Monday, January 27, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 4

This is my favorite piece of advice so far, because I've been a goal setter from as far back as I can remember. I love having a plan for my day - it gives me direction and I feel great that I'm accomplishing what is important to me. And, as soon as my children were old enough to understand, I talked to them about what we wanted to accomplish that day. Even now, during our morning drive to school, we take turns talking about our plans for the day.

It's through our goals that we discover who we are and where we want to put our energies. Goals help us to see the big picture. They give us strength to get through the difficult times and keep us from being easily distracted by what is unimportant. 

Goals need to be specific.
So, if, for example, one of the kids says something like, "My goal today is to make a new friend", I would ask them how they planned on doing that. Are they going to say hello to someone on the playground that they've never talked with before? Are they going to have a pleasant expression on their face, so that people will be naturally drawn to them? 

Goals need to be written down.
Even if you never read what you've written, just the physical act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) makes them a real part of your life.

Goals need to be achievable. 
Is your goal to be an Olympic athlete? That's great. But, if you're in your 50's and have never been physically active, then that's not an achievable goal for you. However, a completely achievable goal in the same vein would be to compete in a local tennis championship. Then, to work toward that goal, you'd need to set a smaller goal that would set you on the right track. For example, you could sign up for tennis classes at your local athletic club or community college.

Goals need to be measurable. 
"My goal is to get in shape." How many times have you heard that line? Or, maybe even said it. The spirit of this goal is admirable, but the problem with the way it's worded is that there's no way to know when it's been achieved. So, working from "get in shape", we can say something like, "My goal is to be able to do 50 pushups in a row." Or, "My goal is to be able to run a 5K in 25 minutes." 

With that being said, sometimes you have a goal for the kind of day you want to create that is more of a feeling than a concrete goal. That's ok, too! My kids and I are on a new kick of using adjectives and adverbs to plan our days. Here are this morning's selections:

Annie wanted a cool, swinging kind of day.
Nicholas said he wanted a wonderful road runner beep beep kinda day. And Jayden planned a happy bamama jamama jumping kind of day.

Do you have a goal you gave up on? Or are you newly inspired to lead your life in a different direction? Maybe you just want to have some fun! The best thing about goals is that you can have as many as you like and you can change them as you need to. The most important thing, though, is to start identifying your goals and get on with achieving them!

So what goals are you setting for yourself? Let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 3

I don't know anyone who doesn't like music. Sure, people may disagree on what they like to listen to, but there seems to be something about music that makes it an important part of the human experience.

We use music in celebration, in mourning, in spiritual practices, to create bonds with one another across cultures and generations, to enhance our physical activities.  If you think about it, there's hardly any situation that can't be made better by the addition of music.

And, increasingly, science is starting to uncover why music is such an important part of our lives.

For one thing, listening to music helps boost our immune systems, creating antibodies to fight disease.  Music can also create a noticeable increase in recovery from a wide range of conditions, including heart disease, lung ailments, stroke and even the common cold. Even in our day-to-day lives, listening to good music helps reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels.

Have you ever had the experience of hearing a song and being instantly transported to a different time and place? Maybe it was a song from your teenage years, or music that you and a special someone considered "your song". This same principle applies to people suffering from dementia. It has been shown that music can bring back memories for these people that are not otherwise available to them.

And, if that wasn't enough, studies have found that certain kinds of music, especially classical piano music, can raise spatial reasoning the equivalent of 9 IQ points.

We don't yet fully understand how it is that music has such profound effects on us. But, that shouldn't stop us from enjoying this gift as often as we can.

So, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on your TV, start your day off with music. If you're feeling stressed at work, close your office door for a few minutes, turn on a good tune and dance like nobody's watching. When the kids are bickering, instead of shouting at them, put on some calming classical music and let it work its magic.

Make good music a part of your life every day, and you will be happier and healthier!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 2

Recently I ran into a friend I hadn't seen for a few years. While it was great to catch up on the events in each other's lives, I did notice that we spent a lot of time talking about how busy we are.

Being busy has become a badge of honor in our society, especially for moms who work both inside and outside the home.  Somehow, we have come to feel that if our lives are not filled with around the clock activity, then we are falling behind everyone else, like we are less-than. The truth is that busy-ness does not define who we are.
Who we are defines who we are.

That may sound like some kind of zen riddle, but it's not meant to.

Think about it. When you were a child, did you feel the need to make to-do lists? Did you live by your calendar? Or, did you maybe spend hours at a time exploring in the back yard, or riding your bike around town, or climbing up trees to see the world from a different place? More than likely, you had nothing to prove, no agenda to see through. You were just being you.

Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't grow up and mature, that we shouldn't take on responsibilities and commitments. What I am saying is that while our roles in life change, we should still honor who we are aside from all that.

One way of keeping the integrity of who we truly are, is to detach from the world for a few minutes every day. Many people call this sort of thing meditation. And, if you want to meditate in a more formal, directed manner, you should definitely explore that option. But, what I'm talking about is simply sitting alone for at least 10 minutes a day, maybe with an invigorating fresh green smoothie, and just letting your thoughts drift. Maybe you can reawaken long-forgotten dreams, or discover a new interest that will finally be heard in the silence, or see a new way of tackling a problematic situation, or just revel in the freedom of not thinking about anything, not having to do anything. The possibilities are limitless.

One thing is for sure, though. You will come to cherish and appreciate your alone time. And, you'll go back into your life roles with renewed enthusiasm and energy. So, start today, or tomorrow morning, start whenever you're ready. The most important thing, though, is to start. Because you never know where those 10 minutes a day will lead you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 1

Happy New Year to all of my dear readers! While the date on the calendar is an arbitrary way of organizing the days of our lives, it's still a great opportunity for us to take stock of where we are, how far we've come and where we are headed.

Recently, I received one of those forwarded emails that people send to friends, full of pictures of animals that make everyone say "Aww, isn't that cute!"  It was called Forty Pieces of Advice, and across each picture, there were words of wisdom that really spoke to me. So, I decided to challenge myself to take the good advice and apply it to my own life. 

Then, I thought, "Hey! I bet some of my readers might like to do this, too!"  

So, here it is, friends, my invitation to you. Join the challenge today, or at any point that you like. Take on the pieces of advice that resonate the strongest for you, or, do them all! I'll be posting two each week, so check back often.

Walk 10 to 30 minutes every day. And, smile while you walk.

This one is a no-brainer! Everyone knows that walking is one of the best and most accessible forms of exercise. Walking helps to strengthen muscles, improve balance and work out the cardiovascular system. It also releases endorphins, which makes your whole day brighter. And, if you smile as you walk, you'll not only help yourself feel even happier (it has been well-established that smiling has a direct impact on our mood), but people you encounter on your walk will also benefit. Smiles are contagious, let's start an epidemic!

So, are you on board? Let me know if you're joining my challenge, and feel free to add your own bits of advice!