Posted in How-To Guides

How Not to Settle for Second Best

This article is not about being Number One. It is not about having a winning attitude. Nor is it about succeeding at whatever we put our hand to do. Contrary to what the title implies, it has nothing to do with competing against, contending with, challenging or opposing an opponent.

The only real opponent anyone ought to face is the one that stares at us from the mirror every morning after we get up out of bed. Even then, the battle may not head anywhere because we may not feel like making an effort.

And that is not good.

Not settling for second best means trying our best, giving our best at whatever we attempt to do. If we end up a technical failure, then who is it who determines that? Well, we do, of course. But who is to say we have to accept it?

We need to rise from defeat, pat the dirt off our clothes, and move forward. Second best is a term others have coined to ease the pain of losing. Yet, how can it be a loss if the chance is always there to succeed?

So we did not make the grade this go around. It should not bother us. We have only discovered that we were not ready. With better preparation next time, we will certainly do better. We should not feel, however, that we have experienced a setback. In that respect, we have all experienced setbacks. How we deal with it determines if we have given it our best.

Trying our best and failing does not mean we are second best. It means we have tried. And really, in the context of our short life here on earth, there are many more opportunities to do better.

Posted in How-To Guides

5 Tricks to Get Along with Others

We see our friend from across the room. He smiles. He laughs with his buddies. When we slowly navigate our way through the crowd to offer our hand, he takes a step back and looks at us as if we had just dropped from a nearby galaxy.

Life could not be more perfect.

Why are some people so difficult to appreciate? Is there a sign on our foreheads that invites others to walk all over us? Or, are we simply too sensitive to understand the nature of relationships and how they work?

1. Be Honest

Every relationship we have comes from an event we either approved or disapproved.

The relationship is there, it is alive, and it will not be going anywhere. Good or bad, it will always be there.

The first step to cooperating with one another is to admit we have to cooperate with one another. As simple as it sounds, it is one of the most challenging things to do. Being honest with those around us will make all the difference.

If we are in a situation where someone asks us our opinion, we need to tell the truth all the time. Some may feel that is a drastic step. Why tell the truth? Why expose us to possible criticism?

Because it is easier to remember the truth than to remember a lie.

2. Show Manners

We walk into a store, find the item we are looking for, and head to the counter for the purchase. Somehow, the cashier has not had the best of days, and she is looking to us as another excuse to vent her frustration with life and the pursuit of happiness.

But we decide to engage her on another level.

She hands us the avocados, and we say thank you. She asks if we will need a bag. We say yes, thank you. We ask her to hand us the receipt instead of placing it in the bag, please. She does so.

We walk out and notice, looking back, a slight smile cresting on her face. Could it have been something we said?

A please and a thank-you can change a situation quickly, diffusing bad feelings, and transforming a potential nuclear event into a kitten’s purr.

3. Appreciate Everyone

When was the last time we patted someone on the back? For some, it may be a meaningless gesture, but for others, it translates to a positive experience.

Let us take a moment to think about how it would feel if someone came to us and expressed their gratitude for something we did. Picture their face. Hear their words—if there were words.

Random acts of appreciation bond people.

Whenever we take it upon ourselves to make someone happy, we, in turn, by extension, make ourselves happy. Silly, is it not? It is true, though. Can someone say feelings of euphoria do not course through our veins when we show gratitude toward others?

That little bit of wonderful happens whenever we give of ourselves to others in a selfless and meaningful way.

4. It Is Not All About Us

Sometimes we are the ones who are the biggest stumbling blocks for others.

Either we face the reality that the world will continue on its merry way with or without us, or we continue believing everything we do deserves a spotlight.

There comes a time in one’s life that being a contributing member of society is far better than living in drama.

Here is an example: Johnny decided he was not going to attend his best friend’s wedding. He could not bring himself to shake the jealousy he feels when he sees his best friend with the girl who once rejected him. So he came up with the flimsy excuse that he will be in Europe that same weekend. What Johnny failed to tell his best friend is that he made his plans for Europe the very moment he received the wedding invitation.

Another example is the story of Mary, who hates that her sister bought a new home. Every time her sister posts a photo of the house on Facebook, Mary skips the post and moves on to other items on her newsfeed. One day Mary came upon one too many photos, that she unfriended her sister. Yes, it was an awful thing to do. Of course, she did later regret it and tried to explain it away. Apparently, Facebook had a glitch that unfriended people on her list arbitrarily. Or so she said.

In both cases, Johnny and Mary allowed envy to take root and skew their perspectives. Instead of being happy for his best friend’s upcoming marriage, Johnny drove a wedge between them that will forever affect their friendship. As for Mary, she may have gotten away with lying to her sister this time, but how many more times will she do the same and not hurt their relationship?

Any one of us can become Johnny or Mary.

To prevent this from happening, we have to remain focused and not succumb to the temptation of always wanting to be the center of attention.

5. Help Whenever You Can

The homeless person on the corner of that hectic intersection needs something to eat. What do we do? Do we give money? Do we hand over a portion of our lunch? Or do we extend an invitation for a meal together?

It is easy to turn away people in need. All we have to do is say we are busy and look the part. No one bothers busy people.

But is that something we want to do?

Days before his crucifixion, Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:34-40 ESV).

Getting along with others is not just about agreeing and moving forward. It is about getting involved and making a difference in someone’s life.

This also means helping those who do not like us.

Imagine what a world it would be if we all did that.

Posted in How-To Guides

How to Listen to What Others Have to Say

Have you ever seen those talk shows or news programs where the hosts try to best one another with quick-witted banter and sarcastic remarks? Sometimes it feels as if no one is listening. It seems they all to want to make a point regardless of what anyone else says. After a while, it becomes exhausting.

Listening has become a lost art.

In the book of James, it says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1: 19 NIV throughout).

Is it not interesting that anger should play a central role when communication is concerned? In fact, going back to those TV hosts, you would think that if no one heard their point it would be the end of their existence. Yet, although those off-the-cuff comments may have come out in jest, after everything is over, they do tend to bite.

What James is saying is for us to slow things down, listen to what people have to say before we jump to conclusions with our own point of view.

Someone once said, “If your mouth is moving, you are not listening.” In a way, it is true. Carefully paying attention and giving the floor to others provides us with the opportunity to absorb a whole lot more than when we are talking.

It takes a strong will to refrain from speaking.

James also has this to say about the very instrument that will bring us either incredible happiness or absolute misery, “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

And if you think James is done with his assault on the tongue, he makes it even clearer, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).

The odds are against us. No matter what we do, we will not be able to win against the tongue. How many politicians have sparked an international incident because of their unruly tongues? A slip here, a slip there and the world suddenly becomes unrecognizable.

How many times have we heard someone say, “I have misspoken?” What he or she really means is, “I messed up. I put my foot in my mouth, and I should have thought before I said anything.”

If well-known figures with many years of public speaking experience can still get into trouble with their tongue, what is it to say that we, who have very little practice in lesser situations, will do any better?

That is why it is far better to listen than to speak. It is less likely that we would say something we would later regret when we are listening.

Posted in How-To Guides

How to Forgive and Forget

Given it was a long weekend for many of us, and given I am also one to crave light reading today, I will make this article quick and to the point.

The main theme these past few weeks has been repentance, but what many may not know is that with repentance comes forgiveness.

For God, forgiveness comes easy. As long as we are truly sorry for what we have done, he will forgive us. In God’s mind, it will be as if we have never committed sin.

Then, why is it so difficult for us to do the same?

For us, we carry grudges. “He did this to me. She did that to me. I hate him. I wish he were dead.”

If God used the same measure on us that we use to lay judgment on others, by now, we would all be dead.

But God is incredibly patient, not wanting to lose anyone to that vile enemy, the fallen angel of light. He wants everyone to share in the inheritance of all things.

“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7 NKJV).

With a thought like that, who has time for petty slights, or for that matter, major grievances? No greater possession has God than for him to bestow us all he owns, which also includes granting us eternal life.

Therefore, as children of God, it is time we put away childish things, forgive one another, and look to our inheritance—the universe and everything in it.

Posted in How-To Guides

3 Tips You Can Use to Avoid Being Unhappy

I have taken it upon myself to conduct an experiment—unofficially, of course, but an experiment, nonetheless. For the past week, I have avoided news sites in an effort to determine how it affects my view of things. Surprisingly, I have found the results quite startling.

Before revealing my findings, I would like to talk a bit about how to avoid being unhappy. I can write about this now because a few years ago I went through days when I had allowed dark clouds to dictate how I felt. It was not after several attempts at learning key coping skills, however, that I am now fully aware of what triggers the moodiness.

With that in mind, here are three tips to help you avoid being unhappy.

1. Stay Clear of Self-Absorbed People

You know the ones of whom I am referring. These folks have nothing but drama in their lives. They cannot seem to look beyond themselves to acknowledge others are living on this planet, too.

I am not talking about people who look to do good in spite of common challenges. I am pointing my finger at narcissists, whose only world is their own. They expect others to worship their every grand accomplishment regardless of their rather ordinary existence.

Avoid these people like used serving bowls, which appear clean on the outside, but are filthy from within. They want you to feel sorry for them because their self-esteem is shattered. They want you to be their strength because they cannot muster enough of it themselves.

And if you do not supply them with their needs, they will move on to those who can.

Run away. You will be happier without them in your life.

2. Be Thankful for at Least One Positive Thing Today

Something incredible happens when you become aware of your surroundings. You learn to see the good, and you change for the better.

Since early February, I have resolved to be thankful for at least one positive thing daily.

As silly as it sounds, when I think about how eating a piece of cheese could brighten my day, I appreciate the experience more than anything I could ever imagine doing in this entire world.

Catching the train on time, listening to a favorite song, the weather cooperating during an event, traffic being light during the journey home, and other things, could mean the difference between unhappiness and being grateful to be alive.

Find that one thing to be thankful for today and cherish the moment. It is another step toward remaining in that positive mindset you so desire.

3. Give God the Glory

I was sick for several days this winter, but you would not have known it had I not told you. That is because throughout the entire ordeal I was giving God the glory.

Why is it we cry out to God whenever we need him? Why can we not pray and thank him every day simply for the very breath that flows in our lungs?

I have grown to include God in every aspect of my life—not because I have to, but because I want to. I realize he has made me, and he has sent his only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for all the evil things I have done on this earth since the first drop of blood coursed through my veins.

Once I came to the realization God is the only one who will lead me out of illness and into unbound prosperity and health, it is easy to give him the glory for everything that happens in my life.

And if I should so find myself suffering for something he deems me worthy to suffer, then I will not hold back my praise for his awesome kindness toward me. He always has a reason why I should go through the things he puts me through—either to make me better in this life or the next.

God always has a reason.

The Results

Getting back to my little experiment of late—you know, the one about my avoiding news sites this past week?

As strange as it may sound, the longer I lingered on a news site, the more I felt my mood shift from bright and cheery to sullen and downcast.

That is correct. Today’s news is a drag.

Conversely, I also found that when I read about how people had achieved a milestone in their lives—a birth, a graduation, a wedding—my view remained sunny and filled with hope.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But certainly, my experience is something I would not dismiss as trivial. As unscientific as it is, this experiment has taught me to be extra careful with what I feed this puny brain of mine. This pinkish mass in my skull has to last me a lifetime. I cannot play with it in such a way that it would affect my mood, which in turn would affect others who come in contact with me.

Therefore, although this is something I am learning now, I will list this point separately.

Feed your mind with good things and watch your day transform for the better.

Posted in How-To Guides

How to Appreciate What You Have

Life is more than what we can get from other people. It has to do with love, joy, peace, happiness. It is not taking advantage of a situation because of a weakness or flaw in someone else’s reasoning skills. Not everyone is equal. Everyone is different, and with differences come challenges. That is what life is all about, to meet those challenges head on and to grow into better versions of ourselves.

I did not always feel this way.

If anything, I was one of those people who would swoop into a jammed parking lot, steal the last empty spot from an old lady so that I could finish my own Christmas shopping.

I was the guy who would take advantage of a two-for-one sale, going back to the store several times to make many purchases of the same product, in spite of quantities being limited.

And I was the jerk who did not believe in garbage cans. The city made sidewalks more than for walking. At least that is what I believed.

But, I have grown. I have matured. What seemed so important years ago does not seem so much that now. With a change in heart comes an appreciation for the simple things in life.

The simple things make life special.

I so love the way an ice cream cone twirls at the top when ordering it from a truck in the middle of summer.

I cannot get enough of the clouds dancing along the edge of the sky while playing a game of “Guess What I Am”.

I look forward to sitting at the table with my family, talking about how everyone’s day went, and discovering something I did not know before.

My nightly routine involves reading God’s word as a way to ease my mind of the day’s troubles.

And nothing compares to holding someone I love in my arms. Nothing comes close.

Is that all there is to it?

Well, yes. I look at the little things, and they are the things that make me happy. That is how I am able to appreciate what I have. As long as I keep the little things in mind, life goes a whole lot smoother.

I would not want it any other way.

Posted in How-To Guides

5 Ways to Break a Bad Habit

We all have them but are too afraid to admit it. They dominate our lives, they control our routines, and they sour our mood.

What are they? They are bad habits. And bad habits is bad news for those wanting to live happy and abundant lives.

Let us take a moment to have a look at five ways we can break bad habits, and the benefits that come from overcoming weaknesses.

1. Confess the Habit

Mildred: “Judy, you may not believe it, but I bite my nails, bad.”

Judy: “I noticed, you have yet to gnaw off your cuticle to the bone.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to beating a bad habit. What better way to admit you have a problem than to confess it to a friend or loved one.

As difficult as it sounds, it really is easy to do. The problem lies with forgetting about your ego so you can grow into a better person.

If you find you cannot tell your bad habits to someone around you, you can take to writing them down on paper. Once you read them to yourself several times, you can either burn or introduce scissors to them.

In my case, I have done both. I have written them down and destroyed them, and I have told Luana about my deepest, darkest secrets as a way to throw away the insecurities caused by my weaknesses.

Yes, you may think that is extreme, but confessing our bad habits to others liberates us from carrying the burden ourselves.

2. Recognize the Triggers

Central to every bad habit rests a trigger. That trigger could be the innocent whiff of a scrumptious cake, the sight of a beautiful woman, or simply the craving for something that will calm the nerves.

Whatever the trigger, it will lead you to where you do not want to go. Therefore, recognize it. Tame it. And move on to bigger and better things.

It is easy to say, but incredibly hard to do. How do you recognize the very thing that causes you to stumble?

Self-reflection is an awesome power that all of us bad-habit harbingers possess. By finding a quiet spot and reflecting on what causes us to fall, we can identify the trigger. It will not happen overnight, but every moment we spend on improving ourselves is a moment spent overcoming a bad habit.

Sometimes, it is a matter of working through mock scenarios in order to determine the origin of the bad habit. Again, it will take time, but do not ever think it is time spent in a useless pursuit.

You will find the trigger. You will overcome your bad habit.

3. Replace the Bad with the Good

What is your bad habit? Is it eating late-night snacks before bed? Are you saddled with debt but cannot help spending more money on that fancy new vacation? Do you drink more than you should, even though you know it will lead to long-term health problems?

The best way to throw away a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. Positive reinforcement is better than negative execution. Find the bad and lift away its effects on your life by flooding it with good.

You would love to eat a slew of late-night snacks. I understand that. Try drinking water, it will fill you and act as a cleanser. You have so much debt that you do not know how you will handle it in several months when the creditors start knocking on your door to repossess your home. Forget about that vacation and work at cutting down your spending. After all, you would like to have a future without worrying about who you owe, right? And that cocktail you are thinking about consuming? Consider having a soda, or, better yet, a tea. Always think about the future. Learn how your actions today will shape your tomorrow.

Do you bite your nails? Snack on carrots. Do you have a problem with wandering eyes? Think of the one you love. Are you prone to laziness? Find something to do other than watching television. It may sound harsh, but we are talking about getting rid of the things that hold us back from achieving our true potential.

4. Make New Friends

Every bad habit carries with it baggage. That baggage includes friends who are enablers. And enablers only have one thing on their mind—their own self-gratification.

Surround yourself with people who genuinely love you for who you are.

When you are with enablers, they will tear your down, strip you of your character, and allow you to struggle and fall in a pool of your own misery. What you need to do is identify the enablers and cut them from your life. How far do you go?

Think of them as if they never existed.

You never knew them.

The other side of it is you now have the chance to meet new people who will build you up, carry you forward, and believe in you for the person you are and not the person they think you ought to be.

New friends mean new experiences, which translates to new opportunities for growth.

5. Bring God to the Fight

Everyone may have a concept of what or who God is. For me, God is the creator of all things, the one who sacrificed his only son, Jesus, for the salvation of the many. Without God, I do not know where I would be.

When faced with a destructive pattern, it is good to know that a higher power, such as God, is there to fight on our behalf. We do not have to fight alone. Whatever the frailty, strength is always available. We can tap into it and not worry about the cost.

When our minds focus on eternity, the awful behaviors that plague us now do not seem so unstoppable. We can continue living, knowing there is always someone there to pick us up after a fall.

The trick is to permit that strength to course through our lives. In so doing, breaking a bad habit then becomes possible.