Monday, May 30, 2011

Keys to Happiness: Seize the Day!

Forget your troubles come on get happy! For this six week series, we'll discover some of the keys to happiness!

Every day is a new day. It's an opportunity to learn something new, see something you have never seen or do something you've never done. You aren't promised another one, so treat every day as if it's your last.

Of course, every day won't be a completely life-altering event, but every day can move you closer to your goals, bring you closer to your loved ones or teach you something new. Opportunity abounds, we just have to take advantage of it.

What are you doing with your day? If your days all blend together in a haze of monotony, it's time for a change. At first it will be hard to battle the inertia, but once you get started, it will get easier.

Make a little time every day to talk to your kids and your partner. Have a real conversation - that means you talk and you listen. And "Nothing" isn't an acceptable answer to what you did today. If your days aren't that exciting, talk about something else: a television show, an upcoming event, a family issue, or current events. Make time to learn about one another, and when possible, laugh a little together.

Are you making daily progress towards your goals? If you want to write the Great American Novel, do something today that moves you closer to that goal. Write a page or two. Research your topic. Start looking into publishers. Just do something!

Are you creating memories? Again, everyday won't be memorable, but you'll be surprised at what people (especially kids) remember. I had a long talk with my dad a while ago. He apologized for working so much when I was a kid and not spending enough time with me.

The funny thing was I didn't remember it that way. I told him about the time he crawled under the kitchen table to get me when I was scared of a bad thunderstorm. I told him story after story about our summer trips to Georgia. I told him about watching he and my mom hand dance and how he would grab me and tried to teach me how to do it. Those were things he had forgotten, but they meant the world to me. You never know when memories are being created.

Today is your day. Savor it. Enjoy it. Make the most of it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Walk then Run

The road to weight loss for me has not been an easy one. So, recently I decided to add a running program to my weight loss plan. Now this is a huge deal for me. I have not run since my 10th grade gym teacher made me run a mile to pass gym (and I was sick that day). Since then, the only things I run are bath water and my mouth! I don’t run for the bus, I’ve never run for office. Run, for me, should be runn because it's definitely a four letter word!

So I went online and looked up a walk-to-run program. Over 10 weeks, you start with short intervals of running (jogging) followed by time walking. During the program, each week, you increase your run time and decrease your walk time. At the end of the 10 weeks, you’re running 20 minutes without stopping. Since I’m not really ready to walk/run outside, I decided to start with my treadmill first while I build up some endurance.

I called a good friend of mine and shared with her my excitement about my new plan. My friend, a former runner immediately jumped in and tried to help. She wanted to know how fast I’d be running. She didn’t really see the point of all those intervals. She suggested I start running outside because that’s better than running on a treadmill. There were tons of things I needed to do or hadn’t considered. It was sort of overwhelming.

All of the sudden, I wasn’t excited anymore. As I felt my enthusiasm waning, I stopped myself and then I stopped her. I told her I appreciated her help and her advice. And I’m sure she’s probably right about everything BUT …

I just want to get started.

Sure there might be better, more technical ways to begin but this was my way and as I see it, some running is better than no running. Running (or jogging) faster than I would walk is a good thing. As my confidence grows, I’ll venture outside, but right now, as a struggle through running for 30 seconds before stopping, I would feel too self-conscious to run past neighbors or at the gym. I don’t want perfection, I just want a start.

She understood and I told her that I would be seeking her advice or even a running buddy on down the line but right now I just needed to begin.

My victory isn’t in running flawlessly, my victory is in running at all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Keys to Happiness: Finding the Humor

Forget your troubles come on get happy! For this six week series, we'll discover some of the keys to happiness!

I'm a big proponent of humor. Of course, there are times to be serious, but there are just as many times when a light approach - with yourself and others - goes a long way.

There is good humor (not the ice cream!) and not-so-good humor. Good humor seeks to find common bonds and it never hurts. The other humor is offensive and often painful. Humor at the expense of others is not what I'm talking about.

I enjoy a good sit-com, a funny movie or a well-told joke but it goes beyond that. Out of college, I worked for a temp agency and had a lot of ridiculous jobs. It was frustrating, but I also knew it was funny. One job stuck out in particular. Here I was a very recent college grad, working as Santa's Helper, complete with elf hat and shoes (with bells on them!). Every morning I looked in the mirror, I had to laugh.

Meanwhile, I kept looking for work; the Santa's Helper gig paid my bills in the meantime. I knew one day, I would look back and laugh (even harder than I did at the time) at the whole experience. The experience was a memorable one and as I look back on it, the frustration has faded, but the funny remains!

We had an ice storm a few months ago and as a dog owner, I have to go outside no matter what. So Marty and I ventured out that cold and icy morning. I had to laugh as I watched him try to keep from slipping as he tried to 'do his business.' Of course, moments later, the joke was on me, as I started slipping and sliding on the ice. I laughed out loud and I'm sure my neighbors thought I was crazy, but that's okay. I'm sure if Marty could laugh, he's have been right there laughing with me (or at least at me).

My point is that every day, there are opportunities for laughter, especially if you have kids. Start seeking those out. The great part about it is the more you seek out humor, the easier it is it find.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Words of Wisdom

Graduation season is upon us. As students (high school and college) prepare to close one door and walk boldly through another, oftten celebrities are on hand to offer their words of wisdom. Actors, musicians, authors, politicians and comedians who have succeeded in their professions often have some good advice to share. Here are just a few excerpts from past graduation addresses.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice."
- Steve Jobs, Standford, 2005

"I think people will remember us for who we were, not how many records we sell, or how much money we make. Because I have always said that I have always counted my blessings far more often than I've counted my money."
- Dolly Parton, University of Tennessee, 2009

""We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: We have the power to imagine better."
- J.K. Rowling, Harvard, 2008

"Wishing for the end to AIDS and extreme poverty in Africa is like wishing that gravity didn't make things so damn heavy. We can wish it, but what the hell can we do about it? Well, more than we think. We can't fix every problem … but the ones we can, we must."
- Bono, University of Pennsylvania, 2004

"You are about to enter the next phase of your life at a time of great uncertainty. You will be called upon to help restore a free market that is also fair to all who are willing to work; to seek new sources of energy that can save our planet; to give future generations the same chance that you had to receive an extraordinary education."
- Barack Obama, Norte Dame, 2009

"For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal."
- John F. Kennedy, American University, 1963

"Life is like one big Mardi Gras, but instead of showing your boobs, show people your brain, and if they like what they see, you'll have more beads than you know what do with."
- Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane University, 2009

"A good person means someone with a good heart, a sense of caring for the welfare of others, a sense of commitment, a sense of responsibility. Education and the warm heart, the compassion heart—if you combine these two, then your education and knowledge will be constructive. Then you are yourself on the way to becoming a happy person."
- Dalai Lama, Emory Univeristy, 1998

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keys to Happiness: The Attitude of Gratitude

Forget your troubles come on get happy! For this six week series, we'll discover some of the keys to happiness!

Happiness grows out of a grateful heart. Think of happiness as a beautiful plant. If you want that plant to grow and thrive, would you place it in rich soil or a pot full of sand? Better yet, would you plant it in a bed of rocks. Would you water it with water or Coke?

If you chose to plant your seeds in a bed of rocks and water it faithfully with Coke, would you be surprised when your plant didn't grow?

Often times we plant the seed for happiness in a bed of negativity and we water it with our complaints, disappointments and frustrations. We wonder why we aren't happier or why things aren't working out as we would like them to when the truth of the matter is that our happiness never had a chance.

In order for that seed to thrive, we need to plant it in the rich soil of gratitude. It starts by being thankful for what we have right now. When I look around, I don't have everything I want ... yet ... but I do have a wonderful friends and family, a job I like, a home I love, a car I enjoy driving and, let's not forget, I'm the proud owner of Marty, America's Favorite Pooch.

I could make an equally long list of all the things I'd like to have, be and do but what would be the point? Focusing on the lack and limitation in my life will just bring more lack and limitation in the long run and more frustration and unhappiness in the short run.

Happiness is a choice and I choose to focus on what is going right more than I focus on what's going wrong.

Get into the habit of being grateful. Buy a small notebook and challenge yourself everyday to come up with at least 20 things you are grateful for. It should include big things like family and friends but it should also include a lot of things you might normally overlook: a beautiful sunrise, the ability to see a beautiful sunrise, a tasty grilled chicken salad you had for lunch, light traffic on your way to work, music, ... There are tons of things to be grateful for.

Take a few minutes each day to work on developing an attitude of gratitude. You won't be sorry!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Investor Beware!

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What happens when the wrong words come out of the right mouth? What do you do when you are listening to someone you respect or trust? We don’t want to believe someone like that would steer us wrong and maybe that isn’t there intention. However, before you invest your time or money into something, it makes sense to check it out yourself. Regardless of who the messenger is, do your homework on the message itself.

Where is this coming from? I enjoy a variety of perspectives, so, throughout the day, I listen to several talk radio shows ranging from the ultra-liberal to the conservative. One of the hosts I listen to however is playing a dangerous game with his listeners and their hard-earned cash. He is encouraging them to invest in ‘franchises’ with small donations (at least $500) donated through PayPal. He strongly suggests that listeners file for bankruptcy through a company he is affiliated with. Last week on his show he had someone from a payday lender extolling the virtues of payday loans.

Never is there a dissenting position or an alternate point of view. In fact, anyone who doesn’t agree with this charlatan is chided as being against the poor or being a hater (a word I hate). Listen to him and he will assure you that his motives are pure and altruistic. He has nothing but his listeners’ best interest in heart. Maybe he does; but then again...

I fail to see how paying fees between $10 and $100 at interest rates between 266% - 366% on a small loan ($1,200 and less) helps a person who is struggling (I googled this information in about a minute). Likewise, investing in a ‘franchise’ that has a spotty success record with a group of people you don’t know doesn’t sound financially prudent to me (couldn’t find any information about this franchise opportunity online). If after doing their own fact checking someone decides that bankruptcy is a good idea or that this is the investment opportunity for them, then fine.

However, a decision should never be made based on the personality of the messenger or the content of their overall message. A little research and investigation doesn’t mean you are ‘against’ someone. In fact, people who are legitimate in their offerings will, in many cases, encourage you to investigate them. They know they are on the up-and-up. If someone doesn’t want you to look into their business or background, that, to me, is a bright red flag.

Radio show hosts, family members, slick salesmen, they may all have great ideas or business opportunities but trust yourself and your instincts. Only you know if something is right for you. Have the wherewithal to gather the facts. Have the courage to say no, if that is the best answer for you.

When it comes to your precious time, you can never get that back once it’s gone. While you might be able to get your money back, it usually takes a lot longer and a lot more effort to recoup your losses than it took to earn the money in the first place.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Keys to Success: Excellence through Resilience

In this six week series, each Monday, we'll be exploring what it takes to succeed.

I like the word resilience because it sounds like brilliance. Who doesn't want to be brilliant or shine brilliantly? Stars (the ones in the sky and not the ones in the tabloids) are naturally brilliant but for us humans, we don't achieve brilliance without a lot of resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back after failures, setbacks, defeats and discouragements. Think of success as a buried treasure. To get to that treasure, you have to dig, and digging is hard work. However, as you dig, it's not uncommon to come across tree roots, unexpected water, maybe even animals who burrow under the ground. If you want to get to your treasure, you have to get around those obstacles.

I didn't start having any success at all in my weight loss until I developed some resiliency. At first, every misstep: doughnuts at work, indulging too much while eating out, a cold that kept me from working out for a couple days, was enough to knock me completely off track. I'd have to stop the diet and start again ... later ... much later.

I was looking for perfection and when I didn't get it, I'd quit, vowing to be perfect the next time. Well, the next time would come later and later and in the meantime, I kept gaining weight. Then I changed.

I said to myself, "Mistakes happen. Deal with them."

So if I ate the glazed donut at work, I ate lighter at dinner. If I didn't exercise for a few days, fine, as soon as I felt better I did. If I fell off track, instead of staying off track, I got back on track at the very next meal. Not only did I feel better about myself. I started losing weight.

I've built setbacks into the process and found ways to work around them and it made all of the difference. Finally, I've started to lose a few pounds. Resilience has been the key to my brilliance and I feel great!

Here's one of my favorite videos. If you've ever failed, you are in great company!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Time Tale

One day a woman Tessa attended a motivational seminar for work. One of the exercises asked her to list the things that mattered most to her. For Tessa this was easy. She quickly jotted a few things down. At the top of her list were: God, family, health and her writing. She felt proud as she put her pen down. "I know what is truly important," she thought to herself.

Next the facilitator asked her to think about how much time and attention she gave to the items her list.

Of course God was important, but she hadn't attended church in ages or even cracked open her Bible since she didn't know when. She meant to carve out prayer time in the morning, but how could she get up any earlier? Her days were packed and at night she was just too tired.

Surely she'd fare better with family. "Did time spent shuttling the kids back and forth count?" someone asked jokingly. He said only if it was quality time. If everyone was listening to iPods, texting and talking on phones then it didn't count.

This cut the time Tessa spent with the kids in half. She didn't even want to think about how much quality time she spend with the hubs. Date night was a nice concept, but that was about it.

Now, she cringed as she thought about exercising (which she rarely did) and eating right (a Snickers for lunch might satisfy but it's not actually healthy).

Writing was something she always planned to do when there was time, and there never was time.
Now Tessa was discouraged. She had a full-time job. She had kids to raise. She had other obligations. She'd seen the movie Eat Pray Love but who has months at a time to devote to spirituality and love? Definitely not her!

However, as the facilitator continued, the amount of time was less important than the quality of time and the fact that she made time for these things at all that was most important. She could make a lot of little changes to accomodate the things that she valued. She left the seminar vowing to do just that. 

A month later, she had made some significant changes.

  • She got some inspirational books on CD and started listening to them on her commute to work.
  • She found a bible study that was close by that she could attend once a week.
  • She and her family started attending church more often.

  • Although they objected at first, she made some of their car time (some, not all), talk time and not iPod/gaming/texting time.
  • She worked out a babysitting schedule with another couple so they both could get a date night once a month.
  • She and the hubs tried to find at least a few things that they could do together as a family (like brunch after church) or even watching a favorite TV show together.
  • She started planning her meals which made dinner at home healthier for everyone.
  • Sometimes she'd pack her lunch and other times she'd go to the cafe in the building and make better choices.
  • She started taking short walks in the evening (and sometimes even during lunch at work). Her daughter often accompanied her so it served as family time too.
  • She started keeping a journal and jotting her thoughts down in the evening before bed.
  • She's even thinking of blogging.
The great thing about these changes is that they were small, doable changes. They didn't require a lot of time. Although they took some effort - planning meals, arranging date night - most of the planning took just a few minutes.

When Tessa looked over her month, she could not only see the changes she'd made but she felt she was living a life where she made time for what mattered most.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Keys to Success: Integrity

In this six week series, each Monday, we'll be exploring what it takes to succeed.

I volunteer and I had the opportunity to talk to some teenagers. I mentioned the word ‘integrity’ and most of the junior and senior high school students had no idea what I was talking about. It was scary and it was sad. To me, integrity is critical in success, but on a larger scale, it’s critical to just being a decent person.

The dictionary says it’s adherence to moral principles or honesty, trust. I agree with that but in practice I’d take it one step further. Basically, you do what you say you’re going to do when you say you are going to do it. If you can’t, you own up to it. You don’t cover up your mistakes. You don’t point the finger of blame. You are, to go back to the definition, honest.

In retrospect, it isn’t surprising that kids aren’t that familiar with integrity. As adults, a lot of us aren’t too good at acting with integrity either. We complain and blame. We sometimes trade honesty for expediency and the right thing for the more lucrative thing.

Kids see what we do and we pay for the consequences of what we do in one way or the other.

If you want to be successful, then you want to be a person people can count on. You want to be the person who does exactly what they say they will do. As a parent, as a worker, as a business owner, you build relationships by being a people person but also by having integrity.

A people person with no integrity is a scam artist.
A people person with integrity is unstoppable.