FLIP THE SCRIPT

Bad days, we all have them. One day both the air conditioning and driver’s side window in your car decide to both stop working. You have just worked some overtime and are thinking how best to enjoy the extra cash you worked so hard for when your license plate renewal notice comes in the mail. You are at the gym training for a 5k charity race you have coming up and next thing you know you are laying in the hospital on the brink of open heart surgery. It is highly unlikely all of this would happen to one person in a single week, but it happened to me… last week.

It would have been easy to think of throwing in the towel at some point and feeling depressed. To be honest for a second I did. That all changed on a rainy day hot day after I was discharged from the hospital. Wanting to take a break from the fabulous cardiac diet I was enjoying at the hospital, my mother, lovely lady and I all went for a taco pizza at a local establishment. On the way there I say a man dressed for a warm sunny day standing in the rain at the bus stop. There was no shelter and he had no choice. Hopefully after being drenched and having to get on a cold bus, he was on his way home to change into something dry, but I cannot be sure of that. Suddenly, my car troubles did not seem that bad.

The more I thought about that the same applied to all of the other challenges my week had thrown at me. I had a job to pay the extra bill that came in, I was still around after my heart scare. It is more than just finding the light in the dark though. How often have we all sat and thought extensively on what it is that is wrong or lacking in our life? I am know I have and I am guessing you may have too. I always use the analogy at my seminars if you are on a all expense paid vacation with the one you love and then you get a toothache things can go from great to bad in a blink of an eye.

Here is what I am going to ask you to do this weekend. It is a challenge for you and for me. This weekend let us pick two areas of our life and focus on everything we love and are grateful for. Let us do this for 24 hours for each one. To make it even more powerful you might even want to write them down. At the very least, write down what particular area of your life you are focusing on that day. Is it your relationship? Sure, it might not be perfect, but there are reasons you love it or you wouldn’t still be there. Maybe your job? It would be easy to complain about how we wish we were paid more, had more time off, better hours or even a better boss. How often do we do that? For at least 24 hours, let us solely focus on the good about that. Keep it in the back of your mind for the entire day. Ask yourself at various times throughout the day, “What do I love or am grateful for about this area of my life?” Maybe carry a small notebook around and write down your answers? Feel free to come back to this post on Monday and share how you felt and what, if any, results came of doing this.

WHEN LIFE IS A PILE OF…

This is an emoji of… well… a pile of poo. This is insanely popular for some reason. Margie has even received several orders for cupcakes in this design. I am using it for when our life feels just like a pile of poo. Your car breaks down, a relationship ends, you lose your job or even worse, you lose someone you love. Sometimes the poo really adds up in a hurry. At this point, life really starts to stink, both literally and figuratively.

We all have these periods. Even though it may not seem like anybody is having a worse time than we are, there are people out there who have it worse. Certainly not what we want to hear when the poo hits the fan in our life, or even worse, when we feel like the fan. However, a change in perspective can give us pause to think. So, your car broke down? There are people who cannot even afford a car, much less repairs. There are people, lots of them in fact, who have to walk miles every day for clean drinking water. It was Gandhi who said, “I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.” No matter how dire our situation, there is always something to be grateful for. Your relationship ended or someone you loved passed away? Remember they say It is better to have lost in love, than never to have loved at all. There are people who never find that special someone to love. There are people who never have their parents in their lives. Be grateful for every day you experience love. Even if that love changes it does not mean it has to stop. Try finding just one thing to be grateful for. It will lead you to find another and then another.

Even if you are having trouble finding something to be grateful for, you can still use the poo in your life. How on earth do you use poo in life? Here we are obviously speaking in metaphors, but using a literal comparison can help. We are talking about poo situations in our life as we discussed above, but we can use the same logic as we do for the organic matter itself. I do not recall if it was Meijer, Walmart or somewhere completely different, but I found myself strolling through the garden center fantasizing that I had the ability to grow things when what did I see? Poo! bags and bags of the stuff. Ok, here it was called manure and did not have an emoji on it, but the contents was the same.

That is when the light bulb went on. If we literally use poo to grow stuff in our gardens, why do we not use it for growth in our lives as well? Just like our last post when we discussed failure, if we just dwell on the poo in our lives it would be like sitting in that manure. Just try and picture sitting in a pile of manure and complaining how awful it is. If you were to plant a few seeds in that manure instead of just complaining about it what may happen? You would grow new and wonderful things! Things that would smell far better than the poo itself.

What does that all have to do with our lives when they seem…well..in the toilet? Plenty! If a relationship fails, you can use what went wrong to improve your future relationships. If you did something that brought about the end of the relationship, do not do that thing again. Maybe you were just connected to the wrong person. Going forward be aware that you may wish to start a relationship with someone more aligned with your goals and values.

Did you lose your job? Use that to brush up on your interviewing skills. Perhaps you should consider going back to school? Maybe taking that time to finish the book you have always wanted to write? When you start looking for a new job, apply in a field you enjoy and not the one that just pays the most. In that way the loss of a job can serve as the growth of a new and more rewarding career!

Did you lose someone you love? That is always hard and very painful. If you find yourself sad a great deal of the time, remember that is ok. If your heart feels broken, that just meant it has loved. Be grateful for all of the moments you shared with that person. I have an article coming out next month on this very subject. I can tell you one of the best ways to ease burden of loss is to try and replace some of the light that person brought to the world. Did your grandmother always make people feel welcome? Then you should do that. Did your brother have a great sense of humor? Then focus on bringing laughter into the lives of others. Another emotion that comes up when we lose someone we care deeply for, and I speak from experience, is regret. We find ourselves uttering the all too common phrases “I would’ve/I should’ve/I could’ve” Use this to motivate yourself to live in the moment and put all your love and effort into the relationships you have now. That person may be gone, but they can certainly help you make the most of those you love that are still with you.

Use the poo in your life my friends. Just like the manure in the garden center, use the poo situations in your life as fertilizer to grow new and wonderful things. Pain and challenge can be one of the best catalysts for growth.

THE ONE THING YOU SHOULD DO FIRST TO CREATE AN AMAZING LIFE

Through the course of my writing here and in my books you will find a wealth of tools to help improve the quality of life. Use any of them and they will increase the level of joy, satisfaction and success you have in your life. There is one thing that will make all of them work even better. It is the most important thing you can do to begin to live a life you not only can be proud of, but enjoy living. It is so important that you should add it to every goal you write down, every New Year’s resolution you have and make it a part of your daily routine.

What could be so important? Before you start wondering if this is something you have ‘time’ to do, let me reassure you that it will take no extra time at all. It will take some extra effort in terms of remembering, but even putting forth this effort will bring a smile to your face. It would not be too over the top to say this would be a matter of life and death. Reason being, when you do this, life comes alive. You have excitement. The little things not only cease to get you down, you can view them in a more positive light.

Here is, in my opinion, the most important thing you can do to transform your life positively. Enjoy the journey. That may sound very simple and basic, but it is life altering. How many times have you heard, or even said, “I’ll be happy when…” Roughly 90% of our life is spent on our way from here to there. Even when you achieve the goal you are working towards, you can end up with a feeling of let down if you are not prepared with another.

If we spend 90% of our lives on a journey, we should do our best to find ways to enjoy that journey. A great example is when I began focusing on gratitude. If I chose to wait until I developed a grateful attitude to be happy, I would miss all of the great things I discovered on my journey there. Even when I messed up and began to focus on what I perceived as being ‘wrong’ with my life, I was excited because I knew that is what would eventually fade away.

As well as any tool of self-improvement has worked for me, enjoying the process of using it has been the greatest thing I have learned to do. When you are enjoying the journey of life, challenges become redefined as stepping stones. This may seem like putting on rose-colored glasses, but that is not true. We can seldom control, and then only to a limited degree, what happens in our life. What we have complete control over is what it means to us and how we can use it.

One of the journeys most of us seem to be on is one of becoming more financially comfortable. Instead of saying “I’ll be happy when I can afford a new car.” Which I did utter with the PT cruiser quite a bit, soak in that feeling. Not that you should relish in a bad feeling, but realize that is what it is showing you. Then focus on how great you will feel when your goal is accomplished. About the 832nd time my PT cruiser was at the repair shop (Only a slight exaggeration) I remember thinking how terrible it was to have to take time off of work to spend money so I could get to work. Then I remembered, I was one step closer to getting there. Of course I would loved to not have been there, but it was teaching me patience, allowing me to practice a lot of the tools I write about, preparing me to be grateful for the car I would have, among a million other things.

You may be thinking that is easy for you to do, but not me. It wasn’t in the beginning. Sitting in an auto repair shop watching your Jamaican vacation take the shape of a new muffler, it is hard to discover the joy in that. I managed to, and if a man with seasonal affective disorder can do that in the middle of the Wisconsin winter, so can you. It takes asking yourself new questions. “How can I use this?” “What else could this mean?” Not only asking yourself these questions, but coming up with positive answers. Trust me when I tell you this doesn’t happen overnight so do not get discouraged when the first answer you brain spits back at you is “Nothing! This situation sucks!” Certainly, it may not be your first choice, but what you do with that situation is 100% up to you. If you just sulk and dwell in the negative emotion it first gave you there is nobody to blame but you. This is not an easy change and will take a lot of practice, but enjoying the journey of life will transform your life and make everything else more enjoyable.

If I had one gift to leave this world when I am gone, it would be to help everyone enjoy the journey more. To that end, please not only share your suggestions for doing so in the comments below, but your challenges as well. Let us start a healthy conversation and help each other enjoy the journey we are all a part of, the journey of life.

WHY ME??? WHY YOU???

The other day I had a discussion with my friend Terri. We discussed how both of us have bought ‘new to us’ cars that have proven to be lemons. Mine is a PT Cruiser who in the first 5 months of owning has cost me $2000 in repairs and still runs rough. Daily I am looking forward to going back to driving an SUV. Terri’s plight is much the same. She bought a car and now things have started to go south.

What does our car trouble have to do with living an amazing life? Terri asked me a very thought-provoking question. That question was this, “How to keep calm, cool and collected when life is throwing me disappointment and struggles?” This is an excellent question and one I think we have all asked at some point or another. No matter who you are or how together you have your life, at some point life will hand you a bunch of lemons in the form of challenges and disappointments. This is never fun.

How do we stay calm, cool and collected as Terri so wonderfully put it? The first point I suggest is to gain perspective. In our situations, we bought a car that turned out to be not what we had thought. This can be especially hard when you are truly excited and then get let down. By her sharing her story with me, we found out neither of us were alone in our troubles. This can be a healing itself. The next thing we need to do is work on what questions we ask ourselves, or more importantly, what answers we give ourselves. It is all to easy to ask the question “why me?” when things go wrong. God knows I asked this when I found out all that needed to be repaired on my car. What you answer is more important. I am a fan of putting everything that happens to me in my life to work for me. When I asked myself, after my last vehicle was totaled while parked in front of my house by a elderly man visiting from Greece as I was sleeping, why did I get a car that was filled with issues? Truly neither of them were my fault. I could focus on how unfair it all was and how much of a victim I was, but that would not serve me and only serve to make me feel helpless and terrible.

Here is another secret, what you focus on in any given situation can literally transform that situation. What should we focus on? Here are two things I suggest; first, what you have to be grateful for. In my case, I was not in the car when it happened. His car was so badly damaged he could not drive away and not be held responsible. He and everyone else was safe for the most part. Let me be perfectly clear right here, this is not an easy habit to do. Focusing on what you have to be grateful for in the middle of a challenging situation takes practice and patience. When you master it, however, it will soften the blow of disappointment you encounter.

The second thing I recommend focusing on is what is positive about the situation, or another way to word it is how to use what happened. What did I find positive about my car being totaled while I was inside sleeping? Like I mentioned, I was inside sleeping for one. Another is maybe there was an impending problem with my car that could have surfaced while driving 70 miles per hour on the freeway, that now will never happen. Another great thing that happens when challenges arise is you find out who really supports you. This is something that can only happen during a challenge. Someone can tell you they will be there for you, but until the ‘chips are down’ you never know for sure. In this case there were so many who were. There were also other benefits of this awful situation. I became better at dealing with rental car companies. Something I just would not randomly do. Also got practice researching used vehicles to purchase. Obviously I still have a way to go on that one. There was the extra practice in asking for and receiving help. I have written about that in the past, but allowing others to help you can be giving them a great gift as well.

All of those skills I would not have had a chance to learn if my car had not been unfairly totaled. Did it inconvenience me? Absolutely. It happened in the coldest month of the year. Did that suck? Yes indeed. Still I gained valuable skills and appreciation for both patience and people. My love and I had to learn new fun ways to entertainment which serve us to this very day. Even having the new car problems has put me into contact with some truly amazing people.

We all will have challenges in life. Remember you are not alone. Take time to focus on what will serve you. Be grateful for the lessons and look for the positive. This will not be easy, but if you keep at it the rewards will be a far happier, and yes more amazing life.

WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN?

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One of the greatest things we can do for our partners is show them that we are interested in them. How do we do that? It is actually easier than you think. Quite often I hear people say things like “They should know I am interested in them. They are the first people I tell about my day” or “I share all my problems and dreams with them”. While these are both great and very important things I would recommend doing in any relationship as it displays mutual respect and trust, it does not show that you are interested in them. So far I have told you what not to do, how about we move onto what we should do? In the above examples the people were still being ‘all about themselves’. One of the easiest ways to show your partner that you love and care about them and that you value them is to take an interest in what they are interested in. Now I can hear some imaginary moans and groans out there, but let me explain. Perhaps your wife is into crafting and you haven’t worked a pair of scissors since the 3rd grade. Maybe your husband likes to work on cars and you do not know the difference between a fuel pump and a spark plug, what to do then? The easiest ways is to ask questions. If your wife has created something fabulous a simple statement such as “That looks really beautiful. How did you manage to put that altogether?” will go a long way. This is not to say you have to stop watching football and start making flower arrangements, but knowing a little bit about your spouses hobbies and passions will not only help you appreciate the efforts they put into them, but also help you be able to carry on a conversation about what they are passionate about. Once you start speaking about one passion it can often lead to discussions about others.

So what if you have no interest at all in what your partner is doing? That is perfectly acceptable. Notice in the above example there was no mention about starting to craft together but you may find you do enjoy your partners hobby. This is not at all a requirement.  In fact, having separate passions and activities you can engage in outside of relationship often keeps things fresh and offers a great chance to enjoy each other from a distance which is needed in even the best relationships. Still a healthy appreciation for your love’s talents will not only make them feel good, but bring you closer. Let’s face it when you can have a great conversation about a topic you enjoy you certainly enjoy being around the person a lot more. This is especially good for hobbies that take partners away from each other. “My husband is always gone fishing with his buddy” is something I hear from my female friends. When I ask them what he likes about fishing they often reply with a blank stare or a simple “I don’t know” When I push further and ask “Have you ever discussed fishing with him?” I often hear how much they dislike they whole event and it usually stems from the fact that it is the very event that takes their spouse away from them. If only they would discover what aspect about fishing their husbands like. Perhaps it is the time in nature? Perhaps it is being on the water? They could arrange a few more activities that are not necessarily involving a rod and real, but could be fun for both parties. Asking a few basic questions about fishing could often bring even the most reserved angler to great oratory. Another great thing about inquiring about things our partners enjoy is that it is often returned to us in kind. Now imagine to people discussing the very topics that bring them joy with each other. That is a recipe for an amazing love life!