Thursday, January 11, 2018

Make 2018 Your Year of Courage

You know how in Chinese astrology, the years are given different labels? Year of the Rat, Year of the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, and so on. This year, 2018, is the Year of the Dog. People born in the Year of the Dog are said to have the best traits of human nature. Dog-lover that I am, I agree! And courage is certainly one of those traits.

So what if you decided to make 2018 your personal Year of Courage?

No, not courage in the sense of channeling your inner warrior (although that certainly has its place) but courage in the original meaning of the word: with heart.

What if you had the courage to accept yourself exactly as you are? Seeking improvement, sure, that’s what all those New Year’s Resolutions are about, but what if you started by accepting yourself in your present condition/situation. Loving who you have grown yourself to be, including the you who now wants improvement.

What if you had the courage to speak up for yourself, rather than defend yourself after the fact, or remain far too silent for far too long? And what if you spoke up for yourself from a place of courage – of heart – where you don’t need to scream, shout or hide your truth. Where you thought first about the most effective way to express yourself before you opened your mouth, which involves a lot more deliberate thinking and a lot less drama.

What if you had the courage to listen not just with your ears, but with your heart? What if your primary aim in listening was to understand what the other was saying. Not only the words, but the meaning, the importance of the communication to that person. What if you had the courage to ask for elaboration, for “more” in order to better understand, to dig deeper, rather than figuring out what your response will be before they even finish talking.

What if you had the courage to allow your friends, loved ones, and significant others, to lead their lives in the way that best suits them? What if you showed more interest in what gives them joy than you do in criticizing whatever you think they are doing “wrong”?

What if you had the courage to see that your way isn’t the only “right” way, that there are as many ways to live a fulfilling life as there are individuals striving to do so? What if you stopped trying to change your friends and loved ones, or control their behavior, not out of “Fine! Do it your way!” but out of love, out of respect for their right to make their own choices. Out of your courageous heart.

Courage. A small word – seven letters. A powerful word, because it takes all your heart, to be courageous.

Try it. Make this your year of Courage, and watch your life transform.

(Originally appeared in the Huffington Post. For more HP articles by Dr. Nelson, go to

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Make This Your “Best Human” Year Ever!

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. People born during a “Dog” year are said to possess the best traits of human nature, as in honest, friendly, faithful, loyal, smart, straightforward, venerable and having a strong sense of responsibility.

Gee, I could have told you that! Well, maybe not about the year of, but anyone who has a dog knows that they are honest, friendly, faithful, loyal, smart (sometimes), straightforward (get that stick!), venerable (eh, not so sure about that one) and have a strong sense of responsibility (protecting you, for sure).

What if you took advantage of this “Dog” year to check in with your best “dog” – or shall we say, best human -  traits?

How honest are you? Oh, I know most of us are honest in the sense that we wouldn’t steal from anyone, or rob a bank, or anything like that. But what about with our feelings? Starting with yourself: how honest are you with yourself about how you feel about your work? Your relationship/s? Your body? Not what you grouse about with girl/boyfriends, but how, deep down, do you really feel? Because it’s only when you admit the truth of your feelings to yourself that you can do anything about a situation.

Same goes for being honest with others about your feelings. It’s not an excuse to get critical, mean and blameful, but rather an opportunity to explore – together – your feelings about any given situation so that change can occur.

How faithful are you? Not to your spouse/significant other, although that is important, but to the commitments you make, generally speaking. Starting, as always, with yourself.

How faithful are you to your commitment to get healthier, learn another skill, get a better job? Do you have a “tomorrow” attitude? Or an “it’ll never happen, why bother” attitude? Or do you regularly beat up on yourself for not living up to your commitments to self? None of these approaches serve you! Instead, learn how to better meet your commitments to self – through setting baby-step goals, or brainstorming strategies with friends/counselors, reading up on what’s worked for others. It feels great to live up to your commitments. It’s a sure path to success.

How about your sense of responsibility? Whenever something wonky happens, do you look first for someone to blame? Including yourself? Or do you, as quickly as possible, start looking for a possible solution to whatever happened? Because, in case you haven’t noticed, blame never gets anything done. Blaming yourself only makes you feel bad, and blaming others may make you feel good in the moment, but you’re still stuck with the problem/issue.

Blame is sometimes confused with taking responsibility, as if the idea of “my fault” or “your fault” makes someone responsible (you or them). The two couldn’t be more different. Taking responsibility is a first step in problem-solving, solution is the ultimate goal. Blame is just so much hot air, lots of drama with zero results.

Make this a true “Year of the Dog.” Commit to being your “Best Human” and have a stunning, successful, riotously great year!

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Greatest Gift of All: Hope

It’s been a rough year for many of us. Our country, as well as many others across the globe, has been ravaged by fierce political and social divides, unprecedented mass violence, and natural disasters from fires to hurricanes with the unfortunate promise of more to come.

As the Holidays roll around, it may be challenging – if not impossible -  to feel the Holiday Spirit of peace, good will toward all, and the joy of a year well lived. 

And yet . . . we have available to us, always, the greatest gift mankind has ever known - hope.

Hope is what keeps us keepin’ on. Hope is what motivates us to rebuild shattered lives, to reconnect with what’s most important to us, to dream, once again, of “peace on earth, good will toward all.”

Hope is not just an airy-fairy New Age platitude designed to mask whatever misery you’re in. Hope is real, and is supported by the many ways in which we humans stubbornly, persistently, work toward a better life for all, even if at time it seems that idea is ludicrous.

For example, did you know that Google's parent company, Alphabet, launched stratospheric “Project Loon” balloons over Puerto Rico to deliver Internet service where such service had been destroyed or severely impaired? The Internet is beamed from the balloons in a way that extends wireless networks without having to install fiber optic cable or cell towers. The project is still in its experimental phases, yet Alphabet was willing to make it available to a community sorely in need.
That’s hope made practical. Hope made real. And it’s just one example out of many ways in which various companies, organizations, and caring individuals brought hope to Puerto Rico, and other hurricane and fire devastated communities.
You can’t change the past. What happened, happened, whether in your personal life, or in our society’s life at large. What you can do, is offer hope – to yourself, to others, to your community, in whatever practical way you can think of.
Hope is real. Let it be that for you and yours this Holiday Season.