Tag Archives: success

The Magic Formula For Creating Meaningful and Compelling Goals

how to set goals, goal setting, better goals, best goal

“What do I want?”

This is the most important and compelling question you can ask yourself, because without a clear answer to this question you are like a crewless boat in the middle of the ocean with no direction. You can put in a lot of effort into what you are doing, and you could be the best at what you do; but even then, without knowing what you want or where you are going, you could end up anywhere and likely it may be somewhere you don’t like.

Imagine going to a travel agent and saying, “I’d like a plane ticket please.” The agent then replies, “Absolutely! Where would you like to go?” And you respond by saying “I don’t know, just somewhere, anywhere!” The travel agent, being a helpful service person, wants nothing more than to be able to serve you; however, without clarity as to where you want to go, he is confused and doesn’t know how to serve you to your satisfaction, because where you end up may not be to your liking. Nevertheless, many people do just that, and then they turn around and blame the travel agent or give the agency a bad review because it performed poorly according to them.

Now imagine going to a restaurant and telling the waiter, “I’d like to have some dinner, please.” The waiter replies, “My pleasure! Here’s a menu for you. What would you like?” And you reply, “Oh, I don’t know, anything will do.” Again, the waiter, being a helpful service person, wants to serve you; but without clarity as to what you want he is unable to assist, so he looks at you with a confused look on his face in an effort to solicit a more specific response from you. You sigh impatiently and proceed to say, “Oh all right; look, I don’t want this… And I don’t want this… And I don’t want that….” and on and on you go, pointing at each item on the menu you don’t want and stating that you don’t want it. Now this happens to be a restaurant that prides on its wide variety of foods, so it takes you a very long time to go through the entire menu pointing out what you don’t want instead of what you do want, and by then the waiter is so confused that he still doesn’t know what it is that you do want!

It all sounds very silly doesn’t it?  Yet, many people go through life being unclear about what it is that they do want; in other words, without any goals; and like the example of the travel agent, they are lost or confused about where they are going.  Or they spend their days going on and on about what it is that they don’t want out of the menu of life (imagine how thick that menu is) instead of learning to focus and getting clear about what it is that they do want, and like the example of the restaurant, they spend months and often years without getting what they want because they were so focused on what they didn’t want instead.  And then they spend their lives complaining about this or that, or blaming this person or that person, or this circumstance or that circumstance, for not having a better lot in life, instead of taking responsibility. Can you imagine how long your personal waiter (your subconscious mind) has to wait and how much unnecessary junk it would have to sift through in order to get to what you actually do want?

As Earl Nightingale puts it in his book “The Strangest Secret”:

Think of a ship with the complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where the ship is going and how long it will take — it has a definite goal. And 9,999 times out of 10,000, it will get there. Now let’s take another ship — just like the first — only let’s not put a crew on it, or a captain at the helm. Let’s give it no aiming point, no goal, and no destination. We just start the engines and let it go. I think you’ll agree that if it gets out of the harbor at all, it will either sink or wind up on some deserted beach — a derelict. It can’t go anyplace because it has no destination and no guidance. It’s the same with a human being.

So the first thing that we need to do in order to ensure we’re headed in the right direction is get clear about what it is that we want; in other words, we need a goal or outcome that is specific, measurable, achievable, and appropriate.  It must be something which we, and only we, desire, rather than something that society desires for us; in other words, it must be something for which we are 100% responsible from beginning to end. And it must be an outcome that is stated in the positive and something that we move towards rather than away from.  This is what is commonly known as “SMART Goals” or “Well Formed Outcomes.”

But having a goal, even if it meets the above criteria, is not enough. We must be able to keep the goal front and center, and we must be able to communicate the goal to our subconscious mind effectively, so that our subconscious can then do what it does best: serve us, and help us to achieve our goals following the past of least resistance.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing specific strategies to help you get clear about what you want following the “SMART Goals” model, as well as sharing strategies to embed these goals in your subconscious so that your probability of success is multiplied, so be sure to subscribe or follow me so you don’t miss any of it. It’s going to be a fun ride!

To your success!

JC

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How To Eradicate Failure From Your Life Using These 3 Basic But Powerful Principles

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Whenever I find myself down emotionally because of something that is happening (or not happening) in my life, I like to put into practice the tips and techniques that I’ve learned in my journey to turn the situation around.  This is not always easy, because sometimes the emotions that arise as a result of my current focus just feel too overwhelming.

One of my favorite things to do is to search for a new perspective, one that allows me to see the good and the positive in the situation.  Over the years I’ve come to realize that no matter how bad a situation seemed at the moment, there was always, always something good, a blessing in disguise if you will, that would improve my life experience in some shape or form.

At first I would come to this realization in hindsight, after the storm had passed, because I was just too overwhelmed by what we know as negative emotions to truly understand what was happening. When I did not have any tools to use or techniques to apply, I allowed myself to be dragged into the negative vibe and soon after I would find myself feeling down in the dumps.

But over the years I’ve learned to apply this “New Perspective” technique and this has helped me to build an energy shield that blocks the negativity from dragging me into it, and allows me to use what is currently happening as fuel to keep moving forward. I especially like to use it when I find myself doubting my ability to succeed at what I’m doing.  When fear and self-doubt creep in, rather than dwelling on these thoughts and feelings and thus allowing them to attack and destroy my confidence and drive, I immediately turn to this technique and apply it.

This technique is based on 3 basic principles: 1. You started off as a winner, 2. You are already getting results, and 3. There is no such thing as failure.  I will now elaborate on each of these principles:

You Started Off as a Winner
Think about it.  The reason you are here is because at the time of your conception when the sperm and the egg came together, one sperm won the race! That’s one in one hundred million! And because of that one, here you are.  And do you know how many things can go wrong during pregnancy? Tons! But the fact that you are alive reading this is proof that you’ve been a winner since the beginning. And that was before you even had use of your senses and your intellect, so imagine how much more of a winner you can be now! So the next time you feel fear and doubt creep in remember this: you started off as a winner and a success, and you can definitely continue to be successful.

You Are Already Getting Results
This is an obvious one, but is generally missed by many (myself included).  I invite you to come to the realization that in every one of your endeavors, in everything you’ve attempted throughout your life, you did get some results; sometimes they just weren’t the results you wanted, but you got results nonetheless.  Now, what happens to many of us is that when we didn’t get the results we wanted on the first pass, we take that to mean that we’ve failed and therefore we bring our efforts to a halt. If it’s a goal, we drop it like a bad habit; if it’s a dream, we give up on it.  We allow the unwanted results to dictate the fate of our endeavors because we believe that we have failed, which only hurts our self-confidence and the belief in our ability to accomplish whatever we set our minds to, which in turn will only increase the fear and self-doubt the next time we set off to attempt something.

There Is No Such Thing as Failure
I’ve said this in a previous post but I want to reiterate it because it’s a very important principle.  There is no such thing as failure; there is only feedback indicating that the approach we tried did not work.  Notice the difference in the feeling that results from thinking “I have failed” Vs. what I call the Edison Mentality which is thinking “Ok, that approach did not work; I wonder if this one will?”  Even without being in the middle of a challenging situation you can see that the “I have failed” mentality not only creates a feeling of depression and/or hopelessness, but it also automatically brings your efforts to a halt; “I have failed, therefore there is nothing else for me to do.” When we have this mentality creativity flies out the window, and our mind closes its doors to new options, new approaches, new possibilities.

However, the Edison Mentality opens the doors to all kinds of possibilities which causes us to develop a child-like curiosity and determination.  When we have this mentality our creative juices flow freely and we feel practically dared to make it work. We learned from what did not work, and use that knowledge in our next approaches until at last, we experience the results we wanted.

Remember Edison’s words the next time you feel like you’ve failed or are failing at something.  When asked about how he felt after failing to invent the lightbulb ten thousand times, he replied: “I have not failed ten thousand times.  I simply discovered ten thousand ways not to make a light bulb.”  His so-called failures were no such thing; they were simply data and feedback, which he continued to use until he got the result he wanted.  Where would we be today if Edison had said after his first few attempts, “I have failed”?

I have shared with you the 3 principles behind my “New Perspective” approach. I have used and continue to use this approach in my daily life with wonderful results, and I invite you to do the same. Remember, you are already a winner, and you are already getting some results; if the results you’re getting are not what you want, remember that there is no such thing as failure. Use your current results as feedback and, like Edison, move on to the next approach.  You will find that if you apply this technique, there is just no way for you not to succeed!

If you’ve enjoyed this read please feel free to share it!  Do you have any questions or comments? Please share in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you!

To your success!

JC

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CAUTION! Do Not Join Sarah Arrow’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge!

Sarah arrow blogging challenge

On April 9, 2015 I made a bold move that would change my life.  The people closest to me know that I’ve always been a person prone to procrastination; although, to be honest, I prefer to call it “taking my time because I don’t want to make a rushed decision.” Wish there was a word for that.  OK, I can hear you say, “There is! It’s called procrastination!” Moving on.

Over the past year I’ve grown enough to be able to admit to myself that many times I used that “need to think it through” excuse to not feel obligated to take action.  I was buying myself some time (stalling) so that I could analyze the situation from any and all angles, to ensure that I would not fail.  Heck, never mind failing, I did not even want to make a mistake.

The perfectionist voice in me kept asking “what if” questions that would take me down Disaster Road. I’ve always tried to adhere to that wise saying “Expect the best, prepare for the worst.”  The problem with that saying (for me, at least) was that as soon as I started “preparing for the worst”, I would begin expecting it!  And at that point, no matter how hard I tried, it was very difficult to keep myself from going down (and staying on) that road.

Until rather recently, I lacked the tools necessary to help me snap out of that disaster mentality and become more proactive in my own success.  Slowly but surely, though, I learned many techniques that helped me change and grow out of a lot of my limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns.  Some may argue that I took the long route.  I would argue that I took the route that was the best fit for me.  There are many people out there who have this wonderful “sink or swim” mentality.  “You know what you gotta do” – they say – “so just jump in with both feet and do it!” In my case, though, I needed to feel the water with my toes first, although admittedly at first I would spend a very long time contemplating the water and thinking “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could get in?” Followed by a prolonged period of research about water temperature, water quality, water salinity, etc. and another prolonged period of meditation where I would ask my higher self whether getting in the water was a good decision. I’m not even kidding. That was me, procrastinating.

Now, I don’t think there is a single right or wrong way to approach goals.  I think that as long as you are doing something to get to your destination you are in good shape.  The way I look at it now is, “There are more than one ways to get to any destination.” And while some may argue that you can get there faster by flying (just do it), my answer to that is “that may be true, but you’ll miss the experience of the scenic views you see when you drive.” Notice I said “when you drive” and not “when you think about driving, read about driving, contemplate driving” etc. That’s not moving towards your destination.

That being said, only you can determine how fast or how slow you’re willing to go, and there are many factors that will influence that. But you gotta be doing something.  There is one thing that’s guaranteed not to get you to your destination, and that’s inactivity. If you never set off on the journey, you’ll never get there no matter how much wishful thinking, research, meditation, and journaling you do.

And so when I finally learned that lesson I made a decision to begin my journey from the person I was to the person I wanted to be; from already good to even better.  And I am happy to report that the journey has been an amazing one.  Depending on the area of my life that I was working on, sometimes I took a plane, and sometimes I walked. Sometimes I got there faster, and sometimes slower. But of one thing I am certain: as long as I was doing something, it all happened the way it was meant to happen so that I could assimilate as much of the experience as possible.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, one of the things I struggled with was procrastination.  I would analyze a situation so much that it often led me to inactivity; “paralysis by analysis.”  I finally accepted something that my wife had been trying to tell me for years: this paralysis, this inactivity, was preventing me from reaching my destination in this area of my life.  If you haven’t figured this out already, she’s one of those with the “sink or swim” mentality.  You can imagine the lively discussions we have sometimes.  She often reminded me of the Andy Griffith episode where Andy is contemplating making a big decision and saying that he needed to think about it some more. Aunt Bee’s reply was, “Come along Opie; let’s leave your father to his slooooooow thinkin’.”

But anyways, I finally accepted that I needed to get off my couch and actually do something rather than just talk about it.  And slowly but surely I started doing less thinkin’ before my doin’.  After reading the book “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie, I followed his advice.  He recommends that in order to eliminate worry and get out of this paralyzing “what if” mentality (which doesn’t serve us), we need to come to terms with the worst case scenario and then make a decision right there and then as to how we’re going to handle it.

So I started asking myself this question: “If I move forward with this goal, What’s the worst that can happen?” and once I answered it, I would follow it with, “So what?” By being honest with myself, I determined that if the worst did happen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and there were ways I could recover from it. This practice alone helped me to get past my procrastination and start taking action. I also decided to follow Edison’s example. I read a story in which it’s reported that he was asked how he felt about failing 10,000 times in his efforts to invent the lightbulb. His response was, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I just found 10,000 ways not to make a lightbulb.”

I learned that mistakes are not failures. They are data that tells us that modifications are needed, and that data gives us the opportunity to make whatever we’re working on that much more effective. But the key is that we have to be moving. We have to be working on something.

Case in point: I had decided that I wanted to share the lessons that I had learned along the way, and which helped me grow into a better me, with the world.  I wanted to bring hope to anyone struggling with situations similar to mine, and share with them the techniques I had used to help me deal with those situations successfully.  Only I didn’t know how to go about it.  In doing a little research I realized that a blog would be an excellent way to make this happen.  But there was another problem, or rather two problems.  One, I was not sure that what I had to share would truly be of value to others, and two, I was terrified of writing!

I started looking for books related to the subject of blogging and came across the book “Zero To Blogger In 30 Days!” by Sarah Arrow.  The reviews were very positive so I decided to give it a try.  But here’s something else I did.  I read the very inspiring “About Sarah Arrow” section followed by the “How to use this guide” section in which Sarah mentions that the book is organized in two sections: the first section helps you to set up your own self-hosted WordPress blog, and the second section covers the challenge, blogging for 30 consecutive days. She also offers readers the ability to sign up for the Facebook support group for encouragement and accountability.

Without giving it another thought, and without allowing time or room for procrastination or doubt to creep in, I joined the 30 Day Blogging Challenge offered by Sarah Arrow.  I went to the Facebook page and requested to be a member, then signed up for the challenge emails. Just like that. Within 10 minutes of making a decision to share my life experience with the world I had not only gotten a book to help me do it, but I had signed myself up for a 30 day challenge to write a blog post for 30 consecutive days. What? I had not even read the book yet!

The old me would have read the book, highlighted it, read it again, gone online to do additional research, read 3 more books, journaled about it, meditated on it, before considering joining the group. Some might argue that in doing all of this I was still moving forward. But the truth is that I know myself, and I know that for me, that was just another way to procrastinate, a way to look busy while in the back of my mind still stalling under the pretense of not wanting to fail.

I determined that if there was anything else that I needed to learn, I would learn it along the way. If I made mistakes, I would use the data to correct them. If I got stuck, I would ask for help. Besides, that’s what the support group was for. So in short, the worst that could happen wasn’t anything I wouldn’t be able to recover from.

So I joined the challenge and the rest, as they say, is history. Today I complete my challenge with this post, and I want to thank Sarah Arrow and everyone else in the Facebook support group for their comments and words of encouragement.  I also want to thank my wife who believed in me from the beginning, and who put up with my nervousness, panic, and excitement, and read every single post! I could not have done it without her unending support and encouragement.

Did I do it in 30 consecutive days? No, it took me 35 days actually. I started off with a bang but somewhere down the road I got sick and that set me back a few days.  The old me would have been completely bummed about it, and I would probably have given up on the challenge because it wasn’t perfect. I had failed.  But had I?  The purpose of the challenge as stated in the book intro was to “build your writing muscle and give you the discipline to carry on blogging and get great results.”  And that I had definitely accomplished.

The new me recognizes that we set goals to accomplish something, and we have an ideal about how we’re going to accomplish it. But guess what? Life happens. Stuff (for lack of a better word) happens.  And it’s what we do when stuff happens that will determine whether we’ll succeed in reaching our goal or not.

So while I did not do it in 30 consecutive days, I did write 30 posts and that did build not only my writing muscle but also my confidence in my ability to do what I wanted to do.  Do I count this as a failure? Heck no! Would you?

Thank you for joining me in my journey!  If you have any input, questions or comments, please feel free to share them in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you!

Oh, and about my “caution” statement in the headline? I’ll finish that statement now:

Caution! Do Not Join Sarah Arrow’s “30 Day Blogging Challenge”… unless you are ready to increase your self-confidence, build your writing muscle, and start on your way to a blogging success in 30 days or less!

Made you look, didn’t I?

To your success!

JC

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Achieve Your Goals Each And Every Time With This Simple Tip

I’m about to share with you a tip I recently learned which has the potential to change how you approach goals from now on.  If you’ve struggled with reaching your goals in the past, you’ll want to read this because it’s very likely that you’ve been going about it wrong.  What I’m about to share with you will not only explain why you’ve had difficulty in reaching your goals, it will also tell you what you can do about it.

Let’s start with this: Why do we set goals in the first place?  Generally, people set goals because they see their current situation as bad or wrong or as something that needs to be fixed.  They label their starting point, whatever it is, as bad, and they set goals so that they can turn their bad situation into a good situation.

But if we really think about it from an objective point of view, we’ll realize that our situation, whatever it is, is already good.  The only way a situation can be labeled as bad is if there is nothing good about it.  Imagine that you place your situation on a scale. A bad situation would register anything below zero.  So take any situation, no matter how bad you think it is, and place it on this imaginary scale.  Would it ever register below zero?  I doubt it.  If we’ve accomplished something, anything, whatever it is and no matter how small we think it is, it is already above zero and by definition, it is already good.

Now consider the emotional effect of saying “My situation is bad and I want to make it good,” versus saying “My situation is already good, and I just want to make it better.”  Which one has a better emotional effect?  Which one feels worse when you say it?  Which one has a more optimistic feel?  Which one produces better energy?  So let us begin here and agree that whatever our starting point, whatever our situation, it is already a good one, and we just want to move towards making it even better.  This shift in attitude towards viewing our situation as already good can make us feel more motivated and make us want to be more proactive in achieving our goals whereas before we might have felt ashamed, guilty, frustrated, angry, etc. and therefore unmotivated and inactive because we saw our situation as bad.

Now that that’s settled let us discuss what may prevent us from reaching our goals.  Let us say that I have a goal and set an actionable plan to double my income this year, and I make this a SMART goal, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.  It meets all the qualifications of a SMART goal, right?  But let’s think about this for a moment.  Doubling my income in and of itself is just that, an increased income, but in the grand scheme of things, it means absolutely nothing.  If I just imagine twice the amount of cash available to me sitting right there on my table, it has no effect on me.  The thought of more money alone does not even excite me.  More income in and of itself means nothing to most people.

Now if I imagine what I can do with that income, that would be a different story, wouldn’t it?  Now I can begin to feel a little more excited about the increased income because I now envision being able to afford better things, helping others in need, going on vacations, taking better care of my family, etc. This excites me.  There is a strong emotional connection to the goal, and so it seems more attractive to me and I feel more motivated to achieve it.

And herein lies the reason we may not have been achieving our goals in the past.  If our goals are not creating a strong emotional response in us, it is very possible, in fact probable, that we will give up on them midway. A goal that does not create a strong emotional response in us when we think about it is not even worth starting.  Our efforts will be half-efforts, and there will be no sense of urgency to complete it.  Is it possible to achieve a goal without having a strong emotional attachment to it?  Sure it is. But its achievement will probably not bring us much satisfaction, and we may realize that having accomplished that goal did not improve our situation at all, which was the very reason we set that goal to begin with.

Now I’m not saying that a worthy goal should not be pursued simply because it does not produce that strong emotional response in us; what I’m saying is that if we really want to pursue it, we must first ensure that it creates a strong emotional response in us.  That means that we may need to dig deeper or reframe our goal in such a way that it produces that response we’re looking for.  If we really want to set any goal and see it through to fruition in a way that will feel rewarding to us, we must do whatever it takes to create that strong emotional response when we think about it.

One final thought: we must make sure that we acknowledge any progress made in our working towards the achievement of any goal.  This is very important.  Sometimes we become disheartened or disappointed in ourselves because we did not reach the results we set off to achieve.  For instance, if we set a goal to lose 50 lbs. and we end up losing 20 by our deadline, does that mean it did not work? Does it mean we should give up? Does it mean that we’ve failed? Of course not! We made progress, and any progress towards the achievement of any goal is worth acknowledging and celebrating!  As Earl Nightingale states in his book “The Strangest Secret”:

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

Therefore let us celebrate our success! Any progress we’ve made towards a goal that we set for ourselves automatically places us in the category of those who are successful.  So let us acknowledge our success, rewards ourselves for it, and keep pushing forward!

To your success!

JC

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Why Having A Magic Lamp Wouldn’t Make You Happy

magic lamp, wishes, dreams, Aladdin, dreams, goals

Imagine for a moment that you found Aladddin’s lamp. I know. Humor me. Imagine that one day you’re taking a relaxing stroll around your neighborhood and you suddenly spot something shiny hiding in the bushes.  At first you ignore it and dismiss it as something unimportant (perhaps an empty soda can?).

You continue stroll but a few moments later you can’t shake the feeling that you were meant to see that, whatever it was.  What if it was something important?  “I better make sure,” you think.  So you walk back to retrieve the shiny object and to your surprise you find yourself staring at what appears to be a magic lamp.  Could it be?  “Yeah, right.” You let out a sarcastic chuckle and laugh at yourself for thinking such a ridiculous thing. “Still… what if it is?”  You take an inconspicuous look around to make sure no one is looking, and carefully rub the sides of the lamp.

As soon as you do that, smoke starts oozing from the lamp and suddenly, out comes a genie who, to your amazement, utters those amazing words you’ve been waiting to hear all your life, “Your wish is my command.” He then tells you that he’s there to grant you all of your heart’s desires.  Not just 3 wishes, but all of them.

Now think for a moment. What would you ask for?  You’d probably ask for all the major things right away. Love, health, money, success, vacations to exotic locations, mansions, more money, more love, etc. etc. etc.  You would basically ask for all the things that you believe would make your life easy, happy, pain-free, and struggle-free.  You’d go wild, testing the waters to see if you would really be able to get all you want.

You’d then realize that you can ask not only for you but for everyone else around you.  So you’d become the biggest philanthropist, sharing your good fortune with everyone around you.  At some point, however, you’d start running out of things to ask for.  You’ve had all the vacations you could think of, helped everyone in the world (work with me here), have more money than you know what to do with, all the success and love you can imagine, all coming instantly to you without any amount of effort or struggle on your part.

How long could you live like this? Honestly. How long? A year? Ten years? Twenty?  How long would it be before you were bored out of your mind and were left feeling depressed and worthless?  How long would your mind be able to live without a challenge or a worthy goal?  How long before you felt like you were no better than an inanimate object that adds no value to anything?

Sooner or later you’d start looking for things to do, challenges to face, goals to pursue, problems to solve.  But you wouldn’t ask the genie to bring these to you, you’d want to go out and find them yourself.  We would all want to do this.  And do you know why?  Because that’s our nature.  We think that we want life to be a breeze; we think that we’d just as soon be without the worries, the pain, the suffering, the sorrow, the struggle.  From our vintage point, we’d trade our lives for the imaginary scenario I described above in a heartbeat. But how quickly we would tire of it.  We’d soon find out that a life like that is not much fun.  You probably know by now that the things we value the most are those that required some involvement or contribution from us, no matter how small; and the higher our contribution, the greater its value to us.

There is a lesson in all of this.  I’m not saying that life has to be difficult in order for it to be fun, exciting, exhilarating or rewarding.  What I’m saying is that life is not supposed to be pain or struggle free.  I’m saying that the pain, the struggle, the challenges and all the emotions associated with these things, the good and the bad, are what make the human life such a magnificent experience.

The true joy of living does not stem from never experiencing difficulties or struggles, but from overcoming them.  So don’t get all bummed out about how life may be right now.  It won’t stay that way forever.  In spite of what it seems like at times, there is perfect balance and order in the universe. The seemingly negative experiences we encounter are meant to help us become better versions of ourselves. Embrace the challenge and push forward with confidence.

Pain may be inevitable, but suffering is optional.

Decide today that you will suffer no more.  Decide today that you don’t need to wait to find Aladdin’s lamp to be happy.  Decide today that no matter what situations you encounter in life, you will make it your dominant intent to look for the good in them, for there is good to be found if we only look hard enough.  Decide today that you will take on every day with unshakable confidence, and the determination to feel good, to spread love, to experience joy in everything you do. Decide today that you will go after your goals and your dreams, and that you will enjoy and appreciate the ride as much as, if not more than, getting there.  Decide today to share your gifts with the world, which no one but you can share.  Decide today to leave your mark in this world.

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Remember This The Next Time You Feel Like You’ve Lost Your Way In Life

A few days ago I was driving to a store to which I had never been before located in a different city.  I wasn’t very familiar with the area where it was located so I plugged the address into my GPS, turned up the speaker volume and prepared to be navigated to my destination.

I was following directions as they were spoken to me and driving right along when I went into one of those autopilot moments and didn’t realize that my turn was coming up in less than 100 feet.

Unfortunately I was driving in the middle lane and there were cars on the lane next to me so there was no way I was going to be able to make my turn.  I had no choice but to continue driving straight.  Needless to say, I was frustrated.

I started beating on myself for getting distracted.  I should have been paying attention to the directions, what was I thinking?  If only I had been paying attention this would not have happened.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

In the meantime, my GPS went about its job and in a few seconds I heard it say, “Re-routing;” a few seconds later it said in its usual calm and matter-of-fact tone, “In 500 feet make a legal u-turn”.

I finally made it to my destination with no further incident (I was focused on the directions this time), but on my way back I had time to think about what had transpired earlier.  It occurred to me that while I was sitting in my car frustrated and beating on myself for not paying attention to the directions, my GPS simply re-calculated the route and continued guiding me towards my destination.

I then started thinking of how often this happens to us in everyday life, and how often we get distracted and stop listening to our internal GPS.  We all have one, you know. And if we know how to use it, it can help us get to our destination using the shortest route possible.  It can re-route us if we missed our turn or had to take a detour for whatever reason, and it can set us back on course.

But like an electronic GPS, we must make use of it in order for it to work.  Here are a few suggestions I thought of on how we can make the best use of our internal GPS.  I will compare each suggestion to an electronic GPS for illustration purposes:

We must use it
I’m sure you would agree that it would make no sense whatsoever to have a GPS in the car but not turn it on and not plug in the address, but expect it to direct us to our destination.  That would be illogical, wouldn’t it?  We know that in order for the electronic GPS to guide us to where we want to go we must  turn it on and plug in the address of our destination.

So it is with our internal GPS.  We must decide what we want to accomplish in life, what goals we want to achieve, what dreams we want to fulfill, and set them as our destination by thinking about them often and visualizing the end result, so that they become plugged into our internal GPS.

We must be clear
What would happen if instead of plugging in an exact address into our electronic GPS we entered a “general location?”  The GPS would still do its job of guiding us towards the general location, but it would not know how to get us to the exact place where we want to go, because it has no clarity.

Similarly, when we are unclear about where we want to go with our lives, or what specific goals we want to accomplish, our internal GPS will fail to guide us towards them.  It is not enough to have “a general idea” of where we want to go.  We must be clear about our goals so that our internal GPS can do its job of guiding us directly to them and not just in their general direction.

We must listen to it
The electronic GPS will do its job of guiding us towards our destination following the shortest route.  But this will not do us any good if we decide to do whatever we want to do anyways.  If the GPS says to turn right but instead we turn left, we may never get to our destination.  Or we may get there eventually, but it will take us longer.  For as long as the address is plugged in and the GPS is on, it will continue to try to re-route us to get us back on course using the shortest route, but if we don’t pay any attention to it and do what it’s telling us to do, it won’t do us any good.

Our internal GPS works the same way.  It is always on, but the trouble is we are not always listening to it.  We become distracted by our daily chores, or we just decide to do the opposite of what our internal GPS is telling us.  This will only cause unnecessary delays or keep us from reaching our goals altogether.

We must not panic
Imagine that as we are driving to our destination we missed our turn like I did that day, and since we missed our turn we blame and curse the GPS, and turn it off (yeah, that’ll teach it!).  I’m sure we can all agree that this is not the right thing to do.  We must remember that our GPS will kick right in and re-route us to get us back on course, so there is no need to panic.

Similarly, if we end up getting off course from our goals for whatever reason we must not blame our internal GPS and we must certainly not stop listening to it!  We must remember that it has the ability to re-route us and get back on track towards our goals.  That is the time to shut off all distractions and tune in to our internal GPS, paying close attention to it so that we can hear the “re-routing” cue.

Later on I will be talking more about our internal GPS, what it is and how we can use it, but for now see if you agree with my conclusion the next time you use your electronic one, and let me know what you think!

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How Our Thoughts Affect Our Reality

When I began my self-improvement journey several years ago I came across a book that inspired me and gave me much needed clarity about how to change my life for the better.  In my opinion this book is a must-have for anyone looking to understand how our thoughts affect our world and shape our reality.  It is written in plain English without the jargon commonly associated with the study of the mind, so it’s easy enough for anyone to understand.

I still revisit this book now and then because from time to time I need a reminder of how important it is to be mindful of what we entertain in our minds.   The book is a very short read, and it can be found in audio form as well.  The audio version of the book is less than an hour long, so I can easily listen to the entire recording in a day just driving to and from work.

The book I’m referring to is “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale.  There is great information in the entire book but there is one segment in particular that always grabs my attention for its truthfulness and simplicity.  The segment begins by stating this:

Let me tell you something which if you really understand it, will alter your life immediately…Here’s the key to success and the key to failure: We become what we think about.

The author then proceeds to explain exactly how this works, and gives the analogy of a situation that parallels the human mind using a farmer and fertile soil.  In his example, Earl asks us imagine that a farmer has a piece of fertile land in which he plants a seed of corn and a seed of poison.  The land, being impartial to what is being planted, will invariably return to the farmer exactly the “fruits” of what he has planted, a plant of corn and a plant of poison. He compares this fertile land to the human mind and the seeds to our thoughts because the mind – like the land – does not care what you plant in it; it will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant.

While it’s true that the mind is far more complex and mysterious than the land, the principle is the same.  Whether we plant thoughts (seeds) of success (corn) or thoughts (seeds) of failure (poison) the mind (land) will return to us exactly what we plant in it in the form of our experiences in all areas our lives such as work, family, love, finances, etc.

For me this was a wake-up call.  If this was true (and I had no reason to believe that it wasn’t) it meant that I needed to become aware of my thoughts throughout the day.  I needed to make sure that whatever thoughts I was entertaining were seeds that would produce the type of experiences I wanted to have in my life.

This proved to be easier said than done.  It was easy at the beginning of the day because I would start off with a clean slate and a positive attitude, but as I gradually got busy and distracted with my daily activities, I found myself repeating old thought patterns that were sure to produce unwanted results if left unattended.

At first I would get bummed up about it, because I thought that no matter how hard I tried I somehow managed to end up back at square one.  This would only cause me to feel more like a failure and, you guessed it, negative tapes to start playing again.

But I later learned that it is impossible to watch what we are thinking 24 hours a day (or however many hours we spend awake), so getting temporarily distracted was perfectly normal.  In fact, a recent study revealed that, astonishingly, humans are on autopilot nearly half of their waking hours!

Our mind is designed to jump on autopilot whenever possible in order to automate mundane tasks.  You do something long enough and it eventually becomes a habit, making it a task that you no longer have to think about.  If you’ve ever driven from one place to another and had no recollection of how you got there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I can certainly relate to that.  There were times when I suddenly realized I had arrived, and thanked God I was alive and prayed that I hadn’t committed any violations while driving.  Yikes!

Whenever I think of this I realize what a wonderful design the mind is.  I’m speechless when I think of all the intricate wiring and programs that are running to ensure that we follow all the traffic laws and make critical decisions almost unconsciously!  Of course this works to our advantage when our mind is engaged in something positive or uplifting, but it can just as well work against us when it’s engaged in something negative or undesirable.

But the good news is that we can change our thought habits just like we change any other habit: with repetition and persistence.  How do we know this?  Because that’s how our negative or pessimistic thinking became so natural to begin with.  It all started with thoughts that we entertained, then entertained some more, then recalled and entertained again, until now those thoughts just seem to naturally come to us on their own, and when we least expect it we find ourselves on a train to Looserville.

Like everything else, making a change in thought patterns takes practice and persistence, but it all begins with awareness.  If you’ve determined that you want to change the thought seeds that you’re planting in your mind, make it a point to become more aware of your thoughts throughout the day; whenever you catch yourself thinking less than favorable thoughts, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Instead, be glad that you caught yourself and reach for a better thought.

But if you are feeling a strong negative emotion associated with the thoughts you’re thinking, remember our river analogy from a previous post and make the jump gradually so that you don’t end up in the river.  With practice and persistence you’ll soon turn your new thought patters into a habit, and the less than desirable thoughts will fade away.

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Embracing A Better Version Of Me

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I grew up in a household where hard feelings were harbored against anyone whom you perceived had done something wrong to you, whether it was done intentionally or otherwise; a household where people didn’t talk about their feelings, but instead acted them out.

Instead of verbally articulating that someone’s words and actions were hurtful in some way, my family members would either bottle up their feelings never speaking of them and allowing them to turn into resentment and bitterness, or they would express their hurt by lashing out verbally and sometimes even physically, against the perceived aggressor.

But of course, it wasn’t only the perceived aggressor that felt the effects of the lashing out.  The bitter effects would be felt by everyone around, and slowly but surely, everyone around would be caught up in that cycle of anger, bitterness, resentment, and victimhood.

This atmosphere is bad enough for an adult to experience, but for a growing child it can be devastating.  In time the effects of such an environment become so deeply rooted in the subconscious that sooner or later the growing child begins to act in just the same manner he observed others behave.

By the time the child becomes an adult, these negative and destructive patterns have become second nature, and without knowing why, he or she becomes a living copy of the adults from his childhood, hurting and alienating the people he or she loves the most.

That was me not that long ago.  As far back as I can remember, I observed this destructive behavior in most if not all of my family members.  I became afraid that people would hurt me, and put up all kids of walls to prevent them from doing so.  As I grew older it became difficult for me to make and keep friendships, because I scrutinized every word and every action, to determine whether they were trying to hurt me somehow.  Most of the time, I decided that they were.  The stories I told myself included lies such as:

“I’m not good enough for them.”

“They are just pretending to be my friend because they want something from me.”

“They’ll probably stab me in the back the first chance they get.”

“They are judging me for my appearance.”

“I’m not cool enough, smart enough, […] enough to be their friend.”

…and many others.  Doubting or questioning someone’s loyalty, friendship, honesty, etc. was my predominant attitude.  I also felt that in order to keep the few friends that I managed to make, I needed to make them feel sorry for me; I did not feel like I was good enough for them just as I was so I caused them to pity me so that they would not leave me, by faking illness, sadness, and pain.  Of course that did not work for long because people eventually saw right through me or got tired of my pity parties.   No wonder I was alone most of the time.

That’s what I thought the rest of my life was going to be like. It took many years for me to realize that I was creating the very circumstances that I wanted to avoid.  I didn’t want my friends to leave me, but my behavior would push them away.

These thought and behavior patterns were not limited to friendships, however.  When I got married I had the exact same attitude towards my wife. I took everything way too seriously, and often took offense when she was merely joking or being playful with me. I bottled up my feelings and harbored resentment. Were it not for the fact that my wife was extremely patient with me and held on for so long, I wouldn’t have a marriage right now.

I think I always knew that I wanted to change; I knew that these thought and behavior patterns were destructive and hurtful to me and to those I loved.  I wanted to change, but didn’t know how to go about it.

Deep inside I knew it was possible, and I believed that I could do it if only I was shown the way.  Well, nobody came along to take me by the hand or show me the way; I had to look for it myself.

I started reading a lot of personal development material.  I watched personal development videos; I listened to self-improvement lectures and recorded seminars.  Over the years I learned many techniques that helped me to heal old wounds, forgive the people who hurt me intentionally or unintentionally, develop my self-esteem, learn to love and accept myself, and overall, let go of the past; in other words, I learned to quite literally recreate myself.

I had to muster up the courage to take a hard and honest look at myself and accept that change was needed; then I had to forgive myself. This was probably the hardest part of my journey.  Being a perfectionist at heart, it was extremely difficult for me to accept that I was imperfect. That I had character flaws that needed to be addressed and changed. That people around me, people I loved, got hurt as a result of my words and actions.

The process was painful and anything but easy, but the rewards have proven to be more than worth it. As a result of what I’ve learned and applied in my journey, I am a lighter, happier, more relaxed person. I am able to smile and laugh more and frown less, and I am no longer overcome with stress or worry.  I’ve also learned that I am more of an introvert, but this does not prevent me from making and nurturing friendships.

The person who has truly experienced my transformation first hand is my wife.  She now considers me the ideal husband, and after everything I put her through, after all the pain and anguish I caused her over the years, to have her say “I would do it all over again to get to this moment” fills my heart with immeasurable joy and gratitude.

Have I arrived? Am I now at the point where I can say that there’s nothing else to change? Far from it. But I am no longer afraid to take a look at myself, because I no longer fear finding imperfections.  I am more tuned in to my thoughts and feelings. I’ve learned to spot destructive or negative thought patterns, and I know what I need to do to change them.

I know that I am imperfect, but I also know that I am human, and making mistakes is a part of the human perfection. It is how we grow and evolve into better versions of ourselves, and how we begin to realize our full potential.

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