Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for October, 2013

The Dynamic Duo

The never ending quest for self improvement to achieve greater joy and happiness in life involves an elixir of two essential elements – a healthy dose of playful enthusiasm combined with a strong dose of responsibility and focus. Some of us have lots of one and little of the other. But there is something special in those people who have figured out how to combine the two into the perfect formula for greater happiness and joy in life. They seem to light up a room when entering.

You can tell that they enjoy being in the moment and absorbing the energy and experiences they are having while simultaneously keeping their eye on the ball realizing that ‘if its going to be its up to me.’ These are the people we are attracted to because they give off such positive energy. They may see a cloud on the horizon but look past it knowing little in life is permanent and this issue, this challenge at the moment, too shall pass. They could be characterized as the ‘no excuse’ type of people. Life doesn’t just passively happen to them because they are actively engaged in the process by improving themselves and lending a hand to others along the way.

These unique individuals keep things in perspective. Rather than thinking in absolutes – all, never, everyone… they choose to see the shades of grey in others and in life by remembering that they have not walked in another’s shoes. Rather than assuming the worst in a situation they strive to look for the possibilities – the ways for improvement. They refuse to supersize a problem and handle the typical ups and downs in life with focused effort and confidence. They choose not to merely survive but to thrive.

These type of individuals are not simply born as perpetual optimist. But have learned along the way that they have the power to change themselves and their circumstances through a combination of goal centered hard work- the purpose driven life we hear about – combined with the ability to laugh at themselves at times with playful enthusiasm. They have learned to enjoy the moments in their life that will ultimately be their legacy. When they leave this earth, they will be missed, a void felt but soon filled with a lifetime of special memories.

We all have something to give to the world. At times it may be simply a smile or positive comment that can help a fellow traveller along the way. The amazing thing is that these folks that seem to have perfected the magic combo of enthusiasm and focused effort just seem to attract more of the same in their lives. They have perfected the understanding of cause and effect – as they give so shall they receive. After all, The Universe is an ‘equal opportunity’ employer.

During the next few days check out how many people you interact with that have this dynamic duo type of thinking. Who knows, you may be one of them!

Have a great few days!

How Full Is Your Cup?

Wouldn’t be interesting if we measured our success not only by what we accomplished but also by how much we smiled, laughed and really enjoyed life along the way? May sound like an impossible dream but just what if we tried it for a day. What if we began a habit of mentally reviewing each day before going to sleep to take note of the number of smiles and laughs we had that day. It would only take a couple of minutes but could do a world of good.

I think working hard and making a difference in life is critical to a life well lived. However, simultaneously enjoying the journey along the way is equally important. Life is not about simply arriving at our destination but bringing both our head and heart to the journey along the way.

It has been said that we only have two things that we have to do in life- pay taxes and die. When we realize that the rest of our lives are made up of the millions and millions of choices we make along the way, it puts the responsibility and control directly on our shoulders where it belongs. Our life then is made up of ‘choosing ‘ not simply ‘having’ to do something. When we view our life in the context of choosing – which is a form of positive energy – rather than a ‘have to’ type of thinking which is negative or restrictive motivation we feel and generate greater happiness. As a result we attract more positives along the way. Remember the saying ‘like attracts like?’ It truly does. What are you attracting into your life today ? When we choose to be happy and grateful we discover that each day brings even more of that same energy to us.

Basically, it boils down to the fact that we have a choice in life. We can see our cup as half full or half empty. The actual contents remains the same. The challenge is to turn the kaleidoscope of our thinking ever so slightly and look – actually seek – the many positives that exist in our daily experiences.

The choice for our journey in life can be viewed as the mode of transportation – by wagon wheel – feeling and complaining about each bump along the way – or we can choose to lighten our load and use in our minds’s eye a vehicle that will offer both comfort and enjoyment for our ride. I choose the later and work everyday to stay in a more positive mind set.

Given our free will, as we learn our life lessons we can make the journey as difficult or as enjoyable as we choose. It is all up to us. No one to blame, no excuses for our experiences, just the reality that we chose this lifetime and we also have the power to enjoy the ride along the way.

Is it time to have a conversation with yourself and choose to focus on happiness?

Have a great few days!

A Perfect Example of Synchronicity!

Sometimes sharing a story does more for understanding than pages of detailed explanations. The following is a perfect example of synchronicity. A term that is complex in definition but simple in understanding through example.

As I drove up to my mailbox (one of those newly designed mail deliveries with 53 small locked boxes) I waited for two people ahead of me to pick up their mail. As I waited one person, whom I had never met before, introduced herself and began talking about her purpose for being there on this day. It seems her best friend’s son had committed suicide and she came to her winter home to support her as she goes through the grueling and gut wrenching process of burying her son on Saturday. We discovered in our short conversation many similar connections – geographical locations including states and even continents, deaths of a son, ways to support a parent who goes through such a shocking experience…just to name a few. It felt like the Universe just placed the two of us on a perfectly aligned course to meet. She said she had shivers on her arms as we were talking. I thought to myself, yes there certainly was a purpose – an unplanned event – that was designed to happen.

I mentioned to her that I had published a book on the loss of a child and it also included a section on suicide for people who experience such a traumatic event. As she looked at me with absolute surprise I knew, once again, this unintended meeting was set up by a force greater than myself. The force that Jung called Pure Consciousness or the quantum level of existence. One thing led to another and she came directly to my house and picked up three copies of my book.

What were the chances of being at the exact place at the exact time to be able to offer help to another human being who was wrestling with a profound life changing event? Remember the saying, when the student is ready the teacher comes along? We all fall into both categories of being either student or teacher throughout our life experiences.

Carl Jung, the noted Swiss psychiatrist, became fascinated with this phenomena he termed synchronicity in the early 1920’s. He defined it as the ‘appearance of seemingly random acts which have a significant meaning personally.’ Jaworski and Senge in the 80’s and 90’s also referred to this phenomenon in reference to leadership of organizations.

It seems to boil down to one’s willingness to be of service to others when the situation is presented. To choose, in effect, to momentarily set aside our personal agendas and schedules and take the time to truly listen with our hearts to someone. To do something to help another is a selfless experience of the Divine. By doing so we create a higher awareness and deeper understanding of reality and our place as servant in this incredible Universe.

Taking time to care about others in need creates the moments in life that change who we are and what our mission in this lifetime is all about. We begin to see more clearly the bigger picture of service. I want to be thoroughly used up before I leave this earth and am thankful every time I am able to add a word, ask a question or offer a word – a perspective even – that can help a fellow traveller along the way.

You might want to watch for these moments of synchronicity in your life. They will present themselves because we all have the power to make the world – one individual at a time – a little stronger in the process. We just need to be open and willing to set aside our personal agendas and adjust our time frames to offer support.

Have a great few days!

Acceptance is Key

Acceptance is the Grand Master in life. Whether it be acceptance of others, a challenging circumstance, a life change, or loss of family or friends. All seems to be reduced to our ability to accept the things we cannot change. The following prose poem was written by Max Ehrmann in 1927. It took 25 years after his death to become known and has become an inspiration since then. He has caused many to think more deeply about the concept of life and acceptance. Enjoy!

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession
in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many people strive for
high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering
the things of your youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding
as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive
Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy
confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Have a great few days!

Are You Too Independent?

Did you know there is something called dysfunctional independence? It almost sounds like a conflict in terms doesn’t it? Yet anything taken to an extreme can become a dysfunction. Many of us go through life with our shoulders bent with the burdens of others. We perseverate on all the details of making everything work out for them. After all, no one will do it as well as we and furthermore we don’t want to appear weak – as if we can’t do it right? So we go through life doing more, working harder and harder and even losing sleep wondering how we are going to keep all the balls in the air. We may even find ourselves missing the joy in life because, after all – we think to ourselves – there is no one else to rely on so we must continue to worry about all the tomorrows in our life as well as the lives of others. If we have lived life with frequent disappoint or people not carrying their weight of the load it is easy to fall into the trap of dysfunctional independence. If we find ourself in this mindset from time to time we need to stop and realize that pure ego is at work here. We may have become so used to doing everything ourselves that to ask for help may be the most difficult thing in the world to do – beyond humbling – maybe even a tad embarrassing. After all, we think, ‘I should be able to fix this situation myself.’ Therein lies the lesson doesn’t it?

This is where the Universe steps in and says, ‘well you have not learned the lesson of grace or humility so it is time for an even tougher circumstance to be presented to you so you can finally learn it.’ Presto … the next circumstance seems to literally take our breath away and if we are lucky we might finally call ‘uncle’ and ask for help. This is what is meant by the saying that first God whispers, then speaks and may even have to shout to finally get our attention. The challenges and problems come in so fast and in so many different forms – but at the root have the same thing in common .. the lesson WE need to learn. Once we humble ourself enough to ask for help in dealing with the situation it seems to all get sorter out. We learn a higher level of trust and partnership by becoming interdependent. Who knows, we may be able to return the favor at some time in the future.

We come to the major ‘Aha’ in our lives. It is NOT up to us to do it all. There are others who are willing to lend a hand if treated with appreciation and respect. Only one thing changed in this new scenario – our attitude and belief that we are not ‘Captain of the World’ and we admitted needing help like everyone else. A huge weight seems to be lifted off our shoulders and we take a deeper breath finally exhaling a little of the stress that we have been carrying. We begin to think about the hundreds of other times when we needed help but were, sad to say, to proud to ask for it. Pride like many things can be positive or negative it depends on the the way and extent it is used.

If dysfunctional independence is limiting us, holding us back from all that we could be the question we need to wrestle with is – are we strong enough to admit that we need help? Do we really believe we can be too independent? I think it is not only possible but maybe even probable. The good news is that once we understand that it is a DYSfunction we can choose to do something about it.

Have a great few days!

Ants in Your Thinking?

The term ANTS refers to more than those pesky little insects that occasionally invade a picnic or our homes. I heard the term used in the context of thinking and it stuck with me so I am passing it on. ANTS stands for Killing Automatic Negative ThoughtS. I thought it was a great way to remind ourselves to work at controlling the negative thinking that can weigh us down and rob us of energy. You know what I am talking about – the negative self-talk that constitutes the what ifs… if only….why me, or why now… that causes us to spiral downward. When we look at a situation and see it in the context of the glass being half empty rather than half full it’s an exhausting way to live.

Sometimes people act this way for attention or they take pride in being the ‘resident critic.’ However, if you look closely at their lives they have few acquaintances and even fewer friends because they are simply too exhausting to be around. We feel an energy drain by their presence.

The good news is that negative thinking is simply a habit that we have allowed to become a part of our personality. Often, the habit of negative thinking begins in childhood from fear or modeling the behavior of a parent and through our repetitive thought process becomes who we are today. But it can be changed if someone we respect cares enough to get our attention. Our minds are so powerful that we have the capacity to change our thinking and change our life. It takes desire and constant effort to see life in a more positive context – to see possibilities rather than problems – but it’s so worth it.

The truth of the matter is the situation or event is simply what it is – no more, no less. Your choice is the spin you put on it. Negative thinking causes you to feel like there is no way out. Worry sets in and you feel defeated before you begin. By adjusting your perspective slightly you can look at the same issue and discover the possibilities in it. Remarkably, you discover ways and options to solve the issue at hand. The circumstance remains the same but the energy you bring to it is the defining variable. Looking for possibilities – the silver lining in an issue – helps you develop resiliency – a stronger belief in yourself and your capabilities to handle tomorrow. Resiliency is the life blood to happiness and success in life.

Maya Angelou said in her book, ‘Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now,’ “Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
This is something worth thinking about. We put our lives on hold in a constant state of fear when we allow the ANTS type of thinking to control our life.

Is it time to readjust our thinking patterns and look for the potential good coming out of what appears to be a challenge in our life? The practice of looking for the opportunity or bright side of something is a skill that we are all capable of learning. We simply need to decide to put in the effort to do so.

The next time you hear negatives coming from yourself or others …STOP – LOOK – and LISTEN… is this really how you want to spend the rest of your days on planet earth?

Let’s choose to make lemonade out of the lemons we are dealt in life and stamp out the ANTS in our thinking.

Have a great few days!

Helping Others Through Change and Loss

The depth of a cut is directly related to the length of time it takes to heal – and so it is with loss in our lives. Loss comes in so many varieties. The loss of a child, a loved one, a beloved pet, a job, security, our health and even changes in our living arrangements are just a few examples of life changing experiences that involve loss – the letting go of the familiar and moving into unseen territory. Most often we don’t ask for this change and are dumbstruck when it appears in our life. We question ourselves, ‘What could I have done differently to prevent this from happening?’ The truth is…nothing…’All is as it should be’ as difficult as that sounds, I know it to be truth.

For many loss is debilitating. They want to know the what, how, and whys regarding the loss. By seeking more information they hope to discover a hidden nugget that will help them reach a deeper understanding and feel somewhat more in control. There are times, however, that trying to unearth more facts just delays the healing process. When folks are unable to move through the stages of grief or change and mentally demand that things be what they once were we need to be there for them.

It may take a lifetime to wrestle with and finally resolve the changes that have happened to you in your life. You may think to yourself, ‘Life is not fair.’ I get it, I have been there with the loss of my son. I can tell you that given enough time and a desire to heal, heal you will – one small step at a time. Your loved one would want you to heal by remembering the good times and the love that you shared.

The losses in our life are meant to teach us something. The challenge is to discover what the lesson is for you and only you can figure it out. What is the absolute most difficult thing you are dealing with in your mind regarding the loss or change? Discovering our lessons and then actually learning them takes a lifetime. There is no short cut in the journey. We do need to remember to be kind to ourselves along the way.

The importance of finding someone you can talk to cannot be overstated. Think of it this way, if you were bleeding profusely you would need someone to help you stop the flow. Well, in dealing with the tragic loss of a loved one, for instance, you are bleeding profusely – it’s just on the inside – and not as easy to stop the flow. You may need help along the way. Be brave enough to seek help and remember, when the student is ready the teacher comes along.

Talking to a good friend, family member or mental health professional is a positive way to start digging yourself out of the emotional abyss that can result from a loss. Verbalizing your feelings, getting the anger and denial out is like putting a soothing ointment on a cut. It will still take time to heal but the process will be less painful along the way.

If you know of someone who has experienced a loss or change recently and are having difficulty working through it please be there for them. Often they will not ask but will receive your emotional support as if it were a lifeline thrown out to them in choppy waters. They will be forever grateful. We can all make it through this life if we just hold on to each other and know that when life seems the darkest there is always someone who will come into our life to help light the way to our tomorrows.

Be that light, that friend, that loved one who steps up and says, ‘I’m here for you – for now and for always.’ You’ll be glad you did!

Have a great few days!

Developing Wisdom

When you ask someone what they would change about their life, they usually think for a moment and then comment, ‘nothing really because I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I changed anything.’ Well, let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s assume that you would be the same person and know everything that you know now but could still have one ‘redo’ in life what would it be? You only get one so think hard before you decide. This practice is called, strangely enough, thinking about thinking and it is a valuable skill to develop because it is the initial step in developing wisdom. To think about what you have learned through the challenges and opportunities in life – the life lessons – and what you would have done differently if given the chance is more than wishful thinking. It is part one of developing wisdom.

Although we all have the seed in us to develop it wisdom doesn’t develop automatically as one becomes older it needs to be cultivated. In fact, there are many young people who just seem to possess a certain wisdom about life and have some lessons to teach us regardless of our age. By observing them, we watch them consciously reflecting on events or situations in their lives as if they are a bystander watching someone else. We often hear them saying, ‘ ….happened and next time I intend to do …. differently.’ They are in a constant mode of self evaluation, trying to unearth the lessons in their recent experiences for the purpose of becoming wiser.

People who possess wisdom refuse to see the world in absolutes. Sometimes you run across people who are so busy directing things and telling you how to think and what to do that it is exhausting. They are the black/white, right/wrong, for/against type of thinkers. Their thinking and behavior is the antitheses of those who are wise. People who have developed wisdom see in what one author calls ‘the shades of grey.’ Realizing that each situation and person is unique they try to put themselves in another person’s shoes. They refuse the simple and dangerous act of judgment or simplistic answers and move rather toward a deeper understanding of the person and their circumstances at the time. They are attentive listeners who do not offer input unless asked and then give it only after careful thought. Frequently, they will first ask you how you feel about the situation you are describing to them. Their most important concern is how you are feeling not merely voicing their opinion on the matter at hand. They look for the road less travelled – the more challenging analysis in the situation.

Folks who have developed wisdom in life just seem to have a purpose than involves others as well as themselves. They have the perfect blend between altruism and taking care of self. We often watch and marvel at how things just seem to work out for them. Yet, in reality, these folks truly work at it. They understand that to achieve what they want others must also receive and benefit in the process. Life for them is a win – win. Although they give as much as they receive they would, if needed, put themselves second for the sake of a better outcome for others.

Look around you this week and see if you can spot someone who epitomizes the attributes of wisdom. They are a pleasure to behold. The good news is that we can all become wiser if we choose to put in the effort to do so. It’s a practiced skill. The more you practice it the better you get at it. No one has the corner on the market for wisdom. It is an equal opportunity skill just waiting to be developed.

Have a great few days!