On Mindfulness: How this practice changes lives

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ~ Victor Frankl

 

I. Introduction

It's moved far beyond the realm of esoteric and is now well within mainstream acceptance. By now, even military units tout the powerful, simple practice.  It's gaining steam for good reason. 

The benefits are well-documented.  Neuroscience, psychology, and a great number of social studies now confirm with confidence that introducing the practices of Mindfulness can measurably impact the life and results of an individual, team, or company within the first 8 weeks.  It brings positive impact in 3 main areas: 1) Personal Well-being; 2) Relationships; 3) Performance.   Major media (e.g. Time and CNN), corporations (e.g. it started with Google and has since spread to many others, especially in Silicon Valley), and pro sports teams (e.g. Seattle Seahawks) are among those affirming mindfulness.

For people like me who practice mindfulness, it’s great to see this rapid, extensive growth. Practitioners know that there are few habits which create greater impact on quality of life, and thereby collective high performance in a company and greater harmony and peace within a society.  It has this power because it is a meta-competence, a competence which supports the development of all other competencies.  I would like to share a simple anecdote that helps us understand why from a very human angle.

Before we go there, however, I would like to offer a bit of additional context. 

 

II.  Context

A flurry of studies on the brain and our behavior made during the last 20 years has shown us the possibly surprising fact that the physical brain is not static and unchangeable.  These studies reveal perhaps an even more shocking fact – that our thoughts, attitudes, words and habitual actions have a physical effect on the brain’s structure and shape.  Neuroscientists call this quality of being able to rewire our neural networks through thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions neuroplasticity

In practical terms, we have around 50,000 thoughts every day, and around 95-98% of those are the same as we had yesterday.  (Yawn.) And perhaps even more surprising, 80% of our daily thoughts are negatively-oriented, such as chewing over things that went wrong, or our habitual worries about having locked the door on the way out, having said the wrong thing, and so on.  Day-by-day we reinforce our brain's hard-wiring for worry.  We overgeneralize that worry is helping us but it's actually just based on habit and self-reinforcing negativity. 

It's a little scary that we strengthen negative thought patterns unless we learn to do something about it. We sometimes are tempted to think that if we just achieve enough outwardly, the negativity will go away or transform on its own and we will have a happier inner climate.  But we now clearly understand that that's false.  We need to work on the way we think directly.  

In neuroscience terms, our amygdala (often called the lizard brain, the most unevolved part of our brains) --the source of fearful, stressful, and worrisome thoughts-- actually gets smaller through mindfulness.  And the most evolved parts of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, gains strength (i.e. actually gets thicker) through mindfulness.  In everyday words, we gain power and freedom. 

It's exciting to know that mindfulness provides a path by which we can change negativity and habitual patterns.  Through mindfulness practice, we increase our capacity to relate to situations in ever more constructive ways.

Mindfulness has gained traction amongst individuals and companies for exactly this reason.  We are all interested in accessing the deeper potential that we know is there.  Sometimes we get in our own way.  Mindfulness helps us change that. 

 

III. Story

A client of mine began practicing mindfulness meditation 1 mere week ago. I was congratulatory and excited when he shared the following story with me at the end of our most recent session. It’s a simple story. His tiny tale of mindful triumph helps us immediately grasp what it is that mindfulness can do in our lives, at work and otherwise.   (I always like it when a client or anyone else for that matter cries tears of joy.)  It is a concrete example of creating a space of freedom in which to relate to events more constructively. 

He was out with his girlfriend on a pleasant Saturday afternoon. She made a comment that normally would challenge and irritate him. (His omission of details indicated irrelevance of details even though part of me wishes I had more specifics to share.)

Despite our love for our partners, we've all been there. We’re all familiar with those voices of our lesser selves.

He was struck in that moment by something he remembered from his nascent mindfulness practice. He realized the thought connected to irritability was simply a negative interpretation and fleeting.  He realized he could simply notice and observe the thought pass. He could thereby have the freedom to choose how he wanted to relate to his girlfriend in that moment. That’s what he did. He expressed his better self instead of putting a damper on the afternoon.

 

IV. Elaboration

It’s that simple. Often times when we are irritated or experiencing any other negative emotion, we completely identify our selves with the narrative which passes through our mind and the emotion which passes through our body. We take our story as though it IS REALITY.  In fact, it’s one of infinite ways to see and experience that situation.  Not everything we think or believe is true.  When we are somehow triggered, our thoughts are reactive and habitual. In Frankl's terms, sometimes the space between stimulus and response is miniscule indeed and the reaction is automatic.

Different negative emotions take different forms in each of us. But whatever the form, we are not in these cases bringing conscious attention to what passes through our mind.  We are prisoners of whatever old defenses and well-worn neural networks we have. Prisoners may be a strong word, but it indicates exactly where we lack freedom.  Mindfulness is a key out of the prison of old behaviors and habits of thought, words, and actions which no longer serve us.  When we are interested in change and inviting in something new in our lives, we might consider the importance of mindfulness practice. 

 

V. Change through Mindfulness

We may assume we’re an impatient type of person (for example), but it’s amazing to realize that that can be changed. Our qualities and ways of being are malleable! There are actually paths by which we become more established in who we know ourselves to be.

Mindfulness amplifies the space between stimulus and response to create greater freedom. We’re able to choose more constructive responses which express how we actually want to show up in the world. As the new neural networks form, and our ability for self-observation grows, we have greater freedom to become more and more anchored in our own deeper human values. We obviously enjoy life more when we are more responsive than reactive. Sometimes our annoyance with ourselves comes when our reactivity gets in our own way.

Mindfulness is a practice which opens up no less than the possibility of personal mastery. It helps us to become responsive to situations and show up at the height of our capability. Of course, this has untold value in our lives and professions.

On Personal Transformation: Why Give Evil a Bad Name

ON PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION: WHY GIVE EVIL A BAD NAME

"Who is there that has not experienced the daily conflict within himself between the forces of Evil and the forces of Good?" ~Mahatma Gandhi

“We can talk about courage and love and compassion until we sound like a greeting card store, but unless we’re willing to have an honest conversation about what gets in the way of putting these into practice in our daily lives, we will never change. Never, ever.”  ~Brene Brown

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." ~Henry David Thoreau

We happen to be pretty wired to avoid the topic of "evil".

The aversion we have to the word itself deserves attention.  Let's talk about this taboo instead of leaving it in the dark cobwebs of a basement.

Self-knowledge powers self-transformation. This means knowing ourselves.

Even in little kids’ cartoons, a common depiction is the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. (Most of us interpret this to mean internal voices, not external voices.)  It’s simple and playful but 100% relatable.  

Sometimes, we’re not our better selves.  Sometimes we are our lesser selves.  

We even know the physiological basis of this in our brains (neocortex and amygdala).  

We do have our wonderful qualities of course.  We have love, courage, wisdom, beauty.  There is the magnificent and majestic in humankind.  But this is not all there is to us.

I for one can be harsh, fearful, not good enough, judgmental, irritable, impatient, procrastinating, envious, jealous, addicted, arrogant, superior, inferior, insecure, dishonest, etc.

Are these not forms of evil?  I define evil as anything inside us that keeps us from our potential.  I define evil as anything inside us that holds us back.  Our own enemies lurk within.

We’re not always the kindest partner or colleague or friend that we like to imagine ourselves to be.  Perhaps this is us when we listen to the wrong shoulder.  And we don't always see the options of our better self because of our reactivity and habitual ways.

One of the great spiritual gems of India, about which Gandhi was commenting, is the Bhagavad Gita.  The battle of good and evil in the human heart is the theme of the Gita.  This theme plays out on and on throughout the ages, across cultures, and in stories everywhere.

This is not for the sake of good stories.  It appeals to us because the soul knows this to be the story of our own human nature.  Not only out there, in here too.

When we avoid it, we engage denial which is another form of evil itself.  It prevents us from seeing and adapting to things as they are.  We rather see things as we wish them to be, which keeps our head in the sand like an ostrich.  It may not be flattering, but it's the doorway to what we long for!

When we deny evil away, we end up with the individual and societal problems we have.  That’s only a problem if we don’t use it as an opportunity to evolve from here.  It’s not about deficits, it’s about where the biggest opportunities lie.

The existence of evil within is not reason for harshness with ourselves, which is also evil.  Our true strength is not fearing evil.  This means looking at it with calm and knowing the darkness dissipates in our light of awareness.   

The need to be beyond it is another expression.  Perfectionism is very different than healthy striving. It’s a reason to turn towards the practice of deeper self-acceptance.

Our identities are not fixed.  We are able to unwind un-useful narratives with patience and effort and attention.

The truth sets us free.  Choice means showing up as who we want to be.  If we don’t feel at choice and free, then we aren’t 100% in the truth.

Evil is not terrorists, drug dealers, pimps, and the other guy in a bar fight.  

If it’s out there, we have no power over it.  We stay in a victim mindset of pointing the finger and complaining and lamenting.  When we see it exists inside us and commit to studying ourselves and evolving, we learn, grow, and heal.  

We can gain the power and freedom to be who we are.  Best to start enjoying the journey today, because positive pleasure is a force of good.

Reclaim the Steering Wheel: 6 Practical, Powerful Tools of a Comprehensive Time Management System (Part 2 of 2)

**Tool #4: Weekly Planning**

We all have the same number of hours in the day. Some people seem to be better at using it than others. The theme throughout this post is that the #1 difference is simply how deliberate and intentional people prioritizing their time towards the highest impact tasks and activities. Planning becomes of paramount importance in high quality prioritization. Planning gets us out of reactivity, and is precisely about reclaiming the steering wheel of how we want to spend our time.

A central pillar of this system, something I came across several times in my research, and something I have found to be a real game-changer is good planning on a weekly basis. Having an overview on the weekly level is like Goldilocks sleeping on Baby bear's bed and eating baby bear's porridge. Focusing on day's alone is too short, and trying to manage our whole month at a time is too much. Weeks are juuuuust riiiiight! Weeks give us a segment of time that is manageable and when done well with practice can transform our effectiveness. When we bring our attention to the weekly level, combined with the other tools, we will surprise ourselves with how many of our top priorities we can realize.

Over time, weeks turn into months and months into years, and our lives become more fulfilled as we accomplish more and grow more.

Just a quick disclaimer, let's keep it clear that this does not necessarily mean being over-scheduled and rigid, without space and flexibility. The space and flexibility can be factored into plans quite simply.

The Weekly Planning Process:

Set-up: Personally, I set about 1.5 hours aside on Sunday to create my weekly plan. It becomes a kind of ritual. You may choose to listen to music, light a candle, drink tea, or none of that. Personal preference is the only rule here.

I have a blank template in word I use. If you want it, just contact me through the site and I'll send it to you. But all the relevant questions are here below. This approach starts with the premise that you have a longer-term vision and goals. If enough people ask me, perhaps I'll write about that separately.

Part 1: Remember your longer-term vision and goals, visualize them, and connect more deeply to the why underlying and informing your daily tasks. Check in with yourself regarding your values, principles, and guiding purpose. It's not uncommon to lose sight of these foundational elements of our lives, check in, and re-align ourselves.

Perhaps something happened this week which leads us to revise or tweak our long-term vision. Most of the time, however, this reminder can transform the quality and energy which we put into our work throughout the week, and also help us to feel more fulfilled as we go about our workweek. (Another oldie but goodie here is the story of the three stonecutters.

Part 2: Review and Celebrate the Previous Week

A) List everything for which you are grateful from the previous week
B) What are the major lessons you learned last week?
C) What ideas, quotes, or other sources of inspiration did you come across last week (books, ted talks, conversations)?
D) What didn't happen last week that you planned or hoped for? A bit of analysis here can help you make necessary adjustments in weeks to come.

Part 3: Plan the Week Ahead

A) What are the 5-6 (max) Top Priorities you would most like to realize this week? (The focus is not on results, but on accomplishing your priorities. Priorities are in your control, results are not necessarily in your control)
B) Schedule everything: This is the heart of the weekly planning process.

For the 7 days ahead, plan your time. It may be helpful to break each day down into morning, afternoon, evening. The key is to decide which of your top priorities you will focus on each day, scheduling those to have the important space they require alongside other meetings and commitments.

It's easy to underestimate how long things take. One rule of thumb is that almost everything takes longer than we expect it to. So as we evaluate our top priorities, we look at the meetings we have scheduled, and we look at personal errands we have to run, we build in a sense of spaciousness.

Getting started, we may choose not to schedule whatever full-time means to us. We may start with 25 hours, for example, and start more conservatively with the priorities we are attempting to accomplish in a given week. As we get more acquainted with this process, and get more in tune with our rhythms, then we can gain precision and productivity over time. In general, life is going to happen, things are going to arise. Since we can expect that, we build in some space in our calendar to address loose ends. How much is up to you, it is a matter of finding a fine balance.

The recent client who gave rise to this post told me, for example, how much it nourished her to spend time setting up her room with flowers. She sometimes felt guilty that she should be doing something “more productive” with that time, even though it was clearly a quadrant 2 activity for her. If she sets aside 1-2 hours, 2x/week, then she can really enjoy that time more, without negative thoughts encroaching.

I for example schedule which yoga class I will attend. It isn't set in stone, but more often than not I stick to it and spending the energy upfront helps me stay on track and focus during the week.

As each day arrives, it becomes standard practice to review the plans and make adjustments based on whatever information has arrived during the week. But to the extent your plan can stay in place, then it's simply a matter of execution.

 

Tool #5: The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique was created by Francesco Cirillo as a university student to improve productivity and measure his work back in the late 1980's. In essence, it's working with timed intervals, without distractions, with focused intention. Each interval is followed by a short-break. He named it after the shape of the kitchen timer he used.

For me, I've found it to be a very powerful, even revolutionary method, which takes a bit of getting used to. There are no shortage of pomodoro apps out there. The most often used periods are 25 minutes on, and 5 minutes off.

When we spend 4 straight hours working on something, for example, our attention comes and goes and it can be difficult to maintain consistent quality of effectiveness. When we use the pomodoro technique, we work in short bursts without allowing ourselves to get distracted. We can adjust the interval to suit our own needs. For me, 25 minutes is juuuuust riiiight.

And the five minutes off is excellent and actually increases our overall effectiveness. It refreshes and recharges for each 25 minute segment to be its best. But not only that. How often have creative ideas come to you when you are shopping or in the shower, or not in the midst of your work? The five minutes off gives a chance to disconnect, let go, and let neural pathways fire to create new connections. I get up and get a drink, use the bathroom, and/or close my eyes and empty myself.

One additional benefit is that it enables us to track very concretely how much we have actually done. Because our work is of a more consistent quality, and in discrete concrete units of time, we have a standard to work with which is helpful for many people. For example, 3 hours on Tuesday might not be the same thing on Thursday depending on any number of variables. And the same can be said for 6 pomodoros, but they are much more apples-to-apples.

When we set aside a few hours in our weekly plan, during an Einstein Window, for an important quadrant 2 priority, we can use pomodoros to make the most of that time. (I think we just developed a whole new language.)

 

Tool #6 The Seinfeld Rule/ Habit Building

“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.” ~Steven Pressfield

By various written accounts, Seinfeld had one big secret to his enormous success as one of the greatest comedians of our generation.

Brad Isaac, a young comedian, was in the right place at the right time to receive some sage advice from Jerry. This is what he told Lifehacker,

“He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

“After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”

The key isn't anything other than showing up everyday, something absolutely every one of us has in our power. That's the trick, focusing on what we can do rather than losing energy focusing on results. It's simple logic that if we bring our attention to something over a period of time, we are going to learn and grow and gain mastery regardless of what the activity is.

Consistency develops habits which make us successful, and help us grow in confidence over time. Wherever any of us wants to go starts with us taking one step and the next step and the next. We can't be afraid to be a beginner. Knocks are going to come, there are going to be days when we don't feel at our best, but just showing up and marking the calendar with a red x is rarely too difficult to manage.

I recommend starting with 1 habit at a time that you feel will make the biggest difference in your life. Focus on that for 21 days, which almost all accounts say is the time necessary to anchor a new habit. My experience verifies that. After the first habit is settled, you can bring your attention to expanding to one additional habit. And then you make a habit of cultivating good habits. The danger is taking on more than one at a time, or underestimating the challenge of change. Consistency begins with modesty and commitment. It's much more tortoise than hare.

I recommend using Joe's Goals (online) or Loop Habit Tracker (on Android), both free. Both are elegant in their simplicity.

 

Conclusion

In the classic German children's story of Momo, a contented village comes to the brink of ruin, as the villagers forego their easygoing yet balanced perspective on life. They get turned-around in a twister of time-saving. The craze disrupts calm, incites anxiety, and destroys quality of life. The more they attempt to save time for the future, the less time they experience themselves as having in the present. The arrival of some city-slickin' type outsiders is the culprit.

The message is straightforward—the more time takes control of us, the more our relationship with it grows unhealthy, the less enjoyable our lives. It is a topic which merits reflection and our best efforts, because our quality of life depends on it.

Reclaim the Steering Wheel: 6 Practical, Powerful Tools of a Comprehensive Time Management System (Part 1 of 2)

Introduction

Our time is our life. How we manage it is no more and no less than how well we live.

Many of us have fantasized about a remote control which fast forwards or pauses to suit our joyful and undesirable moments. Of course, no such remote control exists.

We can only learn to work with the time we do have better. We can increasingly take advantage of it and live fuller lives where we move ever towards our better self and the dreams we wish to realize. Time management is about having both feet firmly planted on the ground so that we can live our aspirations. It's the very practical element of contributing the best of ourselves to the world.

With all the rush of modern society, we sometimes don't even notice how our time no longer seems like our own. It seems like we are trying to live up to and cope with an ever-growing set of demands on our time. The potential danger is that we get stuck in a reactive mode where our own priorities seem like a distant luxury instead of a necessity and a right. This article is an attempt to help you change that.

Making a fundamental change in how one relates to time becomes absolutely crucial in stepping out of the passenger side and reclaiming the steering wheel. It's of course up to each of us to choose to do this.

I've engaged with this theme myself, with a lot of research and practice in my own life. I am still working to implement these tools consistently. In fact, everything I write is something I am learning myself. But I have made a lot of progress, and after a recent session where I shared this knowledge spontaneously with a client, I realized how helpful it could be for others.

Here are 6 powerful tools which can help you reclaim the steering wheel. My consistent reminder is that any #truechange practice requires patience, effort, and commitment. Let's first bring our attention to a couple more reminders before looking closely at the 6 tools.

Inner Challenges

Time is of course where procrastination and resistance have a chance to sabotage our best intentions. We also may have beliefs about who we should be when others ask favors of us, that touch on guilt and tendencies towards people-pleasing inside of us. Another potential challenge is that we get overwhelmed by choice and possibility when we acknowledge our time is actually our own. As we become more aware of these patterns, true change entails repeatedly observing these parts of ourselves and the parts of us that may want to get frustrated that we're not already "further ahead".

Realizing True Change

Our greatest chances for success are to take this on methodically, step-by-step, and with both firmness and gentleness towards ourselves. There is no outer change without observing and gradually adjusting inner attitudes. My guess is no matter where you are relative to time management, you have a chance to learn something new through these tools. The invitation is to experiment with what works well for you. I have no doubt you will be successful in reclaiming the steering wheel if you want to.

As this is a longer entry, I will present tools 1, 2, and 3 in Part 1 and the rest will follow in Part 2 tomorrow.

 

Tool #1: Recognizing and Hacking the 80/20 Rule in Time Management

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who recognized that “the vital few” of the peapods in his garden gave him the majority of his peas. “The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” (Wikipedia) A couple of simple examples are that 20% of your clients give you 80% of your sales, or 20% of society has 80% of the wealth. This principle has been found to roughly apply across a staggering array of situations, both in human endeavor and naturally occurring phenomena. Being aware of this happens to have great implications for our lives time management and beyond.

For now, time management is our focus. Let's keep it simple. If we apply this principle, we realize that 20% of our tasks are responsible for 80% of our desirable outcomes. And then, logically, 80% of our time is being used to realize 20% of our desirable outcomes.

So recognizing 80/20 to time management can help us to be strategic and deliberate in how we divide our time and maximize our productivity. It reveals the insight that most of us are probably spending the majority of our time on the most annoying, administrative, routine, reactive tasks. Instead, we can choose to bring more focus and prioritize daily those tasks that are the most productive, constructive, and satisfying.

The most obvious growth opportunity here: setting a goal to intentionally shift to spending 50% of our time on the stuff that matters most.

(A bonus oldie but goodie which applies here and may be supportive is the story of the rocks, pebbles, and sand.)

Taking action on these insights from the 80/20 rule can be easier said than done, however. This is where the 2nd tool can support us.

 

Tool #2: Getting clear on the 4 quadrants

Let's continue with a classic, powerful tool the 4 quadrants of time, a 2 by 2 matrix created by Steven Covey. It helps us recognize the quality of how we spend our time across two pivotal dimensions--important/not important and urgent/not urgent.

Importance: takes us closer to our aspirations and fulfillment.
Urgency: how pressing of an issue the activity/task is, which in of itself may or may not connect to our fulfillment.

Many people know of it but many others haven't heard of it. I would like to share the basics as well as offer additional interpretation.

Credit to Creativesource.com

Credit to Creativesource.com

 

Quadrant 1:

2 X 2: Important and Urgent.
Covey's Name/ Key Quality: Quadrant of Necessity.
Examples of activities: include emergencies, crises, deadline driven projects, a friend in need.
Results: If we spend too much time in quadrant 1, we can become stressed and burnt out.
Notes: A certain amount of quadrant 1 activity is inevitable. The opportunity is to manage this as well as possible. For some of us, it may seem we are constantly putting out fires. Fire-fighting implies dealing with issues only as they arise. It means we stay on on the surface rather than penetrating into deeper understanding of causes. So fires keep arising and we stay beholden to them rather than “getting out in front” of them, so those symptoms don't keep appearing over and over.

Quadrant 2:

2 X 2: Important and Not Urgent.
Covey's Name/ Key Quality: Quadrant of Quality and Personal Leadership.
Examples of activities: include relationship building, strategic planning, directed study, daily exercise, habit-building, long-term goals, preventative action, self-development work.
Results: As we orient to spending more time in quadrant 2, we gain a greater sense of control of our time and the direction of our lives. We practice discipline, gain balance, express vision and perspective. Also, we tend to gain more power to positively influence and downtrend fire-fighting in quadrant 1.
Notes: The key insight in this matrix is that quadrant 2 is where our long-term satisfaction and continued growth in overall effectiveness lies. People who spend a greater percentage of their time here tend to be effective and fulfilled people. They are focused on opportunities rather than problems.

These are the tasks and activities we often overlook because they are not urgent. We also do not receive any short-term gratification here. These tasks play out over the longer-term.

When we bring our just our simple attention to quadrant 2, our life expands. This is even more the case when we match attention with our vision, courage, and discipline. In quadrant 2, we are not just doing, but we have the chance to observe, analyze, and strategize what, how, and why we are doing so that we can continuously adjust and improve.

Our goal can be learn to delegate, say no, and adjust until we are spending 50% of our time minimum in quadrant 2. Quadrant 2 comes with greater satisfaction, greater freedom, greater control, and also greater responsibility. Some people want that and accept that responsibility is the price to be paid, and other's don't.

Quadrant 3:

2 X 2: Not Important and Urgent.
Covey's Name/ Key Quality: Quadrant of Deception.
Examples of activities: include some types of email, calls, and meetings; some types of pressing matters that just land in the inbox or on the desk; interruptions.
Results: We may feel busy, but we don't feel like we accomplished much of our own agenda. We are beholden to the needs and requests of others.
Notes: Quadrant 3 is where we are most likely to feel out of control with our time, or even victimized by bosses, partners, or friends. When this is the case, we need to examine our own people-pleasing tendencies and bring more “spinefulness” to our interactions. Our relationships may become increasingly strained, shallow, or broken if we spend too much time here. We also may feel out of touch with ourselves and increasingly resentful.  Too much time in Quadrant 3 can be connected to low self-worth. 

Quadrant 4:

2 X 2: Not Important and Not Urgent.
Covey's Name/ Key Quality: Quadrant of Waste.
Examples of activities: include time wasters, surfing the internet, blankly scrolling social media, mindlessly watching television, some types of calls and emails, and other “escape” activities. Results: The more time we spend in quadrant 4, the more irresponsible we are for our lives. We may be dependent on others even for bare basics.
Notes: Quadrant 4 is also an escape safety valve when much of our time is spent in quadrants 1 and 3. When we don't have the fulfillment which comes from quadrant 2, we use the fleeting pleasures and numbness which comes from quadrant 4 to “unwind”.

Note about organizations: If we work at organizations stuck in execution mode, lack of quadrant 2 focus can pervade the culture. Many of us are familiar with these types of environments. It means more stress, less satisfaction, and less awareness of how the organization will continue to evolve and perform at ever higher levels. It's something that can be changed, if the leadership sees the shortcomings of the current set of circumstances.

Questions for reflection: The available step from tools 1 and 2 then is to take a good close look at how we spend our time. Are we constantly putting out fires? Are we on Facebook all the time? Are we on the verge of burnout? What long-term goals are we not making time for? How might this awareness help you to take positive steps with your time?  I invite your comments.

 

Tool #3: The Einstein Window/ Natural Rhythms

Each of us has a time where we feel sharpest, alert, most connected to ourselves, creative, and energized. In short, it's where our own inner genius, our own brand of Einstein, shines. Let's make sure we are intentional and deliberate about getting the most juice we can out of that fruit.

It's different times for different people, and the length of the window may vary.

With me, for example, it's roughly 7 am to 11. Other people, including my wife, are sharper in the evening.

The key is to use those precious hours each day to do your highest impact work. Think to yourself: what is the one (or more) things I could do today that would make the biggest difference for others and for myself? That's a quick way to determine what you might focus on in your Einstein window.

By definition activities to focus on will be from quadrant 1 or 2, and preferably over time it's more and more in quadrant 2.

The Einstein window is one obvious way to bring more attention and awareness to our natural rhythms.  When we stay in tune with ourselves and use that self-awareness to our advantage, it's obvious that good things happen.

My possibly naive recommendation is to grow more moderate with caffeine and other stimulants which we use to fight and artificially manipulate these rhythms. Our overall sense of well-being grows when we do so, which I'll examine another day perhaps.

Speaking of another day, tools 4,5, 6 follow tomorrow. Tool 4 is one that ties these first 3 together and is the central pillar of the whole system. That's us building anticipation. See you tomorrow.

 

On Authenticity and Satisfaction: Fitting In v. Belonging

Introduction

The need for belonging is a fundamental drive of men, women, and children. That is, us humans.

There is some work to do in understanding belonging.  There exists a great distinction between fitting in (FI) and belonging.

Different variations exist but belonging comes down to the same basic challenge.  We often go about trying to satisfy belonging based on the attitude and values of FI. We climb the FI tree mistakenly thinking it's the belonging tree.  We hope to find fruits of belonging on the wrong branches.

If we are to truly enjoy the satisfaction and fruits of belonging, we must focus on the very different attitude and values associated with belonging. It sounds obvious once we've brought our attention to the matter.

So let's examine the underlying values and inner attitude of each more clearly to define the opportunity for #truechange.

Before we go there, I want to note it's a deep topic and it can sometimes hurt. If that happens in your case, I encourage you to see it as a healthy growing pain. It bears mentioning, I can only write about this topic because of my own challenges and ongoing practice with it. I remind us as always that making this shift requires the effort and patience associated with all true change practice. And as always, I offer this post with the hopes it helps create positive change for those who read it.

Fitting In

Definition

FI expresses an unhealthy dependency on the acceptance of others. The need for external validation and recognition/approval-seeking become fundamental motivations driving the personality. At the heart of FI, are defense mechanisms that lead us to create a more socially acceptable version of ourselves which hide our true thoughts and feelings.

We apply learned behavior to match our understanding of expected norms. Rather than being self-expressive and free, this behavior tends to be more calculative and culturally-biased. In this way, FI represents a loss of authenticity. For example, one may say thank you in a habitual way to appear polite rather than because of genuinely feeling appreciative and grateful.

 

Important Additional Details

(1) When we experience fear or insecurity or recognize FI in ourselves, we sometimes think it means there's something wrong with us. As if we shouldn't have that and we should be better. No, that's not true, it's very human. What distinguishes some people from others is whether they are willing to be honest with themselves and do something about it. Each in his/her own time.

It can be challenging, but also things are as they are at this moment and therefore it's a growth opportunity.  This is also a matter of attitude.

(2) FI connects to an underlying fear of being rejected and/or not being good enough. When others like how we show up, this fear is soothed and calmed. A vicious cycle is created as we think we will only be liked for the mask we present.  So, we orient our behavior towards obtaining that liking because this keeps uncomfortable feelings at bay. Or in other cases, we rebel against or escape from those fears, which we'll discuss further below.

In caving into the demands of fear, we remain on a superficial level of dealing with symptoms rather than going after the roots. We implicitly assume that there are no other options.  So we accept impermanent and unsatisfying solutions.

(3) FI can show up in certain life situations and not others. It can be more pronounced in some areas of our lives while not others. It can vary in degree.

(4) It may sound strange but true, but our behavior can even be oriented to earning the approval of a deceased parent. I know this from experience.

 

Everyday Symptoms, may include one or more of the following

  • People-pleasing behaviors that feel inauthentic

  • Comparison/competition, superiority/inferiority, measurement

  • Submissiveness/Aggressiveness

  • An ambitious drive to be the best or to have the answers, which creates restlessness

  • Insecurity

  • Being critical of others when they don't live up to your expected norms of behavior

  • Social anxiety

  • Guilt, self-doubt, inner criticism, and/or shame after interactions when you don't “perform” well

  • Living in the mind all day long

  • (not a comprehensive list...)

 

Deeper Symptoms, may include one or more of the following:

  • A vague sense that we are somehow fraudulent, or “impostor syndrome”

  • The desire and behavioral orientation towards being universally liked

  • Living a life that does not feel like your own

  • A misalignment between one's life and one's deeper values

  • Living extensively in the future

  • Internal harshness and demands on oneself

  • A life which looks good but does not feel good

  • Not really knowing what authentic self-expression means. For example, sometimes we hear the words just be yourself. And this sounds great. But what does it mean? It's not always so easy. And that's a big part of where FI comes from.

  • Fear of scarcity—sense of not being enough or having enough is a powerful glue holding one to the course of FI

  • A feeling of mediocrity even if one is outwardly successful

  • Connections remain shallow rather than deep

  • (not a comprehensive list…)

 

Possibilities of Change

The one who experiences FI identifies it and decides to do something about it primarily because of these symptoms and negative consequences. Only you can determine of course whether any of the symptoms applies in your case. Yet, even if one recognizes the symptoms, deciding to change is always of course absolutely a free choice. If you choose not to, then please make that choice with a maximum of self-compassion and a minimum of self-judgment.

 

Values expressed in FI

In Steven Covey's famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he details an extensive review of success literature going back to 1776. For 150 years, the focus of success literature is a Character Ethic—fundamental, universal human values and virtues.

And after that? Primarily what he calls the Personality Ethic. Superficial quick fixes, techniques, and image-crafting.

Personality is clearly more superficial than character.  True change and inner strength derive from working on the level of character, which is deeper work. It's about cultivating the better qualities we possess.

FI expresses values connected to appearance-based success, short-term thinking, vanity, comparison. “Being normal” overrides authenticity.

 

The Underlying Attitude in FI

The deep, typically unconscious (possibly surprising) attitude is the false hope that if one redeems themselves enough in the eyes of others, they will perhaps redeem themselves in their own eyes. Fulfillment becomes an external chase for something, always in the distance, rather than an inner realization that happens moment-to-moment.

Part of the attitude connects to the inherent discomfort of fear.  Fear typically appears to be connected to an accurate perception of reality, but may in fact be irrational.  We don't manage to confront these fears of rejection or challenge the beliefs and our own mental narratives which sustain FI behavior patterns.

 

Implications and Encouragement

Fortunately, once we are aware of this, we can summon the courage to realize that on other side of fear, always, is more of who we are.

We can begin to realize the greatness connected to who we actually are in our own unique brilliance. Which is about belonging.

 

 

Belonging

Definition

Belonging corresponds to healthy expression of the wish to contribute, exchange, and claim one's place in the world. One identifies their own values, their strengths and weaknesses, their unique gifts and talents and interests, and moves in the direction of increasing fulfillment and positive intentionality.

Rather than being dependent on external approval, one operates from a place of inner strength and self-trust.  At the heart of belonging is being responsible for one's own thoughts and emotions, rather than relying on how others see the situation.  While one is open to the opinions of others, one has let go of the dependency on others' thoughts and leans on his/her own best judgment. 

For example, one is willing to risk rejection in the name of what he/she stands for, but more often than not in a well-considered, balanced way. Because of the self-assurance and moral courage, he/she expresses who they are with measured confidence.  Others respond to this.  Natural connection, the sense of having something to share with others, and a sense of satisfaction and feeling energized go along with belonging. 

And in a world of 7 billion diverse viewpoints, one who belongs has let go of the need to try to appeal to all of them.  One recognizes deeply that they will be liked and disliked by some regardless of how they show up, so they might as well be themselves. 

 

Important additional details

(1) Risking rejection is not to be confused with rebellion. Rebellion is beholden to the same dynamics as FI but uses denial as a coping mechanism.  Rebellion makes believe it is beyond FI, but the inner motivations have the same roots.  In belonging, risking rejection comes with a sense of discernment and is not done for its own sake or appearances.

(2) Belonging isn't necessarily about being big or famous. One occupies a place from which they feel a powerful, satisfying sense of enoughness, which comes with gratitude and humility. What they do in the world and the people that are around them just feel like a natural fit.

(3) I can share that this is not a steady, ongoing state for me at this moment. I speak from periods, moments, and glimpses. I still am practicing the transition to Belonging and letting go of the old patterns of FI.

(4) Belonging is not black or white. It develops along a spectrum. As with FI, its degree can vary and it can show up differently in different areas of one's life.

(5) Escape is when takes an avoidant stance towards society and is neither about fitting in nor belonging.  It is beholden to the same dynamics as FI but chooses that the safest route is to step out altogether.  This is not to be mistaken with a healthy pause, sabbatical, learning quest, or gap year. 

 

The Underlying Attitude

One realizes at some moment that social masks and conformity will never take them to what they are trying to realize in their lives. More than outward success based on formulas and scripts, one looks to define success on one's own terms. He/she learns to accept the risk that goes with having a less pre-defined course of action. They become willing to find their own leadership and more embracing of the possibilities that come with uncertainty, even if that means facing a lot of fear. They look to become the author of their own lives rather than drifting along by the currents of society.

There is significant challenge that comes with letting go of the references one has been given by parents, society, school, and peers. Finding what is truthful and what is false in one's existing frame of reference for oneself is a work of discernment.  It can entail an extended period of transition.

 

Values expressed

Authenticity, character, moral courage, self-reliance, self-responsibility, integrity.

 

Conclusion

A client had told me she suffers from impostor syndrome, one of the symptoms I mention above. She described it more or less as the fear of being revealed as a fraud. She began to let go of calming and soothing that fear in the vein of fitting in.  She began to challenge herself to express more authentically. She began to face the narratives that would keep her dissatisfied and stuck in thinking the problems were external in the circumstances.

Her bosses and colleagues were blown away by the true wisdom, insight, and intelligence of her better self.  It ironically earned her loads of recognition.  FI had of course never earned that for her in that way. She claimed self-responsibility and her whole professional situation transformed around her (promotion, raise, new projects, meeting 1:1 with CEO). It was inspiring to see.

I know a fair number of people who have embraced what it takes to find belonging.  It takes vigilance to face oneself on ever deeper levels. Among those, I have sometimes heard complaints because of the challenges which naturally arise.  Ultimately, though I never heard a single person say they would prefer to go back to the lives they were previously living. I have never met a person like Cypher in the Matrix movie.

Whichever tree you decide to climb, do it by choice and know what the implications are.  Mangos will never grow on lemon trees.

Peace, Wealth, and The Marvelous Lesson of Warren Buffett and Nonstop You

Nonstop You.” ~Airline advertisement

You do things when the opportunities come along. I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve had a bundle of ideas come along, and I’ve had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I’ll do something. If not, I won’t do a damn thing.” ~Warren Buffett

 

Let's conduct a practical comparison of the wisdom embodied in each of the quotes above.

Nonstop you may be hip, but it isn't wise.

Stick with me as we keep this very basic for the time-being.

Followed literally, the slogan implies that rest is irrelevant. A cursory examination of basic evidence brings exactly the opposite conclusion.

Nighttime happens. Weekends happen. Vacations happen.

They are necessary. They recharge and rejuvenate us. Rest connects us to natural rhythms that are inescapable not to mention enjoyable elements of life.

It's just a simple marketing message and not at all a big deal of course. But it's interesting to consider what the underlying attitude is and the cultural implications that such a message is connected to.

Life is, for example, like seasons, or the ocean, or our own breath. For each of us, and everything in nature, it goes through cycles of expansion and contraction. When we learn to tune into that and see where we are in any given moment relative to those cycles, we learn to relax and move more in flow, more in alignment with ourselves. When we fight to be in expansionary mode all the time, it is a recipe for dissatisfaction and ineffectiveness.

This fight can also lead to the sense that we are doing something wrong and even a sense of despair. Yet of course a seed that sprouts in winter is doomed.

Given that it is a marketing message, it seeks resonance with its audience. And such a large company obviously does a lot of work and throws a lot of resources at defining such a message.

The message appeals to a frequency of stress and anxiety in the audience, which has learned to subconsciously believe perhaps that this is what makes someone important.

Generally speaking, we, our western culture, practice stress and anxiety on the way to arriving somewhere else.  When we arrive somewhere else, we think the outer conditions will remove the inner tone of our lives. But we perfect what we practice. The stress and anxiety won't go away because we reached some external milestone. We'll have fed stress and anxiety super-size meals and expect them to be skinny.

If we want to learn to be at peace, if we want to be happy, we need to learn to practice the art of being at peace, and learn to cultivate happiness step-by-step.  The long way is the short cut because it's the only way that works.

And that is in no way mutually exclusive of having meaningful external goals. The point is that they can go hand-in-hand and understanding and acting on that is a higher level of practice and habit.

If for some reason you don't find yourself seeking peace, then that's of course fine.  What we want is up to each of us.  But what I'd like to encourage is not giving into the trap of wanting to be at peace and then following a path that isn't going to take you there.

 

Now let's bring our attention to Warren Buffett's wisdom.

You know, I always heard he is super intelligent and wise, but I never really had much exposure to his thinking until recently. I came across a page with 107 of his quotes and I was impressed to see what a remarkable man he is in many respects. I don't know much about him, but I can definitely learn something from him.

The quote above indicates one of the great keys to his success, from what I can tell. What I read in this quote is self-trust. Self-trust is foundational in us doing anything meaningful, self-expressive, and powerful in our lives.

How often, with a message of nonstop you bombarding us in all sorts of ways from different angles, might we feel something is wrong if no ideas are naturally occurring to us? How often might we compensate by trying to effort a solution? How often is there fear that that slow moment is going to somehow become permanent? (Maybe my best days are behind me! As fingernails find teeth to help them become chewed.)

So we fight against it rather than flow with it. And instead of truly enjoying a natural opportunity to gather strength for the next moment of expansion, we waste it by feeding our fear, stress, and anxiety. It puts us in touch with our innate fear of inadequacy. Quality of life suffers and our own effectiveness is limited. Because we essentially insisted it be summer while the days were getting shorter and colder. And so we missed the chance to drink hot chocolate and get warm by the fire.

In our western culture, we tend to value material success over many other possible ways of relating to life. While studies confirm this emphasis is undue beyond $75k USD income/year, I don't condemn this choice in a general way.  I also like comfort and luxury, and to each his own anyway.  (We will go deeper into money in the future.)  What I suggest though, for me as well as you, whether we are after peace, wealth, both, or pretty much anything else for that matter—learn the Marvelous Lesson of Warren Buffett and Nonstop You. Because there are a lot of messages, noise, and paths that will take us places we didn't mean to go.

A Reminder About Winning

To me, the tale of the tortoise and the hare couldn't be more profound. Let's take a second look at this beloved classic and interpret it from a new angle.

 

Inside the hare, the underlying attitude:

I am willing to overestimate myself and underestimate others as a way of life.

I like to measure and judge. My self-esteem is based on who I am relative to others--competition and comparison. It is based primarily on what I accomplish, not who I simply am. That is, external accomplishments feature centrally in propping my identity up.

I focus on the destination and results, to which I am of course naturally entitled. Results may not be in my control but that's all that I really care about nonetheless. I look forward to the recognition I will earn.  I dream of it. I can almost taste it.

The tortoise cannot possibly match up to my prowess. My explosive talent alone will earn me victory. I believe talent alone matters. My talent merits my arrogance. My talent merits a poor work ethic.  The actual race is a formality.

I've joined this race motivated by vanity. I want one more victory, one more notch on my belt. Why not choose somebody who is so obviously way beneath me? My thoughts, words, and actions are about ARRIVING somewhere although perhaps I pay lip service to the cliché that success is about the journey and not the destination.

 

Values expressed include

Appearance-based success; talent over character; results; competition/comparison; short-term thinking

 

Conclusion

The hare represents the ego.

Perhaps with a bit more humility, he could harness his raw talent towards something truly beautiful. The hare can learn better ways of being like anyone else. He's not forever condemned for losing a race. I like to think the hare learned from his failure. Because especially the one in the video is pretty cute.

 

 

Inside the tortoise, the underlying attitude:

I focus on each step. It matters not how much the odds appear to be stacked against me. I focus on and take care of all that which is in my direct control. Anything outside that is irrelevant.  I am not the type to waste lots of energy with stress, anxiety, and nerves neglecting to notice that all that is really up to me is how I run the race.

My competition has no impact on how I conduct myself. I may not have been dealt the greatest hand, but I will play it to my utmost. I believe in myself. I back up my intentions with the full strength of my will and character.

There's no use in getting anxious about the results. I have nothing to lose anyway so I can be relaxed. People don't have very high expectations of what I am capable of in this situation, but I have a hunch I can win.

I can't predict the future. There are no guarantees. But I trust that hunch and I'd like to see where that leads me. I will do my part. I will keep showing up, focused and determined, step after step after step after step. It would be easy to count myself out and entertain negative attitudes, but something deeper in me propels me forward in the face of that resistance. I draw on that in me. I will live up to that as best I can and maybe I will even inspire others.

If nothing else, this is a learning experience and an experiment that will somehow enrich my life. I am motivated to live well and express who I am.

 

Values expressed include

Self-trust, perseverance/determination, focus, willingness to fail, wisdom

 

Conclusion

The tortoise represents the best in each of us, our hearts and souls.

We can let the tortoise be a reminder about winning.

Let's remember to let go of the need for instant gratification, appearance-based motivations, and undue focus on competition. Let's face our fears and resistance, and the perceived weaknesses in the hand we've been dealt. Simply putting forward the best of what's available to us step-by-step even if it seems painfully slow--great, unexpected things can happen. Our character can take us further than we thought otherwise possible.

But the biggest thing is that it requires listening to ourselves rather than getting so caught up with all the noise around us.

Gain Freedom and Power by Climbing the 5 rungs of Self-responsibility

Introduction

Traffic. Long checkout lines. Difficult co-workers or bosses. Technology issues. A fly buzzing against the window nonstop. And so on.

It can be almost funny when we find ourselves in circumstances that don't match what we hoped. Sometimes the irritation feels intensely personal. It can become a referendum on our whole relationship with life. (Why are you doing this to me God!?)

How we perceive and relate to undesirable situations in our lives and work determines to a certain degree our effectiveness, happiness, and even our self-worth.

Climbing the ladder of self-responsibility advances our resilience and wherewithal in navigating such situations. Like any #truechange, it's a practice that slowly erodes entrenched thought patterns with the passage of time. Old narratives fade as we re-orient ourselves again and again towards healthier ways of seeing things. With vigilance.

Observing ourselves honestly but without unnecessary criticism reveals where the growth opportunities lie. I suggest the obvious, learning to enjoy the practice rather than feeding frustration because we think we should be further ahead.

It's likely that each of us shows up at different points along this ladder in different types of situations, depending on our own personal histories and where our trigger points lie. That's certainly true for me.  I am not a stranger to blame/reactivity or the other rungs.

 

1. Blame/Reactivity

Definition

Fighting to preserve one's own sense of innocence in the face of circumstances that didn't go according to plan. Something other than oneself is accountable. The defensive posture is habitual and automatic.

Simple Example

During a frustrated client's call, “it isn't my fault our business partner didn't deliver to you on time. It's their fault. You're being unfair.”

Underlying Attitude

If others see me at fault, that threatens me on some level.  I choose to hold others responsible for challenging or unfortunate circumstances because it calms the fear and emotional discomfort that I unconsciously associate with being "in the wrong".

A blind spot

I don't realize that others are more sympathetic and understanding when I take ownership of a situation that I have certainly in some way contributed to, even if other factors also play into consideration.

Value expressed

Importance of others recognizing I am free of fault.

Note

There are infinite varieties of blame/reactivity. It is safe to say that ALL heated arguments can only occur in the presence of reactivity and absence of self-responsibility.

 

2. Resignation

Definition

Submitting to a set of circumstances that are unpleasant or even harmful to me in some way because of my perceived inability to relate to that situation more constructively.

Example

“I stay in this job with a boss that abuses my self-esteem because I have young children at home and the security is too important.”

Underlying attitude

I see that I have a choice relative to my circumstances but ultimately my actions reveal I don't believe I am good enough to change the circumstances in a way that can create positive change. I resign myself to the circumstances I am experiencing. What my heart wants, my longing, is immature relative to my rational considerations. I have difficulty trusting that there's better out there for me and accepting that requires willingness to transition.

A blind spot

Acceptance of an unfortunate situation in the short-term can be necessary. But at the very least, an intermediate term plan for renewing or exiting these circumstances are what good health calls for. Limiting beliefs that detract from one's sense of personal empowerment are at play. Of course, the way an individual perceives the situation is what dictates their actions--the person has not been able to clearly consider and understand the realistic choices that are available to them.

Value expressed

In this particular example, security over self-worth. This is another way of saying fear over self-love.

 

3. Response-ability

Definition

Recognition that there is always(!) choice in how to respond to circumstances. We don't pay lip service to attitude being what is in our power, we truly acknowledge it. This awareness is where a greater sense of freedom and personal power emerges.

Example

“The person I am picking up is running late and we are going to arrive late to the event as a result. I choose to stay and wait because I see this as more important than being on time. I recognize this is my choice. Given the circumstances, I respond to what life presents rather than fighting against what is happening. With the dignity of my better self.”

Underlying attitude

I choose not to indulge the common temptation to blame or feel our lateness is a great, permanent tragedy. I manage my emotions and mental narratives in ways that are reassuring and constructive.

I see that my ability to choose my attitude relative to any given set of circumstances gives me great freedom to align with the higher values of my better self. I accept that life naturally and regularly presents circumstances which I perceive to be less than ideal.

I choose to consciously use these circumstances to test the best of my capacity. I engage in self-observation to not pin my emotions on anyone else or circumstances. My emotions are not an inevitable and logical consequence of what happens outside regardless of how much it may appear to me that way. The emotions I experience are my own and I am on a path of learning how to relate to them with greater and greater skill over time.

Value expressed

Empowerment through internal locus of control.

Note

I may of course decide to engage in healthy dialog to reach a greater shared understanding with my companion. If I choose to voice frustration or disappointment, I do so in a mature way that acknowledges the emotions I experience are my own. I realize my emotions are not an inevitable result of external circumstances.

Secondly, in this case, I don't consider or I actively don't believe the circumstances which arise are connected to me. These considerations become relevant with the 4th and 5th rungs.

 

4. Unconditional Self-responsibility

Definition

I consciously choose to perceive that I am responsible for whatever shows up in my life.

True Story Example

After 30 years of failure after failure, a failing body, a disappointed father, William James was depressed and on the brink of suicide. He chose to conduct an experiment. For one year, he would believe he was 100% responsible for everything that showed up in his life. This choice and what he learned in that first year is what formed the foundation for the rest of his life. It led him to become one of the most famous philosophers and psychologists in American history.

Underlying attitude

When I choose to take responsibility for absolutely EVERYTHING, then my life isn't about luck or chance anymore. This situation is here, I am responsible, and I am going to do the best I possibly can given the circumstances.

What is objectively true in life is nearly impossible for us to determine definitively. It's clear that any number of people can see a given situation, not to mention life itself, very differently. What William James and countless others have shown us is that what is powerful and empowering is taking unconditional responsibility for ourselves and our lives. We make this choice because of the practical benefit. We work out for ourselves what leads us to live better, more meaningful lives rather than relying on the dogma of anyone else.

Values expressed

Practicality, empowerment, open-mindedness.

Note

Various people have spoken about the law of attraction. Whether you believe in that or not becomes less than relevant under this approach. If you do happen to believe in it, then you have even more ample reason to take responsibility for what shows up in your life.

 

5. “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.” ~Rumi

Definition

Everything that happens to me is favorable, comes for my highest good, if I am willing to practice seeing things that way--even the traditionally "bad" stuff.

Example

“My friend ended up renting his house after all and I won't be able to get the rent-free and luxurious stay in Maui. Ok, well it's hard to imagine how paying rent and getting a smaller place is more desirable from my vantage point now. But what are all the possibilities of why something else might be better for me in the long run? What if a roommate becomes a lifelong friend? What if I am in the right place at the right time for something important because I was coming from a specific location that I wouldn't have been otherwise? Simple readily believable possibilities.”

The same type of thinking can go for missing a flight. Or anything we think of as "bad".

Also, what about people who got stuck in traffic on the way to the World Trade Center on 9/11?

And aside from this, what if the occurrences that are truly challenging grant us strength, resolve, and wisdom?

Underlying Attitude

Things will work out in a way in which my greater needs are served. Life is full of unpredictability. I can't possibly know all outcomes that will arise from this occurrence. I choose to believe that life is always friendly, even if my short-term outlook is skeptical.

Values Expressed

Practicality, faith, humility.

Note

It's easy to see things like those mentioned in the example in the rearview. The trick is to think this way before you have the benefit of hindsight because it enables you to become less judgmental about what is good and what is bad. It allows you to navigate with the greatest possible happiness and from a place of greater acceptance and relaxation, greater effectiveness.

Conclusion

Experiment. Enjoy.