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Give Kindness for Christmas

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. – Plato

Life is tough. And it’s always something.

Some people are struggling to put food on the table. Others are facing a life-threatening illness.

Some people have lost loved ones. Others are estranged from their family.

Some people are lonely. Others are in relationships but still feel alone and isolated.

Some people just can’t stand their job. Others can’t seem to find one.

Which is why this Christmas … and every day of the year … we should give the gift of kindness.

While it sounds cheesy, it is the one gesture that can turn someone’s crappy morning or afternoon into a better day – and it doesn’t have to cost anything. All of us are struggling, which is why empathy cannot only heal the soul but give others hope. Showing that you care, that you are willing to go out of your way to open a door, or let an older person step in front of you in the grocery store checkout line, or allow someone INTO your lane on the freeway, can make a huge difference.

Even avoiding posting spoilers for the latest Stars War movie is an act of kindness.

I make it a point to try to be kind to everyone. And I admit I am not always successful. When I find it challenging, when someone is incredibly mean or inconsiderate, I try very hard to put myself into his or her shoes. At the end of the day, I figure you can get more accomplished with kindness than meanness.

Being kind also has the power to catch people off guard. Mean people rarely expect kindness in return.

For me, the greatest gift someone can give me is an act of kindness. Fortunately, I have been showered with these gifts all of my life. In many instances they have been life affirming – and life saving. The nurses at City of Hope come immediately to mind.

So as you hassle the mall for last-minute shopping, or struggle to find a parking space at the grocery store, or deal with traffic jams or crowded airports or cranky baristas, try to give the gift of kindness.

It will go a long way helping you get into the Christmas spirit -- and stay there throughout the year.

 

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Being Happy With What We Have

Learn to appreciate what you have before time forces you to appreciate what you had. – Unknown

Apple never ceases to amaze me. The company regularly holds news conferences to introduce its next generation of shiny “must have” devices. Even if we are perfectly content with our current phones or iPads or watches, now we can purchase something even BETTER. In marketing terms, this is “creating need” for a product. In emotional terms, it reflects the distractions and advertising saturation in our lives tempting us with the “next new thing.”

Indeed, our economy runs on sales, and as a marketing/public relations professional, I COMPLETELY get it. More/newer products translate into increased sales. Why settle for only one choice of pasta when you can purchase 15 different types of noodles? Why possess only one mobile device when you can own seven? I bet you never thought about monitoring how many steps you take everyday or the quality of your sleep before the availability of wearable technology. And car manufacturers are notorious for introducing new models every year, making your current ride obsolete.

As a consequence, we never seem content with the products we already own. Instead, we are constantly yearning for something bigger, better, newer, shinier … it is a vicious cycle.

And this constant bombardment, especially on social media where keeping up with the Jones’ is taken to an entirely new level, makes many of us unhappy. We are continually reminded of what we don’t have – whether it is the “perfect” body, the “perfect” car or the “perfect” lifestyle.

Few if any messages remind us of what we DO have.

Temptation for things we don’t have is everywhere. Without a doubt, it’s difficult to control the messages pouring out of the traditional media, or your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds. But you CAN control how you react to them.

Start by being sincerely happy for what you DO have, right now, today. Once you start taking a “gratitude inventory” of your life, you will quickly realize just how much you do possess.  With gratitude as your foundation, the next step involves making the conscious choice to be happy. And in my mind, there is no excuse not to be happy.  No matter what you do or do not own, you wake up every day on our beautiful earth breathing and conscious – which, let me tell you, beats the alternative. If you are truly dissatisfied with your possessions, let it be the motivation for positive change. But be conscious of the reasons WHY you are unhappy. If it is simply because you own last year’s model, you may want to rethink your happiness quotient.

It’s okay to want the latest phone, or save up for a new car or a vacation to Europe. But in the meantime, be happy with what you currently possess. I am happy that my 5S phone does its job, I am grateful my old-school mattress still supports my back (without the need for memory foam) and I am thrilled that apps still function on my three-year-old iPad.

I am happy. Very happy. Although a new pasta maker would be nice … LOL!

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal

Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed. – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

The recent passing of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, self-help pioneer and motivational speaker, prompted me to share one of my favorite quotes from him (above). It really hits home for all of us because it speaks a key truth: we MUST live in the present and BE present. Our past experiences are only memories and our tomorrows are never certain.

We only have today.

We humans are generally in deep denial of our own inevitable deaths. It will happen eventually, yet we push it out of our minds completely. The result? We think that every day is a “rehearsal” for our real lives. We are waiting for the curtain to lift, for the show to start, for the story to unfold.

Procrastination is a nasty byproduct of this denial. There is always tomorrow – always something better. Tomorrow we will find a better job. Tomorrow we will finish that project. Tomorrow we will get together with an old friend. Tomorrow we will find love. Tomorrow we will take that trip. Tomorrow we will donate our time to those less fortunate. Tomorrow we will take care of our environment. Tomorrow we will learn to play the guitar.

Yet while we are waiting for tomorrow, the world keeps turning and time keeps ticking. And then one day we wake up and realize that this is it. We aren’t in a dress rehearsal. This is our life.

My wake-up call came in my late 20s when I found myself dreading work and absolutely miserable. I held several jobs the previous seven years and while I learned a great deal, I just didn’t feel happy or fulfilled. And I realized that I wanted joy in all aspects of my life – from personal to professional. So I let go of the fear and started my own business.

I also made myself a personal commitment to treasure every day – no matter how challenging. I learned to live in gratitude, and be thankful for all I had – not envious or sad or jealous of what I did not possess. I became internally motivated – and blocked negativity and toxicity from my life. And I made a huge decision to try to make a difference in the lives of others.

Many of us let fear define our lives. We let baggage from old relationships and experiences hold us hostage – preventing us from pursuing dreams or embracing love. I suggest that we revisit Wayne Dyer’s words of wisdom, and start living our precious lives as fully as we can. Let’s stop procrastinating, stop making excuses and figure out how to avoid squandering our lives.

And when the end comes, whether it is tomorrow or 20 or 40 or 60 or 80 years from now, our loved ones will know that we lived our lives on a vibrant stage, in front of a packed house, to applause and acclaim because we did it right – we lived a passion-filled life.

RIP Wayne Dyer.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

What are YOUR Midyear Resolutions?

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. – Carl Bard

I would like to suggest a new tradition: Midyear Resolutions. Everyone is all fired up in January to start the year with a clean slate. Yet somehow between January and June, these New Year resolutions fizzle out and are often forgotten.

Yet resolutions, or personal commitments, are vital when pursuing our Passion Challenge 2015. They keep us on track, fired up and ready to continue the journey. Indeed, living a joyful, fulfilling life is a marathon, not a sprint. And you want to be in it for the long haul. I know I do.

So how do you capture that New Year vitality? Make some Midyear Resolutions and stick to them.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by being over-ambitious. Keep your resolutions realistic, simple and doable. Use this midyear moment to re-energize your life and your journey.

Here are a few suggestions:

·      Be present in the moment. When you are with a friend or loved one, be WITH him or her. Don’t be thinking about other things you need to do, or problems you need to solve.

·      Identify one thing you have been procrastinating about and GET IT DONE. Whether it is scheduling a doctor’s appointment, organizing your closet, arranging lunch with a friend, flossing or painting your kitchen, take the steps TODAY to make it happen.

·      Do one healthy thing for yourself. If you find yourself drinking too much wine at the end of the day, cut out a glass. If you need to start exercising again, join a gym, get to a gym or simply take a walk. But MOVE.

·      Start a project that will bring joy to your life. If you have always wanted to take up ice-skating, baking or stamp collecting, figure out how to begin – and then, just do it.

·      Reach out to a friend with whom you haven’t spoken in more than a year. Even a text or email is appreciated.

·      Update your resume – even if you are happy in your job. You never know when you may need a new adventure.

·      Stop worrying about your problems for a day, and volunteer for an organization that needs your help – whether it is working with small children, running a race to raise money for a medical condition, or visiting an assisted-living facility. Giving from your heart puts all of your issues into perspective.

·      Take time to daydream. What would make your life sweeter? How do you get there?

·      Stop being so cynical and start choosing joy.

·      Really commit to your gratitude journal, writing down five things you are grateful for EVERY NIGHT.

·      Take a break from electronics. Devote a meal, or a chunk of time, where you do not interact with something that needs a battery. The world can wait. Your peace of mind is more important.

·      Tell the people in your life that you love them. We don’t say those three precious words enough.

·      Remember that every day is a gift. Wake up every day with a smile, grateful that you are ALIVE on this beautiful earth.

·      Worry less. Laugh more.

It is mid-July, midyear 2015. Time to re-energize and continue living a joyful life.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

The Power of Positivity

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall. – Confucius

A few weeks ago, I headed for the weight room at the gym. I had been keeping up with my aerobics on the treadmill all winter, but had neglected my strength training. And inevitably, I felt incredibly out of shape.

I had a very tough time that first day back. It felt disheartening to realize I had difficulty lifting the weights I had so easily managed only a few months earlier. I knew my body would be sore for the rest of the week. As I struggled through a bicep curl, I thought about all that lost time away from the weights area. I started to feel defeated only 10 minutes into my set.

And then, in the middle of a shoulder pull-down, I made the conscious decision to NOT beat myself up for the time away from the gym. Instead of slipping into negativity and giving up, I turned the weight session into a positive experience. I congratulated myself for getting back on my schedule, expressed gratitude that I had the ability to even lift weights and the financial stability to belong to a gym, and told myself that every rep mattered. Even with baby steps, I eventually would be able to return to my former level of fitness.

Which brings me to today’s thought: When faced with a setback, we have two choices -- slip into negativity or remain positive.

It is so easy to feel discouraged when faced with a setback. It’s so easy to slip into a negative space and become depressed because a relationship has gone south, or a job is not working out, or a plan has derailed. Negativity is the easy route.

Yet negativity is a slippery slope to giving up. To not returning to the gym. To never dating again. To stop looking for a job. To give up on a friend. And what is BEYOND giving up? A big void of nothing. It is an easy tumble down that tunnel because it takes such little effort to give up, yet the sacrifice to your happiness is enormous.

In contrast, your other choice, remaining positive, requires intense energy and effort. It means getting up after falling down and TRYING AGAIN. It takes grit. It takes determination. It takes courage. Yet at the end of the day, the positivity payoff is HUGE! It gives you ANOTHER chance for happiness, ANOTHER chance to get things right.

We only have this life, and must play with the cards we are dealt. I truly believe giving up is never an option, and negativity is never beneficial nor does it EVER enhance your life.

Positivity is a choice. Sometimes it is a learned choice, but it is there for the taking. It starts with gratitude, and seeing the positive of ANY situation, no matter how difficult.

I encourage you to tap into the power of positivity and avoid the seduction of misery. It will turn your life around.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

 

The Power of Gratitude

Every day is a gift … just waiting to be unwrapped. – Lori Baker-Schena

Thanksgiving is the one day a year when we officially EXPRESS gratitude for the blessings in our lives.

Yet it is one thing to EXPRESS gratitude and quite another to PRACTICE gratitude. Expressing gratitude is a transient activity, while practicing gratitude is ongoing and life-changing.

My gratitude journey began about 20 years ago, at age 36, right after the birth of my son.

 A little background: I believe the 30s are a particularly challenging decade because we often find ourselves raising children while juggling a demanding career and aging parents – all without the wisdom that only time and experience bring. I, too, felt the suffocating stress of a life out of balance. The stress led to anxiety, many sleepless nights and endless worry.

And then a friend recommended a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach called “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy,” first published in 1995.

The book changed my life because it taught me how to practice gratitude. And as the title suggests, it is simple: No matter how lousy your day is, no matter how sad or depressed you are, take the time before you go to sleep to write down five things you are grateful for – every single night.

This simple exercise is life-changing because it forces your mind to shift into a positive place, no matter what your situation. Even through my stress and anxiety, I had a plethora of things to be grateful for, big and small. My contact lenses. My freedom. My cozy bed. My supportive students. Flush toilets. The ability to walk and talk. Pizza. The list is infinite. Eventually, the nighttime habits of expressing gratitude become part of your daytime routine – from morning until night.

Practicing gratitude helps you shift away from a “victim” mentality to a positive space. For the past 20 years, I have NEVER asked the question “Why Me?” Crap is everywhere – bad bosses, lousy drivers, ill health, money problems, relationship issues, family challenges. But focusing on the positive of any situation, truly seeing the blue sky through the dark clouds, brings joy and strength.

And believe me, practicing gratitude is fortifying. A decade later, when I lost both my siblings to disease and my father to Alzheimer’s, when I experienced a divorce and heard the devastating words “You’ve got cancer,” I stumbled but did not fall. Because I realized despite the loss, despite the hardships, despite the fear – every day is a gift, just waiting to be unwrapped.

So I encourage you to start practicing gratitude. It takes a few minutes a night, and then one day you realize it has become automatic. And joy starts seeping in during the most unexpected times of your life.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com