Why your life isn’t good enough…yet

It occurred to me the other day that I will never have what I want–what I am striving for–until I become utterly happy with what I already have.

This revelation came to me last week while I unpacked my “sub-standard” vehicle on our first day vacationing at the lake. I found myself lamenting how old, scuffed up, and uncomfortable the car was. Then I caught myself. Was I really on vacation complaining about what I didn’t have? Talk about not being able to appreciate the beautiful forest for the one ugly tree!

Do I want a new car? Sure. But this one had just carried me and my daughter 864+ miles not including a stop in Minneapolis to see the sights. It has since brought us all the way back home, never once disappointing me, never once letting us down, keeping us safe the whole time. Right now it is sitting out there, covered in bugs and waiting to do whatever is next. It’s overdue for an oil change, unwashed, kind of stinky from our 13 hour road trip, yet ever the reliable mode of transportation. Continue reading “Why your life isn’t good enough…yet”

Don’t Watch Bambi on Mother’s Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and a digital detox day for me. We did brunch at home, shopped for planter supplies, and planted a few flowers in the morning. In the afternoon we settled in to watch some movies and rest. In paging through our available kid-friendly movie selection, we ran across Bambi. I said, “Hey, we haven’t seen this one for awhile, want to watch it?” My little agreed, so we settled in.

It didn’t take long for her to ask, “Is this where he loses his mother?” A question that would be repeated several times throughout the movie.

What mother hasn’t contemplated what her child’s life would be like without her? Isn’t it this thought that keeps us from running off to a tropical island on days we’ve had enough? Kids make us show up. Especially little kids. They make us be present. Because what if I wasn’t there one day? How would that affect her? Continue reading “Don’t Watch Bambi on Mother’s Day”

Change Your Story, Change Your Life

We all have a story we have written about how our lives are going so far. We have dialog and drama, all of the necessary pieces for a decent feature-length film. The thing is, would you want to watch it? If you did watch your film, would you recognize yourself? How much of it is true and how much of it are embellishments added for drama?

Your story is your perception. It’s how you see the world from your point of view. Your inner voice is the creator and narrator of your story. She guides you through decision making and problem-solving and decides how you feel about things. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to listen to the negative side of this inner voice, our inner Mean Girl (as Melissa Ambrosini calls it). If you let her take over, your perception will suffer. This leads to limiting beliefs, poor choices, and unempowered attitudes.

If your story is that your life is fantastic, even if you don’t have the best of everything, your life will be fantastic. If your story is that your life sucks, even if you have the best of everything, your life will suck. Simple as that.

Change your story, change your life.

Continue reading “Change Your Story, Change Your Life”

The Lost Art of Listening

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” -David W. Augsburger

Is genuinely listening to other people a dead art? Most people have a conversation based on what they think the other person is going to say next. The time when the other person is talking is a chance for most people to come up with what they are going to say next. We want everyone to think we’re so smart and witty. The worst is when we are caught with nothing to say. So we’re constantly thinking about our side of the conversation. The person we’re talking to is doing the same thing. Which results in a disconnection from what is actually being said.

People listen to reply, not to understand. This happens so often that when someone really hears us and replies thoughtfully to what we just said, it is shocking. And refreshing. And heartwarming. Suddenly, this person who just took the time to listen to what we said is our favorite person. We feel loved and valued. We’re interesting! To have an actual conversation…this is a skill that is all too rare. It’s like love at first sight

What if we could solve all the bad in the world merely by listening to each other? What kind of a beautiful world would it be if everyone felt heard? How many tragedies have happened all around the world because people are frustrated about being ignored? Who can’t relate to being lonely, misunderstood, heartbroken, left out? This may not be the ultimate secret to bring about world peace, but it certainly can’t hurt. How can we practice being better listeners in our families, our work, and our life? Continue reading “The Lost Art of Listening”

Scrooge

The quintessential Christmas character introduced by Charles Dickens in his classic 1843 novel A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is an excellent example of how changing your mindset can change your reality. Plus it’s a great ghost story, and appropriate for the season. As you well know, Mr. Scrooge starts the story as a miser obsessed with money, cold and devoid of generosity. Then he transforms overnight into one of the most caring men in London. Did anything change about Scrooge’s environment to change his attitude? He still worked at the same place, he lived in the same place, the same people surrounded him, yet he was greatly and irreversibly changed. He was changed from within. He decided his life was going to be different and he made it so. Do you need to be haunted by three ghosts in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve to make large changes in your own mindset? Goodness no. You need to be aware of what the problem really is, understand how you can reframe the problem, and take steps to do so.

Recognizing that there is a problem is the hardest part. I’m pretty sure Scrooge thought he was right to act the way he did at the beginning. He thought everyone else was being ridiculous and frivolous with their hard-earned money. This irresponsibility of others made him irritable. He just couldn’t understand it. The thing is, if you find fault with everyone around you, maybe the problem isn’t them. Sorry, but it’s probably you.

I have a friend who complains that no one takes time to visit her. She makes an effort to contact others, but no one ever has time for anything more than barely polite small talk if they are caught without an excuse to leave. Even her family avoids her. She thinks the problem is with all of them (everyone hates me, it’s so unfair), so she has stopped making the effort to socialize. Why should she expend the energy for people who obviously can’t be bothered to take time for her? The thing is, she is judgemental, an armchair authority on every subject, constantly complains, and is generally hard to be around. That’s why everyone avoids her, not because they are all rude. She vibrates at a low energy and no one wants to get sucked into that. If she took some time to honestly look at her life from a different perspective, like Scrooge was forced to, perhaps the awareness would inspire her to change.

My favorite character in The Christmas Carol is Scrooge’s nephew Fred. He has patience with Scrooge and is sorry for him because Scrooge chooses not to attend Christmas dinner and so misses out. Fred doesn’t let Scrooge’s bad attitude affect his own holiday. Who suffers from Scrooge’s ill will? Only Scrooge himself. Everyone else gets to enjoy the very good dinner and party games. Year after year Fred invites his uncle to participate in Christmas cheer even though he knows Scrooge will never accept. He takes Scrooge’s rudeness with a grain of salt and doesn’t let it dampen his spirits. When Scrooge finally does show up to dinner, Fred welcomes him in with open arms and makes him feel wanted. Many of us can learn from Fred. Who have you felt put off and snubbed by? Did this person’s actions really affect you and your happiness? Or could you reframe the problem in your mind so that it is not actually a problem?

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. – Maya Angelou

Reframing simply means that you change the way you think about something. For example, my husband ended up having to work over Thanksgiving. Actually, it worked out just fine because my little girl ended up getting a fever and being sick all weekend. So here I sat, alone with a sick kid all weekend. We missed out on Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday, and our community holiday celebration with Santa and a light parade. We had planned family pictures and a tree hunting trip up in the hills, none of which happened. Disappointing for sure, and a perfect “poor me” opportunity. But after a quick reframe, does it really matter what day we roast the turkey on? We’re thankful every day anyway.

I made the turkey since it was already thawed and froze the leftovers. Really no big deal in the scheme of things. I got to have my Paleo Thanksgiving dinner by myself without comment or outside influence. I was still thankful for the same things I would have been if everything went as planned. What could have understandably been a “Why me?” scenario was not because I reframed it in my head. I took my own advice and was not attached to the outcome. I did not “should” on my holiday (read about what I mean in my three-part series Shoulding on the Holidays), and so had a positive experience despite everything. We will see Santa, have family pictures, and go tree hunting next weekend.

Reframing involves looking at the big picture, reminding yourself of your priorities, and asking yourself what is really important. Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed or disappointed, I take a step back and ask myself what really matters and what is just stress I’ve created for myself. Most of the time I realize that I had expectations that may not have been entirely fair. My first priority is always my child and if I remind myself of that, everything else seems to fall into its place.

Scrooge was forced to reframe his outlook on life by three ghosts sent by his well-meaning dead business partner. By reflecting on his past, clearly seeing his present, and getting an unattractive glimpse of his future, Scrooge saw the error of his ways. He got perspective. Your own experience doesn’t have to be so dramatic. What did Scrooge learn? He learned that he was the problem that he saw in everyone else, that generosity and goodwill are valuable personality traits, and that changing his attitude could save his soul. Good lessons. Scrooge was inspired to drastically change overnight, but you can take steps to change without ghostly intervention.

Once you have recognized the problem and understood that changing your attitude is the key to solving the problem, your task becomes actually changing your attitude. This may seem like a Herculean task, but the hardest part is admitting fault. Once you’ve done that the solution will likely fall into place on its own. Simply deciding to change, and realizing it is possible, may be the most important step. Sit down and do some introspection to figure out what the problem actually is. In other words, get a new perspective. Then reframe your attitude around it. Keep reminding yourself that you create your own reality and look for ways to improve it.

Ways to Change Your Perspective

  1. Try a gratitude practice. Being grateful increases your positivity and can give you an instant total reframe. It forces you to focus on what you do have rather on what you don’t.
  2. Slow down and breathe. When faced with a stressful situation, it helps to calm down and return to what is important.
  3. Keep your priorities close. What really matters? If your family matters most, everything else can wait. This comes in handy when setting your holiday schedule.
  4. Keep your ego in check. Changing is hard. You may have to endure some skepticism if you’ve been judgemental or intolerable in the past. People may not be accepting of your changes at first. That’s okay, change anyway and they’ll come around eventually. Or they won’t, but maybe those are people you don’t want around anyway.
  5. Be patient with yourself. Change doesn’t happen overnight and you may make some mistakes. That’s okay. Any progress is good progress. Celebrate any small win.

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Be Present

“The past is history, the future a mystery. Right now is a gift. That’s why they call it the present” Master Uguay, Kung Fu Panda

Staying present is one of my intentions. To be present, you live in the moment. Not in the past or the future, but right now. So what if the present is unpleasant? Or worse, boring!

Here is an example from my own experience illustrating why presence is important. Imagine this guy, sitting on the beach in Jamaica, thoroughly grumpy. He is thinking about work, the limited cocktail options at our all-inclusive resort, the local who unwelcomely offered him a joint earlier that day, everything but sitting in the sunshine on the beach in Jamaica. This is not a happy guy. If only he could enjoy the moment. If only he could be Continue reading “Be Present”

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