REMEMBER WE ARE ALL IN THE PROCESS

It is no secret to anyone who follows this website and my work in general that I have spent over 20 years in the field of self-improvement. One thing that I must remind myself of every so often is the fact that not everyone else has. This may sound silly and an obvious point, but it can be a fact that gets away from me.

When I hear someone constantly complaining about how unfair life is or how terrible their life is, I am tempted to remind them how they do a great deal to create their own reality. We all have challenges great and small. That is part of life. It is really how we respond to life’s challenges that does a great deal to determine how life treats us. There are a lot of people who are ignorant to even that basic equation. I was fortunate enough to be raised in an environment where reading and thinking where encouraged. In the course of reading hundreds of books, listening to just as many CDs and videos as well as attending seminars and listening to as many people as I can I have learned a great deal.

One of the greatest challenges to me is having the patience and understanding to realize although most people have the opportunity to do the same, many have not. When I speak to people about ways they can reduce stress, increase joy and become the best version of themselves, I am often met with resistance and sarcasm. On a rare occasion even violent resistance. It would be easy to come off as condescending, but it serves as a great reminder of many things for me. First off, I am so grateful for all I have been given and all I have learned. My life is far from perfect, but I am constantly discovering new ways to reduce stress and have more happiness in my life. I am also grateful that I do have the life I do. I have friends who love me, a beautiful and loving lady, and supporters from over 100 countries who read what I write.

The second thing I am reminded of is everyone is working towards becoming the best version of themselves. If you don’t believe me, just walk into a gym shortly after the first of the year. Not everyone has the tools to successfully accomplish all they desire. That would be evident by visiting that same gym 30 days after the first of the year and noticing how many less people are there. Still, everyone is giving it their best shot. There are very few people I know who are not interested in improving their lives. Some do not understand the only way to do that is by improving themselves. That is the main focus of my second book.

Some really wish to improve themselves and their lot in life, but lack the necessary tools. Some do not even know where to look for those tools. That is why I am always happy to share what I learn and am still learning. There are those as mentioned earlier who even when given the tools will refuse to believe them. This could be because they have been raised in a negative environment or are so cynical that they are getting in their own way. Those are people I still try to help. Whether that is leaving a card for them when they are ready, or being an example of what it looks like to live life using the tools I put forth.

Let us all do our best to understand everyone is working towards a better life. Even those seemingly following the wrong path may just be misdirected or lacking hope and direction. When we understand that we are all doing the best we can it is far easier to approach others with compassion and a genuine desire to help.

WHY ARE THINGS SO HARD?

Today’s post is more opinion than strategy. It is a way of looking at things that I found to serve me. I invite you to take it in for consideration. It has made my life a lot less stressful at perhaps the worst times imaginable.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You have been putting extra effort in at work, maybe even skipping sleep and working weekends. You show up for work one morning determined to do a good job only to find a note on your desk from the boss explaining your job has been eliminated do to downsizing. How about this lovely situation – You found that special someone. You finally have let your walls down and put every once of energy into creating the most loving and romantic relationship possible. You found out they have been doing the same exact thing… with your best friend. Maybe you have scrimped and saved to buy that new car you have been dreaming about. You even updated your insurance. Then your car is totaled by a hit and run driver, the day before your new insurance kicks in.

I think in life we have all faced situations where we have given it our all, with the best of intentions only to have life hit us on the blind side. Let me tell you from a motivational and inspirational perspective – it sucks. This can leave us scratching our heads or even laying on the floor in the fetal position searching for the answer why. It can even leave us jaded with the opinion, “Why bother to try, things will just go wrong anyway.” I recall when my car was totaled in front of my house as I was inside taking a nap things going from bad to worse. The gentleman was elderly visiting from Greece without a license. It was a cold January day in Wisconsin. I could see blood coming from his head and invited him inside to stay warm. After his son came and we exchanged information I mentioned maybe taking him to get checked out. As I waited for the insurance to get ironed out, I even sent the gent a get well card.

What was the result of my remaining cool and compassionate in the face of such a challenging situation? Well, even though we have the same insurance company it took weeks for them to settle. I ended up buying a car from a dealership down the street that sold me a lemon. After spending thousands of dollars to try and keep it running I gave in and sold it at a huge loss. Times like that can leave us angry at the world. Luckily I have learned some things to help me along my journey of life. One of them is to place motivational quotes where I can see them when needed. I happen to find this quote in the middle of all the car chaos.

Keep your head up. God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.

I thought of some of the people I have known who have faced challenges far greater than I was going through at the moment. They remained positive and I was determined to do so as well. It reminded me of the ugly world of politics. Before an election you see advertisements attacking opponents. Do they attack the opponent who is last places in the voting? Never. It would be a waste of money and resources. It is always the person closest to them in votes. Life is that way too. I have learned people usually attack you or try to bring you down because they view you as some sort of threat. I have seen that with negative people attacking my writing because it is a threat to their pessimistic, blame oriented view of life. To consider that they have a good deal of responsibility for, and thus control over their life is a threat to their way of thinking.

It is when you are getting closest to achieving your goals that the challenges become the greatest. It is as if life is both testing to see if you both really want what you are chasing and if you are prepared to receive it. The old cliché that it is always darkest before the dawn holds some truth to it.

Next time life has you up against the ropes remember two very important things. One, life wouldn’t even bother challenging you if you were weak. There is no joy in defeating a weak opponent. Two, and this may be even more important, if you manage to make it through whatever situation you are facing, you will come out stronger and more likely to be able to kick some ass at whatever will come your way in the future. Much like working out, the heavier the weight, the bigger the muscle gain. Keep in mind you are never alone. There are others who have been through challenges as well and we stand with you.

AM I YOUR BROTHER?

I cannot claim complete credit for this blog. Then again, that can be said for most of my blogs. This one was specifically inspired by my coworker Jon. We were driving back from helping a different coworker who had gotten a flat tire. At this point, let me give you a brief description of Jon. He is a mild-mannered man who has spent time living abroad. Jon does not yell and when he speaks you can tell a lot of thought goes into what he says. In short, Jon is a good man who you would want to spend some time around.

Back to our conversation. We were discussing his time living in Korea and he mentioned the respect people have for each other there. He also noted something I found to be of great interest. He told me it was his experience that people around the same age referred to each other as brother and sister and those older than you are spoken to with a greater degree of respect. I shared with him my knowledge of Native American culture and how others are often referred to as brother and sister as well. I also told him how elders are called grandmother and grandfather. They are also held in high regard because of all they have lived and been through. I wrote about the importance of older people and the wisdom and experience they contain in an earlier post, but it bears repeating. Those wonderful souls are living treasures that will be lost with their passing. To treat them with anything less than respect is a disgrace.

As we continued to muse and discuss the subject, we both came to the conclusion that there is a correlation with how you view and address people and the amount of respect you have for them. After all, unless your name happens to be Cain, you would not likely wish to kill your brother. If we go back far enough we are more than likely related in some form or fashion. Even if not related genetically, we can be brothers and sisters ideologically. Even if we differ slightly in some regards we are all striving for the best life we can have for ourselves and for the ones we love.

Keeping this knowledge in mind, let us look for what we have in common instead of what divides us and we will find we are all brothers and sisters in some way. Jon, for example, is my brother in that we both have the same struggles and experiences working for the United States Postal Service. That can be said of my friends Chris, Laura, Christine, John, Don, Raul, Beth, Julie and many others I know. I have brothers and sisters who have the unique understanding of the bartending arena. Lisa, Matty, Dylan, Ashley, Jenny, Autumn, Emily, Rebecca, Audra, Alysa and more. Then there are my brothers and sisters in the literary field. Ursula, Aura, Stefanie, Cari, Andrada, Kelly and more. Margie is even my sister in that she is a creative entrepreneur. Although calling each other brother and sister would be a bit awkward. I have a brother in my friend Russ as we have been through so much and have a lot of love and respect for each other. Which brings me to my sister Michelle, an amazing lady who is the best sister a guy could have!

You see all of these people, with one exception, are not actually related to me. I do view them all with a feeling of Kinship beyond what I would refer to a friend. Next time you find yourself walking into a coffee shop or fast food place think of the person behind the counter as your brother or sister in working with the public. We all know the struggles that can be. When someone cuts you off in traffic, know they are your brother and sister in trying to get home to their family or maybe to work on time. That is not to say that brothers and sisters won’t make you angry or you may not agree sometimes, but that does not make them any less your brother or sister.

Feel free to recognize people you would be proud to call brother and sister in the comments below.


WATCHING YOUR DIET

People are so careful about their diets today. Gluten-free, Paleo, low-carb, high-fat. It seems every day there is another healthy way that we should all be eating. Then there are the new allergies that people have to look out for. Some are allergic to nuts. Some people cannot consume dairy products or shellfish. In other words, these days people are being far more discerning as to what they put in their bodies. All this is good. It is good that we are eating with the idea of helping our bodies function at peak efficiency.

Ironically, and somewhat tragic to me, is that is where the discernment stops. We spend our days listening to music that is sometimes filled with violence and a total lack of respect. We watch television shows where characters try to get laughs by putting each other down with sarcastic barbs. We read stories in the newspaper, online and social media (more about that tomorrow) that are filled with harsh judgments, political rancor and other drama. Then at the end of the day we wonder why our energy is drained and we feel stressed out.

Like the picture above mentions, we need to mindful of the things we put into our body emotionally, spiritually, and physically. We will do our best to avoid that sweet treat that will only end up giving us cavities and some extra pounds to carry around with us. We should take the same approach on deciding if what we are going to consume with our eyes, ears, mind and spirit will serve us or contribute to our daily downfall. Will reading that article about the latest mass shooting really bring anything good into our lives? Does being inundated with the latest chapters of what is wrong with the world give us anything but a sinking feeling of depression and a sense of hopelessness?

Am I saying we have to be worried about every little thing we watch, read, listen to or even people we hang around? Not at all. That will only cause you to be stressed out about the things that can be unconsciously stressing you out. That would be…well…very stressful. What I am asking you is to be more aware of what is going into your body. In the beginning especially it can be hard to think of I have to get rid of that or I have to stop doing that. That can leave you feeling like your brain is fighting you and with a feeling of deprivation. As I do in all of my practices, here I advocate increasing the positive to decrease the negative.

How do we do that? Do your best to include reading a few pages of something inspirational. Those Chicken Soup for the Soul books work well. Filled with short inspiring stories that fill you with joy, they can add a little something special to your day. On this site and in my book we talk about creating a Happy Playlist of songs that bring cheer to your day. Spend time with people who make you laugh, smile and bring your spirit to life. As far as social media, we will delve into that tomorrow. If you have any other suggestions for things to add to your Diet feel free to leave them in the comments below.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISH, BUT WHO YOU BECOME

Goals are very important. Not only do I stress that, but almost every great speaker and self-improvement coach will tell you that as well. Still, goals can leave us feeling unfulfilled once we accomplish them. Have you ever achieved a goal, especially one you have been working a long time on, and then wake up one morning to the question “Now What?” Worse is accomplishing a goal only to find yourself still unsatisfied at the state of your life. That is because when setting a goal, you must focus on the most important aspect.

The most important part of the goal is not what you set out to accomplish. What then is the most important part of setting a goal? The most important thing that can happen when you are achieving a goal is who you become in the process. Notice I said achieving. Even in the process of working on the goal you will learn and therefore grow. This is what makes the difference.

A prime example of people who accomplish goals, but do not learn or grow can be found in lottery winners. A good portion of lottery winners find themselves to have spent all of their money or even worse in debt only a few years after winning the lottery. That is because although they had accomplished their goal of winning a large sum of money they had not learned to be a person who can handle finances.

This is also the reason why after achieving a goal we can still feel empty and unsatisfied. Growth and contribution are what create a positive and rewarding life. If we have not developed in anyway from what we have struggled through the victory is hollow. This holds true not only for goal setting, but for making it through painful periods of our lives. It is only by using that pain and learning and growing from it can we truly heal. Whether that is to understand and treat others with more compassion, or motivate ourselves to be the best version of ourselves, pain becomes the victim if we use it to better ourselves.

Here is the flipside to all of this and the greatest thing about it. Most of us have been going about this backwards. When you set out to achieve a goal ask yourself the very important question, “Who would I have to become to make this goal become a reality?” Set out immediately to begin the journey of becoming that person. What kind of traits would they posses that you may not posses currently? Would they be more patient? Would they be in better physical shape? You can start becoming that person today.

Here is the greatest thing about all of this. As you become that person, you will find this goal becomes easier and less stressful to accomplish. On occasion, you may find the goal changes entirely. The best thing is that when you wake up you will never feel empty or unfulfilled. In fact, as each day goes by and you take steps to become the person you would be if you had accomplished the goal, you will feel better about yourself and more self-confident with each passing day. Ask yourself this important question every time you begin a new goal and you will never be disappointed.

BE THAT PERSON

Be that kind of person. What kind of person am I talking about? The one who always has something good to say about someone. The person who always has a smile to share. It may not seem to make a difference, but it does. As I write this I am sitting at a local coffee shop a few blocks from my day job at the United States Postal Service. I am reflecting on the countless times I have been in this exact situation. The service I receive from the person behind the counter can really help, or maybe distract from my writing. To the person helping me behind the counter I might be just another face in a sea of people wanting some kind of beverage and that is understandable. Even if they knew that their service may add a little extra step to a author doing his best to inspire the world to become the best versions of themselves it may or may not make a difference.

The truth is we all have this power. We do not know what the person we run into in the grocery store is up to. It could be a surgeon worried about performing open-heart surgery on an infant the next day. It could be a person struggling with personal loss that could use a bright spot in their lives. It could be a person struggling with depression and thinking about taking their own life. It could even be someone full of rage and thinking about taking the lives of others. The cases do not have to be this extreme and may not be, but we may never know. It could simply be a former bartender and current postal worker looking to better themselves and the world around them.

This is all about the power of a smile, of a simple ‘hello’. In all of us there lies a great power. It is a generally untapped power for the most part. That is the power of kindness. It makes a difference. It may be a big difference, it may just be that added inspiration the person needs. Chances are we will never know the effect that it has. Trust me when I tell you it has an effect on every single person you use it on. They probably will not even know you are using it. The more you practice this random acts of kindness the bigger effect you will have on the world.

I warn you that there is one side-effect you must be aware of. This kindness will come back to you. It may not come from those you have shared it with, but it will and must come back to you. That is a universal law. As you sow, so shall you reap. Before long you will notice those smiles and ‘hellos’ coming your way. You may find yourself with new friends and connections you never would have met. In addition, some people report a second side-effect. That is an increased sense of well-being. Seeing the positive way you affect others can only serve to put a smile on your face.

I would love to hear ways that you use the power of kindness. It would be great for all of us to learn simple ways that we can positively affect the lives of those around us. Share your ideas in the comments below!

LET US TALK ABOUT YOUR STORY

We ended last week by discussing stories. The stories we tell ourselves to prevent us from trying new ideas and concepts. I shared some of the stories from my life and how they have affected me. We even looked at stories that others tell us about ourselves. We looked at how we view stories, events and people from our past and how that can have an effect on our future. All of these examples can show how important stories are to our development and overall well-being.

Today we are going to look at your story. In the last few years I have learned so much from listening to the stories of others. Whether it is the stories from my friends Cari and Kelly who show me that even people coming from some of the most challenging circumstances can grow into some of the most loving people with wonderful souls. Listening to the stories about my lovely Margie helped me to better understand the woman I love and the people in her life that helped form her into the divine lady that she is today.

I know I could learn a lot from your story as well. That may sound like a bold claim considering the people who read this span the entire globe. You may be asking what can I learn from the individual from Tunisia who read this on Sunday? I can’t say exactly, but I can tell you for sure something. The examples may not be something I can relate to, for example I have friends who were abused, in foster care, divorced, lost children and a host of other challenges I have not faced. In them I can learn the principles of hope, faith, determination and love. I am eternally grateful to each and every person who shares their story with me.

You may think that your life does not offer any inspiration, but I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. I have heard stories from a friend in Romania about listening to certain music on the way to work. I have heard stories from my friend in Australia about the way she discovers indigenous medicine by visiting local markets. My friend from Mexico shares challenges that the local economy and health care cause him to face in his country. These are but a few of the countless stories I hear each and every day. Even those who share stories about their love, good fortune or healing give me a joyous feeling in my heart.

Perhaps you still think your story is nothing special? “I am just a person who wakes up and works to pay the bills.” Let me tell you that your story, and your life may be just what someone else needs to hear. It may be the challenges or amusing stories you have to offer about your chosen line of work. It may be amusing stories and episodes you have had raising your children. Maybe it is even the way you have approached a health challenge you have. After more then 20 years in the self-improvement field, I can tell you without a doubt, one of the most common feelings people deal with is feeling alone. Knowing that there is somebody else in the world who is facing the same challenge or has even made it through that challenge, can give their heart a little peace.

Please share your story. It may not seem like much to you and you may not understand how it will help anyone else, but it will. Whether you wish to start a blog like this one, write your own book or start a YouTube channel, please get your story out there. Someone is needing to hear just what you have to say. They may be in Armenia, Brazil or Zaire but they are out there. If you need any advice or suggestions on how to get started you can ask yours truly or make good use of Google which has many helpful tutorials.