Integrate Life into Your Today

shutterstock_176813414 copyLet’s all just face it, sometimes it is just what it is.  I’m a wife first. A mom second. I’m a business owner third. And I don’t always get a hot second to spend on myself. True, we have complete control over the great majority of our circumstances, but sometimes elements of the life we have now are unchangeable – at least for the time being.  I don’t want to change anything about life today except for one thing…I want to slow down and enjoy it more! There is joy in living in the moment, so why waste even a smidgen of happiness or a minute of life???

The poet, William Earnest Henley, said it best in his poem Invictus when he wrote “I am the master of my fate”. You always have a choice. Choose wisely. So since I often have to talk out loud to myself to get myself to listen, here’s some advice I’m shouting today:

1.) Every day do at least one thing that makes you happy. There is no magic list. Do not listen to anyone else’s suggestions. You know what makes you smile, so smile today!

2.) Make a plan and make it a habit. Just like brushing your teeth, or jump starting your morning with caffeine – make this a priority on a daily basis.

3.) Make a mental list of the things you have mastered already in life. You know what they are – these are the areas where you receive accolades, awards and “at–a-boys”. You have a full twenty-four hours every day. Pick one, do it better than anyone else can, and feel fulfilled and accomplished.

4.) Be a friend, call a friend, help a friend or make a new friend. Interpersonal relationships have tangible power. Infuse each new day with a heaping dose.

5.) Feed your body; eating healthy foods increases your stamina and keeps illness at bay. (It’s shameful how lucky I feel on days where I miss only one meal!) Feed your mind. Read, read, and read. Keep abreast on current events, buy trade journals in your area of expertise, subscribe to how-to publications – just read daily. Lastly, at least once every day, do whatever feeds your soul.  Prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise, Bible study, journaling; whatever gives you inner peace.

Become your own life coach, and integrate life into your today. When you are ready to integrate new life into your financial future, make us the friend you call. Contact us  – you will be happy you did!

3 Things You Need to Hear but Don’t Want to

12436236_10153860979392650_1672561612_oThey say the truth hurts.  It’s a hard pill to swallow – like the time my two-year-old recently pointed out that she’s excited to see I’m going to have another baby.  “No, honey.  No baby in this belly,” and thanks for pointing out that I’m obviously fat!

But don’t you think that cutting out the crap and getting to the meat and potatoes of this life is really all that’s important?  Think about it.  Maybe I do need some exercise.  Maybe I do need to hear something that makes me cringe.  After all, the friend who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear, is the best friend of all.

So here’s the meat and potatoes – after 13+ years as a financial advisor, I’m still blown away by the people who just don’t get it.  The story is almost always the same…it’s a couple who has decent income, they don’t live extravagantly, one’s a spender and one’s decent with money, they have some debt, are underfunded for retirement and college savings, and they don’t understand that it won’t just all come together perfectly.  The hard truth:

  1. Debt kills you.
  2. Savings won’t just happen one day.
  3. It doesn’t ever get cheaper to live.

None of these people are dumb.  They’re just living the way society tells us we all should live.  It’s peer pressure at its’ core and it’s contagious!

Have you ever seriously thought about what it would be like to have zero debt?  How much would it cost you to live?  What if all you had to pay for were utilities, clothes, and food?  Would you have to save as much for retirement?  Would you have to work as many hours as you do now?

Did you know it’s entirely possible to pay off your mortgage in 5 years? What about your car payment?  Wouldn’t it be easier to not have one and pay for every car in the future with cash?  With proper planning in place, these are all realistic examples of goals that can be accomplished without being rich.

Food (meat and potatoes) for thought…

If you liked this or know someone who would, subscribe and share away!  ~Val

5 Tips for Winning at New Year’s Resolutions

winning at new years resolutionsJust yesterday when chatting about turning the page to 2016 a friend said to me, “I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I didn’t become a better person!”

Ok, here’s the thing.  We all have something we really want.  We think about it often, it’s in the back of our minds every single day in some way or another and it’s very personal to us.  Getting fit and healthy perhaps?  A new business endeavor?  Organizing your life?  Spending less and saving more?  Enjoying more time with friends and family?  Simply put, one of two things have happened – we’ve either made a conscience choice not to pursue our goal or we’ve likely failed before at trying to achieve it.

If you’re contemplating a New Year’s Resolution for 2016, you should know that scientific research tells us you have a 92% chance of failure*.  So what are the winning 8% doing successfully?  They’re throwing glitter at the new year and kicking adversity in the face!  Here’s how:

  1. They Want It! Sometimes we just think we want something, a stark difference than truly wanting it. Other times we think we should do something because of outside influences but we don’t actually want to do it. Start by asking yourself, am I making this resolution just because…or do I want it so badly I will sacrifice whatever it takes to make it happen?
  2. They have their priorities straight. When looking at your life, you need a list of your top five priorities. Write them down right now. Seriously. Write them down. If your resolution doesn’t fit into the top five, you’re going to have a tough time achieving it. Consider focusing on another goal that is perfectly aligned with one of your priorities.
  3. They are confident their goal WILL be achieved. Research indicates that the winning 8% have a higher degree of confidence than those who eventually fail. You should consider your confidence level. If you are not at least 70% convinced you’ll make it happen, it’s not worth your commitment or energy.
  4. They don’t tell anyone about it. Numerous scientific studies dating back to the 1920s support the idea that you should keep your resolutions to yourself.   Seems backwards from what we’re taught, huh? And it’s not just about self-accountability. Think about the feeling and emotions that would come from telling your friends your goal has been achieved. It’s a euphoric idea, isn’t it? Science tells us that when we share a big goal with our friends, your mind is tricked into thinking it’s already been reached.   When your goals are acknowledged by others, it feels real to your brain – like social substitution for that euphoric state. Moral of the story, don’t Facebook your resolutions this year!
  5. They embrace the power of positive thinking. We all have a choice to tell ourselves we will succeed or tell ourselves we won’t. As one of the most victorious Biblical characters, David said, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is,” Proverbs 23:7. When establishing a new habit your first step should be to create an ongoing practice of constructive thoughts. A pattern of negativity will simply squash your big plans.

I’d love to share more ideas with you on living a life on the north side of average!  Subscribe and share today!  Happy New Year to you!

*John Norcross, University of Scranton, 1985

The Art of Dancing Backwards in High Heels

dancing backOh the irony! I actually can’t dance. I don’t have a coordinated bone in my body and my husband has fallen out of his chair laughing at me one too many times when I’ve tried. But, he knows better than anyone that I’m a master – and I mean award-winning champion – at dancing backwards in high heels!

The struggle is real but the payoff is incredible when you learn this dancing art. There are over 9.9 million women-owned businesses in this country that generate over $1.6 TRILLION in revenue and the growth rate at which these companies are taking off is unprecedented! But as an owner of several thriving businesses myself, I’m no stranger to wiping bottoms while simultaneously fishing the remote control out of the toilet just 2 minutes prior to running out the door with sloppy kiss stains on my silk blouse. Don’t worry…two bottles of antibacterial soap stand ready by every sink in our home.

But here’s the thing. The days with deadlines that can’t be missed, employees who have questions every time we turn around, e-mails out the whazoo (is that even a word?), 32 missed phone calls, kids to cart around, computers that can’t think as fast as we can, opportunities that you don’t want to turn down, invoices that need to be sent, accounting fiascos, legal questions, continuing education marathons, and staplers without staples when you need them most – these days are the norm for even the most successful business owners! Whatever or whomever gave us the idea when we first started out that being a business owner was all glitter and glam is the culprit of all the stress and anxiety we manufacturer in our lives.

Luckily, it can be easier! Yes, you heard me. Take it from the gal who choreographed the backwards moves to the tune of Areosmith’s “Dream On.” Here’s what you need to know to get it right:

  1. Stay grounded and keep your priorities straight – I’ve learned from dancing straight through the fire that my relationship with my maker has to be #1, my husband is #2, my kids are #3, and my business and all the folks I serve within it are #4. I’m pretty sure my clients would agree that that’s the way it should be. My confidence comes from the fact I work with people I love and respect and who feel the same about me. This is an absolute MUST! Life is too short to fill your life with people you can never please or help at the end of the day.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – I’m already finding the old saying “it takes a village” to raise your kids is so incredibly true for me. I’m certain God didn’t intend for me to be a stay-at-home mom because he gave me different strengths and talents. That doesn’t mean I’m neglecting my children or not giving them the attention, love, and care they deserve. It means I do everything I can to be the very best mom I can be, and we surround them with people who have God-given gifts to fill in the gaps. The same is true in business. There ARE people out there that are better than you at bookkeeping, scheduling, technology, etc. Learn to play to your own strengths while keeping your priorities straight and God will handle the rest.
  3. Take care of yourself – I’m not the world’s greatest at this one; however, I am positive that I feel my best when I do get enough rest, eat healthy, exercise, and pencil-in down time. These activities equip you for the juggling acts and demands of others.
  4. Be confident – Learn to recognize that the source of your strength is from a God in whom nothing is impossible. As long as you’re listening to and obeying Him, you have absolutely positively no reason to doubt. God wants to bless us. He wants us to be happy. He loves us. Therefore, we need to be assured in His plans for us and embrace challenges, frustrations, and opportunities alike.

Are you a business-owner or professional with a broken high heel? How can I help you???

– Valerie R. Leonard, AIF®

* U.S. Census, 2012

Do You Need Balance in Your Life? 5 Habits of Well-Balanced People to Increase Success

balanced LIWith all of the responsibilities, obstacles, and goals life hands us, it gets tough keeping everything together. You could easily find yourself stressed out when you have too much on your plate and wondering how to handle it all. Being out of balance does more than cause stress, it diminishes productivity and success. By adapting the habits of well-balanced people, you open new doors which hold the solutions to getting everything done. So what exactly does someone do to maintain balance?shutterstock_319742651.jpg

1.) They are well-rested: Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep allows you to reap many benefits such as sharpened attention and improved memory along with boosting your mood and making you feel better in general. You can’t tackle everything with a tired mind, so don’t cut yourself short.

2.) They wake up early: Early risers give themselves enough time before leaving the house to organize their day with schedules, goals, and any other morning rituals to ensure they make the most of the day. Research shows this type of person is more successful at life than the night owl, so it’s definitely worth heading to bed early the night before.

3.) They stay healthy: Exercise and positive eating habits are pretty important. If you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you’ll achieve improvement both physically and mentally in endless ways. So pick a workout that’s right for you, whether it be a walk around the block or taking a dance class. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, and be sure to keep sweets and junk food to a bare minimum.

4.) They appreciate the small things: Waking up thankful for another day, being grateful for the people in your life, and feeling blessed for everything they have rather than being miserable for what they don’t are all traits of someone with a balanced life. It brings them more peace to celebrate all they have accomplished and gained instead of focusing on the things they lack.

5.) They stay positive: As far as negativity goes, they learn from it and don’t dwell on it. They’re open-minded, knowing behind every wrong turn is an adventure with something earned rather than lost. They acknowledge the opportunity to learn from mistakes and embrace the lesson. They always look at the bright side of all situations instead of what can go wrong. Thoughts are more powerful than we give them credit for; a positive mind equals a positive life.

Achieving a balanced life is possible. Practicing these habits will bring more than just success your way, they’ll create a better you.

Deciding Where to Focus in Your Business

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I’ll never forget the one, gut-wrenching moment when a business mentor called me out on everything great we were doing at our firm. “Valerie, you keep telling me all the things you guys are but what I’m not hearing is who are you not?” It hit me like a bullet between the eyes! He was right! In fact, he was so right that there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since where his words haven’t echoed like a freight train in my mind. We had grown an amazing business but were wondering why we couldn’t get to the next level and it had to do with one simple thing…we were focused but not focused enough!

Until that day, I thought I fully understood the power of focus, – in marketing, in strategy, in client service, in virtually every area of our business. For me, focus always came instinctively and, as a business owner, my nature has always been to question whether every action we take will lead to a nice return on investment (ROI).

Return-on-investment usually boils down to money; what will give us the best return for a given investment of resources. I believe you can only pay yourself in two ways: 1) by making more money, or 2) by finding more time to do the things you love. I think we often forget to focus on what parts of our business we find satisfying and fun because we’re too busy focusing on what the market looks like or on what types of customers we can reach.

So, for us, the question, “who are we not?” led us to the answer we’d been searching for all along. It redirected our focus to the opportunities we saw in the marketplace and away from the parts of the business we didn’t enjoy. Today, the payback has been exceptional, and I owe it to a perceptive, bold coach who was willing to risk telling me something I may not want to hear.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you could use some advice on keeping your business goals in focus.

I Smell Results

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Have you ever been on the cusp of doing something you never thought you could do?  Perhaps as you read these words you feel like you are destined for something greater?  Maybe you’ve dreamed a dream and are longing to feel it, see it, and taste it?  Does the very thought of it seem so exciting you can actually smell it?  If so, all that’s standing between you and your dream is FOCUS…

In today’s society, focusing isn’t easy.  I’m willing to bet that right this very moment you are battling one or more distractions.  Look around you.  Think about your day. Can you name more than one thing that bothers you?  So how on earth do we reach our goals when we’re overwhelmed with everything and everyone that pulls us in different directions?  I’ll tell you how.

This part is important and it hit me square in the face when I first heard it: “devoting a little of yourself to everything means committing a great deal of yourself to nothing,” says author Andy Stanley.  Think about that.  Re-read it: “devoting a little of yourself to everything means committing a great deal of yourself to nothing.”

Could this be why you aren’t living your dream?  Something’s gotta give…so what is it?