Forgiveness begins within.

Forgiveness begins within.

  Making a better life is challenging.  You may be doing everything right.  You are living in the moment, appreciating the things you have and making small changes towards reaching your goals.  However, you can still feel like you are walking against the tide.  On those days, there will occasionally be setbacks.  You may slip into old habits or have an emotional meltdown.  It is OK. It happens.  It is part of the process.  Just like someone who is attempting to eat healthier may have an entire tub of ice cream after a particularly trying day, you may hit a similar stumbling block. We are human.  We are fallible.  Self improvement is an ongoing journey for the rest of your life.  Each day and each moment,  you have a choice.  Now and then you might indulge the three year old inside that has a temper tantrum when things do not go as planned.  Alternatively, you may step back, take a deep breath and focus on how to solve the problem.  Just because one day you make a poor decision does not mean you are bound to that course of action every time.  Unless that is your choice.  When you become disappointed with your behavior, forgive the transgression and allow yourself another chance. As a parent it is easy to forgive your child for their mistakes.  While learning to pour from a carton, you do not chastise them for spilling the milk.  While learning to walk, you do not insult them when they fall.  Apply this principle to yourself.  We are all learning how to be better people.  Be kind to yourself when you have a bad day. Forgive yourself for succumbing to your emotions or being angry at your circumstances.  Forgive yourself for falling into old patterns which have been established over many years.  Successful change occurs when you take responsibility for your choices and make better decisions next time.  Reflect on how you feel when you overreact or over indulge.  You will notice that these actions are counterproductive.  In addition, you feel bad about yourself which increases the distress. When you take this attitude with yourself, you will find it easier to apply it to others in your life as well.  This is essential to improve relationships in your life.  Learning to forgive yourself will help you understand how important it is to give those around you another chance to redeem themselves. Truth be told, I have a horrible temper.  I am Portuguese and as a culture we often scream, shout and flail our arms over just about anything.  I know the Italians get all the glory when it comes to hot blooded reactions but believe me, you do not want to get caught in the wrath of a Portuguese woman either, it is not pretty.  That being said, I had to put this temper in check.  It is exhausting to fly off the handle and as I mentioned before, it does not accomplish anything.  However, sometimes it is cathartic.  Before indulging myself in an outburst I try to ask myself the question “why am I upset?”  The answer is not as obvious as it may seem.  When someone hurts you, it may be that you are disappointed that they did not meet your expectations.  Perhaps something did not go as you had hoped and you are disillusioned because of your fear of failure.  If you analyze the root of your anger you often will encounter that it is because of your presumption of the outcome and has very little to do with any circumstance or person involved. It is natural to be annoyed when things do not go as planned.  How you decide to express your aggravation is the key to improving your life.  Call a friend.  Call a psychologist. Talk to the person with whom you are having an issue and make it clear that you are not mad at them but you need to vent.  It is ok to tell someone that you are upset by their actions without insulting them.  Whether it is your spouse, your children or a friend, it is important that you communicate your fears and disappointment without making them responsible for your state of mind.  This will improve your relationship because you can be honest and forthcoming without causing them to feel like they have to defend themselves. Whether it is the extra piece of cake you had at a friend’s wedding, losing your temper with a loved one or letting an opportunity slip by because of fear, forgive yourself.   Apply this philosophy to anyone in your life who may have a setback.  Each time you forgive, you will be moving one step closer to peace within and happiness in your life....

Focus on one thing that matters the most.

Focus on one thing that matters the most.

  The New Year always brings such hope and excitement.  Change is imminent and all things are possible.  Suddenly you visualize achieving all those goals you have been dreaming of for years and know THIS is the year you are going to do it!  You are going to quit smoking, lose 20 lbs, find a new job and meet the person of your dreams.  For the first few days, or even few weeks you are on fire!  You get on a new health regimen, successfully stop smoking and even fill out an online dating profile!  Things are definitely looking up. Suddenly, you hit a snag.  You get fired, have a fight with someone or you have a particularly trying day and you decide that you really need a cigarette.  Who could blame you? You deserve it!  You decide not to work out because you are just too stressed out.  Since you are not working out anyway, why not have that big piece of chocolate cake you have been eyeing for the last 3 days?  You have not applied to any other job because you need to fix up your resume and no one is really hiring this early in the New Year, maybe they’ll be looking in the spring…yes, you should wait until the spring when things feel fresh and exciting again.  The same goes for your online dating profile.  You have decided to wait because you want to get things in order with your life before looking for that right person.  I mean, how can you begin dating until you find that new job, quit smoking and lose that extra weight?!   There are several reasons to keep things status quo.  Change is scary.  Moving outside of your comfort zone is frightening.  What if you do not succeed?  What if it does not make any difference in your life?  What if you are still miserable and you suffered through all the sacrifice that comes with change?  When you take the time to do things differently, things WILL change and keep moving forward and that is never a bad thing.  You have to decide what is important to you and whether or not you are worth the investment. Instead of having a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions adding unrealistic expectations to the already challenging endeavor of imparting real change in your life, I propose you select just one.  With several objectives, it is hard to stay focused and clearly visualize your path because there are so many different aspects to your success.  Zoning in on just one thing will make it easier to establish a plan that produces results.  Take an honest look at yourself and prioritize.  Figure out which goal is most important and will have the biggest impact on your life.  If the first thing on your list is to take care of your health, then that should be your only focus this year. Once you have decided what to focus on, you can break it down into smaller, doable steps for each month and even each week.  In order to successfully achieve any type of change in your life, you must take small steps and give yourself enough time to realistically implement new habits.  For example, if you decide that you must make your health a priority this year, pick a specific goal such as “I want to lose 20 lbs by Dec. 31 2014” and then break it down into smaller tasks.  Make a list of all the things that you can do to help you achieve that goal.  In this case you may add such things as make healthier food choices, increase physical activity and reduce sugar intake.  Do not start doing everything at once.  In order for you to break an old habit, you need to slowly introduce a new one and remember that takes 21 days to implement successfully.  Start small.  Evaluate what you are eating and drinking and what kind of physical activity you are doing so that you may introduce slow but effective changes to your lifestyle.  You can start by cutting out soda.  Begin with replacing one a day with either sparkling or plain water for one week.  Then try replacing two sodas a day, for another week.  If that seems like too much, take it slower.  Make it an easy pace to ensure success.  Break down each step and decide what is doable and stick to the plan.  Once you have eradicated soda from your diet, try reducing sugar intake.  First, you may cut it out of your morning coffee or have one less dessert a week or reduce the amount of chocolate you eat.  If you don’t like the idea of eliminating, then begin adding physical activity.  If you are currently not active, start by walking once a week for 10 minutes.  Gradually increase the time you walk and then add days based on a realistic plan that works with your lifestyle and schedule.   If you have a bad day or week, continue from your last successful point and repeat it until you are ready to move on.  Don’t give up!  That is why this should be the only goal for the rest of the year.  You need to give yourself time to accomplish the goal while allowing the new regimen to become a regular part of your lifestyle.  When you are trying to quit smoking or improve your health, doing it successfully for a couple of weeks does not mean you have completely achieved your objective.  You should give yourself time to really establish your new habits to make sure they are truly part of your life before moving on to the next goal.   In the event that you do attain success before the year is up, you can then start to take the same approach with a new goal or you can just enjoy the fact that you accomplished what you set out to do for 2014 and start thinking about what you want to do next year! Good luck on achieving all of your endeavors for the New Year!!    ...

Expectations may lead to disappointment.

Expectations may lead to disappointment.

In the same way that you shouldn’t judge yourself based on anyone else, it is also unfair to judge others based on your own expectations. Anticipation of a certain outcome or behavior can easily lead to disappointment, especially if it involves other people, mother nature or things we can not control.  It is important to have expectations of yourself but it is not fair to place those same demands on anyone else. Everyone is different.  People have diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, family values and moral compasses.  What we may see as inappropriate may be standard cultural behavior for someone else.  It is not up to us to judge.  Our only responsibilities are to conduct ourselves in a manner we are comfortable with and ensure that our family is not being hurt by anyone’s poor choices.  Other than that, we should not impose our expectations onto other people.  Everyone has their own limitations and if we love them and choose to keep them in our lives we must accept them for who they are unconditionally.  If there is someone who repeatedly disappoints you, take a step back and ask yourself if you are transferring your own agenda to this person.  Do not assume they are even aware that they are offending you.  Explain to them that your feelings are hurt and tell them how you hoped they would behave.  You should be clear about what actions are important to you.  If you have communicated with them and nothing changes then you must to decide how to proceed.  If it is simply a matter of them handling circumstances differently than you, keep in mind that it is their choice to conduct themselves as they see fit and if you choose to continue interacting with them you must accept them without reservation. If the transgression is unacceptable in that they are physically, emotionally or psychologically abusive, then you must remove yourself or your family from having any exposure to this person.  This will not be easy.  If it is your spouse, a parent or child you may need to enlist the help of a professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.  Anyone else needs to be cut off from your life immediately.  Never allow anyone to bully or abuse you in anyway.  If you are a parent, it is imperative that your children understand not to tolerate this behavior.  Not only will they see that you have self respect, but it is a valuable lesson in self preservation! Outside of those drastic circumstances, there are plenty of everyday examples of people who do not live up to your expectations and you must decide how to deal with them.  You may have a friend who only calls when they need something.  They do not call to see how you are doing or to say hello.  Whenever they do call it is to ask for a favor or to unload the latest drama.  If you are looking to have a reciprocal relationship with this person, you are going to be disappointed.  However, you may enjoy their crazy stories and find that once in while it’s nice to focus on someone else.    If you decide that you still want to continue this friendship than you must accept them for who they are and all that entails.  If not, you should be open about how you feel and give them the opportunity to make amends.  Your friend may not have realized how they were hurting you.  They may have assumed that you would call when you need them and tell your own stories without any prompting.  You would be surprised what is revealed in a sincere conversation about your expectations.  Your real friends care about you and will do what is necessary to make the friendship work.  Anyone who is unwilling to have an honest conversation about your relationship is probably not the type of friend you want in your life. Once again, do not accept abuse of any kind from anyone.  That is not the same as having high expectations, that is having self respect.  Aside from that, do not hold your friends and family to your standards.  People have their own reasons for behaving in certain ways and if you choose to associate with them then you need to respect their choices and ask that they do the same for you....

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