HOW WE VIEW MONDAY

Take a look at the picture above. These runners are about to begin their race. What do you think is going through their minds? Excitement? A good deal of nerves I am imagining. Perhaps even a little bit of fear mixed in. They have trained months, years, maybe even their whole lives for this moment. If they win, all of that will be worth it. If they lose? It may crush some, and others may strengthen their resolve to push harder, to practice longer. What is fueling their excitement is possibilities.

This type of emotion holds true for the start of a race, competitions of any sort, vacations, adventures and many other things. For the beginning of the work week, however, we fill ourselves with emotions such as dread, boredom, gloom and many other unpleasantries. Why do we view the workweek in such a manner? There are, of course, many things that we don’t enjoy and many challenges. Same can be said for vacation. Raise your hand if you like going through airport security. I am guessing there are few, if any, of you with your hand raised right now. Who likes going through customs in a foreign country or looking for your transportation at the airport? Again, probably not many of you. How come those do not cause dread?

The answer is in what we choose to focus on. As we take our shoes off and wait to pass through the metal detector, our thoughts remain focused on tropical shores and Pina coladas. The challenges we face are just obstacles to overcome so that we can enjoy the destination. At the starting line of a race we do not focus on how hard the hills will be, how our breathing will be labored or a host of other things we must go through. No, our thoughts are focused on the feeling we will have crossing the finish line. Can we be faster than we were last race? Did we train the right way? Did we hydrate enough? There are a million steps we have taken to give us the best chance to succeed and now they will pay off.

Imagine if we applied this same thinking to the workweek? Keep our thoughts on the fun plans we had that weekend. Focus on the feeling of punching out that Friday. This may very well keep us from punching out anything, or anyone else. The boss yelling at you with bad breath? That is just like airport security. Your coworker filling your ears with useless gossip? Like going through customs. These are just things we have to make it through to get to the weekend. Weekend to far away for you? focus on the feeling of leaving work for the day. That feeling of freedom as you turn off your computer, close your locker or the door of your workplace shuts behind you. When you experience these things, celebrate! You have earned it!

Let us change our perception of Monday. It is not the end of our weekend freedoms. It is the beginning of a race to overcome challenges to make to the next weekend. Can we do it while finding more joy than last weekend? Can we be happier than we were the week before? Can we make it through all the challenges? Keep our focus on the goal and I know we can!

HOW WE SHOULD LIVE AND WORK

When asked how he continued to work well into his 90s, this quote was the answer that George Burns gave. “Fall in love with what you do for a living. I don’t care what it is. It works.” I came across this quote as I was at work, ironically. I began to think how the vast majority of us, 87% according to surveys, dislike what they do for a living. Several years ago I took this test that was supposed to reveal what it is you should do for a living. There were around 300 questions or so that were to reveal the inner you. Results showed that I was supposed to be a woman of the religious order. I double checked and ‘male’ was checked in the gender box. I do not think it is likely I would succeed as a nun. I wondered how the people I work with not only felt about the job they were doing, but what they would do if given the chance. I decided to ask several of my coworkers that very question, “If money were not a factor and you could do any job you wanted, what would it be?” Their answers not only surprised me, they taught me a very important lesson.

The answers were not at all what I expected. Some people stared at me blankly. Others replied with the standard “I don’t know” Those who took the time to really contemplate the question came up with answers I didn’t expect. You might think everyone wanted to be a famous actor or rock star. In this age of celebrity, you might even think people just wanted to be famous. Not the case at all. Some of the answers I heard were chef, sculptor, and even meteorologist. Personally, my dream job would be a talk show host. Two of my favorite things are drinking coffee and talking to people. As you can see not only were the answers varied, but they also were jobs that others might not find enjoyable.

Here is the conclusion that these answers gave me. People really just want to be happy. It isn’t about the fame or fortune for most of us. We all have different reasons, but we all just want to do something that makes us happy. What I thought was really interesting is that everyone wanted to do something different. If we did all do what it is we loved, we would live in a world that was a much better place. Going to work every day doing something you loved would put you in a great emotional place. As these answers showed me, jobs would be filled, just by people who really had a passion for them. I would encourage each of these people to begin to look at how they may be able to do a version of what they like on the side at the very least. Sculpt something at home, read books and study weather or, in my case, I am going to look at starting a podcast, which is kind of the modern version of a talk show. I would love to hear your answer to this question – If money were not a concern and you could do any job you wanted, what would it be?

DO THIS… SO YOU WON’T HAVE TO DO THAT.

Last Friday, I heard something that caused me to pause and think. This time it came from my friend Travis. As someone was coming up to perform a song while Margie and I were DJing this show, I heard them say, “Wait! I have to get ready.” To which our friend Mr. Jones informed them, “Be ready and you won’t have to get ready.” I thought about that for a second and was struck as to how true this statement was.

How many of us only look at other opportunities to earn income when we feel our job is threatened? Is it only when we have done something wrong or our spouse is unhappy that we look for ways to be loving and romantic? It also reminded me of a quote from Eric Thomas, “You must be ready for the opportunity of a lifetime in the lifetime of the opportunity.” Meaning, if you wait to prepare yourself until you have an opportunity, it may be too late. Can you imagine if an athlete only began training once they were drafted by a team? By the time they were in shape and had their skills down it might be too late.

I can’t count the friends I have that only begin to workout and watch their diets when they have a wedding or high school reunion to attend. The truth is we could be surprised by a friend tomorrow asking us to stand up in their wedding. We could be invited to participate in a 5K charity run for a cause we really believe in. There are countless times when the need to physically perform could benefit us. If we wait to get ready until that moment we may never be ready in time.

It is far more than just being in shape. Working on and discovering better ways to love your partner should be a daily activity. Always be listening to your partner. You never know when they may tell you a little bit of information that you could use to melt their heart and bring peace and joy to their soul.

What about on the job? If you wait until there is a promotion available to give your best, the chances of you being picked for the position will be slim to none. If, however, you have shown what a great worker you are with constant effort day in and day out, your name will be at the top of the list.

Being ready takes a lot of the pressure off of life. There is no stress and running around when you are trying to get ready. Even if some of your skills need a little polish, at least you will be prepared for the most part. Do your best to be ready every day and you will never have to get ready.

FROM SURVIVE TO THRIVE

I stole this wonderful picture off the Facebook page of my coworker Rachel. It grabbed my attention because I think it is something we all fall victim to once in a while. We can become so busy worrying about working and paying bills that we forget to worry about the big picture.

What do I mean by the big picture? It is changing our mind from simply surviving to thriving. The easiest example of this and the one that comes to the mind of most people is financial. When we focus on having enough to pay the bills, that will be all we ever seem to have. Why not find a bigger goal? Focus on having enough to go on that vacation or look for that new car. When you are trying to find ways to discover additional income your mind will be working on the problem even when you are asleep! Suddenly, ideas will pop into your head when you least expect them to. Opportunities you may have missed will suddenly come into focus.

Here is the even greater thing about this change in mentality, it work s for everything. Why is this important? Think of what it can do for your relationship. Is your relationship in survival mode? Are you just happily coexisting with your spouse? Why not be thriving? Find new ways to change the world. Find new ways to take the love you have for each other to exciting new heights! How about your health? Go from simply surviving and feeling dead at the end of the week or even the end of the day, to living a life of energy and vitality abundance!

One of the greatest areas to explore this change of mentality is in your emotional or spiritual well-being. Imagine living a life driven by purpose and gratitude rather than waking up uninspired every morning. Learn to apply the thrive mentality to every aspect of your life.

LOVE YOUR CITY, LOVE YOUR LIFE

I am always on the lookout for ways to promote the great city I live in. Most of us can be unaware of many of the great things the cities we live in offer. The news and social media may highlight areas that need improving, but if you dig just a little bit deeper you will find a host of reasons to love your city. I am going to show you how to capture these as well as how to use them to create fun and exciting moments with your family. Further more we are going to look at how doing this can transform other areas of your life as well.

The above picture was taken at an event called Beecher Street Bash. The event is held in my hometown of West Allis Wisconsin. The event was created by a gentleman named Mark Lutz. Mark owns a business called West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe. For those of you who read my food reviews on Chow Down in Milwaukee you already know what a wonderful place this is. For those of you who might have missed it, let me assure you if you are looking for a great place for brunch or to pick up some locally produced gifts for others or yourself you would be hard-pressed to find a better location.

Once a year Mark, along with the other business owners, close down the street in front of their businesses and throw what amounts to one amazing customer appreciation block party. There are offerings to be had for a mere $2! This year included delicious food such as brats, meatballs, spicy watermelon and chicken wings. There was also a band named AcousticClowns entertaining the crowd. Despite my unique fear of clowns, the music was quite fabulous. Neighbors mingled about including the mayor, members of the common council and other business owners. It was a great chance to enjoy some great weather, food and company.

This is just one of many great events that the city offers. I am going to share with you something my beautiful lady Margie and I do that helps us make the most of the few months of good weather as well as our busy schedule. Once a month we sit down and look at all of the events happening around the city. We learn about them through the city newsletter, recreation department catalog as well as social media outlets such as the group West Allis News, Events & Stuff. We compile a list of places we would like to go and things we would like to try. We have a great new brewery in town called Westallion Brewing Company that offers tours on Saturdays and puppy playdates on Sundays. It seems every month there are new places opening to eat. There are live concerts in the park and classes on everything from Yoga to making things out of clay.

In your city there are probably similar events as well. With a little digging such as subscribing to news letters, looking on social media and checking your local library you too can compose a list of amazing things about your city. After a few months of doing this you will not only get to know many new places and faces, but start to really develop a love for the city you live in. Margie and I are already looking forward to trying the new beer gardens as well as the new old-fashioned butcher shop as soon as that is open.

Here is a little secret for you to use. As well as this works for falling in love with your city, it will work for any other area of your life. Looking to increase the love between you and your spouse? Once a month create a list of things you are grateful for them and things you are looking forward to, or would like to try with them. Want to dread your job less? Once a month compose a list of things you are grateful for at your job, or good things that happened there, even just a kind word from a coworker. You would be surprised at how taking a few minutes once a month can help you discover all the wonderful things in your city and in every other area of your life.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SILLINESS

In the adult world filled with deadlines and responsibilities, we often forget the importance of silliness.

As children after a day of intense playing and having fun we slept soundly and woke up ready to play again. The same can be true as adults. Instead of falling asleep with heads filled with work that has to be done and job worries, let us take a day this weekend to play hard.

Worrying about how this may affect your ability to get things done? There are several studies that show taking recreational breaks help us refocus and be more productive when we return. They help reduce stress and make our jobs at the very least more bearable.

This weekend take a break. Go for a leisurely stroll, play with your kids, take your spouse for ice cream or something else that is pure enjoyment. You work hard all week, take some time to play hard!

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.

ARE YOU READY TO SHIFT?

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Last post I told you about some people I interviewed that had every reason to be negative and jaded about life. You will be able to read all the interviews in my upcoming book Living the Dream. Right now I will tell you their challenges included miscarriages, abuse of physical, emotional and sexual nature. They had major health challenges. Their families were killed and they were forced to flee countries due to a civil war. Despite, and in some cases because of these challenges, they are some of the most positive people you will ever meet. I asked myself, and them, how is that possible?

The secret was they were all able to control their thoughts and thus controlled their lives. How did they do it? Honestly, they all had their own unique ways which you will be able to read about in my book. For today’s post, however, I am going to share one thing they all had in common. If you add this one thing to your life it will do a great deal to help you overcome whatever challenge you have in life. We are going to look at what that common trait was and some fun ways to use it in our own lives.

You may have guessed from the picture that the common trait that all of these people shared was gratitude. In challenges far greater than I had ever faced, each one of them found reasons to be grateful. If they can do it facing the kind of challenges we mentioned above, surely we can utilize gratitude to take control of the thoughts and challenges in our own daily lives.

Finding something to be grateful for in a challenging situation can be difficult, especially in the beginning. Like any other muscle, our gratitude muscle will grow stronger with use. In the beginning, however, it helps to have a few tools and tips to help foster a sense of gratitude. My advice when diving into this is to resist the temptation to attempt to change everything at once. Remember, you are trying to change thought patterns you have built up over years. Pick one topic and start slow. Not only will it be less difficult, but it will actually increase your chances of success. Let us look at a few ways in which to start infusing our lives with more gratitude.

The first method is pretty straight forward and works well for difficult areas of our lives. Pick an area of your life that does not bring you joy. For our example let us say that you are not crazy about your job. At a time where you are not otherwise occupied, such as driving in your car or at the job you dislike so much, grab a pen and piece of paper. Next, get comfortable. Maybe make yourself a fresh cup of coffee or tea if that is your thing. Put on some relaxing or fun music. Now begin to think of everything about your job in which you are grateful for. You may find your mind a little reluctant at first, but stick with it. Maybe you don’t feel your job pays you what you would like, but be grateful it does pay you. It may not allow you to take that vacation to Fiji, but it does allow you to keep the lights on. It gives you a reason to get out of bed and be active. It introduces you to different people. Sure, they may not all be perfect people, but it allows you to be social. It also allows you to practice and strengthen your skills of being hopeful and positive. Just like muscles, these things only grow and get stronger when they are challenged. When you have a pretty good list going put it in a jacket pocket or in the car. Somewhere you can take it with you. Next time you are on the way to work look at and review this list. Read it right before you walk in the door. It will at least help balance the frustration.

The next way to put more gratitude in your life can be looked at as a game to play. I do this one on the way to work as well and find it puts my mind in a great place before I get there. As I drive along I look for as many things as I can that I love. This can be the color of a house I am driving by, or the humor behind someone’s personalized plates on the car ahead of me. Sometimes it is a nice dog walking down the street, or a fun jacket someone waiting for the bus is wearing. A good practice is to say these things out loud. “Wow! I love that jacket!” or “What a fun color to paint a house/door/car!” Even hearing yourself say these things out loud can put you in a better frame of mind.

These are just two ideas for increasing the feeling of gratitude in  your life. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below. There are a million ways to add and strengthen the gratitude you already have in your life. I encourage you to try them all. The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to have control of your thoughts.

 

 

THE ONLY QUESTION YOU SHOULD ASK WHEN TRYING TO IMPROVE YOUR LIFE

What area of your life are you working to improve? Is it your finances? Perhaps you are working to get in better shape? Maybe you are looking to take your relationship to the next level? No matter what area of your life you are looking to improve, there is only one question you should be asking. That may sound crazy given all of the different topics we touched on above, not to mention the thousands we haven’t mentioned that you may be working on.

What is this million-dollar question we should be asking? The question is simply this – What can I do? That might not sound so profound, but trust me it is. When my job seemed to be on the edge of collapse, my personal life was in shambles and everywhere I looked there seemed to be negativity I asked myself that question. My job had slashed my hours due to corporate downsizing. There were a lot of people in my life that were not treating me well. Everything I seemed to watch on the news, read in the newspaper or see online was filled with negative vibes.

At first I did what most of us do – complain. Why was my job at the post office so mismanaged that they could not come up with a better solution for an employee who at that point had never even called in sick? I even contemplated writing the television stations to inquire why they could not throw in a few more positive items on the nightly news. While it might have helped me vent for the time being, in the long run I would be right back where I started. In fact, I might have been even more frustrated because my job would not change their tactics, the news has to sell and is not likely to get positive anytime soon.

The point of this is that waiting for other people and circumstances to change is not only pointless, but can add to your frustration as well. I’m currently looking to get in shape before my well-deserved Jamaican vacation. I could wish all day that pizza didn’t taste so good and complain that the weather is too cold to do much outside, but none of that will help me get into better shape. I will show up in Jamaica looking like something that should swim in the ocean and not be laying next to it. I had to take control of the situation. I had to limit (because it was national pizza day yesterday) my consumption of delicious pizza. I had to make it to the gym where it is still warm enough to run inside.

This works great for getting in shape, but what about other items? Wish you lived in a cleaner city? You could begin by making sure your own yard looks pristine. You could begin to advocate for tougher laws for littering. Do you have a boss that is less than pleasant? You could complain and maybe even try to ‘get back at them’, but chances are you would only make your situation worse. It would make more sense to find out some of their interests so you could discuss such things with your boss. You could actively search for a new job or position in the company. You could take some classes to advance yourself elsewhere. You could learn and do some new relaxation activities when you get home.

The truth is the only control and power we have is over ourselves. What most of us fail to realize is how powerful that is. Even simply changing a perception can bring a different outlook to your life. You have complete control over your thoughts and actions. We have very little, if any, control over others.

Next time you are faced with a challenge of any kind, begin by asking yourself, “What can I do?” You will be amazed at how much control you have over your own life. By actively doing something yourself instead of complaining and waiting for others will bring you a sense of joy as well.

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.