ACCEPT IT… THEN WE CAN MOVE ON

I have always been a fan of Michael J Fox. Good actor, great human. Being open with his struggles with Parkinson’s disease and his desire to help those similarly affected. This post is not so much about the man or the condition, but about the approach demonstrated in both the situation and the quote above.

I think acceptance is one of the most important first steps in whatever situation you are facing. The issue for many of us is that we confuse acceptance with resignation. When you accept something, it does not mean you are ok with it. It also does not mean you are not going to work to improve or find away to work despite it. If you find there is a situation that is not to your liking there are two ways in which we can approach this. We can argue, fight and complain about it. We can continue to deny and work against it. This usually results in wasted energy on our behalf and a lot of additional stress. No real benefit there. You certainly will not find yourself any closer to an amazing life.

The second way, and far more recommended way, is to first accept the situation as it is. Perhaps you were let go from your job unfairly. You could complain and let everyone know just how bad the company ‘did you wrong’. Chances are you will still be remain unemployed at the end of the day. Your time would have been better served working on the situation. Saying to yourself, “I was let go. It shouldn’t have happened but it did.” Then begin to analyze the situation to see what, if anything, you can learn from it. Were you too comfortable being involved in workplace politics? Did you leave yourself vulnerable and relied too much on a single source of income? Did you not keep your resume up to date? Maybe the same holds true for your education and your skill set?

Once you discover what you can learn from the situation, do not beat yourself up over that. Instead, note that it is so and learn from that. Didn’t keep your resume up to date? Time to work on that. Need to brush up on some skills? Go ahead and do that. Maybe next time try to keep a better lookout for a workplace with a lot less drama and politics. These steps work for both people and situations. If your friend has a different political or social view than you, don’t waste your time trying to “change them over to your way of thinking.” The more productive path is to accept your friend for who they are and make sure to steer situations and conversations in a direction that does not bring up that subject.

The best place that acceptance can pay off is with yourself. Accept your faults or things that you could improve on. This requires both a great deal of honesty and bravery. Then, go to work on those things. Without admitting there is an issue to begin with, it makes it very difficult to craft a plan to improve it. Accepting you have a shortcoming (newsflash – we all do) does not make you less of a person. Quite the opposite. It means you are brave enough to admit, even to yourself, that there are areas in which you can improve. Then, accept that and begin to work on finding a way to work through it. By doing this in all areas of your life you will reduce stress and find your speed and success and solving problems will increase.

IT IS ABOUT YOUR 90%, NOT THEIR 10%

In this day and age there is a lot we cannot control. It can leave some people feeling scared or uncertain. Then again, others seem completely unfazed. Do these people shelter themselves from what is going on in the world today? Are they more ignorant to the news and the other scary and negative information the rest of us are being fed? The answer is ‘no’.

We see it in our friends, family and coworkers as well. It seems people fall in one of two categories. Either they break a nail and the day is over. You know the type. Over-emotional. Stress out something terrible. It is worse when those people seem to take it out on others. It is even worse if you have a boss like that. So I have heard anyway. Then there is the other side of the coin. There are people that nothing seems to get them down. They get a flat on the way to work and they take it in stride. They lose a job and somehow find the positive in the situation. These people used to drive me crazy, that is until I became one.

There is one axiom that helped me turn it all around and I am going to share it with you in hopes it can do the same in your life. That pillar of knowledge is not only true, but is worth printing out and hanging in every corner of your house. Maybe putting one in the car for when some less enlightened soul cuts you off in traffic. Need one at work? I would imagine that would be the case. This nugget of knowledge may be hard to believe at first, but use it and you will find it is true. Almost everyone has heard this statement before but not many agree with it. They almost seem to fight it even though it is the key to adding both joy and opportunity to your life. Why would someone fight something that could be so powerful? When you understand and make this statement part of your life you not only feel more in control, but you are more in control. Who among us would not want more of that in their life? Here is the reason why more people do not subscribe to this belief. Along with joy, opportunity and control this statement requires you to take responsibility for your emotions, your inner peace, your sense of joy and the current state of your life.

Yes my fine friends, that is the secret. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Before I start hearing all the excuses as to why this isn’t true, let me share a personal story with you. I was employed through a temporary service that was supposed to let me know after 30 days if the company I was working for would like to hire me. If they did, it would mean a raise of $4/hour. Thirty days came and went and no news. I called every day and was told they had not heard anything. After 3 days of this I called the company I was working at. They told me that they had asked to hire me but the temp service had not gotten back to them. When I confronted the service about it I was told they did it so they could keep me because I was a good worker. I will spare you the details of what happened after that except to say that I kept my head and looked elsewhere. The job I would’ve gotten moved to Mexico 6 months after I would have been hired. I then got a job that put me in position to get the job I have now, making more than I would have.

You may be thinking that it worked for me, but it wouldn’t work for you. When you decide what things mean and how to use them in your life, you are greeted with a lot more happiness and inner peace. When you choose how to act, instead of letting your emotions choose how you react, you win. This is simple, but it is not easy. The more you practice this, the better you will become. Then when the next challenge comes, ask yourself “How am I going to choose to react to this?” When you ask yourself this question it will go a long way to helping you go from reacting…to acting. You make the decision, not your emotions. Again, this is not easy but it is so worth it. You will find yourself slowly developing a positive mindset and discovering ways to turn negatives into positives.

WELL THAT’S TRUE

Just as 3+6=9, so does 5+4=9. This is a perfect point to represent the fact that there is more than one way to do things. In a world where debates on politics, religion and even sports can turn violent, this is a very good point to remember.

When you engage in spiritual worship, remember that someone may be seeking to develop their own spiritual nature but doing so in a completely different manner. This does not make their way of doing so wrong, and more than it makes your way wrong. It is two completely different paths to spiritual enlightenment.

In the political climate, there are always a multitude of different opinions. There are different ways to approach the economy, social issues and even conflict. In the event that you encounter someone with a different view on these issues, (highly likely since we live on a planet of 7 billion people) learn to be content expressing your view and understanding they may hold a different view. I really don’t think I have to go into why violence should not happen due to a difference in opinions on sports, do I?

My point is this, what may work for one does not always work for another. If I am stressed, for example, I work out. It is as if I am literally sweating out the stress. Margie, on the other hand, can feel stressed just thinking about working out. She prefers to shop when stressed. The thought of fighting crowds in stores brings me to a stressed state. Both my 3+6 and her 5+4 equal 9. For me to say “Shopping doesn’t help you to not be stressed. It makes you more stressed!” Would be trying to impose my truth on her.

We can have our own opinions and still respect those that differ from us. I encourage you to explore this thinking in the next few days. It will not only reduce the stress in your own life, it is sure to improve your relationships with those around you.

THE 2 REALMS OF EXISTENCE, WHEN AND WHERE TO USE EACH ONE


I would like to begin this post with a mea culpa of sorts. In my books I advocate using the separation of mind and body to our advantage, especially in stressful situations. In fact, I have been quoted as saying “There is no law that says your mind and body have to be in the same place at the same time.” This is indeed true and can be helpful when you are in a stressful situation. It can also be used for motivation. Please allow me to explain both.

Let us say your boss is pressuring you for a deadline, or just being the pain bosses can be on occasion. As you practice patience and compassion in an effort to remain employed, you can go somewhere else in your mind. I transport myself to a beautiful beach in Jamaica sipping out of a coconut. It also reminds me that the job I am working will help me get to that destination. When I am working out at the gym feeling like I am going to have to start breathing through a brown paper bag and wondering if I wouldn’t be better off at home laying on the couch eating a pizza, I think of that same beach. This time I imagine how I would look sitting on the beach in my current shape. Usually, that is enough to help me power through the remainder of my workout.

So far this all sounds pretty good doesn’t it? There is one word of caution. In using this I have become a little too good at it. What do I mean by that? There are times when it serves us to have our mind at body in the exact same place and time. For sake of continuity and because I love writing about the tropics when it is below freezing here in Wisconsin where I live, we will stick with the Jamaican beach example. Let us say you finally reach that fabulous vacation you have been saving for. Now you are on the beach with the one you love enjoying the sun and frigate birds. It would serve you well to be both physically and mentally present in the moment. Paying attention to all that is transpiring and soaking in the ocean water and the memories. You should make an effort to not only remember, but relish in the sun on your skin and the joy in your heart.

What do we as humans tend to do? We do the exact opposite. When the boss is yelling, everything is in chaos and you have only been at work for an hour, what do we think about? How little your pay seems to match what you have to put up with? How many hours you have yet to struggle through? Wait….is that clock actually going backwards? Why are there not more windows in this office? When we finally make it to vacation or even just home from the office do we focus on all of the great things we finally have in our grasp? Often, the answer is ‘no’. We then think of how much the vacation is costing. We worry about the pet we left back at home. Or worse yet, we begin to have thoughts of having to go back to the office.

We can do a lot to correct this lack of being present with exercises to take control of our mind. A daily practice of meditation, even 5 minutes a day to start, can be very helpful. If you are unsure or just not familiar with meditation there are several CDs you can purchase (Brain sync is one of my favorite companies) or even just look at guided meditation on YouTube. Then you just pop on some headphones, sit back, relax and follow along.

Even more simple is taking time to be fully in the moment. As I write this I am sitting at a coffee shop. I can pause and notice the mingling of music and the blend of voices. I can feel the fabric of the chair I am sitting on. I can smell the aroma of fresh ground coffee beans. I can even pause, take a sip of my coffee…feel the texture of the cup against my lips, notice the temperature, smell the scent of the coffee and taste the mix of the slight bitterness of the coffee mixed with the mellow flavor of coconut milk I added.

Try doing this while engaged in a host of different events. You could try it while you are at a stop light. Notice the feel of the steering wheel in your hands. Smell the air in your car. Do you have the windows open? Can you smell fresh air? Can you feel a breeze? Maybe you are in a cold climate like me and can feel the heat coming out of the vents? Notice the sound of the engine, the passing cars, the birds chirping outside. Just make sure you notice when the light turns green again or you might also be able to notice the sound of the horn of the driver behind you.

Start practicing the separation of mind and body at the appropriate times. When you work, work hard. When you play, play hard too. Soak in the joy when it is there and escape back to it when it is not.

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

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

THIS LOSS IS OK

Another one of those times I read a sign and had to stop and ponder. There is a great amount of truth in this statement. When you are your authentic self, what you have is based on truth. When you do your best to be someone you are not, you may pull that off for a while but anything you gain will be based of that lie.

The same holds true in situations when your priorities change. It pays to be upfront and honest about that as well.

If anything in your life is currently based off of a reality that is less than true, what you have is weak. It will only last as long as you can manage to keep up the deception. Not only is this bad karma to put out in the universe, but it creates a large amount of undue stress in your own life. Having to not only remember who we are supposed to be , but then also acting on that mirage is stressful.

Do yourself a favor and be the real you. Not only will it strengthen the relationships you have, it will also reduce the stress you have in your life.

REASON TO BE STRONG

Today is Wednesday, the middle of the week. Often, we use this day as a half-way mark until the weekend. I urge you to take a second to pause and take a deep breath. By this point in the week things can begin to get a bit overwhelming. The irritations of coworkers can begin to add up. Homework can begin to pile up. The stress of work can start to get the best of you. Maybe even a lack of sleep can start to take effect on both your nerves and your ability to perform. If you are like me it can be a little bit of all of those.

How can we keep going? A lot of us just look forward to the weekend and two days to recharge our batteries to begin again. Many, like myself, work weekends and don’t actually have a day off. Even if you have a day off from your occupation, that day can be spoken for by household chores and social obligations. While the latter can be fun, having additional obligations, even social, can be stressful.

The million dollar question is how can we develop something that can keep us moving forward when we seem to have nothing left inside? We have all had times in our lives when life and its challenges have kicked our butt. If you haven’t, don’t worry, it is coming. When everything around you seems to be crumbling. How can you remain strong when you feel you have no strength left?

Become your own superhero. This may sound a bit cliché or hokey, but stick with me for just a second and I think this could be of great service to you. We all enjoy those movies where people overcome the worst situations to achieve great happiness and success. I would suggest keeping a list of movies you enjoy like that handy. Watch them when you feel down. The reason why is simple, you are going to learn from them.

Imagine your life as a movie in which you are the star, the writer and director. Right now is the point when your star finds themselves down on their luck. The audience is watching to see how the star will make there way out of the challenges and overcome. They are waiting to be inspired. Ironically, this happens more than you know. As the writer what would you have the character do? As the director would you have the character change their mindset? Find new inner strength? As the star what resilient traits would you love to show?  

I am fortunate that people come up to me and let me know how my writing may inspire them. That keeps me focused and motivated to continue to bring you good content. People have told me that my book has positively impacted their lives. In a few cases, even saved their life. There are many times people let Margie and I know that our relationship gives them hope as to what is possible. Most of the time you never stop to consider people are watching you. You may never hear from those who draw inspiration from you and your perseverance.

Whether your hero comes from an Avengers movie or someone like 300, keep going. I found the Jackie Robison movie 42 inspiring. Keep a list of inspiring movies handy and remember to be your own hero, your own movie star. You never know who is watching and inspiring. As good parents know, the best teacher is example.

THIS IS CRUCIAL

Last post we looked at ways to limit our exposure to negative people in our lives. Today we are going to look at the more difficult chore of dealing with the negative people we cannot escape. How do you deal with a negative coworker? A boss that is demeaning? A family member who is full of drama? Sometimes limiting exposure is not an option. How can you protect yourself from the influence on every Debby Downer or Negative Nancy in your life?

Before we begin with our idea here, let us make mention it would be worth your time and effort to search for as many possible options to protect yourself against those who drain your energy. Why is avoiding negativity such an important issue? While you are in a negative state you are certainly less likely to try new things, to stay motivated to accomplish those things you are currently working on and to successfully deal with the challenges of life. According to a recent study, 80% of visits to a primary care physician are stress-related. This affects not only your health but your pocketbook as well. Are you beginning to see how important keeping your mood up is?

Here is our idea to employ in our defense against emotional vampires – make it a game. Dealing with this people can be stressful enough, so let us make the solution a little fun. I suggest keeping the fact you are doing this inside your own head. The game is simple, match each negative action and statement with a positive one of your own. If you have a friend or coworker who likes to gossip about other coworkers, match their statements with positive things about that coworker. Do you have a boss that is constantly putting everyone down? Try being the one to lift everyone up. You may wish to do this in such a fashion where it does not seem to be in direct conflict with your boss. Do you have a family member who likes to discuss all of the political problems of the day, or perhaps graphic descriptions of their recent medical procedure? Then for each one of them, you share a story of inspiration or love and peace between people.

This game will accomplish two important things. First, it will give you an amusing and on occasion comical way to deal with their negativity. Making it a game will keep your stress at bay and may even add some positivity as a byproduct. The second thing this game will accomplish is it will begin to annoy the people bringing negativity into your life. Before you start feeling bad, let me assure you that in reality what will be annoying them is the fact that you are not feeding into or reacting to their negativity. This will accomplish one of two things. It will either cause them to limit their negativity around you or limit their time and conversation with you. Either way your life has just become more positive.

I encourage you to try this game and give me your feedback as to how well it has worked in your own life. Feel free to share your ideas for dealing with negative people with our readers in the comments below.

SLOW YOUR SPEED IN THE NEW YEAR

It is the end of the first week of 2019. As I write this I am sitting in a local Starbucks watching a young lady pace back and forth as she waits for her coffee. The line for the drive-thru was quite extensive. Everywhere people are in a hurry to get what they need and where they are going. I must confess to falling victim to this myself from time to time. The question is when do we stop? You need to get your coffee…on the way to work, let us say. Then you hurry to work to be on time, an issue I seem to have more often than I would like. When you arrive at work you are in a hurry to have the work day end and be on your way home. During the ride home you are in a hurry to just get home so you can relax. Once at home, then we relax right? We hurry to make dinner so we could catch our favorite program, hurry through our household chores so we can finally get to bed and get some well deserved rest. When, at last, we finally find ourselves between the sheets our minds are still racing with thoughts of all we have to do tomorrow. It seems we just drift off into blissful slumber when the alarm clock beckons us to do it all again.

I don’t know about you, but I feel tired just reading that paragraph. The ironic thing about this whole mess is that we do it to ourselves. Time, as Einstein reminded us, is just a stubborn illusion. A better way to explain that is a thought I read on the bottom of a sales ad. how long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on. Of course, in at least one of those situations you are still in a hurry. Back to our example of the typical work day. It would seem the adult mind always races to what is next. While it is good to have a goal in mind and be focused on where you are going, it can certainly lead to increased sense of stress and anxiety.

Another thing we do that can leave us chasing time is multitasking. While it may seem like trying to accomplish as many things at once would leave us with more time, the opposite is generally true. The list of tasks in life is always growing and the only thing doing multiple things at once does is diminish the quality of job that we do on each task. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and looking to ‘catch up’.

What is the solution for all of this? SLOW DOWN. The best way to slow down is to work on being present. Keeping our focus on what we are doing can help us appreciate all that is good about each moment. It will also help us feel less rushed. I know it may seem contrary to think that doing only one thing at a time will lead to more time, but it can. First of all, you do a better job by focusing on one thing at a time. This reduces the amount of time you have to redo things or correct mistakes. By focusing on one thing at a time you decrease the time each task takes. Not to mention it reduces the stress of overwhelm. Less stressed people are more productive people.

There are many ways in which we can learn the art of being present. There is one of my personal favorites, meditation. There are tons of free apps available. Some take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. There are also guided meditation videos on YouTube as well as available on CD. All you have to do is pop on a pair of headphones and relax away. You will emerge from that experience refreshed on more centered.

Another source of teaching on how to be present are children and animals. When we were young, we were much better at being able to appreciate the moment. A child could be lost in a moment of play for hours. As they grow older we teach them not to daydream and to focus on what needs to be done. Turning them into stressed out smaller versions of ourselves. Do yourself a favor and get lost in a moment of play yourself. Better yet, bring along a child to show you how it is done. Animals are the other half of this equation. Pet owners are generally less stressed than their pet-free counterparts.  In addition  to the love animals give us, they also remind, and sometimes force us to take moments to pause and totally live in the moment. I have watched a dog smell a tree for several minutes, every surface just to get the full story. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this as the neighbors may begin to refer to you as “That neighbor who smells trees” just taking a moment to fully appreciate what we are engaged in will reduce our stress and give us more time.