Keys To Happiness #6–Disable The Labels

Do you want to be happy? Then stop putting labels on yourself and others. For example, we label ourselves by the color of our skin, our gender, our hair color, eye color, political affiliation, highest educational level achieved, our faith (or lack thereof), job title, zip code, as survivors of whatever trauma or disease we’ve experienced (like “cancer survivor,” “rape victim,”), and so on. The labels are the virtually countless variables with which we distinguish ourselves from others or align ourselves with others.  The problem is that labels create separation, and separation diminishes relationships.

It can be convenient, or in some cases, necessary, to label ourselves. It can be helpful to provide medical professionals with identifiers they need to make recommendations about medications and treatment. We need identifiers on our driver’s licenses to prove our identities and to obtain professional licenses and the like. Beyond that, labels may do more harm than good. If you doubt that this is true, just walk into a room full of people you don’t know and announce that you are a conservative Republican. You will immediately see the division begin. One person will announce that he or she loves President Trump. Others will defiantly make statements like, “he stole the election from Hillary!” You may not have to say another word because the dividing lines will have been drawn, and the division takes on a life of it’s own.

Many labels aren’t as obviously divisive as politics, religion, or nationality but regardless of the labels, they all can have the effect of shutting down conversation and superimposing stereotypes. When we use labels, we are effectively announcing the filter through which we see the world, the consequence of which is that people who seethings differently, and who wish to avoid conflict, will keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves. When that happens, we miss opportunities to learn about and from each other.

When we talk to people who think, feel, and believe differently than we do, we learn who they are and why they think and feel the ways they do.  Although we may not agree, we may have a better understanding of the other person. We can respect the opinions and beliefs of others without agreeing or trying to persuade them to share our views. Some of the most rewarding relationships can be found between people who disable their labels and just share honestly without fear of judgement or criticism. We’ll all be happier to the degree we can do that.

Value relationship over labels

Check back for more happiness tips.


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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Connecting The Dots Between Drugs And Child Trafficking

Where there is the buying and selling of children for sex, there are drugs. Period. It’s not difficult to understand that traffickers give kids drugs to get them addicted so they can lure them into being bought and sold for sex. Then they incapacitate them with drugs so that they won’t try to run and so they’re incapable of fighting.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the parents often become complicit in the trafficking of their own children. After selling everything they have for a hit of the drugs that have destroyed their ability to think and behave logically, addicted parents barter with the only thing they have left— sex with their children. In fact, some parents sell their children to traffickers in exchange for the drugs that have destroyed their lives and the lives of their children.

This isn’t just in the dangerous neighborhoods you’ve seen portrayed in episodes of Law & Order. This is happening in places you might never have imagined—the upper and middle class neighborhoods where parents addicted to pain killers have exhausted their refills and have ventured into the unknown territory of drug dealers and traffickers for which they are woefully ill prepared. These are amateur drug addicts are dealing with professional drug dealers, the results of which are tragic.

The huge issue that many people haven’t considered is that the opioid epidemic throughout the US means that parents who use drugs aren’t watching after and protecting their children.  Incapacitated parents are oblivious to what’s happening to their children, so their children are at greater risk of being groomed and lured into trafficking right before their glassy eyes.

So what’s the answer? What in the world can we do about such an enormous, pervasive problem?

We can explore the question: What can we do to protect children who are living in an addiction environment?

That is the question that is the subject of the upcoming Ensure Justice Conference at Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice on March 2-3, 2018. Professionals from law enforcement, education, mental health, child welfare, the faith-based community, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and concerned individuals will collaborate to seek solutions for protecting children who aren’t adequately protected at home.

Children at risk of being trafficked right here in our own neighborhoods (please don’t think that this can’t happen in your sweet little community), are seen by many different people, and yet are lured in right before our eyes.  Teachers who see kids regularly see changes in behavior, school performance, energy, attitude, and appearance. Coaches, tutors, carpool moms and dads, pediatricians and other medical people, and neighbors see kids, but more often than not miss the subtle (and not-so-subtle) clues that indicate that a young person within their influence is in danger. Even when they do notice something that’s different or “off” about a child, they don’t know what to do. No one wants to make an allegation that can’t be un-made, that can tear apart a family or a friendship.

Although it is a huge issue, it is possible to do something about it. One idea is to launch the LOVE IS ACTION Community Initiative, which gives everyone in the community an opportunity to engage with others in ways that are safe and that utilize their “no big deal,” meaning, each person can do whatever is no big deal for them. One of example would be a person who likes to bake could bake birthday cakes for neighborhood kids. There are as many ideas as there are people who care about kids.

We’re going to talk about some of the simple, free ideas for averting tragedy for the children of addicted parents at COMPASSION NIGHT on March 2-3 at 6 p.m. at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California. Bring a friend and share with everyone you know. It only takes one person to save a kid. Come learn how to be the one.

If you’re interested in hearing a cutting edge update on the fight against child trafficking, register here to attend the entire Ensure Justice Conference on March 2-3.

Originally published in Foster Focus Magazine January 2018

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Did you know that kids can hide apps you’d never want them to have on their phones or tablets behind apps that look like calculators or other mundane looking icons? If you want to know more about that, take a look at this article.

Did you know that kids often have “Finsta” accounts to share with friends what they would never want their family members to see. Finsta stands for fake Instagram account. If you want to know more about this, take a look at this article.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “I’m not a techie person. By the time I figure out this, there’ll be other ways for kids to hide what they’re doing. There’s no way I can possibly stay a step ahead of them on technology.” If you are thinking that taking their electronics away is the answer, think again. They’ll just use a friend’s phone, tablet, or laptop to set up an account you know nothing about.

Two ways you can approach the conundrum of trying to grow kids into decent human beings are (1) to try to install good character in them; and (2) try to teach them the rewards of good choices and the consequences of poor choices. [If you have other ideas, please share them with us!]

To instill good character, you must model it. If the phone rings, and you ask someone else to answer it and say you’re not there, you’re teaching your kids that it’s ok to be deceitful. If you text and drive, you’re showing your kids that it’s ok to risk your life and the lives of others. I you talk about people behind their backs, you’re teaching your kids that gossip is an acceptable topic for conversation.

To teach rewards of good choices, share with your kids what other young people have accomplished. It doesn’t take long to do an online search to find a kid who launched a drive for backpacks for disadvantaged kids, suitcases for foster kids, a penny collection for a good cause, and so on. You could ask your kids to find a news story of a kid who has done something that your kid would like to do. Some big, historical accomplishments of kids can be found in articles like this one in the Huffington Post. Another idea is to encourage your kids to enter a contest. Do an online search using the words “contest teens,” and you’ll find contests involving everything from poetry and other creative writing, to photography, to travel and sports, and more. If you don’t find anything your kids are interested in, consider setting up a contest in your community.

To teach the consequences of poor choices, you can start with the videos that are available free of charge from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. You can find age-appropriate training videos that show online behaviors and their possibly outcomes at

If just having conversations with your kids is a challenge, take a look at these short videos that provide some great tips for having effective conversations with kids: GET RESULTS WITH EFFECTIVE CONVERSATIONS.

Perhaps if we encourage our kids to engage with others using their skills and talents, they’ll be less likely to make poor choices (think doing things that give them a sense of fitting in, like eating Tide pods or other wrong behavior and posting it online), and be more likely to fit into groups of kids who are striving to doing good.

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Everyone has their own unique way of showing kindness. Some are the obvious things we think of when we think of acts of kindness, like opening the door for someone, letting someone go ahead of you in line, and saying please and thank you. Some acts of kindness are more subtle, like taking a chance on someone by giving that person a job for which he or she isn’t qualified.  Some acts of kindness even rise to the profound, like becoming a foster parent to a child who’s been mistreated, starting a non profit organization to help others, or working in a very difficult line of work because what you’re able to do helps people who are unable to do it themselves.

Your unique brand of kindness may not even be obvious to you. We tend to dismiss the things that come easily to us. We don’t give ourselves credit for many of the good things we do because there is no fanfare, no news crews covering the events, and often, no gratitude from the recipient of the kindness. Think about every time you’ve helped someone, especially those times when you didn’t feel like it. Consider the times you’ve gone to work or a committee meeting or to visit a friend when you didn’t feel like it. Every time you follow through when you don’t feel like it, it’s an act of kindness. You’ve put others before yourself.

You have probably given many acts of kindness that you never gave yourself credit for. Connect with me at and share some of your acts of kindness. You’ll inspire others and be setting an excellent example for others. I’m eager to hear about your ACTS OF KINDNESS.

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Sometimes Kindness is Disguised

I’ll never forget the day my friend called to say that she had been accused of abusing one of her foster children. She was crying so hard I could hardly understand what she was saying. She finally calmed down enough to tell me that the little five year old had bolted out the front door and had headed straight into the busy street in front of their house.

She had to put the baby down in a safe spot before she could run after the 5 year old, and in that few short seconds the one that got away was just a couple steps from running right in front of a car that was barreling down the street. She was screaming for the child to stop while watching that car out of the corner of her eye. Her longer legs helped her make up the distance, and she grabbed the child hard by the shoulder and jerked her back just as the car drove by far over the speed limit for their street.

The child fell back and hit hard on the sidewalk. My friend’s fingernails were tangled in the little girl’s hair, and the child shrieked as my friend pulled her hair as she tried to pull her hand out the child’s mess of a head of hair. My friend described the scene as something that would’ve been an opportunity for a “teaching moment” had it not drawn the attention of a neighbor who had complained before about the noise that came from her very large, loud family. Evidently the neighbor called the police because my friend was still in the yard trying to calm the child and explain the dangers of running out into the street when the black and white patrol car pulled up.

The child instantly began screaming when she saw the car. It hadn’t been that long ago that the same kind of car came to take her away from her Mommy. She cried herself to sleep every night because she missed her Mommy. She wasn’t old enough to understand that her mother was addicted and unable to care for her and her baby brother. All she knew was that she was with a strange lady who just jerked her by the shoulder and pulled her hair when all she was trying to do was go find her Mommy.

When the officer pulled up, he saw a woman crouched down, holding both shoulders of a crying child, with her face just inches from the child’s face. As he began to walk toward them, the child erupted in screams and started hysterically struggling to get away.  The officer couldn’t have known that he and his vehicle were the cause of the child’s anxiety. Based on his observations, the report from the neighbor, and the child screaming about the strange lady pulling her hair, the officer had probable cause for a charge of child abuse.

Ultimately, my friend was cleared, but her story, and the many others like it, illustrate the truth that sometimes acts of kindness, like pulling a child out of a dangerous situation, can hurt both the giver and the receiver of the kindness.

Even when it hurts, do the kind thing.

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Letter to me ten years from now

January 1, 2018

A reminder at the Vatican that the sand in the hourglass of our lives is running out.

Me ten years from now

Dear Rhonda,

You always have two choices–you either choose in favor of fulfilling the purpose for which you were born, or you choose to squander the precious time you have left in this life. Any choice that doesn’t move you toward fulfillment of your unique purpose is a waste of the priceless time you’ve been granted.

Every one of us has a purpose unlike any other. If any one of us fails to find and fulfill his or her purpose, the world is not quite right. When we focus on fully self actualizing, to the exclusion of all else, everything falls into place.

It it not selfish and self-centered to focus solely on the work of finding and fulfilling the good plan for your life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The good plan for your life always involves helping others in a way that you are uniquely qualified to do.

There are myriad good things that you can do, but there is one thing for which you were uniquely and perfectly designed to accomplish. Once you find that one thing, do it to the exclusion of all else. There are those who will criticize you. Some may leave you. But in the end, the main thing that will count when you stand before The Creator on judgement day will be to what extent you did what you were sent here to do.

Rhonda, you know that your purpose is to help others find and fulfill the good plans for their lives.  The sand in the hourglass of your life is running out quickly. Don’t waste a single moment doing anything that doesn’t move you toward what you know you are here to do.

Lastly, remember that fulfilling your purpose isn’t always “work.” Simply making right choices and treating others well serves as a shining example of kindness, mercy, patience, and all the other aspects of fulfilling the good plans for our lives.

May God bless and protect you and everyone within your influence with everything necessary to fulfill His good plans for your lives.


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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.

Connect with other successful survivors at

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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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