A HUMOROUS PERSPECTIVE….

I laughed when I first saw this picture. Then I started thinking about it. Seldom do I drink enough water. That is important for your body in so many ways. If you don’t trust me, feel free to Google “Ways that water helps your body function”. Finish this blog first because that will be a lot of reading and today’s message is really short. I also do not get enough sun. My work has not a lot of windows and mother nature in West Allis Wisconsin where I live seems to be at least a month behind.

As I pondered this quote I realized we are far more than house plants with complicated emotions. Each one of us has within us world-changing potential. What also occurred to me is that we often take better care of our house plants than ourselves. We make it a point to make sure we water and give our plants a nice spot in the sun. With the exception of how it works in our house, this usually keeps them alive and happy. When it comes to making sure we are hydrated and have enough vitamin D from that great ball of fire in the sky we fall short.

This week let us make a point to spend a little more attention to our self-care. Set an alarm on your phone to make sure you drink enough water. I believe there is also an app for that. Step outside should the weather have some sun. Even if you have to do it on lunch. Maybe stop at the park and walk through the grass without your shoes on. This feels amazing. As adults we tend not to do these things. With the level of stress increasing it is even more vital. Not to mention the more we take care of ourselves the better we can take care of those we love….and our house plants.

 

GO AHEAD, YOU’RE WORTH IT!

This is a prepackaged slice of cheese. You may have been able discern that already. It is not terribly good for you and does cost more than it probably should. I believe this 4 oz. wonder was roughly $6. Not going to break the bank, but let us face it, you could get a lot more cheese with $6 than 4 oz. Here is something else, I bought the damn thing. Not only did I do so, but I did so gleefully.

The reason I am sharing this with you is to highlight a very important life point. The difference between a expense and an investment. What possibly, other than increasing the profit of the cheese company is this an investment in? Quite simply, a moment of joy. It is true that this cheese is priced more to be a luxury item. It is not something you would buy to say place between two slices of buttered bread and melt in a hot pan. It does not make good fiscal sense to purchase this cheese often.

Why did I buy it? I purchased it knowing that I would relax and eat it slowly while doing something I enjoy. That just so happens to be writing these words to you. I also know that spending a little more on this cheese will not break my checking account and it will give me a moment of bliss. That is what this post is about – investing in your bliss. This is what I recommend you do this weekend. Begin to form a ‘Bliss budget’. An amount of money dedicated to purchasing things a little above and beyond what you might normally spend. Before we get carried away, let me add a small caveat to this. This money should not put you in financial hardship. Do not justify spending your entire paycheck at the casino as practicing being more of a risk taker.

The important point is to get into the habit of spending money on things that bring you joy without feeling guilty. These need not be large items, but ones that you normally would not treat yourself to. A slightly better bottle of wine, dinner in a nicer place or an expensive slice of cheese. Then take a moment to really enjoy these items. Share the wine with a good friend or drink it all yourself while watching your favorite movie or reading your favorite book. Light a candle, pull out your computer and slowly snack on your red wine infused cheese as you write your daily blog. Take your time to savor the moment of bliss you have invested in. Relish in the moment. You may even take a little time to jot in a diary about it or record your thoughts in some fashion.

Why would we do all this? Adding peaceful moments of bliss in a chaotic, crazy world can help balance out the stress you will face and reaffirm your self-worth to yourself. So go ahead, you’re worth it!

YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!


The focus of this post will look at two different items, perspective and potential. Let us look at the first one, perspective. A lot of us when chasing a goal, be that a job, relationship or certain economic stature, compare our private beginnings to others public achievements. Let us say we are trying to promote a book we have recently written. We may have been working on this several months or even a year. We look up and see other authors who are routinely on the New York Time’s bestseller list. We wonder why we don’t have the same fortune as a Dean Koontz let’s say. Better yet, why hasn’t our book become a major motion picture like Stephen King had?
Comparing our struggle to someone else’s accomplishments not only makes little sense, it also does not serve us. We do not know the struggle they have also went through. We may be further along than they were at the same point in their career. Think about how comparing your worst with someone else’s best would make you feel? It would leave you doubting yourself and leaving you with a lack of motivation at best, depression at its worst. Do not do this to yourself. Each individual has their own skills. It may serve you to research those you emulate and discover the challenges they have faced along the way. You may learn how they made it through and better yet, how they overcame some of the same challenges you may now be facing.
The second area of focus is potential. You may want to be the next LeBron James, but you are having trouble making your high school basketball team. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team. That is not to say without countless hours of practice you cannot excel as well. You may have a better three-point shot or be better defensively. You never know what skills you have buried inside of you. They say hard work is the great equalizer. It also happens to be a great tool for developing and polishing skills you naturally have. In my case, by writing every day my skill as a writer has improved dramatically.

A fun thing to do is to look back as see how different you may be now than you were years ago. It may cause you to cringe at times but you will be able to see the improvement. This is great in the gym too. I know there are times I feel like I am not getting anywhere. I look at photos or compare numbers from the year prior and realize how much further I am. It is also a great motivator to keep working. There is nothing worse than looking back and seeing you have moved in the wrong direction.
A quick note to add. This not only takes place with comparing ourselves to famous people, but can hold just as true with the neighbor down the block. You look at the soccer mom who seems to balance it all and have a tendency to be jealous. Really behind closed doors she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We cannot judge what goes on in public with what we struggle with for years in private. Think of your own life and what people may think of you without knowing what you do in private. You have the potential and can develop the perspective to be truly great!

ALL IN HOW WE LOOK AT IT

Challenges. We all go through them. Some are small, like leaving your cup of coffee on top of your car as you drive away. Some are big, such as a breakup or losing someone. We have little or no control over most of these. Who would voluntarily give up their dose of caffeine just to decorate the outside of their car?

What we all have in common is the fact that our lives include challenges. Some may appear to have more than others, but if we look closely we discover we all have them. What separates us is how we respond to challenges. How come some of us walk away bitter and some walk away better? This can even happen differently with the same person depending on the situation. I can say that I do not always respond best from challenges and often it takes the help of others to put me on the right track.

What makes the difference? The key here is perspective. As the picture above notes, some people have muscles and some have wounds. It is not a matter of minimalizing your pain or struggle, but putting it to work for you. As Eric Thomas, one of my favorite coaches reminds us, don’t waste your pain. It is bad enough that terrible things happen in life. Let us do our best to make use of them by gaining strength from the struggle we have survived or in some cases are currently going through. Print out this picture or maybe even just write it down for some good motivation!

THE MAGIC FORMULA

Half of my time engaged in my writing career includes observing the ideas of others. After all, finding ways to live a positive rewarding life should include as many successful resources as possible. Today’s post was learned watching a talk given by Jack Canfield, one of the authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Jack was speaking about his great book The Success Principles. One of the things he mentioned that really grabbed my attention was a formula you can use to determine and control the success and joy experienced in your life.

A formula for figuring out life? If you are picturing a chalkboard full of equations do not worry. This formula only has three parts and can be used by everyone. The beautiful thing about researching is that a great deal of the information you come across is very similar. The unique thing is how it is presented. This formula is such an example. It can be difficult or at the very least not very motivating to try and remember some esoteric phrase or cliché quote. A formula is simple and easy to adjust. Let us take a quick look at the formula and discuss how we can use it to change our life and the level of joy we experience in it.

E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome)

Using a math comparison let us say this equation is 2 + 2 = 4. Sounds pretty simple, does it not? The first part of the equation – Event – we often to not have control over. It is like the first number ‘2’ in our example. Let us say we are not thrilled with the outcomes in areas of our lives. That would be the ‘4’ in our example. If we have no control over the first ‘2’ and we are not happy with ‘4’ as the outcome, we must change the second ‘2’. This is also known as our response. This we have complete control over. It may not be easy, but when we learn to control our response to any event it will change our outcomes. This will change our life and the amount of joy in it. I suggest printing or writing this formula somewhere you see it every day.

Let us take this one step further. In our equation let us use negative numbers to represent negative aspects. If the first number or the first ‘2’ is negative, that is a negative event. These often happen to us and again are beyond our control. We get fired, the love of our life finds they love someone else or a million other situations can happen. We have the choice of not responding, or making the second ‘2’ a ‘0’, that leaves the situation equally as negative as when we began. We can also respond with negativity. This could range from anger, sadness, revenge and depending on the severity could be anything from a ‘-1’ to a ‘-100’. The great the number behind the negative sign, in other words the more negative our response, the more negative the outcome will be.

On the other hand, we could also respond positively. Perhaps the situation was mildly negative, like a long wait in line at the store. We will say this is a ‘-1’. We could use this time to send our spouse a text message letting them know how much we love them and how proud we are to be with them. That would be a positive response to the situation. We could say this response was a ‘+3’. -1 +3 = 2. The situation could still turn out positive by the time we get home. Our spouse could be filled with love and gratitude for our gesture. If, on the other hand, we spend our time thinking about how much this is an inconvenience on our day and get ourselves all worked up we would be having a negative response. We will say this is a ‘-3’. Again, that would depend on the level of anger. Now our formula looks like this -1 + -3 = -4. We have taken a bad situation and made the outcome even more negative. What could this mean? Perhaps we treat the cashier harshly, or come home to our spouse in a bad mood and jeopardize the chance for a romantic evening.

If we are dealt a terribly negative situation, say a ‘-10’. Let use our lover leaving us for this example. It was beyond our control. We have already seen by responding negatively, such as spreading bad gossip about them or trying to do something vengeful, will only lead to a greater negative outcome. What if we can use this to our advantage? Perhaps we can learn lessons about modifying our own behavior for future spouses? Maybe we can take notes as to what type of people to avoid dating in the future? These positives could only amount to say a ‘+5’. Plugging that into our equation -10 + 5 = -5. You could see the situation may still suck, but not quite as bad. The ability to create the most positive responses can increase our ability to overcome, or at the very least lessen the effect, of the most negative situations.

Lastly, there is what to me is the most puzzling of all equations, but one I witness far too often. That is where we have a positive event. Let us say we get a raise which could be a ‘+4’. Again, the number could depend on the amount of the raise, how  bad we needed the raise or even how expected the raise was. A normal response would be joy or gratitude, let us say a +3. That equation would be 4 + 3 = 7. The outcome would be made even more positive by our response. There are those who do what I consider baffling. They receive their raise a +4 and instead of adding positivity to that event, do the very opposite. Perhaps they complain it wasn’t enough or how long it was overdue. They might even end up feeling dissatisfied or even angry with getting more money. This response could be anything from a ‘-4’ to perhaps a ‘-6’. Our equation now looks like this 4 + (-6) = -2. You can take a positive event and turn it into a negative outcome!

So, print out this equation and work on controlling your response. The more positive your responses, the more positive your outcomes will be. Lots of positive outcomes lead to a positive life. It will help us cope better with the negative and only intensify the positive!

DOES IT MATTER?


We have all heard the saying If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? The premise being if there is no receiver, does the action still matter? The quick answer is “yes”. According to the laws of physics, the sound still happens. Dynamite does not silently explode because the workers have retreated to a safe distance. That should seem quite obvious.
This had me thinking of the flip-side of this equation. What about the creative side of things? What if you were to plant a tree and nobody was around to see you do it? Would it still matter? The quick answer again would be “yes”. The tree would still grow. People would enjoy its shade and any fruits if it was that sort of tree. The birds would still be able to use its branches to rest or perhaps even build their nests. The tree would still filter the air to make the world better for everyone.
What does all of this have to do with living a more amazing life? Plenty. I am not just speaking to the arborists that read this blog. This question came up during an absolutely wonderful heart-felt conversation between the love of my life, Margie, and me. The question was – If you do an act of kindness and nobody knows about it or benefits from it in the moment, is it still worth doing? The quick answer, much like our tree analogies, is “yes”. This can be as simple as picking up a piece of litter as you are walking. In the long run it may not change the world, and may seem insignificant, but it is not. Many of you may be thinking “Why should I go out of my way to pick up someone else’s garbage?” Really, you shouldn’t have to. It is their responsibility and their fault it is on the ground.
So why do these things? The reasons are plenty, and I would really enjoy hearing some of the ones you think I may have missed in the comments below. On a personal level, doing kind and right things when nobody is watching is what developing a strong character is all about. If you do what is right when there is no one watching, you will do the right thing when people are watching. This holds true for many aspects of life. Healthy eating comes to mind. If you tell everyone you are eating healthy, but then go home and eat half a dozen doughnuts your waist will resemble…well…a doughnut. The same is true for gossip. If you talk well of others in public, but still gossip with your coworkers about this person or that, your spirit will not be at peace.
Another reason is simple, yet very important – you never know if somebody is watching. At my day job at the post office we have a poster reminding the carriers to handle each package with the care and respect it deserves. There is a not so subtle reminder that everyone has cell phones and even if you don’t think anyone is watching, before long the whole world may be watching. I have heard people say things such as “Well just because somebody does something once, it may not be who they really are.” or the very insightful phrase, “They wouldn’t have done that if they thought someone was watching/listening.” The point is this – we are what we do whether someone is watching or listening or not. We are what we repeatedly say and do. Of course we all make mistakes and that should be understood, but it is important to cultivate our character by acting consistently whether someone is watching or not.
Also, doing something good when we know, or at least think, that no one is watching gives us a good feeling inside. If you are new to this blog it we often stress the importance of keeping our state positive. Being in a positive state helps us reduce stress, increase joy and just feel better about ourselves. When that happens the ripple effect is our treatment of others and the attitude we bring to our jobs, family, friends and the world at large.
Lastly, like in the tree example, this has an unknown ripple effect. Later, by picking up that littler, we may bring a person joy when they see a clean street instead of one filled with garbage. We may have helped prevent an animal or child from picking that garbage up and putting it in their mouth. We may have had a great impact and never know it. Is doing something good or right worth doing if nobody ever knows or we can’t see the positive impact? The answer, as you may have deciphered, is a resounding “YES”.

WHO WERE YOU?

We often hear gurus all over telling us that our pain can be our greatest teacher. It can be rather hard to listen to when you are watching them climb into their private jet and return to their own island. I am not inferring that the rich have no problems, or that their advice is any less valid because they have wealth. If we are being honest, hearing that kind of advice from someone who has the appearance at least, of not being in pain can be hard to listen to.

 Shortly after the year 2000, as my study in self-improvement was just beginning, I had a moment that in reflection helped me grow substantially. When I was going through it, however, all I could tell you was it sucked. That is how life is sometimes. Steve Jobs said we can never connect the dots moving forward, only looking back. Sure it would be great to know how your current struggle is going to pay off in the future. It certainly would make going through it a lot easier. I guess that is where something called faith comes into play.

Back to my personal story and how it can benefit us all. Shortly after 2000 the United States Postal Service, the fine edifice where I step most of my waking hours informed me although I was a model employee, due to declining mail volume my hours would be cut to about 10 a week. What made matters better is that to receive these hours I would have to be available Monday through Saturday from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. making it near impossible to find a second job to make up the lost hours. Luckily for me, about a month later they did realize I was an employee worth keeping and found a position for me.

Here is what really threw me, I found myself not knowing what or more to the point who I would be if I left the Post Office. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but at the time I had been working there 13 years, roughly 50 hours a week. It became a part of my identity. In a world of corporate downsizing this can be an all to common situation. It is not limited to jobs either. Think of the end of a relationship. You fell in love and were perhaps in love for a great deal of time. You shared everything, they were not only your lover, but your best friend. All of that is exactly how it should be. What happens when that is gone? The person leaves, be it through walking away, cheating or even passing away. You feel as though a part of you has died. What then?

Just like the loss of a job, it is an end of a relationship. No matter how intense or good the relationship is, job or person, it is a weaving of two paths. Trying to keep this in perspective is one way to help us carry on. I am in no way inferring that this is an easy thing to do. The better the relationship, the more it will hurt. Even in that pain you must remember to balance that with gratitude. You had great moments some may never experience. Maybe that man that seemed so perfect for you turned out to be a no good snake. Maybe he even slept with your sister…or your brother for that matter. The fact remains you still received moments of joy and bliss out of the relationship. The fact they ruined it by being a snake simply means they gave up the right to experience more of those moments with you. Maybe someone you loved passed away? There are no opportunities to share more moments no matter how much you both would have loved that. It is time to realize how rare having someone like that in your life is. Reflect on those memories when they come up not as a sense of loss or that you will never have them again. No, reflect on them with gratitude you had the opportunity to share that with them. Maybe even offer up a word of thanks to their memory for such loving memories. Again, not saying or even imagining any of this is easy. Pain is something we get through day by day.

Lastly, and this is what helped me through my job challenge, is have people in your life that have known you before that job or relationship started. An old friend is a gift that is more priceless than gold. When I was feeling a loss of identity, I called up my good friend and former bandmate, Russ. We have know each other since we were around 13 years-old. I asked Russ a simple but bizarre question, “Who was I before the post office?” Not only did he remind me of that, he even offered some ways in which I may have lost myself due to the post office. Good friends can tell you ways in which you kind of suck without being too hurtful. \

Discovering there was a person who existed before and more important separate from, the job (again this can work for relationships as well) helped me in two important ways. First, it made me determined to keep who I was separate from what I did for a living. This can also be helpful in a relationship. Margie and I are amazing as a couple and people recognize that, but we each have our own personal identities as well. For example, if you want a great cake for your special occasion you best talk to her. Need a speech written? More my forte. The second way in which this liberated me was I realized I was free to decide who I wanted to be as a person going forward, despite whatever foolish actions the Postal Service may take. Who you are should never depend on what you do for a living or who you happen to date. Those things have a great influence on you and it is your job to make sure it is a positive one, but at the end of the day it is you who decides who you are going to become.

In closing, remember that you are not a victim in your life, but a creator. We may not have control over the actions of others and how it can impact us, but we do have complete control over how we react and how we can put the challenges to use in our lives. It will not be easy but it will definitely be worth it.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS

Let us begin this post with a disclaimer. Although the title of this post is “Simple Solutions” I do realize not all problems have simple solutions. Although the picture offers unique and creative ways of addressing the problems listed I realize there are very few ‘one size fits all’ solutions. All this being said, let us take a look at a few of these ideas.

I am going to just talk about a few, but I would love to hear your feedback on any you have tried or any you think may work better. Let us look at the one on grief. Loss, sadness usually is one of the most difficult things to overcome. This takes time and patience. Just as a physical wound takes time to heal, so does a spiritual and emotional wounds. Just like its physical counterparts, the bigger the emotional or spiritual wound, the longer it takes to heal. How can starting a new ritual help? Rituals not only help define who we are, but often determine who we are. When you are stressed if your ritual is to go for a run, that will have an entirely different outcome than if your ritual for stress is to drink yourself to sleep. Rituals can also help keep us present and pay honor to people and beliefs. Starting a new ritual can help us heal by reminding us to enjoy the present while mourning the past. Ritual can serve honor to the loss we are grieving. Rituals can also serve as a great reminder that our life has more to live. That is a very important message to give ourselves.

If you are lonely, calling someone you love just to say “hello” is a great solution for several reasons. One, it is proactive. Loneliness can often be accompanied by or followed by a feeling of helplessness. By reaching out to someone else we are exercising control. The other reason is simple, it will bring them joy. How will it make you feel to bring someone else joy? How will that affect your loneliness? Lastly, who is to say they are not feeling a little lonely themselves? Even if they are not feeling lonely, who would not want to hear a “Hello” from a dear friend? Somebody calling with no agenda other than to share a good conversation.

Lastly, the solution offered for feeling inadequate. Remember your strengths. I feel it is a good idea to keep a list of both your strengths and accomplishments nearby at all times. When I feel that my writing isn’t reaching anyone or making the impact I desire I have a list of people I have helped in the past. I also can look at my Amazon.com review on my book A Happy Life for Busy People. If you want to add to them, I would certainly welcome your contribution. The world is always to quick to tell you what it is you are no good at. It is up to us to often be our own cheerleaders.

Take this list as a suggestion. An even better idea is to create one of your own. After all, nobody knows better what works for you than you. Think of the areas of your life and emotions that always seem to get you down. Create a chart like the one above tailored to you personally. Feel free to leave some of your suggestions to help others get started.

THE DIFFERENCE A SPACE MAKES

I enjoy the reminder is this picture. As we begin the week are we mindful or is our mind full? Taking time to focus on filling our minds with specific things we desire such as relaxed visions of our goals and dreams or things we are grateful for is perfectly wonderful, but that is not what our minds are usually full of is it? No, usually we have passwords, a code to our ATM card, everything on our ‘to do list’ and we can throw in doing our best to remember to pick up toilet paper from the store before we find ourselves in a most unfortunate situation.

Being mindful has an entirely different meaning. Being able to keep in mind the feelings of those around you is important. Being able to keep yourself in the present will help us realize how much beauty surrounds us every day. I use the example of taking your car to the grocery store by yourself. Upon arriving looking around and wondering who drove. I have been guilty of this myself a time or several. Our thoughts can be so busy with the next thing we never appreciate the current thing. Is was John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” 

With most of us walking around with our faces buried in our cell phones, we may miss the beautiful sites of nature. As we drive to work worried about all we have to do once we get there, we may miss the fabulous new coffee shop that just opened, or even just the beautiful weather outside. As we wait impatiently for our specialty coffee drink to be created, we fail to notice how hard the employees are working, the wonderful smells in the café or all of the interesting people who are enjoying their day there as well.

Life is full of moments. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy each and every one of them to the fullest. We do not want to arrive at the end of life wondering where it all went. We want to go peacefully filled with the blissful and loving memories of a life well lived. Today, don’t just have a mind full take a moment to be mindful.