Changing Ourselves for the Better

Yourself before your Health:

    Everyone one of us has struggled with some aspect of our health in our lives, be it our weight or our appearance. I know that I have tried many things since I gained those extra pounds to get rid of them with varying degrees of success, but the common theme is that the weight came back in short order. Most people can relate to this having spent time on diets and with weight loss pills and the like, finding that the achievements they do get to never stick around. This is a good metaphor for many of those other physical health aspects of ourselves that we try to change over the years from our appearance to our cholesterol and blood pressure. By concentrating on the immediate problem, we gain successes that doesn’t stick around. The reason for this is that we are constantly treating the symptom rather than the problem.

    We have already seen how our world is shaped by the lens that we look at it through, that our perception of our reality creates our reality. This problem is no different, yet we never analyze the lens that we look at ourselves with. The reality of it is that, for the vast majority of us, we have a negative outlook on ourselves and our worth, even to ourselves. We don’t believe that we deserve even what we have, much less those dreams on the horizon. This outlook of negativity is a perception filter that we have in place when we look in the mirror or into ourselves and it is one that we rarely analyze and adjust to better suite our lives and the lives that we want to live.  Simply put, our perception of ourselves is creating the reality of ourselves.

    So the task in front of us one that we have done time and again at this point as we look to achieve our dreams. We have to analyze the perception filter that we are looking at ourselves with and work to change that filter so that we can see ourselves as wonderful and deserving people. We need to change that core belief in our own worth before any exterior work will stick. It is time that we worked on ourselves from the inside out rather than the outside in, though most never even move in when they work on the outside.

    The process is going to be a tough one, even worse than changing one of the filters we look at the world with. We have to take that same attention to analyze the filter that we look at ourselves and we have to realize that it is a flawed and detrimental to our dreams and goals as our old external filters were. We have to change it so that we can see ourselves as deserving and healthy people so that when we change the exterior to match, those changes will stick rather than be sabotaged by the flawed self filter we have in place. For me, I use self-talk scripts. These are short things that I can say at certain points in the day to reaffirm the beliefs that I want to hold. They can feel very silly when you start them, but repetition makes them a reality in our lives and will work to change the filter we have in place. There are other methods out there from meditation to self help books and classes.

    It is time to find that a method to work on our emotional health and inner self so that when we make those great external changes, we have the framework to support those changes as well. Continue reading

Facing Adversity to Clarify Our Goals

Self Adversity:

    As we journey along our paths we are going to find times that our goals and our means seem to be very different. We cognitively understand that as we continue on our path those things will come together and be more in tune with each other, but that is hard to keep in mind in the moment when things seems so far out of measure. These are times that we have to not only hold to our path using the skills we have, but we have to turn our insight inwards to help us overcome our inner demons. Only through this introspection will we be able to change our cognitive understanding into something we can really feel.

    For me, this dissonance came in concerns to a car. When I was young I had a high powered muscle car that I really loved to drive. As I got older I change out that car for a more mature and sensible vehicle until recently when I found myself driving a Prius. Not a bad car, but it was not a car I enjoyed driving. It was a sensible way to get where I was going, nothing more. Recently I realized how counter to my goals driving that car was. It did not fulfill me in any way and I had lost the joy I used to have driving a fast and fun vehicle. Since the Prius is starting to die a slow death, I am on the hunt for a new car and this time I plan on getting something that I can really enjoy driving. The problem is that my goal of a fun vehicle and my current means are not matching up. This has turned into a frustrating experience as fulfilling that piece of my overall puzzle to get a fun car and my ability to actually do so that this time are not lining up the way I want it to.

    So I have taken a step back and looked at myself and my goals. I have seen that the goals are going to take years to reach and I need to be focused on them. Since the fun car is a portion of those overall dreams, I can still work forward to that as my current car slowly dies, but I need to keep in mind the scope of things. I have the luxury at the moment of taking some time and being patient as I look for the right car. This means that I don’t need to jump into a car because it is almost right and end up regretting the situation. The end result is what is going to matter to me and I have the time to make that end result one that I want. With this perspective I can combat the demons of doubt and self worth that spring up and allow my patience and perspective lead me to something that is actually fulfilling rather than something that salves the immediate desire and leaves fulfillment behind.

    So take some time and step back from the adversity and demons that are plague you and measure them against your long term goals. Use that perspective to help make the overall journey that much better and be able to handle the potholes along the way that much easier.

To whine or not to whine

    All of us have trouble sometimes in our struggle to reach where we want to be, we all suffer setbacks and lulls in progress that make the journey feel like a trial rather than the joyous thing that it truly is. When it comes right down to it, we all whine about it sometimes, which is just a natural act for us, as the act of complaining has been ingrained in us by our culture for most of our life. Think about the adage we hear time and time again in our lives, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If you think about it, is there is any bigger encouragement to complain and whine than that saying? To me there isn’t; it is an excuse that if you don’t like something, then bitch about it enough and someone will fix it for you. This is reprehensible! It is ditching our own responsibility and dumping our problems in the laps of other people. It is time that we take that responsibility back and become whole people again.

    The key here is to know what is a whine or a complaint and what actually a problem that needs to be fixed. This is a real key to living our lives because it requires understanding and accepting our sphere of influence. Our sphere of influence is that area in which our actions can have an effect. As we exercise our influence in that sphere, we are going to find that it will continue to grow and grow and we can direct the way that it grows, but we have to realize and understand our own sphere, in order to understand how to interact with the world in a positive and uplifting way. The things that fall in our sphere of influence is going to be the base of our responsibility. When it comes right down to it, if any portion of the problem we face falls in that sphere, then we only have ourselves to blame for it going wrong and we only have ourselves to take actions to fix it. We can request assistance, but the responsibility for it is our own. This is where the difference occurs between a problem and a whine. If it is in our sphere and we complain about it, we are whining and wanting someone else to be responsible for us and our action. We are taking our own power away from us and hoping someone benevolent will pick it up for us. This is a terrible way to live a fulfilled life.

    If the problem falls outside our sphere of influence, we have a couple options. We can realize this and judge that the problem isn’t worth our effort to correct and move on with our lives, or we can take steps to correct the problem. Taking steps to fix the problem is going to take collaboration with someone that has a sphere that encompasses the problem. This isn’t whining anymore, as we are choosing to take action and responsibility for the problem and in many cases we are going to be forced to expand our sphere of influence to encompass the problem. This is a growth thing and we need to be conscious of what we are doing before we find that our sphere is so large that we can’t do anything but put out fires within it. Growth should always be deliberate.

    Finally, we all need to vent sometimes.  This is the act of getting all our complaints and whines about something out in a way that will let the negative emotions go without expectation that someone else will fix them for us. I usually do this listening to loud music while I am driving. It gives me a safe place to release it all and then come back to the world ready to actually do something about the issues. Some people, like xiaoyi, usually need someone to listen to the rants so that she can move on. The way she makes that work is by being very clear that what she is doing is venting and that she needs that  person to listen. Find a method that you can use so that you can move forward in life and change those complaints in your sphere into accomplishments as you solve them and move towards a more fulfilling life.

Near and far, you need to see both

Maintain Your Course:

    The point of having goals is that it gives us a destination to journey to. A lot of our growth and our fulfillment in life is going to be alone our journey to our goals, but without the goals there, the journey turns into a rambling and aimless thing. We may find growth in that wandering, but it will be accidental and haphazard, where as we go instead focused and aimed at what we really want in life we can get it. A life without a goal is a life left to chance and the vagaries of the world. Instead of wandering aimlessly, we need a point to our journey to so that we can grow in a purposeful and active way, a way we desire.

    Part of the key to achieving a goal is to not look at the destination all the time so that we can’t become discouraged. Instead we follow the daily and weekly steps that we have laid out so that we can reach our goals and stop looking at the end destination. This is vital to make sure that we can achieve our goals, but we also need another skill in order to actually arrive where we want to go. Once we have sorted out our goal and made our plans on how we get there, we have to take a little time sometimes to make sure we are on the correct path. If we don’t look up at the goal from time to time, we may come to the end of our plan and see that we are massively off base because we only looked at the steps we were taking. We were taking the steps we had planned and that is good thing, but just as no strategy survives contact with the enemy, no plan survives contact with the constantly changing world. By taking a short break from time to time to assess how we are doing on our plan and if that plan is still aiming us towards the goal we can make sure that we don’t travel too far off base.

    My work when I was contract archaeologist is a great example of this idea. Each day we needed to survey about eight miles of rough terrain to make sure there wasn’t any historical culture that would be damaged when the big trucks came through to do their work. The goal was a point four miles away and not something that we could see at the outset. So instead of just walking, our plan was to follow the GPS lines that had been laid out for us to walk. These lines were made up of a series of flags spaced every one hundred meters or so along the path. While, as we walked we were constantly scanning the ground for any evidence of a historical site, but we also had to constantly look up to the markers laid out to make sure that we were still in line and still on the route to our goals. If we just stared at our feet, we might find ourselves miles of course by the end of the day and would have accomplished very little of what we had meant to accomplish.

    This is just the same with our big goals in life. We have to look up and make sure we are still on line to achieve those goals from time to time. Today is a good day to take some time and make sure that we are maintaining our course towards our dreams and the life of fulfillment we are moving towards.

Are you holding yourself back from your dreams?

Always Seek a Better Way!

    Humans are prone to habits and patterns of doing things. This is especially true when we have found something that works well for us; we end up falling into the process of doing those things the same way every time. This can be a trap that leaves us comfortable, but not pushing us towards our aspirations and dreams. A key to getting to the wonderful heights that we dream about is to always look for ways to improve on what we are doing. This can, and should, become a habit that we all develop as it will see us sky rocketing toward our dream instead of moving along at a normal and steady pace.

    It is easy to see a little success in a process and become content with that success. We can even rationalize that if we look to change it then we will compromise that success and end up damaging the end result. Though that is a possibility, it is less likely than finding ways that we can improve on the methods and increase the success that we see from the process. Plus, even if the new process is detrimental to the output, the old process is still there to fall back on, so looking to improve is always a risk free prospect in concerns to the output.

    Think about it this way, if you do what you have always done; you will get what you have always gotten. This is the definition of stagnation and leads to a life that might be comfortable, but not one that is fulfilling. If we were comfortable with being comfortable, we wouldn’t be going through the process of self analysis and growth and driving towards our dreams. Since we do strive for our dreams by trying something new, it is not within our scope of behavior to grow and improve. This is as true of those processes in our lives that are working as it for the ones that are not working. In fact, it is easy to see the damage of the processes that don’t work are doing to our lives, but the ones that are working are an insidious prospect. Because they are working, we don’t look at them in depth and analysis them to make them better; we focus on the other things in our lives. As we fix the broken parts, we are going to find that they become working parts at the same level of success as the precious working parts, which is to say at a comfortable level. That happens because the things that are working become the benchmark in our minds for something being successful and we stop pushing the new processes once we reach that level.

    We need to push those things that are working at the same time that we fix the broken parts so that our overall success level on our journey is that much stronger and driving ahead. This take reinventing those things that are working so that the benchmark we set is that much higher time and time again. We actively take the comfortable and make it extraordinary. It is time to push ourselves past comfortable and into the realm of our dreams.

Steve Jobs knew this and was constantly saying, “there’s got to be a better way” and he was looking for that way. This is a large part of why Apple became so successful. Everything could be and would be improved. What are you going to review and look at in your life to find a better way?


Mistakes and Accountability

Mistakes and Accountability:

    It is a matter of fact that at some point in our journey we will act in a way that goes against our core values, that we will let the pressures of the world outside us or the pressure of the demons inside us dictate our actions rather than  acting on our values. This is not the end and it isn’t something to indicate that we are faulty or cannot achieve our goals and aspiration while holding to our values. Mistakes are just that, and we need to understand that they can be source of learning and growth just as powerful as any other out there. The key is to realize this fact, but that is also the hard part.

    The first step in this it to admit the mistake, yet this can be the hardest part. Day after day we have learned to admit our mistakes to those around us and show that we have resolve to move forward from those. That admission is very rarely one that we hold ourselves to, it is an action we take as a part of the social contract we have in a situation and nothing more. It, therefore, is a minor thing and not thought about. That is not the sort of acceptance that will result in growth. That kind of acceptance will only results in maintaining the status quo. The part that we need to internalize is that when we do make a mistake that goes against our values that we admit that mistake to ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for that mistake and its consequences.

    Accountability is the next part. We have to learn to hold ourselves accountable for the mistakes we make against ourselves. Society commonly holds us accountable for the mistakes that we make in their eyes, the traffic ticket or reprimand from a boss. We don’t have a system in place to hold ourselves accountable like that when we transgress against our own values. We have to take a big step forward and hold ourselves accountable for that transgression. This means that we need to accept the mistake, analyze the reasons we made it and resolve to grow past those reasons in the future. This is the process of being accountable to ourselves so that we can live the value driven life we believe in.

    Recently I made one of these transgressions. One of the values that xiaoyi and I hold dear is honestly with each other. It is a foundation of our relationship and our lives. Recently, I made a stupid mistake and forgot to put the gas cap back after filling up the car. Hence I lost the cap and the check engine light came on in the car. I knew what had happened and in my own mind had formulated a plan to take care of situation. Because I had that plan in my head, I didn’t tell xiaoyi about it and when she asked about the check engine light I let my embarrassment and the demons of self-worth I battle with in my head, answer saying that I wasn’t sure and would get it checked out. I knew exactly what the problem was and had plans to fix it, but in the instant I slipped and didn’t live the values that I hold. The first step I had to take was admission of the error, both to me and to my wife.

That went easy, as the mistake was laughed off, and I learned that xioayi had lost at least three gascaps in her life as well.  The damage to my values, however,  remains and isn’t something that will just go away. That is where the accountability comes in. I now have to hold myself accountable to live my value from here on, to make it a conscious effort and to ignore the demons that try to make me live away from that value. This isn’t an easy thing to accept or try to move forward from, but it is something that everyone will have to do at some point if they wish to live a value driven life.

    I hope that this has helped you become armed for that event in your life where you live away from your values and gives you ideas on how to get back on track to the life you want to lead.

Get Stuck In

Get Stuck In:

    There is an old adage that those who can, do, and those that can’t, teach. I don’t buy into that as anyone who attempts to teach something must have an exhaustive knowledge of the subject to be effective at teaching. Yet, when we look out the world we live in, we find a similar situation to that repeated just about anywhere we look in the professional world. We have people in authority positions telling those under them what to do. This makes sense on one level, if the person has risen through the ranks and started where their subordinates now sit. We call those people leaders and they are the most effective managers in any industry. On the other hand, the majority hand even, we find people promoted to that leader position without having done the work that they are advising on. This is a situation that breeds resentment and incompetent practices as the experience isn’t there for that leader to draw upon to make real and lasting effects. So, as I would say in concerns to one of my games, it is time to get stuck in.

    What I mean by getting stuck in is to get into the middle of the job that we would advise others on how to do. Do that job or task, experience the highs and lows of the situation and all the trials and tribulations that our subordinates go through on a daily life. Then, once we have gotten stuck in, stay stuck in for some time so that we can experience the ebb and flow of that job. All of this is doing two very important things for us.

    The first thing that we gain is a deeper understanding of the job or task that we are supervising. We come to understand how the operation of that situation actually works in the trenches, so to speak, which allows us to see where the deficiencies really are instead of those that we imagine, might be there. It is impossible to see all the pitfalls and hardships of the terrain of a mountain without walking that mountain. Same thing with any task, it is impossible to see what the actually pitfalls are until we fall into them and gain that experience. Once we have learned the terrain and have an understanding of it, we can actually come up with real and effective solutions to the problems that we experienced in the field. Additionally, when a problem comes to us from higher up the ladder, we have an understanding of the actual job and can devise solutions that have a chance of actually working. This is invaluable in our journey as we can create strategies that won’t waste our and other people’s effort.

    The second thing that living in the trenches gives to us is the respect and camaraderie of those below us. If we live through the same situations that they live in, then when we come to them with a problem or solution, they can listen to us with ease. We have earned the right to advise them on the situations that they face every day and the ability to convey the issue from higher up in the ladder is a way that integrates with their everyday life. With that respect and ability, we are actually going to be able to create and implement lasting solutions, rather than band aids that only patch the problem briefly.

    So, as we go through our lives, we need to be able to do the work to become a leader rather tan just a supervisor. It is time to get stuck in! So stop hesitating and jump in now!

Hold to Your Resolutions!

Defining Success:

    As we go through and start to create the lives that we want live and goals to help us get there, the vast majority of us are going to have the word “success” in that picture somewhere. Yet very few of us could tell someone what success meant if we were asked. Sure, we could give them the dictionary idea of the word or some abstract idea of success, but we don’t have an firm and clear idea of what success means to us personally. This idea is something that is going to change from person to person along the path and is something that should be defined as we move forward. There is no reason to put the word into the picture of the life we want if we can’t recognize it when we get there.

    There are countless pictures of success in the world and each person is going to have a different one, one that resonates with them and gives them that feeling that they have won, they have arrived at the life that they have always wanted. This is something that we need to take a critical look at and to define for ourselves, an idea that is person and powerful

    For many people, success is going to be having money, but that is an easy this to create if you are willing to sacrifice for it. There are plenty of people in the world that make a lot of money, but have no time for their passions or their loves ones. Are they actually successful?

For others it will be having a strong family and they will sacrifice their passions and their work for that end. Is that success? It might be to them and that is the key, success is going to be something that we need to define and understand for ourselves. My version of success isn’t going to look like your version of success.

    Let’s use another example here. In my writing I have said many times that I am a gamer, I love to play all kinds of games from board games and role playing games to video games. To me, success isn’t having my own jet or a mansion, to me success is being able to buy and enjoy the newest games without worry of cost. It is having the time and energy to indulge in my passions and find that fulfillment without neglecting the relationships in my life. To me, that is kind of simple, but it has a myriad of effects on my dreams.

My Success, than, is a combination of a lot of little things. So, to have what I want I need enough money to have a high end computer and the money to purchase around 2-3 new video games a month. Add to that the time to play the video games as well. To me, that can be done in a lot of ways, but the one that has resonated with me the best is to have no more than a 4 day work week. So I need extra disposable income and 3 days off each week to indulge.

What else does success mean for me? Somewhere to play those games. This means that I need somewhere to live that has 2 rooms for me, one set up with all the computer equipment and extra space for my friends to come and play and a second room with a large table for board games and all. So now success has an additional layer onto what it means past just money.

Finally, success needs to have the ability to maintain and enhance the meaningful relationships in my life. Some of these can be done through the gaming, but some of them need other avenues and I need to the extra money and time to be able to indulge in those as well. For me, there is a very fine balance that I need to strike between working all the time to get the money, and having the time to spend on the reasons that the money is there or finding other ways to gain financial freedom so that I don’t have to balance work. And I am in the process of doing just that and becoming my own boss with my own business!

    What sorts of things in your life mean that you are successful? What aspects of your life does success bleed into and change how that portion of your life is? Finally, what are you willing to sacrifice in your pursuit of that definition of success? Thinking about these things is a very good idea as it will flesh out your goals so that you don’t arrive at that goal and find it empty for you.

Are you Authentic and Fulfilled?


    In all the reading and studying I have done to learn how to reach my dreams and goals in life, there is a theme that we should find someone that is living the life that we want and then we should copy them . This is generally presented as copying success, and it is a sure path to living an unfulfilling life. So why is it presented as a great idea?

    The reason that it is presented as a great idea to reach success is that is does produce results. By copying the actions of someone who is successful, you are following a path that has proven to get to a certain point, though you will find it won’t get you where that person you are modeling is at. So, as with many things in our culture today, it is an easy, quick fix for people to use to see results along their way to their dreams. In that regard, it can be a very good motivational technique, but it isn’t going to create a life that is fulfilling for you, even if it does produce a life that is successful on paper.

    The actuality of it, is that those people we are aimed at modeling are where they are not only because of their strategies and techniques, but also because of their passions. It is their passion for what they are doing that really drives them and creates their success. Since their passion is not my passion, I can emulate some of that success, but I can never reach the fulfilling life that they have. I might get a life I find better than the one I am living now, but that life has very little chance of actually being fulfilling because I am following someone else’s passion instead of my own and I haven’t learned how to produce results with my own passion as I have just walked a predetermined path. I will find myself in a trap that looks good, but it stifling, a gilded cage.

    The real key and lesson from this is to study those people that you would have modeled. Learn what they do, how they do it and why they do it. This will give you vast insights into the actual reason that they are successful and happy in their lives, the methods they use to live a fulfilling life. That study is going to give you the tools needed to follow your path to a fulfilling life. Instead of adopting someone else’s passion, you can use the tools you learn to follow your own passion and reach the levels of success that you see in those models. This will result in living a life that is not only successful, but also fulfilling.

    Anybody can copy the actions of someone else and, if they do it well, can achieve similar results as the person that they are copying. It is a rare and driven person that sees someone and attempts to learn the how and the why of that person and where that person is and then applies those traits to their own dreams and passions. The first set of people is those that we see in big houses with nice cars and bad tempers and unfulfilling lives. The second set of people is those that we see indulging in their lives, those people that have a soul deep smile even in the worst times in life. I don’t know about you, but I will be the second sort of person. And maybe I can even be a model for you.

Doing it Right

Fear Means You Are Doing it Right:

    Plan and simple, striving for our dreams is a terrifying prospect. There is a strange dichotomy that most people seem to grow up with. On one had we are taught that anyone can be anything, that the American dream is real and everyone can go from rags to riches. These are the folktales that we are raised with. On the other hand, the training we get in life tells us that we need to accept our place in life and that our genes, talents or intelligence will only get us so far and we need to be realistic about that in our lives. There is a terrible word “realistic”. It supposedly means that we should see the world for what it is and base our decisions off of that data. Yet reality is what we perceive it, so being realistic is just a convenient way of telling people not to see the possibilities in the world that they can create through their own perception of the world.

    This training that we have been indoctrinated in means that as we learn to step outside of that box, there is going to be fear. Fear is a natural part of human existence and happens in everyone when facing the unknown. Even the bravest people in our stories and movies are afraid of the unknown, yet they push forward anyways, just as we need to learn to do. Bravery is not the absence of fear. In fact the absence of fear is insanity. Bravery is feeling that fear and moving forward anyways. We can all be brave, that is a matter of choice and having a Why that drives us harder than the fear can hold us back. What we need to understand is that the fear is natural and is actually a sign that we are on the right track in this road. If we were not afraid, then we would just be living in the box that has been prescribed for us. There would be nothing new or exciting to happen, everything safe and boring. The fear is a sign that we are stepping outside that box and moving along the path to a future that is more amazing than the present we are living in. That fear needs to become an addiction, something we seek out so that we can be certain we are on the right path.

    Today is the day that we need to become brave and seek out those things that we fear. In fact, take a trick my wife uses everyday and try it out for a couple of weeks and see how it changes your life. Every day, xiaoyi does three things that scare her. Maybe it is calling a friend to talk about an opportunity to or contacting an organization she wishes to teach at. Every day, three things that scare her. This drives her to do those things that are our side her box and therefore in that realm of wonder we want to live in. The funny thing I was witnessed in her is that the scary things she does one day become the normal things she does a month down the line, so she is constantly striving to find more scary things to do.

    Fear is the mile marker on our journey. It is time to get a few more miles under our belt on our road to our dreams.