Do You Know What’s Important to You?

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Are you living your best life?  There are many aspects that are important in helping you achieve the happiest, healthiest life possible.  Identifying your values and goals is essential to having a more satisfying life.    How can you attain the life you want if you are not clear about what is most important to you?  Fundamentally, that is what values are:  what is important to you.  Just going through the motions of daily life is living passively.   As I state in my book, “one is often so busy doing life that it is easy to avoid evaluating whether you are putting your energy in the directions you value most.”  Taking time to gain clarity about what is important to you is imperative.  As you are more aware of what you value, then you can create goals that will adhere to and reinforce these values.  Goal setting is a way of assuring that you are progressing in a manner that aligns with your values.

One simple way to begin evaluating if you’re living in alignment with what you value most is to write down what you do in your average 24-hour workday, and then again write down how you typically spend a weekend day.  How much of your time and energy is in expended on what is most important to you?  It is easy to get so busy that you don’t realize how little energy you are putting towards what is important to you.  I realize most of us have to work and that takes a large portion of our time.  However, how are you using your time when you’re not working?  I encourage you to use this exercise as a tool to help direct you in ways you can adjust your energies so that you are more in harmony with what is most important to you.

If you recognize areas that need to be adjusted, then make small goals to begin changing them.  Maybe you notice that you spend two-hours from 8-10pm watching TV.  You may make it your goal to spend only one-hour watching TV and the other hour exercising, working on a personal project, spending time with your children or putting your energy into something else that is very important to you.  It is easy to let time get the best of you!  Better to make the best of your time!

 

 

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Another Takes Their Own Life!

young girl

For many of us who live in Pinellas County it was just yesterday that we read in the local newspaper about a young, talented local girl who recently graduated valedictorian and was attending a prestigious university who apparently jumped to her death.   And not long prior to this tragedy a local teenage boy who was a very talented swimmer and from all accounts was jovial and happy, ended his young life.

While I don’t know the specifics of either of these individuals’ situations it breaks my heart that so many of our teenagers don’t make it into adult hood.  I don’t want to age myself when I say “times have changed!”  While during my teenage years their certainly was a lot of drama that occurred and, yes, there was competition amongst students for various reasons.  It seems to me that the pressures on our young kids today is amplified compared to the days of past.

It isn’t just peer pressure; we currently have higher educational demands.  A weighted GPA’s above 4.0 is common.  Now dual enrollment is seen frequently.   College admission requirements are demanding more of their applicants.  The increase in pressure in the sports arena is also evident.

I am not saying some of the changes that have occurred in the educational and sports arenas’ aren’t good.   However, one may wonder if we as a culture have gone too far with these increased demands.  As adults we know the pressures of today’s world.  In theory, we are supposed to be more equipped than our adolescent children to handle these multiple stressors.

And so I ask; what are we to take away from these local tragedies and the many others all around the globe?   Since most of us don’t know the families immediately touched by these losses, what can we do to help?   Maybe we could each choose to be a little kinder to those around us.  Maybe the next time someone accidently cuts you off in traffic you can be more patient.  Or you could be more patient in the grocery line, perhaps even let someone who has less groceries go ahead of you.

My kids often get embarrassed by me because they say I talk to too many people.  They will even ask me why I have to talk to everyone.  And my response is “why not?”  What’s wrong with being friendly?  In essence, maybe we adults can move slower and be more mindful of those around us.  We can take less for granted and be thankful for what we do have instead of focusing on all we don’t have.

And those of us who are parents I imagine we can be as alert as possible to the surrounding of our children. Also, to focus more on the positive traits of our children and point out the many things they do correctly.  How easy it is to notice all they do wrong, sometimes it’s almost second nature.

So today I implore each of us to notice the positive before the negative.  Share with those in your life what you like before sharing your complaint.  Be more encouraging than discouraging.  And pray for those who are suffering that they may reach out for support and that support will be given.  For whoever really knows the soul of another!   Here is one of many links if you want to learn more about suicide prevention:  http://www.apa.org/research/action/suicide.aspx

 

 

 

Are You Proactive or Reactive?

Proactive

There seem to be many people these days that express a general dissatisfaction with their lives. Often they seem unclear about how to change or even wonder if change is possible. We all get into “ruts”, however, I am speaking more of a perpetual feeling of discontent. If you are struggling with this feeling you may be living in a reactive versus proactive manner.

What do I mean by the above statement? You are being reactive when life happens and you ebb and flow wherever and whichever way it takes you. Life and all of its circumstances control you. When you approach life more proactively you are alert and consciously aware of the direction you choose to move with the circumstances life brings. When you are proactive you take the initiative and responsibility for directing your life. Of course there are many aspects of life one cannot control (natural disasters, deaths, etc.), but I am talking about being proactive in attitude; a general stance towards life. A proactive person will not let life and its happenings win.

In what areas of your life do you need to take more responsibility and ownership? I have developed what is called “The Circle of Life” which describes various components of your life. These areas are: emotional, social, physical, spiritual, occupational and intellectual. Emotional entails your emotional and mental health. Social includes all aspects of your social lives, such as, close friends, acquaintances, lovers and family. Physical includes your physical health and also your need for physical touch and your sexual self. Spiritual is about seeking your highest level of spiritual truth and growth. Occupational involves all aspects of occupational well-being and balance including one’s financial security. Intellectual has to do with your mind’s need to be stimulated and enhanced.

The “Circle of Life” is best when seen as a whole. If you are lacking in any area and especially if you have a deficit in several areas, then you probably feel unsettled or discontent. I find it useful to review this “Circle of Life” at a minimum every six-months as a ‘self-check’ on how you are doing. It is meant to help you take responsibility for the areas that are out-of-balance so you can feel more fulfilled. Balancing your life so you can be more fulfilled is a constant challenge!

If you allow yourself to stay stagnant and do not take responsibility for the areas in which you are most lacking then you will usually feel like a victim. Victims generally feel powerless and unable to succeed. It’s unlikely that anyone would feel fulfilled with this kind of outlook or approach to life.

 

Four Sure Ways To Sabotage Your New Year’s Resolutions!

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Sabotaging method number one:  Aim High!    While aiming high can be advantageous in many endeavors I find that New Year’s resolutions stand a better chance of succeeding when they are more specific and realistic.  After all, the goal is to succeed at achieving these resolutions, correct?  The popular resolutions often involve losing weight and exercising more.  Aiming high might be saying “I am going to lose 60 pounds by summer.”  Or “I am going to work out six days a week.”  I would recommend you set smaller goals such as committing to losing five pounds at a time until you get to a weight you are comfortable with.  Or committing to working out a minimum of three times per week.  These are very attainable goals that you are likely to achieve.

Being Spontaneous in and of itself is a wonderful ability.  However, when it comes to succeeding with your New Year’s resolutions you will need a plan.  The idea of losing weight or working out more or spending less money, etc. are just that:  great ideas.  To make them more tangible you will need a thought out plan of action.  How will you lose weight?  Are you going to use a certain diet program?  Have you researched the program and made sure it is for you?  Also, I suggest you have back up plan in case you don’t like the initial program.  Quitting isn’t an option so having a second choice gives you some flexibility!

Devaluing yourself is sabotaging method number three!  While it is true there will usually be too much to do and too little time you have to make a conscious decision to prioritizing yourself if you want to be successful with your goals.  You have to decide you are worth it!  No guilt tripping yourself!  You will have to make your new goals a high priority.  For instance, if you decided to start a diet program to lose weight then it is critical that during the first six weeks you arrange your life so that outside of work and family duties you will be focusing on making you and your program a top priority.  For example, I started on a new diet December 27 last year.  A friend of mine was having a New Year’s Eve party.  I chose not to go because I knew there was no way I could follow my strict food program there.  It would have been a quick trip down the failure road.

Lastly, the command “Be Independent” is another path to failing at meeting your new goals.  While learning to be independent in general is a good thing, when you are seeking to learn new behaviors now is the time to ask for help.  Find a partner or two who also want to achieve similar goals.  Whether it be diet buddies or workout partners reach out and ask for support.  It is important to have emotional support with your goals.  A person you can call or text who can encourage you and help you stay motivated.   Or maybe you need to ask for additional professional help such as hiring a personal trainer, using hypnosis, a life coach or even therapy.

How Green Is Your Grass?

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I assume you have heard the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side.” And this is a pit we can easily fall in when we assume from what we observe on the surface that the other situation is better than our own. Or that sort of envy that we wish we had this better relationship, better job, better…you name it.
Recently I saw a different quote which states “The grass is greener where you water it!” I loved it! This is so profound: “The grass is greener where you water it!” I just want to keep saying it over and over! And this is the real truth; no matter what something looks like on the outside the truth is it is always greener where we water it!
This can be applied to many situations. Today I am going to apply this truth to your significant love relationship. When you complain about your relationship with your partner, ask yourself this question “How well have I done nurturing this relationship? Instead of finding all the fault in your partner take a look in the mirror. For many it is easier to focus on what the other isn’t doing instead of looking at their own responsibility in the relationship.
This is something I see often with the couples who come to my office. I have a partner coming in to session in shock that their loved one wants out of the relationship. Usually this person reports he or she had no idea the other was so unhappy. When I listen to the story of this relationship I am thinking “How could you not know?” And these are very intelligent, smart individuals who right under their nose didn’t realize how dried up and under nurtured their own garden was.
Ask yourself, have you been more of the nurturer in your relationship or are you more of the taker? Another way to ask this question is: have you been more of the one over functioning or under functioning in your relationship? If believe you are the one who does more of the watering and watering and watering; nurturing, nurturing and nurturing with little return then maybe for you it is time to turn the spout off and sit back and start thinking about your own needs.
If you have been the one that has been taking and taking and taking, and when you’re honest with yourself have not been providing consistent nurturing to your relationship in the way your partner needs, you would do yourself and this relationship a great service if you would pause and genuinely take ownership of this truth. Not for a brief period of time but for the long-term.
There is almost no excuse today to not do this. The resources for men and women to learn how to be better people, better partners are overflowing. There are many books, CD’s, workshops and therapy available. There is really no excuse. So if you think the grass is greener in some other relationship ask yourself; look in the mirror and ask “Have I really done everything I can do to nurture my own garden?”
And if you know that you have been giving; that you have been over functioning, maybe this is a time of grief for you. I time to let go; a time for you to take a risk knowing that your partner may not step up to the plate.
And if you can own that you have not been actively nurturing your relationship are you willing to take a look in the mirror? Are you willing to get the help you need to learn how to nurture the relationship on a consistent basis? If you have allowed your garden to dry up too much it’s not reasonable to expect to give it a little taste of water and then just bloom and grow. The relationship has been imbalance. To mend this you will have to continually give and give before expecting too much in return. This is how it works. Most in the under functioning expect immediate returns on their giving. That just isn’t the case, nor should it be your expectation. You may not like this, but these are the facts.
I hope this message gives you hope. If this message rings true for you, I hope you will take responsibility for your role and make the needed changes. Everyone around you will be blessed from this action.

Things Not to Say to People Who Are Grieving – #3

friendships
3.  “You shouldn’t feel that way.”

What an awful thing to say to someone who is suffering a loss.  Yet, amazingly, this has been said to many who are struggling.  Grief is one of the most unpredictable emotions.  It changes you forever.  Everyone has a right to grieve in their own way with whatever feelings they are experiencing.  You and I have no right to tell them how they should feel. When the grieving person is responding in a way that doesn’t fit with what another deems acceptable, then often that person will make a judgmental statement or behave in a way that is hurtful to the griever.

I remember when I received the news that my brother had been killed.  It was first thing in the morning.  It was shocking.  Since my family lived out of town I had to spend the day coordinating the quickest way to get home.  It wasn’t until the evening that I called my best friend from college.  When I called her I told her what happened in a very matter-of-fact way.  By that time I was completely numb; there was no sobbing, hysteria, etc.  I didn’t hear from her for three weeks!  When I did talk to her she said she didn’t call because I didn’t seem that upset about it!  We didn’t speak for a year.

That is an example of how my friend had an expectation of how I “should have” been when I called her.  She made judgments about me because I didn’t respond in the way see deemed appropriate.  And this is someone with whom I had been close.  She was not able to take into consideration what had gone on for me all day and to understand where my head was.  In fact, her clear lack of support made her judgment of me very evident.  It took a while to make amends in that relationship.

To the griever: Whatever feelings you are feeling from hour to hour, day to day are normal for you and your situation.  Please be careful not to feel guilty about your feelings.  Not all the feelings you have will make sense to you.  Surround yourself with people who can handle the depth of your feelings.  The hurt that you feel when someone you think cares cuts you off or tells you not to feel that way is significant.  Tell them when they hurt your feelings.  If they keep failing at supporting you reach out to others who do provide the support you need.  Sometimes the people who can understand your feelings may surprise you.

 

Things Not to Say to People Who Are Grieving – #2

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2.      “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

A while back I did an all-day workshop on loss.  During one of the exercises people wrote on the board the stupid or hurtful things people have said to them.  This response elicited strong negative feelings from those in attendance.   While this may be your belief system and even the belief system that the griever adheres too, saying it to someone who is in the midst of suffering is not encouraged.  I think people often say this because they don’t know how else to comfort the person or they feel a need to make sense of the situation.  Please be considerate of the other person and keep that thought to yourself for the time being.  This is especially true when you don’t know the person’s belief system.

Even people with a very strong faith system question God when they are going through grief.  This is normal. The loss the griever is experiencing in the moment usually feels like much more than they can handle or ever imagined experiencing.  Statements like the above can make the person feel minimized, angry and they may want to distance themselves from you due to their mixed feelings towards God’s role in their loss.  This statement tells the person that God wants them to feel this pain or that God had a part in it.  The grieving person needs time to process their feelings towards God as they move through the stages of grief.

To the griever:  I have no idea why you are suffering the loss you are experiencing.  “Why?” is a normal question that is often asked.  No one has that answer.  The situation is overwhelming.  Feeling like it is too much to handle is normal and natural.  You are only human after all.  I hope you will seek out others who understand the difficult time you are having.  This is a time when you need the safe support of those who can help you through such a confusing and dark period.  Don’t try to handle these feelings all by yourself.  Please allow yourself to lean on safe and understanding people.

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