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Missing the Small Things

January 17, 2021 by  
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So, this past week, I got a little bit of a taste of what it might be like to be in prison. Now, this is only a 10 day sentence and I got to share my “cell” with my wife Kimberly, so it wasn’t all that bad. It did, however, give me a very small taste of what it would feel like to be locked up.

Okay, I know that sounds dramatic. It really wasn’t all that terrible. But what was this all about? Well, there’s some new (for me) rules in place if you travel to Hawaii right now thanks to COVID. When you arrive from outside the islands, you have to spend 10 days in quarantine. Luckily, you can at least spend those 10 days in your house or condo.

The hard part is, for those 10 days you cannot leave your property. The penalty, if you do leave your place and get caught, is a $5,000 dollar fine plus one year in jail. Ouch! That seems severe but, then again, so is COVID-19.

We humans really don’t totally appreciate all that we have and how we live our lives but can’t do until it’s taken away. On the other hand, this time locked up has given my wife and I lots of time to think, read, and even doing a little bit of writing. Plus, we now have tons of time to talk to each other. Still, after 8 days of this, I am going a bit stir crazy.

You would think, with tons of time on my hands, that I could do lots of planning. I do keep thinking about that and yet, to be quite honest, I have not done much planning at all. We humans get so used to our schedules and habits that when they get disrupted, it can make your mind go in all kinds of different directions. It sure has done that for me.

It’s one more thing that you don’t realize you depend on until it’s not there. It’s crazy that now, with all this time on my hands, time I might have really wished for when I was super busy, I just really want my old schedule and routine back.

It is the small things or the everyday things that you start to really miss when you can’t have them anymore. I guess I’ll be ok but I do really look forward to next week. At least, I imagine, I will really appreciate my routine and the many other small things I took for granted every day. A new appreciation for the old and ordinary things may be one of the real silver linings of this time in lock down.

A New Goal, a New Habit, a New Year

January 3, 2021 by  
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Since we’ve just started a new year, I must say something about renewing and re-dedicating ourselves to our life goals. And there is one super powerful and time proven aid I would strongly suggest you use to increase your odds of hitting your goals. It’s something I talk about in my book, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, but I have another source to show you how powerful it can be.

Years ago, my son David gave me a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and, wow, what a great book I found it to be. I have re-read it many times. Duhigg relies on scientific studies to dissect what it takes to form a new habit or dump a habit that you don’t like but he also discusses this aid to reaching your goals that I want to share with you.

In the book, he talks about a Scottish study by a psychologist who recruited 60 patients that just had hip or knee replacement surgery. Having personally experienced a double hip replacement, I know just how painful this kind of surgery can be. Most people don’t even want to move afterward, let alone start walking as their rehabilitation requires.

After their surgeries, this psychologist gave each patient a booklet that detailed their rehab schedule and, in the back, there were 13 additional pages, one for each week, with blank spaces and these instructions:

“My goals for this week are _________________________. Write down exactly what you are going to do. For example, if you are going to go for a long walk or hike this week, write down where and when you are going to do it.”

Patients were asked to fill in each of those pages with specific plans. After their rehabilitation period, the psychologist compared the recovery results of those that filled out the pages and those that did not. Duhigg notes that, “It seems absurd to think that giving people a few pieces of blank paper might make a difference in how quickly they recover from surgery.”

But it did! Those patients that wrote down their goals recovered much faster than those who didn’t write down a thing.

The great lesson here, a lesson that I’ve preached to myself and others for years, is that we greatly improve our chance of success many times over if we simply write our goals down! And I mean all our goals: financial, physical, family, social etc. I also suggest that you put down the dates and/or times by which you want to accomplish your goals.

This isn’t only for long-term goals. I’ve found it extremely useful to write down my next day’s goals the night before as well. It’s far more likely that I will get those tasks done if they are written out and ready for me when I awake.

So, if you don’t already have the habit of writing down what you are going to do, this would be a great time to start. As a matter fact, write down this one now – that you are going to always write down your plans and goals! That’s a perfect start towards accomplishing your goals in this new year.

 

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 Sterling Mentorship

December 6, 2020 by  
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A couple of days ago I was re-reading one of my old journals and came across a truly inspiring and motivating letter I had tucked in there from 1978 from one of my mentors. He was so helpful to me, both personally and through some of the 22 books that he wrote. This mentor was Sterling W. Sill, a great thinker and motivator.

Here are a few of the things he said in the letter he sent me back in 1978 which I just loved.

“I appreciate very much your thoughtful letter of October 1. I think you have the attitude of a winner.” He went on to write, “I think you are a great person, Mark, and I think you are about a dozen times greater now than before.” I was so amazed that he appreciated one of my letters as he was my idol.

Sterling also quoted something that Shakespeare once said that I thought was very enlightening: “The best men are sometimes molded out of faults.”

He went on to say, “Someone who never made a mistake isn’t likely to be going any place very important. And sometimes, I think, somebody needs somebody to help lift him up outside of himself. He needs some assurances from someone who can take a position of precedence over the arguments of his own self-accusation.”

It was so strange and wonderful that one of my idols had given me so much credit and so many complements. In re-reading his letter, it struck me that any of us can not only learn great lessons from great people but we can also pay it forward and help other people. Believe me, they will thank you for the rest of their lives just like I thank Sterling and so many other mentors. I owe him so much and will remember him for the rest of my life.

 

A Grateful Boost

November 29, 2020 by  
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Thanksgiving is over but it’s a very good idea to hang on to your attitude of gratitude. It will give you lots of benefits!

Gratitude is a great thing but I think most of us don’t fully appreciate it, taking it for granted until something bad happens to us. And that is not a good thing since gratitude can do such very good things for our lives.

Last July, I wrote in this blog about how I had a really bad fall that knocked me out for about 20 minutes. The big-time bleeding from my head and arms was not the worst of it. What was huge and lingers all these months later is the aftereffects of the concussion. I still have the dizziness and my thinking and memory is still suffering. Plus, I have tremors and shaky hands and arms. I will say that I’m getting better on all counts, although slowly.

The one good thing that did change is that my brain has begun focusing on how super grateful I should have been back when my body and brain were functioning normally. And with this COVID-19 mess, we all should look back and realize how grateful we should have been before the virus and keep reminding ourselves, running those grateful thoughts through our heads as often as possible.

Coincidentally, just a few days ago I read Lynn Johnson’s column in our local newspaper. He said, “Happiness makes our immune system function better. In children, joy is natural. For us older folks, an excellent way to recapture that joy is practice gratitude. Keep a gratitude diary. Write three to five things each day you are glad about. Describe how they helped. Write short thank you notes. Be grateful.” That is some great advice.

To me, it’s so amazing how the brain and the thoughts we run through it can help our bodies and lift us up. I am going to push myself harder to be more and more grateful for myself and my situation and for all my great friends and family!

How about you? Let’s all practice every day to become more and more grateful!

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.

 

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.

 

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!

Our Short Lives Needs Big Passion

September 13, 2020 by  
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I just asked a printer to print a couple thousand copies of my book, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, since I ran out of copies to sell or give away. I was reading a bit of what I wrote many years ago and I was surprised to realize that the words in that book were reigniting my passion, so I wanted to share some of those words with you.

Let me start with Chapter 2 which is entitled, “Short Life needs BIG Passion”.

  • Life really is too darn short to live without passion.
  • Time squandered is wasted–gone forever!
  • Don’t be like those who, later in life, realize that they missed out on so many opportunities. I believe most people, when looking back at their lives, are in more pain over the things they didn’t do than over things they failed at while trying to do them.
  • We receive long-lasting benefit, and yes, even deep satisfaction from working hard and giving something worthwhile our all.
  • There are many who think the way to achieve satisfaction in life is by going after pleasure. They think that more and more pleasure will put more contentment in their lives. So sorry. It doesn’t work that way.
  • There’s a huge difference between deep, enduring satisfaction and fleeting pleasure; between passion and a good time. At a gut level you already know this. The pursuit of pleasure for its own sake leads to misery.
  • It’s also not easy to always remain at a high level of satisfaction and contentment with an effervescent passion for life. There are plenty of setbacks. Even, at times, huge fists of adversity may pound us in the face.
  • Setbacks and adversity often reveal to us the great lessons of life if we would just learn from them.
  • I’ve certainly had my share of setbacks, even tragedies. I wouldn’t choose to be faced with these tragedies but I must say that, since they did happen, they served as huge life lessons and wake-up calls that I don’t think I could have learned any other way.

Give these words some thought, set big goals, and go after them with all your energy and heart. You won’t be sorry!

 

And if you would like a copy of How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, you can get it here on my website.

 

 

Creating Your Own Novelty

September 6, 2020 by  
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I’ve written before on this great thing called “novelty” and how it can excite our brains big time. In today’s COVID world we may feel like we are totally locked down, but I’d say it’s time to use our brains and think our way out of and beyond the lock down. Now, how do we do that?

Well, there is one thing that could help you now while giving you a great experience later. How about taking lots of time to research and plan a big novel trip or vacation, so when the pandemic is over, you are ready to take that great trip! I mean, if we are smart and use our brains, we could plan lots of novel things and maybe even carry some of them out right now. Like, hey, how about writing a book? And while you’re at it, draft a plan for selling that book online or to bookstores. In other words, create your own novelty.

Have you ever noticed how children and young people are always trying something new, pushing themselves, eager for adventure while older people seem to be content to do the same things they always have done and in the same old way? That’s really just a generalization as I know many older people, myself included, that still continuously seek out new and challenging experiences. However, there is a sense of complacency that is easy to fall into as we get older or as the obligations of our life wear us down.

As physical energy wanes so does our ambition and, next thing we know, our brains turn off and we are just living on autopilot. It’s at that point that making any change in our lives gets very, very difficult. The thinking is our brains don’t wear out the same way as the rest of our body. Normally, the brain is still willing and able to do its job – learning, solving problems, and amassing knowledge even when we physically feel worn out. But when faced with a lot of stress or just dull repetitious experience the brain deteriorates.

To keep your brain in top shape, give it the novelty it craves. Educating yourself through books, television shows such as those found on PBS and the History channel, and quality information on the internet will certainly help, but remember, your brain is a multi-sensory organ. Keep that great word and concept of novelty in your mind and pursue it always. Feed it. Don’t let COVID trap you.

We all can still get out of the house and experience new sights, smells, sounds, flavors, and textures. New experiences will boost both your physical and mental energies and motivate you to do even more. In fact, if you have lots of time on your hands, go and create a bucket list of that stuff you always wanted to do before you kick the bucket. Yes, just like Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson did in that movie The Bucket List. I sure know that having my own bucket list motivates me especially in these COVID times.

Ok, you and I know what to do. Now so let’s go and do it!

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