Hope for 2019

The new year is just a few hours away and you may be one of the many who are celebrating the end of 2018. It’s not wrong to celebrate being done with something that was less than awesome, but it’s better to celebrate what’s ahead. You should never celebrate what’s done (and not great) with the enthusiasm, longevity or passion that you celebrate what’s yet to come or the victories you’ve achieved.

So I’m going to celebrate what’s ahead, the new possibilities that are coming in 2019, the opportunities to change and grow, the people I will meet, the days to enjoy the world, the transformations of nature, the successes in business and relationships, the victories I will help bring about, the relationships I help build, the ways that humanity gets to grow, and the ways we get to support each other.

Every day brings with it choices we have to make. I would hope that you choose to enter into 2019 with hope, joy, confidence and an attitude ready to conquer whatever comes your way. To make 2019 a year that you lived and loved and dreamed to your fullest. To enjoy 2019 with new friends and old. To being a year of laughing more.

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin

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Hanukkah Commitments

One of the December holidays that many celebrate is Hanukkah (or Chanukah). While Christmas is celebrated as both a religious and secular holiday, Hanukkah is only a religious one. While I don’t participate in the 8 days or any Jewish customs, especially in recent years I’ve come to appreciate aspects of the Hanukkah story and practice.

Spiritually and historically it’s a celebration and remembrance of a group of Jews who were led by Judah the Maccabee who defeated the Greeks and regained control of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. That alone is a great reason to celebrate each year, but there’s more to the story. The story finishes with a miracle: the supply of oil needed for the Menorah was only enough for one day, but it lasted 8, hence the 8 days of celebration.

In practice it’s a festival of lights, prayers and food. Families gather to light candles of the Menorah, continuing the practice that has always been done at temples around the world. Now it’s something that is done specifically during Hanukkah at homes, by both adults and kids alike. Along with the Menorah lighting special prayers are said, including some specifically reminiscent of the spiritual history of Hanukkah, asking for deliverance for those who need it.

Hanukkah is a story and celebration of light and victory. Both light and victory are topics that are relevant and important to everyone, both those who have a spiritual practice and those who don’t. But for those of us who are spiritual, light is about spreading the special light of God in you to the world. Victory is about victory over those who would hinder faith practices, over the limits of this body and living on earth, and/or the Resurrection.

But the word Hanukkah actually brings deeper meaning to the holiday, it comes from the Hebrew verb which means ‘to dedicate.’ It originally was a time of rededicating the Temple, and today it’s a time to rededicate ourselves to faith practices, to being the person we were created to be, to righting the wrongs in the world, and committing to do better for ourselves, each other and the world we share. What will you commit to this holiday season?

Reality Reflection: safety and security

This week in the US we’ve seen the unfortunate events unfold of several bombs being delivered to leaders and politicians. The good news about this story is that no one was killed as a result. I was talking about this event with a friend and we agreed that it had been a while since bombs have been on the news, and that’s a really good thing. It’s good that we’re not using bombs on each other as much, or that we’re getting better at catching them before they can be detonated or even delivered to their destination. There’s still too much violence overall, as the shootings that happen each week continue to show, but it almost seems like we’re making progress if people aren’t going the bomb route as much anymore.

But the overall question here that again puzzles me is why people think it’s such a big deal for people to be part of one political party or be a leader of some kind, and as a result think they need to be killed. I may not agree with everyone’s views, but I don’t see that as a reason to kill them. If we were talking more along the lines of a vigilante, while I don’t agree that they should do that it would at least be more understandable from a ‘they might actually deserve it’ standpoint. With the places and people that the bombs this week were delivered to there were a lot of innocent people in harms way, people who could have been killed for no real reason other than associating with someone that someone deemed to be a threat.

As I said initially there weren’t any casualties as a result, and it really speaks to the improved training and awareness of those in law enforcement who not only diffused the bombs but also tracked the clues to a suspect. There are people around the US who put their lives on the line each day for the safety of others and don’t get to return home, so it was a victory that everyone was able to get home and they were able to do their jobs quickly and effectively.

So this weekend I would encourage you to hug your loved ones a little closer, say a prayer for those in law enforcement and be thankful for the life and blessings you have.

The Best Version of You

Self improvement has been a thing for quite a few years now, and something that people have always done even if there wasn’t an official name for it.  I think it’s part of who we are that we try to improve ourselves and become better people, that as we physically grow it’s part of that process or journey to grow mentally as well.  It’s good to want to improve our skills, knowledge and productivity, but sometimes there’s something else we have to focus on first.

Sometimes in our life journey we pick up some bad habits and sometimes our bodies or minds get the best of us and as a result we may struggle with ourselves, our self confidence, and our relationships with others. As a result people may think of you as an “angry person,” a “debbie downer,” a “serial dater,” a “violent person,” someone with a short temper, or someone can’t hold down a job. It’s not easy to admit that these titles may fit you, and for many it’s even harder to get over being them, especially when being angry or violent or just throwing away relationships is your default.

It may not be easy, but it will not only improve your life but also the lives of those around you. Think about the last time you were out at a store and listened to someone lose their temper at their kid or at someone they’re on the phone with. It was probably embarrassing for you to listen to, but it may also hurt to think about how the person on the receiving end may be feeling. Yes, self improvement is about growing personally and making your life better, but in this case it’s also about being aware of the world around you and how you are impacting the lives of others.

This week I encourage you to work on the habit or personal challenge that’s not only holding you back from victories, but also is negatively impacting others.  Addressing this issue will not only help get you on the path to a better you, but also improve your relationships and the perceptions that other people have of you.

The Double Edged Sword of Focus

One of the keys to not only victories but living a fulfilling life is having focus. Would you say you’re a focused person some of the time, most of the time or very little of the time? As I was thinking about focus and victories today I was reminded that there are two sides to focus: we can have a strong focus on the right thing or the wrong thing. So focus can be a really good thing, and it can be really detrimental in your life and health and to the lives of others too.

On one side focus can help you move on from a disappointment because you can choose to direct your focus onto something else. Focus can also help you get a lot done and be really productive.  You can have a broad focus for a long time (getting healthy) or a very narrow and specific focus for a short time (), and with both you’ll get things done.  Using a narrow and specific focus can help to ease some of the pressure off of you if you’ve been stressing out over getting something done or have been procrastinating doing it because you can set a time limit for working on that activity or project and just do it for that set, limited period of time.

But on the other side, you can be stuck on focusing on something that’s hurting you or upsetting you. You can also be focused on hurting others or being mean and rude or just ignorant. Typically on the negative side of things focus is more of a choice or habit, but sometimes it sticks around just because you haven’t chosen to move your focus onto something else.  If it’s just sticking around it can feel like your mind is a hamster wheel and it just keeps returning to that hurt and stays thinking about it.  In these times it’s good to either talk it through with someone or to take a break and do something you really enjoy like reading, watching a TV show, watching dog/cat videos, playing video games, or crafting, just to name a few.  You may not think you have time for that activity right then, but it can be one of the best things for you because it will help break that cycle.

So today I encourage you to do a check of your focus throughout the day and make sure that you’re good with where your focus is and how focused you are at different points in time.  What are your focus challenges?

 

Free to be Honest and Open

Lately I’ve been captured by the TalkSpace commercial featuring Michael Phelps. For those who haven’t seen the commercial you can watch it here, and if you’re not familiar with TalkSpace it’s an online/phone therapy help line. Now that you’ve seen the commercial (spoiler alert) what has interested me with the commercial is how clear Phelps is with the fact that he’s struggled and that he wishes he had gotten help earlier.

I’m humbled by his willingness to speak about the issues he’s faced and may still be facing. Often we look at celebrities as people who must have their lives together, when in fact that’s not the case and their celebrity status is actually hiding serious struggles from the world, something we saw at the beginning of the summer with two celebrity suicides. It’s not easy to admit that you’re not as perfect as the world sees you or thinks you are.

But more people are speaking up about their challenges, weaknesses, failings and struggles. Why? Because we’re all human. While leaders do have a responsibility to be their best and set a good example, no one is perfect and most people have at least one ‘dark night of the soul’ in their lives. It’s not about flaunting failures or issues, but about speaking to other people with honesty and openness about your struggles so they can relate and hopefully feel comfortable getting help like you have.

Don’t let your weaknesses or challenges hold you back, choose to get the help you need so you can move on and live your life more fully. You’re not alone in the world with your issues and thanks to internet advances there are ways that you can get help without ever visiting an office or feeling forced to share parts of your life with the whole world.   Will you choose honesty today?

Reality Reflection: Baseball’s Long Season

Lately I’ve been thinking about the sport of baseball, especially since my partner watches a lot of it and we’re getting close to winding down another season. Each year teams play over 160 games, which is the most of any sport. While it may not be as physical as football or soccer, 160+ games are still a lot of games to play.

By the time you get to the end of the season it’s always interesting to see who is ahead in the number of games and who is still or now playing well. Some teams begin well and end well (but can’t win anything in between), some consistently do decently enough throughout the whole season to be in contention for post season, some don’t play well all season long, and some just play so well that there’s never a question during any part of the season that they’re going to be at the top of the ranks.

The long season is one reason why a team can get a second wind, even if it won’t totally fix a team’s (poor) season. That second wind is incredibly frustrating for fans because they want to see their team play that well all season long, and wonder why they can’t. It also causes me to think about the seasons of our lives and how sometimes we really need a little more time for things to develop, and that short and quick aren’t always the answer.

I think the secret to success during long journeys like this is to be able to get focused and stay focused for a sufficient period of time each day, to have a team that can support you and you can support them, to not have to or plan to rely on luck all the time, and to not just focus on the big win but work more on the smaller stepping stone victories that will lead to that bigger victory.