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The Power of Repeated Thoughts

September 28, 2018 by  
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People commonly remark to themselves, or to other people, things like “I’m a real good people person,” or “You know, I’m not good with people. I guess I’m kind of anti-social.” Others say, “Hey, I’m really good at fixing things,” or “I sure am a poor public speaker, but I’m a very good writer.” How about you? What do you tell yourself and others that you are good at and things that you are not so good at?

This self-talk is a very powerful thing and it tends to make you much better at some things, but it also can reinforce negative ideas about your life and habits which can hurt you.

I’ve said for many years that I’m very good with numbers and that I am a good wordsmith but, when it comes to repairing or fixing things, ugh… I’m terrible. And for many years now I’ve said to myself and to others, “I’m really, really not physically flexible.” In fact, I can’t even touch the floor without bending my knees big time. But, a few weeks ago, I started thinking about the huge connection between the brain and the body and how my comments about my lack of flexibility was totally reinforcing that weakness. You see, by telling myself over and over again that I was not at all flexible, my body believed it, which wasn’t hard because I wasn’t doing anything to change it either. So, my body was just following the brain’s instructions.

It does surprise me that I didn’t have this wakeup call years ago. I just accepted having a stiff body as an unchangeable fact and by always saying that I was not flexible, I reinforced what my brain was telling my body.

So, having had my little epiphany, I decided to do something about it. I started a simple daily stretching routine and within just a few days I was delighted to see a slow but consistent improvement in my flexibility. Before my stretching program, if I had dropped something on the floor, I would ask my wonderful wife, Kimberly, it she’d pick it up and she always would. But now she doesn’t have to. Even though I’ve got a long way to go to be super flexible, I can see that it is going to happen, just a little bit at a time.

I’m not saying that we don’t each have some very natural talents and abilities but there is also a very strong connection between the brain and the body that can also affect our abilities. We need to remember that we can direct our thoughts to make changes and improvements in our body and in our life, changes that we may have thought were not possible. The bottom line is that our thoughts can reinforce good stuff in our lives as well as some bad stuff so we should pay attention to which kind of thoughts we keep repeating to ourselves and others.

Think about this and maybe experiment with ways to direct you and your body to change or improve. You might surprise yourself.

 

The Hardest Challenges

April 20, 2018 by  
Filed under blog, Chapter 9

 

Life sure has its challenges. This past week there has been a lot of doctors’ visits and tests as we try to figure out what is going on with me. It would be easy to let this get me down, and I can’t say that it hasn’t gotten to me at moments, but it is important to stay positive and focus on meeting – and beating – this challenge.

So, while I’m focused on finding answers to my health questions, I thought I’d share with you another story of how I was able to overcome a challenge with the power of positive and what that means for you and for me. This post was written in October 2010:

The Biggest Rush Comes from the Hardest Challenges

Alright, first, I need to warn you that I am on a super unbelievable mental high right now and have been all week. It’s all because I won the Gold at the Huntsman Tennis Tournament. Well, that’s not quite right. It’s because I played the hardest match I’d played in years against a really tough player and even though I’d trained so very hard this year, I got to a point in the last game when I just wasn’t sure I could go on, but I pushed myself just a little harder and finally eked out that last point I needed and won the gold! Yes, I won the gold last year too but the competition was nothing like it was this year. It was because I had to work so hard and it was such a difficult game this year, that the win was many, many times more exhilarating and satisfying.

This whole experience reminds me of what I was trying to get across in Chapter 9 of my book “How to Ignite Your Passion for Living” where I talk about the guy who goes out and shoots a perfect golf score the very first time he played. And then he does it again and again and realizes that there is very little, if any, satisfaction from doing so well at something he didn’t have to work at. Well that story is very much the opposite of what I did and how I felt.

This year I trained so much more than I had last year, taking lessons from a couple of great pros, Clark Barton and Jason Newell, as well as putting in more time on the ball machine and playing more matches. And yet my opponent, Michael Murphy, still hit back every ball and he could run as well as I could. I even began thinking that I couldn’t beat this guy but I pushed those negative thoughts out of my mind and tried to take the match one point at a time even as my body was screaming out for some rest and relief. And it worked. Positive thinking, taking it one small step at a time, and all that hard, even painful work, paid off leaving me with an immense feeling of true accomplishment.

Of course, while I was in the game, it was hard to feel that what I was going through was worth it, but I’ve done this enough to know that it usually is. And it so was. I know, too, that I wouldn’t still be riding this high if it hadn’t been so tough to win and if I hadn’t worked so hard at it. That’s the lesson here–The hardest work reaps the most satisfying rewards.

Just remember that next time you feel like giving up, bowing out, or taking the easy road. Just keep going, doing the best you possibly can. You’ll accomplish what you’re after and not only will it feel more than worth it when you do, it will make give you the energy and optimism to reach for that next great thing and get it.

 

Stomach Cancer and the Negative Brain

March 30, 2018 by  
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I’ve had a great and healthy life but just last week I got thrown big time when I thought I had stomach cancer. Did that ever hit my brain hard! I’ve always thought my brain was a huge asset and was a big help to me in my life and that’s why I’ve been so big on those “positive affirmations” that Paul J. Meyer taught me. One of my favorites that I repeat almost daily 20 times is, “I am very happy and very healthy.” Well, I must admit that the possibility of possible stomach cancer certainly challenged my “positive thinking”.

This all happens when I quite suddenly had a very bloated stomach. I called my doctor for an appointment as soon as I could. I had to wait a few days to get in and as I waited, the bloating got worse, keeping me awake virtually all night with huge stomach pains. So, I sought out answers on the internet, hoping that my stomach symptoms were from something else. What I found online only made things worse. I found I had 4 out of 6 of the symptoms for stomach cancer.

Did that ever bring on some very bad brain messages and thoughts. And the more I thought about it, the worse the pain became and the less sleep I got. Ugh! My positive self-talk had turn very negative.

I got to the doctor and told her my symptoms, asking her if she thought I might have stomach cancer. She answered by asking if I had changed any of my eating habits or began taking any new medications, supplements, or vitamins. At first I told her no, but then thinking about it for a few minutes, I recalled that I had started taking a couple new supplements. Her advice was to stop taking those and to come back in two weeks if the bloating hadn’t stopped.

So, I stopped taking those supplements and 2 days later it seemed that the bloating had gone down a bit. Even though I’m not yet completely sure that it’s isn’t cancer, I am totally in awe of how much that little bit of progress has changed my brain and my self-talk. In fact, it changed so much that yesterday, being so thrilled and hopeful and having such a positive brain again, I broke my all-time record for steps taken in a day. I walked just over 40,000 steps which is equivalent to playing 13 sets of tennis– something I have never even come close to doing.

So now I’m waiting and carefully watching my stomach and hoping to cancel that next doctor’s appointment. Isn’t it absolutely amazing how much our self-talk can make our lives better or worse. I’m not out of the woods yet but my brain is certainly pushing me in the right direction now. It just needed a little encouragement and some positive thoughts to keep me in a positive mood. That is something to keep in mind the next time negative thoughts are bringing you down. Find something positive to hold onto and pull yourself out of a cycle of negativity to have happier and more productive days.

A List of Positives Actions

November 4, 2017 by  
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I know I have been going on about lists the last few posts and I hope you are up for one more. I just find that lists really help me focus on the qualities I want to see in myself, helping me to move closer to achieving super success.

We all have great wants and desires. Without them we’d have virtually no motivation to do anything. But there are a lot of hidden land mines that lie in our path just waiting for us to step on them and explode our dreams, desires, and goals. We all know that frustrated desires can lead us to search out bad or negative ways to boost or otherwise change our mood—-by using drugs and/or alcohol, binge eating, or even going on a shopping spree. These all work well to increase dopamine and serotonin—those mood-altering chemicals in our brain—giving us a high and one that can be addictive.

The problem is these activities can too easily and too quickly become detrimental to our health, our finances, and our relationships. But what if you could increase these mood-altering chemicals with something positive and productive, gaining a natural high and moving towards your goals at the same time?

Listing positive activities can really help you do this. Here are mine. You can use these as a start or as examples for your own list. Then when you feel yourself turning towards those old negative and harmful options, chose something from your positive list instead. Do this diligently for at least a week and take note of how much better you feel about yourself and your life. I bet you’ll not only enjoy the activities you’ve used as positive substitutes for the old harmful ways, but you will be much happier.

Mark’s List of Positive Actions

  1. Work out: Just 6 or 12 minutes on the stair master, doing sit-ups and push-ups or using weights.
  2. Get a tennis game going.
  3. Write out my bests thoughts for the days.
  4. Read a good book.
  5. Listen to favorite music (create a custom playlist online).
  6. Arrange a get together with family and friends.
  7. Get a massage.
  8. Hike or bike in the mountains or just take a walk in the neighborhood.
  9. Take 5 to 10 minutes to meditation
  10. Do 5 to 10 minutes of simple yoga

Now … what goes on your list?

**If you like what you’ve read in this blog please send it on to people you know and love who you think will find this helpful. There is nothing in the world that brings greater satisfaction than helping other people. Don’t you agree? Get this through email by subscribing here: http://ignitemylifenow.com/email-subscribe/

Your Own Affirmation List

October 21, 2017 by  
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In last week’s post, I challenged you to come up with some affirmations and positive self-talk. What did you come up with?

Never forget that the human brain can be programmed and you can teach it just about anything you want to–repeat those affirmations to yourself over and over again and your brain will believe it. It can and will improve your life and move you toward any goal you have set for yourself. It’s just like what science has discovered about forcing a smile on your face to make you feel better—the brain doesn’t realize it’s a fake smile and so releases the same feel good chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, as if it were a genuine smile.

If you are still working on coming up with more affirmations and positive self-talk, here are a few of mine that I try to repeat each one ten times every day, many times when I’m taking a shower, bath or sitting in my hot tub.

  1. I am feeling more upbeat and positive.
  2. I am happy and healthy.
  3. I live in the great right now moment.
  4. I set big goals but am satisfied with baby steps.
  5. I forgive myself for mistakes I make.
  6. I love my wife, I love my life.
  7. I feel calm and collected even in stressful situations.
  8. I am making a difference in the world for the better.
  9. I love people and I listen to others.
  10. I am strong and worthy.
  11. I eat a healthy diet.
  12. I love to exercise.
  13. I appreciate other people.

By the way, before I play a tennis game I do some self-talk as well. For example, I repeat over and over in my head, “I have a very power forehand. I have a very accurate backhand. I am fast and flexible. I have a very accurate and fast serve.” It always seems to help my game. I am convinced this self-talk was a key to helping me win 4 gold medals in singles tennis at the Huntsman World Senior games.

So, go ahead and give it a try in whatever aspect of your life you’d like to improve. I am convinced that if you take time to make up your own list of daily self-talk comments that you will be so glad and satisfied that you did and it will improve your life and those around you.

Do you find this information inspiring? You can get these every week in your email so you don’t miss one, by going to the top of my website page here: http://ignitemylifenow.com Search through the recent posts and archives sections on the blog page to find more super helpful thoughts and ideas.

 

Transform Your Energy

May 28, 2017 by  
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Few people would argue against the proposition that Thomas Alva Edison, even though he only had three months of formal schooling, changed the lives of literally millions of people by bringing inventions such as the phonograph, electric light, typewriter, motions pictures, and the electric generator into the lives of people everywhere. Although Edison didn’t invent anything significant himself, he improved and promoted many things we still used today, patenting 1,093 inventions in his lifetime.

Edison worked from sun up to sun down, and beyond–in fact, sometimes from twenty-one to twenty-three hours a day! How did he generate so much energy to do such fantastic things? And how can you and I generate more energy so we can do much more than we are doing right now?

Energy is neither created nor destroyed, but it can be transformed into something else. That transformation is itself a kind of creation. How do people like Thomas Edison transform energy so they can keep going so long and hard? Perhaps the following illustration will help to answer that.

It’s early morning and you have to get up for work. You were up late the night before; you don’t want to get up. But you struggle into a sitting position and think about what’s ahead of you. It promises to be typically humdrum. You sigh and lie back down. “I can’t stand to go into that office one more day,” you think, and close your eyes. Ugh, you don’t seem to have any energy.

Contrast that feeling with this: It’s early morning and you have to get up to catch a plane to Paris or Hawaii. You were up late the night before but even though you’re tired you’re filled with excitement and feel a rush of energy. So, you jump out of bed and quickly get dressed and pack since you know that in just a few minutes a chauffeur driven limousine is going to pull up in front of your house. This will take you and a few of your closest friends on a trip to your favorite vacation spot where you will do exactly what pleases you and turns you and your friends on! So now you are all ready and up pulls the big beautiful limo. You feel great and have a ton of energy.

Why are these two situations so different? The answer is obvious. In the second example, your thoughts are transformed into energy! Isn’t it amazing that the simple act of thinking certain things can generate great physical and mental energy? I certainly think it’s amazing!

We all need to remember that so we can control and direct out thoughts to generate more and more energy. Great thoughts transform into great energy, while mediocre thoughts transform into only mediocre energy and may even be a big drain on our energy.

P.S. I must admit I copied the above from a great 1983 book, Goals, Guts and Greatness, but it’s just as true now as it was back then. And yes, I did get permission from the author … since it was my book.

 

Rethinking Stress

March 24, 2017 by  
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Last week I talked about the good and bad sides of stress and what you can do to reduce the bad stuff. But I also mentioned that I had just found out something that came as a big shock to me. I had just learned about an 8 year study which discovered that how you think about stress can shorten or lengthen your life. Yes, just by believing or thinking in a certain way about stress can affect your health and lifespan. The good news is that you can change your thinking and gain benefits from the stress in your life.

Kelly McGonigal gave a Ted Talk back in June of 2013 and told of the results of the 8 year study. In that study, 30,000 adults were asked if they believed that stress was very bad for their health. There were many that said “yes” to that question and many that said “no”, then 8 years later the death records were examined and it was found that those who believed that stress caused health problems had a 43% higher death rate than those that didn’t think stress caused health problems.

In other words, just by the mind believing the stress was not bad for them protected those people’s health. The mind really does have a lot more power than we usually give it credit for. The healthy group even had a longer life span than the average person.

There is even one more pretty big positive benefit of stress when you have the right mind set—under stress, the body produces a lot of oxytocin which is a neuron hormone that actually increases your energy level. The difficulty is that if you believe stress is harmful for your health, your blood vessels become constricted which increases your chance of a heart attack. However, if you don’t believe stress is harmful then your blood vessels don’t constrict and you have the extra energy caused by that stress stimulating the production of oxytocin.

So, that is the good and the bad of being stressed and now we know that this good ole brain of ours can make it be one way or the other. To stay on the good side of stress, we all need to do mental work outs and practice controlling our thoughts and directing our beliefs to see, and benefit from, the healthy, energized aspect of the stresses we live with every day.

Stress as Good And Bad

March 18, 2017 by  
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This week I want to talk about stress. I am even a bit stressed about getting this written in time to post it! There is a lot to stress about. Because of that people have come up with all sorts of ways and methods to reduce stress. However, stress can be good because it can push you to get more done and try harder to reach your goals. And, get this, you can actually learn how to make it so that even a ton of stress doesn’t hurt or ruin your health! I think you will be surprised and delighted to learn how to do this, as I was. But let’s examine how we think about stress for a minute.

As most people know, stress seems to be caused, for the most part, by our thinking and worrying about some future event–near or far. There is, however, two bits of really good news about stress. We all know that if we wanted to be a better or even a great tennis player, golfer, singer, writer, public speaker, etcetera, there are ways to become just that. One of the best methods is the “10,000-hour rule” as explained in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. (If you haven’t read the book, I think it’s a must.) It says you need to put in 10,000 hours at something to become world-class in that field.

From my experience and from what I read, we as humans can do “work outs” and do lots of “practice sessions” with and for our brains, just like we can invest those 10,000 hours to become the best at something. Part of the good news is that, when it’s needed, it doesn’t take 10,000 practice hours to reduce stress.

So, before I get to the good news about how stress isn’t always bad for you and your health, let me just list a few simple techniques that are easy to do to reduce or eliminate stress when you know it isn’t doing you any good:

  1. Take a walk outside.
  2. Take a run in a new neighborhood.
  3. Take a Hike.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Go to a yoga class.
  6. Share your problems or stress with others.
  7. Get a massage.
  8. Take a hot bath or jump in a hot tub.
  9. Do a good deed for someone else.
  10. Give or get hugs and kisses from friends and relatives.

These simple things are easy to do and are well known to work.

Okay, that is all well and good but what about the big shocker I’ve been hinting at? This is something that hit me hard. It has to do with changing a person’s thinking and how what they believe changes their health and life span. It is pretty amazing and I will cover it next week. But in the meantime, de-stress as needed and start getting used to the idea that it’s not always bad to be stressed. Then tune in next week to see what I mean!

The Super Power of Writing to Yourself

February 3, 2017 by  
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I’ve written about the huge value of keeping a journal of your life before. Writing about what you do, where you go, people you meet, and, probably most important of all, your inner most thoughts as you go through your life. I’ve kept a journal going on 55 years now. Yes, sometimes I go months without making any entries but still, I must say, I’ve made some major discoveries about myself and life in general from the entries I have made and they have helped me beyond what I ever would have expected.

Sometimes re-reading what I wrote years before brings me unexpected break-throughs. You know one of those ah-ha moments that really hit you hard and sometimes changes your life for the better. The latest breakthrough started when I began reading the “Life Story of Kathryn Baird Haroldsen” which are the writings of my mother, all gathered up and put together into a book by my father, Dr. Edwin O. Haroldsen, in 1995. Both of them have long since passed away but their writings still speak to me with great power.

Reading my parents’ words about their travels all over the world and their many great and exciting experiences was so very insightful for me. But when my mother shared on paper some of her inner most thoughts and feelings, it motivated me to get out my journal and put on paper some self-defeating and disturbing thoughts that I have had these last 2 years. These are thoughts that I haven’t shared with a single soul.

For some reason that maybe only our brains know about, when I later re-read my very negative inner thoughts it changed me and, surprisingly, did so in a very good and positive way. I now want to share that experience and the lessons I learned with others so they may have a positive breakthrough like I did that will help their lives. Next week I will share exactly what I wrote and how it began to change me and my life. In the meantime, if you don’t already, start journaling about whatever comes to mind. You never know what you might write down that will bring you your own break-through in the future.

I Have the Perfect Life—-Not

October 28, 2016 by  
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My last 2 blogs told of the super wonderful and exciting African Safari that my wife and I took along with our dear friend Francoise Eriksen. It was a perfect trip–all went well without any hiccups or unpleasant surprises! I’m guessing that some of my readers are thinking “Oh, what a perfect life that guy Mark has. He’s wealthy, had his 15 minutes of fame, probably lives in a mansion, and travels the world first class.”

I remember so vividly thinking exactly that as I read about the rich and famous people of the world. I really thought they must have had a perfect life—but, oh, how wrong I was.

p1020832Right after we returned from the African Safari two things happened. I watched and listened to a super famous and wealthy man on T.V. (worth hundreds of millions) talk about the tragedies in his life. He was miserable but how people all around him didn’t believe him. They really thought he had a smooth and perfect life without any bad stuff but that was so far from the truth and the reality of his life.

The second thing that happened was me coming down with the worst common cold that I’ve had in many years. Wow. Talk about major mucus and a constant hacking cough that left me breathless and with very little sleep. Ugh and super ugh! Then a thought struck me and I said to myself, “Wait a minute … why didn’t I appreciate and give great thanks for my super great health while on the Safari and, for that matter, the last 3 or 4 years that I’ve have without any sickness whatsoever?”

Isn’t it quite amazing that most of us human beings don’t appreciate or give thanks for what we have until we lose it–whether it’s our health, good relationships, money, our jobs, or–how about this one–living in a great and free country. I will say this … traveling through South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe I couldn’t help but think about how good we have it in this great country, even the poorest among us are better off than some of the people I observed as our train passed through African villages where they lived with terrible conditions.

So my message this week is, let’s all take time to pause and think about and take notice and appreciate our health, wealth (however large or small), relationships, and this great country that we live in. And let’s do that right now and not wait till we’ve lost some of it.

Next week I want to talk about some other challenges in my life. Everybody’s life, no matter how rich or famous, has its troubles and its tragedies as well as much to be grateful for.

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