THE REAL PRIZE

It

It is both the end of the week and the end of the month. Hopefully we have accomplished some goals and are on our way towards others. One goal that should be perpetually on our list is to love ourselves. Yes, I realize that sounds a little new age for some, but it does not make it any less essential. Liking, or more accurately loving, yourself is one of the most important life challenges.

Let us begin by looking at why loving yourself is so important. After all, if we know why something is important we are far more likely to be on board with it. So, why is loving yourself so important? We can discover this be looking at what happens when we are not happy with ourselves. When we are not happy with ourselves one of two things usually happen. We can begin to treat others harshly. When your spirit is not filled with joy little irritations become big. Our patience with others can wear thin with others. Have you ever made a mistake and been so upset with yourself and then find yourself yelling at others? Maybe even the person we have hurt. After all, we can’t really yell at ourselves can we? Oh yes we can!

That leads us to the second possibility. We spend hours, sometimes the entire day, engaged in negative self-talk. This not only further diminishes our mood and opinion of ourselves, it disempowers us. We turn down opportunities. We resist trying new things. Those things we do try we approach with a sense thought of failure before we even begin. A prolonged streak of this can lead to physical ills as well as a sense of hopelessness and maybe even suicidal thoughts.

How do we begin to think higher about the person in the mirror? There are several options. We are going to highlight a few right here, but I encourage you to further explore other self-appreciation techniques on your own. The first is to recite a daily affirmation twice a day, once in the morning and once right before retiring. Your morning affirmation could sound something like this – today I am going to do the best I can. I may stumble and fall, but I will get back up and continue to give the best I can. Your evening affirmation can sound similar – today I did the best I can. I did not succeed at everything but I gave it my all and tomorrow I will try again. The secret to affirmations is to say them with emotion and conviction. That is why I like the proceeding affirmations. They do not say you are going to be perfect. They just say you will do the best you can.

One of the main reasons people get down on themselves is they fail to live up to their own standards. When you fail with what someone else expects of you that is one thing, but when you do something that goes against the very nature of who you are, that is a different kind of pain all together. When we fail ourselves in this regard it is important to remember to be forgiving to ourselves but do so in away that reaffirms our commitment to what it was we failed at. “I know I said some not so nice things about people today and that is not who I am. From this moment on I am committed to do better at only empowering others.” You do not deny your failure, but you also do not beat yourself up over it.

Finally, record your wins. Many people discount the good they do and exaggerate their failures. Did you hold the door for a stranger? Did you ask someone how they were doing and really listened to their answer? Write that down. They all do not have to be big wins, although you certainly want to record them as well. When you let yourself down, take a look at your list. You may even want to say to yourself, or even out loud, “I sure messed up today, but I have done some really great things as well.” None of us are perfect human beings. Holding ourselves to a high standard can be a good thing as long as we remember to include a dose of humility and forgiveness as well.

SOME DAYS IT IS JUST LIKE THIS

Fear not. This is not a loaded cannon nor would I advise sticking your head in the wrong end of a cannon. Just a goofy picture Margie took of me while we were visiting The House on the Rock. Some days can feel just like this for many of us though. Recently on my Facebook page Fall in Love with Life I shared a story of my attempts to share my food reviews on a page dedicated to the Milwaukee food scene. To me it seemed like a good fit. In the description it even mentioned that reviews were encouraged. An hour later I checked back to see if anyone had even seen it. That is when I felt like the picture above.

Yes, people had indeed seen it and even offered their own version of feedback on it. These enlightening comments ranged anywhere from the inquiring, “Why is this s**t on here?” to the critiquing, “You think you’re a good writer you will never win a Pulitzer!” to the very confusing, “Get a f**king life! Go back to Illinois!” This was confusing because I am not from, nor have I ever lived in the state of Illinois. My post was not about a restaurant in Illinois either.

The point is, I took a beating. When I put my face in my cell phone screen I felt like I was sticking it in the mouth of that cannon. I say this to let you know even if what should be benign situations we all can end up taking a beating. People can spend valuable energy on just making others, which can often include you, miserable.  Why that is we may never know. Much like the gentleman with the Illinois comment for me, often times they seem to come out of nowhere and make little to no sense.

The reason I am sharing all of this with you today is to remind us all how important it is to have a stress reduction plan for when those moments do come. As you can see, they can come when you least expect it. In my seminars I tell people the time to learn to swim is on the shore, not while the boat is sinking. In other words, do not wait until your life feels like the picture above. Begin this moment to make stress reduction a priority. Find things that bring you joy. Whether that means making a list of movies that make you smile, or songs that you like listening to. Find constructive ways to get out of stress. That might be a hard workout in the gym or a relaxing walk in nature.

Luckily I had a great night that night at the movies with Margie followed by a nice walk in the neighborhood. Two things that always bring a smile to my face. I recommend you begin to get your list of things together today. If you have a day where you feel life is beating you down make sure to use them. Keep moving forward. As Babe Ruth said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”

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.

 

 

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.

WATCHING YOUR DIET

People are so careful about their diets today. Gluten-free, Paleo, low-carb, high-fat. It seems every day there is another healthy way that we should all be eating. Then there are the new allergies that people have to look out for. Some are allergic to nuts. Some people cannot consume dairy products or shellfish. In other words, these days people are being far more discerning as to what they put in their bodies. All this is good. It is good that we are eating with the idea of helping our bodies function at peak efficiency.

Ironically, and somewhat tragic to me, is that is where the discernment stops. We spend our days listening to music that is sometimes filled with violence and a total lack of respect. We watch television shows where characters try to get laughs by putting each other down with sarcastic barbs. We read stories in the newspaper, online and social media (more about that tomorrow) that are filled with harsh judgments, political rancor and other drama. Then at the end of the day we wonder why our energy is drained and we feel stressed out.

Like the picture above mentions, we need to mindful of the things we put into our body emotionally, spiritually, and physically. We will do our best to avoid that sweet treat that will only end up giving us cavities and some extra pounds to carry around with us. We should take the same approach on deciding if what we are going to consume with our eyes, ears, mind and spirit will serve us or contribute to our daily downfall. Will reading that article about the latest mass shooting really bring anything good into our lives? Does being inundated with the latest chapters of what is wrong with the world give us anything but a sinking feeling of depression and a sense of hopelessness?

Am I saying we have to be worried about every little thing we watch, read, listen to or even people we hang around? Not at all. That will only cause you to be stressed out about the things that can be unconsciously stressing you out. That would be…well…very stressful. What I am asking you is to be more aware of what is going into your body. In the beginning especially it can be hard to think of I have to get rid of that or I have to stop doing that. That can leave you feeling like your brain is fighting you and with a feeling of deprivation. As I do in all of my practices, here I advocate increasing the positive to decrease the negative.

How do we do that? Do your best to include reading a few pages of something inspirational. Those Chicken Soup for the Soul books work well. Filled with short inspiring stories that fill you with joy, they can add a little something special to your day. On this site and in my book we talk about creating a Happy Playlist of songs that bring cheer to your day. Spend time with people who make you laugh, smile and bring your spirit to life. As far as social media, we will delve into that tomorrow. If you have any other suggestions for things to add to your Diet feel free to leave them in the comments below.

LET THE BEAUTY SHINE THROUGH

I took this picture the other day. Immediately I noticed the daisy. It is as if it were growing straight out of the rocks. You could say it is the rocks that made the daisy stand out. If this flower had been in a meadow it may not have grabbed my attention so much. This struck a chord in me. Beauty can often best be appreciated where there is none. For those of you who are a fan of rocks, I apologize and am not calling them ugly. Even if you are a fan of stone formations, you must admit the daisy does jump out in the picture.

This is not a blog about gardening, rocks or flowers, but one about improving our lives and ourselves. So, how do the two come together here? If we pay attention to the media at all we are filled with stories of hate crimes, war and other not so fabulous information. I don’t even watch the news, but see these things as I log into my email. It can make you feel there is no point in trying to be positive, that the world is going in the wrong direction. Even in our daily personal struggles life can seem overwhelming. We take one step forward and can fall three steps back. You can be tempted to throw in the towel and give up. Your life can seem like…well…a pile of rocks.

This is where the picture comes in. In a world, be it personally or globally, that can seem negative at best, hopeless at worst it is easy to just become another ‘rock’. It is also easy to save expressing our beauty around people that we know we receive it well. There are pluses to that. It helps us gain confidence and expressing our beauty anywhere is better than not expressing it at all. When we express our beauty in a place that truly needs it that is when we truly stand out. In fact, it is the very troubles in our lives that can make our beauty the valuable gift it is. Look at the daisy among the rocks. In a field of daisies we would be hard to pick out just one even though they would all add something special.

A real world example I can think of is Mother Teresa. She could have helped any part of the world. What makes us remember her is her choice to help those who were in some of the ugliest situations. She chose to help the people of Calcutta in India. Her foundation, Missionaries of Charity helps those suffering and dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. As well as soup kitchens and orphanages. Those in the foundation take a vow to provide “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”. Wouldn’t it have been easier to teach children of wealthy parents to read? Absolutely. That would have been a noble deed as well. By expressing her beauty in a place that needed it most she did more than give medical attention to the sick and dying, she gave them something far more valuable. She gave them hope and beauty they needed. She was there daisy among the rocks.

Now you do not have to move to a poor country and help the poor (although the world always needs more of that) to take from this example. Just know when you are tempted to give up in the face of negativity and challenge, whether that challenge comes from abroad or right in your own life, be the daisy. Give beauty to a world that so badly needs it.