Tag Archives: positive thinking

The Certainty of Uncertainty

As much as we might like to think we know what the future holds, we really do not. Anything can happen to keep us on our chosen path or derail us. We need to be prepared for uncertainty as much as we can be. Of course, we cannot cover every possibility. A town less than an hour from where I live was struck with torrential rains and gale force winds. When the storm was over, homes were flooded and damaged. This came as a great surprise. The news showed the residents coming together to help out with assistance coming from other areas as well. We just don’t know what might happen tomorrow.

Each time I drive by a serious accident on my way to work, I hope that there were no fatalities. There are times I am surprised that the driver lived. Even though I don’t know the driver of a fatal accident, I cannot help but think of the profound affect that this accident had on the family. The sudden death of a family member leaves the family confused, angry and anxious for the future. It is never hard to face the loss of a family member.

Other losses, such as a loss of a job or career, can cause just as much anxiety. Even when we get news about a severe or terminal medical condition is a loss. Again, we never know what might happen. But one thing we can do is live in the moment. Knowing that we are in someone’s heart, their thoughts, and prayers can be comforting. It is important that we look inside ourselves for strength. It is also important that we look to others for support. I certainly hope that you have those persons or organizations to give you support when you might need it. If you are a religious person, seek out God. Your faith can be your comfort, even if you have to be angry and shout at God at first because you just can’t understand why. It’s okay, God has very large shoulders.

Whatever might come your way, I wish for you speedy healing. If it is a door that closes, remember that every exit door is an entrance to somewhere else. We cannot know what will happen tomorrow. We need to plan for the unknown, but live in the present. It is paying attention to the now that builds the bridges to tomorrow. We might not know what is around the bend in the path, but what we do can determine the road.

Peace be with you.

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Who am I?

In my workplace, they have announced that there will be layoffs soon. This will be the third time in 4 years. This time it is a little different, the previous layoffs were for staff reductions. The current layoff is due to outsourcing the department that I work in.

We still don’t know when, just why. As I try to uplift my fellow employees, as I was their supervisor until the last layoff, I try to focus on their talents and potential. During one very serious discussion, we spoke about who we were. There are lots of long term employees who are nervous about the upcoming cuts. I have 30 years in service. With so many years in service, many are unsure what they might do, or even can do. I reminded them that they are not what they do. Something I had to realize several years ago.

I shared with them that I once was very ill and that I felt that I could not continue working the position that I had. I told my manager at the time that I could not continue in that position and understood perfectly that he would need to replace me. I was ready to move on to whatever path awaited me, but my manager offered me another position that was less physically demanding and I remained with the company.

I came to grips that what we do isn’t necessarily what we are or who we are. Employers will find others to fill our positions. But the person we are cannot easily be replaced. I am a: father, son, brother, husband, friend, citizen, uncle, nephew, cousin, student, teacher, mentor, mentee, worshipper, and even a sinner. I am all these things. So even if I am chosen to leave my employ, I am still me. I will just have to seek other ways to use my energy and talents. I’m thinking about going back to school. But I will have to wait and see what will happen. Until then I will concentrate on who I am, my potential, my talents, my passions. I am me.

Choosing Joy and Contentment

It is cold here in upstate NY. I don’t like the cold. It had snowed for a week. The snow ended yesterday. Am I thankful for the snow? No, not really. My wife ran off the road last Thursday night and we had to get a tow truck. I am thankful that she is okay. I am thankful for all those that stopped to offer assistance. I am thankful for the tow truck driver who extracted the car. But I would rather that she did not have to go through the event.

I still don’t like the cold. It causes my joints to ache and my legs to hurt. But I am thankful that I am still mobile and still can work. Looking at the bright side of things, just like the spin doctors in the public relations arena, can help us choose joy.

Choosing joy is not easy. It takes lots of practice. I am still and always will have to practice choosing joy. Even though it is our own responsibility to choose joy, outside influences can certainly make it easier or harder. There are those, whether intentionally or not, seem to relish stealing our joy. Sometimes they are having a bad day. Sometimes they just want to share their misery. Sometimes they just might be jealous. And sometimes, it can be me.

We often can be disappointed if we have expectations as to the outcomes. We can impose our expectations on others based on what we believe, our experiences or our sense of right and wrong. We can also impose our expectations on others because of the way we think. What seems logical to us ay not be logical to others. Understanding that we control precious little can also help us choose joy by not allowing ourselves to be caught up in things that we cannot control. This is where contentment comes in. We can choose to be content by living within the control of our situation. We can control our responses. We can choose ways to cope with our situations. We can be in control of ourselves while realizing we cannot necessarily control what happens around us.

Again, it isn’t easy. It is a journey. Mother Teresa demonstrated to us that even when she placed herself amongst the poorest, the sick, and the dying, she could find joy in the love and caring she brought to others. Her example inspires others to do the same. I am sure she struggled and faced her own frustrations. She held on to her faith and hope.

Looking for Joy

   We all experience things that steal our joy. Fear, worry, anger and stress are common elements in our lives that steal our joy. Our economic stresses can permeate every part of our lives. We worry about job security and adequate income. Constantly flowing bad news from our televisions and radio cause us to fear the world we live in.

The Affordable Care Act has caused worry for many and relief for some. My medical coverage has had to change because of the ACA. Because of my zip code, I was offered an equivalent policy that did not include my doctors or hospitals. To keep the care that I have grown comfortable with, I chose a less efficient policy.

The stress that steals our joy the most is that over situations that we cannot change or have no control over. These things can be anywhere in our lives. Work policies, school policies, new schedules, pressures at home can all cause stress.

Sometimes, the joy stealer comes from within us. We might feel inadequate, just not good enough. We are all different. We all have our own skills and gifts. None of us is great at everything. We all deserve to give ourselves a break. Do we have flaws? Of course. If  it something we cannot change, then we need to accept that it cannot change. If it can change, then we can work towards improving that. This gives us the confidence and self-esteem that we need to defeat the things in our life that steal our joy.

Anger gets in our way. Sure, people and even family push our buttons. But we have to realize that anger can rob of us of our joy, our relationships and even our health. Anger is not always bad. Sometimes it is good to be angry. But mostly, it does not solve anything and usually makes bad situations even worse. Forgiving those that anger you frees you from the control that they have from pressing your buttons.

So how do we get our joy back or find the joy we have lost? Instead of focusing on what is wrong, we should seek out what is good. Look for the good things in life, in others and in ourselves. We are responsible for our own joy. It is our choice. Always do your best, but even the best of us cannot live up to other people’s expectation. You always want to improve but you still have to be yourself.

Know what you can and cannot do. Try new things out of your comfort zone. If you succeed, you improve your confidence. If it didn’t work out, you still have improved your confidence because you know you tried, you learned that it was difficult, and you learned where you need to improve if you want to tackle it again.

Life will sometimes let you down. That is just the way it is because there is so much that we cannot control. We can learn from all these times, both good and bad. Having expectations of how everything should be will definitely lead to disappointment. Again, even if people don’t live up to your expectations, be patient with them. They may need nurturing, guidance. It could even mean that the person cannot meet your expectations. Your expectations may have to change.

Bottom line, your joy can be be stolen by others, but joy is found within yourself. You don’t have to let others steal your joy. This is a difficult skill to learn. It is one that I struggle with. Even those of us that try to stay positive all the time allow others to steal the joy we have. It is up to us to return the joy to our hearts and minds by trusting in ourselves, trusting in God, and being thankful for all the good in our lives. Look for and find the joy in your heart.

Remarriage Statistics

The US is the most remarried country of the western nations according to a study by Cherlin in 2009. In another study by Deal in 2005 found that one third of all weddings in America formed step-families.

I, myself, am in a remarriage. Being over 50, I am part of the statistic that 25% of people who remarry are over 50 years old.

Now, you would think that being married a second or third time, you would have the maturity and wisdom from your previous experiences. I would think that and do think that. However, even though I believe that a second marriage would be better, the Census Bureau in 2006 found that 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. But the challenges of remarriage are different. You deal with complex relationships made even more complex with differing backgrounds.

In most remarriages, I believe the main drivers of frustration are money and children. Expectations differ greatly, especially in the way children were raised.  What was totally acceptable and a non-issue in one household nearly commanded the death penalty in the other. This can definitely cause some tensions when you try to blend the two households. It is not that anyone is wrong, it is just different. This exists in first time marriages as well, but I believed it is amplified in further marriages.  It definitely take time, patience and trust to build newer, stronger relationships with the spouse’s children, remembering that it is a new dynamic for them as well. This is true for both minor and adult children, even grandchildren.

Both partners may have established careers and their own nest eggs.  This can be a concern of the children as well as the partners. Communication about goals and comfort levels can help alleviate money differences. It is also wise to determine in advance how monies are to be dispersed if one spouse passes away.

A 2002 study by Hetherington showed that on average, couples in step-families have three times the amount of stress of couples in first marriages during the first few years. But with time, stress levels for couples in step-families can fall to normal levels found in first marriages.

I said earlier that I believe that I can use the lessons from my first marriage in my first marriage to improve the happiness in my second marriage. I will admit, that I was not prepared for the some of the unique challenges that have arisen. I plan on working hard in my relationship and working though the challenges. Love and marriage takes lots of hard work and its worth it.

Are you in a step-family relationship? What kind of challenges did you experience that you did not expect. How did you overcome those challenges. It may be true that 60% of second marriages fail. That means that 40% make it.

I know that the statistics are scary, but couples do make remarriage work. Marriage always has challenges and it is overcoming those challenges as couples and families that make relationships stronger.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

Redirecting Your Mind from Overload

I am sure you have had the feeling before of being burned out. I think it is worse now in our society than before. There are so many more stresses now. Both my wife and I are feeling the increasing demands of our workplaces as resources become scarcer and deadlines are moved up. It creates just as much mental exhaustion as physical.

Mental exhaustion can leave you too tired to sleep as your mind keeps racing and continuing to work on issues when you are trying to sleep or rest. I believe it is stuck in overdrive.

One thing that I find helpful is purposeful redirection. You can’t stop thinking, as your brain is always active. You can change what you think about. I like to concentrate on positive lessons that I have learned through the week or examining spiritual discussions, I might have heard on the radio or read about.  It does not clear the mind, but it does redirect it.

I find plopping on the couch and watching mindless TV not relaxing because I am often not engaged in the program.  So taking my attention away from work and worry and concentrate on spending quality time with my wife, son, family and friends is a great way to redirect my efforts.

Prayer and meditation are wonderful tools that you can use to reset your mind. I usually do this right before I fall asleep and I rarely cognitively complete as I often slip off into sleep, which I think is a good thing.

Oftentimes, we simply just have too much to do. There is no simple answer other than: prioritizing; realize that you are human; understand that everyone gets only 24 hours a day; and learn to say “no.”  But most of all, just do the best you can and be happy that you did.

I hope that you find calmness in your life, whether it is through meditation, prayer, hot baths, massage or any other method.  Each of us react to activities differently, what completely relaxes one person may just add stress to another.  It is important that you find time to relax, even if it is for a few minutes a day.

So relax and enjoy life because living is what we were meant to do and it is so easy to miss life while trying to survive. Take care, be well and stay safe.

Set that Goal

Over the last few weeks I have been deep in refreshing my mind with goal setting books and ideas. One exercise that I performed was the writing of my obituary. I am not dead yet, as far as I know. The purpose of the exercise was to explore our goals for our lives. Ask most people about their goals and you will usually receive very general answer like; ‘I want to be rich.’; ‘I want to be successful’; or ‘I want to be happy.’  These are fine dreams but not very definite. The obituary exercise was to explore what you want people to remember about you and your impact on the world. What legacy do you want to leave behind?

It is best to set a definite goal. And even more importantly, to write the goal down. Writing it down makes the goal real. It doesn’t matter how big or small the goal might be, you need to decide that you want to reach that goal. Brian Tracy, motivational speaker and writer, in his book Goals, says that he wrote a goal on paper to earn $1000 per month (at a time when that was a lot of money), and that launched him on the road to success. I wrote down my goal. It felt good. I read it over and over again.

Now the part that makes it work. You must believe that you can reach the goal – that the goal is already yours. You need to see yourself already attaining that goal. Then, through persistence and focus, work towards the goal each and every day. Decisions must be made with your goal in mind.

Having a goal gives you purpose and direction. It allows you to live with passion. Knowing where you want to go helps you identify opportunities. And don’t limit yourself with your goals. Ignore your tendency to underestimate yourself. Set the goal as if there were no limits, no obstacles, nothing out of reach. With persistence, obstacles can be overcome.

The obituary exercise was quite enjoyable. I just hope I won’t have to use it any time soon.

Do it for Love

We usually don’t stop to analyze why we do the things we do, especially for other people. Too often, we do things out of fear. We do things because we are afraid that someone might be upset or that they might be angry if we didn’t.

In our personal lives, we did things when we were young because we knew that if we didn’t our parents would be upset. So, if we did not want to get in trouble and be yelled at, we made sure it was done. Then there were times that we did something, like make a card, out of love. Remember how that felt? There was no anxiety, just joy and the hope that the person receiving the card would be filled with joy as well.

Even when we grow up, we continue to do things out of fear. We do things at work that we might not appreciate because if we didn’t, it might cost us a raise or even our job. We do things at home because we don’t want to hear our partner complain about it not being done. And we might behave a certain way because we are afraid that God will punish us.

It is so much better to do things out of love. The fear part comes out of expectations of how others might react, especially if they have demonstrated that behavior previously. We might have learned that connection. I very much prefer to do things out of love. I want to do things that make someone happy. That takes a mind change. I have to think to myself, “I am doing this because it makes her happy” instead of “If I don’t do it this way, she is going to be upset and I’ll have to hear about it.”  The former is much better for my soul, but sometimes the latter sneaks in there. Besides, are we really doing our best, if we work from a place of fear? Our hearts and minds are more invested when we work from a place of love. Doing things out of fear just makes everything more difficult.

Even at work, a mindset change is essential. Think ‘I need to do this for the customer. The customer deserves the best.’  Instead of ‘If I don’t do this, my boss is going to yell at me and I might lose my job.’

And most importantly, many people are raised to ‘fear’ God. They are afraid that God will punish them if they do not behave in a certain way. We were not meant to fear God in a way that makes us afraid, but in a way that we revere and find God to be awesome. Thus we should behave to please God just as we would want to please our parent by making them a card, not because we are afraid.

Fear is a big part of our human life. It is the dealing with our fears and overcoming our fears that lead to confidence, self-reliance, and ultimately peace within ourselves. May peace be with you always.

You mean … me?

   About 7 or 8 weeks ago, I came down with the flu which, after 3 weeks, morphed into a long lasting case of bronchitis. I was taking a mixture of decongestants, mucus thinners, anti-inflammatory steroids and an inhaler. All this medicine kept my brain fuzzy. I am not telling you this seeking sympathy. I am setting up why my mind was fuzzy and I felt exhausted.

   Now the point of the story. My manager called me into his office. He expressed his concern that I was irritable and seemed short with people. He inquired if I was upset with someone or something within the company. He had forgotten that I had apologized to him early on that I needed to concentrate harder to get through the fog caused by the medicines.

   I apologized again for my behavior. I try to be very upbeat because I know that I influence others by my demeanor, as we all do. Just as other’s actions and reactions can affect us, our attitude and candor towards others affect them.

   Even though I do not feel well, my trying to fight through the illness left me vulnerable to agitation. Luckily, my bronchitis is finally clearing. It was a great wake up call from my boss. It was a great reminder that even when we are not feeling well, our actions still have an effect.

   I tried much harder today to be mindful of how I responded to others. It is too easy to be tired and allow our reactions to go unchecked. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that our actions do matter. Yes, even me. And that other guy, you know, the one in my mirror.

The Magic Isn’t Gone

I watched a movie last night called the Secret of the Wings. I wish I could have watched it with all the ones I love. Not because the movie was so wonderful, it was a good movie, but because it had magic. I am not talking about the kind of magic that witches have or the magicians want to trick us with, but the magic of the imagination.

Some would relegate this kind of movie to children. I believe that we should be reminded daily that the awe and wonder that we had as children is just as important and wonderful today as adults. We seem to be so busy and preoccupied that we miss out on the magic that happens all around us.

If we have young children or grandchildren or otherwise interact with small children, you will see that spark in their eyes as they explore the wonder around them. Think about the magic of the machine that dispenses frozen custard or the other machine that dispenses cash. As an adult you know that there is no magic but to a child, it is almost miraculous. And it is miraculous, these everyday occurrences started out as an idea in someone’s imagination. Through talent and perseverance, these things came into being. I think that is magic.

Every snowflake that falls is magic; the flowers that burst from the ground in spring fill the air and our views with magical splendor. The birds exercise their magic of flight and the children chasing butterflies exercising the magic of creation and beauty.

My children are grown. I may have grandchildren one day and if I do, I will enthusiastically explore all the wonder and magic with them. So many people complain about how the media is so wicked that all TV and movies should be done away with. Yet, I feel that there is some  good there. There are stories of love, family, courage and determination in all different forms if we care to look for them.

I enjoy “children’s” movies and programming. It reminds me to be childlike in my wonder and awe of everything around me. It reminds me to look for beauty and miracle. Yes, life is hard, it can be miserable. But life can also be filled with beauty, wonder and magic. So don’t be afraid to watch a “children’s” movie, even if you don’t have children or youngsters around. Have the attitude of looking for the magic that you once had or may still have from your childhood.

A life without magic, wonder and awe can be very dark indeed. To block out magic is to stifle the spirit. It has been said through the ages and in many ways to stop and smell the flowers. There is much for our senses to observe. Look for the magic there because the magic isn’t gone, just not always believed or remembered.