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Stretch Your Mind

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 “Jumbo Shrimp” or  “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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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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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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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.

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Be Useful

Would you say that you are useful? I can assure you the answer is yes but what you do think? This is an important question to consider, especially if you don’t feel like your life is on the right track. To help you think about your answer, I want to share something from Robert Fulghum, the author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Here’s what Mr. Fulghum wrote on his website about being useful:

* * * * *

“Often, without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, coworkers, and neighbors. Good people who are always “there,” who can be relied upon in small, ordinary ways. People who, by example, teach us, bless us, encourage us, support us, uplift us in the daily-ness of life.

“I want to be one of those.

“You may be one of those, yourself. There are those who depend on you, watch you, learn from you, are inspired by you, and count on you being in their world. You may never have proof of your importance to them, but you are more important than you may think. There are those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who. We seldom make this mutual influence clear to each other. But being aware of the possibility that you are useful in this world is the doorway into assuring that will come to be true.

“My way is to keep writing and sharing that. What’s yours?”

* * * * *

I think it’s hard to improve on that. If fact, I think it’s not only a good idea to review Mr. Fulghum’s ideas about being useful from time-to-time, but also to review what he learned in kindergarten that became the guiding principles of his life, and the basis for many best-selling books.

Here they are in summary form:

* * * * *

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN
by Robert Fulghum

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

© Robert Fulghum, 1990.
Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.

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Hits of Happiness

I recently googled “how to be happy” and got 3.7 billion hits. Then for fun I googled “how to be unhappy” and only got 82.7 million hits. I found that interesting. Does that mean there are more ways to be happy than unhappy or are there simply more websites devoted to happiness than there are websites devoted to unhappiness? In either case, there are undoubtedly more people searching for happiness than unhappiness.

My question is how many hits of happiness are you getting in life? Are you getting billions of hits of happiness with only a few hits of unhappiness or is it the reverse? Interestingly, in reading through some of the websites, I found the first few hits on the unhappiness list to be most helpful.

The pursuit of happiness is a universal quest, and even an obsession for some. Of course, I think happiness is what most people aspire to experience. However, reviewing what creates unhappiness may be the best way to focus your thinking.

Here’s a short list I found that makes experiencing unhappiness quite easy:

  1. Buy things you can’t afford or don’t want. Either choice is a sure fit for unhappiness. When you buy things you can’t afford, you go into debt, which limits the other choices available to you. When you buy things you don’t want, you lie to yourself about the real source of your unhappiness.
  2. Compare yourself to others. The love of comparison is the root of much misery. Therefore, judge your success or worth based on other people, especially those with a different background from you. Do this on a continual basis, always looking for a new idol or competitor in which your ideal unhappiness lies.
  3. Take no joy in the journey. Focus only on the destination without appreciating the ride. Fail to celebrate small successes, and neglect to pause for reflection on how far you’ve come.
  4. Respond instead of initiate. Take no responsibility for your schedule or preferences. Let other people set the agenda for your life. Take the lead for your schedule from your Inbox, voicemail, or someone else’s demands.
  5. Allow other people to determine your values and priorities. Set no compass point for your life. Drift in the wind. For best results, allow your values and priorities to shift as you waver between bosses or role models.
  6. Refuse to challenge yourself. Take it easy and settle into routine. Choose to believe that all stress is bad and seek to live as relaxed a life as possible.
  7. Whine and complain to anyone who will listen. Explain how the world isn’t fair and how you would do things differently if you were in charge. Bonus: this practice also allows you to contribute to other people’s unhappiness.
  8. Focus only on yourself. Refuse to forgive. Hold on to grudges. See the worst in people.
  9. Accept things as they are no matter how unsettling they might seem. It could always be worse, right? Live in the complacency of your situation and refuse to fight for something better.

That’s a great list. If you want to see the entire blog post, I’ve included the link below.

What’s most important is to make sure that your daily hits of happiness are higher than your hits of unhappiness. That simple list just might help.

Finally, I thought I’d round out the list to an even 10 with just one more:

  1. Refuse to develop your gifts or use them to serve others. Don’t work on developing those things that you enjoy and that fascinate you in life. Don’t explore who you are at the deepest level, and don’t work on becoming the best version of you. The bottomline: Don’t discover and find your Unique Talent™! That will lead to unhappiness. I promise.

 

Source:  https://chrisguillebeau.com/unhappy/

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Studying Your Beliefs

The process uncovering and shaping your beliefs is never-ending. I think it’s a healthy and worthwhile endeavor. Have you ever taken the time to write down your beliefs so you can really study and examine them? This is one of the exercises that I do in my journal from time to time. As we grow and mature, it’s natural to question old beliefs and sometimes change or modify them.

In order to keep challenging my beliefs in an effort to improve them, I’m constantly reading what other people have to say on the subject. I have a long list of authors who have influenced me greatly. I recently came across Will Durant’s short essay titled “This I Believe” that I think you’ll enjoy reading. It’s an amazing example of how a great writer and thinker clarified his beliefs into a succinct statement. Will Durant, a highly regarded American writer, historian, and philosopher, became best known for his work “The Story of Civilization.” The groundbreaking work includes eleven volumes that were published between 1935 and 1975. Many were written in collaboration with his wife, Ariel. Will Durant also wrote many other books including his first best-seller “The Story of Philosophy” and my personal favorite, “The Lesson’s of History.” I’ve learned a great deal from his writings over the years.

The Durants were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1968 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. Below is a copy of the essay on beliefs that Will Durant wrote after a lifetime of serious study and reflection. No matter what you believe, I think you’ll find Durant’s essay worth reading and thinking about.

It’s not necessary that you believe what Will Durant chose to believe. What’s important is to decide for yourself what you believe. I have a rule that I never tell anyone else what to believe. I’d rather ask others to tell me what they believe. Then I ask them what they think the consequences will be from having those beliefs. I also love this question: Is what you believe good for you, good for others, and does it serve the greater good?

Using Will Durant’s essay as a model, create your own “This I Believe” statement. Save it and then see if it evolves over time.

* * * * *

THIS I BELIEVE

by

Will Durant

I find in the Universe so many forms of order, organization, system, law and adjustment of means to ends, that I believe in a cosmic intelligence and I conceive God as the life, mind, order and law of the world.

I do not understand my God, and I find in nature and history many instances of apparent evil, disorder, cruelty and aimlessness. But I realize that I see these with a very limited vision and that they might appear quite otherwise from a cosmic point of view. How can an infinitesimal part of the universe understand the whole? We are drops of water trying to understand the sea.

I believe that I am the product of a natural evolution. The logic of evolution seems to compel determinism, but I cannot overcome my direct consciousness of a limited freedom of will. I believe that if I could see any form of matter from within as I can see myself through introspection, I should find in all forms of matter something akin to what in ourselves is mind and freedom. I define “virtue” as any quality that makes for survival, but as the survival of the group is more important than the survival of the average individual, the highest virtues are those that make for group survival: love, sympathy, kindliness, cooperation. If my life lived up to my ideals, I would combine the ethics of Confucius and Christ; the virtues of a developing individual with those of a member of a group.

I was a Socialist in my youth and sympathized with the Soviet regime until I visited Russia in 1932. What I saw there led me to deprecate the extension of that system to any other land. Experience and history have taught me the instinctive basis and economic necessity of competition and private property. I’m not so fanatical a worshipper of liberty as some of my radical or conservative friends; when liberty exceeds intelligence it begets chaos; which begets dictatorship. We had too much economic liberty in the later nineteenth century due to our free land and our relative exemption from external danger. We have too much moral liberty today, due to increasing wealth and diminishing religious belief. The age of liberty is ending under the pressure of external dangers; the freedom of the part varies with the security of the whole.

I do not resent the conflicts and difficulties of life. In my case, they have been far outweighed by good fortune, reasonable health, loyal friends and a happy family life. I have met so many good people that I have almost lost my faith in the wickedness of mankind.

I suspect that when I die I shall be dead. I would look upon endless existence as a curse as did the Flying Dutchman and the Wandering Jew. Death is life’s greatest invention; perpetually replacing the worn with the new. And after twenty volumes, it will be sweet to sleep.

Source: http://will-durant.com/believe.htm

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Do You Create Your Own Reality?

How many times have you heard this said, “you create your own reality?” If you Google the phrase, you’ll find endless support for this popular idea. Do you believe it’s true? Do you indeed create your own reality? I used to accept this concept and even teach it, but not any longer. It fell apart for me after years of careful examination and study.

I’ve learned that it’s important to be open to challenging any and all beliefs, even if they appear to be sound at first glance. This is where lifelong learning comes into play. It takes courage to question an idea that you’ve been led to believe is true. Unfortunately, many people won’t even consider challenging their beliefs. Yet I’ve learned that anything worth believing must be able to withstand the assault of reason and science. A combination of reason and science always supports and enhances the best ideas.

Of course, all of us have beliefs that aren’t serving us. It’s easy to believe things that aren’t good for us or anyone else. I plead guilty to harboring more than my share of bad ideas. I’ve spent my life working on improving my beliefs while, at the same time, helping others to do the same. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate to find a few strategies that have proved helpful in this process.

Here are my three rules or strategies for examining beliefs:

  1. The Prime Directive– I never tell anyone what to believe. Period. I think of it like the old Star Trek Prime Directive Motto about not interfering with developing planets. However, if someone asks my opinion about a particular belief, I’m happy to offer my perspective on what I think the consequences of holding such a belief might be.
  2. The Belief Challenge– I love to question beliefs in search of the truth. I think the best any of us can do is to work relentlessly to get closer to the truth, knowing that the absolute truth may not be knowable right now. The best way I’ve found to determine if a belief needs to be eliminated or replaced is to examine if the belief is good for you, good for others, and serves the greater good. Many beliefs completely fall apart after a few questions in this regard, especially once you learn the consequences and ultimate outcome of beliefs. I like to say it this way: all beliefs have consequences. Do you know what the consequences of your current beliefs are? Where are your beliefs taking you?
  3. The Belief Substitution– I think, if possible, it’s best to replace a belief rather than just eliminate it. If a belief cannot pass the test of rigorous reason and analysis, it’s time to throw it out. However, it’s often better to replace a limiting belief with an empowering one as opposed just eliminating it. The loss of a belief can create a vacuum that is best filled with something better.

Let’s get back to the popular belief that you create your own reality. If this idea is true, why don’t you have everything that you want right now? Why isn’t your life exactly the way you want it down to the smallest detail? As an example, why are doctors of any kind necessary if you can simply wish away any mental or physical challenge you may have? Surely if you create your own reality, it follows that you can create whatever reality that you want including making yourself look, feel, think, and act in any way you wish. And money, that’s no problem, right? Just visualize the amount of money you want in your bank account, and you’re good to go.

Now if you’re thinking that you haven’t created your own reality yet but you just need more time, why? Doesn’t it follow that if you create your own reality, you control time along with everything else? If this is getting a bit absurd, then you can see where I’m going. If a belief cannot withstand the ongoing assault of logic, reason, and common sense, then there’s something wrong with it. In the case creating your own reality, it leads you down a path that involves “magical thinking.” While it may be fun to believe that you create your own reality, it can also be quite dangerous and destructive.

Think about it this way. If you create your own reality, then it follows that you have the ultimate super power. Forget about the other Marvel comic strip characters because with the ability to create your own reality, you control everything. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, and all of the others need not apply. You’ve got it covered.

But alas, there is no evidence that a real super hero exists other than what I call “the best version of you” which doesn’t require any hocus pocus. All you need to be “the best version of you” is the courage to learn and apply a common sense set of rules and guidelines that produces real results.

Because I want to really drive home this point, here are two examples of the kind of damage I have observed in myself and others when magical thinking takes over:

  1. Believing that you create your own reality tends to develop deeper and deeper levels of unhappiness and inadequacy as you learn that you can’t turn all of your beliefs into reality. The worst part is when you beat yourself up because of what you might see as your failure to believe. You might even get the well-meaning, yet misdirected, advice to just try harder.
  2. Believing that you can create your own reality can lead you to waste valuable time wishing and hoping when what’s called for is clear thinking, strategic planning, and massive action. Don’t waste your life with magical thinking when intelligent thinking is the answer.

So, here’s my opportunity to help you eliminate this belief if you’re interested. Let me suggest a replacement belief. Read the following quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and see what you think:

“Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”

Notice the difference between believing you create our own reality versus believing you are a collaborator in the creation process. I find the idea of being a collaborator in creation very empowering. Notice how it’s focused on stretching your abilities to the max while also suggesting that you are a creation collaborator. This idea proposes that you are capable of much more than you currently realize while also indicating that you are a member of a team. It’s not all about you. It says that your job is to continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible while working with others to do the same. It leads to questions like these: Are you pushing against your comfort zone with the best team you can find? If not, why not?

Write down the above quote and put it somewhere you can see it every day. Then the next time someone tries to convince you that you create your own reality, read the quote again. It is estimated that 100 billion people have appeared on planet earth; however, you are unique and special. No one exactly like you has ever before appeared on planet earth. Moreover, an exact copy of you is not possible because of your unique combination of genes, environment, and thoughts. You are a one-of-a-kind individual. That should provide you with all of the motivation you need to stay focused on discovering what I call your Unique Talent™ and then using that talent in the service of others. That’s what is most important and, moreover, I believe that is something you were born to do. Just remember to collaborate because the better your team, the better your results.

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Why?

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!

When I coach, 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 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 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?” He 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 one worth considering.

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. I was ready to take action after I heard his message. But wait, there was 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 so doing 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’s 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 for the first time:

“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 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?