TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE

Last post we looked at casting actors to play in your own movie. This can go a long way to improving the quality of your life. You can increase your happiness and productivity, you can foster a greater sense of inner peace and you can have a lot more fun and success than you have ever had before. This sounds a little too good to be true? There is, I confess, one caveat.

Just like in the world of Hollywood, there is an executive producer. Call it God, the universe or whatever term you use. Sometimes they put people in our feature picture that we would rather do without. When this happens to me, I imagine the kind of movies I like to watch. Whether you enjoy Disney movies or are more a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, in all of those movies there are challenges and villains the hero has to overcome. It is what gives the movie a sense of adventure. It is what makes your hero stronger and develop greater qualities. Can you imagine watching a movie in which the lead character wakes up, wins the lottery does anything they want, doesn’t age has perfect health and just repeats that over and over again? Does not sound like a very exciting movie to me. Do you think the star of that movie would grow stronger? I am guessing not so much.

In our own life we may have our friendly and fair boss replaced by one that is two-faced and emotionally unable to handle their position, lashing out and everyone the moment they become stressed. Hypothetically. In my own place of work we have a coworker who is quite less than pleasant. For the sake of argument we will call them “Michelle”. This person always comes in with a very negative attitude. The curse, they belittle and they generally bring a dark cloud with them on a daily basis. Is that someone you would cast in a movie you are staring in? I am guessing not. Every great character needs an antagonist. When I think of the negative, or as I like to call them sunshine-challenged, people in my life, I stop and ask myself, “How would the star of a movie handle these people?” This often allows me to handle them as the best version of myself or as the character I would wish to be in my movie. In the case of our previously mentioned coworker, I imagine my leading actor would not only use that to practice and improve their patience, but to remind them of the importance of staying positive. They would use that person’s negativity to remind them how valuable being positive to all of their costars is.

What about challenging situations? This is where thinking of your life as a movie and you as the director may really come in handy. In the picture above we see a director telling the camera person what to focus on. Can you imagine if we had someone to do the same for us? We do, it is ourselves. When a challenging situation pops up, we can decide what to focus on. Let us say we just lost our job. We can focus on all of the disadvantages we have. Perhaps we are too young and do not have the experience someone older would have. Perhaps we are older and lack the energy and long-term investment we think an employer would be looking for. Instead of focusing on what is against us, remembering we are the hero of our own movie and think to ourselves, “What would a hero choose to focus on?” Maybe it is that we have the health to go out and find a new job. Maybe it is the opportunity to begin again and find something that pleases us more?

What about those situations in life that just suck? A loved one passes away or a major health challenge occurs. When we are in the middle of the whirlwind of emotion these can be one of the most difficult situations to handle. Give yourself time to grieve and feel what you need to. Even the bravest heroes and biggest stars have moments like these. I am reminded of Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happyness. At one point it seems everything is against him. He is unemployed and homeless. He is sleeping in a public restroom with his son and an angry man is trying to get inside to use the bathroom. I am hoping your life is nowhere near that bad. What happens in this movie? The character does not give up and ends up landing a great job and being able to take care of his son. (This movie was based on a true story. In other words someones life that was turned into a movie) In situations that you are under extreme stress it can be helpful to look at it as a director of a movie would and ask yourself, “Ok, if this happened in a movie I was directing, how would I have the star bounce back from their sadness, pain or depression?”

Looking at our life from this emotionally unattached position can offer us creative possibilities that we may otherwise miss. It can also help give us emotional strength we are otherwise unable to find. If the hero in our movie can do it, maybe we can too? Remember, you are the star in your movie. You are the director as well. Write yourself a great plot and do not let your hero be defeated by anything!

BECOME YOUR OWN HERO

The last few posts we have been talking about heroes. How we can learn from our hero’s mistakes, what we can learn from those we consider heroes long after they are gone and a few other tidbits along the way. Today we are going to learn something very powerful – how to become our own hero. This may sound a bit cliche and corny, but stick with me and I think you will discover what an interesting and powerful thought process this can be.

In my upcoming book, Living the Dream, I suggest looking at your life as if you are the star in your own movie. This is not only helpful, this is true. I recall working at the Greendale Post Office with some charming and witty gentleman. We will call them Don and Tom. We will do so because that is what their names actually were. Normally I like to change names to protect the innocent, but if you are calling them charming and witty I think we should be alright. Both of these gentleman were big fans of the cinema. On their morning break before heading out to deliver their respective mail routes, they would discuss all matter of movie-related material. Favorite directors, favorites actors and other such things.

One fun activity they would occasionally engage in was casting fellow employees. Lining them up with what actor would make a great match. This could be challenging as there was a cast of characters like no other at that location. There were loud and immature coworkers, vindictive bosses, dark and mysterious regular customers. Sometimes people were matched according to looks, sometimes according to character. The most difficult time came when they were forced to cast themselves. After much contemplation, they always decided on actors that seemed to reflect on their best qualities, or even qualities they may have wished they possessed. This seemed like a fun fancy at the time.

In reflection, it can be a truly powerful tool to increase and improve our own character. If you were to pick a star to play you in a movie who would it be and why? I encourage you to grab a pen and paper and write down some ideas. Pick a few actors and write down their names. Then write down what traits you feel your character would need to have to reflect who you are. Maybe even add some traits you would like to add that you may not have at the moment. Carry this list around with you or at the very least, toss it in the car. Then, before you go into work or a job interview, review it. Walk into work or that interview like the person you would cast yourself to be. In this way I think you will develop a new appreciation for the actions you take. The truth is, not only are we stars in our own films, we are also the directors, casting agents and writers. If we do not like what our life is like right now, we can always write a new script or cast a new co-star. If we do like the performance of a certain actor (say how a person makes us feel when we are around them) it is up to us to offer them more lines (spend more time with this person)

Heroes do not have to be actors. Another great exercise we can do to help us develop and grow into the person we would like to be is simple, fun and as follows. Again, you will need a pen and a piece of paper. Write down traits that you have currently. Now add traits you either are trying to further develop or maybe start having for the first time. For example, let us say you are trying to be brave. Who do you think personifies bravery? Some names that come to mind are famous generals during battle. As we think a little more, further examples may come to mind. A name who comes to mind mind is Rosa Parks. She was a woman who peacefully, but bravely challenged racist stereotypes of the day. She did so not with violence or disrespect, but by standing up for what she believed. This could have resulted in serious consequences for her, included physical harm or even death. There are our friends who come out with the truth of who they are despite facing ridicule from friends, family members and society as a whole. To me, those people are brave.

Whatever trait you are looking to develop there are several examples for you to study. I suggest doing so. Read their autobiographies. Look for video documentaries on YouTube about them. Learn how they developed the traits you are looking to emulate. It can, perhaps, give you some ideas of methods you can try in your own life.

I ALMOST FORGOT IT MADE ME HAPPY

This idea was given to me by my beautiful Margie. In these crazy times we all need to remind and use things to create a little sense of joy in our lives. In my book A Happy Life for Busy People, I encourage people to create what I call a “Happy Playlist”. Quite simply compile a list of songs that bring joyful memories to you. I put mine on my phone. I created a list on YouTube and add songs on a daily basis as they occur to me. Currently, it has a total of 187 songs. The great thing about this list is that anytime I find life giving me a hard time I ‘just push play’ and I am greeted by songs that bring back fond memories or transport me to someplace I would rather be. Some make me think of my friends and quite a few make me think of my lovely lady.

Music is a powerful way to transport your mental state quickly than anything else I know. Once you do the list of songs you may realize how powerful this is and want to add other mediums as well. Favorite movies that you love that make you laugh or put a special feeling in your heart. It is great to have a collection of books that can take your mind to a different world. At this moment when many of us have a little more time it is a good idea to put some of these together.

Why now? I often use the comparison to learning to swim. It is certainly a better idea to learn to swim when you are safely on shore than waiting until you are on a sinking ship. When we return to work we will face a lot of new challenges. Some of us may have to begin looking for new jobs. Life will take a lot of getting used to and having a things that could make us happy will really come in handy. Whether your happiness comes from music, books or even kittens (that is Margie’s contribution to today’s post) Let us all use the time we have to create some ideas of people, places and things that bring joy into our lives. When the world returns to normal, let us spend more time doing those very things.

1 MORE MOVIE SECRET TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Last post we discussed ways in which fashioning your life after a movie director would be beneficial. There was one item I left out that can go a long way in helping us out. It has been featured in my book A Happy Life for Busy People. That is creating a soundtrack for your life.

In my book I refer to it as a ‘happy playlist’. You can create one in a few simple steps. Compose a list of songs that bring joy to your life. Then just create a playlist on your MP3 player or other device. I have several in my cell phone thanks to YouTube. I have playlists for working out, meditation and motivation as well as of course being happy. It is amazing what a song that strikes a deep emotional chord with you can do to change your state. Why leave the soundtrack of your life up to the whim of the DJ on the local radio station?

In a movie, songs are chosen to give the film more dramatic flair and set the mood in various scenes. Wouldn’t you like to be able to do the same in your life? You can! Simply create a soundtrack for all areas of your life. You will be amazed at the difference it can make. What are some of the songs that will be on your soundtrack?

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!!

BECOME A MOVIE DIRECTOR. YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!


This is a picture of one of my favorite directors, Jerry Bruckheimer. I learned something amazing about him lately. It is not only the fact that he has an uncanny resemblance to actor Kevin Bacon. What I learned is that I am a lot like him…and so are you. No, it is not the fact that all three of us have directed some of the best action movies ever made. No, it is not the fact that all three of us are millionaires. Although maybe you are but I am still working my way there. What I learned is that Mr. Bruckheimer, you and myself are all movie directors.

At this point you may be saying “Wait a minute Neil. Other than the Facebook live video I did and that quick thing for Snap Chat I am would not consider myself a director.” Not knowing the length or effort you put into your social media posts, I am here to tell you we are still all directors. It just so happens the movie we are directing is called Our Life.

Whether you are conscious of the fact or not, you are directing your own life. Still do not believe me? Let us Google the job of a movie director and see what it says.

There are so many good things here let us take this bit by bit. The first line, “A film director controls a film’s artistic and dramatic aspects.” Everything we do in life can be a work of art. Some of you may remember the story I shared of the man at the homeless shelter I help at showing me how there is even an art to washing dishes. Dramatic Aspects? Believe it or not, you control the drama in your life. Before I start hearing the cries of “This person or that person creates drama in my life.” Let us be clear it is your choice to not only respond to that drama but have that person in your life. (more on that later). Every good film needs a little drama or it tends to be boring. Your source of drama can be chasing a goal and the excitement that comes from that. Even challenges can be drama that your star (that would be you) has to face and overcome.

The next line, “Visualizes the screenplay while guiding the technical crew and actors in fulfillment of that vision.” Do you have a vision for the movie of your life? If not, how do you know if you are making the right moves? Are you moving closer to success or further away? Once again we are reminded of Earl Nightingale’s quote on success, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” How can you know you are progressing if you do not know what the goal is? Can you imagine directing a movie that has no plot or end in mind? Let us take a look at the second part of that line, “Guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfilment of that vision.” Leaning on and learning from the people in our lives (the actors) and employing the use of outside experts when we need them (the technical crew) can help us achieve the screenplay for our life that we are seeking.

Lastly, “The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, and the creative aspects of filmmaking.” This can be likened to the people we choose to both bring into our lives and eliminate from our lives. It can be the job we choose, how we have our house and the way in which we approach life. If you are a director of a movie and a particular actor seems not to fit the role, they are replaced. The same can be true of spouses, friends and business partners. On occasion an actor will walk out on a picture. This is like when a break up happens, or a friend leaves our life. We are forced to recast the part. We can do so with a better idea of what may fit the film. Production design. This can refer to what car we choose to drive, how we choose to decorate our house, wordrobe..etc. All of these can be broken down to a blog post themselves. For the sake of brevity, just imagine how they all affect the movies you have seen. Can you imagine a western where the outlaws are riding horses wearing suits? Creative aspects of filmmaking. This is the manner in which you live your life. Is it a comedy full of laughs? Is it a dark drama? A tragedy? It also refers to how you chose to tackle obstacles and challenges.

Here is a fun way to play with this. Begin to write your own screenplay now. Cast certain roles. Perhaps you want your star to be tough with a soft and humorous edge? Maybe they should be dating a driven and beautiful cake designer? Maybe they are struggling through a day job while pursuing their passion? What would you write that they do to get out of that trap? This can help us add vision and purpose to our lives and have a little fun at the same time. For quick motivation, think of what the title of your life’s movie would be? Feel free to share yours in the comments below.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING

LIFE…TAKE TWO!

Today is another example of a picture being worth a thousand words. Picturing a clapperboard (do not worry if you did not know that is what this is called. I did not either before researching this post) like the one in the picture above as you go through life can be so helpful. I am personally pondering purchasing one or at the very least printing out this picture.
We all make mistakes in life. After seeing this picture I am going to start referring to them as mis-takes. Did you make a mistake and say something that upset your friend/coworker/spouse? Turn it into a mis-take In your head you might want to do what directors do, as you are the director of your own life, and yell “Cut! Let us try that scene again.”
In the movies when they do this they can then approach the scene with a better idea as to what they would like from the actors. You can do the same in life. Think I would like my star (that’s you if you are not following this analogy) to approach this scene with more compassion and understanding for the other actors involved. This works great if you said something that was not quite received the way you intended it. This happens to me more than I would like to admit. Just yell out loud or to yourself whichever happens to serve you better, “Cut! Let us try that scene again.” and try a different line. Famous actors in Hollywood and Baliwood do it all the time.
Forgiving ourselves can not only be difficult, it can keep us from moving forward in a lot of areas of our lives. Using this movie analogy can certainly make that a lot easier. Viewing our mistakes as mis-takes will allow us to move forward a little easier. By making mistakes we will move forward with more knowledge as to what doesn’t work and thus be more likely to find what does.
For those of you who do not know, I also have a YouTube channel I welcome you to check out and subscribe to. ( The link will be at the end of this post ) When I make videos when we do a second or third take I usually know a lot better how I want to approach the message I want to convey. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to research ‘clapperboard key chains’ on Amazon.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

WATCHING YOUR DIET

People are so careful about their diets today. Gluten-free, Paleo, low-carb, high-fat. It seems every day there is another healthy way that we should all be eating. Then there are the new allergies that people have to look out for. Some are allergic to nuts. Some people cannot consume dairy products or shellfish. In other words, these days people are being far more discerning as to what they put in their bodies. All this is good. It is good that we are eating with the idea of helping our bodies function at peak efficiency.

Ironically, and somewhat tragic to me, is that is where the discernment stops. We spend our days listening to music that is sometimes filled with violence and a total lack of respect. We watch television shows where characters try to get laughs by putting each other down with sarcastic barbs. We read stories in the newspaper, online and social media (more about that tomorrow) that are filled with harsh judgments, political rancor and other drama. Then at the end of the day we wonder why our energy is drained and we feel stressed out.

Like the picture above mentions, we need to mindful of the things we put into our body emotionally, spiritually, and physically. We will do our best to avoid that sweet treat that will only end up giving us cavities and some extra pounds to carry around with us. We should take the same approach on deciding if what we are going to consume with our eyes, ears, mind and spirit will serve us or contribute to our daily downfall. Will reading that article about the latest mass shooting really bring anything good into our lives? Does being inundated with the latest chapters of what is wrong with the world give us anything but a sinking feeling of depression and a sense of hopelessness?

Am I saying we have to be worried about every little thing we watch, read, listen to or even people we hang around? Not at all. That will only cause you to be stressed out about the things that can be unconsciously stressing you out. That would be…well…very stressful. What I am asking you is to be more aware of what is going into your body. In the beginning especially it can be hard to think of I have to get rid of that or I have to stop doing that. That can leave you feeling like your brain is fighting you and with a feeling of deprivation. As I do in all of my practices, here I advocate increasing the positive to decrease the negative.

How do we do that? Do your best to include reading a few pages of something inspirational. Those Chicken Soup for the Soul books work well. Filled with short inspiring stories that fill you with joy, they can add a little something special to your day. On this site and in my book we talk about creating a Happy Playlist of songs that bring cheer to your day. Spend time with people who make you laugh, smile and bring your spirit to life. As far as social media, we will delve into that tomorrow. If you have any other suggestions for things to add to your Diet feel free to leave them in the comments below.

WE ARE ALL VERY TIRED

One thing that I think we can all agree we are growing weary of is what seems to be the growing rate of violent crime in our world today. As I write this there are reports from the great state of Maryland of a shooting at a newspaper office where 5 people were killed and others were injured. It seems every night you turn on the news, or every morning you pick up the newspaper you read about senseless violence where someone has lost their life. Is this a result of better technology in communicating these crimes? Is it the result of the internet making this a smaller world? Are we becoming less tolerant? Are we becoming desensitized to violence and death due to media and video games? I imagine the answer is probably a little of all the above.

With all of the consumption of negativity you can find yourself feeling quite down. With more people reading more stories of violence we could quickly find ourselves living in a world of people depressed and losing hope. It is my belief that this lack of hope and barrage of negative news can push people who are on the edge to slip into a world of violence.

What is the solution? Are we to bury our heads in the sand and pretend all of this is not happening? The answer is both yes and no. Certainly you need to be aware of your world and what is transpiring, but you do not need to be inundated with it. You must ask yourself if reading every article on every mass shooting will do anything to enhance your life? What it will do is drain your spirit. This is why this and many other sites advocate limiting or better yet eliminating consumption of nightly news. There are apps for weather, sports or anything else you may need to know.

Is there something that we can do that is proactive? The simplest thing we can do is also one of the most powerful and also one of the most difficult. Do not let the constant feeding of negativity get us down. Easier said than done, but it can happen. When I hear of stories of great tragedy in the news I always look for the helpers. A secret I learned from Mr. Rogers. Eventually and in some way tragedy has a way of bringing the best out of some people and bringing people together. If you can’t find a helper, or even if you can, focus on being one.

When I hear of violence or some other tragic news story I know there is even more importance in what I do. The world needs more of a balance of positive to the negative. This was the very reason I began what I do. When I hear of violence in the world I use it as a stark reminder I have far more work to do, and urgent motivation to reach more souls. Victims and their families and friends are not the only people who need encouragement. Those committing the crimes may feel there is no hope. If only they knew they were people who care, even if they are half a world away.

This is where you come in. My words can’t reach everyone. Especially Iceland and Greenland who seem to be two countries I just cannot reach. What we need to do is all work on becoming lights to the world. Whether it is meeting your neighbors as discussed in last week’s post, sharing this blog or just encouraging someone who needs it. Let us all remember it is only light that can remove the darkness.

MASTER THE FUNDAMENTALS

Recently I was asked a very good question. “Neil, do you ever get angry or depressed?” Reading my material it would be easy to assume I am floating through life on a cloud, and to be honest, that is my general state of being. This is only possible because of the two decades of research and work in the self-improvement field, and even more so because of the continued work I do on improving myself.

There are days, however, that emotions get the best of me. Being an author and speaker does not make me immune to the trials life gives us all. In fact, 2017 might have been the single most trying year of my adult life. One dislocated shoulder, 3 cars, 4 funerals and 3 eulogies makes for a year you would rather not repeat.

A better question to ask is what difference all of this self-improvement work makes when life gives you a challenge. The difference it makes is that the tough times do not last as long, and generally become less intense. When you are focused on increasing the passion and joy you feel in life, you are not focused on anger and sadness.

There are days when both emotions creep up on even the best of us. Just last Saturday I woke up feeling very sad and I couldn’t even figure out why. Talk about frustrating. Here is what made the difference, fundamentals. The picture for this post is of one of my favorite philosophers, Fred Rogers. People always get a chuckle when I mention that, but he was a master of the fundamentals. Such as the title in the picture, “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” How many adults do not have a constructive way of dealing with anger? Quite a few I would say.

Having mastered the fundamentals of what works to calm you down and help you focus when you are angry, or cheer you up and change your focus when you are sad, makes a big difference. These tools can vary from person to person, but should be thought of and practiced before sadness strikes. When you are angry or depressed, you are most likely not in your most constructive and creative mindset. Having developed these tools ahead of time takes the thinking out of the situation which can be very helpful when you are in a state of high negative emotion. Like I tell people at my seminars, the time to learn to swim is on the shore, not when the boat is sinking.

Personally, I have a playlist of songs (you can also burn a CD of songs) that make me happy. I am constantly updating this list as I hear new songs and think of ones I have forgot. I also have a list of movies that make me laugh, places I enjoy going and even people I enjoy talking to. Being able to just push play and hear music to help me change my state, or grab a list of movies and pop one in and be taken away to somewhere happier for two hours without having to think about it has helped me more often than I can think of.

There are lots of other tools that make a big difference. I have a lot of them in my book, A Happy Life for Busy People and at my live seminars. The important thing to remember is that a lot of these should be set up and practiced daily to help you avoid falling into that state. When it can’t be helped, or when life just gets the better of you, then you will have tools you know work and have already practiced. You will have learned to swim on the shore.

One more thing I should mention makes a big difference, your posse. That being the people you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Make sure there are people in your life that know what makes you tick. Even if you have all of the tools, sometimes when you are in an especially dark place, or just one of those funks you can’t get out of they can help you remember what makes you happy even when you can’t. Last Saturday, I spoke with both my beautiful lady Margie, and my good friend Russ. Both of these people know me better than I know myself on occasion. They helped to remind me of what is important to me and what I should be focused on. Having a supportive network of encouraging and loving people can make the biggest difference.