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Applied Math For Life Improvement

As a kid growing up, perhaps my least favorite part of the school day was math class. I bored-kidsremember sitting in math, the world would slow down, my eyes and brain would kind of glaze over, and I would be semi-comatose until it ended. I remember being told by numerous well-intentioned and hard-working math instructors that, “This stuff is important. You’re going to need to know this in the real world.” Eventually, I figured out how to use real math in the real world, at least for what I needed it for. There are, however, some real simple mathematical equations worth thinking about and following as success principles to use in the real-world.

“Anything that can be done in two minutes must be done immediately.”-David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity

If you’re at all like me, you probably start your day and your work projects with the best of intentions. What starts as a linear process very often becomes quite circular, and often results in backtracking, repeating, and duplication of effort. Often, there’s so much paper on my desk that if someone were to drop a match on it it would ignite a bonfire. David Allen, who probably knows more about productivity than anybody on the planet, has what he calls “The 2 Minute Rule.” Anything that can be done within 2 minutes is tackled immediately. This applies during periods of overwhelm, those moments that can result in frustration, indecision, and mentally shutting down.

desksOne of the fallacies of time management is the belief in multitasking. Study after study indicates that multitasking is ineffective and counterproductive. Successful people think their multitasking, but actually they are not. People who think that they multitask are just good at attending to one thing at a time, then another, and then another, and so on. We never are able to really do two things at once. Apply the 2 Minute Rule next time you feel overwhelmed. Regardless of what task you have on your desk, at least you are doing something. This builds momentum, prevents you from mentally shutting down, and keeps you moving forward, which is where you need to go in these moments. I often find it helpful to utilize the 2 Minute Rule in conjunction with this riddle:
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”-Benjamin Mee, character in the movie We Bought a Zoo

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I a the huge proponent of the benefits of positive, yet realistic self talk. Positive self talk, followed by appropriate action, is the way to get results in almost any area of our lives. As humans, however, we are wired for safety and security. As a result, taking risks of almost any type result in ambivalence and an ability to talk ourselves out of doing things that we would do if we were emotionally and mentally capable of doing them.

With a little introspection, I’m sure you can find a lot of lost opportunities from your past where you didn’t do something and have wondered about it ever since. Take a stroll downMalaysian skydiver Aziz Ahmad leaps from memory lane and see if you can think of two or three times when your life might have been dramatically different had you apply the 20 Seconds of Insane Courage Rule. Maybe you would have ended up married to someone else, in a better job, feeling more self-confident, and be doing more with your life. This mathematical principle is a momentum builder. Once you get through that initial, dreaded, 20 seconds, things begin to happen. Next time you are ambivalent about something, take a deep breath and ask yourself if this is a moment where the 20 Second Rule might apply. Unless you are absolutely certain that it is not, do it anyway. Maybe, just maybe, something great will come of it. You can be sure of one thing. If you don’t, it won’t.

“You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.”- Jim Rohn

This one tends to be a little more philosophical than the previous two mathematical rules. Jim Rohn was an American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker. He said that if you did a mental survey of the five people that you spend the most time with on a consistent basis, you’ll find that you are approximately 80% of what they are with regard to lifestyle, quality of life, health, wealth, and overall state of happiness. Many informal studies have been done on this principle, but it’s probably a good idea to do your own study and see if it applies to you.

Identify the five people, excluding your immediate family i.e. husband/wife, kids etc. and  take a good look. Chances are you are very similar to them. Now comes the interesting part, are you similar to them because you freely choose to be that way, or are you similar because they are holding you back? Do they prevent you, on a subconscious level, from being, doing, and having what you want out of your life? Is part of your relationship with them based on the idea that misery loves company? Would you still be friends with them if your salary suddenly tripled? Would you be involved in different hobbies, recreational activities, and different relationships if they weren’t your five closest friends?

Some psychologists believe in what is called the “mirror effect,” where we subconsciously imitate people that we are very close to because it lets us know that we are ok. If the people we are close to accept us, then we feel emotionally safe and secure. On many levels, we act as they do so as to be accepted by them on an ongoing basis. This is part of our basic human survival instincts. Act like the tribe, be accepted by the tribe, and survive. To break loose from the tribe is threatening to our sense of self/survival. This is one of the deepest mathematical principles for success. Yeah, I struggle with it too, but interesting concept isn’t it? Think about it. It’s a great way to examine your beliefs about yourself, your values, and your personal responsibility for your own success.

These are three, basic, mathematical principles that you never learned in school that could the capable of making your life a little easier, rewarding, and more meaningful.

“If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.”- John von Neumann

John

P. S. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org.

The Other Power Of Now: Why Today Is The Second Most Important Day Of Your Life.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”- Chinese Proverb

As a coach, counselor, and educator, I’ve had the privilege of delving into the psyche of planting-a-treehundreds of people over the past 30 years. I’ve learned that almost every one of us needs to think about the power of this simple Chinese proverb now and again. It’s almost universal that once a person leaves school they get this feeling that their life is a race against time. They begin to feel that, as time passes, certain doors close for them. They spend a number of years rationalizing why they didn’t become a lot of the things that they dreamed about being when they were in school. They get caught up in the day-to-day existence of life, going with life’s flow, adjusting to life as it comes. Most of us live reactive, as opposed to proactive, lives. There comes a time for many of these same people, usually around their 40th birthday, where they begin to have second thoughts such as, “Maybe it’s not too late to…” and they come back to some dream that they had in their late teens. Most pass it off as folly, a fleeting thought, and let it go. Too bad. They have wasted the second most important day of their life.

In recent years many strategies for physical and mental wellness have embraced the ideas espoused by Eckhart Tolle in his 1997 book called The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. The book has become one of the most influential books of the past 20 years, going virtually viral when Oprah Winfrey recommended it as one of the books that changed her life. (Oprah, I hope you’re reading this… I should be so lucky.) Even if you’ve never read the book, you are probably familiar with Tolle, or are at least familiar with the phrase “living in the Now.” Tolle’s ideas, which he borrows from many great spiritual traditions, stress that we are not our thoughts, that our ego and sense of self cause us pain, and that one of the most important things for happiness is focus on the present moment, life’s journey rather than the destination. Undoubtedly, these ideas are some of the most sound and practical advice for us to embrace to enjoy a life of fulfillment. The idea of “living in the Now,” has permeated contemporary consciousness, psychotherapy, coaching, wellness and all the helping professions.

As a coach, I see all too many people given up on dreams and goals that they once had because they believe that it is “too late.” Most people view things in categories such as black or white, all or nothing, possible or impossible. It becomes very easily around that 40th birthday to become a victim of life’s second phase of the “terrible toos,”- as in too old, too late, and too difficult. My job in the psychotherapist part of my life is to explore the feelings, emotions, and sense of lost opportunity that they have around this. My job in the coach part of my life is to help them get there. As a former athletic coach, parent, and high school educator, I find myself far more comfortable helping someone get there. The Chinese proverb above is quite often a part of our discussion.

nowThe reality is that, although we live in the Now, we are going to have future. We often hesitate, fall victim to analysis paralysis, and overthink things. We want to “get more information” about what we are trying to accomplish, do “a little more research,” and think that we are increasing our chances of succeeding. Too often, the days pass, we stop kicking those tires, and end up not taking action. We miss the opportunity of the second most important day of our life.

With coaching clients, I often asked the question “Where do you see yourself in one, three, five, and 10 years from now?” This gets clients future oriented and opens their eyes to a world of possibilities. At some point along the way toward achieving the target goals to get them there, it’s going to get tough. It has to. That’s the way of the world and nature. When it gets tough, I try to remind the client that one year, three years, five years, and 10 years are going to come WHETHER YOU DO THIS OR NOT. Getting them to process this is critical to continued efforts, and continued effort is critical to success. Although we all live in the Now, the future will come regardless.

When you’re reflecting on this Chinese proverb, consider some of the regrets that youbanks_2477590b have about lost opportunities in your life. Consider jobs, career choices, relationships, business, and recreational activities that you woulda, coulda, and shoulda. Don’t fall victim to the terrible toos. While you may not get the same result that you might have gotten had you started 20 years ago, you just may be planting something beautiful and rewarding, allowing you to live a life with less regrets.

 

John

P. S. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Zen And The Art Of Resilience

“We know that where there is no contention, there is neither defeat nor victory. The supple willow does not contend against the storm, yet it survives.” -Master Kan

Resilience is a quality that too few humans have or seek to cultivate. In the world of positive psychology, resilience is a characteristic that is identified in each person and built upon. The dictionary defines it as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness.” Unfortunately, not many of us consider resilience to be a character trait, and some consider it to be a sign of weakness.
In the Western world and in Western culture we tend to think in extremes when it comes to character traits and almost anything else. We tend to see things in either or, black or white, us or them, weak or strong, and polar opposites. Contemporary Western culture, particularly that of the United States also tends to lean towards overkill and extremes. It seems that almost everything is overhyped, overblown, exaggerated, and magnified. River landscape willow and bambooBigger virtually always means better in 2015, just drive anywhere in the United States and notice the number of SUVs that have taken over the roads. Bigger is better, if it doesn’t work force it, hold your ground, don’t take sh*t from anyone, stand up for yourself and be heard. Granted, some of these characteristics and ideas have been the things that have made the United States great. They are also values that make many of us suffer far more than life perhaps requires.

Eastern culture, as opposed to Western, values ideas of balance, minimalism, and understatement. The above quote is an adaptation of the Zen ideal of hidden strength lying within apparent weakness. There’s an often told Zen parable that goes something like this: A young student asks his teacher “Master, give me something to work on that will improve my life and make me fulfilled.” The master says, “Go out and find the strongest plant in the forest. That will teach you how to be fulfilled and happy.” The student, although puzzled, does exactly what he is told. He travels hundreds of miles, studies many different kinds of trees, but is not sure which is the strongest plant in the forest. He does exhaustive research, and returns to the master many times with the incorrect answer. Finally, he gives up and begs the master to give him the answer that will lead to a life of happiness. The master, having compassion for the student, decides to give him the answer. “The tall grass is the strongest plant in the forest, because when storms arise it bends.”

So, what’s the lesson for us humans here? I think on a number of levels we know what it is. Many of us even use the lingo associated with it. We often say to ourselves that we are going to “take it easy, go with the flow, kickback, and just chill.” For most of life’s little things we can. Life’s biggest challenge is that we need to be able to actually do these things with the bigger difficulties that life is bound to throw at us.

If you’re wondering why the tale of the Zen master and the eager student which opened oldthis article comes from Eastern philosophy, there is a good reason. Eastern culture is steeped in the religious and philosophical traditions of Buddhism and Taoism. The philosophical positions of both stress the idea of acceptance, control, and minimalism. These traditions challenge people to accept the obvious difficulties and suffering that life is bound to throw us if we are fortunate to live long enough. Buddha’s First Noble Truth is this: Life is suffering.

By no means, however, is resilience unique to the Eastern world and Eastern religious and philosophical traditions. It does seem they do certainly cut right to the chase on a fundamental reality of the human condition. If one can accept Buddha’s First Noble Truth as a reality of life, then that person is on their way towards being truly resilient.

I’m sure you know people in your own life who are stellar examples of resilience. They are often not who or what you would initially expect. As people living in a highly sophisticated and technologically savvy society, we become conditioned to believe that strength is child_racingphysical, explosive, public, and powerful. We can get fooled into thinking that strength is in an event, rather than a process. If you examine what strength is, true strength, you’ll find that it often comes from highly unlikely sources. Elderly parents caring for each other lovingly in their senior years, the single mom working 40 hours a week to raise her children alone, and that child who is struggling with a terminal illness without complaint, are examples of what true strength is.

Popular culture has thousands of examples of people who are considered strong and powerful and it isn’t too hard for you to find these. Open your eyes to the true strength that comes from resilience, seeking to find individuals who are examples of the real deal. Seek to emulate their strength, attitude, and persistence. True strength, and resilience will never decline with age and infirmity. Understanding the truth of this Zen parable can be one of the most important truths we can ever grasp.

“Notice that the stiffest tree is the most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending the wind.”- Lee Jun Fan

Notice.

 

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Life’s Tried And True Success Formula

“The future depends on what you do today.”― Mahatma Gandhi

In the 21st century, we have the world at our fingertips. At the push of a button, we have access to information on virtually everything we could possibly desire. Most of us turn on our computer each day and get bombarded with all kinds of sales pitches from all around the world for products and ideas promising to improve our lives with the same effort that it took to turn on your computer. As a result of this instant access, we become spoiled. As a species, modern man has become less tolerant of frustration, less tolerant of waiting for things, less self-confident, and less willing to accept personal responsibility. We expect life to happen at the same speed it takes to boot up our computer or iPhone. The conveniences of the modern world have combined comfort with complacency. As a society, we have become like that child that wants what it wants when it wants it-now. Oh yeah, and that child wants someone else to do it for him.

Over the past 35 years I have worked in education and in mental health. I’ve witnessed the toll that instant access and unwillingness to take personal responsibility has on people. When I was a teacher, I saw the gradual change in children who were raised by parents who experienced the Great Depression and World War II with those who were raised by “helicopter parents.” If you don’t knowsped what that term is, Google it. The impact that this has on education is crippling our children’s development of self efficacy, is shielding them from the realities of life,and robs them of the privilege of overcoming adversity. In mental health and psychotherapy, this desire for success without work has perverted the whole therapy and self-help world. People expect to solve long-standing personal and emotional problems instantly by either popping a pill, or merely wishing that things will get better. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/secret/ ) Unfortunately kids, the world doesn’t work like that. And, even more unfortunate than that, the desire for something for nothing robs us of some of life’s basic joys.

There is a simple solution to all this. So simple that it can be broken down to a mathematical formula. It’s not, however, what you think. The winning formula is:

Beliefs + Actions = Success

The most important part of this equation is the synergistic effect of these two, very powerful, basic human needs. Yes, we all need to believe in things, but we also need lunch_atop-ultima1to take actions to test these beliefs. Human behavior is, after all, considered a science. The scientific part of human behavior will differ from person to person and even within an individual from time to time, but there are some generalities. What I’ve observed in my two careers over the past 35 years is that true self-esteem comes from overcoming adversity and walking life’s walk by yourself. It is the performing of the action part of this equation that brings both the desired result as well as the self-esteem, pride, and joy that only comes from personal effort. It is the dogged application of this formula that is the secret sauce of life. Think of anyone you know that has what you believe is a successful life. Scratch the surface a bit and that’s a pretty good chance that you’ll see they have applied this consistently, whether they are conscious of it or not. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/life-lessons-american-history/ )

I am by no means saying that there is no place for positive thinking in our world, nor am I suggesting that we put our children at risk. What I am saying is that all of us need to take personal responsibility for as much of what happens to us as possible. We also need to pass this on to the next generation. Some of the immature reasoning and childlike, magical thinking sold by many who work in psychotherapy, self-help, and personal development is laughable. It is also unscientific and not going to work. What separates a successful person from a not so successful person is the actions that they take and the beliefs that they have about failure. If failure is a catastrophe and perceived as final then a person is likely to stop taking action and accept it, and possibly themselves, as a failure.

People who get something without putting in a personal effort are more likely to self-destruct and self sabotage what they have received. For example, studies of individuals who have hit state lotteries for millions of dollars consistently show that an overwhelming number of them end up where they started, broke and wondering what happened. As yet, I’ve seen no research why this happens, but my hunch is that they don’t fully appreciate it because there has been no effort that led to it. People usually self sabotage when they cannot reconcile their self image from their new found success. We see this over and over in the world of celebrity. Someone receives too much too soon from life, it doesn’t fit their self image or conform to their world view, they subconsciously self sabotage and lose everything. They end up, yep, you guessed it, back where they started from. This occurs because they have not had to put in consistent effort over enough time to adjust and change both their self image and their view of the world.

The idea of instant success, manifesting your dreams, and obtaining something for paul 2nothing is a myth perpetuated by the media and our reliance on technology. We grow up consistently receiving very positive reinforcements for very little effort. Is it any wonder that it effects our lives, and is it any wonder that the world continues to sell us more of the same? Is it any wonder that too many of us don’t feel good about ourselves?

Everything good that life has to offer starts with an idea or a belief. Without action, these beliefs are destined to remain merely dreams. It is the doing, and the overcoming of failure, that gives life its greatest meaning.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”― C.G. Jung

 

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

A President’s Day Message: The Man In The Arena

Monday, February 15th, is President’s Day. In honor of all president’s, I am posting this chapter from my book,”Superior Attitude, Superior State of Mind: A Man’s Guide to Self Help,” available at Amazon Kindle. Here’s the type of attitude it takes to be President of the United States:

koMen love boxing analogies. We “go toe to toe, duke it out, and go down swinging,” or so we’d like to think. In practice, we often don’t take chances out of a fear of failure and looking bad in the eyes of ourselves and others. We need a better way to reframe setbacks and defeats. Often men stop trying at the first sign of defeat and never try again, convinced that an initial failure is the final verdict.

One person who loved the boxing analogies was American President, Theodore Roosevelt.  Although born into a wealthy family, Roosevelt did not have an easy childhood. He was a sickly child who suffered from bouts of asthma and was the stereotypical 97 pound weakling. To build himself up, he began to bodybuild, something almost unheard of in the 19th century, boxed at Harvard University, and bought a ranch out West to embark upon what he called  “the strenuous life.”  He overcame tragedy in his personal life when he was 26 years old and his wife died in childbirth. Throughout his life he sought out physical challenges and danger because he believed  doing so built up his tolerance and made him a better man.  In 1898,  using much of his own money, he created a military division called the Rough Riders and served voluntarily in combat during the Spanish-American War.

Roosevelt was not opposed to testing himself in combat sports .He was one of the first Americans to study the Japanese art of judo and lost vision in one eye while he was president in a boxing accident where he was sparring with one of the young Secret Service agents charged with his protection. Our 26th president had no fear of stepping into the ring  and testing himself. Perhaps, if he was president today,  he’d be testing himself with cage fights in the White House.

One of the most motivating speeches I’ve ever heard is the “Man in the Arena” speech delivered by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910. True then and even more relevant for men of today:

manintheareana“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
TR keeping it real. No further comments are needed.

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Also check out my YouTube channel through the link to the right of this post. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

A Super Bowl Sunday Sermon

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” – John F. Kennedy

Today is Super Bowl Sunday which is, for millions of us, the most important day of Tom Bradythe year. It’s a day when millions of people will gather with family and friends to celebrate athleticism, physicality, competition, and the pure joy of movement. We will revel in the excitement of what is one of the most brutal, yet beautiful in a strange way, of all human athletic endeavors. We will bask in the glory of the skills of others, deride the efforts of athletes we “hate,” yet never have met. We will also be reminded that our children need to play 60 minutes per day, we need to buy auto insurance from frogs, the right beer can make us attractive and sexy, and we shouldn’t engage in domestic violence. Super Bowl Sunday should be a national holiday.

Super Bowl Sunday epitomizes the state of physical fitness in the United States, as well as a lot of other things about contemporary American culture. For too many of us athletics, fitness, and healthy competition are things that we participate in through the efforts of others. Modern life has put us on the sidelines and taken us away from our need to be athletic just as certainly as any injury you had when you were an athlete. Sports on TV satisfies a basic human drive to be physical, competitive, and athletic. Today, we get to sit in the comfort and safety of our living rooms, yell at and ridicule dedicated athletes, and enjoy the rush of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Yeah, and many of us will be enjoying the heart pumping, sweating sensation of our own athletic days that we remember quite well. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

Super Bowl Sunday is a great day to be reminded of how enjoyable, spontaneous, and fun athletics can and should be for all of us. Today, we will enjoy these feelings vicariously through the efforts of some of the greatest athletes of our generation and perhaps of all time. It’s a shame many of us stop enjoying this firsthand after high school. It’s also a shame that, for a variety of reasons, many of us never get a chance to enjoy these feelings at all. Being deprived of athletics, the right to be competitive, and enjoying what it feels like to be physically fit should be right up there with other important rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This right to be physically fit should not have a an expiration date. And, unlike those other rights, whether we have them or not is entirely up to us.

Brady kdI often find it bizarre that we adults have to be reminded by paid television commercials to encourage our children to go outside and play, and choose to not physically abuse the women in our lives. I guess that’s the world that we live in. I also have to think that, if some of those kids are encouraged to get out and play for 60 minutes each day, then maybe someday in the future we will no longer need to be reminded of these things.

It might be a good idea to start an ad campaign that encourages adults to get out and Play 30. The grown-up world would be much better off if we all did this. Our health would be better. So would our moods, anger, stress management, blood pressure, and overall outlook on life. It would give many of us a chance or longer, healthier, and more productive lives. An adult population in the United States that was focused on 30 minutes of fun play would be more likely to create a better world for all of us, as well as those children that we need to throw outside an hour each day.

Today, when you’re enjoying all the emotional and physical sensations of Super Bowl Sunday, take mindful notice of how exciting it is. If you were once an athlete, then harken back to those glory days of yesteryear, and recall how similar your current, artificially constructed, feelings are to how you felt back then. Realize that you can create these feelings, to some degree, every day. Make a conscious plan to feel that way every day for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy the game, but remember, it’s just a game, and as important as this game is, life has much more important competitions.

“I remember my dad asked me one time, and it’s something that has always stuck wlsonwith me: ‘Why not you, Russ?’ You know, why not me? Why not me in the Super Bowl”-Russell Wilson

Go Pats!

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Also check out my YouTube channel through the link to the right of this post. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

It May Have Killed The Cat But… Why Curiosity Is Good For You

“Curiosity killed the cat. It is said that ‘a cat has nine lives,’ yet care would wear them all out.”-Ebenezer Cobham Brewer

Did curiosity killed the cat? To the contrary, evidence indicates that maintaining a m-loveni-zlata-dobrou-chut-2780sense of curiosity is not only healthy, but is a characteristic of genius. Research indicates that people who are curious live happier, healthier, more productively, and longer than their dull-witted peers. We all had it as a kid, but somewhere along the line the game of life and what we think of as common sense took it from us. Well, scientific evidence says we need to get back. But how?

In 2007, a research survey of more than 10,000 people in 48 countries that was published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Sciences the vast majority of subjects indicated that their number one goal in life was “to be happy.” Happiness outranked money, fame, possessions, or power. My assumption is that you agree, and that, as you are reading this, you’re saying to yourself “Yep, I want to be happy.” What does that mean? How would you know if you were happy? What’s preventing you from having it already? What can you start doing today, immediately, to be happy? Spending a few minutes trying to answer these questions is the beginning of being curious. All studies indicate that, without a sense of curiosity, your pursuit of happiness is doomed to fail. Curiosity is not only a factor in leading a happy, fulfilling life, it is a requirement.

Here are some of the benefits of living life with an inquiring and curious mind:
⦁ It is good for your health. A 1996 study in Psychology and Aging found that adults age 60 to 86 who were rated as more curious at the beginning of a five year study were more likely to be alive at the conclusion. They found that curiosity was a larger factor than anything else including age, cardiovascular health, and previous physical condition.
⦁ It is a characteristic of what we refer to as intelligence. Intelligence is often defined as an ability to respond to novel and unusual situations. This cannot be done without a sense of curiosity. A study done in 2002 of three-year-old toddlers showed that those who were rated high in curiosity grew up to have higher IQ scores than their lower rated peers. By age 11 they had IQ scores on the average of 12 points higher, almost one standard deviation above normal.
⦁ It creates better social relationships and is a critical characteristic in social intelligence. Curious people have more friends, more significant relationships, and are viewed by others more highly. The simple reason is that they are able to convey more of an interest in others, which makes them appear to be kinder, more considerate, and more likable than people who do not have this skill.
⦁ It is important for brain health. In the past 20 years science has realized that the human brain is very malleable and responds well to mental exercise. In fact, our brains can grow new neural pathways throughout the entire life span. Picking up new hobbies, interests, and activities at any age in life is not only fun, but improves brain functioning. People who are curious are more willing to try novel experiences, regardless of age.
⦁ It is in important component of what we call spirituality. All of us at some point or another in our lives have pondered the age old question of “What is the meaning of life?” How we answer that question, and how comfortable we are with that answer, plays a huge role in our life satisfaction. People who are comfortable with their answer tend to be happier, healthier, and more accepting of who and what they are. Getting curious about what Philosophy 101 called the Ultimate Questions can be frightening, but worth it.
⦁ It is a key component in being mindful. Curiosity is a characteristic of all mindfulness-based meditative practices. In meditation, being curious and nonjudgmental is the essence of mindfulness. Accepting physical, emotional, and spiritual feelings and insights in a non-judgmental way is really all that mindfulness is. Mindfulness meditation may just be the most important health practice that you are not yet practicing. There’s really no mystery to it, good meditation and a healthy curiosity are close relatives.

images“The important thing is to not stop questioning… Never lose a holy curiosity.”- Albert Einstein

There are many ways that you can get back the curiosity that you once had, or increase what you currently have. It won’t be as difficult as you think, and you will find that it is is a lot of fun. Some practical steps are:
⦁ Ask questions, both of yourself and others. If you are a parent, remember what it was like when your kids were two years old? Almost everything that your child experienced was followed by the question “Why?” This type of simplistic questioning is the first step. Why this is that? How do they do that? Who made that? Where does that come from? How does that thing work? Remembering those questions from your high school class in English composition, who, what, when, where, and how, can help you rekindle your natural curiosity. It can also make you appear to others as a brilliant conversationalist. Ask people these questions, then shut up and listen, and learn to listen carefully.
⦁ Keep your mind open. Be slow to pass judgment on events in your life or the behavior of others. Dig deeper before you decide on what things mean or before passing judgment. Strive to see the bigger picture, attempt to view events through the eyes of others, and adopt a wait and see attitude. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/zen-art-context/ )
⦁ Be a relentless learner. Get back to being the natural student that you once were. There was a time in your life, probably preschool to middle school, where you found school and education exciting. Somewhere around sixth grade it became tedious and “work,” probably because you were told to study and remember things you weren’t interested in. Well, you’re a grown up now and can decide what you want to learn about and study. In this information/Internet age there is absolutely no excuse for not satisfying your natural curiosity. You have at your fingertips more information than the public library held when you were a child, all available at the push of a button. Use it wisely. There is more to the Internet than cute pictures of animals and updates on where your friends went for coffee today.
⦁ Find new activities that you’ve “always wanted to do,” and do them. You’ve been making excuses for a long time about these things, so it’s put up or shut up time. Just do it. Don’t worry about what “they” will think, or how you may look foolish while doing it. Approach new activities with the mindset of a beginner and enjoy the process. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/beginners-mind/ )
⦁ Develop more intelligent use of your physiology. Learn to become more grounded and aware of how you use your body and mind. Have a daily exercise routine and observe your body’s response with curiosity. Don’t focus on the end result, or the long-range goals. Instead, focus on the process. Approach your exercise routine in the same manner that you approached recess when you were a kid. Remember the fun of getting outside, going wild for 20 minutes, and returning to class all sweaty but refreshed and ready to roll? That’s the way to approach your exercise regimen.yogacats09
⦁ Develop some type of meditative practice. Start small, learning to get curious and mindful about something. And, if you “can’t meditate,” see http://mindbodycoach.org/moving-meditation/ .

At one time in your life, you had a lot of fun because of your natural curiosity. It’s time that you regained the once healthy and happy outlook that you had. It’s never too late to wonder.

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.”- Samuel Johnson

 

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

The One You Feed

An old Cherokee chief told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside each of us. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”
The boy thought about it for a while, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.” -Cherokee Folk Tale

Modern nutritional science has made most of us acutely aware of the relationship Wolf2IndianSitSpearbetween what we feed ourselves and our physical health. If you watch any 30 minute local news broadcast, there’s bound to be some story about the relationship between something that you consume and your health. More often than not the stories are contradictory. Some days you learn that coffee is good for you, red wine is healthy, it’s fine to eat an egg every day, and bottled water is the only way to drink it. Two weeks later, all those things are suddenly considered bad for you. Most of us, however, figure it out, managing to pay attention to what we consume and remain reasonably physically healthy. We need to be aware that food and drink is not all that we feed ourselves. Junk food is not the only thing that you may be mindlessly consuming.

While modern nutritional science has made it easy for us to be aware of what we wolfshould be consuming for our bodies, modern communication has made it more difficult for us to monitor what we feed our minds. The typical person in the United States gets up in the morning, flips on the television to see what’s going on in the world, does their morning routine, and hops into their car and heads off to work. While in the car, they listen to the radio, arrive at work, take a glance at something on their smartphone, and begin their day. Each of those informational inputs-television, radio, phone, and computers are some of the ways that we feed one of the two wolves that the Cherokee sage describes in the parable of the Two Wolves. Unlike the young boy growing up in the Cherokee nation years ago, we are not even aware that we are feeding our wolf, we think we’re just going about our regular day.

The modern world has a tendency to prey upon our bad Wolf. The news, gossip, things we remember, and things that attract our attention tend to be negative. Our brains are quick to notice these things. It’s just the way that they are wired. We need to be aware of things that are dangerous, potentially harmful, and threats to our survival. Threatening things tend to remain on the front page of our minds, making us aware, alert, and more capable of self protection and survival. Fortunately, our world isn’t as dangerous as that of a Cherokee child, unfortunately, the modern world makes us think that it is far worse.

Brilliant thinkers throughout history have known that the way we feel about the world, and our place in it, is largely determined by the focus of our thoughts. Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Victor Frankl are just some that come to mind immediately. Each of these geniuses taught that there is a direct relation between the focus of our thoughts and our levels of anxiety and fear. In the pre-modern era, it was easier for mankind to have control of their thinking. In the 21st century much of what we believe to be our own thoughts are really the modern world allowing our bad Wolf to gorge itself on junk food. Depending on what you listen to, read, and intellectually consume, your good Wolf may not even have a chance.

Undoubtedly, it’s difficult to live in the 21st century and not be aware of the negativity in the world. To be adequately informed makes it virtually impossible. We can, however, pay attention to what we focus on, consciously making an effort to feed our good Wolf. All of us live our lives with an internal dialogue that we call our thoughts. This play-by-play analysis of what goes on in our world determines how we play the game of life. The thoughts that we nurture and pay attention to are like food that our physical bodies consume. They determine how we feel, act, think, and relate to others. They are even more important than the food that we eat.

Feeding the bad Wolf is very easy to do. The human condition makes the bad Wolf a pretty ravenous creature. He’s nowhere near as fussy an eater as his good Wolf littermate. The bad Wolf will pretty much eat anything that’s put in front of him. Be careful of what you expose him to, because he’s going to eat it. For the bad Wolf, there’s no shortage of tasty things to munch on. The good Wolf is a little fussier, often needing to be hand fed, consciously and deliberately.

So, how do we give that good little Wolf pup a chance at thriving? Like a lot of behavioral changes, the first step is awareness. What information, news, grey-wolf-pupsentertainment, and inputs are you taking in each day? What catches your attention when you watch television, listen to the radio, or are on the computer? Which wolf is getting fed?
What kind of conversations are you having during your day? Are they productive, or bitch sessions? Is the quality of these conversations focused on solutions, or problems? Remember, you’re not the only person who feeds those wolves. Friends, relatives, family, and co-workers also play a role in how well those wolves grow up.
What kind of conversations are you having with yourself? What are some things you say to yourself on a regular basis? Which wolf are you favoring? The quality of your internal dialogue goes a long way towards determining how large that bad Wolf will grow.
What kind of activities are you engaged in? You keep a close eye on your finances and your bank book. Are you keeping as close a watch on your physical, emotional, and spiritual health? Nurturing those compartments of your life give the good Wolf nourishment as well, allowing him, and you, to reach your full growth potential.

Next time you review any component of your health, exercise regimen, or diet, remember this Cherokee tale of the two wolves. Being aware of other ways in which we “feed” ourselves is more important to our overall well-being than anything we take in by mouth. The battle between the two wolves is perhaps our live’s most important battle.

 

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Teddy Roosevelt On Personal Responsibility

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was truly an American original. Despite being born in extreme3163451_orig wealth in he year 1858, Roosevelt knew suffering and hardship. He suffered from ill health, almost dying multiple times as a child from asthma. He entered his teenage years at about 90 pounds, was forced to wear thick eyeglasses because of his terrible vision, and was the epitome of what later became known as the “97 pound weakling.” His father, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., was worried that  despite the family’s affluence, he wouldn’t be able to protect his son indefinitely. By age 13 his father had him embarking on a regimen of physical fitness that included daily exercise, weight training and, after young Teddy took an embarrassing beating from two bullies, boxing. By the time Teddy entered Harvard University in 1876, he had built himself into a remarkable physical specimen. Upon leaving New York for Boston his father advised him to, “Take care of your morals first, your health, and finally your studies.”

Roosevelt was married for the first time on his 22nd birthday. Two years later his wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, died in childbirth, and 11 hours later Roosevelt’s mother, Mittie, died of typhoid fever. In typical Roosevelt fashion, he went through a period of deep depression for a period of approximately a month, emerging from it with resolve to do the best he could with what he had.

“People are doing the best they can with the resources they have available.”- Unknown

This quote, from an unknown author, is one that is quite frequently dismissed by those who hear it. I’m not sure where I first heard it, possibly from my mother growing up, or from some of the nuns that taught me in elementary school. I do know that, for most of my life, I didn’t believe it. Almost 20 years ago I had a career change and became a practicing counselor and psychotherapist. As part of my job I have interviewed thousands of people, and spent countless hours asking them probing questions about their motivation. I’ve come to the conclusion that the above statement is, more often than not, pretty accurate. I’ve also, much like Teddy Roosevelt, concluded that the biggest challenge anyone can have in life is to take personal responsibility, as much as possible, for their life and their behavior, regardless of their circumstances.

I’ve interviewed a everything from doctors, lawyers, ministers, murderers, prostitutes, hands_1496899c     and white-collar criminals. Many of them will admit in the solitude of a counseling session that they have done some pretty terrible things while trying to cope with some pretty horrific circumstances. The common thread in most of these behaviors is that, at the time, what they did seemed like a good idea, or at least the best choice they had in the moment. The therapeutic challenge in working with such people is to present them with better options and choices. For some, these choices are presented through the careful give and take and introspection of psychotherapy. For others, the best course of action is the legal system or the natural consequences of their behaviors. The reality is that some people’s minds are wired in such a way that criminal behavior does not result in feelings of guilt, shame, or remorse. I’ve seen it in clients and it’s pretty scary. In some instances the behavioral control provided by the legal system is the only way to correct dangerous behaviors. Other times, the client has to fail a number of times and learn from the natural consequences of bad choices. In both cases however, the statement is true. Regardless of how bizarre it may seem to most of us, they believe they are doing the best they can and making the best choice available to them at the time.

The point here is to take the two similar quotes, one from Theodore Roosevelt and the other from some unknown sage, and find some practical application. In times of crisis, overwhelm, and despair, we would all do well to break down Roosevelt’s advice and try to follow it to the best of our ability. Quite often, when life gets a little overwhelming, we ask ourselves questions that disempower us and make the situation worse than it needs to be. “Why me,? Why now,? What’s next,? Now what,?” are just some of the kinds of instinctual thoughts we have, or are things that we say silently or out loud. This normal human reaction, however, needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as these thoughts are recognized. If you examine most of the automatic negative thoughts that you have in a crisis situation, you’ll probably find that most are disempowering and counterproductive. The key is to ask yourself questions that empower, rather than disempower, allowing you to do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.

Self-help guru, Tony Robbins, often states that the quality of our life is determined, to a large degree, from the kind of questions that we ask ourselves. In order to problem solve more efficiently, we have to ask ourselves better questions. Self imposed questions should be focused on solutions, rather than the current negative situation that you find yourself in. The first step is acceptance of your current situation or negative emotion. Please note that acceptance does not mean rolling over and playing dead, (See http://mindbodycoach.org/acceptance-true-wisdom/ ), it simply means not going into denial. Acceptance places you in the “where you are,” portion of Roosevelt’s advice. It means you recognize and acknowledge the current, unpleasant situation.

Better quality questions tend to be solution focused. “How can this be resolved?” “Who or what might be able to help me with this?” “Where can I get information and help to deal with this?” It’s often quite helpful to sit down with a pen and a notebook and put these thoughts down on paper, literally creating a roadmap to get yourself out of the situation or to solve the problem. Sometimes, the exercise allows you to notice that you are overreacting, in the moment, to a situation that is not going to be a big deal in a day, month, or a year. Asking yourself some questions and putting those random, disjointed thoughts on paper, often allows you to realize that the solution is to simply let go of your emotional attachment in a “this, too, shall pass” manner. If you are more visual, then drawing a picture, chart, or a diagram to assist is often helpful. It is important that, when asking yourself these questions, you write down your thoughts in some way, as this leads to a clarity of thought and objectivity that is not available to you through self talk. This activity emphasizes the “what you have” portion of Roosevelt’s advice.

The final phase of this activity is to implement a plan of action. Things don’t always go according to plan, so be flexible. Be willing to change the process while maintaining focus on the goal. The idea is to problem solve, not stick to a rigid plan that isn’t working. Be willing to adjust and change your methodology. “Do the best you can,” and accept responsibility for the outcome. The outcome may not be perfect, but all you can control is your effort.

We humans are great at comparing our situation to that of others. We often believe that if we are doing as well, or better, than someone else, then our lives are okay. There’s no shortage in the world of people doing bizarre, stupid, and even criminal activities that the Internet and news sources make available to us at the twitch of a finger. We wonder why or how someone could do that and then go away thinking that we are doing the best we can. Ironically, in many ways, those weirdos that are out there are doing the best that they can too. (See http://mindbodycoach.org/people/ )

Next time your waist deep in life’s alligators, consider Roosevelt’s advice, and next time History_Ultimate-Guide-to-the-Presidents_The-Talented-Mr-Roosevelt_SF_NEW_HD_still_624x352you find yourself making judgments about others, remember that they are probably doing the best they can as well.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Who Does That? : Why People Do What They Do

One of the interesting phenomenons of living in the information age is the impact that the media has on our language. There are many slogans, sayings, and buzz words, that enter the language in a matter of a few months. In the last 15 years we’ve all learned to LOL, avoid TMI, and not panic when something “goes viral.” It’s almost as if there is some kind of subtle, peer pressure, and we inadvertently find ourselves using the same lingo as everyone else. All very interesting, if you can keep up with it.

“Who does that???”

I’m sure you’ve heard this expression. It doesn’t mean what it would have meant 20 years ago. It’s an b3b952a88e001103f41e0735fe675f06expression that has taken on a subtle change of meaning in the information age. It’s usually meant to be rhetorical, not really looking for a explanation. Rather, it is meant to point out the obvious. It implies that the person who did whatever “that” is has some serious problems or some mental, emotional, spiritual, or intellectual defects. It usually is applied to a situation where someone has done something so incredibly off base that normal people- whoever they are- are taken aback by the behavior. It usually refers to actions that are bizarre and extreme, such as hoarding, neglect of children and animals, disrespect of societal norms, and brazenly self-centered behaviors.

“All behavior has a positive intention.”-John Bandler

This makes the perfect addendum to “Who does that?” It doesn’t necessarily answer the question in a literal sense, but it does give the rest of us some insight into the bizarre behaviors of others. If we are indexwilling to play Columbo and ask some general questions, we can often uncover the presumed positive intention of a lot of strange and unusual behavior that the media puts in front of our face 24/7. Finding the positive intention in these bizarre, unusual, and, in some cases, criminal behaviors by no means justifies them. It merely gives us a glimpse into flawed logic, stupidity, selfishness, and mental illness. Finding the presumed positive intention always explains the behavior, but only sometimes justifies it.

If you examine your own behavior, good or bad, it’s easier to understand this principle and later apply it to others as well. For example, if you are, or ever were, a cigarette smoker, then you can get an idea of what I am talking about. Many begin smoking in late adolescence and early adulthood. It is perceived as being a way to relax, take a breath, appear confident, connect with others, and perhaps get outside and think for a moment. Smoking is by no means a healthy behavior, but those who engage in it have a positive intention. They need that break, connection, or interruption to their routine that smoking provides. Yes, it does become physically addicting, but at least initially there is a perceived benefit. People who abuse alcohol also do so with a positive intent. They are looking for the physical and mental diversion that it can provide. Those who are alcohol dependent never begin drinking with the ideas that they will become an alcoholic. Their positive intention becomes too overwhelming to resist, and they become dependent on alcohol in an attempt to get physical and emotional needs met. Even extremes of behavior, such as criminal activities, have a perceived benefit to those who are committing the crimes. The criminal usually begins in young adulthood to find ways to satisfy physical and emotional needs through antisocial methods. If they are not reined in by bad luck, society, or the law, crime becomes a way of life, allowing them to get their needs met. While it is never justified, it does at least explain why a criminal does what he does.

One of the best ways to understand the rationale behind another person’s behavior is to put yourself in their position, trying to view the world as the other person sees it. Don’t try to moralize or judge, rationally view the other person’s actions in the same way you would some other type of animal. Recently, I read an article that explained how hibernating bears often wake up so hungry that they will eat another bear’s cubs. The article explained that it was purely for survival reasons. A bear wakes from hibernation in a state of extreme starvation. In that state, and other bear’s cubs are viewed as food, pure and simple. The bear is simply being a bear, doing what a bear does to survive. Applying this logic to humans can often give us a better understanding of why people do the strange things that they do-they are striving to attain some benefit that they believe to be beneficial. Their means of satisfying that intention is just out of proportion and out of control.

Examining why others do what they do helps us put the world in perspective, allowing some level of acceptance of life’s cruelties, explaining, but not necessarily justifying the way things are. It also was beneficial to apply this logic to personal relationships. Next time someone you, or someone you care about, does something that bothers you in some way, take a step back and evaluate the situation from their perspective. What could possibly be the perceived benefit that they are looking for? What could be their positive intention? Don’t project your values onto their behavior, remember to view their behavior in a detached way. Your values and morals aren’t necessarily going to be the same as theirs. This enables you to make a decision on how you feel and act as a result. If, over time, you find that their intentions are not consistent with your values, it might be a relationship or situation that you may want to terminate.

If you have negative habits yourself, figure out what your positive intention is. For example, if you are a chronic procrastinator, you may find that you have a fear of failure. You can’t fail if you don’t try, right? If you are lazy and know that you should exercise but don’t, then perhaps you are dreading the pain or indexperceived physical suffering that you think will come with getting yourself in shape. If you overeat, you may feel, on some level, that there is something physiologically pleasurable to be gained from the foods that you are over consuming. If you engage in gossip, then you may find that this is a way to inject some excitement into your life. If you find any of these behaviors unacceptable to you, find what you’re positive intention is in find a healthier way to satisfy that. If you love gossip, then stopped doing it in your own life and fill that gap with reality TV. If you dread the pain of exercise, then ease into it with low level activities that you find pleasurable, such as a morning stretch and brief walks. If you overeat certain foods, make healthy substitutions, for example yogurt in place of ice cream, strawberries dipped in chocolate instead of Hershey bars, or freshly baked wheat bread instead of cake.

It’s important to remember that finding someone’s positive intention never, ever, justifies bad behavior. Nor does it absolve someone from responsibility for what they have done. Taking this big backward step, and answering that philosophical question, “Who does that?,” enables us to view ourselves and the world around us from a more logical and realistic perspective.

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”― Pablo Picasso

 

John

P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

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