Balancing Balloons

Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The Inspired Life

It isn’t easy balancing all the different areas of our lives. Sometimes it feels as if we are hanging on to a giant bunch of colorful balloons and if we aren’t holding on tightly to every single string then …POOF! There goes all of our balloons up in the air drifting away, heading for the clouds or trees, getting caught up in the branches of life.

Ever felt like a wailing child who’s balloon just went POP? Whaaaaaa, There went my red balloooon……

But Honey…you still have a green one.

But I neeeed my red one tooooo……

Of course you do. We need all of our Balloons. Every single one of them. But somehow, just as you get the air back in the Physical Fitness Balloon the Spend Time with Family Balloon starts sinking slowly to the ground. Then Bob at work signs you up as the team leader for an important project and the Business Balloon gets puffed full of air while the Fitness Balloon takes a nosedive. And that Spiritual Balloon? Comes up only on Sunday. The Finance Balloon? Well, You kick it along on the ground with your toe, just to help it keep up.

Sure, you have goals. But every time you start on a goal, something else seems to suffer. It’s almost frightening to start something new. It’s like planning to fail, you can just feel one of those balloons start to lose air. The question is…which one?

It doesn’t have to be so frightening. ( says the Queen of focus) ( yes, I know, it’s terrifying) There is a way that can help those of us that struggle to keep our balloons in the air. I write this as one who struggles. I write as one who is learning as I go along. Not as an expert. I once said you would never hear about how I am an expert in balance at Life’s Little Inspirations. And you won’t. But I will share what helps a cobbler, cobbling along. Balance is my handicap. I get a new gig and I run full force with two feet forward until I fall down. However, as I learn and grow, I fall faster and get up quicker. I grab my balloon string just as it starts to slip now instead of after the red balloon is gliding off to heaven. I’m learning some tips to help me hang on to my balloons.

I thought I’d share my tips with you, maybe you can share some of yours with me, maybe together we can keep our balloons a little longer!

Wendi’s Tips For Balancing Balloons

  • Label your balloons clearly. It’s not enough to know that they are the RED Balloon and the GREEN Balloon. Get in touch with your main balloons. What are they? What are the main five to six areas of your life that need your daily focus? What balloons are you trying to keep in the air?
  • Look at your goals. Name the number 1.2.& 3 goals for each balloon. Now take a good look. Are these connected? Or do they have you running in circles? Try looking for a long term goal, then breaking it down into a ninety day goal. Now what can you do this week to affect that goal? How about today? See the difference? You might want to put the other two goals aside for a bit if they weren’t connected to the long term vision. The point of the exercise is to end up with a short term, a mid-term (90 day) and your long term goal.
  • Put it in Writing. Now that you have a goal for each balloon, put it in writing. IF YOUR PLAN IS NOT IN WRITING, IT ISN’T A PLAN, ITS A DREAM. Get out your planning calendar and start filling in dates that you will take action on your plan. Seeing an actual appointment on your calendar will hold you more accountable. Write in the TIME that you will do the action. Make the actual appointment. IF it’s not on your calendar, it’s not a plan…if it’s not a plan…it’s a dream. ( Starting to sink in?)
  • Ask yourself WHY? Why have you made these goals? Staying motivated to keep balanced in all of these goals is difficult. It takes discipline and focus. Staying Motivated is linked to your inner purpose, your inner drive and your passion. No passion = no fuel in the tank to make it happen. Write down the WHY of your goals. “I am doing this because….. ” Make sure you know what your passion is for each one of your balloons. Sometimes we only feel passion for one of our balloons at a time. This is the single largest reason our other balloons start sinking to the ground. Start a sentence for each balloon that says “I am passionate about this because…” and review it daily.
  • Record and compare & Journal. Track your results in a daily planner or on your calendar. Be accountable to the progress you made in each area. Remember, this isn’t a long list. With only one goal of focus in each area, you are only looking at a few minutes a day. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by making your expectations too high. The goal is one bite of the elephant at a time in each area. We aren’t out to eat the entire herd! Journal about your progress and expectations. No matter how it FEELS like it’s going, stay the course! The discipline of sticking it out when the going gets rough brings opportunity and personal growth, whether you meet the original goal or not!.
  • Create an visual reminder. Draw a chart with the five circles in it, or make a poster board with different color balloons if that helps you. Keep it present, in front of you. Out of sight is out of mind. If you want to make a dry erase board that you can write on every day-go for it! What ever makes it easy for you to envision the balloons that you are trying to keep up.
  • Keep it fun! You are more likely to stick with something if you are having fun with it. Balloons are fun for me to imagine, But you can turn balloons into whatever is fun for you. Have a good time with it.  Running shoes, or Stars or Olympic Circles. One point of the theme that is significant to me is that they are all connected. It reminds me that no part of my life survives untouched without the rest. When my health suffers, my family suffers, when my family suffers, my work suffers. When my work suffers our budget suffers. And around and around it goes.

Balance is important. That doesn’t mean that it will ever be easy for me. I think I’m genetically predisposed to be creative and energetic and run through life like a shooting star. Not so much like a Zen Master. But by finding creative and fun ways to work on balance, I can keep my balloons from floating away.

How about you? How do you keep your balloons from flying off to heaven or running out of air? Please share! We all need the help!

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Slow Cooking Frogs

Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The Inspired Life

You can do anything you want in life, you just can’t do everything all at once.
~ Bobbi LaBelle

Hanging above my desk on a bright red ribbon, is a large heavy square bronze medal. It is one of my most treasured possessions. Engraved on it are the words:

24th Columbus Marathon
 October 19th 2003
FLAT FAST FUN

It was fun. It was one of the funnest days of my life. 

Note the date: 2003.

I ask myself, “Self? If that was one of the funnest days of your life, why exactly is it that the marathon medal is hanging up there all by itself without a gaggle of others to keep it company?”

Self answers, “Well, you see Wendi, Life keeps getting in the way. There was this thing and that thing and you already know about that major one thing and then after that…”

Uh huh…

So I still run…sorta…now and then…well…I can run…I mean I could…I mean…I’m gonna start again…probably tomorrow……..

My son has his Black belt in karate. For four years, four days a week, I took him to class and sat on a bench. I always joke that I have my black belt in karate sitting. One day I got tired of sitting there so I joined myself. By the time he graduated with his black belt, I was an orange belt. I loved Karate. It made me feel strong, invincible. It played to my strength of being singularly focused and in the zone. As a past attack victim, it made me feel empowered and It was a perfect sport for me. Yet, somehow, though I was motivated to take him every single day for four years, after he didn’t go anymore, life got in the way for me. I missed one class then two. Then the kids had to go somewhere so I took them to that. When it was time to sign up again in the summer I told myself I would come back in the fall, that summers were too busy. I have been an orange belt for six years. The belt hangs in the closet staring at me every day wondering what the heck I am waiting for. I tell it to shut up– I’m too busy.

Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes you have to let it. Sometimes life moves on and what you wanted to be a priority has to go by the wayside for awhile. As much as we would like to have life be exactly what we want, exactly the moment that we want it, the timing isn’t right and we have to stop flailing our arms and legs in the water and just catch the drift. Sit back and see where it is we are SUPPOSED to be. Stop fighting the current.

Other times, it is exactly the OPPOSITE. We know exactly what our dreams and goals are, the timing IS perfect, serendipity is upon us and the only one we have to blame for not getting where we want to be is us. We start out all pumped up, excited full of the dream, eyes on the target, plan in hand and set out to go. Like a runner you start running toward the goal. It feels great. The next day too. The third day- a little sore. The fourth day, you press on… The fifth day your brain has several excuses and is arguing with you all the way out the door. A little voice sits on your shoulder, explaning the value of a rest day. You tell it to shut up and press on again. If you make it through days seven, eight and nine, you’ve warmed up the water nice and slow and you start to feel pretty good. You are in the groove and the habit starts to form. If you can make it to the thirtieth day, you are golden.

But one day, you just don’t do it. Maybe you get a cold. A week stretches out in front of you. The week after that is vacation. So that week is gone too. When you come home the week after, you promised to paint the siding all week long. You promise yourself you will get up first thing Monday morning…but when the time comes…you smack the snooze button. Maybe tomorrow…

Habits are like slow cooking frogs. They say that if you put a frog in pot of boiling water it will jump right out. But if you warm up the water slowly, it will just stay there until it dies. The frog won’t even notice that the water is heating up. It is almost painless. It happens just a little at a time, slowly but surely.

You can grow a habit the same way. It doesn’t happen in a day or the next. But day by day if you stick with it, a little at a time, you can slowly grow your habit almost painlessly. By the time you have reached 30 days, your subconscious mind will believe you have been doing it forever and propel you to continue. It will seem strange to you NOT to do your habit. The trick is to do just a little bit. Just a tiny little bit, slowly so you hardly notice, and build from there. Like cooking frogs.

The bad news is you can kill a habit the same way. So you have to be careful with your habits. You have to focus on them. You have to keep them in review and pay attention to them. You have to stay committed to them.

I didn’t stop running over night after my marathon. I loved running. It was a joy. I never stopped on purpose. I never even NOTICED that I wasn’t running any more.  Just like the frogs who didn’t notice their water warming up, I didn’t notice my water getting cold. But it did. Slowly over time, my frog water got cold because I stopped paying attention to it. It wasn’t boiling anymore. If I want to get back to being a marathon runner, I have to heat it up again. I have to focus on it. It needs to be a priority and I need to be willing to commit to it and put it at the top of the list. I have to be able to say, “Self, we are going to become a runner again. In order to do that, we have to heat up the water a little each day. Are you with me?”

And Self has to agree. If Self can’t make a commitment…there is no point in boiling up those frogs. There are too many other things on the list that have to get done.

This is an important point. You can do anything you want in life, you just can’t do everything all at once.

The person that taught me that is my mother, Bobbi LaBelle, one of the smartest women I ever met. She raised three young kids as a single mother while working double shifts in a glass jar factory. She saved up enough money, and had enough guts to get out of there and open her own Beauty Shop. The place was tiny but so successful that people were waiting outside to get in. She bought a new place four times the size and has been there for 30 years. She is one of the most creative, resourceful, talented and amazing people I have ever met. But one of the first things she ever taught me was to focus. Be committed to what you are doing. Give it 110 percent of your energy and you will have an excellent chance of success. Keep at it and don’t give up.

So, somewhere along the line I lost my focus on both my running and my karate. The water got cold and I got no cooked frogs. I can honestly say that the timing still isn’t right for me to go back to karate. I know the focus that it would take for that and I am not willing to heat up that pot of water right now. I will someday, so that belt can just keep on hanging there to remind me.

As I examine my priorities, I see that I have several pots on the stove going at the same time.

The Mom Pot
The Wife Pot
The Writer Pot
The Wendi Pot
The Director Pot

I open the lid of the Wendi pot and I take a peek inside. Hmmm. It looks like the area of *maintain personal health and exercise* is cooling down a bit and those frogs are getting a bit jumpy. I ask Self if it’s with me and Self says YES.

It looks like running just got moved back up the priority list again.

What’s cooking in your frog pots?

Blowing out Candles

Attitude of Gratitude, family, Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The Inspired Life

Another birthday week has passed us by in our birthday intense family. No worries, there will be more. Between my large family and my Irish husband’s clan, there is never a shortage of birthday cake and parties to go around. Never a lack of reasons to gather the troops, fire up the grills or ovens, let the music play and the laughter begin.

One thing we are good at is celebrating and playing. Birthdays aren’t the only reasons to be bringing out the cake and candles though. Celebrations remind us of what all the hard work is for. It’s the victory at the top of the hill. Even if the hill is small.  It’s the TA-DA when you finally get it right. It’s taking the moment to appreciate everyone around you and be grateful for the privelege of playing the game we call Life.

“Each day comes bearing it’s own gifts. Untie the ribbons”
-Ruth Ann Schabacker

It is so easy to get caught up in the work of our daily toil. It is never-ending. For most of us, the To-Do list is a mountain that is never going to be fully scaled. It is a two steps forward, one step back sort of thing- if we are lucky. If we aren’t so lucky, it can be a slippery slope toward self-loathing as we beat ourselves up for what we never seem to get done. Learning to celebrate and play is an important tool and life lesson for success and happy living.

Why Celebrate?

Celebrating our victories helps to keep us focused on what we are accomplishing rather than what we aren’t getting done. James Allen states “As a Man thinketh so is he.”  If you are thinking of yourself as a person who gets things done, chances are you are going to feel better about continuing the momentum. If you are thinking of yourself as a loser who never finishes anything, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy as well.

One of the best tips I have ever heard concerning the To- Do list was instead of crossing off or checking off the completed items on your list, highlight them in your favorite color of highlighter. How much more fun is it at the end of the day to look at a nice bright pink, blue or green page rather than an ugly scratched out list. That isn’t very appealing! Celebrate your hot pink day! Go you!

Celebrating our victories helps to deter procrastination.  No one wants to work day in and day out, struggling though the sludge of drudgery with no end in sight. If you doubt it, spend time working with children or pets! They want that immediate treat, the fun reward. They want to know what is coming next AFTER the work. They spend their work time thinking about the ice cream party coming after, the doggie treat in your pocket or the positive reinforcement and praise that may be the reward. Nothing energizes them more than the prize at the end of the rainbow. But take away the incentive and work them over and over without a happy goal in sight and suddenly the focus is lost. They are dragging their feet, they are too tired, they suddenly remember excuses that are mountains high. And that doggie? It will just lay down and go to sleep. You can’t teach an unmotivated dog a new trick.

However, when it comes to being our own personal coach, we forget to plan time in for celebrations. We keep plodding on and then wonder why we are exhausted, burnt out and have no motivation to continue on. Playing isn’t a luxury, it’s an important part of getting the job done!

Celebrating our victories together promotes teamwork and friendship. Sometimes we feel like we don’t deserve to celebrate. We minimize our accomplishments and successes and feel like we don’t deserve to take the time or we feel like we are bragging. What we DON’T take into consideration is that when we treat ourselves this way, what we are telling others is that when they celebrate -what they are really doing is being a slackard while WE are the hard worker. Well, hey martyr, get off the cross they need the wood to build a campfire! Of course, no one means to send this message. It is an unconscious, worn-out old tape that is stuck in our heads that we don’t even hear. It is a knee-jerk reaction of being very responsible and wanting to please everyone.  After all, there IS too much work to be done, and SOMEBODY does have to do it. It just doesn’t have to be you right this minute. When we work as a team and then play as a team, everyone comes out a winner. So come on down and take a rest, it’s not only good for you, it’s good for everyone else too!

Celebrating makes the job more pleasant. Mary Poppins says “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.”  Her secret to success is that she starts celebrating even WHILE she is working. Mary knows that as long as the work is getting done, there is no reason not to crank the tunes, start the singing and have some fun! Why NOT whistle while you work? Why NOT sing a happy tune? Why NOT make a game out of it? Who says we have to act like boring grown-ups all the time? Who says that the only way to get the job done is to take it seriously? Safety first…YES…seriously boring? NO WAY!!! Let the good times roll! For sure you will have more people willing to work with you the next time! Nobody lines up to work with Oscar the Grouch!

Looking Forward to Blowing out the Candles

Remember the last time you were at a small child’s birthday party? Remember how excited that child was when it came time to blow out the candles? Remember how all the other children leaned in close, wanting to be as big a part of the candles as they could be, a few of them even gathering up their lips to help with some participatory air? Children love to blow out the candles. They often even have to be reminded to make a wish! They are delighted, entranced, right there in the moment, their entire little bodies all jazzed up with glee. They don’t stop to think, “Gee, I’m not worthy of this attention and effort. Gosh everyone, really…you shouldn’t have… I didn’t work hard enough, I don’t deserve candles this year.”

Nope. They squeal. They clap their hands in appreciation. They scrunch up their little eyes and lips and blow… hard. Often, all they want to do is do it all over again. They’re in for the game. They’re in for the fun. They don’t second guess anything. They just let it all go.

When was the last time you really let go like that? When was the last time you were able to put down the Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda list and the To-Do list and went out and really played? Looked forward to doing something with the same total abandon as a child blowing out candles?

Remember this! Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it
-Luke:18:17

Life is difficult. That isn’t going to change. Not for any of us. We have to become ON PURPOSE about finding the gifts and presents that each day has to offer, untie the ribbons and celebrate. We need to remember what it feels like to play like children. It isn’t only the Kingdom of Heaven you have a better chance at, but the Kingdom here on Earth as well. If you are having too much trouble, follow the kids, follow the pets. They will remind you. Follow the laughter, follow the glee, follow the wagging tail. Remember what it feels like to play again.

Remember what it feels like to blow out the candles.

 

 

The Garden Gate

family, Healthy Lifestyles, leaving a legacy, self improvement, The Inspired Life, Uncategorized

 

Through the gate is something more. Does it make you wonder? What lies beyond the garden gate? What majesty? What splendor?


Or are you busy rushing by, not taking time to notice. Does every moment have you booked, tick-tock, your time is over….wake up tomorrow, do it again..tick-tock…tick-tock…tick-tock.

Busyness. Rushing around. Fitting it all in. Adding one more thing to the already over loaded to-do list. Juggling all the balls up in the air. Praying, hoping they will just stay up there. Somehow.

God, it’s exhausting.

Where is the balance? Where is the peace and tranquility? Where is the time for creativity, family, laughter?

At the Garden Gate.

At the garden gate, if you choose to open the gate and walk in, you will find the peace you are looking for. You will find the time to spend with family. You can paint. You can play. You can read, You can play ball, go for walks, exercise, whatever you want to do. Go fishing. What do you want to do beyond the gate? What dream have you been putting on hold? It can happen.

You just have to make that choice. Go ahead. Walk through the gate.

But….if I walk through the gate….I won’t have time for………

What? Finish that thought. What are the time wasters that are keeping you from walking through the Garden Gate?

Are you….

Over-promised with commitments that really aren’t that important to you anymore but you don’t know how to get out of?

Over-extended with family and friend obligations that feel like *have-to* events that cut into meaningful family time?

Over-prioritizing unnecessary time-wasters like Internet, computer games, TV that are really just procrastination devices?

Overwhelmed with disorganized habits and clutter that slow you down and cause you to be inefficient with your time?

What others? There are more, many more.

What can we do to get closer to the gate? To open it more often? At least get in for a visit now and then. Maybe hang out on the weekends for starters. Then work our way up to an hour or two every day. After awhile, you may realize a wonderful surprise. It is possible to LIVE in the garden all the time. It can become a lifestyle. It isn’t easy at first, and it takes breaking some habits. But it’s worth it. The garden is a beautiful, peaceful, wonderful place to live where you have time to explore your hobbies and spend time with families and friends, and enjoy long interesting conversations filled with laughter and fun.

Here are a few of the things that our family has done to enjoy more time beyond the Garden Gate.

Turn off the TV. Unless we are enjoying a family night watching a movie together with popcorn and the whole fun deal, the TV isn’t on. No sitcoms, no news, no droning on in the background sucking away our attention. We are free to pay attention to each other and play with each other.

Reduce clutter, get organized This is an on-going challenge. We have been on a mission for the past two years to reduce any and all clutter and unnecessary gadgets and materialistic *stuff* from our lives. Result? Less stuff=less to clean and take care of. Easier ability to organize the important things that we do want to keep. That means more family time to play.

Prioritize value of commitments. We took a hard look at the groups, clubs and meetings we were a part of and started analyzing their value to our family. It was an eye-opener! We began the process of evaluating our commitments differently. Time started showing up right there! This is a constant review that is always being re-evaluated. What are your family values? How do your commitments measure up?

Schedule time for things you want to do. Get your family’s stuff on the calendar FIRST. It is going to be much easier to say  “Oh, I’m so sorry we can’t make it to the 100th birthday party this month, we already have something on the calendar”  when you actually DO have something on the calendar. There isn’t any reason to mention that the calendar says “spend the entire day playing with our family.” Your family is priority number one. AND oh by the way…so are you.

Plan dinner time. Bringing back the family dinner time in the dining room has done more to slow down our lives then all the rest. Planning menus ahead of time, being prepared and having a relaxing, non-rushed dinner with a set table, candles and everyone enjoying conversation has been a wonderful experience. There have been many evenings that we have sat chatting and laughing all the way until bedtime. I strongly recommend the return of candle-lit dining room dinners as often as possible. They are magical!

 

Through the Garden Gate is a simpler time with more focus on getting back to basics, nature, family and good friends. Spending quality time doing the things that are truly important to you, not the things that are on your *should* list or your *I feel guilty so I have to* list. It’s not a life built around keeping up with the latest gadgets and the ‘Jones’ and making sure you are on the right side of the Star-Bellied Sneetches this week. It’s about letting go. Cutting back. Focusing on the Truly Important.

Would you care to join us beyond the Garden Gate? It’s beautiful in here. Come on in…

In the Silence are the Answers…

Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The creative urge, The Inspired Life, Writing

 

I think I was twelve the first time someone turned to me with hands on their hips, frustrated, ready to rip out their hair and shouted, “Wendi! You know what your problem is??? YOU THINK TOO MUCH!!!”

Oh, OK, then…I’ll just…stop…???

But what if…????

The world is an amazing place. Under every leaf and rock is a whole new world just waiting to be explored and questioned. Taken apart, piece by piece, examined, put back together again with all the pieces topsy-turvy and somewhere new. Creativity is the child of the questions Why and How.  The answer to the why-nots, and the-oh, yes I can’s.

Questions, Questions, Questions. Yes, I can be the Queen of questions. I started asking them at three and never shut up. So I am told. Guilty as charged. I honestly believe that if I have a ‘secret to my success,’ it is the asking of questions and looking for answers.

After all, I am a high school drop out. Twice. But that didn’t mean I had to stay there. I tried going back once and circumstances knocked me off my feet again. So… off to get the GED and on to College. There is always a way around to go get the answers if you really want them. Then there are books. Amazing, wonderful books. If you can read, there is virtually nothing standing in between you and anything you want to know.

And now we have the Godzilla of information…the INTERNET. Oh…we live in a privileged time of answers. What do you want to know? Within moments, the answers can be at your fingertips. Technology, Shakespeare, how to make your first million. Right there…Google can set you free…Ask and you shall receive…glory be…

But there are some answers that can’t come to you with the click of a button. Google can’t answer the nagging little questions bottled up in your spirit. It won’t tell you why you ate that stinking rotten doughnut not ten lousy minutes after you PROMISED yourself you were really going to diet this time FOR REAL. It can try, but it doesn’t know you. It won’t write your next article or tell you why you are procrastinating today. It won’t let you in on why you feel restless or angry and don’t even know why OR why you changed your outfit seven times and swear you gained ten pounds, even when the scale assures you it is only one.

What’s the matter? Why the sudden writer’s block?  The lack of creativity? Why aren’t things working the way you planned them on the goal list? Maybe you haven’t even come up with one? Why not? What are you afraid of? Why the anxiety, the sense of self-defeat? Why the little voice in your ear telling you it’s not enough, that you aren’t enough? Why are the things you say not adding up to the things you do?

There are answers to those questions too. Not on the Internet. Not at school. Not in all the self-help books. Not even here. They are in you. Within you are the answers you seek-if you will take the time to be quiet and listen.

Here are a few of the methods that I use to do this:

Prayer/meditation

Find yourself a very quiet place, get comfortable and make sure that you will not be disturbed. Now I am not going to begin to tell anyone how to pray in any specific religious sense here so please interpret my use of the word to mean whatever spiritual power works for you. What I find to be very powerful is to just have an honest unloading of what is going on, along with the problems and questions that need solutions. I actually do this out loud. If that is too uninhibited for you, try it in your mind. Then be silent. Do your best to calm and relax your mind to have no thoughts at all. I find focusing on a candle helps a lot. With practice, it is amazing how much creativity, answers and solutions come through the silence. It might be a good idea to have a pad of paper close by so you can jot down any great brainstorms as the free flow of ideas loosens up.

Journaling/ reading

The written word has a powerful ability to communicate with us and send us messages we hadn’t seen before, even if we have read the same passage over and over again. Anyone who is a frequent Bible or inspirational book reader can speak of specific quotes that have jumped off of pages and were “just what they needed to hear” at the right time. This can be enhanced by combining it with journaling out specific issues and questions, therefore solidifying certain topics firmly in the mind’s focus. Then picking up random reading, the mind seems to focus on just what it needs to bring you the answer that you were looking for. It may seem magical, but it is a way of communicating with your subconscious, (or God or higher power if you like) which has the answers that you need.

Another journaling tool is to just start free-form writing down everything that enters your head, letting creativity flow, and brainstorming solutions. In the privacy of not having to worry about being wrong, your creativity is freed to open up and explore new ideas and solutions. Promise yourself that you will burn or shred the paper so that you are freed from the constraints of worrying about what you write if that is an issue for you.

Nature/exercise

The solitude of running, walking, boating, camping or any way of communing alone with nature is a wonderful way to seek the answers that you need. While it is true that I have heard of athletes who can get “in the zone” at health clubs enough to feel that sense of meditation, I think it is a rare person who has that kind of focus. Out in nature, one can think and soak up the nature, the beauty and the silence and the world and its problems almost naturally take on a different perspective on its own. It is a wonderful way to use the methods of exploring the asking of questions and then waiting in silence for the solutions. The only drawback that I personally have had with this method is when I have had such great ideas, I have become frustrated due to not being able to run and write at the same time and  by the time I get back, I have lost some of them. When I was training for my first marathon, I carried a little portable recorder for a few of the long runs to record ideas that came to me.

Drawing/painting

Art. Although I also paint landscapes and *things*, when I am in the listening mode, I am more apt to put on some very quiet meditative music and doodle. With pencils or paint, I just let whatever is *in*, come out. I am often very surprised to see what lands there. The intent is to have no pre-conceived idea or plan, just let *it* out. The result of a session like this is usually like an awakening, a feeling of an AHA, then peace.

I highly recommend messy art. It is good for the soul.

I would love to hear how other people listen for their “Inside Voice Answers.”  We all have them, sometimes it’s a matter of how often we are checking in.  How often do you check in? How do you get there? I would love to know. Please give me your thoughts and your methods!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Courage to Start

Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The Inspired Life

“The Miracle isn’t that I Finished. The Miracle is that I had the Courage to Start”

John “The Penguin” Bingham

How did an overweight, 43 year old couch potato who smoked and drank and had a clumsy gait like a penguin end up completing 40 marathons, hundreds of 5K and 10K runs, become the author of several best selling books and inspire hundreds of thousands of men and women to run for fun, fitness and to feel better about themselves?

He started.

He woke up one day, put on a pair of sneakers, ran down to the end of his driveway, and ran back. The next day he did it again. The next time a little further. Next thing he knew, he was running three days a week. Soon after that, he became a runner.

The amazing part of John “The Penguin” Bingham isn’t that he discovered a latent talent for running that had gone unnoticed, or that he was more special than you or I. The amazing part about John is that he is one of the few who actually woke up one day, looked at his life, deemed it unworthy and started over. He gave himself a do-over.

Somewhere along the way, it is common for folks to imagine that their lives are a train going down a very long continuous track. They peer down that track, seeing no end in sight for miles and miles, years and years and think, “well, that’s my train, that’s my track, can’t change it, it’s the track I’m stuck with.”

They may even be able to look back and tell you, right where the train took the switch and changed directions, veering off the course they had dreamed about. But never-the-less- it’s too late now. Their train is on a one way path to wherever…

John Bingham was able to peer down that track and see what lied ahead. It wasn’t going to be pretty. At 43 years of age, he was overweight, washed up, with no dreams or inspiration, nothing to look forward to and a lifetime of sedentary, passive existence on the sidelines of life.

He pulled the switch and turned his train around.

He had the courage to just start, just jump right in to something new. A new way of living, a new plan, a new mindset, new habits and ultimately a new life that would take him to places and adventures and success that he couldn’t have even imagined when he first stood outside his garage and laced up those sneakers. He had no idea where he was going or even if he would be able to run more than a few steps. All he knew was that the certainty of the past, continuing into his future was a worse bet then trying something new.

The best keys to success state that to succeed you need to have a vision, a plan and the steps to make it happen. Know where you are going and how you are going to get there. In theory, I agree.

However, there are times, and often it is somewhere between a rock and a bottom, where just about anywhere is better then where you are about to end up. Drastic times call for drastic measures and at times like that, there isn’t time to wait for the Muse of Vision to shine on your path.

In those times, it’s time to take a step, one step, in the right direction. Just a run to the end of the driveway if that is all you can do. Tomorrow, you can go a little further. Just jump in and get started. Soon you you will be able to look back and see how far you have come, but for now, just one step.

Everyone has the power to improve their lives. Though faith, through community, through love, through hard work, through self-discipline, through soul-searching and a willingness to serve others, we can all become better people, we can all become a better community. It can happen one step at a time. We are not really trains on tracks. That is only an illusion.

It takes courage. Courage to take the first step. Courage to take the next and the one after that, one baby step at a time. Soon, if it wasn’t there to begin with, the vision will come, the plan will evolve and then the runner will be able to run. All the way to the finish line.

It takes courage to cross the finish lines of life… It takes even more courage to believe you can start running at all.

Are there places you could change by just starting? Why not just jump right on in? What are you waiting for?

If not Now then When?

 

Planning for the Fog

Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The Inspired Life

Stand Up to Your Obstacles and Do Something About Them, You Will Find that They Haven’t Half the Strength You Thought They Have.

Norman Vincent Peale

Obstacles.

Just when you think you were getting somewhere…along comes some blip on the screen, some change in the plan, some unforeseen disaster that veers you off the course.

“Oh well…better luck next time…”

Many Monday morning diets have been blown a Tuesday goodbye kiss due to obstacles in the road. Many other well intended plans, started with enthusiasm and desire, lay dead in the path of these dreaded roadblocks.

What’s a person to do? You can’t plan for obstacles. Right? They just happen… They’re a random event. Luck of the draw….It’s not like it’s our fault or anything.

“Oh well…better luck next time…”

I’ll let you in on a secret that I have in my little bag of life’s lessons. You won’t have better luck next time. There is another obstacle coming. The only thing that is going to make a difference next time is how prepared you are to deal with it.

The remarkable Florence Chadwick had already made a place for herself in history by being the first woman to swim the English Channel, when she made her decision to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast. This was a woman of proven persistence, goal-setting ability and driven excellence. There was every reason to believe in her ability to meet her next challenge.

On the 4th of July in 1952, as millions watched at home on national television and with family and crew by her side, Florence began her swim. The water was icy cold.  Sharks hovered around her, being kept at bay by rifle shots fired from the crew supporting her. A deep, murky fog enveloped the water, rendering Florence unable to see anything in front of her.

Cheers and cries of support rang out from her family and the crew in the boats above, urging her to carry on, but all Florence could focus on was the fog that blinded her path. Defeated, she asked to be taken out of the water. It was the first time she had ever given in. The first time she had ever quit. 

Later, from the comfort of the boat, Florence was dismayed to learn that she had given up only 1/2 mile from the shore of victory. When interviewed by a reporter, she told him that it wasn’t fatigue or cold water that had stopped her, but simply that she had lost sight of the vision in her mind, and had been blinded by the fog.

A short two months later, Florence Chadwick returned to try again. She was not lucky enough to have clear skies and visibility. The same obstacle of blinding fog also returned to challenge her once more. This time, Florence was prepared. She had rehearsed over and over in her mind what the end result would look like. She imagined the fog and how she would swim through it and keep her mind firmly focused on the goal.  As she swam, she was able to remind herself that the fog did not change the end result; the shoreline was there whether she could see it or not. She just had to remain faithful to continue swimming and she would reach it.

This time Florence did reach the shore. Despite the fog, she swam there in a straight path and broke the all time speed record set before her by the men by two full hours!

Obstacles come. Always. Wearing one disguise or another, they step in our path to block the goal that we had set before us. Without a clear and carefully defined vision, it is hard to defeat them. Like a child’s monster in the closet, they appear to be overwhelming, frightening  and larger than life.

More often than not, they don’t really exist. With rehearsed planning and focused vision, they can be reduced to a minor inconvenience, a lesson to be learned or sometimes even an opportunity that turns out to help us on our way.

The largest obstacle that we truly face is our own defeated attitudes.

When she was in kindergarten, my sister wrote a story.

I went into a cave and there was a bear! I tried to get out of the window but there wasn’t any. I tried to get out the door but the bear was blocking it. So, I sat down.

the end

The teacher wrote with her red pen, “And then what???”

This story was one of my first collections to be placed in the life’s lesson bag. And then what? What comes Next? How many times do we see an obstacle and then just sit down?

When you start to approach life from the angle that an obstacle is coming, so plan ahead…it isn’t the same as negative thinking. It’s being prepared. It’s making sure you have what you need in your suitcase to complete your journey. Thinking through in your mind, what types of things and experiences could possibly occur along the way and what you might need to do to stay focused and on plan.

It’s the constructive use of “What if?” instead of using it to worry and defeat us before we start.

It looks like this:

Finish these sentences for your goals and plans:

1. The end result of my goal looks like…..

2. The steps I need to take are…..

3. Possible obstacles that could stop me from reaching my goals are…

4. My plan for diffusing those obstacles is…..

5. The language I will use and the way it will look when I overcome the obstacles is…

Then, the more time you spend visualizing and seeing yourself succeeding in your mind, and overcoming those obstacles, actually rehearsing in your mind the language you would use, and actions that you would take to overcome those obstacles, the smaller and smaller those obstacles will be when they arrive. Your subconscious will already be engaged and know what to do.

Life happens. You won’t be able to predict and plan for everything. Some things are just learning experiences. Even an accomplished swimmer like Florence hadn’t planned for the fog. But she didn’t let it keep her out of the game either. She was back within a few months, mentally stronger, armed with knowledge and a better plan.

She won. So can you.

Obstacles are coming, are you planning ahead?