Joyful Connections

Thank you, Lord. It’s perfect for me!

So many times, we pray and praise God when our prayers are answered.  And so many times, we cry out, “Lord, where are  you?  Why haven’t you answered my prayers?”

Most of us know that we don’t always get what we ask for, or we get what we ask for but in a different form that what we were praying to happen.  We praise God when our prayers are answered the way we expect them to be.  But sometimes Our Lord has other plans for us….better plans!  I challenge you to write out four lists for yourself.

First, list all that you are praying about or have prayed for in life.  This will take some time, think back over the years of your life and write them all out.

The second list is for all of the prayers that have been answered for you, just the way you wanted them to be (praise God).

The third is for prayers not answered yet. (Keep praying, in faith, telling God you know he is working to set things up in your favor!)

The fourth is the most important one of all.  It is for those prayers that were answered (and you are living abundantly because of it) but not in the way _you_ thought they should be answered.

Take a look at that fourth list.  Really think about how God’s way was better than your way.  Then praise Him, Joyfuls.  Shout it from the roof tops.  Let Him know that you are so grateful for how He has taken care of  you.  “Thank you, Lord, it all turned out PERFECTLY for me.”

Are people taking advantage of your easy-going personality?

That’s it.  Once and for all.  I’ve decided, and I will stick to this decision.  I am absolutely sick and tired of some people taking advantage of my mostly easy-going way of living life.  This was me, talking to myself, not long ago, after being disrespected by someone I describe as a “me-monster” (self-absorbed, narcissistic).  I began using this term and even wrote about it in my book, Joyful Soul: A Promise Worthy of Trust, after hearing comedian Brian Regan discuss those who in social situations take over the conversation because, as he puts it, “it’s all about MEEEEEEEE.”

I make it a point to think well of others, give them the benefit of the doubt, and be respectful of them in general.  But I have a very hard time with double-standards.  And if you don’t respect me, don’t expect me to treat you with respect, either.  Yet I have that “nice girl” syndrome going on.  I have given up on thinking everyone needs to like me.  I just don’t care about that at all.  And I love feeling this way!  However, I have a strong spiritual and Christian core, and I genuinely want to treat all others with respect and love.

This is a fine line for any of us to walk.  On the one hand, Jesus was loving to everyone, even though they certainly weren’t always loving or respectful to him.  On the other hand, he was no pushover.  He had dignity and strength, and he let others know in no uncertain terms when he did not agree with their ways.  But he was very wise in how he got his point across to others.  He used parables, spoke respectfully even though he was wronged, and did so lovingly.  He certainly didn’t care whether or not they liked him.  But he loved them.

So I have revamped my thought process.  And here it is:  I will not tolerate others treating me with disrespect, and expecting me to live by the double standard which they have set up between us, thinking they can talk to me or treat me any way they darn well please.  However, I will always love them and pray for them.  I will be kind to them when they seek me out for help or to lend an ear.  But I will always, in love and honesty, let them know I do not approve of their poor behavior toward me or others, and I will expect them to either change how they treat me or know that I am exiting their space bubble.  How’s that for dignity and strength?

Joyful Soul: A Promise Worthy of Trust is available on Amazon.com and wherever books are sold.

Visit www.JoyfulSoulOnline.com; Follow on Twitter @Laurie Mattera; Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/joyfulsoulllc

Five Characteristics to Empower You in Every AOF

*Adapted from Joyful Soul: A Promise Worthy of Trust on sale now:

AOFs, or Areas of Focus, is a term I use to describe the areas of value in one’s life.  These are the areas where most of us want to feel a sense of joy and balance.  There are five characteristics that can empower you to succeed in every area of your life that is important to you. They are: tenacity, discipline, goal-setting, approaching each AOF from a place of power and love, and eliminating fear. Let’s take a brief look at each of these.

Tenacity

Tenacity is stick-to-itiveness, the determination and will to persist, the refusal to quit, the promise to persevere in one’s purpose and press forward even when facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles. A tenacious person firmly resolves to reach his or her goal no matter what stands in the way. Remember, a balanced and joyful life is at stake here! If you approach every goal you have for yourself with tenacity, you will find that doors open for you. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, it will be opened” (Matt 7:7-8). This is a promise worthy of trust.

Discipline

Discipline is the virtue of self-mastery. It is tenacity’s best friend. Discipline is practice, plus patience, plus persistence, with a purpose. Discipline means developing and repeating a positive, goal-directed behavior until it becomes a habit as you work patiently step-by-step toward an objective. Of course, to achieve a balanced life with discipline, flexibility is required. This means that you will need to exercise restraint if those around you are not moving at the pace you would like them to. So discipline also means maintaining order and control within yourself. Trust yourself, trust the process, work patiently and persistently and know that in good time you will achieve your goals. If you are purposeful, persistent and disciplined in your efforts, you will move forward—and as you do your self-confidence will grow.

Goal-Setting

This brings us to our next characteristic: Being a goal setter. Discipline and tenacity imply that you have both a plan and objectives to reach. So as we discuss each Area of Focus, it is essential that you set goals for yourself. And be sure to write them down. Extant research shows that when goals are written down, and when what is written down includes how and when goals will be met, they are achieved more often than when goals are not written down or when one fails to include both how and when they will be reached. Researchers aren’t sure why this is, but perhaps the reason is that writing our goals down keeps us accountable. This does not mean that you will accomplish every goal exactly when you say you will. There may be disruptions. You may suffer setbacks. Or God may have other plans for you, and if you are listening in faith, you will adjust. What it does mean is that you will have a baseline to work from, adapt, and fine-tune. So for each chapter in this book dealing with an AOF, write down concrete goals for yourself. This will make the whole process very real to you, and you can even chart your progress and enjoy each success on the journey. Be realistic during this process. Remember: Any movement forward is progress. Whatever your dreams and goals are, express them and set them into motion. Then stay in motion, and don’t become discouraged if you progress more slowly than you expected. I believe our goals are connected to our destiny. Our destiny reveals itself in our longing to achieve our goals, and we cannot find rest until they come to fruition. Your goals and your restless longing to achieve your destiny are gifts that make you unique. Don’t give up. Tap into your faith in God. Believe in yourself and your destiny. Take joy in the journey.

A Spirit of Power and Love

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:7 NLT). These are beautiful and empowering words. Notice that the verse speaks of these gifts as something we already possess. God has given us a spirit of power and love and self-discipline. It is no coincidence that these three spiritual virtues are given together. “Power” is the capability to act decisively to affect oneself and others, the capacity to effect change in the world. Power in this sense can be good or evil. That is why when God gives the gift of power, he gives it together with love and self-discipline. Love is the channel through which our power must flow to others, and self-discipline equips us to use our power wisely and with good judgment for the benefit of others.

But what if you feel disempowered? What if you feel that your shortcomings are too many or your weakness too great to act? Consider the example of the apostle Paul, whom God used to carry the message of salvation throughout the whole of the then-known world. In one of his open letters to the church in Corinth, he writes frankly of his weakness. He suffered a severe malady of some kind that made his already arduous work even more difficult. Three times, he says, he prayed for liberation from it. The response? The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9 NAB). Do not fear your weakness. God will work with you and through you just as you are.

When you acknowledge the power you have been given and the love you carry within you, something wonderful happens. You become aware of your effect on all the people in your life—and not just on those closest to you, but also those who are acquaintances or even strangers. You also realize how much you are capable of and how much you can achieve. Susan Jeffers writes much about this in her book, Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway. Use her words, “I am powerful and I am loving,” and witness fantastic changes in your outlook on life.

Toss the Fear

As you work on some of these Areas of Focus, you may feel a sense of trepidation or fear that stops you from proceeding. Perhaps you are worried about how others will take to the new way you are living your life. This is a normal and natural occurrence. In psychology, we use a term called homeostasis which may help you to move past the fear and worry. Homeostasis describes what happens to individuals and those closest to them when they begin to make changes in their life. Inevitably what occurs is that those closest to the individual will attempt to move the person back to his or her original way of being. In other words, they will try to maintain the “status quo.” Homeostasis may also occur to the person making the changes. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you make a major change that will improve your life but it affects your children, they will naturally fight to keep things going the way they always have been, if there was a “payoff” for them. For example, if you decide that you are going to maintain a healthy diet and begin to present dinners of broiled chicken, green beans and brown rice to your kids instead of the macaroni and cheese they are accustomed to, they will most likely attempt to sabotage your quest for good health. They got a payoff when you didn’t take care of your physical health: macaroni and cheese dinners!

Most of us struggle with change, and if you are going to put your life in balance and be a joyful soul, you will be making changes. Lots of them. So be prepared for the pull you feel to go back to “life as usual” and also for the pull you might experience from others to bring you back there, too. It is interesting that homeostasis occurs when any change is made, positive or negative. So even if you are making things infinitely better for yourself and those around you, you may encounter resistance. Recognize it for what it is and move forward anyway. You and everyone you care about will be better off in the long run if you do not revert to your old patterns.

Think of some of your past accomplishments. Whether they were big or small, you most likely exercised the five characteristics mentioned above to succeed. I did not earn my black belt in Tae Kwon Do without applying tenacity, discipline, goal-setting, wise use of power, and moving past fear in my practice. In my life since then, recalling this accomplishment has inspired me to achieve many other goals. So remember a time you accomplished something through hard work and perseverance. Then recall how you utilized these five characteristics to help you do it. This will help you stay focused and determined in your future endeavors, thereby enabling you to succeed.

You Are on Your Way

So there you have it, a guide to use before we get started on tackling each AOF on the way to becoming a Joyful Soul, living a balanced life of fulfilled dreams!

Prepare to Renew

Hello Joyfuls!  It’s never too late to start over.  And what better time for a fresh beginning than during this Easter season.  Springtime brings us renewed life!  Take some time this month to reflect on the changes you would like to see in your life, if any.  Think about your spirituality, physical well-being, emotional well-being, your intimate relationship and relationship with others, your career or educational goals, and the time you spend relaxing and re-charging.  Which areas are fine just the way they are?  Which areas need a “do-over”?

Once you have decided which areas you would like to improve, begin setting goals.  And write them down! Extent research tells us that we have a better chance of achieving our goals if we write down how and when we will accomplish them.  So get out a paper and pen (a favorite notebook, perhaps?) and start writing.  Or sit at your computer and type it all out.  Either way, make a plan for yourself.  Create small steps that will take you to your goal.  Then prepare to make changes, little by little, until you have accomplished what you set out to do.  Nothing written on paper will do any good unless you take action! Also, pray over these goals, and watch what happens when you allow the Creator of the Universe to help you follow through and see them to completion.

Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve been amazed when I go back to read over my previous goals.  I usually find that I have accomplished them plus more!  Keep at it, and keep growing and improving.  Starting over is a blessing! And there is JOY in the journey.

Would you like help with new beginnings?  Visit Joyful Soul, LLC to make an appointment with me, or email me at DrMattera@JoyfulSoulOnline.com for more information.

Having What it Takes to Live a Balanced Life

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Joyful Soul: A Promise Worthy of Trust:  What traits do you need to live a balanced life and make your dreams come true? Well, there are five characteristics that will put you well on the road to success. These five characteristics, if nurtured in yourself, will empower you to succeed in every area of your life. They are: tenacity, discipline, goal setting, approaching each AOF from a place of power and love, and eliminating fear. Let’s take a brief look at each of these:

Tenacity

Tenacity is stick-to-itivness, the determined will to persist, to refuse to quit, to stubbornly persevere in one’s purpose and press forward even when facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles. A tenacious person firmly resolves to reach his or her goal no matter what stands in the way. Remember, a balanced and joyful life is at stake here! If you approach each and every goal you have for yourself in all of the Areas of Focus needed to obtain a balanced life with tenacity, you will find that doors open for you. “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, those who seek find, and to those who knock, the door will be opened” (Matt 7:7-8). This is a promise worthy of trust.

Discipline

Discipline is the virtue of self-mastery. It is tenacity’s best friend. Discipline is practice, plus patience, plus persistence, with a purpose. Discipline means developing and repeating a positive, goal-directed behavior until it becomes a habit as you work patiently step-by-step toward an objective. Of course, to achieve a balanced life with discipline, flexibility is required. This means that you will need to exercise restraint if those around you are not moving at the pace you would like them to. So discipline also means maintaining order and control within yourself. You must trust yourself, trust the process, work patiently and persistently and know that in good time you will achieve your goals. If you are purposeful, persistent and disciplined in your efforts, you will move forward—and as you do your self-confidence will grow.

Set Goals for Yourself

This brings us to our next characteristic: Being a goal setter. Discipline and tenacity imply that you have both a plan and objectives to reach. So as we discuss each Area of Focus, it is essential that you set goals for yourself. And be sure to write them down. Extant research shows that when goals are written down, and when what is written down includes how and when goals will be met, they are achieved more often than when goals are not written down or when one fails to include both how and when they will be reached. Researchers aren’t sure why this is, but perhaps the reason is that writing our goals down keeps us accountable. This does not mean that you will accomplish every goal exactly when you say you will. God may have other plans for you, and if you are listening in faith, you will adjust. What it does mean is that you will have a baseline to work from, adapt, and fine-tune. So for each chapter in this book dealing with an AOF, write down concrete goals for yourself. This will make the whole process very real to you, and you can even chart your progress and enjoy each success along the journey.

Finally, be realistic during this process. Remember: Any movement forward is progress. Whatever your dreams and goals are, express them and set them into motion. Then stay in motion, and don’t become discouraged if you progress more slowly than you expected. I believe our goals are connected to our destiny. They are expressed in our longing to achieve them, and we cannot find rest until they come to fruition. Your goals and your restless longing to achieve your destiny are gifts that make you unique. Don’t give up! Tap into your faith in God. Believe in yourself and your destiny. Take joy in the journey.

A Spirit of Power and Love

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:7 NIV). These are beautiful and empowering words. Notice that the verse speaks of these gifts as something we already possess. God has given us a spirit of power and love and self-discipline. It is no coincidence that these three spiritual virtues are given together. “Power” is the capability to act decisively to affect oneself and others, the capacity to effect change in the world. We all know that power in this sense can be good or evil. That is why when God gives the gift of power, he gives it together with love and self-discipline. Love is the channel through which our power must flow to others, and self-discipline equips us to use our power wisely and with good judgment for the benefit of others.

But what if you feel disempowered? What if you feel that your shortcomings are too many or your weakness too great to act? Consider the example of the apostle Paul, whom God used to carry the gospel throughout the whole of the then-known world. In one of his open letters to the church in Corinth, he writes frankly of his weakness. He suffered a severe malady of some kind that made his already arduous work even more difficult. Three times, he says, he prayed for liberation from his weakness. The response? The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9 NAB). God will work with you and through you just as you are.

When you acknowledge the power you have been given and the love you carry within you, something wonderful happens. You become aware of your effect on all the people in your life—and not just on those closest to you, but also those who are acquaintances or even strangers! You also realize how much you are capable of and how much you can achieve. Susan Jeffers writes much about this in her book, Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway.  Use her words, “I am powerful and I am loving,” and witness fantastic changes in your outlook on life.

Toss the Fear

As you work on some of these Areas of Focus, you may feel a sense of trepidation or fear that stops you from proceeding. Perhaps you are worried about how others will take to the new way you are handling your life and those around you. This is a normal and natural occurrence. In psychology, we use a term called homeostasis

which may help you to move past the fear and worry. Homeostasis describes what happens to individuals and those closest to them when they begin to make changes in their life. Inevitably what occurs is that those closest to the individual will attempt to move the person back to his or her original manner of being. In other words, they will try to maintain the “status quo.” Homeostasis may also occur to the person making the changes. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you make a major change that will improve your life but it affects your children, they will naturally fight to keep things going the way they always have been, if there was a payoff for them. For example, if you decide that you are going to maintain a healthy diet and begin to present dinners of broiled chicken, green beans and brown rice to your kids instead of the macaroni and cheese they are accustomed to, they will most likely attempt to sabotage your quest for good health. They got a payoff when you didn’t take care of your physical health: macaroni and cheese dinners!

Most of us struggle with change, and if you are going to put your life in balance and be a joyful soul, you will be making changes. Lots of them! So be prepared for the “pull” you feel to go back to “life as usual” and also for the pull you might experience from others to bring you back there, too. It is interesting that homeostasis occurs when any change is made, positive or negative. So even if you are making things infinitely better for yourself and those around you, you may encounter resistance. Recognize it for what it is and move forward anyway. You and everyone you care about will be better off in the long run if you do not revert to your old patterns.

Nobody is perfect!

You are on your way.  Remember to give yourself a break sometimes. There are only twenty-four hours in each day. Keep in this in mind as you are attempting to fit everything you want to accomplish in each area of your life into a daily routine.  Sleep is not optional; it is essential to good health, concentration, and energy.  Meals are not optional either, for the same reasons. What you will strive for is to make time to work on each facet of your life regularly and systematically (not necessarily daily) while taking care of yourself by getting proper rest and nutrition. As long as you are making progress toward your goals you should feel proud.  Of course, if you are consistently falling short of your goals, then I suggest you reevaluate and take time to figure out how you can trust yourself enough to follow through with your goals in each AOF. Reassess what is important to you, and for what reasons. Make changes if necessary, but remember to keep your eye on your long-term goals and values. You will be richly rewarded if you do! #JoyfulSoulOnline  www.joyfulsoulonline.com

Find Joy, Relieve Stress!

If you find stress is getting the best of you, it is time to focus on stress-relieving activities!  My patients or clients will often tell me that they cannot take the time to focus on themselves and de-stress.  This is an example of an external locus of control way of reasoning, and it will keep you from becoming a Joyful Soul.  You can find time to de-stress and problem solve in any AOF™ that is not working for you.  Taking care of yourself is your responsibility. Nobody else can do it for you.  So be assertive and know that you are worth it.  By taking care of yourself, you are being responsible to those who depend on you.  Don’t say you can’t.  Make it happen.

As I mentioned earlier in discussing relieving anxiety, you know yourself best and what will work for you to counteract stress in your life.  However, it may be helpful to you to review some stress relieving activities to get you started:

  • Listen to music, a motivational recording, or a relaxation CD.
  • Grab some quiet time (meditate, visualize nature and beautiful scenery)
  • Actually visit nature and beautiful scenery!
  • Focus on self-care (get a massage, haircut, take a bubble bath)
  • Get physical (work-out, dance, play a sport)
  • Practice patience and serenity (get books on relaxing breathing and progressive relaxation techniques)
  • Watch a funny movie
  • In addition to practicing these skills and taking time for yourself, remember to spend time reading and contemplating Scripture. Pray, meditate and tap into your spiritual center in order to stay in “perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3).

Gratitude

As I sit at my desk, looking out the window at the powerful snow storm (soon to be a blizzard, according to local weather reports), I am filled with a sense of gratitude for all we have to keep us safe and warm at home.  Heat, food, water, blankets, tea, plenty to read and/or watch on TV, and a warm bed to crawl into tonight.  Although there is plenty to complain about today, there is also much to be grateful for on this Sunday.  I’d love to hear from you…how many of you count your blessings when faced with situations such as bad weather, adverse circumstances, and messed up plans?  What are the things  you are grateful for?  How do you stay positive and JOYFUL in the face of adversity?  Please share with us, so we can learn from your positive attitude!

Feeling Joy in the World of Work

It is true that your work is not who  you are, it’s what you do.  You are much more valuable as a person than any title you may have in the world of work.  Yet, our jobs are an important AOF™ (area of focus) in our lives.  Whether we are stay-at-home parents, ditch diggers, movie stars or professionals in business, we will not feel a true sense of joy if we have not made an informed decision surrounding our work choices.  How do we do that?

The first thing to do is gather information about ourselves.  What are our values, interests, personality types, and talents?  In my seven years as a Career Consultant, I was able to experience the joy my clients felt once they focused on these four key points of information and how they overlapped.  With this knowledge, they moved on to making the best decision possible for themselves concerning their career choices.  You can do this too.

Take some time to find out what your values are in life (location, prestige, financials, people?) there are tools available online (do a search on free values inventories) to assist you in narrowing down  your key values.  Next, consider what interests you the most.  Working with your hands? Theoretical concepts? Teaching? Speaking or writing?  You can take an online interest inventory such as the one based on Holland’s RIASEC codes to determine your top interests.  Once you have a good feel for your interests and values, take an online test such as Myers-Briggs to figure out your personality style.  For example, are you introverted or extraverted? This will make a difference in choosing work in certain fields.  Finally, consider your aptitudes and natural talents.  What have you always been good at? What types of activities come easily and naturally to you?  It is best to take some sort of objective assessment on aptitudes, but if you aren’t able to do that, spend time thinking subjectively about which natural abilities you possess.  You may want to ask friends and family what they have noticed about you in this area, as well.

Once you have your interests, personality style, values and abilities before you, begin to look for overlapping themes among them.  This is how you will figure out the best options for you as far as educational and career choices.  I say options, because there will be a few ideas that arise for you.  Take those ideas and investigate them.  Narrow down your choices based on the research you do, and you will be making the best decision possible for yourself.  Keep in  mind that your choices may change throughout the years, and repeat the process above as necessary.  If you need guidance and assistance through this process, contact me at Drmattera@joyfulsoulonline.com to set up a session with me. I can help you through the results you get and assist you in narrowing down your choice.

Knowing that you have made the best decision possible for yourself in the world of work and having a plan for your future work life helps bring JOY in every other aspect of your life. You deserve the peace that comes with knowing you have made the best choice for yourself in the world of work!Overlap

Your Joy is not negotiable

We’ve all had bad days.  Sometimes a lot of them in a row!  Everything goes wrong.  Nobody understands.  You’re running late, you can’t fit in everything you want to do today, you can’t find that perfect job, your friends and family don’t understand you (or they unintentionally make your day worse) and you just don’t feel very joyful.  This is the time you need to stop everything, and center yourself.  If you keep in mind that you will not give up your joy for anything or anyone, you will be taking care of yourself.  Distance  yourself from others if that is what it takes.  Or take a few minutes to yourself.  But don’t give up your joy.  For anyone.  For anything. Ever.  It’s not theirs to take.  It’s not negotiable.  What a happy way to live!  And guess what?  It’s contagious….

It’ll pop up to you

Life is hard.  And there is always something to get done.  In short, it can be a bit overwhelming.  I mean, we have our immediate families to deal with, intimate relationships, work, school, friends, tending to our emotional and physical health, taking care of pets and kids, paying bills, taking care of our homes, trying to stay organized….ugh!  Deep breath.  Then there are the extra things we take on because we enjoy them…scrapbooking, learning a language, playing a musical instrument, volunteer work, reading.  Or perhaps you write, as I do.  All of this can take a toll on us, whether or not we find the tasks enjoyable.

What do you do when you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t even know what to do first?  How do you think of ideas and problem solve and get through the mountain of tasks ahead of you?  I can tell you what I do.  I pray. And I meditate.  And even so, at times I feel lost.  This morning, while contemplating a problem I’m trying to solve in my life and praying, these words came to me.  “It’ll pop up to you”.  I giggled and continued praying, and guess what?  The words “popped” into my head again, “It’ll pop up to you.”  So I sat with that a while, and continued to pray and meditate.  Suddenly, the path I was going to take became clear.  I was astounded!  In an instant, the answer certainly did pop up to me.  I wondered why I hadn’t realized it sooner?  After all, answer was so simple!

So what are you struggling with?  Are you overwhelmed? What answers do you need?  What problems do you need solved?  Pray, meditate, repeat.  Believe it or not, it’ll pop up to you.

Dr. Mattera:  I really appreciated going over everything with you a couple weeks ago. I am beginning to understand myself more. I honestly believe it will still take time for all of it to sink in.  However, I am feeling pretty confident about things now. Again, I really appreciate the time and effort you put into working with me. I will definitely contact you when other questions pop up. Thanks again!
From A Former Client