Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The secret to success is baby steps

The secret to success is baby steps

Tim Connor

One of my favorite movies is - What About Bob - if you have seen it you know probably know where I am going with this article – I will relate one its  basic messages to the art of maintaining life success – if you haven’t seen it it’s worth a couple hours of your time. OK, back to the premise – the secret to success is baby steps.

We all always have a great deal on our plate – career, relationship, financial, health and a variety of other things that take our time and resources and require diligence, patience and effort. We all always have decisions in front of us that require courage, wisdom and discernment, but in the end the road we travel depends a great deal on our commitment, discipline and persistence.

In the movie, the idea of baby steps comes up and is a major theme of its plot. Defined - baby steps are simply taking one small step at a time towards our goals or objectives.  Let me give you a quick example.

Years ago when I began my exercise program there were times when I just didn’t feel like going to the gym one more time – I wanted to just chill instead of sweat.  So I borrowed the theme form the movie and used it as my approach to exercising.

Step one – leave the house and get into my car and just sit there not starting the engine.   
Then I would say to myself, “this is stupid, why are you just sitting in the car?” So I would start the engine (baby step two) and not put the car in gear.  Same question as above repeated.  So I would then put the car in gear and head to the gym (Step three).

Step four – I would pull into the parking lot and leave the engine running and just sit there.  Same question as above.  Step five – turn off the engine – again the same question as above repeated to myself. Finally I would say – “you are here you may as well go inside – so I would, but wouldn’t change into my workout clothes – step six. At the risk of being redundant, the same question “why are you here if you are not going to work out?”

You get the picture – rather than focus on the large task or goal at hand I just broke it up into small incremental steps that were easy, but moved me in the right direction.

So, success is nothing more than baby steps.  Let me give you one more quick example – writing my next book.

I would sit at my computer and create the document for the book (step one).  Next step, “well, since I’m at the computer why not do the layout of the chapters as well.”  Up and off to grab a cup of coffee – but before I would do this I would print the first few pages of the layout with the title page and maybe the table of contents and put them on my desk in a prominent place where they were constantly visible.

Now when starting another project I would see these pages and open the document and write the introduction.  Then I would say to myself, “OK this is done so why not start working on the first chapter.”

To make a very long story short - almost all of my 80 books to date were finished within 30-60 days and the approach – baby steps every step of the way and before I knew it the book was complete.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s; exercise, eating habits or any other career or personal challenge. If you will learn to break the bigger task, objective or goal into small bite size pieces that are easy to accomplish, before you know it you will arrive at your destination.

When we just keep focusing on the bigger issue we can always find excuses, rationales or reasons to put it off one more day or even year before taking action.

Try it – the next time you have a goal or objective break it down into small incremental steps and don’t worry about the outcome or goal – just keep taking baby steps and you will be amazed at your sustained success.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The benefits of quiet time

The benefits of quiet time
Tim Connor

We live in a stressful and rapidly changing world, one we do our best to keep up with, but with the increasing pace of technology, continued future uncertainty and an exploding global marketplace it is critical that we find time to de-stress, relax and just slow our pace down.  If we fail to achieve the ability to step back away from the chaos from time to time we will only add greater stress to our life with increased negative physical and often mental consequences.

Why is it that everyone rushes through their days – even weekends or time off from their career or business?  Why do so many drivers speed toward their destination when all they do is then speed through their next activity and the next and the next?
I can’t tell you how many people pass me on the highway (and I’m going five miles per hour over the speed limit) or cut me off every day just to get somewhere they are going five minutes earlier or faster.

I can’t tell you how many people get annoyed when they have to wait in line for a few minutes.

Is everyone so obsessed with their own importance and the apparent lack of respect or compassion for others as they too are just trying to get through their day with as little drama or disruptions as they can?
I watch people; leave church on Sunday morning in a hurry, rush through a family dining out meal or getting upset because life is not happening according to their agenda or schedule.

I watch as couples spend time on their cell phones while out for an apparent romantic dinner or lunch together.

I could go on with dozens of examples like this, but back to the main point of this article. Do you have time or take time for quiet time during your day or even your week?
I’ll wager that the answer for most of you is – NO.

The mind and body need down time and I’m not talking about sleeping time, but just time to chill, relax (no TV, No cell phone, No I Pad etc) and slow down the rapid pace of life.
Here’s a thought for you – no matter how fast you move or how much you do - there will always be something more to do and in the end when you die there will be more stuff in your in-basket or on your plate or bucket list that will never get done or accomplished.

In contrast – with some routine quiet time you may find that you ultimately enjoy your life and present moments more while not constantly focused on the future or the past.  We are all going to die. And none of us are going to do everything we wanted to do while we were here.  There will always be; words left unsaid, regrets, goals not achieved or any number of actions not taken.

Quiet time – turning life off for a brief time each day can do wonders for your inner peace and ultimate joy and happiness. No worry, no stress, no thoughts about tomorrow and no concerns about yesterday.  Just shutting the outside world off and letting your active mind, spirit and body feel calm and serene.

I know people who have tried this relaxing down time or quiet times and even rush through this activity – so they can check this off their daily to do list as fast as possible.  Guilty?  I know I have been in the past.

Quiet time can give you better; solutions to your challenges, a more creative way to accomplish tasks and juts give your inner self time to re-group.

Even if it’s only a few minutes each and every day is better than nothing.  But, I can guarantee that if you will form the habit of taking ten to twenty minutes a minimum of once a day to chill, relax and be still you will be amazed at the energy you will create for when it’s time to – get back into the fray.

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”
Robert L Stephenson

Friday, December 27, 2013

Brain Clutter

Brain clutter
Tim Connor

The human brain is the most miraculous organ in the history of living things on the earth.  I won’t go into great detail other than to say that yours works non-stop every second of every day and its feats and tasks are truly miracles.  It works for us constantly - however having said this it also can be our biggest enemy when it comes to trying to achieve success, happiness and inner peace.  As you read on, please keep in mind that the brain does not judge, decide what should be stored, what should be let go of or selectively remember or forget.  Thought your entire life history it has stored every emotion, thought, action, memory, behavior, decision in its billions of brain cells.

In other words when you start thinking negative thoughts like fear, worry, regrets etc. it doesn’t prevent you from letting these thoughts determine the quality of your life. The brain’s function is simply to store, remember, react and control all of your bodily functions without your intervention.

So, if something stresses you out the brain will send appropriate messages to your various organs instructing them to respond.  You don’t have to give your brain moment by moment guidance, however you can control some of what gets stored in your brain based on what and who you are exposed to.

I call this “brain clutter’. Let me explain.

Every second in the brain there are hundreds of millions of brain cell interactions and all of these are automatic. Ever been thinking about something and suddenly a new thought enters your active consciousness?  Ever been driving to work and thinking about the day ahead and your thoughts change to something that happened yesterday or you hope will or won’t happen later during the day? Of course you have, it happens hundreds of times a day. Your mental attention is taken temporarily away from what you were thinking about to something else – either positive or negative.

This is brain clutter – you are trying to focus – during prayer, relaxing, watching your favorite TV show or movie or a thousand other activities and your attention changes to something else.  What causes this and why now and why on this particular topic?

I could go into a very long description of this process, but I’m sure you would be bored before I finished, so let me keep it brief.  Think of this process as similar to downloading emails into your computer.

As the download begins you begin some other task on your computer.  This doesn’t affect the download process, it just continues without your conscious attention. Suddenly your computer alerts you that one of the emails has a virus and stops working or alerts you with a popup message.  You now have to give the download your active attention to take some action.  Or, you can just let the download continue as you work on your other task.

You are thinking about a happy memory and suddenly a fearful thought fills your mind.  Or, you hear a song, smell a fragrance or see a picture from the past or it could be someone who resembles someone from your past.  Your mind searches for the similar conditions and then brings whatever was the situation in the past into the present stealing your focus.

I am sure you have met someone who resembled someone from your past.  This simple observation will trigger thoughts, whether positive, negative, happy or fearful from the past and bring them into the present.  It doesn’t matter if this person was in your life days ago or if the event happened over thirty years ago.  The mind remembers everything and constantly searches in its storage facility (over three billion cells) for anything that might be relevant to your current situation.

If you have ever had an automobile accident in the past and someone cuts you off on the highway today and almost causes a wreck, your mind will tend to relive the fears etc. from the previous situation and bring them into the present as if they happened just a few seconds ago.

OK, enough of the explanation.  What can we do to control our brain clutter and its impact on our present thoughts?  By the way if you want to read a great book about this very topic I highly recommend Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul.

Avoiding or controlling brain clutter takes, time, effort, discipline and often courage, but in the end if you can master this brain process or control - you will be amazed at how your present moments will change and you will live with greater peace, calm, joy and happiness.
Here are a few things you can do to address this challenge.
   1) Surround yourself with the right people. 
 2)   Develop and repeat the phrase – let the future and the past go. 
3)   Learn to keep your focus on only what is happening now. 
4)   See your world – all of it – now – pay attention to your surroundings. 
5)   Let go of regrets.  
6)   Live as if each day was your last day on earth. 
7)   Constantly say thank you for everything in your life. 
8)   Don’t let other people or circumstances determine your joy, peace or happiness. 
9)   Don’t let other people’s baggage become your destiny.

Let the inner work begin!

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination
is out of focus.”
Mark Twain

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Is it the journey or the destination?

Is it the journey or the destination?
Tim Connor

As we travel through life we all follow many paths – some lead to success, happiness, health and enduring relationships while can lead to ruin, pain, regret, grief and disappointment.  We all take the paths that our inner guidance system and circumstances nudge us along the journey.

Too often as we travel day by day many of us fail to admit or are even aware of the consequences, outcomes and the potential destination.

Like you, I have traveled many paths, some have led to success while others, as I look back for reasons and motives, and have ended badly.  I am not suggesting that these negative paths don’t bring with them the potential for growth, learning and maturity but the question remains – could we have achieved these same benefits if we had travelled more productive paths rather than the ones that led to destruction.

I would like to share with you what I believe are twelve of the important things to consider as you travel on one of many of your paths into the future so you can look back with satisfaction, peace, joy and a sense of fulfillment.
1   1)    Be honest with yourself –
We are all flawed in some way – we are human.  Some of these are insignificant issues that don’t have a serious negative impact on our life while others can send us down a path of self-destruction sooner or later. I have known many people during my life who were unable or unwilling to admit or confront some of their flaws that were contributing to increased stress, anxiety and often regret.  Why is this?  Why are we unable to see ourselves clearly - acknowledging traits or tendencies that do not add to the quality of our life, but steal valuable years or joy?

Being honest with yourself takes courage, maturity, honesty and often humility, but in the end if we can come to grips with things that are hurting our present or future that need to change and then change them - we will - in the end, gain self-love, confidence and inner peace.  We will always be flawed in some way, we are not perfect humans but this doesn’t mean we can’t take actions to move in the right direction in life – in other words follow the right or best path rather than the wrong or worst one.

2   2)   Be honest with others – Integrity - one hundred percent of the time -regardless of a person’s circumstances for many people is impossible and for most of us variable. Truth often hurts, but in my experience the pain of truth is nothing compared to the pain of delayed truth with lies, misrepresentation or misleading actions. The pain of living with untruth will always be more costly than the pain of being honest.   

     I know that this is not always possible given various circumstances and the behavior of others, but in the end we have a choice – are we going to let other’s potential reactions or potential circumstances determine our integrity or are we going to find the courage and compassion to always tell our truth?  Notice I said OUR truth.  Our truth is dependent on our views, mindsets, attitudes, beliefs and circumstances, but the truth is not a variable.  What we often do is adjust our version of truth so to avoid conflict, hurting other’s feelings or avoiding present pain or stress.

In the end, being honest with others is always the best policy, a principle that is losing ground in today’s political correctness way of life.

3   3)   Keep asking – If you want better outcomes and answers you have to keep asking yourself better questions. If you are unwilling to confront your inner weaknesses with clarity and integrity it’s doubtful you will ever make the changes necessary to achieve better or different results.

4   4)   Know your passion – Too many people settle in life driven by temporary and unsatisfying activities.  For whatever reason they are afraid to follow their dreams or passions whether a hobby, career, relationship or business venture. When we lack true inner passion to accomplish something, anything - we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and regrets.  If there is something inside you that yearns for you to act, what are you waiting for?  Excuses in the long term will leave you feeling empty and discontented.

5   5)   Trust God – Many people say they trust God and have faith in His actions; possible miracles and responses to prayer, but most of these folks are only spouting words hoping to satisfy their need to feel that they are doing enough.  Real trust equals faith and real faith equals trust.  Without living both moment by moment you will always feel let down as things didn’t turn out the way you wanted.  You may blame, point your finger or even scream – God – why me, why now, why not etc. but in the end we are all on God’s schedule and the sooner we live day by day with this faith and trust we will never find inner peace and joy.

6   6)   Keep learning and growing – I’ll keep this one short – Are you learning and growing every day?  Reading, studying or some other form of self-development?  If not, you have no right to expect better outcomes in the future. Period.

7   7)   Confront your fears – The single biggest issue and challenge when it comes to following the right path in life is learning overcome or at least manage your inner fears that can prevent you from finding the confidence, courage or ability to achieve your dreams.  Too many people let their fears get in the way of their happiness, success, joy and inner peace.  When fear masters or controls your life and its decisions, actions and beliefs – this is a recipe for self-destruction in either major or minor ways.  There should be no loss of self-respect when you fail unless you have attached your value as a person to your success and achievements.

The only way to avoid failure and mistakes is to do nothing.  Whenever we try; something new, something different or something better we will always have to deal with potential disappointment, unrealized expectations or downright disaster, but we don’t have to let these outcomes define us.

8   8)   Pay attention to your thoughts – Everything that happens in your life is the results of your thoughts.  I’m not saying that things you can’t control like the weather or other people’s actions, but feelings, decisions, actions and behavior are ultimately the result of your thoughts or thought patterns.  If you want to change anything – you have to change your thoughts first.  If you feel afraid – ask yourself why?  If you have lost your confidence, passion or belief in something ask yourself, why?  If you are feeling a negative emotion, ask yourself, why?  If you have lost trust in yourself or others, ask yourself, why?

9   9)   Be willing to change – Change is constant and relentless.  Everything changes sooner or later. People who refuse to accept change as a normal part of everyday life live with constant fear, frustration and stress.  We can’t stop change.  We can’t slow change down.  We can’t accelerate change.  All we can do is make it our life partner or resist it to our peril.

10) Leave a positive legacy – Your legacy is built ever day of your life it is not something that is suddenly created during you last years.  You can leave a legacy of love or fear and your choice will determine how you are remembered. Leaving a positive legacy requires a few simple attitudes; the desire to serve others, the ability to contribute to people’s lives in a compassionate, understanding and loving way, the ability to let go of arrogance and self-importance and living a life that you will look back in the end and say – I did my best, I put others needs ahead of my own and I fought the good fight with integrity and love in my heart.

11) Learn to love – Love is the foundation for all positive relationships whether with your family, friends, customers, fellow employees and even total strangers. I’m not talking here about romantic love, but the simple concepts of respect, compassion and empathy.  If you are not living your life from a love perspective then you are living it from a fear orientation with emotions or attitudes like; envy, greed, selfishness, jealousy, anger, hatred, distrust etc.  You can’t have it both ways – it’s living one way or the other.

12) Say thank you often – Gratitude and appreciation are the foundation for all of life’s continued blessings.  Just learn to say thank you no matter what comes into your life.  I know this is not always easy, but again we have a choice – feel gratitude or resentment and appreciation or disapproval.

As we travel our very personal paths through life - where they lead is totally in our hands.  You can blame others, circumstances, God or even yourself, but in the end our decisions, beliefs, behaviors, choices, actions and values determine where the paths will lead and how they will end.

“We meet ourselves time and again in a thousand
disguises on the path of life.” 
Carl Jung