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Positivity and Compassion

June 14, 2019 by  
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A very critical part of happiness and contentment is training the mind and, yes, that does take time, but is it ever worth the time you take! The authors of the book, The Art of Happiness, which I talked about last week, have this advice: “Everyday, as soon as you get up, you can develop sincere positive motivation, thinking, ‘I will utilize this day in a more positive way. I should not waste this very day.’ And then, at night before bed, check what you’ve done, asking yourself, ‘Did I utilize this day as I planned?’ If it went wrong, then regret what you did and critique the day and decide what you are going to do to correct the negative stuff of the day. So, through methods such as this, you can gradually strengthen the positive aspects of the mind.”

I think this is why the self-talk that the great Paul J. Meyer of Waco, Texas introduced me to is so very helpful. I have about 10 different mantras that I run through my mind almost every day and many times I say them out loud. Here are a few of those

  1. I am strong and worthy.
  2. I am upbeat and positive.
  3. I am happy and healthy.
  4. I live in the present moment.
  5. I love people and I am becoming more and more social.
  6. I try to live big and give big. I make “to do” lists and carry them out.

It’s amazing how I can feel down and out and how running that self-talk through my mind many times can lift my mood and make me feel so much better. The mind has a lot of plasticity in it according to scientists. The book goes on to say something that I know is true and will work for me and you: “Neuroscientist have documented the fact that the brain can design new patterns, net combinations of nerve cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells) in response to new input. In fact, our brains are malleable, ever changing, re-configuring their wiring according to new thoughts and experiences. And as a result of learning, the function of individual neurons themselves change, allowing electrical signals to travel along them more readily.” Scientist call the brains inherent capacity to change “plasticity”.

The Dalai Lama and Mr. Cutler have so many great and powerful things to say about how to achieve happiness and they are so very effective. So here is one more quote from Mr. Cutler talking about the Dalai Lama: “He can see that if someone treats him with compassion and affection, then it makes him feel happy. So, on the basis of that experience, it would help him to realize that other people also feel good when they are shown warmth and compassion Therefore, recognizing this fact might make him more inclined to give them compassion and warmth. At the same time, he would discover that the more you give warmth, the more warmth you receive”.

And that, my friends, will almost for sure raise both the giver’s and the receiver’s level of happiness!

The Positive Path to Happiness

June 7, 2019 by  
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A few days ago, I was going through my library and came across a great book by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. written back in 1998. I hadn’t read it for a very long time but as I was thumbing through the pages my mind was captured by so many great statements, concepts, and advice that were so motivating so I kept reading.

The book’s title is The Art of Happiness. I’ve always admired this great man, the Dalai Lama, and what he has done for the world and for so many minds. He’s helped lift us to great heights. Years ago, I felt so very fortunate to meet and greet him at his hotel room and escort him to a huge gather of people and I was more than a little overwhelmed and privileged to introduce him to that audience.

I want to share with you, my readers, some of his great ideas and advice on “happiness” for us humans. I’d also like to share some of the wise words and insights that his co-author Howard Cutler added to the book from his own experiences and all the time he spent with the Dalai Lama.

Let me start with some great comments from the great book I mentioned. These are about positive thinking which is so very important to raise and keep your happiness consistently elevated.

The Dalai Lama said, “If happiness is simply a matter of cultivating a more positive mental state like kindness and so on, why are so many unhappy? … Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about transformation in your outlook and your way of thinking and this is not a simple matter. It requires the application of so many different directions. You shouldn’t have the notion, for instance, that there is just a key, a secret, and if you can get that right then everything will be okay. It is similar to taking proper care of the physical body. You need a variety of vitamins and nutrients, not just one or two.”

He went on to say, “In the same way, in order to achieve happiness, you need a variety of approaches and methods to deal with and overcome the varied and complex negative mental states. And if you are seeking to overcome certain negative ways of thinking, it is not possible to accomplish that simply by adopting a particular thought or practicing a technique once or twice. Change takes time. There are lots of negative mental traits, so you need to address and counteract each one of these. That isn’t easy. It requires the repeated application of various techniques and taking the time to familiarize yourself with the practices. It’s a process of learning.”

Next week I will talk more about the specific practices and mindset that a person needs to work on and develop while bringing you more wisdom from the great Dalai Lama.

A Good Type of Scary

May 24, 2019 by  
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I just got back from an incredible trip to Cuba.  We took a beautiful Norwegian cruise ship from Miami to Havana. As I have said, and preached many times before, if you want to excite your brain and body, do something very unique. That is one reason I love to travel, especially to new countries. Cuba is the 92nd country that I have been so fortunate to visit! There are presently 196 countries in the world, so I’ve got a ways to go to visit them all, although I’m pretty sure North Korea will not be one of them.

On this trip, I added one more thing that excites the brain and body. Yes, it is a little risky but it’s not too big a thing and it is totally legal. It’s not like climbing up the side of the Eiffel tower like that guy did recently, almost making it to the very top before he was arrested. That’s taking the concept a bit too far!

But what is legal and unique is petting and feeding sting rays in Cuba. It was a little scary and I guess the “scare part” is what excites the human brain. I may have been more reluctant to hold and feed a big sting ray if I had read more of the details surrounding Australian Steve Irwin, that big time crocodile hunter who was killed by an 8 foot sting ray back in 2006. As you may recall, he was being filmed underwater when he was stabbed in the heart by a sting ray. I’m not into big risks and our time standing in waist deep ocean water, feeling about a dozen or so big sting rays circling my wife Kimberly and I, softly brushing against our legs, was quite safe. Our guides demonstrated exactly what to do and closely monitored us and assured us that it was much safer than it looked.

The short video below is me holding the sting ray. Later, the guides showed us how to feed those huge guys. Yes, my heart and brain were racing as that big creature ate food right out of my hand and didn’t bite me …yay! It was a great experience and an exciting thing to do and It certainly stimulated my brain and body, which is a very good thing as it enhances one’s life.

Visiting a very different country like Cuba is a real turn on and, wow, driving thru the city of Havana, seeing hundreds of old cars from the late 1940’s and 1950’s, was a great sight to see. I had always thought and had the impression that Cuba was quite dangerous, but Kimberly and I were very pleased to find the city to be quite safe and the people were so nice and friendly. If you have a chance to go there, I would highly recommend it. Go do it for your brain and body!

 

Increase Your Energy with Passion

May 3, 2019 by  
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I don’t think there is one of us that wouldn’t like to have more energy. Okay, maybe one exception is little kids. Wow, do they have so much energy!

The older I get the more I long for an increase in energy as there are so many things I want to do. And, yes, I want more than to play tennis better and more often. We all know that we get energy from food that we put in our bodies, but there are other things that can create a lot of energy as well. I’m always amazed when I receive a surge of energy from my mind and the thoughts running through it. I think you might agree with me that average thoughts create average energy, but big and remarkable thoughts can stimulate the creation of a great amount of energy.

I don’t know about you, but there have been times that I‘ve laid down at night absolutely wiped out and ready to go to sleep but I think of some great project or maybe an big event or trip coming up and, suddenly, my body and mind get a jump start from a whole new round of energy that came just from those though. Maybe the key to why goals and new ideas work so well in creating actual physical and mental energy in humans lies in the Buddhist philosophy that says, “Mind is the creator of our world, in every moment.” So, if that’s true, putting an exciting goal in our mind and then putting it on paper is really a mental process and that does something chemically to our brain that transfers energy to the muscles of our bodies.

As you may have noticed, energy, even very high energy, can come from being around others, who are excited, engaged, and forward thinking. My good and super successful friend, Joe Land, who passed away a number of years ago, said to me, “the key to a successful life is to have real passion for the process.” Almost all people “envy the person who is totally immersed in their chosen work or play or their love and relationships” and seem to have tons and tons of energy.

My advice, if you are seeking more happiness and fulfillment, is to go get passionately involved in some process, project, cause, or relationship. And when I say get involved, I mean go get totally immersed in it. I think you will find happiness and fulfillment an automatic by-product of the process. I would also add that, from my experience and observations, you will create and generate lots and lots of mental and physical energy!

Next week, I want to write about a great human being and the energy he created for himself and those around him, an energy which no doubt saved his and his companions lives. That energy he created helped these people overcome freezing temperatures, lack of sleep, and very little food. It’s a great story of how the mind can create great and even lifesaving energy.

The Umbrella Goal of Health

March 30, 2019 by  
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I know I said I was going to give you the other half of that 20 life list but there’s been a lot going on this week so we’re going to revisit a post, revised and updated, from 10 years ago, basically about the same subject.

I do regularly talk about health and the benefits of a good diet and hopefully it’s often inspired you to eat better and take care of yourself. The question is, are you, or will you be committed to it, not just for the near future but for life?

Getting down to an ideal weight and getting off junk food are great goals, but your hard efforts will be wasted if you don’t make it a modification to your lifestyle rather not just a temporary change.

These healthier eating habits can lengthen your life as they are and actual fountain of youth! But if you can’t keep it up, it probably won’t get you very far.

Because, here’s the thing … if you lose 30 pounds then gain back 20 a few months later, lose another 10, gain another 15, and keep this yo-yo dieting going, you aren’t helping your health at all. In fact, you’re stressing your system. Same goes for the ‘occasional’ junk food meal. Can a coke addict get high just once in a while?

The bottom line is, you have to decide that you want to live healthy–determine the specific weight you want to reach and stay at it while committing to eating healthy, minimally processed, whole foods, and keeping active. Look at this commitment as a commitment for life, an umbrella goal that will support every other goal you make by giving you the health and energy to pursue all your dreams.

So, be good to yourself these next few weeks and aim to eat and live healthy for the rest of your life. You can start by reading Chapter 10: An Umbrella Goal for Life in my book, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living. As I explain, 42 days is all it takes to form a new eating habit. After that it’s just a little bit of vigilance.

Use the goal planning tips in my book and you’ll certainly get there. Do this for yourself, your family, and, of course, for the success of all your dreams.

When You’re Not Brave

March 1, 2019 by  
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This week I want to continue on this big thing we all know and have experienced called fear. Let me start by asking, what do we know about these fears?

Well, first remember that fear is a natural emotion, one that must be understood, confronted, and controlled. So maybe when you have great fears for whatever reasons, this would be an appropriate time and place to “fake it till you make it”. Some people who know me are surprised to learn that I have been very fearful many times but have gone ahead and done the “fake it” thing.  Maybe we ought to whistle a happy tune and no one will suspect you and I are afraid. If we pretend to be brave, acting the way a brave person would act, the results can be amazing.

Consider the many times you have lain in bed thinking about some tough assignment, something that you are slightly or very fearful of doing. If you’ve never done it before, quite naturally you are reluctant and anxious. For example, if you are giving a speech for the first time to some very important people, or asking a banker for a huge loan, or presenting an offer to buy a particular property for a ridiculously low price. Or it may be visiting a new state, city, or country, or being a master of ceremonies. If you are normal you become very fearful with these new situations.

Whatever you have to do on that particular day as you lie in bed, if you have a few fears of doing it, they will only intensify the longer you lie there and think about it. What will overcome those frightening thoughts and imaginings is action. Even if it is incorrect action, get up, get going, and get the blood running and the brain thinking. Take a shower, get on the phone, write a few text messages and emails, go see people, or set up a lunch appointment. Make things happen!

Action overcomes fear because most fears are in your mind and action lets the physical part of you dominate for a while. The physical side of you needs to dominate because the mental side of you, in many cases, has become too introspective and too analytical. We tend to analyze so many things to death. We have all heard of “analysis paralysis,” which is more than two cute rhyming words.

Sometimes we think too much. In today’s educated, deep thinking and analyzing world, it sure seems that we have a lot more planners and thinkers and analyzers than we do action people. Obviously, we do need some kind of plan, but the greatest plan in the world is worthless without action. I would much rather have a mediocre plan and some real action people to carry it out than the most phenomenal plan in the world with a bunch of inactive and do-nothing people.

Action really is the critical key to huge success and accomplishment. I have never met a person in my life who has total confidence in themselves and doesn’t experience fear from time to time. There is not one of us human beings on this planet who won’t have some serious questions about their own ability to succeed in every new venture they start. We all need to remember that and as the great title of Susan Jeffers book says, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”!

Refilling Your Social Life in a Fulfilling Retirement

February 8, 2019 by  
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The great thing about regular work or a job is that it gives you a good reason to get out of bed each morning and get going, and it is very important when you retire is to set something up that replaces that for you. One way to do that, as I mentioned in last week’s post, is put yourself to work in a way that can better the world.

As you push yourself to get involved with a charity, or whatever it is that you choose, you will find that you can replace what your work gave you in terms of structure and routine with the activities of your new mission. This will give you something to get you out of bed but, just as important, that structure and routine will also give you a new social aspect to your life.

Most of us develop a significant social life that revolves around work, but then, when we retire, this is often lost. So, getting involved in a charity or other organization can replace what you are missing when you leave your job or no longer work. It will do all that while you do a little something to make the world a better place.

Most of us humans really don’t realize how very important our social contacts are until they disappear or are greatly diminished when we retire. It’s not that you won’t know those same people or continue to have great friendships with some of them, but when you’re no longer working together, you are suddenly not nearly as involved in each other’s lives and you don’t see each other nearly so often. Most people will greatly miss the regular social contact if they do not replace it with another purposeful and regular activity that also involves time connecting and interacting with other people.

Each of us will have our own plan but here is what I plan on doing to push myself to create a new routine, structure, and source of social connections in my life that will make me get out of bed every morning and look forward to the day: I would like to teach grade school, high school, and university students in classes on writing, marketing, public speaking, financial methods and strategies, and maybe even tennis, on a regular scheduled time and day. I know quite a bit about all those subjects, and I do love to teach others how to do these things and show them how they can have great success and a huge sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from learning these new skills.

So, my challenge to you is to start thinking about your own retirement and start making plans on what you will do to create routine, structure, and social connections. Make a list now, even if you are many years away from retirement. You can change up that list as things come to you but just being aware of the necessity will help you create a fulfilling plan. You won’t be sorry if you do that now!

Retirement Can Create a Better World

February 1, 2019 by  
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I want to write a bit more about last week’s theme of retirement – how it can be good, bad or sometimes very ugly. Even if you are many years away from retirement, you can make your retirement much better and have an easier transition if you are aware of some of the pitfalls that many people stumble into when they retire. I want to share a few secrets to making your retirement transition quite comfortable and pleasant.

Part of the reason I want to share these points is that, for me, retirement came close to driving me seriously crazy. It made me feel worthless and caused me to have big mood swings. Last week I wrote about some of the great and promising ideas from Patrice Jenkin’s book, What Will I Do All Day. She points out that many people go into retirement without realizing how critically important it is for them to still have routine and structure in their lives. Most people’s work lives automatically give them those two critical things. Plus, their work usually results in a lot of measurable production which lifts the human mind and spirit and gives us great personal satisfaction. The huge problem comes when a person retires and most, if not all, of those satisfying items quickly disappear. One other thing that also goes away or is often greatly diminished is one’s social life!

So, what is an excellent antidote to the retirement blues and the great letdown? In one word it’s WORK. But it has to be much more than just busy work. It has to be meaningful and productive.  Ideally, it’s doing something that you love and something that helps other people. It should be something that helps make the world a better place because, although you don’t really need to make a dime out of doing that work, it needs to be purposeful.

For me, the answer was going for the great feelings I get from donating my time and money to charity work. What is especially appealing to me is helping kids. Even doing a little thing like reading to them or telling simple, fun stories on a regular basis is fulfilling and purposeful. Even more fulfilling for me is teaching, because of my background and my passion.

I’ve done a little of this already, but I’ve just begun this particular new mission in life. The time I spend with the kids involves simple things but it is now part of my routine and structure and is a huge mood lifter for both me and the kids. A similar mission could do the same for you no matter what charity you choose. In a small but growing way, we can make the world a better place all while staying fulfilled and purposeful in our retirement.

The Freedom of Structure

January 25, 2019 by  
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I’m reading a great book that my son gave to me, titled What Will I DO All Day, by Patrice Jenkins PHD.  It’s all about retirement and how it can be either a really good thing or something that drives you crazy. And it can all start long before you retire. It may even start from the moment you just begin thinking about what the heck you are going to do when you retire.

Most people think, “Oh, it’s going to be great when I retire. I’ll have all that time to do all those things that I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time to do.” But when people actually retire, many of us can become very frustrated because, all of a sudden, we don’t have a routine or the structure that a regular job gave us. Now we must set a routine and a structure of our own and that takes some thinking and some work.

So much of what this author talks about that needs to be done also applies to all of us in our daily living long before we even think about retirement, such as setting goals, writing them down, and writing daily “to do” lists. We all know, or should by now, that when we write down a list of things to do the night before, the likelihood of us following through and actually adding action to that list and doing it, increases big time. I’m sure you have seen that happen in your own life.

Patrice has a chapter called “Structure is Freedom”. When we are working full time, structure doesn’t seem like freedom. She tells the story of this one guy by the name of Jim. Jim said, “You have to know what you’re getting up to each day.” Here is what she wrote about Jim and what Jim’s thoughts were:

“When Jim first retired he was looking forward to having his days free to do anything he wanted to do. But, after a few months of this, he told me that he, ‘found it to be more work not to work. My energy level was lower than when I used to work 10 hours a day. The truth is I was puttering around the house most of the day.’

“It was at this point that Jim acknowledged that having more structure in his days would improve life in retirement. He started scheduling appointments, making commitments, and setting deadlines. He decided to set his alarm for 7 a.m. and start each day with exercise. He made a rule to turn the television off by 9 a.m. so that he could start doing something more productive. Jim also volunteered for a couple of organizations which required weekly commitments of his time and talents. He told me these changes gave his life a more focused direction. ‘Now I know what I’m getting up to each morning,’ he said. ‘I really needed the structure to give me the freedom to enjoy retirement.’”

What Jim learned is something we should all focus on and be sure we do it whether we are retired, close to retirement, or many years away from that status. Yes, our full-time jobs give us structure and a routine, but our lives can be, and will be, so much more fulfilled and productive if we set up our own routines and structure totally independent of our jobs. Now that I’m semi-retired I am going to work much harder on my own routines and structure too.

Reviewing and Improving on the Past Year

January 5, 2019 by  
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Wow, where did the 2018 year go?  It seemed to go faster than any other year of my life. How about you?

But what really got to me was what I wrote in my journal back on February 27, 2018:  “Now in Lihue, Kauai house … Kimbo [my nickname for my wife Kimberly] is working so hard to get the house in perfect condition as to justify the $4.5 million price we have it listed for… Now at 46 days away from age 74, I hope I’ve learned a little more about life and living.  I still need to focus on living in the great now moments of life and need to practice more of what I preach and write about … living in the present, self-talk and self-affirmations … and write them down.”

In that journal entry I made this list:

1. I am living in the now

2. I love my life now

3. I love my wife now

4. I love being semi-retired

5. I gain much of life from my writing and helping other people

In that same entry I finally came to this conclusion:

“In 6 days, we head back to Utah – in my head I keep thinking about that future event and have been counting down the days. I need to stop doing that and enjoy the great right now! I mean heavens, it’s pretty darn nice, right here and right now. Beautiful, warm, wonderful view of the great blue ocean and green mountains of Kauai … so I will now take all of that in and live in the ‘now moment’.  Ok I am doing that right now and it feels great!”

It was great to have realized what I needed then, but the realization didn’t quite turn into action. Recently, on Dec. 31, 2018, I made another, related journal entry: “I re-read some of my comments from last year and it hit me kind of hard how I said I must, and want, to live more in the present moment or the great wonderful ‘right now” and I realized I just didn’t do that very much. So, that’s now back on my new year’s resolution list for 2019. I’m going to do much better in 2019!”

I know that I’ve written and preached about keeping a journal of your life and reading my own past comments really shows me how important it is to do just that. You can coach yourself and remind yourself over and over again about what you need to work on and that, at least to me, is very important to improve and expand and make your life better and better. Yes, I know that we all have to think of the future and make plans and set goals and review our past, but after we’ve done that, we need to spend more time in the “great right now moment”.

I hope you agree and maybe what I’ve learned here will help you. I’m pretty darn sure it’s already helped me and will make me more aware of living in the now moments and how to love and enjoy 2019 more than last year, even though I fell short of my stated resolution. So, let’s all double down and make 2019 the best year EVER!

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