REPELLING CAN BE POSITIVE

This post kind of follows a little in the footsteps of our last discussion, only it is a little more proactive. One way to reduce, if not eliminate, most negative souls in your life all together is to become a light of positivity. When sunshine-challenged people, or those with a negative disposition, encounter a positive soul they do one of two things. They either decide right away that this is not a person they want to be around or they work to destroy and bring down the positivity. These two actions have a similar motivation behind them – fear. As unpleasant as living as they do may be, that is their comfort zone. Giving up that negativity and embracing a more positive outlook is not only uncomfortable, but can be downright scary. These thoughts are usually subconscious, but exist just the same.

Let us explore the first option and why it may happen. They decide to that you are not a person they want to surround themselves with. This can lead to individuals no longer wanting to be a part of your life, or in some strange cases, people you meet picking up on your positivity right away and deciding to remain distant. Again, this comes from fear. If you live your life from a standpoint of negativity and encounter a positive person, you face the prospect that they may shed light on what a poor choice living in a negative state can be. Suddenly, you would be faced with the realization that living more positively would lead to a stronger immune system, fewer aches and pains and a lot more friends. Who wouldn’t want that right? Unfortunately, to get there requires admitting that the decisions you have been making up to this point were the incorrect ones. It also requires challenging many of the established beliefs you have such as life being against you, everyone is out to get you, life not being fair, etc. This would leave you feeling lost and a little unstable. It will also be a lot of hard work. Of course the reward would be a much healthier and more fulfilling life than you are living now, but it would be a lot easier and safer to just find a circle of people who reinforce your negative beliefs.

How about the second group of negative people? The ones who attack your positivity. They do it out of the same fear that their negative way of thinking may be incorrect. They also usually have a fair amount of jealousy. After all, you are happy and enjoying life despite often facing the same challenges they are feeling miserable about. They will often call you foolish. They will say you are wearing rose colored glasses or have your head in the sand. What should you do when attacked by such a person? Let them be. The more you respond to their attacks and negativity the more motivated they become. Being positive doesn’t mean not acknowledging the negative in life, it just means not focusing on it, or only focusing on it long enough to create a solution for dealing with it. Deflecting their negative criticisms with deflate their motivation for attacking you and they will search for someone who will be easier to tear down and join them in their world of negativity. There is a great deal of truth to misery loving company.

When it comes to negative people and their place in your life, take their breath away as the quote above says. Understand their desire to tear you down comes from a place of fear. Do your best to be a shining example of positivity. They will either decide that you will not allow their negativity to be an influence in your life and move along, or they may surprise you and seek to join you on the road to positivity. If this is the case, keep in mind all of the changes we discussed earlier this person will have to go through. Be patient and encouraging to them. They are trying to overcome a lifetime (or sometimes generations) of limiting beliefs and negativity. Just continue to be a shining example of the light of positivity. You will draw the ones who are ready to you and repel the ones that are not.

SHRED HATE

Further proof that self-improvement tips can come from places you do not expect, I give you the example above. A picture with a lot of great ideas. In these days and times it would seem hate and negativity are gaining a big foothold. These are simple steps in which we can turn the tide. I saw this picture on the Facebook page from an amazing DJ I enjoy from Trinidad and Tobago, DJ Ana. Her great Soca mixes are definitely worth checking out.

Let us look at a few of these and how we can put them to use. I like the idea of “Being kind in the comments.” It would seem that many people do not feel the need to engage unless it falls into the critical category. Sometimes, it is just to disagree with someone’s expressed opinion. Both of those are certainly valid comments, but how you say something can be even more important than what you are saying. I value people who offer me opinions that are different than mine or who have ways in which my writing or content can be improved. If, however, they say so in a harsh and confrontational manner I am less likely to be receptive. Being kind and encouraging in any and all situations can certainly help shred hate.

Spread positive content is another great one. A lot of us think that positivity and social media are opposites. That is a sad commentary in regards to most people’s social circle. When we are on social media, we choose who, and what we will follow. We also choose what we will share and bring to the lives of others. Do you really want to share that click bait negative headline just so people will check out your page? Wouldn’t it be better to introduce your friends and family to something that can help them reduce their stress, increase their joy and become the best version of themselves? Kind of like the post you are reading presently? We here at Secret2anamazinglife.com love it when our content is shared. Word of mouth is the best way to spread the word and help us reach the hearts and minds of those who really need us. Next time you are tempted to share that article about the celebrity failing their sobriety, do yourself and those you share with a favor and share something that will bring something positive to their lives instead. A picture of a monkey or baby bear wouldn’t hurt either.

Follow the good is our last category we are going to look at. This one should again be very simple, but might have been overlooked up until now. If you find something good, someone inspiring, or something useful – follow it. Whether that is a certain podcast you might sign up for, a YouTube channel to subscribe to, a Facebook page to like or group to join. Even this blog you are currently reading. If there is something that will add joy and positivity to your life, make sure to get it in your schedule and in your life right away. Be alerted when new content is posted. That way there is always a little bit of positivity showing up in your life when you need it. How do you know when you might need it? You don’t. That is exactly why it is so important to have it in front of you as often as you can. Find the good and follow it.

If we want to shred hate, I suggest using one of the many suggestions in the first picture. Bringing in as much positivity into our lives as we can is one way. Sharing as much positivity with others is certainly another. I would love to hear your suggestions for shredding hate. Please leave them in the comments below. Your idea could be explored in our next post!

THINK ABOUT THIS

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.

Not really Margie and me

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.

STOP PLANTING A PARKING LOT

A good amount of my family in generations past were involved in farming. Being farmers they seemed to have a language that us city kids found both hard to understand and at the same time rather amusing. I recall my great uncle asking me, “Why are you wasting so much time planting parking lots?” Being a teenager from the city at the time my thought was something along the lines of, “What on earth are you talking about?” Of course, back then it was filled with the colorful language of a teenager. I was never fully able to grasp exactly the point he was trying to make. Roughly thirty years later it was made clear to me.

My great uncle Ray

This story comes to us from the friendly confines of the Oak Creek Post Office, which is where I can be found exchanging my time and labor for money Monday to Friday. Ever since I was hired by the United States Postal Service, I have found it a great opportunity to practice may many lessons in self-improvement and positivity. Today was such a day. While there are plenty of folks at the post office who could benefit from exploring the fields of self-improvement and positivity, there are often very few so inclined. Most words of encouragement are returned with cynical or sarcastic statements. It can seem as futile as…here it comes…planting seeds in a parking lot. Suddenly, my great uncle’s words came back to me and I understood what he meant. No matter how good your seeds (or words of encouragement in this case) are or how often you water them (share encouraging words to others, if they are laying on concrete or blacktop they will not grow.

It is, I imagine, a charming way of saying you should stop wasting your time on activities that stand very little chance of success. If you had words that could make someone’s heart take flight, it may be best to share them with someone whose heart is not weighted down with layers of cynical thinking and pessimism.

Just when I began to think of myself as having discovered a person epiphany and was giving thought to saving my kind words of encouragement for an area they may be better served, a caveat to this way of thinking was served to me. This enlightenment came from my coworker Sharon. Normally one to supply her healthy dose of cynicism, this time she brought up a very good point. “You never know when that seed might bring the smile someone needed.” she told me. I thought about that for a while. Even parking lots have cracks I suppose. If one of your seeds (words of encouragement) happens to find one of those cracks in the parking lot (the rare open-hearted soul in a sarcastic world) it might resonate even more for its rarity in the situation. Proving, even in great farming wisdom, there are two sides to every story.

These are both good lessons to carry with us through our lives. We should check to make sure we are not spending undo time planting parking lots. That is spending our time and efforts on whatever goal we are aspiring to, in a situation in which it is unlikely to succeed. That being said, however, we should remember that a small light may not seem like much in the darkness, but it stands out a lot more than it would in a well-lit room. We also must remember that a little light may be exactly what someone needs.

USE YOUR EYES AND YOUR MOUTH!

Last post we looked at how our focus determines a great deal of how we see the world. That goes with the first half of the quote above, keeping our eyes positive. Seeing the possibilities and not just the obstacles. Seeing what is working while working on what could use some fixing. Looking at the good in a situation and just the bad. Changing how we look at the world will change the world we look at a great deal whether that is positively or negatively. That is why it is so important to keep our eyes positive.

Let us now look at the second half of that statement. Keeping our tongue positive will have the world loving us. Some of you may say “I don’t care how the world sees me!” or “The only person’s opinion that matters in mine!” To that I would say you probably have yourself fooled about other things as well. It is true that we should not live our life predicated on what other people think of us and what we are doing. That being said, if your friends, your family and your spouse go to bed thinking what a jerk you are every night, that is going to weigh on you no matter how self-centered of an individual you may be.

Considering you are reading a blog called Secret2anamazinglife, I assume you have a good deal of affection for your fellow humans. Not to mention, it always feels good to hear a kind and encouraging word throughout the day. Think of how you feel after you have been the recipient of some love and praise. Perhaps you feel energized? A little more confident. You feel believed in and supported. How would this affect your productivity? Would this affect the way you treat others you come in contact with? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone came from a place of feeling energized, loved, believed in and supported? Wouldn’t it be great if you came from that place…daily?

The truth is your world can be this way. Those you meet can, eventually, come from a place of love, appreciation and positive energy. You can come from this place and you can do so on a regular basis. Not only can this happen, but it is easier than you may think and all it takes is one decision from you. This is not some self-improvement hype or positive thinking theory I am giving you. It is the truth.

All we have to do is to decide to use our tongue to spread positivity. Let us look at how this will play out. First of all, if you know someone is walking up to you and, through past conversations you know the conversation is likely to be a positive one, how will you treat them? Chances are you would greet them with a smile, and genuinely welcome their company. When you share positive conversation with others it will make them feel loved and appreciated. That will positively impact their lives and in turn will positively impact how they act in association with you. Can you imagine if you did this with everyone in your life? Would that mean everyone in your life would be positive? Not exactly. We would be fooling ourselves if we didn’t admit that we share the world with people that see the rain in every rainbow. I know a person that if I gave them a golden goose would complain it poops on the sidewalk. Still, these people would certainly be the exception and not the rule.

This may sound like a fantasy world, but it is not. It is a simple mathematical equation. If people are exposed to positivity and encouragement, they tend to be more positive and encouraging. Not every day. We all have times when life gets the best of us. The more you spread positivity, however, the more likely you are to receive it as well. Here is the great bonus in all of this. The more you receive this positivity in return, the easier it is to go on spreading the positivity. It continues to grow in both frequency and intensity the more this equation is put into place. The exciting part is it is all up to us to start it. Use your tongue to spread positivity today and watch your life change in the days to come.

CHANGE YOUR LIFE BY ANSWERING ONE QUESTION…DIFFERENTLY

The picture above is of my friend Travis and I. It was taken before a seminar I was giving in Franksville Wisconsin. We were “Backstage” if you will. At this seminar he went out to introduce me and to warm up the crowd. Travis, who goes by Treezy, has been my friend for many years. We met when I was serving drinks at a place called ‘6500 bar’. Local corner bar, lot of fun people. I leave the story of how we met for another day, but I will tell you it involved 2 watches, a hotel room and a girl named Sarah. Before long Travis and I had discovered we had a mutual passion for learning how to be positive and helping others do the same. We started working as a team at the bar and before long it was standing room only.

Once I left that establishment I lost touch with my friend for a while. In the meantime, I started working at a new place called ‘The Hideout’. I was only a few days into my employment when I heard the door open. I had been busy washing dishes and without looking up said some version of “How can I help you?” The reply came with a hint of laughter in his voice. “I will have a bottle of Budweiser my old friend.” I had to look up to see who could possibly be my friend at a place I just started at. Well, time and fate had reunited our two souls for some reason once again. As I transitioned from bartender to DJ and met the love of my life, Margie, all three of us became fast friends. Travis, or more to the point Treezy, has a great gift of performance and using that to lift the mood of a show and keep it positive. To this day, him, Margie and myself work to run positive shows that leave you feeling better when you leave than you did when you came in.

Margie, Travis and myself forming our version of the Triangle offense

I can hear you thinking to yourself, “Neil, this is a very touching story about you and your friend, but how does this help me improve my life?” That is a good question. Recently, Treezy showed up ready to perform at one of our shows. I inquired as to how he was doing. Nothing out of the normal here. How many times a day do you ask, or are you asked, how you are doing? I would think several times a day. It happens at restaurants, work, coffee shops and yes at shows at clubs. Most of us either say “Good” “fine” or perhaps we have a standard answer we give. Treezy has one too. When I inquired as to his state of being his answer was “I am blessed, highly favored and positive. How are you my friend?” This is, by all accounts, his standard answer. As with most of his performances, he delivers this line with a feeling of passion and sincerity.

The reason this line comes out with such passion is because he believes it to be true. It is true. For most of us, we live in a country that allows us certain freedoms. We have a roof over our heads and food on our table. Those circumstances make us ‘Blessed, highly favored and should make us positive’. Here is the power about working on your standard answer to “How are you doing?” You will say this line several times a day. That, in essence, is an affirmation my friend. What you proclaim yourself to be out loud several times a day will greatly influence your life. Why not spend several minutes putting together several positive and empowering answers to the question “How are you?” Have fun trying them out. Try each one for a week. See if it doesn’t have you feeling a bit more positive. Perhaps it will increase the amount of gratitude you have in your life. If that one doesn’t seem to work, try another. Decide on a line that really resonates with you.

Take a lesson from my friend Travis and use the power of words to positively influence your life. “How are you doing?” is as close to a rhetorical question as most people get. Your answer can inspire both you and them if you craft it right. Put this seemingly mundane daily exchange to work for you. As a side note, to our group we have recently added our friend Terri. She brings her own insight and positivity. Having the four of us in a room working to improve everyone’s outlook to be a little more positive than when they got there can be a powerful force indeed.

HAVE YOU LOST IT?

Although this photo may sound a bit harsh, it is still very true. It never ceases to amaze me how many of us will sit behind our keyboards spewing words that are not only negative, but can be both mean and hurtful. It seems almost daily I read comments on people’s political or spiritual beliefs that I would imagine would not be said in a face to face meeting.

That is not to say you have to agree with everything that everyone says. Quite the contrary. It is the variety of opinions and beliefs that make this world a beautiful place. Ask yourself, if this person expressed this opinion in person what would I say? Even if it is something you disagree with, would you even bother expressing that? If so, would you do so in a hurtful angry way?

The same holds true about what you post. If you have a negative opinion about something will you feel the need to share it with every person you come across? Would you do it by calling those people names to their faces? It is very important to remember that seeing your words in black and white can be even more hurtful to someone than hearing them in person. Before you type that phrase or respond to that post or comment, ask yourself, “Would I say this if we were in person?” Chances are the answer would be ‘no’. Let it go. The world has more than enough anger and hate.

If there is any advantage that we can use behind a keyboard, it is to overcome the shyness of expressing our love and appreciation for each other. It may seem awkward for some of us to tell someone how much they mean to us. In today’s society this is not often the norm. Sad, but that is the case. Let us use social media and our online presence to remove some of the uncomfortable feelings associated with that. You can tell your friend how amazing they are or how much you love them online without having to worry about being uncomfortable. The great part about sharing positivtiy online is it can be reviewed at a later date should the receiving party need to hear it again. (That being said, you can also see the danger of posting hurtful things online)

Having a reputation of spreading the positive online will have people wanting to have you as an online presence in their lives. After all, there is no shortage of negative things available to read online. Having even a brief positive thought to read is a pleasant escape. Even if the positive thought expressed is not about the person reading it, just the fact that there is a positive post can make them feel good.

Let us not lose our basic human decency just because we do not face immediate consequences for the words we type. Fight the urge to respond to every negative post and comment. Do not add to the problem. Do not say anything you would not say if you were face to face. If you are going to use your social media for anything, why not use it to express thoughts of love and appreciation you may be uncomfortable doing in person. They will make the receiving party feel good and you will not have to worry about feeling awkward. If each one of us reading this would take these actions we would go a long way to making the world a more positive place.

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.

BACK TO BASICS

In our quest to discover as many secrets to an amazing life as we can, there are many things that can get in our way. One of them is overwhelm. There are so many things to incorporate into our lives that it may prevent us from even beginning. There is meditation, visualization, positive self-talk, getting into the right mindset and a million other secrets and tools we can use. Much like my motivation for writing A Happy Life for Busy People, today I want to take it down to the basic principles that we can use to begin our life transformation. Sure you can deliberate over how to create the perfect vision board or what affirmations will bring about the biggest positive change. Before getting hung up on these details, we should just start with the basics. Oh, and if you are already on your self-improvement journey, trust me, you will benefit from going back to basics.

We are going to use the picture above for our guide. The four principles listed are not only good basics to start with, but they play off each other just like it shows in the picture. Let us start on top with Positive Thinking. If we approach life with the right mindset it can make all of the difference. There are so many ways to develop that mindset feel free to explore what works for you. One of the ways that has helped me the most is having more gratitude in my life. It is very hard to feel grateful and not be positive. No matter what is going on in our lives, there is always, always something to be grateful for. What if your life is a total mess right now and you are just deciding you have to do something because you find yourself on rock bottom? That your journey is just beginning and you will be improving your life a little each day (even though it is important to remember there will still be ups and downs) that is something to be not only grateful for, but excited about. Another great way to start to develop a positive mindset is to try and find the beauty in everything. As you drive to work you can notice the flowers growing in your neighbors yard. Have a coworker who really gets on your last nerve? Be grateful there is someone to help you strengthen your patience and positivity. Not to mention, they help you be grateful for all of the nice people in your life.

Starting to think positively brings us to our next basic tool – Feel Good. When you begin to think good thoughts, you begin to have good feelings. Nothing too tricky there. What is important to think about is what does feeling good do for us? On the most basic level, that kind of is the whole purpose of life. Think about why we do anything in our lives, it is either to feel good or avoid feeling bad. You may be thinking, “If that is true Neil, how come I go to work every day at a job that doesn’t feel good?” because the feeling of not paying your bills and living on the street would feel a lot worse. Even altruistic activities we do fit into this category. I used to help at a meal program once a month. The main reason I did so was because I wanted to give back. Why did I want to give back? I felt it was the right thing to do. Guess what? Doing the right thing had me feeling good. When we feel good we are also far more likely to try new things. This can lead to an expanding of our life. Which can, in turn, lead to more things to have us feeling good. To me, the most important reason to feel good is because it makes it easier to take actions that lead to a healthier and more productive lifestyle. Think about your own life, when are you most likely to stray from your healthier eating or exercise routine? When you are stressed? When you find yourself feeling down?

That leads us to the third step in our basic life improvement series – Regular Exercise. While some of you might be cringing or debating about concluding your reading here, rest assured this may not be as tough as you think. Especially if we have focused on developing Positive Thinking and Feeling Good, this will be a little easier. Regular exercise does not mean going to the gym everyday, unless of course that works for you. No, regular exercise, especially in the beginning, can be any physical activity you enjoy. Do you like basketball? Head to the playground and shoot around for an hour a day. Perhaps walking in nature and looking for different kinds of birds is your thing? Then make a trip to different parks several times a week. Maybe you would much rather be shopping than doing any kind of exercise? How about a walk around the mall? You could even get a little resistance training depending on how much you buy. Just make sure to avoid laps around the food court as it may undo all of your hard work. You can even mix a couple of these together in a week. The secret here is to find something that is fun for you, yet requires some physical activity. Another great tool to use here is an activity tracker. You don’t necessarily need to purchase an expensive Fitbit. Most smart phones have free apps that allow you to track much of your activity as well as other healthy aspects. Even a simple step counter can be fun. Set a daily and weekly goal for yourself and then find fun ways to reach it.

I saved this one for last because for many of us, myself included, it can be the most difficult. Eat Better. That sounds simple enough, and it really is. Think about what eating better entails. No crazy diets. No skipping this and having to eat that. It is just eating better in general. Less pizza, more vegetables. I know, writing that line was even a little painful for me. Still, eating healthier is not that tricky and like regular exercise, does not have to be that painful. Let us take the example of eating more vegetables. What is your favorite? Margie’s is corn. I rather enjoy green beans. We try to work in a vegetable with each meal at home. If they are ones we like, we are far more likely to eat them. The more vegetables we consume, the less room we have for stuff that is not so good for us. Think of snacks too. This is a place where a lot of damage can be done to our diets. Try to find a healthy snack you enjoy and make it convenient. Do you enjoy snacking on carrots or cucumbers? Have some washed, sliced and ready to be enjoyed. This is where a little meal prep can make a big difference. The same trick can be used for healthy meals. Think of a healthy dish and prepare it ahead of time.

From my experience, the greatest challenge to Eating Better is time. We are running around with a million different things to do and our diets are the sacrifice. We often settle for fast food because…well…it is fast. Plan accordingly. Perhaps on a board in your kitchen write down meals that are quick to prepare but still healthy. If you don’t even have time for that, make note of some of the ‘healthiest’ meals you can order out. Here is another GREAT way to motivate yourself to eat healthy. Note how many calories you burn doing certain activities. For example, on an elliptical machine I know I can burn 700 calories (give or take) in an hour. If you run a mile you burn, on average, 150 calories. These numbers vary depending on the individuals, but serve as a good example. Next, look at what you eat. There are 563 calories in a Big Mac. Doing the math, you would 3.5 miles to burn off one Big Mac. When you are sweating and near hyperventilating at the end of your workout and find that you burned 700 calories, are you really that keen to replace 563 of them with one greasy sandwich? Now, there are roughly 3500 calories in a pound of fat. Multiply that by how many pounds you care to lose. This is how many more calories you will have to burn than you consume. This may seem like an insurmountable number. A mere 10 pounds is 35,000 calories. This is why it is important to understand that weight loss takes time. You can also understand why losing 2 to 3 pounds a week is a great accomplishment.

Working on these 4 basic principles can transform your life in big ways. It can also be easy and fun. Looking for things to be grateful for and finding the beauty in everything? That’s fun. Finding different things that make us feel good? Also a fun check mark there. Regular exercise fun? Yes! If it is an activity that we enjoy. Eating healthy can be fun when we understand it does not have to involve restrictive diets and starvation. We need to incorporate more of the healthy foods we enjoy and even experiment with new healthy recipes to dazzle our taste buds while at the same time helping our waistlines. These 4 areas are broad categories and leave plenty of room for customizing it to fit our individual liking.

I HAD A DAY OFF THAT I NEED A DAY OFF FROM

It all started innocently enough on Sunday morning. I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee as I prepared for a good day at the gym. I kissed the lovely Margie goodbye and stepped out on the porch. I took a deep stretch and said out loud to nobody in particular, “oh look, it is raining outside.” I took the first step on the porch stairs and that’s where it all went wrong.

Have you ever seen those cartoons where the character goes straight up in the air and comes crashing down to earth in a rather intense and abrupt manner? That was me… on the porch stairs. I let out a sound that let the neighbors, 3 blocks down, know I was not ok. I lay there for want of anything else to do. Feeling the mist of the rain on my skin.

Shortly, Margie came out with great concern to see me laying motionless on the stairs. This, in all my pain, melted my heart. To know how much she cared really meant the world. She wrapped her arms around me and helped me up.

I felt things out. A few dull throbbing pains, but nothing seemed broken. I decided to continue my quest to work out. I did put an hour in at the gym, but had to make some modifications. No treadmill as my heel was bruised. No bicep machine as my elbow was bruised and swollen. I made it through and felt proud.

Later that evening Margie and I did our show and had a great crowd. Everyone seemed to have a good time for the most part. At the end of the evening we were supposed to take our friend home, but she made other plans last second. Margie and we driving home looking forward to finally collapsing in each other’s arms after a long work week.

Suddenly, there was a popping sound and then an odd noise from the rear wheel of the car. A flat i feared. Only a few blocks from home I decided to go slow and bring it in. Margie looked out the window and informed me the tire looked, “wobbly. Like it might come off.” This was grave news indeed.

We managed to park. I got out to inspect the tire. More full of hot air than my aunt telling me about her latest diet. I slid under the car and did not see anything. While watching a yellow sac spider crawl above my head, I heard Margie inform me she had discovered the source of the problem.

This indeed was startling news as Margie has not been a driver her entire life. My thought as I pulled my still sore body from under the car, was what fabulous news awaited me. It turns out some soul had removed all of the lug nuts, save one, on our wheel. The popping noise? That was the studs snapping off with the weight of the wheel. I would not be making lunch with Margie and her daughter the following day.

Most people would think i had a terrible day off. It is true I would try a different warm up than falling down the stairs next time before the gym. Yet, I did not dislocate my shoulder for the fourth time and nothing seems to be to badly damaged. No, I would not choose to snap lug nuts and studs off my tire again. However, Margie and I were not on the freeway and made it home safely. I also had the cool experience of looking through childhood pictures at my mothers house as her husband fixed the wheel.

There are things that stuck in life, but there always seems to be ways in which they could be worse. So when you have a day off that you need a day off from, keep your head up my friends. Don’t let the world erase your smile!