WHO WERE YOU?

We often hear gurus all over telling us that our pain can be our greatest teacher. It can be rather hard to listen to when you are watching them climb into their private jet and return to their own island. I am not inferring that the rich have no problems, or that their advice is any less valid because they have wealth. If we are being honest, hearing that kind of advice from someone who has the appearance at least, of not being in pain can be hard to listen to.

 Shortly after the year 2000, as my study in self-improvement was just beginning, I had a moment that in reflection helped me grow substantially. When I was going through it, however, all I could tell you was it sucked. That is how life is sometimes. Steve Jobs said we can never connect the dots moving forward, only looking back. Sure it would be great to know how your current struggle is going to pay off in the future. It certainly would make going through it a lot easier. I guess that is where something called faith comes into play.

Back to my personal story and how it can benefit us all. Shortly after 2000 the United States Postal Service, the fine edifice where I step most of my waking hours informed me although I was a model employee, due to declining mail volume my hours would be cut to about 10 a week. What made matters better is that to receive these hours I would have to be available Monday through Saturday from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. making it near impossible to find a second job to make up the lost hours. Luckily for me, about a month later they did realize I was an employee worth keeping and found a position for me.

Here is what really threw me, I found myself not knowing what or more to the point who I would be if I left the Post Office. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but at the time I had been working there 13 years, roughly 50 hours a week. It became a part of my identity. In a world of corporate downsizing this can be an all to common situation. It is not limited to jobs either. Think of the end of a relationship. You fell in love and were perhaps in love for a great deal of time. You shared everything, they were not only your lover, but your best friend. All of that is exactly how it should be. What happens when that is gone? The person leaves, be it through walking away, cheating or even passing away. You feel as though a part of you has died. What then?

Just like the loss of a job, it is an end of a relationship. No matter how intense or good the relationship is, job or person, it is a weaving of two paths. Trying to keep this in perspective is one way to help us carry on. I am in no way inferring that this is an easy thing to do. The better the relationship, the more it will hurt. Even in that pain you must remember to balance that with gratitude. You had great moments some may never experience. Maybe that man that seemed so perfect for you turned out to be a no good snake. Maybe he even slept with your sister…or your brother for that matter. The fact remains you still received moments of joy and bliss out of the relationship. The fact they ruined it by being a snake simply means they gave up the right to experience more of those moments with you. Maybe someone you loved passed away? There are no opportunities to share more moments no matter how much you both would have loved that. It is time to realize how rare having someone like that in your life is. Reflect on those memories when they come up not as a sense of loss or that you will never have them again. No, reflect on them with gratitude you had the opportunity to share that with them. Maybe even offer up a word of thanks to their memory for such loving memories. Again, not saying or even imagining any of this is easy. Pain is something we get through day by day.

Lastly, and this is what helped me through my job challenge, is have people in your life that have known you before that job or relationship started. An old friend is a gift that is more priceless than gold. When I was feeling a loss of identity, I called up my good friend and former bandmate, Russ. We have know each other since we were around 13 years-old. I asked Russ a simple but bizarre question, “Who was I before the post office?” Not only did he remind me of that, he even offered some ways in which I may have lost myself due to the post office. Good friends can tell you ways in which you kind of suck without being too hurtful. \

Discovering there was a person who existed before and more important separate from, the job (again this can work for relationships as well) helped me in two important ways. First, it made me determined to keep who I was separate from what I did for a living. This can also be helpful in a relationship. Margie and I are amazing as a couple and people recognize that, but we each have our own personal identities as well. For example, if you want a great cake for your special occasion you best talk to her. Need a speech written? More my forte. The second way in which this liberated me was I realized I was free to decide who I wanted to be as a person going forward, despite whatever foolish actions the Postal Service may take. Who you are should never depend on what you do for a living or who you happen to date. Those things have a great influence on you and it is your job to make sure it is a positive one, but at the end of the day it is you who decides who you are going to become.

In closing, remember that you are not a victim in your life, but a creator. We may not have control over the actions of others and how it can impact us, but we do have complete control over how we react and how we can put the challenges to use in our lives. It will not be easy but it will definitely be worth it.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS

Let us begin this post with a disclaimer. Although the title of this post is “Simple Solutions” I do realize not all problems have simple solutions. Although the picture offers unique and creative ways of addressing the problems listed I realize there are very few ‘one size fits all’ solutions. All this being said, let us take a look at a few of these ideas.

I am going to just talk about a few, but I would love to hear your feedback on any you have tried or any you think may work better. Let us look at the one on grief. Loss, sadness usually is one of the most difficult things to overcome. This takes time and patience. Just as a physical wound takes time to heal, so does a spiritual and emotional wounds. Just like its physical counterparts, the bigger the emotional or spiritual wound, the longer it takes to heal. How can starting a new ritual help? Rituals not only help define who we are, but often determine who we are. When you are stressed if your ritual is to go for a run, that will have an entirely different outcome than if your ritual for stress is to drink yourself to sleep. Rituals can also help keep us present and pay honor to people and beliefs. Starting a new ritual can help us heal by reminding us to enjoy the present while mourning the past. Ritual can serve honor to the loss we are grieving. Rituals can also serve as a great reminder that our life has more to live. That is a very important message to give ourselves.

If you are lonely, calling someone you love just to say “hello” is a great solution for several reasons. One, it is proactive. Loneliness can often be accompanied by or followed by a feeling of helplessness. By reaching out to someone else we are exercising control. The other reason is simple, it will bring them joy. How will it make you feel to bring someone else joy? How will that affect your loneliness? Lastly, who is to say they are not feeling a little lonely themselves? Even if they are not feeling lonely, who would not want to hear a “Hello” from a dear friend? Somebody calling with no agenda other than to share a good conversation.

Lastly, the solution offered for feeling inadequate. Remember your strengths. I feel it is a good idea to keep a list of both your strengths and accomplishments nearby at all times. When I feel that my writing isn’t reaching anyone or making the impact I desire I have a list of people I have helped in the past. I also can look at my Amazon.com review on my book A Happy Life for Busy People. If you want to add to them, I would certainly welcome your contribution. The world is always to quick to tell you what it is you are no good at. It is up to us to often be our own cheerleaders.

Take this list as a suggestion. An even better idea is to create one of your own. After all, nobody knows better what works for you than you. Think of the areas of your life and emotions that always seem to get you down. Create a chart like the one above tailored to you personally. Feel free to leave some of your suggestions to help others get started.

THE DIFFERENCE A SPACE MAKES

I enjoy the reminder is this picture. As we begin the week are we mindful or is our mind full? Taking time to focus on filling our minds with specific things we desire such as relaxed visions of our goals and dreams or things we are grateful for is perfectly wonderful, but that is not what our minds are usually full of is it? No, usually we have passwords, a code to our ATM card, everything on our ‘to do list’ and we can throw in doing our best to remember to pick up toilet paper from the store before we find ourselves in a most unfortunate situation.

Being mindful has an entirely different meaning. Being able to keep in mind the feelings of those around you is important. Being able to keep yourself in the present will help us realize how much beauty surrounds us every day. I use the example of taking your car to the grocery store by yourself. Upon arriving looking around and wondering who drove. I have been guilty of this myself a time or several. Our thoughts can be so busy with the next thing we never appreciate the current thing. Is was John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” 

With most of us walking around with our faces buried in our cell phones, we may miss the beautiful sites of nature. As we drive to work worried about all we have to do once we get there, we may miss the fabulous new coffee shop that just opened, or even just the beautiful weather outside. As we wait impatiently for our specialty coffee drink to be created, we fail to notice how hard the employees are working, the wonderful smells in the café or all of the interesting people who are enjoying their day there as well.

Life is full of moments. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy each and every one of them to the fullest. We do not want to arrive at the end of life wondering where it all went. We want to go peacefully filled with the blissful and loving memories of a life well lived. Today, don’t just have a mind full take a moment to be mindful.

MY WEEKEND MESSAGE

Our message going into the weekend is a simple one. I won’t take up too much of your valuable Friday. The message is this – you deserve to be happy. We all deserve to be happy. One of the best ways to experience happiness yourself is to help others achieve the same.

This weekend, do your best to do these two things. First, allow yourself to be happy. Realize you deserve it. Give yourself that gift. You have been through a lot. I can say that because I know we all have. Whether you are dealing with the stress of running a multi-million dollar company or wondering if you will have enough money to pay the rent, the stress is there. Take a break. Go for walk, buy yourself a balloon or whatever else makes you happy.

The next bit is equally important. When you give yourself that gift of bliss, share it with someone else. Not only  because they too are going through challenges, but because it will amplify your own good feelings. Honestly, doesn’t helping others feel good make you feel good? I know it does for me. Have a great weekend and I look forward to sharing more with you on Monday!

HAVE YOU LOST THIS?


A study of children from 2 to 4 revealed 95% to be considered highly creative. This means these children are imaginative, innovative, they are curious and have tremendous capacity for abstract reasoning and for creating imaginative images. Those very same children were tested again at the age of 7. Only 4% were now considered creative. Between the ages of 4 and 7 children are repeated told things like “Make sure you only color between the lines.” “Don’t touch that!” “That is not the way you are supposed to do that.”
When I heard the numbers involved with this study I found it alarming, but not entirely shocking. Looking back on my formative years I can recall some of these same lessons. Without abstract thinking, however, most of the great solutions and leaps of growth would not have occurred. It is the ‘out of the box’ thinking that allows our scientists and entrepreneurs to bring some of the most wonderful things into the world
The wonderful news here is that creativity is not lost if you do not use it. What happens is that is becomes a latent talent, waiting to be dusted off and used again. Your creative muscles may have atrophied a bit, but fear not you can begin to strengthen them today. With the advent of things such as adult coloring groups, which I was just made aware they have at our local library, it is once again cool to be creative.
What is the big deal about being creative? It is really a two-fold win. First, it helps to create what scientists call brain plasticity. In layman’s terms, this means the ability for your brain to continue to grow. I do not think I need to go into much detail about why this is beneficial, but I will touch on a few of the big points. Exercising your brain in such a fashion can help keep degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia from gaining a foothold or at least slowing their advancement. It also leads to an increase in the ability of problem-solving. The applications for this is only as good as the areas of your life that have problems…that usually ends up being most of them.
An increased ability to solve problems and continued learning lead to our next benefit – increased self-confidence. Keeping your wits sharp will make you feel good about yourself. Tony Robbins, the famous life coach, said “It is progress that will lead to happiness.” If we think about that, isn’t it true? As we are working on and making progress towards a goal, isn’t that when we are happiest?
The final reason for being creative is equally important. IT IS FUN! As we grow older and take on additional responsibilities, it is the fun that often takes a back seat. That fun almost always includes the creative arts. This may stem from hearing “You can draw when your homework is done.” or “You will have time to play when your chores are done.” I can’t speak for all of you, but my chore list is often several days long. If I were to put off any creative or fun time until all of them were completed, my fun time would be far and few between.
Fortunately, the importance of play has come to the forefront once more. Those who have what we like to call a ‘work/life balance’ are often some of the most mentally and emotionally well-adjusted individuals. It is important to include some creative individuals in your inner circle. My beautiful lady, Margie, reminds me how important creativity is every day. I don’t know how she would test out in the well-adjusted scale, but I can tell you she has great taste in who she is dating.
If you don’t have creative friends in your circle, maybe you will have to take the lead and become one. Host an art night. Maybe form one of those adult coloring nights? Get a group together for one of those wine and painting nights. Margie and I host board game nights with friends that are not only creative, but always lots of fun. Your heart, your stress level and of course your brain will thank you.

ALONG THE JOURNEY

If you read posts on a blog like this you are an individual who is focused on bettering themselves and their life. That is great. Here we will provide you tools to do just such a thing. We discuss such various topics as goal setting, vision boards, and many other options.

When you embark on your journey it is important to include one very important item on the list – enjoy the process. Including joy on your journey to self-improvement is essential. Life is meant to be enjoyed. We are going to spend most of our lives on a journey. If we postpone our joy until we reach our destination, our happiness will be far and few between.

How do you remain happy while working to improve your situation? Gratitude. While you are going to school to get a better job, be grateful for the job you have while you are doing so. Working on your relationship? Be grateful you have one to work on. Working on getting into a relationship? Be grateful for the opportunity to start anew.

It may seem like you are never reaching the top of the hill, but you must look around and be grateful for the walk. When it comes right down to it, we must be grateful for the struggle. It is the lessons that help us grow and be stronger. Make being genuinely joyful an important part of your life. Do so by being grateful.

THIS IS CRUCIAL

Last post we looked at ways to limit our exposure to negative people in our lives. Today we are going to look at the more difficult chore of dealing with the negative people we cannot escape. How do you deal with a negative coworker? A boss that is demeaning? A family member who is full of drama? Sometimes limiting exposure is not an option. How can you protect yourself from the influence on every Debby Downer or Negative Nancy in your life?

Before we begin with our idea here, let us make mention it would be worth your time and effort to search for as many possible options to protect yourself against those who drain your energy. Why is avoiding negativity such an important issue? While you are in a negative state you are certainly less likely to try new things, to stay motivated to accomplish those things you are currently working on and to successfully deal with the challenges of life. According to a recent study, 80% of visits to a primary care physician are stress-related. This affects not only your health but your pocketbook as well. Are you beginning to see how important keeping your mood up is?

Here is our idea to employ in our defense against emotional vampires – make it a game. Dealing with this people can be stressful enough, so let us make the solution a little fun. I suggest keeping the fact you are doing this inside your own head. The game is simple, match each negative action and statement with a positive one of your own. If you have a friend or coworker who likes to gossip about other coworkers, match their statements with positive things about that coworker. Do you have a boss that is constantly putting everyone down? Try being the one to lift everyone up. You may wish to do this in such a fashion where it does not seem to be in direct conflict with your boss. Do you have a family member who likes to discuss all of the political problems of the day, or perhaps graphic descriptions of their recent medical procedure? Then for each one of them, you share a story of inspiration or love and peace between people.

This game will accomplish two important things. First, it will give you an amusing and on occasion comical way to deal with their negativity. Making it a game will keep your stress at bay and may even add some positivity as a byproduct. The second thing this game will accomplish is it will begin to annoy the people bringing negativity into your life. Before you start feeling bad, let me assure you that in reality what will be annoying them is the fact that you are not feeding into or reacting to their negativity. This will accomplish one of two things. It will either cause them to limit their negativity around you or limit their time and conversation with you. Either way your life has just become more positive.

I encourage you to try this game and give me your feedback as to how well it has worked in your own life. Feel free to share your ideas for dealing with negative people with our readers in the comments below.

STOP GIVING YOUR TIME TO FOOLS


I am not much for April fools day. Today, however, we are going to be discussing fools. The people in your life that bring drama, negativity and many unpleasant emotions. We are going to look at not only why it is so important to keep from being affected by these sunshine-challenged folks, but more importantly, how to do that.
The first course of action is to limit your exposure to these individuals. Are there people you spend time with out of feelings of guilt or obligation? Realize your primary obligation is to live your life in the most positive and rewarding fashion possible. It is by doing this that you can bring the best to others. If you have people in your life that seem to be draining the joy from your life like an emotional vampire, it is time to level with them.
I advocate doing this with compassion and a desire to invoke a positive change. Let them know what it is you want. This can be done without directly assigning blame or pointing out their actions. Letting them know you prefer conversations that are positive and solution oriented instead of those that consist of rehashing the problems of the world and life with no focus on fixing them. Let them know you have no desire to discuss the lives of others or engage in negative gossip and instead would like to focus on how to improve your own life and focus on the success others have. You may even have to do this mid conversation. If they start to get angry or defensive, just remind them you are letting them know what you would like, they are free to engage in behavior they enjoy.
Sometimes, they may either not get the point or have no desire to adjust their negative behavior. We must understand this is their right. We have no authority to tell others how to live their lives no more than others should tell us how to live ours. What we do not have to do is continue to be a part of theirs, at least as often. When the person notices that you are around less they may ask why. Again, you can be honest without being hurtful. Tell them you decided to take a day to focus on being positive. Or you wanted to focus on some healthy personal growth.
Once you notice someone draining you the time to do something about it is now. If your attempts are met with failure or indifference, and remember that is their right, then it is time to move on. We are only granted one life. It is our responsibility to make the most of it.
What about those we can’t avoid? Perhaps coworkers or even a negative boss or family member? We will take a closer look at positive steps to address those next post, so please come back tomorrow. If you have suggestions for dealing with negative people in your life, feel free to share them in the comments below.

REFLECTIONS IN INSANITY

On March 22nd the band Motley Crue released their long-awaited biography The Dirt. Being a big fan of 80’s rock I was interested in seeing how this all came out. I watched several interviews with members of the band who recalled their crazy days and everything they went through. Nikki Sixx, the bass player, admits he is shocked they were still alive.

As many of you know I was a singer in a band myself for many years. On a phone call with my bass player/co-writer/best friend Russ, we recalled some of the crazy stuff that went on with us. These events contained, but were not limited to – almost setting his garage on fire while, ironically, playing the song Live wire by Motley Crue, being arrested while jamming at a house party hosted by our friend Nick (I still maintain for us this was more of a wrong place/wrong time situation) crazy nights that included way too much rum and kicking flaming balls down city streets. There was many other events that should probably remain in conversation between the two of us.

What was the point of all this insanity? Maybe it is something that you do when in a rock band? Maybe it is the blatant disregard for common sense that is so prevalent in youth? Regardless of what it was, we both came to the same conclusion – we were lucky to be alive and for all purposes unscathed. For all the various band members there were stints in rehab, failed jobs and relationships and health scares. Looking back on some of the things we did, words like insane and foolish come to mind. One word stands out and that is grateful. Quite easily, one of us could have spend a prolonged time in jail or ended up killing ourselves or someone else.

Another thing we were grateful for was our friendship. It has been roughly 30 years since we first met and we still talk at least once a week even though we live in different states. He has become a terrific funeral director, helping people in what is often the roughest periods of their lives. Myself, I have become an author and motivational speaker doing my best to do the same.

In our last conversation, recalling all of our band craziness, we were inspired. Realizing that despite some of the unnecessary distractions we invited into our lives, we created some amazing music, lyrics and memories. Much like Motley Crue, who did some of their best work when all of the members of their band were sober, we began talks of working together on a new creative project.

Neither of us are sure exactly what that will be, but we are sure of one thing, we wasted a good amount of our time together. In the middle of having fun we never realized what great creative potential we had as a team. Our band also included a very talented guitar player named Karl. It was a shame that we did not stick together long enough to make a bigger impact on both each other and the world around us.

The one redeeming factor is after everything we have been through we have learned and came out on top. He has moved to further his career in a state he loves (Arizona), I have met the love of my life Margie, who supports and honestly pushes me to share my talent. Without all that we put ourselves and each other through we may not appreciate what we have now as much.

I am sure each one of us can look back on our lives and think of some points that we would call “Wasted Youth” but if you learn the lessons it is never a waste. Our mistakes have instilled us with not only a sense of gratitude, but one of determination to make the most of our creative talents going forward. I am eternally grateful to be at a point in my life where I have a friend and brother of 30 years to remind me of what is important as well as a loving lady who will push me to make sure I put it to use.

As you look back on your own life be grateful for the lessons and those who have stuck by you. Do not live in your past, but learn from it and use it to drive you forward.