Highway to Happiness – 12 Tips to Driving Safely This Season

Not as catchy as The Twelve Days of Christmas, but… It’s a busy month, so I’m trying to be extra diligent about keeping my posts short and relevant.  This holiday season typically involves a LOT of traveling.  I’m here to help keep the middle fingers on the wheel.  I want to keep you, and everyone else on the road with you, safe and happy.  Here are my Top 12 tips:

  1. Plan extra travel time.  This is the most important tip.  This one step alone prevents road rage AND reckless driving.
  2. DO NOT travel in the left lane (aka: passing lane) if you aren’t, in fact, passing anyone.  Some drivers will weave in and out of traffic to get where they’re going more quickly.  You’ll keep yourself, and everyone else, safer, if you give faster drivers a straighter path.  Let the “Staties” take care of them.
  3. Be cautious when washing your windows when there are cars behind you.  This creates a domino-effect of drivers being momentarily hindered while driving.
  4. Be patient with travelers (damn foreigners!).  Honking a horn at a traveler uncertain of where to turn does NOT improve the situation.  We’ve all been that person.  Be nice!
  5. Use your blinker/directional.  Letting others know your intent keeps everyone informed, and therefore safer.
  6. Don’t drive when you’re sleepy.  This is incredibly dangerous.  Pull over and nap for 20-30 minutes.  This is usually enough to recharge you.
  7. Don’t use cruise control on wet surfaces.  There is a greater likelihood of hydroplaning when doing so.
  8. Wear your seatbelt and make sure your passengers do too.
  9. Check for (and correct) any brake or blinker light issues.  It is incredibly dangerous to follow a person with perpetually lit brake lights or no lights at all.
  10. Have a map as a back-up.  GPS isn’t always 100% accurate.
  11. Plan your route – know the tolls (if any) so you can have money ready.
  12. There are enough A**holes on the road…don’t feel obligated to join that group.

Just remember your destination.  We all just want to get where we’re goin to see the people we’re lovin’.

Safe travels readers!!  Comment below with any tips you have to keep travelers safe!!

Merry Christmas v. Happy Holiday’s

This debate has reached ‘Black Friday at Walmart’ proportions!!  I have just one question:  What the hell is wrong with people???  I don’t think “inclusiveness” has incited such chaos since African-Americans, Women and Same Sex Marriage supporters have demanded equality!!

I consider myself a Christian, and as such, celebrate Christmas.  I also consider myself a loving human being, and as such, appreciate and respect those incredibly wonderful people who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Nothing.

Most of the people I know celebrate Christmas, but many do not.  Out of respect for those who do not, I will use the “Happy Holiday’s” expression or the one specific to their beliefs.  If I KNOW someone else celebrates Christmas, I will wish them a Merry, but if I’m uncertain, I will wish them Happy Holiday’s.

Does being inclusive have the potential to make others feel discounted?  If there were only a few females in a male dominated field, and a guest speaker, aware of this, addressed the group as “gentlemen”, would that be rude?  Ya think??  If the speaker instead addressed the audience as “ladies and gentlemen” would the men feel slighted?  Only if they’re idiots.

I know this is a touchy subject, but to be honest, I’m just not clear why!  I have no personal objection to people saying Merry Christmas or any other holiday-specific phrase.  What irritates me is how ANGRY people are about the whole topic.  Should someone really be saying Merry Christmas with spite on their tongue?  Doesn’t that contradict the teachings of Jesus?

There are so many more important topics, in my humble opinion, to debate on.  Why would people want to waste such energy, so negatively, on a season that is supposed to be about loving and appreciating others?  There’s room for all of our holidays.  Let’s spread cheer, not hate.

Comment below and feel free to disagree…but one rule…you MUST share one tradition, based in love, that you enjoy partaking in during the holiday season.  (Happy Holiday’s Readers!) 🙂

When ‘It’s All About Me’ Isn’t a Bad Thing

It’s tough being you, isn’t it?  Think for a moment of all the people who rely on you:  Partners, kids, parents, siblings, bosses, co-workers, customers, clients, friends, family and neighbors.  Did I miss anyone?  Are you sure?? I didn’t miss ANYONE???  What about YOU? Do you rely on yourself?  Of course you do!  But how often do you take action on something that serves only you?

Would you run a marathon without preparing your body for it with proper nutrition and exercise? Of course not, yet, isn’t this what you do in life?  You serve all these people, subsisting on caffeine, skipped meals (or fast food if you’re lucky), and minimal sleep.

The word “Selfish” has really been dragged through the mud.  Its connotation is always negative.  Yet, what are you advised to do in an emergency landing of an airplane?  That’s right…place your oxygen mask on BEFORE assisting others.  Nobody is holding up the “Selfish” sign then; they’re too busy getting oxygen!

Giving is important.  Helping others is crucial to feeling contributory.  But you can’t run this marathon of good will if you aren’t taking care of yourself.  This means doing things that directly support you and your well-being.   There are some rules though:

  1. Schedule It – You have to make it part of your day. Every day. Some days it may only be 15 minutes, but do not skip it.
  2. Give Yourself Permission – You can’t waiver on this.  We all have those ‘bottom feeders’ in our Pond of Life, who will take and take and take.  You have to stand up for yourself despite the complaints of these scavengers.
  3. Communicate – Those around you need to know when “You Time” is.  This way they know you are not to be interrupted, barring an absolute emergency.  If that 30 minute bubble bath is your time, make sure your housemates know to keep out.
  4. Don’t Justify – Finally, don’t feel like you need to justify this time to every person in your life.  Sharing this information should be on a “need to know” basis.  A simple, “I’m sorry, I’m not available then…” will suffice.

Energy is like a muscle.  In Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s book, “The Power of Full Engagement”, they liken energy, and the need to recharge, to physical muscles.  Overuse of a muscle without allowing enough time for recovery results in soreness, swelling and potential injury.  The same is true with the energy you expend serving others.  Without recharging, you are risking your own health and well-being.

So whether your selfish recharging is 30 minutes of reading, a night out with friends, cooking with the family or a 3 day weekend alone in a cabin, just own it.  C’mon…all those people are relying on you to be your BEST you…they deserve your best, but more importantly, YOU deserve your best. Comment below how you like to recharge and spend your You Time.

Santa Is Watching You Too

With the holiday’s approaching, we all have a tendency to get a little, ummm, hmmm, well….bitchy.  This means not only do we get a little snappy with the ones we love, but we also get less tolerant of people who irritate us in some way.

And let’s face it: there are a lot of people with the propensity to irritate us.  Like the clerk at the grocery store who can’t properly explain why an item rang up wrong.  Or the sales associate who explains that the item you purchased was NOT part of the advertised sale.  How about that dumbass in the passing lane doing 60mph?  The co-worker with coffee breath who likes to talk up-close and personal?

We all have peeves that hit our “bitch-button” like a kid playing whack-a-mole.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we need to act on our impulse to lash out.  When we are distracted and overwhelmed, (common holiday emotions), we forget that people, ALL people, have feelings; battles; struggles.

Here are some tips to keep your Grinch at bay this season:

  • Plan shopping trips ahead of time and bring a list.
  • Expect to only get half of what you hope to during each shopping trip.
  • Purchase as much as you can online.
  • Create a Holiday Planning Calendar and schedule each task (decorating, shopping, cooking, baking, invites, etc.). (check out http://www.wincalendar.com/2013-Word-Calendar.htm)
  • When interacting with others, ask yourself what you could do to make their day better.
  • Eat healthy before you start your tasks, and bring snacks on every shopping trip.
  • Know a friend, neighbor or co-worker that celebrates the holiday’s differently from you?  Learn more about it and make a gesture that honors their traditions and beliefs.
  • Smile.  Even if through bared teeth.

Regardless of which holiday (if any) you celebrate between now and January, be the best version of you.  You’re being watched: By Santa, by the Elf on the Shelf, by God, by Karma or maybe just by that little kid who’s watching how you treat others.  Be kind and considerate, even when it’s hard.  Almost anyone can be kind and considerate when it’s easy.  Don’t judge, don’t hate…you’re better than that.

You know the drill…comment below with your thoughts and any tips YOU have to keeping your ‘crazy tucked in’ this holiday season.  Then get started on that calendar!!

Who’s in Your Circle of Influence?

“You are judged by the company you keep.”  I recall hearing that old adage frequently when I was growing up.  And while there’s certainly truth to it, I think it is also true that you are influenced by the company you keep.

In fact, one study, headed by Rose McDermott of Brown University, found that participants of the research were 75% more likely to become divorced if a friend was divorced and 33% more likely to end their marriage if a friend of a friend was divorced. (Read the full article here: http://fowler.ucsd.edu/social_network_effects_on_divorce.pdf)

Numerous other research has continually supported this “contagion” theory in other behaviors as well, like obesity, sexual behavior, and pregnancy, just to name a few.

Considering these findings, might there be benefits to this influence as well?  What would happen if we surrounded ourselves with people who had attributes we wanted to cultivate for ourselves? For example, I have selected those in my innermost circle very carefully.  These are people I admire.  Often, these people have strengths in areas I’m trying to improve in myself.

We all have aspects of our personalities that can dim our greatness. By surrounding myself with people who embody the greatness I’m in search of, I am putting myself in the ‘contagion space’.  I observe them, I’ll ask questions, and then I’ll try to emulate those characteristics in a way that fits with who I am and who I’m striving to be.

There are also great public figures that can serve this purpose for you.  Who do you admire? Check out their websites, books, videos and podcasts.

Take a moment to write down 3 aspects of your personality you’d like to improve on.  Really write them down (we talked about this last week, remember?)  Now who do you know, or know of, that could help you improve in this area?

It’s never too late to become the person you were meant to be!   Who do you admire?  What have you learned from this person? Tell me in the comments section below.

If you would like to partner up and work on living a life by design, then an Empowerment Session is for you! Take advantage of the complimentary strategy session!

If you’d like special offers, updates, and insider-only goodies, SUBSCRIBE to be a VIP! (It’s free and I won’t blow up your in-box!)

email April@AuthenticLifeChronicles.com 

5 EASY Steps to Achieving Your Goals

Goals.  We all have them.  Things we’d like to do or accomplish or have.  We think of them regularly.  Perhaps daydream about what it would look like if they actually happened.  We talk about them to others.  We write them down….oh, wait.  Well, we don’t “write them down” exactly, but we know what they are.

So what’s your goal.  The first one that comes to mind.  Mmmm hmmmm, I see.  And how long have you had this goal?  1 year? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? MORE???  I understand.  It’s just life has been busy, right?  Kids, relationships, careers, parents.  Sure, I get it.  But someday.  Once life settles down a bit…

See where I’m going with this?  Thinking about it is not enough; fantasizing about it is not enough; dreaming about it is not enough.  You need to BE about it.  Make it happen.  ACT on it.

It’s not a GOAL if you aren’t acting on it.  It’s a thought.  And we have about a kazillion of those a day.  Regardless of whether your goal is to get a better job, house, body or relationship, it isn’t going to happen if you don’t start putting more energy into making it happen.

 

STEP #1 – This is both the hardest and the easiest step: Write it down.  Specifically.  With a reasonable deadline.  By reasonable I mean not overly optimistic, but still a little aggressive.

STEP #2 – Now that you wrote down the Goal, write down all the steps that have to be taken towards achieving it.  So, for example, if you’d like a nicer home, list all of the tasks you have to complete to prepare your current home for sale.  If you’re looking to get in shape and lose 20 pounds, you might list tasks such as: eliminate all tempting goodies from the cabinets, get a gym membership, etc.

STEP #3 – Create a calendar and mark check-in dates and what you should have accomplished by that point.  So again, if you’re looking to purchase a nicer home and your Goal Accomplished date is one year from now, you could do a check-in date on the 1st of every month with a list of tasks you should have completed by that point.  This will keep you on track and allow you to pat yourself on the back at each milestone.

STEP #4 – Get Going! Start taking action on your plans.  And DON’T fall into the “I’m being patient” trap.  Patience, when exercised properly, is still action.  It’s slowing or pulling back, strategizing and planning, not shutting down all cylinders.  Start accomplishing the tasks and milestones.  Skip that TV show and do some research, create a Visual Board with pictures that motivate you to achieve this Goal. (You can do this through Pinterest and Polyvore, just Google them.)

STEP #5 – Post your goal all over the place.  Make it the screen saver on your smart phone, I-Pad, Laptop, Desktop.  Put it in your car, in your frig, in your medicine cabinet, in your desk drawer and anywhere else you can think of.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!!! This step will be what gets you through the process when the initial excitement wears off.  Publicize your intent with anyone that will listen.  Use the people in your life to help you achieve it.  NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR GOAL! (I’m not yelling so much as speaking with excitement!)

I will leave you with a great quote:

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”  -Napoleon Hill 

Now tell me in the comments section…what is your goal?

Five Things You Can Do to Make ‘Gratitude’ a Verb

Gratitude – (noun) – the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.  Look, I’m no Merriam-Webster, but I think there’s an error.  I don’t think Gratitude is ONLY a noun.  I think it’s also a verb.  I prefer to live in gratitude by taking action.  In my humble opinion, so should you.

Today’s post is a perfect segue from last week’s Victim topic.  One way to keep yourself off of the Victim Playground is to regularly remind yourself all that you have to be thankful for.  Of course this includes health, family, friends, income, etc.  But don’t limit yourself to just these BIG blessings.  There are tons of little things, which you can find every day, to be grateful for.  Here are my Top 5 Ways to make gratitude a verb:

1 – Every day, write down those things you are grateful for.  Making a list, putting your thoughts into some sort of record, really cements the emotion of gratitude in various areas of the brain.  And by writing or recording your thoughts, you have just verbed!!

2 – Find the silver lining in every cloud.  Just the other day, after filling up my tank, my car wouldn’t start.  To make matters worse, I was embarrassed to be blocking a gas pump.  I called AAA for a tow and after learning where I was, the operator asked if I was blocking a pump.  My “yes” reply expedited my wait time for the towing company.  20 minutes later, my angel in overalls arrived, replaced my battery and sent me on my merry way.  I said out loud, “Thank you for not starting while I was blocking a gas pump.”  Speaking = verbing

3 – Be present.  With all the technology at our fingertips, we can forget to just seize the moment.  I have connected with some awesome people that I hope to keep in my life forever now.  Had I not been paying attention and hearing their story, I would have missed the depth of their personalities, and have less to be grateful for in simply knowing them. BEING is a verb.  BE present.

4 – Tell someone what they mean to you.  Are you tickled pink to have a certain someone in your life?  Tell them.  Express your gratitude to them.  It doesn’t need to be FOR any reason, other than they add value to your life.  Telling is a verb (as is making someone feel good!).

5 – Be what someone else is grateful for.  What contributions are you making?  Do you make others smile?  Do you go out of your way to make others feel good?  Live in a way that makes others think, “I’m so glad to know  ___________ (insert your name here) .  My life is better for knowing her/him.  The actions you take to be that for others, is clearly a verb!!

There are plenty of bad and disappointing things to focus on in life.  Ruminating on these does little to incite change and quite frankly is more likely to weigh you down.  Instead, add some positivity to your life by reflecting on all the little things that go right.  There are plenty.  I promise.

So, what are you grateful for?  Tell me, and all the readers, in the comments section below.  Oh, and just so you know, I’m truly grateful for you and the time you took to read this post.  Really.  Truly. Grateful.

Tell Me How You Earned that Victim Badge (Said No One Ever)

You got screwed again, huh?  Ripped off? Robbed? Wronged? Overlooked? What the freak? Why do these things always happen to you? You haven’t done anything to cause them.  What else could go wrong?

We all wrap this Victim Snuggie around us from time to time, with a big ol’ carton of ice cream and a Lifetime movie on.  That’s alright…occasionally!!  It’s when we choose to wear the Victim Badge that will have people sprinting as if at a Bull Run.  The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome.  Coincidentally, that’s also the prerequisite for wearing the Victim Badge.

I always cringe when I hear, “What else could go wrong?”  I mean, if I were the Universe, I would see that as a challenge too!  There are true victims out there, people who are wronged through no fault or contribution of their own.  Then there are the rest of us.

In every interaction and exchange you have with others, you are contributing something.  If the “same stuff” keeps happening over and over again, you need to look at the common denominator…that’s you my friend.  Of course you can look at the world as if there are villains out there whose job it is to mess things up for you; or you can see what adjustments you can make to start changing the outcomes.

For instance, you cook, you clean, you taxi, you organize, etc. etc.  You may find yourself frequently complaining, “nobody appreciates all that I do around here”.   That may be true, but remove that badge and TELL them all that you do and HOW you want them to show appreciation.  If it’s become too overwhelming for you, divvy up the duties.  However, if you enjoy doing these things, but would appreciate some “thank you’s”, than say so.

Another example might be that you don’t feel like anyone listens to you.  Ask yourself how you could be contributing to that.  Record yourself having a conversation.  Then listen back.  What are you saying? Are you being negative or whiny? Are you using “I”, “me”, and “my” throughout?

Do you find yourself in the same types of relationships?  Do you pick partners that ultimately disappoint you?  Time to look within.  Find the similarities between these relationships (how they began, what attracted you to them, how they began to decline, how they ended) and start looking at what you could do differently.

I understand that wearing that Victim Badge likely makes a person feel highly significant.  The more struggles they’ve faced, the more times they’ve survived after being wronged is supposed to show how brave and strong they are, right?  Not so much.

The Badge Wearing Victims tend to provide an accounting of every bad thing that has happened to them.  This is often communicated through the alternate use of sarcasm and bewilderment.  They don’t typically share how they overcame issues and got out of their own way (likely because they haven’t).

So take off that Victim Badge and replace it with a Badge of Victory.  Life wasn’t meant to just be survived, it was meant to be conquered!! Then ask the Universe, “What else could go right today?”  I’m betting the universe will see that as a challenge as well!

I’d love your comments below!!

If you would like to partner up and work on living a life by design, then an Empowerment Session is for you! Take advantage of the complimentary strategy session!

If you’d like special offers, updates, and insider-only goodies, SUBSCRIBE to be a VIP! (It’s free and I won’t blow up your in-box!)

email April@AuthenticLifeChronicles.com 

 

6 Tips to Breathing Life Into Your Work/Life Balance

Scales.  We hate them.  Our efforts never seem to be reflected in the numbers, am I right?  This isn’t true only in our bathroom scales, but often in our ‘work/life’ scales as well.  Now visualize a scale with one side ‘work’ and the other side ‘life’?  Which one is heavier?  No really, think about it.  Unless you work a second paid job, I’m willing to bet the “life” side is heavier.

Let’s break this down:  We all have the same 168 hours per week.  No one gets more.

168 hrs/week
– 45 hrs/week paid work time
– 49 hrs/week sleep time (7hrs/night)

74 hrs/week “life” time

That averages out to about 10 hours each day!

What are you doing with those 74 hours?  Yes, there are many tasks we must take care of, but are you allowing enough quality time to truly enjoy and appreciate this gift of life you’ve been given?

Here are 6 tips to better balance the “Life” side of the scale:

1 – DELEGATE – Yes, sometimes you have to put that Super Hero cape on and git ‘er done.  But not evveryy time.  There are people around you who would be happy to help you.  Your partner, family, friends, neighbors, etc.  Maybe that’s sharing ride responsibilities with another parent or giving the kids some responsibilities around the house like yard work, laundry, dishes, etc.

2 – OUTSOURCE – The average price for a thorough house cleaning is about $125.  Even if you only used this service once a month you could eliminate or lessen some of those time-consuming tasks.  See if your local dry cleaners do laundry pick-up and delivery.  Look into hiring landscapers, painters, professional shoppers, etc.  Yes, we’re all looking to save a buck where we can, but at what expense?

3 – BUDGET –If you don’t pay attention to how much money is coming in and how much is going out, what is likely to happen?  Bounced checks, declined credit cards, additional debt.  The same is true with your time.  The result is loss of sleep, unhealthy food choices, non-quality time.  Make a plan for the week and do your best to stick to it.  Make sure to include all the activities you want to enjoy (working out, traveling, education) and quality time activities like family meals, date night and reading together.

4 – PLAN AHEAD – Maybe that’s making a week’s worth of meals on Sunday’s.  Maybe that’s scheduling time to do absolutely whatever you want to do!!  This could be the hour the kids are at soccer or the hour between meetings.  You can read, workout, nap, shop, meditate or get your groove on…whatever.

5 – GET CREATIVE – Are there personal tasks you could do at work?  Does your company have a laundry service where you could drop your laundry off and pick it up at work?  Do you have work-from-home options so you can occasionally multi-task at home?  Check out your local chamber of commerce to see what new businesses have opened in your area that could take something off your plate.  They often offer deep discounts to new customers.

6 – JUST SAY NO – We all want to be Super Parents, Super Partners, Super Friends, but we can’t do it all, all of the time.  Can you really be the Full-time employee, PTO President, food bank volunteer, football team rep, sexy partner, home repair person AND best friend?  Does your kid really need to play a team sport, take dance, play an instrument, be on the student council, chess club and the honor roll?  Learn to say, “I’d love to, but I’m stretched too thin right now.”

There are moments in our lives when we just have to suck it up and make some sacrifices of our time.  But that should be the exception, not the rule.

Don’t let circumstances determine how you live your life…that’s your job.

What tips do you have that help you stay balanced?  What aspects of your life tie you down?  Share in the comments below.

Finding the Great and Powerful Oz Within

I recently asked my readers to tell me what topics they would like me to blog about this month.  There were a surprising number who asked to learn more about meditation. There are hundreds of sites and articles on the topic, but I wanted to find ways to overcome the common obstacles, like not having enough time and/or not having a quiet place.  Fear not, because I learned A LOT and you will too!

What:  Meditation is a focused effort to quiet the jumble of thoughts in our mind.

Why:  The main purpose of meditating is to insert some calm into your day.  Settle down your mind for a bit.  We could all use a little of that, right?

How: While most of us conjure up sitting cross legged in a quiet room, you may be surprised to learn that there are many ways to meditate.  My favorite compilation of options came from the Mayo Clinic:

  •  Guided meditation. Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, with this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
  • Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. You broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment.
  • Qi gong. This practice generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Tai chi. This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-chee), you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
  • Transcendental meditation. You use a mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase repeatedly silently, to narrow your conscious awareness and eliminate all thoughts from your mind. You focus exclusively on your mantra to achieve a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.
  • Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you’re encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.

Where:  If you can find a quiet room where you are certain you won’t be interrupted, great.  But don’t rule out meditation if that’s not the case.  You can practice some forms of meditation in your car or in a meeting room at work (with a do not disturb sign on the door if necessary).  You can also meditate while out on a walk or sitting in a quiet corner of your yard.

When:  Meditate as often as you can.  Don’t worry about “rules”!  If twice a day is an option, great.  If twice a week is all you can muster, that’s fine.  Also, you don’t need an hour to meditate.  That’s something you could certainly work towards if you wish, but there are fantastic guided meditation recordings that average only 3-10 minutes.

Here are my favorite sites on the subject:

Sure, we all want to find that Great and Powerful Oz within, but we are so busy putting out all the external fires of our life, that we neglect this man (or woman) behind the curtain.  Don’t you deserve a little self-love?  You bet you do!  Meditate on that!!

Have some tips that make meditating enjoyable for you?  Did you try one of the techniques listed?  Share your results.  Either way, I’d love your comments!