Category Archives: Gratitude

Let Go of Comparisons

Nankeen Kestrel, size comparison

 “Comparison is the death of joy.”

~ Mark Twain

 

How much do you hold yourself back or sabotage your own feelings of happiness by comparing your life or your progress to others?

Comparisons can be deadly.

I have known people that have very full, blessed lives that spend most of their time dwelling on the blessings in the lives of others. If you have a roof over your head, good health, enough to eat and a person or two to love, you have a pretty full life. But if your neighbor has a much bigger house, a much newer car and the ability to take exotic vacations, you may feel like the blessings in your life are somehow not enough.

The problem in this case isn’t that you don’t have enough. It’s that you are focusing on what others have and using it as a gauge to make you think your blessings aren’t enough.

Comparisons Can Drive You or Distract You

Of course, in the case of athletes, comparisons can be the driving force that makes them excel. Those who make it to the top are often driven by their competitive spirit, their desire to prove that they really are the best at what they do, or that they can be just a little bit better than their competitors.

On the other hand, dwelling on what your competitors are doing can distract you from your own goals.

comparison

What you focus on expands. So if you are focused on what others are doing, especially if you are focused on the chance that you might lose, there’s always a chance you won’t be able to focus on your own goals. Comparisons can distract you from attaining your own best possibilities.

Comparisons Can Be Disabling or Motivating

Comparisons can cripple you, or they can be used to your advantage. As long as you are comparing yourself to those who seem to have more than you do, or to people who seem to have accomplished more than you have, you are probably going to feel bad.

But there are also always those who have less than you do. You probably have more than those who are homeless or those who don’t have the ability to read. If you have a job, you have more than someone who is struggling with unemployment. If you live in a free country, you are more blessed than someone who is living in a war-torn area.

If you came in at fourth place in a race, you did better than the person who came in fifth or last place.

The best way to use comparisons is about your own progress. If you ran faster or swam faster than you did in your last race, you are making progress

You Are OK Just as You Are

Imagine if every tree spent its life comparing itself to the tree next to it. Fortunately for us, trees don’t do that.

They just grow.

Each simply displays its own beauty and its own uniqueness. Each carries out its own unique destiny without being held back by larger trees or showier trees.

You can notice and admire the beauty in someone else without questioning your own or feeling like you have been shortchanged.

You can find the courage and the grace to be your best self.

Michelle Parsons said, “Don’t compare yourself to others…that’s a battle you can never win.”

You are where you are supposed to be, and you are ok exactly as you are.

 

The Joy of Completing a Goal

Sunrise over Ellesmere

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

~ Nelson Mandela

 

When you set a goal and then see that goal through to its completion, it can give you a pretty good feeling.

I know, because I recently completed a book about happiness, which is something I have wanted to do for quite a while. The topic of happiness, particularly in the sense of spreading positive energy to people who might need to be lifted up, is something that is very dear to my heart.

In order to complete the book, like many writers, I had to overcome a bizarre inner resistance to doing the thing I wanted to do most. I’ve done a lot of ghostwriting for other people, but in the recent past (and as a middle-aged woman, the recent past encompasses probably at least a decade), I have done very little writing just because I wanted to. My focus has been primarily on writing what clients tell me to write, and on taking care of other people.

I’ve been having a hard time putting the focus on me, or my life or goals that I want to accomplish. It’s been even harder to follow through and complete projects I start.

I have just been putting one foot in front of the other for years.

I have become clueless about life and about happiness.

Lessons and More Lessons

This blog and my book Happiness for the Clueless: 7 Simple Tips for a Happier Life have been evolving because I have an eager student who needs to learn about happiness, joy, contentment, satisfaction and inner peace.

The eager student is me.

I like to think the things I write about might be touching others who have been presented with challenges and difficulties that tripped them up or knocked them down.

Other writers have done that for me.

For as long as I can remember, I have drawn courage and strength from the writings of others, people like Maya Angelou and Wayne Dyer and Kahlil Gibran. During dark days, I have been comforted by the written words of people who took the time to share their thoughts in writing.

Getting to the Finish Line

Recently I found that I needed to prove to myself that I could actually complete a book that I started, a book that I wrote just because I wanted to write it and not because I had been hired to write it.

And then I decided to follow this project through to completion by releasing my book to the universe as an indie writer.

I did it.

My book Happiness for the Clueless: 7 Simple Tips for a Happier Life is free on Amazon from now until Saturday June 18.

My hope is that maybe my words will touch the lives of at least a few people. I even hope that maybe in taking the time to write this book, I might make a tiny difference.

I know that I have made a difference in one life.

My own.

3 Important Lessons Learned From my Mother

 

Cardinal“Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.”

                                                ~Maria Shriver

 

My mother passed away in 2009 at the age of 78, but there are many blessings and lessons she brought to my life, and there are many constant reminders of her. Whenever I see a cardinal, I think of her. She passionately loved these brilliant red birds and had a collection of little statues of them. She also loved robins, and would say that she knew when it was spring when she started to see robins.

She had many motherly sayings, as many mothers do, like “Always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.” One of my favorites was, “What doesn’t break you will make you stronger, Valerie.”

Of the many important lessons she taught me, here are 3 of the most important.

If you can read, you can cook.

I’m in my fifties now and it amazes me when I meet women my age who don’t cook, saying that they can’t. Some of them live exclusively on take-out or frozen foods, which horrifies me.

My mother taught me that as long as you read, you can cook. All you have to do is follow the directions. She tried a new recipe just about weekly.

Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve coming home to my mom cooking homemade spaghetti sauce or a New England boiled dinner, or the scent of snickerdoodles baking at Christmas time.

Because of my mom, I seek out new recipes and follow the directions. I’m not always successful and wouldn’t say I’m a great cook, but I’m not afraid to give it my best shot. Thanks, Mom.

Learning and reading make life worthwhile

What is your earliest memory as a small child? One of my earliest memories is sitting curled up next to my mother while she read me a book, which was something she did frequently.

Reading and learning was such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother read voraciously, and was almost always familiar with what was on the bestseller list. She devoured information and facts and was so good at Jeopardy that we used to encourage her to go on the show, which she never did, but I know she would have done well.

I think my love of reading and ultimately writing came about because of her. Without her influence, my life may have gone in an entirely different direction and would have been nowhere near as rich and fulfilling.

Love others

My mother was a living example of loving other people. She cherished people and made friends almost everywhere she went. She had long-term friends that were her hairdressers, waitresses and neighbors. A large number of her friends were friends for life.

She set an amazing example of love and tolerance for others. She taught me not to be judgmental or discriminatory.

She was extremely devoted to my dad and set such a power of example of what it takes to make a marriage work. Sometimes love doesn’t come easily and requires effort. This is true not only in marriage, but in raising children and in friendship. My mom taught me that.

There were many more lessons besides those mentioned. I do know that one of the greatest blessings of my life was having a loving mother throughout my life. As an unknown author said, “A mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.”

Cherish the Present Moment

Family Trip

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look to another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

 

It’s easy to forget what a blessing this one day, this one moment is. But everything you are experiencing today is never going to come about again. If you have children, they are growing and changing right before your eyes. Music and fashion are changing and evolving.

And you are changing too.

It’s so tempting to look to the future and imagine that it will be better than today. In some distant land, some distant future, we think we will have enough – enough money, enough love, enough leisure. Maybe even enough happiness.

But what if that day never comes? What if this is as good as it gets?

What if all the blessings you are ever going to get are already in your possession?

An even more sobering thought is this:

What if everything you have today were all about to be taken from you as soon as tomorrow – your health, your security, your loved ones? What you would yearn for then would be to have exactly what you have today.

You are surrounded by little blessings you take for granted, and every one of them will be yours only for a short time. It’s such a human tendency to not realize how good you have it until the blessings you have are lost.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s time to embrace and truly appreciate the magic and beauty and uniqueness of this one moment in time.

Keeping Things in Perspective

A friend of mine at one time was a branch manager at a bank when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Once a person hears the word “cancer” everything changes. Everything you once thought mattered suddenly isn’t all that important. My friend told me that one day two of her staff members were arguing about whether the shades on the window should be up or down. Since she was the manager, they wanted her to make the decision. She looked at them blankly and said, “It really doesn’t matter to me. I have bigger things to worry about, like whether I’m going to live or not.”

Whether or not you are facing a health crisis or any other kind of crisis in your life at this time, keep things in perspective. Don’t let the little things become more important than appreciating this one moment and the things and people that fill your life, things and people you should be cherishing.

This moment in time is a very precious gift. Don’t waste it wishing for things you may never get, or yearning for things to happen that may never happen.

Remember the words of Walt Whitman, which are “Happiness, not in another place but this place….not for another hour, but this hour.”

Don’t wait to be happy. This minute and this hour are worth cherishing.

The Gift of Love in All Its Forms

 MUMS HUGS
“Love is the master key that opens the gate of happiness.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

This morning I dropped the three grandchildren who live with me off at school. My grandson who is usually less affectionate than his sisters, turned and called over his shoulder, “I love you!”

It was a simple thing, but a moment that helped me to start my day with a smile in my heart.

What is more precious to experience than love?

When people think of love, they often think of romantic love. As a widow, that type of love is no longer part of my life, although I admit holding precious memories in my heart of that experience.

There are plenty of other kinds of love. Today as a grandmother in the autumn of my life, my heart is still warmed by glimpses of the love I do have in my life. I admit there are times that I feel a bit sorry for myself, sure that others have lives that are fuller and more blessed than mine, but I know in my heart that I have all I need.

What I have and who I have in my life is enough.

The Love of Children

 My maternal instincts have always been very strong. I have always cherished my children with a deeper love than I ever felt for anyone else. The unconditional love of a small child is the closest I have ever felt to God.

Years ago I remember my mother watching a talk show on TV and the question was asked, “Who do you love more – your husband or your children?” My mother adamantly stated that she loved her husband much more deeply than her children. The audience was fairly evenly divided in their responses.

I don’t think it’s really important to compare the different kinds of love I have experienced. To me the type of love I felt for my husband when he was alive and the love I felt for my children was a completely different experience. But the depth of unconditional love that comes from children is incomparable.

The Love of Close Family Members and Those Like Family

To experience love from close family members is another huge blessing. Whether you have been able to develop a deep, intimate relationship with a spouse, parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents or aunts and uncles, you are blessed.

Certainly some families are closer than others, but to have a family is to have sense of belonging to someone.

Some would say that blood is thicker than water, while others would say the people they choose to love are much more important to them than the ones who happened to be related to them.

I say it doesn’t matter. Or as Jane Howard said, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

I am so grateful to have people to love. Who are the people bringing love to your life today?

Seeing Life’s Blessings

Stars“Two men looked out from prison bars,

One saw the mud, the other saw stars.”   

~ Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

 

So much of happiness in life depends on our perspective. Some people lead easier lives than others – there’s no doubt about that. Yet there are those who can manage to find something to be positive about, even in the worst of times.

It’s all a matter of what you choose to focus on.

For example, if you have only one true friend, you might feel like you have been short-changed because you don’t have several friends. Your one friend doesn’t seem to fill all your needs…you think everyone around you has more than you.

But to someone who has no friends at all, you would seem to be extremely blessed to have that one friend.

If it rains for seven days in a row, you might feel gloomy, wishing it would stop, wishing the sun would come out. Or you can be grateful you have a roof over your head or an umbrella. You can be grateful that you have the ability to see the rain, the freedom to run out and dance in it.

What good does it do to dwell on the things that you wish were different, especially if they’re things that can’t be changed? It’s wasted energy.

Use your energy to find something positive to focus on for this one day. Even if you can find 200 things wrong with your life or your day, I bet you can find one thing that is beautiful, one thing to be grateful for.

Don’t take the good things or the good people in your life for granted. Notice them. Savor them. They could be taken from you when you least expect it.

Look for the good in today.

Look up at the stars.

 

photo by: robin_24

Grateful For the People In My Life

 

Pinkeens
National Library of Ireland on The Commons / Foter.com

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

                                                                        ~ Marcel Proust

 

Nothing brings a smile to my heart as much as the sound of laughter from my children and grandchildren. When a child draws you a picture or gives you a bear hug, it’s one of life’s greatest gifts.

I was fortunate to experience true love once in my life. In the early days when I first started to date my late husband, the deepening of his dimples or the sound of his voice made me catch my breath every time. Fifteen years later, as his health failed and life removed his smile, he was still the one that I wanted to be near.

Then there are certain friends who are pretty much always upbeat. When life gets me down, I can almost always count on them to say just the right thing, or to say nothing at all when that is what I need.

I am truly grateful to have my family and friends in my life.

Strangers sometimes bring happiness too. When I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed a warm smile from a cashier or a waitress is like a breath of fresh air. So is a stranger that lets me pass in traffic rather than trying to cut me off.

Those who use their talents for good bring happiness to others. For example, songwriters that come up with lyrics that touch the heart, or melodies that somehow express emotions can help to bring joy to life. Novelists string together words that help us escape from reality at times and enjoy the journey of life.

When a movie touches my heart, I realize that dozens of people were involved in that effort – writers, actors, directors, producers, wardrobe people, and many others who are unnamed but make a difference all the same.

I am grateful for all the people in my life, people whose lives touch mine and help me to experience a little happiness any given day.

Other people really do help my soul to blossom.