“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every day you make decisions. The decisions you make come in a variety of ways; people, events, or things vying for your attention, time, or resources. Hopefully many of the decisions you make add value to you and your world. What happens when they don’t? What can you do to ensure you are in your optimal zone and adding value to your world? The answer – focus on what you can control and influence and let go of your concerns (things outside of you area of control or influence).
In life, there are many things about which you are concerned about yet have no control or influence over. Fortunately, however, there are many things you can control and influence. Highly successful people embrace this and spend their time and energy where they can make a difference. They realize they can influence a great deal; resulting a tremendous value being added to their world.
When you find yourself focusing on what you cannot control or influence; pause, take a deep breath, think, stay calm, and choose one item from your list and make a difference. You can’t always control the things that cause pressure, but you can control your reaction. Remind yourself that difficulties in life happen, they are a normal, unavoidable part of life.
Positive self-talk focusing on what you can control and influence is a useful way to help you stay calm while under pressure. It will also help you stay solution focused and avoid negative thoughts that may want to dominate your mind. Use your energy to focus on the present and what you can do to move forward. Focusing on what you can control and influence can help you to optimize your performance, increase your energy levels, recognize opportunities, and respond creatively to challenges.
Things you can control, right now:
- Your actions.
- How often you smile.
- Your level of honesty.
- The effort you exert for tasks.
- How you act on your feelings.
- How much time you spend worrying.
- Taming the negative gremlin in your head.
- How often you ask questions and listen to others.
- How often you show gratitude to yourself and others.
- How often you notice, appreciate, and share small acts of kindness.
Continue your control and influence list…….and then ACT on it! There are twelve months in a year. That gives you 52 weeks in which to choose your priorities. You have 365 days to decide where to focus your time, your attention, and your efforts. You have thousands of opportunities to choose, to try, and to learn. In twelve months you can achieve miracles. You can, to a remarkable degree, create the life you want. Be courageous and show determination to take the time needed to modify, impact, transform, and reinvent things in your life. You may not be in complete control; that is no excuse to deny the power you do have. Choose well. Use your power.
“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
It’s the middle of the year, are you on target to achieve the goals you set earlier this year?
Now is a great time to step back and analysis the progress you are, or are not, making with your goals. Use the below looking-back and looking-forward questions to identify how you want to spend the second half of your year.
- Key Accomplishments
- What are all of the great things that I got done over the past six months?
- What goals did I achieve?
- What things am I most proud of accomplishing?
- Which of my goals did I really miss the mark on?
- What opportunities to learn new things did I take advantage of?
- What were the things I learned most?
- What mistakes did I make and what did I learn from them?
- Time Management
- How well did I manage my time?
- Have I been focusing my time on the most important things in my life?
- Are there any significant “time wasters” that I need to reduce or eliminate from my life?
- Top Three Goals
- What are my top three goals for the remainder of the year?
- Why are those goals important to me?
- What habits and processes do I need to adopt to support those goals?
- Learning and Knowledge
- What areas of learning do I most need to focus on?
- What new skills do I need to develop or strengthen?
- What things do I need to “keep current” on?
- What one skill, if mastered, would have the greatest impact on the achievement of my goals?
- What time management habits do I need to develop and strengthen?
- What three habits, if developed and sustained, would have the greatest positive impact
on my life?
- What habits do I need to drop or replace?
Taking time to check in with your goal status provides you an opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments and regroup where needed.
If you are having challenges with meeting your goals taking time explore why, how, and where will help you create an action plan to overcome your obstacles. Methods to overcome hurdles:
Taking time to be mindful with your goal pursuit will give them a more gentle, realistic, and achievable tone. Find a quiet place to sit, take a few deep breaths, relax, and visualize what it
will be like when you achieve your goals. Imagine what it will feel like to be in this space of accomplishment.
“I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will alw
ays have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish”. ~ Chuck Norris
When you wander through a garden, do you find yourself focusing on the weeds or flowers? Your choice in thoughts is your choice, which do you choose?
A positive mindset makes you happier and more resilient, it improves your relationships, and it even increases your chances of success in any endeavor. In addition, having a positive mindset makes you more creative and it can help you to make better decisions. To top it all off, studies show that people with a positive mindset live longer.
Maintaining your positive mindset is critical when you want to achieve anything… or just to improve the quality of your life. The first step towards a positive mindset is to determine your reality by realizing the way you react to the outside world. When something happens how do you respond? If you find yourself in a negative mindset, hit the ‘pause’ button and choose some of the following tips to cultivate a positive mindset.
- Start your day strong. Create a positive morning ritual that reinforces how great life is and how happy you are to be alive.
- Have a Purpose. Having a purpose in life gives you a fixed point on the horizon to focus on. Bringing meaning and purpose into your life—knowing why you are here—will do wonders for your mindset.
- Why wait? Instead of waiting for external things to make you happy, be happy and then watch how that influences the things that go on around you.
- Be curious. Curiosity gives you a present-moment orientation which is similar to mindfulness. Being curious about a situation allows you to experience it more fully. In addition, curiosity will help you to approach uncertainty in your daily life with a positive mindset.
- Your language shapes your thoughts. Take responsibility for your thoughts and actions. How do you respond when someone asks how you’re doing? What are the messages you are sending to others and yourself?
- Exercise. Exercise is the natural feel good drug because it releases positive chemicals (endorphins and serotonin) into the blood stream.
- Upload positivity to your brain. Use books, music and videos to overload your brain with positivity and to tap into positive emotions and experiences of others.
- Hang out with positive people. A positive mindset is contagious.
- Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm and humor are powerful tools to lift your mood and enhance your emotional state at any time.
- Smile more and show your appreciation for others. Start a positive change reaction. Watch what happens when you give out what you want to receive. Smiling releases those feel good chemicals. It’s a lot easier to adopt a positive mindset when the chemicals being released by your body are conducive to well-being.
- Live with gratitude. Relish small pleasures, find things to be grateful for. Focus on the good in yourself, the good in your life, and the good in others.
- Have a Zen mindset. Think of life not as something that’s happening to you, but as something that’s happening for you. Look at any challenging situation, person, or event as a teacher that’s been brought into your life to teach you something. Ask yourself, “What am I supposed to learn or gain from this”? or “How will this help me grow and become a better, more enlightened being?”
- Recharge your batteries. Find time to switch off the outside world to spend time doing things you love.
- Stop Expecting Life to Be Easy. Life gets tough at times. You’re brave and resourceful, and you can take it. Sometimes things won’t be easy, adopting a positive mindset will help you deal with anything that life throws at you.
Next time you’re wandering through the garden, ask yourself – “Am I focusing on the weeds or the flowers?”
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” ― Marcus Aurelius
When was the last time you had an awe-inspiring moment that made you say “WOW!”? When did you last feel a moment of wonder because you were in the presence of something vast? Do you have places that spring to mind when you think of moments that left you in awe?
Awe has been described as an emotion in the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundary of fear. Awe consists of two qualities: perceived vastness (something you think to be greater than yourself), and accommodation, a need to assimilate the experience of vastness into your current mental structure.
Experiences of awe can change the course of life in profound and permanent ways. It’s an emotion that can have a tremendous impact because it takes you out of your own head. It minimizes your individual identity and attunes you to things bigger than yourself. It shifts your focus from your individual needs to a greater good. Awe helps you to see things in a new light; giving you a sense of hope and the ability to see the bigger picture of life. When you experience awe, you are more likely to feel that you’re rich in time because awe expands your perception of time, anchoring you in the present moment.
The actual feeling of awe and experiences that inspire it benefit you in all sorts of ways, from stronger health to improved relationships. Awe experiences make you more generous and more humble. Recent research is showing that positive emotions such as awe may help increase your immune system, lower inflammation and reduce the risk for heart disease, arthritis, depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
There is awesomeness in your everyday life, take a gander at your miraculous body. Look at yourself in the mirror, stare into your own eyes and contemplate what it takes for them to work at all. For many of you, it is awesome that water pours out of a faucet with the turn of a knob and you can have heat and cooled air with the turn of a dial. It is awesome that communication is beamed through time and space right into your hands.
Some peak experiences can be once-in-a-lifetime… but there are also everyday peak experiences that are equally amazing and available to you if you have your antennae up for the sense of wonder and awe that is everywhere. You are capable of experiencing awe, which can be invoked by anything that takes you out of your usual mindset and allows you to experience a connection with something greater.
Here are tips on how to attract awesomeness into your life:
- Reminisce – Awesome experience. Perhaps it was a pristine place or a time you connected deeply with others during a special moment. Recall the details. Where were you? What touched you about it? What did it sound like? Feel like? When you can draw on your memories of awesomeness, you experience those feelings again.
- Seek out beauty – Beautiful music, amazing art, or stunning natural views can invoke feelings of awe, so seek them out. Surround yourself with things that inspire you and make you feel good. Take time to notice and savor them. Common triggers for awesome experiences come from nature; in particular, water, mountains, trees, and flowers; dusk, sunrise, sunlight; dramatically bad weather and spring are often a catalyst for feeling awe.
- Become present to the awesomeness in others – Look out for awesome performances. Surround yourself with people doing amazing things. Tune into the peak moments of life such as watching a baby being born, or someone you love triumphing after challenge. Savor the amazing and you will be elevated by awe.
When you experience awe, you are filled with positive emotion. You feel happier and more fulfilled. You are also healthier and experience greater vitality.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats
What changes have you been experiencing lately? For many of you, besides the day to day challenges, you are also experiencing the end of a business quarter, a new season, and daylight savings time.
With all these changes now is a great time to take a step back and acknowledge the progress you are making with your goals and adjust them, if needed. (See post R&R: Reflect & Regroup.) Pausing periodically on the path to achieving your goals provides you the opportunity to see what’s working and what’s not.
As you work towards a goal, you develop discipline, learn to overcome obstacles, and gain insight into your personality and your vision. Not taking time to reflect as you make progress will cause you to miss out on valuable insights about who you are.
When considering the progress you are making avoid giving yourself a simple pass or fail on your goals, dig deeper. Schedule some quiet time when you won’t be interrupted, and ask yourself open-ended questions to get clarity on how you’re really doing. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What have you been doing (or not) to actively work on your goals?
- What tools or skills did you use or do you need to get the desired outcomes?
- When you stop working on your goals for a while, what stops you?
- What excuses keep you from taking action?
- What skills or talents do you have that will help you move towards your desired outcomes?
- What skills or talents need to be improved if you want to achieve them?
Write your responses down, and be as brief or as wordy as you want. Don’t overthink it. The important part is to uncover opportunities that you may not be aware of. When you’re done, read back over your answers. Better yet, wait a day or two before reading your answers.
Once you have a clear picture of how you’re progressing, look for areas where you may need to change strategies. Brainstorm ideas of how to make those changes, seek input for your mentor, and formulate your new plan.
Then – and this part is just as important – celebrate your victories. No matter how small. Give yourself a pat on the back or call someone who will gush over your accomplishments with you. Making changes is hard, and you should feel good about every single step you take toward them.
If you did not make the progress you were striving for, here are some things to think about:
- On days when you don’t make progress toward your goals, what’s holding you back? Is it truly a time constraint or is it about your priorities?
- When do you find yourself most motivated? How about discouraged?
- When are you most energetic? What distracts you from your goal?
Asking yourself these questions and taking stock of your feelings and tendencies will help you:
- Adjust your goals and plans.
- Provide insight into your strengths and opportunities.
- Continue to learn and grow as a person.
Today is the day, schedule time to consider what progress you are making and what you have learned from your past experiences so that you can create the future you want.
What songs inspire or nurture you? Do you have a theme song that captures the essence of you or your day?
When you play music, you are exercising your brain. Music is strongly associated with the brain’s reward system; influencing the brain to release the chemical dopamine. Scientists have found music and mood are inherently linked, listening to happy or sad music can change the way you identify with the world. Music can also be used to treat illnesses and restore harmony between mind and body. Recent scientific studies have found listening to music:
- Can have a beneficial effect on your body by slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels ofstress hormones.
- Can relieve depression and increase self-esteem ratings.
Music can be a tool you can use to dial up a mood or mindset on demand by choosing music that elicits a specific emotional response. Emotional responses to music is very individual; not all ‘happy’ songs are universally perceived as being uplifting or are guaranteed to put you in a good mood all the time. Experiment with music to find songs that strike a particular emotional chord in you, use music to create a targeted mindset. Ask yourself: “Does this song make me feel like the glass is half empty or full? Does this song make me feel energized or depressed? What state-of-mind do I want to be in right now?”
Take constant inventory of how a specific song affects your mood and mindset. Play around with a variety of songs, artists and different genres to create a playlist of ‘power songs’ that are anthems when you need to trigger a specific state of mind on demand.
One caveat, by overplaying any song you will dilute the original mindset associated with that song. This is why a song that you haven’t heard in decades can take you right back to all the emotions, and feelings of the original time. (The same is true with scent.) If you want a song to have an emotional impact linked to a specific person, place or experience from your past listen to it sparingly and make it part of a time capsule memory vault that you consciously preserve.
Have fun searching the vast amount of music to find what works for you. Use music to click into a desired conscious state-of-mind.
“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt – 1884-1962
When is the last time you stopped to reflect upon the type of choices are you making? Every day you make choices, more choices than you may realize. Some choices may not seem like choices at all. These mindless choices are our habits or normative behaviors. Habits are choices we make so regularly that over time they demand less and less executive control. As a consequence, they start to seem automatic. But they aren’t. When it comes to habits, you may even be motivated to make an excuse that you are at the mercy of the automatic choice that has become a habit.
There is always a choice, even when life gets bumpy because of choices you had made along the way. When you reach a bumpy path or fork in the road, take time for yourself to reflect and evaluate the choices you had made and identify alternative or new choices you can make to bring you back to your desired path. Use positive energy to focus on solutions and positive changes you can make. Choosing to turn bumps and forks in the road into an experience that will put you back on the path to success will inspire you, enhance the quality of your life, and bring positive transformation.
Taking time to reflect on the daily choices you are making will also motivate you to achieve more in life, to reach new levels of learning and self-awareness. This can then lead to an increased sense of self-esteem, confidence, courage, wisdom and inner peace.
Here are some tips to help you reflect and determine which path to take next time you find yourself standing at a fork in the road:
- Listen to your intuition. Tap into your intuition. You intuitively know what you want.
- Weigh the pros and cons. Take time to thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of each situation. Work to determine which situation will provide you with the best choice.
- Get outside input. Seeking input from others may provide different perspectives on your choices. A variety of opinions and words of wisdom may help you make your decision.
- Don’t let fear decide. Change can be scary. Making choices can be intimidating. Fear tries to convince you that keeping things the same is better and that change is not worth the risk. Learn to push fear aside and recognize that you need to make a choice that’s based on what’s best for you, not a choice based on avoiding what you are afraid of.
- Do what’s best for you. Do what’s right for you. This can be hard to determine sometimes when you’re weighing all of the options and getting various words of advice, but ultimately you have to focus on yourself. Tune everything else out and really ask yourself, “What is the right choice for me?” If you took away all of the details and distractions and “What if” questions, you’ll come to the realization that you know what’s best for you. Once you determine what’s best for you the question is: are you going to do what’s best for you? Sometimes this is much easier realized than acted upon.
- Trust in yourself. This ties in with the first point, but it’s not entirely the same. Once you’ve done all of the things above and you reach a decision, you may find yourself stepping back and questioning the choice your about to make. Even after all of the work you’ve done to get to this point, your mind might be filled with doubts. Don’t let those doubts overcome you. Remind yourself that you are doing what’s best for you and you’ve taken great steps to come to this conclusion. Believe in the choice you’ve made and, above all, remind yourself that everything is happening just as it should.
- Don’t ever look back. Once you’ve made your choice, make sure that you commit yourself to it and refuse to look back. It’s easy to begin doubting your choice, but looking back and wondering about what could have happened if you had made a different choice will do you no good. Realize that there is no such thing as a bad choice – if you choose with the right mindset then every choice brings learning and growth. When you accept and move forward on your journey then choosing loses some of its daunting weight and becomes a joyful experience.
- Choose something. Analyzing, assessing and agonizing are important, but can only go on for so long. Life is lived through actions; acting on your choice is the most important.
Life is a journey, not a destination.