Giving Thanks for Time

Today as we discuss being thankful I want to talk about something that I’m struggling with and you may be too: time.  It’s a tricky beast, isn’t it!?  Many of us spend a lot of time talking about it, berating it, bemoaning it and trying to squeeze every last second we can from the hours we’re given.  Some people do waste the time they have or don’t use it very well, but even they tend to talk about how little time they seem to have.

So why be thankful for time? Why talk about it on Monday instead of another day when we could talk about productivity strategies and time stealers (no worries, we will make time for this in the near future)?  Because time is one of the most valuable gifts, tools, opportunities and resources we have. It, along with health, is one of the things that we take most for granted.  When people are told they’re dying in the near future they often write and try to make it through a bucket list.  When people are on their death beds they comment that they wish they had more time to spend with those they’re leaving behind.  When people we know die too soon we say that we wish we had more time with them.

So as much as this discussions is about the value and importance of managing your time well and making time for the things that really matter in life like your health and relationships, it’s also about being grateful for the time that you do have.  We’re so blessed to be living in a day and age when we’re expected to live 80+ years.  I can’t imagine what it used to be like hundreds of years ago when the average lifespan was much less.

So this week make time to appreciate being alive, that you have the time to panic over and stress about, and do your best to use your time and life wisely.

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”   Seneca

Celebrating our Bodies

With Easter being this past Sunday of course I’ve been thinking about the concept of new life.  It reminded me of a quote by Steven Hall: “Every single cell in the human body replaces itself over a period of seven years. That means there’s not even the smallest part of you now that was part of you seven years ago.”  Of course this gets me thinking about all the possibilities there are for healing and recovery from sicknesses, not to mention those who quit smoking or doing other drugs.  It also makes me question why we do such bad things to our bodies that we even need to know that it’s a 7 year cycle.

So part of me is really thankful that we’ve got the gift of a body that regrows itself, even if it does take 7 years to happen.  I mean, how cool is that?!  But part of me is upset that it takes that long!!  I know, I’ve seen too many crimes solved in under 60 minutes and food cooked and delivered in under 30 minutes to have any kind of real time perception, not even what people had 50 years ago.  But why doesn’t our body do the replacement every year or every 5 years, why does it have to take 7?  There are tons of things that we could question, but I think this is one of those that is better seen as a gift rather than something to complain about.

So as you dive into this new week I encourage you to remember that your body refreshes itself, and so should you in the other areas of your life.  Take time to celebrate the new opportunities in your life and those that pop back up again.  Be thankful for the body you have and all that it does for you on a daily basis, especially the things you don’t think about.  Celebrate that you’re alive and able to move around however you do it and able to enjoy each moment of your life.

Ready to Relax

I don’t know about you, but my schedule changes over the summer, and I try to move my days off to those that are nice and sunny whenever possible so that I take advantage of all the wonderful fresh air and summer sunshine! I have always made a point of taking time each week to relax and not do work on my computer or meet with clients so that I can have time to regain my perspective and remember that all the work I’m doing is for the goal of being able to enjoy life more. After all, what’s the point of doing all the work if it isn’t to have time to enjoy the fruits of your labor?

I don’t believe that resting and days off are a waste of time. We aren’t machines built to run 365 days a year 24 hours a day (and even machines have down time because of issues, repairs or overheating concerns). We’re humans designed to sleep every night, but sleep is only a small part of the resting and recharging we need, we need showers and food and friendly conversations that have nothing to do with how we make money or how we’re making a difference in the world.

I’ve never felt that taking an afternoon off to enjoy nature or go on a hike, have a picnic, or read a book is a waste of time because I always feel better, more grounded and more productive after I’ve had that quiet time. There’s something special about nature that all too often we don’t take advantage of. So this summer I encourage you to make sure to take time with your family and by yourself to get out there and enjoy what’s all around us. Take a day to go out into the country and see what you don’t usually see when you’re riding the highways to and from work, go to a National Park and see what your taxes are caring for, and get some perspective on how much bigger life is than what you see in your daily journey.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.” John Lubbock

Reacting to Screwups

The past few weeks we’ve been talking about some of the challenges we face as business owners, and some of the really simple yet important things that should be done to improve for everyone’s sakes. Today I want to talk about a touchy topic, one that was a bit of a realization over the past month’s thinking and discussion of self-control and the challenges I faced in my life and business.

The topic for today is embarrassment.  Let’s face it, we’ve all been embarrassed by one thing or another that has really been a big oopsie and we’ve felt really guilty about it. Sometimes we feel so guilty that we get angry and lash out at people who didn’t even have a role in it. We yell at others because we didn’t read things well enough or rushed into making a decision that wasn’t life and death, when really there’s no need to blame anyone. But that embarrassment we feel, the frustration that wells up inside us, and the feelings of failure totally overrule any common sense we have, because it means we’ve lost control of the situation.

You’ve probably been on both sides of an embarrassing situation or reaction. You’ve probably been lashed at by that unwarranted anger. It hurt, right? You were probably confused by their over-the-top reaction as well. It usually has the unfortunate result of turning us hostile too. After all, it’s a natural reaction to someone coming at us in a rage. You’ve also felt like an idiot when you did something stupid, made the wrong call or really screwed things up.

So what’s my point in bringing up this topic today? First, to acknowledge that we’ve all been on both sides of embarrassment: we’ve all screwed up and we’ve all been treated unfairly. Unfortunately rather than learning from the situation it just makes some of us more bitter and more likely to lash out. But this won’t get us more clients or help us develop into the leaders that we could be.

Most people are happy to help you make things right or resolve an issue, unless you’ve come at them with guns blazing. You don’t have to fall all over yourself apologizing for something, but we all need to be a little more patient, be a little less in a rush, be willing to admit we were wrong, and most of all do our best not to overreact and hurt someone else.

Stress Solutions

We finish up this month’s discussions on health with a favorite topic for everyone: stress.  Most of us live with it on a daily basis, trying to avoid the things that cause bumps in the road.  No one likes to be stressed, and as it turns out stress actually contributes to a lot of our health problems, so we have very good reason to dislike it.  However, while we may recognize the negative effects that stress has on our lives, few of us actually do anything about it.  Let’s change that!

First, stress is mental.  In most cases how stressed we get is a choice.  We all react differently to things that happen, but some of us react in a way that completely blows the initial stress out of proportion and as a result greatly increases the stress we experience, and the damage to our health.  If we were more prepared mentally for the challenges we’ll face and how to deal with them mentally we’d be less stressed.  I’m not suggesting we practice being stressed more often, just learn better ways of dealing with typical life situations we find ourselves in and generally learning to think and believe more positively.

Second, dealing with stress is both mental and physical.  Stress sets in motion an amazing chemical reaction throughout our bodies in addition to the freak-out our minds go through. The best ways to deal with it on a physical level and combat the effects on a regular basis are physical activity like running, walking, yoga or boxing, and other things like massages, relaxing scents, acupuncture, Bach remedies, Reiki and other similar practices.  Working through the stress on a physical level will often help you get enough distance and perspective that you’ll be able to think through the situation much clearer.

Finally, stress should not be dealt with alone.  We’re in a world with many other amazing people, people who can help us learn to forgive ourselves, deal with the stress we’ve kept in our lives and embrace what the future holds with less fear.  We can work with coaches, pastors, our partners and friends to learn techniques and get support when we deal with stressful situations.

The thing to remember here is not that stress can necessarily be avoided, but that we’ve got lots of room to improve how we handle the stresses that come into our lives.  How do you handle stress?

Winning and Losing

If you’re a sports fan there’s a good chance you’re thinking about the upcoming Superbowl.  You may not have a team in (I’m a Saints fan), but chances are you’re still interested in the outcome (go Seattle!), or at least watching the game to hang out with friends. As I was thinking about it I was reminded that there’s been lots of losers so far and there will be one more.  There can only be one winner.  The concept of winning and losing is one we have to deal with from a young age.  What do we do with the disappointments and victories our kids experience?  How do we explain the concept of something that is a game but so much more?

1-you can’t win everything.  Even if you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth the chances of you not getting everything you want are pretty good.  Not everything has a price and can be attained.  Put the most effort into the battles you really want to fight.

2-you can improve your chances for success.  There are tons of books you can read, courses you can take, people you can talk with, work you can do, all to improve and increase your chances of success.  Best of all, you don’t have to parent your kids through their struggles alone!  You can’t change everything, but you can always find a way to gain an edge if you are willing to make the effort.

3-failure isn’t permanent.   This is one of the most important things to communicate to your kids; it’s important for them to realize that when they get beaten they can’t stay down, they have to come back again.  No, they don’t have to win the Superbowl next year if they lost this year, they can go on to win at other things; things that may end up mattering to them more than one night of success.

It all comes down to seeing the bigger perspective.  Each and every experience we have we can learn from.  Don’t restrict your lessons or successes, keep an open mind and be willing to move on.

A Season of Stress

December, ironically enough, is Stress Free Family Month.  So today I thought I would share 3 tips for easing the stress in your life.  They will take a little work to get into practice on, but once you’ve gotten into a rhythm you’ll find you’re all less stressed.

1-a calendar: I don’t know how many families I talk to that don’t use a calendar and wonder why their lives are crazy.  Not writing down commitments and plans means that other people don’t know and therefore can blame you when you expected them to remember something or be somewhere.  Yes, you can use an online or app calendar, but I also advise a physical one that everyone can write their stuff down on for all to see in a central location at the house.

2-weekly family meeting: yes, these can be painful.  It’s hard to convince the whole family to sit down at the same time and discuss the upcoming week.  But if you take just 30 minutes each week to sit down as a group and discuss what is on the calendar and schedule for each person that week and who will be responsible for transportation, who will be getting/making meals, when people are working, things people want to attend, projects coming up etc., rather than having issues mid-week with things you’ll be able to figure it all out ahead of time.

3-food: for this there are two suggestions.  First to make a meal list for dinners that upcoming week, and second to do all of the food shopping on one day, not a little bit each day as needed.  Yes, this takes time again to sit down and plan things out.  But taking the time to make a dinner menu schedule and a really good shopping list means that you’ll not be running all over getting supplies and you’ll not be feeding your family not so good dinners.  The first couple of weeks will be more difficult, but once you get the hang of not shopping each day and planning meals ahead you can ease a lot of stress.

What about you?  What are your tips for having less stress in your family?

Under Pressure

If you’ve been following the news in the USA and around the world at all lately, there are many tumultuous situations going on.  The US government shutdown, boats sinking, wars, people kidnapped, the list goes on.  A little closer to home parents are heading in for parent-teacher conferences, seeing some of the early grades of the year and almost done with fall sports.  At any time we’re under a lot of pressure from work, school, family, friends and relationship, not to mention the pressures we have no real control or influence over like the government or weather.  Pressures like these not only affect you but they affect your kids as well.  When you’re stressed out that stress easily transfers itself to your kids since they’re more sensitive.  That’s not to say they should be sheltered from stress and pressure until they’re teens; they should be aware of stress and how to deal with it.  Today I thought we’d review just a few thoughts on dealing with pressures and stress.

1-realize that sometimes it will be too much to handle.  You don’t have to be picture perfect all the time.  If people accepted that sooner we’d all be more able to be ourselves.  Which would mean less pressure to be perfect, more understanding when things do get screwy and healthier relationships all around.  When we accept that sometimes life will be too much we can let go of some of our fears around how we show up in the world and how others see us.  We will screw up.  It’s a fact.  How we handle things as a result of the screw up says a lot about our character and who we are as people.

2-know you don’t have to handle it alone.  I would never run for a political office, but if the people in government started talking and working together instead of trying to one-up the other person, I don’t think we’d be in this situation in the first place. No one person could rule the world, so why do we insist that we can handle everything all by ourselves?  The second we turn to someone else for assistance we’re not giving up our power, but rather gaining more power than we could have by ourselves.  We can’t always be right, nor can we do everything the best way possible all by ourselves.

3-communication is key to handling pressures effectively.  While animals may be able to grunt and fight their problems out, most of the time that’s not going to help us find solutions to the pressures.  Yes, we do need to get the physical emotions and feelings out and physical activity is a great way to do that.  But the problem won’t be solved by a 10 mile run or fist fight.  Nor will a screaming match do anyone any good.  When you sit down and truly discuss the situation and possible next steps instead of yelling or just giving up you’re choosing to create a better future.

These 3 keys will not only help you better deal with stress, they’ll give you the tools to help your kids deal with and learn from your stress as well.  Kids will always be affected by our stress, but they don’t have to be traumatized by it.  What do you do that helps you handle pressures and stress?

Customer Service Superstars

This week in the USA we’re celebrating something I know you love: customer service!  That’s right, they’ve gone ahead and set aside a whole week each October to recognize how important customer service is.  I hear a lot of groans over the web, and a bunch of sighs too.  I know business leaders have been speaking up about the importance of customer service for years, it has been a buzzword for many years as well, often becoming a source of frustration and annoyance for people.  Let’s get a few obvious points out of the way, and get to a few thoughts to apply.

Obvious but Necessary:

-Every business has customers so every business should have customer service.

-There are many ways to provide customer service like social media, blogs, email, phone, Skype, face to face etc.

-Everyone can provide better customer service.

-Customer service can make a terrible product bearable, and ruin a good company.

Food for Thought:

-Customer service comes in many forms, a phone representative letting you know they don’t sell a product anymore provides customer service, someone fixing your washer provides customer service, and even someone giving you directions while you get a morning cup of joe provides customer service.

-Sometimes customer service means going above and beyond, other times it just means being there when someone shows up, calls or emails.

-Customer service means standing behind the products and services you offer and doing your best to always provide satisfactory answers to customer questions, even if it takes a little extra work on your part.

-Customer service is an evolving activity of participation from you and the customer.  As you assist more and more people it will become easier to assist others with frequently asked questions and issues as well as the more challenging ones.  And, you will gain a reputation for being a friendly and helpful company.

-True customer service is a commitment.  You’re choosing to show up in a friendly and helpful way to people who may not be having their best day ever and treat them with respect, courtesy, patience, and honesty.

-Do your best to not hassle or further frustrate your customers in your attempts at customer service.  Getting their name and life story isn’t always necessary nor is asking them to jump through hoops to be assisted.

-Most people just want to be heard.  A huge part of customer service is listening to what people are telling and asking you.  If you’re hearing the same issues or suggestions over and over it may be something you want to change or add to your services and products.

What will you do this week to provide better customer service to your customers and potential customers?

Making Peace

One thing that’s missing in most homes is peace.  We’ve let our lives get so cluttered by the stuff that we are blessed with in 2013, stuff which is admittedly often cool.  We’re living in a time when many people have what they need, and can get what they don’t have.  Yet we still have struggles in our lives, so at some time it must be acknowledged that the possessions don’t bring us the peace that we thought they could.  It’s not impossible to find peace in this life, but it, like most good things, takes time and effort.

Make the effort: we live in a world of instant things, instant food, instant movies, instant knowledge, so it’s not surprising that we often struggle with the concept of things taking time.  In the situation of making peace at home, the extra effort is not only worth it, it’s necessary.  You and your partner, you and your kids, no one will have peace if you’re all ignoring each other or so overbooked that you don’t have time for real relationships.

Make the time: a good relationship takes time to develop, and time to be kept solid.  It’s been said that you’re a reflection of the people you spend the most time with, and your relationships will prove how you spend your time.  While you may not see a relationship with your work, it will be evident that that’s how you’ve chosen to spend your time if your other relationships are falling apart.  I understand that some people are difficult, really I do.  But what most people don’t understand is that with effort and time those relationships could be significantly improved in most cases.

If we really want to be our best, be successful and have less war, fighting and unhappiness in our lives, it has to start in our homes.  Unhappiness there spills over into the other areas of our lives poisoning them too.    To get started bringing peace into your home it has to start with each of us realizing where we’re screwing up.  Once we’ve accepted our responsibility and role in creating discord, we can apologize and being righting our actions and attitudes to create the foundation for peace.  Will you join me in bringing peace to homes and relationships around the world?