paint a picture

Painting the Perfect Picture

“Every day I start my day by going over things for which I’m grateful. Even though I’m in hospice and the end is near, I have an immense amount for which I’m deeply grateful.”

A friend of mine from high school wrote that powerful sentence on Facebook this week. The honesty with which he shared was beautiful. He was very grateful for the people in his life and for the little things we so often take for granted. I asked his permission to share his words. He responded with, “Go for it! At this point, my goal is to try and make an impact with any little things I can do.”

paint a pictureAt the end of Jim’s post, he wrote, “Now go make today the best day you’ve lived so far. You can do it, because the day hasn’t been completed yet. So go out there and paint the perfect picture and make it happen. That’s my plan.”  In honor of Jim, I invite you all to do just that. Make today the best day you can by using Jim’s focus, gratitude, and reflection.

Focus

What I found most powerful about my friend’s post was his choice in focus. At age 47 and with three young children, this is not the time for him to leave. He could have so much more of life to experience. But that is not where he focused. He focused on the fact that he met his wife and was able to spend the time he did with her. He focused on the time he had with those he loves, not the time he will not.

How much of our lives do we spend looking at what is lacking? What we have lost? What we will never have?  Make today the best it can be by switching your attitude from one of lack and sadness to one of love and appreciation.

Gratitude

I have spoken many times about the power of gratitude and making it into a daily practice. Jim’s gratitude at this time is simply amazing. Many of us find it hard to be grateful. We are looking at what we want, what we have lost, or we are just in the struggle to survive. Making gratitude a daily habit is a powerful tool to strengthen you and help you find joy in every day.

To help you create your perfect day, every day, start it off by thinking of five (5) things for which you are grateful before you get out of bed. Then every night, take some time to reflect on the wonderful things you experienced. For bonus points, start to recognize the good things in the moment. Actively focusing on gratitude at first may seem like a chore, but after a while you are reprogramming your mind and senses to see the good, and we receive more of what we choose to focus on.

Reflect on What Matters

Jim mentions that the best part of dying is having the “time to sit back and reflect on what really matters.” For Jim, this is his relationships, the long-standing ones and the ones which were rekindled due to his illness. Sometimes it takes a disaster to bring us together, but our focus on the gift and gratefulness for the re-connection is much more important than the reason why.

Take today to sit back and reflect on what is truly important to you. Now look at how you spend your week. Are you putting your time and energy toward what is truly important? What can you adjust in your life to help you focus on what is most important to you?

You have the power to paint the perfect day. Choose your focus. Concentrate on gratitude. Uncover what really matters to you and ensure your time and effort are being put in the right place for you.

Jim, I truly believe your transition will be peaceful for you and those around you due to your ability to make the most of this time. Thank you for blessing our lives.

self confidence for resolutions

Make It Happen

Tis the season to make resolutions . . . and to feel heartbroken when a week – or day – later we already broke them. Why is this? Sometimes we set too high and unreachable goals, and should have broken them down into more achievable mini goals that will lead us to our big goal. Sometimes we create resolutions that are negative punishments instead of positive desires. It is best if your resolutions are positive choices instead of self-attack based on negative self-image. A recent TED talk about the importance self-confidence in success, talks about two other elements needed to achieve our goals and resolutions.

self confidence for resolutionsDr. Ivan Joseph believes self-confidence is not an inherent trait, but instead a trainable skill. Through persistence and positive self-talk, you can achieve not only your new year’s resolutions but all your goals.

Persistence comes down to repetition and overcoming failure.

Repetition: Malcolm Gladwell wrote that “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” This means to become what we want to become we need to study and practice for 10,000 hours. When you look at your resolution, don’t think of it as one and done, but an effort you need to make over time. How many hours a week or a day are you willing to dedicate to your goal?  You don’t have to do 10,000 hours to make a change, but you do need to commit to a dedicated amount of time. As you look at your resolution, plan for time to work your goal, dedicate yourself to this time, and make the effort.

Overcoming Failure: One of the big reasons we don’t accomplish our resolutions is that we stop trying after one setback. “I ate a half of a cookie, so my diet is blown. I am just going to give up.” Learn to accept that failure is part of the process. Some days will be good, some not as much. Don’t let a setback hold you back. Look at the stumbling block, learn from it, and go back to your practice (see repetition).

Self-Talk is the other area which affects our ability to be successful. What we think can either empower or weaken us. Learn to use your mental state to move you forward instead of holding you back.

Fake It Till You Make It: No one else will believe in you, until you do. No one else can give you self-confidence, only you can do it. The first step to self-confidence and achieving what you want is to believe you can. Once you believe it, you will be able to act as if you are already what you want to achieve. This can also be done in baby-steps.  Maybe you want to be a world-famous author, but if you have not written a sentence it may be hard to believe it.  Instead start by believing that you are a prolific writer or a solid writer or even just “a” writer.  Once you realize you have accomplished your mini goal, broaden your mental belief.

Positive Reinforcement: All too often we focus on the stick instead of the carrot. Create a daily routine of positive reinforcement and affirmations. Replace negative self-talk with positive desires. Catch yourself when your mind goes to the negative. Stop. Replace the negative fears and attacks, with thoughts of what you do well and want to accomplish. One great idea Dr. Joseph had was to take the time to write a letter to yourself when things are good. Brag to yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments. Share what is good about you and what you do. Then pull this letter out and re-read it when you are having a difficult negative self-talk day.

As you enter 2018, create some realistic goals based on what you want, not on what you want to fix about yourself. Then schedule time to work toward your goal and be persistent even when there are set-backs. Finally, be your own coach. Focus on the good you accomplish. Stay strong when things are hard. Believe in yourself.

If you want some support with your resolutions, persistence, or self-talk, reach out to me. Happy to explore if we are right to work together.

Marc Anthony

Simply to Live

In an attempt to improve my Spanish-speaking abilities, I had hired a teacher. A recent assignment was to listen to a Marc Anthony song trying to recognize and decipher the words. I have improved immensely at reading Spanish, by my auditory and verbal skills are lacking. Even without dialect issues, being able to comprehend when people speak is difficult. At this point, I am up to recognizing and comprehending about every third word spoken. Sometimes it is enough for me to understand the gist of what someone is saying. Sometimes it can get me into trouble. Going through the exercise listening to the song was helpful, and frustrating. But it was well worth it as the song had a beautiful message.

In the official video for the song, Marc Anthony begins by asking, “What is your legacy?” In his response, he doesn’t talk about the number of albums he has sold, the number of countries he has played in, or the notoriety and acclaim he has received. In his words, “Yo vivo para, de alguna manera, dejar mi huella . . . yo simplemente vivo” which translates to “I live to, in some way, leave my footprint . . . I simply live.” He speaks about being a father, son, brother, and friend. He says he is his smile, his music, and part of New York and Puerto Rico. Nothing more. Nothing less. His legacy is just to live.

The song talks about laughing, dancing, and enjoying life. It recognizes that everyone will have some rain – disappointments, losses or challenges – but that these cleanse our wounds and help us move forward. No matter what we suffer, that is part of life and we are just meant to live it.

Many of us, including me, at different ages have explored what life is about. What are we supposed to leave behind? What is the purpose of being here? Teenage angst was filled with discovering myself and being confused over my purpose. My twenties were full of hopelessness of achieving the success I thought I wanted. A nice midlife crisis had me re-evaluating all the years I spent pursuing something which did not fulfill me. Thankfully lately I tend to agree with Mr. Anthony.

There is no big secret to life. There is no big purpose. The only thing we are supposed to achieve with our life is to live it. To make the most of each moment. To move past fear. To experience emotions – good and bad. To feel love and heartbreak. To win and lose. To touch, to feel, to move, to laugh, to cry.

As you go through today, notice how much you are actually living. Are you in the moment or are you thinking about a past foible? Are you smiling and laughing or are you fearing the future? Did you take an opportunity when it presented itself or did you deny yourself? Are you living your life or watching it go by?

As for me, “I’m going to laugh, I’m going to dance, feel, dance and enjoy, there is only one life. “ / “Voy a reír, voy a bailar, siente, baila y goza, que la vida es una sola.”

customer service

Making a Human Connection

This past Easter, a fire erupted in a local parking garage. Thankfully no one was injured. Although hundreds of cars were destroyed.

We park our trailer in this garage.

After a few days wait, we were able to access the garage and remove our trailer which was thankfully unharmed in any way. We had to find alternative storage as the garage would not be reopened for over a month. We found a place to store it and waited.

While we waited, I attempted to receive a refund for the time we paid for but could not access the garage. I talked to the mall office who sent me to the garage office which was inaccessible. A security guard gave me the phone number of the woman in charge, who never answered her phone. A friend obtained and called the number for the garage management parent company in Mexico City. On the first call we were told to call back because the individual we needed to speak to was on break. Next time we called there was no answer. At this point, I was measuring the importance of how much we paid for the missed month versus the effort to receive a refund. I laid the issue to rest.

customer serviceA week or two later, after the garage opened, I happened to be in the area with some time to kill. I walked to the garage office and asked for the woman in charge. After a few minutes she, and the two little dogs that accompany her at work, appeared. I was preparing myself for what I expected to be a terse conversation, when she introduced herself, shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “Mucho gusto.”

In Spanish, “Mucho gusto” means approximately “pleased to meet you.” All at once we were not manager and customer but two human beings making a human connection. I smiled. She smiled. All the tension dissipated and we had a cordial conversation. In my broken Spanish, I was able to negotiate an extra month on my contract. Problem pleasantly and easily resolved in 15 minutes.

When was the last time you had to call the cable company or return something damaged to a store? What attitude did you go in with? Did you expect to be denied? Did you feel wronged, entitled, or outraged? Did you have anger blurring your mind?  When you entered the conversation, what happened? Did you get your issue resolved? If you did, did you feel good afterwards or did you still feel painful, angry indignation?

Replay the situation in your mind. What if you started off by introducing yourself and by taking a moment to truly connect to the other person as a human being. What if the issue was now secondary to the importance of treating the person across from you as a living breathing being with feelings?

Next time you need to address an issue or when someone confronts you in an aggressive manner, stop. Breathe. Connect as two individuals. Remember that you are speaking to a person who deserves as much respect and unconditional love as you do.

truth

Reality Check

In our fast-paced lives, we are often “doing” and not “living.” One tool to help us truly live is to hold a reality check every so often.

How much of our day goes by in a blur versus being in the moment? How much of our life is routine versus conscious choosing? How much of the time are we living by others’ expectations and “the norm” versus actively choosing our life the way we want to live it?

truthTake a few moments today to stop and hold a reality check.

Commitments: Look over the commitments in your calendar and note if you chose them or if they were chosen for you? How much of your day is being dictated by others or a sense of obligation? How many things have you committed to which do not bring you joy? What commitments can you remove and which need to be added to bring you into alignment with your truth?

Relationships: Review your relationships. Which are serving you? Where are you giving more than you receive? Where are you being taken advantage of? Where do you need to take back your power? What relationships need to end and which need more focus to bring you more joy?

Health: Our health is often the first thing to suffer when we are not taking care of ourselves. What are your eating and exercise habits? What unhealthy choices do you make when you are stressed? If your life was more in alignment, what bad habits could you release? To focus on your unique health needs, what parts of your life need to be rearranged?

Environment: Is your home, office, and physical location to your highest and greatest good? What needs to shift to make if feel more supportive and joyful? Do you need to make a few small shifts or is it time for a bigger move? What small touches can you bring to all you see and experience to make if feel better to you?

Purpose: Is what you are doing for money filling more than your pocketbook? Is the time you are spending at work worth the time you are away from the things you love? Are you giving of yourself through your paid profession and/or your hobbies? Do you feel fulfilled or drained by the work you do? Is there a deeper purpose you are meant to share which you are withholding from the world?

When you are truly living your life, your unique reality, life becomes easier and smoother. It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. It only means that things fall into place more easily. When you try to live someone else’s reality, life is more of a struggle – because it is not right for you. Taking the time to hold a reality check brings you back to center. A reality check focuses you on your life, dreams and ambitions. Taking the time to really review your life, to be grateful for the things you love and compassionately release the things which are not right for you, will allow your life moving forward to be more joyful, appropriate, and easy.

be happy

Stop being so hard on yourself

As I mentioned in a recent post, deeply knowing and living self-love is a current lesson, passion, and goal of mine.  This past week I had an epic failure in this department. I realized that not just once, but twice the same morning, I put my assumption of others’ needs above my own true necessity. And this was not just a preference or a desire of mine, but it was downright essential.

At first I went into a pity party. Here I am again, unconsciously and involuntarily not taking care of myself. Then I was pissed. I know better. I am actively working on this, why am I not more conscious? Why is it still a struggle to get this right?

Of course, the pity and the anger felt awful. My day off in beautiful sunshine was marred by the rain cloud I created over my head. Eeyore would have been proud. Ok, so I made a mistake, but I caught it. I did what I could afterwards to make it right. Why do I need to ruin the rest of the day wallowing in anger and self-pity? I just want to be happy.

So I chose to be happy.

And then I was.

be happyReally, I was happy. I didn’t figure out why I acted like I did. I didn’t reprimand myself for my actions. I didn’t even forgive myself for not putting myself first. I simply decided that this incident did not have power over my happiness and I chose to be different.

Oh, how many years could I have used this lesson? All the joy on which I missed out. All the experiences which were tainted because I was punishing myself. All the life I wasted simply because I chose to be hard on myself. All those times I could have simply chosen to be happy.

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend who is working to improve her health. The whole conversation centered on her “cheating” with these foods and wondering why she can’t stick to her diet. I think we all do this some time in our lives. Whether it is trying a new diet or exercise, whether it is trying to be better to oneself, or whether it is trying to be in a new way, we fail. We don’t live up to our expectations. And then we attack ourselves for not having willpower and strength. We attack ourselves for not being perfect. It’s time to stop being so hard on ourselves.

Here are four ways to break out of self-attack:

  • If you are choosing to act a certain way, embrace it. I know you want to eat a vegan diet but if that sausage pizza is calling your name. Eat it. Enjoy it. Love it. If you chose to do it, then accept it. Try not to do it every day, but if today you just need some chewy cheesy goodness, abbondanza! Eat it guiltfree and with joy!
  • Set your own rules. On the quest of self-improvement there are a million gurus ready to tell you the “right” way to do something. The only right way for you is the right way for you. Take their program and customize it to your life and your thinking. Stop holding yourself to someone else’s standards and live by your own. It is easier to live up to your standards than standards imposed on you.
  • Look at how far you have come. In the quest to improve, we often forget to look at where we started. Next time you get down on yourself for lack of progress or a setback, take a few moments to remember where you were last week, month, last year. I am sure you will see progress you can be proud of. Acknowledge and celebrate your growth.
  • Choose to be happy. Being human by definition means being imperfect. Instead of spending your time being angry or upset with yourself for this or that failure, choose to be happy. Nothing is gained through self-attack except a bad day. Uncover and acknowledge your lesson and then move on. Life is too short to be hard on yourself.