful digital footprints and online listening. I'm hopeful that the skilful use of these tools means greater openness, transparency and engagement in local government.

Yes - it is all about me. I'm a voter. I'm an 'Egosystem'.

To quote once again the awesome Brian Solis: "The Egosystem is an endearing term that describes the nature of the social graph. Rather than a social ecosystem, it is quite literally an egosystem where the entire experience revolves around you. You are at the center of everything. The information that you see, the people around you, what you share, are all unique to you. And, your experience will be absolutely different than mine or anyone else for that matter. As such, the egosystem is personal, powerful and reflective of all that moves you."

Candidates: Move me.

To find out more about the civic elections in Maple Ridge click here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Blog for the Office-Supply Addicted

Post-Its: Part One of a Series

Yes, I confess I have a love affair going on with post-it notes. Truth be told, I have a serious jones for nearly all office supplies, but post-its - oh!  I adore these little stickies. They're just so practical!

I use them to make my daily lists, remind myself of things I need to do, like pick up foodstuffs, make bank deposits, eat lunch (yes, sometimes I need reminding!), and I love to keep a supply by the phone, the desk, the bed, and the couch. They're perky.

Post-its gaily poke out of nearly every reference book I have, including my recipe book collection. Their happy, useful presence somehow makes me happy too. And they come in all shapes and sizes. I tend toward your more classic yellow post-it, but that doesn't stop me from indulging my wild-child side with some neons and my uber-categorizer with some lined stickies.

And not only do I get to play with them all around the house, I use them in my work, too. Oh, they're meant for work? Hm.
Well, lucky for me, then.

I use stickies in all kinds of ways in my facilitation and engagement work. My favourite is the Affinity Process. It's a process that really seems to resonate with people (and I secretly think it has a lot to do with the post-its).

We get to write all over the stickies, post them and then move them around in creative ways until we find the affinities. Love it! 

I'm guessing if you're reading this blog, you're office-supply addicted, too. (Is there a group for this?) What's your favourite stationary vice? I'd love to know.

Next week: markers and notebooks. You know what I'm talkin' about!