“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
“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 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.
A New Year and a new opportunity for R&R – time to Reflect and Regroup.
Where are you with your responsibility to take care of yourself and nurture the next generation? How are you doing with your social responsibilities?
A few thought starters for your mindful moments of reflection to regroup for this new year:
- Is your body in your best possible health?
- Are you treating your body nicely with healthy habits (food, exercise, water and sleep)?
- Are you expanding your mind with learning?
- Are your challenging yourself to think and be creative?
- Are you building a relationship with your inner being?
- Are you nurturing your faith and belief?
- Are you learning about, embracing and experiencing the wide variety of emotions we are capable of experiencing?
- Are you focusing on being fully present in the moments?
Goal setting isn’t just a business thing; take time to set a couple S.M.A.R.T.* goals for yourself. Make plans for R&R at the end of each quarter.
*Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound
Feeling a bit stressed? High levels of personal stress within and outside of the workplace are becoming commonplace. Stress is not going away, which is why focusing on developing your resilience will help you deal with the daily stressors you are faced with. Resilience is being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Resilient people have an ability to experience both negative and positive emotions even in difficult or painful situations. They are able to find potential or value in most challenges. The following characteristics will help you develop your resilience.
Filtering information and interpreting your world
- Personal Responsibility – the extent to which you believe that your success at work is determined by you talents and motivation as opposed to external factors such as luck or good timing.
- Realistic Optimism – seeing the world in a positive way, but also remaining grounded in reality. It is noticing and appreciating positive experiences whenever and wherever they occur, not taking things for granted.
- Personal Beliefs– seeking and embracing the sense that life has meaning and purpose. This may be in the form of religious observance, spirituality, or devotion to a particular value system or cause.
- Self-Assurance– the extent to which you believe you can
successfully perform work-related tasks or behaviors. Challenge your reflexive thoughts and negative self-talk; change emotional patterns, restrain your negative thinking and stoke your positive thinking.
- Self-Composure – the extent to which you manage your stress and remain calm under pressure. Take stock of how things might have been otherwise, instead of just how they are, use strategic positive thinking to increase gratitude, which then builds resiliency.
- Self-Care – good physical health, including a regular routine of healthy habits is foundational to both mental and emotional resilience. This includes taking mental breaks and time to relax, especially spending time outdoors and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy. Research suggests that spending just 20 minutes outside leads to more expansive and open thinking.
- Problem-Solving– the extent to which you can plan and resolve problems effectively. One strategy to fostering a learner mindset is to use “question thinking” (“What is useful here?’ or ‘What are my available choices?’), as opposed to ‘Judger Questions’ (‘What’s wrong?’ or ‘Why me?’)
- Goal Orientation– the extent to which you set appropriate goals and monitor your progress on those goals. While it might sound cliché, the more you can consider challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and develop, the more resilient you are likely to be.
Communicating and connecting with others
- Courageous Conversations– the extent to which you communicate with others in a candid and courageous way in the face of difficulty.
- Social Support– the extent to which you have a supportive social network. Being of service to others is a potent way of fuelling resilience. Studies have shown that serotonin (the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being) is used more efficiently by people who have just engaged in an act of kindness. There is a cumulative effect to continued acts of kindness and the serotonin boosts that accompany them. You can fill up your well of resiliency when you consistently add to it. When times get difficult, you can draw upon this well
What are you going to do today to start depositing into your resiliency account?
“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” ~Humbert Wolfe
The autumn equinox marks the arrival of the season of fall, traditionally seen as a period of changes leading to the dark of winter. This change in the amount of light is a signal to animals, plants and, before the light bulb, people, of changing seasons. Darkness can be a place of silent nurturance, where the slow, steady gestation needed for inner growth can occur. It’s a time to look inside yourself and reflect on what you see. It’s a time of focus. The hustle and bustle of the warmer months is dying down and you have more time to focus on change; it’s quieter and easier to listen to your inner voice.
As you watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, be reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in your life. Autumn is a time for letting go
and releasing things that have been a burden. The energy of your surroundings changes, and as energetic beings you reverberate that. What fulfills you in the winter is not going to energize you in the summer. Just as what invigorates you in the spring will not humble you in the fall. Change is important. It keeps you alive and present; it keeps you going. And it’s the only constant you can rely on.
As the seasons change, it is a good time to take a good look at your health and lifestyle. Review your dreams, hopes and desires for your personal and professional life. Do you need to make changes to your behaviors to realign to your goals?
Whatever changes are calling you this season, honor them. If it’s your job, feel inspired and excited to begin the search for a new one. If it’s your diet, enjoy the bounty of nature’s harvest available in the fall. If it’s your exercise routine, be grateful that the heat of the summer has died down and it’s easier to be outside, enjoying nature. Whatever it is welcome that change into your life. Use this change in seasons, this change in the Earth’s energy to move forward, out of the now and into the new.
Learning about and living in harmony with the nature of each season will help you stay healthy. Live in harmony with the world around you, see that nature is slowing down and contracting; preparing to rest so it is good for you to do the same. Sleeping a little longer, eating warming, nourishing foods, and moving inward – paying extra attention to your internal life. This is the season for you to give yourself some extra attention and self-love. Be content inside; be thankful for your present state because it is a gift that is meant to help you experience your life in an exceptional way.
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
When is the last time you let go and had the pure joy and ecstatic feeling of play? Play is an important source of relaxation and stimulation. It gives us time to forget about work and commitments, and to be social in an unstructured, creative way. There doesn’t need to be any point or goal to the activity beyond just having fun and enjoying yourself. Play could be simply goofing off with friends, sharing jokes with a coworker, throwing a Frisbee on the beach, wearing a costume on a Holiday, building a snowman in the yard, playing fetch with a dog, a game of charades at a party, or going for a bike ride with no destination in mind. Play may or may not involve smiles and laughter; it is always accompanied by a feeling of “Yes, this is what I want to do right now.”
By giving yourself permission to play with joyful abandon, you can reap numerous health benefits.
- Play relieves stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Play has been scientifically provento be good for the brain. Older people who get regular exercise and play are less likely to suffer cognitive decline. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.
- Play stimulates the mind and boost creativity. Play nourishes your ability to be adaptive and problem solve. It is nature’s great tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties. When you play, dilemmas and challenges naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out. Even a few hours spent doing something you love can make you new again. One reason why play is such an ideal state of mind for creativity and learning is because the mind is focused on means. Since the ends are understood as secondary, fear of failure is absent and you feel free to incorporate new sources of information and to experiment with new ways of doing things.
- Play improves relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
- Play can keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best. Play nourishes the spirit.
Incorporating more play into your daily life can improve the quality of your relationships, your mood, and outlook. Play can help you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. Even in the most difficult of times, taking time away from your troubles to play or laugh can go a long way toward making you feel better. The good feeling that you get when you laugh and have fun remains with you even after the fun subsides.
It’s never too late to develop your playful, humorous side. Reclaim your inner child by setting aside regular, quality playtime. Give yourself permission to do whatever you want for the time you’ve allotted. Be spontaneous, set aside your inhibitions and try something fun, try something you haven’t done since you were a kid. Enjoy the change of pace; you never know what magic may happen!
When was the last time you were lost in thought when all of the sudden a profound insight to current problem popped into your head? Daydreaming, also known as mind-wandering, may seem like a passive activity. However, research is discovering it could actually involve a highly engaged brain.
Researchers believe the average person spends close to 50 percent of their waking lives in a state of mind-wandering.
With the promotion of mindfulness, mind-wandering has been viewed as a negative state of mind. Mind-wandering can negatively impact reading comprehension, impair the ability to withhold automatic responses, and disrupt performance on tests of working memory and intelligence.
Emerging evidence suggests that the role of mind-wandering is not entirely harmful. Studies have shown that mind-wandering may play a crucial role in both planning for the future and creative problem solving. It enables goal-directed planning in relation to personal concerns. It also aids decision-making by allowing you to run future-oriented simulations in your head. Plus, you may have experienced mind-wandering will help you complete a tedious, repetitive task.
Recent research is showing mind-wandering may promote long-term learning and memory by promoting learning in short episodes versus a massed practice. Mind-wandering during learning creates breaks in the learning, creating an opportunity to return to the task with a refreshed capacity for attentive processing. So don’t get discouraged when you have to go back to reread something because your mind wandered. Look at it as an opportunity to reinforce what you just read.
You may not be entirely able to choose when and where to let your mind wander. You may find your mind wanders best during repetitive basic tasks, allowing your brain to enter the beneficial mind-wandering state.
Find a balance with being mindful and allowing the mind to wander. Determine what the situation needs from you. If you have a problem to solve or need a creative idea, go and get lost in an activity that allows your mind to wander (exercising, gardening, or basic household chores) and see what creative solutions emerge.