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.  

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!

HAVE YOU LOST THIS?


A study of children from 2 to 4 revealed 95% to be considered highly creative. This means these children are imaginative, innovative, they are curious and have tremendous capacity for abstract reasoning and for creating imaginative images. Those very same children were tested again at the age of 7. Only 4% were now considered creative. Between the ages of 4 and 7 children are repeated told things like “Make sure you only color between the lines.” “Don’t touch that!” “That is not the way you are supposed to do that.”
When I heard the numbers involved with this study I found it alarming, but not entirely shocking. Looking back on my formative years I can recall some of these same lessons. Without abstract thinking, however, most of the great solutions and leaps of growth would not have occurred. It is the ‘out of the box’ thinking that allows our scientists and entrepreneurs to bring some of the most wonderful things into the world
The wonderful news here is that creativity is not lost if you do not use it. What happens is that is becomes a latent talent, waiting to be dusted off and used again. Your creative muscles may have atrophied a bit, but fear not you can begin to strengthen them today. With the advent of things such as adult coloring groups, which I was just made aware they have at our local library, it is once again cool to be creative.
What is the big deal about being creative? It is really a two-fold win. First, it helps to create what scientists call brain plasticity. In layman’s terms, this means the ability for your brain to continue to grow. I do not think I need to go into much detail about why this is beneficial, but I will touch on a few of the big points. Exercising your brain in such a fashion can help keep degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia from gaining a foothold or at least slowing their advancement. It also leads to an increase in the ability of problem-solving. The applications for this is only as good as the areas of your life that have problems…that usually ends up being most of them.
An increased ability to solve problems and continued learning lead to our next benefit – increased self-confidence. Keeping your wits sharp will make you feel good about yourself. Tony Robbins, the famous life coach, said “It is progress that will lead to happiness.” If we think about that, isn’t it true? As we are working on and making progress towards a goal, isn’t that when we are happiest?
The final reason for being creative is equally important. IT IS FUN! As we grow older and take on additional responsibilities, it is the fun that often takes a back seat. That fun almost always includes the creative arts. This may stem from hearing “You can draw when your homework is done.” or “You will have time to play when your chores are done.” I can’t speak for all of you, but my chore list is often several days long. If I were to put off any creative or fun time until all of them were completed, my fun time would be far and few between.
Fortunately, the importance of play has come to the forefront once more. Those who have what we like to call a ‘work/life balance’ are often some of the most mentally and emotionally well-adjusted individuals. It is important to include some creative individuals in your inner circle. My beautiful lady, Margie, reminds me how important creativity is every day. I don’t know how she would test out in the well-adjusted scale, but I can tell you she has great taste in who she is dating.
If you don’t have creative friends in your circle, maybe you will have to take the lead and become one. Host an art night. Maybe form one of those adult coloring nights? Get a group together for one of those wine and painting nights. Margie and I host board game nights with friends that are not only creative, but always lots of fun. Your heart, your stress level and of course your brain will thank you.

IT’S ALL UP TO YOU

Building on what we learned last post – that fault and responsibility are not related – here is a prime example. Viewing life through these two different examples can make a world of difference. It can be related to the old adage “What people do to us is up to them. How we react to it is up to us.” This is easy to both read and understand intellectually, but try and live this way emotionally and you will discover it is not so easy.

What is vital to remember is that it is possible. We have control of our minds. For most of us we have relinquished that control, but we can get it back. Next time you find yourself upset due to some outside circumstance or some socially challenged individual, try saying to yourself, or better yet out loud, “I am really pissing myself off through this person!” If you are anything like me, you might chuckle at the absurd sounding nature of that statement, but sooner or later you will see the grain of truth in it.

Another great thing to follow up with is to imagine what possible reason that person could be acting like that. For example, when Margie and I are driving along, (Ok I am the driving and she is the along) and someone cuts us off to get that one car ahead before the red light, I often look at her and say, “Maybe they have to poop.” Certainly not the most eloquent option, but I am sure we can all relate having to hurry for just such a reason.

It helps you give the other party a certain benefit of the doubt. It doing so, it helps us get a little less upset. This is not to say you should let people treat you anyway or do whatever they like to you. What we are trying to do is lessen the effect their actions have on us.

Taking control of your mind and emotions is neither quick or easy, but with time and effort it can certainly pay dividends with reduced stress and mental anxiety. Try these simple tools to get started. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!

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!

MAKE THIS ONE SWITCH TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR THE BETTER


Today is ‘Hump Day’ the middle of the week. A lot has probably happened to all of us. As we get closer to the weekend and begin to focus our thoughts on all things more positive and weekend oriented, let us make one more important change. The change I am speaking of is mentioned in the picture above. Instead of claiming to be broken and helpless, switch that mindset to growing and healing.
This may seem like an inconsequential change, but it will create a brand-new lifestyle. When we focus on what is wrong in our life, or how it has damaged us, we bring ourselves down. Doing this repeatedly can leave us feeling helpless. Nothing could be further from the truth! Yes, we have all been hurt and many of those hurts can leave us damaged emotionally, spiritually, or even physically. That we cannot control. What we have complete control over is what these scars mean to us.
Being in a victim mode can lead us to think that our scars make us ugly and damaged. In contrast, when we switch our mentality to understand we are growing and healing, then we realize our scars are badges of honor. They show the world, and even more important ourselves, that we have made it through some really tough situations. It also gives us a measure of credibility to help those who might be going through the same things.
Another thing we do that will leave us feeling like a victim is assigning blame on others. “It is their fault that I am ____” Really? If that is the case and you let others control your state of well-being you will always feel helpless. Instead realize that while others may make us angry/sad/hurt or a million other unpleasant emotions, choosing to stay in those emotions is a choice we make. Instead, try this thought on for size, “This person really upset me, but because of that I am now a stronger and more determined person than I was before.” or one of my favorites, “I reacted to you and allowed my emotions to get the best of me in the moment. Now I shall use that to motivate me to take control of my own emotional state and become an even stronger and better person. Thank you.” Feel free to create your own. In fact, I am always on the lookout for new affirmations in this arena and would love to hear what works for you!

YOU NEED TIME FOR THIS

All of us have things in life that we don’t like to do. Cleaning the bathroom, doing the dishes, waking up early on our day off. Life is full of things that drain our happiness as well as our energy. The crazy thing is we really drag these items out. I am not necessarily talking about the actual act of doing them, although in some cases that might happen too. What I mean is we start dreading them long before we actually begin them. In the course of doing them often we can spend as much time complaining as we do acting. If we don’t do so out loud, we often spend countless moments cursing under our breath.

What I am suggesting? Certainly not whistling and dancing with one hand, toilet brush in the other? Not exactly, but if you can find a way to do that let me know. What I am advocating is striving for a little balance. We can do this in two ways. First, spend time every day on something you enjoy. Whether that is eating a Kit Kat or a taco. Maybe it is sitting down to a nice relaxing cup of coffee or tea. Perhaps listening to your favorite music? Whatever your moment of bliss is, make sure to schedule it. When you do, spend a few minutes getting excited about it before you actually begin. Think about how good that Kit Kat will taste, or imagine what toppings you will get on your taco. Hard shell, soft shell or both? Think about the scent of the coffee brewing or the feel of the warm liquid as you sip it. Then pay attention as you prepare the activity. Get excited as you brew the coffee. Smell the tea bag as you open it.

Lastly, be present while you are engaged in the activity. I can’t recall the times I have been looking forward to a particular dinner and I am half way through before I really slow down to enjoy the taste. With the delicious meals Margie creates that is about as close to a sin as you can get. Slow down and pay close attention to every detail of happiness. Why not? Enjoy it to the fullest. Use as many of your senses as you can. Feel the chocolate melt in your mouth as you eat the Kit Kat. Hear the crunch as you bite into it. Smell the chocolate. Enjoy the look of the perfectly formed wafers. Taste all the mix of flavors with each bite.

Second, try if you can, to incorporate some things that make you happy into some of the activities you dread. Of course you shouldn’t have a Kit Kat in hand and a toilet brush in the other. The potential for disaster certainly looms in that one. If you can however turn up some great music while you work, why not? Maybe treat yourself to a Kit Kat or taco after you finish cleaning the bathroom. I would, however, recommend washing your hands. It may even give you a little joy in what otherwise would be an arduous task.

Let us all schedule some bliss in our day. When we do let us make full use of it. Drink every last drop of joy and happiness out of the situation. Be totally present and treat it as a sort of mini vacation if you can. I would be elated to learn some of your moments of bliss. What activities bring joy into your life? Share them in the comments below!

THE FIRST PLACE TO CREATE PEACE

How often have you heard that we live in a crazy, chaotic world? If you don’t hear it daily from someone you know, you can read it splashed across the television screen, on the front page of the daily newspaper and on every social media site you go on. Reading and absorbing all of this negative news can leave us feeling scared, overwhelmed or exhausted. Sometimes we can feel all three with a host of other unpleasant emotions thrown on top! What are we left to do when we have a day feeling this way?

What many of fail to lose sight of is the fact that if we have inner peace, the outside world has little, if any, impact on our life. Sounds great, but if having inner peace was so easy, how come everyone is not sitting in the park in a state of bliss. To some extent it is not our fault…exactly. We have been lied to by the media, politicians and others. We have been told that we should worry if hypothetically we have a world leader that seems determined to make enemies of friends, create a world filled with division and hate. We have been told to worry if others different than us seem to be receiving some sort of advantage. Countries are about to go to war. The price of oil is going to go through the roof. The stock market is going to fall through the floor.

The truth of all of this is that while some of it may have an impact in our life to a greater or lesser degree, it is mostly beyond our control. We can do what is in our power such as voting against that politician or writing our congressman. We can plan trips and do our best to make the most of the fuel we purchase. If we spend countless hours being upset and discussing or even worse disagreeing with our friends and coworkers about it, that will do us no good.

I have spoken at length about worrying about what you cannot control. The benefits to such actions simply are not there and the negatives abound. First of all it will create stress. Stress has been noted to be a factor in over 80% of medical conditions. In addition, stress causes you to age prematurely. In other words, you will look older and possibly experience health problems sooner. Sounding good so far? I didn’t think so.

As if compromising your health and physical appearance were not enough, lacking inner peace and worrying about and complaining about things outside of our control can affect our social life in a negative way. Almost nobody likes to be around someone who is stressed out and complaining all of the time. I said almost because the only people who seem not to mind are those who complain themselves. Not exactly the people you would want to surround yourself with.

Lastly, and in my mind most important, dwelling on what is wrong does little if anything to create solutions. It is important to note what is wrong in order to define what we would like to be happening, but dwelling on how wrong or terrible it is does us no good. Instead, it would be better to focus on how wonderful the solution would be and what steps we could take to make it happen.

To foster inner peace starting today let us focus and discuss what is beautiful and right with the world and how we can grow that. When we come across something that is not right, let us do what we can in our control to change it and focus on what would like to see. When we see someone who could use some inner peace, share with them what we learned in this article.

WHAT ARE YOU TAKING TIME FOR?

When I first read the above picture I had to take a second and appreciate how profound that actually is. Sure, we all like to vent and sometimes that is very helpful, but how far is too far when it comes to venting? If you find yourself spending more time finding ways to complain and share your pain and unpleasant emotion state with the rest of the world than actually working on a solution to change your situation, that is too far.

If you look at the above example we could learn a lot. The first thing, feel like sh*t, some people like to just stay in this state. I could never understand that. If I am upset, angry, sad or any other unpleasant emotion I will do anything to change that state.  If it doesn’t work, then I will do something else, if that doesn’t work… well you get the idea.

The second item is complaining. Again, venting is one thing, but dwelling on it is certainly another. Les Brown, one of my favorite authors and speakers put it this way, “Don’t bother telling other people your problems. 80% don’t care and 20% are glad it’s you.” This sounds cynical, but it is true. Unless you think the person you are telling your problems to can help you, tell them something you are grateful for instead. It will help both of you feel better.

The third item, checking social media. If you are already in a bad mood adding the drama of others, or reading any unpleasant news would only serve to bring you down further. You would be better served visiting a motivational website, or reading a good book.

Let us look at the solutions they offer. Meditate. It can help you feel more relaxed and think clearly. It can offer a different perspective on your situation. It brings down your heart rate, releases ‘feel good’ brain chemicals and creates an overall sense of well-being. Going hand in hand with meditating is writing in your journal. Anyone who knows me even a little knows how much of a fan of journaling I am. A journal is like a therapist that is always open and does not charge a great amount of money to listen to you. Much like meditating, it can offer clarity and a sense of release.

Writing down what you are grateful for and your goals can work in two amazing ways as well. Focusing on what you are grateful for can change your feeling from lack to abundance and from sadness to joy quicker than just about anything else I know. Goals will not only change your focus on whatever crappy situation you are in presently to the fabulous situation you want to be in, but will also get you moving. Instead of focusing on where you don’t want to be, which is feeling bad, you can focus on where you want to be. By doing so actions that will bring you closer to that will come in to focus as well. So, next time you find yourself tempted to do any of the first three things on the list, try instead to do one of the last three and notice the difference.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM JIMMY JOHN’S

Did you ever stop to think about the decisions you make, or do not make and how they affect your life? What may seem small or insignificant at the time, can make all of the difference. I equate it to hitting a golf ball. If you change the approach by just a few millimeters and hit the ball over the length of the ball’s flight it will make a profound difference.

When we are faced with a decision to let someone walk away, or whether to be honest with our feelings or keep them inside, I say go for it and do so freaky fast. As we look back on our lives it is the things that we did not do that we regret far more than the mistakes we made. Sometimes by failing to act you could deny yourself the greatest opportunity. If you wait to tell that special someone how amazing they are and how much you feel for them, you may never have the chance. Even if the moment may have passed, telling someone what a beautiful soul they are can do a lot of good.

There are two caveats when it comes to this. First, if you have an urge to tell someone something in anger that is a moment you may wish to pause and reconsider. When we are angry we do not often word things in the most constructive language. For years I struggled with this myself, but by forcing myself to wait and approach the matter when emotions have not taken over has led to a lot healthier and productive resolutions.

The other thing I ponder is this, sometimes I feel the universe has other reasons for what happens. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion because you were to receive a better offer later? Maybe as amazing as dating that person sounds you need them in your life in another capacity? These don’t always feel well at the moment. After all, who wouldn’t want to date someone they think could make their life magic, or earn more money in a more rewarding position? This is where faith comes into play. We must learn to trust the process and be grateful for our life the way it is now. Plus, we never know what the future holds.