How To Actively Fight Depression Part 2

The first step in actively fighting depression is to identify your personal “triggers.” Typical triggers include birthdays and holidays; exhaustion; the crash after eating sugar; illness and pain; interaction with people who push your buttons; and sad events, such as the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one. You may find that a certain song or a familiar perfume can trigger sadness. Some people discover allergies to certain foods cause their depression. You may already know some of your triggers, but journaling or creating a spreadsheet to keep track of your activities and feelings can help you connect the dots between your triggers and times when you feel sadness or despair. This kind of record can also help you to find the connections between your “good triggers” and the feelings of joy or contentedness that follow. Once you know your triggers, you are better able to avoid or diminish the triggers to negative emotions, and take intentional steps to choose the triggers that result in positive emotions.

Actively fighting depression is one of the 8 character traits of successful survivors of trauma

Many victims of trauma spend years fighting depression. They have what seems like hundreds of triggers. They feel like puppets being manipulated by an evil puppeteer. I know, because I used to be one of them; for years before I learned that I could proactively fight depression, I was subject to a seemingly endless series of negative triggers. For example, if I had contact with someone who happened to have the same name as my mother, I would plunge into a funk, wondering what she was doing, whom she was with, if there was any chance she ever thought about me, and if she cared at all about what was going on in my life. Another trigger was my birthday; a full month before my birthday, I’d start hoping that this would be the year I’d get cards from my mother or father. I’d build myself up so much that the inevitably empty mailbox on my birthday would have the power to destroy the good wishes that came from anyone else.

Like a pilot who sees a potential mid-air collision and takes corrective action to avert disaster, successful survivors pay attention to what precedes their feelings of depression, so that they can take precautionary, proactive measures in the future. They avoid people and places that they know lead to sadness. Because I knew that my birthday was a trigger for depression, rather than waiting to see who remembered my birthday and being disappointed by those who hadn’t, I learned to make my own plans for lunches with friends, for trips, and for other enjoyable activities on that day. I chose not to gauge my happiness by those who didn’t remember my birthday, but by those precious people who did.

Another common trigger for depression is the feeling of being overwhelmed that comes from facing multiple challenges at the same time. For example, if you don’t have enough money to make it through the month and don’t know how you are going to pay bills and put food on the table, having the extra expense of a flat tire can throw you into a feeling of being overwhelmed. And that overwhelmed feeling is easily exacerbated by the demands of your job, family, or otherwise manageable challenges.

It’s even easier to become overwhelmed when there is physical pain involved. Pain can make it difficult to think clearly and to accomplish the unfinished tasks before you. Financial issues compound other challenges, because it’s difficult to find solutions to problems if you’re hungry and homeless, or if you don’t have the money to rectify those huge issues. It’s not as though successful survivors never feel overwhelmed. They do. But they’ve learned that in order to successfully navigate through multiple challenges, they must break them down, prioritize them, and deal with one issue at a time.

To avoid the feelings of depression brought on by being overwhelmed, it is especially important not to exaggerate the facts, and to not speculate on what tomorrow may bring. Take each problem individually and try to think dispassionately about all the possible solutions, regardless of how implausible or even ridiculous they may sound. Try to be objective: Imagine that you are giving advice to a friend who is faced with your circumstances. Focusing on how to find possible solutions shifts your mind from pessimism to cautious optimism, from feeling hopeless to hopeful. This shift in attitude is integral to finding the resolutions you seek.

Once you’ve written out as many possible solutions as you can think of, give yourself a break. Resist the temptation to give in to the sense of being overwhelmed or depressed by taking some simple steps to control something that is within your control, like taking a shower and putting on clean clothes. Do your hair; ladies, put on make-up. It will make you feel better. Taking control of even the most mundane thing can help you move toward a more hopeful feeling. It will also help you become prepared for a break—what some call luck. But successful survivors create their own luck by being prepared and looking for opportunities. Optimistic successful survivors know that successful outcomes are the result of preparation, hard work, and expectation that good things are in their future.

Success = (preparation + hard work) x positive expectations

Optimistic successful survivors intentionally look for someone to help, even when they themselves feel down. Although it may sound counterintuitive to reach out to help someone else when you’re struggling, it can be the most helpful thing you can do for yourself. Once you’ve done all you can do to resolve the challenges you face, the process of helping someone else serves to get your focus off yourself and your problems and onto someone else. This helps you gain perspective. It engages your assets—the strengths, talents, and abilities in you that can be helpful to others. Finding someone to help rather than trying to find someone to help you is a powerful way to proactively fight depression.

I am not suggesting that you never seek help; by all means, do. Find a mentor, attend a 12-step program, exercise, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat healthy foods. But when you are in the midst of a potentially overwhelming situation, helping someone else can be extremely valuable in getting your mind off your own situation for a time. It’s also often true that in the process of helping someone else, you stumble upon a solution or resource for improving your own circumstances.

Whether you tend toward feelings of depression or not, one sure-fire way to feel sad is to think about what you don’t have, dwelling on times when you have been mistreated, or when you knew you weren’t wanted or loved. As simplistic as it may sound, optimistic successful survivors learn to avoid these thoughts and the depression that usually accompanies them.

Some people are naturally able to deliberately choose what they are going to think about. When a negative thought comes to mind, they are able to immediately notice it and replace it with a positive thought. Others find themselves prisoners of their negative thoughts. Their imagination runs wild with all the terrible things that could happen. They are sadly unaware that they can “change the channel” of their minds, and choose what they think about.

Every single one of us can train our minds to take negative thoughts “captive,” replacing them with positive thoughts. We can intentionally do the work that cultivates a positive attitude. One way to train yourself to avoid negative thinking is to wear a rubber band around your wrist, snapping it every time you catch yourself having a negative thought. It’s a free, simple, and effective tool to begin the process of reprogramming your mind to avoid negativity.

Once negative thoughts are arrested, the next step is to intentionally replace them with positive, optimistic and hopeful thoughts; it really is like changing the channel on the television. To do this effectively, collect thoughts, pictures, jokes, or whatever it is that makes you smile or laugh. These can be photographs that remind you of good times, pictures cut out of magazines of places you’d like to go or things you’d like to have, funny or inspiring videos, or stories. Intentionally positive survivors have these things ready, so that when a negative thought comes to mind, they can instantly replace it with a thought that lifts their spirits.

Successful survivors focus on what they have (their good qualities and characteristics), what they are striving for (their goals), and how they are going to reach their goals (their plans). They replace thoughts of people who have harmed them with thoughts of good, safe people in their future who can be trusted. Successful survivors replace ugly scenes in their mind with a picture of a beautiful place they hope to see, a home they plan to have, or images of the lives they want to live.

This visualization of lifestyles and places is even easier now than ever before, thanks to the Internet. You can search for images of places you want to visit, homes you would like to live in, and the things you would like to have or do. When you look at images and imagine yourself in the picture, you are planting these pictures firmly in your mind so that you can easily recall them to replace negative thoughts and ugly images. The more you recall these images, the more likely you are to recognize them when they show up in your life!

It’s important to note that, during this process of visualizing a happier future, you do not allow yourself to negatively compare your goals and dreams to everything you currently lack. Don’t let your inspirations for the future turn into criticisms of your present—these are more than empty goals, these are things that you can and will have in the future. Let these hope-filled, positive visualizations lift you upward and onward.

To be continued… check back. I want to help you actively fight depression.

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Learn How To Actively Fight Depression

Optimism and positive thinking often don’t come naturally to survivors of trauma. Victims of violent crimes, for example, often lose their optimistic outlook and sense of safety, along with everything else their perpetrator took from them. But survivors can intentionally choose to have hope for their future. They can carefully rebuild their optimism, adopting a positive outlook on life and having favorable expectations for the future—which, while it may require more effort for some than for others, can be done.

Actively fighting depression is one of the 8 character traits of successful survivors of trauma

When I was in my early 20s, living paycheck to paycheck while trying to earn enough money to pay rent and buy food for my little girl and myself, I fought against depression every day. There were a million reasons for me to be depressed: I had no family, no money, and no safety net. I wore the same two outfits to work day after day. My little girl seemed to continually need things that I could not provide. We couldn’t afford to go anywhere, or do anything. We lived on beans and rice, ramen noodles, peanut butter, and macaroni and cheese. I was driving an unreliable car, and seemed to always be just one breakdown away from not having a way to get to and from work. To make matters worse, I was working in a male-dominated office (and industry) where I was paid less than men who did the same job. Because I had gone from customer service to sales, and knew how to do my own service work, I was also expected to do all my own clerical work, while my male counterparts had secretaries.

It would have been easy to be depressed, and to let that depression slide into despair. I fought depression by writing notes to myself that encouraged me to keep trying, to work harder than my competition, and to refuse to give up. I taped notes to my bathroom mirror and pinned them on the walls of my office cubicle. In fact, I still have the paper that hung in my cubicle for six and a half years, until the day I took it down and packed it up as I left that job to open my own company. That note included the following quotes:

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” —Jesus

Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” —Napoleon Hill

Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.” —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

There is nothing capricious in nature, and the implanting of a desire indicates that its gratification is in the constitution of the creature that feels it.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right!” —Henry Ford

The paper that hung on my bathroom mirror said:

Whenever I have a thought of limitation, I replace it with a vision of my achievement!

In addition to the little written notes I used to encourage myself, I would cut pictures out of magazines of the things we needed or that I hoped to have one day and tape them to my bathroom mirror. Sometimes, it would seem to take forever to reach a goal. But with every little success, I’d be more willing to drag myself out of bed rather than sleep my way through a bout of depression. With my little girl depending on me, I knew I didn’t have the luxury of indulging those feelings of depression.

People who choose to have a positive attitude decide not to blame others, even when their current circumstances are the direct result of someone else’s actions or failure to act. Decidedly optimistic survivors (those who decide to be optimistic) know that their circumstances don’t improve by placing blame on someone else. Placing blame implies that someone else is in charge of our lives. In fact, the very act of blaming others for the circumstances we face puts us in the position of being seemingly helpless victims, which opens the door to self-pity and depression. Seeing oneself that way influences the choices we make, the risks we take (or avoid), and the outcomes we get in our lives.

Decidedly optimistic people, on the other hand, take charge of their circumstances, however dire those circumstances may be. People who deliberately choose a positive outlook see problems as challenges to overcome and opportunities to grow. They see themselves as conquering the challenges they face; they are victors who have overcome (or are in the process of overcoming) ugly circumstances, and who will thrive because of the coping mechanisms forged through adversity. And this is a choice that anyone can make: choosing to think and act like an optimist means not focusing on the adversities endured, or what’s missing, or what others are doing to you or not doing for you. It’s a choice to live in the present, press toward the future, and let go of the past.

Opening the door to depression is dangerous. Depression grows like mold, thriving in cold, dark places. It soon permeates every aspect of life until it destroys positivity and optimism. Optimistic successful survivors resist the temptation to entertain feelings of depression—even for a few moments. Notice that I do not say that they don’t ever feel sad, depressed, oppressed, frustrated, or pessimistic; they do. In fact, if anyone ever earned the right to throw a full-blown pity party, it’s someone who has suffered at a time when they were unable or too vulnerable to prevent it. But just because they have earned the right to indulge in self-pity, doesn’t mean they should. Self-pity results in pessimism and depression, which only exacerbates the problems they’re facing. Self-pity and “woe-is-me” thinking should be avoided at all costs: indulging, even briefly, in self-pity is like taking a taste of poison; it will make you feel worse, and it may even kill you. 

Successful survivors learn how to proactively fight depression. Although this sounds like an over-simplification of a complicated issue, successful survivors know that if they give in to depression and fail to take care of themselves, there is no one who can rescue them. They know that indulging thoughts of depression for even a few moments can lead to a half hour, a half hour can lead to a day, and days can turn into weeks. Life can be too good, and is too short, to give in to depression; to spend time wishing things were different or thinking about how things used to be or should be now is to waste time that you can never get back. You get the same amount of time every day as everyone else does; what you do with yours is the only thing that will determine your success. Using time wisely is an investment that will reap a return in your future.

To be continued… check back. I want to help you actively fight depression. 

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How to know if you have an acquisition addiction

Some people have an addiction of which they’re not even aware. It’s not life threatening like drugs or alcohol or flirting with an angry man’s wife, but it’s dangerous nonetheless. It’s the addiction to the acquisition of “stuff.”

Like other addicts, people with an acquisition addiction rarely think there’s a problem with them. They’ll tell you that the problem is that taxes are too high, they are underpaid at work, the price of gas is ridiculous, the cable bill is out of control, and the cost of living is just generally too stinking high for the average person.

Many of the things they spend their money on are small, seemingly inconsequential items. But those small amounts very quickly add up, leaving the big things they’d like to have out of the questions. Some of these little things are like the drinks at the convenience store that cost $1.50 each, but if purchased in a 6-pack at the grocery store would amount to about 50 cents. It never occurs to them that the songs they download for only 99 cents each can add up to hundreds of dollars in just one year. Or that the new model phone they upgraded to for only $27 more per month adds up to nearly $1000 over three years. Or that the extra sodas and chips that were on sale at the grocery store add unnecessary dollars (and pounds) over a year’s time. Or that the additional movie and sports channels on the cable bill can amount to over $3500 in just five short years. Or that the new outfits and shoes that can run into the thousands of dollars over just a short couple of years. Or that the lunches out and the couple of nights out for dinner add up to thousands more than smart shopping and cooking at home.

Some of the worst drains on our accounts are the subscription items. We sign up for the box of dog treats and toys that arrive conveniently every month, the box of assorted make-up products (much of which wind up in the back of the drawer or in the trash because it wasn’t a good match for our complexion), or the magazines that are stacked up waiting to be read, and so on.

If asked about these things, those with an acquisition addiction are quick to point out, “it’s only 99 cents,” “I don’t know what I’d do without this phone–you can’t believe all that it does,” “we need to keep snacks in the house, and junk food is cheaper and easier than healthy food,” “the TV is our main source of entertainment–it’s the one thing we splurge on.”  And finally, there’s the mother of all justifications, “I deserve it!

What these addicts don’t know is that if they’d take an honest look at every quarter (yes, I said quarter) they spend, keep track of each expenditure, and rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how valuable the acquisition is to them 30 days later, they’d find that much of what they’ve spent their money on is inconsequential just a short time after the money is gone. We often can’t even find that thing we just HAD to have. Too often we are painfully aware of the newly added extra pounds that we didn’t need. And how many movies did we really watch on those extra channels?

More importantly, if they had taken that money and set it aside, they’d have found that in a period of just one year of deferred gratification, they’d have the money for a more significant purchase like the set of tires the car badly needs, that semi annual insurance premium that sneaks up on them, that winter coat they need, or the unexpected emergency expense.

By replacing the acquisition addiction with another activity that costs nothing–visits with friends, playing games, taking a walk, cooking with friends or family, and so on, we can actually enhance our lives, relieve some stress, and maybe even save up for a down payment on something that could go up in value after purchase (rather than go down), like a home or a rental property or some other investment, or on something that will make memories that last forever like a vacation to a place you’ve wistfully dreamed of going.

For those who justify their addiction by spending generously on others, consider that there are myriad ways to show kindness and generosity that don’t cost money. For 101 ideas, see my book, ACTS OF KINDNESS 101 Ways To Make Our World A Better Place.

You may have an acquisition addiction if three or more of these things are true for you (#10 counts for three on outs own).

If you shop to reward yourself
If you shop when you’re bored
If you shop when you’re sad
If you shop for fun
If you buy something for yourself when you’re shopping for others
If your closet is full
If you’ve taken over other closets
If you feel sad or angry when you can’t shop
If you receive packages more than twice a week
If you pay with a credit card without having the cash to pay the bill in full at the end of the month.

I’d love to hear your ideas for outsmarting acquisition addiction. Share your stories with others at

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When my publisher asked me to write a “gift-type” book about kindness, I rolled my eyes. I love to think about, write about, and talk about the meaning of life. Why we’re here. What we’re supposed to accomplish. How to overcome the challenges we face. I’m not good at what I call, “superficial foo-foo.” Nevertheless, they’ve been good to me, so I agreed.

The first draft manuscript I submitted was an in-depth look at being kind to people cannot or will not reciprocate. It’s easy to be kind to the waitress you’ll never see again, but it requires a herculean effort to be kind to a grouchy pessimist who is a permanent member of your household!  I didn’t know how to be kind to the most challenging people in the world, so I went to the experts—ministers, social workers, and foster parents. These heroes gave me some excellent advice, which I wove into the story of my manuscript. Unfortunately, my manuscript was almost immediately returned with a request that I “lighten it up.” It was too deep. The publisher wanted a light-hearted book with easy-peasy tips on how to be kind in the various settings we find ourselves. Ugh—superficial foo-foo. It was too late to back-out because Random House had already set up a Pre-Order page for the book on Amazon! I went back to the keyboard.

What I came up with is the book that will be released on November 28th—ACTS OF KINDNESS, 101 Ways To Make The World A Better Place. The other manuscript will be released next spring as a follow-up for those who want to go deeper… those who want to be Ambassadors of Kindness.

Give Kindness, And It Comes Back To You

The title says, “101 ways,” so after I had written every kind act I had ever done or seen, I still had about 83 left to write. I am an off-the-chart introvert without a scintilla of ability in the area of hospitality, so I knew I had to get help. So I went to the experts—restaurant wait staff, event/wedding planners, and hotel workers. I had heard years before that if you want to hire someone for customer service, you have to find someone who has worked successfully as a server in a restaurant. And we’ve all heard of the wedding planners who bend over backwards to make “bridezilla” happy. These amazing people taught me so much about acts of kindness.

As I powered through the completion of this book that is the smallest, yet most challenging, manuscript I’ve ever written, I realized that I was incorporating these tips for kindness into my own life.  I don’t think I had been an unkind person, but it many cases I had been so focused on my objectives, that I had passed right through without even acknowledging that I’d just interacted with another soul.  As I began to incorporate the new tips I’d learned, I learned a secret that many people already know—I felt better.

I learned that when you live a life of intentional kindness, you improve the lives of two people—not just the recipient of your kindness, but your own as well. Additionally, you model kindness for everyone within your influence. Plus, the recipients of your kindness are now better able to pass kindness forward to the people with whom they interact. In this way, one person can launch a chain-effect of kindness that may never end. At no cost whatsoever, and for very little additional time, if any, I now look into the eyes of the bank teller and the grocery clerk and the waitress, call them by name, and authentically care about their answers to the question, “is it a good day?”

I’m grateful to my publisher for choosing me for this project. My life has been enriched by what I’ve learned, and I hope the same will happen for you! Will YOU help me launch a “Kindness Revolution?” Of course you can do it without the little book, Acts Of Kindness, but if you want to launch a KINDNESS REVOLUTION in your family, your workplace, and your community, the easiest place to start is by giving them all copies of the book.

You can get these books for less than half the price listed on Amazon! And all proceeds go to the Successful Survivors Foundation. For just $5 each for a case of 24 books (+$7.5 for shipping), YOU can launch a Kindness Revolution in your family, your church, your school, your workplace, and your neighborhood! You can make a game out of it, seeing who can be kinder, who can come up with the most interesting way to be kind, and so on. Have fun with it!

Will you join me? If so, click this link: If your order is received by November 25th, you’ll have your books the first week in December—just in time for gift giving. This offer is limited to pre-release stock, so don’t hesitate.

What could be better than giving kindness?!

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How I Mined The Lessons Out Of A Painful Childhood

the only picture of me with my mother

When I was a little girl, my mother took me to a neighbor and asked her to babysit while she went shopping. Hours later when she didn’t return, the neighbor, who had five children of her own and was none too happy about having a sixth kid to feed, started calling around in an attempt to find my mother. No one had heard from her or knew where she was. Social services got involved, my grandmother was located, and the next thing I knew I was living in a filthy, dilapidated, 500-square-foot shack with my alcoholic and drug-addicted grandmother and my mentally unstable grandfather.

Unbeknownst to anyone, my mother had moved out of state. She never returned. I spent most of the first 16 years of my life in that shack. I was beaten for any reason and sometimes for no reason at all. I was disciplined with a skillet of hot oil when I was four years old for “talking too much.” For a time we were homeless as a result of a fire that made the little shack uninhabitable. I could go on for hours, but I’ve told you this much of my story to make my one key point – that I am living proof that it’s possible to succeed in life, not just despite what you’ve been through, but specifically because of it.

The sense of abandonment I experienced every time I thought that my mother or father was going to show up and didn’t, typically on birthdays and Christmas, was emotionally devastating, but eventually it developed in me a sense of self-reliance. I learned (the hard way) that no one was going to show up to rescue me from my abusers. That no one was going to show up with food when we had none. That no one was going to magically reach into my life and “fix” everything. Consequently, when I started my first job at the age of 13, I knew that no one was going to do the work for me. I didn’t expect anyone to help me. If I didn’t know what to do or how to do something, I would ask for instruction or find a book or other resource to help me. When I emancipated at age 16, I didn’t expect anyone to “save” me. When I started my first business at age 27, I knew that success (or failure) was up to me. In short, abandonment taught me self-reliance, which has served me well.

The verbal and physical abuse that I experienced throughout my childhood did significant damage to my self-esteem; however, it taught me invaluable lessons that cannot be learned in a classroom. I learned how to read the slightest micro expressions in the faces of my abusers. I learned when to leave, when to hide, when to stick my face in a book (it didn’t take long for me to figure out that if I was reading, I was usually left alone), and when to try to redirect the conversation to something or someone else that the abusers could turn their anger toward. In short, I learned how to quickly shift from passive fear to active coping.

The ability to read facial expressions, body language, and other clues, and the intuition to respond appropriately has served me well on the occasions when I was in emergency situations, including the time when I was sitting on the bench seat of our car at nine years of age next to my grandfather as he had a heart attack while driving full speed on the freeway. I got the car pulled over and turned off, and I placed the nitroglycerin tablet under his tongue while my grandmother screamed hysterically and wrung her hands. It has also been an invaluable in dealing with customers and negotiating with the companies with which I worked.

The abuse also developed in me the characteristic of courage. When my 6′ 2″ grandfather turned his aggression toward my much smaller grandmother, I would jump in front of her to shield her. I learned through it all that I always came through, which means that I was resilient. Courage and resilience served me well through the myriad trials I faced both personally and professionally. As a result of abuse, I have a keenly-developed “justice meter.” I can sense when people around me are being mistreated, and I typically feel compelled to intervene. It’s this kind of “justice meter” that makes successful survivors of childhood abuse gravitate toward careers that involve justice, including police officers, firefighters, parole and probation officers, attorneys, and judges.

Poverty taught me to be resourceful. When something breaks and you don’t have the money to replace it, you figure out how to repair it. When your only pair of pants rips, you learn how to sew. Poverty also taught me to appreciate every good thing I now have, and it developed in me sensitivity for those who have less than I do.

Being homeless as a result of an uninsured fire led eventually to a sincere appreciation for appropriate insurance coverage. That appreciation, combined with the heartfelt desire to protect and defend the good people and organizations that care for kids and families, resulted in a 40 year career in insurance and multiple millions of dollars saved for child caring organizations.

There are many more examples of mining the lessons out of my pain and applying them as stepping stones to my success. The bottom line is that I have been blessed to go from abandonment, abuse, dysfunction, chaos, and poverty to excellent relationships with quality people, peace, joy, good health, and financial prosperity. I did so, not because I was “lucky,” not because I was at the right place at the right time or knew the right people, not because I married a wealthy man or bought a winning lottery ticket. I have enjoyed personal and professional success specifically because of the the grace of God to help me discover and leverage the character traits, learned abilities, and coping mechanisms that were developed in me as I lived through painful circumstances.

From today until the day I leave this life, I want to help other survivors of painful circumstances to mine the lessons out of all they’ve been through to find and fulfill the purpose for which they were born and have been perfectly matched.

I’ve succeeded because of what I’ve been through, and YOU CAN TOO!

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Keys To Happiness #5

Do you want to be happy? Then value the struggle. And what I mean by valuing the struggle is that to be truly happy, you have to appreciate the hard times for the challenges and opportunities they represent.

We don’t learn in the fun and easy times. We learn the big lessons of life in the struggles. We learn how to handle adversity, which prepares us for future challenges. We learn perseverance, which is necessary for real success. Authentic success doesn’t just land in our laps one day. Authentic success happens AFTER we refuse to give up, AFTER we press through difficulties, and AFTER we decide not to be offended by every petty thing (the petty things are those things that often distract us from what we know we need to do in order to succeed. Don’t allow distractions on your way to fulfillment of your purpose—a.k.a. your real success).

Ask any truly successful person, and he or she will tell you that the challenges they faced were actually opportunities in disguise. For me, having my pay cut by 40% in one day was a terrifying challenge because I was a single mom with no family, no money, and no safety net. But if that hadn’t happened, my ingrained loyalty probably would have kept me from leaving that job to start my own business.  The business that was born out of that struggle was the only insurance organization in the United States that was dedicated solely to protecting the good people and organizations that protect kids who have been abused. Through that business we helped put millions of dollars that were previously spent on insurance, back into the budgets of the child welfare organizations we protected.

That one challenge (and there were many), became a turning point in my life, which put me on the path toward fulfillment of the purpose for my life. After I understood that the struggle had become extremely valuable, I was actually grateful for having experienced it (…yes after—a good while after).

What are your struggles? What have you learned through those adversities? The lessons you mine from the adversities you face are precisely the assets you need to find and fulfill your real success.

Check back for more happiness tips.


rhonda-sciortino About the author:  Rhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors , used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at [email protected]

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The Top 2 Causes of Tragedy With Children And How YOU Can Prevent Them

Originally published by Fostering Families Today Magazine September/October 2017

The good that came out of all that tragedy, if there is any good that can be mined out of it, is that we learned an awful lot about how kids and caregivers get injured or killed in out-of-home placement. We learned that there are two root causes in almost every tragedy. Firsts, there are what I call “relationship failures,” and the second root cause is “interruption in routine.”

Relationship failures are by far the number one root cause of injury or death in foster care. It’s not difficult for child welfare professionals to imagine where this starts. They know intimately  the inherent problems of caring for kids who have been traumatized by abandonment, neglect, and abuse. Anyone who has been involved in foster care for any length of time knows that trying to care for wounded children is like trying to pour water into a bucket that has holes in the bottom. Simply put, traumatized kids need more than any one person is able to give.

On the surface of an incident, it may appear that the injury or death was the result of an accident. The accident, vehicle or otherwise, is the direct cause of tragedy, but the root cause may go back to the argument that was happening in the vehicle right before the accident. Or it might go back to the disagreement at the breakfast table an hour earlier, or the incident that happened at school the day before that resulted in detention at school that put the foster parent on the road during a heavier trafficked time of day. Or the fact that the bio kids of the foster family were signed up for soccer, but the foster child was not.

When we look deeper at the details and step back through the circumstances preceding tragedy, we nearly always find a breakdown in relationship—usually between foster parent and foster child, but sometimes it’s between bio child and foster child or foster child and an extended family member, friend, or neighbor.

I’m not a psychologist or some kind of expert in the area of human relationships, but having been in the child welfare system, and in seeing far too much of what can go wrong in foster care, I’ve gained some insight into this subject. In my opinion, failures in relationship can be minimized by caregivers doing a few simple things:

  1. From the first moment that you meet your new foster child, and in every conversation from that point on, tell the child that you care about him or her, that you want him or her to feel safe with you, and that every “rule” or “healthy boundary” that you establish is for him or her to have a good life.
  2. Be patient. Be calm. Breathe. Take care of yourself. You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re exhausted, frustrated, or in poor health. Self-care and healthy coping mechanisms are critical to creating a successful life for yourself, your family, and everyone within your care and influence. When you take care of yourself and encourage others to take care of themselves, you are modeling good self-care.
  3. Understand that you are not solely responsible for the outcome of the young person in your care. You are responsible to protect, defend, and care for the child as if he or she were your own for the time (regardless of length of time) that the child is in your care. In other words, do your best and then trust that the seeds of goodness that you plant will take root.

The second root cause of tragedy is interruption in routine, such as a neighborhood potluck, a family reunion, a party, moving day, a family vacation, etc.  Avoiding tragedy that results from an interruption in routine, is relatively straight-forward. Simply knowing that the risk is greater during these times, allows you to plan accordingly. One of the things you can do is to ask other adults to help you keep an eye on the children so that someone is always specifically responsible for their whereabouts and activity. Or you can arrange for make arrangements for respite care in advance.

To improve your experience of parenting, and the experience of everyone involved, adopt the mantra of, “I care about you. I want to keep you safe. I want to prepare you to create a good life for yourself from today forward.” If you say this clearly and succinctly and often, with sincerity, everyone in your life will know, without doubt, that this is the reason you’re doing foster care, that this is what you stand for, and that every word you speak and action you take is for this one purpose. Once everyone in your life understands this, you will have significantly reduced the risk of tragedy in your home, and made it easier to defend yourself in the event that something outside of your control does happen.


Rhonda Sciortino is one of the estimated 12 million former foster kids in the US. She is founder and chairperson of Successful Survivors Foundation, a non-profit organization created to help survivors of trauma create personal and professional success.  She has authored 6 books, and her seventh, Acts Of Kindness, 101 Ways To Make The World A Better Place is scheduled for release November 18th. Rhonda can be reached at [email protected]








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The Core Financial Skills Young Adults Need

By Josh Wilson, a new and upcoming blogger who just started Family Faith Finance. Feel free to check out his blog and learn more about his journey through life, or follow him on twitter: @famfaithfinance!

Since none of us were born with the know-how to handle our own finances, it’s important to learn the skills over time. Unfortunately, more often than not, young people learn about the finances the hard way. Lately, this even involves moving back home after college with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt or credit card debt. A recent study found that 47.60% of Millennials carry a credit card balance from month to month. However, the same study found that 44.60% of these Millennials didn’t know the interest rate that they are being charged!

A few basic things that every young adult should learn includes basic budgeting, bank account information, wants versus needs, knowing when and how to save, knowing how to develop a credit history, and knowing when to ask for help.

Basic Budgeting for Young Adults

Knowing how to plan and maintain a monthly budget is the foundation for financial health. A budget is simply a way to understand how money comes in and how it goes out. There are apps like BillGuard, Dollarbird, and Fudget to track on your phone so your budget can work with your schedule.

In addition, when building a budget online or with pen and paper, the main aspect within a budget is to know the difference between needs and wants. This means prioritizing a budget, which will include groceries, mortgage, vehicle, and so on, followed by cable bills or other fun items. When money’s tight though, fun can wait.

Bank Account Basics for Young Adults

Most Millenials rarely write a check and even more are already leaving home or college with credit card debt. With that in mind, there are some banking basics that should be followed to avoid overdraft fees, annual fees, or ATM service fees, which can all be avoided. Essentially, this means keeping up with your day-to-day account at the ATM or with a mobile app.

Knowing How to Save For Emergencies

Beyond the basics of budgeting and understanding bank accounts 101, the next major step is to start a savings account for emergencies. Many young people have a natural, subconscious attitude that they’ll live forever so they ignore the present in terms of saving for the future. However, it’s vital to start saving right away.

The best way for a young person to start saving money is to take some time to do a proper budget and then set up an automatic savings transfer so the money can’t be spent in the first place. For those young adults with jobs who offer a 401(k), this is another option that should be used.

Developing a Positive Credit History

Once a budget and savings account have been set up, it’s time to consider a positive credit history, as it’s never too early to start. For young people, this could mean starting as a co-signer, getting a college credit card, or even getting a secured credit card, to teach responsibility while also helping to build credit.

It’s also important to know what counts as good credit history. Since a family’s mortgage counts for credit, many young people may assume that apartment rent also counts for credit, but that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, there’s more ways to acquire bad credit than good credit.

Knowing When to Ask For Help

Since nothing in life is guaranteed, it’s important for young people to know when they get in over their head. This means starting to build credit and save money at an early age, with the goal being a major purchase such as home ownership. Another unfortunate truth is that mistakes in youth can hurt you much later in life.

If a young adult makes a major financial mistake, it’s important that they ask for help right away. Some mistakes are going to be larger than others, like a car lease with no job, for example, but it’s best to seek help right away, regardless. If parents can’t help, a Credit Counselor or Student Loan Counselor may be able to provide advice.

Preparing For the Future Today

All in all, it’s best for young people to start budgeting at an early age and getting familiar with their needs and wants. Some young people may feel that their phone or tablet is a necessity, but it doesn’t come in the first few needs for daily life. For those who seek help, there are apps and websites that can provide advice.

Once a basic budget has been planned out, it’s time to save for emergencies and start building good credit. This might mean setting up an automatic savings deposit and also getting a first credit card and using it for rewards, while also always remembering to pay it off on time.

Finally, if you feel like you’re getting over your head, ask for help from people who understand your situation and then look for a counselor for specific advice.

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Broken? Yes. Too Broken To Be Fixed? NEVER!

Everyone has felt unloved or unwanted (or both) at one time or another. Someone leaves (through choice, incapacitation, or death), a relationship ends, and our hearts break. For some of us, it’s more than our hearts that break. For those who had fragile self-esteem before the heartbreak, we feel irreparably damaged.

For those of us who were wounded by the people who brought us into this world, and who should have protected us, we add to that irreparable brokenness a sense of being unworthy of love or any other good thing—ever.

If we’re resilient enough, we keep our heads down, work harder than the average person in order to earn acceptance, and try not to draw any attention to our broken, unworthy, unlovable, stupid, ugly [add your own adjectives here] selves.

We adapt, adjust, we get by, and we work really, REALLY hard to “act normal” and not let anyone see how wounded we really are… that is until we meet Jesus. When a broken person discovers that there is a God Who calls Himself “Love” and Who knows all about our brokenness yet loves us anyway, healing of the soul begins to take place.

As if that weren’t enough, this God called “Love” adopts us into His own family, gives us His name, and surprises us with the fabulous news that there is actually a good plan for our lives, a plan for which we were perfectly created and equipped.

This all sounds great until we remember the stupid decisions we’ve made, the really wrong, ugly things we’ve done, and the terrible places we’ve been. All the “good plan stuff” sounds great until we come to our senses and recall that we’re living in the consequences of all the yuck that happened before this great news. How in the world could there be any recovering from all this? There’s too much water under the bridge. That’s when He promises to work everything that’s happened to us together for our good. It sounds too good to be true.

I never believe “too good to be true,” except in this case. There’s only upside. There’s no downside. What do I have to lose by clinging to the muck of my former life. What would it hurt to dare to believe this fantasy for a while? I could always go back to the muck. The muck will always be there. If God, Who calls Himself “Love” wants to take all my broken pieces and put them together in such a way that I’m happier than I’ve ever been or ever thought I could be, what the heck?! What do I have to lose? Who wouldn’t want that?

It turns out that the way that God works all things together for our good is by developing in us character traits and coping mechanisms that help us get through tough times. It turns out that we don’t learn courage, tenacity, and determination during the good times. Those, and many more, valuable characteristics are learned in the painful times. What we learn in tough times is precisely what we need to find and fulfill His awesome plans for our lives.

I made the decision to become a Christian many years ago, and what do I have to show for it? I have an amazing life. Truly. There’s not a smidgeon of muck. If I told you how good my life is now, you’d think I was lying, bragging, or delusional. I’m grateful that I took a “flyer” on this God called Love. Now I’m spending every day of the rest of the time I have on earth trying to show others how to get rid of the muck, because the awesome news is that this same offer is available to anyone who will take Him up on it. There’s a good plan for everyone, regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done. In fact, the fulfillment of the good plan will be done because of what you’ve been through!


 rhonda-sciortinoAbout the author:  Rhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors , used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at [email protected]

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Keys To Happiness #4

Quit getting offended. Period. And what I mean by be getting offended allowing yourself to feel hurt or anger because of what someone else says or does.

Until you learn this one important thing, you will live your life feeling beaten and bruised by the rude comments and inconsiderate actions of others. (And if you think that you’re going to be sure to surround yourself only by people who would never be mean, or you think you’re going to be able change someone, you’re living in lalaland. Even the most awesome of people can get cranky, short-tempered, and downright rude.) When you learn how to choose not to take offense, your happiness will be protected and will be far more consistent.

You may not be aware of it, but you have the power to protect yourself by guarding your happiness. Here are some quick ideas for HOW to avoid taking offense:

  • Think of offense like a big beach ball. When it flies your way, just push it away. Whatever you do, don’t “take it” and continue to embrace it. GET RID OF IT.
  • Learn to find contentment in what YOU think of your awesome self rather than through what others think of you
  • Think of your feelings as puppet strings. One string is “hurt,” another is “anger,” others are “joy,” “contentment,” “approval,” etc.  DON’T GIVE ANYONE THE POWER TO YANK YOUR STRINGS. You are not a puppet. 
  • Only the most trusted of people should have access to the strings that control your emotions. When you give someone the power to make you feel content, they also have the power to make you feel hurt. This is why it’s important not to make your self- esteem contingent on the approval of others, because when you do that, your self esteem will tank when that approval is withdrawn.

It’s an enormous undertaking to decide not to take offense, but it can be done. And the sooner you decide to do it, the better off you’ll be.

No offense = increased happiness = better life.

Check back for more happiness tips.


About the author:  Rhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors , used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at [email protected]

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