Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stress as your friend

Most of us know stress can be bad.   "He's stressed", "you look stressed", "don't stress over this" and similar things we say all focus on bad stress.  Did you also know that stress can be good for you?  That there is a type of "good stress"?  I just published an article on "good stress" to  You can read it here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Take Control of Your Life

I see it a lot.  I hear it almost every day.  "It" is people complaining about their lives and the role government, employers, "the rich", unions, banks and other people have played in making their lives the way they are.  It's sad, really.  It's sad because of two things.
  1. As I have said before, each of us is where we are in our lives because of the decisions we have made up until right now.   Period.  If I want my life to be different from this point forward I must learn to make different decisions.
  2. It overestimates the influence outside forces have over my life while underestimating the influence I have over my life.  Consider the following questions:
    1. If the party you favor comes into more political power, what difference will that make in your life if you continue to do things like you have up until now?
    2. If employers become more of how you think they should be, what difference will that make in your life if you continue to do things like you have up until now?
    3. If "the rich" are able to keep more (or less) of their money, what difference will that make in your life if you continue to do things like you have up until now?
    4. If unions, banks and other people change and do things the way think they should, what difference will that make in your life if you continue to do things like you have up until now?
The answer to those questions is "not much."  Think about this in terms of finances.  There was a time in this country, when the tax rate on the highest income earners was greater than 50%...and 60%...and 70%...and 80%...and yes, even greater than 90%.  And, yet, people became wealthy anyway, under each of those rates.

Or, think about this:  There have been well-funded schools with a largely white, upper middle class student body that turned out well-educated graduates who were prepared for college life.  There have also been well-funded schools with largely white, upper middle class student bodies that have turned out an amazing number of poorly educated graduates who were prepared for neither college life nor life in general.  There have been both poorly funded and well funded schools that had student bodies consisting almost exclusively of truly poor minorities that produced well-educated graduates who excelled academically, not only in high school but in Ivy League universities.  Likewise, there have been those who produced poorly educated and ill-prepared graduates.

There have been people raised in horrifically dysfunctional families who eventually had healthy, happy and functional families of their own.  Likewise, their have been those from solid, stable families that turned out to be grossly dysfunctional individuals.

None of this is to downplay the influence of many factors on how a person's life turns out.  Certainly, it isn't to ignore the fact that some people will have to work much harder than others to overcome the obstacles they face. Rather, the point is that the single greatest factor is a person's choices; a person's decisions.  To give my take on an often heard quote, successful people make a firm and lifelong commitment to doing what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.

The idea that your your life is the way it is because of outside influences is a trap.  If you accept it, you will remain trapped in your life, the way it is now, until you either change what you choose to believe or until you die.  This idea says that the stuff around you must change before your life can change.  It says that your life can only change when the right combination of people, events and circumstances come along.  Here's the question:  What if those people, events and circumstances don't show up?  What will you do, then?  The answer, if you continue to buy into this trap, is "not much."  However, if you choose to change what you believe about how to go about changing your life the answer to "what will you do?" becomes "whatever it takes!"

Please, take control of your life.  Make decisions that take you where you want to go.  You do not have to remain where you are.  Regardless of how your life is right now, remember this: You do not have to live that way, anymore.

Change your mind...change your life

Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Giving back

Every month I present a free workshop at our local library.  The topics vary, but they focus on helping people achieve more.  That achievement may focus on time, money, health or some other aspect of life.  For instance, the next one will deal with stress and stress reduction and management.  There is no charge for these workshops and there never will be.  The content is identical to what I share with and teach my clients. So, since this is what I do for a living, why would I offer this content for free?

I believe the information I have to share is of value to everyone, though I know that not everyone will avail themselves of it.  Some people will never be my clients simply because they cannot afford my services or because they don't recognize the value of coaching.  They need the information, anyway.  Contrary to what some have suggested ("you'll put yourself out of business doing this") it has increased my exposure and that's a good thing.  So, it has the potential to expand my practice.  But that's not the only reason I offer these free workshops.  It has to do with being part of the community.

I tell my clients that the key to their success is becoming more than they are.  I've not yet had anyone suggest that becoming more and better involves viewing other people as sources of income to be exploited.  Instead, they speak of helping others, contributing more and being part of something bigger than themselves all while benefiting their own lives as well.  I encourage them to become involved in giving back to the community in some way.  After all, they live and work here.  Why would they not want it to be a better place?

Let me suggest you do the same thing.  You don't have to host free workshops or seminars.  You might find that you prefer to help out through a local service organization.  You may participate in fundraising for a charity or cause.  Perhaps you'll quietly volunteer your services in a way that contributes without anyone ever knowing (though the word will eventually get out, trust me).  However you choose to do it, get involved.  Be a part of your community.  Help make the place you live better than it is.  That's part of making yourself better than you are.  Success isn't all about what you get out of life.  It's also about what you put into the lives of others.  So, help out.  Contribute something of yourself.  Give back.

Change your mind...change your life

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Motivation. It's not what you think.

Have you ever listened to a "motivational speaker?"  They can be pretty exciting.  By the time they've finished speaking it's pretty normal to feel as if  you can do anything!  Filled with excitement and enthusiasm you decide to make major changes in your life.  From the way you approach your career to the energy you invest in your relationships, everything is going to change.  Stepping out bravely, you institute grand and sweeping plans to dramatically change and improve your life.  And then, something happens.  After a month, a week or maybe even later the same day, the motivation begins to fade.  The enthusiasm dampens and the will to change seems to just...disappear.  Which leads me to my belief that motivational speakers are a "dime a dozen"...and worth almost that much.  Just to be clear, there are some very talented speakers who talk about the same things as motivational speakers, but who are not motivational speakers themselves. Instead, they are men and women who have, often through hard experience, found what works and are eager to educate others about it.  For these people I have nothing but admiration and respect.  Jim Rohn was a good example of a gifted speaker who was far more than merely "motivational."

One problem with motivation, and motivational speakers, is that motivation cannot be truly given to someone. While it's true that people are motivated by different things, the motivation to change must ultimately come from the person who is trying to change.  A speaker can excite you, move you and temporarily share his or her emotion with you.  Those feelings are only temporary.  You can't borrow them permanently.  Instead you have to find your own.  After all, your reasons for changing your life, or some part of it, are yours.  No one should be as interested (or as excited) about those reasons as you.  If you're waiting to find the right person to motivate you to change, you could be waiting your entire lifetime.  Jim Rohn put it this way: "Don't wait for someone to motivate you.  What if he doesn't show up?"

Secondly, it's a mistake to confuse motivation with commitment.  Motivation may be "why" we change, but commitment is what keeps us doing what we have to do during those periods when the excitement isn't there and when we feel like giving up.  While it's vital to keep in mind why we've started down the road to change, it's equally important to be committed to the process, especially when it's appealing to quit.  Motivation can be thrilling, exciting and emotionally charged.  Commitment is strong, solid and tough.

Finally, motivation and education go hand in hand.  In fact, motivation without education is pretty worthless. It's education that gives my motivation direction.  It's education that teaches me not only how to change, but what to change and that change is even possible.  If I don't know that I need to change, that I can change and what to change, all my motivation and excitement are meaningless.  Jim Rohn, again:

  • "Life change does not begin with inspiration.  Life change begins with education."
  • "Motivation alone is not enough.  If you have an idiot and motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot."
If you want to change your life, you can.  If you want to make things better for you and those you love, you can.  Get the knowledge you need.  Find your reason and drive to change and then go make it happen.

Change your mind...change your life

Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

3 Steps to Greater Focus

We hear a lot about focus.  "If you want to succeed you need laser-like focus" is a pretty common comment, often from those who are trying to help.  That sounds good, but how do you get this "laser-like focus?"  Once you get it, how do you keep it?  There are a few steps that will help you achieve greater focus.

  1. You get focus by changing your perspective.  Far too many people have the "can't see the forest for the trees" syndrome.  While it's often important to attend to the many details of life, they can easily grab most or all of your attention.  Periodically, it's important to step back and take a good long look at the big picture. In practical terms, this means revisiting your dream sheet (you do have a dream sheet, don't you?).  Is there anything you want to add?  Anything you want to remove because the idea doesn't thrill you anymore?  It also means double checking your values.  Have any of them changed?  Are your values and dreams congruent?  This process gives a big picture perspective.
  2. You get focus by being crystal clear about your goals.  Once you have the big picture you can look at your goals and action steps.  Do your goals support your values and dreams?  Do your action steps support your goals?
  3. Now you can have focus.  You've moved from the big picture down to the close-in, immediate picture.  Now you have the clarity to focus on the things that matter.  The things that matter are your goals that move you toward your dreams and the action steps through which you achieve your goals.
As a rule, when we lose focus, it's because we're no longer clear about what we want and how we're going to get it.  If you've lost your focus, change your perspective, get crystal clear about your goals and actions and focus on what really matters.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The power of politeness

When I lived in Southern California one of my least favorite places to spend time was the line at the DMV.  It wasn't at all unknown to spend 45 minutes to an hour (or longer) waiting to be seen.  Then, once you got to the counter, you had the joy of speaking to a person whose approach to his or her job was one of less than boundless enthusiasm.  Sometimes these folks deserve the reputation they have for being rude and unhelpful.  I've been chastised and insulted by more than one public employee for things as ridiculous as resting my elbows on the counter and thus "invading" his or her personal space.  One day, I had an idea.  While I waited in line, I spent my time watching the interactions between customers and other customers, between staff members and between staff and customers.  I noticed that there was often a lack of politeness on the part of all parties, especially between customers and staff.  So, I decided to try something every time I went to the DMV.  I spoke politely to the staff and other customers.  If the person ahead of me had been rude, I made it a point to say something like "I'm sorry you had to put up with that behavior.  It must make your job harder."  I'd thank them for helping me.  An amazing thing started to happen.  While I still had to spend more time in line than I wanted, my interactions with the staff began to improve.  They became more willing to go a little further than required to help.  They smiled more.  They started saying things like "you're welcome" and "thank you" in something other than a monotone.  It didn't happen every time (there are, sadly, some people who just don't value politeness) but it happened often enough to be noticeable.  I tried the same thing with other customers and got similar results.

Perhaps you're old enough to remember hearing someone actually saying "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."  The point was that politeness is far more effective than rudeness in getting people to cooperate with us.  Taking the time to listen to others.  Asking questions about them.  Using their name when we speak to them.  Saying "please" and "thank you."  All of these are examples of what I call basic politeness.  Dale Carnegie's book entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People spends a great deal of time encouraging this politeness.  It's easy to look at his book as a primer on manipulation, but it really isn't.  Instead, it's a good guide to treating other people in a way that acknowledges their worth and value. In fact, one of the points made in the book is that if the things it teaches are used for manipulation, the manipulator is virtually guaranteed to get caught!  It's not about manipulation, it's about treating others with respect.  I had a conversation about politeness with my daughter.  She was upset that she had said "please" and hadn't gotten what she wanted.  I explained that politeness isn't to get what we want.  Politeness is about treating others the way we want to be treated (I seem to recall there is a Golden Rule that says something about how to treat people).  Does it have benefits?  Yes, it does.  If I'm not committed to treating other people with common courtesy, chances are I won't do it consistently enough to experience any of those benefits (another reason to not try to manipulate people).

Are people not responding well to you?  Do you find your interactions with others to be marked more by conflict than by cooperation?  Maybe you'd just like to have more pleasant interactions.   I'm certainly not saying you're impolite.  Still, since you can't control others, but only yourself, you might want to consider giving more attention to politeness a try.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What methodology do you use?

Recently, I had a person ask me "What methodology do you use in your therapy?"  I have to admit, it caught me by surprise.  Let me tell you why.  I'm a coach and hypnotist who also happens to be an RN (licensed in 3 states, currently).  I have extensive education and over 20 years experience in each of those areas. Question: With my credentials and experience, what therapy am I legally entitled to offer?  Answer:  None at all.  That's right.  None.  Zero. get the idea.  I am not a therapist.  I offer professional hypnosis and coaching services to my clients.  Now, I have experience in leadership.  I've done extensive work in mental health nursing.  I've led counseling groups and provided one-on-one counseling to mental health patients under the guidance and auspices of the institutions where I worked, but I am not a counselor or a therapist. On my website I note that what I provide is "vocational and avocational coaching".  Now, that certainly covers a lot of ground and it allows me to help a lot of people with a lot of different things, but it isn't therapy. For some reason it always catches me by surprise when people refer to it as therapy.  That's one reason I refer to myself as a hypnotist rather than as a hypnotherapist.  I want to help my clients avoid that sort of confusion.

Now, back to the question.  What methodology do I use?  This is how I answered the question.

While I've not been able to come up with a clever sounding title, my approach to coaching is to increase a client's awareness. That sounds sort of vague and “fluffy”. Since I try to avoid both vague and fluffy, let me explain.

In my experience, most people, regardless of how they define success and how much of it they have enjoyed, are profoundly unaware of:
  • Their basic values
  • Their passions
  • How their underlying beliefs and attitudes affect their chances for success
    • How these same beliefs and attitudes have limited their success so far
  • And the impact of their subconscious, acting in its capacity as a protective mechanism, on their lives
You'll notice that, at their heart, these are really “why” type questions (coaches are notorious for these, are we not?). This is where many of my clients wind up doing a significant amount of work during the coaching relationship. I use and teach specific tools and techniques to help them through what many people consider the least comfortable part of the process. It's after this that the “how” and “what” become not only easier to see, but far less tedious (or even enjoyable).

I hope this answers your question without being too long.

Thanks, again, for your comments.


A good portion of what you'll read on this blog reflects that approach.  I really believe that for most of us, being more aware of why we do what we do, why we want what (often think) we want and why we haven't achieved more than we have will bring us much close to achieving our goals than focusing so much on "how" and "what."  After dealing with the "why" questions, the others are easy.

Change your mind...change your life

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I get out of this mess by...knowing what's important to me

I've said before that if my life is a mess, the way I get out of it is by learning to make more effective decisions.  That means I need to learn to make decisions that move me in the direction of my goals and that I need goals for different areas of my life that provide clarity about the kinds of decisions I should make.  Now, if you're like me the temptation at this point is to jump right into using the "latest and greatest" goal setting tool.  Problem solved, right?  Again, if you're like me, probably not.  Here's why.

As we move toward achieving our goals, the result is that our lives move in whatever direction the goals take us.  That's a good long as we like that direction.  If we don't like that direction, it's good only if we learn from it.  Then we can set other goals to take our lives in another direction.  But, what if we don't like that direction?  Well, we can set other goals to change direction again...I'm sure you get the idea.  We can go through life constantly making major course corrections.  Sometimes that's necessary.  Sometimes we have no choice but to make a major change or shift in what we do or how we do it.  For instance, let's say one of your goals has been to own and personally manage a combination dude ranch/bed and breakfast in the high country of Arizona.  You're going through life, putting things in place and taking the actions necessary to realize that goal.  Then, one day, you learn that you are terribly allergic to pine trees, especially Ponderosa pines.  In fact, your allergy is so profound that your doctor has told you that exposure to living Ponderosa pines could lead to anaphylactic shock and your likely death.   Given that the mountains of Arizona are home to the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the world, this is a significant problem.  In fact, it could very possibly result in you having to abandon this goal.  This is not the kind of problem I'm talking about, here.  This problem isn't related to not liking the direction your life is taking.  I'm talking about the kind of problem where you realize you hate cows, ranches, cowboys, bed and breakfast inns, being out in the country, solitude, the Rocky Mountains, pine trees and Arizona.  All of this after shaping a major portion of  your life to get something that involves all of these.

Somewhere along the way, if you find yourself having to constantly change goals and life direction, you might ask if there's not some way to avoid this.  Is there not some way to at least reduce the likelihood of having to make frequent and major changes in my life direction?  The answer is "yes."  It comes down to knowing what' important to you.  If you can clarify the values that matter most to you, then you can set goals that are consistent with those values.  I've worked with a lot of clients who have set goals and either not achieved them or been unsatisfied with achieving them simply because their goals conflicted with what was truly important to them.  Quite often the goals were based upon what they felt they should want or what other people told them to want rather than upon their own values and ideals.

So, the first step to setting good goals and making effective choices is know what's important to you.  There are a lot of tools available to help you do this.  Exercises that engage your imagination and lists of values that you can rank in terms of relative importance are available for free on the Internet.  If you have trouble with these, you can hire a coach to help you work through the process.  In fact, I encourage that because there's more beyond simply using the tool.  Still, if a coach is not a viable option for you right now, the tools are out there for you to use.  Find the one(s) that work for you and learn what really matters.  Life is so much easier and far more fulfilling when what you do matches what you care about.

Change your mind...change your life.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Write the book

Have you ever thought about writing a book? For many people the idea seems overwhelming. It was that way for me for a long time, even though I like to write. Fortunately, all that changed when I attended a webinar by Alicia Dunams entitled “How to Write a Bestseller in a Weekend.” She laid out with very specific, concrete examples the process for writing quickly a book that sells.. It was amazing in terms of what it has allowed me to accomplish. While I wasn't able to attend her weekend long class (Bestseller In A Weekend workshop) the webinar itself has made a huge difference in what I've been able to accomplish. I am convinced that had I been able to attend the weekend long webinar the results would have been even more amazing. I cannot recommend her highly enough. She really knows her stuff!

Sometime within the next month , my first book will be published. I don't really want to use this post to promote my book as much as to talk about my experience writing it. I've found the process of writing it to be more challenging than I expected. Still, it's been well worth the effort even if no one reads it. I've learned more about myself while writing than I have from any one activity in a very long time. It's also helped me really clarify some things I believed to be true for a long time. I still believe they are true. In fact, I'm more convinced than ever that they are. What's changed is that I see the relationships between what I write about and the behaviors I see from my clients much more clearly now. This clarity is changing the way I think about and practice both coaching and hypnosis. That alone makes writing the book worthwhile.

For anyone who has ever entertained even the tiniest of thoughts about writing a book, let me offer my strongest encouragement. Take the time. Contact Alicia and find a way to attend one of her events and write the book! For me, the process has been transforming. I'll certainly be attending her workshop as soon as I can find an open weekend in my schedule.

NOTE: Other than having attended her webinar, I have no relationship with Alicia Dunams or I mention her solely because of the value her webinar has brought to my life.

Change your mind...change your life.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What you believe matters...a lot

Recently, I've noticed quite a few people on Facebook sharing a quote sometimes attributed to David Orr.  It goes something like this:

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it."

It is also attributed to the Dalai Lama.  In that attribution, it seems to normally go like this:

"The planet does not need more 'successful people'. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with success as our culture is the set." 

I believe the frequency with which we see this quote indicates a problem with how people perceive success in our culture.  I have friends who define success solely in terms of money and finances.  Interestingly, these are the friends who seem most likely to be engaged in a long-term struggle to keep their heads above water.  Those who truly define success otherwise, while not viewing financial security as inherently evil, are on the whole far more financially secure.  I believe there is a clue here.

First, success is about a whole lot more than finances.  "Success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile goal or ideal" was Napoleon Hill's definition.  Many life and executive coaches use this definition.  Notice that it doesn't mention finances at all.  It remains the best I've ever heard or read.

Second, while success involves far more than finances, there is one very good thing about using financial stability as a kind of gauge.  Money is very easy to count.  Thus, it's pretty easy to tell if a person has his or her financial house in order.  If it's not in order, there is, I believe, a pretty good chance that other areas of life will also be out of order.

Third, no success, including financial success, can be built around an obsession with money.  I've never met anyone obsessed with money who couldn't have achieved and become more in every area of life if he or she hadn't been so consumed with making more money.

Fourth, what the world does not need, is more people who deny the reality, desirability and "achievability" of success.  We have more than enough of those running around, doing their best to convince everyone else to adopt their hopeless and negative view of life.  Their beliefs about success inhibit their ability to experience and enjoy what life has to offer and are toxic to those looking for a way to truly change things.

Fifth and finally, this leads me to a conclusion.  The world does need more successful people, and desperately so.  It needs people who are actively engaged in the progressive realization of  worthwhile goals and ideals.  It needs people who are constantly striving:
  • to improve themselves
  • to improve their situation, and
  • to positively impact every situation and everyone they meet in meaningful ways
If you're ready to become one of those people, if you're ready to begin experiencing the progressive realization of worthwhile goals and ideals, welcome aboard.

Change your mind...change your life.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Okay, I'm responsible for this mess. Now what?

I said in an earlier post that the accepting both responsibility and accountability for my choices is the path to freedom in this life. Some people have questioned that statement, so let me explain.  Once I accept that what I believe, think, feel and do are all choices I get to make, then changing my life becomes a matter of changing my choices.  That's a pretty good definition of freedom!  I could have chosen differently and I still can.  All I have to do to change things is change my choices. Perhaps I made bad ones in the past (David Byrd calls them "ineffective choices" which is a pretty good term) and they led me to where I am.  It follows that if I make good ones, consistently, from this point on, they'll most likely lead me someplace different...and better. Thus, freedom comes from embracing responsibility and accountability.  Now, some people want to embrace the idea of  responsibility and accountability but not the reality.  That won't work.  If you do that you're just another person walking around parroting what sounds good until you encounter what you think is the next "cool idea" at which time you'll change and start parroting that one.  No, you have to actually, in a very real and practical way accept that you are where you are because of you and your choices.  You are responsible for your mess, just like I'm responsible for mine.

So, what comes next?  I have to learn to make better choices.  If we use Byrd's term, what makes a choice an "effective" one?  What's the difference between effective and ineffective choices?  Those are good questions, aren't they?  After all, if I know that my choices so far have taken me somewhere I don't want to be, it would be good to know what made them ineffective so I can avoid similar choices in the future.  How do I avoid ineffective choices in favor of effective ones?

Good or effective choices are those that tend to move me in the direction of my goals (you have your goals written down and look at them daily, right?).  Ineffective choices are those that either don't move me in that direction or that move me away from my goals.  So, I look at my goals and compare them to the choices I make every day.  If they don't move me toward my goals, they are not effective choices and I need to make other choices instead.  Now, because none of us are one dimensional we have to make choices about different areas of our lives, so we need goals for those areas to provide clarity about the kinds of choices we need to make.

That's it.  That's what we do once we accept responsibility and accountability for our lives and the choices that got us there.  Now, there's a lot more to say about how to make more effective choices, but that's for later.

Change your mind...change your life.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Power and Responsibility

It took me a long time to understand the power of what I want to talk about, today, and that's the amazing power of choice. See, for a long time I gave “lip service” to the idea that each of us, especially me, had the ability to make the choices that determine where we wind up in life without really understanding just how powerful that ability is. Oh, I talked a good fight, but when it came down to the nitty gritty I'd try to have it both ways. I'd want to choose...and I'd want to avoid being responsible and accountable for my decisions and their results. I was uncomfortable with that degree of responsibility. As a result, I'd sometimes make ineffective decisions (that is, decisions that didn't move me in the direction I wanted to go) and then want to blame the results on factors or things outside of myself. What I didn't understand were two very basic and simple truths:

  • First, freedom, real freedom, comes from embracing responsibility and accountability and
  • Second, it is the ability to choose that makes responsibility and accountability so powerful

For a long time I wandered around, looking pretty successful, but not really living the life I wanted and deserved. I'd like to think I'm unique in this regard, but I know I'm not. Almost every day I meet people who try to be free by avoiding responsibility and accountability. As a result, they spend their lives as slaves to other people and their own bad habits. They don't understand how their choices have gotten them to where they are right now, or how better choices can change that dramatically.

There's this old good news/bad news joke about our ability to make decisions. God is talking with Adam...

God: I've got some good news and some bad news for you, Adam.
Adam: Well, what's the good news?
God: You have free will.
Adam: Okay. Ah, what's the bad news?
God: You have free will.

That's really the way it is. The ability to make decisions, the ability to choose, is what sets us apart from animals. Jim Rohn often asked his audiences the question “Why does a goose fly south in the winter?” The very simple answer that people often missed is “Because he's a goose.” Simple, right? “Driven by instinct and the genetic code” a goose doesn't get to decide if he's going to fly south in the winter or not. It's what geese do in winter. On the other hand, none of us are geese. We can and do choose what we do. Think about it. Everything we do is a choice. The statement “I did (insert the action of your choice), but I didn't really have a choice.” That's not true. There is always a choice. Now, the other side of this is that there are consequences to my choices. Still, there is always a choice.

So, we all get to choose. We get to choose what we believe, we get to choose how we feel, we get to choose what we think and we get to choose what we do. Once I realize that I get to choose these things I have some decisions to make.

  • What will I choose to believe?
  • What will I choose to think?
  • How will I choose to feel?
  • What will I choose to do?

None of these are independent of the others. That means that as I change one, that change tends to affect the others. You may notice that when I made the bullet list I changed the order a little. That's because I am convinced that what I choose to believe and think underlies all my other choices. Often, we try to change our lives by simply focusing on what we do. “If I change what I do, things will be different” is how the thought goes. Well, maybe so, but probably not. The problem is that it's hard to change what I do if I don't change the thoughts, ideas, beliefs and feelings that drive the behavior I'm trying to change. In fact, if I don't change my beliefs, thinking and feelings first, it's almost a guarantee I'll fail in my efforts to change my behavior. Which brings me back to choice. I have to choose to replace the beliefs, thoughts and feelings that are producing ineffective choices about what I do with those that will help me make effective choices. Now, I can refuse to choose, but others noted long ago that refusing to choose is a choice.

Okay, fine. I have to choose. Choice is power. Yada, yada... Is that it?

No, it's not. To really experience, in a positive way, the power of choice I have to accept absolute and total responsibility for every choice I've made. This isn't a thing to which I can just respond with an “okay, sure.” Think about it. Wherever I am in my life, however I'm living, whatever my circumstances are, it's all because of decisions I have made. It's all my responsibility. My job, career or business? My responsibility. My relationships? My responsibility. My marriage, family, friendships, finances, spiritual life, education, health (with a few exceptions), where I live, what I drive, how I dress, what's in my refrigerator, the condition of my car...all my responsibility. I made one or more decisions that resulted in each of these being the way they are. No one made me choose the way I did. I exercised free will (remember the joke?) and made choices. They may have been good choices, they may have been bad choices. They may have even been the best choices given the circumstances under which they were made. They were still my choices. Until I accept that it's my freely made choices that got me to where I am, I will never be free. Until I accept complete responsibility for all my choices I will remain a slave to other people and my own habits.

Blaming others for my life may be appealing, but it gives away my power to change things by changing myself. It does that by saying that others have controlled the only thing in this universe over which I have any control at all. I can't control other people, try though I might. I can't control the environment, the marketplace, the economy or politics or social institutions. All I can control is me. The only real hope I have of living the life I want, whatever that life is, is to insist on controlling the one thing I can control. Why on earth would I want to give away that power? So I can avoid the very responsibility that can set me free? So I can dodge the accountability that will help me do what I need to do?

Why am I spending so much time talking about this stuff? After all, it's not like there haven't been people talking about the same things for literally thousands of years. It's simple, really. I didn't really start to learn these things in a significant and life changing way until I was in my mid-forties. That means I was around for four decades before I started to really learn these things. I literally spent decades living life without really understanding what was going on! How much different would my life have been if I had understood? Once I started learning and making changes in myself, my life started to change. Now, I would never go back to my old life of not knowing and not understanding. I will never again give up the only power I have. And I will not simply sit idly by and watch other people spend their lives in “quiet desperation” when I have some ability, however small, to offer an alternative.

So, what about you? Are you ready to accept responsibility and accountability for your life and your decisions? Are you ready to change what must be changed for you to have the life you want and deserve? If you are, stick with me. It's going to be interesting.

Change your mind...change your life.

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's only humorous when kids do it

If you're a parent, you have probably had a conversation like this:

Parent: "How did this happen?"
Child: "Well, I was putting up my toys like you told me to and then my room got all messy."
Parent: "How did it get messy?"
Child: "I was putting up my toys like you told me to...and then Tommy started getting out my toys, again."
Parent: "Did you ask Tommy to stop getting out your toys?"
Child: "No."
Parent: "Why didn't you ask Tommy to stop getting out your toys?"
Child: "Because."
Parent: "Because, why?"
Child:  "Because we were playing with them."
Parent: "Do you remember why I asked you to put up your toys?"
Child: "No!"
Parent: "I asked you to put them up so we could go to the zoo. Why were you playing with them when I had asked you to put them up so we could go to the zoo?"
Child: "You told me I should share my toys!"
Parent: "I have told you to share your toys. Today, I asked you to put them up so we could go to the zoo. Now, we have to stay home and clean up your room instead of going to the zoo."
Child: "You mean I can't go to the zoo?"
Parent: "Not today, I'm afraid."
Child: "Why not!?"
Parent: "Because you decided to keep playing instead of putting your toys away."
Child: "No, I didn't!"
Parent: "Yes, you did."
Child: "Tommy started it!"
Parent: "Then you should have come to get me."
Child: "You wouldn't have done anything!"
Parent: "Of course I would have. I'd have told Tommy he needed to help you clean up if he wanted to go to the zoo with us. If he wouldn't do it, I'd have sent him home."
Child: "You were busy."
Parent: "I was in my office checking my email. I even told you where I was going to be if you needed anything."
Child: "Can we go to the zoo or not?"
Parent: "No, we can't. You decided to play and get out more toys instead of straightening up like I asked, so now we have to get an even bigger mess put away."
Child: "See? I knew we weren't going to go."
Parent: "We aren't going because of your decision. Do you understand?"
Child: "I didn't decide anything!"
Parent: "You decided to play instead of straightening up."
Child: "Yeah. But if you had said we could go yesterday like I wanted instead of today we could have gone."
Parent: "I had to work yesterday. Remember? That's why we were going today."
Child: "You always have to work when I want to do something. You don't want to do anything with me."
Parent: "I love doing stuff with you and I do stuff with you as much as I can. I work because providing for you is my responsibility."
Child: "You don't know what it's like being me..."

If you're like me, once you get past the initial frustration, these conversations are kind of humorous. After all, we can all recall when we were kids and reasoned like that, can't we? You remember how it was. Nothing was ever our fault (I don't like that word, but I'll use it here. As a rule, fault finding is a waste of time and energy), was it? I know that in my case there was always a reason things went awry. That reason just never had anything to do with the decisions I made, of course. I was good at placing the responsibility squarely onto someone else. Even when faced with the irrefutable proof of my responsibility, I'd admit it...and deny it, almost all in the same breath. If pinned down, I'd shift my position. But, I'd always try to avoid accepting responsibility for my actions. Until they are taught otherwise, that's what kids do. And, like I said, after the initial frustration, it can be humorous.

If you've ever wondered if this kind of behavior from your kid(s) is normal, rest assured, it is. Kids are born with no responsibility. As babies, they depend entirely upon someone else to care for them. As they get older, they become capable of doing more, but there's still a lot they can't do. In addition, kids are, by nature, egocentric. In real practical language, that means they think the universe revolves around them. It's all about them and their wants and needs (and kids have trouble distinguishing between the two). So, they want what they want, when they want it. They are all about immediate gratification. Do they grow out of it? Yes. If they learn otherwise. Accepting responsibility and accountability is taught by:

  1. Direct teaching (telling them)
  2. Rewarding responsible behavior and consequences for not being responsible
  3. Modeling the desired behavior.
The conversation above doesn't illustrate it perfectly, but most of the elements are there.

When adults do this, it's not humorous. It can be sad, annoying, frustrating and irritating, but it's never funny. There are a lot of adults that have never learned to accept responsibility and accountability. I've seen it more times than I can count. The topics are different than putting up toys, usually, but the efforts to avoid responsibility are the same. Years ago, I provided counseling in drug and alcohol rehab. Here's a fairly typical conversation with a client who has been resistant to the plan of care in rehab:

Counselor: "Do you want to get sober?"
Client: "Of course I do!"
Counselor: "Then you have to follow the plan of care."
Client: "I know. Do you know why I drink?"
Counselor: "Yes, I do."
Client: "I drink because of all the stuff I have to deal with." *gives list of said "stuff"*
Counselor: "No. That is not why you drink."
Client: "Oh, yeah? Then why do I do it?"
Counselor: "You drink because you are an alcoholic."
Client: "You don't know what it's like, how hard it is being an alcoholic. If you did you'd be easier on me."
Counselor: "You're right. I do not know what it's like being an alcoholic. What I do know about, is how to live life without alcohol."

I'm sure you can see how similar the two conversations are. It's not limited to drug and alcohol abuse, though. I've had the same conversations with people who've landed in legal trouble because they deliberately and knowingly set out to do something that was not only illegal, but that they had been specifically warned by law enforcement (and others) not to do. When complaining about their fate, they kept coming back to the role of other people. If this person hadn't done this or if this person had done that, or if law enforcement wasn't out to get me, I wouldn't be in this situation is how the argument goes. When reminded of their actions and responsibility they admit it...and with the next breath return to blaming anyone and everyone else.

The same type of logic applies to people who have messed up their lives in other ways, too. Relationships, employment, academics, finances, any area of life, there are those who will consistently blame their misfortunes on others. In virtually every case I've encountered, those arguments have been false.

Here's the deal. Wherever you are in life, your life is the way it is because of the decisions you've made up to this point. It's true for you, me and everyone else. It can be an uncomfortable truth to accept, but it's true anyway. Every decision I've made has contributed to my being where I am right now. Looking back, I can see that very clearly. Had I made different decisions, I'd very likely be in a different place. The same is true for you. There are two major parts to this. We've sort of talked about the first one, but I'll list them both.

  1. I have to accept responsibility for the decisions I've made
  2. I have to learn to make better decisions

See, if bad decisions have brought me to where I am right now, I need to accept the fact that I made those decisions so I can learn to make better ones and end up somewhere much better. The same thing is true if I've made pretty good decisions. If I accept that my decisions could be better and then learn to make even better ones, I can wind up somewhere better than where I am right now. Tell me that's not good news.

It's all part of changing your mind...and changing your life.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

New Blog

Why a blog that focuses on personal growth and development?

Personal development for growth and change was relatively unknown to me for a long time. I say "relatively" because I had heard a little about what were usually called "motivational" books and speakers. Usually, they were referred to derisively. The people of my parent's generation, at least the ones I knew, looked upon the personal development industry (or whatever it was called back then) as being less than worthy of respect. Meaningless fluff would be a kind description of how they tended to view it. In part, this was because of people they knew who had taken some personal development course(s) and tried to use what they had learned for manipulation rather than for real personal growth. Graduates of Dale Carnegie courses had the reputation of being particularly prone to such manipulation.

I believe another big factor in the view these people had of personal development was that most of them were Depression era folks. So, for them, hard work was essential to being able to eat, but they saw no way of increasing the value of the work they did. Minus the Depression era work ethic, this view remains to this day. Most people see no way of increasing the value of the work they do or of increasing their value.

Finally, much of personal development focuses on financial issues and my parents and many of their contemporaries had a tendency to look at the financially successful with some suspicion. There was this often unspoken but ever present belief that someone who had earned a significant amount of money must be either dishonest or "lucky". So, anything that suggested it could help a person become financially successful was immediately suspect. This view, too, remains largely present up to right now.

There were two big factors that brought me face to face with the reality of personal development. The first was my time as a military officer. The Navy places a big emphasis on leadership development. While many, perhaps most, of the graduates of military leadership training courses see only techniques to be used for career advancement, those courses still provide exposure to the idea of constant individual growth. So, you could say I was sort of set up for what followed. The second factor was my initial foray into small business. I was fortunate to be involved with people who were not only successful in multiple areas of their lives, but who were more than willing to give credit for such success to personal development. Each and every one of them, in his or her own way, said my biggest and hardest work as a business owner would be the work I did on myself. Had it not been for my military experience and the evidence of the effectiveness of personal development I saw right in front of me, it would have been very difficult to convince me of its worth. I will be forever grateful to the people who would not stop urging me to read, learn and become more. They changed my life.

So, why the blog? Because I've seen the change it makes in others. Because I know the change it has made in me and my life. Because I know what life is like when you're convinced neither you nor your circumstances can or will ever change. And because I don't want to see other people live out their lives that way or wait until they are in their forties to realize they can change.

Why the title? Because if you want to change your life you must, first of all, change the way you think. If you will change your mind you will change your life. When I began to change the way I thought, my life began to change. Even if I could go back to the old way of thinking, I wouldn't. My life has changed too much. I even adopted the concept to my hypnosis and coaching practice. "Change your mind...change your life" is more than a slogan. It's the fundamental belief with which I approach every client as I get to help them reach their goals.

Please, read along over time. Change your mind...change your life.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Imagination as fuel for change

I saw an article on the value of imagination in bringing about change. This is my take on it.