LISTENING CAN BE YOUR SECRET WEAPON

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Recently my amazing lady outdid herself by throwing me what you can see was one fun surprise birthday party. That by itself is sweet and impressive. In addition to writing this blog to express my sincere gratitude for her doing so, there is another reason. I am sure many of you have had parties thrown for you in your life and if not I sure hope you do. It is a great way to show those in your life that you care. Here is what I feel makes the lady in my life even more impressive. This party was thrown for me at my favorite place, the Wisconsin state fair. It actually happened while the fair was going on. She managed to speak to the owner of my favorite stand there which has a tropical theme with sand and a reggae band and rum. She even managed to get a hold of a lot of my close friends and family as you can see. She managed to go there and decorate without me knowing. This is hard to do because I am there every day. She did all of this without me knowing. Which, both of us working in the bar business is extremely hard to do.

Other than informing you what an amazing lady I have, what does any of this have to do with you? What is the lesson we can take away from all of this and apply to our lives? That is a great question. Here is what really impressed me about my lady and this party. She listened. She knew I loved the fair, which is not a great secret, but she also learned where my favorite place was at the fair. She listened to people I spoke about that I considered friends and made sure they received an invite. She put all of what she learned into action by reserving the both and decorating and even making very delicious cupcakes. All of these things made this a lifetime memory.

So here is my suggestion. If you want to have an amazing life, and if you want to blow your spouse, friends, boss or anyone else in your life away; listen. Not just before the event, but all of the time. That is what my wonderful woman did. She listens whenever I talk. Anyone who knows me can understand that is a lot of listening. By doing so she was able to discern a lot of information and used that to make me feel very special. So listen to everyone you come in contact with. You never know what you can learn and how you can use it to help them or make them feel good.

Once more, thank you Margie my love for an amazing party and a memory that will last a lifetime.

I PROPOSE A TOAST

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While writing my book “A Happy Life for Busy People” i was always on the lookout for little things we could incorporate into our lives with minimal effort that would return a great amount of joy. It is even better if these things can be fun and easy to do. I guess that habit has never left me. Which, unlike other habits I have, may be a blessing. It was while walking by this picture the idea came to me. You see the gentleman in the picture I am standing in front of is proposing a toast of some sort. It is exactly that which I would like to discuss with you today.

Toasts are common place at weddings, graduations and fancy dinner parties. What is a toast? One person who is either designated or the host/hostess of the party raises their glass of usually an alcoholic beverage and says what all in the room are ‘drinking to’. This is usually someone’s good health, good fortune or in terms of a wedding, to the couple who are being joined. What happens next is everyone thinks that thought be it good wishes, gratitude or joy, they all bump glasses and drink. Everyone is usually in good spirits and has taken if but a moment to ponder something worth drinking to.

Here is my thought, why wait for a special occasion? Why does it have to be champagne? What do you think your spouse would do if over your morning cup of coffee you bump your mug into theirs and say here is to our love? Perhaps they may fall over? Look at you and wonder what is exactly in that coffee cup of yours? Either way they will more than likely feel good you are taking a moment to celebrate your love together. Don’t stop at your spouse. How about at work? How do you think things would improve if you raised your coffee/water/rum whatever you can get away with and said “here is to my great coworker!” Again you may be initially greeted with suspicion and random drug testing, but I think a little more joy may be the end result. What if you are on lunch alone? Why let that stop you? Raise your glass and toast to having a great day or whatever you feel at the moment. People may wonder if you are having a conversation with your imaginary friend. Let them wonder while you focus on what you are looking forward to or being grateful for.

These small acts will do more than make others feel good. They will also serve to change your focus. You will be constantly thinking and looking for things to toast to next. Recently I was listening to a audiobook by Michael Beckwith in which he suggests you should ask yourself “What can I celebrate today?”.  After all that is what toasts are, mini celebrations.  Let’s face it in every day there is something to celebrate. Maybe just making it through the day? Here’s to a life of toasts and reasons to have them. I’ll raise my glass and drink to that.

TRADITION VERSES GROWTH

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Tradition, i am a big fan. It ties us to people and things we love. It helps us honor the past and keep in our cultures alive. They give us something to look forward to. I have my own traditions that were both handed down to me and that I have started. Funny thing about traditions, sometimes they just seem to start themselves. My state fair going had me thinking of this. One year back in 1996 I decided that since the state  fair is something that makes me happy I will just go every day it is going on. I had not realized this would carry on for almost a decade now, but it has.

Here is the next question. What happens when tradition suddenly stands in the way of growth? I have been fortunate that through change in jobs, change in life companions and change in living conditions have all still allowed me to continue one of my favorite traditions. Still with all of the life changes I have went through there have been some traditions that have been lost. I know my life is poised to be better than it has ever been. Still there are things that I enjoyed that are no longer possible to do. For example, I used to work in a small community where they had this great little coffee shop I would go to on lunch. You get into these little routines and you really look forward to them. They had some gatherings I would always attend. Since switching to a different office due to downsizing I am unable to go to them. Also I met the fabulous lady in the picture above. Funny thing about other people, they come with their own traditions too. Now sometimes they don’t always work together either. So you are faced with both doing your separate traditions, which would limit your growth and experience together or forging new traditions and learning each others. Here is where the work is. It takes love, understanding and patience to make this work. Much like anything we discuss here, your state of mind and attitude about the situation will do the most in determining how the outcome will be.

Traditions are a great thing. Hang on to as many as you can. If you find yourself faced with deciding between being able to grow and celebrating a tradition it is time to ask yourself some serious questions. What was the tradition all about? Is there another way to still accomplish the same thing while adjusting to growth and change? Was the tradition tied to a person? Is it time to surrender that tradition to a memory and begin a new one? Often times if we think of what the purpose of our traditions were we can find new and healthier ways to accomplish the same thing. Find new traditions to start with the ones you care about that will bring all involved joy and good health.

A BROKEN PLATE

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This quote from Buddha reminds us how damaging anger is to a situation. It often hurts the party to which it is directed, but certainly always hurts the party distributing it. It may feel good to yell or say something at your partner when you are upset. Especially if you feel they have done something to hurt you. Still by doing so you can leave a far more damaging situation than the one they have brought to you. This is best described in the story of the broken plate. A mother had a son who had an extremely bad temper. He would often do or say some of the most hurtful things. After which he truly seemed repentant. No matter what the mother did she could not get the child to think before he reacted. One day while washing dishes she had a great idea. She called her son into the room with her and handed him a glass plate. “Throw that plate on the ground” she instructed the young man. After some encouragement the young man did as he was told. As expected the plate broke into several pieces. “Now let’s glue this plate back together” her mother said. So they worked together for quite some time and had the plate looking pretty close to its original state, although a few cracks and chips were still visible. “Now say you’re sorry to this plate” the mother said. The child looked confused but saw his mother was serious. So he said his apology. “Now is the plate good as new?” she asked. The child shook his head no because although it was back together it would never look the same. The mother went on to explain that is what we do to the hearts of our loved ones when we are angry. Although the pain can be mended and apologies can be given they relationship will never be able to be put back together the same again.

So the next time you are in a heated debate with your spouse, friend, coworker before you say the well crafted biting reply you have been working on, think of the story of the broken plate and ask yourself is it really worth the damage that can never be undone?

TOAST OF THE TOWN

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“How much better than wine is your Love”

Song of Solomon 4;10

Ok, yesterday’s post became a little wordy. Good news is this one is short and sweet. To some of you this idea may sound a bit cliché’. That’s OK, try it anyway. Toast your love each time you and your loved one are both holding wine glasses. Why? you may ask. Simple, love is something worth celebrating. You are still together when countless other couples have thrown in the towel. Your relationship is something worth toasting. You both work hard to keep it going and that should be celebrated. Another thing you should toast is the person you are with. It is a simple and fabulous opportunity to honor them. Don’t go on about it, keep it short and simple. Are they a creative person? Say “here is to being with such a wonderful and creative soul” or something to that effect. Do you admire their choice in music? Their adorable laugh? Perhaps you are just grateful they put up with you. It is amazing how a “thank you for always being so patient with me” sounds when clinking a wine glass. Perhaps your partner drinks Jameson? works just the same. I even know of an elderly couple who toast each other with their morning coffee cups. It doesn’t have to be alcohol. Whenever the mood strikes you and you are your partner happen to have glasses in your hands, take the opportunity to grow your love.

On a side note, this works amazingly well with friends as well. Do you have a trait you admire in a particular friend? Next time you are out having a few cold beers toast them on it and watch the friendship grow.

THE KEY TO ATTRACTION

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“That which is Loved is always beautiful”

Norwegian Proverb

Here is a common theme in relationships. You meet someone new and they just start that fire burning deep within. Your amorous feelings can’t be contained. Their kisses are like a drug you become addicted to. Every second you see them thoughts of passion race through your mind and your body. You can wait to wrap your arms around them, and to hold and kiss them. Making love to them is like your own reoccurring fantasy.

Fast forward five or even ten years. This same person may have gained a few pounds. You have seen them first thing in the morning a hundred times. You have seen them sick and perhaps after one to many cocktails. Perhaps their beauty has just become common place to you. Suddenly you find yourself in an odd situation. You love this person with all your heart, but somehow those carnal, lustful thoughts have either become extremely rare or worse seemed to disappear altogether. There is a saying “That which is familiar we take for granted” Maybe even seeing the same beautiful person day after day has you numb to their true attraction. So how do we get those feelings back? How do we fall back in lust with our own partner? The simple answer to this is to fall back in love with them. Now before you say “Neil that is just some crazy romantic nonsense you are spreading. I do love my partner I just don’t find them as attractive anymore” Well, let us look at another secret passion thief, resentment. In addition to seeing each others worst physical sides often people tend to remember a lot of the not so pleasant emotional sides of the dream person you are with. That is only natural. The brain tends to remember events that are linked to powerful emotions. What is more powerful than having your feeling hurt by your partner? Well, if you have followed the exercises leading up to this point you are well on your way to healing a good deal of those bad memories.

So the question remains, what can we do to rekindle the passion we had when we first met the love of our lives. Well it is honest best not to lose it in the first place. Lot’s of very loving and well-meaning couples end up as friends or even roommates after several years because they did not nurture the passion in their relationship. There are several ideas on how to achieve this and I encourage some self-study outside of this blog which usually ends up to be a fun time anyway. Here I will give you some of the best I have picked up from the experts in this field and from the mistakes I have made and lessons I have learned. First thing you need to know is you should never stop charming your partner. Lots of couples and in general it tends to be mostly the men, although women can certainly be guilty of this too, assume once they have won the heart and soul of their lover the deed is done. That is the furthest thing from the truth. I relate it to getting in the best shape of your life and then you stop paying attention to your body. Eventually you will end up out of shape and having to start all over again. The good news is that much like your body, you can start over in your relationship and work your way back to the top.  Making your partner feel loved and desired seems to be easy in the beginning but fall further down the ladder as the years go by. Here is the sad truth. First, that is the opposite of how it should be. Love is fun in the beginning. Everything is new and fresh. Your partner has not gotten on your nerves yet. As the years go by make no mistake you become equally as unattractive to your partner so keeping their feelings high will help both of you as well. Here is the good news. As the years go by you have more information and experiences to build on. You know more of what your partner likes, more of what makes them feel attractive. Use that to your advantage.

Another simple and fun thing you can do that will not only make your partner more attractive to you, but will also make them more attracted to you is focus. Now normally focus does not sound like the sexiest of all the words, but let me assure you it can be. A wonderful person made me something with the word focus as the center piece. It has not only done wonders with my writing, but also with many areas of life, relationships included. You know well if you read my blog with any regularity that what we focus on we tend to multiply and intensify. Why not focus on what you find attractive about your partner? Do their eyes sparkle like diamonds when they are happy? Does their whole face light up when they smile? Do you even find it cute when they spill ice cream on the front of their shirt? Whatever it is pay attention to it. Now here is the key, say it out loud. Let your partner know. Write it in a card. Leave a voicemail letting them know. Call them on lunch just to tell them. This accomplishes two things. One, you get into the habit of looking for things you find attractive in your partner. Two, saying they are beautiful, handsome or whatever word you care to use will get your mind in the habit of associating the two. Three, after an initial skepticism and thinking you have either done something terribly wrong or have the urge to do so, your partner will start to associate you with the good feelings they get from hearing how attractive they are. Let’s be honest who doesn’t like to feel desired. The key here is to find a mix of both physical and emotional things you find attractive about your partner. The more emotion behind it the better. Have fun with it.

THE MOST IMPORTANT WORD

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Earl Nightingale once said the most important word to success was ‘Attitude’. I agree although I think it ranks right up there with gratitude, of which we will discuss tomorrow. Much like in the world of business success, in the world of relationships attitude can be everything. This is true in any kind of relationship, but since we are looking at romantic relationships let us focus on that example although the tactics here are basically the same. While having a discussion about this particular blog with a very close friend of mine I was explaining to her that what I post here I have learned by both studying the experts in a particular field as well as real world experience. In my life, as may be true in yours, experience can be another word for making mistakes. Many people, myself included, often fear making mistakes. This is often true in relationships. People are often so afraid of doing the wrong thing it prevents them from taking any action at all. In an earlier post we discussed that you are either growing or dying. There is no standing still in life or in relationships. Here is the beautiful thing, even if you make a mistake or hurt your partners feelings it can be a great source of growth. The secret is the actions you take leading to and following the upset. I used to fear making mistakes in my relationship. Nobody likes their feelings hurt or to hurt anyone else’s feelings. When there was a miscommunication in my relationships in the past I would often focus on what was lost. Have I lost trust in this person? Have they lost trust in me? Is there now a lack of closeness or intimacy? To thinking even worse things such as Is the relationship ever going to be the same? Will the relationship end because of this? It is easy to think this way especially when you are dealing with such intense emotion. this very reason highlights the need to think about how you handle relationship challenges before they occur. My attitude now is “Ok, things are not going well. What am I going to learn about my partner or our relationship through solving this?” Now there are two very important differences to notice here. One, I have changed the focus to what has been compromised in the present to what can be gained in the future. Now if the thing you come up with that you can learn is that your partner is a jerk, you may need to try to do a little refocusing. It is true that they may have done something that upset you, but in a healthy relationship partners rarely do anything to hurt each other on purpose. Instead focus on why may have done what they done. If you can still only come up with “They did it because they are a jerk” we may need to take a deep breath and think of another important factor. Always consider this very important point. In a relationship there is only one person you should try to change, that is the person in the mirror. We have no control over others and in a healthy relationship we should not even desire such things. Are there things about your partner you may not enjoy? I bet the answer to that question may be the same as it would be for them. Let us say you are upset because your partner never seems to listen to you and what you say. Instead of trying to come up with ways ‘to make your partner listen to you’ ask yourself “Is there a way I can more effectively communicate so that my partner is more likely to hear what I am trying to convey? Ask your partner, remembering to always make the effort about yourself. Something like this “Sometimes I feel what I am saying doesn’t always come across the right way to you. Is there a more effective way I could communicate with you?” will surely have a more productive result than “What can I do to finally get you to listen to me?” Remember working on changing your approach will quite often be the quickest fix to addressing an issue that may not thrill you about your partner. This will not only lead to a happier relationship, but to a happier you. The second thing I did was change my focus from the problem to the solution. In business there is an axiom that you should spend 20% of your time focusing on the problem and 80% of the time focusing on the solution. This is the same in relationships. You first need to focus on the problem to make sure you both have an understanding of each others point of view and what the problem truly is. I cannot tell you how many relationships have had arguments because both parties didn’t have a clue as to what the other was upset about. Not your relationship I’m sure, but it is good to make sure you understand what is bothering each other. Once you have that knowledge it is important to then immediately shift to the solution. Instead of dwelling on how mad it made you that your partner made you late for something, focus on what you can do to prevent such things in the future. Again remember only focus on what you can do. If you are expecting your partner to change it will only lead to further resentment. In the case of your partner making you late. Perhaps you could work on better conveying your desire to be on time. Or the fact that the event was scheduled and that is was important that you be there at a specific time. Maybe even ask them to be ready a little earlier than you need them so you can allow for a little extra time. So the attitude you bring to any situation with your partner can be the difference between growth and pain. Remember to focus 20% on the problem and 80% on the solution. Also remember the only person you should try to change in a relationship is yourself. Tomorrow we discuss another magical word in the world of relationships.