WHAT NOW?

When I decided to be a motivational speaker I thought it would be an easy and natural progression. Taking the material in both my book and website and sharing it with people would be simple and enjoyable. What challenges could come from sharing how to live a more positive and rewarding life with others.

I have discovered being able to appreciate the beauty in others and express that beauty in the written words has bestowed upon me one of the most challenging, yet personally rewarding honors I have faced. In the past 12 months I have spoken at 5 funerals. Being asked to speak about the life of someone who everyone in attendance cared so deeply for is both a tremendous honor, and great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It has also taught me to learn and think a great deal about how I approach the subject of death. In doing so, I have discovered what will not only help ease the burden of grief we feel when we lose someone we love but will help them live on every day in our lives. I would like to share what I learned with all of you in hopes it may help you or someone you know who may be experiencing the grief of losing someone you love.

On May 8th our family experienced a great loss in the mother of my lovely lady, Margie. Shortly after her mom’s passing, Margie asked if I would like to speak at the funeral. I must confess to having cringed a little. Being that my love and respect for both of those ladies was quite high, it was an honor, but it would be an emotional challenge to deliver. Certainly, when asked to perform such an important honor, it is hard to say no. As I began to think about what I would say, a new challenge presented itself. I was about to compose words about the woman the lady in my life was lucky enough to call her mom. Nothing but the best would do. The words came to me at 3 o’clock one morning. I grabbed my laptop to capture them.

In all my writing I try to give the reader something they can use to reduce the stress, or in this case grief in their life and add some joy or positivity. Fortunately for me, Margie’s mother, Ruthanne, led life that provided most of what I needed to say.

Most eulogies include memories of the person they honor. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to answer the question that all of us, in some form or fashion, have in our hearts and minds when we lose someone we love – now what? What do we do now that we have lost a great parent, grandparent, spouse or even dear friend? How do we keep them alive both in our hearts and the world around us? How can we help their legacy live on?

I am going to share what works for me in hopes that it may help you. I have found although honoring someone with a memorial or candle-light vigil is thoughtful, the event is over in a day. For me, the best way to keep someone alive in our hearts and in our daily life is to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I would like to explain this further by using the life of Ruthanne as an example. I must add Ruthanne gave more light in her 79 years than most people could do if given 179 years. Her life could best be summed up by recalling her last few days with us here on earth.

When Ruthanne was told her time on earth was ending, she voiced two desires. It wasn’t a fancy car or an exotic vacation. She wanted to go to the casino and karaoke one more time. She wanted to die as she lived, feeling the joy in her life, surrounded by the people she loved. Ruthanne understood that joy and peace are more important than status or wealth.

When it became clear she was not going to leave the hospital we asked her if she would like us to bring her anything. Her answer spoke volumes. She said quite firmly, “I don’t need things. I need people.” Ruthanne understood the material gifts we are given we cannot take with us, but the lives we touch and the memories we create is what will live on long after we are gone. She knew the most valuable gift we can give someone is our time and our love. That is what she wanted from us.

It was not receiving that gift that most concerned Ruthanne. Every person who visited her in the hospital asked her the same question, “How are you doing?” You might think she would lament the conditions that plagued her or the time she had left. Not once did I hear this. Instead, she asked people how they were doing. She did not do this just for conversation, but with the genuine sincerity of someone who truly cares. She asked to see pictures of babies and how their jobs were going. Ruthanne understood how important it is to let someone know they are loved and significant.

If you attended Ruthanne’s funeral or visited her in the hospital you would notice the people she surrounded herself with came from every race, culture and creed. Ruthanne may joke with you about your look some days, but she would never let how someone looked stop her from loving them. Although a Christian, she would not let believing in a different faith stop her from loving you. Ruthanne gave us the gift of acceptance.

Sometimes, those she loved let her down. They may have been in trouble with the law, developed habits or addictions they shouldn’t have, or even hurt her or the ones she loved. I think at some point all of us that knew her failed to live up to our own standard. What did she do when this happened? She loved us anyway. Ruthanne gave us the gift of forgiveness.

With all the gifts mentioned above that she gave us, it is easy to see why at the 79th birthday party Margie threw her over 100 people showed up. If I were to guess almost three times that many either visited or sent well-wishes when she was in the hospital. With that much love and popularity you could not blame Ruthanne if she would boast with the rest of them. When she was told people had to leave her room because more were waiting to visit her she would tell us, “I don’t know why people love me so much. I am just me.” Ruthanne gave us the gift of humility.

Ruthanne gave me those gifts and I must add giving birth to the most beautiful woman I share my life with. Sadly, she will no longer be here to teach me these gifts in person. It falls upon me and those she knew, in her honor and memory, to share these gifts with those lives we touch. Every time I am accepting, forgiving, every time I make someone laugh or remind them how important and loved they are, I will think of and thank Ruthanne for being a living example of these virtues and many more.

When we lose someone we truly love, let us all work together to replace the light the world has lost with their passing. It will not only help ease our grief, it will keep them with us every day we share the gifts that they gave us.

STAY ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, EVEN IN THE RAIN

This is a picture Margie took of me driving on my way to write. Selfies while driving can be dangerous.

As noted in an earlier post, I have been trying to find things to be grateful for, or things I love while driving. This has not only put me in a better mood, but alerted me to many things on my travel I may have missed. I’ve noticed sounds I love, scents I love. Green lights I’ve been grateful for.

Today on the way to the gym the sun was shinning bright and I was really grateful for that. As I was talking to myself about this (many people probably think I’m on the phone, but really just talking to myself) I noted how everything looks better when it is sunny out. Especially in the Wisconsin winter.

Then I had a strange revelation. The things I were looking at were the same, they were just in the sun. That in itself is not that impressive. As I continued my conversion with the charming author in the car, I realized how much this resembles life. If we bring a positive or sunny attitude you life things look a lot better than if we bring a gloomy or negative attitude. Even if life itself doesn’t change, the way we view it can make all of the difference.

From this point forward I’m going to do my best to stay on the sunny side of the street, even when it is raining.

THE POWER YOU UNLEASH

Above are pictures of water molecules after being exposed to certain emotions. They are part of ground-breaking research done by Dr. Masaru Emoto. If you have a few minutes, I definitely recommend reading a little of his research.

To bring you up to speed on a nutshell, Dr. Emoto subjected vials of water to human emotions both positive and negative. The results are what you see above. That is pretty interesting. Then he gathered a group of people and did the same for the largest fresh water lake in Japan. The results? The same as above. That is very interesting. For his third experiment her gathered an even larger group of people and had them send out love to all the lakes around the world. When samples were taken at that moment by people stationed around the globe. The results? You guessed it same as above. How interesting is that?

You may be thinking, “Cool water experiment Neil. I get it, bad vibes make water bad, good vibes make it good, who cares?” If our thoughts can have that effect on water, even halfway around the globe, what do you think it will do to the human body which, as you may know, is about 60% water? Here is something even more intense, the brain 73% water. The lungs? 83% water. What happens when we get stressed or have an argument with someone? Headaches? Shortness of breath?

The good news is it works the opposite way. What to help a friend feel Better? Sending them love can really make a difference, and now you have scientific proof!

WILL YOU LET IT SURVIVE?

This is one of this quotes I read and immediately had to step back take a breath and say “damn, this is a good one!” (This actually really happened)

Have you ever thought about this? Fear is an inside job. When you are young you are afraid of the dark. This usually passes unless you are some politicians, in which case it becomes being afraid of the light.

Why did this change? Something inside of you decided the dark was not that scary. Sure, you had influences from your parents and others assuring you that there was nothing to worry about, but ultimately you have to make that call.

Does this only hold true for children? Not at all. In fact, as a rule children are better at overcoming their fears than adults. Some of are afraid of dying, some public speaking still others are afraid of not being loved. Others say “when my time comes I’ll be ready. ” Some people can talk to anyone. I have heard people say, “If people don’t love me that is their loss.”

The difference is the meaning and inner conversation people have with themselves. In order for fear to continue to exist, we must continue to feed it. We do so by finding examples that back up our fears (in my case John Wayne Gacy was a clown) or continue to play mental movies in our head of worse case scenarios.

What it boils down to is that without our active participation, our fears simply could not exist.

GET ON MY LEVEL

I really like this saying. What it reminds me of is this, that when we receive criticism from somebody we must stop and consider the source. What a person places as their priorities and their experiences in life are different than ours. If a person is a vegetarian they may very well say something about you eating meat. If their parents were alcoholics, they made give you a critical glance for enjoying that cocktail.

It is not even always this black and white. Depending on people’s goals, whether realized or not, they can be critical. Somebody who is driven and works on their passions 7 days a week may be accused of not having enough fun by the person who spends their weekends partying. The person involved with getting in touch with themselves spiritually may be looked down on by the person who is driven for taking time to meditate instead of work. (Although if you follow my work you will know that regular meditation can make you less stressed and more productive) It depends on what we value and where we want to go in life.

All of this being said, one of the first questions I recommend asking ourselves when we receive any sort of criticism is whether or not there is any truth in it. Often the way criticism is presented prevents us from gaining any real value out of it. If instead of hearing “You are a selfish jerk!” you heard “I think you could really benefit from trying harder to see situations from other people’s point of view.” We would be more likely to listen and contemplate if indeed there is truth in the statement. Sadly, often times by the time someone offers us criticism they are too emotional to word it productively. It is up to us to look past the harsh words and decide if the criticism is due to different values, or if indeed they have a valid point. Another way to learn if there is something you might need to work on is if you hear the same critique from several different people.

So, my friends, be confident enough in yourself to not let others opinions of you become your reality, but humble enough to realize they may be pointing out something you may have missed.

YOU DO HAVE CONTROL

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“I would be angry a lot less if my wife/husband would be more understanding and not make me so angry” “I would love to be more positive, but everything keeps going wrong for me”

Have you ever heard others around you saying phrases like this? Have you ever found yourself uttering the same type of phrases? Today’s post is about one of the hardest lessons I have ever had to learn. I once heard at a seminar that nobody can make you feel anything, that all emotion comes from within. My first instinct, as is so often the case was to challenge that notion. After all, how can the girl who just broke my heart not make me sad? How can the person who just said something hurtful and insulting to me not affect me?

Did you ever notice that some people can be put through the same event, but come out feeling two completely different ways? Have you ever told a friend “I don’t know how you stand that, I would have been so mad” or something more colorful? How can people be affected so differently by the same things? The answer is simple, and a bit hard to believe, but once you understand it will give you a personal freedom you may not have ever had. How we feel about any given situation is based on the meaning we attach to that situation. Does the person who is insulting us really suffer from some internal pain we do not know of? Are they really jealous of us and therefore put us down to make themselves feel better? I know it can really be hard to not be affected negatively by outside situations. Believe me between adults that act more like teenagers and last minute adjustments to my seminars, I have had lots of practice deciding what challenges mean to me. So how do you start to change your course from ‘reaction’ to ‘action’? The quick easy answer is change your question. What do I mean by this? When you are faced by a seemingly negative situation there are 3 questions you should train your brain to ask. Perhaps writing them down on a small piece of paper may help as you are beginning. They are as follows. 1) What else could this mean? as we mentioned earlier in the case of the person insulting you, maybe they were hurting or maybe even jealous of you. Perhaps they have really low self-esteem or maybe it might be an issue people insult them with as well. 2) What can I learn from this? Sticking with our previous example, perhaps the person is simply pointing out an aspect of your life you need to work on, and just doing so in a very unhealthy way. Sometimes all you learn is that person acts like an ass. Why is this important to learn? When they do so in the future you will know that is just who they are and take it with a grain of salt. 3) How can I use this? Out of all of the questions I find this one to be the most powerful. It puts negativity in your life to work. You could use the persons insult to remind you to treat others with more compassion. You could let it serve as a practice for these principles. In my own life recently when my seminar was forced to relocate a mere 15 minutes before it was set to begin, I used that as an example of how to remain positive in the face of negativity. Which just so happened to be what the seminar was about in the first place.

Trust me this is not always easy. It is something that you can work on over a lifetime. Controlling your emotions instead of letting them control you sounds so simple, but takes a lifetime to master. Just last night I dropped the ball on this one. So what to do when you do mess up? My suggestion is the same as above. If you have already reacted and let others actions get the best of you, do yourself a favor and ask the three questions anyway. Why? It will both give you some insightful answers and a way to put this to work for you as well as begin to show you the power of acting from your own place instead of reacting to their emotions. It will also show you how in control and wonderful you can feel in the face of situations and emotions that used to challenge you. If you continue to react time and time again, just remember a certain blog writer/self-improvement author is still working on this himself.