December 14, 2010

How To Make Tomorrow A Great Day

Why do we put off our better lives until the future? For most of us, tomorrow will be a better day. Or at least we're hoping tomorrow will be better. Many of us gently lie to ourselves day after day, "Tomorrow things will change." But for that same majority, that glorious tomorrow never does come.

How To Make Tomorrow A Great Day

We are constantly faced with a couple questions…
  • Why don't we make tomorrow a great day?
  • Why don't strive to make the rest of today a great day?

Do note that we are merely faced with these questions. We are not demanded to answer them.

Sometimes we will say tomorrow will be a great day, as if today is a forgone conclusion. Why is this? We can still make today a great day, can't we?

Well, there is good news and bad news to this.

The Bad News First

To put it bluntly, time is limited. You've heard it before and it's also super cliché that "time is valuable" but let's face the facts: One day you are going to be dead. That's flat out grim. But it's the truth, and sometimes the grim truth staring us in the face is the dose of reality we need to hear.

If you've read or listened to enough personal development you've probably done an exercise envisioning your own funeral. If you haven't done that exercise do it now. If you can't remember what that felt like then do it again… right now. What are people saying about you? What is your eulogy? As you look down on yourself what are you saying, feeling, and thinking to yourself? Never forget that you'll never be able to bargain for or talk your way into acquiring more time. Do you really want to spend a large portion of your life waiting? Heck, I don't even want to wait in traffic for 2 minutes more than I have to!

Some people are okay with waiting all their lives. Are you?

The Good News

Now the good news. And you knew there was good news if you've been a student in our virtual classroom for any length of time. We delight in learning about life, and in life the bad is balanced with the good. Both paths are always there for anyone and everyone, but we are permanently in charge of choosing which we will let into our lives. That's an important responsibility we have.

Did you catch all the good news in that last paragraph? If you didn't then read it again and understand what it means to your life.

We are constantly choosing. Even when we feel out of control the gap between stimulus and response is a true power point in our lives.

Even though what we are contemplating sometimes seems to be between disaster or perfection we are, in fact, usually choosing between decent and good. If we consistently tip the favor towards good in a few areas, we will have more than just good results. We will most certainly have great results. A few goods won't offset many decents though.

Your Better Tomorrow Starts Now

We must truly realize that the elusive tomorrow is now today. Tomorrow came numerous times now, but we probably haven't capitalized on it like we wish we had. However, the power is in the present moment and we can make today great. We can almost assure ourselves at that point that tomorrow will likewise continue the trend. We have shifted the momentum to favor our better lives. It will be a great day.

You know at least one or two things you could do to really capitalize on this day. You knew it yesterday too. The difference now partly lies in your very conscious choice at this moment to make that beautiful tomorrow a reality or accept that it will be another confused, decent day you'll never care to remember.

"You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."
    Zig Ziglar

Challenge to You

My challenge to you is to see how great you can make the rest of today. And tomorrow, try to make that day great as well. And tomorrow evening I want you to come back to this post and tell me what you did to make your day special. If it seems trivial because it is "just" reading a few pages in a new book or taking that first jog around the block, remember that that is where it all starts.


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November 24, 2010

Dr. Oz Tells How to Get Happy and Crush Negativity!

What if I told you you could be happier in just 28 days?

That's what Dr. Oz put forth in a recent episode of his tv show, and he delivered on that promise.

Dr. Oz Tells How to Get Happy and Crush Negativity!This blog is quite different from other articles. It's a transcription I made while watching the show so that I could share it with you. I put a lot of time into this, and I am very grateful that my t.v. let's me pause and rewind because I am by no means a stenographer!

Dr. Oz offers a simple 4 step plan and we will break it down. First, let's "watch" the show!

Dr. Oz's 28 Days to Happiness Plan

Show Introduction:
What if I told you you could be happier in just 28 days? That's the challenge I'm issuing to my next guest. You probably know someone just like her: a Debbie-downer whose negativity brings everyone around them down. But that's about to change in just 4 weeks.

The show cuts to the guest, Mikayla, who explains her negativity and unhappiness...
Some people say every cloud has a silver lining, but I can't see it. I guess you could say I'm a very critical person. I have negative things to say about everything I come across. I just don't understand why people are so positive.

The truth is I don't get along with everyone. When I'm engaged in a conversation I always see the downside. I'm not depressed. I'm just not happy. It's not like I mean to be a killjoy. I just want people to have all the facts. This has been going on for 15 years. NO seems to be my answer to everything. Not everything in my life is negative. I have a wonderful husband and a son named Gabriel, who is the love of my life...

Maybe I'm so used to being a Debbie down I don't know how to be anything else.

Dr. Oz's interview begins...

Dr. Oz: So why do you think you tend to be so negative?

Mikayla: It's just the way I am. Some people see the cup half full. I see it half empty.

Oz: How has it held you back? The negativity you carry around with you.

Mikayla: It's stopped me from having the relationships I want with friends, family, work. It's just not working; it's holding me back.

Oz: So I was curious; I actually wanted to find out how happy you were and how negative you were. There's actually a scale for this called the Oxford happiness questionnaire. And we gave it to you, and there's the scale behind you. And the average is about 4 and a half, and you were about 3.2 out of a total of 6.

Mikayla: I'm not happy.

Oz: You're not happy. And you're not depressed; I want to emphasize that. We're not talking about someone who is wallowing in despair. You just find negative things. [...] I feel passionately that there are a lot of people like you who, like you said, are perceiving the glass half empty even when there's lot of other opportunities. And what were going to do is help you improve over 28 days where you are. And joining us to help do this is research psychologist and author of The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky.

We all have someone like Mikayla in our life and it's not depression. It's some other facet of our personality that drags us down to negativity. Explain that, why are they so negative?

Sonja Lyubomirsky: Well there are some people that feel they see the world the way it really is. And everyone else around them is walking around in rose colored glasses. They would rather be right than be happy. And my response to that is that there is no right way to see the world. The world is both a terrible place, there's suffering and injustice; but it's also a wonderful place, there's beauty heroism and kindness and it's what you choose to focus on that determines your happiness level.

Oz: So if you're negative or positive, talk us through some of the consequences. What are the differences?

Lyubomirsky: Well the consequences of being negative and unhappy can be really harmful to your relationship and to your work. It turns out that people who are happier and more positive are more creative, are more productive, they make more money. They are healthier.

In fact a study I just found out about today was looking at photographs of major baseball players and found that those who showed sincere, genuine smiles - who were more positive and happier - would live 7 years longer.

Oz: Now you have a 28 day plan that anybody can take part in. We're going to start today. Well explain it crisply and clearly in 4 steps. Step number 1 is a daily diary.

Lyubomirsky: That's right. I do this with my students; I teach a class on happiness. It turns out that a lot of people don't know what actually makes them happy. What situations or what individuals make them feel engaged, happy energized or motivated? So several times a day you write down what are you doing, who are you with, am I happy, am I absorbed, am I energized. And then you do more of those things that make you happy.

Oz: Mikayla, can I ask you a question? Do you know what makes you happy?

Mikayla: My family, going on walks with my son, staying home with my husband. That makes me happy.

Oz: Because this is what I want to do. That questionnaire is up there. It's very straightforward. I think it's a brilliant idea. I want to understand, and I think you need to understand what other things besides your lovely son and your husband give you happiness. Because there have got to be other things that give you happiness. It could be a piece of warm bread. It could be someone smiling at you as you walk outside the house. Those are the things we need to identify here.

Okay, step 2 is to figure out how we come off to other people.

Lyubomirsky: Yea, this is an idea that originally was proposed by Darwin. When you act happy - when you show the outward expression of happiness -that's going to intensify the feeling. There was a great study done on women. They got botox injections for their frown lines because they were frowning so much. And what happenened was they got a lot happier.

People respond to you more positively. You feel more attractive, more confident, happier. And so just acting happier and more positive can actually lead you to feel more positive and happier.

Oz: So essentially you're going to fake it 'til you make it. It works in other places too!

Week 3 has to do with combating negative thoughts that occur during social interactions. And I know this occurs to people who are negative. So step 3 is really all about creating a diversion so you don't focus on that.

Lyubomirsky: You mentioned seeing the glass as half empty. These are sort of negative thoughts – a lot of us especially women tend to over think. We're dwelling on our feelings and our problems. We do that alone. We do that with other people. And so the idea is that we need to find strategies that help us divert our attention from the negative thoughts onto something that's neutral or positive.

Oz: Mikayla, do you ruminate a lot?

Mikayla: Yes.

Oz: What do you ruminate over?

Mikayla: For example, if I'm a good mother. I keep asking my husband, am I a good mother? I don't see myself as being a good mother. I try.

Oz: So when you hear those thoughts we want you to create a diversion. This is one little tip. This is a rubber band I want you to wear around your wrist. When you start to ruminate I want you to snap it.

When reading your book (The How of Happiness) there's another good idea to count the number of times people says "um" or some other ridiculous but tedious-on-the-surface, but sort of funny way of keeping track of what's going on in a conversation so you don't go in your own mind and do destructive things to yourself.

Week 4 is about a random act of kindness. You're going to do 1 a day. Why is that important?

Lyubomirsky: Well research from my own laboratory has shown that people who practice acts of kindness on a regular basis become happier. And they can be really little things like emailing someone to thank them, saying to someone they look nice, feeding someone's parking meter. And those acts of kindness gives us a burst of positive emotion and those positive emotions can serve as antidotes to negative emotions or negative thoughts. And so they are very effective. They are very concrete.

Oz: Can we all do it Mikayla?

Mikayla: Yes, I want to do it. I want to become positive.

Oz: You have 28 days to do it. We're going to follow your story. I am fascinated and I want everyone at home to realize you can do it as well.

Mikayla, I want to thank you for coming forward with a story that I know is very common in this country. Sonja Lyubomirsky, I appreciate all your insights and I love the book.

Dr. Oz's 4 Week Plan in a Nutshell

To summarize the 4 week plan, the focus is on one unique area each week that helps improve happiness and beat negativity.
  1. Keep a Daily Diary
  2. Fake It 'Til You Make It (Recall the botox study just mentioned)
  3. Divert Negative Thinking and/or Distract Yourself (Try the rubber band trick or others in the book)
  4. Do Random Acts of Kindness

If you've made it this far, it's clear you want to improve your happiness or tone down the negativity in your life. Like Dr. Oz said, it's something that is so common in our world today. He puts his faith in this simple 4 week plan, and I brought it here to share with you because I, too, think it can help us all.

And, if you're looking to take another step, Dr. Oz thought Sonja Lyubomirsky's book, The How of Happiness, was a great, helpful read.

And now I pose to you: Can you do it? Will you make the effort to become happier and overcome negativity?

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November 3, 2010

Are You Sold on Your Self?

It's awesome and essential to your best possible self to set fantastic goals. Acting on, and reaching, those goals is the important next step, and it very well may require a lot more belief in yourself than you currently have. When I got started on my own personal development journey years ago I quickly learned how to set goals. In fact, I learned many ways to set goals. Setting goals is a subject with such a glut of information out there that you'll have the privilege of choosing what's best for you. However, it may become clear that as you embark on these goals you begin to doubt yourself. As a matter of fact, that doubt may even paralyze and prevent you from ever taking the critical first step.

There is good news though. As I have studied for myself, we can learn to improve our self confidence and the belief we have in ourselves. This is an essential quality that we must develop in ourselves to live as the person we dream to become. When you become sold on your self you will notice dramatic improvements throughout your life.

Who's Making Your Rules?

Are you worthy? Are you worthy to be alive? Are you worthy to be a fortune 500 CEO? Are you worthy to be the president? Whether you answer yes or no, who said you were worthy or not, and how do we decide what we deserve or not? Ultimately, isn't the decision up to you whether you're worthy or not? And if you had to choose, try to think of a few good reasons you aren't worthy. I'd be willing to bet those reasons are self imposed and probably poor reasons at that.

What we're really talking about here is belief – the belief in yourself. In your life the product is you, and you need to be sold on your self. In my opinion, whether our own personal beliefs about ourselves reach high into the sky or sink deep into nothing is a chief reflection of our self confidence. Make no mistake here: Becoming sold on ourselves is a major part of our growth as individuals. As super-successful life change expert Les Brown often comments, the hardest thing he's ever done in life was to "simply" believe that he could actually do it. And he did.

You Are Already in Sales

Telling someone they need to believe in themselves does little to actually help them believe in themselves. I've listened to countless audio books and read enough books and articles to know that belief is integral to personal growth and success. Even still, understanding that being sold on ourselves is paramount is very different from actually being sold on ourselves.

If you're sold on the product then selling the product is easy.

Have you ever tried to do any of the following?
  • Have you tried to get a date?
  • Court someone for marriage?
  • Apply to school?
  • Get an interview?
  • Ask for a raise?

Well, if you haven't been acquainted yet, let me introduce you to one of your many important roles you will fill in life. Welcome to the position of senior sales representative of yourself. Nobody will challenge you for the position, but please, take it seriously because the pay is far more valuable than money can buy.

When you're on an interview, date, or some situation where you have to sell, how comfortable are you? In my personal life, I've found that the majority of people are shy or reluctant to really sell themselves. Why is this? Don't we love ourselves enough to open the majestic doors of opportunity? Or do we fear being labeled egotistical? Perhaps it's for both of these reasons that we don't sell ourselves with the due respect we deserve.

Treat Yourself Like #1

In modern times "looking out for number 1" has gained a poor public opinion, although I see it starting to reverse. The reality is that by putting yourself first in your own life you become far more valuable to all people in your life. It's almost confounding, but it's based on the fact that the more you are the more you have to give.

Personally, I find it gut-wrenching at times when I talk with someone who has pretty much sacrificed themselves, and for little to no gain to themselves or the other party. For an extreme example, consider drug abusers and enablers. The enabler tries to convince themselves that it's the right thing to do, and the addict thinks they need the drugs. Win-win scenario? Hardly!

The truth is, self-sacrificers and enablers would almost always be far more valuable to others if they prevented themselves from reaching such a point. So forego your notions that looking out for yourself is somehow ignoble. Instead, learn to put yourself first and then help lift people up to your level.

How To Become Sold on Your Self

Now that you're (hopefully) putting yourself first and treating yourself with the respect you warrant, you need to really buy into your own worth and ability. If you just chant and wish for change, you may fall short. There are a number of things you can physically do and live by so that you can improve your self confidence and become sold on your self.

One of the easiest ways to increase the belief in yourself is to do something you know you can do, but haven't been doing. This doesn't have to be monumental either. Maybe it's just getting a check-up at your doctor to see how your body is doing or to answer some questions. Or maybe it's something like waking up earlier. The point here is that this is a task that you have complete and utter control over. Once you do such a task, you make a deposit into your personal self confidence and self image bank account. (By the way, investments in your self always pay the best dividends.)

The next step is to realistically evaluate and appraise your benefits to others. In a sense: Know your self. What do you have to offer people, employers, relationships, investors, friends, spouses?

And the second part, the appraisal, is critically important. I think just about everyone could think of someone in their life who was very unique or creative in some manner, but that person held back those talents from others for some almost-insane reason like, "Well, it's not the greatest" or worse "I'm not the best." The fact is pretty much nobody knows who the best at anything is! We have people literally making careers out of baseball and football analysis, yet we can't even reach a consensus as to who the best at either are!

As a populace, we self-select ourselves out of so many opportunities that it's nearly impossible to know who the best at anything is. I imagine somewhere out there right now is a 40-50 year old hall of fame baseball player who never allowed himself to step on the field. Appraise your abilities and traits and give them the merit they deserve, maybe even a little more.

Third, we need to live up to your own expectations, and make sure they are reasonable. Here's a philosophy that has helped guide some of my own actions in my personal life: Live life so that you'd be honored to have yourself as a friend. It also works in your professional or business life as well: Be the business partner you would always want. If that's not the philosophy you live by, try it for at least a day and take it from there. You'll love the results.

Finally, let's keep learning and exposing ourselves to life, and the experiences it has to offer. It seems to me that the more I learn about anything the more confident I become. Furthermore, the more I learn about different areas the more I see the connectedness of life. And it follows that the more we realize the connectedness of life, the more we see how our self confidence is bolstered throughout by improving ourselves in just one area.

To summarize the simple 4 step process to improving self confidence and becoming sold on your self:

  1. Follow through (with something you've been meaning to)
  2. Evaluate and appraise your benefits
  3. Live so you'd want to be friends with yourself
  4. Learn

Buy Your Self and You Will Sell Your Self

I would say that one of my pet peeves that I've developed over the last few years is when people consistently sell themselves short. I'll digress for a moment, but it's worth pointing out that I don't like when people sell themselves short because it ultimately leads to someone living a sub-par life. When you see people living so far below their potential it will affect you! As the saying goes once said, "In life you'll regret what you didn't do more than what you did do."

Ultimately, a major player in a situation where someone sells their self short is that they have a lack of self confidence. Being sold on your self, I believe, is the key to really being able to "sell yourself."

The good news is that as soon as you make the first change, you instantly reverse the erosion process and begin to improve your self confidence. When your confidence goes up you will naturally become sold on your self and your ability to sell yourself and all the values you have will improve dramatically. We've gone over a process that will help you become sold on your self, but it's ultimately up to you whether to buy or sell!

One of the foundational pieces in my personal development library is Jim Rohn's How To Have Your Best Year Ever. Not only has this incredible instruction helped me think beyond what I thought was reasonable, but it's also helped me lay a platform for which to model my life, and, importantly, how to live day-to-day to make effective change. I highly recommend you watch this program multiple times if you know there is untapped power within yourself.

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