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What will 2018 bring? One of my favorite quotes is, “I’m on this wonderful journey in search of wisdom and it’s the best game in town. In our community, we love the game and our motto is that we’re all bozos on this bus traveling toward personal growth.”   – Author unknown

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I identify as a bozo and that I feel it’s important to make a difference.  I know that if I do not endow my life with meaning, no one else can do it for me.  I also know that I can’t take credit for my talents.  It’s how I use them that counts.

This personal philosophy led me to coaching and hopefully, helping others find their path to meaning and happiness.  Much like the accountant, who’s quite busy in April, January finds Life Coaches’ clients clamoring for help in making and keeping New Year’s resolutions.

I recently saw a Facebook post that read, “I don’t refer to them as resolutions, I prefer the term – casual promises to myself that I’m under no legal obligation to fulfill.”

All kidding aside, of course there’s no legal obligation to keep those resolutions.  However, what about the guilt?  For many of us, that weighs heavier than any other repercussion.  My advice – don’t make resolutions, especially those that depend on motivation.  It’s elusive and works against the brain’s natural tendencies to save energy.  We don’t have to make our lives difficult!  I’m always in favor of doing taking the easy route to success, mostly because we struggle less and enjoy the journey.

Generally, the most common New Year’s resolutions are health-based with people vowing to take better care of their bodies in the coming year.  We promise ourselves to lose weight and exercise more.

Which leads me to the point of this blog post.  What if we create or improve social connections that make us happier and lead to better health?  In this case, we’re going with the flow, not trying to swim against the current.

I’ve done enough research on happiness to know that meaningful social connections foster happiness.  And I know that the happier I am, the healthier I will most likely be.  It’s like that question, “What came first – the chicken or the egg?”

If I propagate happiness, then I’m more likely to eat right, exercise and live a meaningful life.  That makes me happier and the cycle continues.

Please don’t stop reading because you don’t feel at ease with human connection!  There are different kinds of social connection.  You have options.

  • Reading can be a deeply social act, putting you inside other people’s minds. And studies suggest that reading makes people more empathic and improves social skills by helping us better understand our fellow humans. So, light the fire and curl up with a good book.
  • Mindfulness with nature activates parts of the brain associated with balance and happiness. In a study, brain scans showed that when subjects saw images of mountains, forests, and other landscapes, they experienced a more positive outlook. So, take a walk!  If it’s too cold, fire up your laptop and look at Ansel Adams’ photos.
  • Make “alone dates” and guard them as if they are dates with your best friend. Leave electronics behind and experience quiet.  Scientists are beginning to recognize that solitude is a catalyst for expert performance. When you are alone, you can make headway on tasks that are most challenging to you personally. If you want to improve what you are doing, you have to be the one who generates the move.  “The quieter you are, the more you will hear.”  Ram Dass
  • Spend time with someone who has a different world view. He or she can offer fresh perspectives which may inspire you to reevaluate your own routine and goals. My greatest teachers are my grandchildren.  Their questions and reflections inspire me to open my mind to new ways of thinking.  They resurrect the bozo in me and keep me on the personal growth bus.

Happy 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Christmas, my sister Kathy and I were at my grandparents’ house. I was four and not sure why we had to stay there or where my mother and father were.  christmas_edited

Soon my father arrived, “You have a new sister. Her name is Stephanie.” I’m reported to have said, “I’d rather have a pony.”

Seriously? I already had one sister. Why would I need another? I never did get the pony. But eventually I learned to love my sister as much as the other one. And I tried to take good care of her, by cutting off clumps of her hair when she was standing in the playpen.

All my Christmases growing up, we always had a real tree. And most of the time, it wasn’t perfectly shaped. So, my father would drill a hole in the bare spot of the trunk and then cut a branch from the bottom and push it into the hole. We were careful not to hang heavy ornaments on that branch! We decorated our tree on Christmas Eve. My father supervised to make sure we added the tinsel one strand at a time. I would move to the backside of the tree, and add at least three at a time. Then I’d get caught, and have to do my tinsel over again.

The week between Christmas and New Year was filled with family visiting. This is when we’d get to see our cousins and aunts and uncles. When Aunt Ruth arrived, she practically smothered us with her very large bosom when she huggcookiesed us. My mother served cookies in the shapes of trees and wreathes decorated with colorful sprinkles. The only time we could eat those cookies was when we had company.

All of our gifts were arranged carefully under the tree. The five of us kids took turns showing each of our presents to visitors. You didn’t want to go last, because by that time, people were losing interest. When I was seventeen and a senior in high school, I got a complete set of red luggage. I guess my parents were anticipating my leaving, as college was a year away. And I did leave, though not off to college. I got married at age 18.

Now it was time for my husband and I to establish our own Christmas traditions. First up – I banned the use of tinsel on our tree. I made a colorful ribbon chain and spent hours stringing together popcorn and cranberries. I thought our tree looked quite festive without all that glitter. My godmother, Yolanda, was making ceramics and she made me a ceramic tree and complete nativity set, both of which I still have, over fifty years later.

Most of the gifts back then were handmade as we had limited cash. I was very proud of the Christmas stenciled wine glasses I made my mother-in-law, until she put them in the sink to soak and all the stencils slid off. I continued my mother’s cookie tradition, adding some new ones to the list. In addition to serving them to company, we gifted them to teachers, friends and the mailman. I, as my mother did, would not allow consumption of those cookies prior to Christmas. I later learned from my adult daughter, that she had clever ways to pilfer cookies that fooled me.

silver treeOn Christmas Eve, all my husband’s family gathered at their parents’ home. I’d never seen so many presents displayed under that silver tree with the revolving light making it change color. Every year, we’d try to take time to open them one at a time, so we could see what each person received, but it eventually became an unwrapping frenzy.

As we drove home, we’d listen to radio reports of Santa’s route and my children would want to get home and in bed, before he arrived. Once they were asleep, we’d gather all their hidden gifts and wrap them. We were careful to disguise Santa’s signature. Then we’d fall into bed and a couple of hours later, our kids would wake us. Then my family would come to our house for gifting and food.

Recently, my children and I were reminiscing about Christmases past. My son, who’s now fifty, has fond memories of a big platter of cookies and I still make some of his and his sisters’ favorites. My daughters were remembering those Christmas eve celebrations at their grandparents and their aunt’s house. Some of the antics made a strong impression.
This reinforced my goal when we gather with family during the holidays, or any time of the year. I try to be conscious of the fact that we are making memories.
ugly sweater cookies_edited

The people involved will take away imprints personal to them.  I take that responsibility seriously and try to interject some form of silliness into our Christmas traditions.  This year, we decorated Ugly Sweater cookies, which was great fun.

I can’t think of a better Christmas than one spent with the people I love so dearly. And if I can give them a memory to chuckle about after I’m gone, I’ve done my job well.

 

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Hi, I realize that sometimes you might just have a simple question that you’d like to ask a Personal Life Coach.  I’m offering anyone a one-time opportunity to ask a me question regarding a life or food issue you are struggling with.  I’ll do my best to answer!!!

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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