REASON TO BE STRONG

Today is Wednesday, the middle of the week. Often, we use this day as a half-way mark until the weekend. I urge you to take a second to pause and take a deep breath. By this point in the week things can begin to get a bit overwhelming. The irritations of coworkers can begin to add up. Homework can begin to pile up. The stress of work can start to get the best of you. Maybe even a lack of sleep can start to take effect on both your nerves and your ability to perform. If you are like me it can be a little bit of all of those.

How can we keep going? A lot of us just look forward to the weekend and two days to recharge our batteries to begin again. Many, like myself, work weekends and don’t actually have a day off. Even if you have a day off from your occupation, that day can be spoken for by household chores and social obligations. While the latter can be fun, having additional obligations, even social, can be stressful.

The million dollar question is how can we develop something that can keep us moving forward when we seem to have nothing left inside? We have all had times in our lives when life and its challenges have kicked our butt. If you haven’t, don’t worry, it is coming. When everything around you seems to be crumbling. How can you remain strong when you feel you have no strength left?

Become your own superhero. This may sound a bit cliché or hokey, but stick with me for just a second and I think this could be of great service to you. We all enjoy those movies where people overcome the worst situations to achieve great happiness and success. I would suggest keeping a list of movies you enjoy like that handy. Watch them when you feel down. The reason why is simple, you are going to learn from them.

Imagine your life as a movie in which you are the star, the writer and director. Right now is the point when your star finds themselves down on their luck. The audience is watching to see how the star will make there way out of the challenges and overcome. They are waiting to be inspired. Ironically, this happens more than you know. As the writer what would you have the character do? As the director would you have the character change their mindset? Find new inner strength? As the star what resilient traits would you love to show?  

I am fortunate that people come up to me and let me know how my writing may inspire them. That keeps me focused and motivated to continue to bring you good content. People have told me that my book has positively impacted their lives. In a few cases, even saved their life. There are many times people let Margie and I know that our relationship gives them hope as to what is possible. Most of the time you never stop to consider people are watching you. You may never hear from those who draw inspiration from you and your perseverance.

Whether your hero comes from an Avengers movie or someone like 300, keep going. I found the Jackie Robison movie 42 inspiring. Keep a list of inspiring movies handy and remember to be your own hero, your own movie star. You never know who is watching and inspiring. As good parents know, the best teacher is example.

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.

SLOW YOUR SPEED IN THE NEW YEAR

It is the end of the first week of 2019. As I write this I am sitting in a local Starbucks watching a young lady pace back and forth as she waits for her coffee. The line for the drive-thru was quite extensive. Everywhere people are in a hurry to get what they need and where they are going. I must confess to falling victim to this myself from time to time. The question is when do we stop? You need to get your coffee…on the way to work, let us say. Then you hurry to work to be on time, an issue I seem to have more often than I would like. When you arrive at work you are in a hurry to have the work day end and be on your way home. During the ride home you are in a hurry to just get home so you can relax. Once at home, then we relax right? We hurry to make dinner so we could catch our favorite program, hurry through our household chores so we can finally get to bed and get some well deserved rest. When, at last, we finally find ourselves between the sheets our minds are still racing with thoughts of all we have to do tomorrow. It seems we just drift off into blissful slumber when the alarm clock beckons us to do it all again.

I don’t know about you, but I feel tired just reading that paragraph. The ironic thing about this whole mess is that we do it to ourselves. Time, as Einstein reminded us, is just a stubborn illusion. A better way to explain that is a thought I read on the bottom of a sales ad. how long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on. Of course, in at least one of those situations you are still in a hurry. Back to our example of the typical work day. It would seem the adult mind always races to what is next. While it is good to have a goal in mind and be focused on where you are going, it can certainly lead to increased sense of stress and anxiety.

Another thing we do that can leave us chasing time is multitasking. While it may seem like trying to accomplish as many things at once would leave us with more time, the opposite is generally true. The list of tasks in life is always growing and the only thing doing multiple things at once does is diminish the quality of job that we do on each task. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and looking to ‘catch up’.

What is the solution for all of this? SLOW DOWN. The best way to slow down is to work on being present. Keeping our focus on what we are doing can help us appreciate all that is good about each moment. It will also help us feel less rushed. I know it may seem contrary to think that doing only one thing at a time will lead to more time, but it can. First of all, you do a better job by focusing on one thing at a time. This reduces the amount of time you have to redo things or correct mistakes. By focusing on one thing at a time you decrease the time each task takes. Not to mention it reduces the stress of overwhelm. Less stressed people are more productive people.

There are many ways in which we can learn the art of being present. There is one of my personal favorites, meditation. There are tons of free apps available. Some take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. There are also guided meditation videos on YouTube as well as available on CD. All you have to do is pop on a pair of headphones and relax away. You will emerge from that experience refreshed on more centered.

Another source of teaching on how to be present are children and animals. When we were young, we were much better at being able to appreciate the moment. A child could be lost in a moment of play for hours. As they grow older we teach them not to daydream and to focus on what needs to be done. Turning them into stressed out smaller versions of ourselves. Do yourself a favor and get lost in a moment of play yourself. Better yet, bring along a child to show you how it is done. Animals are the other half of this equation. Pet owners are generally less stressed than their pet-free counterparts.  In addition  to the love animals give us, they also remind, and sometimes force us to take moments to pause and totally live in the moment. I have watched a dog smell a tree for several minutes, every surface just to get the full story. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this as the neighbors may begin to refer to you as “That neighbor who smells trees” just taking a moment to fully appreciate what we are engaged in will reduce our stress and give us more time.

RELATIONSHIP SECRET

Nothing has more influence on the quality of our life and amount of joy we experience, or do not experience than relationships. That is why there are so many books, CDs, seminars and relationship counseling. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. Much like good health, weight loss and stress reduction, people are always looking for that magic pill that will give them immediate success in these areas of their lives.

The bad news is that there is no magic pill that requires no work to transform your relationship. The great news is that there is one step you can take starting today. It doesn’t cost a single penny. This involves a change in mindset. Many of you may read the quote above and find that to be ridiculous. “We have jobs and responsibilities now! I can’t spend time worrying about being charming, flirting and all of those other dating things!” I ask you what is really important then?

Fear can be a great motivator for some of us, so I feel obligated to mention this. Relationships, no matter how long they have been, can end at any time. Even if we feel comfortable and secure in how they are. There are countless stories of relationships that people thought were going great until they wake up one morning and find their partner gone. “I thought they were happy. I thought everything was good.” they find themselves saying. Only in reflection they recall they never asked. They just figured that part of their lives was ‘handled’. They were married. They had kids.

I equate this to other areas of life. If you get in the best shape of your life and then stop working out what happens? Do you stay in that shape? Of course not. If you put a lot of energy into getting a job or promotion and then cease giving any effort do you think you will keep that job very long? Then why do so many of us think that relationships are any different? All relationships have their ups and downs to be sure, but they must be worked at daily.

If our relationship is at its best shape, much like our workout example, if we just leave it alone it will begin to go backwards. This may seem like you are in for a lot more work, and to some degree that is true. What is really important to note is that work has the most amazing rewards. The quality of our lives is the quality of our relationships. Therefor, it makes sense that the better quality our relationships, the better quality our lives. This holds true not just for romantic relationships, although those have the most profound impact, but coworkers, parents, children, the boss and other family members. Another great plus is that the more you work on this the easier the work becomes. When you are listening for clues as to what makes people happy and what upsets them, it becomes easier to do the former and avoid the latter. The more information you compile that more tools you have at the ready.

Do yourself a favor and print out the quote in the picture above. Treat every relationship in your life like you are trying to win it. Not only will you make those around you very happy, but your life will improve dramatically as well.

WHAT ARE YOU UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF?

Recently, I have been called a ‘Social Media Influencer’. I see that term a lot lately. It  forced me to take a look at what is influencing me. When you look at what you read, listen to and who you hang out with it is easy to see what may be influencing you. I know a lot of you may be thinking, “Not me I am too strong to be influenced by anything!” Congratulations if that is true, but I believe to at least some degree we are influenced by all of the things mentioned above.

Currently, there is an election going on in this country which means an abundance of ads exploring all of the negative situations that politicians have brought to us. There may be a small smattering of promises of what the candidate will do for you, but mostly just want their competition will not do. With our ears being filled to capacity with such drivel we can find ourselves being a bit drained at the end of the day and certainly not filled with hope.

Influence can be subtle as well. Like the few glasses of wine you had with dinner that do not seem to affect you until you stand up to go to the bathroom. Influence can creep into your life without you even realizing it. Move to another country, or even to a different part of your country for a year and it would be shocking if you did not pick up an accent or dialect from that region.

One of the most difficult things people will admit is the influence the people around them have. “I am my own person!” They proclaim. That may be true and you may be very good at staying true to your values, but as many studies have shown, we are usually a composite of the 5 people we spend the most time around. If you spend your days around people who constantly eat junk food, eating a salad once or twice a week may feel pretty healthy. start hanging around people who take their health and fitness seriously and you may feel differently. This is why it is important to include driven and motivated people in our inner circle.

The great thing about all of this is we have complete control over what may be influencing us. We can turn off that news channel and pick up an inspiring or motivating book. We can stop subscribing to pointless political or drama-filled websites and join sites that will add more to our life, fill us with joy and help us become the best versions of ourselves. I gave you a great example in Monday’s post. If we know we have people in our lives that are not the best influence, we do not have to get rid of them, but perhaps balance the time we spend with them with someone we know would bring out the best in us and not the stress in us.

A great way to begin to change what we are under the influence of is to compile a list of all the major things we do daily. Do we watch a certain television show? Visit a certain website? Talk to certain people? Then on the list, honestly decide if that item is a plus or minus. Write a plus or minus next to that item. When you are done look at what you could do to limit or replace the minus and grow or add to the plus. Become intoxicated with love, laughter and success.

WORK IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT

Today is Halloween so I will share a scary story with you. As most of you know, I have a day job at the United States Postal Service. In addition to the monetary aspect, it also allows me to practice many of the tools I put forth here. I always strive to be a source of positivity and help my coworkers foster a sense of gratitude and joy. As a matter of course, I always welcome the mail carriers back when they return from their routes. I also routinely ask my coworkers if they are having a good day or having fun at the moment. A gentle reminder that while doing our best to get our jobs done, we can still focus on having fun. Most of the time this is met with some jocularity and on occasion, some comments of encouragement of their own.

There is one young lady, however, that seems quite sunshine challenged. When I inquired if she was having a good day she informed me in no uncertain terms that I should never ask her that as long as she is at work because the answer will always be ‘no’. After 21 years of working there, I am no stranger that the Post Office can supply some challenging situations, as can any job. There are days that are tough, and days that are not. I could not imagine going to some place every day where you know with certainty that you will have a bad day, and doing so voluntarily.

This young lady is a carrier on what they call a ‘rural route’. This means she seldom has to leave her truck and drives up to the mailbox to put the mail in. I think on a nice spring or fall day driving around in a rural setting listening to your favorite music all while getting paid a good wage could sound nice to some people. Sure, there are days when it is raining, or here in Wisconsin snowing, that I can imagine driving for several hours could be a drag, but not every day. How could this be?

The answer was supplied to me last Saturday. This young lady called me over to her case where she sorts her mail. She handed me the scanner all carriers use and said in a rather angry tone, “This is the f*&king sh*t I have to deal with!” I glanced at the scanner. On it was a warning to pay attention to the signs of heat stroke. On this day we were experiencing an early October snow storm. Ironic? For sure. Funny? I thought so. As far as something she had to put up with, I found a message that could easily be deleted and even laughed at to be not that big of a deal. Her perception was that everything was against her and that this was a large obstacle. When viewed through a filter of that nature any job will seem terrible.

This brings to mind a great reminder. We have the option to how we see things. We can find the humor, or we can find the frustration. We can find the gratitude, or the lack. We can find the joy, or we can find the pain. It is all up to us. When we look for the good in things it can transform our days and jobs into things we enjoy, or certainly do not dread.

THERE IS NO SHORTCUT

We are fast approaching holidays, followed by a brand new year. Personally, I feel excited about what 2019 will bring and I am working now to make sure it will be the best year it can be. I am back to 5 days a week at the gym, I am starting to clean a lot of the clutter out of my life physically and spiritually. I am also putting in the work with my writing career to help advance that as well. I was doing very well in 2018 until a few personal and health issues derailed my progress.

If you are a person who spends any amount of time trying to maintain your physical fitness, I am sure you can relate to the next thought. I had spent the first 6 months of the year working on getting back in shape. In mid June I was sent to the ER with what was later determined to be a serious heart issue. I was out of commission for about 30 days. When I returned to the gym it was as if those first 6 months had never happened. How frustrating. Only now, 3 months after getting back to the gym am I starting to feel like I am close to getting back in shape.

What is really important to keep in mind is there is no shortcut. Everyday I have to show up. Every single day I must put in the work. This has held true for my writing career as well. 7 years ago I began this website. 5 years ago I released my first book. I would have thought I would be all over television and on the radio talking about my 4th book. Next year my second book will be published. Everyday I showed up and wrote something. It would be great if we could all workout one time and be in shape for the rest of our lives. It would be great if our relationships would be filled with joy every moment. It would be great if we were successfully working a career we loved, were good at and made a great deal of money from. Life, as we know, does not work that way.

The reward is that the harder we work for something the greater the sense of accomplishment when we achieve it. Not only does struggle and discipline increase our feeling of satisfaction, but also is the best catalyst for growth and evolution. We may not realize it at the time, and trust me I get that it may feel like you have paid more than your share of dues, but sometimes there is just something that we have to learn, some growth we have achieve.

This can be especially hard to grasp when you watch others around you achieving more with what appears to be far less struggle. First, we must remember we never know everything that goes on behind the scenes with even the people closest to us. The relationship they have may have taken a lot more work than we know. That promotion they got? They may have studied and worked for years we do not know. Second, they are not us. This may seem like a tip from captain obvious, but think of how unique each of us are. We all learn in a different way. Some like to read, some are visual, some are audio-based learners. Does that make one better from the next? Of course not.

Those who have toiled the longest often end up with the greatest sense of joy. If you are handed a promotion because of who your father or mother is verses having to work for it, you may very well appreciate your job less. Be grateful for the struggle my friends. It may seem like a painful thing to go through, but it can be the greatest teacher. Also, remember we are all going through it. Struggle is a universal experience. It may not all be in the same area of life, some may be better at hiding it but we all go through it. Be thankful for the lessons. Be grateful for the practice in patience and the chance to grow. Whatever you do, just do not give up.

“You can’t hire someone else to do your push-ups for you.” – Jim Rohn

THIS SUCKS… BUT I LOVE IT

One of the best things in the career I have chosen is being able to help people with what I have learned. It is really one of the best things in my life. In my 20+ years in the study of self-improvement I have learned things that help relationships, stress reduction, finding your passion and a wide array of other topics.

What this does, outside of giving me a feeling of value and purpose, is fill other people with this knowledge and enable them to help others. This ripple effect is of course the ultimate goal. By helping one person we can go on to help a good many more.

Every great once in a while that ripple finds its way back. Even with 20 years studying how to reduce stress and increase joy I still have a bad day. We all do. If nothing else it allows us, by comparison, to better appreciate the good days.

Through those two decades of study I have compiled a list of things that can help stop the slide of a bad day, if not turn it around all together. I have shared these tools with those who have read my books, attended my seminars and of course follow this website.

What is interesting is when I am having a bad day, these wonderful folks can remind me of the advice I have given them. It not only shows me that my work is appreciated and listened to, but forces me to practice what I preach.

Whatever it is you can teach or help with, do it to as many people as you can. Trust me, when you are at rock bottom it will cone back to bless you.

THE END OF THE DAY

With all of the outside stress that is heaped on us throughout the day courtesy of the media, coworkers, other drivers and a million other sources, we need to control our own. What I mean is at the end of the day, and at various points throughout the day, we can often find ourselves filling our own head with negative talk. We can end up beating ourselves up over events and decisions that happened throughout the day.

It is natural to have thoughts of “I wish I would have not hit the snooze button again.” or “I should not have gotten so upset with Sally at the office this morning.” None of us are perfect. That simple fact should give you a feeling of solace at the end of a hard day. If you were doing the best you could at the time, realize that too. If you didn’t act as you should have, you have the right to feel a little disappointed in yourself. What we need to do then is learn from that and commit to making better decisions in the future. If you know better and commit to doing better than getting upset with yourself is like convicting an innocent person. You have grown and are not the same person who did the action even earlier that day.

Some things seem not to turn out no matter how hard we try. That is because there are always lots of other variables. Weather, cars, other people and even rabid squirrels that may jump in front of our cars. You never know what you will face when you step outside your door to face the day.

Give yourself a break this week. If you approach life with the purest of hearts and the best of intentions you have done the best you could. If you did not approach life that way you have learned, which is the best you can do in that situation. They say an honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind, let that be true for us as well. Let us conduct ourselves in the best way we can and fall asleep knowing we did the best we could and that was enough.