Always do your best (part 4)

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“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

I think this quote is a great place to start the last of my blog series based on author Don Miguel Ruiz’ book The Four Agreements. Here are the agreements:

  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Don’t take anything personally
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Always do your best

The idea is that if you are always trying to do your best then you are creating habits that keep you practicing being impeccable with your words, not taking anything personally and not making assumptions.

In order for your day to take shape, to live and to breathe you have to first wake up and then get out of bed. Everything you do once out of bed is up to you alone. You can decide with your very first step that today is going to be a better day than yesterday or an even better day than yesterday. You can decide that whatever challenges you faced yesterday will be met with more courage today.

Whatever you decide to do with your life minutes today give each one of them purpose and meaning and significance by being the change you want to see. EVERYTHING starts with you.

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

To look at my daughter you would never know that she struggles with having real, true, honest friendships in her life. Oh, she knows a lot of people and is always busy but true, trustworthy friendships, the kind that last a lifetime, are hard to come by. In my biased opinion she is life. She is always busy working at a job she likes that affords her the opportunity to meet new people and forge new acquaintances, she is attending classes at college that feed her imagination and desire to learn, she is going out with people during her personal time that she chooses to spend time with, and she volunteers her time to causes she feels connected to. Yet, through all of her activities and busyness she feels a sense of not belonging and at times a sense of loneliness.

I can’t imagine anyone having a hard time relating to this. There are times in our lives when we just feel like we are so disconnected from everyone and that we just can’t seem to find a place where we belong. When she starts to get down on herself for some unnamed flaw she thinks she has the only question I can ask her is, “are you doing your best today?”

What does your best look like?

Does your best look like smiling even when you don’t feel it? Does your best look like dropping all your to-do’s and helping a friend in need? Does your best look like getting take out for dinner so that you have more time to spend with the kids at night?

No matter what you are involved in during your day or week or month or life, always bring and do the best you can. No one, not even you, can ask more of you than your best and you will always walk away feeling good about yourself. Your legacy in every life moment is left behind in your wake when you give the best you can.

What if my best is not up to my standards because I’m not feeling like myself? That can happen at any time. Don Miguel Ruiz says,

“In your everyday moods your best can change from one moment to another, from one hour to the next, from one day to another. Your best will also change over time. Just do your best in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself harshly.”

How do you treat yourself, your work or your relationships?

This is an important question toward always doing your best because when you like yourself and treat yourself well you know the end result of what you want others to feel from you. Bringing your best self to your life moments means that you have the potential to bring out the best in someone else.

Here is Don Miguel,

“When you do your best you learn to accept yourself by learning from your mistakes and practicing toward increased awareness. Doing your best really doesn’t feel like work because you enjoy whatever you are doing. You do your best because you want to do it, not because you have to do it and not because you are trying to please anyone. You are taking action because you enjoy the action. It becomes about living fully.”

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

What are your core values, your character strengths?

When you are in the flow of a project or experience and lose track of time what actions are you taking that align with your values?

For me it is writing. I lose track of time and space when I am writing and reading and researching. I enjoy the discovery process and I enjoy what I am able to share with anyone who chooses to read what I’ve written. My values are enlisted when I am writing in such ways as authenticity; I never write what I myself am not interested in knowing more about, compassion; I always write about topics that I have experienced and want to share with others, and gratitude; I always write with gratitude for the life lessons I have learned or lessons I am still learning.

In the end Don Miguel says,

“The first three agreements will only work if you do your best. Your habits are too strong and firmly rooted in your mind.

  • Don’t expect that you will always be able to be impeccable with your word.
  • Don’t expect that you will never take anything personally
  • Don’t expect that you will never make another assumption

But you can certainly, always, in all of these agreements, DO YOUR BEST.”

So the question is, how do we even get started on creating our best selves?

In the words of one of my favorite songs by the band Journey, “be good to yourself”. Only you can determine the many ways in which you can show love to yourself. For me, being good to myself shows up in cooking or baking or taking a time out to read in bed at night or writing.

In all things find a reason to say thank you. In the course of just one day whether the day overall was good or bad there is always at least one thing to be grateful for. I know my day was not a total waste when I can say a soulful thank you for something and connect with my own humility.

Ask for guidance. This guidance may come from a trusted friend or clergy, it may come from a beloved sibling or parent or it may simply come from the universe. The point is to ask. We don’t know all the answers so putting the questions out there may help us get clear on what to do next. Staying curious and open to new perspectives is one way to help create our best self.

Let go of expectations. Let go of your version of how something should turn out; let go of trying to control any outcome. See what happens when you do your best and the result is not what you expected. See what comes of a new experience or new perspective. What did you learn? How did you grow?

Mind your words. It matters very much the talking you do inside of your head and heart. Who do you love the most? Talk to yourself the way you talk to the one you love; hold yourself in the same love that you hold that special someone; believe in you the same way you wholeheartedly believe in the one you love.

Call to Action

Here is a different kind of call to action this week. I leave you with a prayer from Don Miguel Ruiz. Practice this prayer every day as often as you can until you believe in every single word:

“Thank you Creator of the universe, for the gift of life you have given me.

Thank you for giving me everything that I have ever truly needed.

Thank you for the opportunity to experience this beautiful body and this wonderful mind.

Thank you for living inside me with all your love, with your pure and boundless spirit, with your warm and radiant light.

Thank you for using my words, for using my eyes, for using my heart to share your love wherever I go.

I love you just the way you are, and because I am your creation, I love myself just the way I am.

Help me to keep the love and the peace in my heart and to make that love a new way of life, that I may live in love the rest of my life. Amen.”

 

http://www.amazon.com/Four-Agreements-Practical-Personal-Freedom/dp/1878424319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425307355&sr=1-1&keywords=the+4+agreements+by+don+miguel+ruiz

Jumping to Conclusions: 7 Steps toward Jumping in the Right Direction (part 3)

 

 

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“Inner guidance is heard like soft music in the night by those who have learned to listen.”
Vernon Howard

What is one habit we all have but rarely think of it as a habit?

It is the subject of the third personal agreement spoken about in the book, The 4 Agreements by author Don Miguel Ruiz.

Answer: Making assumptions.

Assumptions, what a funny word. What does it mean to assume other than the fact that it truly does make an ass of you and me when we do it?

Think of a time when you needed to hear back from someone and it took a long time to receive that call or note or email. Don’t lie, you jumped to an assumption or conclusion that the person you needed to hear from was blowing you off or not making your request important or just too busy for you. Were you right? In most cases there really is a good reason for not hearing back from someone you typically trust to be diligent with correspondence but as a species we tend to self-protect and so we assume the worst without evidence. Once we start down the road of thinking the worst of people it becomes a habit we can’t easily break.

Now think about a time when you needed to solve a problem or get through a difficult situation. If you are like me then you ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen here?” and try to prepare for that awful conclusion or work backwards toward a more pleasant outcome.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you are a negative person although to jump to that question first can make you feel negative. There is actually evidence now that shows that using this question when trying to solve a difficult problem is actually healthy and helpful. In their book, The Upside of Your Dark Side, authors Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan, Ph.D. write:

“We believe—and new research supports—the idea that every emotion is useful. Even the ones we think of as negative, including the painful ones. We don’t suggest an extra helping of happiness or a dash of negativity; we suggest both. It is by appropriately flipping back and forth between these two states that you can achieve a balanced, stabilizing sense of wholeness. Simply put, people who are able to use the whole range of their natural psychological gifts—those folks who are comfortable with being both positive and negative, and can therefore draw from the full range of human emotions—are the healthiest and, often, the most successful.”

Even on the subject of happiness itself these authors have a lot to say when it comes to predicting or assuming what will make us happy or leave us feeling happy after an event or purchase:

“To put it succinctly, we humans are horrible at guessing how happy we will feel in the future, and yet we base important life decisions on these flawed predictions (assumptions). We purchase TVs, plan retirement, and say yes to dinner dates all because of an imperfect guess about how happy they will make us.”

In other words even if it can be proven that making assumptions could work in our favor it is fundamentally not to our advantage, yet we are practically raised to make it a part of who we are and how we function in the world.

The dictionary defines the word assume to mean:

  • To think something is true or probably true without knowing that it is true
  • To begin as a job or responsibility
  • To take or begin to have power or control in a job or situation. Someone assuming the role of a leader or care taker, etc.

It is this first definition that we all have as a habit. The question then becomes why do we assume anything without first knowing or understanding the facts? When do we stop fact finding and decide that what we know is enough to believe  we now know is truth?

The simple answer comes from the author himself of this third personal agreement that we all need to make within ourselves.

“Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.” Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Courage. That really sticks in my gut. I never really paid too much attention to how much courage it takes to ask questions, to be vulnerable with courage in order to get clarity on something. When I think about it specifically now I can relate it to my children and their performance in school throughout the years. There seems to be an aspect of pride involved with asking questions and assuming to know something without facts or truth.

I asked my son, “What stops you from having the courage to ask questions when you don’t understand something?” His answer, “Sometimes it is not that I don’t want to ask a question, I just either might not want to know the answer or don’t want to hear what someone has to say or I might just want to figure it out for myself.” In any of these answers courage and pride seem to be at its heart.

Why is there such a stigma to asking questions?

In his book, A More Beautiful Question, author, journalist and innovation expert Warren Berger finds that “even though children start out asking hundreds of questions a day, questioning falls off a cliff as kids enter formal school. In an education and business culture devised to reward rote answers over challenging inquiry, questioning isn’t encouraged and is in fact sometimes barely tolerated.”

Mr. Berger talks at length about how teachers are discouraged from promoting questions because the curriculum each teacher has to teach does not allow for free questioning and time to explore the minds of the curious child. Teaching to the test is all there is time for. In an environment like that, Mr. Berger says that children learn very quickly that if a “right” question is not asked and a “right” answer not given then it is best to just sit and listen and not get too involved in the education.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov

Author Warren Berger says,

“The Nobel laureate scientist Isidor Isaac Rabi came from a home where at least one parent encouraged the children to ask questions.” ”’ While other mothers asked their kids ‘did you learn anything today?’ my mother would say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’”

Scientist Hal Gregersen thinks parents can help their kids be more inquisitive by posing what if questions that help invite children to think deeply about the world around them.” Encourage kids to solve problems in a hands-on way through household tasks and chores. Most students have to do some work to resuscitate their childlike curiosity. The best way to do that is to start asking questions again, lots of them.”

In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes:

“We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe. This is why we make assumptions. These assumptions are made so fast and unconsciously most of the time because we have agreements within ourselves to communicate this way.”

So if questioning falls of a cliff at a time of life when it should be greatly and primarily encouraged as a natural human virtue and right, and if our society has accepted that we are raised to be rote, mechanical bodies that are supposed to just do as we are told, no questions asked then how can we ever break the cycle of a bad habit like assumption?

“Ask a question” says Don Miguel Ruiz. “Make sure your communication is clear. When you don’t understand something, ask a question, don’t assume an answer or a rejection of your question.”

In other words take action and create the habit of asking questions in every situation about everything.

“As far as you can, get into the habit of asking yourself in relation to any action taken by another: “What is his point of reference here?” But begin with yourself: examine yourself first.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

To break this down even further author, speaker Byron Katie asks us:

“Can you absolutely know that what you are believing is true?” For me the answer is no most of the time. Once I get to a no then pride steps aside and I have no choice but to keep questioning and seeking more truth.

Here are some other ideas to help break the habit of assuming:

Increase curiosity: Every situation that comes along in our lives has 2 sides to it. To increase inquisitiveness and curiosity ask the opposite question of the situation you are facing. We automatically go to what our habits have become. If you always think the worst of a situation then train your mind to start thinking the best of a situation and as crazy as it sounds, vice versa. Training your mind to see all sides increases curiosity and expands the brain waves of problem solving.

Stop the gossip: Most people gossip in the negative. They talk trash about other people in order to be the one “in the know” and get the spotlight. It is not a good spotlight to have shine on you if you are building a reputation of being someone that gossips. Talking about other people when the person is not around is just bad form. When a group is gathering for a meeting and there is that free time before everything gets underway don’t fall prey to the gossiping. Try to steer the conversation away from gossip by talking about something neutral like a new song or TV show or asking the opinion of the people gathered around you about a book you read or a trip you are hoping to take.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes: This is empathy. What would you want someone to do for you if they saw you were in trouble or sad or lost? Our moods can change as quick as a wink. Knowing that, we also know that we are not in the presence of one particular person 24/7 and that alone means that we don’t have all the facts. Don’t assume you know what the issue is. Be available to just listen if that person chooses to share with you or just offer your support whenever that person is able to talk more about the issue.

Get Pro-Active: Don’t continue to dwell on all the reasons why you think someone is in a bad mood or having a hard day. Offer to help by listening, brainstorming ways to solve the problem toward a more positive outcome, or being a trusted friend. If you are the one assuming something about your own situation then journaling about it might help. Getting all the feelings out on paper instead of out at a particular person will lessen the intensity of the initial feelings. Lesser hostility leads to greater resolution. Another idea is to distract yourself away from the assumption by listening to your favorite music, exercising, cooking or reading a favorite book.

Be clear: We very often assume that certain key people in our lives should just know what we mean or what we are saying without us having to go into too much detail. STOP. Most people have the attention span and listening capability of a 4th grader. Be clear, speak at a normal tone of voice and not too fast, be specific about your needs or wants or directions, remember that your thoughts and ideas are not the only thoughts and ideas that are swirling around at that moment, allow room for participation in problem solving and approach the situation the way you would want someone to approach it with you.

Be the tourist: When my son was living in Florida I used to encourage him to be the tourist. Look at your everyday as if you are new to the area or to the situation you are in. What would a tourist do? How would a tourist solve this problem? Tourists have a ton of positive juices flowing through them because they see things through new eyes. Their open-minded point of view allows for so many possibilities to open up.

Don’t jump to conclusions: Conclusions without support of truth is another way of assuming. If someone you work with or a friend has a sour look on his/her face, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is because of something you did or work related. Step back, be kind, use compassion and ask that person what is wrong. Even if you know for sure what the problem could be you don’t know for sure all the aspects of why something is wrong.

“You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can’t lead to a good conclusion.” Julian Assange

Call to Action

Where can you start breaking the habit of assuming?

In what ways can you make an internal agreement with yourself to always seek curiosity?

How can you encourage others around you to embrace and welcome curiosity?

Is it Just Business or is it Personal (Part 2)

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Is it Just Business or is it Personal?

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.” Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

When I was little my dad told me about a trip he had taken with his family. The details of the trip are really fuzzy but the point was very clear. He was traveling through an area where there were a lot of people all around doing all sorts of activities, “I suddenly wondered, if I was not here would these people be here doing what they are doing?”

Realization of self on a more grand scale is shocking to a kid. Where once a child thought that he was the only person that mattered he now realizes that he is not alone and so special. As children we are so used to the “knowing” that all of life revolves around us only. As we come to realize that life goes on even when we don’t see it we lose a bit of ourselves to the grandeur. It happens slowly and quietly and sadly can become a pit of depressing questions and thoughts that we just keep falling into. Questions like, “Do I really matter at all”, “How can I get noticed in such a big world”, “What makes me so special”.

The moment we have the revelation that the ME in us is somehow smaller our world view expands to limitlessness but in such ways at first perhaps as competition, fight for survival, overwhelm, or uncertainty. It can become so overwhelming at times that we find ways to pull back into ourselves and make each day all about us again. We become sensitive to criticism as well as compliments although the criticisms are decidedly more impactful and we judge ourselves so harshly. We lose a piece of self as we strive to learn how to gain more self each time we take something personally and allow the judgments and summaries of what other people think of us.

In his book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz writes that we internalize and take into our hearts the negatives, the insults from other people because,

“We agree with whatever was said about our character; we have already made an agreement in our hearts to accept the negatives that people supposedly believe about us. As soon as you agree, the poison goes through you. This trapped feeling is what is called personal importance or taking things personally, the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me”.

“If people make fun of you, it probably means you’re doing something right.” –Amy Lee

People have a hard time understanding other people who are different from themselves; lives lived outside of what we each personally believe to be truth. When people don’t understand something they try to fight it by poisoning it with humility and shame and insult. If you are getting that much negative attention toward something you said or did then you hit a nerve with the insulter and that means you did something right, something that person wishes he/she did instead of you.  Once you show your outward agreement to the insult you give permission for anyone to do it again and again. By building internal immunity toward the negatives people will throw at you, about you, becomes a gift you not only give yourself but also to those that admire you and respect you.

How then do we build immunity? The answer to that question is very personal. For me, my internal immunity comes from knowing that God loves me. There are times when I have to repeat that to myself especially during really weak life moments but when I can start my every day believing and knowing his love of me then I have put on my armor and can move about my life with immunity toward the negatives. What are some ways that you choose to help build immunity toward preventing taking things personally?

Each of our daily successes and failures are so temperamental. We are subject to the whims of being the goat or the hero on any given day. Learning not to take things personally, whether in good or in bad perspectives is a way to build immunity against negative personal thoughts and to know that the goat or the hero outlook comes from how others are seeing us based on the agreements we made inside of ourselves. It really has nothing to do with us at all. The people that put themselves in a position to judge our actions and thoughts are just trying to build themselves up by putting us down. Why would any individual ever agree to that?

Don Miguel Ruiz says,

“Don’t take it personally. I may touch a nerve inside of you with what I say but that means that you have wounds inside of you that I have touched on with words that I have spoken. You see the world with different eyes than mine. Your personal truth has nothing to do with me.”

As a little boy my son would lie. In his mind if he didn’t tell the truth about what happened then he wouldn’t get in trouble. The “trouble” he feared was a lie he told himself and then believed to be true. If I allowed myself to take it personally that my son is learning to lie because I am a bad mother then I wouldn’t be able to see that he is in the middle of learning a life lesson for himself. If I allow myself to take it personally then I would equally believe that I am a bad mother to my other children as well, all the time, in all circumstances even if their life lessons are different. The downward spiral of despair within me would take its toll on everyone in my life. Thankfully I stepped back, way back from that kind of negative agreement of being a bad mother and realized that my son’s life lessons are his to learn and mine to guide, not take responsibility for. If I am to judge my mothering so harshly then I should equally judge any goodness the children display with harshness too.

“You are who you are when nobody’s watching.” Stephen Fry

Is there ever a time when you are alone that you are content and happy with who you are? If so, then why can’t you bring that person to every situation outside of home?

Here is Don Miguel Ruiz:

“As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you.”

So what are some steps we all can take to get in the mindset of not taking things so personally?

Assume the best in others: When you meet someone for the first time you are on your best behavior. There hasn’t been a reason or enough time to form judgments or attitudes about the person you are meeting or vice versa. Continue to assume the best in the people you meet for the first time as well as those you know for a while. When you raise others to a better level of existence through how you choose to see them then they will reflect that “better” inner person right back.

Stay in the moment: When you get that initial prickly sense in your gut that says “this sounds personal” stay in the moment and see it through before your attention changes from who you are with to only you and your feelings. Notice things going on around you. Are you the only person being targeted? How well do you know this person? Is this normal behavior from him/her to be so insulting? Have you had problems in the past with this person when he/she starts to feel insecure? Concentrate your attention on that person and try to see what he/she sees. See that person as you would like to be seen. Compassion and kindness are contagious and can only win the moment when we switch to empathy.

Mentally review your own agreement: Do you tend to always take things personally? Do you self-reject before anyone else has a chance to reject you? Do you always make other people’s actions and comments only about you?

Are you always the victim?

Remember that the person doing the insulting might have had a bad day and doesn’t want to draw attention to their own insecurities and sense of failure so that person will target anyone else in order to draw attention away from them. If you know yourself well enough and like what you know then your own mental agreement will not be able to accept any insult from other people.

Don’t let hurt feelings live on forever: What does the relationship mean to you? Pull that person aside and verify that the insult he/she made was truly about you. Let that person know that it wasn’t cool at all to pull you into that moment like that. Making other people accountable for their behavior will not only boost your respect level up in your eyes but also in the eyes of others. Teach people how to treat you by taking back the power you give away when you let the negative inner agreement come through.

It’s a good habit to form within your mind to ask yourself, “What else could be at play here?”

It’s not only the bad things that count: Compliments can be as dangerous to your self-worth as insults. Make an internal agreement with yourself right now that people who say nice things to you or about you have no effect on who are or how you behave. You know who you are, you know who you want the world to see and your self-worth is not solely based on the good word from others.

Be kind to yourself and others, always: It is soooo normal to get upset when we feel like we have been verbally attacked or that the universe is “out to get us today.” Forgive yourself immediately when you realize you are behaving as the victim. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Apologize to yourself for getting so self-absorbed and practice patience and tolerance of yourself.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Call to Action

How often do you find yourself having a good or bad day based on the approval or disapproval of other people?

What would happen throughout the course of your day if you started every single day saying something positive to yourself?

How well do you know you? The more you know for sure about you the less likely you will be to take things personally.

Where is one place in your life you can start to build your truth and your immunity?

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The Year of Self-Agreements Part 1

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“So I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone and go out and connect with people. I realized that no one knew me here. I could become whoever I wanted to be for these people, and that became my courage.” Charlotte Eriksson, Empty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps

I started this New Year thinking about all the millions of resolutions people will make and break before the first month is over. The very word sits in my stomach like a heavy stone. For me resolving to do something is very much like choosing the lesser of two evils. I much prefer to use happier words like aspire, agreement, choice, decide, declaration, and tenacity.

So I set out this month to find books, writings, and/or motivational words to inspire me to make purposeful changes in my everyday life. As I have been made wonderfully aware, my inspirations are like seeds of growth I want to plant into my existence.

The word agreement sits very well with me right now so I started doing research into ideas that swirl around the word agreement. I found a book I had always wanted to read called The Four Agreements by author Don Miguel Ruiz and a slow January seemed the perfect time to tackle not only the book but to start to set my agreements for the year. An agreement, it turns out, is an arrangement agreed upon between 2 people but in this case the agreement I am seeking is an arrangement between me and my soul.

After reading about the first agreement I knew I had found a great starting point for my personal growth aspirations. So I decided to share with you what I’m learning by parsing through each agreement and how I hope to apply it to my own life’s perspective.

Just like the golden rules exist as guidelines to follow for a peaceful, productive, honest society of human beings to help each of us co-exist and honor the life we were given, the 4 agreements of humanity that are explained in this book, in my opinion, are crucial for each of us to be the leader of our own personal existence by adapting these agreements as further declarations of being.

These agreements are personal because how we interpret them is the essence of how these agreements work. All of these agreements have to start within each of our hearts first before they can blossom out toward the world we live in.

The first personal agreement begins with “Be Impeccable with your Word.”

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author Don Miguel Ruiz writes,

“The human mind is like a fertile ground where seeds are continually being planted. The seeds are opinions, ideas, and concepts. You plant a seed, a thought, and it grows. The word is like a seed, and the human mind is so fertile. The only problem is that too often it is fertile for the seeds of fear. Every human mind is fertile, but only for those kinds of seeds it is prepared for.”

Just like a small child is not yet ready to understand the ways of an adult so too are adults not always ready to understand the ways of other adults.

Thinking about the concept of words being seeds and knowing how powerful words can be when spoken in just the right tone of voice I started to wonder what would happen if each of us woke up each morning and paid deliberate attention to how we say “good morning”. What would the tiny purposeful act of saying the words “good morning” do to set the tone for my day and for someone else’s day?

I thought about this particular question because on the second day of a job I am volunteering for I was early enough to watch and listen to people coming in to their job first thing in the morning. Everything is new to me; the people, the language used in this new environment, the sounds of machines and phones and construction so I am quite sensitive to ALL that goes on around me. Upon seeing someone first thing that morning a gentleman greeted a co-worker with a very happy, enthusiastic “good morning” and it stopped the incoming co-worker in her tracks. So much so that before she said her reciprocal “good morning” back she commented on how chipper and happy this greeting was toward her. She was compelled to ask if something wonderful had happened to this person who greeted her because a greeting with such enthusiasm was so unusual. How sad is that? For the rest of the day I didn’t hear negative tones or words from either of those 2 co-workers or anyone around them.

Sometimes my son wakes up in the morning and he has a hard time greeting the day with a smile or enthusiasm. His “good morning” greeting is so down and dumpy it just makes the rest of the family feel so deflated and less energetic. We often want to ask if something is wrong but we have learned that this is the way he greets each day and not to take it personally but I know it would make a great positive impact on us all if he would be a lot more happy and chipper in the morning.

What does it mean to be impeccable with your Word? According to the Toltec Spirit website, to be impeccable with your Word simply means to use your Word in the direction of love and truth.

“Your WORD has to do with the power you have to create through every kind of expression you make. You create through multiple types of expressions including emotions, actions, what you refrain from, and what you express your faith in. Being impeccable with your WORD means paying attention to all the ways in which you speak and interpret and help create images of what you say and of yourself.”

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the Imagination.” John Keats

Impeccable means not capable of sinning; free from fault or blame; flawless. Other than God himself I don’t know anyone who is impeccable in all aspects of their life all the time. Sometimes we can be impeccable in the way we dress or in how we do a particular job but certainly not every day in every way. To begin to truly understand how impeccable with your Word can translate to happiness and be contagious it would seem to me that I would have to practice all the time and allow myself to re-interpret the ways in which I not only see the world but more importantly my own self.

Mr. Ruiz writes,

“Being impeccable with your Word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If I love myself I will express that love in my interactions with you; if I love you, then you will love me. If I insult you, then you will insult me. If I have gratitude for you, you will have gratitude for me. Whenever we hear an opinion and believe what we hear, we make an internal agreement, and the agreement becomes part of our belief system. Most of the time the power of our Word is completely misused in such ways as blame, guilt, insults, gossip, and revenge. In reality the poison of these beliefs we spread is about how we feel about our own self.”

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul.”Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

How easy does it become to be impeccable with your Word when you realize you have been conditioned by the world you live in to self-protect and blend? When was the first time you can remember believing something bad about yourself? When did you make that first negative belief agreement about you?

Most people use negative words to hold others in fear. If I believe that I am no good as a person or in doing a particular job and it’s noticeable by how I talk about myself or carry myself then that person could use their word to keep me in fear because of the agreement I made within myself of being no good.

For example, this year I decided to live outside my comfort zone as often as possible. Volunteering at a hospital was one of the ways I decided to start. I have never ever had an interest or desire to work in a hospital setting. I am extremely grateful to all the people that help make us well when we are sick but I did not want to be any part of that world. By allowing myself to step so far out of the agreement I had always had with myself of not being capable of doing a job I THINK I will not like I am able to grow my heart and my soul. I realized that as a volunteer I am always in the right place at the right time. Living outside my comfort zone in this way stomps fear to the ground. Who knows what else I am capable of doing and being now that I have started to embrace courage rather than fear; now that I have decided to change the internal agreement I have made; now that I decided not to listen to words that keep me in fear of trying new things. The love and truth I find within myself for each new experience I learn from helps me become more impeccable with my Word.

But sometimes……

“Silence is a source of Great Strength.” Lao Tzu

In the example I gave about the “good morning” greeting, I realized that being the new kid meant that silence and listening were very strong tools I could use right away. Being silent can be part of how I create. Immediately it tells people that I mind my own business therefore I do not gossip, I listen carefully when instructions are told to me and the result of that listening is a job well done, I don’t interrupt or interfere with someone else’s conversation, and I can be counted on to be real.

How else does being impeccable with my Word help me and those around me?

Discard fear: F.E.A.R. is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. If I let fear always dictate my every thought and action then I am not able to be effective as a human being in any circumstance. What am I truly afraid of, for instance, in being the first person to say “good morning” to someone? A simple fear like that can set the tone for so many other fears to take root.

Heighten my empathy: Being impeccable with my Word means that I am purposefully being aware of how I speak along with the words I use. I am putting myself in someone else’s shoes. How would I want to be spoken to and what words will be most soothing and friendly in particular situations. This is by no means easy. It’s asking me to stop almost every time I want to converse with someone and take a deep breath before I answer a comment or question

Practice what I believe or want to believe: When I want to change a habit I know it is going to take conscious effort every day to go from one habit to the next. If I believe that being a beacon of love and truth is important toward my success as a human being then I must be diligent in my daily practice of love and truth. It is very much like practicing to learn an instrument, like say, the guitar. In order for me to get so good at playing the guitar it sounds like I was born to play, I first must make it a habit of practicing and then challenging my practice to keep getting better. This could take a lifetime but that’s okay with me because I have all the time in the world to master something I believe in.

Do my best every day: I know that I won’t always like what I have created on a particular day in my attempt at practicing being impeccable with my Word but I can’t let failure in that moment define all of me. Mistakes and pitfalls will happen but being impeccable means to get right back up and try again. There will be more successes than failures. Learning to forgive my mistakes and try again means I’ve turned the mistakes into a success.

I know that these ideas can be easily applied to many other areas of my life but I find it easier to be specific as I go.

The best part about being impeccable with my Word is that the more I practice and tend to the seeds of love and truth the deeper the roots of my new agreement with myself can grow. What I then believe about myself can go out to the hearts of others and the stronger I feel against the poison of fear of what negative words might come at me. I can continue to cultivate fertile ground for more and more impeccable words and better self-agreements.

Call to Action

What is one thing you can do today to start thinking the best of yourself?

When, in the course of your days, can you be impeccable with your Word?

How do you think it will feel in your heart to stop thinking badly of yourself and start thinking that you can DO anything you set your mind to?

 

The ABC’s of R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

 

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Here is a little riddle for you compliments of www.lifehack.org:

“You can only have it once you have given it.

One of the most misunderstood concepts out there, respect is asked for yet seldom given. Some even try to take it by force or buy it, but if you are unable to show others respect and treat them as equals you will never be able to truly earn their respect. People respect bravery, intelligence, skill, talent, compassion and physical and mental strength, and these things cannot be faked.”

Lately the question of respect has morphed into, how can someone honestly, truly respect you if you don’t respect yourself? I believe respect should at most start within each of us….

You would think that after raising 3 children I would be the veteran of momhood. You would think that after all I have endured in learning my children at every age and stage of their lives so far I would have nothing left to learn except how to co-exist. You would think that when they hit the magic government age of 18 that says, “Hey, welcome to adulthood, but not really”, that I would be able to transition with them from apron strings and purse strings to I’ll-take-care-of-it-mom strings and no more routine bedtime strings.

Yup. You would think all of these things because after all, I’ve been with them since the moment they were conceived. Alas, not even close. I’m learning, what I think is the biggest lesson of my whole life, other than not to be afraid of death, and that is the word and meaning of respect in all its Technicolor dreaminess.

Okay, so here is this posts vocabulary lesson. The dictionary defines the word respect as meaning

1-      an act of giving particular attention or consideration

2-      high or special regard or esteem

3-      the quality or state of being esteemed.

In the case of our first definition I think I did an admirable job of showing respect to my children and their needs such as food, attention, time, education outside of school and moral support whether asked for or not. Just to name a few.

In definition number 2 when the kids did something that went above and beyond their basic level of earned respect, and by that I mean getting homework done well and on time, helping with chores, not arguing when an extended family visit was in order, I made sure they understood why I was calling attention to my “extra” respect. I’m a huge fan of answering those “why” questions.

In definition number 3 I always tried to find reasons to celebrate them. I never enjoyed keeping to the “traditions only” rules of celebrations. For example I always enjoyed celebrating their ½ birthdays. I would serve them dinner on half a plate, I would buy a silly, non-essential gift and not wrap it or give them the first ½ of a gift and then the rest on their actual birthday, I would give them ½ a glass of a beverage, I would even supply half a cake without anything written on it and sing very badly a half version of the birthday song. They thought it was cool and funny but I really just wanted them to know how aware I was of them and their lives.

Now, a mom would think that after a lifetime of showing them how to be respectful, what respect looks like and sounds like and feels like, that they would automatically have it in them by 18 years old to have respect as part of their DNA.

Yes and no.

What I am learning very painfully is that I did so much respecting of them that I never stopped to fully show them how to respect themselves or me. On some basic level I did teach them self-respect like bathing, teeth brushing, care of clothing, and the importance of a thank you whether in note form or verbal but it wasn’t enough. I did teach them to stand up for themselves but it seems not very well.

We all have demons living inside of us that talk trash to us about how we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not worthy enough, not talented enough. Some of us are able to outgrow those little annoying negative voices and some of us are slaves to those voices.

So, here I am dealing with all that I hid from myself and unknowingly did not deal with when it came to my children about how to first and foremost respect myself from the inside out. The most powerful lesson is that even when your children grow up there will always be ways to parent them. The job changes and evolves but the investment never ends. Words, actions, emotions live on long after our bodies do. I’ve learned an important lesson when it comes to integrity of self and of others.

My youngest is going through a very lost, very confusing time in his life and his inner demons are being played out in glorious fashion. His very low self-respect is causing our whole family to want to hide away from all of his negativity but we can’t and more importantly we won’t, regardless of how we feel. His low self-respect shows up in ways such as guilt, blame, lying, secrets, volatile emotions and stress. His body is not responding well to all of his low self-respect and so it is becoming very dangerous for him to continue on this path and that is not healthy for him or for any of us who care and love him so much.

I am forced to see so much of my own insecurities and lack of self-respect showing up in him and I feel at times helpless to empower him and hypocritical to try. But here’s the thing, and it really matters right this moment, we are going through the same thing at the same time and I just might be able to help him and he help me. What wouldn’t a parent do to save their child?

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” –Mark Twain

What does self-respect look like?

If I were to draw a picture of self-respect it would look like flowers blossoming with hope and integrity in the early cool, spring air. It would look like my boys did when they were young and wanted to wear super hero costumes because that is how they saw themselves that day. It would look like girls in high school who wear real clothes when everyone else is wearing pajama pants and slippers to class. It would look like teenagers laughing out loud at something funny their parent said and they didn’t care who saw or heard them laughing.

What does self-respect feel like?

Self-respect feels like warmth. Self-respect feels like having that superhero living inside of me, All. The. Time. Self- respect feels like knowledge, wisdom, confidence and courage all wrapped into one amazing 6th sense. Self-respect feels like being small in stature on the outside but feeling 6’ tall on the inside and letting the inside out. Self-respect feels like being good enough, worthy enough and just enough.

You’ve heard me say it over and over, perspective is everything. What you concentrate on most is what your life will bring to you. If your perspective is negative about yourself then everything you see from your point of view will have undertones of negativity and hopelessness. If you change just one aspect of your point of view from negative to positive then you are creating a crack in the negative to let the happy, positive light in.

I poured all of me into being a mom and took little to no time out for self-development. In that vein I simultaneously showed my children that being an adult meant giving up on all your personal individual rights and being only for someone else. No wonder my son is having a hard time growing into his manhood/adulthood. It sounds like I’m putting an awful lot of responsibility on my shoulders for who they have become so far and not enough responsibility on theirs and maybe I am, however, I feel blessed in the fact that I can see these characteristics so clearly now and hopefully say something and do something and then back up what I say and do in my own life’s example so that he doesn’t continue to believe that he will have to lose himself completely.

So how can I build self-respect and pass on those building lessons to my children?

Understand that self-respect is a close, very close cousin to self-confidence and self-esteem. Each can stand alone if necessary but they all work better together.

Believe every day in my own authenticity. Always stay in touch with my truth and my inner child. The child that day dreams, plans, schemes and loves to show her individuality. My truth showing up in the confidence of the decisions and choices I make, even if my decisions and choices are not in line with someone else’s. Somewhere in our teens we get it our heads that we equally want to be seen for our individual selves while blending in to the social norms so we don’t look “foolish”. We can’t have it both ways. It will always be more fashionable to choose ourselves over being a clone of someone else.

“Don’t go the distance trying to fit in the crowd and be accepted by others. Accept and respect yourself first.” Elizabeth E. Castillo

I think the most important step to create respect for myself is to forgive myself. I will absolutely, without a doubt make mistakes and have things from my past that I am not proud of. Respect grows from understanding what went wrong, learning from those wrong steps and constantly improving who I am and who I want to be. Self-respect grows from acknowledging wrongs to others as well. As a child I had a hard time saying I’m sorry to anyone but being able to be so vulnerable and humble builds self-respect quicker than anything I have ever experienced. I’ve also learned that once I apologize to myself and/or to others, I need to let it go. Move forward and leave the pain and incident behind. If I keep bringing it with me I haven’t learned anything and I might as well wear a sign on me every day that says “unworthy.”

I have learned that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, every day, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw, you have to tell yourself “That’s just fine”. You have to forgive yourself so much, until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like.” C. JoyBell C

Know my character strengths, know myself. Character strengths are the building blocks to who I want to be and been seen as; what I believe about myself without a doubt. These strengths allow me to develop my own core standards of living and the talents I can use to actually make that life happen. These strengths allow me to handle criticism with a growth mindset instead of persecution mindset, they allow me to see beauty and excellence in all things, and they allow me to work on values that are not so strong yet because I have a growing understanding of all the possibilities that live inside of me.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Maya Angelou

Dress to impress……ME. Treat me as I would treat a stranger or anyone I love. If wearing nice clothes helps me feel good about me then I need to make sure I wear nice clothes. How many times did I tell my children, the boys mostly, that when you dress to learn you will learn because you feel good about your appearance. Feeling good makes you stand taller and talk more and interact more and take responsibility more. When you dress to be slouchy and comfortable you will be lazy in all things. Besides that little nugget it’s so fun to wear clothes that look nice. When you look nice you feel nice and then you act nice.

“If I waited for a proper occasion to get dressed up I’d never wear half of these clothes. Put on the clothes and you make things happen to match them. It doesn’t work the other way around.” Erin Kelly

Best foot forward. This goes beyond what I wear. This speaks to my reputation and integrity. Stay true to who I am and who I believe I am. I may falter from time to time, my ideas may not work out the way I planned but I will always try to pick myself up again each time I fall and that is what people will know for sure about me. If I lose respect for me how can anyone keep respect for me?

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.” George Eliot, Adam Bede

Give what I want to get. If I want to have friends, I need to be a friend. If I want people to support me then I have to be supportive of others. If I want respect then I need to show respect, always.

“If you don’t give, you don’t get.” Krishna Sagar, Summit Your Everest: Your Coach for Obstacle & Failure Management

Let bad feelings come and then promise to let them go. Don’t let bad feelings about me linger too long. It takes no time at all to fall down and stay down.

“Self-pity, while it should be accorded due respect, is the greatest of all acids to the human soul.” Paul Hoffman, The Last Four Things

Don’t become dependent on the praise from other people. Sure it’s a great feeling to get those “atta girl” accolades but with all my heart try not to depend on the approval from others. Be confident enough within me to know for sure that I did a great job even if no one took notice.

“Hold dear and true friends close to your heart, it matters not where you find them, only that you treat them with love and respect always.” L.M. Fields

I hope this list of lessons will help you on your journey through self-respect. Need some help? Write to me and I’ll be your helper.

Call to Action

“If you had to spend every second, of every day, of every year of your life with someone, would you do whatever it took to love that person? Would you be a best friend, a teacher, coach and mentor? Would you do whatever it takes to treat that person with respect? Well guess what? That someone is you! Who deserves the best more than you do? Think about it and have an outstanding day…!”James A. Murphy, The Waves of Life Quotes and Daily Meditations

4 Starting Points to Help Set Priorities

Resilient

It is the priority, intention and discipline of all living things to push through adversity and accomplish its purpose.

— Journey On Coaching

“The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.” Leo Babauta

What matters to you in the New Year?

What stands out as the most important thing to accomplish, focus on or plan for?

I’m not one for resolutions. For me, resolutions come after I’ve experienced something and have learned a great lesson from that experience. I resolve myself to be more streamlined toward a better outcome should this particular situation rear up again. My resolution shows up in acknowledging my mistakes or missteps, in resolving myself to the new reality of what worked and didn’t work and most of all I resolve myself to the changed me that I have become because of those experiences or lessons.

For me, when the New Year comes around I like to set priorities, intentions and disciplines. I recently attended a sermon being given by a very wise pastor, someone I have become a fan of.  He pointed out that although it may sound counterproductive in today’s world to put ourselves into a box or to set limits upon ourselves, that is exactly what we should consider doing. I know this isn’t what you truly want to hear but stay with me because this just might reach deep inside of you and inspire you.

As I was researching and soul searching to write this post a book appeared to me through reading another person’s blog post. I resonated so deeply with just the title of the book that I had to get a copy for myself. The book is called hand wash cold, care instructions for an ordinary life by Karen Maezen Miller. On page 122 of this very down to earth book came the point to my post for you. It combines thoughts from the incredible sermon and this incredible book:

Each of us is given one life as a great gift. The image that came to my mind as I was listening to this sermon was one of a garden and then these were the words I read, “Life is a garden, and when you do not yet see that your life is a garden you may not see your life clearly at all. You are the garden and the gardener, you reap what you sow.”

We each have whatever limits our mind sets for us as to how to manage this great gift of life however, it is up to each of us to tend to, develop and take deep care of the piece that was doled out to us within this great gift of life. “You may think to yourself that your portion of this garden is too much work to tend to; then take it step by step. You may think to yourself that you might make a mistake; then know that gardens are forgiving and will grow back.” You may think to yourself that it is too much discipline to carry; than know that if not this discipline there are many more gardens to tend.

“You make everything true by bringing it to life, so be careful what you bring. Anger kills, bitterness poisons, greed spoils, fear stunts, and inattention withers.” By neglecting our garden, by taking on more than the land can hold or yield, by not putting your full intention and discipline and priority to this gift of your garden, you can’t possibly do great things in your garden or be the great gardener you were meant to be. To be true to our miraculous abilities and gifts we must truly work in the garden or the gift of our life with priority, intention and discipline.

So I ask again, what matters to you in this New Year? What are your priorities? How do you set intentions within your garden of life so that you can accomplish what was destined for you to accomplish?

I believe that we get lost sometimes in what becomes a priority and what becomes important. Yes, what you set up as your priority becomes important however, what we make important doesn’t necessarily mean it should become or is a priority. Sometimes what we make important or for that matter urgent is really procrastination or avoidance of what we really should be making a priority or our intention or our discipline.

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The dictionary defines importance as the quality or state of being important; of value or significance. The dictionary defines priority as something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done first; superiority in rank, position or privilege; a preferential rating.

The things we make important can carry a heavy feeling of urgency. The things we make a priority can carry a heavy feeling of self-discipline, intention and courage.

According to the website www.differencebetween.net,

“Urgent tasks have an immediate deadline although not necessarily a task that will have a significant impact on your life. Often things become urgent or an urgent situation is created when a person always knows that something had to be accomplished but kept deferring it.”

“Important tasks need not have a deadline looming over the person. The task is important because it has an impact on the person’s life. For example planning your education or career since your days in school is not something that you need to execute right now but will help you chart your life’s direction. Urgency of tasks is based on deadlines. Deciding which task is important is relative to each person’s thoughts and circumstances. Urgency of tasks is decided based on external pressures. Importance of tasks is decided on introspective thinking.”

“There are times when tasks can be urgent and important. For example keeping up with yearly doctor visits and deeper level check-ups can have a significant impact on you and your family. In keeping up with these important yearly tasks of keeping yourself healthy you can avoid the urgent need to see a doctor should something suddenly go awry because you put off your doctor visits and check-ups.”

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen R. Covey

When a person sets his/her priorities it is equivalent to celebrating limits. Limits are helpful in creating priorities because it puts into a neat little package time, people, resources and focus. It prevents overwhelm and helps to achieve goals whether the goals be lifelong or short term. The priorities we choose to label urgent AND important are also a great step toward time management and organization.

To start your New Year off on good footing it might help to create your priority list for each month or each week or each day. Here are some helpful suggestions:

Four Square: I’ve never actually played this game but I love the concept of it for setting priorities. Divide a piece of paper into 4 squares. Label the top left square “Important and Urgent”, the top right square “Important but not urgent”, the bottom left square “Not Important but urgent” and the bottom right square “Not Important/Not Urgent”. The top 2 squares are all those tasks that are crises like deadlines, right now work that will yield punishing outcomes if not completed. The top two squares are often reserved for people such as family, volunteering and leadership activities. There will always be something that comes up unexpectedly and falls into square one or two so always be flexible enough to allow for that however square one will be more manageable if you are disciplined enough to always stay on top of what is in that square through time management and intention. The bottom 2 squares are more of the procrastination stuff like chatting, email, meetings, surfing the net, in other words all the things we allow to drag us away from what is really a priority.

The Mountain: Each night, or each new week or each new month before you close out your day sit somewhere quiet and write out all the really significant tasks that need to get done. Maybe your list will have 20 items on it. Only the 3 most significant tasks count here. The biggest, toughest, most challenging mountains to move are the most significant because it will not only impact your life but the lives of those around you. The next day look at your 3 top tasks and start with number one. Work on that number 1 until it is as complete as possible. Then move on to number 2 and so on. Once the top most significant tasks have been completed or started enough that it requires further small steps to complete then you can move on to more of those details within each task.

Getting to know YOU: Do you know when you are at your peak performance during each day? For me I know for sure that my peak concentration and self-discipline times are from 8am until around 1pm. By the time the early afternoon rolls around I am reminded that I haven’t eaten, taken a drink of water or looked up from my tasks and I feel my mind start to fall away. I make sure that my priority list of tasks each day gets done during my peak performance times. I like the feeling and satisfaction of knowing that the tough stuff is behind me early enough in my day that now there is room for miscellaneous things to happen like day dreaming, reading, and checking email.

The Payoff: Any forward movement in fulfilling your priority list of tasks is a reason to take time to celebrate every little achievement. This is up to you how you choose to reward yourself for a job well done. Having someone like a close friend, sibling or life coach in your corner to hold you accountable to your priority lists and celebrate each accomplishment with you is also a tremendous incentive to tackle your to-do’s.

I’m a bit unconventional when it comes to this New Year in how I set my priorities. I decided to set my top priorities as more of a mantra that will help guide me in the everyday tasks that need my grateful care, purposeful intention and willing discipline. I don’t mind sharing it with you:

To love and be loved, to always speak and show gratitude, kindness and integrity.

This mantra for me means saying no if a task doesn’t meet my personal expectations for what I set as my priority that day. In other words knowing my limits and disciplining myself to always strive to be and give my best, staying organized and balanced and always doing what needs to be done with enthusiasm and courage. Don’t misunderstand, I will trip up, I will abandon my disciplines from time to time but my mantra will always be right in front of me cheering me on.

“Time is our most valuable nonrenewable resource, and if we want to treat it with respect, we need to set priorities.” Albert-László Barabási, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

Call to Action

According to the social security website, www.ssa.gov the average life span of a male today is 84.3 years. If you take 24 hours/day times 365 days a year times 84.3 years that equals 738,468 hours of life. That doesn’t seem like very much time does it?

What are you doing with your hours or as I like calling them, your life minutes?

What are your priorities that lead to action that lead to intention that lead to discipline that lead to integrity that lead to what people will say about you when all is said and done?

Who do you want to be this New Year with intention and discipline and courage?

Image by bing.com

 

The Little Things: What was Your Life Made of This Year?

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“I’m not sure why, but when a person expects something to last forever, they don’t notice the little things. It’s only when the clock is ticking all those little things add up and become bigger.” Shannon Wiersbitzky, What Flowers Remember

As the year winds down I am so acutely aware of each minute that ticks by. I take stock of what the aging year has produced and what hope the New Year holds. I think about what I’ve learned, hoping that I have learned a lot of things. I think about how much better off I am now than one year ago and I don’t mean in terms of money. What I truly mean is in terms of personal growth and life experiences, which to me is so much more than money. It’s the little moments of my life this year that I hope made the biggest impact on my soul and then I think if I can remember all of those little moments maybe they were the big things after all.

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

In the spirit of honoring the year as it takes its final bow out of time I would like to leave you with a few of the moments/memories that have left an imprint on my soul. A trusted colleague calls this his annual review. It’s made up of the very personal good and bad moments that made this year stand tall.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences but never thought to really pay them much heed or perhaps you will take these shared moments and watch for them in the new year or perhaps we are all on the same journey through time sharing similar experiences in our own unique perspective. Whichever way you honor the good and the bad of your life moments I hope you are better for them.

The most recent life moment I absolutely honor with grace and awe is the time spent celebrating my daughter’s birthday. It wasn’t a milestone birthday but it was a celebration of her birth nonetheless and that in itself deserves to make the list of little things.

“So much of life is in the smallness of moments…but they are harder to mark. So we need the grander celebrations and occasions. People like to feel significant.” Ally Condie, Atlantia

Glancing over at the large picture window in my office and stopping everything to go sit in the sunshine streaming through.

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. Just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder – Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Meeting new people and realizing that their impact on my life, be it good or bad, changed me for the better.

“That’s the ideal meeting…once upon a time, only once, unexpectedly, then never again.” Helen Oyeyemi

Seeing a hummingbird for the first time in my life.

“Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur.” Mira Bartok, The Memory Palace

Silently celebrating the day after the first day of winter because for the next 182 days we add one minute of daylight and hope blooms eternal.

“I find it inspiring to actively choose which traditions to celebrate and also come up with new ideas for traditions of my own.” Sara Sheridan

Sitting at my favorite coffee shop enjoying the smell while sipping my green tea and writing. I am not a coffee drinker at all but I love a good, old-fashioned, wrap me in warmth coffee shop.

“A smoke, a book, a cup of coffee. These are the little things that get us through this sometimes weary world and all the rainy days.” R.M. Engelhardt, The Resurrection Waltz Poems R.M. Engelhardt

Window shopping in the winter and seeing all the beautiful colors of the flowers in the flower shop on the most gray, snowy day of the season.

“Somehow, those cold, lifeless winter months had prepared the land for something breathtaking. Something beautiful. Something brimming with life.” Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter

Laughing so hard when I’m supposed to be as quiet as a mouse. Whether it be at my job at the library as an adult or a teenager sitting in my English class I find that those quiet moments are the ones that really spark my uncontrollable laughter.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Hearing the perfect song at a time of day when I needed it most.

“Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughing-stock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams are gone. That’s the power of songs.” - Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Raising my level of gratitude so much higher than I ever imagined it could go but battling still with moments of unhappiness.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

Understanding the lessons in why it’s important to make quality decisions but not yet feeling able to make important decisions in my own life.

“The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Continuing to worry about the same problems year after year and finding it so hard to let it go or finding a solution.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34 ― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

Thank you for your indulgence with my annual review of the little things. I hope it sparked something inside of you to help you take stock of your life this year and highlight what you want to work on and grow in the New Year.

Call to Action

How possible is it to mine each new day of the new year for little life moments, for the little things that flavor life with its sweetness? That is the call to action for you. Find the little things in each new day of the New Year and see how it changes you for the better.

What went well this year?

What did not go well this year?

Where does growth reside for you in the New Year?

What little things became the big thing after all?