The Secret To Achieving Inner Peace and Satisfaction

Would you like to achieve more satisfaction with life and experience more inner peace?  We all do, don’t we? To some degree or another we want to feel more inner peace and overall satisfaction, but we don’t know how to go about it.  We spend hours, days, months, even years trying to figure out how to make that happen.  Teacher after teacher has spoken on this subject and has revealed the key that unlocks the door to these most-sought after treasures, personal satisfaction and inner peace.  The key to which I refer is Gratitude, and now we even have scientific research to back it up.

Studies conducted by Professor Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis found a direct link between gratitude and a deep sense of satisfaction with life.  He found that people who practiced gratitude through the use of journals on a regular basis exercised more regularly, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who wrote about negative or even neutral life events. In addition, participants who kept the gratitude journals were more likely to make progress towards their personal goals in life.  Here are some of his conclusions based on his findings:

  1. People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others.
  2. Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods.
  3. They are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated.
  4. They are less envious of wealthy persons, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.
  5. They reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.
  6. Participants were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.

 How can we learn to cultivate gratitude? 

Focusing on what we do have versus what we don’t have seems to be the key. Reminding ourselves on a daily basis of all the things that come our way keeps us grounded in gratitude instead of want.  At any given moment during the day we can stop and look for something to be thankful for.  It is during these moments that we can become truly attuned to the feeling of gratitude.  There are hundreds of such things in any given day if we choose to be mindful of them.  They add up and build upon one another to create a more centered, content and positive perspective on life.

Professor Emmons recommends keeping a record of these moments in the form of journaling.  When we feel overwhelmed and down in the dumps, we can look back at our notes and remind ourselves of just how fortunate we really are.

Also, the act of giving back compounds the effects of gratitude.  Emmons found that the act of gratitude and the act of giving back reinforce each other and lead to the inevitable: more fulfilling, meaningful and happy lives.

The research conducted also showed something else that was interesting:  grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.  Gratitude does not mean turning a blind eye towards the misfortunes that befall us or the challenges we encounter.  However, given the perspective that gratitude gives us, we are undoubtedly more equipped to handle life’s challenges in a more positive way.

Our attitude determines how effective we are in coping with what life throws in our direction.  As we have said time and time again, our perspective on life determines our reality.  If we approach things with a perspective based on the belief that life is unfair, everything that turns up will look unfair to us.   On the other hand, the practice of gratitude will bring with it the optimism and drive necessary to handle disappointment and push past any obstacles that we may encounter.

How can we start to practice gratitude?  

We must begin with the art of mindfulness, being totally present in the moment.  This will allow us to notice all the little things that surround us, things we might take for granted if we hadn’t stopped to appreciate them.

We must acknowledge these gifts and write them down in a gratitude journal.  These little things make up the fabric of our days, our months, and our years.  We tend to not notice them because we are so caught up in the task of living.  But as they say, we must stop and smell the roses to really appreciate their beautiful fragrance.

Consider what you have been given in life.  Are you blessed with financial security?  Do you have loving children, a supportive family, a nice home?  Are you in good health?  Do you enjoy your work?  Do you have wonderful friends?  Do you have a supportive and loving companion? What does nature give to you?

Start practicing gratitude today.  Pull out a notebook and for just one minute write down anything that comes to mind that you are grateful for.  One minute is not a long time, and you’ll find that the more you do it the easier it will get.  You’re training your mind to look for things to be grateful for, and as you go through the day you’ll be collecting moment after moment and thing after thing to add to your gratitude journal.

Commit to adding to this journal every day.  A good time might be before bedtime when you have time to reflect back on your day.  Think of all the good things that occurred.  Nothing is off limits. Anything that improved your life experience in any way counts. Even the things that you may initially have considered as bad, you may have realized that in the end, they really helped you in some way.

Regardless of what it may look like, life is always working in your favor.  Anytime you find yourself in a situation that seems bad or negative, ask yourself: “Is there good for me in this situation?”  You may not immediately be able to answer in the affirmative, but as a result of you posing this question to your mind it will be looking for the good in it.

For instance, on one occasion my car would not start due to a dead battery and my first reaction was one of irritation because I was going to be late.  However, I reminded myself of the good in everything, and let go of the irritation.  It took me no more than 10 minutes to jump my battery and get on the road; as I was driving I noticed that a car accident had just occurred.  Who knows? Had I been on the road just 10 minutes earlier, I might have been involved in that accident.  The thought of that possibility caused me to feel grateful for my dead battery. I don’t know about you, but I’ll pick a dead battery any day instead of a car accident.

Rhonda Byrne, author of the book “The Magic,” offers another very useful tip to really cultivate the emotion of gratitude.  She recommends that next to every item that you add to your gratitude list you also add the reason why you’re grateful for it.  This prompts your whole being to truly get into the act of appreciating the things that you have listed, rather than just making a list of those things.

Again, journaling at night just before you go to sleep may be ideal for you.  You may just find out that once you’re done writing in your gratitude journal, you’ll be able to sleep better.  And isn’t that something else to be grateful for?

Do you have any questions or comments you’d like to share?  Drop me a line in the comment box below, or email me directly at jc@effect180.com.  I’d love to hear from you.

To your success!

JC

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The Reason That Your Tangible Desires Are Not Manifesting in Your Life

Do you have any unfulfilled dreams or desires?  Most people do; in fact, I’ll even venture out to say that everyone does.  The human race has desires as one of its characteristics. It comes with the territory; if you’re human, you have desires.  In a previous blog I shared with you my understanding of the underlying desire behind the desire for any physical or tangible thing.  Today I’m going to talk about those physical, tangible things that we all want and wish to have, but for some reason we have been unable to achieve.

Regardless of our gender, race, nationality or age, we all have a desire to improve our physical body, our financial condition, gain more confidence, more courage, improve our relationships, increase our self-esteem, and the list goes on.  At any point in time we have a plethora of desires that we want to have fulfilled, some of which have been with us for a very long time, and their fulfillment has been eluding us just as long.

The new age movement has been telling us for a long time now that through the power of our thoughts we create our own reality.  We have been told that we can “think and grow rich” or “think and grow slim”; we have been told that “thoughts become things” and that we can get whatever we want through the use of positive affirmations, dream boards, journals, movie minds, visualization etc.

More recently we have been told that thoughts alone are not enough, though. So we were instructed to incorporate our emotions in the process.  We were told that in order to manifest our desires we must not only “think” but we must also “feel” these things into manifestation.  We were told that when we use positive affirmations, dream boards, journals, visualization, we must include the feeling of already having those things; a task which has proved to be easier said than done for most folks, including me.

Even more recently we were told that the real secret to manifesting of our desires is to use those same manifestation tools incorporating both thought and feeling to feel as if we are already in possession of the thing we want, but use them so effectively that we suddenly lose the need or want for it.  And that’s – we’re told – when the physical manifestations will come.

There is a lot of value and wisdom in all of those teachings. Each of those methods definitely adds a piece to the manifestation puzzle, but does not quite complete it. Something still seems to be missing, because many people who put these teachings in practice and follow those instructions to the letter still complain of not manifesting their desires.  While most people are able to achieve some level of success with these methods, they don’t succeed in manifesting their biggest and greatest desires.

In my search for the missing piece to this puzzle I came across the works of Greg Kuhn widely known as the Law of Attraction Science Guy and author of the “Why Quantum Physicists” series. Greg assures us that there is, in fact, something missing from the commonly known approaches to manifestation, and this missing piece revolves around the subject of BELIEFS.

Greg explains that while our thoughts, words, and feelings do play a part in the manifestation process, it is our beliefs that are ultimately responsible for what we experience in our reality; in other words, it is our beliefs that actually determine whether our manifestations will occur or not.

Our belief system resides in the subconscious mind, and it’s a mechanism which is uniquely ours.  Each person has his or her own set of beliefs.  While there are some beliefs that we can say are “commonly shared” by some or many people, still each person has his or her own individual version and interpretation of those beliefs.

As we discussed in a previous post, our belief system is based on history and it’s composed of those programs which got past our conscious mind (with or without our awareness).  The subconscious mind, being the loyal friend that it is, has as one of its primary functions to protect us and prevent us from suffering or feel like we’re going crazy.

At every moment of our lives and in every single situation we encounter, our subconscious mind is at work, gathering data and presenting it to us to support the beliefs that we’ve held.  For instance, if a woman believes that all men cheat on their wives, her subconscious mind will be constantly at work gathering evidence from past experiences, stories, news, etc. in support of that belief.  It will also tweak her present awareness in such a way that she will come across plenty of evidence in her everyday life to support that belief.  This is not to say that there will literally be more of it, period; rather, it is to say that out of the sea of evidence that includes examples of both, men who are loyal and men who are disloyal to their wives, all she will see, notice, and experience are the disloyal ones.  In other words, there will be more of it in her individual current reality and experience.

If we’re presented with a new belief or idea, our subconscious mind quickly searches for evidence in our belief archives to support it.  If it finds it (if the new belief or idea is in agreement with what we believed in the past), it will accept it and provide us with evidence of it.  If no such evidence is found, it will flat out reject the idea and build an iron wall in front of it to ensure that it doesn’t get through.  It works with unbelievable speed; to the point where the effect is practically instantaneous, even without the conscious mind’s awareness of what just happened. See how good a friend the subconscious mind is to us.  It is always on our side allowing us to see and experience only that which we believe to be true. Now this is awesome if the beliefs that we have serve us, but if they don’t, it can set us up for self-sabotage.

Let’s bring this back to our desires now.  I’m sure we can now better understand why it is that the tangible things that we’ve desired for years have eluded us.  If the acquiring of those things is not in alignment with our subconscious beliefs, there is just no way that they will come to pass.  Like a good friend who covers our eyes so that we don’t see something on the side of the road that we believe will cause us any negative emotion, so does the subconscious mind protect us from experiencing those things which go against our beliefs and make us feel like we’re crazy or deluded.

Let’s revisit the example of a belief that may be held by a woman:

Belief: All men are cheaters
Sea of evidence: There are both loyal and disloyal men
Subconscious response: she believes all men are cheaters, and my job is to prove her right; if I let her see that many men are not cheaters she will think she’s deluded and possibly crazy, therefore I will only let her see evidence of what she believes.
Result: news, reports, stories, of men who cheated on their wives; possibly even marrying a man who will eventually cheat on her.

I hope you can now see the ramifications of this.  These beliefs, if left unattended, become self-fulfilling prophesies and they will produce a series of undesirable results even though we remain consciously unaware of the reason behind it. Try as we might, we will be unable to achieve new and lasting results so long as those beliefs remain in place, so it behooves us to take a good look at the beliefs that we hold in any area of our lives where we’re not experiencing the tangible manifestations we desire and ask ourselves this most important question: Does this belief serve me?

If the answer is no, then it’s time to let that belief go and replace it with one that will serve us and help us to manifest those desires.  In a future post I will talk about how to go about releasing or replacing those beliefs, so make sure you follow me or sign up to receive updates via email.

Do you have any questions or comments you would like to share?  Please drop me a line in the comments box below or email me directly at jc@effect180.com.  I’d love to hear from you!

To your success!

JC

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Do You Think You Know What You Really Want?

Do you know what you want?  Do you know what your desires in life are?  Most people have at least a vague or general idea of what things they want to be part of their life experience.  Or at the very least, they know (usually with certainty) what it is that they do not want.

Do you believe that your desires today are the same ones that you had 10 years ago, 5 years ago, last month, last week?  I’m willing to bet that you don’t think they are.  “Maybe” – you say – “maybe my desires today are the same as last week’s, but not the same as last year’s, and certainly not the same as 5 or 10 years ago!”

The reason most of us believe this is because we have grown up.  We have matured and evolved over the years and we believe that our desires have evolved with us. For instance, when we were babies our prominent desire was to have a full tummy and a dry bottom.  When we got a little older (and wiser) our prominent desire changed to playing with our favorite toy, perhaps.  And when we got older it evolved again to whatever it was that we most wanted at the time, until we got to where we are today, desiring more money, good or better relationships, more status, a bigger house, a newer car, etc.

But I’d like you to think for a moment about the things that you want (house/car/money or whatever it is) and ask yourself these questions:

Try it with any of the material, tangible things that you believe that you want.  Do you ever get to a YES?

In my case the answer was always a NO, and this was very revealing to me.  This meant that the material, tangible things were not what really I was after.  It was definitely something else, but what? I reviewed the answers I had provided to Question 2, and realized then that those things were what I really wanted; but they were not things at all. They were feelings!

I was looking for feelings or emotions of love, peace, satisfaction, fulfillment, etc. and the reason I thought I wanted the material things is because I believed that in the having of those things I would experience those emotions.  Did you have the same experience?

Now consider my previous question. Do you still believe that your desires have changed?  The truth is that we believe that our desires have changed or evolved with us because we generally look at our desires as the material or tangible things that we wish to see manifested in our lives. But if we think about it and look past the tangible aspect of it for a moment, we’ll realize that we aren’t really after the material things, but the emotional effect that those things have on us.  So in reality, our desires have not changed over time.  What has really changed over time, are the material, tangible things that we believe will bring about what we really desire.

I also realized that I did not have to wait until I acquired those things in order to experience my desired emotions. I could do it right now by doing simple things like going for a walk, meditating, hugging my kids, or sharing a moment with my wife.  Once I made it my intention to feel those emotions, I found myself looking for (and finding) every day moments and situations that brought about those emotions in me.  This made those moments and situations so much more valuable to me, and my gratitude for them increased tremendously.

This was an extremely powerful realization to me, as was the feeling of freedom that I felt as a result of it.  I was able to let go of my need for those things in order to be happy, and I was able to put them in the proper perspective as things that would add levels of ease and comfort to my life, rather than as the source of my happiness.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Feel free to share it with me in the comment box below, or email me at JC@effect180.com.

I’d love to hear from you!

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Is It Really Possible For Me To Change?

One day while having a conversation with my father who was in his late 60’s at the time we got into the subject of bad habits.  He complained about some bad habit he had, and expressed his dislike for it.  I told him that if he really disliked that habit he could always change it, and he could start today just taking baby steps.  His response was, “I’m too old to change. I am an old man set in his ways, and change is impossible for me.”

I happen to know that he was not alone in his thinking.  It is a commonly held belief that the older a person gets the harder it will be for them to change.  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” they say.  But I’d like to share with you that contrary to this widely held belief that people do not change, they do change and often in dramatic, life-altering ways. I say this with full confidence because not only have I witnessed it happen time and time again, I am a living testimony that creating positive change in our lives is totally possible.

The journey begins with a deep desire for growth and a sincere commitment to make bring it about. This desire and commitment become the fuel that carries us through the challenges that effecting change brings us. Change will definitely bring us challenges, and sometimes these challenges will be uncomfortable, even painful.  But this is natural and to be expected.  Even our bodies experience pain as we go through our physical growth. Nevertheless, we know that this pain is only temporary and a natural part of growing up.

If we want to effect real and lasting change, we need to take an honest look at ourselves.  We must be willing to look in the mirror and see all there is to see; that which we consider good as well as that which we consider bad.  Making an honest assessment of our qualities and motives will be the first working step towards bringing about positive change.

Steven Covey, in his critically acclaimed book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, states:

The inside-out approach to change means to start first with self; even more fundamental, to start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character and your motives.

Having assessed ourselves thoroughly, we must now identify the areas which we want to improve and how we want to improve them.  In order to do this we must take full responsibility for our lives and our current situation and not place the blame elsewhere.  This is not to say that we are to blame for everything that happened to us that let us to the place where we are today.  Perhaps things happened to us when we were young and felt powerless. A child cannot be blamed for his or parent’s neglect or poor parental skills or abusive behavior.  However, once the child grows up it will be of no benefit to him to continuously blame his parents for his behavior or current condition.  Sure, it often helps to understand where certain unwanted behaviors originated.  But once we become aware of patterns of behavior that we wish to change, it behooves us to take responsibility for our life from that point onward, and to begin taking the necessary steps to heal and bring about change.

We now need to assess what qualities are required to effect the desired change, and determine whether our values are in alignment with those qualities. We must do the important inner work of discovering who we are now, what matters to us, what we are passionate about and what we place value on. If, for instance, the change that we want to bring about will require more patience, more nurturing, etc. we need to determine if these are things that hold value for us. If not, we will not be successful in our quest.

Awareness is of utmost importance when effecting change, because it allows us to live our lives being fully conscious of our actions; this in turn allows us to free ourselves from reactive and self-defeating behavior and realize our personal best. Often we are operating in a sleep-like state.  While we may think that we are making conscious decisions, in reality our subconscious is the one running the show based on prerecorded programs playing in the back of our minds.

Try this as an exercise the next time you’re about to make an important decision.  Simply notice that chatty voice inside your head and hear what it’s telling you.  Is it telling you that you’re crazy to consider what you are thinking of doing? Does it remind you of how many times you’ve failed in the past and warns you that you will probably do so again?

That is the voice of your subconscious.  But understand that that voice is not your enemy nor is it out to sabotage you; it really does have your best interest at heart.  The tapes that it plays for you, believe it or not, are for your protection. These are the messages that your conscious mind allowed your subconscious to accept as true, so you can hardly blame your subconscious for playing them back to you.

When we have identified that an old program no longer serves us, it becomes incumbent upon us to begin taking steps to replace it.  Once we implant new, better and more beneficial programs in our subconscious, they will become the messages that get played back to us whenever we need to make decisions.  In this case our behavior will be positively influenced by the new programs, and we will find ourselves feeling and acting in more confident and courageous ways.

In the words of Stephen Covey:

Being proactive means that we are responsible for our own lives.  Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.  We can subordinate feelings to values.  We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.

Through inner-work we will be laying the foundation for a state of mind that will allow us to make lasting positive changes that will create a more meaningful, productive and happy life.  We will begin looking at life through new eyes, and this will allow us to view everything that happens as an opportunity for growth rather than as a roadblock.

Change is definitely possible, regardless of your age, gender, or past or present circumstances.  If you have a burning desire to bring about positive change in your life, and make the commitment to do it, you’ll inevitably succeed.  You’ll definitely need some guidance, so you should probably consider hiring a life coach to help you along the way.  You can certainly succeed without one, but having someone in your life who can provide some guidance, feedback, and encouragement when times get hard, has the potential to help you catapult your growth.  But it all begins with a decision; the decision to not let your past or present situation define you, and choosing instead to create your own destiny.

As famous philosopher and psychologist William James puts it:

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Drop me a line in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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If You Truly Want to Be Exceptional, Go For Being Average

As far back as I can remember I used to be a perfectionist overachiever, and this was greatly due to the meaning I had derived from my life experiences growing up.  I was surrounded by people who, with the best of intentions, expected the best from me.  They had high hopes for me, and they wanted me to rise above average, to be exceptional.

It wasn’t long before I learned what I deem to be one of my most important life lessons.  I found out that when I set off for being exceptional, always striving to be the best, always reaching for first place, always pushing myself to do more, more, more, I found it more and more difficult to feel happy or even content about my current and past accomplishments; in fact, I could not even bring myself to acknowledge them, let alone enjoy them.

Whether they vocalized it or not, the expectations of those around me always rose above the results I produced.  Whenever I showed them I could do more, they expected more. The more I showed them I could do, the more they expected of me.  And if I ever I fell short of performing at my newly set standard for whatever reason (maybe I was just having a “bad” day?) the spectators around me cut me no slack.   They frowned and showed signs of disappointment, which in turn caused me to feel disappointed in myself.

As a result of this, my own expectations on myself rose high above my accomplishments; even the times when I excelled at something, I always told myself, “You could have done better. You must do better next time.”  This caused me a tremendous amount of pressure and anxiety, not to mention feelings of never being “good enough” or “special enough.” Needless to say, I was unable to find satisfaction in my accomplishments; they felt like empty victories to me. I was literally unable to be pleased with myself. How sad it was to go through life feeling like no matter what I did, I was not good enough even in my own eyes.

In his book “Supercoach” Michael Neill shares with us the concept of going for “having an average day” as a way for being exceptional.  When I first read this I was skeptical because I thought, “This goes against the conventional belief of making every day exceptional!”  And indeed it does.  At first glance it may seem like we’re being encourage for settling for an average life and being conformists or having a mediocre attitude.  But as Michael explains,

The paradoxical promise of the “average day” philosophy [is that] the cumulative effect of a series of average days spent doing an average amount of what loves and wants to do is actually quite extraordinary

It took me a bit to digest this concept but the more I thought about it the more sense it made to me.  I realized then that whenever I wanted to accomplish something or do something I wanted to do, my perfectionist overachieving attitude kicked in and suddenly the task seemed too daunting or complicated. I could anticipate my own expectations about it and felt anxious rather than motivated.  As a result, I tended to put it off!  “If I’m going to do it, it has to be perfect” – I thought – “otherwise I am not going to do it.” And then I felt burnt out before I even started.

Well you can imagine how many things got put off or postponed as a result, from making sure I spent quality time with my kids, to working on the next chapter in a book I was writing. I knew I wanted to spend quality time with my kids every day, but I always believed that it had to be this whole ordeal that would take at least a couple of hours each day in order for it to be done right.  In the case of my book, I often focused on the fact that I needed to do additional research and get all the words and all the paragraphs perfect, which again would take a long time to do.

But after reading Michael’s tip I saw how my perfectionist-going-for-exceptional attitude was actually working against me and holding me back.  So I decided to implement his suggestion and shoot for having average days instead.  This simply meant that there was no more pressure to get it perfect. The goal was just to get it done.  So I made it a point to spend at least some quality time with my kids on a daily basis. That time was sometimes spent playing a few rounds of go-fish, or talking to them while I was cooking dinner (yes, I’m a dad who loves cooking for his kids), or sitting with them on the couch with my arms around their shoulders asking them about their day.

Was it ideal? Far from it. But I realized that if I waited for the “ideal” I would rarely (if ever) get to spend any time with my kids!  At least now, I got to spend some real quality time with them, talking to them about their needs and their dreams, and really giving them my attention.   If during the time we spent together I was able to make even the tiniest bit of difference, the impact this would have over the course of their lives would be far from average!

So now, whenever I find myself putting off something I want to do or postponing it until the stars and planets align and everything is perfect, I apply Michael’s tip and get right to it.  I’m finding that as a result of that I am able to accomplish more, and get more satisfaction out of my accomplishments.  My wife and I have also made it a point to convey this attitude to our kids.  They know that we are effort-oriented rather than results-oriented, and that we don’t expect straight A’s in their report cards.  We’re making it a point to take the pressure of perfection off of their shoulders and encourage them to just give things their best shot.   We’re reminding them constantly that if they’re not pleased with the results, they can always try again. But at this point it becomes a choice rather than an expectation, and this allows our creativity and our energy to flow freely and shine.

Remember the fable of the (average) tortoise and the (overachieving) hare, and the moral of the story?   “Slow and steady wins the race!” It really is true!

What do you think of this “going for an average day” tip?  Drop me a line in the comment box below,

I’d love to hear from you!

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Ridding Yourself of Your Life-Sucking Energy-Draining Trolls Once and For All

What are Energy-Draining Trolls?

Energy-Draining Trolls are things that annoy the heck out of you when you look at them or are reminded of them.  They could be anything from a stack of papers that needs to be organized or a closet door that needs to be fixed to a pile of clothes that needs to be put away or  button that needs to be re-sewn on your suit or jacket. Every time we look at these things we are reminded of something we should do and are not doing or haven’t done, and usually the derived meaning is that we are failing at something or not measuring up.

Energy drainers suck the life out of us, and they do so often without our even realizing it.  They irritate us, annoy us, wear us down, and are constant reminders of our procrastination or perceived incompetence. That’s why I call them Trolls. They are merciless bullies. Because they drain our energy and keep us focused on what we’re not doing, they prevent us from looking at what we could be doing to be happier, healthier, more relaxed, more energized and have a better life.

So today I’m going to invite you to make a list of all your energy-draining trolls, big and small, and do something about them once and for all.  I know, I know, you carry a mental list of these things with you everywhere you go, but that’s part of the problem, you see. Items on a mental list can easily be forgotten or missed, and as a result they rarely get done, especially when they are annoying tasks or chores (or trolls) we’d rather not bother with.

Also, you can’t use your phone or tablet or any other such device to make your list because you know exactly what will happen.  Your file will accidentally be hidden among all the other applications you have there, and it will likely end up being missed or forgotten as well.  So for this exercise you’ll have to make an actual, physical, tangible list and you’re going to hang it in a place where you can see it as often as possible. We want it to be staring you right in the face every time you walk by it.

Then, you’re going to group the list into categories, such as “things I can do immediately,” “things I can do this week,” and “things I can do this month.” At the bottom of each group you’re going to write: “When I’ve eradicated these trolls I’ll reward myself by ________________” and fill in the blank with something that is pleasing and exciting to you.  Pick any variation of those words that suits you; the point is to jot down the reward.  If you can, make it something out of the ordinary so it can really motivate you. You can also write down a reward for when you finish the entire list as an additional motivator.

You’re going to give yourself 30 days to knock out these life-sucking trolls and put an end to their annoyance and energy-draining power. Then you’re going to get to work, and start doing them.

Three things are going to happen:

  • One: You’ll find that as soon as you get these energy-drainers out of your head and onto paper you’ll feel a sense of instant relief. Even though nothing has gotten done yet, at least you now have a clear idea of what it is that has to be done, and you don’t have to be wondering whether you’re missing something important.
  • Two: As a result, you’ll clear up some mental space for the really important stuff. Now that these annoying things are out of your head, you may notice that you can think clearer and be less “foggy” in general which will allow you to make better choices and see more opportunities.
  • Three: You’ll find that you’re actually going to start doing these things!  The brain has a natural tendency to want to see check-lists be, well checked off. So by having the list in a place with high visibility, you’ll constantly be giving your brain that nudge it needs to help you get those things done. And the more items you check off your list, the more motivated you’ll be to continue doing them.

When you have completed any of the groups, reward yourself immediately! Don’t put it off or wait for the “perfect moment” to reward yourself.  Show your brain that you mean business and that you deliver on your word. Savor the victory and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Play it up as much as you can! You just took care of business instead of procrastinating, so you deserve your reward. You’ve earned it. Enjoy it!

I have found that this approach works wonders when trying to eliminate those life-sucking energy drainers. It also helps me stay productive which definitely helps me feel better about myself. Talk about a self-esteem booster! “Oh yeah, I got this!” “That’s right!” “Who’s the boss now?” “Me, that’s who!”

Ahem! Anyways, I want to encourage you to give this exercise a whirl and show yourself what you’re capable of. Give these life-sucking trolls what for and show ‘em who’s boss.  You may soon find yourself asking, “So what ELSE can I do to change the world?” And changing the world you’ll be; you can count on that!

Do you have any input or stories you’d like to share?  What are your energy-draining trolls, and how do you deal with them? Drop me a line in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

Are You A Sleep-Deprived Zombie?

The pesky alarm went off again and I pressed the snooze button for the umpteenth time. “It’s not possible,” I thought half-asleep, “I just closed my eyes!” Well, it felt like it. I had been up working late yet again, very late, and now I was paying the price and suffering the consequences. I felt incredibly tired and groggy, and I felt no enthusiasm to get out of bed.  I fought the impulse to close my eyes again. “If I close them again I may not open them until the weekend,” I thought. So I dragged my aching body out of my comfortable bed and up I went to start my day. I’m only 40 years old yet I felt like a person of 80.

Through my morning routine I wondered, “Why do I always do this to myself?” Then I realized that it was my sense of duty and responsibility to my family and my work.  I have a hard time leaving things half-done, or postponing something that I know needs to be done, so I stay up until I do it. The problem is that I don’t usually make a distinction between “must be done today” and “must be done, period.”

If anything must be done, there is no time like the present to do it, is my mentality.  While this allows me to accomplish many things in a day, I feel like I do of these things in a zombie-like manner; lifelessly.  This prevents me from being fully present in the moment, or even from getting any enjoyment out of the things I do.  That’s not living; it actually feels like dying, and it isn’t right.

I’m committed to fulfilling the rights that my wife has over me, and the rights that my children have over me, but I seldom think about the rights that my own body has over me.  My body also requires my attention and my care, and by overworking it and depriving it of the rest and sleep that it needs, I’m not fulfilling those rights.

So today I’m making a commitment to respect my body and go to bed at a decent hour at least 4 days this week.  I would say every day, but I know that would be unrealistic for me.  Nevertheless I have to start somewhere, and I’m starting right here.  And 4 days is definitely more than 0.  I’m also making a commitment to make a distinction between what “must be done” and what “must be done today.”  I will focus on the things that must be done today, and take care of the other list a little at a time.  That’s my commitment for this week, and that’s how I’ll take care of myself.

What about you? How do you take care of yourself? Drop me a line in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How to Determine If You Should Keep Holding On To Your “Shoulds”

Not very long ago I felt very disappointed in myself.  There were several things that I knew I should be doing but wasn’t doing them, and this made me feel like a hopeless failure.  I had been carrying around those “shoulds” for several years and every time I thought about them I felt an immense amount of guilt and shame for not being strong enough, and for not using my will power to force myself to do the things I knew I should be doing.

I later learned that these “shoulds” are very damaging to our sense of self-worth because they make us feel incompetent and less-than; they give us the impression that we are wrong or that we are doing something wrong. They weigh us down just as if we were carrying actual weights tied around our neck and shoulders, and cause us to look down on ourselves and blame our lack of discipline or will-power.

One day I came across the book “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay. In one of the chapters Louise mentions an approach that she uses in her sessions with some of her clients.  This approach involves taking a close look at those “shoulds” we have carried around on our shoulders for years, and really assessing whether they should remain with us or be discarded once and for all.

Louise’s approach works as follows:

  1. Fold a piece of writing paper in half. On the first half make a list of all the “shoulds” that come to mind. Begin each sentence with “I should [fill in the blank].”  Really take the time to find all those “shoulds” you’ve been carrying around and bring them to the forefront of your mind, and write them down.
  2. On the second half of the paper, write “Why?” as the heading; now, for each “should” that you listed in step 1, write down the reason why you should be doing it. Don’t second guess your answers; simply write whatever first comes to mind.
  3. Now you are going to go down the list of your “shoulds” one more time, except this time instead of beginning your sentence with “I should [fill in the blank]” you are going to begin each sentence with “If I really wanted to, I could [fill in the blank].” Notice that this puts a whole new light on the matter.  See if you experience any difference in the way you feel when you state your “shoulds” as “coulds” instead. After each of these statements ask yourself this question. “Why haven’t I?” And answer it honestly.

This exercise was very revealing to me.  It allowed me to clearly see that many of the things that I was beating myself up for all those years weren’t even my idea to begin with. These were ideas that were put there by other people in my life who thought that I “should” do them.  And many of these I didn’t even really want to do!  I remembered how inferior I felt when a member of my family said I should “be smart like so and so who is younger than you and already bought a house.”  What a load of baloney! Anything that fell in this category I discarded immediately, and oh what a relief that was!

As Louise explains,

There are so many people who try to force themselves for years into a career they don’t even like only because their parents said they “should” become a dentist or a teacher.

If you have been carrying around a bunch of “shoulds” that have caused you to develop guilt, shame or low self-esteem, I encourage you to give Louise’s approach a try.  If you find out that these “shoulds” shouldn’t be part of your life, don’t carry them around any longer! Write them down on a separate piece of paper, ball it up and burn it. You’ll feel tremendous amount of relief once you let them go.  If you can’t get rid of a “should” for whatever reason (be sure it’s a valid one), then at least see if you can reframe it in a way that does not cause you to feel any negative feeling when you think of it. You’ll love yourself more in the process.

Do you have any input on the subject that you would like to share?  Drop me a line in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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The Pursuit of Happiness

Do I have the right to be happy?  That was a question I asked myself several years ago, on one of those days when nothing I did seemed to make me happy and I felt empty and unfulfilled.  I had worked so hard to be a “good” person and not follow the negative patterns I observed as a child.  I had embarked on this self-improvement journey which had helped me to overcome many negative tendencies. I was married to a wonderful, supporting wife and was blessed with 3 beautiful children.  Yet, I always felt like something was missing in my life.

You see, before I got married I used to think, “Maybe when I get married I’ll be truly happy.”  And when I got married I thought, “Maybe when I have kids I’ll be truly happy.” But don’t misunderstand; of course I was happily married, but I’m talking about lacking that deep sense of well-being that seemed to be missing within me.  When my first child came I thought, “Maybe when I have more money I’ll be happy,” and on and one the cycle went, and each time that the desire was fulfilled, the deep sense of well-being I craved kept eluding me and seemed unreachable.

But it wasn’t until later in my journey that I discovered that the things and people on whom I placed the expectation to make me happy were not to blame for my not attaining my happiness.  That was an unfair and irrational expectation placed on them, because it was not their job to make me happy.  I realized that I was not attaining the level of happiness I was looking for because I was looking for it in the wrong place.

You see, I had learned very early on – when I was a baby, in fact – to connect my source of happiness to the people and things that I believed were the cause of it, whether it was my parents or siblings, my toys, my activities, etc.  It’s the most natural thing in the world for all of us to do when we’re growing up, because those things do seem to help bring us back to the state of bliss in which we’re born.

As we grow older it becomes second nature for us to continue attributing the source of our happiness to those things outside of us; we place expectations on people around us such as our spouse, our children or our friends; we spend much time and energy trying to obtain the material things that we believe will make us happy such as the new car or latest gadget; we invest so much of ourselves on the activities we engage in such as our jobs or our hobbies.

As Michael Neill puts it in his book Supercoach, if we believe that our happiness comes from a particular person, we’ll put up with all kinds of nonsense we wouldn’t ordinarily put up with just to keep that person around; if we believe it comes from our work, we’ll invest more time and energy in that job at the expense of our health or even our principles. In other words, whatever it is that we attribute our happiness to will determine how far we’re willing to go to get it.

This approach seems to work, and that’s the primary reason we keep trying it.  However we soon find that the results are only temporary and the happiness is short-lived.  As the novelty wears off and we lose that temporary state of happiness, we begin craving it once again and, just like an alcoholic or a drug addict, we search anxiously for our next “fix” to bring it back. Because it did work, if only temporarily, we believe that this is the right approach; we just haven’t found the thing, the real thing that will make us happy. So we try it again and again whatever the cost may be for the sole purpose of finding that happiness.

But the problem is that we’re going about it the wrong way to begin with, because we can never find something that was never lost.  We are born in a natural state of bliss, and the real source of happiness is within us at every moment. Therefore, when we feel like we’ve disconnected from that state of bliss, we do not need to look outside of ourselves for something to bring us back to it. What we need to do is look within, and focus our attention and energy in realizing our highest and truest self. Michael Neill puts it beautifully:

“Well- being is not the fruit of something you do; it is the essence of who you are.  There is nothing you need to do, be or have in order to be happy.”

This is not to say that we should not engage in activities that bring us pleasure, or spend time cultivating friendships with pleasant people, or do things to please our spouse, or buy that new car or that new gadget, or go after whatever goal we want to accomplish.  But as Michael Neill puts it, we should focus our energy in being happy going for what we want, rather than going for what we want in the hopes that one day it will make us happy.

I believe that this is something we are meant to discover on our own at one point or another in our lives, when we are ready. And when we do, it’s like an awakening, an aha! moment that causes us to truly assimilate this truth in a way that no amount of teaching or preaching can.

I will close with an Old Sioux Legend that seems to fit here:

In ancient times, the Creator wanted to hide something from humans until they were ready to see it. The Creator gathered all the animals and sought their advice.

The Eagle said, “Give it to me. I will take it to the highest mountain and keep it there.” The Creator replied, “One day, the humans will conquer the highest mountain, and find I, but they may not be ready for it.”

The Salmon said, “Give it to me. I will take it to the deepest ocean and keep it there.” The Creator replied, “One day, the humans will explore the deepest depths of the ocean, and find it, but they may not be ready for it.”

The Buffalo said, “Give it to me. I will bury it in the heart of the great plains, and keep it there.” The Creator replied, “One day, humans will rip open the earth and find it there, but they may not be ready for it.”

The creatures were stumped, until an old blind mole spoke up and said: “Why don’t you hide it inside them? That is the very last place they will look.” The Creator said, “It is done.”

Do you have an aha! moment related to happiness that you’d like to share? Drop me a line in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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Shattering the Illusion of Control

Holding a Crystal Ball

Before I began my self-improvement journey I used to think that I was in charge.  I used to believe that it was my job to be in control of making sure that my family was safe, that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table, and that the money I made was enough to take care of all our needs.  Boy was I mistaken!

I was the head of the household and the only person in my family getting paid for my work, so that did sort of place some responsibility on my shoulders.  Notice I did not say that I was the only person working; that would not have been true, because my wife did work and more so than me, she just didn’t get paid for it.  My job at least ended when I left the office, and I usually had nights and weekends free.  Her job as a mother and homemaker, however, didn’t allow for such privileges. She literally worked around the clock.

Back in those days I was confusing responsibility with outcome, and in my mind there seemed to be no distinction between the two, especially when it came to providing for my family.  You see, I believed that if I was not able to provide for my family, if I wasn’t able to take care of our needs, that would mean that I was a failure.

Back in those days I had a job that paid okay; not good but okay. Back then not only did I believe that this was probably the best I could do with my knowledge and experience, I also believed that there was no other job out there that would provide the flexibility I needed to be able to take care of my family.  The job provided a certain level of safety for me and my family, so even though I knew I wasn’t getting paid very well, I felt it necessary for me to stay in that job in order to remain in control of my family situation.

I also believed that I had to watch our expenses like a hawk in order to make sure we had enough money for rent, food, and other necessities, so I would often worry and stress greatly about our finances. Even when there was enough money to cover our need, I used to worry that we would overspend or that something would happen that would put us in the negative; after all, we were barely making it every month.  So I had to be vigilant and watchful of our expenses in order to remain in control of our finances.

These were just two of the many ways I worried and stressed for many years (and caused those around me to worry and stress) because I believed that I had control, and that it was my job to have control.  Once I began my self-improvement journey, however, I soon discovered that much of my worry and stress and my excessive need to have control was founded in fear.  Fear of becoming a failure; fear of not having enough; fear of not being enough.

My mentality was, “It is my job to ensure that my family is safe.”  But I could never be with them 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week.  I was at work or otherwise occupied in some task for many hours, and not with them, not watching over them, not protecting them, so who was in control during that time? Not me.

My mentality was, “It is my job to ensure that our needs are provided for, because if I don’t do it, who will?” But my health and my life were not guaranteed; I could have easily dropped dead or fallen ill at any point in time; who would have provided for our needs then? Who would have been in control then? Not me.

With a little analysis, my illusion of control was equally shattered in all other areas of my life in which I believed I had control.  I realized then that I wasn’t in control, and that the control I seemed to have was no more than an illusion created by me and the expectations I imposed on myself.  The reality was that my only job was to ensure that I did my best, and then the outcome would be taken care of just as it always was. My responsibility is not, and has never been, the outcome. My responsibility has always and only been my effort.  And this effort was not limited to me working hard at my job, but it included making sure that I changed and improved my thought patterns to allow me to see the resources and opportunities readily available to me.

When I realized this I felt tremendous relief.  It was like having a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. The effects were almost instant. I began to see and explore other possibilities that I didn’t even know existed.  I began to see life in a new light and to believe that better things were possible. My attitude and demeanor improved greatly and so did my health because I no longer carried the burden of results on my shoulders. I realized then that I no longer had to fear being enough, because my being enough was never measured by any external circumstance. In fact, being enough was a state that nothing or no one could take away.

Yes, I did get a better job, and not just one that paid better, but one that actually provided greater flexibility and better benefits for me and my family.  I now make it a point to share this with whoever will listen.  Whenever I hear someone speak of their worries it reminds me of the way I used to think back then. So I try to help them realize that they are enough just as they are, and that their only job is to focus on themselves putting their best effort forward. I encourage them to let go of the illusion and see and embrace the reality and the truth, because in the end, the truth will set them free.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Drop me a line in the comment box.

I’d love to hear from you!

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