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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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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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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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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.