ARE YOU IN CONTROL, OR BEING CONTROLLED?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVISITING A MAGIC FORMULA 

 

Until you change yourself, nothing else will change. Once you change yourself, everything else will change” – Neil Panosian

Last week we examined the fact that change comes from within. Changing yourself can be quite a struggle though. It is not easy admitting something about us could use a little improvement. Self-improvement always involves a little humility. We have to confess to ourselves we are not perfect. What we are doing, however, is creating a better person for tomorrow. That is not to say that the person we are today is not amazing, but that we want to bring an even better version of ourselves to those we care about.  I like to picture those road construction signs you see on the side of the road. Perhaps one that reads self-improvement work ahead or maybe even A better me under construction. I think if people were able to see those signs and know that although things in our life may look a bit crazy, they are really just under construction, they might be a bit more patient. Remember though that they can’t so letting them know we are working on things can help.

It amazes me how much the accent is on removing things in our life today. “Lose all that extra weight” or “Get rid of all that negativity”. Sure, both would be beneficial, but there is an easier way. Instead of going on a diet, or pushing people away, try adding. In my seminars one of the principles I teach is this, “The easiest way to eliminate the negative is by adding the positive.” In other words, forget the diet, try adding exercise and a few healthy foods. If you eat a salad, for example, you have that much less room to eat a twinkie. Spend some time with someone who really feeds your soul? That is time that cannot be spend listening to someone gossip.

As you add these positive changes you may find you have the momentum to start to reduce or eliminate some of the negative things. Maybe you will even discover how much you enjoy the positive and then will have even less room in your life for the negative. It is easier for people to add things into there life than to remove them. Removing things can cause a feeling of being deprived, or a feeling of lack and that something is missing. When you add something to your life it is relatively painless. Filling up on the positive will definitely leave you to full to consume the negative.

Feel free to share any suggestions you have to add positivity to your life in the comments below!

Don’t think about it

Everyone has heard of the value of positive thinking. In fact one of the best books one can read is “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. That being said there is a problem with positive thinking. I believe it was Tony Robbins who said “The problem with Positive thinking is you have to think about it” What we need is a change in perspective. You must train your brain to think as many positive thoughts in a row. Our brains have been trained since birth to find the problem in any situation in order to fix it. This kind of thinking sure does have its¬†benefits, but it also has its drawbacks. First, it keeps us focused on what is ‘wrong’ with any situation in our lives, which in turn prevent us from focusing on what is right and beautiful. Second it creates neural pathways in the brain that keeps us focused on our problems instead of our blessings. It has been said that people routinely focus on the ten percent that is wrong in their lives to the detriment of the ninety percent that is right. Initially that sounds hard to believe, but just imagine having a toothache while on a vacation in a tropical paradise you have won and you get the idea. It is not our fault that we think this way. When we are young our parents teach us what not to do and how to address problems that may arise in life, which is surely good advice. Then in school far more intention is placed on correcting our deficiencies than growing our talents. The same holds true in the working world. So how do we change this life-long way of thinking? Start employing several of the ideas listed here especially the one in the post entitled ‘Start out easy’ which will help us focus on the positive aspects and events in our lives. Second, here is a fun game you can try with yourself. The first time I tried this is shocked me how ‘badly’ I did. That being said remember you are fighting against a learned behavior that has been ingrained over years, decades, maybe even longer. So be patient with yourself. The idea here as with all of my posts is to have fun while working your way towards a more amazing life. Here is the game. Try to think as many positive thoughts as you can in a row. These can range from “My what a beautiful garden” to “I am so grateful for my dog”. As soon as a negative thought pops up you must start over. You will be surprised at the amount of negative self talk going on inside your head. Again, be patient with yourself. When I first started this I thought to myself “Hey Mr. amazing life blog writer, Mr. happy book author, you’ve got this” My personal record for the day…five. Yes that’s right I could not get past the fingers on one hand. So why play this game? To depress us with how negative our thinking really is? No, to begin to retrain our brains to incorporate the positive as well as the challenging. Life is all about balance and dancing around like Mary Poppins is not going to help us learn and grow. That being said neither is sulking like Eeyore. One other interesting fact that I happened to notice is how insane some of the negative thoughts that honestly would pop up in my head without me even noticing. I think if counting how many times I called myself stupid, dumb and countless other things in my own head during this test I would’ve needed fingers and toes. Not only did I notice those thoughts as ‘ruining my streak’ but noticed how ridiculous they sounded. I made a mistake and was usually harder on myself than anyone else it affected was on me. So be patient with yourself, have fun with this and let’s see if you can beat five!