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Thought Distortions

One of the questions clients frequently ask me is, What is the best way to change your thoughts? In other words, how do you get rid of thoughts you don’t want running through your mind? If you take the time to analyze your unwanted thoughts, you will often discover that they are based on distortions of reality. Finding ways to eliminate these “Thought Distortions” can take many forms. Over the years, I have used several methods but some of the ones I’ve found most effective have been self-hypnosis, sleep programming, meditation, and even something I call “Hypnology” which you may find fun to investigate and experience for yourself. (There is a FREE product titled Provocative Destiny on my website if you would like to explore the concept of “Hypnology” which involves using your musical intelligence to reprogram your subconscious mind. It’s an extremely powerful way to change your thinking. Just click HERE for your FREE copy!)

The challenge to eliminating your unwanted thoughts, however, is that you first have to figure out what thoughts you need to eliminate. So let me begin by telling you about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which was developed by the American psychiatrist Aaron Beck in the 1960’s. Beck originally used Freudian Psychoanalysis with his patients but as a researcher and scientist, he decided to put psychoanalysis to the test. Unfortunately, those tests he conducted did not produce the results he was expecting which is what lead him to start developing and testing other methods.

As you might imagine, Beck was not originally applauded for challenging accepted beliefs and practices but as other colleagues began trying his methods, Beck was vindicated and eventually regarded as an important pioneer in the field of psychiatry.

The essence of what Beck discovered is that negative thoughts fall into three categories: negative ideas about the self, negative ideas about the world, and negative thoughts about the future. For many people, these negative thoughts become automatic over time so they are no longer even questioned. But when Beck began questioning patients about their thoughts and pointing out various inaccuracies or distortions, patients could recognize their faulty thinking and choose new thoughts. As simple as it sounds, it was revolutionary at the time and it still remains a major part of psychiatry today. It is especially significant in the treatment of depression. I find it one of the best tools available to clarify one’s thinking about anything.

Read the next section on thought distortions to see if you can uncover any in your own thinking. I think it is safe to say that we all have thought distortions, but we can eliminate them by recognizing and acknowledging them, and by beginning to ask better questions to get to the truth.

The key is learn to rise above thought distortions which always fall into those three main categories I mentioned—i.e., negative thoughts that are personal, pervasive, and permanent. The good news is that with clear, rational thinking you can spot these. However, it’s always recommended to brainstorm what you are thinking about with a coach, mentor, counselor, or doctor to get real unbiased feedback.

THE COGNITIVE TRIAD

  1. The Self – Is the self worthless or valuable? (Personal)
  2. The World/Environment – Is the world unfair, fair, or neutral? (Pervasive)
  3. The Future – Is the future hopeless or hopeful? (Permanent)

Again, the most challenging problems are the ones that we convince ourselves are personal, pervasive, and permanent. Put those on your list to be eliminated.

TYPES OF THOUGHT DISTORTIONS

All-Or-Nothing Thinking

  • Engaging in black-or-white thinking. Thinking in extremes, such as all good or all bad, with nothing in the middle.

Selective Abstraction

  • Selecting one idea or fact from an event while ignoring other facts in order to support negative thinking.

Mind Reading

  • Believing that we know the thoughts in another person’s mind.

Negative Prediction

  • Believing that something bad is going to happen even though there is no evidence to support this prediction.

Catastrophizing

  • Exaggerating the potential or real consequences of an event and becoming fearful of the consequences.

Overgeneralization

  • Making a rule based on a few negative or isolated events and then applying it broadly.

Labeling

  • Creating a negative view of oneself based on errors or mistakes that one has made. This is a type of overgeneralizing which affects one’s view of oneself.

Magnification

  • Exaggerating an imperfection into something greater than it is.

Minimization

  • Making a positive event much less important than it really is.

Personalization

  • Taking a common or general event and relating it to oneself thus making a connection where one really doesn’t exist.

I’ve found this list of Thought Distortion Types to be extremely valuable for myself and my clients as a reference guide to help spot thoughts you are thinking that are not good for you, not good for others, and don’t serve the greater good. More importantly, since they are Thought Distortions, they are not true. And I believe that all progress starts with telling yourself the truth. Or as an old mentor said to me one day: “Robert, you might as well start with the truth because you are going to end with it.” Sage advice indeed.

 

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Is It A Wonderful World?

Is it a wonderful world? What do you think? My answer is yes and no.

It’s hard not to notice that while we live on a beautiful blue island in space, we don’t spend enough time appreciating what we have.

While there have always been conflicts and disagreements on space ship earth, the way we humans seem to be taking opposing sides these days is perhaps more dangerous than ever before, especially given the fact that we have the power to destroy all life on earth in a matter of minutes. Luckily, we also have the power to take care of ourselves and the planet if we can learn to live together.

Thinking about this recently, I remembered something one of my mentors said to me a long time ago. I came across it when I was reading one of my journals the other day, and the idea really came to life again. While having a spirited conversation on all things philosophical, my mentor stopped me dead in my tracks and said: “Robert, you can’t choose sides on a round planet.” It got my attention and got me to shut up and listen. As I think now about what he said, it almost sounds like a Zen koan, don’t you think? If I reframe it as a question that goes like this, “How do you choose sides on a round planet?,  then that’s got to qualify as a Zen koan!

But unfortunately, we are choosing sides more and more. Rather than reach for agreements and partnerships, we tend to want to hold fast to old lines in the sand while we continue to work on drawing new ones. We’ve been playing this no-win game for centuries now and, if you read a bit of history, you can study the results. It’s not a pretty picture.

I confess that I’m an internal optimist and perhaps I’m so naïve as to believe that we are going to figure it all out … but I certainly don’t claim to have the answers. Nevertheless, one thing always seems to ring true for me. We tend to take care of those things that we treasure which brings me to a new addition to my family. My son recently bought a dog from an incredible dog breeder who named the puppy Schatze shortly after she was born. The name literally means “treasure.” While people often like to name their pets themselves, my son loved the name so much that he kept it. I have no doubt that Schatze will be “treasured” by our entire family for many years to come.

As I was playing with Schatze the other day, I had this thought:  What if each of us treated each other with the same respect and playfulness we typically show our pets? That’s an interesting idea, don’t you think? Having a thought like that might help to nudge us all in the right direction.

So why not start treating other people and our planet like the “treasures” that they are? That’s what I did while I played with Schatze and she returned the feelings in kind. We do tend to get back what we put out.

Perhaps this is all getting a bit too philosophical and overly simplistic given the nature our problems; however, I tend to find simple answers to be the most effective. We humans tend to overcomplicate our lives. So let me end this month’s blog by sharing a recording. The song is called “What A Wonderful World” and I know you’ve heard it many times, but have you ever really stopped to listen to it? It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong, in 1967. The words to the song will bring tears to your eyes if you really listen and think about their true meaning.

Here’s the original recording. Listen to Louis Armstrong at his best and see what you think. Does it change the way you feel about the world?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21LGv8Cf0us

It certainly affects me in a very deep way. I love the song so much that I enjoy playing it on my saxophone just for fun. I’ve provided an mp3 recording that I did a number of years ago that you might enjoy. It’s not even in the same ballpark as the master Louis Armstrong, and it’s obviously missing those important lyrics that really make it come alive. But it always makes me feel better when I play it. See what you think.

What A Wonderful World.mp3

The good news is that I’m working on another version based on the three things I focus on in life: (1) Studying, (2) Practicing, and (3) Teaching.  I’m committed to getting better, and I know you are as well or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Just make sure you are studying, practicing, and teaching whatever fascinates you the most in life while surrounding yourself with people who want to grow and improve and build a better life and a better world just like you do.

For me, the bottom-line is this: Our best is yet to come. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Now make it a great day because IT CAN BE A WONDERFUL WORLD. The choice is up to each of us.

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Do You Need a Coach or a Mentor?

In my experience, there is a huge difference between working with a coach and working with a mentor. While some people may use these terms interchangeably, I think this can be a big mistake because while there are similarities, there are also some subtle but important distinctions that are worth knowing about.

In terms of answering the question as to whether you need a coach or a mentor, my answer is YES! I would also add that in addition to working with the best coach and the best mentor you can find, I would also recommend joining or forming a Mastermind Group. Let’s start with some definitions to drill down on this idea.

Here’s what Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary has to say about these terms:

Coach – one who instructs or trains, especially one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a sport and directs team strategy.

Mentor – a trusted counselor or guide.

Mastermind Group – a team of people working toward shared goals.

Originally, coaching was thought of as training and encouraging people in a given area such as sports or fitness. However, the Personal Development Industry now uses the term heavily, usually by adding the word “Life” as in “Life Coaching.” During my career, I’ve seen amazing growth in this new Life Coaching field. It has become a big business, indeed!

As you may know, Life Coaching is not a very well-regulated industry so it’s a lot like the days of the wild, wild west. It’s definitely fraught with serious problems because literally anyone can hang out a shingle and call himself or herself a “Life Coach.”  But like everything in life, there are “degrees” of quality. Anyone who raises their hand might be able to be your kid’s soccer coach. However, a high school soccer coach is going to have to provide more competitive credentials and yet, a professional team coach is going to need to show much more experience and success in winning.

Don’t get me wrong, there are great coaches and working with a great coach will give you great results if you do the work. But it’s also easy to be tricked with gimmicks, cons, and flashy sales pitches that are long on promises but short on results. It brings to mind the old term Latin term Caveat Emptor, meaning Buyer Beware. As has always been the case, there are con artists around every corner making empty promises and promoting scams of all kinds. Don’t part with your hard-earned money until you know you’ve found someone with high standards, quality, and integrity.

One of the things I decided during a recent sabbatical was to spend more time developing the next generation of Life Coaches while also providing more Mentoring Programs for advanced clients. I hope you’ll take the time to check out the various new products and services we are in the process of launching to see if they might fit your needs.

Let me end with this thought. The main thing to keep in mind when working on your personal develop is three words that have become the focus of my entire life: Study, Practice, Teach.

I’ve devoted my life to studying the best ideas I can find to improve the quality of my life in every area. Once I uncover an idea that has been proven to work, I practice it on a regular basis. And, of course, what my life has really been about is teaching what I’ve learned—i.e., coaching, mentoring, and leading others to make their life the best it can be.

So are you studying, practicing, and teaching every day?

Do you have a coach? Someone who helps keep you encouraged and motivated?

Do you have a mentor? Someone who has achieved what you want to achieve and knows how to guide you along the right path?

Lastly, do you have a group of like-minded people that are heading in the same direction that you are heading?

If the answer is YES to all three questions, you are on the fast track to what you want most in life. My final advice is to remember to enjoy the journey. As  Cervantes said, “The road is better than the inn.” It’s not about arriving once and for all, it’s about traveling in style every day as your life unfolds on a path of constant and never-ending improvement.

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Life’s Biggest Question

I love to encourage people. In fact, I believe that when I do it well, it’s the most powerful thing I can do to serve others.  For me, there’s simply nothing like the feeling of offering an idea that has the potential to improve someone’s life and then watching to see the reaction. Here’s the reaction that I’m always working to achieve when I talk with a client. I want the client to ask: “I wonder if what Robert just said would really work? It sounds like the idea worked for him but would it work for me? I wonder if I should try to implement this idea in my own life and see what happens?” That’s the bulls-eye for me which leads me to LIFE’S BIGGEST QUESTION!

When I give seminars or workshops, I love to end a presentation with something that I learned from one of my most important mentors. His name is Jim Rohn, and he inspired a whole generation of personal development authors and speakers. His most famous student is probably Tony Robbins. If you take a minute to Google “Jim Rohn” and learn about his life’s work, you’ll find a long list of people who give him credit for changing their lives. Although I’ve had more mentors than I can count, Jim Rohn, along with the legendary Earl Nightingale, are always at the top of my list.

The reason I’m mentioning Jim Rohn is that I want to share an idea with you that was a part of many of Jim Rohn’s speeches. He would often end his speeches with this idea. In fact, I can still remember the first time I heard him share this idea, and I remember my reaction of excitement, wonder, and endless possibilities.

After humbly sharing his remarkable life story and the many lessons that he learned and practiced during his life, Jim Rohn would ask a series of 4 questions. He would begin with the simple question of “Why?” (I now call this LIFE’S BIGGEST QUESTION!) Jim would basically challenge the audience by saying: Why do all of the things I’ve talked about to improve your life? Why set goals and work to achieve them? Why develop the skills you need to succeed in the world? Why work as hard as possible to become as successful as possible? Why keep pushing forward despite the many obstacles? Why bother to go through all of the work required when you can instead just choose to drift along in life? Clearly the question of “Why?” is the major question indeed.

The answer to his question of “Why?” was always the same. He would say: The best answer to the question of “Why?” is the question “Why not?” Why not work to become all that you are capable of becoming? Why not stretch yourself to see what you can become? Why not set some big goals and see if it’s possible for you to achieve them? After a series of these kinds of “Why not?” questions, he would then say: What else are you going to do with your life? You have to stay here until you go so why not become all that you are capable of becoming?

Just the questions “Why?” and “Why not?” would have been enough. Even the first question of “Why?” had my complete attention. I was ready to take action after I heard the way in which he delivered that question followed by the life challenge posed in the question “Why Not?” But wait, there was more, much more. He would then say: “Why not you?” Other people have done incredible things with their lives, why not you? He would challenge you to think about all of the people you admire who have achieved the goals that you want to achieve and by doing so challenge the false belief that others are capable of great things but not you. Instead, he would say that if they found a way to achieve their goals, then why not you?

The final piece de resistance was the question: “Why not now?” He would expand this simple question by saying in essence: Why postpone your better future any longer? Why not get started today on the things that can change your life for the better?

I can still remember my reaction. I realized in that moment that while indeed there were real obstacles on my list of the things holding me back from achieving what I wanted in life, there was hope. I just had to admit to myself that I was front and center in holding myself back in life. I needed to change myself if I wanted to change my results. I still remember writing this quote from Jim Rohn in my journal the day I heard this special seminar:

“For things to change for you, you’ve got to change. Otherwise, it isn’t going to change.”

I offer you that same advice. Have I been able to achieve everything that I’ve wanted to achieve in my life? No. Of course not. However, the game isn’t over. I’m still working on the goals that are important to me. How about you? Are you drifting along or are you purposely working to make daily progress? And are you enjoying the journey?

I can tell you that I’ve achieved things that I never thought were possible for me because of incredible mentors like Jim Rohn, and the many ideas that they shared. They inspired and encouraged me. My goal is to try to be useful in life by working to inspire and encourage you.

Take a minute to write down these 4 questions based on “WHY” and then review them at least once a day. After say, thirty days, see if you don’t notice a difference. Keep doing this for a year, and then check your progress. I’m willing to bet that these simple questions will help you accomplish your goals while at the same time helping you to become the person you most want to be.

Why? Why not? Why not you? Why not now? Ask those questions to yourself every day and notice how your life changes.

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The Creation of The Lifetime Success Process™

I am often asked about how my 3 Core Programs, THE 12 LIFE SECRETS, THE 12 WEALTH SECRETS, and CREATING YOUR ULTIMATE DESTINY came about. As you may know, I spent many years working with the #1 producer and worldwide distributor of personal development products, Nightingale-Conant Corporation, founded by one of my most important mentors, Earl Nightingale.

During the time I worked with N-C, I helped craft programs for hundreds of thought leaders like Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, and many others you may know.

I also learned from thousands of clients what they liked most about these programs and what they did not. As a result of listening to and studying all of these programs, I discovered a huge problem within the Personal Development Industry.

Here’s the problem:  Authors were trying so hard to be unique and different, they were changing and revising key, universal truths that have always worked through the ages. (This is even more true today.)  Proven secrets for success were becoming lost in translation or hard to follow. What was relatively simple to understand, was becoming confusing with tons of contradictions. People were confused about what to do or who to follow.

What I knew was needed was a Simpler, Clearer Path to success that anyone could follow … so I decided to create a solution …

Then one day, I was playing the piano and I noticed something for the first time. If you look at a piano and count all of the notes you will find 88 different black and white keys or notes. What’s interesting is that although there are 88 keys, there are only 12 different primary notes. Check it out for yourself sometime. The primary 12 notes just continue to repeat in octaves. This means that all of the great music we have ever heard is made up of only 12 notes. Talk about simplicity. The same can be said about the world’s greatest ideas. You don’t need endless principles to succeed, and the key principles never change.

This breakthrough lead me to the creation of my first Core Program, THE 12 LIFE SECRETS

I boiled down all of the products I’d listened to over the years and all of the books I’ve read into the 12 most important principles. It became my cornerstone product that was endorsed by the major thought leaders of the day and remains a best-seller to this day.

This program immediately went to the top of the sales list and is more relevant today than the day it was written, because it is based on the most important and timeless principles.  It was later endorsed by dozens of world-class thought leaders as a simple guide to getting what you want in life.

I knew what was needed next was a program to help individuals create true and lasting Financial Success, so I developed THE 12 WEALTH SECRETS which also became a best-seller.

Again, it contains the foundational principles of becoming financially independent that never change. It’s simple and it works!  THE 12 WEALTH SECRETS contains universal laws of success that will guide you to a path of financial prosperity in your life.

Finally, I knew that I needed to address the critical concept of how to create your best life making sure your success leads to true happiness and fulfillment. If you become successful and miss fulfillment, you’ve lost the game. I titled the next program CREATING YOUR ULTIMATE DESTINY which again became a best-seller.  This program is the culmination of everything it takes to create your best life and to find exactly what it takes to Create Your Ultimate Destiny.

Each of these 3 Core Programs are unique in their own way, and each deliver 12 Powerful Secrets and Ideas that will change your life.

It was after finishing these programs that I realized it was time for me to leave Nightingale-Conant and start my own company. That’s when I developed THE LIFETIME SUCCESS PROCESS™ which has guided everything I have done over the years with my company Success Systems International, LLC. It is now the foundation of all of our products and services.

I took all I had learned and more from some of the greatest minds in history and crafted a Simple 7-Step Formula for Success. It is a process that anyone could follow, understand, and use daily to stay on course. It’s made up of just 7 simple steps that never fail to produce results. They are the glue that hold everything together. Learn them and use them, and you will succeed. It’s that simple. Miss them and you’ll get lost in endless details and distractions.

Now, I am grateful and happy to have seen these programs change the lives of countless people all over the world including so many of my personal Mentoring Clients. The programs are what I call Evergreen Products like Napoleon Hill’s THINK AND GROW RICH or James Allen’s AS A MAN THINKETH. They are based on the key principles that never fail to produce outstanding results. They are proven strategies and time-tested ideas that you can implement easily within your life where ever you may be right now.  All you have to do is make these ideas your own by listening to the programs or reading the transcripts. They come with workbooks so you can study the material in greater depth.

Try them in your life. My wish is that they work for you as well as they have worked for me and so many others.

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This Masquerade

I find myself fascinated with what’s happened since I wrote my last blog post entitled “Sabbatical” on February 1, 2020. My personal intention was to take some time off from work so I could re-evaluate my life and what I’ve been able to accomplish in my first 6 decades on the planet. The plan was to step back from the day-to-day momentum of my personal and professional life and examine who and what I have become during my short ride on this spinning blue island in space.

Who would have guessed what would happen next? Just days after my decision to take an extended sabbatical, the whole world (in one way, shape, or form) would also go on a sabbatical of sorts.

I’m sure it’s fair to say that Covid-19 surprised you as much as it did me and the rest of the world. It’s become a once in a generation event that has literally reshaped life on earth as we know it.

I’ve been stunned by what’s happened with the Covid-19 situation, not to mention everything else that’s taken place. For example, I find myself thinking about the many plagues of the past and what our ancestors must have gone through to survive. Surely we have many additional resources these days, but this pandemic has been challenging for each and every one of us. It’s certainly not anything I ever wanted to experience but, like with all challenges, there are definitely things that can be learned from it.

During this time of lockdown and isolation, I’ve probably learned more about myself, my family, my neighbors, and the world around me than I ever thought possible, both good things and bad. However, my primary focus on sabbatical has been learning more about the best ways to gather up what I’ve learned in life so I can invest it into my future. I’ve been placing a special emphasis on music which was once a primary focus of my life.

As a teenager I dreamed of being a jazz musician and a College Music Professor. For a number of reasons, my life didn’t go in that direction. But this sabbatical taught me that I have some unfinished business with music. What’s interesting is that my sabbatical has allowed me the freedom to reawaken passions that I left behind to make a living. For me, a sabbatical is not about making a living, it’s about designing a life or focusing on a project, like doing research or writing a new program or book. So the first thing I did was find some new mentors, including some new music mentors, since one of my goals involved getting back into playing music again.

Over the years, I studied with many wonderful mentors in music as well as many other disciplines. During the pandemic, I started studying again with some music mentors. And it was during a mentoring session that I thought how interesting it would be to include a song to go along with one of my future Blog Posts. And as I thought about it a bit more, I decided that the perfect song to start with was “This Masquerade.” (I’ve attached a recording of me playing the song on tenor saxophone. It’s a work in progress!)

One reason I chose the song “This Masquerade” was because of the obvious connection with the masks we are having to wear during the pandemic to stay safe. Another reason I chose it is because of the song’s lyrics that speak to the topic of hiding who we are by wearing masks and pretending to be different than we are.

While I was recording the tracks for this song in my home studio, I thought a lot about the kinds of masks I wear as well as the ones I need to get rid of. Perhaps you’ll get some insight into your masks by listening to my recording. (If you’d like to hear the lyrics, I’d suggest listening to George Benson’s original version of the song. It’s outstanding!)

Here’s my version: THIS MASQUERADE!

 

If you listen to my recording, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind while listening:

  1. Notice how the song starts very softly and quietly, almost whispering. It makes me think about how everything seemed completely fine in early 2020 but then, in a matter of a day or two, everything changed. In music we say “the tone changed!”
  2. Notice the many areas of struggle represented in the song. Notes are bending, high notes are sometimes almost screaming for attention, and yet the song keeps moving forward much like life.
  3. Listen for the place in the song near the end where I start reaching for higher and higher notes as if trying to escape. I finally go way above the normal register of the instrument in an effort to rise above what’s happening.
  4. Lastly, pay attention to the very end of the song. What’s the last thing you hear? Do you hear a piano, a guitar, a saxophone, or just a breath of air? And if you hear a whisper of air, what does that mean to you? What reason might I have had to end that way? Is a single breath the essence of life and music?

Finally, ask yourself these questions: What masks am I wearing that it’s time to throw off? More importantly, when would NOW be the best time to show the world who I really am? Also, ask yourself what passions do you have that may have been neglected and need more time and attention to grow and evolve?

Perhaps the bottomline is this: Depending on when you read this, you may not be able to take off your physical mask just yet, but you can always remove mental masks or blocks that are holding you back from being the best version of yourself.

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Sabbatical

I just reread last month’s blog titled “Do Less And Accomplish More!” While I don’t necessarily recommend you do what I’m about to do, it will hopefully show you that I really do work hard to practice what I preach.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of a sabbatical. While the common definition is to take a break from work, the original definition goes back to an Old Testament law about farming. The requirement was to sow the seeds and harvest the crops for 6 years and then take the 7th year off to rest. Some might say it was about resting both the land as well as the farmer. While the idea of over-farming a field is well known as it relates to land, what about over-farming yourself?

Last month’s blog was about simplifying your life. It was about asking the question: What should I eliminate or delegate in order to simplify and streamline my life? I’ve done this throughout my life, and I’ve found it to be invaluable. My life is much simpler today than it ever has been but I’m always looking for the next level of growth and advancement.

That’s where a sabbatical comes in. One of my early goals was to take sabbaticals in my work life. In my early life I thought I’d become a college music professor where I would have the summers off and could also take paid sabbaticals for research every so many years. My life didn’t go that way so today as I look over my many goals, I see “take a sabbatical” and it remains uncompleted. We can’t have that. In my mind, working to achieve our goals is what living is all about.

So starting on February 1, 2020, I’m officially on sabbatical. I might take a few months off, but something tells me that I’m going to take the rest of the year off to make up for my many missed sabbaticals.

I’ve made arrangements to keep things working in my businesses without my having to be present. The hardest thing for me is to temporarily discontinue my coaching which I enjoy so much. I have clients that have literally been with me for decades and I’ve had the incredible privilege to be a part of creating some amazing success stories. I promise that I will be back to contribute more but I need to do what old Stephen Covey recommended in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Do you remember Habit #7? Here it is:

SHARPEN THE SAW!

Most people are like the lumberjack who was working like crazy to chop down a tree with a dull saw. I don’t remember all of the details of what Mr. Covey wrote so let’s just say that an ancestor of Stephen Covey saw what was happening while walking past the lumberjack and hailed him. He said: “Sir, why don’t you take a break and sharpen your saw? I think you’ll find that the tree will fall much quicker with a lot less work.”

Now I’m sure that’s not the exact story because it has been many years since I read that book; however, I think that’s the essence of the idea. The question really becomes this: What are you working like crazy to do that would be improved if only you stepped back to learn a better way … to sharpen your saw?

That’s what I’m doing for the next few months or perhaps even the rest of this year. We’ll see. I see a number of dull spots I have to sharpen.

While I’m gone, try this idea yourself for a day or a week or a month or longer and then send me a note about how it worked for you. I love hearing how the ideas that have become so important to me are working in other peoples’ lives.

If this idea as I’ve described it doesn’t work, just skip sending me a note and instead read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which I know has been life-changing for millions of people.

At any rate, make 2020 a great year … in fact, I dare you to make it the best year of your life so far!

Let’s compare notes in 2021.

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Do Less and Accomplish More!

I have a firm belief that the old dictum “less is more” contains an enormous amount of wisdom. I also believe that not recognizing the power contained in the three words — “less is more” — complicates our life and limits our progress.

Is it possible that you could make the decision to do less and actually accomplish more? I believe the answer is YES!

After coaching high achievers for decades, the most powerful thing I’ve learned and relearned over and over again can be summed up in one word: FOCUS!

In my first book and audio program “The 12 Life Secrets,” I said it this way:

“The trouble with so many of us is that we underestimate the power of simplicity. We have a tendency it seems to overcomplicate our lives and forget what’s important and what’s not. We tend to mistake movement for achievement. We tend to focus on activities instead of results. And as the pace of life continues to race along in the outside world, we forget that we have the power to control our lives regardless of what’s going on outside.” 

I recently did an Internet search to find out what quotes from my books and audio programs are referenced online and this particular quote was at the top of the list. I find it interesting that out of all of the words I’ve written and recorded, this quote is the most popular. Perhaps that’s because it’s the most powerful. This quote hit the mark for enough people that it’s stood the test of time which is usually the best test to use when selecting ideas to implement in your life. The one thing I know for sure is that this is the idea I need to remind myself of on a daily basis so I do a better job of practicing what I preach.

Why not decide what’s most important to you and focus on that? I’d be willing to bet that you’ll look back some day and say that it was one of the best decisions of your life.

My guess is that you’ve let your life become too complicated. Perhaps you’ve hit a ceiling of complexity with too many moving parts in your life. Perhaps you’ve let your life become so complicated with so many endless details that you are holding yourself back by doing things that you need to eliminate or delegate. In fact, here’s a great question to ask at the beginning of every day: “WHAT SHOULD I ELIMATE OR DELEGATE?”

My suggestion would be to review your life’s purpose and then choose the top 3 things that are taking up your time that don’t align with your purpose and mission, and then get rid of them. I do this simple exercise with my clients at least once a year which reminds me to do it for myself. If you haven’t decided on a life’s purpose, download a FREE audio message and planning worksheet entitled “Discovering Your Life’s Purpose.” Knowing your life’s purpose is the starting point, and you need to review it often.

The opportunities you need to improve your life are within reach, but you have to make sure you aren’t so busy that you miss them. I can promise you that what you need the most is within your reach, but you have to have the time and the focus to recognize what you need so you can take action.

Remind yourself everyday that being busy is not the same thing as being productive. Being productive requires that you focus on the right things.

What’s the top priority to focus on? That’s easy. It’s to focus on your life’s purpose. Focus on building the best version of you! How do you focus on that? Start by deciding what you need to eliminate or delegate.

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Exercising Gratitude

What if gratitude is an attitude that we need to exercise in order to build it? We know that it’s good for us but what about a daily exercise program to build our gratitude muscle? Gratitude brings abundance and peace to your life by focusing on what you already have, instead of what you lack. It’s easy to focus continually on what is missing from our lives. Every time we surf the Internet, turn on the TV or listen to the radio, we are bombarded by visual and aural ads, insisting that we need the newest thing or the next best thing. Advertisers try to convince us that what we have is obsolete. While there may be truth in advertising, and the fact that we do need to adapt to change, we must also realize we have a remarkable amount of tools at our disposal already, no matter what our present circumstances.

Here’s a story that happened many years ago but it still reminds me where happiness ought to begin. One day, driving to work, I happened to notice a large boulder — at least four feet high — that had been placed as the centerpiece of a garden in front of one of the houses along the road. The owners had painted their house number on the boulder in green letters, a foot high. I could see there were some words printed under the numbers and they were the words, “reasons to be happy.” Three thousand and one reasons to be happy! I admit, I was a little skeptical about this sentiment. But those words got a grip on me and wouldn’t let go. I decided to see how many reasons to be happy I could think of before getting to work. I doubt that I came up with 3001, but if my commute were any longer, I might have! With the help of this rock, I was reminded of the healing power of gratitude!

Life goes better when we have an attitude of gratitude. It literally makes the world look different. In fact, our view of the world becomes altered when we focus on something to be gratitude for because it changes what we notice and what do decide to do.

Here are just a few suggestions to experience gratitude right now:

  1. Begin with a sheet of paper or at your computer. Make a list of everything you are a grateful for, however small. If you don’t know where to start, here is a beginning: “You are alive!”
  2. Start small and build upon what makes you happy. Begin with simple feelings we take for granted — i.e., the warmth of the sun on our face, a smile, etc.
  3. Do one thing to experience the feeling of gratitude. For example, if you listed you are grateful for “the sun on your face,” go outside and bask in its warmth. If you listed, “my pet,” then go find your pet and show some affection. If you listed “your parents,” then call, write, or tell them how you feel.

Try a few of these action steps today to feel gratitude. I think you’ll find that it’s the best way to start any day.

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Stretch Your Thinking

Have you ever studied paradoxes or oxymorons?

A paradox is defined as a logic statement that contradicts itself. An example would be the phrase “Look before you leap” when combined with the phrase “He who hesitates is lost.”

An oxymoron is a combination of two contradictory or incongruous words such as “cold fire.”

I collect examples of these because I find them useful in expanding and sharpening my thinking. These can be especially useful when trying to encourage someone to rethink a belief that may not be serving them or anyone else.

Below is a list of contradictory proverbs followed by a list of oxymorons. See if they cause you to pause and think, and also see if you can come up with more. I find them useful in creatively stretching the mind to new ways of thinking with a bit of humor.

Paradoxical Proverbs

Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Don’t beat your head against a stone wall.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Out of sight, out of mind.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.

Two heads are better than one.
Paddle your own canoe.

Haste makes waste.
Time waits for no man.

You’re never too old to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

A word to the wise is sufficient.
Talk is cheap.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Nice guys finish last.

Hitch your wagon to a star.
Don’t bite off more that you can chew.

Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Clothes make the man.

The squeaking wheel gets the grease.
Silence is golden.

* * * * *

Oxymorons

1. Jumbo Shrimp
2. Benevolent Dictator
3. Smashing Success
4. Almost Exactly
5. Army Intelligence
6. Genuine Imitation
7. Idle Curiosity
8. Government Organization
9. American Culture
10. All Alone
11. Political Science
12. Real Phony
13. Pretty Ugly
14. Tight Slacks
15. Growing Smaller
16. Great Depression
17. Peace of Mind
18. Deafening Silence
19. Definitive Maybe
20. Cruel Kindness
21. Working Vacation
22. Instant Classic