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Habits: Are They Working For or Against You?

Habits: Are They Working For or Against You?

We are creatures of habit. Habits are great because we don’t have to think about every move we make. It’s like being on auto pilot. But they can also keep us from achieving what we want in life.

We need to be aware of the habits that can help or hinder us. The next three posts will focus on understanding our habits and learning how we can replace them.

How did we choose the habits we have and what keeps them in place?

Connected to habits are behaviors of some kind. Behaviors continue because we get a payoff or reward that motivates us to keep doing what we are doing.

As behaviors are reinforced, they are repeated and soon become habitual. That reward comes either in the form of receiving something positive or removal of something we don’t want. We call one a “positive reinforcement” and the other a “negative reinforcement.”

Here are some examples of how that works:

A mother gives a child who is making a big fuss in the store some candy so he will be quiet. The child has just been “rewarded positively” for his yelling and screaming.

But the mother has also been rewarded. Hers was a “negative reward” because something she didn’t want was removed: the yelling and screaming stopped.

For habits to form, the behavior needs to be reinforced (positively or negatively) repeatedly and consistently. After they are in place, they only need to be reinforced intermittently. We call that “intermittent reinforcement.”

Example: Your child cleans his room and each time he does you reward him with a hug, positive comments and extra computer time which he highly prizes. Gradually, as cleaning his room becomes fairly consistent, only occasional rewards are needed such as “good job” comments or extra playtime. The behavior has become a habit.

When we evaluate our habits, it is important to examine the rewards we receive, both on a short term and long-term basis.

For example: it soon becomes a habit to come home from work and spend hours on social media sites. While it may be fun and relaxing after a long day, it can become addictive and other things do not get done—dinners become quick fixes, dishes don’t get washed, and children are sent out to play so we don’t have to be bothered. While there is nothing wrong with relaxing after a hard day at work, without limitations and time restraints that we set, those habits can soon take over our life.

Which habits do you have that are helping you over time?

We are the ones who establish the habits that soon become a lifestyle. And we are the only ones who can evaluate them and determine what changes we want to make.

All behaviors have a consequence of some kind. When evaluating our habits, it is important to consider how they affect us over time. If you want your life and goals to work for you, it’s important to know how you use your time.

Behavior Modification Summary

Here is a quick recap of how behaviors are reinforced and become habits. All behaviors have consequences – positive or negative, short-term and long-term.  And remember, habits and behaviors are kept in place because we are rewarded in some way.

1. Positive Reinforcement

Behavior = Consequence (something received) >> Behavior increases.

Example: Child cleans room, gets hug and extra TV time – behavior is reinforced and will continue or increase.

2. Negative Reinforcement

Behavior = consequence (something is removed) >> Behavior increases.

Example: Child whines at store for candy. Mom gives in, child is positively reinforced (gets candy); Mom is negatively rewarded because child stops whining. Child learns that whining eventually pays off if Mom at some point gives in. Mom chooses a quick solution to get peace, but with long term negative consequences.

3. Intermittent Reinforcement

Reinforcement is done once in a while rather than consistent and immediate.

Changing or Replacing Habits

To change habits, we change the behavior that is involved. Understanding our behaviors and the rewards we get is the first step in keeping those that are beneficial and replacing those that are not.

Next week’s post will discuss how to remove habits we don’t want.

Marlene Anderson


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Making that Transition

Making that Transition | FocusWithMarlene.com

At the end of January, I started a series of blog posts based on a new program that will be coming out soon entitled, “Yes I Can, Step out in Confidence.”

The program focuses on how to pick up the pieces from a major setback and create a winning new focus for your life. These posts and the ones coming up are a preview of what my program offers.

Setbacks as opportunities

While it might be difficult to grasp the concept that setbacks can be one of our greatest life opportunities, it is when we are forced by circumstances to stop and evaluate that we can reflect, examine, and discover what works and get rid of what hinders our progress.

When we know what isn’t working, we can replace it with a new program that gives us the tools to succeed.

How do we start over when we feel there are no solutions to our problems?

When we get knocked down, we not only get discouraged, but waste our creative energy striking out or blaming others for our difficulties or distress. Remaining in that mindset takes away our personal power, and as we learned in the post on forgiveness, we can remain in a never-ending toxic cycle of bitterness and anger. Our focus remains on what we can’t do and not on what we can do.

Using setbacks to our advantage

Over the past two months, we’ve focused on starting the process of taking back our life by reviewing what we bring with us from our past that continues to undermine our confidence.

Completing the stories from our past gave us the opportunity to take a more measured look at what happened in our growing-up years and how it can have a negative influence today.

We were able to redefine and write a new narrative moving forward.

We are not our past. Our past does not define who we are unless we allow it to.

In last week’s post, we talked about building a positive bridge from the past to the present.

During this next series, our focus will be on our habits, and how they either help or hinder us.

  • How do your habits help you maximize your time?
  • What can you do differently that will help you accomplish your goals?

Our habits can influence everything in life, including stress levels, relationships, rest and relaxation and family time.

I would love to hear from you about the struggles you may be experiencing. What did you learn from the previous posts that has changed your perspective of who you are and who you can become?

  • What things are working for you and what isn’t?
  • Which habits would you like to change to maximize your time?

Your input is valuable to me and I will address your questions in upcoming posts.

Marlene Anderson


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I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

12 Positive Affirmations to Help Bridge Your Past with Your Future

12 Positive Affirmations to Help Bridge Your Past with Your Future | focuswithmarlene.com

Bridges are incredible feats of engineering and ingenuity, rising high above deep gorges, over rivers and large bodies of water. I am fascinated by the ingenuity required to design such lofty and expansive works that are both practical and majestic; a combination of beauty and strength.

I like to use the analogy of bridges because we are constructing them every day. They make connections between couples and families. They bridge the gap between our past and future and expand our possibilities as we move from one venture to another.

Over the last couple of months here on my blog, we’ve been thinking about the stories we create to define what we are going through. We learned that we can change the narrative to work for us instead of against us. Setbacks do happen. But we can turn them into opportunities.

We have the opportunity to learn many things when going through tough times. They teach us about ourselves, what worked for good in the past and what kept us stuck going nowhere.

Our past reveals many things, some of which we want to leave behind, such as old resentments and old beliefs that say we can’t succeed. We want to take with us the knowledge that we have the strength, resilience and determination to succeed.

As we build that positive bridge from our past to our future, we want to take with us the valuable lessons learned that hold a promising new beginning.

Here are 12 positive affirmations to take with you as you build new bridges

  1. Re-working the stories of my past can heal old wounds, release emotional conflict and reframe my future going forward. Thinking constantly about times I failed eliminates the positive and magnifies the negative.
  2. Reflecting on my past heals old wounds, enables us to let go of resentments and build better bridges in the future.
  3. I can believe in myself – my ability to survive and build something positive.
  4. I believe I can if I put my mind to it. I can change my thinking.
  5. There is an inner strength in all of us that is waiting to be tapped into. I am capable of much more than I think. I just have to allow myself to believe it.
  6. I am not a victim of my past. Bad things happened, but it doesn’t define who I am unless I allow it.
  7. I am capable of meeting whatever challenges the future has for me. I have overcome many obstacles in the past and can do it in the future. Overcoming obstacles requires resiliency and determination. I have survived and thrived in spite of setbacks. I have more grit than I give myself credit for.
  8. I can let go of resentments because by hanging onto them I am hurting myself. Forgiveness does not mean I minimize the hurt I feel. It is making peace with a bitter part of my past. I can move on without its heavy load.
  9. Forgiveness doesn’t mean automatic reconciliation. Reconciliation means I re-establish a relationship with the person who hurt me. Forgiveness means I make peace with a bitter part of my past and no longer blame my experiences on the offender. It is a personal decision to refuse to reply the hurt over and over again.
  10. I have triumphed over hurtful things. Understanding that I don’t have to continue to carry that heavy load of resentments with me wherever I go is the greatest gift I can give myself.
  11. In extending grace and understanding, I can build better bridges in the future within my relationships, where I can articulate my concerns but also listen and respect that of others. Developing our communication skills is a great bridge builder.
  12. Acceptance of who I am develops self-confidence. With acceptance I can set appropriate boundaries for myself and respect the boundaries of others. I choose to accept both the strengths and weaknesses I have and feel okay. I can love myself unconditionally.

Expand the list above and make it your own. You are the designer and builder of the bridges in your life.

Marlene Anderson


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I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Letters of Goodbye – Completing an Ending

Letters of Goodbye – Completing an Ending | focuswithmarlene.comTraumatic events, whether they happened today or in the past, represent an ending of some kind. Something you valued was taken away.

Grieving is coming to terms with those losses. It is finding a way to reconcile unfortunate or tragic events. If we hurry from that ending before putting to rest emotional turmoil and unanswered questions, it can make it difficult to create a new beginning.

When I began this series on “Picking up the Pieces,” I asked you to consider the stories you tell and become aware of the narrative you use. The way we describe our circumstances can make a difference in completing an ending and beginning a new chapter in our lives.

Like you and many others, I have had significant losses over the years. I lost both my husband and son to cancer, faced the sale of my home, loss of financial security and starting over again.

In presenting workshops and classes and facilitating support groups, I have come to appreciate the depth and scope of people’s losses and their grief.  And it seems at times that losses come in bunches, with barely enough time to recover from one before we are hit again.

7 things to consider completing an ending

  1. We need the support and understanding of others while working through grief. That may be in a support group, individual counseling or a friend who will listen as we share.

 

  1. Grieving is going through the pain. It takes time to work through the knots and tangles of our losses. There is a tendency to run away or bottle up painful emotions hoping they will go away.

 

  1. Ungrieved losses from childhood can be triggered and need to be recognized and processed. Grieving early childhood losses means working through issues of lack of nurturing and lack of encouragement. It involves releasing old bottled up hurts. Grieving involves recognizing whatever we have lost and finding ways to replace it.

 

  1. Losses produce a multitude of emotions — some more common than others, such as anger, guilt, or shame. Recognizing and working through these is important to keep from getting stuck. There won’t always be reasonable solutions to our questions. You may feel that you did not receive justice where there was an injustice.

 

  1. There are many layers to our losses. The death of a spouse includes the loss of your social circles, loss of what had been predictable and sometimes major financial concerns. The loss of an unborn child means a loss of sharing with other parents raising children. The loss of a marriage has many layers that are ongoing reminders of what used to be.

 

  1. Grieving takes time, involves acceptance so we can let go, reconciling things that can’t be changed and working towards a new reality. Losses require a new way to look at ourselves. In a sense, we are creating a new identity – I knew who I was, but who am I now? Losses aren’t processed in just a few months or even a year. That transition from what was to what is now takes time.

 

  1. Write a letter of goodbye. First, if you lost a loved one, write a letter to him or her and tell them how much they meant to you, what you wished you had said or hadn’t said, what you miss most about them and what is the hardest for you moving forward. Include in this letter how you are keeping your memories alive.

Do the same thing when you address other things you lost such as a dream for the future, loss of the ability to be a parent,  your health or physical abilities. While it might seem weird, writing a letter can help you put down all the positive things associated with your loss and how holding on to dreams have made you a wiser and better person. .

It is important to know that while we feel vulnerable and emotional; our tears are not a sign of weakness but of courage and strength. Acceptance of what has happened allows us to take the next step of transitioning to a new reality.

Marlene Anderson


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I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves

Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves | focuswithmarlene.com

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.

The chief drawback is what you are wolfing down is yourself.

The skeleton at the feast is you.”

 Frederick Buechner,
Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
(New York: Harper & Row, 1973)

Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). We take it as a moral imperative.

But it isn’t just Jesus that tells us how important forgiveness is; science confirms it as well. In fact, to not forgive is putting a slow death sentence on ourselves, as the theologian Frederick Buechner so aptly describes.

Most of us deal with the sins and transgressions of others in the moment. We get mad, pull away, and then make up and go on.

When we are the transgressors, we do the same. With minor goofs and slip ups, we feel bad in the moment, apologize and then move on.

When we personalize indiscretions or offenses of others, we are setting ourselves up for the creation of a “grievance story,” as detailed by Dr. Fred Luskin, in his book, Forgive for Good.

When we hang on to resentment, it becomes more toxic over time. The suggestions offered by Dr. Luskin can help us better understand how and why we are so quickly offended and what we can do to change such a trajectory.

7 ways we can make forgiveness a gift rather than an obligation

Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves | focuswithmarlene.com

1. Don’t make “unenforceable” rules.

Unenforceable rules are expectations and assumptions that everyone must follow or we will be personally insulted and offended.

Associated with such rules are the words “should, must, have to and ought.”

When you hear yourself saying these words, ask what you are demanding from either yourself or another. How are you eliminating personal choice?

2. Own your feelings.

We blame others for how we feel. People can’t make us feel a certain way unless we allow it. We can choose other ways to respond that doesn’t involve escalating anger, ill will or hatred.

3. An injury does not create a “grievance story” – we do.

We can reframe our situations, become less critical and balance troubled times with humor.

4. Forgiveness and reconciliation is not the same thing.

Forgiving prepares the way for reconciliation – it doesn’t automatically say it will happen.

Forgiveness is letting go of trying to get retribution.

Forgiveness of self says I can admit when I am wrong, apologize and ask for forgiveness and stop beating myself up.

5. Forgiveness does not mean condoning unkindness, inconsiderate or selfish behavior, or excusing bad behavior.

It does not deny or minimize the hurt, pain or injury done to us. It just refuses to make it into an ongoing resentment story that becomes toxic over time. We are the ones hurt by not forgiving.

6. Coming to terms with unpleasantness in life helps us understand we are not perfect or flawless.

We will make mistakes and need grace and forgiveness. Although people will hurt us, they are often unaware that they have offended us.

7. Forgiveness is a choice.

We make the conscious decision to let go of the hurts and wrongs.

Forgiveness requires we first define our grievance. When we can articulate the details of the hurtful event, we will know exactly what we are forgiving.

Acknowledge, accept your feelings and then make that conscious choice to forgive. Forgiving helps us from getting hurt in the future.

Forgiveness allows me to let go of the pain and experience peace. I choose to forgive. How about you?

Marlene Anderson

To receive a handout on Forgiveness, send me an e-mail. I would appreciate your comments and a discussion on this topic.

  • What unforgiveable sin is hard to let go of?
  • What is the cost of hanging on and what would be the long term benefit for you?

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I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Coming to Terms With Loss, Tragedy, and Injustice

Coming to Terms With Loss, Tragedy, and Injustice | FocusWithMarlene.com

Writing about our stories helps us see what happened, and our role in the outcome, from a new perspective. It also gives us the opportunity to take away nuggets of learning and wisdom.

Yet, there might be things that happened that make it difficult to let go and that continue to spark your anger. You still feel betrayed and taken advantage of. Forgiveness is out of the question as far as you are concerned and you are not ready to acknowledge any participation on your part to what happened.

Resentments continue to burn deep within your soul and spirit and an internal dialogue repeats:

“I have a right to feel angry and bitter. I was taken advantage of and made to feel stupid. If I simply accept and let it go, won’t I be admitting that I really am a fool?  How can I come to terms with that?”

Life experiences will be both good and bad.

We will experience events in life that take advantage of our good will, our desire to get along and be a good neighbor.

There will be tragedies associated with someone else’s hate or lack of responsibility or careless actions that leave us crippled or disabled in some way.

There will be achievements thwarted; losses too deep to speak about.

There will be many things that cannot be changed: the death of a spouse, the loss of your marriage, addiction, loss of health or finances; and the loss of support and care in your declining year.

Discover a new way to move forward.

Coming to terms with injustice, tragedies and losses of any kind, whether in our past or present, first requires acceptance.

Hanging on to our losses and injustices is like carrying around a huge suitcase full of rocks and stones. It keeps getting heavier and heavier and robs you of your ability to move forward.

Coming to terms requires acceptance.

Acceptance doesn’t mean everything will suddenly be back to normal or okay. It simply means you stop fighting and arguing about how cruel the world is or how badly you have been treated. Life is not fair. We can grumble and moan and rant and rave, but we can’t change history; we can’t change what others have done or what we have done.

By making a conscious and deliberate choice to let go of anger, hate, resentment and lingering frustration, you can have a different outcome.

Coming to terms is for you.

Coming to terms means that after we stop denying, fighting or struggling, we make a decision to leave what can’t be changed behind and decide to bring forward what is good. There is some good that can come out of the worst atrocity.

  • We can reach out our hand to someone who is hurting.
  • We can develop a compassion for others who are struggling.
  • We can see the pain of a neighbor and offer a word of understanding and comfort.

In any moment in time, we choose how we will respond to life.

Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist, Jew and survivor of the concentration camps of WWII wrote: “To live is to suffer; to survive is to find meaning in the suffering.”

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he shares that even in the horrendous conditions of Auschwitz, “What alone is the last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”

We will be challenged to live our values in the face of discarded principles and standards. We will be challenged to choose how we want to respond to life – both in our past and in the future. We will be challenged to make decisions that go counter to our desire to get payback or get even or follow the crowd.

But it is in those challenges that we grow and become more of who we are – a child of God and someone who endeavors to make a difference.

No matter the struggle, we can hang on to faith and hope and love and work through the knots and tangles of life.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

How to Change the Narrative When Your Emotions Are Holding You Hostage

How to Change the Narrative When Your Emotions Are Holding You Hostage | focuswithmarlene.com

The words we repeat over and over again have an emotional effect on us. They can hold us hostage to everything that is going wrong. When things go well, our stories are upbeat and hopeful. When life takes a downturn, so does our narrative. The focus shifts to what we lost and how miserable we feel.

Step out of the emotional arena, take a deep breath and think about the possibilities you have. Change your narrative from what you can’t do to what you can.

Here are seven ways you can change a pessimistic narrative to an optimistic one.

1. Become aware of what you say to yourself.

Unexpected catastrophes and setbacks due to illness or losses result in drastic changes. Our first reaction is feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

Our internal dialogue has consequences. Self-talk that reflects incompetence will rob you of the motivation you need to find a way forward.

Shift your focus to what you can do instead of everything that went wrong.

2. Step out of the emotional arena.

When we concentrate on how we feel, it is difficult to look for options. There is a cost and benefit to everything we do.

What emotional payoff are you getting by clinging to a pessimistic narrative, and what is the long-term cost?

3. Evaluate and clarify.

There are many components to events that create havoc in our lives. Do a quick assessment. Oftentimes things won’t look quite as bad when we broaden our perspective.

  • What can we fix right now?
  • What needs to be worked on over time?
  • What pieces can we salvage to create a new picture of success?

4. Consider other people in your life.

Problems and catastrophes tend to make us feel irritable and defensive. Anxiety about our future can make it difficult to communicate our wants and needs.

Be honest about what you are experiencing.

Don’t expect others to know how you feel, your level of anxiety or concerns.

We are often hesitant to speak about our vulnerabilities, but we gain inner strength when we can articulate our fears and anxieties.

5. Work together on solutions.

Problems can put a strain on family and close relationships. Personality traits and resistant tendencies affect our ability to work toward satisfactory resolutions.

What are you bringing to the table that can make it difficult to have a discussion?

How can a change in narrative help?

Change your demand of “you have to change” to one of “we can work together.”

Communicate your wants and needs; but also listen respectfully to the wants and needs and feelings of others.

6. Know what triggers your defense mechanism.

Remind yourself to stop, think and consider whenever you have a knee-jerk defense/attack response.

Are you saying or doing things that trigger another person’s need to attack and defend?

We can listen, respect differences and accept another’s point of view while setting logical and practical guidelines for discussion. This establishes rules of engagement that allow us to step back and take a time out if necessary to cool off.

7. Solution Focus Therapy offers a different approach to problems.

It asks you to imagine going to bed at night and waking in the morning with your problem solved.

  • What would that look like?
  • What would you be doing and how would you feel?

Focusing attention on the solution rather than the problem, allows us a new narrative.

Think about when life was different – a time when things were going well and you were happy.

  • What were you doing to make that happen?
  • When did life change and the problem begin? (See reference link at bottom)

Not all problems are resolved to our satisfaction. But we can start anew by changing the narrative of our story from reactive to proactive where we actively look for solutions.

Marlene Anderson

Sources:

Ackerman, C. (2017). What is solution-focused therapy: 3 essential techniques. Positive Psychology Program. Retrieved on 24 January, 2018,

O’Hanlon and Weiner-Davis, Michele, In Search of Solutions, 2003, W. W. Norton & Co. Inc.

Metcalf, Linda, PhD, Solution Focused Narrative Therapy, 2017, Springer Publishing Co., N.Y.


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I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Humor: My Teachable Moment

At any moment in time, things can happen that can disrupt our day. We can learn important insights at such times.

Here is something that happened to me that became a teachable moment. It illustrates how frustrating and irritating events can become priceless lessons.

My Teachable Moment

I was washing clothes, preparing for a family camping trip. The water flow to my washing machine had been exceedingly slow and I had improvised by attaching a hose from my laundry tub faucet to my washing machine to fill it.

When the phone rang in our office, I didn’t bother to shut off the faucet because I hadn’t planned on being gone for more than a minute. But it was a business call that took longer than anticipated. As I answered questions and took down information I completely forgot about the laundry until I hung up the phone. Then I remembered with panic, the water was still running.

I dashed into the kitchen and saw with horror the water overflowing from a very full washing machine, onto my floor, flooding the laundry room and adjoining kitchen. In a recent remodel we had installed kitchen carpet, which was the rage at that time, to both the kitchen and laundry room. The carpet was saturated and the water was pooling on top.

I shut off the faucet and stood there appalled, thinking about all the things that needed to be done before leaving the next day. How would I clean up this mess on top of packing?  It wasn’t just the carpet that needed to be dried, but also boxes of sewing material that had been stacked at the end of the laundry room.

It was at this precise moment when my husband opened the door from the garage and stepped into the laundry room, and stopped short as he looked first at the floor and then at me. And as was his nature, he immediately saw the absurdity and humorous side of the situation.

I remember thinking as I looked at him: don’t you dare laugh. It is not funny. If you had fixed that water pressure problem weeks ago, I wouldn’t be in this situation.

But I didn’t say it because in the very next second I received a thunderbolt revelation. I could either remain angry or I could laugh. I had a choice. I could see the funny side. Either way, the cleanup job needed to be done. But with humor, the job would be so much easier.

I have shared this story many times because of the valuable lesson I learned. I vividly remember how my whole demeanor and body changed when I made the decision to see humor instead of engaging in anger. There might be an immediate instinctive and automatic response to events, but we don’t have to stay there. We can choose to see things differently.

Why is this story relevant? Because medical research tells us how powerful humor and laughter can be to our overall health. According to Psychology Today, “Laughter reduces pain, increases job performance, connects people emotionally, and improves the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain.”

If humor and laughter are so powerful, why don’t we do more of it?

We can learn to laugh at ourselves and circumstances. It’s not just a fun way to approach life, but a powerful medicine that heals the soul and mends the body.

Laughter is a tonic that makes today better and creates hope for tomorrow.  Humor is a mini-vacation, a “breath of fresh air,” and a way to cope.

Comedians make their lively-hood by taking traumatic circumstances and spinning them into humor. Each of us has the same ability to create humor and laugh in spite of our tears.

“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”  -Mark Twain

“The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” -H.G. Wells

What makes you laugh?

What stories of your past could you revisit and discover that kernel of humor?

You will have moments when everything goes wrong and your first response is anger and frustration. But you do not need to stay there. The next time you want to rage with anger or sink into despair, stop and re-frame the situation. Find that humor, chuckle, and laugh.

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!!!”

-Leo Buscaglia

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

What Stories Are You Telling?

In preparing a speech and workshop for a group of writers on memoirs, I thought about how the threads of our past continue to have an influence on everything we do. Those threads are the many stories that make up our lives.

There are many stories that need to be told – stories that only you can tell.  While we may live through similar times, everyone experiences those times differently and each of us will have a different interpretation of what occurred.

There will be funny stories and stories that break your heart, but all have an important message to share.

They tell us we can endure hard times and gain something positive from even the worst of situations; there is hope for the future.

It’s not only the stories we tell other people, but the stories we tell ourselves. We constantly relive what happens in some way.

Does your story include hope and grace and some redeeming qualities?

Within the worst of situations, we find elements of bravery, compassion, sacrifice, understanding, and even humor.

Memoirs – Our Special Stories

What Stories Are You Telling? | Focuswithmarlene.com

A memoir is a slice of life, a story within the story of our lives. They are highly personal and we may find them difficult to write because we are asked to go beyond the recall of events. In our narrative, we identify our weaknesses and shortcomings as well as our strengths and triumphs which make us and our story human, relatable, credible and engaging.

Within memoirs, there is a theme – a subject or distinct and unifying idea or principle. You can write about your childhood, the places you have visited, a funny event, giving a speech, anything. The people you share your narrative with want to experience something vivid and a story that will shine a light on their own experiences or lives.

A memoir shows how much we all have in common. It doesn’t have to be dramatic to be of interest. We want to come away understanding, however subtle, what it means to be human.

Writing is both powerful and therapeutic. It helps us re-examine events objectively and coherently, and come to terms with life-altering changes. It gives us the opportunity to grieve old losses, heal old wounds and put to rest difficult memories.

Your Slice of Life

You may not consider yourself a writer, but you do tell stories. Imagine you are writing about things that have happened in your life. This is a fun exercise anyone can do.

  • Take a piece of paper and write down some of the events that have happened over time, events that had some influence or made a difference in some way.
  • Beside each event, write why this had importance. Maybe it is a crazy event that enabled you to see the humor in the absurdity of what happened. Maybe it reminded you of how we can persevere and survive even in the toughest of times.
  • Pick one event and write a story about it.

Writing gives voice to what we have experienced.

Be honest.  Don’t skip over the tough parts. We need to know the facts as we identified them along with the emotions we felt. How did events affect us both in the short term and long term? Don’t omit the questions, struggles, and doubts you had about life, others, God and yourself.

It is in the struggles where we gain humility, insight and become better people. That does not reflect weakness – but a desire to be honest and genuine.

Clarity comes as we begin to tell our story in some way and helps to coherently piece together our experiences, and re-frame the ending. Expanding our understanding of our life experiences helps us to come to terms with difficult times.

As you write, think about the strengths and resilience and determination you have gained over time. We tend to forget what it takes to go through tough times. Whether you share your story with others or not, in the writing and telling it to yourself, you acquire a greater appreciation for you and others.

Accept and celebrate all the parts of your life’s journey – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

An Interview with Yourself

Several years ago, I did an interview with Stephanie Hill Williams, a Christian radio station host. Before the interview, I was given a set of questions to preview that would be used in our discussion. They included my childhood years, family, career goals and my aspirations as a writer and speaker.

This interview made me pause and think about who I am, what in my upbringing helped me achieve and what things continue to make me struggle. We rarely stop to consider who we are because we are too busy living life.

When facing difficulties, all the negative attributes we have placed on ourselves rush to the front and center of our thinking. We forget all the productive things we have done.

Exploring who we are may seem scary at first.  After all, we left home hoping to leave everything unpleasant behind us. But exploring those early years will help us recognize the strengths we have.

Who am I?

Imagine you are a radio host who is asking questions about who you are. This is not an interview for a job but a conversation you are having with yourself. Consider the following questions and suggestions as a way to have this conversation.

 

  • How would you define who you are and what makes “you” you? Think of the following questions as prompts to help you put into words your description.

 

  • What qualities or attributes do you believe you have? Do you see yourself as upbeat, strong, determined, cautious, leader, follower, peacemaker, etc?

 

  • What personality traits or characteristics describe you? (Thoughtful, contemplative, caring, introspective, charismatic, stubborn, assertive, etc.)

 

  • What are your talents and abilities?  Are you artistic, computer and technology savvy, athletic, gardening enthusiast, homemaker, designer, problem solver, musician, etc?

 

  • Would you consider yourself an extrovert who is energized interacting with other people or more of an introvert who feels less comfortable in social circles?

 

  • On a piece of paper, write a short story about what it was like growing up. Were you part of a large family or a small one? Perhaps you were an only child? Where did you fit into the family structure (eldest, middle, or youngest)? Research indicates that birth order has predictable outcomes.

 

  • Were you encouraged to develop your potential growing up or were you constantly compared negatively with others? Do you continue to compare yourself, always seeing others as more competent and successful than yourself?

 

Taking time to reflect can reveal the many attributes we have that have helped us succeed in the past that we can use again.

When we’ve hit some major roadblocks or setbacks, our thoughts typically revolve around all the reasons we can’t succeed and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Change your focus from what you can’t do to finding solutions you need.

Throughout life there will be turning points, defining moments when we can stop and reflect.  These are opportunities to eliminate what isn’t working and put in place the resources we need. Beginning with a more measured assessment of who we are, and what helped us become successful in the past can make a new start both exciting and productive.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series:  http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.