How do you escape from an invisible cage?
If you can’t see it then how do you know it exists?
Well, there’s proof it does exist.
And the proof is in the feeling you get when you hear the little voice in your head say “what will they think?”
Does it sound familiar?
If you listen carefully you can hear it right now.
It’s warming up for the day, just waiting for you to think about doing something. That’s right, you just have to think about doing something and the voice will jump in to action.
You will hear it in its full authority.
“You’re going to wear that?’ “What will they think?”
“You’re going say that?” “What will they think?”
“You’re going to do that?” “What will they think?”
And over time each time the voice says “what will they think?” another bar of the invisible cage will seal your fate. Until finally your entire existence will be based on ‘what will they think.’
And one day you’ll wake up and realize they weren’t thinking about you at all, because they were too busy thinking about themselves and what you think about them.
When the last time you were so engrossed in conversation that time became inconsequential and you didn’t’ check your phone or watch?
It’s challenging these days to carve out time because of the number of tasks and over commitments that we’ve become accustomed to. But rushing through every interaction with only the next thing in mind will create a hollow feeling for you and the people you’re communicating with.
Shallow conversations are easy to have, but they don’t allow you experience the essence of the person you’re speaking to. And it is in understanding essence of an individual that allows you develop empathy, appreciation and bond with another person.
Research shows that making time for meaningful uninterrupted conversations are essential for long term well-being. So the next time you have the opportunity to have a conversation, put away your phone, forget about the next thing you have to do, lean in and enjoy the moment. You and the person you’re with will both benefit from the experience.
What’s 2 +2?
100 + 100?
It’s about to get harder.
When you see a person behaving a certain way, all you see is the 1 in the equation. The X represents a set of unknowns, the X represents their unique experiences that are driving them to make decisions they believe to be correct.
It’s easy to assume you know why a person is acting the way they are, but what about when it comes to you?
How do you feel when someone makes an assumption about your behavior because that’s all they see in the moment?
Every individual is a complex decision making machine and it’s almost impossible to know why people really do what they do, so ruminating about why a person is acting the way they are is a waste of your imagination.
Remember, the person next to you is just as complicated as you and they are ultimately acting in a way they believe is best for them, as you are too.
Where would you be if you weren’t here right now?
Think about it for minute.
There is no other alternative.
You are exactly where you are meant to be.
Once you surrender to the fact that you are here for a reason, life takes on a new essence. You will begin to stop resisting and pushing back against situations that you think are happening to you and realize that life is happening for you.
Surrendering doesn’t mean you give up and stop pursuing dreams and goals. It means that you accept both the good and bad, the wins and losses as you move forward.
The question about why you are here will rarely be obvious, and only in hindsight will you be able to connect the dots and see that you were here for a reason.
Which of these messages are triggers for you?
If you don’t look a certain way then you’re not…
If you don’t wear a certain brand then you’re not…
If you don’t drive a certain car then you’re not…
If you don’t earn a certain amount then you’re not…
If you don’t behave a certain way then you’re not…
All these messages convey that you’re less than unless you participate in what they’re selling. The underlying message is that you need fixing and are incomplete without them.
The truth is that these are all perpetual traps that lead nowhere.
Refrain from being lured in to believing that you need external confirmation to make you complete on the inside.
Practice turning your attention and energy inward and focusing on what’s inside you. You will quickly find that you don’t need fixing and are wonderful just the way you are.
How do you feel when people fail to live up to your expectations?
Are you familiar with the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt?’ What this means is that once you get to know a person for a while you get to know all their shortcomings and weaknesses. And once you begin to focus on their shortcomings then there’s a danger that’s all you will see.
So the person you once admired or looked up to now becomes, less than. They become an ordinary human.
Contempt is a very dangerous feeling to foster towards any individual and if it’s not controlled it will severely damage any relationship.
You can counter contempt by focusing on the positive traits of an individual and by re-evaluating your expectations. Empathy is also a powerful tool to use against the feeling of contempt.
Lastly, keep in mind that everyone has shortcomings and best amongst us has a ‘shine’ that eventually wears off. And if you’ve been contemptuous towards others they will have a hard time being empathetic towards you.
What is really possible?
No one really knows because this word is only based in the realm of activities that are able to be done with the current set of known capabilities. But people will be quick to tell you what can’t be done because they see the world through what they know and experience.
Impossible things are being done on a daily basis, just read the headlines of a news outlet or checkout Guinness world records and you’ll find a list of what was once considered impossible.
There might be real limitations that are temporary and currently prevent certain activities, but many make the mistake of seeing temporary as permanent.
What is possible will always be in a state of constant change and it’s up to you to keep testing and pushing all your current known boundaries in order to find out what you are really capable of doing.
What is your personal R&D budget?
It’s no coincidence that Google, Samsung, Toyota, and several other companies that are leaders in their industry also have the largest R&D budgets.
What do they know at a company level that you should know on an individual level?
They know that spending a portion of their resources, think time and money, towards researching and developing new ideas and products is a key to their success.
Since you are your own product, do you have a plan on how you will improve yourself or do you leave it to chance?
How much of your time and money do you intentionally spend on improving yourself?
Do you think improvement will happen by accident?
You can rapidly improve your health, relationships or any other area of your life in a relatively short amount of time if you make a concerted effort.
Perhaps you don’t give it the formal term of R&D, but you should seriously consider allocating a portion of your own resources to improving whatever area of life is important to you.
Socrates said “man know thyself.”
Do you think trying to find out who you are is time well spent?
Do you believe that you are worth the investment?
Being selfish is often associated as a negative behavior trait, but that’s not true in all cases. Especially if being selfish and prioritizing time for yourself makes you a better person to those around you.
Investing time to know who you are at your core, knowing your strengths and weakness, your likes and dislikes, what makes you thrive, will make you a better person to be around. It will also enable you contribute at your highest level.
A professional in any field will tell you that one of the keys to their success is identifying their weaknesses as soon as possible. And the only way to this is by taking time for introspection and self-reflection.
Knowing yourself doesn’t have to mean that you go off in to the woods for years, unless you really want to. It does however mean that you take a few minutes out of your day or week to reflect on situations and interactions to understand how you behaved and felt during those times. This will help you learn what you should do more or less of.
Taking time to know who you are is an investment that will compound over time and the sooner you find out, the greater your returns will be, not only for yourself but for others too.
What kind of punctuation are you?
I know this might sound a little confusing but stick with me for a minute.
The period, also known as the full stop. If you’re reading this then the great news is that you’re not a period because you haven’t come to full stop yet.
The comma. We’re all commas at times. We all slow down to rest for moment and catch our breath before we continue.
The ellipses. I realized that this is my favorite after my five year old daughter came home from school last week and shared that she had learned what the three dots meant. She raised her eyebrows, smiled and said “it means, I’m not done yet.”
We’re all on our way to becoming periods, but it’s a nice reminder to hear once in a while that I’m not done yet and neither are you.
What’s a good way to start something new?
I’ll give you three clues.
- It’s an unscientific method
- Almost anyone can do it
- You’ll probably be wrong
Did you get the answer?
Did you take a guess?
Well if you did guess then that’s the answer, a guess.
When you’re not sure about how do to something one of the best places to start is with a guess.
SWAG is a very ‘sophisticated’ term used in many industries. It stands for Silly Wild A** Guess, essentially your best guess with the information you have at hand.
So the next time you’re thinking about starting something new but are not sure what to do first, just ask yourself this question, if I HAD to start now what would I do first, and proceed with your best guess. It will at least get you started.
Do you know that there is a short yet powerful phrase that you can learn which is both liberating and empowering?
It’s a phrase that you’ve probably said before, but with hesitation.
It’s a phrase that when used correctly can be your springboard to learning and opening your mind to new opportunities.
However, this phrase requires you to be confident. It requires you to be humble.
It will be obvious once you see it, but when you do, don’t just read it, say it out loud.
Are you ready?
Wait! First a quick promise between me and you that you will say it out loud.
Okay, here’ goes.
Say, ‘I don’t know’ out loud.
Did you do it?
How did it feel?
Admitting to not knowing is your opportunity to learn.
I know that there are times when you feel like you’re expected to know everything and it’s very easy to pretend that you do, but the reality is that none of us have all the answers.
So the next time you’re asked a question and you don’t have the answer, admit to not knowing and follow it up with, but I can find out. Not only will you find this freeing, you will also find that you will be more open to trying new things.
When was the last time you were lost while driving? And I don’t mean you missed a turn, I mean really and truly didn’t know where you were or which direction to go.
If you own a smartphone then the likelihood that you’ve had to think about directions is probably slim to none. You just enter your destination and off you go on what you believe to be the most efficient route. Dull, boring and predictable.
The problem with having so many answers at your fingertips is that you begin to believe that there should be instructions or directions for everything in life, but there isn’t. Sometimes you will just be lost and that’s okay because that’s what life is about.
There’s actually an element to being lost that’s often overlooked and that is a sense of adventure. It’s that feeling you get when you don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s the feeling that pushed humans for centuries to explore what might be around the next unfamiliar corner.
The next time you’re feeling a little lost in life recognize that everyone feels the same way at times and how dull, boring and predictable life would be if it came with a GPS.
Have you ever tried getting in shape?
Or, have you ever tried your hand at growing a plant?
At first glance these two activities might not seem to have anything in common, but they do.
You see, the good news is that you can start to get in shape or grow a plant, but the bad news is that you can never stop, because if you stop then it’s over. You will very quickly be out of shape and the plant will die.
Any endeavor you set out on has impermanence built into it. Whether it’s a relationship you’re trying to cultivate or grow a business, both require continuous attention.
There is always a level of excitement that comes with starting something new and never a shortage people encouraging you to do so. However, keep in mind that although many have spoken about the difficulty of starting something, very few share just how much effort is required to keep going.
So the next time you’re thinking about starting a new project remember the good news, bad news equation, because your first step will be followed by a million more.
Are you in tune with your emotions?
Do you spend time listening to your emotions?
Your emotions are like a barometer, thermometer, speedometer and any other kind of ‘meter’ all wrapped up in one instrument. They are designed to guide you and even in some cases to keep you alive.
Your entire day is filled with a variety of emotions and you are constantly riding the waves of how you feel. And those feelings drive your actions.
Tracking your emotions can be an interesting experiment. You might find that you reach for food when you’re upset or make phone calls when you’re happy or a myriad of other behaviors.
The ability to observe your emotions without always immediately reacting to them can be a very powerful skill because it can ultimately change the direction of your entire life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.