Realistically Setting Goals

This is the final installment in my series on New Year, New Mind. I’ve been discussing how our thoughts can easily derail our efforts to form habits that will make us healthier people, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Last week I looked at a few ways to stop our train wreck mentalities and this week, I wanted to close with a look at realistically setting goals.

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Baby Steps

The best way to start when setting goals is by starting with small steps. Rather than starting large and working your way back, start small and work your way up.

For example, if you want to get organized, but don’t know where to start, decide what your first priority is. If you need to work on meal planning, start by having a plan for at least three meals a week. Rather than being overwhelmed with a whole week, just plan a few and write them down. If you and your spouse both work and can afford the service, there are a number of food services now available that deliver all the ingredients and directions for meal prep to your door for as many meals a week as you want. My daughter and her husband use Blue Apron and have three meals a week delivered. All they have to do is open the box, take out the ingredients and follow the directions. There are lots of options available.

Perhaps you want to improve your health by exercising, and eating better. Instead of going cold turkey off all your favorite treats, start with a few small changes. Drinking more water, adding a veggie at lunch or a fruit at breakfast, eating one less meal out a week, or measuring out the potato chips so you only get one serving are all good baby steps to a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t want to invest the time or money in a gym membership there are plenty of videos on youtube.com . You can find pretty much anything to suit your lifestyle from short 20 minute walking videos to longer cardio to yoga and stretching.

Starting small allows you to see success quickly and will keep you from getting discouraged that you aren’t seeing results right away. Each step you take towards achieving a goal, is a step in the right direction, even if it is only a baby step.

Get Organized

This could be a problem, if one of your goals is to get organized. Ha, ha. I personally struggle with organization, not because I am incapable of being organized, but because I allow life to overwhelm me. Busyness, and fatigue have put a dent in my organizational capabilities. However, I know that being more organized will help with the busyness and chaos of life. Over the course of time I have come to see the following habits help life run more smoothly.

Meal plan. Planning out a weeks worth of meals help when you are grocery shopping, and when you are trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I used to do this more frequently when my girls were young and keep trying to get back to it. It saves money, time and your sanity when life gets busy. Meal planning is also helpful, when you are trying to lose weight.

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Get up earlier. I know this is very hard for some people. I am a morning person and have the most energy before lunch. My hubby on the other hand could well be diagnosed with morning sickness. He abhors morning. Getting up earlier, gives you more time to get exercise, read your Bible, meditate and just get ready for the day ahead. This is especially important when you work and you have to get lunches made and help others get their days started as well. Start small, taking a baby step in that direction by getting up 15 minutes earlier. Gradually you might be able to work up to a half hour or more.

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Invest in a good planner. I am a geek, so I love being able to get a new planner every year. If you get one with lots of spaces, you can use it for many purposes. You can put your meal planning in there, your appointments, work schedule and so on. A planner is a great way to keep you organized, the trick is to actually write things down in it. Ha, ha. I speak from experience!

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Getting organized in the normal routines of life and finishing little projects you’ve started is an important first step toward realizing larger goals. If you can’t get a handle on the small things, how will you ever get it together to focus on the big things?
— Joyce Meyer

Have a Plan

I have found the thing that helps me most in achieving my goals is to have some sort of a plan. It doesn’t have to be written in stone and signed in blood, because, let’s face it, real life often interferes with our plans. A plan that has some amount of flex to it is probably the best way to approach goal setting that will succeed.

For instance, when I want to lose weight, I come up with a plan. I decide on a way to keep track of my calories, because i have found calorie counting the best thing for me. It holds me accountable and lets me see my progress. I download a fitness app on my phone. I use a combination of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. I also try to do more meal planning. As I said earlier, meal planning makes it easier to keep to a daily calorie goal.

Having a plan for any area of goal setting will help you succeed. Whether you make a daily plan, like keeping a list of things to do, or a weekly plan such as exercising three times or a monthly plan like getting rid of 10 items I no longer use, planning will produce results much more readily than no plan at all.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you develop a plan:

What do I want to accomplish?

When do I want to accomplish this by?

How am I going to accomplish this?

What sort of resources do I need to invest in to accomplish this goal?

How will I handle failure?

That question leads me to my last point.

Handle Failure Positively

Failing at anything is hard. We live in a society that condemns failure and honors success. Obviously, success is the goal. We want to be successful at whatever goals we have, but the truth is that failure is inevitable. If your goal is to lose weight, you will fall off the wagon. You’ll have a bad day and give in to those cravings for ice cream. When your goal is to declutter because you have been binge watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, you will end up at the mall scouring the sale racks at your favorite store, because things are marked down to less than five dollars. Maybe your goal is to be more patient with your family. Be assured they will push all your buttons before the day is over. This is real life.

One of my faithful subscribers said it best:

...instead of letting a day, or even a couple weeks, of a blown resolution or new effort derail us or cause us to give up completely, why not get up and get started again. Keep moving forward.
— Karen - SGM subscriber

We all need to hear things like this and this leads me to several thoughts about failure.

Failure thrives on Fear

Fear is perhaps one of the biggest factors in keeping us from getting back up and starting over when we have failed.

“I can’t do it. If I try, I’ll only fail again.”

Sound familiar? Stop being afraid. Failure is not your master! Many who have gone before us recognized this fact.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
— Henry Ford
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Chruchill
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
— Thomas A. Edison
You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
— Johnny Cash

I could go on with amazing quotes from amazing people who went toe to toe with failure. Reading these encouraged my heart and I hope they do for you to. Failure is but a stepping stone to achieving the goals we have set. Start believing that.

Failure abhors Friendship

Have you ever noticed when we fail, we want to be alone in our misery and throw ourselves a little pity party? Surrounding ourselves with good friends can turn failure into fuel. As I stated early, I have several subscribers that often comment on my posts, sharing their enthusiasm for fashion or their struggles as they walk the road of life and faith. This means so much to me and gives me fuel to keep going, to keep trying, even when I fail.

You don’t have to have a boat load of friends to be fueled by your failure. One good friend, or your spouse can be the one to reach down when you have fallen to help you back up. If your support system is limited go to Jesus. I have certain scriptures I return to again and again, like old friends, when I need encouragement or help getting back up.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
— Romans 8:1 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
— Job 23:10 (NASB)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

I hope this series on changing our thoughts has been helpful to you. The things I have written about in this series are just my opinions. I am not a licensed counselor, just a woman who has dealt with the failure mind set in my own life. I write as much to myself as to you, so I hope this was helpful.

Have a wonderful weekend and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Stopping the Train Wreck

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been looking at how are thoughts can easily sabotage our efforts to form new habits, and be better people. Many of us, when we enter a new year want to reboot. We want to try again to tackle those extra pounds that we have cumulatively put on each holiday season. We want to go at those piles that pervasively appear in each and every room of our house. We want to be better people; more giving, kind and loving. Many of us begin a new regimen of exercise and dieting, clutter control and clearing out, and even invest in pod casts, books and other things to help us think and act differently. Why then, is it so hard to stick to it? Why after a few days, a few weeks, or if your are really good, a few months, do we typically fall off the wagon?

In my post of two weeks ago, When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck, I examined three mentalities, I believe, contribute to our inability to stick to our new habits. These three thought patterns include being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring. I’d like to reexamine these patterns and discuss ways to change our thoughts.

Being self-absorbed

As I mentioned in the original post, taking care of ourselves is not a bad thing. We need to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and stimulate our minds to give ourselves the best life. Being self-absorbed revolves around a preoccupation with certain ideas about ourselves. These can include thoughts that we do not measure up to some invisible standard that we think other people have set for us, and self-degrading messages like, “I’m too fat,” “I’m not good enough,” which can lead to self-destructive behaviors like cutting, addictions and even suicidal thoughts.

We all have self-absorbed thoughts from time to time. It is easy to get into that mind-set when life is hard and things are not going well. It is also easy to dress in this mind set when your past holds tragedy and pain. However, life cannot be lived to the fullest if we allow those things to imprison us.

I am not a professional counselor, but I’d like to suggest a few things that can help us to get out of the self-absorbed mind-set.

1 - Get Moving

This is partly about exercise and partly about behavior modification. Often when we get into an anxious or self-absorbed circuit, we are unable to get out of the loop. Much like a hamster running on his little wheel, our thoughts keep coming back around to the same loop. We revisit the destructive thought, the let down feeling, the disappointment in ourselves or others and round and round it goes.

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It is a well known fact that exercise has good effects on our brains. From increased oxygen flow and release of hormones to antidepressant effects that reduce stress hormones, exercise really is beneficial for the brain. Movement helps to get us out of the loop. It doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are standing still, move. If you are going north, turn around and go south. Every time those thoughts come creeping back in, move.

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I find walking very cathartic, when I am stressed. As I walk I do deep breathing and I purposefully force myself to look at the world around me, the neighborhood, the people, the trees, the snow, the icicles hanging from the roof tops. These simple things get me out of my self-absorbed loop and help me to think about other things. It also reminds me that the world is not coming to an end, even if it may seem like it today. As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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2 - Get help

You don’t necessarily need professional help, but if you do, or if others who care about you are recommending it, then do it. Otherwise, find a group of people to keep you accountable. Get an exercise and dieting buddy. Find someone who is going to accept you, but also encourage you to do better. Find an older person, who’s got life experience and ask them to mentor you and help you get out of your self-absorbed box. Or if you are an older person, who doesn’t have much human contact and your are still able to get around, volunteer at a dog shelter, a newborn unit at the hospital or a school. All of these things get us outside our own boxes.

3 - Seek and Speak Truth

You know all those side effects you think you have because you got on the internet and looked up the medication the doctor gave you?

“Stop it!”

In reality, the side effects that are put on medications are put there to keep pharmaceutical companies from getting sued. The reality is the statistics on people who die or have severe reactions to medication are rare. It is an exception, not the norm. The same is true for so many aspects of life. As the saying goes, “Sh-t happens.” This is true, but most of the bad things that we think are going to happen, don’t. In addition, many of the bad things that happen to us we bring upon ourselves. Start researching what is true.

In addition start speaking truth:

“I am not perfect, but I am beautiful.”

“I don’t have a college degree, but I am smart.”

“I haven’t published a book yet, but I am not a failure.”

“I got mad at my husband, but I am a good wife who has bad days.”

“I yelled at my kids, but I am a good mom, even when I my hormones have me off kilter.”

Keep it real.

Demanding Our Rights

Once again, having rights is not a bad thing and an ideal that our founding fathers believed was very important for communities and nations to survive and thrive. However, the thought that the world owes us something is not truthful or beneficial. The mentality of, get it all and get it now, is also not an accurate way to approach life. How do we cope with these entitlement feelings we all have struggled with and still act like a caring, giving individuals?

1 - Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

There is no greater preventative to a rights demanding mentality, than to put yourself in someone else’s place. Being in the service industry I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I don’t even think people realize how rude and obnoxious they are at times. I have had helicopter parents demand that their child’s book be given to them free because it wasn’t on the shelf when they came in to purchase it. I have had people accuse me of racism because when I explained the parameters of their rental book I told them they couldn’t spill their lunch on it. I tell this to every individual I rent a book to. At the end of the day, I am just another person trying to make my way in the world, just like everyone else.

When I feel like my rights are being infringed upon, or that I am being taken advantage of, I try to look at things with new glasses; someone else’s glasses. Thinking about where another person is coming from, not only enables us to view the world differently, but it may even move us to have compassion on another person. You never know what another person is dealing with in their life. They might be dealing with deep hurt or disappointment, or they may be experiencing grief, illness or pain. Having compassion and empathy gets us out of our rights loop and enables us to be better, more understanding individuals.

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2 - Recognize Rights Mean Responsibility

Having a right, does not give us a free pass to do whatever we want. In fact, having rights, means having responsibility. People who are for the right to bear arms, understand that owning guns means they are responsible to handle those guns safely and teach others that gun ownership requires safe handling and being responsible to use them wisely.

Many people think that demanding rights is a way to guarantee their freedom to choose to do whatever they want. The opposite is, in fact, true. Having rights means we are enslaved to the responsibility of using those rights for good, not merely personal gain.

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So what does this have to do with our thought patterns and becoming better people. My daughter and I have both struggled with our weight. We both love food, especially things that are full of carbs. Bread, sweets, chips are all on our radar of things we love. At one point my daughter said she wanted to be able to eat whatever she wanted. You might think that being able to eat whatever you want is true freedom. However, true freedom lies in the ability to make the better choice. Even if we were able to eat whatever we wanted and never gain weight, does that make it right?

True freedom is the ability to not be bound by our appetites, whether it be food, sex, money, popularity, alcohol, Netflix or any other thing that can become an obsession.

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
— Virginia Wolf

Not Caring

It is easy to get into the mindset of not caring. When life gets busy, or overwhelming, sometimes it is easier to just give up. Who cares if I eat that whole bag of Twizzlers? I don’t care if my coworkers like me? I’m failing that class, so what?

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Take a look at a few of these quotes:

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
— Margaret Mead
Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.
— Anthony J. D'Angelo

It is important to care. Often, we just need to revisit the why behind the what. In other words, ask yourself why you should care.

Why should you care about your health? Because you are a valuable person who probably has others depending on you and who care about you.

Why should you care what your coworkers think? Because you are part of a team. You can have a positive impact on the people you work with if you care.

Why should you care about your grades at school? Because every choice you make now, will affect the choices you make in the future.

Start thinking about why you should care and maybe that will reignite your ability to care.

Next week will be the final installment in this series on New Year, New Mind. I’ll be looking at setting goals and how to realistically keep them. I will also have some spiritual insights as well. I hope you like this look at renewing our minds. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have a fantastic weekend and to all my northern and midwest friends, stay warm!

Just Stop It!

The past two weeks I started looking at how our thoughts have an affect on what we do or don’t do. I wanted to specifically examine this connection since the beginning of a new year is typically when we are trying to get back into shape, form new habits and reset ourselves to do and be better people. I have always felt that it is easy to start something new, but to keep at it is where the difficulty lies. To me it seems that our minds need rebooting as well as our bodies, so that we think differently about the habits and changes we are trying to adapt to.

Last week I looked specifically at three mentalities that most often prevent us from continuing a good thing. I call them Train Wreck Mentalities due to the fact that these mindsets often derail us from embracing a total life change. Being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring go a long way in causing us to crash and burn, rather than continue and thrive.

This week I want to give you two little words, but before I do, please watch the following video.

You heard the man. Stop it!

I hope that brought a smile to your face. Let me just say, this is not meant as an insult to people who struggle with mental illness. We know those things are a reality. Anxiety, multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, are all very real and most often have to be managed with counseling and medication. There are many of us however, who simply don’t think right and that is where our problems lie.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.
— Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

This verse actually has to do with a ruler having you to dinner, but then begrudging every bite of food and every drink you take. He is a selfish person, only thinking about the cost of the soiree he is throwing and completely unable to enjoy it. The ruler says to eat and drink, but he doesn’t really mean it.

We are often the same way. We make grand proclamations.

“I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”

“I’m going to exercise 5 days a week.”

“I’m going to work on cleaning out clutter every day.”

“I’m going to become a millionaire by the time I’m 30.”

“i’m going to floss my teeth every night before bed.”

“I’m going to eat healthier.”

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Pixabay

We make these proclamations, never really considering how much work and effort it will take to succeed. In reality, we can not succeed if our hearts, like that ruler’s, is not really into it. Here in lies the problem. Our minds can create all sorts of ways to succeed. We can make lists and draw up diagrams of how we are going to get it done, but if our hearts do not agree with our minds, success is going to be long in coming. In fact, if you are anything like me, you will just give up on certain things all together.

So, how exactly do we get our hearts to agree with our heads? The first step is to combat the train wreck mentality. In other words, just stop it!

Let’s first look at train wreck #1 - being self absorbed.

Stop it!

Wow. Wasn’t that simple?

Train wreck #2 - demanding our rights.

Stop it!

Whoo, hoo! See how easy it is.

Train wreck #3 - don’t care.

Stop it! Start caring.

Obviously, if things were really that easy we would all be doing much better and I wouldn’t be writing this post. The struggle is real folks and I am in there with you.

Next week I am going to delve into ways to stop the train wreck mentality, but for now, I want you to burn those two words on your brain…STOP IT.

When you want to give up the good habit your are trying to start; when you want to eat that second bowl of ice cream; when you want to yell at your kids or husband; when you want to bring home another hand bag, pair of shoes or sweater that you don’t need or you don’t really love, then think about those two little words.

Stop it.

Run them over and over in your mind and see if it helps you to make a better choice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me your experiences and wisdom in the comments. I appreciate it.






When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck

Have you given any thought to your thoughts this past week? In last week’s introductory post, New Year, New Mind, I asked you to spend this past week thinking about what you think about. Most often it is our thoughts that sabotage our efforts to make our lives better, whether it be eating better, exercising more, getting rid of clutter, making new habits or just being more thankful or joyful.

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts often look just like this train wreck.

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Just how that train got where it got, from where it was coming from, is a mystery, but something definitely went wrong! That is just how our thoughts work. One minute we are fine. We are motivated, energized and raring to go conquer the world. The next moment we are a sobbing, angry, anxious train wreck. This week I would like to look at several areas of train wreck mentality.

Train Wreck #1 - Being Self Absorbed

We are all guilty of being self absorbed. Who hasn’t felt selfish, possessive, jealous or needy? Unfortunately, the train wreck of self absorption is reaching epidemic proportions. Let me break it down:

I’m too - These two little words lead to all sorts of inner focused thinking. I’m too fat. I’m too thin. i’m too tall. I’m too short. I’m too ugly. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too dumb. I’m too tired.

In addition to the I’m too problem, there is the parallel Not Enough dilemma.

Not Enough - Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not loving enough. Not slim enough. Not organized enough. Not talkative enough. Not brave enough. Not motivated enough….you get the picture. I’m sure, if you are reading this post, you have heard these words in your own head. I certainly have. I have gone over and over the same tracks as the train of self absorption chugs along.

Not a good enough wife.

Not a good enough mother.

Not a good enough grandma.

Not a good enough daughter.

Not a good enough Christian.

Not a good enough employee.

Not a good enough friend.

On and on it chugs along until suddenly it derails and there I am a self absorbed mess.

Have you really thought about how being self absorbed affects you? Not only does it cause physical issues, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure and auto immune problems, it also causes a plethora of psychological and emotional problems, from anxiety disorder to narcissistic tendencies. Take a look at this interesting article from Psychology Today. While not the definitive authority on psychological disorders and treatments, I think the article makes a pertinent point.

But what’s most fascinating to me here is that I haven’t seen discussed by writers on the subject just how many psychological dysfunctions can be accurately understood as “maladies” of self-absorption. From a variety of phobic, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive impairments, to many depressive disturbances (including bipolar disorder), to various addictions, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and to most of the personality disorders, self-absorption can be seen as playing a major (if not dominant) role. So any effective treatment of these dysfunctions needs to include significantly reducing these obsessively self-centered—and self-defeating—tendencies.
— Leon Seltzer, PhD., Psychology Today (online) - Posted August 24, 2016

You can see the whole article here.

Our self absorption tendencies may just lead us to a bitter end.

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Pixabay

Train Wreck #2 - Demanding Our Rights

This one is a direct outcome of the first train wreck of being self absorbed. Let me say that people should have rights. Our country came into being and was founded on the idea that people should have a right to worship as they want. The men who authored The Declaration of Independence, felt that certain rights were so important, they were willing to go to war to ensure their solidity.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

However, the rights that Jefferson, Adams and others were referring too had to do with basic tenants of self-government, including freedom of religion, and the freedom to govern ourselves. When they were talking about government over themselves they weren’t talking about the rights that so many today are yelling about. They were talking about the right to work a job, own a home and yes, to even own a gun. The governing process had to do with community and country as a whole.

Today the rights battle continues as women seek equal pay for equal work, as well as equality on pricing of necessary products such as deodorant and razors. Did you realize that women usually pay more for these products? These desires are good. What becomes a problem is when the demand for rights is born out of a self absorbed mentality.

I want it and I want it now!! Watch this short video.

Isn’t this a perfect analogy of how thoroughly self indulgent we can be. Truly, aren’t we just a bunch of spoiled, rotten, children at times? Demanding our rights, and not taking into consideration the desires, needs and feelings of other people, is not what our forefathers meant when they brought the Declaration of Independence into fruition. A rights based mentality, must be balanced by an equally serious mentality of individual responsibility. An attitude of responsibility means that we cannot be self-absorbed.

Train Wreck #3 - Not Caring

This is probably the mentality that causes the most problems. When we are self absorbed at least we care enough about ourselves that we might still be willing to try to take care of ourselves. We might even be caring enough to care for other people. Demanding our rights means we still want something. We want something that is important enough to us to be willing to yell and fight for it. Unfortunately, when we get to the point where we no longer care, that is when trains derail and we crash.

Think about a time when you gave up, or you wanted to. How did you feel? How did that feeling change the way you were doing things? I have done the, counting calorie thing, many times over the course of my adult life. I have kept track, written things down, measured and tallied. No matter how many times I restarted, I always got to a certain point where I just didn’t care any more. I would lose a few pounds, feel better, fit into my clothes better and so on, but still, somehow or other, I would end back up at the same place.

I don’t care.

I can’t tell you for certain, why we often get to a point of not caring any more, but it does happen. I believe there are many reasons we get to this point in our lives. Fatigue, illness, relationship struggles, work problems, family crisis, national unrest, the list goes on. With our computers, televisions, smart phones and other instantaneous technology, we are constantly plugged in and on the spot. We see what is going on with everyone else and everyone else knows all our struggles as well.

We are finite, limited human beings and eventually all the input does its job of desensitizing us and bring us to that creaky bridge where our train begins to clackety clack across. Finally, the bridge drops out from beneath us and we plunge into the canyon of hopelessness and despair.

Who cares!

Why bother!

I give up!

When we get to this point, it is time to reevaluate how we got here.

Next week I’ll be sharing a video that I hope will make you laugh, but that makes a pertinent point that we can’t ignore and will hopefully give us hope to care again and start living a mentally healthy life.

Until then, have a great week and be careful, not to have a train wreck!