Wishful Thinking Ways #5

Label Fables

Was your life shaped by labels your family gave you? Being the pretty one, the funny one, the shy one, the wild one, the quiet one, the moody one, the happy one, the smart one, or the not so smart one can limit the way you live your life – if you let it.

Another form of labeling is predicting who is going to be what when they grow-up: he’ll be a doctor or musician, she’ll be a lawyer or dancer. Labels can be spoken or unspoken, and even the subtle ones can pack a wallop. Certainly not all childhood labels or career predictions are negative influences, and most are not presented to harm, but labeling or predicting is a bit of a slippery slope, and may lead to a landslide of hidden emotions or misguided reactions. 

Your assignment for this week is to discover if you have accepted or applied any label fables. (Remember, we are not placing blame here, so there is no need to call your parents or siblings to complain! And, you are right, not all labels start-out as fables, but once a label sticks it is very hard to shake, even when it no longer applies.) 

Not knowing or fully exploring your label fables may be keeping you from creating the life you really want. The following exercise is a simple, yet effective way to expand awareness and create the opportunity for change. Your Wishful Thinking Ways assignment for this week is to name the labels you and your siblings may have received. Begin by making a list of your family members, yourself included, and see if any labels come to mind. If so, jot them down next to the family member’s name.

Now, forget the other folks on the list and only focus on the label(s) you received. Ask yourself the following questions:

Did I accept this label without question and adapt my life accordingly? 

Did I think about the label, but not let it influence my life greatly?

Did I rebel against the label, and let it influence my life in the opposite direction? 

Did I accept the label in anger and spend time making sure everyone – including myself – paid dearly?

Am I still living by someone else’s label? Do I want to continue to do it?

Please add any questions that help you gain a full awareness of any label fables in your life and how they have impacted your life. If any lingering emotions arise during the process, use Wishful Thinking Ways week 4 to guide you through them. 

Then complete the following sentence. “I let the label of being ____________ impact my life by _____________________________.” 

And, because I never ask you to do an exercise I haven’t done, I’ll start. I let the label of being flighty affect my life by limiting my choices and lowering my perception of myself and my strengths. For years this label fable rattled around in my head, but once I took an honest look at it, it shrunk in size and importance to me, which led me to create the life I really want. 

Take time to discover how your label fables might have led you to or away from events and choices in your life. Explore your labels and the effect they’ve had on you. Be honest. And remember, the goal is to label fables, not play the blame game.

Throughout the month, we’ve been using Wishful Thinking Ways to set the stage for change in 2012. Join us on Fridays in February as we continue our Wishful Thinking Ways by discovering your dreams. If you haven’t seen or completed “My Courage Diet”, I suggest it as a final exercise for the month of  January. It’s designed to get you ready for change by surrounding you with a real sweet treat – you at your best!


Being happy and satisfied, doesn’t mean you stop dreaming, and being unhappy doesn’t mean you can’t start dreaming. So, no matter where you are today, it is the perfect starting point for where you want to be next.      

Visit Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook for posts and updates. Please “Like” and share WTW your friends!

A brief glimpse back

Sadly, this is my final week in the Republic of Georgia. Today is my last day at the Ministry of Environment where I have spent the past three and a half months as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer working with great people on interesting PR projects. My Peace Corps reports are finished and waiting to be signed, and hundreds of my photos are sitting in my files waiting to be shared with you! Since I only have a little time left here, I’m letting myself get further and further behind in posting my memories so I can spend time with my Georgian host family, who are absolutely wonderful and so much fun!

I promise to catch-up soon on my photos. I’m sure it will take me a few weeks to sort through all the photos I’ve already taken and the hundreds more I plan to take in my remaining three days. Until I get my photographic act together, I thought I would share a brief glimpse of one of my favorite holiday traditions here.

These sweet little trees were for sale in markets and along streets before the holidays. I’d never seen anything like them and quickly fell under their ancient holiday spell.

Chichilaki are made from young walnut or hazelnut tree branches that are shaved, and curl naturally during the process. (I have been told that only hazelnut trees are used and just as adamantly told that only walnut trees are used. As yet I have no final verification if one or the other or both are acceptable!) I can confirm that they range in size from 10 inches to four feet!

Once bought, these blonde beauties are given an important place on the table during New Year’s celebrations. They are decorated with candies, and are said to absorb all the bad memories accumulated in the home during the year. On the eve of Epiphany they are burnt as a way of symbolically reducing bad memories to ashes. I like that. 

To read and see more about how Chichilaki are made, click here. To see more photos of my wonderful days in Georgia return often to Wishful Thinking Works.

Wishful Thinking Ways #4

Four weeks ago we started Wishful Thinking Ways to make 2012 exciting and rewarding in new and different ways.  In January we are setting the stage; in February we will be discovering your dreams and in March, we will focus on how to make them happen. Join in the fun! To catch-up click:  Wishful Thinking Ways week oneweek two, and week three. Don’t miss a single step in the process!

Last week we discovered our physiological tells: what happens to our bodies when we are stressed, angry, frustrated etc.  Our goal was to focus on our internal reactions in the moment: “When I’m angry, I feel a tightness in my chest.”

The Name Game

Now I would like you to add a step to your discovery process. Next time you are angry, tense or rushing around and you feel your body reacting, identify what you are feeling. Are you angry? Tense? Frustrated? Jealous? Scared?, etc. Figure it out, and then say to yourself: ” I’m angry.” “I’m mad.” “I’m tense.” “I’m afraid.” Make it short and simple. The goal is to identify not analyze.


Well, when you identify what’s going on, it gives your body and mind a break, and may even move you from one state to another. Saying to yourself, “Oh, I’m angry,” is like giving your brain a mental time-out, which will – at least momentarily – interrupt the negative commentary that may be going on in your head: “OMG, I can’t believe she is late again. She always does this.”  “#%$#@ He cut in front of me, what a jerk, he almost hit me! I should . . .”

Identifying your state of mind takes a bit of practice, but is well-worth the effort. Most of us sleep walk our way through our emotions or stuff them in the corners of our minds, both of which can lead to health problems and reduce our overall quality of life. But not you, at least not anymore! Now, that you know what your physiological tells are, you can use them to help you identify what you are feeling: “My chest is tightening, maybe I’m angry.”

All this internal talking to yourself might seem odd at first, but you are actually doing it all day long anyway, so why not use it to your best advantage? Most of what we say to ourselves is negative – whether we are “talking” about ourselves or others – and, it can add to our stress, and seldom if ever leads to solutions. By identifying what you are feeling,  you can reduce the chatter in your head and give your mind and your body a well-needed rest.

And, please remember, that is all we are doing – labeling – not judging! You are angry, so what? Jealous, okay, so you are jealous, for now that is all you need to know.  (I’m not saying these are good states of mind or something we should strive for, but since you are already feeling them, more good will come from labeling them than denying their existence.)

And, the rich and wonderful flip side of all is this is you can reap additional rewards by identifying and labeling your state of mind when you are happy, having fun, or feeling fulfilled. Noting these positive states is the first step of savoring, and can remind us how good feeling good feels!

Before you go today, write and read out loud the following sentence:  “This week I will use my physiological tells to help me identify and label what I am feeling.”  (No matter how silly it seems, please write and read it out loud. Feel free to reword it to make it sound more like something you would say – just keep the same intent.)    

Have an interesting and insightful weekend!

Just before this door closes

When a door closes, a window opens . . .

In September of last year I headed from Florida to Macedonia for a project and to visit friends. I haven’t been back to the States since! After six weeks in Macedonia I flew to Tbilisi, Georgia for a three-month assignment as a United States Peace Corps Response Volunteer. It was my second Peace Corps assignment; I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bitola, Macedonia from 2006-2009.

I’m now faced with the sad process of saying goodbye to more folks I have grown to know and love. In two weeks, I will be leaving my warm and wonderful host family; it will not be easy. They opened their home to a total stranger and quickly shared their hearts, as well. I also was lucky enough to meet and make new American friends through Peace Corps and other organizations here, and to work with many talented and amazing Georgians at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Peace Corps.

Before heading from one place to another, finishing a project and starting another, or heading into a new phase of life, I like to take time to savor where I have been and what I have done. I think it is important to honor the doors and windows of our past as we prepare to discover and open those in our future.

Next week I will share some of the magical moments that have unfolded for me in Georgia, but for now, I hope you enjoy revisiting with me those I experienced when I began my journey last fall in Macedonia and the thoughts that are with me wherever I go. (These photos were originally posted in October, 2010.)

Hmm, closed and locked seems impenetrable! Ohrid, Macedonia
Don’t let appearances or the number of closed doors deter you. Bitola, Macedonia
What about a gate half open? Go with your guts; it’s always up to you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Mixed messages; “Should I knock or should I go?” Choice is yours. Bitola, Macedonia
A lost cause, time to let it go? Or, something that has stood the test of time? Ohrid, Macedonia
Not all your options will be neatly laid out in front of you. Leptokaria, Greece
Sometimes, you may need to pause and reflect before the answers come. Bitola, Macedonia
Some choices may be hidden or seem confusing. Bitola, Macedonia
Some options will sit squarely in front of you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Others may seem whimsical or unusual. Bitola, Macedonia
Sometimes your options will be appear at the same time. Bitola, Macedonia
Then previously closed doors, may open. Bitola, Macedonia
Or, new even fancier opportunities may materialize. Ohrid, Macedonia
Simple and yet stunning openings exist all around you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Moments you might miss without quiet reflection. Bitola, Macedonia
Recessed and waiting. Bitola, Macedonia
You truly never know what may open before you. Bitola, Macedonia
Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Bitola, Macedonia
With an open mind, you will surely see . . .  Bitola, Macedonia
. . . the possibilities, are endless. Ohrid, Macedonia

Hope your week is off to a great start, and windows are opening for you! 

PS Thanks for the “Likes” on Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook.

Wishful Thinking Ways #3

Hi, welcome back. This is the third post in the Wishful Thinking Ways for 2012 series. We are meeting on Fridays to make 2012 exciting and rewarding in new and different ways. Each Friday I will share tips and exercises based on positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry to help you create the life you really want.

Here’s the plan:

January – Setting the stage.
February – Discovering your dreams.
March – Making them happen.

It’s always good to start at the very beginning, so click to read Wishful Thinking Ways week one and week two.  January is our warm-up month for our heads and hearts. When your heart and mind are aligned amazing things can happen. Don’t miss a single step in the process! 

I have written about Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory a couple of times – here’s why: The more relaxed and open our brains are the more responsive and creative we become. There is a direct link between how we feel and how our brain works. Our brains are hard-wired to respond in different ways to pleasure and pain, happiness and stress.

Being stressed and always in “Flight or Fight” mode drains our energy and reduces are ability to creatively address what’s happening around us. There are thousands of articles on the Internet about dealing with stress, but instead of reading them, I would like you to identifying how your body reacts to stress to figure out your physiological Flight or Fight tells.

Discovering your physiological tells

When you are worried or angry does your chest or throat tighten, your stomach churn, your jaw clench? Do you feel the tension in your hands, arms, shoulders, or back? Do you hold your breath? I’m a center of the chest gal, and I hold my breath way more than I never knew. Not the kid-like dramatic, “I’m going to hold my breath”, but what the medical world refers to as “inhibitory breathing.” Millions of people do it and it can lead to high-blood pressure and heart problems!

One of the first steps I take with many of my clients is to help them discover their Flight or Fight tells. Getting in touch with how you are feeling when you are feeling it is as important in life as knowing your tells is in poker. And, as smart as we are, most of us no clue how our bodies react to stress.

Checking your pulse, so to speak

Start by writing and reading aloud this sentence: “I will figure out my Flight or Fight tells this week. I will learn how my body reacts when I’m stressed or angry.”

Then notice how your body reacts when you are tense or angry. When you find yourself rushing to work; heading into the boss’s office; yelling at your spouse or kids; listening to your spouse or children yelling; sitting in traffic; trying to meet a deadline, not saying to someone what you want to say or saying something that you know you will regret late, etc.  – stop for a split second, or immediately after, and ask yourself: “What’s happening to my body right now? “What am I feeling and where?” I guarantee, if you keep at it, by week’s end, if not sooner, you will know your Flight or Fight tells.

Let me know how it goes. Next Friday we will talk about how knowing your physiological tells can help you create the life you really want.   


Being happy and satisfied, doesn’t mean you stop dreaming, and being unhappy doesn’t mean you can’t start dreaming. So, no matter where you are today, it is the perfect starting point for where you want to be next.      

Visit Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook for posts and updates. Please “Like” and share WTW your friends!

Delayed gratification, a pleasurable approach

One of  the worst and the best things about being in Peace Corps, is you get to experience delayed gratification (DG) at a whole new level. So many things you once took for granted are out of your reach, but not your mind. It’s easy to find yourself day-dreaming about your favorite foods, speedy wireless, prime-time American TV, jumping into your own car and hundreds of other things you gave little thought to in the past.

The good news is: pleasure is in the mind of the beholder. Doing without can be a great way to go within. And, oddly enough the wait for a specific treat, item or service can end-up being even more rewarding than the item or service being craved!

We’ve touched on delayed gratification before, remember the famous marshmallow test with kids? Well, just for fun, I’m suggesting you create mini-marshmallow tests of your own in January with a twist – you don’t get to pick the circumstances, you just get to respond to them. I call these sweet treats “Forced Delayed Gratification”.

The next time, you are dying for something or impatiently waiting – instead of focusing on your desire or discomfort, simply say to yourself, “Oh, this is a Forced Delayed Gratification. Hmm, what are my options here?”

By asking a question, you pull yourself into the moment and away from the situation. Your brain immediately jumps to your aide and begins releasing different hormones and chemicals, which may start connecting to new neurons: Broaden and Build vs Flight or Fight. One little question can flip a switch in your brain and start you on an entirely new neural path.

So, what happens after you question your options? That’s up to you. You can go to step two: “Well, I could . . . ” and see where that leads you – or you can return to your original state of mind. The choice is yours, and here’s the clincher, the choice is always yours. You get decide what you want and need, and how you feel about getting or not getting it!

Try some Forced Delayed Gratifications in the days ahead. With a bit of practice, you’ll be astounded how little you really need to be happy and content and how quickly you can move from one state of mind to another. And, remember the goal is not necessarily to do without, but to spend a few minutes going within. We’re delaying gratification not denying it; I’ll be enjoying a big plate of barbecue ribs and watching the premier of Downton Abbey before you know it!

Wishful Thinking Ways for 2012 # 2

Hi, welcome back!

We are on the second installment of Wishful Thinking Ways for 2012. I really do believe the year ahead holds lots of wonderful, exciting discoveries and adventures for you!

The other day I heard from another WTW workshop participant, who shared how much his life had changed since he participated 3 years ago! He took a chance, and is thrilled he did. I love when that happens.

WTW is not magic; it’s one part daydreams, two parts courage, and three parts getting out of your own way. Wishful Thinking Works and you can do it!

If you haven’t read and completed the simple exercises in the first post about Wishful Thinking Ways for 2012, go back and start there. If you have, you’re ready for today’s three steps.

Today’s tip:

Being happy and satisfied, doesn’t mean you stop dreaming, and being unhappy doesn’t mean you can’t start dreaming. So, no matter where you are today, it is the perfect starting point for where you want to be next.

Step 1

Start by drawing your face all happy and smiley. Don’t panic, we are talking about a basic little old smiley face. Add some hair to match yours, some dangling earrings if you wear them, whatever personalizes it enough to make you laugh and recognize yourself. 🙂

Then write and read aloud, “This is me all happy and smiley.”

Step 2

Now write 10 things that make you happy. Yes, 10. The numbers matter today; I want you to feel the stretch, which usually comes around #5 or #6. Be descriptive. Add details. And, since I never ask you to do something I haven’t already done, here is the list I wrote today.

  1. The feel of the soft cozy cable knit sweater I’m wearing. I love its muted pink, brown and burgundy color, too. It was a hand-me-down gift from my sweet sister Deb, before I left for my much-colder-than-Florida Peace Corps assignment.
  2. The hand-me-down brown ankle boots on my feet. I’m pretty much wearing them out while I am here. (They’re from the same sweet Sis.)
  3. Comfy jeans that are getting looser every day.
  4. A cafeteria on the main floor of my office building.
  5. Today is an absolutely beautiful day – the sun is shining; the temp is in the teens, but the weather is brisk and bright.
  6. That it’s Friday, even when you love what you are doing, sometimes Fridays are just the best days ever.
  7. That the Internet is working, it wasn’t a few minutes ago.
  8. Buses, ie. public transport. You get on, slip a coin or two into a slot and then get to daydream or eavesdrop on humanity.
  9. Hmm, thinking – this is my stretch . . . oh, wonderful and inexpensive mobile service to America.
  10. My friend, Dao, who is my constant chat friend no matter where I am in the world.

Step 3

Read the list out loud. The out loud part also matters, so yes, you must. The key for today’s list is your items have to make you happy, not just grateful. List things that make you smile. If an item doesn’t make you smile when you read it out loud, replace it.

For those struggling to start the list, write at least one thing, and then don’t worry about it, you have all week to work on it. If you are in the mood to keep going – do it. Add as many things as you like. The only way to mess up this exercise is not to do it! And, not doing it would be silly, because it will make you feel happy, and it’s a great way to start the New Year and your Wishful Thinking Ways.

Wishful Thinking Works and Ways are based on positive psychology, Appreciate Inquiry and life coach and life-adventurer Patrice Koerper’s experiences and those of her clients and workshop participants.

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