Life Is A Big Fat Question Mark

Does your future seem uncertain? Are you in the midst of a lot of turmoil, wondering what's going to happen next? Do you feel like you're stuck in quicksand, having no idea what to do? Are you facing several doors and you don't know which one to open?

Perhaps you know some of what lies ahead. You expect your job will continue, or your marriage or relationship will carry on, but meanwhile, there are other Big Unanswered Questions hanging over you and not knowing the answers is doing your head in. You cling to the bits you know, any parts of your life that you expect to remain the same. Somehow, those "certainties" make those awful questions a little easier to bear whilst you're waiting for the answers to come.

You find yourself looking ahead, seeing loads of huge and unnerving question marks kind of blur together to become one really big fat overwhelming one. It can feel quite daunting but it helps if you choose to believe that there's a reason for all of it.

I remember one particular situation in which too many "unknowns" were becoming rather frightening until I realised something. Although we think we have some general idea of where our lives are going and what's going to happen next (at least to one degree or another), it's all an illusion. We do not ever really know what is waiting just around the corner; we only think we do.

We never know when something really awful and devastating - or something really magnificent and magical - will happen and completely disrupt and change our lives. The future we have planned, whether it be an hour ahead, a day, a year or decades, is all in our heads, an image, a wish, a plan, a hope. But there is never a guarantee about any of it.

The reality is that all of us are living with a big, fat question mark staring us in the face. We choose not to think about it, clinging, instead, to everything familiar and comforting, while we pray that nothing happens to blow our plans to smithereens.

The problem with this is that when it does all blow apart - as it sometimes does - we're completely knocked off balance. We don't know how to cope with the Big Unanswered Questions because we've become so used to "knowing" (or rather, thinking we know) what's familiar, what's happening, and what's coming. Remove the familiar or the expected, and we come apart at the seams.

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't have plans or dreams. Those are what keep us moving forward, giving us a reason to get up every day and do what we do. But we need some perspective about them. We must remember that plans and dreams are ideas. They can become reality, but they are not yet reality. They are not carved in stone. They are subject to change at the whim of the universe, of circumstance, or of many things that are beyond our control.

This is where we get into trouble - when something knocks us off course, sending us down a different path and blowing our plans all to hell.

If you're feeling like you've been cut adrift because now there is uncertainty in your life, think about this: There has always been uncertainty in your life. You may have thought you knew what was going to happen, but it was only a plan. The truth is that every moment beyond the one you're standing in right now is an illusion. Your plans can be a map and give you directions to your preferred destination, but sometimes the map gets picked up by a gust of wind and blown out the window.

If you can be prepared for the fact that this might happen, you won't be hit as hard as someone who lives by - and for - the map. Yes, your future is uncertain. It's always been uncertain; that's nothing new. You just didn't see it that way. Nothing's really any different today than it was when you were living in the illusion of your plans, when you thought your life was mapped out for you.

Make your plans but do not cling to them, for it is in that clinging and attachment that your pain is born when things go awry. Just focus on right here, right now. Forget the question marks. They'll always be there, and the answers are unfolding in every moment of your life.

Let go of the need to know what will happen. It is impossible. The future will take care of itself, one moment at a time.

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"Hard" Does Not Mean "Impossible"

So you're facing something that's going to be hard to do. That's no reason not to do it.

"Hard" does not mean "impossible". No doubt you've faced loads of other things in your life that you thought would be really difficult, even when you were a little kid. And somehow, you did them anyway. You look back on those "little kid difficulties" and of course they're easy peasy now, right?

And perhaps you wish life could be easier - at least sometimes. But there's a reason why it isn't.

Each of us is here for a reason. We've all got a purpose and it's your job to figure out what yours is. Would you really expect that to be easy? Chances are you won't know what your purpose is unless and until you've been knocked around a bit and learned a whole lot about yourself. That's the only way to discover who you really are, and what's important to you, and how you can make a difference in the world.

In order to prepare for that, there will be a lot of learning to do. When you first start running, or going to the gym or taking yoga, you're stiff. You can't run very long, lift too much, or stretch too far. And it hurts like hell the next day.

But you keep at it, doing it again, and repeating the exercises, at the end of a week you can run a little easier, and stretch a little further. With continued practice, you improve, running, lifting, or stretching more all the time.

If you never encountered any obstacles or hardship, you would never have a reason to discover your ability to deal with problems. You would never learn how to cope with stress. Emotionally, mentally and spiritually, you would remain as a young child, never progressing because there would be no reason to do so.

We are here to learn. The only way we can make it easier is to pay attention to the lessons, to do our homework. Otherwise, we will keep getting the same lessons, usually in bigger and nastier ways, until finally we've cracked them.

If you want to keep slamming your head into a brick wall just to check if it really does hurt like last time, then go ahead and keep doing it. You're only causing yourself more pain and delaying your ability to progress beyond that point. The quicker you accept that your head + a brick wall = pain, the better off you'll be.

It is said that we are never given more than we can handle. From a wealth of personal experience, I'm very well aware that sometimes, that seems like a huge load of rubbish.

But you know what? I've also discovered that it's the truth. The only sticky bit is that we have to choose to handle it. We take a deep breath, and try a little harder. This is how we discover what we're really able to do and find out just how much inner strength we really do have.

Yup, life is hard. But it's also loaded with rewards, many of which come from a sense of accomplishment when we've overcome obstacles. We find our feet and learn what we can do, which gives us confidence and building blocks for the next set of challenges.

You've done lots of difficult things in your life and they've made you the wonderful, unique, and very special person that you are today. And if you're not feeling so wonderful, unique or special, think about what you've overcome, what you've achieved, and how many difficulties you crushed like bugs.  Remind yourself that you're still standing! You did it! And you're a better, stronger person for it!

See? "Hard" isn't such a big deal after all.

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Adulthood Should Involve A Journey Toward Childhood

When we're born, everyone within our circle of family and friends is excited as we reach each milestone in our development. Sleeping through the night, getting that first tooth, sitting up, walking - every step shows that we are growing up.

Throughout childhood, we are taught to sit still, to mind our manners, to contain our enthusiasm and our giggles in situations where they would not be appreciated. We are given chores, homework, and taught to take on responsibility, all of it in preparation for becoming independent adults.

Gradually, we become less playful, more responsible, and we are officially "adults", working, taking care of our errands, our homes, making sure we have taxes done before the deadlines, seeing to car repairs, and generally looking after all the mundane details of life. There is so much to do.

Circumstances change, obstacles are thrown at us. We lose jobs and can't find new ones. We become seriously ill. We struggle with relationships, with legal matters, with difficult children. We spend many years or even decades feeling as though we have the weight of the world on our shoulders.

If we're lucky, there comes a point at which we realise that this is no way to live. We recognise the fact that being an adult is not much fun, and we long for joy and laughter.

We watch children playing and wish we could squeal and giggle and delight in the simplest pleasures as they do.

Sighing heavily, our shoulders sag and the wistful smile fades as we remember that we must behave like adults.

Essentially, we spend our lives, from the moment of birth, trying to become less like children and more like adults. But once we're there, once we understand and live with our responsibilities, there is no reason in the world why we cannot reconnect with the childlike, playful spirits that hide within us.

Unfortunately, for many of us, childhood was not a happy time. Some of us would even say we did not have a childhood. In that case, it's even more important to discover the freedom, the lightness and joy that come from connecting with that little child who is just aching to come out and play.

I'm not just talking about being silly and playful, although these are good for a start. I'm talking about taking a more childlike approach to life. Your average kid doesn't freak out and stress about what's going to happen next week, next month or next year. They're not worrying about what they did two months ago, two years ago, or even earlier this morning. They're too busy enjoying "right now", completely immersed in the moment, focused on the task at hand, whether it's painstakingly practicing their penmanship or smooshing paint around on a piece of paper with their hands.

By nature, children are very egocentric. The world revolves around them. This is to ensure that they survive, that they get their needs met. Most of us could do with a dose of this "What about me?" attitude, as it can be far too easy to put ourselves at the bottom of a long list of other priorities.

But in reality, if we do not take care of ourselves and what we need FIRST, then the rest of it eventually falls by the wayside and/or we become depressed, exhausted, depleted, burned out and resentful. No one else is responsible for our wellbeing; that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of each and every one of us, to take care of ourselves so that we're able to take care of our responsibilities and to do our bit for each other, and the world at large.

When eyeing a plate of cookies or a piece of pie, children will naturally gravitate toward the largest one, something most of us would do except that we've been taught that this is rude. But all I can say is "Good for them, they know exactly what they want and they go for it."

And how hard is it for a kid to be in the midst of cleaning a very messy bedroom, or doing a huge pile of homework, and sneak in a break, play with a toy or read something fun or stare out the window and daydream for a while? Not hard at all.

Yes, of course it is essential for us to learn how to become functional and responsible adults. But that doesn't have to mean that our spirits (which are so easily visible in childhood) get permanently buried under a mountain of obligation and worry just because we're over the age of 18. That little spirit in each of us is meant to keep us balanced, so we can manage the necessities and complications of human existence, whilst enjoying the experience and getting as much out of it as possible. It's not supposed to be all work and worry!

It seems that childhood is meant to be a journey toward adulthood, but adulthood should involve a journey toward childhood, too.

Now is your chance to get moving. Pack a lunch - making sure you get the biggest cookie - and enjoy that journey. It'll bring you more joy and fulfillment than you've ever known.

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"I'll Stop Procrastinating Tomorrow!"

Some of us hit the ground running in the morning and dive headfirst into a busy day, accomplishing, overachieving, burning through tasks like there's no tomorrow (and if there wasn't going to be a tomorrow, frankly I'd just as soon not work my backside off today).

Others of us drag ourselves out of bed and stumble through life, doing what we want, doing some of what we must - leaving all kinds of things for another day.

And then there are others who are in between somewhere, which is probably best anyway, as extremes are never good and balance in all things is a really good plan.

If you're at all familiar with my books or my blog, you'll have heard me go on about taking breaks, about leaving some things for another day, another time. You'll have heard me say, in essence, "Don't do today what you can put off till tomorrow."

And here I am today, saying the opposite. Today, I want to talk about procrastination. So how can I keep telling you to slack off and have some down time, and then I turn around and say, hang on a minute, quit goofing off and get back to work?!

Well, it's not too complicated really.

Let's start with the basics of procrastination. There are loads of reasons why people keep putting off things that need to be done, whether it's household tasks, mundane errands, tedious stuff at work, difficult conversations with people or anything else they'd rather not do. And just as burning the candle at both ends and in the middle isn't good for anyone, neither is being at the other end of the spectrum and just leaving things undone as a regular occurrence.

The reasons for both behaviours will be emotional issues that could stand healing because whether you're a workaholic or a procrastinator, both are destructive and will keep you from being all you're meant to be - which keeps you from happiness and fulfillment.

Why do people procrastinate? For some it is an issue of control. If people feel like they have little or no control in their lives, they will sometimes delay doing things that are expected of them. It's a form of passive aggression, a way to say "I'll do it when I'm good and ready, and not when you tell me, or not when you want it."

People who are notoriously late for everything often fall into this category, as well.

Sometimes people procrastinate because of self-sabotage. This can have all kinds of roots but they run deep and can manifest in numerous ways over the course of a lifetime. Shooting oneself in the foot is usually the result of low self-esteem, feeling undeserving of good things, or believing that you're not meant to be happy. So you set yourself up to fail in order to validate what you believe about yourself.

For people who don't feel worthy of having a wonderful life, they will often do things that will make certain things go wrong as often as possible. They might "lose" a document or "forget" to meet a deadline that could give them a better job or some opportunity that could benefit them.

Procrastination can sometimes be the result of fear. It allows people to avoid facing their fears of failure, success, confrontation, the dentist, bad news from the doctor, telling a partner "It's over" and a million other things.

But not facing those situations doesn't make them go away. Avoidance only allows the fear to grow stronger as it takes on a life of its own, and often ends up blown way out of proportion - and then procrastination seems an even better idea. The chicken-and-egg cycle continues, sucking the energy out of anyone who is caught in it.

The more they put off, the heavier the burden, as 'thing' upon 'thing' piles up, one on top of another, on top of another, leaving them feeling completely overwhelmed with 'stuff to do' but not having any idea where to start. And for those people who live in a constant state of procrastination, that's an awful lot of negative energy to willingly add to their lives because they don't want to face their fears.

If we're going to have productive and happy lives, it is essential that we see to the boring bits of life - and sometimes it means facing the scary parts, too. Often, the thing we fear never happens anyway and meanwhile, we've been holding ourselves back from the possibility of success and happiness. When we don't 'take care of business' in our lives and just let things pile up, we're deliberately adding more stress, more worry and more negative energy to the mix. Nothing good can ever come of that.

Being a workaholic is not good. Neither is procrastinating. It's never good to live in an extreme situation of any kind; it is unnatural and unhealthy. The key to finding balance is to understand when something is causing you harm.

Whether you're doing too much or too little, if it's to your detriment and is causing problems in other areas of your life, then something needs to change. It's hard enough to find happiness in this life with all the obstacles that are thrown at us. But we don't have to make it harder on ourselves by being out of balance because of the choices we make.

If we ever hope to find happiness, it has to begin with a point of balance between work and play, between responsibility and 'goofing off'. If procrastination is a problem in your life, perhaps start with the simplest things. Make a list of everything you know you need to do, and find the ones that you think you can tackle without too much trouble. Keep working away at that list and as you see things getting done, you'll feel the load lighten and your energy increasing.

As you move through the process, examine the feelings that come up and if necessary, find a good counsellor or even a self-help book to assist you.

And one last thing: Don't be thinking, "This is a great idea! I'll do the list later!" If it's a great idea and you want to get moving in your life, feel better and be happier, do the list now.

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Prioritise Your Life. Then Re-Prioritise Daily.

It's easy to get caught up in the urgent and immediate tasks that come up at home or at work. There are deadlines everywhere, a pressing need to do this or that and it can all get to be too much.

When we get all wound up with being busy and getting things done, we can go overboard and pile more and more pressures and deadlines on ourselves. We think we can maintain our usual standard of care when it comes to work, home, family and ourselves, all of which can be very energy-draining and time-consuming. Throw in the urgent extras that pop up, but rather than cut out some non-essentials, we continue to keep everything functioning as normally as possible.

However, there are only so many hours in a day. Sometimes what we think are priorities could be moved a little lower down the list. Perhaps, in those really stressful, busy times when unusual pressures are heaped on top of all the usual ones, we can begin to let go of some of the others.

For example, some people insist on scouring the bathrooms top to bottom every day, or hoovering or washing floors first thing every morning. Or they use bath towels once and throw them in the laundry. Maybe they're picking up after their children rather than encouraging them to do it for themselves.

The point is that our homes and lives won't collapse if we let go of some of the usual things we like to do on a daily or regular basis. We must learn to delegate in times of extra stress and "busy-ness", letting go of, or handing over some responsibilities to others who are able to do them.

When life gets out of control with too many pressures, it is essential to prioritise. Let go of what doesn't really need to be done today or this week. Move it well down the list. Pick out what absolutely must be done, and if you're having a hard time narrowing down the list, look at the possible negative consequences of each job on the list and this will help you figure it out.

For example, there's a big difference between "must get taxes filed" if it's the day before the deadline, and "must do the hoovering".

And then there are the other priorities, too, about taking care of yourself. If your list includes wanting a daily walk, and insisting that the whole bathroom be cleaned every day, floors and all, perhaps you could think about the benefits of going for a walk, as compared to the benefits of having a sparkling bathroom. Buy one of those 'cleans as you flush' thingies, give the sink and taps a quick once-over with a disinfectant wipe and get out for that walk.

It's not enough to prioritise once and expect it to last. It's got to be done every day. It's essential to remind yourself every morning of the things that are really important to you, which bits really must be done, and after that, re-organise priorities so you are consistently and consciously working at what matters most in your life.

Just make sure that you are high on that list every day, too, because if you aren't in the category of what matters most in your life, you - and everyone close to you - will suffer for it.

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Rest: Essential for Body, Mind and Spirit

(My daughter, Willow, with her precious Daphne)

It's easy to keep pushing through life, doing, doing, doing no matter how tired we are. I've been as bad as anyone for that at time. Habit, I reckon, from many years as a single parent when there were things that just had to be done and there was no one else to do them.

I'd become so used to functioning in overdrive, making sure that things were done that it was difficult for me to know when to stop and take a rest. On top of that, I spent my days doing work that I loved. When it doesn't feel like work, it's easy to keep doing it because I'm enjoying it so much so I have to be careful about this.

At least I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can nap if I so choose. To be honest, there are few pleasures so sweet in life as curling up in my favourite chair with a thick, warm blanket, and settling in for a delicious afternoon nap. It is such a blessed relief to close my aching eyes, and in a heartbeat, or perhaps two, I have drifted off to a quiet and gentle place of rest for a little while. 

Sometimes, this is the best and deepest sleep I have. Without fail, it makes me feel so much better. I can dive back into my work with renewed energy, a fresh look and a huge weight lifted off me. I am reminded once again of the importance of listening to my body, my mind, my spirit, for all of them grow weary. They need rest and none of us can escape that. It is the only way we have a chance to recover, to recharge, for our bodies to repair, restore, and rebuild.

There cannot only be output; eventually, we would have nothing left to put out. As with all things in life, there is a cycle; we must have input, too, of new ideas, of food, of time spent doing things we love. We are like lakes, requiring a fresh source of water to keep us from getting stagnant, a river flowing in on one side, and out on the other. In between, the surface of the lake is still, but at its depths, there is life, growth and movement.

Many cultures have the right idea about the importance of naps. In some countries, everything shuts down for a while in the afternoon.  What a brilliant plan. It's one of my favourite things about Spain, where you can sit for hours in a restaurant after it closes for the afternoon, and there you are eating olives and bread, drinking wine, while the staff disappears into the back for their own siesta as you relax for a while.

But we seem to think we're slackers if we have a little down time during the day, even if we're not getting nearly enough sleep at night. We continue to tear through our lives at 90 miles an hour like our hair is on fire.

Then we wonder why we have significant health problems, anxiety disorders or depression. We are not machines. Even the strongest warrior needs to rest; we are not defective because we can't work 27 hours a day.

If you are at all able to have a wee nap sometimes, when your energy slumps and you begin to droop, please listen to your body's wisdom. If you can set an alarm and doze off in an empty office or in your car on your lunch break, or if you can get children settled quietly doing something so you can have even 20 minutes' rest, you will be so much better for it.

Memories are sharper, moods are improved, health is better, creativity returns, and there is a far greater sense of wellbeing than when we drag ourselves through every day, so tired we don't know what to do with ourselves. When we are rested and refreshed, we are healthier, happier, and more productive.

Be nice to yourself. Take a little 'time out'. Have a delicious little snooze when you get the chance. It doesn't take much to make a big difference.

Sweet dreamzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....................

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Friends: Your Own Personal Cheerleaders

For many of us, the notion of trying something new is a really big, scary prospect and not everyone is up for the challenge. For those of us who are brave enough to dive in and give it a shot, it's natural to be lacking in confidence to one degree or another.

However, the only way to build confidence is to learn more about whatever it is you're doing, and to practice. And when it comes right down to it, if all it takes is some practice to enable you to see that you are getting better at something, that's pretty darned simple.

It's one thing when you can practice by yourself and it doesn't matter whether you mess up, get it wrong, or look silly. But many of us squirm and sweat at least a little over the possibility of looking foolish in front of others.

I remember a time when friends asked me to practice something with them that I had only just barely begun to learn.

Because I loved and trusted those women, I agreed. I was painfully nervous - which was even more painfully obvious - but I knew they understood. I knew they wanted me to do well and they were trying to help me by encouraging me.

By the end of it, I was amazed at how much improvement I felt in myself. It wasn't something that anyone would have seen as much as it was something that I could feel. I still had such a long way to go, but at least I felt like the train had left the station!  

There was a time when I would never have dared take such a chance. I would have been far too embarrassed to make mistakes, to get something wrong, and to look like a fool. In the past, my fear of failure had been enormous and debilitating. I'd shot myself in the foot on numerous occasions because of it.

But thank heaven for healing, and thank heaven for wonderful friends. All of us can use a cheering section, a group of people who will support us, urge us on, encourage us to try, who will help us learn, and who will still love us when we get it wrong. Thank heaven for people who push us to stretch ourselves, who let us make mistakes - and who will cheer us on for having done so.

Building confidence takes time. Some of it has to come from going about your life, sticking your toes in the water - or perhaps spreading your wings and leaping off a cliff. But when you have the opportunity to have friends listen, or be your guinea pigs, or let you take a crack at something that requires their involvement, then do yourself a favour and let them.

They are your friends. They love you. They want you to do well. They want you to succeed. So what if you look a little goofy? Your friends will smile with you and will encourage you to carry on.

When you are confident in yourself and in your abilities, the world doesn't feel so scary. You feel a sense of control in your life, which will have far-reaching effects. Confidence - or a lack of it - will influence every decision you make.

Lacking confidence will keep you stuck in unhappy situations that are rife with fear and anxiety. Seize any opportunity to build your confidence and if that means calling in your friends to help, then just remember that it's what you would want to do for them if they needed you. Don't think for a moment that you're imposing on them if you know you'd do the same in reverse. They want you to be at your best, do your best, be successful, just as you would like for them. True friends will simply want to help you get there.

Just appreciate that and let them do their Friend Thing!

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Eyes On Your Own Paper

Are you frustrated with where you are in your life? Are you beating yourself up because you aren't in as great a position as others, or as you'd hoped you would be? Do you find yourself comparing your abilities, your training and your progress to others'?

Each of us is an individual. Each of us walks a separate and distinct path from everyone else on the planet. Yes, we have some similarities but we are all unique and in our totality, we will be different from everyone else. So it makes no sense to compare anything about yourself to anyone else, not in a way that leaves you feeling defective, incomplete, inadequate, or anything else remotely negative.

Where you are on your journey is simply that. It's where you are, right here, right now. You must not minimise what you're doing at any particular time in your life.

Just recognise it for what it is. You're at this stage in your development, and that's that.

Do not forget that you are further along than where you were a week ago, a year ago, or five or ten years ago. As time has passed, you've been busy learning, acquiring skills, knowledge, and practice. So you know a lot more now than you did at any time prior to this moment.

It's true, you know less now than you will in the future, but so what? That's the same for everyone else. No one is better than you because he or she appears to be more successful.

That is a very subjective term and does not necessarily encompass any marks of true achievement. Appearances can be ridiculously deceiving.

See your own individual progress, because the only real measure of it is where you began and where you are now. No one else can walk your path; no one else's will be like yours.

Whatever others are doing (or not) is irrelevant.

Stop looking at anyone else's paper. Appreciate how far you've come. Accept where you are. Look forward to where you want to be.

Yours is the only journey with which you need to be concerned.  Celebrate it for what it is; you're exactly where you're supposed to be.

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If Your Words Are Not Helpful, Keep Them to Yourself

I really can't stand negative and fearful talk. I don't see any point in it. What good can possibly come from that? None. But it can cause a whole lot of damage.

I've known a few people like that in my life. It's one thing to have a conversation with someone about specific concerns during the decision-making process, when many factors need to be taken into account. But once there is a decision, there is absolutely no point in going on and on about all the possible things that could go wrong.

The only thing worse than offering an unsolicited opinion is offering an unsolicited opinion that is destructive, whether or not that was the intent. Speaking without specifically having positive intentions is a dangerous road to travel.

It sucks when there you are, already doing battle with your fears, shoving them aside as best you can, when people start launching them back in your face. What if this doesn't work? What if that fails? What are you going to do if...

Maybe you've now got yourself into something that you can't easily undo, and you must carry on with your plan. But there are those Negative Nellies who seem to think it's necessary to keep feeding your fears. For some reason, they keep asking, "What if your worst fear comes true??"

Or perhaps you have an idea, a dream. Bravely, you share your excitement and your plans with someone. And the response is, "That will never work." Or "What's the point?" or "You wouldn't be able to do that."

Your heart sinks. You feel deflated. You agree, "What's the point?" and you give up before you've even tried.

There will always be those people who burst your bubble, or who focus on fear and pessimism, and who feed these to you as often as they can get you to choke them down. I'm sure it's their own fears, failures, shattered dreams and bad experiences that make them say such things.

But whatever it is that drives them to do this, you must never let anyone else shoot you down. Tell them how you feel. Tell them to keep their negativity to themselves and if they have nothing good to say, nothing positive, useful, helpful - or at least innocuous - then tell them not to bother saying anything at all.

Negative, fearful talk just weighs people down, holds them back, and keeps them stuck. And if you are one of those people who just has to fret and worry out loud, telling people all the things they should be fearing, or that might go wrong, or if you keep offering unsolicited negative opinions, stop.

It's one thing to raise legitimate concerns. It's another to keep harping on all the negatives after a decision has been made.

Be positive. Be uplifting. Be encouraging. Especially if you know the listener is already concerned about the same issues and is trying to move forward and overcome the obstacles. Your added negativity will only make the situation worse.

As humans, we are already primed and ready to be fearful, to worry, or to be anxious, and especially when it comes to anything pertaining to our survival. Fear takes away our power, and when we feel disempowered, we become less productive, more stressed and more anxious.

When someone keeps reminding you that you might fail, or that everything will go wrong, it's easy to slide into that kind of thinking, making it oh, so much easier to attract the thing you fear the most because you are no longer feeling strong or confident. And that can affect your ability to make good decisions.

It is not loving or helpful to remind people that their biggest fear might become a reality. If you have to say anything at all, give them strength by encouraging them, focusing on their strengths, or strategizing about how to handle potential pitfalls. Remind them of their courage and their ability to stay calm and focused. Help them find solutions. Focus on the possibilities and remind them that they are powerful, resourceful people.

If what you have to say in any conversation is not going to be helpful, or at least innocuous, then keep it to yourself.

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Your Vulnerability Is Your Greatest Asset

It is time to risk sharing your feelings and stop fearing the judgement of others. You might fear letting people see “the real you” but if you always let this stop you from truly being yourself, you will never know the full extent of your capabilities and gifts.

Rather than keeping your feelings to yourself so no one can judge you for them, you would be better served by learning to trust that you are entitled to feel however you want to feel. Sure, some people might disagree with you or even criticise you, but so what? 

You don’t have to let it bother you. They can feel however they want - and so can you. Your thoughts and feelings are a reflection of who you are and no one has a right to judge you. 

In fact, more often than not, when people are spouting angry, judgemental nastiness at others, they are really talking to themselves. Let them rant all they want; you don’t have to take it on board unless what they say really hits home and stirs something in you that you know you would love to change or improve.

Some people will understand and appreciate your feelings; others will not. Just as you can relate to certain people and their situations, no doubt there are others that you just can’t figure out no matter how hard you try. At the end of the day, all of us are essentially the same. All of us feel fear, hurt, anger, and embarrassment as easily as we feel love, joy and happiness. 

When you hold yourself back from others and don’t let them see the truth of who you are, you don’t let yourself see it either. Better to come from a place of having faith and confidence in yourself for being who you’re meant to be, and bravely letting the world see who that is. 

By allowing yourself to be vulnerable and authentic, you will connect with the world in a much more deep and meaningful way. 

Muslim Pressure on Subway Restaurants Reeks of 1930s Germany and Jews

International fast food chain Subway has just set a dangerous - and outrageous - precedent.

By knuckling under pressure from Muslims to keep all pork products out of its shops, it becomes easier for more of the same to occur in other restaurants, stores and who knows what else down the road.

To start, no more delicious BLTs, spicy Italian, or Italian BMT sandwiches loaded with pepperoni, sausage and ham. Gone will be the yummy steak and bacon, or steak and chorizo combinations that are so popular at Subway. 

Their breakfast sandwiches consist of eggs, pork sausage and bacon. But because some people choose to be Muslim, they've ruined Subway breakfast for the rest of us. Pork substitutes just don't cut it! I want the real thing!

I'm so far beyond disgusted and outraged, there are simply no words for it.

Am I anti-Muslim? Of course not. But I am definitely against people cramming their beliefs down other people's throats to the point where such a decision as this has been made.

At the height of Mad Cow Disease in 1996, Oprah Winfrey was practically lynched after hearing the horrors of the disease and making an off-the-cuff comment about not wanting to eat beef again. Because of her considerable influence on the public, she was accused of potentially damaging the entire beef industry. 

Yet with Muslims pressuring Subway into this ridiculous decision, they are potentially damaging a highly successful business - just as Oprah was accused of doing. She was taken to Court for it, but it's the Muslims' right to singlehandedly upset millions of Subway customers? How does that work?

And even if Oprah's followers decided to go off beef because of her reactive comment, it would have been their choice, whereas Muslims have taken away our choice to enjoy beloved food items - items that no one is forcing the Muslims to even eat!

Speaking for myself, and purely on principle, I know that there is no way I will be setting foot in a UK Subway again.

What worries me most is "What's next?" Are the Jews going to shut down every burger joint on the planet from Wendy's to McDonald's to Burger King for serving burgers with cheese? After all, it is against Jewish law to mix meat and dairy products to the point where Kosher homes use two sets of dishes, two sets of utensils and two fridges - one for meat products and one for dairy. 

Or maybe the Hindus will outdo the Jews on the issue of eating sacred cows, going one step further and insisting that no beef can be served anywhere. Will English pubs be legally prevented from serving a long-standing British favourite, steak and ale pie? Will they force the extremely popular Keg Steak House to disappear from Canada and the USA? Will supermarkets no longer be allowed to sell beef products, right down to the last tin of consommé?

And if we're going to outlaw pork and beef, then it's just a heartbeat until we must outlaw eating any animal or fish or anything at all that used to draw breath. Vegetarians will rise against those of us who dare eat the flesh of a living being and in another heartbeat or two, the vegans will jump on the bandwagon and no one will be allowed to eat egg or dairy products either.

Imagine what all shops and restaurants will look like globally once everyone with a "beef" about eating - or not eating - certain products gets his or her say and the rest of us be damned. All of us will be forced to eat nothing but plants and nuts - although if the brilliant television producer Chuck Lorre is correct, that could be a significant issue too (see his hilarious and thought-provoking Vanity Card #536 here).

You can only go so far when stretching boundaries and eventually, you meet yourself coming back. When an issue that is supposedly about tolerance and accepting others' religious beliefs and rights reaches the point where it then impinges upon the rights of others, what began as an issue of inclusivity suddenly turns into exclusivity. A poor excuse for an attempt not to discriminate (if that's what we're calling this outrageous move by Subway) suddenly turns into one of the biggest potentials for racial and religious discrimination that this world has ever seen. Heaven only knows what kind of anger and violent repercussions this could cause...

Perhaps all the non-Muslims should start bullying their way into the Halal shops, food markets and restaurants. Seems fair to me that if they're going to insist that Subway (or anyone else) cater to their specific preferences, then I guess the rest of us should be able to do the same thing to them. 

I can't imagine walking into a Halal shop or restaurant, accusing the owners of discriminating against me for not having my beloved bacon products, and demand that they bring on the pig. And I sure as hell can't imagine doing it to the point where eventually they cave and allow pork in all of their stores. Such arrogance is absolutely beyond me.

Why can't they just open their own damned pork-free sub sandwich shops with all the Halal products they like? There's no need to muscle the pork products out of an internationally established restaurant chain and force them to turf foods and menu items that millions of non-Muslim customers love. 

Subway, you're now discriminating against all non-Muslims. And not only have you given Muslims a precedent by which they can pressure other restaurants and shops globally, you have opened the door to more and more intolerance and pressure by other religions against even more establishments. The word "Hitler" comes to mind...

You have just opened one giant can of worms and I fear what comes next because you buckled under the pressure. 

I cannot imagine what on earth would possess you to make such an insanely stupid move...unless...most of your decision-makers are Muslim??

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Don't Let Excuses Block Your Path to Happiness

So. You're thinking of doing something that's difficult. Or perhaps you think it's impossible, or that it won't be particularly successful.

Maybe it's something you have to do, even if you don't want to do it. Either way, you're having trouble figuring out how on earth to do it.

You come up with an objection. There's this "thing" in the way and that's why it won't work. Maybe someone offers a solution; you might even think of your own. But then there's another "thing" in the way, another roadblock. And the longer you sit there, dreading doing it (or dreading that it won't work), the less you're inclined to try.

Instead, you keep coming up with one obstacle after another. And the hours and the days keep ticking along right past you.

Still, it needs to be done, or you really want it to be done, but nothing has changed, although you do have a lovely selection of obstacles, roadblocks and excuses stockpiled for future reference.

There will always be a reason not to do something. Whether you want to find it or not, there will always be yet another potential problem standing between you and a difficult challenge.

It won't get easier if you drag your heels. It will only grow in your imagination, becoming much more of a mountain than a molehill and the longer you put it off, the more difficult it will seem.

I was always one to encourage my children to try something new. When they hesitated, unsure about whether or not they could do a particular thing, I asked, "How will you know unless you try?" 

That seemed reasonable to them and all of them would try without another thought - and usually with very positive results. All except for one of them, that is. For some reason, one of my sons would always say, "I can't!" before he tried. It took a fair bit of convincing to get him to believe that maybe, juuust maybe, he could.

If no one ever tried anything new, we'd still be sitting around waiting for Thag to chisel a wheel out of a chunk of stone. Sure, there will always be failures but so what? The successes are worth the attempts, and besides, you only fail when you stop trying.

Samuel Johnson summed it up rather nicely: "Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome."

Exactly. You can sit around and come up with one objection after another, as long as you want to avoid actually doing something. But that'll never get you anywhere.

Don't let excuses block your path to progress and success. They'll only send you down a very miserable detour on a dead-end road.

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