We Can Make The World A Brighter Place

Life is busy, and it probably always will be. I don’t know about you, but when life gets busy, I kind of duck my head, focus on my own little world, and get done what I need to get done. There is nothing wrong with that, and sometimes that is all we can handle for that moment. I find, though, that if we stay in this mode for too long, we will start to feel something is missing. The feeling of contributing to the world around us, the desire to do what we can to make our world a brighter place. All it takes is a small gesture.

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I have found myself in the mode of focusing on myself lately. Much of it has been necessary to get though some work stuff. I have even gotten to the point where the idea of helping other people annoyed me and felt very inconvenient. I don’t like to admit that, but it’s real. I do know, deep down, that I like to help others, it makes them feel good and that good feeling comes back to me. My baby step this coming week to live my best is to get back into the attitude of contributing to other people’s lives in whatever small way I can.

This is going to require me to:

Change my attitude. My attitude has been all about me. Again, that is not all bad. It is important to prioritize ourselves. But I want to enter my day asking myself “what can I do for others today?” Asking and answering that question changes my attitude from solely being about me and brings others into the picture.

Add it to my planner. Because this is a habit that I have gotten out of, it is going to require some effort to make it a habit again. I need the reminder each day to ask “what can I do for others today?” and that reminder for me will go into my planner. This way I will not forget.

Remind myself. Once the busyness of the day starts, I can tend to forget these important things. I have to find a way to remind myself. That might be a post-it note or it might be setting a reminder on my phone. I am not sure what I am going to use yet, but I know I will need a reminder.

Do it and keep doing it. I believe contributing positively to those around us is an important component of living our best life. The more we do it, and keep doing it, the easier it will be. It will become a positive habit in our lives. We can think about it all day, but it is doing it that makes the difference.

Do you feel like you have been focused on yourself a lot lately? Is it time to refocus on the habit of contributing to others? What does that look like for you and how are you going to make it happen? Don’t forget, one small step at a time. We can all do amazing things, one baby step at a time!

Here’s to taking care of ourselves, and contributing to other to make our world a brighter place to live!

You Did Great Today!

I spend a lot of time writing about the things we can do to live our best life. Today, I want to remind you, and myself, that we do so much on a daily basis that is great! But sometimes these things are so routine that we forget how important and impactful they are.

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I have started to write in a journal every morning. In this particular journal, I write down what I am thankful for. This practice has allowed me to start my day with the attitude of gratitude. In the evening, as I lay in bed and try to settle my mind for a good night’s rest, I think about all that I did during the day, all that I had accomplished. I try to work through my day mentally from start to finish and list out all of the activities including eating breakfast, reading, going to work, eating dinner, washing the dishes, relaxing with my husband, doing my back exercises, getting ready for the next day, and oh yah, I fed my dog a few times in there. My list is generally not all that exciting, but what I have realized is that it is all important stuff, it is all good stuff.

I’m sure your day is filled with similar things. Here are some reminders of why these “normal things” are so important and how they make a difference in our world.

  • It is important for homes to be a sanctuary, a place where we, and those we love, enjoy spending time. Tasks such as doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, cleaning the toilets, and vacuuming the floors can all feel meaningless, but they are all a part of making our homes a wonderful place to be. All that we do around our homes contribute to the lives of those who inhabit it. We want to feel “at home” and all the work we do around the house makes that a reality.
  • We all need energy. The food that we provide for ourselves and those we love contributes to their health and the energy they have to live a great life. This is an area I struggle with because I do not like to cook, but it is vitally important. When I have a day that I feel particularly sluggish, I can usually look at the food I ate, or lack thereof, and understand why I feel the way I do. Feeding ourselves and others can feel tedious at times, but know that all that you do contributes to the health and energy for others to live their best.
  • We need each other. The time we spend driving around from stop to stop is important. The time we spend at our child’s soccer practice is important. The time we spend talking to a dear friend fills our lives with great things. John, Pebbles and I spend at least an hour each night just hanging out watching TV. It is what we do, and it can seem pretty uneventful, but it is important. All of the big and little moments in our lives with those people who are important to us contributes to our best life.
  • You know my blogs are not complete until I remind you how important rest is. The time you and your loved ones take to rest, gives us all a fresh start to a new day. When we get a good nap or good night’s rest we, and our loved ones, have a better capability to handle what comes our way. Our rest gives us more motivation. Rest is a very normal part of our life, but so very important.

If you have taken care of something in your home today, fed yourself or those you care about, spent time with others and went to bed and got some rest, you have accomplished a great deal today. We all need these simple things to live our best life, and you have made them happen! You are needed, valued, significant, appreciated and admired!
Here’s to washing one more dish and knowing it does makes a difference!

Be Aware!

Awareness is a starting point for change. Becoming aware of our posture allows us to sit and stand taller reducing back pain. Becoming aware of how our bodies utilize the food we eat allows us to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or feel more energized. Becoming aware of our stress level and how it affects others can help us make adjustments that will benefit us and those we care about.

Doggy Love

This past week I ran around quite a bit more than usual. I accepted a job offer and suddenly found myself having a ton of things to get done before my first day of work. My daily schedule instantly had little routine and with appointments that were changed at the last-minute, my days were packed to the gills. Through all of it I knew there was some elevated stress, but I was doing pretty good, I was handling it. About half way through the week, my dog started to show symptoms of being sick, and within a few days it was apparent that I would have to get her into the vet. They checked her over and did not find anything wrong with her. Then the vet asked me if there are any major changes happening in our lives or our schedule? I shared with her that I would be starting a new job and this week had been unusually busy. She indicated that there was a good possibility that her symptoms could be related to anxiety. Suddenly I became aware of the fact that between the interview prep, interviews, waiting to hear about the job and then the sprint to get ready for starting day, my stress was elevated and this had a negative effect on my sweet dog.

It suddenly dawned on me that we all deal with stressful things on a daily and weekly basis. We deal with them as best we can, but like me, many times we forget to realize that our stress does have an impact on those around us, most importantly, the ones we love.

Becoming aware helped me in three important ways:

  1. My awareness helped me slow down, breath, and intentionally reduce my stress. I was reminded of a book a I read years ago called Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, And It’s All Small Stuff. One of the things I took away from the book was that my “To Do” list will still be here tomorrow. Our chores never end and I needed to remind myself that stressing myself out and trying to get everything done was not good for anyone.
  2. My awareness prompted me to make sure I continued to prioritize those I love. The greatest gift we can give is the gift of our time. I made sure I stopped and distributed as much love as I could. Low and behold, it made me feel much better too!
  3. My awareness reminded me that it’s ok to ask for help. Many times we feel we need to take care of things ourselves, but that is a lie. There are times we simply need help. I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to ask for help.  In order for me to prioritize my most important things, I had to ask for help.

If your stress level is on the high side right now, take a moment to think about how your stress is affecting those you love. Did a late night project keep you from snuggling and tucking your kiddo into bed last night? Did your lack of rest cause you to snap at your spouse or co-worker? Are you always thinking about work, and not asked your loved ones about their day?

Life involves stress, but becoming aware of it, how it impacts our lives, and the lives of others is the first step in making a change for a better future.
Here’s to taking care of ourselves, then passing that onto others!

What’s the Big Deal About “Keeping Things Simple” These Days?

Think of some of the sweetest moments in your life. It might be a time with a loved one, or it might be a time all by yourself. As you think back to a special occasion, was it filled with busyness and chaos? Even if your special moment was in Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve surrounded by people, noise and celebration, I would venture to say that the special moment you had was very sweet, and simple. In most cases, the simplest times in life are the most precious.

simple and importantI go through times in my life where my mind is filled with so many things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking about numerous things, but I have found that my mind can get consumed and start to spiral out of control. Just recently I noticed the mental clutter that was starting to accumulate in my mind. As I traveled through my day I felt weighed down by all of this “stuff” I was carrying around with me. I realized it was time, once again, to do some mental and physical housekeeping.

Here are some of the benefits I have found for keeping my life simple.

 

  • I can focus better. Our minds are very capable to working fast and furious, but they do not work well for long periods of time in that state. I find my mind spinning at times,  jumping from one area of my life to the next. I have found that I need to be very intentional about keeping the clutter out of my mind, and as I do, I am able to focus and think clearer. I have a number of friends and loved ones who have started the process of meditation to clear their minds. Every single one of them have reported positive results. I have not personally studied the practice of meditation, but I have learned techniques to clear my mind of the clutter and keep things simple. Find what works for you, but be intentional about calming your mind and you will find yourself able to focus better.

 

  • I can stay focused on the most important things. There are so many “good” things in our lives, but we want to have time and energy to focus on the “best” things. In addition, we want those “best” things to receive our best, not just our leftovers. I don’t know about you, but I do not have much leftover at the end of my day. Keeping our minds and our lives simple allows us to give our most important things the focus, time, and attention  that they deserve.

 

  • I can focus on generosity and say goodbye to some Rubbermaid totes. A few years back, I read some interesting books on the concept of minimalism. Minimalism, to me, is about getting rid of the clutter in all areas of our lives. One of  topics I learned about, that struck a chord with me, was that there are people in our community and world who cannot afford the simplest things, the things that I take for granted on a daily basis. The benefits of minimalism are numerous, but I love the fact that I can give away or donate the things that I have stashed away in Rubbermaid totes and impact lives right here and now. One example was that I had a portable room heater that was sitting in my closet not being used. When I got into this mindset of being generous to others, I decided to ask someone I knew who lived on a very low-income, if she could use the heater. To find out, she desperately needed that heater to heat part of her trailer. We simply never know how we can help others until we look at the things we are not using through a different pair of glasses. Ask yourself, could someone else benefit from this stuff that I have stored and am not using? Focusing on generosity in our lives has so many benefits.

 

  • My focus lightens my load and brings silliness back into my life. When I am bogged down with mental and physical clutter, I find myself with an intense mindset. I have to stay serious and focused to make sure I am on top of everything. When I an intentional about lightening my load in all areas of my life, I suddenly find myself more light-hearted, silly and able to have more fun. During my most recent job search, I found myself in this intense serious mindset, but at various time when I was able to chill out and let things go, I found myself more relaxed and goofy. I know it is hard in our busy lives, but life is so much more fun when our load is lifted and we can be a little silly.

There are so many benefits to keeping life simple. Our loved ones, coworkers, and even our own health will benefit from simplicity. You are needed and I know you want to be your best and give your best. Take some time today to think about one small baby step you can take to bring simplicity into your life.

Here’s to bringing some silliness into your day today!

Job update: I have been offered a job and have accepted it! I am super excited! But don’t you worry, encouraging you to Live Your Best is one of my “most important” things in life!  My “Weekly Encouragement” and blog posts will continue to be delivered to you each week!

Here’s a Quick Way to Add Pizzazz to Your Life!

We sit here in January with an entire year in front of us. We are also coming off one of the most event filled times of the year. I don’t know about you, but I am asking myself “What is next?” Life is filled to the brim with work, family, friends, school activities, maybe church functions, and keeping up with household chores. You know I love routine, but we can easily fall into a rut of busyness and life can begin to lose it’s Pizzazz.  One remedy that brings some life back into our busy world is to always have something on your calendar to look forward to.

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I have a dear friend who modeled this for me in past years. Early in the year she started to plan, and she made sure her and her family had something on the calendar to look forward to. In the middle of one summer, her work schedule became crazy busy, but she did not falter on her plans to get away and have fun. At one point, we discussed how she was better able to deal with the stress of life and work because she always had something to look forward to on her calendar. Her and her family would get home from one activity and keep an eye on their next planned adventure.

Having something to look forward to provides three things.

  • It provides a reward to work towards. We all love a reward. Having something planned and on our calendar is like being a child having a big yummy lollipop to look forward to. We can keep an eye on it and know that it is just a matter of time before we get to enjoy it!
  • It provides a life-preserver when life get’s really stressful. We have all been under loads of stress. When we have something on our calendar to look forward to, we see that relief is in sight.
  • It provides much needed fun and joy. When the planned activity arrives, it adds an immense amount of fun and joy to our lives and the lives of those we care about.

Each month, I am going to include a Bonus Resource for you. It is a “Something To Look Forward To” Planning Calendar. I will include it with the blog post that is closest to the middle of the month allowing us to make sure we plan some fun stuff for the next month. There are many activities that we will need to plan further ahead than this, but it will be a good reminder for all of us to make sure we have some fun stuff planned.

On the “Something To Look Forward To” Planning Calendar, I encourage you to, at a minimum, add something for:

  • You and your loved ones.
  • You and your co-workers.
  • Something just for you.

Click below for your “Something To Look Forward To” February Planning Calendar

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Here’s to a year of fun times with those we care about!

The Christmas Gift that has the Power to Change our Future for the Better

Thanksgiving is behind us. Christmas trees are up and decorated. Now it is time to get a move on our Christmas shopping. Choosing the perfect gift for those we love can be fun for some of the people on our list but can feel daunting for others. Isn’t it great when we come across that perfect gift for someone? We can hardly wait for them to open it up! I have been given many amazing gifts through the years, including Mr. Microphone as a child, but there is one gift that we can all give this Christmas that is so big and amazing that it can not fit in a box.

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My parents gave me this amazing gift day in and day out as I was growing up, but the gift was always magnified during the Christmas Season. The gift was the gift of serving others. Serving other people is at the core of who my Mom and Dad are. Because of that, they share this gift, to this day, with each of their children, grandchildren, church family members, and community.  They are now in their eighties and their life continues to be filled with serving and giving to others.

Because giving was a big part of my parent’s life, it became a big part of my life too. When my parents went to the local nursing home to brighten the residents’ day, they brought me along. When my youth group was distributing food to those in need, my parents were right there beside us, caring for people. When a family member or friend needed help, my parents would bring me and my siblings along to help them. I now recognize the amazing gift that my parents gave me by doing that. Today I LOVE to do things for other people, and it’s all because of the example my parents set for me.

You have an amazing part to play this Holiday Season! I encourage you, as you write out your gift list, to add one more “gift” to the list for those you love. Try to fit in some way to serve others. As you do, here are three ingredients, that mixed together, will impact lives in a positive way for years to come!

  • Experience it together. My parents had seven children. It would have been much easier for them to go out on their own when it was time to help someone, but they knew how important it was for us to go with them. Serving others along-side my parents taught me how to serve, taught me how to love, taught me to have mercy, and brought amazing joy. Serving together is an amazing gift!
  • Talk about how your acts of kindness make a real difference in real people’s lives. With six siblings, I certainly could not comprehend the feeling of being alone during the Holidays. My parents helped me understand the positive impact we were having when we visited a home-bound elderly women at Christmas. They helped me understand that she had no one in her life to spend time with and how hard that was on her. I also got to see, first hand, the living conditions of people who had nothing. I get emotional when I remember the looks of gratitude on people’s faces when we delivered food for them to eat at Thanksgiving. Helping your loved ones understand the positive impact of their actions is an amazing gift.
  • Recognize that small acts make our world a better place. There is so much that is out of our control when it comes to our world around us, but there is so much that IS within our control. When we teach our loved ones to serve, we give them something they can utilize every minute of every day, 365 days a year. Small acts of service will brighten others day, like smiling when you both reach the checkout line at the same time and allowing them to go ahead of you. Thank you, by the way, to all of the Boy Scouts who spent two weekends of their time coordinating food pickup to help those in need. If every single person on this earth threw a piece of litter on the ground today, think of how messy this world would look. Now think if every single person on this earth served someone else today. Think about how beautiful this world would look. Every small gesture is an amazing gift.

How can you share the amazing gift of serving others this Christmas Season? How can you include those you love? Every small act of service makes our community and world a better place to live.

Here’s to giving the best gifts this Christmas!

The Difference Maker for Your Thanksgiving Gathering

Traditionally, the week leading up to Thanksgiving is filled with messages of thankfulness. It is a great message, but I want to take a little bit different approach this year. I want us to take a look at the people around our Thanksgiving table, really think about them and what makes them tick. Each of us are created with unique gifts and personalities. We all have something very special to contribute to our world. It is easy, at times to get frustrated with others who are not like us. This week, I invite you to look through different lenses with me and try to see the best in everyone. Acknowledge their good traits and contributions.

Thanksgiving: Family gathers for dinner at grandma's house. Little boy.

I am one of seven siblings and my husband, John, is one of four. At this stage of life, our families have grown and continue to grow with great nieces and nephews. Both John and my families are filled with wonderful people who truly want the best for each other. We have a good time when we get together. But when we gather that many people together, with a variety of personalities and life experiences, there can be stress and even conflict. What I challenge each of us to do this year, including myself, is to step back, take a deep breath and try to see the good traits that our loved ones have. See the best.

Here are two things to keep in mind:

  • Everyone has different life experiences. Because of those life experiences, they look at things through a different pair of glasses. A recent example that I encountered was a situation where an individual got in a minor car accident. After the accident the driver played the accident over and over in their mind, trying to figure out how they could have avoided it. There were some individuals that were of the opinion that they did the right thing by not swerving, thinking that swerving could have created more problems. But there was another view that was expressed and that was “absolutely yes, you should have swerved.” But this individual had been in a head on collision years back. Because of their life experience, they had a completely different, and valid, viewpoint that needed to be respected. Remember, all of us come together during the holidays with different life experiences that shape our thoughts and our conversations. Let’s try to remind ourselves of that and think the best of people.
  • Everyone has a different personality. Because of these different personalities, each individual approaches life in a completely different way. I will use John and I as an example. John and my personalities are DRASTICALLY different. (Could you feel the dramatic emphasis there?) John and I look at a problem or challenge in two different ways and want to remedy that problem or challenge with two different approaches. John likes to pounce on the problem, no need to delay, fix it and move on. It is a strength that I have come to appreciate in John. He keeps things moving. I, on the other hand, like to take things slow. I like to think about things, contemplate the different options, then eventually make a decision. Differences in personalities can cause stress and conflict in the midst of our Holiday gathers. Our hope is always that each person, with their unique strengths, would give and take a little bit to make things run smoother. But know, it is within our control to recognize that others are different than we are and that is ok. Yes, there is wisdom in removing ourselves from people who like to push your buttons, but try to see some good in them and their unique personality.

During the Holidays, a bunch of people, who are very different from each other, converge together in one space. I know we all want to have the best Holiday that we can have, therefore let’s do what is within our control to appreciate the people around us and see the good in them.

Here’s to a Wonderful Thanksgiving with the Wonderful People in your lives!

Six Strategies for Turning Your Time with Others into Quality Time

Quality time with those we care about can feel like a scarce commodity at times. There is so much we need to get done every day and time flies by so quickly. We end yet another day realizing that there was a high quantity of activity in our lives, but it was short on quality. You are not alone, we all find ourselves in the same predicament. It takes intentionality to set aside quality time with those we love, and make it the best time it can possibly be.

Mother and son

I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when it comes to quality time with those I love. Here are six things to remember as you prioritize quality time in days to come.

  • Starting small is ok. If life has been especially busy here of late, and you are ready to bring back the quality time, realize that it is going to be an adjustment for the people in your life. I once had a very gung-ho woman in one of my Life Planning Classes who knew this was an area her and her family needed to improve upon. One week she came to class extremely frustrated with her family. They did not want to cooperate with her renewed love of quality time. She described the plan that she tried to implement that week. She went from very little quality time to a minute by minute quality time plan for each member of the family for each night of the week. I loved her enthusiasm, but as she experienced, it was a little bit too much for her family to take all at once. Starting small will yield less resistance.
  • Spend quality time on their terms. I am not into video games. I have never been good at them and I have never really understood them. I have a number of kids in my life that love video games. Okay, what kids don’t, right? When I stop in to visit them, they absolutely love to tell me about their Minecraft and video game stuff. I call it stuff because I don’t understand anything they are telling me. But they love to share it with me, so I love to hangout and listen. I try my best to take interest in what they are interested in. It turns our ordinary time together into quality time.
  • Make quality time a positive experience. Early in my marriage, my husband, John, stopped taking walks with me. I did not understand. He used to take walks with me all the time. What had changed? Over time the reason was revealed. He did not like walking with me because I would take the opportunity to tell him about all of the things that went wrong in my day, at home, at work, etc. He would rather do just about anything than be forced to listen to me complain as we walked around the loop in our subdivision. I still have to watch myself to this very day, but we have much nicer walks, and he will go with me when I am a happier, positive person.
  • Make sure quality time does not feel like a punishment. Many times disciplinary action needs to be taken, specifically with the youngsters in our lives. One form of discipline is to take a privilege away for a period of time. That privilege might be screen time, or it might be time hanging with friends. Many times quality time requires us to put down the screens and let friends know that they cannot come over for the night. This can feel like punishment. If we want our time to be of quality, it’s important to do something special during that time. Yes, you may still get some resistance, but making your quality time feel like fun, and not punishment, is essential.
  • Go on a date night. Yes, you should have regular date nights if you have a significant other. But also go on a date night with your son or daughter, just you and them. I have witnessed these date nights when Daddies take their little girls out to dinner. It melts my heart every time. Date night is a time when we can focus 100% on the other person, and they can focus on us. These times are priceless.
  • Grab the small moments. Just the other night we went out to dinner with some dear friends. Their two boys were new to playing darts, and there were a number of dart boards at the Bar and Grill where we were eating. The boys were having a great time. But they had an even better time when their mom came over, who has a wicked dart throwing arm, and hung out with them and helped them. The moment did not last real long, but it was quality!

We have people in our lives who mean so much to us. Let’s try to switch over some of the quantity of time into real quality time. Everyone will be happier for it!

Here’s to great times with great people!

See How Easy You Can Bring the Spice Back Into Your Life

Every day we wake up, work, eat, and go back to bed. I know that is an oversimplification of what our days look like, but it can be pretty regimented at times. What is it that brings spice to our life? I believe it’s people. Even more specifically, the real spice comes from the people in our life that are closest to us, those most important people. I don’t know about you, but it is easy to fall into a day-to-day rut and start to take our most important people for granted. They enrich our lives and we enrich theirs. How can we spice up life and show them how much they mean to us?

Happy loving family

My life is filled with many amazing people. I could not even begin to list them all because, in my absent-mindedness, I would surely leave someone out. Each person in my life holds a very special place in my heart. I am truly thankful for each of them. Just yesterday as I was driving to visit family, I spent some time mentally listing out all of the people that I am thankful for and why. I immediately felt peace and joy in my heart. We are so fortunate to have special people in our lives.

How can we tap back into our most important relationships? How can we show how much we care? Here are a few ideas:

  • Our thoughts become our actions. Spend some time when you are driving or waiting for an appointment to think about all of the people in your life. Think about how special they  are to you, how they contribute to your happiness, and how your life would not be the same without them. These wonderful thoughts will bring joy into your day and it prompts us to take action. I know when I take time to think about how lucky I am to have John, my husband, in my life, I can’t help but want to spend time with him, send him an encouraging text or give him a hug. Take some time today to think about and be grateful for the people in your life.
  • Make it personal. Have you ever come across the perfect gift for someone? Or came up with an idea to surprise someone special to you? Remember the feeling of excitement it built in you? You were so excited to see the joy on their face when they received it. Ask yourself “what is one small thing I can do today to bring a smile to someone I care for?” It might be as simple as buying and giving them their favorite candy bar. It could be sending them a text message telling them how much they mean to you. It could be surprising your child by picking them up from school in person or bringing lunch to your significant other at work. Whatever it is, doing something special for those we care about reminds us of what is most important.
  • Allow for fun. Every relationship looks differently; therefore this looks different for each of the individuals you care for. John and I enjoy spending time together, but many of our hobbies are independent from each other. It is important to enjoy time together, but I also enjoy giving John the freedom to go off and enjoy his hobbies without me. Figure out what that looks like for you, but prioritize fun for those most important to you. Life is too short not to enjoy it!
  • Keep life simple. When I am running around with my head cut off, I do not have time or energy to do any of the above. We all have limits to our time, energy and focus. We can either give those we care for some of our focused time, or we can give them the leftovers. I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, I don’t have much leftover. My creativity is used up, my energy is gone and fun is the last thing on my mind. The simpler we keep our lives and schedules, the more energy we have for those most important to us.

Who is most important to you? What would you like to do in the next 24 hours for them? Write yourself a reminder and make it happen. This small act will bring joy to you and those you care about!

Here’s to prioritizing those who are most important in our lives!