Becoming Balanced

A new year filled with new possibilities lends itself to seeking the age-old dilemma of becoming balanced; how to find it and how to keep it. The truth is, there is no magic formula of 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, 4 hours family time, 4 hours personal time, etc. As much as one might like neatly pocketed time slots and agendas, the real world does not work that way.

The way we see our outer world is a symptom of what is going on inside. Evaluate: What do you feel deprived of? What is your level of appreciation for the ordinary? How is your life out of sync? What are you really searching for? What expectations are too high or too low?

How to walk a tight wire. Like a trapeze artist or a bicycle rider, balance knows when to lean left or right - and how much - while continuing to move forward. With a little lean, you adjust and regain equilibrium. If you over-correct and crash, get back in the game with a renewed commitment to balance.

Do not allow work to control you. The just-one-more-thing syndrome will keep you bound to work; often at the sacrifice of family and health. Do not allow the seduction of ambition to distract you from what is truly important.

How do you eat an elephant? An elephant is too big to be consumed in one setting. Not only is it to be eaten “one bite at a time”, but also with lapses for processing, digesting and elimination. The large carcass may need to be shared with others and some may need to be frozen for another time.

Do not expect easy. Most tasks have a learning curve, so give yourself room to grow. This goes for relationships also. Give you room to grow. Give them room to grow. Make the focus and intention on growing together, not apart.

Make routine your friend. Author Michael Gerber says “the solution is in the system”. A well-reviewed accounting system keeps the books in balance. A well-planned and executed schedule keeps life in flow. Continually reviewed priorities keep first-things-first. A running list of to-do’s keep you on track and the joy of marking off a task add to the feeling of accomplishment. .

If you assign the same priority to everything then you feel overwhelmed. Balance is making plans in keeping with your priorities and adjusting along the way. Balance is doing what needs to be done within an acceptable time frame. A key factor is to know what to focus on and when.

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For Auld Lang Syne

New Years celebrations. One has probably attempted to sing Auld Lang Syne even if not knowing the words or the meaning. Basically, the song is an encouragement to remember – nay – to rekindle long ago relationships. The melancholy tune draws us into the sentimental moment. But it takes more than sentiment to prepare one’s heart to mend the past.

Life is fraught with misunderstandings. The details are less important than the resulting consequences. Once we settle into satisfying way to meet a need, it becomes difficult to change. When seen as “her/his fault”, then you think she needs to change. When one sees self as being right, he crosses the line into being the one who makes the offender change. When you demand someone to change to please you, the line is crossed into controlling. And the relationship suffers. Becomes fragmented. Strained.

Close yet far. The song speaks of once scaling mountains together and picking daisies, but now are distant weary travelers. Relationship tension knows no bounds. You can be close in proximity yet remote. Conversely, you can be thousands of miles apart, yet hold the offender in close disdain. Even death does not remove the discord.

God I’ve got a problem: It’s me. When I have been at odds with people, marriage, work or churches, God's all-encompassing wisdom to me has been: "Go and I will bless you. Stay and I will bless you. Go and you will have problems. Stay and you will have problems."

I take this to mean that I am a part of the problem as well as a part of the solution. But it takes work from all involved for there to be an amiable solution. Unfortunately, too many seek quick answers from their individual point of view.

Life is fair; whether we agree or not. There is a Master bookkeeper. Ultimately, whatever you plant, on purpose or by default, is what you receive.

Do it for kindness sake. “And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give us a hand o’ thine! …We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.” For days of long ago. Be the initiator. Choose to forgive and extend compassion. Whether received or not, it will set you free. It allows you, as well as the departed, to rest in peace.

As you let go of pain or grudges you are elevated to new heights. You can enter the new-year with thoughtful benevolence for days of long ago and anticipation of today and the future. (Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burns’ Scotts version of James Watson’s poem, 1711)


Dreaming of a White Christmas

The Christmas Story is filled with angels, dreams and interpretations. That phenonemon was not just for long-ago and is still prevelent for us today.

The dream center. Our conscious awake mind takes in information and responds. Sleep allows the brain to rearranges recent memories, a process that can lead to insight and new knowledge. Researchers believe that sleep is not only good for our physical health but also for our mental well-being.

Stages of sleep. In the process of falling asleep breathing and pulse slows and muscles relax. The brain waves are regular and the body can be easily awakened. In deep sleep the brain waves slow down with occasional spikes depending on surrounding noise or interference. In the deepest sleep, known as REM or rapid-eye-movement, the brain stem releases chemicals and fires electrical signals. The muscles are so relaxed the body is virtually paralyzed.

During REM is when dreams occurr. Scientific research reveals that everyone dreams every night, whether remembered or not. During REM sleep chemicals go all parts of the brain gathering a mix of visual images and emotional feelings and coalescing them into a dream that has elements of both the real and the bizarre.

Train yourself. You can remember and benefit from your dreams but it may take time to train yourself. Put you to bed, quiet your breathing and deliberately turn off your mind’s rehearsal of the day’s events or tomorrow’s worries. Tell yourself that you will remember your dream upon awakening. Learn to wake naturally, without an alarm.

Write it down. Up on awakening, continue to lie still and concentrate on remembering your dream. Keep a pad and pencil by your bedside and immediately jot down the dream exactly as you remember it. Do not embellish and do not edit.

Think on it. At off moments during the day, reflect on your dream for insights. Was it meaningful or simply entertainment? Embrace success and look forward to more.

An example. I had a recurring dream of various meetings and demands made on me. Mixed up with all this was a nagging that I had lost a library book and a huge fine was awaiting. Upon awaking I was puzzled. The thing that stood out the most was the library book. It made no sense since I prefer to own the books I read.

My interpretation. I began to reflect upon the last time I had visited a library. Then I remembered having called several bookstores and the library trying to find a certain book for a client. The library had it and put it aside, in my name, to be picked up. I gave the information to my client. He never went. Consciously I dismissed it. Unconsciously my name was on the line. Once the problem came to light a solution was formulated.

Science gives validity to Mom’s advice to “sleep on it”. The function of the unconscious mind is to protect you. When you have a decision to make or a problem to solve, your mind works over-time - day and night - to honor you. Sleep allows the brain to rearranges recent memories, a process that can lead to insight and new knowledge.

Sweet dreams.

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Holiday Perspectives

“The incarnation of the Son of God emphasizes the great dignity of
human nature, and reveals the value of every human being ….” Pope John Paul II

Advent is a season pregnant with what is to come. It allows us to participate in sacred history as we reflect on ancient truth and future hope. Christmas affords a time to prepare our hearts to receive again a baby who has already been born. A time to understand the four hundred year silence and anticipate the promised Savior. Advent prepares us to receive Christ anew into our lives, refreshing and restoring our faith.

Newcaster Paul Harvey told a story of a man who was synical about the Christmas story. One bitter Christmas eve the man’s family went to the local church to worship while he sat alone in front of a warm fireplace. The drapes on the picture window were open to reveal the tree lights inside. The man was startled by a crashing sound against the plate glass.

Going outside he found a little bird dead in the snow. Apparently the bird was attempting to fly in to the warm room and met his fate against the window. The man looked around at other birds shivering in the cold. He had an idea.

He opened the garage door so the birds could fly inside and be sheltered from the blustery, icy winds. He waited. The birds did not come in. He beaconed to them. They did not come. He sprinkled bird food from outside leading into the garage. Still, the birds did not come.

He thought, “If some how I could just become a bird for a few minutes, I would fly among them, chirp their language and then show them the garage is a safe haven.”

As the man was thinking these thoughts the Christmas bells chimed to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. He fell to his knees. “Dear God, now I understand. You spoke from heaven and the people thought it was thunder. You sent prophets and they still did not heed. You had to become man to show the way.”

The more I think of this story, the more real the incarnation becomes. If the man could have become a bird, he would have retained his human thinking, while being limited to the language and abilities of a bird. In like manner, Jesus incarnated as a human being, and while retaining his Godly knowledge and omniscience, lived on earth for thirty-three years with the limitations of humanity.

Religion is man’s reach for God. Christmas is God’s reach for man.

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The Perpetual Problem

“OMG! The whole world has gone crazy? Everyone is out of step except me and you and I’m not so sure about you.” Do you identify?

The world in which we live is huge and diverse even though technology is shrinking the distance and empowering earth’s citizens. Increasing interaction intensifies awareness of cultural commonalities and differences, thus increased tension along cultural fault-lines. The result is a perpetual love/hate relationship.

What is culture and how is it determined? How are beliefs about culture formed? Ones beliefs, behaviors, values and attitudes were originally shaped by parents or teachers or those who were important to us. We accepted them without question. We identified. This lifestyle is passed from one generation to another and impacts character in predictable ways.

Unfortunately, for every group in the world, there exists at least one offensive, derogatory word meant to belittle. Just ask Archie Bunker.

Perhaps this is born out of fear.

Human nature has a tendency to be against the unfamiliar. Either side of the color-blind issue lends to our crazy world in damaging ways. Lumping individual factions into group identity is a gross over-simplification. Failure to recognize, appreciate and honor differences is a human injustice. Both over looks the uniqueness of the individual.

Who we are - or who we think we are at the moment - is reflected by identifiers such as manner of dress (dapper or saggin’), cuisine favored, housing style chosen and lifestyle embraced. How does one become more embracing of diversity?

Change in any area comes through something that tweaks our perception. That something is broad and can be major or minor. Here are thoughts to consider.

  • Individuals are personally accountable for what they believe and corresponding actions.
  • Life is about relationships. The relationship of one individual interacting with other individuals, either one-on-one or in a group of individuals.
  • Acknowledge the possibility of the individual (self-included) being unduly influenced by social forces (i.e. laws, employment practices, social segregation).
  • Blanket coverage for solutions engenders the perpetual problem (zero tolerance).
  • Change comes one mind and one heart at a time.
  • Culture/race matters significantly. None are exempt.
  • Graciously speak up, one person, one situation at a time. You never know who you may influence to question their current perception.
  • We are all fellow strugglers.

I have more questions than insights (and no answers). Answers denotes being right; insight gives lee-way to wisdom and compassion.

What is accepted today or even seen as honorable is subject to change with time, knowledge, experience and relationships. As the humanity of each individual is valued, the perpetual problem is less persistent.

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Thoughts on Becoming Resilient

Millions are hurt and homeless through natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornados. Multitudes are harmed with devastating human conflict like wars, crime, accidents, divorce and death of loved ones. These things disrupt life, as we know it.

Yet in spite of all these tragedies, many bounce back to healthy productive lifestyles, some even to the betterment of themselves and the world. Perhaps the secret is being resilient; of developing the ability to recover. Resiliency is to be flexible, hardy in spiritual constitution and adaptable. Similar to grace, resiliency may not be apparent until you need it.

Resiliency is the opposite of resignation. Do not deny the events just do not be defeated by it. Fall apart and then gather resolve to get back together. Appreciate that you are alive to see the sun come up tomorrow. Mourn and move past rather than getting stuck. Make a conscious decision to rise above.

Draw strength from your Higher Power. Recognize the Divine and receive an undeniable comfort in the midst of an incomprehensible situation. In spite of devastation, find inner peace in the simple reality that planet earth continues to revolve and day and night will go on.

Look at what happened rather than asking why. Reviewing the whys of life keep you trapped even when the answers may be forthcoming. Stressing or angering over the whys prevents one from accepting what is. Focus on what did happen and what can be done to rebuild.
Suppose your home was destroyed. Everyone was safe but the structure was reduced to rubble.

One may ask “why” and find a modicum of relief in the answer, but the house is still in ruins. Knowing the reason why did not reverse the situation nor does it free your mind to problem solve solutions.

Asking “what”, on the other hand, not only lends to finding the cause, it also releases creative energy to reconstruct with an eye toward prevention of it happening again.

It’s all about attitude. During the devastation of Katrina, a displaced family was huddled with hundreds in the Astrodome. Despite makeshift beds and Salvation Army meals, they had each other. One child saw reality beyond the trauma; “Oh, we have a home, we just don’t have a house to put it in.”

Find balance by willingly receiving aide from others, strangers as well as family, and by reaching out to others. You are not in this alone. There are those who care and wish to help, whether through material supplies, manual labor, or love and understanding. There are those that need something from you; possibly your insight, your smile, your hug or encouragement from you.

Look for the silver lining in the dark storm clouds. Blow like a tree in the wind that bends, but does not break. It bounces back to grow and produce fruit.

Concerning those who thrive despite tragedies, Dr. Steven M. Southwick, profess of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine sees them as having “post-traumatic-growth-syndrome”. May that be your legacy.

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Benefits of Getting Your Z's

Every parent knows that a cranky child is more pleasant after her “beauty sleep”. It works for adults too. If your life has become so busy that you have decided to give up on sleep, please reconsider. There are numerous benefits. Here area few.

Sleep aids in the processing of emotions. REM is when sleep experts say dreaming takes place. Supposedly we start by reviewing the events of the day and trying to make sense of them. Thus the right-brain/left-brain battle brings on some weird images or nightmares. As the night progresses these issues are settled and dreams become more positive, going into the realm of problem solving and goal setting type of daydreaming. What a shame to get too few hours sleep and miss out on this beneficial imagery.

Sleep helps to balance perspectives. Research says that because of the right-brain, left-brain switch over during sleep, one’s dream state gives more input and creativity than one’s awakened state. Also, in the relaxation of sleep, the intuitive side willingly receives new insight from the logical side.

The old recommendation to “sleep on it” bears a lot of truth. While your body is being reset through the restful mechanics of sleep, the mind is fully active, exploring through buried files unhindered by conscious thought. The engaged mind reviews and sorts and categorizes and comes to conclusions. Even though it happens frequently, I am still impressed when I awaken with the answer to last night’s cross-word puzzler.

Sleep helps elongates short term memory. Harvard University studies taken from different angles, has impressive research showing sleep improves information storage. Students that study intensely followed by sleep then awaken to testing, scored consistently higher than students who studied intently then immediately was tested while “it was still fresh on their mind.” There is something mysterious about sleeping that allows the mind to better understand information, associate it with prior knowledge, store it and easily retrieve it later.

Experts say the amount of regular sleep effects one’s overall weight. Too little restful sleep the more pounds on the frame and the more difficulty in losing weight.

Sleep resets our systems. As a person who functioned well on only a few hours of sleep, I was reluctant to stay abed longer. All of these benefits have been motivators to me to and have definitely improved my life and health. It may take a while to learn new sleep habits and it is well worth the effort.

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Growing Into the Goal

Just as the goal of a ballgame is to score points, there are other strategies involved to get to that end. Scoring one point is not the end result, but to score again and again and again.

To make goal setting and attainment less overpowering, use this simple formula.

1. Have an idea, either original or improvement of an existing product/service.

2. Incorporate strategies of how to turn those ideas into a reality.

3. Take steps, one after another, for implementation.

4. Develop discipline to keep on keeping on.

Of necessity, a goal must include a personality change. You do not attract what you want, but you attract what you are - thus far. To grow into the goal is to develop new attitudes and actions. Change comes not with planning alone, but with a new mind-set and exploits.

Perhaps an attitude change is the most imperative. How do you view yourself? As self-employed or as an entrepreneur? The self-employed individual hires self to do all the work, whereas an entrepreneur hires self to provide a service or product and to produce jobs for others.

The mind-set of being a job-developer changes the shift to grow into.

Spend a few minutes and write down a minimum of five personality changes needed for you to grow into your goals. Some examples are:

  • Healthy lifestyle of quality eating and quality movement (as opposed to the dreaded diet and exercise)
  • Develop an abundance mentality. Picture people being willing to pay you for your services and products.
  • Appreciate the wisdom of life lessons and overcome self-imposed limitations.
  • Consistently focus on top priorities.
  • Say “No” when it is in your own best interest and feel good about it.
  • Overcome limiting beliefs regarding your education, or skills, or people skills.

You can set a goal but you cannot do a goal. Setting is a passive endeavor; accomplishment requires action. After formulating the blueprint, it is activities (and personality change) that moves you to your goals.

We are complicated individuals of mind, emotions and will. It is with the mind that one thinks about the issues of life; consider, weights and measures. It is with the emotions that one feels the issues of life; happy, sad, angry, excited. It is with the will that one decides about the issues of life; says “Yes” or “No” to opportunities, “Yes” or “No” to temptations, “Yes"s” or “No” to challenges.

Procrastinate and think about your goals, or get in the game and do something about them. The choice is up to you and what you will yourself to do.
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Life Tensions

Some tension is necessary for good mental health. Good tension represents the gap between what one has achieved and what he has yet to achieve. It is the difference between where one is and where she is aiming to be. Allowing the challenge to “be all that you can be” stimulates one from latent potential to actual meaning.

In architecture, to strengthen an arch, more weight is put on top to force the parts to join together into a stronger, cohesive whole. Positive stress creates healthy tension that re-orientates one toward the “will to meaning”, thus giving equilibrium to life. Too much tension is harmful to one’s body and mental health.

Reset a faulty stress monitor. All human beings are equipped with biological machinery for handling stress. Stress is endemic based on the “fight or flight” concept. Everyone has a built-in gauge that self-regulates. To panic when one encounters a bear in his path is one thing; to go to pieces when there is no milk is quite another. Like a set-point in an over-charged battery, when stress is activated unnecessarily, the body’s reactive system stays revved up and life becomes a continual crises. The response system reserved for a life-threatening event is unleashed to the boiling point over trivial matters.

Like begets like.
We are creatures of learned behavior. The inability to handle stressful situations results in the inability to handle minor annoyances. This unstable environment sensitizes impressionable children to follow reactionary patterns. Losing control of yourself may have occurred before you were old enough to prevent it yourself. But you are not a child anymore. The window of change is yours through information.

It’s Never Too Late. Although the way you handle stress today may have been influenced by a non-nurturing environment, it is never too late to make a conscious decision to change. In order to function one may suppresses the activating event but the emotional outworking continues until the issue is consciously resolved. We have to be connected to the emotion in order to change it.

Start with a deep breath, hold for three seconds and slowly force the air out through your lips. Repeat, saying to yourself: “I breathe in peace and release anxiety.” In the calmness open your mental data-base where the source of the trauma exists.

As you review the emotion in a detached state, you are in position to make a life changing conscious shift; to truly allow bygones to be bygones. You become equipped to live in the now and grow into whom you were created to be.

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Making Changes

Change is inevitible. It happens all the time in big and small ways. Sometimes change is stressful; sometimes it is energizing. Here are thoughts on being empower to make positive life-altering changes.

Replace “should’s” with choices. Instead of saying “I should do so and so” change it to either “I want…” or “I could ….” Better yet, get in the habit of knowing your actions are choices so state your intentions assertively. “I choose to do so and so.” “I choose not to do so and so.” That is impowering. You are in the driver’s seat following your own road map and intentions, even when giving in to the suggestions of another.

Identify fears. Our emotions keep tabs of past failures. What have you tried before that has not turned out as successful as you planned? That was then and this is now. You have more skills now and more information now and more patience now. You have resources at your disposal now you either did not have then or did not choose to access. Face the fear head on and show it you are choosing to overcome. Allow your emotions to have success feelings to grab onto. It’s contagious.

It’s so easy… yea, yea, yea. Seeing a task as a big deal is only a big deal when you make it a big deal. Tell yourself aloud, “I can do this.” “I am up to the challenge.” “It’s easy.” So it is your choice. You can see it as difficult or impossible or, you can see it as a challenge, an opportunity to learn and improve skills. That is not to say it will be a piece of cake. But that it is doable and attitude is a big deal in the outcome.

Be your own best friend. How many times do you encourage family, friends or co-workers? How many times do you encourage you? Quit beating up on yourself. It does absolutely no good. Even if your performance was less than stellar, you are still a person of infinite worth and value with gifts and talents to offer that will bless self and others. Take your new best friend (you) by the hand and encourage her/him to discover new strengths, new skills, new attitudes and new outcomes. You can do it.

Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is the real thing. Today matters. Everything you do matters. Prepare for the big stage by practicing your lines. Lines like, “I am getting better and better and better.” “I don’t know how we will make it until payday, but I’ll find a way.” I (insert name) am so grateful for my wonderful family.” “I appreciate my job and co-workers.” Speaking a positive outcome into existence plays a major role in bringing it into reality. If the relationship does not improve today, then it is in readiness for tomorrow. God spoke the world into existence; in a major way, we do too. Keep rehearsing a pleasant world with your words and find yourself living it.

Change is an inside job. Choose to sit with your eyes closed and visualize the above-mentioned changes. Go inside your mind, heart and emotions and start the process. Choose to repeat this exercise two or three time a week. And be amazed.

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Common Errors of Dogma

A person can be seen as difficult when he continues to act upon a belief that once worked for him. Life becomes harder and relationships more complicated, yet he refuses to investigate different venues. In spite of a changing technological universe and scientific discoveries, he holds own to his core beliefs and behaviors. Here are some common belief errors that result in dogma.

Using theories as facts: whether personal or professional. Sigmund Freud published his Id, Ego and Super-ego theory as fact. As soon as it was in print, his partners – Carl Jung and Alfred Adler – took opposing views. They each came up with their own theory. Many people have taken as these theories as fact. And so the ruse continues. A person may have some of the truth, but not necessarily all of the truth.

The refusal to acknowledge new discoveries. Many continued to belief that the world was flat even after Christopher Columbus proved the theory wrong. Some postulated the earth as the center of the universe, after Galileo and telescopes proved that the sun, and not the earth, was the central qualifier of the cosmos. A hermit may refuse to believe there is electricity.

Citing an authority figure as absolute. The nurturing of home and the companionship of peers can be wonderful. Beliefs such as “My mother/father/pastor/teacher/boss/friend said it and so it is so!” Error is error regardless of who espouses against it. Conversely truth is truth regardless of who denies it. Truth need not be defended.

Going with the flow. “Can a million people be wrong?” Yes, they can. This argument appeals to the sheep mentality of blindly follow a leader or creed. Thinking as a group is dangerous. Truth easily becomes watered down. Groups are more immoral than individuals. Think things through: become your own person in charge of your own mind and choices.

The more we have communication devices, the less we communicate. Listening to devices and/or multi-tasking make us double-minded and unstable. It puts us in constant partial attention. The stress associated with lack of focus lends to a sense of constant crises. It fosters a lack of commitment. Constant access to everyone makes you inaccessible to what really matters.

Failure to think it through. People often speak dogmatic non-truths because of impulsive responses or lack of thinking. They speak too hastily or answer too quickly. Think before you speak in order to avoid non-truths.

Value the dogmatic people in your life and respond to them gently. Every encounter between two people involves both people. The breakdown in relationship is always communication. When the talking, understanding and caring stops, the relationships is imperiled. Care enough to respectfully counter the dogma with something like, “Really? I don’t see it that way.” Suggest a news article to them or watch the discovery channel together. Allow the person to change his mind.

Mona Dunkin is a Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach.
Contact her for your next event: mona@solutionprinciples.com


Reprogramming the Stressed Mind

We think in pictures whether aware of it or not. Whatever is manifested in the mind, the body mechanisms goes into effect to bring it into reality. For example, when you want to raise from a chair the brain takes that mind-picture and releases chemicals for the body to comply, thus muscles contract and energy is released to propel upward movement.

The mind body connection. The mind does not know the difference from what is perceived and what is reality. The body adjusts to perception. Suppose you are frightened of tarantulas and some prankster throws one on you. After you scream, run or possibly recover from a faint, you discover the spider is rubber. Your body responded according to what your mind perceived.

Belief drives behavior. Behavior consists of the thoughts one thinks, the actions taken, the emotions felt and the way the body responds. These four components work in tandem and cannot be separated one from the other. When the conscious mind is continually engaged in fighting for one’s rights or in running away from circumstances, the body remains in a constant state of stress.

Take inventory of your negative beliefs. Listen to your self talk. If it is filled with statements such as "I can't" or "I don't have", or “I’m not worthy of”, then you have limiting beliefs that render stress in the body. Why is the body stressed? Because deep down inside the unconscious mind knows the reality of “You can”, “Resources are available to you” and “You have so much worth and value and are deserving of good things.”

Awareness does not change habits. Information enlightens but does not necessarily heal. It takes calm reflection for insights to sink in and take root, thereby blooming into peace and healthier relationships. Choose to sit quietly for a few minutes each day. Take in a deep breath and hold for three seconds, focus on sending the oxygen to the tense muscles. Slowly release your breath and feel the tension leaving your body. Take in another deep life-giving breath and see it as the self-evident reality that you matter. Hold the breath for three seconds as an embrace of thanksgiving for your life. Slowly exhale through pursed lips and deliberately force out negative programming.

The mind cannot hold two opposing ideas at the same time. That is why arguing with you over pros and cons “drives you crazy”. You are not coming to a conclusion but are going around and around in dizzying circles. Take inventory of your many abilities and resources. Deliberately focus on what abundance you do have. It is interesting how things change when you change.

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Complain No More: The Power of Appreciation

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Hamlet, Shakespeare

We create our own meaning from life experiences. If Shakespear was right, then we give meaning to our life incidents. Since we do give them meaning, we can decide to reframe the situation to improve our quality world.

To be little is to be little. Complaining about even the most inept mate or boss makes you look worse than they. It is ineffective and brings no resolve.

Incorporate Grace. Taking an arrogant stance makes it difficult to be gracious when proven wrong – and there is always a margin for error.

Keep a complaint log. Make yourself aware of the frequency of your complaints by writing them down instead of speaking them. Not only would the silence improve the relationship, but it would also show you what a time waster complaining is. In time, you will see how petty complaining is.

Make a decision. Habits do not change by chance. Get honest about your habit of criticizing and make a conscious decision to quit. If necessary, literally bite your tongue to keep from speaking. In the long run, you will see positive results.

Be a good finder. Search to see how there could possibly be a positive outcome and focus on that. Ask yourself: “What good will my complaining do?” “Does complaining help my relationships?” “Does critizing draw people to me?”

Develop appreciation. Daily make a list of five things for which you are thankful. Continue for thirty days without repeating an item. This exercise forces you to look deep and see meaning in life and relationships. Get in touch with what you truly value and be motivated by your deepest beliefs. It helps you see the big picture. When you focus on an individual’s good qualities, you are more lenient with their flaws.

Feel the maturity level rise. Discover the wisdom of overlooking small indiscretions. Love covers a multitude of sins. Live with a gracious attitude of forgiving whether asked for it or not.

Anything that appreciates goes up in value. As you appreciate self and others the need to complain diminishes. Nurture self. The irony is - self-nurture leads to self-esteem that leads to being selfless. As one becomes less focused on self, he is not easily offended thus complaints subside.

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How to Change Your Attitude

Dr. Laura’s theme song shouts, “Get a new attitude.” Can a negative thinker refocus and become more positive? From personal experience as well as the progress of my clients, I believe it is possible to change one’s outlook. Here are suggestions for the transformation from negative to positive.

Reason your way out of negativity. Reevaluate your assumptions. How many times have you looked for the worse and it did not happen? Things actually turned out okay. Were you dismayed or thankful? Keep track of your inaccurate downer predictions. Be thankful for being wrong. Be thankful for being right but still surviving.

Develop new pictures. We think in pictures and unconsciously replay the mind’s photo album. Force yourself to conjure up positive scenarios. Instead of projecting what could go wrong, focus on what is right. When things are less than perfect, use your pre-disposed downer attitude to see how bad it could have been. Be thankful things are as good as they are.

Acknowledge lack of control.
Misery comes from the failure to accept what is. Concede to those things over which you have no control or little control. Things like another person, the weather, the stock market, down turn in the economy, war, crime, loss, tragedies…. If you cannot do anything about it anyway, why fret. Through the intentional development of a positive view you put yourself in a position to become a problem solver, an encourager or a helpful influence.

Do what comes unnaturally. Go against the grain and choose to do what does not come naturally. In routine situations where you would normally spout criticism, pause to deliberately keep your mouth shut and to intentionally - with conscious effort – look for something good. This implies work, focus and resolve. Be persistent and do not give up.
Become positive in seeing the positive.

Be aware. Notice how a positive attitude will serve you well. In frustrating situations ask yourself the following questions. Deep thinking about these questions will help you find solutions and peace and improved relationships all around - with you and others.

What do I want?
What do I really want?
What are you doing to get what you really want?
Is it working?
Is it really working?
What makes it work?
Why is it not working?
Where is the locus of control?

Give change time. All skills have a learning curve. Be persistent and do not give up.
A client remarked one day, “I’ve changed, but I don’t know when it happened.”

When you decide to consciously realign your thought habits, things take on a different perspective. Keep on keeping on until your new overcoming attitude comes naturally who you are.

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Changing Times and Theories

Although there is “nothing new under the sun”, recent scientific discoveries confirm some long held theories. One such is the science of Epigenetics. This forty-plus year field of study is current headline news and magazine articles. The research is proving that our genes are not so hard-wired after all. The genes literally change depending upon how our bodies respond (react) to the events and environs around us.

According to Bruce Lipton, a leading voice of Epigenetics, every gene in our body can be modified by “our perceptions, thoughts and response to events.”

Actually we have been doing this all along, only we did not know it. How? Through adrenaline surge that propels heroic acts or the parasympathetic glands that slows us down to comatose - depending on what is needed. If one sees himself controlled by outside forces, he/she becomes a victim of circumstances. Gives in. Settles. Surrenders. Resigns to “That’s just the way I am. I can’t help it. I was born this way.”

Only we have more control over our lives than we may be willing to take responsibility for.

So why is change difficult? It goes back to the wonder-years when we were young and programmable: perceptions were immature, thoughts were creative and responses to events were childish. These early influences shaped our world-view both positive and negative. And they are hard to give up, even when we want to.

Compare it to losing weight. How does an obese body full of sugar-craving genes change into a lean health machine? It happens through changed perceptions about food and its function - from nurture to nutrition. It happens through revised thinking about health and the value of unclogged arteries. It happens through the body’s (genes) natural response to exerting more energy than consumption. Cells continually adjust. As the fat cells change, so does the body and so does the thinking and so does the emotions.

Perception and thinking come primarily from the brain. The brain wants to protect the body so it releases chemicals in response to the environment. As one changes how he responds to any given situation, the body’s chemical composition changes. The brain releases one chemical combination when a person becomes angry and another chemical combination when that sane person becomes calm.

Which chemicals do you want released in your body? Change your perception of the stressful event and the cells change.

Our fate is not totally in our genes. It has a lot to do with the day-to-day dynamics of how we respond to life. What we believe switches the genes mechanics “on” and “off”. As a man thinks in his heart so is he - or so he becomes. Physically as well as all the other “llys” - mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally and financially. Give it some thought.
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When Reality Sets In

While reading to my granddaughter she suddenly exclaimed, “Nana, you have something on your face.” She said it looked like pencil marks between my eyebrows.

After unsuccessful attempts to wipe it off, I looked in the mirror. It was not pencil marks. It was wrinkles. Deep ones.

Long ago I came to peaceful terms with the reality of death. I know that each of us has been allotted only so many days on this earth, I guess I just never expected to look like I was aging.
Since the announcement of those first wrinkles, others have joined the ranks. I’m okay with that and gracefully settle into being a senior adult.

The way one perceives life becomes his reality – only it may not actually be real. The reality is that all of us alive at this moment are aging and have benchmarks to verify it. That does not discount one’s viability as a human being with infinite worth and value.

A current mantra is “Fifty is the new thirty.” Does that mean that thirty is the new ten?

On the front of a birthday card was the question: “What is the difference in a 40-year-old and a 4- year-old?” Answer: “The 4-year-old wants to grow up.” Is this inferring that a 40-plus often remains childish by adopting the immature foot-stomping stance of Peter Pan?

Is our society so obsessed with youth, that, in spite of advancing years, the population convinces itself that aging is bad? Wisdom does not necessarily come with advancing years. Humility is acceptance of one’s humanness including positives and negatives, strengths and limitations, abilities and diminishing facilities. I suggest humility and wisdom are akin.

Wisdom comes when we release childhood misconceptions for adult realities. Life does not stand still. We are growing or dying, enlarging or shrinking, maturing or reverting to juvenile behavior. To resist changing makes growth difficult, if not impossible.

How freeing to embrace another tomorrow with anticipation of acquired wisdom. Live life so the spirit stays young. Take care of the package and embrace the reality of aging.

On CBS’s Sunday Morning (11-29-09), Anthony Mason talked with rocker Tom Petty about his many accomplishments, life and the future. Mason mentioned Petty’s apparent ease with the encroachment of the Big Six-O (60) birthday.

Tom Petty accepts the reality of aging with his philosophy of: “If you’re not getting older, you’re dead.”

Good insight. Let us live while we are alive, wrinkles and all.

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Pictures of You

Nothing shapes relationships and success like the picture you have of yourself. The trouble is we often assume our identity based on hearsay, and therefore, give too much weight to what others say. Although you are a product of your environment you can choose to not be victimized by it. When you feel valued for being yourself, a healthy body image comes naturally.

Allow the following questions to aid in your search for self-discovery.

What identity have you assumed without giving thought to? Even positive labels can be difficult as it sets up always trying to meet someone else’s standard of you. (You will never amount to anything? You are the smart one.)

How have you been victimized by your environment? (Men are the boss. A woman is supposed to make everyone happy. Kids are to be seen and not heard.) Your turn.

Learn to love you.
Get to know the wonderful being you are. Listen to your own heartbeat and be willing to follow your dreams. Make friends with your conscience and heed its guidance. Experiment with your talents and creativity. Fine tune your unique personality and sense of humor. What innate gifts and talents have you been ignoring?

Process of elimination. Figure out who you are by figuring out who you are not. When you know who you do not want to be or what you do not want to do, you are ready to chart your own course. Focus on who you want to become and it is easier to relinquish the thought habits that are keeping you bound. List at least three things that you are not. (I am not a push over. I do not use fowl language. I am not a play thing to be used.)

Send fear packing. When fear of becoming who you are knocks on your door, allow faith to answer. Instead of inviting him in, put your hand up as if to block entrance while firmly saying “Stop” aloud. Embrace the seed of hope that plants. Determine five things you will say “stop” to.

Live in integrity and within your unique calling, personality and style. Be the best you possible, not a makeover of someone else, not the embodiment of another’s ideal of you, but the you that you were created and gifted to become. Grooming has its place, but you are more than your hair, or your grades, or your job, or whatever limited label you have ascribed to you. What have you labeled yourself as that you are more than? (I am more than my education… my family… my associates… my past…)

Decrease harmful materialism. Do not use stuff as proof of your self-worth. Putting material things in their proper place increases personal satisfaction, contentment, creativity and community. It also improved psychological health. What have you been using to prove your self-worth? (Wardrobe? Car? Home? Job? Education? Athletic kids? Mate’s success?)

Foster a healthy selfishness. It is okay to take care of you. What you want matters. Follow the airlines suggestion and “put on your oxygen mask first” before helping another. As you take care of you, it becomes easier to be selfless. How are you neglecting you? (I go to work even when I am sick. I put my others wants/needs above mine. I do whatever my mate wants and never voice my opinion. I agree with others even when I do not agree.)

Discover the foundation of happiness. It is more internal qualities than external beauty. Happy people are less self-centered and more loving, helpful, forgiving, trusting social, involved, decisive and energetic. What internal foundation of happiness have you been ignoring? (I enjoy gardening. I like to read.) What foundation of happiness have you been fostering and feeling guilty over because it does not meet another’s standard? (I choose to be a stay-at-home parent. I choose to drive an older vehicle to remain debt free.)

People overcome negative influences every day and you can too. You are a product of your environment, but can choose to not be victimized by it. Enjoy the exciting adventure of discovery – a journey that never ends. Give three specifics ways in which you will overcome.
(I will speak up even when I feel intimidated. I will not say “Yes” when it is not in my best interest.)


Loyalty Above All, Except Honor

Honor is as real to the human condition as love. Honor is formulated by one’s experiences, dignity and character; it is the totality of an individual’s trustworthiness and based on his social status, attitudes and actions. In teaching classes on character qualities such as integrity and honor, I am sometimes asked, “Are you telling me that you never do anything wrong, not even speed.”

My answer: “I do not intentionally speed.” I am not saying that I never do anything wrong; I am saying that I listen to my conscience and I do not “practice sin”. When my conscience is pricked, I take careful measures to heed the warning, evaluate and make corrections. My deepest desire is to be more than I am; to be true to my innate gifting.

Insight leads to change. Whether one believes it or not, we have enough light for the step we are on.

Which moral value is the most important? What does self-respect mean?
Honor: mark of distinction, respect, admiration, credit, reputation, tribute, principle, nobility, pride, mark of distinction, award, prize (Antonym: shame, disgrace)

“I was the perfect con man. No one could do it better than me. Others would marvel at the way I could talk my way out of any tight spot or talk someone else into doing whatever I wanted. Then one day I was sitting all alone on my cot looking through the bars on my window and a question hit me: If I was all that great and masterful, why had nine out of my last eleven years been spent in a cell?” The Con Game, Serenity Support Services, Inc. (used without permission)

Honor is a principle – not a rule – and is open to interpretation. Dr. Samuel Johnson suggests that honor has several senses with the most important ones being “nobility of soul, magnanimity and a scorn of meanness.” Dictionary of the English Language

Formula for change: Decision + Discipline + Divinity = Destiny
  • Make a decision - basic; think through, ponder, come to a conclusion
  • Develop discipline - determine steps and summons the courage to take them
  • Divinity - God’s help is imperative. It is not magic but it is a mystery

Develop an “edit function”. Those without an edit function are into people pleasing or doing the “in” thing, without regard to moral values and often to their own harm. It does not take honor to self-protect or to go along with the crowd. It takes honor to do what scares you. The self-protection of loyalty in the face of honor deceptively cushions one for his personal stupidity. A powerful enforcing tool in conformity is shunning.

We live in community and look around us to determine what is normal. Perception is based on two realities: 1) general observation of others and 2) specific personal experience. When they match, we assume it to be truth. When there is dissonance, we are in the position to embrace and to change.

Every choice has it own set of new circumstances. The devil you don’t know is better than the devil you know? Getting rid of one devil one may bring honor, but it also may bring negative ramifications. There are devils everywhere. As you get honest with you, you find that roaring monsters live in the dark and light exposes them to be the squeaking mice they really are.


Developing Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that seems to be in short supply in today’s world. To think critically is not to be negative or unfavorable. It is to approach thinking in an analytical manner, considering all points and delving into possible unknowns. Critical thinking is characterized by thoughtful skepticism of statements, arguments or dogmas.

Be skeptical. Be a little leery of what you hear and read. Have an open mind that knowledge may need to be added or subtracted. Do not be gullible and do not be overly critical.

Define words. The English language is complicated in that some words have a multitude of meanings. Also words change with use over time. Make sure you understand the definition of terms and how they apply. Do not assume.

Check and double-check your pre-conceived ideas. Are you blocking this information because it counters what you have “always believed”. Are you embracing the argument because it is what you have “always thought”. Overcome “feelings” and go with thinking and reasoning. Is what is being presented fact or assumption? Are you responding with truth or with “folk lore” or unproven statements?

Examine and re-examine the “evidence”. With new scientific discoveries things that once were supposedly proven have now been declared false. Epigenetics is confirming that there is not one gene that controls anything, thus the long-held belief of alcoholism being genetic is being disproved.

Look for other ways of interpretation. Is it always a cause and effect statement? Is it a part of the elephant, but not the whole elephant. Is it too broad or too limited in scope?

Do not over complicate or over simplify. Is “Yes” or “No” too cut and dried? Is it a truism but not an absolute? Is it an opinion or fact?

Do not over generalize. Do hotcakes really sell fast? Where is the research and evidence? Has a “common sense statement” been made it into a dogma?

Apply critical thinking to all areas of life. What qualifies the person to be an “expert”? Do not readily buy into “studies have shown that…” Be a little leery in assessing facts and figures, knowing they can be slanted to “prove” most any point of view.

Be gracious with the critical thinkers around you. When do you want to know that the boat won’t float? When it is on the shore or in the middle of the ocean? Perhaps they see something vital you are not yet aware of. Be willing to probe their observation, knowing that the final decision is ultimately yours.

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Overcoming Skills

Do you have a bad case of the “overs”? You know, "over-scheduled", "over-committed", "over-spending", "over-reacting"… and in the process become “over-bearing”? Not to worry. You can tap into and maximize your individual talent through personal empowerment. Here are some thoughts for overcoming.

It’s all about choices. Make them. Use them. Limit them. Too many choices are stressful, causing you to second-guess yourself. Choose to be who you are. It is okay to like what you like.

Be harsh on behavior, gentle on the person - whether this is directed toward you, your mate, your child, your parent, your co-worker or whomever. Realize each person has infinite worth and value as a human being that has chosen attitudes or behaviors that are not acceptable. Address behavior, never personhood.

Realize that everything has trade-offs. Get real. Get honest. Is what you are pursuing worth what you are giving up? If not, what can you choose to do about it? Get things in proper perspective and determine priorities. Continually assess what is most important in your life. Challenge the lies you have bought into and are trying to live up to (or down to).

“Of course you don’t love your life, look at everything you are trying to do.” - quote

This too shall pass
- the good things and the not-so-good things. So don’t get stuck. Children grow up, parents die, school ends, and jobs change. Embrace the moment, love it, learn from it and graciously move on.

Determine what is neutral. Truth is neutral, whether agreed with it or not. Signal lights are neutral, whether running late or not. Time is neutral, whether managed or not. Money is neutral, whether spent wisely or not. Information is neutral, whether embraced or argued against.

Examine the ironies of life. Are fast foods really fast? Or do they add to fat as well as fatigue? Do labor saving devices really save labor? Or do they clutter cabinets and add to overload.

Quiet time is essential. Energy is everywhere and is cultivated by times of quiet and honest reflection. Slow down. Hurry less and relax more. Don’t make everything a crisis.

“Hurry, but don’t rush.” Coach John Wooden

Give up perfection. There is no such animal! Consider the reality that if something is perfect, then there is no room for growth and the next step is deterioration. Go for excellence. Do the best you can with the goal of continual improvement.

Develop a support base. It is okay to need help. Ask for it, receive it, and appreciate it. Hire help if possible. Barter with friends on projects, cooking, shopping, chores, child care, lawn or mechanic work, etc. Divvy up responsibilities among co-workers and family members.

Have fun! Develop a sense of humor. Enjoy parenting, school, work and home. Love LIFE!

Don’t cope, overcome. Coping is too stressful; overcoming is empowering. I have developed a dramatic series of life-changing solution principles that address the universal need of people. I would love to share them with you. Please let me hear from you.

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Synthesized Happiness

Thoughts are powerful. Philosophers throughout the centuries, including Jesus, have said in essence that “Whatever you think, you become.” In a more scientific vein, Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist, says we ‘synthesize’ our happiness.

Synthetics seem real and function well but are actually manmade faux materials. The mind cannot tell the difference between what is imagined and what is real. Is it the acquisition of possessions, money or adventures that makes you happy, or is it the anticipation of meaning that these things will bring? Case in point: how many times have you gained an illusive ideal, only to be reduced to the Peggy Lee song reframe of “Is that all there is?” After a short time, the event or object has no impact on your happiness.

Happiness is not found in objects. Bob - not his real name – in search of happiness and acceptance bought the latest model gigantic pick-up truck. Sure enough it brought him smiles galore as he was big man on campus. For about ten days. After everyone had admired, envied and taken a ride in his new toy, it became old news. The delight and fame was gone and so was his happiness. Reality set in of the burden of a monthly payment way over his income. A wiser Bob traded for a smaller vehicle and attached new meaning to life and possessions.

Attach on-going reality to the synthetic idea. Happiness associated with the original pursuit will be sustained as you allow accrued value. The new car retains its worth when kept up to give years of service. The home repaired and maintained increases as an asset. The marriage partner multiplies in significance through shared history and as nuances of his/her personality are appreciated.

You have it when you believe it. All things are created twice; first in the mind and then in reality. Being stuck with “synthetic happiness” is actually the key to finding authentic happiness. When there is no turning back, your mind is freed to find a way to be happy with your reality. You make the marriage work. You appreciate the parent or child. You become creative in stretching resources. You are thankful for the job you do have. You are given the gift to “Love what is”.

You are in charge of your own happiness. People contribute to but do not cause your happiness. Trying to parlay it to others is futile. They can contribute to your enjoyment of life, but you alone can make yourself happy. It is done through finding inner joy even in the midst of difficulties. Happy is better than unhappy. And the choice is yours. Always. In every situation.

“Synthetic happiness” is based on getting what you think you want. Authentic happiness is wanting what you get, whether it was your original ideal or not. With this thoughtful concept, make 2010 your happiest year yet.

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Thriving on Bare Bones

AARP ran an excellent article entitled 15 Tips to Save Hundreds. Some of the replies ragged the author as not being creative; saying the tips were common sense things they have been doing for years. These tips may not be new but possibly a reframing.

Limits can be empowering. Remember the old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Allow scarcity to stimulate ingenuity and embrace challenges. Make it fun. As newlyweds on bare bones I gave myself the challenge to see how many different and creative meals I could make from ground meat.

Transcend sacrifice. Maybe life is fairer than we want to acknowledge. To thrive is to refuse to dwell on what is not a reality. This frees your creativity to non-grudgingly adopt the Shaker philosophy of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”. Adjust your spirit to your forced lifestyle. When scarcity is embraced as meaningful, it transforms the current situation into having an important effect.

Remember the Holocaust. It did happen. It is a sad reality of history. Read stories of survivors and how they ate rotting potatoes, managed on discards from trash, and cooked “rock” soup. Allow it not only to inspire you but also to kick up your gratitude meter for your current situation, meager though it may be.

One plant, many potatoes. Gardening experts report that the return on dollars invested in seeds is upwards of 1 to 10. Try your hand at growing veggies in a small plot of earth, in bags of potting soil split open or in pots on the windowsill. It’s therapeutic.

If the old one still works, appreciate it. Anything that appreciates goes up in value. It is a mystery why empty houses deteriorate faster than unimproved lived-in homes. Perhaps it is the spirit of the inhabitants that has an uncanny effect on inanimate objects. I suggest that thankfulness toward the clunker would inspire you to treat it with tender loving care and thus extend its fragile life.

Adopt the homeless mentality. Prolonged life on the street lends itself to the mindset of “How little can I live on.” Even to the sever point of refusing charity. I am not suggesting that one snub the kind generosity of family and friends. Discover what really matters and see how little one needs to be content. The best things in life are free; open up and enjoy.

Surviving in difficult times is possible, although stressful. Thriving in those difficult times is a decision of the heart. When struggles are seen as meaningful the situation is transformed.

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Letting Go of Stress

Just let go of stress! Yeah, right!

We think in picture. Visualizing an image makes the transfer from a thought to a reality somewhat easier. It is like having a light bulb go off in the brain. Picture a trapeze artist swinging from pole to pole, readying to make one precarious mid-space maneuver. He/she must release one reality (the pole), make a swift unsupported 360 degree turn and grasp a solid handhold (the other pole). With training, the tactic is handled with grace and facility.

Determine what is neutral. No matter how much you may protest, the signal light did not turn red just to ruin your day. The signal light is a neutral devise set on a timer, blinking green, yellow, red - over and over, day-in, day-out, regardless if the driver is harried or relaxed. How might you be more relaxed if you choose to view inconveniences as simply that and not as a personal affront. How might your relationships improve if you choose to see all encounters as neutral – a mere request for information, a simple comment on your performance, or an appeal for your help?

Practice makes permanent. Practice makes perfect only if you are practicing correctly. Choose to mentally rehearse phrases that put you in effective control. Phrases such as “This too shall pass”, “I will take the high road”, or “I will not be ruled by my emotions.” Make visual notes to self that will keep your new-found tension releases at the forefront of your mind. Think: we are always practicing; do you want your responses to be perfunctory or perfecting?

Practice marks improvement. There is a learning curve to every worthwhile endeavor. Imagine a stressful situation occurring again, only this time you are more prepared: You are early instead of late; relaxed instead of rushed; rested instead of cranky. You have given mental thought to strategy and worked through possible problems to find solutions. You are pro-active rather than reactive.

See the big picture. Erica Black’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and given a short time to live. Erica came to terms with everyday life and what is really important. She looked at all the things she should be doing and willingly put them on the back burner. She said, “We’re going to be with Mom. It’s just knowing what needs to be done at that moment instead of stressing out about being here or there.” Keeping Balance, Wacoan Dec. 09, www.wacoan.com

Pressure vs. anxiety. Know the difference. Although there are demands on one’s time, the truth remains that if you do not set your schedule, then someone else will set it for you. In accepting life’s responsibilities, do not turn duty into drudgery. Have a willingness to do whatever you agree to do, even if it was thrust upon you. Make it your choice and set yourself up to receive creative ideas.

Make it fun. Remember learning to ride a bicycle? You would fall, skin your knee and get back on again. It was the challenge that kept you going and you found it fun in the process. Accept the dare to see something humorous and self-improving in every stressful situation. Philosopher Brian Johnson encourages us to “eat stress like an Energy Bar”.

My friend, Linda Austin, proclaims “I don’t do stress.” Unfortunately, I am not there yet, but getting closer every day. Join me in letting go of stress.

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Tired of Being Tired

Chronic fatigue seems to be a national malady and in many cases, doctors find no pathology. Although exhaustion is a legitimate physical ailment, there are many underlying causal factors and accessible helps. Here are some suggestions.

Get moving. Exercise release energizing “feel good” chemicals called endorphins. The movement does not have to be drastic. A simple 15-minute-walk three of four times a week can do wonders. Get off the couch and do a dreaded chore; it can invigorate you to accomplish more.

Meditate. Rest is repairing to the body, soul and body. Periodically sit quietly and picture the stress falling off. Breathe deeply and mentally see the tense muscles uncoil and feel your backpacked burdens slide off. Sink into the chair with your entire weight rather than reserving alertness for the next crises.

Eat Right. Start the day with a breakfast of whole grain, protein and fruit. As good as a doughnut might taste, it contributes to fatigue. Continue through the day with a wholesome lunch, dinner and healthy snacks. Do not skip meals. Just as a car needs a continual supply of high-octane, un-watered down gas, so too does your body need nourishing food as fuel.

Evaluate Your Load. What do you need to jettison from your too full schedule and what needs to be added to energize you. Then do it.

Put yourself to bed. Research indicates that the adult body functions best with seven to ten hours of sleep per night. Prepare for sleep by turning off stimulators at least a half hour before bedtime. Allow your mind to unwind, disengage and embrace the need for refreshing sleep.

Settle Issues. Regret, unforgiveness and resentment are energy sapping. You have to own your emotions before you can move past the event. Honestly acknowledge the pain, humbly accept it and deliberately face the past with faith that you can heal.

Think positively. Your thought life has tremendous effect on your physical being and relationships. Negative thoughts of defeat, fear, anger, hate, resentment and hopelessness release stress hormones into the body resulting in tiredness, anxiety and irritability. By contrast, possibility thoughts of overcoming, love, thankfulness, appreciation, contentment and acceptance releases “feel good endorphins” resulting in energy, satisfaction and calm.

Life is too meaningful to sit on the sidelines. Use these thoughts to discover your energy leaks and take definite steps to plug them.

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Productive Waiting

In past articles we have looked at the importance of goal setting and working to bring them to fruition. I stand by that as a necessary element to get ahead. I also suggest the balance of waiting. Here’s what I mean…

Life is not a dress rehearsal. Live in the now and enjoy today. Always waiting for the tomorrow that has no promise of being, shows a discontent with the present. Ironically, when longed for riches do eventually come, most yearn for a simpler time. It is the struggles that make us strong.

Consider the seed. My then four year old grandson was drawing and said to me, “Come here, Nana, I want to teach you something.” He had illustrated a plant’s growth starting with a seed, to growing underground, to pushing through the earth, to fragile leaves, to a full bloom flower. His insight was, “Even though you can’t see anything happening, it is still growing.”

Plan for relative wait time. They happen every day: checkout line at supermarket, bank deposit, traffic snarl, someone to get back with you. Use it productively.

Refuse to engage in irrelevant wait time. Do not waste today through nonproductive mental activities such as pining for a better job, wanting the children to grow up, or longing for reduced responsibilities. Do not mindlessly wait for a future event or some solution to magically happen or fantasize about success, fame and fortune.

Life is a constant. It is today. You can improve your circumstances but not necessarily life. Be careful how you build thereon.

Life is conflicting. An individual can be content and still suffer lack. One can have outer wealth and inner poverty. I call it a "restless contentment".

Expectant waiting. Be fully engaged in today and alert to the divine. Be at east with uncertainty. Do not be restless with today. “Beauty arises in the stillness of your presence.”

Out of the mouth of babes. A few years back we vacationed in the hills of Missouri and my grandchildren and I re-enacted Little House in the Big Woods. For hours we foraged for materials - rocks, limbs and random treasures - to building our house. It rained the next two days and then they had to go home. We never got to play in our project. Katie said, “That’s okay, Nana, the most fun is in the building anyway.”

The consciously looking forward to, the energetic creativity, the joy of accomplishment, the fun of teamwork - this is what makes the now so special. Revel in it.

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To the Secret Place

“When mind and soul agree, belief is born.” Abraham Heschel

God is not far from any of us. Everyone has an inner chamber into which he can retreat at will. It is a sanctuary free from the multitude of daily cares, free from human judgment, free from agitation, change and turmoil. It is a place where your senses rest, where you are regenerated and re-created. The longer one stays in the secret place, the better equipped to handle the public life of the ordinary.

Embrace the mystery of suffering. Compassion testifies to the presence of Christ within us. Develop compassion, not to master the suffering, but to enter into it. Through embracing the pain in true compassion, we are put in a position for our actions to correspond according to God’s love.

Repair love for people. In the secret place the love cycle is completed. One becomes aware that worth and value are gifts from God. Allow yourself to be nurtured by the mother heart of God to rediscover the power of love – from God to us, through us, back to God and spilling over to others. As gratefulness is directed toward God the human heart is filled with the ability to love generously – the loveable and the not so lovely.

Relive tension between “now” and “not yet”. Faith is looking forward to something that has not happened yet. Time spent in the secret place results in your being more collected, able to accomplish more, thinking deepens and you are able to be present – really present - wherever you are.

Rest without empirical evidence. Troubling questions such as “Why child abuse?” are quieted. God gave mankind the awesome gift of free will and he will not violate that gift, even when the exercise of it brings harm to the individual and others. God’s goodness made laws that He does not violate. God so believes in laws that he governs Himself. In the secret place these issues are understood and courage to be a change agent is garnered. The heart is called to intercession.

Our bodies store information for us. In quiet meditation the mind will reveal these secrets bringing healing and wisdom. We are born with a will to meaning. When the self is soothed, one can then become self-less. Once a need is met, it ceases to be a main focus and life runs smoothly. You find this in the secret place.

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How to Complain Effectively

In working with business I often mention the need to train employees in how to complain. I am met with protest: “No thanks. They complain enough as it is.” There is a difference in gripping and making a legitimate complaint. One exacerbates the problem, while the other finds solution.

Choose your battles. And don’t make everything a battle. It is to one’s credit to overlook small infractions, for “love covers a multitude of sins.”

Complain to the right person. Go through the proper channels. Ideally, the right person would be the one against whom you have the offense. The right person is one who can be a part of the solution.

Speak only from your point of view. Use “I” statements rather than generalities or blaming.

Check your attitude. Is the complaint legitimate or because of your bad mood?

Be specific and accurate. No generalities and exaggerations. No “You always” or “You never”. Take notes so you can speak with authority.

Be brief. Get to the point and do not beat around the bush.

Know your aim. What is the purpose of the complaint? What changes are you wanting? Are they reasonable? Are they doable? How much are you a part of the problem?

Be a problem solver. Is it fixable? If so, how so? What is your part? What is their part?

Leave emotions behind. Work through your frustrations before making the complaint. Be calm and cool. Take yourself out of the middle.

Be a good-finder. Find something favorable about the person or situation. How can it produce growth? How can the situation build character?

Put it in writing. It will help to clarify your thoughts to see how legitimate the complaint is, or how to arrange your words to be most effective. If you are not willing to put it in writing, then it is a gripe and not a true complaint.

Leave the final decision/action to a higher authority. Once the complaint has been lodged, the problem it is out of your hands. You can ask for change without demanding change.

Know when to let it go. Like acid will destroy the container in which it is held, so bitterness over unresolved issues will destroy you. There are two types of circumstances in life: Those I can change and those I cannot change. Know the difference.

If there is no solution, why complain? It just makes you look small, petty, controlling and difficult. Allow the unpleasant situation to develop enduring character qualities in you.

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Speaking Up

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.
Oliver Herford

The dictionary defines civility as the display of politeness and good manners, and is often interpreted as not hurting another’s feelings. Yet sometimes the most civil thing we can do is to hurt another’s feelings. The key is intention. Allow it to be a hurt that heals, not a hurt to wound.

Each adult make decisions for his own life. Each individual has the right to make her own choices, even bad ones. In our society there seems to be an invisible elephant in the room of “live and let live”. However, for the good of the whole, there are times when one may feel compelled to speak up. Whether or not the relationship remains in tack depends largely on the manner in which input is given. Speak gently and continue positive regard to the offender.

Speak up and then back off. Your point has been heard and will not be forgotten, even if not acted upon. No matter how delicately you voice your stance, it will be seen as judgment; and in reality, it is. You are judging your way to be right against your judgment of how she is handling her life.

Continue to speak only when invited to do so. Never argue. To repeatedly bring up the issue is to cross the line from giving input to forcing another to adhere to your dictates. You are within your human right to take a stand, but not to force the issue. Pressing your stance on another forces him to rationalize his behavior and doggedly hold on as proof that his choices are honorable.

Stand firmly, yet lovingly. Show compassion toward the offender without compromising your principles. Stand for rightness without being self-righteous. If necessary, refuse to participate in an activity, decline an invitation to an event or disassociate with rebel rousers; all the while holding the individual in high regard. It shows in your attitude.

Choose to not be offended by her harsh denouncements and do not justify your position. Without words being spoken, concern and judgment are shown in facial expressions – one is soft and the other is harsh.

Allow the individual to change. When one does not have to rigorously defend his stance he becomes more open to another view. Each of us believes what we believe until we believe something else. When the offender’s attitude softens, let it. Do not pounce with critical statements. An individual will never change until it becomes his decision.

Depending on the severity of the situation, there may be times for outside intervention. Being a peacemaker is not peace-at-all-costs. Sometimes peacemaking is stirring the waters for things to come to the surface to be skimmed off and settled. In dangerous situations, outside agents need to be involved; they are trained to be helpful and objective.

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Health Issues: Factual and Actual

In a recent Upper Room devotional, the following plea was included: “God show me what to do to help You help me.”

I like that.

The problem in my life is not so much a lack of knowledge, as much as it is a lack of application. It is not not knowing, but not doing.

Dr. Mark DeHaven, founder of the GoodNEWS wellness program, compiled the following information.

Factual Causes of Death
Heart Disease
Lung Disease

Actual Causes of Death
Diet/Activity Patterns
Microbial Agents
Toxic Agents
Motor Vehicles
Sexual Behavior
Illicit Use of Drugs

The “Factual” cause of death is what is listed on the death certificate, whereas the “Actual” cause of death is lifestyle factors. Five of the nine actual causes are directly within our control. Here are some things I am doing to motivate me to be disciplined in the area of physical wellness.

Just do it. It’s Nike time! Exercise in the AM and I don’t dread it the rest of the day.

Some is better than none. A short walk is better than no walk. Stretching helps. A few bites can stave off the binge. Small portions are filling when eaten slowly.

Keep moving. I recently observed a teen maneuver his skate board up an incline merely by twisting his hips. This small action propelled him forward. I wondered if a little shake would stimulate my sluggish metabolism. So now I twist while brushing my teeth. And on other non-observable occasions.

It is not “to die for”. Since adopting this mantra it is becoming easier to say “No” to tempting treats, second helpings, chips and late night snacks.

Practice makes permanent. Practice makes perfect only when we are practicing correctly. Brushing my teeth is a habit. Just as a fuzzy mouth motivates me to use my toothbrush, I have heard, and look forward to, the day when lethargy will spur me into action.

Habits are changed through insight and commitment. How about we do it together.

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A New Normal

Life has a way of not following goals and dreams fall down in midflight. Sometimes things happen from which we never recover. Our normal is disrupted. What then? Here are some thoughts on accepting things are they are, adjusting and continuing the journey.

Let yesterday be yesterday. No matter how great yesterday was, or how many possessions you owned, or how great your success, it is over and done with. Trying to relieve what has already been robs you of discovering joy in the midst of today’s struggles. And there are thrills and growth to be found amid adversity.

Acquire an insightful perspective on physical disabilities. All of these topics cover a wide spectrum; Physical disabilities could involve birth defects, wrecks/accidents, life-threatening disease, chronic pain, or the natural by-products of aging.

Emily Perl Kingsley, mother of a Downs Syndrome child, compares the anticipation and realities with traveling. Suppose you have made plans to go to Italy - with all the romance and history and adventure that entails – but your plane lands in Holland.

And there is no return.

No way to change plans.

You are stuck.

But Holland has a lot of wonderful things to offer – although at a slower pace than Italy and perhaps off the beaten track of what your peers pursue.

You always have a choice. Although the pain and disappointment may never go away, grieving and angering over life’s travel changes will keep you from seeing the beauty in the present situation and from embracing the character development that limitations offer.

Honestly revisit the good ole days. Barbara Streisand’s song The Way We Were has some poignant lines about selective memories. It suggests that we rewrite events to exclude the bad and only include the good. “What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget. So it’s the laughter we will remember.” No matter how much you idealize that part of life, it is over. It is time to discover a new normal.

Enumerate what you have left. You will never get over the loss or the pain, but you can move beyond it by focusing on what you still have – the loves, the joys, the abilities, the promises.

I am not talking about giving up nor am I discounting grief. I am encouraging a surrender to the inevitable that results in flow rather than struggle, creativity rather than stagnation, and healthy relationships rather than stunted existence.

Please share with me and our readers your new normal and some of the things you have learned in the process.
We welcome reprinting of articles in your newsletter or magazine, providing credit is given as follows: “This article was written by Mona Dunkin, Motivational Speaker and Personal Success Coach,
www.monadunkin.blogspot.com or www.monadunkin.com.”