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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!

The Eve of a New Year List

December 21, 2018 by  
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As you may have noticed, especially if you followed my advice from my blog post about the subject matter a couple months ago, it can be very helpful and profitable to set your daily goals the night before. Sometimes this list making even influences your dreams in a very positive way. You see, by setting your next day’s goals the night before, you will notice that, most of the time, you wake up thinking about those goals and are so much more likely to act on them and make them happen. Of course, I’m talking primarily about your small daily goals or tasks. These are usually the kind of things you expect to, or hope to, accomplish that day. However, this can be applied to bigger goals as well.

Being that we are so very close to the end of the year, it can be, and usually is, the best time to begin to set your big yearly goals for what you are going to do, achieve, accomplish, or earn, in the new year. It is certainly a good time to set your mind on the direction of your new year, and so why not write them down? You would be writing them down at the end of the year rather than at the end of the night but it’s the same kind of list – preparing you to get going on your goals once the new day – or new year – starts.

As you know, when you set those goals and write them down, your brain can, and usually does, take over and persuade, coax, cajole, and even force you to get to work to accomplish those objectives that you have set for yourself. So, take time in the next few days to thoroughly think through what you want 2019 to be for you and what you are going to get done. Include both financial and nonfinancial objectives like helping others, spending more time with family, world travel, etc. Do it! You won’t be sorry!

So, what are my personal goals for my 2019 year? Yes, I have some financial goals, but for me I would like to do more writing and get my autobiography done. Also, on my list is the giving of time and assistance as well as money. I have already started in on this list. Just in the last few weeks I’ve given my time at an elementary school, assisting a 3rd grade teacher and, oh wow, what a great feeling that gives me!

Physically, for my 75th year on this planet, I want to get in, and stay in, super physical shape. I want to look like, act like, and have the energy of a 35-year-old. I know that is not going to be easy, but I do believe it to be possible and, besides, the rewards that I have heard about through other people are fantastic. Those who do aim for super physical fitness, and stick with it, are shown to have a much longer life. And I have to tell you, I do love beating those much younger people on the tennis court, something which happened a lot in 2018 and I plan to repeat in the coming years!

Pleasure and Production

December 7, 2018 by  
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Last week we talked about Authentic Happiness which is both a concept and the title of the great book written by Martin Seligman. In the book, the author continuously emphasizes how much of our happiness comes from inside our heads.

Most of us humans look at rich and famous people and think that they must be very, very happy and content because of all their fame and wealth. Well, guess what… if you look closely, you will find that many of these people are not particularly happy. I think a big reason is that most people think that once they attain great wealth and/or fame then it will automatically make them happy. Only it doesn’t. Then these folks, finding that their brains are not filled with great thoughts of happiness and contentment, start to wonder why. That doubt causes an internal dialog to start up which can work against them, quickly driving them and their mindset downhill. Also, money and fame don’t hold a candle to the kind of true and deep happiness we get from things like the love we give and receive from family and friends.

Although most of us are not rich and famous, we may still find ourselves falling into similar thought patterns. It is so very easy to let our internal self-talk persuade us that things are not going well which brings us down mentally.

There are lots of methods for overcoming this negative self-talk but one very big one is also a powerful antidote for depression – productive gratification. Striving for gratification is automatic but the way to use it so that it overcomes negativity and depression is through producing something truly meaningful to us and/or to others. What we accomplish when we produce meaningful things sends a powerful, purposeful message to our brains and makes us feel so very satisfied and happy.

Martin makes the very good point that “pleasure is a very powerful source of motivation but it does not produce change.” It also does not produce lasting authentic happiness. A simple example is the difference between the pleasure that we receive from watching a very entertaining television show versus the gratification, genuine happiness, and personal satisfaction that we receive from reading a particularly inspiring or informative book. Think back on how you felt after experiencing these two different activities yourself. The difference in how your attitude and your state of mind will probably be quite apparent.

The author suggests that if we really want true, deep and authentic happiness we should all create a list of activities, goals, and deep desires that produce for us, personally, a sense of gratification. Look for goals and things that you do that seem to make time stop and even has you thinking, “I don’t want this to ever end.”

Yes, it’s true that many pleasures take little or no effort to acquire and that the best kind of gratification takes a lot of work. But so be it. It is so well worth it, and I do think and hope you would agree!

 

Secrets to Authentic Happiness

November 30, 2018 by  
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I think I came across the best reason for keeping a journal of your life or, as my good friend Rich Harvey used to call it, a reason for people to “Journal Their Journey”.

Just the other day I picked up one of my journals dated 10-26-2003 to 6-12-2004. My comments about what was going on in my life at that time quoted a great book that I had totally forgotten about entitled Authentic Happiness, by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.

In his book, Dr. Seligman talks about what real authentic happiness is and how we can capture it and keep it. Finding and enjoying real happiness is not done through seeking and finding pleasure and the same goes for seeking happiness through just staying busy – it just doesn’t work. Great and authentic happiness is experienced from gratification. So how do we become gratified?

Much of gratification comes from “production”.  When we produce something of great value to others and/or ourselves, we end up with a great feeling of satisfaction. Here are Dr. Seligman’s 8 common ingredients and psychological components of gratification:

  1. The task is challenging and requires skill.
  2. We have to concentrate.
  3. There are clear goals.
  4. We get immediate feedback.
  5. We have deep effortless involvement.
  6. There is a sense of control.
  7. Sense of self vanishes.
  8. Time seem to stop.

Dr. Seligman goes on to talk about depression in today’s world and how widespread it is. It has increased by a huge amount in the last 40 years and the average age of depressed people is much younger today. That certainly gives more credence to the importance of setting big, tough goals. If your mind is firmly set on your goals, it’s more likely that your mind will not be spending time reflecting how you feel in the moment. Plus, there is the big extra benefit that setting big goals does energize us both physically and mentally because of the chemicals released by our brains, as I talked about in last week’s blog.

But why is depression so high in wealthy and healthy countries? The author’ s theory is “that an ethos that builds unwarranted self-esteem, espouses victimology, and encourages rampant individualism has contributed to that epidemic.” Another reason is our huge reliance on shortcuts to happiness. Every nation builds more and more shortcuts to pleasure … TV, drugs, shopping, spectator sports and high sugar food and drink. Gaining these and many other things take very little effort on our part these days.

A major symptom of depression is self-absorption. The depressed person thinks about how he feels a great deal of the time – excessively so. When a depressed person detects sadness, he ruminates about it, projecting it into the future, this in turn increases his sadness in his life and across all his activities. In contrast, gratification is the absence of feeling sorry for yourself.

What we all need to do more of is realize that there are no shortcuts to the kind of fulfilling gratification we all crave, and realize we need to focus more and more on our goals, big tasks, and our production as well as giving up the constant self-worry and self-absorption. You may have noticed that really happy people, for the most part, spend the least amount of time home alone – they tend to have a rich and fulfilling social life, which really is the opposite of being self-absorbed.

Next week I’m going to talk more about this great thing called “Authentic Happiness” that Martin’s book gives us such super insight into as well as talking about how understanding where it comes from can bump up our happiness factor and enhance our lives.

 

Boosting the Brain with Thanks

November 23, 2018 by  
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Here’s a good question for you: Did you find yourself giving a lot of thanks yesterday? Or were you distracted by all the turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie? I hope you were taking time to give a ton of thanks! Isn’t that what we all should do on that day? After all it is called “Thanksgiving”! But that isn’t the only reason to give thanks this holiday season and throughout the year.

I recently heard on a broadcast that there is one big benefit we all can receive from saying “thanks” or “thank you”. Research into the human brain has shown that saying thank you, or otherwise giving verbal appreciation or gratitude, signals the brain to release the feel good, feel happy brain chemical dopamine.

Sometime ago, I wrote about how when a person smiles, even if it is a forced smile, the brain releases three of the four feel good brain chemicals – dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins (the forth brain chemical is oxytocin). These four chemicals, produced by the brain, not only make you feel more relaxed, they also could lower your blood pressure and your heart rate. Some studies even suggest that if they are released often enough, they can even help you live longer.

Another big benefit from giving thanks to others is that, if accompanied by a big sincere smile, your gesture will cause the other person to smile right back at you and then they are more likely to smile at the next person they encounter. So, you see, you are spreading some good stuff and helping others just by being thankful and letting other people know it.

And here’s another thing that has been shown to lift people’s spirits and that is simply to keep a journal in which you make note of the things you are thankful for. By writing down what, and who, you are grateful for, you are giving your brain more determination. This helps improve and lift your attention, enthusiasm and even lifts your energy.

So, during this holiday season, and beyond, we all need to focus on giving thanks, showing and expressing our gratitude, and, yes, even thinking about our positive qualities and of happy memories in order to boost our serotonin levels.

One last thought… don’t forget that laughing and social interaction both cause the brain to release those great feel good chemicals as well! So, this holiday season, be sure you have plenty of opportunities to boost those feel good chemicals and show your thanks and appreciation.

 

It Starts with a Dream

November 16, 2018 by  
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Almost every super successful person I’ve ever heard of or have met began as a dreamer. Without dreams, very little will happen in any of our lives. But with a dream, great and wonderful things can, and most likely will, happen but only if you add two more things – specifics to make it a goal and action to turn the goal into reality. But the dream has to come first! So, let’s talk about that.

I once heard that 75 percent of our life is lived in our minds. That may not be entirely accurate, but I think you would agree that a fair amount of our lives is lived inside our heads and since our minds do indeed have great power, there must be great potential there.

Think of yourself in Chicago or New York in the middle of a cold winter.  You’re watching TV or reading a magazine and you see an advertisement for a trip to Hawaii. You’re attracted to the idea, and suddenly you start to dream about going to Hawaii for the entire month of February. What happens? You start to live the trip in your mind. You may even start to work it out in detail, planning exactly when you will leave, where you’ll stay, what you’ll do while you are there, and so on.

You think about it so much that you eventually decide that you are absolutely going to go and, if you don’t have the money to make it happen, you begin to plan how you are going to save enough to make the trip. And, of course, all of this is part of you living the trip in your mind long before you go.

When you finally make the trip, you have the great time that you had pre-lived in your mind and on the way home, you relive what’s just happened to you. That reliving of your trip in your mind can go on for weeks, months and even years, renewing your enjoyment of it each time.

Pictures can be a huge influence in helping our brains relive the good stuff in our lives.  Years ago, I bought a bunch of digital frames (they cost all $10-$20) and placed them all around the house. This way I can just insert a memory card from my camera (I use a new card for each trip or special event) and the digital frame will rotate through all the photos, allowing me to easily relive those great moments in my life. You should try it too. It’s a small thing but it can really enhance your life.

Just don’t forget, dreaming is not enough. You must also follow through with goals and action if you want to make it more than just a dream. Next week we’ll talk more just how to do that!

 

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