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.   

Take Personal Responsibility


There is no single secret to success but if properly understood, taking personal responsibility is about as close as you will get. Personal responsibility isn’t popular in some circles today. Taking personal responsibility for your life doesn’t mean blaming yourself for everything that happens to you. That will have the absolute opposite effect. It means taking responsibility for how you respond to the events that do happen. It also means accepting responsibility for things you can control. When I was in my late twenties I listened to a lot self-development and motivational programs. Trying to adopt this into my own life didn’t help much, because at that time I didn’t fully understand what it meant. If you are the kind of person that believes something or someone out there is responsible for your outcomes, you have a problem. The problem is that you can’t control how other people behave, or things like natural disasters. When you take personal responsibility for where you are in life, it puts you in the drivers seat. Sometimes you can take action and make your problem better. Other times it is just learning to accept what you can’t control and preparing yourself, in the event something like it happens again.

I believe the main lesson in taking responsibility is that if you are responsible, then you can change something, even if it is how you respond to something you can’t control. Another great exercise is personal responsibility is making a list of things you can and can’t control. You can control what time you get up, but you can’t control the weather. This tells you the approach to take with personal responsibility for an event. Is it something you can control, or something you can’t?

Another common misconception about taking personal responsibility is that it equates to doing everything yourself. Trying to do everything yourself is a sure recipe for failure. In this context taking personal responsibility means employing the help of others and taking responsibility for doing the best you can to look out for them as long as they are in your employ.

I was reminded of personal responsibility tonight, when I caught myself complaining about something in my own life. The fact that I was complaining, was a sure sign that I wasn’t taking 100% personal responsibility for my life.

Is Your Life Full of Stress ?


Have you ever stopped to think about the things in our lives that cause unnecessary stress? In this post I am going to list a few of those stress inducers and some tips to reduce stress in your life.

Mobile Phones

In a prior blog post I talked about dysfunctional alarms. We often associate alarms with things like our alarm clocks, and fire alarms that were meant to startle us to action.

The term alarm can mean anything that creates urgency for us to perform some action. The device that we carry everywhere with us is constantly calling us to pay attention to notifications that are often unimportant. Of course having an unanswered notification causes us to switch the screen on, and check it. Your unconscious has no means of determining the importance of those notifications. It just reacts by breaking your focus.

The constant breaking of focus throughout the day breaks down our ability to focus our attention where we want it. It keeps our brains in a constant state of alarm, but we often don’t realize it.

Do an experiment this week. Keep your mobile device in silent mode for a whole week, and make a special effort to focus a hundred percent of your attention on what you are doing. Doing routine tasks that are second nature to you and purposely and fully focusing on them may bring more enjoyment to them. It will definitely make them more tolerable.

Social Media

Facebook and other social media platforms know what kinds of content you are attracted to by monitoring the kinds of content you browse. They have algorithms that put content in your feeds based on your likes and reading habits. These algorithms know what you believe, and can be pretty accurate. They also know the kind of content that is most likely to get you to respond. This causes you to add more content, and this is what they want.

Advertisers also make their money by knowing what will cause you to respond to ads. If you have particular political leanings, it is almost certain that Facebook will place things in your news feed that cause your mind to overact to something. Something that may be happening a thousand miles away, or not really happening at all. Have you ever read a post on social media and it gave you a sense of dread almost immediately? Was it something that would lead you to believe the world is coming unglued? The algorithms are designed to do this, to get you to respond.

This week I asked you to set your phone to silent, and check it periodically. Maybe next week you can start a social media diet. If you are an active social media user, maybe look at your social media feeds once or twice per day, and stay on for no more than ten or fifteen minutes. This will pay dividends

Unconscious Thoughts

Your mind is constantly working to protect you. All the things that have caused you pain in the past, cause your mind to stay vigilant to alert you to future dangers. This can be useful sometimes, but in our modern world a lot of these thoughts just hold us back.

This week schedule five or ten minutes a few times per day. Consciously stop thinking, and just pay attention to the thoughts that come up without judging them. Another thing I mentioned in the mobile phone section is deliberately focusing your attention on every detail of what you are currently doing. This will also go a long way in helping you to quieting those rogue thoughts.

In summary, the more time you can keep your mind in the present moment and eliminate distractions the better your quality of life. If you would like to quiet your thoughts, and can’t seem to get there, feel free to reach out.

More Perspective on Your Task List


Do you manage your calendar and tasks, or do they manage you?

Following your to do list to the letter, without considering your life’s priorities can create less than desirable results. Here is an obvious example you have likely heard before.

Imagine a parent is busy working in their home office. Their child enters the room. This is the kind of child who knows that they better have a good reason for entering mom or dad’s workspace. The parent is really focused and quickly motions the child out of the room. Turns out the child had a serious need and the parent completely missed it.

You may be thinking you don’t need to finish this post, because you know the moral of the story, but I think you may find something more useful here than you think.

What is the parent in this story focused on when the child enters the room? It is possible that it is only the task at hand, but I am willing to bet that in most cases the parent is not only battling the task, but also battling the future consequences or benefits of completing the task at the same time.

As you go through your week try to notice what you are focused on when you are performing an important task, whether at work or home. In most cases you will find part of your mind is in the future or the past, and the rest of it focused on the task.

I recently published this post on having our goal achievement backwards. The main idea is to focus in the present moment and on the task at hand instead of bogging ourselves down with thoughts of the past or future. Do the task as if it has something it is trying to tell you. Approach it with curiosity.

This post adds another dimension to this. This is where your values meet your daily actions. If you believe that you are a person that is driven by your values, it is important that that your actions reflect your values. Not because of your expectations or the expectations of others, but because your unconscious mind certainly picks up on it.

When your actions aren’t aligned with your values, it causes unconscious insecurity.

In summary your calendar and your tasks are only meant to help remind you what you have committed to, but your values should drive your choices. Do every task like it is trying to tell you something important. This will ensure that when your VIP appears, that you will treat them like they have something important to tell you.