What can You do for You?

John Kennedy said it best in his “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Today I ask, what can you do for you? Not, what can your spouse, employer, children, friends do for you.

Here are some questions to start your day with.

What can you do today to make yourself happy?

What can you do today to make yourself healthier?

What can you do today to build better relationships?

What can you do today to create meaning in your life?

Your answers to these questions don’t have to be long eloquent paragraphs. Start with one question; think about it for five minutes and write down simple one word answers that will move you to action.

Unfortunately, most people will read these questions and just move on without acting or even thinking about answering them. And it will be the same excuses, too busy right now, get back to it later etc. The problem is that there is never this perfect imaginary time of being less busy or having more time. So, take five minutes right now and act!

Purpose

Why did you get out of bed this morning?

Besides the obvious reasons, family, work or other obligations do you have a bigger reason? Having a purpose can fulfill a part of life that family, friends or material goods can’t touch. Having a purpose can fill the gaps.

For most people finding a purpose is the biggest challenge, or they think that a purpose needs to be permanent or only one thing for their entire life, which is not true. Finding a purpose does require some introspection. Taking time to ask yourself what you would love to do, or what in the world you would like to change and then ask yourself how I can be involved. And then when you think you have an answer, take a small action steps as soon as you can to test your answer.

Some people are fortunate to have one purpose for their entire lives but for most as you age your purpose in life might change and that’s okay too. The thing to realize is that purpose is something that comes from within, it should always be based on what is important to you.

It’s Messy for Everyone

Everyone’s life is a mess to some extent. Unfortunately all you get to see is the highlight reel, a brief picture of their existence. And then you compare your entire life to the snapshot you’ve been exposed too. Your brain then takes the snapshot and goes in to the ‘life is good for everyone but me’ thought cycle.

Read the biography of any famous person you admire and you’ll find that they have all experienced struggles in some area of life. Broken relationships, financial troubles, health issues, one or all of these is part of everyone’s journey.

I love the example of the duck on water. All we see is the duck moving gracefully along, but if we looked under the surface we would see its feet paddling frantically to move it along.

So the next time you find yourself thinking how perfect someone’s life is consider for a moment that they might be thinking the same thing about you.

Equanimity

I came across this word about 10 years ago and it very quickly became one of my favorite words. Equanimity is the ability to remain calm and composed especially in difficult situations.

One of the keys to maintaining a state of equanimity is to deconstruct a situation that is causing you to be frustrated or angry, the ability to view the situation from the standpoint of an observer. One of the best times to practice equanimity is when you feel as though you are being verbally or emotionally attacked by an individual. Take a moment to breathe and step out of the situation. Don’t take their bait and allow them to get their hook in to you. If an individual does say something hurtful try to understand why rather than reacting and fueling their fire.

Maintaining a state of equanimity can apply to all areas of life since everything you engage in is a relationship between your mind and the situation. Allowing yourself to give pause to a situation or an event will give you the ability to maintain and even keel rather than being on an emotional rollercoaster.

Change your Environment

Do you have a place where you can go to think, create, problem solve, a place that takes you out of your usual environment?

Research shows that one of the easiest things you can do to stimulate your brain is to change its environment. Moving from a place that you are used to somewhere new forces your brain to behave differently and create new perspectives.

Finding a new place doesn’t’ mean travelling to far off lands although this could be fun and highly stimulating. A new place can be as simple as working from a coffee shop instead of an office for a few hours, sitting somewhere different in an office building or even going for a walk in area that you’re not familiar with.

The objective of changing your environment is that it breaks your usual cognitive patterns and forces your brain to think creatively, thus allowing you to see things differently. So the next time you find yourself stuck on a problem or in a particular thought pattern go find a place you’ve never been and it’ll give you new perspective.

Anger

How much time, energy and effort do you spend being angry or staying upset with someone?

Especially someone you really love. If that person disappeared tomorrow, how would you feel? Would you still be angry or would you regret your last feelings towards them?

Staying upset over time requires you spend energy reliving the thought and moment over and over again. It’s as though you have a wound that you refuse to let heal, you continuously pick at the scab causing it to bleed just so that you can remember what happened.

You feel justified in your anger only because you want the other person to see the world from your perspective, but they almost never will. Their world view is based on a collection of their own experiences so in their mind they are behaving appropriately.

I’m not suggesting that you excuse their behavior, especially if it is malicious towards you. What I am saying is fueling your own negative emotion by continuously thinking or talking about it doesn’t benefit either one of you. Remember, anger is only one of many responses you can choose to have for an event.

Share your Knowledge

Make time to share your knowledge. Mentoring whether in an official or unofficial capacity can be one of the most fulfilling activities you can ever do. Maybe you don’t realize just how much experience or knowledge you have gained over the years and how helpful that knowledge can be to others. You might experience doubt or question your expertise in a particular area and think that others already know what you do, and this might be true about factual information. But, your perspective is unique and this is where you can be extremely helpful.

Sharing what you know also helps you because it makes you to think clearly in order to communicate your knowledge effectively. Keep in mind there is an important distinction between sharing your knowledge and giving advice. When you are sharing your knowledge you are conveying what you have experienced and not trying to tell the other person what they should do.

Sharing your knowledge stems from an abundant mindset. It is a very powerful frame of mind when you can share your knowledge freely without being concerned that someone will now know what you do. Remember, many of the greatest teachers and masters overtime were not those that hoarded their knowledge but those that gave away all they knew.

Instant…Results?

Do you ever feel like you’re not getting what you want fast enough? You want it now, so why can’t you have it now? You think you’re doing all the right things but it’s just taking so long, almost too long. This could apply to any area of your life.

You’ve been programmed by the ‘just add water’ media that your needs and wants should be instantly fulfilled. Pay attention to the messages you see and hear, how many times this week you are exposed to one or more of the following phrases.

Get rich quick

Lose weight fast

Overnight success

Over time these messages cause you to have an internal disparity in your life. You begin to feel as though there’s something you’re not doing right and this is the emotion these messages are designed to create. They are designed for you to act but not necessarily in your best interest.

The trick is to realize that any endeavor that is going to create lasting change in your life is going to take time. It’s going to take time and effort to begin and more important, it’s going to take even more effort to maintain. So allow your rational thinking mind to push your feelings of ‘why don’t I have it now’ to the side and keep moving forward.

Distractions

Your mind is always looking for a way to escape from itself and you help it by continuously providing it with distractions. TV, phone, text messages, social media, radio, family, work, which combinations of these do you use on a daily basis avoid listening to who you are?

These external inputs shape your thoughts, moods and ideas of who you should be and how your life should look. Whether you do it consciously or unconsciously every input demands a degree of attention and your brain is constantly being bombarded with new thoughts while it is trying to reconcile existing ones.

Commit sometime today to eliminating all distractions for a short period of time.

No TV or reading.

Do not respond to call, emails or text messages, unless of course you’re an emergency worker or physician on call.

Turn the music off as you drive.

Allow your brain to absorb your activities throughout your day and listen to your thoughts. See which thoughts are empowering you and which ones are affecting you in a negative way.  Researchers say that you have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day, why not try to listen to some of them and see what they have to say.

Talk with Strangers

Make some time this week to talk with a stranger. This might be difficult for you because you may have had parents that warned you about talking to strangers so you have a mental image of strangers being bad. The reality is you will very rarely encounter a ‘bad’ stranger. Most people are just like you, sharing similar concerns and struggles.

The benefit of talking with a stranger is that it allows you learn the perspective and ideas of a person outside of your daily thought patterns. You probably spend most of your days talking with the same few people and the majority of these people are very similar to you. This causes you to see the world in a limited perspective.

You might feel uncomfortable at first having a conversation with a stranger or not know where or how to start. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to say I recommend you use the ‘FORD’ mental device to jog your brain.

Family

Occupation

Recreation

Dreams

People love talking about one or all of these subject and the better you get at talking with strangers the easier it will become to guide the conversations through these 4 subjects. Try using this mental device at first with people you know and then go talk with a stranger.

Blame

Who are you going to blame today and for what? Are you going to blame your boss, your significant other, your co-workers, your children? Who is going to be the cause of your frustration, unhappiness, anger? How much time do you spend blaming people because they do not live up to your standards or your expectations, yet deep down you know that blaming them does not cure your frustrations?

I know you’re thinking, but it is their fault and you might be right. But how you’re reacting to it is up to you. Pouring your energy into how another person behaves only fuels your fire not theirs. When you find yourself beginning to blame someone, take pause and think about why you feel so wronged. Did they do it deliberately to harm you? Was their intent malicious? If so then take action, but don’t dwell on it with frustration. Acting in a calm directed manner will give you sense of control over the situation.

The thing about blame is that it easy to do and people will always give you an opportunity to blame them. But what if you didn’t? How would that look? Try it today and see what happens.

I Quit

After 3 months of writing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I have decided to shut down this blog. I want to thank all of you that have supported me but I just can’t do it anymore.

Here are some of the reasons I have decided to quit.

Thinking of things to write about is really hard.

Worrying about what people are saying or thinking about my writing is a lot of pressure.

I get scared every time I hit publish button.

Not enough people like or follow me.

I think that I have terrible grammar.

I think that my ideas are not special so why should I share them.

As you can see, so many fears and concerns that I have written about in the past are the same concerns that I too have on regular basis. So as I shut down this part of my brain the last thing I ask you to do is check your calendar. Did I get you? I’m not quitting! I’m just getting started. Your feedback and support has been overwhelming. I love all of you for following, sharing and commenting. Thank you again and I’ll see you on Monday.

Intentionally,

Raj

Your Health

If you don’t take care of your body then where are you going to live?

Someone asked me this question many years ago and today I ask you. A commitment to staying healthy should be high priority because if it’s not then all the other areas of your life will eventually pay the price.

Being healthy doesn’t have to be a daunting task but you do have to be consistent. Small changes in the way to go about your day can give you great results over time.

Food is the obvious big driver when it comes to health and thinking about what you are eating is the key to this. Next time you sit down to eat ask yourself if the producer of the food has your best interest in mind or theirs? Did they spend billions of dollars to entice you? Did they create a process where they could provide you with the lowest quality food at a price that would be attractive to you? Why are you eating that particular food and if it’s not beneficial to you what else could you be eating?

Exercise is the other half of the equation. Here you’ve been led to believe that you must be sweating on a treadmill or lifting huge amount of weights in order for it to be considered exercise. And if you’re going to compete in athletics or be a bodybuilder then perhaps it’s true. But for most some simple movements can do wonders. Your body is designed for movement and the more you move it the better you will feel. The Okinawa Centenarian (age over 100) Study showed that “exercise in the form of dance, soft martial arts, walking and gardening” were key health drivers. Keeping exercise simple will help you stick with it over time.

You can start improving your health today by being mindful of what you are eating and how much you are moving. When you decide to eat today, try not to be distracted with electronics or conversations and think about if you are really hungry or are you eating because it’s time to eat? Think about how much time you spend today sitting or standing in one place. Take a break to stretch or walk around for a few minutes. The additional blood flow to your brain will also give you the added benefit of being able to think clearer too.

Taking care of health should not be something you have to obsess over, but it should be something you pay attention to on a daily basis.

Not What You Imagined

Reality is almost never how you imagined it would be.

You probably have this idea in your head about how your life should be. A version of life that is stitched together with highlight reels of your dreams and thoughts, a version of how things ought to be.

The thing is that your brain is wired to propel you to a better future. Regardless of if you openly admit to it or not you are an eternal optimist, and that’s a good thing. You see it’s this vision of a better future that keeps you moving forward. It’s your brains survival method.

The challenge is how do you reconcile what you imagined and what actually is. How do you maintain a sense of peace knowing that there will always be the parallel existence of what you imagined and what really is? Take solace in knowing that there is no perfect version of life. There will be times when you will be in awe of how great your life is and also times when you will have to be content with how things are.

Don’t stop using your imagination to drive your life forward and create in your mind the world you want to live in. It might not turn out exactly as you imagined, but just imagine if it turned out better.

Be Creative

Do something creative every day.

As humans we’re all wired to be creative but you may have decided that creativity is not something you’re good at so you neglect this core part of who you are. You may associate creativity with something you once made or did that didn’t turn out the way you expected it to. Or you may look at creativity as an activity for children or artists but not something you want to indulge in. The fact is that creativity can be applied in all areas of life.

One of the easiest ways to be creative is to doodle, yes doodle. Just put a pen to paper and let your mind go with it. The key here is not to seek an outcome but just draw or write the first thing that comes to your mind. Not judging what you’re doing is very important because the minute you do your brain will tell you that it’s not good or you’re wasting your time.

Being creative doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You can take a five minute break from almost any activity and just let your mind wander. Eliminating distractions is very important to creativity so, if you’re on a computer close the browser and open paint or a similar program and just scribble and color. Putting pen to paper is even better because the physical act of drawing stimulates different areas of your brain.

Regardless of your profession realize that everything you see and use in your daily life started out as a creative endeavor. So spend a few minutes today allowing your creativity to flow and see where your mind takes you. Who knows what you’ll create.

Be Kind

Be kind. I could just stop here but then I wouldn’t hit my minimum of 100 words commitment so please stay with me as I complete my goal.

According to the dictionary some of the words used to describe the opposite of kind are cold, cruel, thoughtless and uncaring. I’m sure that you probably would not use any of these words to describe yourself, but what if this is how the world sees you?

Being kind and saying kind words can sometimes be a challenging task, but it is possible. Right when you’re at that moment of anger, frustration or just taking for granted the person in front of you, stop and be kind.

The practice of conscious kindness will take some time to develop and you will be tested daily, however, over time it will begin to be your first response.

Take time today to:

Be kind to strangers, you never know their struggles. Make an attempt to not be transactional with them. A few kind words to the person behind the counter or anyone else you encounter could be the best thing that happens to them all day.

Be kind to your co-workers. Saying something nice to them will not change the pressures of work, but it might improve their day.

Be kind to your family and friends. Memories tend to be selective so give those closest to you the warmth of knowing that time spent with you will be filled with kindness.

Most important of all, be kind to yourself. Practice saying words of kindness and affection in your mind. Give yourself the gift of kind thoughts throughout the day.

Friends

Do you feel energized or drained after you spend time with your friends? Do your friends challenge you and encourage you to grow? Do they support you on your journey or do they hold you back and say things like, you’re not the same anymore, and you’ve changed.

Do your friends spend their time gossiping about other people or discussing ideas and possibilities? Do they have things they too want to accomplish or are they too busy tearing down other people’s ideas? Are they producers or consumers?

If, when you are around your friends to you find yourself concealing your thoughts or compromising your values in order to fit in or not to hurt feelings then you might want to re-evaluate your friendships.

Remember the friends you spend time with will strongly influence how you see the world and will also be strong predictor of the results in all areas of your life, so choose them wisely.

Feeling Alive

When was the last time you felt alive? I believe there is a big difference in being alive and feeling alive. Being alive is what you do every day. Sitting in the same chairs, going to the same places, talking to the same people, driving the same route,  eating the same food and on and on until eventually a layer of rust forms over your senses creating nothing but a dull existence, essentially being alive.

Feeling alive on the other hand is that feeling of butterflies you had when you first held hands with a person of the opposite sex. The fear you felt on the top of a roller coaster. The nervousness you felt when you were asked to speak in front of a group. Feeling alive comes from not knowing what will happen next, it’s at this point that all of your senses are activated because biologically they have to be in order to keep you alive.

Try one of these activities this week to stimulate your senses and feelings you once experienced.

Attend a Meetup or an event where you don’t know anyone.

Take a class in something you’re interested in.

Talk or flirt with strangers.

Go to store you wouldn’t normally go to.

Do something creative and then show people.

Ask the server in a restaurant what their favorite item is and try it.

Go to an amusement park.

For the more adventurous souls, try bungee jumping, rollers skating, fencing, dancing or something else physical that you haven’t done before. Physical activities are fantastic for feeling alive because they stimulate both mind and body.

You’re here to experience life, so go out and do it while you still have the opportunity. Don’t just be alive, feel alive!

Excuses

Think of an excuse for not doing something you know you should. We usually make excuses because we don’t want to do something, we are rationalizing why we are not doing what we want to do, or we don’t want to feel at fault. Now, like me some of you might say how is an excuse different from a reason? So, I did your homework for you : ) Apparently a reason is based on fact and underlying evidence whereas an excuse is an attempt to lessen blame.

What are your excuses for not doing something or acting in way that you know you should? I’ll help you by sharing some that I’ve used in the past:

I’m too busy

I’m too tired

I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.

I don’t know how to start.

I don’t do things like that.

Now is not the right time.

I’m not good at…

It’s nothing they haven’t heard before.

Some of these might resonate with you and that’s great because now you know you’re not alone. The thing is that most excuses are just poor justifications for not moving us forward to be the person we really can and want to be.

Today, think about something you really want to do and write down all the excuses that you’ve made for not taking action. Then say them out loud so you can hear yourself. This might sound silly and that’s my point. Hopefully hearing them out loud will make you realize how ridiculous the excuses are and how you can begin to take steps to overcome them.

Pause for a Moment

Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, the kind where your tummy expands just a little and hold it for 5 seconds. Now exhale for 5 seconds. Do it right now. What are you thinking about? Did you really pause or were you in too much of a hurry to continue reading?  Did you say to yourself, I’ll read to the end and then do it? Are you really that busy? Or are you like most that just read and continue to move on without taking action? Will you really stop ‘sometime’ later today to make time for a breathing exercise?

Pausing for a moment and consciously taking a few deep breaths has been shown to calm the nervous system, release tension and increase focus. Taking deep breathes also helps to alleviate stress.

Taking time to breathe deeply can transform your life. It’s one of those activities that provide a huge return on a small investment.

Make today the day you commit to pausing to breathe. It doesn’t take very long, just a few minutes throughout the day, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.