I am in Philadelphia at the National Speakers Association convention and heard Scott Christopher talk about levity. He is a great, funny, engaging speaker. What really hit home for me was when he talked about how important it was to treat our family and friends the way we treat our co-workers. I agree, and research backs this up. Sometimes we give our “best” to our co-workers. They love us, and we are successful. Then we get home and leave our best at work. We don’t give our family our best because we are tired or burnt out. Who is getting our authentic self? I suggest that our “best” is our authentic self. And shouldn’t we be giving that authenticity to everyone? I read an article a couple years ago that said people who are authentic at work and after work are the happiest and most successful, because they are who they are wherever they are. It’s a freeing way to live. Thanks to Scott for reminding me of this principle of authenticity. Do you want to know the secret to a happy, successful life at home and at work? Be yourself.
Tony Robbins said, “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” So true. I know that when I withhold forgiveness I am only hurting myself. When I forgive someone, I imagine it might help them to heal, but the healing most definitely goes on inside of me. Holding onto hate and anger and judgment causes a cascade of stress biochemicals to launch in my body, triggering the stress response and causing high blood pressure, high blood sugar, lowered immunity, etc. Holding onto anger and judgment clutters up our lives. Forgiveness on the other hand has the opposite effect, eliciting the relaxation response and freeing up space in our mind and body. I am not suggesting you have to actually TALK to the person you are judging.Although that might be ideal, it is not always possible. Perhaps you could just get a blank piece of paper and write your words of forgiveness there. See how you fell after writing it all down. Then burn it if you like.
Is there someone you need to forgive? How about forgiving yourself first? I know you will feel better.
When my mother was 80 years old, just one year before her death, I asked her, “Are you happy Mom?” She said, “Well, I am not UN-happy ” That wasn’t the first time I asked her that question, and she gave me the same answer every time. Over the years I have pondered the meaning of her answer. Was she just trying to avoid the question, not wanting to admit that she wasn’t happy? I seem to have been born with a “happiness habit” gene. Most of the time, I’m pretty dang happy. But Mom? She was plagued with depression, alcoholism, and fatigue. She didn’t seem to be blessed with happiness. But, like she said, she wasn’t UN-happy. I have finally come to the realization that what Mom had was peace. She didn’t seem to be bothered by the “am I happy?” question. She was at peace with her life and contented. So I think there’s a difference between peace and happiness. Perhaps it is somewhat pointless to pursue happiness. Our time might be better spent pursuing peace. Instead of chasing little bits of happiness, let’s go for little bits of peace. There’s something about peace that seems to last longer than happiness. Perhaps happiness is based on what we DO and peace is based on who we ARE. I’m not sure about this – I’m still pondering. For me right now, I choose happiness and peace. And love. If I am not totally happy all the time, I can still be at peace with what is. And that feels good.
In Steve Chandler’s book Time Warrior he suggests that instead of calling difficult things “problems” we call them “projects.” This is a great positive thinking strategy. Some say we should call our problems “opportunities for growth.” I agree with that. I have been using the word “challenge” instead of “problem” and that works well for me. In fact, I rarely use the term “problem.” Using proactive words tells our mind, body and soul that we are ready to act on the project, or challenge or opportunity for growth. Calling it a problem on the other hand doesn’t have the urgency of the other terms, and may lead to negative thinking and lack of doing something about it. Which may lead to more “problems.” When I think of a problem, that’s what I do about it – I thin about it. When I think of a challenge or project, it is hard to just sit and think about it – those words spur me to action. So maybe next time we talk to someone about their so-called problem, we can ask, “What’s your project?” or “What’s your challenge?” Or even, “Hey, what’s your opportunity for growth?” Good luck with that!
In The Time Warrior Steve Chandler quotes Shri Ravishankar Jee:
Sound when stretched is music.
Movement when stretched is dance.
Mind when stretched is meditation.
Life when stretched is celebration.
I like to live in my comfort zone. The only problem is, I can’t really experience growth in my comfort zone. I know that when I stretch outside my comfort zone, I grow. I also know that when I stay in my comfort zone and continue to do what I’ve been doing, this lack of stretching adds to stress. I have a misguided idea that if I just stay still, wrapped in my cocoon, I will be safe. But after awhile, the cocoon feels like a prison and doesn’t feel safe at all. Lack of stretching also adds to stiffness and low flexibility. So when opportunities arise, I am not ready and not fit for the challenge. And I live in fear. So here’s a challenge: Every morning when you wake up, STRETCH. Use the stretch as a metaphor for getting outside your comfort zone, into the zone of growth and creation. I start my day every day with a smile before I get out of bed. I’m going to add a nice long stretch to that, and see what happens.
Taking a look at our dreams can add insight and enrichment to our lives. I use Jeremy Taylor’s method of dreamwork. His basic principles are that dreams come only in the service of health and wholeness, and that the dreamer knows the meaning of her own dreams. According to Carl Jung, dreams put us in touch with the universal unconsciousness, making my dreams your dreams and vice versa. Dreams are the way our unconscious mind attempts to get the attention of the conscious mind, using metaphor and symbols. When we are ready to acknowledge and work on an issue, we will remember the parts of the dream that will give us that message of healing to help us with the issue. If we’re not ready to face an issue, we probably won’t remember the dream. Dreamwork can be used for many purposes. I have a friend who helps couples look at their dreams to treat infertility. Dreams can serve us in times of indecision, grief and illness. If you are interested, you can find out more from the International Association for the Study of Dreams. Click on the links below to learn how to remember your dreams and how to write a dream journal. If you have a dream to share, send it as a comment to this blog, and I’ll analyze it and post it here.
Having a supportive network of friends has been linked to decreased stress, longer life span, and increased happiness. Today I took the opportunity to have lunch with my friend Brian Owen. We laughed, talked about old times, solved the world’s problem and just really enjoyed a break from the world. I was so engaged in our conversation (and the great food), living in the present moment and letting my cares slip away. So refreshing! Then when I dropped him off at is office, some former colleagues invited me to lunch. My automatic response was, “No thanks. I just ate.” But then I thought, “Wait a minute! Why not enjoy some more time with friends?” So I went to lunch for the second time (I didn’t eat again) and had a great time. I feel valued, connected, and the world just seems like a better place. So if you want to decrease your stress, go out to lunch with friends. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t think about all you are NOT doing while you are “wasting” time. It’s not a waste! Self-care and stress management are ESSENTIAL for good health and increased productivity. There used to be a saying that people were “out to lunch” when they did something crazy. I say going out to lunch might feel crazy, but it’s good for you. Enjoy!