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Thursday
Feb222007

Where will you be in 3-5 years?

A good way to outline your goals is to visualize where you plan to be three to five years into the future and work backwards, like you were designing a comic book storyboard. Imagine you have a magic paintbrush and the world is your canvas.  Break down your pictures into different elements. Choose places you will be, what you will be doing, who you will be with, the kinds of projects and activities which will fill your time. The only way to reach your dreams is to define them, write about them and discuss them in ways they can be broken down and worked out.

What will it require to realize these goals you envisage for yourself? If you see yourself winning an olympic medal in a certain sport, then you'll need to list what you think you'll need to get there.  You'd likely list things like; find a coach, buy good footwear and atheletic apparel, acquire necessary equipment, draft a training schedule, research qualifying meets in which you'll need to compete in your desire to qualify for the Olympics. You'd need to go from genera lists to timeframes and budget, where and how you would obtain what you need. This list would go on.

What would you require if you foresaw yourself in a thriving business down the track? You'd obviously need to isolate key industries of interest. From there, you may go to a library to borrow books on writing business plans, doing marketing assessments and basic accounting. You may also seek out people who have run their own business and ask for advice on steps to follow.  The more information you colloect, the more focused would become your course of action.

What if you had plans to marry your girlfriend and settle down? You may dream of a wedding, a new place to live together and other elements ot this picture. Again, working backwards is a great strategy to help you figure out the details. If you decide on a number of guests, the prospective venue, whether you'll offer food or some kind of reception, whether you wish to marry in a church or somewhere else, who would marry you? would you have a honeymoon? Each element would have a tentative cost and would require thought and real research. You may consider consulting a professional wedding planner or deciding to skip the hassels and elope. 

What if you desired to plan a special trip? It would be necessary to decide on a destination, the mode of desired transport, the planned activities, whether you had an coinciding plan like travel photography, beating an ocean swiming record, landing freelance journalism projects or writing a book.  Each element would have an associated cost in preparation time and money.  This requires a breakdown so you could find ways to save the money and devote the time you would need.

What if you desired to lower the stress in your life and increase your overall health and well-being? This would require that you clarify exactly what you mean by this? Would you hopeto lose weight? Become more physically fit? Evolve into a vegetarian? Go off to some spiritual retreat? Make a concerted effort to change different personal habits, schedules and priorities? Do you wish to do this on your own or with the support of a friend or group that shares your goals? Anything is possible once you set your mind to accomplish it.

What if you desired more than anything to go into remission from a long-term illness? In your mind, you would know what your current emotional, physical and other capacities are and what kinds of changes you would hope to evolve. Again, by pinpointing exactly what you wish to do, you can determine whether you wish to focus on things like physiotherapy, homeopathy or other alternative approaches to medicine and wellness. Will you read books and consult specialists? The world is your oyster. You have the freedom to shape your life as you would hope to have it.

Wednesday
Feb212007

Retirement goals

Each of us knows family or friends who are approaching and experiencing retirement. You may even be living this kind of life transition yourself. What is it about goals that change over time? This is only natural when your physical, emotional and other abilities are evolving too. Know that whenever somethign seems to end, somethign else is beginning.

I know a man who fears not finding enough to do during his retirement. To ensure he keeps busy, he collects boxes of old papers and electric items past their prime, with the intention of sorting and repairing. This man certainly has more than enough to do to fill his perceived time.  Still, he fears what retirement represents: change of routine, a loss of professional identity, apparent aging, thoughts he makes less of a contribution to society and is then less valued. Does this ring true for you?

Everyone is invited to realize lif continues as long as you allow it. Notice whether you see who you are is reflected in what you do. In truth, nothing that is changing actually reveals who you are but only points to it. Imagine what life feels like as you sense that everything is helping you accept yourself as you are.

I know another man who retired in his thirties because of achieving financial freedom. From that moment on, he decided to focus his time on training for elite triathalon competitions and assisting other people to achieve financial freedom. He chose to see retirement as an opportunity to better himself, physically, emotionally, that he had nothing to lose to work hard to get there and everything to gain.  He embraces each day and sees it as filled with new opportunities.

I know a woman who doesn't plan to retire until her health gives out. She takes high blood pressure medication and often puffs when she climbs the stairs. She collects movies with plans to watch most of them during retirement, yet she has little time now and feels too many people need her services to let them down. She works full time and cares for her two aged parents. Her goals are to accomplish as much as she for as many people as she can in the time she's got.

I know another man who retired from a career in the church in his 50s in order to put his experience to use as a counsellor.  He chose to begin a second career, fall in love, get married and have a family.  When he outlived his wife, he married again. He also encouraged himself to write a book to help others. He continues to visit friends and keeps busy to stay motivated.  Among his goals, he would like to live long enough to know his first grandchild.

I know a woman who's hospital staff colleagues gave her a retirement going away part and a ticket for a cruise.  When she returns from the trip with her husband, she'll decide what's next.

I know another man who is still working well into his seventies because he can't afford to retire. He doesn't receive a pension.  Throughout his life, he lived from paycheck to paycheck and never learned how to save.  In fact, sometimes he spent more than he earned.  His children grew up and moved away and his wife died already. Now he has to fend for himself.

When it comes to your retirement goals, you benefit from defining what you desire and by a specific timeline.  If time is the commodity you seek more of, it makes sense to plan what you would do with it so you'll be prepared.  When you ask other people or society for what you want in the form of opportunities, they may not simply hand these things over.  You need to be ready to act and also make sacrifices. 

Retirement is then, a state of mind that embraces life transitions with grace and gratitude.  As you reflect, this may represent more time to do those things you've always wanted to do or more time on the golf course.  It may mean you simply decide how to re-organize your time in ways that give you new purpose. Know purpose is always evolving with you. To nourish a zest for life means you life life to the fullest regardless of what you do and for how long.  You stop measuring and focus on enjoying.

Wednesday
Feb212007

Face the music

Many of us instinctively run from people and situations that make us feel uncomfortable. You may know someone who cringes at the thought of making decisions, fearing not being able to control the results. Would you rather 'grin and bear it' than admit someone displeases you and initiate conflict?  If you lie to yourself and others, this could bring on guilt and fear of telling the truth. What kind of price do you think you would pay for telling the truth and facing the music?

You eat a meal your partner cooks and compliment him even though you dislike it.  You continue this approval into courtship and marriage, and lying makes you feel worse and worse inside. Yet, you fear that by telling him so many years later, that he won't be able to trust you anymore. 

You eagerly ask your boss for a heavier workload when you already feel quite overwhelmed. You express your desire to be considered for the upcoming promotion. As it turns out, you don't get it because you're perceived as pushy and you prove unable to complete the tasks you requested.

You offer unconditional love and approval in a friendship and receive only resentment or lack of reciprocity.  By not questioning desires and needs, people can misunderstand each other and evolve to seek love and approval wherever they can find it.  Sometimes, not offering what your friend wants is the beginning to showing this person understand what you need.

You assess everything you do for people in your life as having invisible exchange value. You measure love, gestures and other kinds of attention given and received.  You withdraw emotions and attention from anyone you secretly wish would give more to you. Why the hidden agenda?

Life experience can help you learn the difference between expressing love and appreciation  without imposing your personal desires with ultimatums.  

"Nobody did or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices." -Alfred A. Montapert

Wednesday
Feb212007

Tracing connections

If you sit back and think about it, everyone you know may seem to be connected to everyone else in a matter of steps.  Someone met someone else who was introduced to someone else, and it went on. Yet, if you think again, you realize that a small number of people are linked to everyone in a few steps, and the rest of us get connected to the world thanks to a special few.

One individual may even turn out to be responsible for a large number of the closest relationships that form your life. This kind of person seems connected to the world and may have a gift for bringing people together. This may be an extrovert with links to different disciplines, settings and groups because of an adventurous or gregarious personality. Whom do you rely on to connect you to other people? Do you consider yourself a connector? Reflect on your interactions in different areas of your life. What do they teach you about yourself and your relationship choices?

Whether or not you realize it, you place conditions on your reality. You have ability to decide what kinds of relationships are unfolding before you, whom you connect with and don't. You can spend time with people who share things in common with you or who don't appeal to you at all. When you experience troubling thoughts, and in turn, create or aggravate troubled relationships, you can learn to question your view of why you've made these choices. Why do you really spend time with each person in your life? Why do you feel connected or disconnected with others? In which ways do you communicate? Tracing reasons for connections or lack of them tells you a lot.

Strained or difficult relationships reveal the same fear: you sense you won't survive or be content without feeling someone's love, acceptance and appreciation. As you trace human connections you've known, and the nature of those you seek, you will learn about your values and aspirations. Are you a person who chooses relationships for appearances and superficial reasons or, do you have other reasons? Vanity and insecurity are revealed by relationships based on appearance. The question is, will you be brave enough to rise above your judgments to perceive and accept love offered all around you? Trace connections in the 'here and now.' It's key to learning who you are.

Wednesday
Feb212007

Test the faith

"The danger is not that the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry." -Simone Weil

People develop faith in what they hope for, and may believe in what isn't always verifiable.  Through believing in something greater than ourselves, we can learn to banish fear and the conditions of lack from which we seek to escape.  Our beliefs, individually and collectively shape who we are and what we do.  It's not uncommon for views to change based on life experience. 

Based on documents and interviews, the Miracle Detective is a book that examines major alleged holy visions from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Some of the most controversial sightings are listed, "authentic" and "extremely significant." Many sightings with large, devotional followings are listed "false" or "doubtful."  Yet, is it reasonable for guardian angels to leave a trail?

The Scottsdale apparitions are considered some of the most controversial sightings.  They began at St. Maria Goretti Parish, in Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.A., outside Phoenix, in the late summer of 1988, and supposedly lasted eight years. 

Nine, young people contacted their pastor, Father Spaulding,  separately to confide they were hearing voices. These people ranged in ages from 19 to 31. Some began to receive detailed messages recorded them for Father Spaulding. He reviewed the messages and believed them to be authentic.  A short time later, Father Spaulding himself claimed to begin to receive messages, and to hear encouraging voices.  His personal experiences shaped his perception of miracles.

He formed a prayer group of the young people. Our Lady gave them encouragement and advice in her messages, and they received a lesson each week for the group to meditate on. Each lesson was on a basic subject, like humility, compassion, pity, and greed.  Four members of this prayer group claimed to have actually seen Our Lady, one claimed to have taken dictation directly from God, and the rest had reported receiving locutions from angels for reflection. These experiences prompted each individual to reflect on the reasons for the deepest pain or greatest difficulty in his or her life and then, each individual found the courage to work through and rise above it. 

The nature of the messages varied among the visionaries. Father Spaulding and Gianna Talone (Sullivan) claim to have received the most apparitions. During the initial controversy, a documentary about the "Scottsdale visionaries" was broadcast on local Arizona television.  This made Gianna's professional, scientific life as a pharmacist difficult and the impact of her beliefs contributed to her first husband filing for divorce.

Gianna has since moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland, the site of the Lourdes Shrine. the oldest in the U.S.  She believes that experiencing grief and rejection in life remind her she has to lose some worldly things to gain wisdom.  She described that seeing  Our Lady was a way to "become aware of all your own faults, your pride, your lack of generosity and compassion.  You felt the pain of all that, of being so far from that beauty, that peace and perfection. You feel ashamed of yourself and despondent."  After she faced some of her greatest weaknesses and fears, she found meaning in new relationships and in changing the focus of her life.

Gianna encourages individuals to pray for "discernment" because "feelings aren't facts." She believes that the scepticism and controversy in Scottsdale could be described as "humanity's interference with God's plan." She describes the divergent public beliefs as, "ego, mostly, people wanting it to go their own way, or to take control, or being jealous of one person, or suspicious of another. Pride and hurt feelings, that's what got in the way."

Perhaps you learn more about yourself when you don't try to avoid your own suffering. Gianna Talone endured years of self-doubt, fear and loss in her life, but she kept trusting, even when these negative feelings were overwhelming. Her periods of darkness ended when she rose above her own egotistical pride.  "I just woke up one morning and found the sadness gone." This test of her soul may have connected her to something more than traditional guardian angels. Whatever it was, it triggered her turning point: discovering a deeper purpose and greater self-acceptance.