USE PEOPLE WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

Let us be clear right from the start, I am not advocating using people in any negative form whatsoever. Quite the opposite. When we are finished with our brief time here together, I think you will have a new appreciation for what ‘using people’ can mean. To illustrate, I would love to share two personal stories of mine with you. The first involves a very early childhood friend. Let us call him Andy because, well, that is what his name was. He was one of my very first good friends. I am thinking somewhere near the age of 3 or 4. I remember he had bright red hair and that we pretty much did everything together. Then, in second grade, he moved away. We never exchanged addresses or phone numbers. To this day, I do not even know what happened to my early childhood friend.

I could blame my lack of thought regarding Andy on the fact that I was only 7 years old. You don’t really think too much about the future when you are that age. That would be fine, except one little problem. Take a look at the picture above. That is a picture of mine and Margie’s friends Curtis and Danie, with their son. They used to run a coffee shop/cafe in town. Both very nice people and I am sure their son will be an outstanding gentleman as he grows up. This wonderful family moved out west to pursue their dreams for their future. Here is the ironic thing. Before they left, Margie and I were saying how much fun it would be to spend some time with them just relaxing and doing fun things. Every time we saw each other, we would say something like, “Yes! Let us set something up!” All of our lives were busy, and sadly, that moment never happened.

Unlike my story with Andy, we at least are able to keep track via social media. In fact, as I wrote this, I messaged Curtis to let him know I was writing something about him. It would seem that I have learned little or nothing in the 40 years since my friend Andy moved away. Before you judge me, ask yourself one question. How many times have you said to yourself, “Man I wish I would have _____ with that person. Now it is too late.” This can hold true of people who moved away or even people who have passed on. We look back and think of how foolish we spent the time that we had with them. That is not to say every second has to be be planned and accounted for. Sometimes, the goal might just to be fully present and focused on enjoying time with someone. Taking time to enjoy their jokes, their voice or the way they look at a certain situation.

I encourage you to think of someone who is important in your life. How can you better use the time with them? Is there a certain activity you wish to do with them? Maybe it is as simple as spending a quiet dinner just slowing down and enjoying each others company? It may seem like work to rearrange a schedule and make things happen. Do you know what is even more work? Living with the weight of regret that you did not make the most of people and moments when you had the chance. I advocate using people. Use them to show love. Use them to show how much you care. Use them to create wonderful memories with. Use them to show your appreciation for the wonderful humans they are. Use people…before it is too late.

TIME FLIES WHEN YOU ARE… UM… GETTING OLD?

There are certain things I recall hearing as a child that made absolutely no sense to me. One of them was, “Once you get older, time really seems to fly.” I recall thinking how absurd this sounded. A day is a day, a week is a week and a year is a year, no matter how old you are. Then it happened – I got old. Where some people may debate as to what age this happens, there is a certain intellectual stage you reach where I think life starts to change. Perhaps it is because I am at an age where I have lived more years than I have left to live? I am on the downhill, if you care to look at it that way. There is a quote from the movie The Crow, which is a movie I rather enjoy, in which the bad guy says “Childhood is over the moment you know you’re gonna die.” I am not sure I 100% agree with this. I believe that realizing you are going to die is one of the best motivations to start living. I do think something changes though. There is a certain sober reality that sets in.

When this happens, I think the time speeding up issue begins. In my case, my vacation, and the warm weather, is drawing to a close soon. It seems like yesterday that I was wishing for warmer weather. It also feels like the cooler weather comes quicker every year. In an odd twist of fate, it seems the colder weather lasts longer. I am going to have to figure that one out. It seems that I have been working on putting together my third book and podcast for a while and time just seems to fly by. The question becomes, “How does this happen?” and “What can we do to hold on to time?”

Most of us take the approach of this guy in the picture above. We run around trying to ‘catch time’. Oddly enough, this can have the opposite effect. I think the answer to both of our questions can be found in the picture at the beginning of this post. I believe the best way to treasure a moment and to hang on to time is to become more present. In a world where more and more information is flying at us, and we feed on distraction, it is a real battle to be present. If you do not believe me, look where any large group is gathered and count the amount of people who are staring at cell phones. It seems this percentage increases by the day. If it involves waiting of any kind, the percentage can approach 100%. Sure, it is no fun to wait, but often that might be the only time we have to ourselves and our thoughts. We may think of and notice things that we miss in our busy world.

What is crazy is how often we do this when we could be better involved in far more pleasurable activities. I see couples out to dinner where both of them are sitting across from each other on their phones. In a few years, I would imagine these couples will either wonder where all the time went, or find themselves drifting apart wondering why their connection has seemed to lesson. The same holds true for families, friends and even coworkers. It is not just cell phones. There are video games, computers and a million other distractions. None of these things are bad in and of themselves. We just need to practice them all in moderation.

We could fill this website with ways that can help you remain present. There are a few articles on here to do so. There are also books, cds and many other resources that could assist in this activity. My suggestion? Take time throughout the day to be an active observer of your environment. What this means is to notice every sound you hear. Note every smell that is in the air. Take time to really listen and appreciate those you are spending time with. When you eat, for example, slow down and notice subtle flavors, textures and scent of the food instead of trying to consume it quickly so you can move on to your next activity. I would LOVE to hear your suggestions for slowing down time and savoring the good moments.

MORNING RITUAL πŸŒ„

Last post, we looked at why waking up even ten minutes earlier could benefit you. In case you missed that, I will give you a quick recap. In my own life, I was able to work in some mild exercise to get my blood pumping and my mind moving. I was also able to make my coffee, get dressed and do everything else in a less stressful fashion. Anytime you can reduce stress in your life, that is a win. Not hitting the snooze may sound like additional stress, but it really is not. Do you know what is stressful? Hearing the alarm in the first place! When you hit snooze, you get to have that stress an additional time…or two…or three. Not to mention the 5 or 10 minutes between hitting snooze and the alarm going off again are not filled with blissful slumber. In fact, most of the time it is filled with the dread of hearing the alarm.

The stress of waking up only lasts a moment. Once you are out of bad and standing up, it usually dissipates fairly quickly. Unfortunately, if you have hit snooze too many times it is usually replaced by the stress of running late and trying to get ready. The key is to fill your morning with things you look forward too. These are morning rituals. There have been many listed in the pictures above. We will look at what some high achievers do in the picture below. In the meantime, think of what rituals would work for you. Would some simple stretching help to get your body limber before your morning commute? How about being able to make your coffee with time to enjoy the aroma and maybe even a sip or two before you head out the door? How would reading something inspirational affect your mindset first thing in the morning?

After you make a list of morning rituals you would like to incorporate, then decide how long each would take. Set your alarm accordingly. If you hit snooze, you will know that you will have to forgo one of these items that will make your life better. That may help get you up and out of bed. After a few days of going through your morning rituals, you will feel how starting your day less stressed and more inspired will feel. Do this for a week and you will not want to stop. I can speak from personal experience. When I did not hit the snooze, my mornings, and by consequence my days, were a lot less stressful.

Here are a few of the things some people you may recognize do with their mornings. You may notice it is a nice blend of productivity and stress relief. I suggest the same for us. If you are thinking, “Neil, this all sounds great but that would mean I would have to get up an hour early!” I would tell you two things. First, there is a great book called Miracle Morning that I would recommend you check out. It will have you realize that an hour early could change your life. It will also show you how to do this in as little as 6 minutes. The other suggestion is to divide it up by day. Your Monday morning ritual may involve something to get you fired up. Your Tuesday may involve something to ground you. You can switch between exercise, stretching, meditation, journaling and just five minutes of meaningful silence. Before you know it, you may want to do a few of each and find yourself setting the alarm a few minutes early!

I would love to know what your current morning ritual is and what you would like to add to it. As for me, when I go back to work, I am going to get back to my planks, squats and reading my motivational day by day calendar. I would love to hear yours in the comments below.

START IT OFF RIGHT!🌞

Here is something that is of the greatest importance, but easy to improve. That is your morning. It should not surprise anyone that how your morning goes, does a lot to determine how your day will go. If this is rather easy to understand, why is it that we do not take better advantage of it? Here is why, getting up early can be a challenge for a lot of us. I am guilty as charged. When I returned to work after my heart surgery, I was on a roll of not hitting the snooze button. About 2 months straight I was very disciplined. Then, one day after a long night of being a DJ, I needed those few extra minutes. Guess what has happened since? I have not got out of bed without hitting the snooze button.

This may not sound like such a big deal, but it has affected how the rest of my day has went. I guess I did not realize the degree in which it has until I was on vacation. When I have those extra ten minutes in the morning, I can do a lot more. More important, I can do everything with a lot less stress. When I was not hitting the snooze, I was able to leisurely make my cup of coffee, plank for at least 3 minutes and do ten squats. This would get my mind and body fired up. It also helped me achieve some wins before I left the house. This is why I tell people to make their beds before they leave. I would, but there is a sexy lady still sleeping in mine. Not sure she would appreciate me making the bed around her at 445am.

Next post, we will look at some things we can do to set our morning up for victory. Until then, try to make it one day without hitting the snooze. Begin that discipline. You will notice how much less stress you have to start the day. Less stress is always success!

GIVE YOUR LIFE A SAMPLE DAYπŸ˜‹

Many of you who follow this blog, and most of you who know me personally, know that I am spending this week on vacation at the Wisconsin State Fair. It is something I do every year. It is a place that brings me a great deal of joy and I love sharing that with people in my life. Margie, my mother and I have had a blast so far this year! We have seen many friends and folks we only seem to run into this time of year.

Yesterday, was Crazy Grazin day, as they call it. What it amounts to, is that you can try smaller portions, or portions of different food items at reduced prices. This is good if you are on a budget, or if you are like me, you like to try new things. As with many things in my life, this got me thinking on how we can apply this principle to living an amazing life. Then, an idea so obvious just popped into my head. Take a sample day in your life! What on earth does this mean?

It certainly can be fun to try small amounts of new culinary dishes to discover new things you like. This can be done by going out with friends and splitting different dishes. This is about more than just food, however. I recall one of the things I enjoy doing the most, riding my bicycle. I did this a lot as a kid. Then, I got my driver’s license and stopped doing it for a while. I recall how I started back into it. I was at Target, Walmart or some other large chain store and thought to myself, “I should get back into bicycling. It is cheap and healthy.” I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 on a bike, a little more on things to go with it. Then I started bicycling again. The joy I felt as a kid came back and some weight I found as an adult went away! Then I discovered how much the world of bicycling had changed. At one point I owned a bicycle that was worth more than my car. It was ok, because at the time I was even biking to work a few days a week. The point is, I started out with a cheap bike and discovered how much I still enjoyed it before I went all in.

In your life, can you take a yoga class at the gym before investing in your own yoga mat, brick and whatever else one could spend money on in that arena? You can try to go for a run for a few weeks before purchasing expensive running shoes. You could do a paint and sip before buying a canvas and easel. Dip your toe in as many areas of life you can. There are always economical ways to discover your next great passion. I will be starting a podcast soon and have purchased some basic equipment. Once I learn what I am doing and discover if I like it, I may look to get more advanced stuff.

Do you have a story like my bicycle story where you have discovered a passion and went on to invest in it? Perhaps you are more in the podcasting phase and are investing in a new adventure right now? I would love to hear your story in the comments below!

TAKE A BREAK FROM IT ALL!πŸ˜ƒ

One of the best ways to improve any situation is to improve your mindset in regards to it. We seldom have control over outside variables, and waiting for them to change will only add to the frustration we have with the situation we are involved in. What we do have complete control over is our mindset. If that seems down, we can change it. It sounds clichΓ©, but we hear viewing something as a teaching moment verses a failure can help us so much. All of this may sound easier said than done, but there is a way we can begin to change our mindset.

Last post we spoke about taking Monday off to make us find it less offensive. This doesn’t have to be limited to Monday. Kids getting on your nerves and you find yourself snapping at them when you shouldn’t? It may be time to call a sitter and spend an afternoon at the spa. Your spouse working on your last nerve? Maybe a shopping trip with the girls, or a fishing trip with the guys will refresh your outlook. I am not advocating running away from your problems. If there is something that needs addressing, by all means do so. Sometimes, however, all we need is a little time to catch our breath and revive our outlook.

It amuses me how many people talk themselves out of being able to do these things. “I can’t get a sitter unless I really need one.” I think if it improves the relationship with your children, then some ‘me time’ might be something you need. “My spouse will be unhappy if I go shopping/fishing.” They might be, but if it means you come back with more love and patience for them, and it improves your relationship in the long run, I think they will be happy with that. Especially if you state it like this, “My love, I feel like I am not able to give my best to you and this relationship and a little time away would help me do that.” Who could argue with a statement such as that? Do not say this if it is not genuine. If you are having relationship burnout, which happens in the best couples, it is important to address it before it leads to even greater problems.

It may help to view these breaks as what they are – investments. Taking a break is like a strategic retreat. It will allow you to regroup and meet life head on in a far more productive manner. If you find any part of your life overwhelming, run away from it…for a while. Take a break. Take some ‘me time’. Regroup and come back stronger than ever. Invest in yourself.

TAKE MONDAY OFF!

Here is a post we can all get behind! As I write this, I’m on vacation listening to a steel drum band. The funny thing is, I used to have every Monday off. It was my designated off day. Back then, I loved Mondays. Looked forward to them even!

This got me thinking, how taking off an occasional Monday could change our perception of them. How would your view of Monday change if it involved sleeping in, spending some time at your favorite coffee shop… or maybe listening to a steel drum band? I say do it! Treat yourself. Take a Monday off and plan something fun!

SOMETIMES YOU NEED A SIGN

This could be your sign

This week, and next, I will be spending at our local state fair. It is an event that not only brings me great joy, but has a lot of great memories attached to it. I can still recall sitting at a certain food stand with my grandfather when I was just 7 years old.

Wandering around the grounds with my mother, we happened across this sign. I remarked how each of the sayings were good reminders. My mom promptly added “you should write a blog about it”

Here we are, and I am! Here is what I like about signs like this. They take a lot of the work out of staying inspired and motivated. Having visual, or written reminders, around to place inspiring thoughts in your head means you do not have to remember them on your own!

It doesn’t even have to be a sign like this. It can be an inspiring work of art. It could be one of those great workout posters. My favorite is a motivational day-by-day calendar. Either way, having things like this can make living an amazing life less of a mental stress!

IT IS IMPORTANT TO TRY NEW THINGS!

Spending the week at our local state fair, there are many new culinary creations to try. Believe it or not, this is one I tried last night. It is a sausage made with gummy bears on the inside, then garnished with honey mustard and gummy bears on some sort of flavored bun.

This is not an item for the faint of heart. Nor for the faint of stomach I might add. The only other person brave enough to try it was my lovely Margie. By try it, I mean she had one bite and said “Oh no. Not for me.” Still, you have to try crazy things in life on occasion. It keeps you young. Another fun fact, the ladies serving these delightful morsels were all wearing gummy bear earrings!