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.

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.    

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!

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. 

Letting Go


Another year with COVID has passed.  How are you coping with what seems to be the new normal?  At a minimum it has been a very long running disruption of what we used to call normal.  Do you have more anxiety, or are you feeling the pressure of uncertainty?  I wanted to write this post to share something that hit home for me.  

It is during times like these, that it is important that we become aware of the thoughts we are having.  We all have an almost continuous dialog going on in our minds. Oftentimes we aren’t even aware of it.   To demonstrate what I mean, consider the following.

You are sitting in someone’s house and you notice a blue chair in the room. It is different from the other furniture.  Your brain starts the dialog.  

Wow that chair is bright blue, and it doesn’t match the rest of the furniture.  It’s a lot older than the other furniture too.  Wonder what the story is with that chair?  It must be sentimental, because it certainly doesn’t fit with the rest of the furniture.  I wonder if it is the last piece of old furniture they didn’t replace? Wait, the rest of the furniture is nice, but It doesn’t look new though.  I wonder if they bought the furniture second hand?………

Have you ever stopped to notice that chatter going on inside of your mind?  Just watch the morning news reports on the status of COVID, and pay attention to the chatter that starts in your mind.  Becoming aware of that dialog is the beginning of letting go.  

If we pay attention long enough we see that most of this chatter isn’t us willingly thinking, It is just thoughts that arise as an unconscious reaction to something we notice.  That chatter isn’t who we are.  We are the person who becomes aware of the chatter.  Unfortunately some people go their whole lives, never becoming aware of the fact that they are not their thoughts.  

Try to set a couple of reminders throughout the day to take a moment and be mindful of your internal dialog.  When the reminder goes off, notice how you are feeling. Notice what you have been thinking about.  Then take a few more minutes to notice whatever thoughts arise, but don’t react to them. Just notice and acknowledge them.  If you happen to be having negative thoughts, start to get curious about them and question them.  You are not those thoughts.  You are the one who noticed them. 

When a lot of people hear the word Mindfulness, they often think of meditation or religious practice.  Mindfulness is really just learning to pay attention to what is going on in your mind. 

It is times like these that our internal dialog can really impact how we feel.  Not only are we dealing with the pandemic, but we have taken political sides on it.  Much of the world is in a state of political polarity.  Social media can provoke a negative mindset with all the opinions on everything from general politics, and climate change to the pandemic.

If you practice becoming more aware of your internal dialog, you will begin to realize that you aren’t those thoughts. You are just the one noticing them.  Being an observer will naturally give you more control over just letting them go.  Going through this process has been a tremendous help for me, and I hope it will for you as well.

If you have questions or comments feel free to contact me or leave you comment below.

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.