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Anthony J. D'Angelo: Become addicted to constant and never ending self improvement.

 

Two Sides to Every Situation

“’The only people who see the whole picture,' he murmured, 'are the ones who step out of the frame.’” Salman Rushdie

​                                                       4th Qtr 2017

As a child, the adults in my life kept asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up. Even at the age of five, I realized this must be an important question because so many people were interested in my future. So I thought as long and as hard as a five year old could about a future that seemed so far away. I began thinking about my favorite TV shows.

I loved western shows: Roy Rodgers, The Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Wyatt Earp, Bonanza, to name a few. I watched western girls with her long flowing dresses that tossed about as they rode English on their beautiful stallions. I decided I wanted to be a cowgirl.

Then a couple of years later when I was a bit wiser, I realized that maybe becoming a cowgirl wasn’t all that attractive. I went on a lot of horseback riding escapades and this is what I learned: All they wanted to do was to get back to their barns and eat. Once dismounted, I swear my legs bowed out big time

There are always two-sides to every situation, to every story, to every opportunity. What may seem glamorous at first, when considering the flip side of the coin…hmmm…we might guess again. For these reasons alone, we shouldn’t make rash decisions of a situation. Rather give yourself enough time to gather enough information so you can make an informed decision for yourself. Here are a few tips to consider:

Be patient: It’s rare that information gathering happens overnight. Sometimes the waiting can take a toll. Always remember that a stitch in time saves nine. By patiently waiting, you could save yourself many seasons of unrest and unhappiness.

Keep an open mind: The purpose of gathering information means that we should keep an open mind and collect all kinds of data and don’t make any judgments of what is needed or not needed. One of the major benefits of keeping an open mind is that it has the capability to create a vision of what you really want in life. An open mind has no blinders. It doesn’t see obstacles. It only sees possibilities.

Build a tolerance for uncertainty: Take a strong hold to your dream. Even if people can’t see what you see, don’t get discourage. Don’t give up when your dream’s light grows dim and discouragement begins to set in. Build a tolerance for uncertainty as uncertainty is the key to success. The reason why others don’t support your dream is because it’s not their dream. Grip on to your dream and don’t let anyone else try to distract you.

Catch your star: Your star—your soul—knows where it should go. Why? Because God has planted your destiny within you. All of your answers are already planted inside of you and when you need answers, they’ll reveal what you need to know. Your star provides just enough light for you to step out in faith and see the path ahead of you.

Step outside of your situation: It’s easy to get tunnel vision when discouragement sets in. When that happens, take a step back and step outside of your situation. By looking from the outside in, you’ll get a bigger picture of where you’re at, where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Now rejuvenated, return to your journey with vigor.

The next time you’re up to your eyes in a situation, remember, that there are always two sides to a situation. Don’t forget to bundle all of these tips together and use them as your travel guide along the journey to plow forward to your dream. Answers to burning questions will be revealed and you’ll reap a blessed, happy and fulfilled life.

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BLESS THIS MESS

Learn to be thankful in your trials, because in order to get your breakthrough, you need a trial to break through.” ---Craig Williams

​2nd Qtr, 2017

 

Over the years, I’ve come to rename the term, “life trials” to “life messes.” More times than not during difficult life events, I’ve felt as though I was in a real mess. And this is what I learned: I could easily make a mess of things during tough times. Why? Because I was making up my own rules. Rules to figure out how to get out of this difficulty. Wondering how in the world did I get into this situation in the first place? Why me? Soon a list of unknowing innocent people were centered upon my bulls-eye of blame. Then pity parties followed. The worse was that I began calling myself names: stupid, stupider and more stupider. This jagged list of rules became my direction to navigate through difficulty. The result: I created bigger messes.

Then one day while in my early 20s I read a book entitled, “Dare to Live on the Edge.” It was a faith-based book and it challenged its readers to understand that God doesn’t make junk. Once I understood I had a purpose in life, then I was able to find value in myself. I was better prepared to face the book’s other challenges: to think big, to expect good out of the unexpected, and to grow where I was planted. So I began cleaning up my messes, starting with the first tip in the Dare to Live on the Edge book:

God doesn’t make junk: Because I had suffered with tragedy in my young adult life, I figured God had given up on me. But Dare to Live on the Edge explained that I had a purpose and I was equipped to serve that purpose. That deep inside I was a diamond and God was at work to scissile away the crusty messes in my life. The book further explained that God’s responsibility was to develop me to become what I was destined to be. The book went on to say that he loves me unconditionally. There’s a powerful ingredient in love that I learned—the power of freedom—when you love someone, you free that person to become a better version of themselves. God was pouring out his love into me, thus giving me a huge sense of accountability for my own behavior. The result: I trashed my blame list and stopped calling myself names.

Think big! One of my favorite Bible verses is found in Matthew 19:26, “…with God all things are possible.” The only way I could wrap my thoughts around God-sized outcomes, was to think big! This is where faith and trust comes into full dimension, but sometimes we can be taken by surprise when life takes on its own euphoric components. I just published my first book, Uncharted Territory. Never in my wildest big thoughts did I ever think that BIG!

Expect good out of the unexpected: The easiest way to expect good out of the unexpected is to change your rules. Start every morning with, “Today is the day for breakthrough!” Sure, there were times when I had to make an effort to think positive, and when I did, a curtain arose in my hindsight and I could see the horizon for miles ahead. Whenever a life event bamboozled me, I’d lean my full weight into making a concerted effort to find the good out of the unexpected. There’s always a silver lining entwined in our mess—it’s tucked around the question: Why me?!

Grow where you’re planted: My mom loves to garden. Sometimes I’d go out and watch her till the soil. Never once did I see a carrot jump over to where the tomatoes were growing. Or a string bean slide over to the rows of corn. All of her vegetables grew where they were planted. No questions asked. So out went one of my favorite questions from my list of rules: How in the world did I get into this situation in the first place? The question isn’t” how” but “what”—what can I learn right where I’m planted. Planting and harvesting is for a season. Interpersonal growth lasts a life time.

You may have heard the old saying, “Turn your mess into your message. I just did. How about you?

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LEAP!

If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any changes. --- Julia Sorel, writer

​1st Qtr, 2017

Daring to do the unexpected by stepping out of your own protective “boat” can be scary. Because what is resting at the bowel of your boat are thoughts about what you might lose rather than what you could gain. If we can take that risk, we may be surprised at what we accomplish! Risk, in and of itself, sees no limits, no negative thoughts, no hesitation. Are you ready? Go ahead! Try something new! Be unpredictable! Experiment! You don’t have to hazard huge things—even a small change can point you toward a fresh experience. Keep the following tips close at hand to remind yourself how invigorating it can be to take the road not yet traveled.

Tip #1: What You Value: Jeanette Winterson, writer, has said, “What you risk reveals what you value.” What do you value: a fulfilled dream? Advancing your career? Furthering your education? Choosing happiness? Take a close look at what you treasure. Seize your values. Whatever you value will be the fuel to move forward.

Tip #2: Strength to Venture into the Dark: Yikes! Venturing into the dark is like taking a risk without the benefit of experience, but consider the alternative. When we are brave enough to venture into the dark, we can be assured that personal growth awaits us at the end of our journey. Remember, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” How will we know what we’ll gain, until we step into the shadows that lurks outside our boat!

Tip #3: Accept the Fear of Failure. Let Yourself get Loose! Take a chance. Walk the line between the known and unknown and you’ll set yourself free! Give abandon to all those things that tend to keep you in your boat, run your fingers into the ripples of the massive ocean. And remember, you can only deal with the small amount of the vast ocean that fits into the palm of your hand. Always expect success! Expect to aspire to it! Expect to receive it! If fear holds you in this binding control, then ask yourself, “Who says I’m afraid? Who says I’m safer in my boat? Who says I shouldn’t venture out? If Fear is whispering in your ear, then tell it to hush! Tell Fear that you’re only open to positive thoughts that lead to success.

Tip #4: Set your Course and Sail Away from a Boring Life: We’ve all been entrapped in a routine where boredom settles in. If we’re not careful, it’ll become a way of life. Beware! Boredom will disguise itself as security and comfort in your life. That’s the lesson I learned from a friend, who’d take different routes to work so he wouldn’t get bored with his commute. I thought he was nuts! I always traveled the same roads and freeways during my forty-minute commute. But one day, after a particularly tough day, I decided I needed a change. This time I took a different route home. Wow! What a difference it made. I hadn’t realized how bored I was with driving over the same roads, waiting at the same stop lights! B-O-R-I-N-G!

Tip #5: Test Your Tenacity: Wallace Stevens, Pulitzer Prize recipient for Poetry, has said, “After the final ‘no’ there comes a ‘yes,’ and on that ‘yes’ the future world depends.” Never ever give up on your dream. To fully execute a dream, one must take a risk. One must put feet to their dream—a plan, a vision—or else it is just a vapor in your mind. Take a risk and follow your heart. Nothing anyone says can discourage you, because the dream belongs to you and no one else. So be tenacious! It will open doors that you never imagined. That’s what I did with my new book, Unchartered Territory! It has opened hearts, calmed fears, changed attitudes—all because some five years earlier I took a risk to keep on writing when most people told me to “give it up.” I quieted their voices by listening to my heart. Listening to my own convictions kept me tenacious to fulfill my dream!

Tip #6: Dare to be Yourself: Yes, take a risk and allow the best you to become a reality. This means we need to have the right attitude; to be brave enough to hush the fears; and to break bad habits that hold us back. Daring to be yourself allows you the freedom to live what I call the “you-phoria lifestyle.” That is to face the obstacles in your life, being determined enough to overcome them, to live large in your individuality. And don’t worry, because God will walk the path ahead of you. He will show you the potholes and give you a safer path around them. With God’s watchful eye, he’ll straighten the crooked pathways along your journey and make sure you are successful.

Let’s give a rigorous salute to anyone who has ever taken a leap! Hopped out of their secure boat! Stepped into the unknown! These brave people will tell you that they found taking a risk didn’t feel quite so risky.

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Strategies for Relieving Stress

 “In a year from now, you’ll barely remember how you felt about a problem, so why stress out today?”

                                                  4th Quater 2016

 

What are your strategies for reducing stress? There is a gamut of remedies from routine exercise to eating chocolate. Although we’d like nothing better than endless bites of chocolate and indulging in a quiet moment as the decadent medicinal chocolate melts in our mouths. But sadly its beneficial effects last as long as a blink of an eye. Let’s consider some strategies that have real “stick” power:

1.    Meditation: I enjoy a regime of daily devotion time at the dining room table, where the morning sun streams through the sliding glass door. I use various tools to guide me: A Bible, several meditative reading materials and a mug of coffee. But during stressful times, I sometimes neglect the most important strategy in my day. And that’s the problem with stress, it is a distraction. We’re not at the top of our game. Everything under the sun seems BIG. I need to remember that meditation calms my inner-storm.

2.    Exercise: If you’re not into exercise, but enjoy walking then here’s a strategy for you. Use each step to whisper a prayer, a positive thought. Try not to think about the stress, but allow your body and mind to release anxiety through exercise. By the end of the walk, you’ll notice your shoulders aren’t as tight as when you started walking. Your breathing flows easily. The sun shines brighter. And if you listen closely, you’ll hear birds serenading you.

3.    Music: How long has it been since you listened to your favorite genre of music? I love the old western ballots, crank up the volume and sing along to “There’s an empty hanger in my closet since you took the shirt right off my back.” The louder the music, the louder I sing, the better I feel. What a stress reliever! Those country ballots tell tales of people who have worse problems than mine.

4.    Illuminating thankfulness: Even in a difficult situation, if we search hard enough, a nugget of thankfulness can be found. You may be in a tough patch right now, but someone else would give anything to have your problem. Whatever my challenge, I try to think the opposite of that challenge. For example, during an extremely full day at work with deadlines looming, my editor says he’s traveling by Friday and wants to know if I can write a pitch (this is Wednesday night—for Pete’s sake)and by the way he says 300 words is good. I let out a loud, Grrrrr! Take a deep breath and think the opposite: “Thank God for my editor, who is doing an amazing job to get my book published and polished.” Now Mr. Last-Minute-Editor doesn’t seem like a creature with ten heads, and my stress is reduced. Why? Because the note of thanks has right-sized my stress.

5.    Let Whatever You Do Today Be Enough: Be satisfied with your accomplishments today. Don’t put undue pressure upon yourself by stretching yourself to the point of over-achievement. Be realistic and don’t look for a Superman/woman cape at the end of the day. Don’t worry about tomorrow, either. It’ll be here before you know it. And really, who knows what’s in store when you’re able to let go and free your schedule to do something you enjoy?

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In an Instant

If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” ― John C. Maxwell

3rd Quarter, 2016

 

Ah! Life is comfortable.  What a wonderful place to be. No hassles, no drama. Maybe a touch of boring, but sometimes boring is good. Life is relaxed, happy, and secure. But be careful with the sameness in your life. Don’t get blindsided by hidden truths that beckon from the slippery slope of comfort. It can lead to a routine. Routine leads to a rut. A rut leads to a life dissatisfied, discontented, and disgruntled.

Life has abundance in store for you rather than boredom. True living strives to deliver all that you were meant to enjoy. So don’t be surprised when in an instant, an unexpected event propels you out of your comfort zone.

My husband, Al, our dog, Lulu and I had just returned from a wonderful two week camping vacation in the AZ desert. We were getting back to our normal routine, when in a twinkling of an eye, our lives changed. A day after returning home, Al sustained a hip injury and went to urgent care. A nurse took his vitals; found his heart rate had plummeted to the 40s. An ambulance immediately transported him to a hospital 20 miles away. Our quiet, comfortable lives hung from a tattered thread. All the “what-if” thoughts bombarded my mind: What if he dies? What if we don’t celebrate our wedding anniversary next week? What if…? What if…? After a gamut of lab work and x-rays, his heart was determined normal and his hip was just a strained muscle. Whew! Now, we can get back to our comfy life…finally!!!!

Wrong!

Actually, it was hard to find our way back there. And even if we could, we were changed. Somehow the old comfort zone was no longer appealing. In an instant our lives were shaken yet surprisingly, our character strengthened. We were “changed” and now seeing at our lives through a different lens.

Neals Donald Walzgh, American author for a series on “Conversation with God,” has said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” There are times when we’re yanked from our comfort zone by a horrendous problem, where hope has been snatched from the core of our being. Where is our direction? Where are the answers? If we stay focused, our course will be revealed through divine intervention. This is where God promises to make a way where there is none. We’ll get answers that will eventually mend our brokenness.

The night in the ER, while my anxious mind tried to keep beat with erratic sounds from Al’s heart monitor, I realized nothing else mattered in my life: not organizing a busy work schedule, volunteering, planning our next camping trip. What really mattered was my husband’s health. Laughing together. Sitting around the campfire and watching the desert sun splash brilliant colors across the evening sky. Seeing his smile and the sparkle in his eyes. Talking at dinner about how blessed we are to have a great family. Counting his blessings for having a smart, beautiful, and funny wife! Ha-ha!! Just wanted to see if you were still reading. So where were we???

And now that we have been plucked from our comfort zones, we are filled with a type of joy unspeakable. There’s a staccato in our step. True living has come alive! We were hoisted from our comfort zone, because God intended for us to enjoy a richer life. As I drove home from the hospital, I glanced over to my husband, seeing his handsome silhouette against the moon sparkled night, thinking and almost giddily, “We get to celebrate our wedding anniversary next week!”

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Burden or Blessing

2nd Quarter 2016

 “What seems to us as bitter trails are often blessings in disguise.” ---Oscar Wilde

 

What kind of thinker are you? Someone who views a situation as half-full or half-empty? Life’s issues are better handled when we define how we think. How we think will define the right perspective for our situation: A burden or a blessing.

         I once heard this story about an ant: A biologist watched an ant carrying a piece of straw—what seemed a huge burden to the tiny creature. The ant came to a wide crack too broad for it to cross. It stood for a time as if pondering the problem. Then it laid the straw over the crack and walked over it! The ant teaches us an invaluable lesson: Sometimes our biggest obstacles can become our biggest blessings. It’s true what Oscar Wilde has said, “…bitter trails are often blessings in disguise.”

         And that’s why it’s imperative how we see a problem. Do we look at it through our lens of half-full or half-empty? We’ve all experienced life’s storms that catch us unaware and we become easily overwhelmed. Consider the following tips to set our climb toward a blessing:

Be Patient: When we touch something hot, we immediately move our hand to protect ourselves and this is a wise choice. But when a storm comes into our lives, we should keep an open mind and understand that it doesn’t come to make us miserable. It comes to make us better. We won’t discover “better” if we try to rush through the lesson. We must allow the blessing to unfold—that takes patience. Don’t rob yourself of the refinement process: To strengthen your weakness. To grow with integrity and character. If an experience could plant a sign in your heart, it would say: Be Patient.

Be Thankful: The late Randy Pausch, Professor at Carnegie Mellon University made a profound statement during his Last Lecture series, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get ant you wanted.” Growing up, I asked for the “world” (I still do...some things never change). Some of my requests—ok, most of them—came with a No answer. I learned the best way to handle disappointment was to become thankful. Being thankful turned a negative situation into a positive one. It gave me a sense of hope, wonder and anticipation. It grew my patience. But sometimes I’d get impatient and misery would follow, I’d take a deep breath and exhale thankfulness. Through the process I learned a valuable lesson: A thankful mindset never disappoints.

Be a Blessing: We endure life experience not merely for our own growth but to lend a helping hand to someone else—to be their strength, their support, their rock! When you give yourself away, you’ll notice a deeper, richer version of yourself. Most importantly, you’ll have a stronger influence with the world around you.

A Storm’s Lesson: There’s a significant path we can embark upon through an rough experience. We have the power to sway outcomes by considering two question distinctions: Should “I know better,” or should “I do better.” Knowing is head-knowledge and doesn’t translate into changed behavior. That’s why some people repeat the same mistakes. The key is to evaluate lessons by asking, “What did I learn so next time, I’ll do better.” Therein begins the pathway to blessings.

Be good to yourself and see your life’s path through the lens of half-full. This way you’ll lessen your load and transform burdens into blessings. Then you’ll be free to sing the chorus to an old hymn, “Count your blessings! Name them one by one….”

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EXHALE

1st Quarter, 2016

“There's so much you can do in one day but some choose to absorb it with bad vibes. Don't waste your day like this. Exhale.” --- Unknown

Now that the busy holiday season is over, we can tuck away new memories and take a moment or two to breathe, to relax. Isn’t it crazy that the happiest time of the year can also be the most stressful? We inhale during hectic times, but not always exhale as we should. We get preoccupied in a situation and for some reason we compound the stress by forgetting to exhale. Exhaling is especially necessary during physical exercise. Most experts agree that one should exhale upon exertion and inhale upon release. The reason for this is that there is less risk of injury internally.

Some people have a difficult time with this particular technique since the tendency to hold ones’ breath when exerting pressure is quite common. This also applies to emotional or mental stress that we encounter. There were many times when I’ve forgotten to exhale:

  • Watching a scary scene in a SciFi movie.
  • Hearing the gruesome sound of metal crumbling and sirens screaming down the road.
  • One day while walking with Lulu, we turned the corner by a cemetery and a black Hurst drove slowly passed us.
  • Carrying a heavy object, not breathing. Then wondering why I’m light headed.
  • The Chargers making a touchdown—happily they came to play at the end of the 4th quarter.
  • Stubbing my toe.
  • Receiving an award that was totally unexpected.

The act of inhaling and exhaling is critical for our mental and physical balance. There’s a simple way to exhale and defuse a stressful situation. First, while slowly inhaling, think about all the good things in your life, or all of your favorite things. Then while slowly exhaling, blow out the stress, the unhappiness, the guilt—get rid of the junk that drags you down.

Another technique that has consistently transformed my attitude is to inhale thoughts of the Divine. As I inhale I think of God’s goodness, faithfulness, guidance and love. Then I slowly exhale what is bothering me—all those pesky things that prevent me from moving forward. Each time I inhale with God in mind, it sets me free. I’m able to exchange the bondage of a situation for emotional and mental freedom.

The need to Exhale has another rich dimension: The ability to find ourselves through the exhale—the release process. And while finding our way, we search for the best answer, the best solution. It reminds me of a quote from Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Therein lies the power of the exhale—breathing out discouragement allows us to breathe in encouragement, determination, motivation.

This is a brand new year. Do yourself a huge favor and become aware of your breathing pattern. Catch yourself when you’re not exhaling. You’ll know you’re not when you feel negative emotions and hold onto negative thoughts. God has so much planned for you--Your future of hope and abundance. Exhale and reach for His kindness!

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