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

How to Tell If You’ve Stopped Growing

Hard to get out of bed in the morning? Has joy all but disappeared from your life? Still battling the same problems and worries you were 5 – 10 years ago? These are all signs we have stopped growing. So how does this happen?

It’s been said that aging is inevitable but growth aka maturity is optional. Personal growth is a choice. It takes intention and action. Growth doesn’t happen on its own. It happens when we take intentional steps to learn. When we grow we feel more alive, invigorated, and motivated. We look forward to each new day with enthusiasm and passion. We’re not held back by our problems. Joy pours out of us like syrup onto pancakes. Our energy level soars.

Many times it takes a crisis, a setback, or a big mistake to push us into growing and maturing. As I say in my book, “The Power of Faith”, rather than viewing difficulties as obstacles, try to view them as opportunities to grow. Life is a huge university and the trials we encounter are vehicles designed to move us forward into our destiny. As John Maxwell says in his book “How Successful People Win”, there are two basic reasons for our trials: 1) ignorance and 2) stupidity. Either we didn’t know better or we knew better and failed to act properly.

We all go through tough times. I would venture to say without tough times, we would grow very little, if at all. The tough times show us what we are made of and what needs to change. Most people resist change because they get cozy with the status quo. Like the fruit on my counter, if we stay in the same place long enough eventually we will rot. We were made for more. Here’s an example.

We all know people who are divorced. I am one of them. Divorce is ugly and painful and leaves us with deep wounds that take time to heal. We have three choices: we can either learn and grow from the pain; we can turn angry, bitter, and resentful, or we live in denial and pretend we are the innocent victim. Only the first is a healthy response. No matter how awful the other party may have been, we always have our part to play and our lessons to learn.

I learned more about who I am and how my past and my parents influenced me. When I had serious health issues, I realized I needed to make changes in my diet and my thinking patterns. We are, after all, body mind, and spirit. When one part of us is hurting, the other parts hurt as well. As author Wayne Dyer says, there is a spiritual solution to every problem and I agree. Our souls are trying to go to the next level.

Growth and change don’t always feel good at the time. We may experience “growing pains” as we transition into a new season of life, but let me encourage you by saying this. It’s all good. Trials can build character and make us stronger. They can uncover gifts and talents we never knew we had. Growth is good for our souls.

Is it time you felt more joy and energy in your life? If so, try adding something new: a new hobby, a new job, a new relationship. Give it some thought and do post a comment what you and let me know plan to do to expand your horizons.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

7 Communication Styles & How to Improve Yours

Have trouble communicating with others? Are you shy and introverted or gregarious and extroverted? Good communication is an art and a practice. It is a critical component in healthy long-term relationships. The way we communicate with others can make or break a relationship. People have different styles of speaking. Some, like my Mom, like to chit chat about what ever is going on in their day, others like to discuss sports or the latest news event, while others prefer to discuss deeper topics that stimulate thought and reflection. All of these are perfectly fine, depending on the circumstances. The key is to recognize what style we use and be aware of how to connect with people who have a different style than our own.

Today I am sharing the 7 types of communication styles I have encountered. There are probably more, but these are the ones I have noticed. Perhaps you recognize yourself in one or more of them as I do. Sometimes we are not even be aware of our communication style and wonder why we have difficulties in connecting with others.

But first, what actually is good communication? Is it simply idle chatter or is there more to it? Good communication is uplifting and edifying to the hearer. Words are spoken gently rather than harshly so that our words are soothing rather than abrasive to the listener. It is not only the words we speak, but how we say them.

Good communication is a two-way street. There is a healthy give and take between speakers. One person does not monopolize the conversation for long periods of time – that is called a monologue. In order to foster intimacy and connection, we need to be willing to share our inner thoughts and feelings with safe people.

Three questions we can ask ourselves before we open our mouths are these:
1) Is it kind?
2) Is it encouraging?
3) Is it necessary?

If what we are going to say does not pass this litmus test, it may be best to remain silent. Listening is a gift we give to others. I used to tell my sons we need to listen more than we speak and that is why God gave us two ears and one mouth.

Today we’ll take a look at some different styles of communication. Not everyone has the same style of communication and it is important to realize this in any relationship if it is to flourish. The more aware we are of our own communication styles, the more selective we will become in choosing friends and partners in life. It is not a matter of one style being better than the other. It is a matter of the two styles meshing together harmoniously. Most of us use a mixture of several styles and sometimes we may need to modify our style to foster better connection.

1. The self-conscious speaker:
This type of person shares slowly and very little. They speak in short sentences and are usually the quiet ones in any group. They need to be made comfortable and then coaxed to come out of their shell. Once a certain level of trust is achieved, they will slowly share more. They need to be encouraged when they do speak.

2. The small talk speaker :
These people love to spend hours on the phone just talking about their day, their dog, the weather, the latest sitcom. These people like to “shoot the breeze” as it’s called. They value talking for the sake of talking.

3. The negative speaker:
These folks come in different flavors but the commonality is their conversation is negative. They also focus on negative events as a source of discussion. They complain often. They bemoan their lot in life on a regular basis. These conversations are unhealthy and unproductive and they do not foster healthy relationships. Negative speakers have a negative world-view and unless you are one of them, you may not enjoy a relationship with one.

4. The goal-oriented speaker:
These folks call with a purpose in mind. They have a request, or a question that needs answering. They consider small talk a waste of time. Their conversations tend to be direct and to the point. They need to understand others are not all like this and balance their conversations with some personal connecting.

5. The self-absorbed speaker:
These people are similar to those in #2. The difference being they only talk about themselves and what’s going on in their lives. They rarely, if ever, ask you about your day, how you are feeling, or give you time to share something from your day. If they do, they are usually not paying attention to your response and move on to their next sentence without a validating response to what you have said. These are the people that go on and on and you can’t get a word in edge-wise. They need to take a breather and learn to listen more and give feedback on what the other person has shared.

6. The withholding speaker:
This person is on the secretive side. He/she shares, but only partially. If you are around this person long enough, you will begin to realize information is not being shared in a timely manner or you will hear the “news” from other people before you hear it from them. They do not realize that withholding information is harmful to the relationship especially if the other person is sharing personal information and they are not.

7. The deep thinkers:
I’ve been told I fall into this category. I much prefer to talk about deeper subjects rather than mundane ones. I like to get to know a person’s innermost thoughts and beliefs and understand the why of things. Deep thinkers tend to see connections where other people don’t. These types of speakers need to seek out other deep thinkers. They will be on the same wave-length and feel less irritated by people whose communication style has less depth.

One more tip for good communicating is to utilize pauses. After you finish a few sentences, take a breath. Wait and count to three and allow the other person to respond. If you are on the listening end, pause and count to three before you start talking to make sure the other person has finished what they wanted to say. This will help to ensure a smooth and balanced flow to the conversation.

Have you identified your communication style in any of the above? What changes can you make to improve your conversations? Would love to hear your feedback on this topic so please leave a comment. If you enjoyed this post, please click the +1 Google icon to let me know.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

The #1 Problem in Relationships and How to Solve It

As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, I thought it would be timely to share a post on relationships this week. Enjoy! 

Relationships can be heavenly, hellish, or somewhere in between. Ask anyone who’s been happily married for years or who has been through a bitter divorce. The problem extends not only to married relationships but to all relationships as well.

The question researchers have pondered for years is: what is the difference between a happily married couple who enjoys intimacy, warmth, and loving kindness versus an unhappy, unfulfilled relationship where each partner feels alone and unloved. The findings from an intensive study at Stanford University might give us a clue.

According to a study of 1500 people by associate professor, Dr. David Burns, the primary disparity between happily married partners and unhappy, dissatisfied couples boils down to this: whether  or not and to what degree partners take responsibility for their actions or play the “blame and shame” game with each other.

Some people have difficulty taking responsibility for themselves and the difficult situations they find themselves in. When faced with difficult situations due to their own poor choices, rather than turn the mirror inward, these people, who often have a narcissistic tendency to begin with,  blame their situations on another person, typically the one closest to them. They have incorrectly associated taking responsibility with being “wrong”.

To these folks, admitting their part is akin to admitting guilt or defeat. It stems from an unrealistic self-image. As children, at some level, these people have learned that admitting responsibility equates to admitting guilt, shame, and self-reproach. They cannot assume responsibility without also assuming they are fundamentally bad people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus said this: “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). We are all human and we all make mistakes. It is both unhealthy and unwise to be so hard on ourselves that we think of ourselves as bad to the core. We must unlearn this faulty thinking. Accept the fact that none of us is perfect and that we will make mistakes. Forgive ourselves but also accept responsibility for our choices, attitudes, and behaviors. Only then can we enjoy healthy, happy, relationships with one another and stop the “blame and shame” game. 

True love feels safe to explore and admit one’s weaknesses. We have the freedom to admit our faults without fear of being judged or criticized. When we are loved and accepted for who we are, we have the courage to face ourselves squarely in the mirror and make the necessary adjustments. There is little talk of who is right or wrong. It is a step forward in the process of self-awareness and personal growth.

In what situations today do you feel blamed or shamed? Or are you the one doing the blaming and refusing to accept responsibility for your actions? The answer is to understand no one on earth can love us perfectly. It is only when we accept the unconditional love of God and understand how much he loves each of us uniquely can we feel truly affirmed, accepted, and loved.

If this post resonated with you, please leave a comment and until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

How to Move Forward in Life

Are you moving forward in life? Pursuing your dreams and aspirations? Rising to new levels? Or,
are you content with the status quo? If not, is something holding you back from improving in your job, your finances, your relationships and your spirituality?

I have always been a firm believer in personal growth. I am a voracious reader, love the library and am constantly “googling” things. What do you think is the one key factor that holds us back from moving forward in life? Take a guess.

After much research, I have come to the conclusion that the one key factor that is crucial to forward momentum in life is this: having an open heart and an open mind. This means to be open to infinite possibility, to believe that anything is possible because you know what? It is!

As we get older, our past experiences cause us to develop negative thought patterns. Psychologists call these neural pathways in our brains. We may not even be consciously aware of these connections, but they do exist. Although they are hidden deep in our subconscious mind, they impact the choices we make in our daily lives. The good news is they can be reprogrammed.

Like any good IT professional knows, a faulty If/then statement can lead a program into endless looping and isn’t that what happens to us a lot? We keep on repeating the same unhealthy patterns over and over and never break the cycle. So what is at the crux of all this? One four letter word.

Fear. And it’s two nasty cousins, insecurity and self-doubt.

These three little devils insidiously infiltrate our thinking and try to spoil the party. But we don’t have to succumb, because we have the power to change. Human beings are the only species who have the ability to control their minds. So, where does all this leave us?

Well, for more on this topic, stay tuned for my upcoming video where I’ll explain how to identify and remove the limitations that hold us back. Until next time, keep looking up!