Inspirational Quote of the Day

Are You Advancing in Life?

He only is advancing in life whose heart is getting softer, whose blood warmer, whose brain quicker, and whose spirit is entering into living peace. And the men who have this life in them are the true lords and kings of the earth–they, and they only. – John Ruskin

I LOVE the first part of the quote above: “He only is advancing in life whose heart is getting softer, whose blood warmer, whose brain quicker, and whose spirit is entering into living peace…”  Spend a little time today with this quote, let it sink in deep in the places it most needs to resonate.

As far as inspirational quotes go, this one’s a real beaut.

Motivation From a Hungry Sparrow

Served with a Side of Goethe

“Man’s highest merit always is, as much as possible, to rule external circumstances, and as little as possible to let himself be ruled by them.” -  Goethe

Inspiration can come from peculiar places, can’t it?  This morning, when I was supposed to be working valiantly on my websites, I found myself staring out the window (for better or worse, one is right beside my computer desk).  There are about 3 inches of snow on the ground and the winter trees are outlined in white.  One of our bird feeding stations is in direct view from my window (brilliantly planned so by my husband).  The doves, blue jays, sparrows, and cardinals are especially beautiful against the white background.

I can’t seem to take my eyes off of them!

One of our feeders is a three story wooden feeder that looks like a mini townhouse. Generally it’s for smaller songbirds, but winter makes gluttons out of larger birds – so the fight is on as they jockey for position.  Beneath this wooden feeder – nearly on the ground – there’s a little platform feeder.  Today it’s empty (thanks, again, to the gluttony) but it’s usually filled with seed, corn, fruit, etc.

Earlier, doves and cardinals practically covered the yard.  I’d thrown out large chunks of dried bread and cracked corn earlier.  My husband says doing so gives the smaller songbirds a chance to hog the feeders while the larger birds are preoccupied with the buffet.  It was very effective – until they devoured everything in sight.  Then the doves, blackbirds, and cardinals eyed the wooden feeder.

One sparrow caught my attention as he watched the colorful gluttons from a nearby perch.  I was about a minute away from throwing on my boots and taking more bread and corn out when he swooped down to the feeding platform beneath the overly-crowded feeder.  He began eating the seeds that were being dropped (inadvertently, of course) by the larger breakfast crowd!

They were doing the hard work – jockeying for position on the perches, pecking out seed, shooting one another sideways glances…  The little opportunist simply benefited from their labor.

So, when the brilliant Goethe said, “Man’s highest merit always is, as much as possible, to rule external circumstances, and as little as possible to let himself be ruled by them,” he no doubt meant the same for sparrows.  It would have been pretty easy for the sparrow to fly off in a snit. He certainly had every right to feel sorry for himself and to no one would have blamed him if he shook a bitter wing in the face of justice and fairness.

I guess he figured it just made more sense to take control of the situation rather than let it take control of him.

So there you have it.  An inspirational lesson served up on a snow-covered platform, by a bird no larger than your fist.


11 Things That Can Make You Happier in 2011

How to Be Happy, an 11 Step Program

Happiness.  Even the word looks cheerful and bright!  But before we launch into a how to be happy course, let me say – right off the bat – that I acknowledge the following fact:  Genes, chemical balances, life histories, temperaments, and a host of other factors go into an individual’s concept of “happy” as well as their ease in attaining happiness.  We can’t possibly expect two individuals to approach the subject of happiness the same way, nor can we expect them to travel the same road to achieve this happiness.

To further complicate matters, these same two individuals will almost always define happiness differently.

Case in point… the holidays.

When it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or the first day of  Baseball season (yes, in fact, in our house that is a holiday) – I can be found in the kitchen surrounded by bowls, mixers, pots, pans, pot holders, and a spoiled, overweight cat watching for yummies to hit the ground.  Daughters, husbands, sons-in-law, future sons-in-law, and sometimes people I’ve never met will walk through the kitchen during the hours that constitute the cooking marathon – checking up on things, sampling the goods, and even patting me on the back in a “hang in there, champ” fashion.

Often, my oldest daughter, Emily (aka The Crazy Tea Chick) will shoot me a look that says, “You poor, poor soul. I wish I could free you from your bondage, but I fear if I get too close, the kitchen demons will claim me.”   What the queen of take-outs and microwave meals may not fully realize is that I am never happier than I am when I’m in the kitchen cooking for my loved ones.

Even the ones I’ve never seen before.

I guess one person’s nightmare is another person’s nirvana.

“Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.” – Robert Anthony

The shoes can be easily exchanged as well. Even if one’s a fuzzy house-shoe and the other’s a sensible pump. Emily works two jobs. She leaves her house in the morning while I’m still happily in my PJs, sipping coffee, feeding cats and husbands (actually, there’s only one), and sorting through e-mail.  Her first job of the day is working with special needs children.   During hours that I’m working from home on my websites, taking breaks for laundry and treadmill workouts… and still sipping coffee… Emily is working with precious little autistic children, a brave little boy with Muscular Dystrophy, and other children who have to learn the meaning of the word fight much too soon.

As she heads to her second job (again, working with children – at another Elementary School, in an after school program), I’m…. oh, you know… sipping coffee.

The thought of being away from home all day, working in such an emotionally charged atmosphere, and so far removed from my coffee pot and cats, makes me shudder.  Yet, to Em, it’s the essence of happiness.  She may talk a good game about wanting “snow days” or a summer vacation – but I’m all too familiar with the “I miss my kids!” look on her face.   There’s zero doubt in my mind that the little ones miss her even more.

{Would this be an acceptable place and time to say how proud I am of the queen of take-out and microwaveable meals?}

Happiness is defined differently by different people, but we all know it when it’s in the room with us.  We’re content, at peace, and smiling from the inside out. Being happy is like every other goal you can name:  It all comes down to choices.  If you want to bring about change in your life, you have to make the right choices. One after another.

“Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods.” – Japanese Proverb

What follows are 11, often simplistic, suggestions for finding your own personal happiness in 2011 – and lots of it!

  1. Choose to focus on what you have. There are 2 kinds of people in the world: Those who look PAST what they don’t have and see what they do have and those who look PAST what they do have and see what they don’t have.  Which do you think is the happier crowd? This is a perfect time to put your big but in the way (before you get nasty, look at the spelling – but, not butt). When you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have a fishing boat (new car, stand-alone mixer, 10 kids, alpaca… insert your own dream here)” – put your big but firmly down and say, “I do have a rock solid marriage (warm house, terrific son, beautiful daughter, fat cat…. insert your own blessings here).”
  2. Do what makes you smile inside. Take pen and paper out.  Write down 10 activities that make you feel the most content, happiest, and at peace with the world.  Sometimes they are so ridiculously simple that you’d almost be embarrassed to admit them. I do this particular exercise, myself, regularly – to make sure that I’m still making time for each.  Not only is it a reminder to mostly enjoy what you enjoy most, the exercise serves as a reminder of how many great things you have going on. In fact, I always go beyond the 10.  Mine run the gamut from watching Scooby Doo with my husband to shopping with my daughters.   I also have cooking, watching movies, bird watching, and playing with my cats amongst the “good times” list.  Do you enjoy early morning talks with your daughter or neck rubs from your spouse? Write them down!
  3. Identify your happiness “blockers.” Happiness blockers would be exactly what you’d expect them to be – things or circumstances that you feel are keeping you from being as happy as you could be.  Here’s the key, however: Don’t just identify them and wallow in their presence.  Map out a way over, through, or under the blockade!  (More on Happiness Blockades Below)
  4. Master the art of living in the moment. Ever see a dog contentedly lying on a front porch, wagging his tail as he watches people walk by?  He isn’t worried about his next meal, he isn’t missing his people who are at work or school, he isn’t living with remorse from the time he growled at the UPS man.  He’s just living and loving life as it is right now.  What a lesson dogs can teach all of us!  We need to embrace more moments as they come and quit fretting over those that are yet to come or those that have come and gone.  On my mental fitness blog, Out of Bounds, I sign each post with one of my own personal affirmations, “Make each moment count double!”  I’m all about not just living in the moment, but squeezing the daylights out of it. Regrets and worries are serious happiness blockades, but they’re VERY manageable.  You simply have to let go of the past, live in the moment, and refuse to let what may or may not come tomorrow rob you of happiness today. There’s a lot to be said for letting go and moving onUnless of course you have growled at the UPS man, then I fully expect you to apologize.
  5. Don’t be so hard on yourself! I read a quote this morning from an interview with a teenage girl.  She said that it seemed impossible to live up to the images of actresses and models in magazines.  Dang straight!  The actresses and models don’t even look like they do on magazines… how can anyone else?!  Tyra Banks and Cindy Crawford are just two of a long line of celebrities who have detailed how much propping, stuffing, highlighting, and photo-shopping goes into photo shoots.   However even if they did look flawless, smooth, and blemish-free – so what?!  No one has to live up to or down to anyone else.  Our only competition is ourselves.  It’s up to us to look the best we can and to strive for our personal best. Not someone else’s.  Accentuate your positives, downplay your negatives, and love yourself for the beautiful person you are.  Only judge yourself using your own yardstick, never anyone else’s.
  6. Laugh it off. No, not everything is funny but there is something funny about just about everything.  If you learn to look for the humor in situations, you’ll find yourself laughing more than ever before.  I don’t need to tell you what a wonderful thing that is.
  7. Make sure you’re getting enough – but not too much – sleep. There’s a slippery slope when it comes to sleep.  Getting too little of it can affect your mood just as easily as getting too much of it.  If you seem to feel kind of down lately, determine if you’re getting more (or less) sleep than usual.  Honestly, sometimes a happiness blockade is as simple as shut eye.
  8. Spend quality time with loved ones. Watch movies, tv, and sports with your friends and family more often. Go for walks or long rides together.  Go out for a cup of coffee and catch up on everything going on in your lives.  Encourage and support one another and, most of all, just enjoy one another’s company.  Make 2011 a year that you start valuing your loved ones more.  Let them know that you love them to the moon and back.
  9. Eat right. Over-eating never leads anywhere worth going. Neither do fried, processed, or fatty foods.  Our bodies were meant to eat healthy, natural foods and operate (physically, mentally, and emotionally) better when we provide them with the right kind of fuel.  We should all move toward this rule, “If Eve couldn’t have fixed it for Adam, I’m not going to put it into my body.”  And before you say anything, Eve was a whiz bang with coffee beans.  She ground them with her own little hands, warmed water over the fire, and led the way for us all.   Don’t bother looking in Genesis, this part of history is from my own little brain.  But given the fact that coffee trees exist, I feel comfortable with my tale.
  10. Get plenty of exercise and activity. Again, our bodies were made to move and move often.  Back to the Garden of Eden: Our ancestors had to hunt, build, forage, clean, and walk long distances.  The human body was designed to perform like a machine – yet today we have machines to do practically all of our work, physically as well as mentally, for us.  Not good. We have to challenge ourselves to find ways to become more active than we are.  Let’s make that much more active than we are.
  11. Be optimistic.  Again, I know that some people are, by nature, more optimistic than others.  Some of us see the glass half full while others see it half empty.  Then there’s the crowd that sees a glass and screams, “Don’t touch that! It’s all germy and stuff!”  I’m a card-carrying optimist and I’ll be one until I meet Adam and Eve face to face (I’ll be the one asking her, “Seriously? For an apple?“).  I had rather expect something good around every corner than something hideous. Most of the things we worry about never even come to pass, so why bother worrying in the first place?

Overcoming Happiness Blockades

Above, one of the 11 Steps to Happiness included identifying your Happiness Blockades and finding your way around, over, or through them. Below are a few common Happiness Blockades and a few tips that can help you maneuver past them.

Overcoming Loneliness

If you are currently without a “life partner,” you may feel that you will not be truly 100 percent happy until you meet Mr. or Miss Right.  Whenever I hear someone complaining about not being able to find this elusive person, my first question is always the same: “What are you doing about it?”  My son-in-law has a friend who desperately wants a female companion in his life.  However, when he asked him what he does everyday, the Romeo-would-be answers, “I go to work.  I go home.”

Juliet’s not there! If she were, they’d have come face to face by now.

If you want to meet someone special, you have to be proactive about it.

  • Casually mention to friends and acquaintances that you’re searching for that certain someone.  You never know… they may know your soul mate!
  • Go to church.  Many churches have groups and functions for singles.  Even if you didn’t meet your future spouse, you’ll make friends will some pretty cool people.  The more people YOU know, the more people THEY know…  suffice to say, the more people involved, the more doors can open.
  • Take classes at a local tech school or college. Guys, two words: Cooking Class.  Ladies, you know you want to learn more about computers.  Art classes, photography classes, yoga classes… all very fun environments to meet people.  As a bonus, you’ll learn something you didn’t know.
  • Instead of sitting at home on your computer each night, go to Starbucks or Panera Bread a couple of times a week with your laptop.
  • Don’t rule out e-Harmony!

Coping With Empty-Nest Syndrome

We’ve already seen how much I detest the phrase empty nest syndrome, but there’s no getting around it. The phrase is here for good. Unfortunately, so is the sadness that accompanies it.  If  your happiness blockade is an empty nest, you’re certainly not alone.  I hear from parents on a regular basis who are dealing with this transition.   Below are a few words of advice.

  • Stay in contact with the bird that’s flown the nest!  Texting, Facebook, Twitter - how did parents ever communicate with their kids before?!
  • Invite your son/daughter over several times a week for supper.  If you cook it, they will come.  Food is the perfect recipe for a close family.
  • Adopt a pet.  IF, of course, you are prepared to care for and love it.  A few years ago, my daughters all hit the age of boyfriends, jobs, and college. (For any parents, this is a tough adjustment but for one, such as myself, who’d home-schooled her children since pre-school, the quiet was deafening).  During the same period of time, our inside cat, Prissy, hit old age… well, actually, it hit her – and HARD.  She suffered several strokes and completely lost her vision.  Our precious little girl was over 20 years old, so we knew we wouldn’t have her much longer.  By nature, I’m pretty much Mary Poppins, but there were times when I could feel myself feeling so down that I just wanted to lie around (with what was left of Prissy).  Around that time, one of our outside kittens, Alexa, needed to be spayed.  After her surgery, I brought her in to recover.  She never saw a reason to leave and far be it from me to suggest it!  Shortly after we lost Prissy, Alexa brought an ironing board down on herself and broke her leg in two places.  At a time when she needed babying the most, I needed something to baby.  An incredible bond was forged and she is rarely out of my sight.  If you find that you need something to baby, trust me, there are plenty of precious animals at your local shelter who’d love nothing more than to be babied.
  • For more on empty nest syndrome, please click the link. The link will open in a new window.

“Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad.” – Norm Papernick

How to Lose Weight

Talk about another category where you wouldn’t be alone! Most people want to lose weight and get fit. The problem is, few want to do what it takes.  If your happiness blockade is your weight, make today the day you smash right through the barrier.  No, you won’t drop 50 pounds in 1 day, but you CAN make a move.  You’d be surprised what making a move can do for your morale.  Once you take action, the blockade isn’t so imposing.

  • Clear your kitchen! Throw out cookies, candy, potato chips, and other unhealthy items with “empty calories.”
  • Fill your pantry and refrigerator with baby carrots, celery, whole wheat crackers, avocados, baked chips, lean meats, and other healthy foods.  When you’re hungry, if your only options are soups and salads, that’s what you’re going to eat.  When the chips aren’t on the shelf, they can’t call out to you from the next room.
  • Get moving!  Park further from the store door, take frequent walks, buy a treadmill, buy exercise dvds, buy a pedometer and aim for over 10,000 steps a day, make Prevention your homepage and read the zillions of tips and articles.
  • Count calories! Use Everyday Health’s Calorie App. Counting calories doesn’t get any easier.
  • Let The Biggest Loser cookbooks, calorie counters, dvds, and episodes help you plow right through the blockade.  Click the following link for more about  using The Biggest Loser for weight loss and fitness.

How to Look Younger and Feel Younger

If your happiness blockade has a poster of Father Time on its side, you’re living in the right era!  Baby boomers are all but in control of the world right now which means they’re writing books, articles, blogs, websites, geared toward aging well.  They’re also formulating lotions, creams, and cosmetics to help us…. pardon the pun… put our best face forward.

Do a little research online and in the bookstore, you’ll turn up a wealth of information for skin care, hair care, and vitality. Ironically, the things that are best for us when it comes to health and fitness, are best for us when it comes to aging. Omega 3s, vegetables, fruits, protein, fresh air, exercise, vitamins, and plenty of water – they’re the actual contents of the fountain of youth.  The great news is, they’re all within our reach.

Whatever your personal issue is (thinning hair, bat wings, crow’s feet, brittle nails, brittle bones…), do a little research.  Check reputable websites such as prevention.com, Real Age, Everyday Health, and Web MD.  Be aware that just because it’s published online doesn’t mean it’s flaw-proof.  When it comes to something as vital as bat wings, I don’t want you listening to just anyone. (For my male readers… bat wings are the jiggly parts of upper arms that… oh, what am I thinking… never-mind… that’s how female arms are supposed to look, okay guys?)

Real Age has an entire section called Look Young, Stay Sharp.  Excellent, excellent articles, tips, and advice.

“Joy is a flower that blooms when you do.” – Author Unknown

When it comes to overcoming happiness blockades, the keyword is the same it has always been: FIGHT!  When the fight leaves an individual, they might as well wave their white flag, pick a comfortable place, lie down, and stay.  Sounds more like dying than living, doesn’t it?

I know you aren’t any more ready to lie down than I am. I also know there’s a fighting spirit in you.  Whatever it is you’re fighting FOR, TOWARD, or even AGAINST, I hope you’ll dig deep and keep fighting.

If you want to lose weight…. fight for it.

If you want to look younger…. fight for it.

If you want to find your soul mate… fight for him or her.

If you want to improve your memory… fight for it.

If you want to improve your health… fight for it.

If you want to be happy…. fight for it!

You may also want to read:

And I’d Never Even Heard of Osteopenia…

Why Bone Health isn't Something to Mess Around With

About a month ago I had a couple of tests done as part of my yearly physical: A mammogram (painless, fast, necessary – no reason not to have them regularly, ladies), blood work (not so painless or fast, but necessary) and a Bone Density Scan. The bone density scan was pretty relaxing, I nearly fell asleep.

All of the tests came back without any problems except for the Bone Density Scan. My doctor tells me that I have Osteopenia – a pretty word that I’d never even heard of. Apparently it’s a condition that signals the individual is on their way to osteoporosis. Fun times.

I can’t really say I’m that surprised. Not only does medication I’ve had to take for asthma increase my odds, I’m not at all a big milk drinker. Never have been. What I have been is a BIG diet pop drinker and apparently soft drinks are linked to low bone mineral density in women. The fact that I have thyroid disease is also a contributing factor. Add pre-existing medical conditions to a diet low in calcium and Vitamin D – I’d have a lot of gall to feign shock.

I’ve been trying to implement more calcium and vitamin d into my daily diet and I’ve added weights to my daily exercise routine. The condition can be reversed and I’m made up my mind to do just that.

A Diet to Build Strong Bones

Whether you’re already been diagnosed with Osteopenia or osteoporosis or not, you should really start eating a diet conducive to better bone health. You need a diet that’s rich in calcium and magnesium as well as protein and vitamins B, D, and K.  A great article that highlights foods packed with bone building nutrients can be found on Caring.com. Just click the link (it’ll open in a new window).

Personally, I’ve fallen in love with tuna and salmon.  I try to eat at least one of these 3 times a week.  Not only are there a lot of canned varieties to choose from, there are also quite a few packaged tuna and salmon brands.  Mixed with a little olive oil or mayo and pickles and onions – they’re outstanding on bread or crackers. I’ve actually gotten to where I prefer them on crackers.

Prevent Bone Loss and Osteoporosis

Below are a few tips from AOL Health to improve the health of your bones and to prevent Osteopenia and Osteoporosis:

  • Get enough vitamin D. Getting enough vitamin D, along with sufficient calcium, is one of the first steps toward preventing or reducing the effects of osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Taking calcium without vitamin D probably is not beneficial. Recommendations vary, but the National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests that adults up to age 50 get 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D a day. If you are age 50 or older, the recommended amount is 800 to 1,000 IU a day. One glass of milk [8 fl oz (0.2 L)] has about 100 IU. Your bones need vitamin D to absorb calcium. One study showed that vitamin D may reduce an older person’s risk of falling by 22%. Usually 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a day is enough to satisfy the body’s vitamin D requirement. But as you age, you cannot make as much vitamin D through your skin. Vitamin D supplements can help older people who are not in the sun much.
  • If you are taking medicines to treat osteoporosis, also take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
  • Exercise. Recent studies show that weight-bearing exercises (walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, or weight lifting), aerobics, and resistance exercises (using weights or elastic bands to help improve muscle strength) are all effective in increasing the bone mineral density and strength of the spine in postmenopausal women. Walking also increases bone mineral density of the hip. Regular exercise throughout life cuts in half the number of hip fractures in older people. Develop an exercise program that fits your lifestyle and is easy to follow. For more information, see the topic Fitness.
  • Eat a nutritious diet to keep your body healthy. For more information, see the topic Healthy Eating.
  • Take steps to prevent falls that might result in broken bones. Have your vision and hearing checked regularly, and wear slippers or shoes with a nonskid sole. Exercises that improve balance and coordination, such as tai chi, can also reduce your risk of falling. You can also make changes in your home to prevent falls.

Click HERE to read the rest of their tips and advice.

If you’re anywhere near as accident prone or clumsy as I am, the thought of avoiding falls or “incidents” is almost laughable.  So, I guess those of us who live life on the dangerous side had better load up on calcium, protein, magnesium and vitamins.   I’d be amiss if I didn’t point this out, though.  I, personally, tried to supplement my diet with chewable calcium supplements but I had to stop taking them.  They made my heart race so much I could practically feel the beats coming out of my chest.

I laid off of them for a few weeks, to see if they were in fact the culprits.  The racing went away.  To be doubly sure, I tried taking one again and BAM, my heart got in a huge hurry again. Freaked me kind of out, so I’ve stopped taking them.   Needless to say, just because I’ve had this problem doesn’t mean you will. In fact, to be honest, I react oddly to a lot of medicines and supplements!

I’m only mentioning it because if you DO take a calcium supplement (or any kind of supplement for that matter), I want you to always pay close attention to your body’s reaction.

Now, go pour yourself a large, cold glass of milk.

 

New Year’s Day: Self Improvement’s Holiday

The Calendar's Gift to Us is A Fresh Start

A few days ago, my youngest daughter Stephany declared that New Year’s Day was her second-favorite holiday (behind Christmas).  As visions of cranberry sauce, Thanksgiving Day parades, Easter bunnies and baskets, fireworks, and Valentine’s Day candy danced around my head, I asked, “Seriously?!”

Then the younger schooled the older.

She said that she just loved the whole premise of “fresh starts” and putting into action things you’d learned (sometimes the hard way) in the previous year.  As she explained it, even the Easter bunnies stopped dancing and listened.

As Thelma from Scooby Doo fame would say, “Jenkies! She’s got something.”   I’d have gone on putting candy hearts above New Year’s Day…. if not for that meddling kid.

The whole premise of fresh starts occurred to me a few nights ago.   As you know, there are few places I’d rather be than in my kitchen cooking.  I LOVE to cook and trying out new recipes (most of which I kind of make up as I go along) is a personal joy.  I wanted to make homemade re-fried beans a few nights ago to accompany cheese enchiladas, Mexican rice and guacamole with chips.  I was in a bit of a hurry, so I plucked a random recipe from an old cookbook.  It wasn’t an Authentic Mexican cookbook, so I had serious doubts.  I mean, if you want excellent re-fried beans, you have to go to the source of the most excellent re-fried beans ever.

Like I said, I was in a hurry and more times than not haste makes waste.  In this case, a waste of time.

The beans were a bitter disappointment – canned would have been better!

As I was cleaning up after the meal, I thought how I wished I could reverse time and have a “Do Over.”  I’d have backed time up a little bit and sought out a good, authentic Mexican recipe – as opposed to grabbing the first one I found.

Unfortunately, there are no do overs in life.

Or are there?

In a way, New Year’s day is all about DO OVERS.  What better time to think back over the past year(s) and ask yourself, “What would I like to DO OVER?”  Here’s our chance to get it right this time.  Take a minute to reflect over the past year.

  • What were some things you “got right?” Think of the great decisions you made and of the times you wowed yourself.  Vow to keep heading in the right direction and finish what you’ve started.
  • What’s the biggest mistake you made last year? No doubt you learned something from it – even if it was a whopper!  Our mistakes are like very strict teachers, there’s nothing remotely enjoyable about them but we learn from them like nothing else.  A lot of people say we should never think about our past mistakes – to just pretend they never happened.  I’m not so sure I’m totally on board that thought train.  Agreed, we shouldn’t dwell on them to the point of agony and we should NEVER allow ourselves to become racked with guilt or self-pity (neither’s attractive or productive). However, if we don’t acknowledge the mistake(s) and acknowledge the lessons learned, we won’t learn a single thing.
  • What areas of your life (personal and professional) have room for improvement?  Vow to do whatever it is you have to do to improve yourself… and thereby your life… in the coming year.

Here’s a little something I’ll share with you and only you.  I’ve admitted the re-fried beans gaffe, what else have I got to lose?!  Last year, thanks to a couple of my daughters who joined me in a great walking routine, I dropped some unwanted and unappreciated weight.  During the course of spring and summer, I lost 15 pounds!  When I went to my doctor, she asked me what I’d been doing and said she was impressed.  Always good to impress the doctor.

In August, however, I hurt my right foot.  I dropped a heavy glass jar right on the top of the foot (why oh why do we Kentuckians so rarely wear shoes around the house?!?! ). I’m certain I cracked a bone.  Anyway, as you can imagine, the walking routine suffered.  I tried, against better judgment, to keep walking but I ended up making the foot worse.  I’d walk through the pain, but I wasn’t able to walk as fast as normal.

If I had been as smart as I sometimes like to think I am, I would have made CERTAIN to adjust my diet accordingly.  But, noooo, I kept eating like normal and gained back 10 of the 15pounds.  When you’re on thyroid medicine, 10 pounds DO NOT COME OFF EASY.  Believe me, it’s a fight.  Yet, I managed to take them off anyway.  I felt great!  Unfortunately, it was all but a wasted effort because I didn’t devise a diet plan.  When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And fail I did.

It’d be really easy to get discouraged and say, “Forget it!” It’d be even easier to feel sorry for myself for what happened to my poor foot.  But I’m adamant that the elusive 10 come off again and would love if they coax about 10 more friends to follow them! Feeling sorry for yourself and allowing discouragement to take center stage get you nowhere, and I’m not interested in going nowhere!

The point is, my mistake was a painful one. It was infuriating and I still grumble underneath my breath at myself.  But I learned something in the process. One of my biggest flaws is that I tend to be flighty and assume everything will just take care of itself.  I tend to live in my own little world and am not proactive nearly enough.  While I do like myself,  sometimes I don’t make it easy.

As we head into 2011, think back over 2010 and ask yourself what you wish you’d done differently.  If you had the chance, what would you have done over?  While we can’t go back and take a second crack at it (oooh, my foot didn’t like that choice of words), we CAN arm ourselves with a valuable lesson and new-found resolve.  Who knows where that can lead us… but won’t it be wonderful to find out?

How to Achieve Your Goals

Turning Resolutions into Reality!

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs. – Vance Havner

My husband, Michael, has been in the building industry for many years. He sells bricks, blocks, mortar, and other constructional materials, so he visits job sites regularly. I love to ride along with him and see what it looks like when a store, house, hospital, school (or whatever) is more of a VISION than a VISUAL.  It never ceases to amaze me how returning to the same dirty, cluttered, and genuinely unimpressive-looking location months later can take on a whole different meaning.

The architect has a clear vision of what the end result will look like. Even an architect years ago who envisioned an elementary school in New Albany, Indiana had a clear vision. It was a checkered, whack-a-doodle kind of vision, but a vision nonetheless. When my husband showed me the building, he asked what I thought. I said it was probably the biggest eye sore I’d ever had the pleasure of seeing. He laughed and said he felt the same way but that the architect was so delighted he was beside himself.

Yay, him!

When it comes to self improvement, resolutions, and self growth goals, we’re a lot like architects. We have a clear vision of what the “end result” will look like and, more importantly, feel like.  (More about feelings later.)

If we want to lose weight, we envision ourselves in the same size of Levi’s we wore in college. We think of how amazing it will feel to have better mobility and to look in the mirror without hating the golden arches with a cruel, unChristian hatred.

If we want to make more money, we envision ourselves in a new UK Wildcat’s blue Ford Edge, making a joyful trek from Starbucks to Target to the Mall and back to Starbucks (say hello to my personal vision).

If someone wants to learn to control their temper, they may envision themselves smiling and remaining calm while dealing with every nut job in the county.

You get the idea. No matter what the end goal is, we have a clear vision of it. Oddly enough, there are a lot of well-meaning, usually high-pitched men and women who’d lead you to believe that having this vision, alone, will bring good things your way.

H-o-g-w-a-s-h.

That’s akin to telling an architect, “Stand in the field and attract the building to you. The universe wants you to have the building.” I don’t know who the universe is, but even God expects us to earn the things we want.

Anything worth having has to be built. One brick at a time. Is it fun? Not always – but it is necessary. One of the problems we run into is feelings and emotions.

Make no mistake about it, we are governed to a great extent by feelings.

Some of us (my hands in the air) more so than others. That’s one of the reasons we have trouble “staying on course” while trying to achieve goals or adhere to resolutions. Eating a cream-filled, chocolate-covered doughnut feels better than NOT eating a a cream-filled, chocolate-covered doughnut (did I mention that the hand in the air has chocolate on it?).

Obviously, this makes it vital to focus on the end result. We HAVE to picture – throughout the day – ourselves at the finish line, whether we’re in a smaller size Levi’s, in a Ford Edge, or lying on a beach in Hawaii.

Picturing ourselves there won’t transport us there. What it will do is motivate us to stay on track…. and not just any track. The track that WILL lead us where we want to go.

Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes. – Author Unknown

All of this SOUNDS lovely, doesn’t it? It SOUNDS pie in the sky amazing. We read or hear words like the ones above and we get so motivated and inspired that we can hardly sit still. Unfortunately, there is a rub. A rub so powerful that it knocks the majority of people clean off the track.

It’s the rub of instant gratification. If you work from home like I do, you know how hard it can be to fight the urge to just get up from the computer and…

  • watch a cooking show
  • take a walk
  • play with the cat
  • raid the fridge
  • go to Starbucks
  • read a book
  • feed the birds
  • stare out the window
  • play solitaire
  • stroll through the house and make sure the layout’s the same as it was an hour ago

… basically do anything BUT work.   Unfortunately there is instant gratification in slacking off.  However, giving in a couple of times makes it far too easy to give in more times.  After a while, everything you’re working toward moves further and further away from you. You look around and you ARE now where you WERE then and the only thing around you is your “slack.”  The tv shows and the wasted trips say, “Hey, you still have us!”

Somehow, it’s just not what you’d envisioned, right? There’s an old saying, Always do what you’ve always done and you’ll always have what you’ve always had!

What does a construction crew do when they have a building to erect?  They keep going back each day until the job’s done. It doesn’t matter if they’re tired, it doesn’t matter if they’d rather be home watching tv.  They have a job to do and they keep at it until the job is complete.  One brick at a time.  One day at a time. One victory at a time.

It’s the same way with resolutions, self improvement, and goals.  We have to earn what it is we desire.  We have to show up, show up, show up, and show up again – until the job is done. It doesn’t matter if we’re tired, it doesn’t matter if we’d rather be doing (or eating) anything else.  We have to put on our proverbial hard hat and work our butts off if we want to build the future we want.

It is NOT going to build itself.  The premise is lovely, but then again so is the premise of a Tooth Fairy.

Remember to take pride and pleasure in each small victory.  If you drive right past a hamburger joint and choose Subway instead – revel in the victory! If you stay at your desk and work a whole hour longer than you expected to, celebrate the victory with a pat on the back!  It’s these small victories that lead to the finish line.   Do you watch college basketball or football?  Many teams will take certain games for granted during the season and lose a game they should have won.  They lose focus and a much less talented, but hungrier, team gets the best of them.  It may seem like a small deal at the time to most people – but those of us who follow the sports regularly know that every game counts in the home stretch.  When you’re playing for the championship, losing games you SHOULD have won count against you in the worst way.

Often, it keeps the best teams on the sidelines watching less talented teams play for the championship title.

It’s a natural law: You receive as much as you give. – Paul Karasik

It doesn’t matter if it’s sports or self growth:  Each victory counts.  Each victory is huge.  Each loss counts.  Each loss is costly.

Whatever your goal is, I hope with all that’s within me that you reach it.  I know you can – IF you keep your focus.  Focus on what it is you want and where it is you want to be.  Focus on this image daily – throughout the day.  But don’t for a second think that visualizing it is equal to realizing it.  You have to work for it.  You have to fight for it.  You have to approach each day with the mindset that you WILL rack up as many victories as you possibly can and avert any potential chocolate doughnuts losses.

When it comes to success, attract isn’t the keyword, action is.  You have to take action – and not just once.  You have to be ready to take continuous action.  The more action you take, the more progress you make.

Victory after victory after victory….

Do this and you’ll build a masterpiece that’ll knock your darn socks off.

Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it. – Jack Canfield