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Personal Value Versus Work Value

July 27, 2018 by  
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You probably have heard other people say, and you may have even have said it yourself, “I’m so looking forward to my retirement.” Most people think that their life is going to be so great and so much better when they retire. When you are retired you don’t have to get up when the alarm goes off and hurry off to work to arrive at a very specific time. You probably think that life after retirement is going to be a breeze, giving a person all that free time to do whatever they choose to do.

Those were certainly my thoughts and feelings, that is, until I suddenly hit retirement and found myself sitting at home with not enough to do and absolutely no timelines or deadlines to push and motivate me to get much of anything done. Ok, I did set up goals like that 20,000 steps per day goal of mine that pushes me to get up off my butt and get moving, but once I’ve hit that goal for the day, I would find myself bored out of my mind. Yes, there’s that bit of fun traveling to exotic places that I love to do, but between trips it quickly becomes a real downer.

Even if you are not even close to retirement, I think it’s a real good idea to start planning specifically on what you are going do when you reach that status. I hadn’t given that subject enough thought and planning before I retired and, wow, was it ever a huge letdown when I found myself there.

But thankfully, I had a huge breakthrough that is changing and improving everything and every day! Thank God for great authors who write wonderful books that can make a major difference in many different parts of a person’s life. That’s what Hyrum Smith and his book Purposeful Retirement did for me.

Hyrum talks about how so many beliefs can be so wrong and hurt you. Like the belief that personal value only comes through hard work, or important people have important titles, or if you are busy then you are important. Those beliefs can be so very harmful, especially to you when you move into retirement. Your work value has nothing to do with your value as a person.

Quoting Hyrum Smith, “My value as a human being is independent of my job. If I based my value on my job and my job goes away, my value as a human goes away with it. This leads to big trouble. This leads to unhappiness, isolation, depression, and eventually death. The minute you find value from just being you, you will find inner peace. But first you must not only understand but you must know your value has nothing to do with your job title.” These are some very wise words that we all need to pound into our head.

Next week I want to dig deeper into Hyrum’s book and pass on some more great advice about how important it is to stay productive and have meaningful projects. I’ll also talk about how important it is to start giving back and helping others after retirement and how that keeps you excited about yourself and your life.

Forgiving Ourselves

June 8, 2018 by  
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How do you and I feel when we set our sights and goals very high only to fall short of those objectives?  If you are like me, it’s very easy to get down on yourself and beat yourself up and that can set you back a few miles mentally, making you feel terrible or pretty much worthless.  This can happen to anyone, even the very rich and very famous, as we have sadly seen with a number of super-rich and famous people that have taken their own lives.

I grew up in a culture that pounded into my head the bible scripture of Matthew 5:48 which says “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Quite frankly, I think that did me more harm than good, because as a young boy, I tried and tried but couldn’t seem to be “perfect” in anything at all. I would look around at other people and saw many that seemed to have a perfect life.  Little did I know then that pretty much no one on the planet has had a perfect life. If a person spends too much time and effort trying to become perfect, it can absolutely ruin them. Quite frankly, I think that scripture passage has been the cause of more than a few suicides.

We certainly don’t want to stop trying to reach our lofty goals and become better and better at whatever we choose to do, but we also must learn and practice forgiving ourselves.  It’s kind of strange to me that sometimes it seems easier to forgive someone else when they screw up but much harder to forgive ourselves. I totally agree with John M. Grohol Psy.D. when he wrote his “5 Ways of Letting Go of the Past”

  1. Make a decision to let it go.
  2. Express your pain and your responsibility.
  3. Stop being a victim and blaming others.
  4. Focus on the present, the here and now, and joy.
  5. Forgive them and forgive yourself.

Then there is some super wise advice from a great writer by the name of a Noah St. John. It’s from his book called The Book of AFFORMATIONS®, regarding a program he calls “Permission to Succeed”:

  1. Admit your past mistakes.
  2. Realize you did the best you could do at the time.
  3. Take actions to make sure you don’t repeat those mistakes.

Our brains also play a big a part in our success and failure, as Noah notes in another book of his, Get Rid of Your Head Trash: How to Avoid 3 Big Money Mistakes Even Smart People Make.  I love this title because it really says it all.

In Noah’s book The Secret Code of Success, he maintains that we all need to let up on ourselves and give ourselves breaks and take time to enjoy and celebrate the self. You need to let go of the past when it’s hurting you and accept the present. He states that the key to letting go of the past – and I’d say even if it’s the past of 5 minutes – is to forgive yourself and others that may have mistreated you. That’s great advice that works to make our lives so much better, more successful, and more productive. Perhaps we don’t have not perfect lives, but they can be pretty darn good ones with so much less stress!

 

The Blessing of Time

May 4, 2018 by  
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Time seems to move faster and faster as we age, but I must admit that sometimes the passage of time can be a real blessing. 32 years ago, this week, I was hit in the face and heart with the biggest, most shocking tragedy of my entire life. It took years to recover from the overwhelming pain, but those passing years became a huge healing and soothing help.

It was on May 2nd, 1986 that my 16-year-old daughter, Kristin, died. The photo here is of Kristin and her brother on the way back from her last trip to Hawaii. Losing a child must be the biggest tragedy one might have to endure in this life. But what I have discovered is that the passing of time really helps and allows a person to deal with the death of a loved one. It’s true that you really never get over it but time diminishes the pain so you can heal and eventually deal with the tragedy.

It’s so ironic that on March 30, 1986, just 33 days before my beautiful Kristin died, I wrote the following in my journal:

“Big, bright fun, changes and growth. What a difference a few years can make. Life seems so sweet now, so full. I’m so content. I don’t see how life could be any better. With my kids and friends and I guess even my age – I am almost 42 – it all makes life pleasant and full. Spent a fabulous month in Hawaii with all of my kids – super times!! Life doesn’t get any better than this. Life is all it ought to be. If this is how the decade of the 40’s is going to be, then I love it. No wonder they say life begins at 40, mine sure did. I’m beginning to look forward to the next 40 years – that’s 14,600 days. This journal now covers 22 years. Big changes in my thinking and perception of life’s meaning. I wonder what the next 22 years will bring as far as changes.”

My very next entry in my journal was quite different: “Not in my wildest imagination could I have ever dreamed that the biggest tragedy of my life would occur just 33 days after this entry.”

My heart continued to bleed for 4 and half years before I pulled myself out of the deep well of depression and self-pity. Those years helped a ton and helped me to finally realize that I needed to move on with my life. I needed to help and pay attention to my kids and loved ones and see how I could help others who have been faced with great tragedies. The bottom line is, time can be a great teacher of some of the biggest lessons of life! We just have to get up and pay attention.

Break-Through Journaling

February 10, 2017 by  
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Last week I talked about writing in a journal and I shared that I had written some of my very negative thoughts in mine. These are words and inner feelings that I had never shared with anyone. But what the journaling did for me and these thoughts was amazing.

A few days after writing these thoughts down, I re-read what I had written. Man, oh man … what a powerful reaction I have had in the days since.  It has lifted me up and has enhanced and improved my life almost like magic. I was so very surprised that just those few words that I wrote down on paper could have such a powerful effect on me and my life. Here is what I wrote:

“I didn’t have total follow through yesterday on my writing list of my intentions or goals and in fact I am finding that for a long time now I’ve not lived up to my self-promises and I see that I’ve been so very self-critical and have been berating and beating up myself cause I’m just not perfect like I want to be. I’ve been seeing that I’m very hard on myself and I really don’t forgive myself much although I forgive other people. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been feeling very good for going on two years. Maybe I ought to start forgiving myself and take more baby steps that really can turn into giant progress toward my goals like I’ve preached to my readers of my blog. Hmmm … I need to think about that.”

I was very surprised that, within a few days of re-reading those words, I began to feel so much better and noticed that I was not being so hard on myself. I kept thinking about taking baby steps and so now I am not inclined to berate and beat myself up. I think that this change of mind set must be due to my writing down my inner thoughts and that the act of writing it down changed something in my brain. What a breakthrough!

So, I would suggest you give journaling a chance if you haven’t already. Write down your inner most thoughts, especially the ones that you are struggling with or are getting you down. Then put them away and read them a little while later and see what your brain does with it. I’m sure it will get you to think about it and find a way to help yourself feel better along with being a great way just to get it out of your head and safely down on paper where you can, literally put it away for a while. At least until you are ready for your own journal break-through.10

Counting Blessings Amidst Our Tragedies

November 4, 2016 by  
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In last week’s blog, I talked about how all people have difficulties and tragedies. I’m fully aware that my problems mentioned didn’t sound that huge. Some readers might have even been saying to themselves, “Oh the unfortunate rich guy has major problems, huh? What a tragedy he’s had with that terrible common cold. I feel so sorry for him … not!”

My main point of the blog really wasn’t about my very small and temporary health issue but rather was about how we all need to rejoice more often and count our blessings. We need to do it every day and do it before we face a truly huge loss such as a severe health decline or the loss of family or friends.

There is an old Mormon hymn called “Count Your Many Blessings”. One of the lines goes “name them one by one.” I find this to be very profound in that it defines a great way to live each day. If we stop to recognize each of our blessings, it actually can improve our lives and make us feel better, just like what I learned some time ago about how smiling releases good chemicals into your brain, even doing  the same thing when we force a smile.

Like many people if not most, I’ve had some major tragedies in my life that I will never forget—there was my 17-year-old brother who died right in front of me on the basketball court when I was 15 and, the biggest and most terrible shock of my life, when my 16-year-old daughter died. Even though I’ll never really get over those tragedies, I’ve learned to live with the reality of what happened and it has made me more aware of living in the great ‘right now’. It has made me take notice and count the blessings in my life every day.

I remember vividly after my daughter died being totally depressed and laying around doing nothing but feeling sorry for myself for many, many months. Then suddenly I realized that I was completely neglecting my other children. I saw how important they were and how blessed I was to have such good productive, active, loving and lovable kids. I lifted myself out of the dumps and started to notice and pay attention to them and appreciate all the goodness around me.

As I mentioned last week, traveling through parts of Africa was a real eye opener. Our train traveled though many villages filled with garbage, spotted with homes that were just ten by ten foot shacks topped with flimsy roofs held down with rocks. As all too skinny kids ran along the side of the tracks waving at the train, I couldn’t help but see how good we have it. If we are paying attention, we’ll know we need to appreciate all our blessings every day.

So, let’s all take time to notice, take time to appreciate, and take time to love what we have and not just family and friends but even strangers. We need to start giving more back to those who need help. None of us know how long our loved ones and friends will be with us; tragedy can strike any of our lives at any time. So even if you have disagreements and arguments or find yourself angry at those around you, try to step back and look at the bigger picture and be grateful and appreciative of those people. Remember just how important they are to you and just how small the differences are that get in the way.

 

 

The Breath-Mind Connection

January 29, 2016 by  
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So how about this breathing thing.  I showed you last week how just the simple act of smiling can help to change how you think and how you feel. But how can breathing change your brain?

I’m pretty sure all of us have seen this–when we experience a big scare, our breathing speeds up immediately. This response in the increased speed of our breath also occurs, to varying degrees, when we are under any kind of stress. And as you might guess from reading my posts the last couple weeks, faster breathing can also increase your feeling of stress. The obvious conclusion is that you will want to slow your breathing to help manage and alleviate stress.

I will never forget watching this TV special with a yoga practitioner that had been hooked up to heart rate and blood pressure machines before sitting down to meditate. He assumed his yoga position and began using his mind to slow down his breathing. As he did, the monitors showed that his decreased speed in breath also resulted in his heart rate and blood pressure dropping.  It was a great demonstration of that mind-body connection we’ve been talking about.

Amy Cuddy in her book Presence quotes a psychiatrist and a PTS expert Bessel van der Kolk who said, “Some 80 percent of the fibers of the vagus nerve (which connects the brain with many internal organs) are afferent, that is, they run from the body into the brain. This means that we can directly train our arousal system by the way we breathe, chant, and move, a principle that has been utilized since time immemorial in places like China and India.”

Amy goes on to say “That’s one of the reason yoga can change the way you feel–it naturally prompts you to breathe slowly and rhythmically, as you do practices such as chanting, tai chi, qigong, and meditation. But you don’t need to do any of those; you can reap the benefits of breath control almost anywhere at any time. With a few deep, slow breaths, you’ve just changed your body and your mind.”

She goes on to give this good advice: “Take a second right now to focus on your breath. Inhale quickly, then slowly exhale.  One more time. Inhale for two seconds, then draw out your exhale for around five seconds.”  Go ahead. Do it over and over again and see how it makes you feel.

I find the beauty of all this–power posing, smiling and controlling the breath–can all be done at the same time or done one at a time at almost any time or in any place. Such simple practices can make changes for the good in your life.

Ok … maybe we are better off not power posing on an airplane. You never know how the crew and other passengers will take that.

The Smile-Mind Connection

January 22, 2016 by  
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I had such a great response from last week’s blog on the power and confidence that is generated from ‘power posing’ that it motivated me to dig deeper to try to find other body-mind and mind-body connections that can help and improve people’s lives. The two that caught my attention were smiling and breathing. Let’s start by checking out that Smile-Mind connection this week.

There are some fascinating conclusions that come from several studies behind what the human smile can do for the body and the mind. Research has shown over and over again that the simple act of smiling reduces stress and, just like power posing, smiling releases endorphins in your brain which make you feel happy in addition to relieving stress.

Additionally, I was quite surprised to learn that studies have also shown that even if you force a smile your brain can’t tell it’s a fake and it will release the same good endorphins and reduces the harmful levels of cortisol in your body.  So hey, why not start forcing a smile even when you don’t feel like smiling at all? You should soon find your smile is no longer forced!

We can all learn a lesson or two about smiling from kids.  Watch them at play.  How much do they smile?  Even if they are only playing with a card board box that delivered a toy for their sibling, you will no doubt observe lots of laughing and smiling.  Kids usually smile about 400 times a day whereas even happy adults have been found to smile only 40 or 50 times a day. Worse yet, the average of all adults is only 20 smiles a day. That is little more than one smile an hour while we are awake.

So, okay … let’s all start smiling more, even when we don’t feel like it. I started doing the smile thing while power posing and it seems to be working. Besides, there is certainly much to smile about in your life. If you don’t think so now, try smiling more often and I bet it will be easier to see as well as feel the joy in your life.

Next week we’ll get to that other connection I found so interested—breathing and how it can change things in our bodies.

Eradicating ANTs–It’s a Mind-Body Connection

October 23, 2015 by  
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You are walking along the side of a busy road when suddenly a car swerves and is heading right for you! You are just ready to jump out of its way when the car self corrects and doesn’t even come close to hitting you. So now how do you feel? Well, if you are like everyone else on this planet you’d feel a huge rush of adrenaline flow through your entire body. So what just happened? Well it’s pretty simple. Your brain sent a super quick signal to your body to prepare it to take evasive action. That action may even have been you jumping faster and further than you ever thought possible.

I don’t think that the average person really understands or fully appreciates how big the connection is between the brain and the body. You see science has pretty much proved that our thoughts send electric signals throughout our brain. Yes, our thoughts have physical properties. Then messages can and do get sent to virtually every cell in your body. Why is knowing this important? Because by using or directing our brains and thoughts we can overcome anger, depression, sadness, negative thinking and yes, even our body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.

A few days ago my daughter shared with me a manuscript written by Daniel G. Amen, MD (I think it came from one of his many books) entitled “Ant Therapy” or “How to Develop Your Own Internal Anteater to Eradicate Automatic Negative Thoughts”(otherwise known as ANT’s). A fascinating read indeed. It’s all about understanding the direct connection between thoughts and your body and how to automatically turn negative thoughts into positive ones to greatly improve your life and relationships.

The connection between mind and body he points out is clearly shown by observing a polygraph or lie detector test. He points out that a lie detector test measures heart rate, blood pressure, breathe rate, muscle tension and how much the hands sweat. He goes on to state, “The tester then asks questions like ‘Did you do that thing?’ If the person did the bad thing his body is likely to have a ‘stress’ response and it is likely to react in the following ways: hands get colder, heart goes faster, blood pressure goes up, breathing gets faster, muscles get tight and hands sweat more.” And all of that is the results of the brain sending messages to the body.

If we really understand what is happening in our brains, we then can turn things totally around and start reaping big benefits for our bodies and life. Amen further says, and we all need to burn this into our brains, “Remember, the deep limbic system is responsible for translating our emotional state into the physical feeling of relaxation or tension.”

So how do we control or program our brains to automatically turn our negative thoughts that are causing problems in our lives to positive ones that will improve virtually everything we do? Those answers will be given in next week’s post. But do consider sharing this weeks’ blog along with next with week’s with friends or relatives that you think might benefit from knowing more about the brain body connection and how to control it.

The ‘Refrain but Don’t Repress’ Approach to Destroying Bad Habits

September 18, 2015 by  
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As human beings, we have many good habits that we’ve formed and held onto in our lives and then there are some bad habits that we’d really like to dump. Like most of us, you have probably observed and experienced how very difficult it is to change bad habits, whether the bad habit is overeating, overworking, sleeping too much or too little, watching too much TV, checking our email or text compulsively or some even worse habit or addiction.

In the last few weeks I’ve been reading an incredible book that I believe sheds tremendous light on habits including how to form good ones and how to break bad ones. The book by Pema Chodron is entitled Living Beautifully. I must admit that even though I’ve formed lots of good habits that have led to some very wonderful and rewarding successes in parts of my life, I’ve also had some bad habits that have hurt me, and it’s been so very frustrating for me to try to break or change the bad ones only to fail and fall back into them. But Pema’s book has some real answers and directions that, so far, seem to be a quite a breakthrough.

First of all, she outlines that part of the reason we have trouble breaking bad habits is because we are too hard on ourselves.  What most of us do when we end up doing something that we’ve tried to stop doing, is to get mad at ourselves, beating ourselves up mentally, then we try to repress our thinking and whatever we did that broke our promise to ourselves. She strongly suggests that instead, we come to recognize that we are fundamentally good rather than fundamentally flawed.

Probably Pema’s biggest lesson for us is a bit surprising. She suggests that if we are trying to break a bad habit, we need to think hard on refraining from doing what we promised ourselves but DON’T repress it. She goes on to say that many bad habits come from us trying to escape from uncertainty and fear in our lives in particular situations.  So when we are faced with the desire to fall into that bad habit, we need to examine our thinking to see what led us to that point and then just try to refrain from that action but not repress those thoughts.

Pema has science backing her up on this issue.  She says “Science is demonstrating that every time we refrain but don’t repress, new neural pathways open up in the brain. In not taking the old escape routes, we’re predisposing ourselves to a new way of seeing ourselves, a new way of relating to the mysteriously unpredictable world in which we live.” And in the process we are hard wiring our brain to do the right thing automatically.

What I learned from Pema is already working well on a couple bad habits that I’ve been trying to break for years and I am so pleased!! Try it yourself and you may well see what I mean and find success.

The Advantage of Honest Answers

August 7, 2015 by  
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There are certain questions that most of us hear nearly everyday. They go something like:

  • How are you doing?
  • How are you feeling?
  • How’s everything in your life these days?

And what is our usual response?

  • I’m doing fine.
  • Oh, I feel pretty good.
  • Things are moving along.

The answers that you normally don’t hear are:

  • Not too good today.
  • Oh man, I am feeling very depressed.
  • Things are not going well in my life right now.

In our polite society we usually don’t dump our problems on others, not even our relatives or close friends. In most situations, that’s a good and considerate thing.  But sometimes it might be a good for you and me to open up and tell the full truth, voice the negative or tough things that are going on in our lives and in our minds. Why? Because many times friends and relatives can be a big help.

It’s kind of strange that it’s perfectly acceptable in our society to tell someone that you have a cold but it’s a no-no to tell a friend you’re feeling down or depressed. Both conditions are real and there are treatments for both.

Recently, I met a longtime friend who said in the usual manner, “Hey Mark, how are you doing?”  Suddenly, and to my surprise, I found myself telling him the truth, saying “Man oh man … I’ve really been depressed lately.”

Next thing I knew I was quickly apologizing for dumping my personal problems on him. But to my surprise he was not taken aback by my honesty but rather told me in turn that he too gets down and depressed.  I was surprised to hear him say that because he always seems to be on top of the world and so very happy.

He then gave me some very good advice on things I could do to pull myself out of my slump and in a very short order I began to feel better.  The advice he gave me were things I already knew but had slowly stopped doing. Things like eating foods that improve your mood and taking supplements like 5HTP and Saint John’s Wort. And just as important as all the rest … pushing myself to stay busy and keep connected to friends and relatives.

I think because I am a healthy and very wealthy person, people look at me and think I am always upbeat and positive and never get depressed.  But, many times the problem is my advantages in life also make it difficult to feel motivated–I don’t have to work and I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to. Even though that might seem to be a very good thing, it can be such a bad thing and can almost drive you crazy.

We all need to keep busy. We need to stay engaged and connected to friends and relatives. We also need challenges which mean constantly setting goals for ourselves and staying on track as we pursue those goals.  Yes, I am preaching an old subject to you but I am very definitely preaching to myself! Because we all need a little reminder now and then. And to get that, sometimes all it takes is giving a friendly question an honest answer.

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