Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 8: How can I be more spritual(not more religious) and connect to the bigger picture?

Sprituality is something I need in my life. I cannot feel whole if I do not connect with God. This does not mean I am a fanatical religious person. What it means is I take the skills that I have been given by God and use them to glorify Him. I am a normal person that never imposes my religious beliefs on others. My spiritual walk is mine. There are a few things I like to do to keep myself grounded in my faith.

I am answering all of these questions honestly and very personally, so if there is anything I am doing that you do not agree with, you are free to comment, but I will not defend myself. I am simply sharing a piece of myself that normally, I would not make public. 

The first thing I do in my spiritual practice every day is to never start my day off abruptly. Morning is my time for quiet and reflection. I intentionally get up before the rest of my family to have the option to sit and quietly meditate on my intentions.

Many mornings I listen to my favorite Christian speaker, Joyce Meyer. She has always spoken to my heart. Her messages and style appeal to me. She has a way of setting me on the right path and giving me a positive perspective on handling life's challenges from a Godly perspective. You know, what would Jesus do?

All day long, I am trying to practice mindfulness. My goal is to slow down long enough to experience everything as is should be. I try to eat my meals away from my desk, focusing on one thing at a time. I try to make myself aware of all my senses. It makes you feel alive and connected to the big picture. Good positive, life nourishing energy is the end result.

Nature is the absolute best way to connect to that which is so much larger than me. There are so many small miracles in nature. Take a walk in the woods sometime and notice the sound of the wind and the fine cracking of the dried leaves and twigs under your feet. Smell the sweet aroma of the pine trees and the wild flowers or dried vegetation in the fall. Notice a spider web glistening in the sunshine with millions of tiny water droplets making it visible to the eye.

There are so many ways to become connected spiritually. Everyone has their own experience. Each as beautiful as the next. The common thread is the feeling of peace and interconnectedness that having a spiritual life provides.  Nurture this part of you. Take the time to make it a priority and see how different life can be.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 7: How can I make my body healthier so I feel better each day?

Here is the answer, proper nutrition and regular exercise, period. This is the key to a long and healthy existence. Exercise for 30-60 minutes, 5 times a week. Do a mix of cardiovascular exercise and resistive exercise. If you can manage, try exercising first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. It will rev up your metabolism and help you burn more calories throughout the day. 

As for proper nutrition, start by eating breakfast within two hours of rising. Yes, it truly is the most important meal of the day. It wakes up your metabolism. If you view your metabolism like a fireplace, you've got to throw a log in to fuel the fire.  Once the fire is burning, what happens in about 3-4 hours? You got embers right? This is like your body.  You have to throw another log in to keep the fire burning. Think of nutrition in  a different light. Eat to live, do not live to eat.  Nutrient dense food is what you body needs to run at its best. In addition to eating something healthy every 3-4 hours, you must choose the foods that give your body the biggest bang.

Cut out all the whites stuff for starters. If the package states the flour is bleached, don't eat it. Eat your whole grain breads, cereals and crackers. Cakes and cookies should be avoided as a general rule. Stick to fresh fruit and yogurt with some healthy granola.  Eat plenty of healthy, lean protein. Red meat is ok in moderation. Nuts are a wonder source of protein for snacking. There are healthy fats in nuts. It's ok to have a small handful, just don't go over board. Moderation is the key to your success.

Finally, water, water, water. This is essential to your health. Drink at least 64 ounces every day. Your organs will do their jobs much better if you are hydrated. Water helps your body flush out toxins that build up in the body.  Hydration is also necessary to a healthy digestive tract. If you struggle with this, try  using a clear 32 ounce safe sport bottle. Drink 2 daily. The first to be consumed by noon each day and the second prior to the end of your work day. Drink when you are not thirsty. If you feel thirst, you are already becoming dehydrated. Drink in the winter...the air is very dry and lends itself to your body losing vital water.

I know this is a lot to digest. Try picking a couple habits at at time to work on. Set small attainable goals. Give yourself some time to develop new habits. It typically takes 3 weeks to a month to form a new habit or break yourself of an old, less beneficial habit.  You can do this, one step at a time.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 6: How do I enjoy this moment right now?

Do any of you suffer with "crazy monkey brain"? I sometimes have a hard time slowing down enough to take note of the small, wonderful miracles all around.  This is something I am trying very hard to do, but continue to struggle with all the time. I have no great advice about this subject matter because I have a very busy mind. I think most people might struggle with this in today's society.

There is only one setting in which I am able to be fully present. It is when I am outside, surrounded by nature. It is only there that I can experience all my senses. I have a much deeper awareness and level of enjoyment. This is when I am able to clear my mind and just be present.

Slow down. Stop to recognize what you are feeling, seeing, smelling, and hearing in the moment. That is when you are truly present and mindful. This is a small piece of the calm and tranquility we all need at times.  It is unrealisitc to think we can have this all the time. It just won't happen, but when it does, it makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

Day 5: What do I need to learn right now to help me one year from now?

I think the one thing I can focus on right now that will help me in one year and on-going,  is to slow down and do one thing at a time. I stuggle with multi-tasking because at the end of the day I often wonder what I have accomplished. It all comes down to having more focus on the task at hand. 

I recently had a conversation with my boss about setting my personal goals for 2012. When I shared my determination to better manage my time, she suggested listing out the priorities for the day and starting with the first one. She shared one of her approaches is to set a timer for 45 minutes. When it sounds, get up and give myself a 5 or 10 minute break. Stretch, drink some water, walk around or do whatever it takes to rejuvenate. If I have not finished the task, set the timer again and pick up where I left off. I find it rewarding to be able to check off the items on my list as I complete them. Along with work-related activites, self-care should be on that list every day. I will get back to this subject later.  As for my tasks, I prioritize them to help me work toward bigger goals. It is my intension to build tasks into my days that help me attain much bigger long-term goals.  The daily tasks are the stepping stones for succeeding at the bigger picture.

A year from now, provided I work hard at setting easily achievable daily goals, I should be able to meet the bigger expectations I have for myself.  I have several professional goals and personal goals that I plan to approach in this manner. On a personal level, I have found that by remaining physically active, I am more likely to live a happier and more productive life. Even on days when my energy level is running low, I have made a self-proclaimed promise to do something active every day.  This is crucial to my success in all other aspects of my life, not just physically. Exercise keeps me positive and motivated and interested in learning and growing. Getting my heart pounding and the sweat flowing breaths life into my body and my mind. Creativity flows more easily and my energy level and stamina multiplies.  Some days are harder than others, but this year I have to learn to build the very important habit of remaining physically active, no matter what.

What can you be doing this year that will help you one year from now?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 4: How can I change my daily activities in a way that helps me use my talents and gifts and passions more often? Am I in the right career?

Lucky for me, today's question comes easy. I do feel I am working in the field of my passion. I am a firm believer that managing your health and practicing self-care are what it takes to have a greater quality of life.  I feel very blessed to have gained exposure to the preventative side of medicine. I do often miss the clinical aspects of nursing, but I can go to bed each night assured that I am helping my clients potentially avoid the life-altering effects of chronic disease. 

I strive each day to learn and grow, building my potential to be an effective Health Coach. I will continue to educate myself and improve in the areas I need to focus and massage the strengths I already possess. It feels good knowing I can make a difference in the long-term lives of the people with whom I work.

I encourage you to explore your life's passion.  In today's world most of us do not have the luxury of working in the field of our deepest personal interest, but we can find ways to feel like we make a difference. Dig deep. This can take some time and effort. Read up on subject matter that peaks your interest and stimulates your creativity. Volunteer to help those that are less privileged than you. Spend some extra time connecting with your kids, significant other, family and friends. Find a way to do something kind and unexpected for someone today. When you find the answers within, you will know. You will never regret the work you had to do to get there.

These are all things I will be doing as well.  Even though I am happy to say I already work in the area of my passion, I still need to practice self-exploration to find the many strengths and passions within.  Never stop learning and growing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 3: What life draining relationships do I need to leave behind?

I think all relationships add flavor and purpose to our lives. They go through seasons, changing and growing all the time. Sometimes our relationships give us what we need and sometimes they do not. I don't think the answer is to discard relationships that do not seem to be beneficial in the moment. Sometimes you need to step away to gain perspective. When we react to a person and it does not feel pleasant, the answer is not to discard them permanently. In my experience, try to back up a few steps, outside the ring of emotion to gain insight.  If a relationship is sucking the life out of you, briefly take the space you need to regain peace and to ground yourself. 

I can think of a few relationships I struggled with but eventually found myself going back to to rebuild.  Try hard to avoid lashing out when somebody makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Realize you are two different people with differing perspectives and thought processes. Back away to gain composure and insight. You will someday get back to growing the relationship in a positive manner, if they were meant to be in your life. Sometimes the not so comfortable relational situations, when played out without too much emotion, can bring you to a point inner growth that will be valuable throughout life.

This may now be clear as mud, but I hope not.  The gist of what I am trying to say is this; if you cared enough to engage in a relationship with someone, they and it are not worthy of being cast aside. Take the time to let your relationships pass through the seasons of life.  Try to avoid being too quick to remove those who were once important to you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 2: Question: What quality relationships do I need to maintain or grow?

Is this a trick question?  Not all relationships are quality all the time. Sometimes you relate well with people in your life and other times, by human nature, you might struggle to connect. What is important, however is that we nurture the relationships that bring us happiness and fulfillment. Good relationships take work. They take understanding and interest by both parties.

It is my intention to always nurture the relationships I form with others, so long as it brings no harm to either party. I came to a revelation last year. I finally realized that is not the material possessions I own, or the number of degrees I can list behind my name or how much money I make that matter in life. What really matters are the relationships I cultivate over the span of my lifetime. When I go to the grave, will my bank account leave a legacy? The obvious answer is no.  What will have impact, on the world I someday leave behind, are the relationships I cared enough to recognize as important.

Cherish the relationships you have. Shower them with lots of love and attention. As they grow, so will you. That sense of connection is like soul food. Without it, ordinary is just ordinary. Our relationships allow us to share our experiences, to look at things on a deeper and more meaningful level.

Monday, January 16, 2012

10 Day, 10 Question Challenge... learning to ask the right things to live your BEST life.

I could not sleep this morning. I awoke at 1:30 am. I tossed and turned until 3am. I finally got out of bed to try to work through the unsettled feeling I was experiencing within.  My dilemma is not my reason for writing this blog, but rather it was something I read during my time alone this morning. I encourage all of you to take the challenge I am about to share with you.  I am including the link to article that led me to this challenge. It is my intention to learn how to ask the right questions in life to yield the process necessary to finding my true self.  I want to become authentic self. It is very import to me that I find my way to becoming who I am. I want nothing more than to learn, grow and share the experience for the better of not just me, but the people who are in my life.

Here is the article. Please take a few minutes to read it through. I think it could help us all.

Question 1: What am I grateful for?  

This is something I have thought about so many times in my life. It is not simple or concrete. Where do I start?  I always fear I may forget something or someone important.  I have some much to be grateful for. It sounds so cliche'. I promise you, I do not take this lightly.  I think about the normal things that people thank God, home, food, water, nature, family, friends, job opportunities, money, and so much more.  I am really trying to think outside the box. What am I grateful for? What has really shaped my life? Protected me and those I love. Brought joy, excitement and victory to my life?  What has helped me grow and become strong and able?

Personally, I think the one thing that keeps popping into my mind are the trials in my life.  With each hardship, I have recognized the most inner growth and resulting maturity.  I was never happy or grateful for the trials as they presented themselves to me, but it is the resulting inner change that I now see as the good that came to be.  Losing a mother at age 53 to heart disease, unexpectedly, is not something I would have ever asked for in my life or the lives of our family. In the moment, it was deeply painful and left a void that nothing could fill.  On the flip side, my nursing career took on a new flavor. The passion to care for and teach others magnified. My loss made me excel.  It guided me to be more than ordinary. I wanted to understand the disease and it's effect on people and their families. A new spark ignited within me to be more empathetic and more observant and mindful in caring for my patients.

Like most people, I have faced situations that were not pleasant, but always found in hindsight, that there was something gained. I have learned that I am always grateful for options. Options that allow me and my family to have the peace that is intended for us in life.  I am grateful for the support of others whenever I have needed it and for my willingness to allow others to help. I am also grateful that I enjoy helping others so much. It allows me to be whole.  A helper, that is what I am. That is what makes me feel alive.

I have been so blessed with friends that understand the meaning of unconditional love of others.  I am inspired by those who find the same happiness in recognizing others' needs and trying there best to meet them. I strive to always be the kind of person that never puts herself first. Putting others before myself does not mean I do not think I deserve the nice things in life or to have inner peace and happiness. It only means I try to give what I can expect to receive.  The "golden rule", a principle to live by if you want to have a joyful and fulfilling existance.  That is it for day one.  I look forward to sharing my thoughts tomorrow. What quality relationships in my life do I need to maintain or grow? I look forward to exploring this one. It is a biggie.....until tomorrw, live your life to the fullest and in the moment.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

She Makes Us Proud

Abby and her cousin Tyler at age 4.
Our daughter just recently celebrated her 16th birthday. In recognition of her becoming "Sweet 16" , I would like to honor our special girl with a few thoughts.  Abby was born with her eyes wide open to the world. Ever since day one, she has been alert and bright. Shortly after her birth,  someone told me she was an "old soul". I am not sure I believe in such things, but she has always had eyes that could tell a story. As they say, eyes are the window to the soul. 

Abby has a kind heart. She is sweet and affectionate. This is the quality I most love about her.  As a small child, she never questioned me about people with disabilities. She seemed to be attracted to them as though she had some understanding of the joy her sweet little face would bring to them in the moment. One of my fondest memories is a day our family was visiting my grandfather. His second wife had a stroke that left her very debilitated. She was non-verbal and lacked control of her facial expressions. Most children would shy away from her, but not Abby, she spent the afternoon sitting on her lap. This brought happiness to both of them and it warmed my heart. 
After the death of my mother in 2000, it was my 4 year old daughter that brought me peace on so many occasions. She caught me crying one morning at the kitchen table. I tried to cover it up, but she climbed up in my lap and told me I should not be sad. Meme (my mom) is with me all the time now. In my heart. In her own way she was wise way beyond her years. I have always believed that my mother lives on through me. I believe my life path has taken its shape, partially as a result of my mother's unexpected death. Abby knew that then and reminded me to allow her to live on within and through me.
On another occasion, during the same time in our lives, Abby and I were standing in our driveway in South Carolina when she asked, "Momma, what does a soul look like?" I was taken aback by such a deep question coming from a 4 year old child. I paused but finally answered, "I suppose it looks like the body it was once in...." What could I say?  I thought she needed something she could wrap her little brain around. Nope. She proved me wrong again. She went on to say, "No, Momma (in her little southern accent), I know what a soul looks like." Then she proceeded to take her little finger, stretched to the sky and she drew an imaginary line down toward the ground. She then lifted her hand up, but not quite as high and to the left drawing an imaginary horizontal line that crossed through the long vertical line. I was awe-struck. She drew a cross. She was telling me a soul looks like or perhaps resembles Jesus. Amazing.

As she has grown, she has continued to amaze me with her ability to steer away from the normal teenage drama. She is loved by all her peers, but she chooses not to get involved in the petty behaviors in which most kids find themselves.  She is poised and polite in the proper settings. She is a leader, not a follower.  We do butt heads quite a bit because she inherited the independent and somewhat stubborn qualities of her mother.  She is lovely, however, despite her occasional outbursts. She is simply following her passion for independence and determination prove her abilities to make everything work...but on her own terms. It is what drives me crazy the most about her, but it is also what I am most proud of. She is a young lady with a future. Whatever she chooses, she undoubtedly will succeed. She is Abby. She is wonderful and she makes me proud to be her Mom.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Unique Gifts

Someone recently asked for my permission to offer a comment on something she had observed me doing... Being the open-minded person that I am, I granted her permission to share her thoughts. She went on to say that she had been deeply bothered by the fact that during an interaction that included both of us, she had observed me, on more than one occasion, apologize for my weaknesses instead of leading with my strengths. These are not character flaws I admitted to having, but rather skill sets I do not possess due to my previous work experience. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not one to cower in the face of rising to the occasion to learn and grow. For the first time in my life, I am beginning to show signs of defeat. I have always been confident and unafraid to use my strength of character and willingness to learn. My friend went on to remind me that what I have to bring to the table is just as important to the common goal as any of the offerings of others. My take away is that it is the blending of skills that make relationships and businesses grow. The reason for my writing this post is my attempt to point out that it is not okay for others to make you feel less than you really are. Do not allow anyone to force you to raise questions about what you have to offer. You are significant and what you have to offer is relevant. It is at the loss of others who chose to discredit your efforts, especially when you have worked hard to be your best. I am not saying don't strive to learn and grow. I am saying, always take comfort in knowing that you are uniquely gifted. Take pride in who you are and what you have accomplished. Even more, be kind to yourself when you are not quite where you want to be. As long as you are trying, you are succeeding. Show up as you and be proud of it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Perspective Steers Your Joy

This is a subject that I believe strongly in, but struggle with at times. It all comes down to perception. We chose how we feel. We decide what we allow to make our day better or worse. Life is entirely too short to enable the extraneous to ruin our journey in life. Be it one minute of a day, an entire day, a week or more, I have learned that focusing on the negative steals your joy. Do not allow anyone or anything to steal your joy. There are always at least two ways to look at every situation. Chose to see the lesson in the tough times and learn from them. Bask in the glory of what lights the fire within. Kindness, forgiveness, being helpful or non-judgemental, all elicit good feelings inside. Today I was watching Joyce Meyer and she was speaking about when life does not seem to be going well, look within. Maybe the problem is you. Are you judging others? Are you gossiping? Are you harsh, critical or demanding? If you are, don't beat yourself up, just make some changes. Make an effort to stop yourself when you find the urge to carry on about some one or something. Think more globally, from their perspective even. If that is not possible, remember, the energy your are using to think negatively is literally stealing your joy and setting the tone for your day. Practice the process of stopping the negative thoughts. They never serve you. Immediately force in a positive thought. You may even have a rescue scenario in mind, like remembering the day your child was born and you first held them in your arms or a time you helped someone who was suffering to smile. Take some time to recall the good in your life. Our feelings of happiness are all triggered a little differently, and that is what makes our experiences, strengths and gifts different. Chose to be kind. It will make you a happier person. When you are kind, you smile. When you smile you can not be angry or hateful. Joy leads to peace and peace is really what we all want in our lives, isn't it? When your soul is peaceful you become fruitful. Your gifts come to the surface and eventually bubble over into everything you do and say. Let's be kinder, gentler and more giving in 2012. I think that is what is lacking in our world. We can impact this problem one person at a time. Personally, I think it is a win-win situation.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Small Steps Yield Big Changes

Now that the new year is here. It is time for all those well-intended "New Years Resolutions" to be set in place, only to be forgotten over the next few weeks. One thing I have learned this year, as a Health Coach, is that what really works is focusing on small change. Set goals that are attainable. After some time, look back and notice that lasting change has taken place. Don't make promises to yourself or others that are so far out of focus that you are not able to imagine them coming to be. Behavior change is a slow process that requires constant attention to end up becoming permanent.

Take one small step at a time. Just so you know, I also have a laundry list of all the things I need to work on personally and professionally, but I have made a promise to myself that will not allow me to fail. I historically have bitten off way more than I can chew, get overwhelmed and then succeed at none of it. No more of that for me. I think becoming your best self involves keeping it simple. This year I am going to simplify. I really think I am finally learning to practice what I preach. Small steps are the way to go.

My first goal is to stay organized. The following are the small steps that I plan to take to make this broad goal more attainable:

1. I am going to start by organizing my brain. This is a HUGE task! I am going try to practice simple meditation each morning when I rise. I will spend 10 or 15 minutes clearing the cobwebs. One thing I know about myself, is that I run myself ragged with the constant stream of thoughts running through my head at all times. I am going to try to do one thing at a time when that is the only thing that will get the job done.

2. Staying more organized means giving each important daily task its own space in my day. Professionally, that means making a list for the next day at the end of each day. I will take just 5 or 10 minutes to put the day to rest and plan for the next. Each day, as I work through the list, I will reward myself by checking it off. Physically, I will carve out 4 mornings a week to do a vigorous workout lasting no longer than 90 minutes. In addition, I will better nourish my body with good food sources, minimizing sugar and alcohol (which converts to sugar in my body). That crud makes me tired a unmotivated anyway. I do NOT need it! Spiritually, I will designate 2 mornings a week to listening to or reading something that feeds my soul.

3. I will create a work environment that is pleasant and more conducive to getting things done. Getting rid of any clutter will help. I also want to put some of my daughter's photographs on my walls. I think seeing her work will remind me of her creativity and it will inspire me to also stay open-minded and free to explore and accept all that the day presents me.

4. Each hour that I work, I will get up and step away from my desk to give myself some time to rejuvenate.

I am looking forward to 2012. Its focus will revolve around the little things in life. I was once reminded to take note of the many small miracles around me. This is the year I am going to stop focusing on what I have not accomplished, but rather, reveling in what I have accomplished thus far in my life. I am a very lucky woman with so much to be grateful for. I hope that some of this resonates with you and when you sit down to think about the year to come. Remember to slow down and take some time to ponder all that you have accomplished. Recognize all the obstacles you have overcome and the difference you have already made in the lives of others. Let's forgive ourselves for who and what we are not and celebrate who we are! We are all uniquely gifted and should not waste valuable time and effort trying to compare ourselves to others. I am glad to be me and you will learn to be glad you are you.

Happy 2012...the year to reveal Your BEST self!