FINDING JOY WHERE THERE WAS NONE

Above is a picture of a trail I was walking on this past Monday. As you can see, the trees are turning colors and many of them have already lost their leaves entirely. It is fall here in the city of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This means temperatures are starting to dip, birds are packing their bags and flying south for the winter ( I am a little bit jealous but I will get over it ) Snow will soon cover the ground and there will be a few days when even stepping outside will be hazardous to your health. This is truly not the climate for me. I suffer from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is where feelings of emotional depression and hopelessness can creep in as the seasons change. In short, my mood tends to drop with the temperature. This has something to do with the bodies reduced exposure to sunlight they say. All I know is, for me, winter sucks.

As I continue to further my plan to become a best-selling author and move to San Diego, I am also on the lookout for ways to make living in a northern climate more bearable. My beautiful Margie bought me a “Happy Lamp” which mimics the sunlight. As a matter of fact, I am using it as I write this blog for all of you. I make sure to exercise daily, take vitamin D and do all of the other things they recommend. Still, at times especially after the holidays, I can find myself in a serious funk! As I was walking on this breezy fall day watching the leaves fall from the trees I noticed something off to the side of the trail – a mushroom growing right out of a tree!

As you can see in the picture above, it almost looked fake. My mother, who was walking with me at the time, laughed with me as we marveled at the strangeness of it. About a mile further down the trail I saw something else, a sign in the middle of some tall grass. This indicated there was some additional side trail we had not known about earlier. Although we choose not to explore it that day due to an over consumption of coffee prior to heading out on this walk, we certainly made a note of it. Here is the funny thing, neither of these things would have been noticeable if the leaves had been on the trees or if the grass had been full and green. It was only through the ‘death’ of the season that we discovered these things.

I began to ponder as we walked along. Thinking as I walked, which I so often do. This is true for the passing of the seasons, but it is also true in many other areas of our lives. When we lose a job, we not only develop a sudden appreciation for the reliable income that comes with a job we must go to everyday, but we also are forced to be creative in our search for new employment. We brush up both our resume and networking skills. Perhaps we consider taking a new course or starting that side business. We may even have an opportunity to pursue something more in line with our passions. It is only with the loss of the job that all of this is usually made possible.

Even the sad situation of losing someone we care about brings many things to light. Memories and things you may not have appreciated about that person. Love for, and the importance of, life itself. The value of the relationships we have with others. Making sure that we live our lives in such a way that we give the most to others while we are here. All of these very important, and often positive, events seem to occur after we lose someone close to us.

Could any of these things happen without the loss? Perhaps. I could venture off the path while I am walking and see what I find. We can always start our passion based business or brush up our resume while still employed. Perhaps there are also ways to more fully appreciate the fragility of life without losing someone who means so much to us. These things are possible, but are often only brought to light through a loss. It is a great lesson the change of seasons can teach all of us. Even a future best-selling author in a state with 9 months of winter and 3 months of very poor sledding could come to appreciate some aspect of winter.

The point here is that in many situations that we feel a loss of joy, there are gifts to be found. In every challenge there is the seed of equal to or greater opportunity. This winter, in addition to the steps I am already taking, I will look for additional gifts the cold weather reveals. Snuggling closer to the beautiful woman I have in my life. Appreciation for the wonderful meals I can enjoy without leaving my house. The simple pleasures of a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter day. That is not to say that I would pass on that ocean front villa in the islands, but until then I shall look for the joy where there once was none.

IT IS ALL IN HOW YOU LOOK AT IT

This was actually on the end of the string of a tea bag I was enjoying before writing this. It made me stop and think. Life really is 10% what happens to us and 90% what we do with it. This includes what meaning we assign events in our life. We lost our job. Does that mean we are a failure like our parents told us we would be because we didn’t go to college? Does it mean that the universe is pushing us in a different direction where we can better serve others and in turn be more fulfilled ourselves? The answer to both is the same – yes and no.

Are you confused so far? The reason why it can mean two entirely different things is because things mean what we decide they mean. This is why the old adage Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion is so important. What we decide things mean can be swayed a great deal by the emotional state we are in. Another reason that maintaining a sunny disposition can serve us in many more ways than just feeling good. Let us use the popular situation of having a disagreement with our spouse. Perhaps it is a big one. It may seem at the time that this person has entirely different values than we do. It may seem like they do not care or respect our values. Going on that assumption, it would seem a rather pointless endeavor to pursue this relationship further. After we give our chance to cool off and engage in some calm communication, we are likely to discover this is not the case at all. Maybe our partner misunderstood what the situation meant to us. Maybe they do have a value that appears to be in conflict with ours in this situation. Instead of saying it is hopeless, ask yourself how both of your values could be honored.

One of my favorite quotes right here. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” I think Mr. Shakespeare was on to something here. Trust me when I tell you that I thought this statement was filled with more fertilizer that a farmer’s field in spring. “Easy for you to say Billy! I just lost my job and my family is depending on me. You have been dead for hundreds of years!” I figured once you have passed on you no longer have to worry about gainful employment or, more to the point, of losing said employment. While this may be true, I’ll have to get back to you on that from the great beyond, it doesn’t change the truth of the quote. In the job loss example from above there are two ways of viewing what happened and they are pretty close to the opposite. Either one could also be right.

If this is true, and unless someone can convince me differently, it most certainly is. What is the point of doing our best to view things in a positive light? Why be one of those people. You know the ones. Everything seems to be going from bad to worse for them and they act as if they are about to open their birthday presents. What do we say about those people? They have their heads in the clouds? They are wearing rose-colored glasses? It is not that they are denying that there are possibilities that things could be bad, because they can. They are focused on the fact that things could have happened for a good reason. Is that possibly true? Could it be possible that the reason we stepped in little gift our neighbor’s dog left us on the sidewalk could have been for a good reason? What if it ruined our favorite dress shoes? The ones we just bought…for a whole lot of money? How on earth could all of this be a good thing? Let me ask you this question. Is it possible, not 100% certain just possible, that the time we spent changing our pair of shoes and cursing at the neighbor’s dog despite the fact he does not speak a human language, saved us from something worse? Could it be possible that time put us a bit behind which caused us to miss the driver who went through a red light 2 miles down the road where we would have been? Is this possible? Of course it is. There are a million other reasons why it could have happened. Some good, some bad.

We are again faced with the question, “Why choose to focus on the positive reasons for a negative situation?” For one, it really pisses off our negative friends, which is always kind of fun. More importantly, it helps us maintain a healthy emotional state. Why does that matter? In our first example of a job loss, the positive explanation was the universe was pushing us to do something that would be more personally fulfilling and serve the greater good. If we were to believe this what actions would we take? We would begin to think what we are passionate about. We would consider how we could pursue that interest that may benefit us from an economic position. We could look for ways to use our passion to solve a problem or serve others, which would lead to an economic opportunity. Even if we needed to take some other employment while we thought about these things, we still would have a driven and optimistic attitude. This could help us weather continued challenges.

What if we believed that we have just grown to become the failure we were told we were going to be? What actions would be take then? We may take whatever job is first offered to us. We would not do so while looking for better opportunities such as the first example. No, we may think that is what we deserve for being a failure. We may think thoughts such as, “Why even bother looking for a job I would love? I will just fail at that too.” or “Nobody will hire a failure like me so why should I even bother applying?” If we feel that this happened for a negative reason such as the world is a cruel place, we have bad luck or some other less than inspiring thought, how motivated would we be to take action? Not very. After all, if the world is a cruel place and we always have bad luck why bother trying. Guess what happens if we take that road? If we stop taking action towards improving our situation, it is 100% certain that our situation will not improve. Then, at least we can feel that we were right about that. In fact, as long as we feel that way about our situation, we will act that way. If we continue to act that way, our situation will be that way. It is some sort of suck-filled, self-fulfilling prophecy.

I hope you can see the power in how we chose to perceive the world and our place in it. It should be apparent why deciding to focus on the positive possibilities is far more helpful at resolving a negative situation than focusing on the negative possibilities. Life is hard enough, do not work against yourself. By choosing to focus on positive possibilities, we see everything as a gift. That kind of mindset will have you feeling as if every day is a chance to open birthday presents. Oh, and if somebody accuses you of having your head in the clouds? Just tell them they should really join you because the air is so much better up there. If they say you are wearing rose-colored glasses? Ask if they want to try them on. Tell them how much better the world looks through them.

A STRANGE OPPORTUNITY

It amazes me how life presents us opportunities that we routinely miss. Misfortune, challenges and pain. Those are three things nobody likes to have in their life and things that everybody does have in their lives. When you are going through something it is often very hard to see the positive in it. Whether that be a heartbreak, job loss, loss of a loved one or a host of other unpleasant situations, we can put them to use for us and others.

This is the very method I used to put the situation of getting the Coronavirus to work for myself and for others. When we go through something challenging, there are 3 ways in which it can be turned from a negative to a positive. Are you interested? I hope so. If we can turn the negatives in our life into positives, can you imagine how that would improve the quality of our life? It would make it, dare I say, amazing! Let us take a look at them one at a time. By using even one of these 3 secrets we can begin to put life to work for us instead of being at the mercy of life.

The first secret is learning and growing. People have one of two relationships with challenges and failures. Either they view it as the end. They lost. It won’t work. Things such as that. Then there are others who view it as a stepping stone to success. As Thomas Edison continued to fail in his attempts to find something to use as a filament in the light bulb, he remarked, “I have not failed, I just discovered another way not to make a light bulb.” Even something as painful as the loss of a loved one can teach us many things. It can help us discover ways to help us heal our heart. It can deepen our spiritual connection. It can even show us who will be there for us when we are at our lowest. Lessons are most often not fun to learn, but they help us grow and develop more than any other period of our life. We always learn more from our trials than our successes.

The second thing we can do is what today’s picture speaks of. We can inspire others by the way we handle things. When I shared my virus Journey with everyone it helped me as much as I helped others. On the days I did not feel like getting up and writing a post or shooting a video for my YouTube channel, I thought about the people watching my journey. Often, things are not that public.

We can use the fact people are watching us to motivate us. I am always on the lookout for ways I can improve and be the best man I can be in my relationship with my lady Margie. One of the many ways I use to stay motivated is that I remind myself how many people are watching how I treat her. Her family, her children, our friends and even those who might want to take my place in her heart. I would say at least once a week someone comments on our relationship. Usually, these are compliments about how loving we are. To me they serve not only as a reward for working so hard on our relationship, but a reminder that her and I do not live in a vacuum. People are watching.

The last positive thing we want to discuss about challenges is this – it provides you tools. When you go through something it gives you skills you can then use to help others going through the same situation. It gives you credibility. When someone is troubled, they will be more likely to listen to someone who has actually went through what they are going through. Following this equation, the more things you go through in life, the more you can help others. It is almost as if every challenge is a painful gift of sorts.

These three things may not take the pain or feeling of loss out of a situation in the moment, but they will help in time. Here is an added bonus – the more you use these three things, the more they become a part of you. When they become a part of you, the time it takes to go from pain to learning, inspiring and teaching becomes quicker and quicker. In my own life when something bad happens it has become so quick that I catch myself thinking, “Well this sucks but I will be able to use it for something good.” I would love to hear what you use to turn the negatives in your life into positives. The more ideas we share the more we can help each other!

IT’S TIME TO GO TO WAR!

It’s time to go to war! That may not sound like something you would hear on a website dedicating to living an amazing life, but then again it is exactly the thing you should read on a site like that. Any site that provides a ton of sunshine and rainbows can only help you so much. Life does not normally find us riding a unicorn to our wonderful job as king or queen of the kingdom of Happyville. There are challenges that we face every single day. In short, sometimes life sucks. That is not being negative, it is just being honest.

If we were to stop there and whine or just say to ourselves (or everyone around us) “My life sucks.” and sit on our butt doing nothing about it, there is a 100% chance two things will happen. 1.) we will feel terrible and like we have no control over our lives. 2.) our lives will continue to suck. These are not a maybe, but a certainty. If we do a few small things every so often, there will be a small chance every so often that things will get better.

If we want our lives to change we must go to war with whatever is challenging us. We must face it head on and attack it with all we have. Words like ‘war’ and ‘attack’ may bring up violence and lots of other negative thoughts, but that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about using every possible resource at our disposal to address and correct the issue. It may also involve gaining new resources that we can use to further attack the challenge. We cannot stop until we have won the war.

I am going to give you two quick examples to help better explain the concept. On Easter I injured my back. It was so bad I was unable to even walk the following day. This happened right after I recovered from the coronavirus. I could have sat there and said, “It is just one thing after another!” or asked, “Why me? Why do things keep going wrong?” I could have taken a few pain pills every so often and hoped for a miracle. No! I wanted my back better and wanted it better now. I contacted my doctor and asked a million different questions. He recommended rest and anti-inflammatories. As I followed those instructions I also read articles online about helping back pain. Advice about applying both ice and heat and when to do both. I also watched videos and stretches that might help and positions to sleep that may ease pain. In other words I did everything I could think of to tackle the problem.

Let us say you find yourself looking for a new job currently. You put your resume on a few job sites and wait. How likely will it be that you will get hired in a hurry to a job that you enjoy and are good at? I would say slim to none. While putting resumes on job sites is a very good idea to do, I would continually look at other means as well. Stopping in places you would like to work and inquire on employment opportunities. Learn different ways you could update your resume and make it more attractive to potential employers. How about brushing up on your skills and knowledge to make you more attractive to employers? Reading publications in the field in which you would like to be employed. Networking with professionals in that industry. Which one of these should you do while looking for a job? The answer is all of them if you really want a good job and want it soon. Don’t just whine about your unemployment, go to war with it! Do everything in your power to tackle the problem.

As you can see, going to war can be one of the most powerful and positive things you can do. Next time you have a challenge you’re facing, ask yourself, “Am I just whining about this problem, or am I going to war with it?” Your honest answer should tell you how to proceed. One last reminder. In war they are constantly inventing new and more lethal weapons. You should do the same in the war you are facing. Find new and inventive ways to tackle the problem. They might not all work, but there is 100% chance that sitting on your butt whining will not improve your situation at all.

1 ANTIDOTE FOR FEAR

As you can see I got this picture from a website I follow called Metal Motivation. I highly recommend you check them out. A lot of good material there. This photo brings to mind a good counter to fear – hard work. When I find myself in a situation that brings a fair deal of uncertainty to my life, I immediately get to work. Not in a crazy random fashion, but by taking steps to either address the fear, or at least improve myself and my situation. Tony Robbins once said “Progress equals happiness.” Not only is that true, but it does a hell of a number on fear too. Let us take a look at a few examples.

Today people have a great deal of fear about the coronavirus. While most of us cannot get to work on finding a cure or vaccine, we can get to work on improving our situation and ourselves. One of the best things we can do is work on our health and strengthening our immune system. Ways we can tackle this are making sure we do our best to maintain our physical fitness, eat healthy and make sure we are getting the proper nutrients. Although this will not make certain that we do not contract COVID-19, it will provide us with a better chance of making it through. Combine this with the recommended safety measures and you will take a great deal of fear out of the situation. After all, fear compromises your immune system.

Another situation many of us are rightfully concerned about is employment. Will our job be eliminated? Maybe it already has been and we are worried what happens when the unemployment runs out. As we wait for the world to reopen, and the economy to get back to fully operational there are many things we can do to put ourselves in a prime situation to thrive once it does. There are plenty of places offering free courses to help expand our knowledge base. If logging in to an online university is not your style there are plenty of free videos on YouTube to aid us in learning a new skill. Perhaps brushing up our resume and applying for new jobs is something we can put our time to use. Networking, making connections, exploring employment sites. Working hard on all of these things can give us a little more feeling of control.

Lastly, after spending some time in quarantine with our significant other, we may worry they might become disenfranchised with us. If this time together has you concerned about your relationship in any way, there is one solution. GET. TO. WORK. Yes, relationships are work, but that work pays some of the highest wages. Keeping the one you love happy will ensure that your castle remains a sanctuary and not a battlefield. There are many books, cds and even DVDs you can pick up to give you some pointers to improve your relationship. Still, with all of the media and online tools available, relationships are not ‘one size fits all’. That is why my main suggestion to anyone looking to help their spouse fall in love with them all over again, or even just to strengthen the love they already have is to listen. This may not sound glamorous, but it is a golden ticket when it comes to love. You can learn so much when you listen from a position of seeking to understand and learn. Perhaps you wife mentions loving fresh cut flowers, pick a fun and cheery bunch up on your way home. Maybe your husband mentions his favorite kind of beer…you are getting the idea. People will generally share their likes, dislike, wants and don’t wants if we just listen closely. Then there is the ultimate, the gift of truly being heard. Just pausing to listen without any other purpose than to let your partner be heard and understood.

Whatever element of your life you may be feeling fear in, combat it with a lot of hard work. It will offer you a feeling of control and you will end up a better person at the end of the day.

DO THIS… SO YOU WON’T HAVE TO DO THAT.

Last Friday, I heard something that caused me to pause and think. This time it came from my friend Travis. As someone was coming up to perform a song while Margie and I were DJing this show, I heard them say, “Wait! I have to get ready.” To which our friend Mr. Jones informed them, “Be ready and you won’t have to get ready.” I thought about that for a second and was struck as to how true this statement was.

How many of us only look at other opportunities to earn income when we feel our job is threatened? Is it only when we have done something wrong or our spouse is unhappy that we look for ways to be loving and romantic? It also reminded me of a quote from Eric Thomas, “You must be ready for the opportunity of a lifetime in the lifetime of the opportunity.” Meaning, if you wait to prepare yourself until you have an opportunity, it may be too late. Can you imagine if an athlete only began training once they were drafted by a team? By the time they were in shape and had their skills down it might be too late.

I can’t count the friends I have that only begin to workout and watch their diets when they have a wedding or high school reunion to attend. The truth is we could be surprised by a friend tomorrow asking us to stand up in their wedding. We could be invited to participate in a 5K charity run for a cause we really believe in. There are countless times when the need to physically perform could benefit us. If we wait to get ready until that moment we may never be ready in time.

It is far more than just being in shape. Working on and discovering better ways to love your partner should be a daily activity. Always be listening to your partner. You never know when they may tell you a little bit of information that you could use to melt their heart and bring peace and joy to their soul.

What about on the job? If you wait until there is a promotion available to give your best, the chances of you being picked for the position will be slim to none. If, however, you have shown what a great worker you are with constant effort day in and day out, your name will be at the top of the list.

Being ready takes a lot of the pressure off of life. There is no stress and running around when you are trying to get ready. Even if some of your skills need a little polish, at least you will be prepared for the most part. Do your best to be ready every day and you will never have to get ready.

WHY BE YOUR BEST?

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with my good friend Russ. We have known each other for roughly 30 years. Whenever we talk I always gain a great amount of inspiration and clarity. Not only on life itself, but on me. A friend who has known you for that length of time can really share some insightful things. I am always grateful for that. In our most recent conversation, Russ noted that I am “always positive and encouraging” While this may be a slight exaggeration, it is indeed my goal.

After some discussion as to why this is I had what can only be described as an ‘A-ha moment’. I told him the reason why I appear to be positive all of the time is because I bring who I am to everything I do. For example, my goal in writing these posts is to share knowledge I have come across in hopes of helping all of us live a more amazing life. Why? The reason is simple. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. When I DJ, my goal is to help every person I come in contact with feel better about themselves or about life in general. Same thing at the post office, when I go out for coffee or grocery shopping.

This can be both a blessing and a curse. Earlier in my life, I brought myself everywhere I went as well. The problem was I was not the best version of myself. This is a very important reason to always be your best. You follow you wherever you go. We can do our best to pretend to be somebody else, but at the end of the day our true persona will always shine through.

There is another very important reason to always do your best to be the best version of yourself. Inevitably we will be faced with challenges and disappointments in life. We will lose a job, a relationship will end or worst of all, we will lose somebody we love. When we are the best versions of ourselves it will save us a good deal of heartache. One of the worst feelings anyone can pile on a bad situation is regret. If we lose a job that is not the time to say to ourselves, “I wish I would have performed better.” If we lose a relationship it is a little too late to say, “I wish I would have been better for that person.” At funerals would you believe loss is not the most painful feeling? It is regret. I wish I wouldn’t have spoke harshly to that person, or I wish I would have said I love you one more time.

Chances are in your life all three things will happen at some point. If they don’t we can certainly practice gratitude, but that is another topic. If we are normal adults these situations will all happen. If we do our best at our jobs and still end up losing them at least we can say, “Well they lost a good employee!” and it will certainly help us land our future occupation. Even if your boss is a jerk, even if you dread going there, do your best. Not for them, but for you. The same holds true in a relationship. You may spend all of your energy and romance on someone and they still might break your heart. It is sad but true. How much better would it be to realize they just lost the best thing they will ever have. Not to mention it will save you years of beating yourself up over “I should have” and “What if…” When it comes to the loss of a loved one there will always be pain. That pain will only be compounded if we honestly did not give our all to that relationship. We will always wish we had more time with that person and did more, but if we did our best we can have peace in our hearts.

I urge you to call that person that needs to hear from you. Give your effort at work. Think of, and act on romantic notions you have with your partner. Even if things end badly, you will have the confidence and inner peace of knowing you did your best.

WHY IT WORKS: HAPPY PLAYLIST

In this picture is the lead singer of the rock band Jackyl and myself. You will notice that Margie has artfully cut her beautiful face out of the picture. I rather enjoy this band’s music and their live shows even more. Their music puts me in an energetic and fun frame of mind. Their lyrics may not be for everyone, but they work for me.

In my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People, as well as in my upcoming book, I strongly advocate putting together a ‘Happy Playlist’. This is exactly what it sounds like. Songs you enjoy that put you in a happy frame of mine. It just so happens my playlist includes several songs by the band Jackyl. In addition to their music bringing to mind enjoyable thoughts, they have also been fun and wonderful people every time that I have met them.

What does having a happy playlist accomplish? What it can do is facilitate a state change. An example is as follows. Let us imagine a position at your job opens up that will allow you to work more hours and earn more money. After coming back from a well-deserved vacation you discover your boss has decided that not only will you not have this job, they are going to do their best to eliminate it. This leaves you feeling not only under appreciated but disrespected as well.

Now, every time you come into work you know how little your boss values your contribution. This could leave you feeling less than motivated and rather dejected… I mean I would imagine that is how you feel. In order to approach your job and everything you need to accomplish you cannot come from that state or you will not do your best.

If you put on your headphones and turn up so 80’s hard rock (or whatever music does it for you) suddenly your mood shifts to something better. Will this change the fact that your boss is taking food off your table to make the situation more convenient for them? Of course it doesn’t. What it does do is allow you to approach your job, and your coworkers in a more healthy and objective state. This will prevent your bad mood and trying situation to grow like a snowball rolling downhill.

I suggest having a happy playlist stored in your phone, MP3 player or somewhere else handy.  The wonderful thing about this tool is that it works not only for unappreciative bosses, but for flat tires, traffic jams or anything else you face in life. It may not do much if anything to change the actual situation, but it will allow you to face that challenge in a much healthier state. That, my friends, can make all of the difference.

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.

THANKSGIVING TO GRATITUDE TO GRATEFUL

Six years ago on this very day I began this blog. It was Thanksgiving of 2012. A lot has changed since then as you might imagine. My post that day in 2012 was about gratitude. In the six years since that post was written I have learned, and experienced, a lot more about gratitude. It’s power to transform how you feel and perceive life. That, in turn, ultimately transforms the quality of your life. I have included a special section on gratitude in my upcoming book Living the Dream.

Recently, I read an article that gave me a whole new outlook on gratitude. It including something even more powerful and life altering – being grateful. Today, as we all hopefully are spending at least part of our day focused on what we have to be thankful for, allow me to introduce you to what I learned in this article. It will allow you to take what we observe on this most wonderful of holidays and use it to create a life that is far more rich and rewarding.

Thanksgiving. It is more than just a holiday it is an observance. Many spiritual practices have rituals of thanksgiving. Taking time out to observe and make special mention of all that we have in our lives that is going well and that we can be thankful for. This can happen once a year such as we are doing today. It can happen during religious or spiritual ceremonies or on special moments when we get together with friends. It may change our way of thinking and feeling for that day, or even for a couple of days. Soon, the thought of what is missing in our lives creeps back in and we live in a state of lack until that time again next year. That is true unless…

We tap into the power of gratitude. Gratitude to me should be something that we practice daily. Several times a day as often as we can. Why? Because the more we practice gratitude the better our life becomes. The definition for gratitude is to be appreciative for all the good you have in your life. You have hot water? You have electricity in your home? You have a job to earn a living? You can express gratitude for all of those things. Trust me when I tell you there is always something in your life to have gratitude for. You may be so out of practice in looking for the good it may take you a while to find it, but it is there. When you start looking for good things in your life they start to become easier to find. This, in turn, causes an increase in good feelings. What does an increase in frequency and intensity in good feelings get you? A more enjoyable life. That is where a lot of people stop, and that certainly is a great state to be in, but there is something better.

Grateful. How is being grateful different from expressing gratitude? Being grateful does not depend on good things happening to you. Remember our examples above? Let us take a another look at them? What happens if your hot water goes out? Being grateful means you understand what a blessing it is to have hot water as a normal circumstance and being without is a great reminder. Being grateful means you are still thankful that the water is clean and you have means in which you can heat it. Electricity go out? Being grateful means being thankful not only that it is usually available, but there are hard-working people on the job 24/7 to help get it back on track. Your job not what you like? Perhaps you even lost your job? Grateful is a chance to improve your budgeting skills and yourself while you pursue something that will bring you spiritual as well as monetary fulfillment.

If that last state sounds a bit like looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, it kind of is. Do yourself a favor and imagine what your life would be like if you were able to find joy and the good in life no matter what the outside circumstances were? You would be in a state of bliss most of the time! What would that give you? One hell of a great life. Trust me when I tell you I know this isn’t easy. I am working to develop a feeling of being grateful in my life. What a goal to pursue. Everyday I become closer to being able to appreciate the joy in life even in the toughest circumstances. That does not mean there are not days in which I falter. We will all have them. The sooner you get them out of the way, and the more you learn from them, the closer you will be to living a life feeling grateful.

As you observe this wonderful day of thanksgiving, begin to ponder how you can foster that feeling more often. I suggest starting with having gratitude for all the good that comes in your life. Taking a moment and appreciating those things. Then strive to feel grateful even in the face of challenges. Celebrate the fact you are alive every day to experience all the world has to offer. There is even beauty in pain. When we arrive at the state in which we can experience that, life becomes a state of magic.