I eat a lot of crazy things. Most recently I tried a gummy bear brat. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, that is a sausage made with gummy bears on the inside as well as topped with gummy bears. This is served on a flavored bun with honey mustard. If we are being honest, it wasn’t that great. The point being, I love to try new and different things. One of those items happened to be anchovies. You know, the little fish they put on pizza. I am a fan of herring, tuna and other such fish. When a friend of mine offered me a piece of pizza (my favorite food) and told me it had anchovies on it, I did not bat an eye. My thought was more how interested I was to try something new. It really did not taste very bad. I actually kind of liked it. I remember thinking how exciting it was to find a new pizza topping I enjoyed.
Then it happened…I got violently sick. It took a while of thinking and one more experience with these little fish, to realize that they just do not agree with me. Oddly enough, I can have ceaser dressing which has anchovies in it. Not sure how that works. You may be wondering what this all has to do with living an amazing life. I know I would be if I was reading this. Here is a quote I heard the other day that reminded me of both this situation and how it relates to life. “Some things can taste good on the lips in the moment, but be bitter in the belly later on.” You see, I liked the taste of anchovies, but once they started swimming in my stomach, my stomach started swimming.
The same can hold true in life. Eating that doughnut may feel good in the moment, but the guilt you feel later will not. Not to mention the effects of too many doughnuts in the long term is not good. How about telling someone off? It certainly can feel good in the moment, but later on? You may end of feeling terrible about some of the things you said. There could be damage to the relationship that is beyond repair. Some things taste good on the lips in the moment, but are bitter in the belly later on. In a world of instant gratification, it is not that common to think long term. As we have seen in the 3 mentioned examples, that can really prevent us from living an amazing life. Can you think of anything that tastes good on your lips in the moment, but is bitter in your belly later on?
It is Monday, and that can be a pain. People generally focus on what is causing them pain in their lives. Why? In a physical sense, it can be pretty hard to ignore. When the pain is mental or emotional, it can be overwhelming.
The bad news first, there will always be pain in your life. Pretty inspiring for a Monday, right? Pain is not always a bad thing. It can be one of life’s greatest teachers. It can let us know when something is not right in our lives. This can be the pain of a physical injury, where our body is letting us know something is wrong. Even the heartache of a toxic relationship is pain that is telling us that person is not right for us.
The good news is that in many ways you can choose your pain. In most cases this comes down to the decision of the pain of discipline verses the pain of regret. I am forever reminding Margie that “discipline equals freedom” a quote I stole from Jocko Willink. So much so, she probably is sick of hearing it. That does not make it any less true. If we choose to skip the initial pain of discipline, we will have to face the pain of regret.
Let us look at our examples above. In the case of a physical injury, physical therapy and doing exercises can be painful. If we do not do them, we could heal incorrectly and suffer the pain of regret. Toxic relationship? Breaking up with someone can be hard and painful. Staying in that relationship can have us waking up to the pain of regret with every painful episode.
How about you? Are there disciplines you are putting off because they are painful? Not disciplined in your fitness because you “don’t have time” or it is “too hard”. Let me tell you from experience. The pain of a good workout goes away in time. The pain of being out of shape is something you have to deal with daily. Not disciplined in your diet because you would just rather “eat what you like. ” or “eat what tastes good.” Then you must suffer the regret of all the pains an unhealthy diet give you. These pains, such as heart disease, can be fatal.
This week, if you find yourself trying to get out of the pain of discipline,ask yourself what the pain of regret will be if you don’t follow through. Be honest with yourself. The pain of missing just one workout or the pain of eating just one doughnut can lead to the regret of choosing bad habits over good ones.
Today’s post will be the first in a series about controlling what we can. I am going to offer you two personal examples of this particular decision and how it impacted parties involved. I hope you will be able to take what we talk about here and apply it to your own life. If you do, I promise you can change something that used to be an anchor in your life, something that would weigh you down and hold you back, into one of the strongest forms of motivation to propel you forward.
Our first story starts many years ago at a funeral for a family member of mine. After a formal service and before the wake there was some walking around and polite “Nice to see you.” “Sorry for you loss.” type remarks. I ran into one of my family members who was upset and distraught. They were sobbing uncontrollably and asking the rhetorical question “why them?” They went on to further state that their life would never be the same and they could never be fully happy again. This person saying all of these things was quite young and it would have been a sorry state if they allowed this to be true.
Moments later, I ran into another family member. This person was the exact same relationship to the deceased and roughly the same age. Their take on the situation was much different. “Boy this sure makes you think, doesn’t it?” the young man said. You could tell he was upset, yet looking at this from a different angle. He went on to say how sometimes it really takes a funeral to make you feel alive. After a quizzical look from me, he explained. He said it served as a great reminder how important it is to not only make sure you tell those you care for that you love them, but to live your own life in a compassionate and meaningful way. Knowing that life ends is one of the best ways to make sure you really start living.
Two people, same situation, two entirely different viewpoints. Both people were equally close to the person who passed, yet looked at their passing in entirely different ways. One could only see the loss and end that had occurred. The other saw the motivation to really start loving and living. Death, my friends, can either be a merciless jailor or the greatest motivator. When we lose someone we love, that can be hard enough. We only compound that pain when it paralyzes us. If, however, we can find some type of positive, even if it is only that we must love those we have in our life while they are here, then the pain has at least served a purpose.
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. There is no right way to grieve. To feel loss and pain when we lose someone we love so dearly is natural. It is my sincere hope that I may offer you something that will put your pain and feeling of loss to work for you. That may not lessen the hurt you are feeling, then again it might, but it may very well keep you from being paralyzed by despair.
The second example comes from a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine. The topic of discussion was mistakes we had made in the past and how we could still kick ourselves for some of the stupid things we had done. This can be especially true when it comes to relationships. When a relationship ends we feel a host of emotions – sadness, anger, loss, maybe even relief depending on what side of the equation you are on. One common feeling after a relationship comes to an end is regret. Again, this can take many forms. You may regret that you did not speak your feelings better. You may regret the way you treated the person or the way you let them treat you. You could regret not being more romantic. You could even end up regret wasting so many of your years with such a jerk.
I know many people who continue to beat themselves up with this regret years after the other half of the relationship has moved on. “I really regret not being more loving to her.” or “I really regret staying with him when he was such a jerk.” These people stew over this. They still get upset and usually it becomes contagious, as the person they are talking to regrets being in that conversation. They relive the pain, the hurt, the anger and the frustration. This not only does not serve them, but prevents them from moving on to a new and healthy relationship.
I havemany regrets in my life, as we all do. Not just in relationships, but who I was as a man. There are even times when I catch myself pondering why I did so many stupid things in my life. Why did I sacrifice my character and integrity by not living up to my own standards. What I do is use this as fuel. My relationship now is one that I am extremely proud of. I am with what I do believe is the most beautiful woman on the planet. She deserves the best version of me. When there are times I feel like shirking my responsibilities as a man or as her man, I think of the pain of regret I feel for all of the time I let myself and others down. I want to give her the best man I can be, and I use this regret for motivation. I recall times that I was unhealthy, unfriendly, careless, not compassionate and other ways I failed to live up to my own standards. There is nothing I can do about those situations. They are done and over with. The jobs have been lost, the feelings have been hurt and the years of good health are gone. What I can do is use the pain of that regret to make sure I work as hard and as good as I can. Make sure to care for other’s feelings and treat my body as the temple and expression of the divine that it is.
We all have death and regret in our lives. Pain is unavoidable. What is up to us is whether we let that pain be our jailor or our motivator. Regret and loss suck. There is no nicer way to put it. As long as they have to be a part of our life, why not put them to work for us.
On this blog we do things to try to limit regret in our lives. Regret is one of the worst emotions to have. At a funeral the toughest emotion to get over is not sadness, but regret. “I wish I would have….” feeling. Part of the Secret to an Amazing Life is doing less things you regret and regretting less things. If you live life in the best manner you can, you have less to regret.
Despite our best efforts, we all end up with some regret in our lives. Those of us who really work hard to be the best we can be, can have the most difficulty getting over regret. As I often do, let me share a personal example with you. When I reflect on relationships I have had with people in the past I can sometimes cringe at the memory of how I acted. In some cases the person’s actions may have not been the best either. I recall a boss I had when I first started at the Post Office that was always belittling. You could understand acting in a disrespectful or defensive nature to someone who did not respect you. Although their actions may be disrespectful, it does not excuse us from being the same.
As with all of us, I have had friendships that have been damaged. Maybe even some that have been lost due to things that were said and done between both parties. Special moments have been ruined or at least dampened due to behavior. Upon reflection I would become frustrated with myself. Then I heard something from Les Brown, “If you wouldn’t do the same thing today, then you are convicting an innocent person.” It was then I turned regret on its head. Instead of avoiding the sting of regret I put it to work for me. Whenever I am tempted to act in a manner beneath the best version of me I pause and remember the outcome of a time I did so and regret it. I ask myself, “Do you really want to feel like that again?” Especially if the pain is strong enough, it is enough to put me back on the right track. Regret has done more to shape my current behavior than most other things.
It is not just for keeping you from acting like a social degenerate. Regret can motivate you to do the right thing when you lack the inner drive. I recently read a story of a father in the UK who couldn’t go on a ride with his son because he was too large to fit into the cart. He used the sadness in his son’s face as well as his own embarrassment to lose almost half of his weight. Having a painful memory like that not only drove him to lose the weight but also allowed him to keep it off.
Many of you may recall the story of not going to the rummage event with my grandfather before he passed. It really wasn’t enjoyable for me at the time, but it really brought him joy. Now when I know there are things that others enjoy or that bring them happiness, I focus on the fact that I am helping the one I love. That is not to say I am constantly putting myself in a position to do things I dislike, for that would be a regret too, but doing the occasional thing I am not thrilled about in order to bring a smile to the one I love is not the worst in the world.
I encourage you to make a list of your worst regrets in life. This may be painful, but think of how you can use them for motivation to do better in the future.
This post was inspired by a conversation I had with my good friend Russ. We have known each other for roughly 30 years. Whenever we talk I always gain a great amount of inspiration and clarity. Not only on life itself, but on me. A friend who has known you for that length of time can really share some insightful things. I am always grateful for that. In our most recent conversation, Russ noted that I am “always positive and encouraging” While this may be a slight exaggeration, it is indeed my goal.
After some discussion as to why this is I had what can only be described as an ‘A-ha moment’. I told him the reason why I appear to be positive all of the time is because I bring who I am to everything I do. For example, my goal in writing these posts is to share knowledge I have come across in hopes of helping all of us live a more amazing life. Why? The reason is simple. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. When I DJ, my goal is to help every person I come in contact with feel better about themselves or about life in general. Same thing at the post office, when I go out for coffee or grocery shopping.
This can be both a blessing and a curse. Earlier in my life, I brought myself everywhere I went as well. The problem was I was not the best version of myself. This is a very important reason to always be your best. You follow you wherever you go. We can do our best to pretend to be somebody else, but at the end of the day our true persona will always shine through.
There is another very important reason to always do your best to be the best version of yourself. Inevitably we will be faced with challenges and disappointments in life. We will lose a job, a relationship will end or worst of all, we will lose somebody we love. When we are the best versions of ourselves it will save us a good deal of heartache. One of the worst feelings anyone can pile on a bad situation is regret. If we lose a job that is not the time to say to ourselves, “I wish I would have performed better.” If we lose a relationship it is a little too late to say, “I wish I would have been better for that person.” At funerals would you believe loss is not the most painful feeling? It is regret. I wish I wouldn’t have spoke harshly to that person, or I wish I would have said I love you one more time.
Chances are in your life all three things will happen at some point. If they don’t we can certainly practice gratitude, but that is another topic. If we are normal adults these situations will all happen. If we do our best at our jobs and still end up losing them at least we can say, “Well they lost a good employee!” and it will certainly help us land our future occupation. Even if your boss is a jerk, even if you dread going there, do your best. Not for them, but for you. The same holds true in a relationship. You may spend all of your energy and romance on someone and they still might break your heart. It is sad but true. How much better would it be to realize they just lost the best thing they will ever have. Not to mention it will save you years of beating yourself up over “I should have” and “What if…” When it comes to the loss of a loved one there will always be pain. That pain will only be compounded if we honestly did not give our all to that relationship. We will always wish we had more time with that person and did more, but if we did our best we can have peace in our hearts.
I urge you to call that person that needs to hear from you. Give your effort at work. Think of, and act on romantic notions you have with your partner. Even if things end badly, you will have the confidence and inner peace of knowing you did your best.
Last post we talked about my affection for the stories of Winne-the-Pooh. Today we are going to look at the above quote from this famous literary work of art.
“What day is it?” asked Pooh
“It’s today.” squeaked Piglet
“My favorite day.” said Pooh. In this quote we are given the gift of great wisdom hidden in what seems to be a silly thought. Today is the best day. In fact, today is the only day. Yesterday has already happened and we cannot change it. If we continue to live in the pain and hurt of yesterday we are doing so at the cost of today. If there is a wrong or hurt that happened yesterday we cannot undo it. The only way to attempt to remedy yesterday is to take action today to undo the wrongs of yesterday. The same holds true for tomorrow. It has not come yet and will never come. Tomorrow is always in the future. Perhaps you have concerns about future tomorrows? The only thing you can do is act today to help those events in the future. Things such as purchasing life insurance, starting a health regimen, begin a savings account or many other actions that will improve your future. It is the actions we take today that will determine our tomorrows. Fully enjoying the day we are currently in is the only way in which we can live a truly positive and rewarding life. If we live in the regret of the past we are giving away our peace of today. If we delay our happiness for a future event we are doing the same thing. That is not to say you shouldn’t have things to look forward too, but enjoy the process while you are waiting for them to arrive. Make today your favorite day. Let us all take this great lesson from that friendly bear and his woodland friends.
Did you ever stop to think about the decisions you make, or do not make and how they affect your life? What may seem small or insignificant at the time, can make all of the difference. I equate it to hitting a golf ball. If you change the approach by just a few millimeters and hit the ball over the length of the ball’s flight it will make a profound difference.
When we are faced with a decision to let someone walk away, or whether to be honest with our feelings or keep them inside, I say go for it and do so freaky fast. As we look back on our lives it is the things that we did not do that we regret far more than the mistakes we made. Sometimes by failing to act you could deny yourself the greatest opportunity. If you wait to tell that special someone how amazing they are and how much you feel for them, you may never have the chance. Even if the moment may have passed, telling someone what a beautiful soul they are can do a lot of good.
There are two caveats when it comes to this. First, if you have an urge to tell someone something in anger that is a moment you may wish to pause and reconsider. When we are angry we do not often word things in the most constructive language. For years I struggled with this myself, but by forcing myself to wait and approach the matter when emotions have not taken over has led to a lot healthier and productive resolutions.
The other thing I ponder is this, sometimes I feel the universe has other reasons for what happens. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion because you were to receive a better offer later? Maybe as amazing as dating that person sounds you need them in your life in another capacity? These don’t always feel well at the moment. After all, who wouldn’t want to date someone they think could make their life magic, or earn more money in a more rewarding position? This is where faith comes into play. We must learn to trust the process and be grateful for our life the way it is now. Plus, we never know what the future holds.
When it comes to relationships I think we have it all backwards. It took me a while to realize this, and bless Margie’s heart, am still working on it to some degree. I will be the first person to tell you how important paying attention to your partner is. In my upcoming book I have 3 tips to accomplish this. Before all of this, there is something that we should focus on first – us.
Focus on yourself before your partner? What kind of great idea is that Neil? It sounded a little backwards to me at first too, so let us dive a little deeper. When you are entering a relationship, things always seem magical. Nothing your partner does seems to bother you at all. You find yourself doing all kinds of things you used to not enjoy. Some of that is a positive. I know especially when it comes to cooking, Margie is so talented she has me eating things I thought there was no way I could like. Those are good. The person we are with should expand our horizons.
Then there is the other side of the coin. When we are working hard to win someone’s affection we make sacrifices or even do things that go against our standards. The funny thing is later it will occur to us, “Hey I really do not enjoy these things.” Then when you stop doing them you appear to be doing less for your partner. They can rightfully end up thinking, “He/she used to do this for me and now they don’t. They must be loving or caring less.” Of course this is not the case, but taken from the other person’s perspective it can sure seem that way.
How can we fix such a tricky situation? By realizing the one person we can affect in the relationship is who we can work on, and that is ourselves. Before you get into your next relationship, be sure to know what your values are and what you are not willing to compromise on. There is always a good amount of give and take in any healthy relationship, but it helps to know what is too important to give on. The right person will not only be understanding of that but will share theirs as well.
There is a fun and important side to this and that is knowing what it is that brings you joy in life. Last post we talked about ‘doing you’ and this is yet another reason why that is important. When you know what it is that brings you joy you can share that with your partner. Plus, let us face it, being in a relationship with a happy person is a lot more enjoyable.
What if you are in a relationship that is not currently working so well? The answer is the same. Focus on you and only you. That really sounds backwards so allow me to explain. When things are rough we are quick to focus on our partners faults and how they should change. That will never help things and may only add more distance and separation in the relationship. Focus on what you can do to bring positive changes into the relationship. Is there a communication problem? Do you feel your partner doesn’t listen to you? Think of ways you could make listening to you more enjoyable and desirable for your partner. Is there a lack of intimacy? Think of what you can do to set a more romantic mood, or better yet, ask your partner to help you. Make sure you do this in a constructive and loving manner.
What if you are in a relationship where you truly are doing the best you can and your partner, for whatever reason, is not doing their part? This is the main reason to work on yourself. When a relationship comes to an end we are often left with two emotions – sadness and regret. If only I would have said this, or if only I had not said that. Knowing you worked as hard as can be to bring the best version of you to the relationship will not only eliminate a lot of the sadness and grief you feel from that relationship ending, but set you up for the best possible chances of success in your next relationship.
This question, which is a very good one, came about in discussion with a friend who was in the middle of reading my book. She asked “What is your suggestion for someone who is trying to live a happy life who can’t let go of the past?” This is a great question that may be holding a lot of us back. Let’s say you make a decision to start living a more positive, rewarding life from this day forward. You try everything you can get your hands on and make a great effort. Still you have issues from your past that are still bothering you. Well that would be like starting a boat, pushing the throttle all the way forward, but leaving the anchor down. You may go far, you may even break free of that anchor, but not without a good deal of damage. More than likely you will stay attached and start going in circles.
So the question remains. How do you resolve an issue from your past that keeps creeping up? I would have to say the first step is to identify the issue you have that is holding you back. Is it guilt over something you may have done? Is it regret over something you may have not done? Once you gain some clarity on what exactly is the past issue that is preventing you from enjoying your future is, the next step is to get leverage on yourself. What exactly does that mean? Well any issue involving change whether it be moving on from the past or overcoming a challenge we are dealing with in the present is to clearly define the pain we are gaining and the pleasure we are losing by not changing. Sticking with the issue of overcoming the past you must look at what things you may have lost in your present and more importantly may lose in the future by not resolving this issue. Ideally you should write them down so they are staring at you in black and white. On another page or in another column you should also write the pleasure this issue has caused you to sacrifice and what pleasures you will have to give up by continuing to drag this anchor around. After composing these two lists is should become abundantly clear that your past is controlling your life and not you. Is this what you are going to continue to allow? No! You do not necessarily have to go back to the actual people involved. In many cases this is not even possible as they may have moved away or even passed on. What you must do is deal with the issue in your head. Perhaps writing an entry in your journal asking forgiveness or giving forgiveness to someone else or even yourself. Perhaps have an imaginary conversation with that individual. The important part is to change what your past means to you. Change whatever is holding you back into something that empowers you. Find the good, find the lesson, find whatever you need to cut the rope on that anchor and sail the seas of your future!