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Preparing for Love 3.0 – on TapaPalapa.com February 16, 2011

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In our most recent episode on TapaPalapa,  Steve and I talk about some important ideas and exercises for you when you’re looking for a romantic relationship. 

We explore ways to prepare yourself to love and be loved, how to make mindful decisions about the sort of person who will be a compatible partner for you, and how to realize your own qualities and strengths so you can enter a relationship with confidence in your ability to be an equal partner.

You can also see the video of Francie drawing the winners of her Valentine’s Day Give-Away on our Cinema page.

Plus, take the VIA Strengths Survey by clicking here. It will help you identify the positive psychology strengths that you will bring to a relationship to benefit your partner.

Please leave a comment and let us know what you think. Did you find the VIA Strengths test helpful? If you’re looking for a relationship, did you try the exercise Francie recommends? What tips do you have for people preparing for a romantic relationship?

Please help us spread the love by telling your friends and family about our podcast. Invite them to sign up by RSS feed or by e-mail.

Sign up for my Weekly Companion by clicking here.

Sign up for Steve’s Twisting Road Traveler by clicking here.

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How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways! February 15, 2011

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This past weekend I ran into one of my readers and she commented that last week’s blog, which contained the Virginia Satir essay, Declaration of Self Esteem, moved her to create her own essay which she calls My Personal (Wo)Manifesto of Self Esteem. She gave me permission to reprint it here. Hope you love it as much as I did!

My Personal (Wo)Manifesto of Self Esteem- or How Do I Love Me?-Let Me Count the Ways!

#1. I am creative. I can take nothing and make something of it. I can take ordinary objects- trash even- and make art out of it- woo-hoo!

#2. I am loveable. I love myself and try my best to see the love in others-even when it is most difficult, as it often is. I give and receive love easily.

#3. I am funny- silly sometimes. I have the ability to laugh at myself. I am working on the ability to laugh at my mistakes and go on.

#4. I am an object of desire- I am pretty damn hot for age 55!

#5. I can cuss like a sailor and fart like a boy! (So my husband tells me- and he should know!) This is not something I can or SHOULD easily share, but boy, at times they both come in handy!

#6. I have great hair- I love my hair! It is full, luxurious, pretty, and sexy. It makes me feel good! (I am cracking myself up right now!)

#7. I love how I am comfortable with my age. It doesn’t scare me-if it ever did. I am proud and grateful of/for every year I have been on this planet- maybe not of all my actions, but, looking to the future and working on that!

#8. I am open to learn new things, to experience life in all its glory, to look at the bigger picture, to accept people where they are-for the most part. This is a work in progress-as I am!

#9. I love that I am not on the eternal treadmill to lose weight or maintain a certain body image. Sure, I know I need to lose some lbs. I would feel better, it would improve my health- and I am working on it. But I am not consumed with the idea. Basically, I like (love!) me and fhow I look, not that there is not room for improvement!

#10. I am glad I am an optimist! I know that I have and will ALWAYS be taken care of by the Universe, Great Spirit, Allah, God, Goddess- whatever you choose to call it. I have seen and felt it, time and time again.

#11. I love myself even when I screw up, say and do the wrong things- I can forgive myself and go on!

#12. I love that I am calm most of the time- grounded in my beliefs, my faith, my actions- with my life, my friendships, and love as my foundation.

Not that I don’t have plenty to improve upon! But, I am not beating myself up over these things. Life is a school-not of hard knocks and hard times, but, it is an opportunity to grow and learn and be open to changes and opportunities. It is actually such a gift- a welcome mat laid at our feet.

We choose, not always to our benefit, but I believe no choice is totally wrong. Even a so-called wrong choice can put you on the road to a correct or better one. Who knows what that path may offer or where it will lead – however hard it might seem at the time.

I love my life and I love my friends, and I love this fickle, crazy, scary, magic, beautiful world we live in! Ah, we are but guests- and must act polite and gracious-except when we feel the need to speak out and act!

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it was as much fun for you to read as it was for me to write it! Please share if you decide to write your own personal manifesto!

– Francie Cooper

Three Ways to Fall in Love – With Yourself February 9, 2011

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 Virginia Satir, famed psychotherapist and author, once wrote this beautiful essay entitled: “My Declaration of Self Esteem.”
 
“I am me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it.
 
I own everything about me: my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or myself. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.
 
Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know — but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me.
 
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded.
 
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside f me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me, and I am okay.”
 
When I first read this piece, I realized I not only didn’t really love myself, I didn’t even know where to start the process.  My mind was so ingrained with self-sabotaging thoughts that loving myself sounded unnatural.  I realize now, however, that if you don’t love yourself, you can’t fully love another.
 
So, if reading Satir’s wise words has inspired you to work on loving yourself, here are three ways I believe will be helpful:
 
1. Forgive Yourself.  If you have made mistakes in the past, you need to forgive yourself now. All of us make mistakes.  It’s just part of the human experience.
 
2. Eliminate negative self-talk.  Do you often berate yourself over the tiniest thing?  Is there a little voice inside your head that often tells you you’re stupid or unworthy?  Be aware when this is happening.  Change your words to the opposite of what you’re saying. For instance, if you find yourself saying, “I am so dumb!”  STOP.  Replace your words with, “I am becoming so smart!”
 
3.  Make positive affirmations everyday.   I know this may sound hokey, but it does work!  Post affirmations on your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator and steering wheel, anywhere you will see them frequently.  For instance, write out and say aloud several times a day, “I love and accept myself completely and unconditionally.”
 
There are many, many other ways to raise your personal love quotient.  If you’d like to work on these and more, shoot me an email or give me a call!  Remember, all clients, new and returning, are entered in my Valentine’s Day Give-Away!
– Francie Cooper
 

What’s Love Got To Do With It? February 1, 2011

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“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” 
– Morrie Schwartz
 
Boys and girls, it’s here.  February.  Lo-o-o-ove month.  That time of year we traditionally express our deepest, most heartfelt, gushy, mushy feelings.  My question today, however, is, “What’s love got to do with it?”  And, what is it anyway?  For the sake of our discussion today, let’s say it is greater life satisfaction.  What does love have to do with our level of happiness?
 
As it turns out, there are actually many benefits to love.  Research shows that a loving environment encourages a person to better reach their potential, to be more giving to others, and to have greater trust.  Love can also help someone muster the resiliance to go through the most difficult times.  It is, clearly, a feeling that we all need just a strongly as we need to eat.
 
It’s also been shown that love reduces stress, relieves tension, reduces pain, and helps you live longer.  Do you agree?
 
This month, I urge you to take one small step to create more love in your life. 
 
You may be thinking, “But I don’t have a lover in my life right now.”  To that I say, acknowledge your love to a friend, parent, child, and/or grandparent.  Even a simple hug, shoulder squeeze, back-slap, or arm rub can lower stress hormones and help you feel more connected.
 
Or, you may be thinking, “Romance?  What’s that?  We’ve been together for years now.”  To that I say, “Do something novel together.”  There are ways to reignite the flame, though going out to your favorite restaurant for dinner is probably not one of them.  Research shows that you both need to engage in something new and challenging to get your brain to produce love hormones.  Try rock climbing, dance lessons, riding Segways, sleeping in the zoo overnight, handing out blankets to the homeless, horseback riding, plate painting, a cooking class, batting cages, a comedy club, or a helicopter ride, just for starters.
 
Another idea might be to come to a few sessions of couples Coaching together!   You’ll find new ways to connect, have greater intimacy, plus create a stronger bond. 
 
As an added bonus, you’ll be entered in my Valentine’s Day Give-Away!   You could win dinner for two, movie tickets for two, or a box of Godiva chocolates to enjoy with the romantic movie, “Love Actually.”
 
For details, check out my January 24 blog.
– Francie Cooper

Whew! That Was Fast! December 28, 2010

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Wow, I can’t believe Christmas has come and gone already. Did your holiday observations and celebrations meet your needs this year? That’s what I’m thinking about this morning, trying to discern what worked for me and what didn’t.

First, the plan of simplifying decorations went well. I didn’t miss having tchotchkes perched on every horizontal and vertical surface. The small tree, mantel and table centerpiece satisfied that need nicely without being too overwhelming. What also worked were many gatherings with family and friends. That seemed to be the balm I needed for creating a sense of peace, joy and love.

I didn’t miss the chaos of shopping in ever-more-frantic crowds of people – my few forays into the madness left me shaking my head at the ire of yelling and fist-shaking by angry shoppers when parking spaces were stolen. I admit, though, I did have difficulty shaking the feeling of Scrooginess.

You see, I have a life-long habit of over-the-top gift giving and cutting back on that was what I imagine going through withdrawals might be like. But, I realize, in the end, it really was okay and didn’t diminish the love I experienced from family or friends.

That’s just a small glimpse into my holiday experience, and now I invite you to take a look at yours. Were your needs and desires met? In what ways? Were there things you wish had gone differently? What were they? What changes can you make next year to assure that will happen?

Speaking of changes, have you started to think about what you’d like your 2011 to look like? I’d love to sit down with you to help create your intentions for next year, and then create an action plan to make that happen. Give me a call at 817.929.9599 or shoot me an email at coach@franciecooper.com and we’ll set up an appointment to do just that!

Happy New Year, One and All!

– Francie Cooper

Cool Yule Tools December 1, 2010

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It’s the last day of November and we’re still Juggling Joyfully as we careen head-long into the celebratory seasons of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. On my mind right now is how to juggle the expenses associated with all the holiday revelry. Traditions of decking the halls, parties galore and gift-giving extravaganzas all conspire to stretch any budget to the breaking point. I recently read in Consumer Reports that 13 million shoppers are still paying off last year’s holiday debts.

So, how do we avoid that happening this year? I’ve been doing some research and found some pretty cool tools:

  1. How to Make a Plan. The American Financial Services Association has a super easy Holiday Spending Plan that not only helps you budget every expense, it also has a gift giving list to track sizes, colors, stores and prices. Check it out!
  2. Let’s Grab a Deal. When your number one goal is to score a deal this holiday season, surf some consolidation sites like GottaDeal or Deal of the Day Tracker. Know what gift you want to purchase? Use a cost-comparison site like Amazon, Pronto or Google Product Search to find the lowest price.
  3. Get Gift Card Discounts. Plastic Jungle offers merchant gift cards for less than face value. You can either give them away or use them for your own shopping to create instant discounts. If you use the gift card to shop online, you can also use it with a coupon code or free shipping code to create even more savings.

As a parting thought, please remember to breathe. The hustle and bustle, scurry and flurry can get to the calmest, most grounded among us. Life will not be forever ruined nor come to a screeching halt if you don’t find the perfect gift, the best deal or no deal at all. Your family and friends will not stop loving you if you don’t shower them with presents.

What most people truly want is your love, compassion and time. Those don’t cost a single dime.

– Francie Cooper

Top 7 Strategies for a Successful, Committed Relationship October 27, 2010

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All month we’ve been exploring the importance of commitment to self. So this week, let’s switch it up a little and look at what it takes to be successfully committed to another, specifically a spouse, life partner or significant other.

There’s a great, relatively new book, for better – the science of a good marriage, by Tara Parker-Pope, that summarizes the current research on the positive steps we can take to keep a relationship healthy. In this well-researched work, Parker-Pope points out, “Researchers have identified several small, positive changes on which couples can focus that have the potential to reap big rewards in overall satisfaction with your marriage… Good marriages require daily maintenance and positive feedback to help couples stay connected.”

Parker-Pope distills the findings of several studies to come up with seven strategies to stay happy and bolster the strength of a relationship:

  1. Celebrate Good News – “Research shows that couples who regularly celebrate the good times have higher level of commitment, intimacy, trust and relationship satisfaction.” Bust out the champagne!
  2. Know the Mathematics of Marriage – “In stable marriages, there are at least five times more positive interactions than negative ones… Sometimes the positive are spoken, “You look nice today, honey.” Sometimes they’re gestures – pats on the hand or back, a hug, a tousle of the hair, a kiss for no reason.”
  3. Keep Your Standards High – According to a study by University of North Carolina psychologist Donald H. Baucom, couples who expect a lot from their relationships tend to get exactly what they ask for.
  4. Pay Attention to Family and Friends – “The happiest couples are those who have interests and support beyond the twosome.”
  5. Don’t Expect Your Spouse to Make You Happy – “Marriage triggers an initial boost in happiness, but after about two years, people, on average, settle back to the same level of happiness they had prior to marriage.”
  6. Just Do It – “Over time, regular sex can improve your mood, make you more patient, damp down anger, and leads to a better, more hapcontented relationship.”
  7. Reignite Romance – “Protect your marriage by regularly trying new things and sharing new experiences with your spouse.”

So how ‘bout it friends? How many of these do you apply on a regular basis? My suggestion this week is that you take an honest look at which of these tips you’re using and which you’re not, then make a plan on how you can integrate them into your life with your beloved. Better yet, email this to him or her with a note that says, “Hi, honey. I love you and would love to talk about these! Want to go on a date tonight?”

– Francie Cooper

The Other C Word – Commitment October 6, 2010

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Who or what are you committed to? Some of us commit ourselves to our partners, children, best friends, colleagues, extended families, neighbors, church, the environment, etc.

All of those are extremely important, and we’ll discuss them later this month. But first, I’d like to start with the most important commitment of all – yes, I know you’re way ahead of me – it’s your commitment to yourself.

Why is it we easily and readily show love & respect to everyone else by cheering them up when things look down, celebrating when life is good, or bolstering self-esteem when fear starts taking over? Yet, when it comes to doing these same things for ourselves, our commitment may not be so certain.

This week make that commitment to take care of yourself, as you would your best friend.  Try these three easy steps:

1.  Ask yourself questions.  Don’t you normally inquire about your friends’ feelings, thoughts and days? Turn that attention to yourself. Try asking yourself about what’s going on with your body, energy or spirit. How do you feel today? Why? How can you care for yourself? Do you need sleep, healthy food, interaction, exercise, comforting?

Journaling every day is an effective way to ask yourself these questions. Bothersome as some of you find it, putting your thoughts down in writing helps clarify your feelings and allows you to really pay attention to what may be rattling around in your head.

2. Feed your Soul. Make time in your schedule for things you love. Give priority to some passion in your life, so the days don’t flow by in an endless To Do list of shoulds and chores. Pay attention to the activities that bring a smile to your face and give you that overwhelming fabulous feeling of “This is life!” Make note of those life-affirming joys and then make time to do more of them.

3.  Live your Legacy. You make a difference every day. Decide what you want that difference to be. Think about the legacy you’d like to leave. How do you want to be remembered? What values do you want your life to reflect? Increase the actions that are aligned with that path. Decrease the actions that harm or distract. 

I know I’m asking a lot. Making a commitment to care for yourself requires thought, honesty, love and growth. I’m asking you to be completely in tune with how you feel, what you love and what you want from life. It takes a gutsy person to take on that challenge. But you know what? I know you can do it and you’re worth it!

– Francie Cooper

Love + More Love = Abundance July 28, 2010

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This past weekend I experienced abundance in its most glorious form – love! I attended a friend’s birthday dinner, then a birthday party for my 90-year-old aunt, and then the wedding of a dear friend’s daughter. It was basically a three-day love-fest, and it filled me to the brim with feelings of pure, unadulterated abundance.

We don’t often think of love as a part of the abundance equation, unlike money or material possessions. In reality, though, it is love that gives us the most lasting feelings of fullness and plenty.

Love, to me, is the foundation of an abundant life. There’s an unlimited supply of it – always. And, we all have the capacity within us to be vessels for love. It doesn’t matter what we’ve accomplished, what recognition we’ve received, what we own, there is nothing as sweet as loving. The more we love – the more people, the more manifestations of life – a friend, a child, a parent, a partner, a pet – the richer we are. Nothing is more beautiful or more sacred.

This week, let’s pay particular attention to the abundance of love in our lives. Notice the glow in your beloved’s eyes. Revel in the sweetness of a child’s embrace. Inhale a big gulp of the love in the air at your family reunion. Absorb the adoration of your sweet pet. How does it make you feel when you recognize the love all around you? My guess is that, like me, you’ll feel full, content and simply happy!

Do you need it, love it, or LOVE it? July 21, 2010

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My son, Will, and I have talked for years about writing a book together on the subject of “want vs. need.” Time and distance have intervened thus far, but I’ve been thinking about that concept in terms of our topic this month – abundance. How can we feel a sense of plenty when we have a bazillion wants buzzing around in our heads all the time? I want a trip to Spain. I want an outdoor paradise in my backyard.

My favorite fellow Life Coach, Martha Beck, addressed this issue beautifully in her recent article, The Joy Dividend. In it she explores how we can get maximum pleasure with the resources currently available to us. She says, “If you have any money left over after purchasing all the things you absolutely, positively must have [i.e. food, shelter, clothing], spend it on stuff you LOVE but don’t need.”

She also cautions, “Just be careful. If you fail to do this consciously, you’ll get wishy-washy with discretionary spending, blowing your money on things altogether useless… Often, piles of mediocre, creeping stuff actually decreases quality of life.”

This philosophy makes so much sense to me. Just last week I found myself buying yet another pair of white linen capris because they were such a great deal. (Originally $158, I got them for $15!) But, did I really need them? No – I have two pair already. Did I really LOVE them, not just love them? (Notice the distinction between “LOVE” and “love.”) Honestly, they were a lower case love. If I’d been more conscious of Martha’s need, love and LOVE perspective, I would’ve put that $15 toward my trip to Spain, or purchased something for my backyard oasis, both of which I would LOVE!

I invite you to join me this week in making more conscious distinctions between what we really need, really love, and really LOVE. I believe this way of life can ultimately lead to greater satisfaction and feelings of abundance.

– Francie Cooper