A lot of talk in the ‘self-improvement’ field can tend to sound like there is something wrong with us. Well bad news first, I don’t care who you are, we all have something wrong with us. Funny thing is we can sometimes be the last to see it. That is a subject for a different post. Now for the good news, we all have many things that are great with us! When people tell me they are going to try to “fix” this or that about themselves so they can start living a more fun and positive life. My first thought is to commend them, but let’s face it thinking about our weaknesses and how to better them is really no fun at all. Instead I have a better suggestion. Focus on what we all do well. Think about it, what do people compliment you on? Are you a great cook? Perhaps you could cook a meal for a friend and arrange to bring it over so they don’t have to worry about making dinner. Perhaps you play a musical instrument? You could plan to play at a senior center or veterans home? Truth is we all have talents and things that we both enjoy and are good at. Finding new ways to use our talents to bring joy to the world can quite often bring joy to our own lives! Plus, as we develop our strengths it will give us the needed confidence to tackle those pesky little areas we need to work on. Which may not look so important after all. So find the light inside of you and share it with the world today!
Anyone who reads this blog or knows me personally knows that I am a big fan of keeping a journal. There are several reasons why. It is a great way to vent. It may be an easier way for someone who has trouble expressing their feelings. It is a great way to gain a little clarity when things seem overwhelming and confusing. All of these are true, but a friend of mine recently gave me a great idea of a new benefit you can gain from writing down your thoughts and feelings. Continue reading “A NEW USE FOR AN OLD FRIEND…”
Ok, so a post about random acts of kindness on this blog is probably not shocking to anyone. That being the case however, let us look at what those acts can accomplish. First of all, the purpose of doing random acts of kindness is not to help ourselves, but to help others. Even when doing a selfless act though, we can’t help but to bring a little bit of joy to our own lives. A few examples both I have heard about and experienced personally are as follows. My friend told me about a time her father was just in a terrible car accident and her mother had called her up frantic asking her to leave her job and take her to the hospital. Well of course she left right away and picked up her mother, but as they were trying to merge onto the street which lead to the hospital traffic was at a standstill. Her mother frantic, she looking for a spot to squeeze in and worried about her father at the same time, her heart sank as she noticed traffic seemed to stretch for half a mile. Suddenly, and for no reason at all, a gentle man just stopped and let her merge in. She could hardly believe it and almost missed her chance, as the other motorists began honking their horns and this driver who dared make their wait even longer when clearly they had been waiting long enough already. There is no way that driver could have known where my friend was going and there certainly was no reason for him to let her in. He will probably never know how much he helped my friend and her mother that day.
Speaking of hospitals, my uncle recently suffered a very serious heart attack and i went to see him late in the evening at the hospital. I had started work at 7 that morning and this was around midnight. My aunt was extremely upset and things looked bleak. We stayed until about one, and when we left had honestly thought he would not make it until morning. Well as can happen in a situation like that, trying to capture the little sleep I could before work the next day, I planned to go right home. That is until I heard my gas warning go off. I pulled into the nearest station and filled up. Then, out of force of habit I asked to purchase a lottery ticket. The man asked if I knew it was almost 2am. I apologized and said I did not. This cashier at a gas station patted me on the shoulder and said looks like you had a rough night already, don’t worry about it. I simple compliment, but it did mean the world to me. Perhaps I should’ve expressed my gratitude, but I sure felt it and he may never know how much that meant.
My point today is this, you may never know that your small act of kindness may mean the world to someone else.
So often I hear people say, “I’m in such a bad mood and I don’t even know why” I must confess to having felt that way before. This can be a rather perfect scenario for being happy. Now you may be wondering if I have completely lost my mind. While that has yet to be determined, at least let me explain my last statement. When it comes to adding more joy to your life, as with any worthwhile goal, one of the greatest challenges lies in just knowing how. Let’s face it, if there was a simple step by step plan to a happy life, wouldn’t we all follow it? One of the greatest challenges I have had in both putting together both this website and my book is people are different. What makes one person happy, well it may not work for the next person. So how can we discover what truly makes us happy and develop a formula to continually accomplish that? I have two suggestions and they are complete opposites and involve thinking backwards. Now before I loose everyone completely, let’s take a step back. Here is the first method. Even in the darkest of lives there are moments if not days when things just seem to be going your way. Think back have you ever had one of those days where you are just happy with the world? Here is a suggestion, try retracing your steps. What do I mean? Simple, start from how you are feeling and work back through your day. Perhaps you had completed a project you were working on? Maybe you brought a smile to the face of a friend or even a complete stranger. Maybe you just finished listening to one of your favorite songs on the radio, or working out. It will be different for everyone, and there may be a few things in there that just seem kind of crazy, but if they lead you to happiness…who cares! The point here is to look at what makes up a great day for you. Perhaps write them down on a list, or in a person journal (more on that in later in the week). Ok, so perhaps you haven’t had one of those days in a while? Maybe you can’t remember what made you so happy, or just want to enjoy the feeling without trying to figure it out. Fair enough. Even if you find yourself having a miserable day, it is cause to get excited! Why would feeling miserable be anything to be excited about you may ask. This is why, it works the same way as being happy. If you’re having a bad day, stop and think about all the things that transpired to bring you to that point. Make a list of those things too. Not only will you come up with a list of things you would do well to eliminate from your life, but if you look at the opposite of those things, you have the seeds for what will make you happy. So even knowing what you dislike can be a very healthy thing. If you were to say, I dislike all the negative people I run into. You will know limiting your exposure to negative people might be something you wish to work on. You may also phrase it as “adding more positive people to my life would make it better”. So as this week continues, try thinking backwards and form a plan for your own happiness. A plan that would be as unique as the person writing it!
To add to the list of great and quite often unexpected benefits of doing our best to live a positive rewarding life is often the things that seem to just show up in your life. Now of course there is some science as to how this happens. When you are focusing on the positive, quite often the things that are most positive seem to attract your attention. Perhaps you suddenly notice a beautiful garden you drive by every day on your way to work. Perhaps it is a beautiful painting that hangs in your favorite coffee shop. All these ‘fringe benefits’ continue to add joy to your life, but no area I think has been greater effected then that of the people in it. This was made very clear to me this afternoon as I shared a cup of coffee with someone for the first time. As we shared stories of each others lives and she gave me amazing ideas for my upcoming book, I was overwhelmed with how grateful I was to have such a wonderful person enter my life. So later as I was going over my notes from our discussion and working on the next chapter I reflected on how we came to know each other, and how I may discover more hidden gems in the vast sea of humanity. Well, here is how we met, and how living a positive life had a key role in that. One of the most important things you can do to assist you in keeping a positive attitude is to surround yourself with people who are positive. Now we may not get to choose our family, or our co-workers, but we can choose who we talk to and who we become friends with. As i mentioned earlier, once you’re focusing on the positive it seems to stand out everywhere. I couldn’t help but notice this young lady every time I bought a cup of coffee where she worked. She always had a smile and a kind word for everyone she helped. One of those people you just can’t help but smile after sharing a moment with them. So naturally when I began working on my book about living a positive life, she came to mind as someone who might have some great insight. I asked her if we could share a cup of coffee and perhaps I could ask her about her source of happiness and how she shares it with others. After having the chance to do just that, I not only gained a great insight in ways to become and remain positive, I also gained a dear friend. Upon reflection, since I began this journey in earnest about a year ago, I have noticed without much effort on my part, negative people have seemed to naturally fade from my life and I am continually introduced and surrounded by more and more positive people. Just another pleasant ‘side effect’ to look forward to as we make our way to a more positive and rewarding life!
A few years back I went to see a counselor for some relationship issues I was having. Not sure how much it helped, but I do recall something she told me that I really found value in. It applies not only to relationships, but life in general. While listening to me discuss all the issues I felt were troubling the relationship, she said “I see what one of your greatest problems is”. The fact that I had just mentioned like three different things seemed not to matter. I was interested. If there was one issue that connected all of these things and by addressing that the relationship could improve on several different levels, well I was all ears. What she said next really confused me a bit. “You’re focusing on the problem too much”. I thought about that for a second. “How the hell can you solve a problem if you don’t focus on it” I thought. Imagining what I must be thinking she took me over to a wall across her office. She pointed and asked “Do you see that nail hole in that wall?” Well it took me a second, but I found it. She asked how bad it affected the wall. Well considering the wall was pretty big and the hole was small I answered not much. Move closer she told me. So I moved closer until I was mere inches from the hole. How does it look on the wall now? The point was fairly clear. Until she had pointed it out to me I really never even noticed it. Then when staring so close at it, the rest of the wall seemed hard to notice. It is focusing on solving the 10% instead of growing the 90%. How many of us do this? Not just in our relationships, but with our jobs, or our cars, or anything really. We seem to focus on what needs to be fixed or what we wish was better instead of appreciating all that is right. Now I am not advocating ignoring any issue or just pretending it doesn’t exist. Just that we must put things in their fair perspective. Problems are only a part of life. Some things are good, some things are not so good. Yet, as we discussed in the post on gratitude, it is important to give attention to that which is working. We may be mad at our spouse for something they said, but if we stop and think of all the nice things they have done or said we realize things are not that bad. Focusing on a challenge can often make that challenge seem bigger and more intimidating than it really is. So focus on a solution and everything that is working. Put your problems in their place. It will help you feel a lot better and make them a little easier to handle.
Yesterday while listening to one of my favorite motivational speakers, Anthony Robbins, I heard him say something that made me understand why I seem to agree with much of what he says. He said that when you should listen to what makes sense to you and the rest say “Well that Tony Robbins he is just crazy”. It is refreshing to hear someone not profess to be ‘the answer’ or ‘the guru’. When I mention to someone I listen to him, or Wayne Dyer, or Joe Vitale or read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” or watch the secret, they always seem to stress what they do not like about that person, book, or whatever it may be. I’m here to tell you, expose yourself to as much material as you can. What makes no sense to one person may change the life of the next. Decide for yourself. Make good use of your public library, or better yet, find a friend who is also interested in improving themselves and their life. I am fortunate enough to have a few of those. In fact, one friend of mine meets me for lunch and we exchange books and ideas. If a person knows you it is like a second set of ears and eyes to look out for something that you may benefit from. Plus, when going through any transformation there are always bound to be challenges and it is great to have someone in your corner cheering you on. So take that class on self-hypnosis, pick up that book you’ve been meaning to try to listen to that motivational speaker your friend is raving about. Even if you only get one thing out of it, you have just improved your life that little bit more. Who knows you may just find what you need to take your life to that next level! So keep an open mind and have fun exploring.
Yesterday marked the end of a very important issue in my life. a few years ago I was all but forced to take out a loan for $11,000. Yesterday I made the final payment to finish off that loan. Although that is indeed reason to celebrate, and I shall, it is not the reason for this post. No, what I wish to discuss today is how I came to have that debt in the first place. The year was 2009, after several great years at the post office things began to unravel. That year began the uneasiness that continues to this day. One day you may have a job, one day you may not. One week 40 hours, one week 4 hours. So the stress of not knowing where the money may be coming from day-to-day really gives you an opportunity to test your faith in the universe. Well, add to that a letter I received right before christmas. Like many Americans I had credit card debt. In relation to my income at the time is was incurred it was not much, but with my job situation shaky at best it became oppressive. Just the same, I never missed a payment and at the very least managed to make the minimum payment. So imagine my shock when I read in the fine print I believe they do not expect you to read, that my interest rate was going from 9% to 19.9%! Knowing that would raise my minimum payment to something I may not be able to afford, I called the company and asked why my interest was being more than doubled if I had never missed a payment in 7 years. The answer took me by surprise “Not everyone pays like you” the lady on the other end said. For clarification I inquired whether I was being asked to pay more to make up for the companies loss on those who didn’t pay. “If that’s the way you choose to see it” was her reply. I was dumb-founded. So I attempted to bargain with her “how about 12%? 13?” the answer was a firm ‘no’. Then I had one of those moments where words come out of my mouth without traveling through the brain. I swear it goes right from the vocal cords to someone else’s ears. In this case the words were “Then I shall take my business elsewhere”. To which the helpful customer service rep said “Well do what you have to” I million thoughts raced through my mind ‘How can a company turn away business like that?’ ‘where is the other place I am going to take this debt?’ Who would give me a card with the limit to cover the debt and a lower interest rate?’ ‘What if I lose my job and can’t pay any of it?’ Looking back I realize i was focusing on the all the problems, and potential problems, and not on the solution. I felt life was being so unfair. The company I worked so hard for the last 13 years seemed to care less about my well-being, the credit card company I faithfully paid for the last 7 was pretty much the same. While venting this to one of my favorite bankers, who also happens to be my mother, she simply said, “why not get a loan?” great idea except I had to collateral and a job that couldn’t be counted on. She said “let me sleep on it” The next day she agreed to put up some of her assets as collateral and we went to the bank and I signed for a loan for $11,000. Now other than reminding me what an amazing mother I had, this brought a whole new set of worry. If I had defaulted on the credit card it would reflect bad on me, now if I don’t make the loan payment it would reflect on my mother as well. Not only did that spur me on to pay it off quickly, but my interest rate was far lower than the initial credit card rate. So as I wrote the final check today, I realized something. Had that world not been so ‘unfair’ that year, had the post office not cut my hours, had the credit card company not raised my rate, or even settled for one of my offers, or if the customer service lady on the phone been nicer, I still would have that debt. So it took 4 years, but I realized several blessings out of what seemed like one of the darkest periods. Remember, without the rain, we would not appreciate the sunshine so greatly!
One interesting issue that seems to develop as we grow older is our focus on our troubles instead our successes. Recently I saw a saying that read “Don’t focus on the 10% that is wrong and ignore the 90% that is right” I’m as guilty of this as anyone. You have one problem at work and that seems to be all you can focus on. One interesting way to combat this is to right now make a list of all the assets you have. Most people have more than they think. As this blog has grown I have met people who know about blogs, people who study the law of attraction, people who have contributed great ideas for living a positive life. I am often left in awe thinking “I didn’t know that about that person”. So I have formed a list. It also includes a list of people who make me smile when I am around them, movies that make me laugh, books that I enjoy reading. Like the ‘Happy CD’ in the post earlier, lists like this ideally should be made when we are in a good mood and can be amended as life shows us new and exciting blessings we never knew we had. Then, when life delivers us that ill-timed blow, we can pull out our list to find things we enjoy or to just appreciate how much we still have that is going right.
Yesterday we discussed having a ‘big picture’ idea to focus on. We also discussed how you can use both the time leading up to it to build excitement as well as the time following to enjoy all the memories. Today we are going to focus specifically on something you do daily. What is it you ask? That is a great question. Think, what is the one thing you look forward daily that brings you joy and helps make your life a little bit better? Do you take 10 minutes to yourself to enjoy a nice glass of wine and a few pages of a good book? Perhaps you race right from work to pick up the kids from school and then straight home to start dinner so there will be time for homework and still have everyone in bed at a somewhat decent hour. Throw in soccer practice or a Recital or two and just the thought of it makes you crave that glass of wine! Here is a little secret, we all need a daily joy ritual. Time may seem to short as it is, but ask your self one very important question. How long can you keep it up? We even give our cars a break every 3000 miles. I know lots of people I swear go more than that before they stop to take any time to themselves. What would happen to your car if you just kept driving it because you never had time to change the oil? Would it perform at it’s best? Of course not. Neither would we. Tempers become shorter and immune systems become run down. So what to do? Plan time for yourself. If this makes you feel even slightly guilty, think of it as your ‘oil change’. When you return you will be able to help those around you that much better. You may be asking “what can I really do in 5-10 minutes that will make a difference?”. I suggest some form of meditation. Now before you start picturing yourself in a complicated yoga pose, holding a lotus flower, let me reassure you there are plenty of forms of meditation. Even the western scientific world has started to acknowledge the benefits of meditation. Sharper focus, less stress, stronger immune system, more energy, better sleep. With all these benefits you might find yourself finding a little more than five minutes. Still not sure about this meditation thing? I suggest looking into a few books. I’ve read one full of relaxation techniques that only take a minute. Reading and research still sound a bit to stressful for you? There are tons of guided meditation cds and dvd’s you can purchase. Just push play and the rest is done for you. One of the best websites I recommend is brainsync.com they have a cd for almost any person interested in a moment to themselves. After all, with all that running around, don’t you deserve it? Ok, off to find my lotus flower