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.

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.

Add Focus and Discipline to Your Day


Do you want to increase your ability to focus and gain discipline consistently?  In this post I want to provide a practical exercise to increase your daily focus, and increase discipline over a period of time. If you do this exercise consistently over a week, you will notice a significant improvement.  I am not by any means completely effective, but this exercise has definitely been a game changer for me.  

Our minds can only focus on one thing at a time. This is a scientific fact. We like to think we are effective multi-taskers.  The truth is that we can become better at task switching, but it is not the most efficient way to get things done.  It takes time to task switch, and dilutes focus.

One common piece of advice from the most successful people, is to only focus on one goal at a time if possible.  If you are focused on growing your business, do your best to just stay focused on that.  This is not an easy discipline to develop, especially when so many of life’s demands are coming at us. 

On a micro level, we also need to limit the items we focus on the same way. This will keep us from diluting our focus, and make each minute of effort more effective. It will also make us more aware of our environment, which will keep us more alert overall.  Your unconscious mind is really good at alerting you of change in your environment.  If you are intentionally focused on fewer things at time, you have more capacity for overall awareness 

The first step in getting more focus and discipline in your day is to be completely aware of what you are up to.  Our minds get really busy, and sometimes we aren’t conscious of just how busy our minds are.  I recommend taking  five or ten minutes twice per day to do the following two-part exercise.

  • First find a quiet place first thing in the morning, and some other time later in the day.  Sit or stand someplace comfortable.  Take a deep breath, and then continue to focus on your breath in and out for the next few minutes.  If you notice any thoughts coming up, just acknowledge them but don’t react to them.  Go back to focusing on your breath.  Do this for around five minutes.  You will find your mind a little calmer and clearer. It is normal when you are getting started to  have a hard time staying focused.  The fact that you notice it, just means you are making progress. 
  • Next just think specifically about what you want to get done for the rest of your day. You may want to write them down as well.  As you do this, you may find your mind jump to other things.  You will notice this because of the first exercise.  This is a good thing.  When your mind begins to generate thoughts, just go back and focus on what you want to accomplish for the rest of the day.

If you have tried this, let me know how it has helped you.

Once you have done the exercise just go back to your day and execute on what you want to get done.  Throughout the day try to keep this awareness.  I will often take a minute or so, several times a day to just take a deep breath, and just focus on my breath in and out. 

Happy New Year!


Do you have New Year’s resolutions?  Do you want to make your 2022 exponentially better than 2021? Congratulations!  Here are some tips for keeping your resolutions, and achieving your goals. For the sake of this post we will frame your New Year’s resolutions as goals. I am also offering the first three respondents who share their resolutions or goals, two free thirty-minute life coaching sessions.  

Goal Setting

When setting your goals:  

  • Make them achievable. Also, make sure they stretch you a little bit, and provide a benefit that will help keep you motivated to achieve them.
  • Take the time to visualize what your life will look like if you achieve them.
  • Find some pictures that represent them, and keep them in the same place.  I have my goals in a document with a few pictures pasted at the bottom to represent them.  
  • Make them specific, and make sure they have an achievement date..  
  • Consider framing your goals in terms of the benefit they will provide others as well as yourself.  If your goals add value to others and that is important to you, it will make them much more motivating.

Goal Review

Set aside five minutes or so every day to look at your goals, and make note of any achievements or changes.  Look at the dates and the pictures.  List any thing that you will do today towards their progress.  Check off any tasks you completed yesterday towards your goals.

Enjoy The Journey

Make a decision that throughout your day you will look at each task with curiosity, and enjoy the process.  Approach each task, as if it has something to tell you. It does have something to tell you.  Every action has feedback. The reality is that life is tough, and sticking to and accomplishing your goals is even tougher.  Once a day you will paint the picture of the goal in your mind, and the rest of the day focus on the process.  Obsess over what your activities can teach you.  It will feel awesome when you achieve a big goal, but that feeling doesn’t last long so it is important that we enjoy the journey.  

Self Check

The number 1 cause of unachieved goals is that we let those unconscious thoughts tell us they are not worth the pain of pursuing, or that we can’t achieve them.  Take time every day to just pay attention to the thoughts that are coming up in your mind.  Don’t react to them, but just get curious as to why they are coming up.  Understand that those thoughts arise as a result of past experiences.  You are not your past, and are capable of much more than you believe. 

Share

If you have someone to share your goals with that will support, encourage, and hold you accountable, you increase your chances of achieving them exponentially.  Make sure this is someone who won’t judge you, and add more weight to achievement.

Share your New Year’s resolutions / Goals and get two free thirty minute life coaching sessions.

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?