If you don't set aside 10 minutes daily to prime your life, you don't have a life

If you are unable to set aside 10 minutes daily to focus on YOUR OWN LIFE, then you don't have a life. 10 minutes during which you are #1 and you are reconnect with your authentic self.

The Happiness of the Other Person is Your Happiness Too

We all know that love is complicated, imperfect, frustrating, chaotic and many other similar words. Let's face it, love is like swimming in turbulent waters...it's hard to stay afloat. But, during all the moments that it is on the surface - love can be majestic!

I really like Maraboli's quote because it defines love in words that we often tend to forget. I always have the impression that when we think about love, we focus on ourselves and our feelings...how does the other person make us feel? But, love should be more than just "how we feel".

Maraboli's quote forces us to think about the other person, and what we bring to him/her's life. An obvious and also controversial issue that comes to my mind when thinking about this is the idea of accepting the other person for what he/she is. It sounds simple, but it's so, so difficult to accept others, including our partners, as they are. 

If you love someone don't try to change him/her. Instead, you should help the person to be the greatest version of him-/herself. 

I believe that the key issue that needs to be recognized in this idea is that helping someone to be the greatest version of him-/herself doesn't necessary mean that you have to completely sacrifice yourself for this person. It just means that you should be willing to help the person to fulfill his/her dreams and goals. Let the other person grow and be him-/herself.

Because when you love someone, the happiness of the other person is your happiness too.

Real and Lifestyle Friends

We all know the saying "hard times reveal true friends". But, is this the truth? How many times have you asked yourself who are my real friends? Or, whether or not do you have any real friends? 

Over the last couple of months, I have spent some time thinking about the role that friends and friendships play in my life. Do I really have "real" friends"? Who are they? Why are friends so important?

Somehow, I never felt the need to have many friends. I am not certain why, but perhaps it is because I am part of a big family - I never felt lonely or isolated. I am the second one of five children; I have two sisters and two brothers. Additionally, I also have many, many cousins and plenty of other relatives. Yes, my family is huge! 

It's true that you could be surrounded by many people and still feel lonely. But, this wasn't exactly my case. Although there was always some sibling rivalry, I also learn to share, forget and get along with others. Furthermore, when you are part of a big family there is always someone with whom to play and with whom to share your secrets and frustrations. I know that this is not always true for all families, but it is the case for mine. I am not saying that my family is or was perfect - families are not supposed to be perfect. I really believe that there are many advantages of being part of a big family, and one of them is that you share traditions and memories.  

 I am grateful that I am part of a big family because I have always had someone with whom to play, talk and why not, fight.

This being said I have always enjoyed the presence of friends in my life. I am one of those people who believe that in life we usually have two types of friends: "lifestyle" and "true" friends.

Although this dichotomy is not new, we forget about it when we are disappointed by a friend. Kelly O'Brien wrote an interesting post entitled "Want To Know Who Your True Friends Are?" in MindBodyGreen.com where she defines "lifestyle" friends as:

Those friends that you imagine will come to your aid but didn't are now your "lifestyle friends" (pssst... they always were but you didn't know it). What does this mean? It means they were friends with you for your lifestyle and really enjoyed your company. 

Although our lifestyle friends are fun to be with, we should not expect to count on them during difficult times. The problem is that we often forget this. Then, we feel terribly hurt when someone who we call friend doesn't come to our rescue. The issue is that this person was probably a lifestyle friend. Most of us have a good number of lifestyle friends, but only a very small number of true friends. According to O'Brien, you may never know who your true friends are until life throws you an unwelcome curveball, then...

The people who DO step forward to be by your side are your true friends.

Real friends are there for you and with you during difficult times. But, real friendships require that you put yourself out there. True friendships are rare because they require honesty, dedication, caring, and love from both parts. In a real friendship, you can feel free of being yourself and trust the other. 

The moment that you start wondering whether you can trust someone or not, that is when you already know you don't...that is when you realize that perhaps that person is not, or was never, a real friend.  

Happiness or Balanced Life: Which One is the Most Important?

Recently, a friend asked me if I believe that work-life balance was possible. 

My first reaction was to answer, Yes. But, after a couple of minutes, I changed my answer and said that although work-life balance may be possible, it's very difficult to achieve.

After a few minutes of debate about the meaning of the term "work-life balance", our conversation switched towards the role played by a balanced life on happiness. I realize that the only reason that I am interested in achieving a balanced life, or discuss the subject, is because I want happiness to be a fundamental component of my life.

Do we really need a balanced life to attain happiness?

Clearly, work-life balance is not about organizing our schedule to give every part of our life equal time. I think that a balanced life is about regaining a sense of accomplishment and control. To me, a balanced life is about making choices that are right for the time and circumstances of our life.

A balanced life is about living life in a way that makes you feel happy, rewarded and satisfied. I recently read an article that suggested that when searching for a balanced lifestyle, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

- Do you feel good about how you are spending your time?

- Are you aware of the choices you are making or is life completely running over you?

- Are you nurturing the things that are important to you?

- Are the choices and sacrifices you are making today moving towards a goal or vision for your future?

- Do you understand the implications of your choices on your family and your work?

Personally, I think that the important issue is happiness, so...

Happiness means different things to different people. For many people, happiness comes from a balanced mix between what we have to do and what we want to do; this is fine. But, for others, happiness may mean something completely different.

So, instead of trying to achieve a perfect balance between life and work, I believe that we should focus on the meaning of happiness in our lives. Thus, my suggestion is to start our personal exploration of happiness by asking ourselves the following questions:

- What is happiness to me?

- When and how is happiness occurring in my life?

- How is my work affecting my life goals?

- Is a balanced life really necessary to achieve happiness?

- What is my recipe for happiness?

Do you have other suggestions? Which other questions are useful? 

The Courage to Parent Authoritatively: A Potential Solution to Parenting in The Digital Age

Photo taken by Emily Kidd - https://www.flickr.com/photos/emmykidd49/

I've just finished reading a very interesting post by Richard Freed, Ph.D regarding the benefits of authoritative parenting in this digital age.

In simple words, In this article, Richard Freed (psychologist and author of Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age) presents the idea that throughout most of human history, parents have been more engaged in their children's lives than they are today. For instance, for the 19th-century American frontier families, the notion that kids could ignore family and work in favor of playtime distractions was unthinkable. The demanding environment these families faced made it imperative that children lived alongside their parents and pulled their weight at home. These kids' lives, while challenging, helped them feel that they mattered and encouraged them to become productive adults.

Why is this relevant today? Why is parent authoritatively a potential solution to parenting in the digital age?

If you have a teenager at home who has a cell phone or other digital devices, you are probably finding difficult to control his/her use of digital devices. Parents who add their kids and teens to their family cell-phone plans claim that they're doing so primarily for safety reasons. Teens appreciate the gesture with the majority of them admitting that a major benefit of having a cell phone is the security they feel in being able to reach their families at any possible time.

On the flip side, cell phones are an addiction for many teens. From sleep deprivation to texting and driving, cell phones may also present a health hazard for teens who cannot break away from the social pressures of constant contact via cell phone. Sometimes, teens replace traditional social skills with text messages, voicemails, and pressure to remain available through the cell phone at all times. According to Dr. Freed, this pressure can cause undue stress and anxiety for teens with a large social circle.

Authoritative parents strive to have a strong, loving relationship with their children, yet they also provide high expectations and definite limits that help kids meet expectations. 

Authoritative parenting provides remarkable benefits:  Children raised with this parenting style are happier, less likely to have delinquent behavior, and tend to be more engaged in school and receive higher GPAs in high school and college than kids raised using other parenting styles.

Characteristics of the Authoritative Parenting Style

  • Listen to their children
  • Encourage independence
  • Place limits, consequences, and expectations on their children's behavior
  • Express warmth and nurturance
  • Allow children to express opinions
  • Encourage children to discuss options
  • Administer fair and consistent discipline 

According to this article, people with authoritative parenting styles want their children to utilize reasoning and work independently, but they also have high expectations for their children. When children break the rules, they are disciplined in a fair and consistent manner.

The key element that it's suggested in Dr. Freed's work is that the most effective way to raise children is authoritative parenting because it involves high levels of responsiveness and demandingness

What do you think? What is your parenting style?

Our Fantastic Family Trip to Europe: Accommodations and Travel

Almost exactly a year ago, my little family of four was visiting Italy, France and Spain. It was our most special family trip so far. 

We only had three weeks for our trip and we wanted it to be memorable. We decided to spend about 9 days in Italy, 7 days in France and 6 days in Spain - it was the perfect combination for us. We stayed a little longer in Italy because our arrival and departure were from the fantastic city of Rome.

Here is some information that you may find useful if you ever decide to travel with children to one of these countries.

How We Found our Accommodations

Our children were 5 and 13 years old when we had our European adventure. Although they are relatively easy to handle boys, they can also be moody and picky. To simplify things for us, we decided to avoid hotels and opted for places that offered at least two bedrooms and a small kitchen/dining area. 

Finding places where to stay in countries or cities that you have never visited could be very stressful. All types of accommodations have risks, even hotel rooms. In our case, we use the photos and descriptions provided by the hosts as well as the information provided by reviewersI read each one of the comments made by reviewers before making a final decision regarding a rental. When in doubt, I did not hesitate in calling/emailing the host for clarifications.

If you find that you need more help, I suggest NomadicMatt. This site provides 9 golden rules to help people find the perfect apartment/houses on websites such as Airbnb. These nine rules are helpful guidelines, but as NomadicMatt said, at the end of the day you need to go with your gut.

After using different online resources, we found all our places using Airbnb or HomeAway. 

Airbnb is an online community marketplace that connects people looking to rent their homes or apartments with people who are looking for accommodations. Airbnb users include hosts and travelers. The hosts list and rent out their unused spaces while the travelers search for and book accommodations.

Through Airbnb we were able to find houses or apartments in all the Italian and French cities that we visited. We were extremely satisfied with Airbnb. In terms of problems or bad experiences, we only had a problem with a house that we rented near Carcassonne in France. But, the key issue to mention here is that our problems were solved in less than 24 hours. Airbnb helped us to find another place very quickly. More importantly, we did not lose any money throughout the whole process. So, overall, we found Airbnb very reliable. 

Unfortunately, we could not find good places to stay in Spain using Airbnb. We ended using HomeAway to find our accommodations in both Madrid and Barcelona. With HomeAway all that you need to do is to find a property and then, contact the owner for questions and/or to book the place. 

How we traveled in Europe

Most of the time we traveled by train. For example, from Napoli to Padova we traveled by train and once in Padova we rented a car to visit other places, including the amazing city of Venice. The car trip from Padova to Venice was beautiful with many picturesque places, including excellent small restaurants.

Train services in Europe are generally very good. Although we experienced some problems with our train trip from Milan to Nice (French train company), we enjoyed all our train trips in Europe.

In particular, we really enjoyed traveling by train in Italy. Train tickets in Italy were more affordable than in either France or Spain. Furthermore, Italian train companies such as Italotreno offer family packages (for 4 people, includes 2 children) where children travel free of charge.  Italian trains were also very clean, providing even internet service. We often had the chance to sit all four together in those sections of the train with four face-to-face seats. 

Now, if you decide to rent a car in Europe things may be a little bit more complicated, but possible. The key issue is that you need to be organized and make certain that you conduct your search in order to obtain the best prices. My advice is to try calling around to local car rental agencies or to use a travel agency.

Remember, low price is not the only factor that you should take into consideration. In our case, we rented our car from Europcar because it offered a good rate but also reliable service and various pickup/drop-off locations (including one at the train station). 

In my next post, I will talk about the places that we visited in Italy, France and Spain.

My New Fitness Program and the Versatility of Treadmills

 I have recently started a new fitness program. Over the last few years, I have been trying hard to motivate myself to exercise, but I have not been very consistent. I have tried everything, but I have to accept that I am one of those people who need to be motivated. Unfortunately, I am an expert in terms of procrastination when it comes to exercise which means that I can never achieve my fitness goals. Thus, I recently decided to work with a gym trainer. 

Power Treadmill Workouts

The first thing that I have learned since I started this new fitness program is that a treadmill can be a versatile exercise equipment. I used to think that all that you could do with treadmills was running or walking. Of course, I knew that you could change the incline and the speed. However, it never occurred to me that a proper combination of incline and speed can result in an exciting cardio workout.

Here are some of the power treadmill workouts that we have done so far. They are simple, but you will be amazed to see how many calories you will burn by trying them for 30 or 45 minutes.

So, if you have a treadmill and are bored of using it just for walking or running, try these workouts -- you will burn an expected high number of calories!

Workout 1: Repeat the cycle below for 30-45 minutes. If you want, you can increase the incline levels by 3.0 instead of 2.0.

Workout 2: Repeat the cycle below for 30-45 minutes

If you try these workout, let me know what you think.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Wisdom: Life is a Continual Succession of Opportunities

Is there a Workout Type that Suits best your Personality?

Image obtained from http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2013-10-16-fitnesspersonality.png

Recently, I read an article posted on HuffPost Healthy Living regarding workouts and personality types. 
According to this article, how you behave in your everyday life can play a significant role in your workout routine. 

In other words, in this article, it is suggested that research has shown that our personalities and even our moods can dictate the type of workouts we like. For example, sociable people may prefer group fitness classes, shy or introverts tend to workout alone while tired/anxious individuals select activities such as yoga or tai chi.

The basic idea presented by the author of the article is that people who engage in personality- appropriate activities will stick with the activities longer and enjoy their workout more. Of course, all this can result in an overall positive fitness experience. 

If you are interested in exploring this idea and want to find your personality-workout profile, I suggest you check the resources below. 

1. Gavin's Fitness Personality profile - Developed by Dr. James Gavin, Professor at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada)

Don't forget to let me know what you think about this idea.

Inside Us There is Something That We are - José Saramago

An inspirational quote from José Saramago, the Portuguese writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998.

Dreams Can Inspire You, But Goals Can Change Your Life

Everyone escapes reality in some way. A good book, or writing one...drawing, thinking...even just looking at random websites and wasting hours on the internet.

When I was young, I tended to use dreaming as my escape from reality - my evasion from my daily frustrations. I believe that life would be too boring and difficult to go through without dreams. Dreams open all kind of possibilities and opportunities for us. Dreams are an amazing way to forget temporarily about our problems.

For many years, I used to dream of a life where I was happy, respected and loved by everybody. In my dreams, my life included people that I knew and people that I did not know. The key thing was that in my imaginary world, I was able to control my actions and those of others. 

Although my dreams helped me pass through difficult periods of my life, they were just dreams. The actions in my dreams did not have real consequences or ramifications in my life...unless, I transformed them into goals!

Dreams are wonderful because they are easy and free. But, a dream will continue to stay a dream until it is not transformed into an action. Dreams can be very inspirational and if we metamorphose them into goals, they can change our life.

“Dreams can inspire you, but goals can change your life.”

More than ever before, I have become fully aware that we need goals to make the visions of our dreams real. 
Goals are all about action. Goals can turn dreams into reality and more importantly, they can change our life.

To transform a dream into a reachable goal we must clarify it, provide the details, make it so clear that we see it, feel it, know what we will feel like when we get there. 

The Only Way to Live the Life of Dreams is By Setting Goals!

And you, do you have dreams or do you have just goals?

Let Go of The Illusion of Control: An Inspirational Quote from Kung Fu Panda

Master Oogway, the elderly tortoise from 'Kung Fu Panda' who is known for his knowledge and wisdom in the Valley of Peace and is also who is credited with creating Kung Fu is also someone with profound wisdom. Today, my quote comes from him. 

Although I’m much better than I used to be, I’m a bit of a control freak - a typical perfectionist who doesn't like to be vulnerable  as Brené Brown would say in one of her books. I often use perfectly good or positive energy trying to plan, predict and prevent things that I cannot possibly plan, predict, or prevent. It's terrible, stressful and not fun. 

Lately, I’ve noticed that things go much more smoothly when I give up control—when I allow them to happen instead of making them happen. 

The journey to a wholehearted life can be a spiritual process that may start by letting go of the illusion of control!

Honesty: Always Choose the High Road!

I suppose that one of the fundamental traits that a person could have is to be honest even when facing difficult situations. But, as it is often said, "honesty has a power that very few people can handle".

Many people claim that they only want to hear the truth, regardless how difficult or hard it may be. But, the reality is that we are not always prepared to hear the truth. We don't always welcome honesty in our lives. Just as an example, ask yourself how many times have you avoided saying the truth to friends, co-workers or loved ones over the last couple of weeks? If you are really honest, your answer is possibly greater than zero!

Why is it so hard to be honest? 

I have always claimed that I am an honest person who prefers to say and hear the truth all the time - Anyway, I am always saying this to my son. But, I am not being totally honest with him. Like most people, I don't always say the truth because I don't want to hurt people's feelings, create myself problems or cause pain to my loved ones.

There are numerous situations that will quickly test our decision to be completely honest. The pattern seems to start when we are children and we want to avoid punishment. Fear gets the better of us and we say something in an effort to avoid the consequences of whatever it was that we did. If it works in our favour, then we just saw evidence that lying is less painful and requires less courage than honesty. 

Yes, to be honest, you need to be courageous. Honesty requires courage because it makes us vulnerable and accountable. Another key element is that to avoid stepping on the feelings of others with our honesty also requires tact. 

So, the reality is that being truly honest involves more than just telling the truth in every situation. Honesty requires courage and integrity - A deep desire to live by a higher standard. To put it in my husband words - you always need to choose to the high road.

Always choose the high road, if you want to be honest!

Now that I am 50 years old (actually, almost 51 years old!), I feel that I should always walk away from anything that impedes me to be honest. Ok., 
I am not saying that I want to be perfect 100% of the time. I am just saying that want to be honest 100% of the time and always choose the high road.

What about you, do you always choose the high road?

The Meaning of Life is to Find Your Gift - Pablo Picasso

Have you ever heard the saying: "Everyone has a unique gift"? Have you ever wondered if this saying is true? Have you found your unique gift yet? 

I don't know you, but I am not even certain what is a gift? Is it a talent or something that I have? Is it something spiritual? I am not sure. 

Perhaps, my problem is that I don't know that I have a "gift". Or, I have not realized yet what is my unique gift. I am thinking that a resolution for me this year should be to find my unique gift.

Whatever is that special gift or talent, I need to make certain that I am sharing it with my loved ones.

Do You Know What is Your Special Gift?

You Are Spirit, You Are Love

This is a beautiful, positive affirmation  that I found in the book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder; a book that I am currently reading.

Hopefully, it can inspire you too. Remember, you are spirit, you are love!

Cousins Bonding Moments

Life gives us brief moments with another, but sometimes in those brief moments, we get memories that last for our whole life.

One of the best things of spending Christmas in Montreal was that my 6-year old son, Elijah, had the chance to bond with his cousins. You see, we live in a different province and Elijah doesn't really see his cousins very often. 

Although many of Elijah's cousins are older than him, they were all happy to spend time with him. Now, Elijah knows that he has a big family in Montreal who loves him very much.

There were many precious cousins bonding moments that we all are still remembering. 

It's Easy to Miss the Real Point of Our Lives, Until We're No Longer Alive

Recently, I started to read the book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianne Huffington. 

I have only read the first chapters of the book, but the ideas presented in this book are already forcing me to re-evaluate the way that I am living my life.

For those who don't know Arianna Huffington, she is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. In this particular book, she discussed the topic of success from many different points of views using examples and experiences from different people.

What I like so far of the book is that Huffington is really forcing me to evaluate my whole personal idea of success. Am I a successful person? What does success mean to me?

As I said, I have just started to read the book. But, so far, my readings are really pushing me to think about success, family, work and the fact that we only have one life to live!

What does success really mean to you? Are you really prepared to make all the sacrifices that you are making so far to achieve success?

It's Never Too Late To Talk about A Wonderful Christmas

Since I moved to Prince Edward Island (almost 20 years ago), I had only spent one Christmas in Montreal. I used to live in Montreal and many of my relatives still live there. Regretfully, I had never made the effort to spend Christmas in Montreal over the last 17 or 18 years.

But, this year was different. We (my husband, my son and I) made the decision to spend Christmas in Montreal with my mother, siblings and their families, cousins and other close friends. 

It was a very exciting time because my husband and son had never spent Christmas with my whole family - so, it was the first time that they would experience my family's Christmas traditions. 

Going to Montreal for Christmas is not always as simple as it sounds. Travelling during winter time in Canada is never easy, especially if you have to do this with a small child and a dog. Acceptable weather conditions combined with the skills of an excellent driver (my husband!) worked in our favour. We were able to get to Montreal just after supper time.

I honestly believe that for my family no other event is quite as magical as Christmas Eve 
- It's really the most special night of the year. As my younger brother said it, Christmas Eve is the night of the miracles. 

It's amazing how when you have a large family, Christmas can be beautifully loud and busy. Adults and children talking at the same time, dancing or trying to help organize the gifts around the Christmas tree. 

The best of Christmas for us is waiting till midnight on Christmas Eve to wish "Merry Christmas" to each person who is attending the celebration - purely special - a moment when we easily forget all our differences and problems and are just immensely happy to be there together.

Christmas Eve provided us with an opportunity to laugh about all kind of simple things and to remember those who we still love, but are not with us anymore. 

It is often said that describing an emotion is not the same as experiencing it. That is how I feel about Christmas. Although I have described many times to my husband and my son how my family celebrates Christmas, it wasn't the same as to experience it - now, they know it.

I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to spend Christmas with so many loving and wonderful people - A Christmas that I will never forget!


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