“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond and to know one’s self”
This quote from our first postmaster general has a lot of truth to it. Funny thing is one of the people we know the least is the person we see in the mirror every morning. A lot of your opinions of ourselves are generated by what others share about us. Which, since most of the people we talk to are our friends we seldom get the whole picture. So here is this weekends challenge. Make a list. On one side list everything you think is good about yourself, on the others areas you would like to improve. The goal here is to come up with more of the positive than the negative, but be honest with yourself. When you are done with that list take a look at each item on its own. How did you come to that conclusion? Did someone once tell you that you are a bad dancer? Did someone once tell you that you have a nice voice? Have you finished a few races with good times so you believe yourself to be a good runner? Does going to the gym make you a healthy person?
If you are interested in taking this a step further, contemplate on a few interesting matters. Think of where a lot of your identity comes from. A lot of us it comes from your job. When people ask me who are you? Providing they already know my name I must confess my first reaction may be to tell them my occupation. “I’m a postal worker” or “I’m an author” or even “I’m a bartender” the problem with this thinking is the state of change in today’s economy. I realized this when I was dangerously close to losing my Post Office job…the first time. I thought to myself “I’ve been working here for 13 years, it’s who I am. Now what?” This makes a job loss twice as tough. Not only do you lose your source of income, but you lose your identity. That’s why a lot of people slip into a depression after losing a job. From the outside people may say “What is the big deal? He just lost his job” In reality a lot of people fail to realize that to a lot of us that is also losing a part of our identity. Something many employers fail to recognize as well. So how did I get out of this funk? How did I protect myself in the future and how can you do the same? Great questions! That is what this site is all about. Living an amazing life. So here is something I suggest you try as soon as you can. That day I was basically told I would lose my job I went to a secluded spot in nature I go to do all my thinking. There is something about nature that seems to clear my mind. I began to think what will happen in the future. I also thought what was I like before I started to work for the postal service. I realized there was a whole other Neil I was missing. Now 13 years is a fair amount of time, but I am blessed to have several fans I have known a good deal longer than that. I called a few up and asked them what they first remember about me and basically who they thought I was. After making sure I wasn’t hitting the rum a little too hard they provided some great insight. Still other’s opinions are only part of the equation. Recently I have had the good fortune of spending a good deal of time and conversation with an amazing new person. They give me their opinions of me of course, but one of the greatest things is they stimulate me to think of things including my life and myself. Think of the people you associate with daily. Do they all tell you just what you want to hear? Are they all from the same group such as work? Do they permit you to be different without judgment or ridicule? The goal is to be with people who bring out the best in ourselves. They not only encourage us, but also are honest and accepting of ourselves. This post was quite a mouthful. But as Ben Franklin said getting to know yourself is one of the hardest things. The rewards however can save you from years of heartache and bring you lots of rewards. It is a journey well worth taking.
“Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing”
So we featured a quote from this famous physicist in yesterday’s post, but this one was a little hard to pass up. What does this exactly mean to living a rewarding life? Let us look at some of the most expensive things we spend money on and in essence what we get out of them. One of things a lot of money people spend money on are status symbols. Fancy cars, giant yachts, expensive jewelry, trips to the spa and other such items to pamper and spoil us. Why do we do these things? Well we do them for all the same reason. At first it may seem hard to believe that we will buy a sports car for the same reason we get a massage but it is true. We buy them all just to have a feeling. Whether it is one of accomplishment, importance or peace of mind they are all just feelings. Now I am a big fan of symbols and what they can bring to our lives. So I am not saying that you should not reward yourself or have things that make you feel good. By all means, use those things to motivate yourself. The important part is to understand the feelings that you are chasing with those objects. If owning that fancy car you have always dreamed of will make you feel like you have truly accomplished something in your life that by that car. Notice though that feeling doesn’t strike when you turn the keys for the first time or even when you sign the title. No the feeling usually comes over you on the way to the dealership when you know the car is yours and that you are now the proud owner of a feeling of accomplishment as well as a pretty hot ride. Notice you cannot have the car without first having the feeling. So I say while chasing the dream of the car, the new house, the unicorn whatever it is you are chasing chase that feeling as well. After all it is not the object that is why you have accomplished something. A lottery winner could buy ten of them and all they have accomplished was buying the right ticket. No, practice celebrating the feeling daily when you can. If you celebrate your small accomplishments soon they will lead to even greater ones and before you know it you will be picking me up in your new car to celebrate!
“When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute – and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”
Often complicated terms are quite often best explained using real world examples. Setting aside my experiences of sitting with pretty girls, this example seems to demonstrate another important aspect for our lives. That is the relativity of any situation. What do I mean? The answer to that can be found by answering another question I am frequently asked, “Neil how do you remain positive even when going through a very negative situation?” Well I simply see how things are relative. Let us just pretend you are not thrilled with your job. You can visit your local unemployment office and see the desperation in the eyes of people looking for any kind of work. This principle was brought to my attention in a big way a few weeks ago. I was taking a friend to the hospital as they did not have transportation. I was a bit ill myself, nothing major perhaps a cold or the flu. It was early in the morning and following dropping this friend at their next destination I had to then go into work. As I sit in the waiting room thinking about how much I would rather be in bed sleeping and using that time to feel better, wishing I could return to my warm and waiting bed instead of going to work for ‘the man’. I must confess I even started to question my decision to help my friend when I was sick myself. As I sat there in a world of frustration, pity and sinus pressure a message was sent to me that couldn’t have been any louder. I believe I had closed my eyes to try and get some brief moments of rest in the oh so comfortable waiting room chairs when the silence was broke by a young child’s voice yelling “Daddy! Daddy!” With a slight feeling of being disturbed out of the few seconds of sleep I was hoping to find I opened my eyes. What did I see? A young boy about the age of six who was going through some serious treatment as he looked quite thin and was missing all of his hair. It was more what he wasn’t missing that delivered the message to me. This brave young man was wearing one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen. With all of his enthusiasm he asked “Daddy do you think the cancer will go away so I can go back to school with the rest of my friends?” The look in his father’s eyes showed that he did not share the young child’s positive outlook. Suddenly I felt rather guilty. Here I was filled with self-pity for my head cold and having the honor of helping a friend who could really use it. I was healthy enough to work unlike this child who would have given anything just to return to his ‘job’. Intellectually I know the saying “Somebody always has it worse than you” but here is a young child with a serious illness who is enthusiastic and focused on becoming healthy again. I had a simple cold or flu and I am feeling like the world is out to get me. Normally guilt is not an emotion I recommend people even experience because they tend to let it weigh them down like an anchor. Even guilt can serve a great purpose when used properly. I let my guilt and shame (another emotion you should normally avoid) to drive into my often thick head that even our troubles are relative and though they may seem like a burden to us they would be a blessing to others. If I would have asked that young cancer patient if he would rather be sent to school with a terrible cold I am sure the young man would have jumped at the chance. He also reminded me a lesson I am usually teaching others but that I also need to be reminded of. How we approach our situations often goes a long way to determining their outcomes. If I had approached my minor health issue with the same positivity this young man approached his serious one I would have undoubtedly been feeling a lot better. I noticed watching this young man interact with people in the waiting room I was already feeling a lot better. By the time my friend was done with her visit I had a smile on my face and was thankful to be going into work. So remember to try and keep a positive focus on our lives even when they seem challenging. Feel free to print out this story if it will help you remember better. I know the experience certainly was a great reminder for me.
In former posts I have talked about the importance of the way we look at situations. As I have also stated living an amazing life is a lifelong journey and not a goal to be reached. We all have much to learn. I would like to offer an example from my own life. Recently I had been discussing issues that were quite meaningful between another person and myself. It left me feeling rather connected to this person and quite special. Well a few days later this person had told me they had presented those very details we were discussing specifically when I was not there. Suddenly I felt hurt, like maybe the issues were not as much of a connection as I had thought. Have you ever noticed when your feel hurt your mind just seems to take over and make all sorts of connections that may or may not even make sense? Well that is what happened here. I began to wonder if perhaps the connection I thought had developed with this person may not have been as close as I had hoped. Perhaps there was no real connection at all. Even typing that makes it sound crazy. Knowing what I know of this person and the things we have shared in the past this thought should not have even entered my mind. A good fact to note here is when rational thought and emotion run into each other it is like a semi running into a sports car, emotion will always win. I had decided that this person did this so it meant that. Why would I do that? They are always several reasons. Past experiences when others have done the same and I ended up hurt? Misjudging what I know of this person? Living in reaction instead of action? So what to do when you find yourself in this situation. Well nine times out of ten if you are waiting to ask this question until you are in that situation you are probably to late. Again this site is about being proactive. So what actions can we begin to take today to help us should such a situation come up in our future? Here is the bad news, because we all are unique individuals with unique rules and experiences somebody in your future will hurt or disappoint you. Not even because they are trying to, but because they look at life different from you do. So knowing that how can we minimize the chances of being stuck in a train of thought like I was yesterday? Begin to develop a positive perspective. When something happens that you feel another person has let you down try to come up with as many positive explanations as you can. It may be hard at first, especially if you have been hurt in the past. When you ask why this person did this answers may begin to fill your head like “because they’re a jerk” “because they don’t care” pull the brake. Begin by trying to get at least one positive option. Maybe they simply did not understand what their actions would have meant to you? Maybe some even occurred in their life that caused them to have to make a change without being able to tell you. Maybe their actions mean something entirely different to them? Keep practice doing this. Why? I will give you two great reasons. One, you will feel hurt a lot less or at less not feel hurt as often. Two, you will find a lot less conflict with those you really care about. Let’s face it the more you care about someone the more they can make you feel amazing, but the more they can hurt you.
So how did my situation end up? Luckily this person has an amazing grasp on personal relations and a large dose of patience with me. They could tell that I was feeling upset and asked what they may have done. After some expert cajoling I explained that the ideas they expressed I felt were special between us and I was a bit(which at this point was an understatement)hurt that they chose to present them when I wasn’t even around. To my surprised they agreed that indeed they felt they were as special, if not more, than I did. They also went on to explain the reason they chose to express them for the first time when I wasn’t around was because they wanted to be able to do so flawlessly by the time we were together. So initially I just felt like a total jerk for even being upset. Still being one for learning from my mistakes I tried to see what I could selvage out of this experience. Here is what I learned. I have a lot to learn. One I learned I have one amazing person in my life who really does care more than I realized. I also learned that I still let my past affect me and the relationships I have in the present. Which is not only terribly unfair to that person, but also to yourself. I also learned I could probably learn to express how things make me feel in the future. Most importantly I learned that I really need to work on developing a more positive perspective on people and why they do the things they do. So I will be following the very steps I gave you earlier. As well as being grateful for the amazing people I have in my life. Tomorrow we will look at how we can productively expressing what we like and how to actually make people want to do those very things.
Why on earth in a blog about living a more rewarding life and persevering would you find a title like this? Yesterday we discussed Fat Tuesday and self-indulgence. Today we are going to look at Ash Wednesday. This is a Christian holiday that represents the start of lent. A period of fasting leading up to Easter. Whether or not you are Christian stay with me here. In a nutshell Ash Wednesday people give up something as a sign of sacrifice for their beliefs. Whether your beliefs are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or you just believe in trying to create a better you and a better world, we can all be a part of this holiday. Now I have heard a large range of things people give up for lent. Sugary foods, coffee, alcohol, or even just the traditional meat on Fridays. I suggest we can take this a step further. Let us find something that pushes us to improve not just sacrifice. Try giving up listening to that negative voice in the back of your head. Give up junk food? How about giving up bad eating and try to take better care of the bodies we have been blessed with. How about trying to stay away from gossip? Try giving up saying anything negative about anyone including yourself? Traditionally lent last 40 days. Scientists say it takes anywhere from 21-30 days to create a new habit. So you will be well on your way even if you mess up once or twice. Perhaps we could spend today thinking of what we could ‘give up’ from our lives that would end up serving us and making our world a little better in the process. Whatever idea you come up with I suggest writing it down and taping it to your computer screen at work or your bathroom mirror. Somewhere you will receive a subtle reminder of what you are giving up from your life. If you mess up, just dust yourself off and get back on track. Then we can all celebrate together on Easter whether we are Christian or not. We will all have improved and rid our lives of something we are better off without.
Today is traditionally the celebration of ‘Fat Tuesday’ or Mardi Gras in which people over indulge in plenty of vices before going into lent which starts tomorrow (more on that tomorrow). I am all for celebrating…well anything. I believe it is good for the soul and the more people and things you have to celebrate in your life the happier you will be. Another idea is the more ways you have to celebrate the better as well. Do not get me wrong, I am all for a night on the town. In fact lately I may have had one too many, but what if we could indulge in a different way? Instead of enjoying things of an alcoholic or carnal pleasure we focus on indulging ourselves in healthier pleasures? Use this day to spoil yourself completely. Do it in ways that will leave you feeling even more incredible the next day. Use that personal day at work you may have been saving for a rainy day. Treat yourself to that amazing but expensive coffee drink you may like. Take yourself to that pricey but healthy restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Have a day at the spa. Get a massage. You deserve it. While we can often be critical of ourselves, especially those who are looking to improve themselves we also need a day to relax and recharge. Why not use the holiday all about self-indulgence to do just such a thing? If you still feel that you need a drink and wish to dance half-naked, well…I’m bartending tonight so feel free to stop on down!
Again I would like to remind you that Living a positive rewarding life is not a goal, but a path to set on. Just as the goal is not to solve all of your challenges. Although that sounds very appealing and can be realistic for a very brief moment in time, it actually is not our end here. Sure a life free of problems sounds like a great idea anytime, especially Monday mornings right? There is two major problems with this way of thinking. First, challenges add excitement to our lives. you are probably thinking “Neil that is some excitement I could do without.” The purpose of this blog is not to eliminate those stressors from your life, but show you how to overcome them and use them as opportunities to grow. Let’s face it with out a challenge how would we ever feel like we accomplished anything? Anytime we feel a sense of accomplishment whether it be winning a game, building a car from scratch, solving the family budget or landing that dream job, it all began with a challenge. Sure playing a game may be fun and involve a little luck, but when you begin the challenge is to work within the parameters of the rules to accomplish the goal of winning. Your opponents are your adversaries, even though they might just be friends and family. Even if you do not win the game, but you give it your best shot you can still leave feeling like a winner. How many times have we heard athletes say “We left it all on the field” or “We played our best game” even if they lost they are often more happy than teams who win while playing bad. Life is not much different. When we are looking to land a new job we must do several things on our half. We must work on our resume, updating our skills, practice our interviewing skills, maybe research the company we are applying at. If we do all of these steps and are still not chosen for the job we may feel disappointed with the situation, but we can know that we gave it our best shot and often may be more inclined to think of ways in which we can improve for next time. So take a good look at your problems. Do you have some that seem to come up over and over? Do several of your problems seem to have something in common? It is time to use your problems instead of letting your problems use you.