ENJOY THE PROCESS

I am going to open this post with a bold assumption. Your definition of success is entirely incorrect. If we were to look up the definition of success online, or even in a dictionary for any old-school souls out there, it would, undoubtedly, say something about achieving a goal, reaching a destination or something similar. I say that definition is incomplete at best. If we were to consider ourselves a success only when we accomplish a goal or reach a definition, we would have to consider ourselves failures most of the time.

I am more inclined to agree with the above definition of success coming from Earl Nightingale. The key word in his definition is progressive. We are progressing, or in the process of achieving our goal roughly 90-95% of the time. If we wait to celebrate until we achieve our goal that would mean that we would be unhappy the vast majority of the time. This would not only be unhealthy, it would be rather foolish. One of the ways we could greatly increase the happiness in our lives, is to find ways to enjoy the process. Not only would this increase the joy we experience and the amount of time we spend in joy, but it would greatly increase our chances of succeeding.

At one of my seminars I had someone ask me, “What does happiness have to do with success?” I equate that with asking what granite has to do with the Himalayas – everything! If something is enjoyable, you are more likely to stick with it. That is why I advocate to add something positive rather than worry about getting rid of the negative. At the very least, do both at the same time. Let us take trying to get in shape. Not a lot of people enjoy going to the gym, especially when they are first starting out. Some people enjoy swimming. Some of us like going for hikes in the park. Still other like riding a bicycle or walking with a dog. Maybe playing a game of basketball with friends or joining a group of friends who go for runs. Which one of these would help you get in better shape? The answer is all of them. The best answer is the one you enjoy doing most.

Why? Life will give us every excuse not to stick to our goals. You had a tough day at work are you more likely to do something you don’t enjoy or something you do? I think we all know the answer to that question. Same with changing your diet. Focusing on what you can’t have can make you feel like you are starving yourself. What is the solution? How about finding fun meals to cook with the one you love? Subscribing to a healthy cooking magazine or website? Joining a healthy cooking class? The possibilities are endless. I had to really work on this while finishing my second book, Living the Dream. Creating content is fun for me, but I had to find a way to enjoy the formatting, editing and things of that nature. These lessons will serve me well as I work on my third book.

Finding ways to enjoy the process allows us to enjoy that 95% of the time that we may otherwise overlook. It will fill our lives with a lot more joy and increase our chances of succeeding at whatever goal we may be pursuing. If our goal is to live a more positive life, than enjoying the process will allow us to succeed 100% of the time. Even the “negative” experiences bring us closer to, and often increase the joy we feel when we reach our goal. It makes the successes that much sweeter. The tougher the fight, the more rewarding the victory. Keeping this thought in mind will allow us to enjoy every step of the process. Even when it seems we are taking steps back, or getting further away from our goals, we are still learning valuable lessons. Success is seldom, if ever, a linear journey. Enjoy the process my friends. It will transform your life.

THE SECRET TO ACHEIVING BIG GOALS

Here is one of the great things about self-improvement – you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Some of the greatest teachers and greatest teachings are new versions of very old ideas. They might have a slight new twist on them, but the main difference is the way they are presented. The same idea that was brought forth by a student of the seminary would be explained in a very different way from that of a young man who sang in a rock band and was a bartender and Postal worker for over two decades. That covers the transmitting end of things. The same can be said on the receiving end. That same idea will be heard differently by the young man in our example when he is in a band right out of high school verses when he is in his forties and has had more life experience. This is why to this very day I listen to and read self-improvement material every day. That, and I have a great passion for learning.

That brings us to today’s post. I was listening to a motivational video that I had heard a handful of times before. (Did I mention you can learn something new depending on where you are mentally at the time?) In it I heard one of those self-improvement clich├ęs I have heard countless times before. I am not really sure this is a term, but this idea has been mentioned so often that I can think of no better way to describe it. Here is the funny thing about this idea and how I heard it this morning. When I began to ponder it I realized although I had understood this concept intellectually, I never really made use of it to the full extent, nor got it in my spirit. It seemed too simple, too obvious. Often we miss great opportunities because they seem too simple. I am letting you know that although I have know about this success tool for years I never put it to its full use because I dismissed it due to its simplicity. I tell you this in hopes that you will not do the same.

What is this powerful secret that can help us achieve our biggest goals? Before we reveal it, let me tell you two other benefits of using this method. First, it can reduce the stress that often comes with chasing goals. The feelings of failure or impatience will be few and less intense when they do show up. Second, you will also have more motivation to keep going. Here is the grand secret – The big things are made up of lots of little things. Not too mind-blowing huh? You may be tempted to think so, but I am here to tell you that you are wrong. It is the secret to achieving everything we thought we never could.

Do you have a goal you are working on? Do you want to write that book you have been talking about for years? Do you want to finally start that business of your own? Maybe it is something a little more personal like trying to mend a friendship or save a marriage? We often look at those things as a singular event when they are really countless little events. Writing a book takes discipline to write day after day for months and perhaps years. Trust me, I have written two of them. Starting your own business takes planning and many actions before you can call yourself a business owner. Picking a business, exploring locations and names. Developing a business plan and a million other things. How about the personal issues? Mending a friendship or saving a marriage? Let me ask you, did those fall apart overnight? Usually they did not. Even if you are just looking to strengthen a friendship or deepen a marriage, the answer is the same. It is a million different things. It is finding ways to genuinely compliment your spouse daily. It is learning what a friend is passionate about.

This can seem overwhelming at first, but once you dive in, the opposite is true. If I would have fully grasped the truth of this years ago, I would be so much farther in life. If I sat down and tried to write a book one night, I would either end up consuming vast quantities of rum, or having my brain explode. If, instead, I sit down and focus on writing the best chapter or idea that I am currently working on, I will not only be obviously be less stressed, but have a better quality end product. The same is true with my relationship. I always want Margie and I to be more loving and have a closer connection. This is not to say I feel we are unloving or not close, just that I am always looking to improve. I know that this is not going to happen in a single evening. What can happen in a single evening is taking one step to deepen our connection or strengthen our love.

I will give you two more quick examples to help drive this concept home. I recall a story told by the actor Will Smith. He told how his father had him and his brother build a wall one summer. Before they could get started, his father pulled him aside and told him some great advice. “Do not try to build the perfect wall.” he told young Will. “Instead, focus on laying the perfect brick. You do this over and over again and you will have the perfect wall.” It seems logical, but then why do so many of us find this so hard to do? The perfect example is working out. Especially around the first of the year we are all determined to get back in shape. If you are anything like me, you find yourself saying this on August 20th as well. We go in and try to run 460 miles or do a thousand pull ups, get sore and quit before seeing any results. That is why the gyms are full around January 1st, and seem almost empty a month later. What we should be focused on is getting the most out of each workout. Focusing on working the right muscles for the right amount of times. Enough to give us a good workout but still allow us to lift the pencil off the desk at work tomorrow, let alone be able to get out of bed to go to work. We focus on having the best workout we can each time we are at the gym and before we know it, we will look up and see how much better we are in shape. The same holds true for improving your diet, your parenting skills or anything else in life.

The lesson here is instead of being overwhelmed at the prospect of a large goal, become excited at doing each step to the best of your ability. When you do so, celebrate each win. You didn’t complete that book in one sitting, but you wrote one hell of a chapter. Maybe the chapter sucked, but you get that rough first draft out of the way so you can improve it tomorrow. You didn’t go from eating two pounds of bacon in one sitting to a runway model, but you did make it to the gym and walk on the treadmill. Maybe you didn’t make to the gym, but you walked around the block. You still ate way too much pizza, but instead of downing it with root beer, you drank water. Just keep at it and celebrate those wins. Do each step, each day to the best of your ability. Not only will that lead to accomplishing great things, but each day lived to the best of your ability will lead to an amazing life!

HERE’S THE SECRET TO SUCCESS – JUST START!

Most of us know a great deal of things that would help our lives be better than the one we are currently living. We may even know some of the steps we should take to increase the quality of our life. Yet, even armed with this knowledge, many of us don’t take those actions. As a life coach and self-improvement author, this can be one of the most frustrating things I encounter. So much so, it is often a subject of discussion with my friend Nick when we get together for coffee. The million dollar question is “If people know what to do to improve their lives, and they even know how to do it, then why are they not doing it?”

The answers can seem as complicated and wide-ranging as the people who have them. If we boil it down to the facts, it usually falls into one of two categories. How do I know this? First of all, through this website I communicate with people in over 150 different countries. These include people of all different ages, cultures and geographies. I also connect with many people at book signings and seminars. Plus, I find myself falling victim to this on occasion. If you think it is frustrating wondering why people you are coaching will not take the actions they know will improve their lives, imagine how frustrating it is when you, the coach, do not do it.

Let us look at the reasons why people will not take the actions that they know will make them happier, healthier, wealthier or whatever improvement they are looking to make. The first one is overwhelm. This is one I often suffer from. We tend to look at the entire process instead of the first step. I want to get healthy but I am going to have to eat more vegetables everyday, workout 5 days a week, drink more water and less soda. STOP! Start by making one simple change. Maybe after, or even before, dinner go for a walk around the block. This may seem insignificant but it serves many purposes. It gets the ball rolling. It starts to build momentum. Same can be said for wanting to write a book. You may think of the hours, days, months and sometimes years it will take to complete. Trust me on this one. Instead, just commit to sitting down and writing 1000 words. In many cases, you may find that this progress is moving a little too slow for you and you will find yourself pushing to do more. Add a healthy meal once a week, type 1000 words several times a week. As we mentioned before, you gain momentum.

The danger in this is on occasion the progress can seem so slow that we give up. That is because we forget our why. I have written several posts on the importance of having a strong why. I devote a whole section of it in my new book Living the Dream. For the sake of brevity, we are going to look at how to keep our why strong. The secret is to keep it in front of you. There are 2 ways you can do this, and I highly suggest you make use of both of them. We are motivated as humans in 2 ways – our desire to experience pleasure and to avoid pain. When it comes to motivating ourselves, we should use both. There is no sense in throwing away 50% of our motivation. Let us say our goal is to lose weight. Find a picture of yourself that you do not like. Couple that with a picture of your goal weight. If you don’t have one of yourself, you can find a picture of who you would like to become. Worried about not being healthy for your children or grandchildren? Maybe a picture of them would motivate you as well. You can use these same techniques for any goal you have. Many of you may say “How could I forget why I want to be healthy, I see it in the mirror everyday.” I will be the first to agree that life has a way of reminding us of situations where we might not be quite at our goals. I also know that sometimes I walk into a room and forget why I am there. It is easy to forget that we are pained with how we look in pictures and how much we want to change when there are doughnuts sitting in the break room. Keeping a visual reminder of our goals in front of us increases our chances of success significantly.

When it comes to our goals, remember it is important to just start. I love increasing my happiness and joy in my life. I saw this picture at a place Margie and I like to eat and it made me laugh. Not sure why it seemed so funny to me, but it did. I decided to take a picture of it to look at on occasion and make me laugh. Do the same with your goals. Add one thing, one simple thing. Do this over and over again. You will start to build momentum and it will gradually become easier. Also, be kind to yourself. If you forget, if you mess up do not beat yourself up. Success is seldom and linear journey. Just recommit and refocus. Keeping a picture of our goals in front of us will help that. Do your best to include the pain of what will happen if you do not reach your goal as well as the pleasure of what will happen if you do. Don’t concern yourself with everything you have to do to reach your goal, just start by doing something. You will not only feel better, you will be one step closer to success.

IT TOOK 8 YEARS, BUT IT IS HERE!

The cover of my new book!

On a cold day in December of 2013, my first book A Happy Life for Busy People, was released. It featured some of the best blogs I had written to that point. Focused primarily on happiness, that book was my first dive into the vast ocean of writing. In reflection, that seems like a lifetime ago. My life was different, and I was a different person.

Before that book was even released for sale, I had begun writing the follow up book. The idea was to live a life that felt like you were on vacation, no matter where you were physically. The first step was learning to do this myself. There was much research involved. I interviewed people who seemed to keep a positive resolve despite the most negative of circumstances . I also read and researched countless books and articles on positivity, productivity, spirituality and many other topics related to life satisfaction. I gave many seminars and spoke with those who attended to see what their experiences and challenges were. Through this very blog, I have had the pleasure of connecting with wonderful people from around the globe. I even took a trip to Jamaica with Margie to reconnect with how it feels to actually be on vacation. All in the name of research of course.

Over the next 8 long years, I began to write, rewrite, and try out many of these ideas. In the course of discovering how to turn my own life into something I loved, I had to overcome many of the obstacles we all face from time to time. Loss of a job, loss of those we love, loss of friendships and even the addition, loss and addition again of some extra weight. Realizing life is multifaceted, I began to work on improving one area at a time. Doing so allowed me to gain momentum for improving my life. I began to discover what worked in each one. Some worked in several areas, some methods had to be employed differently depending on the situation.

As you can imagine, this also required making many mistakes. Each one was a valuable learning opportunity. I knew the more mistakes I made and learned from, the less you, my reader, would have to endure. I discovered not only what worked, but how to put it to work in your own life. Imagine instead of waking up with dread, you wake up with a sense of passion and purpose for the day? As you’re going through the day, the feeling of being stressed replaced with one of inner peace? Imagine being able to do all of this without switching jobs (unless you want to), partners or even winning the lottery? Imagine being able to do all of this by using simple secrets that take mere minutes a day and are enjoyable too! You will watch your life improve like magic all while enjoying the process! You may be thinking, “Neil you are living a dream!” I would tell you that you are correct! You too can be Living the Dream by getting your hands on my new book! It can start the day you read the very first page!

Busy People enjoying a happy life!

Last book we showed you how to have a happy life, even if it is a busy one. In this new book you will learn many amazing secrets including, but not limited to the following. You will learn the three levels of life you must master. You will learn how to develop a champion’s mindset. You will discover the essential keys to success and how to use them to unlock any door in life you please. You will be given the magic pill that will transform your life and learn how to become immortal. I will share with you the four-letter word that used to offend me, but now helps me transform my life for the better and accomplish great things with amazing speed. How about relationships? You will learn the one word the will allow you to get inside anyone’s head and know what makes them happy and what does not. Would you like inspiring stories filled with secrets about how others created the life of their dreams? You will find that in your copy of Living the Dream as well! I am so excited for you to get your hands on this life-changing book and begin to turn the life you have into the life your love! Do yourself a favor and click the link below and order your copy today. I look forward to hearing all of the great things it will allow you to do in your own life.

CLICK THIS LINK TO START LIVING THE DREAM!!

DOES MICHAEL JORDAN WRITE YOUTUBE COMMENTS?

Last post we talked about exposing yourself to as much intelligent content and great leaders as you can. This post comes from such a venture. Recently, I was watching to the Joe Rogan podcast where he was interviewing Kevin Hart. There was a great deal of surprising content on this show. I learned a good deal about both men, especially Kevin Hart.

At one point in the podcast, they were discussing the negativity so prevalent online. It is a reason why we do what we do on this website. It is safe to say this part of the conversation really resonated with me. The focus narrowed to people who feel the need to be contrary. You know the ones. You are having a discussion about a movie or band you like and out of nowhere they pop up and say, “I don’t like them, they suck.” When pressed for a reason, often they don’t even have one. This goes ten times when you post something online. You are sharing a nice romantic date you had with your spouse. A fancy dinner, a show and maybe some quality time together after. No sooner is it posted, the comments begin. “That restaurant is overrated.” “You saw what show? That was terrible and boring!” or even just an attack on your love itself. “Stop with all of the romance already!” or even comments like, “You make me sick with all of that love.”

The million dollar question is why do people feel so compelled to be negative? They could keep their opinions to themselves. They could simply just keep scrolling. Instead, they stop, take time and what to be a cloud to your sunshine. Apparently, they have so much free time that this is possible. Online there is no repercussion for a total lack of manners. You can hide behind a keyboard and say as many negative things as your heart desires. Sadly, I have seen this begin to show itself in person as well. You could be discussing your favorite recipe with a coworker and here comes the sunshine-challenged. “What? I would never eat that! I can’t stand onions.”

While discussing this on the podcast, Mr. Rogan made a joke, but it had a very good point. “Do you think Michael Jordan comments on YouTube videos?” he asked. The point is that Michael Jordan is busy running his businesses and basketball teams to bother with such trivial matters. He is busy improving his life to comment some contrary statement on a social media post. Taking time to leave a little encouragement or motivation on a friend’s post can really do wonders for them. What do you think is accomplished with doing the opposite? What is the point really?

Next time you feel the urge to inject a contrary or negative comment on someone’s post or in their conversation, ask yourself, “What am I going to accomplish by doing this?” “Is there a better way I could use my time?” You can rest assured Michael Jordan, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk or any other driven and accomplished individual is not wasting time on such activities. Let us build each other up, not tear each other down.

I’VE BEEN A THIEF FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS! (and why you should be too)

In the last two decades of my self-improvement career I have become quite a thief. Some of the greatest people in history are thieves as well. Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, and both Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn. When I say that both myself and these greats of history are thieves, I do not mean stealing ketchup when you are three years old and your mother has to take you back to the store to explain and return it. For that you would have to get some clarification from my lovely Margie. When I say that myself and these other wonderful folks are thieves, I mean of the information variety.

As you can see Mr. Einstein gave credit to those who have went before him and used it as motivation to further his work. Can you imagine if everything in the scientific and mathematical community had to be relearned every generation? If we had to go back to square one? Relearn Newton’s laws of physics? Rediscover the periodic table? This would have ripple effects on the medical profession, meteorology, zoology and many other ‘ologies’ that I can’t even think of. What we do is build on and learn from the knowledge of the generations before us. We learn their discoveries and make our contribution. Different generations can look at the same information each from their own unique perspective. They can also present it in their own way and with their own words. This will bring the information to light in a whole new way to an entirely different audience. Without stealing this information, very little advancement or new discoveries would be made.

Nowhere is this more true than in the field of self-improvement. One of the gentleman in the photo above most of you know. That would be Tony Robbins. My self-improvement journey and consequently career was inspired, in part, due to Mr. Robbins. I found myself staring at the television in the very early hours of the morning while getting ready for work at the post office when one of his famous infomercials came on. Perhaps it was lack of sleep, or maybe it was just the right moment, but I felt the desire to order one of his tapes and see what all of this was about. Over 20 years later and I find myself speaking and giving my own seminars. The more of a teacher or mentor you become in the field of self-improvement, the more of a student you become. Every day I read, listen to audio or watch video of other teachers. On an ambitious day I do all three. The other man in the photo is Jim Rohn, the gentleman who taught Tony Robbins. When you listen to Tony, you hear a lot of what Jim would teach, but with Tony’s flair and added knowledge. Jim, on the other hand, learned from a man named J. Earl Shoaff.

All of these gentleman ‘stole’ a little from each other. Perhaps a better word would be the modeled them. They listened to the words earned through years of wisdom each man had. It gave them knowledge that would have taken them years to learn on their own. Les Brown, another one of my favorite speakers, quotes so many other teachers and mentors that my head starts to spin. Oprah Winfrey has had the unique opportunity of interviewing some of the greatest minds of our time. She gladly shares things she has learned from them.

And then there is me, who has stolen knowledge from all of these men and more! I have learned discipline and overcoming odds from the likes of David Goggins, former Navy Seal. I have learned the art of being a good interviewer as well as the knowledge from all the great guests on Impact Theory ( I highly recommend looking that show up) Hosted by Tom Bilyeu. I even try my best to steal nuggets of wisdom on nature from my good friend Shannon, philosophy from my friends Nick, Amanda and Russ, the benefits of nature and rock-n-roll from my friend Eduardo and of course my beautiful Margie and I spend every day sharing and learning from each other.

I am encouraging you to become a knowledge thief now. Whatever field you are interested in or pursuing, there is information out there. Your library is full of books, YouTube has millions of videos. There are podcasts, webinars, seminars and audio available. Search out this information that is being shared and steal some for yourself. Here is the best part. When you share that knowledge with others, you will do so in your special and unique style. It will reach people who may never have been touched by a Tony Robbins or Les Brown. Your words might touch a special place in someone’s heart that nobody else could. Before long, people may begin stealing from you.

SOME HARD TRUTH

We here at Secret2anamazinglife.com convey what we have to say in a positive manner. That does not mean, however, that we sugar coat things. The quote above is a prime example of that. Recently, I was asked how I manage to maintain a positive attitude daily despite new, and sometimes fairly intense, life challenges. People often ask what was the ‘one thing’ that I did to transform my outlook on life and be able to maintain that positive mindset. The good news is that you can stop looking for that ‘one thing’. The reason being that it is not just one thing, there are several things and they are done daily.

I often use physical fitness as a comparison for self-improvement because the two go hand in hand. In today’s society people are looking for the 6 minute abs routine that will transform their bodies. Some are looking for that one diet, or even diet pill that will do the trick for them. When the trainer tells them it is a daily habit of working in at least 30 minutes of physical activity they are shocked. “I have to do this every day?” It depends how bad you want change. If you really desire to have that healthy and fit body so that you have more energy and less illness, then yes it will take some time and dedication. That is why diets seldom if ever work long term. You need to change your mindset and eating habits, not go on a 28 day diet.

This holds true for any type of self-care. The most common excuse people have for not starting healthy and productive habits is “I don’t have time.” What they are really saying is that it is not a priority for them. If having a healthy body was important to you, then you would make time to go for a daily walk in the park or go to the gym for 30 minutes. Can you find an hour a day to meal prep for the week ahead? If you are dedicated you could. You know that spending 10 minutes a day in quite meditation would greatly reduce your stress, but you just don’t have the time. Then reducing the stress in your life and all the unpleasant side-effects is not a priority for you.

We all are guilty of wasting time. I am no exception. If there is an area of our life that is suffering, we must develop and dedicate ourselves to habits to improve that area. We discussed ways in which that can be done in the physical fitness arena, let us take a look at a few others. Let us say your relationship is not at the level of intimacy you wish it would be. You need to develop a habit that increases that intimacy. You could send your significant other a message on lunch every day letting them know something you are grateful for in your relationship. You could get in the habit of planning a weekly date night with your spouse. If your finances are not where you want them to be, you need to develop a habit of savings and/or investing. That could be as simple as swapping out that gourmet coffee drink you usually stop and spend $5 on for one that can be created at home for $1 or so. You do that 3 times a week you are saving $12. Doesn’t sound like much, but multiplied times the 52 weeks in a year you just saved $624. Simple, small changes in daily habits can make big transformations in our life. There is a simple

We have seen how important changing our habits can be. How can we make sure that we do implement them? More importantly, how can we make that easier to do? Most importantly, how can we make sure that the habits we put in place stick? To answer those questions and more come back and read tomorrow’s post.

A POWERFUL LIFE HACK

I’m not one to promote ‘life hacks’ as a solution. Generally, it takes consistent action and work to change one’s life for the better. This idea above can certainly guide us in the right direction. If we consistently ask ourselves how the person we want to become spend their time, we will find ourselves wasting a lot less time.

Another way to do this is to write down everything you do one day and how much time you spend on it. Do not try to alter what you would normally do. If you find yourself sitting down watching meaningless YouTube videos for 30 minutes, write that down. Do you scroll through social media for just a little bit? Write down when you start and when you end. It may shock you how much time all of those little bits add up to. Also, write down what you do that is productive and how long you spend on that. Did it seem like forever you spent cleaning the house or sending emails out to promote your business? Write down when you started and when you stopped.

As you spend time sitting and pondering what the person you are striving to be would do, it would be helpful to pull out your list. This is not merely to find out how much time you are spending productively verses unproductively, but gives you a list of other benefits as well. It will show you when you tend to be most productive during the day, as well as when you seem to fall victim to distraction. You could use this information to better plan when you should schedule work related items verses recreational items. Adding items from the list of things the person you are working on becoming would do will be easier if you have this list as well. If you spend an hour a day watching videos of bears sitting at picnic tables, it may be more beneficial to slip in a few videos of cost effective ways to promote your book. Maybe if you would like to dedicate a certain amount of time to getting the the house in order you could look at your daily list and find out when you seem to have the most energy and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Thinking about how the person you want to be would spend their time will keep you disciplined to not waste as much time and make better use of the time you have. This does not mean there is no time for recreation, but that there is certainly ways in which time can be better spent. Perhaps having a picture, or pictures, of the kind of person you wish to become posted where you will see them will also serve as a good reminder. Remember it takes more than asking yourself this question once. Ask yourself at least once a day, preferably first thing in the morning, how would the person you are trying to be spend their time and energy? This will give you some great energy and plans for your day. Do this often enough and in no time you will become the person you are striving for.

TURNING DEFEAT INTO SUCCESS

These next few posts are going to be a collection of lessons that I have learned from coworkers. Three different people, three different post offices. We begin in the sunny town of Franksville where I used to be postmaster. I was discussing self-improvement and introspective topics with the person who works there. We often have brief but intense discussions on some of our favorite people who inspire us.

On this particular day, the young lady mentioned she had been having some stressful days where she was feeling down. She was concerned that in her journey she might be taking a step back. I think any of us on a path to improving our lives and ourselves, have felt something similar. One of the most common questions I am asked at book signings, seminars and just by people I interact with is “Do you ever have a bad day?” “Are there days you are not in a good mood?” My answer is simple, of course I do. Everyone has days in their life where things just seem to go south when you would like them to go north. I actually had my day start that way today.

Does this mean we are not being successful in our self-improvement journey? Does this mean we are somehow doing it wrong? Are the amount of days we feel down indicative to our progress in life? Not at all! As the movie Forest Gump made light of, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you might get.” There are many situations that are beyond our control. Some moments it would appear we are having a run of ‘good luck’ where other times it would seem ‘the deck is stacked against us’. I am here to tell you that kind of thinking is a bunch of BS! (Belief systems).

Our success is not in eliminating every single challenge in life. We will all have days or more to the point, moments when life gets the best of us. The true test of our character is in shortening both the intensity and duration of those experiences. In fact, we grow most in times of pain and challenge. We learn the most about ourselves, those we care about and the world around us when times see the darkest. It is in putting these situations to work for us that we can take an experience that is a negative and turn it into a positive. Like finding a big hole in the ground and turning it into a mind in which we pull diamonds out of. These diamonds are better than jewels though. They can be diamonds of physical, mental and emotional strength we never knew we had. It can be the jewel of gratitude for those who help us when we are down.

How can we turn all of these negative situations in positive ones? I am going to give you a quick tool to start using by the end of our time together here today. Here it is – ask two simple questions. It would be a good idea to write these two questions down so when times get tough you don’t have to search for them on top of everything else. The first one we kind of alluded to earlier. How can I use this? Can I use it to be better prepared for a similar event in the future? Can I use it to develop a skill that I do not have at this moment in time? Can I use it to stoke the fires of motivation I have to succeed in the future?

The second question we should ask ourselves when things are bad is What is good about this? If you ask this question second it usually works a lot better. Once you found how to put your grief/pain/anger/sadness or whatever other challenging emotion to work for you, it can be a lot easier to find something positive in it. Perhaps you are experiencing the pain of regret over not spending enough time with a love one you lost. You can put that pain to work to motivate you to cherish and give 100% to those you love who are still here. The ‘positive’ that could come out of that pain is to remind you to express your feelings and take time for those who are in your life presently. I am sure you could think of examples in your own life as well.

To wrap up what turned out to be a longer post than I expected, let us remember the true measure of success. It is not to eliminate all stress and never have a bad day. We would never really grow then. It is finding ways to shorten the duration of time we spend in that negative state. We can do it by asking the two questions in the order we demonstrated above. When we go through pain and struggle we gain valuable tools that will allow us to better contribute to and serve others around us and the world at large. Next time you find yourself having a day where you are feeling down, remember that does not mean you are failing. What it does mean, is you have an opportunity to grow and develop tools you would otherwise not have.