THE KEY TO SELF-IMPROVEMENT

In the course of writing these blogs and my books I often wonder what is the most important key to improving yourself and living an amazing life. When I was writing A Happy Life for Busy People I recall asking myself how I could write a book about making people happy when different things work for different people. I answered that by finding universal truths that do apply to everyone and that are uniquely able to be customized by the individual. Through doing so I had solved the problem of ‘the same but different’. The next question was, if people needed to improve themselves how could I make it affordable. 90% of the tools mentioned in my book are less than $5 and many can be done for free. As a bonus I also made them fun to do so people were more likely to stick with them. There was also the question of time. A book that mentions happiness for busy people couldn’t very well give you a complicated 12 step process that required a great deal of time. Although the set up may take you some time, depending on what you choose, the actions required to use the insider secrets shared in that book only take 2 to 5 minutes a day. Less time than it take to enjoy your morning coffee. Many you can even do while enjoying your morning java juice.

I thought I had solved all of the challenges that a determined individual might face when trying to improve their lot in life. The tools were able to be customized to fit the reader. They were so cheap anyone could afford to begin improving their life no matter what financial state they were in. They only took 5 minutes at most a day. Many of them could be done while drinking your morning coffee or some other daily ritual. They were even fun! Still, I encountered people I know had read my book that seemed not to be experiencing the full and rich life they so truly deserved. This greatly disturbed my otherwise congenial spirit. It was, after all, why I wrote the book in the first place.

I learned the one thing all of those wonderful folks were missing – effort. The next question was naturally, “Why are they not putting forth the effort when it is minimal and fun?” The answer, as is the case in many things in life, was not that simple. People didn’t give the effort for many different reasons. I had to learn what they were. It would not only allow me to better help people live an amazing life, but help me stay committed to the changes I was seeking to make in my own life. Let us look at some of those reasons now.

The main reason people do not act on changes they know will change their life for the better also happens to be the key to making it as effortless as possible. That reason is their why is not strong enough. If, for example, you want to get in better shape to look better in your clothes, that could be rather motivating. If you have the unfortunate experience of going through a heart attack and almost dying, that is a lot more motivating. By no means am I suggesting one goes through a heart attack to strengthen their why. It does give us a clue as to a tool we can use. Let us create 2 lists. The first can be fun. Think of the great benefits you will get by obtaining your goal. You will look better in your clothes. You will be able to climb the stairs without seeking oxygen and a Sherpa. You will have more energy. If you have to bend over you can…well…get back up. The second list may not be as fun, but may be more motivating. Think of all you stand to lose if you don’t act on your tools of self-improvement. In this case, you may miss out on some fun events because you lack the energy or physical ability. You will miss out on extra fun with your spouse because ill health negatively affects libido. Use both the carrot and the stick.

Another reason, one I am guilty of on occasion is thinking too far ahead. As the great quote from Martin Luther King Jr. says above, just take the first step. Jack Canfield put it brilliantly in the movie The Secret. He mentioned that the average headlights on a car shine 100 feet ahead. Yet, by continually looking 100 feet ahead you can drive from New York to Los Angeles, 100 feet at a time. Can you think how ridiculous it would be if you only took trips if you could see the entire journey at once? We would never go anywhere! I would never make it to the tropics! That is a scary thought. Why then, do we do this will our self-improvement journey? We may not be able to see how a gratitude journal can help us chance our mindset. How do you really set up a vision board? Sometimes we just have to jump in and figure it out as we go. This leads us to the next problem.

This definition of success sucks! For a better one, I go back to quote one of my mentors Earl Nightingale. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” I put the word in italics for a very good reason. If we only celebrate achieving goals we are missing the point entirely. One of the best ways to assure you live an amazing life is to find ways to enjoy the process. Life is a journey, not a destination. Every day that we work on ourselves is one day closer to a better life. In fact, if we work on ourselves every day, the end of the day is a better life than the beginning. Have you every thought of life in this fashion? Even mistakes and terrible days bring us more enlightenment. We either win, or we learn. Nobody is perfect (my beautiful Margie comes close, but then again I am biased) do not expect yourself to be. Feel free to laugh at your silly mistakes and be grateful for all of the lessons learned.

There are a million different reasons to not put forth the effort in improving your own life. What are some of yours? Once identified, you can begin to discover ways in which you can override them. That journey in itself is reason for celebration! Something to tell yourself, or better yet hang on the mirror, is something I tell Margie all of the time –

DO NOT WORRY. YOU GOT THIS!!!

FEELING OVERWHELMED AND DON’T KNOW WHERE TO TURN?

In today’s Covid-19 world things can feel like they are coming undone and it can happen quickly. Everywhere we turn there is news of death and the failing economy. This all happens while we are stuck in our homes left staring at the television for want of anything better to do. This can leave us feeling a multitude of ways. It can have us feeling drained, scared, angry, uncertain and ultimately depressed. Sometimes the news of, and thoughts of, this scary event in our worlds history can affect more people than the virus itself.

How do we turn this around. The picture above gives us our first solid piece of advice – turn off the news. I once heard Jack Canfield say something I found rather profound. He said, “You can be informed but you do not have to be inundated.” If you are thinking, “Neil, I have to know what is going on. I have to protect my job and my family.” I will be the last one to argue with you. What I am going to tell you is that first and foremost you have to protect your sanity. You can do little to secure your income if you find yourself depressed. It is also highly unlikely that your family will take their cues from the insane person in front of the television. If you really want to stay on top of the latest news, try looking at websites once a day. Just do not sit at the computer for a length of time.

Giving yourself a limit can be a big help. Saying “I am going to fill my head with all of this doom and gloom for an hour.” Then research to your hearts content for that time, but cut yourself off after. You may even want to set an alarm in case you are locked in to the latest study from Antarctica on the effect of heat on the coronavirus. If you can’t help yourself from wanting to watch oddly dressed scientists or politicians who think they are scientists on television, then choose your format and your time. Again, limiting yourself is key. Trust me when I tell you that you are not going to miss the next crucial development by not staying glued to the screen all night. If you do miss something, don’t worry someone will call, text or tell you on social media.

Ok, you have limited your exposure to the chicken little world of 2020. You pull yourself away from the television or computer. Sure, you’re not being exposed to any doom and gloom, but you are still feeling the effects of it. How do you shake that off? I recommend two crucial steps for this cure. They are what work for me. Please mention some of your own in the comments below as I am always open for and looking for suggestions to raise my vibration. My first suggestion is not only metaphorical, but also practical – take a shower. No, really. Taking a shower not only cleanses our skin and hair (a good practice to keep up during quarantine) but it also can be a symbolic cleansing. Try picturing all of the negative vibes and news you have been exposed to being washed down the drain. As you are scrubbing off the dirt, picture scrubbing off the negative feelings you have. This will serve you after all of this has passed as well. Have a tough day with the boss at the office? Take a shower. Spend hours during a holiday listening to your aunt describe, in detail, her medical maladies? Take a shower. Not only will you get a feeling of spiritually cleansing, you will smell a lot fresher and be more of a pleasure to be around.

This last suggestion is my favorite. I use it every single day. No exception. Not an exaggeration. Crank up your favorite music. If you listen to the late news you might want to use some headphones. Music has healing powers we do not often take advantage of. In my book A Happy Life for Busy People, I suggest creating a happy playlist. A list on YouTube or your MP3 player of songs that bring you joy or get you out of a funk. I have one on my cell phone (which I almost always seem to have with me) It started with 10 songs. It now stands at…let me look…192 songs. Each time I think of, or hear a new one I add it. Then when moments get me down, I put the headphones on and turn the volume up! Can you imagine how many times this has helped me? It may not fix a challenge you are facing, but it can change the state you are in when you deal with it. A personal suggestion is the new Huey Lewis and the News album, Weather, not a bad song on it. Some of the latest stuff Sammy Hagar is doing…great stuff. I have the entire Space Between album on my playlist. Obviously your list will speak to your individual interests.

There we have our first days suggestions for keeping a high vibration during low vibration times. Take a nice relaxing shower and scrub both dirt and negativity off your shoulders. Don’t forget to wash behind the ears in case any are hiding there. Crank up the music and dance like nobody is watching. (If you dance like me it helps if nobody actually is watching) and most importantly – STEP AWAY FROM THE SCREEN. Remember you can stay informed without being overwhelmed. PLEASE if you have any suggestions that bring joy to your heart share them with us in the comments. I might even write my next blog about your idea!

TAKE CONTROL OF THESE 3 THINGS

As we begin a new week let us put our energy where it can really make a difference. Lots of us, myself included, can find our energy focused on where we have no control. We complain about how our boss is treating us. We wish our spouse we be more appreciative. We wish the weather would be warmer, our car would run better, time would slow down. You get the idea. There are a million things we fret and worry about over which we have no control.

This great quote from Jack Canfield, one of the creators of Chicken Soup for the Soul, really breaks it down for us. There are really only 3 things we have control of, our thoughts, the images we hold in our heads and our actions. I suggest this coming week we focus only on them. I also suggest taking them one at a time. Trying to fix all three may be overwhelming. Let us take them one by one and use the example of having a boss that is unpleasant.

We start with our thoughts. When our boss comes down on us unfairly and without reason, what is our first thought? How unfair it all is? How over emotional and unfit they are for the position? How truly this might be a violation of how they are supposed to act and treat people? While that might all be true, does it really serve us? I would have to say no. In fact, thinking this way can only increase our anger and make us feel worse. Not only with this leave us emotionally exhausted, but held on to long enough can leave us with a host of physical symptoms as well. This means we are not only treated poorly by our boss. but we are treating ourselves poorly on top of it. The solution? Reframe our thoughts. Does our boss have some outside problems we are unaware of? We should be grateful we are not in their position. Maybe they could really use some anger management and stress therapy? This turns our feelings from anger to compassion. To some of you it may sound like you are letting your boss ‘off the hook’ or giving them a pass. It is actually helping ourselves. Whether we are angry or compassionate about our boss’ actions does not affect them nearly as much as it does us.

Next is the images we hold in our minds. These are both the result of, and influence the thoughts we hold. In our example of the terrible boss, we may picture them as a maniacal dictator. We may even have pictures of them as a warden in a prison. Keep this up long enough our thoughts may turn to imagining them roasting over an open spit. None of these are terribly productive. Ok, maybe the last one offers us a little bit of humorous reprieve. Eventually, they will serve to stoke the flames of anger and make us even more upset. Try picturing what it must be like to go home so full of anger and vengence. How well do you think this person is able to sleep at night? How much peace to you think is in their soul? Yes, everyone does have one despite what they may have you believe. How much joy do you think they have in their life? We can also make it a point to keep images of what we enjoy or what makes us happy. Not only is this far more pleasant than any image that has to do with our boss, but will be a great escape to keep our spirits up when they happen to be releasing their anger on us.

Lastly, is the actions we take. These are very often predicated on the the first two. The thoughts we have, the images we hold on to will powerfully influence the actions we take. If we held on to the angry thoughts and images about our crazy boss, we might be tempted to let them know just how much they upset us. If we do this in a very destructive way it may end up costing us our jobs. In essence, we will let their treatment of us make us emotionally sick, eventually physically sick and eventually cost us our employment. If, conversely, we have the images of compassion and understanding in our heads, we will be able to express ourselves in a far more constructive manner. This will not only decrease the chances of the situation ending poorly, but may increase the chance of the situation ending well. It could lead to better treatment from your boss and a better relationship with them.

This week let us focus on the three things we can control and take our energy off the things we cannot control.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FULL OF IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING

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!