How many of us find ourselves falling into the trap of the first column in the photo above? After over 20 years of both studying and teaching self-improvement, I am confident in saying…I do. Yes, even those of us who should ‘know better’ can still fall victim into letting our thoughts get the best of us. In my book, A Happy Life for Busy People, I equate this to a snowball rolling downhill, it gets bigger and bigger with each passing second. A most recent example for me is when it was near freezing as I left for work in the middle of the month of May. As I am not a fan of the cold at all my thoughts were on the fast track to nowhere good. Thinking about how much I didn’t like the cold, how much I wished I were on vacation or lived somewhere warmer. I began to think about how it didn’t seem fair I had to wake up and go to work when it was so unseasonably cold. If my thoughts were allowed to keep going like that, how do you think I would have shown up for work that day? With a positive attitude ready to face the day and any challenges that would go with it? Not hardly.

You may be thinking, “If this guy who has been in the field of self-improvement for over two decades still has his thoughts run away on him, what hope do I have?” The answer is plenty! Success in life is progress, not perfection. We are always going to slip up. If we continually beat ourselves up over that, we will most likely find ourselves living in the first column of the picture above. The secret to living an amazing life is not to never have any negative thoughts or tough days, but to be able to recognize them and take actions to correct and move on from them. The million dollar question is how do we do that?

Having some self-care ideas and actions at the ready can be the solution we all need. Personally, I love having my ‘happy playlist’ or list of songs I know put me in a good mood. I love having images that remind me of fun, warm tropical destinations. I keep them in my phone, at the calendar at work and on the occasional travel mug. Speaking of calendars, I have a inspirational day-by-day calendar that wakes me up with something positive to think of every morning. If you are low on ideas for self care ideas for your life, feel free to borrow some of mine, or even print out the list above. It can work even better when you combine a few. Using the list above, that can mean dancing to your favorite song while laughing out loud. You could make a journal entry celebrating your wins while relaxing in a hot bath. There are so many options. My only suggestion is to have a list or idea in place before the challenges come along. It can prove difficult, if not impossible, to be resourceful when you are in a bad emotional state.

Just remember when you find your thoughts running away on you that success is progress not perfection. Look at it as a great opportunity to practice some much needed self-care. A good time to pause and focus on what is really important and what really brings us joy. The more you practice this, the better you will become. The one thing that you can be sure of is that life will give you plenty of opportunities to practice.


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.



This is a simple truth we don’t always appreciate. Our strongest thoughts, which we can call our beliefs, tend to lead our lives.

Scientists estimate we think 60,000 thoughts per day. Ironically, they also estimate that 95% of those thoughts are ones we thought the day before. When you consider we often drive the same way to work, sleep on the same side of the bed and a thousand other habitual things every day, it is not that surprising.

Here is another interesting fact, a lot of our thoughts are contrary. We are taught haste makes waste, but we are also taught he who hesitates is lost. Is it any wonder our lives can seem chaotic at times?

Of the thoughts that fit into the subconscious 95% we repeat everyday, how many are positive and empowering? This is another reason create a positive life mission statement or at the very least, print out an inspiring quote that you can read to start your day. If our life goes in the direction of our strongest thoughts, let us think thoughts that make us the strongest we can be.


Building on what we learned last post – that fault and responsibility are not related – here is a prime example. Viewing life through these two different examples can make a world of difference. It can be related to the old adage “What people do to us is up to them. How we react to it is up to us.” This is easy to both read and understand intellectually, but try and live this way emotionally and you will discover it is not so easy.

What is vital to remember is that it is possible. We have control of our minds. For most of us we have relinquished that control, but we can get it back. Next time you find yourself upset due to some outside circumstance or some socially challenged individual, try saying to yourself, or better yet out loud, “I am really pissing myself off through this person!” If you are anything like me, you might chuckle at the absurd sounding nature of that statement, but sooner or later you will see the grain of truth in it.

Another great thing to follow up with is to imagine what possible reason that person could be acting like that. For example, when Margie and I are driving along, (Ok I am the driving and she is the along) and someone cuts us off to get that one car ahead before the red light, I often look at her and say, “Maybe they have to poop.” Certainly not the most eloquent option, but I am sure we can all relate having to hurry for just such a reason.

It helps you give the other party a certain benefit of the doubt. It doing so, it helps us get a little less upset. This is not to say you should let people treat you anyway or do whatever they like to you. What we are trying to do is lessen the effect their actions have on us.

Taking control of your mind and emotions is neither quick or easy, but with time and effort it can certainly pay dividends with reduced stress and mental anxiety. Try these simple tools to get started. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!