Friends, Family & Fun

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the wonderful people in my life. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family who love and care for me. As I have reflected, on all those I hold dear to my heart, I have felt deeply blessed to be the recipient of so much love and affection.

Each and every morning our bodies awake and arise, from the sleep so desperately needed during the night. As we open our eyes, and take in the morning, a new day awaits us. Our mind begins to churn with the thoughts of what our day might bring. Our heart begins to beat a little faster. Our senses begin to work in earnest, at the realization that a new day is upon us.

Often we begin our day with a quick, mental countdown of everything on our “To Do” list for the day. Sometimes…we awake slowly, and take time to savor those early morning feelings of peace and contentment, and the realization that today is a gift from God.

I have thought often lately of the many gifts that God has given me. Family and friends seem to be at the top my my list. I have been blessed with a wonderful family (immediate & extended), and I have been blessed with so many wonderful, and caring friends.

It is easy to get caught up in the challenges of the day. Each day we are faced with so many choices. What will we eat? What will we do? Who will we see? How will we act? Will we be kind? Or, will we lose our temper? Will we be observant of those around us? Or, simply focus on our own needs? Will we notice how our words affect others? Will we take the time to express gratitude? Will we stop and take a moment to truly observe those we are interacting with? How are they feeling? What can we do to lift them up?

When we take time to put others first, our whole world begins to change. Suddenly, it is as if you can read their thoughts and sense their feelings. You sense their frustration, their sadness, and how lonely they sometimes feel. You can sense their desire to be loved, and their quiet yearning for friendship.

You smile as you observe their joy, as they observe something simple that brings happiness to their heart. You watch as they go about their day. You understand that what they show on the outside (through their words and actions) is often very different from what they are feeling on the inside.

You feel all of their emotions that they try so desperately to hide. You feel their sadness, their pain, their longing for something better. You feel their joy, their happiness, and their love for others. You wish desperately that you could help them to understand how loved they are and how truly important they are in this journey we call life.

It is with new eyes that I observe those around me. My family, my friends, and even strangers that I encounter in my daily life. I am deeply grateful for each and every person who has been, who is, and who will be a part of my life. Each person brings unique gifts and talents to this world and each one seems to have a profound impact on my life.

It is for this reason that I write this post. Know that YOU are a gift from God. He has placed you on this earth to learn and to grow. You have been placed here for a special purpose. You can bless the lives of so many. There are some lives that only you can touch, in the way that is needed. Will you rise to the task? Or, will you go about your day oblivious to those around you. Only you can decide…

My challenge to those of you reading this post is to take the time to be more observant of those around you. Be less judgmental and more loving & kind. You may never know the trials and challenges facing those around you, but rest assured, they have them just like you.

Take the time to express gratitude, to show kindness, and to be patient. Pay attention to the body language of those you interact with. While you can, and should, listen to their words, their body language will tell you so much more. Listen to what they are really saying. Often, when we think others are angry, it is in reality that they are feeling hurt. When you recognize this simple truth, the outcome can be so much different. You can help to heal broken hearts if you will but truly listen.

“No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, is Ever Wasted” Aesop

Beauty Forgotten

So, this past year my family moved. We had lived in the same home for 18+ years. After moving 18 years worth of “stuff” to the new place we went back numerous times to clean, touch up paint and spruce up the yard before listing our home for sale.

On one of our trips back to the old house my son said to me, “Mom, we have to take these!” I looked over at him to see that he was pointing down at our beautiful lillies in the front yard. We had planted them the year before and they provided a vibrant and bright splash of color to the front yard. Of course, it was early Spring and the lillies were just beginning to grow and their vibrant color had not yet emerged. At first I was hesitant to move them, afraid that they would not handle the move well. My son won out and we finally dug them up on a later trip back to the house and brought them to our new home.

Anyone who has moved knows that its a BIG job! Somehow, our lillies were forgotten and left in temporary pots under the deck at our new home. We had become busy with unpacking and getting settled in our new home and forgot to re-plant the lillies in the ground. Each time we worked in the yard I would walk past the lillies and say to my son, “We really need to transplant those to the yard.” Well, we got busy and Spring soon turned into Summer.

One day, as I was sitting in the family room, I looked out the window and a flash of color caught my eye. As I took a second look, I realized that my lillies were in full bloom in their temporary pots under the deck. I quickly got up and walked outside to investigate further. I was amazed to see that each and every flower was in full bloom! I was surprised to see them in bloom as they had not received much light under the deck. In fact, I was shocked that they had bloomed at all. They were all leaning in odd directions as we had failed to support the stems due to the fact that we had quite literally forgotten all about them.

As I stood staring at the beautiful flowers a smile lit up my face. I LOVED my lillies and they were absolutely beautiful! It seemed that they didn’t care where they were planted, they were determined to bloom full and bright regardless of their surroundings. They had endured the shade and reduced sunlight. They had endured the small meager amount of dirt that we had planted them in “temporarily”. They had endured the lack of water as we had “forgotten them” quite literally. In spite of all the hardships they had endured, they were bright and beautiful.

I couldn’t help but think about all my wonderful friends as I stood looking at my lillies. I knew that many of my friends were enduring hardships of their own. We each face our own set of challenges in life and sometimes we may feel like these lillies, left and forgotten.

While many may be struggling to find nourishment spiritually or temporally, we can continue to shine forth as beacons of hope to others.  Regardless of our circumstances, we are important. We matter. There will always be someone who’s life we can touch through our example. Rather than hibernate in the dark we can shine forth and bring light to others through our service. Just as my lillies emerged from the darkness and overcome obstacles, we can overcome our trials and find beauty in living.

How will you choose to beautify the world around you? Whose spirit can you lift today? Is there someone you know that could use a good dose of laughter, a gentle touch,  or a kind word? How will you make a difference in the life of another. Will you? When we forget about ourselves and seek to lift another, our burdens become lighter.

Don’t despair if you are feeling “forgotten”. Search deep within yourself and find your “roots”. Whether you are planted on a firm foundation currently, or tipping slightly over, let your roots grab hold and pull you back to where you can stand firm again. Remind yourself that YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! YOU MATTER! Grab on to the HOPE that you will again STAND TALL and FIRM in your foundation.

Take one day at a time. CHOOSE to find the beauty in today!

Life Disciplines and Why We Need Them

I’ve been doing a lot of deep thinking lately with regards to life disciplines. It’s interesting to look around and observe others while also reflecting on my own personal life. I’ve been asking myself, “What life disciplines can I implement into my own life to improve and become the best that I can be, in all areas of my life?”

I suppose I can attribute the deep thinking to a recent class I took called Quantum Leap – Purpose, Direction and Personal Power. I’ve taken the class twice before but it’s been years since the last time I took it. It always provokes reflection and deep thinking, while also providing the direction needed to move forward. I guess the statement, “Third Times A Charm” worked. Even though I’ve gained a great deal from the past classes, for some reason this time the material is sinking in and REALLY making a difference.

One of the segments of the class reviews the various areas of our life where discipline is not only required, but very important, to success. Here is a breakdown of the 6 key areas of our life where discipline is critical:

Self-Discipline – This section reviews the model habit, the mindset habit and the proactivity and persistent action habit.

Spiritual Discipline – This section reviews the authority habit, the prayer and meditation habit and the thankfulness and gratefulness habit.

Physical Discipline – This section reviews the nutrition habit, the exercise habit and the stress management habit.

Time Discipline – The section reviews the play time habit, the pay time habit and the organization time habit.

Money Discipline – This section reviews the gross income habit, the 70/30 rule habit and the value/accountability habit.

Growth Discipline – This section reviews the ability habit, the leverage habit and the new capacities and repairs habit.

One of the statements that I really liked from the above section of the class was this, “Your current level(s) of happiness and success are determined by your current disciplines and habits. To change your level of success, you must change your disciplines and habits.

“Success always involves personal fulfillment and you are only truly fulfilled by counterbalancing your actions in harmony with your purpose in life.” This statement really got me thinking. I had to ask myself, “Are my actions in harmony with my purpose in life?” “What is my purpose in life with regards to the above 6 key areas?”

I then had to take a step back and analyze my perspective. I had to tell myself, “Success is an Inside Job”. Whether or not I achieve success in any of the 6 areas listed above is my decision. It’s my choice. You know the saying, “If it’s going to be it’s up to me?” Well, that statement is true. We cannot blame others for our failures or expect others to hand over “success” on a silver platter. WE are the determining factor in the outcome. If we are not achieving the way we would like then we need to look deep within ourselves and ask,”WHY?”

Life is not just about achieving, it is about BECOMING. Are we becoming the person we want to be? I really like this statement from the class, “Our real fear for our life should not be that we don’t achieve – it should be that we don’t become.”

Ask yourself this question:  When do you grow the most in your life? When you succeed at something or fall short?

Sometimes we are afraid of trying because we fear that we might fail. The point is this…The more you try in life the more you will fail. The more you grow physically the more you’ll grow spiritually. The more you grow the more you will become. So, essentially you need to go out into the world and fail a lot so you’ll grow a lot.

I know that many of you reading this are thinking to yourself, “Did she just tell me that I need to fail a lot?” Yes, I did. Of course, you are not trying to fail on purpose, but if you never TRY anything then you will never have success. Sometimes we have to fail our way forward. It is through our commitment to pick ourselves up when we fall that we eventually achieve the success we desire.

Think of it this way: At a higher place there is no success or failure. There are just levels of spiritual payoffs. Our first powerful perspective is to understand that in order to become the most we can become we have to get out in the physical world and try, try, try and never ever give up!

You have to accept the fact that your thoughts control your actions and therefore your future. Here are a few great quotes and insight into this idea:

Lester Sumrall, in his book “Imagination: Hidden Force of Human Potential” said it best when he wrote:

“…Until a person can correct and control his thought life, he cannot correct his real life of actions. We must get inside to learn to discipline the thought life before we can discipline the hands and feet…”

“…Your abilities are really not according to your learning or your education. Your abilities are according to your imagination. If you can see it (in your minds eye), you can bring it into being.”

Robert Stuber, in his audio-tape program “Creating Your Ultimate Destiny” says this:

“Actions are the physical result and manifestation of mental decisions. …Your thoughts control your actions – thus your life. …A mind of great thoughts has no room for small thoughts…”

Napolean Hill, in his book “Think and Grow Rich” wrote:

“Everything is a state of mind. this includes health, wealth, and happiness. For example, if your thoughts are on health – the best health possible for you will come to you. Your mind can become your greatest asset – or your worst nightmare, depending on how you care for it!”

To be human means to have choice. We decide what we will do with our life.

Stephen Covey says this:

“Whether we are aware of it or not, whether we are in control of it or not, there is a first creation to every part of our lives. We are either the second creation of our own proactive design, or we are the second creation of other people’s agendas, or circumstances, or of past habits.

The unique human capacities of self-awareness, imagination, and conscience enable us to examine the first creations and make it possible for us to take charge of our own first creation, to write our own script.”

“It’s a principle that all things are created twice, but not all first creations are by conscious design. In our lives, if we do not develop our own self-awareness and become responsible for first creations, we empower other people and circumstances outside our circle(s) of influence to shape much of our lives by default.”

Do we really want to live our lives by default? I don’t. We need to recognize that we will only get out of this life what we are willing to put into it. We can, AND MUST, play the leading part in our own lives. We determine who we will become through our thoughts and our actions.

Once you have your thoughts in the right place, and you have determined the key habits and disciplines needed in your life, you then need to commit to the process of mastering the basics of the subjects you have decided matter most in your life. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Focus on the basics.

You know the old 80/20 rule? In 1897 Vilfredo Pareto discovered the pattern underlying the 80/20 principle. While studying patterns of wealth and income in 19th Century England, Pareto found that most income and wealth went to a minority of the people. Rather than site all the facts related to this principle I’ll share a few examples of how this works:

1. In 1963, IBM discovered that about 80% of a computer’s time is spend executing about 20% of the operating code. The company immediately rewrote its operating software to make the most-used 20% very accessible and user friendly, thus making IBM computers more efficient and faster than competitors’ machines for the major applications.

2. In the U.S. from 1973-95, average real incomes rose by 36%, yet the comparable figure for the non-supervisory workers fell by 14%. During the ’80’s, all the gains went to the top 20% of earners, and a mind-boggling 64% of the total increase went to the top 1%!

3. 5% of U.S. households own about 75% of the household sector’s equity.

4. A study of 300 films over an 18-month period found that 4 movies – just 1.3% of the total – earned 80% of the box office revenues! The other 98.7% earned only 20%.

If you were to review your closet you would probably realize that you only wear about 20% of your clothing 80% of the time. You probably only use 20% of your possessions 80% of the time as well. In any given business approximately 20% of the activities bring in 80% of the revenue. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

In short, you need to get down to the basics. The reason you first master the basics is that the basics are always the 20%, and it is this 20% that always provides you your greatest leverage. Most people don’t get this principle. They spend most of their time doing the 80% that doesn’t really matter. It’s those key disciplines, the 20%, that bring the greatest results.

Leveraging your time and focusing on the 20% that matters most will change your life. The greatest levels of mastery and success are possible when you get the things done first that matter most. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How you spend those hours is what makes the difference. You must make sure to spend your time making sure the most important things get done first. It’s easy to procrastinate. I know I do. By focusing on the 20% that matters most when you first wake up you will see more progress and success than by focusing on the 80% that matters least.

Sure, it’s easy to say all this (above), but let’s be honest, it’s a lot harder to DO IT. That is where the discipline comes in. We can read it, we can believe it, we can say it, but it will never happen unless we DO IT. We have to take ACTION.

When I completed the P90X Challenge a few months ago I had to take action and commit to being disciplined to complete the workouts 6 days a week for 90 days. It was hard, REALLY hard. I was sore every single day. My body hurt and there were days when I really did not want to do it. What kept me going was my commitment not only to myself, but to you (my readers). That’s when I truly understood the importance of accountability. When we hold ourselves accountable, or even better, have a coach to hold us accountable, we perform better. Why do you think so many pro-athletes have multiple coaches? They know there will be days when they will struggle. Having a coach helps to keep them accountable. In business, the same thing applies. Having someone to report to helps hold us accountable to our goals.

My mind has been stretched in many ways the past few months and it is liberating to recognize my true potential and the course that will get me there. As stated in the beginning, there are 6 key areas of our life where discipline is required. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Start slowly, start with one area first. The key here is to JUST START!! You must be ACTIVE. You can either make life happen the way you want it or let life happen to you based on other peoples decisions. The choice is yours. I’m choosing to be actively involved in my life and make my life the best it can be. What will you choose?

Discipline, Focus and Balance – Three Items Critical To Success

Why is it that some people achieve at a higher level than others? Typically, when you look closely, you will find that they have implemented key life disciplines that they follow with superior focus. The truly great ones also excert a great deal of effort counterbalancing. They realize that it is impossible to maintain constant balance in all areas of their lives and so they implement the process of counterbalancing.

You may be asking yourself, “What is counterbalance?” Well, in order to understand the principle, just think about how you drive your car. If you are driving on a straight road you must still move your steering wheel slightly to the left and to the right to maintain a straight course. Bumps in the road, the wind, and other factors are constantly moving your car, ever so slightly. In order to maintain a steady path you must “counter” those outside influences through very small movements of the wheels, this in turn will keep you on the straight path you desire. So it is with life!

In order to have proper focus and discipline in our lives we must have goals and dreams. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for you will never achieve it. The first step is to have a vision of what you want. Then you must do your research and determine the proper course for achieving your goal. Once you have determined the proper course, you must implement key disciplines in your life that will help propel you in the direction you desire. You must also have superior focus with the end in mind.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I know what I want, but I’m not sure how to get it.” If that is the case, then you must look to others. Study the lives of other people who have achieved the same desire you have. How did they do it? Study their lives and figure out what the key disciplines were that they implemented into their lives. Then…model them. Do what they did. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. In most cases, there are others who have achieved what you want to achieve. If they have succeeded, they have probably already learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t. Learn from them. By modeling them you will often shorten the process and achieve success quicker than if you try to do things “your way”.

Maintaining proper focus is probably just as difficult as abiding by the key disciplines you implement. It is easy to get distracted and discouraged along the way. You must find ways to motivate yourself and you must know WHY you are trying to achieve your goal. What is your BIG WHY?

Having a goal is important, but perhaps what is even more important is understanding WHY you have that goal. If you don’t know WHY you want to achieve your goal then you will never be able to have the focus, and implement the key disciplines, long enough to achieve them. Understanding the “WHY” is the most important part. If you talk with highly successful people you will often find that their BIG WHY is what drives them to achieve. Knowing WHY they want to achieve their goals is critical to their success and helps them maintain focus along the way.

You will always be confronted with obstacles when trying achieve your goals. The question is whether or not you have a big enough WHY to overcome them. Knowing the WHY will improve your focus and chances for success.

Here are some questions to ask yourself?

1. What is my goal or dream? (DREAM BIG)

2. Why do I want to achieve it? Why is it important to me?

3. What will I do once I’ve achieved my goal? What will I do with my success?

4. Who has already achieved that goal, or a goal that is similar? Do I know them? If not, is there information available about them that I can study to see how they achieved it?

5. What key disciplines did they implement in their life to achieve the success they have?

6. How did they maintain their focus?

7. What acts of “counterbalance” did they implement in their life to help maintain their focus?

8. How important is my goal/vision? Am I willing to commit to achieving success by implementing the same key disciplines as those who have succeeded before me?

9. When will I begin? What is my target date for achieving success?

My challenge to you is to DREAM BIG! Then, take some time to determine your BIG WHY. If you have a WHY that is big enough to propel you forward then you will have a higher chance of success. Once you know your BIG WHY figure out the HOW. Study others who have achieved similar success and determine the KEY DISCIPLINES that you need to implement in your life. When you FOCUS on WHY you want to achieve your goal it will help motivate you to adhere to the KEY DISCIPLINES you’ve set for yourself. REMEMBER…you will never have perfect balance in your life, but if you FOCUS on the state of constant COUNTERBALANCE then in essence you will appear to have balance.

None of us are perfect. We all stumble and fall along our JOURNEY called LIFE. What is most important is that we continue to pick ourselves up and move forward towards our dreams and goals for a better future. Others do not determine our success or failure. WE DO! The question is whether or not we are willing to do what it takes to achieve it. Ultimately, it always comes back to US. We determine our future. We can create it, or we can let outside influences create it for us. What will you choose to do with your life?

Starting Over…

Yes, it’s true, I feel like a slacker. It’s been over a week since my last blog post. Life’s been busy! Last weekend I drove for 28 hours within a 38 hour time frame. I didn’t mind though. I was headed to pick up my oldest son from college, so the drive was fun. It was great to see him and to bring him home to be with the family again. My younger children are thrilled to have their brother home and so are we.

Yesterday, I finally ventured out for a walk to see how my leg & back were holding up. If you’ve been reading my blog then you know that after I finished my P90X Challenge I injured my leg. What you probably don’t know is that as soon as my leg healed, I injured my lower back. Both injuries have taken time to heal. It was difficult in the beginning and I ended up re-injuring myself on a couple of occasions by exercising before my body was fully healed. I finally conceded that I needed to listen to the doctor and let my body rest. It’s been hard for me to let my body rest as I feel like I’m going backwards in my efforts to get in shape. I’ve finally reached the point where I can begin exercising again and I feel as though I’m starting over.

This time I’ve decided to take things a little slower in the beginning. My back injury was extremely painful and I’m a little hesitant to push myself too hard at first. I definitely don’t want to endure that kind of injury again.

I’ve decided to mix things up a bit in the beginning and will not be as strict with myself for the first few weeks until I’m sure my body is fully prepared for the intense workouts of P90X. I’ll toss some of those in, but will most likely begin with walking and interval running to see how my body reacts. Once I’m sure my body is fully healed I’ll begin P90X again. I loved those workouts and want to get back to them soon.

With all that being said, wish me luck as I start over…

Thank Goodness For Cell Phones & Skype

My daughter tells me that Adalynn wants to sit up all the time and be part of the "action".

All I have to say today is that I am so grateful for cell phones & Skype! It has made “keeping in touch” so much easier. It’s hard to be a new grandma and live so far away. Skype has been fabulous in helping me to not only see and talk to my daughter, but to see my granddaughter as she is growing up. My daughter and her husband have been wonderful about texting me almost daily photos of my granddaughter and it has been wonderful to watch her grow and change through the photos. Sure, being there in person would be better, but at least being able to see her smiling face every day makes it easier. This post is just a quick reminder to those of you out there who have family living far away that a simple text photo or skype session can do wonders (or a blog post with photos) for those who don’t get to see you often.

It doesn’t have to be a baby that causes you to keep in touch. We have also been able to Skype with my son who is away at college. Technology can be a wonderful thing when used correctly. How do you stay in touch? Do you use Skype or something else like it? Do you text photos to family or friends far away? Has it helped you to feel closer and share more activities and events with those you love? How do you use these tools to stay connected?

Fruit Is Nature’s Candy

When you're craving something sweet turn to Nature's Candy and eat fruit instead of chocolate or candy.

In one of my early posts, Fruit vs. Oreo’s, I talked about how simply placing a bowl of fruit on the counter had changed what my family ate for snacks. I have continued in my efforts to always have fresh fruit available, AND VISIBLE, for my family. Over the past few weeks I have not been as diligent with keeping our current “fruit platter” stocked. As I have reflected back on the past few weeks I have come to realize that the simplicity of having fruit on the counter vs. not having fruit on the counter can, and has, made a huge impact on how we “snack” in our home.

As the fruit on our platter has dwindled, my craving for chocolate and sugar has increased. I actually found myself walking in to my friends house the other day and asking, “Do you have any chocolate?” I was craving chocolate like a mad woman. As we looked through her cupboards we realized that she too was out of chocolate. We did however, find some licorice. I looked at my friend and said, “I guess this will have to do.” The sugar from the licorice did provide some satisfaction but it still left me wanting something more. (FYI – No, I don’t go through everyone’s cupboards looking for food. This was the home of one of my dearest and closest friends with whom I can always be completely honest and vice versa. She understands me and it was totally natural for me to say what I did to her.)

Later that night I stood staring at the fruit platter on our kitchen counter. The only fruit remaining was a couple of banana’s that looked to be only good for making banana bread. I sighed as I stood staring in thought. I suddenly realized that what I was really craving was the natural sugar I get from fruit. I immediately made a plan to buy more fruit on my next shopping trip. You can see from the photo provided with this post that I went a little overboard. I guess I was feeling the need for some of nature’s “candy” and couldn’t decide which ones would satisfy my craving the most…so I bought a lot!

Do you ever crave chocolate or candy? The next time you have a craving like that, instead of using chocolate or candy to satisfy your sweet tooth, turn to nature’s candy and eat fruit instead.