Hope for the Future

Many of us are happy and joyful as we celebrate this Christmas Day. And many of us also have some sadness, some worry and some concern about the future. Years ago, I stopped watching the news and it released me from depression and hopelessness. Lately I have noticed that after two minutes on Facebook my warm fuzzies of happiness change to devastation and political divide. For my sanity, I may need to begin limiting my social media consumption soon too. The truth is, even if we remove the news from coming to us, essentially hiding our heads in the sand, the world will still continue to get worse, right?

Or are things really getting worse?

I found two great TED talks you should check out. The first talk I found by Hans Rosling was in 2006. In this first talk, he begins to question what we really know about what is happening in the world.  I encourage you to watch the video and see how what you think is actually based on your perception of the world and, if you are like me, you don’t know much more than the literal monkeys surveyed. The point of this talk was that if we don’t look at the real hard data, we don’t see the positive changes in and the real progress of the world. The negativity we see and experience every day is based on our perception. Our perception is based on what we learned in the past. Therefore we are living in the non-progressing negativity of the past instead of the hopeful reality of today.

Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

The second talk by Hans Rosling and his son doesn’t just show how our thinking is skewed. Instead, they also provide us with tangible ways we can look for and truly see the real data. It is when we can see the real data that we can create ways to make real change, or at least sleep at night knowing life is progressing in a positive fashion.  These gentlemen postulate that we all have embraced preconceived ideas as reality. Our beliefs are based on our personal bias due to growing up in homogenized neighborhoods, to the unfortunate fact that we are taught outdated world views in schools, and due to biased news which focuses on rare events and sensationalized fear.

Here is what they suggest to help us start creating a realistic worldview:

  • Instead of focusing on and believing that everything is getting worse, focus on the fact that most things do improve (and they have the data to prove it).
  • Although there is a real gap between the rich and the poor, remember that most people are in the middle of the curve. And that the middle of the bell curve is growing, meaning more of us are living better.
  • Money is not needed to make social improvements. The inverse is true. Social improvements actually lead to increase in personal and national wealth.
  • We may have news, and now even fake news, but we control our consumption. We are often drawn to sensational and unusual events therefore we are fed more and more of these. Stop consuming the sensational, stop feeding your fears, and focus on the true daily facts of our world.

As we move into 2019, don’t focus on the past. Don’t expect things to get worse. Don’t let the past hold you back. Don’t bring the heartbreaks of the last year into the new year. Look at things with open eyes. Look to the new year with hopeful eyes. And usher in the positivity and hope the world needs today.

Homer Simpson 300 game

Celebrate Every Day

This is my 300th blog post (or at least I think it is). Woohoo!  I never set out to write this many, but it is great to celebrate the accomplishment nonetheless. I may not have had the journalists and a single pathetic balloon to celebrate like Home Simpson had for his perfect 300 bowling game, but I will take some time today to really acknowledge the achievement, the persistence, and the positive responses I have received. Through these 300 posts, at least 150,000 words, I have sent messages meant to inspire, enlighten, and support. Hopefully affecting those that need it when they need it.

Homer Simpson 300 game
You can find Homer’s 300 game at www.simpsonsworld.com › Clips

In our fast-paced world, we don’t take enough time to celebrate big – and little – accomplishments. In a constant rush to the next event or next task, we don’t take time to celebrate what we have achieved. And because of this, we often feel not good enough, not loved. We feel less than because we don’t take the time to recognize the amazing things we do throughout the day. Don’t make that face. Really, each and every day you do something amazing. You are reading these words. You helped the elderly woman at the grocery store. You propelled a moving vehicle. You took care of your family. You landed that big deal at work, or at least managed not to kill your co-workers. Take some time today to notice all that you do and how it improves the quality of life for you and for those around you.

Now take your awareness out to a larger level and recognize all the miracles and blessings you experience. For instance, you are reading a post I wrote in Mexico which you found online or in your electronic mail inbox and can read it thousands of miles away. Amazing! Have you experienced the miracle of flight? Do you find fresh delicious foods in your refrigerator or the local market every day? Do you have food, shelter, and clothing? Are you able to listen to your favorite musical artist anytime, anywhere? Are friends and family a click, call, or short drive away?

I find that depression sets in when we look at our lack instead of all we have. Spend some time today acknowledging your accomplishments and recognizing all the miracles and blessings in your life. No matter the bad that we all experience, there is always a host of good happening at the same time. When you become obsessed with the bad, stop and refocus. Start listing off things to be grateful for; recount your achievements. By going through this exercise, you not only shift your focus to abundance, but give yourself the love and courage and strength you need to move forward.

Do not just focus on yourself, but be sure to take the time to tell others how much they mean to you. Talk about their achievements. Let them know why and how much you love them. All too often we can take those most important to us for granted. For yourself and them, take the time to recognize the blessing they are in your life.

As you approach this week, find a way to celebrate and appreciate every day. Big or small, what do you accomplish? Some days getting out of bed when we dread going to work is the biggest accomplishment we can have. That’s ok. Celebrate it. Every night make a list of everything you accomplished. Every morning think of five things for which you are grateful. Celebrating accomplishments, acknowledging achievements, and being grateful are the keys to making every day special.

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.

a wish

A Wish Comes True

Talking with friends the other night, the topic of ayahuasca came up. Ayahuasca is a medicinal cactus used by shaman in South America to aid emotional, spiritual, and physical healing. I was the only one who had a personal experience with ayahuasca, so when I returned home I pulled the passage from my book about my first experience to share with my friends. I don’t know if they gained insight into ayahuasca, but I realized something amazing. I got what I wanted.

Ten years after my amazing trip to Peru, I discovered I have what I asked for. During that trip I wanted to be released by my apparent failures and disappointments. I wanted to create a new definition of what success looked like to me. Not a definition of a new career, an amount of money in my bank account, a new home, or any other tangible thing. But success which took “the form of being true to myself, having a pure heart, being grateful, finding time to be in nature, being positive, calm, and peaceful, and taking care of my body. I wanted to be a joyful Peruvian, not a stressed-out American.” Now, on most days, I have what I requested. Got the country wrong, but the intent is the same.

a wishIt was not an easy path. During the transition, I quit a stable position, was laid off from the next, and struggled with starting my own business. I experienced the exhaustion of caring for the dying, and the pain of losing them. I made good choices, bad choices, and really bad choices. I parted with friends who were not on the same path. I sold almost everything I owned and moved to a new country. I worked through struggles, challenges, and doubts of being in the right place but not quite the right place. I worked and worked and worked on my emotional and physical health.

After a decade of growth, the way I live and approach my life is completely different. I feel successful when I spend the day calm, centered, and compassionate. I have learned, and am still learning, how to be true to myself and take care of my mind and body the way it needs it. And I continue to work through the relationship challenges that appear again and again. Part of this is being an empath who easily takes on others’ energy and emotion without knowing it, and my background which taught me to care for others above myself. As I enter 2018, my goal is to learn to recognize, focus on, and fulfill my own needs and wants; to create strong boundaries against toxic individuals to keep them from infiltrating my actions and experience; and to spend my days focused on gratitude and compassion.

As we reflect on the last year, or even the last ten, take some time to redefine success for you. What would bring you peace, joy, and happiness? How do you need to be to feel complete? What do you need to experience to make you whole? Instead of struggling for things outside of yourself – money, fame – choose the hard road of working on the things inside yourself and see how your life can shift for the better.

biscuits

Better than Biscuits

Are you going through some things you don’t like? Are you having some challenges? Are things not going the way you planned?

I received this story from my mother-in-law the other day:

A visiting priest was attending a men’s breakfast in farm country. He asked one of the impressive older farmers in attendance to say grace that morning. After all were seated, the older farmer began, “Lord, I hate buttermilk.”

The priest opened one eye and wondered to himself where this was going. Then the farmer loudly proclaimed, “Lord, I hate lard.”

Now the priest was very worried. However, without missing a beat, the farmer prayed on, “And Lord, you know I don’t care much for raw white flour.”

Just as the priest was ready to stand up and stop everything, the farmer continued, “But Lord, when you mix’ em all together and bake ‘em up, I do love fresh biscuits. So Lord, when things come up we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we just don’t understand what you are sayin’ to us, we just need to relax and wait ‘til you are don’ mixin’, and probably it will be somethin’ even better than biscuits. Amen.”

biscuits
Photo and Recipe from http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/our-favorite-buttermilk-biscuit

What is being mixed together for you right now? What are the less than desirable individual parts?  Can you hold the faith that when everything settles down and comes together, that it will be better than you imagine?

During trying times, one of the thoughts that keeps us down is that whatever happening is the new forever reality, that we are fated to experience this bad occurrence for eternity. When we can get a moment of clarity, we know this is not true. All things – bad and good – do not last forever. If we can just hold on we will see that this too shall pass. Focus on making it through this moment and then the next, until things change for the better. As Kimmie Schmidt says, “A person can handle anything for about ten seconds.” So, when times are rough, take them ten seconds at a time until things resolve.

Another tool to help you through difficult times is to start putting together biscuits. Look back at some of your previous trying times. When were you dealt a difficult hand? When did it seem you were having one issue after another? Then look one week, one month, one year into the future. What did those struggles actually gift you with? What would you not have now if you did not go through that challenge?

One biscuit I can put together is leaving Los Angeles. After being kicked out of graduate school, I worked for an awesome company that went from profitable to bankrupt in two years, and for good measure, throw in being held up at gunpoint and losing a dear friend. That was a lot of lard, flour and buttermilk. But if those things did not happen, I would not have returned to Chicago and reconnected with the man who would become my husband and partner.

Look back at your life and realize your own biscuit stories. Then when life throws some lard at you, take it ten seconds at a time until you see your biscuit coming together.

earth through saturn's rings

A Little Perspective

Are you concerned about something in your life right now? Are things in your city or neighborhood a little too much for you? Are you upset that no one is focusing on your issues? Maybe it is time for a little cosmic perspective.

According to Neil deGrasse Tyson, “We are a speck in the middle of a cosmic void.” In an episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Neil puts our life into perspective. Through the rings of Saturn, Earth looks like a little speck of dust. We are on that speck of dust and do not even appear as a speck of dust. Seeing the Earth from Saturn, we see how truly insignificant Earth is.

When things feel urgent and overwhelming, remember that you are not even a speck of dust on a speck of dust. Whatever feels so critical right now, has no significance in the universal historical timeline. We have created importance for events in our life, but in the overall scheme of the universe, it is not significant.

earth through saturn's ringsBut don’t lose faith and think we are unimportant. Neil goes on to say that looking at life through a cosmic perspective, “our ingredients are traceable across the universe.” The matter that created life, our life, was once part of a star that exploded. We are part of the larger whole. Our essence, our being is the result of the universe. We are an element of this larger whole.

I love the way Neil, in just a few moments, shows humanity’s insignificance and yet it’s grandeur. In the larger universe, we are nothing. We are not even a footnote. We are undetectable. And yet, we are of the universe. We are created by stars. We are special in that so much had to come together to make us.

To bring this around to your life, look at your worries. Realize how small they are in comparison to the universe and also how temporary they are in comparison to the larger scheme of things. Your issue at work, with your finances, with your loved one is a blip. It is not the end of the world. In fact, it is not even significant in perspective of the known universe. Breathe, relax, work through what you need to work through, but don’t create a mountain out of a mole hill.

Also, don’t walk away from this post thinking you are not important. You are. You are special. So many elements had to come together to give you this moment of life. Remember your significance. There is a reason stars exploded to create the elements needed to bring about human life. There is a reason your biological parents came together to bring you life. Don’t miss out on your chance at this life. Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to be alive in this world at this time. Make the most of this opportunity by giving of the special elements which comprise you. Your gift may be to make life easier for others through social or political change, or it may be to share your smile, your song or your words with others.

We are small. We are special.