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Did you ever stop to think what motivates you? Why do respond the way you do? Are you avoiding pain or seeking comfort? Does fear of lack drive your career goals? Do you feel inadequate, therefore must prove yourself? Are competing with a sibling for your parents’ approval and love? Are you looking for love in all the wrong places, turning to food, alcohol or drugs? Scratching the surface, you may find a frightened child who needs a hug.

For almost three decades, my husband and I owned a successful photography studio. During those years, my father-in-law often asked my husband when he was going to get a real job. Our parents were programed and they lovingly passed it on to us.

Our egos tell us that we are deficient. We fear criticism and failure. How do you react? Do you find comfort in art, music or hobbies, that feed your soul? Are you anxious and irritable as you stretch for the gold ring? Do you dream about starting a business or writing a book, but talk yourself out of it?

Ask yourself why you do what you do.  If you are happy, you are in alignment with your true self. If not, you are allowing the chatter in your head drive your behavior. Listen to your heart. It will never steer you wrong.

Learn to Cope

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”  Wayne W. Dyer

On a sliding scale, Earthlings perceive life somewhere between magil and Hellish. What lenses do you use to view the World? Are they scratched and dirty, seeing only what is ugly or clear to view beauty?

Illness, poverty and injustice plague the planet, but love, kindness and service to humanity abound. Many escape unhappiness via drugs and alcohol. Some pop prescribed antidepressants like candy. Masking issues is not a solution. It takes courage to look in the mirror, examine yourself and your choices. Whatever you see, you have created. Running away from problems is not a remedy, because wherever you go, your baggage will be your traveling partner. One cannot expect different outcomes without changing behavior.

Do you drag out of bed every morning, dreading the day ahead? If so, why? Examine your emotions. Are you angry, bored, frightened, anxious, or frustrated, to name a few? Pinpoint what is generating the emotion. If you cannot change the situation, i.e. an annoying coworker, try to perceive the person or situation in a different light. For example, instead of being riled by a braggart, feel compassion for the insecure person who is intimidated by your accomplishments and wants to impress you.

From your self-assessment, you may determine that you need time to exercise, read, take a luxurious bath or pursue hobbies, but you lament that there are not enough hours in the day. You are short on sleep and long on frustration. Record how you use your time for three consecutive days, including phone calls, social media and television. There is at least a half an hour a day that is wasted or could be appropriated. You must prioritize your needs and communicate that to your loved ones. I know a mother of seven who took from 1-2 P.M. to paint, read or nap. She scheduled her time around children’s nap times and school. With more organization and less martyrdom, you will reap mental and physical rewards. Nothing is more energizing than doing what makes your heart sing. Plan to get at least eight hours sleep per night. Minor difficulties are overwhelming when one is too tired to cope.

Perception is the event. Start the day with a positive vibe. Will the ride be smooth like Zamboni cleaned ice? Probably not. You may spill your coffee, be cut off by another driver, deal with a foot stomping teenager or make a mistake at work. Stuff happens. Mindset and reaction determine if they are petty annoyances or day shattering events. Humans focus on the negative and forget the positive, which are subject to your perspective. For example, you may perceive spilling your coffee as negative, but while wiping it up, you find your lost gold earring, which is positive. Look at the big picture when possible, although most of life’s synchronicities are beyond our comprehension. One may never know that a flat tire prevented involvement in an accident.

Ice jail or spectacular display?   For a week I pondered the question.  Looking from within, I felt trapped by the jagged wall of ice and afraid of water flooding through the roof.  I imagined eaves troughs crashing to the ground from the excessive weight and icicles impaling unexpected guests.  I shivered from the cold and longed to live where palm trees grow.

A drip caught my eye. I followed its path down the craggy, frozen barricade and contemplated whether it would add its mass to the tip or fall to the ground. Each icicle was unique in size, shape, length, diameter and density.  Visions of a magical, crystal palace danced in my mind.

I concluded that the icicles were constant. I was the variable. My perception labeled the icicles threatening or awesome. Most worries never materialize. Time, energy and health are squandered needlessly. 

This chapter is about dealing with daily frustrations. Coping with tragedy, loss and grief will be discussed in another chapter. Before playing a concerto, we must learn to play the scale.

Exercise- Make a list of the positive and negative occurrences for three days. Include random acts of kindness, that you may usually take for granted. Which list is longer? With reflection, can you find a silver lining in any of the negative?

Try to change your reaction to minor irritants. Are they a matter of life or death? If not, is the anger, anxiety and stress worth it? Lighten up. Find humor in a situation. Laugh at your clumsiness. Do not sweat the small stuff. Regardless of what happens today, the sun will rise tomorrow. At the end of the day, you will feel better, in mind, body and spirit.