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Is Thanksgiving a Joke in American Culture?

On December 3, 2013, in Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Black Friday Death Counter

The column I wrote for the December issue of the Garland Rowlett Messenger caused quite a stir. But it’s not wrong. In fact, it’s so right it hurts. What do you think? Leave a comment!


Every year we, as Americans, gather around our dinner tables with our family, friends, or both, and we break bread in a tradition of being grateful for the people, opportunities, and possessions we have in our lives. Some families do not begin eating until each person has spoken briefly about what he or she is thankful for that year.

We consume an average of 4500 calories each, and watch football on the TV between rounds of green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. With stuffed bellies and family gathered together, life is pretty good, right? That’s what Thanksgiving is all about – being grateful for what you have. This couldn’t be further from the truth in American culture.

Thanksgiving is a joke, and millions of people are in on it.

Thanksgiving is about the latest and greatest Black Friday sale. It’s about carbing up the day before the big shopping marathon. We eat big meals to fuel our bodies so we can then trample over the weaker of our species when those glass doors at Wal-Mart slide open at 5am.

We spend one day together feeling thankful for what we have, and the next day clamoring for materials we simply cannot live another second without – and we’ll hurt each other to get them.

The image at the top of this column is a screenshot of the current deaths and injuries related to Black Friday shopping excursions. It began in 2008 as a way to record the needless violence that occurs due to our need to have more stuff in our lives.

This is shameful.

This is the opposite of nourishing what matters.

This, of course, doesn’t reflect the actions of everyone, but it does reflect a cultural pattern in this country, and it’s not a good one, no matter how you look at it.

I challenge you to step back from all the commercialism of the holiday season, and genuinely reflect on your life for a moment. What are you grateful for this year? Who are you grateful for this year?

My invitation to you is to make this season about the gifts of gratitude, appreciation, and love – not making sure your loved ones have the latest electronics come Christmas morning. Spend a little more time showing them you care and less time making sure you have enough space on the credit card to get them a PS4.

It’s time to treat the holidays like more than just a gift exchange party. It’s time we Nourish What Matters.

What do you think? Leave a comment so we can connect.

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The Bigger Game Hits Home

On October 21, 2013, in Events, News, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Silhouette Man

 

“There is a desire within each of us, in the deep center of ourselves that we call our heart.
We were born with it, it is never completely satisfied, and it never dies.
We are often unaware of it, but it is always awake.

It is the Human desire for Love. Every person in this Earth yearns to love, to be loved, to know love.
Our true identity, our reason for being is to be found in this desire.

Love is the “why” of life, why we are functioning at all. I am convinced it is the fundamental energy
of the human spirit, the fuel on which we run, the wellspring of our vitality.

And grace, which is the flowing, creative activity, of love itself, is what makes all goodness possible.

Love should come first, it should be the beginning of, and the reason for everything.”
― Gerald G. MayLiving in Love


There is a project coming that has the power to shift us. I am excited to give you a little teaser because I’m not willing to throw too much at you too soon. We have started our Bigger Game here at H.Q. and it’s going to be nothing short of extraordinary. For the time being, pay a compliment to one another, express gratitude in your life, and start living for experience rather than what monetary gain it may bring.

The shift is coming. Stay tuned.

Blake and the new team.

Why Crossing the Line is the Right Choice

On October 8, 2013, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Cross The Line - Don't Just Stare at it.

I recently had a conversation with a client of mine regarding what he truly wants. He had so many things to say about what he wanted. And, he had even more to say about why it’s too hard or impossible to make happen. There are all these “reasons” for how it just can’t be done, or it’s too scary, or what will happen if it doesn’t work out – and every last one of them is made up.

We’re all dealing with a myriad of lines we’re afraid to cross. Taking the big leap of faith to start your new business venture, or having the courage to make that pretty girl your wife, or investing in yourself after years of investing in everyone else – these are lines we’ve drawn and need help, encouragement, and a good push to cross.

Consider this a little push. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is right now. You will regret every chance you didn’t take when your life comes to a close. If at the end of your life, you met the person you could have been, would you regret not taking more chances?

Of course you would.

It’s better to cross the line and manage the consequences than to stare at the line for the rest of your life.

What are your thoughts? What line do you wish you had the courage to conquer? Share in the comments below.

Commitment Over Criticism

On September 16, 2013, in Coaching, Everyday Life, News, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Diana Nyad

I write a column for the Garland & Rowlett Messenger in Texas, and with the paper coming out last week, I think it’s only fitting to share the column with you all here. If you click the link here, you can see the photo copy I’m all kinds of proud of.

Faced with a seemingly insurmountable goal, nearly every last one of us quits the fight.  Then there are the select few that reject the hand-me-down rules of what we are capable of. These individuals change the landscape of human achievement, and they don’t do it for medals, awards, or recognition. They do it because they feel it in their bones as something they can do when the world tells them it’s impossible.

Diana Nyad did the seemingly impossible over Labor Day weekend by swimming, without a shark cage, across the Caribbean Sea from Havana, Cuba to the Florida Keys. 110 miles of open water, hordes of box jellyfish, and the ever-present threat of sharks weren’t enough to deter her from reaching her ultimate goal.

Nyad is no stranger to defeat and the pain of failure, having finally completed the swim 36 years after her first of five attempts. At 64 years old, she swam for 53 hours straight, fueled by unshakable vigor. It begs the question, what drives someone to do such a thing?

In her 2011 TED talk,  she explained her commitment and drive, saying, “I want it to be difficult. I want it to take passion. I want it to take an unwavering commitment to be able to get to the other shore.” She spoke volumes when the first few words out of her mouth after finally reaching that shore were, “we should never, ever give up.”

This is a shining example of having a vision and commitment to making it become a reality, regardless of what obstacles come before you. In my workshops and personal coaching programs, I meet countless people with big dreams and big reasons for them, but not enough strength to keep forging ahead when it becomes difficult.

The great Roman philosopher, Lucius Seneca said it perfectly: “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” The journey is almost certainly going to be difficult at times, but you must keep pushing if you wish to shine.

You have within you the power to create an absolutely extraordinary life if you simply give yourself permission to do so. Since we were little, we’ve all had those voices telling us to be more realistic and practical in what we set out to accomplish. For some of us, the voices were those of our family members; others learned to aim lower from their coworkers, friends, teachers, or spouses.

This is the great lie of the human experience. Fear of aiming too high and failing was instilled in us based on the opinions and experiences of others. We carry around other peoples’ assumptions about life as our own. One of my favorite questions to raise is this:

If you never learned failure – if you never learned to be realistic, what would your life look like?

Give yourself permission to throw out all the conclusions you’ve been given about life, and goals you’ve been told you can and cannot reach. The greatest innovators, athletes, leaders, and performers in the world share the same chemical makeup as you – they just don’t believe the same things about life, and it allows them to create extraordinary successes.

If I told you a 64 year old woman was going to swim for 53 hours straight, 110 miles across the Caribbean Sea from Cuba to Key West, you might not believe it. You might think it couldn’t be done. She, however, never learned that lesson.

My invitation to you is to examine your beliefs about what’s possible for you in your life. Take a closer look at where you may have learned those beliefs and give yourself permission to throw out assumptions that no longer serve you. Focus on what you truly want to believe and experience, and notice what begins to happen when you do.

Until next month, stay brilliant.

—————-

Nourish What Matters – a monthly column of empowerment, clarity, confidence building, and challenges from inspirational speaker and coach, Blake Alexander Hammerton.

15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

On July 17, 2013, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Distorted Thinking

Lately it seems like all I’ve been hearing are assumptions and conclusions on how the world really works. When I pay attention a moment longer, I can hear the blaring battle cry of distorted thinking. Distortion is a cunning and seductive beast. If you don’t give pause to your thoughts, you’ll completely miss her sleight of hand. Here are 15 styles of distorted thinking:

Filtering

You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For example, let’s say you blew a tire on the way to work, but after changing it you were given a free coffee for your troubles at the local coffee shop. You’ll tell the story of the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day – completely forgetting the free coffee and smile.

Polarized Thinking

Things are black or white, good or bad, possible or impossible. You have to be perfect or you’re a failure. There is no middle ground. You cannot compromise…on anything. You find all the options irrelevant because your mind is made up already… about everything.

Overgeneralization

You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen over and over again. This happens after broken hearts. “All guys are douchebags. I’m just going to get my heart broken.” People are often quick to jump to conclusions after only one incident.

Mind Reading

Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you. This is because you, much like the rest of the human populous, has a Ph.D. from Make Stuff Up University.

Catastrophizing

You expect disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start throwing out “what-ifs” about it. What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you? What if it’s too risky and you die?!?!? Knock it off. Your blood pressure doesn’t ever need to go that high on a what if. And yes, catastrophizing is totally a made-up word.

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28 Powerful Questions for a Happy Life

On June 13, 2013, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Silhouette-of-a-Man

“Keep your head clear. It doesn’t matter how bright the path is if your head is always cloudy.” ~Unknown

This is an article I wrote for Tiny Buddha last year that was published January 1, 2013. If you’ve not heard of Tiny Buddha, I highly recommend venturing over there and taking in all the goodness.

Have you ever noticed that your biggest “aha” moment comes from someone asking a powerful question? Suddenly everything seems to make a little more sense, and you know what you need to do from that point forward, right?

That’s exactly how it is for me. Someone will ask me a seemingly trivial question and bam! I’m suddenly overflowing with answers, emotions, solutions—I’m practically made of clarity!

I remember a friend of mine asking me over coffee one rainy afternoon a few years ago, “What are you avoiding, Blake?”

“What? Nothing. I mean, I guess I don’t want it to fail.” I eventually replied.

“Yeah, and…” She quips back. “What happens then?”

I came to her because her willingness to face challenges head-on amazes me, and I needed her to facemy challenge and give me that sage advice I knew she could. I wanted to leave corporate America and venture out on my own, and I wanted her to somehow make that sounds less crazy.

I wanted to throw caution to the wind and follow what I most passionately believed in.

I wanted to be my own success story.

also wanted someone else to tell me it was going to work.

Calculating, weighing, analyzing—these things can only take you so far. I subconsciously needed something to get me out of my head and into some clarity. I needed that push.

We bounced back and forth for what seemed like eternity. When most people have conversations like this, one party inevitably snaps out of the pattern and either says something oddly profound, or simply gets frustrated and tells the other to bugger off.

I was lucky enough to receive the former rather than the latter.

“When do you stop calculating risk and rewards and just do it?” she asked. “Because it feels like you’re building a magnificent ship you’re too much of a baby to ever sail. What are more committed to, dreaming it or doing it?”

Holy cow, I was stunned. She was right. What was I more committed to? What a brilliant question.

As a coach (yes, I made the leap and ventured out on my own), I make my living asking these questions to help clients get out of their own way.

The beauty of these questions is there are no right or wrong answers. They are just meant to get your wheels turning, and maybe help you see the decisions you’ve been making, and the ones you’d like to make from now on.

These are 28 of my favorite questions:

1. We learn from our mistakes, yet we’re always so afraid to make one. Where is this true for you?

2. What risk would you take if you knew you could not fail?

3. What is your greatest strength? Have any of your recent actions demonstrated this strength?

4. What are the top five things you cherish in your life?

5. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

6. When do you stop calculating risk and rewards, and just do it?

7. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

8. What do you most connect with? Why?

9. What one piece of advice would you offer a newborn child?

10. Which is worse—failing or never trying?

11. Why do we do things we dislike and like the things we never seem to do?

12. What are you avoiding?

13. What is the one job/cause/activity that could get you out of bed happily for the rest of your life? Are you doing it now?

14. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

15. What are you most grateful for?

16. What would you say is one thing you’d like to change in the world?

17. Do you find yourself influencing your world, or it influencing you?

18. Are you doing what you believe in or settling for what you’re doing?

19. What are you committed to?

20. Which worries you more – doing things right or doing the right things?

21. If joy became the national currency, what kind of work would make you wealthy?

22. Have you been the kind of friend you’d want as one?

23. Do any of the things that used to upset you a few years ago matter at all today? What’s changed?

24. Would you rather have less work to do or more work you enjoy doing?

25. What permission do you need/want to move forward?

26. Really, what do you have to lose if you go for it?

27. How different would your life be if there weren’t any criticism in the world?

28. We’re always making choices. Are you choosing for your story or for someone else’s?

Powerful questions can change the very fiber of our construction. They give us a chance to challenge our own ideals and perhaps shed some light on what we are and are not committed to.

It’s important to understand that we’re always committed to something. If it’s not success out on our own, it’s staying safe in the comfortable success of someone else. If we’re not committed to creating our opportunities, we’re committed to floating around, hoping, waiting, and wishing for circumstance.

Are you more committed to dreaming it or doing it?

Ask yourself some of these questions when you feel stuck. What comes up just might surprise you!

Peace, love, and a million successes to you, my friends!

Photo by Tobias Mandt

A Taste of Bliss: Moving On in Four Steps

On January 23, 2013, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Guest Post by Greg Malouf of Epsilon Healing Academy

Buddha in the rain - clear and mindful.

“Get out of your head and get into your heart. Think less, feel more.” – Osho

 

I came to a point in my life where I felt like something was not working the way I wanted it to. I struggled with addiction, stress and anxiety, and had to go through a painful divorce. Once I was finally ready to make a change in my life, the question became: How?

Having the desire to change was an important first step because it led me to begin a search for answers. One thing that is necessary to understand, however, is that in seeking change, we are embarking on a journey. There are answers, but there is no magic that will instantly fix everything in life. I had to learn to be patient and to be open as I moved through the process.

With that said, I’d like to share a few tips I used to get through making a life change that you can try right away that will offer a taste of what is to come as you progress through this work.

Shift your perspective

Try this exercise for one day of your life—just one!

Throughout the day, stop yourself—as best as you can—from criticizing, judging, attacking, or acting out behaviorally when a negative emotion or uneasiness is triggered within you. Focus on your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions as you encounter people, things, and circumstances that trigger those negative thoughts and feelings in you. When those feelings come up, and you are tempted to speak harshly or act out of anger and frustration, catch yourself and take a breath. Instead of the response you would instinctively make, on this day, make a conscious effort to shift your perspective from negative to positive.

Watch what happens when you make a conscious choice to see circumstances differently. As you choose positive responses over negative ones, you will certainly notice a shift in your perspective and your outlook.  You will also notice a shift in those around you. Think about an argument you’ve had with someone. Typically, arguments start with something simple and relatively unimportant, but as heated words are exchanged, the hostility ratchets up until it seems there is no going back. But imagine if instead of fueling that fire, you step back, take a moment, and respond with openness and kindness. The situation would be resolved much quicker and without all the bad feelings.

Indulge only in loving thoughts and your day will be beautiful. Feelings that you have not felt in a long time will continue to surface – joy, peace, contentment, fulfillment.

Practice Forgiveness

The next step in the process is forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean condoning bad behavior. It simply means that we choose to release any anger or bitterness toward the person we believe has caused our unease. That can be difficult to do, so here is a way to start.

When you feel resentment, anger, or grievances, replace these feelings with the thought, “I love you, (name), and I accept you as you are.”

Repeat this each time you feel a change of mental state or an uneasy feeling.

Identify the thought and at whom this negative energy is projected. Forgive, using loving words and affirmations. Repeat the words above until you are free of any negative energy and unease.

Forgive yourself for your reactions—for carrying the shame of that past for so long. Recognize that you are now in control of your life!

Know that those who you reacted to have helped you recognize and release the part of your past that kept you prisoner within your mind and body. They helped liberate you, and you love them for it. This is true forgiveness!

Release negative feelings

As with any skill, learning to respond with love in potentially difficult situations takes practice. There is something you can do to help yourself be better prepared when you do encounter triggers.

At the moment you feel unease, take note of where you feel it in your body. It may be pain that you don’t readily associate with an emotional issue, or it may be emotional distress that you can now associate with a physical manifestation, such as stomachache, headache, or tension in your neck. Either way, when you feel pain, be aware that it is a sign that you are out of alignment with your true values; you are disconnected to your inner you.

Sit quietly, and focus on your pain. Say what you are feeling—grief, anger, resentment, loneliness, and so on. Separate the feelings from the pain. Release the emotion and simply be aware once again of the physical pain. Breathe deeply in and out, and allow the breath to carry this pain with it. After a short time, your body will feel rested.

Now you have isolated the negative energy that fed your thoughts. As the thoughts come, simply observe them without judgment. Continue to sit quietly and breathe.

Ask yourself ––in the inner silence of Self, “What part of my past caused me to feel this way?” Remember that your negative thoughts stem from your past traumas, large and small. Recognize any resemblance between your current feelings and that past experience.

Use positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are an excellent way to remind yourself throughout the day to check your emotional state and redirect or reframe any negative thoughts or feelings. Here are a few examples:

“I am now in control of my life.”

“I forgive those I now recognize for holding me in their shame, and I forgive myself for carrying it for so long. I send them love and offer myself love.”

“I am okay in Self.”

As you practice each of these exercises, keep in mind that the real miracle–– the major shift–– will come when you are ready to create your life consciously. Consider this a small miracle to enjoy, an opportunity to experience a mere taste of bliss, calm, and joy all around you.

Don’t be afraid to give yourself a chance – after all, the primary beneficiary will be you! In this one day, you may feel what it is to liberate the soul.

Let go of your fear, and give it a try! If I was able to do this, you can too.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. What resonates the most with you in your life? What do you focus on when you begin to heal? Please comment and share.

 

Gregory MaloufGreg Malouf is the founder of Epsilon Healing Academy where he works with students throughout the world to take a journey away from life as they know it, and into the inner world of the Self – where they ultimately find healing. His book, “Silent: The Power of Silence,” was written to take readers on an inward journey to find the all-loving place and connection that is the silent connection to Self.

Reclaim Your Health in 2013

On January 7, 2013, in Events, Speaking, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

Whole Health Awakening

 

I have recently partnered with Dr. Kristen Bobik of Balance Chiropractic and Wellness in Hoffman Estates, and we creates Whole Health Awakening. Whole Health Awakening is about gaining clarity in a chaotic world, making conscious choices for a better life, and feeding your body and soul with what it needs to prosper. It’s a beautiful meld of our two disciplines. Through it, we have created out first event: Reclaim Your Health in 2013.

If you’re going to be in the Chicagoland area (especially the Northwest suburbs), I highly recommend you attend the event! It’s going to be incredibly enlightening, and we’re going to be giving away a ton of information on what you can do to change your health for the better without breaking your budget on expensive detoxes, diets, therapies, or programs. What have you got to lose, except a few extra pounds, some cholesterol points, and added health risks in the future, that is. Join us!

Here is a break down on the event:

Reset. Regroup. Restart here.

Dr. Kristen Bobik, The Balance Doc, and Blake Alexander Hammerton of Applied Happiness Coaching have teamed up to bring you a health and wellness workshop to Reclaim Your Health in 2013.

Do you find that your new year’s resolutions never stick? You begin the year with the greatest of intentions, but life gets in your way and you don’t make any real changes?

Do you feel like you’re always battling those extra pounds no matter what you do? Are you unmotivated, uninspired, or uninterested in wading through the fad diets and products out there to finally reach your optimal health?

Discover the difference between health care and disease-care, and why everything you’ve been taught has kept you in poor shape. Explore your body’s chemistry and learn how to modify it to sleep better, feel better, and kick your metabolism into gear.

Learn why you have trouble reaching your goals (like everyone else), and what to do about it. Uncover what three words in your language you can change to create real, lasting, permanent results.

Blake will bring his inspirational speaking and coaching to the room and empower you to declare what you want and what you’re ready to do to get it. He’ll share stories and secrets to making remarkable things happen in your life, and inspire you to step up to the challenge of living the extraordinary life you deserve. You’ll walk away with tools, resources, and wonderful anecdotes to help you create real change in 2013.

Dr. Kristen will share her incredible knowledge of acupuncture, Eastern and alternative medicine, and Chiropractic with you. You’ll learn easy-to-implement nutritional strategies for improving your health, without breaking your bank, or your kitchen appliances. She’ll introduce you to your body’s own chemistry so you can create a diet specifically for YOU.

Start 2013 off on the right foot and join us for this incredible day of learning and inspiration!

The Hyatt Place in Hoffman Estates is a beautiful hotel with elegant rooms and a restaurant for lunch. We are honored to have our event there.

Agenda:

9 a.m.–3 p.m. with a lunch break from 12–12:30 p.m. There will also be period breaks throughout the day to stretch our legs and get fresh air. Please bring a pen and note pad – you won’t want to miss any of the information being shared!

Please comment and share this post and help us get the word out!

The Real Reason You’re Not Achieving Your Goals

On November 30, 2012, in Coaching, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

 

The real reason you’re not achieving those goals of yours? Short answer – your goals are lame. Sure, they might serve a great purpose in the long run, but you struggle to find the motivation to get them done when they don’t really mean that much to you.

“I want (fill-in the blank), but I can’t seem to find the motivation to make it happen.”

You don’t need motivation. Your goals are impotent. They don’t excite you. They don’t resonate inside you. The impact of achieving them isn’t that important, so doing the work to achieve them isn’t important either.

You only have to do one thing to reach your goals:

Only set goals in which the impact of achieving them thrills you.

It’s really that simple. If you connect to WHY achieving the goal is what you want, you’ll find it inspire you. What about achieving it resonates in you? What’s the ultimate reason you want to achieve this?

“I want to lose 25 pounds because I want to feel sexy when I step out of the shower and my husband can’t take his eyes off me.”

“I want to write my bestseller because I want to impact lives around the world with my words.”

“I want to make more sales because I want to have my dream wedding in Santorini.”

What’s the WHY behind your goals. Tap into that, and I promise you, you’ll reach every goal you put out there.

 

Leave a comment. Let me know what you think. Is this working for you already? Share it!

Blake

 

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Change your perspective, Change your life

On October 30, 2012, in Coaching, Everyday Life, by Blake Alexander Hammerton

 

Today’s video is about perspective and taking care of the lens through which you view and interact with the world around you. How come we clean our car windshields, camera lenses and glasses when they get dirty or smudged, but the lens through wich we see the world goes untouched? Check out this video on what it means to change your perspective to change your life, and let me know your thoughts.

What do you feel you would see differently if your lens was suddenly clean?

What would a different, potentially more positive perspective give you in your life today?

As always, if you liked this video, please comment and share!

Peace, Love, and a million successes to you all!

Blake

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