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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
I 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
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.
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.
Greg 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.
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!
Psychology Today had a brilliant article in 2010 on America’s culture of envy, and wanting be, do, and have more. Moreover, it’s about our own judgements that we haven’t accomplished enough – regardless of what incredible feats we have completed. It rings so true with me because I can hear the parts of my mind screaming at me about what I haven’t done, and how I fail to measure up to people around me; but I also hear the voice that’s amazed with the things I have done when I measure them against my ability as a human being to do them. It’s about measuring your life against your internal dream – not against the celebutantes on TV.
“The Contender Syndrome is subtly different from envy. It’s more a sense of not living up to the best you, rather than not living up to the best Albert Einstein. Some scientists say the feeling of not reaching your potential comes from a discrepancy between the ‘actual self’ (who you are), the ‘ideal self’ (who you’d like to be), and the ‘ought self’ (who you think others want you to be). Troubles arise when your actual self doesn’t align with your other visions.”
Anything from parents or teachers telling you things like, “You can do it. You’re better/stronger/smarter than this.” can start the process of either pushing you to achieve, or create the gap between where you are and where you’d like to be. This gap is the big pickle. Some people never learned how to build a bridge from here (actual) to there (ideal). Often this gap can seem too big to bridge, or simply impossible because the talent needed to live that dream aren’t available. Hazel Markus, a Psychologist at Stanford University, disagrees with this.
“A lot of people think you need the talent. People who end up suffering, feeling like they could have been a contender, are those with the idea that talents are pretty much fixed, so they don’t figure out how to get from where they are to where they want to be,” says Markus. “They don’t even really think it’s possible, so they don’t put the work into it.”
How will you know you’ve achieved it? How do you know you haven’t yet? How do you know you’re not in denial about your achievement? A lot of people see the ideal self and hear the ought self, but can’t get a clear view of the actual self. They may actually be very close to their ideal state, but they can’t see the steps they’ve taken, and the successes they’ve had along the way. Their gap is still too big. One great way to bring your progress into light is to name the greatest pleasures in what you have or do, or the person you are. You’ll see that your values are in some of your greatest pleasures. There’s more to life than ‘keeping up with the Jones family’ and it involves celebrating your successes just as much as you celebrate other peoples’.
Take time to reflect on where you are now, and what you’ve done to get here. You may find that your actual self isn’t far from your ideal self at all. Celebrate that! Follow what makes you happy, and do the work to get there and beyond. Often real, focused work is what separates the contenders from the victors. Success is subjective, my friends. One man’s failure is another man’s success. It’s all about what makes you happy.
“If you’re doing something positive in the world, if you’re productive, if you’re a player; then you’re a success.”
Peace, Love, and a million successes to you all,
Reference: “I Coulda Been a Contender” by Abby Ellin. Psychology Today. August, 2010
There are a lot of people working very hard and still not getting anywhere. They’re spinning but not moving. Sound familiar? In this week’s video, I’ll speak to that struggle with three key points:
- Stretching yourself too thin (what it means, and what to do about it)
- Clarity and an exercise to get some of it
- Conviction and what it can do when you trust it.
If you enjoyed this video, have comments or questions, or have a request for next week’s video, please leave a comment below!
Peace, Love, and a million successes to you,
The other day a friend of mine posted this picture on her Facebook wall, with the followup comment of “story of my life.” It immediately got me thinking:
How many people feel this way?
More importantly, I instantly felt curious about how many people took it a step further and decided to no longer let the heart make decisions – after a breakup, mistake, fallout etc. Many of us experience something that alters our outlook on life to such a degree, that it can sometimes take another life-altering experience to switch it back.
I’ll be turning 30 next month, and I have been that guy – the one that lead head-first into everything, and refused to let his heart make any decisions. You see, I got my heart broken in high school (as most of us did), and in true teen-angst fashion, questioned whether love was even worth it anymore. I went to college and fell madly, stupidly, wildly in love again. Then that fell apart. Well, that was it for me. My brain told my heart he was no longer allowed to make decisions.
My heart was cutoff.
No more decisions from that guy.
Of course I then fell in love again – just as deeply, madly, and wildly as before, but there was something new happening. I was assessing and calculating like a team of high functioning autistic accountants. At the first hint of displeasure or struggle, my team of “statistical engineers” ran the numbers and determined if my relationship was worth any further effort. I started actually hearing the math being crunched in my brain when things weren’t going well.
Needless to say, my relationships were not going to last very long. And they didn’t. The greatest (read: sarcasm) and most tragic fact around all of this was that I truly believed it wasn’t my problem – the women in my life just weren’t perfect enough to pass my committee. What an awesome guy I was, right? (Again, sarcasm in heaping spoonfuls here).
Then one day my coach changed my life by putting my brain and my heart in opposite corners, and let them fight it out in court. My brain explained exactly what it was doing, and why it was the best way to go. My heart sang its song, and why it wanted out from under the thumb of the committee upstairs. For the first time in years I witnessed the struggle. I heard the cold calculations. I felt the ache in my heart from years of being ignored. I learned something more important than anything else:
My. Brain. Was. Wrong.
You see, my brain shamed me for feeling– not thinking– and causing me (brain and heart included) to experience something that turned unpleasant. My brain shamed me into following its logic. For years I was the reason my relationships were falling apart. I was the reason emotional mediocrity was the name of the game. My brain, with all its calculations, made-up probabilities, and erroneous statistics, had carved a path for me that turned out to be something so far from what I wanted whenI was younger. My brain made me look like an idiot. And suddenly I felt like one.
You know what the funny part was: My heart forgave me. How cliche is that?
Look, when your heart leads you into a situation that turns sour, it can make you look like a fool. When your brain leads you into situations that prevent you from feeling anything at all, well, that can be so much more devastating. It’s much better to look like a fool and feel something, than to actually BE a fool and miss out.
For the record, I totally know this image is humorous and easily relatable. I get it, and I giggled when I saw it too. There is, however, some pretty powerful truths to this, and I wasn’t about to let it slide. My heart had something to say about it, and my brain knew how to make words appear on screen – go teamwork!
Remember that you’re more than just logical. You’re an emotional being. You’re significant, incredible, amazing, intricate, irreplaceable, and you are always at choice. Choose to feel. Choose to experience. Even if your brains tells you the opposite, let your heart sing.
When has your brain told your heart NO? Leave your comments below!
ONLY A FEW SEATS REMAIN
TIRED OF JAMMING IN THE GARAGE? GET INTO THE REAL MUSIC SCENE.
The Continuing Education department at Harper College in Palatine has a music program designed to give you all the tools, resources, and know-how to take your talent to the next level, and I’m honored to be a part of it. The first in a four-class curriculum is a coaching course I lead – one that’s totally focused on getting you clear on what you want, and what it’s gonna take to make it happen. Let’s not waste anymore time and get down to the details, shall we?
We designed this program for those that want to create something with their music. Do you have a passion for the music industry, but not sure how to get your music heard? Do you get discouraged and/or quit trying before you even get started? Are you tired of the balancing act it is to create music, promote it, get exposure and recognition, and still find time to sleep at night? I know what that’s like.
STOP SPINNING YOUR WHEELS.
This program is designed to answer the hard questions, and get you on the right track to creating success with your talent. As your coach, I’m going to challenge your belief pattern like it’s my job – because it is my job. The course is titled Get Out of Your Own Way, and that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you how to do. You’ll be empowered, challenged, pushed, pulled, and set into motion. It’s been said that we’re out biggest critic, and I’m going to teach you how to change those reviews.
Look, the music business can be tough and frustrating to navigate, which makes it crucial for you to clearly define what you want to achieve and set goals to help you get there. Even more critical is understanding the why behind what you want. This class is designed to help you create your Musician Mission (how your music will impact the world), identify potential obstacles, release negative self-judgment, and create action plans for your success. You will learn how to get out of your own way so opportunities can come to you.
We’ll have a lot of fun exploring your vision, and you’ll get answers to burning questions like:
• What does Justin Beiber have that I don’t? I mean, honestly… (it’s not his hair, by the way)
• I don’t want to be the next Lady Gaga, is there still place for me in the industry?
• I’ll be a success when I get a record deal, right?
• How much does recording a studio album really cost?
• How do I get thousands of people to hear my music and promote FOR me?
We had an amazing introductory panel night on Wednesday, and enrollments are coming into the program, but time is running out! I know this course, and the Marketing & Money, Social Media & Promotions, and Recording courses that follow mine in the program are incredibly valuable. What you’re going to get in the 6 weeks with me is worth over $400 in coaching. If you wanted this opportunity with me privately, that’s exactly what it would cost you. Register for the Harper course, and save yourself $250 instantly.
What do you have to lose? Evening classes begin Thursday the 19th.
Let’s make this the year you make it happen.
“In Washington DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
After about four minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.
About four minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
At six minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
At ten minutes, a three-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.
At forty-five minutes: The musician played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About twenty gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
After one hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.
This experiment raised several questions:
In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…
How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?”
Whoa. These are some hard questions to answer. We just came out of the holiday season, and for many of us it was a stressful time. It was hours, days, weeks, maybe even months of running around, fighting traffics, crowds, and weather delays – not really a lot of appreciating, was there? How often do you get caught up in the minutiae and noise of life, and forget to notice and celebrate the beauty?
Take a moment every day and notice.