Author Spencer Johnson wrote a great book titled The Present. It was required reading during a course in graduate school, along with his mega popular Who Moved My Cheese? This quick read, a fable/parable between an old man and a younger man, truly intrigued me and left a lasting impression. Some would argue that it is simplistic. I counter that it is a powerful and necessary message of balancing past, present and future.
Between juggling deadlines and unexpected projects at work, late work hours, tons and tons of snow here on the East coast, shoveling snow, life, trying to be timely in returning calls/texts, shoveling more snow (is Spring ever going to get here?) and just needing an extra 5-6 hours in each and every day its been challenging to keep my head above water.
With so much going on my mind has been in overdrive racing ahead, living in the future by constantly thinking of what I need to do/should do, who I need to follow-up with/email/call, which project to prioritize first, thinking of ways to manage my manager’s and client expectations, etc. I discovered that I’m losing myself, my joy and my ability to just live in the moment. The now moment. My present moment. I’ve had to stop and refocus. Be mindful.
I believe this precious gem of a book is often underrated. The tagline for the book says: The Gift That Makes You Happier and More Successful at Work and in Life Today! I may need to reread this book. But for right now I’m much happier and more joyful now that I’m refocused and getting my balance back.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. ~ Isaiah 43:18-19
Are you missing out on things in the present by living too much in either the future or the past?
One of my favorite sayings in my professional and personal life (and girl talk with my girlfriends!) is that “Actions speak louder than words”. Show me. If you can’t show me, then your words are meaningless and offer no value, merit or credibility.
Whether we realize it or not, in our everyday lives we constantly show others the stuff we are made of. Our actions can increase or devalue the level of respect we have in the eyes of loved ones, friends, peers and others.
I believe when our actions line up with who we are we free ourselves to experience and appreciate joy more fully.
What do your actions say about you?
Do your actions reflect who you believe yourself to be? If yes, fantastic! If no, reflect and determine how to align your actions with the person you choose to be, are becoming or who you want or hope to one day be.
The Thanksgiving holiday marks a traditional day to offer thanks for the harvest and bounty of blessings in our lives. I believe we do not have to wait for Thanksgiving and should give thanks on a daily basis for each blessing life brings—big and small, including the blocked blessings.
Do you ever stop and think about how blessed you are? I mean really stop and truly give it serious thought? Or do you race through life taking everything for granted?
Go find someplace where you can sit quietly by yourself and complete this exercise: Name at least 20-30 things you are thankful for in your life.
Hmm, did anything change after taking a moment to pause to focus your thoughts to perform this exercise? Are you in awe of how blessed you are? Does it amaze you to realize the things you may be concerned about aren’t really as bad as you thought they were?
Today’s cares and worries are a distant memory in the tomorrow’s of life. A week, 2 months, 18 months down the road you will likely have forgotten about whatever is currently causing you great angst and concern.
I really love the term “cultivate thankfulness” from the scripture below.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. ~ Colossians 3:15-17 (MSG)
Cultivate thankfulness on a daily basis. Choose to focus on the joy associated with the many blessings in your life. You are blessed.
Attitude, Circumstances, Emotional healing, Expectancy, Injury, Inspiration, lifestyle adjustments, Long-term Effects of Stress, Long-term unemployment, negative circumstances, Physical healing, Staying positive
I have two friends that are currently dealing with some heavy medical issues. Thankfully neither issues are life-threatening but they both require some lifestyle adjustments and the nature of time.
What interests me is the drastic comparison between how both of them are dealing with their issues. One is always down, depressed and constantly posting cryptic medical updates on her Facebook page (you know…the kind requiring further inquiry) and some days it pains me that she just seems downright defeated. The other is upbeat, positive, and expectant of good things while carrying on with her life.
About three years ago I too dealt with a health issue due to an injury that required extensive physical rehabilitation (not exactly the same but somewhat similar to theirs). Observing how they are handling their situations so differently got me to thinking how did I handle mine? I know I was always expecting the healing to come by constantly trusting my Mom’s favorite saying “this too shall pass”. But the big question is “Was I always upbeat and positive?” I think not. I know for sure my family surely saw that down side of me but I may have been more positive around my friends. Anyway, it’s just something that I thought about.
Of course we’re not going to always smile through negative circumstances no matter how positive and enlightened we may think we are. Expression and experiencing the feeling of emotions is the very core of being human. However, since my injury a few years ago I’ve learned that we can always manage our emotions. It is a matter of training ourselves on how we react, respond and the internal conversations we have with ourselves.
One primary thing I learned about myself back then is that negativity often breeds more negativity. When I felt emotionally “down” my body was also down, in pain and definitely not in life-giving healing mode. When I remained positive, I truly believe my body responded positively (although I have no scientific evidence of this) in life-affirming mode. I believe it is fine to feel the negative emotions but we have the power to choose if we will allow them to spew out as irritability, defeat, etc.
I re-learned this lesson during a season of long-term unemployment. When I felt down, I didn’t see the job leads I wanted and everything looked bleak. I shifted my thinking and my attitude. It wasn’t the ideal circumstance but everything is a lesson in learning and I learned the lesson that attitude is everything.
Circumstances can always define our attitude—if we allow them. Our circumstances may be related to a variety of things (i.e., our health, family/relationships, lifestyle, workplace or financial issues). What I’ve learned is do not allow your attitude to be misaligned by negative circumstances. Always strive to remain positive and open.
This Cherokee parable is one that I often remember when I feel the pull of negativity in my life and on my emotions.
Even when the future looks bleak and uncertain there is always something to be joyful and thankful for. Fight the fight and don’t allow the bad wolf to win.
When negative circumstances affect your life what have you done to offset developing a negative attitude?
Our words either speak and encourage or they speak and discourage. We manifest the power of the words we speak and they can either make our dreams or break them.
In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz discusses what he believes to be the essential agreements for living a life of personal freedom.
In our modern society, we often toss words about without thinking before we speak. From the hateful words of a cyber bully or playground bully, to the negative skewering of political candidates or elected officials, to the overworked parent speaking harshly to their child.
The words we speak always have consequences.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. ~ Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV)
Words kill, words give life;
they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. ~ Proverbs 18:21 (MSG)
Are you cognizant of the words that you speak?
Here are a few professional and personal tips to keep front and center on your radar as you go about your day.
What to Do
♥ Negotiate. In their book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In, Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton share the art of personal and professional negotiation through their proven strategy to work through conflicts. Whether Getting to Yes is with your boss, your neighbor, your partner, your parents or even your kids, the ultimate goal is yes. Stop looking at what you can’t do. Shift your mindset and start repositioning yourself to offset conflict. Baby steps.
♥ Give praise. Yes, giving praise in the literal sense is a good thing. Praise your guy for washing your car or your wife for throwing you a surprise birthday party. Praise your kids for doing their chores. Praise a friend who does something kind for you. However, I’m talking about giving praise to God for the many blessings He has brought into your life. Forget about what isn’t going well in this very moment and focus on the blessings instead. Take time daily to stop and give praise for the things He has done.
♥ The early bird gets the worm. Start the workday early and take advantage of the extra time to delete old emails, put away files, organize your work space by filing items or pitching items you no longer need. Take a few moments to just be still before the busyness and craziness of the workday begins. Try going to bed a little earlier to feel more rested and refreshed and to awaken with a new pep in your step.
♥ Read it. Whatever it is that you do at work, or hobbies you enjoy in your spare time, there is some form of trade publication, articles, websites, blogs, etc. that helps you stay current and maintain a passionate interest. Take a few minutes daily, or pause weekly, to read and catch up. This way you will always be “in the know” and you won’t feel overwhelmed trying to set aside a huge block of time just to get current.
What Not to Do
♦ Complain. Complaining, to me, is the same as whining. It annoys people and in all honesty, what does complaining get you? Absolutely nothing. Other than the label that there goes so and so, he/she is always complaining about something. That certainly is not a label you want for yourself. Is it? I didn’t think so. If something is wrong, fix it. Devise a solution. If you can’t come up with one then accept whatever it is you want to complain about and move on. Stop complaining.
♦ Throw in the towel. Life is challenging. Life isn’t always fair. However, we can’t give up. Setbacks occur. Try a new approach. Don’t give up! Opportunities always come out of challenges, struggles and trials. Seek advice and guidance from a mentor or a counselor for additional help if you feel stuck.
♦ Overreact. We live in an instant society. For many, every thought is instantly verbalized, tweeted, texted, Instagramed, etc. for the whole world to see. Inevitably the next step is to see a new follow-up tweet, text, Instagram apologizing for the prior message! Overreacting is blowing things totally out of proportion by reacting or responding in an inappropriate manner. Yes, we all overreact at times but I have witnessed people do it over what I consider minutiae. If you are going to overreact, stop. Take a moment. Try very hard to compose yourself. Think about what you are going to say before you start speaking, tweeting, texting, Instagraming. Please. Stop. The. Drama.
♦ Hold onto blame. People can hurt us. People will hurt us. Life tosses many curve balls our way. Scary and unexpected things happen. As humans, we always cherish the good and hate the bad yet somehow we find ways to hold onto the negative. It tends to lurk in the back of our minds and there are some people who love to play that record over and over and over repeatedly. Let the negatives propel you further. Learn something from the mistakes, hard times, curve balls, missed opportunities, poor decisions, bad choices that you made or that were made and done to you. Practice forgiveness of others, and most importantly, forgive yourself. The past is over. Let it be.
What are some items on your To Do and Not to Do list? Please share.
Something happened at work the other day that really got me going. I steamed and stewed over the incompetent behavior of another person because it impacted the ability to perform my job. Well, you know what? They were just zipping around breezing through their day and here I was stewing most of the work day as a result of their mess. But I still met my deadline!
As I was relaxing at home later that evening I realized this person stole my joy. Instead of being my normal happy-go-lucky self, letting things roll off my back, I allowed this person to get under my skin. They stole my joy. And I didn’t like it.
It made me think there are so many things that can steal our joy:
Things, and people, that steal our joy always bring negativity. I view negativity as focused attention on a behavior, action or interaction that is either an actual or a perceived threat. In my situation, I was threatened that I would not meet the deadline for my client because of the failed actions of another person which made me feel anxious and frustrated. I had to pause and refocus on how I would complete my task, in less time than originally scheduled, and still meet the established timeline.
Negativity often brings out the worst in us because it is the polar opposite of, and a direct threat, to our immediate happiness. The effects of negativity include:
1. The manifestation of physical symptoms (e.g., tense muscles, increased blood pressure, headache, stomach ache, diarrhea, etc.), anxiety or depression.
2. Raised voices, arguments, disagreements, a sharp tongue with words that tumble out as a jumbled, twisty, messy stream of irrational thoughts, complaints, worries and frustrations.
3. Development of strong emotions such as self-doubt, criticism, anger and extreme rage.
4. Emotional shut down and internalization of negative feelings and emotions.
To rid ourselves of negativity, stop for a minute and think about what it is you have control over. Refocus your thoughts. Become unbiased. Don’t place blame or be the victim. Remove or excuse yourself from the situation if you can. Stop the negative chatter. Practice forgiveness. Find the gratitude in the moment. This will restore your joy and your peace.
This is one of my favorite scriptures on remaining joyful and being grateful regardless of what life throws our way. One translation says “Be joyful always!”
Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Things will happen that make us negative. We cannot escape it. We don’t smile through pain, crisis, sorrow, the loss of a loved one and other negative or traumatic life experiences. However, I believe the way we respond makes us emotionally resilient and allows us to bounce back from the minor or major struggles, trials and hardships in life. The scripture above commands us to “always be thankful”. Find ways to turn any negativity into joy and gratitude. Regardless of the circumstance there is always an element of gratitude.
What steals your joy and how do you reclaim it?
I grew up attending Christian school from first through seventh grade. There were many things I loved about attending a Christian school but one of the favorite things I loved was Bible verse memorization and presentation. It was such fun to memorize the promises of God, especially the good ones.
Notice I said the good ones. That is because there were certain Bible verses that I always shied away from, back then and even now as a grown woman. Truth be told, they simply scared me. They talked about both good and bad things – all within the same verse. Who wants to hear that? I don’t know about you but, as a little girl and now, I much prefer to hear the good Bible verses and experience good times.
Obviously, that is not how life works. We have to take the good with the bad because it is not always a rosy picture.
I have learned that this Christian walk is all about endurance. Endurance in our prayer time. Endurance with our faith. Endurance in seeking and praising God.
This year has been a year of turmoil for me. Many things have happened and one of my “scary scriptures” has now become one of my “good scriptures” and one I have turned towards faithfully, rather than run away from.
My “scary-turned-good” scripture is in James 1:2-4 and the verse I grew up memorizing is in the King James Version which states “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.“
I have to tell you, three words in that scripture have always leaped out at me. The “count it all joy” has always puzzled me. Why should I count it all joy? Why would I have any desire to be joyful when something I don’t want or need to happen actually happens? The real answer is because God wants us to have faith and endurance at ALL times.
I like how it is explained in the New Living Translation “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
The Message Bible even goes so far as to say “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” Excuse me, what? A gift is supposed to be something we welcome because we want it. Or a gift is offered to us as a pleasant and unexpected surprise. A gift is not something bad that happens to us unexpectedly, makes us uncomfortable by upsetting or redirecting our carefully planned lives, or is something we have absolutely no desire to ever choose to encounter.
Trials as gifts. Sounds horrifically odd. Yet trials are fabulous gifts. They make us look deep within. They raise our awareness. They test our faith. They show us who we are and the substance we are made of. They allow us to take on the characteristics of Christ and to share our testimony with others who experience a similar trial so we can build up the body of Christ.
The next time you experience a trial, be joyful. Remain faithful as you endure. Consider it ALL joy. Good things are going to happen as you move through it to make it to the other side of it – and beyond.
The word waiting means to: 1. to remain steady in a place of readiness or expectation, 2. to look forward expectantly, and 3. to be ready and available.
If we wait with expectation, then why is waiting so hard? As kids we could not wait to grow up – to go to the next grade, have a first crush, get our driver’s license, go to prom, etc. As young adults we wait to find the perfect mate. As women we wait 9 months to birth and greet a precious baby. As students we wait for college to end so careers can begin. The list of the hopes, dreams, events, and things we wait for is endless.
Waiting can be a beautiful and happy experience. It can also be a time of pain, struggle, questions and heartache when we have to wait for an extended period of time.
God has hidden joys along the waiting journey. Waiting is our destiny. A place of faith, trust and thankfulness.
Our trials and challenges strengthen and stretch us as they take us to new heights in confidence and character. Waiting helps instill patience, trust, and thankfulness for God is always with us − He will never leave or forsake us.
“The atmosphere of expectancy is the breeding ground for miracles.” – Israel Houghton