Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for April, 2013

Planning Your Tomorrow’s

Many of us feel the need to have a Plan A, B and, at more stressful times, even a Plan C in our lives. I understand the need to think ahead so that we are more prepared to handle obstacles and create the life we choose to live. The act of planning, in itself, offers a certain peace of mind in our fast-paced world. The huge benefit to planning is that when we form a plan we are putting our intentions out to the Universe. That is a powerful thing to do. Why? Simply put, we basically get what we think about most often – no more or no less. The act of planning is a way to line up the energy of the Universe to deliver to us what we truly want and need in life. We don’t have to cross all the t’s or dot all the i’s in our plan but simply see, feel and know the big picture of what we most desire and have absolute confidence that it will come to us … in Universal Time.

There is a big difference between our human time clock where everything needs to happen yesterday and the time frame of the Universe or so called Universal Time. When we reflect back on our lives, didn’t everything happen for a purpose and didn’t the time just seem right? At first, we may not completely understand the timing or purpose but if we dig deeper we will discover the golden nugget of truth and say to ourselves, ‘this is what I was supposed to learn from that situation.’ The good news is that if we learned the lesson we move on to our next life adventure. If not, the lesson seems to come back again and again, each time a little more dramatically and forcefully until we finally say, ‘Aha, now I get it!’

If you take a moment in your busy schedule and think about what life might be trying to teach you at this point in your journey you may be surprised by your discovery. Is it about making the world a better place, demonstrating acceptance of yourself and others, unconditional love? These are just a few of the mighty lessons presented to us that may take a lifetime to learn, but learn we must.

Planning then is a guide to the Universe, a preferred way that the lessons we have to learn will be presented to us. Personally, I feel more at peace and empowered knowing I have the capacity to be an even more active,integral part of the whole process through planning. It crystallizes the idea that life is not happening to me but through me rather like a joint partnership. The saying, ‘All is as it should be,’ then begins to make even more sense in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Authentic Listening Skills

Being a good listener is more important than ever in our fast paced world. With text messages, emails, Facebook and other social media we may be making random comments about our activities but is anyone truly listening and caring about what we are saying? Do we feel more valued by the numbers of ‘Friends’ we have on Facebook?

Showing you care about someone involves learning the art and skill of authentic listening. It requires taking the time to hear, process, ask questions, and paraphrase back what the person said to us to make sure we heard not what they said but what they truly meant. When we repeat back to them what they said and ask them ‘is that what you meant,’ they usually use different words to clarify what they actually meant in their heart. Due to our own individual life experiences words mean different things to different people. Clarifying helps us avoid jumping to conclusions or misinterpreting the message.

Developing good listening skills means we stop interrupting, talking over or faster than the other person, answering for others rather than giving them the time to respond, or controlling the conversations. For instance, if four people are present each should continually be given an equal amount of time to speak and be heard. Everyone then feels important and valued. You may be able to see an answer to another person’s dilemma but unless they ASK you for advice it is best not to give it. No one wants to be treated like a child, told what to do or not to do. This type of behavior builds up impenetrable walls of resentment towards you and eventually the valuable relationship can come to a screeching halt.

The greatest gift I received from a dear friend years ago when I called to tell her about a life changing experience I was dealing with was her masterful response. She simply said to me, ‘how do you feel about that?’ She allowed me to talk, she listened with her head and heart as I processed through the circumstance. She asked clarifying questions but never told me what I should or shouldn’t do. It was clear that she valued and trusted me enough to work through the concern and arrive at the answer that would work best for me. She was an authentic listener.

Ask yourself, what does it feel like when someone truly listens to you? Don’t you want to give that same gift of appreciation and acceptance to others? You can if you eliminate your own ‘advice giving’ habit and work at developing authentic listing skills. It boils down to a couple simple facts, you don’t walk in their shoes and you don’t help them by telling them what to do.

Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, said ‘nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.’ Brilliant!

Have a great few days!

We Will Heal

This past week has, once again, demonstrated that we can never take our tomorrows for granted. The families who have experienced the loss of a loved one as well as so many who suffered physical and emotional harm will have a long road ahead to heal. Yet, heal they must because that’s what is required of us as we learn our life lessons. The length of time it takes to heal is as individual as the human beings involved. There is no specified or acceptable length of time for the grief process. You won’t see an expiration date on a grief stricken bleeding heart. Given enough time, the bleeding subsides, the wound heals over but the spot remains more sensitive for the rest of our lives.

We can help others who experience loss by giving them the gift of understand and empathy. We can also help our world by recognizing that even as tragic events seem to be happening more frequently our response as a country is becoming more laser focused and strategic. Basically we are becoming more efficient and effective in the aftermath of tragedy.

Why must it be after the fact and not before the event happens you may ask? Unfortunately, weapons are more available than ever and bombs can be constructed by following a recipe from the Internet – similar to following a recipe in a cookbook but rather than a delicious feast we end up with a famine of the heart. The diversity of people’s opinions seem greater than ever before. We are now a global melting pot that, too often, pairs discord with violence.

Was it always this way or have we changed – gone awry? Some would say the old days were better, safer and more truthful. Don’t be swayed by misinformation or fear. Simply viewing the movie ‘Lincoln’ helps us keep perspective. The truth is that we have never had a time where the world has not experienced turmoil before a heightened sense of understanding. The difference today is that we are so much more socially connected that reports of tragedies seem to be bombarding us constantly. Information is a powerful thing. We want to watch the daily news but then may find ourselves worrying about the safety of our own families – a catch 22. Yet to be disconnected and ignorant about events in our world invites in the potential for an even greater catastrophe.

Our national and state leaders have come together with law enforcement individuals, yet again, to establish order and find the perpetrators of violence and restore calm in the wake of tragedy. We are awed by their speed, their efficiency and effectiveness. We are stronger today than yesterday, more united in our resolve not to be cowered by fear but confident in our strength as a nation.

As always, truth will prevail.

Have a peaceful few days!

Achieving Greater Happiness

When people are surveyed and asked what’s the one thing they want in life their response is ‘to be happy.’ Without question, if we could all achieve a sense of peace and happiness in our lives we would raise our own vibrational level and the entire universe would breathe a huge sigh of relief. Have you ever thought deeply about what it would take for you to be totally happy?

Try making a list of everything you think you need or want that would create greater happiness. Doing so is important for many reasons. By reviewing the items on your list you can begin to prioritize those of greatest importance. What are the one or two ‘must haves’ for your own sense of greater well being and happiness? The time you spend thinking about the meaning of each word on your list is time well spent. It helps gain perspective on what you presently have to be grateful for and how you may choose to use your time from this point forward to achieve greater happiness. It causes you to look at the future rather than the past.

To achieve happiness, Steve Jobs said he wanted to “make a dent in the Universe” and he achieved his goal. Decades earlier, the Reverend Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson achieved a sense of happiness by designing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Just think about the thousands of individuals who have made our world a better place, one action, one person at a time.

Although we may not be world leaders, we can all become happier and make a positive impact on the world in our own unique way. Achieving greater happiness in our lives begins when we decide to make today a better day than yesterday for ourselves and others. By reviewing what we have and determining what we want to achieve next in our lives we become happier, more energized and confident human beings.

Have a great few days!

Views from your Windshield

Size really does matter! Did you ever think about the comparative size of a car windshield to the rearview mirror? One is much larger, more expansive than the other. A windshield shows things in true size while a rearview mirror causes objects to appear larger than their actual size. As we drive we look out through the wide span of glass in front of us with optimism and clear thinking in anticipation of a safe trip. We have something to do, someone to see, someplace to go and we look forward to the journey. When we look in the rear view mirror it is only for an instant to check our path as we confidently move forward or check for other vehicles. We are smart enough to know that prolonged staring at the rearview mirror can cause major problems for us in the future. Strange as it may seem, the windshield/rearview mirror is an interesting way to think about other people and our own lives.

When we meet warm, optimistic people they seem to spend a great deal of time enjoying the moment and eagerly looking forward to their tomorrows. We can almost visualizing them looking out of their windshield expecting something interesting and good to pop up on the horizon. Just being around them seems to give us energy. Regardless of the challenges they face they remain committed to making the future even better than today.

Conversely, we may meet others who seem unmotivated or unsuccessful in their lives. They seem to be constantly viewing life through their rearview mirror which causes difficult events of the past to become larger in size and significance than they were at the time of the actual event. Time spent with folks like this seems to drain our energy and we subconsciously count the minutes before we can make a graceful exit. They seem to feel that life has been unfair and they are stuck in the ‘if only’ mentality and their life, at best, is stuck in neutral. They have forgotten that life is simply a reflection of what they have been willing to put into it – nothing more and nothing less. The longer any of us spend looking back, the slower our progress in the future.

Teaching ourselves to view life consistently through our own windshield with just a quick, occasionally glance in our rearview mirror allows us to move almost imperceptibly from a view of ‘what might have been’ into a ‘could still be’ type of thinking. Optimism is the greatest elixir we can take. It results in a much more energizing and satisfying thought process for our tomorrows.

Have a great few days!

Live, Laugh and Love Life

Don’t you just love to be around people that make you laugh? It seems to lighten our load and gives us a break from the constant mind chatter going on in our monkey brains. Realizing this, how many times in the past week have you had a good laugh over something? For those of us who have intense personalities and over scheduled lives we may be unaware of the importance humor plays in our own personal sense of well being. I read a quote recently from Gina Barreca, Ph.D. who said, “Humor is the one thing that fear cannot abide. Laughter banishes anxiety and can help replace fear.”

We know that laughter, even the simple act of smiling, can change the neurochemistry in our brains and cause us to feel better. Positive thought builds new neuron connections in our brains and we begin to feel more confident and hopeful about tomorrow. We can do this for ourselves by laughing often even about the smallest things in our lives. Sounds like a simple solution to me. Yet, sometimes we overlook the most simplistic of solutions thinking that there must be more to the story.

There is, in fact, a lot more to the story of achieving happiness. For many it takes a lifetime to realize that happiness is in, around and through us at all times just waiting to be encouraged to full bloom. It is not something external to buy or achieve but rather internal that you nurture to a radiant bloom in your personal garden of life.

All of us experience fears and anxieties. It just seems part of the human condition. Sometimes these feelings can rise to a fever pitch and we wonder if life will ever get any easier. One sure way to take a break from this tension and stress is to take a “laughter break” for a minute and remember that an ability to laugh at yourself or a circumstance along the way can help put things in perspective. Take a moment and think about the last time you truly laughed about something. How did it make you feel?

A regular dose of humor is important for all of us. It can be the salve that stops the itch of uncertainty or fear brooding below the surface. Movies, books, even an email forwarded to us of some outrageous circumstance are opportunities for laughter which increases our feelings of happiness. The human connection, engaging in a conversation with another person, is a great way to appreciate all that life has to offer as we smile, laugh and fully enjoy the moment together. Choose to give and receive the gift of laughter with others and everyone wins.. It doesn’t cost anything, is easily attainable and can be used repeatedly without worrying about the side effects. How much better can it get?

I believe in the quote, ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ Well, even if it’s not THE best it’s surely up there in the top 10! For a few days check your face in the mirror occasionally. Does your image look happy, hopeful and appreciative of the life you have created? As you check out your own level of happiness you may decide that you want more of it. Start by forcing, if necessary, a smile on your face from time to time, and give in to the urge to laugh at life. Not only will it increase your face value but you will begin to feel better overall. Sometimes we need to ‘fake it ’till we make it,’ that’s okay. Changing behavior starts with an intentional act that you choose to make in order to improve your life. It’s worth the effort.

Have a great few days!

The Importance of Tenacity

Roger Ebert, THE film critic, author and first journalist (of three) to win a Pulitzer Prize passed away on Friday after a long battle with cancer. When he lost his voice to the disease he found a way to ‘keep on keeping on’ his work and became an avid social media user on both Facebook and Twitter. He refused to give up simply because his voice was gone along with part of his jaw. Although he could not eat or drink as we do, he found sustenance in other ways. Communicating to his nearly 600,000 followers was too important a task to walk away from – tenacity – he had it in spades. He created the now familiar thumbs up sign which became a trademark used by he and his fellow critic Gene Siskel who died in 1999. Demonstrating his passion for connecting with others, he posted his last blog on Wednesday, two days before his death.

What an impact he had on this world! Michael Moore credited him with his own success when he enthusiastically endorsed Moore’s first movie, ‘Roger and Me.’ The integrity of Ebert’s message was felt by both the large film industry as well as the small independent film producers. Movies should stand for something, make an impact and deliver a message along the way.

The tremendous success he experienced came from his honesty, hard work and passion for his field. He believed that the significance of films was in how they could sensitize us to go where we had never been in our minds. He encouraged us to stretch our sensibilities and walk in another person’s shoes during the 90 minutes of a well made movie. His reviews were never ‘bought or sold’ to the highest bidder. If he gave the thumbs up sign, you knew the price of the theatre ticket would be money well spent. He was a person who lived his truth in service to others and just happened to love his job along the way!

During his battle with cancer some people told him he was a brave inspiration. Shunning the accolade he replied that “courage and bravery have little to do with it. You play the cards you are dealt.” He did not want praise or pity but to simply be allowed to keep on going and apply his steely determination to contribute to our views for tomorrow.

Reflecting on death he wrote in 2010 that he did not fear it because he “didn’t believe there was anything on the other side to fear. I was perfectly content before I was born and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”

He lived life to the fullest and made an impact along the way. I wish him well on his journey. Tonight when we gaze up at the sky we might see a star flickering a little more brightly than the rest. It may be Roger Ebert telling us he has arrived and to keep on going regardless of our challenges and to remember to enjoy the ride as we give it everything we’ve got to make the world a little better place. ‘Roger on that…’

Have a great few days!

Happiness is a Learned Skill

There is a new branch of psychology entitled, Positive Psychology. Rather than the more traditional study of the field that looks at unhappiness or dysfunction and attaches a label and recommended therapy to the circumstance, this branch of psychology does just the opposite. It examines happiness and recommends activities to optimize feelings of well being. It gives us specific findings from studies of human behavior that can help us learn to increase our own happiness level and experience the elusive butterfly of happiness as a permanent resident on our shoulder.

Supporting the Positive Psychology movement, a documentary entitled, ‘Happy,’ interviewed people in various countries of the world to determine where the greatest happiness or lack of happiness existed. Interestingly, Japan was listed as the country with the lowest level of happiness. Interviewing Japanese workers and their families it became apparent that due to the demanding expectation of their culture to work harder, longer and achieve more has left the Japanese people too physically and emotionally exhausted to enjoy life. Their faces told the story of their plight. It was shocking to hear that the Japanese are working themselves to death. Conversely, the random faces of the people in Denmark, Bhutan and even those living in the slum housing of India portrayed a completely different story. They were ranked much happier by comparison to the Japanese! Why?

Well, we are social creatures by nature. Time spent with family and friends gives us a sense of belonging and joy. We feel both valued and loved by the significant people in our lives. When we give and receive unconditional love, the rest of life is kept in perspective, our heart sings and our happiness soars.

Creating more happiness in our lives includes regular physical exercise, relaxation and variety in our daily activities – even changing the route we take to work or on a walk is important. Trying new experiences gets the synapses in our brain to function in new ways. Change expands our comfort zone and keeps us sharp, energetic and creates more self confidence.

As the Dalai Lama has said, compassionate regard for others, and making the world a better place also increases our own happiness index. It’s true, we make ourselves happier when we take the time to care for others.

Next, taking even 10 minutes a day in meditation or simply quiet time in contemplative thought allows our minds to relax and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for in the Universe. It helps us right ourselves with the world.

These findings from the studies on happiness are important factors to consider incorporating into our lives. They can help us create a happier more positive view on life and our own capabilities. When we engaged in these activities our brains release dopamine which is an important element to our overall mental and physical health. As a result, as the inevitable challenges surface in our lives we are stronger and better equipped to handle them.

Greater happiness is a learned skill. By personally applying some of these research findings on happiness life becomes the gift as intended and not a burden to be carried. The challenge is to expand our repertoire of happiness experiences and not simply do more of what we are presently doing. Just as the phrase implies, variety truly is the spice of life.

Have a great few days!