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The Greatest High

February 28, 2021 by  
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When I was very young, I never got high. But now, at almost 77, I must admit I get high quite often. In fact, right now is one of those times. I’m high, real high – the captain just announced that we are about 33,000 feet high.

Ho ho… you might have thought I was talking about drugs, drugs that stimulate the brain. Nope. I’ve never done drugs. I really do love being at 30,000 feet or more, as long as I’m on an airplane. Oh yes, I love to travel, and flying not only gets me 30,000 plus feet high, it also lifts my brain as I see and experience new things.

The brain responds tremendously to novelty such as new sights and sounds. It certainly gives me a high. Yes, I know that many people are afraid to fly, especially when they see things like a jet losing an engine over Denver. But wow… look at the odds of dying on a commercial flight. Research shows there is a 1 in 29 million chance that you will die that way.

I love to visit foreign countries, not just because of the flight there, which I love, but because of the uniqueness, the novelty of new countries and new people, and the amazing variety of cultures. Sadly, those great things like foreign travel and being very social were suddenly taken away from us, but it isn’t permanent. Fortunately, it seems like we might be pulling ourselves out of this COVID mess. (And, yes, I did get my COVID vaccine!)

As I write this, we are thousands of feet above the Pacific Ocean, flying from Kauai to Seattle then on to Salt Lake City. And, yes, our months in Hawaii were warm and wonderful although it did rain a ton! But we still got in some tennis time and beach time.

I am a huge believer in staying active. There is so much evidence showing that if you keep moving you will, on average, have better health and a longer life. Pair activity with novel things to do and novel places to visit and you can lead a longer and healthier life while having tons of fun!

We are now making lots of plans for future trips and are very carefully increasing our social life. I hope the best for you as well as we get our lives back to normal. How novel everything will seem then!

Get Past the Depression

January 10, 2021 by  
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The news this week, and through much of this past year, has been terribly sad and is sometimes almost too hard to process. There is been a lot of news about depression and how much more of it there is right now. It’s understandable. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject with thoughts from past posts. Because although depression may be hard to avoid in times like these, it can be minimized and only fleeting if you are vigilant.

First of all, we need to deal with our disappointment and the restrictions this pandemic has put on our lives. Our advanced technologies have led us to habitually expect that we can access our wishes immediately. Super-fast internet, instant downloads, and multi-functional cell phones give us the ability to have some level of access to whatever or whomever we want whenever we want. But life, in general, doesn’t work that way. As a result, we are experiencing tremendous frustration and impatience with a world that is not changing quickly and fulfilling our needs and wishes immediately. This can ultimately lead to depression or anger.

In my book How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, I touch upon some of the depressive episodes I have been through and some of the ways I have dealt with them. I also think Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The Power of Now, has hit upon the true source and the most effective ideas to combat depression as well as other mood disorders.

The first few ideas on his list are some of the most important, at least in my experience. They deal with becoming a watcher of one’s thoughts and redirecting the mind when we start to buy into the idea of being a depressed person:

  • Learn to recognize how your mind labels thoughts and sits in judgment so you know what ideas lie at the source of your pain.
  • Accept whatever the present moment contains as if you had chosen it.
  • The pain or depression wants you to unconsciously identify with it, allowing it to survive in your mind. If you are not a careful watcher of your thoughts then you may come to believe that you are a depressed person and then this becomes your identity.

Letting your mind create this depression identity will make it very difficult to get past the dark feelings and the pain because you will then believe this is who you are. But if you start with these first few ideas of Tolle’s, recognizing how your mind is working and seeing the present moment as something under your control, you can avoid the mindset that makes you think of yourself as a depressed person.

These ideas are true for any issues of mood. I choose to talk about them in terms of depression because that has been a difficult battle of mine. However, if you are dealing with anger, guilt, low self-esteem, fear, etc. watching your thoughts and taking control can help you with all types of painful moods and attitudes.

So, if you are depressed, don’t just live with it. Find its source, accept that it exists, and then aim to let it go. Give yourself goals and make plans you can look forward to. Eat healthy and whole foods as refined and sugary foods have been shown to feed depression. Get out and move and boost that serotonin and dopamine in your brain.

You may also want to turn off the TV, stop reading those dramatic headlines, and unsubscribe from all those pessimistic reports. Instead, read up on all the great success stories you can find on-line and in responsible and inspiring periodicals. You can, literally, change your mood by changing your view of the world as well as your mindset.

 

Something New, Near or Far

December 27, 2020 by  
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The human mind is an incredible machine. Our brain can remember tons of facts, experiences, feelings, and more. I find it so very interesting and exciting that, after struggling to remember some situation, name, or fact and giving up, later that day or even the next day, like magic, while I’m not even trying, the answer will suddenly pop into my head. I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced the same phenomena.

Yes, our brains are amazing but they do need to be fed. There is this super great thing we can do for our brains when we are feeling down in the dumps. It’s a simple little thing called “novelty”. Our brains crave novelty! Being exposed to something new and totally different than we’ve ever seen or experienced before does amazing things for our brains.

Today I was very bored and a bit down (Thanks COVID for picking on me and, well, pretty much everybody!) That bad ole virus has kicked our social life in the face and it wiped out the wife’s and my travel plans this year. Nearly every year we fly to Paris and from there go on to visit new countries, seeing so many new sights and faces. We are missing the novelty that we get when we travel to new places and meet new and different people.

With my brain being a bit down, I have certainly had the urge to see something novel lately and a few days ago, I knew that I was going to need that very, very soon. So, I did a very simple thing that didn’t take an airplane or a lot of time. We just jumped in my car and started driving.

I drove to places, neighborhoods, and business districts that I had never seen and it worked! Yes, we found novelty in places nearby. Seeing pretty much anything that is new to your eyes and brain can lift your feelings and attitude. It was only a one-hour drive but, wow, it was a great lift for my brain and mood and it was such a simple thing to do.

In today’s COVID world, and especially around Christmas and New Year times, we need to push ourselves to seek out and find those new sights, sounds, people, and experiences that stimulate our brains. Yes, it may take some thinking and planning but that’s not hard to do.

So, I am going to challenge myself, my family, friends, and, yes, you the reader to look for and find things to see, do, and experience, especially now as we start a new year. Let’s all go do it and make 2021 and great new and exciting year!

A Season for Appreciation

December 20, 2020 by  
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The holidays are upon us. What a great time of the year this is! It’s a season of celebration that usually brings back many special memories of family and friends. To me, though, it’s mostly about giving. Okay, yes, as a kid it was mostly about receiving but that was a very long time ago!

The act of giving returns so many super wonderful feelings in such a big way to the giver, sometimes to the point that the giver can feel guilty for getting so much out of it. I remember one particular experience a while back that gave me a twinge of guilt after I had done a rather small thing.

I was coming out of a mall when I saw two young ladies, probably in their early to mid-20’s, sitting on a little wall taking a break from one of the shops they obviously worked at. As I walked by, I handed each of them a 2-dollar bill saying, “This is for luck. Don’t spend it. Just keep it for luck.” 

I usually give these to kids between 6 and 8 years old and watch their excited reaction and joy. It is one of my favorite giving things to do. But I guess, in this case, since I was struck by the season of giving we are in, I handed these to the young ladies without thinking. Both girls said “Oh, I’m sorry I can’t accept this.”

I replied, “Give it to a kid and watch the big smile on their face.”

Reluctantly they accepted. Then they began to thank me as if I’d given them $100 dollar bills.

As I started to walk away, they asked, “Hey, where are you from?”

I replied, “Oh, I’m from here but I grew up in the Middle East, in the country of Turkey.” And then, of course, I had to lay a little Turkish on them, what little I remembered.

One of the girls surprised me by answering back in Arabic (the two languages have a lot of common words) and then they explained they were from Israel where they’d learned a little Arabic. So, we had something in common.

As I walked toward my car, I began thinking about how their great appreciation for my very small gift made me feel so good. I realized that appreciation is really a gift too and, often, a big and glorious one.

Feeling a little connected to these young ladies and warmed by their great appreciation and friendliness, I got in my car and drove back to where they sat, giving both of them a copy of my latest book.

Wow, talk about receiving a huge gift back! Their appreciative words and genuine feelings absolutely overwhelmed me. You would have thought I’d given them a million dollars. They called me an angel from heaven and thanked me to the point that their appreciation was almost embarrassing.

What did I really take away from this experience though? I realized that the biggest gifts any of us can give are not objects or anything you can put a price tag on, but gifts of love and appreciation. These things, without a doubt, last longer than any gift wrapped present.

At this special time of year let’s all try to give more and return more with our sincere appreciation!!

Raise Your Energy

November 1, 2020 by  
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As I said last week, I did let my social life go down the toilet, even though our social lives are a very important part of our life. Of course, COVID-19 didn’t help any but then I had a big health set back this last weekend. It jolted my brain and made me realize there was a part of my life that didn’t get flushed down. As a matter fact it took a big jump up.

So you know, my health setback was in the form of big stomach pains that were so painful I couldn’t sleep at night. It also really messed up my thinking and activities the next day and beyond.

It was during these episodes that I realized that even though my social life slipped a ton, my physical movement and life had taken a leap up. Of course, with this damn coronavirus, and not getting together with friends and family very often, it left me with plenty of time on my hands, or should I say in my “on my feet”.

My long walks around our new neighborhood and in the canyon really took off. I’ve written before about my walking goal of 20,000 steps a day (Thank heavens for my FitBit!) but with lots of time on my hands I started walking 25,000 steps every day and sometimes 30,000. My all-time high for one week was 210,000 steps and, wow, does that ever make a person feel good! Well, I am tired at night but overall, it feels good and lifts my health big time.

As recommended in one of my favorite little books, Inner Simplicity by Elain St. James, “Start a healthful exercise program such as walking and a limbering program such as yoga or stretching.”

That stretching, which I do before my long walks, has helped a lot and is especially important as we get older. St. James also says that “studies have shown that it’s the loss of elasticity in our muscles and the tightening of our joints that create the immobility of our advancing years.”

We all need more energy but as we get older, we notice the energy levels dropping quite a bit. Elaine says sleep is important to keep your energy up but she also warns you to “become aware of the situations and people that drain your energy.” So, try to avoid or limit time with those people.

Additionally, she says, “Sometimes you can find yourself completely deprived of energy for no apparent reason. It’s important at those times to examine what you’ve been doing, talking, or thinking about, or what you’ve been eating or drinking, so you can eliminate as much as possible not only the obvious energy drains but the subtle ones as well.”

In conclusion, she wrote that you should “keep your eyes and feelings open for the situations and the people and the happenings that raise your energy, lift you spirits, and make you feel terrific.”

For me, it’s kind of strange that all my thousands of steps, out in the wonderful outdoors, rather than draining me, lifts my energy as it lifts my spirits! So, just a little advice to you, which you probably already know—if you are feeling down go outside and walk around. The sky, air, and nature will almost certainly lift you spirits and life.

 

The Neglected Key to a Long Life

October 25, 2020 by  
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I started to re-read the book entitled I’ve Decided to Live 120 YEARS: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Transformation written by Ilchi Lee. I’ve written about this book in a previous blog post but I didn’t mention an incredible statistic I learned about in these pages.

It turns out, you can do this very simple thing that, on average, can lengthen your life by 7.5 years. That conclusion was reached based on data from 143 studies with a total of 300,000 participants. In that previous post, I mostly talked about how a long and healthy life is primarily about eating nutritious foods and staying physically active but there’s a bit more you can do.

So, during my second read of the book, what really jumped out at me was something that I’ve not been doing much of since I retired. I’m kind of surprised that I’ve ignored this critical part of living a long life and I have suffered because of it.

What is it that I’ve ignored that could have possibly lengthened my life by 7.5 years? It’s this thing called a social life! Having and keeping a good strong and active social life does things to the brain including sending signals to various body parts that keep it healthy and helps you live longer.

When I retired, I let my social life slide down big time! I stopped going to the office and so I stopped seeing my coworkers, clients, partners and business associates. I also moved into a big house on the mountain side with no neighbors, so that made it even worse. And this COVID-19 has certainly not helped in the least. In addition, there’s no kids here at home anymore. It’s just me and the wife in our big, empty nest.

Lee says in his book, “The isolation of the elderly doesn’t only cause loneliness, it has been shown to have a negative impact on physical and mental health, increasing conditions like chronic disease, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline, and dementia”. In addition, he notes, “Having people around us with whom we can communicate on a heart-to-heart level may also reduce the effects of stress.”

We all want to be happy but things can quickly change when we suddenly retire–Lee goes on to say “People, especially as they get older, are experiencing deeper and more frequent forms of unhappiness in many spheres of life: chronic illnesses, alienation or disruption of personal relationships, weakening of economic power. Suddenly facing their social roles greatly reduced during retirement, people are likely to find their self-esteem withering away.”

Most of that has hit me hard so I’m here to tell you that, whether you are retired yet or not, it’s a good time to start making a list of plans and actions that you are going to take on when that day arrives and be sure an active social life is on there. Personally, I’m bound and determined to catch up and do just that!

In Lee’s book he also talks about another thing that can lengthen and make your life more pleasant and happy and it’s something that I’ve talked a lot about over the years – having a good strong purpose and hopes and dreams. I will talk more about those issues in my next week’s post.

Getting On With Living

October 18, 2020 by  
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As mentioned last week, retirement has challenges that aren’t always anticipated and so I gave you some ideas to overcome that. This week, I have more ideas to help you deal with the struggles that many people have when they retire, including me. Even if you are not retiring now or anytime soon these ideas and methods can still enhance your life.

When I found that I was struggling with retirement I sought answers in a few very helpful books written on that very subject and what I learned helped me a ton. By the way, the current pandemic can have us struggling in a similar way as our routines and schedules are thrown out of whack.

Elaine St. James wrote a great little book titled, Inner Simplicity: 100 Ways to Regain Peace and Nourish Your Soul. ln the book, she talks about how important it is to have a routine and follow a schedule that you set up for yourself, retired or not. Of course, before we are retired, most of us have a routine and schedule due to our job and family but most of that goes away as we enter retirement.

For St. James, “inner simplicity” means creating joy in our lives and staying connected with that joy every moment of the day. When many of us retire, along with a loss of routine, we may stop or reduce how connected we are to our joy which is due in part to our reduced connection to other people, like work associates and even friends.

St. James goes on to say, “Now that I’ve simplified my life, I find it easy to get up at the crack of dawn, or even earlier. In that quiet time, I can do you yoga and stretching, write in my journal, do some deep breathing, work on affirmations and visualizations, meditate or have some quiet time to just sit and think.” That’s some very good stuff we can learn from and follow.

Another great book is What Will I Do All Day?: Wisdom to Get You Over Retirement and on with Living!, by Patrice Jenkins, PHD. She talks a lot about energy and also notes how much we get from working with other people when we are on the job.

She asks, “How do you discover your work’s energy source? Think about what parts of your work you enjoy most. Is there one part of your work that charges you with high-octane fuel? “

She continues with suggestions and probing questions. “Maybe your energy source comes from being involved in teamwork with coworkers. If you have already retired, you may have insight on what parts of your work provided you with the most energy. Was it a chance to help people, to teach, to solve problems, or be physically active? ”

Later, she makes this great point: “Once you have identified your energy source, you will know what it is that you’ll want to keep alive in retirement.”

Wow, that’s some great advice and it has helped me a ton. I hope this will help you if you are retired or planning for when that day arrives, or even through this terrible pandemic. Routines, staying in touch with people, and knowing the source of our energy can help us through unexpected struggles and back to living a full life.

 

Retirement – The Best or the Worst

October 11, 2020 by  
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I’m sure you, like most people would agree that the majority of us humans look forward to the day we get to retire. You know … no alarm clock to wake us up, no worrying about pleasing our boss, and so many other things we won’t have to do. You imagine life will be so great, that you will be able to relax, do anything you want to do, have tons of fun, and be able to travel anywhere in the world (that you can afford) on a whim.

Well, you know what? Some of that may be true. But when you find yourself without a schedule or purpose, that can get very depressing. You might even go a little crazy. And nowadays we have COVID-19 on top of that so it can be even worse. In fact, most of us are getting a preview of retirement now that our routines have been so dramatically changed.

You might find yourself asking, “Just what am I going to do today?”

The smart one’s among us begin to make lots of plans long before they hit that retirement wall. When I was preparing to retire, I made a few plans, but I didn’t create enough to-do lists or new routines.

So, what did I do when I was feeling down because of my lack of a schedule? I turned to books written about retirement. In Ernie J. Zelinski’s great book The Joy of Not Working, he makes lots of great suggestions such as, “One of the chief sources of happiness is having a special purpose or a personal mission in life … Finding and pursuing your true calling can make life a totally new experience.”

He then gives some examples of personal missions:

1. Make the world a better place to live by reducing pollution.

2. Raise money to help care for others in need.

3. Help children develop a special talent or skill, such as playing piano.

4. Write entertaining children’s book that help young boys and girls discover the wonders of the world.

5. Give foreign travelers the best possible tour of the Rocky Mountains.

6. Create a committed relationship and keep it exciting and energizing.

The author goes on to say, “Although a true calling should be closely tied to your values and interests, it can also be determined by your strengths and weaknesses. Your personal mission will intimately connect you to who you are and to the world around you. Taking the time to answer the following questions may help reveal a personal mission that you would like to pursue.”

I must say that his questions really helped me:

1. What are all your passions?

2. What are your strengths?

3. Who are your heroes?

4. What do you want to discover or learn?

Answering those great questions can put you on the right track. It has for me. So, if you are not retired yet, start making specific plans. And if you are retired and struggling, answer those questions above to help you discover your great purpose and direction for this new chapter in your life.

 

Solving the Mystery of You

October 4, 2020 by  
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As I promised in last week’s post, I’m going to discuss how we solve our own “mystery”, the mystery being what it is we really want out of life.

To help point you in the right direction and solve this mystery, I have compiled the following questions for you to ask yourself. Write or print out the questions along with your answers after contemplating them.

Then, after a bit of time, go back, and reread the questions and your answers, letting them sift through all the corners of your mind. Don’t get impatient with this. This is important “inner-self” work you are doing, laying a fertile foundation for that which is to come.

  1. What do you naturally and instinctively like to do? Forget about any financial or time constraints. Let your mind be open and flow and just write down the first things that come to your mind.
  2. What did you like to do when you were a kid? What was your passion then?
  3. What is it that you do now that really gets your juices flowing?
  4. What comes easily to you? Are these your passions?
  5. What puts you in such a mental state that you lose all sense of time to the extent that you say to yourself, “please let this moment linger” or “I wish this moment and feeling would never end”?
  6. What is it you most want to stand for?
  7. What do you want to be remembered for or leave to the world?

 

Now, take time to dig deep!

Make an appointment with yourself and sift through the questions above. Remember, it takes time – sometimes weeks or even months – to discover what’s hidden in the inner regions of your mind and heart.

Take time to seek advice from others. Especially from those you think highly of and those who have done some of the things you are considering doing with your life. Go ahead, call those gurus, those super successful people who you’ve always admired and tell them that you’d like just a few minutes of their time. Sometimes people who seem far above the masses are more available and approachable than you would believe.

I’ll never forget the desire I had when I was young to pick the brain of the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, who made a billion dollars after the age of 55. I was stunned, shocked, surprised, and pleased when I was told by Mr. Kroc’s secretary that Mr. Kroc has agreed to meet with me and talk face to face! Wow!

Read and research all items and areas you can that deal with the wants on your dream list, the areas that seem to be most relevant to you and your life and how you can reach your dreams and goals.

As you read, research, and talk to the right people, be sure to write down not only what comes from those sources about what may fit your ideal life, but also record on paper or in your computer all of your own thoughts, ideas, and feelings that come up. This, as you will see, will be helpful and insightful to you later on when you re-read your own thoughts and words that passed through your mind.

Our Unfulfilled Ambitions

September 27, 2020 by  
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Do you have, like most of us, unfulfilled passions? If so, what are those passions? Do you love music, art, ballet, sports, outdoor adventures, traveling to new places, writing, social interactions, running a small business, or any other great possibility?

Take some time to contemplate and think about that. Once you have the answers, be sure to write down what your unfulfilled passions are. Then ask yourself this:

“Am I doing that special something that I love to do, and am I doing it for my own reasons?”

And… what are those reasons?

Then ponder this:

What kind of a breakthrough would you be ecstatic to have in your life in terms of your health, wealth, personal expression, spiritual development, etc.

Additionally, ask yourself:

In what would you like to excel?

What follows are just a few general categories I would like you to run through the gray matter of your brain before we really get focused.

Look at this list to see what overall categories might jump out at you or might be in the unfulfilled category so far in your life. Which of these categories are calling out to you and why?

  1. Artistic
  2. Sports
  3. Career
  4. Education
  5. Financial
  6. Physical
  7. Health
  8. Family
  9. Social
  10. Public Service

Of course, feel free to add more categories to this list.

It’s not at all unusual for most people to struggle with identifying their inner ambitions, especially in midlife and as they get older. It can become less clear as to what we really want out of life as we become bombarded by responsibilities, daily cares, and concerns.

And, yes, many young people have these struggles, too!

However, as kids, most of us knew what we wanted or at least thought we knew what we wanted. But the older we get, the less sure of ourselves we often become.

It is a rare individual who knows exactly what he or she wanted as a young person and follows that all through life, never faltering, never getting sidetracked, and never getting discouraged.

Most of us, as we hit midlife, start questioning what we really, really want out of life. It can be such a mystery. So, in next week’s blog post, I want to talk about the possible ways to solve your own mystery!

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