In Simplifying My Life, How Can I Learn Contentment?

Contentment is the fundamental pursuit in each area of life. We want to get the house painted or our certification completed or the kids grown or something that we are convinced will enable us to finally be content. However, it is really a condition of our inner person. Sort of an at-peace-with-me feeling. It is also a foundation to enjoying life and being intentional in the moment. Can it be done? If so, how?

1 – Practice delaying gratification. When you consider making a purchase, use patience and consider postponing the ones that are simply for convenience. If you end up purchasing the item later, it will be well thought out. If not, you’ll be happier to have saved the time and money.

2 – Evaluate the important areas of your life: spirituality, mate, family, work, friends, finances, health, personal development, rest / recreation, etc., and determine what defines your values in each of these categories. Such as, “for R & R, I need to be out in the fresh air and sunshine and I need unstructured blocks of time…”. This will enable you to establish a thought pattern around the way you make decisions in the important issues of life. The process for making better choices is made simpler because your values are defined and explain why you do things the way you do them.

3 – Make a focused effort to remain inspired and to be inspiring. Spend 10+ minutes each day reading something that inspires you. Journal what you glean from what you read, personal encounters, a movie you watch or just what comes to mind while you are in the shower. You will be amazed at how you can gain such positive perspective from your quiet times. Invest in others by offering an encouraging word in the way of a note, text or call to them when they are working on a particular endeavor or are facing a personal trial.

4 – Unplug from the technology of life and plug in to the simpler paths. Change gears for half an hour each day by taking a walk or a bubble bath. Find a neat little hobby such as painting or woodworking that you can enjoy and de-stress from the working hours in your day. Write a blog — oh, I resemble that! — on something that you have learned in an effort to enlighten others.

5 – Get a mentor – be a mentor. Spend time with people you admire and learn about their lives and interests. They can offer guidance in learning how to do things in a different, possibly more efficient way. Find ways that you can share things or teach a class around what you have learned with others who will benefit from your time. Show appreciation for what you learn and for the opportunity to share.

6 – Reach out and get to know a neighbor at home or work. Don’t worry, if you’re the new-bee you can still take the initiative. Every friend we have was once a stranger. Be observant in watching for common interests. Maybe you both have kids the same age or at work it may be someone who goes to lunch at the same time as you.

7 – Practice learning to be a great listener. By doing so, you will learn the true art of emotional intelligence and the high quality of “likeability”. When you work to listen to others at deeper levels, you communicate to them that you place high value on them and the time they spend with you. You will also learn how to take the focus off of your own personal challenges and you may very well find that you have a great friend and listening ear in place when you are in need of encouragement.

By putting these steps into routine practice for 30 days, you will be able to determine if your life can be defined as being more content. And, in turn, you can inspire others to do the same!

Sheri

If we are unable to completely avoid regret, what can we do when we experience it?

We often hope we will never have to experience regret. Our response to it will determine whether we are strengthened during the process, or if we crash and burn and then have to pick up the pieces and begin again.

Even having a sincere desire to do our best in life, we will likely make some choices that we may later regret.

If Regret is Unavoidable, What Choices Do We Have?

Avoid indulging it. Imagine you are swimming in the ocean and your feet have become entangled in seaweed. The seaweed is “regret” (apply this reflection to anywhere you may feel stuck). You tug and swim harder, yet you are still unable to move forward with the seaweed wrapped heavily around your feet. Indulging a regret, means we go over and over it, analyzing every detail, and becoming more tangled by replaying in our minds all the “woulda-shoulda-and-coulda(s)”. We may hold on to it becoming identified with it which can cause us to feel paralyzed or victimized.

Be honest with where we are and learn to make new choices. We have the choice to simply look at it, feel it, accept it, learn from it, and when ready, untie it and swim on. Repressing our regrets, on the other hand, creates a different problem because we believe we are actually “getting on with life”. Yet, by ignoring the feelings that need to be felt, we tend to harden our hearts over time. Acknowledging our regrets, helps us face and feel them, learn from them and make good wherever possible. We can then forgive ourselves and others and find healing, rather than be held hostage to our past.

Just do the work without worrying about the timing. We like to have timelines attached to transformation, want to know when we will finally be done with a particular regret and freely swimming on. The best way to gain what we need from the situation is to focus on shedding layers of remorse that get in the way of living and showing up fully. Any time it may arise, we can simply notice it, allow it to deepen our experience of vulnerability and humility, and grow in integrity.

You don’t have to do it alone. Speak your regret out loud to someone close who supports you or write it in a journal between you and God. There is something inherently restorative in either of these acts. At times, if we are able to reflect on the respective journeys we have taken in life with a close friend, it builds a strong bond. It’s where we can learn there is a place beyond regret.

Once we allow regret to change from something that drags us down and overwhelms us, we can grow more sensitive, kind and caring… a true refreshing breath to others.

Regret may linger for a season, but it loses its sting!

Sheri

What is the Big Deal about Minimalism?

I’ve been writing about the value of simplicity for nearly 20 years.and since you’ve asked, I’d have to say that Minimalism is best described as pursuing the Right Things so that we are able to Focus More on the things we Enjoy Most!

Simply put, it is the identification, and then the continual choice, of living (doing, buying, seeking) ONLY what is essential. Quite similar to a life of simplicity, Minimalism elaborates on the saying, “less is more” to make it a declaration that “less is better.”

I have considered myself a “minimalist” since 1999. Something about the all around scare-tactics etc., of what Y2K may cause, got me to thinking that I wanted to focus on making better and more meaningful choices in my life.

After a divorce in 2003, and armed with a belief that God has and always will have a plan for me that is better than I could ever design for myself, I set out to learn what was most important, most enjoyable, and most aligned with His best for me. My goal was to best utilize what He had taught me in my life up to that point.

Here is what I found:

I have been given the privilege and responsibility to prioritize my life! If I avoid doing it, someone else may step in and take on that role in a way that serves their needs best.  Taking the time to prioritize our life and choices eliminates our being tied and / or obligated to others expectations.

I continually ask myself, whether I am at work or play, “Is this the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?” It helps me to zero in on what is most important in the moment. If it isn’t important to me at the present time, I  simply choose to redirect my focus to what matters and what will have the most impact on the purpose I am seeking to achieve.

I want to live a life by design, not default. I will do this effectively by learning to master my response to situations and be able to turn things around, as opposed to living like the bow tied on a kite string based on what is happening to me at any given moment.

I don’t want to have it all and I don’t need to do it all. It is imperative for me to first clarify and then be willing to make the necessary trade-offs in order to pursue what is most important to me. One of the things I remind myself when I am struggling to stick with my plan is this: “I choose to NOT trade off what I want MOST for what I want right NOW!”

I have learned that I do not need to be ‘plugged into’ all that is happening either virtually or globally all of the time. Rather I have decided that the most important thing for me to focus on is what’s front and center of my actual world at the present time. I continually find that focusing on the few essential ideas right in front of me is typically more rewarding, and offers greater potential, than the many that may be trying to distract me.

The best thing I’ve learned is when to say no to the nonessentials so I can say yes to the things that really matter. I find it easier not to commit if I’m not certain that I can give 100%. This requires me to have the courage to say no firmly, resolutely and gracefully so that I can say “yes” to those things that I truly value and where I know I can purposefully make a difference.

The effectual pursuit of simplicity (minimalism) is about arriving at a deep understanding of what leads to a happy and meaningful life for each of us personally. It has never been about sacrificing or getting rid of stuff.

Sheri 

How Do I Know if My Feelings are Telling Me the Truth?

“How are you feeling today?”

“My feelings were hurt.”

“I’m not feeling it.”

It would be easier to respond to the “facts” about our life situations if people asked, “What is true about your life today?”, or “What can you do today that will make a positive difference?”

We can easily become overly concerned about what we ‘think” someone else is ‘thinking’ regarding us. When, in actuality, we may be the furthest thing from their minds.  When I begin thinking like this, I chuckle and remind myself that I am onlykind of a big deal’ in my own mind. 🙂

Picture a train, the engine is the power that drives it and the caboose (when they were used) served to house the crew responsible for track switching and acting as lookouts for load shifting or other concerns.  If we regard the TRUTH about our lives as the engine of the train that drives us, we can move along empowered by making decisions based on what we know to be right. If, on the other hand, we are led by our FEELINGS, it is as if we are letting the caboose engineer our life train and we become disempowered because we can be on a roller coaster driven by emotions and not truth. It is stressful and chaotic at best and ultimately results in, you guessed it, a train wreck!

Avoiding this mindset of feelings-driven living, requires us to be intentional in cultivating a belief system that is grounded in the truth about any given situation. By recognizing the things we have the power to change as well as the ones we need to accept, we can be empowered to put our efforts where we can make the most difference.

When I struggle with determining the facts vs. my feelings, I ask myself, “What am I feeling about the current situation I am facing?” And then, “What is true about the current situation I am facing?”

Feelings are merely assumptions we make, often based on past experiences, and can impact what we believe about the way something is likely to turn out.

It is much less stressful to focus on the facts and adjust to what is true than it is to be carried on the winds of our feelings, emotionally going up and down and never really sure what is true and what to expect.

Regardless of our feelings or emotions, we can choose to remind ourselves that our feelings follow our actions, so choose what is the next best thing you need to do and do it… the right feelings will come along in due time!

Sheri 

What Happens When Life Happens?™

Sometimes Life happens in a way that puts us out-of-control. What can we do and where can we focus during these seemingly answerless seasons of life?.

Have you ever had a deep conversation with a trusted friend when you were perplexed about something? You probably didn’t walk away with all of your problems and concerns solved, but more than likely, you left with a lighter step and a clearer head. Your friend may have listened to your heart and encouraged you that things will work out.  It felt good to just be heard.

Establishing a deep connection with God by quietly sitting and sipping tea or coffee, taking a walk, journalling or other ways that refresh us,. can help us be open to good things that can come from our struggles when we have so much swirling around in our heads. A daily time and space for time in His Presence can provide light for our path, renew our spirit and give us strength to press on. Things often don’t change or get corrected over night. But, everything does eventually work out for the best, if we make the best of how they work out.

Regardless of the storms we face, we can find comfort in knowing that God doesn’t waste anything that happens to us.  And, who knows, one day we may write our own story about what really happened when life happened!

Points to Ponder: Think of a time when it seemed your world fell apart, reflect on what God was doing, how you “made” it through, and what you gleaned from it. 

Sheri 

What is a Heart Makeover?

Most of you who have followed my Blog for a while know that I am a diehard Minimalist… Mama used to say that if I owned two of anything I wanted to give one away! 🙂 I mostly agree; however, I do like both shoes, earrings, and gloves. And don’t forget the socks… two of those work, also!

In all of the Ordering of My Life… something I’ve done all my life, from lining up my dolls to making my bed each day (yep, pretty much for all 60 years), as I get out of it. I. Like. Order. Actually, it’s a Love Affair that I have with Order.

Imagine my surprise when I began to study that our attitudes are matters of the heart… Proverbs 27:19 tells us, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart”. Wow, my attitude reflects my heart. Need to do a little minimizing here… Yep, a little less resentment (or a lot less), grudge-holding, anger, un-forgiveness, fear, doubt…quite a bit of “ordering” needs to be happening inside my heart.

Here’s what I’m learning…

The word heart is used in different ways all the way through the Scriptures.  The Bible says that “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). When God looks at us, He doesn’t look at the color of our skin, or at the kind of clothes we wear. Nor does He consider our position in society. The Bible says that God looks upon our hearts to see what we are on the inside—the thoughts, motives and intents of our heart.

We can go to church, lead small groups and have the sticker on our vehicles, but our hearts may be far from Him. This happens when our hearts—our real selves—are taken up with (overly consumed by) the things of this world.  This results in us having a worldly view of life, people and things. In order to gain God’s perspective, our focus must be centered on Him. 

The Bible teaches that our hearts can be hardened. The sun shines on clay and hardens it, yet the same sun melts butter. The Truth of the Gospel can soften the hearts of some who choose to align with Jesus, yet, it can harden those who rebel against Him. So, what is God’s attitude toward our hearts? Our secrets are not hidden from God; He knows every single thing that goes on there.

Scripture also teaches us that God ponders the heart. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord ponders the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2). We can attempt to justify and  rationalize the way we live and the choices we make. But the intent of our heart is abundantly clear to God.

The Bible talks about the heart of Jesus, and illustrates His compassion and His love, laying down His life on the cross for our sinful hearts. His pure heart, His perfect heart, His glorious heart, His loving heart, His tender heart, His compassionate heart—bled on the cross, in our place… so that our hearts could be reconciled to God and enjoy the gift of His Eternal Life. That is the True Heart of all that Matters!

Lastly, the Bible encourages us with this glorious promise—that God will give us a new heart. When we come to Christ and surrender our heart to Him, God says, “I’ll take out the old heart and I’ll put in a new one.”  This is ‘Regeneration’, and it means that God will give us a new life—a new direction for our life, new thoughts, new energies, new ambitions, and as He transforms us from he inside out… He is perfecting all that concerns us according to His purposes. This just makes my Heart Happy!

Invest in things today that bring lasting value…….. Sheri

What Would A Vacation-Mindset Look Like as a Lifestyle?

Consider the mindset that you enjoy on vacation. You are free to set your own schedule, not worrying about what you have to do today, not worrying about the time — just being — minus the anxiety. Now imagine the mindset of being busy at work: doing one task while being anxious about many others, worrying that you may not be doing the right task, interrupted by others, distracted and stressed.

These are two different mindsets, and yet, what if we could enjoy the vacation mind while working? Well, we would need to forego the lazing around, but the mindset could be the same. This has the potential to result in a more sane lifestyle, not just living for the weekend or the little vacation time we have, but the ability to navigate life so that we are truly happier every day.

How can this be done? We would need to practice and develop a few small habits that will make more sense as we go along.

What would the vacation mind look like at work?

Often just thinking about work tasks can alter our mindset from relaxation to anxiety: worry for what we need to do, deadlines, dealing with difficult people, information overload, being on the right task, even concerns as to whether we may be missing out on something important. (A life, perhaps :)!)

A vacation mindset lets that anxiety go and is simply present in the current moment. Time is less important, enjoying yourself is the priority. You let go of the anxiety. You aren’t worried about getting it all done, or doing the right thing right now, or all the things you have to do later. You are immersed in enjoying whatever you’ve chosen to do at the present moment.

So how would this look? You choose to work on a particular task, perhaps writing something. You, obviously, have quite a list of things to do but this is the thing you decide to work on at the moment. Could there be other things you should be doing instead? Of course, there always are and will continue to be. As for the best thing to do right now, the moment of perfect certainty never comes, so just pick something and do it.

Practice being able to enjoy the task at hand. Let other tasks take their rightful place, the time to do them will come. Immerse yourself in the current task. Focus on enjoying yourself as you do it. At times, you may mentally step back, come up for air and take a look at the bigger picture, and then return back to the project. This is what I like to call “laser-focus”.

And you can do this when you talk with a co-worker or client. You can do this with an important email, or processing paperwork/small tasks, designing something, programming, creating art, helping a patient or student. This is a learned strategy / discipline and it is doable.

We can’t just flip a switch and be good at these things today … they take practice, like any other skill. I can say that they’re worth practicing, even if you never master them, because they can transform your relationship with work.

Here are the practices that you can consider working on a little every day:

  1. Pick something, get immersed in the act of being creative. Focus on the enjoyment of creating something that is uniquely your idea. Being able to work from this relaxing mindset affords you the time to think with a higher level of energy. This will play out in everything you endeavor to do.
  2. Let go of anxieties. This takes practice. Learn to recognize when you begin to feel anxious and notice the source of the anxiety. This is typically focusing on an outcome you want to happen, such as, looking good in front of others, being highly productive, controlling a situation, etc. Realize the desired outcome is merely a fantasy, and other outcomes can work out just as well. Realize that holding on to this fantasy of how it should turn out causes stress. Let go and restore your creative energy mindset.
  3. Come up for air and see the big picture. Diving in is great, but it is also helpful to step back at times, and assess what is going on around you. Notice people who are nearby and if anyone needs your attention, how you’re sitting (and whether you’re sitting too long), etc. Is there an appointment you should get to? See the big picture, then go back into immersion.
  4. Be less worried about time. Time is important but we can be mindful of it while not being “lorded over” by it. It matters that we show up on time for appointments we have, paying attention to completion deadlines, billing clients etc. There are times when we can waste time worrying about the time we need to do or not be doing something. Practice a balance of being aware of when time matters and when there can be some leeway.

You may be considering if this is truly doable. The answer depends on you. You’ll be surprised what you can do — if you have the “want to”. 

Choose to Enjoy Each Day…….. Sheri

How do I remain positive when life gets tough?

Perhaps, you’ve said or thought that happiness is something that must be achieved:

“When this is done, I’ll be happy.”  “When I own that, I’ll be happy.” “When I weigh less, I’ll be happy.”

Choosing a journey of going deeper with God, I’m learning to choose to be happy in any given moment. Taking control of my thoughts and actions, helps me become more content now!

Some actions were obvious good choices: going to bed earlier, routine exercise, being in the moment, singing to my favorite music…others were not that obvious: handling a nagging task, looking for the lessons in failed efforts, avoiding the temptation to gossip, and making the effort to declutter my home, life and schedule.

If a task can be done in under 2 minutes, I don’t put it off. Like Mama taught me, just get it done and you’ll be free of it. I’m learning to find pleasure in small victories and not just the moment of crossing a finish line.

It’s okay to take life a little less serious, to even be silly and go off the path and do the unexpected. These are key sources of enjoying this moment.

Choosing to be more light-hearted in both actions and attitudes, helps me to ask, “do I need to laugh more“, ”be kinder”,  “stop being critical” or “be more cheerful“?  Even when I don’t FEEL like it, if I focus on taking control of my emotions and doing the next basic ‘right’ thing, eventually my feelings catch up!

Every day that you choose to be content in whatever situations you face, can become your favorite day too!

Sheri 

What is the Value of Listening?

I often find that asking people questions about what they are doing or how they decided to do a certain task or project is a great way to offer encouragement and acceptance. I am now convinced that people need encouragement much more than they need instruction.

Asking a question and then giving someone the latitude to share their thoughts on it offers acceptance of the differences we have from others. Listening, without mentally focusing on how we are going to tell them to do it a better way, can bond us together in deeper ways. Active listening offers people the respect and courtesy to share their hearts and ideas without feeling corrected or as if they are in need of “fixing”.

I’ve heard it said that if you give someone 15 minutes to speak, they will tell you everything that is important to them. How much more value can we bring to our relationships if we offer the gift of listening to people (especially those who are important to us), and then using what we learn to offer encouragement in their endeavors?

Think about it. People often point out the mistakes, flaws and errors they see in others or in situations. How often do you hear someone comment on how enjoyable something they experienced proved to be? It’s refreshing, but rare.

Take every opportunity to develop the strength of character that is found in truly listening. People will be drawn to you as well and will be more likely to offer encouragement when you open your heart to share the things you value.

Sheri 

Empowered by Solitude

Consider the benefit of solitude… In our fast-paced, high performing lifestyles, it is often very hard to find a time for solitude, and most of us try to avoid it anyway.

Why do we attempt to avoid it? I believe people may think of solitude as “loneliness” But they are two very different mindsets.
Loneliness brings to mind times when we have been down or have felt overlooked, unloved or rejected. Not so with solitude.

Solitude is a purposeful choice that we make to come apart, if you will, before we “come a-part”. It is a place where we recognize that we need to take a breather, to get a second wind in facing our lives and circumstances.

Isaiah, a major prophet in the Old Testament reported that …”in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” [Isaiah 30:15b] Solitude can be a divine appointment with ourselves in the presence of God only. It can be a place where we can determine our purpose for the here and now.

Be warned that there are many distractions that seek to monopolize our time and to prevent us from this wonderful opportunity for renewal that we find in separating ourselves to gain perspective.

Our dealings with difficult situations [or people] can best be put in proper perspective when we move away from the circumstance or person and evaluate the true issues of conflict or division, something that is rarely accomplished in a head-to-head debate.

Nothing good comes without cost, and solitude is no exception. The cost is that of separation and commitment to the effort of trading off some “good” plans or events for some in our “best” interest.

To attain the best from our times of solitude, we need to make it a priority. It is important that we learn to take care of ourselves, in order that we are best prepared to handle the other “important” issues of our lives. It is okay to prepare and equip yourself for difficult or stressful times.

A major benefit of solitude, when practiced on a regular basis, is good health [it’s fat free as well]. It de-stresses and energizes us when we make it a habit. We can experience better productivity in our work and projects and often, receive clarity, because our mind is cleared, concerning a problem that we have been perplexed by or perhaps just haven’t had the time to deal with appropriately.

Solitude helps repair the “noise” that we endure in so much of our waking lives. It brings a quietness and a calmness that will be a comfort to us as well as to others. Overall, solitude brings us to a place of peace and communion with our Creator, and can restore our hope to press on through rough times.

Do not underestimate the empowering characteristics of solitude. One final benefit, you will be in good company!

Sheri