How We Make a Difference


When we think about those who make a difference in the world we tend to think about the renowned and famous of the world.  The thing we should always keep in mind is that they are one person just like we are, and the real difference in the world is made by hundreds of millions of people who are equipped with the means to help others in some way.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta was known for having the attitude of helping one person at a time.  Even if that help was just comfort in the final moments of one person’s life.  Countless others looked to her as an example and helped countless other people as a result of that inspiration.  She had this impact by focusing on one person at a time, and did not seek out attention to herself.     

Mother Teresa understood the point I am trying to make today.  We should not endeavor to necessarily be the difference makers for the world.  Instead we should endeavor to help people one at a time.  We are all connected at a much closer level than we know.  “Six Degrees of Separation” shows that there are six degrees of separation between you and everyone else in the world.  Helping just one person could greatly impact the lives of countless others.  We are more effective in helping others if we keep our focus on helping one person at a time to the best of our ability.

We likely won’t know all of those we had a hand in helping, but we will know we did the best we could for each person we encountered. If we do that it will bear fruit in our lives.  One of the most desirable results of this idea is that you have less to stress about, but your impact is much greater in the long run.  This is an idea that is counterintuitive to many and they doubt that focusing on one person at a time is the most effective way.  Even those who lead the largest most successful companies in the world, would have never grown to that size were it not for a handful of individuals.  Some even contribute their success to a single idea by one influential person in their lives.  We indeed make a difference one person at a time. 

Accepting Reality


What does it mean to accept reality, and how can learning to do this make a positive impact in your life? Accepting reality doesn’t mean you don’t act on anything. What you do about what happens is a completely different conversation.  The mistake that we usually make in accepting reality, is the definition of reality.  Reality is not our thoughts and responses about what happens.  It is the physical event that occurred. How you feel about it is a separate conversation.  Separating the physical event from what you think about it is the key to the power of accepting reality. 

Sometimes when a negative experience happens we just react to it. We act on it without thought and it ends up creating negative circumstances in our lives.  We are still left with the feelings of the event.  How can we short circuit reality from creating carnage in our lives?  

When a negative event happens, it isn’t a one step process to accept it.  There are a series of events that occur.  This is how I see accepting the reality of one of those events. 

  1. Something negative happens.
  2. Acknowledge that the physical event happened, but don’t add your own thoughts to it.
  3. Really notice and get curious about the feelings that come up, instead of reacting. 
  4. Accept the way you feel about it. 
  5. Decide how you are going to move forward. 

Acknowledge Reality 

The way you see an event would be perceived at least slightly differently by almost every one of the other 8 billion people on planet earth.  You may have friends who nothing seems to bother, and others who seem to be bothered by every little thing.  The same event causes no disturbance for the first group, but for the second group it is like the end of the world.  My point here is that reality is not influenced by how we see it. 

Curiosity

This is the key to stopping negative events from having long term negative consequences on you.  When you notice you are feeling a negative emotion, really focus on how it feels in the moment instead of reacting to it or adding your own thoughts.  This might sound weird, but try to sense where you feel the emotion in your body.  Get curious about it, like it has something to tell you because it does.  Once you acknowledge something in this way it greatly reduces and sometimes eliminates the feeling.  This is also helpful with minor physical pain.

Acceptance

When we experience negative emotions our natural reaction is to push them down and away from us.  The human mind doesn’t work like that.  When you push something down the only thing you can be sure of is that it will resurface at some point.  Think about how trauma impacts a person.  The most impacted people are those who have pushed down their emotions.  Instead of pushing down your emotions, acknowledge them, take a deep breath, and accept them.  You are not your emotions, you are the one who feels them.  That says something about your biology and life experiences, but it says nothing about who you truly are.  You are not your thoughts, your past, or how you feel.

Decision

Now it is time to decide if there is anything you should do about what happened.  Some believe that accepting reality is like accepting defeat, but nothing could be further from the truth.  If anything, it gives you the ability to make clear rational decisions about what you might want to do next if anything.

Six Reminders


I have a list of six tasks or reminders I reaffirm and level up on before I set out to achieve any new goal or right after any big life challenge occurs.  I call life my a surrender experiment.  If you want to achieve anything big or even just prosper through everyday life,  you are going to have to do and experience some things that are uncomfortable.  When you take big scary steps your brain has a built in protection mechanism that will try to get you to stop taking action. This list helps me to let those self defeating thoughts pass. It is important to note that you don’t push down negative thoughts, you just acknowledge them and let them pass.

These tasks / reminders help me to set a baseline for positive change and I am sharing them with the hope they help you as well.    

  1. Learn to enjoy life in the moment and decide I am going to be happy no matter what happens. 
    • I notice my brain serving negative thoughts, and just choose to relax, and accept the feeling, and move forward anyway.
    • This is a lifetime practice, but it gets easier. 
  2. Learn to live squarely in the moment.
    • Sometimes we waste a lot of time reliving past failures, or worrying about what will happen in the future.  I simply realize that there is only one time I can do anything and that is right now.  I obviously have to plan for meetings and tasks, but I don’t worry about what they may bring.
  3. Do what is in front of me, without worrying or thinking about doing something else. 
    • This is just simply getting deeply involved in whatever I am doing so my mind doesn’t distract me by moving on to something I am not doing.
  4. Learn to love myself so that I am not affected by what others think of me.
    • The first and most important and foundational relationship you need to build is with yourself.  Work on improving your relationship with yourself.  You wouldn’t cruelly criticize or beat up on others, so don’t do that to yourself.  Treat yourself like you are someone else you want to help.
    • Only compare your performance with past performance, not with others.  You are no one else, but you.
  5. Build the realization of truth required to take big steps.
    • The truth is that if we attempt something and fail, the stakes are rarely life or death.  Consequences are rarely the worst case, and almost never bad as we think they will be.
    • Most often the outcome is better than the start.  
  6. Take big steps, and remain focused in the moment. 
    • Take the big step, and focus completely on it.  Don’t distract yourself with other unnecessary distractions. 

Awareness Builds Momentum


Bringing awareness into your life is a process, it isn’t something that happens overnight.  It isn’t something that intense effort will bring you.  While awareness practices can be found in every religious tradition from Christianity to Zen Buddhism, the awareness I am talking about here is a practical approach for quieting the mind. This will allow you to sense your environment in a way that will help you grow awareness.  

One of the primary problems we face is that we are constantly reacting to things in our environment. We can’t help but to judge them on some level.  True awareness comes when you can learn to quiet your mind and not immediately add your own thoughts to everything that happens to you.  

The first step in achieving this is learning that we are separate from those autonomous reactions created by our brain and biology.  Notice the thoughts that come up when something happens in your environment.  We don’t choose to think these thoughts. They just arise naturally.  It is your ability to stand outside those thoughts that is awareness.  We rarely question those thoughts, even though they could be a result of past events that we wrongly judged.  If we can just experience our environment without adding our own thoughts we can add a level of insight.  This insight can cause exponential growth in our lives.  It is often like we are experiencing things for the first time, that we have experienced many times before.

This is an ongoing process for me.  I stumbled on this idea, in an effort to improve my attention.  I heard a Youtuber say something that really hit home for me.  “You can’t pay attention, because no one ever taught you how.”  I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me to pay attention growing up, but never offered to show me how.  It is possible that I would be very wealthy.  

So how do you learn to pay attention?  The answer is pretty simple.  You start by  intentionally setting aside five or ten minutes a couple of times a day to practice paying attention.  Relax and take a few deep slow breaths, and focus on something happening around you.  It can be anything from the noises around you, to two or more people interacting.  You also commit to not adding your own thoughts to it, and watching it like it is the first time you have seen anything like it.  Two or three of these daily mindfulness breaks could help you to begin a significant growth journey. 

I am sharing this with you, because this is one of the things that turned the direction of my life around.  I was being held back by a lot of self critical thoughts that I just assumed were true.  Once I became aware of the thoughts that were coming up, I naturally started questioning them.  This process allowed me to see that we are truly, not our thoughts, how we feel, or our past.  Once I started to see that 90% of these thoughts had no foundation in reality, my life began to change in positive ways.  I believe yours will too. 

If you would like to explore this idea further, you can take advantage of a free, no strings attached thirty minute life coaching consultation.

The Real Source of Positive Change


Just under the label of self help alone, there are nearly 90,000 books in print. Then you can just keep adding labels, like success, spirituality, motivation, and the list goes on and on.  My point is that we have more books available to us than we could read in a lifetime.  So how many of those books do you need to make a positive change in your life?  The answer is “ZERO”.  Yes it is true that most leaders read, and it is also true that some of the information in these kinds of books are very useful.  I read self help books.  The problem is that some of us get the idea that we need these kinds of books to succeed.  Sometimes we also get the idea that we are going to prepare ourselves for massive change overnight.  While change happens in an instant, getting ourselves to the place where we are ready to make those changes doesn’t work like that. 

Here are three of the things I believe to be the real catalysts for positive change.  

Awareness Without Assumptions

Awareness of the present moment is one of the most overlooked treasure troves for living a better life.  We tend to live too much of our lives in thoughts of the past and future.  We think about what didn’t work in the past, and how we need to do better in the future.  Pay attention to where your awareness is.  Are you thinking about the past or future?  How much of your energy do you spend being aware in the present moment, and not reliving the past or thinking about the future?  

This week try to devote thirty minutes in the morning reflection and planning for the day.  Other than these thirty minutes, pay attention to the present moment.  Without putting stress on yourself just carefully observe what is going on around you, and the process of doing what needs to be done.  Don’t make assumptions about meaning or outcome.  The present moment has many things to tell you if you are just aware.  If you catch your mind wandering back to the past or into the future, just gently bring it back to the present moment. 

We also need to be aware when we are making assumptions about things.  Is it true that the best scientists in the world know gravity?  The truth is that scientists can measure the effects of gravity but we have no earthly idea, what gravity is, why it is, or where it came from.  When we notice things our brain puts a label on them.  When we label them, we think we know them.  

When you are doing this exercise to focus on being aware, don’t make any assumptions about what you see in the present moment.  Just keep a sense of curiosity.  Instead of making assumptions, ask questions about what you are seeing.  Good questions begin with something like “Is it possible that…?”, or “What if…?.  Asking these kinds of questions about everything around us, will help us not to make the assumption that we know what it all means.  

One piece of awareness that has helped me greatly both physically and mentaly is learning to be aware of my breath.  When I am not aware of the present moment while I am working I tend to breathe quick shallow breaths.  When we breathe shallow breaths we greatly increase the likelihood of anxiety, and a wandering mind.  When we breathe slowly and deeply our bodies will naturally calm down.  If you want to test this out for yourself just stop what you are doing and take six deep, slow breaths.  You will notice a sense of relaxation.  Paying attention to your breath will also keep you mind out of the past and future.  The breath is a common anchor used in meditation.   

Be Grateful

Because we are constantly living in the past and anxious about the future, we find it very difficult to be grateful.  Once we start living in the present moment we can find all kinds of things to be grateful for.  It can be difficult to be grateful when we are faced with life’s problems, but even then we can find things in the moment to be grateful for.  

I don’t believe in silver bullets for success, but the idea I am about to share is powerful.  It is a primary reason that most goal setting doesn’t work.  Let’s say you set a goal to have a million dollars in the bank.  Your mind will imagine all the ways it would make you happy.  You begin to obsess on that goal.   You desire a million dollars so much that you lose everything you have to be grateful for. You feel the lack of not having a million dollars.  Now when you actually have to work hard, you feel discouraged.

No matter what your goal is, remember to work hard to find things you are grateful for along the way.  Maybe instead of setting a goal for a million dollars, try to set a goal to add a million dollars worth of value to others.  With this kind of goal you will find it easier to be grateful, and what you desire won’t make you lose what you have.

This is hard for some people, but sit down and write down all the things you have to be grateful for.  

Bias for Action

Nothing gets done unless someone does it.  Once you are aware of your environment, aware of what needs done, and have gratitude it is time to do something.  Earlier in the post I mentioned one reason that most goal setting fails.  Lack of action is the natural result of lack of motivation and purpose.  Having a sense of lack is one of the reasons we get discouraged and don’t act. We get discouraged because our minds are thinking about a past failure, or fearing a future failure. 

Once we have a goal, a daily task, we can then start doing it.  It is important to remember to keep our thoughts out of the past and future, and just focus on the task at hand.  Be curious about what you are doing and be aware of the results you are getting in the moment. 

Summary

You don’t need any books or programs to improve the quality of your life.  Just look within and in the present moment.  Early in the post I made the statement that the present moment has a lot to tell you.  If we can be fully aware of the moment we can act without the weight of the past and future, and be much more effective.   

If you are interested in talking further about improving the quality of your life, feel free to take advantage of a free thirty minute consultation.  

Where the Rubber Meets the Road


One thing that I am very aware of when writing these blog posts, is that it is easy to talk about achieving great things.  It is another matter entirely to actually make things happen.  When we plan, talk, and write about success, we meet with minimal resistance. When we get out there and start moving we meet with real resistance.  

Here are a few tips to help you move forward.  

  1. Take Immediate Action

Mel Robbins wrote a book titled “The Five Second Rule”. It is a great book.  The important takeaway from the book is that from the moment you decide you want to do something, it takes your mind about five seconds to realize you are going to do something uncomfortable. Once that happens it will do what it can to keep you from being uncomfortable.  It is a short book, a good read, and one of the most practical and effective books I have read on getting yourself to act.  Take action on your goals within five seconds of getting the urge.  Mel Robbins recommends counting down from five like you are a rocket about to blast off.

  1. Question Your Negative Thoughts

We all have moments of self-doubt.  That is especially true when we are fighting to do something that our mind continues to tell us we can’t.  When this happens, ask, “What if that voice is wrong?”  Follow that up with, “is it possible that if I take this course of action, I can overcome this self-doubt and get it done?  The truth is that all you need to do to make things happen is take the right action.  You are not those thoughts, and if you do what you know will work, you will get results.  Those negative thoughts are not true, and you can prove it by acting in spite of them.  If for some reason you fail, try again.  It took Thomas Edison ten thousand “failures” to invent the electric light bulb.  Did he fail? 

  1. Perform your tasks Mindfully

One of the things that makes it easier to think and talk about doing something than actually doing is chaos.  When you set out to do something hard and worth doing, there are usually a lot of moving pieces.  On top of that our minds are busy worrying about the outcome, and we put unneccesary pressure on ourselves.  The way to overcome this is to take a couple of deep breaths right before you start something, and deliberately and mindfully focus on the task.  Paying attention to every step.  If your mind starts to get busy, take another couple of deep breaths, and get back to doing the task mindfully.  Rinse and repeat.  This one takes a lot of practice, but I promise it works. 

Quarterbacks Tom Brady, Ben Rothlisburger, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rogers all share one trait. This trait is a big part of what makes them great quarterbacks.  It is their ability to act in the chaos on the field, and stay keenly aware of their environment.  There are Quarterbacks who exceed their purely athletic abilities, and yet you will never hear their name.

These great quarterbacks have not always had the necessary ability to deal with chaos on the field.  They practice endlessly and have lots of hours on the field in live play.  Becoming intimate with the experience is one of the components that gives them this ability to remain mostly calm in chaos.  There is something else though.

They all realize that they can’t be great alone, and understand that the pressure is spread across the field of play.  They depend and invest in their teammates, and use their coaches to see what they can’t. Before we can become great at anything we have to practice.  We also have to find teammates and coaches, and give them our best in exchange for theirs.    

Moving Towards


I heard a story about a tour guide who led risky white water rafting tours down perilous rapids.  He was said to have one of the best records for not getting his rafters injured.  One of the ways he accomplished this, had to do with one sage piece of advice.  The trick when you see a dangerous obstacle is to look where you want to go, not where you don’t. 

This same advice holds true in life.  For example if you want to get our of your nine to five job, you might try saying something like this instead. I want to create income producing assets, sufficient to more than take care of my monthly expenses.

Don’t picture a purple elephant in your mind right now. Please don’t picture a purple elephant.   Did you picture a purple elephant?  I pictured it as I was writing it.  In the same way you can’t help picturing that elephant, you won’t be able to avoid thinking negatively about what you don’t want.  This focus will occupy our thinking resources on the wrong thing.

In past posts, I have talked about the importance of accepting our circumstances, and moving forward towards what we want.  When we accept our current circumstances, it doesn’t mean we can’t go in another direction.  It just means we are not going to give our circumstances the power to make us unhappy.  It is the same thing with stating our goals in the positive.

If you have goals written down somewhere, check them for moving away from language, and replace it with moving towards language.  When you are moving towards something it paints a positive picture, when you are eagerly moving away from something it creates a negative picture.

If you ever go white water rafting or car racing, remember to look where you want to go not where you don’t.

Selfishness ?


If you think you are selfish, are you really? I am writing this post, because I suspect there are others, who could stand to be a little more “selfish”.

Selfishness is one of the topics I have been thinking about for a long time.  Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that if I wanted something good for myself, I was being selfish. I never thought about the fact, that most of the the things I wanted would not have a negative impact on anyone else.  I just unconsciously assumed that if it was good for me it must be bad for someone else.

When I was three I lost my dad in a very traumatic way. I suspect that the insecurities developed during this time, caused me to mistake selfishness with insecurity. When we care too much about what other people think, it creates a dynamic between our feelings and actions and those of others. This causes all kinds of irrational beliefs and outcomes.

The problem is that most of us aren’t aware that we have picked up irrational beliefs, but they still impact our lives. If you think you are selfish and feel bad about it, chances are you have mistaken selfishness for something else as well.

When we are insecure it creates actions that appear selfish to both us an others. If we are insecure in our ability to make and save money, what are the chances we will be generous with our money? If we believe money is scarce and we are scared to lose it, we are going to hold on for dear life. If we are truly selfish we are going to do the same thing. It is the same with sharing affection. If we believe someone else is thinking bad about us, we are not going to share our affections.

When we finally get to the point where we are ready to shed our insecurities for good and make our lives better, those irrational beliefs and insecurities will try to hold us back. It is very important that we question those feelings, and get to what is really going on.

Give yourself permission to be a little “selfish” and enjoy life.

What Makes You Unhappy?


If I asked you what makes you unhappy you might tell me about your boss, a family member, or something else.  I am not discounting anyone’s experience, but what really makes us unhappy is having unmet needs and desires.  We want our boss to stop treating us a certain way.  We want to quit feeling bad about a broken relationship.  Maybe we need money to pay our bills.  What do we do about these problems, until we can change our circumstances? 

This post is not about settling for whatever comes your way, and being happy about it.  It’s about accepting our circumstances for what they are at the moment. When we have unmet needs and desires it causes us to become discontent.  If we can’t see our way clearly towards a solution, it can lead to unhappiness or even depression.  

The most effective way to stop this cycle is to really think about our circumstances without reacting to them.  Accept them and then ask… Now What?  

For much of my adult life I had a lot of things to be thankful for, but I felt like the world was caving in on me.  What I discovered was my unconscious mind playing the same thoughts over and over.  I didn’t realize how much control our unconscious thoughts have over us.  Have you ever wondered why you don’t do what you ought to?

We consciously know that exercise is good for us, but until we can manage to make exercise a habit, we opt out often enough that we end up having to start from scratch again.  When we think about exercising, our unconscious mind tries to keep us from that pain.  If we don’t take action right away those unconscious thoughts take over.  Next thing we know we are planted somewhere on our backsides. 

It is often these same kinds of thoughts that are making you unhappy.  The first step is to use mindfulness, prayer time, or meditation to clear your mind and just notice the thoughts that are coming up.  Purposefully taking notice of those thoughts that are rising, but not reacting to them is the first step in stopping the cycle of negative thoughts.  That is what accepting what is without responding to it means.  Once you know what those thoughts are you can choose to replace them.  
If this post hit home for you and you want to explore in more depth what you can do to make your life more of what you want schedule your free Thirty Minute Consult.

The Power of Genuine Communication


If you want to improve the quality of the relationships in your life, this post is for you.  If you read to the end and apply these ideas, your relationships will definitely improve.  

Genuine communication is as much or more about listening than speaking.  Most if not all of us have been in a conversation, and had a thought we couldn’t wait to share.  The other person was talking and we caught little of what they were saying, because we were focused on what we wanted to say next.  We have all certainly been on the receiving end of this.  I still catch myself doing this.

When you deliberately focus on listening to someone intently, a new world opens up to you.  Part of a Life Coach’s training is learning to really listen.  The basis for any trusting relationship is genuine listening without judgement.  It is so eye opening how your world opens up when you learn to listen intently and attend to another person.

If you really want to deepen your relationships, make a conscious effort to listen and not to apply your judgements to what the person is saying.  We are just one of 7.7 billion people on planet earth.  What is the chance that the world is really just how we see it?  Think about that.  It was eye opening for me to learn that the vast majority of people regardless of what they believe are trying to do the right thing.

Learning how much unconscious thoughts impact the way we see the world, was so humbling for me.  This can be unsettling for some people to realize, but the truth will set you free.  Once you see the possibility that your beliefs might not be completely right, opportunities for improvement abound.  This is certainly true of improving your relationships.  Try to assume that the person you are talking to knows more than you think.  The truth is they probably do.   

Listening before speaking also allows you to improve the quality of your communication to them.  You learn to speak their language, because you have taken the time to listen and learn what they care about.  I have a friend who everyone really likes.  He is genuinely a good guy, and a great listener.  Not one hundred percent sure the two are related, but he is a retired attorney. This is a profession where listening is very important.  I always feel heard when we talk, and he always remembers to ask me about whatever we talked about the last time we talked.  

If you struggle with listening, you are not alone. I still have a tendency to take over conversations, but even a little improvement goes a long way, and it gets easier with time.  

Try it out this week.  Seek to genuinely listen to everyone you come in contact with.  Feel free to let me know how it goes.