“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
William Arthur Ward
We are looking forward to celebrating the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. Many may wonder about the difficulty to focus on being thankful at this time in this particular year. I know this thought has entered my mind. The year 2020 has presented us with many challenges carrying us into uncharted waters. The following is an excerpt from the message by Rev. Thomas Shepherd in his article Feeling Grateful in All Things that made me aware that things could be worse.
The First Thanksgiving in America.
“The Winter of 1620-21 devastated the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Half of its population died from disease and malnutrition. In spite of the harsh conditions, the remaining settlers gathered with their Native-American neighbors to thank the Great Spirit for a harvest to see them through the coming winter. Even when outer circumstances are grim, like the cold winter, and other trials of our ancestors or the global pandemic we have been facing as a human community, (fires, hurricanes, floods) it is still possible to feel gratitude and give thanks.”
In the coming few weeks I am preparing to see our gathering as one that is focused on what we are thankful for and not about the present problems of our world we live in. To do this I am continuing my practice of journaling what I am grateful for in my life today. The key to the success of this practice is to have a notebook open and ready to jot down a few things that have happened in your life that may have inspired you to live life to the fullest. If this is not yet a practice of yours, you may want to give it a try from now until Thanksgiving.
There are many things we take for granted in life every day. Unfortunately, we are so influenced by the negativity of social media that it becomes a practice to pass on this negativity in our conversations with others. It has become our reality because we may believe this is the only time in history that it has been this bad. That is why I shared the quote from Rev. Shepard with you.
Once the pandemic became a reality and so many restrictions were placed on us I
got so caught up in the tragedy of this event and I allowed it to block any positive ideas to share. I received several calls asking me why I stopped writing a post for my blog. Finally yesterday in a hypnotherapy session the message came to me again that I am blessed with my positive approach to life and I need to share it with others. I am once again posting on my blog. I am grateful for the encouragement and support I have received from family and friends.
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
Sir Winston Churchill
The photo from Roy’s artwork that I am sharing in this blog helped me to reflect on something I will do during this Lenten season. My intention is to gather with the grandkids and tell them about my childhood. Life was quite different 78 years ago. We did not have the distraction of electronics that now seems to take up so much of everyone’s free time. I know they will think I must have lived in prehistoric times when I tell them how I amused myself before television. Our family did not get our first television until I was 9 years old. Our weekends were spent visiting family. These visits were typically done around the table for a noontime meal. Conversations were about what was going on in their lives and the lives of relatives who weren’t there. This noontime meal went on for three or four hours. I was blessed to know my great grandparents who were immigrants of Italy and lived on a farm. When they arrived in the United States, they purchased land and started their farm in a rural area. It happened to be Harahan that is now a residential community where we have lived since we were married 52 years ago.
I love celebrations in life and feel blessed to have been born in a city that offers unlimited opportunities to participate in year-long celebrations. We have just ended the month-long Mardi Gras celebration. It was great gathering with family and friends as we viewed parades. I am now ready to delve into the Christian tradition of the Season of Lent. This is a great time to add a few disciplines into our life and to review our goals that we intended to accomplish when we celebrated the beginning of the new year.
As a child growing up Catholic, I was taught that Lent was a good time to give up something. That idea has greatly expanded and now includes the positive action approach of doing something helpful or beneficial for yourself and others. One suggestion is to introduce something new into our life like exercising three days a week, reading spiritual and inspirational articles, attending a personal growth lecture or workshop. Perhaps the commitment could be to visit family or friends we have not had the time to be with in quite a while. A great aspect about the 40-day Lenten Season is there are many others who are participating in this season with us and can support our intentions.
Here are a few ideas for positive actions that will enrich your Lenten Season.
You may want to share your plans for this Lenten Season with my readers. You can make a positive difference in your world and the world around you.
“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.”
--- Khalil Gibran
February is one of my favorite months of the year. January is always the time for planning, focusing on goal setting and initiating effective positive changes in our life. Now we are immersed in the energy of love, romance and reflection on great memories of the past.
In this posting I will share my reflection on some of the lessons we learned in the early years of our marriage. It is quite a challenge to keep romance alive as the years slip by and we are faced with the many challenges of children, careers, money, and extended families.
We made a Marriage Encounter weekend a few months after our 5th Wedding Anniversary. That weekend is designed to make good marriages better. At that point we had not experienced disillusionment with one another. I have previously discussed the three stages in relationships: Romance, Disillusionment, and True Joy. The weekend taught us a basic means of communication to keep our relationship strong as we go through these three stages of love again and again in our commitment to one another. We were also shown that our marriage is truly a vocation and very important to our community. At the conclusion of the weekend the presenting teams asked us and two other couples to consider becoming a presenting team couple to spread what we experienced to other couples.
For five years we were one of multiple teams giving this weekend experience locally and around the country. There is a saying “You teach what you need to learn.” Over the years we have found that to be so true. We are grateful to have experienced that weekend so young in our marriage. We learned that setting aside the time each day for in depth communication is a key element to growth and closeness in our relationship.
It is so easy to take your partner for granted. It takes effort and commitment to keep communication open and honest, to share feelings, to take time for each other. We were also reminded how important the critical role romance plays in our relationship. We learned it takes prioritizing time together to make a good marriage better. Another statement given to us that weekend that changed our perception of relationships is that “Love is a decision, not a feeling.” We have a choice to act in a loving way regardless of our differences at times.
It is very important to set time aside for one another, work on romance and recall the spark that connected us in the first days of dating. If this practice isn’t ongoing then when the challenges of life like illness, financial stresses, job loss, etc., disillusionment become so powerful that it is very difficult to remember the romance of the past.
Valentine’s Day is Friday! You may find the card that says exactly how you feel. And of course it is also touching to write a few of your own heartfelt words to the person with whom you have chosen to spend your life. You may also want to consider writing a personal love letter expressing what first attracted you to your spouse and what set off that first spark of romance.
You may want to spend some time this week focusing on ideas to experience more romance in your relationship. When we were first married, we could not afford extended vacations. New Orleans is a great city to arrange a staycation. I would make reservations at a hotel for a weekend, arrange a babysitter and surprise my wife.
You may want to pull out some pictures of your first dates or you wedding day. Set up a date night where you can share the memories of that special time.
The time you spend working on your personal romance is a gift to others. We are living in a time when the reflection of that love you have for one another can offer hope when most of what we read, and view stirs up disillusionment. One of the best compliments we have ever received was from one of our granddaughters. She told us when she got married she wanted to grow old in a marriage like ours. She commented about the many things we do together and how we enjoy one another’s company.
We were blessed as a young couple by spending five years with Father Gallagher, founder of Worldwide Marriage Encounter. His passion for the enrichment of the Sacrament of Matrimony always helped us to stay focused in that direction. He wrote many books on marriage and co-wrote a powerful book entitled Embodied in Love. The following is a quote from that book, “God created us for love, for he knows that love alone brings us purpose and identity.”
You can help spread the message of the power of romance to a larger audience by sharing this post with family and friends.
“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths,
rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”
In my career I took many risks in trying different approaches to marketing a generic manufactured product that was just like the competitors; the only difference was the label. When I came up with a creative marketing idea that worked, I assumed others in the company would want to duplicate my success. I met with a group of managers and I was told by one individual that not everyone wants to put the same effort into marketing this product, especially if they have to do it. If they are meeting their monthly quotas that is what is most important. I was taken aback by this attitude and very disappointed.
Thirteen years after retirement I am still attempting to market ideas that are working for me. Even though past experience tells me otherwise, I still sometimes assume everyone would certainly like to make positive changes in their lives.
A light bulb went on at a New Year’s Eve Mass when the priest talked about the high rate of failures in making positive changes or keeping resolutions. He went on to say that perhaps it was the dread because of having to do something. He suggested we just change the words by saying “I want to! We all know we enjoy doing what we want to do and resist having to make changes.” Those words made so much sense to me and I know they will assist me in having success in making positive changes for this New Year.
I am no longer suggesting anyone has to do anything. I sincerely ask that you consider the tools I have used and decide if the idea is something you think would be helpful to you and you really want to pursue it. That is the only way it will work and benefit you. My support and encouragement are always available to you.
The following are a few examples of how easy it is to just change one word in your approach to achieving your dreams and goals. This change can definitely increase your success in whatever you undertake:
I have to lose the extra weight I gained over the holidays. I want to exercise three days a week because it helps me achieve my ideal weight. I feel so good after exercising my body.
I have to reduce the time I look at news broadcasts because the negativity stresses me out.” I want to spend more of my free time reading books that I enjoy and listening to music that lifts me up rather than negative news.
I have to find the time to set goals, write them down and post them on my Dream Board. I want to complete my Dream Board because having my goals and ambitions visible increases my success rate.
You may want to give yourself 10 or 15 minutes in the next day or so to write down everything you think you have to do to accomplish your New Year’s resolutions made just a few weeks ago. Remember the affirmative wording (I want to) that will stir eagerness in you rather than dread. Keep me posted on the success you are having because one testimony has the possibility of encouraging ten other people to follow your lead and change their approach to successfully achieve their goals.
“Often removing is improving.”
Last week I wrote about the importance of making a Dream Board to assist in achieving our New Year’s resolutions and intentions. A reader of the blog responded that they had little success with their Dream Board postings from last year and wanted to know what could be blocking their ability to manifest their dreams.
One concept that has assisted us in achieving greater success in manifesting our goals is incorporating the Principles of Feng Shui by Jayme Barrett in our daily life. Many of the ideas I implemented came from this book. My wife is a master of what is discussed in chapter three of the book, Clutter and Space Cleaning. “Clearing clutter and cleansing space are the first steps in creating awesome energy within yourself and your surroundings. Just as an artist paints a masterpiece on a fresh canvas, a clean environment is essential for you to implement Feng Shui effectively. If you start with a clean slate, your dreams and goals will manifest much faster and easier.”
We have a container in our office in which we put clothing or household items that we no longer need or use. When it is filled it is donated to our favorite charity, Habitat. There are so many emotions that tug at us as we let go of a possession that is no longer useful to us. This is especially true when there is the slightest sentimental attachment. As I said, Jeanne is great at clearing the clutter. This year she realized she was still holding on to the 12-year-old dress she wore for our 40th wedding anniversary. She also had kept the dresses she wore for our children’s weddings. Letting go in this situation was a little more difficult for her because of the treasured moments and emotions stirred by thee special events. But she realized letting go of the dresses would have no effect on the memories.
I believe that the success rate of achieving the postings on our Dream Board is greatly accelerated by letting go of “the old” to allow room for “the new.” One example from last year was a picture we found in a magazine of a swivel rocker; we posted on our Dream Board. When we redecorated our living room, we had a difficult time letting go of an accent chair that did not compliment the new color scheme. We shopped extensively to find a new chair but were not successful. We finally decided to give away the chair and just have a vacant space available for the new chair we would purchase.
Two weeks later we visited several furniture stores with no success. We were tired but decided to visit one more store. As we were leaving the store Jeanne spotted a chair we had not been shown. There was the swivel chair we had envisioned. It was the exact size and color we had posted on our Dream Board!
This week you may want to start with clearing out a few small items that are cluttering up space around the house. Start with items to which you do have no emotional attachment. The next step is to always have a container or brown paper bag in a designated place available to place the items in that you will donate to an organization for recycling. Our local grocery store has a Habitat for Humanity bin that makes it very convenient for us to make decluttering a habit.
“The thrill of new beginnings is immensely alluring!”
We can always learn from nature as you can see in this picture Roy sent to me that he captured yesterday. Focus on your immediate tasks and you will fulfill your desired goals.
New Year’s Day is a day of reflection on the successes of the past year, anticipation and hope for fulfillment of dreams for the new year. Today I wrote down my first affirmation for the new year “I am open to the endless possibilities of this year!”
I also like to take an inventory of what tools I used that helped me achieve my goals for last year and the efforts I need to modify to assure a higher rate of success for 2020. There were a few things I did last year that were so successful that they even surprised me.
Every year I have mentioned that New Year’s resolutions in general have the highest rate of failure of anything we attempt to put into practice throughout the year. It is so easy for most people to just list all the disciplines they intend to incorporate in their life. Unfortunately after a few months the distractions of daily life click in and the discipline falls by the wayside.
I have put into practice a few simple changes in my approach to getting better results and achieving greater success. The number one suggestion I have strongly encouraged with my readers is to make a Dream Board. It is amazing how motivating it is to have that visual display of affirmations and pictures of the things they would like to attract in their life.
Last year our Dream Board had 80% success in achieving what was posted. One posting was an error but yet achieved. I had a picture of a trip to Nashville with the Ryman Theatre on it with the words “Grand Ole Opry” sprawled across it. I had forgotten that the Opry had played in its new location in Opryland for several years. Six months before taking the trip I purchased tickets to see whatever may be playing at the Ryman. I kept trying to find out what performers would be there the
Date of our tickets. However the performers were never posted, Until we entered the theatre, we did not know what Country star would be performing. We were seated in the theatre and the curtains opened and it was announced that the last live broadcast of the Grand Old Opry for the season would be preforming. Wow!
To accelerate my success in achieving my goals that are posted I adjust my Prosperity Budget to assist me in my success. I like the 10% approach to a personal investment in achieving the goal.
For example I had three travel locations posted on our Dream Board. I determined what the cost of the three trips would be, so I put aside 10% in my budget. The balance I would work out monthly. We have never taken a vacation on credit. Much to my surprise I received my Southwest travel credit card statement saying I earned two air fares to any location to which they traveled. With this extra boost we were able to take all three trips. Dreaming and planning enhance the pleasure of achieving our goals! During the next few weeks I will explore other tactics to achieve the goals we set.
This week you may want to think of your hopes and the dreams you want to achieve this year. Gather a few pictures and begin to put together your Dream Board. This is something our grandchildren and their parents are doing. Our daughter-in-law had posted a picture on her Dream Board of a dining room set that she saw in a magazine. It was unique and she thought it could not be found locally. However when they walked into a new furniture store here in New Orleans that exact table was displayed in the showroom. It looks beautiful in their Dining Room.
“What is hope? Hope is wishing for a thing to come true;
faith is believing that it will come true.”
---Norman Vincent Peale
A special thank you to Roy Shackelford for providing me with his beautiful photography for my blog. Often nature has much to teach us.
I want to say a few things about myself before sharing a letter I received from a loyal supporter of my blog. This letter could have boosted my ego because I am motivated by success and positive feedback. However, I was truly humbled and inspired. I am a Three on the Enneagram, A Journey to Self-Discovery is the book I read that helped me discover why I generally make decisions based on achieving success. The compulsion of the Three is to avoid failure. Threes grew up thinking their own personal worth consisted simply in the success of their achievements.
This awareness of avoiding failure would not have allowed me to take on something as unfamiliar as writing a blog. Several Spiritual Directors strongly encouraged me to tell my story about my positive approach to life. I finally took the risk four years ago and started the Positive Pops blog. I do realize my success driven personality is fueled by the growing number of followers and the comments from those who are having success implementing recommendations on how to live a life of abundance.
It is so easy to get caught up in the “world view” as we are constantly bombarded with negative news. I share this letter not to focus on what is said about me but how we can all achieve unlimited possibilities. It is truly by seeing in the way the writer said in this letter “Seeing with the eyes of Christ.” The following is the letter I received:
“Positive Pops: You call your attitude positive. I was praying this morning and I called it ‘You’re seeing it with the eyes of Christ.’ Saint Paul calls it putting on the mind of Christ. I know this smacks of religion for a lot of people. So be it.
You have allowed the spark of divinity that dwells in you to take over and live through you into the world. How wonderful if we all could let the God who dwells in us spill out into the world. The great Norman Vincent Peale found a way to get his message out that was accessible to all. So did your Positive Pops.
You ever wonder why this is difficult for most of us? To be positive is to trust, to have faith, to believe. In a way it is giving up control and trusting beyond ourselves. We give our great spark within us power to guide us to the next step. To be positive is to trust that we will be guided. Thank you for helping us to do just that.”
This week you may want to focus on implementing a few practices that will help you and others create a life of unlimited possibilities. It could be something as simple as writing three things that you are currently grateful for each morning or writing a Christmas letter to your spouse or friend letting them know what you appreciate about them. Perhaps you can set one goal that you plan to achieve in 2020. Remember any effort, even the smallest, is a step forward.
“We mostly see what we have learned to expect to see.”
Shawn Achor in his book Before Happiness shares the quote below from the book Positivity, by Barbara Fredrickson. It offers much hope for those of us who are constantly striving to be positive by availing ourselves to many resources that reinforce our positive possibilities. It also offers hope for people who have come to realize their focus on the negative is holding them back from living the life of their dreams. Hopefully they are now ready to board the train that is headed towards finding new ways of seeing things by focusing on a positive outcome.
There are many examples in my life in which I have found new ways of seeing and doing things that have given me support when doubt occurs. A few weeks ago in my article on fourth quarter review I listed the topics that help me stay focused on positive outcomes.
One of my practices is that each morning I write a few things for which I am grateful and then spend time in appreciation. I always include “I am grateful for my wellness and I am grateful for my wife’s healing.” Eric Butterworth with Unity explained, “The practice of gratitude gets us into a full-of-greatness consciousness.”
My wife’s ability to handle pain is an example of deciding to focus on the positive in spite of dealing with 10 years of pain caused by nerve damage from shingles. The first six months the pain was out of control. She secluded herself and just stayed home. Thankfully we found the doctors who could help her partially control the pain with medication. However, the location of the nerve damage causes many complications and can be very disruptive to our plans and daily routines. There are times when it still gets overwhelming and all we can do is patiently wait for the pain to lessen.
Jeanne’s success in enjoying life is possible because she doesn’t focus on her pain. She limits making her pain a part of conversation with others, and pushes forward with a strong desire to fully enjoy our family and friends; making the best of the “good times.” To keep the positive energy flowing and our bodies functioning at its best physically, we both enjoy Pilates every Monday, and take advantage of the gym a few additional days each week.
Her passions in life are cooking and responding to the needs of our family, particularly our grandchildren. She certainly attests to the fact that positive activities offer a distraction from the pain. She has been a great sport in participating in my passion of experiencing life to the fullest. We are surrounded by friends who love a good time. The first six months of negativity and hopelessly regarding a cure of the nerve damage was indeed overwhelming. However her attitude to refuse to let it sentence her to a very limited life is a blessing to me, our family, our friends, and most of all to herself, as she continually opens herself to the many opportunities to live life to the fullest.
You may want to pay attention to your thinking and conversation when you first wake up in the morning. Those first thoughts can set the tone for the day. I suggest you surround yourself with posted positive affirmations, an open grateful journal to write one entry every day, and inspirational reading material to assist you to stay focused on your goal of positive possibilities.
Last week I talked about taking the road less traveled. Many times it can be a lonely road because initially there seems to be so few who want to take this journey with you. When you are writing a blog that is going out in cyber space you never know if readers of the message are attracting fellow travelers. If you have made the decision to pursue this adventure, I will be sending quotes from the book Before Happiness to offer encouragement to stay focused on your goals.
For a success driven person like myself I have to constantly remind myself to keep a positive prospective as I pursue my goals. My biggest successes happen when I least expect them. They would not have manifested if I had focused on the possibility of failure.
Many times events happen in our lives that are out of our control. The September 2008 financial crisis was the worst economic disaster since the depression of 1929. It was an event that devastated Wall Street and the banking industry. This took place one year after my retirement and wiped away a major part of my investments. What I did following this tragic event convinced me that staying focused on your goals with a positive perspective really works. I immediately adjusted my budget to reduce expenses.
In the month after that “event” I received a surprise call from a startup company entering the market I had worked in for 43 years. They were looking for a part-time consultant to help them get established in a new market. I met with the owner and was immediately offered the job. I remained working long enough to make up for the shortfall caused by that that economic crisis.
During this time I put into practice what always worked for me in the past. I continued writing in my grateful journal, not easy when in a crisis, but that did help me stay focused on the many blessings still present in our life. I did not give up on my dream board postings or my passion for travel. I still firmly believed that I could create the long-term travel dream to go to Europe for 21 days for our 50th anniversary. To keep me focused I also had affirmations posted around the house to support my goals and aspirations.
The proof that all of this effort was worth the discipline is the fact that we did take the Dream Trip to Europe and have traveled many places in the United States. We are living life to the fullest and enjoying every day of retirement.
You may want to write down a few of your goals and back them up with tools that will help you keep a positive prospective on achieving them. As always sharing your personal success stories in the comments below can offer support to followers of my blog.
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one
less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
In 1982 the book The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck was released, and it became an immediate best seller. I enthusiastically purchased a copy. It really spoke to me. It connected the dots in the way life was unfolding for me. My curiosity about so many aspects of life led me to workshops and experiences of personal growth that most of my friends and acquaintances had no interest in pursuing.
The following are comments made about the book.
"The Road Less Traveled" will make you realize that you CAN take charge of your life and your destiny. It is a journey toward self-acceptance that will affirm that life is worth living. It is one of the best books…
What does "take the Road Less Traveled by" mean?
Metaphorically speaking, someone who takes 'the road less traveled' is acting independently, freeing themselves from the conformity of others (who choose to take 'the road more often traveled'), generally making their own choices, and perhaps leaving a new trail that will become the road more often traveled (until, of course, someone takes the road ...”
Four years ago in November I took a risk of choosing a different path after retiring by publishing my first Positive Pops blog posting. I intended to write “my story” so my grandchildren would get to know about my life’s journey. They supported me by telling a few of their friends to check out my Pops’ blog.
I am amazed how ideas for the blog most often surface after I have journaled and meditated. The success I am currently experiencing comes from a support team who volunteered to travel with me.
On my fourth anniversary of Positive Pops I am grateful for the following helpful fellow travelers. My son-in-law, George, owner of GK Photography graciously handled all the technical work to set up the entire Positive Pops website and blog. He periodically updates the family pictures on my blog, which I promise is much easier than taking those family pictures of the 16 of us!
I am not a fluent writer, in terms of form. I just let the pen flow as I write my thoughts and stories then send the posting to my wife Jeanne’s computer for editing. Recently our friend Doug offered to do the final proofreading. Several weeks ago Roy, our good friend and a retired teacher, who has always had a passion for still life photography, offered to provide me with his beautiful photographic artwork for me to share on my blog.
The Hummingbird on last week’s blog posting “I Can Do It” is one of Roy’s most amazing photographs. Every week my loyal followers typically share my posting on Facebook. This posting was shared by 256 first-time readers with their family and friends throughout the country. It reached 11,000 people. Comments continue to come in daily.
Hopefully this success story will offer encouragement to you to explore the benefits of taking the road less traveled. Just think out of the box, explore new ideas to help change your world and surely that change will impact our world with positive possibilities.