Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for November, 2013

Be a Hero!

This last week we acknowledged the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death in Dallas,Texas. For those of us who remember that tragic event the coverage on the news brought back a flood of memories. To this day he is the only former president that has continued to achieve an over 90% approval rating. Impressive results for an impressive man.

Anytime we have the opportunity to remember such an iconic figure we struggle to understand the loss, just as we do with our own personal losses. There was a lesson for the world in this tragedy. His stance on limiting….even refusing to use – nuclear arms when we were on the brink of a world conflict set the stage for a better way. He was especially eloquent on the topic. To quote from one of his speeches, “It’s insane that two men, sitting on opposite sides of the world, can choose to put an end to civilization…We need to do whatever we can to minimize the chances.” The legacy he left us regarding the importance of finding ways to avoid conflict and destruction in our world remain a critical lesson to this day.

He believed in giving, helping, doing for others. His famous statement, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” will ring forever in our minds. Makes you stop and think doesn’t it? How often are we asking for others or the world to help us rather than the other way around?

His calm reserve in time of crisis also served as a lesson for us in everyday life. We must remain patient even hopeful as life challenges us to an extreme. Sometimes it takes superhuman strength to hold our tongues, turn the other cheek and look for the positive in a situation but we can do it. By doing so we all become a bit of a hero in our own right.

When the student is ready the teacher comes along. JFK will remain a teacher to us and to future generations. His life, however short, was no brief candle but a brilliant torch that served to illuminate the world and help us remember the importance we can contribute to it. Each one of us, in our own unique way, can add rather than subtract to life.

Have a great few days!

Attaining Joy in Life

How often do you experience joy in your life? I’m talking about that feeling of pure happiness in just being alive. You may be thinking to yourself, ‘she obviously doesn’t know what I am dealing with in my life right now.’ You’re right, I don’t. But what I do know is that when you experience sorrow, sadness even agony – the opposites of joy – these emotions ultimately help you recognize and appreciate the feeling of joy at a profound level. We learn to see and feel the special moments, the little things in life with a deeper appreciation. All of a sudden it seems nothing is taken for granted. When we begin to appreciate the little things that happen to us our gratitude index increases and it brings even more joy into our lives. We begin to think about how wonderful joy feels and desire even more. Always responding to whatever is foremost in our thinking, the Universal Energy then delivers more and more joy to us.

Remember the children’s story about the princess and the pea. The princess could not sleep because she was uncomfortable due to the tiny pea that was secretly placed under many, many mattresses which had been stacked upon each other. The point in the story was that the test would prove if she were truly a princess since a real princess would have experienced total comfort in the past and would therefore recognize the opposite – discomfort. The principle is the same. To feel unmitigated joy we must have experienced deep sorrow in our lives. Why? Simply put, feelings do not exist in a vacuum. The experience of one type of emotion intensifies the other. Show me someone who has worked through a great tragedy in their lives and I will show you someone that appreciates every breath they take and every moment they are alive. Nothing, absolutely nothing, becomes mundane to them any longer. A beautiful sunset, the fluttering of a hummingbird seeking the nectar of a flower or even a penny found at just the right moment takes on a deeper meaning. They realize the significance of being alive because they now understand the difference of living a life by holding on to a flaming torch or one of mere existence by holding on to a brief candle.

When we reunite with a friend or family member, attend a holiday celebration, receive a card or even email from someone we care about…each of these moments can bring sheer joy to our lives. They remind us that others are thinking about us, appreciate us and want to reconnect. The human bond deepens and joy is magnified. Likewise when we take the time to go out of our way for another they feel valued, appreciated and recognize the importance – the joy in being alive.

Our lives are meant to be lived to the fullest not merely endured. When we exhibit joy others want to be around us – they sense a deeper feeling of acceptance, happiness and purpose. A connection seems to exists at our core. Joy is about being fully present and grateful in this experience called life. It is the gold standard of our emotions.

Have a great few days!

Badge of Courage, Tenacity and Resiliency

Developing greater resiliency in life is important not only for survival but for a happier, more joyful existence. We may wonder what causes some people to be more confident and unflappable. Have they simply led a charmed life free of pain, sorrow or loss? Probably not. Remember, everyone has their story to tell.

It may appear that their lives seem easier than ours – less traumatic – less burdensome. It is possible that they have had a series of remote misses in their life that did not directly affect them. I have not met many of these types but they do exist and are rare birds indeed. We, on the other hand, may have experienced direct hits or near misses altering our speed and trajectory momentarily. Gladwell talks about near misses and remote misses in his book, ‘David and Goliath.’ He says a near miss leaves you traumatized and a series of remote misses leaves you feeling somewhat invincible.

Another possibility is that these ‘unflappable types’ often remind themselves that 99% of what most people worry about never comes to pass. They may seem to just know, deep down, that everything in life happens for a purpose and that they will survive. They feel confident that will get through the present life altering experience possibly battered and bloodied in the process but otherwise in tact. These folks make it a practice to reflect on their past experiences and challenges to search for the lessons they have learned. As a result they have developed greater confidence and resiliency in handling their tomorrows. You can practically see their three point badge of courage, tenacity and resiliency handed to them from The Universe.

With badge in hand they look to the future not with trepidation but hope for an even better tomorrow. Feeling hopeful and confident does not eliminate the future challenges but allows them an invisible shield of protective armor as they move forward. As each new challenge presents itself in their life, they manage to get through it, reflect on what they have learned and in the process become stronger.

As Gladwell says, ‘We are prone to be afraid of being afraid and the conquering of fear produces exhilaration.’ The next time you are faced with a major life challenge and are unsure of your strength to endure, just remember, this too shall pass and you will be more resilient having lived through it. You will never be the same but will be wiser as you move forward on your life journey. Although we don’t applaud them, adversity and experience are great teachers.

Reflecting on your life you will probably remember at least five major life altering experiences and yet here you are reading this blog. That means you made it through, you survived and you are more resilient than ever! Congratulations!

Have a great few days!

Humility is Strength

Susan Scott said, “While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a business, a career, a marriage, or a life, any single conversation CAN.” Her message is that words and the attitude behind them are powerful things. They can build or destroy by causing us to close ourselves off to others or welcome them in. Words elicit different effects depending on our attitude, self confidence and state of mind. The word humility is one that can conjure up a vision or meekness or one of strength.

Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’ investigated the most successful companies in terms of profit over a 15 year basis and once identified began to investigate what characteristics were evident in their top level leadership. As stated in his book, “these Level 5 leaders direct their ego away from themselves and to the larger goal of leading their company to greatness…they are a complex, paradoxical mix of intense professional will and personal humility.”

People who practice humility realize it improves both personal and work relationships. It can reduce anxiety by allowing ourselves to be more open to possibilities – to the ideas and suggestions of others. When we are in this type of mindset, paradoxically, it enhances our own self confidence.

Taking the time to care enough to truly listen to others and to step aside and allow the limelight and attention to shine on them, even temporarily, is a valuable and liberating act. We are demonstrating a strength and belief – a confidence – in ourselves that becomes quietly evident to others. There is always enough light to go around- the Universe is a never ending source. When we affirm people’s beliefs and assumptions we are not giving in but are recognizing that ….in their particular situation and view…they are right.

The most valuable way to demonstrate humility is to ask for input from others. The simply question, ‘How am I doing?’ not only speaks but shouts volumes about your own level of self confidence. It lets others know that you are open, interested in learning more, being more valuable to the organization. That one simple question opens doors and hearts. People feel more valued and respected when asked for their opinion and input.

Whether we are thinking of humility in our homes or workplaces the lessons are the same. Humility is strength in operation. It is a lack of arrogance which pushes others away and it allows for forward thinking accomplishments which causes others to want to be a part of our team or at least in our environment. When we become really good at this thing called humility we move from constantly seeking approval and recognition to seeking a better way … a more enlighten, confident view of life and our unique place in this journey. Life itself becomes more of a positive adventure and less of a stressful, harried experience.

It boils down to what characteristics you choose to practice in life. Humility allows us to take pride in ourselves and our accomplishments without that major turn off for others called arrogance. Sort of makes humility really important in the bigger scheme in life doesn’t it?

Have a great few days!

A Different Place

Emily Perl Kingsley a prolific writer for Sesame Street as well as author of over 20 children’s books is both an accomplished professional of her trade – winning 12 Emmys for her creative work – but more importantly a loving mother of a Down’s syndrome child. A special child that The Universe entrusted to her. She wrote this piece to help us understand how to accept differences. To me, it is a moving example of dealing with loss of our own expectations, acceptance of life changes and the strength to carry on. Her writing is a metaphor for life in general – accepting what we cannot change and having the tenacity to look for the silver lining in everything that is presented to us. Regardless of the life altering experiences we have the lessons are the same…

Welcome to Holland

“I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this …

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland!?” You say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m suppose to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. You’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that hurt will never, ever, ever, ever, go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things …about Holland.”

Have a great few days!

Opportunity or Burden?

Today is a new day. The sun is shining and the weather clear. It is going to be a good day! Actually, regardless of the weather we can choose to make it a good day …or not. It all depends on our attitude.

If you find yourself with a case of regret today, you know the thoughts, ‘I wish I would have, could have, should have…’ just stop. We all have a case of regret from time to time but it is the amount of time we allow ourselves to wallow in it that determines our overall view on life and the heights – the altitude – that we will achieve.

If you have not been able to do, be or achieve all that you have dreamed about yet in your life, Congratulations! Welcome to the human race. Everyday we have a chance to view our circumstance as a gift of opportunity – of things we have yet to be or achieve or burden of regret. ‘Opportunity viewing’ draws more positive energy to us and ‘burden viewing’ depletes us and those who are around us of life sustaining energy.

The average person has about sixty thousand thoughts a day. These thoughts are run through our own personal lenses of opportunity or regret. If you make it a habit of seeing the possibility, the lesson, the gift in even a challenging situation you are tuning your own mental channel to a higher frequency. As a result, a more positive attitude and ultimate results are in store for you. Allowing yourself to stay in the ‘poor me’ type of thinking may garner you attention from others but ultimately they will choose to avoid you as much as possible because you are simply to draining to be around.

It truly is impossible to feel bad and have good thoughts. Your mind cannot hold opposite energy waves simultaneously. The habit – and that is just what it is – simply a habit of negative thinking is something we can choose to change. First and foremost we must admit to ourselves that we have a habit of negative viewing and then apply a conscious effort to rephrase in your mind those ‘poor me’ thoughts. The good news is that the more you practice it the better you feel until one day you realize you have replaced your old negative thinking habits with a new much more enlightened, happier mindset. You have arrived!

The choice is always up to us. In goal setting we say that you have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired in order to choose to change. We can choose to get attention from remaining stuck or consciously choose to refuse to let the daily events and challenges wear us down. There really is a silver lining behind every cloud we simply need to train our eyes to look for it.

Show me a pile of yuk and you will see me searching for the pony. I live, breathe and know that something good will come out of even the most dire circumstance. Opportunity thinking can change the life of anyone…it simply takes a decision to view this day, this moment as a gift.

Have a great few days!

Healing Grief

Recently we saw media coverage of yet another death from gun violence. This time a TSA worker who was simply doing his job. His life snuffed out in a split second leaving yet another family to grieve for their loved one. We experience 32 deaths daily in the U.S. from gun violence. A shocking but accurate statistic. These losses leave hundreds possibly thousands of walking wounded family and friends attempting to cope with these losses. Some are experiencing this type of grief for the first time in their lives. They wonder if they will ever be the same again.

Grief doesn’t leave very much room for new people or new experiences in our lives. We are simply exhausted just getting through the day with the burden and sorrow of our loss. We replay the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ in our minds non stop in an effort to arrive at an understanding and eventual acceptance that our world will never be the same. Our loved one is gone…

We are frightened about becoming attached to others – the unpredictability of life just seems too overwhelming to allow any new connections to happen. After all, we think to ourselves, I don’t understand and couldn’t control this loss and it hurts too much to risk loss again. We may choose to remain isolated and aloof from others mistakenly thinking that there is safety in isolation. After all, we think to ourselves, others won’t judge us and wonder when we will be ourselves again. Yet, we don’t even know how to be the selves we once were before the loss. However, hiding our feelings drives the hurt deeper.

People wonder how long it will take to get over the feeling of devastation that hits you within seconds of waking in the morning. The time varies just as our experiences vary. The depth of our loss is directly related to the depth of our love.

One thing that’s important to remember is that rather than being concerned when you will ‘get over it’ the greater concern is any decisions that you make when you are still grieving. You will live with the results of these decisions forever. It is better to do nothing than risk a decision that could haunt you for the rest of your life. Take as long as you need to rearrange things in your life – after all, it is your life now and it is badly in need of repair.

Neil Abramson said in his book “Unsaid,” that ‘grief is so powerful because it has ‘one fierce allay and that is regret. Before you know it you’ve become that bitter shadow that people who used to love you cross the street to avoid.’

Powerful words to consider. When you choose isolation you do not heal but you bury the loss deep in your psyche and it will resurface when you least expect it – often in the form of fear and anger.

Better to find a friend or family member who will listen as you repeat the story about your loved one. You may need to repeat it hundreds of times but each time you will, in essence, be applying a small amount of salve on the wound in your heart. Slowly, very slowly it will heal. It will always leave a noticeable mark but not a chasm of fear and longing when you have taken the time to experience your grief fully.

Grief takes time but you are so worth it.

Have a great few days!