VICTIMS OR SURVIVORS?

Perception and definition, things we have control of. As you are currently reading this I can assume you are alive and kicking. No matter what has happened or is happening in your life you have survived it. You have made it through. You have a 100% success rate at surviving whatever it is life has thrown at you. It does not mean you do not have some scars and battle wounds, but you made it through.

It may have changed you. It may have changed the way you look at the world, but how that happens is a great deal up to us. It depends a great deal on whether we view ourselves as victims of what happened to us, or survivors. As a victim, you may feel like because of a situation you have went through you will never be able to trust anyone again. As a survivor you may decide you will learn for additional behaviors that could lead to deception. As a victim you may feel broken because of a challenge life has put you through. As a survivor you will feel stronger for making it through. Victims are left with a feeling they will never be happy again. Survivors realize although life may never be the same, there is blessings in everything and new ways to discover joy they may be forced to find.

Again, this is not to say you will not have scars. It is not to say that life will not knock you down every now and again. The difference between a victim and survivor is whether you stay down or get back up. When we are sad, hurt or angry and going through some very dark period it may help to lock ourselves in a room with a mirror and yell into that mirror, “I am a survivor! You cannot beat me!” It may sound silly, but it will certainly change your outlook. Couple this with some inspiring music of your choice and it will get you through whatever it is you are going through. It may take a few times and it will take some faith on your time, but before long you will come out on the other side as a survivor and not a victim!

HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN DARK?

Today I want to talk to you about darkness and light. This won’t take long so get comfortable for second. Darkness is an interesting thing. There are several shades of darkness. From slightly hazy to so dark you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Daily we go through the transformation from light to dark as the sun sets. Sadly for me there never seems to be enough sunlight, but I digress. There are certain places on this wonderful planet that seem to be dark. Think forests, long caves and mines, the depths of the ocean and even dungeons of castles. These places seem to personify darkness. The thought of being trapped in any of them can be enough to give some of us a chill down our spines.

Think of how you would feel trapped in a cave with no light at all. You would not know which way was up or down. You would not be able to tell how big the cave was or which way it went. You would also not be able to tell who else might be sharing the cave with you. How long could you remain there? Before long the darkness would start to play with your mind. Now take a deep breath. You are not in a dark cave…at least I would imagine most of you are not. You are in front of a lit computer or cell phone screen.

Life can be much like that dark cave at times. We can begin where our life seems a little hazy and before we know it we cannot see our hand in front of our face. We are unable to see what is up and what is down. We are even unable to see which way our life is heading at times. If we spend long enough in this feeling of darkness it will begin to mess with our mind.

What happens when someone shines a light into that cave? Whether the cave is just a little bit hazy or totally dark, the cave will light up. Here is another aspect to ponder. If that cave had not seen light for thousands of years and suddenly a light was introduced, the cave would still light up. Whether the darkness lasted a day or thousands of years, the light will break through.

I hope by now you are beginning to see the parallel to life. Whether your life has been in darkness for days or for years, you can still begin to turn it around by introducing some light. Rekindle your faith, reach out to a friend, read an inspirational book. One of the best ways to introduce light into your life is to become the light to someone else. At the time I found myself in the darkest place financially I went to help feed the homeless at a meal program. That not only gave me the light of hope, it reminded me of all the advantages I still had in my life. If you were the victim of abuse, help others in that same situation even if it is only being a compassionate heart to listen.

It my latest book I have interviewed people who have faced some of the most severe challenges. Although they all have their unique way of overcoming those challenges they all have two things in common – A focus on gratitude and the desire to help others. By becoming a source of light for others they could not help but have some of that light shine in their own life as well.

Remember my friends, no matter how dark it seems, no matter how long it has been dark the light will still shine through. Rekindle that light. Become the light for others.

WHAT ARE YOU TAKING TIME FOR?

When I first read the above picture I had to take a second and appreciate how profound that actually is. Sure, we all like to vent and sometimes that is very helpful, but how far is too far when it comes to venting? If you find yourself spending more time finding ways to complain and share your pain and unpleasant emotion state with the rest of the world than actually working on a solution to change your situation, that is too far.

If you look at the above example we could learn a lot. The first thing, feel like sh*t, some people like to just stay in this state. I could never understand that. If I am upset, angry, sad or any other unpleasant emotion I will do anything to change that state.  If it doesn’t work, then I will do something else, if that doesn’t work… well you get the idea.

The second item is complaining. Again, venting is one thing, but dwelling on it is certainly another. Les Brown, one of my favorite authors and speakers put it this way, “Don’t bother telling other people your problems. 80% don’t care and 20% are glad it’s you.” This sounds cynical, but it is true. Unless you think the person you are telling your problems to can help you, tell them something you are grateful for instead. It will help both of you feel better.

The third item, checking social media. If you are already in a bad mood adding the drama of others, or reading any unpleasant news would only serve to bring you down further. You would be better served visiting a motivational website, or reading a good book.

Let us look at the solutions they offer. Meditate. It can help you feel more relaxed and think clearly. It can offer a different perspective on your situation. It brings down your heart rate, releases ‘feel good’ brain chemicals and creates an overall sense of well-being. Going hand in hand with meditating is writing in your journal. Anyone who knows me even a little knows how much of a fan of journaling I am. A journal is like a therapist that is always open and does not charge a great amount of money to listen to you. Much like meditating, it can offer clarity and a sense of release.

Writing down what you are grateful for and your goals can work in two amazing ways as well. Focusing on what you are grateful for can change your feeling from lack to abundance and from sadness to joy quicker than just about anything else I know. Goals will not only change your focus on whatever crappy situation you are in presently to the fabulous situation you want to be in, but will also get you moving. Instead of focusing on where you don’t want to be, which is feeling bad, you can focus on where you want to be. By doing so actions that will bring you closer to that will come in to focus as well. So, next time you find yourself tempted to do any of the first three things on the list, try instead to do one of the last three and notice the difference.

DON’T START TO MOLD

This post I cannot claim entire credit for. In fact, it was a great collaboration of ideas. My friend came up to visit from out of town and within five minutes of sitting down together we were coming up with great ideas to assist people in living more positive and rewarding lives. Interestingly enough these ideas were not solely generated by things we have read or learned in some random seminar, but by our own life experiences.

Allow me to let you in on a little of our conversation. Mold, mildew two words that seldom if ever garner a positive response. How do these conditions exist? Moisture is trapped on a surface and is not allowed to evaporate or escape. Eventually mold and mildew begin to form. Once they take hold they grow and spread rapidly. Unless the area is treated with a special cleaner (I have found the one above to work especially well) and well ventilated. In other words, the moisture must be allowed to escape and evaporate or the mold will reappear.

As most of you know this is not a website dedicated to bathroom cleaning, but to becoming the best versions of ourselves. How do the two connect on this issue? It refers to grieving. Not so long ago my friend had lost his mom. In a vain attempt to maintain an image he fostered he fought his grief. He kept all the tears he had inside for fear of appearing weak or sad. Much like our example above, by keeping his tears, or moisture, inside of him he began to form mold and mildew inside his spirit. It continued to grow and overcome him from the inside. killing off his happiness, his ability to socialize effectively with others. He even tried to treat the problem by drinking. It was no more effective than washing mold with water. It may looked good at first, but the mold came back stronger than ever.

It wasn’t until my friend finally let his tears flow, until he got that moisture out of him that he was able to move forward. The mold and mildew inside his soul dried up and went away. He was able to become happy again. Not that he still did not grieve and miss his mother, quite the opposite, he was honest about those feelings and allowed them to show.

If you have pain, if you have grief, do not hold in your tears. Do not let society or others dictate how you express that grief. If you do your soul may begin to mold. Let your tears flow. Be honest with your feelings. If you need help, please seek help. Whether it is the shoulder of a good friend, a support group or one on one therapy, give your grief an outlet. Then and only then will you be able to heal.

WHAT I LIVE BY

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This is, by far, my favorite quote. It is a lesson I find we should all live by. There are two ways I enjoy looking at this quote. The first one is about ‘walking the walk’. One of the worst things we can see is someone who professes one thing, but then does another. If you want your life to be filled with less drama, but you spend your afternoon writing on social media about how filled with drama everyone else is, you are only adding to that. If you want the world to have less drama, start with yourself. There is only one person that we can have complete control over in this world and that is ourselves.

That brings me to the second way in which I enjoy this quote, as sense of hope. This is why I am writing what I do today. For those of you unfamiliar with my story, it was at the depths of darkest despair that my journey of positivity started. I was facing many negative situations in my personal life and was desperately seeking a solution from outside of myself. Everywhere I looked it seemed as if I saw one negative thing after another. The newspaper was full of negative news meant to sell and shock. The evening news on television was more of the same. I saw posts on social media that were certainly less than inspiring.

All of this negativity everywhere was not only frustrating, but had me enraged at times. It may be how some of you feel. I felt angry at politicians and celebrities that seemed to have no regard for human decency. The media only reporting these stories caused more frustration. Seeing people treating each other with hate and prejudice made me so mad.

I wanted to change governments to be more responsible and caring towards the people they serve and less driven by profit. I wanted celebrities to use their fame and position for good. It would also be nice for more of them to respect the people that allowed them to achieve that status. I wanted more people to live in light and love and treat each other with respect and compassion.

Do I still want all of these things? Absolutely. The difference is I decided to be that change. I joined political causes I believe brought about unity and positive change. I made sure I did my best to be an example of treating people with respect and compassion. Daily I work to spread positive news and keep the negative things I hear to myself. I wished more men acted as gentleman, so I do my best to treat my lady as I want to see all men treat theirs. In every way I strive to lead by example. I realized the best thing I could do to reduce the amount of negative people in the world was not be one of them.

What change do you wish to see in the world? Ask yourself honestly, do you embody that change? It may seem like changing yourself is only a small change, but doing so has caused several big changes in my own life. First, by focusing on being positive and not adding to the negative, I have felt more positive myself. I have attracted into my life people who have the same goals and aspirations as I do. Changing yourself has a ripple effect that touches the lives of so many others. If every one of us focused solely on being the change we wished to see in the world, the world we see would change.

MASTER THE FUNDAMENTALS

Recently I was asked a very good question. “Neil, do you ever get angry or depressed?” Reading my material it would be easy to assume I am floating through life on a cloud, and to be honest, that is my general state of being. This is only possible because of the two decades of research and work in the self-improvement field, and even more so because of the continued work I do on improving myself.

There are days, however, that emotions get the best of me. Being an author and speaker does not make me immune to the trials life gives us all. In fact, 2017 might have been the single most trying year of my adult life. One dislocated shoulder, 3 cars, 4 funerals and 3 eulogies makes for a year you would rather not repeat.

A better question to ask is what difference all of this self-improvement work makes when life gives you a challenge. The difference it makes is that the tough times do not last as long, and generally become less intense. When you are focused on increasing the passion and joy you feel in life, you are not focused on anger and sadness.

There are days when both emotions creep up on even the best of us. Just last Saturday I woke up feeling very sad and I couldn’t even figure out why. Talk about frustrating. Here is what made the difference, fundamentals. The picture for this post is of one of my favorite philosophers, Fred Rogers. People always get a chuckle when I mention that, but he was a master of the fundamentals. Such as the title in the picture, “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” How many adults do not have a constructive way of dealing with anger? Quite a few I would say.

Having mastered the fundamentals of what works to calm you down and help you focus when you are angry, or cheer you up and change your focus when you are sad, makes a big difference. These tools can vary from person to person, but should be thought of and practiced before sadness strikes. When you are angry or depressed, you are most likely not in your most constructive and creative mindset. Having developed these tools ahead of time takes the thinking out of the situation which can be very helpful when you are in a state of high negative emotion. Like I tell people at my seminars, the time to learn to swim is on the shore, not when the boat is sinking.

Personally, I have a playlist of songs (you can also burn a CD of songs) that make me happy. I am constantly updating this list as I hear new songs and think of ones I have forgot. I also have a list of movies that make me laugh, places I enjoy going and even people I enjoy talking to. Being able to just push play and hear music to help me change my state, or grab a list of movies and pop one in and be taken away to somewhere happier for two hours without having to think about it has helped me more often than I can think of.

There are lots of other tools that make a big difference. I have a lot of them in my book, A Happy Life for Busy People and at my live seminars. The important thing to remember is that a lot of these should be set up and practiced daily to help you avoid falling into that state. When it can’t be helped, or when life just gets the better of you, then you will have tools you know work and have already practiced. You will have learned to swim on the shore.

One more thing I should mention makes a big difference, your posse. That being the people you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Make sure there are people in your life that know what makes you tick. Even if you have all of the tools, sometimes when you are in an especially dark place, or just one of those funks you can’t get out of they can help you remember what makes you happy even when you can’t. Last Saturday, I spoke with both my beautiful lady Margie, and my good friend Russ. Both of these people know me better than I know myself on occasion. They helped to remind me of what is important to me and what I should be focused on. Having a supportive network of encouraging and loving people can make the biggest difference.

A TOUGH DAY

Did you ever have a moment where you looked in the mirror and did not like who you saw staring back at you? I had just one of these days last Sunday. The ironic thing is I love my life. I really do. I have an amazing lady, first of all. She is beautiful, smart, silly, funny and very loving. I have amazing friends that are loyal and caring. I have a great passion that allows me to share my passion of improving life and by doing so hopefully help and inspire some of you.

So what gives? If all of this is true, and it is, why did I feel so bad this past Sunday? Even those of us who are far along the path of working on ourselves run into this from time to time. At the risk of getting too personal. Just was not liking my look that night, was frustrated with not being able to reach and help more people. I left feeling unattractive and like a failure. Now some logical reflecting could have changed that. Obviously if I have a very attractive lady I must be attractive to at least her which is all that matters to me. This blog is followed in over 70 different countries so even if I don’t always hear about it I am at least reaching a fair amount of people and hopefully affecting them in a positive way. Still all of these conclusions might have well been locked in a secret vault buried deep in the remote parts of the arctic for me to see in my current emotional state.

The million dollar question then is how did I discover this answer and begin to turn my state around. Thankfully I have developed tools on my own and learned from some of the great spiritual and motivational masters that I put into use. Even these, however, were not all available at the location both geographically and emotionally that I was at. No, what I did have is something else I continue to learn and treasure – great friends. First, when I excused myself to ‘get some fresh air’ my friend Pat, came up to me and just let me know he was there for me. Let me know that he cared and did not like to see me upset. I wrote about Pat in an earlier blog as an example of what a great man should be. On this evening he just provided yet another example. Then my good friend Bret could see through me and inquired what was wrong. Confiding in a vague way Bret first provided some verbal reassurance, but also followed it with a wonderfully supportive text.

Last, and certainly not least was my beautiful Margie. At the time we happened to be DJing a show, which for the record is not the perfect place to be overwhelmed with depressing feelings of self-doubt, she began healing me in ways only she knows how. First of all, she expressed her frustration with how I was feeling. At first blush this really didn’t seem to help at all, but as the night went on and I realized by expressing that she was actually showing me how much she thought of me and how difficult it was for her to understand how I was feeling. Then, she finished the show on her own, treating the people to her special form of DJ magic and allowing me to just take some deep breaths. When we got home she lovingly explained how she felt about me and did something that makes me love her so much. She began to use things that I teach in helping me. I recall her saying to me “You don’t like how your writing and speaking is coming along? Then change it!”. She was, of course, right. If you are depressed or frustrated with your current situation the best way to turn those feelings around is through massive action to change that situation. She also provided me some wonderful ideas to do so and pledged her commitment to be by my side through it all.

In looking back I realize there was many great blessings in this tough day. One, I was able to see the benefit of taking care of your friends and being a good friend. Two, I was able to feel the gratitude for the amazing friends and divine woman I have in my life. Finally, I was able to increase my motivation to carry my message to as many people as I can and will be announcing the first of my new seminars for 2017 soon. As a bonus I was also able to see how powerful the things we learn and share on this site work.

So if you are having a bad day, know that each has a host of blessings and to just hang in there, the light at the end of the tunnel may be you.

THE GRAND SOLUTION

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We all have times when life seems to be handing us lemons.  Sometimes we can even question the purpose or meaning of it all.  I know there are even times when we can feel useless.  I know, I’ve been there myself.  There is a grand solution that can not only help is during these times,  but help others,  and the world at large.

What is this solution?  Before I tell you exactly let me assure you that everyone has access to this solution.  In fact, the worse your life seems to be or the more unpleasant things you have been through the better you will be at this. OK enough of the hype, what is this solution that will help everyone including ourselves?

Altruism, that is helping others.  If this sounds like an additional effort or some new age idea it really isn’t.  It is easier than you may think and can be backed up by science.  Allow me to explain.  One of the best ways to help others is by sharing our story, our natural talents or just things we enjoy. Recently I have become friends with a wonderful lady named Ann. She shared with me some of her life experiences and asked me what direction she should go in.  After only a few minutes of learning about her it was clear Ann had a lot to share.  She overcame a weight issue,  cared for a love one and learned a lot about health and fitness.  I’m excited to say she is now sharing her story at AnnieOrganic her own website.
My beautiful lady Margie is another example of this.  Her talents are too many to number and she is always eager to put them to good use.  Whether she is making a cake for someone’s celebration,  jewelry to compliment an outfit, or just lending a comforting ear to someone who needs it she is happy to share what she knows and help teach others.

So what if your thinking “I don’t have that kind of talent” trust me everyone has something.  Have you every overcame a hardship in your life?  Then you can share how you did it. Ever suffer a painful experience?  Then you can comfort others and assure them they are not alone.  Have a hobby you enjoy?  Consider teaching others or joining a like minded group.

What does all this accomplish and how does it work?  By helping others we give our life meaning and get outside of ourselves.  It also helps us better understand ‘there is a reason for everything’ when seemingly negative things happen in your life,  you will nite find yourself asking “how can I use this? ” and understand even in just sharing your experience can bring a sense of comfort and peace to someone else.
So next time life seems to be getting the better of you,  get out and find a way to help someone else. Let’s face it, the world needs more of that.

TAKE BACK CONTROL!

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Last post we talked about not holding on to negative emotions. The easiest way to do this is to not have too many of them in the first place. Easier said than done right? After all how can we help how our family, boss, coworker or even spouse treats us? We can’t tell them “I’m trying to live a more positive life, could you please not act like a jerk?” OK we could tell them that, but not with very positive results.

So how do we limit the effect that other people’s actions have on us? This can be done by asking two very simple questions. I suggest you write them down on a small piece of paper and carry them with you for when such an event takes place.

The first question is this, “what else can this mean?” Quite often the answer can be the other person is just a jerk or has just treated you poorly. Which again is on them and not you. What others do is their business, how we react is ours. So look for a deeper meaning? Often they are hurting and may be expressing that hurt in a very unproductive way or in other words taking it out on you. Another popular thing to note is that often anger is a cry for help. Hearing your spouse say “If you ever stopped playing golf long enough to do something else” may be their way of saying “I would really enjoy spending more time with you” Which brings us to the next item. Sometimes they are bringing to our attention some aspect of our character that could use some work. This is often hard to see if done hurtfully, but ask yourself if there may be a ring of truth to what they are saying? Could you improve a little bit in that area?

The second question we should ask is “How can I use this?” Turn their hurtful emotions to your benefit. Can you use it as positive motivation? Can you use it to learn something about them or even you? Perhaps you can just use it as practice to control your emotions or practice forgiveness?

Either way, understanding we can control our emotions by asking two simple questions “What else can this mean?” and “How can I use this?” Will certainly give control to us.

If you still get upset or hurt see our last post on the power of forgiveness and how it is truly a gift we give to ourselves.

IN OUR DARKEST DAYS

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Quite often we find ourselves in a situation we cannot see the good in. Why did this happen? Try as we might we are unable to see the light in the darkness. What to do then? Just accept the fact that life sucks at the moment? If you know anything about me personally I believe feeling what we perceive as negative emotions can be a great learning experience as long as we choose not to live there. So after some head scratching and maybe even a few colorful words what should we do? Take a look around. See what we still have in our lives that haven’t left us. Maybe it is our faith? Maybe it is even our job obligations? Sounds weird, but when we feel on the outside of life looking in, knowing that our job needs and expects us to be there can go from a burden to a blessing.

Here is another great thing to look at. Who is still there. We have all had moments in our lives when things are not going our way. The worst times I can think of is when we don’t live up to our own standard and let those we care about down. Take a look around and see who is still there. They always say you can only see the stars when it is the darkest. Ask yourself, who are the stars in my life? Who shines the brightest when I am at my darkest. be thankful for them. Use the down periods to be grateful for what is left, then focus on reclaiming what you want to be.