#1 Tip to Finding Joy: Learn How to Celebrate the Little Things

It is important, whether it is in your job, in your marriage, or with your children, that you are able to find joy in the process, not just in the outcome. The thought, “I’ll be happy when…” is the robber of many moments of happiness and joy. The key is to learn to celebrate the everyday small things.

It has been said that Rome was not built in a day. Neither are your relationships with your spouse or your children. In fact, most of the success comes in the small everyday actions that build cities, individuals and families. It is important to look for, recognize and celebrate those small moments that contribute to the process and find joy in them.

This is something that I strive to do and I make an honest effort to catch my children doing something good and I will make a mention of the impact of that effort. Many times they are unable to see how their actions whether they are positive or negative impact the world around them. Just yesterday, I accompanied my daughter’s 4th grade class on their field trip to visit the State Capitol building and I brought my 6 year-old son and my 4 year-old daughter. As we went to enter the building, my son, on his own accord, opened the door and then held that door open for the classes to enter. I mentioned what a thoughtful idea that was and how much he helped using his strength and hard work and how everyone was able to enter the building faster especially the students carrying the lunch bucket. Little did I realize the impact of that compliment and how many doors are part of the tour of the Capitol building ;). It became his mission to open the door whenever he could and to hold it open until he was the last one in the room. It was a small token of kindness but one that brought joy to many and helped him to develop hard work, think of others rather than himself and to be kind. Watching him became a moment of joy in the process of parenting for me.

It is easy to get caught up in the celebrations that are celebrated by others in the world–the valedictorian or the talented athlete. It takes thought and effort to find reasons and ways to celebrate character traits that are not measured by a GPA or a high vertical jump. While excelling in school or on the field are accomplishments from months and years of training, the true joy lies not in the outcome but the process.

I once watched an olympic athlete who placed second celebrate more than I have ever seen- in fact–I would go as far as to say that they outwardly celebrated more than the person who placed first by hundreds of a second. It could have been really easy to focus on those hundreds of a second that cost them the gold medal, but that outcome wasn’t their focus.

At my son’s T-Ball game a few weeks ago I was able to watch that same reaction by an opposing player who had some delays that affected his physical body but not his heart. After swinging and missing a dozen or so pitches, they brought out the Tee for him to hit off which in the Rookie little league is sometimes a fate worse than death. However, this boy appeared unaffected by this “plight” and then swung with all his might and after a few swings and misses from the tee, managed to hit the tee and the ball so that the ball was knocked off the tee and traveled maybe two feet before it rolled to a stop. That young man ran to 1st base pumping his arms in the air like he had hit a homerun in the world series. How amazing would it be if we all celebrated the small meaningful moments like him.

So, look for ways to highlight the small, everyday moments. You’ll be amazed at the joy you can discover there.

Five Easy Ways To Teach Your Child Empathy

Empathy comes from being able to see something from someone else’s view. Unfortunately, many adults have never developed this necessary skill. Developing empathy is crucial and this is something that will help them thrive in creating connections with their teammates, peers and siblings. Not to mention, that helping your child increase their emotional intelligence and understanding will also increase the likelihood of them selecting a spouse with the same skill set. Being able to empathize with your spouse is one of the most important factors in a healthy marriage as it fosters understanding, forgiveness and connection. So, what can you do to teach your child about empathy? It honestly doesn’t take much and it is never too early to start.

In fact, researchers back in 1982 discovered that within a matter of days, a newborn baby will learn to discriminate between different emotional facial expressions like sad, happy and surprised faces.

By 5 months old, infants will learn to match the image of a sad or happy face with its corresponding voice.

By five years old, the child’s ability to recognize and label facial expression is nearly that of most adults.

It doesn’t take much to be able to teach this essential skill to your children. Here are five of my favorite ways to help them develop empathy.

One: Reading! When you are reading a board or picture book with a child, emphasize the facial expressions and focus on their feelings. “Ooh look at that pig’s face. He looks scared! I bet he is going to try and run fast!” Then, simply put them in that character’s place. “What would you do if your house got knocked down by a big bad wolf?” Do the same exercise yourself. “Oh man! If that happened to me, I would be so scared. I would probably try and run to find somewhere safe too!” Characters in books are a great way at being able to help your children learn to empathize with someone that is in a different situation than they are. Learning that someone could have a different thought or perspective than they do in a book allows them to look for that when they are dealing with situations that arise in their own lives. Books are FANTASTIC at being able to teach about emotions. Correlating facial expressions and emotions is key to helping your child recognize them in others throughout their day. This even works with your youngest kids- mimic the faces in the board books and repeat the word for that feeling: Surprise face in the book, mimic the face and say the word “Surprised.” For older teenagers you can even use books that were made into movies and see how the dynamic of the movie would shift if one of the side characters was the main character in the story. This is a shockingly simple way to see things from another person’s perspective and develop empathy.

Two: Resolving Conflict. Conflict especially between siblings is bound to happen and it can be a great time for teaching empathy. When I can recognize an emotion in one of my kids, I try and emphasize that to their sibling. For example, “Don’t just grab the hair brush from her. You wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you. Next time, just ask her first and she will give it to you.”

Try and place your child in the place of their sibling they are having a conflict with. “How would you feel if that happened to you?” Even if they respond, “Well, I wouldn’t care etc..”, you can redirect them to the facial expression or outward expression of their sibling and explain , “Look at her face. She does care and you would want someone to care if it mattered to you.” Emotions are often times ways to communicate messages that are unheard. Situations escalate when people don’t feel like they are being listened to or have a voice. We all feel emotions and we can relate to them. The emotions that we feel are communicating a message and if we can listen to what they are trying to teach us we can handle the situations better. It is important to help our kids recognize their own emotions and the messages those messages are trying to convey so that they can in turn realize that other people are the same as them–feeling emotions and it allows them to empathize.

Three: Make Discussing Emotions a Part of Your Day. When you are asking your child about how school was you can ask a question that can spark some empathy such as, “When did your teacher smile today? What did your teacher frown about today?” Help them to clue into the emotions of others. During dinner we take turns talking about the best part and worst part of our day. This helps to normalize that we all have difficult events that happen and also to look for good things that happen throughout the course of the day. They are able to develop their skill of empathy listening to others talking about their day. Empathy doesn’t mean that they have to feel the same way as the other person, it just means that they can understand why the person might feel the way they do. For example, one of my daughter’s really doesn’t like math and so it was hard for her to relate to my other daughter saying that math time at school was the best part of her day until we were able to explain it that they way my daughter who enjoys math feels is the same feeling that she has about her P.E. class that she really likes. You are relating the feeling, not having the same feelings for the same events.

Four: Emphasize Your Own Emotions. It is important for your kid’s to recognize feelings in others and there is no one that their recognize more than a parent. You can help them learn to put a label or a name to emotions by doing that yourself. For example, instead of simply saying, “We are going to be late–put your seat belt on!” add in the emotion that you are feeling: “I am nervous that we are going to be late. Put your seatbelt on.” You might just see that putting a label to your own emotions will help you process and communicate better as well.

Five: Seek to Be An Example of Empathy. It is has been said that the number one rule in communication is: “Seek First to Understand, and then be Understood.” It is important for all of us to feel listened to and understood–especially our kids. When your child is explaining why they behaved the way they did or why they made that choice, seek to empathize with them. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a consequence for their behavior, but it does mean that you are trying to understand and empathize with their feelings: “I can understand why you would be nervous and didn’t want to be embarrassed when you showed up at piano lessons with tangled, wet hair.” Kids don’t always know why they do they things they do, but they will seek to look for those reasons the more that we ask about them. When we model seeking to understand their emotions, they will seek more to understanding their own and then at the same time develop that skill to understand and empathize with others.

5 Ways Humility Can Help You Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

There is a natural tendency that we all have to compare. Even a two year-old is capable of quickly recognizing if they have less fruit snacks than their siblings. Comparing in of itself is not wrong and can be a valuable skill set—for example– comparison shopping can allow you to get the best deal on your new phone, car or groceries. However, we often have a tendency of comparing apples to oranges. We will look at our weaknesses and compare them to the strengths of others. We will stand in awe of the woman who obviously makes it to the gym in the morning when we are struggling to get our kids to school on time. We will focus on something we are struggling with and then notice the person who seems to excel in that area and this usually does not foster positive feelings towards that person. This usually leads in the direction of self-loathing and being critical of our ourselves and our weaknesses or to feelings of envy and jealousy of the person we view as successful in an area we are lacking in. However, there is one characteristic that everyone can develop that will directly counter these outcomes of our natural tendency to compare: humility.

One: Being humble is a way that you can still recognize your own weaknesses and the strengths of another without the overwhelming negative feelings. Humility allows you to recognize and remember that we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses that we can improve. Humility allows us know that there is room for growth in all of us for a reason. We can focus on our own self-improvement and look of ways to work on and get better and allow others the same opportunity.

Two: Being humble also helps us to be kind to ourselves. When my mom is overwhelmed, she often says, “I am only one person.” It is helpful to remember this and that we are not meant to be more than just one person–a person who will make mistakes–a person with flaws but a person who is learning. We are one person but we make a huge difference.

Three: Being humble allows us to create true connections. It does not mean being weak nor that we should allow ourselves to be at the dictates of someone else. Recognizing that we have weaknesses does not mean that we negate our strengths. In fact, it helps us relate and connect more to others realizing that we all have strengths and things that we offer to this world that make a difference. Humility allows for us to reach out for help when we need it and creates connections with others which is the strongest predictor of happiness. (truth-or-myth-connection-is-the-strongest-predictor-of-happiness)

Four: Being humble also allows us to remember that everything we have–our time, our talents and skills, our health and energy, even our very lives come as free gifts from God. When you recognize that you have been given talents and gifts, it makes it much easier to share them.

Five: Being humble means being teachable. We can seek to learn from those that have strengths in areas that we might be lacking. We are not meant to know everything but we are meant be be able to learn. Being humble is what makes the true difference in learning. My daughter was having a difficult time with a particular subject in math. I can remember this feeling as I was in math class in high school. Math had been pretty simple for me growing up and then for some reason geometry happened and I can remember looking around in class thinking I was the only person who just wasn’t getting it. My counsel for my daughter was the same counsel I would have given my 9th grade self–raise your hand. Acknowledge if something is hard for you to understand. Your teacher does understand it and can help you. When you acknowledge what you don’t know, you allow your mind to focus on learning that exact information. Humility is the key to learning.

So, the next time you recognize the feelings of envy that are derived from comparing, give yourself a dose of humility. Refocus your energy on ways in which you can use the talents that you have been given and look to learn from those around you. Being humble makes a real difference.

Three Valuable Tips Learned From Being An Ambulance Driver That Will Improve Your Relationship

When my brother was younger, he worked as an ambulance driver. This is a job that I would struggle to do well at since I have a difficult time seeing a bloody nose let alone a more serious injury, but is something that my peacemaker brother really excelled at. He would receive a call with an address and arrive at the scene of an accident where first aid was administered to the person who required the most treatment regardless of who was at fault. That means if a driver was speeding and runs a red light and accidently hits another vehicle but ends up more injured than the other vehicle, the paramedics are trained to treat the speeding driver first.

There are several things about being an ambulance driver that could be really helpful in dealing with the emotional injuries in our relationships. Here are three valuable tips learned from being an ambulance driver that will improve your relationship.

One: Just like an ambulance driver is not aware of what they are dealing with when they receive a call for help, many times we are just as clueless when we are dealing with a situation or an argument. When they arrive on scene they have little information and a few facts. This is important to remember for us as well. Even if we think we have more facts about the situation we are arguing, it is important to remember that we are naturally biased. We are looking at things through our own biased lenses and we are much more capable of knowing our own thoughts and feelings {since we are the ones experiencing them} than we are at knowing the thoughts and feelings of another {since the only way we truly know what they are thinking or feeling is what they communicate}. Also, naturally speaking from an evolutionary standpoint, anytime we feel hurt, we are going to be more prone to dealing with our own emotions rather than hearing the thoughts or feelings of another. There is a Japanese story that really does a good job illustrating this point:

The man doesn’t know that there is a snake underneath.The woman doesn’t know that there is a stone pressing on the man.

The woman thinks: “I am going to fall! and I can’t climb because the snake is going to bite me! Why can’t the man use a little more strengh and pull me up!”

The man thinks: “I am in so much pain! Yet I’m still pulling you as much as I can! why don’t you try and climb a little harder?!”

The moral is: You can’t see the pressure the other party is under, and the other party can’t see pain you’re in. This is life, no matter whether it’s with work, family, feelings, friends, family, you should try to understand each other, learn to think differently, think of each other, and communicate better. It is important to remember that we don’t know everything.

Broken Heart with Band Aid

Two: After arrival on the scene, the focus of the ambulance driver is immediately on healing. When the ambulance arrives, they are not looking for blame or an explanation. Their goal is to help and administer aid as soon as they can. In fact, many times they begin treating the patient who in fact was the cause of the accident. There is power in being able to take a step back, look at the argument from the viewpoint of an ambulance driver and work on healing rather than being right. When you get in an argument, it is helpful to recognize it the way an ambulance driver would. It is important to recognize and acknowledge what is happening. You are in an argument and regardless of how you got there and whose fault it is that you are here it is happening and your objective just like an ambulance driver should be focused on healing rather than looking for blame, an explanation or to justify hurt feelings (no matter how valid you feel that they are). You can simply acknowledge that you are here that you have had an accident and you don’t want to stay hurt. With a few simple, sincere phrases, you can stop the bleeding and change the focus to be on healing. For example, “I don’t want to fight.” or ” “You matter to me. I’m sorry.” Remember the goal is to heal. Are the words you are speaking working towards that goal even if you are the hurt party in this situation or are they a hindrance to healing? Healthy couples argue and fight but they are quick to repair, fix the hurts and reconnect. Injuries in relationships are inevitable and learning how to repair those injuries is a necessary lifeskill.

Three: The final lesson to be learned from viewing relationships from the viewpoint of an ambulance driver is that speed matters. I was always envious of my ambulance driving brother at times when I was stuck in traffic and late for an event that my brother was able to ignore traffic signals and circumvent the rules of the road to transfer patients. However, my brother would probably be the first to tell you that when he had a patient enroute to a hospital, his main objective was doing his best to get his patient where they needed to be to get the treatment they needed as quickly and safely as possible. This objective should be the same for us with our relationships. Speed and time matter too–and when we are hurt, we often can stonewall or try not to care so much building a wall to protect ourselves and offer the silent treatment to our spouse. This is crucial time as emotional disconnection hurts our relationship more that the injury itself. Forgiveness is a process that begins with the decision to choose to forgive and not necessarily with waiting for the feeling to want to forgive. If you wait until you feel forgiving before you choose to forgive, it may be a long and arduous wait. Seeking to forgive doesn’t mean that instantaneously the hurt feelings simply evaporate but it does allow for a path to move forward on rather to stay in isolation. Be mindful of the fact that emotional injuries derail relationships. You can inflict a great deal of pain on your partner simply because you matter so much–you are the one they depend on. Forgiveness is the key to reconnecting and repairing relationships and the faster you can get to that place of healing for yourself, the better the outcome.

The truth is that accidents happen. What makes the biggest difference in the happiness of couples is not that their spouse never did anything that hurt the other but that they were quick at acknowledging hurt or pain, quick to apologize and seeking to forgive. There is a lot that can be learned by looking at our relationships and treating them the way an ambulance driver would allowing you to be able to quickly repair any emotional injuries you may encounter.

The Art of Inclusion: Two Lessons From “Chalk Day” That Can Erase Bullying

This past week I was able to spend some quality time volunteering at my children’s elementary school. I was lucky enough to be able to pass the last afternoon with 16 of some of the most extraordinary Kindergarten kids on the planet on one of the best days of the year: “C” Day or better known as “Chalk Day”. They were simply given two large buckets of chalk to share and then were given free reign to draw on any of the concrete within the Kindergarten gates (and of course admonished to not draw on themselves or the actual school building 😉 ). I watched in awe as they all, armed with their stick of chalk, went and staked their claim on their concrete slab that would become some of the greatest masterpieces.

I loved how there were no two drawings alike and not one of them seemed worried that they had drawn something different than their classmates. They each seemed to value their own ideas and even if they struggled to make the design come to life that they pictured in their head, they didn’t stop trying. One little girl became frustrated with the star she was drawing. As I bent down to see her drawing I complimented her choice to stick with it. I told her how I could remember being little and practicing drawing stars over and over to try and get it right-just like learning to snap my fingers. I also told her that every star is different but they all light up at night. Reinvigorated, she turned her square into a twinkling skyline that would brighten anyone’s night.

At the end of “Chalk Day”, each student wrote their name under the phrase, “We love Mrs. Wilson” that I wrote. Every name was once again as unique as the personalities that drew it, and together, the combined art became a masterpiece. Experiencing “Chalk Day” reminded me of two points that are the key to address and erase bullying: Kindness and Inclusion.

Kindness matters. Not only is it important to be kind to others, it is really important to be kind to yourself. When things didn’t go as originally planned, I loved how the little girl drawing stars persevered despite the challenges. Eventually, she knew she would get better even if she wasn’t the best right at this moment. This kindness that she showed to herself, to be able to allow for progression, allows her to show more kindness to others. Those who show the most bullying behavior are often the ones who experience the least acts of kindness and have lost this skill to be kind to themselves. It is important to remember that we are all a work in progress.

The second key to decreasing bullying is inclusion. The world was created to be different. Somehow as we grow older we lose the ability to recognize that our differences and what makes us unique is what makes us stronger. Instead, we have a tendency to try and fit into what we view as expectations rather than focus on progressing and growing the talents and abilities that we have been blessed with. Maya Angelou was quoted as saying, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on, that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

There is an importance to not just accept but celebrate our differences and that we are unique. I loved how each student on “Chalk Day” had their own idea of what they wanted to draw—no one was worried about what was expected and each felt valued for what they wanted to contribute. I can assure you that unfortunately “Chalk Day” in my daughter’s 4th grade class would not have been the same as it was for my son in Kindergarten as they are already concerned with fitting into the “norm” and meeting expectations. How boring would this world be if we all drew the same art with the same stick of chalk? Different view points and talents are what make the world diverse and together the world is better and stronger. Every parent desires for their child to fit in and it is heartbreaking when you recognize when they are being excluded. The greater lesson to teach your child is how to embrace their being created to be unique and how their gifts and talents matter in the world. Help them to recognize and celebrate the uniqueness in others. Once as I was leaving a tumbling class with a group of young tumblers and their mothers, a tumbler looked at the sucker one of the classmates was delightfully devouring. With all the disgust a 4 year old could muster, she turned to her friends and pointed at the classmate and said “Gross!”. The young girl quickly pulled out her sucker and was about to put it in the trash when I intervened and said, “Isn’t it great that God gave us all our own tongues to decide what we think is gross?” The girl quickly reinserted her sucker into her mouth and said, “My tongue loves it!” There are unique things about us all that need to be recognized and celebrated.

So, today’s tip: Learn the art of inclusion. Seek to develop an inclusion mindset– to look for ways to include others and create an environment where everyone has value. Find ways to celebrate the differences of others and to share what is unique about you. This world was created to be full of diversity and everyone contributes to this masterpiece.

Number One Advice Tip for Newlyweds That Will Improve Your Relationship No Matter How Long You Have Been Married

It seems like any bridal shower you attend, there is a plethora of advice given for the bride and groom. I mean, you hear you whole life that marriage is hard and yet it can be hard to fathom why when you are in the bliss of dating. There is one piece of advice that I usually share with the ‘Brides to Be’ but in reality, it is the number one thing that will improve your relationship no matter how long you have been married. And it is this: If you want your spouse to continue a behavior, you simply need to express your gratitude for it everytime that they do it.

Everyone enjoys to be recognized and acknowledged by the one that they love. Especially when you were first dating, you would be quick to open doors or to send them a text to let them know that you were thinking of them. As a newlywed, you are constantly doing small acts of service to show your new spouse that you are thinking of them whether it is a packing a lunch for them for the next day or leaving a love note in their car that they would find later. However, seemingly without even noticing, these small acts dwindle and the routine to think of yourself returns. You no longer acknowledge when they do the dishes or wash the car–in fact, it becomes almost like the standard division of tasks and it turns those things to become automatically expected. We are more quick to acknowledge when they don’t wash the dishes or if the car looks dirty.  The lack of gratitude tends to lead to criticism that can invade your relationship and sometimes can damage your relationship beyond repair.

Acknowledgement and gratitude are the things that will make the biggest difference in turning that around. So take a moment to figure out what act of service makes you feel loved and make a point to acknowledge and express your gratitude for it–even if it is something that you already expect. If you spouse says you look nice today, instead of replying in her head, “Well, took him long enough to notice!” say, “Thank you. It means a lot that you noticed.” Or when your spouse makes a point to send you a text or call you, make sure you acknowledge the effort and say thank you and let them know the impact that it made. They will want to repeat a behavior when they feel like it matters and you express gratitude for it. Life is full of repetitive needs–cooking, mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway, cleaning, driving to work, dishes, laundry etc… These mundane tasks can become ways you can look for to express your gratitude for the ways in which your spouse meets your needs. Expressing gratitude is the antidote for criticism and is the key to improving and sustaining a healthy relationship. So, look for ways to express gratitude for what you have and make it a habit to acknowledge and express gratitude for the little things. Gratitude is the antidote to criticism and will improve and strengthen your relationship before, during and after you walk down the aisle.

Tuesday Tip: The Vital Skill of Listening {Including 6 Tips to Improve Your Listening Skills}

What is the most powerful antidote to grief and pain, the key to healing and the key to progress that doesn’t cost a thing? Listening.

Listening is a vital skill that can always be improved and listening is the number one way to improve your relationships. The truth is that people start to heal the minute they feel heard. Here are 6 ways you can improve your listening skills.

Be Present.  Listening is a gift that doesn’t require any money but it does require that you be present. Devote the time and energy necessary to have a conversation. We all have been part of a conversation where it quickly becomes obvious that the person really isn’t listening to us but is changing the channel on the tv at the same time or looking at their phone. It is obvious and you can tell. If time constraints or other aspects of life do not permit you do devote the time necessary to listen, simply express that to the person and set up another time when you can listen. Example: “I need to take your sister to school right now, can we talk when I get back?”

Be Focused. Listening can be hard work and we are easily distracted. Focusing is required to be able to block out the world of distractions including the urge to check your phone or be preoccupied with what you are going to cook for dinner. While it is normal to have your mind wander and be distracted– it is a skill that you can develop to focus and listen to what someone else is saying.

Be Curious. One way to keep you focused and engaged on the conversation at hand is to remain curious. If you go into conversations with curiosity and genuine interest in what they are trying to communicate, the person you are communicating with can feel it and respond.

Be Aware. According to a study done by Ray Birdwhistell back in 1970, he determined that 35% of communication is verbal or the words we use and 65% of communication is nonverbal or the facial expressions and body language. Basically what that means is you communicate more with your posture and body language and how you say things than what you actually say. So, you need to make sure you are aware of not only those nonverbal expressions of the person you are listening to but what you are portraying as well. Are you maintaining eye contact? Do you have a tone of voice that exhibits that you care? Are you facial expressions demonstrating that you are invested in the conversation? Good listening requires that you are aware of how you and the speaker are communicating.

Be Open-Minded. It has been said that we can only do one thing effectively at a time: listen, judge, or respond. If you are already calculating a judgement about what you are are hearing, you are no longer listening. It is imperative that you listen to the entire message. Be ready to hear and consider all sides of an issue. This does not mean that you have to agree with what is being said, but after you listen to the message, then you can weigh your thoughts against what has been said, and finally respond. A lot of times when you are listening you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to have a response but it is important to know that it also okay not to have an immediate response and to say, “I’m going to need to think about that.”

The truth is that listening does not mean agreement. Listening does not force us to silence our own opinions, it just asks us to show respect to the opinions of others. It actually communicates a willingness to communicate and to keep an open-mind.

Be Reflective. The idea is to give the speaker some proof that you are listening. You can show that you understand where the speaker is coming from by reflecting the speaker’s feelings. “You must be so excited! That sounds awful! I can understand why you would be confused.” Reflection can also be done through just a nod or an appropriate facial expression or an occasional “hmmm” or “uh huh”. Paraphrasing what you are hearing also helps to show that you are listening: “So, you thought you would be able to get a second interview but then they never called you back? That is disappointing.” Reflect what you are hearing or the feelings you are perceiving so that you can make sure the message you are receiving is what the speaker is intending to send. When listening to someone talk about a problem, refrain from suggesting solutions or offering advice unless they ask you for it. Listening doesn’t require you to provide solutions but if somewhere during the conversation, you do have a brilliant solutions, simply ask the speaker’s permission: “Would you like to hear my ideas?” Listening simply requires you to be reflective of their thoughts and feelings rather than inserting your own ideas.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: Make a goal to improve your listening skills. It is the number one way to improve your relationships and although listening doesn’t cost any money, learning to listen is the best investment you can make.

Tuesday Tip: Two Lessons Learned From Flying That Can Change Your Life

The truth is that life is rarely traveled on a well-lit, smooth paved road. Life is bumpy and full of up and downs. Traveling by flying is no different. You can’t predict the wind or the weather and turbulence can happen at any time. It would seem that in life, the “fasten seat belt” sign is almost permanently lit. There are two lessons that I specifically learned from flying that can make a huge difference in how we navigate this life.

The first lesson I learned was actually before boarding the aircraft.
I once dated a guy who was working on getting his pilot license and I watched him complete a flight plan. Mind you, I had traveled by plane many times but I had never considered that creating a flight plan would be any different than mapquesting a destination in a car. You choose where you start and and where you want to end up and then figure out the roads and highways that will get you there. I figured it would be even simpler to do a flight plan since you wouldn’t have to figure out the roads to get there but could literally fly from point A to point B. That flight plan was one of the most intricate things I had ever seen. Using a map which has a million different circles on it that represent airways, you have to figure out all of the circles that you plan on passing through from one airport to your final airport. Then, while navigating in flight, you are constantly using your flight instruments and checking in to make sure you are on your desired path as you pass through those airways. Even with the detailed flight plan, you are constantly veering off course and having to correct your course. This is how life is. It is essential to have a flight plan–to know you are and where you want to go but even more essential that the flight plan is being able to use your ability to check yourself to be able to correct your course. The way to measure how you are doing in life is not how many times you get off course, but how fast you return to the flight path or in other words, how fast you are able to recenter yourself when life becomes unbalanced.

The second essential life skill I learned from flying is given during those long and monotonous emergency instructions you listen to once you are boarded on the flight. (I realize that I should probably pay more attention to safety instructions that are there for my own benefit but man it is rough to listen to sometimes!) During those lovely instructions though, they give one of the most insightful rules that is an absolute mental health game changer. In case of loss of air cabin pressure, they tell you that an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling above you. Then they give you this admonition: Before you assist someone else, you need to put your own oxygen mask first. This is an essential skill that many caregivers or parents often overlook. They, (many times out of concern and love) attempt to address the needs of those they care for without having addressed their own. This can lead to burnout. The skill is to identify and provide self-care for yourself and then to be able to provide assistance to those in your life who may need it. What does self-care look like? Self care is simple acts that show that you are taking care of yourself and recognizing your own needs. Below I included a list of a few self-care items, but in reality your list will be just as unique are you are and may not include the stash of chocolate in the pantry. 😉 It is not selfish, but in fact will allow you to show more love to those around you just like putting your oxygen mask on first before you assist others to put on theirs.

So, take a moment to create your own flight plan for yourself. Who are you, and where are you headed? Write out that goal and then you can check yourself periodically to see what course changes you may need to make in order to stay on your path.

Second, create a self-care plan for you. What would be on your list of self-care items? Create that list. Check in and monitor yourself and if you know that you are going to be needed whether it is emotionally or physically– start by making sure you have first put on your own oxygen mask. Taking care of yourself matters and allows you to then assist others which in turn brings joy to your life.

While these tips will not change the turbulence that we experience in this life, it will help you to more successfully navigate your flight and reach your desired destination. Have a safe flight!

Tuesday Tip: Kindness Matters

The ripple effect of kindness is more powerful than many might realize. I can’t emphasize enough how much kindness makes a difference. In fact, it has been the catalyst that has saved lives. The clients I have had the honor of working with as they processed he excruciating pain and anguish which leads someone to contemplate suicide, often surprised me by the stories that they would share of the simple acts they witnessed {many times these events did not even that happened to them} that would help them to hold on amongst the pain and restore hope. You don’t know the positive impact that you can make simply by moving over to give them a seat on the bus or at lunch to make room for someone else, the high five to a stranger in the hallway, the heartfelt smile that allowed someone in pain to realize their heart was still beating. Reaching out with kindness is something everyone and anyone can do and I promise makes a difference. The Boy Scouts of America has a slogan, “Do a good turn daily.” This is a tip that would be a great goal for all of us. So, today’s Tuesday Tip: Do an act of kindness daily: the ripple effect is beyond powerful.

Tuesday Tip: The Importance of Distinguishing Between Shame and Guilt.

There are few words and feelings that make such a profound difference as the difference between these two five-letter words: Shame and Guilt. While you might think they are synonyms, you will be surprised to know that psychologically speaking, they are more distinct than you might think and understanding their differences can be life altering.

So, what’s the difference? According to renowned researcher/storyteller, Brené Brown, PhD, LCSW, the difference is huge. Brown has been researching shame for over ten years and her TED talks have garnered over 10 million views. She defines shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Shame focuses on yourself: “I am a bad person… I am stupid…I am a failure.”

She defines guilt on the other hand as “holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” She view guilt as adaptive and helpful and focuses instead on the behavior: “This behavior is bad…that was a really stupid thing to do…that outcome was a failure.”

According to Brown, “Shame [is] highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, violence, bullying and aggression. Guilt? Inversely correlated with those.” What does that mean? That means the ability to change the way in which you talk to yourself (guilt vs. shame) or your internal dialogue can dramatically change the outcome.

Guilt serves as a motivating factor to change whereas shame becomes the catalyst to the downward spiral of self loathing that has been correlated with depression and addiction. For example, I could do really poorly on a test and say to myself: “Dang it. That was a mistake. I should have studied differently.” Now, I still feel bad and the event didn’t change-I still did poorly, but I am motivated to fix that mistake.

Check out the difference with shame: “Dang it. I am such a loser. I am so stupid. I don’t know why I bothered to think that I would ever be good at taking a test.” Shame cuts at your self identity and does not inspire you to move forward but rather stay in a downward spiral of negative thoughts.
The ability to change the self-talk — and believe it — can dramatically change the outcome.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: examine your internal dialogue. Is it more inline with shame or guilt? When you or someone you love make a mistake, allow your feelings of guilt to inspire a course correction. As I lovingly repeat to my kids on a daily basis: “Peirce’s make mistakes and Peirce’s fix mistakes.” They might have the same number of letters but feeling shame and guilt are extremely different and distinguishing between them is an absolute game changer.