My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Joy of Enjoying Music

This past weekend I was enjoying the PBS show, Woodsong’s Old Time Radio Show. I have always enjoyed folk and bluegrass music and this show and the website specializes in promoting this music genre. The host was emphasizing the importance of music in our lives as a force for good. Music makes us happier. It brings joy in our daily experience which helps us have a more than ok life. Seek out music in your life to bring more joy into your life journey.

As I did a workshop on Test Anxiety on my campus the other day, I used music to show also the health benefits of music in relaxing and aiding in overcoming anxiety. Music can also act as a motivator to stimulate us to be active. In the workshop I played a song from a Keiko Matsui CD. Her style is contemporary smooth piano jazz. Her music can be very relaxing to listen to. Her music writing is varied and listening to her CD’s over and over I always pick up on new nuances I never heard before. She is one of the most creative pianists I have ever heard. Click on her name here, (Keiko Matsui), to listen to one of her songs.

Even though I played trumpet in High School I always was impressed and enjoyed the saxophone. It can really capture the emotion of the artist playing the saxophone. One of my favorite sax players is Tom Braxton of Texas. He is an amazing player. Click on the hyperlink of his name to listen to one of his videos. Watching and hearing him play you can tell he enjoys communicating joy in his songs. When I hear him in concert I can sense how easily he gets into the flow of his songs and works in tandem with his band. We have enjoyed hearing him at the Corpus Christi Jazz Festival over the past years. I also appreciate he has a deep Christian faith and is not afraid to be open about his beliefs. Part of the flow of his music is that he is worshipping while he is playing which adds to the deep emotion of his performances.

I always try to be open to new artists to keep an open expanding creative mind. Recently we as a family went to a concert locally by the world renown Ahn Trio. They are three sisters from Korea all trained at Julliard. I was a little skeptical at first, as I am not too big of a fan of modern classical music. I prefer the old classics. In their literature they mention that their music is all composed for them by modern composers. I am glad we went. They definitely brought joy into our evening. Their talent and skill on the piano, cello, and violin was breath taking. Click here on The Ahn Trio to hear a sample video of their music.

I encourage you to try to attend a concert of your favorite music artist or go to a concert of someone new to you. Nothing is better than live music with the sight and sounds. Of course you may say your budget just doesn’t allow for that. Then do what my wife and I do sometimes. Put one of your favorite CD’s in the stereo and then sit back in a soft recliner with your eyes closed and imagine you are listening in a concert hall.

Also for enjoying live music on a budget watch for local university student programs that are often free or a low cost. We recently enjoyed a wonderful classical guitar concert of high school guitar ensembles and the University’s guitar ensembles for only $7.00 knowing that the funds were going for music scholarships. Some towns and cities during the Summers offer free music concerts. The free music festivals are one aspect of Chicago we miss.

Try to incorporate more music into your life and see how more joyful your journey is. Building music in your life will increase your own personal creativity levels as well. Think over who are your favorite musicians. Presently my top 5 are:
1. Phil Keaggy
2. Steven Curtis Chapman
3. Tom Braxton
4. Keiko Matsui
5. Michael Card

Think over what does music mean to you? Jot down your top 5 music artists. Take some time out of your busy life to sit in a comfortable chair and listen through one of your favorite CD’s.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving and Happiness

Yesterday was my favorite Holiday, Thanksgiving. For many it is the forgotten holiday as stores and restaurants usually go from Halloween decorations right into Christmas decorations. Most likely in our commercial driven country it is because they make more money off those holidays. For many the meaning of Thanksgiving is lost in all the food and football. Thankfully we as a family enjoyed a day enjoying the meal with dear friends, so it was a relaxing day of enjoying the meal we cooked and sharing conversation.

I always try to find some time during the day to reflect over things I am thankful for: My God and Faith, My Wife and Family, a job I enjoy helping college students, friends, my abilities in counseling, writing, and music, having a love of learning to keep my mind growing, Thankful for being able to live a more than OK life. Thankful for the flowers outside of my window as I write this blog. I am thankful to live in an era of the internet where I can share my ideas. I am thankful for anyone who takes the time to read what I write.

If we think honestly each one of us, even with all the troubles that come our way have much to be thankful for. I believe it is important to keep Thanksgiving day as a Holiday as it is a reminder to be alive is to be thankful. We need to rise above the humdrum of live and the troubles an notice there are good things active in our lives. The day should remind us the being thankful isn’t just for that day but for every day of our lives.

Here is a Psalm of Thanksgiving from the Bible to reflect over. It was used as a musical song of thanksgiving.

2To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,
3Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.
4For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.
5O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.
6A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.
7When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:
8But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore.
9For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
10But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
11Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies, and mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.
12The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
15To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

The Psalmist reveals in verse 4 that being thankful produces gladness and happiness in our spirit. That is a positive result of being thankful. So if you want more happiness in your life cultivate an attitude of thankfulness.

As a Christian my thankfulness list placed God and my faith first. For each of us depending on our belief system the thankful list varies. For me in my experience the Most High God of my Faith has continually provided love and faithfulness to me. I have seen Him work in the past so I know I can trust for God’s further work in my future. In verses 12-14 the King James version uses the word “flourishing” three times. Those who are thankful in union with God will have flourishing lives. That doesn’t mean riches necessarily but rather a richness and positive growth in our inner being that provides richness in enjoying and experience what I call the More Than OK life.

Each day take a few minutes to be thankful and see how it improves your daily journey in living a More Than OK Life!

What does Thanksgiving Day mean to you? Write down a list of things you are thankful for in your life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Life-long Learning to Overcome Career Mediocrity

Sometimes boredom affects our work lives as we settle into the ok-ness of mediocrity in our day to day work life. We go through the motions of the 9-5 longing for the end of the day. Each day becomes longer and longer. Even if we are working in more than a job for ourselves -- a career or calling. It can lose its luster from the initial passion we had at the first day of our dream job. We become stuck in the same patterns and do not grow in knowledge about our career areas so this important part of our life becomes stagnant.

As time marches on changes occur for every one’s career. New ideas, new procedures, and new people come along into our daily work. We also change as well from being thankful for the dream job and eager to do our best at the beginning of our job. With lack of growth and allowing routine to take over how we view our work turns us into cynical, griping, and feeling stuck on a never ending hamster wheel. I want to touch on a couple ways to improve our work life through life long learning. To break out of boring ok-ness in our career and move us into growing and increasing in work satisfaction.

I recently came back from a the Texas Counseling Association conference in Austin, TX. This is one way to reignite your energy in your work. At conferences you can attend training sessions that can help is learning about new changes occurring in your career area. Some sessions help in brushing up in old skill areas and others focus on new creative ideas. Also conferences will have a guest Keynote speaker to energize the attendees and help them breathe new life into their work.

This was very true of our first day main speaker, Bill O’Hanlon, a famous psychotherapist in the Solution Focused school of thought. His talk to us was to help us refocus our passion in the field of Counseling. By stories and examples he helped to reignite my thinking on counseling as well as giving new ideas to try out. I had come into Austin to the conference worn down from a hectic work setting. His session started to perk me up as I was tracking through each of his four main points. This is an example of how Conference times can help you feel pumped up and refreshed to tackle your work setting with new ideas to improve and conquer workplace boredom.

Another aspect of the conference setting is meeting other people in the same career field. In the conference setting you can have coffee or lunch with different people in your career field . Through these interactions you can obtain new ideas of what others are doing. Or commiserate with others in knowing you all face the same struggles. Sometimes a venting session away from the work environment can be of help.

Outside of conferences another helpful way to keep the mind actively improving in your career area is webinars. These are workshops online where you can gain information on a wide variety of topics. Many online educational companies have webinars for Continuing Education Credits for certifications and personal growth. Just the other day I enjoyed a webinar sponsored by an organization I belong to – The National Career Development Association. It was a session on Career Counseling Tips by Dr. John Krumboltz of Stanford University. He is one of the great minds in Psychology. I have mentioned his book on Happenstance, Luck Is No Accident, in other articles on this blog site. The webinar brightened a difficult day and gave me some new ideas to share with my co-worker. So do not ignore webinars as part of your life long learning.

One other area to consider that I cannot pass up since I am a certified Bookhead, is keep up in reading about your career area. As I stated at the beginning, I mentioned career information is always changing. So it is important to keep up with journals and books that relate to your career field. This material can stimulate your mind and help in your work creativity. The increased knowledge as well improves your ability to be in a state of flow in the work you do. This then provides more confidence and allows you to enjoy your work more than just going through the motions on the job.

These are just a few ideas to help in improving your work life through lifelong learning. One other item about conferences-- usually they are held in the larger cities in the U.S. So this gives you an opportunity to do some sight seeing on the side. That is a reason I usually include my wife and daughter on conference trips so we can turn it into a mini family vacation.

Think over your career field. Search on the internet and look for associations or organizations you can join to enliven your career. Search for any magazines or new books at the library that relate to your career area as well. Answer the question How can I improve myself to be a lifelong learner?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reach For Something More

Is it alright to want more than just existing in life? People become trapped in mediocrity living the sameness of a Ground Hog Movie day life. Doing the same thing over and over again. Waking up, going to work and watching the same dull tv shows or lame internet videos. Do we dare to try for something more?

The fear of the scariness in trying something new keeps us from stepping out into a new direction. We become out of touch with our dreams and passions. We can even become so downcast to think, “Maybe I don’t deserve better.” The issue is we deserve the best life possible. There are many things we can do to enrich and grow our lives and new possibilities for our futures.

This brings me to a song I heard that has a powerful message about being open to our dreams and to changes in our lives. That it is good at times to try to reach for more in our lives. It is ok to ask for help in improving our lives. The song is Maybe by The Sick Puppies. I know, I had the same reaction to the name. Who would call themselves The Sick Puppies? But be open to the message in their song. As usual you can click on the title to activate a video and hear the song as you reflect over the meaning of the lyrics. The video I chose was done by a young fan of the group.

Maybe -- Sick Puppies
Maybe I'm a dreamer Maybe I'm misunderstood Maybe you're not seeing the side of me you should Maybe I'm crazy (Maybe I'm crazy), Maybe I'm the only one
(Maybe I'm the only one), Maybe I'm just out of touch, Maybe I've just had enough

Maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind, I've never been one to walk alone, I've always been scared to try, So why does it feel so wrong
To reach for something more, To wanna live a better life, What am I waiting for?
'Cause nothing stays the same, Maybe it's time to change

Maybe it's hopeless, (Maybe it's hopeless), Maybe I should just give up
(Maybe I should just give up), What if I can't trust myself?, What if I just need some help?

Maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind, I've never been one to walk alone, I've always been scared to try, So why does it feel so wrong
To reach for something more, To wanna live a better life
What am I waiting for?, 'Cause nothing stays the same, Maybe it's time to change

And maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind
I've never been one to walk alone, I've always been scared to try

And maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind, I've never been one to walk alone, I've always been scared to try, So why does it feel so wrong
To reach for something more, To wanna live a better life
What am I waiting for?, 'Cause nothing stays the same
Maybe it's time to change, 'Cause nothing stays the same, Maybe it's time to change.

Thinking over what is being said in the song, we do not have to resign ourselves to a hopeless life. We can rise above the fear and aim for a better life. We need to make a choice to step out alone or by asking for help. We need to be able to trust that God wants the best for us. Step out with the dreams we have been given inside to go for new directions in our life pathway. We need to trust ourselves as we take that first step towards change.

I thought the young person who did the video spoke creative volumes about being brave enough to make a change for the better. Also she took the step for asking for help. In going for your dreams are you stopping yourself because of fear. Maybe seek help. Is there a close friend or someone you respect you can talk about the issue that is facing you? Or as a Counselor I would highly recommend you find a Licensed Professional Counselor in your area to help you through the transition period of change. The American Counseling Association can help you with this. They have a directory of Professional Counselors on their website.

Jesus often challenged people to make changes and not look back, as He said in Luke 9:2, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." The song says, “And maybe it's time to change, And leave it all behind”. We don’t always have to forget the past. But if it is something negative that you are holding on to and stopping you from a better life it is best to let it go. Then you are free to move on to that better life. Take some time to think over the reflection questions and move into some changes that will give you a better life!

1. Have you ever felt this way in your life that the song is speaking of?
2. Why do people sometimes feel it is wrong to reach for something more than the routine of our lives?
3. What stops us from reaching for help to make the change?
4. What is one thing you could step out into and move towards to have a better life?