More Eyes & Ears, Less Mouth

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I’m an ex-football player and coach. My position was running back. What’s the most important attribute of a good running back? Their eyes. Their vision. How they see the field, i.e. what’s developing in front of them, which enables them to read and react.

As with being a good running back, being a good person begins with the eyes. That is the starting point. If you want to learn to be a kinder person, you’ve got to change the way you see the world. You’ve got to become more sensitive to the needs of other people.

Hurry is an obstacle to kindness. When you’re always distracted with things to do, you don’t have time to be kind. Multi-tasking kills kindness.

So after you see it, what’s next? How do you react? By using your ears. Listen to what others are saying. Sympathize with their hurt. Then your heart will follow.

Have you ever talked to a dog? They really listen. They make you feel free to say whatever you want. They more you talk, the more they listen. They don’t ask leading questions. They don’t offer solutions. They don’t judge.

This is true sympathy. True kindness.

The next time you’re having a conversation with someone, try this. Listen like a dog. Let them talk.

The more you talk, the more advice you give, the more you try to solve their problem, the more they will wish you’ll just go away.

Sympathy meets two basic needs: the need to be understood and the need to have feelings validated. When someone is hurting, it’s comforting to know they’re not crazy, what they feel is normal and others have felt it before.

We are asked to share each other’s burdens and love others as yourself. Do you like to feel sympathy when you’re hurting? Do the same for others. Demonstrate kindness.

See it. Hear it.

More eyes and ears. Less mouth.

Pride Leads to Arguments

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Do you have a teachable spirit? Are you capable of being taught? Are you secure enough to admit you don’t know something?

Or, do you think and act like you know it all? Do you always have to be right?

If you sit back and reflect on moments of relational peace and strife, you’ll probably find a common denominator with each situation. Where there was peace, there was humility, openness, and eagerness, i.e. a teachable spirit. When there was strife, there was arrogance, defensiveness, and stubbornness, i.e. a proud spirit.

Everyone wants a meaningful life. Everyone is on a quest to find their life’s purpose. It’s in our DNA. We are programmed with a purpose, which is why we crave it.

But you’ll never find it with a proud spirit. Pride will prevent you from having the harmonious relationships needed along your quest. If you think you can find it alone, you’ll waste a lifetime of effort. You’ll die bitter, resentful and alone.

Why?

Conceited people do not like to be corrected. They never ask for advice from those who are wiser. They’re not pleasant to be around.

People who reject discipline, only harm themselves. Those who listen to correction, grow in understanding.

Pride leads to arguments.

Awareness of the need to suppress pride and promote a teachable spirit is the first step to having the proper mind-heart balance in life. Only then can you begin to discover true joy.

 

Envy vs. Gratitude

Envy vs. GratitudeWe’re always comparing. There are daily battles in our minds over stuff we want versus stuff we have. Things that others possess, but we don’t. The greater success someone else has that should be ours.

On one side is envy.  The other gratitude. What wins your battles? You’re in control.

What determines the outcomes is your mind-heart equilibrium. To have the proper balance, you need a clear, calm mind. With it, you have self-control.

If you chose envy, you’ll never be happy. Trust me. I’ve been there. And it’s such an ugly quality that you won’t like yourself much. It’s a turn off to others too.

If you chose gratitude, being grateful for who and what you have in life, the good and the bad, and make it a daily habit, then you’ll be a more pleasant, likable, caring, successful person. Don’t believe me?

I’m sure you’re asking, “why should I be grateful for the bad stuff that happens?” Because it will be used for good, if you believe it and let it shape your character for the better.

If you’re up for a challenge, then start every day over the next 40 days with the following question:

What and whom am I grateful for today?

Write your answers down in a journal. Write down whatever comes up. Every day.

You’ll transform into a happier, more positive, less envious person. You’ll start to see the good in everything. You’ll stop comparing.

Try it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Apprenticeship

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Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I had that car, that house, that job, that position, that type of family, type of marriage, or type of relationship?” It’s natural to desire a better quality of life.

If you don’t have the big things in life you want, then have you examined how you handle the little things in life? Why? Because anyone who does not do the right thing in small matters will not do the right thing in large matters, and we are asked to be good stewards.

It’s also been said, “If you have not been faithful with that which belongs to someone else, who will give you what belongs to you?” You need to understand and respect this principle.

Many skilled professions are learned through apprenticeship. Blue-collar trades as well as many white-collar jobs are learned by being an apprentice under a more experienced professional. Before venturing off on their own business or being entrusted to lead others, an apprentice is groomed to be a good student, servant and steward.

This principle of apprenticeship applies to every area of your life. It applies to the small things given to you as well as how you handle other people’s money and possessions.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What would change about my life if I knew my spouse or kids were watching how I behave in private?
  • What are the small things entrusted to me? How have I shown faithfulness in the care of those things?
  • How can I know what the right thing to do is in any situation?
  • What steps can I take to ensure I do the right thing even when nobody is looking?

Do you know anybody of strong character who always does the right thing, someone who can model the person you want to become? A wise “player-coach” who has been through so much in life, but has not crumbled. A mentor with a calm, assertive, compassionate, forgiving spirit.

Study them. Benefit from their wisdom. Learn from their mistakes. Become their apprentice.

Calm, Assertive Energy

I’m a big fan of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whispirer. If you are too, then you know all about calm, assertive energy. A goal of mine is to master being calm, assertive. When I’m in that state, I control the mood of my environment. It is peaceful.

If you ever want to know what energy you are emitting, then hang out with a dog. Calm energy. Nervous energy. Fear. Excitement. If you don’t believe me, then try an experiment. It won’t take you long to validate my hypothesis.

This applies to humans too. People sense your energy. It is a function of your emotional state.

So think about being able to control the mood of your environment by being calm, assertive. Think about being able to affect the relationships you have by first entering a state of mind that conveys peace. To do that, you must calm your mind.

Here’s what works for me:

  • I get comfortable in a quiet space (usually sitting in my home office).
  • I close my eyes.
  • I take deep, controlled breaths, inhaling through my noise for 4 seconds and exhaling through my mouth for 4 seconds.  I do this throughout the exercise, focusing on my breathing.
  • I imagine sitting at the bottom of a pond and looking up at the surface.
  • I visualize the sunlight shining through the surface and the stillness of the water.
  • As thoughts enter my mind, I release them and let them float to the surface.
  • I don’t try to prevent thoughts from entering.  I let them enter and as they do, I let them float, while focusing on my breathing.
  • In about 2-4 minutes, my mind is completely clear from thoughts, and I feel peaceful.

Calming my mind is part of my morning ritual and evening ritual.  I also use it when needed throughout the day such as before a meeting, or phone call, or conversation when I feel stressed or in a wrong frame of mind.  I don’t want negative energy to influence my relationships. I want to be calm, assertive. I want to feel peaceful.

When I’m peaceful, I see humor in things that help break the ice or make people comfortable opening up to me. I can be light, happy and fun.

When I’m peaceful, I can help others who are stressed feel more calm and peaceful. Conversations are more productive.

When I’m peaceful, I can bring a clear perspective into any situation. My contribution to a meeting or conversation is more meaningful. I can listen better and speak only when appropriate. I’m often told that I’m usually quite, but when I have something to say, it’s important and people listen.

When I’m peaceful, I am more patient, compassionate and affectionate. Empathy is uninhibited to flow from my heart. My mind is free from selfishness and able to think of the feelings of others.

Set a goal for yourself to master being calm, assertive. Calm your mind and get to know peace. It will be a game changer in your relationships and life.

Life is a Binary System

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Life is pretty simple when you think about it. We tend to make it complex. It’s about our choices. We choose to “do” or “do not”. It’s a string of 1’s and 0’s. In general, a binary system is any system that allows only two choices. Life is a binary system. The string of 1’s and 0’s we individually execute comprise our life’s work. They tell our story.

Our mind is the computer that makes our choices. Within each choice, there is either belief or unbelief. Trying is essentially unbelief. When you say, “I’ll try”, you are not committed. When you say, “I’ll do it”, you are putting a stake in the ground and making a promise you will get it done no matter what gets in your way. It takes guts, persistence and stamina.

The right decision depends on the choice we need to make. Sometimes, a “do” or a 1 is the right answer. Other times, a “do not” or a 0 is. We don’t always get it right on the first attempt, however we will always get another attempt if we are contrite, humble, forgive ourselves and others, learn from the mistake and have the strength to endure.

Eventually getting it right is the definition of success. It does not matter how many times it took. You did it. You did the right thing. And doing the right thing over and over, overcoming your hurts, hangups and bad habits, makes you a successful person. Every prosperous person fails and overcomes. Every failure let’s fear, guilt, resentment, or pride inhibit them.

Success or failure. Belief or unbelief. “Do” or “do not”. 1 or 0. It’s that simple.

What’s Your Morning Ritual?

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This is the view from my home office with which I start my day. Included are the sounds of birds chirping and a waterfall running, the sights of still water and fish swimming, the touch of a gentle breeze and the smell of flowers in full bloom.

I love waking up to a new day. I am grateful for it. It was not guaranteed. It’s an unwrapped gift I can’t wait to open. It contains possibility and opportunity.

How do you start your day? What’s your morning ritual? Do you have one? Actually, everyone has one. The better question is, “Is it intentional or accidental?”

When you wake up, do you feel like the day grabs you, straps you in and takes you for a ride? Alternatively, do you wake up and carve out time for yourself before you do anything else? I do.

Preferably, this time is spent sitting comfortably in my home office, a quiet space dedicated to my reflective and visualization work. I ask myself empowering questions and capture answers in a journal. I write down whatever comes up. This occupies the first 10 minutes of my day. I follow this up with a 5 minute breathing exercise, a 15 minute mindful walk and a 20 minute free weight workout.

This good habit sets the tone for my day. I don’t always feel like doing it, but I do it. In my experience, it’s the difference between being “on” and in the zone and being “off” and unbalanced. It calms my mind and allows me to align my goals with my purpose. It’s become second nature. I can’t imagine not doing it.

Do you want more out of life? There is comfort in blaming something else for your current status, for your circumstances. There is comfort in conforming. Time and time again, it’s been proven the same behaviors yield the same results. Are you happy with the results?

The quest to find meaning in life and discovering true joy is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s how you finish, not how you start. No matter what’s happened to you, good or bad, it’s in the past. Your successful future is determined by your good habits moving forward.

Life is journey about good and bad habits. We all need to form more good and less bad. The first step is to choose to have a morning ritual that’s intentional and points you in the right direction.

Nothing external to you controls you. You are in control of how you start your day.

The Story

The Story

Everybody has a story. The difference between success and failure is the perspective one takes on their ability to create their story.

The majority of people wake up every morning and conform. They do what they think they are supposed to do, what society expects of them. They react to external factors. They believe they are dealt circumstances over which they have no control. They are drifting.

A minority of people wake up, are grateful for a new day of possibility, a new day of opportunity and believe they can create the circumstances they want. They understand life will throw curve balls, however they persist because they know where they are going.

In other words, they are in control of their story. They are writing it. It is not just writing itself. They have a pen in hand and are putting it to paper. No matter what twists and turns the plot takes, it will have a happy ending because they define what happiness means. Woven in to the story line is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.

All things work for the good for those who have this perspective. You can create the story you want, no matter what happens to you. In all things, good and bad, give thanks because they are helping to shape you in to the person you were meant to be.

What is your story? It’s never too late to start writing “The Story” you were meant to write.

Mind-Heart Equilibrium

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Are your mind and heart in equilibrium? Are they emotionally balanced? If not, then my guess is that external influences are controlling your behavior.

We can not control what happens to us, however we can control our response. The key to unlocking this ability is your mind-heart balance.

To find life, you must find this balance. It’s a prerequisite.

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