THE GREATEST GIFT πŸŽ

Here we are at Monday again. The start of a new week and lots to accomplish. While we have a lot of projects to work on, we must not forget the greatest project we should devote our life to, that being the improvement of ourselves. Many people may consider this a selfish venture, and in some way I guess that could be correct. After all, if you are in better physical shape, you can do this easier with less pain. You improve your financial outlook and you have a lot less stress. Speaking of stress, that is one area we really benefit by getting under control. Almost every malady in our life is brought on by one stress or another.

All of the above is true, but we must remember something else. Those around us benefit greatly when we become the best versions of ourselves. If you are fit and healthy, you can imagine that would be a benefit to your spouse. It would also benefit your employer and coworkers as you will call in sick less often. If you are manage to get your stress under control you are more likely to treat those around you with a great deal of compassion. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If the world was under less stress and everyone treated each other with a greater deal of compassion and understanding, can you imagine what that would be like? This may sound like a fairytale to many of you, but the interesting point is that it is entirely possible. There are two very important things we can do to help this become a reality.

The first thing we can do is get to work on ourselves. Becoming the best version of yourself is a lifelong commitment. There is always more to learn. We can and must continue to work on being healthy. If we wish to have a better world, one of the most important things we can do is make sure we are bringing a better person to it. We will bring joy and improvement to three different areas. We will be helping ourselves, others and the world around us. Not bad for one action. Next time you think placing time and effort on improving yourself is a selfish action, this might be something to remember.

The other thing that we can do to help bring about a better world, is to help others become the best version of themselves. It is VITAL to mention here this does not mean telling others what you think they should do better. It is being a supportive and encouraging friend to whatever self-improvement action they are working on. Knowing that we have the support of others can help us with any goal we are working on and give us the strength to improve that area of our lives.

If you wish to give a gift to yourself, those you share life with as well as the world at large, just work on becoming the best version of you. This does not only have to include effort we put forth, but making sure we take time for self-care and stress relief. It may seem cruel to say ‘no’ when someone asks you to do something, but if it will cause you a great deal of stress, or you are feeling like you need some time to heal, it would be far better to take that time. Become the best version of yourself and help others who are struggling to do the same. It is the best thing we can do to create an amazing world.

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ANOTHER WAY TO BEAT LIFE’S CHALLENGES

Last post we talked about the frustration of road construction and how we can view it differently. I am going to share another method for not being set back by life’s little challenges. This great and power secret (which really isn’t a secret at all) is to find the humor in the situation. Like the meme I found above in regards to road construction signs. I never thought about how the ‘end road work’ sign could sound like a protest. It made me laugh out loud when I read it. Guess what happens every time I pass one of these signs? You guessed it, I chuckle to myself. This is particularly good because I am usually just leaving some road construction I have just driven through.

Steve Rizzo calls this ‘getting in touch with your humor being’. He says that when stuck in traffic he talks like the lion from Wizard of Oz. Why? Because it makes everything more humorous. What if you picked your favorite comedian and tried to imagine the situation through their eyes? I find Groucho Marx works good for this, but that is a personal preference. What about a famed explorer? How about a television reporter who is covering your situation? A narrator in the movie of your life? “Margie looked down at the floor to discover the bag of powdered sugar she was carrying had left a trail showing where she had been.” Does this sound a little absurd or insane to you? Good! Life can be both a little absurd and insane. Go with it.

Doing this does two very important things for us. First, it adds something to laugh at. The more time you spend smiling and laughing in life, the better your life is. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it reduces the amount of stress in a situation. It may even transform it into a situation that causes you to laugh. Do you know what you call a life that has less stress and more laughter? A better one! Who would not want a less stressful, more joyful life? I know I would!

I will continue to search for the humor in life. Lucky for me, and for all of us, life is constantly supplying us with situations full of humor if we are looking for them. I have a lady that also supplies a great deal of humor. If you are not so blessed as to have a spouse who does the same, there are plenty of ways to add humor to your life. You can add an app to your phone that sends a joke a day. Perhaps get a group of friends together that look for funny signs. That way you all are working to bring humor to the group. What about a funny day by day calendar? How about joining a humorous social media page? The more ways you find humor in life, the more ways YOU win!

BE THE LIGHT πŸ’‘

This picture was sent to me by Terri, a friend of Margie and mine. In a world where there appears to be a lot of darkness, it can often feel uninspiring. I am often asked how people can remain positive in a world that seems bent on making sure we are surrounded by negativity. This is a really good question. It can be difficult. It used to be that you would have to to seek out negativity. This could be by opening a newspaper or turning on a television. Now the negativity follows us. It will even send us a little alert in our pocket. “Hello, negativity here. Come see what is wrong with the world.” It might not be that straight forward, but will disguise itself as a social media notification. Worse yet, everyone else is subjected to this same negative atmosphere and will be happy to walk up and share it with you. Many times you do not have to even ask.

How then, with all of this negative influence, can we hope to have a positive, and amazing, life? The answer is almost counterintuitive, we must give one. This isn’t a post about the law of attraction or a testament to the biblical saying of “As you sow, so shall you reap.” It does, however, give credence to both. I am going to give you two quick and personal examples of the application of this strategy in real life.

I have told this first story on this blog and in my second book, Living the Dream, but it bares a quick recap. There was a point in my life that I was facing the loss of a job, personal problems at home, a car that was breaking down and other life-altering problems. They began to consume me and I had a hard time seeing any solution. In an effort to get out of my head, I decided to put in extra time at a meal program I volunteered at. I did this despite the fact that I may very well need it in the not so distant future. Two things happened that day. First, I saw people in far worse situations than I was in with far better attitudes. Second, I realized that I had a gift to serve and to inspire others. By giving the people that came that day not only the gift of food, but of respect and kindness, I could see their burden lighten. In turn, that lightened my burden as well.

The second example is more current and ongoing. As most of you know, during the day I work for the United States Postal Service. This is an institution that seems constantly gripped with staff shortage, political upheaval, and a general feeling of stress. The employees are often pushed to do as much work as they can until they, or their bodies, give up. All of this often happens in a combative and stressful work environment. Honestly, this could be greatly improved with some communication and appreciation. Unfortunately, by the time someone is in a position of management they can be too bitter to offer much of this. The result? Workers and bosses find themselves fighting against each other all while trying to accomplish a near impossible job. This can all feel pretty hopeless on any given day. My solution? Be the one who brings the communication and appreciation. I am constantly letting people know they did their job well, or offering a bit of encouragement. Sadly, I am often told that I am the only one who does so. One of the greatest feelings is when you hear the lines of encouragement you offer repeated by those who have received them.

I like to think of a dark room. What happens when you flip a light switch? The darkness disappears. The same can be said with kindness. Start with just one person and soon that light and that kindness will begin to spread. You will help create a positive world around you.

THE GOAL OF FRIDAYπŸ₯³

Today is Friday. Wrapping up the workweek, and preparing for the weekend. Instead of fretting about what we didn’t quite finish, or worse yet, worrying about what we have to accomplish next week, let us finish strong and celebrate what we did accomplish.

A personal example, I did not finish starting my podcast. I did, however, finish my third book and start setting up the podcast. I’m going to finish the week strong and celebrate what I did accomplish. That will allow me to enjoy the 2 days until the next week begins. If you feel you must worry, save that for Monday morning. Have a great weekend my friends! πŸ˜ƒ

HAVE BOTH THIS WEEKEND!πŸ˜ƒ

As Margie can testify, I am terrible at this. When people asked how my recent vacation was, I answer, “Not as productive as I would have liked.” Who really wants their vacation to be productive? I guess that would be me. I wanted to have my third book out by now, wanted to have my podcast up and running. Neither of those have been completed.

If there is a skill I am lacking, it is how to relax properly. I have 62 of the 102 typed pages edited for my new book. I also set up and did the cover art for my upcoming podcast. I have to realize not every day you can move mountains. So should you. The days on the couch can often be necessary for recovery and recharging. Take them, just don’t take too many of them.

I must remind myself about the photo above. With 6, soon to be 7, jobs there is always something going on in my life. Add to that, time with a very sexy lady and my days are booked! Still, it is important to take time to unwind. Make sure you have both a productive and relaxing weekend.

YOU JUST NEED TO RECONNECT

In a world of adulting and Bill paying, sometimes you need to reconnect with the simple joys of life. Above is a picture of an alpaca. Animals can bring us a great amount of joy. Whether that is a family pet, going to the park to watch the birds, or even an alpaca at the state fair, Animals rarely fail to put a smile on our face!

Animals not your thing? Maybe you have an allergic issue that prevents you from enjoying them? Maybe you would just like to have another outlet to bring you joy? How about going back to simple childhood activities? In an age of cell phones and high resolution video games, it can be refreshing to pick up a crayon and draw a picture. That is just what my lovely lady is doing in the picture above! We, for some reason, feel we should leave these activities behind as we grow older. Truth is, as adults, we may need them more than ever!

What simple activity do you practice to bring you joy?

MORNING RITUAL πŸŒ„

Last post, we looked at why waking up even ten minutes earlier could benefit you. In case you missed that, I will give you a quick recap. In my own life, I was able to work in some mild exercise to get my blood pumping and my mind moving. I was also able to make my coffee, get dressed and do everything else in a less stressful fashion. Anytime you can reduce stress in your life, that is a win. Not hitting the snooze may sound like additional stress, but it really is not. Do you know what is stressful? Hearing the alarm in the first place! When you hit snooze, you get to have that stress an additional time…or two…or three. Not to mention the 5 or 10 minutes between hitting snooze and the alarm going off again are not filled with blissful slumber. In fact, most of the time it is filled with the dread of hearing the alarm.

The stress of waking up only lasts a moment. Once you are out of bad and standing up, it usually dissipates fairly quickly. Unfortunately, if you have hit snooze too many times it is usually replaced by the stress of running late and trying to get ready. The key is to fill your morning with things you look forward too. These are morning rituals. There have been many listed in the pictures above. We will look at what some high achievers do in the picture below. In the meantime, think of what rituals would work for you. Would some simple stretching help to get your body limber before your morning commute? How about being able to make your coffee with time to enjoy the aroma and maybe even a sip or two before you head out the door? How would reading something inspirational affect your mindset first thing in the morning?

After you make a list of morning rituals you would like to incorporate, then decide how long each would take. Set your alarm accordingly. If you hit snooze, you will know that you will have to forgo one of these items that will make your life better. That may help get you up and out of bed. After a few days of going through your morning rituals, you will feel how starting your day less stressed and more inspired will feel. Do this for a week and you will not want to stop. I can speak from personal experience. When I did not hit the snooze, my mornings, and by consequence my days, were a lot less stressful.

Here are a few of the things some people you may recognize do with their mornings. You may notice it is a nice blend of productivity and stress relief. I suggest the same for us. If you are thinking, “Neil, this all sounds great but that would mean I would have to get up an hour early!” I would tell you two things. First, there is a great book called Miracle Morning that I would recommend you check out. It will have you realize that an hour early could change your life. It will also show you how to do this in as little as 6 minutes. The other suggestion is to divide it up by day. Your Monday morning ritual may involve something to get you fired up. Your Tuesday may involve something to ground you. You can switch between exercise, stretching, meditation, journaling and just five minutes of meaningful silence. Before you know it, you may want to do a few of each and find yourself setting the alarm a few minutes early!

I would love to know what your current morning ritual is and what you would like to add to it. As for me, when I go back to work, I am going to get back to my planks, squats and reading my motivational day by day calendar. I would love to hear yours in the comments below.

START IT OFF RIGHT!🌞

Here is something that is of the greatest importance, but easy to improve. That is your morning. It should not surprise anyone that how your morning goes, does a lot to determine how your day will go. If this is rather easy to understand, why is it that we do not take better advantage of it? Here is why, getting up early can be a challenge for a lot of us. I am guilty as charged. When I returned to work after my heart surgery, I was on a roll of not hitting the snooze button. About 2 months straight I was very disciplined. Then, one day after a long night of being a DJ, I needed those few extra minutes. Guess what has happened since? I have not got out of bed without hitting the snooze button.

This may not sound like such a big deal, but it has affected how the rest of my day has went. I guess I did not realize the degree in which it has until I was on vacation. When I have those extra ten minutes in the morning, I can do a lot more. More important, I can do everything with a lot less stress. When I was not hitting the snooze, I was able to leisurely make my cup of coffee, plank for at least 3 minutes and do ten squats. This would get my mind and body fired up. It also helped me achieve some wins before I left the house. This is why I tell people to make their beds before they leave. I would, but there is a sexy lady still sleeping in mine. Not sure she would appreciate me making the bed around her at 445am.

Next post, we will look at some things we can do to set our morning up for victory. Until then, try to make it one day without hitting the snooze. Begin that discipline. You will notice how much less stress you have to start the day. Less stress is always success!

TAKE A BREAK FROM IT ALL!πŸ˜ƒ

One of the best ways to improve any situation is to improve your mindset in regards to it. We seldom have control over outside variables, and waiting for them to change will only add to the frustration we have with the situation we are involved in. What we do have complete control over is our mindset. If that seems down, we can change it. It sounds clichΓ©, but we hear viewing something as a teaching moment verses a failure can help us so much. All of this may sound easier said than done, but there is a way we can begin to change our mindset.

Last post we spoke about taking Monday off to make us find it less offensive. This doesn’t have to be limited to Monday. Kids getting on your nerves and you find yourself snapping at them when you shouldn’t? It may be time to call a sitter and spend an afternoon at the spa. Your spouse working on your last nerve? Maybe a shopping trip with the girls, or a fishing trip with the guys will refresh your outlook. I am not advocating running away from your problems. If there is something that needs addressing, by all means do so. Sometimes, however, all we need is a little time to catch our breath and revive our outlook.

It amuses me how many people talk themselves out of being able to do these things. “I can’t get a sitter unless I really need one.” I think if it improves the relationship with your children, then some ‘me time’ might be something you need. “My spouse will be unhappy if I go shopping/fishing.” They might be, but if it means you come back with more love and patience for them, and it improves your relationship in the long run, I think they will be happy with that. Especially if you state it like this, “My love, I feel like I am not able to give my best to you and this relationship and a little time away would help me do that.” Who could argue with a statement such as that? Do not say this if it is not genuine. If you are having relationship burnout, which happens in the best couples, it is important to address it before it leads to even greater problems.

It may help to view these breaks as what they are – investments. Taking a break is like a strategic retreat. It will allow you to regroup and meet life head on in a far more productive manner. If you find any part of your life overwhelming, run away from it…for a while. Take a break. Take some ‘me time’. Regroup and come back stronger than ever. Invest in yourself.

TAKE MONDAY OFF!

Here is a post we can all get behind! As I write this, I’m on vacation listening to a steel drum band. The funny thing is, I used to have every Monday off. It was my designated off day. Back then, I loved Mondays. Looked forward to them even!

This got me thinking, how taking off an occasional Monday could change our perception of them. How would your view of Monday change if it involved sleeping in, spending some time at your favorite coffee shop… or maybe listening to a steel drum band? I say do it! Treat yourself. Take a Monday off and plan something fun!