Friday, November 28, 2008

Obviously You're Not Looking Hard Enough

Sometimes the most obvious things are the hardest to see. A recent example is this past Thanksgiving. We invited 16 people over for the holidays and my spouse and I were running around trying to get the food and house in order for the big feast. After looking in the same place – twice – I found the ancient, orange table cloth for its once-a-year outing. However, I was not so fortunate locating the pads we put on the table to prevent it from getting scratched (over zealous appetites and sharp forks can be a dangerous combination).

I looked in the garage where these pads have lived for many years. No luck. I retraced my steps, my spouse took up the search, and I looked again for good measure. Still no luck. I looked under the bed (where I did find the table leaf and a family of dust bunnies), checked the closets and even some really obscure places. Was I really thinking I was going to find those table pads in the spare bathroom? Frustration and panic can really unleash some strange thoughts.

I’m generally a patient person, but I hate it when I can’t find something. Of course I knew this was my spouse’s fault because I ALWAYS put things back in their proper place. I kept running this nasty script in my head about how if CB would just put stuff back in the SAME PLACE every time instead of experimenting with another idea, this would NEVER HAPPEN.

Time was ticking away and I needed to get that table protected from the hungry hordes. Finally, CB asked if the pads were in my office. I had checked the office closet – twice. Then it dawned on me. I had purchased a new desk several months ago and put the pads on the desk to prevent it from getting scratched by the office equipment. How often do I see these pads? Try no less than eight hours a day six or seven days a week. The missing pads are literally inches from my nose every single day, but I don’t see them. So what does this mean (besides the fact that I am not observant and had to eat humble pie instead of pumpkin that day)? For me it was how the most obvious things are invisible.

Since it was Thanksgiving, it is easy to reflect on how there are a multitude of things to be grateful for, but they are largely taken for granted. I have lived through many turkey holidays and enjoyed abundant food, as well as numerous friends and family to share the day with. Sometimes the guest list changes. Many loved ones have passed away, and new ones, including my one-year-old granddaughter, Rosannah have joined the family. Every year is precious.

Something else that is invaluable, but not always easy to see, is our own personal power. There are those magic moments when we feel great and everything clicks into place. However, when things are difficult it is easy to go down the negativity highway, and let little bumps morph into Mount Vesuvius. In my angry little mind, I had a whole novel in my head about my spouse’s thoughtless actions. I had visions of my beloved table pads being used to test drill bits and then being placed under our leaky truck to prevent oil from staining the driveway.

I admit it, the self-help writer got a little nutty with her own imagined negativity. But fortunately, I stopped my crummy thoughts in the prologue phase instead of chapter six. So you see, I struggle with the same issues as everyone else, but I’m coping with it a lot better than I used to. Part of the reason is since my writing partner, Jackie, and I have written our new book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, I feel obligated to practice what I preach. And I do. I mess up now and then, but I stop myself before I get too carried away.

It really is true that if you want to master something, you should try to teach it to someone else. So please carry on our message. If you have questions, shoot us an email. If you want us to give a little talk at one of your meetings, or you would like to host a seminar, just let us know. Our goal is to erase a little negativity however we can.

And for a preview into the future, our next blog entry is going to delve more into the invisible power concept. I’d say more now but this message is already too long. Besides that, I have three table pads sitting in my office and I need to figure out where I am going to put them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Who You Calling a Turkey?

I heard a story that someone asked a Polish citizen living under the communist regime if he regarded his Russian comrades as friends or family. “ Family,” he quickly responded. “You can choose your friends.” Now with Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us will be face to fork with family and in-laws who may put us in a “fowl” mood (okay, okay, no more of bad turkey puns in this blog entry.)

So how does one face these challenges and keep an optimistic attitude?

I think the biggest defense is a sweet offense. And I don’t mean shoving pumpkin pie up their nose. Try to disarm those negative Nellies with kindness. If someone asks, “Did you get a job yet?” Smile sweetly and ask, “How kind of you to ask. Do you know of someone who is hiring in my field?” If they know something – great! If they don’t, they’ll keep their mouths shut once they realize you want them to be part of the solution, and not just someone who rubs salt in a wound.

When I’m coaching groups or individuals, I tell them I’ll listen to their complaints for 10 minutes, then I want to hear some solutions. Complaints without a plan of action is a waste of time and oxygen. So when people complain, ask for a solution. If Aunt Martha tells you that you’re too fat, ask her if she would like to join you for a walk around the block after dinner. If Uncle Charlie won’t put an end to his political rant, suggest he write a letter to the editor. You may want to keep a pad of paper and a few pens on you and have them ready – just in case.

There is no doubt that some relatives are nasty. But in all fairness, most have no idea they are being jerks. They are probably ignorant, jealous or insecure. A happy person gains nothing from causing another human being pain. So if someone is mean, chances are they are unhappy - plain and simple. But don’t let sympathy be an agent to help them induct you into their army of negativity. Smile, try a little kindness and march away.

And I’ll be honest, none of these suggestions are a cure all. Erasing negativity is going to be a life-long process. However, the more you practice the steps to overcome your negative tendencies, the easier it will be to let the magic of happiness into your life. In the meantime, hang out with positive folks as much as possible and gird your loins for the unavoidable family get togethers when they do come up.

To sum things up, when friends or family members push those buttons this holiday season, respond with kindness, a request for help, and a little compassion. Aunt Agnes may act like a nasty old bitty, but isn’t there something she did or does that deserves a compliment? The truth is, a hefty serving of kindness is most needed by those who don’t have any to give. So this Thanksgiving, be kind, be thankful for the blessings you have, and pray that more people will learn from your gracious example.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why Erase Negativity?

I remember a friend had a bumper sticker that said: Life Sucks and Then You Die. It still makes me cringe to think of it.

Certainly I’ve spent more than my fair share of time grousing about any number of things. But I’m a realist. Being grumpy, pessimistic and cynical did not work for me.

My methods and observations weren’t exactly brain surgery. It was a simple experiment. I tried the pessimistic route and observed the results. Actually, it wasn’t an experiment, that’s just how I chose to live my life for about 35 years. Then I got hooked reading self help books. I always thought it was funny that I needed to ask a sales clerk where the self help section was located. Hey it’s self help, shouldn’t I be able to find it by myself? But I digress. I read the books and tried to live my life accordingly. My change in outlook did not happen over night. But little by little I did develop a more optimistic mindset and I’m a lot happier.

This would be the end of the story except I want to help other people discover what I learned – maybe with a few shortcuts along the way. So, my friend Jackie and I wrote a book. It’s called Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. It isn’t out yet, but it will be soon. In the meantime, we want to offer a few tips and suggestions so we can do our part to help create a happier world. Of course we hope you’ll buy the book when it does come out. We’re nice people, but we still need to eat.

So here is our first message.

It is impossible to go through life without encountering difficulties. From our first cry to our last breath, the human experience involves a series of struggles. While encountering challenges is an inherent part of life, it is not so much the problems, but the attitude one takes while facing these difficulties that shapes how we view the world.

It would make sense that an energetic and optimistic approach to life would produce better results, but that is easier said than done. An infant who is lovingly welcomed into a kind and caring family is more likely to receive positive messages than a baby who is born into a home where the environment is critical and angry. While there may be exceptions, by and large, we are the sum of our experiences, and generally this is the determining factor of whether we develop a positive or negative mindset.

If it were simply a matter of flipping a switch to receive a positive or negative attitude, most of us would opt for former. Unfortunately, many of us grew up in a negative environment, or suffered physical or emotional trauma that tainted our outlook. Bit by bit, negativity became our way of coping with life. Many pessimistic individuals claim that while a negative outlook may provide fewer positive results, it also protects them from disappointment. Unfortunately, negativity is more like a cancer than a protective shield. It starts small, and may seem innocent enough at first, but if not kept in check the negative mindset can spread and wreck havoc in all aspects of our lives.

“I’m not negative,” you may say to yourself (or out loud). “I’m just being realistic.” Maybe so, but, if that “realistic” approach has resulted in some depressing results and evolved into a downright unhappy life, perhaps it’s time to consider a new, happier perspective.

That is what Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within is all about. It’s a simple guide to recognize and diffuse negative behavior and replace it with a positive approach. No one is born negative, it is an acquired habit. Whether you were raised in a negative household, or acquired a downbeat demeanor after a lifetime of disappointments, it was a habit you learned. Perhaps your realistic approach (the one your friends and family call negative) has been a shield against the worst of life. After all, if one prepares and expects the worst, it will reduce the painful effect that most assuredly will follow. Unfortunately, this approach comes with some depressing results – a disapproving mindset, negative results and an unhappy life.

On the contrary, much has been written about the power of optimism, the simplicity of law of attraction (like attracts like) and how positive thoughts, actions and deeds produce positive outcomes. It sounds good in theory. You may even believe it’s true. But putting it into practice is another story.

That is why Erase Negativity was written. Who better than a couple of former naysayers to provide a practical guide to help clean out the negativity in one’s life and adopt a more positive way of living? If negativity is learned, than erasing it and replacing it with a constructive and affirmative life pattern can be learned as well.

The approach to erasing negativity is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Like anything worth having in life, it is going to take work. However, if you read our suggestions, follow the exercises, vow to never give up on yourself and stay with the program long enough to see it really start to work, you will see positive change in your life. So, if you’re ready for a change, please continue checking out the blog, consider some of the books we suggest and find out how you can Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.

And when our book comes out, please buy a copy or two or 300. And don’t forget to tell all your friends.

Peace and Love,

Sally and Jackie