THAT TIME OF YEAR

As we wrap up our holiday celebrations and prepare for the coming new year, I feel it would be a great opportunity to pause for a moment of reflection. Think of what this past year has brought us. There have been stress and challenges for sure, but there have also been moments of joy and celebration. We must appreciate and grow from all of these.

When reflecting on the past year and preparing to make our New Year’s resolutions, or even just plans for what we would like to accomplish in the coming year, there can tend to be a feeling of despair as to how far from our goals of last year we came, or how quickly we gave up on them. That is ok. A little bit of that pain can serve us to be more motivated this coming year. Staying in a feeling of regret and anger at ourselves does not serve us. We need to grow from what happened.

This is what I suggest. As we sit down to ponder what the coming year has in store for us, let us grab a pen and a piece of paper. Writing down your goals and resolutions as we tend to call them this time of year, has great power in creating a mental/physical bond with them. If we notice some of those goals look a lot like the goals from the year before, this might not be that bad of a thing. As we write down those goals, we can also write down what transpired that prevented us from achieving them in the year prior. Then we can begin to think of ways in which we can move forward while preventing those same obstacles from stopping us this year. By doing just such a thing, we can move forward in the accomplishment of our goals.

Let us also think of the challenges we have faced in the last year. Write them down. It may not seem fun to relive moments of the past year that were less than pleasant, but they can serve us as well. How? If we then write down what we learned or gained by going through them. Was it a greater appreciation for those who stood by our side? Was it new skills we were forced to learn? Was it just learning how strong we could be when we had to? All of these things are items we can be grateful for.

Lastly, let us not forget the moments of joy we had. Remember the accomplishments we did make. Sure, you may not have followed that gym routine like you intended, but you did go for a couple of weeks…days…hours…maybe you just joined a gym. Knowing what we learned about the challenges we overcame from the steps above, let us celebrate the gains we did make by looking forward to an even greater success in the coming year. Now would be the time to give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back for all we did do. It might not have been perfect, or turn out exactly how we wanted, but let us remember all the good we did do this year.

In the coming year, this blog will continue to bring you thoughts and actions that will improve your life if you put them into action. I invite all of you to share this website with at least one other person you know who is doing their best to live a more inspired and positive life.

THANKSGIVING TO GRATITUDE TO GRATEFUL

Six years ago on this very day I began this blog. It was Thanksgiving of 2012. A lot has changed since then as you might imagine. My post that day in 2012 was about gratitude. In the six years since that post was written I have learned, and experienced, a lot more about gratitude. It’s power to transform how you feel and perceive life. That, in turn, ultimately transforms the quality of your life. I have included a special section on gratitude in my upcoming book Living the Dream.

Recently, I read an article that gave me a whole new outlook on gratitude. It including something even more powerful and life altering – being grateful. Today, as we all hopefully are spending at least part of our day focused on what we have to be thankful for, allow me to introduce you to what I learned in this article. It will allow you to take what we observe on this most wonderful of holidays and use it to create a life that is far more rich and rewarding.

Thanksgiving. It is more than just a holiday it is an observance. Many spiritual practices have rituals of thanksgiving. Taking time out to observe and make special mention of all that we have in our lives that is going well and that we can be thankful for. This can happen once a year such as we are doing today. It can happen during religious or spiritual ceremonies or on special moments when we get together with friends. It may change our way of thinking and feeling for that day, or even for a couple of days. Soon, the thought of what is missing in our lives creeps back in and we live in a state of lack until that time again next year. That is true unless…

We tap into the power of gratitude. Gratitude to me should be something that we practice daily. Several times a day as often as we can. Why? Because the more we practice gratitude the better our life becomes. The definition for gratitude is to be appreciative for all the good you have in your life. You have hot water? You have electricity in your home? You have a job to earn a living? You can express gratitude for all of those things. Trust me when I tell you there is always something in your life to have gratitude for. You may be so out of practice in looking for the good it may take you a while to find it, but it is there. When you start looking for good things in your life they start to become easier to find. This, in turn, causes an increase in good feelings. What does an increase in frequency and intensity in good feelings get you? A more enjoyable life. That is where a lot of people stop, and that certainly is a great state to be in, but there is something better.

Grateful. How is being grateful different from expressing gratitude? Being grateful does not depend on good things happening to you. Remember our examples above? Let us take a another look at them? What happens if your hot water goes out? Being grateful means you understand what a blessing it is to have hot water as a normal circumstance and being without is a great reminder. Being grateful means you are still thankful that the water is clean and you have means in which you can heat it. Electricity go out? Being grateful means being thankful not only that it is usually available, but there are hard-working people on the job 24/7 to help get it back on track. Your job not what you like? Perhaps you even lost your job? Grateful is a chance to improve your budgeting skills and yourself while you pursue something that will bring you spiritual as well as monetary fulfillment.

If that last state sounds a bit like looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, it kind of is. Do yourself a favor and imagine what your life would be like if you were able to find joy and the good in life no matter what the outside circumstances were? You would be in a state of bliss most of the time! What would that give you? One hell of a great life. Trust me when I tell you I know this isn’t easy. I am working to develop a feeling of being grateful in my life. What a goal to pursue. Everyday I become closer to being able to appreciate the joy in life even in the toughest circumstances. That does not mean there are not days in which I falter. We will all have them. The sooner you get them out of the way, and the more you learn from them, the closer you will be to living a life feeling grateful.

As you observe this wonderful day of thanksgiving, begin to ponder how you can foster that feeling more often. I suggest starting with having gratitude for all the good that comes in your life. Taking a moment and appreciating those things. Then strive to feel grateful even in the face of challenges. Celebrate the fact you are alive every day to experience all the world has to offer. There is even beauty in pain. When we arrive at the state in which we can experience that, life becomes a state of magic.

THE HIGHEST FORM OF APPRECIATION

Are you one who ‘talks the talk’ or do you ‘walk the walk’? As we approach my favorite holiday and begin to focus on what we are grateful for, let us think of this quote. Let us show our appreciation not just in words (although I encourage everyone to do that as well) but in actions. Let us not just speak our gratitude, but show our appreciation through our actions too.

Grateful for first responders? Make sure we are pulling over to let them pass and driving slow when we drive past them. Grateful for someone in your life? After you tell them, make sure to do something to show them as well. This is not just for Thanksgiving, but all year.

TRADITIONS

The Holiday season is almost upon us. At local stores decorations are starting to go up, I even heard a Christmas song on the radio the other day. With the holidays coming up we can find our minds turning toward traditions. There are many different kinds of traditions. There are traditions based on our different faiths. This can encompass many different things from fasting, praying, style of dress and many more. These traditions are very important for cultural reasons. The connect us as a faith-based community and refresh our spiritual nature. There are also different family traditions. These can include shopping for holiday gifts together, creating a holiday meal together or just gathering at a certain family members house for great times. The traditions here can be as unique as the family itself.

The tradition I would like to discuss today is more individual. It can be between spouses, brother and sister, friends or even an individual tradition. The picture I used for this blog post is one of Margie and me at one of our favorite breakfast places. We have been going there since shortly after we met. Sadly, this day we missed another tradition of ours which was an event called ‘Cider Sunday’ in which a local nature preserve celebrates all things apple. We also have other traditions that we have began. Most of them both add love to our life, as well as keeping that love fresh and fun. Do you have something like this with the love of your life? Maybe a special place you go on a birthday? Maybe an event you look forward to attending every year? Do you celebrate the first day of spring by having a picnic in the park for example?

If you do not have a romantic tradition, or would like to include more, why not get together with your love today and discuss that? This also works with brother and sisters, friends, coworkers and anyone else you would like to include. My suggestion is this, create traditions that help that relationship grow. Maybe something that fosters a feeling of gratitude and appreciation in the relationship, or perhaps a way to grow and learn together? In the case of romantic partners, use Margie and me as an example. Create traditions that feed love and keep it fresh and growing.

Personal traditions may be something that is not as familiar with a lot of you, but I think they can have a great impact on our lives. Perhaps start a tradition of keeping a gratitude journal every night or at the very least once a week. A daily or weekly meditation practice could serve you as well. They can be traditions that add joy to your life. I do things to celebrate the first day of spring and summer each year. I also attend a bicycle expo every year as it helps me look forward to spring and being able to get out and ride.

Feel free to share any traditions you have with us in the comments below. Whether they are Faith, family, romantic or personal. This way we can all inspire each other with great ideas!

 

SHINE ON!

 

 

In my upcoming book Living the Dream there is a special section I have included towards the back of the book. This section is called ‘In the company of angels’ and for good reason. It includes stories of people that I know who have faced life challenges that would make most of us bitter at best, or throw in the towel and quit on life at worse. These wonderful people have not only avoided both, but have went on to be positive forces in their own right.

The stories range from having one of their parents killed in a mining accident and having to move clear across the country to being abused on several levels as both children and adults. Writing these stories was a bit of a struggle for me as I am used to writing material that uplifts and inspires. As I wrote and recalled all the situations my friends had relayed to me I felt their pain. I cannot imagine facing what some of them have.

Writing my way through them brought several positive things to me, however. First, I was grateful for all of the struggles that I didn’t have to face growing up. We were not rich and I came from a single-parent home, but we always had trips to the library, played games with other children in the neighborhood and always had enough to eat. After reading the stories I share in my book, growing up without a lot of money and only one parent seemed like paradise. I guess you could say it not only supplied me with a great deal of gratitude, but a new perspective as well.

Another thing it did for me was only serve to increase my respect for those brave individuals that shared their stories. The idea for including them in my book was to show real life examples of how people could face the worst situation and still manage to maintain a positive disposition. This was the reason I approached the people I did. What I didn’t expect was the details and amount of struggle they had went through. Learning how someone could overcome everything they did was worth its weight in gold. I am pretty sure most of us would not escape with such a healthy outlook as they had.

Knowing these people personally I can tell you that they genuine love life. That is not to say they do not have a bad day as we all do, but as a general rule they seem to appreciate the beauty of what surrounds them on a daily basis. The bravery they showed in coming forth and sharing their stories so that others may benefit from them was also not lost on me. They did so with no promise of any future reward other than the knowledge in their heart that their stories have helped others who are also struggling.

My suggestion to you is to learn the stories of your friends. Ask about their struggles. If you are blessed enough like I am to have brave friends who do not mind sharing what they have been through, do yourself a favor and listen. Understand how much courage it takes to be able to recall the pain of the past again. Admire their ability to stand strong in the face of a past that may haunt them or weigh them down. Appreciate their ability to shine even after all the storms they have been through. These to me are the true warriors.

Don’t forget to look for the book Living the Dream coming to bookstores next February.

 

 

THE POWER OF CHOICE

If you were to print this list out and hang it on the bathroom mirror it would be a great way to start the day. In every day if we look hard enough we can find something to feel blessed, grateful, excited, thankful and happy for. Even if the world seems to be crashing down around you, which I know can happen, it is good to get into the practice of doing this.

Here is what I suggest. Print this out, or write it down. Place this somewhere you go every morning. The bathroom mirror is an easy idea because most people visit that room before they begin their day. Then ask yourself the questions, “What do I feel blessed about today?” “What am I grateful for today?” “What am I excited about today?” “What am I thankful for today?” and finally, “What am I happy about today?” Do your best to come up with answers for as many of the questions as possible. Do this every day. Make it a habit. Try this for 30 days and see how much better you feel.

REMEMBER WE ARE ALL IN THE PROCESS

It is no secret to anyone who follows this website and my work in general that I have spent over 20 years in the field of self-improvement. One thing that I must remind myself of every so often is the fact that not everyone else has. This may sound silly and an obvious point, but it can be a fact that gets away from me.

When I hear someone constantly complaining about how unfair life is or how terrible their life is, I am tempted to remind them how they do a great deal to create their own reality. We all have challenges great and small. That is part of life. It is really how we respond to life’s challenges that does a great deal to determine how life treats us. There are a lot of people who are ignorant to even that basic equation. I was fortunate enough to be raised in an environment where reading and thinking where encouraged. In the course of reading hundreds of books, listening to just as many CDs and videos as well as attending seminars and listening to as many people as I can I have learned a great deal.

One of the greatest challenges to me is having the patience and understanding to realize although most people have the opportunity to do the same, many have not. When I speak to people about ways they can reduce stress, increase joy and become the best version of themselves, I am often met with resistance and sarcasm. On a rare occasion even violent resistance. It would be easy to come off as condescending, but it serves as a great reminder of many things for me. First off, I am so grateful for all I have been given and all I have learned. My life is far from perfect, but I am constantly discovering new ways to reduce stress and have more happiness in my life. I am also grateful that I do have the life I do. I have friends who love me, a beautiful and loving lady, and supporters from over 100 countries who read what I write.

The second thing I am reminded of is everyone is working towards becoming the best version of themselves. If you don’t believe me, just walk into a gym shortly after the first of the year. Not everyone has the tools to successfully accomplish all they desire. That would be evident by visiting that same gym 30 days after the first of the year and noticing how many less people are there. Still, everyone is giving it their best shot. There are very few people I know who are not interested in improving their lives. Some do not understand the only way to do that is by improving themselves. That is the main focus of my second book.

Some really wish to improve themselves and their lot in life, but lack the necessary tools. Some do not even know where to look for those tools. That is why I am always happy to share what I learn and am still learning. There are those as mentioned earlier who even when given the tools will refuse to believe them. This could be because they have been raised in a negative environment or are so cynical that they are getting in their own way. Those are people I still try to help. Whether that is leaving a card for them when they are ready, or being an example of what it looks like to live life using the tools I put forth.

Let us all do our best to understand everyone is working towards a better life. Even those seemingly following the wrong path may just be misdirected or lacking hope and direction. When we understand that we are all doing the best we can it is far easier to approach others with compassion and a genuine desire to help.

3 GREAT SECRETS TO RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS

These two fine folks are Ron and Karla. This picture was taken for a review of the stand, Krautland,  they own and operate at Wisconsin State Fair. The picture did not make it into the review, but their story did and that is what I would like to share with you today. It is not merely a story about how they manage to successfully run a food stand, but a marriage as well. Their marriage has manage to not only last for 38 years, but grow as well. How do they do it and what can we learn from them? Great question. Sit back, relax and get ready to learn their secrets.

What started out as a review for an amazing place to eat, turned into a little more than I expected. Ron and Karla Schurman were kind enough to sit down and give me a few moments of their very busy time during the Wisconsin State Fair. As the story of how they turned Krautland into one of the most successful businesses in the fair grounds, another story emerged. That story involved into some universal secrets that work in not only business, but in relationships as well.

The first secret is playing to your strength as an individual. This may not sound like something that would help your relationship with someone else, but it really does. By allowing each other to do what they do well these two not only set themselves up for success, they reduce stress as well. As Karla told me, “Ron handles the front end of the business while I take care of things back here.” A lot of couples want to change each other and make the other person more like themselves. That is rather ironic when you consider being themselves was what caused you to fall in love with them in the first place. It also allows you to compliment each other. With two people who have distinctly different skill sets you can accomplish a lot more. I am an advocate for celebrating differences in each other and there is no place more important than in a relationship to do so.

Speaking of complimenting each other, that is the next thing Ron and Karla do well. They praise each other. Not only in a romantic way at home, but in public. They give each other credit for the success they have together. I heard Ron say more than once during our interview that he appreciates and is grateful for everything Karla does and how he could not imagine it being a success without her. This is especially true if one person seems to be more out going in your relationship. Introverts can often not give themselves enough credit for the work they do in and out of a relationship. Even if your partner and you are both outgoing, as is the case with Margie and I, letting each other and those outside your relationship know how amazing your partner is and what they bring to the table will not only make them feel good, but will bring an outside respect to your relationship.

The final thing that I took from our interview was attention to detail and focusing on fundamentals. This may sound like I am giving a sports lecture, but this is true in both business and relationships. When I asked how Krautland continues to be a success after 60 years in business their answer might shock some. While most stands were focused on the next new and crazy dish, Ron and Karla succeed by keeping it simple. High standards and nothing but high quality. They make sure their staff provides the best customer service and their food is the best quality.

When I hear couples say things like, “We need to try something new to save our relationship.” I know they are not handling the basics. If someone makes you feel attractive, valuable and lets you know they are proud of you and your relationship how soon would you want to leave that relationship? I am all for variety and keeping things spicy. Margie and I spend a good deal doing that with each other. It keeps the relationship feeling fresh and exciting. If you have the spice, but lack the relationship fundamentals of respect, courtesy and love you’re in trouble.

In closing I want to take this opportunity to thank and recognize my lovely Margie. She really works hard in our relationship. She works hard to keep our house clean while I am at my day job and always creates delicious meals for me when I get home. In addition she learns and develops herself to be the best person she can be. This leaves me feeling proud to have the most amazing woman as the lady in my life.

Go back and review these three steps. They will help you in every area of your life, but no more so than your relationships. Allow the other person to work to their strengths. Compliment them personally and publicly. Most importantly, never stop working on the fundamentals that keep love going. It has worked for Ron and Karla for 38 years and it will work for you.

THE PATH TO ETERNAL BEAUTY

Look in any magazine or watch any reality show and you will run across the same thing, everyone is trying to find the key to eternal youth and beauty. There are ads for creams, lotions, even cosmetic surgery has been refined to an in and out process. There is a new cool laser that can make your fat cells disappear. People spend millions of dollars a year on both hair removal and hair restoration. No matter how many advances or your financial ability to obtain them, one thing is for certain, eventually they will fade.

Do not misunderstand me. I believe there is plenty of physical improvements that make sense to do from not only an appearance stand point, but from a health stand point as well. Having dental work done will not only increase your chances of smiling, adding beauty right there, but help your health in many ways. Engaging in physical exercise will not only have your figure looking fit and trim, but help your heart and circulatory system run efficiently as well. Choosing a healthier way of eating over a crash fad diet will pay dividends for years to come.

Considering the amount of money we spend on items in the first category that serve only as a temporary cover up at best, we certainly could do better. Even the time, energy and effort we spend on items in the second category will only take us so far if we continue to ignore the single most important category to increase our physical appeal. The area of our life we should address first is often relegated to an after thought.

What is the area of our life that will bring us the greatest return on investment in regards to our beauty? It is our spirit, our heart, our inner peace. This may sound a bit cliché to many of you, but it is true. How many times have you come across someone who may not be your normal physical ‘cup of tea’ as it were, but something just attracted you to them? We all like to be around people who make us laugh, smile and enjoy life more. On the flip side, even if the person we are with has graced the cover of a million magazines, if they suck our spirit dry and leave us feeling emotionally drained there is no way we would want to be around them.

How do we invest in this portion of our lives? The answer is simple. Invest in ourselves. When we work to become better as individuals, we have more to offer each other and the world at large. Do something to refresh your spirit. Discover new ways to cultivate joy, engage in activities that make you smile. Foster an attitude of gratitude. Always look for the best in others. If you do these simple things and any others that will lead to an improved you, before long you will become more beautiful from the inside out. The upside here is the more you do this, the greater the beauty becomes. Keep it up and this beauty will never fade. No pills, lotions, fad diets or insane workouts needed.

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.