FALLING APART CAN BE OK….

This may seem like a silly picture and in some ways in certainly is. There is a grain of wisdom in this humor, however. Falling apart is something we all do from time to time. I do not care how strong you are, there are moments that can bring us to our knees. Loss of jobs and any way to support ourselves and our families. Loss of those we love and the prospect of having to live the rest of our lives without them. Even just getting to the point of feeling overwhelmed with the day-to-day stress we all go through can leave us at a breaking point.

We can end up staying in bed with all of the lights off and the covers pulled up over our heads. We can call into work and spend the day on the couch watching sapping movies while inhaling a tub of our favorite flavor of ice cream. It could leave us irritable and snapping at those who have nothing to do with our depressed state. Having days like this do not make us a bad person. Feeling that way can only add to the depressing feelings we are already having. “Why did I eat that whole tub of rocky road while binge watching I Love Lucy for 3 hours?” or “Why did I just yell at my coworker for moving my coffee cup 2 inches to the left?” can leave us beating ourselves us for even longer.

What are we to do then? There are two thoughts that may help us not only survive these moments but allow us to thrive using what they teach us. The first thought to keep in mind is that it is ok to have the occasional meltdown. In fact, doing so not only shows you are an emotional and normal human being, but denying yourself expression to your feelings of overwhelm can lead to an even bigger disaster. Without healthy, and an occasional unhealthy, expression of negative feelings they can eat away at us mentally, emotionally and physically. This can cause permanant damage that make take years to undo.

The second thought to keep in mind is like that of the taco – just because you fall apart does not mean you aren’t still loveable. As the funny picture above mentions, tacos fall apart and we still love them. What do you do when your taco falls apart? Personally, I pick up the pieces and have an impromptu taco salad or nachos. Sure, I may have wanted the experience of a taco that day, but I still have all of the ingredients and flavor, just in a different form. Life is like that too. We certainly didn’t want whatever challenge caused us to feel the way we were, but we can pick up the pieces and still make something great out of it. Picking up the pieces may require going for a walk or spending a little extra time at the gym to work off the calories we consumed in our depressed state or taking a moment to apologize to those we may have caught off guard with our momentary quick temper. Not only will you find people both understanding of your situation, but after a sincere apology, they may even offer to help in whatever way they can.

Next time you have a meltdown, just think of a taco and know everything will be ok. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow but eventually things will be ok. If a taco can fall apart and still be loved, so can you.

NEVER CUT DOWN A TREE IN WINTER

This is a very important statement to ponder. You may even wish to print it out and keep it somewhere as a reminder. As I write this I am sitting in a newer Starbucks that has windows almost everywhere. This normally would be ideal, except it is like winter in Wisconsin where I live. Add to that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what this disorder, more commonly known as S.A.D., is allow me to explain. S.A.D. is a condition that physically changes a person during the dark dreary months of winter. There are changes in hormonal levels that cause irritability at best and can bring on seasonal depression at worse. 

As you may imagine, this can be quite a challenge for someone who lives for inspiring and encouraging others. That challenge is compounded by living in a state that seems to have winter 9 months out of the year. We are working on changing that. (San Diego stay tuned) I can be in moods that are less than ideal in the coming months. Fortunately for me, the passion I have leads me to look for solutions instead of just acknowledge the problems.

It has also instilled in me a passion for controlling my emotional states. This can be helpful all year long. It is often tempting to make a decision when we are in an extreme emotional state. Especially when we are angry. The adrenaline these emotions give us can leave us feeling more powerful and motivated. Generally, this is a positive aspect of life and can be great if we use it to go to the gym and have an intense workout for example. This is why it is so important to have a healthy way of dealing with anger put in place before it occurs.

Extreme emotional states can twist our perception of reality. We tend to see things different than they really are and very often worse than they really are. Remember just as we have days that are meant to challenge us and make us grow, so do others. A good portion of the world has not learned to use challenges for growth. Sometimes their ignorance may manifest as poor treatment of you. Instead of getting mad and treating them harshly, why not use their treatment of you as an example of how to use challenges for growth. In my past, I did not always respond to challenging situations in a healthy way. It was those who responded with patience and understanding that taught me far more than those who responded with anger of their own.

Here is another reason, albeit a bit more selfish one, to not respond in anger. It saves you from looking like a fool. We all know a couple that personifies this. One day they are posting how terrible each other are on social media. They next day they are madly in love. Not only does this make you look silly, it weakens your relationship and calls into question the integrity of your character. Although having it in black and white for the world to read is pretty dramatic, the same holds true for what you say in person. If you are having a disagreement with someone be it your friend, spouse or coworker and you proceed to share the details and bad mouth them to everyone you see, it does not reflect as poorly on them as it does on you. Imagine what the person you are talking to will think when you have a disagreement with them? Fight to master your emotions. It will serve you, it will serve those who are in your life. 

ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S HARD

In this blog we explore many ways in which to have an amazing life. A lot of that focus tends to fall on how to have an amazing relationship. After all, relationships, more than anything else, have a great impact on our lives. Let us be honest, if our relationships are less than amazing, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for our lives to be amazing. That is why I recommend relationship building as a life-long study regardless of the field you are in.

Even in the best relationships things can go south. Despite our best efforts, despite all of our best intentions and study, things often zig when they should have zagged. It happens. When we find ourselves in a state that seems to be less then amorous with our partners it can be easy to stray from the things we know we should do. The ironic part is that is when it is most important.

One of the things I always do for Margie is open her car door. To me it is a sign of respect. It is a little thing I can do to show her how much I value and treasure the lady she is. Another thing we do for each other is kiss each other at red lights. This does two very important things. First, it places a loving action in what is generally a mundane and occasionally stressful activity. Second, it turns red lights from something to dread, to something to look forward to.

When things in the relationship are running on less than ideal terms certain thoughts come to mind. I am reminded she is physically capable of opening her own door and how nice it would be to get into the car and relax myself. There are times when I could look straight ahead and focus on the waiting for the red light to change instead of leaning over to kiss her. It is these times, however, when it is most important to do these actions.

This is why. When I open the door for her even when we are not seeing eye to eye, it shows her that even though I may not be happy with the situation, I still respect and honor her as my lady. When I lean over to kiss her at a red light on a night we might not be on the best of speaking terms it says, “Even though we not be liking each other a lot right now, I still love you.” It is vitally important to maintain little actions that show respect and love in times of discord. Quite often these can soften the hardest of hearts, even if that one is your own at times.

Here is a great side-effect that arises from maintaining these loving actions. At the end of the day you can look back and know that despite circumstances, you were the best version of yourself. You can also be confident that you did what was right for your relationship. It would be easy, and even excusable, to forgo certain loving actions when you are angry. What it will not do is give you an amazing relationship. That, as we discussed earlier, will make it very difficult to have an amazing life.

IT CANNOT BE UNDONE

I like this picture for what it shows us. I have always said Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion. We can become angry, upset and frustrated. When we are in this state the way we see the world and others in it can change. It is important to allow ourselves time to cool down and make decisions with a clear mind and a clear heart.

Words that we say can cause a lifetime of hurt, even if apologized for later. We can cause someone to have fear and a complex for the rest of our lives because we let our emotions get the best of us. We can forever change the way they look and feel towards us for letting our tongue get ahead of our head. It may feel like the right thing to do at the time, but do yourself a favor and Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.  

FREE YOURSELF

I love this quote, but more to the point I like the thought behind it. Too many of us focus on and dwell on the hurt that has been done to us in the past. Here is a shocking bit of news for you – the only person you are continuing to hurt is yourself. By reliving the pain and hurt you experienced, you are simply choosing to experience that pain and hurt all over again. The ironic thing is that the only person to blame this time is you. I know you might be saying, “But Neil if they wouldn’t have hurt me in the first place I would have nothing to relive.” That may be true, but they have moved on and it would serve you to do the same.

Will Smith said it best when he remarked “fault and responsibility are not linked.” It may be their fault that they hurt you but it is your responsibility to not only move on from that hurt, but better yet, put that pain to work for you and stop letting it hold you back. Still stewing over what your ex did to you years ago? How do you think that will affect your current relationships? If we were to put what you are doing into words it would sound something like this, “I am not only going to feel this pain and heartache every day, but I am going to let that pain screw up my current and future relationships.” Doesn’t sound very sensible does it?

In the above quote Nelson Mandela was speaking about a government who had kept him in jail for 25 years based on the color of his skin. Was that his fault? Of course not. Was that fair or right? Absolutely not. If he focused on that anger and bitterness when he was freed who would suffer? Not those who jailed him. It would be himself that would feel anger and bitterness in his heart. It would be him that would eventually fall victim to physical ailments due to those emotions. As he said if he did not let those emotions go he would not be free.

I am not advocating letting people walk all over you. Far from it. Be cautious against those who have hurt you, but do not relive the pain. It does not affect them and it can only hurt you. Remember fault and responsibility are not linked. It sucks, but it is true. Free yourself from your hate, sadness, bitterness and anger. Enjoy the freedom you deserve.

THE MAGIC FORMULA

Half of my time engaged in my writing career includes observing the ideas of others. After all, finding ways to live a positive rewarding life should include as many successful resources as possible. Today’s post was learned watching a talk given by Jack Canfield, one of the authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Jack was speaking about his great book The Success Principles. One of the things he mentioned that really grabbed my attention was a formula you can use to determine and control the success and joy experienced in your life.

A formula for figuring out life? If you are picturing a chalkboard full of equations do not worry. This formula only has three parts and can be used by everyone. The beautiful thing about researching is that a great deal of the information you come across is very similar. The unique thing is how it is presented. This formula is such an example. It can be difficult or at the very least not very motivating to try and remember some esoteric phrase or cliché quote. A formula is simple and easy to adjust. Let us take a quick look at the formula and discuss how we can use it to change our life and the level of joy we experience in it.

E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome)

Using a math comparison let us say this equation is 2 + 2 = 4. Sounds pretty simple, does it not? The first part of the equation – Event – we often to not have control over. It is like the first number ‘2’ in our example. Let us say we are not thrilled with the outcomes in areas of our lives. That would be the ‘4’ in our example. If we have no control over the first ‘2’ and we are not happy with ‘4’ as the outcome, we must change the second ‘2’. This is also known as our response. This we have complete control over. It may not be easy, but when we learn to control our response to any event it will change our outcomes. This will change our life and the amount of joy in it. I suggest printing or writing this formula somewhere you see it every day.

Let us take this one step further. In our equation let us use negative numbers to represent negative aspects. If the first number or the first ‘2’ is negative, that is a negative event. These often happen to us and again are beyond our control. We get fired, the love of our life finds they love someone else or a million other situations can happen. We have the choice of not responding, or making the second ‘2’ a ‘0’, that leaves the situation equally as negative as when we began. We can also respond with negativity. This could range from anger, sadness, revenge and depending on the severity could be anything from a ‘-1’ to a ‘-100’. The great the number behind the negative sign, in other words the more negative our response, the more negative the outcome will be.

On the other hand, we could also respond positively. Perhaps the situation was mildly negative, like a long wait in line at the store. We will say this is a ‘-1’. We could use this time to send our spouse a text message letting them know how much we love them and how proud we are to be with them. That would be a positive response to the situation. We could say this response was a ‘+3’. -1 +3 = 2. The situation could still turn out positive by the time we get home. Our spouse could be filled with love and gratitude for our gesture. If, on the other hand, we spend our time thinking about how much this is an inconvenience on our day and get ourselves all worked up we would be having a negative response. We will say this is a ‘-3’. Again, that would depend on the level of anger. Now our formula looks like this -1 + -3 = -4. We have taken a bad situation and made the outcome even more negative. What could this mean? Perhaps we treat the cashier harshly, or come home to our spouse in a bad mood and jeopardize the chance for a romantic evening.

If we are dealt a terribly negative situation, say a ‘-10’. Let use our lover leaving us for this example. It was beyond our control. We have already seen by responding negatively, such as spreading bad gossip about them or trying to do something vengeful, will only lead to a greater negative outcome. What if we can use this to our advantage? Perhaps we can learn lessons about modifying our own behavior for future spouses? Maybe we can take notes as to what type of people to avoid dating in the future? These positives could only amount to say a ‘+5’. Plugging that into our equation -10 + 5 = -5. You could see the situation may still suck, but not quite as bad. The ability to create the most positive responses can increase our ability to overcome, or at the very least lessen the effect, of the most negative situations.

Lastly, there is what to me is the most puzzling of all equations, but one I witness far too often. That is where we have a positive event. Let us say we get a raise which could be a ‘+4’. Again, the number could depend on the amount of the raise, how  bad we needed the raise or even how expected the raise was. A normal response would be joy or gratitude, let us say a +3. That equation would be 4 + 3 = 7. The outcome would be made even more positive by our response. There are those who do what I consider baffling. They receive their raise a +4 and instead of adding positivity to that event, do the very opposite. Perhaps they complain it wasn’t enough or how long it was overdue. They might even end up feeling dissatisfied or even angry with getting more money. This response could be anything from a ‘-4’ to perhaps a ‘-6’. Our equation now looks like this 4 + (-6) = -2. You can take a positive event and turn it into a negative outcome!

So, print out this equation and work on controlling your response. The more positive your responses, the more positive your outcomes will be. Lots of positive outcomes lead to a positive life. It will help us cope better with the negative and only intensify the positive!

TRAIN YOUR MIND

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. I used to think quotes like this were a bunch a new-age nonsense. I also used to be a pretty angry and depressed person. Personal perception can do a lot to change your life. This may be hard to believe, but let me ask you a question. Have you ever read about, or perhaps even known someone personally, who seems to have the worst situation but has the best attitude? I am sure we all have. In my upcoming book Living the Dream I have a collection of interviews with people who seem to have every reason to be depressed, angry, jaded or a host of other unpleasant emotions, but yet are some of the most positive and inspiring people I know.

The million-dollar question is how do they do it? They control their thoughts. It is not easy and is not something they woke up doing all of a sudden. They ask themselves empowering questions such as, “What is good about this?” and “How can I use this?” I am certain there are times when the first answers that pop into their minds are not the most inspiring, but they keep asking.

The hard truth is that we cannot control all the circumstances of our lives, no matter how hard we try. We just do not have that power. What we can control is how we react to those circumstances. We have all heard the cliché “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” The reason things become cliché is because they have some truth to them.

Finding out how to make lemonade out of your particular lemons can be a tricky and ongoing process. The payout, however, is control over your life. Once you can control your thoughts, life can no longer control you. The tough times cannot bring you down because you will be able to both find the good in them, as well as use them to your advantage.

The next post we will look at another way in which all of the people I interviewed for my book control their thoughts. It is one trait they all have in common. Once you introduce this trait into your life and combine it with the two questions we mentioned here, you will be well on your way to controlling your thoughts!

THE PATH TO INNER PEACE

As I sit here full of bliss sipping my green tea at Starbucks, I know not everyone is this lucky. I have found the key to having an amazing life is being grateful for the life you have. I also have found the quote in the picture above to be very true. A quick glance at most social media accounts will show how much we value the opinions of others. There is a lot of ‘He said/she said’. In person I hear people get so excited about what is being said about them. There are two young ladies in particular who I think live to worry about what is the hottest items on the gossip wire. As they come excitedly to me to relay what is being said about who, I great them with the same reply, “Don’t know. Don’t care.”

This line of thought when it comes to both gossip and rude people has brought me more peace than almost anything else I do. When you stop and think about it, what other people think about you is really their business. Sometimes you can learn little things you might improve, but generally gossip holds no redeeming value. I recall when one of those ladies I mentioned earlier was concerned as to what people may be saying to me, she could not tell me enough. Again I gave her my same reply, “Don’t know. Don’t care.” She asked how I could not be concerned as to what people whispered behind my back.. The answer is easy, if they are doing it behind my back, then that is where I leave it – behind me. If those I love and care about have some concern with me and tell it to me personally, I definitely would take the time to discuss it with them. Otherwise, it is not worth the energy and feelings to worry about.

As far as rude, critical, and argumentative people the answer is the same. On one of the Apps I share my positivity on a gentleman became enraged with me. As he continued to place one comment after another on my post becoming more and more angry I did my best to explain that being upset about my writing was not doing him any good. I even suggested he ‘mute’ me on that site so he would not have to see my posts which obviously upset him. He continued throughout the evening to comment and work himself up. He even continued by posting about it the next day. The funny thing about all of this is what he was upset about – my title was in all capital letters. He thought that should be reserved for emergencies, which was his right. My title was 6 letters long. It included the word ‘I’ which should be capitalized as well as the first letter of the title. So, this man was angry for 2 whole days over 4 letters being capitalized.

Margie, in her sweet loving way, always wishes to go online and defend me to these people. Again, I remind her that it really doesn’t matter. The majority of people appreciate what I write and enjoy the content. In fact, in six years, over several social media platforms as well as print there has never been one person to be upset that my title was in all capitals. That is saying quite a bit as I am followed in over 100 countries by over 20,000 people, not to mention the casual viewer.

This man certainly had a right to his opinion. By him getting so upset the only person he really hurt was himself. Buddha had a great quote about anger.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Anger, like worry, causes the release of acid in the system. Have you ever worried so much you actually started to feel sick to your stomach? Same with anger. Your blood pressure rises, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes shallow. All of those have negative impacts on your immune system as well as your overall feeling of well-being. You must ask yourself, “Is this worth getting upset over?” I can promise you the answer 9 times out of 10 will be a resounding ‘no’. Do yourself a favor. If you are working to be the best person you can and do the best you can, do not waste an ounce of energy on what other people may be saying. If someone approaches you to tell you all about what this person or that person is doing or saying I suggest giving them my response – “I don’t know and I don’t care.” Your sense of inner peace will thank you.

A TACO MEDITATION?!

This is a picture of a billboard just outside the Wisconsin State Fair. It is a catchy little slogan for a Mexican restaurant. My mother and I have started taking walks after my heart trouble caused me to take a break from working out as hard as I would like. Being the state fair is probably my favorite place to go, it makes sense to choose that as a location to walk. This particular day my mother and I decided to walk the perimeter of the park to see how long that would be. (roughly 3.2 miles for those keeping track) While on the northern side of the park we came across this billboard.

As we walked passed it I began to think of the slogan “Inhale tacos, exhale negativity”. A slight confession is that I tend to practice a lot of both in my life. The last couple posts we have been discussing meditation and how we can work it into our life. One of the simplest forms of meditation is to pay attention to your breathing. If you add to that visualizing breathing in positivity and exhaling negativity, it can lead to an increased state of peace. I encourage you to practice this for several minutes twice a day and let me know what difference you notice. It is a simple practice, but can bring great change.

Then I thought about inhaling tacos. How could you not after reading that sign? Other than increasing the feeling of hunger I had already started from the walk, it got me thinking. Obviously, they are using tacos as a replacement for the word positivity. This could probably hold true for many people out there. Although saying, “Have a taco day!” Instead of positive day does sound a bit strange. When doing the above exercise sometimes picturing positivity and negativity can be a bit too abstract for some of us. What if we replaced the word positivity with some activity, such as eating tacos or attending the local state fair. In other words any activity that fills us with joy or adds value to our life. As we breath in we could picture being engaged it that activity and breathing in more of those activities into our lives.

On the exhale we could replace negativity with any activity we are trying to remove from our lives. Maybe letting our emotions get the best of us or being filled with stress. As we exhale we could picture that activity and feel ourselves exhaling it out of our bodies and out of our lives. Inhale tacos, exhale being overly emotional. Inhale the state fair, exhale being stressed out. It certainly is worth a try and could be a lot of fun!

 

  • WARNING!!! This blog is not responsible for an increase in the consumption of tacos related to the reading of this article. Restraint is recommended in the amount of tacos consumed or one would not be able to inhale or exhale at all. Please read responsibly.

 

WHAT ARE YOU TAKING TIME FOR?

When I first read the above picture I had to take a second and appreciate how profound that actually is. Sure, we all like to vent and sometimes that is very helpful, but how far is too far when it comes to venting? If you find yourself spending more time finding ways to complain and share your pain and unpleasant emotion state with the rest of the world than actually working on a solution to change your situation, that is too far.

If you look at the above example we could learn a lot. The first thing, feel like sh*t, some people like to just stay in this state. I could never understand that. If I am upset, angry, sad or any other unpleasant emotion I will do anything to change that state.  If it doesn’t work, then I will do something else, if that doesn’t work… well you get the idea.

The second item is complaining. Again, venting is one thing, but dwelling on it is certainly another. Les Brown, one of my favorite authors and speakers put it this way, “Don’t bother telling other people your problems. 80% don’t care and 20% are glad it’s you.” This sounds cynical, but it is true. Unless you think the person you are telling your problems to can help you, tell them something you are grateful for instead. It will help both of you feel better.

The third item, checking social media. If you are already in a bad mood adding the drama of others, or reading any unpleasant news would only serve to bring you down further. You would be better served visiting a motivational website, or reading a good book.

Let us look at the solutions they offer. Meditate. It can help you feel more relaxed and think clearly. It can offer a different perspective on your situation. It brings down your heart rate, releases ‘feel good’ brain chemicals and creates an overall sense of well-being. Going hand in hand with meditating is writing in your journal. Anyone who knows me even a little knows how much of a fan of journaling I am. A journal is like a therapist that is always open and does not charge a great amount of money to listen to you. Much like meditating, it can offer clarity and a sense of release.

Writing down what you are grateful for and your goals can work in two amazing ways as well. Focusing on what you are grateful for can change your feeling from lack to abundance and from sadness to joy quicker than just about anything else I know. Goals will not only change your focus on whatever crappy situation you are in presently to the fabulous situation you want to be in, but will also get you moving. Instead of focusing on where you don’t want to be, which is feeling bad, you can focus on where you want to be. By doing so actions that will bring you closer to that will come in to focus as well. So, next time you find yourself tempted to do any of the first three things on the list, try instead to do one of the last three and notice the difference.