Before we start thinking about how wonderful our spouses are or are not, let me clarify the opening question. The relationship I am discussing here is the most important relationship you have in your life, the one with yourself. Now before you start to dismiss this as an absurd notion, or one that does not apply to you, hear me out for just a second. I was at a friend’s birthday party at a local drinking establishment this past Saturday and ran into a former coworker and his wife. We began expressing our concerns for a former coworker of mine who never seemed to be happy and how she may be helped. Think if you know someone like this in your life. She seemed to always have problems with those around her. She felt as if the world was out to get her and that is why nothing ever went right for her. On the rare occasion that it did she was still unhappy it did not go even better. When speaking with her the truth became clear after only a few minutes of conversation, this lady was unhappy with the world and all of the things and people in it because she was really unhappy with herself. Her skills with finance were lacking and she always seemed to find herself falling further and further behind. Instead of addressing the problem and encouraging herself to chip away at it she would do the opposite. She would ask herself very disempowering questions. “Why can I never get my bills paid?” “Why am I so stupid when it comes to money?” then she would just graduate to referring to herself as stupid. This made her feel like she had no control. When she did answer herself she was doomed to fail. Instead of asking why she could never pay her bills which assumes that she never will. she should have asked “What can I do to at least start getting my situation turned around” That takes the focus from the problem to the solution. It also gives us a sense of hope. Remember doing something stupid and being stupid are two entirely different things. We have all done stupid things. I remember after a few shots of rum I once woke up on a pool table with one shoe. Not my proudest moment, but I had acted stupid I was not stupid. Now if that happened every Friday we may have to reconsider that. The conclusion my former coworkers wife had come to was a brilliant one “It is like she is in an abusive relationship with herself!” It is one of those simple statements that have profound meaning. How many times have you found yourself saying “Why was I so stupid?” I know I have muttered that to myself far to many times to be proud of. Still how many times do we take time to cheer ourselves on? At first mention this may sound silly, but why? Why is it that reprimanding ourselves comes so natural while encouraging ourselves sounds so foreign? I have made an effort when struck with fear, worry or some other disempowering emotion telling myself “You’ve got this Neil” To statements of a more powerful nature. Our relationship with ourselves is affects us greater than any other relationship we have. Let us make sure it is empowering one. No matter who we are, we could all stand to be a little more encouraging to the person in the mirror. Think of ways you can encourage yourself. List them here to help get others started. Oh, and if you have too much rum, trust me a pool table is not as comfortable as it looks.
In the USA today we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is toward the end of the year where we reflect on all the things we have to be grateful for. Much like New Years, where we have a holiday set aside to specifically set goals and focus on our future. Thanksgiving should be a practice and not a holiday. So instead of a few quick words before devouring lots of food Why not take all of five to ten minutes of your day to just sit down with a pen and paper and reflect over the past year and think of at least five things that have occurred or that we have accomplished that you are thankful for. Write them down. List them under 2013. I can safely say that there are many things as I reflect on the year that I can be thankful for. I am thankful for the joy I was able to bring to the town of Franksville Wisconsin. I am also proud of the way I accepted my removal from that position and being able to see the good in that. Of course I am thankful for completing my first book, and starting my second. I am also thankful for meeting a new creative partner in my new friend Margie as well as discovering a close friend and source of inspiration in my friend Kim. I am grateful for continuing developing my relationship with my sister Michelle whom I had the pleasure of discovering only a few years ago. See that was five things right there and it took me all of 2 minutes to write them down here. I encourage you to right them down for a couple of reasons. One, it forces you to take the time to really think and focus on being grateful while you are writing or typing them. The other reason is you start to develop a record of everything you have survived, accomplished and appreciated over the year. More on this later. Next flip the paper over and write 2014 on top. I know this will take even a little more time out of your holiday, but trust me this will be fun. Number the paper one through five and think of five things you are looking forward to being thankful for this time next year. Think of how great you will feel a year from now. Here is a little secret. One through four should be realistic goals and things that you are working towards. number five should be a bit of a reach. Think of one big, exciting goal that gets your blood pumping! Do not worry about whether you think it can be accomplished in a year or not, that is not your concern at the moment. Just pick something that gets you excited, write it down. My examples from this year is as follows. I look forward to collaborating on projects with several of the new creative souls I have been blessed with. I look forward to help bring other people’s books to print and help them realize their dreams of becoming an author. I look forward to continue building the people I reach with this blog and my books. There are four, so what is my big exciting fifth goal? I am thankful for becoming a full-time author in the year 2014. There it is. Not only have I written it down for myself, but I have made myself accountable to all of you reading this blog. The thought of being able to write books that bring joy to people’s lives and change their worlds and to do so for a living excites me more than you can imagine. Now by place this list in an envelope and mark it 2013 (you can also store it on a file in your computer if that works for you) around New Years day take another glance at it. Looking at what you wish to be thankful for may very well help you set better resolutions. Plus it will reinforce the thought in your mind. I also recommend doing this at least one other time during the year. The middle of the year like in June would work well. Of course the more you look at this list and imagine how wonderful it will feel to be grateful the more likely you are to move toward them. Then next Thanksgiving let us all meet back here to discuss what we have to be grateful for
Have you ever found yourself facing a task that seems insurmountable? Ever have a day where it just seems all you do is learn lesson after lesson? Have you ever thought to yourself that on those days cloning might not be such a bad thing after all? That having ‘another you’ to do all the tough stuff in life, to experience all the rough times would be rather nice? I know I have. If there could be another Neil to go to work for me, If there could be another Neil to go to funerals, deliver bad news and all the other things that steals the sunshine from my life, boy that would be great! Now this comes from a person who will tell you that challenges form us into who we have become. That much like fire hardens steel, we are shaped and molded by the fires and trails of life. I know this and more importantly I truly believe this. Still, sometimes after you have just got into a fight with a friend or family matter, or you just found out you forgot to pay a bill on time we can all find ourselves thinking the same thing, “I know somehow I can learn and grow from this experience, but damn it sucks right now” Other times it can be hard to see how all these challenges serve us. Well I recently heard a quote from the amazing Jim Rohn, a late, great motivation speaker and author. He said “Nobody can do your push ups for you” Think about that for a moment, no matter how much money, how much power you have you can not have someone else work out for you and suddenly you are in shape. They could go to the gym, you could watch them sweat, you could even have them give you every detail of the experience, but still they are going to be the ones who benefit because they were the ones who put in the effort. As a payoff they will be the ones with lower stress levels, healthier immune systems, and less risk of injury. Although working out is an excellent example it is not the only area that this holds true in. Every struggle we make it through, every challenge we face is ‘adding muscle’ to our character. It is strengthening our spiritual fortitude. People could tell us about their struggles and their challenges, and we can even learn from them and benefit from knowing how they handled it. Still they will be the ones who could benefit the most from going through the event. So next time you find yourself asking “Why me?” or wishing science could come up with a clone for you, remember the powerful words from Mr. Rohn and repeat them to yourself or to anyone else lamenting their struggles. “Nobody can do your push ups for you”
“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love, or how you love, it matters only that you love”
A few months ago I had written about a class reunion I attended. I’ll spare all my friends and myself the year for purposes of imagining I am still young. After that a group of us wished to continue to get together. I invited a few people and one in particular was greeted with much chagrin. “Why did you ask him along? He is always such a jerk to everyone?” was pretty much the general consensus. I admit this gent was not the most enduring fellow and I could understand why people may feel as they do. Then I began to think, should we only show love and kindness to those whom we feel have earned it? True a seed grows the best in fertile soil, but is a garden not most appreciated in the city? I once heard a saying that I am about to totally screw up but the idea went something like this “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours they need it more than you do” In an earlier post I had written about two of my friends Kim and Stephanie who do so much for others I am often compelled to let them know that they are truly angels without wings. They usually accept these compliments as well as the ones they receive from others with modesty and grace befitting the wonderful people they are. Their kindness comes naturally and so quite often is taken for granted, so I find it important to stop and appreciate it. I know my life would be a lot less without them in it. Still I have a few people on the opposite end of the spectrum. They do not seem to do much for others, or show much concern for anything that does not serve them. As a general rule I do not have many of these people in my life, but I have learned a new an interesting thing about these people. Sometimes they have some of the greatest response to compliments out of anyone. Just the other day I was having breakfast with one of these people and had mentioned I was really happy to hear of a nice thing he had done for a mutual friend of ours. Just the mere act of being recognized as a kind person seemed to improve his disposition and foster a new sort of altruistic side of him as soon I discovered he had done the same favor for 3 other of our friends. My point is this, we all have a wide array of different people in our lives. Some kind and deserving of our love, some not so much and several in between. Show them all a little love. The ones who deserve it are often taken for granted for all the amazing things they do and a little appreciation and love will let them know it makes a difference and will make it easier to continue being the people who bring so much to our lives. Those who seem not to be deserving of any love, perhaps just a little will soften their hearts and bring the biggest change. So like the famous singer of the Beatles said “It matters only that you love” I encourage you to pick at least one person from each group this weekend and show them a little love. You always benefit by brining more love into the world.
Sometimes it is too easy to get hung up on details. recently I went to a surprise birthday party for a dear friend of mine. She was surprised and seemed genuinely pleased. The night was filled with plenty of joy and a great time was being had by all. When I happened to catch a glance of the friend who had thrown her the party. She seemed quite unhappy bordering on downright depressed. I caught her alone for a second and inquired what seemed to be that matter as the party seemed to be going swimmingly. She began to list off all that had not gone according to plan. The guests had not all arrived before the birthday girl and thus were not able to yell surprise. The person who was supposed to bring some of the food had not even shown up and she even forgot to invite some of the girls friends and was unable to contact others while still keeping it a surprise. I couldn’t help but stare at her blankly. “Do you not see how much fun everyone is having?” I asked. Noting the having the most fun was the girl for whom she had put the whole party on for. “It could’ve been a lot better” she muttered. After pondering mentioning the lack of dancing-girls I decided to mention how worse it could’ve went. She managed to keep it a surprise for one. The birthday girl felt special and grateful. Nobody missed whatever food was supposed to be brought by the missing guest. Quite often we can focus too much on the details and fail to look at the success of the big picture. In every phase of life something is sure to go the opposite of the way we had planned. Weddings, birthday parties, careers, you name it. It’s important to remember not only does this often lead to some of the best stories, but also to different ideas and paths we may have not thought of. What may seem like a failure can be the seed to the greatest blessing ever. On a side note, the lady who missed that party showed up at a party a few weeks later which angered the friend who had thrown the surprise party weeks before. About an hour into the evening people were complaining about the negative energy she had brought with her and how all her food had tasted salty. Issues that had not come up a few weeks before. So remember if your going to focus on details instead of focusing on the ones that are going wrong and begin to tear apart your evening, focus on the ones that are going right and build from there.
In place of the usually bits of wisdom and inspiration we have a special announcement. Today marks the one year anniversary of the very first post on this blog. Today I am feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude to quite a few people. Ironically the first post I ever created was entitled ‘gratitude’ If you haven’t read it before I encourage you to scroll back and check it out. Several reasons this is good. One, is to see how much better this blog has gotten. Two, to see how full circle we have come and three because out of all the traits you can develop to turn your life around gratitude would probably be the biggest. it is impossible to feel fearful while feeling grateful. It is impossible to feel sad while feeling completely grateful. I just want to take a second and throw a few names out there that make this all possible. I want to thank Aileen who in her own unique way helped me discover my true purpose in life and get this thing all turned around. I wish to thank Kristina who not only continues to encourage me, but gave me great information and motivation to do both this blog and my upcoming book. Never would I thought we would have become such good friends, but I am glad we did. Alysa and Carmen, I know I have mentioned you a million times, but truly you have no idea how much your words that one fateful evening pushed me forward. To Kim who daily gives me so much feedback and insight which helps make everything I do that much better. you are amazing and honestly I’m not sure I would’ve kept this up without you. Kierston, thank you for reminding me of what is possible when we follow our dreams! Margie, thank you for being a recent blessing to my life. Your creative influence will only continue to be a greater blessing. Janell, thank you for all the well wishes. May your journey find it’s joy. Michelle, my amazing sister, not only do you give me great constructive criticism, but you are a better promoter than I will ever be. Love you to pieces. To my publisher Brooke, you must have the patient of a saint. I thank you for all your understanding! All the people who read this blog, take time to comment or share this site, or now our Facebook page with those you love and care about or just people you know are looking to improve your life, I thank you for coming with me on this amazing journey! I promise tomorrow we will return to the inspiration. As we look forward to all that we are going to become and accomplish let us have a moment to pause and be grateful for all we have learned and become wiser, healthier and more enlightened this past year!
“You cannot give what you do not have”
-from ‘A Course in Miracles’
This definition is fairly simple in material terms. If you have a favorite charity you wish to help out financially you must first have the money yourself. If you wish to borrow your neighbor a cup of sugar, you must have a cup of sugar to borrow. What many people fail to grasp is how this relates to things of a non-material nature. It especially holds true in people who consider themselves to be ‘givers’ or care-takers. Quite often I see people so give of themselves they end up depleted. In some ways I throw myself in this category. Have you ever found it difficult to say ‘no’ to a friend who is asking for your help? Have you ever found yourself stretched a little thin? Do you even feel guilty if you have to turn someone down because you are sick or even just exhausted? If so you may want to consider that quote. What can seem so obvious to us in a material sense holds just as true in the emotional sense as well. If you do not have love for yourself, it is nearly impossible to give the best of you and your love to anyone else. If you are tired and irritable you will not be the best friend to spend time with. If your mind is racing on a million different issues you will not be the best person to listen to your friends challenges. In all these cases we must take care of ourselves in order to best take care of others. Much like the need to have the money to make the charity donation, the more love we have for ourselves, the more we can give to others. The more we learn to forgive ourselves for our own mistakes the easier it is to do the same for others. It is not often the material can teach us a spiritual lesson, but in this case before you agree to lend your neighbor that cup of sugar be sure you have one in your own kitchen!