YOUR 3 HOMES

We have discussed in the past that we can have multiple identities, but still be just one person. We have to be one person at work, another at the gym and yet another at home. Still, at the end of the day we are still us. The same can be true of where we live. We must also take a great care of all of the places we live. We are going to look at three of them and, as we do here at Secret2anamazinglife, we are going to give you a bonus location to think about as well. Let us get started.

Your Body. Let us start with this one. No matter where you are sleeping, in a mansion, in a loft in the city or even on the streets, you are sleeping in your body. When you walk or have to do something physical, you are in your body. We take many measures to make our homes the best it can be. We call in a plumber if our pipes are not flowing correctly. Do we do the same for our cardiovascular system? The body’s plumbing? If our power goes out it is a an emergency, but do we make sure to eat and hydrate enough to maintain our body’s energy level? Our body is the home we live in until the day we die. We cannot trade it in for another it would make a great deal of sense to treat it the best we can.

Our World. This one may seem a little too big to control. In some respects that is true. We cannot control what a farmer in the Congo does, or how the market is run in Iraq. Unless, of course, that is our job. Even in that case, there would be lots of other things we could not control. How can we take care of our world then? We can do our part. This may seem like a small thing to do but in reality it is everything. If we recycle in our household it may not stop the pollution of the oceans but what if every family just recycled in their own household? Even if have the families made that one simple step? How big of a difference would that be? You want to live in a cleaner world? Pick up one piece of litter a day. Doesn’t seem like it would do a lot, but that is 365 pieces of garbage a year. If you and your spouse did that it would be 730 pieces of trash. That still may seem like a small amount when you look at the streets about you, but try dumping 730 pieces of garbage on your front lawn and you will see what a difference you are making. Can you imagine if half of the people in the city you live in picked up one piece of litter a day? You would live in the cleanest city ever. You never realize what a great change seemingly small actions make.

Our Mind. Much like the body, we are only afforded one mind in our lifetimes. Despite how many people you feel could really benefit from a lobotomy, they are just not that common. When our minds start to fail us, it is not only hard on us, but on those we love. Wouldn’t it make sense to take the best care of our minds that we can? I am not just talking about learning and keeping them sharp, although that is a big part. When it comes to our mind, rest and fun are just as important. Mixing knowledge with humor is one of the best ways I can think of doing this. I spend hours a day learning and researching, but then Margie and I share jokes with each other and watch a funny movie. Just like any machine, if you push a mind too hard it can burn out. Just like a well-running machine, you need the right fuel as well. If your diet consists of snickers and Mountain Dew or beer and cigarettes exclusively, you will certainly not be operating at your best mental capacity. A healthy nutritional diet with a good amount of physical exercise will help keep us mentally sharp as well.

We have many more homes than the house we live in and it is important we take care of all of them. As I promised here is a bonus location to ponder. We also live in the hearts of others. Think of how you leave people after you have spent time with them. It is important to take care of our homes in the hearts of others. Tell people they are loved and appreciated. Show them love, respect and genuine interest. If we take care of all of our homes, we will feel right at home no matter where we happen to be.

IT IS A SPECIAL OCCASION FOR YOU

You may be finding yourself thinking, “How does Neil know what is a special occasion in my life?” You may even think that today is just an ordinary day, that there is no special occasion. The odds of it being your birthday are about 1 in 365 best I can figure. Still, today is a very important day for you. Why? The reasons are all around us. When you think of the odds that allow you to be exactly who you are, they are more than staggering. From the moment of conception to all the experiences that have brought you to this point, they are all worth celebrating.

While it is true that a good amount of things that we encounter in life do not work out how we had hoped and imagined, they have all played a part in making us the amazing people we are today. Even the hardest lessons have given us some of our greatest gifts. If we face a particular health challenge, we can better relate and counsel those who face the same situation. If we have lost our job we face the prospect of finding a new, and often better suited job. If our hearts were broken, we have a chance to begin again with a wiser outlook as to the kind of person that would better help us grow both ourselves and our love. Even what I think is the worst pain, the pain of losing someone we love, can teach us the value of life and those we share it with.

This may sound like some new age inspirational speech, and it some ways I guess it is, but let us look how it relates to our life today. If you do not think today is a special occasion, ask yourself how it would feel if you knew you would not have a tomorrow. Now ask yourself how sure you can be that you do have a tomorrow coming? Can you be 100% sure? How about 90%? There is a great deal of factors that could sway that number in one direction or another. How dangerous your job is, the safety of the area you live in, and your current health status. Even if those are all in the positive, you still face unexpected dangers we may never consider. Car accidents, random violent strangers or a sudden unexpected health crisis. So much for the new age inspirational speech. While I am not trying to focus on the negative that may happen in life, it does not change the reality that they are possibilities. Tomorrow is not promised for any of us. Today may be the special occasion we never knew we were having.

If today were your last day with sight, how much time would you take to sit in nature and enjoy the scenery? How long would you gaze lovingly at the face of the person you love? What song would you listen to if you knew you may wake up without your sense of hearing? The risk is not only ours either. People in our lives that we care deeply for share those same inherent risks. Think about that for a minute. Today may be that last time your spouse may be able to see your smile, would you deny that to them just because they forgot to put the milk away? It may be the last time they are able to hear you say “I Love you” wouldn’t you want them to be able to hear that one more time? It may very well be the last time you can share a moment with someone. Would you not want them to know in their heart how much they mean to you and how much you love them? In my own romantic relationship, I tell Margie everyday, “There are two things I am going to tell you everyday. I need you to know how beautiful you are and how much I love you.” To this day, I don’t think a single day has went by in which I didn’t remind and show her those two things. Tomorrow, either her or I could be gone and I would not have the chance to tell her.

This may beginning to sound a bit morbid to some of you, but it is true just the same. This is not saying we should live our lives in a state of fear that something may go wrong, but with the knowledge that it might. Often, things are only appreciated after they are gone. We complain about that job until we lose it. We complain about our spouse until they are gone. We take for granted someone in our life until they pass away. Moments can sometimes become special because they were the last. The last time you said “I Love you” to someone you care about. The last time you got to see a friend’s smile. I think we should take Mr. Einstein’s advice above and live life as if everything were a miracle. You never know when moments will be last ones, so treat each one as if it were. Live, love and laugh like there were no tomorrow.

I’VE BEEN A THIEF FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS! (and why you should be too)

In the last two decades of my self-improvement career I have become quite a thief. Some of the greatest people in history are thieves as well. Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, and both Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn. When I say that both myself and these greats of history are thieves, I do not mean stealing ketchup when you are three years old and your mother has to take you back to the store to explain and return it. For that you would have to get some clarification from my lovely Margie. When I say that myself and these other wonderful folks are thieves, I mean of the information variety.

As you can see Mr. Einstein gave credit to those who have went before him and used it as motivation to further his work. Can you imagine if everything in the scientific and mathematical community had to be relearned every generation? If we had to go back to square one? Relearn Newton’s laws of physics? Rediscover the periodic table? This would have ripple effects on the medical profession, meteorology, zoology and many other ‘ologies’ that I can’t even think of. What we do is build on and learn from the knowledge of the generations before us. We learn their discoveries and make our contribution. Different generations can look at the same information each from their own unique perspective. They can also present it in their own way and with their own words. This will bring the information to light in a whole new way to an entirely different audience. Without stealing this information, very little advancement or new discoveries would be made.

Nowhere is this more true than in the field of self-improvement. One of the gentleman in the photo above most of you know. That would be Tony Robbins. My self-improvement journey and consequently career was inspired, in part, due to Mr. Robbins. I found myself staring at the television in the very early hours of the morning while getting ready for work at the post office when one of his famous infomercials came on. Perhaps it was lack of sleep, or maybe it was just the right moment, but I felt the desire to order one of his tapes and see what all of this was about. Over 20 years later and I find myself speaking and giving my own seminars. The more of a teacher or mentor you become in the field of self-improvement, the more of a student you become. Every day I read, listen to audio or watch video of other teachers. On an ambitious day I do all three. The other man in the photo is Jim Rohn, the gentleman who taught Tony Robbins. When you listen to Tony, you hear a lot of what Jim would teach, but with Tony’s flair and added knowledge. Jim, on the other hand, learned from a man named J. Earl Shoaff.

All of these gentleman ‘stole’ a little from each other. Perhaps a better word would be the modeled them. They listened to the words earned through years of wisdom each man had. It gave them knowledge that would have taken them years to learn on their own. Les Brown, another one of my favorite speakers, quotes so many other teachers and mentors that my head starts to spin. Oprah Winfrey has had the unique opportunity of interviewing some of the greatest minds of our time. She gladly shares things she has learned from them.

And then there is me, who has stolen knowledge from all of these men and more! I have learned discipline and overcoming odds from the likes of David Goggins, former Navy Seal. I have learned the art of being a good interviewer as well as the knowledge from all the great guests on Impact Theory ( I highly recommend looking that show up) Hosted by Tom Bilyeu. I even try my best to steal nuggets of wisdom on nature from my good friend Shannon, philosophy from my friends Nick, Amanda and Russ, the benefits of nature and rock-n-roll from my friend Eduardo and of course my beautiful Margie and I spend every day sharing and learning from each other.

I am encouraging you to become a knowledge thief now. Whatever field you are interested in or pursuing, there is information out there. Your library is full of books, YouTube has millions of videos. There are podcasts, webinars, seminars and audio available. Search out this information that is being shared and steal some for yourself. Here is the best part. When you share that knowledge with others, you will do so in your special and unique style. It will reach people who may never have been touched by a Tony Robbins or Les Brown. Your words might touch a special place in someone’s heart that nobody else could. Before long, people may begin stealing from you.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM 4TH AND 5TH GRADERS

As I mentioned last post, I recently had the opportunity to speak to several 4th and 5th graders about being a writer and how to improve their school and their community. I approached the day of my talk with some trepidation. How would I take many of the seemingly complex subjects we discuss on this website and in my book and convey them to these young children? After all, many adults take a while to grasp some of the concepts! Then the above quote from Albert Einstein came to mind. “If you can’t explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough.”

These wonderful young people were giving me a great opportunity to learn a new way to convey my teachings in a simpler format. Could that be done? I recall one of my favorite virtual teachers growing up, Mr. Rogers. His children’s television program routinely tackled very complicated subjects such as death and divorce and broke them down to simple ideas children would understand. I would do the same with the issues I believe allow young people to make a big difference in their community. I wanted them to know that each of us has a unique and special talent, different from our friends and family, but just as important. I wanted to show them the different talents people were using to better our community. We have artists painting murals on several buildings throughout the city. Those are artists using their talents. We have engineers that are redesigning streets to make them safer and easier to travel on. Those are people using talents in math, design and many other skills. It is by pursuing what you enjoy and are passionate about that can lead to a better community. A city full of people pursuing their passions would be a great community indeed.

I also wanted to instill the idea of believing in yourself and your dreams, even if others don’t and it may seem as if they are right. My grandfather, the older person in the picture above, only had an 8th grade education due to growing up during the depression. Despite this challenge, he ended up teaching college welding classes. He did so because that was his passion and he invested in teaching himself. In my own journey, as some of you may know, I was told by a well-meaning English professor that I should never pursue a career in writing. The sad truth is many people cannot see what talents may lay untapped inside of us. In fact, it may take us a while to see and believe in those talents ourselves. If I had listened to that English teacher I would have never written my book that has touched thousands of lives.

Bullying. The last bit of information I wanted to relay to these amazing young people was the need to work together. Especially in today’s world, we are connected more than ever. Not a day goes by that we do not rely on others for things we do and use. Anywhere from the engineers I mentioned earlier that design the streets we drive on, to the people who make our clothes we live in and the cars we drive. There is the farmers who help bring food to our table, the garbage men and women who make sure our waste does not collect rats and flies to, of course, our amazing teachers who instruct and inspire our young.

I used an example to speak to children, but I think it can benefit adults as well. Think of the Avengers. It is a group of different super heroes. Each one has their own talent. Spiderman can climb tall buildings where the Hulk cannot. If they were to arm wrestle the Hulk would win every time. Each super hero has their own talent, but they can do the most good when they work together. Each hero brings something different they can do well, even if it is different from what we can do well. We all have our own ‘super power’. What creates great change and a great community is when all of us ‘super heroes’ come together and use our super powers to make our schools, families and communities better.

I am so grateful to the three teachers who gave me the great opportunity to not only speak to and inspire and empower their students, but who forced me to take a new look at what I teach and to be able to pass that knowledge on to young people. If we can teach our children how best to be not only good citizens, but good neighbors and good people, we have done a great gift to our world and to our future. It is with that thought in mind I want to take a moment to acknowledge the effort and difference teachers of all kinds make in the world. They have not only one of the greatest responsibilities and one of most difficult jobs, but one of the most noble – shaping our future through the lives of the young.

STRIVE TO BE A SERVANT

Strive to be a servant? What kind of goal is that? It is a great goal actually. Recently, I was listening to a video by Inky Johnson. If you do not know who he is I urge you to look him up and give a listen. In this video he said two things that really struck me.

The first involved a game in which his dreams for a NFL future were dashed. Inky was projected to be a first round pick and had dreams of taking care of his family. With one tackle he lost the use of one arm and thus the ability to play professional football. While being carted off the field he asked the doctors to raise his arm for him. He said he wanted to reassure the supporters. What really struck me was why he chose that particular word. He said he did not like the word ‘fans’ because these people paid to see him play and they supported him. I began to think about all the people who purchased my book. Then I began to think about all of those who read, comment and share my blogs. Although not financial, this support means the world to me. Without an audience writing becomes nothing but a self-indulgent fantasy.

The second point he made was how he is referred to now. He mentioned some people refer to him as a ‘motivational speaker’. He referred to himself as a servant. He said if we are blessed with gifts that sharing them and using them to serve our fellow man is what it is all about. That brought to mind two quotes many of us know “With great power comes great responsibility” and a quote from Einstein. One of the smartest people who has ever lived was asked, “Why are we here?” His answer without a moment of thought was “We are here for the sake of others.” His efforts to better the universe and to solve what some thought were unsolvable problems were for the sake of others. To make the world a better place for everyone.

Think of what your gift is? How can you use it to serve your fellow humans, or animals for that matter? Using your gift to serve others is what life is all about.

LESSONS FROM THE CIVIL WAR WE HAVE FORGOTTEN

The American Civil War (never really did understand that term) was about far more than just slavery. It represented rural verses city life. It pitted national governing against local governing. In broad terms, the southern way of living against the northern way of living. Of all of these issues the basis was the same, different people with strong ideological beliefs on both sides.

It can still be argued as to whether rural or city planning is better and healthier. I am sure there are benefits to both national and local governing. What I felt was really a no-brainer was dismissing the human rights of someone based on either the color of their skin or their ethnic upbringing. In today’s world of division, this can, and often does, include political and religious differences as well. While it is certainly ok and quite natural to disagree with each other on these issues, what is not acceptable is to vilify or dehumanize others who are or believe different than we.

As I tend to surround myself with people who are as accepting and open-minded as myself, these issues are not always front and center in my mind. In my own way I think of things like prejudice and racism as not only arcane, but ludicrous. Would you really deny yourself a blood transfusion because Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who invented a way to process and preserve blood plasma was African-American? Would you do without such inventions as paper, printing and umbrellas because they come from Chinese inventors? Would you do without all of Albert Einstein’s contribution to science because you are anti-Semitic? The fountain pen, windmill and one of the most important inventions to my writing – coffee are all of a Muslim origin.

To do without any of these inventions because you believe this or that group of people are less than you would not only be foolish, it would be ignorant and stupid. Every culture has its heroes and its villains. To condemn an entire race or group of people based on the actions of one, or some of its people is not only irresponsible, but asinine. Do I hate all of my German friends because back in the 30’s and 40’s there was a neurotic freak named Hitler who killed millions of people? Of course not. Do I hold a grudge against all of my Christian friends because many of them lead to the death of over 100 million Native Americans? That would be senseless.

If we are to hate someone based solely on the racial/religious or political differences we have with them, then we should be prepared to do without all of the amazing contributions brought on by that group. As I look around my group of friends and notice the vast difference in color, culture and creed, I look forward to learning from and working with all of them to make our world a better place. As the Dalai Lama said, we are all brothers and sisters.

SLOW YOUR SPEED IN THE NEW YEAR

It is the end of the first week of 2019. As I write this I am sitting in a local Starbucks watching a young lady pace back and forth as she waits for her coffee. The line for the drive-thru was quite extensive. Everywhere people are in a hurry to get what they need and where they are going. I must confess to falling victim to this myself from time to time. The question is when do we stop? You need to get your coffee…on the way to work, let us say. Then you hurry to work to be on time, an issue I seem to have more often than I would like. When you arrive at work you are in a hurry to have the work day end and be on your way home. During the ride home you are in a hurry to just get home so you can relax. Once at home, then we relax right? We hurry to make dinner so we could catch our favorite program, hurry through our household chores so we can finally get to bed and get some well deserved rest. When, at last, we finally find ourselves between the sheets our minds are still racing with thoughts of all we have to do tomorrow. It seems we just drift off into blissful slumber when the alarm clock beckons us to do it all again.

I don’t know about you, but I feel tired just reading that paragraph. The ironic thing about this whole mess is that we do it to ourselves. Time, as Einstein reminded us, is just a stubborn illusion. A better way to explain that is a thought I read on the bottom of a sales ad. how long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on. Of course, in at least one of those situations you are still in a hurry. Back to our example of the typical work day. It would seem the adult mind always races to what is next. While it is good to have a goal in mind and be focused on where you are going, it can certainly lead to increased sense of stress and anxiety.

Another thing we do that can leave us chasing time is multitasking. While it may seem like trying to accomplish as many things at once would leave us with more time, the opposite is generally true. The list of tasks in life is always growing and the only thing doing multiple things at once does is diminish the quality of job that we do on each task. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and looking to ‘catch up’.

What is the solution for all of this? SLOW DOWN. The best way to slow down is to work on being present. Keeping our focus on what we are doing can help us appreciate all that is good about each moment. It will also help us feel less rushed. I know it may seem contrary to think that doing only one thing at a time will lead to more time, but it can. First of all, you do a better job by focusing on one thing at a time. This reduces the amount of time you have to redo things or correct mistakes. By focusing on one thing at a time you decrease the time each task takes. Not to mention it reduces the stress of overwhelm. Less stressed people are more productive people.

There are many ways in which we can learn the art of being present. There is one of my personal favorites, meditation. There are tons of free apps available. Some take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. There are also guided meditation videos on YouTube as well as available on CD. All you have to do is pop on a pair of headphones and relax away. You will emerge from that experience refreshed on more centered.

Another source of teaching on how to be present are children and animals. When we were young, we were much better at being able to appreciate the moment. A child could be lost in a moment of play for hours. As they grow older we teach them not to daydream and to focus on what needs to be done. Turning them into stressed out smaller versions of ourselves. Do yourself a favor and get lost in a moment of play yourself. Better yet, bring along a child to show you how it is done. Animals are the other half of this equation. Pet owners are generally less stressed than their pet-free counterparts.  In addition  to the love animals give us, they also remind, and sometimes force us to take moments to pause and totally live in the moment. I have watched a dog smell a tree for several minutes, every surface just to get the full story. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this as the neighbors may begin to refer to you as “That neighbor who smells trees” just taking a moment to fully appreciate what we are engaged in will reduce our stress and give us more time.

ONE CHANGE THAT COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING

It is always entertaining to discover the ways that some of the most life-changing knowledge comes to our attention. What is even more amusing is that often these moments stem from what can initially be defined as a negative experience. Another example of modern day alchemy. We all have the power to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Before I lose everyone completely, allow me to share with you the exact experience I had and the realization that came out of it.

The other afternoon I was riding my bike in the park. It was a rather hot day and I was taking my time enjoying nature in all its glory. Ahead of me was a young man around the age of 6 I would guess. As we rounded the curve in the trail there were a few birds sitting on the grass. As the young man approached them he yelled “Get out of here stupid birds! You are ugly! Goodbye stupid ugly birds!” It appeared the young man had really no malice in his words or towards the birds, but hearing that made my heart sink. My first reaction was to feel bad for the birds. I know this may sound silly as birds to not speak the same language as humans, but sending out that negative energy towards another living thing cannot be constructive. A little while later down the path, when asked his opinion of a certain tree, the child replied using the same descriptions of ‘stupid’ and ‘ugly’. Again, it is my opinion this was more a product of environment and not any malice as the young man seemed rather happy at the time.

As I found my own spirit a little brought down by the young man’s words it got me thinking. In the past I would have felt a little foolish, or even weak for allowing another person’s words and actions affect me. Now I realize it is just part of my gift as an empath and spiritual person. The event stuck in the back of my mind as I went about my day.

3 a.m. found me awake and reading on the couch when the experience popped back into the front of my mind. I began thinking how someone should tell the young man about the law of energy. It may sound silly to do so to someone at such a young age, but if we wait often habits and language patterns can become set and harder to change. What is the big deal about what words we use? Imagine several random people coming up to you and informing you that you are ugly or stupid. Can you imagine how you would feel after that? Even if you give their opinion much weight, it still would not be a good feeling. Now, imagine several random people coming up with wonder in their eyes and informing you how beautiful or inspiring you are. Can you think about how that would feel?

Words do not only affect others. When we, like the young man in the story, go around calling everything stupid or ugly. When we look for things to criticize about people, places and things. Our world becomes filled with things that we see as ugly, stupid or some other negative description. Can you imagine how it would feel to be surrounded by ugliness and stupidity every day, all day? By speaking in such a manner and seeking out the faults in everything we chose to do that to ourselves.

With my feelings working their way downward as I was thinking about all of the people who do this to themselves as well as how often I still find myself doing the same thing, a great realization came to me. If we can make our lives a living hell by the words we chose to use, could we use that same power to transform our lives to one of beauty and joy? Of course we can. There is always two sides to every story.

Immediately my mind began to work on how this could be put into use. The answer was simple. To create joy and positivity all we have to do is the opposite of what brought us the pain and negativity. In this case, what if that young man was taught to find the beauty and magnificence in everything he saw? What if we all learned how to see everything as a miracle. It was Albert Einstein who said, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as thought everything is a miracle.” If one of the smartest minds on the planet lived by this concept, I felt it might be wise for me to as well.

Today I am going to begin to look at the beauty in everything I see. In addition, I am going to use words like ‘wonderful’ and ‘beautiful’. If we find the beauty in everything we see, no matter how hard it may be, our lives will be filled with a great amount of beauty and joy. Can you imagine how different it would feel if we were surrounded daily by everything we thought was beautiful? Our lives, in turn, would become beautiful.

One great key to finding the beauty in even the toughest situations was supplied to me by a quote from Mr. Rogers. This quote was sent to me by a neighbor who knew I was a fan of the children’s television show host. The quote was “Frankly there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” Perhaps if the young man in our story know that birds he was calling stupid could navigate 2000 miles without the use of a map he may not think they were so stupid after all. The greatest irony of all. After all the knowledge that came out of the afternoon in the park, the young  man’s words became a thing of beauty for all they taught me and all I could share with you.

MORE TIME DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Ah… the holiday season. Filled with great joy, family and feelings of love and gratitude. Sometimes, however, it is also filled with stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and stress. It seems we need another hour or a couple of hours in our days to get everything done. There is shopping, finding the perfect gift for people we discover we do not know as well as we thought we did. Often there is either travel, or preparing for the arrival of people who are traveling to see us. We have to shop and prepare meals considering everyone’s likes, food allergies and culture restrictions. Not only do we have all of these things to consider, but we also have our regular obligations of work, housecleaning and parenting as well.

Sadly, there is no way to extend the daily deadline beyond 24 hours. How then, can we gain more time during the holidays? The man above you might recognize, his name is Albert Einstein. world-famous physicist. He developed the theory of relativity. I found this hard to grasp when it came to time. How can time be relative? Is not an hour always 60 minutes?

I found the answer, and a great explanation on the theory of relativity in a most unlikely place. There is a home-improvement store here called Menards. On the bottom of all of their sales ads they have motivational sayings in real fine print. One fine day while pondering why I even live in a place where I would need a snow blower, I found the answer I was looking for. On the bottom of the page read “How long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on.” While I would love to claim credit for that great bit of wisdom I cannot.

How does this translate to the relativity of time, and more importantly, how can it help us gain more time during the holidays? Think of that situation if you will. Yes, it is odd that a self-improvement website will ask you to think of spending time in the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that is when some of my greatest ideas come to me. Have you ever had to use the bathroom when somebody else is doing the same? Every second can seem like an eternity. If you are the person on the inside the time would certainly seem different, yet they are exactly the same amount of time.

That is the most poignant example I have seem, but doesn’t the same thing happen to us during the holidays? It seems when we have one more place to stop and it closes in a half an hour that is when we get into the line with the sweet little old lady paying for her cartload of groceries with change…of which she has to count out by hand. Wait, did she just loose count and have to begin again? How long have I been in this line? How about preparing meals. I have experienced this first hand. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean I actually prepared the meal. Watching Margie work so hard during the holidays to make sure everything is done at the same time, and that time being close to when our guests arrive is crazy. Especially when you have to consider everything cooks at a different rate.

You may be thinking this is great Neil, and I have spent part of my holiday time reading this article and other than a entertaining bathroom analogy, you haven’t told me a single thing I can do to help my holiday craziness. Fair enough. Let us explore a few simple things we can do that will not only help us make better use of our time, but take the stress out of the time that we do spend, allowing us to enjoy more of what this time of year is all about.

The most important thing that can change our holiday is focus. When we are stuck in the slowest line in the store, focusing on that can only raise our stress level and blood pressure. What if we chose that time to try and focus on what we have to be thankful for. During the holidays that is something we all can count on and is a great gift to give ourselves. Even just a distraction whether it be reading those informative magazines telling us what the royal family is doing, or where Elvis, who is really alive, is spending his Christmas. Try to find the most interesting or amusing headline. Think of a nice thing you can say to the cashier, who truly is under a great deal of stress themselves.

Another great thing we can do is think about the outcome we are striving for. Is the goal to provide a tasty and enjoyable meal our family can gather around and share the holiday? Then does it matter if the steamed vegetables end up being part of dessert or the gravy is not as smooth as we would like? Sure, it would be great if the meal was perfect, but that is not what the holidays are all about, and nobody will expect that. What if something goes terribly wrong? One year my aunt was supposed to watch a pot of soup that was baking as the rest of us went to pick up some other relatives. She…well…I am not sure what she did other than it wasn’t watch the soup. It burned and had to be thrown away. The entire pot tasted terrible, but there was other food and it is still a story we laugh about today.

That brings us to our last point, find ways to laugh. Nothing is that serious and it is often things that go wrong that make the funniest and most entertaining holiday memories. Find a way to laugh, it will make a great holiday gift to everyone you share the holiday with. In that vein of thinking, try finding ways to genuinely compliment as many people as you can. Know and understand each of us face unique holiday stress and all of us would appreciate some kind words.

Please feel free to share your holiday stress relieving ideas in the comments below. Working together we can make the holidays better for everyone.

A FISH, A RACING PIG AND ALBERT EINSTEIN

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid” – Albert Einstein

This quote from Albert Einstein is one of my favorites. It demonstrates a very important fact that we all could benefit from remembering. We must remember that every person we meet is amazing a special in their own way. Every job is very important. I believe in was Mother Teresa who urged us to do small things with great love.

This point was brought to my attention as I indulged in 2 of my favorite past times. Watching a pig race while attending the Wisconsin State Fair. Pigs are some of my favorite animals. They almost always seem to be enjoying life to the fullest, are the consummate underdog, and are very intelligent. When you are at the fair you can see pigs in many different fashions. Some are in barns on display. These are usually checked out by animal lovers and looked at with distain by city folks sensitive to certain smells. They can be found smiling on many signs and shirts advertising a million different foods and products. A smiling pig is a hard thing for many people to resist. Speaking of food, you can also find pigs in some fashion on a breakfast sandwich, on a burger, or even on a stick.

These definitions are where most people classify pigs. A humble, yet adorable animal. If you put a racing sash on them such as the one above and have them race each other for Oreo cookies something else entirely different happens. Thousands of people pack bleachers to standing room only during the 11 day run of the fair. During their 5 performances a day one can hardly find a seat if you do not get there early. They yell, jump and cheer for their favorite pig to make it around the track first.

What happened? This is the same pig many of those very people would not even go into a barn to see because of the smell. In a different role, however, they became something to cheer for. Something to sit in the hot sun just to watch. People can even buy souvenirs after the race.

In life we all can be like the pigs. Sometimes it can seem the world is against us. It may seem like there is nobody in our corner cheering for us. If it is because we live in a place that resembles a barn and we have an unpleasant odor, the solution is fairly obvious. Most of us, however, are just living the wrong role. Investigate your strengths. think of what you do well. Know what gift you bring to the world and live that. Before long, you too may very well have people lining up to cheer for you.