LISTEN FOR THE STORIES

Here is a picture of me at a local author event hosted at Barnes and Noble. I am sitting next to a gentleman who was a World War Two veteran. I am a history buff of sorts and found his story to be very captivating. It was not only because I am interested in that period of history and that specific event. Although that is what his book is about. There were also a collection of books on the same subject in the entrance of the store. What made this gentleman’s book so interesting to me?

This is what made this moment so special, while the other books in the store can reference great sources and have archive photos, this man was relaying his personal story that he experienced. The photos in his book are his personal photos taken during that time period. You not only hear facts, you hear stories and even more important, you get the feeling of what that time was like. Those do not come from a long lost soldier’s diary, but from the mind and mouth of someone who lived it. That is history you cannot buy.

The lesson here is one that I think too often gets lost. Value your elders. Sure you may have heard the story your uncle is telling you a thousand times before, and maybe the story grandpa relates is more embellished each and every time, but they are living history. When I think of how many stories I only half remember that my grandfather told me before he passed away, I almost feel ashamed of myself. My uncle who was a library of good jokes and stories yet to be told recently passed away as well. There were so many questions I would love to ask them both. So many stories I would like to hear one more time.

The lesson here is to value your elders while they are still around. Ask all the questions you can think of. When they tell you that story you may have heard a million times before, really listen. Ask them to tell you more. Sometimes sharing their stories allows them to not only relive some amazing times they had, but to feel important and to pass along lessons. I am still learning from stories I have heard from those who have passed away years ago. The sad part is I could have learned a lot more had I bothered to pay closer attention.

P.S. – this gentleman’s book is titled A Tourist in Uniform  I encourage us all to buy a copy and help support a veteran who is sharing with us his personal stories of war.

1 DAY IN LIFE YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE

We are all guilty of this at one point in time. I call it the someday syndrome You know the one “Someday I will write my next book” “Someday I will get in shape” I don’t think this is as much a product of procrastination as it is language. To me the word someday is like the common cold, something you should take steps to avoid catching. Once someday invades one part of your life it spreads quickly. Once you relegate taking that vacation to someday suddenly getting in shape for that vacations falls in the same category.

Here is part of the problem. By saying that we will do something someday, in our brains it makes us feel as though we have planned and scheduled it. As if we are taking some actions towards its accomplishment. The word someday steals not only some of our dreams, it steals one of our greatest powers we can use to accomplish our goals – momentum. When we experience even little successes we can use them to build upon and keep us pushing forward to the bigger ultimate goal. By using someday syndrome we never even experience the little victories and the joy that comes with them.

The worst part about someday is that it never exists! Even when you realize you are coming to the end of your days you will realize everything you were intending to do someday will never happen. Although we will experience Mondays, Sunday fun days, good days, bad days we will never experience a someday. Imagine laying on your deathbed and realizing all of the potential dreams this one word has stole from you. If you are waiting for the perfect someday you will be waiting forever.

If you have read any of my work or even experienced one of my live seminars, you will know I am not just about identifying what is wrong, but coming up with a solution for how to fix it. How to we fix the someday syndrome? Is there a vaccination we can take not to contract this dream killing disease? Is there a medicine we can take to rid ourselves of its effects? The answer is yes. Every time we catch ourselves saying someday we are going to replace it with today I am going to begin to. Notice the phrase says begin to. This means you do not have to accomplish everything all at once. What it does mean is that we are going to take one step towards getting it done. Do you want to go skydiving someday? Maybe begin to research places around you that do skydiving. Another great option is recruit a friend and begin to make plans. Start saving for your trip by putting your change in a coffee can. Whatever you can do to bring you one step closer to your goal whether that is losing weight, starting your own business or any other worthy ideal.

From now on every time you are tempted to say someday think of an action you can do to begin, or even continue your journey towards that goal. To hear yourself say, “today I am going to start..” or “today I am going to continue..” and following those words up with even the smallest actions that will bring you closer to your goals will have an amazing effect on your life. The added bonus, when the day does come that you will find yourself looking at the end you will feel a lot better you scratched someday off of your calendar.

IF IT ISN’T 1 THING…

Here I sit at Starbucks writing my second book (and presently this blog post). You will notice a copy of my first book on the right, and a double espresso and a green tea on the left. In addition there is a card from my lovely lady that encourages me. I keep in in my keyboard so the first thing that enters my mind as I begin to write is the wonderful lady I have at home. It also helps me stay connected with her as writing, even in a crowded coffee shop, is a fairly solitary endeavor.

This is not a story about coffee, or even the wonderful lady I have in my life…well…kind of. The title of the book I am working on is called Living the Dream. It has been in the works for roughly 3 years. A good portion of it is complete, but there still seems to be some work to do. Allow me to share with you something I have learned in the creation of this book. One of the biggest secrets to living the dream is understanding you already do. What on earth does that mean? Look at my set up, I have a laptop, coffee, tea, a woman who loves me and I am working on my dream of helping to inspire the world. All of this is a dream come true.

Let us spin this a different way. It may also be said after two decades in the self-improvement field which has included writing a book, writing posts on a website five days a week for over 5 years, appearances on several podcasts and radio and television shows, book signings, author festivals and live seminars. After all of this I am still not close to where I want to be. This is all true as well and I must confess is my outlook more often than it should be.

The secret is looking at life the first way. At this point you may very well be thinking “Neil, this sounds like one of those ‘glass half full’ speeches!” In a way you would be right. Both situations are true, but depending on which one we focus on life has an entirely different feeling and flavor. When we focus on what we have we tend to feel more abundant and joyful. When we focus on what we lack we feel depressed and poor. A successful life is about feeling good. If you find yourself thinking it is more about the fancy cars, big house and large bank account you are only partly right. Why do we want those things after all? It is for the feelings they will give us. The fancy cars may make us feel powerful, the big house significant and the large bank account may give us a sense of freedom or at the very least security. There is nothing wrong with the goal of having all of those, but what if you could work on developing the feelings they would give you while you pursue them.

Think of this, if your emotional well-being is tied to material objects or situations than it can disappear as quick as it came. Maybe even quicker. While you are saving up for the fancy car and big house perhaps you can begin to feel significant by creating joy in the lives of others. While looking to better yourself financially, find security in the relationships of your family and friends. What good are all of the ‘things’ in life if by the time you have them you have no peace and joy in your heart to enjoy them?

By all means write down your goals. Get an image of that car or house. Start your vision board to help create that reality. It will keep you moving forward and give purpose to your life. While you are doing that do not forget to find joy in the process and stay grateful for that which you do have. We spend most of our lives in the journey if we can enjoy that it makes the destinations that much more rewarding when we get there.

SECRET FORMULA

Here is one of those things that should be common sense, but as they say, common sense is not that common. How many of us spend time talking about our blessings? More to the point, how many of us spend more time talking about our blessings than our problems? Very few I would guess.

Why is that? While I pondered that question I began to examine the person that I have the most experience with – me. Why, when asked to give my latest ‘State of the Neil’ address do I not begin to shower my listener with all I am grateful for?

After a few days of thinking the answers that came were as follows. First, perhaps we are concerned we will sound boastful? Worried that we may leave the other member of the conversation feeling depressed about their life and how it can’t compare. Being that I find myself in love with a lady I consider to be not only the most beautiful, but most amazing woman in the world, and the fact I am blessed with the ability to find words and ideas to share with and inspire some of the greatest friends around my neighborhood, my country and this wonderful planet we all share I would be jealous of myself.

Maybe it is because that is what everyone else does and has been doing since we were old enough to comprehend what others actions may be and emulate them. Then again, I saw one of my neighbors dressed in far too little clothing sitting at a bus stop doing things that may not be the most hygienic and I certainly don’t wish to emulate that neighbor.

There were a million other reasons I came up with, but the question remained, how can we start to do this more? One thing to think of here is this – what would you enjoy listening to someone share with you, everything that is challenging in their lives or everything that is making them smile? This week let us try to put forth an effort to share more of our blessings than our problems and share with each other the results. I look forward to hearing from all of you!

QUICK! DO IT NOW!

One of the greatest challenges about showing people how to reduce their stress and increase their joy is convincing them of the importance of doing it now. After all, if your life is fairly happy why would you worry about techniques to handle stressful situations? You have enough on your plate with your job, the kids and figuring out if your favorite show is on Netflix. You will worry about it when life becomes stressful. The analogy I often use in my seminar is this, when would the best time to learn to swim be? While you are safe on the shore or when you are in the middle of the ocean in a boat that is sinking? When you are on shore it may seem silly to worry about swimming, but trying to learn as sharks are grabbing bottles of meat tenderizer is not ideal in anyway.

This became very apparent to me this past week. A lady I had been in a relationship with for 20 years, and then remained friends with for 4 years after passed away after losing her battle with cancer. It was a very hard and trying moment for me. Lots of feelings came up that were not fun, regret, sadness, frustration and lots of other not so pleasant emotions. All of this is natural and certainly ok to feel when someone passes away. Thankfully, I am blessed to be in a relationship with a lady who really knows and cares about me. Not only was she supportive, but gently reminded me of everything I have learned, teach and believe. The tools I have learned and developed that help the spirit stay resilient and to help heal sadness.

Before we continue, allow me to share a few of them with all of you as someone may be going through the same thing, and most certainly we all will at some point in time. When someone passes away we are all left with the question as to how to carry on their memory in both our hearts and the world around us. Personally, I have never been a fan of sorrowful days of mourning or candlelight vigils. Not that there is anything wrong with those, but I believe the best way to honor someone who has passed away is to try and rekindle some of the light the world has lost with their passing. Did they have a good sense of humor? Work on sharing yours a little more. Did they love animals? Maybe you can contribute to an animal charity?

I am grateful for two things in this very trying time. First, that I have a loving and wonderful lady in my life who can walk the fine line of being supportive and reminding me to use what I know to help myself as well as others. Second, that I have spent the last two decades learning and developing techniques to help keep a positive outlook in the face of trying times. If I had waited until after the funeral to try to discover ways to help me heal, I would be swimming with the sharks.

I encourage you to learn now. You never know when life will give you something major to deal with. Losing someone close to you, losing a job, or maybe even a relationship ending. If at that time you already have some tools in place, recovering from those situations will be a little less painful. There is always a sense of loss and sadness, and that is certainly more than ok. It means you cared for that relationship, job or the person who passed away. We must learn how to not only heal ourselves, but help others to do the same. I encourage you to start now. Feel free to click on the link below to order my book A Happy Life for Busy People, read the posts featured on this site or take other steps to learn effective ways to reduce stress, increase joy and become the best version of yourself. Love and light to all of those struggling.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF MY BOOK

TURN NEGATIVE FEELINGS INTO POSITIVE ONES

Yesterday we looked at why it is perfectly fine not to be happy all of the time. Today we are going to take a closer look at some specific emotions that a lot of us consider to be ‘bad’. To that end I recommend you read the quote that begins this article. In case you don’t wish to scroll up I will repeat it here.

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare

When you think about this statement it is really true. What comes to mind is hand gestures we use while driving. You know the one when somebody cuts you off in traffic? Do you know they differ by country? As do the words one may choose to utter at such a moment. Whether they are considered ‘bad’ or not may depend on who is in the car with you.

What about all those pesky emotions? The ones nobody likes to feel. Angry, sad or lonely? Surely there cannot be anything good about those? Not so fast. What does it mean when you feel angry? That your boss is a jerk and has no respect for your fondness for relaxing and enjoying the sunshine just because you happen to be on the clock? Maybe, but let us look a little deeper at what these emotions are telling us.

When you experience pain in your body it tells you that something is wrong. You are not young enough to run a 5k race that fast, or don’t consume so much rum before using a hot stove. Painful emotions are the same thing for your spirit. When you are angry it is telling you that a standard you have for someone else, or even yourself, has not been met. Have you ever been angry at yourself? Sure, we all have. I can’t count the times I have said “Why did I do that?” This is a healthy sign. It can show us we need to convey what our standards are, or even just work harder to maintain them. If you are trying to get in shape but end up eating 2 Boston crème doughnuts from Meijer because they are sinfully good (purely a hypothetical example here) and you feel disappointed in yourself that is a good thing. That pain you are feeling will help you stay on track better next time.

Feeling lonely? That is a lack of connection. Maybe you need to work on developing your relationship with the person in the mirror better? Perhaps it is a sign to reach out to a friend who would love to hear from you? When you experience what normally is considered a negative emotion, look for the lesson. What is your spirit trying to tell you? Much like our example yesterday, sometimes having an off day can just help you appreciate the good days that much more. When a friend gives you some bad news, you feel bad. When that same friend calls you again and gives you good news you feel good. This is all part of life and it can all help make us better people.

I’M NOT HAPPY… AND THAT’S OK

I am the author of the book A Happy Life for Busy People and the creator of this motivational site. When I give my seminars on these subjects, and even on occasion in the men’s room, I am asked the question, “I’m not happy all of the time, what is wrong with me?” The short answer I give is “Not a damn thing.” To elaborate on that, let us examine what it would take to be happy all of the time and what the result of that would be.

First of all, in order to be happy all of the time you would have no challenges. You would be winning the lottery every day, you will be able to eat anything you like and stay fit. All of the people you meet would say and do exactly what you want them to do. The weather would be the perfect temperature every hour of every day. Sounds pretty good at first doesn’t it? In a short period of time one word would describe this situation – boring! If you knew who would win every sport you watched and how every movie would end how exciting would life be?

Let us look at the results of this situation. You would not be very smart. Why? You would never have to learn or evolve because you would have all the things you need. Your character would never grow and develop because everyone would have the same thoughts and opinions as you. Even your grass would be brown if it never rained.

When we set an expectation to be happy all of the time, we are, in fact, setting ourselves up for failure. It may sound cliché to say, but without the rain you do not appreciate the sunshine. ‘ Getting a flat tire on the way to work is never fun, but the next day when you make it all the way to work with no problems and suddenly that trip you took for granted everyday seems a lot better. Trust me I had a car that recently broke down in the middle of a busy intersection one block from my work. Now, every time I make it through that intersection without stalling out I feel grateful.

The most important thing about personal challenges is that they allow us to grow as people. We learn new ways to do things. We are forced to better ourselves just to keep up. Plus, it reminds us to enjoy and appreciate the good days we would otherwise take for granted.

It is ok to have an off day, everyone does. Life can throw us things we do not expect. When it does, learn to be grateful for the challenges. You are either going to learn, grow or just appreciate the good days when they return. Just know that being upset, sad, angry and all of the other host of ‘negative’ emotions we experience are all part of the plan to develop us into the person we are meant to become.