Daily Thoughts


October 9, 2016

Focus for Success

Photo by Dingzeyu Li/Unsplash

Photo by Dingzeyu Li/Unsplash

“The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee

 

Can you be average and still find success? That’s a question many ponder at some point in their career. If you think your average height, looks, intelligence or physical ability or any other attribute or trait automatically excludes you from ever being successful, think again.

Some of the most successful people considered themselves average. But they didn’t let that stop them from going on to achieve their dreams.

What’s one key ingredient that separates the average man (or woman) from their successful counterparts?

Focus.

And it’s not just a now and then focus, but a precision focus that never falters. You can be successful if you eliminate distractions, perfect your plan, are willing to make adjustments, learn from your mistakes, and put in the time and energy required to see it through.

Sometimes this takes longer than you think.

Many times the goal seems more elusive than ever.

Just when you overcome one obstacle, several more appear.

With a laser-like focus, you keep your eye on the goal and are not deterred by whatever happens to get in your way, delay completion or stymie your pursuit.

How do you develop this fine-tuned focus? Here are some tips:

  • Map out your goals. You need to know what you’re willing to put your time and effort into before you embark on any action.
  • Create a plan. How you’ll approach a goal isn’t something to leave to chance. You need a plan, a step-by-step roadmap you can follow to make steady progress toward success.
  • Set milestones. Gauging whether you’re on track to success requires regular checking in on results to-date to see if you’ve achieved interim stages or milestones you’ve set for yourself. When you determine you’re where you need to be, this helps you sharpen your focus for success.
  • Consider alternatives when appropriate. There is never only one route to success. The path toward achievement often splits or branches off into unknown territory. When an alternative means to the ultimate end appears, it’s worth considering. Here’s where your precision focus comes in handy. Ask yourself if this alternative will help you achieve your objectives faster, better or more efficiently. What are the trade-offs, if any? Is it worth the risk?
  • Eliminate distractions. Life can and will get in the way of achieving your goals. It’s not unheard of for distractions to erode focus and cause serious slippage in your path to success. While taking some me-time is highly recommended so you don’t suffer burnout, paying heed to constant distractions is not in your best interest. Zero in on what you’re trying to accomplish. If the distraction can’t be avoided, tend to it quickly and get back to your number one priority.

 

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Daily Thoughts


October 8, 2016

How to Rejoice in How Things Are

Photo by Steve Carter/Unsplash

Photo by Steve Carter/Unsplash

“Be content with what you have. Rejoice in how things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

 

Is it a myth that you can be happy with what you have, no matter what your current situation? In the midst of turmoil, beset by anxiety, feeling pain or sadness or disappointment, is it possible to set all that aside and feel grateful for how things are?

In a word, yes.

But it’s not going to be easy.

While it’s understandable that you might have little difficulty being content with what you have and be readily able to rejoice in how things are when everything’s going smoothly, it’s another thing altogether to try to do this when life is a mess.

You know, right? You’ve been there. Actually, we all have. So, it’s not that dealing with a messy life is all that uncommon, but how do you effectively cope and learn to be grateful and content with the present, even rejoicing in what and where you are right now?

Maybe these pointers will help.

  • There are only 24 hours in a day. If you can make it past the present 24 hours and whatever strife, discomfort, unhappiness or disappointment you’re currently experiencing, you’ll come out stronger and more self-confident on the other side. Remember the saying, “This, too, shall pass.”
  • The opposite of evil is good, both of which are present in life simultaneously. If you feel negativity, focus on the positive aspects of your life. You can turn around anything if you put your mind to it. Even pain subsides, sometimes temporarily, but generally relief does come. You just have to be strong and keep a hopeful outlook.
  • You are whole and complete. There isn’t anything lacking in you. Therefore, celebrate your uniqueness and look for opportunities to maximize your talents, gifts and strengths. If you aren’t sure what they are, ask others. They’ll be glad to let you know what your strengths are.
  • You might need help remembering your accomplishments. For this reason, it’s advisable to keep a list of your successes. While it might seem self-serving, it’s a necessary reminder you can readily turn to when things go awry. Seeing firsthand that you’ve been able to achieve goals before helps reinforce your belief in your abilities.
  • Remember that you are not alone. It’s OK to ask for help when you need it. Be willing to reciprocate when others turn to you for assistance in a time of need. The support and encouragement you give and receive is invaluable in promoting a sense of well-being and contentment.
  • Have goals you want to achieve and are willing to work for. This gives you forward momentum, aids in looking past temporary difficulties or obstacles and broadens your horizons.
  • Keep in mind that nothing is impossible. Making use of your talents and strengths and being content with who you are and what you have, if you take the time to lay out a solid plan, put in the effort required and refuse to quit when you hit a roadblock, the world is within your reach.

 

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Daily Thoughts


October 7, 2016

Look for Uncharted Territory

Photo by Tim Swaan/Unsplash

Photo by Tim Swaan/Unsplash

“You’ll never be disappointed if you always keep an eye on uncharted territory where you’ll be challenged and growing and having fun.” – Kirstie Alley

 

Are there things you’ve put off doing because starting them takes you into unknown territory? Are you one of those people who prefers to play it safe, never venturing beyond your comfort zone? If so, you’re missing out on a lot that life has to offer.

In order to experience life to the fullest, you need to welcome change, embrace challenges and go where it’s not always familiar, easy or quick.

You’ll find that if you look for uncharted territory.

Granted, it’s tough to put yourself in the mindset of being an explorer, especially if you’re not used to volunteering for the difficult tasks, pursuing something that’s out of your field or embarking on a journey with an uncertain destination.

If you think back to when you felt most alive, however, it likely had something to do with pushing yourself to your limits, entering into a project or tackling an assignment that you knew was a stretch but that offered potential rewards on successful completion.

That aliveness you felt was both wondrous and unexpected. On the one hand, you knew you’d face challenges, or anticipated you would. Butterflies, a little doubt about your abilities and fear that you’d fail were probably there as well. But you also lost yourself in time, eagerly pushing forward to the next stage of completion, overcoming hurdles and problems as they came. While the journey was never a foregone conclusion, you sailed through it on the wings of discovery, perseverance, skill and a willingness to learn.

Some of what you discovered made you laugh. Some of what you learned made you cry. All of what you went through you wouldn’t trade for anything.

Out there, in uncharted territory, is what awaits you. Do you hope to live up to your true potential? Are you eager to embrace life with all its challenges, delights and unknowns? That’s where life truly comes alive. That’s where it all counts.

To live life with zest, vitality and vibrancy, go where you’ve feared to tread. While you don’t throw caution to the side of the road, you do move ahead with excitement, confidence and an anticipation of discovery. Life will reward your curiosity and courage.

 

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Daily Thoughts


October 6, 2016

The Secret of Contentment

Photo by Michele Hohner

Photo by Michele Hohner

“The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach.” – Lin Yutang

 

Everyone is on the hunt to be happy, to feel content and in balance in his or her world. Some have rituals to help them attain daily contentment or ease tension and stress from a difficult day, while others are perennially searching for what will make them happy.

But the secret of contentment is so simple that most of us may gloss over it without so much as a second thought. Could it really be to just enjoy what we have? What about goals and striving for a better life? Isn’t that at odds with enjoying what we have?

Actually, no.

You can have a goal of obtaining a degree in a certain field and craft an action plan to follow to achieve that goal and still enjoy what you have. It isn’t that you’re trying to have something out of reach. Your educational pursuit is completely attainable. It may take some time and require years of effort, securing financial aid and ultimately paying it back, but it’s not an outrageous desire.

If, however, you desire to marry a celebrity, go to Mars, explore the Mariana Trench or some other almost certainly unattainable dream, you’re likely not living in the real world. You’re also much more likely to be dissatisfied with your current life. In either case, you’re not living to your full potential or maximizing your enjoyment of life as it is.

The truth is that life is incredibly short. Whether you live to be 100+ or die in your 20s, it’s but a speck of time in eternity.

And, no matter how long you live, at the end of your days when you draw your final breath, you’ll have the fleeting thought of how short life has actually been.

Do you want to have regret at that final moment or gratitude for a life well lived? By living and enjoying each precious moment in the here and now, being thankful and happy for all that you currently have, you’ll live out your life in contentment.

This doesn’t mean you’ll never experience disappointment, encounter challenges or suffer pain. It also doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always be successful at whatever you undertake. But it does mean that being able to enjoy what you have and be at peace with who you are secures the contentment you seek.

So, go on and take that walk on the beach, dipping your toes in the water and feeling the gentle massage of the waves. Gather the kids and go on a hike through the park, scuffling through the brightly colored leaves underfoot, breathing in the crisp smells of autumn.

Be thankful and grateful for all that you have. That’s the secret of contentment, pure and simple.

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Daily Thoughts


October 5, 2016

Just Get to It

 

Photo by Arto Marttinen/Unsplash

Photo by Arto Marttinen/Unsplash

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

 

How many times do you find yourself procrastinating, putting off doing what you know needs to be done? Truthfully, most of us do this from time to time. We excuse it by telling ourselves we need a break, or the job is too tough, requires more resources than we have at our disposal, we don’t like what we have to do or the people we must associate with in order to get it done. Sometimes we aren’t sure why we’re so reluctant to get started, while other times we know exactly what’s causing our delay.

But one thing is certain. If you never get started, you’ll never get anywhere. At least, you’ll never get where it is you want to go in life, as in succeeding in achieving goals, attaining your dreams, finding peace and fulfillment.

How do you just get to it when the tendency is to be lazy, put off until tomorrow or whenever, let someone else do it, make one excuse after another, or simply remain clueless as to why you’re never successful? The answers may be surprising, but they’re altogether doable.

  • The first step forward is the most important. It gets you moving, and that’s critically important no matter what you need to do. Be resolved to take the first step. So what if you stumble? You’ll find that after the first step, the second and third and so on aren’t that difficult after all. Even if you have to pick yourself up and start over, you’ve got momentum on your side.

 

  • There is no right moment or right way to get started. The secret to getting started is just to do it. It’s as simple as that. You don’t need an elaborate plan to get started. Even a rough plan will suffice. You can adjust and revise your plan along the way. But if you continually search for just the right time or the exact, perfect way to proceed, you’ll never get past the contemplation stage.

 

  • Mistakes are learning opportunities, not failures. It’s natural to be disappointed when the outcome you seek isn’t achieved. Worse, when you perceive your actions result in failure. By adopting an attitude that mistakes and setbacks are not failures, but learning opportunities, you’ll move from a negative mindset to a positive one. This makes getting started on anything new or returning to a project, task or activity previously started and set aside a lot easier.

 

  • Try a starting ritual to get you in the appropriate frame of mind. If you love your morning latte, brisk walk outside, exercising, petting the cat or a luxurious shower, make sure to indulge in this ritual to put yourself in the mental mindset to get started. Rituals are comforting and motivating. There’s nothing better to jumpstart your desire to get started doing what needs to be done.

 

  • Reward yourself for your progress. Maybe you won’t be able to finish what you start today. That’s OK as long as you do the best you can in the time you have. Instead of abandoning the job, project, task or activity because you couldn’t complete it, resolve to pick it up again tomorrow, making use of the progress you’ve made today. Celebrate your wins with a good pep talk, spending time with loved ones or family members, enjoying a good book or watching your favorite TV show or whatever you do that gives you pleasure. This helps cement your motivation to pick up again tomorrow and keep going.

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Daily Thoughts


October 4, 2016

Let Your Inner Beauty Show

Photo by Jamieson Weaver/Unsplash

Photo by Jamieson Weaver/Unsplash

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if their light is from within.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross

 

What a lovely analogy to compare people to stained-glass windows. It’s also a stunning mental image to keep in mind. What does your stained-glass project? Are you open and transparent, filled with light even on the darkest of days? Or are you smudged and dull, with the outlines and the colors barely discernible?

If you’re the latter, don’t fret. You can change. It takes a little discipline and a bit of practice, but it is an effort that’s certainly doable. Here are some suggestions on how to let your inner beauty show.

  • Remove the self-censor button. Instead of being hypercritical of everything you do, give yourself the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. When you delete the button that causes you to berate yourself, you’ll let in more light – and you’ll let your own inner beauty show itself to others as well.
  • Begin each day with gratitude. When you wake up, take a few seconds to welcome the new day, thanking your Higher Power for the opportunity to participate in life, to make a difference, to actively pursue your goals, and to help others to the extent that you can. A short time reflecting on what you have to be thankful for helps set the tone of the day – and permits some of your inner light (your true beauty) to shine.
  • Set aside some time for doing what you love. While you have many things tugging at you today to tend to, it’s important that you take some time for yourself to do what you enjoy. If you have a passion for writing, write. If walking in nature thrills you, take a mid-morning or afternoon break to do so. Meditation, exercise, gardening – it doesn’t matter what it is. If you love it, carve out some time to do it today. The effect it has on your inner beauty is immeasurable. Your beauty and your light will shine radiantly.
  • Make it a point to do something good for others. Life isn’t all about you, despite how circumstances sometimes make it seem. If you make it a point to look outward and do something good today for someone else, this noble gesture ratchets up your nature of kindness and generosity. It also helps others see how truly beautiful you are. There is nothing more beautiful than the beauty of goodness and love.
  • True inner light sustains you in dark times. Not every day will be an unqualified success. You will stumble and fall, suffer disappointments and pain. There will be times when you feel like you can’t possibly continue. Here is where your true inner light can not only sustain you but continue to shine despite the challenges you face.

Nourish your inner light. Feed it with life-affirming, proactive pursuits. Be loving, kind, generous and selfless. You don’t have to be a saint to let your inner beauty show. The best part of this is that everyone benefits.

 

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Daily Thoughts


October 3, 2016

Dwell Deeply in the Present

Photo by Alex Krivec/Unsplash

Photo by Alex Krivec/Unsplash

“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” -- Thich Nhat Hanh

 

If you want to experience a miracle, you don’t have far to go. The miracle isn’t a superhuman ability, such as being able to fly, or to design a way to do something that’s never been done before. Those are incredible accomplishments, not miracles. The real miracle is aliveness, being and feeling truly alive.

The way to experience such a miracle is to train yourself to inhabit, to recognize, acknowledge and embrace the present moment.

Most of us have a little trouble doing that. We may have some success now and then in shutting off distractions and silencing the discord within, but regularly dwelling deeply in the present proves a bit more challenging.

Meditation masters know that it’s not that distractions occur or that the noise of life won’t seek to intrude, but that you learn through practice how to acknowledge all that interruption and let it go. While the external hustle and bustle will still be going on around you, your mind will be free to savor and cherish the present moment.

That’s where you begin to feel really alive.

Start by breathing in and out deeply. Notice the rise and fall of your chest. Hear your breath as you inhale and exhale. The oxygen you’re taking in will help reinvigorate your brain and nourish every part of your body. Sounds, sights, smells, taste and touch will become sharper, more in focus, more alive and filled with wonder.

This is the miracle. Realization of this moment, when you truly inhabit the present, is how you recognize and begin to appreciate the awesome incredibility of human life. There is simply nothing that can top or even compare with this miracle.

Take the plunge. Dwell deeply in the present and start your journey of appreciation of the miracle of life and living.

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Daily Thoughts


October 2, 2016

Life Gets Better by Change

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

 

“Your life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn

 

If there’s something more you want out of life, sitting around wishing for it won’t get you there. In order to achieve your goals, to realize your dreams, you have to want it so completely that you’ll do whatever is necessary to be successful in the endeavor.

This means making changes, going through a process of learning, growth and metamorphosis. From where you were to what you aspire to be takes courage, determination, a willingness to endure, persist, make mistakes and learn from them, find inspiration in others and yourself, and to be ever grateful for the opportunity you have to change.

Change isn’t easy. Many times, change requires painful or difficult choices. You give up something in order to attain something greater, better or more appropriate to your lifestyle goals.

No one wants to make the difficult decisions to change. It’s much easier to coast. After all, isn’t life pretty OK just as it is? Granted, it would be much better if we had X or achieved Y or found ourselves rich in Z, but we can get along without it, right?

Why would you settle for less when you could be actively working toward making your life better through change?

It might be tempting, but it won’t be ultimately satisfying. If you resist change because it’s uncomfortable, unfamiliar, uncertain or challenging, you’ll end up wondering what you might have become if you embraced change instead. At the end of your life, do you want to look back with regret at the opportunities you turned down or with satisfaction over the choices you made and the changes you embarked upon?

Considering that most of us want to make our lives and the lives of those we love and care about better, we have to be willing to change. This encompasses all kinds of changes. It could be a change of attitude from harshly critical to a more compassionate understanding. The change may involve pursuing years of education in order to obtain a desired degree or license. Sacrificing immediate gratification for long-term gain is another example of change that makes your life better.

None of this occurs by chance.

It all requires acceptance of and willingness to change.

The question isn’t, do you want to make your life better, but are you ready to embrace change in order to do so?

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Daily Thoughts


October 1, 2016

Have Faith in Yourself

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

“What holds people back isn’t the quality of their ideas, but their faith in themselves. You have to live your life as if you are already where you want to be.” – Russell Simmons

 

What a novel concept. Can it really be as simple as deciding to live your life as though you’re already a successful CEO, an accomplished artist, a gee-whiz at computers, a gifted writer, blessed with many good friends, possessed of a comfortable financial cushion or whatever it is that you really want to be in life?

Maybe it’s an idea to consider, especially if you think you have a lot of good ideas, but they don’t seem to go anywhere. Perhaps it’s not that the ideas are faulty, but the fact that you don’t believe in yourself enough to see them through.

How might this work in everyday life? Suppose you want to write a best-selling novel, either a publish-it-yourself one or through an established publishing firm? That’s where you want to be, but you might be a long way from achieving that milestone. How can living as if you’re already a best-selling author help?

It all starts with celebrating your strengths. You know you’re a good writer. You love to write, write every day, and have been writing for years in various mediums. Writing a book is a process, just like writing anything else. So, the strengths you have and the skills you’ve developed will serve you well. Know and accept that.

A writer who’s already achieved fame will begin working on another book. They know that they have the creativity within them to be successful at this task and they set to work.

That’s what you can do. If you want to be recognized as a best-selling author and know you write well, you must write to achieve the next rung of success.

How about another example that’s a little more complex? If you’ve struggled your entire life with insecurity and doubt and don’t have much confidence in your abilities, how can you remedy this situation? If all this has to come from within, and what you currently experience is a lack of self-belief, what should you do?

It may be that professional counseling will help. In addition, those closest to you – your loved ones, family members and close friends – can serve as an integral support network to both reassure you and acknowledge the strengths, gifts and natural abilities you have as well as be there to cheer you on to discover and develop new ones.

When you have people in your corner, it is a lot easier to start believing in yourself. It also helps to stop negative self-talk – that little voice in your head or the impish devil perched on your shoulder that tells you you’re not good enough – and focus on doing what you do well.

Everyone has strengths. Every day brings opportunity to learn something new. The more you learn, the more you grow and the stronger your belief in yourself becomes.

Here are some other tips:

  • Have a goal in mind.
  • Envision yourself succeeding in that goal and living in that environment where you want to be.
  • Determine a path to get there.
  • Create an action plan to make progress toward that in a step-by-step fashion.
  • Be willing to put in the time and effort required to achieve that success.
  • Celebrate small accomplishments along the way.
  • Remind yourself that you can do this.

 

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Daily Thoughts


September 30, 2016

Doing the Impossible

 

Photo by Azrul Aziz/Unsplash

Photo by Azrul Aziz/Unsplash

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

 

Of all the things we have in life, one point is certain: There will always be challenges. Some will be easily overcome, while others prove difficult, but possible. Still others loom far on the horizon, seemingly impossible.

Are they impossible? Or is this just what we tell ourselves?

Every major discovery, invention or breakthrough first seemed out of reach, impossible to achieve. If not for persistence, a refusal to believe that success wasn’t attainable, they would never have happened.

Such a dedication is also fueled by a spirit of curiosity, a willingness to learn from mistakes, to listen to suggestions from others and revise, adapt and modify constantly until the desired outcome is achieved.

In some cases, the ultimate product or result looks very different from expectations going in. That’s where flexibility comes in, the ability to make changes on the fly, to see the threads and connections that make sense and to discard what proves problematic or unworkable.

What about setting yourself up for failure by tackling something you’re clearly not ready for, lack the knowledge or skill to complete or don’t have sufficient resources (time, money, allies, etc.)? Isn’t that setting out to do the impossible when you know you don’t have any likelihood of success? How can you turn this into a success?

It’s quite obvious when you’re unprepared for something. This isn’t always a negative, since opportunities generally require stretching beyond current capabilities. You may need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, embark on an unfamiliar journey, try new approaches.

If you’re handed an assignment that’s not in your area of expertise, you could turn it down, say you can’t handle it, put in lackluster effort, or say that while it’s not what you’re most familiar with, you’ll give it everything you’ve got. This is more likely to net you valuable knowledge and experience and put you on the path toward successful completion.

It’s doing the impossible, one step at a time.

Instead of regarding the impossible as something you cannot do, look at the opportunities seemingly impossible tasks, goals and challenges provide. There’s gold hidden within and it is very much your prerogative to discover it.

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Daily Thoughts


September 29, 2016

Trample Fear Beneath Your Feet

Photo by Averie Woodard/Unsplash

Photo by Averie Woodard/Unsplash

“I don’t run from a challenge because I’m afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” – Nadia Comaneci

 

Fear is a natural human response to the unknown, the terrifying, to danger and pain. Fear can overwhelm and consume, paralyze and demoralize. But it can also be overcome.

Many of us have experienced fear of some kind. Often, the period during which we are afraid is fleeting, as in the jitters before driving down a dark and unfamiliar road alone or the hairs standing up on the back of the neck when approached by a stranger who appears aggressive or threatening. We take appropriate action to get past the fear and then it’s gone. We turn on our bright lights, don’t dally and make our way to safety. We don’t make eye contact with the stranger, give him or her a wide berth, and stride boldly and confidently in the direction we’re going, not hastily, but not slowly, either.

But what about crippling fear, the kind that forces us to cower, to hide ourselves away from others, that so overwhelms us that we’re unable to take any kind of action? What then?

I had such an experience once aboard an airplane that experienced mechanical failure in flight. The situation was critical and passengers were informed to assume the crash position. Everyone was terrified; yet there was an eerie silence on the plane as it hurtled out of control.

I was so frightened that my whole body shook violently – from fear. I couldn’t speak and tears were running down my cheeks. The passengers on either side of me, co-workers I was traveling with, each took my hands and murmured quiet words of comfort and encouragement. While what they said didn’t change the situation, it did calm me. Their courage and ability to face fear head-on gave me the strength I needed to do the same.

In essence, the power of solidarity in the face of petrifying fear allowed us to trample it beneath our feet.

The plane did eventually land safely, albeit on a bed of foam with emergency crews ready to extricate the passengers from the plane. We were all safe and no one was injured. Everyone knelt on the tarmac and said a prayer of thanks. It was the dead of winter, but no one was cold. We were all just so grateful to be alive.

What this taught me is not that you can avoid fear, but that you can and must push through it. Take action based on what your instinct and knowledge tell you. Be courageous – which doesn’t mean you don’t feel fear – and crush the awful emotion beneath your feet.

You can do it. We all can.

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September 28, 2016

Letting Go

Photo by Samuel Clara/Unsplash

Photo by Samuel Clara/Unsplash

“In those moments when we realize how much we cannot control; we can learn to let go.” – Sharon Salzberg

 

Many people aren’t very good at letting go. Whether it’s allowing accumulated stress to be released, letting go of toxic emotions, casting out suspicions or giving the gate to built-up grievances and petty annoyances, far too many of us carry around a lot of stuff we’d be better off getting rid of.

Why do we insist on holding onto such negativity? What possible good outcome could there be from this often-unconscious activity? For one thing, we might be fearful of losing some important piece of data, or possibly not having access to something we could one day use to our advantage – or to get back at another. The truth is, however, that the more we try to hold onto something, the more anxious, fearful and ineffective we become. It isn’t comfort that results but something entirely opposite. We defeat our purpose of living a fruitful, productive and happy life – if that is indeed our purpose.

Granted, there are many things that are out of our control. The knowledge that this is true is enough to cause fear in any sane human being. But it is this very fact that should also bring us comfort. If so much is out of our control, why hold onto it? Why take on the responsibility for something over which we cannot exert control? Take the incident of disease that a loved one or friend develops. While we may feel guilty, angry or somehow contributing to it, it is not our fault that they got sick. Learning to let go of these harmful emotions will not diminish or eradicate the disease, but it will help us be more effective in dealing lovingly with the person who’s ill.

Another area where we can learn to let go is the consequences that befall friends, co-workers, loved ones and others we know. Unless we have directly taken part in actions that result in those negative consequences, they are not within our control – and should not take up an inordinate amount of our time to dwell on them.

What if we’ve always wanted to be thin, but were born with certain genetics that predispose us to the polar opposite of that? We can mope, be self-critical, go to extremes to counteract nature, or we can let go of all that and do what we can to live a healthy life and make the most of the gifts we have been given.

Letting go may not be easy, but it definitely allows us to begin to appreciate life and its richness. Once the burden of all that negativity lifts, solutions to problems may somehow occur to us, opportunities may be easier to recognize and the spring in our step that much more apparent. The key is to acknowledge what’s bothering you and then let it go. Whether you can control certain things or not, learning to let go is a healthy approach to healthy living.

 

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September 27, 2016

Love What You Do

Photo by Evan Clark/Unsplash

Photo by Evan Clark/Unsplash

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

 

You want to be a success. You aspire to the recognition and rewards that go along with it. Fine. That’s the end game. What comes first, however, is putting in the work required to make it to the finish line.

If you detest your job, can’t stand your boss, don’t get along with your co-workers, or aren’t very enthusiastic about the project you’re working on, you’re not going to produce the best output.

In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that you’ll become more disgruntled over time. Research shows that the constant stress of doing what you don’t like and don’t believe in very well could lead to physical and mental ailments.

On the other hand, when you love what you do, you not only bring joy and satisfaction to your day, you also tend to produce excellent work. There is no downside to loving your work, except, perhaps the inclination to spend more time at it than you should. When that happens, your life gets out of balance and other important relationships may suffer, such as those with your loved ones, family members and friends.

Assuming that you keep work and home separated – and don’t bring your work home with you – loving what you do is an effective way to nurture your sense of well-being and self-confidence, to motivate you to achieve even further, and to infuse what you do with the very best you have to offer.

Suppose, however, that you are in an entry-level job that involves low pay, repetitive tasks, and not much room for advancement. Surely, you won’t love what you do, right? How can you remedy this? In such a circumstance, it’s best to look at this job as a steppingstone to something better. You’re gainfully employed, learning how to perform your duties as required, seeing how business operates and what the value of your contribution is. All this will help you in your next career move.

Maybe you don’t love this job, but you can love the attitude you bring to it. And life is so much better when you have a positive, hopeful attitude. It makes every day more pleasant, less stressful and gets you one step closer to where you want to eventually be.

While you may be a low-level employee at this point, having a great recommendation from your boss when you apply for another job – one that’s a move up on your career trajectory – will be a plus. Potential employers want to know that you’re a team player, that you show initiative, get the job done and are an asset to the company or business.

Wherever you are right now – in a job you love or hoping to get to a position you love – find what’s good about what you’re doing today. Figure out ways to make it better, to bring more satisfaction into what you do. This is excellent training and a logical, effective way to instill a healthy habit that will serve you well throughout your career and life.

 

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September 26, 2016

The Best Way to Live

Photo by Corina Ardeleanu/Unsplash

Photo by Corina Ardeleanu/Unsplash

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.” – Maya Angelou

 

Are you searching to get more out of life? Does your daily grind wear you down? Do you want to feel inspired, energized, enthusiastic, creative and filled with joy? Sounds great, right? Where do we sign up?

Actually, you sign up by your intention to live a better way. And that better way begins the moment you give yourself permission to absorb all the goodness and positivity that life has to offer.

While there’s no doubt you’ll experience some trials and tribulations, encounter difficulties and challenges that may seem impossible to overcome, feel sadness and pain and anger and other powerful emotions, suffer loss and endure hardship along the way, you’ll also find that these won’t defeat your life’s mission: to thrive.

This is, in my view, the best way to live.

It’s not enough to survive the day. That’s just existence. Living is something so much more than that. To truly live, you must be willing to suffer the inconvenience, the mishaps, failures, doubts, pain and sadness, knowing that you’re putting your energy and focus on the good, the compassionate, what stirs your creative juices, makes you laugh and ignites your love. Furthermore, you do it with your own sense of style and grace.

Making the transition from mere survival to enjoying life to the fullest will evolve over time. You don’t just flip a switch and you’re there. It takes some practice and getting used to. Here are some tips to get started.

  • Every time a negative thought pops into your mind, turn it around to see the positive.
  • Tell yourself you deserve to be who you aspire to be.
  • Give yourself credit for all the good things you’ve done, the accomplishments you’ve made, the joy you’ve brought to others.
  • When you first open your eyes in the morning, say a prayer of gratitude and welcome the day with a smile.
  • Try to see the other person’s point of view, even if you ultimately disagree. Be willing to compromise when necessary.
  • Strive to obtain the best outcome possible in all endeavors.
  • Give your complete effort to everything you do. No half-measures. To live life to the fullest means you give it your all.
  • Share what you have with others. This includes your time, your attention and your love.
  • When you’re sad, angry, upset, uncertain, in pain or feeling alone, know that happiness, calm, balance, certainty, health and companionship are the other side of these emotions. Be hopeful and proactive. You can get there.
  • Never give up. As long as you breathe, you have an opportunity to live your life according to your wishes, hopes and dreams.

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September 25, 2016

What's Your Version of Success?

Photo by Olu Eletu/Unsplash

Photo by Olu Eletu/Unsplash

“It’s up to you to define your own brand of leadership and your own version of success.” – Peggy Johnson

 

Think about what success means to you. Is it the achievement of a certain position at work, recognition among your peers, national or international fame, being considered the go-to resource, the one who gets the job done no matter what?

Does success, in your view, constitute having a huge financial cushion, owning multiple properties or a single comfortable home? Is it your lavish jewelry or painting collection, the quality of your wardrobe, designer furniture and appliances, a flashy sports car or a garage full of expensive vehicles?

Or, is success the pride you feel in always doing your best, being true to your word, living up to your promises, striving to find solutions to problems when others are inclined to quit, always being there for those who depend on and look up to you?

Success, for the most part, depends on the answer to this question:  What kind of a leader are you?

Here are some other questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to figure out what leadership means to you and how to develop and refine your leadership brand. And, yes, leadership is a brand, a unique product of everything you put into it.

  • Do you seek to inspire others?
  • Are you genuinely concerned with others’ well-being?
  • Do you provide clear guidance on what is expected?
  • Will you accept responsibility for your actions?
  • Are you available and willing to coach, mentor, encourage and support your employees or co-workers?
  • Do you think of success as something due only to your efforts, or do you believe that your success also depends on the contributions of the group?
  • Do you embrace the concept that learning from mistakes makes you a better leader – and a better person?
  • Are you willing to accept that others make mistakes – and give them the latitude to learn from them as well?
  • Is profit the most important indicator of success?
  • What do you want your leadership legacy to be?

Keep in mind that the kind of leader you are evolves over time. As you acquire skills and achieve goals, your confidence builds. When others consistently look to you for leadership and guidance, you know you’re on the right track. Striving to maintain a balance between what is good for the company, the employees, customers and society is a challenging job. But a good leader, a successful one, will not shy away from this role. In fact, his or her success often depends on it.

What’s your version of success? What have you found makes you more effective in leading others? Did you achieve success quickly or did it take a long time? Finally, do you feel you are evolving as a leader and as a success?

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September 24, 2016

Who Deserves Your Loyalty?

Photo by Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

Photo by Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

“The only people I owe my loyalty to are the ones who never made me question theirs.” – Joe Mehl

 

Loyalty is, without question, valuable. When you’re loyal to a person, or an institution or company, you stick with them, say good things about them, go out of your way to show your loyalty, defend them to others. In demonstrating your loyalty, you hope that it’s reciprocal. That’s the best definition of loyalty.

But what about people and company who want your loyalty when they don’t deserve it? If they promise something and fail to deliver, do you owe them loyalty? If they take you for granted, whether as a customer, a citizen, a friend, co-worker, employee, family member or loved one, should you blindly reward them by being loyal?

Granted, it’s quite a different proposition when the subject person is someone you’re very close to. It’s human nature to make allowances for loved ones and long-time friends. But even then, if that individual consistently shows a lack of regard for your loyalty, it might be time for a candid conversation about dignity, mutual respect, and decent human interaction.

Personally, I pride myself on being loyal. If I like a company or their products or services, I tend to remain a customer. I’ll also tell my friends about them, especially if asked my opinion or recommendations. On the other hand, if a company has demonstrated bad faith, proved to be unethical or engaged in illegal practices, they’ve lost me for good. They don’t deserve my loyalty or my business. I’ll switch to another company whose products and services are in the best interests of the consumer.

Readers of my blog know I’m passionate about coffee. While I’ve tried many different coffeehouses, I’m most loyal to Starbucks. Why? If my order isn’t right, they’ll remake it, no questions asked. If I’m already halfway home in my car and don’t want to go back to the store, I get in touch with them via their website and they make it right another way. As a Starbucks Gold customer, I also get other perks. This is typical of rewards that the best companies offer their customers.

I do, however, have other coffeehouses that I frequent, including Peet’s. When we’re on vacation in Hawaii and in other parts of the country, we try local coffee shops as well as the big ones. Personalized service, attention to detail, friendliness and a comfortable environment all play into how we feel about the business.

It’s the same way with big department stores, such as Macy’s and Nordstrom, both of which, in my opinion, go out of their way to show they appreciate loyal customers.

Just keep in mind that loyalty is a two-way street. If others want your loyalty, they have to earn it. If you want loyalty in return, you have to show by your words and actions that you’re worthy of it.

 

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September 23, 2016

Be Above Slights and Offenses

Photo by Vladimir Kudinov/Unsplash

Photo by Vladimir Kudinov/Unsplash

“Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.” – Rene Descartes

 

Do sideways looks get under your skin? Are you offended when someone ignores you at a social gathering, feel slighted when your calls, texts and emails remain unanswered? What about deliberate offenses, such as backbiting, gossiping, prodding you to anger, sadness, insecurity or shame?

Slights and offenses cannot be prevented, but their sting can be avoided.

It isn’t, however, always easy to do.

It also requires a willingness to embrace a different approach.

This isn’t a turn the other cheek recommendation, although it is in the same line of thinking.

Instead of allowing the rude or thoughtless remark to upset you, urge your soul to rise above it as if it is a physical thing that you can elevate.

You do have influence, you know. You can, therefore, encourage yourself to let your soul reside in a far loftier plane than the one where the offender resides. That way, the offense or slight cannot get to your soul, is unable to mar your outlook or poison your day.

It also helps to instill some very practical measures when someone offends you.

  • Don’t respond. That only emboldens the offender. He or she knows the remark or action has gotten to you and will continue the negative behavior. This doesn’t mean you allow the offender to get away with something unethical, illegal or deliberate sabotage, just that you don’t engage in the moment. Go to human resources, report the offense, take proactive steps to avoid such confrontations in the future.
  • Smile and move on. This may confuse the person who shot off the caustic remark, cut you off in traffic, badmouthed you to the boss, stole the change from your desk drawer. Instead of reacting negatively and in kind, when you smile, you diffuse the tension. You are then free to go your way without the sting of the offense clinging to you.
  • Turn your attention elsewhere. You’ve likely got much better things to do than pay heed to the words and actions of an offender or slighter. Focus on the good, the possible, the right now that you can do and ignore the deliberate attempts to get a rise out of you.
  • Think of karma. There is an expression that holds that what goes around comes around. Some call this karma. You don’t want to have negativity keep coming back, so instead of encouraging the offender to continue such bad behavior by reacting in kind to it, take the higher ground. Be above the fray. You will at least have maintained your equanimity and balance. What happens to the offender is not your responsibility or concern. What you do, however, is very much in your control.

Remember, too, that the air is clear, the sun shines always and possibilities are endless where your soul flies free. Keep this image in mind when others snap, argue, try to hurt you by their comments and actions. Don’t be a pushover, but do be above the slights and offenses.

 

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September 22, 2016

Embrace the Seeker in You

Photo by Chen YiChun/Unsplash

Photo by Chen YiChun/Unsplash

“What you seek is seeking you.” – Rumi

 

What is it that stirs your thoughts, fills you with anticipation, motivates you to take action? Likely it’s a goal you want to pursue, an accomplishment you want or need to achieve, a result you’ve worked hard to obtain.

In essence, you’re seeking something – an outcome, a success, a resolution, a fulfillment.

What you might not realize is that what you are so earnestly seeking is simultaneously seeking you.

That may sound a little out there, but not if you believe in the transformative powers of making dreams reality.

If you put forth your efforts and devote your focus on a single goal, you are more likely to be successful in the endeavor than if you only act perfunctorily, without enthusiasm or determination.

This is not only true of achievement of tangible results – like completing a comprehensive report or presentation at work – but also being successful in developing a lasting friendship, building a romantic bond, nurturing your children and realizing emotional enrichment.

The goal – what you seek – is circling around, not yet fulfilled, but waiting for you to find it and bring it into reality.

Granted, your search may entail longer than you think or would like. It may require sacrifice, additional training, modification of certain behaviors and elimination of some habits and developing new ones. You might need other resources or allies or rely on the encouragement and support of your network.

You want to help bring hope to those who have none. This could be a calling to the ministry, public service, philanthropic efforts, organizing neighborhood contributions to a food bank, volunteering at a seniors or children’s home, visiting a shut-in or bringing food to a sick neighbor.

Your goal is to make a difference in a particular area of expertise. To do so requires years of study and practice, as in medicine, psychology, law, engineering, architectural design.

Whatever it is that you seek, the closer you get to your goal, the more vivid and real it becomes. Your enthusiasm builds and spurs you forward.

Life is meant to be experienced, not endured. What you choose to pursue, the dreams and goals that lift your spirits and make you smile, are the ones that emanate from the seeker in you.

Embrace that seeker. It’s the only way to live a vibrant and purposeful life.

 

 

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September 21, 2016

Make the Time for What You Want

Photo by María Victoria Heredia Reyes/Unsplash

Photo by María Victoria Heredia Reyes/Unsplash

“You will never find time for anything. If you want the time, you must make it.” – Charles Buxton

 

I find it intriguing how many times we tell ourselves and others that we just don’t have the time for something. Is this a lie we utter or do we really not think about what we’re saying?

In truth, you can’t find time at all. It’s ongoing. You can’t hold it or stop it, but you can make good use of it.

That brings me to the subject of today’s Daily Thoughts. If you really want to do something, somehow you’ll find the time to do it. You make time for it, prioritizing other things to accommodate your want and need.

To put this into perspective, take a look at the following fairly common statements about not having time.

  • I don’t have time for myself. How many times have you said this? I know I’ve said it dozens of times. When the words start to roll out of my mouth, I have to catch myself. I do have time for me – if I schedule it, prioritize other things and remain disciplined enough to put my own needs on my agenda.
  • I don’t have time to help you. This is another version of not being able to find the time for something. What you’re really saying, however, is that you don’t want to make the time to help. If you did, you’d rearrange your schedule to do so.
  • I don’t have the time to make it right. Often, particularly after I’ve made a mistake, I might tend to say I can’t do what’s required to rectify the situation. This might be laziness on my part, or have to do with the fact that I’d really rather not acknowledge my error, or it could be that I’m uncertain how to do it right. In any case, saying I don’t have the time isn’t true. It’s up to me to figure out that I do.
  • I don’t have the time to go to school. When I was working and my children were younger, I wanted to get a better job. That meant going to school at night, working and caring for the kids at the same time. I found myself rationalizing that I couldn’t do everything, that I just didn’t have the time. It took me longer to obtain my degrees, but through careful scheduling (and a lot less sleep), I was able to go to school and get it done. I made it a point to make the time for what I considered important.
  • I don’t have the time to network. In a career, as well as in social interaction, networking is critical. If you aren’t willing to make the time to identify and develop relationships with people who can help you and vice versa, you’re not doing yourself any favors. It doesn’t take a lot of time to network, but it does require determination and a willingness to set that time aside to devote to the task.

 

 

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September 20, 2016

To Achieve, Refine Focus

Photo by Todd DeSantis/Unsplash

Photo by Todd DeSantis/Unsplash

“You can do anything, but not everything.” – David Allen

 

If your list of goals stretches to several pages, and you’re trying to tackle more than one goal at a time, you’re going to be frustrated by lack of progress. The human mind does best when it’s focused on a single task at a time, not several.

Quit trying to multitask. You’re only shortchanging yourself.

It’s tempting to check email or social media while you’re waiting for your report to save or huge data files to download on a slow connection. You try to carry on a conversation with your loved one or friend while running or making dinner. You appear to be listening to your boss give you instructions on a new project while you jot down a list of things you need to pick up before you get home or finish the last few sentences of a document you’re working on.

Guess what? You’re not focused on any one thing. Instead, you’re distracted, not giving your complete concentration to one or the other activity.

Such scattered focus also applies to lack of achievement on longer-term goals, such as saving enough money to buy a house while you constantly run up credit card bills, eat out often, indulge yourself with instant-gratification purchases.

Yes, you can do anything you set your mind to, but your mind has to be zeroed in on that goal. You don’t need to be a zombie aimlessly pursuing just one thing, though. You can do other things – just not at the same time.

What helps to refine focus is prioritization. Make a list of what you need to do and what you want to do toward your goals. Assign numbers to the most important items, the ones with an urgent deadline, possibly alternating with a task or project or two that you can accomplish quickly.

But only work on one of them at a time. If someone interrupts you or you receive incoming email notifications or text message alerts, put those devices on silent mode while you finish what you’re working on. Set aside a time when you regularly check messages and tend to emails, such as 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The rest of the time you should be focused on your action items, working them one at a time.

Suppose you’re trying to be superwoman, a loving wife and mother, conscientious employee, good neighbor, close friend. If you find yourself feeling frazzled, stretched too thin, it’s no secret what’s contributing to that depletion. You’ve lost focus in the futile attempt to do everything at once.

You can do anything you truly want to accomplish, given a sound plan of action and the willingness and determination to see it through. But you cannot do everything – at least not well and not all at once.

 

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September 19, 2016

Curious Me

Photo by Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

Photo by Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” – Linus Pauling

 

I’ve always been curious. I love to poke around, peer behind the curtain of mystery, take the path less travelled. Maybe I got this healthy sense of wanting to explore the unknown from my father, although my mother was equally instrumental in encouraging me to test my skills and satisfy my need to know.

What I remember best is how delightful it feels to bask in the glow of satisfied curiosity.

It never goes stale. There’s always something new to learn, pursue, ferret out, uncover, unravel or create from strands of seemingly irrelevant threads.

Take painting, for example. I’ve loved to color and dabble in finger paints since I before kindergarten. I took an art class in high school as a way to test if I had any artistic ability at all. Based on my grades, while I got A’s, the jury was still out about talent.

With other classes more pressing in the need to qualify for a good college, my curiosity about and love of painting shifted to the background for a while. But I returned to it later with vigor.

Could I paint like the artists whose work I enjoyed? I tested that as well, copying images from magazines. They didn’t turn out the same, but that inspired me to go off on my own, to splash vibrant colored oils on canvas I learned how to mount, to experiment with texture and shading and form. When others began to comment on the finished paintings and inquire if they could buy them, I knew my curiosity was satisfied.

That’s just one area where I allowed my curiosity to lead. There are many others.

I regard curiosity as an essential ingredient in a happy, fulfilled and purposeful life. My recommendation to everyone is to embrace your curiosity. Don’t let it sit in the shadows forgotten. Do something about what piques your interest. There might be a career path in it or you could meet the love of your life or find a zest for living that you’ve been yearning for.

It’s not just curious me. It’s curious you as well.

 

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September 18, 2016

Unleash Your Creativity

Photo by Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

Photo by Ryan McGuire/Gratisography

“The very nature of creativity is coming up with things that have never been tried before.” – Shelly Lazarus

 

When someone tells you something can’t be done, that it’s never been done before, a little shiver of excitement should energize your creative thought process. In fact, how do you think any discovery came about, if not for determined individuals willing to challenge the status quo, to turn a deaf ear to contrarians and unleash their creativity?

Granted, most of us won’t invent a multimillion-dollar gizmo or discover the cure for a life-threatening disease. That doesn’t preclude us from firing up our creativity to enhance the life we live and share with those we care about. We can be creative in so many different ways, not the least of which is figuring out unique and previously untried solutions to recurring problems.

Or situations that crop up unexpectedly.

Suppose you don’t think of yourself as particularly creative. How can you tap into this vein of creativity and make it work for you? Here are some suggestions.

  • Remove “can’t be done” from your vocabulary.
  • Think strategically, but be open to possibilities.
  • Consider all sides of the situation or problem. What aren’t you seeing here that should be taken into account?
  • Brainstorm solutions. Nothing is off limits, too out there or unfeasible at this point. You’re tossing out ideas, generating links to follow and potential avenues to pursue.
  • After you brainstorm, take a break from the process. Your mind will continue to sort through the various options, finding the common thread, searching for innovative approaches that might work.
  • Relish the opportunity to discover and anticipate positive results.
  • Be willing to take action on creative ideas that you generate. You won’t know if they work unless and until you’re ready to implement them.
  • Revisit ideas that you’ve come up with in the past, particularly the successful ones, but also those that didn’t turn out so well. There may be something in a failed attempt that provides a key lesson you can use to put together a new approach this time.
  • Think of creativity as an endless and continually revitalizing wellspring of positivity. Knowing that you have it helps you tap into it without having to think much about it.
  • Share your creative ideas with others. This tends to generate increased enthusiasm and further common goals.

 

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September 17, 2016

Learn While Doing

Photo by Joshua Earle/Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle/Unsplash

“While you can spend years of your life preparing and making plans, nothing can compare to lessons learned while actually doing.” – Robyn Sue Fisher

 

Don’t you just love learning something new? There’s the thrill of discovery, the excitement that comes from venturing into unknown territory and finding out you’re capable of so much more than you thought.

But there’s an equally important aspect of learning that occurs while you are actively doing something, whether it’s a new project, task or undertaking or working on an everyday or routine item.

You plan for a college degree, but you learn the most valuable lessons while you’re studying, completing assignments, interacting with professors and students, maturing and evolving and growing along the way.

These lessons are far and away indelible imprints, much more momentous than the plans that preceded them and which you may still follow.

Suppose you’ve planned to be a world-class athlete and are perfecting your skills, filled with enthusiasm and bolstered by a desire to succeed. Something happens and you’re unable to continue your sports career. Undergoing physical therapy, trying to make sense of what happened, you overcome bitterness and disappointment and find yourself drawn to a different life path.

Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you vow to use your abilities and intelligence to forge a life worth meaning. In the process, you’re learning lessons that not only enhance your prospects, they also infuse you with renewed determination and motivation.

Making a new recipe, figuring out how to install cabinets in a tight space, learning how to perform household repairs yourself and countless other lessons are the by-product of actually doing something.

This doesn’t take away from the importance of making plans and getting ready to implement them. Far from it. What it does mean is that a willingness to glean as much as you can while you are actively involved in doing will greatly assist you in leading a full and purposeful life.

One that you enjoy. One that you create for yourself and work to fulfill. One that you can readily see benefits from all the lessons you have learned in the process of doing.

 

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September 16, 2016

Fear, Insecurity, Uncertainty = Opportunity

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash

“Embrace fear, insecurity and uncertainty as the doorways of opportunity that they are.” – Jenny Blake

 

What’s holding you back? Are you fearful of an outcome, doubting your abilities, worried about making a mistake? These are normal human emotions that only become problematic when not addressed. Interestingly, it’s when you push past these three emotions that you often see an opportunity.

Without first experiencing the fear of failure, the trepidation of doing something wrong, of failing to deliver on expectations, you might not be amped up enough to take notice of what’s going on around you. Being so caught up in fear, you might be blinded to reality.

When, however, you make the decision to confront your fears, whatever they are, you may find that they’re not as bad as you thought, that you exaggerated their significance or allowed them to stymie your forward momentum. What’s on the other side of fear? Only you can find out. It’s up to you to open your eyes to possibility and that can only be revealed once you move past fear.

Actually, welcome the push that fear provides.

What about feelings of insecurity? How can they be a doorway of opportunity? Consider that everyone compares themselves to someone else. We worry that we’re not as smart or talented or that we lack the right connections. We mistakenly believe that we’re going to be stuck where we are and that what we have might be taken from us. But insecurity has its origins in the same place as fear – and it can provide similar motivation to brush it off and keep moving forward.

Will you be successful in your ventures? Will you achieve your goals? Those butterflies in your stomach signaling uncertainty are excellent fuel to motivate you further.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Use the fear, insecurity and uncertainty you feel today to spur you to action. Opportunity awaits and often springs from these emotions – if you allow it.

 

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September 15, 2016

What Will You Do for Happiness?

Photo by Danielle MacInnes/Unsplash

Photo by Danielle MacInnes/Unsplash

 

“How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness, is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure.” – William James

 

Greeting cards, posters, T-shirts, banners, advertising campaigns, music, TV and movies all proclaim happiness sentiments: “Be happy,” “Happiness is…” and so on. There’s good reason for that. As a species, we’re seemingly hardwired to search for happiness.

In fact, we’ll do almost anything to achieve it, hang onto it, and get it back once it slips away.

The question isn’t whether you’ll engage in the pursuit of happiness, but rather what will you do for happiness?

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this is the lengths to which you will go. Based on conversations with and observations of dear friends, family members, co-workers and those spotlighted in the media, here are just a few things people are prone to do regarding happiness:

  • Deprive themselves of immediate gain for long-term rewards. For example, if you want to own a house and firmly believe that will make you happy, you’ll scrimp and save and keep your eye on the goal. The closer you feel you get to it, the happier you begin to feel.
  • Go for it now, thinking that there’s no time like the present. Ever feel like splurging on a purchase for a material item or an experience in the hope that it will deliver instant happiness? Sometimes spontaneous indulgence does just that, while at other times it seems to push happiness beyond reach. You might think this piece of jewelry or expensive trip will make you happy, but it could have the opposite effect.
  • Put up with unpleasantness, boredom, backstabbing, snide remarks, drudgery and work beneath talents in order to get to the next level, snag that promotion, receive a raise.
  • Have children. While there’s no doubt that children can enrich parent’s lives, the desire to have them because you think that’s the only way you’ll be happy is setting yourself up to be disappointed. It’s not easy raising kids, although the rewards, many parents say, outweigh any sacrifices. It’s also true that the happiness you feel comes in waves, sometimes feels more intense than others, and may be experienced as a nostalgic memory of what used to be.

As humans, we have a right to determine our own destiny, to seek out opportunities to enrich our lives, to bathe in the warm glow of happiness, to share it with others, and to live our lives to the fullest.

There’s enough pain, disappointment and failure in the world already. The other side of those negatives is a set of positives. And happiness is right up there among them.

What have you done to be happy? More to the point, what are you doing today to be happy?

 

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September 14, 2016

3 Resources You Always Have

Photo by Mayur Gala/Unsplash

Photo by Mayur Gala/Unsplash

“Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

Sometimes it’s tough to find what you need. If you’re feeling stressed, you want some relief. If you’re tired, you know you need sleep. Hunger makes you think about satisfying that need.

What about looking for resources when you’re stretched thin, emotionally depleted, overworked, underappreciated, out of time and energy?

You do have a reservoir that you can draw on, though you might not be fully aware of them. These three are love, prayer and forgiveness. And they are very powerful indeed.

When you most need a friend, turn first to yourself. You know yourself best. And you should love yourself more than anyone. Self-love is not to be confused with selfishness. When you love yourself, you’re prizing your goodness, strength, talents, compassion, wisdom – all the things that make you who you are.

But for the times when self-love doesn’t quite do the job, there’s the spiritual uplifting of prayer. Whether you pray to a designated deity or utter a mantra that’s personal to you doesn’t matter. The net effect of prayer is that it takes away current troubles and allows you to dwell in a calmer plane for the time being. That may be all you need to summon your other reserves and resources.

If you’ve beaten yourself up and feel dejected, disheartened, disillusioned and despairing, give yourself the gift of forgiveness. Similarly, be willing to forgive others so that you can get on with your life and erase the burden of carrying the negative emotion you’ve been harboring.

The best part about the three resources of love, prayer and forgiveness is that you always have them available to you. They never go out of fashion, become extinct or lose their value. Treasure them and use them freely, for they will nourish and sustain you at all times.

 

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September 13, 2016

Do Your Own Thing

Photo by Kalen Emsley/Unsplash

Photo by Kalen Emsley/Unsplash

“Your time is limited. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

 

This is right to the point. Time is not only limited, but precious. If you think about using it in pursuit of someone else’s goals or trying to please another by doing what you think they want, you squander this priceless gift.

I’m not inclined to do that.

In fact, what I do wholeheartedly is work to further my own goals.

In other words, I do my own thing.

Now, this doesn’t mean I advocate or do things in a selfish manner. Good manners, respect for others, taking care of my obligations and so forth are all in the mix. It’s just that I make a concerted effort to utilize my talents and strengths to enhance my life, which, in turn, I hope does good for my loved ones, family members, co-workers, friends and others.

Speaking of doing your own thing, the vistas encompassed are vast, indeed. If you give yourself permission to follow your dream, to do what matters most to you, and you put in honest effort in that pursuit, you’ll be satisfied no matter what the result.

You’ll know, for example, that you’ve given it everything you’ve got.

When you succeed at any stage or step of the process, you’ll realize the satisfaction that comes from doing your own thing.

You can see the results of your efforts, and that is so much more validating than achieving someone else’s bullet point.

When you’re going after your own goals, you’re more motivated to learn from your mistakes. Self-improvement takes on a whole new meaning – and it’s a good one.

Now that I’ve gotten your attention, why not take a minute to think about what you’re doing right now to facilitate doing your own thing.

Of course, I’m talking about reaching for the stars, doing what makes you happy, making use of your talents and gifts, finding meaning and purpose and living a full and vibrant life.

That’s why you’re reading this post, right?

OK, then get on with what so inspires you and do your own thing. Time is of the essence and there’s no time like the present to get started living.

 

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September 12, 2016

The Lessons Fear Teaches

Photo by Andreas Rønningen/Unsplash

Photo by Andreas Rønningen/Unsplash

“In every [life] phase, you’ll be confronted with something that scares you. And you have to go into it being as fearless as you can.” – Rebecca Minkoff

 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t much relish being afraid. Yet I’ve experienced quite a lot of fear in my life. What I’ve learned about overcoming fear has as much to do with accident as it does with design.

Let me elaborate.

Crippling fear, the kind that prevents you from interacting with others, that causes you to cringe if someone looks at you, to hide at home so that you won’t encounter a situation you don’t feel you can handle – that kind of fear is life-sapping. It does no one any good.

I’ve been there. If you’ve also been there, keep reading. If you know someone who’s not only been there but may still be there, there’s something here you can share as well. If you’ve never been there, I salute you. But you might still want to keep reading, since fear can sneak up and take anyone unaware.

Just like an earlier post on the benefits of failure, fear has important lessons for each of us to learn:

  • Fear alerts us to possible danger. You need this in order to protect yourself and others.
  • Much fear is self-imposed and not based on reality. The tendency is to wonder what will happen if the most outrageous or impossible happens, yet most fears don’t spring from clear and present danger.
  • You can work yourself into a state of fear – and you can work yourself out of it as well.
  • Sometimes fear is contagious, as when there’s a disease outbreak and you’re understandably afraid that you or your loved ones may be vulnerable.
  • Fear is an emotional reaction to real or imagined circumstances.
  • Physiological responses to fear are common and, although frightening, usually aren’t life-threatening.
  • Overcoming fear requires courage and determination.
  • Careful analysis of what you’re afraid of often helps contain the emotion before it gets out of hand.
  • If you know what you fear, you can come up with an approach to deal with it.
  • Since fear tends to produce paralysis and an unwillingness to take action, you need to react fiercely and fearlessly to get past it.
  • There’s a certain momentum that accompanies the decision to move ahead and past fear. Once you start going, your self-confidence gets a boost from taking positive steps to defeat fear.

How do you train yourself to be fierce and fearless when confronting fear? It takes practice and determination. Once you’ve beaten fear that’s held you captive, you know that you’re capable of this proactive and life-affirming stance.

It’s important to note that being fearless doesn’t mean acting foolishly or recklessly. While you do entertain some risk when attacking fear, it’s a calculated risk that offers greater upside than any downside.

 

 

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September 11, 2016

Never Quit When Life Gets Tough

Photo by Vicenzo di Giorgi/Unsplash

Photo by Vicenzo di Giorgi/Unsplash

When the going gets tough, I'm not always sure what you do. I'm not saying that I know how to fix everything when the going gets tough, but I do know this: when the going goes tough, you don't quit. And you don't fold up. And you don't go in the other direction.” – John Madden

 

What’s your course of action when life throws you a curve ball? Do you quit because the going gets tough, do you crumble under pressure, do you run in the opposite direction?

Or do you keep on going?

The immediate instinct is for self-preservation, which often translates into a desire to escape the problem or difficulty or circumstance that’s unpleasant, confusing, emotional or seemingly without a resolution. While it’s understandable to want to run away from trouble, that’s not how to solve anything. In many cases, the problem’s still going to be there and it’s likely to get worse.

There’s certainly no single solution that works in every situation, but those who encounter failure, mistakes and disappointments know that the only way you ever succeed is to keep on going.

Never quit when life gets tough.

OK, let’s accept this is good advice. How do you implement it when you feel choked up, unable to find your voice, are backed into a corner, confused, angry, alienated, misunderstood or alone? Here are some suggestions that just may help get you moving forward instead of backward or stagnating in one spot.

  • Talk it out. Find one person you can talk with, someone you trust, to discuss your situation or problem in a calm and rational manner. Why is this important? For one thing, you might not have the best perspective. Talking it over with an objective observer may allow you to see things differently. Also, your confidant could offer recommendations that shed light on a possible solution.
  • Make a plan. Getting out of the current circumstance may involve major or minor changes. Status quo won’t do the job. Lay out an approach you deem workable or believe has a good chance of success. Be sure to include alternate scenarios, in case you run into further roadblocks.
  • Be willing to move ahead. This is huge, because the best plan won’t go anywhere unless you’re willing to take the action required to get it off the ground. Naturally, you might have reservations or worry that you won’t succeed. But you’ll never know if you don’t try. Unless you want to forever second-guess yourself and wonder what would have happened if you proceeded, you have to make the decision to move ahead.
  • Remain flexible. Expect that you will encounter some resistance to your plan. If you’ve put together a solid enough plan, you’ll have built in some alternatives. Consider these as bonus options – and don’t be afraid to use them.
  • Keep your eye on the goal. Remind yourself what you’re fighting for. The goal you want to achieve has to be firmly held so that you put sufficient effort into attaining it. In the face of obstacles, sticking steadfast to your goal may be enough to get you over those final hurdles.

 

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September 10, 2016

To Be Happy, Be Like a Tree

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

“Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all.” – Buddha

 

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as a tree. Granted, we know that strength is important, and we hopefully have that in common with a giant tree. Or, one that is deeply rooted even if it’s not a giant.

Some of us feel we lack strength.

But strength can be acquired through determination, practice and the earnest encouragement of others. We know we’re supposed to be capable of withstanding more than we think.

We also know that the buffeting winds of loss and pain, of success and celebrity, of riches and poverty are unpredictable and quixotic. What may strike us leaves the next person untouched.

Maybe taking a lesson from the giant tree isn’t such a bad idea after all. Although a tree doesn’t feel emotions or think, the concept of standing solid and still in the midst of all that swirls around us has a certain appeal. Here’s how we can apply it.

  • When something bad or terrific happens, remain aware, but not overly emotional. In other words, acknowledge and accept, but don’t get hysterical or overreact.
  • Recognize that nothing lasts forever, not wealth or health or stature or pain. This helps minimize the sting or glow of the temporary situation. Gaining a sense of perspective allows you to smooth out the spikes and depths.
  • Feel the sense of strength that comes from being grounded. With roots firmly planted, we have the capability to remain steadfast, not toppled by the winds of destruction or swayed by the seductiveness of a sweet breeze.
  • Along with strength, we know that we’re going to be consistent. We know who we are, we’re grounded, balanced and confident. We can be taken at our word and do what we say.
  • Finally, like the giant tree, we are surrounded by life’s beauty and majesty. We’re here to witness and be part of a wonderful existence.

All of this contributes to happiness.

 

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September 9, 2016

The Value Of Trust

Photo by Caleb Ekeroth/Unsplash

Photo by Caleb Ekeroth/Unsplash

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

 

One of the phrases most likely to earn a scoff, along with “The check’s in the mail,” “I’ll call you,” and “I didn’t cheat” is “Trust me.” Yet, there can be no true interaction or development of a friendship or long-lasting bond without trust.

If you want to trust another person, you have to be ready and willing to do so. While that may seem like a risk – and it is – you’re not going to find out if that person is trustworthy unless and until you trust him or her in the first place.

Sounds a little like putting your hand in the fire to see if you’ll get burned, right?

Maybe not.

Consider that no one knows everything about another person. You don’t know, for example, whether the driver next to you is going to speed up and cut you off at the next corner. You trust that the rules of the road and courtesy will come into play and you’ll both proceed in a safe manner. In essence, you’re trusting that driver and expecting the trust is worthwhile.

You could get burned, as in getting cut off by that driver. But likely not. Trust is also a two-way street here, pun intended. The other driver has to trust that you’ll operate your vehicle in a courteous and safe manner as well. That’s how traffic safety works. Otherwise, chaos would ensue on the roads and highways.

While you give your trust, though, you still maintain your awareness.

What about in interpersonal interactions, such as meeting someone for the first time, striking up a conversation, finding you have some things in common, and taking the preliminary steps toward friendship? How does trust work in this situation?

The foundation of any lasting relationship is trust. Without it, there’s suspicion, second-guessing, failure to tell the truth, holding back, and other forms of subterfuge designed to reveal little about yourself. Even with casual acquaintances, there’s a certain element of trust involved.

Trusting another means you open yourself up to some extent. You’re vulnerable, which may feel uncomfortable. In most cases, your trust turns out to be valid. If it goes the other way, your choices are to put some distance between you and the untrustworthy person, confront that individual, or accept that what that person says and does is not going to be worthy of your trust.

Put succinctly, you trust and remain aware. You’re not suspicious or doubtful, unless you have reason to be, and you’re not ignorant of reality either.

This is a little like the glass half-empty versus the glass half-full. You can be willing to trust others, believing that most people are honorable and decent, or see others as deceitful, manipulative and dishonest. Which would you rather be, the one who is positive about humanity or negative?

Let’s begin with trust. Life is more satisfying that way.

 

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September 8, 2016

Think, Don't Worry

Photo by Christopher Sardegna/Unsplash

Photo by Christopher Sardegna/Unsplash

“When you worry, you go over the same ground endlessly and come out the same place you started. Thinking makes progress from one place to another; worry remains static.” – Harold Bridgewood Walker

 

Of all the negative things you have to deal with in life, worry is one of the least productive. Not only does worry tend to take on a life of its own, it doesn’t get you anywhere.

Here are some other truths:

  • Worry never solves anything.
  • Worry makes you miserable.
  • Worry erodes your confidence in making decisions.
  • Worry takes a toll on your physical and mental health.

Why, then, engage in worry?

While it’s a laudable recommendation to avoid worry, the reality is that sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. We feel inundated and overwhelmed when confronted with a difficult problem or hurdle. We know that we need to arrive at a solution or a workable approach, but we feel anxious, ill-prepared, fearful of failure and unsure of our ability to do the right thing.

Yet, there is an antidote to worry. It’s called thinking.

Suppose you’re worried about how you’ll make ends meet when you lose your job, assuming you have some knowledge that your company is laying off employees, you don’t have much seniority, and are likely one of the first wave to go. Sitting around worrying isn’t going to change the reality of the situation. Mentally going over images of bill collection notices, having the utilities shut off, not being able to afford gas for the car is a waste of time.

What can you do? Sit down and rationally examine your circumstances.

  • Do you have a savings cushion that can tide you over for a short period?
  • Is there a side job you could take?
  • Do you have an interest or hobby that might translate into an income generator?
  • Is your spouse/partner able to work?
  • Do you have family that could help out in an emergency?
  • Is going back to school or undergoing training a possibility to help you land another job?

It’s also important to think about your strengths and capabilities. List the things you’ve done well and were successful at. These are your best attributes, the items on your resume you should highlight. They also help boost your self-confidence at a time when it’s likely depleted.

By thinking, rather than worrying, you’re taking action. You aren’t stewing in the status quo.

Another way to look at it is that thinking is like initiating a strong swimmer’s stride, whereas worry is like treading water. You have a better likelihood of making progress when you initiate action than if you stay where you are mired in worry.

 

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September 7, 2016

You Only Need 1-2 Really Good Friends

Photo by Suhyeon Choi/Unsplash

Photo by Suhyeon Choi/Unsplash

“Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky.” – Brené Brown

 

What’s the best memory you have of friendship? Likely it isn’t the 1,000+ contacts or friends you have on social media. You can’t compare virtual friendship with actual face-to-face interaction and warmth. No, when you think of your best or closest friend, it's more likely to be someone with whom you share values, dreams, lifestyle pursuits, common goals and more.

How many of those friends do you have?

When thinking about the value of true friendship, let’s look at what a really good friend is.

  • A good friend is one who cares deeply about you, will go above and beyond to help you out, will be there in times of need as well as to celebrate successes.
  • Wealth, social stature, personal possessions and other outward forms of success don’t matter to the relationship with a good friend.
  • Time ceases to be relevant in a good friendship, as it doesn’t matter how long ago or how recently the two of you have shared bonds and interests.
  • When you need consoling, support or encouragement, a good friend will freely offer it, knowing that you will reciprocate when necessary.
  • You know you can call a good friend any time of the day or night when you need to.
  • A good friend stands by you when others criticize. Even if you’re wrong, your good friend won’t condemn you, but offer a balanced perspective to help you work your way out of a difficult situation.
  • In the dynamic with a good friend, sometimes you are the stronger one helping to support your friend, while at other times the situation is reversed. Both of you know this and respect and value the mutual bond.
  • Even if you’ve been separated by distance, work or other obligations, or haven’t seen your friend in some time, a good friend is one whom you have no reticence getting back in touch with to reminisce, meet for coffee, arrange a get-together or just chat. A good friendship, therefore, doesn’t end just because life gets in the way.
  • A good friend is the person you can’t wait to share your news with, to check in and say hello, to tell a joke or just to see how he or she is doing today.

It may take years to develop a really good friendship, or it could happen relatively quickly. Circumstance, accessibility and location may play a part in the availability of a person to become a good friend, but more than this, it’s the attitude of the two people that counts most.

If you want to have a really good friend, you have to be willing to be a good friend, with all that entails.

When you are ready and willing to be that person, all you need is a couple of really good friends in your life. Everyone else is either an acquaintance, a neighbor, co-worker, or something else. And, while loved ones and family members can be really good friends, this isn’t always the case. That’s perhaps a different bond, although even loved ones can be among your closest and dearest (and, therefore, really good) friends.

 

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September 6, 2016

Uncomfortable? It's Good For Change

Photo by Pedro Lastra/Unsplash

Photo by Pedro Lastra/Unsplash

“The more uncomfortable something is, the more we know we are driving change.” – Harriet Green

 

The more you hear about change, how change is constant, that you should embrace it, that it inevitably produces something other than the status quo, the more you might feel like running away.

Could that be because the thought of change makes you feel uncomfortable?

Actually, that’s the whole idea.

When you begin something new, whether it’s a different job you take, approaching someone you’d like to get to know, trying a cuisine you’ve never had before, picking up a book and devouring the contents in an effort to gain knowledge, it does feel a little alien. You’re understandably uncomfortable.

That’s a good thing.

If it felt good to just barge into the unknown, there might be a lot more accidents or missteps. You’re not a daredevil, after all. You need good judgement, a solid plan, and a careful weighing of strengths and capabilities before you venture forth.

How does this work in the real world? Here are two sample scenarios.

Scenario #1

Amy, the public relations manager for a small company, was tasked with creating a PR campaign for a new product the company was about to launch. The advertising was all set. Amy just needed to coordinate messages in the “free” arena of PR exposure so that they dovetailed with the ad campaign.

Nervous, knowing her stature in the company was on the line, Amy was a little reluctant to offer some stretch recommendations for getting additional free exposure. She knew from past experience with her previous company that you need to take measured risks in order to achieve results. She put together her presentation and delivered it to the company president.

At first, his reaction was inscrutable. Amy thought her proposal was dead. Then, he smiled and said he’d think about it, that it had some merit, and he’d get back to her the next day. Amy left the materials with him and went back to her office.

Granted, she had taken a risk, going beyond her comfort zone – and, likely that of the company president – but she presented her plan with confidence and authority.

The outcome of this scenario was positive. The company president approved the PR plan, Amy put it into effect, and the resulting free publicity helped boost awareness and recognition in concert with the advertising campaign.

The situation was uncomfortable at the beginning – for Amy and the company president. But pushing past that stage with a solid plan meant driving change.

Scenario #2

Another scenario involves a young married couple with a new baby. The wife feels overwhelmed caring for the infant and misses the personal attention she used to have exclusively with her husband. For his part, the husband feels a little left out of the equation, with his wife spending so much time with the baby – whom he loves dearly.

Definitely an uncomfortable situation. Both husband and wife have issues and concerns. They decide to talk openly about them, feeling their way through the awkwardness by discussing their emotions calmly, respectfully and with love. They reach a compromise where each feels their concerns were attended to and they emerge with a stronger bond and enter a new stage of their lives: parents.

How to get comfortable with the uncomfortable

As for how you move past feeling uncomfortable in order to drive change, here are a few suggestions:

  • Always have a plan first, then move forward.
  • Expect some resistance, but don’t be deterred by it.
  • Consider alternate scenarios and have back-up plans ready.
  • Enlist others supportive of your efforts.
  • Measure results. These will help reinforce the validity of driving the change.
  • Be forward thinking. After this change, what’s next on your list?

 

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September 5, 2016

Treat Yourself To Happiness

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” – Iris Murdoch

 

As someone who loves small treats, this quote really resonates with me. Whether it’s the tiny nibble of a decadent dessert, the first glimpse of the decorated Christmas tree as its lit up, relaxing with a good book or laughing at a well-told joke, a treat I give myself contributes to my happiness.

Some might say I’m easily pleased. That’s a good thing. I find joy in life’s smallest treasures. For me, nothing is too small to count.

But I didn’t come by this realization all at once. It took years of experience, learning from mistakes, close brushes with tragedy and death for me to appreciate the little things – which add up to the big things, as in life itself.

Let’s just say you don’t go for the blowout and expect it to last. While it’s great to have an exhilarating moment, if you think it will be here forever, you’re wrong. Life doesn’t work that way. That’s why it’s important to savor the bite-size moments, the here and now, exquisite experiences of all the senses of sight, touch, sound, taste and smell.

What constitutes a small treat to you? To qualify, it has to have some meaning. Does it make you smile or laugh? Do you treasure the relationship or bond and the expression of your caring or love? Is this a little reward for hard work you’ve put in, solace for not quite achieving a goal, a shared treat with friends, loved ones, co-workers or others?

Looked at in this way, treats can encompass just about anything. It isn’t what the treat is, but what it means to you, how it makes you feel.

Perhaps the bigger issue is your willingness to allow yourself treats in the first place. If you don’t think you deserve them or are somehow being punished, you likely won’t seek them out at all or, if you do, you not permit yourself to fully enjoy them.

Life presents each of us with myriad challenges. The good experiences, the positive moments, the little treats, help us find and experience life’s vibrancy, purpose and happiness.

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September 4, 2016

Connect To What Matters

Photo by Stefanus Martanto Setyo Husodo/Unsplash

Photo by Stefanus Martanto Setyo Husodo/Unsplash

“I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters.” – Oprah Winfrey

 

Are you looking to find meaning and joy in your life but find daily distractions get in the way? Perhaps the key isn’t so much the striving for what you don’t have but a focus on what you do have – and what really matters.

Consider the fact that life is never static; it’s constantly on the move. Whether you learn and grow from experiences or stagnate and continue to make the same mistakes is entirely up to you. Somewhere in the process is a vital step: connecting to what matters. If you can identify who and what matter to you the most, and recognize these individuals and events when you encounter them, you’ll be better able to live your life with an understanding that they are instrumental to your overall well-being and internal peace.

What happens when you’re late for work, the kids are squabbling and you just dropped and broke a dish scrambling to get a meal on the table, you’re worn out and just want to go to sleep, you’ve had a fight with your loved one or a disagreement with a friend? Where is the well-being and internal peace here? Is it lost for the moment? How can you recapture it and weather the distraction, annoyance, problem or issue?

Remind yourself that this latest disruption, as with most things, is temporary. You can get through this by concentrating on doing the best you can in the moment. Remembering what matters and being fully connected to those vital aspects of your life will not only sustain you through rough times, you’ll also be the stronger for the experience.

First, know what matters. Keep this foremost in your mind at all times. Refer to it as necessary. The beauty of connecting to what matters is that this is an ongoing learning experience that builds and sustains well-being and internal peace.

There is no downside to this process. Indeed, life is much richer with connections that matter, whether that’s friends you can rely on and enjoy good and bad times with or a career that motivates and excites you, broadening your horizons through travel, engaging in a relaxing or stimulating hobby, or whatever.

Maximize your joy in life through connection.

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September 3, 2016

Fail Now, Begin Again

Photo by Simon Schmitt/Unsplash

Photo by Simon Schmitt/Unsplash

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” – Henry Ford

 

You’re not going to get everything right all the time. Life just doesn’t work that way. You can be beat up by failure and become stuck where you are or pick apart the failure and learn the lessons it holds.

Then, begin again.

Easy to say, but so hard to do.

First, you have to get past the sting of failure. And it most certainly does hurt. No one enjoys failing, not the first time or the 100th time. Understanding the failure helps mitigate the sting, but doesn’t completely eliminate it right away. Only time will do that.

When the smarting begins to subside a bit, the next step to getting past a misstep (a nicer word for failure) is to figure out where you went wrong. This is a critical step, one that too many people avoid or rush through without careful analysis.

Why put yourself through analyzing your failure? If you want to avoid repeating the same mistake, you have to learn the lessons failure has for you.

Maybe you weren’t as prepared as you thought you were before you embarked on the hot project you were sure would gain favor with the boss. You stood up and said you’d do the job before you had a workable plan. After you failed, the last thing you want to do is go back through your steps to find where the plan faltered. But that’s exactly what you have to do in order to get going again.

Once you’ve figured out the lessons, you need to acknowledge the failure happened and commit to moving on.

The key point here is that you don’t have to go back to the same project, task or endeavor you just failed at. But you do need to work on something. It isn’t what you pick to tackle, but the fact that you’ve learned from your recent failure and are now wiser for the experience.

Such wisdom translates into the following:

  • Looking at the big picture: weighing resources, time constraints, expected outcomes, possible complications, what to do about unexpected challenges, costs, motivation and follow-through.
  • Being willing to commit fully – after you know you are up for the task.
  • Humbly recognizing that you made a mistake and failed – but it won’t stop you from going forward.
  • Acknowledging both your limitations and strengths so that you can formulate a plan of action that’s workable and has a likelihood of success.
  • Changing your mindset to accept that failure isn’t the end, but an opportunity to begin again. You’re just smarter now.

 

So you’ve failed. Time to begin again.

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September 2, 2016

Discover Your Potential

Photo by Cristine Gottardi/Unsplash

Photo by Cristine Gottardi/Unsplash

“Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” – Charles M. Schulz

 

Do you know what you are capable of? Have you tapped into that rich load of potential lately? If not, what’s stopping you? Are you like the bicycle, stuck in only one gear?

Granted, sometimes it’s comfortable to cruise along without exerting too much energy. There’s good scenery to take in, conversation with a fellow bicyclist is easier, and you think you can go farther.

But if you want to find out what you’re made of, you need to do more.

If you want to achieve your dreams, you have to take action.

In order to take action, you have to figure out a plan, marshal your resources, and push beyond your current comfort zone.

Yes, it will sometimes be challenging. And no, it won’t always be successful on the first attempt. But you will learn more about who you are and what your strengths are in the process.

You will also learn that you’re capable of much more than you thought. That alone should come as a revelation.

It should also motivate you to step it up a bit and go for another gear. If, for example, you’re embarking on a steep climb, you’ll need to shift to a lower gear to make the challenge a little less arduous. Heading downhill, upshift to a higher gear. On a flat surface, you may be able to glide.

Say you’ve gotten used to a daily ritual and don’t see any need to change it. In a way, that’s like being stuck in one gear. When a friend invites you to join her in an exercise regimen, your first thought is that you don’t have time. Your second is that you don’t have the energy. What you really mean is you don’t want to do it. But, suppose you challenge yourself to add exercise to your schedule? That’s like using more gears.

What’s this got to do with discovering your potential? For one thing, you realize you can do something you thought you couldn’t. For another, you learn that the exercise helps you become healthier, more filled with energy and motivated to tackle the other things on your agenda. Furthermore, a side benefit is that you think clearer, have more ideas, and get to engage in social interaction.

All this contributes to a deft mining of your potential. The best part is that there’s lots more where that came from.

By the way, today’s bicycles have many more gears available. That’s an even better analogy to life. You’ve got so much more potential to use.

The key is to discover it – and use it well.

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September 1, 2016

Are You Starved For Silence?

Photo by Christopher Campbell--Unsplash

Photo by Christopher Campbell--Unsplash

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude and silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” – C. S. Lewis

 

Listen. What do you hear? Is it a faint hum of white noise, the sound of computer keys tapping, the overhead whine of a helicopter, kids playing outside, someone arguing downstairs, the yard service mowing your lawn? Or, is it silence?

There’s less and less silence all around us. That’s a fact. If you think otherwise, just do this exercise where you are right now. Listen. What do you hear?

If, indeed, you hear nothing, you’re blessed. On the other hand, you can do something to entertain solitude, to prize the sweetness of silence and find yourself some moments of private time.

You have to want this, however. Furthermore, you have to put yourself in the mindset to receive solitude, silence and privacy.

Many find this through meditation. Others engage in prayer, a walk in nature, listening to the sound of their breathing or something else that’s personal and effective.

The truth is that we are surrounded by too much noise. I call it noise pollution. Much of it is repetitious, distracting, even painful to hear. Research has found that noise is associated with sleep disturbance, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment.

We think we’ve become adept at tuning noise out, but it’s there, nonetheless, wreaking havoc on our peace of mind, let alone our desire for a little peace and quiet.

As for true friendship, that’s another aspect of a vibrant and purposeful life. What’s better than sitting with a good friend and saying nothing at all? Just being together is a joy. No words need be said. That’s not only true friendship, it’s also a terrific way to enjoy silence.

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August 31, 2016

To Get What You Want, Stop Wanting It

Photo by Ales Krivec/Unsplash

Photo by Ales Krivec/Unsplash

“As soon as you stop wanting something you get it. I’ve found that to be absolutely axiomatic.” – Andy Warhol

 

It sounds crazy, but can it be true? Can you really get what you want simply by letting go of the want? And if it is true, why aren’t more people taking heed?

We are, by nature, filled with wants. We want to be rich, famous, to snag that promotion, win the affections of a certain other, have our kids respect us, move to a bigger house, have a nicer car, and so on. We want to lose 10 or 20 pounds, get our nose straightened, have a clearer complexion, do something different with our hair or wardrobe. We want to have more friends, to tell a joke effectively, to be the go-to person for advice, to be considered the wisest, smartest, most admired person in the room.

How can we get these wants by stopping our wanting them?

I don’t have all the answers, but I can come up with a few reasons why this may work.

Take the example of Thomas Edison. He definitely wanted to invent a number of devices – and did. Before he was successful, however, he experienced countless failures. He didn’t allow failure to dim his enthusiasm; he kept on.

Isn’t that the same as wanting, you might ask?

Look at it from this perspective. He was motivated by his desire to create, to invent, to find solutions to problems and offer new ideas others would find useful. He lived in the moment, fueled by his insatiable curiosity, propelled by his genius. It wasn’t the success he was after. He enjoyed what he was doing while he was actively involved in it.

After so many failures, he achieved success. He had stopped wanting it and then got it.

Here’s another example that may be more relatable. After all, Thomas Edison lived a long time ago and most of us aren’t inventors. But we do have relationships. We have experienced the heartache and pain of wanting someone we care about to reciprocate.

Maybe we’ve learned that being too bold and persistent scares off the person we’re seeking to attract. If we backed off, took a more laid-back approach, and stopped wanting love so desperately, we may have been surprised by the result. We got what we wanted when we stopped wanting it.

It may not have been with that person, but it happened with someone else. The outcome is the same.

This approach is certainly worth considering the next time we think of something we truly want. But there’s one more point worth making. While you stop wanting something, you don’t stop working toward it.

  • You still need a plan, a strategy, a workable approach.
  • You still need to take action to achieve goals. That’s following through with a reasoned plan.
  • Just be in the present as you put forth the effort. Instead of wanting the result and fixating on getting it, do your best in the here and now.

The less you think about wanting the want, the quicker you’ll get what you want.

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August 30, 2016

Seize Opportunity

Photo by Denny Luan-Unsplash

Photo by Denny Luan-Unsplash

“There is nothing like knowing you have a real opportunity to affect the future in a positive way.” – Tisha Johnson

 

If the old saying is true that opportunity knocks, the question is, do you recognize opportunity when it presents itself? Furthermore, are you ready and willing to do something about it when it does? Frankly, many a person can relate examples of times when a good thing came along and they failed to take advantage of it. Sometimes that was due to laziness or inattention, being too involved in other duties or projects. More often than not, however, a certain complacency had set in which prevented the person from being able to know opportunity was available.

On the other hand, take a look at what happens when you do see and recognize an opportunity. First, there’s an element of interest. You want to know more about it to gauge whether or not this is something worth your time. Second, after a cursory review of the available facts further ignites your interest, you start to get motivated. You begin to envision what and where this opportunity may take you. This spurs you on to the next step, which is taking action.

This doesn’t mean that you jump in blindly, not knowing more particulars. It does, however, mean that you make a conscious decision to do something, to act upon the opportunity and turn it to your advantage. You could, for example, conduct research, line up allies or ask for assistance to complete the project or task, knowing that it requires a coordinated effort. This is still taking action, still seizing the opportunity. You could also draft an action plan to follow, with the key intent that you won’t flail about without direction. This is also taking action and seizing the opportunity.

Without opportunity, what kind of a future will you have? With opportunity, imagine the possibilities. In fact, that’s what hope is all about. You can dream and see yourself succeeding in this endeavor, project, activity or pursuit. You’re energized and excited about the prospect and can’t wait to dive in. The fact that you’ll have to work hard and long doesn’t deter you. It may even motivate you more.

When you can see your future as affected by this opportunity and the actions you take, it makes life that much more worth living. You have a purpose and direction. You know what you want – or at least what you want now. The outcome may lead you to discover yet more exciting new opportunities that you can seize to make your life richer, more fulfilled and productive.

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August 29, 2016

Your Enthusiasm Can Inspire Others

Photo by Joshua Earle, Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle, Unsplash

“Do something wonderful. Other people may imitate it.” – Albert Schweitzer

 

It isn’t every day that you feel like you’ve done something wonderful. Frankly, some days it’s a chore just to make it through the daylight (or evening) hours without coming undone. Maybe it’s that you’ve got too much you’ve signed up to do, or insisted on doing yourself, for whatever reasons. No wonder you wind up feeling exhausted and like you haven’t even scratched the surface, let alone completed what you set out to.

Where in all this is the magic that allows you to actually do something that you could classify as wonderful? The truth is that each of us possesses this ability, but few of us recognize we have it or use it to its fullest. How can you get started? While there aren’t any tricks to this, it may help to realize that you do get better over time. The most important part of doing something wonderful is to do what gets you jazzed and excited.

When you’re completely focused on doing something you enjoy, for example, time seems to fly. You don’t notice the small roadblocks or mind that it may be taking a little longer than you anticipated. As long as you can see you’re making some incremental progress, your enthusiasm keeps you motivated, determined to see it through and proud when you do.

Here’s where it gets a little mystical. Others can see how enthusiastic you are – about cutting the lawn, baking a green apple pie, clapping in appreciation of your daughter’s dance recital or your son throwing a touchdown – and become inspired enough to do the same. They note what a difference your enthusiasm makes in your physical countenance – your beaming smile, your erect posture, your hearty laugh – and can’t help but be affected.

Call it the contagion effect. It really does work. Even if people aren’t totally transformed by seeing your enthusiasm, it will not go unnoticed. They may be dealing with troubles that don’t permit them at this time to share your sense of optimism and good cheer. But they do see it. It does have an impact. They will remember what you did and how it seemed to lift you up. They just might try to imitate this sense of well-being later on.

In any event, whether you inspire others to imitate your enthusiasm or you just relish how good it makes you feel, there’s no downside to doing something wonderful. As an added benefit, when you pursue what truly motivates and inspires you, the horizon keeps moving forward to allow you to glimpse even more exciting possibilities.

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August 28, 2016

Biggest Secret of Change

Photo by Jeremy Thomas

Photo by Jeremy Thomas

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

 

I find it interesting that one of the most effective – and, likely, the biggest – secret of change is one that’s been around for thousands of years. In fact, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said it best when he advocated building on the new.

While everyone wants to succeed, some are unwilling to let go of reminders of past failures or get past current less-than-stellar outcomes of tasks or projects initiated. Instead, many get bogged down trying to rewrite the past. What isn’t comprehended or appreciated is that you can’t do anything about what’s already done.

But you can strongly influence what happens now.

If there’s a goal that you find highly desirable, meaning that you will exert every effort in order to achieve it, then you will have a greater likelihood of success. This also means, however, that you’ll need to make some changes in pursuit of that goal. Using the same strategy that didn’t work before isn’t going to get you what you want.

Why do we resist building on the new? Why do we cling to the past, trying to rationalize, deny or minimize what went wrong or our part in it? One word applies here: familiarity. We know the past all too well. We’re actually intimately acquainted with it, so much so that we would often rather soak in its misery than put our feet on a different path forward.

How do you get started building on the new? Here are some tips:

  • Identify a key goal.
  • Craft a strategy to accomplish the goal.
  • Map out a plan, including step-by-step actions to take.
  • Set a timeline for goal achievement.
  • Begin working on the goal.
  • Revise the plan as necessary, incorporating new developments, knowledge, skills and resources.
  • Remain flexible.
  • Maintain a hopeful attitude.
  • Be willing to work hard and refuse to give up in the face of challenges and problems.
  • Celebrate success when you do achieve it. This is the best motivator for continued change and additional success.

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August 27, 2016

Happiness Is Harmony

Photo by Neill Kumar

Photo by Neill Kumar

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Living in harmony is a pleasant thought. Too bad so many of us don’t seem to be able to pull this off. Yet is it really that difficult? Can you teach or train yourself to feel a sense of stasis or harmony? It might actually be easier than you think. But first, you need to let go of some preconceived notions.

For example, if you think that happiness and harmony are two words that don’t belong together, let alone be part of your life, that’s a notion you need to dispel right now. You are going to project and make happen what you most convincingly believe. If you think that misery and failure are your lot in life, that’s exactly what you’ll experience. On the other hand, if you envision a more positive future, the actions you take will be motivated by this hopeful outlook. The results may not always be successful, but you’ll be more fulfilled by your efforts when they are driven by a positive attitude.

Suppose you think you’re not good at anything and therefore don’t deserve to be happy? This is another misconception that ruins many people’s lives when they take it as irrevocable. If you’ve done something awful, you should be upset with yourself for the time being. Rectify what you did, if at all possible, and then move on. Don’t continue to beat yourself up over it. After all, you can’t go back and make it all go away. The only sensible course of action is to change your behavior, having learned a painful lesson, and try to do better.

What if your life is a lot of making amends? Where’s the time and space to be happy when you’re trying to make up for past misdeeds or failures? You might find inspiration and peace in prayer or meditation, for there is none among us who is free from fault, grievous or minor.

Everyone needs to be able to come to terms with their past, own responsibility for their actions, past, present and future, and do the best they can with the gifts they’ve been given. While you are making amends and changing your behavior to be more positive, selfless and healthy, also allow yourself some small moments of pleasure, savoring how good it is to be alive and have the opportunity to live life on your own terms.

Dissonance creates conflict and that robs you of harmony. Strive to have accord in your thoughts, actions and words. Do what you say and say what you do. Eliminate negative thoughts by acknowledging their presence and allowing them to dissipate. Look for the positive in all situations and in all people, for it is there.

When thoughts, words and actions flow from the same source, they and you are in harmony. And harmony leads to happiness.

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August 26, 2016

Are You Ready For the Unexpected?

Photo by Julia Caesar-Norway

Photo by Julia Caesar-Norway

“Life is short. Live it well.” – Suzanne Kane

Life has a way of delivering the unexpected – often at the most seemingly tranquil times. A perfect example of this is the unfortunate – but, thankfully, not permanently serious – accident suffered by Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder. Sir Richard was bicycling with his two children, Holly and Sam, on the Caribbean island of Virgin Gorda. The activity was part of his training for the upcoming Virgin Stride Challenge.

Headed downhill towards Leverick Bay, he hit a “sleeping policeman hump” – what most of us call a speed bump – in the road, hurtled headlong over the bikes handlebars and onto the concrete while his bike catapulted over the cliff.

“My life was literally flashing before my eyes,” he posted on the Virgin website, adding that “I really thought I was going to die.”

Fortunately, he managed to escape death and suffered a cracked cheek and cuts and bruises to his knee, chin, shoulder and body.

While I know we all wish Sir Richard a speedy recovery, what this incident points out is just how much life can be changed by the unexpected.

It magnifies the importance of living life well, never taking anything for granted, doing the best we can at all times and maintaining hope despite any and all mishaps, slips, failures or lost opportunities.

There is no guarantee of anything in life except one: It will one day end. Accepting this doesn’t mean resignation or hopelessness. It shouldn’t cause sadness or pain. Like the flowers in the field, the birds and animals and all living things, there is a time to live and a time to die. It’s what we do in the present that counts.

We can live life to the fullest, maximizing our enjoyment of its riches, helping others to realize their potential, working to achieve our own dreams and being grateful for each day we have on this earth.

It isn’t possible to predict the unexpected, but it is possible to be prepared to meet whatever happens. Live life with purpose. Live it vibrantly and with passion. Strive to do good in the world, to see the best in others and to find the best in ourselves.

Life is indeed short. Do live it well.

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August 25, 2016

The Grass is Always Green in a Good Field of Work

Photo by Elijah Hail

Photo by Elijah Hail

“A good field is one in which you don’t mind even the least interesting part of your job.” – Will Shortz

 

Unless you’re incredibly rich or have access to unlimited means, you’ll have to work for a living. But work, far from being the boring and dreaded task many regard it as, can be the best part of your day – or, one of the best ones. Going home to your loved ones, engaging in pastimes and pursuits you really enjoy qualify also.

How do you go from dreading work to looking forward to what each day there brings?

It helps to pick the right field of work to begin with.

Naturally, this isn’t always easy. It’s not automatic either. And it often won’t be the first, second or even later jobs you take.

Maybe job isn’t the appropriate word here. Career is a better one. When you embark on a career, you come with a sense of enthusiasm and motivation. What others view as challenges; you see as opportunities. When disappointments occur, you figure out ways to overcome them or find new avenues to pursue.

Take the field of medicine and the career of an orthopedic surgeon. Granted, this is a small percent of the population, but the analogy works. The doctor has put in many years of study, residency and practice to get to this point. He or she is able to use talents and skills to make the lives of those suffering better. Beyond repairing herniated discs and spinal stenosis, to name just two diagnoses, the surgeon mends lives, gives hope and mobility to patients who may have lost both.

Unless the surgeon has burned out from overwork, stress, poor lifestyle and/or his or her own medical condition, each day offers something new and challenging – even if it’s only filling out paperwork. The latter, by the way, is generally considered the least interesting part of any job.

Suppose you’re in an entry-level job and the one you really want is not going to be available for the foreseeable future? In this case, it’s important to keep your eye on the goal. See everything you do as a steppingstone to the career you desire. Network, pursue further education in the field, find ways to advance your career incrementally. Regard each small success as bright green blades of grass beginning to fill in the field.

When you do achieve your chosen career position and find yourself in that good field, you’ll already have prepared yourself by sowing strong and enduring seeds along the way.

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August 24, 2016

You Already Have What You Need

Photo by Rachael Crowe

Photo by Rachael Crowe

“You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already hanging around your neck.” – Rumi

 

We are, it seems, a nation of searchers, always looking for something else, something better, something to make us more than we think we are. Could it be that we can’t appreciate the talents, strengths and gifts we already possess?

The truth is that each of us already has what we need. If there’s any doubt about this, consider that we have the basics. We can see, taste, touch, smell and hear. We do more than just survive. We thrive. We have everything we need to live – and then some.

Inherent abilities – some that we know about, others we have yet to discover – characterize our uniqueness. While we may not have tested our capabilities, we can and do rise to the occasion when necessity or opportunities arise.

Do we sometimes forget that we’ve figured out solutions to difficult problems before, or that we’re incredibly adept at modifying approaches to achieve desirable outcomes? Of course we do. Everyone does. This doesn’t mean that we don’t find ourselves in a quandary when the unexpected appears and temporarily stops us in our tracks.

We might, indeed, wander from room to room in search of that thing we know we had somewhere but misplaced. Instead of taking a moment to assess the situation, to marshal our resources, to comb through the file cabinets in our minds to arrive at a workable plan, we might succumb to the feelings of anxiety and worry that we can’t deal with what’s happening.

Nonsense. Before going off on a tangent, spinning needlessly and getting nowhere, consider your strengths, abilities, history of successes. Also recollect how many times you’ve been able to recover and overcome hurdles and challenges, even those seemingly insurmountable.

This determination, ingenuity, resourcefulness and intelligence comes from within. It’s as if these traits are a diamond necklace already hanging around your neck. Keep mindful of their existence and make full use of them, for they will always serve you well.

In other words, you already have what you need. You just need to use it.

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August 23, 2016

You Can Reach the Stars

Photo by Greg Rakozy

Photo by Greg Rakozy

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” – Pliny the Elder

 

Plunged into the darkness of failure, despair and pain is not a place anyone wants to be. Yet many of us find ourselves wandering through a labyrinth of shadows at one time or another. We fear that we’ll never climb out, never be able to escape the darkness, uncertainty and hopelessness.

Life, however, offers infinite opportunities to elevate ourselves, to inch up and out step by step and scale difficulties we never thought possible.

It doesn’t seem like it when we’re down at the bottom, but the stars are entirely reachable.

Not easy to achieve, but doable – with a great deal of effort, determination and hope.

Sometimes the depths constitute being labeled or considered a failure, or when nothing attempted ever seems to result in success, when tragedy strikes, when a sense of helplessness and hopelessness sets in and is cemented by resignation.

Anyone who’s felt such pain knows exactly what I’m talking about. It feels like it lasts forever. You’re certain no one else understands, despite what they say in an attempt to encourage you.

There is a way out of the pit. A stairway will appear, even if it’s only visible in your mind, the method and means of which you create to claw and hoist yourself upwards.

The stars you aspire to reach are figuratively within the realm of possibility. For some in perhaps a distant future, that could be literally true.

For now, if despair and depression are a constant burden, seek professional help to overcome these negative and life-sapping emotions. Surround yourself with people who are optimistic, support your desire to change and form the base of a solid network you can rely on. Commit to making progress and work on doing so diligently. You will see results with such a strategy.

As for intermittent residence in the plane of shadows and darkness, you must have hope. That’s the beacon that will illuminate the path upward toward the stars.

Remember, even in total darkness the stars are there. What you hope to achieve may be barely discernible now, but the motivation to get there will propel you forward.

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August 22, 2016

What's Good About a Well-Timed Pivot

Photo by Jordan Ladikos

Photo by Jordan Ladikos

“Sometimes knowing when something is not working and pivoting to something new leads to our greatest opportunities and successes.” – Kristina Saffran

 

You instinctively know when something isn’t right, when it stops working or fails to work at all. The natural tendency is to give it more time, to let it evolve, to smooth out or some such euphemism.

Maybe when you know something isn’t working, that’s the best time to go in a different direction.

In politics, this is known as a pivot. We’re hearing quite a bit about that these days. Actually, the specifics around the pivot aren’t as important as the underlying concept: A pivot, when well-timed, can make all the difference in the world.

  • It can lead to success.
  • It can clarify a policy or marketing campaign or target audience.
  • It can eliminate confusion.
  • It can solidify support.
  • It can attract new customers, users and advocates.

In business, in personal relationships and everyday interactions, knowing that you’ve reached a point where something isn’t working is a seminal moment. You’re at the stage where you can’t go on doing what you’ve been doing, yet you are rightfully a little worried about making a change.

Change isn’t easy. Almost never does change come without some angst, doubt and hesitation.

But nothing good ever came from just waiting around, existing in the status quo, fearing change and refusing to do something different, something new.

That’s exactly what the pivot does for you – when you do it at the right time.

The wrong time is to change your mind, backtrack on your promises, mouth statements you don’t believe in quixotically, at random, without careful thought.

A well-timed pivot takes into account the knowledge of what didn’t work, recognizes opportunity in perhaps taking a different course of action and being committed to seeing the change through.

In other words, don’t be weak or indecisive when you make the decision to pivot.

Analyze the situation, weigh the pros and cons of the proposed action or change, marshal your talking points to reinforce your position – and go for it.

Here’s an example of a well-timed pivot in business.

Andy B., the marketing manager at a startup software company, gets the dismal sales results following the latest online campaign he initiated. Stunned, he immediately feels threatened and wants to justify the time and resources he spent on the failed campaign. He knows his boss won’t be pleased. Andy was hired for his expertise and this clearly is no indication of his strengths.

Instead of a stubborn insistence on the rightness of his strategy, Andy dives deep into the specifics of what went wrong. He informs his boss that he’ll have a new strategy in three days – and lives up to that commitment.

Based on his analysis, Andy determines that key messages to the company’s intended audience got lost in the last campaign. He goes back to the reasons the software is superior to the competition, why consumers should care and what it does to make their lives easier, more secure and reliable. He sketches out the new campaign, enlists his team to fine-tune some of the points, and together they present the idea to the boss.

Will this pivot work? Does the boss see the benefit of trying something new? While it will take some time to see the results, the renewed enthusiasm and solid support from the boss and Andy’s team show great promise.

This is what’s good about a well-timed pivot. It isn’t for the timid, but it is effective.

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August 21, 2016

How Much Do You Want to Succeed?

Photo by Joel Herzog

Photo by Joel Herzog

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” – Og Mandingo

 

Does this sound familiar? We talk a good game, expressing our desire to go after a goal, only to fall back and fail to take the actions necessary in order to achieve it? Many times talk is cheap, yet we still keep spouting nonsense. Are we trying to impress others or ourselves?

More important, do we even want success? Or is it just the politically correct statement to make?

What really matters isn’t what others think. Who cares in the long run if we have a lengthy or lofty list of goals we either do or don’t achieve? Frankly, most people are more concerned with what’s in their own backyard than ours. While they may offer tepid or even encouraging comments about our proposed or stated goals, they aren’t the ones to go after them. We are.

The only question that we should be asking ourselves is how much we want to succeed. If the answer is we want it with every fiber of our being, then the road ahead is clear. We need to exert whatever effort, take as long as necessary, and persist despite any and all obstacles in pursuit of the desired outcome.

This doesn’t have anything to do with how complex or difficult or seemingly impossible the goal seems. It does have everything to do with our determination to succeed no matter what happens along the way.

Expect obstacles. Have a plan in place to deal with the unexpected, the problems that occur, the disappointments experienced as well as interim achievements. Don’t get cocky and refuse to be defeated. Ask yourself how much this means to you to succeed. Do you really want the success or are you just mouthing the words to sound good?

Effort equals determination. The more effort you exert, the more determined you are. This doesn’t mean strength, as in pushing a boulder uphill on a slippery slope. Although the determination to elevate that boulder does count as effort. Again, not strength, but determination. Or, better yet, strength of determination.

How much do you want to succeed?

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August 20, 2016

Acknowledge the Joy in Your Life

Photo by Roksolana Zasiadko

Photo by Roksolana Zasiadko

“If my world were to cave in tomorrow, I would look back on all the pleasures, excitements and worthwhileness I have been lucky enough to have had. Not the sadness or my miscarriages or my father leaving home, but the joy of everything else. It will have been enough.” – Audrey Hepburn

 

When something unexpected, painful, sad or disastrous happens, the natural tendency is to wonder why. The thoughts race through our minds, asking, “Why me? Why now? What did I do to deserve this?” When there is only silence and no answer, we often become numb, trying to outlast the emotion, hoping it will be of short duration.

Sometimes we turn to alcohol or drugs to ease the pain, get us past the awful situation we’ve just experienced, been witness to or worse, caused.

We forget – or fail to appreciate – that there are many very good things in our life for which we should be grateful.

Positive experiences, loving relationships, wonderful and satisfying memories are the ingredients for a rich and fulfilling life. They aren’t without bittersweet moments, however, but that makes the all the more rewarding.

Indeed, recalling what’s right and good about life can help soothe the pain, sadness and disappointment of a recent hurt, failure or bad decision. And it does so organically, helping the spirit rebound, energies to return, motivation to again build.

What no one should experience at the end of their life is a feeling of profound regret. Looking back then at all the missed opportunities to make the most of our talents and strengths, to follow our dreams and realize the sweetness of accomplishment comes too late to do anything about it.

Now, however, there is time. Whatever the downside of life you’ve gone through, there’s always its polar opposite: joy and goodness. Find those treasured moments, savor them as much as a delectable meal or an exquisite kiss, for they are what enriches and fulfills you – especially in times of uncertainty, sadness and pain.

Acknowledge the joy in your life. It will be enough to sustain you and lift you up at the same time.

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August 19, 2016

How to be Present

Photo by Amy Treasure

Photo by Amy Treasure

“Just remain in the center watching and then forget that you are there.” – Lao Tzu

 

You hear a lot lately about being present, living in the here and now, being aware and appreciative of life. But how do you actually do that, be present?

It’s not as difficult as you think.

Begin by noticing your breathing. Listen to your breath going in and out. It helps to take a few deep breaths, so you get used to hearing the sound. Do this – the breathing and becoming aware of your breath going in and out – for a few minutes. Then open your eyes (if you’ve had them closed) and look around you.

See what’s in front of you. Watch what’s going on in the world. Don’t try to judge or form opinions. Just watch.

Imagine yourself in a field of brilliantly colored wildflowers. You’re lying on the earth looking up at the sky. You see birds flying overhead. You feel the brush of the flower stems as they gently touch the bare skin on your arms. You notice the ladybug that perches on your hand and seems to stare back at you.

You’re in the center watching. That’s the start of learning how to be present.

Now that you know how to watch, forget that you’re even there. Just continue to watch and take in all that you see.

This is being present. It’s a wonderful exercise to not only ground you, but also to help you take full advantage of the here and now.

Remember, this moment will vanish in an instant. The only time you have is now. Be present.

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August 18, 2016

Sometimes We All Need a Kick in the Butt

Photo by Brooke Cagle

Photo by Brooke Cagle

“The human body has two ends on it: one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens they need a kick in the seat of the pants.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

Come on, admit it. You’ve made a few mistakes you wanted to kick your backside for, right? We’ve all been there. The point is, what do you do about it after the fact?

For many, myself included, the realization that we’ve made a mistake is a definite disappointment. While there are times when our slips come at us when we’re completely unaware of what we’ve done wrong, other times we secretly know that the direction we’re headed is putting us on a collision course to failure.

Strike that last word. Nothing is ever a complete failure as long as we learn a valuable lesson from it.

Still, pulling ourselves up and facing the truth of our actions requires a certain amount of courage and humility. These two are not mutually exclusive, nor are they necessarily easy to come by.

For one thing, it’s never easy to acknowledge the error of your ways. It’s also tough to be humble enough to accept we’ve done something stupid, ill-thought out, or just plain wrong.

That’s what the other end of the human body is for. We have a brain that allows us to fashion workable solutions, create innovative approaches and design brilliant strategies for plan implementation.

It doesn’t matter if what we’re trying to rectify is a selfish preoccupation with our immediate wants as opposed to tending to everyday family needs or something more serious involving career, relationships, health, financial well-being and more. That self-realization that we need to make a change in behavior and start doing things differently now begins with a metaphorical swift kick in the butt, self-delivered, of course.

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August 17, 2016

Be Happy

Photo by Morgan Sessions

Photo by Morgan Sessions

“If you want to be happy, be.” – Leo Tolstoy

 

It sounds too simple. Yet the truth is that we often sabotage our own desire to be happy. It isn’t that we aim to do so, but we rationalize or deny our worthiness to be happy, as if there’s something inherently wrong with us.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone deserves to be happy. We just need to allow ourselves to be.

Consider that we spend inordinate amounts of time in pursuit of things that matter little in life. They consume time, yet contribute negligible results. Case in point: our insatiable reliance upon social media. Now, being an active participant in social media does have its merits, but many people have taken that to extremes. The result is that their lives are less meaningful and more complicated that necessary. Far from finding peace and being happy, those who can’t wrench themselves from their social networking – even for a while – are often dissatisfied.

I’m the first one who will admit to getting tangled in the myriad messages, likes, posts and such on social networks, especially LinkedIn, which I use for business purposes, but also Facebook and Google+. Frankly, in today’s fast-paced world of instant communications and always-on accessibility, you have to be connected in order to survive and thrive.

But that’s not what I call happiness. I am happy, not because of things or connections (although these are both nice), but because I choose to be.

Life is rich, immensely diverse, offering countless opportunities to learn and discover or rediscover that which we find truly rewarding. It isn’t how much money we have in the bank or the number of cars in our driveway. It is, however, more about the intangibles: relationships, meaning and purpose, generosity, kindness, love and curiosity.

The alternative to being happy is something we’ve all experienced. I’d much rather consider myself happy than think of myself as miserable. Not that I haven’t experienced misery. I think we all have. But a fixation on what’s wrong will never make it right, or pleasant or delightful. Rather, see what’s positive and possible and go after it. Use your strengths and talents. Broaden your horizons. Instead of the glass half-empty, see it as half-full.

There’s much more to life that problems we encounter. Indeed, problems should only intensify our desire to play up that which is wholesome, satisfying, rewarding and good.

In order to be happy, be…happy being.

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August 16, 2016

Overcoming Doubt

Photo by Danka & Peter

Photo by Danka & Peter

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” – Khalil Gibran

 

Insecurity is born of doubt. Everyone experiences doubt, some more so than others. Doubt can cripple forward momentum, cause you to shy away from interaction with others, crush your hopes and magnify your misery and pain.

In fact, doubt is one of the loneliest emotions you can go through. It is so lonely that it sees no hope for change.

Yet alongside doubt, perhaps in a kind of mirror image, yet a polar opposite, rests faith.

With faith, all things seem possible. There is no closed end to possibilities, nor dashed hopes or quashed dreams. If you believe you can, you will find a way. If you harbor faith at all times, even in the deepest hour of difficulty, you will be bolstered with courage, armed with determination and fortified with self-confidence.

Can you turn doubt into faith, should doubt be what you struggle with most? The answer is a definite yes, although it will take practice, reminding yourself that you have strengths, have managed to succeed when you doubted your abilities before, and will be able to do so again.

It’s also worth noting that a mantra of “I have faith in my abilities” will help reinforce the belief in yourself. You don’t have to know you can do it. You just have to believe you can – and put forth the effort necessary to see the task, project, endeavor or activity through.

Do not think that it will be easy to overcome doubt. Like other powerful emotions, doubt has deep tentacles that stubbornly refuse to disentangle.

But doubt never met a force stronger than faith – unless, of course, it’s love, another life-affirming and overwhelmingly positive force to be reckoned with.

Combining faith and love, there’s absolutely no way doubt can maintain its stronghold on you.

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August 15, 2016

Go With Your Hunches

Photo by Linnea Sandbakk

Photo by Linnea Sandbakk

“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” – Joyce Brothers

 

When you encounter a situation and need to make a decision, often the instinctive thought that comes to mind turns out to be right. That instinct, a hunch, isn’t random. Your mind culls through myriad facts in thousands of different categories and presents a possible solution in a seemingly instantaneous fashion.

Acting upon this information is going with your hunches, otherwise known as trusting your gut.

Where relying upon your gut instinct gets a bad rap is when that turns out to be wrong. But how often is that true? Isn’t it more likely that rationalization and denial set in, or that memory deliberately misleads? After all, who wants to admit making a wrong decision?

It’s often said that in a multiple-choice test question, the answer that immediately pops into your mind is the correct one. When you weigh and balance all options and go with something else, then find out your first instinct was the right one, don’t you want to kick yourself in the backside?

I know I’ve done this on almost every pop quiz or important test I’ve ever taken. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Extrapolating this to life in general, does it still hold true? Consider a situation where you have to make a decision that could be life-altering. Your vehicle breaks down in a remote area during a winter blizzard. Worse, you don’t have any signal on your cell phone, so you can’t call for help. Your gut tells you that you should remain in your vehicle with the doors locked. But you panic and get out to look for help. That panic maneuver could cost you your life. By remaining in your vehicle, going with your hunch, you’ll at least stay safe until help eventually arrives.

Think about the facts:

  • Hyperthermia can set in within 10 to 15 minutes when outside temperatures are below freezing.
  • You can become disoriented and quickly get lost.
  • If you leave the vehicle, rescuers won’t know where to look for you.
  • If you stay in the vehicle, rescuers will eventually find you.
  • If you keep a survival kit in the car (blanket, flashlight, water, snacks, fruit and handwarmers), you’ll be able to stay warm and keep your core temperature warm.

A run-through of the known facts should be enough to convince you to go with your gut, to trust your hunches and remain safe.

What about a situation at work where you feel uneasy about a co-worker you think is trying to sabotage your chances at promotion? You’re both up for the same position and are on the same team. You’ve seen instances before of this person taking credit for things he didn’t do and don’t particularly trust him. Your hunch is that this pattern of bad behavior will continue and that you need to maintain your distance.

You’ve got the facts to support your hunch. He’s acted badly before, shows evasiveness, shades the truth, takes the easy way out, and badmouths you to others. Your hunch that he doesn’t have your best interests at heart is a solid one. Go with it. Steer clear of this individual, keep your head down (but remain alert) and do your job the best you can.

Remember, you always have a choice. When deciding which course of action to take, consider your hunches first. This might help you avoid leaping to the wrong conclusion.

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August 14, 2016

Love More, Judge Less

Photo by Greg Rakosy

Photo by Greg Rakosy

“The more one judges, the less one loves.” – Honore de Balzac

 

Being harshly critical of another starts with a contradictory thought that often leads to a verbal unleashing. While it’s fine to have your point of view, the way to get along with others – and to be persuasive in getting your thoughts across – is to do so in a less judgmental and more loving manner.

This doesn’t mean that you have to act like a saint or can’t be direct and decisive. It’s all about how you come across.

Furthermore, when you always pick apart the ideas and statements of others, they begin to regard you as someone to be avoided at all costs. No longer do they want to share what they’re thinking with you, and for good reason. Who wants to be challenged, argued with, made to feel bad? Maybe, if you really want to switch things around, you might consider thinking first about how your words will be received, and modifying them accordingly.

This, believe it or not, is a way to behave in a loving manner. It isn’t love in the romantic sense, but love in the human sense: compassionate, understanding, respectful and sensitive.

If you want to know what it feels like to be the recipient of judgement, hearing harsh words, think back to a time when, as a child, you incurred the anger of a parent over something you’d done. Maybe you opened everyone’s Christmas presents before they got up. Maybe you broke your mom’s favorite platter or stole money from your dad’s wallet to buy candy or a videogame. Under the torrent of angry words, you likely shivered in fear, shame and regret. You probably never committed that action again.

On the other hand, if your parent took you aside and calmly explained the reason your actions were not appropriate, and then instituted a punishment that was not out of line with the infraction (no corporal punishment, to be sure), you likely learned the lesson that it isn’t necessary to shout and demean in order to get a point across. Acting with love is much more effective.

Loving more also means that you give the other person the benefit of the doubt before leaping to conclusions. You do this in a reasoned manner, not being blind to the facts or inclined to wield an excessive use of power to extract revenge, eke out punishment or impose penalties.

In interpersonal relations, such as those between a man and a woman seeking to make a life together, angry words are not conducive to a long-term commitment. When you act out of love, everything changes. You’re more forgiving, kind and generous of spirit. The feeling becomes mutual more often than not.

The next time you find yourself judging another, call a time out. Take a step back and figure out what it is that you find so upsetting. Maybe it’s something you can do something about, maybe not. But do approach resolving or confronting it in a more compassionate, sensitive and respectful manner. In other words, act with love, not judgment.

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August 13, 2016

How to Have Abundance in Your Life

Photo by Jeremy Thomas

Photo by Jeremy Thomas

“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.” – Wayne Dyer

 

Everyone wants to have good things in their life. It’s not enough to be able to count on past successes. In order to feel truly alive, it’s necessary to experience satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment each and every day.

This does not mean that everything is always going to be perfect or that you’ll fully realize your goals each day, only that you feel the pride of putting forth your best efforts in pursuit of the outcome you seek.

Perhaps the best words of advice ever given are to do what you love. When you are working at a job or project or undertaking a task that interests you a great deal, it’s much less like work and more a labor of love. Consider the fact that when you’re excited about doing something, the time seems to pass very quickly. Before you know it, the day is over. You’ve been so engrossed in your task that you barely noticed. That’s the kind of excitement that tells you there’s abundance in your life.

Yet it’s often the little things that bring the most joy.

  • You can feel abundance by walking in nature and marveling at the awesome majesty at your feet. You didn’t create it, or do anything to cause it to change. It just is, right there for you to gaze at and experience – without paying any price to do so.
  • Abundance in life is also manifested in everyday interactions. When you greet others with a smile and a kind word, you’re likely to receive the same in return. This is human communication, the highest form of interaction. Feeling blessed by the ability to live and interact freely with others is a form of abundance that is rarely appreciated, but so very much valued.

If, however, you feel oppressed in your current job or situation, figure out what it is that most excites you, something you’re passionate about and willing to pursue despite any and all obstacles. If not your permanent job, do something of interest in your free time. This may one day translate into a full-time position, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll have the delicious experience of being able to participate in the activity when and where you choose.

Note that abundance does not mean wealth. You can have all the money in the world and be impoverished in spirit. That’s not abundance, just accumulation of material riches. To be rich in spirit and joy, that’s abundance. And you can have it by beginning to do what you love. If you search for it, you will find something to galvanize your spirit and fill you with boundless energy and excitement. Once you experience abundance in doing what you love, you’ll never settle for anything less.

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August 12, 2016

From Enemy to Friend

Photo by Krista Mangulsone

Photo by Krista Mangulsone

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” – Martin Luther King

 

It sounds impossible. If you have an enemy, how can that person ever become a friend? This isn’t turning the other cheek that we’re familiar with from the Bible, but close. Still, something about it seems rather difficult.

Maybe not.

Consider politics – even if you don’t like certain politicians because of party loyalty, personal convictions or personalities. In the political arena, opponents are considered enemies – until they’re not. Often, as in the case of the aftermath of political primaries, former enemies form alliances, endorse their previous opponent, even are named to positions within the potential administration.

Enemies turn into friends, at least, friends of an arm’s length sort. They probably won’t be erstwhile friends, those you turn to in your most dire need, but friends in contrast to enemies.

What has this to do with love? Just that it takes a bigger person to overlook enmity, to see the individual underneath the swagger and braggadocio, to separate the rhetoric from the underlying facts.

Or goodness, in the case of many.

Think about the bully on the playground, how he or she pesters and torments another kid, usually someone smaller, different, more vulnerable. If the targeted child continues to cower and show fear, the aggressive behavior on the part of the bully is likely to continue. Standing up for him or herself, however, doesn’t always take the form of physical fighting. Sometimes, just a direct look – a nonthreatening, but unafraid look – will turn things in the opposite direction.

This isn’t advocating that anyone act in a foolish manner, putting themselves or others at avoidable risk. It’s just an illustration that enemies can become something other than that, if not a friend, at least a non-enemy.

What about the co-worker you’ve competed with for a task, coveted assignment or promotion? During the contest, you see that individual as you enemy, someone to beat. After you or he wins, however, you have the option of continuing your adversarial stance, adopting a kind of truce, or joining forces to advance.

You might even become friends.

This isn’t love in the romantic sense. It is love in the human sense. We all do better together than when we fight each other needlessly.

To transform an enemy into a friend requires one person to step forward and initiate the change. That’s often propelled by love, the kind of human emotion that forgives all slights, looks past harsh statements and aggressive actions and finds common bond.

It’s also part of what resonates so strongly in Jesus’ statement during the Sermon on the Mount: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Even if you’re not particularly religious, it’s possible to see the wisdom in those words. Turning an enemy into a friend is actually how humanity learned how to survive and become the dominant species.

Think about that the next time someone cuts you off on the freeway. Instead of reacting, just let them go.

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August 11, 2016

The Hidden Benefits of Laughter

Photo by Priscilla Westra

Photo by Priscilla Westra

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

 

Most of us enjoy a good laugh. Whether we escape our troubles watching a half-hour sit-com on TV or take in a comedy at the Cineplex, or trade jokes with our friends, it feels good to find the humor in everyday situations.

Laughter has so much more in store for us than we know. Here’s a look at some of the hidden benefits of laughter.

  • Laughing helps boost your heart rate – especially when you combine it with exercise.
  • A study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore found that laughter may help prevent a heart attack.
  • Getting more oxygen into your tissues when you laugh changes you physiologically. Muscles stretch not only in your face, but also your entire body.
  • Just 10-15 minutes of laughter burns about 50 calories. That’s not imagination talking. A researcher from Vanderbilt University found this result from a small study. Think about it. After a short period of belly laughs, don’t you feel lighter?
  • When you laugh, it lowers blood sugar levels.
  • Immune response may improve with laughter, according to some studies which show that using humor may raise the body’s infection-fighting antibodies as well as boost the levels of immune cells.
  • You’ll feel more relaxed and sleep better after a bout of laughing.
  • Since laughter is social, many of the benefits may come from being closer with family and friends.
  • Laughter, says Psychology Today, restores (or establishes) a positive emotional climate and sense of connection between two people.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter helps relieve stress and soothe tension.
  • The more you laugh, the more you may extend your longevity. This isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Comedy legend Norman Lear, who turned 94 in July 2016, says in an article in The Huffington Post that his longevity is due to not only laughter, but the amount of laughter he’s enjoyed in his life.

Let’s see. Laughter makes you feel and look better, helps reduce stress and soothe tension, aids in sleep, makes you more relaxed, helps strengthen bonds with loved ones, family and friends. What’s not to love about laughter?

Check out a comedy or crack a few jokes with friends today. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.

 

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August 10, 2016

Spirituality -- A Search for the Truth

Photo by Christopher Campbell

Photo by Christopher Campbell

“Spirituality is a brave search for the truth about existence, fearlessly peering into the mysterious nature of life.” – Elizabeth Lesser

 

Maybe you don’t regard yourself as a spiritual person. Yet you do think about how mysterious life is and wonder where and how you fit in. This is a clue that you do possess spirituality – it’s just not linked to any particular religious belief. On the other hand, you can practice religion on a perfunctory basis and not be spiritual at all. Spirituality, then, is independent of religion and wholly integrated within the person.

Think about how the mountains formed, the incredible forces required to initiate and complete their transformation from subterranean depths to edifices rising high above the earth. There is a deep mystery in this process, one that surely ignites a curiosity and wonder about it all. Where is the truth behind the creation of these mountains? Is it purely nature? Does it have something to do with a force beyond nature, perhaps even a Higher Power?

Searching for the truth about human existence and, indeed, everything in our world, requires a bold and fearless willingness to peer into the unknown, to question and pursue what is real and true without adhering to outdated beliefs or misconceptions.

In this, there is a certain amount of life-affirming power. That’s because you accept, without being blind, that there are things as yet unknown that are nonetheless true. How this all comes about may be as mysterious as the truth you seek, yet the rewards are definitely worthwhile.

Life is what you make of it, that much is certain. It isn’t going to be handed to you without any work or effort. That’s not the way life goes. Pursuing lofty goals, going after seemingly-unreachable challenges and putting everything you’ve got into it is a workable way to search for truth – and to find your own innate spirituality.

Maybe your truth involves overcoming preconceived notions and a dysfunctional family dynamic so that you can experience self-fulfillment, hope and contentment. This, too, is a way of tapping into your spirituality.

There are many roads to spirituality, yet each and every one of them involves a search for the truth. What is your truth? Are you willing to search for it? Are you ready to benefit from the richness of human spirituality?

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August 9, 2016

Fear is a Thief

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Fear is a sneaky thief, stealing away precious moments of your life.” – Elizabeth Lesser

 

Who among us hasn’t experienced fear? If we’re in touch with our inner selves, we know right away when that negative emotion starts clutching at our hearts. It’s a feeling of coldness, one that sneaks up and grabs hold for dear life. You can try sloughing it off, but that’s not always easy. You can tell yourself this too shall pass – but not really believe it. The truth is, however, that fear can be overcome. Here are some tips on how to get past it.

  • Acknowledge that the emotion you feel is fear. This is the first step in getting past it. You have to be able to recognize fear for what it is so that it cannot claim power over you, shutting down your ability to live a normal life.
  • Have effective coping strategies handy. In order to do something to combat fear, it’s helpful to have a list of strategies and techniques that have worked well for you in the past in overcoming this destructive emotion. That’s because when fear takes hold is no time to be searching about for a solution. You need these ready. Keep them on a written list so they’re always available.
  • Remember that fear will control you only if you allow it. You are the one in control. You make the decisions. Decide now that fear has no place in your power structure. Only you have the power. Exercise it.
  • Constantly revise your list of goals. When you have things you’re looking forward to doing and have a plan how to get started, you’ll be less likely to succumb to fear. It’s normal to be a little apprehensive when starting something new, and referring to your goals is a good way to reinforce your commitment to them. It helps motivate you to overcome any and all hurdles you may encounter – including fear.
  • Seek support from your network. You’re not the only person who’s ever experienced the paralysis that fear can produce. Talk with those you know and trust in your network to see how they handle fear. Just having their support and encouragement can go a long way toward you being able to move past fear.
  • Acknowledge you’re not perfect. Perfectionism can really get in the way of pursuing goals. When you feel like you’re not quite there, this can prompt feelings of fear. By acknowledging that you’re not perfect you take the wind out of fear’s sails. This gives you the breathing room you need to continue on, without letting fear control you or reduce your dreams and goals to dust.

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August 8, 2016

Find Opportunity from Frustration

Photo by Kamesh Vedula

Photo by Kamesh Vedula

“Finding something frustrating and seeing an opportunity to make it better is what entrepreneurship is all about.” – Richard Branson

 

Maybe you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur. That’s fine. But you do experience frustration, don’t you? Haven’t we all? There’s a secret gem hidden within every frustrating situation we encounter, though, and that is an opportunity.

Sounds like a stretch, I know. But bear with me for a moment. You’ll see the wisdom of the concept shortly.

Take an Olympic swimmer – or a child trying to swim laps for the first time. The principle is the same: coaxing maximum effort for maximum gain. It can be frustrating for the champion athlete and the beginner to see others making gains while he or she falls behind. Yet the opportunity to excel is there. Finding that extra energy to push beyond is within reach. All that remains is to go for the gold.

At work, you’re stymied by a problem you can’t seem to solve. You rack your brain and urge yourself to be creative, only to come up blank. Worse, you know your boss is waiting for the answer he expects you to give. You pound the desk in frustration, as if that could provide the solution. Then you laugh at your childish antics. Out of nowhere comes a thought how to get past the dilemma. Your mind, freed momentarily of its frustration, combed through its file cabinets to arrive at a potential way through the problem.

The kids are making a racket in the other room while you’re trying to get something done. You think about yelling at them to get them to quiet down, then realize that they’re just being kids. You take a break and join them for a round of tag or some other game to let everyone blow off steam. When you return to your task, it’s as if a lightbulb went off in your head. You’re full of energy, thoughts come flying fast and furious, and you dive into work with anticipation and resolve.

We’re all entrepreneurs at heart. It sometimes just takes a little frustration to make this fact evident. What a great way to turn a negative into a positive.

And it doesn’t cost a cent.

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August 7, 2016

Live in the Present

Photo by Alex Blăjan

Photo by Alex Blăjan

“Do not anxiously hope for what is not yet to come; do not vainly regret what is already past.” – Chinese proverb

 

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to remain in the present. Life is messy and it seems to throw at us all kinds of distractions to deter us from a focus on the here and now.

There are reminders of past misdeeds that cause sadness or pain – or reinforce a commitment to behavior that we’ve worked so hard to change. There are worries over the future that bring us anxious moments and cause us to obsess over whether we’re doing the right thing or not.

No wonder it’s so difficult to see the opportunities that are right in front of us, to celebrate the relationships with those we care about, to concentrate on doing the best job we can at this moment, and to be fully present in the here and now.

Anxiety, sadness, pain, worry, regret, doubt and confusion – these are the tentacles that seek to ensnare us, to divert our attention from this time we’ve got in the present to make a difference. It may help to remember that we cannot change the past, as much as we might like to. We also can’t wish the future here and thus be past the necessity to take action now that might pave the way for the future we want.

It’s only now that we have to do what must be done, what we want to do, and what we should do. There’s no time to wallow in self-pity, to wail and lament that we’ve been wronged or got a bad deal. There’s also little time or benefit in allowing a pit of anxiety to eat away at us and rob us of the motivation to keep pushing forward with worthwhile goals.

In order to achieve anything worthwhile, we need to take action. Wishing and hoping have their place, if they serve to motivate us into action. Feeling sorry for ourselves, rationalizing our inactivity do not have anything useful to offer – so let those negative emotions and thoughts go.

What happens when you live in the present?

  • You see what’s right in front of you – if you keep your eyes open and are willing to see.
  • You’re able to carry on an earnest conversation with another human being – if you stay in the present, listen more than you speak, and remain involved in what the other person is saying.
  • In other words, you can do this if you stay in the present and actively participate in the exchange.
  • You can see opportunities, take action where warranted or desired, and effect change – in the present.

You can’t change what happened before and whatever is going to happen tomorrow isn’t yet here.

All you have is now, here, today, this moment. Live in the present to really live. There is no other way.

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August 6, 2016

What Ties Us Together

Photo by Frances Gunn

Photo by Frances Gunn

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

A lot is written about how far apart we are from each other, how distinct and separate we’ve become, divided in our loyalties, antagonistic in our emotions, querulous in conversation, alienated, estranged and dismissed in relationships.

Yet we’re all human. We have that in common. That’s at least a start to find common bonds.

But there’s more to it than that. We’re all bound together by invisible threads, an underlying consciousness that’s purely human and cannot be denied.

It doesn’t matter what religion, if any, we practice. Nor does the color of our skin, the circumstances under which we grew up, how much money we have in the bank, our age, health, intelligence or anything else.

In fact, if we were to look upon the earth from far out in space, seeing it as a tiny ball, we’d begin to realize how we’re closer together than farther apart.

We’re all in this together.

We can do something to mend the fractures in society, to right the wrongs, to end the strife, to lift others up while strongly encouraging that they stand on their own two feet and exert an effort.

Whether political debate or an earnest family conversation, discourse can be conducted with respect and consideration. There’s no need for name calling or unearthing dirt. That’s just base behavior, not something anyone should espouse or tolerate.

The ties that bind us together – like the invisible web of the spider – are stronger and more durable than the buffeting winds that seek to destroy them.

Embrace what ties us together in humanity. This is integral to who we are: hopeful, purposeful, compassionate, energetic, generous, forgiving and determined to succeed.

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August 5, 2016

Develop Your Skills with Work

Photo by RhondaK-Native Florida folk artist

Photo by RhondaK-Native Florida folk artist

“Skill is only developed by hours and hours of work.” – Usain Bolt

 

Despite the notion that some people are born to it, skill takes effort, repetition, determination and a vision. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work for it.

Not only that, but to become skillful requires that you put in many hours of work.

Can’t some people come by skills easier? That may be true, but even the most skillful among us has to discover an ability, nurture a desire to become better, and put in the work necessary to achieve that level of mastery.

In other words, even if you lean towards painting, woodworking, architecture, stock predictions, mountain climbing, playing football, or whatever, there are no shortcuts to greatness.

That may come as a blow to those looking for the easy way forward. Sorry. It doesn’t quite happen that fast.

There are, however, tricks that can help ease the pain of so much work. For one thing, stop thinking of it as work and regard it as fun. When you enjoy doing something, it isn’t a burden. You look forward to doing it and often find that time passes unnoticed while you’re actively involved.

Seeing the fruit of your effort – your passion – should also spur motivation, reinforce your commitment and make the goal seem all that more attainable.

After all, if something is worth doing, it’s not only worth doing well, it’s also worth doing again and again until you master the skill you desire.

Bottom line: If you want to develop your skills, you have to work for it. In this case, work is not a four-letter word to be avoided, but one to embrace. Good results come to those who are willing to work for them.

 

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August 4, 2016

How to Conquer Fear

Photo by Artem Verbo

Photo by Artem Verbo

“Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” – Dale Carnegie

 

What do you fear most? Is it terrorism, bankruptcy, your spouse or partner leaving you, suddenly learning you have an incurable disease, becoming the victim of a mugging or violent crime? Maybe it’s not anything you can put your finger on, just a vague sense of anxiety that doesn’t quit.

For most people, fear isn’t something that controls them, but it does tend to prevent them from doing certain things that may help them overcome it.

You can live in fear of the unknown, worry endlessly about someone trying to take your job or that the boss will fire you for incompetence, be fearful of talking to that individual you’d really like to get to know – or you can do something about this negative emotion that keeps you stuck in neutral.

If you’re afraid a co-worker will take your job, acknowledge that fear and then do the very best you can in every project, task or activity you undertake at work. Be an extrovert and go out of your way to be amiable, helpful and respectful of others. Give praise when it’s due and accept it when given. Show by your example that you are not only worthy of your position; you can also do more. This helps you power through your fear, master it and move on. Your boss will also notice the change in your attitude as well as your results.

Reticent about striking up a conversation with someone because you’re scared he or she will reject you? If that’s the worst fear you have, face it head-on and approach the individual with a smile and a hello. Who knows? Maybe that person has felt an inclination to talk with you but didn’t know how to go about it. Maybe he or she is already involved with someone or married, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. If nothing else, you might become friends. Nothing wrong with friendship. We all need friends.

Do you fear being alone? The remedy for this is to be with other people. Join a club or group. Begin a walking routine that puts you in contact with other walkers on the route. Start a hobby, take a class, take your laptop to the local coffee shop and hang out there for a while. Being in the proximity of others is exposing yourself to a different environment instead of holing up at home by yourself.

As for conversation starters, practice a few one-liners in front of a mirror so you get comfortable saying them. Sports, the weather, celebrating a holiday, the kids, talking about an obvious interest, such as running, if the person is in running gear – these are all good source material. Smile, make eye contact (without staring) and take in a deep breath before you start talking. You’ll be in a conversation before you know it.

One example from my own experience is a fear of water. I nearly drowned twice, once in the Gulf of Mexico and one time in Kauai. The waves snuck up on me and I was sucked in and drawn out with the undertow. Having mouth-to-mouth resuscitation two times left me with a paralyzing fear of the water. I refused to go out on a boat (it’s still not my favorite summertime activity), never went in the water without a buddy, and steered clear of snorkeling.

The only way I overcame my fear was to acknowledge it and take action. I signed up for snorkeling lessons after buying gear. The lessons were in a safe place, a local YWCA. I learned the proper technique, safety precautions, and how to always be with a buddy. That was prior to a trip to the Cayman Islands where I went snorkeling several times. I can’t say I wasn’t a bit frightened, but I knew what to do and how to get help if I needed it. I powered through the fear with training, common sense and the confidence I could do it.

Whatever your fear, don’t allow it to take over your life. If anxiety becomes too intense or you find yourself suffering panic attacks, professional counseling can help you overcome those debilitating fears.

 

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August 3, 2016

Beware These Happiness Disturbers

Photo by Samsommer

Photo by Samsommer

“The disturbers of happiness are our desires, our griefs, and our fears.” – Samuel Johnson

 

When it comes to being happy, allowing happiness into our lives, it doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes we have to make a conscious decision to get past three powerful emotions that seek to rob us of experiencing happiness.

These are desires – which can also be part of what we determine to be happiness, griefs – which no one associates with happiness, and fears – which everyone has, but many refuse to acknowledge.

The question becomes, how do you be on point to a) recognize and b) get past desires, griefs and fears so that you can feel the full benefit of happiness?

  • It takes being mindful.
  • It takes effort.
  • It requires practice.
  • It means forgiving yourself.
  • It also necessitates giving yourself permission to be happy.

Given everything that happens during the course of a day, expect that you will be assaulted with conflicting emotions, unplanned for situations, the presentation of problems you’re supposed to solve, dealing with outbursts and pushback from others who are experiencing their own problems, reminders of past mistakes and failures, and worries about your future performance, finances, family situation, personal relationships and more.

The key to getting past any strong emotion that zaps happiness is to first acknowledge its presence. There’s no sense denying that seeing a bank statement that shows zero in your accounts isn’t painful. It is. But you’ll never get past that if you don’t see the reality of the situation and make action plans to overcome it.

Similarly, if you run into a former lover or a now-distant friend at a gathering, in the market, in line at the coffee shop, the flicker of pain you feel can be something you dwell on and suffer with or you can accept the brief painful reminder of the past and move on.

Don’t let happiness disturbers keep you from experiencing joy.

It also helps to remember that you are not your past. You live in the present. You’re also not yet in the future. That will come about as a result of what you do today.

Be mindful of what’s happening now. This is the only reality. And it’s a priceless opportunity to be grateful, vibrant, fulfilled and happy.

Take it.

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August 2, 2016

Change Your Attitude

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string that we have, and that is our attitude.” – Charles R. Swindoll

 

When things go wrong, it’s all too easy to blame the other guy. He or she is the one responsible, not us. That’s not only shortsighted, it’s wrong. And it doesn’t do anything to change things. If anything, such an attitude only makes the situation worse.

What we can do – what we always have the opportunity to do – is choose to change our attitude. Looking at the glass half full is always better than looking at it as half empty.

Here are a few examples to illustrate:

  • You fail miserably at a project that you were counting on to help you get a promotion. Instead of taking ownership of the failure, however, you convince yourself you were sabotaged in your efforts. That’s a dead-end line of thinking. Here’s what may turn things around. See the reality of where you took shortcuts, didn’t allow sufficient time or line up adequate resources. Once you acknowledge where you went awry, you can learn from your mistakes. While it may not help you with the promotion this time, you are setting in motion good habits that will help you succeed down the line.
  • Growing up disadvantaged or having suffered a traumatic experience has left you bitter, disillusioned and miserable. The fact that you can’t change the past hasn’t done anything for you, though, since you’re still unhappy. You can live the rest of your life looking in the rearview mirror and telling yourself how bad off you are or you can adopt a change of attitude right now. Acknowledge your “history” that’s over and done with – and let it go. Commit to finding new ways to succeed and enjoy life in the present. See what’s possible and go for it, giving it your full effort. Life will be so much richer.
  • Suppose you’ve always wanted to be a professional dancer, but you keep tripping over your own feet. While yearning for the limelight in that career will likely elude you forever, what you’re overlooking are your other stellar traits. You might, for example, be a whiz with computers or an exceptionally talented chef. Instead of obsessing over something you lack or can’t have, take advantage of the talents and abilities you do have and show yourself how far you can go with them.

What these three examples all have in common is that they can change with the adoption of a change in attitude. Remember, it’s always your choice how to see life, what to do and how to do it. Others may influence your decisions, but it’s you who ultimately makes the choice.

And your attitude can make all the difference in the outcome.

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August 1, 2016

Cats and the Art of Zen

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats.” – Eckhart Tolle

 

I absolutely love this quote by Eckhart Tolle. As a cat lover (and former caretaker of – you can’t own cats – several felines), I am ceaselessly amazed at how easily and naturally cats exhibit grace and achieve serenity.

They don’t need a special mat or music or particular conditions in order to achieve Zen. With a stretch and a yawn or two, they just close their eyes and drift off into bliss.

How I’ve practiced emulating their habit – sometimes with a bit of success, other times less so. Still, I do like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two from my cat companions.

For one thing, I know they take life as it is. We can all benefit from remembering that.

For another, there’s nothing like a good stretch to get the kinks out and make you more limber. That’s always good for after a Zen session.

Also, just being with or near a peacefully Zenned-out cat is relaxing and restorative. At least, I’ve always found this to be true.

If you’re not a cat lover, fear not. You don’t need to be in order to glean the wisdom from watching them – even from afar. Who doesn’t love the YouTube videos of cats and their antics? When they’re finished playing, eating, doing their business, hunting and being curious, they naturally form the pose – and go into their Zen mode.

Whether you practice meditation or deep breathing exercises or some other form of relaxation, think like a cat and go Zen.

It’s easier than you think.

And it feels wonderful.

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July 31, 2016

Are You Listening?

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” – Majaya Sati Bhagavati

 

Many of us don’t consider ourselves particularly spiritual, or cognizant of the soul on a daily basis. I know I tend to get wrapped up in what’s going on and neglect to calm the noise inside my mind at times. Yet the incredible power that the soul exerts does draw me in mysterious ways. It’s at times like this that I realize just how immensely rewarding the words of the soul truly are.

Let’s call it our inner voice – the one so deep inside that it’s not perturbed or dissuaded at all by the commotion going on in our heads. By giving it such a name, those who turn away at the thought of spirituality can perhaps entertain the idea of listening to what it has to say.

What will you hear? Should you be worried, feel like you’re being chastised, don’t want to be reminded that you’ve done something you shouldn’t? What about getting a much-needed boost of encouragement, solace for pain, acknowledgement that you are, indeed, a good person?

You may very well hear all of these things – and much more. Keep in mind that the soul, being independent of all that chaos and bother of everyday life, is a rich and enduring internal resource for renewal, forgiveness, hope and love. As such, it’s always available to tap into.

To begin this process, set aside 15 minutes to a half hour to clear your mind of distraction. Turn off phones, go to your room and shut the door, no television or radio or anything else that will tempt you back into the outside world.

Close your eyes if that helps you quiet the mind. Eyeshades may also help, especially if they’re the soothing gel type or a cool cloth placed over your eyes.

Expect to be flooded at first with all sorts of thoughts – what you need to do next, whether the kids are behaving, if you still have time to go to the store, what you’ll make for dinner, you forgot to take the laundry out of the dryer, and so on.

Acknowledge the thoughts and let them disperse. And they will. Gradually, all that noise will be replaced with a calmness, like a rushing river that slows to a gentle undulation.

That’s when your soul will speak. It may not be loud, but it will be there. As you practice the exercise of quieting your mind, the words your soul has to say will be easier to discern.

You’ll even be able to listen at other times of quiet, even when you’re not deliberately trying to disperse the tumult of your mind.

Are you listening?

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July 30, 2016

Follow Your Passion

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography

“Passion is the genesis of genius.” – Galileo

 

If you want to succeed and reap all the benefits of a life fulfilled, you must follow your passion.

Passion is unlike any other human emotion, yet it infuses many of the most sublime. These include love, curiosity, sadness, commitment, diligence, perseverance, empathy, compassion and imagination.

  • When you can’t go on any longer, passion can help see you through.
  • If you feel the faint glimmer of interest, passion can further ignite it to a roaring blaze.
  • Should you experience disappointment and loss, passion can restore your self-confidence and hope.
  • Passion can be overlooked, neglected and abandoned, yet it will bounce back with the least bit of encouragement.
  • When you wonder what’s beyond the next curve, a passion to discover will propel you forward.
  • Mistakes, errors and downright failure are no match for pure passion. The determination to find a solution, figure out the problem and overcome the difficulty is bolstered by passion.

How else do the world’s greatest discoveries come to light? If not for passion, the world and its occupants would be far less interesting, motivated or exciting.

Besides, passion makes the heart race, suffuses your cheeks with color and erases fatigue and boredom.

And that’s not just physical passion. Although it’s probably the easiest way to get a mental picture of what it’s like to experience passion.

In fact, passion is possible everywhere and anywhere and for anyone. From the loftiest ideal to the least likely, passion makes life vibrant and filled with purpose.

Each of us harbors a secret passion. Maybe we’ve allowed it to rest undisturbed for far too long, out of a mistaken belief that we were too busy to let it loose, or that we didn’t deserve to follow it.

Now’s the time to dust off the cobwebs of that passion and follow it wherever it takes us.

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July 29, 2016

Be Kind

Photo by Jay Ruzesky

Photo by Jay Ruzesky

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama

 

Do you regard yourself as a kind person? You don’t have to be sappy about being kind in order to display kindness. Gushing all over someone isn’t kindness, but phony. Being generous of spirit is how you’re kind: it emanates from you and radiates to all those with whom you come into contact.

What we often forget is that we always have a choice how to act. We are the only ones who make the decision about what we’ll do in a given situation. Others may attempt to influence us, some successfully, others not. But in the end, only we make the final choice.

Therefore, we can choose to go for the kind act, the kind word, the kind thought.

That’s not to say we won’t be tempted at times to let fly with words that are decidedly unkind. When something or someone angers us, for example, it can be tough to curb our tongue to avoid saying something nasty. Thinking about what we’re going to say before we actually say it is one effective way to prevent making this mistake.

How many times have you said something and instantly regretted it? You can’t take back your words, so that should be enough to give you pause. Others waiting for an answer or trying to interpret how you’ll react will think you’re giving the issue, situation or conversation some thought. That’s not a bad thing. Conversations need breathing space. The time between words is used for reflection.

But getting back to being kind and making choices, there’s always a more charitable – aka kind – way to act.

Suppose you’ve just been cut off in the coffee line by someone who’s rushed past you through the door. You could say, “Hey, I was first.” Or, you could just smile and graciously allow the interloper to go ahead of you. After all, he or she may need the coffee more than you do.

If you lose out on a promotion to a co-worker, you could stew over the injustice of it all or be a bigger person and congratulate your fellow worker. Your time will come, but for now, acknowledging another’s success with grace is the kind and appropriate behavior. Yes, it probably still stings (and stinks) that you didn’t get the promotion, but displaying your kindness will help you get over it sooner.

After a long-running argument with your spouse or significant other, things may have gotten beyond tense. This can’t go on much longer without significant adverse consequences. Neither of you want that to happen, but it’s gotten to a point where neither wants to give. Take the plunge. Make a kind gesture. Say something nice. Offer to see things his or her way – at least halfway. The result of your peace offering may astound you. Again, it is always possible to be kind.

Show some kindness today. Make it a habit so that you do it every day.

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July 28, 2016

Reach Out and Take Someone's Hand

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Sometimes reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” – Vera Nazarian

 

If you are averse to having other people touch you, you won’t like this advice. But for the rest of us, perhaps the best and easiest way to begin a journey is to reach out and take another person’s hand.

Or let them take yours.

What happens is instant connection, a bonding between two humans. It isn’t even necessary that you like that person. The important thing is that you get outside of yourself and your immediate concerns and offer your hand in friendship, welcome, thanks or solidarity.

Children in kindergarten are fond of forming a circle and holding hands, singing, playing Ring Around the Rosie or some other game. They’re not self-conscious or overly concerned about grasping another child’s hand. Even if there’s been a playground fight, the teacher can generally convince the kids to overcome their differences and join hands in play.

Whether extending one’s hand or allowing one’s hand to be held, the end result is the same: the beginning of a journey.

It could be play, as in the example of the kindergarten children. It could be at a concert where everyone sings along with the performer on stage. You might see this at a prayer breakfast or in a church. Who isn’t familiar with holding hands around the table and saying grace before a meal – especially a Thanksgiving Day feast or other holiday or special occasion?

How about when you’re experiencing profound sadness, loss, pain or disappointment? You want to hide, not be in the company of others, right? That’s not going to help. What often does bring comfort, however, is when someone takes your hand and simply holds it gently.

So simple, so gracious, so loving – and so very effective.

You may not realize the benefits immediately, although you may begin to feel a bit less lonely, sad or disconnected. No words need be spoken for this to work. All it takes is the willingness to allow it to happen – to give and receive the warmth of human kindness and connection.

Let the journey begin. Reach out and take someone’s hand today.

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July 27, 2016

The Benefits of Failure

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.” – Roger Von Oech

 

Nobody likes to think of failure as a good thing. That’s too bad, because failure holds some incredibly valuable lessons for those who choose to examine it closely.

The most obvious benefit of having suffered a failure is that you definitely know what didn’t work – at least this time and in this set of circumstances. Will the same approach work another time? If you take the time to carefully analyzed exactly what happened and how your actions either contributed to the failure or helped doom the success, you might be able to modify or revise the technique for another time.

An example of learning what didn’t work can be derived from looking at why you weren’t able to complete a big work project on time.

  • Maybe you thought you could sail through the process at the last minute and therefore didn’t allow enough time to do the job right.
  • Perhaps you required more resources that you forgot to or intentionally didn’t obtain.
  • You might have needed the assistance of others, but neglected to ask until it was too late.

Whether arrogance, over-confidence, short-sightedness or improper time management, the lessons you should be learning from this failure can prove beneficial in the long run. At least you’ll know what not to do.

The second obvious benefit of failure is that after you’ve experienced it you have the opportunity to do something new.

Suppose you just got dumped by your significant other. This feels like a very painful failure in an important relationship. Besides being crushed, you might undergo sadness, depression, feel angry, want revenge, become jealous of the attention others pay to your now-ex-partner.

How can this failure be beneficial? If you take the time you need to figure out where you might have gone astray in the relationship you might be rather surprised to learn there are things that you can do better the next time you’re in a similar relationship – or trying to make one work.

  • Perhaps you talk more than you listen. Learning how to listen to others without trying to interrupt to offer your opinion is something you could try.
  • If you always think of yourself first, factor in how your partner feels and start doing things with him or her in mind instead of your own interests. It doesn’t have to be every time, but acting in the best interests of others on a somewhat regular basis will be much more endearing than being selfish ever will.

What if your failure stems from an emotional problem or need? If you are too clingy, that will drive away someone who needs their own space. If you are fearful of becoming too vulnerable, you risk not being open enough. A good relationship requires trust and feeling free to express yourself and be heard without criticism. It’s a two-way street. You need to be vulnerable and respect the vulnerability of your partner.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that failure is never permanent. There are always going to be lessons to learn from mistakes and opportunities to try different approaches the next time.

Don’t regard failure as characterizing who you are. You are not a failure; you’ve just made some mistakes. It’s what you do about them from now on that matters most. Failure does have its benefits – as long as you use them.

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July 26, 2016

The Soul Yearns for the Good

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“There is in the soul a taste for the good, just as there is in the body an appetite for enjoyment.” – Joubert

 

We all know what hunger is, or rather, appetite. We know what we are drawn to eat, what looks tasty and satisfying. Does it seem so outrageous that our soul also has a taste or yearning for what is good, nourishing and satisfying?

Joubert is on to something here, a gem of wisdom that is worth mulling over.

Think about the most satisfying experiences you’ve ever had. What was it about them that brought so much enjoyment? Did you feel uplifted, energized, restored, blessed? This is your soul satisfying its yearning for the good.

In contrast, when you’ve done something that you know is wrong, that brings about pain or harm to others, you don’t feel very good about it.

Neither does your soul.

There is, in fact, a direct correlation between good thoughts, words and actions and the health of the soul. As a consequence, if you seek to live a vibrant and purposeful life, it’s incumbent upon you to amp up your good works.

Granted, you’re going to have a nasty thought now and then. Life throws curves and they’re not always easy or pleasant to deal with. Griping, feeling envious, disdaining the work you have to do or the hurdles you have to surmount in order to cope is sometimes difficult, exhausting, time-consuming and with no certain outcome.

The secret is to do your best at all times. The fact that you put forth earnest effort and give it everything you’ve got – whether you’re putting in long hours to finish a work project on deadline or figuring out the best way to help your aged parent receive the medical care he or she so desperately needs – is going to produce results.

Maybe not immediately, but in the long run.

It may help to think of your soul as a hungry stomach. What you put into your soul (your stomach) will determine whether it is satisfied or not. If you starve it or give it food or experiences that are not good, your soul will suffer.

A well-nourished soul – one that yearns for and tastes the good – will sustain you in dark times, those periods when you need to call upon all your strength and resources to get you through.

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July 25, 2016

We're All Connected in the Deep

Photo by Tony Webster

Photo by Tony Webster

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” – William James

 

I’ve always found something incredibly compelling about the ocean. It’s mesmerizing to watch the waves pounding and crashing, then falling back into gently rolling and undulating patterns before starting to build again. In a way, I feel drawn to the water, not for any reason other than to wonder at its power and strength.

You, me, and everyone else on earth are like the islands that James refers to. We’re perched separately in the water, seemingly disconnected, yet bound together firmly somewhere beneath the surface.

While the waves may roil and threaten our shores, we have the strength of community, the tenacity to endure, the solidarity to share our bulwark against threat.

Sometimes we humans have a tendency to feel isolated, alone in a sea of chaos, problems, pain, uncertainty and doubt. We have but to reach out to our connections, those solid and unwavering individuals in our network who are always with us – even though we may be separated by continents and time zones.

Young or old or in-between, man or woman, rich or poor, sick or healthy, we’re all connected in the unbroken fabric of humanity.

Not that we don’t have our differences. We are human, remember? We quarrel and make up, take a different point of view and argue its merits accordingly. We lay claim to what we haven’t done, then feel badly about our duplicity. We forget to give of ourselves too often, so caught up in our own striving. But we’re decent, honorable and well-meaning at heart. We can make a difference. We can work toward the good of all, including ourselves. It isn’t really all that difficult.

It might be good to reflect on the things that bind us together rather than those that look to tear us apart.

After all, we’re all connected in the deep.

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July 24, 2016

Enjoy Being Alive

Photo by Michael Duran

Photo by Michael Duran

“Remember to enjoy being in this world, being able to do what you are doing.” – Stephen Schwartz

 

Are you just going through the motions, doing everyday tasks in a mindless fashion, not being present, but somewhere else in your thoughts? How are you to enjoy being alive when you’re not aware of what’s happening in the here and now?

The sense of aliveness isn’t only what comes after a close brush with death, although that certainly elevates the feeling of how precious life is. You can become aware of aliveness when you are grateful for the opportunity to just be, to exist in this time and place, to have the chance to do whatever it is that you choose.

You could live in a country where the government clamps down and restricts citizens’ activities. Censorship, surveillance, military and police crackdowns, criminal gangs, cartels promoting drug smuggling, murder and mayhem.

Even in those situations, it’s possible to enjoy being alive. In fact, one might argue that it’s even more likely that the oppressed and hunted prize being alive more than those of us who take our freedom for granted.

Still, the concept of enjoying being alive is rather simple. It doesn’t require you to buy anything or even go out of your way to experience it. You can do it in the quiet of your home or in a crowd. Any time of the day or night, you can enjoy being alive. Young or old, the feeling of being alive is available to you. Man or woman, whatever ethnicity, nationality, religion, political or social persuasion or educational achievement doesn’t preclude you from remembering how extraordinarily grateful you are to be here, able to do what you are doing.

If you want more out of life, start by being grateful for what you already have. This acknowledgement will propel you to live life to the fullest, never taking it for granted, and clear the fog from your eyes so that you can see opportunities that are right in front of you.

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July 23, 2016

Respect Yourself

Photo by Joel Herzog

Photo by Joel Herzog

“Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.” – Clint Eastwood

 

Many people don’t think about self-respect until they realize they’ve lost it. By that time, however, it can be very difficult to find the courage to rebuild what’s gone. It isn’t impossible; it just takes a lot of effort and determination. How can you learn how to respect yourself, especially when you don’t currently feel any such regard? Here are some tips on what you can do to respect yourself, rebuild self-respect, and keep it.

  • Know that you can rebuild. With self-respect such a crucial component of overall well-being, knowing that you can rebuild it once you’ve lost it is very important. You have to believe that this is so; otherwise, you’ll forever hate yourself. Keep an optimistic attitude toward the rebuilding process and work diligently at it.
  • Hold yourself to high standards. While you may have done some bad things in the past, actions that caused you to suffer lower self-esteem, you can repair this damage by holding yourself to high standards. Perhaps you lacked such standards before, so now is the time to implement them. Never do something halfway or to the least of your ability. Pride yourself on following through on your word and mean what you say. Value honesty, hard work and commitment above all else. If you start with these, you will begin to learn how to respect yourself.
  • Work hard and acknowledge your efforts. Along with the belief that you can build or rebuild self-respect and holding yourself to high standards, it’s also vital that you work hard and take the time to acknowledge the effort you’ve put in. When you map out a project or undertake a task, having a plan of action helps you adhere to the work. It also allows you to see the minor successes you have along the way and shows you where you may need to adjust your plan to accommodate new ideas or take advantage of lessons learned in the case of setbacks.
  • Instead of trying to impress others, follow your heart and do what’s right. If you maintain a constant goal of living in truth and according to your values and beliefs, you will find it easier to do the right thing. You won’t be so tempted to try to impress others by doing things that are against what you know to be true or what means most to you. Feel your direction from within and take appropriate action.
  • Recognize that self-respect is a building process. Just as it takes a while to lose your self-respect, it also takes some time to regain or rebuild it. If you’ve never thought about self-respect, this is an excellent time to weigh the merits of respecting yourself and tailoring your life so that you hold your self-respect in the highest regard. What you most value is what you will pay attention to.

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July 22, 2016

Radiate Positive Vibration in Life

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“It does not matter how long you are spending on the earth, how much money you have gathered or how much attention you have received. It is the amount of positive vibration you have radiated in life.” – Amit Ray

 

You can influence others as well as yourself by how you think, what you say and what you do. The difference between living a joyful and vibrant life all comes down to a deeply-held and unwavering positivity.

This is something that you can build, so thinking that you lack the ability to be positive is not out of the question.

It doesn’t matter if you feel that you’ve been dealt a poor hand in life, have experienced countless missteps and perceived failures, or have just cruised through existence to date taking things as they come. It doesn’t matter if you’re highly successful in everything you do or only occasionally achieve success.

What does matter is how you approach life, what you’re willing to do and how much you commit to your beliefs and values in pursuit of your dreams and goals.

A multibillionaire has as much opportunity as a street dweller to radiate positive vibrations. Granted, it might seem a lot tougher for someone who possesses nothing to see the goodness in life, but it does happen. It isn’t impossible.

For the majority of us, however, looking past everyday problems and overcoming past disappointments and losses is a step that’s a bit high to traverse. How can we find the positive amidst the negative? Are there some tips that will help?

Try these:

  • Imagine this is your last day on earth. Put as much life into today as you can, be hopeful, loving, generous, and kind. That’s radiating positive vibration. Even if this proves to be your final day of existence, it will be a good one. Not only will you feel the goodness, others will also be affected by it.
  • Take small steps. Instead of seeing positivity as an impossible mountain to climb, do something small to show your hope and goodness. Hold the door for others, smile at strangers, be kind to yourself, hug your children and reaffirm your love for your partner or spouse. Goodness and positivity are like water that trickle into the soil to penetrate deeply. They also travel downhill to irrigate parched areas in such need of water. A little bit not only goes a long way, it’s also life-affirming and reinforcing.
  • When you’re feeling down, count your blessings. There are so many things for which you can be thankful. Taking a moment to reflect on what you have in your life that matters can motivate you to spread that generosity, thankfulness and hope to those around you. If the least among us can be hopeful and thankful, so can you.

 

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July 21, 2016

Walk in Peace

Photo by Kalen Emsley

Photo by Kalen Emsley

 

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Thoughts buzzing in your head like so many bees can get you out of sorts. It happens to all of us. That’s why we need to get outside and clear away all that noise from time to time.

A walk in nature is one of the best ways I know to restore a sense of balance and peace. It’s quick, simple and effective.

It also feels great.

You don’t have to travel any long distance to benefit from being in nature. Even in the city, there are tree-lined streets or parks with some kind of path you can walk.

Taking your lunch break to go for a walk is especially restorative. If you’re ravenous, you can always grab a quick bite or chew an energy bar before you lace up your shoes and hike.

Alone or in the company of others, being out in nature adds a dimension to your life that you can’t get anywhere else. For those who don’t think they have the time to meditate or don’t believe they know how, walking is a terrific alternative.

It is meditating, just easier. And anyone can do it.

Pencil in some time today, perhaps this afternoon, and head out for a 20-minute to half-hour walk. Don’t rush. Take your time. Listen, look, smell and feel how alive nature is.

How can you not be reinvigorated after that? And all those buzzing thoughts? They’re gone. What you feel is peace, serenity and restored. There isn’t a latte in the world that can do that for you.

What are you waiting for? I’m lacing up my shoes right now. Join me on the path.

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July 20, 2016

Dig Deep to Make Smart Choices

Photo by Anton Repponen

Photo by Anton Repponen

“Go deep and it will serve you when you make your choices about where you want to leave your mark.” – Samantha Power

 

Growing up, all you want to do at first is play. There’s so much to discover and you spend great amounts of time exploring, getting excited about and attempting new things.

Somehow, however, as children become adults, they often lose the spark they once so naturally possessed. They become shallow surfers, never going deep to access what really matters, what really excites and motivates them.

All is not lost. No matter how much time has passed, everyone can be like a child and rekindle that sense of wonder, curiosity and eagerness.

It all starts with a desire to dig deep.

Caution: this may not be easy. The experience can bring to the surface long-forgotten dreams, neglected opportunities, painful losses and squandered time. It can also, however, resurrect core beliefs and values and bring to light what truly matters in your life.

For example, if you prize your loved ones and family above all else, the choices you make from here on should reflect this overarching priority. If you most enjoy helping others, yet haven’t devoted much time to that endeavor lately, you can find ways now to do so. If obtaining a certificate or degree or learning a skill or trade will help you achieve your goals, put together a plan to do so.

An analysis of your strengths and weaknesses is also helpful, if a little sobering, in any deep self-assessment. You aren’t a block of wood. You have the ability to stretch and grow, to learn from mistakes, to identify opportunities and pursue them with vigor, hope and determination.

When you ride the waves of discovery, anything is possible. But to get there, riding the crest, you have to be willing to dive into the deepest parts of the water first.

Dig deep. Go deep. That’s the only way to ensure you make smart choices about where you go and what you do.

 

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July 19, 2016

One Extraordinary Man

Photo by Ismael Nieto

Photo by Ismael Nieto

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” – Elbert Hubbard

 

Most of us think of ourselves as the average guy or gal, maybe secretly thinking we have a lot of potential we haven’t yet explored. But ordinary? Nope, that’s not a descriptor we generally prefer. Ordinary implies boring, repetitive, lacking in imagination, bereft of motivation or genius, right?

Wrong.

You can be ordinary and still be tremendously filled with life, energy, seeking new ways to do things, endlessly creating dreams, fashioning goals and challenging yourself to new heights.

But can you propel ordinary into extraordinary? If so, how?

Consider the fact that humans only use about 10 percent of their brain. That leaves a lot of room for improvement. Not that we’ve happened upon the secret to tap into that unused portion. But the knowledge that there’s more gray matter available is rather inspiring.

As to turning ordinary into extraordinary, becoming an extraordinary man or woman, that begins with dedication, a willingness to learn from mistakes, to never quit, to push yourself to achieve more and challenge your intellect, creativity, and desire to succeed.

Several examples of extraordinary men in history include Thomas Edison, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Ronald Reagan, Andrew Carnegie, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney and Muhammad Ali, among others. Extraordinary women include Maya Angelou, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher and Oprah, to name just a few.

Not a single person in these lists began as an extraordinary person. They made mistakes, but learned from them. They persevered, followed their dreams, fought for what they believed in and never gave up, despite tremendous obstacles.

Their place in history is fully warranted. We should remember them and model our behavior using them as inspiration.

The truth is that each of us possess strengths and talents that are the ingredients for greatness. It’s how we make use of them that separates ordinariness from extraordinariness.

 

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July 18, 2016

Prize the Truth

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.” – James E. Faust

 

In some circles it seems that telling the truth is out of fashion. That’s not only sad, but a horrible portent for the future. Honesty, on the other hand, may be painful, inconvenient, difficult and socially unacceptable, but it is the only way to live a life in accordance with values and beliefs.

Let’s be quite candid here. It’s not easy to live honestly. Telling the truth, even when it might get you in trouble, is tough. No one relishes accepting the consequences when they’re due. Yet that’s part of taking responsibility for one’s actions – which is another facet of honesty.

Living the truth, speaking the truth and loving the truth are all parts of honesty. Each has its advocates and protestors. Some say that doing what you want is a form of honesty. But is it, really? If what you do brings harm or pain to another, that’s being dishonest as an evolved being. That’s not showing compassion, it’s being selfish, greedy, inconsiderate and mean.

When you prize the truth, you’re willing to endure temporary discomfort in pursuit of the larger, greater goal. You not only know what’s right, you’re willing to live by it.

Is it tough to be the only one in the room with the courage to stand up and say the truth to the boss when everyone else is nodding their heads to a fabrication that’s more convenient? Of course it is. But do you want to live with the knowledge that you could have made a difference and didn’t?

That’s living the truth and telling the truth – but it won’t be easy.

If you make a commitment to honesty, to prizing the truth and manifesting the truth at all times in your life it doesn’t mean that you won’t occasionally tell a fib. If you catch yourself doing that, correct it immediately. “I wasn’t thinking when I said that,” you can say. “What I mean to say is…” If it’s not possible to retract your words, make a concerted effort to think before you speak or act, so that you can do so honestly and prizing the truth.

What if truth isn’t rewarded? If you’re in an organization or environment where the truth is seldom told, the best thing you can do is find another place to work or different colleagues or friends to interact with on a regular basis. It may be something you’d rather not do, but the dissonance of being around people who don’t act honorably or honestly will weigh on you.

The very least you can do is rededicate yourself to living honestly in all other areas of your life: at home, school, in the neighborhood, in your social media interactions, at your place of worship, and so on.

Finding balance in life, being at peace with yourself, living in harmony – it all begins with prizing the truth.

 

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July 17, 2016

Be Sure You Show Up

Photo by Denys Nevozhai

Photo by Denys Nevozhai

"I feel strongly about showing up and being prepared and not taking the opportunity for granted and being conscientious about my fellow co-workers." – Paul Schneider

 

When you have a job, you have a responsibility to do your best. This means you show up in more than just the physical sense, occupying space at a desk. You also need to come prepared to do the work – even if the tasks you face aren’t all that exciting.

It’s too easy to get a job and allow yourself to fall into complacency. You know what you have to do, so you factor in time to coast in between assignments or parts of a task. That’s not all bad, for pacing is important in any successful endeavor. But when you start looking for ways to pad the time between, that’s not conducive to good work habits.

You also may miss opportunities that only present themselves to those who are fully aware, committed, willing to pitch in and help.

Your co-workers are often instrumental in helping identify opportunities and participating in those that you collectively discover. It’s best not to take either the opportunities or your co-workers for granted. On the one hand, the opportunities may pass without notice, lost forever. Your co-workers, noticing that you allow opportunities to slip by or aren’t all that interested in being an active participant in ones they bring to your attention may fail to consider you at a time when you need them most.

Work involves cooperation and teamwork, sharing of values and goals, pitching in and doing the grunt work as well as enjoying the fruits of your labors.

It all starts with you showing up, prepared, eager, ready to go, willing to learn, share and help out. So be sure you show up, today and every day.

 

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July 16, 2016

What's Bothering You?

Photo: Mlenny/Getty Images/iStockPhoto

Photo: Mlenny/Getty Images/iStockPhoto

“If we didn’t spend so much time reacting to things, we would spend less time feeling bothered. We would be able to relax in our lives the way our mind relaxes in meditation.” – Angel Williams

 

You wake up and immediately think of all the stuff you have to do today. Some of it is a real chore, while other tasks are less onerous but still something you’d rather not do. Yet it isn’t the planned to-do list that often bothers you but those situations and problems that require you to take action. Here’s the difficulty: You’re reacting to things – and that bothers you.

Granted, everyone experiences the unexpected. How can you deal with these situations without instantly going into reaction mode so that they bother you? It may be tough at first, but you can do it.

Take this as an example. Your boss suddenly drops a hot project on your desk and that throws your evening’s activities with the family off the agenda. You dive in, not without some disappointment at what you’re missing out on and not without a tinge of resentment toward your boss.

To prevent reaction from escalating into full-blown bother, take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself that you are fully capable of handling this task, and your boss has confidence in your abilities or you wouldn’t have been given the assignment.

Run through a mental list of how you’ll tackle this project in a step-by-step fashion. Enlist help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask the boss for more time if it is warranted and won’t jeopardize the deadline.

Let your family know you’ll be tied up for a while and reschedule the activity you had planned with them. If that’s not possible, pledge to spend time with them in another special activity – and keep your promise.

While you’ll still have to do the work your boss gave you, you’re now more in control of the process and the timing. That eliminates the reaction and erases the bother to a certain degree.

It might also help to remind your boss that you’ve come through on this urgent assignment and ask for time off to compensate for it. You are worth it and your boss knows it.

Other situations and things that tend to cause reaction and bother can be dealt with in the same way. Take a few deep breaths. Consider your strengths. Determine what you need. Prioritize steps. Enlist help. Ask for more time. Get to work.

You may not be as relaxed as you are when meditating, but you’ll lessen the anxiety, dampen the resentment and increase your self-confidence. Knowing you have the ability and talent to see this thing through is a great boost to your self-esteem as well.

 

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July 15, 2016

This Day Can Change Your Life

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

 

“One day can change your life. One day can ruin your life. All life is three or four big days that change everything.” – Beverly Donofrio

 

When you think of singular moments, those points in time when everything changed in your life, you come to appreciate the value of making the most of the time you have now.

If you believe you can affect the course of your life and make your own choices, it isn’t a stretch to see that your actions and inactions have a direct cause and effect in how well you live.

Propelled by unbridled greed, obsessed with envy, consumed by jealousy or fueled by anger will produce life-changing outcomes. Similarly, always acting in accordance with honor, dignity, respect for others and a sincere desire to live a true and honest life, caring for others as much as self will allow you to realize and succeed in your most earnest endeavors and dreams.

Sometimes the day tests you severely, calling upon you to marshal all your resources to deal with incredible pain, unexpected loss, confusion, misdirection, abandonment, betrayal and tragedy.

Sometimes it seems like you do everything right and whatever problems you encounter you quickly solve.

This day, like so many others, will unfold with unique, surprising and fortuitous opportunities. Some will be good for you to take advantage of, while others require wisdom and courage to evaluate and discard, to take preventive action, to exert profound effort to overcome, to make a difference.

Each of these can hold the makings of the three or four big days that you will one day recall as changing your life.

It’s up to you to take action, to decide what you will do when called upon or prompted to make a difference.

Keep in mind that small changes can net invaluable results over time. So you needn’t think that only monumental change counts.

With this in mind, what will you do this day to change your life?

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July 14, 2016

Show Your Gratitude

 

Photo by Yinan Chen, Picography

Photo by Yinan Chen, Picography

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie

 

You’re alive and breathing. That’s already sufficient reason to be grateful. Make that profoundly grateful. When you’re thankful for what you have, you suddenly realize that it is enough. You don’t need more – money, fame, material things, Likes on Facebook, whatever. You are just fine as you are.

It’s a pity that more of us don’t realize just how great our lives really are – exactly as they are. Granted, we might wish for a better job, more money to be able to afford nicer things, to travel, take time off from work, hang out with friends. But the opportunity to greet each day with hope is such a gift that it deserves recognition on its own.

Think of what matters most. It may be your spouse or child or another relative or friend. You’d do anything for this person and often do. Instead of considering your efforts a burden, you do them willingly, with love and compassion. Isn’t this an instance where gratitude comes into play?

When you’re disheartened by a loss, perhaps of a job, the death of someone close, a series of setbacks at work or school or home, expressing your gratefulness for what you do have can help alleviate the pain of the loss. This door may have closed, but another will open. The wind of change is at your back.

It doesn’t take much to show your gratitude. Open your heart and meet the day with a smile. Think of the special moments for which you are grateful. Pay it forward by doing something good for another person, unsolicited and without any expectation of anything in return.

When you show your gratitude, it’s obvious to others that you’re fully engaged in life. You’re not a bystander, sitting glum in the corner or consumed with self-pity, envy or anger. There are things to do and no time like the present to become involved in life.

What a great day it is to be alive. Be grateful and show it.

 

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July 13, 2016

Create Your Life With Your Mind

 

Photo by Teddy Kelley

Photo by Teddy Kelley

“Our life is the creation of our mind.” – Buddha

 

What do you want out of life? More specifically, what do you want your life to be?

The direction you take begins with what originates in your mind. That is, if you take the initiative and allow yourself to imagine and envision how your life will unfold – and then take the actions necessary to ensure you follow your vision.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds, however. For one thing, the buzz and distraction of daily life often tends to get in the way. We tell ourselves we’ll think about the future tomorrow, decide on plans or what direction we’ll follow at some later time when we’re not so busy tending to responsibilities, crises and social engagements.

For some, that time never seems to come. It’s lost along the way, victim of good but misplaced intentions. It’s not that we’re lazy, just not very disciplined.

As if we don’t have enough to contend with, knowing that we’ve let opportunities slip away doesn’t sit well with us. That can result in unproductive self-blame.

Yet all this can be reversed. There’s never a wrong time to create your life. You just need to do it.

To start, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for a while. How long that is depends on you, but it can be as short as an hour or as long as a day (or longer, if you have that luxury).

Think about what matters most to you in life. Consider your strengths, talents and abilities. Jot down what you most like to do, what you’d like to explore further or get involved in. Don’t worry about resources yet. This is the idea creation stage. Planning and implementation come about later.

If you find yourself getting excited as you think about a certain path you might take or direction you’d like to follow, that’s a good sign that you feel strongly about the idea and it’s worth pursuing.

There’s no right or wrong idea at this point. What comes up is what needs to come up. Your mind will present you with various scenarios that you can mull further or go on to new constructs.

It’s actually fun to let your mind put together the threads of what it knows you feel strongly about to create a life that helps cement everything in place.

 

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July 12, 2016

Sweat It Out To Find Answers

 

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“If you don’t have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain’t getting them.” – Christopher McDougall

 

I’m not a personal fan of running, but there’s something to be said about pushing yourself in this form of exercise to clear your mind. I’ve actually experienced this kind of clarity and found answers to whatever was bothering me after other kinds of strenuous activity – even gardening.

This led me to ponder what it is about vigorous activity that works such magic that it allows your mind to arrive at a solution to a problem – especially when you’ve already spent so much time and effort on it to no avail.

My thought is that you’ve taken the focus off the problem for the time being and given your subconscious time to work on it while you do something else. The fact that you’re exerting effort of a physical kind also has a lot to do with it. When you exercise strenuously you’re producing the feel-good endorphins that produce much more than satisfaction in a healthy workout. They also break down the barriers to clear thinking that too much stress creates.

But the advice to go sweat it out doesn’t mean you push yourself past your limits. That’s never a smart move. You only want to break a sweat, to go right up to your limit and not to the point of pain.

I’ve learned this the hard way. Looking at others in a gym or during a sports competition, trying to keep up with athletes more conditioned than me resulted in disaster and a too-long period of recuperation. In this case, less is more. Learn how to just go far enough without going too far.

Another recommendation is to give the heavy emphasis on figuring out the solution to the problem a rest – at least while you’re on the court, flying downhill on skis, putting up rafters, hitting the wall in a 10K run and so on. You’ll have plenty of time post-workout to deliberate on the best course of action to take on solving your problem.

In the meantime, go sweat. At the very least, you’ll feel good about yourself afterward. And who knows what answers will suddenly pop into your head?

 

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July 11, 2016

Be Willing to Change Your Path

 

Photo by Redd Angelo

Photo by Redd Angelo

“[You] don’t have to change your goal. Change your path, be willing to and don’t see that as a failure. That’s just life.” – Diane Hendricks

 

Do you think there is only one way to achieve what you want in life? Are you obsessed with sticking to a path you’ve been on despite a change of circumstance, recently acquired knowledge or skill, even a new interest that’s in conflict with your chosen course of action?

If so, you might be stuck.

But you can get unstuck, too.

Assuming that you want to.

Just as there are generally several routes to get to a single destination, and different destinations that may prove more desirable along the way, the fact that you’ve embarked on one path toward your goal doesn’t mean that you have to stick hard and fast to it.

Just change the route. You’ll still get where you want to go – if you still determine you want to go there.

Some might say that this is taking the easy way out, that continuing on the path you’ve been on is a sign of determination, perseverance and wisdom. It may be in some instances, but it may also be an excuse. When you wind up at the other end of that path and it’s been nothing but pain and obstacles all the way through, are you more or less satisfied with the entire journey and the result?

Could there be another way to achieve your goals without giving up on them? How about taking an alternate path? Maybe it takes a little longer to arrive at a successful outcome, but isn’t it worth it?

Taking an abrupt change of course can seem jarring, to be sure. You have to be willing to see this as a learning experience, not as failure. Nothing is lost when you gain insight and knowledge as a result of your actions. Even though one route you’ve taken turned out to be filled with delays and wrong turns, you’re still committed to your end goal, you’ve still got the motivation to continue, and you’re even more likely to eventually succeed.

Potholes, traffic jams, inclement weather, missing signs, no gas stations or rest stops – all of these can add time and consequences to your route. So too can the boss changing direction, a supplier failing to deliver on time, other team members not performing, little or no support from colleagues, and a growing worry that you’ll not be able to complete your assignment or task.

Take heed of the advice to be observant of other paths you can take. There is always another choice, although it may not be the most apparent. You might need to search for it and this requires flexibility, vision and a willingness to go through the change process.

It’s often said that life is a journey, not a destination. With this in mind, knowing you have a certain goal, make it a point to keep your options open and take advantage of the many different paths that appear before you.

 

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July 10, 2016

Smell the Flowers

 

Photo by Roksolana Zasiadko

Photo by Roksolana Zasiadko

 

“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” – Walter Hagen

 

It’s so easy to get caught up in everyday life that we forget to notice the beauty and elegance all around us. Indeed, we may become so consumed with our thoughts that life passes us by.

That’s a shame.

But there is something we can do about it, starting now.

Consider that life, however long we live, is but a short time in the history of the universe. What we do with the time we have, however, isn’t up to anyone else. It’s solely within our province.

We can fritter it away with meaningless pursuits, or allow ourselves to be obsessive over trivial matters, fail to capitalize on our talents, ignore our passions or fall prey to the whims of others.

On the other hand, we can craft a future that we desire, put together plans to achieve meaningful goals, enjoy the company of others, be one with nature and true to ourselves. In short, we can give fully of ourselves and live life to its fullest without worrying about the ticking clock of our time on earth.

This takes a bit of perspective, learning how to make effective use of our time to our advantage. It isn’t selfish, however. It’s a realization that we are only on this earth for a brief time and it’s in our best interest to use that time wisely.

Part of such wisdom is taking the time to hit the pause button. There is so much life around us and within us that we can appreciate. While there will be problems that we’ll experience, there’s nothing that can rob us of our enjoyment of life unless we let it.

Each of us is capable of determining our actions. We decide what’s important to us, what we’ll spend time on and what can wait. We prioritize tasks, carve out leisure time, spend time with loved ones and family, pursue interests and hobbies, and interact with others in accordance with our beliefs and values.

Those flowers that we pass by on our way to the office or school or going to and from the car on an errand? Stop and smell them. Drink in their sweet and life-affirming fragrance. This is a metaphor for our life. Instead of always being in such a hurry, slow the stride and take in all that life has to offer.

 

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July 9, 2016

What Will You Discover in You?

 

Photo by Dan Carlson

Photo by Dan Carlson

“There is a place in me I haven’t gone yet.” – Gail Godwin

 

Why is it that we often think that there’s something new to discover out there? The truth is that discovery begins with self-discovery.

Too many of us never think about that.

Consider that when we do something we’ve never done before, that’s pushing our experience to a new level. This involves reaching down and summoning courage or nerve or determination. It may be scary or uncertain or without much chance of success.

We’ll never know if we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to succeed or fail.

Suppose we find we don’t like what we learn about ourselves? We may, for example, discover that we’re too timid, give up too easily, become quick to anger or criticize, brag about our accomplishments or some other negative.

That still counts as self-discovery. We’re learning something about ourselves that we can change.

What if we find that we’re capable of much more than we thought? Hooray, that’s really an eye-opener.

If we’re motivated to continue despite whatever fear we may feel, or nervousness or even obstacles encountered along the way, that’s yet another form of self-discovery.

The truth is that there’s much we have to learn about ourselves that can only happen when we dare to explore the places within.

  • The corners of the mind that we’ve kept shrouded.
  • The dreams we’ve shoved to the background because of pressing responsibilities, lack of time, resources or allies.
  • The abilities and talents we don’t know we possess– or haven’t allowed ourselves to reveal.

Do you have the courage to go within? Take a leap. Discover your internal riches.

 

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July 8, 2016

Take Time to Read

 

Photo by Patrick Tomasso

Photo by Patrick Tomasso

“The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you the knowledge of the world and experience of the wide kind.” – Elizabeth Hardwick

 

If you’re hungry, you eat, thirsty, you drink. When you want to learn, read. This is the easiest, simplest and no-cost way to add to your knowledge base.

It’s also a wonderful way to pass the time, immerse yourself in another world, envision a different future, laugh, cry, empathize, find comfort and peace, experience joy and a sense of belonging.

And so much more.

Reading used to be considered one of the three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. It probably still is. The reason for that is simple: all three are required for basic knowledge, the building block for acquiring skills and expertise in any area, including life skills.

Many of us don’t think we have time enough to read. We’re too busy tending to all the chores and tasks of everyday life, of going to work or school or taking care of the home and other responsibilities. When we do have a minute, all we want to do is anything other than use our mind.

Yet reading offers a delightful escape. It takes no effort at all to lift up a book or tap or swipe a page on an e-reader or computer. What other distraction or activity is so painless, easy and offers so much in the way of reward?

Be glad of the ability to use your eyes, to engage your mind and intrigue your thoughts. Whether what you read is a cookbook recipe, a contract, a mystery novel, scientific journal, social media communication, email or a sales receipt, reading is indeed a precious gift.

And only humans can take advantage of this. Think about that the next time you pet Fido or Fluffy.

You can also read to children, the sick, old and infirm, a friend in need of comfort, and, yes, to your pets.

Or just for you. To enjoy.

 

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July 7, 2016

Meditation Isn't That Hard

 

Photo by Jessan Romans

Photo by Jessan Romans

“The true practice of meditation is to sit as if you were drinking water when you are thirsty.” – Shunryo Suzuki

 

Are you put off by the idea of meditation, even though you know it could help you get rid of stress, calm your jumbled thoughts and allow some breathing room in your hectic day?

Many people shy away from meditation because they think that it’s too difficult, that they don’t know how to do it properly or that there are too many kinds of meditation to make sense of it all.

It can be intimidating at first to embark on the practice, but it really isn’t all that hard to meditate.

Instead of the “should” and “must” and “ought to” thoughts you have, ditch these negative self-limiters and go with the flow. How you will meditate is something you’ll gradually move into. It isn’t a hard and fast set of rules and procedures.

Did you know that you can be meditating when you sit quietly with your eyes closed and focus solely on your rhythmic breathing – in and out, in and out? That sounds simple enough, right? Anyone can do it, correct?

Exactly.

What you want out of meditation is a type of release, letting go of the tightness in your chest and elsewhere, freeing your mind of nagging anxiety and worry. You can get there without too much effort.

You also don’t need fancy equipment or machines or an expensive outfit. As long as you’re comfortable, have a mat or some soft surface on which to position yourself, you’re good to go.

As for mental preparation, use a plant analogy. Your body is like a plant that’s been in the sunshine too long without water and it’s very thirsty. When you meditate, you’re drinking in the water you want and need. Not only does this slake your thirst, it provides immediate relief to every part of your body.

There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. Experiment with different poses, take a class or two, get some pointers from a friend who regularly meditates, and find the way that works best for you.

 

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July 6, 2016

Create Something That Lasts

 

Photo by Nick Wilkes

Photo by Nick Wilkes

“The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” – Stephen Covey

 

The elixir of immortal life hasn’t yet been discovered. It may never be. While you can’t live forever, you can live a life that has lasting importance, a life of meaning and purpose as well as joy.

How?

You create something that lasts.

Parents do this with their children, the very essence of personal legacy. By bringing a child into existence, mother and father are presenting the world with a precious gift, a unique human being with potential.

This act is both loving and self-serving. And both are a good thing.

To love a child is a parent’s greatest joy. To ensure that the child grows, thrives and learns how to embrace life, utilize his or her talents and take action to help others and make a difference is to perpetuate the lineage, serve as an extension of self, and reap the rewards of paternal pride.

Artists, inventors, scientists, sports figures and writers also create something that lasts. It’s their passion and perseverance that shows up in their work and accomplishments, things that will be remembered and singled out for distinction.

Yet every person can create something that lives on. You needn’t be famous, at the top of your profession, incredibly wealthy or any other superlative. You do, however, need to put forth your best effort, live with passion and zest and in accordance with your beliefs and values.

The core of who you are – that unique combination of joy, intelligence, enthusiasm, talent, strength, compassion, love and helpfulness – will live forever. What’s said about you may be verbal or in books or other written communication. It may be a thought or fond memory.

What do you want to represent your life long after you’re gone? Rich or poor, man or woman, young or old, we each have the opportunity to choose what we create.

And we’re the only creatures that have this unparalleled gift.

 

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July 5, 2016

Friends in Plain Clothes Are Friends Forever

 

Photo by Joao Silas

Photo by Joao Silas

“I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world.” – Thomas A. Edison

 

Who do you count as your friends? Do you have casual acquaintances, work buddies, neighbors you’re friendly with, as well as arm’s length companions and, of course, dear and longtime friends?

Which among these are your forever friends?

Think about the value of friendship to you. A true friend doesn’t put on airs, isn’t concerned with what you have that he or she doesn’t, won’t constantly compare, act jealous, be quick to anger, seek revenge or try to one-up you.

True friends do come in all sizes, personalities, both genders, young and old and in-between. While a valued friend may be wealthy, it’s just as likely that the friend is of more modest means.

Wearing plain clothes, such as overalls, then doesn’t mean that you can’t have solid friendships with heads of state, corporate CEO types, celebrities and such. It’s a little less likely, but possible.

What Edison refers to has more to do with being grounded, not putting on airs, being more concerned for the friend’s welfare than their own.

When you really need someone to talk to, you turn to the person you know will be there for you, no matter what. There’s no wrong time to ask for an audience and you don’t need an appointment to talk with your plain clothes friend. You are accepted, welcomed and encouraged and supported at all times.

Try to get that kind of regard from kings. Again, not that it’s impossible, just a lot less likely.

Stick with the plain clothes friends, for they’re going to be friends forever.

 

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July 4, 2016

Step Up To Leadership

 

Photo by Fabien Barral

Photo by Fabien Barral

 

“Leadership is an obligation and you need to step up everyday.” – Vince Molinaro

 

Some people are born to be leaders. Others may struggle to find the willingness and desire to lead.

But the truth is that in order to experience life to the fullest, it’s necessary to step out of the comfort zone and into territory that’s often uncharted, scary and uncertain.

That you also need to lead others as you make your way is the unknown secret.

In fact, leadership is something that each person must accept and learn how to provide. It may come in the form of modeling behavior after a trusted individual or by reading inspirational literature on the subject.

Often, however, you just begin to lead. You make a decision and encourage others to follow if they wish. If your instincts are good and your intention noble, others will follow.

But it isn’t that you want people to follow your lead as much as you want to be worthy of leadership.

To this end, it’s paramount that you give all that you have to every effort you undertake, that you weigh the merits and risks of a project before you begin, that you learn from your mistakes so that you don’t repeat them and are the wiser for having gone through them.

Stepping up to leadership can be exhilarating. It can also frighten the daylights out of you.

By acknowledging that you aren’t perfect, that you do make mistakes, and accepting that the way forward is often fraught with many twists and turns, you won’t be dissuaded from raising your hand and saying you’ll take on the challenge.

Keep in mind that life without action isn’t life at all. It’s a stagnation, no way to live.

Granted, being a leader has its downsides as well. People look to you for answers and you may not always have them.

  • You have to live with what you’ve done.
  • Take stock of yourself and find what matters most to you as a person.
  • Find the inspiration to follow your heart and give it everything you’ve got.

It’s this self-motivation and self-direction that will inspire others to look to you for leadership. Instead of being an obligation, then, leadership becomes a prized attribute.

 

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July 3, 2016

All Journeys Have Secret Destinations

 

Photo by Justin Luebke

Photo by Justin Luebke

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

 

Who doesn’t love a secret? The word implies something enticing, perhaps a little forbidden, and definitely compelling. When you think of a journey, the emotions you feel may be complex, and be positive and/or negative.

If the trip is one that you’ve planned, you may still be a little apprehensive. After all, the unexpected could occur and you wonder if you’ll be prepared to handle whatever happens. You might not want to embark on the journey at all but are required to. This may cause you to feel resentful or angry.

On the other hand, some journeys are ones you can’t wait to get started on. Filled with anticipation, you pack and arrange and finalize details until the time comes to set out on your journey.

Still, no matter what the journey, the destinations you experience can be much different than what you initially thought or intended. And that’s a good thing.

No one wants life to be boring. The fact that you can set out on an everyday journey and experience a multitude of different and unique destinations (call them discoveries) is both a joy and a challenge.

Now, if you accept that life’s journeys have secret destinations and even welcome this eventuality, the question then becomes, how do you handle the changing vistas with maximum effect?

  • Stay flexible. When things are changing, sometimes quite rapidly and without notice, you’ll be better served if you are flexible enough to adapt to the changes.
  • Be aware. In order to recognize and embrace the secret destinations that you encounter, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, stay in the present and keep focused.
  • Embrace change and the opportunities it brings. Nothing stays the same forever. Knowing that change is inevitable and even welcome, if you accept and embrace it you’ll be more likely to notice and be ready to capitalize on the opportunities change brings.
  • Relish life. This is a unique human experience that isn’t replicated anywhere in the animal kingdom. The ability to plan, pursue and successfully complete experiences and journeys is what separates us from dogs, birds, fish and other creatures. As such, make it a point to relish life – and cherish it – so that you get the most out of every journey, including the secret destinations that reveal themselves along the way.

 

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July 2, 2016

Believe You've Got Potential

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Believe in your potential even if you haven’t seen the results.” – Gaby Natale

 

It isn’t always easy to have hope that you’ll be able to fulfill your true potential.

For some of us, it’s hard enough to discern a glimmer of what that potential might be. We’re often so caught up in daily living that we either don’t allow ourselves to think about the future, or are so convinced that we can’t possibly succeed, or land somewhere in-between making a little progress and not doing much.

Before you can think about what’s possible, however, you need to believe in yourself. If you’ve never put much faith in your own abilities, this might be a tough stretch. But it’s a necessary one if you want to live a rich and satisfying life.

How can you believe in your potential if you don’t have any tangible evidence that you’ll succeed? What if you’ve had a string of failures or less-than-stellar results in goals you’ve pursued? Does this automatically relegate you to the has-beens and never-will-be status? The answer is an emphatic “no.” But you will need to work hard to overcome your fear of failure and your lack of self-confidence.

Where does belief come from? It starts from within. Somewhere deep inside each of us resides a core of self that burns with a fire that can’t be extinguished. It may be merely a flicker at times, but it can be fanned into a roaring blaze.

Spiritual development can help with self-belief, as can the nurturing support of loved ones and close friends. A mentor can help you discover your talents and provide guidance and encouragement as you seek to develop them.

Many times you have to take in on faith that you have potential – even if you haven’t a clue what that potential might be.

Start with doing what you love. When you’re deeply engrossed in a project, task or activity that gives you pleasure and the time seems to just fly, you’re tapping into what makes you energized, excited and full of joy. Hope and self-belief are nearby, waiting for the call. Together, they’ll help you believe you’ve got potential.

 

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July 1, 2016

Living a Purposeful Life

Photo by Patrick Chin

Photo by Patrick Chin

“The majority prove their worth by keeping busy. A busy life is the nearest thing to a purposeful life.” – Eric Hoffer

 

The idea of getting through the day just doesn’t appeal to most people. Instead of just getting by, you want to feel inspired, like you’re striving to achieve something worthwhile, making a contribution that is lasting, appreciated and valuable.

To this end, many people begin by diving into the task at hand. It needn’t be earth-shattering or appear at first glance to be all that momentous. The fact that you derive a certain amount of satisfaction out of doing the very best you can in everything you do is the best way to discover and live a purposeful life.

Still, many people find themselves at odds with the concept of a purposeful life.

For example, they may mistakenly believe that only some magnificent goal is worthy of such a description. They can’t see how going to work each day and being kind to co-workers, completing assignments on time, volunteering to help others, displaying a cheerful and helpful attitude can possible fall in line with living a purposeful life.

It’s from the smallest of endeavors, consistently and completely pursued to completion that you find yourself at the doorstep of the path toward discovering your life’s purpose.

Many lament that they don’t know what they’re good at or why they were place on earth. What are they here to do? In addition, and to compound their dilemma further, they worry that they’ll never figure out why they’re here. Some have experienced significant and/or repeated loss or failure in life and therefore believe that they are destined to fail from here on out.

Let’s hear it for keeping busy. The old saying that “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” may have some application here. But it isn’t necessary to equate idleness with the devil.

The fact that doing nothing – or working only haphazardly or without commitment – leads us astray is proven time and again.

Without a commitment to doing something to the best of your ability, it’s too easy to fall into malaise, to stagnate, fall prey to temptation, indolence and pessimism. From there it’s a short journey to depression and possibly other self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.

By keeping busy, even at the simplest or most mundane tasks, you maintain a forward momentum. Your goal is to complete the activity at hand, without stopping, without giving up and despite encountering obstacles.

If you strive to do this each day, at the end of the day you will have something concrete that you can look back on with pride.

These will start to add up and you will find that doing the very best you can with what you have and what you say you’re going to do will help you feel fulfilled and living a life of purpose.

 

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Daily Thoughts


June 30, 2016

Live Life With Integrity

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Live your life with integrity… Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

 

When it seems like all the world is engaged in lies and deceit, it can be tough to hold onto self-integrity. Yet this is so crucial to living life in harmony and balance that it bears reconsidering the effort it takes to do so.

What is integrity?

  • It is living your life according to an internal set of beliefs.
  • You value honesty, so you will not tolerate a lie and do not lie just to make a situation easier or to avoid scrutiny or escape additional work.
  • You believe in putting forth your best effort, so you refuse to cut corners, to skip necessary items, to push off to others what is your responsibility.
  • You pride yourself on your compassion, so you will not just stand by silent as others assail the less fortunate, calling them lazy or incompetent or stupid or getting their just deserts.
  • You feel bound to act when you see injustice, to speak when others won’t, to stand up for your beliefs by living them in action.

It sounds easy enough, right?

In reality, however, it isn’t always easy to live with integrity. Everyone is tempted at times to take the easy way out, to compromise their beliefs, to give lie to their values.

While this may help in the short turn, it does nothing for your humanity. Each time you avert your eyes and walk away from your integrity, it chips away a little at your spirit. There is a cumulative effect of this negativity, of this denying of your true self. You may think you’ve gotten away unscathed, but you really haven’t.

If you want to learn how to live life with integrity, instead of making it a difficult and torturous undertaking, start with something small. Take an activity you do regularly and examine how you can do your best at it.

For example, if you look forward to stopping off at a local coffee house to get your morning latte or cappuccino and quickly hurry to your car to be on your way, imagine yourself being on a deserted island with an espresso machine and no human being to keep you company or exchange pleasantries with.

As a social animal, wouldn’t you do almost anything to hear and reciprocate a few kind words? Now, since you have the opportunity – and it really only takes a few seconds – say hello and smile to the person next to you in line. Say something kind to the barista or cashier.

This small act can reap many rewards. For one thing, you’re bringing a bit of yourself into the situation, sharing your humanity, being real. You may inspire someone else to do the same, like paying it forward. It also makes you feel good. Everyone wins.

The harder part about living in integrity is not suffering the lie, but doing something about it. If you hear a co-worker making negative comments about someone you know, or the boss, should you remain silent? Should you defend the individual? How should you handle this situation with integrity?

It’s easy to say it depends, but the truth is that you know, deep inside, what you need to do.

  • Put a stop to it by saying that there’s work to be done and this is no time to engage in pettiness.
  • Praise the maligned individual’s good traits or stand up for your friend.
  • You can also walk away – but this is better done after you’ve made your point about not being willing to listen to such negativity about a person you both know.

Maybe you’ll be ostracized by this bad-talker. Maybe you’ll be the next recipient of his or her vitriolic comments. Maybe, but you will be living in integrity. You will be living in accordance with your beliefs and values.

And that trumps negativity every time.

 

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Daily Thoughts


June 29, 2016

Move Past Conflict

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

 

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” – Wayne Dyer

 

How many times do you feel like you have to fight just to get your point across?

If others don’t seem to listen, does this make you raise your voice, give up, try to regroup, intensify your persuasive efforts, or something else?

Have you ever thought that you might be the one who is part of the overall problem, as in you are the one who keeps the argument going when you could just as easily let it go?

It's an interesting concept that arguments, conflicts, fights and disagreements have nowhere to go if you don’t participate. Yet this is exactly the point.

Granted, there are times when another person is so unreasonable, vindictive and vengeful that they’ll continue a fight or other type of conflict whether you actively engage in their efforts to suck you in or not. That’s what lawyers are for, to protect your interests and satisfy in a legal way that which cannot otherwise be resolved.

Generally speaking, however, it takes two to tangle. If you want to reduce the amount and incidence of conflict in your life, think long and hard before ripping off an angry retort, whether verbal, in person or by email, postal mail or on social media. No one can make you be a party to conflict if you distance yourself – and avail yourself of protection as permitted by law, should that be the case.

You might want to consider coping measures you can take so that you think before you speak or act.

  • Deep breathing, taking a walk outside, engaging in vigorous physical exercise, meditating, talking with a friend or those who support and encourage your goals are good ones to use.
  • By having a strategy in place for how to deal with conflict you are not only being proactive, you’re ensuring that you’ll be able to move past conflict that inevitably occurs in life.

It isn’t what happens that matters the most, but what you decide to do about it. Make your efforts proactive and positive and stay above the fray when it comes to conflict.

If you ultimately find it necessary to engage in the conflict, do so with full knowledge of the best means of finding a peaceful and agreeable solution.

It may not always be easy, but it is possible to manage and overcome conflict. The best way, however, is to avoid participating in conflict that is unnecessary in the first place.

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June 28, 2016

Don't Give in to Fear

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.” – Hafiz

 

If there’s ever been a scarier emotion to experience, it might be despair, but fear can become so paralyzing that it leads to even darker thoughts. That’s when fear takes on mammoth proportions and can completely overtake life’s goals and even everyday tasks become unmanageable.

Too many people live in fear each day. This insidious emotion robs life of joy, takes away self-confidence, eats away at hope and makes even the simplest task more difficult.

Although it can seem like fear is everywhere and that once experienced, cannot be overcome, there is a way out of this downward spiral. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but it can be done. Here’s how.

Acknowledge that what you feel is fear. There’s no shame in being afraid. Frankly, some situations are so potentially rife with danger that you should be afraid in order to marshal your defenses to protect yourself and your loved ones.

But living in constant fear? That’s no way at all to live. By acknowledging the fear, you can begin to target effective coping mechanisms and construct an action plan that will help you get past this negative emotion.

Acknowledging fear is not giving in. You see what it is, but you vow not to let it engulf you or stop you from living your life the way you choose. It is vitally important to recognize that you choose whether or not you will allow fear to take over your life.

Say no to fear. That robs fear of its power over you. This is a profound and necessary step. But you’re still not out of the woods. There’s a lot left to do to master fear.

Create immediate goals and stay active. By staying active, you’re doing something positive and constructive. This adds to your belief in yourself and what you’re capable of. Every successful outcome, no matter how small, increases your self-confidence and further erodes the claim that fear tries to have on you.

It’s also a good idea to have mid-range and longer-term goals that you can take some action toward as well. This keeps you looking forward, not backward or stuck in the present in fear.

Enlist support. Include those who know you best and care about your well-being. Just having a friend or loved one to talk with during dark times or when you begin to doubt your capabilities in overcoming fear will go a long way in your journey past it.

Never give up. Celebrate your wins and forgive yourself for your mistakes, being careful to learn any lessons from the experience.

Remember that the life you want is yours to live. Go into the bright day of possibilities and forget about that cheap fear-filled room that held you captive for too long.

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Daily Thoughts


June 27, 2016

Be Considerate of Others

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“We often get caught up in our own reactions and forget the vulnerability of the person in front of us.” – Sharon Salzberg

 

How we conduct ourselves on a daily basis, especially when we’re consumed or preoccupied with our own reactions to situations, people and circumstances can greatly affect others.

It may not seem like being oblivious to others’ feelings is all that important, but consider how we feel when the same type of insensitive behavior happens to us. It isn’t very pleasant and sometimes it can have lasting consequences.

Take stock of yourself

Rectifying this type of thoughtless behavior requires taking stock of ourselves. This is not always easy to do. We’re generally rather blind to our own faults, thus, we repeat them. That is, unless and until what we do is called to our attention by someone we will listen to.

The unfortunate part of this is that many people will suffer in silence, preferring to say nothing rather than upset you. By the time things reach a tipping point, however, it may be too late. You can work on remedying such inconsideration on your part by taking proactive steps.

Say your spouse or loved one says that when you come home from work, you’re so overwhelmed and stressed out by the pressures of the day that you speak in a brusque tone or otherwise ignore him or her.

Does it even occur to you that your partner/spouse/loved one has had quite a difficult day as well? How about having a little consideration for him or her? Take a moment to collect your thoughts, take a deep breath before you step through the door at home and greet your loved one warmly and with full focus and attention on that person.

Are you a perfectionist?

What if you’re the type of person who’s such a perfectionist that only your way works? This doesn’t exactly endear you to co-workers and certainly not your boss. If you are the boss, it’s even more important that you value and acknowledge the contributions and ideas of your team members or employees, as well as your peers.

  • Hold your tongue when you’re tempted to lash out with a strongly worded criticism. See if you can moderate your language.
  • Before diving into what’s wrong, stress the good points you’ve noticed. This slight alteration in your behavior will help make the constructive criticism easier to take and you’ll be changing your automatic response to one that’s more considerate of the other person.

What if you’re too emotional?

Some people are too emotional, while others rarely show emotion. Here, too, your behavior can make a profound impact on someone else. By remaining stoic or hard-edged, no one can red you. This inserts a strain into the relationship that can lead to permanent damage.

On the other hand, if you are too emotional and get hysterical over inconsequential things, others will either be wounded by the outburst, become discouraged and depressed by it, will attempt to avoid contact with you when you are in such a state, or some other negative reaction. It will definitely hurt the other person and your relationship.

You may need professional help to work on your emotional difficulties, but recognizing they exist and being willing to do something to improve the situation.

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Daily Thoughts


June 26, 2016

Instead of Giving Up, Persevere

Photo by Maresa Smith

Photo by Maresa Smith

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” – J. Andrews

 

It’s time to face an awful truth: No one likes to fail.

The fact that so many give up after a mistake or misstep, however, doesn’t do much for self-confidence. How can you find the strength and presence of mind to pick yourself back up after falling to try yet again?

It’s called perseverance and the fact is that you only succeed if you keep trying.

Naturally, this is easier said than done.

Who wants to stare failure in the face and vow to keep on moving forward, trying one more time to master the project, task, undertaking or endeavor? If you continue to encounter obstacles, wouldn’t you be a fool to keep bucking the headwinds?

On the contrary, according to experts in goal accomplishment, if you make use of the lessons found in mistakes you’ll be able to accumulate much knowledge that will serve you well the next time you attempt the same or similar task.

The key point is perseverance. Nothing will ever get done if you give up.

And you also need to reconcile the fact that it’s often only after repeated attempts that you master what you’re trying to do or succeed in achieving your goal.

Can perseverance be taught? Not unless you count learning by example, watching how others keep going until they finally reach their desired goal.

But perseverance can be learned by any person with the determination and willingness to do so. In fact, that’s really at the heart of what perseverance is all about. You just don’t give up.

So what if you experience one failure, fall or misstep after another? This should not deter you from your goal. The question is how much do you really want the goal? Are you willing to put in the time and effort required in order to achieve it? Or are you only paying lip-service to the goal when your heart isn’t in it?

Giving up is the easy way out. But if you give up every time you encounter a hurdle, in a fairly short amount of time you’ll be running out of goals. There won’t be any motivation, no impetus to keep striving. Why would you, when all you know is failure?

By refusing to give up and instead deciding to persevere, you are exercising profound and beneficial muscles. Try it the very next time you suffer a failure. Say no to giving up and yes to persevering.

When you do ultimately succeed you will look back with pride and point to the fact that it was your perseverance that helped you accomplish your goal.

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Daily Thoughts


June 25, 2016

Aim High to Achieve Your Goals

Photo by Angela Benito

Photo by Angela Benito

“If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Having a goal or several goals is part of the growth process. Everybody knows that. What’s often underappreciated, however, is what it takes to achieve those goals. It isn’t merely think of the goal, work on it and succeed. There’s so much more to it than that. But one point is rather straightforward and can make achievement of even the loftiest goal a little less formidable: Aim high.

Why is aiming high recommended? For one thing, it always helps to have stretch goals.

  • A stretch goal is one that you know is beyond your current reach, yet it is highly desirable.
  • A stretch goal will require you to put in a great deal of thought, time and effort in order to be successful.

It’s not something easily achievable or a goal that you can do with your eyes closed. Those are accomplishments, but most aren’t all that memorable. After all, if you can do something so easily that it’s like breathing in oxygen, where’s the challenge in that?

To be truly memorable – and worthy of intense concentration and effort – your goal should cause you to think long and hard about how to approach it, when, where and how to revise or adapt it to changing circumstances, and what to take away from it once you either succeed or stumble. For there is always a lesson or two to be learned. Those who are most successful in achieving their stretch goals are the ones who’ve taken the time to master the lessons they learned during mistakes.

Aiming high is not giving yourself room for error. It’s a simple recognition that you need space to grow. Perhaps you will achieve the complete goal the first time out. This probably means you chose an easier goal than you initially thought or you were able to utilize skills that you didn’t know you had. In either case, the next goal you choose should perhaps be a little more challenging.

How do you know when you’re aiming higher than the original goal you intended? It should make you feel a little uncomfortable, wondering if you can possibly achieve it. You might also feel butterflies at the prospect of embarking on such a challenge. That’s also part of the appeal of stretch goals. They make you grow, push beyond your comfort zone, cause you to explore and discover new things. Each experience is an opportunity to learn and grow.

While you aim high with current goals, remember that the horizon continues to unfold before you. There will always be room to aim higher with the next goal and the ones after that.

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June 24, 2016

Who Do You Pretend to Be?

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

 

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

Who doesn’t love to put on different faces and pretend to be someone other than we are?

While most of us don’t readily admit to doing this, isn’t this exactly what we do when we’re trying to gear up to address a difficult situation, to attempt to convince others with our persuasive arguments, to steel ourselves to deal with an issue or problem we find fearful, intimidating, over our heads or distasteful?

Sometimes we even resort to pretense to get out of doing what we know is our responsibility. It’s easier to foist it on our co-worker, sibling, friend or the guy next door.

  • “It’s his or her job to do this, not me,” we tell ourselves.
  • “I’m too busy.”
  • “I’ve got multiple important projects going on right now and it is time for him or her to step up.”

That kind of thinking and behavior may work for a while, but it’s going to catch up with the pretender sooner or later.

When you pretend to be something you’re not, you aren’t being your authentic self. And authenticity is critical to self-esteem. Acting a lie, even a white one, causes you to contort your facial muscles into a false expression. You might fool others, but you can’t fool yourself.

On the other hand, it is good to work toward being that person you aspire to be. If you want to be a leader, you need to lead by example. If your goal is to be an effective communicator, everything you say in verbal or written form has to be carefully considered and delivered with maximum attention to honesty, simplicity, clarity and conciseness.

These are examples of striving to change and putting change into motion. It isn’t the same thing as pretending to be other than who you are.

Where many people get into trouble is being ambivalent about who they want to be. They tell themselves they want to be the best in their field or career, yet they don’t take responsibility for their mistakes, shift tasks to others that they should be doing themselves, find excuses for lackluster performance and otherwise don’t challenge themselves.

While they occasionally rise from their pattern of self-lies to actually take charge and accomplish a goal, it is often short-lived. The habit of pretending to be, but not actually delivering on the promise, is too ingrained.

It might be helpful to write down some key phrases that describe who you want to be, as well as who you think you are now. If there’s a wide gap between the two, you have some work to do to close it. This isn’t impossible, but it may take some time.

The results, however, will be well worth the effort.

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Daily Thoughts


June 23, 2016

Keep Balance in Your Life

Photo by Valor Kopeny

Photo by Valor Kopeny

“The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.” – Euripides

 

Maintaining balance in life is what most people strive for, yet many complain that it’s a difficult, if not impossible, endeavor. Granted, life gets in the way. That’s pretty much a universal complaint. There are kids to tend to, errands to run, the job to perform, learning new skills, attaining a certain level of education and/or experience, relationships to manage, bills to pay, health to take care of – and so much more. Is it any wonder that there sometimes seem to be too few hours in the day and oh, so much left to do?

How then are you to go about keeping a balance in your life? What tips or techniques work well to begin to put together the framework that facilitates such an equilibrium? Here are some suggestions:

  • Elevate achieving balance to high up on your list of priorities. This has to be important, no shoving it to the bottom as irrelevant, nice to have, but not necessary. Balance is extremely important in living a fulfilling, happy and meaningful life.
  • Strip away non-essential tasks – or delegate them to others. There are undoubtedly many items on your daily to-do list that really don’t need attention from you right now. Some can be eliminated altogether – so do that right away. Take care to not ditch those that you detest, just to be rid of them. If they are important, strategic and/or necessary, you will need to figure out how to deal with them appropriately. This may mean taking time to craft a strategy, enlisting help, delegating to others, creating a workable timetable and more. The point is to reduce the drags on your time, to free some time for a personal life – and starting the worthwhile path toward achieving and keeping balance in your life.
  • Schedule time for you. With so many work, home, school or other priorities seeking to claim your time, in order to have any hope of achieving a balance in your life you need to schedule time for you. This is time to do whatever you want that delights, relaxes, stimulates, intrigues or helps you socialize. It doesn’t have to be a large block of time all at once. Even a half hour strategically placed will do wonders for your balancing goal. Keep in mind that a well-rested, unstressed person is much less likely to be frazzled when the unexpected occurs. By factoring in time for yourself, you’re helping to achieve that balance that’s so necessary for healthy living.
  • Learn to say no. You want to be liked by others. That’s human nature. Where many people get into trouble is that they can’t seem to say no when they’re asked to take on tasks and projects when they’re already overwhelmed by what they have to do. It isn’t mean or selfish to say no – just learn how to say it graciously. Soften your words with a promise to lend a hand when you’re able to do so. Then follow up and offer your assistance at a time that’s right.
  • Prioritize goals.  ’s a definite lack of balance. One approach to get past this dilemma is to prioritize goals. Categorize them into short-, medium- and long-range goals. Create a workable timetable for addressing them. Enlist resources. Craft a plan of action. These steps will help to introduce more balance into your life.

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Daily Thoughts


June 22, 2016

Growth Has No Limits

Photo by Manik Rathee

Photo by Manik Rathee

“There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.” – Ronald Reagan

 

Look up at the sky. There are no limits as far as the eye can see. There may be clouds that temporarily obscure the endless vista, but those will pass. Just as the sky is without limit, so, too is how far each person can grow.

It’s a shame more of us don’t recognize this, for the concept that growth is limitless – unless we impose limits upon ourselves – is incredibly powerful.

Suppose you want to become the head of your own company or create a business in an area where no one has gone before. Sure, you’ll face uncertainty, challenges and hurdles and victory isn’t guaranteed. But nothing in life is ever 100 percent certain. You have to work hard, using your intelligence and creativity and persevering despite any and all obstacles in order to be successful.

Some may argue that they aren’t smart enough to take on the tough jobs, to leap to the top of the hierarchy in a big company or distinguish themselves from every other person striving to be successful. That’s self-limiting thinking and it has no place when it comes to growth – simply because it’s an excuse, not the truth.

You can become more skilled, learn what you need in order to advance, gain knowledge and arrive at wisdom by virtue of applying what you learned. This is particularly important and relevant when it comes to learning from mistakes and perceived failure. In fact, many successful individuals say they’ve learned more from what they initially considered failures or colossal blunders than from their easier successes.

The human brain has vast untapped potential. Considering that most people don’t even use a fraction of their brainpower, that leaves vast areas yet to utilize.

What prompts wonder, surprise, delight and stirs curiosity, feeds imagination and creativity also contribute to the further pushing out of any preconceived boundaries of growth potential.

So, the next time you think you can’t, tell yourself that you can. If you get stuck on some aspect of what you’re pursuing, try something else for a while. You can come back to where you got hung up later on. You may well find that in the interim you’ve figured out the solution to your problem or discovered a new approach you can take.

Just because it feels impossible right now doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Prize learning. Strive to learn something new every day. Take time to enjoy life and stimulate all your senses. Be with people you enjoy and do things that you find purposeful and satisfying.

Most of all, embrace the opportunity to grow. It’s a unique part of being human.

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Daily Thoughts


June 21, 2016

Use Your Talents

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

 

If you want to achieve success, you need to start somewhere. Why not start right where you are now? In fact, the only way to ensure an outcome you ardently desire is to take the action required to bring that vision into reality.

Instead of saying “I can’t” or “it’s too difficult” or “I don’t have the resources,” or some other excuse, turn off the urge to complain and rationalize and turn on your creative thinking.

You do have this, by the way. Everyone does.

But not everyone makes use of the unique talents and abilities they have. Many times talent goes wasted, unrecognized by the person who has it. Even if others comment how terrific that idea was or “likes” your uploaded photo on social media of some inspiring person or event, the tendency to self-deprecate and push aside mentions of your talent of abilities means you’re not using them as best you can.

It’s not a terribly difficult process to begin using your talents. You do, however, have to acknowledge they’re there and recognize them so that you can.

Here’s a good way to start. Ask yourself what you like to do more than anything else. Is it running, painting, creating an artistic floral arrangement, perfecting a PowerPoint presentation, coaching your kid’s Little League baseball? Get involved. Do more of that.

The enthusiasm you feel during and after doing what you most enjoy is a good sign that you’re both good at what you do and it’s good for you to do it.

While it may not seem like much of an auspicious start, it actually is quite monumental. For one thing, you’re getting something positive out of it. For another, you may find new avenues to explore or other areas of interest to pursue. Doing what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what makes you more energized and motivated also centers you in on the present.

When you are fully present in the moment, you’re actively engaged. This is not passive existence; it’s active, full of motion and all systems go.

It might help to make a list of the talents you think you have – or know you have. Some of them may be things that you’ve put aside, thinking that you don’t have time for them now. Others may be things you liked to do when you were a child but feel are inappropriate now. Still others may be things that you’ve been told you have a natural ability for but haven’t allowed yourself to investigate further.

Once you have your list, study it closely. Your imagination should start to envision scenarios where you make use of your talents. Take that inspiration and run with it.

If nothing else, what you’ll end up with is likely a very good time. Not only that, but you’ll also learn a great deal about what you’re really capable of – and good at.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 20, 2016

Be An Enthusiast in Life

Photo by Delfi de la Rua

Photo by Delfi de la Rua

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” – Roald Dahl

 

Life is definitely worth living. And when it comes to living, the only way to live is to do so wholeheartedly, without reservation or regrets, no holds barred, and full-speed ahead.

Too many times we tell ourselves that we’ll only go so far, that we’ll give something a try and then give up before we’ve even allowed it to have a chance. That’s not living. That’s dipping a toe in the water and deciding it’s too cold to go any further.

This kind of defeats the purpose of discovery and exploration, doesn’t it? You have to be willing to entertain the unknown, to step into unfamiliar territory and overcome your reticence and fears if you have any hope of living a joyful, zest-filled life.

Maybe you don’t regard yourself as very enthusiastic, preferring to play it safe rather than be bold. It’s OK to be a little tentative at first, but do venture forth and do something out of your comfort zone.

To make it easy, start small. If you’re petrified of water, don’t go out on a boat ride. Spend some time gazing at the water from the safety of a secure dock. If you can’t stand heights, but have to use an elevator to get where you’re going and the elevator is made of see-through material, don’t look down. Look out instead. While this won’t make you an enthusiast about the water or less-than-afraid of heights, it will be pushing your boundaries. You will realize that you can attempt things you didn’t believe yourself capable of.

As for giving yourself permission to go after what interests you, there’s no time like the present. After all, life is short and you might not have this opportunity again. This isn’t about being fearful you’re going to die but about taking advantage of the preciousness of life and living it to the fullest.

When something sparks your interest, pursue it with vigor. Learn all you can about it and jump in with both feet. Indulge your curiosity. Feel your excitement build. Follow the energy. That’s living vibrantly and with purposefulness.

Go on, be an enthusiast in life. You can do this.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 19, 2016

Find Something You Enjoy Doing

Photo by Jamie Mink

Photo by Jamie Mink

“My father told me to find something you enjoy doing… If you enjoy your work, then it is not work.” – Martin Sorrell

 

When you were a kid, did your father ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? Most children hear this question from one or both parents, but mostly from relatives, teachers, and the occasional visitor to the house.

Most children are quick to rattle off what most inspires them at the moment: a ballerina, a fireman, an astronaut, a professional basketball player (or pro football, hockey, soccer, baseball, etc.), fixing up old cars, a doctor, a writer.

When asked why they chose this as what they want to be, they’ll often say that it’s cool, or fun, or exciting or other descriptors that show how much they want to do something they enjoy.

That’s really the key – to enjoy what you do. Nothing else really matters.

Does this sound selfish?

It’s meant to be a little selfish. But this isn’t a bad thing. Here’s why.

When you enjoy something, you give it everything you’ve got.

There’s no holding back when you do what you love. It doesn’t matter if you make good money doing it or not. Joy is so pure and so all-consuming that time seems to fly without notice. All you know is how good it feels to keep doing this thing. If this happens to be work – what you do for a living – you likely don’t consider it work. It’s more an expression of joy.

You’re likely to do your best if you enjoy your work.

Along with being totally consumed by what you’re doing, if you enjoy your work you’ll be more motivated to do the best you can do. This isn’t pressure but more of a self-propelled desire to fulfill your potential, to do that which you haven’t done before, to push your boundaries and learn something new in the process.

People want to be around you when you enjoy what you do.

Since most people have to have some sort of a job to make a living and provide for their families, it’s always nice to work with co-workers who have a zest for their jobs. For one thing, it makes the environment a lot more enjoyable for everyone. For another, enthusiasm is contagious. When you are that person who gets a lift out of what you do, your co-workers notice – and may be inspired to do a little more themselves.

 

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 18, 2016

Turn Wishes Into Plans

Photo by Dave Meier

Photo by Dave Meier

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

 

It is natural to want things and to engage in the dreamy exercise of wishing for them.

Yet wishes seldom turn into results.

In order to achieve wishes or dreams requires a somewhat firm goal and actionable plans that make success possible. There are two key elements here: the firm goal and actionable plans. Understanding each is crucial to turning wishes into plans.

A goal is something that you strive for, something you deem desirable and worth working to achieve. It can be a material goal, as in saving up enough money to live comfortably, or buying a house, or having children. It can be an emotional goal, as in feeling a sense of self-fulfillment and living a life of purpose.

The reason the words “somewhat firm” are placed before goal is that goals are fluid, need to evolve and change and should never be regarded as rigid or fixed.

If there is no room for movement, if you cannot alter your goal to accommodate new information or areas of interest and opportunity that come your way, you’ll never know if making adjustments would have resulted in greater happiness or fulfillment.

On the other hand, remaining flexible and open to change will allow greater freedom to express yourself, follow the roads you want to take and achieve the most out of your goals.

As to actionable plans, these are the second most important part of turning wishes into plans. A wish is just that: a wish.

When you wish, whether it’s to yourself, upon a star, or telling someone else about it, you’re expressing a desire for something, quite possibly something you believe you haven’t got a chance of ever attaining.

We wish to win the Lotto and play occasionally or regularly, knowing the odds are against us but wishing nonetheless to be the recipient of that jackpot. You could say that buying Lotto tickets is an actionable plan, but it doesn’t decrease the odds. Your action is still just a wish.

Going back to the wish to own your own house and turning that wish into a plan, there are several actions you can take to flesh out that plan.

These include:

  • Taking stock of your credit rating and making the necessary changes to improve it so that you can qualify for a mortgage at a good interest rate
  • Saving money for a down payment, closing costs, improvements you might want to make in the home after you buy it
  • Constructing a schedule and timetable
  • Looking for properties in your price range
  • Finding a realtor
  • Going to see homes for sale
  • Making an offer
  • Arranging for movers to move you in once you close the sale

Actionable plans involve a step-by-step process that you carefully navigate. This doesn’t mean that all plans go smoothly. Most seldom do, even those strategically mapped out well ahead of time.

Be prepared for twists and turns, unexpected delays and obstacles, as well as opportunities that may crop up.

Using the example of buying a house, perhaps the owners of the home you want reject your bid. You can make a counter offer and go back and forth this way until the owners either accept your final bid or not.

Then, your choice is to give up or look for another home in your price range that satisfies your needs.

It may take longer to achieve your goal, but you have your actionable plans and all you need to follow through is the determination to achieve your goal.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 17, 2016

Give a Little More Than You Take

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Success is feeling satisfaction in giving a little more than you take.” – Christopher Reeve

 

How many of us know someone who always seems to be a taker instead of a giver? Perhaps we even recognize this same tendency in ourselves, if not all the time, at least some of the time.

There’s a curious thing that happens when you are so focused on your own wants and needs: You often begin to act selfishly, thoughtlessly and repeatedly. This may further your own ends, but does it do you any good in the long run? Are you experiencing any true and lasting satisfaction? Do you consider your actions a success?

Or is there something else going on here that you can learn a valuable lesson from?

Far from being a harsh critique on the kinds of behavior everyone engages in on occasion, this is more of a reminder that everyone can profit by making the effort to give to others just a tiny bit more than they take.

It isn’t all that hard to do. It just requires a willingness and a commitment to do so. Then, of course, you have to follow through on the intention and actually give a little more than you take.

You can start with something simple, like taking less of a portion of food on your plate and giving a little more to someone else at the table. Or not scooping up the last of the mashed potatoes on the buffet table and leaving some for the next customer.

How about not hogging all the sale items when others are trying to purchase one as well? Do you really need 10 of the new video games or can you make do with a few less?

As for what you get in return, that’s often immeasurable. How can you take the measure of the satisfaction you feel when you give more than you take? It feels good, like a warm and comfy glow.

Whatever might have been bothering you before – the traffic, weather, not having eaten lunch, your boss coming down on you for something – seems less a bother and more of an inconvenience, nothing to get all exercised about.

Besides, seeing the smile of thanks on the person who’s the recipient of your giving is worth whatever little sacrifice you made, isn’t it?

This is perhaps as good a definition of success as any, feeling satisfaction in giving a little more than you take. The best part is that once others see you do this, they’ll very likely emulate your behavior. It’s a small example of pay it forward.

Everyone wins.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 16, 2016

Pay Attention to This Moment

Photo by Matthew Wiebe

Photo by Matthew Wiebe

Just watch this moment, without trying to change it at all. What is happening? What do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear?” – Jon Kabbat Zinn

 

It’s easy to get caught up in the responsibilities of daily living and neglect to pay attention to the moment.

When one minute crashes into the next and there never seems to be enough time to tend to all that needs to be done, no wonder people find it so difficult to be mindful of the present.

Yet paying attention to this moment that is happening right now is critically important to an overall sense of well-being and joy of living.

The question is, how do you teach yourself to do this? Is it even something that you can learn or does it happen by accident? The answers may surprise you.

In order to pay attention, the first thing that’s necessary is a sincere desire to be more present. This needs to be a conscious decision, not a fleeting thought. By intentionally making the choice to pay attention to the moment, you’ll be laying the essential groundwork for this healthy practice. It will still take some time to make this an effortless habit, but it will never occur unless the firm intention is there.

Next, you have to commit to the process. It’s easier than you think to do this, especially after you’ve acknowledged that this is something you want to do. Recognize that there will be times when you’ll be so overwhelmed by daily distractions that you find it difficult to circle back to the present and don’t beat yourself up about it. Just gently bring your attention back to the moment when you can.

As to how to hone in on the moment, use your senses to help. It may be helpful to close your eyes, especially if there are multiple distractions claiming your time.

  • Listen. What do you hear?
  • Smell. What scent or aroma do you detect?
  • Now open your eyes. What images do you see? Try to view them as a specimen you’re examining closely for clues. Note the shape, texture, size and appearance.
  • What action, if any, is going on at the moment?
  • What emotions do you feel as you watch the activity or take in the scene in its entirety?

By using your senses to help zero in on the moment, you’ll likely not notice the passage of time. What takes a mere minute or two can be immensely rewarding, like a mini mental massage. Stress will gradually dissipate. You’ll feel more energy. Solutions to problems or ideas for implementation of a project or task will be easier to identify.

All it takes is taking time to pay attention to this moment. Not a bad payoff for very little effort.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 15, 2016

Wrong Place, Right Time?

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw

“It’s easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it is leadership to be in the wrong place at the right time.” – Alison Thompson

 

If you believe that everything happens for a reason, you could have the makings of a leader. Bad things do happen, sometimes quite horrific, such as terrorism attacks on U.S. soil and elsewhere in the world. It’s at times like these that leadership is sorely needed.

Does the person who’s been shot during a gunman’s rampage cower and fear for his or her life? They’d be inhuman not to. But being in that wrong place at that particular time also may be the right time to demonstrate leadership. Helping other people escape even in the face of extreme danger to self is just one example of such leadership.

Think of the lives saved. Even if it’s a single life, that’s an amazingly positive result. And it might not have happened if one person didn’t step up to lead.

The same holds true if you see something that’s not right. Tell someone. Report it. That’s leadership, taking a stand and making a difference.

Yet it’s also true that opportunities to lead occur every day, most without life-changing stakes. For example, you could be in a meeting that you felt was a waste of your time, wasn’t a requirement for you to attend and hear or see something that prompts you to take a stand or make your voice heard. Your words and actions may just be the catalyst others need to take the initiative to do the same.

Another scenario where being in the wrong place at the right time is when manager A. knows there’s a disruptive rally going on, designed to stir up employees and cause friction in the ranks. Manager A. decides to go to the rally and speak to the employees. He vows to listen to their complaints and issues without any repercussions. His actions in a time of uncertainty and in a difficult situation demonstrate his ability to lead.

A true leader doesn’t think about whether it’s good to step into a conflict. He or she knows what is right and instinctively does the tough thing – even if that costs him or her in popularity for the moment.

While you may not think of yourself as a leader just yet, by doing the best you can at all times and in every situation, you’re acquiring the kind of skills leadership requires. When and if the time comes that you’re in the wrong place, it can be at the right time for you to show how to lead.

 

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 14, 2016

Open the Door to Creativity

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Non-judgment quiets the internal dialogue, and this opens once again the doorway to creativity.” – Deepak Chopra

 

Do you think of yourself as creative? Or do you think that you somehow lack the capability for creativity?

The truth is that each of us possesses the ability to think and act in creative ways, to discover new talents and use them in constructive efforts. The problem or difficulty that seems to plague many people, however, is damping down the sources of external and internal noise in order to be able to listen to the tugging of creativity.

What does this mean and how do you tap into your reservoir or well-spring of creativity? Let’s take a look.

When everything is chaotic, the most important thing on your mind is finding some sort of peace, balancing the competing demands and coming back to a more even pace.

It could be that your boss is on the phone or appears at your desk demanding that report right now or the kids are squabbling in the next room and you can’t think, let alone get anything done. How are you supposed to find a spark of creativity in all this disquiet?

While it may seem impossible to insert a sense of calmness in the midst of such distraction, you can do it with a little practice and some determination.

Take a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out rhythmically and listen to the sounds of your breathing.

Thoughts will come into your mind and try to claim your attention, but all you need to do is recognize them and let them go.

If it’s important enough that you need to do something about them, the situation or event that prompted them will still be there after you’ve taken a quick break to reorient yourself. Three to five minutes is a good start for the breathing exercise.

The benefit of taking this time for yourself is that it allows you to re-establish an oasis of calmness from which you can come back into the present refreshed and with a clearer mind.

The problems or issues that need your attention may not seem as overwhelming as they previously did. You may even discover a solution or approach that appears workable. This is your creativity coming to the forefront.

What are distracting thoughts but a lot of judgement, anyway? Silence that critical voice and listen only to the quiet.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 13, 2016

Can You Predict Your Future?

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

 

It’s natural to wonder what’s going to happen in the future, and making plans to achieve desirable goals is the best way to ensure a favorable outcome.

But many people, whether they’ve been brought up in a dysfunctional family, suffered a series of misfortunes, endured or recently were diagnosed with a serious illness or condition, or were never praised for their successes lack the ability to believe in themselves. No wonder the future looks bleak to them.

But even the happiest and most well-adjusted of us sometimes wonder about the future and whether or not we can figure out what that future will be.

Can you predict your future? According to experts, no, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tried and true ways to effectively shape it.

Suppose you have a long-held dream to be a university professor or to teach English to children in a third-world country or be the CEO of a successful company. The path to getting there isn’t magic. It involves hard work, dedication, and a willingness to stay the course despite any and all obstacles that threaten to block progress.

You also need a plan of action, a rigorous and thoroughly thought out approach that you can take. It isn’t by accident that you achieve your goals but by carefully coordinated logic – and an undiminished enthusiasm and vision of what you can achieve.

While you may not be able to predict your future, you can definitely take the steps to shape it the way you want.

  • The best way to get started is to craft a list of what you really want out of life. Literally put this to paper or commit it to a file on an electronic device.
  • Use post-it notes to remind you of goals or encouraging quotes to boost your resolve when the going gets tough.
  • Enlist others who support your goals so that you have an effective network to rely on – and offer your encouragement to them for their efforts as well.
  • Make every experience a learning one, for there is always a lesson in everything we do.

Want to know your future? It will be the result of what you do today, perhaps not immediately, but your efforts now will ultimately affect it.

 

Daily Thoughts


June 12, 2016

Courage Is What It Takes

Photo by Dave Meier

Photo by Dave Meier

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill

 

Do you think of yourself as courageous? This isn’t a question most people ask themselves on a regular basis. Many likely don’t think about courage unless and until they encounter a situation that demands it.

In reality, though, each of us faces opportunities to demonstrate courage on a daily basis.

Every day?

That’s right.

Here are two examples to illustrate the point.

Courage to stand up and speak -- You and your wife are driving to a restaurant for dinner and you’re stopped at a red light. Glancing over to say something to your wife, you see a teenage boy roughing up a smaller boy on the sidewalk. The little guy is getting pummeled, holding up his arms to deflect the blows. Do you call out to the perpetrator to warn him to stop? Do you threaten to call the police? Do you stop the car and get out to intervene? Do you ask your wife to dial 911 while you chase off the beater? Or, do you shake your head and drive away when the light turns green?

Courage is what it takes to speak up. In this case, you demonstrate courage by your words and actions. Doing nothing is not courage. It is the lack of courage. You can’t excuse it by saying this isn’t your fight. When you see injustice, it has to be your fight. To allow injustice to continue unchallenged is to perpetrate it.

Courage to sit down and listen – Your team has worked hard to prepare a presentation that delivers on your objectives. You look it over and tear it apart without realizing that they did what you asked. You sent terse feedback to the group that they need to start over, that this effort falls short. Bob, one of the team members, comes to your office asking to discuss your criticism and potential solutions. You aren’t thrilled at the interruption – after all, you’re the boss – but you put aside your annoyance and invite Bob in. You give him your full attention as he offers the team’s collective thoughts on how to improve the presentation. Or, you wave Bob off and tell him to get the team back to work, that they need to pay attention to the deadline and give you what you want.

Courage here is what it takes to sit down and listen. You may not realize you have a blind spot when it comes to certain aspects of the presentation. If you aren’t willing to listen to what might make it better, even if no one is overtly criticizing you, then you will need to reconcile yourself to mediocrity, to less than optimum results. A good leader is a courageous one. He or she has what it takes to listen when the situation requires it.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 11, 2016

Are Your Troubles Self-Caused?

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit still for a month.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

Things not going so well lately? Could it be that your own actions are responsible? It’s tough to look in the mirror and recognize that you are the cause of your own troubles. It’s even tougher to have the courage to do something about it.

Recognition of the problem is one thing. Finding a solution is another. Doing both requires grit, a bit of humility, a willingness to forgive yourself, and the determination to do whatever is necessary to get past it.

First, stop automatically blaming others or the universe or life in general for everything that doesn’t go as planned. It’s not going to do you any good, so why bother with this futile exercise? Instead of looking for someone or something else to blame, acknowledge the problem or trouble and thus rob it of its power to limit you. Once you’ve identified the issue, you can then go about trying to devise a solution or workable approach to follow.

Think of climbing an incredibly steep hill. If you stand at the bottom and peer up to see the summit and are discouraged, you’re less likely to take the first step. But, knowing that achieving the summit is your goal, instead of becoming disheartened and giving up, you put one foot in front of the other and start climbing. You can tell yourself you’ll just go until you can’t go any further. Each step brings you that much closer to your goal and encourages you to keep going even when the going gets difficult.

Almost all troubles or problems can be approached the same way. Add to your determination to take the first step and then keep going the hope and optimism that you will find a way to achieve your goal. While you may not currently have a clue how all this will turn out, you are encouraged by the support of others in your network – your family, loved ones, friends and co-workers – and see that the way ahead means taking decisive action.

Sometimes it’s very humbling to see that you are your own worst enemy. But this is also necessary if you are to make progress toward what you want most out of life. If you’ve been stumbling along making one mistake after another, stop and analyze what you’ve been doing. See if there’s a better way. Get professional help if needed. Definitely make the decision to change what you can and be hopeful of a positive outcome depending on your efforts.

 

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 10, 2016

Digest Experiences to Grow

Photo by Maresa Smith

Photo by Maresa Smith

“Our growth depends not on how many experiences we devour, but on how many we digest.” – Ralph W. Sockman

 

You can go through life completely oblivious of the significance of your actions, storming ahead and consuming everything you do with a seemingly voracious appetite or you can make a conscious decision to savor experiences, allowing them to fully digest. What’s the benefit of the latter? When you take the time to be in the present, instead of focusing on what’s next, you’re more likely to see things you’d otherwise miss, discover opportunities that you’d probably pass by, be available to meet and interact with new people, and have the chance to learn more about yourself, your desires and your capabilities.

The short summation is that you cannot expect to grow in life if you rush through things, not giving yourself time to think about them, to reflect and figure out what lessons there are for you to learn.

Granted, there will be times when you have to go pell-mell on a project. But even then you don’t have to be so future-focused that you miss the present moment. You can still acknowledge what it feels like now, to really see and experience what you’re currently doing to its full measure. That’s maximizing your experience, not letting it slip away unnoticed.

And everyone wants to grow. That’s human nature. The key is to have a sufficient list of goals so that you always have something to work toward, but also to strive consciously to live in the present. It isn’t a dichotomy. This approach actually works. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to digest your experiences, here are a few tips:

  • When you catch yourself rushing, slow down. Take a few deep breaths. Stop whatever you’re doing to think about what it is you’re doing and why. This will force you to acknowledge the present and give you the opportunity to more fully savor it.
  • Try some relaxation techniques to get you in the habit of appreciating the present. These include meditation, yoga, Pilates, walking in nature, prayer, deep breathing exercises and others.
  • Pare your load of responsibilities. Prioritize what you absolutely need to do and create action plans so that you’re not frantically looking for solutions when you need to take action. When you have a bit less to do and a carefully laid-out plan to follow, you’ll be less stressed and more able to digest the present moment.
  • Remember that you’ll never again have this moment. Once you recognize that, allow the moment to sink in and be completely absorbed. Feel the life energy that your actions create. You can almost feel yourself growing as a result.

 

Daily Thoughts


June 9, 2016

Commit to Excellence

Photo by Nirzar Pangarkar

Photo by Nirzar Pangarkar

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti

 

If you want to achieve success in any task, endeavor, project or activity, you need to commit all the way. There’s no sense just giving it partial effort. The results you obtain will clearly demonstrate what you put into it – or didn’t.

But committing to excellence is a concept that’s unfamiliar to many people. Some may be too used to having it easy, never having to strive to achieve what they want because it’s given to them. Call them trust-fund babies, the privileged, or those who believe they are entitled. The labels don’t matter as much as the underlying belief: that it isn’t necessary to work for success. The corollary to this mistaken belief is that you don’t need to exert yourself to get anything in life.

Most people, however, do have some sort of work ethic. They may not refer to it as a commitment, but they are fairly constant in their adherence to what they’ve accepted as normal. For example, if you have a job, you acclimate yourself to getting up and getting to work on time, doing what needs to be done, and reaping the rewards as a result. The times you fall down in your efforts are quite readily apparent: You don’t get the promotion, are passed over for a raise, may receive a reprimand or become excluded from the inner circle, and so on.

Behavioral experts counsel that you can train yourself to adopt new habits, constructive ones that allow you to make strides toward personal and professional goals. At the core of healthy behavior is a sincere desire to accomplish something and a fierce determination and pledge to go after it with everything you’ve got.

It doesn’t matter what the goal is, whether it’s a longstanding one or something you’ve recently decided you want. Nor does it matter how long it will take to achieve. What does matter very much is the extent to which you will commit to excellence in trying to achieve it.

 

Daily Thoughts


June 8, 2016

Stop Being So Serious

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously.” – Samuel Butler

 

When you were a kid and saw a much older person (OK, in your mind, he was ancient) hobbling along with what looked to you like a mean and grouchy look on his face, didn’t you automatically think, “What a sourpuss!” As children, we’re keenly intuitive to the emotions of others. We can read people well, even when they try to mask their feelings from us.

Children are quick to forgive, easily able to see the joy in life, to laugh and cry and laugh again.

Somehow, however, we seem to lose some of that natural ability as we mature.

It doesn’t need to be this way. There are ways to turn that steamroller around. Instead of allowing negative emotions to lay waste to your life, make it a point to stop being so serious and find what’s good and true and hopeful. Then maximize your enjoyment of it.

What about the things in life that are, well, serious? You can’t avoid those, right? While it’s true that you have to deal with situations, people and things that may be unpleasant, painful, contradictory, horrendous, exasperating, even evil, there’s always the other side of that experience. You won’t be in it forever, although it may seem like it’s lasting far too long at the time.

Perhaps the most difficult part is trying to change your own outlook from one that’s too focused on how bad things are or how difficult it is to get through things to an attitude that allows for some breathing room, levity, being able to see opportunities hidden within challenges.

If you’ve lost your job, been dumped by your spouse or partner, got hit by a speeding driver, had your identity stolen or experienced some other nasty or traumatic event, it’s hard enough to pick yourself up and go on, let alone do so without feeling dour, helpless and hopeless.

But you can do it, with the help of your friends and loved ones who support your efforts and will always be by your side no matter what. There’s joy and solace in knowing you have allies. That’s a positive and will help lift you up out of the seriousness of your current situation.

You also need to have the desire and fortitude to insist that you will look for the lighter side of life’s difficulties. It won’t just happen. If you go around with a grim face that mirrors your equally serious thoughts, you’ll keep on having the same outcome. The situations and experiences may change, but your attitude won’t. For that you need to vow to turn that ship around.

Life is short. Make it your intent to live it to the fullest, taking every opportunity to experience joy and happiness – even in the midst of sadness, trouble and pain.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 7, 2016

Go Explore

Photo by Dino Reichmuth

Photo by Dino Reichmuth

“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been before.” – Diane Arbus

 

The unknown is a scary place. No wonder it’s so difficult to embark on a journey where the destination is uncertain, the path could be perilous and the wherewithal to continue might be lacking. Knowing every facet of the trip before setting out is called careful planning, but even the most meticulous planner has to be prepared for the unexpected.

Actually, life is so much more exciting when you venture into the unknown, the unfamiliar and uncharted. The element of uncertainty adds a certain allure to the venture, making you feel more alive in the process of discovery.

This is not to say that you should traipse into danger unaware or unprepared, just that you take into account the various risks and have a plan of action prepared accordingly. To do otherwise is to act in a foolhardy manner. That’s not the goal of exploration, of discovering new experiences.

What is, however, is the willingness to challenge yourself, to nourish a desire to go out and walk in unfamiliar territory, to push your abilities in order to expand and strengthen them, and to realize the exquisite satisfaction of going where you’ve never been before.

Imagine how much less rich your life would feel if you never saw a sunrise, felt the cooling breeze on a hot summer day, heard the sweet laughter of your child taking his or her first step? Closing yourself off from experiences is the opposite of exploration and discovery.

Now, think how pumped you felt when you succeeded in accomplishing a difficult goal, one that you thought you couldn’t possibly master but you went after it with gusto anyway. These experiences may have been frightening to begin with, but through perseverance and a desire to see how far you could go somehow got you through. Aren’t you glad that you did?

What about the most satisfying and rewarding experiences you’ve ever had? What do they have in common? It’s more than likely that they involved some element of risk taking, some aspect of challenging yourself beyond your current comfort level, and a certain curiosity that propelled you to take the first step.

As Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Let loose your boundaries and go explore. You won’t be disappointed at the treasures you discover, whether they are emotional growth, a spiritual awakening, strengthening of skills, an expanding network of friends, the beginning of love or something else.

 

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 6, 2016

Wise Advice: Think, Plan and Do

Photo by Alex Siale

Photo by Alex Siale

 

“Thinking well is wise; planning well, wiser; doing well wisest and best of all.” – Persian proverb

 

If you want to get ahead and make progress toward goals, you have to have a plan. The wise person knows that it’s not all just a matter of going from point A to point B, however, and recognizes that there is a definite process that must be followed in order to achieve goals.

The first step involves careful thought about what it is you want to accomplish. This may entail brainstorming with trusted family members, friends or co-workers, much research, some conversations with mentors or subject matter experts, reading about the topic and putting some of your thoughts on paper. In short, whatever it takes to jumpstart the thought process and get you thinking about the types of areas where you want to make progress is good. It is an absolutely critical step in the journey to actually achieving goals.

Once you’ve systematically thought through what you want or need to do, the next step is to construct a plan. Going into a project, task, pursuit or activity without a roadmap is almost guaranteed to result in failure. If not complete failure, the outcome is likely not going to be what you anticipated. You need a plan, so the wise choice is to get busy to put one together.

Again, make use of your support network to incorporate suggestions, get encouragement and even leads. The plan should be a living document, not put to paper once and then allowed to gather dust. As you tackle various steps in the plan, the overall plan will need to be revised. New approaches may be more viable, requiring that you see where and how these may benefit the goal. Pay special attention to what works out the best so you can make use of this or similar techniques in the future.

After thinking about what you want to do, putting together a solid plan that you regularly revise, it’s time to take action. All the greatest ideas and plans never implemented result in – you guessed it – nothing.

Granted, you might feel some trepidation about venturing into territory you’re unfamiliar with, but armed with your solid research and carefully constructed plan you’ve got a sound basis on which to proceed.

Besides, nothing ventured, nothing gained. In order to realize your hopes and dreams, you need to put plans into action. Once you do succeed, even if it takes much trial and error, start over and create new goals, new plans and begin the process again.

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 5, 2016

Make Your Own Destiny

 

Aloe-Erol Ahmed_photo-Unsplash

“I do not believe in the word fate. It is the refuge of ever self-confessed failure.” – Andrew Soutar

 

When things seem to go south and nothing you try works, ask yourself if you are doing all that you can. Could it be that you are somehow sabotaging your efforts by the subconscious belief that this is your fate and you can’t change it? Fate is more than a four-letter word; it’s also synonymous – or should be – with a belief in failure. Instead of giving in and giving up, make an abrupt about-face and toss ideas of fate out the window. Embrace the concept of making your own destiny, charting your own path, creating your own future.

You can do this. It won’t, however, be easy.

For starters, there’s a whole mind-set you need to set about changing, getting rid of outmoded and outdated – not to mention erroneous – beliefs. It’s become comfortable to exist with the notion that your life is predetermined, that fate controls your destiny. This comfort level causes a certain decided sense of laziness to set in. Why bother exerting the effort, particularly if the project, task, endeavor or pursuit is arduous, complicated, difficult and time-consuming? Why not just give it the briefest of efforts and then claim that you did your best?

You know better. At least you should. If you aren’t putting a whole-hearted effort, you’re not doing it right. And doing it right doesn’t mean that you won’t experience some slips or make mistakes. Undoubtedly you will, for that is where some of your greatest learning experiences come from. If you fail at something, regard it as only temporary. It isn’t a permanent setback. Do, however, figure out what actually happened and where you went wrong so that you can revise your plan of action going forward. In other words, learn from your mistakes.

Charting your own destiny and making your own way has its ups and downs. There will be incredible successes and some pretty big misses, and you’ll need to recognize that the path toward goal achievement is quite often not in a straight line. You may veer off to explore other ideas or take on different goals, some by necessity and others by choice. You may even discover that your original goal isn’t what you thought it was and change your plans to incorporate new areas of interest.

The most exciting thing about ditching the belief in fate and making the decision to create your own destiny is that it is a deliriously exhilarating journey. When you accept the basic truth that your actions create your reality, you’ll be more inclined to become more active in the tableau that is your life to make it the kind of joyful, productive and fulfilling experience you truly desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Thoughts


June 4, 2016

Stubbornness Can Be a Good Thing

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Athletes have a certain stubbornness that carries us through and makes us do things that people say we can’t do.” – Kim Clijsters

If you’ve always thought that stubbornness was an undesirable trait, think again. Sometimes stubbornness is the only thing that keeps you going, especially when the going gets rough, you lack resources or allies, time is short, your nerves and energy are spent and it looks especially bleak for a favorable outcome. Call it drawing on an inner well-spring or call it stubbornness, if you need a push to get you to keep moving forward, stubbornness (by any name) can be a good thing.

Think about all the goals you have. Now think of what it’s going to take for you to be successful in each of them. There will be a number of goals that you’ll be able to achieve fairly effortlessly, without much time, effort or resources required. Other goals, however, will call upon everything you have, and then some, and still you may find the outcome you desire elusive, if not seemingly impossible. Being stubborn here can possibly alter that outcome – but only if you proceed with a plan to accompany your determination.

Where stubbornness is not a good thing is when you blindly push forward despite vehement objections of others, especially if those objections have a sound basis. If, for example, you are told you cannot proceed on a project because that it assigned to another worker and you go ahead and start it anyway, that’s stubbornness that will get you into trouble. Even if you have a better idea and can accomplish the task or project quickly and without errors, your stubbornness injects you into someone else’s responsibility. That’s not a good thing at all.

Suppose you want to quit smoking and are told that because you’ve been a lifelong smoker, you can’t possibly give up the habit. This is an important goal for you, however, and you are absolutely determined to give up smoking. Stubbornness can help get you through the tough times when the cravings strike and you feel like giving in. With the assistance and encouragement of those who do support your efforts – along with your own innate stubbornness – you will be able to be successful.

What’s important is that you don’t need to be an athlete to go beyond your current endurance or limits, to test the boundaries that may be self-imposed, and to overcome hurdles that stand in the way of your goals. Be a little stubborn. It just may allow you to snatch the victory you so desire.

 

Daily Thoughts


June 3, 2016

Make It Simple -- To Move Mountains

Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie

Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

Striving to accomplish far too many things today? No wonder you find yourself frazzled, confused, stressed out and disappointed. No human being can keep going at the same breakneck speed and hope to do so without some consequences. Most likely you’ll wind up exhausted, unable to get everything done and beating yourself up for your failure.

Maybe what’s needed instead is a streamlining of all this jumble of chores, pursuits, tasks, responsibilities and interests. If simplifying things is the answer, why is it so hard to get started? Could it be that somehow we regard simple as basic, not as good as complex or complicated? Do we feel like we’re shortchanging ourselves or others if we try to pare an activity to its essence, to strip away all the extraneous and superfluous and get to the core? A change in perspective is probably warranted here.

Think about it. When was the last time that you began an activity and it was clearly laid out? You knew what to do, how long it would take, what materials or resources were required, and what the expectations were for the completion. How much easier was it to accomplish the task with these in place? Granted, it may take a bit of time and effort to get your thinking clean about the task or project, to wrap your mind around the different variables and come to some workable conclusion, but isn’t it all worth it when you can point to the result you achieve?

Now consider the same activity or project with nothing clearly defined at the outset. You wind up wasting a great deal of time going in circles, trying first this approach and then that one, using more materials than you need, getting to a certain point and then realizing that this way isn’t going to produce the desired results. You’ve made what could have been a simple project much more complex and difficult.

Which approach would you rather take?

As to disciplining yourself to think clean and make simple your mantra, it may take some practice to get going, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Best of all, once you get simple ingrained in your thought processes, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of things you can get done.

Daily Thoughts


May 25th, 2016

Think What You Can Do

Hiker

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.” – Ernest Hemingway

Many times you might be tempted to put off doing something because you think you’re not likely to be successful, or that it might require too much work, or that you’re not good enough, don’t have enough time, money, resources or assistance.

Frequently, you might find yourself dwelling on negative and obsessive thoughts about all the things you believe you don’t have – and want.
Any of these are exercises in frustration and futility. For one thing, they don’t accomplish anything productive. For another, they’re a waste of time – time you can better use to make headway toward those goals.

Start with what you know you can do right now, whether that’s getting the shopping done, finishing a work project, making a much-needed call to a loved one or friend, taking some time for yourself, playing with your children, or reading up on current events. The size and scope of what you can do with what there is right now is less important than the fact that you get busy doing it. In the very action, you’ll experience a certain sense of self-satisfaction. You’re no longer sitting idle. You’re taking action, becoming engaged, and making progress toward some eventual outcome.

Even if you need to work on something in stages, there’s a definite linear pattern going on. You move from point A to point B, even if you have to detour a bit along the way. That’s still forward momentum. That’s still taking action, doing what you can with what there is now.

Think of people you know who never seem to get anywhere. What do they have in common? Could it be a lack of motivation, a persistent sense of failure, laziness, insufficient encouragement, no time, or some combination of any and all of these?

Now, take a look at the way you regard your own capabilities, your wants and needs and dreams. Surely there’s something you can begin to work on right now that may help you get closer to your goal. Even if it’s by inches, that’s still progress. Slowly but surely you’ll get where you want to be and achieve what you desire.

When you think of what you want, think right away of what steps you can take toward that desired outcome – and then get busy taking them. There’s also something grand about the self-propelled movement that you initiate once you begin working on what you want with what you have right now.
Remember, if you want to be unstoppable, instead of stopping yourself before you get going, keep an eye on the horizon. Look where you want to go. Keep firmly in your mind the outcome you desire. See yourself being successful in the endeavor. You can do it. First, though, you need to begin.

Daily Thoughts


May 16th, 2016

Believe in The Good

Daily Thoughts

Photo by Ryan McGuire

“Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.” – Jesse Owens

Sometimes believing in the good is the farthest thing from our minds. We’re much too bogged down in all the things that go wrong in life, blaming ourselves, more often than not, for the failures. The accumulation of such negativity exacts a painful toll, however, and it’s often difficult or seemingly impossible to get out from under that black cloud.

When you’re consumed with the weight of failure, how can you see the good? If good is, indeed, all around you, how can you begin to see it? How can you remove the blinders from your eyes and really open up your mind and heart to what good is happening in your family, in your job, at school, with your next-door neighbor, your friend, the supermarket cashier or the man on the street?

It might take some doing, but you can learn to find the good. First, be willing to acknowledge that good exists. Acknowledge, as well, that you’ve had some trouble with this concept and ask for help being able to recognize it. You don’t have to be particularly religious to put this request into the universe, but many who do believe in God or a Higher Power find the power of prayer immensely helpful.

Ask for the weight of negativity to lift so that you may look with clear eyes and an unburdened heart at the people around you, especially those you are the closest to and who care for you as you care for them. Allow a little time to pass while you go about your daily routine, doing the best you can in every action you take, every project you begin, and every conversation you engage in.

Look for the positive side of every interaction, for it is there to discover. Your first thought may be that this isn’t for you, that you don’t see any hope of success taking on this project or going after this goal. Acknowledge that you have this thought and then vow to proceed anyway. You are the one who makes the decision to act, after all. No one else does that for you. In deciding on this course or that, you will weigh and balance many options, sifting through possible scenarios to arrive at one that seems most workable for the situation. See yourself being successful in the undertaking.

Then move ahead with the action you’ve selected. As you take action, notice the people around you and interact genuinely with them. Be pleasant. Smile. Say something positive. You’ll likely be surprised at the warmth of their return comments and actions.

This is the beginning of finding the good that exists all around you. Once you feel more comfortable finding the good, learn how to showcase it. Make finding good the center of your day, for good begets good and it all is beneficial to you. Most of all, once you find the good and showcase it, you’ll begin to realize that you actually believe in good. This is a win-win situation.