As we wind down our week of posting no negativity and at least one positive thing a day, there is something I was reminded of that I would like to share with you. In my upcoming book, Living the Dream, I explain the science behind the power and importance of a grateful and positive mindset. In a very brief explanation, keeping this mindset activates a part of our brain called the reticular activating system or RAS for short. This part of our brain modulates our sensory information. In other words, out of the information we take in, it decides what is important and worth noticing. The best way I can explain this is through an example. Have you ever noticed when you buy a new car or outfit, you suddenly see that car or outfit everywhere? Let me ask you, did everyone see that you bought it and then went out and bought it themselves? Unless your last name is Kardashian or some other internet influencer, I am sure you know the answer is ‘no’. So why are you seeing those cars and outfits all of sudden? They were there all of the time. Your brain has now decided, “Hey this is like our car/outfit and worth noticing!”
The ‘secret’, if you will, to all of this is that this area of your brain is always working. Most of us, however, have it in the default setting. It notices whatever we are focused on at the moment. Been watching the news and seeing the world go down the drain? Yep, you will notice examples of that everywhere. Researching that new puppy you would like to buy? Suddenly you will notice your neighbors out walking their puppies. The dangerous part of this is that is works whether what we are focused on is positive or negative. We can all agree at any given moment in time there are both positive and negative things going on in the world. What we are focused on will determine what we experience to a greater degree. Some people may confuse this with becoming ignorant of all the challenges the world is facing. This is no more true than knowing there are other cars on the road and outfits on people other than yours. It is what we are focused on and feeling most intensely.
Knowing every day that I would need something positive to write about, my brain started to be on the lookout for such an event. This happened even when I was consciously engaged in something else. This is one of the great side-effects of developing a habit of devoting a portion of your morning focused on gratitude. If you do this first thing every morning you brain will begin to lookout for things you could record in your ‘gratitude journal’. Imagine all day having a mind that is on the lookout for things that are positive or that you should be grateful for. These posts have reminded me what a powerful thing this can be. Our life improves greatly when we take control of our mind and put it to work for us.
Recently, I visited an Arabic restaurant and found this profound saying…yes on the men’s room wall. Proof I am always on the look out for new and inspiring items to bring you. I had to snap a picture.
I have never been a fan of the saying It is what it is. To me it sounded a bit apathetic at best, lazy at its worst. Lately, however, I can see the use in this saying as a way not to fight against things that will waste your energy. That is why I enjoyed the added line in this example but it will become what you make it.
Sure things might not be as we wish them to be at the moment, but it is up to us to make them become what we wish them to be. When we run into a challenge we can simply shrug our shoulders and say the first half of this saying it is what it is. Our other choice is to square our shoulders and repeat the second part but it will become what I make it! The choice is ours.
One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes. I encourage you to be very strict as to who you let in your inner circle. Keeping those close who may put you down constantly can kill your spirit.
Also, think of what kind of person you are. Do you encourage others or are you constantly gossiping and putting them down? Encourage others to chase their dreams. We never know what we and others can accomplish.
On occasion I read a quote that makes me pause and reflect. This is one of those quotes. “Rome wasn’t built in a day but they worked on it every day.” I don’t know what goal you are working on this week, but it is important to work on it every day. Even if you do one little thing toward the accomplishment of your goal, you get one step closer. Not only does your goal get nearer to being accomplished, but it keeps your goal firmly in front of you and in your subconscious mind. Putting your subconscious mind to work for you is how miracles happen. I won’t get into exactly how that happens in this post as it is quite extensive. Feel free to look that up on your own.
I can tell you one way to activate your subconscious mind is through repetition. I am striving to be a best-selling author. The way that I do this is write something every day. One day it may be a chapter for a book. The next day it may be a post for this blog or an article for one of the magazines I write for. Regardless of what form it takes, the only way to improve my writing is to work on it a little bit every day.
Here is the flip side of this; every day that you do not work on your goal, you are not only pushing it back one day you could be pushing it back six months or more. You may be thinking why should I practice or hone my craft when I have no opportunity to put it to work yet? It is firmly better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to be unprepared for an opportunity when it arrives. Imagine wanting to be a great public speaker and never practicing. Suddenly you are presented a chance to speak in front of thousands and you have never prepared. Not only will you fail at that moment, but the effects of that failure follow you around for years to come.
Whatever your goal may be, do a little towards its accomplishment today. It may not seem like a lot at the end of the day, but in a month, in a year or more you will look back at all of the little actions you have taken and discover you have created a masterpiece.
Today will be a quick but powerful idea. Pick an emotion in your life you would like to increase. This could be love, peace or happiness. Then think of a symbol that represents that emotion. This could be a heart for love, a sun for peace or a smiley face for joy. These are just basic examples. Choose whatever symbol makes sense to you. Nobody but you will know what you’re doing. Unless of course you want to involve friends, family members or your spouse. This could be fun, but it not necessary.
Everytime you see that symbol think of and practice that emotion. You may even wish to write down when you come across them and where. It is imploring the universe to help you remember to include that emotion in your day. Try this new routine for at least 21 straight days.
I suggest keeping a journal of this activity for two reasons. One, it makes the sightings more powerful and easier to remember. Two, at the end of the 21 days it is a great way to see your progress!
Feel free to share your symbol and/or the results of your experiment! What emotion are you looking to capture more of in your life?
Today I looked down in my car and what did I find? A DVD I had rented from the West Allis Public Library on Bob Marley that was supposed to be returned days earlier. As I happened to be out driving around, I decided to return the movie and take care of any fines that may have accumulated. As a dedicated life-long reader, I absolutely love going to the library. You have access to almost every piece of information you can desire and it does not cost you anything. Unless of course you forget a Bob Marley biography in the back of your car for two weeks, and then it runs you $5.
My point is that the library is a goldmine when it comes to individuals seeking knowledge of any kind. The library I use in my hometown of West Allis Wisconsin is particularly amazing. They have a separate floor just for children’s learning. They have several computers you can use to access the internet, print documents or anything else you may need. There are also conference rooms available to rent, educational programs on a wide variety of topics not to mention the volumes of different media available to rent, including an amazing book called A Happy Life for Busy People.
On this day, however, I learned something far more important. After paying the fine for my forgetfulness I was on my way out of the library when I noticed a mother and son behind me. I stopped to hold the door for them. It was then I noticed the young man had down syndrome. His mother was leading him by the hand informing him it was time to go. “We have had enough learning for one day.” she informed him. It was his reply that stopped me in my tracks. “I love to learn mom!” he reminded her.
It was then I began to think of all the different students of life the library caters to. I must confess I had not stopped to consider those with special needs and how eager they thirst for knowledge. It was then I felt a great sense of appreciation and respect for those who spend their time and have the patience to bring the world of knowledge to those who may have extreme difficulty in assimilating it. This mother had taken her son to the library and helped him increase his knowledge and expand his mind. Which happened to be the same reason I was there. I thought of the patience it must take parents and special education teachers. They are helping empower those others may cast aside. They are not only helping them learn, but giving them reasons to be proud of themselves. I know how great it feels to learn something new and obviously, this young man felt the same.
It gave me a great sense of pride to have such a brave and hard-working young man as a part of my community. Last post we spoke of not giving in to your limits and this young man was doing just that. It made me so happy and proud to have amazing parents, teachers and young men like him in my community. It also made me appreciate the Public Library in yet another way. If you know a parent or teacher of a child with special needs, please take a moment to thank them for their work and dedication to make the world a better place.
The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. I used to think quotes like this were a bunch a new-age nonsense. I also used to be a pretty angry and depressed person. Personal perception can do a lot to change your life. This may be hard to believe, but let me ask you a question. Have you ever read about, or perhaps even known someone personally, who seems to have the worst situation but has the best attitude? I am sure we all have. In my upcoming book Living the Dream I have a collection of interviews with people who seem to have every reason to be depressed, angry, jaded or a host of other unpleasant emotions, but yet are some of the most positive and inspiring people I know.
The million-dollar question is how do they do it? They control their thoughts. It is not easy and is not something they woke up doing all of a sudden. They ask themselves empowering questions such as, “What is good about this?” and “How can I use this?” I am certain there are times when the first answers that pop into their minds are not the most inspiring, but they keep asking.
The hard truth is that we cannot control all the circumstances of our lives, no matter how hard we try. We just do not have that power. What we can control is how we react to those circumstances. We have all heard the cliché “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” The reason things become cliché is because they have some truth to them.
Finding out how to make lemonade out of your particular lemons can be a tricky and ongoing process. The payout, however, is control over your life. Once you can control your thoughts, life can no longer control you. The tough times cannot bring you down because you will be able to both find the good in them, as well as use them to your advantage.
The next post we will look at another way in which all of the people I interviewed for my book control their thoughts. It is one trait they all have in common. Once you introduce this trait into your life and combine it with the two questions we mentioned here, you will be well on your way to controlling your thoughts!
Today is ‘Hump Day’ the middle of the week. A lot has probably happened to all of us. As we get closer to the weekend and begin to focus our thoughts on all things more positive and weekend oriented, let us make one more important change. The change I am speaking of is mentioned in the picture above. Instead of claiming to be broken and helpless, switch that mindset to growing and healing. This may seem like an inconsequential change, but it will create a brand-new lifestyle. When we focus on what is wrong in our life, or how it has damaged us, we bring ourselves down. Doing this repeatedly can leave us feeling helpless. Nothing could be further from the truth! Yes, we have all been hurt and many of those hurts can leave us damaged emotionally, spiritually, or even physically. That we cannot control. What we have complete control over is what these scars mean to us. Being in a victim mode can lead us to think that our scars make us ugly and damaged. In contrast, when we switch our mentality to understand we are growing and healing, then we realize our scars are badges of honor. They show the world, and even more important ourselves, that we have made it through some really tough situations. It also gives us a measure of credibility to help those who might be going through the same things. Another thing we do that will leave us feeling like a victim is assigning blame on others. “It is their fault that I am ____” Really? If that is the case and you let others control your state of well-being you will always feel helpless. Instead realize that while others may make us angry/sad/hurt or a million other unpleasant emotions, choosing to stay in those emotions is a choice we make. Instead, try this thought on for size, “This person really upset me, but because of that I am now a stronger and more determined person than I was before.” or one of my favorites, “I reacted to you and allowed my emotions to get the best of me in the moment. Now I shall use that to motivate me to take control of my own emotional state and become an even stronger and better person. Thank you.” Feel free to create your own. In fact, I am always on the lookout for new affirmations in this arena and would love to hear what works for you!
Hunting in the rain. I equate this to putting in the work when it is not convenient. Do you go to work after staying up late and not getting any sleep? Do you put in time for your passion even after working 8 hours at your day job? Do you attempt things even when the path ahead looks difficult and you are not sure you will succeed? If so, then you hunt in the rain. You are one of the rare people I enjoy spending my time around.
What is the big deal about hunting in the rain? There are a few things that make this so special. First of all, it shows how committed you are. Anyone can go to the gym when they got enough sleep, the sun is shining and they feel good. What happens when you wake up to temperatures well below freezing and a great deal of snow outside? Do you still lace up and give it your best? If so, then you hunt in the rain.
People who hunt in the rain have strong ‘whys’ They know exactly what the reason is for them doing what it is they do. It is that health challenge that gets them to the gym. It is the thought of supporting their family that makes them go to work even on days they don’t really feel like it. They are generally people aligned with their true purpose.
Hunting in the rain sucks. It is not easy, so why do it at all? If you are a person who is determined to get ahead in life, hunting in the rain is for you. Given that hunting in the rain is uncomfortable and unpleasant many will not do it. That means while you are hunting your competition is sleeping or staying where it is warm and safe. It is by doing the hard work, by hunting in the rain that you get ahead. You take advantage of the extra time they are wasting. Because not many hunt in the rain, the field is always less crowded. People will remember who was there for them when the going was tough. Bosses will remember who showed up when there was a blizzard. If you want to stand out and make a good name for yourself, you must learn to hunt in the rain.
How can we be motivated to hunt in the rain? Print out the picture above would be a good start. Remember your why, have it written down somewhere you can see it. If you add a picture too that would make it even more powerful. Also, stay focused on the advantages of hunting in the rain that we mentioned here. Note that an animal that hunts in the rain has access to prey those who stay where it is warm and safe do not. Show up every day and do the best you can. Before long, you will be the king, or queen of your own jungle.