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Everyday Excellence

Excellence has become yet another one of those overused words in this era of hyperbole we are living in. Words that in previous generations had deep significance and meaning tend to signget thrown around, are overused, and are applied in ways devoid of meaning. Words like “excellence,” are used by organizations and institutions in ill defined ways to describe mediocre activities. What is the meaning of excellence? Organizations and institutions don’t have the answer. It is something that can be defined only by individuals.

In my first career I was a teacher in an educational institution that prided itself on being a place of “academic excellence.” The phrase sounded great, parents loved it, and we used the phrase quite frequently as a faculty to describe what we did. The problem was however, that the ways in which we measured academic excellence were vague and undefined. What did recardacademic excellence mean? Excellence for whom? How could it be measured and quantified? And how could it be spread among students of different strengths and abilities? In my second career I’ve worked in a psychiatric hospital system that uses the phrase “service excellence” to define ways in which we interact with patients. While the latter is a little more defined it still remains difficult to truly measure. Excellence in this environment continues to be an individual thing, varying with each employee and each interaction that they have with a patient.

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen endeavor.”-Vincent Thomas Lombardi

This quote by Vincent Lombardi holds some of the keys to the dilemma presented by trying to define excellence. “Regardless of their chosen endeavor” is where the answer lies. Each individual knows intuitively when they’ve done their best. Most of us know when we’ve given 100% and when we haven’t. Naturally there are things that we prefer to do and enjoy more than others. Those are the activities that we attend to and give 100% of our efforts. Lombardi’s definition implies that we give 100% even to those endeavors that we find less attractive, tedious, and difficult. Most of us know what these tasks are. We know what we like to do and don’t like to do. How well we attend to tasks we must attend to that we don’t care for is, according to this definition, the key to excellence.

Self-esteem is something that all humans need to feel good about themselves. I’ve facilitated many therapeutic self-esteem groups over the past 20 years. More often than not people identify their self-esteem through the eyes of other people. In other words, if someone else validates a person then they feel they have self-worth. True self-worth, by definition, must come from the self. Each person holds the key to their self-esteem. At the end of the day each of us knows if we’ve committed to excellence that day. If we’ve given our best then we have committed to excellence. That can’t be taken from us nor can it be given to us by anybody else.

“Effort is between you and you. No one can take away effort.”-Raymond Lewis

Another simple explanation of the true meaning of excellence. Excellence cannot be given or received. It is an internal drive and motivation that creates positive self-esteem. An institution cannot created it, it must come from each individual that represents that organization.

It’s very difficult to pursue excellence in every endeavor that we undertake. Giving 100% at all times to everything we undertake is close to impossible. It is however, something to strive for.

“The way that you do one thing is the way that you do everything.”-Unknown

kd capeThis statement implies that excellence is a habit and can be learned. While your results will not always be perfect, your effort will be excellent if it is the best that you are capable of. We all know on some level when we are doing our best. Excellence, by this definition, creates positive self-esteem. And feeling good about yourself is one of the most positive emotions that one can have.

“The only man that matters is the man in the mirror.”-Hugo Giagiari

As Wayne said, “Be excellent.”

John
P. S. Contact me at john@mindbodycoach.org if interested in mindbody coaching. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Got Insomnia? Guess Again

Insomnia is a nagging event that plagues all of us from time to time. We may have a night or two where sleep is problematic, but usually the situation corrects itself and we get back to our normal sleep patterns. Up to 48% of the United States has occasional bouts of insomnia and 22% have it chronically. Insomnia is one of those terms that we use lightly to describe the occasional lack of sleep. “I’m having insomnia.” Do you really?

scroogeMuch of what we today term as insomnia is a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution. The invention of artificial light and the assembly line made it possible for industry to mass-produced goods around the clock. It also made it possible for low skill workers to obtain jobs where they could receive decent wages by doing simple tasks. Production could take place at any time of day thanks to the ability to create artificial light. By the end of the 19th century the developed world had adjusted our concept of time to the artificial construct of the clock. Man adjusted his natural sleep wake cycle accordingly, and insomnia as we now know it developed.

Roger Ekirch, a professor at Virginia Tech University, has done extensive research on the history of sleep. While pouring over primary sources he kept coming across the terms “first sleep” and “second sleep.” He discovered that through almost all of human history people slept in two divided doses of approximately four hours. Between the segments there was approximately one hour of wakefulness that was routinely used to fuel the fire, have a meal, talk with family, or simply use for thinking. The terms came up so often that he felt it was not coincidental. His curiosity compelled him to learn more.

Ekirch began to collaborate with Thomas Wehr of the National Institute of Health, who had sleep studyrecently completed studies on people’s preferred sleep patterns.Wehr found that in the absence of artificial lighting virtually all test subjects resorted to to periods of sleep of approximately four hours that were interrupted by an hour or so of wakefulness. During the remainder of the day they suffered no ill effects, in fact they had more energy, a better disposition, and performed better on assigned tasks. Divided sleep was proven to be more beneficial than the preferred method of eight continuous hours favored by post industrial man.

The combined research of Ekirch and Wehr explains how the present definition of insomnia developed. Insomnia is frequently characterized as “primary insomnia,” or “secondary insomnia.” Most people who complain of insomnia fall into the “primary” category. Ekirch and Wehr’s research shows that secondary insomnia was created by industry and the clock. The Industrial Revolution in the desire to be more productive changed the way mankind sleeps, robbing us of our natural sleep – wake rhythm. It also took away a relaxing and productive period of time between first and second sleep.

During the hour or so between the two sleep periods the brain produces an abundance of woman insomniaprolactin, a hormone associated with feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and creative thought. Ancient and Medieval man looked forward to this each evening, and made productive use of it. In contrast, modern man finds it upsetting, disturbing, and makes it out to be a problem. The thoughts begin to race, we worry about being tired the next day, and what should be natural and pleasant becomes a big problem.

Learning to roll with this naturally occurring sleep wake cycle is the key to maximizing the benefits of our sleep. Sleeping as people did before the Industrial Revolution is a good idea if you can discipline yourself to do so. Going to bed shortly after sundown, learning to relax, meditate, and slow the mind down during that hour of wakefulness will prevent problems the next day. Like most things mental and emotional, our internal dialogue and unique interpretation of the event shapes its outcome for us. The idea of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is simply not natural. Expecting the hour-long interruption each night and simply going with the flow of it is the first step. Developing some skills such as meditation, using it to contemplate, pray, or to simply learn how to scan your body for relaxation can be a productive and creative way to use the time for your benefit.

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and other giants of the Industrial Age certainly made their mark on the way we live today. They also are somewhat to blame for the modern definition of tv bedinsomnia and laziness. We would be much healthier if we could throw away the clock, shut off the TV, and sleep when our bodies told us it was needed. While it may be impossible to do this, it’s not a bad idea to seek out ways that we can adjust our lives to our internal sleep – wake rhythm. Remember that there is no emotional or psychological problem that a sleep problem will not imitate, and that maximizing the third of our life that we sleep is among the most important things we can do for mental and emotional health.

Sleep tight, but if you don’t it’s not a big deal.

John
P. S. Contact me at john@mindbodycoach.org if interested in mind body coaching. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Worry: A Poor Insurance Policy

Worry is probably the most toxic human emotion, a  self inflicted wound that we give ourselves with all the best intentions. We rationalize to ourselves that it is helpful and the responsible worry ladything to do. In reality, it does nothing for us, makes us sick, shortens our life, and robs us of enjoying the present moment, a type of insurance policy that comes with too high a price.

Why humans worry is both simple and foolish at the same time. We believe that it is necessary to our survival. Worry is closely related to fear and anxiety. It evolved as an emotion because of the human need to provide food, clothing, and shelter in the anticipation of the changing seasons and natural disasters that man faces from the environment. “Be prepared,” is ingrained in us as a mark of intelligence, maturity, and being responsible. While worry is good up to a point, it is very easy to cross the line from an appropriate level of anticipatory concern and preparation into the danger zone of toxic worry.

Studies of performance anxiety indicate that as anxiety increases, performance improves up to a point. Beyond that point, as anxiety continues to increase, performance declines.The anxiety increases even more, making performance even more inefficient. Most people have a hard time backing off from the anxiety and worry, believing that if they worry more that they will somehow be successful. Kind of like the “if it doesn’t work, then force it,” mentality.

Edward Hallowell, M.D., in his book “Worry,” states that our brains are equipped to register fear and worry more sensitively than other emotions. We are also not naturally wired towards positive thinking, pleasure, happiness, or contentment. This is because as man evolved emotions associated with worry had priority as incentives for survival and were more essential than emotions associated with pleasure. Humans are complex hunter gatherers whose survival is dependent upon brain power and thought. The brain of modern man interprets all danger as physical and sets off alarms geared towards a physical response-fight or flight. We misinterpret many psychological signals as threats to our physical safety, and our nervous system creates chemicals that prepare us for physical action. We have fewer outlets to be physical in the modern world, so we sit in a chemical stew created by our brains that makes us suffer emotionally and physically.

Like most interactions that humans have with their environments, worry is associated with a unique internal dialogue that most of us engage in with little effort or awareness. What we say to ourselves appears very real because we create our reality. Anxiety, worry, and fear do not exist in the present. They are the anticipation of some kind of pain in the future. Because we focus on these emotions, we tend to get them, pulled toward these events like a moth to a flame. We also experience physical maladies as brain chemistry creates the fight or flight response and our body goes through a destructive physical burnout.

How do we cope with this? We can’t live life without preparing for the future. How do we live a life that responsibly prepares for our future yet focuses on the present moment. American theologian and author, Reinhold Niebuhr, wrote what has become known as The Serenity Prayer. Whether you are religious or not, and regardless of your spirituality, it provides a useful tool to cope with worry. The prayer goes:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
noteCategorizing future events in columns marked What I can change, What I can’t change, and What, in time, I might be able to change, is a good starting point. Putting the objects of worry on paper tends to take a little bit of the steam out of worry. The exercise clarifies what’s worth your concern, and most people worry less because it’s on paper. There’s less need to obsess because you can always pick up the piece of paper and refer to it as needed. Writing out solutions to things that you can change gives a sense of control, and noticing what you can’t control creates a sense of acceptance.

Many find that having a “go to” set of coping thoughts also helps combat worry. I am not a big believer in affirmations unless they are accompanied by an action plan. Like the ’60’s song said, wishing and hoping isn’t going to get it done, but controlling your thinking with more positive self talk can assist you in making better decisions. “Proper planning prevents piss poor performance,” is one that works. Another is WIN-what’s important now? There are countless others. I have written numerous articles on goal setting in motivation that can be accessed through the Categories section of this website. Read some and pick some strategies that will work for you.

Break the cycle of toxic worry by awareness of your patterns and habits, and selection of strategies that you are comfortable enough to use on a consistent basis.

“What, me worry?”-Alfred E.Neumanneuman

John
P. S. Contact me at john@mindbodycoach.org if interested in mind body coaching. Subscribe to my blog, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

The Impossible Mile

“It’s physically impossible.”

 

In 1954 it was presumed to be “physically impossible” for a man to run a mile under four minutes. Even those in pursuit of this lofty goal had their doubts. The story of the man who shattered the four-minute barrier, Roger Bannister, has some motivating lessons to teach us all about what can be possible with the proper mindset and careful preparation. bannister

 

Bannister, on the surface, appeared to be the least likely candidate to break this record. While talented and capable enough, his situation did not lend itself to the training and preparation needed to accomplish a four-minute mile. At that time Bannister was a medical student at Oxford University. He had completed his academic requirements and had begun working at a nearby hospital. A typical day for Bannister consisted of 12 to 16 hours of grueling work and sleep deprivation. His incredible accomplishment shows what is possible if excuses are put aside and a solid plan is put into place.

 

Bannister felt that he could spare approximately 30 minutes 3 to 4 times per week to train. He decided to experiment with what would be possible rather than focus on what was not possible. He used his scientific background and developed a system which has since been called “interval training.” He sought to maximize the 30 minutes that he had. He also refused to compromise his studies, in fact he worked a morning shift at the hospital prior to the afternoon where he broke the record. Interval training, as practiced by Bannister, consisted of low-volume, high intensity effort. During the half-hour, he calculated that he could do approximately 10 quarter-mile sprints with a two-minute recovery jog or walk in between each. He believed that if he could get to close to his race pace in training that the enthusiasm of the actual race would pull him through the four-minute barrier. Because he could not train daily he would frequently visualize and mentally rehearse the perfect race, focusing on it as vividly and realistically as possible. He trained very intensely, using team mates to pace him, especially those that ran the quarter-mile.

 

Bannister, while an intense competitor, was not fanatical. When the demands of his medicastudentl training got to be too much, he’d simply take a day off from running. In fact, he had not run for five days prior to his record-breaking run. He did however, visualize and train his mind every moment that he had available. The three-part process of race specific training, enhanced recovery, and training his mind maximized his efforts.

 

Roger Bannister’s record-breaking run opened the floodgates for others to break the four-minute mile. Once he broke it others realized that they could do it as well and it eventually became commonplace. His record lasted a little more than one month, broken by John Landy, a runner considered far more talented than Bannister. What clearly separated Bannister from his more talented peers was his motivation, intelligence, and mindset. His story provides food for thought for all of us who make excuses. “I don’t have the time, I am not good enough, it’s impossible, it can’t be done,” are all things that, if we listen carefully, we will hear ourselves say. What separated Bannister was a “just do it” attitude. By focusing on what is possible, as opposed to what is not, there are infinite possibilities and opportunities that we could succeed with. Bannister also is a great example of success without fanaticism and living a balanced, mind body lifestyle.

 

What’s possible for us may be what we convince ourselves is possible.

 

John

P. S. Contact me at john@mindbodycoach.org for information on mind body coaching. Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Master Your Mornings

“Sh*t!”

wakingWhat were the first thoughts you had upon awakening this morning? What influence did they have on your day? Does your morning routine set you up for success or failure? What can you do to jumpstart your day and set it in a positive direction?

Most studies indicate that people who struggle with emotional challenges such as depression and anxiety have a crucial first hour each day. If they get up and get going, despite what they feel internally, the day tends to get better. People respond to structure and routine, and often get well in psychiatric settings because of routines as much as psychopharmacology. What is also obvious is that people without psychiatric issues respond in similar ways. The morning routine and the rituals that go along with it set the tone for the rest of the day and can make or break us.

So, what did you say to yourself first thing this morning? Most of us begin with a silent expletive and begin to focus on what hurts physically. Thoughts of dread over all the challenges we face that day often pop up next. We next may have sat on the edge of the bed, head down focusing on the floor. In a few minutes we may have gotten enough ambition to drag ourselves to the bathroom, all the while focusing on negative thoughts, aches and pains, in the tasks that lay before us that day. After a shower, a cup of coffee or two, we jump in a car and drive off to work.

I often stress to clients that psychology and counseling are behavioral sciences, and that as a science there is some predictability and some commonalities in the things that we all do. Positive human behavior changes brain chemistry even more than psychotropic medications. Most people would be willing to take a pill if it would start their day in a positive direction. Such a pill, of course, doesn’t exist. We can, however, improve our morning routine to make us more productive throughout the day.

Perhaps the most important thing is becoming aware of our thoughts and what we say to ourselves after we open our eyes. With thinking, what we focus on becomes our reality. Focusing on things that we are grateful for and looking forward to that day are beneficial. I ask my clients to think about what they are grateful for, looking forward to, who they feel a sense of love and connection for, and think as positively as they can. Negative thinking tends to spiral and create more of the same. Changing this negativity must occur. Notice negativity and flip it in a positive direction as soon as possible.

Paying attention to your physiology is important as well. Most of us instinctively stretch brieflystretch2 upon rising. Our bodies want to do this after sleep. Going with this natural desire we have to move in the morning can set us up physically for a more positive morning. A morning “practice” of some type of physical exercise is very important. If you are fortunate enough to be wired to enjoy your exercise in the morning, then go with that. Starting your day with a workout under your belt creates a feeling of physical power which spills over into mental and emotional power. If you do not enjoy morning exercise then get into a 5 to 10 minute routine of light stretching and deep breathing. Breathing correctly does more for the brain than those 2 cups of coffee that you chug down driving into work.

sunriseGetting outside for a few minutes or more creates a sense of groundedness and connection that helps organize your thinking and can ignite your creativity. No matter what the weather, getting outside helps. If it’s cold then bundle up. If it’s raining having a porch to sit under or at minimum an open window to sit in front of works great. Breathing in deeply through the nose and exhale from the mouth quiets the mind while waking the brain.

At least some of this activity should be done either on the floor or on the ground. Activity where one moves their body through space such as yoga,, karate, tai chi, or calisthenics are best. They force us to be coordinated at a time of day when our physical coordination is at its worst. Getting on the ground or floor connects us to the earth, literally grounding us in creating a sense of physical awareness.

The morning routine does not have to be difficult, in fact you should strive to make it as simple and efficient as possible. Many will decide to rise early, pack a gym bag, and drive to a gym to work out before they begin their day. While I am not knocking that, I don’t believe it is necessary. The morning routine needs to be practical. Simple routines done in your bedroom, basement, or own backyard are more likely to be done consistently.ground

A quick recap is in order:
1. Pay attention to your initial thoughts. What do you say to yourself? What physical sensations do you focus on? Where does your mind tend to go first thing in the morning? If these are negative then notice them and consciously change them.
2. What are your physical rituals in the morning? Do you stretch? Could you become a “morning exercise person?” What are your exercise preferences in the morning?
3. As always,PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BREATHING! Doing this outside or at least with an open window will jumpstart your brain, clearing your mind for the day ahead.
4. Do some activity that requires you to move your body through space and get you either on the floor or on the ground. The simple act of getting up from the ground and repeating it should become a daily activity. This tends to create physical mastery of our environment. The benefits of this hardly need to be explained.

Get started on a morning routine as soon as possible. It can be as long or as short as you want. Whatever suits you is best for you. If you’re not a morning person then consider going to bed a little earlier. Shut off the TV, and if you can’t break the TV habit in the evening then TiVO that sucker and go to bed! You can always catch it at a later time.

John
P. S. Contact me if you are interested in mindbody coaching. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org. Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

A Brief History Of Breathing

Breathing is the most important and underestimated of all bodily functions. In our lifetime it starts right away and goes on without interruption right up to the end. Modern man is quite frequently too busy to even notice it. A man can go three weeks or more without food, approximately 3 days without water, but not much more than three minutes without air. Throughout history mankind has been fascinated with the spiritual implications of this amazing mind body activity.

adam“And God formed man from the dust on the ground and breathed life into his nostrils.”-Genesis 2:7

And so it started, we as a species began to breathe. Somewhere along the course of human history mankind stopped paying attention to breathing and pondering its deeper significance. Through most of our history breathing had a spiritual significance as men viewed the process as evidence of our spirituality. Man did not doubt that he was a spiritual being, but rather saw the act of  breathing as evidence of that fact. Plato, the Greek philosopher, believed that breathing was a whole body activity, and that air taken in circulated throughout the body giving it life. In the New Testament when Jesus “breathed” on his disciples he was filling them with his Spirit. In Hindu culture philosophers study Prana, or the breath as a “Life Force,” that connects man to all other living things. In Chinese culture this force is called Chi or Qui, in Japan it is known as Ki. It is considered the source of all life and our physical and psychic powers. In each culture the translation of these words is about the same, “Life Force.”

It is unclear when man stopped paying attention to breathing and lost the spiritual connectionzen-monks that he once had with breathing. In Western Civilization it would appear that breathing went out of style as a spiritual activity around the time that city life developed. Living in close proximity to large groups of people in confined spaces became a distraction and the very personal practice of breathing became ignored. Man got caught up in the hustle and bustle of urban living and began to focus on trying to get by. The Industrial Revolution made things worse, and the popularity of activities such as tobacco smoking certainly didn’t help. Dominant religious ideas such as Christianity had an outside focus and man searched outside himself for his  spirituality.

Twenty first century man has some mind-body methods of getting back in touch with breathing and ways to return to its spiritual nature. Athletics are among the few arenas where breathing continues to be studied. Mind-body activities such as yoga, martial arts, and meditation all have the ability to get us back in touch with our spiritual essence which comes from breathing. Learning to breathe properly can contribute to physical, mental, and SunDoBreathingspiritual health. Breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and train us to cope better with anxiety and stress. It can slow down the automatic process of thinking and feeling which leads to poor decision-making. It can help us physically become more healthy, stronger, and even look better. Its positive on our spirituality and sense of connectedness is equally profound.

More will be written about breathing in future blog posts here at mindbodycoach.org. It is important that we pay attention to our breathing and begin to utilize all its available benefits.

We are used to sucking it up, let’s pay attention to how we suck it in!

John
P. S. Contact me if you are interested in mind body coaching. Check the “About” section of this blog for more on what I do. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

You Inc.

“If you are stuck in a dead-end job give yourself a raise.”-Napoleon Hill

burgersThe above quote is a paraphrased statement made by Napoleon Hill in the 1930s. Hill was among the the first motivational speakers and personal development experts in American history. To this day he remains the most influential of all authors and speakers in the area of personal development and self-help. His writings are still readily available, but seldom read. His ideas, outlook, and perspectives on life are pure genius. His advice for people in low-paying “dead end” jobs is worth considering.

Hill’s contention was that people accept jobs that they can get, but not necessarily jobs that they want or are even suited for. While we are not living in the Great Depression, many Americans are what is now known as “under employed.” Due to the difficult job market and inability of the educational system to plug people into appropriate jobs upon graduation they have been forced to accept jobs beneath their skill level, financial needs, or their field of interest. Napoleon Hill felt that such a worker becomes defeated and, if not careful, allows the situation to redefine them. They become worn down, discouraged, and accept the situation. They become stuck in a dead end job. They personalize all of this and it begins to subtly redefine who a worker believes they are. The worker begins to complain about the job, my boss, the government, and coworkers. They begin to believe that the situation is out of their control and they are stuck.

Hill’s solution at first may seem counter intuitive, but in the long run is clearly the best negotiatingsolution. He espouses giving yourself a raise by making yourself invaluable to your employer by working as hard as you possibly can every day at work. He advises to show up early, leave late, and work to the best of your ability regardless of how you feel about the job. Here’s where the genius comes in: you’re not merely working for your employer you are working on yourself. You are building skills, creating a resume and a reputation as a good employer, and a self-motivated go getter. Hill states that you will either get a raise from your current employer and improve your job description there or some other future employer will pay you what you are worth. He advises to do this for at least one year and at the end of that time reassess where you are with your present company and where you stand in the larger job market. He advises to always be looking for the next, better job opportunity.

Hill emphasized that you should see you yourself as a self-employed contractor who happens to be working for a company. You should be constantly working on development of your own skill set that you will, if necessary, take with you to the next better job  opportunity. Never view the job as “I work for them,” but view it as, “I am working on myself, and my skills, and they are paying me to learn while I become more valuable to them or someone else.” When you are up for a raise or an annual review, you should have a plan B in mind according to Hill. If your employer cannot give you what you feel you are worth then he suggests that you move on. The employer that you are leaving will be your best reference as you’ve provided them with great service and been a stellar employee.

Workers who accept underemployment do so because of how they interpret the situation with regard to themselves. They go to work with negative feelings that carry over into their job performance and as a result do not put forth their best effort. They soon become poor workers supermanand job performance and self image suffers. They may believe that they are ready for something better after a year or so at this dead-end job, but unfortunately they are performance reviews indicate otherwise. Future employers are going to judge past performance. If the “dream job” is not found soon then the resume suffers and opportunities dwindle.

A quick recap is in order here. Napoleon Hill emphasizes that:
1. All employees should consider themselves self employed. You are always working to develop yourself as a more valuable employee, either to your present employer or prospective employers.
2. Work daily to develop your skill sets regardless of how underemployed you feel you are. View this as resume building and temporary. Pay attention to skills this job requires and skills you need to develop to bring your career to the next level.
3. Don’t personalize! Remember it’s not personal, it’s business. You perform a service for and agreed-upon rate. Periodically you and your employer negotiate a new rate of pay. If you don’t agree on the dollar amount you will have developed the skills to move on to a company that will pay you what you feel you are worth. That’s it, it’s just business. The reality is that your boss and your company view you as a capital asset. If you can make them money then you are a good employee. If you give them more than they are willing to pay you then you have options.
4. Pay attention to your goals. Napoleon Hill was a big advocate of writing goals down. Study what you can gain from this job and what new skills you can develop. It may be customer service, it may be record-keeping, it may be working independently. Find something positive that you can work on to improve your worth to future employers.
5. Never allow a bad job situation to influence the way you feel about your abilities. If you give 100% at work every day then you are a great employee. If your current employer doesn’t recognize this, then a future employer will.

Although Napoleon Hill developed these ideas almost 100 years ago, they are still valid and worth looking at. Hill’s writings are worth reviewing. Most of his works are available for free on the Internet through his books and lectures. This forgotten genius of human development continues to have great advice for those who feel they have no options.

John
P. S. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.com if interested in personal coaching, consultation, or for more information. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Be Like Water

“Be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes water dripthe teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Be like water my friend.” – Lee Jun Fan

A recent trend in the study of human behavior and human psychology is a movement called Positive Psychology which emphasizes the development of a person to adapt to their environment. This ability is often referred to as resiliency, meaning the ability to adjust, adapt, and accept what life gives us. Although the approach is considered new, it’s not. There is much that the modern Western world can learn from the ancient philosophies of China and Japan.

The above quote points out the tremendous strength of water. Water is the element that supplies all forms of life. It is simple and plain in its appearance, and not what it first appears in many cases. Asian philosophy and sayings like that of Lee Jun Fan show that many things in nature are deceptive and that our first opinions and thoughts on things could, in fact, be canyonwrong. Water is the strongest force in nature. Water is patient, persistent, and persevering. It will slowly drip for thousands of years to defeat a rock, or to create the Grand Canyon, or the continents. It will appear to be defeated through evaporation, but eventually will come back to do it’s job again. Water is the very definition of persistence and adaptability.

Many concepts in the Asian philosophies of Taoism, Zen, Conficianism, and Buddhism stress minimalist themes and the strength which comes from letting go of emotions and attachments. Recent psychotherapeutic strategies have returned to some of these philosophical ideas. Mindfulness Meditation, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy are some of the modern approaches that have embraced these ancient ideas. Studies have shown that acceptance creates less anxiety and is more beneficial than trying to force change. This creates resiliency and emotional flexibility that promotes psychological wellness. Its opposite is emotional rigidity, an unhealthy outlook in which one tries to change things that are out of  personal control.

waterfallIn the Asian approach to life virtually nothing is what it first appears. Water, dripping on a rock, appears innocent and harmless. Come back to that in 100 years in you’ll find that the rock has changed while the water remains the same. Water is powerful and can kill, or it can sustain life. Left to do its’ work it can move and change virtually anything. It adapts, changes, conforms, and adjusts without thinking, feeling, or processing. It just does what needs to be done. It is the very definition of resiliency in its’ most natural form.

In Neurolinguistic Programming there is a presupposition that, “The person with the greatest amount of choices in a given situation is likely to get the best outcome.” It would appear that water has the best amount of choices in nature. If we ponder this presupposition, we will realize that is probably true for us as well. More choice equals better outcomes in most situations in life.

“Be like water,” is not just merely some throw away line in a kung fu movie, it’s great life advice. Keeping this metaphor in mind can focus us on more beneficial ways of thinking and lead us to a state of acceptance and greater insight into what we can control and what we can’t.

“Nature is always speaking to us.”- O Sensei

John
P. S. Email me with comments at john@mindbodycoach.org. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter. More self-help information is available in the Categories section to the right of this post.

Life Can Be A Stretch

Life certainly can be a stretch at times. It stretches our limits, stretches our imagination, our resources, and our ability to cope. Stretching, by its very nature, implies adjustment, adaptation, and going beyond where we are in the present moment. Stretching can be both a physical activity as well as a mental activity. We are better served by stretching when we use it as a mind body method of self-improvement.

stretchingStretching should be part of the daily practice for everyone. The best mind-body practices are those that combine physical and mental activity in a time altering way. Stretching is a grounding strategy that can help one get more deeply into their physical being. Doing so is beneficial, as it gets the outside world to stop briefly, allowing one to go inside the body and to notice where one is physically at that moment. Stress can be physical, but anxiety is always mental and emotional. Going inside and noticing the physical world allows the emotional world to stop for a moment and take a brief timeout. This “emotional recess” creates a distance between our physicality and our internal world of emotion. Since anxiety is an emotional state, then the benefit is that anxiety stops. I often find that clients respond very well when I tell them to do something that gets them out of their negative thinking. Any mind-body activity can help. “Get out of your head and into your body,” is good advice to combat anxiety.

As with most self-help strategies, prevention is the key. Waiting until one has a problem is not the best idea, preventative activities are. Stretching warms the body up for physical activity. We all know this. What we don’t usually pay attention to his how good stretching can make us feel mentally. The goal of the daily stretch should be to prepare us not only physically for what we will encounter that day, but mentally as well. It’s great if one can devote time to a formal yoga or karate class, but the reality is most of us can only do this a few times week. The best way would be to have both formal classes as well as a personal daily practice that incorporates stretching with meditative breathing. Daily practice creates a set point for us where our ability to move and relax are noticed, adjusted, and adapted to.

A daily stretching practice can be created even if one does not want to participate in formal classes. My personal favorites for a daily practice are activities that combine martial arts movements and movement derived from yoga. Below is a 10 exercise routine taken from uechi ryu karate, demonstrated by my long time teacher, Joe Graziano. (karateandkobudo.com) The 10 exercises can be done slowly or vigorously depending on how you feel. These 10 exercises are among the best you can do for increasing joint mobility. They start at the ankles and hips, working their way up the body to the neck. The entire set can take as little as 3 to 4 minutes. The last exercise is a deep breathing exercise that can be followed by some meditation or you may want to follow up with some yoga.

Yoga is probably the best mind-body method to increase flexibility and body awareness. Attending a few formal classes is a great idea, participating regularly in those is an even better idea. If this is not possible because of the demands of life, it shouldn’t be an excuse for not practicing it. Learning from a teacher and participating in classes when you can allows you to safely incorporate yoga practice in your daily life. Below is a video that walks a beginner through the Sun Salutation, one of the most beneficial ways that one can start the day.


Either of these two videos could be practiced alone or together to create a daily mind body practice. The 5 to 10 minutes that it takes can set you up for a more positive mindset and positive approach for your day. Getting out of your own head and into your body is what you’re looking for. It is important to do something every day that has a mind-body component to it. A few minutes in the morning can have a great impact on how your day starts. A few minutes midday or early afternoon can give you the mental and emotional energy needed to finish the day’s strong.

No excuses here. We know life’s a stretch, so don’t fight it, bend with it.

Check the Mindbody Category section to the right of this post for more information like this.

John
P. S. Give me feedback at john@mindbodycoach.org, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Give Yourself An Attitude Adjustment

angry guyAttitude adjustment. Most of us know when we need one. We certainly know when others need one. What exactly does an attitude adjustment mean? Where do I go to get one? Can I possibly give myself one? Good news! With a little self assessment and honesty the answer is yes. You can give yourself an attitude adjustment.

We usually know when our attitude is getting sour. The problem is most of us tend to go with it, rationalizing that we’re having a “bad day,” and just dive into the negative mood. On some levels we enjoy this negativity, as the emotions are powerful and at times feel good. We get to take no responsibility for what’s going on, the emotion takes over, and we dig ourselves in to ride out the feeling until it dissipates on its own. Hopefully, we don’t do ourselves too much damage.

So how does one adjust their own attitude? Like most emotional experiences a bad attitude is a combination of physical and emotional responses to what’s going on in our environment at woman runningthat time. Probably the best way to begin to adjust our attitude is by starting with the physical. Do something physical that changes and adjusts your mind body connection. A 10 minute walk, banging out 10 push-ups, a brief session of shadowboxing, and any other brief, vigorous activity can begin to take the edge off of a bad attitude. A bad attitude is often our mind and body’s way of saying that we are carrying a lot of negative energy. Blowing out some of this negative energy is important. Doing this in an appropriate way can help get you back in control.

The next step is to change what you are focusing on. Ask yourself what am I paying attention to right now? What am I focusing on? What am I saying to myself about this? Are my thoughts accurate? Why am I doing this to myself? The combination of changing the physical and changing your thoughts and self talk is often enough to enable you to see the larger picture and decide a different course of action.

When the need for the attitude adjustment is severe, one of the best things that you can do is change your focus through a brief, written exercise which is often called a Gratitude List. You simply grab a pen and a notebook and quickly rattle off, in writing, 10 things that you are signgrateful for. The list should be done quickly and non-judgmentally. Asking yourself over and over again, in a shotgun style manner, “what am I grateful for, what am I thankful for,” writing something each time until you get to 10 items. Take a moment, and ponder the list. The list doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to be things that you are grateful for. The list may eventually include a hodgepodge of unrelated things. Family members, good health, favorite foods, favorite people, places, and things are all likely to make the list. This exercise may appear simplistic and silly, but trust me, it works. It’s a common group exercise that I have seen done over and over again with much success in programs where I have worked. People often dismiss it as something that wouldn’t help, but after doing the exercise realize that it does.

Reasons that these suggestions work is that they change what we are focusing on. What we look for in our environment is what we tend to find. Studies show that this is not New Age nonsense, but is solid brain science. The human brain is wired to notice that which is familiar to it. Negative thinking is rooted in an evolutionary need for preservation and protection. Changing your attitude through a self attitude adjustment works to change the associations that you would otherwise instinctively make without thinking. Writing as part of your attitude adjustment is particularly powerful as it engages both hemispheres of the brain. Such an exercise on a regular basis can lead to lasting changes in how one views the world.

Adjusting your attitude from a mind-body perspective is the most efficient approach. Work to change the triad of your physical being, your internal language, and what you are focusing on. When you really get down to it isn’t our attitude the only thing that we can truly control?

All help must ultimately be self-help in order to work. Give yourself an attitude adjustment next time you notice that one is needed. Check the categories section to the right of this post for more information on self-help.

John
P. S. Email me with questions and comments at john@mindbodycoach.org. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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