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Turning Bad Habits Around

October 6, 2019 by  
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Last week I wrote about the great power of setting big goals and how they stimulate and motivate the brain and the body to go after your big dreams. In his great book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about how important it is to set big goals and little steps for those goals so as to help you form habits that greatly increase your chances of success. Our habits are so critically important to what we do with our lives and how we end up. Yes, there are lots of good habits and lots of bad habits. The good news is that those bad habits that drag us down and might destroy our lives can be changed, even though it does take work and special plans.

One of the keys to breaking bad habits is what he refers to as the “small win”. As he says, “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishment of the victories themselves.”

“Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage,” one Cornell professor wrote in 1984. “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win. Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging time advantages into pattern that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”

Hmm. I’d call that the formation of a habit, and that is a very good thing. Okay, but how then do we change a bad habit?

Charles Duhigg gives very good and well tested advice to change a habit. For example, keep an index card or journal and make note of the impulses. If, after a few days, you see a lot of notes, take time to come up with an alternative habit or routine to use every time you feel those negative impulses.

The author has told patients that if, for example, they eat too much and their eating impulse wins most of the time, they should substitute a new desired habit like taking a 3- or 5-minute walk or spending a few minutes on the internet. He talks about one patient that had a life-long habit of biting her fingernails. They came up with a new habit which was to have her simply sit on her hands till the urge left. More than three dozen of his students who were smokers overcame that habit by choosing a new routine or habit every time they had the urge to smoke, like chewing a piece of Nicorette, or doing a quick series of push-ups, or simply taking a few minutes to stretch and relax.

He goes on to say, “It seems ridiculously simple, but once you’re aware of how your habit works, once you recognize the cues and rewards, you’re halfway to changing it … Today, habit reversal therapy is used to treat verbal and physical tics, depression, smoking, gambling problems, anxiety, bedwetting, procrastination, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and other behavioral problems.”

So, come up with a new habit to replace an old and unwanted habit – it really works!

 

Should We Really Set Huge Goals?

September 29, 2019 by  
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Is there any great advantage of setting very BIG goals?

Well, yes, there really is a good reason to set very big goals, as long as they are realistic. Setting huge goals excites the mind and actually can stimulate the brain enough to create extra energy. But if you do set big, big goals be sure to break them down into smaller steps and be sure to WRITE down both the big goals and the smaller steps with time frames for each.

While working on this blog, I saw that Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to our daily newspaper The Salt Lake Tribune, happened to put out a very interesting and helpful article on goal setting entitled, “Autumn is the perfect time to set new goals”. In it she writes “We’ve all heard the stats: The average New Year resolution setter makes it about mid-way through January before they’ve given up on the ‘resolutions.’ Maybe the reason is those resolutions are the ones people feel they ‘should’ make, not the ones they really want to make.”

Vancouver based educator Mehrnaz Bassiri, drawing on the work of organizational theorist Carl Weick during her, “To Achieve Success, Start Detecting Your Small Wins” TEDx talk, explained that, “Small wins have a transformational power. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion to favor another small win and another small win until the combination of these small wins lead to larger and greater accomplishments.”

Small wins really do add up and keep you motivated and excited about those big, huge goals. That has certainly worked for me.  I vividly remember when I was 27 years old setting, what was a huge goal for me at the time, to have a net worth of one million dollars by the time I was 30 years old. Believe me, a million bucks back then was a ton of money especially since I was only making about $30,000 a year. That huge goal gave me so much energy. It kept me excited and working hard.

I was one year late in hitting that goal, but it inspired me and motivated me to set some much bigger multi-million dollar goals which I was very fortunate to accomplish as well. And yes, I did set lots of little time driven goals along the way to each big goal, writing them down complete with dates to have them accomplished. Plus, as I hit those numbers, I made a record of my successes in my personal journal.

Holly Richardson gives one more bit of very good advice: “Pick one or two people to share these goals with and who will cheer you along the way and get going!”

Next week I want to share with you some very good stuff I’m reading and learning from. I am reading a super great book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of HABIT. You’re going to really like the wonderful advice that can change and lift your life to a much higher level.

Stay Excited About Your Goals

September 22, 2019 by  
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I would guess that you remember that great theatrical adaptation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and that great song “The Impossible Dream”. I think there is great wisdom in the words of that song that has so much to do with goal setting. I think these words are so very important for super success with really big goals. Read the words to this great song and think about its great message:

To dream the impossible dream,

To fight the unbeatable foe,

To bear with unbearable sorrow,

To run where the brave dare not go,

To right the unrightable wrong,

To love pure and chaste from afar,

To try, when your arms are too weary,

To reach the unreachable star–

 

This is my quest, to follow that star,

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,

To fight for the right, without question or pause,

To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause!

And I know, if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest,

That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to rest!

 

And the world will be better for this,

That one man, scorned and covered with scars,

Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,

To reach the unreachable star!

 

When Don Quixote set out on his quest, he was an old man but he pursued his goal with the energy of a man less than half his age. What kept him going? How was he able to stay so excited about his goal? One thing that made a big difference was his commitment to the goal. He believed with all his heart that he was seeking to do the right thing.

Do you believe in your goals?

Do you really feel that they are the best ones for you?

Do those goals represent what you really want in life?

If you answered no to any of those questions, I’d say you probably should be in search of new goals. Without a strong and positive belief that we are seeking what is best, we simply won’t have the power we need to bring our goals to completion. We won’t have the energy that will take us through every action that is necessary to take us step by step to the goal.

We can learn from Don Quixote. Select goals that you can believe in then work tirelessly to bring them about. Plus, I do strongly believe that if you set very, very big goals, goals that really super charge your brain, then that will give your body and mind more energy to keep pushing yourself until you have achieved that big goal. But we all must make sure that those huge goals are realistic.

Next week I want to talk more about these BIG HUGE GOALS and just how you can make them a reality.

 

Novelty and Innovation

September 15, 2019 by  
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I am always so impressed, when I travel to new places, by how it stimulates my brain, especially when those new places are a new country.  Right now, we are in Macedonia and, wow, what a great and different country this is! Tomorrow we are off to Kosovo. That will make 94 countries that I have visited. That’s quite a lot but I don’t think I will make it to all 200 plus countries on earth before I check out of this life, but I will sure enjoy seeing as many new places as I can before my body assumes room temperature.

Seeing new places can produce some very big and new ideas for things like inventions, innovations, etc. As I visit and totally enjoy these new places and people, it makes me more fully realize how virtually all people, regardless of their ethnicity, skin color, and education level, are pretty much the same as far as the majority being friendly, nice, and good! And in every country, there are really creative and innovative people as well. That got me to thinking about how many times people create something by just putting two different things together to come up with a new product or invention.

For example, it wasn’t that many years ago when people hand carried their heavy suitcases as they traveled.  I thought of this as my wife and I packed 3 huge suitcases plus two drag bags for our trip to Europe. Someone not so long ago put two simple things together to create a great and super helpful new invention – just a few wheels attached to the bottom of a suitcase. Wow, that was so simple! Why didn’t you or I come up with that simple invention that has been so great and helpful to all of us globetrotting humans.

If we set our minds to coming up with new products from two or more existing products, we could make a fortune. Take a simple product like a peddle bicycle and attach a battery and, wham, bang, you have come up with a brand-new and popular product. Then the next could have been putting that battery on a scooter and you might have come up with another form of powered transportation such as Lyme and the other brands.

I’ll never forget many years ago thinking what a waste it was to have all those cars parked for days at the airport while people were arriving and renting cars. It made me think of how maybe I could set up a program where you could rent out your car when you left for a trip and then you could rent someone’s car at the airport of your destination. I knew there would be a lot of issues as to insurance and possible damage or theft and putting it together would not be very simple. Then along came UBER and LYFT a few years later, which, although a traveler’s car isn’t in use while they are away, other people’s cars are not just sitting in their driveways but are out helping traveler’s get around and usually for quite a bit less than a Taxi.

Those car services are simple but great innovations that help so many and it just took putting together existing things to make something new and super useful. These things aren’t likely to come about unless your brain is stimulated and exposed to new things. If you keep your mind active and curious with novel things and keep searching for ideas, you could come up with the next simple and super useful innovation!

Feeling the Great Right Now

September 8, 2019 by  
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I do totally agree with Ernie J. Zelinski’s, author of the book, The Joy of Not Working, when he says, “Being in the now is crucial for living happily, because the present moment is all that you really have.”

Zelinski goes on to say, “The more we are focused on the past or the future the more we miss the now. Sadly, we miss most of the precious moments because we are so preoccupied with the past and the future.” I totally agree!

Yes, of course, it’s necessary for us to spend some time thinking about the future. We do that when we start setting goals for our life, the week, the next day or even the next hour. But once we have taken time to set goals, we need to focus on the ”Great Right Now Moment”. That’s why it’s important to write down our goals. That way we will find it much easier to focus on the now moment and enhance our lives.

Zelinski also poses this question: “Have you ever been possessed by a huge rush of energy that it carried you away from your normal concerns into a state of indescribable bliss? If you have, you were mastering the moment, and undoubtedly you experienced many feelings that you don’t normally experience in everyday life.”  He quotes Howard and Diane Tinsley, professors of psychology, who concluded that individuals’ experience leisure activities to the fullest and feel the following:

  • A feeling of freedom
  • Total absorption in the activity at hand
  • Lack of focus on self
  • Enhanced perception of objects and events
  • Little awareness of the passage of time
  • Increased sensitivity to body sensations
  • Increased sensitivity to emotions

To me, that’s a ton of reward and so very life enhancing. We should all think about and do that more often.  How about you? Will you give that a shot? I’m sure going to work on that more myself!

Grateful Action

August 23, 2019 by  
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Okay here is a $64,000 dollar question: Should you and I choose to be mindful of what we have and be grateful most of the time, reaping the benefits from that attitude along the way, or should we whine and complain and be ungrateful and end up unhappy and miserable?

Ok, I know that’s not too tough a question but isn’t it funny that, regardless of how obvious the answer is, we so often fall into an ungrateful mode in our daily life? Shouldn’t we do something about that? And if so, what would that be?

Well, maybe we can just practice it more often, being mindful of our attitude so that we can stop the complaining when we realize what we are doing. If we can become more aware of our attitude, we would surely see a difference in our lives and our relationship with the people around us.

As I look out at the world, especially in the incredible times we live in right now with all the turmoil, uprising, pointless deaths, instability and chaos in so many places in the world, and then look outside my door, it’s hard not to be a little shocked by how different my life is here in an affluent, developed country. When I see these things, I am struck big time with the thought that, wow, we really do have it good, those of us living in the USA, Canada, Europe, etc. But how often, and seriously, do we consider how blessed we are?

But we just can’t think about it. Agreeing that the more grateful is a good idea is not quite enough, is it? We need to act. We need to make it important in our lives. I have to tell you, when I take time to be grateful, that very process and feeling of gratitude boosts my satisfaction, contentment, and happiness levels! It’s almost like magic.

So why not start now? You could write or call someone or post something on your favorite social network site. Just put something out there, saying that you are grateful and want never to forget it. Then keep that in your mind as you go through the day and you are sure to start reaping the benefits almost immediately.

Appreciating what we have is good for our spirits, our attitude, our family, our outlook on life, and, by extension, the world out there that is working through the chaos and pressure of broad and often, unstoppable, change. It’s the least we can do for them, and for ourselves.

 

Money and Meditation

August 8, 2019 by  
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If you have been reading my blog for years, then you know that I started out mainly writing about money, money, money. I wrote about how to make it and how to invest it for the best returns. Over time, I have expanded my subjects to include physical and mental health because, as we all know, without good health, tons of money may not help you at all, or at least not much.

Our brains control our physical bodies much more than most people realize. Years ago, I found an explanation of why the brain can control so much of our lives in Time magazine. A professor at the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, who Time magazine had honored as one of the “100 People Who Shape Our World”, was actually asked by the Dalai Lama to study the connection between the meditative state of mind of his Buddhist monks and their emotional and mental health.

Davidson first hooked 128 electrodes to the head of a French-born monk, Mathieu Ricard, and recorded an immediate increase in the gamma activity when the monk began to meditate. Later studies with a control group of students only lightly trained in meditation showed the monks produced gamma waves that were 30 times stronger than a control group. Wow, that is HUGE!

But what does all this mean? Simply put, this and other research unveils the real possibility that the brain, like the rest of the body, can be altered intentionally. Just as we build muscle through exercise, we can also build our mental capacities that can lead to better brain function and an increase in essential cognitive functions, including memory and perception. This all creates a more positive mental state–and that’s what in turn creates more productive gamma brain waves.

This discovery tells me that as I do more meditation, I will gain a better functioning brain which could help me be a much better investor. I do believe that by pumping my brain up through meditation, I can make better real estate deals and manage my money much better. How about you? Go ahead and try some meditation and see what it does to your brain.

One last comment. Or, I should say that I’m going to do a little bragging.  I’ve always been impressed by the Dalai Lama and many years ago I had the great privilege of escorting the Dalai Lama from his hotel room to a huge ball room and then I introduced him to the audience. I will never forget the great feeling and gratitude I received from doing that introduction and getting to know him even just a little bit.

Fully Present Wakefulness

August 2, 2019 by  
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So, what can we do to make our lives happy and contented as we age, like when you are over 55, 65 or, like me, at 75? So much of our lives depend on our thinking and it can be a bit of a challenge to put and keep the positive thoughts our minds.

I came across an interview I did years ago with the world-famous skier Stein Eriksen. He had so much passion in his life even up to shortly before he died. In the interview, I asked Stein if he had as much passion in the process of becoming a world champion as he did when he won the gold medal. And he said he absolutely did, that he both enjoyed and was totally passionate about his workouts, and his many, many practice runs down the snowy slops of Norway and Utah. He built in his mind what he was going to do each day and he almost always did it, even in his mid to late 80’s.

That passion and determination most always starts with our brain and what we are thinking. I read a cute comment recently: “Don’t believe everything you think.” It is so easy, especially as you age and know that your time on this planet earth is so much shorter than when you were 25 or 30 or even 50 or 60, to let go of that passion. Our “self-talk” can really lead us down the wrong path.

So, one big thing, or big THINK, we need to do as we get closer to the end, is to be very mindful of the little negative self-talk that goes on in our brains. Then we need to work on changing that little voice in our head to do some major positive self-talk. If you meditate even for just 10 or 12 minutes a day this can help with changing your negative self-talk to positive self-talk.

Quoting from Pema Chödrön’s book Living Beautifully, “The key practice to support us in this mindfulness is being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few. Essentially, mindfulness means wakefulness–fully present wakefulness. Chogyam Trungpa called it ‘paying attention to all the details of your life.’”

As we get older, it’s even more important to live in the right now moment and, of course, that takes a lot of positive self-talk. Pema also wrote that, “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons. Just as with the other aspects of this commitment, we’re either present when putting on our sweater or tying our shoes or brushing our teeth, or we’re not. We’re either awake, asleep, conscious, or distracted. Chogyam Trangpa emphasized mindfulness and paying attention to the details of our lives as ways to develop appreciation for ourselves and our world, ways to free ourselves from suffering.”

Additionally, Pema wrote, “You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts. Embracing the totality of your experience is one definition of having loving kindness for yourself.”

This type of thinking and action certainly has made me more productive and keeps my mind busy. That along with setting a schedule and coming up with some new goals that fit my age and stage has been quite wonderful. At first it seemed quite silly for me to pay total attention to getting dress or taking a shower, but I have found it to be a good, and important, experience.

Just Believe

July 19, 2019 by  
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To live a very long life is a very good thing, at least if you truly enjoy the years along the way. Time is such an interesting thing and it goes on and on, whether you and I are alive or not. I find it very interesting that the older I get the faster time seems to fly by. I’ll never forget when I was 15, counting down the days and months, wanting them to go faster so I could get my driver’s license. Do you remember those slow years when you were a kid, maybe waiting to get your license or counting down the days till Christmas?

In addition to filling our lives as much as we can with good stuff, we should also try to increase our lifespans. And there are ways to do that. Years ago, I read a book by an anthropologist, entitled How to Live to Be 100. In the book the author reported a study of the people who live in the southern Soviet Union the area of Georgia. These people have an average lifespan of over 100 years. How do they do it? The author pointed out that the Georgians diet is somewhat different than ours, but not radically different from other people who don’t live so long. Their level of activity is also not particularly unique. In the end the author concluded that these people lived long healthy lives because they expected to live long healthy lives!

But it doesn’t work just to think or hope you’ll have a long life –you have to expect it and really believe that it will happen. Personally, I would suspect that, with that kind of thinking, but in their they really did watch what they ate and spent their time wisely doing things that didn’t harm their bodies. The other thing that helped extend their lives was the way society there treated older people – with more respect and honor.

No matter how long we expect to live, we should plan to do as much with our time as we can. It is said that time is money, and indeed it is. With extra time you can make extra money. Time is also happiness, if it is well used. Time is also joy and contentment, peace and pleasure and love, but only if we use it wisely.

Many years ago, I drove through East Chicago Heights in Illinois, which is not the most desirable urban area. I was absolutely stunned to see the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who lined the street that warm summer night, doing nothing but just standing there. I learned later that this was a normal practice there. When we do nothing, however, we receive nothing in return.

I’m not suggesting that we not take time out to enjoy ourselves. Enjoyment and recreation are rewards we can give ourselves after we’ve worked hard and done a good job. The law of life says that hard work and struggle must precede the joy and fulfillment of accomplishment. And without that there is not a true enjoyment of life. When we are productive, it almost always lifts our spirits and contentment factor.

Okay, so I am going to work on my own brain, and I do plan on living a very, very long life. 100 years old doesn’t sound like that big of a number now, because I’m 75% of the way there already. How about you? Are you going to set a big number goal and really go after it? If you do, the one big thing you’ll have to then is to just really believe that you’re going to do it.

A Beautiful Life Now

July 12, 2019 by  
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If someone is really rude and totally offends you but then later offers a very sincere apology, most of us would probably forgive that person and move on with our lives. However, when most of us human beings make a mistake or screw something up, in many cases we will not forgive ourselves and so we carry that guilt around for days or years and that can hurt us in so many ways.

Quoting from Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully, a great book that I’ve quoted before, “Over time, as thinking minds begin to settle, we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. This can be an experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher and a support and no longer as an enemy.”

Pema talks a lot about acceptance of ourselves and the world as it is and how we should appreciate it as it is now. She talks about what she calls the “third commitment”, which is key to this kind of acceptance and appreciation. (You need to read her book to find out what the first and second commitment are and how they can greatly improve a person’s life.) To quote her again, “The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.” She goes on to add that, “The attitude of the third commitment is that we live in a world that is intrinsically good, intrinsically awake, and our path is to realize this. Simply put, the practice at this stage is to turn toward your experience, all of it, and never turn away.

Pema talks a lot about being kind to others especially to ourselves. She talks about the process of growing-up and working toward feeling totally relaxed and free. She says, “that process, that transition, is one of becoming comfortable with exactly what we’re feeling as we feel it. The key practice to support us in this is mindfulness–being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few.”

Pema Chodron further explains that we need to pay attention to all the details of our life. “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons”.

I think the bottom line is, if we pay more attention to the details of our lives it will give us more ways to free ourselves and that can help us free ourselves from suffering. So, we need to accept ourselves, appreciate our life as it is now, and pay attention. And we need to do all that, right now.

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