Grateful Memories in Spite of…

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Have you ever dreamed of something –  hoped for it, saved for it, imagined it – only to find out it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?   That’s what happened to me on my recent trip to Italy.

You see, years ago I heard about an area called Cinque Terra.  It was described as a rugged portion of the coast on the Italian Riviera with five villages built into the cliffs.   It sounded so romantic, and any photo I saw of the area was breathtaking.  I just had to go and experience it for myself. 

So I saved and waited and saved some more.  And when I arrived, this is what I saw!  Hordes and hordes of tourists – so many that you could hardly move.  I learned later that each of the five towns has about 400 residents each, yet every year they have 1.2 billion visitors.  That’s billions with a capital B.  You had to fight your way to get on the trains, and sometimes the hiking trails were so crowded you were at a total standstill.

So much for my vision of sitting at a local cafe, sipping a cappuccino with the Italian residents. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was still beautiful – just not the way I had imagined it.  So what do you do?  How do you handle a situation like this?

For me, I made a conscious choice to see the beauty that surrounded me.  I remembered the words of Mary Engelbreit:  “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” 

I knew I would probably never be in this part of Italy again.  So I embraced the craziness and started conversations with visitors that surrounded me.  And then I ordered a bottle of wine – the local wine that you can’t get anywhere else.  I began to embrace the uniqueness of this area.  It didn’t happen immediately, but every time I found myself getting annoyed with the crowds, I simply said: “I am grateful for ________________.”

Now it’s your turn to fill in the blank.  No matter what is happening around you, good or bad, there is always something to be grateful for.  What memories will you choose to make?

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You’ve Got a Friend

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Has your confidence ever been shaken to the core?  Have you ever gone through a challenge so great that you doubted yourself and stopped believing in your own self-worth?

I know I have, and it’s a scary place to be.  As I look at my life now, it’s hard to believe that my confidence was shattered, but there’s no doubt that seven years ago my life totally fell apart.  And it all happened so quickly.  One day I was in a loving 15 year relationship, owned a successful business and lived in a beautiful home.  Then the next day – PUFF!  It was all gone.  And I never saw it coming.  The 2008 recession swallowed my business, all my finances and I found myself sitting in a bankruptcy office.  How did I get here?  What was I going to do next?

So how did you survive your life challenge?  Whether you lost your job, lost someone you love, or lost your home, how did you get up the next morning and put one foot in front of the other?

One HUGE thing that helped me was my friends.  Never questioning me or judging me, they were just there.  One helped me pack my boxes to move, another held my hand as I looked for a new place to live, and others invited me to dinner and just let me ramble about my heartache.

Above all, they made me believe that I wasn’t alone.  And in the end, it has made me a better friend to others.  Now when someone calls me with a problem, I just listen.  Although I may be tempted, I don’t offer advice, and I certainly don’t interject my own stories of “you should hear what happened to me.”

I think that’s what I’m most grateful for – learning how to be a better friend to others. Learning to listen, tune in, and just BE there. 

For me, this quote says it all: “Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest–It’s about those who came and never left your side.”Mikaela Tiu

Thanks to all my dear Friends who never left my side!

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Share Your Wisdom

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For the last nine weeks, every week, I’ve shared an idea that helped me during a very difficult time in my life.  A time when I felt like I had been socked in the stomach and couldn’t breathe.  We’ve all been there; we’ve all faced life challenges.  It may be that you lost your job, lost a loved one, or so many other challenges in between.

Even though the situation may be different, the emotions are so similar.  There are times when we feel scared, angry, and confused.  Our confidence is shaken and we feel beaten down and exhausted.

The nine techniques I shared can help anyone get back on their feet again.  That is, anyone who is ready to heal and begin to move forward to a new beginning.

Some of the things I talked about were:

  • Gratitude
  • Making a game out of a difficult situation
  • The 9 out of 10 factor
  • A formula to visualize your future
  • Knowing that you always made a good decision
  • Paying attention to what comes back to you over and over again
  • Quotes
  • Acknowledging your self-worth
  • The power of the word curious

These nine techniques truly helped me recreate myself.  It took lots of time, and even more ups and downs along the way, but with patience and love from my family and friends, I now have a whole new life.  These nine techniques really helped to pull me out of the darkness.

That’s why I want to share them with you.  My hope is that you read something that will click, something that will help make your journey a little easier – a little stronger.

And now I reach out to you.  I’d love to hear about any tips, techniques, secrets, that helped you through a difficult time.  What kept you going and nudged you to get out of bed in the morning?  What kept you moving forward when everything else told you to just give up?  By sharing, you never know who you may help

After all, we are in this Game of Life together.  Let’s bring a little fun and laughter and peace into each other’s life.  Let’s reach out and pull each other up.

In the wise words of Flavia Weedn: “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.”

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I Would Walk 500 Miles

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

I LOVE that song – I Would Walk 500 Miles by The Proclaimers.

As the song says:
I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more…

Who or what would you walk 500 miles for? Who or what would be worth the pain and the sacrifice?

Now don’t be so quick to answer the question. Really think about it and the commitment it would take.

When I first saw this picture of a sculpture by artist Frances Bruno Catalano, it really took my breath away. I read that his reason for creating it was to capture the vacuum caused by being forced to leave your land, your life, or your people for any reason.

However, this piece of art had a different message for me. This sculpture made me wonder about times when there was a void in my life, and the people I surrounded myself with to help me fill that void.

Motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, once said: “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with”.

That’s right! We are greatly influenced by those who are closest to us. They affect our way of thinking, our self confidence, and the decisions we make.

Hopefully you can look around and breathe a sigh of relief. However, if you look around and scream “Yikes, what was I thinking”! it may be time to make a few changes.

So it is those people in my life who helped me fill the void of loneliness, confusion, self-doubt, and so much more that I am truly grateful.

After all, “Friendship isn’t about who you have known the longest… it’s about those who came and never left your side”. (Mikaela Tiu)

And for them, and the hope they gave me, I would walk 500 miles!

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The Power of Gratitude on My Dresser

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So now you know the three phases of gratitude.

Don’t know what I’m talking about?

Just browse through my last three postings and check out the phases of gratitude that helped me recreate my life, and learn to bring more happiness into every day that I wake up.

Now, here’s another idea. Something you can see and touch and feel, and a great way to bring a smile to your face on those “not so great” days.

Create a Gratitude Box. Find a decorative box that you like. You can get them very inexpensively at Target, Pier 1, and a host of other places. Put that lovely box in a place where you will see it every day.

Now, browse through magazines and cut out any pictures that make you happy. Don’t analyze it, judge it, or try to explain it in any way. Just cut out any photo that makes you smile. Put them in that pretty box.

You can also write kind and insightful messages about yourself when you’re having a good day. Focus on what you think is cool about yourself. Put those little notes, mantras, and positive affirmations in that same pretty box along with the photos. Then on those days when things aren’t going so great, pull out one of those notes or affirmations about yourself, or a photo – and feel your mood change.

Here’s a picture of my Gratitude Box along with a few of the photos I keep inside.   This pretty box sits right in the middle of my dresser, and on some days, it becomes my new best friend.

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The Power of Gratitude – Phase 3

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As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, I do believe there are three phases to gratitude, and this third phase is the most challenging, and the most difficult to reach.  Yet the most satisfying and rewarding.

This final phase came to me as a total surprise.  It was actually on Thanksgiving Day several years ago.   It was a beautiful day and I decided to go for a run.  Actually, let me clarify.  My idea of a run is lacing up my shoes, running down to the corner, then walking the rest of the way!!!

Well, a few blocks away was a huge church that several people told me was really beautiful and something to see. I had tried several times to visit, but every time I tried to enter, the doors were locked.  But this day, as I walked past, I noticed a lot of people walking into the church.  The doors were open, so I decided to slip in the side door, and sit in the very back.

Now, I don’t know if it was the sun beaming through the stained glass windows, or the soft church bells ringing outside, or possibly the unlocked doors that helped me  unlock this next phase of gratitude,  but suddenly the words crossed my lips:  “And thank you for all you have taken away from me”.

It caught me off guard – it really surprised me, and it was in that moment that I realized I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for my loss.  I would not be living the life I have today if I hadn’t faced all my life challenges.  It was through my pain – and my gratitude – that I was able to find a strength inside myself that I didn’t even know existed, a strength that has taken me to this new level in life.

When you reach this third phase of gratitude – being truly grateful for all that you have and for all that you have lost, you will find a peacefulness that I can’t describe in words.  If you have a hard time getting to this third phase, let me know.  I may have a tip or two that will help you.

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The Power of Gratitude -Phase 2

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Last week we talked about phase 1 of gratitude, and how keeping a gratitude list will help you embrace things with gratitude instead of taking them for granted. Once this happens, you will actually feel gratitude in your heart and in your soul, and it will bring you so much joy.

You will now find that you enter phase 2 of gratitude, sometimes without even realizing it.

And what is phase 2?  It’s extending gratitude to others.  Maybe through an email, text, phone call – whatever you feel comfortable with.  But reach out to those who have made an impact in your life and find a way to tell them.

I personally send cards.  In this day of instant gratification, it’s nice to actually get something in the mail that’s not a bill or an advertisement.  I have a friend named Asha who sends me cards for unusual things – not just my birthday or the holidays, but to say congratulations on that big speaking gig you just landed, or simply that I’m thinking of you and I’m happy to have you for my friend.  Every time I receive a card from her, it brings a smile to my face.  Asha makes me feel special, and I want to extend that same feeling to others.

And, if you are in a comfortable place, you can also show gratitude to someone who gave you the push you needed when you weren’t ready.  I met someone recently who actually sent her ex-husband a thank you card for all that she learned from him.  Even though she didn’t agree with the way he ended their relationship, she was still grateful for the time they spent together and the things she learned from him.  I have to admit that I haven’t reached this level yet, but I’m working on it.

This second phase of gratitude will help you to connect with others more deeply.  To let others know how their efforts and presence make an impact on you.

Let me know your experience with this second phase of gratitude.  Who have you reached out to???

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The Power of Gratitude – Phase 1

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A simple little thing called the gratitude list actually transformed my life.

Has your life ever been turned upside down?  You know what I mean – when you are faced with the kind of challenge that is so great it feels like you’ve been socked in the stomach and you can hardly breathe.   You don’t know how you’re going to get out of bed in the morning to even put one foot in front of the other.  We’ve all been there, whatever your challenge may be.

For me, it was a 15 year relationship that suddenly ended, and through a series of circumstances, it lead me to losing my business, losing my home, and worst of all, losing myself!  I don’t have to tell you that my belief in myself and my self-confidence were shaken to the core.

But life has twists and turns, and years later my life took another turn that helped me to recreate myself and start over again.  I now have a successful career, welcoming home, and a loving marriage.  I can honestly say that a huge part of my transformation came from using a gratitude list every day.

During my darkest moments, it was really hard to find anything I was grateful for.  As awful as that may sound, it’s true.  I couldn’t think of anything good in my life– I could think of only what I had lost.  So every day for 30 days – that’s the trick – 30 days, I took out a pad of paper and pen and wrote down everything I was grateful for that day.   And as the days passed, I found that my list got longer and the things I was grateful for came easier to me.   At the end of the 30 days, I actually felt better.   And that’s all I wanted – to feel better.

I’m not kidding you.  This gratitude list really works.  So if you find yourself in a sad place – or even a happy one, try writing down what you are grateful for every day for 30 days.  Let me know how it goes.

I do believe there are three phases to gratitude and writing your gratitude list every day is the first phase.   I will share my thoughts on the other two phases in my next two blogs.

Happy writing; happy new discoveries!

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The Power of Gratitude

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I choose to live in gratitude.  That means being grateful for the good things that come my way, and also the not-so-good challenges of everyday life.

You notice that I use the word “choose”, because that’s exactly what you have to do.

Right now, because of the severe storms that just passed through my area, my back yard is one huge puddle.  And I can’t open my back door without being attached by mosquitoes.   I can complain and moan but at the end of the day, my back yard is still one huge puddle and I’m still eaten alive by mosquitoes.

So, I’ve made a conscious decision to “flip the switch”.  That’s what I like to call it.  When you take a good look at the negative and find something positive.  Sometimes it takes a little effort, but you can always find some good.

Today, I “flip the switch” and I find these beautiful yellow flowers in my back yard.  I choose to see the beauty that all this rain has brought.  Of course, a heavy dose of bug spray helped a LOT!

I believe that gratitude comes in three phases.  In the next three weeks, I’ll be talking about my experience with gratitude and how it truly transformed my life.  Please let me know your thoughts on gratitude – whatever they are.  I’d love your honest comments.  I’ll be happy to add some of your thoughts to my upcoming blogs.

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