Finding your voice

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone says or does something that you consider inappropriate and you fight the urge to say something? Or even worse, someone says something inappropriate or demeaning to you and you let it go, convincing yourself that they didn’t mean it or that he or she is “just having a bad day”?  We’re not talking about being a spoiled sport; most of us intuitively know when someone’s being funny versus passive aggressive or just plain mean.  Why is it that so many of us have a difficult time finding our voice, our ability to speak up for ourselves and others?

Too often we are concerned about how we will be perceived by others if we say something contrary to the majority.  We don’t want to be thought of as overly sensitive or someone who can’t take a joke, but where do we draw the line between having a sense of humour and being self-defeating and self-deprecating?

It’s such an intriguing issue that a television show has been created around it called What Would You Do?  Scenarios are staged with actors among unsuspecting people to test if they will say anything in unscrupulous or immoral situations.  Some people speak up, some stay quiet, but what is it that motivates us either way?

Those of us who don’t say anything defend our actions by saying that we are simply minding our own business, but is that really the case?  How many of us stay quiet in inappropriate circumstances because we feel so disempowered in our lives.  We question who we are to interfere or intervene.  We don’t feel that we have a right to defend a stranger or we are afraid of what the offender will say or do to us.

What about the individuals who do speak up?  What makes them different from those who choose not to say anything?  If you’ve watched the show, those who challenge the wrong-doer seem very confident, very convicted in their obligation to make sure someone else, a stranger, isn’t taken advantage of.  What is also interesting is that they don’t seem to think they’re doing anything extraordinary.  They’re just doing the “right thing”, looking out for their fellow man.

So how do we find our voice? It comes with self-awareness and self-confidence.  We need to be sure of who we are and uninterested in how we are perceived by others.  When we are confident in who we are, our desire to protect or speak up for others who aren’t able to, outweighs our fear of being seen as overly sensitive or nosey.  The real key is being able to listen to our hearts and not over-think things.

We are all capable of finding our voice.  We just have to do the work on ourselves and build the confidence necessary to be able to speak our truth without fear.  When we find ourselves in a position where the opinions of others are truly not any of our business, it frees us in a way that we can’t even begin to imagine!

Handling the rough patches

You’ve been doing your spiritual work; affirmations, visualization, meditations, and life is going pretty well.  All of a sudden, something you perceive as negative pops up in your life and you are completely blown away!  How did this happen? Negative experiences aren’t supposed to happen to someone surrounding themselves with positive energy, right?

If we’re not careful, this is a trap that we can all get caught in.  When we first begin to shift the way in which we live our lives and view the world, we can be constantly caught off guard by the challenges we face.  We can start to question all of the work that we have been doing; certain none of it was working if “bad” things still happen in our life!

This kind of thinking was the ego’s way of sabotaging the progress that we’re making.  It is a bit silly to thing that “bad” things should never happen to good people.  Do we really think the world was created to punish the “bad” and reward the “good”?  Who determines what is good and what is bad anyway?

Some might say that God is the one who determines what is right and what is wrong.  With so much divisiveness in the world with respect to religion, the next question quickly becomes whose God?  Is it the God of Judaism, Christianity or Islam? It’s been said that there is no right or wrong, there is simply what is, and what is not.  What in interesting way to shift your perception of the world!  Instead of coming from a place of judgment, look at the world in terms of what is and what isn’t and choose your response to that present moment.

Instead of allowing a negative experience to shift our vibration, making us angry or depressed, we must learn to accept that the experience has happened and figure out how to move on from it.  There is no point in getting angry, or crying ourselves to sleep over things that cannot be undone.  If there is a lesson to be learned, we should be open to that lesson so we don’t have to go through that experience, or another one like it again.  This doesn’t mean that we won’t have emotional reactions anymore, but we can choose to refuse to permit negative experiences to consume us or our lives for extended periods of time like we used to!

We have had to find meaningful and effective ways to shift my mood from negative to positive when those challenging experiences come our way. Listen to happy music, take a moment to enjoy nature, play with a child or animal. The key is to find an activity that will elevate your emotions. It’s okay to feel bad, you just don’t want negative emotions to take over and become a constant state of being!

There are many different ways to shift one’s energy.  Whether it is playing with your kids, exercising, or simply reading a book, we all need to find “go-to” strategies that we can turn to when life presents us with obstacles.  How do you turn your lemons into lemonade?

Using your time wisely

Time seems to be one of those precious commodities that we never seem to have enough of… We make comments like “there aren’t enough hours in the day” or “I just don’t have the time”. The reality is that we have to make time for the things that are important to us.

We can spend a lot of our time doing things we think we ought to do, rather than things we want to do. We attend events, or help run errands that our heart really isn’t into. If we aren’t careful, we can become so consumed with not appearing to be mean, or selfish, we commit our time without stopping to think about what it is we truly want to be doing!

There seems to be something about growing up. Our perception of time seems to speed up at an incredible rate with each passing year! This should give us a new respect for time. Our time is precious, so we should not spend it doing anything we can’t commit to fully. When our heart isn’t into it, it’s reflected in the performance of the task! We also need to realize that time is one of the most important things that we can give to others. When we think about loved ones who have passed away, we don’t remember the gifts they gave us over the years, we remember all of the amazing time we spent together.

Time is one of those things that once it’s spent, there’s not getting it back. When we understand this fully, we are more mindful about how we spend our time. Are we using our time in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves and what we’ve accomplished, or are we just going through the motions. It can be easy to just go through the motions, but we’ll get much more satisfaction and fulfillment when we use our time wisely and on purpose.

In order to use our time effectively, we must be clear about our priorities. The things that are most important to us should get our attention on a daily basis. When we’re clear on our priorities, we can establish boundaries, which help us to manage our time better. Clarity of our priorities makes it easier to say no to things that aren’t aligned with your priorities without any guilt. This allows us to use our time more freely, feeling less overwhelmed and more fulfilled.

Our time is precious and the reality is that the time we spend doing things that we don’t really want to do isn’t time well spent. It is time wasted, when we could be doing things that bring joy to ourselves and others, rather than creating resentments over time that we can never get back. We have to find the courage to honour ourselves and others by being authentic about our feelings and not spending even more time worrying about what anyone else thinks about it.

Focus on what you want, commit to making it happen and establish your priorities to ensure you stay on track! As the Steve Jobs quote says: “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

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Rediscovering your inner child

When was the last time you had a really good laugh?  You know the kind I’m talking about – those laughing fits you get where you can’t stop laughing even though your stomach hurts and tears are rolling down your face and you can’t even speak.  Those are the best laughs, and when you think of a situation that made you laugh like that, it can’t help but put a smile on your face.

Why does it feel like those really good laughing fits seem to diminish with age?  A sad thing for sure, because as grown-ups with all the things that we preoccupy ourselves with, we need those laughing sessions now more than ever!  Why do we find it so hard to lose control?  Why can’t we let go of more than a smile or a moderate chuckle?  Why has something that was once so easy become so hard?

At a certain point when we were kids and our egos hadn’t taken over so fully, we didn’t worry about what other people thought.  We were able to laugh at ourselves without berating us for being stupid or clumsy.  We knew that people were laughing with us and it never entered our minds that they were making fun or laughing at us.  So why did we go and make our lives so complicated?

Part of the problem is that we take ourselves way too seriously.  It would seem that all the challenges in our lives are so dire that they could truly result in the end of the world at any given moment.  No one has time for “silly childish games”.  But why is that?  What’s so wrong about reconnecting with that part of you who knew how to lose yourself in laughter?  Rediscovering that part of you that hasn’t learned to be concerned with what was considered “unacceptable” or “making a fool of yourself” could actually be a really good thing!

We’re not talking about bringing a whoopee cushion into your next business meeting, but we are talking about making time in your life for real fun!  Whether it be tossing water balloons among friends on a hot summer day or making snow angels in the winter time, it can be easy to forget about how simple it was to find joy and laughter when we were younger.  You don’t have to go way on an expensive vacation or have pricey toys to have fun.  You just have to find something you really like to do and do it without any kind of filter.  Don’t think that you’re too old, or that you’ll look ridiculous doing it, just do it! Sometimes the attempt alone will give you material for your next really good laugh!

You may argue that there is no time for childish fun once we’re all grown-up.  Adults have responsibilities that must be taken care of; rent or mortgages have to be paid. Groceries need to be bought, the kids need to go to dance or football practice – no time for games! It is precisely because our lives are so hectic that we need to make an effort to inject some fun into them.  We are all so stressed.  We go from stress at work, to stress on the roads, to stress at home.  If we don’t find a way to lighten things up, all these stressors are either going to make us very sick, or worse.

There are very few people who enjoy being around someone who doesn’t like to have some fun.  We need to learn how to lighten up, to rediscover joy in the simple things, to be silly and not worry so much about what everyone else is thinking. We need more fun in our lives for sure, go do it now, there are so many things you can do, here’s one I do – hire a party bus for friends.

When we make a little more room for fun in our lives, our problems won’t seem so apocalyptic and life can actually start to be a joyful experience again.  We can’t turn back the hands of time and reclaim our youth, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy life with child-like abandon!

How bad do you want it?

We all have goals and aspirations for the future.  If someone were to ask you, for example, where you see yourself in 20 years, you may pause for a bit, but soon you would be able to come up with a list.  The problem for many of us is that we haven’t given much thought as to how we are going to achieve the future we dream about.  Most of us plan for the future financially, investing in retirement plans or mutual funds, but is that all we need?

It’s amazing how many things we put off for another day, or “someday”.  Why do we put off our happiness when we could be happy right now?  We find all kinds of excuses for why we can’t realize our dreams in the present moment: there isn’t enough time, enough money, or the stars just aren’t aligned perfectly.  If you are looking for reasons not to pursue your dreams, there will be plenty of them out there however it begs the question, how bad do you really want this?

If you really want to achieve your goals and dreams, there shouldn’t be anything that will stop you from pursuing them!  In Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, his chapter on persistence provides many examples of people who confronted obstacles in pursuit of their dreams; however they were unwilling to see these challenges as stop signs and persevered until their reached their goal.  When you think about most of the successful people in the world, they didn’t achieve their accomplishments overnight.  They knew what they wanted and kept their focus, regardless of what was thrown at them.

Many of our dreams and goals may not be things that can be realized overnight.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t start working towards them today!  What better time is there?  Consider how much you could accomplish if you dedicated an hour or two each day towards one of your goals.  Setting short-term goals or benchmarks towards your long-term goals can assist you in seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  It will provide you with a sense of accomplishment which will help you to maintain the momentum to push through any challenges that come your way.

The reality is life is short, and as much as we don’t like to think about it, our time in the physical realm is not guaranteed, so why do we think we have the luxury of putting off our dreams to some far off date in the future?  If today was your last day on earth, would you be at peace, knowing that you lived your life to the fullest, or would you panic, upset because there was so much more that you wanted to do?  None of us wants to live a life of regret, or with a sense of incompleteness.  We need to learn how to enjoy every part of the journey and work towards the achievement of our goals now.  Let “one day” become today and get ready to discover joy and happiness in each present moment!