Are You Letting Joy or Stress Dictate Your Holiday Season?

By Joe Wilner

candy cane heart

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell

Sometimes holiday stress overrides our joy. We get caught up with decorating, buying gifts, and the plethora of other overwhelming holiday expectations.

We miss out on the daily pleasure and joyful opportunities all around us because stress is taking precedence.

All of this stress isn’t necessary. It comes from placing our attention on all of the materialistic aspects of the holiday season and getting distracted from what is most important.

When we get distracted we end up missing out on the entire point of the holiday.

This is a time of year for gratitude, appreciation, love, and joy.

Yes there will be stress and a feeling of pressure and urgency at times, but we can learn to balance this with some holiday cheer.

Here are four ways to help you have more joy during the holidays.

Lower your expectations

First thing first, don’t take the holiday so seriously. Everyone has different traditions but allow yourself some space and cut yourself some slack if something doesn’t happen exactly how you expect. Don’t make it things a problem unless they really are a problem. The holiday doesn’t have to be perfect. Stop comparing yourself to others and just do your best.

Allow yourself to take a break

Sometimes our responsibilities and obligations get in the way of our health and well-being. We have so many worries and things to take care of that we forget that life is meant to be enjoyed. Make sure to give yourself a break when you are feeling stressed out. Just slow down and do one thing at a time.

Focus on connection 

The holiday season is really about spending quality time with friends and family. Make this the focus of this holiday season. It isn’t about the gifts as much as the joy of giving and showing our appreciation for those we care about.

Be playful

What if you could take this holiday season less seriously? Not do less or be irresponsible, but be more playful with what you do. Think about when you were a child and how much fun you had. Make decorating playful. Sing songs, watch holiday movies and dance. Go sledding or have a snow ball fight! Don’t let stress get in the way or you having fun.

Life’s too short to not live joyfully. It is a choice we can make but one that requires commitment. It requires letting go of outcomes and the concentration to be present and savor the moment.

Are you committed to being joyful this holiday?



Reinvent Yourself This New Year and Step Into Your Potential

By Joe Wilner

record face

“Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.” – A. C. Benson

What if who you are today is nothing compared to who you can become?

I believe this is the case for all of us. I believe we can transform and reinvent ourselves.

Instead of looking at your past self with regret and disappointment, focus on the possibilities for your future.

Instead of focusing on what you “should’ve” or “could’ve” done differently, try focusing on what you can do today to create what you want.

Drop the past patterns, habits, and beliefs that stifle you and make this new year about reinvention.

Maybe you weren’t ready then, but you can be ready now.

What if right now is a turning point?

A turning point where you awaken your deep passion, a point where you start doing what you’re meant to do.

This could be the moment you remember for the rest of your life.

The moment where you had that insight about what is possible and what you are really capable of.

It’s time to evolve a new identity to replace your old one.

It’s time to author a new story.

Ask yourself:

What it is time to let go of in my life right now?

What is waiting to make its entrance into my life?

Try this mental exercise:

Imagine a photograph of you 100 years from now.

What is the story you want your grandchildren to tell about you?

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” – Aldous Huxley

Use your response to these questions as a catalyst to move toward a new experience of life.

A new beginning takes time so be patient.

It includes both an internal and external journey.

We are reaching for something new while learning to let go of the old.

It is an ending that makes a new beginning possible.

Are you ready?

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy. For what we leave behind us is part of ourselves. We must die to one life before we enter another.” – Anatole France

How to Set Goals to Help You Be at Your Best

By Joe Wilner

staring down the road

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” -Henry David Thoreau

Can you believe it is already coming to the end of 2014!?

As each year passes we have a great opportunity to assess where we are in life compared to where we want to be.

We can determine what is going well and what we want to work on, and ultimately create a plan to make the coming year better than the last.

This year I plan to use the new year to set goals that can help me become a better person.

It’s not necessarily about achievements or accomplishment but is about character development and growing into a more whole and happy person.

So for this coming year I encourage you to set some personal growth goals.

Here are 4 areas to set goals to help you grow into the best-version-of-yourself.

Social: Set a relationship goal. This includes assessing the people you spend the most time with. How do the peers you associate with influence your growth and well-being? We become like the people we surround ourselves with, so make this a deliberate decision.

Physical: Set a goal for your health. This includes the health habits you follow and how these influence your overall well-being. How can you take care of yourself better so you can be at your best?

Mental: Set a goal to expand your mind. Are you stimulating your mind with uplifting and intriguing ideas? Are you challenging your intellect? What are you learning and mentally ingesting that helps you grow and expand as a person?

Spiritual: Set a goal to develop your spiritual side. Explore your spiritual practices and the role these play in your life. What do you do to nourish your spirituality? Maybe you meditate or pray, or maybe you find ways to serve others and give back. Find ways to keep building your moral character and deepen your faith and hope for the future. 

The area of life that would be of most value to help you grow and develop is up to you.

In my opinion it is helpful to set a goal for each of the domains. This way our personal growth is more holistic.

Here is a way to break down goals to make them more achievable and less overwhelming.

One year goal: What do you want to happen this year?

90 day goals: What do want to see happen in the next 3 months?

30 day goals: What do want to see happen in the next month?

Next steps: What must go on your to-do list today to get started?

Take a good hard look at each of these areas of your life and determine a yearly goal. Then break that long-term goal down into a few 90 day and 30 day results you want to get.

From there simply take one day at a time. Focus on the next best step and determine an achievable goal that you can take action on today.

Hopefully these simple ideas can help you begin to create a more fulfilling and meaningful 2015!

“If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.” – Jim Rohn

Top 20 Quotes to Help to Be the Best Person You Can Be

By Joe Wilner

top of the hill

Our life journey will have both peaks and valleys. It would be great if we could always be enjoying the view from the peaks, but that’s just not how life unfolds.

When life is going well we can do everything in our power to enjoy the experience and bask in the glory. These moments help us recognize how amazing life can be!

But we will also be down and out at times. We will have to climb our way out of the valley, and it is these moments where we can develop our grit and resilience.

We can grow into a more wise and composed person.

Both the ups and downs are important for our growth, and whether life is going well or not, we can always focus on doing our best each day.

Some days will be better than others but realize that each day is the sum of the greater whole of your life.

Here are some quotes to remind you to keep growing and moving in a positive direction. 

1. “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill

2. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

3. “Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. Give your dreams all you’ve got and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.” – William James

4.  “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

5. “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

6. “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” – Martin Luther King

7. “When you have completed 95 percent of you journey, you are only halfway there.” – Japanese Proverb

8. “I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.” – Abraham Lincoln

9. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Les Brown

10. “God gives us dreams a size too big so that we can grow in them.” – Author Unknown

11. “Whether you think you can or think you can’t — you are right.” – Henry Ford

12. “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

13. “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

14. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

15. “Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.” – Oscar Wilde

16. “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman.

17. “Do you really want to look back on your life and see how wonderful it could have been had you not been afraid to live it?” – Caroline Myss

18. “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” – Marianne Williamson

19. “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott.

20. “Only those who risk going to far can possibly find out how far they can go.” – T.S. Eliot

5 Important Reminders to Help You Grow Into The Best Person You Can Be

By Joe Wilner


“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with the big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” – Albert Einstein

Whether personal growth is an important value to your or not, it isn’t always easy.

In fact, personal growth is pretty damn hard work.

Sometimes we hit a plateau and stay stagnant, and other times life just takes us completely off course and it’s hard to get back on track.

But, when the going gets tough we have a choice to either get bitter or better.

Getting better is all about adapting and using our experience to grow, learn, and spiritually expand as a person.

We have to be willing to learn if we want to get better. Whether it’s learning to ride a bike or learning to walk as a toddler, we will fall and have to get back up again.

Reaching for our potential requires us to push past obstacles in the same way.

Here are five reminders to help you grow through hardships.

1. Mistakes are a form of practice – Every professional was once an amateur. The way we get better and develop any skill or trait is by trying, failing, and learning. Remember that mistakes are a form of practice. Allow yourself to make mistakes and use failure as a teacher. To never struggle is to never grow.

2. There is always a something new to learn – Each day offers opportunities to learn or experience something new. Be a student of life. Take in and absorb all the knowledge you can. What can you learn from the experiences you are going through right now?

3. Change is constant – Getting comfortable with life can get in the way of a pursuit for growth and development. But when it comes down to it, resisting change is futile.

Change is constant and is something we must accept. So, why not embrace and befriend change? Be intentional about change and meet it head on so you can change in positive direction. Be open to the person you can become.

4. You can make a difference – We all have skills, talents, and capabilities that allow us to contribute to the world around us. We can give back in a big way and make it our life mission, or to simply give back through kindness and encouragement when we meet a stranger.

The point is the best version of you is meant to improve the life experience of others; to give back and serve. You can make a difference in someone’s life, and ultimately improve your life in the process.

5. Life is a journey - Life is a journey and you create your path. This journey isn’t over until we are dead and gone. You have a choice in how you respond and the direction you take.

A journey is meant to be filled with adventure and risk. Have fun with your life and be willing to do something new and exciting. Enjoy your journey while you can.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway 


Are You Living A Life Based On What’s Most Important To You?

By Joe Wilner

baby holding hand

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” – Ayn Rand

One of the most important aspects of living a fulfilling and meaningful life is recognizing our values, and living in alignment with them.

Webster’s dictionary defines a value as, “a principle, standard, or quality considered inherently worthwhile or desirable”— a word or phrase that describes what is important to you.

Unfortunately, many people don’t really know what they value most deeply. They have a vague sense of what is important to them, but may not have examined the bigger picture of how their life is connected to these values or where these values came from.

“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” – Roy E. Disney

Our values are the foundation and measurement of a life well lived. When we have clarity on our values they serve as a compass to help us make important decisions so we can ultimately live a more meaningful and thriving life.

Living in alignment with our values comes down to prioritizing. On a daily basis we have 1,440 minutes to use as we desire.

We have a choice in how we spend our time, and the way we spend our time will directly influence the results we get.

What are your values?

I nearly always encourage clients to do a values exercise to help them determine their top five core values.

By doing this they are able to uncover any gaps between what is most important to them and how they live their life.

It’s important to realize that our values change over time.

That is why it’s important to take inventory of our values every few years. As we change and our life circumstances change, our assessment of what is most important evolves as well.

For instance, in my life “adventure” and “excitement” are two values that are big priorities.

The sense of doing something fun and exciting hasn’t always been that important to me.

But as I settled into a life pattern over the past few years I got bored, and the importance of these areas grew for me.

That is one of the major reasons I play drums in a band now. It helps me get this feeling of excitement and exhilaration.

Here is a values list you can use to narrow down your core values.

Here is another great article with an exercise for living a values based life.

Are you living a values based life?

Just because we know what are values are doesn’t mean we actually follow through with incorporating them into our life.

Living a values based life comes down to defining what your values mean and becoming intentional about prioritizing them into your life.

What do your values mean to you? How would someone with this value live their life?

When you look at what is most important to you, consider how much time you actually dedicate to that area of your life.

If you aren’t living based on your values you probably don’t feel a sense of congruence and wholeness.

How would your life change if you started doing what really mattered to you?

Determine what is most important to you and find ways to make it a priority!

It is better to have a meaningful life and make a difference than to merely have a long life.” – Bryant H. McGill

Five Reasons to Develop and Grow Your Spirituality

By Joe Wilner

walking the path

“The spiritual quest is not some added benefit to our life, something you embark on if you have the time and inclination. We are spiritual beings on an earthly journey. Our spirituality makes up our beingness.” – John Bradshaw

When it comes to self-care and being at our best, dedicating time to spirituality is equally important, if not more important, as other areas of life.

Spirituality has a different meaning to different people, but from a positive psychology perspective it can be defined as, “a deep sense of belonging, of wholeness, of connectedness, and of openness to the infinite (Easvaradoss, 2013).”

Developing our spirituality can help us deal with life’s challenges and grow into a better, more whole and happy person.

So, here are five benefits to developing your spiritual nature.

1. Hopefulness

If there is one thing that spirituality can add to our life it is a sense of hope and optimism. Spirituality strengthens our outlook for a better future.

We will always encounter challenges in life, but if we stay hopeful during these trying times we will persevere. Spiritual growth enhances our ability to deal with life’s ups and downs and bounce back from those difficult experiences.

2. Compassion and Understanding

It is easy to look at others with judgment and criticism, but when we start to grow spiritually we realize how much healthier it is to cultivate compassion and understanding for others instead.

“Spirituality is meant to take us beyond our tribal identity into a domain of awareness that is more universal.” – Deepak Chopra

It not only provides us the wherewithal to serve and help others but also improves our personal well-being. When look at life through a compassionate lens we can grow a sense of connection to others and begin to recognize the positive impact we can have.

3. Sense of purpose and meaning

A feeling that our life is worthwhile and that we aren’t just here by some random mistake can make a major difference in the trajectory of our life. We are alive for a reason and are meant to contribute something to the world.

According to an editorial in the International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, “In a modern world that is consumed with materialism, which moves at a frantic pace, and which is frayed by cultural, racial and religious divisiveness, the yearning of the human spirit to connect and find meaning is sometimes overlooked.”

Without a sense of spirituality we can lose sight of what is really most important and meaningful.

“Most importantly, the meaning of spirituality lays the seeds for our destiny and the path we must follow.” -Dennis Banks

4. Inspiration and appreciation

Life is full of inspiration when we are looking for it. There is also much to be grateful for despite the struggles and challenges we face.

Through spiritual growth we can learn to see the beauty and wonder in our day to day life. The things we often take from granted can start to offer us greater inspiration and joy.

5. Peace of mind

Part of spirituality is connecting to a higher power. Whatever name or label we give to this spiritual source is irrelevant in my opinion.

The important thing is the sense that there is something greater than ourselves, and that we don’t have to carry the entire burden alone. When we learn how to “let go” of the emotional baggage we carry it really adds to peace of mind.

These are just a few benefits of spiritual growth. What would you add to this list?

Work Cited

Easvaradoss, V. & RajanIndian, R. (2013). Positive psychology spirituality and well-being: An overview. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(2), 321-325.

Souza, M. (2009). Editorial. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 14(2), 181–184.


How to Manage Your Negative Thinking

By Joe Wilner

Stitched Panorama

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”  ― Abraham Lincoln

When it comes to getting what we want or simply living a more fulfilling life it starts with the way we think.

Our thinking influences our attitude, decision making, motivation, and overall experience of life.

Unfortunately part of the human condition is having doubts, worries, frustrations, and just plain “stinkin’ thinkin‘”.

This is necessarily a problem, but when the negative thoughts start to take over and we aren’t able to see the silver lining any longer, it can have serious consequences on our state of mind.

The first step to start overcoming negative thinking is to learn how to identify when we think negatively.

So, here are some automatic negative thoughts, commonly called cognitive distortions, to be aware of.

Always/never thinking: Thinking in words like always, never, everyone, every time, everything.

Focusing on the negative: Seeing only the bad in a situation.

Fortune-telling: Predicting the worst case scenario to a situation.

Thinking with your feelings: Believing negative feelings without ever questioning them.

Guilt beatings: Thinking in words like should, must, ought, or have to.

Labeling: Attaching a negative label to yourself of someone else.

Personalizing: Connecting innocuous events with personal meaning.

Blaming: Blaming someone else for your own problems.

Which of these automatic negative thoughts resonate with you? Which of these type of thinking patterns do you notice most often?

That leads us to the first step in overcoming negative thinking.

1. Identify the negative thought. Determine which type of thinking patterns are most common for you, and start to become more aware of when these thoughts occur. Having this self-awareness is the first step toward learning how to think more positively.

2. Write it down. Once you start noticing your thoughts, write them down so you can specifically know what you are thinking. Writing them down can also give you a chance to start to reframe some of your thinking more easily.

3. Challenge or reframe the negative thought. Often when we are using the cognitive distortions listed above we are thinking somewhat irrationally. This is actually good news because when we realize this we can start to shift our thinking. Here are a few questions to help you reframe your thinking.

Is there any evidence that this thought is accurate? What are the facts?

What are some alternative ways to think about the situation?

What thoughts would help me feel better about this?

What can I focus on to help me find a solution to this problem?


5 Warning Signs You May Be Taking On Too Much

By Joe Wilner


“No one can get inner peace by pouncing on it.” – Harry Emerson Fosdick

Do you ever feel like you have too much to do and too little time to do it?

This is a common way of life for many people, but it can lead to some serious problems if we aren’t careful.

One major factor that gets in the way of us being at our best is getting overwhelmed by stress.

We are all human and need to take a break from time to time.

The key is to notice when we are getting to the edge of our ability to cope, so we don’t fall off the proverbial cliff.

So, I wanted to share some warning signs to help you notice when you’re getting overwhelmed and help you prevent burnout.

Here are five warning signs to be aware of!

Cognitive – Changes in the way you think. When overwhelmed by stress people often start to think more negatively and cynically about life. We start to focus on all our problems and our thinking becomes distorted and less rational.

Emotional – When we have too much going on it clearly effects our emotions and mood. People get more irritable and have a shorter fuse. With a higher level of stress also comes diminishing levels of life satisfaction.

We won’t be as fulfilled and happy, and there may be a sense of emotional emptiness at the extreme end.

Physical – When we are stressed out for too long it takes a serious toll on our body and physical health. We might start to experience headaches or other physical symptoms. As well, a lack of energy and higher levels of fatigue is common.

Relational – We might not always realize that our stress level can directly influence our relationships, but is does. We we aren’t emotionally healthy it can be common to unintentionally take it out on others, even people who we really care about.

You may notice that you act more aggressively or antagonistically toward others, or that there is more conflict than usual.

Spiritual – Another unfortunate side effect of an excessively busy life is a disregard for our spiritual health. Don’t get so wrapped up in your daily tasks and responsibilities that you forget to nourish your spiritual self.

You may start to notice a missing sense of purpose and meaning in your day to day life. Life will start to feel stale and empty, and you may notice yourself asking, “Is this all there is to life?”

If you notice any of the symptoms above there is a good chance you’re taking on too much or have too high of expectations for yourself.

For some ways to deal with stress and avoid burnout, check out this post called 5 Ways to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout on my personal blog.

How to Connect With Your Passion So You Can Be At You Best

By Joe Wilner


“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

An uninspired and passionless life can start to feel exhausting.

Without pursuing our passions, existence becomes lifeless and dull and we get stuck in a tedious rut of predictability.

That is why we all need to have inspiration and passion in our day to day life.

Think about the experience of doing what you love. How does this influence your mood, energy, and attitude?

When we engage in creative and challenging activities we feel great about ourselves and appreciate life more fully.

There is a concept called Flow, proposed by Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, which refers to a state of mind a person gets when they are fully engaged in a passionate pursuit.

When someone experiences flow there is a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Finding an outlet where we can experience this state of mind not only improves our well-being but also improves our performance.

This can be music, or art, or athletics or writing, or technology development, or just about anything where we are challenged and using our creative expression.

The list goes on and on but the important thing to understand is what this passionate pursuit is for you.

So, if life seems a little dull and boring, you’re probably not using your creativity and engaging in your passions.

First and foremost, you must know what you’re passionate about.

Here are some questions from the book Dream Year by Ben Arment that may be helpful to begin uncovering your deep interests and passions.

  • What were the defining moments in my life?
  • What passions or interests can I not shake?
  • What hard work would I gladly do for free?
  • What kinds of people are drawn to me?
  • What comes easily and naturally for me?
  • What were my interests and tendencies as a child?
  • What can I do for hours without getting bored or distracted?

There is certainly something inspiring that you are drawn to, and the minute to allow yourself to engage in this the more happy and fulfilled you will be.

Take a few minutes to answer the above questions. Familiarize yourself with that common thread of passion that has always been in your life.

No more living a life of boredom and monotony. Get out there and do something that excites you and elevates you emotionally and spiritually.

You will feel better and be at your best because of it!


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