Happy 2017 – A Year for Cultivating Gratitude

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
― Thornton Wilder

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Happy New Year! I think the general consensus is that 2016 was a rough year for most people, on so many levels.  But in this post I don’t want to focus on politics or difficulties, but instead on cultivating gratitude. A new year is the perfect time to be cultivating gratitude and a renewed focus on what you appreciate. And 2017 is in particular a great place to start because from a numerological perspective, 2017 is a “one” year. (In short: 2+0+1+7 = 10 = 1+0 = 1.) Numerology looks at time in nine-year cycles, in which a “one” year begins a new nine-year cycle of creativity, learning and growth. It is a time of intentions and planning for the next phase. The intentions and foundations you build in 2017 can help shape the upcoming years. A “one” year is the perfect time to set intentions and goals for yourself.  It’s an important year to take time for yourself and clarify the direction you want to travel. And a perfect time to focus on gratitude for what you have.  My new years message talks about this and about the importance of silence in your routine. You can read more about that here in my newsletter.  And if you want to read more about the science of silence, you can read about that in my article in Thrive.

Cultivating gratitude is so important as we enter 2017.  Psychology Today defines the benefits of gratitude as:

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.

Another good reason to cultivate gratitude is:

“Your experience of life is not based on your life, but what you pay attention to.”

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And when you pay attention to what you are grateful for, that becomes your experience. It becomes your experience that life is good and full and wonderful.

I have often quoted Melody Beattie here but it is so appropriate, I have to do it again.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

 

In Japanese Psychology, on a wonderful site, The ToDo Institute,  seven principals for cultivating gratitude are given:

  1. Gratitude is independent of our objective life circumstances
  2. Gratitude is a function of attention
  3. Entitlement precludes gratitude
  4. We often take for granted that which we receive on a regular basis
  5. Gratitude can be cultivated through sincere self-reflection
  6. Expressing gratitude, through words and deeds, enhances our experience of gratitude
  7. Our deepest sense of gratitude comes through grace, with the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve all that we’ve been given.

If you are looking for a way to focus on gratitude as 2017 unfolds, I suggest getting a ‘Gratitude Journal’ – and start by just writing down 3 things you are grateful for every morning before you even get out of bed. And if that feels too hard, then just think of 3 things you are grateful for before you get up. That’s a great start!

If you are feeling more ambitious, I can suggest a wonderful course on Daily Om! It’s a new course I have authored and it’s available here.  The course is offered with the option of selecting how much you want to pay. No matter how much you pay, you’ll be getting the same course as everybody else. Daily Om believes that people are honest and will support the course with whatever they can afford. And if you are not 100% satisfied, they will refund your money.  So what have you got to lose? It’s a great way to start the year.

I’ll close with a YouTube clip describing the course so you can get a better idea of what it is about.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you cultivate gratitude and it’s impact on you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

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What motivates us at work?

“It seems that most of us thrive by feeling a sense of purpose. ”

– Dan Ariely


What motivates us at work?  What is it that drives us? Many people believe it is how much money you make.  But that didn’t make sense to me, there are too many other factors involved. Then I saw this quote by Dan ArielyIt seems that most of us thrive by feeling a sense of purpose. And I thought – yes that’s it.

And an experience last week at my work – Figjam Workshops – illustrated that beautifully.  Last week, my business partner Deb and I finished facilitating a 5 week Creative Empowerment Workshop for a group.  And during the closing circle, one of the participants said that during the workshop he had an epiphany, and that the workshop had changed his life!  Needless to say, Deb and I were in tears, and we looked at each other and both felt it – This is why we do this work!

It’s not for the money! Working for a charitable trust will never make us rich, as a matter of fact, by the end of the year when funding has run out, we usually find ourselves working several weeks for no pay at all.  We do the work because we love it.  And we love it because we feel an incredible sense of purpose.

Dan Ariely, professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, has this to say about motivation at work:

“So when we think about labor, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it — meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride, etc. And the good news is that if we added all of those components and thought about them, how do we create our own meaning, pride, motivation, and how do we do it in our workplace and for the employees, I think we could get people to both be more productive and happier.”

In this stimulating and entertaining talk, Dan Ariely explains What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?

 

 

I’d love to hear about what makes you feel good about your work.  And as always, thank you for visiting, I appreciate it.

Beliefs – Limiting or Empowering?

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny”

– Mahatma Gandhi


Are your beliefs limiting or empowering? Does your belief system enhance your life or constrict it? One way or the other, our beliefs drive our life. Because as Gandhi points out, our beliefs become our thoughts, and eventually our destiny.  But how do we really know what beliefs are driving us?  I was first introduced to the impact of my limiting beliefs when I did the Silva Method Course. We explored this concept by doing a very simple exercise, which I invite you all to do now. Get a pen and paper and write down the very first thing that pops into your head when you read the following phrases – don’t think about it, don’t edit, just write the very first word that comes to your mind:

  1. Life is . . . 
  2. Money is . . .
  3. Making money is . . .
  4. Time is . . .
  5. My health is . . .
  6. My body is . . .
  7. My love life is . . .
  8. I deserve . . .
  9. There is always too much . . .
  10. There is never enough . . .

OK, hopefully you have been totally honest and written down the first thing that came into your head.  Now look at it – what beliefs are driving your life?  Where did you get those beliefs? Louise Thompson talks a lot about beliefs and how they drive your life on her blog, Positive Balance.  She puts it simply:

“If at some deep level you believe there will never be enough: you are exactly right, and there never will be. If you believe deep down that life is hard then you will have a hard life. If you believe in miracles you will see miracles everywhere. If you believe life is a struggle then struggle you will.”

Most limiting beliefs come from childhood.  Either our parents or our teachers said something about life or about us and we accepted it completely.  And very possibly, we had many experiences as we grew up that “proved” that belief to be true.  But those beliefs do not have to continue to limit us.  We can choose to change limiting beliefs, but the first step is identifying them (thus the simple exercise above.)  There are literally thousands of sites that talk about eliminating  limiting beliefs, but they all agree that the first step has to be identifying what they are.

On the flip side is embracing empowering beliefs.  And to close I want to share a wonderful TED Talk by an amazing woman named Caroline Casey. Visit her blog, Kanchi, it is inspirational! Caroline Casey is a walking example of empowering beliefs.

“It’s extraordinaryhow far belief can take you . . . when you really believe in yourself and everything about you, it’s extraordinary what happens . . . being absolutely true to yourself is freedom.”

Please take the time to explore your own belief systems – and then take the time to watch this woman who can help us all embrace more empowering beliefs about ourselves.

 

 

I’d love to hear about your beliefs – are they limiting or empowering?  Do they make you happier or bring you down?  And as always, thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

If you cannot see anything beautiful about yourself – get a better mirror . . .

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

– Dalai Lama


I still have tears in my eyes as I write this – having just read an article about another teen in NZ who committed suicide due to bullying.  The suicide rate among young males in New Zealand is the highest in the OECD.  It’s appalling! Where is the compassion? Is compassion among young people diminishing?  Can it be brought back?  Can it be taught? Some say that compassion cannot be taught, but I believe it can.  Recent studies seem to suggest that it can.

At the University of Virginia, Compassionate Care and Empathic Leadership Initiative — a lengthy, fancy name for a simple, purposeful way to teach kindness, usher resilience and nurture compassion — is seeding change in fertile ground.

It appears that compassion can be taught, according to an article in Huffington Post.

Voluteerism can lead to compassion, and educational institutions are a central pillar in fostering volunteerism among youth. Indeed, it appears that compassion can be taught, which means that today’s educational institutions carry greater social responsibility than ever.

Please take the time to watch this amazing video by a young man who was bullied.  Shane Koyczan took his pain and created something mesmerizing.

To This Day,” is his spoken-word poem about bullying.

 

 

I’d love to hear what you thought about this YouTube video.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

What makes life worthwhile?

“Why are we so obsessed and focused with Gross Domestic Product? Why don’t we care more about Gross National Happiness?”

– King Jigme Singye Wangchuck


My birthday is tomorrow, I will turn 55 years old.  I was thinking about when I was my sons’ ages, 16 and 19.  I used to think anyone over 50 was ancient.  I couldn’t imagine even living that long. But now, at that ancient age, instead of thinking about how long I’m going to live, I am thinking about how I live.  What makes life worth living? What makes life worthwhile?  What is it that people pursue and long for?  And for me, the only answer is happiness and love. It sounds trite, but for me it is the truth.

I was at my friend Jan’s daughter’s wedding this past weekend.  It was a wonderful celebration, an event that had taken over a year to plan and organize.  It was heart-warming to be a part of such a celebration of love.  Because to me, those milestones are the keys to what makes life worthwhile, being surrounded by friends and family.

I was at my happiest recently in Borneo.  Not because I was in Borneo per se, but because I was surrounded by my family – with my sister and my neice, my husband and my sons. Being in Borneo was cool, don’t get me wrong.  I loved the travel – it was fun and an adventure.  But the bottom line was the love I felt being there with the people I love.  Had I just been travelling in Borneo alone, it would have been fun and interesting, but it wouldn’t have been what makes life worthwhile for me.

I want to close with an interesting TED Talk by Chip Conley asking us all to think about What Makes Life Worthwhile?

 

 

I’d love to hear about what makes your life worthwhile?  And are you spending your time pursuing that which makes you happiest?  As always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

Keeping things in perspective . . .

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

– Maya Angelou


My son Devin shared this with me today.  Thank you Devin – it took my breath away!

There is nothing I can add to what Carl Sagan explains so eloquently and the video shows us so incredibly beautifully.  As Mr. Sagan puts it:

“To me it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

 

Please take the time to watch this, it is truly inspiring and spectacular.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of Carl Sagan’s short clip.  And as always, thank you for visiting, I appreciate it.

Here’s to aging with adventure!

“It happens fast for some people and slow for some, accidents or gravity, but we all end up mutilated. Most women know this feeling of being more and more invisible everyday.”

– Chuck Palahniuk


I have to admit, it always surprises me a bit when people comment on my blog, or when people who know me and read my blog, stop me on the street to comment. I guess sitting here typing feels a bit like I’m in a vacuum, and then getting the affirmation that there are actually people out there reading this – well it’s a bit startling.

At any rate, my last post on aging seemed to have resonated with quite a few people, so I decided to continue my research.  And I was glad I did, because I came upon this wonderfully inspirational talk by Jane Fonda, entitled Life’s Third Act.  In this talk, Ms. Fonda uses the analogy of life as a staircase:

“I have come to find that a more appropriate metaphor for aging is a staircase – the upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness and authenticity.  Age not at all as pathology; age as potential.”

I love that – Age not as pathology, but as potential.  
That was what I heard from the women and men who commented on my last post, either in person or on the site. That people, as they are aging, are tending toward emabracing life even more.

I also loved her reference to neuroplasticity:

“Perhaps the central purpose of the third actis to go back and to try, if appropriate,to change our relationship to the past. It turns out that cognitive research shows when we are able to do this, it manifests neurologically – neural pathways are created in the brain. You see, if you have, over time, reacted negatively to past events and people, neural pathways are laid down by chemical and electrical signals that are sent through the brain. And over time, these neural pathways become hardwired, they become the norm – even if it’s bad for us because it causes us stress and anxiety.

If however, we can go back and alter our relationship, re-vision our relationship to past people and events, neural pathways can change. And if we can maintain the more positive feelings about the past, that becomes the new norm. It’s like resetting a thermostat. It’s not having experiences that make us wise, it’s reflecting on the experiences that we’ve had that makes us wise – and that helps us become whole, brings wisdom and authenticity. It helps us become what we might have been.”

I circle back now to Chuck Palahniuk’s quote: Most women know this feeling of being more and more invisible everyday. This feeling is deeply explored in my book: A Woman’s Guite to Transformation- perhaps it’s central theme.  So that quote resonates deeply for me.  But if as we age, we can redefine ourselves and our relationships, imagine the liberation!

“Women start off whole, don’t we? We are the subjects of our own lives. But very often, many, if not most of us, when we hit puberty, we start worrying about fitting in and being popular. And we become the subjects and objects of other people’s lives. But now, in our third acts, it may be possible for us to circle back to where we started and know it for the first time. And if we can do that, it will not just be for ourselves. Older women are the largest demographic in the world. If we can go back and redefine ourselves and become whole, this will create a cultural shift in the world, and it will give an example to younger generations so that they can reconceive their own lifespan.”

So this reclaiming of self, this changing of our relationship to the past, can have a wider impact than simply rewiring our own brain, it can perhaps create a cultural shift in the world!  Wow.  How cool is that!

So to quote my old high school friend Doug Haussler: Here’s to aging with adventure!

 

 

I hope you enjoy Jane Fonda’s Ted Talk, especially for those women out there over 50. Such a hopefull message!

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

Transformational Relationships

“What I need is perspective . . . perspective is necessary.”

– Margaret Atwood


I was honored to contribute a post to a blog that I follow,  The League of Champions It is a wonderful blog and well worth your time to explore.  In their blog, Kevin and Leanna help people reach their optimum creativity through finding inner peace and loving themselves.  Leanna and I agreed to do guest contributions, so I am very happy to share with you their post on Transformational Relationships.

In an age where we can have information as fast as we can type, communication seems to slipping further and further from our grasp.  When it’s easier to face a computer screen, we often neglect to tell other people our needs – and we forget to listen to what they’re trying to say to us.  Have you ever wondered, “Why isn’t this person getting it?  Why don’t they understand me?”

There is a solution – by communicating and looking from a different perspective, you’ll not only transform your relationships with others, but also experience a transformation within yourself.

Sometimes we’re so loud in asking to be heard that we drown out the requests others are making of us.  This is nothing to feel bad about; we’re not doing it intentionally.  We all desire acceptance, and ultimately, love.  And we deserve it, too – so it’s not uncommon to become more and more adamant about getting it.  We just go about it in the wrong way, sometimes.

The solution is simply to communicate.  Easier said than done, right?  However, remember that there is strength in revealing your feelings, not in hiding them.  This is where the self-transformation comes in.  You owe it to yourself to act as the real you, and let your outside world reflect who you really are and what truly makes you happy.  More of yourself is revealed in your interactions with other people.  Meditating and soul-searching is important, but to avoid including others is like watering seeds and never setting them out in the sun.  Put that soul you’ve cultivated to use by involving yourself with other people – touch them, and share your love.  A way to share your love is through communication.  Your relationships will blossom as a result.

Tell someone how you interpret their actions and words: “When you say this, I hear…” and then be truthful about how they are coming across to you.  This allows them to either confirm or clarify their perspective.  You’ll get the chance to look through their eyes and see that, the majority of the time, they’re not trying to hurt you.  They’ll see how you feel and understand why you’re acting the way you are, and vice versa.  Again, you’ll experience a self-transformation by opening yourself to other viewpoints and possibilities of looking at the world.

To practice communicating more effectively, start with low-stakes situations.  Ease into it.  Or just take the plunge.  Sometimes you’ve pent up your emotions so much that a release is the only way to deal with them.  Remember, feelings don’t make you weak – they just make you human.  And you deserve to say how you feel.  Remember, it’s not so much what you’re saying, as how you say it.  Keep the goal in mind – sharing, love, and communication – and emotions like fear or anger won’t get the better of you and cloud the message.

When has effective communication helped you?

The League of Champions was founded by Leanna Dindal and Kevin Rae, with the mission of empowering people to achieve their own, personal definitions of success.  Developed with artists in mind, The League focuses on unlocking your creativity and finding the inner strength to make your life anything you want it to be.  Leanna and Kevin strive to live as Champions: excellent individuals with lives of independence, boundless creativity, and their own, unique self-expression.  Find out more at http://www.theleagueofchampions.com.