A guy walks into a dentist’s office and asks to see the doctor.
When the receptionist asks what the problem is, he replies, “The problem is: I think I’m a moth.”
“Well,” she says, “that’s a problem for a shrink. Why did you come into a dentist’s office?”
“The light was on.”
We all experience fear. It keeps us from moving ahead. It even keeps us from improving our lives, improving our business, and improving our relationships. Probably 99% of our fears will never come true.
Here’s a plan to kill your fears – with a technique you probably never considered. First, identify your fears. The easiest fears to identify are the ones that keep us from making changes we know we should make. Whenever you find yourself saying “I know I should . . .” – that’s a fear in disguise. Why aren’t you doing the thing you know you should? Fear of rejection, fear of losing money, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of looking stupid. Fear of something else?
Second, pick one one fear (the biggest) and write down all the things that will be possible when this fear is gone. For example, you’ll know how someone really feels. You’ll actually make more money. You’ll be able to move to the next level. You’l stop wasting time and move ahead. And so forth.
Third, embrace your fear – mentally. Here’s what I mean. Set aside 30 minutes to analyze your fear. Where did it come from? Who influenced it? How big is it? How long have you had it? What are its limits? How far does it extend? In other words, examine every detail you can think of – and write these down.
The next day, take 15 minutes to analyze this same fear. If it’s true, What’s the worst that can happen? Have you seen this happen to someone else? What was the outcome? What’s the most likely outcome (compared to the worst)? How bad would that be? And so forth.
Continue this practice for 15 minutes every day. Two things will happen. First, you will suffocate the fear by giving it too much attention. You will analyze every detail until you’re bored with it!. You’ll be comfortable with it. You’ll know its boundaries and its strength. And you’ll eventually stop identifying it as a fear. It will simply be a “possibility” instead of a fear.
The second thing that will happen when you sit down for your daily 15 minute dose of facing your fear is that you will literally put it in its place. Its place is that 15 minute slot. That’s where it gets Attention: Not the rest of your days or nights.
I was involved in a wonderful exercise at a recent professional conference. The publisher of an industry magazine was examining an article they’d published seven years before. The goal was to provide an introspective look at how well they’d done at predicting the future.
As they went through each prediction, the same theme came up over and over: We worried about the wrong things. The big challenges we identified turned out to be minor bumps in the road. And the major events that affected the whole industry were completely unexpected.
This same pattern is true in our personal lives. We worry a lot about stuff that never happens. And we don’t worry at all about the things that end up being the most important in hindsight.
If fears keep you from advancing, I recommend you create a worry journal. For every big fear that holds you back, spend time analyzing it until you’ve analyzed it to death – literally.
Most fear is not based in true observations or experiences. It’s just our busy minds speculating about possibilities. But what we tend to do is to try to NOT think about the fear. So it pops up and we push it aside. We look for something else to do, something else to think about. In other words, we never fully examine the fear and put it in its place.
Try it. Post your results here.
No matter how much you push the envelope, it will remain stationery.
I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. One of the powerful effects of this disease is exhaustion. In fact, the most common way that people discover they have RA is that they wake up one day and they’re so tired that they can’t get out of bed. This gets worse and worse until it takes more than an hour to just get out of bed in the morning.
One of the beautiful side effects of social media is that you can appear to be everywhere at once, doing lots of things, and producing lots of “content” all the time. That’s what people tell me they see of me. In reality, I have periods when I work and periods when I rest, and I am rigorous about working when I work and resting when I rest.
From time to time, I have to take medicine that prevents me from drinking alcohol. Let me just say for the record, I like a beer now and then. Well, now and now again. I’m glad the surgeon general recommends that I have two or three drinks a day, and that other countries’ surgeons general recommend more than that.
But sometimes I have to just stop.
As we get older, we are supposed to learn that overdoing things is bad for us. That’s easier said than done for some people. And some lessons we need to keep learning year after year. In my case, there’s also a little mixture of fear. Eventually, with RA, I will have flare-ups (“flares”) that cause permanent damage to my joints. This just will happen. Even if I’m stable for five or ten years, eventually there will be flares and eventually they will cripple me.
So my goal is to avoid things that will cause flares or make them last longer. And so, I take the doctor’s advice. Whatever it is.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn isn’t about alcohol or even what most people think of as self-care. It’s simply about rest. I try to rest up enough on the weekend so that I’m “fresh” on Monday morning. I try not to over-do it all week, but I have a little less energy every day. And so – with rare exceptions – I have stopped planning anything for Friday night.
Fridays I stay home. I don’t go out on dates. I might be talked into a dinner, but I don’t let it drag on. I go home so that I can collapse and go to sleep. As a result, I can do almost anything on Saturday. As you can imagine, Friday is a very popular night for doing things. So I quietly avoid all those things.
Sometimes people push, and they push very hard, for me to break this rule. “You can sleep in Saturday.” Or, “It’s just one night.” After all, I seem very healthy and I seem to be able to do what I want. So what’s one more night?
They don’t see the cane hanging in my closet, which I rarely use. They don’t see the medicine I inject in my leg. They don’t see the yoga and the meditation and the Karl who crashes hard night after night from simply leading life one day at a time.
I’m not ready to say I’m thankful for my RA, but it has taught me a great deal about discipline. I know for a fact that my body will deteriorate. I also know that I can slow the progress of that deterioration if I am committed to certain behaviors.
Friday IS just one night. And I CAN sleep on Saturday. And I can bend the rules and break the rules all I want. There’s no one to stop me. But I have to be committed to the long-range plan. The rest-of-my-life plan. The plan that keeps me upright and working and playing.
I’ve been doing Bikram Yoga for about sixteen years. I’m pitiful at it, really. I can’t do hardly anything at all. I go and I try. It’s painful. And frustrating. But I go and I try. Why? Because everything would be worse if I didn’t.
So I go and foolishly try to stand on one leg . . . even though it feels like I’m standing on 1 x 1 Legos. I bend and stretch and get frustrated that I can’t touch my toes without bending my knees. Sometimes my muscles just give out and I lie down and wait for the next posture.
But I go.
And I keep trying.
I’ve learned that pain and weakness are literally moment-to-moment things. I might not be able to get into a posture the first time. But sixty seconds later, I can do it fine (or at least “some”).
All of these lessons have helped me in my personal life and business life as well. I have to have rules and I have to stick to them, no matter what others want to tempt me to do. I have to stick to my formulas for success even on days when I can’t see the progress. And I have to realize that failure literally lasts sixty seconds and then you’re on to the next thing.
A friend of mine was clearing out his attic when he came upon an old painting and a violin. Thinking they might be valuable, he took them to the auction house to be valued.
After studying them, the appraiser said, “Well sir, I have good news and I have bad news.”
“What’s the good news?” my friend asked.
“The good news is that you have a Stradivarius and a Picasso,” replied the appraiser.
“Fantastic! What’s the bad news?”
“The bad news is that Stradivarius was a very bad painter and Picasso was no good with violins.”
– I can’t meditate
– I can’t turn off my brain
– I can’t stop worrying
– I can’t stop thinking
Here’s the simple truth: Your brain – your human brain – was designed to do something no other animal on earth can do: Think!
Yes, some animals are clever and they do some rudimentary thinking, but it’s nothing like complicated human thinking. We can, and naturally do, think about things in a complicated way. Here’s what I mean.
When humans consider any topic, we tend to consider things from our past and speculate about our future. Then we consider a number of possible outcomes, and the effects of the past on each of those. And then we speculate possible futures of each. Very often, we also consider how this thing affects other possible outcomes for other totally-unrelated decisions we are considering.
It’s amazing how quickly our brain can go through that complicated process. Sometimes we’re overwhelmed because we can’t help trying to think all those thoughts at the same time.
So here’s the deal with meditating: It’s not your goal to stop thinking. It’s not you goal to have an “empty” mind. The goal is simply to slow down a bit, become aware of the thoughts and ideas, to relax and observe.
Think about it like this: Your brain is no different than anyone else. People who meditate have simply practiced sitting in one spot and slowing down a bit. They’ve practiced watching their thoughts without judgement. And you can too!
People who run marathons do not have a different kind of feet. They’re just people who got up one day and decided to jog around the block. Then two blocks, ten blocks, 10K, a half marathon, and a full marathon. I might say that I can’t run a marathon, or that I’ll never run a marathon. But the truth is that I could some day if I decided to start by jogging around the block.
Don’t set your goal to stop your brain from thinking or to meditate for an hour.
But set your goal to meditate for thirty seconds, and then a minute. Eventually You will meditate for three minutes, then five and ten.
Most people who meditate don’t meditate for long periods of time. But you’d be amazed how five minutes a day can change your life.
Stop. Unplug. Close your eyes. And watch what your brain does. It’s a great resource.
One of the emerging trends in the U.S. is unplugging. As we become more connected to our technology every day, the need to uplug becomes greater.
In fact, unplugging has become popular enough to have its own day. National Day of Unplugging was March 6th of this year. The day was started by a group called Reboot.
And now, Jenifer Novak Landers – life coach, author, and entrepreneur – has developed a stylish way to unplug at home or at the office. She is creating a line call Unpluggables and raising starter funds through an Indiegogo campaign. See https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/unpluggables.
There are three primary reasons we all need to unplug. They are personal, social, and business.
More and more, research is showing that our constant use of technology is harmful to our bodies and brains in several ways. This is particularly true with cell phones, which have become the all-in-one entertainment center of choice. We’re beginning to see research that supports much of what we already suspect: Cell phone addiction can have negative impacts on our lives – both physicially and psychologically.
For a place to start looking at the research, see https://student.societyforscience.org/article/watch-out-cell-phones-can-be-addictive – or just Google “cell phone addiction” for other links.
On a personal level, over-use of mobile gadgets could be stimulating your brain in harmful ways. On a much more personal level, we all need to take time to relax, disconnect from others, and fully appreciate ourselves and our lives. We need to stop communicating with the outside world and spend more time in reflection. That’s a fundamental precept of my Relax Focus Succeed® philosophy.
On the social level, we all know that “devices” are bad for family communications. Kids won’t put them down. Sometimes adults won’t put them down. Some people literally cannot go five minutes without checking their cell phones. Watch people on a date at a restaurant. Even those who avoid their cell phones whip them out the second their date gets up to use the restroom.
Jenifer tells the story, in her Unpluggables video, about putting a sign on her TV when her daughter was young. The sign read “Magic Happens” because magic happens when we turn off technology and spend time with each other. That was the original idea that became Unpluggables.
Basically, Unpluggables are stylish cases to put your phone into as an outward sign that you are choosing to set aside the technology and pay attention to the people in your life. My favorite design is the wedding set. Hers is white with a veil and his is a little tuxedo. Unplugged weddings have been around about five years. Other unplugged events are growing. For example, see An Unplugged Weekend: 7 Tips To Make It Happen.
Families need to unplug during meals. The Unpluggable line makes it easy to do this with a visible sign that people are choosing to spend time with each other.
On the business front, cell phones are often the cause of great frustration. Forbes recently posted an article entitled How To Get People Off Their Phones In Meetings Without Being A Jerk. And Entrepreneur magazine publishes articles like, Why Successful People Never Bring Smartphones Into Meetings.
Jenifer’s Unpluggables line will include sets that can be used at meetings, weddings, and other large gatherings. She’s even going to have decorated boxes that can be passed around at meetings, so folks can just give up the device for an hour.
Give and Get
Please contribute to Jenifer’s Indiegogo campaign. She needs money to create designs, acquire materials, and find manufacturers for Unpluggables. If you contribute, you can get an Unpluggable or several other “perks.” You could even get a starter kit so you can become one of the first resellers for Unpluggables.
Please look at the campaign here.
Donate whatever you can afford.
At least two elements of Relax Focus Succeed® are easier when you unplug: Relax and Focus.
That’s why I’m supporting this awesome campaign.
One of the challenges of someone who’s new to meditation (or is getting back into it after being away for awhile) is Monkey Mind – the chatter of your brain switching to a contemplative mode. Monkey Mind is a little different for everyone, but basically consists of the flood of thoughts that come into your head when you are trying to be calm, quiet, and reflective.
One reason for Monkey Mind is simply lack of practice. If you’re not used to quieting your mind and calming your thoughts, then you have no excperience dealing with the chatter. For most people, there are three kinds of thoughts that float into your mind when you start to quiet yourself. First, your short-term to-do list will float into your mind. Second, your longer-term worries will wander in. And, third, all kinds of random stuff floating in your brain will break into your consciousness.
Some of these thoughts truly need to be acknowledged. Your unconscious wants you take in the thought and acknowledge the need it represents. You don’t have to take action right now. But once your brain knows that you are aware of the thought, it will let you move on.
Here’s a strategy for getting started on the road to meditating with Monkey Mind. I call it the 1-2-3 method.
Set Your Timer for One Minute
First, simply set your timer for one minute. Get a pad of paper and a pencil and begin to meditate. Take three deep, cleansing breaths and begin to relax. Very soon, the thoughts will begin floating in. If they’re just random images of things, or pleasant memories, acknowledge them and set them aside. If they’re “to-do” items that you need to address, go ahead and open your eyes, write a note to yourself, and go back to meditating.
Take another deep breath and relax. If things come up that require a note, make a note. When the minute is up and your timer goes off, you’ve finished step one.
Set Your Timer for Two Minutes
Next, set your timer for two minute. Begin meditating again. This time you will notice fewer distractions. The reason is very simple: You have acknowledged the to-do list. If you’ve already made a note about the dry cleaning and the shopping, you don’t need to do that again. Your brain doesn’t need to push those thoughts forward.
Two minutes is a short time. It might not seem like it when you start, but it is. And when your brain knows that you can stop and write down a note, it relaxes a little more. Feel free to do this again. Restart as needed with a deep, cleansing breath.
Overall, you’ll find a lot less Monkey Mind.
Set Your Timer for Three Minutes
Finally, set your timer for three minutes. This time you will not stop. You will not interrupt your meditation. You will learn to work through the thoughts that wander into your brain.
This time, as thoughts arise, imagine yourself gently moving them to the side to clear the path before you. Try to clear your mind. Let it wander. You will have thoughts wandering in for a very long time. It takes great practice to truly clear your mind. But now the thoughts will not be the rushing, scurrying, chattering thoughts called Monkey Mind.
With this process, you formally give your brain an “out” to interrupt your meditation. But you also discipline it to get the important stuff out first and then relax. Eventually, you may adjust the timer to 1-2-5 or simply skip the two-minute stage altogether. There is no wrong way to meditate.
Try it and see what works for you.
I went into a pet shop and saw a parrot with a red string tied to its left leg and a green string tied to its right leg. I asked what’s with the strings.
The store owner explained that it was a very smart – bilingual – parrot. “If you pull the red string, he speaks French; if you pull the green string, he speaks German.”
I asked, “What happens if I pull both strings at the same time?”
The store owner looked at me over the top of his glasses and said, “He falls off his perch.”
A mother asked her small son what he would like for his birthday. “I’d like a little brother,” the boy said.
“Oh my, that’s such a big wish,” said the mother. “Why do you want a little brother?”
“Well,” said the boy, “there’s only so much I can blame on the dog.”