One Day – Two Day – Three Day – Four Day….Equals A Lifetime

A few weeks ago I picked up a book and skimmed a few pages. When I picked the book up I knew it really held no interest for me, I don’t really recall the name or who wrote it. The title was something like “What’s it like to be married to me?” I am very certain I do not wish to know the answer to this question – so, why read the book!

However, in my short perusal, I encountered an idea that so perfectly dove-tailed with something I have been thinking and meditating on for most of this year – allow me to share.

The story in the book invites you to imagine that 30 years in the future you are attending a funeral. When you arrive you know all the people in attendance and as you approach the casket you realize it’s you that has died. Your spouse is prepared to give a eulogy about you. What would they say? The idea is that your spouse – the person who knows you best – will have far different insights into who you really are than anyone else in the room. If they honestly stood in to look back at your ‘body of work’ a true look at your at your lifetime; what would they say?

The author then talks about how we are all DAILY beings. It is the things we do everyday that make up the whole of who we are.

DAILY BEINGS! 

In the grand scheme of things I would want to be painted with broad brush strokes. I sometimes think the broad strokes cover the small daily missteps or miscues. However, this book drives home the point that our life is just the opposite. The things we do daily make up the broad stroke picture of our lives! Everyday is just one more pixel in the picture of your life.

Just as Pixels create a picture - Days create a lifetime

Just as Pixels create a picture – Days create a lifetime

I have written several places where I am sure to see it daily the following quote:

The Difference Between Who You Are And Who You Want To Be IS What You Do TODAY. 

Do you complain everyday?

Do you laugh everyday?

Is nothing ever good enough?

Do you hug your spouse or kids everyday?

Do you worry everyday?

Do you learn or try something new everyday?

Do you yell at your kids or spouse everyday?

Do you take time to meditate everyday?

Are your days too busy to take time to appreciate little things?

Do you exercise everyday?

Are your food choices healthy everyday?

At the beginning of 2013 we began a practice in our house of putting a smiley face on the kitchen calendar every day we successfully ate every meal at home. Our budget said we ate out WAY too much. However, it didn’t feel like we ate out a lot. We quickly learned that although it didn’t seem like much – it was easy to make excuses, develop reasons, or conveniently forget previous dining – we were indeed eating out far more than we should! I have said this before –

If you can’t measure it you can’t change it

Maybe you are like me, just because you know how to do something; just because you can identify the problem, you believe that in some magic way the problem is already solved.

For example, I know I should avoid sweet treats (even though I love them). I also know that I can occasionally indulge in a sweet cheat without dire consequences. However, when I conveniently forget prior indulgences, when I make excuses, when I allow an occasional cheat to be come a daily habit, the consequences (weight gain, higher blood sugar levels, etc) become clear.

Because we are experts at rationalizing to ourselves the one little indulgence – the one little indulgence that becomes a daily habit – it is helpful to track and measure.

It may seem silly. 

But you can track and measure anything. Track the days when you avoid complaining. Track when you laugh. Track when you hug your spouse or kids. Track when you meditate. Track when you avoid worry. Track and document your appreciation of little things.

For me, the smiley face on the calendar is reason enough for me to pass by convenient lunch or dinner and come home and cook. The orange squares (signifying completed) on my marathon training calendar are motivation to do it again tomorrow. The joy of seeing the physical manifestations of success helps me to stay on the path of being who I really want to be and meet my goals to get there.

Decide who you wish to be today – repeat it everyday (even if it means giving yourself a smiley face for the day) – and you will be exactly who you wish to be.

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Overcoming Your Negative Addiction

Yesterday we talked about why it sometimes feels so good to be negative. We learned about how negative emotions can feed the pleasure center as much as truly pleasurable things. As it turns out, pain and negative emotions (e.g. self-pity, anger, guilt) also activate the beta-endorphin and dopamine pathways. So negative is addicting, now what?

Today let’s talk about how to change our negative thinking.

Your addiction to the negative is serving a need. What is that need? The first step is to discover the perceived deficit in you that creates your need to diminish someone else. Perhaps you look at others and are negative about their appearance because you are unhappy with your own image. Perhaps you are targeting yourself with your negative thoughts. Again, you must dig in and find the root and understand why you feel the need. Find the courage to determine what you need that you’re not getting.  It may help for you to list three things that you feel you’re running from in your life. What are you using your addictions to avoid? Get to the heart of the matter. You can not truly change without getting at the heart of the matter.

If you’ve tried to overcome an addiction before and weren’t able to, the biggest barrier to your success is the belief that you cannot succeed. Suddenly this seems like a vicious cycle. Our biggest obstacle to overcoming our addiction to negative thought; the thought that we can not succeed!

Let’s imagine you wanted to teach a kid how to ride a bike. You’ve taught lots of kids and you’re sure this kid can make it; however, he doesn’t believe he can. He tried to learn before but was not taught correctly. Now he’s sick and tired of failing. You know that the only thing holding him back is his belief that he can’t do it.

Imagine that the kid in the above example is you; and the bike is your negative thoughts and attitude. How do you convenience yourself that you can succeed? As strange as it may sound, behave your way to success. Instead of being afraid to be who you are. Instead of trying to diminish others build yourself up. Learn how to own your positive feelings. Celebrate your positive feeling.

If you want to get rid of negative behavior, you have to replace it with something positive – something that will make you stronger instead of weaker. Work on identifying positive behaviors that would make good replacements for your addictions.

Spend some time today alone with you.

 

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Are Your Thoughts Ruining Your Life?

Do you ever feel like you fall into a convolution spiral of negativity?  It is like a tornado that blows through your existence. The negativity may not destroy everything, but at the very least it rearranges and creates havoc from what was the order of your life.

It only takes the one little gust of negative to start whirling around in your brain and soon it picks up other negative thoughts, about you, your job, other people, etc etc etc. Then the dark clouds of depression and inactivity arrive. Soon the world seems bleak and unmanageable. The negative attracts more negative until you are a ball of negative energy spreading your unhappiness to the rest of the world. In this negative state it seems impossible to change.

The good news is that you are in control. You can change! As simple as it sounds, you can decide to create a little gust of optimism whirling in your brain. In my experience, the positivism doesn’t pick up steam as quick as it’s negative counterpart but, if you keep feeding with positive thought, soon it too will be it’s own firestorm of positive thoughts.

Try it. Just for today, every time your brain serves up a negative, find a positive to throw back. At the end of the day, you’ll feel better, guaranteed!

 

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Reach Your Goals Like a Man (or Woman)

We recently watched a PBS documentary about Benjamin Franklin.  It was very interesting and I highly recommend it.   One thing that struck me about Franklin was his devotion to the greater good.   He was not just interested in what was best for himself, but wanted to always do what was best for his community and his country.  He was very involved in starting local libraries, hospitals and volunteer fire departments.

ben franklinBenjamin Franklin was also committed to living a life of virtue.  The word virtue is often used when speaking of a woman and her chastity, but the true meaning of the word, which is derived from Latin is manliness.  In order to live a life of virtue, Franklin came up with 13 characteristics that he tried to live by.  When he started on his quest at the age of 20, he wrote down each virtue, creating a calendar.  At the end of each day, he would place a mark next to any virtue he felt that he didn’t live up to that day.  As time progressed and he focused on living up to the standards he created, the dots on the calendar became few and far between.  In addition, each week he would choose one of the virtues to really focus and meditate on.  He would rotate through each virtue, giving extra time and consideration to them one by one, over and over, thus cementing them in his mind and creating positive habits.

Aside from learning to live a virtuous life, we can learn a lot from Ben and his commitment to his goal.

Break bigger goals into smaller steps

Ben didn’t try to follow each virtue perfectly every day.  He chose one to focus on for a week, then he focused on the next on the next week until he had worked through them all and returned back to the first one.  You don’t have to be perfect right out of the gate.  Create small steps inside your larger goal and you are less likely to be overwhelmed.

Come up with a system to track your progress

Franklin created a calendar that worked for him and allowed him to see what areas he was excelling in and also those that might need more work.  He was also able to see his progress as the dots marking areas he did poorly in became less and less.  It’s important to track your progress for many reasons.  You can get encouragement by seeing how far you’ve come and you can also easily recognize areas where you need more work.

End each day by reflecting on what you have accomplished

Every evening, when he sat down and looked back over his accomplishments for that day, Ben took the time to really consider how his actions that day moved him closer toward his goal.  This reflection is an important part of the process of reaching your goals.  It helps to keep you on the right path and continuously moving forward.

No matter what your goal is, if you can follow these steps, you will be well on your way to accomplishing anything you set out to do.

If you are interested, here is the list of Benjamin Franklin’s 13 life virtues:

  1. “TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
  2. “SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
  3. “ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
  4. “RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
  5. “FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
  6. “INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
  7. “SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
  8. “JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
  9. “MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
  10. “CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
  11. “TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
  12. “CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
  13. “HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
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Productive Imagination

As a child, my father often complained that I was a daydreamer. In his estimation, I walked around with my head in the clouds. I do not dispute his assessment. I was able to create a better life in my head than the life I was living. Unfortunately, it was not productive imagination.

Once we have reached adulthood, we put aside the imagination skills we learned as children. We join the work force of life and we stop imagining.  Daydreaming is considered a complete waste of time and effort and daydreaming is associated with being non-productivity.

Today I am in no way suggesting that you begin wiling away your hours in useless daydreaming. I am suggesting that you begin a regiment of productive imagination. Your subconscious mind does not know the difference between reality and something vividly imagined. You may be familiar with the saying ‘seeing is believing’ in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz suggests that to your subconscious mind ’believing is seeing’. Just as golfer may imagine sinking the perfect putt before he does it; you must imagine your perfect life to create it.

Here are my recommendations for how to engage in productive imagination. First, set aside the same time every day for productive imagination. Second, do not allow interruptions in your period of productive imagination. Third, accept and believe all positive images as valid and helpful.

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So, you are stuck. Now what?

As promised, here are Coach T’s six steps for getting unstuck:

1.  Recognize you are stuck – A few days ago a friend pointed out to me that the first step of fixing a problem is recognizing that you have a problem. I playfully responded, yes, but…, to which she promptly said it works for millions of AA members.  I have to agree!

2.  Become curious – Explore the world around you. Try something new, read books on new and different topics, take a class, join a meet up group, develop a new hobby, take a hike, go on a bike ride, explore a different part of time, visit the countryside…the list goes on and on. Bottom line, do something different.

3. Start a get to know you Journal – Begin writing a journal about you. Likes, and dislikes; Thoughts and feeling; really explore who you are and get to know yourself.

4.  Enlist the help of a friend – A gentle nudge to keep moving is invaluable. A friend can help push you outta your rut.

5.  Create action steps (with deadlines) – It is important to create a plan of action. The steps do not have to be enormous; they just have to get you moving.

6.  Help someone else – Certainly, you can help him or her become unstuck. However, just the act of helping someone else with his or her struggles will help you to move forward.

You can become unstuck, if you are willing to put forth the effort to get moving again.

Just Do IT!

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