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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 out 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.

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.

Small Stuff ?


Small changes over time can turn your life around. These small changes build on each other. Sometimes we think that success happens because of the massive action we take, but we never think about the small things that let us build up to those massive actions.

Last week i got off track and started focusing on making changes to things that were currently out of my control. I let the actions of others get me worked up through the process.

Once I realized what was going on, I asked myself what I could do to get out of that state of mind. I realized was that I hadn’t been taking time to clear my mind, and exercise in the morning. I also hadn’t taken the time to be mindful throughout the day.

These were small habits that made a big difference in my effectiveness and happiness. I really didn’t think they would help that much, but I had to start somewhere. They were exactly the things that helped me to get perspective on what was going on. In a few hours, I was back on track moving forward.

When we want to make changes in our lives we often look for big things we can do to get on track, but the things that really make a difference are the little things. It occurred to me to write this post because I was surprised that getting back on track with just those two small daily habits, would make that much difference.

What are some small positive habits you can start this week?

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.   

Starting From Different Places


Have you genuinely tried to make positive changes in your life, and just feel stuck? Have you taken the advice of “success experts”, and still couldn’t make any significant progress? The purpose of this post is to provide both a possible reason and solution for this problem. I doesn’t matter where you are starting from, you can still get there.

One of the most enlightening discoveries that I have made while talking to people about their goals, is how our difference in perception of the world, impacts our outcome. We often project our view of the world on others. We understand them through our filter of the world. The reality is people are very different. It has been humbling, but necessary to discover this.

For one person, making their goal so big it is almost unachievable really helps them to persevere. To another person driving toward a goal that big creates nothing but more stress in their lives. That was me.

It all depends on how you interpret the world. For some of us we have to start the road to achievement with much smaller goals, and build on small successes. This goes back to all of those unconscious thoughts that we have that make up our view of the world. Sometimes past failures impact us, and we have no idea that it is happening. If we take time to examine the facts you may find that the same things happen over and over again, regardless of the approach. This is most often unconscious thoughts, that you haven’t uncovered.

If you can uncover what these thoughts are, then you can start to deal with them. In this post, I give you some suggestions to learn to notice these unconscious thoughts.

Some people naturally move towards goals, and others attempt to move away from the negative consequences of their current situation. Any real achievement in life is mostly a result of moving toward what you want, not away from what you don’t want. For those people who are “moving away from” , there is a need to become conscious of that behavior. You start this by setting small achievable goals, and as you have these small successes, your mindset will begin to transform.

The bottom line is that you can set and achieve your goals, you just need to find what works for you. Either way when you are stuck, start with smaller achievable goals, and them build momentum for you.

The Value of the Present Moment


This post is an opportunity for you to develop an understanding of a much better way of living than ninety percent of people in our culture. A couple of common themes that arise in my posts are first that you can only act in the present moment, but you can’t do anything in the past or future. The second thing that often comes up is that persistent internal dialogue that often sabotages you when you are making progress in life. It often tells you you are not good enough, or you better hurry up or you will fail.

A better way to live is to keep yourself grounded in the present moment. Take a moment as you are reading this post, take a deep breath and just take notice of what is going on around you, without reacting to or judging it. Look around at your environment like it has something to tell you, but don’t let yourself get caught up in your thoughts about anything. Just notice your thoughts. If you were able to successfully do this little exercise, you were in the present moment.

When I first started living more in the present moment, I found myself with occasional anxiety, that focusing on right now was taking away focus on achieving my goals, and all the things I had to do in a day. This is a natural reaction that most people have. Eventually I realized that I was beginning to become more aware of what really needed to be done and weeding out the unimportant tasks.

The most important benefit is that i began to notice opportunities in my environment that I had missed before. I replaced reacting to people and events with observing them without immediate judgement. In doing that I was able to get more done and be more effective. It is like the planning and preconceived notions about life were really holding me back from making progress.

Attention is in short supply in our social media era. Practicing just being in the present moment without adding your thoughts and judgement to it, will train your brain to allow you to focus your attention where you want it. Discipline is the most important part of achieving anything great in life. In order to develop discipline you have to be able to put your attention and action where you want it when you want it. Living in the present moment allows you to do that.

“A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle is a great place to start if you want to learn more about living in the present moment. If you would like to take advantage of a free 30 Minute Life Coaching Consult drop me a note here.

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.

A Dysfunctional Alarm Clock


This post will bring awareness to unnecessary alarms in your life. You can easily minimize these alarms to improve the qualify of your life.

Imagine you go to bed one night and your alarm clock goes off sporadically during the night. The first time it goes off you reset it, the second time you unplug it, and the third time you remove the backup battery. An hour later the alarm on your mobile phone starts the same pattern.

It isn’t hard to imagine having a challenging day after a night of multiple alarms. If this were to happen to you, you would no doubt get to the root of the problem and remedy the situation so that it wouldn’t continue to happen.

You may have this kind of thing happening in your waking life, and not even realize it. Your unconscious, like an alarm clock is a great tool to alert you to some action you need to take. If you are driving and another car unexpectedly comes into your path, your brain is effective in getting you to naturally take action without conscious thought. It acts in many ways as an alarm clock.

In this post we will discuss other kinds of alarms that you should be aware of. Just like your night of sporadic alarms, they can have a negative impact on your day.

Technology

What is your response when you hear text or email notifications coming from your phone? Do you immediately feel compelled to answer or at least look at them? The pattern created in your brain from responding to constant alerts will naturally cause you to be much more distracted during the day. It will also keep you from developing a healthy natural rhythm to your day, which goes a long way for overall mental health.

How you remedy this in your life is up to you, but one way to do that is to silence all email, text, and possibly even phone call alerts. Instead of hearing the alerts you can check them in the morning, at lunch, mid-afternoon, and at the end of the day. The key, regardless of how often you check them is to put them into a natural rhythm, that you control and can follow daily.

Overloaded calendars and task lists

One of the biggest reasons that tasks lists aren’t ideal is that we put too many things on them at once. With the best of intentions you start your day by making a list of tasks you have to accomplish that day. If you are like me that list gets pretty full, pretty quick.

The act of putting those tasks on paper fills your unconscious mind with a list of things that you are telling it you need to do. Your unconscious will serve you by setting frequent natural alarms that will distract you from what you are currently doing. This will naturally create extra anxiety in your life.

It is important that you learn to focus on one task at a time. I will provide a suggestion here, but once you realize what is going on you can come up with a solution that works for you.

I employ a tactic I call “What’s Next”. In the early evening after my work day, I review and add appointments to my calendar, then I make a list of what will need to be done the next day in order of priority. I put only the first task in plain view for the following morning. In the morning I do that one task until it is done, or I have a hard stop or blocker. I then consciously say “What’s Next?” The bottom line, however you achieve it is to only look at and deal with your tasks one at a time, and do everything in your power to finish that one task before you move on. When you are done consciously ask, “What’s Next?”

Mindlessness

Attention isn’t the problem for most us, it is putting and keeping our attention where we want it. With all the distractions we have in modern life it is easy to become mindless, and let your brain react to your external environment. This challenge is a little more nefarious than the others. It can be hard to recognize when something is chomping at our attention, when we are struggling to pay attention to something else.

It is important to set aside some time periodically throughout your day to relax, take a deep breath, and simply notice the thoughts occurring on in your mind. Mindfulness is much more than a sitting meditation practice. It is simply taking time to relax, focus on your breath, and notice what your mind is doing. If you can effectively do this, it will by far be the best thing you can do for your day.

In Summary we would be well served to control what comes to our attention throughout our day, but in order to control them, we need to be aware of them. This week just take a few minutes a few times per day to just take a deep breath and notice what is going on in your mind without reacting to it. Get Curious about it, and ask yourself questions around the source of it. If you watch your life carefully and listen to it as if it has something to tell you, solutions will often present themselves.