Lighten Up

How much time do you spend thinking about people that lived 100 years ago?

What about family members that lived a couple of generations ago?

Are you aware of anything they did?

We as humans have a tendency to think that what we are doing today is very important but in 100 years it will be forgotten. Yes, there are a handful of people that are studied in history books, but generally speaking almost everyone is eventually forgotten.

There’s a theory that humans are always looking for meaning and the idea of how we will be remembered provides some justification for our existence.

Now I’m not saying that what you do in your life doesn’t matter, but I am suggesting that perhaps we should consider how seriously we should take ourselves while we are here.

You can strive to be remembered like the individuals in the history books but in the grand scheme of time hardly anything you do will matter. So spend less time worrying about what you do and more time enjoying your time here.

Do Nothing

When was the last time you engaged in doing nothing?

Yes, I know it sounds awkward to think about engaging in doing nothing, but doing nothing is an activity in itself, so it kind of makes sense.

So, back to the question, when did you last do nothing?

I know, I know.

You’re too busy to do nothing.

You’re too important to do nothing.

You’re too popular to do nothing.

You’re critical to do nothing.

Things just won’t get done without you. Etc.

Well, have you heard the quote, “The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without?”

There are times when doing nothing is not only beneficial but also invigorating. Doing nothing doesn’t mean living a sloth like existence, it just means stopping for a moment or two to breathe or just re-center yourself.

Think of your doing nothing like speed bumps throughout your day. Just a few moments where you intentionally slow down right before you speed up again.

Empathy

Do you actively practice empathy?

Do you allow yourself to be open enough to see and feel the viewpoint of other?

Being empathetic doesn’t mean that you have to agree with the other person, it just means that you’ve taken the time to understand why they behave the way they do.

Empathy doesn’t come easy and has to be practiced because as humans we are all driven by our egos and are prone to focus only on what’s important to us.

Research is showing that there has actually been a decline in empathy due to the rise of digital communication. Text messages and emails that contain short bursts of information neglect to take into account all the other complexities that are so important to human communication.

In order to be empathetic you have to look for cues in the other person and this can rarely be done via digital communication. You have to pay attention to them physically and mentally to really understand because communication is so much more than just words sent over screens.

If you want to increase your level of empathy, then do as Stephen Covey said “Seek to first to understand, then to be understood.” You might be surprised at how open people are to listen to you once you are open to them.

Discrepancy Syndrome

Do you suffer from discrepancy syndrome?

Wait! You’ve never heard of it?

I’m surprised that you haven’t because it’s so common.

Discrepancy syndrome is when you wish something is different than it really is.

You may have heard of it by its other names, anger and frustration.

Every incident of anger and frustration is caused by wishing that the situation at hand is different than it really is.

The good news about discrepancy syndrome is that there is a cure; the bad news is that you have to cure yourself.

You have to decide how long you will continue to dwell in the moments of discrepancy that are occurring or that have passed.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t experience anger or frustration because they can both be great self-motivators for change.

But for how long?

There’s a great Buddhist saying that the first arrow causes the pain but then we choose to shoot ourselves with a second arrow, and this causes the suffering, which is optional.

So the next time you find yourself angry or frustrated see if you can learn to separate how you feel from what is occurring. Who knows? You might just cure yourself of discrepancy syndrome.

Lower the bar

Have you set the bar too high for yourself?

Are you looking to accomplish ‘big things’ but are intimidated in to inaction because the goal seems so far off?

If yes, then consider lowering the bar.

Do you know that when IBM was at its peak they set their salesperson quota lower than what was realistically expected?

The reason for this is that they wanted employees to experience quick wins in order build confidence as they moved towards bigger targets.

There are literally only four areas of life that you’re constantly trying to win at. Call them whatever you want but they will all fall somewhere along the lines of, family/relationships, career/financial, health/physical and religious/spiritual.

Accomplishing small goals in any of these will give you the momentum to continue because it increases your level of self -confidence.

So lower your bar for yourself and get your small wins. Before you know it you’ll be good enough to raise the bar.

Blank Canvas

Have you ever stared at a blank canvas and wondered what to draw?

Have you spent time staring at a blank sheet of paper as you struggle with what to write?

Perhaps for you it’s the first words of a speech or presentation that have you stumped?

It’s not the question of where to start that paralyzes most people.

It’s the thought of, what if I get it wrong. What if the first line I draw or the first words I write are bad.

It’s the intimidation of working without instructions, aka constraints.

Life would be so much easier if every time you started a new project a magic fairy could just tell you what to do, but then the ideas would be theirs and not yours.

Seeking inspiration from other people’s work is great and can be helpful, but also learn to trust your own intuition and ideas.

Find the courage you had when you were a child, draw your first line and write your first word. Be proud that you’ve started and don’t worry if it’s not ‘good.’ You can always start again.

Uninterrupted Time

How much uninterrupted time can you make for yourself today?

Can you step away from the internet for 20 minutes?

Can you put down your phone for 20 minutes?

Can you find a quiet spot to think for 20 minutes?

What can you do to clear 20 minutes for yourself?

Constantly bombarding your mind with input is like standing at a buffet gorging on food without any end in sight. Sounds ridiculous and hopefully you’d never engage in such an activity, so why do it to your mind.

If the idea of stepping away for 20 minutes makes you nervous and you’re already making excuses in your head as to why you can’t, then that should tell you something about your addiction to constant stimulation.

It’s just 20 minutes. That’s less than 2% of your entire day.

Your brain deserves it.

You can do it.

Luck – Serendipity – Faith

There are three forces that will play a huge part in shaping your life.

They are luck, serendipity and faith.

Seneca the great philosopher apparently said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. So although the definition to being lucky is that things happen by chance there must be a level of preparedness on your behalf for you to be able to take advantage of the lucky situation.

Serendipity is being at the right place at the right time in order to benefit from events in a that come your way. Your role in being in serendipitous situations is to get out and engage in your environment. You need to put yourself in situations and give serendipity the opportunity to reveal itself.

Faith, yes faith. This one seems to be most challenging because faith doesn’t have a timeline. Faith is often associated with religion but it also plays a huge role in your life because without it you wouldn’t even get out of bed.

So if you want to be lucky then invest in yourself and create a version of you that is prepared for the next opportunity you see. Put yourself out there and experience serendipity. And lastly, have faith that after you prepare and step out, luck and serendipity will both find you.

A Good Life

What is your idea of a good life?

Is it a life where you’re not afraid to follow your dreams?

Is it a life where you help as many people as you can?

Is it a life where you make as much money as you can?

Is it a life where you live as long as you can?

Is it a life where you have the best relationships you can?

For many it’s all of the above and that’s great, but how you prioritize will dictate your actions.

For example, if you prioritize health then that’s time you will not spend building relationships or helping other people.

A good life is not a balanced life. It is a life in which you able to be as true to your real self as possible. It’s a life where you can come to terms with what is important to you. A good life is a life where imperfection is perfection.

Determine for yourself how you define a good life and live in to it as much as you can. In the end some might say you lived a good life but only you will know for sure.

Nature

How much time do you spend outdoors enjoying nature?

If you’re like most then you probably take nature for granted and as something you look at through your windows. And in today’s world of knowledge work so much time is spent under artificial light that problems like vitamin D deficiency are actually increasing.

Research shows that spending time in nature has stress reducing and calming effects. Even stepping outside and standing in sunlight just for 10 minutes can improve your mood.

And if you’re too busy to go outside then bring nature indoors and invest in some plants that you can enjoy. And yes, you can talk to them because they will hear you.

If you ever watch children playing outside, digging in dirt without restraint it’s because they know the inherent pleasure of doing so. And they know it’s where we come from.

It’s easy to forget that we are in a dependent relationship with nature and without it we could not exist. So why not step out for a moment, take a deep breath and enjoy and appreciate all that nature has to offer.

I Disagree

I strongly disagree with what you said!

Let me rephrase.

I vehemently disagree with you!

I emphatically disagree with you!

What do you mean, let you finish!

I already know I don’t like what you’re going to say.

No! I won’t give you chance to share your thoughts or ideas.

Yes, I know you just started to speak but it doesn’t matter.

I’ve already decided you’re wrong.

No! I don’t need more time to think about it. In my mind seconds are like hours.

In fact, my response is chambered and ready to go before you even open your mouth.

…Why don’t you talk to me anymore?

If any of this sounds familiar then you might be suffering from a disease known as Closed Mindedness.

Fortunately for you there is a cure and the cure doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone. It does mean giving people the opportunity to share their thoughts and allowing yourself time to process what you hear. Who knows, your actions might prompt them to listen to you too.

The Perfect Age

What is the perfect age?

When are you too young to be taken seriously?

When are you too old to try something new?

What if you didn’t know how old you are?

Age is a strange phenomenon because although it’s measured by how much time has passed it’s also measured in social context. Age is used to measure progress in life.

At 16 you should be doing this and at 21 you’re allowed to do this and by 30 you should have done this and at 60, well now you’re half way done and you really shouldn’t be trying anything.

When you ask someone how old they are it’s rarely because you’re interested in the number of years they’ve been alive. It’s so that you can mentally categorize where you think they should be in life.

I once read an interview where a woman born in remote area of the world was asked when she was born, and her reply was, in the winter. There was no context of time.

Do your thoughts about your own age hold you back?

If you look hard enough you will find examples of people from all ages accomplishing all kinds of things that they ‘shouldn’t be able to’ at their age.

What if today you dismissed your belief about age and explored all the things you want to do? Who knows, you might just be the perfect age.

Happiness

Do you know what the number one contributing factor to happiness is?

Here take a quick test.

A.Money

B. Success

C. Quality relationships

D. Health

If you picked C, then congratulations, you are correct.

Research shows that over time the number quality relationships that you have are what dictate how happy you are and will be.

Other factors such as money or temporary success metrics can cause you to have momentary happiness but tend to fade once you achieve them.

Investing your time in building quality relationships with family and friends will increase your happiness factor and this in turn will give you a level of optimism about life.

So step out today, get away from your screens and spend some time creating a quality relationship. You’ll be happy you did.

That’s how it’s always been done

Has anyone ever said to you, that’s how it’s always been done?

Did you question why or did you just comply?

Here’s a short story that I heard many years ago that will hopefully prompt you to ask or at least think about why things can be done differently.

A young woman is preparing a pot roast while her friend looks on.  She cuts off both ends of the roast, prepares it and puts it in the pan.  “Why do you cut off the ends?” her friend asks.  “I don’t know”, she replies.  “My mother always did it that way and I learned how to cook it from her”.

Her friend’s question made her curious about her pot roast preparation.  During her next visit home, she asked her mother, “How do you cook a pot roast?”  Her mother proceeded to explain and added, “You cut off both ends, prepare it and put it in the pot and then in the oven”.    “Why do you cut off the ends?” the daughter asked.  Baffled, the mother offered, “That’s how my mother did it and I learned it from her!”

Her daughter’s inquiry made the mother think more about the pot roast preparation.   When she next visited her mother in the nursing home, she asked, “Mom, how do you cook a pot roast?”   The mother slowly answered, thinking between sentences.  “Well, you prepare it with spices, cut off both ends and put it in the pot”.     The mother asked, “But why do you cut off the ends?”     The grandmother’s eyes sparkled as she remembered.   “Well, the roasts were always bigger than the pot that we had back then.  I had to cut off the ends to fit it into the pot that I owned”.

Don’t always fall for the, that’s how it’s always been done. Give yourself permission to ask why. Who knows, your idea could become the next, that’s how it’s always been done.

P.S. Thank you JA

QA Testing

Are you familiar with Quality Assurance testing?

The job of a QA tester is find flaws in physical products or bugs in software. They are given a set of performance guidelines which they compare the product with to see if it meets the designer’s intentions.  They then report any flaws so that only the most perfect version of the product can be sold to the end user

Do you ever find yourself QA testing life?

Constantly looking for flaws in individuals or seeing what’s wrong instead of what’s right?

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, life and people are unlike manufactured products, because flaws are part of the package. There are no pre-set guidelines and you don’t know the intentions of the designer.

So if you want to QA life then by all means do so, but I suggest you look for what’s working instead of what’s not. Because the truth is that you don’t know what’s not working since there is no perfect version to compare it to.

Serendipitous Accidents

Are you familiar with ‘accidental discoveries?’

One of the most famous is Penicillin, which according to the inventor Alexander Fleming was discovered by a serendipitous accident.

Throughout history there have been many other serendipitous accidents that have created many of the products you take for granted today.

Corn Flakes for a clean healthy diet.

The Slinky was supposed to hold equipment on naval ships.

Coca-Cola was supposed to be a medical remedy.

Post-it Notes were supposed to be a super adhesive.

Potato chips were the result of an angry chef.

Play-Doh was supposed to be wallpaper cleaner.

These are just a few, but you can find many more that are now multi-million if not billion dollar products.

The thing about serendipitous accidents is that you have to be continuously creating and experimenting for the accident to happen.

Now there’s no guarantee that you’ll have the next million dollar idea but the next time you find yourself using a product in a way that is not what it was designed for, ask yourself, is this a serendipitous accident?

Mind Full?

Do you constantly assault your mind with steady stream of inputs without taking any time to digest and think about all the information you’re consuming?

Are you mindful of your activities or is your mind full of activity?

Mindfulness has become quite popular recently but there is still much confusion as to what it is and how to practice it.

I don’t have all the answers but can share what works for me and others that I have spoken to.

Being mindful for me is nothing more than being attentive and consciously focusing my attention on an activity. And I found the easiest ones I started with were driving and eating because I could do them alone. Just focusing on these simple activities without any additional inputs gave me ability to really appreciate them for what they are.

Practicing mindfulness during your day can also relieve stress, because each time you consciously focus is like mental speed bump, it slows down your day.

Being mindful doesn’t mean you have to spend hours on a yoga mat or take long walks in the woods, although neither one of these would hurt you. All mindfulness means is that you allow your mind to take a break. You give your mind the opportunity to breathe and to fully exhale.

Blurt it Out

When was the last time you really expressed your true feelings about a sensitive subject?

How often do you let out unfiltered, non-politically correct, uncensored commentary?

What would your relationships look like if you always said what’s on your mind?

If you decide that you’re always going to say what’s on your mind then know this, you are not in the friend making business, you are in the being true to yourself business.

The good news is that some will respect your honesty and accept you for who you really are. Others might find you rude, offensive or impolite because from their perspective other priorities outweigh honesty.

If you want to learn from experts that always speak their mind then spend some time around young children, the ones that haven’t yet learned what’s proper to say and what’s not. You’ll find their honesty entertaining.

Speaking your mind can be refreshing feeling, especially if you’re not used to doing it. And if you choose to do so then good luck and watch out, life’s about to get a little bumpy.

FOMO

What is FOMO?

It’s the Fear of Missing Out.

You know that feeling of anxiety you have when you can’t go to the party that all your friends are going to, and you know that they’ll all be talking about how much fun they had? Well that’s FOMO

How do you get it? You have an internal emotional hole that you’re looking to fill by an external activity.

How do you get rid of it? You take FOMO for a walk in to the woods and you bury it. You learn to fill your own emotional hole.

FOMO is you experiencing emotions that you might feel based on a future activity. I know, it sounds confusing and that’s because it is. You see, almost everything you do is driven by how you think you might feel or the reward you’ll receive once you do it.

The problem with FOMO is that it causes you to overcommit, because you don’t want to miss anything. It also prevents you from being present in what you’re doing because you’re thinking about what you’re missing.

Learn to accept the fact that you can’t be everywhere and that you should thoroughly appreciate, enjoy and leverage the opportunities you do have. Remember YOLO so why waste it living in FOMO.

P.S. this one’s for you CO.

Know Your Sport

Do you know that there are currently 28 different sports represented in the Olympics?

Can you imagine what it would look like if the gymnasts were asked to power lift? It would probably be entertaining but I doubt any new powerlifting records would be set.

Now I’m sure that there must be some mutual admiration, respect and perhaps even some envy amongst the different sports because of the attention and money associated with them, but the athletes know that they are going to perform their best at the sport that they are good at.

What about you?

Are you performing at something you’re good at and have natural talents for? Or are you pursuing endeavors because of the attention and money associated with them?

So how do you know what you have natural talents for? You try lots of things. And you learn that some come to you easier than others.

This is not to say that you don’t pursue things because they are difficult, because being great at anything is hard.

What I am suggesting is that when you find something that really resonates with your natural abilities then double down on it, and if you’re a power lifter then so be it. Don’t waste your time envying the gymnasts.