My latest Relax Focus Succeed video is live on YouTube.
Some people are reluctant to get into “mindfulness” meditation. First, they’re not sure what it is. Second, they are afraid they won’t do it right.
Along those lines, many people have tried some kind of meditation and report they they “just can’t do it” because they can’t sit quietly. You need to be aware that you can’t do anything once and be good at it! So you can’t try sitting in a chair for sixty seconds and report that you’re not able to be mindful.
Mindfulness consists of simply being aware of what is happening right now at this moment.
It takes practice to quiet your mind. But you start by being overwhelmed with monkey mind thoughts. Every step along the way from noisy to quiet is part of the process of quieting your mind. So you can’t do it wrong. You simply need to try to experience what’s happening. Quietude will happen over time.
In the video I give the example of simply sitting and being aware of what’s happening to you. You may find it easier to sit quietly with your eyes closed just because visual stimuli can be quite enticing. So it’s easier to avoid distraction if you simply close your eyes. Eventually, you will enjoy opening your eyes and add that information to your mindfulness.
Why practice mindfulness? That’s a lengthy topic for sure. But the short answer is that there is tremendous value in observing what is happening in your life in real time. In many cases, we would all be better served by taking a few seconds and evaluating what is happening to us before we respond. But all too often, we respond almost automatically. Why? Because we have no practice of stopping and observing things as they are in the moment.
The practice of mindfulness while sitting in your chair at home can be the first step at viewing the world as it is without filters. With practice, you can choose to try this when you’re going through your normal daily routine.
Please watch the video. Like it if you like it. Share it.
And leave any comments you have.
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Relax Focus Succeed®
– Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both
Taught by Karl W. Palachuk, Author and Coach
– Five Tuesdays – June 28 – July 26, 2016 – Register Now
– All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific
This course is intended for anyone who is stressed out, over-worked, and ready to take their whole life to the next level. We all lead busy lives, filled with too many demands. Many of us don’t get enough sleep or exercise. We fight to be successful at work and at home.
Taught by someone who’s been there. Karl Palachuk was diagnosed with debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 39 and spent several years getting the disease under control. With two businesses to manage and a young family, he found himself unable to work more than a few hours a day. That’s when he developed a process for achieving goals at a very high level without working himself to death.
Many of us chase the entrepreneurial dream – but few of us reach our entrepreneurial vision.
In this course you’ll learn a new approach to balancing the demands in your life – and learn some strategies for building the life you want and deserve.
This is an intensive teleseminar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.
You will learn how to:
- Balance your personal and professional lives
- Focus on the single most important things in your life
- Develop your vision for self-fulfillment
- Relax – in a meaningful way
- Be the same person in all elements of your life (overcome Jekyll/Hyde syndrome)
- Put the past – and your present – in their place
- Build your muscles of success
- Stop working 50- or 60- or 70-hour weeks
- Avoid being interrupt-driven
- Slow Down, Get More Done
- Work less and accomplish more
- Define Goals: Long-term, Medium-term, and Short-term
- Build quiet time into your life
The course will include a number of recommended do-it-yourself exercises.
Registration includes a copy of the book Relax Focus Succeed® by Karl W. Palachuk.
Includes five weeks of teleclasses with related handouts, assignments, and “office hours” with the instructor.
Here’s an old news story. Not sure if it’s true, but it could be and that’s good enough for me.
According to a news report, a middle school in Oregon was faced with a strange problem. A number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips on the mirror, leaving dozens of little lip prints. Finally the principal decided that something had to be done.
She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them their with the custodian. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors.
He took out a long handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and then cleaned the mirror.
Since then there have been no lip prints on the mirrors.
Over the last year I’ve consumed a large number of books on habits. Creating habits, breaking habits, good habits, bad habits, etc.
It’s interesting how much we focus on the physical side of habits. For example, in your morning routine. You probably do the same things in the same order almost every day of your life. SO: Adding a new habit to that routine is difficult. You’ve created a box of time and packed it full of things that need to be done within that time. So it’s hard to wedge one more thing into the box.
Those things are physical. Get up. Got to the bathroom. Make coffee. Brush teeth. Activity. Activity. Activity.
Mental activities are also habits. And one could argue they are harder to recognize and harder to change. It takes a certain mindfulness to examine yourself in real time and explore what you’re thinking.
For example, when I’m given advice to change something in my life, I am immediately resistant. It doesn’t matter whether the change is large or small. It doesn’t even matter if it comes from a stranger or a trusted friend who is extremely knowledgeable on the subject. The strange thing is: I’m surprisingly open to recommendations and criticism. Even in my mastermind groups, I have to remind people that I’m far more open than I appear to be.
So my first reaction is resistance, followed by contemplation when I’m alone and don’t have to worry about the responses of others. Then I try to look at the advice I’ve been given. And very often I take that advice. But I still acknowledge my mental habit of resisting as a first response.
Think about your mental self-talk. Is there a lot of “I’m not good enough” or “I need to change …” talk inside your head? Those are patterns. They are habits of thinking. Spend an hour trying to keep track of where your mind wanders and your first responses to things. After all, you’re awake most of your life and your brain is always working. What’s it working on?
Mental habits are hard to change. Unlike physical habits (which are also hard to change), mental triggers are harder to spot sometimes. If a driver cuts you off and you become angry or judgmental, it’s easy to see the trigger. But what about if you’re just walking down the street or driving peacefully and your brain starts chattering on about all the problems in your life? What was the trigger? How do you step back from the current mindset and try to find the trigger?
When changing a physical habit, we first recognize the trigger. For example, stepping into the line at the grocery store. Let’s say that as soon as you do that, you start eyeing the candy bars and virtually always end up throwing one in the cart. Recognizing that trigger can help you choose to attach a different activity as your response. Maybe you’ll grab sugarless gum. Maybe look at the magazines instead. Or maybe you’ll go in the quick-check line with no candy bars.
The point is, you recognize the trigger-response-reward and begin building a different habit. You start to lay down a different response and reward.
Now consider a mental example. What triggers judgmental attitudes? What is your mental response? What’s the reward? It takes quite a bit of work to identify your responses and rewards – especially if they are purely mental.
If you’re interested in exploring this, I recommend a two-step process. First, spend some quiet time each morning thinking about thinking. Relax, quiet your mind with a few deep breaths. Then just pay attention to the thoughts that wander into your brain. When you recognize a thought, label it. For example, say the word Happy. Then set that thought aside and wait for the next. Label it. Perhaps Hungry or Tired or Frustrated. The interesting thing about our brains is that they never stop. There will always be another thought. It might be a memory, a plan, a worry, or a distraction because a bird flew by.
The goal is to teach yourself to identify your thoughts. You have millions of them every day. And if you’ve never spent time recognizing them, then you won’t be good at it. So the first step is to identify the kinds of thoughts you have. What does a positive thought look like? Or a negative one. Or a self-blaming one. etc. All of that work takes place while you are sitting quietly, trying to simply observe your self.
(The oft-quoted numbers of 50,000-80,000 thoughts per day are literally just made up numbers that got repeated again and again. We don’t have a way to measure how many thoughts we have. But even a little research suggests that it’s much higher than the mythical number.)
The second step is to practice labeling your thoughts as you go through your day. When that driver cuts you off, what goes through your brain? You clearly have a choice about how you react. Your thoughts and reactions are not outside your control. BUT you do have a mental habit of response. Without thinking about it, you have laid down a pattern of response.
You can literally observe yourself as if you are outside yourself. Watch the driver cut you off. Then STOP your brain from responding. Now choose. As you watch yourself respond, try to identify the reward. How does anger or frustration or judgement serve you in this context? What’s the reward? And remember: In the world of the mental, the reward is probably mental. Satisfaction, self-righteousness, fear, anger, pity. Something inside you gets value from a specific mental response. What is it?
Once you recognize the trigger, response, and reward, you can decide whether you want to keep responding in that way. It may be that the answer is yes. It may actually make you feel better and contribute to your happiness. If that’s the case, you are now more fully aware of that.
But if you want to change your response, you also have that choice. For example, you could simply choose to be amused by the driver who cuts you off. Maybe you’ll enjoy pondering whether you’ll catch up to him at the next light. Now you can start to build a new habit. When someone cuts you off, you can slow down a bit and choose to be amused. Your reward is tiny bit of happiness. And if the drivers where you live are anything like the drivers where I live, you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice your new pattern of trigger-response-reward!
One of my favorite sayings is Slow Down, Get More Done. This is another example of that. After all, if you choose to, you can choose how you respond to every little thing in your life.
Habits got you where you are. Habits will get you wherever else you want to be.
I asked the personnel director how he got to be successful.
He says he owes it all to hire education.
What are the happiest times in your life? That’s worth looking at because there are probably some common elements there. With some serious introspection, you might even figure out the connections.
There are three periods in my life that stand out as the happiest.
The first time was when I was a kid. By “kid” I mean in that age range of about seven to eleven. I had a lot of independence and hadn’t started worrying too much about girls. I grew up with five brothers. I was the middle kid, so I was surrounded by activities and companionship all the time. We lived about half a mile from a great big park. During the summer months, we’d go there and play on the playground, check out games, or watch baseball. We were literally barefoot all summer and “gone” most of the day.
During that time I also built a small private sanctuary for myself in our basement. We had a dank, unfinished basement that really had nothing but the old oil furnace in it. I put up some shelves and built a work area under the staircase. That’s where I set up my chemistry set and my electronics experiments.
I was happy and free and I always felt loved and secure. I also felt like I had a lot of independence.
The second period that stands out in my life is when my daughter was a little girl. Two was an awesome age. But the time when she was 3-6 was the best. She was old enough to have stamina, so she could hang out with me all day. We literally went everywhere together. My co-workers and clients all knew her.
Every weekend, the two of us would head out for an adventure. It normally involved a trip to the Rite-Aid to wander every aisle. We finished in the plant department. Then we’d go to the lumber yard to get supplies for whatever the weekend project was. Again, we hit every aisle. She sat on the riding mowers and sang “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay.” After that we either planted things, painted things, or built things.
On Sunday we either had Daddy-Daughter breakfast before church or Daddy-Daughter lunch after church. Even today she has fond memories of the places we went regularly.
I think my daughter considers me her shield from the world – in large part because we spent all of our time together during this period of her life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved every age. But after she started going to school, she developed a life outside of our relationship. That’s how it’s supposed to be of course. She was a great teenager, a great high schooler, and now she’s a wonderful woman.
The third period of happiness that stands out in my life is right now. Over the last six years I’ve rebuilt my life completely. I make a living writing and speaking, which I dearly love. My grown daughter lives with me now as she is finishing college. I get to travel as much as I want (which is a lot). I have been averaging about 20-30 presentations a year in 20-25 cities. I live in a delightful older house with just the right size yard. I’ve created the life I want and I’m living it.
When I travel, I take extra days to see the sights and relax. In 2015 I took 50 vacation days, including two separate weeks in Australia, a week in England, and a week in Hawaii.
I write at lot. I read a lot. I travel a lot. And more than most people, I spend a great deal of time hanging out with friends I really enjoy – all over the world. My favorite combination is: Sharing a meal, at night, outside, near the water, with live music. The more of those elements I can combine, the happier I am.
No one’s life is perfect. But I’m happy to have the self-awareness to appreciate that mine is very good. I’m going to work very hard to keep it heading in the right direction.
. . .
And how about you? What were (are) the happiest times in your life? If “now” isn’t on the list, what can you do to get it there?
“Why do they call it raw sewage? Do some people cook that stuff?” – George Carlin
I had a conversation with someone the other day about meditation. He expressed a very common belief: I tried that and it didn’t work for me.
I couldn’t help wondering, “What do you mean by try?”
Whether it’s meditation, exercise, playing the piano, learning a new language, or anything else, you can’t try once. Trying has to mean that you give it a real effort. If I try to do something once I am virtually guaranteed to fail (or be very bad at it). You can almost never do something right the first time.
On the flip side, if I work at something for an hour every day, I am virtually guaranteed to get good at it. That’s true of speaking a new language, learning a new exercise, wood carving, or anything else. You get good at whatever you put your attention on.
I’m a big believer in daily meditation. And guess what? I have trouble quieting my mind – even after sixteen years of meditating almost every day. I have trouble slowing down. I have trouble emptying my mind. I have trouble sitting still. I have trouble getting comfortable.
BUT I know how. I know what it feels like when my mind begins to calm down. I recognize that because I’ve experienced it thousands of times.
Another friend of mine posted something on Facebook a few days ago. He was starting a new I.T. project and referenced one of my books on project management. He referred to the “muscles of success” regarding projects. Those are the good habits that keep your project on track, on time, and under budget. Just like anything else, consistent activity becomes a habit – even making a profit!
Take stock the next time you decide to “try” something. Trying once is essentially useless. If you’re gonig to try, you need to commit to enough attempts to actually understand and make a little progress. Don’t quit after one attempt and say you tried.
The local paper has posted a correction regarding the biography of Ms. Celia Smithers.
She was erroneously identified as a bookmaker.
She is a typesetter.