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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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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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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 Entrepreneur’s Biggest Problem

Even if you may not consider yourself an entrepreneur, I’m willing to bet you will relate to what I’m writing about here. After decades of coaching entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries, I think I’ve learned the single biggest problem that entrepreneurs face. I call it “Gas Pedal Mentality.” Let me explain.

If you wanted to win the Indianapolis 500, here’s what you would NOT want to do: Get in the car, wait for the flag to drop, and then just floor it. You would NOT place both feet firmly on the gas pedal and hope for the best. While this scenario may sound ridiculous, I can assure you that entrepreneurs, along with many others, use this strategy more often than you might think. Obviously, if you use a “Gas Pedal Mentality,” you’ll most certainly end up in a wreck or with a burned out engine, but that’s exactly what many entrepreneurs do. Since most entrepreneurs typically start out with an abundance of enthusiasm, drive, and energy, they just pour it on. Unfortunately, that’s not the best strategy for the long term.

Have you ever met an entrepreneur that did damage to their personal or professional life and relationships with this pedal-to-the-medal approach? Have you ever met an entrepreneur who was once successful and making progress only to completely burn out a short time later? If you’re an entrepreneur, has this happened to you?

Winning a race requires not just knowing when to hit the gas, it’s also critical to learn when to utilize the clutch as well as the brakes. In fact, it’s learning to balance accelerating with shifting and braking throughout the race to avoid both crashes and burnout that wins the race. The same holds true in life and business.

I’ve been surprised to learn that most entrepreneurs actually work too many hours. They often sacrifice other important areas of life outside of work in an effort to get ahead. Not only does this result in burnout, it can also wreck relationships with family and friends not to mention create serious health issues.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you don’t have a fun, stimulating, interesting life outside of work, you’re probably pushing on the gas pedal too hard. What you may need to do is slow down to develop some focus and balance. Undoubtedly, there are things in your business that must be done but are you doing too much? Have you learned to delegate things that you should not be doing, such as activities that are not a part of what I call your Unique Talent™? Do you know what your Unique Talent™ is and how to make the most if it?

My challenge to you is to find a professional coach who works with and understands entrepreneurs. Then focus on finding your Unique Talent™ as the first priority. Next, learn how to delegate all those things that are outside of your Unique Talent™ zone. If you think this isn’t possible, examine the world’s greatest entrepreneurs who also have happy family lives with lots of interesting and engaging friends.

Trust me, the secret is focus and balance. It’s not about going faster. It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter. It’s about being more strategic with each action that you take which includes knowing not only what to focus on but also what to delegate and what to stop doing completely.

Remember that success is never enough. What you want is success with fulfillment, and that requires a different strategy.

Get in touch with a coach today if you don’t have one. Here’s a tip: A great coach should ultimately not cost you a dime. A great coach should be helping you to earn more money and gain more free time. Remember, focus and balance are what lead to success with fulfillment. Replace the urge to go faster with the strategy of balancing your life and your work. This is the secret to a life’s journey that’s both more profitable and more fulfilling.