May 06, 2016

Lessons from Mom

When I was young, my mother wore red as often as possible. She had a red car and a red front door. Red was her favorite color. Now as a mother myself, I realize there was much more to her color choice.

My mother was a single mother of three who worked as a teacher and spent most of her time around children. She balanced work and family long before there were modern conveniences like online shopping and virtual assistants.

I knew other mothers stayed home, but even though my mother worked, she was always there to pick me up from school or a dance and take me to weekend activities. If I was sick and couldn't go to school, I stayed home alone. If I wanted my clothes clean for school, I washed them. If I wanted lunch, I packed it. She made the working mother thing seem easy.

From growing up with a single, working mother, I learned a few lessons that serve me well today.

  1. Make your kids help. I make my kids do dishes, help with cooking, make their beds…all the things my mom made me do. It teaches them responsibility and takes some of the household chores off my plate.
  2. Be organized. My mother, a teacher, shopped during the summer for Christmas, birthdays, and emergencies. She had gifts in her closet at all times so we were never caught off guard should an invitation come our way.
  3. Savor Sunday night. Sunday nights were quiet time in our house. My mother paid the bills and planned dinners for the week. We did homework, read books and went to bed early. It helped to start the week from a place of peace.
  4. Insist on family dinners. We had all kinds of activities during the week but we knew to be home for dinner. Today, I credit that family time with how close I am with my siblings.
  5. Consider school as important as work. As my mother headed to her workplace, she told us our jobs were to go to school and do well. We took that responsibility seriously and today I tell my children the same thing.
  6. Only spend what you have. My mother only had a Sears credit card. That’s it. Everywhere else she paid cash. Money was tight but mom would not let us buy a thing unless we had the cash to pay for it. Otherwise, we would do without. I try to abide by the same rule and have stayed out of debt.
  7. Don't feel guilty for "me time". On Saturday night, my mother would go out and we would have a sitter until my older sister could babysit. It was my mother's time to do whatever she wanted as a woman, rather than a mom. Taking time for herself was how my mom kept her sanity and how I now keep mine.

While my mom still loves the color red, she doesn’t wear it as often today. She no longer needs to convince herself that she has power and determination to survive as a single mom. She has done her job well as a mother, grandmother and role model.

Happy Mother's Day to my mother and all of the other moms out there. You rock!

 

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My mother and stepfather both in red

 

 

 

April 29, 2016

Why Meternity Leave is Ridiculous

Looks like author Meghann Foye sparked a conversation — and a controversy — with the release of her new novel "Meternity."

Meghann thinks people without kids should get an extended break from work, just like their co-workers who go on maternity or paternity leave. She speaks from experience. Years ago, Foye took her own self-financed meternity leave to kick start her writing career. I understand where Meghann is coming from. Burnout is a big problem in this country and childless workers are at risk because the perception is they are available all the time.  Everyone deserves "me time" which is why many workplaces have vacation days and Paid Time Off. .

But Americans aren't even taking the paid vacation time coming to them. Every year they leave tons of paid vacation days unused out of fear for their jobs, or too big a workload or all kinds of other reasons.  So are people going to take three months off unpaid for meternity leave? Let's be real, they most certainly are not.

If you have the desire and some savings, whether you are a parent or a single employee, you can take meternity leave any time you want. It's called quitting your job, regrouping and forging a new path that gives you the work life balance you seek. In that sense, meternity leave already is available to all workers.

On the flip side, what's going on in this country with maternity leave is pitiful.

Right now, 1 out of 4 mothers only takes two weeks off to have a kid, despite the toll on their bodies and the sleepless nights. Why? They can't afford to take more than that because our nation has no national policy on paid parental leave. Let's focus on getting that first. Let's help parents get the time they need to bond with their newborn, establish a routine and get ready for the balancing act that lies ahead. That will make a difference in our communities and for our families.  

What are your thoughts on meternity leave? Is it an insult to new parents? If you could afford it, would you take it?

 

April 22, 2016

Yes, you can volunteer and have work life balance

 

Like most working parents, I run around most of the time like a chicken with my head cut off. I want to do so much but I always feel like I could do more, especially for my community. Well, it's National Volunteer Month so it's a great time to take inventory of your life and see how you might be able to give back. 

When I think of role models who give back, Tere Blanca immediately comes to mind. Tere is one of the few women in commercial real estate who has a proven track record and is well respected by men and women in her field. She is founder, president, and CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, the leading independent full-service commercial real estate brokerage in South Florida. She's a working mother AND she has held prestigious positions as past chair of The Beacon Council and member of the Board of Governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce among all kinds of other positions in the community. Tere's company encourages volunteerism among its employees by underwriting the costs of charitable work, donating money to organizations her employees are involved with, and providing paid time off to volunteer.

Today, Tere is my guest blogger and I'm thrilled to have her weigh in on how she balances work, life, and volunteering. She can be reached at tere.blanca@blancacre.com

 

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Tere's Motto: Volunteerism Drives Business Success

At my company, our passion for social causes has proved one of our most important business differentiators and drivers, helping establish our business in the midst of the 2009 economic downturn and propelling our sustained growth.

The game-changing volunteering I’m referring to goes beyond writing checks, sitting on boards, and occasionally attending galas and events. It involves identifying causes near to our hearts that we are personally passionate about, rolling up our sleeves, and generously donating our time and talents to meaningfully advance the organizations' missions.

I founded the firm on a non-negotiable pillar of giving back, encouraging volunteerism among all brokers and employees by underwriting charitable work, donating financial resources to the organizations we support, and providing paid time off to volunteer. This linked us with our community, giving us a close feel for its pulse, and enabling us to forge strong partnerships and networks while engaging on deep, human levels.

I did this simply because I wanted to give; I later realized it would drive incredible success, with some major national clients selecting us in part for our deep local community ties, having witnessed first-hand our abilities while involved in volunteer work or leading the charge to positively impact our community.

Another essential driver of business success is the ability to attract and retain talent, which also is enhanced through corporate social responsibility. Research shows most employees consider “contributing to society” indispensable for an ideal job. Millennials who participate in workplace volunteer activities are more satisfied and loyal.

Despite running a demanding business and raising a family, I have been able to find ample time to pour my heart into causes that deeply resonate with me. Often, I am asked, “How do you do it?”

Here is some of my best advice:

First, take a deep look within yourself and identify causes that you are truly passionate about. Identify the best organizations and opportunities that allow you to engage at a meaningful level in supporting those causes. Before committing, get to know the organizations and their boards well upfront to confirm there is a fit. As part of that process, develop an accurate understanding of the time commitment and expectations involved.

Next, understand how much time you can reasonably contribute every month and week. For first-timers, it is best to start small and build on your success. It is better to make meaningful contributions to one or two organizations than to join six boards and do a minimal amount of non-impactful work for each. This also avoids over-committing and letting folks down when you realize you cannot attend all the board meetings or have to withdraw from the organization.

Then, when you have decided what organizations you want to join, develop a written plan for your involvement. If you have marketing or public relations support at your company, it is helpful to engage their expertise in this process. Obtain a list of board meetings and key activities upfront and bake them into your calendar.

Most importantly,  make sure your team at work and your family at home are well aware of these commitments and ready to support you when needed. Proper planning also can help you identify non-essential activities that may be delegated or cut from your schedule. Something as simple as ordering in dinner rather than preparing a meal can free up your evening. Also, do not be shy to ask for support from your family and co-workers; after all, community is a fabric woven of individual lives and efforts. When we all do our part, no matter how seemingly small or trivial, the whole is strengthened and bettered.

I find it inexcusable that South Florida ranks last among 51 major metros for its volunteer rate. It also is bad business. For example, when we support City Year Miami’s mission to help keep students in school and on track to graduate, ready for college and careers, we’re building a better tomorrow for everyone: one with a broader talent pool, lower crime rates that result in lower insurance costs, and a society that is better equipped to attract business investment, fuel economic growth and enjoy a higher quality of life.

To paraphrase Horace Mann, “Doing nothing for our community is the undoing of business.”

Photos below are Tere in action!

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April 11, 2016

If Birth Order Affects Success, Am I Doomed?

                                   

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(Me and my siblings!)

 

 

Yesterday was National Sibling Day and my Facebook feed was filled with friends posting adorable photos of themselves with their siblings.  Seeing the photos made me think about my siblings, my slot in the family, our personalities and our lives, and of course, our work life balance.

I am a middle child, squeezed between an older sister and younger brother. I am also the sibling who wants everyone to get along. I guess you can say I'm a collaborator and a peacekeeper. So, what does that mean for me as a business woman and working mother? 

According to Jeff Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, whether you have siblings, how many you have and where you fall in the hierarchy can play an important role in the work you love, the career you pursue and how successful you’ll be. It could even affect how you balance work and life.

Kluger says middle children -- like me -- take longer to find a career they love and in which they can thrive. Sometimes, we even get depressed about it. On the upside, we tend to build bigger networks and excel at relationship management—connecting, negotiating, brokering peace between differing sides. Kluger says middle siblings may not wind up as the corporate chiefs or the comedians, but whatever they do, they’re likely to do it more collegially and agreeably—and, as a result, more successfully—than other siblings. 

Kluger is right. I'm not a CEO, but I have found success as a writer on my own terms. However, because I'm the agreeable middle child,  I think work life balance is more difficult for me. I'm the sibling who takes on what others don't want to do, just to keep peace, such juggling my own children's needs with caregiving for aging family members.

Life is different for first borns, the oldest children. Kluger says they are statistically likelier to be CEOs, senators and astronauts—and to make more money than their younger siblings. He points out that first borns tend to run their companies conservatively—improving things by, say, streamlining product lines, simplifying distribution routes and generally making sure the trains run on time. From what I've seen, first borns run their households the same way as they run their organizations. These are the superwomen who make juggling work and family look easy.

Kluger says last borns, the youngest children, are risk takers. They are more inclined to be rebellious, funnier, more intuitive and more charismatic than their older siblings. Multiple studies have shown that the baby of the family is likelier than other siblings to be a writer or artist or especially a comedian—Stephen Colbert, the youngest of 11 siblings, is a great example of this. From my perspective, the youngest child stresses least about work life balance because he or she is more likely to ask for help -- and get it.

So, what do you think about birth order and odds of success? Do you fit Kluger's stereotypes? How do you think your birth order may be affecting your career and life choices and your work life balance?

April 07, 2016

Should You Hit "Send" at midnight? The unwritten rules of email

 

                                    Bed

 

It's close to midnight and I'm still awake. Not only that, but I've broken all my own rules about logging on late at night. The house is quiet, everyone but me is asleep and I'm feeling extremely productive. Maybe that coffee I drank after dinner wasn't decaf like I thought it was.

I have just composed a response to an email I was trying to get to all day. But now, I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I send it?  On one hand, if I do, I can go to sleep knowing it's off my plate. On the other hand, it may look odd to the receiver that I'm working at midnight. It may even look like I have no work life balance.

SendUgh....what to do? What are the rules, anyway?

Recently, I spoke on a panel to an audience of PR professionals (mostly women). The topic of late night email came up. Most of the audience admitted to getting back on their computers after dinner or after their kids are in bed -- at least a few nights a week. Some of them admitted, they too struggle with the etiquette of late night email.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, one in two workers in the information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services sectors — industries that historically keep traditional 9 to 5 work hours — check or respond to work emails outside of work. Let's add journalist and publicist to that list. Heck, let's add teachers, lawyers, doctors, business executives and most other professions.

However, there are people who don't believe in taking work home. Some get annoyed by late-night work email and look down on the sender. These people want clear boundaries between work and home and they don't appreciate others who break those boundaries. My husband believes sending late night emails creates an impression you're disorganized. 

I noticed working mothers tend to be okay with sending emails in the evening hours. They understand that "doing it all" might mean sending an email at 10, 11 or even midnight.

In a recent column, Sue Shellenbarger at the WSJ pointed out that your boundary style and tolerance for late night email may depend on the kind of job you hold or your life stage. She noted that some people celebrate the option to log on at night as freedom, a sign of success in balancing home and work. For others, it feels like the opposite of freedom—a burdensome intrusion on their home life.

A banking executive told me she often composes late night emails but waits until the morning to hit send. I think her approach may be the way to go. I see 11 p.m. as the cutoff time to hit send. After that time, I am going to take the banker's approach and wait until the morning.

To be clear, I don't think anyone should expect a response to an email sent after 7 p.m.  But others will disagree. Some clients, co-workers and bosses expect a quick response, regardless of the time the email is sent. Unfortunately, this "always on" attitude is the direction business is going.

What are your thoughts on late night email? Do you think there's a reason or hard stop time to hold back on hitting send? Are you put off when someone sends you a late night email?

 

March 26, 2016

Michelle Obama on sexism: Can you relate?

 

Are the obstacles for women leaders around the world real? And, if so, what exactly are those obstacles?

First lady Michelle Obama took the stage in Argentina on Wednesday with Argentinian vice president Juliana Awada to talk to young girls about becoming leaders. She warned them about the obstacles they will face.

The first obstacle happens in the classroom, Michelle Obama noted.

“[I’ve dealt with] teachers who didn’t think I was smart enough and would call on the boys instead of the girls, even though the girls had better grades,” she said in the speech, which is part of her “Let Girls Learn” initiative. “People who thought a girl shouldn’t have ambition—and they would ask my brother what career he planned to have but would ask me what kind of man I wanted to marry.”

The next obstacle happens while walking down the street or entering a room full of strangers.

Michelle explained: “As I got older, I found that men would whistle or make comments about how I looked as I walked down the street, as if my body were their property, as if I were an object to be commented on instead of a full human being with thoughts and feelings of my own. I began to realize that the hopes I had for myself were in conflict with the messages I was receiving from people around me. Messages that said that, as a girl, my voice was somehow less important. That how my body looked was more important than how my mind worked. That being strong and powerful and outspoken just wasn't appropriate or attractive for a girl."

The final obstacle comes from within, she explained.

“I started to question myself: Was I too loud? Too much? Was I too bossy? Was I dreaming too big? And for years, I would lie awake at night and those doubts would eat away at my heart."

But Michelle said she managed to get past those obstacles. "I got tired of worrying about what everyone else thought of me."

Instead, she took another path. 

"I decided not to listen to the voices of those who doubted or dismissed me. Instead, I decided to listen to my own voice and to rely on the support of the people in my life who believed in my ability to achieve my own dreams.”

In tackling the naysayers, Michelle told the audience she dreamed of attending the best university, becoming a lawyer and being a leader in her community. She urged the young women out there to take on the challenges they face as women by getting an education, fighting to be paid equally and balancing the demands of family and work. 

"I devoted all of my energy to doing well in school. I made sure I was one of the most well prepared students in my class. While some doubted a girl like me good attend a top university, I went ahead and applied anyway. And I got accepted and eventually got a law degree from Harvard University. That education was everything for me."

She continued: "Because of my education, I had opportunities my parents could never have dreamed of for  themselves. I want to urge you to get the education you need to get your voice heard in the world and rise up as leaders at every level of society around the world." She spoke about how women need to advocate for equal pay, for access to education and for leadership roles in their country, their workplaces and in global organizations..

 

Personally, I found Michelle Obama's speech motivating, timely and important. 

Have a listen and let me know what you think. Will the next generation of young women be the leaders we hope they will be?

March 24, 2016

How Adam LaRoche got the work family conversation started again

 

 

                            Adam

 

 

Years ago I worked in a newsroom bureau next door to a charter school. Every afternoon, my co-worker would pick up his young son from school and bring him to the office to do his homework. While I thought it was awesome, I also kind of resented it because I thought that a mother who brought her child to the office every afternoon would get disciplined.

The topic of bringing your child to work became top of mind again last week when Adam LaRoche, a power-hitting first baseman, informed the White Sox that he intended to retire with a year and $13 million left on his contract. He made the decision after being told by club President Kenny Williams that his 14-year-old son, Drake, should appear less frequently in the clubhouse.

Initially, the White Sox welcomed LaRoche's son Drake and even outfitted him with a uniform and gave him a locker inside the clubhouse. Drake began traveling with his father during baseball season, receiving home-schooled lessons.

But Williams had enough of Drake’s constant presence and defended his position to ask his player to leave his son at home by saying, "Where in this country can you bring your child to work every day?"

The answer, of course, is hardly anywhere. And that got me thinking.

Some parents like LaRoche may want to bring their child to work. Some may need to bring their child to work. Indeed, as the Washington Post notes, “most people who wrestle with children-at-work issues do it for straight-up survival, not to form an unusually close bond with a child.” And, while it was LaRoche's choice to quit because he couldn't bring his son to work with him, some people (particularly mothers) have been fired for doing it. 

Fortunately, for workers who prove themselves valuable, businesses are starting to bend a little to keep their top talent happy.   Now, it’s up to each of us to ask for what we need to keep our work and home lives on track, convince our employers to give us those accommodations, and be prepared to make decisions based on the response to our requests. In Adam’s case, he faced a tough choice between work and family, and chose family. His decision resonated with baseball players around the country who rallied behind him when he quit, citing #FamilyFirst as the reason.

Tadd Schwartz, a father of two young children and owner of Schwartz Media Strategies, says thinks LaRoche should be able to bring Drake to work with him. Schwartz just allowed an employee to bring a sick dog with him to work. “Culture is critical and if an employee is productive and wants his or her son/ daughter (or dog) in the office and it's not a distraction then I'm fine with it. It’s called flexibility.”

I asked another employer what he thought about LaRoche's action and he told me doesn't think that anyone, male or female, should bring their child to work: "We're paying people to focus on their job, not their child. On an emergency basis, that would be different. But on a day to day basis it's a distraction for the parent and a liability for the company." 

I appreciate LaRoche's position as a father who travels a lot for work and wants to spend time with his son. I also appreciate the fact that LaRoche has America discussing this important topic. The movement to make workplaces more kid-friendly has been slow to take hold. But, as more men take on their fair share of childcare duty, I foresee fathers making the tough decision LaRoche made and more employers suffering the consequences for refusing to be open-minded. 

February 25, 2016

Why we think everyone else has it together

                                            Sign

Have you ever looked at someone in a high powered job with a big family and thought Wow, she really has it together. Then, you paused and wondered, "Why is it so easy for her when I'm exhausted and struggling to keep up?"

If you answered, "I think that just about every day" then we totally think the same way.

But this week, two things have changed my thinking. The first is a column by Fred Grimm in this morning's Mugshot Miami Herald. Fred wrote about that "crazy" guy whose strange jailhouse mug shot was smeared with black grease paint. The media reported that this crazy Virginia man in Florida was arrested for strange and threatening behavior. But Fred dug deeper to learn who this guy really was, the story behind the image. He found out that the guy in the mugshot was an American soldier who did three combat tours in Iraq. When he returned, his mother had died of breast cancer, he hasn't been able to find a job and there hasn't been much support for him making the transition from war life to a normal one. In other words, an image of someone isn't always what it seems.

Coincidentally, I did an interview with a successful restaurateur who spoke about how hard he works to support his two young children. He seemed so positive, so together, despite the long work hours he puts in. He made work life balance seem so effortless. It was later that I learned his newborn is not well and he's been a mess about it. In other words, an image isn't always what it seems.

As we live our lives, we will face constant challenges at work and home and we must resist the urge to think everyone else has an easier time with work life balance than we do. Next time you find yourself struggling with work and life and stress and competing time demands, don't get hung up on an image of what work life balance is supposed to look like. Everyone has challenges, whether or not they are visible to us.

We are struggling more than previous generations. Parenting a generation ago was simpler. It just was. Parents just didn't feel pressured as much to help their children succeed academically, socially, athletically. Being a stand out worker a generation ago was easier. It just was. Workers just didn't feel pressured to be on call at all hours and collaborate across teams and stay relevant. We are living in an increasingly competitive world and we need to stop second guessing ourselves because keeping up is hard work.

Today, Dear Abby wrote a column about how young moms feel pressure to do a good job raising their Dabbychildren in a way their grandmothers may not understand. The truth is all of us  feel pressure to succeed at everything we do, but we have to be okay with knowing that today success comes with exhaustion, sacrifice, regrets and a struggle to make multiple people happy at the same time. 

We need to look past the image of the amazing CEO, or senior leader, or celebrity who seems to have it all and see what we can learn from what we think he or she is doing well. I'm sure if you asked about work life challenges, that amazing person you think has it so together would rattle off a list without a blink of an eye --  and be as willing as the rest of us to invite change. Maybe, just maybe, the saying is true...The secret to having it all, is believing you do!

January 20, 2016

5 ways to fit mentorship into your work life balance

When I saw a TV interview with Lydia Muniz from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, something she said repulsed me. She told interviewer Helen Ferre that Miami is dead last out of 51 metro areas when it comes to its volunteer rate. Dead last.

Growing up in South Florida, I'm the first to admit that we tend to be self absorbed in the Sunshine State. We also consider ourselves very busy people with little time or money to donate to help others. 

I get it, people are busy. We work long hours.  We carry our smartphones on us all the time and can't get away from work calls and email. We have wives. We have kids. We have hobbies we want to pursue. Mentoring a child just doesn't seem like it should be something we sacrifice our free time to do.

But here's an interesting tidbit: 

A study by Wharton’s Cassie Mogilner, published in the Harvard Business Review, found spending time helping others left participants feeling as if they have more time, not less. Mogilner’s research shows that spending as few as 10 minutes helping others can make people not only feel less time-constrained but also feel capable, confident and useful.

If that's not motivation here's another tidbit:

Children who are mentored maintain better attitudes toward schools and are less likely to use drugs or start drinking, according to Mentoring.org, a nonprofit charged with expanding youth mentoring relationships.


With that as our motivation, we should be able to figure out how to mentor a child without it taking too much of our time. January is National Mentoring Month so this happens to be a great time to consider it. 
 
Natalie and Kriss 4.2015 II
(Natalie Parker, on left, mentors Kriss Reyes, right, in her workplace, The DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Miami)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some ways to fit mentoring into your schedule:
 
1. Have the children come to you. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a School to Work program that will bring students to your workplace once a month for four hours. The only requirement is that you have at least 10 volunteers.
 
2. Find a school near your office and pop in during your lunch hour or before work. Many schools encourage this type of mentoring as long as you are cleared by the county as a volunteer. 
 
3. Mentor as a couple or family. Forming a relationship with an at-risk youth can be easy when you include him or her in what you already are doing such as going to the beach, a football game or the park.
 
4. Mentor by phone. Some college students ( and high school seniors) are desperate for career advice. Young professional organization often are able to pair you with these type of students who are at risk for giving up. One of two phone calls and support as needed can set a young person on the right path.
 
5. Mentor occasionally by speaking on career day or at an afterschool club meeting. Schools are desperate to find speakers who are good role models. Organizations like Women of Tomorrow and Girl Power Rocks can facilitate this type of mentorship.
 
 I hope you will join me in making a difference in a young person's life!
 

SOME YOUTH MENTORING ORGANIZATIONS

▪ Stand Up for Kids (standupforkids.org)

▪ Big Brothers Big Sisters (bbbsmiami.org)

▪ Girl Power Rocks (girlpowerrocks.org)

▪ Honey Shine Mentoring Program (honeyshine.org)

▪ Women of Tomorrow (womenoftomorrow.org)

▪ Take Stock in Children (takestockinchildren.org)

 

Read more on this topic in today's Miami Herald.

 

January 05, 2016

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions This Year

 

                                         Nyresolution

 

Last January, I resolved to lose my belly fat. Although my frame is thin, the fat around my waistline really bothers me. I went to the gym. I power walked. I did sit ups every now and then. But what I didn't do was the research to figure out how to lose belly fat, nor did I have a consistent routine. I just did what was convenient. 

This morning, I read an article in Time Magazine that is going to change the way I approach my resolution this year. In fact, it made me realize I can't blame my struggles to achieve work life balance as the reason I fall short on my making my resolution stick.

Art Markman, a Professor of Psychology and Marketing at The University of Texas, says the reason our resolutions fail is that we  don’t put in enough effort to allow them to succeed. The things we resolve to change in our lives are generally the systematic failures in our lives.

For instance, he says, "people often resolve to get in shape, stop smoking or drinking, or to get more serious about establishing a career. But even if you want to make a change, it is not easy to make systematic changes in your behavior. We have habits that get in the way of achieving our goals."

So according to Markman, what I need to differently in 2016 is focus on positive goals rather than negative ones. A positive goal is an action you want to perform; a negative goal is something you want to stop doing.

I want to take positive action to lose my belly fat. 

Markman says I need to make a realistic plan. For example, he says, "If you want to start going to the gym more often, it is not enough to say that you want to go to the gym three times a week. Where is that going to fit on your calendar? You need to pick specific days and add that to your agenda. Unless you get specific, you will have a hard time identifying all of the obstacles that will get in your way. Put the gym on your calendar Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That is specific enough to give you a fighting chance of succeeding," he says.

This year, I am going to schedule my workouts rather than fitting them in whenever, wherever.

But that's just the first step I need to take.

The next step is to make changes to my environment. Markman says a big key to behavior change is to make desirable behaviors easy and undesirable behaviors hard. Take smoking for example. He points out that during the past 50 years, the successful public health campaign to get people to stop smoking has succeeded in part because it is now virtually impossible to smoke in public buildings. As a result, people in the workplace or in restaurants or bars can’t just pick up a cigarette and light it. They have to walk outside. The undesirable behavior has been made hard to do. 

For me, that means taking all the tempting junk food out of my home office and replace it with healthy snacks. 

Next, Markman says I need to be kind to myself.  Real behavior change is hard. "There are days when you will succeed and others when you will fail. On the days you fail, treat them as an opportunity to learn about what to do in the future rather than as a reason to give up."

Along with Markman, I am listening to advice from blogger Penelope Trunk. She says  Resolutions work best if you pick just one. And the best resolutions are those you can write in a simple way. For example: If you say, “I need to go to the gym more,” just forget it. It'll never happen. You need to break down the steps to defined tasks. You should say, “I need to drive to the gym at 4:30 every day and I cannot drive out of the parking lot until 5:30.”

Penelope also provides this good news: Your New Year's resolution really takes only three weeks to complete. Because if you force yourself to change your behavior for three weeks, your brain will start to develop more dopamine in response to the behavior that you are trying to change

So, I am being really specific about when I go to the gym. What I will do there and what I will add and take out of my diet.

Lastly, I am listening to advice from Austin Frakt, a health economist.

He says, "Contemplating a resolution, I start with two questions: “Why don’t I do this already?” and “Why do I feel the need to do this now?”

The first question is practical; it seeks the barrier. The second is emotional; it seeks the motivation necessary to sustain an effort to remove the barrier.Carrying around belly fat makes me  feeling unhealthy and that makes me unhappy. That is my emotional motivation to change. The barrier is I don't know what exactly will make a difference in eliminating belly fat and I don't have a specific plan of attack.

Here is how I am going to make my resolution happen: I'm doing research, talking to experts and understanding exactly what I need to do to reduce belly fat. Then, I'm making a three week plan and being very specific about how I will follow it. If I fall short, I am going to remind myself why I made the resolution and get right back on schedule. 

What is your resolution and your plan of attack? Have you set yourself up correctly to make your resolution stick?

                               Bellyfat