Thanksgiving Blog-Venture Day 1

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Are you naturally producing joy and thankfulness?

Philippians 4:8, in the Bible, states:

Ph48Whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
Think About These Things!

Often I hear people (myself included) talk about “trying harder to be joyful or thankful.” Forcing a good attitude or smile on our faces isn’t fooling anybody, especially ourselves. The answer – the secret solution – to lasting joy is found in the final line of the above verse. “Think about these things” . . . think. It does not say to “feel” these things or to “do” these things or to “say” these things. We are supposed to think about these things.

In so many areas it is easy to put the focus on the external, the feeling, doing, or saying. With focus on the behavior we will see immediate results but we don’t always see lasting results. It takes work to change the patterns of our thoughts. Our thoughts are always on – we produce tens of thousands of them a day. We have thoughts while we do anything and everything, including sleep. These thoughts are products of thought patterns formed throughout our lifetime. The subconscious thoughts that go through our minds today are results of hours, days, and years of thought practice.

This is a good thing, right?

It is a good thing if the thoughts we think are true, honorable, just, pure, etc. But many of us have thought practices that build negative thought patterns.

Thoughts of fear and scarcity.
Thoughts of loneliness and abandonment.
Thoughts of sickness and death.
Thoughts of disappointment and failure.

If these are our thought patterns, what do you suppose the resulting feelings, words, and actions will be?
Will these negative thought patterns allow you to be genuinely joyful and thankful?

What would it look like to take gratitude, thanksgiving, and joy and make them year-long characteristics of our lives rather than seasonal ones?

If this was natural then everyone would be full of gratitude and joy. So, if you really want this for yourself, your family, your co-workers, and anyone else you influence, then you will need a proactive action plan.

What will you do this year to produce more gratitude, thanksgiving, and joy?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

50 things1. Give Thanks Jar.

Write things you are thankful for throughout the year on slips of paper and put them in the jar. On Thanksgiving, read through the papers. I love the detail and stories that could be recorded in this jar. I got this idea from Becca’s blog.

2. I’m Thankful for You.

This is something you would do for a specific person. Write out what you love about that person. In Darren Hardy’s book, The Compound Effect, he talks about filling up a notebook for his wife for a whole year and then gave it to her as a gift for Thanksgiving. I used a pack of spiral bound 3×5 cards and did a similar concept over a shorter timeframe for my husband, Joe.

gratitude tree3. Gratitude Tree.

I see many families post photos of their gratitude trees during November. What about leaving the tree trunk up all year and putting up different colored leaves during different seasons? Christmas – red and green; Valentines – red, pink, and white; March – green; May – spring colors; July – red, white, and blue (for my American friends). I found a fall tree as an example on this blog link.

Whatever idea you use, please do something to promote gratitude in your own heart and for those around you. Please share your ideas below so we can encourage each other as we grow in gratitude.

Be Extraordinary!

(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

An Extra Hour of Life

carribou“Life is getting up an hour early to live an hour more.” -Caribou Coffee

I am generally not a morning person so my personal life motto would read more like this: Life is sleeping in an hour later because you can.

When I read the Caribou coffee-cup quote at an airport recently, I realized that my thinking about life and time are very selfish. I work for myself so I can use my time how I choose. I love that I don’t have to answer to a boss or request a boss’s permission in order to chaperone a field trip, take off for the day with my husband, or grab a long lunch with a girlfriend. These are all good things – freedom!

I wonder whether, because of this freedom I have, am I living the hours I do have in an extraordinary way? Do I hunger for this life and time, and for the difference I can make? An extraordinary life is one lived with hunger, fire, and passion. There must be purpose and vision. There must be direction and drive.

I shared in a previous post how I went through a season recently where life was marked by the “mere passing of time”. Rediscovering my passion and purpose was a process. Reengaging life with hunger and drive took time. But, finding the reason and desire to live more each day is vitally important.

Wherever you are on the journey, may you put more into life and get more out of life in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Are you hungry to get up and live another day?
Are you living your life with purpose?
Does that purpose drive you to get up and get more out (put more in) to your day?

Be Extraordinary!

Ultimate Responsibility

Blame is kind of like a drink that tastes good initially, but leaves an awful aftertaste in your mouth.

Blame is easy and even causes me to feel better for a little while, but then it leaves me with the awful taste of bitterness and bondage.

I faced a challenge recently in which another person was at fault in many ways. It was easy, natural, and even justified to blame my hurt on this individual. However, this blame left me feeling more hurt and bitter rather than free from the situation.

This is where “ultimate responsibility” comes in. I must find all the ways and all the places where I am responsible – where I had, and made, a choice. There are some big ones. Once I speak the words, “I chose to . . . ” then I begin to experience freedom and I can begin to move past the place of hurt where I so easily get stuck.

dff4d7f632fbb924dae6656f5174c82aIt is amazing what pressure is released and what freedom is experienced, when we begin to own our actions and our decisions.

There is another layer of ownership. We say a phrase in our house all the time (my kids could quote it for you!): My response is my responsibility. Sometimes I don’t choose what happens – I didn’t make the actions, decisions, or cause the events – but I still must live with the consequences. This is where I do have a choice. This is where my response to life is totally up to me – my responsibility.

Taxes are a part of life for most people. We don’t get much of a choice as to whether we will be charged tax or need to file taxes each spring, but we can choose our response and our perspective on paying taxes. Check out this video that illustrates how we can choose our perspective on something as mundane as taxes:

Watch now.

What unpleasant circumstances, events, or situations are coming your way? What is your response? Are you busy blaming people, circumstances, or the government? Or are you choosing to see the joy, blessing, or growth opportunity in your situation?

We all have a choice. We can blame, resulting in bitterness and bondage or we can take responsibility, resulting in an extraordinary life of freedom and growth.

The choice is up to you!

Be Extraordinary!

Inspiration For Sale (Tamale Purchase Required)

InspirationFrequently on Facebook I run into something extraordinary. More often than not I hear people complain about all of the complaining and drama on Facebook, but the amazing stories are there too if you look for them.

I was inspired by a post written by my Facebook friend, Heather. If you are ever looking to buy or sell a home in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, Heather is your woman. Here is Heather’s story one Wednesday morning in September:

“I’m home working this morning. Two offers, a couple new listings coming up, and inspections to complete. Kinda busy, but handling it fine in the quiet of my home office. Kids are at school – you know – a normal early fall morning. Then there is a knock at my door. Standing there was this little lady I have seen in the neighborhood before. She has a few little ones and I was thinking maybe she lost her dog or something. I say good morning and she does too, then she asks me if I want to buy some tamales. I see a heavy pack on her back. Weighted down with a bunch of them.

“I decline.

“I wish I hadn’t. But who buys homemade food from someone knocking on your door, right? Then she asks me if I have received her flyer and hands me a flyer about housecleaning. We talk a little more. She is bonded, licensed, and lives nearby. I promise to refer some clients her way who also live nearby. I tell her I am a Realtor and she recognizes my name. She gives me a couple extra flyers and we say goodbye. I go back to my desk and start working again, but I can’t stop thinking of her. What must it take for her to provide for her family, walking door to door selling food? She obviously spent a lot of time on the tamales AND she cleans houses too.

“The strength of women I meet often inspires me. It fills my spirit, but this lady really did today. Next time she comes by, I will buy the tamales. Sending her lots and lots of success energy today. Feeling inspired.”

There are so many things to draw from Heather’s story. When you think about what it means to live an extraordinary life, what lessons can you draw from the lovely woman selling tamales and house-cleaning? What lessons can you draw from Heather and her response to the situation?

So far in the story there are valuable lessons and I hope you are seeing them, but Heather did not become Senior VP at Coldwell Banker or receive numerous awards in her profession by sitting back. Heather was moved, even “inspired”, and here is what she did next:

tamale“I went and chased her down!!!
“My conscience was YELLING at me!
“We are eating them right now for lunch! They are still warm!! Soooo good!!”

Heather was moved, inspired, and then she took ACTION!

Are there any lessons for you now? How can you take the lessons of this story and apply it to your business, family, health, marriage, or finances?

There are ‘tamales’ worth having and they often require getting off your butt, getting out of your house, and even chasing them down the street. And the payoff is totally worth it!

Be Extraordinary!

Connect with Heather for your house-buying or house-selling needs by clicking here.

458 Reasons to Live Extraordinary

458reasonsThe journey of an extraordinary life is a series of small, important steps. It is easy to see “successful” people and think they simply got lucky or that success fell in their laps. I have experienced just enough success and just enough failure to know that it is not merely luck that gets a person anywhere worth going.

Happy marriages, booming businesses, new cars, and first-class tickets do not come to those who sit around and do nothing. These things – and so much more – come to those who take chances and make choices daily to do the right thing. And not only a good choices, but choices that move life in the direction of one’s goals, dreams, and desires.

Here is an example from my own life. When Joe and I had to put a new transmission in our van we also had to take out a loan of $4,000 (nearly $5,000 with interest) to pay for it. Finances were a bit tight so this was no pocket change for us. We payed our minimums for over two years. I really don’t remember how long because it seemed like forever! In that time we received a gift specifically for the tranny. The gift was $1,000 from some very generous and kind-hearted friends. At last we were able to pay the loan down to roughly $1,200. All interest was on the front end so we knew exactly what was left on the loan.

This is when we made one small, important decision. We began taking $25 every Friday and putting it on the loan, on top of our regular monthly payment. It didn’t seem like much. Fast forward four months:

I went online to make a payment and when I opened the website it said, “Balance: $0”.

I thought it just meant that I owed $0 because I was ahead on my monthly payments. But when I looked further it stated that a reimbursement check of $458 was on the way! The bill was paid in full and much more!

What if I had just made my minimum payments? First of all, I would still be making monthly payments! Second, I would have missed out on this awesome, surprising, and rewarding blessing!

All of this took place because we were willing to make consistent, small, sacrificial choices and action steps in the right direction. Did we get lucky? Maybe, but we would not have experienced this “luck” if we hadn’t been actively making efforts that put us in a place to receive this “luck.”

What small, sacrificial step can you make today that will move you in the direction of your goals, dreams, and desires?
Will you commit to taking an action step for the next 30 days, or the next 30 weeks, in anticipation of “luck” turning in your favor with this new, consistent habit?
Please share your commitments in the comment box below.

The extraordinary journey comes as a result of small, important steps.

Be Extraordinary!

#13.1 Life Lessons

we did it halfSunday, October 5, Joe and I completed the Sleeping Bear Dunes Half Marathon. Because of my foot injury I had only run one time in the previous three weeks without pain. That run was five days before the race and a distance of 3.5 miles. Also, the longest distance I had run before the race was 8.02 miles and 8.5 miles for Joe.

Race day was filled with many firsts, personal records, and (of course!) life lessons.

1. I can do hard things.
When I make a decision and commit to that decision – regardless of how difficult the task is – I am capable. Often I don’t commit to things because I question my capacity. I discovered in the training and the race that I am capable of much more than I believe.

2. The journey is easier (and made possible) with a buddy (Joe).
I honestly could not, or would not, have completed this journey without Joe by my side. Joe’s questions, encouragement, persistence, and sometimes being a pain in the butt were all for my good. I needed every bit of prodding Joe offered.

3. Having people who are further in the journey (Clay, Lisa, Evey) is crucial to my success.
I received good, sound, positive, encouraging advice and help from runners who had already run 13.1 miles. The words they gave were a big part of being prepared race day.

4. Without training there is no chance for victory.
If I had never trained I could not have finished. The training was not only physical, but there were many mental barriers conquered during the months of training before the race.

5. The best way to finish is to keep moving.
When we came to the “12 mile” sign everything below my waist was in agony. We slowed to a walk, but I knew if I stopped the motion, or sat for a minute, starting again would have been nearly impossible. It was so important to keep moving.

6. Quitting is not an option.
Joe and I had two goals for the half: start and finish. “Quit” was not a word in our vocabulary. As we ran mile after mile we talked of finishing – we never talked about stopping. I had seen the piles of cut oranges before we started and in the latter miles I had my eyes and tastebuds on that prize too!

7. The goal for the race is personal.
Every runner out on the course had a different objective. Some set out to win. Some set out for friendship and fun. Joe and I ran as a metaphor for the life we are living in 2014. We are “running the race” of life and all we faced in the training and running of a half marathon has lessons for our personal journey too.

8. Remember how far you have come.
When I began training I could barely run one mile. It was fun and rewarding as we ran 13.1 miles to recount along the way just how far we had come.
“Remember the first time we ran a 5k?”
“I remember finishing my first 4 mile run. I was exhausted, but it felt so good.”
And then at 9 miles we had run the most consecutive miles we had ever run. We had so many memories to relish as we kind of applauded ourselves for how far we had come.

9. Injuries and obstacles are bound to happen.
Early in my training I suffered a lower back injury that halted my training for nearly four weeks. And in the final three weeks of training I injured my foot. This prevented me from getting in the 10 mile run I had hoped for before race day and limited my training to one 3.5 mile run in those final three weeks. I discovered that my attitude was key during those times. It would have been easy to quit at that point, but I was able to wait patiently and still complete the half marathon goal.

10. My mind and my self talk is powerful.
It is easy to speak lies to myself. It is easy to tell myself that it is too hard or I can’t do it. 13.1 miles showed me how crucial, valuable, and powerful positive self-talk is. When I speak positive truth it has great impact – my thoughts are powerful!

half medal11. Utilize the aid stations.
Water, gatorade, goo, and grapes were necessary parts of the journey. I suppose one could think they are stronger for not needing any of those things along the way, but I would say they are foolish. We can not complete any journey without nourishment. In fact, I unashamedly downed 12 orange quarters at the end of the race!

12. Know the limits and push them.
If I had never pushed the limits in training, I probably wouldn’t have run further than three miles. Mileage beyond that was hard and a 5k was the furthest I had run all at once up until that point. Pushing the limits helped reveal unknown strength.

13. There is always a wall.
“There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.” – author unknown
In everything worth pursuing my experience has been that there are walls. The question is, “what will we do when we hit the wall?” Many turn around, stop, or hope it goes away. If knowing the limits and pushing them reveals our ability, then busting through a wall shows the depth of our character, will, and desire. Every big desire we have is on the other side of a wall.

.1 Just a little bit more.
This is not only about the distance, but going “just a little bit more” requires digging deep and finding the reservoirs of inner strength.
What area of your life needs “just a little bit more”?
You are spending time with your kids. What would it look like to spend just a little bit more?
You are working your business. What would it look like to work just a little bit more?
You are loving your spouse. What would it look like to love just a little bit more?

The extraordinary journey is often long, difficult, and tiring, but it is also so worth it!

Be Extraordinary!

Read Joe’s Half Marathon thoughts by clicking here.

Read my half marathon training post by clicking here.

My Job: Deliver the Pizza

Results“Results. Often harsh, but always fair.” This is a great quote by Brian Klemmer. In so many aspects of life this is true.
* Look at your income, your net worth, or the growth of your company. Those numbers are a result of your choices.
* Get on the scale. The number that appears is a result of your choices.
* Is your house clean or does it look like a tornado came through? However it looks is a result of your choices. (If the mess was caused by your kids, remember that you chose to have those kids and therefore the mess is a result of your choices!)

This is one side of the coin and I have measured most everything in my life according to MY choices and MY responsibilities. However, there is another side of the coin where we have no control over the results, because the choices belong to someone else.

Here are a few examples:

Pizza. When delivering pizza, my job is to get the pizza from the pizza parlor to the house that ordered the pizza. That’s it!
I am not responsible for what happens to the pizza – if it is eaten, fed to the dog, or thrown out.

Kidney. When donating a kidney, my job is to be willing and go through testing, surgery, and recovery. That’s it!
I can not control how well the recipient’s body receives the kidney, or if the body rejects the kidney one, two, or ten years down the road.

Kids. When raising kids, my job is to teach, train, and love my kids to the best of my knowledge and ability. That’s it!
I can not control the outcomes or results. My kids may reject my input and want to walk in their own rebellious ways as teenagers or adults. I am not responsible for their choices – I am only responsible for mine.

DeliverPizzaThere are plenty of choices we make in each of these scenarios. For example, if I deliver pizza. I chose to take the job, or start the business. I chose to accept the order. I chose to drive the pizza to the customer’s house. I chose to take their money and give them the pizza. I chose to drive away. There is no place for me to own (through guilt or pride or disgust) what happens with the pizza next. This sounds kind of silly, but it is so easy to own things that are not ours . . . as easy as it is to not own things that are our responsibility.

We cannot mix up our responsibilities. We must – in full ownership – accept our choices and we must also fully release the choices that belong to someone else.

I have been wrestling with guilt over someone else’s choices lately. I did my part, but instead of releasing the rest I have been holding on to it and it has made me miserable. Then my coach talked to me about pizza delivery and my pastor talked to me about kidney donation and I am reminded of where my responsibilities end. Keeping this line – or these sides of the coin – straight brings freedom. Only in freedom can we live a truly extraordinary life.

What about you? Are you holding the guilt or grief of another’s choices and making it your own? It’s time to own your choices completely and release the rest. Deliver the pizza and clock out.
Would love to hear your thoughts.

Be Extraordinary!