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Everyday Celebrations

When we think about celebrations, our minds run to parties, presents and maybe even a toast or a dance. We’ve a lifetime of celebrations so our mind quickly imagines an event. We know weddings. We know showers. We know birthday parties. Those are the big celebrations, everyday celebrations are a bit different.

Everyday celebrations don’t require hoopla though they may require forethought and planning.  Quite simply, everyday celebrations recognize something special about another person, a person important in your life.

Everyday celebrations can happen every day or every other day or once a week or whatever timeline works in your relationship with the person you choose to celebrate. 

Everyday celebrations come in many forms.  It may be you leave notes for that special person.  When he travelled, my late husband knew to anticipate the cards and notes I slipped into his luggage.  He’d open one each evening before bed but he’d anticipated each message all day long. 

It could be you make a phone call or stop-by for a visit.  It might be you take a few minutes of one-on-one with each of your children.  It might be you establish a date night with your partner or spouse and make it a ritual.

What makes it a celebration?  It’s a celebration of your relationship when you focus on a special facet of the other person.  It’s a celebration when you recognize them.  It’s even a celebration when you hear out their deepest fears because you are caring for them and their unique needs.  It’s a celebration of your relationship when you remember to tell that other person how much you care.

What do you have to do to make it happen?  You’ll need to watch and listen.  To celebrate another person means you are thoughtfully aware of their life experience.  Perhaps your spouse or friend is fearful for their job.  Perhaps your person is training for a marathon, a mountain climb or even a crossword competition.  Well-timed thoughtfulness will encourage them in their endeavor, it will make them feel appreciated and you’ll feel pretty wonderful as well.

What do social psychologists say about everyday celebrations?  It’s like a glue, it helps to strengthen relationships.  They also note that the path to personal happiness is strewn with small, thoughtful acts on behalf of others.


Failures Can Lead to Wins

One of the winningest basketball players of history, Michael Jordan, said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”  Jordan tirelessly practiced his sport; yes, he was talented but he always worked at his talent.

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the record player and batteries.  The inventive Mr. Edison described his path to success as loaded with discoveries.  He said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

For Jordan it was practice.  For Edison it was a learning process.  We don’t see either as a failure; we only remember their wins because their ultimate wins were so big.  Edison also said that, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not know how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Too often, we think we should be able to get whatever it is we want to get immediately.  It’s easy to lose hope as we move along our path to whatever is in our sights, to our immediate goal.  Rather than lose hope, rather than give up, the answer is to narrow your focus and be willing to risk yet another attempt. 

Don’t let a failure foil your plan.  Allow for failure but don’t make it a habit.  Instead, ask yourself what caused the misstep; then, figure out how to improve on your next effort.  Success is often a matter of persistence and courage.


 

For more on how failure is often found on the path to success, read Megan McArdle’s just published The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success or Innovate Like Edison by Michael Gelb and Sarah Caldicott.


 


Getting Out of Getting Stuck

It may be your diet.  You’ve lost 12 pounds but now you are struggling.  You’ve even gained back a few of those pounds.  You just can’t get your diet momentum back.

Perhaps it’s the mile a day you promised yourself.  You made it through 19 days all in a row but now you’ve missed 6 days.

It might be you are looking for a new job.  You dove right in and sent out ten resumes each and every week for one whole month.  Then no more.  It’s been another month without a single resume.

There are plenty of ways to get stuck along the road to a goal.  We all do it.  There are stumbling blocks galore.  The real question is how to get back on track.

  1. Learn from your stumbling blocks.  It is true that we all run into blocks.  To get to your success, use your stumbling blocks.  Figure out what happened, what got in your way.  Once you’ve identified the thing or things that can get in your way, it’s that much more certain you’ll get to your goal.
  2. Appreciate the small stuff.  Think back to the things that made it work for you at the start of your quest.  Often, it is the tiniest details that become the foundation of our success.  What made you feel good, satisfied, and proud in that first week?  Find more of those; replicate the good experiences and sensations.  Identify the details that make your change work for you.
  3. Break it into tiny actions.  Replace your afternoon cookie with an apple.  Put hand weights on your kitchen counter and as you wait for the microwave, use them!  Introduce tiny changes into your day and let them cumulate to bigger successes.
  4. Appreciate your success.  12 pounds is success.  You may have more to go but you have a successful start; enjoy it.  40 job applications or resumes sent or networking calls made is a big deal.  Those 40 may not have resulted in the job you seek but you learned a lot in the process.  Appreciate that you learned; use what you’ve learned as tools in your next efforts. 
  5. Make it a habit. Repeat your successes over and over.  Savor the sensation of success and then build on it.  Repeat those each and every day.

We like straight lines.  We want to race from deciding on a goal to achieving that goal.  We want to see ourselves atop a mountain after a steep climb pumping our arms in success.

Success is often the result of zigs, zags and rocky roads.  Never think of a road block or a stumble as failure; instead, recognize it as a mere zig on your road to success.


New Year’s 2017 - Day 4

Breaking Deep-Rooted Habits

It wouldn’t be a habit if it weren’t something you’ve done over and over and over again without ever thinking about it.  Habits become ingrained.  We repeat them mindlessly.  Sometimes we call our habits routines – really?  Our routines become habitual.

We get up each day – some of us pop right into the shower, others pull on their sweats and work out, others race to the coffee pot.  It’s rare we vary our routine except for holidays.  Our favorite foods, our beverages, our daily activities – all the ones we repeat each and every day, these are habitual.

Habits and their routine are not bad things – in fact, they’re super helpful in this crazy, busy world we live in.   Otherwise, we’ d spend lots of time planning the same things over and over again.  So, habits are good and helpful.  Except when they’re not.  Here’s where we run ourselves into a challenge – repetitive can sometimes run us into hard to break habits.

If you are thinking about breaking a habit, start by thinking about what you are doing when you put that habit into action.  Is there a particular time of day or a particular social situation that means it’s time for your habit?  Pull the entire experience apart to find what drives you to the habit.  For example, when I wanted to quit smoking, I realized that I identified myself as a smoker and that I didn’t like the idea of saying I could never smoke again.  What did I do?  I decided to put smoking off; twenty years later, I continue to think of myself as a smoker though I haven't had a cigarette for over twenty years.  You can read more about how this worked at 15-minute wins.

Habit guru, Charles Duhigg, tells about his afternoon cookie habit that he wanted to change.  With thought, he figured out that his purpose for going to the cafeteria for a cookie was to chat with others – he needed a break and human contact!  His result, instead of stopping to chat with a friend in the cafeteria, they do it in a meeting room not laden with food.  And, he brings an apple!

This, of course, is just the first step.  And, it isn’t as easy as these two examples might imply.  Still, if you begin to pull apart what reminds you to practice your habit, you’ll likely find some clues that will help you to break that habit.


New Year’s 2017 – Day 3

By now, you’ve likely decided where you’ll focus your energy in this year ahead.  Or, you’ve decided to pursue a resolution or goal.  To make this happen, to keep your promise to yourself, here are a couple of tips to help you on your journey.

  • Take your big goal and divide it into small, manageable chunks.  If you want 2016 to be the year of fitness but haven’t worked out in a while, try three 20-minute sessions a week for the first month and grow from there.  If you want to lose a total of 15-pounds, start with your focus on 5-pounds.  Once you’ve lost those 5, you’ll be proud and energized to take on another 5 whereas if you lost 5 and you still have 10 more to go, it may seem just too hard.
  • Congratulate your successes, encourage yourself if you slip.  That’s why small goals are so much more powerful – you get to congratulate yourself a whole lot and feel proud of what you’ve achieved.  Besides, smaller goals allow you to prove to yourself that you can do it, whatever you’ve decided ‘it’ is.
  • Plan for slippage.  Think about all the things that can get in your way of getting to your goal.  Decide how you will foil the demons that want to stand in the way of your success.  If a battle pursues inside your head with old habits trying to combat your new you, decide what you want to say to those old habits.  Plan for this.  Or, it could be a friend won’t be as encouraging as you’d expected; plan how to handle that.  Also, don’t be surprised when you encounter inertia – you just don’t want a salad tonight . . . or, you can’t face the gym today . . . or, you think, “I’m just too tired to go to that job fair”.  Making a change is a big decision and you will experience internal resistance.  Rather than let your mind and old habits win, decide how you will manage all the affronts to your New Year Goal.
  • Tackle one thing at a time.  Yes, you’ll likely be successful if you combine fitness and nutrition but your success will rest on taking on those small goals, not an earth-shifting massive goal.  On the other hand, if you want to focus on a new job, finding a new partner and making nutritional or fitness changes all at once, your chances of success are diminished.  Aside from the fact that our brain likes to keep things orderly, very few humans are able to make a lot of changes all at once.

Yesterday, on New Year Day 2, we discussed planning and action as the steps to your goal.  Today, on New Year Day 3, we’ve added a few success tips to get you to your goal.  Make 2016 your year of success.


New Year’s 2017 - Day Two

It’s the second day of your new year, have you decided what kind of year it will be for you?  Or, have you named some goals or resolutions?  If you’ve done either of these, then it’s time to make sure your promises to yourself really happen.                                                                                                                                                                                      

This is where it gets hard.  It’s easy to decide on something, it’s a lot harder to make that something happen.  Whether it’s physical fitness or finding a new romance, everything takes a plan.  You have an idea for the year-ahead but without a plan, it won’t happen.  You’ll need a plan and once you have a plan, you’ll need to take action. 

Here’s where lists come in.  What actions of yours will make your year-ahead, your goals or resolutions happen?  Open a memo page on your phone or take out a blank piece of paper.  Write down everything you might do to make your goal happen – what steps do you need to take to make it happen?  Write for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour.  Write til you’ve uncovered all the ways you can bring your goal to life.

If you are thinking fitness, you might list your favorite ways to exercise, the time of day you like to exercise, how much time it takes to do your favorite exercises and how many days a week you want to work -out.  You might even make an exercise calendar for the next two weeks.   Could be you’ll want to add a few nutrition ideas.  Write out every action you can think of that will improve your fitness. 

Don’t forget to plan for your lazy days, the ones where you don’t want to make the effort.  Before you even start, have a plan for inner resistance, the desire to chuck the whole idea.  Figure out what will make you get to work and get you to your goal.

If you’d like to meet a romantic partner in the year ahead, remember that organizations are a great way to meet new people.   Add friends who like to fix people up to your list. 

While making the list, don’t forget to plan your conversations with new people.  That’s right, if you join a sailing club for their great single’s events, will your conversation include sailing stories?  If you ask a film-buff for fix-up suggestions, be prepared for the possibility of meeting others who love the cinema.  Write down all the actions you could take that would lead to meeting a possible romantic partner and include the dialog.  Build your plan for your success.

It takes planning and then action.  Once you’ve made your plan, then you’ll put that plan into action.  Today, on the second day of the year, write your plan describing the actions you will take to make the year-ahead the one you choose it to be.


What Kind of Year Do You Want it to Be?

To begin, happy New Year!

On this first day of the year, many of us get into the list thing – making promises to ourselves for the year ahead.  Usually our promises require that we make a change – for some of us big a change, for others of us smaller, baby step kinds of change.  While we call these resolutions, really, they are commitments we make to ourselves.

Another way to start your year is to name the kind of year you’d like it to be.  Could be you’ll name it the year of nutrition or the year of healthier habits or the year of your best painting ever or the year of planting, maybe even the year of planning.

Could be you’d like to name it the new job year or the energetic year or the year of bliss.  It may be you’d like the year ahead to be your year of nurturing relationships.  Possibly, you want to do something that honors something you value and you name your year accordingly.

What do you want to do with your 365 days ahead?  Instead of making a list of change, think of your life just a bit differently and begin by naming your year ahead.


Getting a “Fix” on Change

A recent FaceBook poster asked how she could fix her life.  To begin, I don’t know how to fix another person’s life – all my articles are about the tools and techniques I’ve used in my life.  Why do I do that?  Because one new idea just might spark a great idea for another person’s life.  In response, then, I’ll think about some of the things that have helped me in my life.

We are each a work in process.  We are learning about ourselves and our lives every single day. 

To begin, then, imagine yourself as an artist creating a beautiful work of art and that work of art is you.   Every single day you make choices and take actions.  Each choice we make, each action we take is much like an artist’s brush strokes; those choices and actions become an indelible part of our history.  Each day, we take responsibility; each day, we add to our self.

You are you with all the qualities that make you special.  Yes, you can make modifications by trying on different styles or altering your interests somewhat but your underlying beauty remains.  Each day, count the good things, your successes, the moments you smiled, the times you experienced sharing or the gift of yourself.

Life is not a smooth road.  We all make mistakes.  Often, we look at others’ lives and think, how come it’s so easy for them.  The truth is, it isn’t easy for any of us – we’re not in other people’s heads so we don’t know if the road they walk feels like silken sand or a bed of nails. 

What to do, then, if it feels as if a change is in order.  First, remember that life is a journey.  Each day can be a moment of change but change won’t happen in a moment.  Yes, we live in a world that demands instantaneous everything; reality, though, is that change is a step-at-a-time process.  Enjoy the path of change.  Embrace your successes, be kind about your missteps.

Identify the “fix” you seek.  Ask yourself about it.  Define what it is you seek and then make a list of all the steps you’ll take to get you to your goal.  What is the problem and what would be the fix?  Work on one thing at a time.  Everything takes time.  Back to our demand for the immediate: success is built on many small steps that you’ll take over time.

Enlist a confidant for your journey.  Make sure you chose someone who is a champion of you.

Be proud of the changes and choices and actions you take.  Enjoy your successes, appreciate that there will be difficulties along your path.  Always remember that you are the artist, the one responsible for your life. 

Now, when we are younger, we are not as certain of ourselves; we’re still learning about our self.  We’re not even certain that the choices we make or the actions we take are the right choices or actions.  We worry so, wondering just what we should do.  That is why it is helpful to keep your vision of yourself, that beautiful piece of art, in your mind.  To that vision, add your list of steps and actions that bring your vision to life.

This link takes you to The Journey of Life section of my website where you’ll find much more about change and habits and happiness.  Here’s hope we’ve sparked an idea for your life.  For now, my care and well-wishes are with each of you, my readers.


In Your Imagination, You Are Throwing a Dinner Party

For a few moments, let your imagination run free.  You are going to throw a dinner party and you can invite anyone in the entire world – anyone whom you’d like to spend time with. 

Who Would You Invite?

You might start by dreaming up the categories of people you’d like to invite.   Will you invite friends?  Family?  Artists?  Actors?  Political leaders?  Religious leaders?  Celebrities?  Athletes?  Maybe you’ll combine categories. 

Will you want it to be an intimate dinner for two or a party of four or eight . . . maybe even more? 

Now, to add a bit of zing, you may decide to only include the people you most admire . . . living or dead.  That’s right, you might open your gathering up to include people who came before.  If you do that, you might consider Christ, Cleopatra or Johnny Carson. 

What Will You Serve?

You are hosting the event, what will it be like?  What will your guests experience?  How will it be memorable?  Will it mostly be conversation with just a bite to eat or will you create a fabulous meal?  Will you play games?  What about the music?

And, we certainly can’t forget, what will you wear?  Will it be something special so everyone recognizes you as the host?  Or, will you wear something to blend in?

What Will You Talk About?

There’s a reason for your choice of guests, what is that reason?  Your reasons may even become a part of the conversation.  Do you have questions for the people you plan to invite?  What do you want to know at the end of the event that you didn’t at its start? 

How will you turn the conversation so your desired subjects are included?  Will you kick everything off with a welcoming few words?

Time to Say Goodbye

Will you know when it’s time to say goodbye?  How will you feel at the end of your time together?  What will your dinner party have done for you?  What will it have done for your guests?  What will they be saying at the time of their departure?

In the end

In the end, you may wonder why on earth we’d go through this kind of an exercise.  Not only is it a pleasing mental exercise, it’s also illuminating.  It tells you about you; it fills in some of the details of what makes you happy.


Are You Having Fun?

Have you run, skipped or jumped today?  What about a joke, have you told a joke?  At the least, have you smiled broadly, one of those big smiles that you can feel throughout your body? 

A moment of fun lightens the spirit.  It releases the tension.  It dispenses with the angst.  It gives you a moment of relief and relaxation.  It even reminds us that life is to be enjoyed.

It’s so easy to get into our minds, to list the day’s actions, to follow the routine in our head.  We can even start our exercise – which should be pleasing if not fun – counting out our plan for the work-out rather than enjoying the great sensations of movement.

Speaking of movement, have you danced today?  Even just a little wiggle to a great piece of music can lighten our heart.  Go for it, have a bit of fun today! 


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