The Rules in Action

The day after I wrote the last post on Transition, I went into labour and gave birth to my first child, a little boy.

As I reflected on the experience I wondered if and how the 7 Your Life Rules principles had applied to the process of childbirth

Rule 1 – It’s All About You – Giving birth is one of those unique experiences, like getting married when it is perfectly acceptable for you to make it all about what your preferences are.  There are many ways to experience bringing a child into the world, from a highly medicalised elective c-section, to squatting in a stream in the great outdoors.  But whatever you choose, when the time comes everyone around you will ensure that your needs   are so that you can have a birth experience that is as close to


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The Many Faces of Transition


Transition has been defined as being, “passage from one form, state, style or place to another” or “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another“.

In Life, transition can present itself in many forms and with many different faces including:

  • a change in career
  • the end of a relationship
  • the loss of a loved one
  • moving from one phase of life to another (childhood to adolescence or the transition into middle age, whatever that is!)


Nature provides a wide variety of examples of Transitions.

The daily period of twilight – the time between night and day – takes minutes and it is during morning twilight, just before the sun rises that the day is at it’s coldest.  It is also the period of the day that gave rise to the popular inspirational quote, “The darkest hour is just before dawn”.

The caterpillar has to go through the transition stage of becoming a chrysalis, and then the further transition of breaking free from the chrysalis to emerge as a butterfly.  This can take several painstaking hours of struggle as the new butterfly uses the process of breaking free to start the transfer of fluid from it’s abdomen to it’s wings.  Without this process the butterfly would never be able to take to the skies.

090731-green-sahara_bigSome transitions in nature take thousands of years like the desertification of the Sahara which saw it go from fertile grassland to the world’s largest desert in the space of about 2700 years, but is now reported as being at the beginning of a re-greening transition which, because of climate changes could see it returned to the lush savannah it once was.

And then there is that other Transition, the one that caused me to look at Transition in it’s wider context in the first place.  The Transition phase of Childbirth.

Being 9 months pregnant has sharpened my interest in this particular type of transition which is specifically defined as “a period of time that precedes the expulsive phase of labour“.  It can last anything from 10 minutes to a couple of hours and is the final part of the birthing process right before the baby pops out.


Labour transition is described by many as the most intense part of giving birth.  The contractions become stronger as they work to squeeze the baby down the birth canal and expel the fluid from their lungs in preparation for them taking their first breath of air.  A surge of adrenalin to the birthing mother during Transition brings with it the fight or flight response which leaves many women temporarily feeling like it is all too much.  Anger, anxiety, confusion, and self-doubt are classic characteristics of this stage of childbirth with many women reporting that at the transition stage they start trying to pack their bags to leave the hospital declaring that they just can’t do it anymore!  By all accounts it sounds pretty tough.

Which seems to be the way with transitions in general.

When we are going through any transition, it seems to be that with these periods of change often come some element of loss, challenge or struggle.

The caterpillar must be willing to give up being a caterpillar in order to become a butterfly.  The moon must give way to the warmth of the sun everyday, and the sun must return the courtesy at the end of the day.  Lush grassland is lost to the perpetual dry conditions of drought.  And the start of every new human life begins with a tremendous mental and physical challenge for both mother and baby.

Transitions in nature, are by definition, driven by The Laws of Nature, some of which we understand, such as instinct, and some of which we do not.  These transitions are beyond the control of the organisms that they affect.  The caterpillar doesn’t really have a choice about becoming a chrysalis and emerging as a butterfly.  It is driven to do so by a force beyond it’s control.

As humans, some transitions are forced upon us, and some transitions are in our best interests to choose to take.  Like leaving a bad relationship or an unfulfilling career.

And that is perhaps the greatest difference between the Transitions that occur in nature, and the Transitions that occur in our lives.  We get to choose.  In some cases we get to choose whether or not take the path of transition and in others we get to choose how we will respond to any transition that is forced upon us.

And there in lies the paradox of the human ability to choose.  Sometimes given the choice we abstain from utilising this unique gift which can always be used to make situations, ourselves and our environments better.

My husband posed an interesting question that illustrates this point:

“If caterpillars had the human ability to choose, would there be as many butterflies?”

human butterflyThe key to coping with transitions, in any of it’s forms, may lie in making the choice to come up with a strategy that acknowledges and embraces the situation so that it can be viewed optimistically.  This leaves us in a much better position to deal with it positively when we find ourselves going through the process.

I can only hope that the strategy I have for my upcoming transition is as effective in reality as it is on paper!

“When darkness is at it’s darkest, that is the beginning of all light.” Lao-Tzu

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Giving The Gift of Gratitude

Merry Christmas to you all!  Here’s hoping you have a fabulous time celebrating, relaxing and of course feasting with your loved ones : )   Here’s a little Christmas tale with an important message.  Wishing you the very best for a gratitude filled Christmas Day.  Karen

Christmas elfIt was six o’clock at the mall, and I was as exhausted as an elf on Christmas Eve. In fact, I was an elf and it was Christmas Eve. That December of my sixteenth year, I’d been working two jobs to help my parents with my school tuition and to make a little extra holiday money. My second job was as an elf for Santa to help with kids’ photos. Between my two jobs, I’d worked twelve hours straight the day before; on Christmas Eve, things were so busy at Santaland that I hadn’t even had a coffee break all day. But this was it — only minutes more, and I’d have survived!

I looked over at Shelly, our manager, and she gave me an encouraging smile. She was the reason I’d made it through. She’d been thrown in as manager halfway through the season, and she’d made all the difference in the world. My job had changed from stress-filled to challenging. Instead of yelling at her workers to keep us in line, she encouraged us and stood behind us. She made us pull together as a team. Especially when things were their craziest, she always had a smile and an encouraging word. Under her leadership, we’d achieved the highest number of mall photo sales in California.

I knew it was a difficult holiday season for her — she’d recently suffered a miscarriage. I hoped she knew how great she was and what a difference she’d made to all her workers, and to all the little children who’d come to have their pictures taken.

Our booth was open until seven; at six, things started to slow down and I finally took a break. Although I didn’t have much money, I really wanted to buy a little gift for Shelly so that she’d know we appreciated her. I got to a store that sold soap and lotion just as they put the grate down. “Sorry, we’re closed!” barked the clerk, who looked as tired as I was and didn’t sound sorry at all.

I looked around and, to my dismay, found that all the stores had closed. I’d been so tired I hadn’t noticed.


I was really bummed. I had been working all day and had missed buying her a present by one minute.

On my way back to the Santa booth, I saw that Nordstrom was still open. Fearful that they, too, would close at any moment, I hurried inside and followed the signs toward the Gift Gallery. As I rushed through the store, I began to feel very conspicuous. It seemed the other shoppers were all very well-dressed and wealthy — and here I was a broke teenager in an elf costume. How could I even think I’d find something in such a posh store for under fifteen dollars?

I self-consciously jingled my way into the Gift Gallery. A woman sales associate, who also looked as if she’d just stepped off a fashion runway, came over and asked if she could help me. As she did, everyone in the department turned and stared.

As quietly as possible, I said, “No, that’s okay. Just help somebody else.”

She looked right at me and smiled. “No,” she said. “I want to help you.”

I told the woman who I was buying for and why, then I sheepishly admitted I only had fifteen dollars to spend. She looked as pleased and thoughtful as if I’d just asked to spend $1500. By now, the department had emptied, but she carefully went around, selecting a few things that would make a nice basket. The total came to $14.09.

The store was closing; as she rang up the purchase, the lights were turned off.

I was thinking that if I could take them home and wrap them, I could make them really pretty but I didn’t have time.

As if reading my mind, the saleslady asked, “Do you need this wrapped?”

“Yes,” I said.

By now the store was closed. Over the intercom, a voice asked if there were still customers in the store. I knew this woman was probably as eager to get home on Christmas Eve as everybody else, and here she was stuck waiting on some kid with a measly purchase.

gift basketBut she was gone in the back room a long time. When she returned, she brought out the most beautiful basket I’d ever seen. It was all wrapped up in silver and gold, and looked as if I’d spent fifty dollars on it — at least. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy!

When I thanked her, she said, “You elves are out in the mall spreading joy to so many people, I just wanted to bring a little joy to you.”

“Merry Christmas, Shelly,” I said back at the booth. My manager gasped when she saw the present; she was so touched and happy that she started crying. I hoped it gave a happy start to her Christmas.

All through the holidays, I couldn’t stop thinking about the kindness and effort of the saleswoman, and how much joy she had brought to me, and in turn to my manager. I thought the least I could do was to write a letter to the store and let them know about it. About a week later, I got a reply from the store, thanking me for writing.

I thought that was the end of it, until mid-January.

That’s when I got a call from Stephanie, the sales associate. She wanted to take me to lunch. Me, a fifteen-dollar, sixteen-year-old customer.

When we met, Stephanie gave me a hug, and a present, and told me this story.

She had walked into a recent employee meeting to find herself on the list of nominees to be named the Nordstrom All-Star. She was confused but excited, as she had never before been nominated. At the point in the meeting when the winner was announced, they called Stephanie — she’d won! When she went up front to accept the award, her manager read my letter out loud. Everyone gave her a huge round of applause.

Winning meant that her picture was put up in the store lobby, she got new business cards with Nordstrom All-Star written on them, a 14-karat gold pin, a 100-dollar award, and was invited to represent her department at the regional meeting.

At the regional meeting, they read my letter and everyone gave Stephanie a standing ovation.

Standing ovation

“This is what we want all of our employees to be like!” said the manager who read the letter. She got to meet three of the Nordstrom brothers, who were each very complimentary.

I was already a little overwhelmed when Stephanie took my hand. “But that’s not the best part, Tyree,” she said. “The day of that first store meeting, I took a list of the nominees, and put your letter behind it, with the 100-dollar bill behind that. I took it home and gave it to my father. He read everything and looked at me and said, “When do you find out who won?”

“I said, ‘I won, Dad.’”

“He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Stephanie, I’m really proud of you.’”

Quietly, she said, “My dad has never said he was proud of me.”

I think I’ll remember that moment all my life. That was when I realized what a powerful gift appreciation can be. Shelly’s appreciation of her workers had set into motion a chain of events — Stephanie’s beautiful basket, my letter, Nordstrom’s award — that had changed at least three lives.

Though I’d heard it all my life, it was the Christmas when I was an elf — and a broke teenager — that I truly came to understand that the littlest things can make the biggest difference.

Christmas soup for the soulBy Tyree Dillingham from the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Cheer,” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

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The Ingredients of a Belief

Have you ever stopped to think about why you believe the things that you do?  About what makes you certain that the things that you absolutely believe to be true, are in fact the truth?

Personally, I have come to believe that beliefs are not absolutes.  Which is why an honestly, earnestly held belief of one individual can be completely at odds with the beliefs of another individual who holds their own beliefs with the same level of conviction that their belief is ‘true’ and ‘right’.  We only need to look to religion for examples of this.

What is important to understand is that what we choose to believe has a powerful impact on the way we make decisions, and therefore ultimately on the way that life turns out for us.

So it is helpful to understand how our beliefs are formed and to know that we do have some control over what we choose to accept as our own personal beliefs.

Here is my belief on how BELIEFS are formed:  What we end up believing at any given time in our lives (many of our beliefs can and do change over time) is a mix, in variable proportions of our PERSONALITY, ENVIRONMENT & EXPERIENCES and CHARACTER.

PERSONALITY – This is the unchangeable, internal piece of you that makes you YOU. Your ‘soul‘ might be said to be at the heart of your personality and the rest of it comes from the undeniable effect of genetics and the unknown quantity that is contributed by the physiological chemistry that affected us in the womb, i.e the physical environment in which our physical body was first created.

These 3 ingredients combine to produce a unique blend that contributes to, but does not have to determine, how you see, interpret and respond to your world.  It is one of the rare parts of you that is beyond your control.  It is intrinsic.  It was finalised before you came into this world.  It is the ‘Nature’ part of the ‘Nature/Nurture’ debate.  It informs rather than determines your beliefs.
ENVIRONMENT & EXPERIENCE – These are inextricably linked and are largely made up of the following components:

Family – The beliefs or your parents and other family members with whom you spend a significant amount of time as you are growing up will have an influence on what you choose to believe and how you turn out.  However, we all have choices about how, and what we choose to absorb, especially as we get older.  Do not mistake influence for control.  The beliefs of your family do not control your own.  As we get older, to a larger and larger extent we have the ability to determine the level of influence which we allow our early environments to affect our present reality.

Friends – these are the people who we can choose to be around and what they do, say and think will undoubtedly affect what we do, say and think.  The best advice here is to choose your friends wisely and be conscious of the influence the people you choose to spend time with have over your own thought patterns and actions.

Experiences – These are the situations we go through, the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  They can be dramatic one off events or a series or pattern of ‘happenings’ that influence the way we perceive subsequent situations.  Again, we have more and more control over the experiences we allow ourselves to have as we get older.  We must therefore take more and more responsibility for the situations and circumstances in which we find ourselves.

CHARACTER – Our character is sometimes confused with personality, but it is in fact, the controlling element of how our personality manifests itself.  Character is 100% within our control.  It is made up of the attitude we choose to adopt in every situation.  It is shaped by the values and principles that we have chosen to adopt from all our other influences.  It underpins how we respond or react to situations and whether or not in fact, we choose to RESPOND or are driven by an instinctive, uncontrolled urge to REACT.  Our character should be our driving force and can be constructed by drawing on the influences which we are entirely in control of:

  • the people we choose to associate with
  • the material we choose to feed our minds (books, TV, music etc)
  • the careers we choose to take
  • the hobbies we choose to pursue (how we spend our free time)
  • the lifestyle we choose to adopt

How in control are you of the beliefs that make you YOU?

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Whether you believe in the creation story or the theory of evolution, one thing remains constant.  Life, like it or not is constantly changing.  Our physical environment is changing, society is changing, technology is changing, the people around us are changing…some things get better and some things seem to get worse.

But if we are to thrive amongst this constantly changing landscape, we too must constantly be in the process of changing, adapting  and making choices that improve our chances of reaching the end of  our limited time on earth and being happy with the person we’ve become.

This idea of constantly being in the process of ‘becoming’ is tied up with one of my favourite concepts: POTENTIAL.

Rather than being seen as a target with a specific end point, Potential should instead be viewed as a pathway along which it should be our goal to travel as far as we can in the time we have.  The assumption should be that there is no end point, no finish, only infinite possibilities for growth and progression.  And this growth and progression comes about through the process of Becoming.

Become the sort of person who does the things you want do to.”  This was Alistair Campbell talking at the launch of his book 52 Ways to Grow Your Business.  Growing your business is an example of the process of Becoming.  It is a business owner taking the decision to make some changes with a view to traveling the path of the potential of their business.

Earl Schoaff gives another great example of this when he talks about the process of Becoming a millionaire.  Not overnight like some people aspire to do by winning the lottery.  Rather he talks about the value of creating a million dollars from your own efforts and hard work.  He said (of having a goal to be a millionaire) “Do it for the skills you have to learn and the person you have to become.”

And Jim Rohn sums the point up nicely by adding, “If you want to be a millionaire you better become one so you get to keep the money!”

Becoming requires choice.  The best kind of choice is the one you make consciously with intention.  All other choices are choices of default – the random alternatives that are left over by not making a conscious decision.

After choice comes action, the doing.  Becoming anything, whether an actor, an athlete, a racing car driver, a doctor, or anything else of your choosing requires that you do the things that people who are already successful in that field, are either already doing, or did in their process of becoming the thing you aspire towards.  And what’s interesting is that despite their apparent success, the  best of them will probably still be in the process of learning, growing, changing and adapting.  They will still consider themselves to be becoming.

And here perhaps we can take a lesson from the stars.  The process that it takes for them to become what we know to be a star can take several hundred million years and then they continue to ‘be’ a star for a few billion years after that.  However the truth is that all the time we see them twinkling brightly in the night sky, they are continuing to go through a process of change that will one day see them eventually burn out.  Nothing lasts forever.  However I came across this sentence when investigating what happened at the end of a star’s life: “All stars evolve, age, and eventually explode or expire, leaving behind stellar remains.” (Yahoo)

Isn’t that a great standard to aspire to?  Continue to evolve and leave behind stellar remains.

Creation or evolution?  In our own lives, we get to do both.  Create the circumstances that will allow you to evolve into what you wish to become.  It’s a process.  And it’s one we are more in control of than most of us dare believe.

The greatest value in life is not what you get.  The greatest value in life is what you become. 

Jim Rohn

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Don’t Stop ‘Til You Create Amazing

Image courtesy of

Lexus may just be my favourite car manufacturer right now.  Not because of it’s sleek machines or prestige image, but because of it’s current marketing slogan:


That just sounds like such a great analogy for the attitude that we can choose to adopt for the process of our life experience.

Whether we like it or not, we are constantly CREATING our life and future so why not create one that is amazing!

On their website Lexus take us on the 1 million mile journey and highlight 20 key features of what led to the creation of what they at least, believe is their amazing new range.  Some of these key things contain principles that we can apply in our own journey towards amazing.  Here are my favourite 5:

  1. The Million Mile Journey – Amazing doesn’t just happen.  It was created over a million miles of rigorous test driving.  This journey uncovered valuable lessons and revealed numerous barriers which the Lexus team had to be overcome before reaching a point of amazingness.  This process of course will not stop as Lexus continue to test and refine what will inevitably become the next ‘new’ range.  It may do us well to remember that we too are just on a journey, and that the experiences we collect along the way, good and bad are all contributing to our future amazing outcomes.
  2. Driving Modes – Lexus have equipped many of the new models with up to 5 different modes to suit the different environments in which a driver might find themselves, as well as to cater to the different temperaments and moods of an individual driver.  I suspect that I might spend more time in the Sport S+ mode than the Eco mode for example (!)  But the point, the Lexus has been designed with a high level of adaptability in mind.  In these fast moving times of continual change, developing the ability to adapt is essential if we are to create amazing within our lives.
  3. Hybrids – Hybrid cars are designed to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly.  Lexus have (allegedly) led the way with hybrid technology and have declared an intention to try and GIVE more to the driver with each technological improvement, than they TAKE from the environment.  This focus on giving is one which many amazing people have long advocated and is one we might do well to adopt.
  4. Arches – Lexus use the fact that they shaved 1,000th of a millimeter off the wheel arches to improve airflow and responsiveness, as evidence of their attention to detail…because “even the minutest details matter”.  This is never truer than when we strive to create amazing in our life.  It is the little things that add up and compound over time to create our life – amazing or otherwise depending on the the little things we choose to do…or not to do.  Todd Smith captures this concept neatly in his book ‘Little Things Matter‘ which describes how the little things can make a big difference in how your life turns out.
  5. Dust – The factory in which the latest Lexus models have been crafted is said to have been one of the cleanest on the planet.  The environment was controlled to eliminate dust so the finished product could be declared faultless.  Although faultless might be too much to expect of ourselves during an entire lifetime, to create amazing we definitely have to take some control over our environment.  Our environment in this context includes the activities we choose to regularly take part in, the situations in which we habitually place ourselves, the people we choose to spend the majority of our time with, the information we regularly allow into our minds through radio, books, TV & the internet, and all the other decisions we take on a daily basis regarding how we spend our time.  Consciously controlling our environment might just be the major lesson to take away from the Lexus philosophy.

The original Lexus slogan was The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection but perhaps the guys in charge of marketing have realised that perfection, like happiness and excellence cannot be achieved through pursuit.  The pursuit just prepares us for the creation.  Pursue until you are ready to create.  And don’t stop ’til you create Amazing.

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A 3 Point Strategy for Overcoming Adversity

Adversity is given a variety of dictionary definitions including

“A state of hardship or affliction; misfortune…A calamitous or unfortunate event or incident”*

Basically, it’s not very nice!

It can be hard to take at the time that it presents itself and if the adversity presents itself in the process of pursuing a goal, it can be tempting to adopt the view of Homer Simpson who famously advised Lisa and Bart after a big disappointment Kids you tried your best, and you failed miserably.  The lesson is ‘Never Try’

One thing is for sure though – like death, there is no way to avoid adversity completely so we may as well have some strategy in place for dealing with it when it inevitably shows up and I’d like to suggest an alternative to Homer’s philosophy.

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you will know that I believe that life is about the journey.  It is about the pursuit of goals.  It is about taking a journey and it’s about  what we learn along the way.  It is about how we grow as a human being as a result of identifying something we want and then going after it.  Even if we do not reach the end point of our goal, none of that learning or growth can be taken away.  It is arguably in the pursuit of and not the attainment of goals that the most value lies.

So here is a 3 point strategy for dealing with and overcoming adversity:

  1. ACCEPT THAT YOU WILL EXPERIENCE ADVERSITIES: Every person, adult or teenager, sporty or non sporty, male, female, rich, poor, whatever your circumstances you WILL come across challenges.  You will experience failure and you will have disappointments.  So don’t be surprised when they show up – EXPECT THEM.  But don’t let them drag you down – CONFRONT THEM.  And don’t see them as having a negative impact on your life.  EMBRACE THEM instead as opportunities to help you LEARN, GROW and BECOME STRONGER.

It’s not what happens to you that is important – it’s what you DO about what happens that keeps you on a positive pathway.  Adversities are only things that ‘happen’.

  1. ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU HAVE A CHOICE: In order for you to treat seemingly negative situations with a positive response, you have to consciously CHOOSE that response before the situation presents itself.  CONSCIOUSLY making that CHOICE gives you control over whether or not you become depressed and lacking in self confidence because of a situation OR whether you use that situation to develop RESILIENCE and STRENGTH OF CHARACTER which will give you the edge in every other area of life.

Overcoming adversity comes about as the result of conscious choices which you make for a specific purpose.

  1. ACCEPT 100% RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL THE OUTCOMES YOU GET IN LIFE: This DOES NOT mean that you start BLAMING yourself for everything that happens.  The difference between ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY and BLAMING either yourself or someone else is that ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY seeks to find a positive and constructive way forward.  BLAMING is a negative response that can descend into self-pity.  ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY is EMPOWERING as it puts you in a mindset of being in charge of yourself.  BLAMING leaves you discouraged and lacking in confidence.

 So accept responsibility by continually asking “what could I do to make the outcomes in my life better, either now or in the future?”

If we expect adversity as a necessary part of life, if we choose always to respond to it positively and if we accept responsibility for it when it appears, adversity can ultimately prove to be something for which we are later grateful.


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