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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.  

Toxic Self Help


If you are a regular consumer of self help content, I would encourage you to watch James Jani’s “Toxic Self Help” video at the end of this post. Well written self help books can make us feel good, and give us a dopamine boost. We momentarily feel better. We set out to change our lives, only to end up frustrated again. The cycle takes us back to our next self help book. I was caught up in this cycle in my late twenties. I bought more of these self help books and programs, than I should have. It all lead to more frustration.

I want to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I have read some great books, and picked up some good information even from the bad ones. Much of it I still use today. The problem is not reading the books, it is believing that any book or program will be the catalyst to transform your life. Any real success is going to come by taking right consistent action over a period of time. You don’t need a book for that, but there is definitely useful information you can take from them.

If you find yourself relating to James’ video stop buying self help books, and move forward with what you already know. Feel free to contact me here. You can use a free thirty minute consult to chart a new course.

Cut Out the Middleman


Any worthwhile endeavor you take on is going to involve planning, preparation, and doing. There are some who do too much planning, and suffer not getting as much done as they could.  On the other end of the spectrum is the person who takes on the endeavor without proper planning, and paints themselves into a corner. What is the right way to think about the balance between planning, preparation, and doing? 

A lot of the problems around these challenges are likely caused by thoughts that we are not aware of on the surface. Let’s take the example of someone who does too much planning.  Our unconscious will naturally try to keep us out of uncomfortable situations, and it knows as soon as the planning is over the discomfort begins. The problem is that the person experiencing this thinks that careful and long term planning sessions are just the right way to do things. They believe this because their unconscious supports them.

On the other end of the spectrum is the person who subscribes to the “Just Do It!” marketing campaign. It is true that nothing gets done without action, and that is important for the over planner to remember.  The over doer would do better without this reminder.  

I want to share something with you that will help you naturally balance planning, preparing, and doing.  In short we just need to cut out the middleman. It is important that you get this next part because it isn’t intuitive for most people. Consider the following statement. “I am happy with myself”. Who is the “I” and who is “myself”.  

When we stand back and look at our lives, there seems to be an awareness that notices what we are up to, and another us who is the doer. The awareness is what’s left when we put aside our incessant thoughts about everything, and just experience the world with our five senses. It is a sense of seeing without judgement. The doer is constantly responding to whatever thoughts arise.

This may be uncomfortable for some, but we don’t really know why we think most of the thoughts we do. Notice the thoughts that naturally arise. Then ask yourself, where did that come from?  You can speculate about all the past events that might have caused the thought, but If you are honest you don’t know why you had that thought at that moment.

Have you ever had a dream, and spent part of the next day wondering where in the world it came from? Have you ever had a stray thought, and wondered why you would even think something like that. This is your unconscious mind, and it doesn’t appear to have any free will.  

Let’s get back to the point at hand. What does all of this have to do with balancing planning, preparation, and doing?  Who is the middleman? The middleman is the thought generator that produces the thoughts that you have little control over. Conscious awareness through your senses is the route to cutting out the middleman. 

Practical mindfulness is the way we cut out the middleman. There are two parts. The first part is to practice mindfulness by spending ten or fifteen minutes twice per day just sitting in a quiet place focused on your breath, or the sounds in your environment. Whichever you choose, this is your anchor.  When you notice a thought just gently go back to focusing on your anchor. Take heart if you get caught up in thought, and have to constantly focus back to your anchor. This is a good sign, because you are starting to notice those unconscious thoughts come up.    

The second part is just taking a minute or two out of every hour. Take a few deep slow breaths and notice whatever thoughts are arising.  Don’t react to them just notice them.  This will do two things.  The deep breaths will settle you down physically, and being consciously aware of your thoughts will help you to increase awareness.  Over a period of time you will begin to overcome the influence of your thought generator. You will in effect start cutting out the middleman.  

When you start to become more aware you can take all the noise out of figuring out how much time you should spend planning vs. doing.  You will also be more aware of the circumstances around the task.  This isn’t a silver bullet, but it will greatly help you to become more effective at picking the right amount of planning vs. doing. 

Feel free to reach out if you are interested in learning more.    

Seeing Knowledge Clearly


When I was in my mid-thirties I remember a trip to the grocery store with my wife Diane, who would occasionally read the fine print on the labels.  I noticed that she was holding the labels further from her eyes in order to see them clearly.  I teasingly asked if she needed gadget arms to read the labels.  She appropriately shot me back a look and said, “you wait  your time is coming.” From time to time I would playfully tease her about holding things out so she could see them.    

Several years later I was reading a book, and Diane was sitting next to me.  She said “you are holding that book a little far away, aren’t you?”  I said “no, that is just how I read”.  I began to pull the book closer to my eyes, just to show her I could see close up.  I suddenly realized that the text was really blurry.  The joke was on me, I was about to begin payment for all the teasing I had done, along with a new pair of eyeglasses.

In the same way that eyeglasses allow us to see text more clearly, curiosity can help us to see our knowledge more clearly.  We often believe that just because we understand the basics behind something, that we understand it fully.  I believed that just because I could read the words on the page, that I could see the text clearly from close up. I was wrong.

Often in books or movies, a writer will make us aware of circumstances that the main character isn’t aware of.  We find ourselves really wanting the character to realize that they aren’t seeing things clearly.  Ironically we rarely stop to question whether we are seeing things clearly.  Isn’t it likely that we, like the character in the story, can’t see all the things that have happened beyond our own vision.  Something happens to us and we often react as if we fully understand what has happened.  

This is one of those ideas that can completely change our lives for the better.  It is humbling to realize that we only see and understand a small part of what is.  It is empowering to acknowledge that deficit, and to use curiosity to see some of the things we can’t. Learning to be curious about the things that you experience in life is one of the best ways to grow as a person. If we only look at the surface of things, we are sure to miss important details. 

As a people, we nearly missed the immense benefit of discovering Germ Theory.  In the 1840s Ignaz Semmelweis observed that mortality rates in childbirth were reduced greatly, by simple hand washing by doctors and midwives.  He attempted to publish his work, and it was largely rejected. It wasn’t until the 1880s that Germ theory was developed and gained any traction.  We have also discovered that in the 14th century ceremonial hand washing was likely responsible for a much lower death rate from the Black Plague among European Jews. 

There is always more going on than we realize. While we shouldn’t get caught up in endless details, we should keep an open mind about what is possible.  Who knows what great things you might accomplish, by just getting curious. 

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.    

Five Things You Wouldn’t Normally Do


Lives have been transformed by doing things we wouldn’t normally do..  I would like to challenge you this week to do five things you wouldn’t normally do. They can be as simple as changing up where you go for lunch.  You could also go to the other end of the spectrum and go skydiving.  Maybe this weekend you can grab the family and go to the go-kart track, or the tennis courts.

Why have so many lives been changed by this simple exercise?  Our minds tend to consistently guide us down the same path.  Have you heard of being stuck in a rut?  The rut is the normal mode of operation for your unconscious mind.  Have you repeatedly tried to start something new, and a few weeks later you are still doing the things you have always done?

We often don’t pick up on it, but our brains will take the path of least resistance.  The obvious path of least resistance is to do what you have always done.  By doing even small things differently than you normally would, can have a life changing impact.

If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got. 

– Zig Ziglar

Changing our daily decisions slightly will train our brain, by helping us to notice our brains taking us down the same path over and over again.  One of the biggest obstacles to creating real change in our lives is our natural desire to stay the same.  If you don’t like change, you are in good company.  Most of us don’t like change and don’t want to get out of our comfort zones.  Unfortunately comfort rarely gets us where we want to be.  

Don’t ignore this post, and please let me know how it goes for you.  You can drop me a note here.

Things That Have to Get Done


All of us have those things in our lives that we have to get done.  Sometimes we don’t want to do them.  Can you think of something that you don’t like to do, but it has to be done anyway?  Here is something that has helped me to make that process much easier. Today’s post is short, but worth giving a try.   

Pick a small daily or weekly task that you don’t like to do, but will need to do.  It could be something as simple as making the bed, cleaning your office, or attending a regular meeting.  When the time comes and you feel that sense of dread, notice the thoughts you are thinking about doing the task.  Make a decision not to react to the thoughts, and accept the task as something that you are just going to do. When you start doing the task or walk into the meeting, don’t add your thoughts to it.  Simply pay close attention to every detail of doing the task.  Get curious about the task, not how you feel about doing the task.  Do it mindfully and deliberately, paying attention to every step.  

This method is supported by the fact that most of the pain associated with doing these tasks comes from our mind.  Many times the tasks aren’t terrible, it is just our thoughts about them that are terrible.  Mark Twain was reported to have said, “I have had a lot of troubles in life, and some of them even happened.” In saying this he was bringing to light the fact that we are most of the cause for our own mental worry and suffering.  Think about things you have worried about that never happened.

Somewhere along the way we label the specific task as bad, and our mind just reminds us every time we have to do it.  Maybe when we first did the task we were having a bad day, and associated that having a bad day with the task.  Now everytime we have to do that, the same negative feeling comes back.  

Doing things without adding our own thoughts and just paying attention to doing the task, is a great way to make life a little easier.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Goodbye Twitter


I decided this evening to delete my Twitter account. Our world is so polarized and Twitter is particularly polarized. I believe that in large part, it is people trying to have meaningful communication in so few words. I had a respectful back and forth on Twitter earlier this afternoon over a polarizing topic. I found it quite challenging to minimize offense in so few words.

I think the short form communication manipulates and emboldens it’s users to say things that feed the polarization. I also don’t get much traction out of Twitter.

Most importantly, I think it is imperative that we get back to having respectful conversations around important issues, as opposed to tweeting offensive blurbs back and forth. Twitters algorithms appear to feed polarization with intent.

If you are a fan of Twitter feel free to comment on this post as to why you do.

A short note on political polarization. Several years ago, I unhitched my wagon from politics all together. I did this for two reasons. First and foremost, I believe the solution lies with the people not the politicians. Secondly I woke up to my unconscious bias, and much of that for me was political in nature.

If you really want to make America great again, then learn to have respectful conversations on important issues with people who believe differently than you do. It is also important to remember that you can safely assume that anyone you talk to knows something you don’t know.

Goodbye Twitter!

Are You Interested in becoming a data professional ? Data is the new oil.


As many of you know I am a part time remote life coach, but I am also a full-time Business Intelligence Specialist / Data Engineer. On a typical week for the last couple years, I have had at least one or two recruiters contact me to interview for data jobs. That activity seems to be ratcheting up. Data is the new oil. The one thing I love about my job in data, is the same thing I love about life coaching. It is adding value to people. It also pays extremely well.

I want to help prepare more data professionals to fill the current need. In a free half an hour session, I will provide everything you need to get started.

Here are some reasons you might want to become a data professional.

  • Excellent Pay
  • Flexible Hours
  • Work Remotely
  • Contribute directly the bottom line of you and your employer
  • Regardless of what happens in the economy the need for data services is going to grow

If you are seriously interested in becoming a data professional, I am offering a free thirty minute consult to 2 people per month. Here is what you can expect.

  • Discuss your situation and determine if a career in data is right for you.
  • Point you to quality free resources to kickstart your learning.
  • Provide you insight into the most in-demand platforms to learn.

For those who take advantage of the free consult, and are really serious about becoming a data professional. ( You need show that you have taken action on insights from the initial free consult ) I will provide ongoing monthly training sessions for the same price as an hour of basic life coaching. $65 / month with homework between sessions.

You can drop me a note here if you are interested. Please tell me a little about what you are doing now and why you are interested in becoming a data professional. I will pick two responses per month for the free consult.