I know there are days when the sky looks cloudy and it feels as though the sun will never shine. I am not just speaking of the weather where I live, but more of an emotional forecast. A friend of mine posted this online and it really made me think. We have survived 100% of our worst days. If we didn’t, we couldn’t be reading this.
Just last night I found myself in a little of a funk. Wasn’t even sure why or where it came from. We all have those days to be sure. With the world in the crazy state that it is in, we may be having them more often. Lucky for me by spending years in the self-improvement field I have discovered ways to be able to find my way out of the emotional darkness. This includes having a list of people, places and things that bring joy to my life ready ahead of time. This is important because when you are in a depressed state, remembering these items can be just this side of impossible.
My list includes a tea called “cup of sunshine”, which I enjoyed. I also enjoy talking to friends who share an interest in self-improvement topics. One of the places that seems to lift my spirits is the grocery store. Not sure why this is, but it seems to be a relaxing sort of retail therapy for me. Last night I found myself pushing a cart down the aisles of a store called Fresh Thyme. It is a brightly lit and slightly overpriced store but the people were friendly and it is usually not too crowded. As I walked along and placed items in the cart I felt the funk slowly giving way. After checking out I came home and Margie and I watched a rather silly movie from the 80’s that helped push me back to a state of joy.
Having inspiring sayings like the first picture in this post surrounding you makes a big difference too. I have a day-by-day calendar that keeps me inspired. The reasons to have these around you every day is that you never know when life will push the down button on the elevator of emotion. That is also why it is important to craft a list of people, places and things that bring you joy. Not only is it handy when you are feeling down, but it is fun to compile as you go along.
It has two bonus functions as well. It has your subconscious mind on the lookout for things to add to the list. In other words, things that make you happy. This leads to a far better life than focusing on the things that make you unhappy. Sounds like a ‘no brainer’ but you would be amazed at how many people get this backwards. Another wonderful side-effect of this activity is it fosters an attitude of gratitude. As you are compiling a list of movies that make you feel inspired or laugh until your side hurts, how can you not be grateful that we can watch them with a push of a button? As you think of people that you enjoy spending time with or talking to, how can you not feel grateful they are in your life? As you begin to list places that bring you peace and joy, how can you not be thankful to have that option? Lastly, as you watch your list of joyful items grow, how can you not feel grateful to have so many of these things in your life that you may not have taken the time to notice, and certainly not list, prior to this moment?
So list away my fabulous friends! You never know when this list will become an item of necessity. It will certainly become a fun activity to create and a great thing to add to. I suggest maybe keeping a little journal of these items and opening the pages to treat yourself to a few of them to help keep your spirits up and keep the funky feelings away! By doing this often enough we will create an amazing life.
I recall seeing a picture with this saying on it in my grandparents house. It happened to be one of those things that just faded into the background after a while. I knew the saying but didn’t really ponder it all that deeply. On the surface it is not to hard to understand. This all changed with one very interesting and compelling conversation.
For research towards my upcoming books, I often pick the brains of people who have a genuine sense of inner peace and joy. I knew a rather religious man who fit this description. I had inquired as to the secret of maintaining such a sense of peace despite the stresses and trials of leading a congregation. He asked me if I had ever heard the saying in the picture above. Just like I told you earlier, I explained how it was seen daily on the walls of my grandparents house. He inquired if I believed every day was a gift from God. I replied I did. Now, whether you believe waking up is a gift from the creator, the universe or just a stroke of good fortune the point is still the same, the ability to open your eyes first thing in the morning is not only one of the most valuable gifts, but supplies a great deal of potential.
He then went on to ask, “Neil, how to you feel when you give someone a gift?” I replied that I enjoyed that very much. “Does that feeling depend on how much those receiving the gift feel?” He inquired further. This is a point not regularly considered. “I suppose it does, to some extent.” was my answer. He asked how I would feel if I spent time picking out and giving a very valuable gift only to have the person receiving it not appreciate or value it at all. Thankfully, I have not had many of those experiences, but imagining it did feel uncomfortable. I pictured someone tossing my gift aside, or worse yet, throwing it in the trash. What if you discover they regift it? That would leave you feeling sad and let down.
He then brought up a very interesting point and the secret to his happiness. “If I believe every day is a gift from God, if I am not enjoying and making the most of that gift, I am being insulting to the giver.” He went on to further explain that God had seen fit to give him the gift of life another day on this planet and he knew many were not that lucky. If he found himself angry, full of self-pity or letting the problems of the world get him down he simply thought about the saying ‘This is a day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ “I realize the wonderful gift God has given me and I am grateful.” He added. “I do not want to be insulting or hurt the feelings of the giver of this wonderful gift.”
There was just one question I had for him. It may be the question you are asking right now. “What about those days when things don’t go right? What happens when you lose a relationship, job or maybe even someone you love?” To me that certainly didn’t sound like a very good gift. He explained that those are the days when you are given the gift of growth. That even sorrow and pain can end up being one of the most beautiful gifts. They may not feel like it in the moment, but they end up bringing some of the greatest blessings to our lives. “How do you know that will end up being the case? How can you be sure that it is not just a terrible day, and thus a terrible gift?” I pressed on. Sounding more like a grilling detective than an inquisitive author. He responded as only men of the cloth can. He gave me a wink and replied, “That Neil, is what you call faith.”
No matter what your spiritual beliefs are, I think we can all agree that every day we open our eyes to greet the day, we are unwrapping the greatest gift. Whether you choose to have a saying like the one we began this post with, or a picture like the one right above this paragraph, it may be helpful to have a reminder by your bedside to be grateful for the gift of life you have been given each day. When you find yourself feeling down and out, remember the priceless gift you have been given that many have not. A great way to help you appreciate this gift is to start a gratitude practice. That could be something as simple as a gratitude journal where you record elements of the day you are grateful for. You can also begin the day with a simple gratitude meditation. I know some that send out feelings of thank you to the people and things they are grateful for as they brush their teeth, make their coffee or go through their morning workouts.
For those days when things are tough and it seems like you might have received a gift meant for someone else, just do what our friend above did. Look in the mirror, give yourself a wink and say, “That is what they call faith.”
I was talking to my good friend Ricky at Station 6, a quaint cocktail and craft beer establishment in West Allis where I live. I enjoy talking to this friend as he always offers a fresh perspective of life and how to look at it.
As I sipped my Allis old fashioned and he enjoyed his Irish coffee he shared with me some of the daunting things he had faced growing up as a young man. We all have had challenges in our childhood, but his was more than most.
What impresses me about Ricky, is his perseverance. Although many people could have used these as an excuse to give up, and it would be understandable, he has overcome. That is not to say he has not struggled with some demons, in fact he is conquering some as you read this, but he is fighting. It reminded me of the quote from Eric Thomas above It is not where you come from,it’s about heart.
Life can feel like a boxing match sometimes. As the character Rocky reminds us, “It ain’t about how hard you can hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit,and keep moving forward…That’s how winning is done.”
Today people determine success by how much one has achieved or obtained. What many of fail to realize is that some of the greatest winners are the ones who have taken the hits and keep moving forward. To me these are the true winners, the true heroes in life.
You may see people who seem the picture of success, but when life punches them in the mouth, they fall like a house of cards. Then again, you may see people who are struggling, or even those who seem like ‘average’ people yet have overcome so much. These are the people who have taken, or in some cases are still taking, the hits from life and keep moving forward.
If this is you, if you have struggled or are continuing to struggle, know that we here at Secret2anamazinglife.com know and salute you as a winner in life. You may not feel like it. You may not have the awards and accolades. In fact, it may feel like you are still fighting. Know this, every day you keep moving forward you are a winner. Keep this in mind when meeting others who are struggling as well. Remind them of it. If you still need a little inspiration, click to watch the short video below.
Today’s post may sound rather negative on the surface. We here at Secret2anamazinglife.com do more than just share knowledge. This website serves as an online community. We share ideas, we share challenges but most importantly, we share solutions. We also share encouragement. We share inspiration. We share motivation. The posts themselves are only one part of the equation. The comments on this website and its corresponding social media pages form a collective group of people determined to live the most positive and rewarding life they can. They are also compassionate souls that understand life is not a competition. They understand that one of the secrets of an amazing life is the ability to help others and the joy and peace that gives us. At the end of this blog, I am going to provide a link to our Facebook page Fall in Love With Your Life. I would encourage anyone wanting to be a part of this wonderful group of people to join.
This brings us to the subject of today’s post. Has your life ever sucked? I would be bold enough to assume the answer is yes. Even in the best of lives, the world can sometimes get the best of us. We may be focused on gratitude and using the power of positive thinking. We may be able to see the beauty in ourselves, others and the world around us. We may meditate, walk in nature, practice altruism and live a life a spiritual fulfillment. We may be doing everything right and out of nowhere life can sucker punch you right in the gut. I am not saying this to sound negative, but instill a sense of urgency in you. Urgency for what? I am so glad you asked. Knowing that at some point life will deliver a challenge that may momentarily get the best of you, it is important to prepare for such an occasion. How do you prepare for life sucking? That is a million dollar question. Let us get into it.
Recently, I had the honor of being on the television show Positively Milwaukee. This is one of my favorite shows and it was quite an honor. One of the things I shared with the viewers is the importance of preparing for emotional challenges. As I told the wonderful host Carole, the time to learn to swim is on the shore, not when the boat is sinking. Let me explain what I mean and then I will relay to you a personal example of what a big difference this can make.
Every month you know you will have bills to pay. In order to prepare for that, you save some of the money you bring home from working. What if you just spent as you pleased on whatever you wanted and said, “I will worry about those bills when they come.” I would venture you would find yourself sitting in a dark house pondering how to heat Ramen noodles without electricity. The same can be said for emotional challenges. That is why working on ways to reduce stress and increase joy in your life should be a daily endeavor. If we just wait for the moments when our joy is challenged to create a solution, life will be a far more difficult and dark place. If, however, we are always on the lookout for, and putting into action ways to fill our life with some emotional sunshine, when the darkness comes we will be far more prepared to return to the light.
This may sound good in theory, but let me show you exactly how it works in practice. Today I had a really great day. I began work at 5 a.m. Okay, that part was not exactly great, but I was on time, the day went by pretty much without any major problems. After work, I was able to come home and kiss the lips on the most beautiful face of the woman I love. While she readied herself for our evening together, I enjoyed a walk in nature with my mother. The weather was warm and sunny, just the way I like it. After the walk I picked up my lady and took her to the cinema. We have not been to the movies, which we love, since the beginning of the corona virus. We watched a movie we both loved and enjoyed each other’s company. We then went to Starbucks to meet a very nice couple that were having Margie make their wedding cake. When the details were worked out, I dropped Margie off to shop while I wrote.
Driving home to grab my laptop the oddest thing happened – I became extremely sad. It was as if a wave of sadness had washed over me. The really frustrating thing was that I had no idea where this feeling came from. By all accounts I had one of the best days I have had in a long time. How can you deal with a negative feeling when you don’t even know the source of that feeling? Sure, it would be easier if I knew what caused me to become overcome with such emotion, but it was not entirely necessary to change it. Here I was, home alone and feeling down. Margie had bought me one of those ‘Happy Lamps’ that mimic sunshine for my seasonal affective disorder. Although today that shouldn’t have been an issue as it was warm and sunny, I plugged it in next to my laptop. Behind me I noticed my daily motivational calendar. Everyday it displays a new and inspiring quote. Todays? “Every day may not be good…but there is something good in every day.” I decided to enjoy some tea as I wrote. I looked at our rather vast selection of tea we have and found some called Cup of Sunshine. As you may have guessed by the name, it is a mood-enhancing herbal tea. As I sat in the ‘Happy Light’ sipping my cup of shine pondering my daily dose of inspiration my mood slowly began to shift.
As I wrote the notification sound on my cell phone went off. It was from a motivational YouTube channel I subscribe to. They had just uploaded a new video. I decided I could do worse than to listen as I wrote. The video was all about the importance of how we view things. It was rather striking as that was what I had just wrote about. Like a sign I was doing the right thing. I began to not only lose my feeling of sadness, but it was being replaced by a feeling of purpose and inspiration. My mood was rescued by the tools I had put into place long before the feeling ever arrived. You can do the same starting right now. Do you like unicorns and rainbows? Subscribe to a social media page focused on those. Do you enjoy stand-up comedy? Subscribe to a YouTube channel that features different comics. Fill your life with things that inspire and move you. Take actions such as meditating, reading inspiring material and maybe even purchasing some artwork that inspires.
The most important decision I made that changed my state was choosing to have people in my life that are kind, compassionate and inspiring. Throughout my little ordeal I was messaging Margie at the store. Her words and ideas of encouragement and love did more to change my state than the amazing tools mentioned above. I received another notification on my phone. My friend Alisa had commented on something I wrote that added so much more to help even more people than the post itself. You may think I am lucky to have a loving and caring woman in my life. You may think it was a stroke of good luck that I have a like-minded and intelligent friend to comment on my post. Although that is true to some extent, the more important fact was that I chose to include these people in my life. Margie and I work at our love and relationship in such a way that way have a closeness and can understand what will help each other when we are feeling down. Alisa and I share through comments and conversation ideas that not only help each other, but those who read what we write as well.
Know that you too will have times when life gets the best of you. There is not much we can do to entirely prevent these from happening. By preparing and having inspiring and stress reducing tools and people already in our life, we can shorten the duration and intensity of these episodes. That will make our entire life more amazing. I would love to know what you do when life sucks and you find yourself in a funk. The more we share and learn from each other, the better all of our lives will be. Speaking of sharing and learning from each other, remember if you are interested in joining our online Facebook group of caring people, click the link below!
This idea was given to me by my beautiful Margie. In these crazy times we all need to remind and use things to create a little sense of joy in our lives. In my book A Happy Life for Busy People, I encourage people to create what I call a “Happy Playlist”. Quite simply compile a list of songs that bring joyful memories to you. I put mine on my phone. I created a list on YouTube and add songs on a daily basis as they occur to me. Currently, it has a total of 187 songs. The great thing about this list is that anytime I find life giving me a hard time I ‘just push play’ and I am greeted by songs that bring back fond memories or transport me to someplace I would rather be. Some make me think of my friends and quite a few make me think of my lovely lady.
Music is a powerful way to transport your mental state quickly than anything else I know. Once you do the list of songs you may realize how powerful this is and want to add other mediums as well. Favorite movies that you love that make you laugh or put a special feeling in your heart. It is great to have a collection of books that can take your mind to a different world. At this moment when many of us have a little more time it is a good idea to put some of these together.
Why now? I often use the comparison to learning to swim. It is certainly a better idea to learn to swim when you are safely on shore than waiting until you are on a sinking ship. When we return to work we will face a lot of new challenges. Some of us may have to begin looking for new jobs. Life will take a lot of getting used to and having a things that could make us happy will really come in handy. Whether your happiness comes from music, books or even kittens (that is Margie’s contribution to today’s post) Let us all use the time we have to create some ideas of people, places and things that bring joy into our lives. When the world returns to normal, let us spend more time doing those very things.
Today is my mother’s birthday. She has a saying that she has been using ever since I can remember. It is simply, “It will be ok.” It does not sound that profound, but it represents a certain amount of both faith and persistence. Both of those words are tied together as we discussed a few posts back. I would like you to keep that saying in mind as you take in the one in the photo above.
Mosaics are made from broken pieces, but they’re still works of art. And so are you. What an amazing thought. Considering all of the times that we have all felt and perhaps were broken this is quite reassuring. When we put all of those broken pieces together they turn into something beautiful. Just like all of the situations that have left us feeling broken have made us who we are.
Make no mistake, what kind of picture is formed is entirely up to us. As the saying goes, we can become bitter or we can become better. Do our broken pieces amount to a pile of garbage or are we putting them together to form a mosaic, a work of art? Challenges can leave us angry, bitter or jaded. They can also make us more compassionate, loving and understanding. The choice is up to us, not the circumstances we have been through.
Another gift of challenges is that they make us strong, which in turn is beautiful. You may meet someone who is physically stunning, but has never faced serious adversity. What they have an abundance of physically, they may lack in compassion and inner strength. Some of us who have been through the toughest moments can be the most loving and understanding because we know what it is like to feel broken and hurt.
Today, gather your broken pieces and see what a wonderful work of art has been made in you. When life is providing you more ‘pieces’ for your mosaic and life is tough, remember my mother’s saying – “It will be ok.” Maybe not right now. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually it will all be ok.
This is one of those quotes I really love. When you think about religion it is often, if not always created after the death of its most important figures. That being the case, as it is in the three examples above, it would be impossible for the individuals to be a member of a religion they inspired. That does not make these religions any less valid or take anything away from their beliefs or practices. What it does is allow us to step back and take a good hard look at what is the common thread that was woven through all of these great leaders, and by consequence, through all great spiritual beliefs – Love. These individuals did not preach a certain religion, but rather a set of moral principles predicated on love. Love is the common thread that flows through most spiritual beliefs. It is a force that drives many of the other principles and tenets of whatever faith you may practice. It is the driving force behind a spiritual practice. Love, combined with faith and hope make up the basis for most of the world’s religions. Which brings me to my point, if the founder of the faith you follow based their teachings on love, how can you not do the same? Interacting with those of different faiths should we not all come with a spirit of compassion, acceptance and understanding? Those are all aspects of love. The individuals mentioned above were strong in their beliefs and certainly strong in their love. When you are filled with faith, hope and love you do not judge another. You do not say evil words towards another because they are following a different path of love than you. Let us all belong to the religion of love no matter what organized faith we may follow.
Let me begin this by saying I have nothing against tattoos. In fact, this is a picture of my beautiful Margie’s arms, tattoos on both. I admire people who have the bravery to get a tattoo. The reason I have never gotten a tattoo is that I cannot think of many things I like on a consistent basis. Even people I admire have changed over the years. My favorite band is Ratt, but as of late they have become the most dysfunctional drama-filled mess. I used to be a big fan of Lance Armstrong. I admired how he overcame his cancer and went on to win several bike races. I could have gotten a tattoo of him. Then he came out and admitted he cheated and used performance enhancing drugs.
This got me thinking about what I do for happiness in my life. If you place your happiness in the hands of other people, no matter how wonderful they may be, they will at some point let you down. People are different and that is just how the world goes. Same with attaching your happiness to material things. Money can come and go. A hurricane can come and blow down your house you invested years and quite a bit a money on. As the saying goes don’t put the key to your happiness in somebody else’s pocket.
What, then do we have our happiness depend on? Make it internal. Things like our Faith, our sense of hope and those things that are eternal. In the above example, my lovely lady wanted to place her love for both singing and her mother on her arms. Those are things that come from inside her. It would do us a great service to spend some time on compiling a list of things that bring us joy that come from inside. Those are the things we should put our focus on. If we want true joy in our lives we should enjoy all of what life has to offer, but place our focus on what comes from the inside.
On March 15th at 1:40 pm a shooting began at the Al Noor Mosque and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre at 1:55 pm. In this shooting in New Zealand 50 people died and 50 more were injured. Most of them were Muslim people doing nothing but practicing their faith. The suspect considered himself a Christian from the far right political movements. In the wake of these shootings many well-meaning Muslims lived in fear and with a feeling of persecution. On April 21st in Sri Lanka 3 Christian churches were bombed along with luxury hotels. In this terrible attack 253 people were killed and another 500 injured. Most of them were Christians celebrating one of their holiest days. After the bombings curfews were in effect and even Muslims that wanted to help were told to stay home for fear of retaliation. The perpetrators were members of Islamic State of Iraq, a terrorist group. On April 25th there was a shooting at a California synagogue that left one person dead and several more injured. The shooting happened on the last day of Passover, an important Jewish celebration. The shooter was a 19 year old student who was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His own pastor said of the events, “It’s a deplorable act of wickedness.” Reading these events in your local newspaper, online or whatever source you get your news from could leave you thinking how sad, angry and frightening this world has become. To some extent that would be a correct statement. What these events also show is that no belief is safe, and further, no belief is completely innocent. Victims and attackers cross lines of faith, color, race and creed. In a world where tragedy seems to highlight the agendas that seem to tear apart at the very fabric of our humanity, there also lies the seed of opportunity. What you may miss in the news coverage, and if you do you are not to blame as it is usually buried, if mentioned at all, is the help that also crosses those same lines. One of the greatest challenges is to accept help from the very same group that staged the attacks. With such strong feelings of grief, sadness, loss, pain and even hate these events often have the effect that those responsible desire. They increase the divide among different groups of people. In looking at the three events listed above, which sadly are only a few examples of hate crimes that are becoming all to common, you can see that the group that was attacked on one occasion can be the very group doing the attacking the next. This does present us a chance to stand up not only as a strong and noble representation of our faith, but of humanity as a whole. This takes courage. What takes just as much, if not more courage, is accepting help from members of the same group that just attacked you. In the example of Sri Lanka, Muslims were told not to go to their houses of worship for fear of retaliation from angered Christians. One could understand that thinking. When you see so many loved one’s lives innocently taken from them you want to lash out. As one observer noted, “When you are bitten by a bug, you want to kill all of the bugs like that.” As we can see in the above examples, every faith has its devils. Every faith also has it’s angels. In each one of these cases prayers, tears and help came forth from true members of every faith. It is these moments of hate and tragedy that have the potential to either tear us a part, or bring us together. It takes courage on both sides to do so. It also requires a realization that every group contains both the guilty as well as the innocent victims. It is only as individuals we can reach out to our neighbors of different faiths to increase communication and understanding. Just as every faith contains both the innocent and the guilty, every faith also contains brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. Pain, fear, anger, sadness and frustration are also something that is shared by everyone. So is hope, peace, joy and love. Let us do our part to help heal and understand the former while sharing the latter with everyone regardless of faith.
As an author and motivational speaker, people often come up to me and ask things such as, “how do I fix my life?” Or “what is the amazing wisdom of the day?” I don’t really mind answering these questions, but find it amazing people are looking for instant answers to problems created over years. I liken it to eating junk food for years then asking a trainer to get you in shape for your wedding… next week. I presume those of you in the fitness field no doubt have stories like this.
Understanding that we live in a nanosecond world where there is an instant fix for almost everything, I do my best to supply individuals with some universally applicable nugget of wisdom. There are a few powerful things that can change a life when applied with conviction.
Lately, I have been thinking about the quote above. All we really have is today. We cannot change the past no matter how hard we try. If we wish to correct something from the past, we must take different action…today.
The future will arrive when it does. If we wish to be prepared, or are worried about some upcoming events, the only way we can affect our future is through the actions we take…today.
This moment is all we have, but it is very powerful. It can help correct, though not undo, our past. It can affect and direct our future. What matters is what we do today. Make sure whatever we do, that we do it to the best of our ability. An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind.