ARE YOU IN CONTROL, OR BEING CONTROLLED?

Another picture I saw, read and had to take a deep breath and appreciate. This man has mastered what Earl Nightingale referred to as the magic word. This word, more than any other thing will control not only how successful we are in life, but how much we enjoy life as well. It will determine how well people and the world treat us. It has the greatest bearing on our physical and mental health as well.

What is this magic word? The word is attitude. A positive attitude will yield a positive life. As you can see in the picture above attitude has less to do with outside circumstances and far more to do with inside circumstances. We all know people who seem to have nothing, but remain positive and upbeat. We know people facing every sort of challenge you can imagine but seem to overcome them not only with ease, but we joy in their hearts and on their faces. How on earth are they able to do this? That was the question I kept asking myself when I began to get involved in the field of self-improvement.

These people have a good attitude not always because of their situation, but quite often in spite of their situation. That’s all great, and maybe your situation sucks too, but how the heck can you still manage to be happy? First of all, I am not discounting whatever you are going through. We all have struggles that others can’t begin to comprehend. That is one of the keys, remembering we all have struggles. How can we go from feeling defeated, sad and depressed by our challenges to empowered, motivated and positive? Asking that question is the first great step. I am going to give you one very important thing to remember – Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% what we do with it.

Sounds all warm and fuzzy right? You want to know how we turn the crap life gives us into something good? What if I told you that we have the ability to have complete control over our lives? Sounds a little too good to be true? What if I also told you that you routinely give that control away to others, your emotions or just choose not to use it at all? Don’t get upset, I still do this sometimes too. How do we take complete control over our life? By using two very important super powers you have. Yes, I said super powers. Don’t worry, you don’t need to wear a cape and you can keep the underwear on the inside of your pants. Why are they super? They are super powers because these two items control both the direction and feeling of our life and we have complete control over them.

The two super powers are focus and meaning. In any situation we choose both of these. Sure it may be hard to focus on anything other than the fact the person who cut you off in traffic is a rude jerk, but that is only because instead of choosing how to act, we are used to reacting to life. Which means in short that person is going to leave us angry, frustrated, frazzled or just plain pissed off, depending on how you want to score that.

Another world for focus can be perception. Is what really happened to us that bad? It can seem so in the moment for sure. Again, not to discount anything you may be going through, but changing our focus onto what we may be grateful for in the situation can do wonders and we can choose to do that. It is here I would like to insert a quote here for you to ponder.

“I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.” – Mahatma Gandhi

What if we chose to decide the reason that man cut us off was to refocus our energy on our safe driving practices? Maybe it means he was rushing to a family emergency we should be grateful we don’t have? Maybe he just received some terrible news and is so upset he is having a hard time focusing on driving? Maybe the meaning of it is he really is a jerk, but if we run into someone else who is in an upset mood maybe they had the displeasure of sharing the road with him earlier? Does this sound like some pie-in-the-sky or Pollyanna? Look at the other option. We could decide this man was a jerk, be super upset and let it ruin our whole day. In other words, react to him and give him complete control over our emotions.

Is this limited to a stranger on the road? Not at all. It can happen with a boss who is in a bad mood. It can happen by watching the evening news, reading the paper or some other not so inspiring action. Those of you who work with the public have a chance to practice taking control of your emotions and not reacting to the influence of others far more than you probably would like. Just the same, if a customer treats you rudely and you let it ruin your mood, in effect this is what you are saying, “You, my totally rude and disrespectful friend, your opinion means so much to me that the fact you have treated me poorly will affect my emotional state for the rest of the afternoon, day, week…etc.”

Why give anyone else control over how you feel? It is time to stop reacting, and time to start choosing how you want to act! Will it be easy? Not at all. New habits and wrestling control of your mind after you have let it run its own course for years can be compared to beginning dog training when the dog is two years old. It will take some patience and perseverance on your part. Will it be worth it? To never let your emotions, and thus your life be controlled by anyone other than you? I can’t think of anything more deserving of your efforts.

So next time life gives you a big pile of crap to deal with, remember you have a choice. You can let it sit around and stink up the place, or you can use all of those lessons and so called failures as you can manure, as fertilizer to help grow something bigger, better and more beautiful!

WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG

Did you ever have one of those days where it all seems to go wrong? That question is fairly rhetorical, as I am sure we all have. Today I was having one of them. Yes, even a man who writes on the subject of happiness and living an amazing life can find himself in a funk. The medical bills from my dislocated shoulder have been flowing in, my car is one step away from falling apart and needs to be replaced, and my vacation is quickly coming to an end. They all just came to a head in my mind today. The reason those words are in italics is to remind us that is where we can begin to control the issues. The feelings exist in my mind and that is where the fight to change that needs to begin.

The question most people ask, and is a very useful question to ask, is how can I change how I feel without changing the outside circumstances? In my case, I do not have the money at this moment to buy a new car, pay all the medical bills, or go on a permanent vacation. Without fixing the outside how can you fix the inside? This is a million dollar question! It is where a lot of people stumble using the law of attraction and just trying to develop a positive mental attitude which is crucial for success.

The answer can be found in one word FOCUS. If I were hearing this concept for the very first time my question would be “How on earth can I not focus on how terrible calls and letters from bill collectors feels? How can I not be bummed out about my car as I am waiting in the rain for the bus?” These are very good questions and to this day I, on occasion, fall victim to this kind of thinking. One of the first things to do is remember someone always has it worse than you. It was Gandhi who said “I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.” Imagine telling your car troubles to someone who is seriously ill? Maybe someone who has just lost a family member? It feels almost a little foolish.

Another way to change focus is to start to focus on where you want your emotions to be instead of where they are. How on earth can we accomplish that? Here is a quick little quote to remember, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” What does that mean and how does it affect what we are talking about here? When I was focused on my troubles earlier today that is what I saw. Then, my savior appeared. A golden retriever in line at the pet store. For a split second I focused on something good. It was followed by the cashier and I fumbling over exchanging pleasantries with each other.

When you feel down get firm with yourself! Take a step back and a deep breath and say to yourself “Hey, this feels terrible! I don’t want to feel like this anymore!” This may seem fairly obvious, but sending that message to your brain will let your subconscious mind know you wish to change focus. If you follow it with something like “From now on, I want to feel good.” You will let your mind know where you want your emotions to be. You may have to do this several times especially if those negative feelings have already built themselves up inside your head. If you are able, shout these out loud in your car or somewhere private. If you are not able, at least close your eyes and say them in your head.

Focusing on what our inner conversation is can really change our outlook on ourselves and life in general.

IT’S YOUR CHOICE

Choice is one of the greatest powers we have. The choice we make as to what we eat and how much we exercise will have a determination as to how healthy we will be. The choice we make as to what people we surround ourselves with will have a great deal of influence on what kind of day we will have. 

Our choices are not always easy, but make no mistake, they are always ours, as are the consequences. Take my present circumstance, it is 4:30 in the morning, i can’t sleep and i have a terrible headache. i could just lay there and lament , but instead i am choosing to share these thoughts with you. I don’t always make such healthy choices. In fact, as I write this I’m eating chips and salsa. Probably not the best 4:30am dietary choice. 

One of the most important choices we can ever make is what to focus on. We make this choice whether we know it or not several times a day. It starts first thing in the morning. Where as Eric Thomas puts it,  “most of us are waking up on accident”. That is to say we don’t really have a point of focus. let’s start there. Tomorrow morning decide what your focus will be. Write it down now because if you are anything like me, first thing in the morning the mind is a little fuzzy. It could be practical such as “I’m going to focus on thoughts to improve my business”. It could even be something less material such as “I’m going to focus on what to be grateful for” or “I’m going to focus on things to be happy about”. This gives your mind a target for the day. 

This also works situationally. One of my favorite questions I use to focus is “how can I use this?”. If it is a success perhaps I can use it to remind myself i don’t always fail. If it is a “failure” I ask myself the same thing. After all if you can use a failure to learn something about yourself or the situation it then becomes a lesson. 

Start by developing a morning focus. Again easiest to do this the day before. You can use the same one for a week or a month. Have fun with this and let us know how your life changes in the comments below . 

LOVE IT ALL…YOU REALLY CAN!

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I was out the other day with my lady and we came across this sign. I must confess I cannot recall where. I may have to all her after I finish writing this post. I remember looking over to the love of my life and saying “I need to take a picture of this”. At the time I just knew I really liked the sign, but the more I think of it, the more it speaks to me. Last post we talked about the importance of what we focus on. We also discussed that we need to acknowledge problems only enough to create and begin working on a solution.

Here is another way I choose to look at challenges in my life, as opportunities. If you were suddenly granted all of our heart’s desires after a while life would become boring. You wouldn’t want the future to come because you know it would all be downhill from there. challenges (I’ve stopped calling them problems years ago) show us areas that life can get better in. If you don’t feel you are where you want to be financially, that’s great! Why because in addition to all you have to be grateful for now, there will be a time when it will be even better! Haven’t found the relationship you want? Great! That means as you work on becoming the best you that you can be there will be a time in the future you will have the perfect partner to share it with. This is why when people who feel they have hit rock bottom and everything in their life is no good (I believe there is always something to be grateful for and someone who always has it worse) they are at the perfect position for a breakthrough because everything can only go up!

So remember, just because your life is not perfect, does not mean it is not wonderful. As you focus on what you have to be grateful for and celebrate in your life, remember to embrace the challenges as they show you where life can be improved and only get better. Share this with all your friends to show them how wonderful life truly is!

ANOTHER BENEFIT OF FOCUS

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Yesterday we talked about the importance of focus. Here is a picture of me from last Friday. Why does me sitting in front of a DJ board have to do with focus? Just about everything. Let me explain. I normally DJ with my lovely lady who has been doing just such a thing for over 15 years. When something goes crazy, she knows what button to push, or what plug may be lose. On this evening she had to focus on her goal of creating designer cakes which is another one of her amazing talents. So there I was alone for the first time as a DJ. If I had focused on everything that could go wrong and how much I still have to learn that evening would have been a disaster, but I decided to focus on what I did have and what was working for me. The owner of the bar is also a DJ and could help if I needed. My lady was only a phone call away. The people that attend our shows are very understanding if I were to make a mistake.

When I tell people about looking at what is working instead of what is not I hear a lot of things about living in a fantasy world, or not admitting things are wrong. That is not at all what this is about. It is important to realize what is not working so you can be on the lookout for a solution. Just don’t live there. Once we know what is not right we can begin to work on making it right and begin to look for what is working. We do not have to focus on how terrible things are and what we lack, when all of us, no matter what our situation is, has so much. So is this a fantasy world? No. There is nothing less true about what is working than what is not.

This has more to do with feeling. Seeing what is both bad and good in any situation and choosing to focus on the good not only helps you feel better and enjoy your life more, but also helps you see solutions better and accomplish more. Why? Let me ask you when are you more productive when you are happy or when you are sad?

Here are two examples to prove this theory and an experiment you can try to prove this to yourself. Recently I dislocated my shoulder. I had to miss a few days of work. My job gave me a lot of grief. I have to ask for help doing the most basic activities. If I focus on this, which does happen on occasion, I feel frustrated. I really start to dislike both my job and my boss who has been not very understanding. In that same breath, that feeling has me focused on completing my schooling and moving forward with that. It has me realizing how many great people around me who are willing to help me with all of my needs. Both of those are equally real. Looking at my current situation either way would be true, but one feels a hell of a lot better. That is a big difference between living a life that feels great and one that feels terrible.

Ok, one more example and you can try this yourself with your current situation. Look around and find everything about your situation that sucks. I am writing to you from Starbucks. The door keeps opening because people are coming in and out. It is loud and a bit hard to concentrate. The coffee is rather pricy. They are a corporate giant that can put some small coffee shops out of business. These are all true. If I were to focus on this I would be having a rather uninspired time here. Ok, now look at your situation and find everything good about it. In my case, they have free internet I can use without having to pay for it. The have a reward program where every 12th drink is free. With my reward card I can get a refill on my high quality coffee for less than a dollar. The people who work here including my friend Kenny are both helpful and amazing. They are a corporate giant allowing them to offer these things at many locations which are always close to where I am.

Both of those views are true. One feels good and helps me enjoy life, the other does not. Try it yourself in your current situation.

ALL ABOUT FOCUS

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Let’s talk about what I consider one of the greatest skills one can master and that is focus. I used to give a passing fancy to the subject of focus but recent events and conversations with friends has changed the importance of focus. When I started thinking of it and reflecting on my past it became clear how much of a role focus played.

Have you ever felt like you could have 48 hours in a day and still not get everything you need done? I am sure we all have. One major reason we seem to resemble the hamster in a wheel just running in place and not going anywhere is our focus, or should I say lack of focus. You are starting to clean the house, but then you think of something you wanted to check on Facebook. An hour and several videos about your friend’s pets you realize pretty soon you have to start dinner. You start making dinner and a friend sends you a text about going to lunch. You tell her about how you spent all day trying to clean the house and didn’t get anywhere. 12 messages back and forth and dinner is on pace to be served at midnight.

We all have days like this. Myself included. We have all had the opposite days though, haven’t we? You know when we get lost planting the garden and are suddenly interrupted and look up and have all the rows planted. How does this happen? Focus. When we are focused on the end goal and keep that in front of us our actions become more focused. So how do we stay focused on committed to our goal? I have found something that works for me. Two things really. First, whether it is cleaning the house or getting in shape, create a strong ‘Why’ this will be discussed in greater detail in my next book, but here is the nuts and bolts. WRITE DOWN both what you will gain by doing what you are striving for, and what you will lose by not doing it. I know what you are thinking “So you are giving me even more to do, that is not going to help” Well taking five minutes to do this step will save you stress and grief going forward. I capitalized the first part of that statement because writing it down, especially when it comes to a goal that needs to maintain focus on for long periods of time it is essential to not only keep your goal in front of you but the reasons you need to get it done. Then when your cell phone starts talking to you send it right to voicemail. As Eric Thomas one of my favorite motivational speakers says “most of us would be more successful if we gave up our phone” So keep your goals and reasons in front of you. do this for a week and see what happens. There is one more thing you can do that I learned from major league athletes.

If I were to ask you, “who is the greatest of all time?” A lot of us, especially those of us who follow sports think of Muhammad Ali. Why would we think that? Because he told everybody. More importantly he told himself. That is what he focused on, being the greatest of all time. That is what we all need to do. We need to tell each other and ourselves that we are going to accomplish our goals. Les Brown, another one of my favorite speakers tells us to let ourselves “you got the right stuff” Put that on the mirror. There will be more about becoming the legends we were born to be. For now, focus on what you have to accomplish and why and enjoy the ease in which it seems to happen.

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

 

Sometimes it is too easy to get hung up on details. recently I went to a surprise birthday party for a dear friend of mine. She was surprised and seemed genuinely pleased. The night was filled with plenty of joy and a great time was being had by all. When I happened to catch a glance of the friend who had thrown her the party. She seemed quite unhappy bordering on downright depressed. I caught her alone for a second and inquired what seemed to be that matter as the party seemed to be going swimmingly. She began to list off all that had not gone according to plan. The guests had not all arrived before the birthday girl and thus were not able to yell surprise. The person who was supposed to bring some of the food had not even shown up and she even forgot to invite some of the girls friends and was unable to contact others while still keeping it a surprise. I couldn’t help but stare at her blankly. “Do you not see how much fun everyone is having?” I asked. Noting the having the most fun was the girl for whom she had put the whole party on for. “It could’ve been a lot better” she muttered. After pondering mentioning the lack of dancing-girls I decided to mention how worse it could’ve went. She managed to keep it a surprise for one. The birthday girl felt special and grateful. Nobody missed whatever food was supposed to be brought by the missing guest. Quite often we can focus too much on the details and fail to look at the success of the big picture. In every phase of life something is sure to go the opposite of the way we had planned. Weddings, birthday parties, careers, you name it. It’s important to remember not only does this often lead to some of the best stories, but also to different ideas and paths we may have not thought of. What may seem like a failure can be the seed to the greatest blessing ever. On a side note, the lady who missed that party showed up at a party a few weeks later which angered the friend who had thrown the surprise party weeks before. About an hour into the evening people were complaining about the negative energy she had brought with her and how all her food had tasted salty. Issues that had not come up a few weeks before. So remember if your going to focus on details instead of focusing on the ones that are going wrong and begin to tear apart your evening,  focus on the ones that are going right and build from there.