Don’t Make Resolutions, Make Meaningful Decisions

Bell'albero     It came sudden and hit hard. The dreaded “holiday flu”.  For three solid days I have been able to do little more than open my eyelids and let them fall shut again. The treasure at the core of this little glitch along the road, was that I got a much needed rest, and of course a pause for reflection. I had time to really think about the changes I have made to my life in the past year, and the way in which I have a tendency to make them. I examined what I think are my accomplishments, and my mistakes (which make me strive to do different and better); and I also reassessed how I might zero in with much more focus on what really matters to me, as the clock ticks, and each second bids me adieu forever. You and I have but one precious life. We think about these things especially when our health is compromised.

When all is said and done, what counts most for me is good HEALTH.  Good health gives me the energy and the stamina to change and shape my life around a foundation of what feels meaningful to me.

TIME, is also the most extraordinary gift. It is the one resource that never multiplies no matter how much we try to hoard it or invest it. With the luxury of time, I can create what I was meant to, socialize with good people, do something that makes someone else smile, enjoy my family, take a long walk along the shoreline with my pup, settle under the covers reading a great book—or even writing one 🙂

Without my health and  time to enjoy my life, none of my hopes and dreams would ever come to fruition.

As a behavioral psychologist, I know that most New Year’s Resolutions typically fall flat on their face in a short period of time, even when rewards (reinforcers) are built into the plan. In my opinion, there are two things that stop us from really changing what we say we want to change:

1.       Sometimes we set goals without examining what the implication of these goals really mean to our lives.  For example, a “resolution” to lose weight sounds great, but what does carrying that extra weight really mean to you? Does it mean you have been saying no to summer pool parties, or picnics on the beach for the past decade because you have been too embarrassed to wear a bathing suit? Does it mean in addition to the extra weight, you have also been carrying around a nagging worry that you might suffer a heart attack like someone in your ancestry did? Now imagine how you would really free yourself of all of these self-imposed limitations if you simply lost the weight you need to lose without fanfare and without gimmicks or extreme programs. Any reasonable path will do thus the path is not so important as long as you keep your eye on the horizon where you hope to arrive.  When you align your goals with meaningful priorities,  you no longer need once-a-year resolutions. What is required at this point is a non-negotiable life decision; a decision that you renew with commitment every single day. And this is my second insight:

2.       Once you have zeroed in on YOUR most meaning goals, it is time to make some decisions. Start by doing your homework, however, once you are reasonably sure of your general direction, don’t waste time second-guessing yourself or agonizing over each detail.  NEWSFLASH: No decision is perfect anyway, and few are irreversible.  Just stay committed to making whatever you have decided, produce the best outcome ever.  In other words “bloom where you are planted”, and give it some time before you change course. If you decide on a vegetarian diet, for example, because you are against eating animals, or because you want food to become more your medicine, then don’t start wishing you had chosen a high animal protein diet at the first twinge of missing a hot dog.

So what decisions have I made since my bout with this season’s flu?

Raeleen’s Health and Time Goals (in no particular order):

  • More sleep, meditation, and rest
  • More family and friend time
  • More Laugher and fun
  • More Home cooking
  • More Italy
  • More staying active/less staying seated
  • More buying what I need to make me look (and feel) my best
  • More creative time

These are not resolutions. I don’t need a series of steps to reach them. They are decisions that give my life meaning and to which I will renew my commitment for all of the days I am given.

Happy New Year, Dear Readers. From the bottom of my heart, I wish YOU the most meaningful , blessed, and joyful 2013!

Why Hope is Not Enough

Lotto Ticket

This morning I noticed someone’s dashed hopes, lying on the ground surrounded by last autum’s dead leaves in the form of a losing lottery ticket. All windows had been scratched off, and the ticket thrown down, perhaps in frustration. Someone had spent hard earned money on a pipe dream.

The reason I got into the self-help field is beacuse it saddens me when people see their hopes dashed. We have been told by modern day miracle-chasers that if we think it hard enough, visualize it clear enough, repeat it  loud enough–whatever we desire will suddenly materialize before our eyes. My training in cognition and behaviorism jives seamlessly with what my Italian ancestors knew instinctively:  Hope is essential, but you also have to mobilize your mind, and  your actions toward making your happiness a reality. The promise of sudden solutions give us an excuse to do next- to- nothing, and then we  feel even worse when next-to-nothing happens. We blame ourselves. Perhaps our vision board was not specific enough; our affirmations may have contained double negatives; our thoughts perhaps let in a smidge of doubt. All of that is nonsense. The truth is, you were not given the other half of the equation: HOPE + PLAN OF ACTION —> Realizing Realistic Goals.

I’d like you to give yourself permission to stop blaming yourself for unrealized goals, and start taking ACTION to move toward them today.  Think about what you really want for your life in areas of Money, Relationships, Love, Homelife, Health, Happiness, Career, etc. Draw up some realistic goals for each of the important areas of your life and then some small concrete steps that will move you toward them and help you realize them.

Now, instead of disappointment, you will begin to feel pride and accomplishement for having gotten your act into gear. Sculpt your life into your own masterpiece. You only have one!

How to Be All That You SHOULD Be

Bella's Quirkiness

My Quirky Little Ms. B.

I must have the only pup in canine history  who doesn’t like to go out for a walk. In fact, when I get the leash she runs and hides! I have to entice her with treats to get into her harness, and even then, once we are out “walking”, she  digs her paws into the ground  and refuses to budge!  Well I recently figured out that I could make a game of it, by throwing a little treat a couple of feet ahead and letting her run after it and sniff it out. Eureka! My dog has begun to enjoy her walks. Or at least tolerate them.  I do, however, still have to deal with her quirkiness—or as I prefer to call it, her “individuality”.  That is, she will only start eating from the treat -trail on the third treat.  She will run after the first and second piece of cookie-bone, but then will turn her nose up at them.  Only on the third  treat and thereafter, will she begin to eat the piece of cookie.  Go figure.  This morning this eccentricity really made me chuckle. It also made me think.

I began to think of how in different periods of our life, we all know the feeling of trying  to “fit in”. We sometimes feel we need to repress our uniqueness, and the very things that make us individuals. Whether it is having to wear the same jeans and sport shoes that our college friends wore, or feeling pressured to bake something to leave in the kitchen at our workplace, because our co-workers do that.   While normative rules are important for actively fitting in with the world around us, it is also important to appreciate what makes us unique. When people hear my name, or pick up one of my books, for instance, they immediately associate me with having turned my passion for my Italian heritage into a unique approach to personal development/self-help principles.

Developing the gifts that make us special is what endears us to others, and  it is also what allows us to make the fullest contribution to the world. It is so easy to let criticism or others’ disapproval or ridicule, send us running back to full-throttle conformity.  Some of the greatest talents across the centuries, would never have been able to leave their contributions to the world, had they not had the courage to follow their calling, and what made them unique.

I love my little furry Friend, and I love the way her third-treat rule makes me laugh and smile. I also love encouraging YOU to stand by the gifts and talents that make you who you are. If you get real clear on those essentials, you will have discovered the path to being all that you can–and should be, over the course of your precious lifetime.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. If you had one week with no obligations or responsibilities (no work, chores, errands, etc), and no TV or Internet, what would you most love to do? Write down at least ten ideas, starting with what you naturally gravitate toward in your free, unstructured time.

2. Ask your five closest friends (and I mean FRIENDS), what they best like about you. This is often a clue to what makes you special in others’ eyes. See how you might further  develop the qualities they comment on.

3. What is the vision you have for your life?  Is it realistic and doable? You will only frustrate yourself otherwise. Think of concrete ways to make what you desire become a reality.  Since we are on the brink of the New Year, think of how realizing your dreams  will give your life more meaning.

So while it is important to follow the spoken and unspoken civil norms of the society we live in, it is also important to find a positive ways to express the treasures of your individuality. When you do so, you will touch everyone around you and give all of us, a reason to smile.

How to Handle Tragedy from Beyond the Periphery

newtown-school-shooting3

Photo Courtesy: The Inquisitr

The Newtown , CT massacre affects us all. I first heard about this devastating elementary school shooting soon after it happened through a text message from a relative in Italy. Rarely does local news make European headlines unless the news is massive. I was in a training at work, where of course, there was no radio on; no TV. As soon as I finished,  walking back to my office, I noticed how the entire hospital –staff and patients alike, were abuzz—not so much in a curious state, as in solemn state of mourning.

Research shows that all of God’s creatures—humans as well as animals—mourn when they lose one of their own. It doesn’t  have to be a relative, friend, or even someone you know, to feel empathy and the heaviness of loss vicariously. Wherever I went yesterday, hearts were heavy, and emotions were that of horror, as well as sadness.

No one can imagine what it must feel like to have been directly impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting first-hand. The parents and families of the children and adults who were shot;  the surviving children who witnessed the shootings, and of the police and ambulance workers who were involved—will no doubt face a long and arduous journey of healing.

So what can we—those who stand in the periphery and beyond the physical boundaries of Newtown—do to help those most deeply affected, and to help ourselves get through the devastation  that we feel in our solidarity with the people of Newtown?

Focus on  inner peace  in order to stay strong and be able reach outward and help in ways that make sense:

Go inward for Inner peace. Don’t  neglect your own self-care in times of crisis. You will do the most good for those affected directly if you keep yourself centered and strong.   Some ideas are : Lighting a candle at your house of worship,  10 minutes of daily meditation, reflection on the blessings of your own life, prayer for the Newtown victims and their family, and surrounding yourself with life-affirming beauty (a flower on your table,  your favorite family photo placed right where you can see it, seeking a support group or a professional to talk to if you need it.

Go outward for ways to help: In the coming days we will most likely hear of ways in which those outside of Newtown can help. As with the victims of Sandy, there may be donation funds set up, or physical help that might be needed. You might consider making a donation to a children’s charity in memory of the victims, or even volunteering for a legitimate charitable organization that needs your help– as a symbol of gratitude for the blessings in your own life.

In the coming days of our own holiday celebrations, let us take this time to remember how connected we really all are—through our earthly journey of both sorrow and joy.  In tragic moments that don’t make sense, let us become the pillars of strength that comforts others. And in moments of joy, let us remember to appreciate and share what we have been blessed with.

I pray that our friends in Newtown find comfort, peace, help, and healing in this most devastating time of crisis.

Ways to Minimize Holiday Stress (article courtesy of The New Haven Register)

Stress

Lighten load to minimize holiday stress, says University of New Haven radio host

Published: Sunday, December 02, 2012

By Pamela McLoughlin, Register Staff

Are the holidays stressing you out?
If so, maybe it’s too much pressure to create the perfect holiday meal or to find the ideal holiday gifts that you can’t really afford anyway.
Or maybe it’s the dread of the dynamics that family get-togethers bring. Worse yet, there are the unexpected drop-ins.
There’s lots of running around to stores, the post office, children’s holiday performances, visiting relatives. Sometimes you’re missing loved ones no longer around.

You feel depleted. Your own enjoyment and welfare doesn’t even make it to last on the priority list.

Well, there’s no escaping the holidays all together, but certified life coach, author and self-help expert Raeleen D. Mautner, has advice for lightening the load and maybe even adding a little enjoyment.
“We throw ourselves into a whirlwind of chaos,” Mautner said. “We can’t be everything to everybody.”

Mautner said good stress “gets the juices flowing,” but bad stress “takes a mental, emotional and physical toll,” and leaves us feeling angry, frustrated and overwhelmed.

The latter stress also takes a physical toll, leading to a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attacks, she said.

“You can achieve serenity and combat the destructive kind of stress through consistent action,” Mautner said.  “Much of it is about finding the oasis inside of us,” said Mautner, host of the morning radio program, “The Art of Living Well,” broadcast Monday’s at 7 a.m. from University of New Haven’s radio station WNHU, 88.7.

Here are a few practical tips from Mautner:

—If you are in charge of a big holiday meal, don’t try to do all the preparation. Ask others to pitch in and bring a favorite dish. They may even like that idea.

—Make a roadmap for getting things done so you don’t feel like you have to tackle it all at once.

—Eat basic, healthful foods during the hectic pre-holiday stage, but don’t deprive yourself of indulgence in the foods you really love during holiday get-togethers.

—If you find yourself stress-eating, stop and walk around, put on some favorite music. You can just listen or sing and dance. Force yourself to make a positive facial expression — it will help change your outlook on the inside. Maybe even take a relaxing bath with bath salts.

—You have a choice as to what to think about, so watch a favorite movie or television show. This will help you dwell on the happy.

—If you’re having negative or sad thoughts, try a “thought float” exercise. Close your eyes, imagine your stressors (people, events, situations, etc.), trapped in a helium balloon and floating away until they disappear.

—Change your breathing. Take deep breaths, inhale through your nose, hold it for four seconds, exhale through the mouth.

—Take time to think about the positives in your life — those things you are grateful for, such as children, pets, having a job.

—In this season of doing for others, it can help to give yourself a “present” each day – maybe a half hour with your favorite magazine, a meditation break or even a visit to a place of beauty such as a museum or place of worship.

For more holiday stress-relieving tips visit: http://RaeleenMautner.com

Mautner’s book, to be released in 2013, is called, “Lemons into Limoncello” and is about rebuilding life following adversity.