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We have not done a podcast in a while for two reasons. First we have been busy and second because we did not have anything to say. We pledge to you that we will not do a podcast for the sake of doing a podcast we will only do a podcast when something we are doing in our lives is making a major difference and we want to share that thing with you.
Today’s topic is Mind over matter or if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter. This is a tricky piece of business for three reasons.
First because using the techniques we will cover you can either tell yourself a wonderful positive truth that uplifts your life or you can lie to yourself in a way that is counterproductive to success in life.
Second, the techniques are tricky also because you may have to “fake it till you make it” for a long time before everything kicks in.
Third, even when this kind of thinking becomes a habit, you will periodically slip out of it or fall victim to erroneous use of it.
Let’s cover the techniques first and then talk about ways to avoid the three pitfalls.
Technique #1. Living with an attitude of gratitude.
This is the glass half-full approach to life. When people ask me “How ya doin?” I often reply “I’m Grand”. I choose the unusual expression to emphasize the point to myself and to them. I actually feel better after saying “I’m Grand” than I did before saying it no matter how good I felt to begin with. If they ask why I am “Grand” I tell them that I woke up on the correct side of the sod this morning. Again I use this unusual way of expressing myself to talk to myself and get my attention. I’m saying to myself, each day is precious. Notice and enjoy everything you can while you can.
I complained about having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.
No matter how tough your present situation is there is someone somewhere that has it rougher than you. If you are listening to this podcast, you have more freedom, you have more wealth and you have more physical and mental wherewithal than millions of people on this planet.
A friend and colleague of mine taught me a powerful life lesson seven years ago. This man is handsome, tall, charming and intelligent. Seven years ago he was at the top of his profession in both skill and earning power. He has a beautiful and charming wife who is a successful surgeon and an amazing family as well. The two of them have a loving marriage and many of the perks of material success. Their lives changed in an instant seven years ago when my friend slipped, hit his head and became a quadriplegic.
His accident was a tragedy but he has persisted and is recovering some function. His battle with paralysis has led to new treatments and a non-profit effort to share these new techniques with those who might benefit from them.
His accident taught me that all of the abilities that I have can be lost in a moment. This realization helps me to give thanks for what I have while I have it. His courage and persistence and his desire to serve others is also an inspiration.
Turning a negative into a positive through reframing. Stuff happens and most of what happens is either meaningless or the meaning is unknown to us. This does not stop us from instantly fantasizing a meaning and attaching that meaning to the event as though it were real. The fantasies we have can either empower us or disempower us.
I had the enjoyment of sitting in as my daughter coached her sibling. The coach is a headhunter with considerable experience with the hiring process and the coachee is someone preparing for an interview. The coach recommended the following “Pretend the person interviewing you has just come to work after being up all night with a sick child and on the way out the door got into an argument with her spouse”. The reason to do this is to take away any fantasy that the interviewer’s scowl, frown, inattention or whatever has anything to do with you.
Choosing a positive or neutral interpretation of “stuff” empowers us to stay resourceful and effective. Even when someone is actually attacking us this can be a useful strategy. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent Eleanor Roosevelt.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger, Nietzsche
Taking the adversity that life hands out and turning lemons into lemonade is helped by repeating things like the above Nietzche quote. All of make mistakes, all of us encounter problems from time to time. The question is, what are we to do with adversity and mistakes? One answer is to grow and learn from them. When you go through a bad patch in your life tell yourself “I have just paid the price of tuition, what degree can I get from this?
The reason for doing these things is to empower ourselves in situations where we could otherwise disempower ourselves.
In the interview example, if you concentrate on the frown etc. you will get nervous and uptight and blow the interview. If you create the fantasy described, you can remain calm and focused and perhaps find a way to better engage the interviewer.
The Nietzsche quote is a tool to empower us to get out of the pity party mode and into the mode of learning and moving on.
We cannot control other people, we can only control our reaction to them. Controlling our reaction by telling ourselves whatever story works is effective and empowering.
No One can make you feel inferior without your consent, Elanor Roosevelt.
Technique #3 Be here now
Be Here Now (or Remember, Be Here Now) is a seminal 1971 book on spirituality, yoga and meditation by the Western born yogi and spiritual teacher Ram Dass.
Living in the past and living in the future are both destructive and disempowering.
Ruminanting about past events is a practice some people carry on for a miserable lifetime. These people can and do vividly recall negative events from their past so vividly that thy drag the negative into the present and relive it over and over again. If the negative event was the result of a bad decision or mistake they made they use it to beat themselves up over and over. If the negative event was something someone else did they dredge it up to refresh the anger and resentment they feel toward the perpetrator. While they are doing this the positive life they could be having in the present is passing them by. If you are not careful, you can be sucked into the pity party that makes this person a poor victim.
Agonizing about future events is likewise devastating to life in the here and now.
Being truly present in the here and now is liberating and empowering.
In the May 2013 issue of Prevention magazine Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain research scientist describes the stroke that did massive damage to the left side of her brain and in so doing “silenced the dominating, judging voice of my left mind” and produced profound inner peace. She considers the stroke to be a blessing that produced nirvana. After years of rehabilitation she has regained the functions that were lost but she knows that inner peace is just a “thought away’.
Being present in the here and now allows us to savor food, wine, entertainment and the company of others to the highest possible degree. Being in the here and now is life itself. Living in the past is not living at all, it is squandering life.
But you say, what is the right way to utilize memories of the past and anticipation of future events?
Learning lessons from the past is vital to growth. Review negative events to determine their root cause and to extract every drop of educational value from them but otherwise let them grow. It is also enjoyable to relive the positive evens of the past to squeeze all the juice possible from them.
Planning and preparing for the future is also useful, healthy and productive but planning and preparing is very different from “monsterbating”
Anything we accomplish is accomplished in the here and now. Problems in the future are avoided by actions in the present. It is useful to assess risks that may exist in the future and after assessing them you can:
Accept the risk as reasonable and tolerable and move on
Take measures to prevent or mitigate the risk
Do something fundamentally different that eliminates the event that produces the risk.
For example we live in hurricane country.
We moved her knowing that and accepting that fact. The good news is that hurricanes give warning and a lot can be done to minimize the risk to life and property. I have just described options A & B
Option C would be to move to a location where hurricanes do not occur. Many of these locations are prone to wildfires, earthquakes, tornados, blizzards, plagues etc. so life is risky and we deal with it.
Technique #4 Getting outside of yourself
If you want to feel good about yourself and the world, one of the best ways is to stop thinking of yourself and start focusing on a purpose outside of yourself.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen to see what poor really is. Start a charitable foundation for whatever cause you believe in and find people of like interest to create a mutual support network.
Our daughter has found new meaning, purpose and satisfaction in life by starting a dog rescue non-profit. Through this effort she has found a group of like-minded people that serve as both friends and a support network.
My friend Mike Mahaney who has the spinal cord injury started a fund to enable other spinal cord injury sufferers to take the same intense training program that has given him greater capability and hope for further progress.
Avoiding the misuse of these techniques
A Pollyanna approach to life can result in a failure to acknowledge and address problems. Taken to an extreme this leads to a denial of real problems and a failure to act. The key is the maintenance of a healthy level of dissatisfaction.
When a healthy level of dissatisfaction is maintained you can establish priorities about what needs to be acted upon and then take appropriate action in the present to create a more positive future.
It is also important to look forward, anticipate risks and problems and plan accordingly but then to execute on those plans mindfully in the present.
Learn from the past, plan for the future and live with gratitude and joy in the present.
Check out FureverFree to learn about this unique foundation’s work to keep owners and pets together.
The best way to contribute to the spinal cord injury program is to contact the Coastal Georgia YMCA directly via their web site. Please have them reference the spinal cord injury program on any contributions. Or people can contact Mike Mahaney directly at 912 897 4625.
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I just finished Da Vinci’s Ghost to learn about the life of Leonardo Da Vinci and the Vitruvian Man graphic that serves as the cover art for this podcast.
I’m now listening to Michael Polan’s new book Cooked