Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

accountant-accounting-calculator-1548999

Goal setting is challenging. We set goals for our careers. We set goals for our health. We set goals for our personal ambitions. But so often, we get frustrated by our inability to achieve our goals.

The problem with our goals isn’t our willingness to work hard. Most folks are hard workers! Rather, it is that we don’t set goals that make sense.

Common wisdom is that we should set our goals based on outcomes. For instance, “I will lose 10 pounds in three months.” Or, “I will publish a book in two years.” Or, “I will get a better job in the next six months.” Those are all wonderful things to wish for. But they aren’t good goals.

The problem with those goals is that you have no control over them. For example, you cannot control how much weight you will lose. All kinds of factors contribute to whether we can lose weight. Our age, metabolism, stress level and medications all affect whether we are able to lose weight. You likewise cannot control if someone is willing to publish your book, or if someone is willing to hire you. Those are all things that are outside of your control.

Your goals should be based on things that are within your control. So, while you can’t control how much weight you will lose, you can control your diet and exercise regime. As a result, while an unreasonable goal is, “I will lose 10 pounds,” an attainable goal is, “I will exercise every day for 30 minutes.” Exercising for 30 minutes is something that is entirely within your control. You simply have to choose to take 30 minutes out of each day to exercise.

Similarly, while you can’t control whether a publisher will want your book, you can commit to writing 2 pages of your book each day. You can choose to take the time to finish writing the novel of your dreams, which is a massive achievement. You likewise can’t control whether someone will hire you, but you can decide to send out three job applications per week. Or you can decide to learn a new skill which will bolster your resume.

The other way people create goals that don’t make sense is when they try to accomplish things for which they have no aptitude.  I could set a goal for myself to be a super model, but that would be silly. I am 5’ 6” and am a middle-aged lady. I simply don’t have the natural attributes to be a super model.

So, when it comes to setting goals, know thyself. Pick goals that grow the talents that you already possess. For instance, if you are musically talented, you might pick as a goal to practice your instrument for 30 minutes each day. Or, if you are strong and flexible, you might commit to taking a yoga class three times a week to bolster your physical and mental health. The added benefit is that when you work at goals that capitalize on your natural talents, accomplishing your goals feels less like “work” and more like “fun.”

Lastly, pick goals to please yourself, not other people. Why? No one else will sufficiently appreciate your efforts! For instance, sticking to an exercise regime and healthy diet takes some doing. So, do it for yourself. Don’t do it for your spouse. He or she will never adequately appreciate how hard it is for you to make those kinds of lifestyle changes. Instead, make healthy lifestyle choices for yourself.  Then give yourself a pat on the back when you achieve them. You deserve it!

We naturally want to keep improving ourselves until the day that we die. So, be sure to pick goals for your life that make sense. If you do, you’ll be more successful in achieving them, and you’ll feel great!

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

carrying-casual-celebration-1282169

We all know the saying, “Happiness is an inside job.”  That means that other people, luxury items and exotic trips aren’t going to make you happy. Rather, only you can make yourself happy. But how on earth can we make ourselves happy?

The key to achieving happiness is this: You have to like yourself in order to be happy.  And the only way to like yourself is to be likeable. And likeable people are kind, generous, and good – all of the time. It is just that simple.

Below are some ways to start becoming a person who you like, and to ultimately be happy with yourself and with your life.

Be Careful with Your Words: Our words easily can injure others when we speak without thinking. When we are thoughtless, we reasonably feel terrible about ourselves for having hurt another person without meaning to do so. Or, perhaps you intended to injure someone with your words, and then you regret what you said. Either way, when we say hurtful things to others, we end up hating ourselves for it.

Happy people are people who always choose to speak kindly. Kindness is a choice. You don’t have to be mean, cruel or insulting to other people. You choose to do so. So, if you want to feel good about yourself, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard. You need to be the type of person who chooses to be kind, no matter what the circumstances.

Meet Your Responsibilities: We all have societal responsibilities. We are responsible to care for our parents when they become elderly. We are responsible to care for our children, financially and emotionally, until they are on the path to adulthood. We are responsible to be kind, respectful and considerate of our spouses. If you do not meet these basic responsibilities, you will on some level feel that you have failed. And that failure will make you miserable.

People come up with all kinds of excuses for why they can’t meet their responsibilities. And I’m sure that many of those excuses are very persuasive. But those excuses will not take away that little voice in the back of your brain that says, “You didn’t do the right thing.”

If you want to be happy and at peace with yourself, do the right thing. Meet your responsibilities to others. If you do, you will be able to look at yourself in the mirror and like who you see.

Be A Person of Excellence: In order to be happy with yourself, you need to approach your life as if everything matters. That means that the condition of your home, your appearance, and the status of your bank account all matter. And you need to give proper attention to each.

I am not saying that you have to be rich and beautiful to be happy. But you do have to take care of the body that God gave you. And you do have to be financially responsible. And regardless of the size or location of your home, it should be well-cared for. Why? Because we feel good about ourselves when all the facets of our lives are functioning properly.

Think of your life as a car. Everything in a car has to function. Of course, the engine is the most important item, but if the tires are deflated, that engine is not taking you anywhere. Life is the same. All the parts of your life need to be in good working order so that your life, as a whole, works well.

In order to have all the parts of your life work in harmony, you need to approach each part seriously. You need to be careful and responsible with your home, your body and your finances. When all those parts are being cared for, you will feel like a successful adult. And you’ll be pleased with yourself and with how you are managing your life.

Consider how you can become happier by simply holding yourself to a higher standard of behavior. When you like yourself, when you are proud of how you conduct yourself, happiness and contentment will naturally result.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

afternoon-beverage-break-1549706

No one goes through life unscathed. We all have problems from time to time. We all at times go through bumpy periods in our relationships. We all have to deal with unexpected tragedies, such as job loss, divorce or the death or illness of loved ones. As a result, stress is an inevitable part of life.

Since we all have stress, the key to our contentment and happiness in life lies in how we deal with these stressful periods. If you can only be happy when every part of your life is perfect, you are going to be unhappy for the majority of your life. The key to being happy is being able to maintain your serenity, regardless of your circumstances.

Below are some strategies for maintaining your serenity in the midst of stressful situations. Consider applying them in your own life.

Focus on What You Can Control: Here is what you can actually control in your life: You can control how you behave. You can control how you react to others and to situations. You can control how much or how little you work to achieve your goals. You can control how you spend your free time. Every other aspect of your life is outside of your control.

You cannot control what others do or say. You cannot control whether people like you. You cannot control the economy or your career opportunities. You cannot control if your marriage will be successful or will end in divorce. You cannot control whether your loved ones will become ill, and you cannot control when they will die. So, spending your mental and emotional energy on these issues is pointless.

To maintain your serenity in the midst of stress, it is important to spend your energy on what you can control – yourself.  For example, last year my husband was on life support for a number of days. I am embarrassed to admit that for a couple of hours after I received the news, I was in shock and was not of use to anyone. But then, I pulled myself together.  I focused on consulting with his doctors.  I did research to understand every aspect of his situation and course of treatment. I then tried to explain his medical situation to his children and family in a way which was accurate.

That was all I could do. I could not control whether he lived or died. I could not control how other people reacted to his hospitalization. I could only do my best with how I handled the situation. That was all that was in my power.

When you are under stress, focus on what you can control – yourself. If you give your mental and emotional energy to what you cannot control, you will make yourself miserable. If you solely focus on what you yourself are able to do to improve the situation, you will feel more at peace.

Have Positive Distractions: Typically, I am not a big fan of distractions. I don’t care for watching television, unless it is to pass the time during a long flight. I like to read books, but I generally read ones which educate me about a topic. Indulging in entertainment is not something that I do on a daily basis.

All that being said, there is a place for distractions. When you are under stress, by all means, indulge in positive distractions. Read books that transport you to another place and time. Watch movies or television shows that are light and funny. Do wholesome things to get your mind off your immediate problem.

Unfortunately, you can’t solve your problem by focusing all your mental energy on it. If only that were the case! That approach is recipe for driving yourself crazy.

Instead, once you have done all that you can to improve the situation, give your brain a break. By engaging in positive distractions, you can give yourself that much needed mental break from what is causing you stress. Then when you return to the situation, you will be refreshed and ready to face it with a clear head.

Remember That This Too Shall Pass: Life is not static. It is constantly changing. If you look back over the course of the last year, I am sure that will be surprised at how much your life has changed in these last short 12 months.

So, when facing a stressful situation, try to be mindful that these circumstances will not last forever. I remember when I was in the middle of getting divorced, I thought, “How will I manage this stress?” My head and stomach hurt almost constantly. But within a year, my life had changed completely. I had moved. I got a great job. And I met a wonderful man. And within two years I was happily remarried.

Life simply does not stay the same. Our circumstances constantly change. And if you work hard, are kind and keep a good attitude, very often your circumstances will change for the better. So, take solace in the fact that any situation that you are facing is temporary.

Practice using the above strategies the next time that you face a stressful situation. Maintaining your serenity in stressful situations initially will not come naturally. It will be something that you have to work at. However, over time, it will become easier, and you will be able to maintain your serenity in all situations.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

achievement-adventure-brave-6629

If you have confidence issues, you are not alone. People can struggle with their confidence for a variety of reasons. Some people didn’t have parents who encouraged them. Some may have suffered failures and can’t seem to rebound back from them. Others may have had their confidence undermined my immature spouses or friends.

Unfortunately, the world can be a very critical place. As a result, your self-esteem has to come from within. If you rely on positive feedback from the world in order to feel good about yourself, the world effectively will hold your confidence hostage. You will like yourself only when others happen to approve of you. That is a terrible way to live.

What we all seek is unshakeable confidence. We want to be confident in our skills, ability and appearance, no matter what type of feedback that we receive from others. Below are ways to develop that rock steady confidence that each of us desires.

Ignore Negative Feedback: The older I get, the more I realize that the negative feedback that I receive is rarely about me. Why? Because people are only critical of others when they are unhappy with themselves. Outside of parents and teachers, people rarely criticize to help or teach other people. Unhappy people typically point out the imperfections of others to make themselves feel better.

So, for the most part, the negative feedback that you receive from others is not useful. As a result, you have to develop a thick skin and ignore those negative comments. But you also need to become adept at self-assessment. While trusting the criticisms of others is a bad idea, you can’t live in La-La Land. You may be a lovely person, but you aren’t perfect. No one is. So, you need to try to look at yourself in a loving, but objective manner.

For instance, you shouldn’t listen to anyone’s opinion as to your weight. You know whether you are too heavy or not by the way your body feels and the way your joints feel. I remember when I was pregnant, the nurse told me that I was gaining weight too quickly. It was a silly comment. Pregnant women gain weight, and sometimes they gain a lot of weight. I fortunately ignored the comment and didn’t go on a diet at the very time that my child needed nutrition from me. And within a month after giving birth I was back to wearing my smallest jeans. I followed my own intuition regarding my weight, and I was right.

You also shouldn’t listen to anyone’s opinion as to what you can or cannot accomplish. I have never been a great student. When I was in school, if a class interested me, I got an A. If it bored me, I got a C. I am not an academically competitive individual. So, I have never been driven to get good grades for the sake of having a high GPA.

As a result, based on my high school and university report cards, no one would have ever suggested that I apply to law school. Nevertheless, I applied, got in, and have had a 25-year career in the law. Sometimes, you just have to be confident and go for your goals, even if the world tells you that you don’t have what it takes.

Focus on Your Qualities: Not one of us is perfect. But God has blessed each of us with certain talents and attributes. The world will have you focus on what you lack. But I implore you to instead focus on what God has given you.

That is the mental switch that you need to make in order to be confident. This is particularly hard for women. We can be very critical of our appearances. For example, if you don’t have a perfect, little nose, don’t give it any thought. Instead, focus on the fact that you have been blessed with beautiful eyes or healthy, long hair. Alternatively, you may have funny looking feet. Well, so what? Stick shoes on them, and instead focus on the fact that you have a great figure.

You have to forget the idea that you are going to be perfect or the best at anything. The reality is that there will always be someone in the world who is smarter, more accomplished, or more attractive than you are. And that is OK! Because none of those people is the beautiful, unique package of attributes that makes up you.

Each of us brings something unique to the world. It took me a long time to understand that God created me with a certain appearance, intellect and skills for a reason. I now am confident that God knew what He was doing when he created me. He knew what he was doing when he created you too. Now, our only job is to use the body and brains that God has given us in order to fulfill our purpose on this earth.

This month, focus on developing unshakeable confidence. Create a confidence within you that is surrounded by a wall that cannot be penetrated by the outside world. Remember that you are God’s perfect creation. He made you in a certain way for a specific purpose. Be confident that He knew what He was doing and be confident in yourself.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)