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the best beginning: 7 tips for starting out strong

Today is my first day at my new job. I'll be honest with you, my loyal readers: I'm nervous. I don't want to be; I want to be excited and over-joyed that I'm starting a new job, which I'm sure will be filled with awesome new experiences and great new people, and I am excited, but I'm also nervous. It's been a long time since I've started a new job (over three years, to be exact!), and, back then, I had no idea what I was getting into. Having survived my first real job, I now know all of the ins and outs of what a job entails -- and that makes me all the more nervous to start a new one. 

As I embark on this new journey, I'm spending a lot of time thinking about how I can make the most of it and have the most positive possible experience in my new environment. Overcome at times with nerves, I've found that it's not always easy to stay positive, but I'm doing my best to focus on the good things and not let my mind get carried away with all of those "What if..." scenarios. After all, thinking about the possible things that could go wrong is certainly not a good way to focus on the present moment. If I want to live in the moment, I have to focus on what's happening now -- not what could someday happen. 

The only moment I have is now, and the only beginning I have is this one. There will never be another beginning exactly like this one. I will never again be able to come back to this job as the new girl, the one who is just starting on her very first day. There is only one first day and it's one of the most important days because it's that first impression that often sticks with people. Not to put too much pressure on them, but beginnings are very important and, for that reason, I want to make my new beginning as positive as possible. I might be nervous and I might be uncertain, but I'm going to do whatever I can to make the most of my first day at my new job. 

As I've been enjoying a week off and a week of preparation for the new gig, I've been thinking about ways to make the most of my first day. While I was thinking about how I can be both positive and present during my first day at work, I started realizing that the ideas I was coming up with could apply to almost any new beginning. Whether you're starting a new job like me or going through another big change in your life, you can use the tips I've outlined below to make the most of your new beginning. 

How To Make the Most of Any Beginning

  • Be mentally prepared. This can be one of the hardest parts of embracing a new situation -- preparing mentally. It's easy enough to choose the right outfit and do your research on the new journey you're embarking on, but preparing mentally is a totally different story. It takes a lot more time and effort to get yourself in a good mental place as you begin something new, but this is critical. If you're not mentally prepared for whatever you're diving into, whatever you encounter will be much more difficult. For that reason, it's so important to take the time to prepare yourself for what's ahead. This preparation will, of course, depend on your particular situation, but do whatever you can to be mentally prepared for what's ahead. 

  • Have a good attitude. As you're beginning something new, one of the best things you can do for yourself (and the situation) is have a good attitude. Yes, this seems obvious and cliche, but it's much more important that people often realize. New situations are intimidating and scary and can often be overshadowed by negative thoughts and doubts. Don't let this happen to you. When you find yourself in a new situation, focus on the positive things about that situation. There will inevitably be good and bad in any situation, but if you choose to focus on the good things, you'll make any new beginning more enjoyable.

  • Keep an open mind. When you find yourself in a new place, surrounded by new people and things, it can be tempting to close your mind and remember what you used to know. New things aren't always that easy to embrace -- but don't let a closed mind hold you back. If you go into any situation with a closed mind, you'll find that you're not living up to your full potential. You're restricting yourself and limiting yourself to the goodness that lies within any situation. If you look for it, it's there. No matter what you face at a new beginning, don't close your mind to it. Look at it with fresh eyes and keep your mind wide open. 

  • Pay attention to details. First days and new experiences can be overwhelming for sure. You'll find yourself on sensory overload, trying to pick up on all of the new terms, new sights, new places. You'll be overwhelmed by all of the introductions and all of the excitement of spending time in a new place. But, no matter how overwhelmed you feel, remember not to ignore the details. The details of a place can help to bring it all in to perspective. You shouldn't ignore the big picture, of course, but the details will help to ground you in the moment. Be attentive and mindful and you'll find the situations you encounter be much more manageable. Embrace the now by paying attention to the details. 

  • Ask questions. You, in a new situation, will be wondering many things. You'll be unsure about where to go, where to put your things, where you're supposed to be at specific times, and when you're supposed to be attending to specific tasks. There are many things to consider at a new beginning and it can become a daunting task to manage it all in your mind. When you find yourself wondering why or what or when, ask. It may seem easier to think you'll figure it out later or someone will tell you, but, believe me, if you want to know something about your new situation, the best way to get information is to ask. Ask, ask, ask. A lot. It will put your mind at ease and make the situation much less intimidating. 

  • Be friendly to everyone. As much as I love to share my insights on positivity, I'm not always Ms. Friendly, especially when I'm overwhelmed or nervous. Like many people, when I'm uncertain about a situation, I'm focusing on myself. But this is something I'm going to work hard to avoid on my first day. I'm going to do my best not to worry about how I'm feeling (nervous... unsettled... unsure...), and, instead, I'm going to focus on being friendly to everyone I meet. There's a lot to take in during a beginning, but a great way to put yourself at ease is to put others at ease with your friendly attitude. I know that, no matter what I find myself up against, a smile will make it all that much easier to handle. 

  • Determine your goals. Even though there is a great deal going on at a beginning and it can be hard to know where or what or when you have to get things done, one of the most important things you can do to start off on the right foot is to determine what your goals are. If you have goals and purpose for your new situation, you'll be able to get through the trickiness of the beginning and you'll have a big picture to focus on. Everyone's goals will be unique, but whatever your goals are, they should be clear to you from the beginning. Once you establish what you want out of a situation, you'll be much happier to be in it. 


Starting something new -- a job, a class, a school -- can be intimidating. It can be so difficult to go into a situation not knowing what to expect and holding onto only your hope for the best, but I'm a firm believer that attitude is everything. If you go into any situation with a good attitude, you're guaranteed to have better results than if you went into that same situation with a bad attitude. No matter how intimidating a situation is, it's important to keep in mind that, no matter what, you are you and you can handle any situation that comes your way -- especially if you have the right attitude.  


How to you make the most of a beginning? 
What can you add to my suggestions? 

why you need to be your own hero (and how to do it!)

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be your own hero. Many people spend such a great deal of time waiting around for someone to save them. There are quite a few poor souls, feeling stranded and alone, waiting for fate to swoop in and save the day. They are sitting where they are, looking around hopefully for a white knight or a Superman. Not to dash anyone's dreams, but, let's be serious: there is no such thing a knight in shining armor and I'm pretty sure Superman is a figment of someone's creative imagination. It would be wonderful if we could all just sit around and someday be saved from whatever it is that is making us unhappy, but that's not the way life works.

Yes, in some cases, we can be (and will be) saved. Love can save us. Opportunities can save us. Wonderful and kind people can save us. But more often than not, it will be up to us to save ourselves. Lately I've seen a lot of people in my life -- including myself -- being their own heroes, and it's been very inspiring for me to see. There are many ways one can save his or herself, but lately I've seen a lot of heroism when it comes to career choices. It's a tough job world out there, and it can be very tempting to sit back and complain, to soak in the negativity (because, hey, it's not too hard to find in an economy like this one) and just settle for whatever comes along. 

Lately, I've been inspired by people who aren't just sitting back and waiting for the someday when they will be saved from their unhappy careers. I've seen two of my best friends taking action when it came to their jobs. Here's the back story: Both friends were ready for career changes and were fortunate enough to find new, and seemingly great, jobs even in this troublesome economy. They both started their new jobs and quickly realized that they weren't all they'd thought they would be. Both friends were incredibly unhappy in their new positions. So did they settled into their new roles and call me complaining and whining about their new gigs? Nope! They both did what they could to be their own heroes, and, instead of waiting for someone or something to save them, they got up and took action, reaching out to their contacts and making valiant efforts to secure new positions. Because of their career-oriented heroism, one of them has already started a new job while the other has plans to do so very soon. 

Clearly, these two have inspired me, and they helped to realize that no one was going to save me from being unhappy in my career. If I wasn't enjoying what I was doing, it was up to me to make a change. And, you know what? I did! I've taken the stories of my inspiring friends and I'm making it into my own reality. Whether it's a job or a relationship or anything else in your life that you feel you need to be saved from, you have to remember this: you can be your own hero. Yes, there is a slim chance that someone will come along and save you. It happens. But if you wait for that, you could be waiting forever. 

After a long time of waiting, hoping, and wishing, I finally stopped dreaming of someday and began to take control of what was cause negativity in my life. It took a long time for me to get up the courage and strength to do what I knew needed to be done, but here is the tale of my recent attempt to be my own hero...



How To Be Your Own Hero

Stop waiting. 

For a long time, I wasn't happy with my career and I was sitting around waiting for something to happen. I would periodically look for new jobs but I wouldn't put in a ton of effort. I just thought that someday something would happen and I would find myself in a new position. Ah, that notion of being "discovered" -- such an American ideal I think so many of us keep tucked inside of our hearts, hoping that someday we will just bump into Oprah on the street and the pages of our hand-scribbled novel will just catch her eye (oh, wait, that's probably just me...). As much as I would find that to be a dream come true, I got to a point when I finally realized: no one is going to save me. I had to take control of this myself. 


Take action.  

If I didn't like what was happening in my life, I had to make changes. I couldn't sit around and hope for someone to discover me or randomly offer me my dream job. I wasn't getting anywhere but frustrated as I sat behind my desk and pondered the likelihood of incredibly well-connected people reading my blog. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. And I started looking for a job. This is, under normal circumstances, a daunting and unpleasant task. There are forms to fill out, countless websites to visit and scan for job listings, and dozens of letters and emails to be sent. Under normal circumstances, this is a frustrating and usually thankless task. Add the undeniable phrase "bad economy" to the mix and it starts to feel pretty darn hopeless. It was frustrating to look for a job, to say the least. But I did it. I took action and did what I had to do to make things happen. 


Don't give up. 

Under normal circumstances, job-hunting is a frustrating and often thankless task. Add the undeniable phrase "bad economy" to the mix and it starts to feel pretty darn hopeless. There were days when I certainly wanted to give up. There are days when I would come home from work, exhausted and drained, and it took every once of strength to turn on my computer and start looking for jobs. For months I didn't hear anything. I sent out resume after resume and still nothing. But I didn't give up. As tempting as it was to throw in the towel and just stay in my current position, I found ways to motivate myself and I got creative. Just as I was about to give up, I sent out an email to my friends and family asking for help and, within a day, I had two interviews lined up. Those interviews must have put the Law of Attraction into play because, shortly after that, more interviews started rolling in. 


Be brave. 

While, of course, the interviewing process was scary and a bit overwhelming, it was a welcome change to the dull task of submitting resumes online. As welcome as this change was and as much as it was a move in a positive direction regarding the job hunt, it was scary to know that a new job might become a reality. When I first started looking, it was just that -- looking -- but, all of the sudden I found myself in a suit, striding into new offices and shaking hands with the hope that they would pick me. I wanted to be picked, and yet I was terrified of the change. It would have been easy, even at this point, to forget the whole thing -- but I didn't. Inside me I found something that resembled bravery and I keep moving forward until, one lucky day, I was offered not one but two jobs. 


Choose wisely.

All of the sudden I had not one but two companies that wanted me -- me! -- to work for them. It was exciting and motivating and confidence-boosting. It was what I'd been waiting for. Only now I was faced with three choices: accept company #1's offer, accept company #2's offer, or stay at my current company. All three choices had their pluses and minuses. It was as I was debating these three that I wrote The Power of Positive Choices: 7 Tips for Choosing Wisely. It was a difficult decision, but I followed my own advice and found myself making the choice to go with my gut instinct and take a job offered by a company that, for a variety of reasons, just gave me a good feeling. It is only now that I am realizing that I chose, for once, to save myself rather than waiting for someone to save me. I chose to make a change -- scary as it seemed -- and I chose to be my own hero. 



And after three years of waiting, today is the last day in this office. Today is the last day here and the first day of my new career. Today is a day I will look back on and think: You know what? This didn't just happen. I made this happen. The desk is being packed because I stopped waiting. The goodbyes are being said because I took action. The keys are being handed over because I didn't give up. This afternoon I will drive away without looking back because I am brave. And I will start a new job with an excited, positive attitude because I chose wisely. What will happen now, I don't know for sure, but what I do know is that, with a positive attitude and a fierce determination, I managed to become my own hero. 

how to be a lion: 7 steps for asserting yourself positively

assert positively
( )



"It is better to be a lion for a day
than a sheep all your life." 

Elizabeth Kenny

There is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive. In a recent therapy session, I spoke with my therapist about assertion and how important it is. Not too long ago I found myself in a situation where I wasn't nearly as assertive as I could have (should have!) been, and I ended up angry and unhappy because of it. If I had asserted myself properly and had spoken up for myself when I should have, I would have not had feelings of anger and resentment that I needed to bottle up. Generally I would consider myself a pretty assertive person (even aggressive at times), but there are certain situations in which I've let things slide and, by not sticking up for myself, ultimately experienced a wide range of negative emotions ranging from anger to frustration to guilt. Seeing as my goal is to live a positive life, it became clear to me in this particular therapy session that I needed to take a closer look at being assertive and determine how I could assert myself positively without coming off as an aggressor. 

Though I'll admit that I had a hard time doing this at the time, my therapist suggested I picture myself as a lion. She asked me to describe what I would look like and what I would do if I were a lion and I were put in a situation that made me angry or uncomfortable. Initially my responses to her questions were timid and reserved (which is actually quite unlike me!) and I was hesitant to imagine myself as an angry lion. So often when I'm confronted with a difficult situation, I want to avoid it. I used to believe it was easier to run than it was to stay, but I'm learning this is not true. It's much more effective to be a strong and mighty lion than it is to be a timid mouse, quickly scuttling away from any danger. 

By the end of the session, I was able to imagine myself as a strong, proud lion, unafraid of the world around me and certain to stay and defend myself when put in an unpleasant situation. What was really cool about the session (though, at first, I was intimidated by this) was the creation in my mind of this image of a lion. Since that day, it has become my reference point for whenever I want to run. Whenever I feel uncomfortable, scared, or nervous, I think of that lion in my mind. I gather strength from that image and I march head-on into whatever situation I must face. 

Sounds a bit silly, doesn't it? I would have thought so too -- if I hadn't experienced it first hand for myself. You see, after that therapy session in which I imagined myself as a lion, I went on to go back to the original situation that had sparked this discussion and handle it in a assertive manner. Even though the incident was over, I went back to the person who had upset me and spoke up about my feelings. And you know what? The response was overwhelmingly positive. We discussed the situation in a calm manner and I was able to express (and assert!) myself without over reacting or feeling the need to run. 

And that wasn't the only time the image of the lion worked for me. Later that same day I faced a situation that was unpleasant and, as I was headed out the door about to avoid confrontation, I thought about the lion and I stepped back inside. Instead of avoiding, I faced the situation head-on and, much to my surprise, found the outcome to be a good one. Had I left without dealing with the situation, it might have been prolonged and I know it would have bothered me all day. Remembering the lion helped me to go back in and deal with the situation, boldly unafraid of what the outcome might be. Since that day, I'm returning again and again to the image of the lion and it's helped me through some tough situations. It's also helped me to develop some ideas about what it means to assert yourself positively. Here are seven steps that I've come up with to make the most of being a lion... 


7 Steps for Asserting Yourself Positively


  1. Create an image of strength in your mind. If you're anything like me, you might initially think this sounds ridiculous, but once I tried it, I found that it really was helpful to have that image of myself as a lion in my mind when faced with a situation in which I needed to assert myself. If a lion doesn't work for you, there are plenty of strong, powerful images you could use and come back to whenever you needed an assertive boost. 


  2. Believe in yourself and your values. If you want to be assertive, you first have to believe in yourself and what is important to you. Without a firm sense of self in place, it can be very hard to stand up for yourself and assert yourself when necessary. You have to know what you are and what you believe in to be an truly assertive person so start working on these things now so that you can make the most of situations in where you need to stick strongly to your beliefs. 

  3. Understand your own boundaries. One of the keys for being assertive is to know where your boundaries lie -- and to know when someone crosses them. Before you are even put in an uncomfortable situation, it's essential that you define what makes you uncomfortable. You have to establish what you will tolerate and what you won't because if you don't have a clear view on what is acceptable, you won't know when a line has been crossed. Take some time to figure out what works (and doesn't!) for you. 

  4. Know what you want and what your purpose is. When you find yourself in a situation where you must assert yourself, it's very important to know exactly what you want to achieve by asserting yourself. In some situations, it will be an achievement to stop others' unpleasant behavior. In others, it will be about reaching a specific goal. If you want to assert yourself positively, you must know what it is that you want and what purpose that thing will serve for you. In the heat of a moment, what you want can get lost so make sure you remember what your values are when you're trying to determine your goal. 

  5. Be respectful of others (and yourself). Being assertive doesn't have to mean being aggressive towards others. You can be your assertive self without putting others (or yourself) in a vulnerable or uncomfortable position. How can you make sure this happens? Be respectful. Even when being assertive, you can behave with respect and kindness. Think of how you would want to be treated if you were in the others' shoes and keep that in mind as you assert yourself. And don't forget to be respectful of yourself and conduct yourself in a manner that will make you proud. 

  6. Express clearly what your expectations are. When asserting yourself in any situation, it is imperative that you very clearly express what it is that you want from others. If you are not clear about what you want, it can be very hard to for others to give you what you want. Don't use vague terms or try to hedge your meaning by using words that are indirect or confusing. Instead, be as clear and direct as possible. It can be hard to do this sometimes, but I've found that most of the time I am very clear about what I want -- even if it's not something that pleases someone else -- I've been likely to get what I want. Remember: no one will know if you don't clear express what it is that you need. 
  7. Practice your assertiveness often. You and I both know the saying well: practice makes perfect! Cliched? Yes. True? Yes. If you want to be able to assert yourself positively, you have to do so often. This doesn't mean you have to change who you are are insist you get your way every second, but it does mean that you have to start putting yourself first and realize that, whatever your needs are, they are just as valuable as the needs of others. Think about some situations in which you could have been assertive and weren't and then determine whether or not there are situations in the future that you can assert yourself more effectively. Practice, practice, practice!


It can be difficult sometimes to know where to draw the line, but, if you want to live the most positive present life you can, you have to be able to stand up for yourself and let that inner lion roar when it needs to. If you're like me, you might find it tempting to avoid situations in which you should be asserting yourself because, let's face it, sometimes it's easier just not to deal with them. However, I've found that the more I assert myself, the happier I am -- and, contrary to what I might have thought, I am not gaining this happiness by taking away from the happiness of others. Sometimes it can seem as if, by asserting yourself and demanding what you want, you will deprive others from what they want, but, when you assert yourself, you're actually making your relationships with others better because you are establishing what you want and this often leads to two things: (1) you get what you want more often, and (2) you inspire others to assert themselves and ask for what they want. Yes, asserting yourself can be hard in some situations, but I've learned that it really does lead to more positive relationships with others and, just as important, a more positive relationship with yourself. 



How do you deal with tough situations in which you have to assert yourself? 
What advice would you offer for someone struggling with assertiveness?