What a Child Can Teach Us About Giving

For it is in giving that we receive. ~Francis of Assisi

There are some moments as a parent when my heart fills with pride as I witness my children developing into such amazing little people.  This week, my little girl gave me one of those moments. She’s in preschool this year, and it’s so fun to watch her mind blossoming with all that she’s learned already. She comes home telling me about her day and what they learned, who she played with, and can’t wait to show me what she created.

Lately, she’s been so excited to give me her art saying, “Mommy, you can take this to work and show all your friends how much I love you.” As you can imagine, I just eat it up. The other night, she took it even one step further.

We were sitting down to dinner, and out of nowhere she said, “Mom, I really need to make a picture for my teacher, I think it should be her birthday tomorrow.”

“Oh! Ok sure!” I said, “Is it actually her birthday tomorrow sweetie?”

She simply replied, “It is now!”

After we finished eating, she eagerly ran to her room, grabbed a coloring book and markers and began to work meticulously on the picture. She was so careful to stay in the lines and was very selective on which colors she used. The whole time she kept saying how excited she was about giving it to Ms. Jolyn.

It took her almost 30 minutes to finish, and I kept telling her it was bath time, but she had “just one more color” to add. At last, she was done, and placed her masterpiece in her folder with pride as she anticipated Ms. Jolyn’s reaction when she saw it the next day.

Ayla and her picture for her teacherThe next morning she couldn’t wait to give it to her, and she was so happy to see her teacher’s reaction.

The part of this whole thing that I felt was worth sharing is how much joy she took in the simple act of giving. She gave genuinely; with no hidden agendas. She did it just to make her teacher happy.

Her little heart is such an important reminder for all of us. Giving; for the sole purpose of wanting to bring joy to another, is such a powerful thing. I would even argue that it does just as much, if not more, for the giver as the recipient.

Sometimes, in our busy, chaotic, lives, we forget the value of the connections we have with each other. We forget how good it feels to serve one another. We forget to be generous with our hearts. We forget how good it feels when we make someone smile.

So today, I challenge you to give to another for no other reason than to just give. Whether it be something tangible, your time, your ear to a friend who needs someone to listen, your expertise, or just a helping hand… just give. I guarantee you’ll leave that situation with some of the best tasting, most nutritious, and most satisfying soul food around!

 When was the last time you gave to another? What did you give?

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Learn How to Stay Connected with the “Why” When it Comes to Goals

Jenn 1st tri 09.13.14Well! After three months of training, filled with successes and struggles, my first triathlon is now complete! What a ride it was!

As I anticipated, I struggled the most with the swim. The water was murky, I got kicked and bumped into, but I still did much better with my nerves than I had in my training. I didn’t panic; which was an accomplishment in and of itself.

The bike was amazing, by far my favorite part. The run was hot and felt like it would never end; but it eventually did.

Needless to say, when it was all over, I took much more from the experience than just the physical accomplishment. One of my favorite things about doing a triathlon is how individual it is.

As I’ve written before, my husband and good friend Tonya both did the event, but when that whistle blew, we were all on our own. I said going into the race, “I’m racing no one but myself,” and that’s exactly what I did.

As others passed me, or I them, it remained a very personal experience.  I knew I wasn’t the fastest; but I also knew I had it in me to finish, and that’s where I focused my energy.

Doing this race made me reflect on our individual journeys in life.  It can be really hard to stay committed to what we say we’re going to do. When things don’t necessarily go our way, it’ so easy to stop, give up, and go back to doing what we feel the most comfortable doing. Even if that means we resume doing what may not be in our best interest.

When it comes to walking the road less traveled, how do we stay engaged and motivated to stay the course? I believe it is largely due to being connected with the “Why” behind it.  When we can tap into, and hold onto, the “Why,” it brings us strength and the will to keep going. There are two things that can help us connect with it:

  1. Knowing our motivation comes from within
  2. Embracing it’s your individual journey

Let’s look at how it works throughout the process of achieving a goal:

When it Begins

When you set out to do something, whether it be physical, a healthy lifestyle change, a new endeavor,  or career path, it should begin with a certain desire to make it so. When we commit to something, it has to be because we really want to. When we do things solely for the reason that someone else wants us to, it’s really hard to take the plunge and start.

If you do it because you want it, you have an abundant resource of motivation within. If you embrace you’re doing it for you, and realize it’s your journey, it becomes a much more important goal to achieve. My decision to do the tri is a great example. I did it because I really wanted to. I knew going into it I was doing it for no other reason than to challenge and better myself. No one pushed me to do it.

Along the Way

This is the hardest place to remain committed. Especially when things don’t go your way. You can begin to crush your spirit with self doubt and then that urge to quit creeps in and it becomes difficult to keep going.

This is when you have to hold on to that “Why” the most. You have to dig deep, remind yourself of what motivated you within when you started. The challenging part is to embrace that it’s your personal journey. We tend to compare ourselves to others, and expect our outcomes to mimic theirs.

When I first started training, I was so intimidated by my husband Greg and how fit he was compared to me. It got even more challenging when I realized just how weak I was in the swim when my friend Tonya didn’t have the same struggles I did in the open water. It seemed that every person I encountered along the way seemed to do everything much faster and more efficiently than me. I had to take a step back, realize I wasn’t running their race, I was running my own. I had to remember Why I wanted to do it, what my goals were, and get back into my zone.

Reaching the End

When you complete something you’ve worked hard for, it should feel great. However, we can tend to beat ourselves up if we don’t finish in the way we’d hoped. We can get too focused on what went wrong, and short change ourselves for what we did right. We’re our own worst critics.

When I finished and looked at my times, sure, I saw areas that needed improvements. Of course the big one was my swim. I was also slow  during the transitions.  My run wasn’t as fast as it could’ve been. But you know what? Who cares!! I did it! I refused to let my shortcomings overshadow the accomplishment I worked so hard for.

If you find yourself doing that, stop it! Remember the Why! Remember what motivated you to even start. Remember it’s your journey, and yours alone. Don’t let comparing to someone else and the could’ve, would’ve , should’ve thoughts in your head minimize what you’ve accomplished.

The moral of the story is this…we can do incredible things when we put our mind to it. When we can really connect with that Why and use it as a motivation to start, endure, and finally accomplish what we set out to do.

What is your biggest “Why” with the goals you’re working towards now?

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How Telling Your Story and Learning to Listen are Essential in Healing

Hope in the cloudsHello everyone! It’s so great to be back with you! While I needed my little hiatus to focus on A Veteran’s Gateway to Hope, I have to say how much I missed you guys. I’m so happy to back and happy to report what a success the event was. It took a much deeper look at the invisible wounds our veterans face. In 2013 NBC News reported that twenty two veterans commit suicide a day. Twenty two……

There were moments of teaching, moments of learning, and moments of just listening.

One of the most powerful parts of the event was when a panel of five veterans shared their stories with the audience. After each person was done, we had a minute of silence to reflect on what we’d just heard. I was one of the veterans who shared my story. As many of you are aware, I struggled desperately with PTSD after my deployment to Afghanistan in 2008.

Sharing again and being with other veterans who experienced the horrible realities of war was incredibly moving. It was so interesting how five complete strangers connected in those moments on stage.

Throughout the conference, we explored the traditional therapies of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as healing even deeper on much more spiritual level. In my opinion, the spiritual brokenness that a person whose experienced something like war endures, is the part that we haven’t done a good job addressing. It’s the part that needs our attention the most.

I reflected on my own experience as I listened and learned, and realize while I benefited significantly from the traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, I know the repair that I did to my soul is what really helped me get through such a dark time of my life.

I thought the event was so beautiful in the way that many of the attendees, speakers like myself, and even the organizers, took different roles as teachers, students, and listeners. So! I have two big takeaways to share that will benefit everyone, regardless if you’re a veteran, or someone whose suffered from a traumatic event:

  1. The value of telling your story
  2. The importance of listening

Here’s why we can all benefit from these two things:

The Value of Telling Your Story

Telling your story has a two-fold benefit:

  •  It helps you to heal:

I can say this from very personal experience. I started sharing what I went through in the very early stages of my struggles. I’m talking about getting on stage and talking to a room full of strangers sharing! Granted, not everyone can do that, but the more I talked about it, the more it helped me to process the emotions I needed to feel. As much as I wanted to tuck those memories away and never face them again, talking about it was therapeutic.

  • It helps others to heal:

Using your experiences to serve others is one of the most substantial gifts you could give to your fellow man. I knew I needed to share what I went through, and so I finally gained enough courage to publish 166 Days My Journey Through the Darkness, hoping desperately that it would help someone else experiencing a similar pain.

What I didn’t realize is how much serving others with my own pain, shortcomings, failures, has helped me to heal as well. Now, this is something I actually speak about on a regular basis. Using your experiences to serve others….brings incredible purpose to what you’ve endured.

What’s your story? How can you benefit from sharing it to others? How can you help others with your experiences?

The Importance of Listening

Listening is such an important action, yet most of us aren’t very good at it. Why is that? Often it’s because we get so focused on what we want to say, that we don’t take the time to allow others to reach us. Have you ever been a patient in an exam room, and the provider comes in, tells you what’s wrong with you, shakes your hand and walks out before you even get a word in edgewise? As a medical provider myself, and also someone who’s gone through that exact scenario, I know how awful that feels.  The sad thing is, we do it to each other all the time. To our friends, families, loved ones, and even people we just meet. We don’t listen to each other. Listening is so important for a couple of reasons:

  • When you listen, you comfort and heal

Sometimes, that’s all a person needs is someone to listen. They don’t need you to solve their problems, or give advice. They just need your time, your attention, and your ear. By listening, you create a trust and comfort with the person sharing with you. Imagine the courage it must take to go to another person and share vulnerability. Sometimes we have to make a conscious effort to really listen. Sometimes, our best words are the ones unspoken.

  • When you listen, you learn

When you take the time to truly listen, it’s amazing what you can learn from someone else. What they can share with you can offer provide you with insights into your own life.  We have so much to offer each other. When we recognize the value in listening to each other, we gain such strength.

How well do you listen? Can you think of a time listening to someone has helped you?

We all face adversity, we all have times when we are hungry for hope. After being a part of such an important conference, I feel my soul rejuvenated, and my hope is high that we will continue to find ways to heal the invisible wounds many of us carry. Remember the value of telling your story and the importance of listening; both such important parts of healing.

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Taking A Pause for an Incredible Cause

To my wonderful blog followers,

I am going to be on a short hiatus from new posts until September 11th, 2014. I’m preparing for an amazing conference the 9-10th of September in Montgomery, Alabama called Gateway to Hope Breaking the Stigma of Moral Injury.

Gateway to Hope

Here’s what it’s all about:

Gateway To Hope seeks to educate all who care about our nation’s veterans about the consequences of the spiritual wounds of war and our responsibility to support their recovery.  Participants will learn about moral injury and its relationship to PTSD and sexual trauma, and about creating safe communities of support for veterans to tell their stories and reflect morally on them. They will also explore ways to reintegrate veterans into the civilian world, without leaving them to suffer invisibly and in silence.

I am so honored to be a part of this important conference. As many of  my readers know, I have a very personal experience with Post Traumatic Stress and Moral Injury, which I describe in detail in my book 166 Days My Journey Through the Darkness.

I need to focus my efforts in my preparation over the next twelve days! But not to worry! I’ll be back with some incredible insights to share!

For more information on Gateway to Hope Breaking the Stigma of Moral Injury, go to:

 http://gatewaytohope2014.wordpress.com/

What Jumping Out of a Plane Taught Me About Courage

Be Courageous“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~Nelson Mandela

I’m quite sure that what I did yesterday was easily the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I jumped out of an airplane flying 10,000 feet in the air. It was tandem jump with a freefall that lasted about 45 seconds before we pulled the parachute.

The feeling was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Every second of the descent was invigorating, I honestly didn’t want it to end.  It was such an adrenaline rush, it took me at least 20 minutes to come down from it after we landed.

My husband Greg and I jumped together; it was something we both had on our “Bucket List” for several years.

As we watched the training video, suited up, and finally got on the plane, we looked at each other knowing how nervous the other one was. The ride up to the drop zone seemed like it was never going to end. I watched Greg’s goggles fog up and his hands get clammy as we got closer and closer to “Go Time.”  Before we knew it, the door opened and there was no turning back.  Greg was first out of the plane, and as I watched him jump, I felt my heart beating out of my chest.

Before I knew it, it was my turn. I put my left foot out on the tiny platform outside the door, followed by my right, my pilot counted to three, and we jumped! The rest is history! It was an incredible experience I would do over and over again. I absolutely loved it. I wouldn’t have been able to do it however, if I didn’t find the courage to make the jump.

The experience I had with skydiving is a great example of the importance of having courage in life. Skydiving was something I really wanted to do, but I had to overcome my fears and muster up the courage to just do it.  Often, we can let fear paralyze us from doing what we’re truly meant to do in life. We get caught up in what others might think, the idea of failure, and the fear of the unknown. Looking within and finding the courage to do what matters is vital to living a fulfilling life.

How to Find Courage When You Need it the Most

  • Face Your Fears Head On

We all have fears. Sometimes, those fears can be a good thing, they can actually serve as a motivator, or keep us away from doing something that could be harmful. What we have to be careful of, is letting them overwhelm us and prevent us from doing what matters.

One of the best ways to move past our fears is to face them head on. Don’t hide from them, learn what they are, where they come from, and why you have them. Once you understand them you can learn to overcome them.

  • Embrace Failure

Huh? Did you read that right? Yep, you did. We will all fail. It’s part of how we grow. Courage comes from learning from those failures. Embrace the mistakes you’ve made, and learn how to avoid making them again.

If you can come to embrace failure is a part of growth, you learn to handle life’s hiccups as they come. Sure, none of us set out to fail, but when we do, we have to be able to pick ourselves back up again. That’s where true courage really begins.

  • Begin With the End in Mind

Such a powerful thought by Stephen Covey. I lean to this time and time again in my own life. When I feel fear creeping in and starting to take over, I pause, think for a minute on what I’m working to accomplish, and I find I’m able to keep going. Keep the end result in the forefront of your mind, know you will have some trials and tribulations along the way…but keep going and eventually you’ll get there.

I look at life as an incredible adventure. Not just because I do crazy things like skydiving, but because I see how each moment we live helps us grow and develop into what we are meant to be. We have to make those moments count and get the most out of each of them. Be courageous in your life; don’t miss the adventure.

What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

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How to Get Back on the Wagon of Wellness

There’s no shame in falling off the wagon. The shame is in not having the courage to get back on it. ~Adam Hance

 

800px-Covered_Wagon_In_Scotts_Bluff_National_Monument,_NebraskaWise words spoken by my friend Adam who understands them well. He went running with us last night, which was his first time running in over 8 months. He told us he’d really fallen back into his old habits of not taking care of himself and it was time to make a change.

We invited him to run with us last week, and I was happily surprised to find out yesterday that he was coming.  Unfortunately, we had a longer day than expected at work, forcing him to wait over an hour on us. He could’ve easily given up out of frustration, but he didn’t. In fact, he was the first one out there when we finally made it to the park.

The run was for 40 minutes, and it was hot.  It was painful for him. Heck, it was painful for me too! By the end of it his legs and knees were on fire and he was physically spent. He could’ve easily gotten in his truck and said “See ya! Never doing that again!” but he didn’t. Instead his words were “See ya next week guys!”

When I got home I got a text from him saying:  “There’s no shame in falling off the wagon. The shame is in not having the courage to get back on it. Here it is in a text so you can call me out when I need it…Day 1 Transformation.”

His words really resonated with me. We all struggle with staying motivated. Whether it’s with fitness, health, or goals in general. That temptation to take the easy way instead of the road less traveled can get the best of us. It’s easier to fall back into a bad habit than to make a positive change.

So, how do you get back on that wagon once you fall off it?

  • Surround Yourself with What Motivates You

As simple as it sounds, it’s incredibly effective. One of my biggest motivators is hearing other people’s stories. When I see people with unthinkable challenges and adversity who’ve done what I’m trying to do, I’m able to dig deep and find the strength to push through. Put me in front of the Ironman documentary, which outlines the stories of the participants in the Kona Ironman, you better have a box of Kleenex waiting for me! I get so emotional watching the amazing character these people have. Their stories are some of the most inspirational I’ve heard.

I also look to my husband. He’s such an example of a healthy lifestyle. When I feel myself slipping, I think of him and how dedicated he is. The point is, get rid of the stuff that brings you down. Replace it with what motivates you to dig deep and surround yourself with it.

  • Eliminate the Potential Temptations

If it’s a weakness, remove it from the equation. I, for one, have a problem with sweets. I absolutely love them! I could eat a whole family size bag of M&Ms if I had a chance. So, I don’t buy them. I don’t even give myself the chance to go M&M crazy.

If sitting on the couch watching TV is a weakness, don’t turn it on. If bad habits like smoking, drinking too much, or overeating are the problem, cut those things from your world. Avoid situations that tempt you to do them. Don’t stop at the drive-thru on the way home. If driving past it is a temptation, find another route.  Instead, take the money you spend on your bad habits and start saving it for something you’ve always wanted to do.

  • Remind Yourself of the Why

What are you trying to accomplish? Where do you want to go? What is it about your life right now that you want to change in a positive way? Why?

When you can answer the why, it gives you more buy-in. When someone tells you to do something, your likely first inclination is to ask why. We innately to ask this question. When we understand the reason, we then agree or disagree to do something.

The same goes with keeping yourself motivated. Understand and lean on the Why.

That wagon can be extremely difficult to stay on. Especially when it starts traveling down the bumpy roads and it gets harder and harder to hold on. When that happens, remember to fill your life with what motivates you, eliminate the temptations that bring you down, and always remember the Why.

What helps keep you motivated when times get tough?

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How to Be More than What They Think

Be More than What They ThinkIf you had to guess, who in this picture would you think has completed multiple triathlons; to include a 1/2 Ironman? In case you aren’t familiar, the 1/2 Ironman consists of a 1.1 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run. This same person also became a hero to me on this day. Her name was Grace, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting word to describe her. She’s the lady standing in the middle.

My friend Tonya and I are training for our first triathlon in September. We have come such a long way, but the swim has by far been the biggest challenge. We had to forget everything we thought we knew about how to swim and learn to be more efficient. We’ve spent hours in the pool getting rid of our bad habits.

Unfortunately for us, the race doesn’t take place in the pool; it’s in the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The waters are an amazing sight, but they’re also home to many different species of sharks and things that bite and sting.

Because of this, I’ve been struggling with my fears.  Getting comfortable swimming in the open water has been a real challenge for me. This day was no exception. In fact, it’s probably the hardest day I’ve had in the ocean. Perhaps watching way too much Shark Week on the Discovery Channel didn’t help. The crazy guy that was on the beach that day telling shark stories right before we swam didn’t either.

Tonya and I decided to meet up with a group of people who were going to be doing a swim that day. We felt like the more people, the safer we’d be. As soon as we got started, I felt myself begin to panic. I started thinking about the likelihood  a shark was swimming close by, and I began to struggle. It seemed like each breath I took, I swallowed salt water instead.  Several times I had to stop to regain my composure. Each time I did, so did Grace and Tonya. They encouraged me to keep going.

Grace was so kind to this crazy lady she’d never met before. She shared with me how she’s overcome her own fears, she made me laugh, and most importantly, she motivated me to keep going. We ended up swimming close to a mile that day, and the second half was much easier, all because of her kindness. I have to say, what I will remember much more than the accomplishment of completing the swim, is Grace.

I was beyond impressed with her, both by her attitude and athleticism. I never would’ve guessed if I’d met her on the street. This brings me to the point of this post: Judgment and preconceived notions.

We’re all guilty of having them, and we’re also all victims of them. There are too many times to count that I’ve been judged because of being a woman, the way I looked, where I was from, etc. So how do we move past them?

Be More Than What They Think You Are

  • Be Confident

When I arrived at the firebase when I deployed to Afghanistan with a team of Green Berets, I knew I’d have to prove myself. As soon as I stepped off the Chinook, all eyes were on me. I felt them sizing me up, wondering if I could handle being there. It was intimidating to say the least.I got through the initial, and short-lived judgments by being confident in my abilities. I knew I could do the job, and I did.

Be confident in who you are and what you bring to the table. We can all learn from each other. You have so much to offer, a unique perspective, experience, and mindset. Don’t let other’s ideas of what you appear to be suppress who you really are.

  • Be Kind

Hands down, one of the easiest ways to win someone over is to be kind. Grace is a shining example of this. She didn’t have to take the time to reassure me and help me along. She could’ve easily continued swimming, never saying a word. Her kindness showed me so much more of who she was.

  • Be The Unexpected

Over time you can begin to anticipate what people will automatically assume about you. If that assumption is accurate, great! But if it’s not, then it’s your job to prove them wrong. Be what they don’t expect. If they assume you’re weak, be strong. If they think you aren’t going to stay the course, be the last one to leave. Know what they assume, and be intentional about being the opposite of what they expected.

  • Be Genuine

Know who you are and be proud of it! We’re all unique. We all have our flaws, as well as the things that make us special. Embrace what makes you individual.

Be genuine. Don’t try to be something you’re not. People may or may not like you…and that’s ok. All you can be is yourself. Be the authentic you.

What is something great about you most people would find surprising?

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Why Sometimes It’s Ok to Eat a Humility Cheeseburger

Be HumbleThis is me eating a cheeseburger. A sight most people that know me would never expect to see.  Here’s the thing, I don’t eat beef.  With the exception of some crazy pregnancy cravings years ago, I haven’t since 1999.

I quit eating beef in an effort to be healthier after I gained a lot of weight in college.  It wasn’t like I gained  the “Freshman 15,”  it was more like the “Sophomore 35!” When I gained all of that weight, I knew I had to make some changes, and one of them was to eliminate beef.

Over the years, I’ve gotten quite accustomed to not eating beef. So, trust me when I say that this did not happen by choice! In fact, I dreaded it up until the moment it happened.

So, why on Earth did I do it you ask?

I lost a bet. My husband Greg and I play a game every time we go to the movies, where we try to guess which celebrities are going to be in the previews beforehand. We’ve created a lot of rules and we tend to take it very seriously.

We make our picks before arriving at the movie theatre, (eliminating the chance of either one of us seeing the movie posters to give an unfair advantage), and we also make a wager on what we want if we win.

When we first started playing, we were cordial and considerate of each other, but over the years the bets have become brutal. This time…Greg came with the Big Guns. If he won, I had to eat a cheeseburger….the ultimate price to pay in our silly little game.

Well, as you can see, the night didn’t go my way. Yep…it was  a pretty devastating loss for Team Jenn.   It took me two days to muster up the courage to take on the burger, but much to Greg’s delight, I made good on my promise. Of course, he’s been gloating and laughing about it since.

As awful as it was for me, I kept my word. Therein, lies the lesson.

Sure, this is a silly story, but it’s a great example of how life doesn’t always happen in your favor.

Sometimes,  it forces you to eat a big, fat humility cheeseburger. How many times have you been faced with a situation where you’ve had to eat your words or own a mistake or bad decision? Or maybe it was keeping a commitment you really had no desire to keep.

We all want to win all the time. We want to be right. We want to be the hero. It’s hard to swallow your pride. To be humble. To make good on a promise. To keep your word.

As difficult as they can be, doing all of these things builds character. Character is such an important part of living a healthy and fulfilling life. It builds strength and helps you preserver in difficult times. It validates what you do and how you live your life. Character serves as a compass when things don’t seem to make sense.

I still don’t like cheeseburgers, and I still hated every bite of the one I had to eat…but I’m glad I did. As easy as it would have been to back out of the deal, I kept my promise.  Next time however, I’ll be much more cautious with what bets I agree to!

Can you share a time in your life that was a big character building moment?

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A 3 Year Old’s Lesson on How to Embrace Being Yourself

Do you ever find yourself worried about what others may think of you? Do you ever let that worry stop you from really being yourself? Princess Zurg

I know a little someone who doesn’t. She proved it the day she walked around Disney World with her face painted like Zurg from the movie Toy Story.

At the time my daughter Ayla was really in to Toy Story. Buzz Lightyear was her hero. When we entered the park, she noticed a station where she could get her favorite character painted on her face.  Greg and I thought for sure she would get Buzz Lightyear, but we were wrong.

She looked at the options and quickly decided Zurg, Buzz Lightyear’s nemesis,  was what she wanted. We pointed out the picture of Buzz and some princesses, but she was adamant; she wanted Zurg.

We stood in line waiting for almost an hour.  I watched the other little girls in front of us get their faces painted with fairies, butterflies, and princesses. I watched Ayla react to them and thought for sure she would change her mind.

When it was her turn, Ayla marched up to the chair, plopped down, and said “I want Zurg.” The face painter looked up at Greg as if to say “Are you sure?” and he nodded with a smile. As soon as she was finished all the little girls around her stared in disbelief as Ayla walked by them with a huge smile on her monster Zurg face.

She ran up to me and squealed in delight, “Mom! I’m Princess Zurg! I’m sooo beautiful!” The rest of the day she walked around with her head held high and quickly became the coolest girl around in the eyes of all the little boys we met.

That day Ayla had no problem being herself. She set an example we could all learn from.

 Three Keys to Being Yourself:

1. Be Courageous in Who You Are:

We all have something unique about us that makes us special. Be confident in what you have to offer. Don’t let the fear of what others might think about you stop you from being who you are. Be Courageous. Be You.

2. Do What Makes You Happy:

Joy is one of the most important things to have in your life. Find what brings it to you and spend a lot of time doing it. Have fun. Smile. Fill your days with what makes you happy.

3. Spend Your Time with People Who Love You for You:

No matter how hard you try, there will always be someone out there who doesn’t like you. That’s ok. Focus on those that do. Surround yourself with people who bring value to your life. Find ways to bring value to them.

Thanks Princess Zurg for setting a great example for us all.

What is your most unique attribute?

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5 Ways to Stay Motivated With Fitness

How to Stay MotivatedAre you like me and struggle sometimes when it comes to staying motivated with exercise?

Last night I went for a run. It was one of those times I had to fight to keep going. It was hot and humid;  the temperature outside was still just under 90 degrees at 7pm. I’d eaten a turkey meatball sub about an hour prior to starting, so imagine my surprise when I started to feel a “You REALLY shouldn’t have eaten that” sensation in my stomach about 20 minutes into the run.

Needless to say, my motivation to keep going was hard to reach, and there were times I felt the urge to stop. It would’ve been so easy to walk for just a few minutes, or even cut the run short.  It’s weird how your mind can sometimes take off down a rabbit hole of excuses for why it’s ok to give up.

Despite the temptation, I didn’t quit and finished the run. It felt great to complete what I started.

When it comes to staying motivated with fitness, no matter how fit you are, we can all hit a wall. So what can you do to stay motivated to keep going?

5 Ways to Stay Motivated with Fitness

1. Have a Goal

One of the biggest motivators for me has been having a goal. It’s much harder to get out and exercise if you’re not working toward something.

My current goal is training for my first triathlon. This is a pretty lofty goal, and somewhat intimidating….but man! I can’t wait for that sense of accomplishment when I complete it!

When you have a goal, you have direction and something to work towards. It gives you a bigger reason to exercise.

2. Remind Yourself of What You Don’t Want to Be

I don’t want my health to go downhill. I don’t want to become obese. I don’t want to become someone who hides behind my own excuses. When I remind myself of these things, I know that means I have to continue on.

3. Find an Accountability Buddy

I can’t tell you how helpful this has been to me. Last night, I wasn’t running alone. I’m not training for the triathlon alone either. I have a great friend that is doing the event with me. We train together every week. Knowing I have to meet her and I need to show up for her helps. The sense of not wanting to let someone else down is powerful motivation.

An accountability buddy not only helps you keep your commitment, but also challenges you to push harder. Last night, as I struggled with my indigestion, Tonya ran with ease. She made me want to push through it. When we ride our bikes and swim, if she’s faster than me it makes me work harder.

My husband is also training for the same event. He is way more fit than I am; seeing his motivation and dedication is a huge inspiration to me.

 4. Appreciate the Value of Your Time

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How you spend them is up to you. My days are jam-packed with being a mom, wife, and having a career. Because of how busy I am, I’ve come to really appreciate the value of my time. When I have an extra hour, I look at it as an opportunity.

I could spend that hour watching a TV show that I will likely forget about tomorrow, or I can use it to better myself. When I weigh those options, the decision is pretty easy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy sitting and relaxing as much as anyone, but I also make sure that I take some of that precious time in my day and devote it to improving my quality of life.

5. Recognize the Gift of Your Ability

We take so much for granted. Yesterday I met a lady only 4 months older than me, who had been through over a dozen surgeries and an eventual amputation of her leg and finger because of her poor circulation. I can’t imagine the pain she’s had to overcome, and how she continues to endure such a debilitating medical condition.

When I meet people like her, who have such an incredible strength and positive attitude, I’m so humbled. What a gift it is to be able to use both of my arms and legs. Sometimes just recognizing what you have can be all it takes to get off your butt and make it count!

Staying active takes work. Sometimes it means you have to dig deep to the find motivation within to keep going. But, know that you can. You will. When you hit that wall, take these tips and find that motivation to push through.

What is your biggest motivator to stay active?

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