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Revealed: Why Having a Clear Purpose and Vision is Vital for Happiness

Revealed: Why Having a Clear Purpose and Vision is Vital for Happiness

Having a clear life purpose and vision is vital for your happiness.  

Many people, especially in the U.S., believe the only way to have what you want is to work hard and long. And that having what you want will bring you happiness.

I was under that misguided belief during my corporate career. Overworking, that led to chronic stress, was one of the main reasons that led to my health crisis and eventual change of careers (read more about that here).

Now as a coach and business owner, I still occasionally struggle with letting these limiting thoughts go. Thoughts like “Work is a priority above all other things”, “You’ll be seen as lazy and average if you don’t put in at least 8-10 hours a day”, or “You can’t be successful doing what you love, that’s what hobbies are for.”   

So how do you work smarter, not harder? Or love what you do so much that it doesn’t feel like work?

What do you do when things have changed, due to a job loss or health issue, that make the old way of living no longer possible? Or when there is a disconnect between the work role or personal role you fill and what you really desire for yourself?

You start with getting crystal clear about your purpose.

I’m a firm believer that everyone can benefit from life purpose work if you’re open to it and want to discover who you are at a deep level.

Your Life Purpose

Doing fulfilling work is a pipe dream for many people. It doesn’t have to be.

Purpose is intention. It’s defined as something set up with an end to be attained. Doing things on purpose is doing them intentionally. Life gets so much easier when you live on-purpose, doing things intentionally.

Wayne Dyer said it best: “When you stay on purpose and refuse to be discouraged by fear, you align with the infinite self, in which all possibilities exist.”

Your life purpose is your calling. It’s the reason that gives meaning to your life. An example is the nurse whose life purpose is to work generously and live in service to care for the health and wellbeing of others.

Discovering your life purpose focuses the attention on “be-ing” who you are. When you focus on “be-ing”, you do what you want and you get what you need.

Your Vision and Mission

Don’t confuse your life purpose with your vision or mission.

Your vision is a specific, compelling image of the future that you hold for your life.

Once you have determined your purpose, a vision gives context to your purpose and aligns you to that future state. Our nurse’s vision is that all people in need are able to receive high quality medical care.   

Your mission is the particular way you choose to fulfill your purpose at a specific point in your life. Continuing with our nurse example, her mission as she approaches retirement is to create a non-profit organization so that nurses and other medical personnel are able to visit poor rural communities and provide healthcare to those in need.

The Benefits of Life Purpose Work

Life purpose has been an interesting and popular topic for years. Perhaps you’ve read the best seller The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren or some other book about life purpose, mission statements or personal fulfillment.

Each of us has a unique life purpose. When you know your purpose, you have stability and security in that knowledge. It brings a sense of peace.

Once you determine your life purpose, you have a clear direction to take when deciding on what actions to take. Your life purpose guides you and keeps you on course.

It also provides a sense of confidence in knowing you’re doing what’s right and best for you. Having a clear life purpose minimizes confusion about your motives and what things mean to you.

Your life has more meaning when you’re “be-ing” on purpose.

Your Next Step: Take Intentional Action

There’s a desire for more self-reflection and life purpose work when you reach a certain age, life stage or if you’re in the midst of a life transition. Major events in your life could include job loss, divorce, 15-20 years in your career, empty nest/children have left, death of a loved one, or approaching retirement.

You may be experiencing one or more of these, and the desire for clarity and purpose is growing for you.

Keep in mind, it’s not easy to discover your purpose and vision when your life is busy. This is deep work; it’s a process of getting to know yourself fully.

You’ll have to carve out the time and effort this will require. Get in a quiet place where you’ll be able to do the deep self-reflection this requires.

1. Start with discovering your life purpose. Work with a coach or do some self-study to determine what it is.

This can be done by examining your past experiences, like listing out the roles you’ve found most fulfilling in your life. Or talking about some of the things you’ve always loved doing throughout your life.

2. Then, go a step further and examine those answers to find bigger themes, commonalities, repetitive words and key phrases.

3. Next, create your own unique life purpose statement using those key words and phrases.

4. Lastly, confirm your purpose. Does it resonate with how you see yourself and your vision? Do you feel happy and excited when you review it? Do you feel connected to it at a deep level and have a desire to fulfill it?

Your life purpose statement could take weeks or months of reviewing and refining. If working with a coach, it could take up to 3 or more sessions of working deeply together.

Once you have it, remember it’s for your own personal use. It’s a tool to inspire and guide you. To be on-purpose. To live on-purpose. You don’t need to share your life purpose statement with anyone else.

Enjoy the process of discovering your life purpose and once you have it, you can create your vision and mission next.

 

Photo by Matt Noble on Unsplash

What’s Draining Your Energy and What to Do About It

What’s Draining Your Energy and What to Do About It

Have you ever thought about what’s draining your energy and what to do about it?

In our fast-paced and ever-changing world, we react to things and don’t realize the negative impact until later. These energy drains can lead to all sorts of issues and keep you from a satisfying career and happy life.

You’re probably familiar with the typical energy drains: not enough sleep, not drinking enough water, little to no physical activity, too much TV or social media, not eating well. In addition, you may be struggling with habits, coping mechanisms, and other situations that have an impact on your energy levels and wellbeing.

When I worked in corporate, the pressure to perform was extreme and unfair. There was a lot of complaining and working in HR, I heard it from all directions. There wasn’t time to take a breath, step back and act with intention. Things felt out of control. Add in office politics, power plays and changing priorities, along with the latest fire to put out, it was the definition of an energy drain on steroids.

These perfect-storm situations suck the life out of you, are unproductive, and at times physically and mentally debilitating. It crushes your spirit, and your happiness.

The Little Things That Drain Your Energy

The little things that drain your energy are the things you just handle. They seem insignificant, or not worth giving much thought. Unfortunately, they add up over time.

You ignore them, or think they’ll get better on their own without making any kind of focused effort toward making it better. Typically, you don’t act until it gets so bad that you can’t stand it anymore.

For example, let’s say you have a messy desk, and your desktop and folders on your PC are disorganized too. These are the little things that keep you from finding things easily. When you have to spend extra time to find something, you get frustrated. Your work and how effective you are suffers as a result.

Other little things that drain your energy are unfinished work items like a project that you push aside for more urgent matters.

Unmade decisions, like hiring a new team member or buying a new mobile phone, pick away at your vitality too. Every time you think about how you haven’t made that decision, it robs you of your energy.

Clutter, in all its forms, drains your energy too. It could be a garage overflowing with unnecessary things you’ll never use again or the clutter in your head as you worry about things outside of your control.

One last thing that you might not realize is an energy drain is a toxic relationship you tolerate. These are the one-sided friendships or the negative friends that leave you drained after spending any amount of time with them.

Let’s say you plan to have an enjoyable lunch with a friend, and the entire conversation is all about her and her problems, all the negative things in the world and a rant about politics.

When you finally get a chance to share about you she’s on her phone or has to leave. It’s exhausting. These types of relationships are energy vampires – they suck all the life out of you and you leave feeling tired, numb and upset.

The Big Things That Drain Your Energy

The big things that drain your energy are the things you know are diminishing the quality of your life. You may accept them as normal, as I did when I brought work home to do in the evenings and weekends. Or tolerating a toxic work environment as if all companies would be the same.

These big things may stem from a habitual pattern you have, like taking things personally when they have nothing to do with you. That in turn leads to hurt feelings and strained relationships.

They may be the things you don’t know how to effectively deal with, like a demanding boss, a challenging relationship with your child or an aging parent who needs more time than you can give them. All draining your energy.

Remember that life is a journey and it’s meant to have positive and negative aspects. You don’t need to create suffering, there will be plenty of it naturally.

Your goal with small and big energy drains is to acknowledge they exist, accept what they’re costing you and then move beyond them.

Here’s a 3 step process to intentionally address how to do this.

Take Intentional Action

1. Make a short list of the energy drains, or obstacles, getting in your way of being satisfied and happy – include 5 from work and 5 from home.

2. Next, ask yourself what each of these items is costing you and write that down. It could be loss of time, exhaustion, inconvenience, frustration, loss of health or wellbeing, strained relationships, or missed opportunities.

For example, your closet is a disaster and every morning it takes way too long to find the clothes you want to wear, usually making you late and frustrated (cost = frustration, being late, anger).

Or you haven’t decided to start looking for another job yet despite thinking about it for months given the current climate at your workplace. It’s causing you stress every time you think about it or when you see colleagues taking action to benefit their careers. The cost here is the negative impact of stress on your health and wellbeing, plus loss of quality sleep since it’s been keeping you up at night too.  

3. Lastly, find ways to eliminate, minimize or manage these obstacles. Start off with an easy one, like plan two hours to clean out and organize your closet or garage this weekend. Or commit to updating your resume one evening this week. Click here for help with getting organized.

Delegation works well too. If your energy drain is finding the time to keep a clean home, delegate it by hiring someone else to clean it.

Some of these obstacles could be intentionally delayed. For example, if you need to buy a new computer you can put a day in your calendar for three weeks from now to start the research and shopping, when you’ll have more free time on the weekends.

When you eliminate an obstacle, you’ll feel like a weight’s been lifted when you make that decision. It could be as simple as refusing to spend time with any energy vampires or others that don’t treat you well. Or deciding to not participate in any workplace gossip or drama is another empowering and energizing step.

Keep working your list until you’ve moved beyond all your obstacles that are draining your energy. At any point in the future, redo this process to ensure you’re keeping your energy and wellbeing at optimal levels.

 

 

Photo by Twins Fisch on Unsplash

The Greatest Advice Ever – Do What’s Best for You

The Greatest Advice Ever – Do What’s Best for You

Here’s the greatest advice ever – do what’s best for you.

Especially now as many parts of the world are slowly opening back up following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here in the U.S. we’re at the beginning stages and it’s bringing on another set of decision making and coping skills.

Some people are acting like nothing’s changed and have jumped right into the deep end of the pool. They are going to restaurants (if open and permissible), to the beach or to other crowded places, like bars. They wear no masks and aren’t concerned with staying 6 feet apart or washing their hands frequently.

Others are optimistically cautious and dipping their toe in, venturing out to a store for the first time in weeks, sometimes months. Proud of themselves that they are taking this big step.

They wear masks and gloves and do all the right things – staying 6 feet apart, minimizing exposure by shopping alone, going through the self-checkout and getting what they need and leaving as quickly as possible.
It feels best for them.

We’ve got more decisions to make now. There’s a constant push and pull of going too fast and not going fast enough.

Occasionally there’s pressure to socialize before you’re ready. Here’s an example: an acquaintance invited you to a 50th birthday party, where you can drive by in your car or venture into the driveway to celebrate (there are lots of creative social distancing party ideas here). Do you go? What will she think if you don’t participate? You may think, I barely know her, why is she inviting all these Facebook friends like me to do this at a time like this?

You may be conflicted when your neighbors ask you over for wine or dinner, yet you know they’ve been shopping every day for weeks just to get out of the house, ignoring the stay at home order. Are they carrying the virus? Will it be safe to be so close even for an hour or two? Even if you stay outside and 6 feet apart?

Or maybe you have a friend who wants to visit you after visiting her son who works in a healthcare facility where they’ve had cases of COVID-19. Do you visit with her outside only? What if she needs to use the bathroom during the visit – is that safe? How will that work?

Sometimes it’s a fine balance between wanting to please others, wanting to enjoy yourself (you miss socializing), and doing what you know is best for you.

Do What’s Best for You

The greatest advice during these times is to do what’s best for you.

Whether or not you’re in a high risk group for getting sick (or living with someone that is), you must do what makes you comfortable and don’t let pressure from others, self-doubt or feeling bad for saying no prevent you from taking care of yourself first.

No one is going to watch out for you so you must do what’s right for you – no matter what. It is that important.

Even if it’s hard to say no. Even if the whole neighborhood is gathering in street for a social distancing party and you don’t feel comfortable being around neighbors who you know have had visitors and service people in and out of their homes recently.

Trust Yourself

Learning to trust yourself and your decisions is a skillset worth cultivating. It gets easier with time and practice.

Paying attention to your body’s signals is one way to build your intuition. Some people call it a gut feeling; they may feel a tightness or knot in their gut when something doesn’t feel right for them. It’s their signal to say no.

Others really pay attention to their emotions and get curious. For example, maybe you’re feeling excited but also scared when your hair stylist calls now that she’s reopened and has an open spot for you.

You’re conflicted about going to get your haircut and colored – you know you’ll look and feel better, but how safe will you be?

You want to support your stylist who hasn’t been working in almost 2 months which makes you feel connected and supportive, yet you’re not willing to being in a confined space with her for 2 hours. The fear enters again.

Realize it’s perfectly normal to feel conflicted, and trust that you’ll make the best decision for yourself. Perhaps you followed the advice here about trusting your body’s signals (feelings and emotions), and decide to get your haircut but schedule it for 3 weeks from now.

That way, you figure your stylist has some time to work the kinks out and adjust to how she can best keep her customers safe. That helps reduce the fear you were feeling.

At the same time, you’ll be supporting her business and feeling excited about finally getting your hair done. The choice is still yours but you’re doing it on your terms, aligned to making you feel safe, connected and supportive.

Take Intentional Action

The next time you feel conflicted about how to proceed, follow the two steps here to get back to a centered place and do what’s best for you.

1. Slow down and notice that this decision is causing conflict in you; becoming aware is key.

As humans, many times we’re in automatic mode and don’t take the time to slow down. We react quickly without much thought.

This fast-paced world we live in doesn’t help. Taking a few deep breaths and intentionally slowing down does help.

And don’t be afraid to delay your decision – letting someone know you’ll get back to them tomorrow, and then sticking to that agreement, is very empowering. Saying “Let me sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow” works well.

2. Take responsibility and act in a way that’s aligned to what is best for you. Realizing that you are the creator, not the victim, of your life is a great core belief to have. In other words, you GET to decide, what a privilege.

And being clear about what’s best for you before you act is important. Build your instinctual power by practicing it on a regular basis.

A great time to get clarity for me is during or right after meditating. For most decisions, I spend a few minutes slowing down, getting centered and then trusting my instinct and decision. But for bigger choices or ones that I still feel confused about, during or after meditation the following morning is the solution.

So remember, always do what’s best for you. You’ll feel better, make better decisions and have more control as you continue to navigate the uncertainty in this journey ahead.

 

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

How to be Hopeful When There’s Not Much Hope

How to be Hopeful When There’s Not Much Hope

How do you feel hopeful when so much in the world is uncertain? At times, it can seem like there’s no hope.

Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.

How can you expect a positive outcome or make plans when things are beyond your control? I’m sure you’ve heard about people who had to change their plans due to COVID-19. Big plans. Big events. Things like weddings, vacations, graduations, anniversary parties, and other celebrations. All delayed, or even cancelled entirely.

There are many ways to find your way back to hope, below are just a few with specific action steps at the end.

Realize you get to choose

When events seem out of your control, do you choose to be hopeful? You can choose:

  • to be hopeful that our leaders will guide us properly during the upcoming weeks and months of opening our environments up again.
  • to be hopeful that the economy and your 401K balance will come back as it typically does during these cyclical times.
  • to be hopeful that you and your loved ones will continue to stay healthy and safe by taking the right precautions and following good advice and practices to stay safe.

When you take responsibility for your feelings and choose how you want to feel about a circumstance, you become empowered.

It doesn’t matter if that circumstance is within your control or not. You may not be able to affect the outcome, but you can affect the way you think and feel about it.

Modify your expectations

We set ourselves up for frustration and disappointment when our expectations are unrealistic and set too high. Or if we cling to the same expectations when current circumstances are calling for them to be changed.

What are your expectations for your 2020 goals? Now might be a good time to reevaluate where they are in light of the pandemic and modify your expectations for achieving them.

A business owner friend expected to double her sales this year and was on target in January and February, and then her business was forced to shutdown. She’s turned to plan B and plan C to bring income in, and has modified her expectations for the remainder of this year to minimize further disappointment.

Find the silver lining

Look for meaning in the most challenging of situations. It brings a sense of peace and satisfaction, even if the meaning is simply learning something new.

For example, if working from home is new and challenging for you, the deeper meaning could be viewed as an opportunity to work on a skillset you’re developing, like patience, perseverance or how to handle change.  

There are so many silver linings with the global pandemic. You can look for examples and find them every day.

I see neighbors being more neighborly and taking the time to get to know each other better, and support each other when in need. Even though we’re social distancing, I see more connection – and deeper connections – via phone calls and webmeetings. Friends and relatives are checking in on each other, even ones who haven’t spoken in years.

There’s less traffic, less air pollution, more empathy and more willingness to help others – so much good from this “slow down” that’s been forced upon us.

Take Purposeful Action

Hope is something you can create. I encourage you to take what you’ve learned above and act. Here are 5 steps to follow to be hopeful when there’s not much hope:

1. Notice the feeling of hopelessness; become aware of it. Awareness is powerful in itself. Pay attention to your feelings or thoughts that may be causing hopelessness.

2. Pause & breathe. It may help to think or say aloud “I’m going to pause right now and take a few deep breaths”, then take 3 or 4 deep diaphragmatic breaths to calm your nervous system.  

3. Get curious. Don’t try to stop or shut down the feeling. Sit with it and get curious about it. Ask yourself questions like, what’s causing me to feel this way? Could this be some other feeling instead? Am I physically run down and that’s impacting my mood and feelings?

4. Decide to take responsibility. Accept and trust that your life is exactly that, YOUR life. You create your experiences and can choose what kind of experiences they are. And if you desire, you can change what you’re experiencing at any point.   

5. Act: choose a better feeling thought and then take a small action in that same direction. For example, choose to appreciate the positive in your life: like being grateful that you’re still healthy, and then go take a quick walk around your neighborhood, enjoying the weather and fresh air.

You may not be able to control a lot these days. Uncertainty is at unprecedented levels. But you can dismiss the victim mindset, and instead control how you think and feel about certain things.

Hopelessness, and the inevitable suffering from it, is optional. Remember, you have a choice to be hopeful when there’s not much hope.

 

 

Photo by Rose Erkul on Unsplash

Make Groups a Priority for More Success in Your Life

Make Groups a Priority for More Success in Your Life

Groups are beneficial in many ways. There’s nothing like physical and social distancing to make you realize how important connection is for us humans.

It’s become clear to me recently how much of a positive impact groups can have. I’ve experienced it recently and have seen numerous examples of the strength and potential power that being part of a group provides.

Here are a few reasons why you need to make groups a priority for attracting more success in your life. If you’re interested in fast-tracking results and benefiting from groups, I’ve also included strategic action steps at the end to help you.

Synergy in Groups

Groups create synergy. It’s not just about strength in numbers, it’s about the interaction of 2 or more people who come together with a shared purpose, goal, or interest. This combined effect is greater than the sum of any separate effects.

You can expect to see enhanced results and quantum leaps in outcomes – they’re bigger and better in groups than if you’re attempting it alone.

I belong to a group for women business owners. We have a weekly practice we do individually on Sundays where you take time to celebrate your past week’s efforts, note any challenges, and put focus on your top 3 priorities for the upcoming week. These items and a few other things are all written down onto a sheet.

Recently we’ve been meeting online as a group, and completing our individual sheets together, and then breaking out into groups of 3 to share what we’ve written.

The synergy from this group practice is noticed by all. People have been doing the same exercise on their own for months, even years, and now comment about how the group practice adds depth, provides more clarity and the sharing allows other ideas and advice to be added for greater results.

Sense of Community

Groups provide a deep sense of community. They help people feel connected and aligned to a common interest or goal.

When you’re feeling connected you feel warm, happy and positive, and realize that you are part of something bigger than yourself.

And when you are aligned to a common interest or goal, your individual effort and contribution adds to the overall effort and output of the group. You feel accepted and validated, and are capable of so much more than if you were struggling on your own.

Groups that volunteer for a specific cause, like building a community park, and spiritual / religious groups are great examples of how groups provide that sense of community.

Personal Growth and Development

Groups help you grow and develop. Not only can you learn more about specific subjects, you learn about different viewpoints, how to interact with others, and more about yourself, like what motivates you or what bores you.

These soft skills help you in your professional development too, as they easily translate to your relationship and team building skills in the workplace.

I learned a tremendous amount about gardening after creating, from scratch, a beautifully landscaped backyard garden full of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Last year I joined a local gardening group where I can share what I’ve learned over the past 12 years.

I’m also learning new things about vegetable gardening, native plants and even hydroponics. The group members share a common interest, and help each other grow and develop into even better gardeners by sharing seeds and plants, offering advice on getting rid of pests, and connecting for group field trips to local gardens.

We’ve recently met online which was great because members were able to walk around their homes and gardens and show off all their hard work. It was entertaining and helpful, and we may even continue online meetings on a regular basis, even after we go back to meeting in person (#thanksCOVID).

Take Purposeful Action: Make Groups a Priority

Let’s get strategic and purposeful now.

Evaluate any groups of which you’re currently a member. When is the last time you participated in a meeting or event? If you’ve been missing meetings re-evaluate whether it’s really the right group for you. Has it changed since you first joined it?  Is it aligned with your goals or interests? Give it another chance and see if it’s still a good fit. If not, leave the group to make room for a new group that is.

Find new groups to join, and make sure they’re ones that are aligned with your values, interests and goals. Meetup.com is a good place to find others with similar interests. There are groups related to hobbies (reading, hiking, photography), social groups (dog walking, day trips, travel), business-related professional groups (networking, business learning, industry groups like HR professionals) and other interests.

You can also do a LinkedIn or Google search to find any industry groups or online meetings that match your interests.

I run a local networking group for professional women. It meets online now, but typically meets in person at a coffee shop to network, learn, and support each other.

I encourage you to find the best groups for you (or start your own group), make participating in them a priority, and pay attention to the benefits and results you’re receiving as a benefit.

Is there 1 group you are part of that you can’t live without? What is it and how has it helped you have more success in your life?  Please let us know in the comments below.

 

 

Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Why Everyone Needs Meditation

Why Everyone Needs Meditation

Everyone needs meditation, and this recent example is why.

Something felt off. I overslept the past two days due to poor quality sleep (seasonal allergies + a muscle pull in my neck) and I missed my morning meditation. I figured I’d have to time to get it in later in the day, but that didn’t happen.

Now that I reflect back on it, I felt less clear headed and energetic throughout these days. Was it the poor sleep, or missing my meditation practice? Most likely a combination of the two.

So this morning, I was determined to get back into my daily routine. I know from experience that meditation is a game changer for people.

I recommend it to all my clients and I’ve seen the phenomenal results that come from meditating regularly.

Personally, after two days of missing my meditation, it felt like coming home this morning. No racing thoughts, but instead peace of mind, tranquility, stillness, clarity – all the things that put a smile on my face during and after my practice.

I was floating afterwards and in a high energy, happy mood. So much so that my 14 year old dog picked up on it. This dog who now sleeps about 90% of the time, grabbed his toy and started chasing me around the house, poking me with his toy to get me to chase him back.

Our pets know energy better than we do, and he certainly was picking up on my high energy and was loving it.

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation has been around for thousands of years and has numerous benefits. It triggers your body’s relaxation response to reduce stress and anxiety, lengthens your attention span, and is highly beneficial to your emotional wellbeing and for people struggling with addictive behaviors.

Meditation also increases self-awareness and emotional intelligence, two very important traits for professionals and leaders to help with relationships in the workplace and at home.

I was encouraged to start a meditation practice by numerous experts during a health crisis years ago. The root cause of my illness was eventually determined to be work-related stress.

I only wish I took that advice to meditate regularly sooner, I may not have suffered as long. If you experience a lot of stress or have unresolved health related issues, read more about the impact of stress and why you should care here.

A simple practice of a few minutes of meditating per day or in particular situation (before or after) can bring you a sense of calm during stress or help center and ground you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

I know meditation on a regular basis works, I personally don’t need scientific proof to experience something and realize the benefits directly.

However, if scientific confirmation helps others become more open to the concept of meditation and gets them to start practicing it, then by all means, keep the research going.

There are plenty of scientific studies reporting that meditation helps relieve anxiety and depression, improve focus and attention, increase concentration, and improve overall psychological well-being.

Meditation has also been shown to produce favorable changes in the brain. In this Forbes article, 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain, several studies are cited showing how meditation preserves the aging brain, reduces activity in the “Me Center” or “monkey mind”, changes key areas of the brain that support learning and memory, improves concentration and attention, and reduces anxiety.

Are you convinced yet that everyone needs to meditate?

Take Purposeful Action: Start a Daily Practice

If you’re not mediating now, start a daily practice. If you don’t think you have time for it, start off with a 1 – 5 minute practice first thing in the morning.

Keep it simple. Find a space where you won’t be disturbed and sit comfortably.

Set a timer: I like the Insight Timer app available for iOS and Android.

Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. It may help to count your breaths (inhale: 1, 2, 3, 4, exhale: 1, 2, 3, 4).

As thoughts arise, observe them without judging, and let them go.

Try smiling to support a feeling of inner calm and joy. It gets easier with continued practice and when you start seeing the benefits.

After some regular practice and when you feel ready, slowly increase the time you meditate. If you start with 5 minutes per day, increase it to 6 or 7 minutes after a couple of weeks. You’ll know when you’re ready.

Some additional tips: play soft music to help you get in a relaxed mood, write down how you feel before and after, and if you keep a journal write directly after meditation. You may be pleasantly surprised by the content.

Lastly, if you feel fidgety or tense while meditating remind yourself that it’s a normal part of the process and a great reason to continue. Over time you’ll find that getting into a relaxed state comes easily and quickly.

Next thing you know, you’ll be buying a “heavily meditated” t-shirt to wear proudly in public.

Take Purposeful Action (For Current Meditators): Try Something New

If you already have a daily meditation practice, I’m sure you see its value and don’t need me to tell you to continue it.

I do want to encourage you to change it up or enhance your daily practice by adding different types of meditation every so often, like once a month or once every few weeks.

You can try a guided meditation on YouTube or one of the meditation apps, a mindfulness meditation, a group meditation experience, or a walking meditation.

Here’s one to try this weekend. Take a walk in a wooded area or other peaceful place out in nature for a walking meditation.

While walking, get centered and grounded by paying attention to your feet as they move, the strength in your legs, and the air easily flowing into and out of your lungs.

Then, bring your focus to all the beautiful things that surround you. Notice the birds, butterflies, and other wild life. Pay attention to the trees, the wind moving the leaves, and the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Be present with the whole experience. Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, no listening to music, books or podcasts during this walking meditation, and put your phone on do not disturb mode if it’s with you.

In the comments below, share the one benefit you want most from your daily meditation practice? Or, if you already meditate regularly, what’s the best benefit you’ve gotten from it? Please share to encourage others.

 

 

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

“I’ve been completely off my morning meditation routine for the last 3 weeks. The stress about this pandemic has gotten to me.”

“My health goals are so hard to stick to now.”

“I struggle so much with a lack of willpower to get anything done, especially with the pandemic and kids home and emotionally feeling off.”

“I’m having a hard time sticking to my exercise routine. I blame it on this COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I was doing so well before the pandemic, and now I’m not.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

We are living in unprecedented times. You can’t ignore the stress and uncertainty that is part of your daily life right now.

Even going to the grocery store can turn into a traumatic event. You’ve got a face mask and gloves on for protection and to protect others. You’re attempting to stay 6 feet apart from other shoppers, waiting and losing patience for someone to just pick a carton of eggs already and leave the area. The longer you’re in there, the more exposed you are. The anxiety is creeping in. Plus you’re struggling to hear and shouting to be heard because most people are wearing face masks. Not exactly a peaceful experience.

When I went to the grocery store last week, I saw a worker with no mask stocking the frozen section and openly coughing without covering his mouth; I couldn’t get out of that aisle and store fast enough.

And that’s a shopping trip; add all the other things we do on a daily basis that is now impacted and at times it can feel like your whole world is upside down.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and let that knock you off your normal routine.

Sticking to your healthy habits seems harder than usual. Staying focused on your daily actions that help you achieve your goals seems impossible at times with everything else you have to contend with now.

Don’t Put Your Goals on Hold

Despite our current times, it is possible, and important, to not put your goals on hold.

We don’t know how long this will last. It could be 2 more weeks or 2 more months before businesses, schools and all the other places now closed open up again. Can you afford to hold off on achieving your goals for that long?

Goals require weekly, daily or even more frequent, focus and nurturing. If you put your goals on hold until “COVID is over” you’ll lose the momentum and progress you’ve already made.

If you need a few hours, or a day or two to get through some challenges, by all means take it. I’m a big proponent of balance and taking the time you need to address your priorities and stay healthy and balanced.

I recently moved to a new home and purposely cut back my work hours for 2 weeks knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to handle all that change and still carry a full workload.

Structure is Key

It’s so important in these uncertain times to ensure you’re doing all you can to bring more structure into every day. Structure gives you a sense of stability and certainty; things we need more than ever right now.

I’ve had clients get away from their daily meditation practice or other healthy habits for weeks, reporting that they felt off and not quite balanced.

If you don’t have a daily morning practice and need some help and ideas on how to begin, read my previous blog: Connect to Success Every Day for Best Results. There’s a link there to get a Morning Routine tool and checklist too.

In addition to an intentional daily practice, little things like showering, making your bed, taking a walk, keeping your home clean – these all add structure and stability right now.

Take Strategic Action Now

There are plenty of things you can do now despite your current COVID-19 restrictive reality.

First, add structure to your day with some of the suggestions above. Be sure to include a daily action that supports one of your bigger, long-term goals. For example, if you want to improve your health this year, committing to a daily walk would be ideal.

Second, stay positive and appreciate what you’re learning from this experience.

A lot of people are loving this slow-down that’s been forced upon us. They’re spending more quality time with loved ones they live with (2 and 4 legged), getting outside more for walks and sunshine, and connecting with friends and family more to check in and see how they’re doing. It feels natural and easy, and reminiscent of less hectic times.

And we’re using technology in such positive ways. I think about all the people who had no idea what Zoom and virtual meetings were a few weeks ago, and it makes me smile.

Now they’re connecting virtually to spend holiday or Sunday meals together with kids and grandkids, attend church services, and go to networking or club meetings. Spend a few minutes right now and write down 5 or more positive things that this pandemic has provided to you.

And third, take advantage of all the extra time you now have.

Maybe you’re not commuting to work and now have 60+ extra minutes in your day, or you find working from home more efficient and you’re getting more done in less time.

What could you do with your extra time? Focus on your goals and tie them into your activities or projects. For example, complete some long-overdue home projects this weekend to give you a sense of completion and joy; plant some flowers or tomatoes to feed your nurturing side; exercise to bring movement and balance into your body; take a class or course for self-development and personal growth; visit some virtual museums or national parks and get excited about visiting there in the future; or rediscover your creative side with hobbies like painting or music.

Find something that feeds your mind, body and soul and enjoy this time right now.  

 

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

A Subtle and Effective Way to Be More Grateful

A Subtle and Effective Way to Be More Grateful

Gratitude changes everything.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness and wellbeing. 

It’s been found to help people feel more positive emotions. They enjoy the time they spend with others more, deal with hardships better and improve their health.

Studies show that making a conscious effort to feel gratefulness helps you develop the habit of being optimistic, leading to increased joy in your life.  

How Do You Express Gratitude?

People feel and express gratitude in numerous ways.

You may send thank you notes to others, pray on a regular basis, volunteer, or spend time with loved ones.

You can look for silver linings even in the most difficult life challenges. If you get injured you can be grateful for the compassion and help of family and friend. There’s always something positive if you look deep enough. When things feel hard, ask yourself: What’s good here?

Focusing on others helps you feel grateful. When you’re having a hard time coming up with something to be grateful for and are too internally focused on your problems, empathy and a change in perspective can help. For example, you can feel grateful for your home and safe living conditions if you think about someone who is homeless or in the military away at war.  

Other ways to increase gratitude consist of keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings every day, meditating or thanking yourself for taking care of you – like after eating a healthy meal or working out.

Try This Gratitude Experiment

I’m suggesting a subtle yet effective way to cultivate more gratitude into your life. Replace the words “I’m sorry” with “Thank you”.

I see it more often in women than men. Maybe it’s a societal thing, or the way we were raised by our families. We tend to apologize too much, many times for things that don’t need apologies.

If you tend to say “I’m sorry” a lot, out of habit or from years of conditioning to be nice or to please others, you’ve got to try this.

Think of it as an experiment, and for the next 7 days replace the words “I’m Sorry” with “Thank You”.

Here are some examples:

• Change “Sorry, I’m late,” to:
“Thank you for your patience” or “Thank you for waiting for me.”

• Change “I’m sorry for making you work late,” to:
“Thank you for working so hard on this assignment.”

• Change “I’m sorry I got that wrong,” to:
“Thank you for catching my mistake.”

• Change “I’m sorry for unloading all of this on you,” to:
“Thank you for listening and being here for me during this tough time.”

• Change “I’m so sorry to stick you with this extra work” to:
“Thank you so much for taking care of this.”

• Change “I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time” to:
“Thanks for spending so much time with me.”

I find this approach very effective. You’ll get the benefits of being more grateful.

And you’ll find its empowering too; it just feels better to reduce or eliminate saying sorry all the time.

You’re not allowing your position and status to be devalued, and you also make the person’s whose receiving your thanks feel valued and better about the interaction too. 

It’s a subtle and easy way to change how you think about yourself and others, and it sends a positive message rather than a negative one: a message of gratitude.  

So again, I challenge you to try this for one week or longer. Make it a habit.

You’ll get better at hearing your automatic apologies and be better able to quickly change it to “thank you” with practice.

Let me know in the comments how it worked for you and how you’re feeling by making this one shift.

What Were You Thinking? Harness the Power of Your Thoughts

What Were You Thinking? Harness the Power of Your Thoughts

What were you thinking?!

I remember that question being posed in a negative, judgmental or even joking way a lot in my childhood. Initially it was on TV show I watched where the main character did something to cause a big problem, like put a whole container of detergent into the washing machine and comes back a little while later to find a floor full of soap bubbles with more pouring out of the machine. And then her friend asks “what were you thinking?”

These days, I ask myself that question with a much different intention behind it. Not judging, or joking, but more from a curious place.

What was I thinking that led me to this problem, this poor result, or this frustrated feeling? It’s a great question to ask yourself, especially when working through challenging times.

For example, this morning as I stepped out of the shower I coughed and immediately winced in pain, as the muscle from my shoulder to my neck went into a painful spasm. The kind where you can’t turn your neck to see behind you without screaming in pain. This area had bothered me in the past, but not to this extreme.

As soon as it happened, as I worried about how this was going to disrupt my plans for today, I asked myself “what were you thinking” right before the cough. I’m moving to a new home in a few weeks, and was looking at the cabinet and thinking about all the things that have to get packed, and getting a bit stressed about it. Then the cough, then the pain: I interpreted it to be my body’s way of telling me to stop worrying about the future move, stay present and focused on today.

How our minds work

You see, our minds work in a particular way. It’s estimated that the mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day which averages to 49 thoughts per minute, according to the Lab of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California.

Thoughts are your natural response to a situation or circumstance. As the human body encounters sensory data (what it sees, hears, etc.), your brain naturally attempts to make sense of this sensory data and the mind turns these signals into thoughts.

In other words, we experience something and immediately our brain attaches a thought to it. You walk into a room and think “hmm, it’s cold in here”.

There are so many thoughts throughout the day that we can’t pay attention to them all, but it’s important that you start because our thoughts create our emotions or feelings. It happens so quickly that sometimes we think the emotion caused the thought, but the thoughts come first. Sticking with the earlier cold room example, after thinking “hmm, it’s cold in here”, you start to feel uncomfortable and a little disappointed. You don’t like being cold.

Next comes how we behave, or act, based on this emotion or feeling. Again, you’re in a cold room, feeling uncomfortable, and now you go find a blanket or jacket to put on, and turn the heat up.

And that action you took gives your desired result: you begin to feel warmer, and happy that you’re no longer cold.

What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave.

Negative self-talk and limiting beliefs

This same process can work in an unhelpful way too. If you’re struggling in a particular area of your life, it could be your thoughts that are keeping you in that struggle.

Sometimes you may not even be consciously aware of these thoughts. When I work with coaching clients, it’s very easy for me to hear these types of repetitive, unhelpful thoughts come up as my client is speaking.

It could be something as simple saying the words “should” or “try” a lot. “I should start meditating every day then I’ll feel better”, or “I’ve been so drained lately, I’ll try to get to bed early this week”.

How do you feel after saying those sentences? Confident, enthusiastic, eager to feel better? Not so much.

Compare that with “I will start mediating” or “I am going to get to bed early this week” – big difference in not only tone and energy behind the words you choose, but the feelings they elicit (confident, enthusiastic, eager, positive) and the results you’ll get.

Using weak words that don’t produce the emotions and feelings you’re seeking is setting yourself up to fail and come up short of your desired results. 

Limiting beliefs are repetitive thoughts you’ve had that have become truth for you; they’re part of your belief system, and now they’re limiting you in some way.

For example, you could have a limiting belief from something you heard in childhood from a parent, like “all rich people are corrupt and evil”.

So now, when you achieve some financial success, earn more money and start to build some wealth, you spend it very quickly or lose it through a bad investment. You seem to have a pattern of struggling with building and sustaining wealth, and that can be traced back to this limiting belief.

Money, and your relationship with it, is a key issue for many people and many times we have these limiting beliefs keeping us stuck.  

Another one is relationships. Maybe you’ve had the experience of getting really close to someone and then they disappoint you or they leave you.

Now you may have a thought that runs through your mind “I better not get to close to him, he’s just going to leave me anyway and I don’t want to get hurt.” And then you find yourself unable to have the close relationships you want to experience.

Here are other examples of limiting beliefs. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I never have any luck.”
  • “I have to work really hard to be successful.“
  • “Work can’t be fun.”
  • “I’m too old” or “I’m too young.“
  • “I’m not good at ____________. “
  • “I can’t afford that.”

Harness the power of your thoughts: become aware

The first step in harnessing the power of your thoughts is to become aware of what they are.

If you work with a coach, you can ask her to pay attention to any limiting or negative beliefs or repetitive language you use. Sometimes we don’t hear ourselves until someone points it out to us, and that awareness alone can begin to elicit change.

Like in my muscle spasm story above, you can become more aware by asking yourself “what were you thinking?” right when a problem, issue or negative feeling arises.

Pay attention to your feelings and emotions and how they may showing up in your body before you act. Does your chest or jaw get tight when you perceive someone is treating you unfairly? Does your stomach hurt when you worry about an upcoming work deadline?

Harness the power of your thoughts: challenge and change your thoughts

Once aware of your thoughts and of the signals your body gives you, those emotions and feelings, you’re in a position to challenge and change these thoughts for better results.

For example, if you consider yourself too scared to step outside of your comfort zone, force yourself to do something that feels a little uncomfortable. Or, if you think you’re not good enough or don’t deserve to have success, do something that helps you to feel worthy.

Additionally, recondition your mind with thoughts and beliefs that are empowering, that serve you, and that get you closer to what you really want in your life.

Let’s say you’ve decided to stop eating sugar for health reasons. It’s not so bad after you get through the first few days of withdrawals. But after a few weeks of feeling full of energy and proud of sticking to no sugar, you don’t feel well, maybe you’re catching a cold, and a thought goes through your head as you spot what used to be your favorite cookies in the grocery store, “if I eat this cookie I’ll feel better”. 

Logically you know this isn’t true, but the thought and urge are strong. Maybe your Mom would give you a cookie if you hurt yourself as a child, to make you feel better. But it doesn’t really matter what happened in the past, just stay in the present.

You now have a choice to make, and it’s always about what you choose to believe and then what you choose to do. You’re responsible and in charge.

You can change that thought to “if I eat this cookie, I’ll feel even worse” or “if I have some nice hot tea with lemon I’ll feel better and recover more quickly” or for more emotion, “sugar is poison to my body, I’d rather nurture my body and start feeling better another way”. Think about how you’ll feel too: bringing strong emotions and feelings into these thoughts will empower you.

Harness the power of your thoughts & recondition your mind

Your mind is very powerful. If you’re like most people, you probably spend very little time reflecting on the way you think.

But negative thoughts that you don’t challenge and change can have damaging effects to your wellbeing and prevent you from ever achieving your full potential in life.

It all comes down to being aware of your thoughts, deciding what you’re going to choose to believe about those thoughts (is it serving me or not?), and changing any limiting thoughts and beliefs to ones that benefit you.

Making the conscious decision to harness the power of your thoughts and recondition your mind with empowering thoughts and beliefs is key to your success. 

 

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

 

How to Take Back Control –  First, Get Organized

How to Take Back Control – First, Get Organized

Feeling a bit out of control these days, like most working professionals? Whether it’s work or personal stuff, the fast pace and demanding times we live in now can make life seem overwhelming.

Taking back control with simple, consistent steps can get you feeling better quickly: calmer, less stressed and more empowered.

The key is doing something each day for lasting results. Keep reading to learn how to use these strategies for your highest benefit.

The strategies are about getting organized using a two pronged approach: organized from the inside out, and organized from the outside in. Address the issue from both directions and you’ll get to where you want to be going (your goals) even faster.

Getting organized from the inside out

Getting organized from the inside out is about organizing your thoughts, beliefs, and ideas in your mind.

Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 50,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. That’s an average of 2,100 – 3,300 thoughts per hour. That’s a remarkable number of thoughts.

Many of these are subconscious and repetitive thoughts: they’ve become efficient over time and run automatically. These are the thoughts that benefit us and lead to actions like walking, breathing, typing, driving a car, opening a door, etc. We don’t need to concern ourselves with these thoughts; they serve us well.

The thoughts we want to organize are the ones that don’t serve us. If you’ve ever meditated or even tried to study or focus on a work task, that’s when you become aware of the many irrelevant thoughts trying to get your attention.

They may be habitual and seem harmless, but a little deeper digging can bring these thoughts to the surface, to your conscious mind where you are now aware of them.

Once you’re aware of them, then you can ask some questions and determine if they are leading to poor results or sabotaging you from achieving your goals.

These thoughts may be creating feelings and beliefs, like fear, that are not supporting the dreams you have for your life.

Then we have new thoughts that we are aware of in the moment, like opinions or judgements about what’s happening now, or in the past or future.

These may be helpful, like thoughts about how to prepare for an upcoming staff meeting you’re leading, what you still need to do to prepare, when to schedule those tasks, and what the agenda will be.

Or you may have new thoughts that don’t serve you. It could be a negative thought that’s detrimental to your continued growth and development in life.

How to organize the mental noise and constant chatter

There are so many tools to help organize your mind and thoughts. What’s most important is to find a tool that works for you and stick with it.

Try one of my suggestions here, daily for at least 21 days straight. If you’re beginning to notice some positive shifts, keep it going.

A daily Thought Release each morning can really put things into perspective. Take about 5 minutes or more to write down your thoughts. Every single thought that crosses your mind: just observe the thought and write it down and move on to the next one. Its stream of consciousness writing, you’ll be writing the whole time. Some people call it a brain download, brain dump, thought download or even Morning Pages as described by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way.

I like to call it a Thought Release process because I picture the thought being released from my mind as I write them in my journal. Most are unnecessary and don’t serve me, and are just clogging up the mind.

Another thing to try is reviewing these daily Thought Release thoughts and replace any repetitive negative thought with a better, more positive one.

Awareness of these thoughts is the first step, and then asking questions about it is step two. Is this thought even true (especially if a judgement)? Is it serving you? Is it helping you in some way? Do you really need or want it? Is it time to let it go and release it? Can you replace it with a better, more positive thought?

Lastly, meditation is a practice I encourage all of my clients to adopt. Meditation teaches you how to be still, to become more focused, and to lessen the stream of thoughts running through your mind.

It brings calmness, a sense of inner peace and more happiness to all aspects of your life, when practiced consistently. Read more about meditation and morning routines here.

Getting organized from the outside in

Getting organized from the outside in is organizing your external surroundings – your space. It involves organizing your home, your office or desk, and even your car.

This helps you live intentionally and have a physical space where every single thing in that space serves you. It has a purpose.

I’m an organized person. I don’t leave things laying around, and I don’t have closets or a garage full of things I’ve never used. I know many people who never use their garage to park their car because it is stuffed full of things they’ve never used or maybe used once, years ago. There’s so much stuff the car won’t fit.

Despite how organized I felt I was, last year I made an intentional commitment to organize myself even more. I went through the process I’m about to share here, and came up with 15 bags of things to donate – 15!  And that’s not including items that were either thrown out or sold.

By going through this exercise, I knew I’d get benefits from it, but didn’t realize just how great I would feel.

You see, it’s not simply the removal of the physical items. It is the energy of those items, of that clutter and disorganization, and what it represents. Removing it impacts on your emotional and mental wellbeing too.

People say they feel lighter, obviously more organized and less stressed. They know what they have in their house or office or car, and can easily find it.

It’s easier to get ready in the morning when the closet it organized and you can see all the potential outfits you’d like to wear that day. The clutter is gone too, taking up space. All the duplicate pens, pencils, paperclips and rubber bands from desk drawers that are unnecessary – how many does a person need? I knew someone who had 8 pairs of scissors and 4 boxes of tacks – in one desk.

The kitchen is another area that could have a lot of items you never use. Tupperware and other plastic containers that are looking a little over used or that may have been used once 3 years ago, extra utensils that can be donated, and even pots, pans, serving bowls and platters that you don’t currently and never will use.

When people declutter and get organized, they feel more at peace when in these rooms, seeing everything in its place and even empty space in drawers and closets.

Benefits of getting organized

The empty space in shelves, drawers and closets is symbolic of making room for new opportunities to present themselves. That idea alone can provide the motivation you might need as you sift through all the shoes in your closet and hesitate giving up that new-ish pair of boots you paid so much money for, that hurt your feet every time you wore them (not serving you).

Another benefit of organizing your space is the sense of contribution you get. Knowing that you’ve only kept what is still useful to you, and that other people can now enjoy the items you donated.

That sense of contribution and sharing is very uplifting and makes donating these items an easier task, especially for things you may have an emotional connection to or that remind you of a cherished memory. For example, I had a whole boxful of stuffed animals that my mother collected that I received after my Mom passed away years ago. They were sitting in that box, unused, in great shape for years until last year. I decided to keep a couple of them and the rest were donated. Hopefully some children can enjoy and play with them now.

Now it’s your turn to take action

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to take back some control in your life by getting organized. From the inside out, commit to the following:

  • Daily thought release every morning as described above. Set a timer for 5 minutes or more and get those thoughts out. And if your mind races at night, thinking about work or worrying about everything, try the thought release exercise before bed too.
  • If you notice you’re having a lot of negative thoughts during this daily thought release that don’t serve you, take some time to replace them with positive ones. For example, if you have a lot of thoughts about all the things at work that stress you out, write about how your work is serving and helping other people. Or if you keep thinking about a coworker’s negative comments to you, write one positive thing about that person.
  • If you don’t already have a morning routine that addresses organizing your mind and thoughts, learn more in my blog called Connect to Success Every Day for Best Results where you can also get access to my Connect to Success Morning Routine Tool to use every day.

From the outside in, commit to the following:

  • Block out one hour on your calendar for this weekend and select one part of your house, or car, or office/desk to organize. It’s best to take everything out of the closet or drawer or area, then look at each item and ask yourself some questions: when is the last time I used this, or wore this? If not within the past year, let it go. Does it make me happy? Does it serve me? Would someone else enjoy this more? Is it outdated (clothing, etc.)?
  • Set a goal to organize one area every week. And then pay attention to the changes that follow.

Look for larger shifts that can occur after getting more organized.

For me, I felt like being more social. It included getting out more, meeting new people, taking day trips, and networking more with other business owners. It opened up space and energy for these new things.

Organizing the mind also opens up space and energy for you to be more aware of your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions too. You can discern which ones are or aren’t helpful, and then organize them and release the unhelpful ones.

Getting organized is a very powerful tool that increases your emotional intelligence and supports personal growth, and provides a sense of fulfillment and peace in the long term.

I’d love to hear about the progress you’ve made and the positive shifts you’re experiencing as a result of getting organized. Let me know in the comments.  

 

Photo by Douglas Sheppard on Unsplash

How to Leverage Your Brain to Achieve Your Goals

How to Leverage Your Brain to Achieve Your Goals

As busy professionals, we want to use our precious time in the most effective way possible, especially when it comes to achieving our goals.

Understanding how your brain works and how to leverage your brain’s natural tendencies for your highest benefit is key.

There are specific tools and strategies you can start using today to ensure you’re working with your brain and not against it for faster, greater results.

One of the most important parts of your brain is the Reticular Activating System or RAS. It’s the filter between your conscious and subconscious mind, only letting the most important information into your awareness (conscious) and screening out what’s not important.

There’s so much information coming at us these days and your conscious mind can only focus on so many things at once. So the RAS determines what you’ll notice and pay attention to – that’s its job.

It does this because the function of the RAS, just like much of the brain, is to keep us alive and safe. It deletes and doesn’t have us spend any energy on all the white noise.

Basically, it focuses on what’s important, and is directly responsible for how much reality you consciously experience. That explains why two people in the same staff meeting, for example, can have very different recollections of what was said or what happened because their respective brains (RAS) filtered out what wasn’t important to each of them.

The RAS is the reason that when you learn a new word, you start hearing it everywhere. Or when you’re at a loud, crowded party or event, you can hear someone shout your name over all the talking; your unconscious mind knows your name is important, and it gets past the RAS screen to where you consciously hear it despite all the noise.

Another example of the RAS is when you buy a new car. Now you see that same make and model everywhere you go, in the parking garage at work, on the daily commute, even in your neighborhood. Were these cars not around you before? No, they were, but now your RAS deems it important enough for you to notice, because you own the same car.

Over time the RAS learns what will and won’t keep us safe and creates pathways for these “safe” things – this is how patterns, habits and self-talk are made.

But how does the RAS determine what’s “safe”? How does it know if it’s creating a good habit or a bad habit? That’s where we get to step in, take some control and fine tune things.

How to Leverage Your RAS

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of our RAS allows us to work with our brains and train and leverage them to our advantage. We can control what we pay attention to and when we do this, the RAS has no choice but to treat that item as important.

Keep this in mind when goal setting: Once you prioritize a goal, stay emotionally charged to it, and focus on it consistently, the people and resources that help you attain it will become clear to you. You don’t have to plan out all the details of how you’ll achieve your goals when you first set them. Have faith that your RAS will do its job and make you aware of what you need to know and do along the way.

Some of us call these synchronicities, or the Universe or God lining things up for us: putting the right person or thing in our path.

We see this all the time. You might be having some random conversation at work and someone says exactly what you needed to hear, like some advice on how to be more organized with your daily schedule. You may have heard the same advice before, but now it’s important because it will support your goal to have more balance in your personal time, so you “heard” it this time.

Here are some specific strategies you can begin using today to leverage the power of your brain.

1. Get really clear about your goals and focus on them, in great detail, on a regular and consistent basis.

Write them down every day, or put them on post it notes where you can review them every day. You have to give your RAS something to go on.

If you focus on what you want, like phenomenal health, a fulfilling career, a great income and loving relationships, your RAS will be working with you and helping to make you aware of more of those things. If you consistently focus on the opposite, like worrying about bills or getting sick again, you’ll unfortunately get more of that.

2. Visualize every day.

Visualization is a great tool for retraining your subconscious mind. To get the most out of visualization, you must feel and experience a situation as if it were real, as if you’ve already achieved your goal.

Include details, imagery, people’s reactions, how specifically you’re feeling in that moment, where in your body do you feel it, what are you hearing, what are you seeing, what other things are now available too because of it. Make the image really big, as if you’re watching it on a huge movie screen.

The more real and detailed and emotion-provoking the better.

Your RAS can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what you’re imagining, so it will act on it as if it’s reality, and start bringing more of that into your awareness.  

3. Say your affirmations.

Affirmations are positive statements, in the present tense, and specific to supporting your goals. They are most effective when said out loud, on a regular basis, and with positive emotions tied to them (you can feel it).

Some examples are: “My body is strong, healthy and full of energy”, “I love the work I do and am paid well for it” or “I’m so blessed to have all these loving and supportive people in my life”.

The RAS will kick in, mark these statements as important and will create a new pathway for you to follow in accordance with this new belief.

4. Form new habits and stick with them consistently for at least 28 days.

Help your RAS create new pathways by sticking with your new habits; it takes about 28 days for our brains to build these new neural pathways. The RAS likes these paths of least resistance and will prioritize and use them efficiently once created; that’s what makes it easier to stick to something once it becomes a habit.  

There are many good habits that support the function of your brain. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Meditation calms the mind and helps release any mental blocks or limitations you may be challenged with. Aim for at least 5 to 10 minutes of meditation each morning to start and building to 20 to 30 minutes once or twice per day.
  • Reduce or remove the stress in your life. Take some time to evaluate the root cause of it, and either eliminate it or reduce whatever it is. If you get stressed because you’re late to work, plan to get up and arrive at work 15 minutes earlier every day. If you have friends at work that you have coffee or lunch with, but you feel drained afterwards and it negatively affects your mood and energy afterwards, you can limit the amount of time you spend with them.
  • Taking walks or other regular exercise releases endorphins, which helps improve your mood, increases your problem solving and boosts creativity. Besides being a natural anti-anxiety or anti-depressant, regular exercise supports better sleep, allowing your brain to sufficiently rest and recover.

Start leveraging the power of your brain – your RAS, and subconscious and conscious minds. Remember, if your RAS sees your goals as crucial and important, it will act and bring to your attention all the related things around you that you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel or sense. And then you’ll be able to react to them accordingly.

That’s why writing or reading through your goals every day, visualizing your intended outcome as if it has already happened, regularly saying your affirmations, and creating healthy supportive habits is so important!

Take action today and do these things that will help focus your subconscious mind on what’s important to you and in your best interests in achieving your goals and dreams.

If you found this information helpful please let me know in the comments below.

 

– Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash