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Values

Hardship and Values:

I have talk at length about finding the core values that drive our lives, the things that we hold close and dear to us. Our core values are something we need to identify and understand so that we can make the decisions in life that keep us aligned with those values. This is the only way that we can look at our life and be happy with the choices we have made. Values define how we interact with our world and if we a disingenuous to those value we will not be happy with the life we are leading.

The real problem comes in the immediate consequences that we face while holding to our values. Many of us have values that don’t coincide with the dominant culture or the corporate culture that we find ourselves in. We find that we are constantly having to decide if we want to make our lives easier and go with the values of the majority or if we hold to our values and be at odds with the majority. This is an immediate and painful reaction that we face when wwe choose to live by the values that we hold dear and makes it very difficult to stay the course and make those choices that adhere to our values. The key here is to remember the big picture, the life and world that we want to live. If we get to where we want to be and look back at a journey full of compromises and slights we forced on our core values, we are going to be unhappy with the life we are leading, even it exceeds our expectations on paper. We have traded the nourishment of our core in order to make the journey easier for us and that will only lead to unhappiness and disillusionment.

The pain in the moment is terrible difficult to see past. I know for sure since I am in that quandary right now and am having trouble seeing past it. In a group that I am a part of, a nasty split has occurred due to the egos a of some people involved and though both of them say and might believe that they are fighting for the good of the community, the struggle between them is doing damage to the community in actuality. They are getting legal counsel involved instead of actually working together to bring peace and unity back to the community, something that the community finds as a vital value of its own. It is a value that I share, but my voice hasn’t been heard by these people. So I had to make a decision in a effort to protect the community by throwing my hat in with the aggressor in this situation so that if that person ends up winning the fight, there is still someone in a position of power that will work for the good of the community. I hate the choice and am starting to be ostracized by the community for “siding” with the person the community deems as the transgressor, but the choice was made to adhere to my values of protecting the community if the worst comes to pass. The pain is real and full and in force currently, but I know that in the long run it will be for the benefit of the community. Perhaps the choice will result in me no longer being part of the community, but if that is the price of the community becoming stronger and remaining a whole, then I will have lived my values and can take heart in that.

So remember as you hold to you values that it isn’t going to be an easy path. There will be situations and people in life that will make choosing your values and holding to them very difficult. There will even be situations in our lives that our values will be detrimental to us personally in one aspect or another, but when you look in the mirror a year down the line when all is said and done, you will be able to be happy in your choice to live your values.

More Growing Pains

Pain in Growth:

There are some constants in life that we can’t avoid. One of those that we are going to run into time and time again as we strive towards the goals we have set out for ourselves is pain. There is no avoiding it, with growth comes pain and from pain we can develop growth. This is something we need to look at, come to terms with and accept as we keep pushing towards our future.  Unlike the pain of physical injury though, this kind of pain can be a good thing, it can be a catalyst to the changes that we need and it can give us fuel so that we can drive towards what we want, if for no other reason than to avoid that pain in the future.

The pain we experience as we grow comes in two main forms that we need to understand and accept. The first is the pain that we feel while we are growing. This is the pain that manifests as worry, anxiety and fear. It is the pain of an unknown and unknowable future that we are diving into. It can also be the pain of losing some things that we are growing beyond. This can be activities that we enjoyed that hold nostalgia for us, but no longer serve us. Most frequently, it is going to be the pain of losing people that were once close to us. The fact of it is, that people don’t like change and as we change and grow, those people are going to become fearful and try to knock us back down into the place that they are comfortable with us in. If we want to grow, we may end up losing the relationship that we did have with them. If we are smart, mindful, and a little lucky, we can just transition that relationship into something else that is fulfilling, but that isn’t something to count on. Instead, we need to accept that this pain is going to occur and realize that the life we are striving for will be much better than where we are now. And that we will grow and gain new friendships and relationships along the way as well.  

The second kind of pain we will experience in our lives are those events that change us profoundly. These are points in our lives that change us on a fundamental level and cause us to see the world and interact with the world in a vastly different way. To reach the goals that we have set out, we need to understand that when these events happen, we have a choice on how they affect our lives. They can be catalyst that drives us towards the future we want, or they can be wounds that keep us from moving forward. By knowing that the choice is ours, when we have these events in our lives we can be mindful of our choice so that the choice isn’t made for us by our subconscious mind.

One of these events in my life was in my last year of high school and it changed the way that I interacted with the world for most of my life. In fact, I still find it adding filters to my perceptions that I have to fight constantly as they are not filters that serve me anymore. In high school I started to play soccer and got rather good at the sport. I had a natural talent that propelled me quickly in skill. In my junior year during the off season, I played for a semi-professional team and traveled around the nearby states to play. It was a wonderful time in my life and I look back on it fondly. Then, in the tryouts of varsity soccer in my senior year, I was cut from the team. To this day I have theories on why I was cut, but no actual answers to the question. Look at that, I had just come off playing semi-pro and the high school varsity team cut me? I was in shock to be honest and let the decision of how this was going to affect my life be made without my input.

The effect in my life is that I developed an understanding that I was never actually good enough. It didn’t matter what the situation or my abilities or achievements, I was never good enough. This has plagued my life ever since high school and even knowing it, I have to fight it.

So what does this have to do with pain? Had I been mindful of pain at that point in my life, I could have chosen how that pain would change me and taken steps to make it into a pain that fueled my life instead of being a detriment to it. I could have used it as fuel to show that coach, through my actions, that he was an idiot. I might even been playing professional soccer at this point if I had been conscious of my choice. Instead, I haven’t actually excelled at anything in my life. I have been competent, but in my own mind, never good enough. Now I am acting to change that.  I have taken control of my own life and of the pain that experience caused me and am using it to help better myself instead of belittling myself.

The moral here is that being active and mindful of the way that these painful events can change us is a key to shaping our lives in the ways that we want it to shaped. From here on out, we don’t have to let the traumatic events in our lives define our futures, it is our choice on how we move forward.

 

What are you doing? Can you actually tell?

Mindfulness:

Where are you right now? What are you doing? If you are anything like I have been most of my life, your answers are going to be surface, cursory ones. I’m at work and filing, I am at school and learning, I am at home and cooking. This is the level of thinking about where we are at any given time that we have learned. So much of our attention and thought has been trained to either be reviewing the past or preparing for the future. These are both good things to do, but it is leaving one aspect of our life to operate under autopilot, our present.

The place where we are, right now, has more impact on the rest of our lives than anything in the future will or anything in the past has. This is simple because the now defines how we see those things and how decide to move forward. It is the now that defines where we are headed from moment to moment and in the bigger picture of things.

If the present has such an impact on us, why do we leave that important job to the automated portion of our mind? Because it is easy and frees up our mind and resources for other thing? But what other things? News, social media, the songs over the radio? This isn’t a way to live out a fulfilling life. Instead we need to develop the skill to really be in the moment we are in, to really feel and experience everything about that moment.  This is what it means to practice mindfulness, the ability to be in the moment and to experience where we are at any given point.

Now why is this practice so important to us? It comes down to perception and intent. We have talked about the effect that our perception has on our lives and the way we see the world. Intent is much the same in that it defines how we plan to interact with that world and bring our dreams to fruition. Intent is not a game plan, but on overarching drive that we set for ourselves. The simple fact of humans is that our perception and our intent change constantly and are as much as product of our immediate physical and mental state as they are on a cerebral decision making process. That means that the moment we are in can affect the basic tools we use to make the world into the place that we want it to be. Yet, we leave the understanding of those moments to the back of our mind when we should be a cognizant of them as we are or our intent and perceptions as they will all affect one another.

It is time to state taking ourselves off of autopilot when it comes to the present. We need to learn how to be in the moment and make decisions and plans based off that understanding of ourselves. If you are filing something, take time to really feel the paper in your hands.  If you are typing, how do the keys feel under your fingers.  What is your goal in doing the activity?  Do you feel a sense of accomplishments when you finish each task?  If so, enjoy that feeling!  Focus on it and embrace that you did indeed finish that task.  

We need to develop our mindfulness and exercise it in our daily lives. To do this, take some time today to stop what you are doing and look inside yourself. Take note of where you are on a mental and physical level. Take a look at the emotions running through you and how they are affecting your current outlook. Take note all the little things that are acting on you in that moment. Once you have done that, make a mental choice on which ones are serving you and which ones are just reactions.

Now the hard part, try to let the reactions and detrimental portions fall away and leave you in the space you want to be to move forward. Keep doing this several times a day, preferably in those moments that are the hardest to deal with during the day, whatever they happen to be. With practice it will become an easy exercise and will be another major tool in shaping the way the world is for us.  

 

Failure=Success! YES Really!

Experiments in Failure:

For the vast majority of us, failure is something that we avoid. We go to incredible lengths to make sure that we don’t make a misstep that will result in us failing. The amount of effort we put into this is amazing if you really look at it, and when it comes down to it, that effort is counterproductive. Experimentation is the only way that we learn, grow and find new things that will better our lives. The one constant that we can be assured of is that the vast majority of experiments fail. That is a truth in experimentation and it is because, by definition, an experiment is trying something new. We are not following a template that someone else has laid out or a system that is in place, we are attempting to create something new and when we create new things, we rack up a pile of failures in the process.

The important thing to remember in this process is that those failures are as much a learning and growing experience as any success is going to be. We learn very little from those things in life that work or that are handed to us in the form of a system or a template. Instead, we learn much more when we make mistakes and suffer the consequences. These things teach us vast lessons that we can take moving forward to better our methods and to finally reach those successful experiments. In this regard, we need to learn to embrace those failures and learn lessons from them that further our goals rather than lessons of fear.

Finally, the successes that come after all those failures are going to be the game changers for us. They are going to be the jewels in our lives that propel us along our path to our goals and only through embracing the failures along the way and refining our processes and thoughts will we be able  reach those successes. The failures are the groundwork that needs to be lead to build the successes we want in out lives.

What experiments will you put in place and fail at miserably as you reach for those successes? How are you going to learn and refine from those rather than let them breed fear and worry in you?

Blind Spots

Blind Spots:

We are a aproduct of our perceptions. They define who we are and the way that we interact with the world. They are the lynchpin in our lives and as such, they are the portion of our lives that we need to work on the most if we want to change the way that we live in an effort to reach the life that we want.  

The problem is, that since we interact with the world through theses perception filters, we end up becoming blind to things outside those filters more often than not. I most certainly have become blind to some things in the course of my life and work on and refine the perception filters that I have and I have watched others with the same issue. I can watch those around me making the same mistakes over and over again because their blind spots keep tripping them up and they never even notice what is actually going on. I know that I am the same way and that when I trip up, my filters translate that into something that the filter understands rather than seeing it as the blind spot that it really is. For example, somewhere in my youth I was trained that people that are overweight don’t contribute as well or effectively as people who are fit. I haven’t been able to track down where that perception came from and it isn’t something that I am proud to know that I have at all, but I have to realize it to see the blind spot it creates in me. It makes it so that I pre-judge people who are overweight in a negative way and subconsciously dismiss their contributions and their abilities. This is a perception that I am working hard to change, but part of that change is accepting that I have it so that the filters it places in my don’t work outside my notice. Everyone has these kinds of perception filters and blind spots.

I have decided that this is unacceptable for me and now I have to add another step into my learning. I am going looking for those blind spots. Since they are not something that I will see and understand with my current perception filter when they occur, I need to build an extra layer into my current filter. For me, this is a layer that stops me when something trips me up and takes steps to analysis what actually happened, and more importantly, how my actions contributed to that outcome. This gives me the space to look at the situation and identify the blind spot I had that allowed that outcome to happen.  Armed with this new filter and the new way of looking at the world, I can find those parts of my filters and obscure and keep those blind spots hidden. Once I know about those spots, I can take steps to modify or work on them and that will create a better and more fulfilled me and therefore a more fulfilled life.

This is a process that I have to go through on a constant basis and requires me to seek out not only the faults in my own outlook on the world, but to find outlooks that differ from mine so that I can expand my horizons and my ability to see things in new lights. Maybe the things I learn don’t actually serve me in my life, but it does serve to adapt my perceptions so that I can see the world in a more robust and effective way, and that will only work to increase my ability to travel the path to my ultimate goals.

What blind spots have you found in the past and how have you adapted your filters so that you can see them and grow beyond them tripping you up?

Values Can Create Joy

Last time I spoke on the topic of Core Values and how they play a part in my life. In that discussion I talked about how living my core values is what keeps me happy and that no amount of success in life will create happiness, if not living in tune with those values. I also spoke about how living in accordance with those values allows us to bypass a great deal or agonizing over decisions since we have a firm outline of what is in tune with my values. Today I wanted to share a method to learn what your core values are.

Step one is simple, go out and get a packet of note cards. When you get those home, sit down somewhere with the stack and a good pen or marker and start to think about your life. Think about the events in your life that you are happiest with and why you are happy about those events. Also, think about the events and things in your life that you are the unhappiest about. Dig deep on these events and the decisions that you made during those events. Why did you make those decisions? What was the motivation behind your actions and inactions in those situations? Find the core idea or value that drove those decisions, or in the case of the unhappy events, the idea or value you choose to ignore and write those ideas and values down. Keep it simple, a word or two at most on each card. Keep this up until you have a nice stack of ideas and values listed out, but no more than about 100.

Next up is the hard part. Take that stack of ideas and values and start sorting them into 3 stacks: important, very important, and most important. Go through your whole stack and get them sorted so that you have an idea of the ones that you hold closest to your heart. This isn’t the hard part because the task is complicated, this is hard because you have to look into your own heart and soul and be completely honest about what things are most important to you. I can tell you from experience that this is a painful process and you are going to find that the things most important to, you might not follow the ideals of the life or society that you live in every day. That alone will be a challenge that we need to face to become authentic in our living.

Finally, take that stack of “most important” and start to trim it down to the top 5 or 10 values that that define who you are and put any extras into the “very important” stack. Now you have your core values, those things that will define how you should live your life. Do what you will with that stack of cards to make sure that you keep them in mind every day. For xiaoyi and I, we did this in concerns to our lives together and we have engraved out value onto small mirrors that we hang on the wall where we will see them every day, where we will read them every day. This keeps those ideals fresh in our minds so that we can live them authentically and aware. The difference living our lives in accordance with our values has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Now, this isn’t a onetime thing. Every year or so, take out those cards again and look through them. Add any ideals or values that you feel are missing and remove any that don’t resonate with you any longer. The truth of the matter is that your values are going to change over the course of time and the lives that we lead when we are young will not be the ones that we live when we get older, and they shouldn’t be. If you are here and reading this, it means that you have a desire to learn, and that learning is going to change you.  Also take a close look at that set of core values and see if they are constant for you going forward or if any of them have moved in importance to the “very important” pile and if any from the “very important” pile has moved into those core values. This will keep your values current with your life and your journey opening up your life to the joys we have found in ours.  

-Dominic

Loving by Choice

love-and-choice

Today is going to be a little different than many of my posts and is going to focus more on an emotional aptitude than the normal goal driven ideas. Part of becoming an authentic person and living to our values is the creation and maintenance of enduring and meaningful relationships. To that end there is a skill that we all need to learn so that we can actually understand those relationships and be effective in our ability to communicate within them. Many of you have probably heard of Love Languages, the methods that people give and receive love in ways that are meaningful to them and that they actually understand. Understanding those is the first step in creating deep and powerful relationships, but the next part of it is far more important.

For many, they learn the love language and attempt to communicate using the ones that mean the most to them. That rarely works out the way that we want it to and the learned take the process another step to try and correct that. They communicate their love language with those close to them and attempt to learn the love language from those they care about. They hope that this will let them communicate effectively and deeply, yet it commonly still falls short of the mark. Next we move to the realization that we have a different language for expressing love and one for receiving love and those can be drastically different. We may communicate how we receive love without communicating how we give it, so that relationships end up feeling one sided.

The skills we need to develop take all of these parts and take it one step farther than usually. It employs the use of deep empathy when dealing with those we love even after we have learned the languages they use to give and receive love. We need to step outside, out own perception of the world, our own operating system, so that we can see the other person in a different light. Just like we have used our perception filters to change how we view the world, we need to practice that is viewing the actions of those closest to us. It may feel like enough to realize that your partner’s way of giving love is through words of affirmation on a cognitive level, but if your way of receiving love is not the same, frequently we won’t really feel that gift from them. This is where we need to step out of our own perceptions and view the acts from our partner’s viewpoint. This will allow us to internalize the methods that they are giving love and feel it rather than just know it cognitively.

When we take that step and can really feel it when they express their love to us, we can improve the depth of the relationship and become more aware and attuned to our partners and loves ones. This is something that will improve every level of relationship in our lives and take another step towards that profound and fulfilling life we are moving towards.

My wife’s primary love language to receive is acts of service.  But it cannot be any act, there are particular ones that tell her I really love her when I do them.  It has taken years to learn which acts get that message sent and since I am a gift giver most often to show my love, there was a lot of trial and error on both our parts as we learned how to give and receive love from the other as they chose to share it.  

How do you show love both to your partners and as appreciation for others in your live such as friends, family and coworkers?  Do they hear it in the ways you express it?  IF not how can you change so that they can hear your appreciation?  

Continuing to find the Motivations!!!

embracingMust vs. Should

Change is a result of my need to avoid consequences. When I come to a point in my life that I can no longer live with the situation that I find myself in, I find a way to change. This is true is all parts of my life from my work and finances to my relationships. It is only when my reasons for making a shift in my life change from “I should do…” to “I must do…” It is only when that shift in my brain occurs that I actually find the resources needed to make the change and make it a lasting change. This is the real power of consequences. They are not there to make us feel bad about ourselves when we don’t achieve something, rather they are there to help force us into making the changes that we want to make.

To this end, I need to create consequences for those things in my life that I have a strong desire to change. I need to pile on the misery, so to speak, so that the processes that I need to do in order to make the changes that I want are that much more pressing and dire. This will change the things that I think I should do into ones that I feel that I must do. When that change in my thought process finally changes, the will to make the changes in my life to get rid of those consequences will happen. It will be a catalyst to get myself to where I want to be.

Yet how do I create consequences in my life so that I can energize those changes that I wish to enact? The first is by pruning my vocabulary so that I do not soften the impact of the negatives that I am trying to change. I am not a little overweight, I am fat. I am not tired from a hard day, I am lazy. These things help to create a sense of pain in me that forces me to address the situation. I can both accept those things about myself and live knowingly with them, or I can change them. If I choose to change them, this gives me some of the pain to use to make those changes.

Once I have started to make the change, putting restrictions and consequences on myself help to insure that the process is seen through. For example, I don’t get to relax and watch something until I have completed my writing for the day. By holding to this consequence, it means that I will get that change done so that I can avoid the consequence of not being able to watch something I enjoy. This can be taken a step farther and have it be that if I don’t get all my writing done for the week, then I don’t get to watch anything next week even if I do achieve my daily goals next week. This gives a lasting consequence that I will want to avoid which will drive my goals.

The trick for me is to set consequences and change those “shoulds” into “musts” without sabotaging my belief that I can change, without turning the process into something that I accept because I don’t have the belief that I can actually make the change. This is a delicate balance and that I waver on all the time. A good way to escape this is to pair those consequences with bonuses. This lets us strive and indulge in something when we reach our goals.  This is carrot and stick situation that helps to maintain my balance. Some days are harder than others, but the overall effect if that these two things drive my ability to change rather than just my desire. It changes those things that I should do, into things that I must do.

What changes in your life do you need to change into a must so that it actually happens? What consequences will you impose on yourself so that you actually must make those changes?

cool weather and my thoughts turn to fall…..

 

If you are anything like me, you find that as the weather turns cold and the leaves start falling off the trees, you start thinking about things in your life, deep thinking. Thinking about the things that bring you joy and about those things that you like and want in your life. Recently my parents gave me a gift that got me thinking. It was a simple gift, a couple pairs of gloves that had skull and bone motifs on the back. I have always loved skulls and bones, but I have never really thought about where that came from or why, at this point in my life, that I still like them so much.

The love of this sort of motif came from my childhood where I helped my mother construct and run a haunted house every fall for years. It was such an integral part of my life at that time that I fell in love with everything Halloween, from evil looking jack-o-lanterns to skeletons and leering skulls. This joy of those things only deepened through the music that I listened to and the scene that I was a part of. All these aspects of my childhood and teenage years instilled the love of these things in me, but that was many years ago, so why the continued love? Is it just a holdover from those early years?

Step a few years into the future, still my past,  and I am in college and getting close to the end of my degree. I majored in anthropology with an emphasis on archaeology. Now my love of skulls and bones had a twist of being a professional interest. How these things could tell us about the cultures of the past, of the people that walked this planet before us and how they went about their lives. It had become a desire for knowledge and growth in my profession and my understanding and it maintained that love.

Another jump into the future and I am a professional working in an office doing customer support and sales for an insurance company. Where in this life does this love for these commonly seen symbols of death have in my life now? I pondered this as I walked in the cold of predawn this morning and realized that, for me, these are not symbols of death. For me, they do not have the fatalistic message that all things will pass, but rather they are the symbol of our true self. They represent that core of our being that drives us, the place that everything revolves around in our lives, in our hopes and dreams, in our effort and learning. Just as the bones are the center of the physical body, they represent that core of our physicality and, as such, also represent that core of who we are. To me, this idea is very powerful. The most important thing to me in my life is to be true to that core of my being. I find that this ideal has attached itself to that childhood love of skulls and skeletons. For another time in my life, the meaning of the love has changed and evolved with who I am. I wonder what change in perception will next mold the meanings of these symbols for me.

What symbols or loves in your life have changed over the years from their first meaning for you? Do you have something that has been with you since you were a kid, but the reason that it holds value for you has changed as your life and circumstances have changed? I look forward to hearing about them!

 

The Power of The Silent Sell

image courtesy of: http://mom.girlstalkinsmack.com/

image courtesy of: http://mom.girlstalkinsmack.com/

 

One mistake of many salespeople is to think that they need to do the majority of the talking since they are the person “in the driver’s seat” and knowledgeable about the products. While it is true the sales person knows the product, even car salesfolk know, you have to let the customer drive the vehicle if you want to make the sale. If the sales person does all the talking. It makes the customer feel like they are talking to a sleazy salesperson who only cares about commission rather than someone that they can trust, and trust is the cornerstone of making the sale. There are two keys things that we should remember as we go through our selling processes.

First: the sales process is more effective and better for both us and our customer if we treat it like a conversation. After all the customer is a person too! Be truly and honestly interested in that person and why they are coming to us in the first place. What aspects of their lives are they trying to change by looking into our product? This is vital throughout the sales process. It creates a connection between us and the customer that can blossom into a trust. It also allows us to listen and to understand what the customer is looking for so that we can help them pick which product will fit them best rather than just spewing features of the product at them. This is a vital portion of a customer based sales method rather than a product-focused sales method and works far better in the long run.

The second part of this comes at the end of the conversation when we ask for the sale. Many times we, as the sales person, get nervous and flustered after we ask the customer to commit to the sale and start rambling on and on about the product or inventing problems to solve, problems that the customer probably wasn’t thinking of. This is where some self-control comes in and we use our silence as a lever to our advantage. If we stay silent after we ask for the sale, we create a few benefits to us and to our customer. First off, it allows the customer to formulate their thoughts and decide if there is anything additional that they need to address before they are comfortable making the purchase. Second, it create an impression of confidence in ourselves that goes a long way to reinforcing our posture and removing the feelings of being desperate to make the sale, feelings that the customer will pick up on and that will be detrimental to us getting the sale. Finally, it is a tactic to let the customer sell themselves on the product. If we stay silent, the customer will be forced into breaching that silence and they will do it in one of three ways. One: they will formulate real concerns that they want to address, in which case we can assist with address those. Two: they will start to solve their own smokescreen issues and sell themselves on the product for us, applying benefits of the product to their own concerns. Three: they will ask how they can make the purchase. If you notice, all of these outcomes is a good thing for us and for the customer.

So how are you going to use the power of staying silent to really get at the meat of your customer’s concerns?