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Friday, April 27, 2012

7 Ways to Use Habits to Reach Your Goals

We all have dreams we’d like to see come true, and goals we’d like to achieve. One of the keys to reaching any goal, especially if it is a new one, is to put habits in place that support the fulfillment of that goal. If your current habits are not working for you, or are working against you, you will need to change them or run the risk of coming up short and disappointing yourself... Read more here

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

5 Steps to Getting What You Want

What is Success?

Success means different things to different people. The word itself has a fairly simple definition. It means outcome or result.

So the question that we must pose to ourselves then is, “Are we getting the results or outcomes we had hoped to achieve” Either we are moving forward along the right path toward our intended goal, or we have been diverted along the way. And, whatever we have already accomplished, there's always another interesting-looking mountain to climb. If you’re looking for more achievement, you can improve your life radically with a few simple changes.

Getting on Track

I am going to offer several simple and obvious suggestions to you. We all know these things, but every now and then we need to be reminded of them. We also need to be prompted to be conscientious in our pursuits to make them part of our daily habits. Although these suggestions are straightforward, most of them will require constant attention for a time until they become habitual. Once they become automatic, though, you'll be pleased with your progress.

Action Steps:

1. Set goals.
Our minds are tremendously good at finding solutions. We can help ourselves a lot by doing a good job of outlining and prioritizing our objectives. The simplest way to do this is to write down your goal(s) and include a deadline. Now your mind, both waking and sleeping, knows what to work on and when to have it accomplished. Read over your goals at least twice a day to provide mental emphasis that they are important. We all know how easy it is to get sidetracked by life’s distractions, those real and imagined, and forget all about our goals and plans.

You will be amazed how well you can keep on-track when you know where you are headed.

2. Get organized.

Yes, I’m going to talk about making lists. Lists are important so that we have something to refer to as we progress. Many people suggest reviewing lists in the morning to set the tone for the day. I have found that I do much better by making and reviewing my lists at night. Before I go to bed each night, along with picking my clothes, and making sure my briefcase is packed, I make a list with all the things I want to accomplish the next day. Doing this at night gives your brain a chance to work on things while we sleep. Also, you’ll feel much better when you can start the day with a clear objective instead of spending time trying to figure out what to do.

Personally, I have found that my subconscious mind can work out solutions that I could not see in the rush and noise of the day. So, along with making and reviewing the list before bed, I also keep a pad and pen/pencil on my nightstand. If I think of something fantastic at night, I can scribble it down and have it available in the morning. Plus, I don’t have to lose sleep trying to hold it in my mind until daylight.

3. Fix your attitude.

People who are happy, content and successful usually have a positive attitude. That's what allows them to move forward assuredly and with confidence. This is not the same as acting. I am talking about being! Minor challenges don't bog them down because they believe that things will work out in the end. They are also keeping the broader, bigger picture in mind, so minor challenges are just that…minor, and easily bypassed or overcome. As an example, if you want to be healthy, do you have a positive outlook about that? Your attitudes must be congruent or in-tune with your objectives.

Everything starts on the inside; seeing outside changes in your life takes time and work.

4. Spend time with successful individuals.

You'll frequently find that you achieve about as much as the people with whom you spend the most time. If you want to be successful, affiliate as often as you can with people who are more successful than you.

One of the potential benefits of this is that you'll be exposed to a completely different way of thinking and interacting with the world. Successful people look at many things differently than those who are less successful. Integrating some of these ideas into your own thinking will likely bring you more successes of your own.

Secondly, you'll be exposed to new opportunities. High-achieving people frequently have all kinds of projects going on; you never know when they might need a helping hand. You’ll also get to connect with their peer group, who are likely to be very successful as well. This applies to your real life face-to-face contacts, but also in social media. And, no, I’m not talking about stalking Bill Gates to hang out. Most of us rub shoulders with people who are smarter, more successful and think differently than we do in many ways. Open up your mind and life to some new contacts that aren’t doing the same “old thing” you have been doing.

5. Make time to play.

Play is essential to our growth and development. It affords us an opportunity to relax, try new skills or activities and bond with those we care about. We should never find ourselves so busy or so focused on our success that we sacrifice those we love to it.

These 5 simple ideas can bring you tremendous power, if you'll use them to your advantage. And when you really stop to think about is, being successful is really no more challenging than being unsuccessful. Both require specific actions and attitudes applied consistently over a period of time.

Make some changes in your life and in your thinking today and give yourself the gift of success…however you define it.


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39287453@N03/3612149144/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Lead with Integrity

Are you integrated, dis-integrated or just disinterested?

In some respect we are all leaders. If we lead no one else in life, because of the fact that we are born with free will, we lead ourselves. We also lead our family members, and often lead groups of people at work. Frequently we are unaware of the impact that we have on people’s lives. The most important aspect of our roles as leaders is to be consistent and integrated. What do I mean by integrated?

Do all of your pieces fit together?

Do all of your pieces fit together, or is there some part that is out of joint? Our thoughts, should match our core values, should match what we say and all of this should match our walk. Our walk is simply the way we go through our daily lives. How we act, how we speak, what we speak about, how we do things, what we choose to do…everything. How often have you seen a leader who’s been successful at guiding others by saying one thing and then doing something different? Not very often, right? That just doesn’t work!

People learn a great deal more about us by the way we act then by the words we speak. What is at work in our hearts and minds will eventually show through our actions. When we try to teach principles without also modeling them with the right behavior, those principles will eventually fall by the wayside for those we are trying to instruct, as well as for us. When we are in a positions of authority, whether it is interacting with out teenagers or sitting in the corner office, it is of utmost importance to lead by example if we expect to gain compliance.

What happens when we are dis-integrated?

What happens when we try to teach certain life principles to people, but allow our own actions to demonstrate otherwise? Three things:
  1. Those who we expect compliance from will very quickly grow to resent us, especially if the principles we are teaching are a challenge for them to perform or incorporate into their own behavior.
  2. We run the risk of gaining a negative reputation as an ineffective leader or teacher as we continue to lose sight of the very actions we wished to teach. We lose credibility.
  3. There will be dissension in the ranks. Cases of rebellion will continue to grow as more and more people feel they’re being dictated to rather than being led. From here it continues on a downward slide: defiance, disobedience, resistance, undermining of your authority, and finally mutiny.

Importance of Integrity
  1. People learn to support principles based on results. For example, if you’re teaching honesty, when people see for themselves that you gain the trust of others by being honest, they will likely get on board with the program as they begin to see the benefits of being honest themselves. If on the other hand you are teaching honesty, and you are frequently caught in lies, a totally different lesson emerges.
  2. People actually understand the principles. Just saying principles, or hanging them on the walls of your office, isn’t usually enough. In fact, most people come into situations and jobs with their own ideas of what’s expected of them, which is probably different than ours, based on background and education.
  3. It brings cohesion and cooperation to your team. The whole team is working with the same or similar expectations. When everybody is on the same page, processes, departments and even families run much more smoothly and cohesively.
  4. Respect. When others can see that we are fully complying with the principles we are teaching, we will ultimately gain their respect and trust.

How do we start?

If you think your leadership style is unstable, take a deep breath, stop, reassess.
Write them down. It is a very easy place to begin when we write out our expectations. This will also help to make it clearer to us what we want. You’ve heard it said before that, “knowing is half the battle.” Well, it’s the easiest half. It takes a lot of effort to really walk your talk and practice behaviors that you want others to imitate. But we can get started practicing this positive principle on a daily basis with only a small effort:

Start with the smallest circle of influence you have.
  1. Give yourself the opportunity to impart morals and good belief systems on your immediate family and close friends. Generally speaking, if you can’t get any of these people on board with your program, then outside success seems less likely...Generally speaking.
  2. Tackle the principles one at a time. People will not respond well to a whole new set of rules and behaviors dumped on them all at once. Break it down into manageable and do-able tasks.
  3. Work hard at allowing it to become an integral part of your own everyday life. New habits take time to develop, so we must be diligent.
  4. Celebrate and reward all successes. Be uplifting when you talk about the wins and the “almost-wins.”
  5. Once you’ve mastered one, and then move on to something else. But remember, it’s vitally important to be able to give testimony to the fact that there is actually greater benefit to adhering to that particular principle than not adhering. There is a certain element of fulfillment when you can show others just what kinds of actions, thoughts and behaviors contribute to a better, more wholesome and less stressful outcome.

Walking the talk, being integrated, having integrity is a lifelong journey, and a full-time commitment. There will be times that we fall below our own expectations and the principles we aspire to uphold. However, what’s important is that we recognize it and take the necessary steps to get back on track as soon as possible!


photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/2137737248/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Monday, April 23, 2012

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Friend

The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to 
have a friend is to be a friend.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson



We have been talking about relationships for the past few weeks. I don’t know about you guys, but I have had many acquaintances in my life, but relatively few that I hold in my heart as true and close friends. And, I am sure the same is true for how people feel about me. Even the most solitary of us need friends in our lives because it gives us gives us some balance and someone to turn to when we’re feeling lonely, in need a listening ear, or just want someone to celebrate with us. If you’ve ever had a really great friend, you’ve noticed all the things they did with you, for you, and on your behalf.

Whether you’re learning to be that kind of a friend yourself or just concerned that you need to polish up your “good friend” skills, here are a few ideas that will help you establish and maintain positive, fulfilling friendships. Because let’s be honest, if you aren’t both being served by and in a relationship, it isn’t going to go the distance.


Getting Better

Here are a few suggestions for nurturing our friendships.

1. Just like in most areas of our lives, listening is the key to meaningful and useful communication. Be a good listener. We all have had times when we just need to vent our feelings or frustrations. When we make the decision to listen rather than offer feedback or suggestions, we are practicing one of the most important behaviors a good friend can do. Keep your ears, mind and heart open.

2. Support your friends. Truth, trust and honesty are most assuredly the cornerstones of any healthy friendship. However, there are times when honesty is less helpful than providing emotional support. Let your friend know you’re there for him and that he can call you at any time. There will be times that we must choose between being empathetic and sympathetic, and being “right.”

3. Always honor your commitments. Have you ever had friends who sometimes show up 5, 10, 20, 30, 45 minutes late, or not at all? Or even a few who are chronically late? It is important that we become someone our friend can always count on. Be dependable and predictable in your friendship. Doing so will ensure you’ll never have a shortage of people who care for you. We honor people by respecting them, their stuff and their time.

4. Spend time together. Make time for your friend. Make an appointment if you need to; use your calendar or smart phone. Do something fun, have dinner, paint the living room, work on the car, or just hang out. A good friend wants to be together and makes time in their busy schedule to do it. Be creative in the planning of activities and you’ll make great memories together.

5. Avoid offering criticism. Providing criticism to someone you care about rarely turns out well in the long-run. Even though you may have formed an opinion on something your friend said or did, it’s probably best to refrain from telling him of his errors. If the occasion arises that they ask you directly for feedback on a situation where you believe they have made a mistake, choose your words very, very carefully. Saying something like, “I might have done it another way” sounds less critical and more helpful than, “You shouldn’t have done it that way.” People need to have the truth spoken into their lives, but we must tread carefully, or they will shut down and refuse to hear anything being said. Always remember to speak the truth in love.

6. Keep your friend’s secrets and problems confidential. Although this should be an obvious point, it is often the most difficult to put into practice. Under no circumstance should you reveal anything about your friend to others who ask, even if one friend puts you on the spot regarding another.

7. Avoid dumping all your life’s concerns and challenges on your friends. Confiding in each other is important, but try very hard to refrain from using your friends only for venting about your own negative feelings and situations. 

8. Keep the energy surrounding your time together as positive as possible. Moderate your conversations so the friendship doesn’t get too bogged down with frustrating or negative energy. If it begins to feel like you are only talking about negative stuff when you’re together, try setting time limits. For instance, say something like this: “For 15 minutes I’m going to talk about my frustrations with work. For the following 15 minutes you can vent, and then we can go have some fun.” Respect the time limit you set to discuss your gripes.

Be the Best

Being a great friend will bring you moments of great joy (and sadness), years of comfort, and decades of treasured memories. Try to consciously implement a few of these strategies into your relationships. You’ll feel like you’re the best friend ever and those you care about will begin to think so, too!

A friend accepts us as we are yet helps us to be what we should. ~ Unknown

Thoughts? What would you add to this list?

Related posts

The building blocks of Good Relationships
1. Be Authentic
2. Be Responsible
3. Be Sticky
4. Be Mission- and Value-minded

Need more work on your communication skills? Check these related posts.
1. Just Look
2. Use Your Words
3. Seek Clarity
4. Respond in Kind

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beija-flor/511667626/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Friday, April 20, 2012

Getting Our Act Together

The key to transforming our lives is to believe in ourselves. Have you ever really given any thought to how much believing in yourself changes the quality of how you feel, and the quality of your life? Without getting past this crucial first step, we cannot sustain the energy or momentum to see things through to their conclusion.


There are many benefits that come along with having a strong faith in ourselves: 
  • You see and enjoy the abundance that all of life has, and has always had, to offer you.
  • You feel uplifted and more satisfied with yourself and your life.
  • Deep down inside, you know you can accomplish almost anything. You realize that you are your own biggest stumbling block most of the time. Now you can deal with that fact honestly, and move forward.
  • You will be more optimistic about the future as you continue to set goals and actually achieve them.
  • Others can feel your positive energy and are attracted to you.
  • You recognize your ability to accomplish goals.
  • As you accomplish some of your goals and dreams, you are more motivated to get more things done, and to dream bigger dreams.
  • You will be nicer to yourself.
  • You find that your faith grows, and that you have faith, no matter what.  
So, our primary personal goal today needs to be to focus our energy and attention on our qualities of self-confidence and well-being on a daily basis. The good news is you can do this! There are some specific actions that we can take to fortify, or strengthen, our belief in ourselves.

How do we get it done?

Whether you feel like you may be coming up a little short in this area of your life or just want to strengthen your belief for the additional benefits, I have some suggestions to offer that have served me well in the past, and continue to keep me moving forward. 

1.     Have confidence in your own abilities to get something done. Be your own best cheerleader-leading section and encourage yourself to get your tasks done. Learn to break large tasks down into smaller, achievable portions. Then, even when times are tough and your spirit is low, you’ll know you can do it. If we break things down into manageable chunks, even when we lose our footing or feel overwhelmed, we can still pick up the pieces and go on. We can get back on task, rather than abandoning the entire venture.  

2.     Create dreams. Whether it’s getting into the job or career you want, obtaining more training, hooking up with someone you admire, traveling, or setting a goal to make or save a million dollars, you need to connect these things with your dreams. Your place of origin, the money you are currently making, and the people you hang out with are insignificant to the dreams that you can create for yourself. Dreams are often focused on what we want for ourselves in the future. When you believe in your dreams, you can also believe in you!  

3.     Establish goals and go for it. Believing in yourself means you’re motivated to get things done. Dreams and goals are worthless unless we put some action behind them. Get into the habit of setting goals; both short-term and long-term goals. Then, you can clearly see what the next step should be. Then you will be able to take the next action and do-able steps to achieve them.  

4.     Treat yourself well. Treating yourself with a nurturing nature and the understanding that you’re a deserving human being is an important aspect of developing belief in yourself. Pamper yourself when you desire it. First, if you don’t treat yourself well, neither will anyone else. Second, recognize and expect that others should treat you with respect and love. Third, if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be more susceptible to stress and burn-out.  

5.     Keep your motivation high. Remember that old childhood story about the little engine that could? Well, you are it! When you want to accomplish your tasks with excellence and achieve your goals, it’s an incredible illustration to remember in order to boost your level of motivation. Build momentum to fuel your motivation; and keep it going.  

6.     During the tough times, keep the faith. No one is immune from experiencing rocky periods in their lives. But if you believe in really yourself, you can meet those challenging times with a positive, solid fortitude. You’ll continue to push forward, move through the trying moments and know you’ll come out on the other side smarter, stronger and surer of yourself.  

7.     Recognize the bounty you have. Regardless of what stage of life you’re living, search for the good all around you. Live every moment to its fullest! Live in a state of gratitude. Look around you for things to be grateful for; you won’t have to look very far. When you live your life in a state of gratitude, your outlook about everything will change. And so will you.   

Choosing to believe in ourselves in the most important single choice you can make in your life.  Practicing these strategies will help you discover the absolute joy and comfort of knowing you can do whatever it is you choose when you believe in yourself.  

What would you add to this list, or what’s been working well for you? I'd love to hear from you.

You may also be interested in these related posts:

How to Get Your B**t in Gear this Weekend 

Transforming Our Lives  


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neta_gov/3975018263/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Failure to Thrive


As you can see in my profile picture, I have dreadlocks. The “why” is a discussion for another day. Today I want to talk about women and their hair. Not really...

When I was a child, my mother braided my hair every night before I went to bed in preparation for the next day of school. Very, very tightly! It was so tight that it would pull at the roots, and the skin, and my eyes. It felt as if she was trying to force the hair to grow, right there on the spot.

Saturday was a little different. On Saturday night, I had the luxury of having it pressed for church the next day. Often she would do this while we were seated in or in our tiny, warm kitchen. Frequently some of my aunts, my grandmother, or some other female family members would be sitting with us. They’d usually talk about “family stuff,” much of which I didn't understand until years later, the church, the news, or just about anything. 


With my current locks, I have a good friend that “helps” me with them. I have recently come to the conclusion that all of this "do"-ing is not really about the hair at all. It is about bonding.
During these “interaction,” we stand and sit in each other’s space, in each other’s presence, and in each other’s hearts. And, its not just standing close, we lean against each other in a way that we can at no other time.
And, the leaning is not just physical, its psychological and emotional. We are so close we can feel the heat from each other's breath. So close we can feel the body's tension or relaxation. We can feel the laughter, and the tears, even when we cannot see them, and certainly before they reach the surface. 

So what?
We live in tumultuous and fast times. Times when people are more attached to their smart phones and computers than they are to other people.
Bonding is an important part of our lives. There have been numerous studies about babies, especially premature babies, who fail to thrive (and sometimes fail to survive) for lack of human touch and interaction. I am not really certain that this need ever really goes away. We all need to be touched.
People need to be touched. I’m not saying that you need to go hug every person you meet, but you do need to be mindful of what may be going on in their little world. There are many lonely and un-touched people in our lives. People who are barely surviving, let alone actually thriving. We need to reach out and touch the lives of others. That’s what we are all here for.
Just a touch can make someone's day or lift their spirit. I'm not talking about a huge monetary gift. I am talking about an expression of some kind demonstrating that we are human, and that we notice them.  A simple smile, a thank you note, a humorous card, a cheap flower, a handshake, a pat on the back...a touch. 

Back to my Mom…that child, snuggled into and sometimes nearly suffocated by her ample bosom, in the heat of our tiny kitchen, knew she was loved, and thrived.

Look around you. There are people around you who need for anybody to do anything to let them know that they are not alone, and that they will thrive.


photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/illestwill/3543400436/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

10 Steps to Managing Anxiety

A few months ago we talked about depression. There are many more people than most of us realize who are depressed. Many of us have either been there, are currently there or know someone we feel we should reach out to.

Today I would like to shift the focus to the other end of the spectrum, so to speak. Just as there are people in our lives who are debilitated by depression, there are also many who are crippled by their anxiety and panic attacks. So, that's today's topic- ANXIETY. 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a very broad term for disorders that cause nervousness, edginess, uneasiness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. Anxiety can affect how we feel and conduct ourselves. It can produce real physical symptoms and ailments. Mild anxiety is usually kind of vague and unsettling. Severe anxiety, on the other hand, can be extremely debilitating and incapacitating, and have serious impact on people's daily lives.

Many people, myself included, often experience a general state of heightened concern or apprehension before doing certain demanding tasks. These tasks can include almost anything and are different for each of us. Some examples might include things like taking a test, preparing to testify at a trial, a performance, or a meeting. These feelings are often easily justified, meaning that we can make sense of why we are feeling the way we do. And, we consider them normal.

What's Normal?

Anxiety isn't really a problem until the symptoms begin to interfere with a person's ability to function normally. Generally speaking, severe anxiety occurs when a person’s reaction is out of proportion to what most would normally expect in a situation. 

In the case of frequent anxiety, the fearful feelings of dread are related to the things that surround the situation, or are a consequence of it, and not the actual situation itself. For instance, we get anxious about getting stuck in traffic. We are not anxious because we are afraid of having a wreck or about our driving ability. We feel the anxiety over what may happen when we are late for work, again. This is all perfectly reasonable and normal, until and unless we start to get anxious every time we are in traffic, or when we know that we aren't late.

Everyone experiences panic or anxiety in small ways.  Walking on a poorly lit street, a little anxiety and adrenaline pushing us into our "fight or flight" mode can save our lives. In new situations, we  often get a little panicky but the anxiety stops when the worst case scenario doesn't materialize. Once we start giving our speech or taking the test, the anxiety will usually fade away. It was the situation, and not the task that made us nervous. For someone with chronic anxiety, this is not the case.


The first symptoms that most of us notice are feeling sweaty (sometimes, just our palms), sensing that our heart is beating faster, rapid breathing or difficulty catching your breath. Our logical minds can usually reassure us that we are not really going to faint or have a heart attack, but that we are just having a mild anxiety attack.

The most important first step to anything is recognizing it for what it is. The second is to try to figure out the source. The third step in overcoming these "attacks" is learning to manage them.

If you suffer from anxiety attacks there are intentional steps you can take to keep your anxiety under control. 

1.  Talk it out with your spouse, close friend, spiritual adviser (pastor, rabbi, coach, guru, etc.), life coach or mentor.

2.  Get a good night’s sleep. During the sleep cycle, your body has an opportunity to repair itself. You feel more rested after several hours of restorative sleep, reaching the REM stage. Most of us need eight hours a night although this can vary within an hour or two each way. 

3.  Exercise on a consistent basis. Exercise helps you to use oxygen more efficiently.  It helps to get more oxygen to the brain.  It also increases focus which may help you see solutions to problems rather than simply worrying about them. I'm not saying that you need to run a marathon, unless you enjoy that. Exercise can be something as simple as going for a walk. 

4.  Meditate. Meditation is more than chanting mantras and staring at your navel. Yoga and T'ai Chi are exercises that involve quieting the mind and controlling your breathing.  Simple mediation such as taking 5 minute break to clear your mind everyday can work wonders in the fight against anxiety. 

5.  Manage the worry. When you feel your pulse start to quicken, start counting backwards from ten. As you count, focus clearly on the situation. What has actually happened? What is the reality of the situation? Resist the urge to read anything more into the situation.  

6.  Don’t use alcohol, street drugs or any medication that hasn't been prescribed for you specifically. You might think that your glass of wine is relaxing your tension but alcohol is a depressant. In anxious situations, it is a simple step to begin to rely too heavily on it and end up with another problem in the process. 

7.  Find a few relaxing activities. Stress can rob you of your energy. On a regular basis, you should do something you like such as gardening, painting, reading or listening to music.  

8.  Pray. Prayer is the answer to many problems. It gives you a chance to slow down and think clearly, while seeking answers from a higher power. Most people pray just to ask for things. It is an important time to listen as well. 

9. Paper bag. I know this sounds like a joke, but its not. Usually during anxious times our breathing becomes rapid. Sometimes people hyperventilate. One of the surest ways to help slow your breathing down is to breath into a paper bag, slowly. 

10.  See a professional. If the anxiety is frequent and difficult to manage. this is always a good first step. Self-diagnosis of any type of physical or mental condition can be unwise and even dangerous.  Your primary care physician (Family Physician of Internist) or a professional psychologist can help you understand the anxiety and prescribe medication or other effective techniques. 

Anxiety can come into our lives life at any time.  It’s perfectly normal, most of the time. If the anxiety starts to become frequent it could indicate a much more serious problem. If you feel your anxiety is starting to take over your life or increasingly causing you problems, seek professional help immediately.  There is no need to suffer this terrible condition in silence.

What other things would you add to this list?

photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/meredithfarmer/343623215/sizes/z/in/photostream/

This article does NOT take the place of medical advice.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Three Words to Bind the Year

New Year’s Resolutions
We are about a third of the way through 2012. How’s it going for you?
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I thought I’d try something different this year. I’m not sure that I have ever made resolutions, but I have had many friends who do. My generalized experience has been that they have usually forgotten the resolution by the 3rd or 4th day of the year.
The second issue is that, our hearts aren’t really committed to the idea of giving up what we are trying to give up. We haven’t made plans for how we are going to accomplish the “thing”, and we have no backup or contingency plans. So, when we find we have failed to do it, we let it go.

Three Words
I am not certain where I first read about it, but I thought I would try “3 words” this year. These three words would serve as a focal point. I needed simple words that I could keep track easily of when confronted by practically any situation. Either the activity fit, or it didn’t. And if it did not fit, then some conscious action was required.
My words for 2012 are:
  • Body
  • Boundaries
  • Become

Body: Get healthier. Finally admit to myself that I don’t have a lot of extra time, nor do I have the current mindset in getting a lot of exercise. Hey, I’m just trying to be honest. So to work on this idea, I’d have to become more conscious about my eating habits.

Boundaries: This is a lot more complicated, as it turns out. I charged myself with taking an honest and serious look at my relationships, and the boundaries I have set within them. Some of the boundaries seem to have shifted, or been moved. Some of this has been good. Some has been bad. The boundary moves that I have given into “unwillingly” have usually left me angry with myself, if I'm honest. So, I needed to fix some, move some, let some people in closer, and push some people further away.

Become a better writer, among other things. Become “more” of what I was sent into this world to be.

What has happened in 4 months?
Body: I have lost about 10% of my body weight, feel better, and actually upgrading my wardrobe.
Boundaries: I have let a few people closer, and pushed a few away. Both of these processes were and continue to be difficult for me. I have many acquaintances, but few close friends. I guard my privacy, and actually enjoy my relative solitude.
But, there are people that I love and care deeply about, so I must show more of myself. There are people in my life who love me…if I let them.
The people in our lives who turn out to be users and abusers, and we must eventually push away from our hearts and out of our lives, even though it is painful.
Become: I enjoy writing. I do not think I am very good at it, but hopefully improving. And I am getting more comfortable with letting more of me- warts and all- show through.

Start or start over now
This 3 word system has worked extremely well for me this year. It covers a lot of ground, and I don’t have to remember a long affirmation. I can look at a situation and decide whether something suitable for me or not, and adjust accordingly.
Life is brief. We need to figure out who we are, what our values and purposes are, where we are going, and move forward.
It is not too late, to get back to the things you had planned to accomplish this year.
  • What’s your plan?
  • How are you going to re-establish your focus for the rest of 2012?
  • How are you going to stay on-point for the next 8 months?

Share with us, please…

Friday, April 13, 2012

Transforming Our Lives

We often talk here about getting ourselves together, finding what’s inside of us, and moving forward. I have a pet theory, that says basically, we are all renaissance people. Let me explain…

Being placed in the Box
I could choose any number of things, but I will use art as an example. As a child, I could barely draw stick figures. I cannot count how many times my art teachers would look at renderings with “that look.” And, I know that eventually I absorbed those indictments of my artistic abilities into my psyche, and did not pursue anything in that direction.
I’d cringe at the thought of being “forced” to draw something in any situation. I’d start to sweat if a patient asked me to make a diagram of what I was trying to explain to them.
It's amazing what can happen when you relax...
When my children were young, we traveled frequently, when I had time off, so that I could expose them to a larger world than I grew up knowing. On one of these road trips, while we were sitting at in a restaurant, waiting to be served, I started copying one of the pictures on the wall. I was stunned at my results.
When I returned home I signed up for an art class. My first class was oil painting, and it went very well. Since that time I have tried and been reasonably successful in many other artistic media. I have taken stained glass, and made several pieces for my house. I have taken pottery classes, and been invited to join the local Clay Artist Guild, and many more things.
What’s my point?
As I said in the beginning, I subscribe to the theory that we are each renaissance people, by nature. Certainly, most of us will never be as creative as daVinci, or paint like Rembrandt, but we can each create. Each of us has some creation spirit within us.
We are often held back by the negative voices within and without. We feel we don’t have enough talent, education, training, time, materials, etc. We are all too often held back by simple fear.

And even though I have used art as an example, this conversation is not limited to that. I am talking about writing, acting, coaching, playing a new sport,etc. I am talking about intentionally stretching yourself.

Find your inner child. You know, the one you were before all the negativity started to seep into your mind and your life. Ask your heart, “What have I always wanted to try/ do/ be/ experience, but have been afraid?”
Pick one thing.
Look online. Look around locally. Check out museums or artist guilds for beginner classes. Stop by one of the local high schools or junior colleges. Look in the library. (I know, no one goes to the library any more). Trust me; there is a cheap way to learn more about your “secret” passion. And, education is the beginning of transformation.
Then, DO IT!
The sense of freedom, permission and liberation that you will feel will put a new sense of passion into many other areas of your life.
The person that we take the least care of is most often, ourselves. Be compassionate with and care for yourself. Begin to see yourself through new lenses. You are so much more than you give yourself credit for.
If you can dream it, you can Do it!!
“Change is the essence of life.
Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” Unknown

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Defining ourselves

What happened to you?

A few days ago someone asked me a question that I have not been asked in a very long time. “How’d you get that scar?”
Most of you will never meet me, but that’s not really germane to our conversation today. I have a scar on the right side of my face. It’s about 2 inches long and right next to my eye. It’s pretty ugly, probably stitched together by an underpaid, disgruntled public servant, but that’s not important either.
I have been told that I acquired it at about 6 months of age, when I fell onto a broken milk bottle. I can imagine, although not remember, the pandemonium and chaos that must have surrounded that event.
As a young child, I was teased about it, because there was no way to hide it, and children can be cruel. As a working adult, there were many times that I had considered spending my hard-earned cash to have it “repaired” by a plastic surgeon. And each time, I have decided against it.

Defining Moments
No one has asked me about my scar in a long time, so it made me pause and think. My first thought was that I am no longer that shy, scared little girl about to burst into tears because I was the butt of someone else’s jabs. My second thought was that, I don’t even think about the scar any more. It doesn’t define me any more, if it ever did. It has no real bearing on who I am or what I am capable of doing.
We have all been beaten up and beaten down at some point in our lives. We have all come through victories, as well as overcome defeats. We all have scars, and we will probably get more. Some are visible, and some are not.
The scars that we carry, the ones that people can see easily, and the ones they’d never guess at, can never be the sum total of who we are; unless we want them to define us. Our lives and our pictures of ourselves should never be limited to or summed up by just the battles that we have lost, and the scars that we limped away with. We must continually remind ourselves that we have won some victories in the past, and that we are still in the running.
Our scars and our limps may keep us from being the most physically attractive person in the room, but the very essence of what makes us who we are is in how we deal with the scars that life leaves behind. 

Something Within

How we look, our outward appearance, is not where we derive our true beauty or formidable strength from. Those things live deep within us, and it is our duty to cultivate them, nurture them and use them. Realizing this is the way forward.
Life is brief. If you don’t define yourself, others will.

And you have to believe in yourself even when no one else does.
Life Application
So, the next time you find yourself facing an “insurmountable” situation, look inside and ask yourself:
  • How important is this hurt, slight, scar, setback in the scheme of where my dreams are taking me?
  • Is this a deal-breaker for all the things I am passionately pursuing?
  • What can I learn from this situation? About myself? About the other person? There is always something to learn. The lesson may not always be pleasant or pretty, but it’s in there. Learn it!
  • What is the very next do-able step to move forward? Do it!

What other questions do you think we should ask ourselves to get back on track?

photocredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/4040360452/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Monday, April 9, 2012

Be Wise and Smart

What is wisdom?
There are three words in English that we often use interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing at all. These words are knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
So, let’s try to clarify. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts, data collection. Understanding is deep knowledge, knowing the foundation behind the facts. Wisdom is a combination of knowledge (facts) and experience.

Library Wisdom
Let me give you an example, the Dewey decimal system. I know, no one goes to the physical public library any more- but they should, before they all disappear. Anyway…
Every time I walk into the library, I smile. I smile because my elementary school teachers taught me the Dewey decimal system and how to use the library. This is basic knowledge. I know where to begin my search (at the card file/ now computer), and that the numbers correspond to groupings, and therefore locations of the books I want.
If I actually understood the Dewey system, I could tell you why the books are numbered and grouped the way they are. But, alas, I do not have that type of understanding. I don’t have that kind of smartness about the system.
But, I do have library wisdom. I have wandered onto the wrong floor, into the wrong sections, and met enough dead ends to know where I need to go to find what I want.
Wisdom is that “thing” that tells us if we are on the right track or what to do next.

The wisest man in the Bible and the world was Solomon. Wisdom was a gift that he requested from God. And, since he didn’t ask for a more selfish gift, like fame or wealth, these things were given to him as well.
Solomon was a shrewd politician, for his time. He secured most of his alliances by marrying the daughters of kings and heads of states.
Isn’t it a mystery that the wisest man in the world would have 1,000 wives and still lose his way in life? Shouldn’t he have known better? Shouldn’t he have been smarter? Perhaps…
Solomon had all the facts. He had knowledge. He knew the Law better than any man living or dead.
Solomon had all the wisdom. It was a gift from God, and helped him apply the Law…to others.
What Solomon didn’t have was deep understanding to match up with his wisdom. Solomon didn’t have a real heart-understanding of right and wrong, why the difference was important, and most significantly, he didn’t understand how these things applied to his own life.
Our wisdom, our knowledge of facts + our real life experiences, should spill over into all facets of our lives; but it doesn’t always. The most important thing that Solomon never got a handle on was himself. He didn’t recognize his own faults and shortcomings.
If Solomon teaches us nothing else, he shows us that being wise, does not always make us smart.
You see, we have to know who we are and how we will react to be prepared for the journey ahead, or we will lose our way. 
Where are you heading?
Proverbs 4:7 says that we should get wisdom AND get understanding.
Do you have both?
Do you have dreams and goals in life? Have you collected the facts about how to get to where you want to go?
Or, are you just stumbling through life wandering down random paths?
Do you know where you want to go? Do you know how to go about getting there?
We are often our own biggest stumbling blocks in life.
Do you really know yourself?
Do you understand yourself well enough to get to where you want to go?  

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39698666@N00/13873832/