Don’t neglect your greatest ally!

Cover of "Taking Care of Yourself"
Cover of Taking Care of Yourself

Feeling that work is leaving you without room for much else in life?

Feeling overworked, unappreciated and constantly stressed can make it difficult feeling that we are making progress at work, let alone successful elsewhere in life.

You are the only person who is truly responsible for taking care of yourself.

We often derive great pride and satisfaction from our performance and the contributions we make daily. However, when we feel like we are spinning our wheels and not getting anywhere, things can get really stressful.

Your success depends on your ability to take care of your mind, body and soul.

Currently, companies are not hiring many people and remaining staff is left to do more. Often, much more. While this has everyone working hard, people are also afraid of possibly being the next person to get cut, adding further to their stress loads.

Addressing stress through meditation, exercise and pleasurable activities will increase your focus and performance.

As we find ourselves in a stressful situation, signals reach the brain that induce the release of hormones, cortisol and norepinephrine, designed to help the body perform under stress. This is actually good for us! Well, up to a point.

Your body is your greatest ally, but it also let’s you know when it’s had enough. Don’t make it do that!

We learn by watching others as we grow up, adopt habits as a result of societal expectations of what it means to be successful and reinforce them as part of the cycle we have come to believe serves us best.

Slowly integrate healthier habits that you are interested in trying! Slow and steady wins the race!

As we get older, we face different challenges in managing stress that we did not face as children. We feel there is more at stake, our options are few and the significance of our actions affect our reputation.

The stakes are higher, but maintain perspective. You’re human. You have limitations. You will not always win. However, there is a lot you can do to win by taking good care of yourself. You ARE empowered.

While these beliefs are real, take a look at what is behind all of them. I find that actions and thoughts are often based on fear rather than the things that primarily motivate us to be ambitious and succeed. So what should we do when facing stressful situations?

1. Your emotions fuel your actions. So ask yourself what you are feeling.

2. What things precipitated those feelings? When? Why? Where?

3. How TRUE are the thoughts that you are now having? Are you REALLYa failure? Is the world REALLY going to end?

4. What is one little step you could take to move you forward?

5. What are you doing in your every day life that help promote your well being? It won’t solve your problems, but it will enable you to do so.

The impact of increased stress is not just limited to the specific situation fueling the stress, such as the dreaded weekly Monday morning meeting that you begin thinking about on Sunday afternoon. The human body is designed to moderate the affects of all things, such as stress and pleasure.

Help your body help you by joining your ally in the long-term goal of living a healthy and successful life!

What do you think is most important for you to do in changing your health?

30 Second Success Strategies

Are you too caught up in building that you can’t see the vision beyond the skyscraper’s you’ve built?

1. Take a breather. Assess where you are in life. Evaluate your physical environment, career, financial well-being, physical health, friends/family life, romantic relationships, personal development, spiritual life and recreation. Where are you? Where would you like to be? Then answer “HOW” to get there.

2. Be aware of your thoughts. They are powerful and affect your emotions and actions.

3. Have a date with something, someone or some place that inspires you. Read. Listen. Touch. Have contact with everything that inspires you most, especially if you’re neglecting a certain aspect of your life. Do this daily. Weekly. Monthly.

Be Thankful & Be Blessed

I want to wish my family, friends and everyone who has touched my life at some point along my journey a happy Thanksgiving. I hope you find peace, hope and love. Keep moving forward. Don’t fear the unknown of tomorrow, instead fear staying in the past and the limitations we often place on ourselves. Live life unafraid of your potential and be brave enough to explore it.Image

What happens in between the holidays?

The nation is gearing up for Thanksgiving and a number of celebrations to end the year. Generally speaking, the holidays are a significant time of the year when people try to celebrate their blessings and the people they have in their life. It’s a moment to cultivate religious traditions and recognize who we are. They require a lot of planning and forethought, and often lead to a bundle of mixed emotions  and fuel the beginning of a new year filled with hope and anticipation of what may be. There is great purpose in celebrating these holidays, but what happens in between?

There is great work done around the holiday season dedicated to the expression of our love and appreciation for family, friends and life itself. But do we live with the same amount of awareness and intention during the other days of the year?

Do we share our feelings for others on a regular basis or do we wait until a major holiday to do so? When we do get to share, does it happen in a way that we find great satisfaction and authenticity?

I think the answer can vary from person to person, but I think that most people let “life” get in between what’s important. “Life” is the meeting that went long, forcing you to arrive late for dinner. “Life” is being upset that you had to get a tow truck and spend $1000 fixing the car. “Life” is being worried about our job security; keeping you on the computer looking for jobs late at night.

“Life” is what happens and can distract you from the many wonderful, positive and loving people you may have around you. What would happen if you remembered to do or say at least one intentional and loving thing to a family member or a close friend. What if you celebrated a mini-Thanksgiving every day? How would you feel? How would that affect others at home?

So each week:

1) Touch base with one person you haven’t heard from recently and let them know something you appreciate about them.

2) Leave a note for someone special sharing how you feel.

3) Try becoming a good hugger! Hugging conveys warmth and helps strengthen the bond between people.

4) Do something nice for someone and tell them why it was important for you to do it.

5) Be creative! You know your own talents and abilities! Put them to work!

Did you come with a manufacturer’s warranty?

To what lengths would you go to in providing the best care for your car? How about your pet? How about yourself?

People often neglect the fact that, unlike their cars, they don’t come with a manufacturer’s warranty. They end up neglecting the tool that is most important in helping them enjoy success, happiness and opportunity–their own mind and body.

Self-care is about the things you do daily to address your well-being. Is that important? Who else is going to take care of you better than you can. However, will you take care of yourself like you should? Who is responsible for your well-being? How does your well-being affect your ability to be happy and successful?

Self-care is all about our diet, level of activity, stress management and follow-through in the goals that most promote health.

How good of a job do you do in taking care of yourself?

Create the meaning you seek.

We often look for meaning in life. Some are looking for a significant event that orients our focus and overall purpose. What if we instead reveal the meaning we already place on life by looking at the intention of our actions?

The most successful people develop great discipline and follow habits as a means of reaching their goal, not as a result of having met their goal.

Finding meaning in life can be found in everything we do daily. There is meaning in the objects that we appreciate and hold sentimental value in. There is meaning in the people who inspire us, and often push us to be better. There is meaning in the rituals we participate in daily, including the most minute actions that help prepare us for the day. There is meaning in the behaviors we adopt in taking care of ourselves.

If you are finding a lack of meaning in life or career, perhaps you could look at things differently or change your behaviors. After all, positive change and growth cannot happen unless you allow it to.

Giving more by saying “No.”

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.

-Boundaries: When to Say YES When to Say NO to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

That is one of the most important quotes I have ever read. I highly recommend the book. It obviously covers the subject of boundaries, a term I first used during high school when I started learning about the subject during a life skills class. Despite my interest in learning about the subject and use of the word, it took a while for me to really learn how influential the concept can be in life.

I think most Americans are generous and kind people. There are statistics that even support my argument and, of course, personal experiences that help feed my optimistic perspective. I’ll go ahead and state that we are a people who are quite accustomed to saying “yes”. Before you try to determine what you believe about my assertion, think about the last time you said “yes” or “no”. Do you remember why you gave either response?

What was the context of the situation? Do you remember feeling a little uncomfortable about your response? People do often feel somewhat uncomfortable when put on the spot. Those that don’t feel anything at all may be boundary setting superstars! However, those of us who do think about the response for a split second, or longer, may grapple with the potential fear of disappointing others while regretting not standing up for what they truly want for themselves. It’s definitely not a desirable feeling.

If you think that this message is right up your alley, then I have great news! Setting boundaries doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” situation. In fact, setting boundaries with others is all about empowering you in finding the way in which you can say “YES!”

When we fail to account to ourselves and our best interests, we feel kind of crummy. Sure, there are some rewards about giving in, but they don’t quite match the negative feelings consuming us. In fact, after doing it again and again, do you feel like the negative feelings start growing? Growing into resentment and possibly anger? Growing into feeling trapped or lost? I don’t think anyone should feel that way. Think about how those feelings then manifest in how you treat yourself or others around you? What really are the costs of not asserting your boundaries from the very beginning?

I think they are rather great and we often don’t know what the consequences will be until it builds up long enough to reveal some tangible harm in your relationships with others. So you may be wondering, “Okay, but what is the good news?!”

Setting boundaries is all about you determining the Who? How? What? When? Where? and Why? of a healthy, supportive and loving relationship.

  • WHO is the specific people you can say “yes” to.
  • HOW is the means which you are willing and able to be there for them when saying “yes”.
  • WHAT is the context in which you are willing to help upon saying “yes”.
  • WHEN is the time in which you are comfortable performing your show of support when saying “yes”.
  • WHERE is the physical place in which you are capable of providing your presence in performing your show of support.
  • WHY is the person reason you are capable of saying “yes” or needing to say “no”; this can be based on your values, ethics, principles and specific personal needs.

Now you may not need to answer and express each of these in every situation. However, there are times that you will have to consider each of these components. For example, if I ask you to watch my house when I go out-of-town, you have to consider several questions. If I live in Arizona and you will be in Italy during that time, it’s obviously not possible, no matter how willing and interested you were in helping me. Now that situation is definitely simplistic and cheesy, but I love sneaking in a cheesy line from time to time! However, I know you get the point.

So telling people “No” and is okay because it may lead to a way in which you can say “Yes”. I know of many parents who don’t let their kids have every piece of candy they crave or every toy possible. Why is that? Aren’t they being mean? No, in fact, it’s one of the most basic ways a parent can provide their child with love and guidance. In addition, even though the parent tells the child “No” to the candy, at this moment, the parents may be able to give the child another option, such as having a piece of fruit. Similarly, the parent may tell the child “No” about getting a new toy, but they may be able to give the option of spending special play time together when they get back home from the store. In either situation, the parent is able to do what they know is right, while also offer the child an option.

However, there are times when the circumstances are such that we realistically do not have another option to give. Sometimes, we just need to give a flat-out “NO!” Those are the moments that will possibly test your integrity and character. However, being values, ethics and principles that are so important to you, you will likely not have much of a problem taking such a firm stance. Often times, people tell me that what they do worry about is the other person’s reaction. After all, it could have come from a family member or a dear friend. Those situations are unfortunate and they may be very uncomfortable. However, like all tests, it is important to stay focused on what is truly important.

When you are just getting started in saying “No”, you may face some resistance. Surprised? I’m sure many parents out there know that if you give your little, precious bundle of joy an inch, they’ll soon take a mile. They are certainly adorable, but because of the love we have for young children, we must be firm and consistent from the beginning. Rules are rules. Limits are limits. Boundaries are boundaries. So you may face some resistance. Expect it. If people are caught off guard by your boundaries, let them have their response. Hopefully, people will already have healthy boundaries and respond in a mature, reasonable manner. If they are learning about boundaries, then the response may be different. At this point, it is critical that you remain consistent to those boundaries. As a result, people will become accustomed to the way you convey your respect for yourself and others. This process will give you added strength, self-confidence and self-respect.

Think of the many ways you can best give more of yourself to the world around you WHILE putting yourself, your family and your well-being first?

Living today’s plan by looking into the future.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Ever received that question during a job interview or in meeting your father-in-law for the first time? I think we have all been subject to questions like the one I pose. At the surface level, it seems kind of pointless, does it not? Just hours ago I “saw myself” having cereal, but I lacked the soy milk necessary to fulfill my vision. However, don’t dismiss these kinds of questions just yet. They may be more than a form of torture or the preface to a lecture on life. Think about how they may be relevant. After all, people have been asking them for so long.

Whether you are just a concerned individual or even the leader of a team at work, thinking about where you want to be five years from now may be very valuable. You probably already think about these things to some degree. Think about it. Did you graduate from college? Do you have a job? Did you get dressed this morning? At some point during the day? I hope so. However, these actions are all about living with intention–so you are thinking about what you want to do!

So these questions can be helpful, but how? It all goes back to living with intention. In order to assert ourselves upon the world, make something happen, or leave our mark, we must have a plan. Even if you choose to not do anything, it’s part of your plan. Granted, it is short and easy to write. But aside from avoiding a serious writing cramp, you’ll also be inviting great dissatisfaction with where you end up.

No one gets anywhere without some sort of a plan. That doesn’t mean that you can read into the future. If so, maybe your plan involves buying some TV time for late night infomercials as the next greatest psychic medium. However, if you’re like me and have been caught by surprise during life, then a plan is really handy.

The first step in creating a plan is determining what is most important to you.

So in asking yourself where you see yourself in five years, or a similar question, you can begin planning ahead to put yourself in a desirable position.

  • Define your values and core principles. If you care about yourself, about your role as a leader or the team you are leading, you should be able to speak about what is important to you. What are your main values? What are the principles that guide your life or your leadership? How will you need to treat yourself? How will you treat others around you? How do you view and build relationships?
  • Start Broad. Define your goal. Start globally. Think big. Be broad. Don’t be timid. Don’t be afraid. This is the time to put your dreams down on paper. You want an MBA? Great! You want to lead your team to the top of your organization? Fantastic!
  • Assess your situation–Barriers. So you’ve determined where you would like to go. Now it’s time to determine where you are. What capacity do you have to make this happen? What are the obstacles? Are there problems that you need to resolve first? Don’t be afraid. Be honest and throw it all out there. If you hide from them, they’ll likely get in your way at some point. Confront them and resolve them to the best of your ability. We all have some barriers or challenges. Unless you truly are psychic or absolutely perfect (which we both know no one is), then you’ll have to overcome something on the path to your success.
  • Assess your situation–Strengths. What resources are available to you? What tools are at your disposal? Think of the things, people, information that you have and that you will need to move ahead. Again, be honest! Be aware of all of your strengths, assets and abilities. Recognize that your friends, family, co-workers, supervisors/bosses, mentors are allies! Those you have a positive relationship with care about your success and well-being. A good leader opens themselves up for help and helps others along in return.
  • Living the Plans. After having considered your values, what is the first step you need to take? What small step will get you a little further down the road? Is it going online to find out about MBA programs? Life is a series of first steps. When we finish with one goal, such as learning how to crawl, we begin the next challenge of learning how to walk. It never ends. We’re never done. We are always in the process of getting better. Success builds upon itself with great momentum.It lives and breathes. It feeds on the overcoming of every challenge. Even when we feel defeated, success is like a smouldering volcano just waiting for the right conditions to present themselves again. Don’t give up! Stay at it.

In living the plan you will learn a lot about your goals, about yourself and the strategies you are using. Some will work. Others will not. You may have to revisit these ideas; reformulate, recalculate and refine. That’s okay. It’s all part of the process. However, all goals are met thanks to the genius combination of careful, methodical planning and reckless and spontaneous risk taking.

You sometimes need to say, “Yes, I will drop out of school and develop my own software company out of my garage.” Steve Jobs did.

Sometimes you have to lose in order to learn how to win. Dave Ramsey lost millions of dollars in his real estate business, to become one of the biggest names in radio and owner of a multimillion dollar corporation.

So create a vision for yourself, develop a plan, put it into action, learn what works, going back to the drawing board to fix what doesn’t, move forward and start all over again. Live out your plan with intention every day. It’s never too late to ask yourself where you want to be in five years. If you stumble, pick yourself up again. It’s never too late to win.

How pets can teach us about being authentic.

Lakas is a three-year-old Cairn Terrier. He is a good dog and the center of attention at home with my parents. He carries his ten pound body, little black nose and wild hair with great gravitas. If he is awoken from a nap, he will look into your eyes with great disapproval.

Lakas maintains interests in a few basic things, but with great intensity.  He enjoys sleeping on the most comfortable surface available, which may change at his discretion. He enjoys getting attention from me, my parents, or basically anyone in close proximity. Finally, eating and playing round out his last two interests. With those needs met, he is amenable to certain degrees of cooperation.

I have always loved how authentic animals are in displaying their personality. Conversely, I think about how people often keep themselves from doing the same. People often hide their true selves from others, even from themselves. I have come a long way with the passing of time in seeing who I really am. For example, I went to law school after undergrad, while ignoring my passion for several other things that far outweighed any real interest I had in the law. Years later, I found myself in the behavioral health field and realized that I finally struck gold. Why did I wait so long? What kept me from seeing what I really was about or wanted to do?

Honestly, I know that a lot of people have found themselves in the same boat. I think there were many reasons for my choosing to go to law school, as opposed to psychology, teaching, marine biology or even automotive design. It’s taken a lot of time and effort to get where I am. It’s okay. I’m happy with the results. Fortunately, I view life as a daily learning lab, filled with professors and students, alike, who help teach me profound lessons.

I have been discarding old papers and trying to organize my home over the last several months. I spent a solid hour looking at some documents I had from a high school leadership retreat. As you can tell, I’m very sentimental. That being said, I saw that I received many notes and letters from several people who went to school with me. These people were life-long friends of mine or even people I had just shared class with at some point. However, many notes shared great insight into the gifts I am now starting to understand and appreciate.

My high school classmates, some who knew me more than others, could pinpoint things about me that I could not see in myself. In my work with others, I try to help people clear the veil that has kept much of the light within them hidden. For whatever reason, people often do things they way they believe it is expected of them. They impose artificial limitations and rules that restrict their freedom to exercise healthy choices. Eventually, people come around and realize that they are best at being themselves. In fact, that’s why their friends, loved ones and coworkers appreciate them so much.

People from different backgrounds call “the way people feel when they are at their best” several things. Some call it “flow”. Other call it “being in the zone.” What do you call it? Pay attention to the things you are doing when time slips by without you noticing. That is probably something you should explore and nurture. In paying attention to this process, you can develop greater insight into the things you excel at and most enjoy. Imagine if your life involved more and more of this phenomena? Perhaps you can be more like Lakas? Sure, you likely won’t be taking as many naps, but maybe you’ll allow yourself to be more authentic? I think that may help you be happier, more fulfilled and have fewer regrets. How about you?