Life Journey Now

Procrastination—Everyone Talks About It, but Nobody Does Anything

Think about the task of writing an article such as this one. Imagine the time and energy it might take a person who procrastinates to: 1) think about starting the article, 2) put it on a ‘to do’ list, 3) talk about doing it, 4) promise themself to start it tomorrow, 5) promise themselves to definitely start it tomorrow, 6) promise…well, you get the point.

As the midnight deadline for the article draws near, imagine the stress the writer must feel as she brews a pot of coffee and prepares herself for a couple of hours to research the topic, organize the information, create an outline, come up with a dynamic opening line, write the article, rewrite the article, rewrite it again, print it out and rewrite it one more time. And, of course, the whole time beating herself up for waiting so long to begin or telling herself she isn’t good enough anyway and the article will be a bust. “If I only had more time!”

Sound familiar to anyone? This is procrastination in full bloom. Delays, broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem creep in. Worry. Fear. Stress. Overwork. You know the drill.

Procrastination isn’t good for anyone. So why do so many of us do it? We procrastinate on such matters as filing income tax and completing holiday shopping, but also with everyday tasks such as straightening our desk, cleaning out the garage or starting a new project at work.

The more difficult, inconvenient or scary we perceive the task to be, the more we procrastinate. We craftily come up with semi-convincing self-talk that makes the delay appear almost reasonable. But in the end the process is self-defeating and causes all sorts of problems for us, not the least of which is stress.

Fortunately, as with many other self-defeating behaviors, procrastination can be overcome. The following are a few remedies to start you on your way.

1. Set goals. Decide what you want and what needs to happen to get it. Be specific. Create a realistic and attainable timetable.

2. Commit. Make a contract with yourself. Tell a friend, co-worker or coach about your plan. Accountability is a great motivator

3. Set priorities. Make a list of things that need to be done in order of their importance.

4. Get organized. Have the right tools and equipment to do the job. Make lists. Keep a schedule or calendar.

5. Chunk it down. Don’t let the whole of the project overwhelm you. Break it down into small manageable steps and work on one piece at a time.

6. Use positive self-talk.  Stay focused on what you do well. Replace excuses with rational, realistic thinking.

7. Reward yourself often and generously for accomplishing even the smallest of tasks. Celebrate your accomplishments

The place to begin is right where you are. The time to start is now.

 

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

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Quiz: How Well Do You Cope With Change?

“Kicking and screaming” or “going with the flow”—this quiz reveals various strategies for dealing with change and offers helpful approaches.

All change carries with it the risk of the unknown and the unexpected. Some find this exciting and welcome the challenge. Others go down the path of change reluctantly, dragging their heels all the way. But, as songwriter Johnny Rivers said, “The only thing that’s permanent is change.” A conscious, developed awareness of our response to change can help us develop better coping strategies.

Answer the following questions to find out how you cope with change. You won’t be scored at the end, but answer true or false to the following questions, and elaborate a bit on those that feel especially relevant.

T / F    1. I hesitate to make a change until everything is 100 percent right.

T / F    2. I never make changes unless they are forced on me.

T / F    3. Generally, I look forward to change as exciting and challenging.

T / F    4. I’m the kind of person who has to be totally fed up before I’ll make any changes.

T / F    5. When confronted with a change over which I have little control, I review the events and my behavior to determine if I could have done anything differently.

T / F    6. Rather than feeling responsible for negative changes that come out of nowhere, I take responsibility for my reaction to them.

T / F    7. I realize that sometimes even “good” changes have an underside that may bring unexpected problems.

T / F    8. I realize that a positive change in one area of my life won’t smooth out all my problems.

T / F    9. When coming to terms with a major change in my life, I attempt to keep other changes to a minimum.

T / F    10. When a change or transition occurs, I review how I have handled other such events in my life for lessons on how to cope in this event.

T / F    11. I look for other people who have undergone similar changes as models for how I might better cope with the change in my life.

T / F    12. During a time of change, I ask for help and support from those close to me, reliable friends and outside professionals.

T / F    13. After a life change, I step back from the situation to get perspective and rest in order to regain a sense of balance.

T / F    14. I try to look at the “big picture” of the change, and acknowledge mixed feelings I might have.

T / F    15. Rather than blaming or feeling victimized, when I’m caught in a change over which I have no control, I “pick myself up, dust myself off” and continue to move forward.

T / F    16. I don’t hold onto the “way things used to be,” but instead move into “the way things are.”

T / F    17. In order to make a necessary change, I am willing to risk the disapproval and lack of support from others.

T / F    18. When something positive happens for someone that might change our relationship, I don’t let my fears get in the way of being supportive of that person.

If changes in your life are causing you difficulties, it may be time for a life coach.  A professional coach can help you gain clarity, maintain focus and develop strategies to move beyond mediocrity.

Life coaching provides the structure, support and accountability you need to ensure real and measurable progress toward your personal and professional goals.  Sessions are held over the phone, so you can be coached from anywhere.

Contact Carla at (845) 514-2682 or carla.paton@gmail.com to set up a no charge consultation.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Emotional Resilience: Bouncing Back in Stressful Times

Major disruptions.  We all experience them at one time or another. We get fired, laid off or passed over; a loved one dies, leaves or gets in trouble; a project stalls or gets cancelled. The list, unfortunately, is endless.

For some, the impact of these hard times is overwhelming. Recovery, if it comes at all, can be painfully slow. Others show resilience and are admirably able to glide through these times fairly easily, bouncing back to a normal life again quickly. Resilience—the strength required to adapt to change—acts as our internal compass so we can resourcefully navigate an upset.

When unexpected events turn life upside down, it’s the degree to which our resiliency comes into play that makes these “make-or-break” situations an opportunity for growth. The good news is that each of us has the capacity to reorganize our life after a disruption and to achieve new levels of strength and meaningfulness. Though it’s easy to feel vulnerable in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, life disruptions are not necessarily a bad thing because they help us grow and meet future challenges in our lives. It’s a lot like a bone that was once fragile or broken, and is now strong from being used.

So how can you become more resilient? Here’s a look at seven key characteristics of people who demonstrate resilience during life’s curve balls.

A Sense of Hope and Trust in the World
Resilient people rely on their belief in the basic goodness of the world and trust that things will turn out all right in the end. This positive attitude allows them to weather times when everything seems bleak and to look for and accept the support that is out there. This approach toward the world gives them the ability to hope for a better future.

Interpreting Experiences in a New Light
The ability to look at a situation in a new way (a skill called “reframing”) can minimize the impact of a difficult situation. Resilient people take a creative approach toward solving a problem, and don’t always use an old definition for a new challenge.

A Meaningful System of Support
One of the best ways to endure a crisis is to have the support of another person who can listen and validate your feelings. Knowing that others care and will come to our support decreases the feeling of isolation, especially when tackling a problem alone. It’s important to choose people you trust. Don’t be surprised if it takes several friends, each of whom can provide different kinds of support. Resilient people aren’t stoic loners. They know the value of expressing their fears and frustrations, as well as receiving support, coaching or guidance from friends, family or a professional.

A Sense of Mastery and Control Over Your Destiny
You may not be able to predict the future, but you can tackle a problem instead of feeling at the mercy of forces outside of your control. Resilient people know that ultimately their survival and the integrity of their life values depend on their ability to take action rather than remain passive. Tough times call for you to tap into your own sense of personal responsibility.

Self-Reflection and Insight
Life’s experiences provide fertile ground for learning. Asking yourself questions that invite introspection can open a door to new understanding and appreciation of who you are and what you stand for. Giving voice to your thoughts and feelings leads to insight and helps transform the meaning of a problem into something useful. Resilient people learn from life situations and do not succumb to punishing themselves because of decisions made in the past.

A Wide Range of Interests
People who show resilience in the face of adversity are those who have a diversity of interests. They’re open to new experiences and ideas. Because their lives are rich and varied, it’s easier for them to find relief from the single mindedness and worry that often accompany a crisis.

Sense of Humor
Have you ever had a wry laugh during a difficult situation? The ability to see the absurdity, irony, or genuine humor in a situation stimulates our sense of hope and possibility. Humor has both psychological and physical benefits in relieving stress because it encourages a swift change in your perception of your circumstances—and when your thoughts change, your mood follows.

When you look to improve these seven areas now—rather than when adversity pays a visit—you’ll be able to bounce back more quickly.

Author’s content used under license, © 2010 Claire Communications

 

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Give yourself permission to call it a day. You deserve a life outside of work!

Do you have trouble calling it a day after you leave the office? Are you still distracted by work concerns once you’re arrived at home? By continuing to focus on work, we’re likely to bring the stress and mood of the day home with us. This unintentionally creates distance in our relationships and prevents us from enjoying the time we need for rest and recreation.

Eventually, it can take a toll on our physical health and overall well-being, which is why it’s so important to have a good method for leaving work at work and enjoying the rest of life.

If you’re looking for a better way to break out of work mode when you’re at home, try asking yourself these three questions.

1) Does your work-to-home routine support your need for transition?

Commute time can be a great decompression period if used properly. Try listening to music or an audio book to unwind. Perhaps you prefer quiet time to actively transition your focus from work to home. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, consider an alternate, longer route home to give yourself a little more time to adjust.

For some people, engaging in physical activity is what’s needed to make the mental shift. A quick workout at the gym or another activity after work can be very effective. Exercise is a great way to de-stress while also helping to stay fit. If time is limited, be creative. Sometimes simply changing clothes or a quick shower can help refresh and refocus.

2) Have you set clear boundaries between work and home?

Setting regular work hours with consistent start and stop times assures you don’t shortchange your time at work or at home. This requires discipline, but my guess is you have more control than you think.

Before leaving work, make a list of things to do the next day. This allows you to free your mind of them once you leave the office. If it’s necessary to bring work home, be intentional about it. Determine how much time you’ll spend and stick to it. While at home, avoid constant checking of email and messages just because you can.

For people who work from a home office, setting clear boundaries is paramount. To overcome proximity issues, try getting out of the house for a while. Simply running a quick errand, picking up the kids or shopping for groceries will help to refocus your attention.

3) Does your time outside of work get proper priority?

Give your time away from work the same priority and importance as you give your working hours. Avoid over scheduling weeknight and weekend activities. Make it a point to allow for rest and relaxation as well as time for recreation. Don’t let this be you!

Give yourself permission to call it a day. It’s OK to have a life outside of work.Your inbox will never be empty and your ‘to do’ list will always have another task. Ultimately, that’s a good thing. So enjoy yourself, your friends and your family. You will be far more productive at work and home when you create balance in all areas of your life.

Visit Carla’s Corner Blog at www.carlapaton.com.

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Losing weight is a SMART goal for me!

Considering I can no longer deny the fact that every single pair of pants I own is way too tight on me, it has become abundantly and painfully clear what my next new years resolution must be…

That’s right, I know it’s rather cliche but my next goal for 2013 is going to be to shed the excess weight I managed to put on in 2012.

So here is my stated goal: I will lose 14 lbs by May 19th, so my clothes fit more comfortably and I’ll feel more energetic. I will do this by eating a healthier, low carb, low sugar diet and sticking to a daily exercise routine.

Since I intend to be successful in meeting this goal (and I also want to practice what I preach) let’s see if it meets the S.M.A.R.T goal criteria.

  • S – Specific: Is it specific enough? I think so: 14 lbs by May 19, with diet and exercise.
  • M – MeasurableWill my progress be measurable? Yes, by the scale and the calendar.
  • A – Achievable: Is it possible and within my reach? We’re looking at less than a pound a week, seems do-able.
  • R – Relevant: Is it consistent with my values and other goals? I would say yes. I definitely don’t want to outgrow my wardrobe and May 19th is when we leave on our cruise to Bermuda. I intend be fit and ready to enjoy it.
  • T – Timely: Has a time frame been established for completing my goal? Yes. it has!

One final note for all of us as I wrap up this post: Get excited about being healthy because being healthy is exciting!

 

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What is a teachable spirit?

“Come to Me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed. A close walk with Me is a life of continual newness. Do not cling to old ways as you step into the new year. Instead seek may face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind.”- Sarah Young, Jesus Calling.

This is the excerpt from my daily devotional for today January 1st.  Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, is one of my favorite devotional books because it offers daily reminders to be attentive to God’s presence in every aspect of my life.

The reading today seemed especially poignant, as I spent time reflecting on the changes I’d like to see in 2013.  I had already decided to approach my goals and resolutions from a holistic perspective, being attentive to body, mind and spirit. But this devotional has reinforced for me the importance of giving time and attention to the spiritual aspect of my well-being.

If we truly want to invite change into our lives we need to be willing to let go of our old ways and make room for the new. As we trust God and submit to His good and perfect plan, we give him the freedom to transform our lives.

“Come to me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed.”

A teachable spirit is one that is willing to let go, listen, love, trust, obey and be renewed by God’s Spirit. This happens when we spend time in His presence.

A teachable spirit must be nurtured on a daily basis. This will look different for each of us. For me I like to set aside quiet time each morning to sit in the presence of God.  Whether it be with devotional readings, contemplative prayer or just sitting in silence, it all starts by taking the time to sit in the chair.

So there it is, my first resolution for 2013. Creating space each morning to come before God with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed.

Visit my blog at www.carlapaton.com

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The Road Ahead: What Will You Do Differently in 2013?

Changing the way things are done can bring opportunities for great success. However if our reaction to change is fearful (or even irrational), it can result in failure, diminished quality and loss of productivity.

When it comes to work and business, it can be tempting to give in to those anxieties by doing what we’ve always done. But priming the pump for a better year involves some form of adjustment to free up the time, money and energy needed to invite opportunities for success.

How do you decide what changes are the most important to make? Start by asking yourself these questions:

1.  What personal and/or business tolerations have interfered with your progress over the past year? Tolerations are a good indication of issues in need of resolution.

2.  Were last year’s goals reached? Why or why not? How will those obstacles be addressed? Setting new goals without having evaluated the previous year’s goals can result in a cycle of substandard results.

3.  What fiscally responsible goal (making more money, collaborating, creating new products/services, improved marketing strategy, etc.) will also be enjoyable? All work and no play make Jack a dull (and bored) boy, as the saying goes.

What do you need to change to have a better year?

Choose passion over profit. Connect to your bigger purpose in life, work and business and the rewards will flow effortlessly. Passionate people attract success.

Higher learning. Technology changes fast. Staying on top of what’s working now is only half the battle. Discovering what’s up and coming and leveraging that knowledge is the key to an exceptional year.

Celebrate success. Acknowledging and rewarding success keeps everyone motivated. Mark those mini-milestones with celebration and recognition!

Add, don’t subtract. When repeat clients stop buying your products or services, something needs to change. Instead of cutting prices, add value instead–bundle existing services/products, add bonuses or create new offerings.

What are your blind spots? 

Every driver has blind spots. That’s what rear-view mirrors are for. Blind spots in the work and business environment can be harder to identify. How does a person avert disaster in a work environment without the benefit of mirrors?

Ask around. Getting honest feedback from clients, customers and service providers can be as uncomfortable as it is invaluable. Do it anyway.

Coffee time. Chat with colleagues and encourage them to share their observations about what you are doing well and what needs improvement. Sometimes what needs to change is missed because it is so “obvious.”

Seek professional help. Getting an objective outsiders opinion can help you see what is going well or not.

Making changes in the New Year doesn’t have to be a scary proposition. Having a clear sense of what’s ahead will circumvent failure and set you up for a successful year.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

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Life Lessons from the Garden

Let’s consider for a moment the pesky dandelion. Reviled by many as an insistent, bothersome weed, it nevertheless continues to proudly display its pert, bright yellow self in lawns and gardens everywhere thriving in the face of adversity. Thriving in the face of adversity.

 Where, in our own lives, do we face adversity? How do we carry ourselves through it: head down, beating ourselves up, feeling defensive and resentful? Or head up and face open, like the dandelion, sure of our intrinsic worthiness, knowing our gifts to the world, even if the world doesn’t necessarily recognize them?

For those who know how to look and wait, the garden teems with other such life lessons. As summer awakens this year, turn your awareness to the wise teachings of your garden. If you don’t have a conventional garden, a container garden on your porch or potted plants in your home still offer valuable lessons. Here are a few:

It’s OK to be imperfect. Trying to grow the perfect rose, or the perfect cabbage, is an exhausting, never-ending quest for flawlessness. “Imperfect” roses are still beautiful and “imperfect” cabbages still burst with flavor, just like we humans. With our myriad imperfections, we still contribute our own beauty and zest to the world.

Pruning improves growth. Removing old habits that don’t serve us opens new possibilities for growth in areas that do serve us.

Pay more attention to your health than your appearance. As author William Longgood wrote, “Over fertilized plants may be beautiful but are otherwise useless, like people whose energies are devoted so completely to their appearance that there is no other development.”

Regular maintenance is important. Isn’t it so much harder to clear an overgrown jungle of a garden than to regularly pull encroaching weeds? Think of the clutter that can accumulate in our houses, the extra pounds that are harder to lose than to keep off in the first place, the overwhelm or illness that can result from too little self-care.

Have faith. Plant a seed, water it, and trust that it will grow. Similarly, believe that the shifts you make in your life, the dreams you hold dear, will fully blossom if you nourish and protect them.

Don’t be afraid to try new approaches. The garden is an incredible laboratory for experimentation. What new approaches do those old problems in your life need? Trial and error is one of life’s best teachers. Not trying is the domain of hopelessness.

Take care with predators. It doesn’t take long for predators to damage the result of your careful cultivation, in the garden and in life. What toxic relationships, substances and emotions are feeding on your energy and taking away from what you have to give to others? Eliminate them.

Transform your trash. The compost heap turns rotting plant waste into a treasure pile of rich, organic fertilizer. What negative patterns in your life can you work to transform? When we do the hard work of breaking these patterns down, the results are often rich and beneficial to our lives.

Everyone is unique and needed. Everything in nature has a function that is interdependent. As famous naturalist John Muir said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” Rock, plant, bird, bee—even bacteria in the soil—all occupy a vital place in life. What is your purpose, your gift to the world? Who do you depend on; who depends on you?

Something important happens every day. Take the time to notice the little everyday miracles in your gardens and in your life.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

 

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

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7 Ways to Sidestep Holiday Stress

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6
  

Christmas is intended to be a season filled with peace and hope as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  However, the true meaning of Christmas is easily overshadowed by all the promotion and commotion around us. We find ourselves preparing time for family, friends and festivities, but the pressure to get everything done can be overwhelming. Bickering relatives, year-end work demands and over-stimulated children, on top of a growing “to-do” list can test our patience and steal our peace.

For many, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years create more opportunities for anxiety to get a foothold than any other time of year.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 7 ideas to help you reduce stress and enjoy the upcoming season.

1. Make “to do” lists with clear priorities and set aside specific times to accomplish important tasks.  Because the holidays can be so hectic, make sure you always have a calendar on hand to ensure you don’t over schedule or over book yourself.  If you have a personal mission statement, refer to it often during this busy season. It can be a great help when setting boundaries and deciding what to say ‘no’ to.

2. Take good care of yourself. Remember to put YOU on your “to-do” list. Don’t abandon healthy habits or neglect your needs. The temptation to overindulge is heightened this time of year. Be sure to eat healthy, get plenty of rest and exercise. Making wise choices will give you more energy and you’ll feel better. 

3. Look for ways to make gift giving easier. Save time and money by shopping online. Avoid the hassle of crowded parking lots and shopping malls. Spending too much time at the mall leads to overspending and unnecessary purchases. If you prefer to support local businesses, consider giving gift cards.

4. Ask for help. So often, we think we have to do it all. Or we feel that we can do it faster and better than anyone else who might help. But it’s more fun to do things together—from decorating the house to wrapping presents. So share both the joy and the work. Consider which holiday tasks you could ask your spouse, relative, friend or even a child to take on.

5. Consider alternatives to family gatherings. If the thought of spending time with dysfunctional relatives has you feeling anxious, consider making alternate plans. Set boundaries. There is nothing wrong with wanting to eat Christmas dinner at another family member’s house this year instead of yours, or declining to host the annual New Year’s Day party. Breaking a long standing tradition will force someone else to take over, if he or she feels strongly about its preservation. Plan well in advance to avoid last-minute surprises.

6. Remember to play a little. Engage in activities that nurture you and kept you connected to the true meaning of Christmas.  This season can pass by in a blur of obligations so be sure to schedule time to enjoy loved ones.  Make a date to watch a favorite Christmas movie together or sing Christmas carols. Sharing quality time with the people you care about will help you stay connected with the true meaning of the season.

7. Celebrate all that God has done for you. Find a place to be quiet and prayerful, and go there often.  Christmas is all about possibility in the midst of the impossible. Not the kind of possibility that comes from our own knowledge, ability or positive mental attitude. It’s the possibility that comes solely from the fact that God is God, and that he chose to come into our own human existence, to reveal himself and call us to himself. 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14

Author’s content used under license, © 2011 Claire Communications

Invite Change Through the Practice of Gratitude

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5:18

The practice of gratitude as a way to achieve happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support the effectiveness of gratitude, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being.

While we may acknowledge the gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

It is God’s will for us to accept each day as it comes, remembering that He is sovereign over our lives.  Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, He wants us to thank Him in all circumstances and trust that He is abundantly present in it all.

That’s why the practice of gratitude makes so much sense. When we discipline ourselves to give thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts God has given, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances our perspective and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, dark chocolate, ice cream, warm jackets, the ability to read, fresh roses, butterflies, our health. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

•  Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.

•  Include gratitude in your prayer life.

•  Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.

•  Challenge yourself to find the hidden blessing in every difficult situation.
•  Create a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.

•  When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.

•  Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

Gratitude is a beautiful recognition of the love and support that God continuously flows to you. As you practice this, an inner shift will begin to occur, and you will be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you feel. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Author’s content used under license, © 2011 Claire Communications