This was a picture I took on a recent trip to the park with my mother. We enjoy going through walks in nature whenever we can. This picture is of a great blue heron, my favorite bird. Usually, they are rather skittish and fly away before you can get very close. This one, turned around and walked right up to me. It was a rather magical experience. One of those things that may not happen again for the rest of my life. We have seen deer jump off an island, swim across a lagoon, jump on shore and run past us. Most days do not include such exciting events, but we always manage to see some great wildlife. Sometimes it is deer, sometimes racoons. We have seen migrating birds, red squirrels and a host of other animals. Sometimes it is just the beauty of nature itself that we appreciate. Right now, the leaves are changing colors and it is fun to see as we walk.
Walking in nature has many benefits. The most obvious is that you are getting some exercise while breathing in some fresh air. There are, in my mind, more important scientific benefits to going for a stroll in your local park or forest. Walking in nature reduces stress, helps improve our cognition and even help us foster and grow our feelings of mindfulness and gratitude. You can both meet neighbors or choose to be left alone to your thoughts. Usually, you have the choice of a nice flat path, or for a little extra workout, try walking on grass or the forest floor. If you are careful not to step in a hole or twist an ankle, you can find yourself using muscles you didn’t even know you had! It will also have you practicing a little mind control. There is the great plus that the animals do not judge you or gossip…as far as we know. There is even a study that states looking at the horizon will help you sap your stress and put your emotions in perspective.
On this site we are usually focused on constructive actions that will lead to a more fulfilling and rewarding life. This action is no exception. Sometime this weekend, take yourself for a walk. Whether you prefer the solitude of walking deep in the woods, or a sun-dappled concrete path in the park where you can meet some neighbors and an occasional friendly dog, get out in nature! It will improve your physical health, but it will also do a great deal to drain your stress and fill you with a greater sense of inner peace. You may also get some great pictures like the ones I captured in this blog. I am going to leave you with a Zen quote to ponder as well as the video I captured of the Heron walking up to me. I hope you enjoy them and I would love to see your pictures from walking in nature!
A great secret to an amazing life is the power of observation. It helps to play a little bit of detective when it comes to your own life. Examining why you do the things you do and more to the point how they impact you life can go a long way towards taking control of that very same life. Let me give you a personal example to help explain this point a little better. When I was a young child I used to watch this nature show. The opening scene involved these men flying over a group of animals in Africa and one would lean out and shoot a tranquilizer dart into the herd. The animal would continue to run for a few seconds before stumbling around as if it drank too much rum and then just fall over. This scene is very close to how I am when I wake up for work at 4:30 in the morning. Before the coffee kicks in, I am that animal that got the dart. I stumble around the house, tempted to fall back into bed.
This morning was different. Although as I rose out of bed after about 5 hours of sleep, I felt that I might have escaped the dart. Maybe the man circling above my house missed? As I continued to get ready I only felt more alive. After the coffee was brewed and I had packed my lunch, and kissed Margie goodbye, I was off for the 30 minute drive. I listened to the band Tito and Tarantula and sipped my coffee as I drove along. Just a little bit before 6am, I arrived at work and felt better than I can remember feeling in a long time! As I began my daily labors I began to ask myself some questions, “Why was I feeling so good?” I did not sleep a very long time. I actually ate a frozen pizza for dinner. Not a healthy energy giving meal. I took my usual vitamins, the coffee wasn’t that strong and nothing else seemed to be out of the ordinary. So why did I not feel like the lion in the picture above?
Why had I seemed to escape that feeling of walking in quicksand that envelops me every other morning? I began to recall everything I had done both the night before and that morning. Was there anything new and different? Obviously there was. Instead of sleeping away the first few hours of my day as I usually did, here I was feeling…well…almost human. I made notes of the songs I listened to on the way to work. I made note of what I ate for dinner, what Margie and I had done the evening prior. Nothing seemed to different. Tomorrow I am going to try a few of these activities again and monitor the results. I’ll keep you posted as to what seems to work for me. It may or may not work for you. As I write this, I feel like I should adopt the habit of Voltaire who drank 40 cups of coffee a day. I am sure my cardiologist wouldn’t like that and I might have to move my laptop to the men’s room, but I digress. What gave me so much energy this morning and why do I feel like I could fall asleep somewhere between the D and K keys on my computer?
This is what I mean by becoming your own detective investigating your life. If you have a day (or even a particular situation) that seems to work out quite well, ask yourself the elements that played into the situation. If you a day where it feels like you were flushed down the commode of life, investigate that too. What caused that situation to go south? Then, do more of the former things and less of the latter. Continually perform what David Goggins calls a living autopsy. Examine what things in your life give you good results and which hold you back.
This morning as I was busy working on different errands that were productive, I was also listening to some great motivational/inspirational videos. Not only do they offer encouragement to accomplish the mundane tasks in which I was employed, but they can bring to light new ideas, or old ideas in a new light. This often gets the brain up and working and fosters some of the very posts you read here. This morning I heard a man observe that in today’s world, more people spend time worrying about their television set than their mindset. I do suppose you can replace television set with tablet, cell phone or computer and the fact remains the same, it just doesn’t sound as catchy.
This got me thinking about several facts. Are you aware there was a recent study to determine the average time a person in the US spends on their cell phone in a day? Can you guess what that number may be? 3 hours and 43 minutes! That means the average person spends 1/6 of their day staring at their cell phone. Much of this is geared towards social media and entertainment. If we add that to the time spent watching television, playing video games and a host of other sources of recreation, we would be well over the 4 hour mark. Let us just keep it at 4 hours for simple math. Can you imagine if you spent that same amount of time concerned with improving your mindset? Reading, meditating or practicing different mind-enhancing activities? How about half of that time? Say you split the difference and spent 2 hours on your phone and 2 hours reading for example. Do you think that could have a big impact on your life? What could giving up 2 hours of time spent in front of the television or cell phone or playing video games and using it to enhance the gray matter between your ears? You could learn another language. Maybe work on starting your own business? Learn the embalming secrets of the Ancient Egyptians or whatever else would make you smile and put you on the path of success.
Today, ask yourself if you are spending more time in front of the television set (or phone or computer) verses working on your mindset. Is there some time you could allocate to mind-enhancing activities? Just for an hour, put down the phone and pick up a book, meditate or just sit and enjoy some nature. Make sure you are getting valuable ROI (return on investment) from your daily activities. Certainly, spend some time on enjoyable activities, but not to the detriment of accomplishing anything.
At secret2anamazinglife.com we are all about breaking down the secrets of self-improvement into fun, bite-sized pieces. In the big picture, what determines the quality of one’s life is the degree to which they are, or are not, happy. If you think of anything you want in life, and you ask yourself long enough why you want that thing, it will usually come back to a positive feeling. If we are speaking in broad examples, one great secret to living an amazing life is finding more things you enjoy, and doing them more often. This post is about one specific examples and all of the people who make it possible.
Two of my great enjoyments in life are writing and drinking coffee. As you can see, I am currently writing at the Starbucks close to my house. You may also notice that I brought along another great joy of my life, my lovely lady on my screensaver. On occasion, I drive a little bit further to a location that is further from my house and much closer to my work. Why would I drive an extra half hour for the same experience? The answer is, although it involves writing at a Starbucks, it is far from the same experience. Early this year, many of you may have remembered me sharing the story of Deb, who works at this location. She is always friendly and gave me the line, “Living the dream one drink at a time.” This was in reference to sharing smiles and joys with each customer she serves. The good news is, Deb is still there and still serving up joy with each cup.
Recently, they did me the honor of naming me ‘customer of the week’ which comes with a few free coffees. As you can see, I brought Margie along in person this time to share the fun of this. What I want to say is that the reason I choose to drive a little further is because they go the extra mile to make you feel special. I am not just talking about this week, but every day. We have already discussed Deb and the joy she brings to customers, but they have a whole team of all-stars. Not to long ago, this place went through a managerial change and I was a little concerned they might lose some of the great customer service. A few faces did leave, but let me tell you the amazing folks that are there and make this particular location so special.
This site does not often touch on different spiritual beliefs. I believe that living an amazing life includes a spiritual aspect, but that aspect is a personal decision. As long as your path does not involve bringing harm to anyone else and includes becoming the best version of yourself it should not matter to me or to anyone else what that path is. Here is a great secret – the same holds true for the beliefs of others. There are some of us who feel that anyone who does not adhere to the exact same spiritual beliefs that we do is someone who is wrong or in the worst cases, an enemy. This creates not only undo stress, both in the party receiving the angst, but in the life of the people who carry these beliefs. Imagine going through life thinking everyone is wrong or your enemy? Very stressful. It also limits the opportunities for growth and collaboration. When you think someone is wrong on any level, it can be hard to include them as much, even in another level.
Today’s post is to remind you that people can be different without being wrong. Judgement drains a lot of energy and focus from our lives. On the contrary, acceptance and understanding can free up energy and create new and exciting opportunities for growth and collaboration. Accepting someone does not mean we agree with them or that we are even going to join them in their endeavors. If we focus on how we are alike instead of how we are different, we can do great things. It may be hard to both understand and accept someone who is different, but if we focus on the things we have in common it can do a lot to both bring us closer and to learn from each other. When I go out with my friends who are different faiths, they may dress different, eat different things and have different views, but they have many things in common.
The other day, I had lunch with two friends. One is Christian and one is Muslim. At one point, the topic turned to faith. I was interested to see how this might play out. They discussed their different ways of offering prayers and why they do what they do. They also came to the conclusion that they both do it for the same reason, to become more spiritually enlightened and to become closer to the God they follow. One said to the other, “Funny how a conversation can bring us so much understanding when according to the outside world we are supposed to hate each other.” They chuckled, as they had been friends for years. I thought of the sad truth of that statement. The media, politicians and even some religious leaders, keep our differences as talking points and what is most important. I think we can learn a great deal from each other if we only open our hearts and our minds.
One of the things that all spiritual paths have in common, that we can focus on today and share with each other, is the power of gratitude. All spiritual paths focus a great deal on being grateful. There are prayers of thanksgiving in any faith. I think beginning a practice of including one of those before we retire for the evening can work miracles in our lives. If we can also add being grateful for those who may be different than us, it can go a long way to opening our hearts and minds when we are awake. What is right for us, does not necessarily have to be right for everyone else. Last night, my mom, Margie and I were discussing our dream cars. Guess what? they were all different. None of us argued that the others should switch their car to ours. They liked their car for their reasons as we did for ours, and that was ok. We could listen unattached to why someone might like the car they did and even appreciate why without feeling as though they should change their minds and agree with us. Why can’t this be done with more personal things such as politics and religion? I do understand that there has been, and in some cases remains, persecution of individuals based on these categories. This is completely unacceptable. The truth is, this can only be changed by learning to accept, understand and love each other with open hearts and open minds.
Learning to accept and enjoy those who are different than us will not only create a more amazing life on the outside for all of us, it will create a more amazing life inside of our hearts. We will live life with a far greater peace of heart and mind than if we viewed everyone who is different as wrong or as our enemy. Let us all work on opening our hearts and minds and let us all end our day with a grateful heart. Not only for all that we have in our life, but for those who are different than us who can teach us so much and bring color and contrast to our world.
This is one of my favorite quotes. There are many levels in which to explore it. I have looked at a few on this website already. Such as the location of the motivation. In the Gazelle’s case, the motivation comes from the lion. If the lion were not present, the gazelle would probably be watching Netflix, eating grass and chilling. Lion appears and we are off running. In the lion’s case, the motivation comes from within, specifically, his stomach. He does not need the gazelle to be present. His running comes from an internal hunger. If the gazelle was not present, he may be running after a water buffalo or some other African neighbor of his.
Today we are going to look at this in a slightly different way and see how we can put it to use in our own life. Let us first turn our attention to the gazelle. What is its motivation? Fear. It is afraid the lion will kill it and eat it. If it does not run fast enough this fear will catch up to it and destroy it. In this case fear is the motivation to keeping this gazelle alive. Proof that fear can be a good motivator. Now let us look at the lion. Where does its motivation come from? Hunger, the desire of a goal. In this case that goal is the gazelle in front of it. It knows unless it runs fast enough, it will not achieve it’s goal and very well may go hungry. If it does not eventually catch a gazelle it will starve to death and be destroyed. Showing that passion and desire for a goal is a very good motivator. Which one of these is better in our lives?
Do we let our fears follow us around and keep us running? Do we keep our goals in front of us and keep running after them? The answer is a simple one – YES! When it comes to seeking an amazing life, we should use every tool at our disposal! We should take our ‘gazelle motivation’ and think of what may happen if we do not keep running. What will happen, for example, if we don’t keep on top of our health? We may develop a very serious condition. We may subject ourselves to a great deal of pain or discomfort. We may even pass away prematurely and lose valuable time with loved ones. I say find a symbol of that and keep it in front of us. It is like that lion lurking to catch us to busy grazing on a pizza and too out of shape to run away from it. (Come to think about it, this could work for my own fitness) It may even help to print out a vicious picture of a lion and keep it somewhere that would motivate you. Maybe by your gym bag. Think of what might happen if you don’t maintain your discipline. Would it result in pain? Lose of health? Lose of time with your loved ones? Maybe even lose of your life?
Next, let us look at our lion motivation. What does achieving our goals represent? Will failing to achieve our goals have serious repercussions for us? What might they be? How many times can we miss our gazelle and go hungry before we starve to death? Take our relationship for example. If we fail to show our spouse, or more to the point have them feel, that we love them? How many times can this happen before the relationship starves of love? We need to keep chasing our goals and feed them with a successful ‘feeding’. As in the case of a lion, this could be a process that never ends. We may need to keep chasing happiness in a relationship for the rest of the relationship. If we miss to many ‘meals’ that relationship will begin to starve. Print out a picture of your goals and keep them somewhere you will see them. I like next to the bed so we can see them first thing in the morning to motivate us and last thing at night to remind us what we are working towards. If you worry about people knowing your goals, although if they are in your bedroom they should know your goals, then you can even print out a picture of a gazelle. As long as you know the meaning and it has an emotional connection, it will work.
When it comes to our goals and to living an amazing life, just like the lion and gazelle, we must wake up running. It would help to use both our fear of failure (gazelle motivation) as well as our passion and desire (lion motivation) to motivate us to run. Whatever we can do to accomplish this goal, we should take advantage of. What do you do to stay motivated and focused on your goals? Do you use both fear of failure and passion towards achievement?
In the grand scheme of things, ants are pretty cool creatures. They have super human strength. They don’t have lungs or ears. Some ants are both farmers and can swim. They have two stomachs and some species are asexual. If you are anything like me, you probably didn’t know many of these fun amazing facts. Do you know when ants suck? When they are in your house exploring your watermelon, ruining picnics and crawling between your toes as your are sleeping. Sorry for that horrible thought, but it is the month of scary things. Generally, even if we admire all of their cool traits, we would rather not have ants in our lives.
This post is about a different kind of ant. If you noticed in our title, A.N.T. is an acronym. It stands for automatic negative thoughts. These are the pesky little thoughts that can creep into our minds while we are enjoying our watermelon. It can ruin a seemingly fun time we are having at a picnic. For all I know they might even crawl between our toes as we are sleeping. They certainly crawl through our minds no matter what we are doing. Just like the pesky little insects, they can literally come out of nowhere and multiply by the thousands!
Much like the interesting, although annoying, insects, negative thoughts can be tricky to get rid of. If you find yourself having several negative thoughts ruining your picnics or crawling through your toes while you are sleeping, the question is how to rid ourselves of them. We are going to use several mental versions of the ant killer above. In this case, it would be A.N.T. killer. The first is to acknowledge they are there. If you do your best to ignore the ants in your pantry, not only will they stay there, they may very well grow in number. Same holds true of our negative thoughts. Closing your eyes and saying over and over, “There are no ants.” will not get them out of your pantry or your head. What will? We are going to look at a few steps to take thatare not only affective, but enjoyable as well.
First things first. Get a handle on the A.N.T.s you have. I recommend doing this for a the very minimum of 3 days. Carry a little pocket notebook with you and jot down any of the negative thoughts you have. We can’t begin to deal with something unless we have a concrete idea of what it is. At the end of each day take a look at your list. Are these thoughts true? Most of the time the answer is ‘no’. In this case the simple solution is every time you catch yourself thinking that thought, counter with a firm dismissal and replacement of a positive thought. An example would be if you are constantly saying to yourself, “I am so stupid!” or some version of that. As soon as the thought enters your mind, say to yourself, “I am not stupid! This is my mind’s weak attempt to hold me back from becoming all I might be!” This is not only true, but correcting yourself and reminding yourself that you are in control of your mind and not the other way around, will go a long way to turning things around. Follow this up with a more constructive thought. “I am intelligent in many ways and expanding my knowledge base daily.” In fact, spend some time thinking of what an empowering statement would be to you. Jot that down in your notebook you carry with you. This may seem awkward at first, but it will feel empowering soon enough.
Another tool is to surround yourself with things that are inspiring. As you can see, I am writing at Starbucks today and this is my screensaver. It is a picture of myself and my lovely lady, Margie. Not only does her cute face make me smile, but the knowledge that there is someone who loves me that I get to come home to is a very positive thought. I suggest using screensavers, as many of us look at them a million times a day, to inspire us. If that is a picture of the person you love, your dog, a special spot in nature or an inspiring quote. Do this on your phone, your computer and any other place you can think of. Print out pictures and place them on your desk, your mirror and here is a great idea, keep one on your dash in your car! We drive almost everywhere these days and having some inspiring picture to look at along with some ‘feel good’ music will make that journey an empowering one. Even if some A.N.T. tries to hitch a ride.
A few last thoughts about A.N.T. or automatic negative thoughts. Just like the insects, they are never going to be totally gone. One will always continue to pop up now and then and be dealt with, whether that means catching it and setting it free, or stomping on it and crushing it into submission. The next thing to remember is just like insects in your home, thoughts in your head are best dealt with quickly before they have a chance to establish themselves and start to grow. If you have an established colony of A.N.T.s in your head, know that it may take longer than if there were just a few strays. Also, remember after extermination, if you don’t keep on top of them they can come back and start another infestation. There are also many ways to get rid of ants, both the thoughts and the insects. Some work better than others and some work better in certain circumstances than others. We have looked at just a few in this brief article. I would love to hear your methods for getting rid of the automatic negative thoughts in your life. If you want to include something for the insects as well that wouldn’t hurt.
In honor of my upcoming book, Monday Morning Miracles, I wanted to share a quick inspiring thought to start the week. Monday can be a tough day for all of us. Back to work, back to school and just time away from our family and friends.
If this Monday has you feeling uninspired, here is a solution, inspire someone else! If you woke up feeling unmotivated after only 2 hours of sleep because you had to DJ (purely hypothetical 😉) motivate someone else! Feeling sad and already missing time with those you love? Spend a good portion of your Monday cheering up someone else!
When we help others it not only brightens their day, but it can’t help but reflect on us! Not to mention, it fills our surroundings with inspired, motivated and happy people! OWN MONDAY, DON’T LET IT OWN YOU!