I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the mind is your ultimate battleground. It’s the space where the greatest and fiercest conflict resides. It’s where half of the things you thought were going to happen, never actually happened. It’s where your inner resistance buries you with negativity. And, when you allow these thoughts to dwell in your mind, they gradually succeed in robbing you of peace, joy, and ultimately your life. You think yourself right into nervous breakdowns and bouts of depression, time and again.
I know because I’ve been there.
Honestly, we’ve all been there at times.
But, what can we learn from our trials? A whole lot!
There’s so much about our lives—and our fate—we can’t control, it makes absolutely no sense to focus all our energy on these things and then neglect everything we CAN control. We can decide how we spend our time right now, what we choose to focus on, and whom we share our energy with. We can choose our words and the tone of voice in which we speak to ourselves and others. We can decide what we will engage in, read and study next. We can choose how we’re going to respond to challenging life situations when they arise, and whether we will see them as curses or opportunities for growth…
There are wounds that never show on our bodies that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds. Depression and heartbreak are two such wounds. I know, from experience.
About a decade ago, in quick succession, Angel and I dealt with several significant, back-to-back losses and life changes, including: losing Angel’s brother, Todd, to suicide, losing our mutual best friend, Josh, to cardiac arrest, and losing our home in the downturn of the economy. The pain inflicted by each of these experiences was absolutely brutal, and enduring them one after another broke our hearts and knocked us both into a moderate state of depression. There was a long stretch of time when we shut out the world, shut out each other, and avoided our loved ones who were grieving alongside us.
Luckily, with the right support, and the gradual restoration of our inner resolve, we pushed forward, stronger and with a greater respect for life. And while there were many intricate steps to our recovery process that I’m leaving out here, the outcome of our journey ultimately led us to the work we do today, over a decade later. Through our course and coaching we have spent the better part of the past ten years leveraging our lessons learned to guide amazing human beings through the process of coping with significant bouts of depression and heartbreak (and other...
Your goal is to grow so strong on the inside that nothing on the outside can affect your inner peace of mind without your conscious permission.
The ultimate measure of your wisdom and strength? How calm you are when facing any given situation. Yes, calmness is a human superpower. The ability to not overreact or take things personally keeps your thoughts clean and your heart at peace, which instantly gives you an upper hand regardless of your circumstances.
Thus, the biggest and most complex obstacle you will ever have to overcome is your own mind. If you can overcome that, you can overcome almost anything. And by “overcoming,” I’m referring to the skill of mindfulness, and learning to effectively control your emotional responses to life’s unexpected tests. Because most of your deepest pain and frustration on a daily basis will come from the way you respond, not the way life is.
Of course, being calm and mindful is easier said than done, (more…)
Are you willing to spend a little time every day like most people won’t, so you can spend the better part of your life like most people can’t?
Think about that question for a moment. Let it sink in. You ultimately become what you repeatedly do. The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing—growing happens only when what you know changes how you live on a daily basis (most people miss the second part).
And isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different? That’s the power of daily rituals.
Now, it’s time think about your rituals—the little things you do every day.
Because these little things define you.
All the results in your life come from these little things.
Regardless of your (more…)
“I have seen and touched and danced and sang and climbed and loved and meditated on a lifetime spent living honestly. Should it all end tonight, I can positively say there would be no regrets. I feel fortunate to have walked 90 years in my shoes. I am truly lucky. I really have lived 1,000 times over.”
Those are the opening lines of the final entry in my grandmother Zelda’s journal—a 270-page leather-bound journal she wrote small entries in almost every morning during the final decade of her life. In it, she reflected on lessons she had learned, lessons she was still learning, and the experiences that made these understandings possible.
When my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer on her 90th birthday, I sat with her in a hospital room for the entire day, in silence, in laughter, in tears, and in awe. Although her body was weak, her mind was intensely strong. The terminal diagnosis inspired her to think about her life, everything she had journaled about over the years, and reflect aloud. So, I gave her the stage—my undivided attention—from sunrise until sunset.
As I sat beside her hospital bed, she (more…)
The morning is enormously important. It’s the foundation from which the day is built. How we choose to spend our mornings can be used to predict the kinds of days we’re going to have.
When I wake up in the morning, my mind gradually gathers, and I begin to move as the early morning light is just starting to seep through the windows. My family is still sleeping. It’s a peaceful beginning.
I stretch, drink a glass of water, start the tea kettle, and practice a short journaling exercise for ten minutes. Then I enjoy a cup of tea as I read one chapter of a good book. And finally, I write on my laptop, diligently (disconnected from online distractions), for an hour before the hustle of the day begins.
Once my family awakens, I pause to join them for a short time and we appreciate the full presence of each other’s company.
This is just a rough sketch of my mornings, and they make me happy.
It wasn’t always this way, however. I used to (more…)
It’s not too late. You aren’t behind. You’re exactly where you need to be. Every step is necessary. Don’t judge or berate yourself for how long your journey is taking. We all need our own time to travel our own distance. Give yourself a little more credit right now, be thankful you made it this far, and take the next tiniest step forward.
Seriously, don’t waste another drop of your time and energy fighting against where you are. Invest your time and energy into getting to where you want to go. Do your best to let go of everything from the past that does not serve you, and just admire the fact that it brought you to where you are now…
To this new beginning.
That’s the super-simplified gist of what Marc and I preach on a daily basis to course students, blog commenters, book readers, friends, and just about anyone else who pings us for some general advice on getting unstuck in life.
And it’s pretty good advice for the most part, right?
You might even say it’s common sense.
Yet, so many of us do the exact opposite on a daily basis.
In fact, many of us do nothing productive at all until we get to a catastrophic breaking point.
In other words, we (more…)
Happiness doesn’t start with a relationship, a vacation, a job, or money. It starts with our thinking and what you tell ourselves every day.
The best lessons we learn in life are the lessons we learn over and over again.
The human mind needs lots of reminders—lots of practice—to operate effectively.
For example, deep down we know it’s OK to…
Yet, we often seek the exact opposite when life gets stressful and we’re under pressure.
We do the wrong things even when we know better.
It was almost midnight on an idle Tuesday and the hospital hallways were unusually calm. I had just finished reading an old issue of Sports Illustrated from cover to cover. “I need something better to read,” I thought to myself. “Why didn’t I bring a book?”
As I sat quietly with my eyes closed, I could vaguely hear the soft mumbles of a verbal plea going on in the hospital room beside me. “You’ve kept him waiting long enough! My grandson is here! Oh please, let him in.” More mumbling… “Please, please… nurse, bring him to me.”
A moment later the nurse stormed out of the room and looked startled to see me waiting in the hall. “Oh, you’re here!” he yelped. “I’m sorry. I’m a hospice nurse and I’ve only been watching over your grandmother for the past 24 hours. She insisted that you were coming to visit her last night too, but the phone numbers she gave me to reach you were all disconnected. So, she had me scouring the hospital hallways looking for you to no avail. And then when she said you were coming again this evening, I just assumed her dementia was getting the best of her.”
He interrupted me. “But I’m really glad you’re here. I think she’s been holding on just so she can say goodbye to you. It’s actually miraculous that she’s still able to speak,...
When someone upsets us, this is often because they aren’t behaving according to our fantasy of how they “should” behave. The frustration, then, stems not from their behavior but from how their behavior differs from our fantasy. Let’s not get carried away. Calmness is a superpower.
Over the past decade, there’s a way of being I’ve gradually been cultivating in myself—I’ve been taming my tendency to get angry and argue with people when their behavior doesn’t match my expectations.
As human beings, we all have an idea in our heads about how things are supposed to be, and sadly this is what often messes our relationships up the most. We all get frustrated when things don’t play out the way we expect them to, and people don’t behave like they’re “supposed” to. We expect our spouses and children to act a certain way, our friends to be kind and agreeable, strangers to be less difficult, and so on and so forth.
And when reality hits us, and everyone seems to be doing the opposite of what we want them to do, we overreact—anger, frustration, stress, arguments, tears, etc.
So what can we do about this?Breathe…
You can’t control how other people behave. You can’t control everything that happens to you. What you can control is how you respond to it all. In your response is your power.
When you feel like your lid is about to blow, ...
This morning I was writing at my favorite coffee shop when a cute little elderly woman with big, bright eyes and rosy cheeks sat down at the table across from me. She pulled a sketch book out of her bag and began looking around the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her look in my direction, study my posture intently, smile, and begin sketching.
We sat there next to each other for nearly four hours while she sketched and I wrote. And as I shifted back and forth, captivated in thought, I felt a bit self-conscious sometimes. Because I could feel her watching me as she practiced her art.
But I wasn’t too worried because I hadn’t planned on striking up a conversation with her. After all, she seemed absolutely satisfied sketching in silence, and smiling at her sketches and at all the other people who surrounded us. I did, however, glance up a few times just to see her smile. Because her smile expressed a kind of passion and presence I seldom see.
As the clock neared noon, a new customer came into the coffee shop and let a gust of wind in the front door. The wind blew a completed sketch right off the elderly woman’s table and onto the floor directly in front of me. The sketch was
This morning I didn’t feel like doing anything. It’s a combination of exhaustion from a few days of hard work and preparation for our upcoming Think Better, Live Better 2018 conference, and a lack of sleep with a sick 3-year-old in the house.
I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything important, which is a rare occurrence for me. I just felt completely drained. I started overthinking things and doubting myself, and wondering whether anything I do is worthwhile.
I sat there in this funk for nearly an hour and wondered how to snap out of it. Should I just forget about today? Should I just give up on this project in front of me, because I’m not as good at it as I thought I was?
That’s what I was considering, at least for a fleeting moment. But the better part of me knew this mild state of depression would soon pass. And just as I started to feel better, a neat bit of synchronicity arrived in my email inbox from Gina, a new course student Marc and I have been coaching over the past few days. The opening lines of her email read:
“I feel so drained, so uninspired. I’m stuck again! My mind is spinning with worry and overwhelm and just a general lack of enthusiasm. Anything you could share? What’s something small I could reflect on...
Do more than just exist. We all exist. The question is: Are you living?
On a rainy Sunday morning 15 years ago, as Angel and I were struggling to cope with the recent, back-to-back deaths of two loved ones, I sat down at the kitchen table and had a full-blown intervention with myself. I read through hundreds of archived entries in five different journals I had kept over the years. Specifically, I was looking for all the unfulfilled goals, dreams and visions for the future I had jotted down along the way. And it didn’t take long before I realized the course my life had taken up to that point had been the product of other people’s ideas, opinions and decisions. I knew all too well that life was short, yet every day I was just going through the motions and doing what I was “supposed” to do, instead of what was right for ME.
I was in line.
I was comfortable.
And I was utterly distracted from what matters most in life.
But, fast forward to today, and as I awoke this morning I marveled at my life. Where once I awoke with inner resistance at the thought of a new day, now I wake up with excitement to begin, grateful to be doing what I’m doing on a daily basis, grateful I got my priorities straight and gave myself...
During my competitive cross-country running days it wasn’t uncommon for me to run five miles at five o’clock in the morning and another nine miles at nine o’clock at night, five days a week. I was competitive. I wanted to win races. And I was smart enough to know that if I dedicated myself to extra training, while my opponents were lounging or socializing, I would often be one step ahead of them when we crossed the finish line.
When I first started these early-morning and late-night runs, the experience was pretty overwhelming. My body didn’t want to cooperate—it ached and cramped up. My mind resisted—it came up with a laundry list of excuses. And I found that the only way to consistently endure the extra training was to disassociate my mind from my body, putting my mind somewhere else while my body ran.
Over time, I became quite proficient at doing this. I got so good at it, in fact, that I actually looked forward to running. Because when I ran, my mind was clear, my body was in rhythm, and I was at peace with the world… especially when nobody else was around. In the midst of what appeared to be a strenuous workout, both my mind and body were in soothingly tranquil states of being… similar to that of a deep meditation.
I don’t compete in races anymore, but I...
If somebody is working on themselves and changing for the better, it’s unnecessary to keep bringing up their past. People can change and grow. You know this is true.
But, have you given yourself a fair chance to change and grow, too?
Have you consciously loosened your grip on everything that’s behind you, so you can step forward again with grace?
If you’re shaking your head, you aren’t alone. I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been there myself, and I know dozens of others in the same boat. At times, we all fall victim to our attachments. And sometimes we don’t even realize we’re blocking our own present blessings by holding on to the past. Do your best to realize this right now…
Growth is painful. Change is painful. But in the end, nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere in the past.
Let me share a quick true story with you… (more…)
Where you ultimately end up this year is dependent on your daily attitude and response.
This morning one of our course students, Monica—a recovering victim of a very recent and debilitating car accident—was smiling from ear to ear the minute our FaceTime coaching session began. “What has you in such good spirits today?” I asked her. “I’m thinking differently about things…about how lucky I am to be alive,” she replied. “I thought the injuries I sustained in that accident signified the end of life as I know it, but now I realize they signify the beginning.”
All details aside, Monica decided to begin again, in her mind first and then in her life. It’s taken her several weeks of healing and practice, but she has consciously let go of the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” attachments in her head about her circumstances, and she has stepped forward with grace and determination. Her new beginning has nothing to do with the recent New Year, and everything to do with a new way of thinking.
Truth be told, even though we’re already several days into 2018, today is really just the beginning, for all of us. And we can prevent the wrong thoughts and beliefs from getting the best of us as we move forward with our lives. We can train our minds to make the very best of the...
The New Year means nothing if your mind is still boxed up in its comfort zone. You know this is true. Don’t live the same year 89 times and call it a life.
And don’t just think outside the box in 2018…
Think like there is no box.
Free your mind!
Start by asking yourself better questions.
Questions that break you away from all the comforting distractions in your life, so you can refocus your thoughts on what matters most:
When you look back on the past year, don’t think of the pain you felt. Think of the strength you gained, and appreciate how far you’ve come. You’ve been through a lot, but you’ve grown a lot too. Give yourself credit for your resilience, and then step forward again with grace.
The next best step forward?
Doing something uncomfortable that will move your life forward. Let me explain…
Almost two decades ago, when I told my grandmother I was worried about taking a chance and regretting my choice, she hugged me and said, “Trust me, kiddo, that’s not what you’re going to regret when you’re my age. If anything, you will likely kick yourself for not taking more chances on the very real and accessible opportunities you have today.” And the older I get, the more I realize how right she was. Life is about trusting yourself and taking chances, losing and finding happiness, learning from experience, appreciating the journey, and realizing that every step is worth it.
But (and this is a big “but”)… you have to be willing to take each step. You have to (more…)
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
The wisest, most loving, and well-rounded people you have ever met are likely those who have been shattered by heartbreak. Yes, life creates the greatest humans by breaking them first. Their destruction into pieces allows them to be fine-tuned and reconstructed into a masterpiece. Truly, it’s the painstaking journey of falling apart and coming back together that fills their hearts and minds with a level of compassion, understanding, and deep loving wisdom that can’t possibly be acquired any other way.
Angel and I have worked with hundreds of these incredible people over the past decade, both online and offline, through various forms of coaching, side projects, and our live annual conferences. In many cases they came to us feeling stuck and lost, unaware of their own brilliance, blind to the fact that their struggles have strengthened them and given them a resilient upper hand in this crazy world. Honestly, many of these people are now our biggest heroes. Over the years they have given us as much, if not more, than we have given them. And they continue to be our greatest source of inspiration on a daily basis.
Ten years from now, it won’t really matter what shoes you wore today, how your hair looked, or what brand of clothes you wore. What will matter is how you lived, how you loved, and what you learned along the way.
Deep down you know this already, right?
Yet today, just like the majority of us, you are easily distracted and derailed by the insignificant.
You give too much of your time to meaningless time-wasters.
You step through days, skeptically, with inner resistance.
You take your important relationships for granted.
You get caught up in hurtful drama.
And the list goes on.
Why do you follow these hurtful patterns of behavior?
Why do you set yourself up for regret when you know better?