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Clean Slate

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Clean Slate

In a matter of hours, it will be 2015. As with every New Year, it’s our

opportunity to have a fresh start based solely on a calendar date.


What will you do with your clean slate?

According to an article by Leo Widrich on, fifty percent of all Americans set a New Year’s resolution—and 88 percent of those will fail. I think that is a large reason why many people don’t even try in the first place.

To help change that failure rate, Widrich has what I believe is a pretty sound recommendation: instead of setting a goal, focus on adopting a habit—a tiny one—that may ultimately deliver you to your goal.  Here are his examples:

  • Resolution: Quit smoking vs. Habit: Stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast.
  • Resolution: Eat healthy food vs. Habit: Start substituting that 1 daily morning pastry for a banana.
  • Resolution: Lose weight vs. Habit: Every evening after work, go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block.
  • Resolution: Manage stress vs. Habit: Meditate for 2-3 minutes every morning after you wake up.

Doesn’t seem quite as intimidating to set a New Year’s resolution when you boil it down to a simple habit, does it?  There’s certainly no harm in trying. The greater risk is in doing nothing at all.  After all, mistakes are going to happen. So with that in mind, I leave you with a passage from Neil Gaiman:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever. 

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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A Simple Thank You

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Simple Thank You

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, the holiday one friend told me is his favorite because it’s the most inclusive American holiday—not claimed by any religion, no gifts required…and of course, delicious food. What’s not to love?

But how about the other 364 days of the year? It’s those days that lead to the real payoff of Thanksgiving: a moment to reflect and be thankful. For health, family, friends, the beauty found in the world, financial security, hobbies that enrich. Regardless the situation, there’s always something for which to give thanks. So until Thanksgiving 2015, I challenge every member of AIMS to adopt an attitude of thanks throughout the year. The negatives of daily life, will never go away, but in every situation, there is a way to turn perspective. My gas bill is high, but I am thankful for a home that is warm and secure. My commute this morning was a beast, but I am thankful for a car that is reliable and safe. My kids were unbearably loud this morning, but I am thankful for their robust health.

If I have failed myself to mention lately, I am thankful for everyone involved with the AIMS Society. For your participation, input and energy—and even your criticisms, for it means you are passionate about our mission. I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving, some bargains on Black Friday and games to remember for your favorite football team. Whether you head out to see family and friends, welcome them to your home, or enjoy a moment of private reflection, I wish you a day of grateful celebration.

And I leave you with a few thoughts from others more eloquent:

  • “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” – The Hausa of Nigeria
  • “For each new morning with its light,
    For rest and shelter of the night,
    For health and food, for love and friends,
    For everything Thy goodness sends.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tags:  AIMS Society  self-improvement  teamwork 

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It's all in how you see it

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It’s all in how you see it

Yes, it snowed.  Yes, it’s cold. Freezing, actually.

But it’s also beautiful. Really beautiful. See the picture I’ve included—that was yesterday. It doesn’t take a professional photographer to highlight what I’m talking about.

Some people focus on the first fact about our winter weather. Others choose to embrace the latter.

It’s the same old half glass/half full proposition that you’ve heard about for years. People chuckle as they consider which side of the argu

ment they lie and then go about their 

lives, gruffing about the weather or embracing the season’s change.

But I challenge you to take a moment, this November day 2014, and really consider the issue. It really is all about perspective. And it impacts not only you, but everyone you work or live with as well.

There are many articles about how to go about adopting a more positive approach. In 8 Ways to Improve Your Attitude. A positive attitude make success easy; a negative one makes success pointless.

Geoffrey James offers these great tips:

  1. Always act with a purpose…Aimless activity wastes time and energy.
  2. Stretch yourself past your limits every day…Success is like athletics; if you don't stretch yourself every day, you gradually become slow and brittle.
  3. Take action without expecting results… Take your best shot but don't obsess about the target.
  4. Use setbacks to improve your skills…the results you receive are the signposts for the results you want to achieve.
  5. Seek out those who share your positive attitude…It's a scientific fact your brain automatically imitates the behaviors of the people around you. 
  6. Don't take yourself so seriously… If you don't (or can't) laugh at yourself, I guarantee you that the people you work with are laughing behind your back!
  7. Forgive the limitations of others. High standards are important, but humans are, well, human.
  8. Say "thank you" more frequently. Achieving an "attitude of gratitude" requires more than simply being aware of what's wonderful in your life.  You must, and should, thank other people for their gifts to you, even if that gift is something as simple as a smile.

Some simple, but effective sounding ideas for making a change, if needed, or maintaining a rosy outlook if you’re already there. As the saying goes, there’s not much you can control but your attitude. It’s up to you.

James lives in Hollis, New Hampshire where it’s currently 32 degrees with wind blowing at a noticeable 10-20 miles per hour. Bet he’s having a good day, regardless.

Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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How to Say Thank You to a Vet

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
How to Say Thank You to a Vet

The nation spent yesterday expressing sincere gratitude to those who have served or are currently serving our country.

Of course, it’s important to express our gratitude—but for those who can, it’s even more important to show that gratitude.  And one of the best ways to do that is by hiring a vet.

According to, there are four primary reasons why vets stand out as employees:

  1. Loyalty to the Team:  The Bureau of Labor Statistics show it costs just under $30.00 per employee to sustain an employee.  This doesn’t take into account what they call “soft costs”, such as mentoring.  That means when you find an employee, you want to keep them, and the investment you’ve made.  Look to a vet; they’ve already displayed remarkable loyalty.
  2. Reliable Work Ethic:  On-time, consistent high performance, professional maturity.  It’s tough to gauge if these important qualities exist with a potential job candidate when you’re limited to an interview. You can be assured that the service, training and lifestyle of veterans gives them an advantage in this area.
  3. Motivated Productivity: Self-discipline drives productivity. You want respect for your company rules and efficient work habits. The military teaches efficiency, asking for guidance when needed and self-control.
  4. Comprehensive Communication Skills: As the website states, “Military personnel not only understand workplace diversity, they know that good communication also needs to be flexible.” Many vets are multi-lingual and understand the subtle non-verbal cues others provide. They also tend to have high levels of technical literacy. They aren’t intimidated by new challenges.

Have a potential position at your firm?  Just google “Hire a Vet” and you’ll find many organizations that offer assistance with the process. Thank a vet and strengthen your company. Happy Veteran’s Day!

Tags:  AIMS Society  insurance marketing and sales  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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Speak Up

Posted By Donna M. Gray, Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Updated: Monday, November 3, 2014

Speak Up

Dread public speaking?  You’re not alone.  There’s a Jerry Seinfeld joke that goes something like this:

According to most studies, people's No. 1 fear is public speaking. No. 2 is death. Death is No. 2. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. 

Of course, people wouldn’t literally prefer being the decedent, but giving a speech is definitely a very real fear for many.  I recently learned the official word for this particular phobia too—glossophobia. 

If you find yourself a full out “glossophobe,” or even simply one with minor nerves, there are definite steps you can take to ease your angst. 

First of all, simply accept that you’ll be nervous and don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way…that will only make it worse. Next, breathe. Turns out that deliberate breathing exercises can have a direct impact on your nervous system. But as Mind Body Green explains: “not all breaths are created equal. A great, simple breathing exercise for calming both the nervous system and the overworked mind is a timed breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale. When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.” 


Next public speaking tip: practice. You know it makes perfect. All the better if you can do a run through where the actual speech will occur. 

Another performance boost can come from one powerful self-reminder: you’re the expert. Let me repeat that. You’re. The. Expert. 

The speech or presentation is your topic and you were chosen for a reason. Don’t underestimate the power of this fact. People came to hear what you have to say. Own the role. 

And my final recommendation? Less is more when it comes to written words. There’s few things more dreadful that reading through a speaker’s on-screen material and feeling ready to move on before he or she has even finished the first bullet point. Bor-ing.  Instead, rely on a representational visual. If you’re talking about hiring millennials, for example, there’s no reason to list items point by point. Instead, show a picture of a group of young professionals and simply talk about your ideas. Not only does this allow you to present in a more conversational tone, but it frees you to engage with the audience directly because you don’t have to keep looking back to refer to the next bullet. If you forget a point or change the order of your material, no one will be the wiser. 

So...accept, breath, practice, believe and simply converse with your audience. Glossophobia no more.




Tags:  AIMS Society  Leadership  self-improvement  teamwork 

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