Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Are you climbing the wrong tree?

The analogy I’m going to use here is from the Garden of Eden – the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. Let me share what I believe is the difference when it comes to success, achievement and life in general using this analogy.

Living from the tree of life – when you live with peace, happiness, humility, ease, contentment, joy, satisfaction, compassion, patience, understanding, charity and yes success and achievement.

Living from the tree of knowledge – when you live with fear, regret, disappointment, stress, anxiety, discouragement, competition, a now mindset, anger, blame, the need for control, pride, ego and yes achievement and success.

So, the question could be - if either way you can achieve success why not go with the tree of knowledge?  Let me explain – from my inadequacy when it comes to spiritual living.

Hundreds of surveys over the years have proven that success and wealth do not improve happiness – yes they can improve lifestyle but there is often a disconnect between lifestyle and happiness and inner peace.  And ask people what they really want in life and the answer is unanimous – everyone wants to be happy and most people are chasing what they believe will achieve it – more income, more power, more fame, more control, more wealth and more accomplishment.

Let me be clear I am not against wealth, achievement, hard work, long hours, sacrifice and greater income, but the question still remains – what is the price you might pay when chasing these with little or no regard for the ultimate indirect consequences on health, relationships, fun, and the overall quality of life?

I have worked my entire life in the pursuit of success, but as I look back over the many years (too many to admit) I have to wonder – what did I miss as I chased success? And – was it worth it?

Stuff, money, fame, power etc. come and go as nothing in life is permanent and everything changes and is subject to immediate loss whether the loss of a loved one or the value of your IRA.  Thousands of people every year lose their homes to floods, hurricanes, fire and any number of disasters.  Did they see them coming?  Did they predict that they would have to start over with little or nothing?  I doubt it.

During the past year I lost five more friends whose time it was to move on.  Their age range was between 55 and 80 and I’m still here.  Why, I often ask God, what’s left for me to do that is a part of Your plan?  Well, to be honest, He never answers that question but does indirectly say, “You are still here so I’m not finished with you yet.”

Climbing the tree of life is no guarantee you will live a long life, achieve all your dreams or have all that you want or need in life.  Climbing the tree of knowledge offers the same potential outcomes – but no guarantees - so the real question is – while you are still here – how do you want to live, how do you want to define life and when your time to leave comes - will you be able to say – “I finished the race, I fought the good fight, I kept the faith?”

Monday, January 25, 2016

Impossible is just a word.

Let me ask you, do you think Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Billy Graham, Carl Sandberg, Jesus, Henry Ford, Bill Gates (this list is endless) had the word impossible in their DNA?  I seriously doubt it. Far too many people let their definition of impossible rule their present and future with doubt, fear, the need for approval and numerous negative emotions, feelings and mindsets that keep them stuck in ordinary, normal or what many refer to as “It is what it is.”

Impossible is just a word but for millions of people it is a lifestyle. In no way do I want to include myself in the list of very famous people who significantly influenced the world in a positive way but let me share one quick example. 

I received over 250 rejection letters on my first book Soft Sell. Thirty years later it is in 25 languages and with sales over one million copies.  When I first wrote it I was just another aspiring author.  Today I am still an aspiring author with one trait that has not changed – I refuse to accept the idea of impossible.

What about you?  Letting this word or your interpretation of it negatively influence your decisions, choices, actions, beliefs, attitudes or what could be in your life?  I’m not suggesting that all of us can invent or discover significant things that can dramatically influence society or the world at large in a positive way, but consider – maybe you can influence or touch just one life in some way due to your courage, faith, belief and creativity.

Why do we let the idea of impossible influence our decisions and behavior?  Well, over the years and studying hundreds of great influencers I have narrowed the list down to what I believe are the three primary reasons why people live ordinary lives when they could live extraordinary lives.

1)     Fear.  Fear of something, fear of everything or fear of anything. Fear is a creativity killer.  It gets in the way of everything that one day could be.  It destroys confidence, self-belief, faith and courage.

2)     The need for approval from others. Having been in front of over a million people in 26 countries during my career as a speaker, I will guarantee there have been thousands of people who didn’t like me, my message, my approach or even how I was dressed.  In the end there are only two things we need in my opinion to achieve greatness (however you choose to define it) self-acceptance/approval and the approval of God.  And I might add that both are a given if you will just open up to them.  We don’t need to live our lives seeking the approval of spouses, friends, customers, bosses, parents or even total strangers and yet this seems to be the mantra of millions of people.

3)     The willingness and courage to fail.  Without failure we learn nothing so if you haven’t ever failed I will guess you haven’t tried.  I don’t care if it’s a new recipe, a new product, a new approach or a new anything . . . Failure is an absolute necessity to achieve success.

Well, I leave this discussion with a simple question – how do you define impossible?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What’s in the way - is the way

On the right path into your future?  Not sure – wish you were – you are but it’s taking longer than you thought to get to your destination?  Great questions, ones that I have often asked myself in times of stress, frustration, uncertainty and discouragement.  What’s the answer?  Well as the common phrase says – it is complicated.  Why is it complicated?  Here are a few things to consider.

Is there only one right path?

Each of us is on a path into our future.  It could be the right one or the wrong one but who is to decide?  Millions of people ask every day, “God what is your will for my life?” Regardless of your spiritual inclinations I’ll guarantee you have asked this question at least one so far in your life.  If you haven’t, in my opinion, you are just wandering through life and don’t care or you are willing to accept anything and everything without questioning or challenging.

Yes, some paths might be better, more rewarding, more fun or even easier than others, but in the end do you really think that the path you are on is the primary issue?  We are all heading into our future and just like taking a vacation with a certain destination in mind, there are going to be many routes you can take to arrive there.  What really matters is not the path you are on, but it is it leading you in the right direction?  This is the ultimate question. 

Do you need to be on the right path to achieve success and happiness?

Success and happiness can be defined in hundreds of ways and everyone has their unique interpretation of these life issues.  Being on the path that is the most comfortable and least challenging may appear to be the right one but again the question – is it taking you where you want to be?

Sometimes the right path due to its twists and turns can turn out to be the right path not because of it takes you where you think you want to be but because of the lessons it can teach you along the way.  Now I understand that this might sound contradictory to the above premise but consider – if the path you are on seems right to you now is it because you are dealing with fewer obstacles or because your ego has decided this is where you should go?

In my personal experience I have been on the right path, but many times I have also, due to issues I have experienced, questioned my direction.  The only thing that matters is when your time here is finished can you look back and say with confidence and peace that, “You fought the good fight.” Or in other words, were you true to the desired destination regardless of the ups and downs you experienced while on your journey?

How can you be sure you are on the right one?

Life sends us daily and even moment by moment signs, signals, warnings and guidance.  The problem is that most people are so busy moving that they fail to hear, observe or honor this guidance.

From my perspective when you are on the right path from your viewpoint it doesn’t mean it’s the right path.  And I can tell you – the right path will not be void of challenges, problems, stress, obstacles or even failure.  Let me share a simple idea – when you are on the right path you will have more than your share of trouble than you want – sound contradictory?

So, you might ask – what’s the point then of being on the right path – because I want more adversity?  No, but the purpose of the right path is not always where you end up but what you learn in the process.

Know the path you should take but are afraid to get started.

If this is your challenge all you need to do is ask yourself a question;

What am I afraid of?

Finally to the title of this article – what’s in the way- is the way.  By this I mean as you travel day by day, whatever the goal or destination is the major cause of you not travelling as quickly or easily as you have desired – you – and your; stubbornness, attitudes, fears, ego needs, mindsets, opinions or some other personal life approach? It’s like a child who wants a toy – they will do or say anything to get the toy and they will keep trying everything and anything to achieve their goal.  They fail to consider – do I need this toy, do I really want this toy, will I actually play with it, am I acting foolishly to get something that really doesn’t matter – I could go on for pages with this stuff but in the end what really matters is have we enjoyed the journey and has it given us peace, contentment and a sense of worth or personal value?

There’s a lot more to consider but if you will focus on these topics I’ll guarantee that something will occur to you that you need to start, do, change, stop or reevaluate.  So, why not get started?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Do dead people worry?

I’m not being morbid here – just trying to make a point and that is that dead people don’t worry, stress, fret, need approval or experience any other negative emotion - so let me ask you - do you spend wasted daily mental time in negative emotions or thoughts?  Come on – everyone sooner or later or always feels stressed, worried or live to please others and achieve the approval of others and why?

Research indicates that over 75% of the things people worry about never happen so why do some many people spend so much awake time worrying?

I was recently reading a book where the author used this analogy and it made me think – am I guilty - and I teach this stuff? Rather than focus on how we behave when we are dead (kidding here) I would rather discuss the rationales people use for this wasted mental time often worrying about trivial stuff.

The average person thinks over 50,000 thoughts a day (that’s over 300 per minute) and unfortunately most of these are either past or future driven and are unconscious.  Are these people trying to control the future? Change the past? Believe me - both are useless exercises and yet the majority of our thoughts day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute are in one of these two categories.

The average person has over three trillion chemical reactions in the brain every second, so how in the world can we ever hope to control our thoughts?  Well, folks it ain’t easy.

I don’t have the time, space or knowledge to completely explain this thinking process, but I have learned a great deal from reading over ten books a year on neural physiology, mental behavior and thought processes and here is the primary thing I have learned that is common to every author, scientist, medical doctor, Psychiatrist – “our thoughts determine and control our actions – decisions, beliefs, opinions, behavior, actions, fears, hopes etc.”.  To change improve or modify our behavior, we must learn to change and or control our thoughts.

After studying this process for the better part of thirty plus years and trying to implement its teachings, I must admit it has been a real challenge to change or adjust my thought processes and again – I teach this stuff.  So, if it is difficult for me imagine how the average person handles this moment by moment challenge.

What can we do to improve, change, modify, control or eliminate certain thought patterns? Therapy? Prayer? Meditation? Study? Hypnosis? Hope - etc.?  Well, yes and no to each of these as a total and complete “cure”.  I am not qualified to delve into each of these with complete accuracy but, I have learned a great deal from each approach and here are my conclusions (if you are still reading).

1)     Maintain conscious awareness of your thought patterns, routines and how they are impacting your emotions, decisions and behavior.

2)     Develop psychological anchors (I have an article on this process so if you want more let me know) to help you stay focused and in control of your thoughts.

3)     Spend time in silence each day and listen to where your thoughts take you and keep a journal of the common ones.

4)     Ask yourself why – why am I thinking these thoughts?  Is there some unfinished business, memories, previous regrets etc. that lack closure?

5)     Whenever you start to think unwelcome or negative thoughts (worries) stop what you are doing (I don’t mean pull over to the side of the road while you are driving) and try and determine the triggers for these thoughts – is it a person, a circumstance or some other reason.

Controlling your thoughts is the single biggest step you can take to achieve success, happiness, peace of mind and a joyful life.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Don't let today's issues become your destiny.

Something happen today that will or may change your destiny?  Meet someone new?  Start a new career? Move to a different state? Get some really bad news? Lose a loved one? Get fired?  I can tell you that every day something can or will happen that has the potential to change your life path and even your destiny.  It has happened to me multiple times during my life – some good, some bad, some that I still don’t know the outcome.

Destiny – where we are headed, how we are remembered, what we leave behind, lives we touch in a positive or negative way. Who we become as the years pass. We all will have a destiny and the question is will we determine it or let others or circumstances control it?  Ever thought about this?  I have and over the years I have learned to see things not just in a now perspective but a destiny one. Let me elaborate for just a moment – bear with me.

Now is where we are and live, the present.  Our bodies experience weather and our senses are bombarded with sights, sounds and aromas every minute even though your thoughts might be stuck somewhere else.  To fully experience the present requires a present and presence awareness moment by moment.  Many call this mindfulness. So at any given time our emotions and feelings and bodily experiences are in the now but our thoughts can be a million miles or years apart. 

This can often create a dysfunction in terms of how we behave and decisions we make.  As a result, we may often make choices or decisions based on our current emotional state with little regard for future consequences or outcomes.  In other words, we lack a destiny vision grounded in wisdom, common sense or even maturity. And without these guiding our journey sooner or later we will create a future filled with regret, frustration, disappointment and often despair and or discouragement let alone a stressful inner environment.

So, what’s the answer or solution to better dealing with this process?  Well, it’s not easy but it is simple.  Here are a few things to consider.

1)     Pay attention to your emotions and feelings as they are always driven by your thoughts and ask yourself does this feel right?  If it does feel right given your current state of affairs this doesn’t mean it is right in terms of tomorrow or next year. So the next question must always be – am I aware of all of the potential consequences if I _________? This requires self-honesty and the ability to see your situation with a fresh and unbiased set of eyes.  I said it wasn’t easy.

2)     Before you act, share your situation, circumstances, decision options with someone you trust and respect who will give you observations, awareness or feedback that is not opinionated, critical or prejudiced in any way.

3)     Study the book of Proverbs daily and I don’t mean just read but consider, contemplate and relate its teachings to your situations.

4)     Listen to your inner voice as it will always speak to you.  It will give you nudges, urgings, hunches but you have to listen.  In the end your inner guidance will always be looking out for your long term and not your immediate fears, needs, desires or concerns.

5)     Sleep on it. One, two or a few days.

6)     Write your concerns in a journal and then just write whatever comes into your mind when you ask yourself – what should I do with this situation, person or choice?

7)     Set some long term goals, lifetime goals and develop a personal vision and mission statement. If you more on how to do this send me an email request – it’s on me.

8)     Keep a decision journal.  Start writing down every decision you make – just the ones in areas where you have historically been unsure of what to do and keep a record of the consequences of each of these decisions as they take place or become reality.

9)     Hold yourself accountable in all ways and in all things and at all times.

   10)Learn to spend a few minutes or even an hour every day in meditation.

Now get started.