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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

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What Does Life Want from You?

I once heard someone ask and answer a very interesting question: What does life want from you? While it may not be possible to come to an overarching answer to a philosophical question such as this, I find these two answers to that question very empowering:

  1. Do what you can.
  2. Do the best that you can.

Now that may not sound revolutionary, but I’m willing to bet that this approach to that question leads to successful living.

Think about it. Most people struggle with what to do with their life, often choosing things that are not within their circle of competence let alone their Unique Talent™. This almost always ends in frustration. We need to figure out what makes us unique and special and build from there. The starting point is simply finding things that you can do. It’s all about doing what you can in the service others while constantly keeping an eye out for higher leverage things you can do to serve. Just as critical is noticing what you enjoy and determining what gives you a sense of meaning and satisfaction along the way.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life teaching others how to focus on what they do best as well as what they enjoy. I love to ask the question: What kinds of things do you like to do? I also ask:  What kinds of things do you do where you lose all track of time when you’re doing them? That’s what’s called getting into the flow state. My study of high achievers who are also happy with a sense of fulfillment shows that they spend more time in the flow state than most people. While you may not be able to start out hitting a bullseye, the goal is to keep moving in that direction.

Start by doing what you can. Make sure it’s in the service of others and make sure you are constantly on the lookout for what gives you that sense of flow where time seems to stand still.

The challenge is that it often takes time to discover your special set of talents. However, if you keep looking, you will find more talents, abilities, and passions that move you with each passing year. The secret is to get as close as you can to what you enjoy from the start, and then continue moving in that direction. That’s how to keep growing your entire life.

Here’s what it also means. You need to do the best you can with where you find yourself right now. It’s easy to say “I’ve got a lousy job so I just do the minimum to keep from getting fired.” I’ve observed firsthand that this idea doesn’t lead to advancement in life.

I knew that I wanted to work in the field of personal development since I was a teenager. However, I had no idea how to make that happen. I had a clear goal but didn’t know how to achieve it. Luckily, I learned that the secret to advancement is doing the best you can with whatever you are currently doing. Luckily, I read books like “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill which taught me a very simple concept. Here’s the exact quote that changed my life: “The man who does more than he is paid for will soon be paid for more than he does.”

I worked in my share of low level, low paying jobs but I always focused on doing more than I was paid to do. I was a dishwasher, cook, waiter, door-to-door salesman, telemarketer, sales manager, credit and collections manager, product/advertising manager, operations director, and finally Executive Vice President before retiring to become a full-time entrepreneur in the field of personal development. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Remember these two steps:

  1. Do what you can.
  2. Do the best that you can.

If you are already doing this, I feel confident in predicting an exciting future for you. You’re creating an exciting life one day at a time which is the only way it can be done. Have a goal in mind and constantly move in that direction. As you move forward, just remember what life wants of you. Do what you can, and do the best that you can. And keep your goal in sight. You don’t have to know exactly how to achieve it right now. Just keep moving toward it every day, and you will be moving in the right direction. You’ll also wake up one day with the realization that you’ve become one of the competent people of your generation!

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The Joys of Turning 60!

Are you looking forward to growing older? Based on my recent Internet search on the topic, I think many people are trying to talk themselves into feeling good about growing older. Here are 5 articles that came up on page one of my latest search:

  • 6 Reasons to Look Forward to Growing Old
  • 25 Things to Look Forward to About Growing Older
  • Age Gracefully: 12 Reasons to Look Forward to Growing Older
  • 19 Reasons Getting Older is the Best Thing that will Ever Happen to You
  • 7 Things to Look Forward to as You Get Older, Because Life Only Gets Better

Of course, there were 446 million hits for my search so maybe these 5 articles don’t do justice to the topic as a whole. But these articles made it to the top of a vast Internet search. Doesn’t it seem as if a lot of effort is being made trying to convince people that getting older is a great thing?

What I found particularly fascinating were the young ages of some of the writers of those articles. I’m turning 60 this month so thoughts from someone decades younger than I am don’t necessarily carry as much weight as thoughts from someone who’s been in the game as long as I have. Not only that, I want a few more decades of experience to get to the bottom of what people really think about growing older, especially from people that have lived into their 60’s and can tell me about their experiences.

Personally, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to growing older with the emphasis on the word “growing” — as in getting better. Having said that, I have come to some conclusions that I believe reflect an intelligent way to play the aging game. I recently had a thorough health screening analysis including delving deep into my DNA. I now have a better idea of the some situations that could arise and require special attention. But I feel good having this knowledge because what you don’t know, can hurt you. On the other hand, what you do know, can often be altered, especially in the world in which we live today. We are making amazing advances in medicine and technology which stagger the imagination.

One of my underlying reasons for looking forward to the years ahead stems from something that one of my mentors, Earl Nightingale, frequently pondered. As he reached age 60 and years beyond, he was fond of saying that “the years after 60 can be the best years of your life.” That was certainly true in his life so I’ve decided to hold myself accountable, to the best of my ability, to making it true in my life.

I challenge you to do the same.

On July 22, 1981, when I was 21 years old, I started keeping a journal. It began with the idea that if life is worth living, then it’s worth recording. Keeping a journal shows that you are a serious student of life, and you want to learn from your experiences to get better in the future. Let’s face it, making the same mistakes over and over and not learning from them can be one of the greatest tragedies in life.

I still have that first journal along with a file cabinet full of journals that followed. All are filled up with ideas and experiences that have been organized and indexed. Eventually, I switched over to a digital format on computer, then iPad, and now I even use my iPhone, which includes a complete index of all of my journals with complete access to all of the digital entries. When I reread my journals at the end of every year to see what kind of progress I’m making, I find it fascinating to see where I’ve made progress and where I need to make changes for the coming year. Again, life is about growth!

No matter what your age, I can’t recommend this process strongly enough. Reading these journals helps me make sense of my life and reminds me of all that I’ve experienced and learned over these first 5 decades.

I’ve learned that we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a year but greatly underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade. I’m looking forward to the accomplishment of some of my biggest and most important goals in the next decade. These are goals that would not have been possible at the beginning of my journey, but now they are in sight. It’s like climbing a mountain, the higher you climb, the farther you can see!

Let me end this post with some advice I collected from William James, also known as “The Father of American Psychology.” This quote is one of my first journal entries from July 24, 1981. It is as true for me today as it was when I first read it and immediately wrote it down.

“Often our faith (belief) in advance of a doubtful undertaking is the only thing that can assure its successful completion.” – William James

That quote serves to remind me of the importance of believing in what I am working toward and keeping that faith strong through the challenges that inevitably show up. Join me in the belief that the next decade is going to be extraordinary, and then let’s make it that way!

One of my goals is to check back with you with another blog post in 10 years titled, “The Joys of Turning 70!” I hope you’ll join me for that. Let’s be ready to compare notes!

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Life Happens for You

What if the only thing holding you back in life is the story you tell yourself about how life works?

Human beings seem to be natural story tellers. Evidence suggests that we’ve been telling ourselves stories from the beginning of time. Certainly, some of those stories are true. However, some of the stories we tell ourselves are undoubtedly just a matter of belief. They are quite often opinions that don’t square with reality. Yet they are stories that help us understand the world and our place in it. At the deepest level, they contain the essence of what we believe about life.

Here’s an example: Do you believe that life happens “to you” or “for you?”

Isn’t that an interesting distinction? What do you believe?

In my experience coaching people, I often hear “stories” from my clients that suggest that life is happening to them, that life is beyond their control. Perhaps, on some level, that’s true. But is that a good belief to hold? Is that belief good for you, good for others, and does it serve the greater good?

When I suggest that perhaps life is not happening “to them” but “for them,” it often creates an “ah ha” moment. In the East, the word “Satori” means instant awakening, comprehension, or understanding. In these moments, life looks different somehow. The problems we face may be the same. The conditions may be unchanged but yet our viewpoint and ultimate experience transforms.  When our “story” changes, our life changes on some level.

Think about some problem you are currently facing and then decide if that problem is happening “to you” or “for you?”

I choose to believe that “Life happens for me.” The difference is just one word. Think about that. Is life happening “to” you or “for” you? I don’t always remember this belief when problems seem to be hitting me from all sides but, when I do, I have a moment of Satori.

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Are You Winning or Losing?

Do you give yourself a score at the end of each day? I’m willing to bet that you probably don’t. If you do, it might not be a very good grade if you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to that day. I think that’s a major mistake. I believe that it’s critical to know whether you are winning or losing in life, and you need a way to keep score that works. You need a way to win every day.

Here’s a strategy you can use to win on a daily basis:

  1. Before you go to bed at night, decide on the 5 most important action steps you can take the next day to move toward accomplishing your goals. Then, put the list of action steps in the order of their importance.
  2. The next day, start working on the first item and stay with it until it’s completed. If something blocks you from making progress on that item, move on to the next item. Continue in this manner with the list until the day is over.
  3. At the end of the day, review your list. If you’ve checked off at least one item, then you’re winning because you are making progress. Life is about the process not perfection. It’s a journey, not a destination. It’s a way of traveling.

My guess is that you will discover yourself checking off more than one item, but as long as you’ve made progress, why not declare that you’re winning and choose to feel great about that fact? The more items that are checked off of your list, the better you can choose to feel about your progress. In so many ways, you get to choose the rules of how to play the game of life, so why not set up the rules so you can win every single day? It will definitely make you feel better, and if you feel better, you’ll perform better. Besides, I’m betting that you’ll find that you are completing 3 or more items every day.

Another great idea is to keep track of the items that you check off your list every day so you can have a running list to review from time to time. Using this system, you’ll be able to look back on your days and weeks and months and see what you’ve actually accomplished. You’ll find that this process and progress, and the way it makes you feel, will then drive you to accomplish even more.

Let’s face it, most people don’t know at the end of the day if they are winning or losing. Don’t let that be you. Develop a simple scorecard and then make sure you enjoy the feeling of winning every day. It will change your life in ways you can’t even imagine right now. Give this system a try. You don’t need to buy a new time management program. Simply use an app that’s already on your smart phone.

Remember, a successful life is built one day at a time. If you start stringing together successful days, those days will turn into successful months, then years, and ultimately an amazing life that will fill you with a sense of gratitude and excitement.

If you implement this system into your life and make it a habit, you’ll wake up one day to discover that you’ve become one of the truly competent people of your generation. It’s a wonderful feeling, and you can have it by doing just one thing at a time in the order its importance.

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The Miracle Formula

If a miracle is a surprising, welcome, improbable or extraordinary event, and we don’t fully grasp how it works, then call me a believer. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say there’s a formula you can use to create miracles if you’re interested in such things.

Try this simple equation to construct a miracle in your life:

Imagination + Faith + Labor = Miracle

It probably looks overly simplistic but I’m willing to argue that it works.

Let’s look at each step of the equation. The first step is IMAGINATION or being able to visualize something that you want to bring about in your life. This would be a goal or desire you have or a certain condition or event that you want to bring about in the world. It’s possible that what you are imagining has never been accomplished by anyone and has never existed before on planet earth. Do you have something in your imagination that you’d like to make real?

Once you have something in mind, ask yourself this question: Do I believe this is possible? In other words, do I have FAITH that what I desire can become real in the world? That’s step two. I would say that if you don’t have faith, the chance of creating a miracle is slim to none.

However, if you have both imagination and faith, is that enough to create a miracle? I say no. There is something else that is required. That’s step three. It’s the very thing that most people don’t want to acknowledge. The simple word to describe what’s needed next is LABOR. Lots of hard work or labor. Sweat, long hours, dedication, perseverance, resolve, commitment, etc. You get the idea. This is the hardest part. But it’s also the part that most people leave out of the equation. Having imagination and faith without labor doesn’t produce great results, let alone miracles.

Even if you’re a genius, I don’t think you will get around the ‘work’ part of the formula. Let me give you an example by sharing this story. I’ll never forget traveling to Italy and encountering, for the first time, one of the world’s most famous sculptures. As I walked to the end of a hallway of statues, I was stunned by the sheer size when I saw the 17-foot statue of Michelangelo’s David towering above me. As I walked around it, it was amazing to see the craftsmanship and attention-to-detail, right down to the chiseled veins in David’s hands and the almost perfectly depicted anatomy from top to bottom.

It doesn’t seem possible that a person working by himself could create something so magnificent. But, of course, Michelangelo was a genius, and that’s what a genius can do. Except that Michelangelo’s genius alone did not create the David. It was his hard work and labor that were necessary to bring into existence this ‘work’ of art. Long days and nights of painstaking labor brought Michelangelo’s imagination and faith into reality as the miracle that is the David. That’s the fourth and final step of the equation. Michelangelo created what he thought about and made it real in the world so anyone could experience it. He used his imagination, faith and labor to create a miracle.

Let’s not forget that the tools used to create the David were rudimentary at best. Michelangelo primarily used a hammer and a chisel. He had no power tools or finishing sanders. He used the tools of the time combined with years of hard work.

If you haven’t yet studied the life of Michelangelo, and the enormous efforts he put into his works of art, I would highly recommend it. Then consider making the trip to Florence to see the David for yourself. And if you have the time, travel to the Louvre Museum in Paris to gaze directly at the Mona Lisa and some of Michelangelo’s other miraculous works of art. Just don’t miss the chance to see the David. It is an extraordinary achievement that shows how the formula “Imagination + Faith + Labor = Miracle.” It will remind you never to forget the all-important ‘labor’ part of the equation.

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Success Lies

My guess is you might be surprised with my title choice for this blog post. The title “Success Lies” seems like a bit of an oxymoron, however, I think I can make a case that much of what we think we know, we don’t, and many beliefs about success that are assumed to be accurate, are not. That’s a strong statement, but let me see if I can support my point.

Let me begin with what I call my Prime Directive, a rule I follow where I never tell anyone what to believe. I may question beliefs but I don’t tell anyone what to believe. I adopted this rule a number years ago when I discovered that I was being told things about how life works and how to achieve success in life that turned out to be false. While I’m sure I’ve broken my rule on occasion, I encourage people to decide for themselves what to believe based on the best information that is available. The bottom line is this: We don’t actually know how the world works! (The good news is we are learning more every day.)

Much of what we assume to be true is based on old ideas passed down from previous generations. We don’t always revisit our long-held beliefs and ideas with the light of today’s current knowledge. We need to make sure our beliefs are based on the best information available about how the world really does work.

While all of us have our subjective viewpoints, observations, and opinions, there is an abundance of disagreement on the facts, and for good reason. It’s safe to say that if you compare what we thought we knew about our world 100 years ago to what we think we know today we’d see huge disparities.

Let’s start with the most troubling of the lies which is that we are in complete control of our lives. That we control our reality and our destiny. How many times have you heard someone say: You are in control of your destiny. Wrong. We can certainly influence and shape our destiny in many ways but there are tons of other factors involved besides our choices and actions.

While there are an infinite number of factors affecting your life, I think these three are the most important:

1. Our Genes.
2. Our Environment.
3. Our Thoughts.

So do you control all of those? Did you choose your genes, your parents, and your early environment? Some people believe that they did. Seriously, they believe that before entering life they made a sacred pack with the Universe or God and planned everything in advance so their karma would provide them with the exact life experiences needed for another chance at reaching nirvana.

Now keep in mind that I’m not criticizing this belief. I have no idea if it’s accurate or not. You could even make an argument that having this belief is good for you if it helps you function better in the world and it doesn’t harm others. There is certainly more than ample evidence to support what’s known as “The Placebo Effect” illustrating that beliefs do have an impact. I’m especially fascinated with the study of “Epigenetics” – i.e., with the idea that our thoughts and behaviors can influence the expression of our genes. Just imagine what that means. There is research that suggests we may have the power to influence how our genes are expressed in our lives. So while we may not have chosen our genes, perhaps how they are expressed in our lives can be changed. This means we need to continue to let science and experimentation lead the way rather than clinging to ideas that have been shown to be invalid.

Perhaps the bottom line is this: If you have a belief that is good for you, good for others, and serves the greater good, fantastic. I’d call that belief a winner. However, if you believe that your destiny is to rule the world no matter what, what then? Should you be in charge and get exactly what you want no matter how it affects others? I think not. While you might think this is an extreme example, it proves my point.

Beliefs are ideas that represent an acceptance that a particular statement is true or that something exists. The essence of every religion is a set of beliefs. But are all of the religious beliefs in the world true? Are some of them true? Which ones are true and which are false? Would you say that all of the world’s religious beliefs have been good for humanity and our beautiful blue island in space?

While this may seem like an idea too deep or too involved to address in a short blog post, I would just end by suggesting that you examine your beliefs very carefully. Start by listening more critically to so-called Success Principles. As an old mentor of mine once said, “Stand guard at the door of your mind.” Don’t just adopt beliefs without careful analysis because it is entirely possible to adopt a belief with good intentions but turn out to be sincerely wrong.