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Counting Our Miracles

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein

In a season that celebrates miracles, we don’t have to look far to start counting OUR miracles. Just the fact you are ALIVE, BREATHING and READING this blog is such a miracle. And the computer or mobile device that allows you to access this blog is a miracle. And the fact that humans developed language that allows us to communicate with each other is a miracle. And the fact that I am physically writing this blog on a crisp, clear, California morning – and not six feet under -- is a miracle.

Indeed, there is no shortage of miracles.

Instead there seems to be a shortage of time – and resolve -- to count our miracles.

In a holiday season that stresses materialism over miracles and sales over spirit, we tend to lose the wonder of the countless things that make our lives so precious, and so worth living. Even in our darkest days, there is always something to celebrate – always miracles to count.

Some miracles are obvious. Researchers developed rituximab, the immunotherapy that demolished my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in 1999 – just in time for my 2013 diagnosis. The birth of my children and grandchildren. The food on my table. The exquisite beauty of nature. The fact that I passed my statistics class in my MBA program with a B.

And some miracles are subtler (or not). Our favorite movies, television shows, musicians and authors. Paint. Central air and heat. The Internet. Adele (Hello?). White boards and markers. Transportation – planes, trains and automobiles. Wine. Coffee. Chocolate.

It is tempting to liken counting our miracles to keeping a gratitude journal (a practice I wholeheartedly endorse). Yet counting our miracles brings us to a higher level of wonder and appreciation. And it keeps our spirit light on the days when circumstances in AND out of our control want to drag us down.

Counting our miracles:

·      Allows us to be present as we live our lives.

·      Helps prevent us from taking anyone or anything for granted.

·      Moves us from a “victim” mentality to a place of empowerment.

And where do you begin? Simply look in the mirror. YOU are a miracle.

Start counting.

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

Don't Let Stress Dilute or Derail Your Holidays

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” – Frederick Keonig

Society sells the “holiday season” as one filled with never-ending family, food and fun. But for most of us, the “holiday season” is synonymous with stress. We are assaulted with messages that we must buy the perfect gift or hold the perfect party or cook the perfect dinner. And this bombardment seems to come earlier every year.

No WONDER we feel overwhelmed. Before you can finish saying “Happy Labor Day,” fall descends with a thud – with Halloween and Thanksgiving basically bypassed to make way for the Christmas/Hanukkah/Holiday season.

It’s the perfect storm of stress. Expectations are high that we should have a HAPPY Hanukkah or a MERRY Christmas, and thus we start adding projects and responsibilities such as baking cookies, decorating the house/office, shopping for gifts (and maybe going into debt), sending holiday cards or planning parties to an already busy work/home life. No wonder it feels like our head is about to explode.

And the price we pay for this stress is the risk of diluting the joy that comes from celebrating the true meaning of the season, and derailing our happiness and contentment because our expectations are too high. The commercialism that accompanies this time of year threatens to suck us into an emotional black hole – where no amount of Black Friday “sales” or store “specials” can save us.

The stress of the season is literally robbing us of the joy that it promises to bring. The solution?  Instead of letting the stress control our lives for the next six weeks, we need to control the stress. And here are five helpful tips:

1.     Get organized – Holiday responsibilities (decorating, cooking, gift giving) are an ADDITION to the responsibilities in our lives, not a replacement. We must work our jobs and raise our families while preparing for the season. So get organized. Sit down this week and create a calendar where you set aside time to get everything done – from gift-buying to card addressing to cooking to wrapping to decorating. Put it ALL down on a calendar.

2.     Don’t put too much on your plate – Be realistic about how much you want to accomplish and don’t try to do too much. You won’t be any fun or any help to anyone if you are too tired and even sick to enjoy the season.

3.     Let go of the guilt – If you can’t make a homemade pie, or don’t have the money to buy everyone gifts, or run out of time to send holiday cards – DON’T FEEL GUILTY. The goal here is to enjoy the season, not run some kind of race. If you buy a store-made pie, or send out an email greeting this year, it certainly isn’t the end of the world.

4.     Continue your healthy habits – Don’t let the stress of the season interfere with your exercise routine or seduce you into eating or drinking more than you really need. Take care of YOURSELF this holiday season.

5.     Be present in the moment – Above all, remember what the season is all about – peace on earth, goodwill to men (and women) and miracles. This is the time to make memories with the people we love, to bask in the knowledge that we are alive, to be grateful for everything we have, to acknowledge and reach out to those who are less fortunate, and to remember the “reason for the season.”

And to CELEBRATE that we made it through another year.

Don’t let stress dilute your joy or derail your peace.

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

Time to Adopt One Small New Positive Habit

“Create healthy habits, not restrictions.” – Author Unknown

After reading this quote, you may be thinking, “This isn’t January 1, it’s November! Isn’t it a little late in the year to think about picking up good habits – especially right before the holidays?” to which I must respond “It’s NEVER too late to adopt a habit that makes you feel good.”

Indeed, small intentional changes in your life can lead to huge benefits – including more happiness, joy, peace … and even a greater sense of control. And small changes can be made by creating positive habits.

I suggest that TODAY, you identify a small good habit and adopt it as your own. And I mean small. Don’t become over-ambitious on this because you set yourself up for failure. Instead, take a baby step.

Personally, I make my bed every morning and hang up my clothes from the night before prior to starting my work day. I know that sounds routine, but returning home from the end of hectic day with a clean living space and an inviting bed provides a real sense of home – and peace.

I’ve also made it a habit to express gratitude for my life, health, family and friends the minute I awaken every morning. I start the day off with positivity and thankfulness – regardless of the challenges that may await me later. And it takes me two minutes.

Here are some other suggested habits designed to help simplify your life, and regain a sense of control when your days seem stressful and hectic:

·      Tell at least one person every day how much you appreciate him or her.

·      Make a habit to balance your checkbook so you know just how much money you have to spend.

·      Do the dishes in the sink right after a meal – don’t wait until the next day.

·      Floss your teeth every night.

·      Don’t go to bed with makeup on.

·      Save $5 a day. That adds up to $1,825 a year and in five years you will have $9,125. It’s a painless way to save.

·      Call your parents/kids once a week and let them know you love them.

·      Send a handwritten thank you note to someone who has taken you to dinner or bought you a gift or has given you joy.

·      Eat at least one piece of fruit every day.

·      Smoke one less cigarette a day, drink one less alcoholic beverage a week, eat one meatless meal a week.

A great article on the Elite Daily website by Joelle Nanula gives more great examples of habits that can make you feel better: http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/cultivate-happiness/1222588/.

Picking up a new, positive SMALL habit will work wonder for your moods – it is a gift to yourself. And soon, you will be thinking of more ways to be good to yourself. Through this positive approach, you will gain the strength, joy and vision needed to pursue your personal and professional passions.

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