Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for April, 2014

Take 5 You’re Worth It!

Are you fast forwarding just to get through another day? If the answer is yes, read on… Have you ever considered how many days, weeks, months or years you have been doing so and forgetting to take even 5 minutes a day to reflect on what you learned? If you’re thinking,’I don’t even have an extra minute let alone 5 to reflect,’ I hope you read this blog.

We have all heard the saying, “Stop and smell the roses,” yet in our often hectic lifestyles we seldom heed the advice until a major life change happens and we think to ourselves, ‘If only I had …’ We won’t fill in the blank with another task or accomplishment but most often with the thought, ‘if I had known or taken the time to realize.’ Taking just 5 minutes a day before going to sleep to think about what you learned about yourself or others that day gives you the chance to fill in the blank, not with regret but with gratitude. So, I ask once again, “What new ‘Aha’ did you discover today?”

The American mindset is often to do more, faster, better and you win. This non stop pressure has caused us to be not only innovators and achievers but we lead the world in most areas…except…wait for it…self reflection. We often get so lost in our constant activity that we fail to see that the real work of our life involves learning our unique life lessons and growing from them.

By taking 5 minutes to reflect on what you learned from the experiences of the day you begin to rebalance the scale of doing versus understanding – activity versus wisdom. You achieve a deeper understanding of yourself and inner peace from the practice of ‘Taking Five’ than ever by checking just one more thing off your daily ‘To Do’ list will ever yield.

We have a lot of responsibilities and expectations on our time. Often, we feel exhausted just getting through the day. I believe some of this exhaustion can be attributed to not only the pace we work at but the lack of self reflection. Visualize a mouse running on a wheel as it spins faster and faster. It’s hard to appreciate the journey when you’re simply getting through a cycle – in this case another day.

When we alter our perspective and take 5 minutes daily to reflect upon what we learned about ourselves or others we feel reaffirmed even more energized for tomorrow. We begin to see that each day is meaningful to our self growth. We achieve more than a paycheck we receive a ‘note’ in our personal life file that will be remembered and celebrated both in this world and the next. In essence, we become the wind beneath our own wings.

We can achieve a greater peace about life and ourselves when we internalize the idea that it is not simply the number of days we live but the understanding – the life – we put into them that makes all the difference. Think of this practice as a personal gift you give yourself everyday that brings a smile to your face just before going to sleep.

Let’s try for a couple of weeks to take 5 minutes at the end of each day and reflect with gratitude that you made it through and what you learned along the way. You will be surprised at the result!

Have a great few days!

Pay it Forward and Thank Someone!

We have heard that we can count on one hand, and have fingers left over, the people in our lives that we know who we can really depend on to accept us unconditionally. That statement is probably true but look for the positive in it. You have someone that really cares enough to be there for you! Think about that for a moment. That’s big …really big!

Who is the person that truly listens to you and makes you feel good about yourself? When you think about this person often a smile spreads across your face and you feel confirmed as you remember a recent conversation with them that somehow just left you feeling better – more right with the world. You know that you can be open and frank with them not only because they expect that from you but more importantly because you know they accept you for who you are without judgment. When you find someone like this that encourages you to drop the mask that you wear to the outside world and simply be yourself, you exhale deeply with a feeling of gratitude that this human being is in your life.

This type of relationship does not develop quickly but is nurtured slowly over time – maybe even lifetimes – and is based on trust. Like a flower that starts with a seed and with proper nurturing and attention grows to be beautiful beyond belief so it is with trust. We all experience times when we are not at our best but with these folks in our lives we needn’t worry. They can hear both literally and intuitively our fear, concern or anguish and are always willing to lend an ear or hand as we talk with them about a recent experience that may have left us doubting our real potential. They help us see what is possible not merely problematic and help us remember that all facts – even an ugly truth- are safe to share with them.

The only time they call us on something is if we are attempting to deny what we truly feel. They care too much to allow us to bury our feelings deep within the nooks and crannies of our minds. Anytime we try to bury our feelings they just fester, deep inside, and will eventually erupt taking a toll on anyone in the path. These people who care so deeply about us do not allow us to short change ourselves through denial, anger or regret. They stick with us through the thick and thin of life for a reason and the reason is called unconditional love.

They come into our lives for a reason, a season and if we’re really lucky a lifetime. This Easter weekend may be the perfect time to take two minutes out of your busy schedule to reconnect and let them know how important they are to you. Everyone needs to hear from time to time that they are having an impact on someone. It feeds the fire of purpose in their souls.

Have a great few days!

Choose Greater Happiness!

In my Sunday blog I talked about the decades of research done by Dr. Martin Seligman on the topic of happiness. Looking at both happiness and unhappiness he discovered many interesting factors that can serve as a guide to us. For instance, he found that unhappy people have three traits in common in their thinking. When facing a challenge they see it as PERMANENT (My life will never change), PERVASIVE (Everything in my life seems hopeless – it feels like my life is one crisis after another and I never get a break) and PERSONAL (I can’t do anything right – there is something lacking in me). They see themselves as a victim in life. With this mind set they continually draw more negative energy to them like a magnet. The Universe delivers to them what is foremost in their thinking.

Factors that Do Not Increase Happiness
Being wealthy is not the answer to happiness. Beyond a certain level of income (being able to pay your monthly bills, and save a little for a rainy day) additional money does not generate greater happiness. He cites the classic example of large lottery winners. One year after winning, their happiness index is the same as before their win. “How important money is to you, more than the money itself, influences your happiness.” Regardless of how much money you have if you constantly worry about spending any, regardless of the amount you have, it will never be enough and it doesn’t bring you happiness. Even Illness does not affect our happiness level unless we have multiple illnesses over a long period of time. Many people talk about wanting to live where the weather is mild year round. However, climate doesn’t have an effect on happiness either. For those who experience the cold, snowy filled winters they simply learn to adapt and learn to look forward to the beauty of the changing seasons.

Factors That Do Increases Happiness
A belief system that gives us hope for the future is important. With a sense of hope we make the most out of what we have been given and learn and grow in the process. A strong social network helps us stay connected and expands the world beyond ourselves. The most CRUCIAL aspect for achieving greater happiness according to the research is developing our own personal strengths of CHARACTER. Attributes such as love, loyalty, courage, integrity, fairness and spirituality are VERY important. They give us a feeling of confidence and optimism about life. When we face an obstacle and persevere to overcome it, we realize that we are a strong, competent individual. As Dr. Seligman says, “When life is easy is requires zero growth from us. A real life is one where we seek out and (positively) respond to the constant challenges in our life. A life of pleasure makes us a Spector not an Engager with life.”

Authentic happiness doesn’t happen quickly since it involves our daily choices of how we think, feel, and react. We can choose to see our cups as half empty and remain thirsty – the perpetual pessimist – or half full and grateful for the amount which will quench our thirst – the true optimist. The amount in the cup is the same but the perspective we bring to it determines our level of happiness. With free will we are in total control of our happiness level. We can choose to use it and view challenges in the frame of – ‘why not make tomorrow a better day by searching for the lessons of today’ or reduce our happiness level by thinking ‘why bother it won’t matter anyway.’

Over the next few days check yourself. Are you engaged in life, happy for another day to accomplish things and learn life lessons along the way? If not, you can choose to change your perspective and change your life. Greater happiness is really just a thought away.

Have a great few days!

Achieve Greater Happiness in Your Life!

Dr. Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychology Association and professor at the University of Pennsylvania authored over 20 books on the topic of positive psychology. His research on how to increase our happiness in life is well worth considering. Over the next few blogs I will get into the topic of happiness in greater depth but for now let’s start with a summation of his research to spark your interest.

Basically, he tells us that unhappy people look at problems as PERMANENT, PERVASIVE and PERSONAL – the 3 P’s – which result in feelings of learned helplessness. We know from other authors that when people feel hopeless and helpless they simply stop trying in life. Their fear takes over and causes them to accept ‘what is’ in life rather than looking at ‘what could be.’ Their lives are on permanent pause which draws more negative energy to them with each new day. Their feelings and belief that tomorrow will merely be a repeat of today overrides any thought about positive change.

Let’s apply what Seligman teaches us to change this scenario. Assume a negative experience is happening in your life. It is important to recognize that it is ONE experience and keep it in perspective. You just have to keep your head down and continue to push forward to get through it. We can’t allow our thinking to go from zero to 180 and believe that our entire life is now headed in a downward spiral because we are facing adversity at the moment. Unhappy people, do just that however. Their thinking on a negative experience is that it is PERMANENT. “My life will never change,” they think to themselves, and The Universe, ever ready to deliver what is foremost in their thoughts, presents even more challenges to them because they are in a perpetual state of negative thinking and simply waiting for the next shoe to drop. Their lives seem to be one crisis after another.

Dr. Seligman’s second point is again meant to help us keep perspective by realizing that the present challenge is ONE issue and not PERVASIVE throughout our entire life. The concern is real but it is the type of thought that we attach to it that sometimes gets us out of balance. The present challenge doesn’t mean that everything in our life is hopeless. Keep the issue in a mental compartment in your mind and deal with it accordingly. Don’t let in seep into and negatively affect everything else in your life. Unhappy people, on the other hand, look at the issue and think to themselves, “I can’t do anything right.” They believe that they are helpless, a constant victim of circumstance, and that there will be more to follow tomorrow.

Seligman’s third point is that unhappy people feel that the challenge at the moment is PERSONAL (it’s my fault) which may or may not be true on this particular issue. But unhappy people do not stop with the issue at hand and make a plan to do things differently in the future. They over generalize and think there is really something wrong with them. They then become immobilized by thinking that they are weak and unsuccessful in dealing with problems in life which deepens their feelings of insecurity and lack of self confidence.

To recap, to attain greater happiness in life we need to practice viewing the challenges that surface in our lives as temporary – you will get through them. Not personal – there is nothing inherently wrong with you and you do have the strength to overcome any issue. You will determine how this problem developed and IF it was your issue you will determine what you will do the next time to prevent the same kind of issue from happening. Finally,we need to remember that challenges are meant to teach us something. They are not meant to be viewed as pervasive throughout our entire life time. We are too smart to accept that type of thinking. Remember the Universal Energy first whispers, then speaks and ultimately shouts to get our attention. The next time a challenge surfaces in your life keep it in perspective and know you can get through it and learn from it. Greater happiness results by learning to avoid the 3 P’s in our thinking.

Have a great few days!

We Are All One

On September 28th, 2013 I wrote a blog entitled, ‘Barilla Out/Bertolli in. It was in reference to a statement from the CEO of the Barilla company saying basically that he did not support gay rights and, in fact, as far as he was concerned they (gays) could buy another brand of pasta if they didn’t like his comment. (You can read the entire blog by going to the archive section of my web site)

Then the power of social media kicked in and with it the possible negative financial effect to his company was realized and within two days his public relations team – wait for it – had him apologize for his comment which even included a weak invitation to gays to come on board and enjoy their pasta. Tongue in cheek, I thought to myself, “What an amazing change of heart and so quickly! I’m not buying it.” I need to see more than a mere 2 sentence apology to believe a deeper understanding of human rights happened. Consequently, I’m still buying only Bertolli pasta.

On the other hand there is a change worth supporting! Today an article was published regarding the Chick-fil-A company and its about turn on the same topic. About two years ago another CEO, Dan Cathy, came out in support of the “traditional family” and condemning gay marriage by saying when questioned by a reporter about his position on the topic, “guilty as charged”. Someone(s) in the company also realized the long term damage that could result from his comment especially in the future when the company plans to expand well beyond its Southern strong hold. So today we read that when Dan Cathy was again interviewed about gay marriage he said, “All of us become wise as time goes by …we sincerely care about all people.”

The company has done its research on the Millennial generation who want local sourcing, product quality (getting rid of those antibiotic filled chickens) and worker rights which include a higher sense of social consciousness (we are all made from the light of the Universal Energy).

The company with its 1800 stores plans to add 180 more restaurants this year creating an ever expanding footprint in the fast food market. When I read that Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of the gay rights advocacy group, Campus Pride, once a critic and now a fan of the company said, “Dan (Cathy) and I have an ongoing friendship…I am appreciative for the common ground we have established in treating all people with dignity and respect.” I decided I’m in! Although I have never tried their food due to their previously limited social consciousness it seems the time has come. It may be the result of the the public relations advice, the financial bottom line but maybe …just maybe…the real change happened due to the friendship that developed between these two men. When we get to know others who may have a slightly different life perspective than our own, understanding and truth develops and we look past any differences and into their hearts.

Congratulations to Dan Cathy, Shane Windmeyer and everyone at Chick-fil-A. You are doing the right thing!

Please send this blog on to anyone who cares about human rights. One person at a time we can make a difference!

Have a great few days!

Developing Wisdom and Serenity

This is the fourth and final blog ( the first three can be found in the March archives on my website) on the Serenity Prayer. A prayer that millions of people repeat daily to help them hang on, push forward and recognize either their own present behaviors that are limiting them in their lives or impeding their desire for change. The prayer itself, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” can be life changing when you take it apart and study the intent behind the words.

To date, we have looked at what it takes (and what limits us) to change the things we can change as well as what’s required to accept the things we cannot change. Both areas involve our inner discovery of the way we choose to look at our own fear factors, early conditioning and life experiences. The gold nugget obtained by truly thinking about what causes us to react the way we do is an important element that can allow us to move forward toward greater understanding and control in our lives.

Now, let’s look at the last part of the poem, “the wisdom to know the difference.” Many people believe that wisdom is only acquired by living decades on the planet. I disagree. In reality it is not simply the experiences but our ‘thinking about our thinking’ behind them that can cause us to become wise beyond our years.

For example, when something happens that was out of our control we live through it but do we then use the mental energy to dissect the experience and search for the lessons learned? Many people are just relieved that they have made it through the experience and try to put it behind them. However, the residual feelings of ‘what next’ or the shock and fear from the experience just lays in wait in the emotional baggage in our minds. Negative emotions buried result in a greater fear of tomorrow as we try to wrap ourselves in a protective cocoon of control.

Similarly, when we face something that needs to be changed and we know we should do something about it – but don’t – it erodes our self confidence and enthusiasm for life. Over time, this pattern results in thinking that life is simply what it is and any attempt to change a particular course is fruitless or at least not our responsibility. That type of thinking erodes our hope for a better tomorrow. It takes both courage to change things that need to be changed and grace to accept those
things that cannot be changed to fully live.

The last part of the prayer, “having the wisdom to know the difference,” is not as elusive a concept as we may think. We all experience intuition, that inner voice or gut feeling, that little nudge that let’s us know that a certain path or decision is the way to go for now. Sometimes when we are unsure we say to others, “Let me sleep on it.” It gives our minds time to process what our intuitive sense is trying to tell us. Waking to the light of a new day the answer seems as clear as a bell. This is your internal ‘wisdom worker’ activated during sleep when the daily distractions prevents it from being fully heard.

Greater wisdom and serenity can result from every life experiences we have IF we do our own mental work to discover what the purpose and reason of them were designed to teach us. The answer is usually found by asking ourselves, ‘What is the most difficult thing to accept about the experience?’ Our lives are not random pieces of material thrown together but a beautiful tapestry of life experiences, each piece sewn together with the thread of lessons learned that create who we are at our core. To create our own unique tapestry we need to keep our eyes focused, our ears attuned and our heart open to accept what is clearly presented to us with gratitude.

Wisdom and serenity then is an accumulation of both our experiences and thoughtful reflection of them. When we get into the daily habit of doing so it results in less fear and more confidence as we face tomorrow. We realize the truth in the statement, “All is meant to be,” and we receive the ultimate compliment when someone says, “How did you get to be so wise?”

Have a great few days!

Accepting What You Cannot Change

In the last two blogs we looked more deeply at the Serenity Prayer, ” God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” We first examined the topic of having the courage to change the things we can change. We dug deep to find out if our fears, developed from our early life conditioning and other life experiences have served to limit our courage to change those things we can change. In this blog we will look at accepting those things we cannot change. As with everything in life, the topic of acceptance starts with examining our personal attitude, beliefs and behaviors.

Acceptance of ourselves is the key to a life well lived. Many of us have grown up watching T.V. programs that portray what a perfect personality, size, looks, career, home, family and life is all about. What we may have failed to realize is that there is no such thing. Those were a figment of someone’s imagination – a story that someone made up and sold along the way. When we accept the story line as truth (this is what you need to have or to do to be happy) then add to it the reality of our early conditioning, we may feel that our lives are lacking something or just isn’t that great. Every human being experiences tough times and times of personal doubt. It is a part of living on planet earth. Accepting that perfection in life, or even a life of smooth sailing is not only highly unlikely it simply doesn’t exist helps us gain perspective. The issue then is to decide what is in our overall best interest to accept without resentment or regret and realize that our life is a gift to be grateful for not a burden to be carried.

Through our own effort and with free will we have the power to build on our strengths and change nearly anything in life if we so choose. Likewise, we also have the right to recognizing that we don’t have to meet anyone’s arbitrary standard. Accepting that growth and acceptance is totally within our control we feel more empowered. We are living the life we chose with all of its’ challenges and rewards. Each of us as different as our fingerprints. Once we truly accept our authentic self it speaks volumes to others. We are happy in our own skin and the positive energy we emit attracts more of the same to us like a magnet.

To check yourself on your level of self acceptance ask yourself if it is harder to accept the good in yourself or are you too busy thinking about what you don’t like about yourself? The later view keeps you locked into remorse, anger or resentment which attracts more negative energy and experiences in your life. There may be things that we would like to improve upon but when we allow ourselves to become laser focused on them making them an all encompassing concern we lose sight of the joy in living.

Are we living the life we had planned? Or totally accomplishing those things that we want to do? Maybe or maybe not at this time. But you got up this morning right? You went about your daily tasks and made it through the day. You may have even found a little time help someone or to relax along the way. So the day might have been challenging but it was successful.

To experience more acceptance in our lives we can start by putting things in perspective with a thought from the Buddha, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought.” The good news is that if you read that statement closely it is in the past tense. In other words, today you lived the energy you thought about yesterday. Was it positive accepting energy? You can make tomorrow even better by accepting the lessons you learned today with humility and grace.

Knowing that the Universe doesn’t make mistakes and accepting who you really are, deep down inside, helps us to feel a greater sense of confidence and serenity in life. Acceptance then is about you – first and foremost. When you fully accept yourself you no longer find the need to focus on what you don’t have but are grateful for what you have been able to achieve. We are all doing the best we can and succeeding at it – one human being at a time.

Have a great few days!