TO BE LIST

Much like last post, today’s post will show you how a slight change of focus can make a really big difference. Most of us have ‘to-do lists’. If not written down or in our phones, then we at the very least keep a running tally of things that we want to accomplish in our heads. This can lead to feelings like exhaustion and overwhelm. What if there was a better way to not only accomplish more but do it with less stress? That is the golden ticket of the modern age.

Great news, there is! Change your focus from what you have to do, to who you want to be. This will not only allow you focus on tasks that will push you in the direction you wish to go but also help you prioritize those actions. Instead of thinking “I have to eat 7 servings of vegetables this week.” you focus on “I want to be a healthier person a month from now.” Knowing that is what you like will give you guidance as to what actions you should be taking. Certainly a healthy person would not eat an entire large pizza by themselves. If you goal is to become a happier person who is more at peace it may give you the strength you need to say ‘no’ to things that deprive you of that.

I suggest, and make note of it in my upcoming book, that we all have a life mission statement. I believe knowing where you want to go is more important than focusing on the steps you are taking. Plus, telling yourself “I have to…” every day will not only get old really quickly, but have you feeling obligated to do things that may not even be important to your life. Another thing about ‘to-do lists’ is they usually never get completed. That can leave you feeling like you are constantly falling behind or worse like a failure.

 When you have a written life mission statement somewhere you can see everyday it will guide you and leave you feeling fulfilled and motivated. If your goal is to have a more happy and peaceful existence, and you read that statement to yourself everyday, you will make time to meditate or some other form of self-care. You will not need a to-do list to tell you that.

In any journey it is vital to have a destination. The journey of life is not different.

WANT A GREAT LIFE? USE A FOUR- LETTER WORD!

This is a post you can read at work. Although the usual warnings do not apply, this is a post about a four-letter word that used to offend me far more than all the others. It is also about how not only making peace with this word and the concept it represents, but putting it to work for me as well, changed my life in ways that I can’t possibly begin to explain.  Although now that I think about that is what I am about to attempt to do.

Would you like to improve every single aspect of your life with the use of just one word? What if there was no required writing or hard work on your part? What if all you had to do was ponder this one four-letter word and your friendships would improve, you would become more productive and the stress in your life would go down? What if using this four-letter word could make you money and help satisfy your partner? I realize this sounds a bit over-the-top but it really is true. The ironic thing is that most of us groan or run the other way when we hear this word. I get it. I’ve been there. When I heard this word growing up and all through school my stomach would twist in knots and I would start to feel sick. Now, when I think of this word I am filled with excitement because I know it will bring everything I desire to me quicker and with less stress.

What is this amazing word already? Before I tell you what this word is I must ask you to do your best to keep your preconceived notions to the side for a few moments. Remember I told you I used to run from this word. Another word of caution is that this may sound too simplistic to be powerful. All the great ideas usually do. If applied correctly, this one small word can have a great impact on every area of your life you apply it to.

The word to which we are referring is goal. When I used to hear the world goal my mind would focus on expectations and the prospect of failure. It brought to the mind the dreaded days of bringing home a report card. In the present day it can bring to mind sales goals at work or perhaps the fitness routine that didn’t last as long after the first of the year as you hoped. Thinking of all of these examples it is no surprise that people have a negative connotation to the word goal.

How exactly can we use this maligned word to transform our lives? By setting and applying our own goals. If that word is still a little to tainted for you we can try substituting the words ‘vision’ or ‘purpose’ in it’s place. For the sake of this post we are going to continue to use the word ‘goal’. By the time we are done here I think you may very well have a different view of the word all together such as I have.

Here is the basic formula for using goals to revolutionize your life. Decide in advance what your goal for any activity can be. This can be helpful for trying circumstances. Let us say you are about to leave for work. Decide what your goal for the drive in is. Maybe it could be to not become overwhelmed with dread. Maybe to enjoy some great music or an audio book on the way? When you get to work what is your goal? Is it to work as hard as you can on a certain project? Is it to demonstrate how valuable you are to your boss? Maybe it is to collect your paycheck without harming your coworkers?

Start small and work up I suppose. This not only helps us with challenging situations, but can help us with enjoyable situations as well. Having lunch with a friend? What is your goal? Is it to just enjoy their company? Maybe to tell them how much they mean to you? Maybe to show them how much they mean to you? Maybe it is just to fully enjoy your pizza? Attending the State Fair? What is your goal? Is it to learn about agriculture? Is it to pet animals you normally do not see? Perhaps take in a great local blues band? Maybe try new craft beers? Enjoy a great evening with friends?

You may be tempted to think, “Neil, do I really have to think of a goal for each and every thing I do?”. The answer in short is ‘no’. By incorporating goals and deciding in advance what your purpose in any action and situation is will help you make the most out of the situation and out of life. Arguing with your spouse? The goal is not to be angry or to get them the same, but to convey and solve and upset. Can you see how having a clear goal in that situation may cause you to take a more helpful set of actions? In the going out to lunch with your friend example. If your goal is to help them feel how much they mean to you, imagine what things you might throw into the conversation and how amazing they will feel when they leave? I would love to hear some of your goals, how you may have used them in the past or how you plan to use them in the future!

MASTER THE STORMS

While looking for a photo for an entirely different blog post I came across this picture. I found it captivating. You see a man standing on some high ground surveying the distant horizon. Between him and the far point at which he gazes there exists several rock formations, hills, valleys and it could be clouds or waves rather hard to tell.

I began to see a parallel between this picture and life in general. If we are to undertake a long journey as this man seems like he may be about to commence, it serves us well to get up to some high ground and survey the land. We are able to take in the obstacles and plot a course that would seem the most sensible. It is true once we begin our journey we can discover challenges that may cause us to alter our course that we could not discern from afar but overall we stand a much better chance of getting where we are going that if we were to set off blindly.

The modern version of this would be planning a road trip. First you would pick your destination and then look at a map to discover what roads would get you there in the quickest or most scenic way depending on your purpose. You may even consider heavy traffic, construction and any other obstacle you may face to plot your course better. Much like the above example, once you start driving you may encounter some detour you were not expecting and have to adjust your course but you would still be far better off than if you just started the engine and began to drive.

What if you are not planning a trip or adventure in the near future? This information holds true for any journey, not just those of a physical and geographical nature. If your journey be an emotional, business or even spiritual one, it would help to first seek some high ground and look at the big picture. Having a compelling vision of our final destination will make our journey easier. We can plan for the quickest or most scenic route depending on our intentions. Much like the examples above we may encounter a challenge we did not expect and have to adjust our course. We may even be forced to take a step back and gaze at the horizon several times on our journey.

Getting our bearings in life is something we must do often. Sometimes as we near the horizon we find there is more beyond. There are even occasions as we near our destination we discover it is not where we really wish to go and we must plot an entirely new course. Whatever journey we are on it is important we begin with a vision and a destination in mind. It will make our journey easer and our life more enjoyable. Check your bearings as often as you need.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Proverbs 29:18

JUST A FRIENDLY REMINDER

Just a friendly reminder to focus on what you want and not what you do NOT want.

Should you start to imagine what could go wrong, or reflect on what has gone wrong in the past, begin right away to switch your focus to your dreams and your goals.

Spend a little time each day lost in a positive daydream. Not only will it move you closer to your goals, but it will feel great as well.

ONE BITE AT A TIME

I have heard this saying repeated by many different motivational speakers, authors and well-meaning people in my life. The principle is sound. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. My problem is the meal is a bit abstract. After all, who really eats an elephant? I do suppose there are laws that may prevent such a thing and I wish to bring no harm to my friends in the pachyderm world.

What this quote really refers to is taking large goals and breaking them down into smaller steps. Personally, I would find the quote a little more relatable if it read how do you eat a pizza? One slice at a time. Even if you are a big fan of the sauce pie like myself, stuffing a whole pizza in your mouth is not only impractical, but could lead to some serious health issues and is probably a choking hazard. That is not to say the thought has not crossed my mind a time or two. Even if someone places a juicy steak in front of you, the first thing most of us would do is look for a for and a knife to begin to cut it into bite-sized pieces.

While this seems like common sense when it comes to food, why do so many of us have problems understanding the same thing when it comes to our goals? I am as guilty as they come when it comes to being overwhelmed by projects. Especially new and uncomfortable goals. As soon as I get the horse in front of the cart, I start wondering about how often the horse has to eat, what kind of wheels are on the cart and what kind of abuse they can take on the journey. This can leave me feeling overwhelmed and sometimes it even prevents me from starting new projects. It is a challenge I am working on.

That is why I enjoy thinking about eating pizza. Ok, that and I really love pizza. One slice at a time. Begin with smaller goals to get the ball rolling. What can you do today? Just do that and let the steps unfold as you go along. Whether you are eating a steak, a pizza or even an elephant. We all do it one bite at a time. That is the same way we should approach our goals.

YOUR BELIEF CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

The man in the picture above is Roger Bannister. For those of you who do not know who he is, allow me to share his story and how it applies to you and me. From the time humans began inhabiting the earth until 1954 it was the accepted medical belief that the human body physically could not move at a speed faster than a 4-minute mile. On May 6th, 1954 Roger Bannister broke that record with a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.

While that is a cool story it is not what we are going to be looking at today. What is interesting is that fact that since that record was broken, over 20,000 people have run a sub 4-minute mile. This total also includes high school kids. How did that happen? Did the human race suddenly become faster all around the world? The obvious answer to that question is no. So what changed? Every runner prior to that fateful day in 1954 walked up to the starting line with the belief that it was not possible to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Every runner after that day was blessed with the belief that it indeed was possible.

Do you see the difference that a change in belief can bring? For thousands of years nobody ran a mile faster than 4 minutes. Yet, in the 60 or so years since that was proved possible 20,000 people have done it! All it took was one person to not listen to the ‘facts’ of the day. That changed the world forever.

What beliefs are limiting today’s world? Let me share a personal story with you. I firmly believed that I would never accomplish all that I have done. Can a person who almost did not pass high school English class, who was in fact told by the teacher, “I pray you will never have a career in writing.” Go on to write and publish 2 books, create a blog with over 1000 posts and followers in over 100 countries on 6 continents? Can that same person create a YouTube channel that along with live seminars, can help people improve their lives all across the globe? I would never think so, but I did it.

How did I overcome my limiting beliefs to accomplish all of this? One of the main reasons is that I am blessed with an amazing and beautiful soul to share my life with. My lovely lady Margie not only believes in me and the work that I am doing, but pushes me to improve both professionally and personally. I never would have believed that there was another soul in this world who could balance being both encouragement and accountability. If you told me that on top of those two amazing skills she would be the most beautiful woman I have ever met, and being caring, creative and driven in her own right, I would find that extremely hard to believe. If you told me she would fall in love with me and we would share a life filled with many adventures that we faced hand in hand, I would have never believed you. All of that has come true, leaving me to often wonder how so many of my beliefs could be overcome.

What are some of your limiting beliefs? Is there someone in your life that supports and believes in you? Do you, like Roger Bannister, have the strength to not listen to the critics and maybe even the scientific facts of the day? What are some beliefs that could change the world if proven wrong? History is full of people who denied conventional wisdom to defy the odds and change the world. If someone tells you something cannot be done, remember Roger Bannister, the Wright brothers and countless others who would not give up until they were proven right.  

ANOTHER WORD FOR FAITH

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Above is a picture of my beautiful Margie and I at the gym after a good workout. Not so glamorous, but it serves the point we are talking about here quite well. One of the most important words in both personal development as well as in spiritual development is faith. This can be a difficult concept for some to describe. To be quite general faith is a belief that everything is going to turn out for the best. Those with a good amount of faith tend to lead a more positive life. Faith can certainly serve us in the darkest of times.
What about living in faith? How can we live a life that demonstrates that we have a good deal of faith? This can be even trickier than defining exactly what faith is to us. Just so we are all on the same page, I am going to being referring to a more secular type of faith, but the principles apply equally to both.
Faith can be a great motivating tool if we use it to better our lives. It is with this thought in mind I would like to explore another word for faith. If we really understand what I am going to say next, I believe it will not only make our definition of faith a little clearer, but help us discover new ways to live a life of faith.
Earl Nightingale is one of my favorite authors and philosophers. If you do not know who he is yet, I would recommend looking him up and listening to his work The Strangest Secret. Earl once said “Persistence is another word for faith. If you didn’t have faith, you wouldn’t persist.” If you think about it, that is very true. Faith motivates us to keep going when times are tough, knowing there is a greater plan and that things will eventually work out. If we have faith in humanity, we can keep from getting jaded when we read stories in the news of the terrible things people can do to one another, or when we experience some of those things ourselves. To the above example of putting yourself through a workout on the faith that eventually you will be fit and healthy.
Faith is also being persistent when things seem to be going against you. You have faith in your friend and then they let you down. Having faith that your friend is a good person allows you to trust them again and be forgiving. After all, haven’t we let people down before? Even the example of being healthy. Les Brown, another personal favorite author and speaker, once said, “You have to have faith in your plan. I have lost 20 pounds…several times.” In addition to being able to relate to that statement, it serves to remind us of the importance of having faith in ourselves. By doing so, we can persist in pursuing our goals.
Live a life of faith. Be persistent in your efforts for good. Be forgiving and compassionate towards others. Most importantly, use those two statements on the most important person in your life, you. Have faith in yourself. When you make a mistake or let yourself down, know that you will do good once again. You may have gotten off track, but as long as you know what the track is, you can get back on again. By doing so you are demonstrating your faith.

WHAT SEEDS DO YOU WATER?

Many people struggle with the Law of Attraction or how like can attract like. Start explaining how thoughts become things and you might lose a good portion of people. You may also get quite a few skeptical looks. I think a lot of this stems from a lack of understanding of this concept. The movie The Secret brought this concept to millions of people who may not have pondered it before. I think the biggest misconception is that all you have to do is sit in your house and think positive thoughts and your life will turn around. That is not quite the way this works.

In order to explain the Law of Attraction or LOA as we will call it, I like to use the analogy of a garden. If you think of your average garden, there is lots of planning involved. First you have to select a good plot of land, or how best to use the plot of land you have. This can be likened to your life. We must decide where and what kind of life we want to live. That includes what we want to have in our lives, what we would like to do for a living, the kind of people we would like to share life with. Some of you may be asking, “Do I really have to plan my life?” The short answer is no, but if you want to create a life of your choosing yes. It is like choosing what kind of things you would like to grow in your garden.

Next is preparing the soil. The plants we are going to grow, do they like sandy soil? Will these plants need to be planted in a space that receives lots of sun, or a little? Just like the elements of our life need to be prepared for. If we are looking to become a best-selling author, hypothetically, then we need to learn about publishing, what is required and begin to practice our writing. We must prepare the soil and plant the seeds of what we want to grow. If you want a healthy and active spouse to share your life with, but you spend every free moment you have grabbing cocktails at the club, you are not planting the seeds for that healthy and active spouse. Your time would be better spent in the gym, or attending healthy cooking classes or even joining online groups and forums that specialize in healthy active lifestyles.

Ok, you have prepped the garden of life and planted the seeds of what you would like to grow in  your life. Now all you do is wait right? Let me ask you what would happen if you planted a garden and just sat back and waited? Two things come to mind – weeds and weather. If you never watered your garden and just relied on mother nature to have the perfect set of circumstances you might get lucky, then again you might have a monsoon or a draught. Ironically, that is how a lot of us approach life. Let us use our aspiring author example. Maybe he writes every day and expands his vocabulary and knowledge. Then he waits for a publisher to discover him in passing. May happen, but chances are it will not. There will be times of good fortune, and tough times. If he sends out applications, or maybe even learns about self-publishing, that is fertilizing and watering the seeds he has planted. The chances his life will blossom and he will have a nice harvest increases greatly the more he tends to his seeds.

Then there is the matter of weeds. Weeds can be viewed as the problems of life. They will always be there and seem to need little or no help to grow. As soon as you pull one weed, another, or maybe two, take its place. If we just close our eyes and say to ourselves, “There are no weeds. There are no weeds.” which is what we do when we expect our thoughts to manifest themselves with no action on our part, our garden will soon be overrun. Conversely, if all we do is look at the weeds and focus on how terrible they are and how they always seem to come back, we can become disgusted with our garden. It is the same when all we do is focus on the problems in our life. It can seem overwhelming and make us want to abandon life all together.

The solution for life is the same as it is for the garden. Continue to water and take care of the seeds we have planted while we pull out the weeds one by one. In life we have to work on our goals a little every day and approach our problems one by one, not allowing ourselves to get overwhelmed.

 

HOW TO BEAT A CHALLENGE


In life there never seems to be a shortage of challenges. Whether you are a financially struggling blog writer and author or a well-established millionaire, there are going to be challenges. I will have to speculate on the second one for the moment. As you read this where I live the temperature will be -50 degrees with the wind chill. Those temperatures are in Fahrenheit where freezing is +32 degrees. In other words, it will be really cold outside.
Whether your New Year’s resolution was to go to the gym more often, or just get to work on time, today will be a challenge. When it is this cold cars tend not to start, energy drains and the temptation to stay in bed with the one you love can be hard if not impossible to overcome. That is just life. The challenges will not always be this extreme, but they will always be there.
The question is how to overcome these challenges. To make it very simple we will break it down to two words – face them. When you look a challenge straight in the eyes (if the challenge has eyes. If not, you just have to imagine them) and say as my friend Travis is inclined to say, “Bring it!” It may seem as if the challenge gets the best of you. Maybe you wish to go to the gym but the car will not start. Then go inside and do a little workout routine at home. If you are a little late for work again learn what caused you to fall behind and work on that for tomorrow. To put it as the picture says, ‘Challenge your limits’. Doing this daily you will be surprised at how much further you can go. You will see your life improve in each and every area.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEKEND


When I look at this picture one word comes to mind – FAITH. The essence of faith to me is a kind of positive perseverance. It is not for the weak and takes a great deal of strength. How, in the middle of the storm, can we have faith the sun will shine once again? The answer is surprisingly simple, because it always does. The seasons of life, much like the seasons of weather always repeat themselves.
When we are experiencing a winter period in our lives it can be hard to hold tight knowing eventually spring will come. In the depths of winter it can seem that spring may never arrive. As I write this the temperature is well below the freezing mark and there is plenty of snow. As a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder this can seem like a very dark time indeed. I have been on this wonderful planet long enough to know that eventually the temperature will rise and the snow will melt. Birds will return to sing once again and the trees will regain their leaves. Feeling this in your heart and knowing it emotionally can be a difficult thing to do.
This very same scenario is the same when it comes to dark and cold periods of our lives. It may seem things will never turn around and it will be winter forever. Of course we may very well know in our heads that is not so, but if we do not feel it in our hearts it can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and depressed.
So, how to beat these feelings, keep our faith and remain positive while waiting for things to turn around? That is the million-dollar question. There are many different things we can do to help ourselves in this arena. I have learned many of them while doing my best to deal with my S.A.D., but they work for increasing the strength of your faith as well. I suggest doing as many of these as you can. It never hurts to have another option when it comes to increasing your faith.
Surround yourself with pictures of both things that inspire you (for example I have plenty of tropical pictures everywhere during the winter) as well as pictures of your accomplishments. Knowing you overcame challenges in the past can be just the boost you need to do it in the present.

I also recommend creating a ‘Happy Playlist’ on your MP3 or even on your cell phone. When you start to feel your faith slip and you begin to wonder if the darkness will ever end, a push of the button can begin to change your state and turn things around. Also keep a great selection of inspirational material at hand. This can range from the Bible, to your favorite joke book. You can have your favorite movie that inspires you or a book of inspirational poetry. Perhaps a picture with an inspirational saying on it. Don’t have one? Take some time to shop for one. Can’t afford it? Perhaps creating one of your own could be the answer.

Speaking of creating, my last suggestion is a vision board. This is simply a board of any nature filled with pictures of both your goals you are working towards, and accomplishments you have achieved. The more you can put yourself into it, the better. Get it that dream car and go for a test drive. Photoshop yourself onto that perfect beach or in the perfect house.
Try all of these and more! If you have any other tools you use to keep a positive attitude while waiting for the dark times in life to pass please share them with us.