YOUR BIGGEST ASSET IN THE WORLD

This picture is worth a thousand words! You can see the people all walking in the same environment, but having completely different experiences. You can also see the difference and the determining factor in the experience they are having is largely determined by what is happening inside their minds. They all have to seem to have their share of problems. Don’t we all seem to have our fair share? Even the man with the ‘flower’ over his head I am sure has his share of issues that need attending in his life.

What makes the difference is what they choose to focus on. It would appear that the others seem to be focusing on what is going wrong in their lives. Some, it would appear, are worried about work, a dominating spouse, and one looks like a rock or gray volley ball. Whatever it is, it doesn’t look good. To some of you, walking around thinking about a flower may seem absolutely ridiculous. That’s quite alright. It doesn’t have to be a flower. I have allergies and thinking of a flower might induce me to think of sneezing. It could be thinking of the person you are in love with. This works best if you are getting along. It could be remembering a fun and sunny vacation during a cold winter drive into work.

When it comes to our physical health there is a great deal of importance, or at least should be, of what we are eating. When it comes to our mental well-being the attention should often focus to what is eating us. When you are taking worry for a walk it can be hard to enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine or just about any other pleasant aspect of life. When we think of having a parasite inside of us eating away it can sound both rather unpleasant and scary. Which, I would imagine it is.

Having that worry, anger and sadness inside us is no different. Think of worry. How do you feel when you are worried? Your stomach churns. your breath is shallow. You are not able to focus on what you are doing. Sometimes you develop a headache. How about when you are angry? Your blood pressure rises. Your nerves are on edge and everything seems to bother you. How about sadness? You can walk around feeling as if a Weight is on your shoulders. You are not able to sleep well. In all three cases your immune system in depressed. How do you think having these physical conditions for an extended period of time would affect our health? Can you imagine having excess stomach acid for several weeks or longer? This is what happens when we walk around in a state of worry. It can lead to ulcers, digestive issues. How about constantly raised blood pressure? That can lead to a serious heart issues. A depressed immune system can leave you open to a host of terrible ailments.

Here is the upside to all of this. Just as we go to a doctor when we have a physical ailment, so should we see someone to correct a concern with our emotional or spiritual side. Whether that is seeing a therapist, talking to a trusted spiritual leader, seeking the company and conversation of a good friend, reading a book, meditating or whatever else we need to do to address our compromised mindset. You would not leave an open wound sit because you were embarrassed to have people know you went to a doctor? The same holds true about addressing conditions that exist on the inside. We all have problems we are dealing with. If they become too much for us to deal with on our own, we should seek outside help. This should not make us feel embarrassed or that we are less than. Quite the opposite. It should make us proud. We are brave enough to recognize and admit we are struggling in an area. (Trust me at any given time we all are) On top of that, we are smart enough to be doing something about it. We are working to be the best version of ourselves.

You wouldn’t feel bad about taking your car to an expert mechanic to be fixed. You wouldn’t hesitate to take your cell phone back to the store if it wasn’t working right. You should feel just as confident seeking professional help to address any issue that may be bothering you. If you do, you have a fully supportive group here on this website behind you. It is not only important to your health, but in the long run will determine the quality of the life you live. Here, we want to live amazing lives. Let us all help each other do so.

DO THEY HAVE YOUR PERMISSION?

It amazes me how many people do not understand that their feelings are generated inside of them. They blame the news, their spouse, their boss, their coworker or the cat down the road for ruining their day. In essence, you are giving these sources control over your mental well-being. You are actually giving them permission to ruin your day by reacting to their actions.

This is all very easy for me to say logically. Emotionally, this takes a lot more practice to live and understand. The closer a person is to you, their control over your emotions increases to a greater extent. For example, if someone you have never met tells you they find you unattractive, how would you feel? It may sting a little, or you may shrug it off entirely. Now what if your best friend told you the same thing? You might actually become angry. It may feel a little more valid. What if you came home one night and your spouse told you the same thing? You would feel deeply hurt, perhaps devastated.

I am not advocating that you become a heartless person. I am not telling you to deny your feelings. Just consider whether what these people have to say has any justification. Some people say terrible things when they are hurting. Some less evolved individuals do not anyone to be happy if they are not. The whole ‘misery loves company’ sort of thing. Considering the amount of people we come in contact with today, both in person and online, the chance one of them may say or do something that could bring us down is rather high. I suggest having a mantra written down that says “I am not going to let anyone bring me down.”

It is your day. Do they have your permission to ruin it?

FALLING APART CAN BE OK….

This may seem like a silly picture and in some ways in certainly is. There is a grain of wisdom in this humor, however. Falling apart is something we all do from time to time. I do not care how strong you are, there are moments that can bring us to our knees. Loss of jobs and any way to support ourselves and our families. Loss of those we love and the prospect of having to live the rest of our lives without them. Even just getting to the point of feeling overwhelmed with the day-to-day stress we all go through can leave us at a breaking point.

We can end up staying in bed with all of the lights off and the covers pulled up over our heads. We can call into work and spend the day on the couch watching sapping movies while inhaling a tub of our favorite flavor of ice cream. It could leave us irritable and snapping at those who have nothing to do with our depressed state. Having days like this do not make us a bad person. Feeling that way can only add to the depressing feelings we are already having. “Why did I eat that whole tub of rocky road while binge watching I Love Lucy for 3 hours?” or “Why did I just yell at my coworker for moving my coffee cup 2 inches to the left?” can leave us beating ourselves us for even longer.

What are we to do then? There are two thoughts that may help us not only survive these moments but allow us to thrive using what they teach us. The first thought to keep in mind is that it is ok to have the occasional meltdown. In fact, doing so not only shows you are an emotional and normal human being, but denying yourself expression to your feelings of overwhelm can lead to an even bigger disaster. Without healthy, and an occasional unhealthy, expression of negative feelings they can eat away at us mentally, emotionally and physically. This can cause permanant damage that make take years to undo.

The second thought to keep in mind is like that of the taco – just because you fall apart does not mean you aren’t still loveable. As the funny picture above mentions, tacos fall apart and we still love them. What do you do when your taco falls apart? Personally, I pick up the pieces and have an impromptu taco salad or nachos. Sure, I may have wanted the experience of a taco that day, but I still have all of the ingredients and flavor, just in a different form. Life is like that too. We certainly didn’t want whatever challenge caused us to feel the way we were, but we can pick up the pieces and still make something great out of it. Picking up the pieces may require going for a walk or spending a little extra time at the gym to work off the calories we consumed in our depressed state or taking a moment to apologize to those we may have caught off guard with our momentary quick temper. Not only will you find people both understanding of your situation, but after a sincere apology, they may even offer to help in whatever way they can.

Next time you have a meltdown, just think of a taco and know everything will be ok. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow but eventually things will be ok. If a taco can fall apart and still be loved, so can you.

NEVER CUT DOWN A TREE IN WINTER

This is a very important statement to ponder. You may even wish to print it out and keep it somewhere as a reminder. As I write this I am sitting in a newer Starbucks that has windows almost everywhere. This normally would be ideal, except it is like winter in Wisconsin where I live. Add to that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what this disorder, more commonly known as S.A.D., is allow me to explain. S.A.D. is a condition that physically changes a person during the dark dreary months of winter. There are changes in hormonal levels that cause irritability at best and can bring on seasonal depression at worse. 

As you may imagine, this can be quite a challenge for someone who lives for inspiring and encouraging others. That challenge is compounded by living in a state that seems to have winter 9 months out of the year. We are working on changing that. (San Diego stay tuned) I can be in moods that are less than ideal in the coming months. Fortunately for me, the passion I have leads me to look for solutions instead of just acknowledge the problems.

It has also instilled in me a passion for controlling my emotional states. This can be helpful all year long. It is often tempting to make a decision when we are in an extreme emotional state. Especially when we are angry. The adrenaline these emotions give us can leave us feeling more powerful and motivated. Generally, this is a positive aspect of life and can be great if we use it to go to the gym and have an intense workout for example. This is why it is so important to have a healthy way of dealing with anger put in place before it occurs.

Extreme emotional states can twist our perception of reality. We tend to see things different than they really are and very often worse than they really are. Remember just as we have days that are meant to challenge us and make us grow, so do others. A good portion of the world has not learned to use challenges for growth. Sometimes their ignorance may manifest as poor treatment of you. Instead of getting mad and treating them harshly, why not use their treatment of you as an example of how to use challenges for growth. In my past, I did not always respond to challenging situations in a healthy way. It was those who responded with patience and understanding that taught me far more than those who responded with anger of their own.

Here is another reason, albeit a bit more selfish one, to not respond in anger. It saves you from looking like a fool. We all know a couple that personifies this. One day they are posting how terrible each other are on social media. They next day they are madly in love. Not only does this make you look silly, it weakens your relationship and calls into question the integrity of your character. Although having it in black and white for the world to read is pretty dramatic, the same holds true for what you say in person. If you are having a disagreement with someone be it your friend, spouse or coworker and you proceed to share the details and bad mouth them to everyone you see, it does not reflect as poorly on them as it does on you. Imagine what the person you are talking to will think when you have a disagreement with them? Fight to master your emotions. It will serve you, it will serve those who are in your life. 

ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S HARD

In this blog we explore many ways in which to have an amazing life. A lot of that focus tends to fall on how to have an amazing relationship. After all, relationships, more than anything else, have a great impact on our lives. Let us be honest, if our relationships are less than amazing, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for our lives to be amazing. That is why I recommend relationship building as a life-long study regardless of the field you are in.

Even in the best relationships things can go south. Despite our best efforts, despite all of our best intentions and study, things often zig when they should have zagged. It happens. When we find ourselves in a state that seems to be less then amorous with our partners it can be easy to stray from the things we know we should do. The ironic part is that is when it is most important.

One of the things I always do for Margie is open her car door. To me it is a sign of respect. It is a little thing I can do to show her how much I value and treasure the lady she is. Another thing we do for each other is kiss each other at red lights. This does two very important things. First, it places a loving action in what is generally a mundane and occasionally stressful activity. Second, it turns red lights from something to dread, to something to look forward to.

When things in the relationship are running on less than ideal terms certain thoughts come to mind. I am reminded she is physically capable of opening her own door and how nice it would be to get into the car and relax myself. There are times when I could look straight ahead and focus on the waiting for the red light to change instead of leaning over to kiss her. It is these times, however, when it is most important to do these actions.

This is why. When I open the door for her even when we are not seeing eye to eye, it shows her that even though I may not be happy with the situation, I still respect and honor her as my lady. When I lean over to kiss her at a red light on a night we might not be on the best of speaking terms it says, “Even though we not be liking each other a lot right now, I still love you.” It is vitally important to maintain little actions that show respect and love in times of discord. Quite often these can soften the hardest of hearts, even if that one is your own at times.

Here is a great side-effect that arises from maintaining these loving actions. At the end of the day you can look back and know that despite circumstances, you were the best version of yourself. You can also be confident that you did what was right for your relationship. It would be easy, and even excusable, to forgo certain loving actions when you are angry. What it will not do is give you an amazing relationship. That, as we discussed earlier, will make it very difficult to have an amazing life.

IT CANNOT BE UNDONE

I like this picture for what it shows us. I have always said Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion. We can become angry, upset and frustrated. When we are in this state the way we see the world and others in it can change. It is important to allow ourselves time to cool down and make decisions with a clear mind and a clear heart.

Words that we say can cause a lifetime of hurt, even if apologized for later. We can cause someone to have fear and a complex for the rest of our lives because we let our emotions get the best of us. We can forever change the way they look and feel towards us for letting our tongue get ahead of our head. It may feel like the right thing to do at the time, but do yourself a favor and Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.  

FREE YOURSELF

I love this quote, but more to the point I like the thought behind it. Too many of us focus on and dwell on the hurt that has been done to us in the past. Here is a shocking bit of news for you – the only person you are continuing to hurt is yourself. By reliving the pain and hurt you experienced, you are simply choosing to experience that pain and hurt all over again. The ironic thing is that the only person to blame this time is you. I know you might be saying, “But Neil if they wouldn’t have hurt me in the first place I would have nothing to relive.” That may be true, but they have moved on and it would serve you to do the same.

Will Smith said it best when he remarked “fault and responsibility are not linked.” It may be their fault that they hurt you but it is your responsibility to not only move on from that hurt, but better yet, put that pain to work for you and stop letting it hold you back. Still stewing over what your ex did to you years ago? How do you think that will affect your current relationships? If we were to put what you are doing into words it would sound something like this, “I am not only going to feel this pain and heartache every day, but I am going to let that pain screw up my current and future relationships.” Doesn’t sound very sensible does it?

In the above quote Nelson Mandela was speaking about a government who had kept him in jail for 25 years based on the color of his skin. Was that his fault? Of course not. Was that fair or right? Absolutely not. If he focused on that anger and bitterness when he was freed who would suffer? Not those who jailed him. It would be himself that would feel anger and bitterness in his heart. It would be him that would eventually fall victim to physical ailments due to those emotions. As he said if he did not let those emotions go he would not be free.

I am not advocating letting people walk all over you. Far from it. Be cautious against those who have hurt you, but do not relive the pain. It does not affect them and it can only hurt you. Remember fault and responsibility are not linked. It sucks, but it is true. Free yourself from your hate, sadness, bitterness and anger. Enjoy the freedom you deserve.

THE MAGIC FORMULA

Half of my time engaged in my writing career includes observing the ideas of others. After all, finding ways to live a positive rewarding life should include as many successful resources as possible. Today’s post was learned watching a talk given by Jack Canfield, one of the authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Jack was speaking about his great book The Success Principles. One of the things he mentioned that really grabbed my attention was a formula you can use to determine and control the success and joy experienced in your life.

A formula for figuring out life? If you are picturing a chalkboard full of equations do not worry. This formula only has three parts and can be used by everyone. The beautiful thing about researching is that a great deal of the information you come across is very similar. The unique thing is how it is presented. This formula is such an example. It can be difficult or at the very least not very motivating to try and remember some esoteric phrase or cliché quote. A formula is simple and easy to adjust. Let us take a quick look at the formula and discuss how we can use it to change our life and the level of joy we experience in it.

E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome)

Using a math comparison let us say this equation is 2 + 2 = 4. Sounds pretty simple, does it not? The first part of the equation – Event – we often to not have control over. It is like the first number ‘2’ in our example. Let us say we are not thrilled with the outcomes in areas of our lives. That would be the ‘4’ in our example. If we have no control over the first ‘2’ and we are not happy with ‘4’ as the outcome, we must change the second ‘2’. This is also known as our response. This we have complete control over. It may not be easy, but when we learn to control our response to any event it will change our outcomes. This will change our life and the amount of joy in it. I suggest printing or writing this formula somewhere you see it every day.

Let us take this one step further. In our equation let us use negative numbers to represent negative aspects. If the first number or the first ‘2’ is negative, that is a negative event. These often happen to us and again are beyond our control. We get fired, the love of our life finds they love someone else or a million other situations can happen. We have the choice of not responding, or making the second ‘2’ a ‘0’, that leaves the situation equally as negative as when we began. We can also respond with negativity. This could range from anger, sadness, revenge and depending on the severity could be anything from a ‘-1’ to a ‘-100’. The great the number behind the negative sign, in other words the more negative our response, the more negative the outcome will be.

On the other hand, we could also respond positively. Perhaps the situation was mildly negative, like a long wait in line at the store. We will say this is a ‘-1’. We could use this time to send our spouse a text message letting them know how much we love them and how proud we are to be with them. That would be a positive response to the situation. We could say this response was a ‘+3’. -1 +3 = 2. The situation could still turn out positive by the time we get home. Our spouse could be filled with love and gratitude for our gesture. If, on the other hand, we spend our time thinking about how much this is an inconvenience on our day and get ourselves all worked up we would be having a negative response. We will say this is a ‘-3’. Again, that would depend on the level of anger. Now our formula looks like this -1 + -3 = -4. We have taken a bad situation and made the outcome even more negative. What could this mean? Perhaps we treat the cashier harshly, or come home to our spouse in a bad mood and jeopardize the chance for a romantic evening.

If we are dealt a terribly negative situation, say a ‘-10’. Let use our lover leaving us for this example. It was beyond our control. We have already seen by responding negatively, such as spreading bad gossip about them or trying to do something vengeful, will only lead to a greater negative outcome. What if we can use this to our advantage? Perhaps we can learn lessons about modifying our own behavior for future spouses? Maybe we can take notes as to what type of people to avoid dating in the future? These positives could only amount to say a ‘+5’. Plugging that into our equation -10 + 5 = -5. You could see the situation may still suck, but not quite as bad. The ability to create the most positive responses can increase our ability to overcome, or at the very least lessen the effect, of the most negative situations.

Lastly, there is what to me is the most puzzling of all equations, but one I witness far too often. That is where we have a positive event. Let us say we get a raise which could be a ‘+4’. Again, the number could depend on the amount of the raise, how  bad we needed the raise or even how expected the raise was. A normal response would be joy or gratitude, let us say a +3. That equation would be 4 + 3 = 7. The outcome would be made even more positive by our response. There are those who do what I consider baffling. They receive their raise a +4 and instead of adding positivity to that event, do the very opposite. Perhaps they complain it wasn’t enough or how long it was overdue. They might even end up feeling dissatisfied or even angry with getting more money. This response could be anything from a ‘-4’ to perhaps a ‘-6’. Our equation now looks like this 4 + (-6) = -2. You can take a positive event and turn it into a negative outcome!

So, print out this equation and work on controlling your response. The more positive your responses, the more positive your outcomes will be. Lots of positive outcomes lead to a positive life. It will help us cope better with the negative and only intensify the positive!

TRAIN YOUR MIND

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. I used to think quotes like this were a bunch a new-age nonsense. I also used to be a pretty angry and depressed person. Personal perception can do a lot to change your life. This may be hard to believe, but let me ask you a question. Have you ever read about, or perhaps even known someone personally, who seems to have the worst situation but has the best attitude? I am sure we all have. In my upcoming book Living the Dream I have a collection of interviews with people who seem to have every reason to be depressed, angry, jaded or a host of other unpleasant emotions, but yet are some of the most positive and inspiring people I know.

The million-dollar question is how do they do it? They control their thoughts. It is not easy and is not something they woke up doing all of a sudden. They ask themselves empowering questions such as, “What is good about this?” and “How can I use this?” I am certain there are times when the first answers that pop into their minds are not the most inspiring, but they keep asking.

The hard truth is that we cannot control all the circumstances of our lives, no matter how hard we try. We just do not have that power. What we can control is how we react to those circumstances. We have all heard the cliché “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” The reason things become cliché is because they have some truth to them.

Finding out how to make lemonade out of your particular lemons can be a tricky and ongoing process. The payout, however, is control over your life. Once you can control your thoughts, life can no longer control you. The tough times cannot bring you down because you will be able to both find the good in them, as well as use them to your advantage.

The next post we will look at another way in which all of the people I interviewed for my book control their thoughts. It is one trait they all have in common. Once you introduce this trait into your life and combine it with the two questions we mentioned here, you will be well on your way to controlling your thoughts!

THE PATH TO INNER PEACE

As I sit here full of bliss sipping my green tea at Starbucks, I know not everyone is this lucky. I have found the key to having an amazing life is being grateful for the life you have. I also have found the quote in the picture above to be very true. A quick glance at most social media accounts will show how much we value the opinions of others. There is a lot of ‘He said/she said’. In person I hear people get so excited about what is being said about them. There are two young ladies in particular who I think live to worry about what is the hottest items on the gossip wire. As they come excitedly to me to relay what is being said about who, I great them with the same reply, “Don’t know. Don’t care.”

This line of thought when it comes to both gossip and rude people has brought me more peace than almost anything else I do. When you stop and think about it, what other people think about you is really their business. Sometimes you can learn little things you might improve, but generally gossip holds no redeeming value. I recall when one of those ladies I mentioned earlier was concerned as to what people may be saying to me, she could not tell me enough. Again I gave her my same reply, “Don’t know. Don’t care.” She asked how I could not be concerned as to what people whispered behind my back.. The answer is easy, if they are doing it behind my back, then that is where I leave it – behind me. If those I love and care about have some concern with me and tell it to me personally, I definitely would take the time to discuss it with them. Otherwise, it is not worth the energy and feelings to worry about.

As far as rude, critical, and argumentative people the answer is the same. On one of the Apps I share my positivity on a gentleman became enraged with me. As he continued to place one comment after another on my post becoming more and more angry I did my best to explain that being upset about my writing was not doing him any good. I even suggested he ‘mute’ me on that site so he would not have to see my posts which obviously upset him. He continued throughout the evening to comment and work himself up. He even continued by posting about it the next day. The funny thing about all of this is what he was upset about – my title was in all capital letters. He thought that should be reserved for emergencies, which was his right. My title was 6 letters long. It included the word ‘I’ which should be capitalized as well as the first letter of the title. So, this man was angry for 2 whole days over 4 letters being capitalized.

Margie, in her sweet loving way, always wishes to go online and defend me to these people. Again, I remind her that it really doesn’t matter. The majority of people appreciate what I write and enjoy the content. In fact, in six years, over several social media platforms as well as print there has never been one person to be upset that my title was in all capitals. That is saying quite a bit as I am followed in over 100 countries by over 20,000 people, not to mention the casual viewer.

This man certainly had a right to his opinion. By him getting so upset the only person he really hurt was himself. Buddha had a great quote about anger.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Anger, like worry, causes the release of acid in the system. Have you ever worried so much you actually started to feel sick to your stomach? Same with anger. Your blood pressure rises, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes shallow. All of those have negative impacts on your immune system as well as your overall feeling of well-being. You must ask yourself, “Is this worth getting upset over?” I can promise you the answer 9 times out of 10 will be a resounding ‘no’. Do yourself a favor. If you are working to be the best person you can and do the best you can, do not waste an ounce of energy on what other people may be saying. If someone approaches you to tell you all about what this person or that person is doing or saying I suggest giving them my response – “I don’t know and I don’t care.” Your sense of inner peace will thank you.