Building a healthy relationship with yourself and with others

When you’re in the office on Monday morning, many people will ask you how was your weekend. You respond and then they usually have a follow-up question, “What did you do?” I don’t know why, but the “what did you do” tends to annoy me. Perhaps it’s because there is an expectation that someone has to always do something. Has society programmed us that life has to be filled with constantly doing?

Yes, I am one whose life is, from time-to-time, filled with activities, but I am also someone who has learned to appreciate REST – those moments when I am doing absolutely nothing, and if I am lucky, my mind also gets to rest (which, by the way is a rarity). I started to notice that over the last couple of weeks, I was short-tempered, easily irritated, and the introverted side to me had taken over. Why? Possibly because I wasn’t getting enough rest, not physical rest, but mental rest.

Rest is also so the ability to take a mental break from everything and everybody. If you are like me, you have people constantly pulling on you or dumping on you – co-workers, family members, and friends.  It becomes a bit too much. You get tired of hearing people complain about work, complain about finances, complain about relationships, complain about life…complain, complain, complain. If these are people you care about, their burdens become your burdens. You want the best for them, but at the same time, you realize that in order for their complaining to stop, they have to want what’s best for them.  If the people in your life don’t care enough about you to stop making you their dumping ground, you have to care enough about you to stop allowing them to dump on you.

It doesn’t make you a bad person if you choose your own peace of mind over other people’s problems.  I will share something I often say, “You are the ONLY person you are guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with.” Do what’s best for you and don’t feel guilty about it.  Physical and mental rest are good for the soul. It provides you with the opportunity to relax, energize, slumber, and take a timeout.

I was watching a YouTube video discussing the question, “Does God choose your mate? Is this the one?” In the video, the husband talked about how he was previously engaged to another woman. He mentioned that it was a great relationship and she was a wonderful woman. He was set to be married, but he asked God about his romantic future because he wasn’t sure and God said, “You can have good or you can have My best – what you have right now would be a good choice, but it is not my best for you. And God said to him, “the choice is yours.” God left it up to his own free will. Our own free will – that’s a topic I will dive into on another day.

As I was watching the video, it made me ask, “When it comes to a mate, how do we know when it’s God speaking, our own emotions speaking, or the devil speaking?” I wish I had an answer to share with you, but I don’t. I’ve heard stories and know people who instantly knew that person was the one and they did, in fact, end up being the one.

But many people are so focused on being in a relationship – it’s not really about the person. It’s about being in a relationship. Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and although they were a good person, something about the relationship left you with a feeling of uncertainty? Have you ever justified staying with someone because they are a good person? No? Well I have. I stayed in a relationship or two longer than I should have and I rationalized it by saying, “he’s a good person with a good heart.” Perhaps I was fearful I wouldn’t meet another good person with a good heart. Who knows.  The irony is that more times than not, every person after that person ended up being better than the last, and it made me grateful that I didn’t stay with someone just because he is a good person with a good heart.

If a life partner is what you seek, I encourage you to not settle for good when God has best waiting for you.

When I first read that quote, it stood out to me because most people want something real, but not everyone is READY for what comes with something real.  Real comes with standards. Real comes with consistency. Real comes with expectations.  Real comes with commitment. Real takes effort, and a lot of people either don’t have the desire to put in the effort, the bandwidth to put in the effort, or the “know how” to put in the effort.

I once read something that said, “They say be his peace, not his stressor, but I can’t be his peace if I don’t have access to his pieces.” When you are in something real, it means sharing parts of yourself that you may not be so comfortable sharing. Real means opening up and letting someone in. Real means being vulnerable.  You can’t have something real with someone if you limit the parts of yourself that you give to or share with that person.

If you truly seek something real, here are some tips to help you be successful in your relationship:

(1) Know what you want in a relationship. It all starts here.  If you are just trying to fill a void left by someone in your past, or you are lonely, chances are you aren’t seeking a real relationship. A real relationship is one where both people are fully invested, respect each other as equals, and want the same things from the relationship.

(2) Commitment. Both people need to be committed. That doesn’t mean have one foot in the relationship and one foot out of the relationship. Relationships don’t thrive off one person putting in their best effort while the other reaps the benefits.  If you’re both committed to each other, it will work

(3) Communicate regularly. Good communication is essential to a successful relationship. When people stop communicating, they stop interacting and connecting with each other. Make sure you take time to discuss any issues that may need resolving between the two of you. One of the worst things that can come between you is built-up resentment or hurt feelings that haven’t been expressed. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong or when you’ve been neglectful – or even when you feel neglected. Expressing feelings not only increases intimacy, it allows a couple to know each other better.

(4) Listen to your mate. Listen to what each other is saying. If they’re sad, listen. If they’re hurt, listen. If they’re upset, listen. The worst thing you can do is ignore or show that you don’t care when someone you love needs you.

(5) Don’t take each other for granted. Taking your partner for granted is a sure fire way to make him/her feel dejected. Yes, relationships take work and require maintenance, and that also means paying attention to, and being aware of, each other’s needs, feelings, and states of mind.

(6) Be flexible and open to change.  This is probably the most difficult for some people. Change is inevitable in life. Relationships are no different. In order for relationships to flourish, it is necessary to be able to adapt to the changes. In a successful relationship two people grow together through the good, the bad, and less eventful times.

As we all know, time falls back tonight/early hours Sunday morning.  According to statistics, the depression rate increases around this time of the year. It is referred to as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It has been said that the onset of SAD coincides with shorter days and longer, dark nights. Focusing on your blessings instead of your burdens helps you avoid SAD.

Focusing on your burdens instead of your blessings can leave you feeling stressed, tired, depressed, and physically ill. Here are five tips to help you focus more on your blessings:

  1. Start your day quietly in prayer. Wake up a little earlier each morning to spend a few minutes in prayer. Starting your day with prayer or reading a devotional sets the tone for your day.
  2. See every moment as a blessing. I often say, “Any day above ground is a good day.” Each day that you are here on this earth is another day to turn a negative into a positive. That means also giving thanks for the “small” blessings. Some people don’t recognize a blessing unless it is something bold and big. That day you were in traffic and you were frustrated with the car in front of you because the driver was in the left lane driving like he/she was in a funeral procession, but as you progressed on your route, you saw a bad accident that happened just minutes earlier. Putting that slow driver in your path was a blessing. That job that you just had to have – you know the one you thought was a perfect fit for you, but you didn’t get it. Months later, you find out they had massive layoffs or the person you would have been working for is a horrible boss, which would’ve made your life a living hell. Not getting the job was a blessing.
  3. Keep a gratitude log. There’s a quote by Henry Ward Beecher that says, “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” There is a direct link between our gratitude and our overall well-being. If you start to feel sad or depressed, pause and write down three things you’re grateful for. Keep a list on your phone, your computer, or in a handwritten journal.
  4. Change your focus. We tend to focus on the negative aspects of our lives and we forget the blessings that we all have. When you change your attitude to one of counting your blessings you will find you will experience less stress.
  5. Be mindful of what you read, watch, listen to, and who you hang around. What you take in has a great impact on your mental health. Watching the news can be depressing.  Watching TV shows with a lot of drama can lead to feelings of stress. Hanging around people who are always negative, critical or in a “woe is me” state of mind have an impact on you mentally.

We’re in the last two months of the year and you may feel like 2017 has not gone the way you had hoped. Don’t get discouraged. As we see often, things and life can change in the blink of an eye. But I must be honest, one of the reasons this year hasn’t gone the way you thought it would is because you have been living a life of default.

When you get a new cell phone, tablet, or computer, do you stick with the default settings or do you change the settings to your personal preferences? Most people change the settings. When you live a life by default, you are basically accepting what’s already been selected for you. We all know people who seem to experience the same set of challenges or obstacles over and over again, or who have the same or similar negative life events happen to them, regardless of where they are or what they are doing. You are a co-creator of your experiences and when you have internal stress, frantic pressure, and a doom or gloom mentality, your life reflects that back to you.

There’s a quote that says, “If you don’t live a life by design, you will live a life by default.” Living life by default means that you are just passively accept things the way life is showing up for you. Here are some ways to tell if you are living life by default: (1) Do you constantly have a feeling that something is missing? (2) Are major aspects of your life decided by happenstance – things like your what you do on a daily basis, your career, your friends, your dating life, etc.? (3) Do you wake up each day and feel like you are simply reacting to what life is throwing at you? (4) You have no idea of what will truly make you happy. If you answered yes, you may be living a life by default.

Here are five tips to help you live a life by design instead of living a life by default:

  1. Get clear about what you really want out of life. That means defining what makes YOU happy.
  2. Now that you are clear about what you really want out of life, create a life plan. That means setting goals and achieving them. They don’t have to be big audacious goals. People think that their goals have to be something big to make a difference, and when they don’t reach the big goal, they feel unhappy, stressed, depressed or out of alignment. Small goals are just as important. It’s that practice of achieving the small goals that lead to even bigger goals. Achieving small goals build confidence to aim higher.
  3. You need purpose. Your purpose is your why. It’s that “thing” that makes your life fulfilling. It’s something that resonates deeply within your heart.
  4. Learn to be in the moment. According to a Harvard University study, almost half of our waking hours are spent NOT living in the moment. Half! Living in the moment is also associated with mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
  5. Live a life of gratitude. I will ALWAYS emphasize the importance of being grateful. Gratitude makes us happier. Research shows that gratitude increases mental strength, strengthens our emotions, increases our self-esteem, reduces aggression, improves psychological health, and improves physical health.

As I continue on this journey called life, trying to figure it all out…connect the dots, I can actually see the number of times I was so close, but yet so far. So close to that actual breakthrough – that one thing that was going to catapult me into success (my own personal definition of what success looks like for me). It was so close that I could almost reach out and touch it, but… the very center of my blinking eye, it appeared so far away.

I’ve had the opportunity to share a stage or be interviewed with people I now see on Primetime TV or in magazines or with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. I mean like we were, at some point in time, on equal playing fields, but then….when they pulled back on their slingshot, they landed in the RIGHT place at the Right time. I pulled back on my slingshot, and it’s as if it was broken.

Have you ever been so close to that ONE thing…you know THAT thing, but it seemed like the Universe was teasing you? You could visualize it. You could darn near taste it, but you just could never seem to be able to hold it in your hands. I have experienced this in various areas of my life: my career, my business, my romantic relationships, my finances. I would find myself saying, “This was almost it, so I know the next one will be It”, but ummm the next one wasn’t it.  It’s hard to not get discouraged, especially when you see other people thriving, but you seem to be standing still.

I want to share a few tips with you that will help you stay encouraged and make you unstoppable:

  • Don’t be motivated by something external (e.g., money, fancy things, prestige, etc.). There are people with money, big houses, fancy cars, etc., but they are still miserable on the inside. Yes, they keep pushing themselves to get the things society tells them they should have, but the light within them is dim. Stay true to who you are, and use the gifts and talents YOU were blessed with. Live life on YOUR terms.
  • Remember CONFIDENCE is your greatest strength. If you’re not confident, you will never put yourself out there in the first place. When you’re confident, you don’t care how many times you fail, you’re going to succeed. And it doesn’t matter how stacked the odds seem against you.
  • Always be prepared. Become a master of your craft.
  • Always work on your mental strength. “Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer. ~ Josh Waitzkin
  • Never be jealous or envious of someone else’s accomplishments. Being unstoppable means you genuinely want what’s best for everyone — even those you would consider your competitors. Jealousy and envy are the ego, which operates out of fear. You are in control of you and you are different from every other person. There is no one who can do exactly what you can do. You have your own superpower with your own unique ability to contribute, and that’s what you’re going to do.
  • Start before you’re ready. Most people wait. They believe they can start after they have enough time, money, connections and credentials. They wait until they feel “secure.” Not people who are unstoppable. Unstoppable people started last year. They started five years ago before they even knew what they were doing. They started before they had any money. They started before they had all the answers. They started when no one else believed in them. The only permission they needed was the voice inside them prompting them to move forward, and they moved.
  • Set goals that far exceed your current capabilities. If your goals are logical, they won’t force you to create luck. Being unstoppable means your goals challenge you to be someone more than you currently are. As Jim Rohn has said, “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” “You need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You need to develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. If you think you’re unable to work for the best company in its sphere, make that your aim. If you think you’re unable to be on the cover of TIME magazine, make it your business to be there. Make your vision of where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible.” — Paul Arden
  • Respond immediately, rather than analyzing and stalling. Just do it. Train yourself to respond immediately when you feel you should do something. Stop questioning yourself. Don’t analyze it. Don’t question if it came from God or from yourself. Just act. You’ll figure out what to do after you’ve taken action. Until you take action, it will all be hypothetical. But once you act, it becomes practical. Richard Branson said it best, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
  • Never stop learning. Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning. When you want to become the best at what you do, you never stop learning. You never stop improving and honing your skills and knowledge.

(Tips were extracted from the article, “30 Behaviors That Will Make You Unstoppable”)

We all have plans for our life – the type of career we are going to have, the type of mate we will marry, where we are going to live, how many kids we are going to have, etc., but sometimes life doesn’t pan out exactly the way we thought.

When I was in high school, I said I wanted to be a lawyer. I went to college, I majored in English. My last year of college, I took the LSAT (law school admissions test), got a pretty decent score, started applying to law school, and then something hit me – was this really what I wanted to do or was it what was expected of me. So needless, to say, I didn’t go to law school, but I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I worked a couple of jobs after college – none of which had the potential to lead to an actual career.

One day, I decided I was going to leave Mississippi. Mind you, I had no plan and no money. Just a desire. I went to Atlanta for about two weeks – wasn’t for me. Then I drove to the Washington, DC area – mind you, I had no plan, no money, no job, no family, no friends, and really no place to live. Funny, how the decisions we make in our mid 20s are very different from the decisions we would make 10, 15 years later.

I’m not going to go into a long story of how my life has unfolded as a result of me taking a totally different path from the one I had planned in high school. Oh, I must say this, I had ideas of what I thought my life would be once I got settled in the DC area, and let me tell ya, the reality doesn’t match the plan. Okay, now on to you. 😊

Sometimes you have a plan for your life, but God has a different plan for you. Yes, you may have mapped it all out, and could actually visualize it, but all it takes is ONE thing to completely change the trajectory of your life, but as you reflect back on the journey, you see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  The person you married is nothing like the person you thought you would marry, but he/she is the best person for you. The career you have is not the one you went to school for, but it fulfills you – it gives you joy. There are so many aspects of your life that may not have gone or may not go as YOU planned, but they worked out or are working out for YOUR good. It’s VERY important for you to be open to the fact that YOUR plan may not be HIS plan. You may not end up where you thought you were going, but you always end up where you were meant to be.