Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Iceberg Effect

The Iceberg Effect
Tim Connor

It’s common knowledge that on average, nine tenths of a typical iceberg is beneath the surface while only one tenth can be seen above the water.  Many ships during the centuries that were unaware of the sheer size and force of a large iceberg paid a dear price for their lack of knowledge, arrogance or sheer ignorance.

I am using this simple analogy to illustrate one of life’s vital ingredients that who you are, how you behave and act, what you decide and the quality of your life during all of your years is under the control of your mind, most of which lies hidden deep within your 300 billion+ brain cells.  Just a few thoughts to consider before I get to the main message.

-You have over 100,000 miles of brain connections (4 times around the globe).
-There are over 3 trillion chemical reactions in the average human brain every second.
-Each brain cell (of the billions of brain cells) has over 10,000 connections.
-99% of your body’s actions and functions are under the control of your unconscious mind.
-For example you get over 80,000 heartbeats and 45,000 breaths every day none of which you need to monitor or control.

I could go on with the tremendous number of miracles your brain manages every second of every day, but my point is that – your mind, although it has been studied for thousands of years is still one of life’s biggest mysteries.  There is still, to this day, less known about how this three pound organ operates than any other human organ.
OK, to my point of this article.

In the mind there are numerous actions which are driven by; values, beliefs, emotions and attitudes.  Let me give you a simple formula – Beliefs contribute to values, values contribute to thoughts, thoughts contribute to feelings, emotions and perceived choices, feelings and emotions contribute to decisions, decisions determine actions and actions cause consequences.

Therefore to change consequences we must go to the source of the outcomes or beliefs and thoughts if we want to make any changes in our life or lifestyle.

On the surface this might at first glance seem a simple process, but if it is so simple, why do so many people live lives filled with; pain, fear, disappointment, discouragement, a lack of hope or poor self esteem or low self-confidence?  It’s simple, but complicated, so let me see if in a few words I can help you see how your mind (beliefs, values, thoughts and emotions) are creating your moment by moment life regardless of whether it is positive, negative, good, bad or what you want or don’t want.

Beliefs – Beliefs are what you believe (whether true or not) about yourself, others and the world.  They are your truths only and not in any way, shape or form reality.  They are only your realities.  These beliefs have developed during your life from a variety of sources; family, friends, teachers, church leaders and anyone who had influence over you. These beliefs are the foundation for each of your thoughts.  If a thought enters your mind that is contrary to a belief – you discard it – let it go or dispute or defend your own belief.  If it is in line with a belief, you acknowledge it, accept it and justify it.  When a thought is triggered by another’s action or circumstance and is alien to your beliefs, you will tend to argue or defend your belief to the grave.

Thoughts – Your beliefs contribute to your thoughts and they come and go through the mind non-stop – 24 hours a day - and at an incredibly rapid pace.  They come and go caused by any number of conditions, circumstances, expectations or actions by others or the world. You either dwell on them (worry, fret, stress or feel joy, peace and contentment) depending on how they align with your beliefs and values.  Just think about a disagreement or argument you have had with someone – guaranteed you were defending your belief or value structure and the outside-in triggers – other’s words or actions.  Thoughts can strengthen us or cause us to lose focus, confidence or a positive life outlook.  Thoughts never stop even when we pray, relax, meditate or are watching our favorite TV show.   

Thoughts are your companion or the enemy – it’s your choice.  They can cause emotional or intellectual dysfunction or they can contribute to happiness and success.

Emotions – Your thoughts contribute to your emotions and emotions are feelings expressed either inwardly through pain, guilt, grief, sadness or happiness, inner peace or contentment or a variety of others both positive and negative. Emotions are often how we express our thoughts to others.  Ever had someone say to you – you seem sad or happy or angry? 

Thoughts caused you to behave in this way.  Thoughts are simply our emotional body communicating with our world. The challenge is to have the ability to not let thoughts control your emotions especially when your thoughts are not grounded in reality but some automatic response they can often be either inappropriate or unnecessary.

Attitudes – Attitudes contribute to mindsets and are developed over time as a result of experience, expectations, objectives or just failing to grasp the significance of the impact of their various causes.  When someone has a “bad” or “good” attitude what do we mean?  Keep in mind that another’s attitudes are owned by them and we have the choice as to whether to let their attitudes impact or control us and our behavior. Attitudes are like barometers – they are public indicators of what you believe or how you feel.

Mindsets – Attitudes contribute to mindsets. A mindset is nothing more than a consistent way of looking at something or believing or behaving. If you are a judgmental person you have a judgmental mindset that developed over the years.  If you are a happy person same is true.  If you are a worrier or an optimist again, same is true.  Mindsets are the mind’s way of controlling how we respond externally to our inner beliefs and values.

Choices – Choices contribute to our decisions. A choice is just a series of alternatives that we have when considering an action or response to any life event or circumstance. We always have choices although we may not like or be comfortable with them.  Choices are neutral - they don’t have actions or consequences – they are just options for consideration.  What gives them power or control is what we do once we choose.  But choosing is not deciding.  We all make choices every day, but we don’t always act on them.  However, choices do contribute to the decisions we make and often how we make them and then act on them.

Decisions – Choices contribute to decisions, but unless we act on a decision it is just a choice and a decision, nothing more.

Actions – Decisions contribute to action, but they are not responsible for the outcomes that take place – this is a function of life and your behavior.  But, to achieve any goal or state you must act – hopefully with maturity, common sense and wisdom, but in the end the outcome of action can’t be predicted.

Consequences – All actions have consequences some are positive while others can be negative.  Some are immediate while others can take years to come to fruition.  But in the end sooner or later, all actions have a consequence.  If you don’t like your consequences your only choice is to make the best of it and if it was a negative one then rewind your mental clock and start again with an evaluation of your beliefs and thoughts and how they are influencing your outcomes.

The iceberg effect is understanding that your life and its circumstances no matter how delightful or dreary are the result of how each of the above ingredients contributes to the end result and if you don’t like the end result then you have to change.  Change what – beliefs, thoughts and their impact on the rest of the process.

Well, there you have it.  So I’ll leave you with a questions – are you in control of your mind and your life or is your life simply a pawn of your beliefs, values, thoughts and emotions?

“It’s not what we don’t know that hurts; it’s what we
know that ain’t so.”
Will Rogers

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Are you - surviving, existing or thriving? Tim Connor

Are you - surviving, existing or thriving?
Tim Connor

Simple question? Far from it if you are willing to look deep inside your life philosophy, agendas, goals, expectations and lifestyle.

Having survived four recessions during my career I know what it means to survive, but from time to time we need to ask ourselves – is this all there is or can I, should I expect more no matter what is going on around us?

Let me share one of my life’s mantras with you before we dig into the details. “I refuse to let other’s behavior or life circumstances determine my joy, happiness, success and inner peace.”

I have to admit this has not always been an easy task given the uncertainty of life with all its variables and unknowns, but in the end most of us are given 60-90 years to live, exist or survive and in the end it’s not what life brings to you that really matters but how you handle what it brings.

To Survive – to remain alive or in existence or able to live or function, especially succeed in staying alive when faced with a life-threatening danger. My definition – Making it from one day to the next doing the best you feel you can with your available resources and skills and attitudes.

To Exist – to be, especially to be a real, actual, or current thing, not merely something imagined or written about.  My definition – same day different stuff. No hope for something better.

To Thrive – to grow vigorously and healthily.  My definition – to live each moment with gusto, zest, passion, excitement and a sense of adventure.

OK, a little more detail if you are still with me.

Surviving – To survive during challenging times takes courage, patience and faith, but in the end to just survive when more is possible is to waste time and life.  Many people lack the resources, courage and hope during difficult times to attempt to achieve more or to tap into their creative ability and passion to do more with life and they fail to even try to become or do more.  Is it fear or some other mindset that keeps them stuck in survival mode?

During my career I have spent more than my fair share of time in survival mode, I even admitted that there was little I could do – and I preach this stuff – go figure!  Imagine someone who won’t spend even a few minutes a day reading, praying, planning or working to leave survival mode and move forward.

Looking back over my long speaking career I have learned one very important attitude – that during times of tribulation, uncertainty and trouble – if I allowed myself – I had some of my most creative approaches and ideas to solving my problems – but the one thing that kept me from embracing or even trying them was due simply to my “stuckness attitudes”.

Are you stuck in survival mode in your career, business, relationships or life in general? Ask yourself three simple questions. 1) Why are you stuck? 2) What can you do to leave this situation in the past? 3) Are you taking action and if not what is your excuse or excuses?

Existing – I can’t tell you how many people I have met during my life who are just living their life from one day to the next just getting by.  Their life lacks adventure, fun, passion, excitement, fulfillment and even simple laughter.  The age range for these folks ranges from late teens to late 80’s and the reasons are always the same – I don’t know what to do.  I don’t have the time?  I don’t have the resources?  I am too young or too old.  I don’t have the skills.  I don’t have the education.  Life isn’t fair.  Blah, Blah, Blah. You don’t have to be a multimillionaire to volunteer some time at your church or some other non-profit organization.  You don’t need a lot of education to mentor someone.  You don’t have to have grey hair to share your experience or life lessons with others who might benefit from them.

Existing is not living - it is wasting life’s valuable moments.  We all have a purpose to accomplish while we are here.  God gave each of us a unique ability and reason for living.  When we fail to honor this - we are born, we exist and then we die.

People who exist die wish many regrets and excuses, but in the end do these really matter once you leave here?  I seriously doubt it.

Thriving – Thriving isn’t about money or wealth.  It isn’t about fame, power or control.  It isn’t about superiority, education or your address.  Thriving is getting and giving as much as you can to life while you are here.

You don’t have to have a college degree to thrive.  You don’t have to drive the best car in your city to thrive.  And you don’t have to be the best looking man or woman in the world to thrive.  Thriving is simply embracing each day of life with gusto, courage, passion, faith and an attitude of gratitude.

Thriving isn’t about economic circumstances.  It isn’t about your career, position or influence.  It is the willingness, ability and desire to fill each day of your life with learning, growing, becoming and sharing.

Thriving is about living life from a love rather than a fear mindset.  It is about filling each moment of life you are given seeing the larger purpose of your life and not spending time in the weeds complaining, whining or feeling envy, greed or selfishness.

“The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Walk Don't Run

Walk Don’t Run
Tim Connor

If you are over fifty years old I’m sure you are familiar with that old song, Walk Don’t Run.  If not, no problem just keep reading.

Far too many people are rushing through life and heading nowhere.  Whether it’s behind the wheel, rushing through meetings or the lack of patience when it comes to life’s everyday circumstances.

If you are a walker and not a jogger you get it – It’s not where you are headed, but the value of getting exercise as well as enjoying the trip.  No disrespect intended to joggers - it’s just that when we are only focused on or concerned about the destination we often lose the value of the present moments and all they have to offer.

I am not really concerned here whether you walk or jog, but how are you going through life – walking or running.

Let me give you an example that you might relate to.
I’m reminded of one of my all time favorite songs, Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.  Again if you are under fifty you might not be aware of these poignant lyrics.  Every time I listen to the words tears flood my eyes as memories of long ago come rushing back into my mind.

We are each given a certain number of days to live and no one knows how many they will get so in the end all we can do is live each of them to the best of our ability.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy our memories or have plans and goals for the future, but in the end memories are just that - something that happened in the past that we can’t relive or re-experience and there are no guarantees that our future plans will ever be realized.

Walking simply means slowing down your pace regardless of the activity; a family vacation, the pursuit of an education or new career or in my case writing this article.  To rush things (this article in particular) would tend to reduce its value or meaning for you (that could be your interpretation no matter how long or how quickly I write it).  But over the years I have learned that often a slower pace improves the outcomes or the results as I bring more contemplation and patience to the process whether writing a new book or just a short article.

Why do we run rather than walk through life?  Is it the desire for more, better, shorter or some other emotional or intellectual reasons?

Why do we sacrifice the blessings of our now moments hoping that in the end if we run rather than walk we will get to experience more?

The answers could be and most likely are complicated and will depend on each person’s lifestyle, age, circumstances and goals, but in the end losing the joy of our present moments no matter what we are doing – working, playing, relaxing or even praying is a sacrifice we will one day regret.

Let’s look back on the time that hs passed already during this year regardless of number of days or weeks that have passed.

Did you miss spending quality time with a loved one?

Did you lose focus on an important task due to your “rush” mindset?

Do you have any regrets at all – minor or major?

When you think about yesterday (or yesterdays) do you smile or feel stress, disappointment or sadness?

Have you spent the right amount of time on your plans or goals of the future?

Do you wish your days were longer or didn’t pass so quickly?

I could go on and on with these, but I’ll leave you with one;

When you evaluate or contemplate your life to date are you satisfied and content or is something missing? Or, are you running rather than walking through life?

“Patience and diligence, like faith, remove mountains.”
W. Penn

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The wave effect in relationships

The wave effect in relationships
Tim Connor

No one lives in a bubble. There’s an old staying that says “What happens behind closed doors in relationships stays behind closed doors.”  Well, I beg to differ.
Let me explain.  We all have a variety of relationships; children, spouses, friends, in laws, co workers and a variety of other acquaintances.  When we have conflicts in any of these, the impact of them is felt directly or indirectly in other relationships – some selective and some universal.

All actions and decisions have consequences – some we can control to some degree while others have serious ripple effects – some long term and often immediate or what I am referring here to as the - ‘wave effect’ in relationships.

Think of a wave in the ocean. Once it begins in continues until it or its impact or momentum hits the shore.  But, think for a moment – do you think a single wave is an isolated circumstance or does it have some impact on other surface water either behind it or in front of it?

As a sailor over the years (in small sailboats) I had to learn that not only did I have to study and pay close attention to wind direction and force but I also had to keep a close eye on water movement and force.

If my 36’ sailboat while sailing the open waters was in the wake of a huge freighter or cruise ship - even though it was miles from me, the impact of the waves it created did influence my stability and often speed and direction.

The same is true in life and its actions, decisions and behaviors.
Let’s say you are leaving the house on the way to work and you have an argument or serious negative discussion with a spouse or one of your kids.  Do you really think this won’t in some way have an impact on your attitudes, behavior and responses to work situations?  It doesn’t matter - the situation or the intensity of the words shared before leaving home – they will impact you for a few hours or even a few days and often depending on the nature of the discussion – even years.

Now here’s the real issue when it comes to the wave effect.  Your behavior with your fellow employees or even your customers will be influenced in some way – minor or major.  Take it another step.  Do you think because of your behavior at work that this might have some lingering impact on your continuing relationships with these people?  Yes, it will.

OK, while you are at work you chat with a friend or a relative - again there can be sometimes a subtle and often a major demonstration of your current state of mind in this conversation that will send a message to the other person that will cause them to ask you a simple question – “what’s wrong?”  Or “What’s going on?” Etc.  Your response will typically be, “Nothing” but, the atmosphere during this conversation will have changed slightly and their comment “what’s wrong” will cause you to bring the situation at home back to the surface in your mind. This can be felt by the other person due to your tone, voice volume, hesitancy, pauses or some other verbal or non-verbal expression.

No matter what you think, feel or how you act or decide sooner or later all of this will affect others in your life either directly or indirectly.  You can’t hide who you are - oh - we all try on numerous occasions, but our fears, emotions or beliefs and attitudes will find their way to the surface and impact others in some way.

Here’s the key to ensuring that the wave effect doesn’t have a negative impact on your relationships – you can’t stop it anymore than you can stop a wave.  Yes, you can slightly or temporarily change a wave’s direction, but sooner or later the wave will follow its natural course. And, the same is true of your actions, thoughts and behaviors – you can try and change or influence their impact on others but you can’t control other’s interpretations, emotions, feelings or reactions due to the impact of what is going on inside of you.

Let me leave you with two questions – How is the wave effect impacting those in your life either positively or negatively?  Are you aware of how your fears, attitudes, dreams, thoughts, feelings etc are impacting these people?

“Little happens in a relationship until individuals
learn to trust each other.”
David Johnson