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Bad Habits into Good

January 26, 2020 by  
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Most of us humans have at least a few bad habits. I certainly have a few. In last week’s blog, I listed 30 fairly common bad habits, but now I want to list a few proven ways to change or drop those bad ones.

  1. It is wise to first take some time, maybe a week or two, thinking about your habits, which ones you want to change and why, before you begin trying to drop or alter the bad ones.
  2. Try to figure out what triggers a particular bad habit.
  3. See yourself as a coach and direct yourself like you think, or know, a coach would.
  4. Make small changes at first.
  5. Identify good reasons you want to stop that bad habit.
  6. Identify the cause of the bad habit, like stress or boredom.
  7. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
  8. Think about what good habits you can use to replace the bad habit.
  9. Focus on how much good changing that bad habit will do for your life.
  10. Get a friend or relative to help coach you.
  11. Try not to hang out with people that have the same bad habit. Seek out new or other friends that don’t have the same bad habit.
  12. Form a new routine that keeps you away from the triggers that moves you into the bad habit.
  13. Develop substitute routines, plans, and actions.
  14. Reward yourself each time you resist the bad habit.
  15. Visualize and see yourself succeeding.

A very dear and very smart friend of mine said this about habits:

“Habits are driven by a 3 part loop. 1. TRIGGER–the stimulus that starts the habit. 2. ROUTINE–the doing of the habit and behavior itself. 3. REWARD–the benefits associated with the behavior.

By the way, one of my rather good habits was aggressively pursuing very successful people and picking their brain about how they made their millions. One of the best, who turned out to be a very good friend, was this guy who I just quoted. His name was Zig Ziglar. He was a super successful guy in many, many ways. He motivated me and many thousands or others big time. Sadly, he is no longer with us but his legend and what he taught me, and so many others, lives on forever.

 

The CRON Diet: The Fountain of Youth

January 5, 2020 by  
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Alright, last week I promised to write a bit about the diet that I truly believe will greatly extend your life as well as help you live better. Would you believe that you can get those huge benefits from just what you put in your mouth? It’s true. There is a diet that really improves your health and extends your life.

The diet I’m talking about is known as the CRON diet (Calorie Restriction, Optimum Nutrition). The idea is that you will keep your calorie intake down enough to keep lean while still giving your body all the supportive energizing nutrition to stay healthy.

Studies of this particular diet showed significant increases in longevity and health in laboratory mice. I certainly noticed it in myself when I changed my eating habits to follow a CRON diet. I’ve had more energy, lost weight, seen much better ease of movement, and I feel so much better. I really believe that this diet will extend my life by quite a few years. Who wouldn’t want all that?

This diet is not as difficult as it may sound at first. You don’t have to go hungry. You just need to make better food choices and watch your portions. Here are the basic guidelines.

  1. Focus on eating low calorie, high nutrition foods, such as fruits and veggies.
  2. Eat just a couple small servings of protein in the form of fish, lean meats, nuts, beans, soy, and egg white.
  3. Greatly reduce eating processed foods and sugary drinks.
  4. Cut back on high calorie, minimally nutritious fats except omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and flaxseed.
  5. Cut back on starches although it is okay to eat small portions of whole grains.
  6. Eat 4 or 5 small balanced meals throughout the day rather than 2 or 3 big meals.

Follow these guidelines and learn to eat well before you try to lose weight. Once you start eating more nutritious, lower calorie foods, you can start cutting back on total calories to reach your optimum weight. Lose weight slowly, at a rate of 1%-2% of your present weight per month. This gives your body time to adjust which is easier on you and makes it more likely that the weight will stay off.

Now, that’s not a very scary or difficult diet to follow, is it? There are no special foods or special preparations. There’s just your determination to be good to yourself. Go ahead and discuss this with your doctor and find out what a good target weight is for you and then go for it!

You might want to look over the calorie restriction website, www.crsociety.com to find a good book or two on this subject. I think if this gives you much better health and extends your life by quite a bit it’s certainly worth the effort!

Next week, I want to talk more about health and how critical it is to keep moving, especially as you get older. Keep running or jogging as long as you can and, if you really can’t run, at least walk. Walking can extend your life and raise your health to very high levels. Believe it or not, I walked approximately 3600 miles in the great year of 2019 and, wow, did it ever feel good. Now in 2020 I’ve set more walking goals along with those low-calorie goals. It’s going to be a good year!

Be A Big Time List Maker and Lift Your Life

December 22, 2019 by  
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At this time of year, it’s good to make lists, not only shopping lists for Christmas, but to-do lists for items you will get done in the new year.

I’m pretty sure that you, like me, wonder and marvel at how very famous and successful people seem to get so much done in their lives and never seem to stop making more and bigger progress. In just 3 words, they are simply “super productive people”.  How in the world can they accomplish so much? After all, we have just 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week.

Well, I’ll tell you. One of the biggest factors to getting so much done is in the magic power of making, keeping and working off lists.

Take Richard Branson, the British billionaire, for example. He credits his lists of the things he wants to accomplish as the key to his getting so much done. He takes time to go down his list, checking each item as it completed. And, wow, today, his virgin Group of businesses owns about 200 plus different companies. Among these companies are business that specialize in air travel, retail, music, finance, cell phones, internet, hotels, and even a railroad. As you may remember, back in 1999, Branson attempted, and broke, world records in hot air balloon travel and in a transatlantic crossing in a small boat. There are many other celebs that give huge credit to list making – everybody from pop singer Madonna to Barack Obama to Bill Gates!

Why are lists so very powerful? There are many reasons. They allow you to prioritize what you really want to get done, keep you organized, and help you stay focused. For many people, and especially for me, actually writing my lists on paper helps me more clearly remember what are on my lists and pushes me to get stuff done. There is also great mental satisfaction in crossing off those items that I have accomplished. It’s an additional motivator.

There was a study done at the Dominica University in California which found that writing a list down increases the chances of completion of items on that list by 33%. I sure think that extra percentage is worth paying attention and making less a part of your life.

So, if you are not a list maker, I would encourage you to become one. It is a good idea to have big, overall, long-term lists and it’s also very important to break those lists into smaller daily and weekly lists. It is especially helpful for most people to write a daily list out the night before you hit the hay, because as soon as you wake up, you know what that to-do list is telling you to get done and you’ll stay focused and accomplish so much!

Our Changes in Fortune

November 3, 2019 by  
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Wow and double wow! I never expected the huge and heartfelt response I received after my closing comment on my last week’s blog, asking people to send their best wishes and love to little 2-year-old Kate who had just been diagnosed with leukemia. So, at minimum I want to take time right now to give a HUGE THANKS to all you beautiful, wonderful people who cared enough to take time to send your heartfelt wishes to little Kate and her family. That means so much to me, her parents, the rest of the family, and to little Kate and her twin sister Ellie. I’m thinking that Kate and her twin sister could feel the love and the caring that was sent to them. I sure could!

We all know that life has its big bumps, surprises, and setbacks. And, yes, it also has many wonderful, fun, exciting, and pleasurable moments as well. It behooves all of us to constantly remember to live in the great “right now” moment. I’ve written a lot about this previously and most people know they should try to live more in the “now moments” and not spend too much time worrying about the future or beating themselves up for the past mistakes and or bad decisions. But, if you are like me, you have to keep reminding yourself to think more in the “now”. That kind of thinking can be very critical for our mental and emotional health and our great enjoyment of life. Meditation can help with this. Meditation works because, if you do it right, you truly are living in the moment!

Knowing all this and preaching it to others, I still wake up worrying about what I need to get done in the immediate or not too distant future as well as fretting a bit over what I missed out on doing yesterday. I have noticed, however, if I take time to write down my next day’s plans and actions the night before I go to sleep, I usually wake up much more likely to just get out of bed and get going on my to do list. My mind seems to be so much clearer and my thoughts are much more positive in the “now moment”.  Of course, we all need to think about the future and make plans, much of which is very fun and exciting like when planning a trip to Disneyland with the kids, or a vacation to Europe, etc. It’s the same with the past – we enjoy taking time (but not too often) to relive our great experiences and the really memorable moments in our life.

Talking about great moments in time… did you read about the older lady in Paris that recently discovered that one of the paintings she had hanging on her walls — one that she wasn’t even particularly wild about — was very, very rare? She sold it for a shocking $26 million dollars. I sure hope she’s not like so many jackpot and lottery winners that have never had a ton of money. So many of them have lost everything years later, making the news again because, not knowing how to handle tons of money, they spent it all and/or were scammed out of it. Whether fortune smiles on us or we have a ton of bad luck thrown at us, we need to learn how to handle our changes in fortune. I want to talk a bit next week about the smarter ways to handle money when good fortune comes your way.

 

Feeling the Great Right Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Your Mind in the Moment

August 30, 2019 by  
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Some very wise person once said, “Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.”  I’ve thought about and written quite a lot about this thing called “living in the now”.  I think I keep writing about it because it motivates me to live in the moment more often. As you might have experienced, living in the moment is very hard to stay conscious of and to do on a frequent basis.  But if you concentrate and keep trying to live in the moment, you are likely to do more and more of it.  And yes, I think it’s a great idea to write that down as a goal because, as you probably know, if you commit your goals to paper or on your phone or computer, you are much, much more likely to do it.

In Ernie J. Zelinski’s great book, The Joy of Not Working, under a section titled “Mastering the Moment”, the author says, “In some cultures, a moment can last the entire afternoon. Activities have natural starting and ending times not dictated by the clock. People don’t limit their conversations to fifteen or thirty minutes. Conversations start when they start and end when they end regardless of the number of clocks in the immediately vicinity.”

He goes on to cite a study that I found really surprising, and even a bit shocking. The study and research showed that most couples in North America spend only about 18 minutes a week in real conversation.

Zelinski also noted, “Out of 500 people surveyed by World Tennis magazine in a sex/tennis pool, 54 percent said they think about sex while playing tennis.” Wow, I play a lot of tennis and I don’t think I fit at all in that 54% group. Those tennis players obviously haven’t learned to live in the now, and I am quite certain if they did, they would win a lot more matches. I wonder how many people think about tennis when having sex. I think that might make it much harder to finish the sex round.

Ok, next week I want to write more about Zelinski and give you a few quotes from him and this subject of “living in present moment”, or the way I say it, “living in the great right now”.  I am also, due to feedback from readers, going to move my blog from Friday mornings to Sunday morning. This should give you some time to really ponder the subjects I bring up. So, look for the follow-up to this post next Sunday!

Grateful Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fully Present Wakefulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Beautiful Life Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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