Today a lot of us celebrate Christmas. If you are anything like me you are running around last minute looking for the perfect gift. Do you go wine? Gift cards? Coffee? There are a million different options! Still there is one perfect gift for any holiday.
That gift is the gift of help. Being the light in someone’s darkness. The gift of time, understanding and just listening are something that you can’t buy even if you are Bill Gates. It also makes you one of the most valuable people to have in anyone’s life. How valuable is a good friend who listens to you? To me I love gifts that people make and put their heart and soul in, but even better is the gift of time. Those wonderful souls who bring light to my world and make me smile are the gifts I treasure all year long.
So you want to make someone’s holiday? Call them up and ask how they’re doing. Give them time to really tell you. Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk. Give your time and money to your favorite charity. Be someone who always brings a smile to a room when you walk in, and to the souls of all you know. Share a smile. Share an encouraging word. Share love and respect with all this holiday season. Thank you and feel free to share this blog.
Tradition, i am a big fan. It ties us to people and things we love. It helps us honor the past and keep in our cultures alive. They give us something to look forward to. I have my own traditions that were both handed down to me and that I have started. Funny thing about traditions, sometimes they just seem to start themselves. My state fair going had me thinking of this. One year back in 1996 I decided that since the state fair is something that makes me happy I will just go every day it is going on. I had not realized this would carry on for almost a decade now, but it has.
Here is the next question. What happens when tradition suddenly stands in the way of growth? I have been fortunate that through change in jobs, change in life companions and change in living conditions have all still allowed me to continue one of my favorite traditions. Still with all of the life changes I have went through there have been some traditions that have been lost. I know my life is poised to be better than it has ever been. Still there are things that I enjoyed that are no longer possible to do. For example, I used to work in a small community where they had this great little coffee shop I would go to on lunch. You get into these little routines and you really look forward to them. They had some gatherings I would always attend. Since switching to a different office due to downsizing I am unable to go to them. Also I met the fabulous lady in the picture above. Funny thing about other people, they come with their own traditions too. Now sometimes they don’t always work together either. So you are faced with both doing your separate traditions, which would limit your growth and experience together or forging new traditions and learning each others. Here is where the work is. It takes love, understanding and patience to make this work. Much like anything we discuss here, your state of mind and attitude about the situation will do the most in determining how the outcome will be.
Traditions are a great thing. Hang on to as many as you can. If you find yourself faced with deciding between being able to grow and celebrating a tradition it is time to ask yourself some serious questions. What was the tradition all about? Is there another way to still accomplish the same thing while adjusting to growth and change? Was the tradition tied to a person? Is it time to surrender that tradition to a memory and begin a new one? Often times if we think of what the purpose of our traditions were we can find new and healthier ways to accomplish the same thing. Find new traditions to start with the ones you care about that will bring all involved joy and good health.
Why on earth in a blog about living a more rewarding life and persevering would you find a title like this? Yesterday we discussed Fat Tuesday and self-indulgence. Today we are going to look at Ash Wednesday. This is a Christian holiday that represents the start of lent. A period of fasting leading up to Easter. Whether or not you are Christian stay with me here. In a nutshell Ash Wednesday people give up something as a sign of sacrifice for their beliefs. Whether your beliefs are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or you just believe in trying to create a better you and a better world, we can all be a part of this holiday. Now I have heard a large range of things people give up for lent. Sugary foods, coffee, alcohol, or even just the traditional meat on Fridays. I suggest we can take this a step further. Let us find something that pushes us to improve not just sacrifice. Try giving up listening to that negative voice in the back of your head. Give up junk food? How about giving up bad eating and try to take better care of the bodies we have been blessed with. How about trying to stay away from gossip? Try giving up saying anything negative about anyone including yourself? Traditionally lent last 40 days. Scientists say it takes anywhere from 21-30 days to create a new habit. So you will be well on your way even if you mess up once or twice. Perhaps we could spend today thinking of what we could ‘give up’ from our lives that would end up serving us and making our world a little better in the process. Whatever idea you come up with I suggest writing it down and taping it to your computer screen at work or your bathroom mirror. Somewhere you will receive a subtle reminder of what you are giving up from your life. If you mess up, just dust yourself off and get back on track. Then we can all celebrate together on Easter whether we are Christian or not. We will all have improved and rid our lives of something we are better off without.
Today is traditionally the celebration of ‘Fat Tuesday’ or Mardi Gras in which people over indulge in plenty of vices before going into lent which starts tomorrow (more on that tomorrow). I am all for celebrating…well anything. I believe it is good for the soul and the more people and things you have to celebrate in your life the happier you will be. Another idea is the more ways you have to celebrate the better as well. Do not get me wrong, I am all for a night on the town. In fact lately I may have had one too many, but what if we could indulge in a different way? Instead of enjoying things of an alcoholic or carnal pleasure we focus on indulging ourselves in healthier pleasures? Use this day to spoil yourself completely. Do it in ways that will leave you feeling even more incredible the next day. Use that personal day at work you may have been saving for a rainy day. Treat yourself to that amazing but expensive coffee drink you may like. Take yourself to that pricey but healthy restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Have a day at the spa. Get a massage. You deserve it. While we can often be critical of ourselves, especially those who are looking to improve themselves we also need a day to relax and recharge. Why not use the holiday all about self-indulgence to do just such a thing? If you still feel that you need a drink and wish to dance half-naked, well…I’m bartending tonight so feel free to stop on down!
“If you continuously compete with others you become bitter but if you continuously compete with yourself you become better”
A good quote that reminds us the only person we should try to be better than is the person we were yesterday. As the new year approaches it may be a good time to take stock of who we were this last year and who we would like to be in the coming year. Establishing a point A and a point B is a great starting point! The more honest we are with ourselves the easier it will be to decide what we need to do to become that kind of person we wish to be. My good is to make the major share of my income by the end of 2014 from writing. Obviously some of the things I have to do is search out new writing opportunities, practice my writing and marketing and work on improving both of them. I have also learned something else. What happens if I reached the end of 2014 and only 50% of my income is from writing? Have I failed? No. It is more than my current state. Earl Nightingale defined success as “The progressive realization of a worthy ideal” That means whenever we have decided on a worthy ideal or goal for our lives and are working toward it, we are a success. We are farther than 95% of everyone else. If you ask your neighbor what they want most answers are vague at best. “I want more money” or “I want a better job” So the better we clearly define the person we wish to become and begin to take determined action towards that end, the more likely we are to become a success. so take the time to do this very important step. Tonight get clear as to who you wish to become, then be honest with yourself as to where you are. It may be a touch painful, but you should be excited because the steps you must take to close the distance between Point A and Point B should be abundantly clear and a map of what you must do will be set before you.
We find ourselves in the month of November. Here is the USA we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. Although I am no fan of cold weather I am a big fan of a holiday dedicated to reflecting on all we have to be grateful for. I have seen something happening on facebook that I would love to encourage all of us to do. A few of my friends have decided to post one thing a day that they are grateful for. If you have followed this blog for any length of time you know I am a big fan of creating lists. Lists of things that make us happy, lists of our favorite people, or a list of things to be grateful for. The problem with lists if twofold. First, it seems like a project to some people. Sitting down and having to come up with ten or twenty things can seem so daunting that many just skip it all together. Second, once the list is complete the process is over. Unless you look at the list every day it may escape your thoughts all together. By just picking one thing a day for a month not only is it not so overwhelming, but daily you are focused on maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Now I realize we are already at the fourth of the month, but that should not matter. We can go for 26 days or until the fourth of December. Just try this simple thing for 30 days. Whether you share it on Facebook, or simply write it down in a notebook be sure to follow your thought with a concrete action. Maybe a special section in your journal. After 30 days it will be exciting to notice the change in your life. Not only that, but you will now have created that list of thirty things you have to be grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful emotion. It displaces fear. You cannot be fearful while you are feeling grateful. It replaces sadness. You cannot feel sad while you are feeling grateful. So keep your list handy for a day when the blues come a calling. Second you will find yourself searching your life for things to be grateful for that you can pick as your daily item. By doing this you will have trained your brain to develop a grateful attitude. So why not try it. It takes all of 60 seconds a day of thinking and writing and can change your life for the better. How much easier and more powerful can we make it?
A funny thing happened to me the other day. Ok, funny things happen to me most days. Especially Friday because it involves my good friend Margie and rum. This was not one of those moments. You see, I am always looking for ways to improve this blog, and listening to ideas. Quite often you will see them make the pages of this website. While typing the post ‘Picking your posse’ last week an idea just popped in my head. Usually that is to hit the snooze one more time or have one more slice of pizza, but this was neither of these so I thought I should listen. I remarked in that post how my friends have changed and how I discovered I had naturally gravitated to a more positive and inspiring group of people. Why was I not using this precious resource? A lot of what you read here comes from the minds of great people in history. Lincoln, Martin Luther King jr, Tony Robbins, my own mother. Still here was this group of genuinely inspiring and optimistic people. Why have I not been picking their brains? So I started. I asked George, the insurance sales man his secret to happiness. Truly the world of insurance can’t be all sunshine and rainbows. I also asked Jim, who sells fireplace blowers. I began to ask all of my customers at both the post office and the bar what was the secret to their happiness. The answers varied, but there were some common traits as well. Then, proving that all people in our life are gifts I began to ask those less than inspiring characters I encountered the same question. Oddly enough, there was patterns there as well. Over the next couple of days we will explore both. For today, however, I encourage you to do the same. Find someone who has a genuinely sunny disposition and ask them their secret. I will let you in on a clue. Happy people tend to be eager to share what makes them so. You may even wish to do the same with those who genuinely seem unhappy. If nothing else you may get their minds pondering the joy in their life. See if you notice any patterns. Feel free to let me know. Oh, and if you see me on the street and have any ideas on how to make this blog better, feel free to do that do.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only Love can do that”
-Martin Luther King jr
“We’ve got a mind of our own so go to hell if what your thinking isn’t right. Love would never leave us alone, A-yin the darkness there must come out to light”
-Bob Marley, from the song Could You be Loved
Yesterday we examined the second part of Martin Luther King jr’s quote. Today I not only want to focus on the first part, but I threw in a lyric from Bob Marley as well. I did this for two reasons. One, they are both strong influences on my way of thinking and two, in this case they are discussing a similar point. In life we will always have periods of darkness. My goal in my own life as well as the goal of this blog and my upcoming book is to make sure those periods happen less often and with less severity. That being said, there will still be periods were our outlook is bleak. There are times when we shall hear from others how bad it is. This usually goes into overload near an election. Still as we discussed yesterday heated debates are not the answer. So what is the answer. The answer can be found in these two quotes. I have experienced this in my own life as well. About 5 years ago I was in a dark place both professionally and personally. I would’ve stated how neither situation was fair. How all my hard work and effort wasn’t being rewarded fairly. In hindsight I probably would have had a lot of people agree with me. Where would that have gotten me though? Standing around unemployed with a group of people nodding their heads in agreement as to how bad my situation was. Which would have only made me feel worse. I’ll be honest, I did stand around and bitch for a few days. It helped me get some things off my chest. Still for a man who follows and admires the likes of the gentleman above it became obvious that was not going to get me anywhere. So I decided with my ‘extra time off’ I would help a few more days at the meal program I worked at. Normally I helped once a month, but I did three days that week. Not only did it help me feel better that I was able to help others. Which, by the way, is one of the best cures for feelings of depression. It also humbled me. I was able to see the struggles far worse than my own that a lot of these people were facing. Some of them only children. I decided right then and there to be a light in the darkness. It has led to the creation of this blog, my book, a whole new circle of friends and many other amazing events I can’t even list here. The lesson? Sometimes our world becomes dark so we are forced to develop and show the world our light
Gratitude, a simple word, yet few of us realize how powerful it can be. It should be fairly obvious that expressing gratitude t0 others can certainly make them feel appreciated. What many of us may not think of is what having a grateful state of mind can do for ourselves. Someone once said it is impossible to be fearful and be grateful at the same time. I would like to add ‘upset’, ‘angry’, ‘depressed’ and a host of other undesirable emotions to that list. I encourage you to challenge that theory. Compose a list of things you are truly grateful for. Make this a list of heartfelt items. Keep this list with you in a pocket or a purse for about a week. Read it upon waking, right before retiring and one other time during the day. As you read your list do your best to feel the gratitude as well as read the list. All three times should take around 5 minutes of your day. Try this for one week and let me know the positive changes you notice. Today is thanksgiving, a good day to start compiling your list. After a week you may wish to make every day thanksgiving. Live with Love my friends!