The Gratitude Multiplier

While there are a number of emotions or states of being such as love, happiness, anger, anxiety, depression, and pain in our lives; it is gratitude that can act as the multiplier to either create the positive emotions or help us deal with the negative ones. Gratitude has the power to create a sense of well being and at the same time destroy those ego driven emotions such as I have not achieved enough, life is unfair, I am not appreciated, or I am not good enough. When you are truly grateful it becomes more difficult to be angry or feel unappreciated. In fact you might use gratitude as the powerful tool that it is, to turn things around and think about that situation that is making you angry, and write down some reasons why this situation makes you grateful. An example of this might be some attitude you have been fostering about your partner or your work. Are you letting your ego rule the mind? Is this person or role you play at work all bad? Probably not, most likely you are stuck in a negative thinking pattern and digging the hole deeper day by day. The reasonable approach would be to use gratitude to break this negative thinking pattern, which will of course make you feel a bit of a fool for indulging in it so fervently in the first place.

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, who served as consul in the year 63 BC. I like this quote as it supports my assertion that gratitude creates the positive emotions or virtues that we all want to foster.

Many have said that when you live of life of gratefulness that more is returned to you and while I agree this is true, you must ask why? From a purely psychological perspective feelings of gratitude put you in a position to do more, create better relationships, appreciate other people and yourself. This is because the feelings of gratefulness have the ability to destroy those negative emotions that are pulling you down the rabbit hole. I think gratitude is a true multiplier of your ultimate potential. Here are just a few ways it can drive positive change in your life:

  • Instead of inventing or finding ways to criticize the behavior of others you start to appreciate their positive traits and yes almost everyone has traits you can appreciate if you look hard enough.
  • If you have some appreciation and better yet are grateful for those you live and work with, do you think this will create a better relationship? What does this do for your own piece of mind? This is a win/win situation and is key to you thriving in this world instead of just condemning those you interact with. This is one of the reasons I don’t like to talk about politics with anyone, as most people start out telling me how much they hate the candidate from the opposite party than the one they are affiliated with. They can’t appreciate anyone they don’t completely agree with.
  • Maybe there are aspects of your work that suck, but you in your infinite wisdom have decided to focus on those aspects and create a life of misery for yourself and others. All this results in you not putting in the effort at your work that would benefit your career. When you are grateful for your work you put in more effort creating better results, more opportunity, and most of all greater job satisfaction for you. No one expects you to like all aspects of your work, but maybe there are some things you can be grateful for such as:
    • The length of your commute
    • Benefits
    • Core aspects of your work
    • Compensation
    • The people you work with
    • Your customers
    • Working at home
    • The fact you are employed
    • Provide a useful product or service
    • Purpose driven organization
    • Growth that provides career opportunities
  • Beyond your relationships and your work the level of gratitude you experience benefits your personal well being. Who knows maybe you will start finding reasons for living because you are grateful for what you have. No one wants to just exist, struggling to make it through the day, so you can do it all over again tomorrow. Start with a gratitude practice and all the other shit in your life will begin to fall in place.

I hope I have made a compelling case why gratitude is such a powerful virtue that benefits you and all those around you in so many profound ways. I wrote a post a while back on the importance of really feeling grateful and it might be worth a look. Get a journal or one of the phone apps and get started today.

Namaste

Feeling Grateful

For some time now I have been keeping a grateful journal, maybe a couple years or so. In this journal I write down 4 or 5 things I am grateful for and then I read them again to myself. While I figured I was heading the in the right direction, this journaling didn’t seem to make me more grateful. In fact I was still the same pain in the ass that I was two years prior to adopting this practice, but then one day it happened. I actually started to feel grateful; I mean a full on sense of gratitude for everything in my life.

The funny thing is I don’t know exactly why, but what was different is I was feeling it, not rationally thinking about stuff I should be grateful for, but instead deeply feeling grateful. It was all about the feeling not some method of convincing myself that I need to be grateful. Maybe my previous attempts at writing down what I was grateful for were too mechanical and laden with some kind of expectation that I should be grateful. Once I started feeling grateful the journaling on gratitude become more specific and insightful. The previous journaling would be things like:

  • I’m grateful for my family
  • My home
  • My work
  • My investments……

This was like trying to brainwash myself, repeating the same old worn out shit day after day, and it didn’t work. Real felt gratitude results in deeper insights into what you are grateful for and seems to be self perpetuating, where as making up super high level stuff like I was results in nothing. You can’t brain wash yourself into being grateful, but it seems you need to feel grateful or the journaling becomes a waste of time.

So where does this leave us when it comes to journaling? These are a few insights I’ve had over the past couple of days:

  • When you do feel grateful by all means write something in your journal and be specific.
  • You don’t have to feel grateful for everything, so if you only have one or two things that you feel truly grateful for then write them down, but don’t feel compelled to write down 4 or 5. It seems like you kill the magic feeling when the whole thing becomes some kind of stupid writing exercise.
  • Don’t time box yourself, if you get up in the morning to write in your grateful journal, take a few minutes to think about it and feel it. Forcing yourself to write something down doesn’t move the ball forward. It’s not about using up paper and filling a page. It is about discovering and feeling real gratitude.
  • Accept that there may be days where you write nothing at all. Maybe you just don’t feel all that grateful today; that’s alright your not a gratitude machine.

I would love to hear about your gratitude journaling experiences and what works for you.

Namaste

 

 

 

Love Impermanence

We live our lives seeking situations or things that are permanent. This might include a relationship, a profession, investments, our bodies, or beliefs. It is human nature to plan for the future seeking a sense of certainty as if we had control over the present or the future. Here is one of my favorite quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, founder of the Plum Village Tradition. One of the primary tenants of Buddhism is impermanence. Impermanence is the lack of permanence, or the fact that everything is changing, thus nothing is really permanent or even certain. I guess if there is any certainty it would be that nothing is permanent. As you are reading this your body is changing, the weather is changing, even our own most strongly held beliefs are under siege. Because of impermanence our plans for the future are at best a wish and in reality are extremely uncertain.

If you can accept that everything is impermanent you will begin to free yourself from worrying about your problems. If everything is impermanent than so is your pain and suffering. That situation that is causing you so much grief is likely to change and you will inherent a new problem to worry about. Flip the coin and the joy you feel today may be replaced by pain tomorrow, or by some other form of happiness. You might be thinking well all this in not very comforting and what am I to do about this impermanent life of mine? The answer is that there is nothing for you to do. If you need to do anything it would be to simply accept impermanence and live in the present moment.

Listen, I’m not saying you should not make plans, but any plan you make must include some flexibility due to the fact that whatever you have planned will likely need to change. Working towards a goal you have can be a wonderful thing, but then impermanence steps in and what you are working for may no longer be possible to achieve. Remember impermanence does not equate to something negative and in fact it often will result in new opportunities that avail themselves if you are willing to embrace uncertainty and drop your bullshit adherence to the plan you have in your head.

Let’s say you have this job working for some corporation and your plan is to work there for the next 5 years and then retire. However your company begins losing market share and they have to eliminate your high paid position. You could be angry, start blaming the company or yourself, and have a nice pity party and this might be something you decide to keep doing for the foreseeable future. For someone who embraces impermanence this kind of reaction to the situation would be impossible. The person that accepts uncertainty would say Fuck it and move on. The plan you had is no longer valid, but you think well let’s take a look at this world of possibilities and act upon some other interests you have. I have personally been in similar situations and every time a door closed, another one opened and the change only enhanced my life. This is why I love impermanence because when you embrace it you learn and grow as a person, you become unstuck. Here is another quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Learn to love impermanence and all will be well with you.

Namaste

 

Ways to be more present

Stay-Present

It seems like such an easy thing this living in the present, doesn’t it? In reality it can be very difficult, after years of living your life in the past or always trying to ensure a certain type of future. I struggle with this inability to live in the now on a daily basis, so much so as I have become an Eckhart Tolle junkie, owning just about every audio book that Audible has offered me. I wrote a book review a while back The Power of Now on one of my other blogs InspirationalBookReviews.com, that you might enjoy. I highly recommend this book and have listened to it more times than I can remember.

For those of you already enlightened and living in the now fully you can just quit reading this blog right now and I hope you have a great day, but if you are not quite living in the now on a consistent basis, read on. Our minds produce thousands of thoughts per day and it seems like we have little control of all this shit that is happening in our heads. If we stand any chance of experiencing the present moment we are going to need some tools or techniques to combat all that silly shit going on in our heads. Maybe all we need is a way to quiet the mind if you will. Now what I am going to advocate is not necessarily new or unique, but stick with me here for a moment, after all we all need to find some reprieve from all the noise in our heads that is preventing us from enjoying the present moment.

Here are a few things you might try to allow you to consciously experience the present moment:

Winston-Churchill

  • Do one thing at a time – This sound stupid at first, but think about how many times you put on your head phones start listening to an audio book and look at your Facebook or Instagram feed at the same. Even if you do not realize it, you are multi-tasking and pretty soon you missed some of the passages in your audio book as your mind focused on something visual in your social media feed. You have trained yourself to need audio and visual stimulation and your mind is trying to process both at the same time, and while this might be your version of living in the now, it is a pretty fucked up reality. Do this at work and you will find that what you attempt to get done takes longer and the quality suffers. This is really about the power of focus, which facilitates a better experience of the present moment. The lesson is try to do one thing at a time.

yoga and meditation

  • Yoga and Meditation – Oh now here we go again, off on the yoga and meditation tangent, please save me from this mad man. Fine, I said it for you, now let me continue. The simple fact is that it’s pretty hard to live in the past or future once you learn to practice yoga and focus on your breathing. The same is true for meditation where you can use some techniques that will help you stay focused on the present moment. I will not belabor this point, but I do encourage you to start your day with yoga and meditation if you want to experience what living in the present can hold for you.

546290-Rajneesh-Quote-Remember-frustration-is-out-of-expectation-and-ego

  • Expectations – If you are continually filling your mind with expectations of what your life should be like or how the next thing you need to do should turn out; well then you are living in the future. We all do this shit! I can’t tell you how many times I wake up early worried about some stuff at work that isn’t getting done the way I think it should or isn’t turning out the way I think is should. How in the hell can I enjoy the present moment if I continue to have all these expectations? I can’t focus on living in the present moment until I can say fuck it. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, it just means I accept whatever happens instead of torturing myself with all the stupid expectations of the future.  The lesson here is expectations are living in the future and preventing you from living in the present.

Really anything I’ve written today seems on the surface pretty straightforward:

  1. Do one thing at a time

  2. Practice yoga and meditation

  3. Stop expecting things to turn out a certain way

None of this shit is easy, but each of these things is possible with a little practice, or in my case a lot of practice. Doing one thing at a time or practicing yoga not only provides an opportunity for you to live fully in the present moment, but also has many other benefits. Why do you think so many people drink, ingest or smoke cannabis, take prescription pain killers, or other forms of mind altering substances? It helps them experience the present moment and quiets their minds, but the problem is it is not sustainable and ultimately causes more trouble than it is worth.

Being the owner of a goal driven, super active, future based thinking mind I am challenged everyday to maintain a focus on the present moment. I would love to hear some of the ways you have found help you stay focused one the present moment.

Namaste

 

 

 

Discipline

discipline-for-Random Thoughts post

It has been a while since I’ve written anything philosophical as I’ve been writing mostly book reviews of late. If you read my last blog post on InspirationalBookReviews.com called Cant’ Hurt Me you might wonder what affect a book like this might have on your life. There are a lot of takeaways from that book but for me the primary ones include:

  • Toughen up – Both mentally and physically. If you read the book David Goggins uses a lot of physical challenges to toughen not just his body, but also his mind.
    • Are you seeking some kind of easy life where people throw money or accolades at you because you think you deserve it?
    • Are you expecting certain outcomes, that all work out due to your magnificent plans?
    • Neither of these scenarios are likely to happen and most likely you will be challenged on a daily basis and you will need more than a little toughness, perseverance, relentlessness, or whatever you want to call it to make shit happen.
  • Discipline – Get your lazy ass off the couch or chair and do something everyday that you can be proud of. This might be going for a run, practicing yoga, martial arts, Pilates, strength training, studying, writing, playing music or whatever floats your boat. Don’t say it’s too cold or it’s raining outside, just lace up the shoes and go do it. You can’t just hope you will gain some form of mastery or health sitting around thinking about it. You need to do it and do it over and over again, because that’s what discipline is all about.
  • Complaining – We have a litany of excuses such as my legs are sore, I’m just too tired, or I am just not feeling it today. Maybe something happened at work and we feel it necessary to complain about some perceived injustice committed against us. The list of things to complain about goes on and on and on. Stop this shit! Complaining about anything serves no useful purpose and will only drag you down and increase your level of despair.

The next little bit of advice comes from the book Unfu*k Yourself by Gary Bishop that I wrote a review for in July of 2018. Let me preface this with saying this is my list of stuff that pertains to my life and you can just insert your own list. Gary Bishop essentially said:

If it doesn’t serve your goals, then quit doing it.

The context that he was using that statement was around free will and he was saying if you want to know how much free will you have just try and stop doing all the shit you know you shouldn’t be doing. However for me I looked at it as more of a challenge to identify all the crap I was doing that didn’t serve me.

Now we all have a list of shit we need to stop doing because these behaviors don’t even remotely serve us in any capacity. My list of shit I need to stop doing, which is on my whiteboard as I write this includes:

  • Living in the future
  • Resenting people and situations
  • Letting my ego control my thoughts
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Caring about what other people think
  • Unhealthy habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and eating crappy food

This is by no means an exhaustive list for me as I continue to find ways to mess stuff up in my life, but it’s a nice start.

If any of this resonates with you I would love to know what your list of things you are going to give up that don’t serve you anymore.

I am a strong believer in incremental improvement, so you might start with just one of the items on your list. Maybe you are not exercising or can’t seem to get your work done on time, so the thing you want to stop doing is “procrastinating”. The incremental approach to un-fucking your life dictates that you start slow and go for a walk in the morning or go to work earlier than usual and work on your assignments. Now you are starting to build some self discipline that begins to replace your tendency to procrastinate. Guess what your life is getting better and it wasn’t all that painful or was it?

Giving up something also implies you will need to replace it with something else. This helps you fill the void left by abandoning that thing that didn’t serve with something that is either the opposite or a healthy substitute. So in my case some endless fascination with “Living in the Future” would imply I need to start “Living in the Present”. I’m not going to go into details about how I am doing that in this blog post; that is a topic for another day.

I wish you all the best!

Namaste

 

There is no destination

Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-Quote-Life-is-a-journey-not-a-destination

I am a Project Manager by profession, and as such I do a lot of planning for the future. One of the things we found over the years is that it is difficult to predict the future with any degree of accuracy and thus agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban were born. Well if you can’t even predict what needs to be done and how long will it take for something as finite as a project then why do you expect to do this in a more complex scenario called your life.

I’m not saying you should not have goals or for that matter you should not plan things out that can be planned. The problem lies in having some stupid attachment to the plan while watching the failures accumulate as you doggedly follow a plan that is flawed. Like I said it’s good to have goals, but think of them more in terms of what you need to accomplish in the next couple weeks or a month instead of having detailed plans that span months and years. If you use an agile method like Scrum you would have a backlog of goals (Epics) and things you need to do to achieve the goal (user stories and tasks). Instead of making yourself crazy just pick a couple user stories from the backlog that will help you achieve your goal and focus on those for the next couple of weeks.

As your journey through life happens your goals will change, some may disappear and others will become more grandiose, and this is good even though it might not adhere to the plan you had in your head. Remember your not married to the plan, at best your just dating it. Life is unpredictable and when it’s all said and done the journey is your life. The plan is just a manifestation of your need to create some form of certainty in the future and deep down you know this is just bullshit. Let your belief in your goals or dreams drive you, but abandon the fucking plan. So what happens when you quit the long term planning game and focus on the short term; you might just find you will be living in the present moment and shit starts to happen for you and I don’t mean bad shit.

Eckhart tolle realize the present moment

Again dream big, have goals, and work towards them, but try just for a while to bring that planning into the short term as tasks that you can actually accomplish. I personally like Google Tasks because it shows up in Gmail and Google Calendar. I then see these tasks when I’m using my laptop, tablet, Chromebook, or my phone. Choose some things you need to get done today, tomorrow, and a week from now and leave it at that. I encourage you to stay focused on today and guess what all the rest of the shit begins to happen for you. Do this for a week and let me know if you start to see and feel the difference in your life.

Namaste

The Happiness Illusion (updated)

 

happiness is not good enough

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden

You are constantly bombarded by self help gurus that preach the mantra that happiness is the primary goal for you life. Take some time to observe your own life and calculate the amount of time each day or week where you feel truly happy. I’m not talking about the times you feel content, challenged, or at peace, but instead the emotion of feeling very happy or elated. If you are forever chasing some state of happiness where the majority of the hours of the day are filled with happiness, then you are setting yourself up to experience yet another emotion, which will be a feeling of disappointment. You immediately jump to the conclusion that there is something wrong with me. I must be doing something wrong or I would be happy all the time, instead of the brief forays into happiness I am currently experiencing.

I’m guessing your day is filled with time spent in some or all of the following emotions:

  • Feeling anxious.
  • Frustration with yourself, others, or some man made process or rule.
  • Feeling challenged by your work and/or people you work with.
  • Loving others or feeling loved.
  • Feeling the fear of the unknown or known.
  • Anger or being pissed off about something or someone.
  • Self loathing for not living up to your own expectations or the expectations of others.
  • Envy for things or envious of what others have.
  • Fleeting moments of bliss or happiness.
  • Satisfaction with accomplishing something or learning something new.
  • Feeling uninspired or tired.
  • Feeling appreciated or unappreciated.
  • Desiring stuff, money, sex, or some mind altering drugs or alcohol.

I could go on and on with this list of emotions we experience often on a daily basis. We are filled with all these thoughts that affect our well being and all the yoga and mediation in the world will not eradicate them from your mind, believe me I’ve tried. Give yourself a fucking break, you are an emotional bundle of somewhat uncontrollable thoughts and you know it. Don’t and I mean do not let some dumb ass on YouTube tell you that if you buy this, or practice this, all of this will go away, and your life will become one big vacation. You can’t exist in some state of continuous bliss; you are not the Dali Lama. Sure you can seek enlightenment and end all this suffering and discontent, and I hope you achieve it someday, but on the off chance you don’t then you are going to have to learn to live in the world you currently inhabit.

I think happiness is overrated, there are many other emotional states that should occupy your mind; those that are more valuable to you and to others. I’m not saying you should live in some state or misery, but chasing a state of happiness is an illusion. Replace that quest with these feelings or life goals:

  • Taking responsibility for you life, your work, and your decisions.
  • Feeling challenged by your work and the fulfillment you feel when you step up to take on the challenge, win or lose.
  • Feeling good about yourself because you are working at being more disciplined.
  • Being grateful for all the shit you have; just look around you and notice the type of life that many are merely existing in, and you will see you have a lot to be grateful for.
  • Developing an appreciation for the people in your life, family, friends, co-workers, and customers.
  • The quiet satisfaction you feel from learning that came from reading, studying, experimenting, watching, and listening.
  • Desiring more from yourself or desiring more from life than you are currently getting. Desiring more for your life is not a bad thing. A lot of great things have been done by people with a burning desire to accomplish something.

Suffering builds character

In fact I would challenge you to consider that happiness as your constant state of mind would put you at a big disadvantage in life when it comes to achieving what you want. You need to experience difficult times, challenges, and a certain amount of pain to grow as a person. Maybe you can be satisfied by all the obstacles you have overcome to be where you are today, instead of wishing for a life of ease and self gratification. If the totality of life consisted of sitting on a beach in the Caribbean and drinking one Margarita after another how happy would you be then?

Think back on all the things you have accomplished, the events in your life that bring back good memories. What about the time you landed that job you wanted, or met that special person, or obtained that degree or certification you worked so hard for. I’ll bet you weren’t sitting around bullshitting yourself in some blissful state of euphoria; instead you got off your ass and took action. Quit wishing for happiness and start doing something constructive; in the long run you will feel a whole lot better about yourself.

I used to watch all this motivational shit on YouTube from Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Eric Thomas, Les Brown, and Bob Proctor, but instead of motivating me it made me feel dissatisfied with my work and my life in general. To tell you the truth these people have some good ideas, but ultimately they are trying to sell you one of their books or have you come to their seminar. Meanwhile they make you feel unfulfilled about your life so they can generate more sales and then you just feel like shit when you could have been enjoying the life you have.

You already know what you need to change in your life to progress. You certainly don’t need someone else to tell you the areas of your life that are pretty fucked up.

Let me leave you with this quote from Gary John Bishop that comes from his book UNFU*K Yourself:

I expect nothing and accept everything!

Try living your life for a while expecting nothing and accepting everything that happens to you. If you expect to be happy all the time and can’t accept it when life sucker punches you then you are doomed my friend. Drop the stupid expectations and take life as it is served up to you, then you can at least control the suffering and enjoy the good stuff.

Namaste