Key Strategy to Dealing With the Tsunamis of Life

Growing up in California, I have always loved the beach. I can stare at the ocean for hours watching the waves as they roll in and retreat back. There is also another phenomenon that I love to watch with the waves and it happened all the time. It is something that I can still laugh at when I picture it in my mind. The scenario is always the same– a loving parent would turn their back to the unsuspecting waves usually while watching their child or another person and then they would just get pummeled by an oncoming wave. Some would just scream as the cold water would hit their back while others would get lifted off their feet with the force of the wave and then be brought into the shore. Even though they were in the ocean and knew there were waves, they just didn’t see it coming and weren’t prepared for the impact of the wave. I feel like that happens to all of us in life, inadvertently hit by unsuspecting waves or events that we didn’t see coming or didn’t realize would impact us the way that they did. There is a tip that can help all of us when we are faced with these moments in life, and that is to focus on what you do know.

The force of these powerful waves or events in our lives often knock us to our knees. What you thought you knew–how you saw your life– suddenly shifts and you are left confused and full of questions. Humbled with how much you didn’t know and now overwhelmed with all you do not know. Phrases like, “I don’t know what to do” and “I just don’t know anything anymore” are often voiced.

When you loose your bearings and you are not sure which way to turn, it is a natural reaction to simply not move at all. However, the heavy and depressing feelings that weigh us down without a counter reaction then gain more power to continue the downward spiral. They make it difficult to remember good times or memories. They make it hard to feel peace and instead pull us downwards in despair. In times like these, there is a strategy that can assist us to taking a step in the right direction. The key is to focus on what you do know.

What you know is going to vary by person and experience but I will try and elaborate with a few examples. For instance, just this morning, I awoke to news about a friend’s granddaughter who was in the ICU fighting for her life. This event absolutely blindsighted and overwhelmed the family as they helplessly watched their little girl being assisted by medical teams to save her life. The girl with the biggest personality was now sedated with multiple IVs/infusions and there were more questions than answers. But there were things that they did know and by concentrating on those, there is a way to face forward and stand among such difficult circumstances. They know that their little girl is getting the best care at the best facility possible. They know that God answers prayers. They know they are loved and that they are not alone. Focusing on what you do know allows you a path forward in the darkness and confusion of what we don’t know.

Another example was when a friend found out that her recently married husband was addicted to pornography. This revelation washed over her just like the waves at the beach and she felt washed up on the sand without hope. It was in the act of focusing on what she knew that gave her the courage to get up off the sand. She had to learn at her core who she was, that she had value and what that meant. In realizing her value, she was able to see her husband’s value and his battle with addiction and the shame associated. Focusing on knowing there is a way to overcome addictions with hard work allowed her a path forward.

Focusing on what you know doesn’t mean that things will work out the way you would want them to. I have another friend whose husband lost his job. Finances were tight and this new revelation was crushing. However, instead of wallowing in despair or anger over the circumstances of his termination, they focused on what they did know. What assets they had that they could use while he sought other employment and what they could do to limit their spending. Focusing on what they knew–that he was a hard worker, that he could be a valuable employee, that others would assist them in finding suitable employment allowed them a way to move forward.

There will and should always be things that we don’t know. We don’t and won’t know everything in this life. There will always be opportunities for growth and learning. Walking in the unknown is difficult. We would all much rather know the outcome before we start walking. My husband often will research a movie before we watch it in hopes to know the ending and if the movie is good.–although I can personally tell you this has not prevented us from watching some really lame and worthless movies. While it is difficult not to have all the answers before we start walking, we are required to take steps before we know all the answers.

Life can become dark and confusing at times and without knowing where you are headed or how you are going to get there, it makes it difficult to walk. However, you don’t need to worry about the speed of how fast you are getting to your destination but that you are taking steps in the right direction. And that involves focusing on what you know. There is a scripture in the Bible in Isaiah that I often reflect on where this idea is emphasized: “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourself about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled” (Isaiah 50:11). Sometimes in building a fire or focusing on what we know, it isn’t a lot. It might just be sparks. We all at times are going to walking in darkness, and sometimes it might only be the sparks that are guiding us. However, even if we are only guided by the sparks, we will still be guided. So, the next time you are hit by an unexpected wave, remember to focus on what you know–it will help you to take a step into the unknown.

The Power of Reflection: The Greatest Tool We Can Use to Achieve Our Goals

Our minds really enjoy a good book—meaning that our minds love things that have a beginning and an ending. In fact, we love it so much it can often become our downfall. I have not worked with a couple who didn’t have an initial goal when they decided to get married to have a happy marriage. However, life is much more fluid than books and it is often not full of neat and tidy beginning and endings. Even the seasons in the weather have transitions. For instance, my daughter was born on April 7th. On any calendar regardless if the groundhog saw his shadow, April 7th is most definitely spring. In fact, the calendar will tell you that the first day of spring is actually March 19th. But the night she was born, it snowed. And it shouldn’t snow in spring. But this is a good reminder of what progress looks like. It is in constant motion and not something that we can necessarily control. But there is one strategy that makes all the difference with our minds and it is something that we can control: the ability to reflect. This is the tool that actually provides the most success in establishing, monitoring, and creating the happy endings our minds desire.

Reflection is a vital tool for success in any goals. It takes honest reflection to evaluate where you are and where you want to go. What do you want to see happen? What are the desires of your heart? How do you want things to be? I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is to think that you only reflect once in order to create or set your goals but true success lies in learning to reflect more often.

Modern travel is a great way of showing the value of reflection. If Christopher Columbus never checked and made course corrections, it is safe to say that he never would have landed on the island. Planes in order to reach their destination or goals constantly are reverting back to their flight plan to make sure they are in alignment and traveling to where they want to go. Reflection is a tool that does the same things for the goals we have for ourselves. It is important to be able to check in and ponder or reflect on where we are in our progress with our goals in order to determine if we are indeed progressing where we want. We might not be able to control how fast we arrive at our destinations, but we can always control which way we are facing and that alone is the most important factor for reaching our intended destination.

If you continue on the path that you are on, where are you going to end up? Is that where you want to be? A reflection question that I have asked couples I have worked with is, “If everything stays the same as it is now and nothing changes, what is going to be the end result?” It takes a conscious decision to make a change in your life. But it requires reflection in order to see what changes need to be made. It is helpful to know that you can continue to change as you continue to reflect and make course corrections.

Reflection allows you to put yourself in the equation. If you want to be change the result or the answer in an equation, you do not need to change all of the variables. You only need to change one thing on the right side of the equation and the result is guaranteed to be different. If your goal is to have a healthy and happy marriage, what are you doing to make that happen? Reflection allows you look to yourself to be the change that will change the result.

Events in our lives often cause a reflection. Getting pulled over for a traffic ticket, finding out a loved one is in the hospital or that they suddenly passed away or hearing the words, “You have cancer” will cause us to stop and reflect on our lives. However, you do no need to wait for an event such as these to be able to reflect and make sure your life is in alignment and headed in the direction that you want.

So, make a time for reflection. Whether it is part of your daily commute, while you exercise, while you take a shower, while you fold laundry or while you take communion or the sacrament. Reflect on where you are in your goals and whether or not you need to make any course corrections. Ask yourself if there is something you should stop/start doing that would make you more successful at your goals. We are all works in progress and goals help us become better versions of ourselves. Consistent reflection allows us to be more mindful and successful at progressing in our goals. It really is the greatest tool we can use.

Top 5 Strategies to Help Manage Grief

The Holidays are often a time that many look forward to each year but for others serves as a reminder that life is not the same. While there are no ways to change that loved ones are not here with us, there are ways that we can process the grief that at times feels overwhelming. Grief is something that all of us are guaranteed to experience in this life. And though it will be experienced by everyone, each person is going to process it differently. The key is to find ways and outlets to express that grief. Here are five strategies to help manage and cope with grief.

Find Ways For Their Legacy to Live On

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of the unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” Jamie Anderson

You can find ways to express the love that you would want to give but cannot. While they may not physically be here to hug or participate, you can find ways that their legacy can live on. Many sponsor events such as golf tournaments or running events and donate the money to a cause that their loved one supported. Some purchase benches or seats in the honor of their loved one. However, it can also be as simple as doing and act of service or something that they would have done in their honor. For instance, you can go and collect all the carts in a busy shopping center, make their favorite cookie or meal and bring it to someone else, pay for a drink or a meal of the person behind you, donate a newborn outfit to the hospital in their honor. Finding a way to have their honor or legacy live on is a very cathartic way to process grief.

Rituals

Rituals also have a great role in being able to express grief. Hiking on their favorite trail, leaving a pebble on their headstone when you visit, releasing their favorite color balloon, watching old videos or looking through photo albums on their birthday. Rituals and activities such as these allow you to send a postcard that “I remember you” or a way to say “Thinking of you” when those moments come.

Physical Momentos

Physical reminders also serve as a way to process grief. From pillows or blankets made from old shirts, necklaces made from their handwriting, birthstone or handprint, a token from items they collected that can be displayed, being able to physically hold something when you cannot hold your love one is an avenue that has shown to make a big difference in expressing grief. Just this past week, a friend whose brother had recently passed away from cancer wore his shirt to the movie theater to watch Star Wars. Physical momentos are a powerful way to express and process grief.

Find An Expression

There is a lyric from a song released this year by Craig Morgan. He wrote it as an expression of grief in tribute to his son who passed away in a drowning accident. “My boy’s not here, but he ain’t gone.”

It is important to be able to find an expression for your grief whether from art, writing poems, lyrics or a song, or even just journaling. Grief is not something that can be controlled and is often just under the surface but when you have an avenue to express the grief you are feeling, it becomes manageable. The pain is still there but that pain becomes a reminder of the love and then the love has an outlet to be expressed.

Reach Out

If there is one thing that you could do to help someone who is grieving, it is simply this–allow them to have an expression. Sometimes we fear causing them pain by bringing up old memories and feeling like we are opening up old wounds, but the most pain they feel is when the rest of the world isn’t grieving and recognizing their grief. So what can you do? Remember them. Allow them an avenue to talk about their loved one. Unexpressed or suppressed grief is painful. When the grief surfaces, allow them the space and avenues to express it. Those who have researched grief have found that the number one difference made in dealing with grief was the support the person felt while they were experiencing it. You can be that difference for someone.

No matter how old you are, no matter what your gender, your education level, how much money you have, where you live…we will all experience grief. While we will all experience it differently, finding ways to express and process this grief will allow us all to manage the role that grief plays in our lives.

If you found this article helpful, please like and share. Thank you.

For more information and to understand the grief that you might be experiencing or the grief a loved one is going through, here is a quick article:

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/04/10/truth-or-myth-grief-is-something-that-you-should-get-over-myth-5-truths-to-help-understand-and-cope-with-grief/

The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself- and Everyone {Including Two Strategies to Make it Happen}

As much as we might try, there are things in this life that are beyond our control. From the weather to a 2 year-old having a meltdown in the isle of a store, there are things we cannot completely control in this life. However, we can control our reaction to them. And the best gift you could ever give yourself which will positively affect everyone in your life is to improve the way you react and manage stress. Recognizing when we are stressed and taking steps to handle our own stress rather than passing that on to those around us is the greatest gift you could give yourself and will bless the lives of those around you. There are two main keys to learn to make this gift a reality for you–recognizing your stress level and implementing a healthy stress management plan.

Key #1: Recognize when you are stressed. How do you know when you are stressed? Does it seem like you realize that you are stressed only after you have maxed out? Do you ever feel like the Hulk just emerges without much warning? It can be difficult to recognize when we don’t know what to look for.

Why isn’t is easier for everyone to identify? There are a few good reasons we all struggle sometimes to identify when we are stressed until we tend to explode. For one, stress itself is not bad–we need some stress in our lives in order to function–we couldn’t function without it. So, we are used to feeling some stress and get accustomed to it. Second, just like a frog sitting in water that slowly heats up will end up being a boiled frog–sometimes when it is a slow accumulating stress we don’t tend to recognize it. Adding one more guest to a party– even adding one every few days over the week isn’t going to alarm us as much as the same number added the day before the party which can then be absolutely overwhelming. And finally it is sometimes difficult to identify because we all feel stress differently. We can’t always look to our parents, partners or even kids to see how they experience stress because it is completely unique and their experience for themselves will be different from ours but they are a great source to ask when they know we are stressed. My daughter says, “oh no–mom is getting her stressed eyes!” My eyes tend to get large when I am stressed so it has become a good indicator for me.

While we all experience stress differently, there are some things we all have in common. We all will feel stress in our bodies. While some people might have their breathing quicken, others actually unconsciously hold their breath and don’t breath as often. Some people’s muscles tighten while other’s get lightheaded. Some people’s heart race and blood pressure rises and they can feel chest pain. Some people feel stress in their stomach and can feel nauseous. Some people’s appetite changes where they have little appetite or tend to overeat. Stress can trigger headaches and migraines. It can make you feel fatigued or cause you not to be able to sleep. Most of the time, we feel it in more that one way in our bodies. What is important to note is that we can recognize the signals our body is telling us when we feel stress so that we can manage the stress level before it manages us.

Strategy: Implement stress self checks. Knowing that it is difficult to always recognize the stress level we are feeling in our lives, doing a stress check throughout the day is a great way of being able to manage our stress. Check your body and how you are feeling and assign it a number between 1-10 and then you can implement strategies needed to keep you in the optimal stress performance zone.

Key #2: Implementing a Healthy Stress Management Plan. I think that one of the greatest myths is that we only need a stress management plan when we are stressed, but in reality this plan is needed when we aren’t necessarily in a state of stress trying to troubleshoot what to do. Everyone will experience stress in this life. You make better choices and can control your reaction better when you have plan. So, what do you do to handle your stress? We all have ways of coping when we are stressed out–some more healthy than others. Here is a link to my favorites: https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/28/top-9-proven-strategies-to-manage-stress-including-the-science-behind-how-they-work/

It is also important to recognize the coping methods or cards that we use and to increase the cards as they can’t be played every time. For instance, obviously taking a nap is not an option when you are stuck in traffic, so you are going to need to play a different card like deep breathing or listening to uplifting music etc. The more healthier cards you know and can have in your card deck, the better.

There is a game I will play with young clients to help them understand this concept. The game is called UNO Attack and it takes UNO to a whole new level and instead of drawing from the deck when you don’t have a card or have to “draw two”, you actually hit a button and sometimes you get no cards and then sometimes a whole bunch of cards are popped out at you. This simulates how life is–sometimes things happen and you end up with a lot of extra cards or stress in your life but knowing how to manage that is the key to winning UNO attack and to be successful in life.

Strategy: Create a Stress Management Plan. Make a conscious effort to figure out how you are handling your stress and take a step to add a healthier card to your deck. For instance, if you are finding that you are often stressed in the car, add some healthy snacks or chocolate or create a cool playlist of music. A stress management plan is key whether you are currently stressed or not.

So get to know yourself and ask yourself these two pivotal questions: How do I know when I am stressed and what do I do to handle my stress? Implement a stress management plan. There really is no greater gift that you can give yourself and managing your stress becomes a gift for everyone.

If you found this helpful, please like and share. Thanks!

Dealing with Conflict: The Game Changer Question to Ask Yourself

Conflict is unfortunately bound to happen in this life. You don’t have to scroll down far on your feed to find evidence of conflict- in relationships, in schools, in politics–it is guaranteed to be there. However, there is one question that you can ask yourself that can be a total game changer where conflict is concerned. The number one question to ask yourself is this: “How do you want this to end?”

How do you want this to end? What’s your objective? Keeping the end in mind is more important than you might realize. Most people don’t think about the ending but are instead focused on their feelings and often get into an unfortunate cycle and communication myth where the louder or harsher they complain, the more the other person will know how upset they are by the complaint. So volume will tell you how strong your feelings are. The louder you yell, the more valid your feelings are. This unfortunately is a false belief and often leads to additional volume in response and more conflict, and hurt feelings. Speaking louder or more harshly doesn’t mean that you are more likely to be listened to or that your message will be heard. In fact, research confirms that it is the opposite.

Psychological Researcher John Gottman, PhD, who over the past 40 years has become one of the most influential researchers in the industry, actually found that 96% of the time, the way a discussion begins can predict the way it will end. He found that when one partner started the discussion with a harsh start up (being negative accusatory or using contempt) the discussion is basically doomed to fail. On the other hand, when one partner begins the discussion using a softened startup, the discussion will most likely end on the same positive tone. For example: (Harsh Start-Up) “You never have time for me!” compared to (Softened Start-up) “I have been missing you lately, and I’m getting a little lonely.” So, remember that your approach matters and that the way you begin a conversation has a direct tie to how it will end. So, if you want the conflict or conversation to end well, how your convey your message matters and you need to begin your discussions with a softened start up approach.

A softened start up does not mean that your feelings are not strong. In fact, expressing your feelings, even strong, powerful feelings is absolutely fine and necessary. The truth is that you can feel big emotions but do need to match the volume in your voice or tone to convey them. You can feel angry or hurt and not be loud. And how you convey your message matters. It all comes down to understanding the difference between Criticism vs. Complaint. And there is a very big difference between the two. When you are being critical, that means you are attacking the personality or character of a person. It often begins with “You always…” or “You never…” or “Why are you so…” or “What’s wrong with you?” For example, “What’s wrong with you? How could you leave without feeding the dog? You never feed him.” Complaint on the other hand is specific to a behavior you want to change. For example, “The dog was out of food again. Can you make sure he is fed before you leave next time?” Make sure that you are addressing complaints rather than just being critical and have an end in mind. What do you want to see changed? What behavior do you want to see? Don’t underestimate how powerful a tone of voice can be as you have a conversation about the behavior you want to see changed. Keep the end in mind and you will be more effective at conveying your feelings and messages.

The truth is that you do not have control over how someone else will react or that by conveying your feelings that they will change their point of view but you do have a say in how things will end by the way in which you choose to discuss your emotions. So, remember, when you are handling conflict, make sure you ask yourself, “How do you want this to end?” It can be a total game changer and lead to better communication, better handled conflict and happier endings.

If you found this helpful, please like and share!

7 Strategies to Implement Gratitude with Your Kids {and Yourself}

Entitlement is a real thing. Just this morning, one of my children which will remain nameless was running a little behind. To help her sibling, another one of my children put bread in the toaster for her. When my child who was running late came into the kitchen– I mentioned that their sibling had put in the bread for them. They retrieved the toast only to say, “Than–oh–I like my toast darker than that.” After the initial shock of hearing their statement wore off, I realized that the missing part of this equation was gratitude. Gratitude is the antidote for entitlement and is beyond powerful. In this case, it was easy to point out that I was grateful for a toaster button that could be pushed again and would result in darker toast and that I was grateful that a sibling cared enough to try and help them eat breakfast. Luckily this story ends well with my child apologizing to their sibling, saying thank you and all toast was buttered and no one ended up being late. However, it is amazing how fast we can go from being grateful to entitled. Here are seven strategies to help implement more gratitude in your kids and yourself.

Recognize the Source: When your child comes home from school with a smile on their face with a good grade on a report, it is easy to praise them for their efforts and celebrate in their joy. But there is one more acknowledgment that will help them cultivate gratitude in their lives and that is simply by helping them recognize an additional source of gratitude. So that means that they aren’t just grateful for the result of a good grade that maybe came from extra hard work that they put in but with one extra statement you can help them recognize invisible sources they wouldn’t automatically consider. This is simply done by an extra statement–“I am so thankful that we live in a place where you have the opportunity to learn and go to school.” This is a statement of an invisible source that aided in their success. It really doesn’t matter what the statement is–just as long as it is an additional one that will help them consider more sources in their life that they might feel gratitude for.

Show them by Example: It is very easy in the day to day of life that we become complacent. I heard a wise saying the other day: Imagine that today you only had what you expressed gratitude for yesterday. I know a lot of us would be left without a lot as we all have a natural tendency to become accustomed to things and we all develop entitlement–I don’t always express gratitude for hot water during a shower but I sure expect that it should be a hot shower when I turn on the water. It is much more natural to complain when you don’t have something than it is to express gratitude for something when you expect it. It’s also easy to fail to see how actions can be an expression of gratitude: For instance, when I leave, I try to make sure all the lights are off. My daughter asked me why I even cared once and I quickly responded that I’m thankful that your Dad works so hard to earn money so we can have electricity so I’m making sure all the lights are off when we leave. When my kids were able to recognize the connection between their actions being a way to show gratitude, they were much better at doing the “light checks”. Kids and really even adults can use help in recognizing examples of gratitude to help them to make the connections between how things come to be and that it is not just the magic of a light switch.

Create Rituals or Routines around Gratitude: Make gratitude an every day part of your life by associating it with something you do on a regular basis. A friend once told me how when she is folding laundry–a task that she despises– she thinks of things or attributes of each person as she is folding their clothes. I thought it was a neat idea and decided to do the same. I found that I looked forward to folding clothes and my love and patience for my kids on laundry day is often higher. Other examples of adding gratitude to your life routines could be talking about something you are grateful for while you are picking up or dropping off your kids to school or an activity. Discuss one thing you are grateful for during dinnertime. Prayer time is another routine time that they can express their gratitude on a regular basis.

Express it: This is often the most obvious strategy but one that really gets overlooked. It is difficult to express gratitude when we expect things but it doesn’t mean we should stop expressing our gratitude. It seems ridiculous to constantly repeat, “Thanks for putting on your seatbelt.” or “Thanks for putting away your laundry” when you have asked them it feels like a dozen times to do so. However, saying thank you and acknowledging the gratitude you feel when they complete a task is an absolute game changer. It can trigger your brain to feel more optimistic and it also positively affects your child to increase their motivation to complete those tasks that are sincerely acknowledged. Think about the last time someone told you thank you for a routine task “Thank you for dinner.” or “Thank you for putting gas in the car”. It makes a big difference and helps your kids to feel more gratitude even for the mundane and typical things we all do everyday.

Make a Gratitude Journal: Although there are benefits from just reciting things you are grateful for, their is actually proven evidence that writing them down makes a big difference. In fact, researchers at Indiana University and Harvard found that writing down three things everyday for 21 days increases your level of optimism and more importantly that this higher level of optimism lasts for 6 months. Take a moment and jot things down or even put them in the notes section of your phone and notice the lasting difference gratitude can make in your life.

The Silent Minute Technique: Mister Rogers was an advocate for what he called the silent minute. During this minute he would ask that you think about those who have helped you become who you are today. Whether they were near or far away or even in heaven, if they’ve loved you and encouraged you and wanted what was best in life for you he asked that you honor them and devote some thoughts to them during one silent minute. Imagine how grateful they must be that during your silent times you remember how important they are to you. You can even take this silent minute technique a step farther by taking a minute to do something in their honor to show them how grateful you are.

Remember the Beginnings. We are very visual people, so put things in your line of sight that help your kids and you feel gratitude and remember the gratitude that you have felt. Maybe it is putting up the homemade card your kids made for you in their office when they could barely write their letters, maybe it is a particular quote or saying about gratitude that you display in your home. One thing that helps me remember the beginnings and increases my gratitude is oranges. I have a great grandfather who was a farmer and in a tough year they were barely able to scrape enough money that the only gift my great grandfather got for Christmas that year was an orange. He was so grateful though for that orange that he ate the entire thing including the peel. This helps me put into perspective when Christmas gift giving and receiving gets out of hand. We all have a natural tendency to forget the beginnings and get accustomed to what we have now and remembering the beginnings–living in a one bedroom apartment or eating ramen noodles in college–helps us have gratitude for what we have now no matter what the quantities. “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” (Anonymous)

Bottom line, you cannot make someone else feel gratitude—feeling gratitude is a choice–but you can share the gratitude you feel and can inspire them to recognize and feel the gratitude in their own lives.

If you found this useful, please take a moment to like and share. Thank you!

Top Tip to Stop Negative Self-Talk

It has often been said that the greatest battles we face are the battles within our own mind. Today’s tip is a simple one, but can make a tremendous difference in combating this war with a simple tool I call the thought check.

The thought check is a quick and effective exercise in gaging how we are treating ourselves. Here is how it works: you simply imagine your best friend committing the same error that you have. How would you respond to them?

For instance, you are late for an important meeting or for picking up carpool. What would you tell your friend if they were to relay to you that they were late for an important meeting or picking up carpool? Would you berate them or attack their character with phrases like, “You are such an idiot and are so unreliable.” “Why can’t you get your act together?” No, that would be absolutely crazy. While the fact they were late doesn’t change, you would probably be empathetic to their plight and express that this does not define their character and maybe you would offer some perspective or advice–“Everybody’s late sometimes. Maybe next time you could try taking a different route–that freeway is so backed up at that hour.” “I know that you are feeling embarrassed right now. This isn’t you. They will get to know that you will be there next time on time. Everything is going to be okay. “

You then repeat those phrases to yourself that you would tell your best friend rather than the internal negative dialogue that we often berate ourselves with. This tool allows yourself the grace and room to acknowledge weaknesses and shortcomings but from a place of love and growth that allow you to become better. So the next time you recognize a mistake and the negative inner dialogue you tell yourself, simply stop and tell your mind to do a “Thought Check”. Become your own best friend. We all spend a lot of time in our own heads– make it a place where you would want to be.

The Number One Tip That Will Improve Your Relationship Right Now

Regardless of the state of your relationship–whether you are currently riding sky high or feel like you have hit rock bottom, there is one tip that will make a huge difference in improving it. Simply stated: Be intentional.

What does be intentional mean or even look like? Being intentional means that you make your relationship a priority and that you are intentional about its value. Let me give you an example–take a look at your calendar. It is beyond easy to fill it up with all kinds of important activities, events and celebrations. In this day and age, it has become necessary to develop the skill to not schedule overlapping conflicts. Everyone is busy. But you can easily assess the value of your relationship based on your calendar. For instance, when you schedule a meeting at work with your boss or you schedule a parent teacher conference with your child’s teacher–those dates and times are mentally blocked off. You are committed to making those things work, as well you should. But what about your relationship with your spouse? Do you have a time where you have mentally blocked out a time where it is just for them–not just what’s leftover at the end of the day or an occasional date night but where you are intentional about blocking out a time for them? A time that shows they matter to you and hold value?

Intention is powerful. Even if you absolutely get things wrong—when your intent is to show your spouse that you love them, it improves your relationship. I will share a personal example with the permission of my husband here that might illustrate this concept. I will call it the Parable of the Spider Jewelry. My husband and I enjoy binge watching television shows together and in one such show, a character wore a red spider brooch that I had commented looked neat. My husband found a cheap costume jewelry red spider brooch for me and that gift is still on my winter jacket. Very thoughtful and meaningful. He didn’t end there though and thought this idea of spider jewelry was the best concept yet and ended up getting me a spider ring, a spider necklace and a spider bracelet in subsequent gifts. I am including a picture here so you can get an idea of the size of this spider ring that he to this day swears is a great gift. I don’t even like spiders. What I do love though is that I know his intention. He intended to buy me a gift that showed how much he cared even though this gift missed the mark in my book and I have a difficult time to this day wearing them. Intention is powerful force for improving your relationship even if you get things wrong.

There is a song that sums up too many relationships that I have seen in my office. It was sung by numerous artists including Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Michael Buble and even the Pet Shop Boys. It shows the timeless outcome of not being intentional and unintentionally letting the love in a relationship dwindle. It is called, “Always on My Mind”:

[Verse 1]
Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind

[Verse 2]
Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
And I guess I never told you
I’m so happy that you’re mine
If I make you feel second best
Girl, I’m so sorry I was blind

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind


Tell me
Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died
Give me
Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied, satisfied
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind


Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
And I guess I never told you…

You were always on my mind.

So, be intentional and voice your desires with your spouse. “I want you to know how much you mean to me so I am going to _________” and fill in that blank with an honest intent to show them how much you care and then do that item. It doesn’t matter how small or how extreme–whether it is making the bed or washing their car. Let them know the why or the intent behind the actions. I should note that this is not a quid pro quo exercise where you do this with the expectation that they will do the same for you, although many times that might be the outcome. This is simply you stating and showing intention in keeping your relationship alive. Intentions show where you heart is and will improve your relationship the moment they are expressed and shown.

Truth or Myth: Discipline is More Powerful than Motivation

Truth! “Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on discipline.” -Jocko Willink

While motivation can be a jumpstart to making your dreams a reality, it is actually integrity and discipline that carry the true power to meeting your goals.

The most decorated American Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, was once asked what made him a champion. His response was that champions simply “kicked when they didn’t want to kick”.

So, help yourself out–when you are motivated to accomplish something–set up an accountability and guideposts that will help you reach your destination so that when you aren’t feeling the adrenaline that motivating factors can bring, you can bunker down and demonstrate the courage and grit that will lead to your success. Set up the mindset that you are committed and regardless of the feeling of motivation, you can continue and press forward. Remember that regardless of the power of your motivation, discipline is always more powerful.

How Failure Allows You to Grow

Anyone who has taken a timed test has felt that overwhelming rush of pure anxiety. Even decades later I can remember the surge I would feel when I got to the bottom row of math problems knowing that time was nearly out. Failure was never a fun feeling. Fast forward a few years to today and now I am the one giving these timed tests and I can say that it might even be harder to watch someone else fail. While volunteering today at my children’s elementary school I was giving timed tests for division for my daughter’s 5th grade class. As I watched the seconds on my clock slowly tick away as these young kids furiously were trying to finish in time, I was in agony. I felt impulsed to silence my alarm on the clock to give them a few extra seconds to finish but then I remembered that this would not help them in the long run. Failure, although hard to watch, is not bad. In fact, failure is often our best teacher.

Struggle and failure are a part of life–the key is learning how to deal with failure. Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “Failure is simply the opportunity to try again, this time more intelligently.” Failure is a way to learn–maybe what to do different–maybe what went wrong–but in my opinion the greatest lesson it teaches you is that you can do hard things and that failure doesn’t define you but can demonstrate the courage and strength that do define you–those parts of your character that help you to try again.

I will always remember the day that I “rescued” a butterfly that I had found in our backyard as a little girl. I watched it as it was emerging from its chrysalis and I could tell that it was struggling and not wanting it to experience any difficulty, I assisted in removing it from what I viewed as it’s cage. When it sad there limpless for an extended time, I went running to my mom who listened to my breathless explanation as I frantically tried to help this creature. My mom explained that it didn’t get enough blood to it’s wings–that struggling in the chrysalis was the way in which the blood went to the wings and would allow it to fly. My assistance had crippled the butterflies ability to fly on its own. Sometimes, just like me, out of love and concern we remove obstacles from the lives of our children that are meant to teach them about the inner strength they have which will let them fly on their own.

So, don’t be afraid of failure or even watching those you love fail. Although it is difficult to experience and agonizing to watch, it serves a character building experience in a way that no other experience can. God knows how to build and shape character.

Remember that we are all like pencils–each with an eraser at their disposal that has the potential to fix failures. It is an essential skill that we all need to learn to be able to fail and fix mistakes. An old man said, “Erasers are made for those who make mistakes.” A youth replied, “Erasers are made for those who are willing to correct their mistakes.” Allow failure in your life and in those you love. Erasers are a gift but only if they are used.