Back to School: One Habit That Should Stick With You Forever

A new school season started this week. Families and teachers have been busy getting ready for the year ahead. Perhaps you, too, are shopping for clothes, shoes, and school supplies. It is a busy yet exciting time. We learn many habits in school and one of them, in particular, is a key to lifelong progress. Are you still dealing with the same issues you were 5, 10 years ago? Wonder why you’re not making progress? Ready to throw in the towel on your aspirations and dreams? Don’t! It is never too late to move forward so today I am going to share with you the one powerful habit you can use to make definite progress towards your goals.

Before you moan and groan, let me reassure you, this is not something new you have to learn. In fact, you probably already do this at least once a day. Some use electronic gadgets, others use whiteboards, and others, like yours truly, use a good old pencil and paper. But first, let’s take a trip down memory lane, back to our school days. What was your favorite school supply? Mine was the notebook. I loved choosing from among all the colorful covers. Teachers back then were very particular about what kind of notebook to have and how to divide it up by subject or topic. Then they came out with the 5-subject notebook which I loved because it saved me running back and forth to my locker to switch notebooks for different classes. The purpose of notebooks was – to take notes, of course!

Whenever someone was out sick, they would come to me for the notes, because even back then, I took good notes. And what is the purpose of taking good notes? To be able to remember what is important! Good note taking is simply this: jot down the important facts you want to recall at a later time. With everything on our schedules these days, sometimes the most important ideas can be forgotten if we don’t write them down.

Experts say only 10% of what is read is remembered. This skill comes in handy in daily life as well. I bet many of you make grocery lists, create goals on the job, and have daily to-do lists, yes? Billionaire entrepreneur, Richard Branson, even recommends this habit .

If we want to make progress in any area of life, we need to get in the habit of taking notes. This one simple habit we learned in school can help us stay on top of things in all these important areas of life:

1) our finances
2) our fitness and health goals
3) our diets
4) our personal growth
5) our spiritual growth

So while we’re on the topic let’s talk about spiritual growth for just a minute. How many times do you go to church or your favorite spiritual place, and forget the message before the day is over?
We get distracted. We barely pay attention. We fall asleep. As soon as we leave, we start thinking about where to have lunch or what we event we are headed to next. Taking notes is not only a good way to stay focused and attentive, it also helps us remember and apply what we’ve heard so that we can move forward. Where would the world be if such people as Aristotle, Confucious, Augustine, and Camus did not write down their thoughts and ideas?

What one area of life do YOU want to make progress in? If it’s diet, start taking notes about what you eat every day. If it’s finances, start tracking what you spend every day. Get the idea? Nothing is impossible and this one school habit can make the difference! Where else do you use note-taking? How has it helped you?

Until next time, do leave a comment. Love to hear your feedback. Keep the faith and keep looking up!

Ariel

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How to Prepare for the Next Crisis

Ever feel like life is one crisis after another? Does watching the evening news make you anxious and fearful? Ever wish things would just settle down and stay static for a while? I know I do but I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. In fact, it seems like things are coming at us at even faster speeds.

The crises we face in life are opportunities to see how we react and to test and grow our character. The difficult part is most of the time we are blind-sided by these events: an unexpected death or illness, a financial loss, a relationship shatters. Then what? If we have not strengthened our spiritual muscle, we are in for a rough time. So today, I’m going to share with you the importance of strengthening your spiritual muscle. Didn’t know you had one? Then read on.

In the same way athletes strengthen their physical muscles for more intense workouts, we too must train our spiritual muscle for the ever-increasing challenges life presents. Deep within each of us lies a seed. This seed is the birthplace of our greatest power. It is our secret weapon against the trials and tribulations of life. It is the key to keeping our joy and our peace despite difficult circumstances. It is crucial to maintaining hope in the midst of great loss or disappointment. Without a strong spiritual muscle, we are tossed to and fro in the tsunamis of life’s sudden difficulties. We moan and groan. We get depressed. We lose hope and we lose faith. There will always be difficult circumstances to deal with but we can prepare ourselves to handle them in a much more positive way.

I was having dinner with an old friend last night who had recently married. As she shared all the joys of marriage, she also shared how her health had deteriorated and how she is in much pain. I felt so badly for her. As a ballroom dancer for many years, she has always been active and now she can barely walk without pain. Yet her conversation was full of joy and hope and she focused on all the blessings in her life and her upcoming travels. That my friends, is what a spiritual muscle does for you.

It’s about focusing on the good things in our lives, rather than the negatives. It’s about realizing we all go through storms, but the storms will pass and there will be blue skies once again. It’s about knowing there is a loving and caring God who understands the suffering we go through. It’s about looking forward into the future with hope and anticipation despite the current obstacles.

Faith is the positive belief of things not yet seen. Faith says not only do I believe God can get me through his, I believe He will get me through this. Faith is what Winston Churchill instilled in his famous speech when he said “Never, never give up!” Every trial we go through is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, others, and God. It gives God a chance to prove His faithfulness to us. It gives us a chance to see God move in our lives. It really is quite an amazing thing to encounter.

As a single divorced mom, I was faced with many difficult circumstances. I dealt with addictions, financial disaster, depression and anxiety, the effects of being raised in an alcoholic home as well as an emotionally abusive and unavailable spouse. I know what it’s like to face major challenges unprepared, so I want to encourage you to take steps today to strengthen your secret weapon so you will be better equipped to face the inevitable crises that will arise in your life.

The storms will rage all around us, but we do not have to allow ourselves to be continuously tossed about. We can remain anchored and steady, knowing the storms are sent for our ultimate good. What storm or challenge are you facing today? Are you sinking in the depths of despair and lost hope? If so, take heart. You will get through it and you will be stronger for it. If this post encouraged you, please click the +1 Google icon, leave a comment, or forward to a friend who may need some encouragement.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

Change Your Words, Change Your Life

“I have a dream” Martin Luther King.
 “Never, never give up!” Winston Churchill
 “Four score and seven years ago,” Abraham Lincoln.

These famous words so eloquently delivered, influenced nations in a powerful way and will live forever in our memories. Three men were motivated by their passion, conviction, determination, and courage. These were  also men of great faith who believed in the principle of freedom.

Words  have a magnificent and awesome power to effect change. The words you and I use have great power as well. Words can heal or harm, build up or destroy, uplift or tear down. All of us can remember words spoken by parents, siblings, and classmates, that affected us strongly in some way.

The effects of our words have much more impact than we realize, because they carry energy which is either positive or negative. In his book, “Awaken the Giant Within”, motivational speaker Tony Robbins talks about the power of words. He suggests we maximize positive words to increase pleasure and minimize negative words to decrease pain. For example, instead of angry say disenchanted. Instead of confused, say curious. Say unstoppable rather than confident. Robbins encourages us to use “transformational vocabulary” with the goal being to minimize our negative feelings.

In my opinion, the greatest motivational speaker of all time was Jesus Christ. Think about his words and the impact they had on people he encountered:
“You are forgiven.”
“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
“Your faith has made you well.”

His words healed the sick and the blind, the down-trodden and the outcasts of society. The Bible refers to Jesus as “The Word” (John 1:1) which relates back to ancient Greek philosophy and refers to divine wisdom, reason, and creative power.

What kinds of words are you speaking out? To your kids, your friends and coworkers and more importantly, to yourself? And to God?

If you want to transform your life, I encourage you to start changing the way you speak. Instead of saying “This —- is going to kill me” say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  Instead of saying “I feel fat, ugly, old” say “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” It is true. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). 

Write and share what one phrase you are going to stop using this week. Let’s all speak words of life and faith and watch our lives be transformed.

Until next time, keep the faith and keep looking up!

Ariel

Mindfulness: How it Can Help You Stay Connected to What’s Really Important

There’s been quite the hubbub lately about mindfulness. You know something is catching on when there’s an article about it in the Costco magazine. Mindfulness has made its way out of the yogic realm and into mainstream society. Our culture has us moving faster and faster with the plethora of electronic gadgets and social media. Many feel pressured to “keep up” with the pace of the world and every Facebook post, Tweet, or news event. Perhaps like me, you wonder if all this is such a good thing. In the midst of this information overload, are we losing sight of what is truly important and failing to enjoy the precious moments in our every day lives? Maybe the ancients were on to something, so this week’s post is devoted to answering this question:
What is mindfulness exactly and how can it help us in our daily lives?

When some hear the term “mindfulness” they conjure up visions of cross-legged yogis with eyes-closed chanting. Perhaps a more realistic and comprehensible word for mindfulness is “awareness” or “being present”. Being present & fully engaged is the best gift we can bestow upon our spouse, our child, our friends and ourselves. Mindfulness is a form of meditation one does to learn to clear one’s mind and to be aware of one’s thoughts as they pass by. An untrained mind is mindless. Our thoughts jump from one thing to another, like a monkey on tree. We are easily distracted, forgetful, sucked in to emotional reactions, and not fully present or aware.

One way to judge this is to notice the rate of speech we use. When we are talking a mile a minute, our minds are racing. My mother always used to tell me “You think too fast,” and now I realize she was right. I thought too fast and I talked too fast so that is one reason I have taken up the study of mindfulness. Nowadays, I am often bewildered by someone’s conversation when they seemingly go off on an unrelated tangent. I ask myself “How is this related to what we were discussing?”. What happens is in their mind there was some connection to another event. Their mind monkey-jumped to this other thought thread and they started following it without realizing it was not related to the discussion at hand. As we age, this happens more and more because the circuitry of our brains has been wired for years. However, it is possible to stay focused and connected, even as we age, by learning this ancient practice.

Relationships:
Nothing is more upsetting to a wife than to come home to her hubby all excited about sharing something about her day and he tunes her out by reading the newspaper or being fixated on the boob tube, computer, or video game. I remember when I was married and I used to teach aerobics one night a week. I would come home from class all excited to share how the class went and my then husband would look at me briefly and then go right back to reading the newspaper. Is it little wonder then we ended up in divorce court? These days people substitute their cellphone, the television, the internet or a video game. It’s all the same problem – lack of mindfulness. Otherwise known as not paying attention.

Your kids:
When you are with them, make the effort to be truly with them. Don’t be doing dishes, talking on the phone, grading papers or whatever else needs to be done. Stay in the present moment and really be with your child. These things can be done after the kids are in bed. If you’re a working mom, like I was, you only have a few hours to develop a relationship with your children. Those hours are precious. I made sure eating dinner together was a priority. I’d ask them about their day and get them to talking. Some nights we’d have a bible study session where we would take turns reading the Bible. Now it doesn’t have to be the Bible. I wanted to make it a two-fer and use the connecting time as a teaching time as well. Then at bedtime, I’d often read them a bed time story. In other words, I made sure the hours I had with my kids, I was present.

Personal life:
How often do you forget where you put your keys, your wallet, the grocery list? You start one task and find yourself doing something else two minutes later. No, it’s not ADD or ADHD. Most likely it is the normal state of mindlessness. Not being aware of what you are currently doing. I think if we taught our kids mindfulness at an early age, far few kids would be on prescription meds. When we learn to slow down enough to pay attention to the present moment, we actively engage in the here and now. You know how you get so involved in your gardening, or playing tennis, or dancing and then wonder where the time went? That’s because you were mindfully present. You were actively aware in what you were doing. You were being mindful.

Inner world:
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of mindfulness is being more connected to our thoughts and feelings. When we slow down and pay attention to our thoughts, we are more aware of what is going on in our internal world. We are able to feel our feelings before they cause us to react in an unhealthy or unproductive way or keep us up at night thinking about things. Even though we are asleep, our mind is still trying to process the events of the day. This is why we wake up in the middle of the night ruminating. When we learn to be mindful during the day, we will process our thoughts and emotions real-time, so our minds don’t have to work overtime at night to do it. Just yesterday, I caught myself having negative feelings towards an old friend. Rather than ignore them or stuff them, I allowed myself to sit with them. I realized why I was feeling upset, which led to an understanding of what I need to change about myself in this situation.

Mindfulness is a practice, like most things worthwhile in this life. When we make the time to train our minds, we will have better control over our thoughts and our actions. Our relationships with others will be more intimate and more connected and we will be more focused and directed in our daily lives and accomplish more of what we want to do. There are several ways to practice mindfulness and I have attached a link here with more information.

Love to hear your thoughts on this relevant and timely topic. Please leave a comment below or on Facebook.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel