Go Beyond the Obvious

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and by now you have received dozens of emails, texts and messages reminding you to be grateful.

So, today I’m not going to do the same thing. Instead of sending the same typical, predictable message as everyone else, I want to make this one different. So, please indulge me.

Stop for a moment, right now, and picture just one good thing that happened this past year as a result of the pandemic. Something that you realized or experienced that bought a different dimension to your life that would not have happened if it wasn’t for COVID.

Don’t answer too quickly and please don’t give the standard answer, like “spend more time with my family.” Yes, that is very important and I’m thrilled that so many people have experienced that, but I am asking you to go beyond the obvious.

This is really a hard question so I’m taking today to reflect on the new person I have become in this last year because of, and in spite of, the pandemic. My life has certainly changed and I know there is a new path before me. I just have to clear away the branches and debris to see where it leads me.

Happy Thanksgiving, my Dear Friends.

 

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Quiet Influence

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There are people in our lives who have made all the difference in the world. Without their influence, we would not be where we are today. They are the ones who don’t ASK if we need help, they just show up when no one else seems to understand. They are the ones who grab our hand and guide us through the darkness. The sad part is, they may not even know of the impact they have made on our life.

So, during this season of Thanksgiving, I am pausing to think about those who have shaped my life. About those who fill my heart with so much gratitude that I have no words to express it. Funny, it’s not always the people you would expect. Sometimes, it’s those hiding in the shadows that can see your pain, feel your loneliness, and lead you to a safe place where you can finally breathe again.

Are you getting a picture in your head of someone who’s help was so profound that it literally changed your life? If so, reach out to them now. They probably have no idea of how something they said or did eased your confusion. Don’t wait another minute. In an email, text, card or better yet, face-to-face (or Zoom), tell them.

 

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A Formula for Smiles

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Last March, I was in Chicago when I personally witnessed that city, the one I love so much, close down – right before my eyes. It was the first wave of the pandemic. Now, eight months later, we are in a second lockdown. Before last March, I never heard of words like lockdown, pandemic or self-isolation. Now they are part of my everyday vocabulary.

So, in order to survive and maintain some sort of sanity, I have found that reaching out to others brings some peace to my otherwise discombobulated life. Here are three ideas I’d like to share with you.

  • If you hear a song that brings back a sweet memory, send it to the friend you shared it with. It will bring some warmth and happiness to both of you.
  • Give someone a compliment. Tell them how much you admire something they have accomplished. Be specific, like: “I really admire how you helped your neighbor when they couldn’t leave the house to shop for food.” We all love being recognized and we all appreciate it when someone else takes notice.
  • Reach out to a friend and tell them that you are thinking of them and that you miss them. In this uncertain time, we are not sure when we can see each other in person or hug again, so use your words to reach out to people you care about. Bring up an occasion that will make them smile or send them a photo that will bring back a special memory.

If you have any other ideas on how to brighten someone’s day, even your own, please share it here. We can all use a little kindness and peacefulness right now.

 

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Four Words that Changed My Life

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That’s a pretty powerful statement to make – saying that only four words could change my life. But it’s true. These four words literally gave me a different outlook and helped me deal with all the craziness and challenges that have crept into my life and shaped me into the person I am today. These four words have helped me keep my sanity and deal with an uncertain future. Ok, ok, so what are they already???

I HAVE A CHOICE

That it! These four short words have made an immense impact on me. You see, when a crisis hits, you may feel like you have no choices and have no control, but you always do.

At your core you always have a choice;

At your core you always have control.

When you realize this, you will be able to handle anything that comes your way. All you have to do is stop and ask yourself: what are my choices and what can I control right now at this very moment? This is true even in the middle of a pandemic:  you have choices, there are opportunities, and you do have control. It may not look exactly the way you imagined it so you may have to be a little creative and a bit open minded. It is all there in front of you, though, and it’s up to you to decide how you will handle the changes that come your way.

You can spend your days complaining about your losses or you can grow from them. The choice is yours, but make no mistake – you cannot do both. You cannot complain and grow at the same time.

So, which one will you choose? Remember the four words I shared that changed my life. Now it’s up to you:

YOU HAVE A CHOICE

 

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Imagine How Wonderful That Would Be

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What are you going to do today to lift up the people you come in contact with? Think about it. So many times, we are consumed with our own problems and challenges that we often don’t even notice the other people in our lives. So, ask yourself that simple question:

What am I going to do today to lift up the people I come in contact with?

I’m heading to Target this afternoon and I’m going to repeat this simple question to myself. I’m curious to see if it will affect the way interact with the cashier or the people passing me with their shopping carts. This could also work on people in your personal life: your spouse, child, sibling, and the list goes on. I’m confident that by making others feel better, it will come full circle and make you feel better as well. Imagine how wonderful that would be.

Want to give it a try? Simply ask yourself right now:

What am I going to do today to lift up the people I come in contact with?

 

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Forgetting Everyday Habits

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Before COVID, I loved working at coffee shops. Because I’m an extreme extrovert, the thought of working from home and not seeing another person was torturous. So nearly every day I would pack up my laptop and head anyplace where I could see, hear and interact with other people.

So, when the coffee shops suddenly shut their doors and became drive-thru only, I was forced to set up my office inside my home having no contact with the outside world. It has been a rough road.

Then, after seven months (and counting) some coffee shops began to open their patios and set up outside tables. I can finally get back to my much missed routine.

It never dawned on me, though, that I may have forgotten some very basic things. You can imagine my complete surprise when I was sitting on the patio of my favorite coffee shop, laptop open and ready to go, and I can’t logon to the internet. I have totally forgotten how!

It took a few minutes for my brain to reboot and it all came back to me. Isn’t it interesting, though, that one of my everyday habits, something I knew like the back of my hand, was suddenly erased from my memory. With all the new habits I have formed over the last few months, I wonder how many old habits I have forgotten. Only time will tell.

 

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What If You Couldn’t Fail?

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Today we have a guest post from my colleague and friend, Dianne Morr. Dianne is an award-winning speaker and author of Choose Happy, 25 Happiness Habits to Transform Your Life. Today she shares some wisdom she recently learned from an art teacher. Enjoy!

What If You Couldn’t Fail?

In hopes of reaching the end of my journey on this planet without losing all my marbles, I decided to enhance my brain power by learning something new.

Even though I suspected that artistic ability was one of those things you were either born with or not, like red hair, I chose to have a go at acrylic painting.

The first art class I found at a local college lifelong learning center proved to be basically a wine and paint experience without the wine. The teacher walked us step by step through the process of duplicating a painting she had created prior to the class. It was fun but I did not learn enough to do anything on my own. After a little hunting I found an art teacher named Kim who taught technique and coached students through whatever project they chose.

Kim asked me what I hoped to learn. I told her I hoped to develop an artist’s eye so that I could learn to create a work that looked like what I saw. She told me she could help me do that.

We began with a sketch of a still life. As she set me up with a sketchbook and pencils, she also handed me an eraser and explained, “Art is the process of trying and revising.”

Trying and revising. Aha! Editing!

Having spent my entire career in various fields of writing, I knew that a writer does not create a perfect page on her first try. I was stunned to find out that an artist didn’t create perfect work on her first try either. What Kim said sounded like what I told clients I had helped write their books. “Don’t judge your first draft, just get it on paper. You can fix a bad draft, you can’t fix a blank page.”

Now that I know art depends on trying and revising, I saw my first attempt at a pencil sketch as a first draft. Kim gave me tools such as a ruler, a skewer, and that all-important eraser to make my sketch lines as accurate as possible.

Learning new things took on a whole new meaning when I found out that trying and revising can apply to anything. Want to learn to dance? Play a sport? Plant a garden? Give it a try. If your first try doesn’t turn out as you hoped it would, revise your approach, make adjustments, and see if your second try is better. There are no limits on trying and revising. You can keep at it till you are satisfied with your attempt or ready to jump to another activity.

Giving yourself permission to try and revise takes away the fear of failing. When you can’t fail, you can try anything. Enjoy the possibilities. What are you going to try first?

 

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One Trait to Make Good Communication Possible

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“ I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” ― Alan Greenspan

Take a minute to read that quote again and let it sink in. It’s so true – good communication can be quite challenging and often elusive. So how can we get our point across? How can we strengthen our relationships and build trust with those we love?

The way I see it, the most important and impactful thing we can do is:

                       Listen without judgement

Easier said than done, huh? Think about it, though. Communication is a two-way street. If one person is talking, someone else has to be listening. Most of the time we may look like we are listening. We lean in and nod our heads, but in reality, we are thinking about what we want to say next. We can’t wait for the other person to shut up so we can make our point.

So, the next time you truly want to have an effective conversation, LISTEN. Once you can do that, it actually becomes a conversation. One where each person shares their views and opinions without apprehension. A conversation where you can state your message clearly without fear of being judged. It is soooo hard. One trick I use is to lightly bite my tongue to stop myself from interrupting. Notice that I said “lightly.” You don’t want to draw blood! But this little tactic helps me focus on the listening.

Honestly, listening without judgement will truly make a difference in your relationships both at home and at work. And who knows, you may even learn something in the process.

 

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Celebrate Your Victories

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Normal looks a lot different these days, thanks to 2020. Spending time at my favorite coffee shop, hugging my friends or going to a concert are put on hold for right now. But because this pandemic has been going on for over six months now, I’m actually getting used to a few of my new routines

Did you know that it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. I’m not making this stuff up. This is a real study that was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. So, I ask you, what new routines have you developed over the last several months. What new habits have worked their way into your life that you would like to celebrate. It doesn’t matter how small they are or that they may seem a bit strange. Hell, this whole year has been strange. It’s time now to celebrate your wins

What’s yours? Maybe you’re getting used to your pet sitting on your lap during one of your MANY Zoom calls, or it could be that you’ve become a better cook. Personally, I’ve tried some amazing dessert recipes that have been in my “recipe pile” for years.

This is a time to recognize your new habits and celebrate them. Please tell us: I’d love to hear at least one small win that you are proud of.

 

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Find the Familiar

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I miss my mundane routines, even the ones I used to do every day and sometimes dreaded. Like running errands whenever I felt like it, buying toilet paper whether I needed it or not, talking to the cashier without a plastic shield between us.

This social distancing, time of quarantine and feeling of isolation is taking its toll on me. I grieve, yes grieve, for all we have lost. Things like touch, travel, hugging, meeting friends, and some sort of normalcy. Ah yes, remember that? Normalcy!

Think about it. Right now, we are dealing with the loss of the world we knew. So, how do we cope? How do we deal with our grief when there is so much uncertainty in our future.

Well, recently I discovered something that has helped me, even if it’s only for a little while. I find that surrounding myself with something familiar really helps. Right now, I am wearing an old sweatshirt that my father gave me and it brings back such wonderful memories of the times we spent together. Another thing that helps is looking through old photographs of times I spent with friends and family. Having physical photographs I can hold rather than looking at them on a computer bring me more of a sense of calmness. Also, watching old movies or listening to music can stir sweet emotions.

You get the idea. Find something that is familiar to you; something that brings back lovely memories, and spend some time wearing it, looking at it, sitting in it – whatever it takes. See if those past, pleasant memories can help you through this time of uncertainty. All we’re looking for right now is getting through this one day at a time. Because with each day, we get closer to a cure, to some sort of normalcy, and to a time when we can look back at all this and tell our story of a lifetime.

 

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