HOW TO BEAT YOUR COMPETITION

 

Competition. Everyone has someone they are competing against. A coworker for a job. A person on the team for a position. Maybe even the violin player next to you so you can get first chair. There are even healthier forms of completion. Competing with your lover to see who can be more romantic. Competing with a friend to see who can eat healthy for the longest and who can make it to the gym more days this week.

While all of those may indeed be examples of competition, I think the real competition can be found within ourselves. There is an old Cherokee tale of the two wolves inside each one of us. In short, there are two wolves inside each one of us, a good wolf and a bad wolf. Each one wants to be in control and they will fight to gain control over our mind and body. The simple way to figure out which one will win? The one you feed the most. That is the real competition. It happens inside each and every one of us. The picture above gives plenty of examples.

Let me put a few more out there and see if they sound familiar. You know you should get up early and go to the gym before work but you hit snooze because it is cold out and you are tired. You just fed the bad wolf. You finally go the gym and put in a good workout. You fed the good wolf. On the way home from the gym you stop at the all-you-can-eat pizza place and have…well…all you can eat. You fed the bad wolf. You know you should apologize for something you said to a friend, but you don’t because your ego convinces you that you will look weak or bad. You fed the bad wolf. You talk about your neighbor/coworker/friend behind their back. You fed the bad wolf. You helped a complete stranger just because they needed it. You fed the good wolf.

Our lives are filled with examples of this over and over everyday. It is a never-ending…competition. The competition you must win is on the inside. This is a competition we will be in for the rest of our lives. Some days we may win, some days we may lose. Like any other competition, the more we practice, the more we train, the more we learn from our loses as well as our victories the better chance we stand in winning tomorrow.

THE IMPORTANT FIRST STEP

Recently, I have had some conversation with a new friend of mine about some stress they have been going through. Most of their stress had focused around an aspect of their job, but had been affecting both their family and their relationship. This happens quite often and can happen to all of us and at some point usually does. This is quite often referred to as taking your job/work home with you. I have even known some people who have changed their entire essence of who they are based on working in a negative environment. This can especially hold true for those working in law enforcement, first responders, teachers, the courts and any other job that exposes you to less than desirable people. It is not limited to these careers, however. You can experience stress in retail, food and beverage industry or the travel industry. It is not only costumers, but coworkers that can cause us stress. I recall early in my postal career this being true. The post office can be a stressful and negative work environment more often than not.

What helped me and what did I share with my friend to help them? I am going to share some of that with you in hopes that you too can use it or share it with someone you know who might be going through some great deal of stress. There are a few basic things I would recommend starting today, whether you are under stress or feeling good about how your life is going. Being proactive can make dealing with stress a lot easier. The time to learn to swim is on the shore and not when you are in a boat that is sinking. Remember I speak from experience. If I had known about or used some of what I am going to share with you when I began working at the post office I could have saved myself and those I care about a lot of stress and hurt feelings.

The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. According to a study done by Forbes magazine up to 70% of us are going to jobs we do not like. In our culture we have put a priority on things like money and benefits to the detriment of our own happiness. Insurance is important, but choosing one job or position you may not like because it has better benefits may end up causing you to experience more trips to the doctor than it will help you reducing your medical costs. How can that be? According to a study done by Stanford University, 80% of visits to a primary care doctor are stress related. Stress has been found to be a common denominator in nearly all medical conditions. Even if stress was not related to the onset of the condition, continued stress will only worsen every medical malady.

Great, we are all a bunch of stressed out individuals. Knowing such information can lead to little comfort, but do little to help alleviate the actual stress itself. For that we must create and use some tools to help us. One of the first things I have recommended in both my book as well as seminars is creating a happy playlist. This is exactly what is sounds like. A list of songs that put you in a good mood. I don’t care if it is the song don’t worry be happy, or the theme to the Jefferson’s television show, whatever makes you happy put it on the list. Now create a playlist on your iPod or other MP3 player. I actually have created a happy playlist on YouTube so I can listen to it anywhere I have my cell phone. Now when you encounter a particularly bad day at the office we can listen to our happy playlist on our way home so we arrive in a better state of mind. If the situation is really bad, you can find yourself in the restroom with an ear bud in. This will not do anything to directly change the situation, but put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with whatever challenge is facing you.

In addition to music, which I believe provides the quickest boost in mood, you can apply this to other media as well. Create a list of movies you enjoy watching, books you enjoy reading or places you enjoy going to eat. If at all possible, do this while you are in a good mood. Once again it is easier to think of what makes you happy when you are not already stressed out. Then when stress comes knocking, pull out your list, or just push ‘play’ on your happy playlist. I recall listening to Bob Marley’s Legend cd every lunch hour while working for a telemarking concern. I think that saved my sanity more than once.

The other thing I recommend is keeping a journal. For those of you who follow my work even a little I am sure you have heard me mention keeping a journal quite often. The benefits are many and I can’t possibly list them all here. A few worth mentioning in regards to work place stress and how to reduce it are as follows. First, writing your feelings and the facts of the situation down on paper can offer a lot more clarity than trying to figure it all out in your head. It also removes a great deal of stress from keeping all in your head. Second, it provides a great place to vent. Quite often those we love, even those closest to us, can reach a point when being a sounding board becomes too much. We must remember they are dealing with their own stresses as well. Writing in our journal can be a relieving and safe place to vent. Finally, seeing everything in black and white can bring to light solutions we may not have considered when we were in the middle of the emotional whirlwind. Reading back it can show us patterns that we go through that routinely create stress in our lives. By recording how we feel at the moment and being able to go back and reread it when we are in a better mental state can be enlightening too.

As an added bonus, I recommend doing as many of these things as you can out in nature. Being outside in the fresh air can serve as its own therapy. Add some physical exercise and you multiply the stress reliving benefits. It can be anything from an intense run, to a leisurely stroll. Motion helps emotion. Do yourself a favor and get outside and get moving. You can listen to your playlist as you do so. When you stop to rest, you could pull out your journal and write. Before you know it you will create a shield around you that no workplace stress can get through.

By all means, if you have any other great stress reduction tips to add please do so in the comments below.

 

 

A NEW EXPERIENCE

I wanted to share with all of you a new experience I had at ‘Float Life’ this past Monday. As part of my birthday present Margie took me to experience a float. What is a float? The above tub you see is a floatation tub. It is exactly what the name implies, a tub in which you just float for an extended period of time. (I did it for 60 minutes) Why float? What benefits do you actually achieve? What was my experience like? I will answer all of those questions for any of you who are pondering floating yourself or who are just curious.

Why float and what benefits do you achieve by floating? I am going to paraphrase 2010 research statistics from Floatworks. Floatation eases stress and allows you to experience a greater sense of relaxation. For some the effects last days after the actual float. Floatation has been proven to reduce elevated levels of stress hormones as well as decrease blood pressure. They list several conditions this may help or relieve including, but not limited to

  • Meditation
  • sports and exercise recovery
  • insomnia
  • enhanced creativity
  • jet lag
  • PTSD, addiction, arthritis and fibromyalgia

This is all made possible by the 900 pounds of Epsom salt in each tub. The benefits of Epsom salt are plenty. It provides the body a dose of magnesium a mineral studies show most people are severely lacking. This helps soften the skin and hair, cleanse and detoxify the body as well as help stiff muscles and achy joints. I encourage everyone to research more into the benefits floatation provides.

What was my experience in the floatation device? After arriving and being given a brief introduction into what the process is and how to make the most of it, both Margie and I were left in our respective rooms to begin the float process. You begin by rinsing off in the shower they have inside the room. It took a while for the water to get warm, but it was refreshing. After the shower you are to put in some ear plugs so that your ears will not turn into a salt cavern over the next few days. The ear plugs were not what I was used to. It was a texture much like that of chewing gum. You rolled them into a ball and pushed them into your ears. This was surprisingly affective

There I stood naked sans two new ear plugs. Carefully getting into the tub the first thing I noticed was the temperature of the water. It is kept at skin temperature which is approximately 94 degrees Fahrenheit. This is done to increase the feeling of sensory deprivation. I thought it would feel warmer, but was decidedly comfortable.

During our introduction we were explained the many options available to customize your float. The first being a floatation ring that can act as a sort of make shift pillow. This is done for people who may have a hard time adjusting to the idea their head floats on top of the water. You can end up with a sore neck by trying to tuck your head to your chest to keep you head up. I declined use of this and found my head needed no further support than the water itself.

The second option was the light. As you saw in the first photo, which was of Margie’s tub, they had a light that could be various colors. Hers was pink. In my photo you can see my tended to be a mild blue. This seemed fitting as she was a woman and I am a man. You had the option of leaving the light on while you floated or turning it off. Wanting to experience the ‘full monty’ if you will, I decided to turn the light off. This eliminated the sense of sight and the distractions it may have caused.

The next option you had was the relaxing music that played inside the tub while you were floating. I began with the music on full volume. It was soft and seemed the perfect accompaniment. After relaxing for some time I decided to turn the music off and focus on my breathing as I teach so many. This worked really well with one exception. You could hear the sounds of people walking around outside and some other clunking type noise. I turned the music back on to a soft volume which seemed to drown out most of the noise.

They say you feel ‘weightless’ in these tubs. At fist when I got in that is how it felt. In addition whenever I felt myself bump into the side of the tub and pushed myself away I felt weightless as well. Basically, whenever I was in motion I felt as if I was floating. When my body was standing still the feeling was quite different. It was as if I was in some sort of suspended animation. My body was supported but there was no pressure from gravity. My body felt heavy, but relaxed.

When the female computer voice told me my time was over and the light came on my next challenge arose. Using muscles that I have been relaxing for the past hour in a tub that is impossible to sink in made it slightly difficult to sit up and open the lid. When I did I was careful climbing out as I was naked and didn’t want to end up with any injury that could land me in the emergency room.

Once out, we were instructed to shower off to remove most of the salt from our bodies. The shower included two liquids. One I assumed was some sort of body wash and the other a shampoo/conditioner combo. We were not told which was which and being that I had just taken a shower before I came I decided to just rinse off.

Two days later as I write this I can still feel my legs are relaxed and I am feeling good. There was some great tea in the waiting room that I was able to enjoy as I waited for Margie to complete her floating experience. There was also a great book chronicling the story of a man who went from a completely stressed out executive in the music business to owning his own float tub company. I would have liked to explore this story before I floated, but enjoyed it in reflection on my own experience as well.

Looking back I would like to approach my next float with more of an agenda. Perhaps have a certain meditation in my to do as I float. It would be neat if having the option of listening to a guided meditation as you float. I will also be sure to ask what is what when it comes to the options in the shower. I will definitely return to try this experience at Float life in Whitefish Bay. I recommend floating to anyone. The benefits far outweigh the risks and everyone can use a little rest in the middle of our busy lives. Look how happy I was when it was all over.

SECRET TO A HEALTHY COMMUNITY

The man on the far right, with the megaphone, is the mayor of my fine city. Every year he holds a 30-day challenge to have members of the community be active for 30 minutes a day. This year the challenge was kicked off with a one mile walk that the mayor led. In politics there is too often examples of “Do as I say, not as I do.” It is refreshing to see a leader who leads by example.

Not only was this an example of a leader walking the walk, but of one who truly cares about the city he leads. Wanting the people who live in the city to be both healthy and happy is an extra step that most officials would not take. The position of mayor is filled with lots of obligations and responsibilities. Arranging both a walk and a 30-day fitness challenge creates a lot of extra work. Including, but not limited to, setting up police presence to make sure the course is safe. Working with sponsors and allocating prizes to be given away, t-shirts printed and what is sure to be countless other details I am forgetting.

Sure, setting up such an event can help you during reelection, but so could just being a great mayor. Why take all of the extra steps? That answer was made clear as we walked along. The mayor did not discuss politics, or as some national politicians are wanting to do, discuss how great of a mayor he was. No, today as we walked along he discussed his son’s love for sports, his family’s like for vacations in northern Wisconsin and an eventful trip they had made to Disney world. Most importantly, the mayor listened. Another sign of a great leader. He listened patiently as people voiced their concerns about aspects of the city, but also when they shared stories of their families as well.

After the walk had concluded, there was a small gathering where water, yogurt and prizes were handed out. Sadly, I did not win any of the State Fair tickets that were up for grabs. I did win, however, by being part of this great community.

I had the great pleasure of talking to wonderful neighbors like Jon and Robin who are also working diligently to foster a sense of community. Even though she wasn’t able to attend, there were plenty of discussions about my amazing neighbor Linda and what a caring neighbor she is. To make the day even better I was able to finally meet several neighbors I had only previously interacted with online including Denise and her fabulous husband. I look forward to chatting more with all of them as we work together to foster a greater sense of togetherness in West Allis Wisconsin.

If your community offers programs such as this I encourage you to join. If they do not, work with leaders to begin some. They not only do a great deal to reduce crime and increase a sense of community, but bring people together for positive and healthy reasons. Leaders, take mayor Dan Devine’s example. Caring about your constituents runs deeper than success at the polls and does not go unnoticed.

THE PATH TO ETERNAL BEAUTY

Look in any magazine or watch any reality show and you will run across the same thing, everyone is trying to find the key to eternal youth and beauty. There are ads for creams, lotions, even cosmetic surgery has been refined to an in and out process. There is a new cool laser that can make your fat cells disappear. People spend millions of dollars a year on both hair removal and hair restoration. No matter how many advances or your financial ability to obtain them, one thing is for certain, eventually they will fade.

Do not misunderstand me. I believe there is plenty of physical improvements that make sense to do from not only an appearance stand point, but from a health stand point as well. Having dental work done will not only increase your chances of smiling, adding beauty right there, but help your health in many ways. Engaging in physical exercise will not only have your figure looking fit and trim, but help your heart and circulatory system run efficiently as well. Choosing a healthier way of eating over a crash fad diet will pay dividends for years to come.

Considering the amount of money we spend on items in the first category that serve only as a temporary cover up at best, we certainly could do better. Even the time, energy and effort we spend on items in the second category will only take us so far if we continue to ignore the single most important category to increase our physical appeal. The area of our life we should address first is often relegated to an after thought.

What is the area of our life that will bring us the greatest return on investment in regards to our beauty? It is our spirit, our heart, our inner peace. This may sound a bit cliché to many of you, but it is true. How many times have you come across someone who may not be your normal physical ‘cup of tea’ as it were, but something just attracted you to them? We all like to be around people who make us laugh, smile and enjoy life more. On the flip side, even if the person we are with has graced the cover of a million magazines, if they suck our spirit dry and leave us feeling emotionally drained there is no way we would want to be around them.

How do we invest in this portion of our lives? The answer is simple. Invest in ourselves. When we work to become better as individuals, we have more to offer each other and the world at large. Do something to refresh your spirit. Discover new ways to cultivate joy, engage in activities that make you smile. Foster an attitude of gratitude. Always look for the best in others. If you do these simple things and any others that will lead to an improved you, before long you will become more beautiful from the inside out. The upside here is the more you do this, the greater the beauty becomes. Keep it up and this beauty will never fade. No pills, lotions, fad diets or insane workouts needed.

A TACO MEDITATION?!

This is a picture of a billboard just outside the Wisconsin State Fair. It is a catchy little slogan for a Mexican restaurant. My mother and I have started taking walks after my heart trouble caused me to take a break from working out as hard as I would like. Being the state fair is probably my favorite place to go, it makes sense to choose that as a location to walk. This particular day my mother and I decided to walk the perimeter of the park to see how long that would be. (roughly 3.2 miles for those keeping track) While on the northern side of the park we came across this billboard.

As we walked passed it I began to think of the slogan “Inhale tacos, exhale negativity”. A slight confession is that I tend to practice a lot of both in my life. The last couple posts we have been discussing meditation and how we can work it into our life. One of the simplest forms of meditation is to pay attention to your breathing. If you add to that visualizing breathing in positivity and exhaling negativity, it can lead to an increased state of peace. I encourage you to practice this for several minutes twice a day and let me know what difference you notice. It is a simple practice, but can bring great change.

Then I thought about inhaling tacos. How could you not after reading that sign? Other than increasing the feeling of hunger I had already started from the walk, it got me thinking. Obviously, they are using tacos as a replacement for the word positivity. This could probably hold true for many people out there. Although saying, “Have a taco day!” Instead of positive day does sound a bit strange. When doing the above exercise sometimes picturing positivity and negativity can be a bit too abstract for some of us. What if we replaced the word positivity with some activity, such as eating tacos or attending the local state fair. In other words any activity that fills us with joy or adds value to our life. As we breath in we could picture being engaged it that activity and breathing in more of those activities into our lives.

On the exhale we could replace negativity with any activity we are trying to remove from our lives. Maybe letting our emotions get the best of us or being filled with stress. As we exhale we could picture that activity and feel ourselves exhaling it out of our bodies and out of our lives. Inhale tacos, exhale being overly emotional. Inhale the state fair, exhale being stressed out. It certainly is worth a try and could be a lot of fun!

 

  • WARNING!!! This blog is not responsible for an increase in the consumption of tacos related to the reading of this article. Restraint is recommended in the amount of tacos consumed or one would not be able to inhale or exhale at all. Please read responsibly.

 

REVISITING A MAGIC FORMULA 

 

Until you change yourself, nothing else will change. Once you change yourself, everything else will change” – Neil Panosian

Last week we examined the fact that change comes from within. Changing yourself can be quite a struggle though. It is not easy admitting something about us could use a little improvement. Self-improvement always involves a little humility. We have to confess to ourselves we are not perfect. What we are doing, however, is creating a better person for tomorrow. That is not to say that the person we are today is not amazing, but that we want to bring an even better version of ourselves to those we care about.  I like to picture those road construction signs you see on the side of the road. Perhaps one that reads self-improvement work ahead or maybe even A better me under construction. I think if people were able to see those signs and know that although things in our life may look a bit crazy, they are really just under construction, they might be a bit more patient. Remember though that they can’t so letting them know we are working on things can help.

It amazes me how much the accent is on removing things in our life today. “Lose all that extra weight” or “Get rid of all that negativity”. Sure, both would be beneficial, but there is an easier way. Instead of going on a diet, or pushing people away, try adding. In my seminars one of the principles I teach is this, “The easiest way to eliminate the negative is by adding the positive.” In other words, forget the diet, try adding exercise and a few healthy foods. If you eat a salad, for example, you have that much less room to eat a twinkie. Spend some time with someone who really feeds your soul? That is time that cannot be spend listening to someone gossip.

As you add these positive changes you may find you have the momentum to start to reduce or eliminate some of the negative things. Maybe you will even discover how much you enjoy the positive and then will have even less room in your life for the negative. It is easier for people to add things into there life than to remove them. Removing things can cause a feeling of being deprived, or a feeling of lack and that something is missing. When you add something to your life it is relatively painless. Filling up on the positive will definitely leave you to full to consume the negative.

Feel free to share any suggestions you have to add positivity to your life in the comments below!