21 Power Moves You Can Make
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21 Power Moves You Can Make

21 things you can do to change your outlook, improve your health, and change your life.

Learn yoga, make a decision, win an argument

Do one great yoga pose

Here's a deceptively easy practice that takes no more than 10 minutes a day, can be performed by anyone anywhere and, promises Al Bingham, a yoga instructor and co-author of Yoga Zone: Introduction to Yoga, will transform your life from a state of dullness or anxiety to one of relaxed attention. The theory behind pranayama, or "stretching one's life force," is the yogic belief that we are given a certain number of breaths in our lifetime and that if we slow the pace of those breaths, we buy additional time to move through the years with fullest enjoyment. When practicing pranayama, Bingham inhales once every 40 seconds. Here's how you can learn to do the same:

  1. Sit upright in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Make sure your spine is comfortably straight: Your chin should be parallel to the floor, your shoulders relaxed, your hands either folded in your lap or resting on your knees, your abdomen slightly tightened but not forcefully sucked in. "You should feel suspended by an invisible thread between the ground and the sky," says Bingham.
  2. Close your eyes and follow your breath through your nostrils down to the base of your spine. Feel your upper back lengthening, your rib cage expanding and a slight tightening of the belly. As you exhale, feel a slight contraction upward from the pubic bone to the navel to the solar plexus, as the spine and lower back flatten. The breath should be long and smooth.
  3. There's a natural pause of approximately two seconds after each inhale/exhale cycle. After two repetitions, try to increase that pause by another second. Repeat this cycle until you reach a maximum pace at which you are comfortable, then do 12 repetitions at your longest breath.

Make a decision

By Judge Judy Sheindlin

Ten times measure, one time cut. I can hear my grandmother's words each time I am at a decision-making crossroads. The expression derives from the tailoring trade -- once the fabric is cut, it's done -- so measure ten times before taking those scissors in hand. Translation: Know all the facts, contemplate the possible consequences, understand the players, explore other options -- then decide.

Keep from getting outshouted in an argument

By Eleanor Clift, contributing editor for Newsweek and panelist on The McLaughlin Group

Avoid excess emotion. If you get too passionate, your voice will climb, and you will sound shrill. Smile -- warmth is disarming -- but don't yield the floor. If your opponent makes a good point, congratulate him, then come right back and make yours. Finally, have your facts. In a high-powered debate, there is little tolerance for meandering. Insert your opinion with surgical precision, stand your ground with grace and watch your opponent wither.

Delegate chores, examine your breasts, save a TV show

Delegate time-consuming chores

  • Target the task that fills the frustration index. Remember, there's clock time and there's emotional and thought time. Paying bills may not actually eat up many minutes, but if you dread the prospect and cry at the results, this should be the chore that gets chucked.
  • Know that doing it right doesn't have to mean doing it yourself. "In order to delegate, you need to let go of any 'things must be perfect' ideas you might have, and embrace instead the thought that 'things must get done,'" says Stephanie Culp, author of Streamlining Your Life.
  • Don't let your budget get in the way. Look for high-school students or senior citizens who might want to do light housework, yard work, baby-sitting, bookkeeping, paperwork or errands for a reasonable amount of money.
  • Use the buddy system. "Ask a friend to exchange services with you," says Culp. "If you are great at wrapping gifts at holiday time and she is great at baking, you can wrap and she can bake."

Examine your breasts

Early detection is your best protection against breast cancer, the second most deadly form of cancer for women. Make this a routine about a week after your period begins.

Before a mirror: Visually inspect your breasts, first with your arms down at your sides, then with your arms raised overhead, last with your palms on your hips and your shoulders pressed forward to flex your chest muscles. Look for any unusual lumps, dimpling or thickening in the breasts.

In the shower: Soap up your chest for maximum glide and palpate each breast with your fingerpads, right hand to left breast and left hand to right breast. Choose a pattern that suits you while thoroughly covering the breast tissue right up to the armpit. Check for abnormal lumps, knots or thickening.

Lying down: Lie down with a small pillow under the shoulder of the breast you will examine. With your fingerpads, repeat your preferred pattern from the shower, remembering the tissue under your arms. Gently squeeze each nipple as well to check for discharge.

Save a TV show on the ropes

By Marshall Herskovitz, co-creator and co-executive producer of the ABC drama Once and Again

The best thing to do is write or e-mail the network. They are very responsive to that. They figure for everyone who writes to protest a show's being canceled, there are probably 100 to 1,000 people who don't. Starting a letter-writing campaign can also help. That happened with Once and Again twice. The letters we would get were so passionate about the show and what it meant to them, and the network was very, very impressed by that. And clearly, we're still on the air.

Learn how to take a punch

By Sarah Mahoney, former editor of Ladies' Home Journal

You could call me an accidental black belt. Three times a week, for the last ten years, I escape my full-time identity as mom, editor and chief folder of underwear. I put on my gi -- the crisp, white pj-like karate uniform, tie my belt around my waist and spend 60 minutes surrounded by kicks, punches, sweat and a mentality unlike anything else I've ever known.

I took my first class in February 1992. My new baby was 6 months old, and I was still wrestling with post-baby weight and exhaustion. My then-husband, bless his soul, who had packed on weight, too, found Seido Karate school, took a trial class and fell in love with it. "You have to try it," he said. "The school is so amazing -- it's like walking into another world."

He was right: Heavy bags swung from the ceiling, and beautifully hand-painted Japanese characters hung over boxes of smelly old fight gear. Each person bowed deeply as he or she entered the school, and called, "Osu!" ("I'll try my best") -- very loudly. In fact, they bowed and shouted "osu" constantly -- every time the teacher called out an instruction.

One afternoon, I watched a woman black belt do a kata -- a series of choreographed fighting moves, almost like a dance. Her movements were strong and fierce and beautiful and angry at the same time -- something I wouldn't have thought possible. Later that week, as I was trying to learn the four basic parts of a roundhouse kick, one of the teachers touched my shoulder. "You don't have to smile here," he said. Don't have to smile? I thought. Anger, grace, strength, freedom from smiling ... everything about my lifelong training as a Norwegian-American nice girl was under attack. I was hooked.

Even though it was the physical escape of karate that I loved, each class brought me closer to something else. I began to be really touched by the way the school's founder, Tadashi Nakamura, or "Kaicho," talked about karate. (Seido just celebrated its 25th anniversary.) Nothing matters more than having a strong spirit, he would say, and inner strength is what wins every fight. I'm sure I rolled my eyes the first time I heard him say this. But I learned. I watched -- almost always through tears -- incredible examples of spirit as I saw blind students, for example, learn how to break boards using their hands and feet.

After two years of training, I earned a green belt and began to take sparring classes. As I strapped myself into foam safety gear for my first fight class, I was terrified. I decided Kaicho was right: Inner strength was everything, and I had none. The mouthpiece made me drool. The awkward chest protector strapped around me kept bumping me in the chin. And it dawned on me that after two years and probably 300 classes, that people were actually going to hit me. Hard. Kick me. Maybe even knock me down. Sure enough, they did.

The miracle was that I always stood right back up. I loved that part: I might not be good, but I -- more or less -- learned how to take a punch. (Look into your opponent's eyes, protect your face and stay light on your feet.) I figured out how to throw a few, too. By the time I earned my black belt in 1997, I had stopped apologizing every time I connected, and feeling sorry for myself every time I got belted.

Along the way, I found a kind of confidence most women never get: Once, shortly after I had begun sparring, I was in a meeting with a boss who was, I'll be blunt, a little twit. As he lectured, I thought, My God, I could take him. Not that I would have or even wanted to. But if it ever came to a fight, I'd have bet his whole Ivy League tuition on ... me. I would like to bottle that feeling.

I fight less than I used to, but I still try to take three classes a week. I've gone from getting kicked in the head a lot to mostly remembering to keep my hands up. From thinking that everyone in the room is wondering, Ha, who is she kidding, to realizing that what anyone else thinks is not the point. From thinking that I was fighting with the student in front of me to recognizing that the real opponent, as Kaicho would say, is always inside.

So is there power in being a black belt? Yes and no. Not like the power, say, of editing a magazine like this, and reaching 4.1 million of you every month. Not like the power of guiding two children along their own paths, helping them navigate the tricky terrain of fifth and third grades. Or of being a good daughter. But unlike anything else I've ever done -- and even though so many people helped me earn it -- that belt is the only thing that is all mine.

Judge a book by its cover, price a stock, make him listen

Judge a book by its cover

By Jackie Collins, best-selling author

I love gold lettering. Love a glossy background. Look for a jacket that seductively beckons, one that says, "I am a fun read -- buy me!"

Calculate a P/E ratio

When Wall Street evaluates a company's stock, the important number is not the price per share but how the per-share cost of the stock measures up within the context of the company's earnings. That number is called the price-to-earnings, or P/E, ratio and, says Maria Bartiromo, CNBC anchor and author of Use the News: How to Separate the Noise from the Investment Nuggets and Make Money in Any Economy (HarperBusiness, 2001), "Basically, it's the price tag that the market puts on a stock."

The P/E ratio is calculated by dividing the price of a stock by its earnings per share. The P/E ratio may either be based on the reported earnings from the past year (called a trailing P/E) or on an analyst's forecast of the next year's earnings (called a forward P/E). For example, a stock selling for $20 a share that earned $1 a share last year has a trailing P/E ratio of 20. If the same stock has projected earnings of $2 next year, it will have a forward P/E ratio of 10.

The trailing P/E is listed along with a stock's price and trading activity in the daily newspapers. The forward P/E is found in analysts' reports and company press releases.

The P/E ratio is a vital measurement because it's consistent for all companies across all industries. The average stock in the S&P 500 sells at about 30 times earnings. If the market values that company below what it values an average company in the same industry, that could be a buying opportunity. Conversely, if a company's P/E ratio is at a lofty level compared with its competition, it could mean that the stock is overvalued and is risking a tumble.

Talk so he will listen

By Deborah Tannen, linguist and author of You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (HarperCollins, 2001)

Few men get the point of the kinds of conversations most women regard as the bedrock of intimacy: what you did, what your friend or sister or boss said, what that made you think, how that made you feel. It's what I call rapport-talk. But once a man understands rapport-talk and why a woman values it, he might start to listen. Agree that he will have an hour to unwind at the end of the day, then you will have an hour to talk. You won't bug him during his hour, but during yours, he will give you his attention -- no keeping one eye on the TV.

Break into your own car, photograph well, find a bargain

Break into your own car

The slow way: Got time and a wire coat hanger? Bend one end of the wire into a hook. Slide it down against the window between the lock and the edge of the door. Fish for the locking-mechanism lever (it's about six to eight inches farther down than the lock itself). When you've hooked it, pull up to release the catch. (Caveat: This technique works for most, but not all, cars.)

The fast way: Oops! Susie locked the door on the dachshund, it's 95 degrees F. outside and there's not a minute to waste. The official advice from the Automobile Association of America: a rock through the side window. You'll need something pointed that will penetrate the glass. Slam it hard into the middle of the window, where the glass is weakest. Usually the entire window will shatter, not just a small portion, so place a towel or coat over the jagged edges to prevent shards from flying when you drive off. Sure, this method is extreme, but a broken window will set you back only a couple hundred dollars -- and you can't place a price on Fido.

Look good in photographs

Ready for your close-up? With these tips, looking good in photographs is as simple as point and click.

Foil flash reflection. The flash bounces light off any bright or shiny surface, flattening features and washing out contrasts. Fool the flash by using matte makeup or powder on the T-zone area of your face, advises Rick Sammon, a photographer for National Geographic and host of ESPN's Photo Safari. The only place you want gloss is on your lips.

Don colorful duds. "White is the worst color to be photographed in," says Sammon, because it enhances the flash. "Color will make the picture look more vibrant."

Don't just sit there. "If you're not doing anything, you'll look like a stiff," says Sammon.

Cradle your face in your hands or lean on a desk. And be sure to pose your head and body at an angle to the camera. "We see the world in three dimensions, but the camera sees only two, so anything that's photographed at an angle will appear to have more depth."

Stay out of the sun. The harsh light of a sunny day is very unflattering, so move into the shade. Just make sure that if you're under a tree, the dappled light doesn't make you look like a leopard. For inside shots, compensate for low light with fast film rather than flattening flashes.

Bargain down a price

Suzy Gershman has rarely met a price she couldn't negotiate. The one caveat of the author of Frommer's Born to Shop series: "If you don't ask, you don't get."

  • Test whether the price tag is flexible. Your opening gambit: "This is really lovely, but it's beyond my budget. Can you do anything better?" The answer, says Gershman, "shows the dividing line between 'Hey, lady, my price is firm' and 'Maybe I could take a little off.'"
  • Don't be discouraged by a department store's fixed prices. Instead, schmooze a salesperson, then ask, "Do you know when the next sale is? Will this item be marked down?" Gershman has had prices slashed right then and there. Alternatively, if the sale isn't for two weeks, ask the salesperson to hold the item for you.
  • Smaller shops practically beg you to bargain. Store owners disgruntled by hefty credit-card fees are often willing to clip the cost if you offer to pay in cash or with a local check. If an item makes you salivate, suggest, "If I buy two, will I get a discount?"
  • At a flea market or tag sale, point out a flaw -- an incomplete set of dishes, a botched touch-up -- that shakes a set price.
  • If all else fails, walk away. But before you do, place the merchandise directly in the seller's hands -- not back on the rack -- look him in the eyes and say, "I really wish I could buy that, but I simply can't afford it at that price." You'll be surprised by how many sellers will stop you and say, "Wait a minute, lady. To tell you the truth, I was going to mark it down in two weeks anyway."

Look great on three hours sleep, disagree with your boss, bluff

Look great on three hours sleep

By Jane Clayson, CBS's The Early Show co-anchor

The first thing I do when I get up at 4:30 a.m. is drink eight ounces of water because it's important to hydrate the body to get yourself going. I drink another two or three 8-ounce glasses of water before going on air. But for beauty emergencies, I always keep a plastic eye mask in my refrigerator that's filled with some kind of blue formula. I put it over my eyes for about 10 minutes, and it lessens the puffiness. I also have a couple of great concealers. If all that fails, I say a prayer, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Disagree with your boss

You'd really like to tell the Wicked Witch that Operation Dorothy might lead to meltdown but don't dare do it yourself. Here are the dos and don'ts of disagreeing without disaster:

DO find something complimentary to say about her proposal -- there's got to be at least one positive aspect! "Acknowledging her point of view goes a long way toward getting her to listen to your point of view," says Anne Fisher, author of If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

DON'T tell her the idea stinks. Instead, zero in on how her approach might adversely affect what she's trying to accomplish: "If we hire a Spanish-speaking manager, he'll be able to communicate with all the Latino employees, which is great. But did you know that a considerable percentage of the employees in that plant are Brazilian and speak Portuguese, so a Spanish-speaking manager wouldn't be able to communicate with them?"

DO marshal your facts. The more you can support your case, the more persuasive you'll be. Hard facts make an especially strong shield if your boss is used to intimidating people into blithering incoherence. Conversely, if your boss is secretly insecure, your facts give her the ammunition she needs to change her mind.

DON'T have this conversation in public. Making the boss look bad in front of other people is job suicide. "I've seen this happen, and the person's career never recovered," says Fisher.

DO be pleasant when you disagree. After all, Fisher points out, there's always the chance you could be wrong. "If you're nice about it, she'll probably forgive you. If you're not, she may get vindictive."

Bluff your way through anything

"Bluffing in life and poker is very similar," says Susie Isaacs, two-time Ladies' World Series of Poker Champion. Even if you're holding a bad hand, here's how you can still come out a winner:

Credibility is the ace up your sleeve. Project confidence through every pore and people won't figure you're bluffing. That's why Scarlett O'Hara cut up Miss Ellen's curtains to pry a loan out of Rhett Butler. Dressed to thrill, she looked like a much better credit risk than if she'd shown up in a flour sack.

Pick your mark. Your bluff is most likely to succeed when your opponent -- a boss who can't afford to have you walk or a customer-service rep who wants to avoid a scene -- has too much to lose to call you on it.

Don't let 'em see you sweat. "People can get 'tells' by your breathing and body language," warns Isaacs, so be sure to keep your cool.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, November 2001.