MORE TIME DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Ah… the holiday season. Filled with great joy, family and feelings of love and gratitude. Sometimes, however, it is also filled with stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and stress. It seems we need another hour or a couple of hours in our days to get everything done. There is shopping, finding the perfect gift for people we discover we do not know as well as we thought we did. Often there is either travel, or preparing for the arrival of people who are traveling to see us. We have to shop and prepare meals considering everyone’s likes, food allergies and culture restrictions. Not only do we have all of these things to consider, but we also have our regular obligations of work, housecleaning and parenting as well.

Sadly, there is no way to extend the daily deadline beyond 24 hours. How then, can we gain more time during the holidays? The man above you might recognize, his name is Albert Einstein. world-famous physicist. He developed the theory of relativity. I found this hard to grasp when it came to time. How can time be relative? Is not an hour always 60 minutes?

I found the answer, and a great explanation on the theory of relativity in a most unlikely place. There is a home-improvement store here called Menards. On the bottom of all of their sales ads they have motivational sayings in real fine print. One fine day while pondering why I even live in a place where I would need a snow blower, I found the answer I was looking for. On the bottom of the page read “How long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on.” While I would love to claim credit for that great bit of wisdom I cannot.

How does this translate to the relativity of time, and more importantly, how can it help us gain more time during the holidays? Think of that situation if you will. Yes, it is odd that a self-improvement website will ask you to think of spending time in the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that is when some of my greatest ideas come to me. Have you ever had to use the bathroom when somebody else is doing the same? Every second can seem like an eternity. If you are the person on the inside the time would certainly seem different, yet they are exactly the same amount of time.

That is the most poignant example I have seem, but doesn’t the same thing happen to us during the holidays? It seems when we have one more place to stop and it closes in a half an hour that is when we get into the line with the sweet little old lady paying for her cartload of groceries with change…of which she has to count out by hand. Wait, did she just loose count and have to begin again? How long have I been in this line? How about preparing meals. I have experienced this first hand. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean I actually prepared the meal. Watching Margie work so hard during the holidays to make sure everything is done at the same time, and that time being close to when our guests arrive is crazy. Especially when you have to consider everything cooks at a different rate.

You may be thinking this is great Neil, and I have spent part of my holiday time reading this article and other than a entertaining bathroom analogy, you haven’t told me a single thing I can do to help my holiday craziness. Fair enough. Let us explore a few simple things we can do that will not only help us make better use of our time, but take the stress out of the time that we do spend, allowing us to enjoy more of what this time of year is all about.

The most important thing that can change our holiday is focus. When we are stuck in the slowest line in the store, focusing on that can only raise our stress level and blood pressure. What if we chose that time to try and focus on what we have to be thankful for. During the holidays that is something we all can count on and is a great gift to give ourselves. Even just a distraction whether it be reading those informative magazines telling us what the royal family is doing, or where Elvis, who is really alive, is spending his Christmas. Try to find the most interesting or amusing headline. Think of a nice thing you can say to the cashier, who truly is under a great deal of stress themselves.

Another great thing we can do is think about the outcome we are striving for. Is the goal to provide a tasty and enjoyable meal our family can gather around and share the holiday? Then does it matter if the steamed vegetables end up being part of dessert or the gravy is not as smooth as we would like? Sure, it would be great if the meal was perfect, but that is not what the holidays are all about, and nobody will expect that. What if something goes terribly wrong? One year my aunt was supposed to watch a pot of soup that was baking as the rest of us went to pick up some other relatives. She…well…I am not sure what she did other than it wasn’t watch the soup. It burned and had to be thrown away. The entire pot tasted terrible, but there was other food and it is still a story we laugh about today.

That brings us to our last point, find ways to laugh. Nothing is that serious and it is often things that go wrong that make the funniest and most entertaining holiday memories. Find a way to laugh, it will make a great holiday gift to everyone you share the holiday with. In that vein of thinking, try finding ways to genuinely compliment as many people as you can. Know and understand each of us face unique holiday stress and all of us would appreciate some kind words.

Please feel free to share your holiday stress relieving ideas in the comments below. Working together we can make the holidays better for everyone.

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN

Fear not. This is not a picture of me. As I write this the temperature outside is a pleasant 60 degrees. Very warm for Wisconsin on the 4th of December. As you are reading this, however, the reading will be 30 degrees less. Yes a drop that big in the space of 24 hours. What is really challenging is the fact that the week ahead features high temperatures in the 20’s and 30’s. Those are average for this time of year and living here most of my life I should be used to that by now, but I am not.

As a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder, my mood tends to dip with the temperature. Knowing this can fill me with a sense of tread as the days get closer to the end of the year, but it also gives me time to prepare. I know I am not likely to see a day like the one we are having today until the month of May. So what can I do for the next 5 months to avoid slipping to a further degree of insanity than my normal state? One cannot certainly change the weather. Closing my eyes and chanting “I think it’s warm” over and over again wouldn’t get me very far either.

If cursing mother nature doesn’t help, what does? When you are faced with challenges you cannot change, then the only option is to change yourself. I am going to begin to plan fun things with the love of my life. Being the budget of an aspiring world-famous author doesn’t include money for many tropical vacations, I plan to visit the local horticultural building here (called the Domes) where there are living plants all year around. There will be more movie nights indoors. Maybe a bundled up adventure in the woods. While this does not replace the joy of riding my bike in the sunshine, these activities will bring me great joy.

Another option is to plan for when the weather is warm in order to make the most of the nice weather. Trips we want to go on. Maybe a road trip when the snow and ice is off of the roads. Getting in shape so I can better enjoy the warm weather when in comes. I have a calendar that I actually mark each day I go to the gym. It will keep me motivated in the cold weather.

The point is this, even if you are faced with a challenge that seems to be insurmountable you can always find ways to adjust. Winter will never be my favorite season, but that does not mean I cannot find ways to discover happiness while it is here.

 

WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION?

Have you ever thought about the quote above? Most of us live our lives trying to meet the expectations of our boss, our peers, or even our family. This can often leave us trying to meet goals that do not align with our values. This cannot only make it very difficult to achieve, but leave us feeling defeated and like we failed. Not only are these feelings unpleasant to experience, they can dampen our ability to push forward. It was Winston Churchill who defined success as “Going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” I am rather found of that quote. If we can keep our enthusiasm for another day, to me, that is a success.

My favorite quote about success comes from Earl Nightingale which reads, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Meaning if we have a clearly defined goal and are working toward achieving it, we are, by definition, a success. If you googled ‘success quotes’ you would uncover a million more. What matters most is what you consider a success? Is it pleasing your boss? Is it living up to the goals of your friends? Or is it something bigger?

To me, a successful life begins with successful days. Put enough together and you have a successful life. What defines a successful day? Perhaps you did something to make your spouse feel loved and beautiful? Then the day was a success. Maybe you did something stupid that upset your spouse, but you learned from it and now you can do better in the future? Again, that day would be a success. If you are like me, you might even do both in the same day.

The point is here that you get to define what success is for you. The more you look for accomplishments, the more you can develop a mindset to chase bigger and better ones.

EVOLVE, DO NOT INVOLVE

Here is a simple question I have learned to ask myself that has reduced my stress by a great margin. In addition to the stress reduction, it has kept me focused and helped me improve almost every aspect of my life. What is this amazing question? Will this help me evolve in any way? Now this can be financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically or any other way in which you might come out a better person.

Routinely I see and hear about people concerning themselves with things that do not matter in the slightest. They argue passionately (and sometimes even hold grudges) about things such as sports or politics. They get involved in gossip. They worry about celebrity activities. The ironic thing about all of this is it seldom affects the people they get so passionate about. The political landscape will not change because you and your coworker are no longer on speaking terms. Your team will not change its approach to the game because you and your best friend end up screaming at each other. In fact, they probably will never even know or care that the discussion happened. How will it affect you? It will stress you out, put a little wear and tear on your nervous system and probably a lot of your relationships.

Then there is the matter of gossip. Margie and I go to great lengths to keep this as far away as possible. Working in bars as a DJ, however, I have the unfortunate displeasure of seeing this more often than I care too. People who have no involvement in an issue throw their opinion and quite often themselves into others business. I cannot think of a time when this has resulted in anything but more of a mess.

Begin this week to ask yourself “Will this help me evolve as a person?” Maybe the book you are about to read will help you learn something, or maybe it will give you a laugh or some heartfelt entertainment. Will voicing your disagreement as to how your football team played verses how your friends played do anything but start a disagreement?

While thinking of this, be careful to know the difference between instant gratification and evolving. Sure screaming at your spouse when they make you mad may allow you to blow off some steam, but will it do anything to help your relationship evolve? Will giving a not so friendly gesture to the person who cut you off in traffic really do anything to help the situation?

This takes a little practice and we all have moments that we do things that have us asking ourselves, “Why did I do that?” If we make a practice of asking ourselves “Will this help me evolve?” more often, we can avoid asking ourselves the first question.

MY APPEARANCE ON THE ‘BOLD MOVES’ PODCAST!!

I had the great fortune to appear on the ‘Bold Moves’ podcast. We discussed a wide range of topics from my personal story, my upcoming books to secrets that can turn your life around. Click on the link below, but only if you are prepared to be positively inspired!

CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS AMAZING PODCAST

DEATH MAKES YOU YOUNG

 

 

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This title may have you scratching your head and wondering if I have returned to drinking large amounts of rum. I can certainly understand if you were thinking both, but the reality is far more inspiring.

How can death make you younger? Truly, that sounds close to insanity. This touching and inspiring story is not mine, but was emotionally relayed to me by a gentleman at a show that my lovely lady and I were DJing this past Sunday. This man came in with a group of people and signed up to sing a song. Fairly straight forward at this point. In this group there was a gentleman who was a little older than the average person that comes to our shows. When he stepped up to the microphone he seemed to just exude not just happiness, but a true passion for simply being there. No matter what seemed to be going on around him, the smile never left his face.

A while later the younger gentleman came up to sign him up to sing again and what he told us was such an inspiring tale I implored him to let me share it with all of you. He was kind enough to agree, so for that I am grateful. The older man was his father. He had been in the hospital fighting some serious issues. A formerly healthy man had found himself down to 150 pounds and fighting for his life. In two separate instances, his wife, the young man’s mother, was asked if she wanted to ‘pull the plug’ and end his misery. She replied defiantly, explaining her husband was a fighter and she was sure he was not giving up so neither was she. The doctors were not as hopeful as she was and tried to ease her into accepting the inevitable. She knew the man she loved better than them and was having none of it. Sure enough with the love of his wife and son, as well as others this gentleman continued to fight and pulled through.

This truly was a great story, but what does it have to do with growing younger? Recall the way I described how the gentleman had approached singing that night. He never lost his smile and seemed to just radiate passion for simply being alive. After hearing his story it is easy to understand why that might be. As beautiful as his state of being was, it had an even greater aspect, it was contagious! As his son told his story, tears filled his eyes. “Look at him.” he said as he pointed to his father. “He is just so happy to be alive.” You could tell his son treasured each day with his father as what it was, a gift that almost taken away by illness.

It was not just this man and his son that was affected by his ordeal. Him and his wife were like teenage lovers. The whole evening they looked at each other with love in their eyes and joy in their hearts. You could tell this woman who made the ever so difficult choice of not pulling the plug when her husband was suffering so greatly, was truly living the dream. She now had more time with the man she loved and almost lost. I do not know what their relationship was prior to this, but I imagine like many others it might have fallen victim to the law of familiarity. There is a lot of love, but even subconsciously, we begin to take the person and even the love a little for granted. We assume they will be there tomorrow and the next week and next year. It seems only an experience such as the one this couple went through can move us out of this rut.

The takeaway today is this – let us not wait for a tragedy, or near tragedy of our own to begin to fall in love with our life and those inside of it. Hopefully, this story will do for you what it did for me, that is realize how quickly something, and someone can leave us. This year I have lost 3 people very close to me. One was in his 80’s, one was only in her 40’s and one was in between. As truly heartbreaking as these loses were, the end result was the same; I had the great urge to run home and wrap my arms around my lovely Margie and remind her how beautiful and loved she is. It inspired me to laugh more, to love deeper and to not take anything or anyone for granted.

It is often through our greatest loss, that our appreciation for what remains can be rekindled. Life has a way of blinding us to the beauty that surrounds us everyday. You could certainly think of those who have already crossed over and what we wish we could have shared with them, but let us not forget all those who are still in our lives and mean so much to us. Take a few moments and ponder how much your life would be turned upside down if you lost that job you always tread going to. Look into the eyes of those you love and ask yourself what if you lost them today? What would you most regret not telling them. Most importantly, tell them now. Realize it is never too early to let someone know how much you love them and never too late to fall in love with your own life.

On a side note, the young man told me something else that really touched me. His father read one book before he went into the hospital and again while he was recovering, my book.  A Happy Life for Busy People To be a part of such a heart-warming story means more to me than I can explain.

THE ESSENTIAL CHANGE

My second book opens with the statement –

unless you change yourself, nothing will change; once you change yourself, everything else will change

This is a very important thought for several reasons. First, saying, or even thinking things like “I’ll be happy when…” hands over control of your life to other people and situations. Why would you let others decide whether or not you can enjoy your own life?

Another reason to realize you are the only person responsible for the quality of your own life are problems. When I hear people who consistently blame others for the situations they find themselves in, I know these people will never live a happy and successful life.

Let us be honest here, people can be jerks. They can say rude and hurtful things to us. They can put us in uncomfortable situations. What control do we have over that? A great deal. We can take a hard look in the mirror and see if there may be any truth to the things they are saying. If so, we can use it as constructive criticism.

What if there is no truth to what they say and it is just mean? Then we can raise our standards as to who we have in our lives. What if this person is our boss or some other person not so easy to dismiss? We can use that person for our own development. Practice our patience, controlling our anger, or having compassion for those who don’t deserve it. We can do all this while working to improve our situation.

Sometimes they are there to teach us a lesson. Such as no amount of money or job is worth our dignity. No amount off affection is worth any amount of abuse. These are all very difficult situations, but waiting and relying on the other person to change will most often result in no change.

Working on myself has lead me to my greatest improvements and my greatest joy. When I became a better man, my job became better, my relationships improved. I noticed when I treated others better and gave more to them, I received more in return.

To this day, I spend the most time and effort working on myself. Every improvement in myself touches and improves every area of my life.