"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
~ Henry David Thoreau ~
What if your life is not what you'd like it to be. You are unhappy, but aren't sure which direction to turn. How do you go about changing your life? Where do you turn for inspiration?
While it varies, here is the journey of Leo Babauta, a man who was unhappy with where he was and what it took for him to change his life. Did it happen instantly? No, it did not. In fact, it has become an ongoing journey. He now shares the how, what, and why of this journey in his blog.
"When I set out to become happy, I wanted to change my life. I had an ideal life that I wanted to create, and I thought if I created that life, I would be happy.
This was true in every area of my fantasy: I learned that striving for the fantasy didn’t ever work, that I could never get there, that even if I got close, I wouldn’t be happy.
But I learned along the way that I didn’t need my old baggage, and that everything I needed for happiness was already in my possession."
While his steps are his way of doing things, they can be adapted into becoming a part of your way as well.
Inspiration can come from helping others. When you stop thinking totally about yourself and your problems, become involved in helping someone else, you are able to look at your own life more objectively.
Setting challenges can be inspirational. Just make sure the challenge is one that is possible and not some high in the sky challenge.
Remove all distractions. Is your phone always ready for calls? Is the computer open to the games? Sometimes it is necessary to learn to ‘put on blinders’ so that you can get past allthe things you would much rather be doing.
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Just start moving! If you wait and wait, it will not happen. Take that first step, and the rest will follow. If it is exercise, do not start with a 60 minute workout. Make it a 10 minute one. If it is decluttering, pick one area or counter and just start. Attacking the whole house at once is too overwhelming! If you are trying to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones, try to stop and figure out why. It is because of past failures?
Surround yourself by inspiration. Leo loves classical music, but that may not get you moving at all. Find the rhythm that has the beat that you need. Also, connect with people who are also setting up challenges for themselves… at the gym, in your neighborhood, your family. Compare ideas and motivational situations that may work for all of you. Leo connected with bloggers with similar goals. He learned from them and now they are also learning from him.
Be grateful for the miracle of your life. As Leo states in the quote at the beginning, he had to change his outlook. He learned that happiness was not out there. It was inside him from the beginning. He already had all he needed to be happy.
The changes he brought into his life made him feel better about himself. He is healthier, has more stamina to do the things he wants to do. He found that ‘simplicity’ was to be his key in life. What he did and how he did it may not fit your life, but the steps he took, the mental outlook he adopted, can be useful for us all.
You cannot wait for that "kick in the butt" to get going, There are times you just have to jump in… with small steps as those large steps you tried before defeated you before you even began. Be realistic. If you need guidance, seek it out. Just do not remain stagnant as that will not get you anywhere.
Make it a journey, keep a journal. This is especially useful when trying to change your thought patterns. Write about the faltering steps along with the positive steps and what you learned from them. If you wish, take photos, make videos. Just do not let these take priority over the main objective of your goal.
Keep it real! Keep it "you" oriented and do not compare your results to others. Know it will take time to bring change to your life. Leo’s journey took him seven years. Yours probably won't take that long, but even it does, it's more than worth it.
"Competing at the highest level is the greatest test of one's character." ~ Russell Mark ~
I originally posted the following in April of 2011. I'd just ran a half marathon and wanted you know the value I find in doing so. Saturday, I ran another one (10 months after brain surgery), and the same principles apply now as did then. I hope you'll enjoy what you read and can apply it to your own life. Thanks!
Saturday, I successfully ran another half-marathon. Heavy winds and thunderstorms could not stop me. And I felt great afterward. You know why?
Because I'm still out there competing. Long after I was told to go home and quietly fade away. More than a decade after it was said that my best years were far behind me.
I continue to run marathons and half marathons, triathlons, and other races because I refuse to give up. And while that is true, it's more than that. And that's what I want to share with you.
I am convinced that there is something to the whole competion thing that can't be duplicated in other ways. I plan on competing in some way for a lifetime, and I think you should too.
Here are the top five reasons (in no particular order) as to why I think competition is so important:
1) Focuses your training. When you're out there slogging away, it can seem like endless torture for no particular reason. Not so when you have an upcoming event to be ready for.
2) Builds mental toughness. Short of intense combat, nothing builds your mental toughness like a physical challenge does. It forces you to reach down and see what you're truly made of.
3) Allows you to see where you are. It can be humbling to see where you are in relation to others. But it can also serve as a great motivator if you allow it. And no, you don't have to beat others. Competing against yourself is motivating too.
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4) Lets you meet new people. Going to different events allows you to meet people that you normally would not, which can have a lot of benefit far beyond the initial meeting.
5) It's just plain fun. As a life coach, one of the things I know is how many people don't do anything for fun. They work, eat, watch TV, and that's about it. Oh, and they might watch their kids having fun. Competiton allows you to do that for yourself.
There you have it. While there are certainly more reasons, those five will get you well on your way. And they can keep you going for a lifetime.
I have obviously concentrated on the kind of competition that I'm into here. That is because I believe there is nothing like physical competition to really stoke your fire, for all the reaons I've listed.
Still, you could find some great ways to compete in many other areas too. The key is finding something that fits you, then really going for it!
"Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
In the fall of 1998, I was medically retired from the Marine Corps. I was a Gunnery Sergeant, with almost 15 years of service. I had been a Marine since I was 17, and had planned on doing 30 years. But now all of that was over.
A cancer syndrome I have, called von Hippel Lindau (VHL), had progressed, resulting in four brain tumors and kidney cancer on both kidneys. That, when combined with the loss of my left eye due to the disease a few years earlier, added up to my career being over.
I was down, depressed, and confused. But, mainly I was scared. Being a Marine was all I'd wanted to do since I was a 10-year-old kid. What would I do now? And would the disease I have get even worse? I guess I could have just gone home and taken it easy, as was recommended by most medical experts. They'd told me that my best years were far behind me; that I'd never be able to the kind of things I once had...
"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." ~ Bill Cosby ~
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once famously made a speech in which he said, "The only thing we have to fear is, is fear itself." Well, with all due respect to the president, I don't buy it. Not at face value anyway.
The truth is, fear is real and is quite often legitimate. The fear of fire, jumping from a great height, or being vigilant against terrorism for example all make sense. We shouldn't allow that fear to paralyze us, of course, but should understand that it's designed to help keep us safe, when properly used.
But there is another kind of fear that we need to be aware of. It's something called irrational fear and, if we allow it to, it can be devastating to us. If we’re not careful, it can stall our success and sabotage our long term goals and desires.
Irrational fear is more often than not rooted in guilt, regret, or past failures. It's like a big anchor that's weighing you down, and it keeps you from ever becoming all that you can be in your life, or living the way you'd like to live.
In my own life, I've had my share of fears to overcome. Like the fear of failure, that I'm not good enough, or I couldn't make it. But, I've learned what it takes to face them down, and I’d like to share five simple steps you can use to do the same.
1) Switch off irrational thoughts by thinking logically.
When you’re in a fearful situation, the creative part of your brain takes over and conjures up all sorts of dire thoughts. It’s hard to think rationally in that state, so it’s vital that you switch back to the logical side. To do so, try this: recite your ABCs backward, or count as high as you can by threes, or name all of the seven dwarves. All of these methods force you back to the logical side of the brain, allowing you to think rationally.
2) Control your focus.
Whatever you focus on, you tend to bring more of into your life. Therefore it’s important to only focus on those things you want, not on what you don’t want. So, rather than focusing on how scared you are, instead focus on how it is going to feel when you overcome the fear, and on the steps involved to do so.
3) Assess the fear.
Is what you’re feeling real, or is it something that you’ve simply made up? As I mentioned earlier, there are some fears that are legitimate and we need to be aware of them, and respect them. However, it’s usually the ones that aren’t real—the ones that we simply make up—that hold us back the most in life. That’s why it’s so important to know the difference.
4) Respond according to your assessment.
Once you have made your assessment, act on the fear accordingly. Keep in mind that your response could change from situation to situation. Some fears (legitimate ones) you may avoid, others you may have to face. Also, be aware that just because you face a fear one time, that does not mean that it goes away forever.
5) Expect fear to pop up from time to time.
Fear should not catch you by surprise, especially if you’re pushing your limits. Knowing that it’s out there will keep you prepared, but also know that you can overcome it. You have the ability to control it and no fear is so great that it can stop you from moving forward.
So there you have it. Five simple steps that, if followed, will allow you to face down any fear and move forward in your life...No Matter What!
So much of a person’s frustration, anger, or stress when trying to succeed, is from expectations that aren't in alignment with the reality of their life, at a specific place and time. But that goal may be possible, after several other steps are taken, after more knowledge or life experience has been gained.
Imagine that you want to run a marathon someday, even though you have never even run a mile before. It is a good goal, but not one to try and obtain in one fell swoop!
Since running is new, you would first need to learn about the art of running. There are good habits that need to be formed and bad ones to stay away from. Join a running group; get a DVD or a book to learn about running.
You could then try running to one mailbox, and walking to the next. Going back and forth between running and walking, so you can observe the way you are doing it. After you feel good about your progress here, head for a local track.
See the steps? Running that marathon is still out there, but many steps have been brought into play to help you make it a reality. The expectations that you put in front of yourself have to be real. They have to be possible.
There is nothing demeaning when it comes to any goal, to break it down into reachable steps. Create steps that can be studied. Make corrections to the means or procedure that will help to keep you on track.
These mini steps, or breaking down of one’s goals into reality of smaller, more easily manageable steps, can be applied to just about anything that you may like to accomplish.
It's great to have that dream, but just remember to look at it carefully. Note all the needed knowledge and skills you must acquire. Gather that knowledge and skills, then move forward.
Also, look at any stumbles carefully as you most likely will have them. They should not be considered failure, but a chance to learn. You are now given a chance to move forward once more, using the knowledge gained from that stumble.
It is the perseverance that comes from the breaking down of one’s goal, the moving through the steps chosen, as well as the learning from the stumbles that makes the final goal a reality.
"Every life is a profession of faith, and exercises an inevitable and silent influence."
~ Henri Frederic Amiel ~
Below is a post that I wrote a couple of years ago. In light of Andy Griffith's passing last week, I thought it'd be nice to share it with you again. I hope it helps you as much as it has me.
Television. While some have hailed it as one of the greatest inventions of the last century, others have argued that it is a destroyer of our society.
I can see where there are valid arguments from both sides. It's really a matter of personal choice and taste I suppose.
Whether television is good or bad depends on the person watching it and what they choose to watch.
Because while it's true there certainly is a bunch of (excuse my French) crap out there, there are also shows that have the ability to teach, motivate and inspire the viewer.
So where do you find such shows? Well, obviously, I'm no TV Guide, so all I can do is tell you what's right for me.
As for me, if I had to choose just one show that I feel meets the aforementioned attributes (one that teaches, motivates, and inspires), then I'd choose "Andy Griffith."
In all my years of watching television, I've never encountered any other show that has held my interest year after year quite the way Andy Griffith does.
I just can't say enough good things about it. I particularly like the early episodes that were filmed in black and white, with Barney Fife and Opie as a young kid.
Just the other day, I was watching one of my favorite episodes. I'd seen this particular one many times, as I have all of them I'm sure.
But this time was different. On this day, it was as if I was being taught something by Andy Griffith himself. A lesson that I now pass on to you.
The episode began with Andy and Barney in a dilemma. They'd been given the responsibility by the Mayor to get rid of an old cannon which has become an eyesore for the town.
Their problem is, the cannon is virtually worthless. It's sat in Mayberry for its entire existence and with such a boring history behind it, the boys realize their chances of selling it aren't very good.
Finally, their luck changes, however, thanks to a "little white lie." Somehow, an out of town buyer gets it into his head that the cannon charged up San Juan hill with Teddy Roosevelt.
And that "little white lie" convinces him that the actually worthless cannon is valuable, so he buys it.
So what's the problem? Well, the problem is actually twofold. Not only did Andy lie to the buyer himself, even worse he taught Opie that it was okay to do so.
Not intentionally of course, but as is so often the case, Opie's little eyes were watching Andy the entire time, learning from him, emulating him.
Sure enough, not long after the cannon was sold, little Opie scams a friend of his into buying some "magic" beans.
Andy hears of this and reprimands Opie for misleading his friend. He stresses that one should always be honest in business dealings and in life.
Great advice, right? Well of course it is, but as I said earlier, Opie knew what Andy had done with the cannon.
Therefore, to Opie, it sounded as if Andy was saying "do as I say, not as I do."
Andy realizes what's he's done and contacts the man who's to buy the cannon. He admits his lie and comes clean with Opie. All and all, it's a great episode.
The biggest thing I took away from it was the valuable lesson of always being aware of the influence our example has over those we find ourselves responsible for (like kids, employees, etc).
This influence shouldn't be underestimated. Although I could go on and on about the importance of this, I believe the following poem by an unknown poet says it best:
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that little things can be the special things in life.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don't.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I felt you kiss me good night and I felt loved and safe.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't feel good and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it's all right to cry.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I learned most of life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking.
So let me ask you. Who is looking at you when you don't realize it; and are you setting an example that you'd be proud for them to follow?
Remember, you've got the power to influence for the better or worse. It's your choice. Make the right one.
"We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
~ Winston Churchill ~
October 31, 1983 is a date that I won't forget. That’s the day I enlisted in the Marine Corps; just eight days after the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebannon where 249 brave souls lost their life.
Being a Marine was all that I’d wanted to do since I was ten, after seeing “The Sands of Iwo Jima” with John Wayne for the first time. Once I did, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I would be a Marine.
I was only 17, and still a senior in high school, when I enlisted, so I signed up under the Delayed Entry Program. I was then scheduled to ship out to boot camp, at Parris Island, SC, just a few days after my graduation in June.
During the interim, my recruiter gave me a handbook to study that would help prepare me for recruit training. The handbook consisted of various Marine Corps regulations, customs and courtesies, etc.
But the one thing that stood out the most for me was the Military Code of Conduct. It consisted of six articles, one of which really impacted me a lot. And it’s the reason I’m sharing this story with you. It’s article two and it states:
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
I memorized that article when I was seventeen and have lived by that creed ever since. And you can do the same.
Now, I realize that many of you reading this have no desire to serve in the military, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the mindset. That you will never surrender while you still have the means to resist.
You won’t give up on your hopes, goals, and dreams simply because things are tough. There's a lot of power in this way of thinking. In fact, I'm convinced that this way of thinking is what really separates the winners from the losers in life.
"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
There’s simply no getting around it. If you want to lead a happy life, and certainly if you ever want to reach your full potential, you absolutely must believe in yourself.
I mean think about it. If you don't truly believe in yourself, how in the world can you legitimately expect others to? It just doesn’t make sense.
You may have gone through some rough times in your life making it difficult to be the kind of person you want to be, but I want you to know that your past doesn't have to be your future.
Please read the next sentence carefully because it is a super important one. No matter what you have been through, you can overcome it. I truly believe that.
It all starts with you becoming your biggest fan though, and there's no better time to start than right now! Here are three tips you can put into place starting today:
1) Face your fears.
Fear of failure may have caused you to ignore your dreams, desires, or goals. If so, determine today that you won't let that fear stop you from getting what you truly want.
If Thomas Edison had been afraid of failure, we wouldn't have the luxury of indoor lighting today. He never gave up trying to find the right way to make a light bulb and he experienced over 10,000 ways of how not to make a light bulb.
Just because you don't reach your goals or dreams the first time, don't give up. Keep trying until you succeed. Learn from your mistakes, sure. But keep moving ahead.
Once you begin facing your fears, you'll discover that what you feared may not be such a big deal after all. But, you'll never know until you start.
2) Control your self-talk.
Do you say negative things like, "I'm an idiot," or "That was a dumb thing to do," or "I'm ugly?" How you perceive yourself comes out in what you say. And what you say to yourself affects how you see yourself.
Change how you see yourself by speaking positively to yourself, about yourself. When you're getting ready for the day, while looking in the mirror, point out some positive characteristics about yourself and say them out loud. Phrases such as:
"I am an attractive person."
"I am a good parent."
"I am a hard worker."
"I love myself."
"I like how I look in these clothes."
"I am brilliant."
Even if you don't believe it, say it anyway! You will soon realize that these things really are true. Also, place positive quotes, affirmations, and/or scriptures where you will see them during the day to keep your spirits high.
3) Work on what you need to.
While I don't suggest we work exclusively on our weaknesses (we actually should focus much more on our strengths), there are times when we must. Particularly if it affects how we see ourselves. With that in mind, consider this:
Are you bad at financial management? You could take a class to help you learn to budget so you can be in control of your money, instead of it controlling you.
Are you a slow reader? You could take a speed-reading class or get a tutor to help you build speed.
Do you find it challenging to speak in public? You could take a public speaking course or become part of an organization where you must speak in public.
Is your weight stopping you from believing yourself? You could learn how to eat healthy and get regular exercise to take some weight off.
The key thing to remember is this: No matter what's stopping you from believing in yourself, there's a way to overcome it.
Well, that's it for now. Until next time...
Keep reaching, Jay
P.S. I would love to hear from you! If you have a comment on this post, please leave it in the comments section, so I can respond to you and others can read it as well. Thanks!