On what is the unofficial 9th anniversary of this blog, we want to wish you so a happy Thanksgiving. May we all spend our day counting our blessings!
Most of you know that we have two distinct areas of our mind. Both the conscious and subconscious mind. The conscious mind is the one that we believe we use most often. It is the part of our mind that decides whether we should flip off the driver that just cut us off in traffic or treat him with compassion and imagine he only did so because he really has to poop. It is the one that picks the restaurant we go for dinner or what groceries we are going to pick up to make dinner. Here is the truth that may be shocking to some, the subconscious mind, the one we are not aware of, represents around 90% of our brains function.
“How can that be?” you may wonder. It would seem every time you seem to be using your brain, you seem to be consciously doing so, are you not? The answer, in short, is ‘no’. Your subconscious mind does some pretty amazing things such as keeping you breathing, your heart breathing, regulating body temperature through different means as well as digesting your last meal, and letting you know when it is time to get rid of that meal. It is far more than just these ‘behind the scenes’ functions that this portion of our brain controls. Has this ever happened to you? You are driving to work and a song you like comes on the radio. Lost in all of the memories and emotions that song brings back you suddenly find yourself over halfway to your journey. Let me ask the question, who was driving while you were reliving your senior prom? Your subconscious mind took over. Let us look at driving itself. Do you remember when you first learned to drive? There were a million things to remember. Check the mirror, which pedal does what. Remembering to use your turn signal. (a personal pet peeve of mine) It seemed there was a million things to do and remember. Your mind was on high alert. Fast forward to now. You hold your coffee with one hand, while holding your breakfast sandwich in the other watching the dog sticking its head out the window in the car next to you as you steer with your knees. Now driving has just become…well…driving. The only time this changes is when you have to turn down the music as you look to find an address. Something I still don’t understand. How does sound affect vision? I digress.
Whether you are a fan of sci-fi, fantasy, action/adventure or even fair tales, there is one thing they all have in common. The hero. Think of the warrior setting out on his fateful journey. Whether that be to rid the world of evil, save the princess, slay the dragon or a host of other exciting adventures, that is usually a core theme of any good story. Even in modern times, the warrior may look different, but it is one of the classic themes. Either man verses the world, man verses man, or man verses himself. One of those challenges has to be overcome to make the story great.
I don’t pretend to know all of your professions, but I doubt any of us are saving a princess, ridding the world or evil or slaying a dragon, or are we? It may feel as though our life is lacking a great adventure, but that is far from the truth. Are you ridding the world of evil? Let me ask you this, are you a parent? Are you raising your children to be polite, accepting and compassionate individuals? Are you someone who is trying to unite people and bring them together for the common good? Are you simply someone who does their best to leave everyone a little happier than when they came in contact with them? I can tell you that is a great adventure this day and age. I can also tell you our friends in retail would look at you as a hero coming in to save them from all of the complaining and negative people they are bound to come in contact with.
Saving the princess? How many of us know a princess personally? How many of us even live in a country where there is a princess? You may think the answer would be very few of us. I am here to tell you the answer is every one of us! How can that be? Do you have a significant other? There is your prince or princess, depending. Of course they are not being held captive by an evil warlord. They are not trapped in a dungeon. This is not exactly true. Are they trapped in a stressful job 8 hours a day? Are they faced with a stressful commute? Maybe drama with friends or family? How would they view someone who brings them flowers or a romantic card? Maybe takes them out to dinner? Takes out the garbage without being reminded or just holds them and reminds them how beautiful and loved they are? That, my friends is saving the princess or prince. Don’t have that special someone in your life yet? If you do this for people you care about, you will be their hero and soon find yourself in the arms of that special someone.
Ok, you may be thinking you can relate to all of that, but slaying a dragon? Dragons are not even real! There are no dragons to slay in the real world. That statement couldn’t be more incorrect. They may not be mean-looking fire-breathing reptiles, but there are dragons a plenty to slay. Are you battling an addiction? You know all about slaying the dragon. That becomes a daily dragon to face. Working on eating better and getting to the gym? Dragon to slay. Doing your best to not give in to the negative influences all around you? Dragon to slay. Just as a warrior would never go into battle with a fierce dragon without a weapon and a shield, we must do the same. Our faith in our spiritual beliefs can be our shield. Our focus on a better future can be our weapon. Whatever dragon we are going to face, we should do so prepared. We should celebrate when the dragon is slayed as any good warrior would, and then we must prepare for the next dragon we will face.
Our life is our greatest adventure. We embark everyday on a great quest. We are ridding the world of evil, rescuing princesses and princes and slaying dragons. Sometimes all three in a single day. It is another reason that self-care is so important. As any great warrior, we must take time to let our wounds heal so we stand the greatest chance at succeeding in our quest! Stay strong my fellow warriors.
Take a look at the picture above. These runners are about to begin their race. What do you think is going through their minds? Excitement? A good deal of nerves I am imagining. Perhaps even a little bit of fear mixed in. They have trained months, years, maybe even their whole lives for this moment. If they win, all of that will be worth it. If they lose? It may crush some, and others may strengthen their resolve to push harder, to practice longer. What is fueling their excitement is possibilities.
This type of emotion holds true for the start of a race, competitions of any sort, vacations, adventures and many other things. For the beginning of the work week, however, we fill ourselves with emotions such as dread, boredom, gloom and many other unpleasantries. Why do we view the workweek in such a manner? There are, of course, many things that we don’t enjoy and many challenges. Same can be said for vacation. Raise your hand if you like going through airport security. I am guessing there are few, if any, of you with your hand raised right now. Who likes going through customs in a foreign country or looking for your transportation at the airport? Again, probably not many of you. How come those do not cause dread?
The answer is in what we choose to focus on. As we take our shoes off and wait to pass through the metal detector, our thoughts remain focused on tropical shores and Pina coladas. The challenges we face are just obstacles to overcome so that we can enjoy the destination. At the starting line of a race we do not focus on how hard the hills will be, how our breathing will be labored or a host of other things we must go through. No, our thoughts are focused on the feeling we will have crossing the finish line. Can we be faster than we were last race? Did we train the right way? Did we hydrate enough? There are a million steps we have taken to give us the best chance to succeed and now they will pay off.
Imagine if we applied this same thinking to the workweek? Keep our thoughts on the fun plans we had that weekend. Focus on the feeling of punching out that Friday. This may very well keep us from punching out anything, or anyone else. The boss yelling at you with bad breath? That is just like airport security. Your coworker filling your ears with useless gossip? Like going through customs. These are just things we have to make it through to get to the weekend. Weekend to far away for you? focus on the feeling of leaving work for the day. That feeling of freedom as you turn off your computer, close your locker or the door of your workplace shuts behind you. When you experience these things, celebrate! You have earned it!
Let us change our perception of Monday. It is not the end of our weekend freedoms. It is the beginning of a race to overcome challenges to make to the next weekend. Can we do it while finding more joy than last weekend? Can we be happier than we were the week before? Can we make it through all the challenges? Keep our focus on the goal and I know we can!
The week is almost over. Let us finish strong and go into the weekend smiling!
I love this quote by Jocko Willink. Why? Because all too many of us are guilty of it, myself included. I get it, you don’t want to waste time or action. You want to discover the action that is going to give you the greatest return. Here is a secret – that action is the one you take. You might be asking, “What if I take the wrong action?” I can promise you that you will find out a lot quicker if it is, or is not, the right action by taking it. Not only can you then take corrective action, but you will have learned valuable information on what does not work and why in the process. Plus, as we discussed in the last post, you begin to gain momentum. Even seeing little successes can help you push through and tweak what does not work.
Still find yourself paralyzed by fear of doing the wrong thing? Let me tell you, doing nothing is the wrong thing. You may be trying to find the spark that disappeared from your relationship and are worried that if you do the wrong thing, it may push that spark further away. If you do nothing, and nothing changes in your relationship, that person’s emotions will continue to slowly fade. Even if you do the wrong thing with the best of intentions, they see that you are trying. Nothing stays the same. It is either getting better or getting worse. Take your health for example. Many people reading this post will have the New Year’s resolution to get in shape. In the next month and a half, not working on improving your health can have disastrous consequences. Those extra pounds around the midsection, that extra daily stress, that unhealthy diet or sedentary lifestyle will continue to slowly, or not so slowly affect you. If you start now, you can find what does and does not work for you. Rather than waiting to start until the New Year, make it your goal to be living a healthier lifestyle by the New Year.
Choices in life can be confusing. What is not, is the choice whether to act or not. Jump in with both feet. You will not drown, but you will figure out how to swim in a hurry. You cannot learn standing on the shore. You may swallow some water, especially early on, but you will get there. Here is another powerful thought to keep in mind. The quicker you start, the quicker you will arrive. You can read about something all you want, and you should, but do so as you are taking action. Learn from your actions as well as your research. When is the best time to start? Now. Where is the best place to start? Right here.
The most common question I am asked anywhere I go from my day job, to book signings, to live events is this, “What is one thing that I can do to improve my life?” In a society where people are used to quick universal solutions, it can be hard to understand that the solutions can be as varied as the individual. That being said, there is one thing that I would recommend to everyone looking to improve their life. It is at once both universal and customizable. This may sound crazy, but let me assure you that it is 100% true. How can the same solution work for both neighbor Bob and me if I am trying to get in shape and he is trying to fix his relationship?
Let us take the example of getting in shape. Although this can work no matter what area of life you are working on, from parenting to going to a job that seems to suck your soul out of you. If you were to ask someone what the best thing to do to get in shape is, you would, no doubt, receive a million different answers. Some people, like my mother, say walking is the best exercise. I have read that a rowing machine uses roughly 87% of your muscles. Throw swimming, bicycling and other such things in the mix and before long your head starts to spin. If I seek the advice of my friends at peak physique, Jodi and Ricky, I may hear weight lifting, cardio or yoga. So who is right in all of this? They all are. What determines success in fitness, as well as self-improvement, is consistency. While it is true that certain activities use more muscles that others, they do not use any unless you do them. Therefore, the great secret to improving your life? Find something you enjoy. Why? Because you are more likely to keep doing it. Maybe you like battle ropes like the people in the picture above? Let me say, for the record, I have never seen anyone smiling while doing battle ropes, especially while being ‘encouraged’ by a trainer as seems to be the case here. While rowing or walking may use more muscle groups, if you do not like those activities, you are less likely to maintain doing them.
What does all of this have to do with the broad topic of self-improvement? Everything! What events are more likely to change your life? I think fostering an attitude of gratitude is number one on the list. How can you do that? The way that works for you. Do you like keeping a gratitude journal? Then do that because you are likely to stick with it long enough to make a difference. How about carrying a little talisman in your pocket to remind you of something you are grateful for? Then do that. The secret is maintaining a behavior long enough to see results. Relying on will power sets you up for limited success at best. The best chance at success in whatever area of life you are trying to improve is to find something you like and start with that. As things improve, which they will, you will find it easier to add things that may be more beneficial, but would have been harder to stick with in the beginning. You gain momentum by doing an activity that you enjoy. You can use that momentum to make sticking to the more difficult activities that might be needed to accomplish your goals. I would love to hear some of your favorite activities that you use to improve different areas of your life.
It is nearing the end of the year. No need to wait until January to start working on achieving your goals. This week we are going to look at little things you can do that will have a huge impact in your life. For today, realize we can start when we choose and that can be today. To begin the week, get clear as to what you want to achieve. Write it down so it is there and black and white! We will see you tomorrow for more insights.
HAVE A GREAT MONDAY!!!!
Sitting Bull is one of my favorite philosophers. This particular statement is very profound. A good amount of people spend very little time thinking about the world past today. In this wake up, pay bills and die type culture, we are focused on how to get through the day. If we do spend time thinking about what is best for our future, we come to the realization that it is our actions today that affect our future. You want to retire? You have to begin saving today. You want to live a long and healthy life? It is the dietary and exercise choices we make today that will determine that.
How often do most people spend contemplating the generations to come? If you are a parent, you have a vested interest in how the world will turn out. Even then, life can get in the way. There are so many things to keep track of that thinking of how your actions will affect future generations might not be the first thing on your mind. Really, it should be. All of our actions affect the future because they affect the present. How you treat someone will affect how they treat others later in the day, and perhaps even further. throwing garbage on the street not only makes the world look terrible in the present, but can affect the water supply, animals may eat it or get tangled in it. Everything we do trickles down and affects everything else.
Starting this weekend, ask yourself how it will affect the future. Will it affect the attitude of the person who helps you at the coffee shop if you vent your anger on them? It may ruin their mood and they may treat the next customer poorly. That next customer will walk away with a negative attitude of the coffee shop or at the very least the person who served them. Will that piece of garbage you throw on the ground do damage to more than just the appearance of city? Conversely, if you compliment someone, how will that affect their day? If you pick up garbage on the ground, could you save an animal? Could you do more to positively affect the world for the next generation? Let us work together to create a better world for our children? Let us have a constructive conversation about this topic.