Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for July, 2014

Happiness Is The Journey!

We have all heard the saying, ‘Happiness is a journey, not a destination.’ It sounds good and we want to accept the intended meaning but somehow, someway we often get sidetracked into thinking, ‘I just have to get through today, this week, this month or the next holiday or family celebration coming up then I’ll be happy.’ Exhausted after all of the challenges, expectations and obstacles we face we may all of a sudden realize that another summer or year is coming to a close and we have not stopped long enough to enjoy the moments of the journey. When will I experience happiness we may wonder to ourselves?

The reality is that when we learn to see happiness in everything we are living through AS we are living through it that is the true definition of happiness. It is achieved everyday in everyday when we inhale deeply and realize that happiness is a way of living, call it gratefulness, deeper awareness or being in the NOW.

Think of it in the context of moving to a new place. We are excited and want things just right. All the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted when we move in. We want things just so and yet…the joy, the experience is lost in our eager attempt to hustle our way through to completion. We become exhausted even a bit overwhelmed and forget to enjoy the journey. The truth is that you will never experience this particular moment again in your life. Once it is gone that’s it. So learning to enjoy the journey in life is of great importance.

Happiness is not something to achieve as much as a state of mind. It starts with being grateful for our lives this moment and every moment while we are on this earth. Not everything will go right today or tomorrow but learning to be fully engaged in the process of observing and appreciating where we are at on our unique journey is the working definition of happiness.

We don’t have to wait until we retire, get that new job or home or go on that vacation to realize that happiness is achievable right now. It is breathing in the energy of a new tomorrow filled with hope, anticipation and joy.

We planned our lives to encompass exactly the things we are facing, the lessons we are learning and the difficulties we are dealing with in order to learn what true happiness is all about. It is in you, around you and through you. The true essence of life is to welcome what it rightly yours – happiness – into your daily life.

To accept the daily obstacles and unfinished business, the laundry list of tasks yet to be accomplished with a knowing that ‘All is as it should be,’ IS the happiness. This message may sound simplistic but in reality it is the hardest thing we will ever learn to master in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Use Your Internal Pivoting Device!

I have talked in previous blogs about the importance of learning to quiet our monkey brains. It is that constant chatter that goes on nonstop in our minds while we are engaged in both large and small tasks. Occasionally we hit a peak of concentration and we are ‘in the flow.’ That is the rare moment when we are totally absorbed in what we are doing and time just seems irrelevant. We finally look up at the clock and think, ‘Where did the time go?’ Those experiences are gems for us to hold onto and appreciate for many reasons. After all, through deeper concentration we are developing new synapses in our brains! When we experience this type of thinking we realize that it really is possible to stop listening and responding to the constant barrage of running monologue within our mind that dissipates our energy. That’s important because so much of it is useless, distracting even negative chatter that keeps us from bringing our total self to the experience.

These rare moments of clarity and insight happen when we have an alignment of our energy and focus. We can visualized this with a Rubik’s Cube. We begin aligning the six faces which are covered by nine stickers each one displaying one of six colors. Using an internal pivot mechanism in the Cube it allows each face to turn independently. When we finally achieve the matching colors on each side of it we realize the intense concentration and satisfaction we have achieved by controlling our effort and concentration. We did not achieve completion of it by being distracted by the constant what if’s, reviewing a list of concerns, tasks yet to be completed or worries about things in life that we cannot change.

We achieved the mastery of the Cube through intense FOCUS. When we are totally absorbed in a work task, book or even in conversation with another we actually achieve with laser like precision a deeper level of understanding. Any negative assumptions or personal slights we may have interpreted as real most often are simply from a lack of focused understanding in a conversation. These are moments where we think to ourselves, ‘Aha! This is what it is all about. Now I get it!’

I realize that the daily list of tasks seem to become longer with each passing day. That’s okay. It’s called life. Just remember it is not the number of tasks that’s important but the AMOUNT OF YOU that you bring to each task. If you are trying to accomplish something but thinking about 5 other things while doing so it dilutes the experience and lessens the understanding and appreciation. It may leave us momentarily satisfied with the completion but does nothing to increase our power to observe patterns, make new connections and understand at a deeper level.

We can train ourselves to focus more deeply by using the concept of the Cube and choosing to use our own internal pivoting device. When we refuse to listen to the monkey chatter that dissipates our concentration we become more objective in what we see, hear and do. It’s not easy and takes practice but a good way to start is in your next conversation with someone. As each of you talk count how many times you allow the voices in your mind to get you to think about something other than the conversation and person at hand. You may be totally surprised – shocked even – at the number! Each time you realize that you are allowing your mind to wander stop and make yourself refocus on what is being said. After all, both you and the other person involved is worth the effort.

Have a great few days!

Handling Transitions in Life

Linda Ellis wrote an incredible poem entitled, ‘The Dash.’ It talks about the moments between our birth and death and refers to them as the dash. The dash represents how we spend our life. When you think about it the dash – our life experiences – are each absolutely one of a kind. They are the genuine articles that cannot be replicated by anyone. When you think further about what constitutes our dash it is made up of times of transitions in our lives. Our families, careers, homes, just life in general, is really a matter of learning how to accept and embrace these transitions.

Even though our lives are unique, there are predictable patterns when it comes to our transitions since they represent change. Think about the definition of change, ‘to make the form, nature, content, or future course of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.’ No matter how much we try to embrace the idea of change it can still be daunting. That’s why it is called change! Yet, how many of us would want to see our lives static, doing the same thing day after day for the rest of our lives. To help embrace the changes in our lives there are a few steps to consider when we are facing major life transitions that can help us hold on and carry on through the sometimes murky waters of the as yet unknown.

We can expect to feel anxious even a bit depressed at least momentarily when we are facing a major life change. At first we may feel confused, puzzled even. We thought we couldn’t wait for this major transition in our lives and yet, gulp…all of a sudden there it is staring us in the face and we may think to ourselves. ‘I don’t know if I’m ready, or this is happening too fast…’ Our emotions are on overdrive as we try to analyze what to do next. We think to ourselves, ‘I need a plan.’ Indeed we do need a plan …in time…just not quite yet. We are in that famous place that the brilliant Dr. Seuss called, ‘The Waiting Place.’ For those of us who have tried to live by the sacred pact of always having a Plan A, B and even C, this is a trying and frustrating place to be in emotionally. We know it’s time to close up shop on the old but we are not quite ready to embrace with abandon the new. Instead we stew, fret and worry.

If you are in the proximity of ‘The Waiting Place’ you will surely know it. What may have been funny in the past – is not particularly so right now. You may be a bit touchy with others. You may even find yourself forgetting things you have always remembered and become even more uptight over it. Why do these things happen? Simply because you have allowed your mind to become caught up with the fear of the unknown. The ‘what ifs’ take over and you are caught up with worry. Just remember the saying, ‘99% of what we worry about never comes to pass’ because it is true!

The good news is that you are EXACTLY in the right frame of mind, at the right juncture of your life and facing a major life transition ahead and are a bit overwhelmed. Good for you! It means that the life you were living was worthwhile and you made significant contributions to making this world a better place. Giving up or letting go of what was and embracing what is yet to be is not for the faint hearted. Yet…there is magic in change, undiscovered treasures in starting something new and beautiful horizons yet to experience….when you are ready. When will I be ready you might ask? Oh, trust me on this, you’ll know the signs even though the future might still look a bit uncertain. There it is – you can feel the beginning of a smile way back in the recesses of your mind that you are nearly ready to expand your life and challenge yourself by facing something new. Intuitively, you know everything will work out. You know you can do it. You just needed that time in ‘The Waiting Place’ to mentally and emotionally pack your bags.

When we visualize our life as a book, each chapter uniquely written by us, we can see that we are simply finishing one chapter and are getting ready to move on to the next. We begin to get our breath again as we exhale with a new found courage knowing the next chapter will, indeed, be a great one. It takes time, courage and belief in ourselves to embrace the transitions in our lives. It is also good to remember that others have managed the transitions in their lives and are still alive and doing well. Often, talking with others who have experienced major life transitions and have a new purpose in their life can give us just the extra shot of confidence we need to remember, “All is as it should be.”

Have a great few days!

An Instant Mood Changer!

Could it be that in our hectic nonstop world there is yet another way that we can help ourselves achieve an immediate sense of calm? For instance, within our sensory family, our sense of smell is often relegated further down our list of importance for anything other than spraying on our favorite cologne or perfume. We can walk up to the fragrance counters in a department store and inhale the latest scent and immediately tell if it will work for us. Yet with the advances in aromatherapy we can also transport our homes and even offices into places that are welcoming and productive, even memory enhancing, since our olfactory senses are amazing messengers.

When we walk into our homes we can instantly smell us – that ‘uniquely us’ smell means we our back in our own comfort zone. We are home, safe and ready to kick back for a few moments and reflect on the day. When we go into other people’s homes we also can immediately detect smells. Sometimes those smells are inviting and at other times a bit off-putting. Everyone and everything has its own trace of olfactory recognition.

The interesting thing about a smell or odor is that it is the only information sent to the limbic system, a part of the brain responsible for memory and emotion. Further, due to our own genetic makeup and memories our individual reaction to the same smell can differ significantly! Certain smells can be intoxicating to some and repulsive to others. Researchers from Rockefeller University have recently discovered that in addition to our personal reaction to smells we can detect more than one trillion of them!

What smells cause you to smile when you inhale them and remember where this smell first originated in your life. For me, the smell of roses takes me back to my grandmother’s garden. The smell of those beautiful roses coupled with the taste of the red raspberries that grew along side them was a treat. Today when I smell roses I inhale deeply and remember. Each of us can experience a surge of deeply rooted emotional response ranging from intense pleasure to even fright or pain from smell-induced memories from our past. Scientists term this phenomenon “olfactory-evoked recall.”

The understanding that an odor can retrieve not only a memory but a particular emotional state can open up all sorts of possibilities for us in life. It seems that the companies who produce wall plugs, candles, body and room sprays as well as colognes and perfumes have the potential to hold the corner market for both our memories and emotions now and even more so in the future. Aromatherapy is alive and well and truly real. When we walk into certain stores (frequently high end) and a certain smell envelopes us it can be inviting, a bit exciting and relaxing all at the same time. That folks has the potential power to redesign the world of sales. As we continue our never ending quest to find ways to be super productive at work and yet be able to relax into a home environment that is inviting, peaceful and centering all at the same time may only be a candle, wall plug or spray of cologne away!

Have a great few days and in the meantime don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

The Art of Being Fully Present

When you are talking to someone and they are giving you their undivided attention you naturally feel valued. We all do. Their eyes are focused on you and they are listening to what you are saying because they care. It is the greatest gift we can give one another. How often do you experience this on a personal level? How many people can you count in your life that care enough to stop the chatter in their minds to fully listen to you? The number is not as important as the actual mental activity of considering it.

When I see parents or children busily texting or reading their emails when they are eating out or with others I have to wonder who or what is more important than the people they are with at the moment? This thought is usually followed up in my mind with the question, ‘Is anyone in there?’ Training ourselves to focus on the person who is talking is not as difficult as it may seem but it doesn’t just develop naturally. It takes practice. Ultimately, it says more about the respect we demonstrate to others than it does about who we are or what we are doing in our lives.

There was a point when multitasking was thought to be the in thing to do. Supposedly it showed others how busy, how important or how intelligent we were. Research has shown that multitasking does not increase productivity or effective human relation skills. Yet, when we allow our minds or eyes to wander when listening to others we are, in fact, multitasking and, in effect, not being efficient or effective with our communications or thoughts.

Basically it all boils down to focus. We can train our brains to better focus by starting with simple tasks we do around the house. The task has to be done anyway so why not use the time to think solely about the task. I can almost hear you thinking … seriously? Am I really suppose to think totally about sweeping, doing dishes or whatever? Yes, as strange as it may sound that is exactly what I am talking about. Using a simple task to train your brain to focus will help to develop the habit of focusing on the most important element – other people – in your lives. By controlling the immense amount of random thoughts that easily pop into our heads especially when we are doing simple tasks we can develop the skill to truly HEAR others in our head and our heart. Using this simple task approach is much harder than it sounds. Just try it and see how hard you have to work at refocusing continually.

When we are not fully present it is exhausting and even frustrating to all concerned. Often our minds become involved in creating internal dramas or busy misinterpreting what we think was said rather than what was actually spoken which can result in misunderstanding or even conflict. Whether we want to admit it or not most of us can read each other’s body language like a book. My question then is our own emotional book demonstrating fact or fiction to others?

When you find someone who genuinely cares enough to be fully present with you it is a gift from the Universe. Likewise, when you are fully present with others you will feel more engaged, motivated and achieve a greater peace of mind. The ultimate test which you will pass with flying colors is when someone says to you, ‘Thank you for listening to me. You make me feel like my thoughts or concerns are really important to you.’

Have a great few days!

No Worry, No Problem, No Drama

In the last two blogs we have dealt with how small changes can improve our lives. Specifically, in the first blog I discussed the difference in two types of motivation – restrictive (I have to …) or constructive (I choose to…) Basically, it is the difference in the mindset or approach we take when approaching a task. Either way the job has to get done but with restrictive motivation we feel put upon or upset as compared to constructive motivation which causes us to find something positive either about the task or at least the feeling of accomplishment we will receive when it is finished. Listen to yourself and others over the next few days and you may be surprised at how often restrictive motivation is used. No wonder so many people feel perpetually exhausted! Just visualize the difference in a smile or a frown. It literally takes more muscles (thus energy) to frown. When we use restrictive motivation we are, in essence, constantly frowning on the inside. Conversely, when we are practice constructive motivation we are smiling our way through it.

The next blog on the theme of small changes we can make for a happier tomorrow was on the topic of hope. Show me a person who exhibits hope and I will show you a person who is successful at life regardless of his station. When we practice hope long enough it becomes an habitual way of thinking. We train ourselves, in essence, to expect good things to happen in our lives and refuse to be sidetracked by a challenge along the way. We become more optimistic and inspired by even the little things in life because we are surrounding ourselves with positive energy. Hope truly does spring eternal and is a learned behavior.

The next small change we can initiate is training ourselves to deal with things we can change and not allow ourself to wallow in blame, fear or self pity for the things we cannot change. One sentence or thought repeated enough can make a huge difference. For instance, by thinking to ourselves ‘I simply won’t go there’ it helps us to redirect our attention to the things we can change rather than wasting our precious moments on this earth dealing with negative thinking. This one simple but powerful statement speaks volumes about what you value and what you choose to fill your mind with in life. Remember the statement – garbage in – garbage out? Negatives in the form of worry or drama are not elements of problem solving but are merely methods of either attention getting or unresolved fears. Neither approach fixes anything and, in fact, simply makes the issue bigger than necessary in our own minds. I have never seen anyone solve a problem by constantly worrying about it or repeatedly and dramatically talking about over and over. In fact, these ‘catastrophic thinkers’ can sap the life energy right out of us.

Each of us will have our own fair amount of problems to deal with in life. The longer you live the more you can see that life seems to be an equal opportunity employer. It is simply part of the human condition. Developing a Plan (sometimes even a Plan A, B and C) and working through the steps we need to follow (with mid course corrections along the way) is a constructive way to address an issue and keep it in perspective. Naturally we begin to feel more in control with any issue we are dealing with when we stop perseverating on it or on the ‘what ifs…’ and develop steps to address it.

These above ideas may simply seem like little more than common sense to many of us. However, there is a difference in knowing something and actually doing it – a big difference!

Listen to yourself over the next few days and see if you can put one or two of these ideas in motion. Just remember when dealing with any change in our lives, step by step is a cinch.

Have a great few days!

The Magic of Hope

Continuing on the theme of how small changes can positively affect our lives the topic today is hope, that invisible feeling that results in happier tomorrows. Hope can keep the human spirit alive and is one of the most powerful forces we can create in our lives. It gives us a reason to go on when we meet what seems to be insurmountable challenges or disappointments.

Let’s think about the dynamics of our family and friends. We all have certain people that we relate to more easily. Sometimes we can even finish their sentences because we just seem to be on the same wave length. These relationships are easy for us to maintain. Not a lot of emotional or personal growth needed for us with these kindred spirits. Relating to them is like hitting the Easy Button on our desks.

There are other relationships that can be a bit more challenging. At times it can even be down right uncomfortable being together. We may anticipate seeing them and feel ourselves getting uptight about the encounter. We may have played the record over and over in our heads about what upsets us about them. Maybe they are poor listeners, interrupting constantly or frequently telling us what we should or shouldn’t do rather than seeking our thoughts and perspectives on a situation. Or maybe they are emotionally distant and only interested in their own world. The list of possibilities can be endless if we allow ourselves to stay stuck in a mindset that it is hopeless to expect them to act differently. Since we all have a range of personalities within our family and friends it can make life more interesting and rewarding if we start to look at them with hope and a belief that our relationships can improve over time.

When we accept the fact that everyone has a right to their own perspectives and that we do not have the right to judge others simply because they think differently than we do we begin to embrace life. Differences in age, life experiences, family dynamics and a host of other variables results in a unique set of lenses for each individual. Honoring these differences takes the tension out of our encounters. It becomes less about the right or wrong of a viewpoint and more about looking for the positives and uniqueness in another. Regrettably, it is too easy to dismiss or discount someone because they don’t think as we do. However, that behavior says more about us rather than them. The strong, confident person chooses hope for a better tomorrow and believes in the rights of others to be their unique selves without judgment. They are the ones who take home the prize at the end of the day.

Archbishop Tutu said: “There is no situation that is not transformable. There is no person who is hopeless. There is no set of circumstances that cannot be turned about by ordinary human beings and their natural capacity for love of the deepest sort.”

Hope is totally within our own minds and hearts to choose to manifest. It can give us a reason to try harder and become inspired and optimistic against all odds. It gives us a reason to give those challenging people in our lives another chance, and us another opportunity to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of them. We can develop a reservoir of hope so deep that no person or experience can take our hope and joy away. We live it, breathe it and believe in it with our entire being.

In fact, hope can cause us to change our view and begin to expect things to go better the next time we see that challenging individual. The magic thing about hope is that it creates and attracts more positive energy to us. Before you know it what or who you once thought challenging is not acting quite as difficult as you expected. You realize that you don’t need them to change because you hold both love and hope in your heart and are fully equipped to handle any situation. Those positive feelings become contagious even to the most recalcitrant
of people.

Have a great few days!

Choosing Happiness!

This is the second blog on the topic of how small changes in our thinking can make huge impacts in our lives. In goal setting we know that there are two different types of motivation – constructive and restrictive. The understanding of the difference between the two are significant and can be life changing.

The definition of constructive motivation is deciding to CHOOSE to see the opportunity in a situation. Even with events in our lives that challenge us using constructive motivation we decide to handle them in a more positive manner. Think of the saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemon aid. This is a perfect example of constructive motivation. It allows us to bring a more energized mindset to any chore or event. Life is not easy or for the faint of heart. Why make it harder on ourselves? Constructive motivation colors our world with vibrancy and is energizing not only to us but to those around us.

Restrictive motivation, on the other hand, is easily identified because the person usually starts by saying, ‘I HAVE TO …’ or ‘so and so is MAKING or EXPECTING me to …’ What they are saying is that what they need to do or are expected to do is not really of their choosing and consequently they psychologically resent it and see it as a demand. When you think about it the only two things we have to do in life is die and pay taxes. We don’t have to work at a particular job, live in a particular environment or maintain certain friends because we can change those things if we are unhappy with them. If our job is too stressful we can start looking for a different one that better suits us. If our bills are too high and causing us stress we can change our spending habits. People who use restrictive motivation often enjoy the attention received by playing the role of victim by being the person who is constantly overwhelmed by the demands of others. Their attitude speaks volumes. Slowly but surely they have fewer and fewer friends because their negative energy zaps others. Over time, people choose not to be around them. It just takes too much out of us to hear their latest version of what is not working in their lives. It can be exhaustive just thinking about them.

If we want to feel more in charge of our lives we can do so by consciously thinking in terms or ‘want or choose to do something’ rather than ‘have to’ do something. It takes practice but over time the results are worth it. Reading this you may think the difference of thinking in terms of ‘choosing’ rather than ‘having’ to is merely semantics but it is so much more. The difference is truly immense because in reality it is all about energy – positive or negative. Just think about how you feel when someone tells you to do something compared to when someone asks you to do something. You may still do the task but when asked you feel you have a choice and do it more willingly. When being told to do something you may still do it, of course, but you bring to the table a subtle but natural resentment to the task just as we did when we were kids and our parents told us to do this or that – remember how you felt? Not so good right? Then why would we do the same thing constantly to ourselves?

Our tomorrows stretch out ahead of us just as a blank canvas to an artist. What colors, attitude and motivation we choose to bring to the experience determines whether we bring our total self to the experience with gratitude for the opportunity to live another day and make a difference or not.

The amazing and wonderful thing about life is that we have the exclusive choice to use constructive motivation to cause us to feel deeper and accomplish more by recognizing the gift of being here on this planet to learn our lessons. It is totally in our power to choose our mindset and with it the life we choose to live.That is an awesome opportunity!

Have a great few days!

Small Changes Can Create Greater Happiness!

Small changes can have a huge impact on our happiness level. Over my next few blogs I will discuss some of the ways we can achieve greater peace from the confusions and complexity in our lives.

To begin let’s look at the problems (or labeled opportunities if you are an optimist) that you encountered over the past week. Most people can list at least three things that just seemed to upset them in some way.

Think about how you reacted in certain ways then ask yourself why. As babies and small children we really were like sponges that absorbed our parents beliefs, opinions and assumptions about life. Since we looked up to them and relied on them literally for our existence it was natural to adopt their mindset or views of life.

When we reached adolescence or early adulthood our own experiences helped to expand our assumptions and opinions which at times may have conflicted with our parents’ perspectives. It’s a natural phenomena because we see the world through different lenses.

Part of our different view is due to the era in which we born. For our parents life was more predictable, patterns more sustainable and the pace was slower. As an example the generations from the sixties and seventies either used a simple typewriter or penned letters of communication. However, from the mid to late 80’s the dominant communication tool was the computer. A major improvement in speed, efficiency and connectivity ensued yet many of our parents remember a time with nostalgia when receiving a letter or card from someone had an entirely different feeling and connotation. Today ‘snail mail’ is looked upon as archaic.

The basic values of truth, fairness, care, loyalty, respect, equality and freedom continue to be important to us but over time and experiences our interpretations or definitions of them may change and expand. We are products not only of our biological make up and our own life experiences but also the generation or era in which we were born.

One of the hardest things for the older generation to deal with is change. Of course, the era in which they lived did change over time but at a much, much slower pace. The speed of change today seems impossible to comprehend and so for many raised in the early generations it just seems easier to ignore or refuse to engage in change as much as possible. Although they remember an easier, slower paced life they cannot recreate it and may become frustrated, angry and resistant to the world in which they are living.

The significance of the differences in perceptions between generations cannot be overstated. If we stubbornly hold on to the opinions and assumptions our parents had, given our changing world, we are in for a rough ride. Today more is demanded of us. More information, analysis and flexibility is required simply to exist. Life is no longer simple. Our challenge is to learn to become more comfortable and not remain stuck in the world of our parents which has ceased to exist.

There are small but important changes we can make to help us become more flexible and fluid in our thinking. Let’s call them survival skills for the world of 2014 and beyond. Over the next few weeks we will look at some ways that through small changes we can become much happier and content with ourselves and the world in which we live.

I leave you with one question to ponder over the next few days. Assuming our parents had the greatest influence on us, when we look back at them as individuals were they happy? Did we hear optimistic, encouraging views from them about our potential? Did they help us feel as if we could accomplish anything we set our minds to? Did they encourage us to stretch our wings and fly? If you answered yes to most of these statements – you are fortunate and able to take on the speed of change in our world today with confidence.

If you answered no to the questions above my question to you is rather simple but pointed. Why would you perpetuate the views, assumptions, beliefs even behavior that you learned from them if they were truly not happy, confident human beings? Why would you think their life views would enable you to grow into the happy and successful individual you can be? If there is a disconnect for you – stay tuned there will be much more on the topic!

Have a great few days!