Finding Purpose at Every Age and Every Stage of Life

We’ve been taught that having purpose in life centers on achieving things like getting good grades in school, finding a life partner, having a family, earning a certain amount of money or attaining status in the business world. Are these markers really what give our lives purpose and meaning and once we’ve achieved these goals, what then? I ask the question because I’ve seen too many people feeling confused once they’ve achieved what they thought would give their life purpose and they’re asking the question, what now?

According to one analysis on the subject of purpose by The New York Times, about 25% of American adults admit to having a clear sense of purpose about what makes their life meaningful, while 40% claim neutrality on the subject, or acknowledge that they don’t feel aligned with a purpose at all.

In my view, having purpose is simply a way of framing our day, so that we look forward to either sharing our gifts with others or being of service in some way. Perhaps it’s that it feels like such a big subject that people shy away because they overthink it. I think we all want to feel that we have meaning in our lives and that may have little or nothing to do with what’s in our bank account or what we do to earn money. It’s about what makes our day worthwhile and that can imply different things at different stages of our lives.

When we’re young, we’re in foundation building mode, figuring out how we’re going to shape our lives. It’s followed by raising a family if that’s the choice we make; then helping our children find their way as young adults. This is often where it gets challenging for many people because purpose and meaning take on a different flavor when our nest is empty. That’s the time to get curious again because we have accrued experience, hopefully we’re a little wiser than we were when we were young and we can choose again how we want to shape the next chapter.

“I believe the second half of one’s life is meant to be better than the first half. The first half is finding out how you do it. And the second half is enjoying it.” – Frances Lear

Having purpose is not necessarily connected to our goals; rather it’s how we have ongoing impact on the world around us with our gifts. It’s about knowing our “why” at every stage of life. Our “why” is our calling, our conviction; you could say it’s our mission statement. Knowing what our purpose is at any stage of life gives us stability and a sense of direction. Before you jump to the conclusion that your purpose has to be something grand I’m here to say that having purpose doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to feel right to you. We’re not talking about the purpose of life; we’re talking about your purpose in life which can change, depending on where you are on your life adventure.Your purpose is as unique as you are. Remember we all have distinct talents, experiences, skill sets and interests that fire us up and there are always new ideas to uncover.

Which brings me to connecting with purpose; I’m often asked how we connect with it; is there a formula for finding it? While these are good questions, there are no easy answers. Often we look outside of ourselves, thinking that there must be someone who knows what our purpose is. Could it be an elder, a partner, a teacher or a friend? While feedback about our skills and talents from others can be helpful, in truth we are the only ones who truly know what purpose means to us. So it’s best not to chase it; rather allow it to emerge by asking yourself a few important questions, such as: What are my gifts? What do I stand for? What are my values? The answers to these questions hold clues for us and will help point us in the direction of our purpose.

“When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day.” – Marty Buccella

If your gift is that you’re a good listener or a nurturer, allow those qualities to guide you. If you stand for safety for children, pets or older people, those are clues for you and if family is among your values, you can tease out ways to express your values, your gifts and your principles in your every-day life. You could be the best Grandmother or Grandfather; you could be a fantastic friend who really listens to those you cherish. You could align yourself with an organization that rescues or protects animals, a group that advocates for children or older people. You could do intentional acts of kindness for your neighbours; the possibilities are limitless.

“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” – Albert Einstein

Be careful around FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real because fear is a trickster; it can convince us to stay small; not to step outside of our comfort zone. However stepping out is the only way we can create space for our purpose to emerge. Remember there’s no one way to get there, just as we are all unique our exploration will be unique as well. Keep in mind too that we are all creative beings regardless of our talents and it is never too late to connect with activities and communities that will make your heart sing.

While you’re investigating your purpose, here are a few tips to help you on your quest:
– Be open hearted and open minded.
– Think about what you’re good at.
– Look for ways to be of service to others.
– Ask people who know you what they think your talents and skills are.

While reshaping our sense of purpose in life can feel challenging please don’t feel pressure to find it; rather let it find you because it’s already in you. The world needs you at every stage of life to share your skills, knowledge and your wisdom. This is ageless living.

Footnote: How are you doing with your intention for 2022?

Cultivating Optimism For Good Health And Longevity

These last few years have been a little confusing for optimists like me. There’s a sense that we’re not on firm footing; Pandemics will do that. This roller coaster ride has reminded all of us that we’re not in charge of life’s events but we need to remember that we are in charge of how we respond to life’s events. We can choose to be skeptical, cynical, fearful or we can choose to be optimistic despite the evidence in front of us.

How we respond to difficult situations has a wide ranging impact on us emotionally, physically and spiritually. How we think influences how we feel and over time, how we feel has an effect on our physical health through chemical interactions in our brain, which is connected to every part of the body. So the question is: what is the message you want your brain and body to share?

I get it. We’re not all naturally optimistic but we can learn how to nurture more positivity in our lives and we have excellent motivation to do so. Research tells us that optimistic people have a better quality of life and tend to live longer. Skeptical? Then this blog is for you.

Recent studies conducted at the Montreal Heart Institute show a relationship between optimism and a decreased risk of cardiovascular events as well as a longer life span for optimistic patients, while studies at Carnegie Mellon University in the US show lowered risk of return hospitalization for cardiac bypass surgery patients, who were deemed optimistic.

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely curious about how to increase optimism in your life and by association, you’re choosing to improve your physical health. Optimism isn’t measurable the way we measure blood levels and obvious physical outcomes but there is speculation that optimistic people have healthier habits than pessimists. It’s also suggested that optimists have stronger social connections, are more likely to exercise and more frequently follow medical advice. It should also be noted that it’s perfectly fine to have days when we feel discouraged; it’s just not where we want to stay, if we’re looking to be more optimistic.

So how do we turn up optimism in our lives?

Start with small shifts in your attitude by allowing optimism in. Watch for opportunities to interact with people you see as optimistic; their generous, positive energy will help get the process started. Where perhaps you may have dismissed them in the past, see them as your teacher and be open to receiving their kindness.

Don’t forget to give positive feedback. Most people are reminded by others when they make a mistake but it’s just as important to share positive feedback.

Be mindful of what you’re consuming in the media. Too much News can fuel fear and while it’s important to be informed, make sure to limit your exposure and find resources that make you feel lighter: watching uplifting videos or movies, enriching your day with upbeat blogs, books or television shows.

Watch what you say. It’s easy to be critical and our thinking habits are tenacious. To increase optimism we have to become mindful of the negativity we put out into the world and make the choice to shift what we say to something more optimistic or positive or say nothing. If you’re in conversation with someone and you feel their negativity, I find the best strategy is to just listen without getting into it with them. I also like to say “I’m sorry you feel that way” because I am sorry they feel that way but it’s not my job to correct them or to instruct them. We are all free to think and say what we want but I don’t have to participate in negativity and gossip; I can turn it around by being kind and compassionate. When I come across negative, critical people I recognize that it’s fear speaking and I say to myself “if there’s no audience, there’s no show.” In other words, if I don’t engage in the gossip or negativity the conversation will either end or change course.

Use role models as mentors. Think of people who you consider to be optimistic in your social network, workplace or even on television. When you find yourself challenged by a negative or cynical response to something, ask yourself: what would that person do or say? Then try doing or saying that; it’s another way to let more optimism in.

Look for the good. It’s so easy to find something wrong with just about everything; optimists invest their energy in looking for the good. It’s there in every situation but sometimes we have to look carefully. Ask yourself: what is good about this day? Your brain will go looking for the answer. It’s also helpful to ask yourself what you can learn from challenging situations instead of letting disappointment win. There’s always something to learn that will benefit you in the future.

I want to encourage you to embrace the process of becoming more optimistic even though it’s uncomfortable; even though it may go against deeply engrained habits. We all have negative thoughts, we’re human; it’s what we do with them or about them that makes a difference. I like to remind myself and others that we are all beautiful works in progress and every day, every minute is a new opportunity to learn and grow. There’s no instant fix but the investment you make in yourself by inviting more optimism into your life will improve your overall happiness and allow you to collect more hopeful thoughts about the future.

The Distraction Attraction: Is It Helpful Or Harmful

Now that I’ve checked my lottery tickets, had a bath, washed and dried my hair, made lunch and a cup of tea, I think I’m ready to start writing this blog about distraction. The topic has been dancing around in my brain for a while now because I’m fascinated by human behavior and want to understand more about the role distraction plays in all of our lives. So, I put my distractions aside and here we are. Hahaha.

“Your results are the product of either personal focus or personal distractions. The choice is yours.”
– John Di Lemme

Here’s the question: is distraction a good thing or a bad thing? Well there’s a role for distraction and it’s helpful when it leads to interesting results. Sometimes we look for distraction because our work feels monotonous (I’m looking at you bills) or perhaps we have a short attention span and require ongoing stimulation to stay engaged.  If you’re having a challenging day, being distracted by a loved one, a furry or human friend is welcome medicine. There’s nothing like a good laugh to clear out stress or using proven mindfulness tools to take your attention away from feeling unsettled. So, I see the value in distraction but I also understand there’s a flip side.

Distractions are everywhere and we hold one of the biggest diversions in our hands when we scroll on our smart phone or dopamine dispenser. Dopamine is a feel good neurotransmitter the brain releases when we do something that meets a need like eating. Since about 2013, our devices have gradually crept into our lives and taken us over as a top distraction. Regulating how much time we engage with our devices is a real challenge for us humans, especially those with developing minds.

“One way to boost our willpower and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.”
Daniel Goleman

There are so many expectations placed on us at every age and every stage of life that we often turn to distraction to palliate the discomfort of feeling pressured to perform. Too many people move through their day without being intentional around how their day will unfold, so there’s time wasted and opportunities missed. It has to be said that procrastination is one of life’s most challenging distractions to manage and one of the best excuses we humans use when it comes to avoiding achieving something great, like paying the bills or writing the first chapter in your yet unwritten book. Setting an intention at the beginning of the day can be helpful when it comes to guiding our behavior and focus which will determine the results we’ll get. Committing to half an hour a day or each week on the bills or the book will move you closer to realizing your goal. Make sure to prioritize activities in your day and put yourself and social connection with others near or at the top of the list.

Worrying or ruminating are common habits of distraction that are more like place holders than productive practices because they achieve nothing; they’re like chewing bubble gum to solve a math problem. Recognizing that there are situations in life we have no control over and taking some small action on the situation instead of worrying about it helps to lower the stress hormones activated when we think too much.

“All profound distraction opens certain doors. You have to allow yourself to be distracted when you are unable to concentrate.”
– Julio Cortazar

Some people consider daydreaming a waste of time but I disagree. I think we should make time to day dream because that’s when we’re really connected to our imagination and in that creative space, our logical thinking mind can rest. Remember, there’s no expiry date on dreaming and goal setting, so feel free to imagine whatever you wish. When I get stuck while I’m writing, I’ll look out the window and let my mind wander. It doesn’t take long before an idea pops into my head and I’m back at it. So I’m living proof that daydreaming can be a productive practice. It just shouldn’t be a full time job because action, even small action, is the secret sauce when it comes to bringing our dreams to life.

We have high expectations for ourselves and sometimes get to the end of the day feeling like we haven’t accomplished much. Remember there will always be a to-do list and perhaps the distraction you chose, whether it was a walk around the block, a chat with a friend or a good laugh while watching a funny movie was just the thing you needed to make your day rewarding. We are so hard on ourselves and that is certainly counterproductive. So be gentle with yourself dear friends and enjoy every moment of everything because nobody is keeping score of how many things you check off your list. In fact the people who love you just want to see you be happy. So don’t dismiss distractions entirely; rather learn to embrace and manage them, so you can be well and live well.

Change your World by Changing your Words

What does it take to be a good communicator? Just because we can speak doesn’t mean we’re great at communicating but it’s a skill we can all learn and improve on. Surprise! Being a good communicator entails being a good listener too. We’ve all encountered people who listen just waiting for a chance to say something. You can be sure they’re not really listening to what you have to say and it’s important to recognize that, so you don’t waste not only your words but your time and energy. Keep that for people who want to listen to what you have to say. I believe we all deserve to be heard; it’s all in how we present ourselves and how we receive others.

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” Brian Tracy

I’ve come to understand good communication as a superpower and I’ve learned from years of being a people pleaser that there’s absolutely nothing for me to gain in telling people what I think they want to hear. People are smart; they figure it out.  I’ve been a student of communication since my University days at McGill and over four decades as a journalist and interviewer. I’m always working on improving my skill and as a coach, I enjoy supporting others as they learn about the power their words carry. Becoming mindful of our tone when we’re speaking can make a big difference in how our words are received by others. Communication is a powerful spark of life that connects or disconnects us as humans. When someone says something that hurts your feelings, you feel it, as you do when someone says something that lights you up. Being mindful of how we use our words makes the difference between a positive encounter that leaves everyone feeling good and a negative experience that leaves everyone feeling less than satisfied. It’s up to us which one we choose.

“It’s important to make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” Barack Obama

Being a good communicator requires that we’re curious, interested in others and that we notice what’s happening in front of us. Behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s extensive research on the topic of body language resulted in the 7-38-55 rule showing that 7% of all communication consists of words, whereas the nonverbal component such as the tone of our message makes up 38% and 55% is attributed to our body language. This information is very much relevant today, especially with people wearing masks and doing their best to communicate over Zoom.

Several years ago, my brother took me to dinner at a very fancy restaurant. He said let’s start speaking loudly and observe what happens in the room. We raised our voices a little and as we did, so did everyone around us. The level of noise in the room went up, it was the strangest thing. Same thing when you’re in a stressful situation, if you raise your voice, you’ll raise the stress. Likewise, if you speak calmly, your tone will help to dissipate the stress. Good communicators are naturally good leaders because they’re aware of what’s going on around them and they respond in a mature and compassionate manner.

Being mindful of the words we choose to use has great impact. Do you use positive words that show your kindness and compassion or do you choose negative words that make you sound like you’re complaining? You are in charge of the words you choose in the same way that you’re in charge of the thoughts you choose to think. You may have heard me say before that complaining is a sure sign that we’re ready to change something and maybe all we need to do is change how we communicate what we’re thinking and feeling. I get it, frustration fuels complaining but it’s our frustration and it has nothing to do with anybody else. There’s always a solution when we approach a challenge with a compassionate mindset instead of negativity or complaining.

Learning to improve our communication skills is really good for our mental health. Communicating well helps us to provide clarity and creates better relationships because it shows people that we care about them. Remember communication is your superpower too. Let’s all do our best to choose words that heal instead of harm. The next time you’re in a social situation, keep in mind that your words have great power and you can change someone’s day for the better by choosing your words carefully.

Here are a few tips to improve your communicating skills:

-Know your audience and act accordingly. Not everyone is into jokes but if you’re into them go ahead and tell one. Gauge the response and if people are interested keep going. If they don’t seem interested, try asking them a question about their day or ask something about them. Remember communication is a two way exchange.

-Notice your body language. Crossing your arms over your chest sends a message that you’re closed off, even when you’re not. Using open body language: uncrossed legs and arms send a signal that you welcome what the other person is saying.

-Practice active listening. This is especially important in a serious discussion. To ensure you’re hearing what the other person is saying, wait for a pause and say back to them what you heard. This helps to avoid misinterpretation and misunderstandings.

-Take a beat before you respond. It’s so easy to overreact and we need to watch that behavior. Before you respond, especially in a stressful or heated discussion, take a minute to think through what you really want to say. Too often when we don’t take a pause before speaking, we say something we may regret later.

-Be optimistic and positive. If you’re being rude, you might get that coming back to you; if you’re positive and optimistic, chances are good that that’s how others are going to treat you too.

Confessions of a Recovering People Pleaser

Click Here To Watch The Video. 

A quick review of my life so far indicates that for most of it, I was a people pleaser. I gradually developed into a diplomat instead of a doormat and eventually I courageously stood in my power and now live to love people without having to try to please them all. 

I can’t decide which takes more energy: the habit of people pleasing or mustering the courage to give it up. What I do know is that as a recovering people pleaser, I have more energy for creative pursuits, I have more time for friendships that are reciprocal and I have more space for joy to find me. I can tell you with confidence that it’s work worth doing.

“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.”
– Bruce Cockburn

My story certainly isn’t unique; it involves a splendidly dysfunctional family and parents who absolutely did their best despite the traumatic blows of losing two of their babies. I think you get the idea. I felt like I was always working hard for approval, recognition; even just to be seen. I probably wasn’t the best people pleaser though because I had and still have a rebellious streak and a deep curiosity which in the end may be what helped propel me forward. 

One of the greatest revelations for me on this life adventure is learning that I’m not alone; that many of us have resorted to people pleasing as a survival strategy, to keep the peace, to fit in or to feel that we are valued. Using this habit of pleasing others is often a first choice because we don’t believe we have options and it does work for a time, until it doesn’t. You’ll know when it’s not working because you’ll feel emotionally depleted, physically exhausted and life will feel less than satisfying. I hope you won’t wait until you hit those markers to shift out the habit of pleasing others and choose to create space for yourself.

What does it feel like to be a people pleaser? Well, it feels like other people’s needs are more important than your own and there’s a willingness to try to take care of their needs even when it’s at the expense of meeting yours. It may look like you’re a do-gooder but it may feel like you’re a victim. Sometimes the habit is so deeply engrained that it’s tough to recognize in ourselves; see if you relate to some of these symptoms:

You agree to something you don’t really want to do.

-You have no free time.

-You feel that you need to be needed, to feel that life has purpose.

-You apologize all the time.

-You can’t say no.

-You need others to like you.

-You feel that people take advantage of you.

-You don’t get your needs met in relationships.

-You expect others to read your mind.

If you recognize yourself in any of those people pleasing symptoms, you are definitely not alone. My younger self can relate and my present self wants to help you shift out the need to please anyone but yourself. 

Waking up to the notion that I had chosen to please others over getting my needs met was quite rude because I didn’t know any other way to operate. I had to renovate my mindset which meant remodeling my thoughts about myself and how I operated in the world. What I did was begin with small steps and repeatedly interrupt the habits I had relied on to function in the world. 

Before we go any farther though, I have to say that pleasing people isn’t all wrong. Having healthy relationships means that we are compassionate and caring when it comes to those we love; the challenge is when we’re trying to win someone’s endorsement to bolster our self-esteem or we’re doing for others at the cost of our own well-being. By all means, do nice things for people; be kind but be careful because you are important and you matter too. Let’s get that straight.

True confession: it takes practice to shift out this tenacious habit of pleasing others and I strongly recommend starting with little steps that won’t scare you. Just take one of the tips on the list below and see how you can challenge yourself to put yourself first. Example: I never say yes right out of the gate to an invitation unless it’s an enthusiastic YES for me. My new habit is to say: “I’ll give it some thought and get back to you.” This way I recognize that I have a choice and I’ve learned to exercise that choice.

Here are a few tips to help with your renovations, if you choose to give up the habit of people pleasing.

-Know what your intention is in relationships.

-Know what your intention is around acts of kindness.

-Make time for yourself.

-Set boundaries: learn the power of the words yes and no.

-Think requests through. When someone asks you to do something, tell them you’ll get back to them. This gives you an opportunity to choose whether or not it’s a fit for you. 

-Establish mutual benefit in your relationships.

-Care for yourself in the same way you care for others.

Please don’t overwhelm yourself with the assignment because it’s easy to give up and revert to old habits. Let me remind you, so you can remind yourself that you are important and you matter; your dreams and goals are important and they matter too. Be confident that when you give away your resources and your kindness that it’s bringing you joy and not trouble. 

Focusing on our recovery as people pleasers helps us to move into more of a balance in our relationships, where we feel energized and satisfied that we are not only taking care of others but we’ve included ourselves in the equation. Don’t get me started on feeling guilty about making some alterations to how you operate because feeling guilty is like chewing bubble gum to solve a chemistry problem. It’s useless and it doesn’t serve anyone. Its action that creates the momentum, so here we go….in 3, 2, 1 action!

Footnote: How are you doing with your intention for 2022?

Is it the End of an Era for New Year’s Resolutions?

While the holidays are about celebrating, connecting, sharing and exchanging gifts, it’s how we choose to begin the New Year that will continue to make life merry and bright. The tradition for many people is to set New Year’s resolutions, despite the fact that most of us fail miserably when it comes to setting such high expectations for ourselves. We’re human after all and resolutions are intimidating. Okay maybe I’m speaking for myself here LOL. If resolutions work for you, congratulations you’re among the 20% who succeed; the rest of us need a better way and I might have found it.

Work on your strengths, not your weaknesses. How many of your New Year’s resolutions have been about fixing a flaw?      Jonathan Haidt

I think the tricky part about New Year’s resolutions is that when we’re setting them, we’re focusing on our vulnerabilities, thinking that if we shed forty pounds, give up smoking by March or start waking up at 4:30 am to get to the gym we’ll be happier. But that’s just not how happiness works. Happiness is nurtured by taking the pressure off and setting ourselves up for success with kindness.

Want to focus on fitness in 2022? Then write down your intention, which could be something like: I want to feel fit and fantastic. Then look for and create opportunities to make that happen. Invite someone to walk with you, join a walking club or look for fitness classes on line. Take responsibility for your intention and repeat it often. A system that has proven to work is to write your intention on sticky notes, placing them on your bathroom mirror, your fridge and on your front door, to remind you to take on the day with your intention in mind. We need bite sized pieces instead of the whole enchilada to help us feel that we’re being successful.

Resolutions are goals with no clear path to get to them whereas intentions are more like a guide for our behaviour. I propose that we take our power back and set intentions instead of resolutions.

“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep is this: to rise above the little things.”   John Burroughs

Patience has been a challenge for many of us during this Pandemic pause. There are so many reasons we can feel frustrated because we feel restricted or maybe ignored. Choose an intention that helps you feel better, such as: I will be more patient. This means being more patient with yourself first and then with everyone you encounter in the day.

The handy little reminders on your mirror and door or beside your computer will prompt you to remember what’s important to you, especially when impatience wants to pop up. Saying to yourself “I will be more patient” calms frustration and creates space for a different result. After all, the only person we hurt when we act on our frustration is ourselves. Even when you aren’t patient, be kind to yourself and remember you can do better next time.

“Do the best you can until you know better; then when you know better, do better.”      -Maya Angelou

Intentions recognise our willingness to do better so we can feel better. It’s all about improving our behaviour in small increments and being present to our circumstances, so we feel that we’re in charge of our response to any situation. The little wins add up to big ones over time, trust me. The pressure of resolutions creates an underlying stress and because resolutions are focused on the future, we’re actually delaying our happiness until we reach the goal, which in many cases we never do. Setting an intention allows us to choose and develop healthy habits that are both achievable and meaningful.

Happy New Year and cheers to having the best intentions for 2022.

Light Festive Fruit Cake

Light Festive Fruit Cake


1 ¼ cups fine white sugar

1 cup butter (room temperature)

5 eggs

1 cup cake and pastry flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mace

1 pound light raisins

½ pound glazed cherries cut in half (half red; half green)

¾ cup diced glazed pineapple

½ pound diced mixed peel or citron if preferred

½ cup orange juice

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ pound toasted slivered almonds

Unsweetened coconut to taste

Crystalized ginger sliced to taste


The night before baking cake, prepare fruit and add orange juice. Let stand overnight, stirring a few times.

On baking day line containers with parchment paper and make batter.

 Cream butter and sugar well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add cake and pastry flour, salt and mace. Beat until flour disappears.

Add slivered almonds and coconut to fruit and stir. Add the ¾ cup of all-purpose flour to the fruit and stir until fruit is covered. Add batter and mix well.

Scoop mixed batter into lined pans and bake at 325 degrees for an hour or until toothpick comes out clean. If top of cake gets too dark lay tin foil over the top.

Remove cakes from oven and let cool.

Poke holes all over cakes with a skewer or something similar and drizzle either white rum for the boozy version or white grape juice or apple juice for the non-boozy version. This helps moisten the cakes.

Wrap in cheesecloth then foil and store in a cool place.

Bring your own Sparkle to Light up the Holidays

I start to get excited about the holidays in late November. That’s when the greenery and decorations start to appear around the house and this little festive elf gets busy in the kitchen. I’ve probably mentioned it here before, so forgive me but my two favourite festive indulgences to make are plum pudding and white fruit cake. The plum pudding has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. My mother and my god mother used to get together in early November to make plum pudding that they shared with family and a few choice friends.

My mother-in-law made the most gorgeous white fruitcake that I’ve added my own special twist to, to make it my own. I now make several fruit cakes and smaller plum puddings, using our family recipes, to continue sharing this sweet gift; it’s one of the ways I share my sparkle during the holidays.

“Use each moment to make another’s eyes sparkle and to warm a heart.” – Doreen Virtue.

The magic of the season is apparent in the eyes of children and we can learn a lot from them about how to share our sparkle. The gifts that children give are among our most precious possessions: a Christmas decoration made by your child in grade one becomes a treasured ornament. It really is so simple and we forget that it’s not about the magnitude of our giving, it’s about the meaning. We can all share our sparkle during the holidays and it doesn’t have to cost anything, in fact we’ll be richer for it.

First of all, gift yourself by focusing on what you’re grateful for, when you first wake up in the morning. This sets you up to recognize the blessings in your life, so that you feel abundant. Then as you go about your day, you can share that abundance with others.

Give away smiles freely, hand out compliments like candy, be a generous listener, let someone go ahead of you in line. Each one of these suggestions is a meaningful gift from your heart; believe me, it will make a difference.

The other day I was waiting to merge into busy traffic when a driver in the lane I wanted to access, made it clear that she/he was going to let me in. I couldn’t believe it; the driver put on their turn signal as if they were going to pull off the road, just so their intention to let me in was very clear. I gave a wave as I pulled into traffic and did a little happy dance in my seat. I think I even said out loud “who does that?” Someone who felt abundant did that and I am so grateful.

It’s that simple. Perhaps it’s checking in on an old friend or connecting with a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. How about making a greeting card and sending it in the mail? Maybe you add an extra portion of whatever you’re making for dinner and share it with someone. Perhaps you bake some extra goodies and gift them. If you’re picking up some festive ornaments, get some extras and share them.

“Maybe our sparkle comes from somewhere deeper inside, somewhere so pure and authentic and real, it doesn’t need gloss or polish or glitter to shine.”  – Mandy Hale.

I don’t know about you but I’m not interested in Christmas shopping anymore; not only because it feels stressful but I realized a few years ago that shopping is not the point of the holidays. It’s not about presents as in gifts; rather it’s about presence as in awareness and mindfulness. It’s a beautiful time of year to get decked out with decorations, lights and special food. It’s also an opportunity to pause, reflect, spend time with those we care about and make a difference for others with our sparkle.

While it’s the season of giving, we shouldn’t forget to give to ourselves. Making time to both rest and be active during this time of year will benefit our mood and fill us with positive energy. Taking good care of ourselves is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to those we care about because when we feel good, we carry that sparkle with us not only during the holidays but throughout the year. So, wrap yourself in goodness and shine bright this holiday season.

Easy Steps To Thriving As We Age

“Don’t let your age control your life. Let your life control your age.”

 – Anthony D. Williams

Think about what brings you joy. Is it your children or grandchildren? Watching birds? Helping others? Good conversation with your friends? Maybe it’s a perfect cup of tea or coffee; perhaps it’s inspiring music or a great book.

Right now I’m enjoying a giant cup of herbal tea in my oversized love cup, as I share some thoughts with you. Both of these things bring me a great deal of joy. One is easy (the cup of tea) and one is challenging. Writing always dares me to dig deeper for something meaningful to share. Writing asks me to learn before I teach anything; it expands my perspective and keeps my mind wide open. My intention with writing has always been to learn more about our place in the world and to discover how I can help others stretch their understanding and as a result expand their possibilities. Writing keeps me in a growth mindset and I’m very grateful for that.

“Be open to new ideas; never stop growing. Learning nourishes our happiness.”

-Kathie Donovan

It’s up to us whether or not we appreciate the power of learning new ideas or savouring our favourite simple pleasures but these are the very things that make our days special. Too often we allow ourselves to get caught up in overthinking about what might happen next or worrying about situations we have no control over. Part of enjoying a happy, healthy life is valuing the simple things that we could easily take for granted.

Here’s an important truth. We are each in charge of our happiness and we have far more power and control over it than we recognize.

Our best bet when it comes to healthy aging is to take care of our physical and mental wellness. Our body and mind are naturally connected; when we take care of our body our mind feels better. Cultivating habits such as making movement part of our daily routine, eating a healthy diet, watching where we allow our thoughts to go and recognizing the importance of interdependence all point us in the right direction.

Researchers who study centenarians (folks who live to 100 years and beyond) have shared that our attitude is important as we age. Our attitude is shaped by how we invest our time, so it’s important to do things that make us happy.  Being accepting of change is another key component of a healthy attitude and that includes rejecting negative stereotypes of aging. What we’ve been told about aging over many decades is not necessarily going to be your experience, if you take care of your attitude.

While we’re all subjected to negative thoughts, the difference between living a mediocre life and thriving as we age is how much power we give to negativity. It’s true that our lives can be completely reimagined when we shift the focus of our thoughts. When we are accountable for what we choose to think, we live a life that’s happening for us instead of a life that’s happening to us. Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts challenges us and that’s a good thing. For example, a negative thought might be -life is so boring- replace that thought with – I am capable of anything I set my mind to; I look for possibilities for joy every day. I’ve learned that complaining is like saying a prayer, asking for what you don’t want, so be careful because complaining is widely acceptable but not effective when it comes to thriving.

Now is the time to stand up for ourselves and use the power of our thoughts to improve the results we see in our lives. We are all important and we matter; what we think about ourselves and our environment, including the people we interact with matters too. Here are a few more simple habits to cultivate that will contribute to living a fulfilling life.

  1. Learn to be grateful. Write down what you’re grateful for. Say thank you often; give out compliments like candy.
  2. Practice kindness toward yourself and others.
  3. Live in the present. The past doesn’t exist any longer and the future hasn’t happened yet. Worrying about either is like chewing gum to solve a chemistry problem, it gets you nowhere.
  4. Live with purpose. Focus on activities and pursuits that are meaningful to you.
  5. Stay curious. Ask questions; learn to be interested in other people and subjects you may have not yet explored.
  6. Let go of bitterness, anger and excuses. Practice forgiveness and compassion toward yourself and others.

Choosing to use some of these techniques will convince you that you have far more power and control in your life than you thought you did. Take some of these ideas, try them and enjoy all of the benefits and opportunities life has to offer.

Gratitude Is Our Superpower

This Pandemic pause sure has taught us a lot about appreciation, hasn’t it? We’ve been reminded to value our health, our family and our freedom. We’ve learned to appreciate connection, even if it has been on a zoom call. We’ve risen during a time of great challenge and sadness to show appreciation for the front-line workers: those who look after us in emergencies, who take good care of our food supply and our most vulnerable. The Pandemic has been an exercise in patience, perspective and I think most importantly it’s been a great lesson in gratitude.

I want to thank you for making time to read our blog, for being open-minded enough to consider a fresh perspective or an idea you may not have considered before. Ideas like teaching yourself to express appreciation to someone when you’re feeling low because expressing gratitude when we’re not in the mood fosters more gratitude in the world around us and helps us to feel better. Perspectives like looking for opportunities to learn something from challenging situations because that’s how we make ourselves better. I encourage people to search for something to be grateful for in a difficult situation because there’s always something when we choose to look for it. I like to share with people that the two most important words in the English language are thank you and I always encourage their overuse.

 “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” -Maya Angelou

Developing an attitude of appreciation involves learning to value something as simple as a new day. Each sunrise and sunset is something we’ve never seen before. We also get to start over every day with a clean slate, even though our thoughts will remind us of all the things we haven’t done and all the reasons we should consider being grateful as a waste of time. Trust me on this: learning to be grateful is one of the greatest investments you can make in yourself.

Research on the benefits of gratitude is ongoing with two psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami at the forefront. Studies show that gratitude is associated with a greater sense of well-being and happiness, increased generosity and empathy, better relationships, fewer aches and pains, more alertness and determination as well as better sleep. Doesn’t that sound like good medicine?

Often we reserve gratitude or appreciation for gifts we receive, right? Consider that we are receiving all the time as in receiving oxygen into our lungs, sunlight on our face, a bird song and nature; not to mention running water, hot water, electricity and all of the modern conveniences we use every day.

Whether you journal about five things you’re grateful for every day or you express your thanks to someone who has helped you out, by sending a thank you card, you’re developing an approach to life that will deliver great dividends.

 “Today is a wonderful day to have a wonderful day.” -Maya Angelou

 Gratitude can really challenge us though because showing appreciation can make us feel vulnerable and we’ve been taught that being vulnerable equals weakness. Many of us have been taught to be independent and not rely on or take too much from others. We easily turn down compliments and kind offers in the name of independence while missing the opportunity for another person to feel good because they’ve helped us out and we miss an opportunity to show appreciation for an act of kindness. What if I told you that gratitude and appreciation are your superpowers? You have an endless supply but you have to use your superpowers to keep the store replenished.

The next time you notice a beautiful sunrise or sunset, just say thank you. When someone offers to help you out in some way allow it and say thank you. This way of operating puts fear in the back seat and connects us with the beauty of life and the powerful force of interdependence. During this season of giving thanks, let’s shift perspective and make gratitude a gift we share with others all year round by giving compliments freely, using your gratitude journal and saying thank you every day.


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