WHY THE WORLD SHOULD BE A SPRING SHOWCASE

he

Tonight I went to an elementary school spring performance. In addition to singing contemporary favorites such as Uptown Funk, the children from k-4 to third grade also performed some of my favorite classics like Brown bear, Brown bear.

Two things jumped out at me during this show. First, I had all but forgotten that I had attended this very school. Although when I was there it was grades seven and eight, the look had remained virtually unchanged.

The second thing I noticed was the talent of the children. It was amazing. I found myself dancing in my seat. Well, at least as much as I am want to do. Another thing I noticed was that I was in a very good mood. That made me take a break from my legendary chair dancing to sit up and take notice. Every time that I find myself in an extreme of emotion, be it good or bad, positive or negative, I stop and notice what has lead me to that point.

In this case it was a very good mood I found myself in. Was it being back in a place I had been so long ago? Not quite. Days weren’t always rosy in middle school. As we approached the door I pointed out to my lovely lady, Margie, an area where I had indulged in a rather intense physical interaction with another fellow student. “You were in a fight?” she asked incredulously. Anyone who knows me will understand seeing me engage in a physical altercation is a stretch these days. Even though back then it may have not been.

Ruling out the power of nostalgia, I moved on. Being that I was rather sleep deprived, I decided just to relax and really be present for the show. Then somewhere between The hungry caterpillar and I Bought Me a cat, it occurred to me. It was the show itself that was inspiring me. Not just the positive and light-hearted lyrics, but the scene itself. Children were putting their hearts and souls into their performances. They were doing this out of nothing but personal pride and the desire to make their parents proud of them. The parents also made me proud. As children can so often do, when they are supposed to hold up a picture of a bowl of soup during a song, it winds up being in a position that would leave more soup in your lap than in your stomach. Despite this, the parents glowed with pride and cheered for not only their child, but each and every child. They did so knowing the reasons the children were doing it were pure and innocent.

There was a bonus item of joy I noticed it not only filled my heart with a personal sense of joy, but made me proud of the parents and even more so, the students. In each group there were several children who seemed to suffer from some form of challenge mentally. Not only were they allowed to join the other students in the production, which made me proud of the job the teachers did, but as they were often wandering all over the stage involved in what seemed to be their own little show, the students not only remained focused, but often encouraged and embraced these children so different from themselves.

I began to wonder why the world itself is not more like this ‘Spring Showcase’. Imagine if we all worked with a heart filled with joy and a desire to make those closest to us proud of the job we did? What if we encouraged everyone who worked hard, doing the best they could, even if it didn’t turn out perfect and they did hold up the picture of a cupcake instead of string beans. What if we accepted those around us that were different and even invited them to be a part of our world while living the way they were created to? This was an example of the way the world should be. The greater question is how do we carry this behavior into the adult world?

A NEW AVENUE EXPLORED

Recently, I had the honor of being part of an inspiring publication. See Beyond is a wonderful magazine that tackles the gritty issues facing our youth and does so while encouraging and inspiring them.

In this issue, I had the great pleasure of joining other authors while sharing the challenges I face in my career as a writer. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such a unique and thought-provoking publication. I am already looking forward to contributing more.

CLICK ON THIS LINK TO READ MY ARTICLE ON PAGE 32 OF THIS MONTH’S ISSUE

WHY BOTHER?

Last post we investigated why it is important to give all of yourself when it comes to your relationship with the one you love. We learned that it allows them to give all of themselves to us, we learned that by not doing so we end up drawing into our lives the very circumstances that we are trying to prevent. That is certainly important when it comes to our romantic partners. Most of the time we are not only sharing our hearts and souls with each other, but also our homes. Not only is it very important to keep someone who lives in the same house with you happy, but they are probably thinking something very similar.

What about the other people in our lives? What about our friends? Why is important to put so much effort into our friendships? In case you didn’t read the last post let me refresh some of the points that apply equally to friendships as they do to romantic relationships. There are friends we might be afraid to trust completely because they might take advantage of our trust and hurt us. Unlike the romantic partner, there are less repercussions if they do. We do not have to go home to our friends. The connection is generally not as deep as our romantic relationships and therefore the ending of a friendship is usually less painful than a romantic relationship. Same with sharing ourselves with friends. The less we tell them, the less information they would have to use against us should they decide to do so.

To a lot of us this may seem very safe and logical. The less we give people the chance to hurt us, the less we will be hurt. Seems to make sense, right? Wrong. By doing this we are not only short-changing ourselves out of the deep, meaningful relationships we could be enjoying, but we are also hurting others and increasing the chances that we will be hurt in the future. Wait, what?

That’s right. So far we have been looking at this from only one side of the equation. Let us look at the other side for a second. If you feel that your friend views you as untrustworthy or at best does not trust you completely, how would that make you feel? Do you think you would feel like extending your trust to that person? You would probably end up feeling like they do not hold you in that high of regard. Now follow that up with them not completely sharing themselves with you. That could leave you feeling that they think you are either not worth knowing that information, or again cannot be trusted with it. Do you think you would share things about yourself with them? Probably not. This would leave us with very shallow and incomplete relationships at best. It also leaves the door open to upset or anger people even by accident. If you do not know what a person likes or dislikes, their opinions on certain matters or even their fears and joys you could say something you truly regret even not trying to do so.

We have exhausted why it is important not to not give ourselves to friendships. How it can end up increasing the chances we will get hurt instead of keeping us safe as we may think. What advantages, if any, can we gain by trusting and giving ourselves completely to our friendships? I give you exhibit A in the picture above. This is a story that is so exciting I can hardly wait to share it with you. While Margie and I were DJing at a local establishment on Sunday night, my good friend Cari messaged Margie and asked her what door we use when we come home as she had a surprise for me.

When we arrived home around 2 a.m., after what was a very busy evening I was exhausted. Currently, the date here is January 95th, or so it feels. We should be having highs in the mid 50’s but they had been barely above freezing with the sun so fed up with the long winter it decided to take a vacation. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so prolonged cold weather minus the sunshine can be quite trying for me and those around me. At this point if you would like to light a candle for Margie it would not be a bad idea. Because I do indeed trust my friends with this information and share it with them as well, Cari was able to do something so thoughtful and amazing. I arrived home to see the above signs taped to my front door! They ranged from reminding me warm weather was coming, to the fact that the cold weather is what makes the tropics so special to me. She added the Wisconsin State Fair, which I love as well. She even encouraged me by reminding me how much my writing touches her and others.

That night I fell asleep with a heart filled with gratitude for the caring and loving friends I have. The reminders and motivation served their purpose, but so did the fact that I have such a great friend. Her efforts did more than she could possibly imagine and her timing could not have been more perfect!

My point is that this all would not have been possible if I did not open my heart to my good friend. It would not have happened if I did not trust her enough to share not only my joys, but also my struggles and fears. It is true that not many friends can be as awesome as Cari, but by trusting and sharing with your friends you give them the opportunity to be so.

CHANGE YOUR LIFE WITH ONE SIMPLE SHIFT

In a nutshell this is the key to my upcoming book. A lot of people are lost in focusing on improving their relationships, their career, their inner peace and a million other areas of their life. This is all well and good as people should be trying to improve all areas of their life. When you think of all of the areas that could use some work, or that you just want to be operating at the highest level, it can seem overwhelming to say the least.

What many fail to realize, or find hard to believe is that focusing the change on ourselves can accomplish change in all of these areas and more. When we think of focusing on changing and improving ourselves to the benefit of all the areas of our life, a few issues may pop up. One of the things that may come to mind is the thought that why should we change when our spouse/boss/coworkers are the problem? Another issue may be the urgency that we have to change. The funny thing is that my working on ourselves, not only will all these areas be improved, but they will do so quickly and with less stress than if we tried to focus on each area separately.

Here is another aspect to consider. If we are waiting for our boss/spouse/friend/coworker to change, how long might that take? To be honest, it may and probably will not ever happen. Why should they change who they are just to make us happy? If you are anything like myself when I first heard this you may be tempted to reply, “Well Neil, why should I change?” The answer is simple, it will help you. Do you think your boss cares if you go home upset because he belittles you? I am guessing not. Do you think your rude coworker cares that they frustrate you with their actions? No.

How on earth will us changing help us deal with these people as well as improve other areas of our life such as our health, our inner peace? The fact is we can’t change other people, nor should we try. It is not our right or job to decide how everyone should talk or act. What our job is, however, is to decide what their actions mean and will do to us. A great and simple way to do this is by asking ourselves some questions that serve us. I am going to give you two questions that will change your life. Sounds pretty crazy and all of this will be expanded on in my upcoming book, but I want to get this information out there so you can start playing with it and putting it to work in your life right now.

Question # 1: Who do I want to be? This is a question we should ask ourselves everyday, several times a day. I am not just talking about professionally, but physically, mentally and spiritually. How many people do you think have a definition for these areas? I would also recommend taking time at the very least once a week, to write down your answers and take a look at them daily. Seem like a little too much work? Let me ask you this, would you go to the grocery store without a list of what you wanted? Would you just get in your car and start driving without first deciding where you want to go? Of course not. So, why are so many of us living our very life with no direction and then becoming frustrated with the lack of positive results?

Asking yourself this question does one more fabulous thing, it helps guide your actions. Let us say your description of who you would like to be includes a healthy fit person. Now, the way this works is after reading this description we arrive at the job after a stressful commute to find a caring coworker has brought in our favorite doughnut. With the thought of who we wish to become we may very well be less tempted to give in and eat half a dozen. Let us say the coworker is not so nice to us following our stressful commute. If our description includes being a person who does not live in reaction and has a sense of inner peace, we may be less tempted to volunteer to adjust their attitude. We may not always succeed, but knowing what our end goal is will help improve our chances. That also leads us to our other question.

Question #2: How can I use this? This comes in handy with challenges, but can also be used with positive circumstances as well. When we see those mouth-watering pastries after our commute we can use it to remind us that we need to find healthy great tasting snacks. Before you ask, yes they are out there. Have fun researching them. How about the rude coworker? We can use them to practice and build our patience and ability to not live in reaction. Another satisfying aspect is that nothing annoys someone who does their best to bring negativity to people’s lives as someone who doesn’t react to them. Remember, allowing people to get under our skin only negatively affects us, not them. Do yourself a favor and work on yourself for your own good and well-being.

STOP WAITING!

Last post we discussed enjoying the process. That is, whatever goal you are chasing, whatever you are trying to accomplish, whatever outcome you are working towards, remember to focus on the enjoying the journey. Celebrate small victories. Understand challenges and what may seem as temporary failures are really learning opportunities and stepping stones to where you wish to go.

Why is this so important? It is paramount! Up to 90% of our life is spent on the journey from one point to another. If you catch yourself uttering phrases like, “I will be happy when..” Stop right there. By stating that you will only be happy when the goal is achieved, the destination is arrived at, you are postponing your happiness. Who decides when you should be happy? You do! You do this by assigning meaning to daily events. The difference between happy, successful people and those who feel life is hard are whether or not you do so consciously.

We do not get to decide what circumstances arrive daily, but we do get to decide 100% on what it means to us. It is the difference of life happening to you or you happening to life. If you are living in reaction you are giving up control of your emotional well-being to other people, other circumstances, the weather and a million other sources. It is our decisions, not our circumstances that should control our life. Do not wait for the weekend, do not wait for graduation, to not wait until you are married or get that dream job. Decide to be happy starting today, starting right now.

If you wait to be happy in your relationship until you are married, you may never get there. Decide to create as much happiness in your relationship starting today and when wedding bells chime, your heart will be exploding with more joy than you can imagine. Postpone your happiness until that dream job arrives and you may not only be passed over for a more enthusiastic and cheerful candidate, you may even lose the job you are not enjoying now. Decide to find even the smallest things to enjoy and be grateful for in the job you are in now, and you will find yourself receiving praise from those around you and you will find in a short time you will have outgrown your position!

The most important benefit of this decision will be the improvement in the quality of your life. You will have good days and bad days. What is for certain, when you adopt this attitude, you will grow on each and every one of them. You will also find your hardest days will be your greatest blessings. Develop an attitude that says ‘Either I will win, or I will learn’

WHY NOT?

This picture really says it all. If you are alive right now, you should be enjoying your life to the fullest. Sure, you might not have the perfect body, you might not have the perfect job and unless you are as lucky and blessed as I am you might not have the perfect mate. So what!

You are alive and the possibility to improve exists. You can become healthier, wealthier and whatever else you are chasing. While working towards whatever goal you have there is one thing you should had to the top of any goal, no matter what that goal is. What should be included in any list you have whether it is goals, to do, or even shopping lists, somewhere on that list you should have some version of these words – enjoy and have fun during the process.

Why? A better question is, “Why Not?” We only go once around the ride and if you are not finding ways to enjoy your life, you are wasting it. Want to get in shape? Maybe start walking with a friend? Sharing your progress online with a supportive group of people. Looking for that perfect person to share your life with? Maybe find entertainment in the ‘unique’ people you will no doubt have to go through. Stuck in a job you dislike? Be grateful for as many things as you can in that job even if it is just the motivation to look for something better for yourself.

I know people who actually do the very opposite of this. See if this sounds familiar. You are at a fabulous all-inclusive resort in the tropics. The sun is shining, the love of your life is across from you with a big smile on their face. Suddenly, from the table next to you a voice can be heard. It is a man complaining his burger is too well done. Not only is he complaining about it, but he seems to be almost obsessing about it. Then he adds how dry the bun is. Forget that the weather is perfect, you can smell the ocean and flowers and birds are everywhere, his hamburger is dry. Sound ridiculous? Some people really live this way. Don’t be one of them. If your burger is dry, take a nice slow slip of rum and say to yourself with a chuckle, “Next time I will get the jerk chicken.”

How can we enjoy the process? There are several ways. Ask yourself questions like these, “What can I be grateful for in this situation?” “What can I find that I love?” Also look for the humor is challenging situations. If all else fails, shake your head and say, “At least I am going to have a good story.” Remember every bad day only serves to make us more grateful for the good ones. Let us all remember to enjoy our life to the fullest.

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.