inspiration

FOCUS With A View…what is important to you?

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We all have idiosyncrasies, which make us unique. My husband is all too familiar with mine! When I have a goal in mind or a project/task to complete, I have unwavering laser sharp focus and after 28 years of marriage he knows…do not disturb!! Researching the subject about FOCUS has taught me a thing or two. I discovered this admirable, yet, sometimes annoying attribute has its pros and cons. The following will discuss how to be in the FOCUS ZONE consistently and the importance of scheduling UNFOCUS time to maintain a clear mind and protect healthy relationships!

Preparing to write this article I Internet searched FOCUS acronyms and found a few: Finding Original Creative Unique Solutions, Follow One Course Until Successful, and Frame, Organize, Collect, Understand, Synthesize. Each of these acronyms is true. Looking for one that explains the process of aim and achievement, here is an acronym created specifically for this blog post. I believe these words describe FOCUS ownership!

Follow-through, Objectives, Confidence, Undaunted, Success

Let’s look at how each can shape your success!! All definitions are from Cambridge Dictionary. 

Follow-through – to continue something until it is completed

Shoot for greatness. But greatness doesn’t always come from dramatic leaps. Sometimes it comes from small, persistent steps. The Stretch Goal Paradox, HBR

The most common success block is lack of follow-through. Although I have especially seen this in sales, it holds true in other professions as well as managing routine tasks, protecting healthy boundaries, and building relationships. Our instant gratification culture has room for improvement specifically in patience and perseverance, which support effective follow-through. People generally quit too quickly when anything becomes uncomfortable. Recently a sales person at a car dealership promised a friend of mine a return call that day. The call didn’t happen by that night or the following day. The sales person lost the opportunity when my friend sought business elsewhere. Lack of follow-through says… you don’t believe in yourself and reveals a lack of priority and importance to a potential client (or friend, family, colleague), project, or goal/task you wish to achieve. Over-talking can also get in the way of follow-through by deflating passion and energy to make goals happen. When talking replaces “walking” you don’t get very far. Less talking and more doing will provide needed traction for follow-through, placing value on commitments made to yourself and others.

Objectives – something that you aim to do or achieve

Brand-new paths and approaches must be found to bring a stretch goal within reach. In other words, working differently, not simply working harder, is required.                    The Stretch Goal Paradox, HBR

Key question. What do you want to achieve? Be precise. Be realistic. Be wise. Often times FOCUS is lost when goals are simply not attainable, especially within a target timeframe. Next key question…what needs to happen to effectively support this achievement? Imagine a high-rise building without a steel structure and support beams. The building wouldn’t get very high before failing and falling. The greater your goals and higher aimed your achievements, the greater attention to strategy and detail needed for a solid plan that supports success. The Stretch Goal Paradox, HBR, Feb 2017 issue, is an excellent article sharing the success and failures of corporations that can be used as a guide to identify and plan wise “stretch goals”. “You have to know when stretch goals do and do not make sense, and when to employ them rather than set more achievable objectives.”

Confidence – a feeling of having little doubt about yourself and your abilities, or a feeling of trust in someone or something

You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes.                                                  You can steer yourself any direction you choose. Dr. Seuss                                                                                      Quoted from How To Train Your Brain To Focus, SUCCESS.com

Confidence drives follow-through and feeds grit required to reach objectives. Without confidence, passion begins to dissipate, taking with it the energy to work through challenges and distractions. If you are not confident in your objectives, plans, and abilities with unwavering faith, others will follow your lead. So… make your lead count! 8 Things Successful People Never Waste Time Doing, February 4, 2016/Cynthia Bazin is a great article offering confidence building suggestions: have a plan, resist temptations (such as social media) and emotionally draining activities, stop worrying about what you can’t control, surround yourself with positive people, dwell on achievements rather than past mistakes, and maintain FOCUS on what you need to accomplish instead of what other people are doing. And, equally important…prioritize YOU!!

Undaunted – not frightened or discouraged, despite lack of success

According to some estimates, it can easily take up to 40 percent longer to complete projects when you’re interrupted than it does when you can maintain specific focusHow to Train Your Brains to Focus, Allen P. Haines

Being “undaunted” is critical for maintaining FOCUS, yet, it is a tough one for me and probably for most people. Living at a time of “instant gratification”, daily accolades and positive reinforcements become critical benchmarks affirming our path. This belief can easily mislead and discourage when problems pop up and challenges ensue chipping away at confidence. Also, consider modern cutting edge technology that encourages quick responses to every interruption and request, which affect Straight line and Crooked Line - Road-to-Successconfidence when overwhelmed by distractions that interfere with progress. The image to your right, which I found on social media, is a good example. “What success really looks like
can represent discouraging distractions that redirect paths, lengthening the journey to your destination. OR, this image can reflect perseverance, overcoming expected challenges on the path to success. Be in control and let it be the latter!! Here are a few wise practices to be “undaunted” and in control.

  1. Take care of yourself first thing in the morning to function at your best. This could be prayer, meditation, exercise, healthy breakfast, call to your mentor, getting to the office early to prepare and organize, tackling the toughest project at the start of the day, all of the above and/or other ideas not listed. Find what it is you need and protect it. No need to justify.
  2. Block Time. Find your working zone especially when focus and concentration to detail is needed most. Just as a pharmacist would be “time respected” to carefully select the right medication, dose and pill count to safely fill a prescription, the same focused time should be considered and respected of your “zone” and respect the same of others. “When you set and agree to flexible limits for your zones, you not only commit to them yourself, but also encourage others to respect and support your parameters.” (How To Train Your Brain To Focus, SUCCESS.com) Communicate your zone to those who need to know so delivering timely upon the requests of others can be understood and anticipated. Rhythm is disturbed with every bend to a distraction and getting back on track is time consuming. Aren’t distractions exactly the strategy when time-outs are called on sport fields? Time-outs break the rhythm of the opposing team for the sole purpose of affecting performance! Guard your zone!! Silence your phone and text messages, schedule periodic times throughout the day for checking email and voice mail, close your office door if you have one, and when needed, go to a quiet removed location.
  3. Be Consistent. Consistency affirms to yourself and others your scheduling needs in order to be purposeful and effective in your work. Lack of consistency shouts that what you are trying to accomplish isn’t that important to you and therefore shouldn’t be important to anyone else, either. Consistency is like that steel structure to a high rise building. It is the support needed to aim high and succeed. It modifies lofty goals into doable steps, consistently. When I first began Modify…make life simple, I had to identify a consistent process for topic ideas to become published articles. Consistency makes each day productive: Wednesdays…research and discovery, Thursdays…write, Fridays…first draft edit, Mondays…final edit. Tuesdays…publish. Weekends…OFF! Everyday I workout/exercise in the AM before research and writing begins at 9 am and concludes at 3:30 PM. All else after 3:30 PM. This works!! How are you practicing consistency?

Success – the achieving of desired results, or someone or something that achieves positive results

Commitment to the steps above delivers success. There is, however, one more key element for success… UNFOCUS. FOCUS can be overwhelmingly daunting! The brain needs a break to refresh for a clear perspective. UNFOCUS, intentional disengaging, is my big take-away researching for this post. UNFOCUS is not intended time to respond to email, voicemail and the needs of others. UNFOCUS is quiet refreshing time to reset your brain. Taking an UNFOCUS break is meant to shape sharper focus more effectively.  Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus, HBR Srini Pillay shares three ways to UNFOCUS; positive constructive day dreaming, nap, pretending to be someone else. These past few weeks I have found high interval training on the treadmill refreshes my mind (physical endurance focus) as well as picking up a fictional novel and traveling through someone else’s story for 30 minutes! Although very different UNFOCUS approaches, I come away with fresh perspectives and new ideas. At the start of my husband’s career he wrote computer software code. UNFOCUS time for him was critical in order to have a fresh outlook. He shares, “Brief disengagement gives the brain a chance to ‘figure it out’ subconsciously.” Today there are corporations offering nap rooms and desk pods to encourage UNFOCUS!! Find what works best for YOU!

ADD/ADHD??

A number of years ago I had a consulting business, Organize & Optimize…creating a path for peak performance. Sometimes a client would share struggles with ADD/ADHD. A “soft distraction” often was a good solution; white noise, chewing gum, using artwork with movement (color and artistic motion) within view. FOCUS improvements were possible simply by implementing “soft distractions” and incorporating 5-10 minute breaks every hour. Taking frequent breaks rewards accomplishing tasks in smaller chunks of time, inspiring productivity. Seek professional counseling if FOCUS has not been attainable. A few tips and wise advice might provide great solutions!! A good resource article is…15 ADHD-Friendly Tips to Fire Up Your Focus By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Commitment to dreams, goals, projects and promises IS to believe they are worthy of your time and effort with confidence needed to stay on track!! Take ownership to protect the necessary schedule for this journey. This means to continue until successfully completed, precisely identify what you want to achieve with a realistic plan to get there, have FAITH in the project/goal and trust in your abilities, expect challenges to persevere through and distractions to manage, and incorporate UNFOCUS time to ensure success. Keep the mind healthy and refreshed! Communicating your ZONE to others will buffer distractions at a time when concentration is paramount. Have CONVICTION in what is important to you! FOCUS – Follow-through, Objectives, Confidence, Undaunted, Success. This is FOCUS with a VIEW…of your destination!

Resources 

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What’s In Your Pocket? Apps that track with you.

What is in your pocket?

At the veterinary office the other day, the physician introduced me to a healthcare mobile app, Pet Desk, to keep track of Marlee’s monthly meds, vaccinations, medical appointments including grooming and kennel services. Being addicted to great apps that make life simple, I immediately downloaded Pet Desk. It was easy to locate Marlee’s physician, medical records, and groomer. Love all the features including the loyalty program offering discount coupons for pet care! But wait…what about healthcare apps for my family and me? This started a search of the best healthcare apps for mobile devices. It’s amazing to learn there are over 40,000 health and wellness apps on the market with revenues in the billions!! WOW! Below are some of my findings as well as good options to consider first. You, too, can have easy access to medical information right in your pocket!

Why would I want healthcare information on my mobile device?

Mobile medical apps have the potential to transform health care by allowing physicians to diagnose patients with potentially life-threatening conditions outside of traditional health care settings and by helping patients manage their own health and wellness. Are medical mobile apps safe for patients? 

Life saving information could be right at your fingertips during a medical emergency, at a time when recollection is difficult. Access to a listing could include…allergies (especially to certain medications), being on blood thinners, blood type, existing heath conditions, pharmaceutic listing, diabetic needs, etc. Your medical information travels with you, whether in the States or out of the country, for you and family members. Some apps are used by physicians to communicate, patient to doctor, critical treatment needs and the ability to monitor vitals.

Does your online healthcare portal offer a mobile device app?

Before you begin searching for a healthcare app, find out what is already available through the online healthcare portal you are using.

There are a number of healthcare centers that offer online portals with mobile device apps. Kaiser Permanente is a great example, offering internet access to the Kaiser patient portal website as well as a Kaiser mobile app for email messages to physicians, scheduling appointments, pharmacy/prescription ordering and medical records, which includes an allergy listing, immunizations, ongoing health conditions, questionnaires and lab test results. I have used Kaiser’s mobile app for years to manage my mom’s healthcare and its functionality has proven to be both effective and efficient, whether I’m home or traveling. University of Colorado Medical Center offers the same – UC HEALTH – My Health Connection. Once the patient is logged into the app account, (occasionally a patient medical ID number is also required), all medical information on record is automatically uploaded. Patients do not need to retrieve or type in medical history and details.  This makes installing the app easy and seamless.

Call your healthcare provider and ask about phone apps they recommend.

Your physician office may be able to suggest phone apps they support/connect to automatically retrieve and upload medical information on file. Sometimes the website healthcare portal is not available as a mobile device app. In most cases the websites are configured for mobile viewing and you can access/log-in from the internet.  In this case, email the portal link to yourself and file in an email folder labeled MEDICAL. If an emergency situation comes up, easily access the portal link (saved in your email folder) from a tablet or mobile phone and sign-in to access all your medical information. Based on healthcare needs, your physician may also suggest mobile device apps to help monitor diabetes, heart rhythm, medication management and/or other conditions.

Options if above suggestions are not viable?

As I mentioned earlier, there are over 40,000 health and wellness apps available. Depending on your health status and medical needs, you can search the top rated apps to meet your specific needs from cardiology, cancer and treatments, to managing insulin for diabetic care. Below are a few current reviews that share some of the best healthcare apps for mobile devices…

4 Top Medical Records Apps to Manage Your Healthcare (Apple and Android) Posted Jun 28, 2018 by Sarah Sullivan,

What are the Best Medical Records Apps?

  • Apple’s Health app (Apple iPhone + iPad only)
  • GenieMD (Apple, Android, Web)
  • CapzulePHP (Apple iPhone + iPad only)

Best Health and Fitness Apps 2017, Forbes, Dec 2017

The Top 50 Smartphone Health Apps, June 2018,   Fitness, Nutrition, Medical, Mental Health

Are healthcare apps safe?

Privacy –  The mobile device app WILL NOT stay logged-in, to meet healthcare privacy and HIPPA regulations. Each time you need to access medical information, logging-in is required. Ditto for patient portals accessed from your desktop computer. You are automatically logged-off when you are no longer portal or app active. If you lose your mobile device, you want your healthcare information protected.

Safety – Through the years we have found that just about anything can get hacked. So…safety is your responsibility to ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect your data. Is Your Health Data About to Get Hacked? provides wise information for your protection. In addition to the suggestions below, don’t use the same passwords as your social media accounts and be diligent about who you “friend” on social media.

  • Check mobile device settings/privacy controls regularly to ensure you didn’t inadvertently get hacked without your knowledge.
  • Use unique passwords across sites.
  • Don’t log-in to healthcare apps over public WiFi.
  • Read app privacy polices instead of quickly auto click “agree”.

Other devices for healthcare management?

The Apple iWatch can be a sophisticated tool to provide real time medical information shared with your physician, especially when an alert is identified. A friend of mine uses an iWatch successfully for cardiology monitoring, easily tracking daily data so the cardiologist can best evaluate patient status and plan future care. The Apple iWatch – Freed From the iPhone, the Apple Watch Finds a Medical Purpose

Last month [Nov 2017], AliveCor introduced a band for the Apple Watch with a built-in electrocardiogram, or EKG, to detect irregular heart activity such as atrial fibrillation, a form of arrhythmia and a potential cause of a stroke. AliveCor uses the watch’s heart rate monitor to alert patients to take an EKG when their pulse quickens or slows unexpectedly.

The band, known as the KardiaBand, was the first Apple Watch accessory approved by the Food and Drug Administration. When a thumb is placed on the band’s sensor, EKG readings are taken in 30 seconds and sent wirelessly to the patient’s cardiologist. That helps resolve one of the biggest headaches in detecting atrial fibrillation — catching it during an episode so a cardiologist can properly assess it.

Healthcare information is now be available at your fingertips and in your pocket! Keeping track of health records, current prescriptions, medical appointments, allergy listings, and immunizations as well as communicating with your medical team has never been easier, at home or traveling abroad. Advanced technology is making data easily accessible, real-time accurate, and quickly shared with those who need to know. Alerts enable prompt action that could save lives. Technology is a target for global criminal activity, breaking through encryptions and safeguard barriers to grab your data, used for illegal monetary gain. Regardless of how safe a mobile app/device is touted, take responsibility and regularly check your privacy settings. Be mindful of what you “agree” to and those you social media “friend” of whom you do not know. Resist the temptation to accept “friends” just because you see a familiar connection. Your connection may not know that person either. Healthcare apps can be an amazing and life saving tool providing information quickly, when needed most. SO, what is in your pocket? It can be… healthcare information for your family, pets, and you!

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Summer Refresh!

On Vacation for Blog

Summer is here and it’s time to rest and refresh, which I’ll be doing as well!! Modify posts will return on Tuesday, July 10th.

Summer offers a great opportunity to soak-in information for healthier living. During this time I encourage you to watch Wellness Changer summer videos by Jeanne Wisniewski, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. These brief yet impactful summer videos are packed with information sharing simple modifications you can make to your daily living, food and exercise, for a healthier YOU! Some of the videos already published include the truth behind probiotics, gut health and vision through nutrition.

Be intentional and schedule time to plan and accomplish the changes you want to achieve this summer…rest, have fun, read, plan, eat well and exercise!

Let’s reconnect July 10th!!

Best wishes,

Debra

Resources

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Be Inspired…Read To Good Health!

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I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten, even so, they have made me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

When was the last time you enjoyed a great read? It had been a while since I was absorbed in a fictional novel and not for a lack of incredible books. Last week a friend of mine finished The Immigrants By Howard Fast. She LOVED the book and lent it to me. WOW! Following each time set aside for reading, I felt different, as in that “great” way of getting lost in someone else’s story!! It’s refreshing to step out of one’s own life and to be “imagination” present in another world of characters, drama, history, victory/defeat…fully immersed and desperately wanting the story to continue as the last few pages signify the end. At some point during this past year my daily reading habit (novels) slipped out of my life and so did the relaxing benefits that can be refreshing to the mind, body and soul. After conducting a quick Internet search I came across some interesting and thoughtful Sweeny Reading Quotescomments describing the soothing lingering benefits of a good read… “serenely reposed in mellowing afterthoughts, a deep emotional state of nostalgic, the sensation of having a friend whose memory will remain, awe and inspiration, rewarding to be part of someone’s journey, a literary afterglowhope, assurance, promise, warm pleasure, compassion and empathy. Quora And, it some cases there is a feeling of grief that the story is over; profound melancholicand the feeling of profound loss that deep down in your heart you know you couldn’t have related better with anyone!” Quora

When I finished reading The Immigrants, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement as if I time-traveled through the years 1888 -1933! Reading can add layers of life experiences, all through an adventure in literature.

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man [person] who never reads lives only one. George R. R. Martin

The following shares health benefits of reading books, affecting adults and children physically, mentally, and emotionally. After reading this post you will want to start searching for your next novel!

General Health Benefits of Reading

What you choose to read is important. Focus on “feel good” inspirational stories, even though the novel may include hardships and tragedies. A good novel releases our attachment to daily stressful triggers. After a time of reading, there is a feeling of being refreshed “resting” in someone else’s story.

“Reading can be a wonderful (and healthy) escape from the stress of everyday life. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors. Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. It works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea. This is because your mind is invited into a literary world that is free from the stressors that plague your daily lifeTaking Charge of Your Health and Well Being, University of Minnesota  – Reading for Stress Relief

According to a new study, reading books could extend lifespan by up to 2 years, and the more often you read, the better. Reading Books Can Increase Your Lifespan, Huffington Post, August 2017

Rowling dfa878cd9f3bc3220f4956ad8fa4fcf8Reading that inspires imagination is good food for the brain. As we age, mental agility and the ability to recall short-term and long-term memories can be more challenging, the result of our brains getting older. Novels require a deeper concentration, which activates brain cells protecting mental agility as opposed to skimming magazines and newspapers. Reading also works on emotional health, working and stimulating cognitive processes which impacts empathy, emotional intelligence, and social perceptions.

Unlike, say, skimming a page of headlines, reading a book (of any genre) forces your brain to think critically and make connections from one chapter to another, and to the outside world. When you make connections, so does your brain, literally forging new pathways between regions in all four lobes and both hemispheres. Over time, these neural networks can promote quicker thinking and may provide a greater defense against the worst effects of cognitive decay. Reader’s Digest Here’s Why Your Brain Needs You to Read Every Single Day, by Brandon Spector

First, it [reading novels] promotes “deep reading,” which is a slow, immersive process; this cognitive engagement occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented. Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books. Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival. Better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process NCBI Study – Soc Sci Med. – A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading with Longevity. 2016 Sep;164:44-48. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.014. Epub 2016 Jul 18.

Audio Books vs Traditional Books?

Whether reading or listening to novels, both require focus and imagination. Audio books are just as effective on our physical, mental and emotional well being as reading traditional books, for adults. Multitasking when the hands are free is the only audio book caveat, making it easier to become distracted when listening rather than reading a book. Listening to poetry through audio books, however, has been found to be more profound for comprehension and understanding…”because an audio book pre-determines an aspect of language called prosody, or the musicality of words. “Someone who knows the meaning can convey a lot through prosody,” Willingham said. “If you’re listening to a poem, the prosody might help you.” Is Listening To Audio Books Really The Same As Reading, Forbes, Olga Khazan

As science writer Olga Khazan noted in 2011, a “1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension — suggesting that those who read books well would listen to them well. In a 1977 study, college students who listened to a short story were able to summarize it with equal accuracy as those who read it.” Listeners and readers retain about equal understanding of the passages they’ve consumed, in other words. Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading? Forbes Olga Khazan

Is it best for children to read books instead of audio books? Until children reach middle school, the brain’s decoding process through reading requires development that comes through visual practice. There are exceptions for those students whose learning abilities thrive only through auditory means. Decoding, by contrast, is specific to reading, Willingham said; this is indeed one more step your mind has to take when reading a print book as compared to listening to the audiobook version. But by about late elementary school, decoding becomes so second-nature that it isn’t any additional “work” for your brain. It happens automatically.” To Your Brain Listening to a Books is Pretty Much Like Reading It. The Cut, By Melissa Dahl

Impact Reading has on Children

I began reading aloud to my son while he was in the womb and continued until he was independently reading books on his own. Stimulating the brain through story telling encourages the development of brain cells in infants and toddlers. As children progress through school, daily and consistent reading for pleasure has multiple long lasting benefits in these 5 areas as noted in Benefits of Early Reading by Teach Reading Early“Neurological, Educational, Psychological, Social, Linguistic.”

And, if novels can de-stress adults, they can de-stress children as well. This is especially true in a world where kids have become overcommitted and expectations to achieve perfection have become more prevalent than ever before, affecting students in younger age groups with each passing year.

Born with about 100 billion neurons (the cells that receive, process and transmit information in our brains), babies are actively working to make sense of the world around them. These neurons have the ability to connect with each other and form neural pathways – the foundation for learning. Reading aloud to babies, and using language promotes the development of these pathways, and the more pathways a child develops, the more they will be able to learn as time passes by. Three Ways Early Reading Benefits Infants Development by FirstBook.org, Gavin McGuire January 2018

Five Physical Benefits of Reading covers the following benefits of reading: They Help Kids See, Books Sharpen The Senses, They Get Kids Moving, Books Grow Brain Cells, and They Make The Heart Bigger. 

Books grow brain cells Struggling readers have fewer cells in some regions. But a study found that after six months of daily reading, the weak spots beefed up so much that the kids’ brains looked the same as those of kids with stronger reading skills. Five Physical Benefits of Reading, Parent & Child Magazine by By Jennifer Abasi

Discover Your Genre and Select Your Next Read 

The New York Times best-seller list is a great place for book recommendations, however, many fantastic reads never make this list. I’ve read incredible stories through KINDLE FREE books as well as recommendations from Goodreads.com, book clubs, and through friends. Most all online resources filter by genre for selections and updates on books that interest you, making the journey of finding your next novel far easier to navigate! Below are resources to finding your next novel. In addition, get acquainted with your local library and open an online account to access e-books and audiobooks for the whole family.

Busy living, social media, and technological advances compete for our attention today. These modern day temptations can become a wedge to settling-in to an adventurous novel…book or an audio book. You can change this! Make time! There are health advantages that come from reading novels (inspirational biographies, too) when we are able to escape the routine of our own lives and enter into someone else’s story! Romain Rokand, eloquently describes this get-a-way… “No one ever reads a book. He reads himself through books.” You, too, can experience afterglows, awe, adventure, and inspiration when immersed in a good story. If it’s been a while since you read a book, consider finding or reconnecting to a favorite genre. Highlight time in your calendar to de-stress!! Studies support that reading triggers brain cell development in infants, aids in the learning abilities of children and adults, and increases longevity among the elderly protecting against cognitive decay. Who would have known reading books could rank as one of the best “supplements” for good and healthy living, whatever your age! Be inspired! Read to good health!

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Keep Walking… positive choices in challenging times

 

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A year ago, an unexpected job loss led to a stressful time. It’s that season in life when you sit back and wonder, “what just happened??” And, proclaim, “Oh my gosh! We simply can’t make this stuff up!” There is a saying…”we can’t control the actions of others but we can control how we respond.” It takes quite a while for this statement to make sense when a sudden string of storms blow through and all you want to do is hide for cover. It was at this time my husband said, “Deb, go write. You have been talking about starting a blog. This is the time. You need a positive distraction and a channel to share experiences.” At that very moment I went to my computer, researched best blogs, signed up with WordPress and began designing Modify…make life simple. I wrote from my heart and included categories representing different experiences, which brought inspiration and balance to my own life and hopefully…to others as well.  It has been one year since I began blogging. I’m grateful to WordPress and to all who have been and continue to be readers of Modify! You helped me heal. Thank you!!

To celebrate Modify’s first anniversary, feel it timely to write about positive choices in difficult times. Life is not meant to be problem free. My Christian faith is based on the belief that we live in a fallen world, which does not exempt some people from life challenges while others suffer inflictions. Everyone, at different seasons of life, will struggle. Trials might look different, but they are still trials; unexpected unemployment, serious health issues, martial uncertainty, relationship(s) strife, financial hardships, and loss of loved ones. This post shares what I found to be most helpful identifying positive choices in difficult times through spiritual faith, acceptance and truth, forgiveness and hope.

Spiritual FAITH

When life suddenly shifts as a result of unforeseen negative events…do not sit idle in stagnant waters. No one will join you there and eventually, feeling isolated in toxic waters will sicken you. When feeling overwhelmed, for me personally, praying and having others pray encouraged a desire to cling to my Christian faith and to move on.

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

  • Divine intervention empowers future hope and letting go of the past. God only gives us what He knows we can handle is a common response to the above noted scripture verse. Most twists in life, however, cannot be handled alone. My experience, therefore, reflects a different interpretation. The Lord only takes us where He knows He can meet us. It’s at this “meeting” (God dependence) where peace is found, feeling worthy is renewed, and confidence claimed…trusting His Will, care and direction.
  • Spiritual faith inspires moving forward, even when the weight of anxiety makes it difficult to do so. The Land Between…finding God in difficult transitions by Jeff Manion, notes…“We learn that the Land Between is about a journey of trust and that something flourishes there that could not be produced in any other soil.”

One of the messages from the book is about sharing experiences, which led to many of the blog articles written this past year, especially the series on Cultural Fit, referenced under Additional Resources at the conclusion of this article.

  • Embrace your spiritual faith. If you don’t practice a spiritual discipline, consider it. Divine inspiration from the inside out is steadfast and surefooted, a blessed gift and lift to rise above circumstances that might otherwise be impossible to achieve. Christian faith encourages forgiving the past and moving forward in hope of new life.

Acceptance and Truth

Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Being able to move forward leads to the healing steps of acceptance and truth and the courage required to progress here. Accept the truth of what happened and what you cannot change. Then deal with your feelings about it.

  • Articulate your interpretation of what happened. Before you can accurately express your narrative, peel away any emotional layers concealing truth. Work through and let go of self-blame when the situation is beyond your influence. Release the compelling temptation to grip on to guilt. Process those feelings of inadequacy or self-condemnation that can take root in your heart.

“Brown tells Oprah during an interview for “SuperSoul Sunday.” Things that are beyond your control are just that: beyond your control. Don’t let yourself make up a story that suggests otherwise. Pay very close attention to your internal narrative, Brené Brown says.” Huffington Post – The Best Way To Deal With Things That Are Beyond Your Control and Rising Strong by Brené Brown

“Grief, fear, and our deepest feelings of failure can make us blame ourselves for causing what happened or, at least, failing to cope with it.” There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love.

  • Accept the reality of what happened. Confront your feelings about it. Stuffing eventually bursts under built-up emotional pressure, emotionally and physically harmful. Guard against the interpretation and insights of others that could define your narrative, including comparisons that rob you of properly processing because… your circumstances by far don’t compare to their own. Choose carefully with whom you share your struggles and if needed, seek professional counseling to help process in a healthy manner. The input of others should help refine your narrative and feelings, not replace it.

“All our difficult ties involve some degree of shame, fear and loneliness. At times like that, we don’t need anyone to impress us or skillfully talk us out of our pain. We mostly just need the kindness that compels anyone to try.” There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love

“It can feel quite isolating or even invalidating when someone is trying that ‘Cheer up’ approach, or comparisons like, ‘It’s not so bad, look at the people who have it so much worse’,” explains Tal Schlosser, Clinical Psychologist at My Life Psychologists. 7 Ways to Support a Friend Through Sad Times Without Trying to Cheer Them  

  • Face truth and let go by writing out your narrative. This is a productive exercise to summarize what happened, releasing the overwhelming stress that accompanies unexpected trials.

“Writing things down on paper can be an amazing way to gain clarity and keep the facts straight. It’s as if the process of moving thought to hand makes it harder for us to lie to ourselves.” How to Cope When Life Does Things You Can’t Control 

Forgiveness and Hope

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19

  • Forgiveness releases accumulating anger towards people and circumstances involved in that “twist of fate”.  In some cases legal action may be necessary. Even through this avenue of seeking justice, forgiveness is needed to rise above deeply rooted negative feelings that impact emotional and physical well-being. Forgiveness is a gift for you and not for others and it does not imply denying what has happened. Forgiveness is a powerful means for moving on.

“Although you can’t change what has happened, none of us are powerless. We all have the power to choose our next step in life even if we can’t change the one that came before.” How to Cope When Life Does Things You Can’t Control

“Forgiveness comes when we’re able to recognize that the other person’s actions were more about them-their own motivations and context-than about us.”  There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love

  • Forgiveness is freedom to hope again. It brings relief from those we mistakenly granted permission to shape our suffering. I find it difficult for bitterness and hope to share the same space. Process-out toxic feelings with forgiveness as your goal and HOPE as your destination.

“During tough times, our emotions run the gamut: denial, anger, fury, despair, numbness, isolation, desperation,” according to Laura Fenamore’s Tiny Buddha post. “In order to heal, we must feel. But we have a say in what we do with our feelings.” When Circumstances Are Beyond Your Control

  • Choose HOPE. When we “keep walking”, the heaviness of despair is lifted. Small steps are perfect steps. We heal and HOPE is realized. Know the power we all have to choose hope and embrace our convictions. This past year I came to understand…

# Rejection/failure tests our convictions.

# Dwelling on rejection and/or negative judgments from others only releases the trajectory of our future in the hands of the wrong people. Resist this temptation!

  • Be in control. Practice attention management. The quote below says it all!

“Attention management is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so that you can unleash your genius. It’s about being intentional instead of reactive. It is the ability to recognize when your attention is being stolen (or has the potential to be stolen) and to instead keep it focused on the activities you choose. Rather than allowing distractions to derail you, you choose where you direct your attention at any given moment, based on an understanding of your priorities and goals.” To Control Your Life Control What You Pay Attention to...HBR Maura Thomas, March 18, 2018

Reclaim your life by recognizing positive choices in difficult times, which begins by processing feelings of denial, anger, bitterness, and despair. Release the unrealistic expectation that life is flawless and free of problems because this is a myth. Unexpected trials are a part of life for everyone…you are not alone. Grip firmly to spiritual faith as the cornerstone to overcoming hopelessness. Accept what you cannot change. Seek truth in those circumstances beyond your influence. Find freedom through forgiveness and relish in newfound hope. Celebrate small steps moving forward. Life has four seasons. Be inspired to keep walking and you will find that spring does come, again. Modify…keep life simple began a year ago, last spring!

Resources

Additional Resources

Cultural Fit Series

inspiration

Time For A Check-up…Target Change

Modify reasses Target Change figure-magnifying-glass

On January 9th I posted a blog titled Target Change offering suggestions to modify how to effectively articulate New Year’s resolutions, written and verbal. Instead of declaring what we want to give up, goals are best identified by the change we want to experience. It’s been three months since many of you may have identified target change in 2018. This is the perfect time of year to acknowledge progress and implement modifications, if needed. Yes! It’s time for a check-up! This article will guide you on ways you can celebrate your achievements and how to identify where you may have struggled, with suggested modifications to get you back on track!

Successful start to 2018!

Way to go! Congratulations!! It’s time to recognize your success, big and small.

  • Acknowledge progress. Often we immediately move on to the next goal and step over the achievement. Eventually, this can lead to burnout. Pat your own self on the back and be proud of the goal you attained or progress made these past few months. Depending solely on others to acknowledge your success (small steps or big change) may not happen and this can be (unnecessarily) discouraging. If you see a another person’s positive change, say something! People like to know, others are taking notice.
  • Journal your successes. This can be done through an iPhone app (Day One Journal is the app I use), a mason jar or a notebook that stores a collection of success notes. On those days when you are not feeling so positive, read the notes and you’ll have a great opportunity to reset how you feel about yourself and the direction you wish to go.
  • Do what you love. Whether spending time alone with a great novel, watching an inspirational movie, enjoying a quiet soothing bath with your favorite music in the background, planning time with your spouse, special friend(s) or a fun outing with family, celebrate positive change. All steps that move us forward are milestones, even the smallest ones! Yes, wherever you are on the achievement map, you deserve to pamper yourself.
  • Play it forward. Share your testimony and don’t wait until the goal is fully realized. People learn from people. People are motivated by the success of others. Hoarding experiences can appear selfish. Encouraging others through personal success stories is an incredible and generous way to inspire others. Be this person, especially as a role model to our youth and elderly who often struggle with dwindling hope.
  • Pride? Be Aware! Feeling invincible after achieving goals can be a slippery slope. Guard yourself and set healthy boundaries that will keep you focused. Goals are a lifetime work in progress and not a one-time sprint.

Get back on path!

Achieving goals, whether physical, emotional, family related, personal, spiritual or career focused (perhaps a few if not all of the above) require some form of suffering because change is needed for change to happen. The desire for change was most likely triggered by a feeling of discomfort. And, therefore, identifying and working through weak habits in order to target change will most likely feel uncomfortable. When discomfort brings a level of “suffering” that we didn’t anticipate, it’s easy to become disillusioned and quit. I have come face to face with discouragement just when I’m about to reach the summit of attaining a goal or finishing a project, sometimes fighting the urge to give-up in order to keep moving forward. Funny how this always happens!! Being at the precipice of significant change/reaching a milestone can sometimes damper our spirits instead of feeling empowered by victory so close to becoming a reality. Hang in there! No pain no gain as the saying goes. Imagine that your level of discomfort or discouragement is really saying…job well done, you are almost there!!

Identifying Challenges For Steps Towards Success.

  • What led to setbacks? What could you do differently? Do you need to better prioritize your commitment? Being honest is a critical step to moving forward.
  • Is this goal or change what you want or what others want? Motivation can only persevere if YOU own and are passionate about the experience you are looking to attain.
  • Are you setting a realistic amount of time to achieve your goal? Or if your goal is to overcome an emotional weakness, are you getting enough sleep? Fatigue weakens the motivation and strength to be emotionally healthy? Fatigue has always been my worse enemy and it could be yours. Identify a good cushion to prevent fatigue from becoming a wedge between you and success.
  • Overcommitment a distraction? If you are finding lack of time because over other commitments then assess your day-to-day activity. If the passion and goals of others have become your focus and work, you might need to reflect on ways you can reprioritize and graciously learn how to decline such requests. You alone are responsible for prioritizing your ambitions as worthy. If you don’t, no one else will.
  • Quit?? If you slipped down the slippery slope and quit, it’s OK. Get back up! Be patient and kind to yourself. Realize that some of the greatest world inventors and leaders changed the trajectory of how we live simply because…they got back up!!! You can, too!
  • Personalize your approach. Methods that have worked for others may not work for you. Do something about it. Great article published April 2014 in Harvard Business Review, The Key to Lasting Behavioral Change, Think Goal Not Tactic by Elizabeth Grace Saunders. The author elaborates on four points to encourage perseverance through challenges; determine where you’re stuck, brainstorm other tactics, test your hypothesis, get accountability.

Yes, habit change takes discipline, patience, and practice. But no, it shouldn’t feel like you’re constantly trying to force yourself to do something you really don’t want to do. That’s unsustainable. To make new habits stick, they must work with the reality of who you are and what’s best for you.

Christians around the world are about to celebrate a significant religious holiday, Easter, symbolic of forgiveness, grace, and new life demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. In order to successfully attain target change often forgiveness and grace is a required qualification, to others and ourselves to bring us to “new life”. A very special young woman in Africa, my sponsor daughter, recently shared wise words beyond her years. “Faith makes all things possible. Hope makes all things work. Love makes all things work. I am optimistic about the future.” You, too, can be optimistic about your future as you seek positive life change. Embrace faith, hope and love. Be kind and patient with others and yourself. Pamper yourself to celebrate small steps and big change. Honestly assess setbacks and recalibrate to get back on path. And as my sponsor daughter also shares in her writing…”be like the eagle that is strong, has focused vision, and can fly through storms when other birds hide.”

Resources

Target Change, Modify…make life simple

The Key to Lasting Behavioral Change, Think Goal Not Tactic by Elizabeth Grace Saunders, APRIL 07, 2014

Day One Journal 

inspiration

Target Change!

Target Change_edited-1Making New Year’s resolutions offers a great opportunity for setting self-improvement goals. Some of us look forward to making resolutions each New Year but often struggle to stay on track. Many of us don’t make resolutions either because of a lack of interest to do so or previous failed attempts. It’s not uncommon for enthusiasm to wane within weeks of the New Year, however slight modifications in how we practice goal setting can make a difference between success or failure. The purpose of this post is to inspire readers to engage in annual resolutions. Let’s look at the history of resolutions, the statistics that indicate a different approach is definitely needed, and how to target change simply through positive modifications.

History

New Year’s Resolutions have been the cultural norm dating back 4000 years ago, when Babylonians made promises to follow through on financial commitments to their king. A similar practice is recorded in 46 BC when Romans committed to good behavior in the coming year. They honored their god, Janus, (month of January is named after), who symbolized looking back at the year just passed and looking forward to the coming year. Self-improvement resolutions we practice today resemble that of which originated in the Protestant faith – Methodism in 1740 AD, however such goals were spiritually focused at that time. Today only about 45% of Americans participate in making New Year’s resolutions.

Statistics

Research conducted January 2017 and data shared by Statistic Brain notes that 37.8% of people in their twenties achieve resolutions each year while 16.3% of people over 50 achieve their goals. US News reported in December 2015 that 80% of New Year resolutions fail. These facts are not to discourage you but to encourage you to modify how you practice setting goals for the 2018 New Year, taking a different approach for a greater chance of success. Adjusting the practice is especially important if historically you include yourself in these disappointing statistics. If a plan isn’t working, modify the practice instead of getting frustrated or giving up. It’s amazing the impact slight modifications can make. If resolutions have failed you in the past, start by calling them something else to remove the negative stigma. How about calling your New Year goals, Target Accomplishments? Target Change? Or, choose a title that works uniquely for you! Just using the word TARGET keeps me focused!

Modifications – A Positive Approach

Regardless of goals that may change year-to-year, ingrained thinking and habits will determine whether you succeed or fail. Often, just feeling restricted can lead to failure. The mind will also embrace the last instruction you give it. For this reason it’s important to articulate your goals, written and verbally, in a positive way. Instead of declaring what you want to give up, let your goals speak to what change you want to experience. Here are some examples that illustrate how to modify target changes for a positive planned and effective approach.

TIME

A good friend of mine recently shared her New Year’s resolution, blog image Clock_lede1300NOT BE LATE. Just a week into 2018 and being on time has been a struggle. After speaking about the goal and the challenges she faces, here is a modified approach.

  • Positive Affirmation Be On Time replaces Not Be Late.
  • Challenge – “I take on last minute distractions that eventually make me late.”
  • Solution – Be fully ready to leave 15 minutes BEFORE you need to leave.
  • Another Challenge – Then I get antsy and find something to fill the 15 minutes.
  • Another Solution – Have your mail, favorite magazines or a book set aside JUST for this 15-minute fill. Set your smart phone to remind you a few minutes before you need to get up and get out.
  • Response – “I think this might work!”
Blog exercise Target Change bbd6dc606e4787cb9d072eb21dd7ade5
SMOKING

Here is an example about smoking from my own personal experience, many years ago. Saying I’m going to “quit smoking” made me feel as if my goal was about restriction and not choice. My attempts to “quit smoking” therefore always failed. At that time I decided to change what wasn’t working and modified the approach to achieve being smoke free.

  • Positive Affirmation Be Smoke Free replaces Quit Smoking.
  • Challenge – Fear…I don’t want comfort food to replace smoking!
  • Solution – Determine in advance what will replace cigarette time. Coffee became my replacement with health and exercise, my focus. I did drink a lot of coffee which eventually tapered off. Today, catching up on email, walking around the office, stretch and breathing exercises, herbal tea, etc could fill this space. Just know, it’s important to have a new healthy habit replace the cigarette habit to avoid the void!
  • Another Challenge – I’m restricting myself and this makes me crave cigarettes even more!!
  • Another Solution – Embrace this truth…it’s about choice and not restriction. I kept a pack of cigarettes in a drawer with a lighter. I was no longer restricting myself because I knew I had access at any time BUT was choosing daily to be smoke free.
  • Response – 1989 marks the year I successfully became smoke free without succumbing to temptation and cravings.
 ALCOHOL

I have not been feeling as energized as I would like. Drinking a ½ glass of wine each night soon became a full pour and eventually on some nights, 2 glasses, through the month of December with all the holiday social gatherings. Alcohol is the trickiest and easiest slippery slope, pulling you down without warning! Here is my 2018 New Year’s Target For Change.

  • Positive AffirmationDaily 4PM Tea Time replaces Quit Weekday Wine Time
  • Challenge – Finishing the day with a glass of wine gives me permission to conclude the day and relax!
  • Solution – Exploring and investing in premium herbal teas that I can serve in a fancy IMG_1102cup, special just for me, is a great substitute. Some teas provide that soothing and relaxing feel, too!
  • Another Challenge – I’m restricting myself when out with friends who are having wine.
  • Another Solution – I can order wine too, but instead, choose herbal teas when out with friends Monday through Friday.
  • Response – First week has been a success! I feel great choosing weekday herbal teas and weekend wine. I am already sleeping better and far more productive and energized during the week!

Below are simple steps to summarize how to target change. Accomplishing any goal is most often about changing behavior, habits, and thought patterns.

  1. Identify the change you want to see in 2018. This might include exercise, better eating habits, being smoke or alcohol free, improve finances, expand socially, thriving in relationships, increasing quality personal downtime, planning a needed vacation, furthering education, pursuing spiritual growth and perhaps offering or accepting forgiveness and seeking emotional and/or physical healing, etc.
  2. Articulate your target change based on the simple practice the examples above illustrate.
  3. Anticipate temptations and plan your responses, in advance, so surprises don’t become a distraction.

2018 can be the year we change the trend on New Year’s resolutions! Focus on the target change you want to achieve stated in a positive affirmation. Anticipate challenges and temptations that could get in the way and prepare responses in advance. By following these simple modifications you have a good chance of celebrating achieved resolutions at the end of 2018! Inspire others and share your experiences. I welcome you to share your success in the blog comments. Best wishes!!

Additional Resources