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December 16, 2014     0

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My Top 11 List for Keeping Sane and Calm this Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again. Time for decorations, pretty lights, reuniting with family and visits home. It’s also time for overtaxed schedules, family arguments, mall parking lots and all the other things that make the holidays a royal pain in the ars! So in the spirit of taking on only what you can, having a stress free holiday season and ensuring you show up for both yourself and others in a meaningful fashion, here’s my top 11 (I couldn’t make 10 work) list for keeping cool, staying sane and being present this holiday season.

1. Create the MUST List. It all starts with getting organized. Creating a must do/must have/must see list helps you stay organized and prevents you from getting distracted by things that aren’t a priority for you. Make the list and stick to it!

2. Start with you. I pretty much give the following advice to my clients on a regular basis; you can’t be there for anybody else in your life until you’re there for yourself first. Self-care is the only sure-fire way to ensure you show up and be present for everyone and everything this holiday season. Take care of YOU first and you’ll do a better job of taking care of everything else.

3. Learn to say NO! The fastest way to holiday burnout is not appropriately setting boundaries with the people in your life. Saying yes to everybody’s requests is going to leave you with no time for yourself. It isn’t a badge of honor to run yourself into the ground, nor should it be treated as such. It’s important to be comfortable saying no when you are busy, overextended or just plain tired. No martyrs allowed this holiday season. Get off the cross, we need the wood.

4. Learn to ask for help. Human beings are hard wired for connection and support. Our society has this concept turned on its head, acting as if real strength comes from doing everything yourself and not relying on anyone for anything. This idea is isolating and creates separation and judgment. Real strength comes from not only admitting you need help, but also reaching out and asking for it. This applies to all the different areas (and events) in your life, not just when you need to bake holiday cookies, pick up Grandma from the airport and figure out which holiday bulb is burnt outside on the house (although I’m not sure if anyone would help you with the last one – think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation).

5. Remember the true meaning of the holiday season. Different holidays come with different spiritual beliefs, but they stem from the same truth. This holiday season is about celebrating your connection to the Source (God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Cher, etc.). And for those of you who might not have a spiritual practice, this season is about giving back to your fellow man, remembering we are all connected and celebrating the miracle of our existence. Sure, Santa, gifts and Uncle Harry’s balloon animals are fun, but there is a powerful significance to this season we all need to remember and celebrate.

6. Keep the partying to a reasonable level. . We all know that with the holidays comes a whole lot of “spirits”, sugar, caffeine, fat and a whole slew of other toxins we have the opportunity to ingest which can lay waste to our bodies in all of its domains (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual). Be cognizant of the choices you’re making and remember the negative impact of going overboard (depression, exhaustion, sickness, weight gain, etc.) By no sense of the imagination am I suggesting you say no to Grandpa’s infamous, “Hanukah Happiness” cocktail, just remember to partake of the holiday goodies in moderation.

7. Get physical. No, I’m not talking about getting in a fist fight with Uncle Larry over the last bite of Nana’s stuffing. I’m talking about exercise. You know the deal. Exercise creates endorphins. Endorphins create happiness. It’s also a great way to eradicate stress and anxiety. If Aunt Mildred’s visit is starting to take a toll on your overall health and well-being, take a run around the block. You’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel. Oh, and feel free to scream the entire run, that might help too.

8. Have a less than perfect holiday. You’re not perfect and neither are your holidays. So why try to replicate your favorite seasonal movie by chasing after the illusion of “holiday perfection”. Skip the heart attack by not trying to create your favorite Judy Garland holiday. If time and sanity are at stake, buy the cookies at the local bakery (gasp), go pot luck for the family dinner and skip the holiday cards this year. You’ll find yourself with way more time, energy and calm.

9. Center yourself. I’m a huge proponent of meditation and have a daily practice. If you are at all interested, you should check out Russell Simmons’ introductory book on the subject entitled, Success Through Stillness. If you’re not a meditator, sometimes centering yourself is as easy as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Maye it’s spending some time by yourself, doing absolutely nothing at all (VEG out). Whatever your approach, take the time to center yourself so you can be present, peaceful and compassionate during the holidays.

10. Learn to say yes. You definitely want to make sure you have a must do/have/see list and be prepared to say no to competing priorities, but you also want to ensure you’re open to the little synchronistic surprises the universe has in store for you. Whether it’s saying yes to a loving moment with your significant other, enjoying an impromptu glass of nog with friends, taking moments to give thanks for all that you have or giving back to those less fortunate, building in a little flexibility to your schedule to participate in these universal gifts can only make your holidays brighter.

11. Schedule a second and third Holiday get together (if necessary). Listen, not everything needs to be done on the exact holiday itself. If you have a must see list that doesn’t allow visits with everyone by the time your holiday is over, schedule a visit the day after, over the weekend or in the New Year. Feverishly driving all over the city in a futile attempt to see everyone stresses you out, compromises the quality of your visits, jeopardizes innocent pedestrians and doesn’t bode well for your little niece when she accidentally pours her soda down the front of your new holiday sweater.

So, give yourself the gift of sanity this year. Remember to hold on to the true meaning of the holiday season, stay grounded, learn to say no, schedule appropriately and most importantly, take care of yourself first!

Have any additional advice to offer up on keeping your sanity this holiday season? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

I wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy holiday season! Peace, love and joy to you now and in 2015!

Keep Moving Forward!
Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

October 11, 2014     6

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Dwelling in the Space of Enough

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.
–Oprah Winfrey

I’ve always struggled with the idea of having enough. It started for me as a young child growing up poor and struggling for everything I had. We always had less than the other families in my neighborhood and I was constantly feeling “less than” because of it. This led to comparison and shame, and also the creation of my limiting belief around having enough, and being enough. For much of my adult life, this belief played out in the form of a never ending drive to accomplish more, be more and have more in all the different areas of my life. If the notion of “never being satisfied with what you have” strikes a chord, you’re in good company. Our society caters to this idea and businesses count on it when marketing their products and services. They want us hungry for more and never feeling like we have enough in our lives.

And so what do I mean by “enough”? For the purposes of this article, enough is having everything you need emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually to be happy. You’re satisfied with everything you have and you’re not worried about acquiring more. This doesn’t mean you don’t WANT additional things for yourself; it just means you don’t NEED them. And you certainly don’t look at them as a means to derive your happiness.

As the amazing and wise Oprah Winfrey stated in her quote above, universal law around abundance is clear. When you dwell in the space of enough, and remain grateful for all that you do have, you create an “abundance mentality”. You will literally begin to attract more of what you want into your life. Conversely, if you obsess about all the things you don’t have (bigger salary, bigger apartment, that special someone), and expend your energy focusing on what’s missing from your life, you create a “lack mentality”. This leaves you feeling unhappy, unsatisfied and always wanting more. You’re constantly chasing after the “next best thing” (job promotion, new car, that guy at the gym) that you think will get you the happiness, acceptance or success you so desperately crave.

So how do you move your focus from a lack mentality to one of abundance? It starts with a shift in mindset and a heightened awareness. Try to shift your focus from everything you don’t have to everything you do. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and take an inventory of everything you already have in your life that you’re grateful for. This can start with the basics like food, shelter and air, all the way up to material items like a house, car or boat. Be as detailed as you can. Another great exercise for creating awareness and increasing gratitude is to carry a “gratitude journal” around with you for a week. Whenever you notice something you should be grateful for, simply pull out your gratitude journal and jot it down. Review your gratitude journal at the end of the week. I suspect you’ll be surprised at the number of things you already have to be grateful. Once you shift your mindset, you’ll expend a lot less energy, be grateful for what you already have and naturally attract more of what you want into your life. It’s an easier and kinder way to live. .

Give it a try and let me know how you do.

Have you ever had difficulty dwelling in the space of enough? How has your lack mentality kept you unsatisfied and always wanting more? If you’ve successfully created an abundance mentality in your life, do you have any tips for your fellow readers? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

January 16, 2014     0

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Huff Post Article: Healing the Gay Community From the Inside Out

Friends,

I recently read an online blog article that shook me to the core. The writer was angry, hurt and frustrated with the gay community. He said our community had degenerated to a group of soulless, sex-crazed animals who had lost all that was good and loving about them. He pointed out sex sites, porn addiction and our treatment of each other as additional reasons why he now felt disdain for his own community. He’d given up on love. He also pointed to all of these things as reasons why he now hated himself and felt powerless to change his circumstances.

I truly empathized with how he was feeling, but couldn’t agree with what he was saying. Click HERE to read my Huffington Post article about how we need to find our validation and purpose within ourselves. And how our internal search for meaning can bring light to the darker parts of our community that so desperately need our compassion and understanding.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

December 29, 2013     2

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Top 10 Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick!

Some people are into New Years resolutions. Some people aren’t. I am definitely a resolutions guy. I inventory the year in review – looking at what I’ve accomplished, how I’ve evolved, what I’ve learned and what opportunities for growth have yet to be tackled. For all of us “Resolutionists”, the start of the New Year affords us the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and make some positive changes in our lives. But far too often, people lose momentum and give up on their resolutions after only a short time. So I wanted to equip you all with the tools needed to be successful this New Years. So without further adieu, here are my Top 10 ways to make your New Year’s resolutions stick..

1. Focus on a very small number of resolutions, rather than several. You are far more likely to succeed if you focus on a small, manageable, number of resolutions, rather than trying to overhaul your entire life with several, lofty ones.

2. Be specific with your resolutions. Be sure to set specific, actionable resolutions. I suggest creating resolutions modeled after SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time Oriented). For example, saying you want to lose weight is too vague and leaves plenty of room for failure. But saying I want to lose 10 pounds in 90 days with weekly weigh-ins and a deadline of 3/31/14 provides you a framework for success.

3. Take small steps. Many people fail at their resolutions because they choose to focus on the destination, rather than the journey. TRANSLATION: It’s all about mapping out the small steps you’ll need to take to get you where you want to go. For example, it may not be possible to tackle unhealthy eating all at once, so why don’t you start by changing what you eat for breakfast. Once you are comfortable with this change, then tackle your mid-morning snack. And so on. Make sense?

4. Have an accountability partner. Want to know why coaches like me exist? Because people need someone who not only helps them identify those things in their life they want to work on, but also holds them accountable for getting them done. Find someone close to you that you can share your resolution(s) with and schedule regular check-ins to report your progress. Maybe it’s having them check in with you weekly to see how you’ve progressed with those small steps you identified in Step 3 above.

5. Celebrate your success between milestones. If you want to stay motivated as you move towards your goals, it’s important you celebrate the small victories along the way. For example, if your resolution is to quit smoking, celebrate when you reduce your cigarette consumption by 25%, 50%, 75% and so on. Giving yourself credit along the way keeps you energized and invested in your overall goal.

6. Don’t let a “slip up” derail your resolution. Smoking an extra cigarette, eating a piece of cake or skipping a workout may be a set back for your resolution, but it’s certainly no reason (or excuse) to throw in the towel. If you have a “slip up”, treat yourself with compassion and recommit yourself to your resolution.

7. Stay presently focused. Your assignment is to complete that one thing you can do today towards your overall resolution. It’s all about tackling the day your in. Don’t focus on the past or sweat the future. As with all things, staying presently focused is your best bet for achieving success.

8. Focus your thinking on new behaviors and thought patterns. Making resolutions stick involves changing your existing behaviors. You accomplish this by replacing your old, unwanted habits with new ones. This takes time, discipline and patience. So for those of you who want to stop eating junk food or spending all of your free time on the couch, establish and focus on good habits such as eating healthy foods or working out regularly.

9. Don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s okay to have a healthy passion for successfully completing your resolutions, but don’t drive yourself, or those you love, crazy with an obsessive, complicated and controlled manner for reaching your goals. It’s okay to have fun and laugh at yourself along the way.

10. Don’t wait till New Year’s Eve to make resolutions. Resolutions (or any type of goal) can be made throughout the year. Don’t let New Years be the only time you identify, establish and pursue those things that will make you happier, healthier, stronger and more at peace.

Happy New Year! I hope that 2014 is a year of love, peace, joy and growth for each and every one of you!

Do you have any additional tips for sticking to your New Year’s resolutions? Would you be willing to share your resolutions with the rest of us? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

December 19, 2013     2

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8 Ways To Not Freak Out This Holiday Season

This is a season of lights, beauty and warmth. It’s also a time when people tend to go f-ing bonkers if they’re not prepared for the onslaught of family, food, and shopping. So it’s important that we equip ourselves with the right tools to minimize this attack on our energetic well-being. Life coach Joel Readence is back with 8 tips for keeping our spiritual and emotional health this holiday season.

1. Find some meaning in the holiday season. Whether it’s donating to your favorite charity, volunteering some of your time to someone who needs it, letting go of past grievances with a loved one, or attending a spiritual service—just do something that’s meaningful to you that enriches your heart and soul.

2. Take time for yourself. We want to do everything this season. We want to be twice as productive and organized as we usually are in the hopes of completing every errand on that “mile high” to-do list, or we want to attend every holiday party and make the most of all the food & booze. But the fact of the matter is, this type of behavior can lead to “energetic burn out” if we’re not careful. Take some time to chill out; meditate, read a good book, take a quiet walk, go to a yoga class, whatever it is that will recharge your body, mind and spirit.

3. Let go of your attempts at control. We may have this idea of how our holidays should go. This, of course, leaves us disappointed when real life sets in (i.e., family fights or no family at all, burnt cookies, travel delays, breakups, etc). Let go of the fantasy and embrace your reality. There’s beauty in the imperfections of our lives. Remember, the upcoming holidays are about giving love and so feeling it in return. Make that the focus of your holiday season and trust the universe will take care of the rest.

4. Take it easy with the “holiday cheer”. Everybody likes to party during the holidays. And this season affords us the opportunity to party, eat, and play in excess. Be careful of the “wear and tear” you put your body through and understand that overdoing it with booze, heavy meals, and sugary processed desserts can lead to a compromised immune system, the onset of the holiday blues, and the inability to handle any stress whatsoever.

5. Make authentic and thoughtful choices. It’s easy to overextend yourself by trying to be everything to everybody. This year, why don’t you start by being something to yourself first and only agree to participate in the things that truly resonate with you? Decide to treat yourself well first, so that you’ll feel better and become a brighter presence in the world.

6. Remember to meet people where there at. The practice of living a conscious life is challenging at times, especially at the holidays, and especially with family. It’s easy to get frustrated and angry with people who don’t live a life you approve of, or who don’t act in a manner you feel is appropriate. But the fact of the matter is, your greatest assignment in this world isn’t to change or save the people in your life, it’s to focus on your own personal growth and development and let go of your need to try and control the world around you. Make an effort this holiday season to meet your loved ones exactly where they are in their lives and let go of the need to try to “fix” them. We are all on our own path. Each one of us is unique and deserving of love and compassion.

7. Remember to count your blessings. Remember just how fortunate you are compared so many others in the world. Be grateful for everyone and everything you have in your life, and then express that appreciation by doing something for someone less fortunate than you. Remember, being thankful for what you have is the first and most important step to creating more abundance in your life.

8. Keep it within budget. Oftentimes, in our effort to ensure a perfect holiday season, we go a bit overboard financially and end up in debt. We succumb to the multi-million dollar marketing campaigns that tell us expensive presents with pretty bows are the only way to show the people in our lives just how much they mean to us. But truthfully, the real spirit of the holiday season is one based on connection, compassion, and joy. You don’t need to drive up the balances on your credit cards to show the people in your life just how much you care about them. You just need to tell them. Even better, show them. Show ‘em you love ‘em the same exact way you wish someone would show you they love you. Give the love you want to receive. That’s the holiday spirit!

Have any additional advice to offer up on keeping your sanity this holiday season? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season and New Year to come!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

November 10, 2013     0

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Overcoming Nasty Habits to Achieving Your Health and Hotness Goals!

For all you fitness buffs, this ones for you! This article is about why people go into an exercise and nutrition regime and fail time and time again, and how you can break the cycle. I have the pleasure of being an on-staff life coach at Mark Fisher Fitness, (MFF), an incredible gym in Hells Kitchen that I recommend to anybody who is interested in reaching their health and hotness goals. Mark Fisher asked me to write an article that would be impactful to the members of the gym and those brave souls (MFF calls them “ninjas”) going through the intensive exercise, nutrition and coaching program, Snatched in 6 Weeks! The topic I chose was GAILs (Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations and Limiting Beliefs), a nasty group of bad habits that, if left unchecked, can infect every area of our life. Whether you’re a fitness buff or not, read this informative article about how you can begin to recognize these bad habits in your life and begin to weaken their hold on you. Check my article out below:

Fellow Ninjas –

When we think about the time and commitment that goes into our exercise regime, falling victim to our own “head games” shouldn’t be one of the hurdles we have to clear. Alas, this isn’t always the case and it’s good to know what’s going on in these noggins of ours. As an on staff coach at MFF and fellow ninja (in week 4 of Snatched in 6 Weeks ), I want to make sure we all have our heads screwed on straight about a few of the more popular mental blocks that could keep so many of us from achieving our health and hotness success.

An unwanted party guest and all together vicious queen, GAIL shows up in our lives at the most inopportune times. So who is this mischievous maiden and how can she f*ck up our fitness goals? Let’s break her down!

G.A.I.L. is an acronym for four nasty buggers that can plague our lives if left unchecked, Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations and Limiting Beliefs. So let’s define each and discuss how they might show up in our ninja lives and how we can overcome them.

1. Gremlins - Some of you crazy kids, like me, are old enough to remember the 1984 movie starring those cute little fluffy critters that, when exposed to water, turn into monstrous saboteurs hell bent on destroying everything in their path. Well guess what? The gremlin in our heads operate in a similar fashion trying to sabotage us in our efforts to achieve our health and hotness goals. This “inner critic” plays on our insecurities and keeps us feeling small, fearful and unsatisfied by telling us we’re not strong enough, smart enough, deserving enough, etc. to achieve our goals and dreams. Gremlins vary from person to person and are based on individual life experiences. For the purposes of ninja training, a good example of a gremlin is one that tries to sabotage your nutrition and physical efforts by telling you that you’re going to fail because you lack the discipline or strength needed to succeed in Snatched.

So what can you do about keeping these little saboteurs in check? Bring them into the light. Just like the movie, our gremlins don’t like to be exposed. As long as they can keep you playing small, feeling insecure and afraid to move outside of your comfort zone (where all real growth takes place), they can continue to take up space in your head. But if you’re able to identify your gremlins (I’m fat, I’m unworthy, I’m weak, I’m a loser, etc.), recognize when they’re whispering in your ear and purposefully continue to move forward in the way of your goals, you can push through them and the headlock that they have on you!

2. Assumptions - Simply put, an assumption is an expectation that because something has happened before, it will happen again. These are especially dangerous for ninjas who have dealt with unsuccessful diets or exercise plans in the past. You can sign up for Snatched, or any fitness/nutrition program, with the best of intentions, but then quickly derail yourself with negative assumptions you’ve created around your ability to achieve your exercise and nutrition goals. A good example of an assumption is one in which you think you’re destined to fail at your nutrition goals because you were unsuccessful with diets you’ve tried in the past. Assumptions are dangerous because they allow us to rationalize self-sabotaging behavior. Two weeks into your fitness/nutrition program, after a particularly stressful day at the office, you might find yourself thinking, “F*ck it! I don’t need to try to keep to my nutrition plan because it won’t worry anyway.”

So here’s what you need to know about assumptions. They’re based on past events and stale circumstances that no longer play a relevant role in your life. By holding on to these assumptions, you keep yourself stuck in some past experience that never served you to begin with. Crazy, right?! When an assumption comes up for you, remind yourself that it serves no purpose in your present life and move past it with an open mind. By opening yourself up to all of the amazing possibilities of your training and nutrition program, you can reach your health and hotness goals (provided you’re willing to do the work)!

3. Interpretations - An interpretation is an opinion or judgment that you create about an event, situation, person or experience and believe to be true. As human beings we have a tendency to create interpretations in our lives based on our own individual experiences and personal bias. A great example of an interpretation is around trainer/instructor feedback. I remember a time when I used to interpret the critiques I received from my instructors as negative. Even if they were trying to help me with form, I would think there was something wrong with me for not “nailing it” (having perfect form) every time. For us ninjas, it’s easy for our personal interpretations of what’s going on at the gym to skew our perception of ourselves and others.

So the next time you make an interpretation about someone or something going on in your life, ask yourself if this is based on personal opinion or fact. You can also ask yourself if there is another way to look at it. In my example, instead of interpreting instructor feedback as something negative, I chose to see it as an added benefit to my training. This helped me shift my perspective and look at the feedback I get from Mark and all the other hot ass instructors as helpful and beneficial to my own Snatched success!

4. Limiting Beliefs - Last, but certainly not least in GAIL’s bag of dirty tricks are limiting beliefs. These are beliefs that you accept about life, about yourself, about your world, or about the people in it that limits you in some way. They cap your potential to succeed and prevent you from reaching your full potential. Examples of limiting beliefs include: “I am no good at sports.”, “I am too old to start a fitness program.” and “I’m not smart enough to get that job so I won’t even apply.”

Think about any limiting beliefs you may be holding on to (not smart enough, too old, not strong enough, etc.) and begin to rewrite them in a manner that serves you. If you have a limiting belief that says “I’m not smart enough to…” call yourself out on it, ask yourself if this belief is serving you and if not, kick its ass to the curb!

Just remember, GAIL is an all around b*tch, but she’s totally manageable, provided you are willing to do the work to reprogram your self-imposed barriers to success.

The only limitations we have in this world are the ones we place on ourselves. (That’s a TWEETable!)

The sky is the limit provided you give yourself the opportunity to fly!

Do you have a friend who is trying to reach a fitness goal, or any other type of goal in their life, and may be the victim of GAIL? I gave you some solid advice on identifying and overcoming them, so please share this article so they can overcome their GAILs and achieve their goals.

Can you identify where you are experiencing Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations or Limiting Beliefs in your life and how you can use the tips above to overcome them? Join in on the conversation by leaving your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

October 22, 2013     0

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Life Lessons from a 42 Year Old Wisdom Junkie

So I turn 42 on Sunday. Yep, I’m one of those crazy people who claim their age and feel no need to hide it. I subscribe to the philosophy that as I get older, I get better. Age and experience have offered me increased wisdom and a deeper understanding of who I am, why I’m here and how I can make a difference in the world. They also continue to impress upon me the fact that there is still so much more learning and growing to be done.

And it was during this birthday contemplation, I decided to share some of the life lessons I’ve learned along the way, and the impact they can have on your life. I’ve touched upon a few of these in previous articles, but they definitely bear repeating. Many of them will seem like such simple concepts, yet the majority of people in the world haven’t mastered them. You may recognize some, or maybe even all of these lessons. My goal here isn’t to stump my readers with obscure knowledge and B-side concepts, instead my hope is that the information provided is transparent, easily digestible and something that leads to reflection and growth. So without further adieu, here are 10 life lessons I’ve learned along the way and how they can impact your life.
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1. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison leads to separation and judgment of yourself and others. Recognize you are enough just as you are and that we are all on our own unique and incomparable path.

2. Let go of the need to be perfect. This form of control keeps us constantly trying and constantly failing to live up to an unrealistic ideal of who we think we should be. If only I were thinner, prettier, stronger, smarter, etc. Let go of your need to be perfect and see just how much happier (and easier) life can be.

3. Own your vulnerabilities. We all have them. So why do most us look at them as some sort of shortcoming and weakness and pretend they don’t exist? The fact of the matter is, it’s only when you’re able to own, accept and learn from your vulnerabilities that you’re able to treat yourself, and others, with the compassion, understanding and forgiveness we all richly deserve.

4. Learn to say no in your life. In order to be there for the people in your life, you need to be there for yourself first. So learn to be okay with saying no to others so you make the time for those things that add meaning and enrichment to your life. You’re not a bad person for making yourself a priority.

5. Don’t keep company with the wrong people. You’ve heard it said time and time again, including by yours truly. You are the company you keep. So why not surround yourself with people who let you be the real you, support your dreams and foster an atmosphere of acceptance and love.

6. Stop trying to be someone else. Trying to live in the mold of others people’s expectations is a fool’s errand. It’s an exhaustive effort that takes us farther away from who we really are. Impress others by following your own path and find your acceptance by leading a fully realized and uncompromised existence. Check out my blog, Are You Keeping It Real.

7. Stop trying to control every aspect of your life. A kissing cousin of perfectionism, control is another enemy of peace of mind and happiness. You can have a beautiful, meaningful and fulfilled life without micromanaging every aspect of it. You just need to have faith, accept that things won’t always go as planned and not be afraid to ask for help, either from your higher power or from your loved ones.

8. Learn to move past fear. Fear is without a doubt the greatest paralyzer in the world today. Fear of failure, fear of success and fear of judgment by others debilitate people and keep them from pursuing their dreams. Recognize that you only have one life to live and that you don’t want to be on your deathbed filled with regret over what could have been. Identify what it is that makes you afraid, ask yourself if it is rational (or even real) and move past it in pursuit of your dreams. Check out my blog, Letting Fear Be Your Guide.

9. Live in the now. We spend too much time regretting the past and dreaming of the future. We trap ourselves into feelings of guilt and embarrassment by holding on to shameful or humiliating memories and putting them on perpetual playback in our heads. Conversely, we propel ourselves into the future by dreaming of the day when we will have everything we think we need to have a perfect life. But it’s only when we stay present minded, grateful for everything we have and dedicated to our life’s journey (not the destination) that we learn, grow and become the people we’re meant to be.

10. Stop gossiping. I’ll let you in on a secret. People only gossip for one reason, insecurity, plain and simple. They figure if they’re pointing the finger at someone else, no one will be able to see what they’re trying to hide about themselves. This nasty little habit does nothing but create separation and judgment in the world. So the next time you’re thinking about joining in on a gossip session, remind yourself of your own inner work, learn to practice compassion and end the conversation before it has a chance to begin.

Did any of the above life lessons strike a chord with you? Learn anything new about yourself from reading this article? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time, so if you don’t like something you read here, leave it, and only take away what works for you.

October 12, 2013     2

Unknown

Understanding the Distinction between Belonging and Fitting In

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.
-Brene Brown

I’ve been a bit obsessed with Brene Brown lately. If you don’t know her work, you’re missing out. She has a Ph.D. in Social Work and has been studying shame and vulnerability since 2001. Her “claim to fame” came in 2007 when she did a TEDx talk titled, The Power of Vulnerability, which has been viewed by over 11.4 million people worldwide. Recently, Brene appeared on Oprah’s Lifeclass and Super Soul Sunday. In addition, she’s a NY Times best-selling author and has written 3 books. I just finished reading one of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

One of the major themes in Brene’s work revolves around the difference between “Belonging” versus “Fitting In”. Often mistaken as synonyms, these two terms have very different meanings, as well as very different impacts on your life. Let me explain.

In the preface section of her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene provides two lists of attributes (or patterns) shared by the thousands of people she collected stories from as part of her research. The first list, she labeled “Do”, and it characterized people who enjoyed a strong sense of love, community and connection. These people were able to embrace their imperfections and vulnerabilities and share them with others. Their shared attributes included worthiness, faith, hope, authenticity, love, belonging, joy, gratitude and creativity. Good stuff, right? When I think of the “Do” category, I envision people who are loving and accepting of themselves and others, grateful for what they have, plugged into their purpose and not afraid to make mistakes.

The second list, she labeled “Don’t”, and it characterized people who denied their imperfections and vulnerabilities and tried to hide them from others for fear of judgment and rejection. Their shared attributes included perfection, exhaustion, self-sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment and scarcity. When I think of the “Don’t” category, I envision people who put up airs to seek approval and acceptance, operate with a lack mentality and judge both themselves and others.

Brene then goes on to define each one of these terms and describes how fitting in gets in the way of belonging:

“Fitting in” is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted.

“Belonging”, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are. Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Translation: In order for us to truly feel like we belong in this world, we need to love and accept ourselves. Human beings are hard wired for connection. There’s no escaping the fact that it’s in our emotional connections and our relationships that we find belonging, purpose and happiness. But there’s also no escaping the fact that our ability to make those connections is severely hindered if we can’t connect with ourselves, first and foremost.

I spent so many years seeking my “belonging” by trying to “fit in”. I tried to be cool, fiercely independent, and impervious to others opinions and judgments. I failed miserably. And for all of my attempts to “fit in”, I only created more separation and judgment in my life. (If you want to hear a little more about my story, click here.) .

The path to shifting your mindset from one of “fitting in” to one of “belonging” isn’t an easy one, especially if you’ve been conditioned to seek external approval and acceptance by others. With that said, I think it starts with being mindful of your behavior and ensuring your actions are coming from a place of authenticity and self-respect. Ask yourself what the motivations are behind your actions and if they’re aligned with who you really are. Lastly, you need to identify and open up to those trusted individuals you can share your whole self with, imperfections and all. The fact of the matter is, it’s only when we present our true selves to the world that we tap into real “belonging” and the worthiness, creativity and love that accompany it.

Can you identify ways in which you’ve been trying to “fit in” versus “belong” in any area of your life? Have you successfully shifted your life from trying to be perfect and self-sufficient to accepting and sharing your imperfections and vulnerabilities? Have any advice to share with other readers? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time. If you don’t like something you read here, leave it and only take away what resonates with you.

October 4, 2013     0

Say-NO

Learning to Say No

Self-care is a concept that has become increasingly elusive in our society. It sounds so simple, yet most of us spend our lives over worked, run down and stressed out. We’ve lost sight of the fact that self-care, which includes putting ourselves first and learning to say no, should be one of our top priorities.

So why are so many of us uncomfortable with the idea of saying no?

Let’s take a look at some of the more common reasons.

You want to help. Of course you do. You’re a good person with a big heart and a kind soul. You certainly don’t want to turn someone away who is asking for your assistance, even if you don’t have any time to give.

You’re afraid of being rude. Many of us were brought up to believe it was rude to say no, especially to our elders. In fact, if I would have said no to a request by an adult when I was growing up, I probably would have got my ass beat with a belt. (Insert gay joke here) .

You’re afraid of conflict. You don’t want to piss somebody off or make them feel rejected by saying no. You avoid confrontation by becoming a “yes man”.

You don’t want to burn a bridge. You’re worried about missing out on an opportunity, favor or “perk” if you say no. You’re worried about rattling the boss’ cage or getting on your boyfriend’s bad side.

You’re afraid of feeling less than. Some people fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others. They see friends and coworkers juggling multiple volunteer activities, work projects and personal favors daily, so they think they should too.

So where does this behavior come from?

As always, Psych 101 rears its ugly head. Your ability to say no is directly related to your self-confidence and self-esteem. People with low self-confidence or low self-esteem get very nervous at the idea of saying no to someone and pissing them off. They also have a tendency to put other people’s needs ahead of their own. This “people-pleasing” mentality is based on the notion that your self-worth is derived from the things you do for other people. This gets ugly fast when people recognize this trait in you and begin to take advantage of it.

So what happens if we don’t learn to say no and set appropriate boundaries with the people in our lives?

When you don’t take proper care of yourself and ensure enough “me time”, you open yourself up to heightened stress, resentment, exhaustion and eventually burnout. You also rob yourself of time spent enjoying things you’re passionate about. This could include spending time with loved ones, building a business, pursuing hobbies or simply having some alone time. From a professional standpoint, if you take on too any projects at work, the quality of your deliverables could suffer. Trying to impress your boss by never saying no can have larger, negative long term ramifications on your career if your overpromise and under deliver.

Now let’s take a look at some ways you can say no when being asked for your time.

Keep your response simple. If you want to say no, you can be polite, firm and direct. Don’t over-apologize for wanting to take care of yourself. Remember, you’re not asking permission to say no.

Be respectful. Many good causes land at your feet and it can be tough to turn them down. Being complimentary of the group’s effort, while saying no, shows that you respect what they’re doing.

Be true to yourself. Be completely honest with yourself and the other person about what you truly want and let that guide your response.

Don’t compromise. Avoid compromising if you really want or need to say no.

Don’t feel guilty for saying no. Whether it be a friend, coworker, spouse or partner, it’s important for them to hear you say no from time to time so they recognize your boundaries.

Be ready to repeat. You may need to refuse a request several times before the other person accepts your response.

Explore other options. You can always negotiate the size of the request, take time to think about it, postpone the request or refer the requestor to someone who can help them right away.

Remember, you can’t be there for the people in your life if you’re not there for yourself first. Saying no won’t be easy, especially at the beginning, but with practice, it gets easier. Saying no is your prerogative. It’s about ensuring you don’t overextend yourself and become resentful of the people in your life. Most importantly, it’s about respecting and valuing your time and space. And now I’m going to leave you with a quote that wraps this article up nicely (and it’s tweetable too!):

Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out. -Thema Davis

In what areas of your life do you need to say no? What are some friendly “no responses” you’ve used when declining a request? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time. If you don’t like something you read here, leave it and only take away what resonates with you.

September 26, 2013     6

happy 3

How to Avoid Common Impediments to a Happy Life

A happy life is becoming ever more elusive these days. Our society conditions us to believe that happiness is only achieved by looking outside ourselves for guidance on who to be, what to do and how to act. Truth be told, this lifestyle ignores the one surefire way you can achieve happiness in your life, by looking inward for your guidance and answers. Here are some common, externally focused roadblocks to being happy and how to overcome them.

Wearing masks - Trying to live in the mold of others people’s expectations can be exhausting and take us farther away from who we really are. If we wear these masks long enough, we run the risk of losing sight of who we really are all together. Gay men are especially susceptible to this type of negative behavior due to the unaccepting environments we grew up in. Impress others by following your own path and find your acceptance by leading a fully realized and uncompromised life. Check out my blog, Are You Keeping It Real.

Judging Others - Truth be told, people love to judge. We like to judge others who share our same insecurities. If we’re pointing the finger at someone else, we’re keeping the spotlight off of us. Judgment takes on many forms, but one of the most prevalent is gossip. Gay men love to judge, and we certainly love to gossip. How many times have you watched a group of gay men shred another gay man for how his hair is styled, what he’s wearing or how he’s acting? I’m certainly guilty of judging others and participating in gossip. I recognize now it was simply my desperate attempt to mask my own insecurities. When we recognize our judgment of others comes from a place of fear and insecurity, we’re able to shift our perception to one of empathy, compassion and understanding. Shifting from a fear based perspective to one of love is the key to living an authentic and happy life.

Looking to others for your life purpose - Much like wearing masks, this form of external living keeps your life in the control of others. A great example is letting others choose your career for you. I can’t tell you how many times I hear stories about people who went into a specific line of work because their parents wanted them to or because people told them they wouldn’t make any money pursuing their real passion. If this hits home with you, you’re in good company. Many people let outside influences guide their life trajectory. Designate yourself the #1 expert on what’s best for your life and don’t let others steer you down the wrong path.

Procrastinating - We’ve all experienced the negative outcomes associated with putting off important things in life, so why do we continue to do it? When you procrastinate on those things that are important to you like pursuing your dream job, mending broken relationships or spending time with loved ones, feelings of guilt, sadness and shame can surface. Procrastination can start small, but end big. Time moves quickly and if you’re not careful, days, months and years can go flying by. You certainly don’t want to be on your deathbed with a laundry list of excuses for not being the person you wanted to be and not leading the life you envisioned for yourself. The time we have on this planet is uncertain, so don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Check out my blog, Regrets of the Dying.

Living in the grip of fear - The number one reason people fail to make positive change in their life and realize their full potential is fear. In our society, people are under the misguided notion that fear equates to weakness, so we pretend we’re indestructible and nothing gets to us. Of course, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When you acknowledge your fear and identify what exactly you’re afraid of, you weaken its hold on you. Oftentimes, you realize the real truth about fear; it’s not real or rational. My favorite way of explaining fear is with a well-known acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real. Check out my blog, Letting Fear Be Your Guide.

Seeking perfection - Want to know one of the quickest paths to experiencing failure and shame? It’s trying to be a perfectionist. Society (via loved ones, advertisements, TV, etc.) sends us an inaccurate and all together unfair messages that if we can’t brilliantly execute on all aspects of our lives, that we’re not enough, that we have somehow failed. We hold ourselves to this unrealistic ideal, hide our perceived weakness and shame ourselves for not being perfect. The fact of the matter is, you are enough just the way you are. It’s okay to not be able to do everything. It’s okay to talk about your feelings of weakness and inadequacy. And it’s definitely okay to ask for help.

Trying to control - A kissing cousin of perfection, control is another enemy of peace of mind and happiness. When you spend all of your time trying to control every inch of your life, you burn through a ton of positive energy and burden yourself with worry. So do yourself a favor, ease up on the reigns, and trust everything in life is happening exactly as it’s supposed to be. You can have a beautiful, meaningful and fulfilled life without micromanaging every aspect of it. You just need to have faith, accept that things won’t always go as planned and not be afraid to ask for help, either from your higher power or from your loved ones.

Keeping company with the wrong people - You’ve heard it time and time again. You are the company you keep. So why not surround yourself with people who let you be the real you, support your dreams and foster an atmosphere of acceptance and love. Enough said.

Feeling a sense of entitlement - Many people have the misguided notion that the things they want for their lives can and should be handed to them with no effort on their part. The reason why they have this mindset can be attributed to any number of things, but the outcome is almost always the same. They make no progress towards achieving their dreams. Remember,

Awareness is powerful, but it can be rendered useless without action!

Knowing what you want for your life gets you nowhere if you don’t take action to obtain it. Don’t wait around for others to give you what you want or you may never achieve the goals and dreams you have for your life.

So are you dealing with any of the above impediments to a happy life? Have you overcame any of the above happiness barriers and have wisdom to impart on other readers? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

Joel

As always, my goal is to give my readers something useful, tangible and worth their time. If you don’t like something you read here, leave it and only take away what resonates with you.