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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.

Writing Down Your Fears to Defeat Them

October 7, 2016 by  
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Last week my blog was all about our great brains and what they can do for us, almost automatically, if we take time to write down our thoughts, goals, and ambitions. It’s a way to tap into our subconscious so it will release and make known to us what we really need in our lives. It can then help us set course and push us to keep plodding along to reach our objectives. And we can do all this simply by using a pad and pencil.

The author of the book Write It Down, Make It Happen, Henriette Anne Klauser, goes deeper into this thing of writing down what you want, saying we need to write down everything including the bad stuff such as our fears and anxieties because “writing things down can make ‘feelings’ speed bumps not roadblocks.”

I’ve never read anyone suggesting that writing down the negative stuff can be a good thing but this author says exactly that.

She points out that it can be very liberating and beneficial to the human brain if in addition to writing down our dreams and goals we also write down our fears because as she says “writing is a good way to force negative emotional reactions into words and not stomach churning.” She used a friend’s apprehension about traveling to Europe which was overcome by writing her fears down, as an example. “Writing down your fears,” she explained, “takes negativity and anxiety out of the gut … she conquered her fears by writing them down.”

It reminds me of all that self-talk we do and how people who study the ‘chatter box’ in our head are always preaching and teaching us to push back and change the negative self-talk to positive chatter. Now we find that there is an additional way, and maybe a more powerful way, to do that simply by writing down our fears or basically having a place to park your worries.

She goes on to say “Writing separates the dream from the fear. Writing about your anxiety makes it an entity existing outside of your goal. Writing down your fears takes away their hold on you; writing out the reverse of your fears (and upping the ante, making the opposite statement not just the fear in reverse, but something even more attractive) empowers and energizes you to start thinking differently, to attract the kind of answers that, rather than keep you tied down, go with a worldview of solutions.”

Discovering this strategy of writing down the negative, the anxiety, the fearful thoughts really got to me and I’ve begun to put it to the test to see if it really works. My wife began planning for a trip to South Africa to do an African Safari. After setting it all up I began to worry about so many things that could go wrong–from catching a disease to getting stomped by an elephant to those small airplanes in a country that is not exactly into precision and safety checks. Plus, there were thoughts of getting mugged or robbed in some of the cities that are known for very high crime rates.

Writing down my fears and anxieties in addition to talking through my negative thinking with other people is beginning to make a difference. In fact, the very next day after I wrote down my fears and anxieties I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night with worry as I had been doing ever since we set up our African trip.

Wow … that was fast and it worked! It’s like taking worries out of your brain and putting them in a box. It really is that easy. Try it yourself!

 

Write it Down

September 30, 2016 by  
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If you have followed my blogs you know that I am a huge believer in goal setting. Goal setting can change your life and lift it to a much higher levels in so many parts of your life. Recently I came across an incredible book that has expanded my belief in goal setting as well as teaching me, among other things, some very fascinating science about how the setting of goals effects and influences the human brain.

The book is Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser. She talks about and explains how writing a goal or putting a thought or question on paper alerts or activates a part of your brain known as the “reticular activating system” or RAS. As I read, I thought about my own experience and what a huge difference writing it down makes in my own goal setting. When I actually wrote the goal down on paper, rather than thinking it though and trying to set the goal just in my mind, the written goal really got to me and it wouldn’t let me go without me taking some action or at least making progress toward that goal. It’s almost like that note on paper took control of my brain and wouldn’t let go until I did something. And now after reading Klauser’s book I see that there are some actual scientific reasons for that—the RAS.

Thinking back all those years ago when I was 27 and decided I wanted to be a millionaire, I remember writing out my goal to hit a million-dollar net worth by the time I was 30 years old. At that time, I was making about $35,000 a year, so I certainly didn’t have much of a nest egg to get started toward my goal. But some very interesting things started happening in my head. My brain seemed to take over and I couldn’t help but take note of rich people and how they made their money. I began reading everything I saw that was related to making money. I read and studied various wealth formulas and financial secrets then began following and duplicating the wealth methods that I was learning from other people. It seemed that all this financial stuff was automatically falling in my lap. I see now that it must have been that good ol’ RAS at work.

One last tidbit of advice would be to start using a “tidbit journal”. As Klauser recommends, “purchase and carry with you a small memo pad to gather your ideas immediately as the come to you.” That’s great advice since it’s so easy to forget those little things that cross our minds when we are out and about. This little notepad/journal will become like a suggestion box for your brain.

Klauser goes on to say, “Carrying a tidbit journal makes you keener to the workings of the RAS. Having a wheel book or a tidbit book ready at hand stimulates your thalamus to alert the cortex, telling it, “Wake up. Open your eyes. Look and see. Be present to the signs all around you. Life is on your side”.

This is all so much good stuff. Remember writing it down starts to make it all happen. Our brains are so much better than I think most of us fully realize.

 

Begin Early on Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

September 8, 2016 by  
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It sure seems like this year of 2016 is winding down at a very fast pace.  I swear, time speeds up as you get older. Time moved so slowly when I was a kid but now it seems to just fly by.  We have just 4 Fridays left of this year which means I have this and 3 more posts for you in 2016. So, for these few posts left, I’m going to suggest that we all start early working on our goals and New Year’s resolutions for 2017. Let’s not wait until the last day or two and rush through what we want to do, experience, and become in the new year.

Starting early gives us more time to really think through what we want and need in our lives and I’m convinced that we will make better choices and set realistic goals as a result.  For many people, the most difficult challenge with New Year’s resolutions is trying to figure out what they actually want.  Some New Year’s goals are easy, such as: “I would like to visit 2 new countries in this next year.”  That’s pretty easy and then you pick the countries and set the date.  But many categorizes or parts of our lives are a bit more complex.  Like personal development goals, family goals, and goals determining what we want to do with the rest of our life that will make a difference in the world.

My suggestion and challenge for this week is for us to really do some deep thinking and come up with a list of what we really want to do, become and experience in the year 2017.  And as most of us know, if we begin by writing down what we come up with, it makes the process easier.  Here are two great questions to ask yourself that may help you figure out what it is you really like and want to do and experience. These questions were derived from Marshall Goldsmith’s great book, Mojo … How to get it, How to Keep it, How to Get It Back If You Lose It.

Look back at the last few years and think though your previous goals—think about what you did and what you experienced then ask:

  1. How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from these activities?
  2. How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in these activities?

After answering these questions, Goldsmith suggests that you evaluate each activity or experience on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the best.  You’ll then be able to see what was truly worthwhile to you. Doing this little drill can help in setting your goals for the next year, now that you know what has worked best for you in the past.

Ready? Let’s get to it!

 

Small Things and Metrics for Increased Mojo

July 22, 2016 by  
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I’ve got a little bit more to share with you about building your Mojo—that level of happiness and zest for life you have. As I mentioned in the last couple posts, there are a number of things you can do to greatly increase your Mojo as described by Marshal Goldsmith in his book MOJO, How to Get it, How to Keep it and How to Get it Back.

One particularly great Mojo builder for me is to be proactive and make things happen that can lead to greater happiness and more fulfillment in your life. For instance, the other day I asked my old friend Lynn Lehmann to go to lunch. Lynn is a great guy and has done many big things in his life including being a talented radio announcer and both writing and producing for TV. At lunch, our conversation and interaction raised my Mojo by stimulating my mind and enhancing the friendship we have. I think the meeting helped increase his Mojo as well.

In this case, having a great conversation was a relatively small thing I did to increase my Mojo but it only happened because I made it happen. Being proactive by asking people to go to lunch, planning a party, or setting up a golf or tennis outing is pretty simple and the interaction can do wonders for your Mojo.

Another trick that helps all of us improve our Mojo is to use metrics. Metrics are measurements of our progress and, yes, even our failures. Goldsmith says, “We all employ personal metrics to measure our progress during the day. If we’re on a diet, our metric is stepping on the bathroom scale each morning. If we’re trying to quit smoking, we’ll count the number of cigarettes we light up each day. If we’re training for a marathon, we’ll track our weekly mileage. If a number can be attached to it, we’ll measure it. The most pervasive metric, of course, involves money: how much of it we’re earning, how much we’ve saved, how much others are earning, and so on.”

Goldsmith goes to say that, for the most part, we tend to ignore and not measure the negative stuff that is not to our liking and that’s not good for us. He suggests that measuring the “bad numbers” is precisely what we need to do more often. Measuring only positive progress is like surrounding ourselves with sycophants as it is “good for the ego perhaps but not the most accurate picture of how we’re doing.”

So my bottom line advice is for all of us to be more proactive and to start using metrics of both the positive and negative things to see how it ramps up our Mojo. Then next week we’ll talk about Goldsmith’s great advice when it comes to having another person give you feedback and how it greatly increases your chances of success.

 

Talking Yourself into Great Mojo

July 15, 2016 by  
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Last week I introduced you to a terrific book by Marshal Goldsmith entitled MOJO, How to Get it, How to Keep it and How to Get it Back. Mojo is basically your happiness factor, your zest for living and your feeling of fulfillment. There are a few secrets that can help you get your Mojo back if you’ve lost it, or increase your Mojo if you want to have even more of it.
Some of these methods of are from Goldsmith’s book and some are from my own experience. From his book, Marshal says “When we define ourselves by saying we are deficient at some activity, we tend to create the reality that proves our definition.” I’ve said for years that I am no good at doing the details of anything. Saying that so much to myself and to other people cements this belief in my mind. Then I go on to prove that I was right. However, according to the book, Mojo, I can change that.

Goldsmith makes a big point about this. He says that if we want to change ourselves, we need to ask ourselves who we want to become in the future and/or what we want to accomplish then if we want to become that person we can.

So how do we change ourselves and increase our Mojo? There are several ways to do it. One way is by simply changing our self-talk, what I also call that chatter box inside our head. We need to start saying the positive things that we want to do and become.

I’ve started telling myself that I’m becoming better at detail stuff and I’ve notice a change for the good. Another negative thought that I’m working on is to be more decisive, because as they say, ‘making a bad decision sometimes is better than indecision.’ So I am pushing myself to be more decisive. I’m also working on a lifetime habit of telling myself that I’m no good at fixing things. That’s going to change and, believe me, my wife will love that.

Risk is Not for Herds

June 10, 2016 by  
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Last week I talked about risk taking and how the willingness to take risk when it comes to investing is critical.  Those people who really want to attain Financial Freedom or FF need to look at themselves to determine their tolerance for risk.

As a real estate investor working towards achieving FF, it’s important to understand your own temperament, and your ability to assume that element of risk.  It’s important to know your limitations and not torment yourself with sleepless nights by taking unnecessary risks in trying to keep up with others whose capacity to assume risk might be much greater than yours.  This decision may slow you down on the road to FF, but what is FF without some enjoyment, comfort and happiness along the way?

Everyone has a level and a threshold for tolerance and excessive and unnecessary risk will only create anxiety and tension and may well shorten your life.  So take a hard look at yourself and measure how much risk are you willing to take that doesn’t make you worry you to the point of causing pain, anxiety and suffering in your life.

But keeping in mind our objective, achieving FF, it is important to remember that the greater the potential risk the greater the inherent reward will be. It is also almost impossible to avoid every risk at any one time in selecting an investment. In order to achieve and maintain high rates of return, which are critical for achieving total FF, one must be prepared both mentally and emotionally to incur a higher than average risk. So look hard at yourself and measure how much risk you can handle.

Remember that “eagles don’t fly together in flocks.”  So if you are going to make it big you can’t just go along with the flock or the herd.  If you earnestly desire to achieve FF today, you must learn to assemble all the facts, calculate the risks, be decisive, and then act accordingly.  Statistics and history prove that the majority of people fail to ever become FF because they do not have a specific plan. They are content and willing to wait patiently throughout their lifetime for Social Security or they are looking for that one super great investment or the lucky lottery number to suddenly become super rich.  Don’t follow those kinds of people. Work on your plan that will take you to total FF over a reasonable period of time and you will reach the level of Financial Freedom that you set as your goal.

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