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The Influence of Self-Talk

July 12, 2020 by  
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We all do it – some of it is very good and some is very negative. I’m talking about all of our self-talk. The good news, as you already know, is that you can somewhat control whether your self-talk is helping or hurting you. And that, my dear followers, is all about your brain and what you choose to let dominate and rule. Sadly, most often, self-talk is negative. It’s hurting you and keeping you from reaching your full potential.

Self -talk should say:

  1. This is something I can do.
  2. I’m so looking forward to this.
  3. I can do this very well.
  4. This is going to make me what I want to be and get me where I want to be.

But self-talk can say:

  1. I can’t do this.
  2. I’m not good enough.
  3. I’m not going to be able to pull this off.
  4. Why do things always happen like this?
  5. I’m afraid I will fail.

As Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, either way, you’re right!”

Think about this when playing golf. If you think you will hit the ball into the water, you probably will. The body follows the mind. It listens to the self-talk. It believes you. The body says, “Your wish is my command.”

I’ll never forget my self-talk as I was playing in this one tennis tournament. I got to a crucial point where I knew that I could not afford to double-fault. As I hit the net on my first serve, my self-chatter was very negative and said, “Wow, I just can’t double fault here.” Ouch!

What a negative thought and message I sent to my muscles. My mind probably only heard the word “double fault” and that’s exactly what I did. My second serve went long—I pretty much did exactly what I programmed my mind to do. My wish was the body’s command.

The point I’m trying to make is that life is lived mainly inside your head, so you’ve got to know what’s in your mind and how your mind works and the great influence of self-talk!

We all need to understand how the mind works and that you can control the self-talk and the self-chatter. You need to know how to direct the self-talk that’s hurting you and your life and keeping you from your full potential.

I learned a great lesson from that tennis double fault. From the terrible loss that day, I went on to win 4 gold medals at the Huntsman Senior games held each year in southern Utah. Before every match I would have some very positive self-talk with myself, saying things like, “Mark, you have a great serve and a super topspin forehand and a great underspin backhand and you will win this match today!” And yes, I did.

The bottom line is, we all need to practice controlling our self-talk and make it very positive. It’s pretty much all between your ears and mind. Sure, sometimes we will lose but if you are using a ton of positive self-talk, you will find yourself a winner in many, many situations – in sports, business, and relationships. Try it and you will see.

Pushing Out the Negative

June 28, 2020 by  
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This darn pandemic is certainly creating a lot of problems, challenges, and tons of stress. For me, it’s not just the boredom, although I do miss my social life, but rather it’s the stress that has been getting to me. It has done some strange things to my sleep.

Of course, some of it is due to my age, as most of us have more trouble sleeping as we get older. On some nights, I am only able to sleep for 2 or 3 hours. Ugh! But other nights are normal. So, a couple days ago I spotted a book by Sasha Stephens titled The Effortless Sleep Method. The book is beginning to be of great help, mostly because of my change in thinking.

One section of the book jumped out at me – “The Two Negative Principles of the Mind”. Stephens said, “It is strange but true that most human beings tend to focus chronically on what they do not want. It can be difficult to spot this tendency in yourself, especially if you do not consider yourself to be a particularly negative person. But just try observing yourself for a few days. See how much of your thinking time is spent focused on what is wrong with your life. Then notice how little time you spend even noticing the good things, let alone celebrating them.” Sasha goes on to say, “If, for example, they had one bad night’s sleep along with three or four good ones, most insomniacs would focus on the one bad night. Not only does this give an inaccurate and exaggerated picture of the problem, it can actually worsen it.”

As I write this, I have just realized that by my talking to my wife about my terrible sleep and now writing about it, what I am doing could make my sleep problems worse because I am emphasizing the negative. So, I guess I will take that risk and maybe what I am writing can help others, not just with sleep problems but addressing other challenges and changing your thinking so you spend more time on the positive stuff.

I find that to spend more time on the positive things of my life and to ignore the negative, it helps to write down specific goals that I want to reach. It makes is much easier to keep my brain thinking on the positive side.  Let me give you a list of questions that I have asked myself over the years. They help me come up with specifics which helps me be more positive.

  • Do I want to substantially raise my level of contentment and fulfillment?
  • Do I want to become a better person?
  • Do I want to be known as a person of great accomplishment?
  • Do I want to be in great physical and mental shape with ideal health my entire life?
  • Do I want to live a very long, active life?
  • Do I want to make a fortune – a million dollars, $10 million, or even 100 million dollars? (Just think of the great good you could do with that money.)
  • Do I want the greater choices and possibilities in my life that making my own fortune would give me?
  • Do I want to leave the world a better place than I found it?
  • Do I want to be a big help to others as I help myself?
  • Do I want to travel and experience the entire world and its cultures? (I will continue this one when the pandemic has let up–I’ve already visited 92 different countries!)

May I strongly suggest that you make up your own list. I think if you do you will be pleased with how it helps your life.

A Titanic Lesson

June 14, 2020 by  
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My wonderful wife, Kimberly, talked me into watching the classic movie Titanic recently. Even though I saw the movie several times years ago, it really to me this time. Watching it was a real upper! Now when I experience problems, challenges, or a mood drop, I think about the people on board the Titanic.

How, and why, did the movie affect my brain in that way? When I think of the panic, pain, fear, and death that those aboard that ship faced, I really feel so fortunate and blessed to live in this time and in our super great country. I’ve been in many very, very poor counties that have huge poverty, pain, and suffering. Years ago, I visited India and later did an African safari. I saw so many very skinny kids begging for food in those two countries. It is so sad but, again, those trips made me feel so lucky. These things really do put my life in perspective.

Even though the $7.5 million Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable, on that April day in 1912, as most everyone knows, it hit a huge iceberg at about 27 miles an hour and, in just 2 hours and 40 minutes, it sank. It was designed to have life boats enough to carry 3547 people and there were only 2220 passengers aboard on that maiden voyage but, sadly, for reasons of aesthetics, the owners only put in enough life boats to carry 1178 and virtually each boat was loaded quickly and far below its total capacity. The pandemonium brought out the worst cowardice in many people and extraordinary bravery in others. There were only 705 survivors. More than 1500 people died.

Even with all the panic and fear, the crew tried hard to let the women and children get in the lifeboats first, but many times that didn’t happen as people pushed and shoved to get on the boats. Some guys used their bigger bodies to force their way through so they could jump on the boats. They also boarded more first-class passengers than any other class. The very first lifeboat had a capacity of 65 but it pulled away from the big, beautiful ship with only 28 people aboard. I have to wonder how brave and calm I might have been if I was there.

So much of our lives are lived in our brains. That makes it so very important for all of us to realize how and what we are thinking. When we are thinking negative thoughts, we really do have the power to redirect our brains to think about what is better for us in our lives. So, remember to appreciate what we have which, for the most part, is probably very good, and direct our brains to think positive and motivating  good thoughts to make the most out of all this good stuff we have.

Writing Down the Urgent Stuff

February 16, 2020 by  
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Last week I wrote about how important it was to write down your goals, your intentions, your dreams, and your to do lists. Why do that? Because if you do, the odds that you will follow through and complete those tasks and dreams increases big time.

There are many other benefits to writing. If you commit your dreams to paper, or on a document in your computer, for some strange reason, the act of writing your fears and negative thoughts down helps you  deal with those bad thoughts and then you can more easily  overcome them.

So, getting into the habit of not only writing your good dreams and goals down but also those fears and negative feelings we all have, can become a huge asset in your life.

Here’s 17 questions from a list in Ilchi Lee’s wonderful book I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years. Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers.

  1. What things have I achieved in my life?
  2. When was I most joyful?
  3. When were things most trying?
  4. How did I overcome hardship in those trying moments, and what did I learn through them?
  5. What moments in my life do I regret?
  6. When did I do things that made me feel proud and that I found rewarding?
  7. What momentary choices became opportunities that changed my life?
  8. What values did I try to remain true to throughout my life?
  9. What goals have I had so far?
  10. What motivated me to establish those goals?
  11. Which of my goals have I had so far?
  12. Which of my goals have I achieved?
  13. Which goals have I failed to achieve?
  14. Who has had the greatest impact on my life?
  15. With whom have I shared my gratitude?
  16. With whom do I have emotional issues that I need to resolve?
  17. Which of my habits do I want to keep and develop?

Lee goes on to say, “If possible, write down your thoughts about these questions. Organizing them in writing and not just thinking about them will help you unravel the tangle of thoughts rolling around in your head.”

Like Mr. Lee’s book, Henriette Klauser’s book, Write It down, Make It Happen, makes some of the same points. Klauser likewise emphasizes how absolutely critical it is to get into the habit of writing your goals and dreams down, explaining how, “putting it on paper alerts the part of the brain known as the reticular activating system to join in the play.”

She goes on to explain this mechanism. “At the base of the brain, about the size of a little finger, is a group of cells whose job it is to sort and evaluate incoming data. This control center is known as the reticular activating system (RAS}. The RAS sends the urgent stuff to the active part of your brain and sends the nonurgent to the subconscious. The RAS awakens the brain to consciousness and keeps it alert.”  So, if you write something down, then it becomes the urgent stuff and your brain will keep it accessible to the active part of your mind.

Hope I’m not getting too scientific but knowing all about the RAS and what good it does all of us should be good motivation to keep writing our goals and dreams down. So now we know, when it comes to bad feelings, ideas, or worries, paper is a good place to park those negative mind games.

Habits That Hinder

January 19, 2020 by  
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Wow, how stupid am I or, I guess I should say, what a habit driven man am I?  A few days ago, my wife and I drove our SUV to do a little shopping.  We spent maybe a half an hour at Walmart, walked back to the car, and were surprised to see, when I turned the key, that the car was already running! The SUV is the vehicle that my wife drives, while I have become totally used to driving my Tesla that doesn’t use a key and starts by putting your foot on the brake pedal. When you leave the car, you just walk away, with the electric engine stopping on its own and the car doors locking when you are a few yards away. So, my habit from driving the Tesla was so strong that when I drove our SUV, that habit took over and I didn’t even know it.

Most of the time, when we talk or read about habits, we are usually referring to bad habits.  One interesting and good thing to know, which sadly many people don’t, is that there are methods that can help you change your bad habits and develop good habits. It takes time and you need to consistently stick with the plan or method to make those changes but it can be done.

The most common bad habits make up quite a list. The following is not even close to a complete list of bad habits, but take a look and ask yourself if you suffer from any of these:

  1. Smoking
  2. Heavy alcohol drinking
  3. Watching too much TV
  4. Being on the computer or smart phone too much
  5. Spending too much time playing video games
  6. Eating unhealthy junk food
  7. Eating way too much food
  8. Consuming too much sugar
  9. Eating late night snacks
  10. Not allowing enough time for a full night sleep
  11. Complaining about almost everything
  12. Behavior that leaves you angry, worried or stressed
  13. Overspending your way into debt
  14. Being consistently late
  15. Being rude to others
  16. Road rage
  17. Driving too fast
  18. Losing your temper
  19. Lying
  20. Procrastinating
  21. Always bragging
  22. Being a know it all
  23. Letting fear stop you from doing something new
  24. Spending time with negative friends to bring you down
  25. Being pessimistic
  26. Always interrupting other people
  27. Swearing constantly
  28. Nail biting
  29. Picking your nose
  30. Slouching and poor posture

And, yes, that is just a very short list compared to some of the lists I have seen. So how many, if any, of these bad habits do you have and would like to get rid of? What causes bad habits in the first place and what can you do to drop a bad habit and take on good habits? I will address the answers to those questions in next week’s blog.

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.

Positivity and Compassion

June 14, 2019 by  
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A very critical part of happiness and contentment is training the mind and, yes, that does take time, but is it ever worth the time you take! The authors of the book, The Art of Happiness, which I talked about last week, have this advice: “Everyday, as soon as you get up, you can develop sincere positive motivation, thinking, ‘I will utilize this day in a more positive way. I should not waste this very day.’ And then, at night before bed, check what you’ve done, asking yourself, ‘Did I utilize this day as I planned?’ If it went wrong, then regret what you did and critique the day and decide what you are going to do to correct the negative stuff of the day. So, through methods such as this, you can gradually strengthen the positive aspects of the mind.”

I think this is why the self-talk that the great Paul J. Meyer of Waco, Texas introduced me to is so very helpful. I have about 10 different mantras that I run through my mind almost every day and many times I say them out loud. Here are a few of those

  1. I am strong and worthy.
  2. I am upbeat and positive.
  3. I am happy and healthy.
  4. I live in the present moment.
  5. I love people and I am becoming more and more social.
  6. I try to live big and give big. I make “to do” lists and carry them out.

It’s amazing how I can feel down and out and how running that self-talk through my mind many times can lift my mood and make me feel so much better. The mind has a lot of plasticity in it according to scientists. The book goes on to say something that I know is true and will work for me and you: “Neuroscientist have documented the fact that the brain can design new patterns, net combinations of nerve cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells) in response to new input. In fact, our brains are malleable, ever changing, re-configuring their wiring according to new thoughts and experiences. And as a result of learning, the function of individual neurons themselves change, allowing electrical signals to travel along them more readily.” Scientist call the brains inherent capacity to change “plasticity”.

The Dalai Lama and Mr. Cutler have so many great and powerful things to say about how to achieve happiness and they are so very effective. So here is one more quote from Mr. Cutler talking about the Dalai Lama: “He can see that if someone treats him with compassion and affection, then it makes him feel happy. So, on the basis of that experience, it would help him to realize that other people also feel good when they are shown warmth and compassion Therefore, recognizing this fact might make him more inclined to give them compassion and warmth. At the same time, he would discover that the more you give warmth, the more warmth you receive”.

And that, my friends, will almost for sure raise both the giver’s and the receiver’s level of happiness!

The Positive Path to Happiness

June 7, 2019 by  
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A few days ago, I was going through my library and came across a great book by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. written back in 1998. I hadn’t read it for a very long time but as I was thumbing through the pages my mind was captured by so many great statements, concepts, and advice that were so motivating so I kept reading.

The book’s title is The Art of Happiness. I’ve always admired this great man, the Dalai Lama, and what he has done for the world and for so many minds. He’s helped lift us to great heights. Years ago, I felt so very fortunate to meet and greet him at his hotel room and escort him to a huge gather of people and I was more than a little overwhelmed and privileged to introduce him to that audience.

I want to share with you, my readers, some of his great ideas and advice on “happiness” for us humans. I’d also like to share some of the wise words and insights that his co-author Howard Cutler added to the book from his own experiences and all the time he spent with the Dalai Lama.

Let me start with some great comments from the great book I mentioned. These are about positive thinking which is so very important to raise and keep your happiness consistently elevated.

The Dalai Lama said, “If happiness is simply a matter of cultivating a more positive mental state like kindness and so on, why are so many unhappy? … Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about transformation in your outlook and your way of thinking and this is not a simple matter. It requires the application of so many different directions. You shouldn’t have the notion, for instance, that there is just a key, a secret, and if you can get that right then everything will be okay. It is similar to taking proper care of the physical body. You need a variety of vitamins and nutrients, not just one or two.”

He went on to say, “In the same way, in order to achieve happiness, you need a variety of approaches and methods to deal with and overcome the varied and complex negative mental states. And if you are seeking to overcome certain negative ways of thinking, it is not possible to accomplish that simply by adopting a particular thought or practicing a technique once or twice. Change takes time. There are lots of negative mental traits, so you need to address and counteract each one of these. That isn’t easy. It requires the repeated application of various techniques and taking the time to familiarize yourself with the practices. It’s a process of learning.”

Next week I will talk more about the specific practices and mindset that a person needs to work on and develop while bringing you more wisdom from the great Dalai Lama.

Little Notes for Big Changes

April 26, 2019 by  
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I was looking through old books I’ve read that have made a big difference in my life and I came across Susan Jeffers‘ book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. I have quoted Susan before, since she has so many great ideas, helpful hints, and “techniques for turning fear, indecision, and anger into power, action, and love.” And, yes, that is a direct quote from the cover of her great little book.

As I glanced through the pages and re-read my little notes I took back then, the of advice from the book really struck me again and lifted my thoughts and view of life to a higher level. Below are some of my notes from the margins in the book. When I quickly went over the list, I found it very inspiring and I thought that I really should look at this list often. I also thought that sharing the list here might lift your life too, even if it’s just a little lift.

–Do self-talk and make notes at night to program my mind for the next day.

–In the morning, I’m going to wake up happy, upbeat, positive, and energetic.

–Call friends and others and set up lunch meetings. Start with my circle of close friends.

–Whatever the challenge is, say to myself, “I can do it.”

–Surround myself with strong and positive people.

–Use this great tool: act as if you really count.

–Challenge myself to stay on the path of the higher self.

–What’s the rush? Don’t rush – it’s all happening perfectly.

–Don’t punish myself. Be patient with others and especially myself.

–Turn some of my big challenges over to my subconscious.

–Never forget that it takes a lot of practice and vigilance to direct and control my negative chatterbox.

–Instruct my higher self to work to solve problems and challenges as I sleep.

–Never forget the real key to success is ACTION.

–Keep working on being more proactive. Call friends for lunch, dinner, to play cards, play tennis, play pool, travel, and to interview for one of my future blogs.

–Keep pounding into my brain Susan’s great message: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!

And here are 6 more of my notes from the margins of Henriette Anne Klauser’s book Write it Down and Make It Happen.

–Write down a list of my intentions, every day.

–Life is a decision; when you believe in a dream you need to take the risk and just do it.

–Writing things down can make feelings become just speed bumps, not roadblocks.

–Write down you biggest fears and then take action to counteract the fear.

–In addition to writing down your intentions and affirmations, speak them out loud to yourself.

–And lastly, never forget that writing things down activates that reticular activating system in your brain, then your brain works overtime for you.

 

The Fear Factor

February 22, 2019 by  
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Sometimes I re-read my own words from my journals and books that I have written, and it inevitably surprises me how my own words can reinvigorate, inspire and motivate me. And now that I’m almost 75, I suddenly realized how much this thing called “the fear factor” was holding me back on some of my projects, big dreams, and desires.

Quoting a few highlights from my own book, The Courage to Be Rich (I hope that’s not plagiarizing–ho ho):

ACTION GETS THINGS DONE. When we are fearful of something, if we push ourselves to take action, many times that will totally overcome our fear and a big plus is that we get stuff done and isn’t that pretty much the whole ball game or at least a lot of the game. Without action you could be the greatest financial thinker, have the highest IQ, and end up with very little money or even broke. When we are fearful, we really need to give ourselves a big push, even if we stumble and blunder a bit.

FEAR OF STARTING. Getting started is really the most frightening and the hardest part of virtually any task. But even if you do something wrong, at least “do something”. I am not saying take risks larger than you can afford. We all should take risks gradually, whether they are financial risks, social risks, or any other kind of risk.

Some time ago, I was on a flight and as we began our final approach (I wish they wouldn’t call it “final approach”) and as the plane was descending, I noticed the lady next to me was very nervous and somewhat freaking out. Thinking that if I diverted her attention by talking to her, that might calm her down and it did until the pilot let the flaps down and the plane lurched and bounced a bit. I quickly explained to her what the pilot had just done and that gave her a bit of relief. I then suddenly realized that I was in the same plane, in the exact same situation, but my heart rate and blood pressure were normal, unlike my seat mate.

CHRONIC FEAR IS YOUR REAL ENEMY. I knew the damage fear could do because it had done damage to me in the past. I finally realized that I was letting fear dominate my thoughts. I decided to do something about it. Since I travel a great deal, giving seminars or negotiating real estate deals and since being relaxed and rested at the end of a flight is important to my performance, it was very important not to waste so much energy wrestling with fear.

It didn’t take much thinking after that to figure out that the fear factor entered into many of my decisions that had far greater implications than did flying. Why should I let myself be fearful of flying or anything else? After all, does that fear change the outcome of the flight or my financial conditions? People who are the real doers and the super successful people in life face frightening situations almost every day, but they don’t let those confrontations with fear scare them to death or slow down their progress or stop their actions.

I want to write more about the “fear factor” in my next blog, but for now I will end this blog by listing some very common fears.

  1. Giving a speech to a large audience.
  2. Fear of making a fool of yourself.
  3. Fear of losing all your money–or at least a big part of what you have.
  4. Fear of losing your friends.
  5. Fear of losing the love and respect of someone you love.
  6. Fear of criticism.

There are certainly a lot more fears than this short list. Take a look at yourself and analyze your own fears and ask yourself the question as to whether those fears help your situation in the long run or even in the short run.

P.S.  I read that if you take a commercial flight, at random, every day for the rest of your life it would be about 20,000 years before you got on a plane that crashed–so obviously the fear of flying on a commercial plane in totally not rational!

 

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