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.

RELATIONSHIP SECRET

Nothing has more influence on the quality of our life and amount of joy we experience, or do not experience than relationships. That is why there are so many books, CDs, seminars and relationship counseling. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. Much like good health, weight loss and stress reduction, people are always looking for that magic pill that will give them immediate success in these areas of their lives.

The bad news is that there is no magic pill that requires no work to transform your relationship. The great news is that there is one step you can take starting today. It doesn’t cost a single penny. This involves a change in mindset. Many of you may read the quote above and find that to be ridiculous. “We have jobs and responsibilities now! I can’t spend time worrying about being charming, flirting and all of those other dating things!” I ask you what is really important then?

Fear can be a great motivator for some of us, so I feel obligated to mention this. Relationships, no matter how long they have been, can end at any time. Even if we feel comfortable and secure in how they are. There are countless stories of relationships that people thought were going great until they wake up one morning and find their partner gone. “I thought they were happy. I thought everything was good.” they find themselves saying. Only in reflection they recall they never asked. They just figured that part of their lives was ‘handled’. They were married. They had kids.

I equate this to other areas of life. If you get in the best shape of your life and then stop working out what happens? Do you stay in that shape? Of course not. If you put a lot of energy into getting a job or promotion and then cease giving any effort do you think you will keep that job very long? Then why do so many of us think that relationships are any different? All relationships have their ups and downs to be sure, but they must be worked at daily.

If our relationship is at its best shape, much like our workout example, if we just leave it alone it will begin to go backwards. This may seem like you are in for a lot more work, and to some degree that is true. What is really important to note is that work has the most amazing rewards. The quality of our lives is the quality of our relationships. Therefor, it makes sense that the better quality our relationships, the better quality our lives. This holds true not just for romantic relationships, although those have the most profound impact, but coworkers, parents, children, the boss and other family members. Another great plus is that the more you work on this the easier the work becomes. When you are listening for clues as to what makes people happy and what upsets them, it becomes easier to do the former and avoid the latter. The more information you compile that more tools you have at the ready.

Do yourself a favor and print out the quote in the picture above. Treat every relationship in your life like you are trying to win it. Not only will you make those around you very happy, but your life will improve dramatically as well.

WHAT ARE YOU UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF?

Recently, I have been called a ‘Social Media Influencer’. I see that term a lot lately. It  forced me to take a look at what is influencing me. When you look at what you read, listen to and who you hang out with it is easy to see what may be influencing you. I know a lot of you may be thinking, “Not me I am too strong to be influenced by anything!” Congratulations if that is true, but I believe to at least some degree we are influenced by all of the things mentioned above.

Currently, there is an election going on in this country which means an abundance of ads exploring all of the negative situations that politicians have brought to us. There may be a small smattering of promises of what the candidate will do for you, but mostly just want their competition will not do. With our ears being filled to capacity with such drivel we can find ourselves being a bit drained at the end of the day and certainly not filled with hope.

Influence can be subtle as well. Like the few glasses of wine you had with dinner that do not seem to affect you until you stand up to go to the bathroom. Influence can creep into your life without you even realizing it. Move to another country, or even to a different part of your country for a year and it would be shocking if you did not pick up an accent or dialect from that region.

One of the most difficult things people will admit is the influence the people around them have. “I am my own person!” They proclaim. That may be true and you may be very good at staying true to your values, but as many studies have shown, we are usually a composite of the 5 people we spend the most time around. If you spend your days around people who constantly eat junk food, eating a salad once or twice a week may feel pretty healthy. start hanging around people who take their health and fitness seriously and you may feel differently. This is why it is important to include driven and motivated people in our inner circle.

The great thing about all of this is we have complete control over what may be influencing us. We can turn off that news channel and pick up an inspiring or motivating book. We can stop subscribing to pointless political or drama-filled websites and join sites that will add more to our life, fill us with joy and help us become the best versions of ourselves. I gave you a great example in Monday’s post. If we know we have people in our lives that are not the best influence, we do not have to get rid of them, but perhaps balance the time we spend with them with someone we know would bring out the best in us and not the stress in us.

A great way to begin to change what we are under the influence of is to compile a list of all the major things we do daily. Do we watch a certain television show? Visit a certain website? Talk to certain people? Then on the list, honestly decide if that item is a plus or minus. Write a plus or minus next to that item. When you are done look at what you could do to limit or replace the minus and grow or add to the plus. Become intoxicated with love, laughter and success.

WORK IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT

Today is Halloween so I will share a scary story with you. As most of you know, I have a day job at the United States Postal Service. In addition to the monetary aspect, it also allows me to practice many of the tools I put forth here. I always strive to be a source of positivity and help my coworkers foster a sense of gratitude and joy. As a matter of course, I always welcome the mail carriers back when they return from their routes. I also routinely ask my coworkers if they are having a good day or having fun at the moment. A gentle reminder that while doing our best to get our jobs done, we can still focus on having fun. Most of the time this is met with some jocularity and on occasion, some comments of encouragement of their own.

There is one young lady, however, that seems quite sunshine challenged. When I inquired if she was having a good day she informed me in no uncertain terms that I should never ask her that as long as she is at work because the answer will always be ‘no’. After 21 years of working there, I am no stranger that the Post Office can supply some challenging situations, as can any job. There are days that are tough, and days that are not. I could not imagine going to some place every day where you know with certainty that you will have a bad day, and doing so voluntarily.

This young lady is a carrier on what they call a ‘rural route’. This means she seldom has to leave her truck and drives up to the mailbox to put the mail in. I think on a nice spring or fall day driving around in a rural setting listening to your favorite music all while getting paid a good wage could sound nice to some people. Sure, there are days when it is raining, or here in Wisconsin snowing, that I can imagine driving for several hours could be a drag, but not every day. How could this be?

The answer was supplied to me last Saturday. This young lady called me over to her case where she sorts her mail. She handed me the scanner all carriers use and said in a rather angry tone, “This is the f*&king sh*t I have to deal with!” I glanced at the scanner. On it was a warning to pay attention to the signs of heat stroke. On this day we were experiencing an early October snow storm. Ironic? For sure. Funny? I thought so. As far as something she had to put up with, I found a message that could easily be deleted and even laughed at to be not that big of a deal. Her perception was that everything was against her and that this was a large obstacle. When viewed through a filter of that nature any job will seem terrible.

This brings to mind a great reminder. We have the option to how we see things. We can find the humor, or we can find the frustration. We can find the gratitude, or the lack. We can find the joy, or we can find the pain. It is all up to us. When we look for the good in things it can transform our days and jobs into things we enjoy, or certainly do not dread.