SURVEY COMPLETE – THANK YOU
A huge thanks to those of you who completed my recent ‘What Parents Want’ Survey. The survey is now closed but your feedback was very informative and insightful.
Based off of what you have told me you want and how you want it, I am currently developing some exciting and interactive ways in which you can be inspired, supported and rejuvenated along your parenting journey. I look forward to sharing all of these with you very soon, so watch this space!
WHAT IS YOUR BEST LIFE?
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend Oprah Winfrey’s Live Your Best Life weekend here in NYC, celebrating the 10th Anniversary of The Oprah Magazine (better known as The O Magazine).
Although I like Oprah in general – her positive messages and emphasis on improving your life and thereby influencing the lives of those around you, I wasn’t really the faithful follower of her shows and/or subscriber of her publications. I was definintely in the minority over that weekend as most of the 6,000+ women there (and a few courageous men:-), were O magazine subscribers from day 1 and knew almost every single message, contributer, etc. So, while I knew of some of the guest speakers that were present (i.e. Dr. Oz, Dr Phil, Suze Orman, Nate Berkus, etc), others I wasn’t so aware of, such as Martha Beck, Peter Walsh, Donna Brazile or Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling book entitled: Eat, Pray, Love . I now know that the latter’s book is being turned into a movie with Julia Roberts as the star!
Despite my lack of knowledge, the weekend was inspiring on many levels, with the theme of Living Your Best Life being the undercurrent of every aspect of the event. One part that really resonated with me was during The Evening with Oprah held at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday night. Oprah very candidly and intimately shared some of her greatest struggles in both her personal and professional life and how she came away with some very valuable life lessons from each of these struggles. Two things she said would almost certainly and consistently prevent anyone from living their best life stayed with me. They were:
1) When everything that you are doing, thinking, feeling is for others and nothing (or very little) is for yourself and,
2) When you consistently over-stretch and over-schedule yourself.
Oprah admitted that she had been guilty of doing them both in recent years, and that she had lost herself along the way because of it. Subsequently, her renewed desire to reconnect with herself has played a huge role in her deciding to end her successful talk show next year after 25 years!
While the two things I mentioned above are not new concepts, they struck a chord with me because I was reminded that not only am I too guilty of doing them as well but also that I haven’t done too much about it – and as a result, have ended up feeling stuck and worn down in the process. I definitely have not been living my best life. Have you??
This month, I want to share with you a few thoughts on what I think it means to live your best life regardless of whatever circumstances you are currently facing as a person, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, etc. – and to offer 3 tips you can start doing now that will help move you towards living the best life you possibly can.
To begin, what does it mean to ‘live your best life?’ – For me the answer is in the statement itself. To live means to be alive, to breathe, to consciously live! I especially like the latter meaning because when you consciously do something, it means that you are doing it on purpose, because you want and/or desire to. Secondly, your is just that – your life belongs to you, and the choice to how you live (or don’t live it) is entirely up to you. Thirdly, best means something that is excellent, the greatest and unsurpassed.
So to live your best life means to purposely make each day full of greatness according to how you define greatness!! I guess the end part is the special bit as greatness and how it is manifested in your life is entirely up to you. It does not have to mean doing something on a grand scale – in fact, some of the best parts of your day can occur in the small, routine and some would say, mundane things.
I know that this ‘living each day with greatness’ thing may sound like such a pious, ‘pie in the sky’ concept (it’s not) and one that you can’t really fathom, let alone try to act on (you can).
I feel that this concept is especially important for so many of you who receive this newsletter, because as the parents of some pretty special kids who have and continue to face challenges on a regular, often daily basis, I’m sure you sometimes feel like it is all you can do to just keep your head above water! I want to encourage you to start doing a bit more than that. Why? Because you owe it to yourself, you deserve it and you and your family will benefit.
So, how do you start living your best life? May I suggest the following three (3) tips to help you get started:
1) Start with Your Values – Our values are really our motivators for how we live our lives and make our decisions. For example if your value is honesty, you are the person who always tells the truth. Or as in my case, I really value acknowledgement, so therefore tend to be one of the 1st people to send someone a congratulatory note or make a quick phone call to someone who I know is going through a challenging time. The point is your values are what you tend to stand by, what you deem important and what you put your energy into.
So take a few minutes to jot down what/who is valuable to you – and make sure that one person you value is yourself!! An easy way to figure out what you value is to jot down the things/people/situations that put a smile on your face, a peace in your heart and a pep in your step, regardless of your situation. Then make sure that you incorporate a little bit of what/who you value into each day.
A quick personal example, when we were in the NICU, it was so important for me to have people acknowledge (my value again) what we were going through. I didn’t want some pity party -and still don’t now with Alejandro’s blindness – far from it – but I also didn’t want people to act as if nothing out of the norm was happening. We did have a few ‘friends’ who during our NICU days ask us why we were not spending time with them like we had before. Hello!!! Is anybody home?? We have a 1 lb baby here who is fighting every second to survive and you want to know why we haven’t come to your house for tea??!! Mind you, their lack of acknowlegement was a gain for us as it prompted us to minimize and eventually eliminate them from our lives. I know it may sound a bit harsh, but it was an important step for us to take towards being true to ourselves. From then on, even now, we really try to make sure we surround ourselves with the type of people who both we replenish and who replenish us.
So whatever it is that you value – make sure you direct a minumum of 10-15 minutes of quality time and energy towards it each day. If you value your faith, make sure you pray or meditate, if it’s your family, spend uninterrupted time with them (no blackberrys, t.v. or cellphones allowed), if it is time alone, go for a walk or stay in the shower/bath just those few minutes longer, and if it is your health that you value, start exercising, eating right and going to sleep. Oh and by the way, it is perfectly ok to take baby steps with this – even if it is small, it is a step!
2) Sprinkle with Spontaneity – By this I mean being open, flexible and ready to embrace whatever may come your way in a day…..and not being afraid to relax the rules a bit for yourself. Now I know this is a hard thing to do or even consider for some of you because there are a lot of uncertainties and unknowns in a day, mostly pertaining to your child/children, and that routine is crucial for you. Spontaneity is possibly the last thing on your mind, if for example, your child is medically vulnerable and needs constant nursing care at home, or your child has severe behavioral and emotional issues or if you and your spouse seem to be growing apart given the stress of carrying for a child with special needs. The latter can be particularly stressful if there are other children in the picture as well because parents, particularly mothers, tend to feel guilty anyway for not spending enough time with their children, let alone their spouse/partner.
But these are exactly the type of situations that would benefit from you being spontaneous, to doing something unscripted or spur-of-the-moment – something out of the routine. Make a silly face at yourself in the mirror, tickle your child/children for no reason except to make them laugh, have a pillow fight with your spouse, put on your favorite song and dance and sing inside of a hairbrush, stroke your child’s face a few seconds longer just to let them know that you care, if it is a nice sunny day, grab a blanket and have a family picnic in the backyard or park. One mother I know, whose son – an ex 26 weeker -had a tracheotomy and required 24 hours nursing care, did just that. The picnic in the park included all of his breathing apparatus and his nurse!! Even though they were only out for a short period of time, she said that it was the best thing they could have done for her son and most importantly, for her own sanity.
I must say though, that sprinkling your day with spontaneity is easier to do if you are in alignment with your values. Staying true to what is important for/to you frees you up more and allows you to be able to go with the flow.
3) End with Praise – we often think that it is not ok to praise ourselves but as parents, I think it is sooooo important to. I am not implying that you put yourself on a pedestal (well I guess you can for a few seconds:-), but simply to focus on the things you do/are doing right as a person, a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling, an employee, etc. We all find it incredibly easy to point to our faults, but highlighting our good points often causes us to stumble. I often ask parents I work with to tell me one gift they have as a parent and they almost always tell me -“Gift, what gift’ or “I don’t have a gift’. It usually takes a few seconds longer with a little encouragement from me before they come up with some pretty amazing stuff!
So, I encourage you to start a Personal Praise journal – be it on sticky notes or in a notebook. The point is to jot down at the end of each day something you have done in that day that you feel really good about, no matter how miniscule or grand it may seem. Review what you’ve written at the end of the week and you will instantly feel like you are the best thing since sliced bread. And I must say that you are!
Start today on your journey towards living your best life. It is the best gift you can ever give to yourself.
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