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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.