The Benefits of Like-Mindedness

Why Birds of a Feather Really Should Flock Together (What's in it for the Birds!)

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

All for one and one for all.”  ― Alexandre DumasThe Three Musketeers

Fraternity. Community. Brethren.  Allies. Team. League. Group. Alliance.  Tribe. Flock. …

These words –  and many more – all describe the same basic premise and the same basic truth: Comfort, and even strength, are often found amongst like-minded individuals.

This isn’t groundbreaking  information, of course. Since the beginning of time, people have realized that there’s strength in numbers. They’ve also known that hanging out with people who have similar interests, goals, and situations to your own provides you with a comforting feeling of normalcy.

Ironically, as I’m typing these words, there are 6 doves on my windowsill.  (I keep birdseed and black sunflower seeds on the windowsill beside my computer desk. This, combined with bird and squirrel feeders in our yard provide me with endless little cuties to distract me throughout the day. Jury’s still out on whether that’s actually a good thing or a bad thing.)   While there are exceptions, generally speaking, doves will show up to dine together.  I’ve never had, say, a cardinal and dove show up together.

Birds of a feather, literally, flock together.  Even nature knows the strength and safety that comes from community.

As I said in a recent post about Finding Silver Linings, my body has decided that it can no longer tolerate gluten (a protein found in… well… many things) in any way what-so-ev-er. It calls the shots, so I’ve had to change my relationship with food entirely – the way I eat, cook, and even think about food is now completely different from the way I had for my entire life.  Suffice to say that “entire” encompasses a healthy number of birthday candles over the years.  And, no, I don’t want to think about the bonfire they could combine to build.

Early on in my Gluten Free world, I found a wonderful key to sanity and happiness:  Surrounding myself with others who trudging along the gluten free trail.

Moving hundreds of these people into our home seemed extreme, so I simply found other ways to build my own private little support group:

  • On Twitter and Pinterest, I searched out Gluten Free Magazines, Gluten Free Food Manufacturers,  authors, and website accounts and followed them.  Then I looked at different accounts that interacted with them and chose certain ones to follow as well.  Soon my Twitter timeline and Pinterest feed were filled with recipes, tips, encouragement, ideas, food reviews, etc.
  • I signed up for different e-newsletters from these same experts – now my inbox is also a wealth of information and inspiration.
  • There are several Gluten Free magazines I want to subscribe to and I’ve started a cool collection of Gluten Free cookbooks.

Doing all of the above had several benefits:

  1. I was able to see scads of smiling people who weren’t only living with their dietary limitations but seemed to love it.
  2. I’ve lost count of the number of great ideas I’ve come across that I would NO WAY have come up with on my own.
  3. There’s a lot to be said for feeling like you’re part of a community.
  4. It’s exhausting to always have to check products and recipes for gluten – when I see e-mails, tweets, and pins from these “safe havens,” it takes the guess work out of it and I feel almost normal. Okay, normal for me.

Naturally  “gluten free”  birds aren’t the only kind of birds available for flocking. Any area of interest, conviction, employment, aspiration, hobbies, dreams, causes, or needs you have can be supported and strengthened by finding like-minded people. Simply replace “gluten free” in the 3 examples above with your own personal subject….

  • parenting
  • cats
  • Christianity
  • dogs
  • self help
  • sales and marketing
  • adoption
  • blogging
  • writing
  • photography
  • empty nest syndrome
  • weight loss
  • vegetarianism
  • loneliness
  • leadership
  • yoga
  • pilates
  • meditation
  • paleo diet
  • wildlife preservation
  • tea reviews
  • bird watching
  • college tips
  • etc. etc. etc…

This is one of those things in life that, while it seems so obvious and  even simple,can make a big difference in your life.

Tip: “Hacks” is a GREAT search term (Google or Twitter) to use behind your area of interest – for example “college hacks,” “weight loss hacks,” “saving money hacks,” etc.

Good…. Better…. Best

As Your Choices Move Up the Scale, your Results Will Follow

Good Better and Best

Have you ever wrestled with something that was kind of in a gray (or grey for our British readers) area?  Maybe it was a habit that you couldn’t really call “bad” – but, at the same time, you certainly couldn’t call it “good.”

Years ago, a friend and I were having one of those deep conversations that can only take place over pizza. In fact, it was just me, her, two tall glasses of Coca-Cola and an extra large pizza with mushrooms, onions, and green olives.  That’s what I loved about her – she liked the same pizza toppings I did.

The girl had such good taste.

Although, like a fairy tale, it was a long long ago, I distinctly remember our conversation. We were both young mothers at the time, with lots of little girls between us – and the prospect of raising daughters, in what seemed at the time the toughest time period to do so led to many heart-to-heart “mommy conversations.” Little did we realize that late 1990′s and 2000′s would make our particular time period look like Little House on the Prairie. Even then, however, things kids were exposed to in music, television, and movies was reprehensible. We may have been pizza drunk, and we may have been incredibly young – but even we knew that life choices and decisions should be broken down into three categories:  Good. Better. Best.

Sure, watching this television show (compared to the rest) is good… but is there a better option… and, then, is that the BEST option?

Over the years, a lot of things have changed. After frequent moving on both of our parts, I’ve totally lost contact with my pizza buddy. Thanks to gluten intolerance, I no longer sit in restaurant booths shoveling pizza in my mouth and, thanks to a metabolism that IN NO WAY got better with age, I no longer drink Cocoa Colas. What is it with metabolisms, anyway? Why do they turn on us?

What hasn’t changed, though, is the fact that we should all periodically take stock of how we spend our time, the choices we make, and the the way we’re playing this game called life.

First thing we need to do is to own the fact that everything we willfully do throughout the day is because we made a choice.  If someone buys a Big Mac and large fries, they chose to eat something profoundly unhealthy.  It didn’t just happen.

If we squander our time and, at the end of the day, realize that we didn’t get a darn thing done – we chose that path. Unless someone tied us to a chair, the choice was made by only one person – and that’s the person we see in the mirror.

Every action we make or inaction we take, we choose to do so.  That’s why, whenever it comes time to talk about self improvement, self growth, or self help, the first thing we have to hold accountable are our choices.

They lead the way – everything else just follows.

One of the fastest and most efficient ways to get the most out of these choices is to give honest answers to these questions:

  • Does anything GOOD come from this?
  • If not, why am I doing it?
  • If something GOOD does come from this choice, is there a choice I could make that would bring about an even BETTER payoff?
  • If there is a BETTER choice… is it the BEST choice?

Let’s look at a quick example, because if you’re anything like me, that’s where things really begin to take shape.

I don’t have to tell you how important it is to eat healthy. You don’t look like a perfect idiot to me, so I know you get that.  We tend to kind of “misplace” this bit of common sense as soon as we drive past a fast food restaurant, don’t we? We’ll see a sign that says something like Free Drink When you Buy Two Juicy Cheeseburgers and Large Fries, and automatically say through a smile, “Don’t mind if I do.”

While the convenience of this choice might appear GOOD, I’m pretty sure we can do better.

How about ordering just one burger and an unsweet tea? That’s BETTER…. but, can we do even better than that? Is there a BEST option available?

Absolutely.

The BEST decision would be to either go home and have a wholesome, cheaper, lower calorie lunch or find a Subway and “eat fresh.”

Let me guess, it seems like a small thing, right?  But that’s kind of what choices are  - they’re the small brush strokes that paint the big picture.  Now, which is going to make the best picture – the best strokes, of course.

Same thing with self improvement – if you want the BEST you, you have to practice making the BEST choices.  Unless, of course, you just want to settle for a “good” you…

I didn’t think so.

If you want the BEST from yourself and the BEST from life, it all starts with making the BEST decisions.  Like a single unit, they will all move in the same direction.  May as well swing for the fences!

 

One Small Step Can Open a Whole New World

Don't Let Life Slip Away from You!

No Line Bifocals

I know, better than anyone, that my advice isn’t worth pure gold. Even on my best day, I’d never suggest that anything I have to say is worth a $20 bill. Someone once suggested that I charge people to read certain articles on Self Help Daily. I was relieved that he suggested it in e-mail, so he didn’t have to see me throw my head back and laugh as I said, “Oh, that’s a good one!”

I don’t have an over-inflated sense of myself or anything about me… well, I take that back. I’m beyond cocky about my cooking. I’m pretty sure that if anyone ever told me something I cooked or baked was less than a 10 on a scale of 1-10, I’d grab them by their neck collar and throw them out of my kitchen, all the while asking them how they managed to live to this point with absolutely no taste buds.

I’d offer to set up a fund and solicit money to buy them a new tongue – one with taste buds that actually function. I’m just charitable like that.

In all seriousness (an area I seldom visit), the advice I’m about to lay on you is golden. It’s the best advice you will get all year.

I’m not being cocky.

I’m not being grandiose.

I’m simply being honest.

If you have anything in the world that stands between you and enjoying the world to its absolute fullest, I plead with you to take the one small step to navigate around it.

I have been needing new glasses for years. YEARS. But, like most people, I kept seeing other things that I’d rather spend time and money on. Looking back, I know just how ridiculous I was. I’d even go as far to say that I was foolish.

Since I’d last gotten a pair of glasses, my vision has changed a great deal. I could tell when driving or riding in a car, for example, that I couldn’t read signs I was pretty sure I once read. When reading a book or the back of a cereal box, for that matter, I always had to take my glasses off or peek over the top in what I always termed my “annoyed librarian look.” The kind of look a librarian throws to kids who aren’t talking with their “indoors voice.”

The vision change happened so gradually I wasn’t fully aware of just how much I was missing. I knew that I had been slacking off on my writing and reading, but I guess (somehow) I never attributed it to the simple fact that trying to SEE the words I wanted to type and read had become such a challenge.

I knew I needed stronger glasses and I knew I needed bifocal lenses. But I kept putting it off – for years. And years. It wasn’t vanity because thanks to AMAZING technology, today’s bifocals look exactly like all other glasses. “No Line Bifocals” look the same as all other glasses. It boggles the mind, but NO ONE knows you’re wearing bifocals except you. You know it when you can actually read without taking off your glasses, you know when the text on your phone is clearer than ever, and you know when you don’t whip out your annoyed librarian look while reading small print.

More than anything, I think I was afraid of being able to adjust to bifocal lenses. I envisioned myself getting seasick just walking through the room. I pictured myself floundering in a distorted world that suddenly seemed like a house of mirrors.

I got my beautiful new No Line Bifocal glasses this weekend and am relieved to say I’m neither seasick or floundering. What I am is amazed.  Absolutely amazed.  A whole new world has, literally, been opened up for me and I realize, now, that I didn’t even realize, then, just how much I was missing.

As soon as we left Lenscrafters, I found myself reading billboards and restaurant names from FAR away.  Because my vision had deteriorated slowly, the world had, in a sense, slowly slipped away from me.  But the story has such a happy ending, I can’t even feel sad for the time lost – I’m too excited for the time saved!

If you need glasses, bifocal lenses, hearing aids, or anything else that will help open a whole new world for you, again, I’m pleading with you to simply take the small step needed to walk through the door.  The world may be slowly slipping away from you and, because it’s been so gradual, you may not even completely realize it.

My mother experienced gradual hearing loss beginning at a very young age. Although everyone needed to repeat things to her several times, she always seemed to think that people were mumbling.  Everyone, thinking of what all she was missing, kept telling her to get her hearing checked because she needed hearing aids.  No one did it in an ugly manner, of course – only jerks do that.  Personally, I never even minded repeating myself.  If someone actually cares enough about what I say to ask me to repeat it… I’m flattered!

However, my mom (who was such a character, I can’t even tell you – she was the very definition of a PILL!) did what just about everyone with hearing loss did. If she’d already asked someone to repeat themselves several times – she didn’t want to keep on asking, “What?” or “Excuse me?”  She’d simply kind of guess at what they’d said and either laugh or or answer with something she hoped would fit the situation.

Sometimes she’d be so off base I’d have to laugh.  She’d answer my dad at times with completely off the wall responses and I can still see the befuddled expression on his face.  One time he told her that the heat needed to be turned up “a couple of notches” and she said, “I’m going to the store later.”  He said, “Okay. Let’s go with that.”

To which she replied, “Of course you can go with me.”

He then looked at me and whispered, “Help.”

While we sometimes laugh at moments that surround vision and hearing – at ourselves as well as others – let’s be honest. It’s not all that funny, is it?  While we may tell ourselves, “I’m as blind as a bat!” or while someone may tell us, “You can’t hear a lick!” – I don’t think anything that stands between someone and life is anything to laugh at.

My mom, to her credit, did make an appointment for a hearing test. She got a couple of hearing aids and, honestly, tears kind of come to my eyes when I remember the look on her face when she heard birds singing for the first time in what must have been 20 or more years.  We were in front of her house and she said, “Listen!  The birds are singing!”

I thought, Momma, they’ve been singing all along.

So often, she’d ask us, “Have you always been able to hear that?”

She started calling her hearing aids her “ears” and would often say something like, “We can go in a minute… just let me put my ears on.”

The world had slowly slipped away from her and she didn’t even know it.   You, while reading these words, may be in the same boat as my mom (hearing loss) or with me (vision problems).  The world could be slipping slowly away from you, and that really breaks my heart.

If the only thing standing between you and hearing aids, glasses, reading glasses, or bifocal lenses is vanity – let me give you a wake up call.  No one cares. They really don’t.  I think a lot of people are afraid of looking “old” or of being perceived as “old” when it comes to glasses and hearing aids.

Duh!  There are grade school kids who require glasses and hearing aids.  Besides, I’ll give you another little wake up call.  If you’re in your fifties, you aren’t keeping that a secret from anyone, no matter what you may think.  The world will know you’re there and, guess what… again, they don’t care! Fifties and sixties, today are like the yesterday’s forties.

Never be ashamed of your age… be proud.

Besides, let’s be honest, who will be perceived as older, the one who has to do the “annoyed librarian” move or the one who simply sees what they want to see.  Who’ll be perceived as older, the one who says, “What?” or the one who gives a perfect answer every time, right on cue?

Today’s glasses and hearing aids are made so stylish, anyway.  With people living longer, companies are making sure that these products are as fashionable and discreet as ever. Trust me, you’ll be blown away.

You’ll want to kick yourself for not taking that first step sooner. When you’re seeing or hearing everything you’ve been missing, you will feel like a whole new world has opened up right before you.  Think of the scene in the movie Avatar when Pandora opens up for the first time.  It’s like that… only better.

You’ll find that you have more time to actually LIVE and enjoy life. You may not realize just how much effort it takes to try to do things others take for granted. I spent so much time taking glasses off, putting glasses on, walking closer to see what I needed to see, etc. I never realized how much effort I was having to put into life!  The same is true for those who have hearing loss. They have to ask others to repeat what they said (and subject themselves to some people who get annoyed when they have to repeat themselves), they have to try to read lips (my mom mastered this trick), they have to, nervously, throw out an answer and hope for the best.

That’s a lot of effort. It’s also a great big fat (and needless) barrier between yourself and life.

Please don’t live on the sidelines any longer. Make this the week you call for an appointment. There is LITERALLY a whole new world waiting for you to step into it. You just have to make that first step.  As I’m typing these words, I see my computer screen more clearly than ever. The words are sharp and clear.  Every now and then, I glance out of the window my my desk and window and see the birds and trees that I love so much. They had been slowly fading away from me and I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am to have them back.

When things fade away gradually, you never realize it fully until you have them back again.  I stopped reading the signs on the way home because it occurred to me, my husband has seen them all along. He doesn’t need me to read them to him!  So, I silently read them to myself and felt so much joy that I had trouble containing it.

The world is a joyful, beautiful thing. Please don’t let it slip away. I feel so strongly about this that it hit me this morning – if my words and our story (mine and my mom’s) can make just one person take that first step, every minute I’ve ever put into Self Help Daily will have been more than worth it.

 “Listen!  The birds are singing!”  (Momma, they’ve been singing all along.)

Could This Be The Most Potentially Life-Changing Quote of All Time?

I Think We Can Make a Strong Case for It!

What you allow is what will continue
As you know, I’m an avid collector and great lover of inspirational quotes. I’m not sure I ever met one I didn’t want to sit down and spend a little time with. Over the years, I find that I always have a few “favorite quotes of the moment”  at any given time. The quotes that just seem to find their way into every conversation and seem to be applicable to whatever is going on around me.

Funny thing is, the quote you see above has been a favorite quote for as long as I can remember.  What you allow is what will continue. It never goes out of style, never gets old, and (as far as I’m concerned) should never leave your side.

This past week, alone, the quote came to mind in three different instances.

  1. My husband and I were at a favorite restaurant in town that often seems to have a problem with being understaffed. We’ve heard, on several occasions, that they have a problem with servers simply calling in at the last minute. As the manager ran around like a chicken in search of its head, I wanted desperately to write the quote down and slip it to him as he flew past our table on one of his rounds. If he keeps allowing his workers to treat him, the restaurant, and their co-workers with such blatant disrespect, they will.  It’ll continue.
  2. I heard about a girl (from one of my daughters) who has a ridiculously unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend. He treats this girl in a way that makes me want to smack him in the head… with an electric eel.  And she isn’t even MY daughter – I don’t want to even think what he’d be in for if she were! The relationship (if you can even call it that) has been going on like this for a few years and, by now, this unhealthy and abnormal reality probably seems normal to this young girl.  What I wouldn’t give for 10 minutes with her.  If she continues to allow herself to be treated like a doormat, this jerk will continue to trample on her.
  3. Okay, time to rat on myself. I try to eat healthy. Like most people, these days, I try to make the right choices in the store, in my kitchen, and in restaurants.  A few times this week (alone!) I messed up big time. Let’s see, I messed up in the grocery store by buying unhealthy snacks, I messed up at home by choosing the unhealthy ones over the beautiful fruit that was sitting on the counter, and I messed up in a restaurant (Seriously, Joi? Three rolls?  With Butter? Three?) I whipped out the beloved quote on myself last night in the grocery store. I had a bag of Doritos in my hand, licking my lips as I was thisclose to throwing it into the cart.  Then I realized that if I keep allowing my inner snacker (she with the rationality of a 10 year old) to call the shots, my downward spiral will continue.  I put the bag of crunchy goodness back on the shelf and got some celery instead. It was cheaper, healthier, and is one step in breaking a cycle I want to break.

The celery over Doritos choice may seem small – and I guess, compared to gleefully eating 3 rolls… with butter… it is small. However, we’d all do well to keep in mind that every choice we make either carries us one step forward, one step backward, or sinks us further in the ground where we stand.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most searched things on Google is How to Be Happy. Ironically, that fact makes me pretty sad.  The thought of so many people out there who may be so removed from happiness that they’re turning to a search engine to remember where it is… well, that’s sad.

The thing is, we’re born happy. When we’re babies and toddlers, we wear our happiness on our face for the world to see.  Think of the insanely popular videos on YouTube with nothing but babies laughing.  People (including me) love these videos and spend copious amounts of time watching them… laughing with the babies the entire time.

Why? Because pure joy is a beautiful, intoxicating thing.  If we allow the wrong things to keep playing out, we’ll continue to be further and further removed from happiness and joy.

Leave behind anything that stands between you and happiness and, while you’re at it,  tuck this life-changing quote into your pocket so you never forget it again…..

What you allow is what will continue. My wish for you is that you’ll only allow positive, uplifting, joyous things in your life because… mark it down.. they’ll continue! Pure joy is what I want for YOU – the kind you just can’t keep in or hide.

Your Thoughts, Actions, and Words Write Your Life’s Story

Are You Victimizing Yourself?

Quote About Life

A few days ago, I found myself thinking long and hard about baseball. Something, admittedly, I do a lot.  That’s one of the things that you should know about me… I’m completely obsessed with baseball. For me, there are two seasons: Baseball Season and Withdrawal Season. We’re in the latter, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still think about it.  I guess you could say I’m a “student of the game.” Not because I ever play baseball, or even have a desire to do so.  I grew up playing softball (every year from the age of 8 to 18), but I don’t even feel the call to play softball – let alone baseball.

A fact my knees (and feet, back, arms…) are grateful for.

I love to dissect aspects of the game of baseball. The pitchers, hitters, stats, ball fields, match-ups, etc.  To give you an idea of how eaten up I am with baseball, the other day I heard an announcer on the radio mention a particular team and my mind immediately pulled up the following information:

  • the city in which they play
  • the name of their stadium
  • their best starting pitcher
  • the name of their manager
  • their infield
  • where they hold spring training
  • their chances for 2013… zilch

I am, for better or worse, just as big a student of the game of life.  A philosopher without the degree, prestige, and title. I believe that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to writing in the first place.  It provides a release for all the thoughts, analogies, and conclusions my mind creates. If they all stayed inside my brain, there wouldn’t be any room for anything else.

One of the thoughts bouncing around recently was this: There are two kinds of people in the world.  There are the kind who say, “Look at everything I’ve BEEN through!” and there are those who say, “Look at what I SURVIVED!”

This occurred to me when I heard a woman ranting about 2012. She literally said the words, “God PUT me through….”  and as the words came out of her mouth, I thought, “You’re looking at it all wrong. Say, God BROUGHT me through…

Sometimes just one word makes all the difference!

Our thoughts, attitude, and even our words create the story of our lives.  We’re the author of our life’s novel and, personally, I’ve always wondered why anyone would want to portray themselves as the victim. Isn’t it much cooler to be the hero?

Words and thoughts like the following cast yourself in the victim’s role:

  • I’ve been through so much…
  • I have too much on my plate…
  • God put me through…
  • Someone hurt my feelings…
  • Someone broke my heart…
  • This is more than I can handle…

Not only do they make you the victim, the words themselves scream, “I’m weak!”

Words and thoughts like the following cast yourself in the role of the hero/heroine:

  • I’ve overcome so much…
  • My trials have made me strong…
  • I’m actually thankful for the weight I’ve carried because they built muscle and character…
  • God has brought me through a lot of tough times…
  • This made me stronger…
  • I can handle that…
  • Hey, Life… bring it!

I’m reminded of one of my daughters, Brittany, when she was around 7 or 8.  She was in the yard playing with her sisters and a couple of their friends. I was working in one of my flower beds and, like all over-protective mothers, I had two eyes on my kids and two eyes on the flowers. Only mothers are equipped with these magical extra eyes.

Brittany – who has always known one speed, TOP speed – fell while running. Smack right on the patio. Before I could even get up to see about her, she was back on her feet and running. She shot me a look that said, “THAT never happened.” I stayed put and went with her version of the story.

Basically, she fell and – in one motion – got back up again.  I guess it’s odd that this scene from life has stuck with me all these years but I just thought it was cool.  Make no mistake about it, the fall hurt. Both knees were scrapped and one hand was scuffed up.  However, acknowledging the fall would have meant that, unlike the other girls, she slipped.

“THAT never happened.”

If there’d been such a thing as “Pictures with Captions” back then, I’d have labeled her reaction, “Life, you hit like a girl!

The next time you find yourself heaving deep sighs or rolling in complaints – and long before you pick up your violin – ask yourself if you want to be the helpless victim or the conquering hero/heroine.

Let’s face it, one’s infinitely more attractive.

 

 

Like It Or Not, Priorities Shape Our Actions

These Actions Go On To Shape Our Lives!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quote

Funny, isn’t it, how oftentimes the answer to our problems is ridiculously simple. As you know, I work full-time from home as a writer and web publisher.  My husband has a full-time job, but as for my own personal income – what I make online is it.  I may never be rolling in it, but I’m wild about the whole coffee in my pjs until the mood to get dressed hits me thing and my cats consider the arrangement the deal of a lifetime.

Nine lifetimes, even.

I recently had an issue with one of my websites.  I won’t bore you with the details because my website and I aren’t what’s important here.  You are. And if you can glean anything from our hassle, then the hassle would have been worthwhile.

I was starting to get a little stressed out over this particular website and felt like our relationship was about as strained as a jar of baby food.  When I have something on my mind and want it resolved quickly, I always do one of three things:

  • I take the problem to the shower with me.
  • I take the problem for a walk.
  • I Swiffer the house as the problem rides shotgun.

It was cold outside and I didn’t want to get wet (a given in the shower), so I shot my computer an “I’m out!” look and headed for the Swiffer Wipes.  Without fail, when I concentrate on something menial, like walking or cleaning (me or floors), my mind figures things out for itself.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” - Stephen Covey

The weird thing about my mind is that when it comes up with the solution, it doesn’t speak to me in long, poetic prose.  It seldom even adds pictures to its message.  Truth be told, the answer I need is very often simply a short sentence or even just one word.

As I pushed and pulled the Swiffer across the kitchen floor, wondering how I ever lived before these things were invented, it came to me, “If you want something to be as good as it possibly can be – you have to make it a priority, not an option.”

I literally said the word, “Ouch” out loud.  priority or option

I hadn’t really been making this particular website a priority.  I guess I really hadn’t been making a lot of websites a priority if we’re being totally honest.  The holidays have this effect on me.  All I seem to want to do around November and December each year is bake, look for new recipes, shop, browse Amazon, watch Christmas movies, buy new ornaments…  You get the idea.

Basically, I was expecting everything to be sparkly and golden without putting in any elbow grease.  What can I say, sometimes I’m a very clever girl.

After finishing the floors, I sat back down at my computer and vowed to make the website a priority. I’ve done so for a while now and our relationship has improved by leaps and bounds and, wouldn’t you know it, the website is now performing exactly how I wanted it to.

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This same common sense approach can solve just about any type of problem you can think of.

  • relationships
  • weight
  • health
  • work
  • school
  • housework

Taking any of these from bad to good or even from good to great may be as simple as making it a priority as opposed to an option.

If you want something to be as good as it possibly can be – you have to make it a priority, not an option.” – This Side of the Swiffer

You May Not Find Them in a Medical Book…

But Don't Even Try Telling Me These Don't Improve Your Life!

Janie in a box

Health Prompt for the Day: Write about your favorite thing that is not health-related but likely improves your life.

It’s no surprise that when it comes to writing about something that improves life, I choose animals as one of my subjects. If you know me, you know that animals light my world up.  The little black beauty in the pictures in this post is “Janie,” my oldest daughter and oldest son-in-law’s baby. She’s a character in every sense of the word!  Janie was a shelter kitten who needed them as much as they needed her. Instant laughter. Instant love. Instant family.

Some of the “prompts” for this health blogger’s challenge have been tough. Really tough.  We were given an tiny pool of “alternate” questions to choose from, if needed, and I’ve already dipped into the pool a few times. Problem is, their topics are also tough!

I’ll let you in on a little secret, though.  I love it! The extra little challenge it’s adding to my daily work routine is palpable.  I can feel my brain cells buzzing and trying to band together to come up with posts that are appropriate for my self help blog, my voice, and most importantly,  my readers.   I can see lot of the “prompts” deliciously fitting other voices, blogs, and readers – they simply don’t jive with any of us here.  Other prompts do, and those are the ones I use on most days. However, a few times, I’ve chosen a prompt that’s “dangerously close” and kind of worked with it, like clay, until it does fit me, Self Help Daily, and the most important part of the equation – you.

I’m excited about this particular prompt, because it’s a challenge in a different sort of way.  I have far more answers than I need!

Instead of choosing one of my answers and writing, at length, about it – I’m going to mention each one and write a few sentences about how they improve my life.  Naturally, my life isn’t the one you should be concerned about when you read through these.  I offer my experiences in the hope that they (or similar activities) can benefit your life as they have and do mine.

Self Help Cheat Sheets for Life!
Naturally, when most health or self help bloggers write about anything involving themselves, it’s only done as an example to the reader.  If we write about our lessons in life (the ones where we mucked something up or the ones where we actually got it right), our habits (good, bad, indifferent), or other activities – it isn’t done to throw the spotlight on us, it’s done to tell others what we’ve found that works.  It’s as though life’s some incredible game – with the largest game board imaginable! Those who write about it are simply trying to show other “players” where they may run into trouble and – if they do – “tricks” that’ll help them back out.

Below are some of the things in my life which aren’t “health-related” but definitely improve my life:

1. Doing something I love. I work from home as a web publisher (a cool word which means that I am a web designer, web host, graphic artist, writer, affiliate marketer, blogger, and virtual assistant for a several business blogs.)  I never have to leave the house unless it’s a trip to the grocery store, Starbucks, or Subway. If I want to knock off early and watch a couple of Andy Griffith reruns with my inside cat, Alexa or go outside and watch birds with my outside cats Hannah and Fatima – I do. I’m able to “be” what I always wanted to “be” when I was growing up:  A wife, mother, and writer.  I never have to clock in – or out, for that matter. When it’s time to create a graphic, it’s like arts & crafts for me. When I need to write an article on one of my websites or blogs, it’s an opportunity for expression and creativity.  When I need to research a topic or topics for an article or post, I’m transported back to the library in high school. Except this time I don’t pass notes back and forth with my friends – I actually research, read, and learn!

No doubt you’ve picked up on the passion I have for what I do. That’s what I’m driving at.

What I do is not for every body.  I’ve seen some people completely lose it while trying to whip words into shape, figure their way around html, or creating graphics.  I once built a website for a man and the experience nearly cost both of us our marbles. He honestly obsessed over the shade of a particular color. I can’t tell you how many links went back and forth over this color.  When we moved past the shade of color, he obsessed over something else.  The man was a nightmare. At one point he finally said, “I think I should stay completely out of my businesses website operation. I’m not built for it.” I had to agree. He’d been such a handful that, although  extra money is always nice, I blew him off.  In his final e-mails  to me, he was basically saying, “I’ll just pay you and you do what you want with the site each month,”  I told him that he was 100 percent right about leaving the website details to others and that his time was much more valuable elsewhere.  Then I told him I was certain he could find someone to help him – and that’d I’d even help him find someone if he needed it.

It was a polite Southern gal’s way of saying, “Don’t go away mad, just go away.”

I have the luxury of telling people to “bugger off” without being called into anyone’s office. None of my cats have offices, so I’m safe.

What I do isn’t for everyone, but it is most definitely for me.  I absolutely love it – even on the most hectic days.

If you think about the number of hours you spend working each week, it won’t take long to realize how important it is to do something you absolutely love.  It’s good for you psyche, your emotional health, and your physical health.

I also love the fact that what I do for the better part of my weekdays stimulates my brain and encourages creativity.  I am unbelievably thankful that I don’t spend most of my days doing something that would permit my brain to just kind of rot.  Gross way of putting it, but you know what I mean.

Brain Atrophy
If your job doesn’t stimulate your brain or encourage creativity, be sure to include extra activities in your life that do. Take up sports and/or hobbies that require creativity and logic. Always learn new things, and never stop trying to grow, mentally. Read often, watch educational television programs, and always be mindful of… well.. your mind.

Janie and Mouse

Janie with a toy mouse I bought for her. Janie’s silky hair might be the softest thing I’ve ever felt.

2. Happy Marriage and Family Relationships. I have a very happy marriage and my relationships with my three beautiful daughters and two sons-in-law are excellent. I also find that I’m on excellent terms with my furry daughters (cats) as well.  My family is filled with a cast of characters so loony you’d think they came from a sitcom’s casting agency.  We all just blend together beautifully – with no judging, back-stabbing, or ill will. There’s tons of laughter and very, very, very little drama.

When given the choice between comedy and drama, we choose comedy every time.

When I hear about couples who bicker and fight all the time, I always think, “How miserably unhealthy!” Mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Strained relationships – when one person practically walks on eggshells for fear of triggering the other’s anger, ridicule, and/or mouth – are harder on the heart that most imagine. The constant stress, the high levels of anxiety, and the complete inability to simply relax and be yourself – it all sounds like hell to me.

When people find themselves in this type of situation, they need to realize that something has to change – something has to give.  If it’s a relationship that can’t be broken (say, you’re kin to one another!), then you MUST find a way to make it work.

As beautiful as the word PEACE is, the PEACEFUL life is even more beautiful.  And it’s so healthy!

3. P.E.T.S! Having pets is one of the healthiest choices you can make.  They fill your life with so much joy, love, and happiness.  Not long ago, my e-mails with a friend I made through Self Help Daily were centered around one thing: She wanted, desperately, to know how to deal with empty nest syndrome.  Her sadness and loneliness came through each line. I told her, early on, that she needed a pet or two!  She knew she was dealing with a bonafide animal lover and said she expected me to say that!

About 2 weeks after her initial e-mail, she and her husband went to their local animal shelter and brought home three  kittens who lost their mom.  They went with the intention of adopting one baby and walked out with three because they couldn’t stand leaving two behind.  I asked her, “Do you even know how much I love you right now?!?!”

I had seen her last sad e-mail. She’d, from then on, talk about…

  • how wonderful it is to see the three of them slide across the linoleum floor when she came home from work
  • how she and her husband loved to buy them special treats and toys at the store
  • how her husband (a “dog person”) instantly became a “cat person”
  • how it’s fun to see toys lying around the house again
  • how her cats are like having a houseful of toddlers

Last I heard, she was looking forward to seeing how they react to her Christmas tree this year!

When I read her e-mail about bringing their babies home, I had tears in my eyes.  Not only did they save three precious animals and give them a “forever home” and “forever family,” the cats pretty much saved their new parents as well.  They made a home come alive again.

That’s a specialty pets have.

These are just a few of the things in my life that I know benefit me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  How about you? What things in your life aren’t necessarily health-related, but you KNOW they affect your health positively?  Is it your job, pets, family, hobbies, or something entirely different?

Is there anyone who feels that “where they live” benefits their health?

Janie

Emily walked into her dining room one day to find Janie falling asleep in a serving bowl. Because she is her mother’s daughter, Emily’s first thought was… I have to get a picture of this! Who falls asleep in a serving bowl?  Janie does, that’s who.

Tap Into Your Best With Just an Hour a Day

Is an Hour a Day the Only Thing in Your Way?

 

Quote About an Hour a Day

I’ve always had a fascination with Chinese Proverbs.  Actually, all proverbs – Irish, English, Spanish… I don’t care where the proverb came from as much as I care where it can take me.   For someone as long winded as I am, the art of communicating what’s basically a life lesson within one sentence is mind-bogglingly delicious.  Sometimes it’s fun to just sit with a proverb for a few minutes and let it sink in.  The proverb can, on the surface, talk about ants, wolves, or housewives – but, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that it’s meaning is relevant to each and every one of us.

Even if we aren’t ants.

One of my favorite proverbs has been described as a “Chinese Proverb” in some places. However, most of the time it’s referred to as an English Proverb.  Again, it’s origin really isn’t that important.  What IS important is the fact that, within 15 words, it sums up what hundreds of self help and self improvement books try to drive home.

There is but an hour a day between a good housewife and a bad one.

You can replace housewife with any occupation, vocation, hobby, or title you can think of.   It doesn’t really matter if she’s a housewife with 3 kids or a doctor with 300 patients! It doesn’t matter if he’s a yet-to-be-published  writer or an author who’s a household name.  This proverb is for all of us.

For me, personally, I see the beauty of this quote as it relates to writing, building websites, and graphic art.  The more time you spend doing something, the better you become.  You can’t possibly expect to become proficient in an area you seldom visit.

The main lesson is, of course, the fact that if you want to be good at what you do, you have to spend time with your craft.  However, personally, I think the KEY lies within a three letter word…. d-a-y.  You have to spend time with your craft or vocation daily if you expect to tap into your absolute best. Once a week or even twice a week simply will not yield the same results.

Is there any area of your life in which you’d like to improve?  (Cooking, blogging, writing, fitness….) Dedicate an hour each day and prepare to amaze yourself.

The Number 1 Question You Should be Asking Yourself

To Unlock the Mysteries of Self Improvement

Influences

In the self help and self growth field, we ask a lot of questions.  The reason, of course, is that any sort of growth involves seeing where you are now. REALLY seeing. There’s just no way to get THERE from HERE unless we know where HERE is.  Two of my daughters (Emily and Stephany) and I recently went hiking. The trails winded through beautiful woods, with several swinging bridges over creeks. A few times we sort of misplaced ourselves on the winding trails.  We had taken so many turns, backtracking wasn’t an option.

Just as we were beginning to get a little flustered, we found a huge mounted map – like the ones in malls.  As we positioned our tired, sweaty bodies in front of the map, we all said, in unison, “Okay, where are we?”  Complete with the Okay at the first.  My girls didn’t fall far from the tree.

How effective would these maps be if they didn’t have the YOU ARE HERE point of reference?  Can you say useless?

When it comes to self growth or improvement of any type, the questions bring us to a point of reference.  Basically, they tell us… “You are here!”

Some of the most popular questions we are supposed to ask ourselves are:

  • How do I spend my time?
  • Do I spend my time wisely?
  • Are most of my thoughts positive thoughts or negative thoughts?
  • How do I react when things go wrong?
  • How much exercise do I get a day?
  • Do I eat enough fruit and vegetables?
  • etc etc etc

However, a question that I, personally, believe is one of the most important questions is one that’s seldom asked.  The answers to this question could make all the difference in the world.  That question is: What influences you?

Influence. verb (used with object) <——- Guess who’s the object?!?!

1. to exercise influence on; affect; sway: to influence a person.
2. to move or impel (a person) to some action.

If you take only one thing away from this article, I want it to be this: 

  • Everything you do influences you
  • Everyone you “hang out with,” influences you
  •  Everything you read influences you
  • Every song you listen to  influences you
  • Every book you read influences you

You know, Influence, as in AFFECT, SWAY, MOVE, IMPEL….

Sometimes the Influence isn’t immediate.  Take commercials.  We can see a commercial, sometimes 8 or 9 times, before we decide we HAVE to HAVE what’s being shown. Take the new Taco Bell commercial. I’d seen this commercial (for a huge burrito… because everything’s bigger in America) probably about 8 times before it hit me a few nights ago, “I want that!!!”  Fortunately, I have the sweetest hubby in the world and he went and got one for us to split.  (Delicious by the way.)  The commercials influenced me – they subtly swayed me, causing me to make my move.

It’s this sort of thing that makes parents panic when their kids hang out with the wrong kind of friends.  Their son or daughter promises that they would never do the things their friend does, and maybe they wouldn’t for the first 8 or 9 weeks or months – but after a steady influential diet, the parent knows all too well that they can be subtly swayed, causing them to make their move – in a wrong direction.  We are influenced by the people we spend the most time with.

Of course, the scenario isn’t just for kids.  Adults are influenced by those they hang around with as well. If one individual is a real go-getter and has high aspirations and goals in life, hanging around people with similar mindsets will spur him or her along. When that much positive energy shares a room, it’s electrifying! However, if one of these firecrackers continually hangs out with someone with zero ambition or aspirations, it won’t be long before they’re dragged down to their level.

It is what it is.  We are greatly influenced by those around us – for better or worse.

But it doesn’t just stop there. We’re also influenced by the books we read, the television shows we watch, the websites we visit, and even the music we listen to. Swayed, moved, impelled…

Picture a swimming pool for a minute. It’s a hot July day and you’re going for a swim (yay, you).  When you first step in, it feels like ice water! You pinch up your face and hope no one notices your teeth chattering. Ten minutes later, the water that once felt like ice now feels like Heaven poured into a cement hole. No pinched face. No teeth chattering.

The water didn’t change. Your body acclimated to the conditions.  Your body adapted and conformed to fit more comfortably into the situation.  Now tell me it doesn’t really matter who you spend the most time with.

If you’re skeptical about the assertion that music, websites, and television shows influence people, think about it for a minute.  These things influence fads, fashions, and even the way we talk.  They’re just done subtly. Now you know I love a lot of television shows, and several of my favorite ones are “reality shows” (Survivor, Amazing Race, Biggest Loser).  However, I don’t have a problem with saying that many reality shows are influencing society in negative ways.

For one thing, everyone’s always mad and yelling on most of them! Grown women screaming, pulling hair, and turning over tables.  If an individual gives themselves a steady diet of this ridiculousness, there’s no way they can keep from being influenced… even if the influence is slight.  One reality show…. one single reality show… set off the entire FAKE BAKE fad!  A tv show.

If you’re really serious about self improvement, enlightenment, and growth, I urge you to ask yourself, “What things influence me?”  (The answer is simply the things you spend time with or doing.)  Then sit down with these influences – each of them.  Gather them around the table with you:

  • the books and magazines you read
  • the music you listen to (and can I just wax old fashioned here for a minute and ask if anyone’s capable of making songs that don’t involve alcohol,sex, or drugs?)
  • the websites you visit
  • the e-mail you read
  • the games you play
  • the hobbies you enjoy
  • the places you go
  • the people you spend time with
  • your most frequent thoughts – the ones on repeat cycle

Now put each one under  interrogation:

  • Are YOU helping me get where I want to go?
  • Are YOU making me a better person?
  • What have you done for me lately?

One final thought:  If anything isn’t moving you TOWARD becoming the person you want to be and having the life you want, it’s taking you FURTHER AWAY.  Choose your influences wisely, they’ll leave a lasting mark.

If You Go Half Ass..

You Might As Well Not Go at All

As you may know, I’m a Biggest Loser fanatic.  In fact, I think I’ve probably mentioned the show, it’s contestants, and trainers in a gazillion and three posts.

Now we’ll have to make it a gazillion and four.

On an episode earlier this season, the queen of fitness, Jillian Michaels, was in a contestants face (I SO love it when she gets in faces – priceless).  She was trying to get the contestant to push harder and do more than they thought they could  do.  She told them not to half ass it.  Then she told them to never half ass anything in life.

The phrase has stuck with me, glued to my psyche.

Since then, I’ve challenged myself in different areas of my life.  It’s as though an inner Jillian will get in my face, asking me, “Are you half assing?!?  I know you’re not half assing, are you, punk?!”  My inner Jillian’s a name-caller.

Truth be told, I’m afraid that all of us, at one time or another, half asses whatever it is we’re doing.  Whether we’re pressed for time or pressed for “give a darn,” only half of us shows up for duty. The other half phones  it in and kicks back.  Then we have the audacity to wonder why we aren’t achieving the level of success we’re looking for. Sometimes we think we’re busting our butts for a particular cause when, in all actuality, we’re only busting half our butts.

Half assing, if you will.

This is a short post – especially compared to the epic novelettes I normally write – but it isn’t intended to be a forum for me.  It’s intended to be a thought provoker for anyone and everyone reading it.  Basically I want to sow the seed (the words HALF ASS)  in the field (your mind) and allow you to harvest something spectacular.  I want the words to encourage and challenge you the way they have me since they first came charging out of Jillian’s mouth.  These words, and the concept behind them, take no prisoners, no excuses, and no b.s.

From here on, when you’re…

  • Working
  • Spending time with a loved one
  • Working out
  • Cleaning the garage
  • Walking the dog
  • Sweeping the floor
  • Cooking a meal
  • Walking on the treadmill
  • Writing a letter
  • Doing a project
  • Studying
  • Learning something new
  • Writing an article
  • Writing a book
  • Building a blog
  • Washing your car
  • Planning a vacation
  • Getting dressed
  • Doing whatever it is you’re doing, whenever it is your doing it!

….. ask yourself, “AM I HALF ASSING IT?”  Simply challenging yourself with the question, alone, will make you extend your reach.  You’ll work harder, stay longer, go further, and surpass a bar you may not have even reached.  You’ll amaze yourself with what you can accomplish when you put your ALL into it as opposed to just half.

It’s amazing how motivational two little words can be.  There’s magic in half ass… as long as you’re saying it and not doing it.