ENJOY THE PROCESS

I am going to open this post with a bold assumption. Your definition of success is entirely incorrect. If we were to look up the definition of success online, or even in a dictionary for any old-school souls out there, it would, undoubtedly, say something about achieving a goal, reaching a destination or something similar. I say that definition is incomplete at best. If we were to consider ourselves a success only when we accomplish a goal or reach a definition, we would have to consider ourselves failures most of the time.

I am more inclined to agree with the above definition of success coming from Earl Nightingale. The key word in his definition is progressive. We are progressing, or in the process of achieving our goal roughly 90-95% of the time. If we wait to celebrate until we achieve our goal that would mean that we would be unhappy the vast majority of the time. This would not only be unhealthy, it would be rather foolish. One of the ways we could greatly increase the happiness in our lives, is to find ways to enjoy the process. Not only would this increase the joy we experience and the amount of time we spend in joy, but it would greatly increase our chances of succeeding.

At one of my seminars I had someone ask me, “What does happiness have to do with success?” I equate that with asking what granite has to do with the Himalayas – everything! If something is enjoyable, you are more likely to stick with it. That is why I advocate to add something positive rather than worry about getting rid of the negative. At the very least, do both at the same time. Let us take trying to get in shape. Not a lot of people enjoy going to the gym, especially when they are first starting out. Some people enjoy swimming. Some of us like going for hikes in the park. Still other like riding a bicycle or walking with a dog. Maybe playing a game of basketball with friends or joining a group of friends who go for runs. Which one of these would help you get in better shape? The answer is all of them. The best answer is the one you enjoy doing most.

Why? Life will give us every excuse not to stick to our goals. You had a tough day at work are you more likely to do something you don’t enjoy or something you do? I think we all know the answer to that question. Same with changing your diet. Focusing on what you can’t have can make you feel like you are starving yourself. What is the solution? How about finding fun meals to cook with the one you love? Subscribing to a healthy cooking magazine or website? Joining a healthy cooking class? The possibilities are endless. I had to really work on this while finishing my second book, Living the Dream. Creating content is fun for me, but I had to find a way to enjoy the formatting, editing and things of that nature. These lessons will serve me well as I work on my third book.

Finding ways to enjoy the process allows us to enjoy that 95% of the time that we may otherwise overlook. It will fill our lives with a lot more joy and increase our chances of succeeding at whatever goal we may be pursuing. If our goal is to live a more positive life, than enjoying the process will allow us to succeed 100% of the time. Even the “negative” experiences bring us closer to, and often increase the joy we feel when we reach our goal. It makes the successes that much sweeter. The tougher the fight, the more rewarding the victory. Keeping this thought in mind will allow us to enjoy every step of the process. Even when it seems we are taking steps back, or getting further away from our goals, we are still learning valuable lessons. Success is seldom, if ever, a linear journey. Enjoy the process my friends. It will transform your life.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

Today’s world is filled with many acts of beauty and kindness. There are the numerous examples of nature we pass everyday. Birds flying by our windows, even squirrels stealing from the birdfeeders with their comical gestures. The trees in the park, sun dappled paths. There is the smile or a kind word from a stranger. A beautiful painting we can notice as we are sitting writing a blog in a coffee shop. All of these things can make our world so much more enjoyable to be in.

WARNING!!!! All of these things can be taken away from us if we are not careful. If you recall from a few posts ago, we spoke of seeds of knowledge taking root in our hearts and minds and blossoming at different times in our life. We also mentioned these seeds need to find fertile ground to land on. It is here where we can run into trouble. In addition to all of the things that I just mentioned, the world provides plenty of things that will harden our heart if we are not careful. We see news of conflicts near and far. We hear about how this group of people may not want our group of people to succeed. We can even hear less than inspiring lyrics on the radio. If you work in retail, or with the public, there are plenty of things that can leave you feeling less than inspired about people and the world in general.

Even those of us who do our best to live a positive and rewarding life, can be, on occasion, overwhelmed by negative influences. Have you ever found yourself a victim of someone else’s creative driving? On top of that, this person who must have used a bribe to obtain their drivers license, waves at you…with one finger! Sometimes you are having a great day, but are witness to others that are not having such a great day. I recall stopping to write at my local coffee shop and listening to the person ahead of me berate the barista because, and I would not have believed this if I didn’t witness it myself, they had 5 ice cubes in their coffee instead of the 6 they asked for. If you open your coffee and count the ice cubes to look for something to be upset about, it may be time to reconsider some priorities. Maybe it is just turning on the news to witness people being attacked and harmed or even killed just because of what they look like or believe?

One of these events may not be overwhelming in themselves, but you experience a few of them together and it can really sour your disposition. It may be that you experience a few of them day after day. Your heart can begin to grow hard. Our opinion of the world and the people in it may begin to take a negative turn. We may begin to feel discouraged and lose the sense of hope that keeps a smile on our face and in our heart. We may not be so eager to let others in emotionally for fear of being hurt. These would all be understandable reactions. After all, I will be the first to admit there is much in the world that could use improving. That is why I write these blogs and go around speaking at different events.

The question then becomes “What can we do about this?” How do we prevent our hearts from growing hard? If they have, how can we soften them up again? The answer, in short, is in what you are reading. We cannot help many of the things I mentioned. We can’t teach people to drive with courtesy. We can’t teach people how to have respect when one less ice cube shows up in their hot coffee. We certainly can’t help what a foreign power does to their people. That is why filling our lives with as many positive influences and self-care is so vitally important. These are not things we should wait to employ until our life is going south. They are a good form of preventative medicine. If you fill your life with positive influences and practice a healthy amount of self-care and nothing goes wrong, you will just end up happier and that will spill over onto the way you treat others. If, however, you run into some of the negative examples above, you will be better equipped to understand this is only a small portion of the world, no matter how it may seem, and that there are plenty of other positive people and beauty to be enjoyed.

To put it another way, our emotional well-being is much like our physical well-being. If you just wait to think of your health until you are sick and then take medicine, you will be sick more often. The negative emotional experiences we are exposed to can be compared to the many germs and viruses our bodies are exposed to. Occasionally, they may get the best of us and we get physically overwhelmed and need to take a break or some medicine. What do we do to limit that? We strengthen our immune system. Incorporated emotional self-care and positive influences can strengthen our mental immune system. Think of positive influences and bouts of self-care you can put into your life and prevent your heart from hardening.

FINISH STRONG!

Every weekend many of us use this time to unplug and just do nothing. That is a good idea, but we must strike a good balance. Many goal-oriented people have a hard time turning it off. There is a solution for both of these groups of people.

This weekend, let us use our time productively (for my driven friends) but let us be productive in the self-care department. This means adding things like in the picture above. Schedule some silence. This may sound silly, but making time to sit in the quiet with no distractions can be a good challenge in today’s world.

Schedule some exercise. This doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym. Plan a bike ride or walk in the park with the one you love. Schedule some fun conversation. This can be a coffee or dinner date with a friend.

The point here is that we can be productive and give ourself some much needed self-care so that we can continue to serve others. It is all about striking that all important balance. Finish your week and start your weekend strong!

MAKE SURE YOU SAY THIS!

How many of us are quick to criticize, but slow to compliment? Ask yourself, how many times have you thought something nice about a stranger, or even a friend and yet chose to keep it to yourself?

I’ve been told that it feels awkward to give someone a compliment. Many of us feel uncomfortable accepting a compliment. Why is that? Perhaps because it is so rarely given. The funny thing is, there is really no downside to giving genuine compliments, but there stands to be a huge upside. You can make someone’s day, make them smile, make a new friend or, in a rare case, you might even save someone’s life.

Next time you notice something nice about someone feel free to share it. It may seem a little awkward at first, but with practice you will become a compliment artist! Take the chance here. Leave a comment that is a compliment about someone you know!

THE SECRET TO ACHEIVING BIG GOALS

Here is one of the great things about self-improvement – you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Some of the greatest teachers and greatest teachings are new versions of very old ideas. They might have a slight new twist on them, but the main difference is the way they are presented. The same idea that was brought forth by a student of the seminary would be explained in a very different way from that of a young man who sang in a rock band and was a bartender and Postal worker for over two decades. That covers the transmitting end of things. The same can be said on the receiving end. That same idea will be heard differently by the young man in our example when he is in a band right out of high school verses when he is in his forties and has had more life experience. This is why to this very day I listen to and read self-improvement material every day. That, and I have a great passion for learning.

That brings us to today’s post. I was listening to a motivational video that I had heard a handful of times before. (Did I mention you can learn something new depending on where you are mentally at the time?) In it I heard one of those self-improvement clich├ęs I have heard countless times before. I am not really sure this is a term, but this idea has been mentioned so often that I can think of no better way to describe it. Here is the funny thing about this idea and how I heard it this morning. When I began to ponder it I realized although I had understood this concept intellectually, I never really made use of it to the full extent, nor got it in my spirit. It seemed too simple, too obvious. Often we miss great opportunities because they seem too simple. I am letting you know that although I have know about this success tool for years I never put it to its full use because I dismissed it due to its simplicity. I tell you this in hopes that you will not do the same.

What is this powerful secret that can help us achieve our biggest goals? Before we reveal it, let me tell you two other benefits of using this method. First, it can reduce the stress that often comes with chasing goals. The feelings of failure or impatience will be few and less intense when they do show up. Second, you will also have more motivation to keep going. Here is the grand secret – The big things are made up of lots of little things. Not too mind-blowing huh? You may be tempted to think so, but I am here to tell you that you are wrong. It is the secret to achieving everything we thought we never could.

Do you have a goal you are working on? Do you want to write that book you have been talking about for years? Do you want to finally start that business of your own? Maybe it is something a little more personal like trying to mend a friendship or save a marriage? We often look at those things as a singular event when they are really countless little events. Writing a book takes discipline to write day after day for months and perhaps years. Trust me, I have written two of them. Starting your own business takes planning and many actions before you can call yourself a business owner. Picking a business, exploring locations and names. Developing a business plan and a million other things. How about the personal issues? Mending a friendship or saving a marriage? Let me ask you, did those fall apart overnight? Usually they did not. Even if you are just looking to strengthen a friendship or deepen a marriage, the answer is the same. It is a million different things. It is finding ways to genuinely compliment your spouse daily. It is learning what a friend is passionate about.

This can seem overwhelming at first, but once you dive in, the opposite is true. If I would have fully grasped the truth of this years ago, I would be so much farther in life. If I sat down and tried to write a book one night, I would either end up consuming vast quantities of rum, or having my brain explode. If, instead, I sit down and focus on writing the best chapter or idea that I am currently working on, I will not only be obviously be less stressed, but have a better quality end product. The same is true with my relationship. I always want Margie and I to be more loving and have a closer connection. This is not to say I feel we are unloving or not close, just that I am always looking to improve. I know that this is not going to happen in a single evening. What can happen in a single evening is taking one step to deepen our connection or strengthen our love.

I will give you two more quick examples to help drive this concept home. I recall a story told by the actor Will Smith. He told how his father had him and his brother build a wall one summer. Before they could get started, his father pulled him aside and told him some great advice. “Do not try to build the perfect wall.” he told young Will. “Instead, focus on laying the perfect brick. You do this over and over again and you will have the perfect wall.” It seems logical, but then why do so many of us find this so hard to do? The perfect example is working out. Especially around the first of the year we are all determined to get back in shape. If you are anything like me, you find yourself saying this on August 20th as well. We go in and try to run 460 miles or do a thousand pull ups, get sore and quit before seeing any results. That is why the gyms are full around January 1st, and seem almost empty a month later. What we should be focused on is getting the most out of each workout. Focusing on working the right muscles for the right amount of times. Enough to give us a good workout but still allow us to lift the pencil off the desk at work tomorrow, let alone be able to get out of bed to go to work. We focus on having the best workout we can each time we are at the gym and before we know it, we will look up and see how much better we are in shape. The same holds true for improving your diet, your parenting skills or anything else in life.

The lesson here is instead of being overwhelmed at the prospect of a large goal, become excited at doing each step to the best of your ability. When you do so, celebrate each win. You didn’t complete that book in one sitting, but you wrote one hell of a chapter. Maybe the chapter sucked, but you get that rough first draft out of the way so you can improve it tomorrow. You didn’t go from eating two pounds of bacon in one sitting to a runway model, but you did make it to the gym and walk on the treadmill. Maybe you didn’t make to the gym, but you walked around the block. You still ate way too much pizza, but instead of downing it with root beer, you drank water. Just keep at it and celebrate those wins. Do each step, each day to the best of your ability. Not only will that lead to accomplishing great things, but each day lived to the best of your ability will lead to an amazing life!

I GUESS I’M A FARMER AFTER ALL

Not really me

Going back generations, my family has been farmers. I, however, have never been a farmer. Considering my luck with house plants, this is probably a good thing. Last Saturday I had dinner with a group of friends. While in the midst of a conversation with my friends father a revelation hit me, I might be a farmer after all. If not a farmer, at least a harvester. I have the great fortune to harvest a very important crop that others before me have planted. Best part? I do not even have to wear overalls and work in the field from dawn until dusk.

What seeds are you planting?

When you plant a crop the time between planting and harvest varies on many factors. Each plant has its own length to maturity. This is also influenced by the environment, the soil condition and many other factors. This holds true for the crop that I am harvesting. Is it wheat? Corn? Bananas? No. The crop I am talking about harvesting is thoughts and life lessons. Does this sound familiar to you? Someone shares some knowledge with you and you dismiss it. Years later as you learn and develop, you find yourself realizing something that was told to you years prior.

Vivid in my mind are lessons I heard either directly from, or by listening to conversations between my great uncle and grandfather. As a young man at the time I recall thinking things such as, “These old men don’t have a clue about how the world is now.” or just disagreeing with opinions and thoughts that to me seemed terribly out of date. My grandfather has been gone over 20 years now, my great uncle even more so. Still, to this very day, and even the night of the conversation with my friends father, I am still learning from both of them. There are bits of knowledge that I could only come to understand with years of experience and going through some things on my own. If I would’ve listened a little more closely, I would have probably had to go through a lot less in my life. These ‘seeds’ that were planted over 20 years ago are finally being harvested. It is a shame they are not here to see the benefit of the wisdom they passed along. I guess the soil they put them in, or my mind at the time, just wasn’t ready to let them grow.

This lead me to two very important epiphanies. First, never dismiss knowledge that is shared with you. It may not make sense to you now, but years later you may wish you had listened closer. This seems to be especially true if the knowledge comes from a party that is older than you. They have seen more and been through things you may not have even thought of yet. Second, never underestimate the power of your own seeds. There are people I do my best to offer little seeds of wisdom that I have gathered through my life and they seem to fall on barren soil. It can be frustrating to see people making some of the same mistakes you have made in life, especially people you care about, and wanting to help them avoid the same painful consequences you did. What I have learned through the experience I described to you in this blog, is to still plant away. You may be dead and gone by the time your seeds are harvested, but what a great legacy to leave. Plant seeds of knowledge, kindness and love wherever you go. They may grow and be harvested all at different times and you may not even be around to see it, but grow they will.