What’s Your Purpose

While tucking my daughter in to bed the other night she asked me a question. “What if you found a genie lamp, and when the genie came out he only gave you one wish instead of three? With only one wish, what would you wish for?”

In the blink of an eye a thousand possibilities streamed through my mind and only one was clear and easy to choose. “I would wish that I am living my purpose on this earth.”

“That’s it?” says my little girl. “What else do I need?” I respond.

“Hm, that does make a lot of sense” she responds while I can see her pondering the scenario.

Thankfully I’ve done a lot of internal work over the last several years so I don’t have to wish to be on my path, I know inherently I already am. This quick yet powerful interaction between my daughter and I was yet another reminder of the simplistic nature of the world we live in.

The truest answers are almost always the simplest.

I could have wished for more money, a bigger house, to be forever healthy, to travel the world… and while all of these are valid responses and all serve good purposes, they all leave other areas in life lacking.

None covers all the bases.

Yet if we find and actively pursue the purpose for why we are here, all of those other areas in life fill themselves in effortlessly.

Our purpose may or may not have anything to do with what we THINK we want to do. The discovery process for many, myself included can take years of persistent trial and error. For those willing to put in the time and learn to embrace the process, the reward is far better than can be imagined at the start.

It is a journey free of a specific destination and full of surprises, risks, accomplishments to be enjoyed along the way.

If you haven’t found your path yet, or are trying to force a path you think is right, take a step back and evaluate what feels forced and what flows naturally. Lean into the natural flow and release those things which create friction.

Learning is all about perspective, and each “failure” or “hardship” is only a course correction and a grateful heart will notice this and quickly adapt a change on the path.

Carry your flag.

Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone where you are truly confused as to how they can hold the position they do? No amount of trying to convince them to change their mind has even budged them, AND their side of the argument is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?

Most of us can easily conjure up a few quick examples of this, be it from our relationships, talk of politics and/or religion with friends and family, perhaps in discussions with co-workers about how to move the company forward. If you can’t think of anything, flip on some sports talk radio after the local football team looses, or find a local political talk show and you’ll quickly be brought up to speed.

Perhaps it’s something closer to home, maybe your a parent trying to get your kids to stay on track in the midst of the chaos of a teenagers world. Perhaps its’ trying to get your significant other to see the benefits of changing some habits to create a healthier lifestyle. Perhaps we’re trying to help a friend see the relationship they’re in is toxic, yet their blind to the concept. It can be hugely frustrating to watch someone we love and care about do (or not do) things which are ultimately hurting themselves. Often times this makes us try even harder to get our message across, even to try and force our perception onto them so they can finally see the light!

Perhaps though it’s us who need to see the light in instances such as this. I’ve come to realize people need to come to their own conclusions, in their own time if they are truly to learn the lessons. Perhaps the best we can do as we care for those we see heading down an unhealthy path is to give them space to experience what they must. (To be clear I’m not talking about a physically abusive or life threatening scenario, these obviously need to be handled with a more direct urgency.)

I am talking about guiding our children to create their own path in this world. I am referring to relationships where we feel we can help a spouse or friend to begin exercising or eating healthier. I am speaking about someone who needs to realize on their own they are far better than the current relationship is treating them. I am speaking about creating a long term sustainable change for the wellbeing of those we care about.

If you’ve ever noticed, life is lived in patterns and tends to repeat itself until we learn the lesson in the pattern. Many people find themselves in and out of relationships, yet when evaluating the relationships they realize they’ve all been the same, simply the other person changed and the scenarios are all too similar. The same goes for jobs, financial health, mental and physical health. Perhaps you’ve been working towards financial freedom for years and feel like you’ve made progress, you have a better job, a nicer home, a new car. Things are good! Yet you still don’t have any money in the bank, you still can’t afford to up and quit your job… Things really haven’t changed, only the scenery.

These patterns are in all of our lives and in all kinds of ways. Try as we might many of us will never even realize these patterns exist. These souls are the ones who end up beat down in the long run, who’s luck “ran out” on them. Our education system sure isn’t going to teach us about these things, neither is any of the mainstream educational outlets. People who notice these patterns, and find them in their own lives are the ones who actively sought the cause of what was holding them back in a certain area or areas of life.

When we try and provide our perspectives to others we are giving them the benefit of our experience. This is a great tool when we share this in a way which allows for the listener to make their own choice to utilize our experience for themselves, or not. When we try and force our opinion or perspective onto someone, we are much more likely to drive them away from us and towards the very thing we are trying to save them from.

“if you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you it’s yours. If it doesn’t it was never yours in the first place.”

When we give somebody the space to make their own choice, (especially when we think it’s wrong) we give them the opportunity to learn a life lesson and shatter the pattern, thereby giving the ability to fully move past it. This is a tough concept to accept, and even harder to apply in the moment it matters most. It is also a powerful one which can benefit all when done right.

In my last blog post I talked about acceptance of self, and therefore the world around us. Letting go of what we think others “should do” is a continuation of that thought.

In the past I used to joke how I liked to “learn lessons the hard way” which was by going through the painful experience or process on my own, even when so many people around me told me exactly what was going to happen. More often than not they were right and ultimately I would give them the old “I should have listened to you” line. A few times though, things turned out so much better because I went through it and found a new way to accomplish what I wanted, when no one (even myself sometimes) saw the path.

These times which went my way where always meant to go that way, yet there is no way to know on the front end. These are all lessons I would have had to repeat over and over again in some way until I succeeded. For all the good intentions of others, had I listened I wouldn’t have walked my path, but theirs. In each case creating a repeatable pattern in my own life.

When we truly love somebody we desire only the highest and best for them. Yet we know not what that actually is. As a father, husband, brother, son, business owner and so much else this used to be a very painful approach for me. The more I practice it and understand it though, the more I know my fear of what might happen is nothing compared to the growth and long term development of everyone involved. All will be exactly as it should, and I accept that.

I choose to carry my own flag, as I support others to carry their own.

Self: Accepted

Most of us are familiar with terms and phrases such as: “you have to love yourself, before somebody else”; “take care of yourself first”; “Be true to yourself”; “Express yourself”; “Be yourself” and so countless variations of this. While all very important and true I almost never hear the continuation of this same thought pattern. We get to be true to ourselves, embracing our passions and desires as we figure out exactly who we are in the first place. The natural next step is the world we live in, the world we experience while we do our thing.

We’ve all also heard the phrase “the world is a mirror of who we are” (or a similar variation of it). When put together it creates a very interesting dynamic and one we can utilize truly in our favor.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had several scenarios play out in my life where I’m certain I want or need a certain thing, it could be a job, promotion, material item, relationship, anything… And often times I get this thing and it isn’t at all what I thought it would be. Just as often I don’t get the “thing”, and later “out of nowhere” comes something much better.

The human mind has a miraculous ability to lie to itself, to “protect” itself from perceived harm and conflict. While I have gotten much better and continue to practice noticing when I am working on something I really shouldn’t be, I too still get sidetracked on things or ideas which seem great at first but ultimately aren’t good fits for me.

Going back to self love and acceptance; If the world is a mirror and we are totally secure and loving with ourselves, then the world we experience would be full of love and acceptance of things just as they are. Just like 2+2=4, complete interior love = complete exterior love. I’m not sure about you, but these last few years have seemed anything but loving if you’ve turned your TV on for more than a few minutes.

My mirror is telling me something.

The “issues” I see and frustration, anger, confusion and sometimes hopelessness I feel at our state of society are all reflections of inner conflict I am having at some level. What frustration I experience today is monumentally less than only a few years ago and I imagine I’ll be able to say the same thing in a few years time again. I have learned, and am still very much learning and practicing acceptance of myself and the world around me, as it is, not as I would have it.

“We must bear up against them and make the best of mankind as they are, since cannot have them as we wish” A quote from George Washington from November of 1776 after being repeatedly discouraged by his armies performance against the British in the early stages of the revolutionary war. This mentality of acceptance of what is, is purported to have bolstered his immense resolve to keep fighting and eventually win the birth of a new nation.

As I have resolved years ago to realize my highest and best self, the world I experience has also shifted. These last two years, while challenging and full of unknowns and unprecedented events have also been two of the most rewarding and fulfilling of my life. In my last blog post I gave my own personal definition of leadership and success. If we want to be leaders in this world, we must lead our own internal charge for greatness before we can guide others to achieve external greatness.

Can you guide somebody to do great things while you are a hot-mess inside? Of course you can. And you can suffer the consequences of fighting such an inner conflict. These consequences often manifest as weight issues, health issues, depression, addiction, anger and so on. I know because I’ve been down this road, luckily I was able to change direction before I was too far down it.

When I mentioned earlier the dynamic we can use in our favor, here is what I mean. When we experience things in this world we don’t like, it directly means there is some part of us internally creating this experience. If we want to effect a positive change in the world, we must be clear in our intention of looking inward for the solution, never outwardly.

Bitching out politics or how the coach lost the game for your favorite sports team just took a twist didn’t it?

We have the opportunity to check ourselves each and every day, to see the progress we have made and if we are on the right track. All we have to do is pay attention to the world around us. If you find yourself extremely frustrated and mad at the state of the world, you get to do more work than some, but there is some “low hanging fruit” you can likely start with easily. Turning off the news for one, (all of it) is a great place to start for most.

Noticing when you are getting upset or frustrated at something is another big step. Simply noticing it and taking a breath will calm things down quickly. “I notice I’m getting pissed off right now…” breaks the thought pattern and allows you to recenter. Acceptance of “what is” is another step and not likely one of the first ones. We don’t have to understand the world in order to accept it. Acknowledging this is another step on the path.

There was a monk from Tibet being interviewed by an author about the power of prayer and spirituality. The interviewer delicately asked the monk a question about a concept which was the interviewer was struggling with. (I’m paraphrasing the quotations) “If the power of prayer is so great, and Tibet has a high number of dedicated monks, why is Tibet in such turmoil as a country? Why isn’t prayer working?” asked the reporter.

“We don’t pray for a peaceful Tibet, we pray for peace in the world. Because of the turmoil in Tibet some of our monasteries have had to relocate monks to other parts of the world. Because these monks are now in other parts of the world, their teachings are spreading in ways they never would have had they remained confined. Perhaps they will return once peace has spread and our prayers have been effected” replied the monk.

Each of us has such a limited view of the world at large, there is so much we are unaware of and no way we could understand all which is happening at all times. Accepting what is, as is, is a practice which will reflect back upon us and fulfill us anew. We can utilize a bi-directional love as we accept ourselves and express who we are. And receive our mirror back in kind as we accept the world as it is too.

As a dearly departed brother of mine used to say. Keep it 100(%).

What does it matter?

During the normal course of a day many of us experience interactions with all sorts of people, in all sorts of contexts. Family, friends, co-workers, customers, vendors, and simple random interactions are a normal part of many days. Think back of today, or perhaps yesterday and think of all the interactions you had during this time.

Perhaps you and your co-workers talked about COVID and how the impact has somebody missing work, perhaps several people. This shortage led to a customer not being serviced as expected and now the upset customer is taking it out on you or your co-worker. Did Jane have a crappy attitude and set you off on the wrong foot for no reason? Maybe John dropped the ball and you are found yourself venting at his lack of determination or focus. Maybe you are the one listening to the venting, a compassionate ear for a frustrated soul.

I was once talking to one of my direct reports, he managed a large group of employees and he was having a few issues as employees were arguing about this and that. As he was talking it suddenly occurred to me that about 80% of what we encounter on a daily basis is nearly meaningless. Worse, it’s actually counter-productive as it convolutes our day and adds drama and complication which quite frankly has no need to be in our day. I revert back to one thing I know and am reminded of here again.

Life is simple.

The world we are taught to live in is anything but simple. When we really clear away the clutter though, what really matters at the end of the day? If not the conversations and context we’ve had through the day, what is left?

Let’s go to the old dramatic axiom: what if on your way home from work you died unexpectedly, and suddenly found yourself facing your maker. Your maker says “Welcome! I hope you enjoyed your last day on earth. Now that you’re done with life on earth, what have you brought with you here?”

Now think back to the daily conversations which happen around you on a normal, everyday basis. How many of these instances make the cut for quality and actually benefit you as you move on to a new plane of experience? Most of us will not have many to bring to this table. It’s ok. relax and know it’s never too late to be a little better today than yesterday.

This doesn’t mean our lives are meaningless, far from it. Our lives are actually much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. Much more powerful than many of us realize. Think back on your day, or a few days. When was the last time you made somebody smile? When was the last time you made a selfless gesture to a stranger, something as simple as holding the door open to allow the person behind you to walk through? Perhaps it was a simple smile and gesture of “hello” to a stranger you passed on the street.

These simple gestures can, and often do have profound impacts on those we encounter. And we’ll never know exactly how, and this is ok. We are quite literally all in “this” together. “This” being this life as we know it. We all have things going on in our lives nobody outside our inner circle knows about, often even the circle doesn’t know all of it. Have you ever had a day where you feel empty, useless, like you don’t matter and nothing you do is good enough? Then some random stranger gives you a smile, simply acknowledges that you’re alive and a person. This simple gesture can pull you out of the gutter and help change your thoughts and bring you back to center.

This is a dramatized example and I imagine though you can insert your own memory of a time when you were unexpectedly cheered up by a random act of kindness.

Now let’s think back to meeting your maker and the question posed. “What have you brought with you here?” Think about the positive impact you have had knowingly or otherwise on people. Suddenly, you’re not empty handed, are you?

None of us are perfect and there is no reason to be. Laugh, love, cry, get angry, feel sad… and compassionate and empathetic… and all the myriad of emotions we as humans have. We don’t have walk around with a fake perma-smile plastered on our faces. We also don’t have to take out our frustrations or anger at others. Processing emotions (not burying them) is very important and something we can do and still have a positive effect, even when we’re not in the best of moods.

One thing which I believe to be true and it’s my starting point with all of my interactions. People wake up in the morning wanting to do good things for themselves and their families. Is this true 100% of the time? Of course not. It is true far more often than not though.

Knowing the people around you share the same goal as you do: trying to make life better for yourself and your family. This common goal helps to see others in a slightly different light and we can all help each other get closer to this ideal. By helping each other do the same.

Play around with smiling at strangers, saying hi randomly and holding a door open here and there. Sure, you will get some strange looks and questioning faces and that’s awesome, you’ve just gave somebody hope for humanity!

In your business, think about how your products/services better people’s lives or improves their circumstances. This is your focal point and drives your energy to get your product/service out to more and more people, because you know it’s going to help them, add true value to their experience of life. As business owners and leaders, we can have a tremendous impact on our employees and families, as well as our customers and vendors.

This is what is meant when you hear the phrase: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. At the end of the day, it all matters.

blindspot

One thing I’ve noticed. We are the blind spot in our own mirror.

Al pretenses aside, I have tried to bury my own creative spirit for a long time now. For as long as I can remember I have been a numbers guy, analytical in my thinking and very much business oriented. I like this aspect of who I get to be. I have also forgotten that I am by nature a creative at heart, and this creativity reveals itself every step of the way.

While I have stifled this creativity in the name of “I need to go to bed”, or “I don’t have time for this/that”, I have also come to realize I am as much the problem as the solution. I have coached people through all kinds of things, and yet I find my myself at the need of my own advise.

Simplify.

I have been my own worst enemy for as long as I know. Not on purpose, not intentionally or rationally. At some level I have been telling myself I “have to go to bed at X time”, “I need a day off to “relax”” and other such things. I have done this as long as I can remember, yet at the same time I have created in my life many things which I love to do. Yet I still have retained the “I need to break away” mantra and the result is that I simply don’t break away. It doesn’t matter if it’s Wednesday or Saturday, Christmas or the middle of June.

I love my life, my wife, my daughters and the business I get to drive towards the coming years. I have a great life and am happy, yet I find myself wanting to “rest” from it. This “rest” is based upon an idea which isn’t even mine, but a societal structure which I’ve long resisted. I’ve never subscribed to the mantra of working for somebody during my prime years, save your money only to retire at the twilight of life and hope I still have my health an ability to enjoy a few years before passing on. Yet some part of me has held to this concept when it comes to my the hours of my day. I’m embarrassed to admit this, mainly because it’s so damned obviously a hole in my perception.

If I was coaching somebody else with this same issue I know the questions I would ask to highlight the situation clearly for the person. Yet because this time it is me, and the uncomfortable truth is that it’s easier to overlook my own faults than face and correct them.

We all have blind spots and while we may ignore them for a time, they will persist until we address them. We don’t consciously ignore these things, it’s almost always beneath the surface and only reveals itself once we’re ready to deal with it. There’s no use in wasting time or energy wishing something was different, that I’d adjusted sooner. For some reason I may not ever understand I wasn’t ready earlier, yet I am now. This is all that matters.

While we are our own blind-spots, we are also the only ones who can choose to see this. When you feel that things aren’t going as planned or there is a dis-connect you experience, the answer and re-connection is always within you. It’s not easy to find our own faults and coaches can help immensely in this area. Not to tell us things we don’t know, but to highlight those things we don’t see which are in front of us, and make all the difference.

Hold that thought.

I was reminded of a very powerful (yet easy to forget) concept recently, which reminded me about the efficiency of the universe we live in. In all aspects of life I’ve found common “rules” or “laws” if you will, and over the years I’ve learned many of these concepts I’ve experienced are quite literally universal laws which govern the world we experience.

All are powerful. All are also very simple in nature. Our daily lives are often cluttered and overcomplicated. Think about how many advertisements you see and hear on a daily basis, whether or not you watch TV, listen to the radio or visit a local store. Advertisements to get us to take this medicine, (it’s crazy how a pharmaceutical company would even need to advertise… this is for another day!) prompts of services for cell phones, internet, how many car ads can we get into the mix, or even the lawyers and realtors faces posted at the bus stop. Every day we are being suggestively told we NEED something we don’t have. Western culture has created a “keep up with the Joneses'” mindset throughout the majority of our culture. Pull up any social media platform these days and it’s all about who’s got the most followers, people now being the commodity over a product for the first time.

This type of overt direct messaging, along with the subliminal messaging underlying the advertising industry of “you need X to be happy” can take a deeper root within us if we pay too close attention. Even if the immediate products and services aren’t interesting to us, we are still hearing “we need X” subconsciously. Being inundated with a certain message or messages creates a thought pattern which can manifest itself directly, or very often indirectly.

Going back to the beginning, here is the reminder I came across which resonated with me once again, as it always does with me.

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch your words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habit.

Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

For most of us, the above isn’t actually new information, yet it’s very easy to forget how quickly a thought can grow to become so much more. Seeing an advertisement isn’t a big deal. However when you are exposed to the same message repeatedly it can very easily establish a foothold in our subconscious mind, from which it can grow rapidly if left un-checked

Luckily, the solution is just as simple as the construct above. For only $99 down I’ll give you everything you need to figure it out! If you pay me, then you’ll be able to find happiness!

Just kidding.

Except about the simple solution part, that part is very true. One way I like to “check” myself is to ask myself why I do or think something. Understanding our why in life is another topic altogether, and the larger concept of this smaller, bite size version. We can break down segments and ask very specific why questions, and the cumulative responses gives us a better idea of what is going on in our subconscious.

Why do I get up and go to work everyday? To pay the bills or because I actually love what I do?

Why do I celebrate an occasion with food and/or beverage which is not beneficial for my bodies long term health?

Why did I get so upset when that dude cut me off on the highway? Did I really need to give him the finger?

Why is my wife always right?

What is it that I love so much about breathing fresh air in the morning, or seeing the sun rise?

These are just a few examples of questions, some deeper and much harder to answer. Noticing our behavior during certain instances and questioning the root of our emotions, thoughts and feelings is a great way to begin to understand what is happening below the surface. There are no right or wrong answers, and enjoying this life and some of the “vices” may be a part of the journey you enjoy. If you like having a drink (or ice-cream, or pick your poison) after work, you don’t have to beat yourself up for it. Asking the question doesn’t mean there will be a negative response.

One thing is clear to me through my experience. Thoughts are indeed things. More aptly put, feelings become reality. Our subconscious mind doesn’t deal in words or phrases, it deals in energy, in feeling. As you notice your actions and question the root, pay close attention to how you feel about the instance more than what words come to describe it. Do you feel good about what just happened, or not so much? The feeling is the true barometer of what we are experiencing.

On the previous blog I spoke about consistency, practice over perfection. Our thoughts during any given day are very much in this category of practice and consistency. If we are more often thinking and feeling things of a higher vibration (joy, love, inner peace), our external life will reflect this. If we are always in the lower energy thoughts (anger, jealously, self pity…) our life will just as accurately reflect this too.

The good news is we get to choose, and we become what we practice.

Life is simple. (That’s not to say it’s easy)

No matter how difficult or complex it may become, it can always be simplified down to reveal what’s underlaying what we’re experiencing.

Practice, not perfection

Many years ago I was talking to a neighbor of mine and I was lamenting how tight my clothes had become. We had moved to Texas and after several months of eating at the myriad excellent restaurants around town, my waistline was showing the effects.

My neighbor suggested I simply get some “fat pants”, it’s what she does when things get too tight. I wasn’t familiar with the “fat pants” or where to get a pair, or how they worked. “What are fat pants?” I asked. “Bigger pants” was the deadpan response. I realized I was at a choice point in my life, choose to accept the enlarging waist and get some fat pant to accommodate my sloth. Or, I could choose to eat better and get my health back on track, saving me the painful concept of the bigger pants.

I chose to lose weight and work myself into my normal clothes again thankfully. This process I have since learned is applicable to many areas of life. The process of working towards a goal, an objective, an idea, a dream.

I have learned during my weight loss journey, I have learned again during my professional career, my marriage, fatherhood, entrepreneurship. I have experienced the same context in different formats. Like watching a movie where the family is in danger and the husband/father comes in and saves the day against all odds. This movie has been made a thousand times. The actors change, and script and scenery change, but it’s really just the same movie over again. These movies span all genres just like the important aspects of achieving a goal.

Progress on the road is infinitely more important than being perfect along the journey. I recall going on the Atkins diet (basically keto, before keto was cool!) and I dove in on a Monday morning. From beer and restaurants to zero carbs from one day to the next. Wasn’t really a great plan I admit, and the first two weeks were a nightmare, the third only slightly better. I did however steal peanut butter once a day during these first few weeks, and a beer at night a few times. These “indiscretions” are what gave me the willpower to keep going and not give up on the entire diet.

As I got better at eating a very minimal amount of carbs it became easier and I was able to adapt and adjust voluntarily when I felt ready to. I eventually gave up peanut butter and beer as I had progressed to a point. I had lost a lot of weight, and now was willing to sacrifice further to attain my goal.

There are times in life when we can be laser focused on a goal, AND we can deviate a bit to allow ourselves room to continue instead of crash. Countless people I’ve encountered give a 110%, (rise and grind bro!) only to burn out before getting what they were after. In my experience, getting three quarters of the way isn’t the same as crossing the finish line. Perhaps this is what the old “tortoise and the hare” fable is all about.

If you are going on a diet, starting a new business, beginning a fitness regime or changing fitness styles, (or one of so many other journeys) give yourself some leeway to have fun along the way. Sacrifices will need to be made, it will be difficult, and this is ok, this is part of the accomplishment. There’s no reason though to make it so difficult you can’t complete it. If you take a day off, eat that donut(s) at the office, miss a day of training don’t beat yourself up. It’s all good, simply continue where you left off and enjoy the progress you’ve made thus far.

Practice and persistence (consistency) will always win. Enjoy the journey and your much more likely to reach your destination.

Are we there yet?

If you’re anything like me you are always striving for more. Striving to improve in all areas of life, personally, professionally, physically, working to get a little better today than we were yesterday. I have always been like this and for years I had always leaned into hitting the next stage, next level of growth.

Many of us who share this mentality also share a common trait of thinking there is a “there”, a destination at the end we will eventually reach. That once this next goal or level is achieved we’ll be “there”! Ironically, what many of us experience as we succeed in achieving our goals and moving to the next level is not a overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment. It’s a sense simply of “what’s next”.

I love this mindset and I wouldn’t trade my continual growth for anything. This mindset though can be lead us to be very harsh critic of ourselves and our perceived accomplishments. Like most things in life we have to embrace the gifts of who we are and strengthen those areas we perceive to be not as good.

This inner critic many of us experience is not a bad thing when held in check. It can also be hugely damaging if we let it take over our sense of self worth. This inner critic can keep us sharp, on our toes and focused on the task(s) at hand; or it can ultimately demotivate and derail our progress altogether. So how do we embrace this voice within us instead of simply trying to ignore it or shout it down? Or worse, allow it to begin to infect our being as we start to believe some of the non-sense this critical voice throws at us?

The first step is simply to notice this voice and/or thoughts when they appear. When this critic starts it’s torrent simply take note that you hear this voice and it’s rant. That’s it, notice them, don’t buy into them. By simply taking note a profound shift occurs very quickly, which is a separation of yourself from this voice. You’ll notice it’s almost like over-hearing a conversation of other people, mainly one person talking AT another. You have a choice now as to how you wish to handle this. Would you allow another person to speak to you as this inner critic does? Not likely. By noticing this voice and creating a separation between it and yourself you can take ownership of your response if not the narrative of the voice.

Changing the narrative of the voice takes time and practice and can absolutely happen (for another article). Reducing the amount of air-time this voice gets is a natural progression as we remove the power this critic has over us. First though we have to get really good at understanding the voice is a crazy person. A self defense mechanism ingrained to protect us from perceived danger, even if this danger is simply and act or activity at the edge of our comfort zone.

Once you have practiced noticing the voice you will begin to notice other things. Perhaps you’ll notice the angry response many of us have when somebody cuts us off in traffic, or the frustration towards a co-worker. As we notice these things, many of us soon begin to notice our buttons are not as easily pushed because we are noticing the trigger and not responding blindly, but through a separation of rational thought and raw emotion.

The natural progression of this concept is simple. If you begin to respond to life in a more positive and understanding manner, can you see what the trend will be going forward? That’s right. As we improve our relationship within ourselves we improve all of our relationships outwardly, and this has all manner of positive outcomes. Our experience (life) is simply a collection of our choices and actions thus far. As we upgrade our thoughts and actions, our experience thus upgrades with us.

Going back to the beginning of the article, how does noticing our thoughts and separating ourselves from our inner critic have anything to do with reaching our goals and getting to that point we are all striving for?

That point we working towards doesn’t actually exist. It’s a mirage. Like seeing the end of the rainbow it can look so close, yet when you get close it’s not longer there, vanished. As we strive to improve ourselves in all aspects of life there is no point at which we’ll be done, will be at our destination and fully satisfied. When our inner critic hears this the tirade can become volatile and destructive if we let it. If we ignore it and keep trying to get to this imaginary “point” we ultimately will become miserable in the process. Most of us feeling as if we’ve failed, even in our success, especially in our success.

When we understand we will always be growing, it is indeed our nature as people who desire growth. We can quell the critic within and enjoy the process much more. After all, it’s the process and not the result which is the real prize and thing to be attained. The experiences along the way are what matter and the goals we set are simply markers along the way, like mileage posts on the highway.

Begin to notice these thoughts and pay attention to the shifts you will experience. Embrace the experience of all of it, the perceived good and bad of everyday. We wouldn’t notice the sun without the clouds.

Let me know how this works for you and what you notice along the way. This practice opens the doors for more profound change as you grow with it.

A little less… stress.

Many of us can juggle a lot of balls at the same time, between family, kids, work, and fitness there isn’t a lot of spare time in the day. While many of us handle these choices and commitments expertly and seamlessly transition between the functions of our day, there is often a constant pressure to perform underlying all of it. Many of us don’t feel this pressure on a regular basis as it’s familiar; we’re used to it and it’s all good most of the time.

Until one day, or one moment it’s not fine. We find ourselves tense, frustrated at seemingly simple or mundane things. Perhaps being short or downright rude to those around us. This tension we often don’t even feel, is a form of stress we carry with us and like all manners of stress it manifests itself in a myriad of ways. So how do we know when this stress is building, or when other stressors will affect us? More importantly even, how can we quickly and effectively deal with this when it enters our consciousness?

One reason we experience these moments of higher stress is because there is a reason for the heightened levels. For instance a major meeting with a customer, a job interview, a fitness competition, unexpected bills, trouble in relationships. We may feel we are handling the added stress loads just fine and in many cases we are, until suddenly we aren’t. We snap at a co-worker or loved one, we get a migraine headache, we get sick and have to shut it down for a day or two.

I’ve found a solution for dealing with this stress on a macro level which is immediate and helps to calm things back down and put things back into perspective. I use this tool to simplify my perception, often these periods of heightened stress elevate our ability to deal with things so we add more, and all of a sudden our lives are more complicated, or at least seem this way. Meditation is always a great option, though I’ve found meditation to be best used on a regular basis and not very helpful “in the moment”.

When I need to simplify things in my life immediately and in a heated moment I quickly think back to who I am. Not in the philosophical way, the meaning of life way, (this we’ll get into another time). I look at the world around me and how I experience it. I focus on my family, my company, my house, car, bills, employees, vendors, customers, training program, grocery shopping list etc…

I think of these things, and I imagine all of them gone. Who am I without any of these things? If my life as I experienced it went away in a flash, who am I then? If I didn’t have to think about paying a mortgage, servicing a customer, ensuring food and shelter are provided for my family, hitting the next PR at the gym…

This may be scary to contemplate, and if it is scary or too uncomfortable to imagine then I invite you to consider just how attached you are to what you “can’t” live without. The truth of the matter is, if everything went away, you will still wake up in the morning, the sun will rise as you will. The sun will set as you will ultimately go back to sleep to repeat the process. What does your life look like without anything in it? Who cares. It doesn’t matter. For this tool we don’t have to spent a second trying to contemplate the “other” side of how we experience life.

I invite you to imagine everything is gone, you have no fear or worries about anything, family, friends, the house, business, job, money you owe the mob for bad horse betting… Simply imagine being you, carefree and released from the weight of what we perceive to be important in our life. Imagine having no thoughts about yesterday or tomorrow, just be in this moment right now, as light as an angel with no strings attached, no commitments, promises or deadlines. Close your eyes and be in this space, you may imagine yourself in a field breathing in the fresh breeze as you stand tall with your shoulders and back straight, like you may just begin to float off the soft grass.

As you practice this it becomes easier and helps to realize something very important. What we think matters a lot, at the end of the day really doesn’t. As Tyler Durden in Fight Club so aptly stated: “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f***ing khakis. “

What are you if not all these things? For this article and purpose it’s not important. What is important for now is to understand this tool which is available to you anytime you feel the stress building in and around your life. Use this tool to calm yourself and reset your emotions when you feel like things are heating up. What this does is allows us to see our world from a different perspective. A calm, clean, de-cluttered perspective and even without all these “important” things we are still “us”. Simplified.

In this moment of simplicity as you stand weightless, what else do you need in order to feel fulfilled? (Normally I don’t give the answer, I’ve yet to hear somebody say something other than…) Nothing.

As we simplify our perspective, we already have all we need within us at this precise moment in time. Breathe in this knowledge as you allow the stress to fall away from this moment as you realize whatever is the cause, it’s likely not the end of your world.

We all have the tools within us to make miracles happen, this simple, effective and immediate tool is simply one of the plentiful options we have.

Give it a try the next time your feeling the pressure and let me know how it goes, I’m always interested in hearing how others apply these tools within their own lives.

What is prayer

We are familiar with the word “prayer”, we’ve heard it thousands of times in our lives whether we are religious, spiritual, agnostic or anything in between. We have heard people around us say they will pray for this, or pray for that, for the well-being of a loved one or for the outcome of a job interview or winning lottery ticket.

Definition of prayer

 1a(1): an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought said a prayer for the success of the voyage

(2): a set order of words used in praying

b: an earnest request or wish

2: the act or practice of praying to God or a god-kneeling in prayer

3: a religious service consisting chiefly of prayers —often used in plural

4: something prayed for

5: a slight chance haven’t got a prayer

According to the above Merriam-Webster definition above it gives us a good idea what a prayer is. Or does it? What has lead us to believe our words have anything to do with the prayer we actually petition for? How does God, Source, The Divine, Energy, know what words to listen to, which prayers to say “yes” to, and which ones to say “no” to?

How does this universal wisdom listen to our words and know how to respond, when in many cases we don’t even know what we really want?

Often people as for money, lots and lots of money! “If only I had more money than everything would be just fine!” Ever heard, or said a version of this? I’m willing to bet we all have and on more than a few occasions. Money though isn’t the desire, security is and the money is simply the tool we perceive which will provide us the security we seek. These prayers go “unanswered” because we are asking for something verbally, that we really don’t care about as long as our other needs are met.

Imagine for a minute your bank account has one million dollars in it. Imagine what you would do, would you fly off to some remote island and retire? Would you buy a bigger house, pay off debts you owe, perhaps some medical bills? Would you buy a nice new car or send your kids to the best colleges? Imagine for a moment this scenario, close your eyes and imagine one million dollars in your account. What would you do? Take a few moments to visualize this.

Welcome back! Now think about what you visualized and I invite you to bring it back into focus again, this time focus on your heart and how this visualization makes you feel. Keep this feeling at the forefront of your being and experience the feeling of this visualization. If you don’t feel much, that’s ok too, this is different for everyone and perhaps trying this again later may or may not yield different results.

The words used in our “traditional” prayers are not heeded by Divinity. We ask for things often based upon immediate desire or need. Our words are riddled by thoughts of logic, fear, what we perceive in our worlds at that moment. Even when we are meditative in our prayers our conscious thoughts are rife with what we think we know. The Divine shoots right past our conscious thought and dives straight into the energy we are moving.

This energy is like a truth serum to the universe around us. There is no on/off switch we can use to turn off our energy when we are feeling fear, anxious, sad, depressed. The universe, the Divine gives us more of what we transmute in our energy base. What does this mean?

I go back to the original question; What is prayer? Prayer is the feeling we have within us when we converse with The Divine. Prayer is something we can (and often do) be in, a continuous action instead of a short burst of a request. Prayer is the feeling we give to the universe, and the universe responds in kind.

Our words can be used as a tool to create this feeling, as can music, laughter, lighting candles and myriad other actions we may consider as “prayer”. These things though are not the prayer itself, but the tools we can utilize to create the feeling, which is ultimately the prayer.

There are no right or wrong ways to pray and if you have certain rituals or practices which create strong feelings within you I’d love to hear about them as I’m always curious as to how people individually perform this sacred ritual or prayer. I often pray, that is to say I create a feeling of love and open-ness in my heart which feels as if my heart is “on”. I no longer associate requests or words to my prayers as I let my energy speak and what the universe delivers will be exactly what it should be.

I invite you to keep this concept in mind the next time you pray, or choose to speak with you Divinity. Practice with it, play around with it, and have fun while you explore. Indeed, it’s why we’re here in the first place!