Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for June, 2014

How is Your Flight Control?

An article recently about the rescue of a young peregrine falcon can teach us a great deal about rescue and survival. It seems there were 4 chicks that hatched last month in a nesting box high atop a bank building in a local city. One of these chicks apparently, in his first attempt at flying, hit a window of a local police station. (I can’t imagine the headache he had for awhile). According to local veterinarian the bird was “naive … physically his tail was not real long so his flight control was not the best” basically his flight feathers were not grown out enough to sustain flight. Typically, the flight lessons continue by the parents as they teach the young chicks how to survive and hunt for food.

Many of us were blessed with parents or a supportive individual who taught us how to fly. A person who was with us to help build up our self confidence as we matured into adulthood. Just as the parent falcons, available to guide us and help us learn to fly on our own.

Now as adults we may no longer have the guiding influence of this person. We may find ourselves flailing rather than flying, at times, with false starts, reboots or challenges that seem to wear us down and require the positive support of another. When our flight control just doesn’t seem to be working what can we do? Our friends or family can serve as our ‘veterinarian’ in these times and be nearby to offer comfort until we regain our balance. Sometimes we need to ask them directly and at other times they seem to sense that we need a temporary helping hand and just jump in because they care.

What forces of ‘gravity’ are holding you back on your life flight? What is your plan to deal with them? What goals have you set to help you learn to soar through the strong winds of resistance and turbulent air space we call living to achieve your life goals?

Everyday life presents us with examples after examples that demonstrates that no one has it easy and that life amounts to developing the ability and tenacity to withstanding the challenges or injuries we may incur but to keep on attempting to fly until we have mastered our life lessons. It is easy to become disenchanted or overwhelmed with issues. No one said life was going to be easy, or was for the faint of heart. But regardless of any challenge you face it is worth the effort to keep trying to fly.

Just like the once endangered peregrine species we can find help through a support group or listening ear and use time to heal our own broken wings when we accept the fact that our life flight was not supposed to be easy, calm and without event but planned to be a series of experiences that stretch us, make us downright uncomfortable or unhappy at times yet throughout it all offers more joy than sorrow, more rewards than regrets.

It is important to remember there is always a ‘veterinarian’ in essence ready to give any of us their time by offering physical or mental ‘first aid’ from their kit of human
kindness. All we have to do is to be strong enough to ask.

Have a great few days!

Happiness is an Inside Job!

If you are unhappy in your life what are you choosing to do about it? The operative word, of course, is “choosing.” Our level of happiness cannot be determined by others or we are in for a long, bumpy ride. As Albert Elllis said no one has the power to cause us to feel happy or unhappy unless we give them the right to do so. We can choose to be happier, more productive in life by internalizing a few simple ideas.

The first and most important belief is that we deserve happiness. Yes, even with all of our supposed imperfections we are still entitled to happiness. It is our personal inalienable right and a goal that we work toward achieving throughout our lives.

Our level of happiness can be affected by others. Which people seem to have the greatest influence on your thinking? Look into their lives – are they truly happy? If so great! If not, the sad truth is that nothing you can ever do will change it. They must decide to make the effort to change their thinking and their life. In the meantime, you can become manic trying to help them, attend to their latest life crisis, even attempt to buy their happiness but to no avail. If they lash out in frustration or attempt to bully us into solving their latest life trauma it says more about their own level of frustration and unhappiness than ours. Only they can choose to change their life.

For our own well being, however, it is important to decided the amount of time we are willing to allow ourselves to be surrounded by negative energy. We tell our children that they need to choose their friends carefully but how many of us as adults do the same? You might be thinking … but many of the people who exhibit unhappiness are in my own extended family? Even with family, the same rules apply. You will receive from them only what you are willing to accept. As a family member you might want to jump in and ‘fix’ something for them. Be careful. It is their territory not yours. Assuming what they need and not waiting to be asked for help can result in resentment. The internal message they receive is that you think they are not capable of handling it on their own. That is a demeaning message. Remember, ‘helping’ is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone views the issue or challenge through their own eyes. It requires a delicate balance of knowing when to assist and when to back off that results in greater happiness for all concerned.

Sometimes we need to limit the time we spend with others (including family) when their energy is just too negative to be around. I am convinced that there are a few people on this earth who simply choose to see life as a fight – deciding who are enemies and who are friends. Sadly, these folks believe that anyone who doesn’t see things the same way as they do are just dead wrong. Luckily, I have encountered only a few of these folks in my life but I do know that they can suck the enthusiasm for life right out of you if you let them.

When we draw a line of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior when dealing with others we give ourselves the right to choose happiness. Regardless of how negative or out of control someone may be the bottom line is that they will only give us as much as we are willing to take. Martyrdom should have ended in the dark ages. Respect is earned not only by what we do but how much we are willing to tolerate.

When you give yourself the gift of happiness you are accepting the fact that you are a human being, a child of the Universe who is worthy of consideration, acceptance and respect. The real test then is to muster up the courage with family or friends to refuse to be taken for granted, demeaned or devalued. Of course, equally important is how you communicate this message. Anger simply negates the message. A spoonful of sugar always makes the medicine go down better.

You were created with everything you need to be happy. Once you begin expecting happiness as the natural order of things it is amazing how quickly the Universe responds. Like a magnet positive energy and self confidence draws more of the same from others.

Have a great few days!

Even Rats Have Regret!

U.S. researches have discovered what appears to be “regret” in lab experiments with rats. In “” a research team located at the University of Minnesota said they were able to substantiate that the observed behavior was actual regret rather than mere disappointment.

Regret, the recognition that different choices could have resulted in different outcomes can be destructive or instructive. If even rats can demonstrate regret what does that say about regret and the human condition? It seems that the feeling of regret is more prevalent than we once thought. Rather than deny any feelings of remorse we may be experiencing maybe the issue is really the length of time spent in regret and what we take away from the experience that is the discriminating difference between productive and nonproductive behavior?

Some people live their life living in the regrets from their past resulting in a continual cycle of thinking ‘if only I would have done this or said that rather than..’ and as a result seem stuck in the past. Their lives continue to replay scenarios of what could have been. Living in the past stops people from experiencing the joys of today and hopes of tomorrow. They live in “the waiting place” that Dr. Seuss refers to in his book. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

On the other hand, other people experience regret but look at it from a perspective of what lesson they have learn from the experience. They live in today and dreams of tomorrow because they feel empowered to make better decisions for their lives because of what they learned from their yesterdays. Doesn’t it seem only natural that we relive moments or events when we were not at our best in an attempt to better control our decision making for the future? As long as we are aware of the amount of time we are spending in that place of review it can be a healthy, instructive thing.

We all have times – especially when we are sick, tired or stressed when mole hills look like mountains. Before responding or making a decisions at this point it is important to realize that we are not functioning at our best and try to avoid saying or doing something that we may regret later.

Let’s assume, however, that we do not heed our own best advice and say or do something that we wish we could undo. Often this happens from feelings of fear or anger. After all, we are simply human and bound to make occasional mistakes along the way. Rather than beat ourselves up over it or attempt to assign blame to others if we simply accept ownership for the error or mistake and offer appropriate apologies as necessary we can turn around something that could have become rather ugly into something meaningful – an “Aha” moment that makes us better, happier people in the long run. Regret in this example can mean that we have lived, learned and are moving on. That’s a good thing!

Our challenge is to learn from the experience and decide to handle the next situation a bit differently. We are all products of the choices we make. Everyday and in every way life has a way of testing us to become our best selves. Life is not for the faint of heart. We have chosen this life experience to become wiser, more thoughtful and productive human beings while we are on this planet. It starts with being brutally honest AND ultimately kind to ourselves and others as we learn our life lessons.

Have a great few days!

Are You Absorbing Negative Energy?

When trying to keep informed of world events or even family happenings it is easy to become weighed down with concern or negative emotions. We must remind ourselves of the saying that cynics do not make a contribution to life, skeptics do not create things and doubters do not make changes that benefit themselves or others. Some people just seem to choose to focus on the negatives in a situation and it can wear us out. When we remind ourselves that we alone have the power to control the type of energy we allow to affect us it rights our mental ship and keeps us on a more even keel.

When we truly listen and observe others a pattern of behavior emerges in everyone and every situation. As we train ourselves to clearly analyze the patterns it causes us to seek more information, process more of the back story and keeps our brain synapses working. The more we listen and search for the meaning of a situation we realize there is always more to it than we have initially assumed. It’s hard to remember that people say and do things for a particular reason. Sometimes it is merely to inform but often it may be to control a situation or manipulate us into thinking a certain way. Think of communication as being in a range that is as simple as a game of Checkers or as complex as a game of Chess. This deeper awareness of not only what is said but what is truly meant by it may not change our attitude or feelings about the person or topic but it can at least help us feel that we are more cognizant of the intentions and not simply pawns in the game of life.

Charles Glassman said in his book, “Brain Drain – The Breakthrough That Will Change Your Life,” “Believing in negative thoughts is the single greatest obstruction to success.” When we feel negative energy around us it is our choice to become absorbed by it or choose to physically or mentally escape with grace. The discomfort we feel when surrounded with negatives is a signal – like a flashing yellow light – that tells us to slow down and think, process more fully and then decide with a deeper sense of our own truth before allowing ourselves to become absorbed in it. The choice is always up to us. The challenge – yet good news – is that no one can do it for us. We are capable of accepting or rejecting any negative that comes our way.

When we take in information from our environment it effects our mindset one way or the other. We have no one to blame if we allow ourselves to become ill affected by the negative energy of others. We have the gift of free will and the power to decide what we are willing to accept – what works best for us. We get back from this world exactly the type of energy we put out into it – no more or no less.

The next time we are confronted with a negative issue maybe we can take a moment and look for the underlying motivation, reason or purpose and then decide how to respond – from a more deliberate perspective.

Have a great few days!

The Magic of Compassion

In our harried, hectic lifestyles could it be that we have forgotten about the importance of compassion? The term itself denotes empathy – putting ourselves in another’s shoes. When we are moving as fast as humanly possible it is easy to forget to smile, listen attentively to another or possibly do something for another that will brighten their day. Even a short email passing on a good thought can be important. What does that take – one or two minutes? I’ll bet we could find that in even the busiest of our days. There is a saying that summarizes it best, ‘People don’t care how much you know (or do) until they know how much you care.’

Beyond the apparent benefit of practicing compassion to others it actually helps us as well. Studies have shown that when we demonstrate compassion our bodies produce 100% DHEA a hormone that counteracts the aging process and reduces by 23% the cortisol which is the stress hormone in our bodies. Regardless of the exact percentages the bottom line is that demonstrating compassion is good for our physical and emotional health.

The pace of which we live has never been faster and I am not suggesting that we add more to it. However, compassion is a matter of mindset not time. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the differences in others, that’s like hitting an ‘easy button’ in our mind. Training ourselves, however, to look past the differences in search of the commonalities is simply a behavioral approach that with practice we can get really good at doing. Eventually, we find that we recognize the common human need for acceptance, patience and even a listening ear as truly an important part of living. When we arrive at this place we then begin to enjoy life a bit more as we open up our ‘acceptance portals’ in our minds.

Slowly, but surely, we begin to smile more than frown and search for the positives rather than negatives in a situation or in other people. We exhale more deeply when we realize that we have arrived at a place of peace in our lives – a great place to be!

Leo Buscaglia, the noted psychologist once said, “Too often we under estimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if each of us decided to practice a little more compassion for a fellow traveler of the Universe – even starting with once a day? Imagine how we could actually change the world around us if we chose to demonstrate a little more positive regard for others.

Wouldn’t be wonderful to hear someone say that we made life a little better just be being in it? Something worth considering don’t you think?

Have a great few days!

Lessons from Leonardo DaVinci

The famous artist, Leonardo DaVinci, lived by five principles according to author Michael Gelb in his book, “How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci.” These principles are well worth our consideration.

Curiosity – If we question things to seek additional information and to discover the deeper ‘why’ behind the idea or situation we are attempting to create a richer context, purpose and understanding in the moment. Knowing the ‘why’ helps us make connections in our brains by creating new synapses. Basically, knowing the ‘why’ makes us smarter.

Risk Taking – when we force ourselves out of our comfort zones we expand our awareness of life. By doing so we develop greater self confidence. We experience new things and become more interesting to ourselves and others. Is it easy … no but is it necessary… absolutely!

A Deeper development of our five senses happens when we bring our total attention to a circumstance. Feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting and touching are senses that can be taken for granted on a superficial level or experienced at a much more significant level when we bring our total attention to the situation. We are able to connect with our subconscious memory and experience the full effect of the experience when we are fully present in the moment.

Chaos – predictability can be reassuring but it can also become boring. The ability to handle ambiguity tolerance allows us to ‘allow’ life to happen. It deepens our life experience. The best teachers have this critical skill. They move with the tide and do not try to force the water to remain still. Life gives us hundreds of opportunities to develop our skills of listening, waiting, observing before we decide on a particular plan to move forward. We simply need to learn to allow and relax in the knowing that all will work out as it is suppose to in life.

A mind-body balance. Life is all about learning balance. Too much of a good thing is simply that ….too much. It takes discipline to learn a personal balance in everything we do but it is possible when we realize that, ‘if it is going to be it is up to me.’ Choices can be a gift or a burden it simply depends on our attitude.

Like a kindred spirit, Leonardo DaVinci also believed that everything happens for a reason. Adopting this belief helps us to accept life and stop using the blame game on ourselves or others. It helps us live fuller, richer lives and we become fearless when thinking about the future. We know that we will survive and learn the lessons we have chosen to learn. We are personally responsible for the challenges, the lessons and the learning involved.

Living with these principles can cause us to begin seeing with the minds eye of the artist. We can become more happy, healthy and fully functioning human beings when we apply what this master has set out before us. We can sketch our canvas anyway we choose because it is simply, magnificently all up to us and “All is as it should be.”

Have a great few days!

Life Transitions

Much has been written about major life transitions yet for some of us the challenge remains one of understanding and accepting the changes as they are presented to us. For example as our children graduate from high school or college we realize that our role as parent requires us to change. We learn to step back as our young adult children test life and begin to realize their own strengths. Holding out the apron strings hoping they will latch on restricts their growth and self confidence.

At the other end of the spectrum when we are facing retirement it also brings major life changes to our table. We knew who we were as an employee or boss but who are we now? We have spent our life raising kids and advancing in our careers only to be faced with the life altering question of, ‘What next?’ ‘How do I change, adjust and create a new life?’ These changes are major life transitions that can be better understood from researchers such as psychologist, Erik Erikson.

Erikson talked about the individual life stages and labeled the 35-65 ages as the time when we are occupied with creative and meaningful work raising families and advancing in our careers. Success and advancement at work becomes crucial. We frequently find ourselves ‘in charge’ or at least more independent and confident in our roles. We are making a difference in the lives of others and feel valued from our contributions. Yet, we know the future will soon be something we will face and we may begin to fear this next stage, late adulthood, thinking of inactivity or achieving less meaning in our everyday lives. Yet, that does not have to be the case.

For those people who couldn’t wait to retire from their job this is a time when just doing what they choose to do at any given moment is the brass ring for which they have been waiting. They may not have been a boss in their jobs but worked hard regardless and their reward is one of total acceptance – celebration even for the change of pace in retirement.

For others who devoted themselves not only to family but a career and advanced through the ranks until they were the boss, the designation and recognition in itself was an ongoing reward. But the thought of retirement for these folks may not conjure up images of a more relaxed life style, allowing them to call their own shots but genuine concern and stress about exactly what they will do from this point forward. They may visualize their name taken off the door and wonder – ‘Is this really the right time to retire? What will I do with the rest of my life?’ Have faith that you will make the right decision. Remember the saying, ‘All is as it should be.’ Your track record is good – great even- and it has gotten you to this point. A whole new world is opening up to you now. Be ready.

The truth is that it is extremely hard for some to move into retirement. It involves wrestling with feelings of fear, powerlessness and loss. Like anything in life, the more you love something (or someone) the harder the loss when it goes away. Transitions are hard. They can shake our sense of identity. Recognizing these feelings as real and accepting the fact that regardless of what you have accomplished thus far, you are above all a human like everyone else will allow you to accept any insecurities you are feeling about the future as normal not a signal to retreat. It helps to know that many highly accomplished people have experienced the same concerns regarding this transition in life.

Retirement does not signal the end but challenges us to find new ways to contribute to the world. Think of the things on your mental list that you have waited to do until you had the time. Well now you have it! Now is the time to jump in and create a new you! After you have given yourself the time you need to rest and recuperate from your life’s journey thus far, you will know the right path to follow. Trust me on this, the Universe just seems to give us a gentle nudge when we slow down enough to listen.

When you allow yourself the opportunity to envision your future decades what do you see? There are so many ways to be productive and active. Continuing to do what you are good at – just doing it part time or volunteering, mentorships and other forms of philanthropy allow us the opportunity to make it a better world just at a slower pace. Interestingly, the pace matches our energy level so it’s another thing to be grateful for in life. We galloped through life and are now at an elegant trot. It’s a good place to be.

Have a great few days!

It Takes Courage!

There have been many examples world wide of people who have demonstrated such courage in their lives and have changed the world for the better. Maya Angelou, one of these people, passed away this week. She not only changed herself but the world with her acts of courage. She said that courage is the most important virtue a person can possess because it relies on our ability to be consistent in our views of ourselves and others. It draws the line of what can be tolerated and what cannot. Deciding what constitutes our own ‘line in the sand’ involves many things especially courage.

Courage can be as simple as knowing when to speak up and when to sit down, when to lean in and when to lean back. When we think about the millions of times and events in our lives that require us to choose action or inaction it can be a bit overwhelming. What is stabling, however, is realizing that the golden thread of courage from our life experiences is woven into every fiber of our being and exists to help us know when and where to draw our own lines.

We may not all have the heady experiences of changing the world but we can change ourselves in significant ways by having the courage to grow and expand our own comfort zone and be a model to others.

Any change in our lives involves both fear and courage. Then why change, why rock the boat you might ask? When there is less meaning, security or excitement in what you are doing and you feel that tomorrow will just be a repeat of today a gentle nudge of dissatisfaction is beginning to encompass you. That’s your intuition telling you to change – to have the courage to believe in yourself and your own survival skills enough to do something about it. Muster up the courage to follow your own heart and turn the page, start the next chapter in your life. Everyone has insecurities about change. That’s called being human. It is how long we allow ourselves to stay stuck in the familiar, known as The Waiting Place, that can sap our enthusiasm for life. We have heard of people who say they wish they could do … (fill in the blank) but are waiting for the perfect time, the perfect opportunity, the perfect reason. Guess what? There is no such thing. Waiting is often just an excuse that allows the fears of the unknown, the future, to be manifested in us today. That fear keeps us locked into our familiar, maybe even predictable or restricting place in life.

How sad it would be to reflect back on our lives at 85 or so and think to ourselves, ‘If only I would have …’ Decide today to use your courage to expand your comfort zone and experience more of life. The issue may be big or small – it really doesn’t matter because each time you decide to be courageous enough to change something in your life you are putting another chit in your bucket of strength, fortitude and belief in yourself. Maybe it’s as simple as changing your route to work so you can see a new landscape, or volunteering for a non-profit or even deciding to retire after a lifetime of work. Whatever it is if you have been thinking about it, your intuition is telling you the time is right to do something.

Alan Cohen said it best, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new, but there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.

What can you do this week that involves change and takes courage? Do it, practice the feelings of risk (don’t worry it doesn’t last) and become stronger and more sure of yourself daily as your life expands and grows. When you become that 85 year old reflecting back on your life you can think to yourself, as a wise, knowing smile spreads across your face, ‘I didn’t just take up space, I lived life! I grabbed life by the horns and rode it for all it was worth!’ Yes, you may have a few bumps and bruises to prove it but nobody, I mean nobody, can take away the thrill of the experience and the feeling of confidence you gained on the journey.

Have a great few days!