Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Yarn Harlot on Guilt

My wife, Kathy, has begun a love affair with knitting these last few months. In that time, she has become quite proficient at it. She has knitted hats, socks, scarves and mittens of various sizes and styles…and they look good! Evidence of this can be seen in the photograph above which shows the half gloves or “mitts” she made for our granddaughters.

To learn the finer points of knitting, Kathy has read tons of books, articles and blogs. It has quickly become apparent, even to me, that the knitting community is made up of some extremely creative, fun-loving and deep-thinking folks. Kathy recently introduced me to one of her favorites…the Yarn Harlot. Awesome moniker, is it not?!!! It’s even fun to say!

Well, some of the Yarn Harlot’s blog posts make for interesting reading even for us non-knitters. Today is one of those days. She wrote a compelling post on guilt. Kathy directed me to her post this evening saying she thought I would find it interesting on its own and also because it fits nicely with my last post People will think I’m crazy.

The Yarn Harlot (aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) titled her post Thoughts on Guilt. Despite the occasional typo (I have those, too.) she has written an interesting treatise on the topic of guilt…better than I could have done…and it certainly speaks to me. So…I want to share it with you. You can find it here. Please give it a read. I hope you find it as thought-provoking as Kathy and I did.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance.

 

People will think I’m crazy.

What will people think? People will think I’m crazy.

Have those thoughts ever crossed your mind? Have you said them to a significant other, friend or co-worker? I’d find it hard to believe that you haven’t. Most everyone does at one time or another.

This past week, I was at a restaurant having lunch with a friend. As we talked, Lou (not his real name) confided in me that he has been presented with an opportunity that he very much wants to pursue. Then he said, “People would think I’m crazy if I did it.”

A little background…Lou currently holds a senior leadership position in a successful company he has grown from scratch. He can pretty much run the company as he likes and makes very good money. The new opportunity that holds so much appeal for him is struggling to get its footing and would pay a fraction of what Lou currently earns. Hence, Lou’s “People would think I’m crazy” comment.

Sitting across the table from Lou as he talked about the offer that lay before him, it was clear it energized him. As he talked, he leaned forward in his chair, he became animated and the light of genuine excitement could be seen in his eyes. Then, when Lou concluded with the statement about “people,” you could almost see the enthusiasm drain from his body and spirit as he sank back in his chair.

We sat in silence a moment then I asked Lou a question. “Who exactly are these people who will think you are crazy, this ‘everybody’ you talk about?” And then I added, “Why do you care so much about what they would think if you decided to do this?”

I share this story because I think it’s illustrative of how most, if not all, of us think when we are faced with similar decisions. I know I certainly have. There have been numerous times in my life when I have been vitally concerned about what “other people” thought about me, my work, my family, my actions, my decisions, my beliefs. I’ll wager you’ve been there, too, perhaps more often than you’d care to admit.

Think about it. Who are you referring to when you say “People will think…?” List them, write them down on a sheet of paper.

If you are like me, your list will include a mix of family members, individuals, groups, organizations and institutions. Your list may include parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, pastors, bosses, work groups, social organizations, professional groups, churches, etc.

Now that you have your list, and assuming that what your authentic self desires to do is not illegal and does not endanger others, why do you care what these people think? What gives them so much power, influence, even control, over you and your life? Write down the reasons next to each name. Don’t evaluate them; just write them down.

Often, the explanations go something like this.

  • I don’t want to hurt his/her/their feelings.
  • She/he/they will think I’m wasting my education if I do this.
  • He/she/they will think I’m nuts for giving up the career/job/income I have now.
  • I’m afraid they/she/he will think less of me.
  • He/she/they may not include me in his/her/their group anymore.

Look at your list of explanations. Do you know these things to be true or are they just possible outcomes? What’s the worst that would happen if some or all are true? Can you live with that outcome?

Isn’t it interesting that our minds generally gravitate toward the negative opinions other might have when we think about doing something “out of character” for us? Interesting because there is likely another list of people who do the opposite; who will be positive and supportive of our desires and actions.

Make another list of the people in your life that you know will support you through thick and thin. Look at your list. Compare it to the list of “everybody” else. Which group of people do you care most about? Most certainly the supportive people, right? Well then, consciously direct your thoughts to the supportive people in your life, nourish those relationships. These are your true friends. They will “push” you toward your hopes and dreams. And don’t forget to do the same for them.

I realize that this is very much an intellectual exercise at first. The tendency is that our emotional self will work to override the facts about “what people think” and push us back into the land of worrying about what “everyone” thinks. But knowledge is power. Do this exercise and repeat it as often at necessary until your thoughts move automatically to your support people. Only then will you be pursuing and living your authentic life rather than a life consumed by pleasing others.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance.

Two stories

So, you think you have plenty of time…time to spend with your family, time to catch up with old friends, time to get your finances in shape, time to get yourself in shape, time to work on your hobby, time to read all those books on your list…plenty of time, just not right now.

If not now, when? Let me share two stories.

I just found out that an acquaintance was diagnosed with stage II lymphoma at age 27. When I last saw Eric, he was a vibrant, healthy young man actively engaged in a marketing career. He was, as we say, living the dream.

Now Eric’s days are spent battling a disease that seemingly came from nowhere in the prime of his life. He has good days and bad days, but his fiery optimism is seldom dampened. For now, Eric’s pre-diagnosis hopes and dreams are on hold. We can only hope and pray that treatment is successful and he can resume his pursuit of that which is important to him.

Another acquaintance died suddenly of a heart attack at age 54. Jim was an avid outdoorsman. My youngest son went to high school with Jim’s oldest boy, Matt. Jim taught Alex and Matt how to hunt ducks and geese. I can still hear his deep, booming voice and his contagious laugh. He is sorely missed. Jim’s time is gone. Fortunately, he lived in the present and spent time with those he enjoyed most, doing the things he loved the most.

These two stories speak to me. I am “getting up in years” as my kids like to remind me, so my window of time is literally shrinking (yours is, too, sad to say). But none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. Stuff happens. Windows don’t only slowly close; they can slam shut. That’s why I have a renewed sense of urgency about doing the things I love, the things I long to do, and spending time with people who are dear to me.

What about you? Are you truly living in the “precious present.” Or are you planning to do all those things and spend time with all those people…but just not right now?

There’s risk in waiting to do the things that are important to you. If it’s worth doing, if it feeds your soul, there’s no time like the present. Do it now! Live, laugh and love…today!

Reminds me of an old song, Let’s Live for Today, by Grass Roots.

When I think of all the worries people seem to find
And how they’re in a hurry to complicate their mind
By chasing after money and dreams that can’t come true
I’m glad that we are different, we’ve better things to do.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and the courage to live like you’re dying.

Adding = Knowledge…Subtraction = Wisdom

Subtraction

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” – Lao Tzu

As a general rule, we all try to do the right thing…at home, in relationships, at work, raising kids. That we seek knowledge and wisdom to “be the best we can be” in these roles is highlighted by the fact that there are now over 45,000 self-help books in print. An article in New York Magazine titled The Power of Positive Publishing provides an enlightening history and evolution of this genre.

Before diving into this avalanche of “how-to” and “do-what-I do” guidance, perhaps we should first take the above quote by Lao Tzu to heart by asking ourselves a couple of questions. Do we really need to read another self-help book to add to our knowledge, or would we sometimes be better served by stopping to evaluate who we are, where we are and what we need to do to be “better” at living our best life?

Easy access to more and more information on virtually any topic tends to make us into “information junkies.” It leads us on a never-ending search for the “secret” that will unlock our personal success and happiness. Maybe instead of looking for what more we need to do we should instead look for what not to do.

To suggest that we think about what not to do runs counter to the religious fervor with which we have been exhorted by success mavens the world over to create daily to-do lists. To-do lists are supposed to help us manage our time, focus on priorities, and alleviate stress by giving us the emotional satisfaction of checking off completed tasks. But do they really? I don’t know about you but many of the to-do lists I’ve created have led to frustration and a sense of futility because I can rarely get everything done…and more keeps getting added to the list!

Matthew May, in his recent article The Art of Adding by Taking Away, quotes management guru and author Jim Collins. “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort — that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.”

May goes on to describe how scientific studies have shown that addition and subtraction are literally different ways of thinking, “…that subtraction lights up a brain scan differently than addition does, because it uses different circuitry.” He also gives several examples of companies that have the “less is more” philosophy well-embedded in their approach to business: W.L. Gore (elimination of job titles), Toyota’s Scion division (cut all advertising and provide fewer standard features), Apple’s iPhone (no keyboard).

The simplest personal example I can give of this “theory of subtraction” is how it applies to my writing. Years ago, I began to look at letters, emails, and articles I had written with the specific intent of finding all words, phrases and sentences that could be eliminated without affecting the message I was trying to convey. The results were amazing!

I found I had a tendency to overuse adverbs and adjectives in an attempt to add emphasis. My sentences were often too long. I learned other ways to simplify my writing as well. I’ve finally gotten good enough at it that I’m often asked to edit documents of all kinds for my friends and co-workers. So, is what I write perfect? Absolutely not! I’ve likely violated some of my own rules in this post. But you get the point. Subtraction is a continual process of painstaking removal of the unnecessary.

On a “living life” level, my wife recently applied subtraction theory by canceling her Facebook account. Why? Because she found that checking for updates, submitting likes, and adding comments was taking a significant amount of time, time that she would rather invest in ways that made her feel more creative and productive.

The art of subtracting is challenging, fun and rewarding. It’s the never-ending pursuit of eliminating the “stuff” that moves your art, your writing, your product, your service…and your life…closer and closer to perfection.

To apply subtraction to your everyday life, May offers two suggestions.

“First, create a ‘not to-do’ list to accompany your to-do list. Give careful thought to prioritizing your goals, projects and tasks, then eliminate the bottom 20 percent of the list — forever.

“Second, ask those who matter to you most — clients, colleagues, family members and friends — what they would like you to stop doing. Warning: you may be surprised at just how long the list is.”

Gives new meaning to “What have you got to lose?” eh?

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and a life blessed by meaningful subtraction.

Self-image drives goal achievement

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You obviously have a desire to feel good about yourself and/or set and achieve meaningful goals or you wouldn’t be reading this post. Or maybe you’re a pathological pessimist and are reading this so you can argue why this is all hogwash. In either case, Dr. Maxwell Maltz has some interesting news for you.

In 1960, Dr. Maltz wrote a book titled Psycho-Cybernetics. Great title, eh?!! What the heck is Psycho-Cybernetics? The answer is both simple and profound. And that his theories, scientific evidence and message still holds true today, points out once again that “What has been there will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Maltz was a plastic surgeon who gave people new faces. His interest in the self-image was piqued by the fact that a number of his patients were no happier after theirs scars or disfigurement were removed. The importance of the deeper self-image became clear to him. Without a change to this inner image these patients would still consider themselves ugly.

Cybernetics comes from the Greek and means “steersman.” Applied to the mind, this steersman, or servo-mechanism, as Maltz referred to it, could change ones self-image and lead to significant success in goal achievement. To Maltz, this meant that the brain was more than a machine or computer; the mind controls conscious and subconscious brain activity and continually guides us toward achievement of goals that are consistent with our self-image.

Maltz begins by saying, “The most important psychologic discovery of this century is the discovery of the ‘self-image.’ Whether we realize it or not, each of us carries about with us a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves. It may be vague and ill-defined to our conscious gaze. In fact, it may not be consciously recognizable at all. But it is there, complete down to the last detail. This self-image is our own conception of the ‘sort of person I am.’ It has been built up from our own beliefs about ourselves. But most of these beliefs about ourselves have unconsciously been formed from our past experiences, our successes and failures, our humiliations, our triumphs, and the way other people have reacted to us, especially in early childhood. From all these we mentally construct a ‘self’ (or picture of self). Once an idea or belief about ourselves goes into this picture, it becomes ‘true,’ as far as we personally are concerned. We do not question its validity, but proceed to act upon it just as if it were true.”

Just to be clear, psycho-cybernetics is not “positive thinking.” Positive thinking tends to be externally focused; it is the use of affirmations in an effort to will something external to us to happen. “I will get that job.” I will get an A on that paper.” Psycho-cybernetics is internally focused. It is about creating a vivid mental picture of the type of person we need to be to get that job or to get an A on that paper.

The good news in all of this is: 1) all your actions, feelings, behavior and abilities are always consistent with your self-image, and 2) you can change your self image.

Visualization or mental imagery is key to your goal achievement and must be consistent with your self-image. What you see is what you get, whether it be positive or negative. You might be saying to yourself “I can’t visualize!” Do you worry? Yes? Well, then you definitely can visualize! Worry is a negative form of visualization and usually becomes very vivid and detailed in our minds if we don’t consciously steer ourselves away from it by turning the problem-focus to a solution-focus. If you can worry, you can visualize positive goals.

Visualization takes practice. It’s best done when you are relaxed and have a few moments of solitude. Put your heart and soul into the picture you are creating. Add your senses to the picture. What do you see? What do you hear? How do you feel? Does it have element of touch or smell? Picture the goal “as if” it is happening now. The more vivid and detailed the picture of your goal is in your mind and the more descriptive and meaningful the words you use to describe your goal to yourself and others, the more effective your self-image and subconscious will be in moving you toward your goal.

As you visualize, don’t focus on the “how” of attaining your goal; simply focus on the “what.” And don’t worry about making mistakes. Your mental “servo mechanism” is self-correcting and will use all the feedback it gets, positive and negative, to keep you on course. Your subconscious will steer your mind through the steps and details of achieving your goal once the end result is vividly tattooed on your mind. The really cool thing is that your subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what’s real and what is not. It will simply take the mental image you create for it and strive to make it come to pass.

If you are a beginner at purposeful visualization, persevere. Work on it for 10-20 minutes per day for 21 days. You will be surprised at your progress. Visualization gets easier the more you practice.

Does it work? Ronnie B’s life tools is a tangible outcome of this process for me. I visualized how my blog would look on the computer screen, what the name of it would be, the topics I would write about, and “saw” myself writing blog posts on a regular basis. I wrote down how I would feel about my blog from a point in the future after it had been up and running for a year or two. I had no idea how to go about it or the various steps that would be required to make it happen but after approximately two months, it went live…and here we are!

My example may seem small to you but it has been big for me. Looking back I can see how my goal visualization steered my mind and actions toward finding the information, tools, etc. that I needed to “go live” with my blog. I could give you plenty more personal examples but I won’t bore you with that here. My hope is that you strongly desire to be your best self and that you will assess your self-image and “create” it the way you want it to be and that you will use the power of visualization to set and achieve goals that are fulfilling for you and beneficial to others.

I encourage you to read Maltz’s “self-help” classic. I read it years ago and have read it again several times since. While the science and computing references are now outdated, the principles he gives us have become more and more widely accepted and influential in the area of self-image psychology and goal achievement. You can read a good summary of his book here or, better yet, you can buy a copy here. Please do! It just may change your life!

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and hoping you will choose to self-determine your self-image and visualize goals that will give your life meaning and will be of service to others.

Just for fun!

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The most wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.~Nicolas Chamfort

We’ve all heard the saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” And Proverbs 17:22 reads “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

An article on Helpguide.org tells us…

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.

How are you doing on the laughter front? Did you have at least one good laugh today? If not, or if you’re ready for another good chuckle, I’ve included a copy of a string of emails my boss gave me just before Christmas. Since Human Resources is one of my responsibilities at my place of employment, he thought it an appropriate “gift” for me. While politically incorrect on many levels, it is funny and it did make me laugh…and it’s a good reminder that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

It’s titled “Office Christmas Party.” Enjoy!

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 1
  • RE: Christmas Party

I’m happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon, in the banquet room at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbeque. No host bar, but plenty of eggnog! We’ll have a small band playing traditional carols…feel free to sing along. And, don’t be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus!

A Christmas tree will be lit at 1:00 p.m. Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone’s pockets. This gathering is only for employees. A special announcement will be made by our CEO at that time!

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 2
  • RE: Holiday Party

In no way was yesterday’s memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we’re calling it our “Holiday Party.” The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time. There will be no Christmas tree and no Christmas carols sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoyment.

Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 3
  • RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the notice I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table…You didn’t sign your name. I am happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sing on a table that reads “AA Only,” you wouldn’t be anonymous any more. How am I supposed to handle this?

Somebody?

Forget about the gifts exchange. No gift exchange is allowed since union members feel that $10.00 is too much money, and executives believe $10.00 is very little for a gift. NO GIFT EXCHANGE WILL BE ALLOWED.

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 7
  • RE: Holiday Party

What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employee’s beliefs. Perhaps Luigi’s can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party (the days are short this time of year), or else package everything for take home in little foil swans. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I’ve arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet. Pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with gay men; each gender will have their own table. To the person asking permission to cross dress, no cross dressing will be allowed. We have booster seats for short people. Low-fat food will be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the food thus we suggest for those people with blood pressure problems to taste first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for diabetics since the restaurant is unable to supply “no sugar” desserts.

Sorry!

Did I miss anything?

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 9
  • RE: Holiday Party

People, people! Nothing sinister was intended by having our CEO dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of “Santa” does happen to be “Satan,” there is no evil connotation to our own “little man in a red suit.” It’s a tradition, folks, like sugar shock at Halloween, or family feuds over Thanksgiving turkey, or broken hearts on Valentine’s Day. Could we lighten up? Please?????????

Also, the company has changed its mind in announcing the special announcement at the gathering. You will get a notification in the mail, sent to your home.

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All #&$**@ Employees
  • DATE: December 10
  • RE: The #*&^@*^ Holiday Party

I have no #&*@*^ idea what the announcement is about. What the #&^!@ do I care? I KNOW WHAT I AM GOING TO GET!!!!!!!!  You change your address now and you are dead!!!!!!!  No more changes of address will be allowed in my office. Try to come in and change your address; I will have you hung from the ceiling in the warehouse!!

Vegetarians!?!?!?  I’ve had it with you people!!!  We’re going to keep this party at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbeque whether you like it or not. You can sit quietly at the table furthers from the “grill of death,” as you so quaintly put it, and you’ll get your @#$^&*! salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes. Buy you know, they have feelings, too. Tomatoes scream when you slice them. I’m hearing them scream right now! HA! I hope you all have a rotten day!

Drive drunk and die, you hear me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Bitch from HELL!!!!!!

  • FROM: Terri Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 14
  • RE: Patty Lewis and the Holiday Party

I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness, and I’ll continue to forward your cards to her at the sanitarium. In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of December 23 of with full pay.

Happy Holidays!

Terri

Well, there you have it. I hope it at least made you smile.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and much laughter in your life.

Don’t waste time. Clean your plate.

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I don’t know about you, but after 60+ years (Dang it, I’m old!) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these two exhortations…don’t waste time…clean your plate.  I’ve heard them from the time I could string two sentences together and I heard them again last week (though they weren’t directed at me in that particular instance).

It’s interesting how platitudes such as these can influence cultural and individual behavior. And in many instances such behaviors can become unhealthy habits.

Think about time for a moment. Do you manage it or does it manage you? Olena Marukhnyak, a Brooklyn high school student wrote an interesting essay titled Perception of Time in Different Cultures. I found it to be an interesting read. One sentence in particular stood out to me…(in America) “We do what the clock tells us to.

Ms. Marukhnyak goes on to say, “Values of a country have a great effect on its time perception. Individualistic countries move faster than those that stress collectivism. The US stresses the individual and emphasizes achievement of one rather than conformity to a group and its success. We believe that one has endless possibilities and opportunities to achieve their goals, thus prompting people to work towards the realization of these goals. The Protestant work ethic introduced the “time is money” mindset. From that moment on, this has been the driving force of American lives. Every moment counts. If you have already done some work today but have free time on your hands now, you should go and do some more work. If you don’t have free time, then you’re doing a good job. Stress of individualism puts a lot of stress on a person in the US. We feel like if we don’t do what we were supposed to do at the time we were supposed to do it – hell will freeze over. In societies that stress collectivism, individuals do not worry as much about getting things done. Since everyone is responsible for the same thing, then if you don’t do something it means that someone else will do it. So why should you if you don’t feel like it? In the US, there is very little feeling involved. We do what the clock tells us to. If it’s past midday, we have lunch. If it’s past six o’clock, we have dinner. If it’s ten at night, we go to bed. We don’t eat when we’re hungry and sleep when we’re tired, for there are designated times to do these things and going against the clock is outrageous.”

How do you view time? How would you feel if you were asked to sit quietly and do nothing for just fifteen minutes? Could you do it? Or would you be tempted to reach for your phone, iPad, tv remote, newspaper, book…or just blurt out some words just to break the silence?

A Gallup poll shows that roughly half of Americans feel they don’t have enough time and 40% feel stressed as a result. So if we fall in the too busy and highly stressed group, what are we to do? Paradoxically, we must slow down. We must learn to sit quietly and do nothing for at least fifteen minutes per day. Call it what you will…meditation, mindfulness, prayer, quiet time…but you (and I) must do it.

There is plenty of scientific evidence to support the benefits of meditation or quiet time.

The brain waves of meditators show why they’re healthier. Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex—brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. In other words, they were calmer and happier than before. (The Benefits of Meditation/Psychology Today)

Who doesn’t want to feel calm and be happy?!! Give meditation/mindfulness/quiet time/prayer a try. Start with just five minutes and work your way up to fifteen minutes. It’s tough at first, at least it was for me. Stick with it. I believe you’ll be glad you did…so will those who have to live with you!

Not sure how to begin. Click here for some tips. And if you are interested in reading more about “mindfulness”, read The Mindfulness Guide for the Super Busy by Leo Babauta.

Now, about that empty plate. During my growing up years (some would say I’m still in my growing up years), I was frequently told, “Clean your plate. There are children in Africa who don’t have enough food so we mustn’t be wasteful.” How’s that for a guilt trip supreme? Be that as it may, the “inherited purpose” of cleaning my plate became a habit that I still succumb to to this day.

Cleaning your plate is an especially unhealthy habit given that we live in the days of super-sized portions in fast food and family restaurants alike. You’ll be pleased to know that 96% of the main entrees sold at the top chain restaurants in the U.S. exceed daily limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USA Today).

For Americans in particular, eating is largely a habit. We eat whether we are really hungry or not. Foods of all kinds, and particularly junk foods, are readily available to most of us. Preparing meals at home from fresh, whole foods has given way to fast food stops and the purchase of prepackaged meals at our local supermarket.

Because we are so conditioned to seeing vast platefuls of food before us, it’s doubtful that many of us can visualize what a healthy plate of well-balanced foods looks like. Part of learning how to eat better, then, is to retrain your brain to recognize—and embrace—more realistic portion sizes,” according to Dr. Jean Harvey-Berino and Joyce Hendley, editors of EatingWell.com.

Lest you think I am preaching from my soapbox here, I can assure you I know whereof I speak. For many years, our meals were mostly from canned and prepackaged foods with a number of trips to Mickey D’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s thrown in.

Over the last four years, my wife, Kathy, and I have worked diligently to simply “eat better.” As a result, here’s where we are today. We use fresh and whole foods almost exclusively for cooking at home. (And we often cook together which gives us a chance to catch up with one another at the end of the day.) We eat all kinds of foods including the occasional dessert so we are definitely not on a stringent diet. In fact, we are not on a diet plan at all. Fast foods have all but disappeared from our diets…we seem to have lost the desire for them. We are simply eating better foods, in lesser quantities and enjoying it more!

Here’s how we like to enjoy our meals…we do love our food and beverages!

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One of our favorite sources of flavorful and nutritious recipes is Cooking Light magazine. Don’t worry. It’s not filled with recipes for rabbit food and cardboard-tasting crap. Trying new recipes from the magazine also keeps us from falling in a rut and eating the same things over and over. We also pay attention to portion control. This is often a problem for me so I frequently have Kathy “load” my plate! Finally, by choosing fresh and whole foods and reducing our portion sizes appropriately, we’ve found that our weekly food budget is pretty much unchanged from what it was before we began our eating well adventure.

What to do? Start by limiting yourself to palm-sized portions on your plate. Eat more slowly. Put your fork or sandwich down between bites. Don’t super-size your order at fast food restaurants, if you find yourself at one. Pick up a magazine like Cooking light and try a recipe that looks good to you even if you think you can’t boil water. You might surprise yourself and end up being the next Guy Fieri. Last but not least, read Eating tactics for the holidays…and always.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and epic good health always.