Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Changing The Meaning

It is inevitable that you are going to encounter some uncomfortable situations in your life, everybody does. Our untrained egos are very sensitive and can easily feel threatened, causing emotions of insecurity, worry and fear to develop in the center of our hearts. These emotions can quickly spiral out of control as our negative thoughts multiply in a chain reaction and tighten their grasp around the pit of our stomach.

I used to think that the trick to getting rid of such negative emotions was to simply stop thinking about whatever it is that’s bothering you, to just change the subject and block it out. Your thoughts have direct control over your emotions, so if you just start thinking about something happy and positive then your emotions will follow your lead. If only it was that easy! Sometimes it’s impossible to get such uncomfortable subjects and situations out of your head, not matter how hard you try.

But alas, the trick is not to rid yourself of these thoughts and just avoid thinking about the situation that is causing you pain. Instead you need to change what this situation means to you. Step out of your current position that’s creating these negative emotions and see things from a different angle. Don’t try to push your thoughts away altogether and sweep the dirt under the rug, for you will be missing a prime opportunity to grow! Allow yourself to reflect on whatever it is that is causing that discomfort at the bottom of your heart and ask yourself some important questions. How can I learn from this? What lesson is this situation trying to teach me? What virtues do I need to practice in the face of this discomfort?

It is true that our thoughts control our emotions, but instead of entirely changing WHAT you’re thinking in order to alter your feelings you can instead change HOW you’re thinking. And in having control over HOW you’re thinking you will exercise your power over your ego and become a stronger person within.

So the next time you encounter a difficult situation or thought pattern that you don’t want to face, rather than pushing it aside, look at it dead-on, change what it means to you, find the hidden lesson to be learned and give yourself a pat on the back for taking advantage of the opportunity to grow. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Practicing Gratitude

I’ve noticed an unsettling bad habit that far too many people have acquired: neglecting gratitude. Rather than being thankful for what we do have, it seems that our natural default state is to focus on what we don’t have. We don’t have enough money. We don’t have a nice car. We don’t have a perfect relationship, or a perfect job, or perfect teeth. It’s like we live in a dark cloud of scarcity that prevents us from ever being truly happy.

All of that stuff that we wish we had but we don’t, or we wish was perfect but isn’t, is ALWAYS going to be there. That will never change. And the sooner we realize that the better, because if we spend our time and energy worrying about what we DON’T have rather than appreciating what we DO have it is literally impossible for us to be happy!  I know this is a very simple concept that we’ve been taught since we were children but it seems to me like many of us have forgotten the basics and need a little reminder.

If you focus on what’s missing in your life then you put yourself in a negative state that’s fueled by fear, doubt and worry. You cut yourself off from the empowering feelings that we need to be successful and happy. On the other hand, if you start exercising your gratitude muscle and spending time each day to give sincere appreciation for all the greatness in your life, you will not only begin to experience a much happier state of being, but you will also begin to attract even more things into your life to be thankful for.

So we have two choices: complain about what we don’t have or be grateful for what we do. It’s really that simple. Sometimes you may have to stretch a little bit to find those things to be grateful for but once you make that switch I guarantee you won’t go back.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Taking Time For Yourself

Not everyone is born equal. Some people start their life with more money, better health, more opportunities and more love. But the one thing that absolutely everybody has the same amount of is time. There are 24 hours in a day, no matter what.

So where does all of that time go for you? Let’s say you sleep for 8 hours a day and work for 8 hours a day, that adds up to 16 and you have 8 left. Showering, eating and driving probably takes up about 2 more. Maybe you go to the gym, there’s another hour. You might have a husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe even kids too so there’s the rest of your night. And if you’re single you probably have some sort of hobby that keeps you busy like playing an instrument or a sport. Happy hour after work with friends can easily eat up the rest of that time and send you straight to bed when you’re done.

As you can see, that 24 hours can disappear pretty quickly. . . and then we wake up and do it all over again! But an extremely important part of living a balanced and healthy life is taking time for ourselves, to focus on our own growth and education. In order to  make progress in our lives it is vital that we invest some time and energy into looking at everything: identifying what’s going well and not going well, coming up with solutions to our “problems” (both internally and externally), setting goals, making gameplans/strategies and continuously learning new things. When we begin to set that process in motion we embark on an upward spiral of personal development that can be extremly rewarding and exciting.

At the end of the day, many people feel like they’re stuck in the “rat race”. And most people think of that in just financial terms, of getting by from paycheck to paycheck. But this also applies within, and all too often. If you’re not taking the time out of your day to focus on your growth then you’re going through your own internal rat race that leaves you right where you were the day before and with an endless feeling of being “stuck”.

So if you’re spinning the wheel in either of those races, ecomically or personally, realize that the only way to break free from that cycle is to start taking time for yourself. Grab a journal, grab a friend, grab a mouse and a keyboard, whatever it is you need to grab, grab it now and stop waiting for some special day when your life is going to magically change itself. Cause it’s not! You are going to change it and only you. And it’s going to start with finding those few extra minutes everyday to spend with yourself and have a sincere, honest and loving conversation. Good luck :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Letting Go Of The Past

I think one of the biggest problems that people have, including myself, is that we get “stuck in our ways”. I’m talking about more than just bad habits. We also have certain mindsets and worldviews that we’ve developed over years of conditioning and influence from outside sources like our parents, schools, the media, ect. Our perspective of life is largely a result of our past experiences, drawing from everything that we’ve seen and learned so far to formulate opinions and beliefs about what is possible.

Unfortunately, many of these opinions and beliefs can be limiting to us and prevent us from reaching our full potential. For example, if you grew up in the ghetto of South Central LA where more people were getting into drugs and gangs than getting into college, you would probably not think that your destiny would be much different. Being immersed in that environment would have a negative psychological effect that distracts your focus from seeing beyond the confines of the ghetto. On a larger scale, since there has never been a female president, most girls are part of a collective consciousness that thinks it’s impossible to become president. It was the same situation for African Americans until Barak Obama and now an entire nation’s mentality and belief of what’s possible is beginning to change.

One of my favorite quotes is “The past does not equal the future”. No matter what has happened previously in your life, do not let it limit the person that you are today and the actions that you take to create your destiny. We have the power to choose who we are in each and every moment. We can recreate ourselves and shed the weight of any negative characteristics that we’ve developed over time. It just takes an awareness of what those unwanted characteristics are, what we want to replace them with and a little bit of effort each day to make those changes.

So what limiting beliefs from your past are preventing you from being the person you really want to be and living the life you really want to live? Do you have something about your self that you say “oh that’s just the way I am, that’s the way I was brought up”? Don’t blame it on your parents or your neighborhood or your school. Take responsibility for you own life and start designing it how you want it to be. The possibilities are endless, you just need to identify what’s holding you back and choose to let it go.

Monday, April 16, 2012

For Better or Worse

I recently had the great pleasure of officiating a wedding. When my friend called me and asked me to do it I immediately accepted the offer with great enthusiasm, feeling honored that they would think of me for the job. And I was totally excited about doing it. . . right up until I arrived at the wedding and realized what I had gotten myself into.

I was about to marry these people! This was one of the most special moments in their lives and I was placed right at the center of it, juggling the power to make it a great experience or totally mess it up. What if I forgot what I was going to say? What if I slurred my words or dropped the microphone? All of the possibilities of how I could completely ruin this ceremony ran through my head and I got nervous.

Whatever you focus on is bound to come true. It’s the Law of Attraction, the universal principle of manifestation. Wherever you direct your thoughts is where you’re going to put your energy and bring what you’re focusing on to life. When you think about negative things, negative things are going to show up.

Fortunately we are able to control our thoughts and can steer them in the right direction. It is difficult at first because most people spend their lives letting their emotions control their thoughts, rather than the other way around, but as you become aware of this power and start to practice controlling them you will soon develop enough mental strength to steer clear of negative thought patterns.

I noticed myself falling into this downward spiral of self-doubt and worry so I quickly changed my thoughts and moved them in a different direction. A wedding is supposed to be FUN so that’s what I focused on. I visualized how happy and excited the bride and groom would be up there, I saw their smiles and thought about the great celebration we would have afterwards. I filled myself up with such great thoughts and emotions that by the time I went up there to seal the deal I was buzzing with energy and ready to rock and roll.

And rock and roll we did! Everything went perfectly and I had the wonderful privilege of sharing in that special moment. So if you ever find yourself entering a situation with nervousness, anxiety or doubt, remember that it’s entirely in your power to change those feelings into ones that will better serve you. You just need to change what you’re focusing on! 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Driving Forces

What is your driving force? What gets you out of bed every morning and fuels you throughout the day? Each of us has some sort of goal we are reaching for everyday, whether it’s to save the world or simply to pay the bills. We all have something that keeps us going and pushes us to carry on down the twisting road of life.

Unfortunately in our society that driving force is often a selfish agenda, most commonly money and power. We want the big house, the new car and the high-paying job that makes all of our friends jealous. We want to be recognized and admired by our community for doing something amazing that no one else thought of or worked hard enough to accomplish. So much of what we do is motivated by our desire to better our own lives and “get to the next level”, creating the best lifestyle we possibly can before our time runs out.

And fair enough, significance is one of our basic human needs and we all want nice things. But I believe that once you find a driving force that is outside of yourself you will experience a whole new kind of supercharged motivation that isn’t possible when it’s only about you. It’s a different kind of drive when you’re working hard to make money so you can provide for your children or buy a house for your mom. And it’s a different kind of drive when you’re starting a nonprofit because you really care for those you’re helping rather than your own resume and inner craving to feel “accomplished”. It’s a fine line but it changes the kind of energy that you put into all the hard work you do everyday, and that energy is more powerful when it’s not just going in circles around your own personal sphere.

So what is your driving force? Who are you fighting for everyday? If it’s only for yourself then that’s going to be one long and lonely battle. But if you can find that person or cause that gives you a new reason to wake up in the morning then I guarantee you will discover a strength inside yourself that’s enough to win the entire war.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Matching Paces

I used to think that the perfect girl was somewhere out there in the world waiting for me. She would have amazing characteristics in every aspect of her life and embody excellence in all she did. Every dimension of her wellness would be at its peak potential. But I also knew that if I were to have any chance of attracting this perfect girl to me, I would have to be at a similar state of excellence in my own life. I too would have to reach this heightened stage of brilliance and I had a firm image of the person that I would have to become in order to be at that same level.

So I spent some time attempting to get there. I thought that there was a finite point that I could eventually reach where I would be at my absolute best in all areas of my life. And then, only then, would I be able to attract this perfect girl.

It took me some years to realize that I had it all wrong though. There is no finite point that you can reach. We as humans are constantly evolving each and every day, whether consciously or unconsciously, and we will continue to until that day that we die. Being aware of this evolution and putting our time and energy into the process will allow us to grow at a faster pace and to greater heights. So what is ultimately important is not that we reach a certain point of growth and find someone that is at an equal level with us. Instead, we need to find someone that is growing at the same rate as us so that you can continue your evolution together!

That perfect girl was out there waiting for me, but I did not have to become the perfect guy I had created in my head in order to attract her. I just had to cross paths with someone that was moving at the same pace as me and extend an invitation to team up for the journey. So keep your eyes open! That perfect person you’ve be been waiting for might not be way up ahead, waiting for you to catch up. They’re probably right next to you, cruising through life at the same speed as you are just a few roads down.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Voice Inside Your Head

Many times we are pulled in different directions by the countless external influences in our lives. It seems like everyone we know has an opinion about what we should be doing and often their ideas are quite dissimilar. With so many suggestions and possibilities, how do we know who to listen to?

I think that if you clear away all of the outside pressures and turn within you will find the most important voice of all: your own. This voice has been there since the beginning of your existence and will continue to be there for the rest of it, guiding you as a trustworthy inner compass that will always point in the right direction. It is hard to hear sometimes because of all the chatter from other sources, but if you practice silencing the distractions then you will find that your greatest asset in navigating the roads of your life is right there inside of you, waiting for you to listen.

Everybody hears this inner voice, but many are afraid to listen to it because it contradicts what that rest of the world is telling them. They ignore it in fear of the consequences they’ll have to face. But I dare you to be brave. I dare you to go against the grain and do what you really know you should do, even though no one else is saying so. This is your life and you’re the only one that can hear what that voice is telling you. Follow your intuition and trust that you know the correct steps to take better than anyone else. Many of the greatest leaders in the world have chosen to take the path less traveled because they knew in their heart it was the right one to take. Be one of them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Finding Yourself

We always hear stories about people trying to “find themselves”. And it seems like the most common path chosen during this journey is to uproot and leave home. It’s like their true self is out there in the world somewhere and they have to travel every corner of it in search of this lost treasure.

Believe me, I’ve been trying to find myself for quite awhile too. And I definitely plan on picking up and traveling the world at some point as well. But I’ve begun to realize more and more everyday that I don’t need to “find” myself, because my true self has never been lost. It has always been right there, inside of me at the core of who I am every single day.

We come into this world as our true selves, pure and untainted in any way. As we grow older we develop habits and learn customs from our parents, schools and cultures that begin to mold us and ultimately we claim an identity that says “this is who I am”. We become a product of our environment, for better or worse. But many people eventually realize that they’ve been heavily influenced by their environment and seek out new ones, hoping to expand their perspective on life and learn more about themselves in the process.

Fortunately for those of us who are still trying to find ourselves but do not have the resources to hop on the first flight to Tibet there’s good news. Your true self is right where it has always been, inside of you and waiting to be explored. That little voice of intuition that’s been speaking to you throughout your whole life is who you really are. We just get so caught up in our day-to-day matters of survival that most people don’t take the time to listen to it, and that’s when you start to feel lost.

So go ahead and book that Eurotrip (and take me with you), but in the meantime start the inward journey that’s going to show you what you’re really looking for. You've been there all along.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Let's Get Deep

How much time did you spend on facebook last week? Be honest with yourself. I’ll be honest with myself too. Between updating statuses, posting pictures, sending tweets and watching youtube videos the minutes really begin to add up. It’s no question that today’s society has become preoccupied with a technological revolution. And unfortunately part of that revolution includes a growing deficit in real human interaction.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for social networking. Just today I was talking online with friends from elementary school that I would have otherwise lost touch with. And you wouldn’t be reading these words right now without it. But I think we all need to be reminded about what’s real and most important in life: personal connection. It’s one thing to text your best friend that you’re thinking of them but it’s a whole different story when you can give them a hug, look them in the eye and tell them you love them to their face.

Living in such a fast-paced society we often only skim the surface of our relationships with quick hellos and superficial conversation. To really connect with someone, heart to heart and soul to soul, requires us to open ourselves up and allow other people into a deeper place within us. There’s a lot going on in there that even you might not be aware of. Having a real, authentic connection with another person involves an exchange of energy that can help bring out a lot of new discoveries about yourself. It’s exciting. It’s growth. It’s life.

So next time you go out on a lunch date with your friend, leave your blackberry in the car and give that lucky person your full attention. Listen attentively, be open and see if you can get a little bit deeper than reliving the party you went to last weekend or updating each other on celebrity drama. If you have kids, take the time to really have a connection with them. Turn off the TV, find out what they’re learning in school and who their new friends are. There’s a whole world of thoughts, desires, fears, dreams and dilemmas that exists inside of each of us and we should all have the courage to explore this world and share it with others.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good Morning Sunshine!

Just like breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I believe that your first hour awake is the most important as well. It sets the tone for what the rest of your day will look like. So if you’re one of those people who claim to not be a “morning person”, I strongly encourage you to reassess the way you see yourself and take some serious steps towards becoming one.

I used to snooze for as long as I possibly could, squeezing out every last possible minute of sleep and dreading the moment I had to detach myself from the comfort of my bed. From there I would check my blackberry and browse all of the work emails that were demanding my attention, filling my head with a jumble of stressful tasks and my heart with a sense of worried anticipation. Not even 5 minutes out of bed and I would already be spiraling into a negative emotional state. As I rushed to work and barely arrived on time I would feel like I was one step behind and playing catch up for the rest of the day. Have you ever been there?

Then I started to get up earlier and go to the gym. This simple modification of lifestyle was literally one of the biggest life changing habits I’ve developed so far. First, there’s a change in physiology. Your mental, emotional and physical states are entirely connected and when your body is strong and active the other states will follow its lead. Second, when you’ve already got a great work out in by the time you normally wake up you feel an empowering sense of accomplishment that carries with you throughout the rest of your day. You put yourself in a state of productivity and gain momentum that increases with each new task you face and complete, making you an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.

Besides exercising physically, exercising mentally is important as well. Instead of grabbing your blackberry or the daily newspaper first thing in the morning, read an inspiring article or book or watch an uplifting video. The newspaper covers nothing but crime and despair so if that’s the first thing you put into your head you’re going to be in a negative mindset as you start your day. Instead read something from http://tinybuddha.com or http://thedailylove.com or one of the countless other blogs that share great wisdom and stories with the world for free :)

Every day that we are alive is an amazing gift and something to be completely excited about. When that alarm goes off in the morning you have an important decision to make: are you going to snooze for as long as you can and continue to hide from the world? Or are you going to jump out of bed with enthusiasm and embrace the once in a lifetime adventure of today that’s awaiting you? Sleep when you’re dead, cause it’s time to wake up and live!