Clear the junk

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Photo courtesy of Eugene Meidinger (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Eugene Meidinger (Creative Commons)

When I get tired and stressed, the first thing that happens is junky thoughts start crowding my mind.

It’s like a junk drawer that has gotten completely disorganized and jumbled. Before long, my thoughts are like all that stuff mixed up in the drawer.

Then the negative voices start.  You know the ones – that if I was smarter, this wouldn’t be such a problem; if I was better, I could do this; I’m not good enough; I … can’t.

I know those thoughts and voices are dangerous, even as I’m listening to them get louder. I know I need to be shutting them off, but I still let them chatter.

Before long, I’m believing them. That’s when it really gets scary.

It’s so important to STOP!

When I hear those voices getting louder, I need to clear that junk out of my head.

I’m no good to anyone when I’m listening to those voices. It’s important to do whatever it takes to quieten them – talk to a trusted friend or colleague, read positive affirmations, go for a walk or run, or just get busy!

Sometimes the best way to clear the junk is just to start somewhere, and suddenly, I realize that I am smarter or more skilled or at least more focused than the voices said I was.

How do you clear the junk and negative voices out of your head?

Catch the little things

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Photo courtesy of Caro Wallis (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Caro Wallis (Creative Commons)

At a recent meeting, I was astounded when the leader managed to raise the morale of the team by praising or paying a compliment to every person in the room.

It was not like a checklist that he went down, but during the course of the meeting, he was able to mention something good that each person had been part of, whether it was on their own or as part of a team.

The fact that he had been observing and making notes about these accomplishments was big enough, but then he made sure to share those actions so that the rest of the team heard as well. It was truly amazing the way it boosted the entire group.

Catching people doing even little things well means so much because leaders tend to only focus on the bad things. In a sense, no news is good news, but it can be discouraging when you are working hard and you have the feeling that no one even notices.

Just a simple “thank you for doing _____” (it’s important to spell out the specific action you are praising so that the appreciation is more sincere than a blanket thanks) can go a long way toward building up your team’s morale and encouraging more of that same kind of action.

Who can you compliment doing something good today?

Smooth sailing

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Photo courtesy of Bert CR (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Bert CR (Creative Commons)

It seems like some people have cornered the market on things going right. They appear to sail through life without all the issues that others of us face, don’t you think?

They are the ones who don’t seem to struggle with money, their relationships all seem happy and solid, and you never hear about them having problems with their computers or cars or anything else. It just seems like their lives are easy and everything goes the way it should for them.

There are others I know who give the impression that nothing in their lives is ever right – every single thing is a struggle, from money to just getting out of the house each morning. From their perspective, the world is out to get them, and it’s a wonder they can even get through a day without everything crashing down.

What I’ve noticed though, is that both types of people actually deal with exactly the same issues, but their attitudes make the different in perspective. The first kind of person has learned to just roll with the punches, and keep a positive outlook. Instead of sinking down into the pit of negativity, they try to find good in everything.

This person can learn and grow from their struggles in a way that helps them face the next one a little easier. Instead of seeing the clouds, they see the rainbow. They encourage others even if they are going through difficulties themselves. They are sailing their boat over the glass-like waters.

The second kind of person stays focused on the bad things, and almost seems to draw more destructive events their way. They go into a situation anticipating the worst outcome, and often neglect to even look for alternatives. Even when things are going well, they are expecting them to go wrong, and almost gloat over the fact if they do. Their boat is constantly in choppy water.

Which person are you?

Shift your focus

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Photo courtesy of Steve Brand (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Steve Brand (Creative Commons)

It was one of those days when nothing seemed to be going right. It was raining, traffic had been nearly at a standstill, the computers were acting up, and one too many people called off sick. The day was going to be challenging to say the least.

I passed a co-worker who said, “good morning, how are you?” and I realized right then I had a choice to make.

I could focus on all the bad things that were going on, and sink into a pit of grouchiness that would likely radiate off me and attract more negative things to happen.

OR, I could choose to focus on good things and attract positive energy.

“I’m doing great!” was my response. Right then, my day turned around, almost like rain clouds clearing.

How will you shift your focus?

What inspires you?

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Photo courtesy of photosteve101 (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of photosteve101 (Creative Commons)

What drives you to accomplish things and to do what you do better?

I think it’s easy to get caught up in selfish reasons for excelling at your work, sports or other skills. Let’s admit it, doesn’t it feel good when someone tells you what a great job you did, or you beat that time running or score that win?

What I have found that drives me harder and makes me feel even better, is when I’m focused on doing things for reasons other than just to benefit myself.

For instance, I run in honor of a little boy named Bennett, who has Down syndrome, as part of a program called I Run 4 (read more here). All my miles are dedicated to him, and what I find is that knowing I run for him makes me get out there to run on days I would otherwise just crawl back into bed. It makes me run harder and faster because it’s not about me anymore, I am honoring him with every step. I am proud to say I ran 5 or 10 or 13.1 miles for Bennett instead of just running for my own benefit. It is no longer about me at all.

I also work in a nonprofit, so instead of working to make money for a corporation, my efforts each day support my team and benefit the neighbors we serve. It changes my perspective on the day when I think in those terms. I focus and work harder because it’s not about me anymore.

That’s just the inspiration and purpose I need to turn around a tough day. What about you?

Laughter is good medicine

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Photo courtesy of BMiz (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of BMiz (Creative Commons)

A good belly laugh really feels good, doesn’t it?

When stress predominates your life, it can feel like you hardly have time for polite conversation, let alone levity.

But several times lately, a good friend has told a story or made a comment that caused us to both erupt in laughter and it was such a release. You know – the kind of laughter that makes your eyes water and your stomach sore.

It was like the plug was pulled out and the stress level suddenly dropped.  While unfortunately that feeling didn’t last for a long time, it was still good to feel for a little while, and helped me rethink the situation and come up with some better ideas.

Go find a good laugh!

Enjoying life’s little pleasures

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Photo courtesy of L-Ines (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of L-Ines (Creative Commons)

Do you fill your life up so much that you don’t have time for little pleasures?

I am often guilty of making lists that would take several people to finish – and then wonder why I’m tired and burned out.

This weekend, I took a little time to step back and pause. One of my three focus words this year is PAUSE (read more here), and I have gotten away from it. To remedy that, I spent time at the pool, sunning and relaxing, then sat on my porch reading and enjoying the birds singing in the trees.

To cap things off Sunday evening, I sat on the porch and watched the lightning bugs come out. Seeing all those little lights rising out of the grass brought back memories of catching them in jars with holes in the lids when I was growing up. Definitely something I need to make time for more often.

What little pleasures should you be enjoying?

Nourish your mind and spirit

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Photo courtesy of William Brawley (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of William Brawley (Creative Commons)

Do you feel depleted? I realized recently that I had so much on my plate and felt so overwhelmed just getting through my day that I was neglecting two of the most important parts of my life – my mind and spirit.

It’s easy to do when you get pulled in so many directions every day – work, family, church, volunteering, friends, email, social media – the list goes on and on. The phone is chirping constantly with incoming “stuff,” obligations and commitments seem to multiply exponentially, and before long, everything becomes a blur.

I knew I needed to start intentionally replenishing myself, and I have to admit, it’s helping me stay more positive and focused in all the other areas of my life as well. One of my three focus words this year is NOURISH (read more here), and while it can be taken in the physical sense, that of eating well and nourishing my body, I also view it at other levels, such as mental and spiritual nourishment.

Some of the things I’ve gotten back to doing on a regular basis include seeking out inspirational books and other materials that empower me and lift me up or develop my leadership skills. Several of the books that are feeding me now include Simplify by Bill Hybels, Be Unstoppable by Alden M. Mills, and One Less, One More by Robbie Vorhaus.

Listening to messages from powerful speakers such as Brian Houston, Andy Stanley and others helps me change my perspective, especially on days when it feels like the world is pummeling me. I have several websites bookmarked just for that purpose.

And music. Music can be like the snap of your fingers as a mood changer, don’t you think? I have a few playlists with special upbeat choices on my phone that I can easily plug in earbuds and listen to on those days when I need some extra inspiration. Praise and worship music does wonders for improving my outlook on whatever situation I’m dealing with, so I have bookmarked several key selections that I can put on repeat on a particularly draining day.

I have felt much more centered since I got back to replenishing myself in these ways. Even when I get so busy that it seems I can’t fit another thing in – if I pay attention to these things, it refreshes me, and allows me to be more positive, productive and centered.

How do your nourish your mind and spirit?

Now what?

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Photo courtesy of Sarcasmo (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Sarcasmo (Creative Commons)

Now what? That’s the question I sometimes feel like asking when I’m having a rough day. What else can go wrong is really what I mean.

But what I really need to be asking is “What next?” and mean what good thing is next?

Usually when I’m having a difficult day, struggling with more than I think I can handle, or facing things I just don’t want to have to deal with, that’s when a blessing appears.

It’s the one friendly face in the mass of complainers, the happy email in the inbox full of problems, the hug when you feel like you’re being punched by the world. But you have to be looking because you can so easily miss it.

I find myself too often looking down and inside, so focused on the grind that I am not even aware of what’s going on around me. The other day I was reminded once again as I was running (well, it felt like crawling) up the last hill. I happened to glance up to see 4 beautiful deer, just at the top of the hill. They watched me for a moment and then turned and silently ran back into the woods. If I had not looked at that exact moment, I would have missed that stunning sight.

So now I look up and ask, “What next?”

Don’t even go there

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Photo courtesy of Lisa{santacrewsgirl} (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Lisa{santacrewsgirl} (Creative Commons)

It read like a transcript of a reality television show. I could imagine the voices raised making vicious, hurtful comments. I pictured the arms waving, faces distorted in anger, and soundtrack beeping as the profanity was bleeped out.

I saw the recipient of these comments crumbling in tears, terrified of the rage unleashed against them, and then withdrawing from the group altogether.

The scene actually unfolded silently through a post in a closed group on Facebook, but the emotions were the same as if it had been face-to-face. The repercussions were resounding and widespread. I’m not even sure now whether the comment was meant in the way it was taken, but it had devastating results.

I’ve seen similar things happen before in person, where someone says something in a group that gets others riled up. They speak in the heat of the moment and seem to disregard everyone else in their rant. Sometimes it seems like they enjoy seeing the conflict they create, or maybe they are oblivious to the harm their comments cause.

It makes me just say, “GRRRRR” about the whole situation! It is so unnecessary!

While it happens occasionally in person, it’s more prevalent in social media, where people seem to lose their filters for courtesy and common sense and will say things that I hope they wouldn’t say face to face. Maybe part of it is the fact that it is typed, and you lose the intonation and expression you would have if you were speaking in person.

At any rate, it’s so easy to get caught up in the need to respond and either try to clarify or defend. But that only leads to more snarky comments or heated arguments. Why put yourself in that position?

I find it is usually better to just let things go. Ignore the post online. Just let the person rant. They likely don’t really want feedback other than for you to agree with how wronged they are for this perceived problem and nothing you say will help or change anything.

How do you respond when someone starts a rant online or in person?