The Exchange of Presents Demands your Presence

Presents

Tis the season for presents/presence and there is no better time of year to practice both the giving of your heart as well as the giving of your attention.

Have you ever noticed, I mean really truly noticed that when you give a gift to someone you feel as excited and/or nervous to give as the person feels to receive? There is anxiety: will he/she really like what I chose to give, there is anticipation: Oh I can’t wait for him/her to open my gift, there is heart: I really paid attention this year to what he/she said they needed. If you are prone to just hand a gift to someone and allow distraction to take you away from the actual opening of the gift then you are missing out on all the magic of that moment. Being in the present with the person receiving a gift is a gift itself.

Where in your body do you feel this anxiety, anticipation and/or generosity?

In what ways is your energy transferring to those around you?

It’s an amazing connection, a coming together moment for the giver and receiver, where synchronicity is so aligned only the uninterrupted presence of awareness in the opening of the gift, the present, could break the bond. It is the height of mindfulness or intentional attention. How many times during the year do we use intentional attention in our daily lives?

“To allow ourselves to be truly in touch with where we already are, no matter where that is, we have got to pause in our experience long enough to let the present moment sink in; long enough to actually feel the present moment, to see it in its fullness, to hold it in awareness and thereby come to know and understand it better.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

The question is how can we give ourselves the present of presence all the time? It’s a magical feeling to be so engrossed in the moment of giving that we don’t pay attention to time or space or what comes next. This deep concentration, this deep immersion of presence is called flow and scientists believe that the pathway toward inner peace and happier human beings is through these flow moments where we are so absorbed in the moment we occupy that there is no room for past or future. Author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D., considered by some to the be the father of the concept of flow, says,

“flow experiences occur in different ways for each person. Some might experience flow while doing a sport such as running or playing tennis and some might experience flow while playing an instrument. Some people might experience flow in the simple act of giving a gift whether it be an actual gift to unwrap or the act of volunteering and giving of their time and energy.”

If you are ever in a situation where you want to get a handle on what is happening in this exact moment, breathe. Practicing presence is as simple as deep breathing. Your breath is always with you and you can stop in the middle of everything you are busy with to take purposeful breaths and calm your brain and your heart and your spirit and create focus and intentional attention. There are more ways to give yourself the present of presence. Here are a few to take with you in your bag of goodies this holiday season:

“…the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Turn off your thinking mind and tune into your now mind. The health benefits of mastering being in the here and now are significant. According to an article published on www.ecoinstitute.org “these health benefits include a reduction in stress which we all know reduces the risk for heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing recurring pain, and is a boost for our immune system. This boost is accomplished by increasing our antibodies and brain function by our body’s response to our thoughts both positive and negative.”

You won’t be leaving anything important behind if: You let go of old thoughts or let go of what if thoughts. You will however be gaining awareness and color and vibrancy in the moment you occupy by accepting what is happening right this moment and all this moment is giving to you.

Let go of the Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda mindset: Each new moment that presents its gift to you has the ability to be a gift for your heart and soul. Give in to what is being offered by enveloping yourself in the passion, authenticity and energy of now. By letting go of your expectation of what the moment could or should or would bring, allow the moment to unfold in all its organic splendor and guide you.

No Restrictions. In helping my clients set goals and create their own avenues of accountability we create if/then statements. For example: A client wants to lose 10 pounds by the end of the month. The if/then statement might say, “If I feel like having a sugary snack after dinner then I will drink a hot apple cider or munch on an apple instead.” In the present or gift of presence this would be the one time when your prepared mind could hinder complete flow of enjoyment. Let go of the if/then thinking and align your mind with the here/now thinking. Notice how much more rich and emotional the here/now mind perceives life in its raw and real time. If/then changes your course and forces you to control the gift of the present which then has the potential to control the outcome. Here/now allows you to just enjoy flow in the moment for what it is without the stress of barriers or diversion.

Sense your way to presence. Play a mind game with yourself by paying attention to each of your senses, one at a time. This activity is great practice for presence and being mindful of the here and now. Pay attention to your breath, carefully watch how your hands touch things, observe what is going on right in front of you, concentrate on the smells all around you and see if you can name them, really dissect the flavors of your next meal, listen carefully when someone is speaking to you and try to detect the many levels of emotion being used in the conversation.

Purposefully create daily moments of presence. Go a different route home from work, eat lunch in a different location or pack a lunch that is different than what you normally eat, skip lunch completely and pamper yourself instead, take your hobby with you wherever you go and work on it at least once during the day away from home, learn something new today and bring it up in conversation. The opportunity for an awe moment is created in being present with intentional attention.

In the winter time I enjoy washing the dishes, even with dish gloves on because I am so comforted by the warm water cuddling my cold hands. It is a daily, year round chore but at this time of year the cold is a stark reminder of the blessing of heat. My appreciation level for warm water and keeping my family healthy soars. I find myself actually looking forward to this chore and instead of washing dishes 3 or 4 times a day t keep up with the mess I let it pile up so that I can spend real time appreciating the warmth. Bizarre, I know, but the presence it creates is magical.

“Wherever you are, be there. If you can be fully present now, you’ll know what it means to live.” Steve Goodier

Call to Action

In what ways can you create presence during present giving?

Whatever level you are involved in while preparing for this holiday season, how can you be more mindful of each preparation step along the way?

Even if you are alone, how can you be present rather than wishing the time away?

 

10 Steps Toward Making the Most of Today

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10 Steps Toward Making the Most of Today

“Being spontaneous is being able to respond with confidence; calmly trusting that, whatever the outcome, you will have a positive if challenging experience that will lead to greater self-awareness and success.” Sylvia Clare, Trusting Your Intuition: Rediscover Your True Self to Achieve a Richer, More Rewarding Life

There are so many times throughout a year when we can seize a moment and make a fresh start. Although we may have a plan or a map of how to start or how to achieve our goals spontaneity makes those moments special and memorable.

Most of us think of the New Year as the greatest starting point. That is understandable and encouraging but what about moments like the start of a new week or a new month? What about the moment something happens, good or bad, and you feel changed? What about a birthday? I like these odd moments because they usually take place right smack dab in the middle of an on-going life and why not make those moments stand out as a huge shout out to the world that life started right here, right now?

My daughter’s birthday is coming up soon and what a great paradox to have her new year start when the world’s year ends. It got me to thinking about wanting to make the most of everyday and how time kinda slips by without awareness and celebration or spontaneity because we get so caught up in the details and sameness.

It’s easy to celebrate my daughter for many reasons but 2 reasons stand out for me. The first is because we are caught up in the holiday season of giving and happiness and the second is because she makes it so easy to celebrate her. I have a plan in mind for celebrating her birthday with her but the spontaneity of the details will be what make the memory last.

In the book The Art of Manliness, authors Brett and Kate McKay write that the first rule for making the most out of life is to leave yourself behind and dive into interests outside of yourself. “We only live, says philosopher Fichte, when we love.” Can you remember a time when you felt so filled and content because you volunteered or purposely put aside your own interests to take up the interests of someone you cared about? Birthdays allow you to do that and it is a great spring board into who else you can honor or celebrate or do for.

The second rule to making the most out of life is “to steer your life, not drift through it”. I took it upon myself to steer my daughter’s birthday activities, I didn’t leave her to drift through her special day without love and acknowledgement and celebration. It will be up to her to mine all the goodness and specialness of the day but the map will be provided. At the very least have a plan but be flexible for whatever comes along on the journey.

The third rule is to use your strength both physical and psychological. The authors quote Emerson, “Trust in your own deep and permanent convictions of self-reliance and God reliance.” I interpret this to mean that all that I believe in of myself and my abilities is also all that was given to me by God, the intuitions of who I am and how I manifest all that is within me. I know so much about the things my daughter likes and enjoys and I do all that is within my power to bring those joys to her. That “knowing” is like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day for her and for me.

The fourth rule is to trust in myself. With all my heart I want to make this day special and filled with happy memories and love. Fate will play the part it plays but perspective and attitude will take it to a higher level. I trust my love for her and she trusts me. It’s a win-win.

The question is not so much how to make the most out of life but how to make the most out of each individual day. Breaking it down into bite size pieces might mean how to make the most out of this hour or this moment. It requires deep awareness and perhaps a huge dose of spontaneity but oh what a time it will be.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” L.M. Montgomery

How to make the most of today:

Find at least one moment in each day where you can break the rules. In breaking the rules you learn about your limits and you question everything. Progress can’t happen unless you get outside your comfort zone and see what you can see with no rules to blind you.

“There are three things in life…not worrying what they are, not caring what others may think they are, and enjoying the wonder of what they might be.” Tom Althouse

Don’t quit. You’ve heard these stories a thousand times; J.K. Rowling was rejected by every publisher she went to for a full year before someone took a chance on her Harry Potter stories, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because he wasn’t what they needed. Can you imagine what would have happened if these people quit? What story is waiting to be told about you simply because you refused to quit?

“Most people quit because they look how far they have to go, not how far they have come.” Ziad K. Abdelnour

Slow down, you move too fast. Breathe in deeply, exhale slowly, repeat. If something catches your eye stop and watch for a while. Being in a hurry causes you to miss way too much of the life going on around you today. What would happen if you were 5 minutes late to the office from your lunch break? What impact could those 5 extra minutes mean to you or someone you run into?

“To enjoy just being somewhere, rather than rushing from somewhere, to somewhere. Inhaling deep lungfuls of air, instead of my usual shallow breaths. I take a moment to just stop and look around me. And smile to myself.” “For the first time in a long time, I can, quite literally, smell the coffee.” Alexandra Potter, The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather

Make just one decision. Let today be the day that all of your fact gathering comes together so that you can finally make a move on the things that have been holding you back. Practice making a small decision today so that when it comes time for the big decisions your life will ask you to make you will have confidence that you know how to show up and make it count.

“Someone once said anyone can be great under rosy circumstances, but the true test of character is measured by how well a person makes decisions during difficult times.” Jack Gantos, Hole in My Life

“To thine own self be true” encourages Mr. Shakespeare. What would happen if you didn’t behave the way everyone expected you to? What would happen if you were just the authentic, raw, genuine you all day long, everywhere you went? What would be unleashed because you allowed your true self to shine on?

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” Franz Kafka

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right”. –Henry Ford. What truth are you believing that simply isn’t true in reality? This goes beyond quitting. This speaks to the barriers you have built to protect yourself from failure. FAIL!!! Go ahead I dare you. You’ll never know what you can do or think or be until you do it. Give it all you’ve got. What a story you will have at the end of the day and what momentum you’ll build for the next day.

Get creative. I don’t buy into the thought that some people are creative and others are not. Can you think for yourself? Can you imagine, dream, hope, or wish? Then you are creative. You may not be able to paint like Picasso but you can paint if you want to. Be uniquely you and let your freak flag fly. The world needs exactly you today so go, be, do and stamp today as only you know how.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” Martha Graham

Collect gratitude. Challenge yourself that at the end of today you will find, discover and rejoice in at least 10 things to be grateful for, good and bad. Each day has its own uniqueness. Aside from life itself what made today stand out in such a way that you were grateful for having been given the gift that only today could bring?

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for everything that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you build it they will come. What are you working on that needs that little extra push today? Are you building self-worth? Are you building a family? Are you building spiritual strength? Are you building your brain and/or physical muscle? Whatever you are building you are also building inspiration for someone else. People love to be inspired. Who inspires you and how are you building that within you? Who is watching and hoping for you to succeed?

“Silly girl, it’s not what the universe gives us that matters. It’s what we give the universe.” Lauren Myracle (Let It Snow)

Anything worth having is worth working hard for. Are you a parent? Are you building a business? Are you training for the Olympics? Are you a writer? Are you a singer? Are you a scientist? What is it you are reaching for that just seems so hard to attain? WORK IT!! Passion, genuineness, compassion, confidence, sweat, tears, and pain. How sweet the victory when you have finally climbed that mountain. What is life about if not to push ourselves to achieve our dreams? What is your dream and how badly do you want it? Today is the day to take the next step toward what you want.

“No one ever drowned in sweat.” United States Marine Corps

Call to Action

What can you do right now to make the most of this moment?

Where can you begin to open opportunities for spontaneity into your days/life?

How can you make the most of your day(s)?

 

 

 

 

 

9 Ideas to Communicate Without Anger

 

Key West

“There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.” M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

What I’m learning is that the light is in the asking of the questions and the heart of every human being. The answering is the communication where peace can begin. But I think it matters to go back a little step and start by asking:

Why do people get angry?

Why does anger live so long within us?

Are anger and communication based only on defending, judging, criticizing and/or withdrawing?

Are there rules to communication so that anger can be lessened?

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle

On a coaching call this week my client talked about wanting to better understand and get control of her anger toward her in-laws each and every time they all get together. She started out our session absolutely dreading the upcoming holiday. Her dilemma revolved around the criticism and judgments thrown at her by her in-laws and her own sensitivity to it all. She did not grow up with this kind of self-centeredness and judgment. Logically she knows that people bring their own pasts and life experiences to the table (no pun intended) but she just felt helpless to look at their way of communicating in a non-judgmental way. The overall feeling of anger toward her in-laws was coupled with the knowledge that this was driving a wedge between her and her husband and creating more problems than they both knew what to do with.

So why do people get angry?

Ryan Martin, Ph.D. wrote an article for Psychology Today about the scientific study of anger. In his article he references Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher’s 1996 model of anger by defining what Dr. Deffenbacher calls the trigger event; the event that happens right before someone gets angry for example, perceiving an insult or being cut off in traffic.

“The implication is that those kinds of events caused the person to get angry directly. If that were true then we would all react the same way to such situations.”

There are more than trigger events at play when anger sets in. Individual characteristics such as personality traits and the individual’s pre-anger state are 2 things that matter.

“Competitiveness and low-frustration tolerance are some ways in which a person’s personality characteristics play into anger. As for the pre-anger state of a person just before the trigger event, physiological and psychological situations play heavily into this arena. Feelings of being tired, anxious, stressed out, nervous are considered to be pre-anger triggers. A nervous person already has an elevated heart rate so he/she doesn’t have far to go to become angry.”

Ryan goes on to explain:

“Dr. Deffenbacher’s model of anger is mainly based on the appraisal of the situation by the person on the receiving end. When a person appraises a situation as blameworthy, unjustified, punishable, etc. it pushes buttons with in that person to react with anger. If the person interpreted the situation a little differently he/she wouldn’t have become so angry. The important thing to remember about appraisal isn’t necessarily that the person’s reaction is inaccurate but there are always 2 sides to every story.”

The next question then is how do we communicate effectively so that anger doesn’t show up or take over?

In his outstanding and amazingly insightful book, Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph. D and author tells of his preoccupation with 2 questions and his attempt to find the answers:

“What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively and what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?”

“When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver.”

While getting deeper into the coaching session my client started to become aware of her own compassionate nature and how she deeply desired to live on that plane and not engage in anger and despair. She is by nature a giving, loving, and curious person and realized that she always wanted her marriage to be one of love out loud and as an example to others of what real love looks like. That realization turned the whole session around. But how to get through the inevitable anger she will feel at some point during the holiday visit?

Dr. Rosenberg says:

“There are 4 steps to express anger: (1) Stop and breathe, (2) identify our judgmental thoughts, (3) connect with our needs, and (4) express our feelings and unmet needs. The key to all of the anger is empathy. Empathize with the other person so that he/she will be better able to hear us when we express ourselves.”

The coaching session concluded with awareness that although my client can’t change how other people behave and communicate she can change how she behaves and communicates. By showing up fully for her husband and not giving in to her personal feelings she will be able to create an ally in her husband. More than anything she wants him to know how much he means to her and how much she understands that the holiday get together is equally difficult for him. “Living out loud the loving, caring and supportive marriage I always imagined having is so much more powerful than giving in to the anger and judgments of others.” She now has a plan of action and tools to help her achieve her ultimate goal of making this family holiday one in which she will cherish and not regret. My client says:

“I can’t believe how I am feeling at this moment realizing that it is so much easier to love not only myself but my husband and our child. It feels freeing to know that I can choose love rather than defensiveness and anger toward difficult people. I don’t know for sure if love will bring about a more positive atmosphere all around us but it will bring about more connectedness and compassion in my marriage and therefore to my child.”

Whether we are face to face or in communication through email or text messages or any other social media venue we are always in a position to respond with empathy and heart.

I often find myself wondering when I read the comments section of other blog posts or I read text messages or I witness a negative conversation what was going on in the responder’s mind at the time of a negative comment. What life circumstances pushed that person over the edge?

All of this leads me to take a stronger, more open-minded approach to reader responses whether it be to a blog post, a comment to someone else’s writing or a face to face exchange.

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Communicating needs and feelings without creating defensiveness and anger can be successfully accomplished by using “I” messages. For example: “I feel taken for granted when the laundry isn’t put away” or “I am having trouble managing my worry around our finances and as a result I am not sleeping very well.” These messages are to the point and simple; they are not blaming or accusing.

“Reflect your thoughts and watch others mirror them back to you.” Stephen Richards

Don’t respond immediately to the comment or letter. Take a deep breath, re-read the response or think through the exchange and think about how it truly applies to what was originally said. Time can be your ally. Take your time to respond. Be thoughtful.

“In quiet places, reason abounds.” Adlai E. Stevenson II

People are not bad inherently. Sometimes their life circumstances have caused them to form habits that are difficult to deal with. It’s not personal.

“The sound of the words as they’re said is always different from the sound they make when they’re heard, because the speaker hears some of the sound from the inside”David Levithan, Every Day

A really great coaching tool that has worked for many of my clients is when I have them do an exercise called purging. In the case of an email or text or letter, sit in a quiet space and hand write every single feeling you are experiencing and use every single word that will make you feel justified if you were going to be utterly, no-holds-barred honest. DO NOT SEND THE WRITTEN RESPONSE. Save it. Wait a few days and re-read your own response. Be aware of how you are feeling as you re-read. Are you still so enraged? Has your own anger or shock lessened? How would you like to communicate now? The point is to not meet on the impulse level of the reader. Rise above by getting out of your system all that you are feeling and let those feelings go. As a final step, rip your letter to pieces or stomp on it or just throw it away.

“Transferring my anger and pain onto paper turns it into something tangible, something that can be shredded or burned, or at the very least, sealed shut in a box. ~Call Me Tuesday”Leigh Byrne

If you were seeing the anger from face to face interaction how would you respond in that moment? Would you want to also be seen as someone losing his cool? Think about your own tone of voice and how you would like to sound or how you would like someone to talk to you about their concerns.

“We do not have control over what happens to us in life, but we do have control over how we chose to respond.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life    

If it is important that the other person hear from you right away simply send a follow-up email or text or comment right in that face to face moment by stating that you will respond more fully when you are in a better frame of mind.

Your life mainly consists of 3 things! What you think,  What you say and  What you do! So always be very conscious of what you are co-creating!”
Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge    

If your response is only in the form of writing then before your response goes out to anyone have someone you trust, someone who knows your heart and intentions, read your response before you send it out. The objective person will be able to stay out of the emotional end of this negative situation.

Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.” [Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]” ― Jack London

Here is where curiosity comes into play: If you sense that your colleague is angry or accusatory ask that person if you are interpreting their response correctly. Don’t assume to know for sure what you are reading or hearing.

“Every man, it seems, interprets the world in the light of his habits and desires.” Richard Wright, The Outsider

Whenever possible don’t write but talk, face to face, person to person. Effective communication is most achievable when we are in the present moment. Stay clear of bringing up the past. Stick to what is happening right now.

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

There is no substitute for real, live interaction. Your body uses every emoticon there is. Effective communication keeps anger at bay when we remain as calm as possible. Body language can have the same anger inducing affects as something we write. Create breathing space between the parties speaking, reframe when possible for better understanding, keeping advice and opinions to ourselves unless asked to offer that input. These steps all aid in a successful communication process.

We never can completely know what is going on in someone’s life to help us fully understand why they react the way they do. Everyone has something going on that feels overwhelming. Whenever possible put yourself in their shoes and summon a more compassionate you.

Call to Action

How can you begin to speak with your heart so that anger is kept at bay?

 

Words Are Windows

(or They’re Walls)

I feel so sentenced by your words,

I feel so judged and sent away,

Before I go I’ve got to know,

Is that what you mean to say?

 

Before I rise tomy defense,

Before I speak inhurt or fear,

Before I build that wall of words,

Tell me, did I really hear?

 

Words are windows, or they’re walls,

They sentence us, or set us free.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.

 

There are things I need to say,

Things that mean so much to me,

If my words don’t make me clear,

Will you help me to be free?

 

If I seemed to put you down,

If you felt I didn’t care,

Try to listen through my words,

To the feelings that we share.

–Ruth Bebermeyer

7 Tricks to Ease the Melancholy of the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving

“Your heart’s strength is measured by how hard it holds on. Your self-worth and faith is measured by finally letting go. However, your peace is measured by how long you don’t look back.” Shannon L. Alder

It’s hard to not look back on your life or certain memories especially during the holiday season. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it always gets me to thinking about the past even if I think only about the year that is almost ending. I think about family, the people I can still share the holiday with and the people that are no longer part of that tradition. I’m grateful for the memories of past family gatherings during the holiday season and I get a bit emotional when I dwell too long there but I find that as I get older I long for the new experiences to start so that I can add them to the list of things I’m grateful for.

A few times in my life I’ve been the host for Thanksgiving dinner, the most I’ve entertained at one time was for 23 people. Our family really isn’t that big but I never believed in putting a limit on how many were welcome to our table. We lived in a condo at the time and although it was a 3 bedroom unit the living space was small and so it was quite a feat to figure out how to seat 23 people for such a huge dinner. Funny that I was more concerned with how to seat everyone comfortably and not worried about what to serve and how to serve. My children were all under the age of 10 at the time so it took probably close to 2 weeks to prepare not only the menu and the seating plan but to prepare the house comfortably for those guests that were staying for an overnight .

The anticipation building in those 2 weeks was volatile. The kids were excited every day to count down to family coming over to their house. The smells in the kitchen radiated throughout the entire house for days on end. To this day my daughter associates certain foods that I cook throughout the year with Thanksgiving such as caramelized onions, sautéed apples, homemade bread, anything made with nutmeg, etc. Mmmmm…my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

“Hunger of the heart is much stronger than hunger for food.” Amanda Comer

I can’t help but think back to the craziness of preparing for Thanksgiving because the celebration is so different now. I definitely have a hunger in my heart to relive those crazy holiday times. I was busy, I felt purposeful and I felt needed and important. That is the magic and the power of family.

I have to admit right here that although it was a lot of work and I enjoyed the anticipation as much as the kids did not every ounce of it went smoothly or happily. I felt stress and I’m sure at one time I murmured to myself how I would like it if just one year we could be the guests and just show up to eat and schmooze.

“Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.” Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

Many years later, kids mostly grown, family moved away and/or defected I find myself melancholy about the holiday season for different reasons entirely. My soul feels alone. On the one hand I’m not alone because I am blessed to have my husband and almost all of my children still living at home to share in the celebrations of the season but the enthusiasm and anticipation is tempered to an extreme and I feel the emptiness of that. I don’t know, there is just something magical in cooking for more than just my immediate family; listening to different kinds of conversation; getting lost in someone else’s life for a while; listening to the children get involved around the table and really noticing them blossom into adulthood. It’s just the 4 of us now, no friends, no family and oh how I wish I could cook and bake and fuss over a house full of family now that I actually have the living space for them all to come over and spread out. Even with all the family members and their issues it would still be nice to fuss.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns

Life is funny that way. It is my “life is backwards” theory. The theory is that things that should be obvious and make sense, don’t. When we had hardly any space to entertain, people came over in droves to spend time. Now that we moved up a bit I hear crickets. When I felt overwhelmed at entertaining I wished it would not be so stressful and now I’d give almost anything to have just one stressed out, manic, family crazy, I-hate-you-but-I-love-you Thanksgiving. I’m sure you can think of a few examples of life being backwards for you as well.

But what I’m realizing as time goes by is that we are in a transition phase. I will have family to cook and fuss for again someday because the children will bring new people to my table and one day I might even become a grandma and then not only will I have someone to fuss over but I’ll have someone to teach and play with and pass on a part of me to. I can look forward with anticipation to that.

In the years since the “great big Thanksgiving” we have enjoyed a few Thanksgiving meals away from home like the time we spent Thanksgiving in Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It was cold and it was a beautiful grayish day with the smell of snow in the air. If you have never been there in any season, please try to go around Thanksgiving time. The village encases you in the past and helps you feel what it was like to live around the time when the pilgrims came to America. During our day long tour, before our dinner reservations, it did indeed start to snow. It was probably the most beautiful snowfall I have ever experienced. The snow blanketed the outdoor sounds and made me feel more intimate and connected to my surroundings. As the snow was falling it seemed like it was just for effect. The roads home stayed clear but the village was awash in seasonal holiday cheer made ever more magical by the snowfall. I let myself get so caught up in the holiday lights and spirit, the smells in the air and the historic feeling of it all and the snow just brought more coziness to the village and the warmth of a good meal waiting for us by the open fire.

We have created new traditions within our little clan. I have enjoyed experiencing Thanksgiving in many different ways with our children. I try to find new ways to anticipate the holiday season and to try to hold on to the magic of it all. For example we started watching the movie Scrooge and also the movie Elf as after dinner family time entertainment; and while cleaning up from our large holiday meal we get ready for the winter holidays by playing seasonal music and singing out loud. That’s always fun because not all of us have a singing voice. I’m happy for having had the experiences of holidays of the past but I consciously now choose to look forward to what could be. I try not to let my heart get too heavy for what is missing.

If this holiday season finds you with a melancholy heart or a yearning for what used to be, here are some tricks that might help ease the pain:

Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep at least 2 weeks before the holiday. Sleep keeps your body regulated not only in its basic functioning but also emotionally.

“Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch–there’s not a chance.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Follow a healthy eating plan. While this is something you need to do all year long, at least one month before the holiday reset your stomach and hormones by eating better before the emotional stress sets in.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” David Mamet, Boston Marriage

As best as you can, try to do some physical exercise even if you go for a walk for 30 minutes every day before the holiday. Physical activity just for yourself is soothing, refreshing and empowering. It naturally reduces stress and sets your brain to a more positive way of thinking. Exercise increases creativity.

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” Ellen DeGeneres

At least one month before the holiday purposefully allow yourself to enjoy activities that make you happy. Enlist some friends if you can but it is okay if you go alone. Having happy experiences to bring to the conversation at dinner time will be a big boost for you and the people around the table.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” Anne Frank

If, like me, your table will be short a few more people than you would like perhaps setting their pictures around the table as decoration would help. Include photos from holidays past and let the reminiscing begin. Before you know it laughter will take over and the trip down memory lane will feel like you traveled somewhere for a little while.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, and the people you have loved.”Ansel Adams

Reach out to a trusted friend, mentor, coach, clergy or family member and talk through the melancholy you are feeling. Maybe ideas will pop up and help ease the pain and infuse hope. If talking to someone is not comfortable for you then consider writing out your thoughts just for yourself. Twenty minutes for 4 consecutive days does wonders for the soul.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Albert Camus

Take time to force yourself to do relaxing things leading up to the holiday. Go to a spa for a massage, sit in a steam room or Jacuzzi, play soothing music while falling asleep, light candles around your space instead of turning on lights, burn some incense, meditate, anything to help create an air of relaxation and peace.

“A massage is just like a movie, really relaxing and a total escape, except in a massage you’re the star. And you don’t miss anything by falling asleep!” Elizabeth Jane Howard, Mr. Wrong

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I know it can be a tough situation at holiday time for many reasons but in the whole of each person’s situation is the truth that our own attitude and perspective can make or break the moments we experience. The undisputable truth is that when things get really dark in my life I always have the choice to be afraid and sad or I can choose to see the stars more clearly. I am trying to train my perception of what appears to be a negative and find the hope that lives in the positive.

I wish you all peace, happiness, renewal, and an abundance of reasons to be filled with gratitude this year. Thank you all for your support and friendship. Happy Holiday Season!!!

Call to Action

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

How do you bring newness to the holiday?

Where can you try to see the good in the perception of bad?

If you are disconnected as a family this year, why and what does the disconnect mean for you?

Images by afieldofblessings.blogspot.com and simplereminders.com

9 Times Curiosity Softens Judgment

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“….. it would be interesting to find out what goes on in that moment when someone looks at you and draws all sorts of conclusions.”Malcolm Gladwell

The dictionary defines judgment as “an opinion so pronounced; a formal decision held by a court; the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing; an opinion or estimate so formed.” The word judgment has a kind of negative quality to it and when exercised seems to put a person in a mirage of control and power with regard to their words, thoughts and perceptions.

Discernment however is defined as “the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently; the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.” Discernment to me feels more like open-mindedness and forethought. It feels empowering because it seems to take into account all aspects of a situation without negativity.

As a life coach we are taught about the top 24 value characteristics and their definitions and how these values are used to strengthen each individual. Judgment falls into the value characteristic with critical thinking and open-mindedness. The definition says, “Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.” I love this definition because it is positive and freeing. I would love to see the word judgment changed to discernment. It also happens to be in my top 5 strong value characteristics of who I am at my core.

Why am I giving you a lesson in judgment?

Well, I recently came up against a very irate reader who felt compelled to voice her discontent to one of my blog posts. In my quick mental response I was thrilled because it meant that I generated so much emotion that a reader felt so strongly as to write about it in a personal email to me. Upon further perusal of her rant I realized that although I welcome all responses with open-mindedness and curiosity the actual response didn’t get specific in any way as to what was so emotional for her or why she felt compelled to write. I could tell it was a rant because the tone was negative and she used capital letters and exclamation points. Courage dear reader….don’t be shy, let your thoughts fly free.

“One reason we rush so quickly to the vulgar satisfactions of judgment, and love to revel in our righteous outrage, is that it spares us from the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding.” Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing

Maturity tells me do not provoke the monster. Let the reader have his/her say and move on. Not everything I write is going to please everyone and I’m okay with that. It’s almost like an oath writers take when they go public with their thoughts as happens often with blog posts. I couldn’t help however the questions that kept running through my mind:

How does lack of curiosity play a role in judgment?

When does judgment become negative?

Can curiosity keep judgment at bay?

When my children were little I found it fascinating to watch them learn something new. Their curiosity didn’t always include a question right away but their actions and body language and facial expressions showed their desire to know more and learn something. As they got older and the questions started coming along I realized it was a great indicator that they were ready to understand the answers to their questions. How I answered them was just as important as being open-minded to answering their questions for the age they were at. If I didn’t know the answer we would look it up together. I hope I taught them to always get the facts before forming an opinion or judgment.

As adults I have to wonder when did judgment take a front row seat and relegate curiosity to the back of the room?

The pure definition of curiosity is “the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.” I can’t imagine what the world would be like if curiosity didn’t exist; if we just accepted what we were taught or what we read without question or wonder or awe.

“Life is an adventure of passion, risk, danger, laughter, beauty, love; a burning curiosity to go with the action to see what it is all about, to go search for a pattern of meaning, to burn one’s bridges because you’re never going to go back anyway, and to live to the end.” Saul D. Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals

As I get older 2 things are happening:

One, mortality screams louder and louder with each passing day and

Two,  curiosity for me means pushing my life to limits I’ve always only been afraid of . Fear now takes a back seat to curiosity. We only have this one chance at life so why hold back from what piques our interests?

“It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.” Tove Jansson, Fair Play

So how do we stay curious without judgment?

Here are some ideas that might be of help and interest….

It is human nature to form an opinion about almost everything. Opinions are great but if you don’t have information to back up your opinion, if you don’t show truth and/or facts with your opinion then it becomes judgment and judgment just doesn’t feel good no matter how you look at it. You can still maintain your opinion but be open-minded to new information. My father used to say that the only things that are for certain are death and taxes. I’m not so sure any more about the taxes part but there is no arguing with death although there are people that would argue that they were declared clinically dead and are still alive today so see, even death seems negotiable and curious. The point is that life is open for business and being open is expansive and freeing.

“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.” Tony Schwartz

Opinions are based on curiosity. Wanting to know the “why” or “how” of something drives our inner self to stay free of judgment for a bit if only because we are learning and growing and seeking truth and wisdom.

“I had discovered that learning something, no matter how complex, wasn’t hard when I had a reason to want to know it.” Homer Hickam, Rocket Boys

Curiosity allows for personal internal expansion. We don’t know what life experiences led someone down a certain path of life or thought and it may not be for us to know but when you are curious about a person and their thought processes, instead of judging without knowing their story or the facts you have the freedom and dare I say responsibility to put yourself in that person’s shoes and imagine what their experiences and feelings are like. This is empathy. Once you can feel what they might be feeling there is no room whatsoever for judgment.

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

Curiosity allows for gratitude. Judgment allows for nothing but walls and road blocks. Sure there are times when I look back over my life so far and can more easily find what is missing than what is right with my life; what is a burden rather than a blessing but then I pull back, step out of my own picture and think about what I still want to learn and experience. How can I make those curiosities happen; how can I be grateful for the opportunity to learn and be and evolve as more of who I am? Being grateful for what life has given me so far allows me to seek and learn about what more there is out in this big world.

Curiosity encourages, no demands, relationship. Judgment screams isolation. In his book, Making Marriage Simple, author Harville Hendrix writes, “We are wounded and healed in relationships. We cannot know who we are except in relationships.” This can be a love relationship, a spiritual relationship, a co-worker relationship, a mentor relationship, etc. If we never expose ourselves to the ideas and teachings of others, if we never allow all the many relationships of our lives to peak our curiosities then what are we living for?

“When I think of the wisest people I know, they share one defining trait: curiosity. They turn away from the minutiae of their lives-and focus on the world around them. They are motivated by the desire to explore the unfamiliar. They are drawn toward what they don’t understand.” Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Always be ready to ask yourself if what you are thinking is of a closed mind perspective or open mind perspective. Questions like:

What exists beyond the way I am seeing this?

How can I learn more about this?

Where might there be another opinion or perspective?

We can’t help judging ourselves but judging others is never a good idea. We are all perfectly imperfect and we all have a lifetime of opportunity to hone and chisel and smooth out those areas of our lives that we alone choose to judge to be wrong or in need of repair. Fear holds us back sometimes, okay, lots of times; fear asks us to face our own truths and we don’t like doing that. It’s hard to look in the mirror and see what we don’t like and easy to then pass on that internal hate toward others. Practice compassion and curiosity with yourself and judgment will find it very hard to settle in anywhere. Find a tiny bit of courage to shine a light on your own troubles or circumstances and you’ll see people rally to help you, no judgment.

“You cannot be fair to others without first being fair to yourself. Know that a well-honed sense of justice is a measure of personal experience, and all experience is a measure of self. Know that the highest expression of justice is mercy. Thus, as the supreme judge in your own court, you must have compassion for yourself. Otherwise, cede your gavel.”Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Judgment is like poison. It alienates others and at times can be contagious. It alienates others by making people not want to be near your constant judgmental attitude. It can be contagious because if you find someone who enjoys judging others like you do then gossip takes root, judgment grows like a cancer and before you know it feeling bad and opinionated without facts become the disease. Staying curious and open-minded is the best medicine for the poison of judgment.

“If you didn’t grow up like I did then you don’t know, and if you don’t know it’s probably better you don’t judge.” Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Curiosity creates knowledge. The more curious you are the more curious you become and the more wisdom and knowledge you obtain. Your mind grows, your spirit grows, your conversations grow, your connections grow and more doors to the world open up. Judgment keeps all doors closed. Nothing grows in judgment.

“A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.” Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World

Call to Action

Thanksgiving is coming. How can you practice curiosity with gratitude and without judgment? When faced with family and friends that push your buttons how can you come from a curious place and not a gossipy, judgmental place about those people that rub you the wrong way?

 

Stop Believing Your Own Lie

 

 

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“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” – Thomas Merton

What are your challenges today?

What possibilities exist in just one of those challenges?

If you faced your right now with courage, faith and hope, then what would be the outcome?

I was reading an article referencing the story in the bible of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-37. The thought behind the article was about tangible things we can do to live our faith. The premise of the installation I was reading had to do with how “to love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31.

As I was reading the article I started to ask myself, what if I don’t love myself? What if I have such a deep belief that I am not enough, that I am not worthy of love for myself and from myself that I can’t find it inside of me to love any neighbor? What if the people that were not the good Samaritan also felt and believed they were not worthy of giving or receiving love and so that was why they just kept walking by?

This happens sometimes when I take my morning walk. Suddenly I freeze inside and don’t say hello or good morning first. I feel overwhelmingly shy and wish that the person I am walking past will say hello first and force me to say hello back. I hate when I start believing this shyness to be true about me. I’ve worked on this issue over and over and what I know is that when something I perceive as a negative about myself to be true it affects everything I believe about me. The bottom line truth of it is that I am too much in my own head and making something as simple as saying hello to someone all about me and not about them. In the story of the good Samaritan, the man that stopped to help the other was in no way in his own head. He wasn’t thinking about his own comfort or discomfort, he was thinking only of how he can be of aid to someone in need. He was using the gifts God gave him to help someone. Could life sometimes be as simple as saying hello to a neighbor and therefore setting the tone for the whole day in happiness?

“Reality is a projection of your thoughts or the things you habitually think about.”
Stephen Richards

It is hard to stand so far back from the experiences of my life and not take it personally sometimes. I have been looking for a supplemental job; something I can do in between coaching. It just seems like every time I send out my resume` I hear back with a rejection. Accumulate enough rejections and it starts to affect my psyche. Self-love and self-worth become an issue for me at that low point and it becomes difficult to keep lifting myself up. I try not to dwell on those negative feelings because I know it will become an everyday thought but sometimes……

I can probably do lots of internal work for the rest of my life trying to figure out where the heck these limiting beliefs came from, how it all really got started but until I can forgive myself, until I can truly have faith in myself this is my challenge. I know I must self-discover and recover from these limiting beliefs. It will take lots of courage and hope to work through this. A very powerful way for me to get started on this recovery process is to create my “if, then” statement. If I practice having faith in myself then I will come out of this a better person and a more peaceful person inside and out. This will help me step away from me and step into serving others.

Two years ago I decided I had had enough of looking in the mirror and not liking what I saw. I wanted to eat healthier and I knew I didn’t want to go on a diet so I started by creating my “if, then” statement: If I want to feel better physically and emotionally when I look in the mirror then I will choose healthier foods for my body each time I sit down to eat. Repeating this “if, then” statement has helped me lose weight and has empowered me to make the food choices a lifetime evolution not a diet.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
— Brene Brown

If I can be successful in one area of my life then I can be successful in another area of my life.What I have learned so far is that when I feel overwhelmed with a negative thought I see myself as a victim. A victim of my own creation. The first step is to work through my victim story and start to own my life again. I need to take charge of the decisions I have ever made and will ever make and be firm within my heart that what I decide is what is ultimately best for me.

So the questions are: What am I believing and what can I let go of within that belief?

In her book, Loving What Is, author Byron Katie asks the reader to go through 4 questions that guide the thought process and action steps toward letting go of limiting beliefs about our victimhood. As a victim we continually treat ourselves as if whatever hurts us we look to put blame on the person(s) that caused us to hurt. We deflect away from ourselves because it is too hard to admit that we could be inflicting the hurt.

The 4 questions are:

Identify your belief and ask yourself, “Is it true?” Ms. Katie asks the reader ” is it true that the name you answer to is really your name?” It was a name given to you at birth and was drilled into you as your identification but is it true that your name is really who you are?

How can you be sure that this belief is absolutely, without a doubt, true? If you believe that you don’t love yourself, where can you show proof that this belief is absolutely true? Within your proof can you continually find more proof as you ask yourself if each thought you are trying to justify is absolutely true.

How does it feel to believe this belief about yourself to be absolutely true? If you cry or whimper or bawl your eyes when you can feel what it feels like to believe this limiting belief you hold inside of you then chances are the belief is not serving any good purpose and therefore inner peace and outer peace toward yourself and others is not possible until you can let the belief go. Set yourself free and be at peace.

Who would you be without this belief? For me, I would be a kinder, more compassionate, a more loving and patient person with my “neighbors” and with myself. I would have a voice and be proud of it; I would stop letting myself be a victim of my own life. I would be free of a very dark and sinister cloud.

The 5th step is not a question but a call to action. Turn the belief around. Stop wasting life minutes by being the victim and believing your inner story. Look at the picture of the life you have created through this limiting belief and see the clear sky all around you. If control is an issue for you then recognize what you can do and leave the rest. Let come what comes, let go what needs to go.

So I ask again, what are the challenges/beliefs you are facing right this minute?

How can you start, right now, to face that challenge/belief with courage, hope and faith and turn that inner turmoil around?

Where would life expand and bring out the best in you because you are free from that limiting challenge/belief?

“I have known friendship love, parental love, romantic love, family love and unrequited love in my life time, but the only love that made a difference was self love. You don’t need confirmation from the world or another person that you matter. You simply do matter. When you finally believe that truth and live it then you can do amazing things with your life!”
Shannon L. Alder

When I read this quote I realized, God doesn’t make junk. I’m here because he loves me and wanted me to be here; he has a purpose for my life. If I believe in his love for me and that I matter then my gratitude for all he has given me should propel me toward using my precious life minutes for good thoughts and good actions toward and for myself as well as my neighbor.

Call to Action

In the next month (30 days) start to explore and work on the challenges and limiting beliefs you are facing and make it a goal to set yourself free. Create your “if, then” statement and begin. Here is a worksheet that you can copy over and over again that could start to help you be free of your victim story and start to propel you toward the love God intended all along.

Let me know how you are doing and if you need support through a tough spot call or write to me.

Moms Sleep Then Conquer the World

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Moms Sleep then Conquer the World

“Now for a good twelve-hour sleep, I told myself. Twelve solid hours. Let birds sing, let people go to work. Somewhere out there, a volcano might blow, Israeli commandos might decimate a Palestinian village. I couldn’t stop it. I was going to sleep.”  
Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Oh the joy of that first newborn baby. How prepared are/were you for those sleepless nights?

When my daughter was born I did everything I was told to do in order to take care of her and myself. She and I were in a world to ourselves and it was bliss except where sleep was concerned. Very quickly I learned that a bad night’s sleep can wreak havoc on every single part of the rest of my functioning life. I slept when she slept because I could and that part was fine but the nights were another matter. It was easier in the beginning when she was brand new because she either needed a diaper change or she was hungry but as she got older and I started weaning her off the breast she would wake for reasons like losing her pacifier during the night or  just wanting to be held for a while. It was impossible to get her into a routine of sleeping through the night.

If you are like me you feel like pulling your hair out because the mystery that has become sleep is overwhelming. There are pages and pages of information through Google to help parents search about how to get a better night’s sleep with a baby in the house. At the top of the list is establishing a routine as early as possible. I did not do this because from day one my daughter slept through the night. Sleep became a problem as she got older. Of course the routine will change and evolve over time as it should but staying firm to the structure is a great place to start. Years later I can tell you that eventually the babies grow and learn to love to sleep. See, there is hope but until then……

Not too long ago I was working with a client who is a new mom and going through these elusive sleepless nights. As fate would have it I have a coaching colleague who specializes in sleep disorders. Dr. Kevin B. Handley, Ph.D. was more than willing to offer up some great inside information and advice when it comes to getting the sleep we all need in order to have a happier, healthier life. I hope this brief interview will be of help to you:

By way of introducing you to my readers please briefly talk about how you recognized a passion in working with people with sleep problems? 

“A couple of things came together at the same time to help me recognize this passion for sleep. After the birth of our first child, my wife and I were generally surprised at how little people knew about how sleep works, especially in infants and children. At the same time, I had begun teaching at the college level and was surprised by how many people in my classes suffered with sleep problems. I knew the statistics, but it was still shocking when two thirds of a college class raised their hands when I asked “how many of you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep most nights of the week?” Lastly, when I began to focus on sleep enhancement in my clinical patients, it was obvious that sleep was a linchpin that led to better results in less time.”

I know that insomnia is your ideal client specialty but I am wondering if there is one common question or issue that clients bring to you regarding sleep outside of insomnia. 

“The most common question is “why am I tired all the time.” There is an epidemic of willful sleep deprivation in the United States. People simply do not value sleep and do not believe that they need more sleep than what they are getting. Unfortunately, this begins in childhood. A close second would be parents’ awareness that their children aren’t getting the sleep they need and they don’t really know how to help them.”

How important do you think it is, especially for moms with infants, to get GOOD sleep? What does GOOD sleep look like to a specialist like you? 

“It is essential that new mothers get good sleep. But unfortunately, new moms have poor sleep habits that were in place before the birth of their child. Mothers with infants do get referred to me, but sadly, it’s often after a period of extended sleep deprivation has already driven a mother to the point of exhaustion and often depression.

Good sleep means that you get enough sleep, at night, and on a regular schedule. People need to sleep a minimum of seven hours straight and preferably, with a standard wake up and bedtime. There’s also a functional aspect to it. You know that you’re getting good sleep when you wake up refreshed, stay alert all day long, and have the energy and focus you need to get done what you want to get done in your life.”

How does a mom with an infant even begin to incorporate the habit of good sleep and what do you suggest as a starting point for establishing a routine? 

“When you are a new mother and you start to lose sleep, your problem-solving skills aren’t what they should be and you can easily get overwhelmed. People can even get overwhelmed by listening to too much advice about how things should work. 

The key is to make small changes over time, but make certain that the changes you make are actually good ones. The good news here is that a few simple changes will enable your baby to sleep through the night without much effort because that’s what babies are designed to do. Most babies are born with the ability to sleep on a schedule. Unfortunately, we parents fail to honor that schedule. Newborns are not going to sleep through the night, but when they are biologically ready to do so, it isn’t that hard to achieve a regular sleep schedule.  When you put in place a few simple principles that help baby fall asleep and stay asleep, the baby’s tendency to sleep on a schedule will kick in and everyone will sleep better.”

When your children were infants, did you have sleep issues to deal with regarding yourself and/or the baby and if so how did you solve those issues? 

“We’ve never really had sleep issues with our children, but that is only because we went into it with a full understanding of how sleep works. We also were able to organize our life in a way that honors a child’s natural sleep schedule. This is difficult for most households with working parents, but it can be done.  Of course we were tired from getting up in the middle the night to feed, but we dealt with that by changing our sleep schedule and planning to get more sleep.

And this is the part that most people miss: People get tired and then get stressed about how they’re going to get everything done. The choice to deprive yourself of sleep is never a good one. It simply does not work.  It starts with a mindset shift. You have to believe that more sleep for yourself will result in more sleep for your child and that everything will get done more efficiently when you’re well rested. In fact, our commitment to our children’s sleep helped us diagnose our second child with medical problems that had not been detected. With all of our standard procedures for getting him to sleep not working, we knew that something else was wrong. It turned out that he had severe reflux. We would not have known that this was a problem if we didn’t have a good sleep process in place that should have promoted him going to sleep easily and without fussing.”

Is there a magic bullet or magic spell that could be used across the sleep issue spectrum to help people sleep better with infants or start to sleep better overall? 

“I wish there were! But I think the closest thing we have is the realization that getting sleep isn’t as difficult as people think. I think the best place to start is to realize that the benefits of sleep will come, but it takes a little bit of time. Over time with adequate sleep, people can enjoy better health, better mood, and even weight-loss!  I think the best place to start is to create good sleep hygiene:

*Rid the sleeping environment of anything that might keep you awake.

*Start by creating a sleep environment that is cool, quiet, and very dark.

*If you use electronic devices all the way up until bedtime, try turning them off about 15 minutes before bed.

*As far as a sleep schedule goes, choose a standard wake up time and get up at that time every single day, regardless of how you slept the night before. You will be surprised at how quickly you can resolve most sleep problems by simply getting up at the same time every day.”

My mantra is “if not tonight, then tomorrow night.”  People tend to worry about getting enough sleep, but they forget that they can do an awful lot under conditions of sleep deprivation. With infants, it’s important to remember that infants are programmed to sleep on a certain schedule and if we make just a few small adjustments, that schedule will kick in and they will sleep like champs!

Digging a bit deeper uncovered this information from the WebMd archives, “Everything can wait to get your attention except the baby. It is very tempting to want to spend that quiet time getting chores done or reading a book or catching up on correspondence. The fact is that no amount of cleaning or “catching up” is going to keep the house clean or caught up for very long. When the baby is up so are you so taking advantage of the time to rest your mind and body are just as important if not more so than cleaning the house.”

 “People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” –Leo J. Burke

So what can moms do to get their sleep on?

Get help right away. Don’t play the martyr. Ask for help from anyone that is willing and able to give it. My husband and I were so tired after the birth of our 2nd child that we both came down with the flu. I had to ask my mom to take the kids for one whole day and an overnight so that we could medicate and sleep. It was the one and only time in my whole life, then and now that I slept for one whole day straight. It felt so good and so necessary.

Prioritize your time. Seriously consider all that you want to get done in the course of your day and then pare that list down to what you know for sure you can get done, allowing for flexibility with the baby dictating the flow of the day.

Consider keeping a journal of your sleep times and circumstances so that you can find patterns that you can capitalize on. For example when is the best time for you to nap when baby naps? What foods sit solidly in baby’s stomach that makes for the best night’s sleep? What daylight pattern seems to work best for baby and you?

Count on things changing because they will. We get so caught up in the day to day that we gloss over the changes that take place in our schedules, routines and children. As they get older, although they are still changing all the time, the changes are less noticeable. When they are little they change so fast and furious that it seems impossible to keep up. My daughter completely stopped napping at age 1 and my body was not ready for it but motherhood calls so I had to be awake and ready. I promise that when your child walks down the aisle it won’t matter at all that the dishes didn’t get done for a week when he/she was 3 years old.

Rule out sleep disorders like sleep apnea or anemia that could leave you feeling overly tired. Not enough sleep can lead to depression so pay close attention to your mood swings and overall well-being. Your moods affect the baby so take care of you. A 20 minute nap during the middle of the day should revive you enough to get through until bedtime.

In another interview I did with a coaching client and new mom, Stephanie Read had this to say regarding her experience with sleep issues:

“It took me a full year to regain a sense of self and motherhood because I was so tired. It helped that I had a husband/partner that was willing to do whatever I needed when it came to sharing the schedule of taking care of our son. HOW I asked for his help was as important to our relationship as his physical help. It is hard for husbands to bond and get that baby time when mom is breast feeding so I learned early and quickly that the tone of voice I used, the way I phrased my questions, and the way I needed his help was a key component to his ability and love of helping and bonding. Following a schedule that he and I made together was the best overall action step.”

Other suggestions:

Do not eat too close to bedtime. I played around with this one for many years and what I have found to work for me is to finish eating for the day by 7pm.

Eliminate as much light as possible when going to sleep.

Try not to drink too much before bedtime. Stop at least 2 hours before bedtime.

Put an end to cardio workouts at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Keep the room cool to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sleep in loose fitting clothes or nothing at all.

Try to get 7-1/2 hours of sleep each night. This means going to sleep by 10p or 11p the latest. Get your partner or extra hands caregiver on board to help with this. A happy, rested mom creates a happy baby.

Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply, move harmoniously.”  
Jean-Pierre Barral

In doing these interviews and learning ways in which to help moms sleep better I thought to myself, what if the tiredness mom’s feel isn’t solely based on their baby’s sleeping habits and erratic night patterns? What if it is a sense of having to be all and do all now that they are moms? I thought about this because that was me playing at perfectionism.

On a hilltop station in Rajasthan, in the Aravali hills of India Mount Abu sits. It is a quiet place known for its ancient heritage and regarded as a scared destination for spiritual rejuvenation and empowerment. Here is where you will find the spiritual headquarters of Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University and well renowned spiritual teacher Dadi Janki. Her perspective on sleep and tiredness really truly resonated with me because I saw myself in her words when I was a new mom. I would like to share her letter to her students with you:

Dear Friend, 

Om shanti. Sometimes when we are together, you ask me why I don’t seem to get tired when I travel from India or give programs into the evening. Tiredness is a kind of sickness. When we work with honesty and love, everything happens without tiredness. When we know how to take cooperation from others, there is no tiredness. It is not a matter of how long we sleep that determines whether we feel tired. It is waste and negative thoughts and actions that create tiredness. Create positive thoughts and elevated actions and you will take strength from that, and your tiredness will leave you.

Work for money and you will count your hours and your salary. Work for love, and you can work sixteen hours a day with happiness and without getting tired. Serving others brings energy. You will then feel your happiness accumulating.

Love,
Dadi Janki

When I reflect on high creative moments in my life I remember the energy that existed there. I remember feeling alive and in flow with my purpose. Creative things like cooking a good meal or baking a great dessert for my family, choosing carefully the books I would ultimately buy for my children because our bedtime ritual always included one story each, purposefully setting time aside from “have-to’s” in order to create time and space for “want-to’s” like blowing bubbles outside for the kids to catch. It is in this flow state, where time and space and life all around me seems to disappear that I become one with my souls’ purpose. When I emerge from this flow state I am revitalized, happier than I’ve ever been and I naturally pass on those positive, life giving feelings to others. In hindsight is when I realized that my children were better in their overall well-being because I was better in my overall well-being.

Where can you let go of stress and worry and exist from a place of pure love, kindness and inner peace?

Call to Action 

All of the advice in the world is not going to present itself in the flesh at 2am when you are tired and again, still, trying to get the baby to sleep. There is however a bit of comfort in knowing that you are not alone. You are safe among a score of mom’s who are also sleep deprived. To this I say, this too shall pass and although I don’t miss those sleep denied nights I do miss my children being so little with so much of life still ahead of us. How can you appreciate each moment, good and bad right now, remembering all the while that there are no do-overs.

Image by bing.com

Complain or Vent: Which way to you lean?

 entitlement

Don’t be a Little Mary Whiner

9 Strategies to Conquer Complaining

The dictionary defines the word complaining as to say or write that you are unhappy, sick or uncomfortable or that you do not like something; to express grief, pain or discontent. The example from the dictionary is, “If you are unhappy with the service you should complain to the manager.”

The dictionary defines the word venting as a way of expressing an emotion usually in a loud or angry manner. The example from the dictionary is, “She vented her frustrations by kicking the car.”

Complaining to others is another matter altogether. It opens the door to deadly sins such as self-pity and rage.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

The question is which way do you lean? Do you tend to complain or vent? Which feels better?

In his book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle talks about the effects of complaining.

See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always non-acceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

To Mr. Tolle’s last point where he says to speak out if necessary or possible I think of this action step as venting. In venting we tend to release emotional pent up energy surrounding the circumstance that caused such out of control feelings. Once the energy is released and we are calmer we can use a more clear way of thinking through the situation and make better decisions.

Complaining has a weighted, heavy feeling of negativity and adds nothing to the circumstance by way of a solution. Complaining just feels yucky. Complaining is also contagious. Think of someone you know who tends to complain about things but never takes any action toward a solution. If you are around that person long enough you will tend to pick up on the habit to complain.

I was visiting my mom recently and while we sat at the kitchen table talking and catching up I heard myself and the way in which my voice sounded and how I was retelling a story about my life experiences. It seemed to come really easy for me to sound like I was complaining about all the things in my life that I had labeled as “unfair”. Maybe it was just that mom has sworn to love me no matter what so I let it all out. My words sounded awful, like my life is so burdened and full of hardship and yeah right now things are not going the way I would like them to go and yeah at times I do feel like life is unfair but I hated the way I was sounding and speaking and realized that I needed to think of solutions but instead I just unloaded and complained.

I caught myself at one point and started to rephrase my answers while I was talking and when I heard those words back I realized that I did have solutions and I didn’t feel so heavy and negative in my chest. I felt a bit proud that I had come up with some solutions and for that brief moment I felt validated and empowered. I wasn’t just sitting with a problem and doing nothing about it, I was allowing myself time and giving myself permission to work through a problem at my own pace. Switching my mindset from that negative place to a mindset of just letting it all out and then getting into solution mind really made the difference. Venting seems to be so much more satisfying.

What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
Maya Angelou,
Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

So how do we go about changing our perspective and mindset enough to either complain effectively or just turn the complaint into an emotional discharge like venting and then move through the problem?

Here are a few tips that might help:

Define your feeling: Are you feeling jealous, heartless, unfairness, general unhappiness? When you can define and pinpoint where the complaining is being generated from you can begin to break it down in your mind as to how to go about changing your perspective.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Aristotle

Surround and surrender: Whenever possible avoid the negative people in your life. I know, that is easier said than done but if you say no to those people before the complaining gets out of hand or can distract yourself away from the negative atmosphere you will feel so much better quickly. Surround yourself with people that do not use complaining as a way of dealing with problems. I used to work with a woman who would always complain. Her days were filled with people she held judgment against and didn’t like, foods she didn’t like, work circumstances she didn’t like. It took all my emotional and mental strength to block her negativity and not let it affect me. I surrendered to who she was and to my authentic need to distance myself from that person by reminding myself that I have 2 choices; I can either join in or opt out. I opted out and it felt like the sun came out from behind a very massive, gray, heavy cloud.

Always work with/surround yourself with people who help make you a better version of you. Kindly avoid those who don’t.”
Don Roff

Practice Gratitude: I have said this so many times but when the truth is the truth it can’t be ignored or said enough. For every complaint you feel yourself making promise yourself that you will also balance the complaint with something you are grateful for. Notice the difference in your emotional energy. Which way gives you a deeper sense of calm? Always try to ask yourself in those hard to handle moments, “What went right today?”

Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”
Alphonse Karr,
A Tour Round My Garden

Let It Go: I’ve recently come to realize that from the moment we are born we are cosmically being taught to let things go. What we hold tight to is usually not going to help us through anything. When you notice that you can’t solve the problem, let it go and find where you can be productive and solution focused. My solution through tough spots is to clean the house. It clears my head, it is physical energy being released and the end result is satisfaction because now I have a clean house and feel less likely to continue to complain. My mom used to count to 10. Whatever works for you find it but let go of what you can’t affect positively.

The day I understood everything, was the day I stopped trying to figure everything out. The day I knew peace was the day I let everything go.”
C. JoyBell C.

Take Action: Along the lines of counting to 10 or cleaning something, absolutely try all you can to solve the problem that you feel you are complaining about. Don’t let it sit there without trying to fix it. There are only 2 outcomes, you can either find a solution or you can’t so move on to the next thing. Empower your action steps toward a positive outcome. Staying in the status quo and making no decisions is a decision in itself.

In the end, people should be judged by their actions, since in the end, it was actions that defined everyone.”
Nicholas Sparks

Connect Spiritually: If you are like me then you are learning or experiencing the power of prayer. It’s more than giving your problems to a higher power. It is the act of letting go and releasing the emotion built up inside. By talking to a person or power you can’t see you reinforce trust and faith and a knowing deep inside of you that you can’t go this alone and in most cases you don’t want to go this alone. Faith does not allow for doubt. It accepts you for who you are where you are and allows humility to bring you down to earth.

The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
Søren Kierkegaard

Lend a hand: I can’t emphasize this enough. Volunteer. Everyone on the planet is going through something. Help a brother out.

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.
Khalil Gibran,
The Essential Kahlil Gibran

Don’t complain, vent: If the problem is unsolvable then just vent your frustrations. If the problem can, in time, be solved then get to work and find the solution sooner rather than later. Don’t waste your life minutes stuck in a nowhere place of complaint. Allow yourself to feel the frustrations and disappointment but then get up, get living, and get into solution mind.

There was something peculiarly gratifying about shouting in a blind rage until your words ran out.”Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

Save your skin: Complaining causes wrinkles because it is by nature negative. It takes so many harsh, angry frown lines to really get the most effect out of complaining. Save your own skin by letting up on contorting your face into those ugly, unpleasant and permanent facial lines. Go for the laugh lines instead.

It depends on you whether you want wrinkles or dimples on your face.”
Raaz Ojha

Call to Action

The next time you feel a complaint coming on stop, right where you are, even if it is mid-sentence and really think about how you look to the person you are complaining to. Think about whether this is the impression, reputation, feeling you want to leave that person with when you walk away. Practice being your higher self whenever possible.

 

 

 

3 Questions to Help you Get Your Happiness On…

The Pursuit of Happiness….You Thought this Would be Easy?

capt underpants

What does happiness mean to you? Is it having everything you want or does happiness live inside of something else like good health, good relationships, or goodness itself?

Maybe it should be called the pursuit of goodness?

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see an article or a book or news report about the pursuit of happiness. It’s an epidemic of global proportions that everyone wants to be happy. We all go about finding our own happiness levels in various ways, ways that are as unique as our fingerprints. There are so many books written about happiness because each author has found his/her own slice of the happiness equation and has something to say about it. I have in my library 11 books on this specific genre and I’m sure I am not done yet and this doesn’t include articles I have found on the internet that I have saved in a folder somewhere or the countless quotes that I use to inspire me every day from my wallpaper.

I, like you, want to be happy. In his book, Happier, author and Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D, doesn’t waste much time in his writing to pinpoint what happiness means and what we instinctually need in order to be happy (page 33, 36).

“I define happiness as the ‘overall experience of pleasure and meaning.’ To be happy, we have to feel that, on the whole, whatever sorrows, trials, and tribulations we may encounter, we still experience the joy of being alive.”

Following that statement he then asks you to make a list of things, from trivial to meaningful, of all the things that provide you pleasure.

Here is my list in no particular order: Good food, meaningful friendships, feeling completely loved and cherished, reading, learning new things, a good night’s sleep, cooking and baking great tasting foods for my family and friends, taking great photographs, writing, walking, cycling, vacationing, hugging, family time, not working outside my home.

I’m sure there are many more items I could add to this list but this is a good start I think. In this list there are items that just exist to add to my peace of mind and overall happiness but there are also a lot of items that are experiencing items. The things we do that add to our happiness mostly come from the experience that created the feeling of happiness. In that experience lays meaning. In the experience and meaning is the action of the pursuit.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” Guillaume Apollinaire

I’d like to take a moment and focus on one of the items I listed. I mentioned not working outside of my home. I have always been a home body. I can’t remember a time in my whole life where I didn’t get great pleasure from being home. I love to take vacations and see new places and experience new things but it’s the pleasure of being able to come home that allows me the freedom of spirit to go out into the world and fulfill those other needs. My life energy comes from the strength I get from where I call home.

I am in between jobs right now and to be quite honest, even though I know I have to go out to work and I am actively seeking new employment I am thoroughly enjoying being home, working with my coaching clients, writing my blog posts, taking classes at night, and taking care of my family and my home. In the spaces between not working for someone else and doing what I love doing as a coach, I volunteer. Where I can’t give to my family financially I give to those in need spiritually and organically. Volunteering is very spiritual for me because it gives me a sense of significance; it is important to me and is priceless in terms of helping to define my own pursuit of happiness. I truly believe that happiness is contagious and if I am happy then I am without fail going to be able to affect the happiness level of someone else. As the Buddha says, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Author Tal Ben-Shahar writes:

“We should also remember that going through difficult times augments our capacity for pleasure: it keeps us from taking pleasure for granted, reminds us to be grateful for all the large and small pleasures in our lives. Being grateful in this way can itself be a source of real meaning and pleasure.”

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” –James 1:2

Not everything about my working from home is perfect and happy all the time. We are struggling financially and have to face some really tough decisions in the very near future. I am also quite lonely sometimes while the house is that quiet for so many hours. I think it is an impossibility to appreciate the things that help us feel happy without the struggles of what makes us feel unhappy. The happiness level we reset ourselves to helps determine how we know when we are more happy or less happy than most days. Author and researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote in her book, The How of Happiness, that each of us is born with a happiness set point:

“It appears that each of us is born with a happiness set point, a characteristic potential for happiness throughout our lives. Although you may be temporarily ecstatic or miserable by what comes to pass, it seems that you can’t help eventually returning to your set point.”

“But just because your happiness set point cannot be changed doesn’t mean that your happiness level cannot be changed.”

I read a blog post recently in which the author writes about a course she took about miracles. She listed 3 miracles that we could practice every day but the one that really stood out for me was that “a miracle is a shift in perception.” I apply this idea to happiness.

Happiness is a shift in perception.

Getting truly, bitterly, vulnerably honest within ourselves is the first step toward happiness. By my truth of admitting how happy I feel working from home I am that much closer and in touch with all of the implications of that truth and of my happiness. If my perception of my own happiness is going to change for the better, here are some questions that will help get me there:

Are the things I am doing meaningful to me?

What is my mind telling me I should be doing differently with my time?

What is my heart telling me I must change?

What do I value most about myself and my life?

My children grew up hearing me constantly say to them to have patience and tolerance. It’s become such a repeated moniker that I now just say to them, “P & T honey, P & T.” This is a reminder and a reset of not only our perception of a situation but also of our heart because after all happiness lives and grows from the heart.

The other miracle that the author spoke about was to remember that infinite patience delivers immediate results. It sounds backwards but…. time becomes a non- issue.

For example, if you got a late start on your day it is not the fault of anyone you will come in contact with throughout your day.

Imagine this: you are at the grocery store and I don’t know about where you live but where I live our grocery store has 3 express check- out lanes as well as 6 self- check-out lanes. I don’t enjoy using self-check-out so I try to stay within the minimum grocery amount and use the express lane. Without fail each and every time I use the express lane I do not make it out the door in any express kind of way. I watch some of the longer regular grocery lanes and those larger orders in most cases are done long before I am even up to my turn. It is so easy to get frustrated and upset because if you are on express you truly are in some kind of hurry to get done quickly.

The next time this happens to you take a deep breath and remind yourself to have P & T and see how that works for you. Did it really matter that you were longer in the store than you wanted to be? How did time slip into oblivion because you decided to not let the long wait negatively affect you? Did you smile at the check-out employee even if you weren’t feeling a true smile? If so, how did that make the employee feel and how did you feel passing along that smile?

How we affect other people makes a great contribution to our happiness or unhappiness.

Hyrum W. Smith is not necessarily someone you might hear a lot about but he is a distinguished author, speaker and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Franklin Covey, Co., a global company specializing in helping organizations achieve results that require a change in human behavior through performance improvement. It may not sound very interesting to most of us but he has been quite successful in using his gift and wit and enthusiasm in the field of  perception and communications. This week I attended a live webinar about the idea of living happier. Mr. Smith was one of the speakers and gave me what I think is the most important 3 questions in determining each of our personal levels of happiness:

“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”

Is this something I have to do?  This is considered the lowest level of happiness. Feeling as if you have to do something puts you in a place of fear. If you are acting from a place of fear you have no chance of being or feeling happy unless fear is such an adrenaline rush that you thrive on its energy.

Is this something I ought to do? This is the medium or middle level of happiness. Feeling as if you ought to do something puts you in a place of duty. When you act out of a sense of duty you are more authentic to your happiness but there is still some fear residing inside. There is never anything wrong with doing the right thing so it’s not a bad place to be in action from.

Is this something I want to do?  This is the highest level of happiness. Feeling as if you want to do something puts you in a place of love. When you act from a place of love you are initiating happiness from within and spreading it outward with every move you make and every word you speak.

From my perspective of life being backward you would think that being happy was easy to achieve but in reality being happy is hard to achieve but it doesn’t have to be if we make a habit of pursuing happiness with perspective, patience, tolerance and heart. Let your life reflect your values in all that you do and happiness will not be hard to find and maintain.

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Call to Action

Here are some small ways in which you can live happy today:

Send an encouraging, flattering or loving email to 5 people today, this minute, this week. The way they will feel after reading what you wrote will undoubtedly be passed along to everyone they come in contact with that day. You can change a life today by doing just that one thing.

Ask yourself, what went right today?

Keep a tally this week of all the times your actions fell into the 3 levels of happiness then figure out how you can move up the ladder to the highest level of happiness:

*What were your have to’s?

*What were your ought to’s?

*What were your want to’s?

Please share with me how this action agenda has helped you. I love to hear your feedback.

Story Time

Story Time

starfish

“What you do may seem insignificant, but it’s important that you do it.” –Mahatma Gandhi

There was a little boy walking the beach and he noticed many starfish scattered all along the shore line. They were all still alive but he knew that if they didn’t get back into the water soon they would all start to die. Carefully and gently he started to pick up each starfish and put them back into the water.

After quite a while an old man came walking along the beach and stopped to notice what the boy was doing. He watched him for a time and finally went up to the boy and asked, “There are millions of starfish throughout this vast ocean, why are you bothering to put those starfish back into the water? “

The boy did not answer at first and kept putting the starfish back into the water. Finally, he held one of the starfish in his hand and he said to the man, “I do it because it might matter to this one starfish.”

“You will always feel insignificant if you never do anything to change the world or another person’s life, other than your own.” Shannon L. Alder

The dictionary defines insignificance as littleness, of no consequence, null, inconsequential.

Each one of us has a unique human print and for that matter each living organism has a unique organism print. There is no one like us in the world and yet we all go through struggles of insignificance many times throughout our lives. We are like the starfish on that beach and at times we each want and need someone to care so much and help set us right again and give us the hope and the chance to feel acknowledged and significant.

We are made weak by moments in life that bring us low or in the case of our starfish that bring us to an unfamiliar shoreline out of our normal element.

It is written in the bible (Corinthians 2, 12:10), “For when I am weak, than am I strong.” For some of us when we are feeling insignificant we look deep within and try to find self-worth but what we find is that we are really in need of a helping hand. In our weakness we become humbled and in our unique way ask for help. In the asking and in the weakness of our feeling of insignificance is where our strength lies. The asking and the weakness is really hope and possibility desiring to flourish. Whether you ask for help from G-d, a trusted friend or colleague, a husband, a wife or a child the lowliness makes us stronger and more compassionate because once feelings and emotions become known they leave a footprint on our souls and in our hearts that won’t ever go away.

To the boy in this story those starfish were not insignificant or invisible or worthless. They were in need and could only ask for help in their unique way by being their brilliant starfish selves and G-d sent the one person who could recognize their beauty and uniqueness and give the starfish the acknowledgment they deserved; their significance.

Sure, some starfish might wash back up on shore not believing in their worthiness but most will seize their moment and live their life as only each one of them can.

“To realize that everything in the universe is connected is to both accept our insignificance and understand our importance in it.” Jeffrey Fry

This quote got me to thinking about the purpose of a starfish or Sea star. In doing a bit of research I learned that starfish protect a certain kind of other fish by eating algae and starfish are great at decomposition. Did you know that starfish can regenerate their arms? If they are under attack they can detach the arm being pulled at and escape their attacker. It would take about a year to regrow the entire arm length but they have the ability to do that miraculous thing. Could it be then that starfish are here not only to be beautiful and help keep our oceans clean but to provide research into regeneration of limbs? What a miracle that would be.

What are your unique attributes? What makes you significant? Here are a few ways to find out:

Define who you are: Write down all the things you know for sure about yourself. Get real and above all be honest, then test what you think you know by taking a personality test online. Personality tests are a great aid. Sites like Personality41Q  or Humanmetrics or Personalitypathways. Learn about yourself through samplings of sites like these and get a clear picture of who you are and who you want to be.

Learn as you grow: There are things you may know for sure about yourself and the values that you live by but always be open to learning more about who you are. Your significance to the world around you is that you can always try to improve as you grow. Who you are today is not completely going to be who you are in 10 years from now so allow for room to grow and learn and evolve. Try not to stay stuck in old ways of thinking and being.

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.” Aristotle

The past is the past: When you are ready, let what happened in the past live in the past. Your significance plays strong when you can let a painful or hurtful moment of your life have its day in the sun and then die away, never to live long enough to define you. Everyone has a past and everyone has a mountain of memories labeled “my history”. Try not to let your history repeat itself or define who you are growing to be.

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?

Comparison shopping is a no-no: Comparing yourself to someone else only hurts you every time. Your significance can’t be noticed if you are trying to be like someone else. Sure, you can like certain things about all kinds of people but putting those pieces together to create who you want to be, trying it on for size, that’s where it’s at.

“Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world…if you do so, you are insulting yourself.” Bill Gates

Treat others as you treat yourself: Your significance is in your authenticity, always and your authenticity is who G-d wanted you to be all along. Treat everyone and everything with the same respect you treat yourself. Use the same morals, values and ethics and your authenticity will shine.

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.” Confucius, Sayings of Confucius

Dump and recycle days: Allow for some days to really stink. Not every day can be good but we can find a bit of good in every day. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t quite stick to your plan or value code. Know where you went wrong and make tomorrow a better day because of what you’ve learned.

“Yesterday was not your defining moment. The calendar moved forward; why not you?” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

For me the message is, you are one among many. Return to the world all that you are. Learn and acknowledge your uniqueness and significance. Be humbled when someone acknowledges you and notice how insignificance fades and your inner spirit is born anew.

“Tiny-perhaps.” Rovender kept his eyes fixed on the rings. “Insignificant-never, Eva Nine. No living thing is insignificant.” Tony DiTerlizzi, The Search for WondLa

Call To Action

At what times in your life have you felt insignificant?

Who helped you?

How are you humbled in weakness?

What is one thing you can do right now to start feeling your significance?

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