If not . . .

if-not-youSeveral times a month, I meet with groups of wonderful Wishful Thinking Women. At our Saturday gathering earlier this month, we were talking about procrastination, and one of the women shared a phrase, which her Dad had often said to her. She noted that it had inspired her many times to do kind and caring things for others and for herself.

I had heard the phrase before, and had used it as a personal rallying cry to right social ills or widespread wrongs, but I had never thought of applying it to myself!

If not you, who will treat you in just the way you need and desire? How can others know how to treat us, if we do not treat ourselves with kindness, grace, joy, peace and a sense of gratitude and abundance?

If not now, when? Start today to treat yourself the way you wish others would. Move forward with your plans to go back to school, find quiet time, begin a diet or take that trip.

What are you waiting for? If you need permission, Sylvia’s Dad would surely say it is okay. And, Sylvia is such a warm, caring woman, her Dad must have been a very wise man!

You can do it!

Do the next right thing

“Do the next right thing.”

This short missive has helped me many times in my life. stepping-stones-763985_960_720When I am feeling confused, overwhelmed, frustrated or lazy and bored, it always gets me moving forward.

You see, I don’t have to have all the answers or figure out a solution. I don’t even have to wonder how or why I got myself into a situation. All I have to do is the next right thing.

Usually when I ask myself what the next right thing is, I think of three or four things that seem right, and then I just pick the one that is most important to me at that moment in my life.

The other day, the next right thing was to write cards to three people I care deeply about and who will be happy to receive a thank-you, get well, or “thinking of you” note in the mail.  Relationships matter a great deal to me, so that was an easy pick over the laundry and dishes that were waiting for me, but until I posed the actual question to myself – the cards and stamps sat on the dining room table.

On a different day, writing a post or sending work emails might get bumped to the front of the line. Or something much more important, such as apologizing to someone, may take top billing. The choice is yours.

Doing the next right thing is an act of faith in yourself and your priorities. It comes from knowing what really matters to you. It is a softer, more flexible type of to-do list. And, if you like checking things off, you can keep on ongoing “ta-da” list handy to write them down as you complete them along with a nice big check mark.

You will feel so good after doing the next right thing, you will be motivated to accomplish more of the items that come to mind. Until, of course, the next right thing to do is to relax, which will be much easier to do, when you know you’ve already done the right thing!

You can do it!

 

 

When “I’m sorry” is what you need to say

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Apologies are something most of us don’t do well or do often enough.

We think about them, perhaps even brood about them, or we may simply ignore the need or in some cases, may be totally unaware of it. But a truly heartfelt “I am sorry”can make the receiver and the giver feel better and may even mend a broken relationship or a heart.

“The decision to apologize is a tug-of-war between stubborn pride and guilt. . . . Making a sincere apology is an act of courage, not a sign of weakness.”

If you would like to get better at giving apologies, or if you are currently in a personal battle between pride and guilt the following 3 R’s might help you sort it out.

3 R’s of a sincere apology:

1. Responsibility

  • Accept responsibility for what was said or done.
  • This is the hardest part, I know. It is tough to admit to yourself, yet alone someone else – especially the person you have hurt – that you have done something wrong – intentionally or not. But it really is an act of courage, and one that can repair and enrich relationships.

2. Remorse

  • Allow yourself to feel the sadness or embarrassment associated with what you have done. Pushing it away will only make you feel worse, and will never make the one you hurt feel any better.
  • Accept and explain how you feel when you apologize.
  • Assure the person you have hurt that you won’t do the same again in the future.
    • “I realize what I said really hurt you, it was thoughtless/unkind/wrong and I promise not to do it again. I am sorry. I was wrong/jealous/immature.

3. Reparations

  • “How can I make this up to you?” “Is there anything I can do to make this better?
  • Then listen and do not REACT! Simply let them share their feelings with you. Remember you have thinking about your apology for awhile, but they are just hearing it for the first time and may need a minute or longer to fully process and accept it.
  • If you can, do what they ask you to, and if not, talk about solutions until one is found and agreed upon without getting upset or changing the sincerity of your apology.

Special note:  There is always a chance the recipient might not be ready to accept your apology now or ever – the important part is that you have sincerely shared your feelings. If this happens, let them know again how sorry you are and then just listen. Try not to be defensive, do not let your pride get in the way. You have hurt them, and they might need to vent. If they refuse or are not ready to accept your apology, don’t be upset and simply try to forgive yourself in the moment, and depending on the situation, you may want to try again in the future. If not, be open to whatever happens.

Timing

Now! The sooner you apologize the better, but do not let the passage of time persuade you that an apology is no longer needed, won’t matter, or will simply stir up old hurts.

One of the most touching and beautiful apologies I ever received occurred years later, long after the sting of the situation had faded for me. Yet, when I received the apology it opened my heart in ways I did not even know were possible. I was completely impressed by the courage and kindness of the giver and it inspired me to be more open about apologizing to others in the future.

Don’t miss the chance to make open someone’s heart or heal old wounds.

Whether you are apologizing for being short with a store clerk, stepping on the toes of a colleague or for deeply hurting someone you love, follow the three R’s to help you right your wrong. You will gain as much peace of mind as you give, and will undoubtedly brighten someone’s day and maybe even enrich their life.

As my Valentine’s Day gift to my readers and a way of spreading love this week, if you have an apology you want to give, but haven’t yet mustered the courage, I will give a free 30 minute, apology practice session to the first 3 folks who send me an email at wishfulthinkingworks@gmail.com Include your name and a brief description of the situation. If you have been thinking about it, it is time to do it! 

You can do it!

The Perfect Valentine’s Gift

Would you like to make someone you care about happy this Valentine’s Day?

Would you like to become happier in the process?

If so, write a gratitude letter to someone special in your life.

Your letter can leave you and the recipient feeling happier for months. 

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Gratitude Letters

A few years ago I wrote and shared my first gratitude letter; I wrote it to my Dad. I was a bit shy about doing it, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience for both of us, and since my Dad passed away a few years after I wrote his letter, the experience holds a special place in my heart.

I’ve been writing thank you notes for decades. I sent cards not just for gifts, but for experiences, past and present. I’ve written dozens of notes and cards to my aunts and to friends of my parents for their special acts of kindness to me as a child. One of my younger brother’s godmothers always had extra treats for us when she brought him a gift. Another of my aunts hosted weekly gatherings at her and my uncle’s farm each Sunday in the summer allowing my eight siblings and me to swim, dive, jump, ride, row, fish, and enjoy all sorts of other summer fun because they were willing to put-up with an ongoing stream of guests – our family and many others. Those Sundays were magic to me as a kid, and I wanted them to know.

Those letters and the memories they evoked are wonderful, but a gratitude letter is an even richer, more touching way to say thank you. Here’s why:

  • It’s longer – approximately 300 words.
  • It’s read in-person to its intended recipient, making it more of a gratitude visit with the letter as a hostess gift of sorts. The true magic of the visit comes from sharing your letter out loud and face-to-face with its recipient. (If you can’t meet in person, Skype or a phone call will work, but if at all possible go the in-person route.)
  • Dr. Martin P. Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology and one of the first and strongest proponents of gratitude visits notes the ritual is powerful, ”Everyone cries when you do a gratitude visit,” he says. ”It’s very moving for both people.”

Tips for making it work:

  • Write to someone, who holds a special place in your heart or who did something nice or kind for you, but you’ve never thanked, or thanked as much as you would have liked to.
  • Be detailed. Write the particulars of what you are thankful for. Let them know how their actions affected you. Include the whats, the whens, the hows, and the whys.
  • Let your recipient know you are up to something good! A funny thing happened when I read my letter to my Dad. When I finished, he made a joke about how I must have the wrong “Dad”, and then he told me he thought I was going to share something about what he’d done wrong – not right. (I was nervous about sharing my letter, and he interpreted that as seriousness or sadness. When I began reading from a sheet of paper he was sure there was bad news ahead.) We laughed about that, but to prevent any confusion, letting your host or hostess know the visit is well-intentioned is probably a good idea.
  • Leave a copy of your letter with your recipient. Don’t worry about making it too fancy, but using special paper can’t hurt. Laminating or a frame might be appreciated, or to others, seem a bit too much – go with your guts. Just don’t make the visit too much about what happens next with the letter; leave that up to your receiver.

The Ripple Effect

Another interesting facet of this simple and effective gesture is that it tends to grow and reproduce on its own. Recipients often end-up writing and sharing letters with folks they want to thank, and writers tend to write more letters to share with others.

Positive psychology studies show the good feelings can last for weeks, even months. I know for a fact, that years later, I’m still happy I presented a gratitude letter to my father. IT is a sweet and happy memory.

Increased happiness for someone you care about is just a few pen strokes. Don’t let this free,  foolproof opportunity for joy pass you by – send a gratitude letter to someone special this Valentines Day!

Queen for a day

Or a lifetime . . .

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Delayed gratification, a pleasurable approach?

I’ve updated this post, which I originally wrote  five years ago. It still rings true and was a great reminder for me when I read it this week. Hope it is for you, too.

One of the worst and the best things about being in Peace Corps, is you get to experience delayed gratification at a entirely new level. So many things you once took for granted are out of your reach, but not out of your mind. It’s easy to find yourself day dreaming about your favorite foods, TV shows, movies, stores, restaurants and hundreds of other things that were always there for you.

The good news is: pleasure is in the mind of the beholder. Doing without can be a great way to go within. And, oddly enough the wait for a specific treat, item or service can end-up being even more rewarding than the item or service being craved!

We’ve touched on delayed gratification before, remember the famous marshmallow test with kids? Well, just for fun, I’m suggesting you create mini-marshmallow tests of your own in January with a twist – you don’t get to pick the circumstances, you just get to respond to them. I call these sweet treats “Forced Delayed Gratification”.

The next time, you are dying for something or impatiently waiting – instead of focusing on your desire or discomfort, simply say to yourself:

“Oh, this is a Forced Delayed Gratification situation. Hmm, what are my options here?”

By asking a question, you pull yourself into the moment (within) and away from the situation. Your brain immediately jumps to your aide and begins releasing different hormones and chemicals, which may start connecting to new neurons: Broaden and Build vs Flight or Fight. One little question can flip a switch in your brain and start you on an entirely new neural pathway.

So, what happens after you question your options?

You realize you have lots more options! You can try a distraction technique and begin looking around to notice your surroundings. This will start you down another new mental path as you begin noticing the who, what when, where of the moment.

Or, you can spend a few minutes thinking about something special that happened to you in the past, or something special you are anticipating in the future. This option may sound  silly, but it is much more relaxing and mentally rewarding than feeling stressed, impatient or deprived, and it can actually begin building new positive neural pathways in your brain, which , overtime, can lead to all sorts of positive benefits.

The choice is yours, and here’s the clincher, the choice is always yours. You can flip the switch in your brain anytime. Just like a toddler, your brain can be redirected with a little creativity and gentle nudging.

Try some Forced Delayed Gratifications in the days ahead. With a bit of practice, you’ll be astounded how little you really need to be happy and content and how quickly you can move from one state of mind to another. And, remember the goal is not necessarily to do without, but to spend a few minutes going within. We’re delaying gratification not denying it!

( From 2006-20013, I served three times in the United States Peace Corps and practiced forced delayed gratification almost daily, which gave me plenty of time for positive reverie and new adventures! It was a true blessing in disguise and one I quickly learned to embrace. To read more a bit about my adventures, click here, here, and here!)

You can do it!

Opportunity

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