Any of the clients I work with will inevitably hear me mention the name of the woman who has influenced me most in my work as a relationship maven: Dr. Patricia (Pat) Allen, a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist famous for her Monday night seminars in Los Angeles, where I have been a regular attendee for many years. Dr. Allen’s work has helped me and countless others to understand the underlying dynamics of romantic relationships in a way that is practical, applicable, and makes sense. Dr. Allen has had success in helping scores of singles to find lasting love, as well as helping people in existing relationships to hold onto what they have and improve their communication and relational skills. I cannot recommend her book Getting to I Do enough, and it is required reading for anyone with whom I work as a client.
Dr. Pat has dedicated her life to teaching people how to be more authentic in their communication techniques, how to focus on relating in a loving manner, and how to deal with interpersonal issues in a way that is respectful to the other and makes them feel cherished. Here are some key points of Dr. Allen’s work I would like you to consider and which I will expand upon in future posts (note, we will highlight how Dr. Allen’s work can be applied to same sex relationships in future posts, for now, here is a basic overview of her work as it applies to heterosexual relationships):
2. It is who you are inside that attracts a man, not your worldly accomplishments. Let your mate see your innermost self.
3. Use the boundless power inherent in your feminine energy to attract and keep a mate.
4. Men and women need to have a balance of masculine and feminine energies within them that cooperates with the counterpart of their partner’s energy.
5. Put the emphasis on how you work together and don’t stoke the fires of competition, which blocks true closeness between two people.
In future posts I will go into greater depth about my take on Dr. Pat Allen’s work, including her insightful ideas about how you can commit to the relationship rather than the person so you don’t end up addicted to a particular person, how you can discover your desires in a relationship by getting to know a person better and discovering what you *don’t* want, and how by not rushing into sex before you have a commitment, you avoid becoming hooked on the oxytocin rush that biologically bonds women to men, without first making sure your partner returns your feelings. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the wonderful work of Dr. Pat Allen in the future. As always, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. ♥
Are manners outdated? Are the rules of etiquette that were ingrained in the generations before us still relevant in this super busy modern era? It would appear that the generally accepted answer to this question is a resounding no, as many of us can attest to just by observing everyday behavior in the world around us. But is this right? No, absolutely not. Manners are as important today as they were when Victoria reigned over a genteel society that rested on the very notion that civility was the crux of modern civilization in general and individual lives specifically.
“But, but,” I can hear readers say, “but no one else has manners, why should I? Why can’t I dash off that quick text or email without always regarding the feelings of others and making sure I place every word correctly so as not to offend? Who cares if I don’t pepper my phrases with please, thank you, and may I? So what if I don’t know the names of the people who serve me in a thousand different ways everyday? It’s not my job to have to focus on those things, I am too busy, I am going every minute, I don’t have time.” Actually, you don’t have time not to be kind.
There is something in this world I call “The Invisible Economy,” and it is the goodwill that you bank every time you treat someone with respect, learn their name and use it every time you see them, take a second out of your day to ask the guy who makes your coffee how his day is going, or every time you pause in traffic and let the other car merge into the lane ahead of you. All of the kindness and goodwill you pay forward comes back to you in an infinite number of immeasurable ways throughout the day and it is this positive karma that makes your life run more smoothly and efficiently in a million small ways. It’s almost as if there is a bank in the universe that lends us goodwill and help when we need it, but only if we have paid in before hand by being good to every single person we meet, whether they deserve it or not. You can’t afford not to be nice.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the successful people around you. Study them for a while. Oh sure, jerks who are successful are plentiful, they abound, there is a whole computer manufacturing company that is extremely popular with successful people who had a CEO who believed that you actually motivate people through fear, intimidation and rudeness. A successful biography was published last year that might exceed Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as the go to manual for captains of industry who wish to get ahead in business. In recent news, much has been written about how much this destructive paradigm will influence how the top brass treats people in the years to come, because on some level, it works. This company is one of the most successful in the world.
However. There is another multi-billionaire who has probably twice the money and success of the aforementioned leader, and the very core of the second CEO’s belief is that if you treat people well, it will come back to you. He is known for motivating his employees to stay at their desks and work through lunch by providing them catered meals. He believes that if you put out money to begin with, you reap the rewards many times over in this invisible economy that exists among human beings. This man’s financial portfolio puts the first one’s to shame.
People are the key. I don’t care if you are someone who never leaves your office to talk to another human being throughout the course of a day. Every single business is a “people business.” Businesses don’t run themselves, they are managed on every level by a human being.
If you treat people with kindness, you can go to the bank on the kindness you will receive in return. Try it. Feel free to use the scientific method and experiment to see if this theory works. One caveat: if you have not created a good will savings account with the people around you, don’t expect them to take to your new ways right from the beginning. It may take a few weeks or even a month of really trying to be kind to every single person you meet before you start to see the flow of how this changes your life. So give it some time. But if I were to offer a 100% money back guarantee, it would be on this one point, because I firmly believe that no matter how difficult at times it may be to remain compassionate and kind in the face of challenges, it will pay off major dividends in the end. The Beatles said it best; “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make…”
Homework for the weekend, be kind to a stranger and see what happens.
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“It is not enough to conquer, one must also know how to seduce.”
We all know that if there were an award for the country considered the most skilled in love and passion, hands down it would go to France. Sure, they eat snails without a second thought, but they are also experts in the art of seduction and eroticism. Looney Tunes embodied the stereotype of the French lover obsessed with ‘l’amour “ in the form of an adorable skunk who will not take no for an answer, Pepé Le Pew, and while I don’t recommend being malodorous and over insistent, I do recommend that you study the French and learn how to live a life which is what the artist and author Sark would call “juicy.” Juicy is a term that embodies the sensuality the French seek, not only enjoying life, but also savoring it, and indeed, the word “juicy” translates roughly into French as “savoureux”.
In her book, La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life, former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times Elaine Sciolino unpacks French ways of passion and discovers that the French infuse every area of their lives with sensuality in all of its forms. Sciolino writes that the French emphasize the chase aspect of romance, the courtship rather than the actual consummation of the sexual act. “So how to play the game? Several weapons need to be mastered…The first is le regard, the look, the electric charge between two people when their eyes lock and there is an immediate understanding that a bond has been created…The word is the second weapon. Verbal sparring is crucial to French seduction, and conversation is often less a means of giving or receiving information than a languorous mutual caress. If talking is the way the word is expressed, then it’s useful to cultivate the voice…” Sciolino provides many examples of how the French cultivate the use of the voice to seduce. “The kiss, the next weapon in seduction, is subject to its own rules of engagement.” The French use the kiss in different ways, there is “the bise,” or social kiss on each cheek. Then there is the famous “French Kiss” where lovers explore each others lips and mouth with lips pressed against one another, and who doesn’t love a kiss from someone who really knows the art of kissing?
Sciolino continues “France is a global case study in ‘soft power,’ the ability to influence others through ‘attraction’ rather than coercion.’” Learning to harness the ‘soft power’ of your inner French woman can be a valuable skill to have in your dating repertoire, because as we all know, when you feel good about yourself, you are much more attractive to others and your seductive powers are at their peak. Dating and relationships can be a subtle dance of push/pull, and knowing when to just be yourself and allow others to come to you can be as useful a skill as knowing when to go for what you want.
In her guide to using the power of seduction the French way, French Women Don’t Sleep Alone: The Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love, Jamie Cat Callan writes, “You don’t have to be born in France or have a French maman to teach you these things. As an American woman, it is in your power to be just as seductive, just as charming as a French woman. It’s simply a matter of rethinking what is sexy. Rather than “turning it on or off”—dressing in sweats for running errands and then changing into a miniscule cocktail dress with eight inch heels to go out at night—try dressing well all the time. Perhaps reveal a little flesh or wear one sexy accessory. Begin to seduce, (French style) everyone. Practice the fine art of allurement .Be a French woman and treat everyday, every moment of your life as an opportunity to feel the power of your desirability.” Dab on your favorite perfume as you walk the dog, put on a little eyeliner or a scarf as you run those errands and don’t just do it for the gaze of that potential lover, do it for yourself. Enjoy life, not just in isolated “perfect” moments, but everyday.
Callan emphasizes the need for a “coterie” or circle of friends that acts as a sort of social buffer and allows us to engage with a group of like-minded others so our defenses are down and we are at our best in social situations. In her first chapter, Callan insists that French women don’t date, but are more apt to be found in groups at dinner parties, films or museums. According to Callan, this allows us to interact in a much more relaxed, less formal setting. It also gives the person we are interested in a chance to see us in our best light, having fun with friends, instead of in a forced one on one situation like a date. The date is in fact a very American concept and is not practiced as much in other countries where parties and group outings are more common. Opting out of the standard practice of dating can be very freeing for those of us who are accustomed to the almost job interview setting of a formal date. At the very least it offers us a way to broaden our social circle in a way that includes romance as an ever present, tantalizing possibility.
Here’s my advice to for this weekend: Call on your inner mademoiselle and throw yourself a fête, invite your coterie of friends and that special someone you’ve had your eye on, open some fine wine or better yet a bottle of champagne and make enjoying yourself your “raison d’être.”
Please feel free to contact me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Love is like a gypsy’s child,
it has never, ever known the law”
Lyrics from Habanera from the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet
In only a few days the holiday that many singles dread, Valentine’s Day, will be upon us. When you are uncoupled or not dating, this can seem like a melancholy time that only serves to remind you of your aloneness. As you watch people receive flowers and candy at the office or hear about someone’s plans to go lingerie shopping for that special romantic evening with their significant other, it can seem like a constant reminder of what you don’t have, a relationship with someone special, and it can leave you feeling like Charlie Brown receiving a candy heart saying: “Forget it, kid. ”
As someone who tries to see the good in every situation, something I encourage in my clients, I would argue that you need to reframe Valentine’s Day as a day to reclaim your sexual energy, wear red, put on some hot and passionate dance music, and strut your stuff. Even if you are single, go ahead and buy that sexy lingerie, or that new cologne. Light some deep red candles, set your intention to allow sensuality and passion into your life, and enjoy the fact that you are alive.
Invite over some good friends to have a great meal and share some stories, or get out into the community and invest your time in a worthy cause. Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” has staged readings of her famous one-woman play on February 14th, or as she calls it “V-Day,” for years, and this year she is going even bigger with her activism and is sponsoring a day to “strike, dance and rise” called “One Billion Rising.” (onebillionrising.org.) There is nothing sexier than giving your time to a worthy cause, and I can’t help but mention that it’s a wonderful way to meet new people, whether they be potential romantic partners, or new and exciting acquaintances or friends. Nothing bonds people together more than sharing a commitment to be of service to the world.
There is nothing more appealing to potential suitors than a love of life and passion for the world around us, so this February 14th and beyond, find yours and celebrate it, whether you are in a relationship or not. This is your year, a time to celebrate who you are and where you are going, and if you invest positive energy into everything you do, it will return to you many times over. So get out there, put on something daring and fiery, and get your mojo working! Want to share a thought or idea, email me at email@example.com.
OK, so you’ve read Alison Says and applied some of my advice, maybe you’ve even had a few coaching sessions with me. You’ve been out there dating and you finally meet someone special. The energy between you two is wonderful, every time you are together you find out more and more things you like about each other. Your fondness grows. You are talking constantly and start to spend every spare moment together. You progress in your feelings to what you’re pretty sure is that elusive feeling everyone wants, yes, love. Because you may have had some problems in past relationships, you immediately begin to panic, completely convinced you are going to mess this up somehow, someway. You come to me for advice.
My first suggestion: Breathe. Take a step back and don’t freak out. You can do this. You just have to have patience and not perform on auto pilot all of the things you’ve done in the past that have made relationships difficult. Here are a few tools to have at your disposal should the opportunity to share a bond with someone in a romantic relationship present itself:
· Don’t take anything personally: You may recall the book that came out more than a decade ago now called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz (Amber-Allen Publishing, 1997). Ruiz points out that “nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality…” I know this is a tough one in romantic relationships where we allow ourselves to feel vulnerable and need someone else, but it is in exactly these relationships where this principle applies most. Most of us are working out programming that began when we were born into our family of origin, and if both ourselves and our partners learn to detach from those “knee jerk” reactions and not take our behavior personally, then we are both able to process through things and grow.
· Always remember that we are all human, and thus, imperfect: When we fall in love, we tend to place a lot of expectations on the other person, and if we are not careful, we can easily hold them responsible for our own feelings of safety, security, and well being. It may sound like a cliché at this point to mention that it is only from within that we can find those things, and to not expect them to come from another person, even our partner, but clichés are overused for a reason. When we demand such perfection from someone else, they will never fail to fall short, and we will never fail to be disappointed. Remember, everyone is nervous and worried about things going well. Everyone uses coping mechanisms learned in early life to manage everyday life. Give yourself, and others, a break, especially your partner.
· There are no rules but one: “The Golden Rule”: No where is “the golden rule,” or “treat others how you would wish to be treated,” applicable than in an interpersonal romantic relationship, especially if we think this person is “the one.” Lead by example. Do you want flowers on your birthday and just because, as Stevie Wonder would say, you want to say “I love you?” Send them to your partner. Do you like candlelight dinners with scented candles and special music playing? Put out the candles and turn on iTunes yourself. Don’t always place the romance burden on the other person. Bottom line is, you teach people how to treat you, and you start by treating others well in the first place.
Have the confidence to believe you deserve a partner who cares about you and who is able to be a true companion for many years to come. If you are reading this post, it means you are someone who wants to put as much effort into your relationship as you do all of the other areas of your life, and that means you will make some lucky person out there a wonderful partner. If you just take a step back and breathe and remember a few important points, you won’t screw it up, I promise.
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“There’s nothing left to try
There’s no place left to hide
There’s no greater power
Than the power of goodbye”
Lyrics by Madonna,
And Rick Nowels.
Friendship can be one of the most rewarding and positive influences in our lives. Many studies have been conducted that show that friends improve not only our mental, but also our physical health. Friendship can be a boost to our professional as well as our romantic lives. Friends are supposed to lift us up, help us through troubled times, and be there to share in our accomplishments and joyous celebrations. Unfortunately for many of us, though, it takes wading through a lot of bad friendships before we can find someone to be our true BFF.
Even though it does hurt to discontinue a toxic friendship, it is critically important for not only your physical, but also your mental health that you realize when its time to cut ties with someone and move on.
Speaking to the New York Times, Dr. Harriet Lerner, a psychologist and author of a seminal series of books on relationships, including “The Dance of Connection”, (Harper Collins, 2001) emphasizes the need for healthy friendships: ”Friendship is often very painful. In a close, enduring friendship, jealousy, envy, anger and the entire range of difficult emotions will rear their heads. One has to decide whether the best thing is to consider it a phase in a long friendship or say this is bad for my health and I’m disbanding it.” Other experts also recommend abandoning ship when we realize we’ve tried everything to make a friendship work and still feel like we’ve been run over by a truck after spending time with someone.
The key is to disentangle yourself in a way that is healthy for you and helps you maintain your serenity and peace of mind, while at the same time, avoiding harm to the other person. Recognize that although you have differences, neither of you are “good” nor “bad,” “wrong,” nor “right.” Resist the urge to start a campaign of character assassination about the other person, or to demonize him or her. This will only end up making you look bad, and if you believe in karma, it will only end up hurting you in the long run as all of that negative energy comes back to you.
If you don’t feel emotionally ready to explain to the person directly why you are severing ties, and to make sure you approach the issue in a kind, gentle and non-aggressive way, the easier approach is the “slow fade”, and it is a perfectly acceptable choice to end a friendship this way. Often times if there is tension in the relationship, the other person will be glad to slowly dissolve and dismantle the friendship also, without too much emotional cost to either of you, or without hurting either of your reputations in your community. After all, even if you live in a bustling urban area, it is a small world, and if you burn bridges, be prepared to pay the consequences and face possible social backlash if you share friends in common. Better to always be above board in all of your social interactions and err on the side of kindness and compassion. Check your anger and your ego and give up the need to be “right.” Slowly step away and above all, remain polite, in the future, you will be glad you maintained your composure. The long-term payoff for acting like an upstanding person is much greater than the short-term reward of putting someone on blast that you feel has hurt or wronged you.
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“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
We’ve all known one, a toxic friend can come in many guises. There’s the friend who only calls us when she needs something, and when she does bother to call, only talks about herself; the friend who says mean and hurtful things to us and puts us down to boost her own self esteem; and the outright backstabber who learns all she can about us for ammunition for a full on character assassination, usually carried out behind our backs. When we’ve done the appropriate amount of soul searching and personal inventory and have taken responsibility for our behavior and still realize that the other person does not have our best wishes in mind, its time to cut our losses and move on.
I have written many times about the importance of listening to your intuition, and the best way you can determine if someone is a good friend is to listen to your gut. If every time you spend time with someone, you leave feeling upset or confused, its time to examine the situation and find out why. Questions to ask yourself are:
In this day and age, most of us have precious little free time to spend with family and loved ones, let alone friends. Only allow those people into your life who uplift you and support you. When someone you thought was your friend does not make you feel good being around them, re-evaluate the friendship. Life is too short to waste time on those who don’t have your best interests in mind. Save your precious time for those people who do love you and want you to grow and be the best person you can be.
Check in next week to see how to handle the break up of a friendship.
Have any questions or ideas to share, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
From “Our Deepest Fear,” by Marianne Williamson
What if, for one moment, we accepted the idea that everything is okay. What if everything was suddenly perfect, just as it is now, flaws and all, out of place, untidy, falling apart. Everything is exactly as it should be. For just this second, you don’t need to strive, you don’t need to control, you don’t need to look, act, talk, or behave any special way, you don’t need to worry about anyone or anything, you don’t need to do anything, except breathe. What if you were just quiet for a moment, while you did nothing but allow. Just be.
Imagine, if you will, that every dream you have ever had is now a reality. Your life is, for all intents and purposes, perfect, right here, right now. This, my friends, is not some fantasy; this is a world we can all create for ourselves if we just allow ourselves to access the infinite creativity that exists within us. The artist Kelly Rae Roberts calls herself a “possibilitarian,” and she writes on her website about how she encourages others: “Because when you step forward as a Possibilitarian — and share the truth about how you created your beautifully messy, magnificently complicated & exquisitely joyful life and career — you give everyone else permission to dream bigger, be braver, and create what they want. And just like that, the impossible simply isn’t.”
As we finish another year on this wondrous and beautiful planet together, I want us all to take a step back and give ourselves a collective pat on the back. I know there was sadness, tragedy, evil and devastation this year too, but for this second, let us set our intentions to go forward from a place of believing that anything is possible, and that we are now living in and creating the world of our dreams, and that each one of us deserves nothing but comfort, joy, and love. I ask that we start believing that we can create any world we want to create, and if we work together, we can move to a place where each of us is allowed to shine. I firmly believe that a divine spark exists within every single one of us that only asks us to allow it to come into being, that we need only to turn down our noisy minds and let it lead us to where we were meant to be. My deepest wish for everyone for this New Year is that you find that spark within yourself and allow it to help you create a world you previously thought was impossible.
Happy New Year!
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The holidays are here again, time for gift giving and receiving, parties, and sharing special times with family and friends. There is no doubt about it, this can be a wonderful time of year. On the other hand, ‘tis the season for high stress, especially if you are single, in a new relationship, or struggling with an established one. Here are some ideas for how to not only survive, but also thrive during this holiday season.
A friend recently shared some recovery wisdom with me that I think applies to this time of year and it is “progress, not perfection.” If we can accept that our best is good enough without putting undue pressure on ourselves to have every detail finely tuned, we will enjoy ourselves more. Stress is in large part fueled by expectations that everything surrounding the holidays should be perfect. We want our home environments decorated special, we want lots of great food, and we want our families and friends to be warm, friendly and most of all drama free. Unfortunately, when we have such high hopes that everything should be picture perfect, our experiences often fall short and we end up unhappy in what should be a fun and uplifting season.
Patty Fleener, M.S.W. offers several steps on how to survive the holidays in her piece on mental-health-today.com,(http://www.mental-health-today.com/articles/hol.htm): “First, stop putting unreasonable pressure on yourself…You may find your mood improves when you’re in the company of special friends and favorite relatives-especially those who accept your full range of feelings and don’t put pressure on you to be other than who you are, so seek out people who make you feel better…”
Or in other words, turn your focus on what makes you happy and ignore the rest. Don’t make everything about obligations. Sure, do what’s expected of you and give to those you love and work with, but give yourself the gift of letting up on the high achievement for a few weeks and allow yourself to enjoy. Savor the moments and take inventory of all that is good in your life. Plan some down time and pamper yourself at the height of the holiday hustle and bustle.
Most of all, relax. This time of year should be fun. When you are relaxed, you are more authentically you which makes the holidays a great time of year to meet new people, or rekindle the sparks if you are already in a relationship. This is the time to pull out that dress you’ve been saving all year, throw on a glittery hair ornament, and strut your stuff. Happiness is a choice. Make a decision to enjoy yourself and more often than not, you will. And best of all, you will positively sparkle and be all the more attractive to that potential someone waiting in the wings.
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“Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has plenty;
not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.”
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
As we approach yet another holiday season and make plans to spend time with family and friends gathered around a table laden with food, it is easy to forget the true underlying intention of Thanksgiving: gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful force that can create miracles in every area of your life if you choose to recognize it, including your love life. All you have to do is make a shift in your focus and open up your intention to recognizing the many blessings we all have in our life everyday. It has been said that, “whatever you focus on expands,” and indeed, the power of gratitude initiates a mutual flow between you and the universe that becomes a subtle exchange of energy which can effect great change in your life and the lives of those around you.
There is a tendency in our culture to always put the focus on flaws and imperfections in ourselves and our environment instead of on noticing what is going right on any given day. This Thanksgiving, I offer the suggestion that we start to shift our deeply creative power of intention away from all the things we don’t want, and instead focus on the gratitude we have for those things that support us on a daily basis in a thousand little ways. In other words, count your blessings. Oprah Winfrey writes in her regular monthly column “What I Know For Sure,” in the November 2012 issue of O Magazine: “I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.” Meaningful insight from someone who has achieved great successes in her life on both a personal and professional level.
Gratitude is like a muscle that gets stronger the more we practice it. The more we take a breath and get ourselves in a thankful frame of mind, the more we are able to keep calm and stay centered despite stressful situations, including those that can happen when we come together to celebrate holidays. When we practice thankfulness, we can look at a person’s intention in their behavior, instead of always wanting people to behave perfectly in every situation. So your uncle may tell corny jokes, his intention is to set people at ease and create a jovial atmosphere. Look at that instead of rolling your eyes and groaning and looking at your watch. Stay in the moment and enjoy the people around you for how they are now, not how you would like them to be. I need not remind you that none of us will be around forever, and instead of regretting something you said or did or didn’t do in the future, if you live in a space of gratitude now, you can know that you are taking in all the blessings that are around you in the present and capturing the memories forever.
If you find yourself with a quiet moment this holiday season, play a game with yourself. Think back to the beginning of your day and list every single thing you are grateful to have experienced during the day. Did you have hot water in your shower? Did you enjoy your favorite cup of coffee with breakfast? Did your clean clothes smell nice when you put them on? Note every single thing that you enjoyed. Savor the sensations of being alive, and as you sit down to celebrate a wonderful feast, take in every sensory detail as you notice the smells, sounds, and sights of the day. I guarantee, just this simple exercise will put you in a receptive, positive frame of mind. It also helps to mention to other people when you appreciate their efforts and kindness. Try adding the small phrase, “I appreciate it,” when you thank someone for a kindness or effort, and watch how people bloom. When you put your focus on appreciation and gratitude for the many blessings and gifts we all receive on a daily basis, your life will take on a new quality and you will notice small, positive changes happening everyday. Have a wonderful holiday, friends!
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