THE ONLY WHY

In my upcoming book I speak to the importance of having a strong why to keep you focused and motivated to accomplish your goals. Indeed this is very important and can be the difference between success and failure. If, for example, your motivation for getting in shape is to fit into your favorite pair of jeans or just to look good that will take you only so far. If, however, you are working out because you have had a recent health scare or you cannot bear the thought of leaving your family too soon, you will be a lot more likely to be found on the treadmill.

Today I want to talk about what I believe is one of, if not thee, best motivating factor – love. We are not just discussing the romantic definition. Although, how many stories have we heard of people doing anything for love? We are not just speaking of parental love. That being said, daily we can read of parents putting themselves in harms way just to help their children. Even though we are not just discussing those two examples, they represent a good example of the power of love.

Love can be found everywhere. In the above examples we love how we look in our jeans when we are fit. We love our family so much we are willing to spend countless hours in the gym so we will be with them for years to come. Love is in all of the joyous feelings we have. Love is also in some of the darkest moments we have. When we lose someone the pain we feel is the result of the loss of love. Whether it is a break up or someone’s passing the equation is the same, the greater the love, the greater the sense of loss. Our bodies ability to heal itself is an example of the subconscious mind’s love of life and to keep moving forward.

If love is everywhere and one of the greatest motivators, what does that mean for us? Putting the most powerful force in the universe to work for us can transform our lives immensely. Are you hurting from a break-up or the passing of someone you love? Understand the pain you’re feeling is because you have known a great love. It may have ended in one form, but shall remain in your life and can be revisited through memories and reflection of all the beautiful moments. There are far too many who never experience the gift of great love. It is that love that gives life its flavor. Be grateful for having love as a part of your life. Your pain is a reminder that you were blessed with great love.

Do you have a goal that seems out of reach or that you just cannot seem to be able to persist enough to accomplish? Tie that goal to something that you love deeply (see the above example for getting fit) and you will watch yourself accomplish that goal with greater ease and less stress than you ever imagined possible.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe and can be used in many situations. You can use it to bring joy to someone’s face or peace to their heart. You can use it to drive you to be productive and disciplined. It can heal relationships and ease the pain of loss. Love can accomplish anything as long as it is applied correctly. Feel free to share how you used love in the comments below.

LOVE IS THE REWARD

We have spent the last few posts discussing relationships. How to increase the odds of finding a good one. How important it is to bring the best version of you to the relationship you are in. How important it is to respect yourself while you are respecting your partner. These are all great ideas. They are not always easy to do, but the reward is certainly worth it. What is that reward? It is a relationship that supports and adds joy to your life. Whether that be a great friendship or an intimate relationship.

Even while working hard to craft these skills, life can put us in situations that make maintaining our joyful and loving relationship difficult at best. Although it may not look like it from the outside, Margie and my relationship is no different. From the beginning we dealt with people whose self-serving nature tried their best to pull us apart. Add to that issues of family stress, working in the bar industry where the idea of a healthy relationship and the respect shown to other relationships is extremely low. Makes life challenging at times. Recently, you add the passing of quite a few people close to us, most recently Margie’s mother and my discovery and hospitalization for a genetic heart issue and you can imagine there is almost as much stress as there is love at times.

How do we, and more to the point, how can you deal with the stress of life and keep on loving? Whether it is family, friends or your spouse the answer is the same. The easiest, and to be honest, most enjoyable way to do this is to realize the little things are the big things. This sounds cliché, as many things with love can, but the reason something is said so often is because there is truth in it. How can we turn the little things into the big things? How can we take a cliché and turn it into a part of our lives? Allow me to share with you a few personal examples that may help you.

The way Margie and I accomplish this is first and foremost keeping an attitude of gratitude. When we have challenges in our relationships, or even in our life in general, it can be easy to lose sight of all that we have to be grateful for. If we are so busy with work we do not have time to sit down to a wonderful dinner together, at least we have each other and something to eat. When one of us complains, the other does their best to find something to be grateful for in the situation. It helps that both of us have this desire.

In the middle of  the whirlwind of stress we often face, there is one thing we do more than any couple I know and it makes all the difference. We love. What I mean is in the middle of a karaoke show, or last night while shopping at Best Buy, if one of us feels love for the other we show it. This can be anything from stopping for a quick hug or kiss, or even just focused compliments and words of affection. Last Friday while doing a show I happened to notice just how beautiful Margie looked at that moment and I told her. I held her hand looked in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry I know we are really busy, but I just had to let you know how beautiful you look to me right now.” The words touched Margie who thanked me and leaned over and gave me a kiss. Sadly, the grown woman who was standing next to our DJ area who witnessed this responded in what I can only describe as a immature and cynical way. She said “Eww! Eww!” and made a motion like she was going to get sick. Did I mention the bar atmosphere can often not be the best place for a couple?

In your own relationships, take time to make sure the little things become the big things. Whether it is family, coworkers, friends or the special someone you love, take time to show appreciation and gratitude. When you feel love for that person make sure you pause and take time to express that. It could be a hug, an email, a card or a quick phone call. When you see two people sharing a moment like this try and understand all the stress and challenges they may be facing. Taking time to enjoy each other, even if only for a quick hug or kiss may be the special reward that keeps that relationship working.

WE HAVE IT ALL BACKWARDS!!!

When it comes to relationships I think we have it all backwards. It took me a while to realize this, and bless Margie’s heart, am still working on it to some degree. I will be the first person to tell you how important paying attention to your partner is. In my upcoming book I have 3 tips to accomplish this. Before all of this, there is something that we should focus on first – us.

Focus on yourself before your partner? What kind of great idea is that Neil? It sounded a little backwards to me at first too, so let us dive a little deeper. When you are entering a relationship, things always seem magical. Nothing your partner does seems to bother you at all. You find yourself doing all kinds of things you used to not enjoy. Some of that is a positive. I know especially when it comes to cooking, Margie is so talented she has me eating things I thought there was no way I could like. Those are good. The person we are with should expand our horizons.

Then there is the other side of the coin. When we are working hard to win someone’s affection we make sacrifices or even do things that go against our standards. The funny thing is later it will occur to us, “Hey I really do not enjoy these things.” Then when you stop doing them you appear to be doing less for your partner. They can rightfully end up thinking, “He/she used to do this for me and now they don’t. They must be loving or caring less.” Of course this is not the case, but taken from the other person’s perspective it can sure seem that way.

How can we fix such a tricky situation? By realizing the one person we can affect in the relationship is who we can work on, and that is ourselves. Before you get into your next relationship, be sure to know what your values are and what you are not willing to compromise on. There is always a good amount of give and take in any healthy relationship, but it helps to know what is too important to give on. The right person will not only be understanding of that but will share theirs as well.

There is a fun and important side to this and that is knowing what it is that brings you joy in life. Last post we talked about ‘doing you’ and this is yet another reason why that is important. When you know what it is that brings you joy you can share that with your partner. Plus, let us face it, being in a relationship with a happy person is a lot more enjoyable.

What if you are in a relationship that is not currently working so well? The answer is the same. Focus on you and only you. That really sounds backwards so allow me to explain. When things are rough we are quick to focus on our partners faults and how they should change. That will never help things and may only add more distance and separation in the relationship. Focus on what you can do to bring positive changes into the relationship. Is there a communication problem? Do you feel your partner doesn’t listen to you? Think of ways you could make listening to you more enjoyable and desirable for your partner. Is there a lack of intimacy? Think of what you can do to set a more romantic mood, or better yet, ask your partner to help you. Make sure you do this in a constructive and loving manner.

What if you are in a relationship where you truly are doing the best you can and your partner, for whatever reason, is not doing their part? This is the main reason to work on yourself. When a relationship comes to an end we are often left with two emotions – sadness and regret. If only I would have said this, or if only I had not said that. Knowing you worked as hard as can be to bring the best version of you to the relationship will not only eliminate a lot of the sadness and grief you feel from that relationship ending, but set you up for the best possible chances of success in your next relationship.

LOTION, A DISCO BALL AND BUTTER BRICKLE ICE CREAM

This is an odd group of items. Do you know what they all have in common? Let me tell you. They are all items my lady had expressed excitement for or about lately.

On the way home from the gym I saw her favorite flavor, butter brickle, was at this little custard stand. Right now we are not eating ice cream, but I knew it would not be back there for at least another month.

The light on our porch was from Halloween. Kind of cool, looks like a flame. That is if you are standing under it looking up. Otherwise, it doesn’t look like Much of anything. Margie mused the other night that it would be cool to put a disco bulb in there. Then our porch could look like a disco and you could see it down the block.

As a gift at Christmas, Margie gave me a lotion called ‘happiness’ which to be honest is what it smells like. She did this because I have seasonal affective disorder. To me winter feels like an 8 month season of depression. She found out, that she likes the scent just as much, if not more, than me.

So today I left work a few minutes early. I drove a different way home and stopped by the mall. I managed to find the store that carried the happiness lotion, they also had a gift box with a bath ball and sanitizer in the same scent! I bought it for her.

Further down the mall I found a store that sells disco bulbs. They were out. The lady informed me all they had left was the display. “That’s fine I’ll take it.” I said, not waiting for her to offer. She wrapped it in lots of paper because they had no box.

Then I drove to the custard stand. Knowing my love wasn’t eating ice cream for a bit, I asked them to pack me a pint to be eaten later. They did.

I took these items and drove – no I floated home! Why? Because I just knew the look of joy I would see on that beautiful face when I got home. I knew this because I did what I tell all couples to do – I listened.

I’ve had people, men and women, ask me, “do I have to?” No, you get to! The reason I put forth the effort is because I have a woman who takes pride in her appearance, and to me is the most beautiful woman in any room she finds herself in. She is an amazing cook and gives a meal you look forward to every evening. Most importantly, like when she bought me the lotion, she loves and she cares.

Was today a special day that she deserved to be showered with gifts? Damn right it was! She makes every day of my life special and she deserves to know that and she deserves to feel as special as she truly is.

Do you know who else does? Your wife… or maybe your husband, or a brother or friend. Maybe a teacher or pastor who inspired you? Only you know who it is. Listen to them. Learn what makes their heart sing and then help them find that song.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always been good at this. There are so many people that have blessed my life in so many ways I haven’t always let them know. There is a few that it is too late for, but many more that it is not.

Most importantly, there is one who blesses my life each and every day. She doesn’t do it because I love it. She doesn’t do it because she thinks she is supposed to. She does it because that is who she is. That is what makes her so special and what makes her so special to me. She not only needs to know that, she deserves to.

I love you baby.

TAKE A BITE OUT OF LIFE!

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What is this a picture of? Some of you may say it is a picture of a sandwich with a bite out of it. True, but not exactly. It is much more than that. Let me tell you what this picture symbolizes. First, a little background on the picture. It is indeed a sandwich, in a plastic bag with a bite out of it. My lovely lady made me this sandwich to take to my day job which is with the United States Postal Service. She had it put in a bag along with a few other items.

Ok, so I know what must be on your mind at this point, why the bite? For those of you sensitive to romantic situations this would be a good time to stop reading. Although we have the great fortune of working together 4 nights a week and spending another working in the same building time apart happens far too often for our liking. This day we had a great morning working out at the gym together, we had went to a winter market a few days before and were just generally enjoying the time we were sharing. So my lady being as sweet as she is decided to help me save some time on my morning routine of getting ready. Which, I must confess often resembles the fury of activity and speed displayed by a Nascar pit crew, by packing me a lunch. That was a very sweet gesture and one that I did appreciate oh so much. Plus, it gave me a healthy alternative to the sugar filled junk in our lunch room.

So what on earth is with the bite already? Ok, here is the romantic thing. We both mentioned how we were having such an enjoyable time with each other that we found it particularly difficult to be apart that day. So after she made my lunch, she took a bite out of my sandwich so I would remember who made it. Ok, so yes it may seem mushy and overly romantic to some of you, but I found it rather cute. The point of all of this is that the littlest of things can mean the most. My mom used to pack me lunches on occasion when I was in school. It was very nice of them in both cases, but my lady went a little further. That little act of silliness and thoughtfulness stuck with me so much I not only took a picture, but I still think of it to this day.

So if you would like to increase the romance and little things in your relationship, feel free to share this with your partner and start thinking of little things you can do for them. You do not need to buy a new car or an expensive gift to have your partner fall in love with you (Although honey, if you are holding out on giving me a new car feel free) all you have to do is show them you thought about them and you care. Feel free to share this with anyone else you know, or on your social media page. Also feel free to leave romantic things that you and your partner do for each other in the comments below so other readers can try them as well.

 

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.

A TIME TO REFLECT AND GIVE THANKS

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Today is one of the days of the year that presents more of a challenge than most. On the same day both the state fair, an event I look forward to all year comes to a close. In addition, my vacation from my day job is now over and summer which I so enjoy seems to be winding down. Every year this happens. I know it is coming and I try to find ways to make them not hit me all at once. One of the ways I have done this is to reflect on all the great memories I created at the fair this year. This year the lovely lady in my life threw me a surprise birthday party at the fair. A lot of my good friends and family were there. We had a blast. I saw a classic country artist with my sister, and a popular funk band with my beautiful lady and amazing friend. There were great new foods we tried and some fun things we have picked up.

Still, it is over now. I am full of memories, but soon it will be back to work. Soon the leaves will change, snow will fall and winter will be here. This is always a great challenge to my ability to remain positive and I am grateful for that. I am also grateful to the love of my life. Finding out quirky things about the ones we love is one of the more unique aspects of being in a relationship. If you have read my blog for any amount of time you are probably well aware there is lots of quirkiness to be had in this gentleman. My addiction and focus on attending a summer festival for 11 days straight is certainly one of them. We lost some time together and at times my focus was on watching a bird show and what new foods to try more than on ways to be romantic and loving.

So now that it is over how does this wonderful woman respond? A sigh of relief? A feel screams of “Amen!”? Those would certainly be understandable. Even “I am glad to have my man back” would make sense. She did none of those. The picture above is of a card she gave me when I came in to work late at a business we do together. She let me stay late because she knew it was the last day of the fair and wanted me to enjoy myself. So instead of being happy for all that will be better for her now that my fair addiction is over she gave me a get well card. I won’t share all of the details and heartfelt things she wrote inside. Briefly she let me know how much she understood how challenging this time period may be and how much she was there to love and support me through it. Trust me there was a lot more, but that is the general idea.

Here is what my lovely lady taught me in all of this. In times when things seem so overwhelmingly bad, when it seems like every little thing is going in the wrong direction that is the greatest chance to stand up and be loving. We, and by we I am including myself, can be guilty of the urge to run the other direction when our partners are in a funk or bad mood. My love reminds me that can be one of the greatest opportunities to show you care. In addition, for me it was one of the greatest moments I could feel loved and notice what an amazing life partner I had. So I just am going to take the next few days to reflect and be grateful. Of course pass along what comes to me here.