RFS Blog | by Karl W. Palachuk – Relax Focus Succeed. Learn more at www.relaxfocussucceed.com

CAT | Meditation

Sep/18

24

Your “Before” Picture

Here’s a quick exercise for you. Take a selfie with your cell phone and label it “Before.” How do I know that this is your “before” picture? Because change is coming in your life.

Portrait of a happy young man making selfie photo on smartphone isolated on a white background

You might know what’s coming. It could be the book you’re writing, the goal you’re working toward at work, the new degree, the new child, or a million other things. Or you might not know what’s coming. Life has no shortage of surprises for us. But something’s going to change.

This might be the time before you get a raise, before you make a new friend, or before you get an unexpected day off. Whatever is coming might be large or small. But change is all around us, all the time.

When we look back, we can easily define the before/after moments that affected us the most. Before we learned to read; before we learned to drive; before we got married. And of course, there’s the before and after of all of our family and friends. Before my child was born; before she graduated college; before she bought her first house.

While it’s easy to identify these points after the fact, you can also tune in as life progresses. How is life going for you right now? How about work? And family and hobbies? All those things are going to involve change in the next year. If nothing else, start a “now” journal or a “before” journal and take stock.

It can be very exciting to be self-aware when you’re in the middle of change. So often, we let life happen to us. But if you know you’re in the before time and you choose to tune in to it, you don’t have to be passive. If you tune into change, you can choose to mold that change and affect what it looks like.

One very common way we do this is to create some ceremony around change. We have graduation paries, give greeting cards, and take friends to dinner. We acknowledge certain points in our lives.

The only real difference between responding to change and affecting change is that we choose to do one or the other. We all play both roles, depending on the circumstances.

I encourage you to use some morning quiet time to take stock of how things are going in your life. And then speculate what “after” is going to look like. After all, the more you spend time thinking about it, the more you’ll be able to influence it.

:-)

 

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Jul/18

23

Priming Your Brain – Part 2

In my last blog post, I introduced the reticular activating system (RAS) and talked about it’s basic functions. The RAS helps us filter the world around us. That has two primary features. First, it keeps out millions of things we don’t need to pay attention to. After all, we’re exposed to literally millions of impressions per day. Second, it helps to focus more clearly on what IS important.

That second part is the most interesting to me because we can “hack” our RAS to help us focus even more. Because the RAS helps us decide what is important, we can feed it stimuli. Your conscious brain can literally seed what your unconscious brain pays attention to.

In my book Relax Focus Succeed, I give an analogy between the brain and a filing system. All day long, you go through your day pulling cards out of the filing system and throwing them on the floor. Some cards are problems, some are experiences, some are ideas. And then, at night, your unconscious brain picks up the cards, sorts them, and files them away again. Every once in awhile it picks up a “problem” cards and an “idea” card that match. Your unconscious brain has solved a problem!

But you’re asleep and you’re not aware that you’ve solved a problem. That’s where meditation comes in. It allows your brain to relax and do that background work while you’re still awake.

Of course it’s all much more complicated than that. But here’s how you can use meditation to seed your RAS so that your focus is pointed directly where you want it.

You’ve heard of “mindfulness” meditation. Many people define this as a type of meditation where you try to clear your mind of all thoughts. For example, you just sit there and, when a thought wanders into your mind, you acknowledge it and then set it aside. Other people define mindfulness as simply experiencing what’s going on. In this variant, you sit there and name the things that enter your attention. A truck driving past. A bird. The breeze. Someone walking.

In both variants of mindfulness, you are attempting to NOT think – no not solve problems, not worry about money, not plan the day ahead, etc. It seems miraculous, but this lack of focusing on anything often results in major epiphanies. We’ve all had the experience of coming up with a great idea while you’re in the shower. That’s because it’s just you and your brain with no outside stimuli from radio, TV, the Internet, etc.

Let me suggest a technique that I use. I think you’ll be amazed at how easy it is.

First, choose an object for focus. It might be a poem, an idea for work, a problem with the kids, etc. Anything. Sit quietly and think about the object of focus. If you wish, take notes. The overall idea is to simply fill your mind – your attention – with thoughts and questions about this topic. I generally take anywhere from five to thirty minutes for this. The more time you give it, the more focused you become.

Here’s what’s going on physiologically: You are telling your RAS in no uncertain terms that you have something that needs your focus. You are doing this in a relaxed manner without frenzy or panic. You are, in fact, simply setting its agenda and letting it know that this is important to you.

Second, put an end to that and move into mindfulness meditation. Find a technique that works for you. STOP thinking about the problem you just spent time on. Focus on your breathing. Or do a whole body scan. For beginnings, I think full body scans or Yoga Nidra is excellent. Take as much time as you can. I recommend no less than fifteen minutes. If you can do thirty, that’s even better.

There’s no cheating here. You really are trying to clear your mind of everything. Clean the slate. Relax. Be open. Just experience your breath moving in and out. When ideas float by, acknowledge them and then move your attention back to your breath.

Third, go about your day. That’s it. Just do whatever you need to do. Go to work. Cook dinner. Have a beer. Enjoy some television. Whatever you do, just do that.

Here’s what’s really going on: You have put serious, focused attention on an object (problem, idea, etc.). That has given your RAS notice that you want attention on this. And as you go through your day, you will notice that lots of things seem to be related to the object of your focus. People you meet have ideas that are related. Snippets of news you see on the Internet are related to it. Comments you overhear are related.

It’s as if the world has conspired to help you achieve your goals, solve your problems, help you find funding for a project, or whatever you need. In reality, you have simply applied a filter. You are paying less attention to little, unimportant things, and more attention to the one thing you identified as needing your attention.

Imagine if you do this every day. Figure out what is the most important thing that needs your attention. And then spend the day finding that thing everwhere you look.

Way back in my college days, I was a camp counselor for the YMCA. Session after session, I had a cabin full of seven year olds. One of my favorite distractions was to give them a basic assignment such as:
– Everyone go out and bring back a red leaf
– Everyone go out and find a stick with a “Y”
– Everyone go out and bring me a small, smooth rock

These were simple assignments and everyone was always successful. This exercise with your RAS is basically the same thing. You’re telling your unconscious attention span to go focus on a specific object . . . and it does just that. – “Go find me a solution to this problem.”

The best part about priming your attention span is that it just works. The simple fact that you put your attention on something creates the focus that stays on that thing all day.

Try it! I would love to hear your results.

:-)

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Jan/18

6

Meditating . . . on a Pebble

I often meditate with pebbles. Well, one pebble at a time, really.

I’ve mentioned this from the stage and had several people inquire about exactly what that looks like. So I’ve put together a free audio program. It is delivered as a zip file with two MP3 files and a couple of photographs.

 

The first MP3 is a description of what the meditation is about. Basically, I use a physical object (the pebble) as a focus of attention. This makes it very easy to ignore distractions that come through my other senses. I also like the physical focus of the pebble because it makes it easy for me to “name” what I am experience.

One form of mindfulness meditation is to clear your mind and then name interruptions. For example: the sound of a bird or a car driving by; the thought about taking the car in for an oil change; or the feel of wind on my face. Once you name the distraction, you set it aside.

With a pebble, I simple name the sensations of hard, smooth, cracked, etc. I find it very easy to keep focused on the object of my choice.

I have several small bowls on my patio with pebbles I have collected over the years.  Most are from beaches I’ve visited as I travel. A few are from mountains (The top of the Andes; The top of Mt. Kilauea volcano.). One I bought. A few are gifts.

Taken as a group, it’s a wonderful collection of textures. Perfect for a little meditation.

You can download the 30MB file here: My Free Stuff Page.

Note: Free stuff has to be processed manually, so when you order, there’s a slight delay as either Kara or I process orders. Thank you for your patience.

I welcome your feedback on the audio program.

Happy Meditating!

:-)

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Feb/17

5

Mindfully Unplugging

I’m an amateur photographer. So when I see something really cool that I could share with others, my natural reaction is to take a picture. But there’s one important time when I can’t.

I love my hot tub. From this relaxing location I look across my back yard to a vine-covered fence where orange trumpet flowers invite hummingbirds. It’s also a resting place for birds and a playground for squirrels. And every once in awhile I see something that would make a perfect picture.

My hot tub is also a great place to meditate. I’m totally unplugged, warm, relaxed, and I have great scenery.

( I didn’t take this picture )

A few days ago I spotted a mommy and baby squirrel making their way across the top of the vines. Every once in a while they would stop and all I could see was two tails sticking up from the leaves. I thought, “What a great picture!”

But here’s the deal: I’m not taking my camera in the hot tub. It would take me less that a minute to either drop it or splash it. So I’m just not going to take the chance. And while I have a bit of frustration about that, it’s also a blessing.

There are times when you need to put down the technology and just enjoy the moment – knowing that it cannot be captured. You can choose to live in this moment or spend your time fretting because you can’t do anything but live in the moment.

Some people define “mindfulness” as emptying your mind. Dismissing all thoughts. Stopping the flow of images and ideas through your head. But that’s not the only way to look at it. Being mindful truly means to stop and notice what’s going through your head. It means acknowledging what you see and hear. And then, without dwelling on it or passing judgement, continuing the journey of being mindful.

People often ask me if their running or swimming or other exercise counts as meditation. My answer is always: As long as you are unplugged. Exercising while listening to a book or songs with words is great. But you’re filling your head with those words. And as a result, you’re not fully focused on the activity and the experience. It’s not bad in any way. But it’s not the same as mindful meditation.

Even if you don’t have a hot tub, you can choose to unplug and practice quiet time without external stimuli.

Sometimes the experience is as simple as a chattering squirrel.

:-)

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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

 

DESCRIPTION:

Relax Focus Succeed (R) by Karl W. PalachukThis course will show you how to master the concepts of Relax Focus Succeed® – a program for balancing your personal and professional lives and finding more success in both.

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.

 

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Over the last year I’ve consumed a large number of books on habits. Creating habits, breaking habits, good habits, bad habits, etc.

3d-businessman-with-the-brain-exposed_M1KbxcAOIt’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.

:-)

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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?”Yoga Pose

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.

:-)

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It’s Complete!!!

The Audio Version of Relax Focus Succeed® is available right now in MP3 format.

It will be available very soon on Audible. If you have used Audible before, I highly recommend it. Go to audible.com and get started with Relax Focus Succeed as soon as it’s released.

Relax Focus Succeed

Relax Focus Succeed

Here’s where and how you can get the Revised Edition of Relax Focus Succeed®:

SMB Books

  • Paperback
  • Kindle format
  • Audio MP3
  • PDF

 

Amazon.com

  • Paperback
  • Kindle format
  • Soon: Audible Audio

 

Audible.com

  • Coming Soon

Thank you all for your support!

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If you’re like me, you can get the same advice over and over for years and it doesn’t sink in – until the time is right. That’s why I read all the “success” literature I can. I read to keep thinking about changes in my life until it’s personal for me.

I took a lot of statistics in graduate school. There was a recurring phenomenon with stats: I never truly, completely understood the math from one course until I had to apply it in the next course. I wasn’t alone in this. Many people found that taking a second semester stats class from a different professor than their first semester helped them understand more. And it didn’t matter which was first or second. It as a different way of explaining the math that made the difference.

hand-drawn-brain-book1kIt’s also the case that the first course prepared our minds for the next. One started laying down the pathways and the next started building the knowledge in a meaningful way. Your personal success is very much like this. You have to lay down the foundation before you can start building. When it comes to changing yourself and your habits, that means you might hear a message a hundred time – or a thousand times – before you decide that you really need to take action.

Success will never come until you internalize your commitment to your own self-improvement. This is because success is hard at the beginning. You have to change your habits, your knowledge, and your commitments. Then you begin the actual work of changing yourself.

Let’s look at how those three things are inter-connected. Knowledge is the easiest piece of the toolkit. You can listen to audio programs and read books all day and all night. You “know” you need to get up early, spend quiet time planning your day, exercise, eat right, set goals, focus on them, and execute.

You “know” all that but it’s all meaningless external knowledge until you make a commitment to change your life.

Some people spend years educating themselves on success but never take action until something suddenly makes sense and then the commitments start falling into place. Others start doing without commitment. In other words, they start following the formula even though they haven’t internally accepted that it really will change their lives.

Believe it or not, this also works. If you get in the habit of getting up early, it will make the habit of quiet time easier. If you get in the habit of exercising, it will make the habit of eating right easier. One by one you can adopt all the habits of success until one by one they are meaninful to you.

Knowledge doesn’t come overnight. Neither do habits nor commitments. But if you practice these things, you will eventually achieve them.

Remember: Nothing happens by itself. You have to work on your success. If you don’t work on your self-improvement, it won’t happen. Period.

Just like athletic development, you need to work on your self-improvement until it becomes real for you. One way to do that is to read and consume self-help books and blogs. The habits you execute without commitment will gradually help you become the person who is ready for success. One by one you will internalize these habits and see exactly how they contribute to your success.

Eventually things will start to click and you will develop a true commitment to each habit. So keep reading. Keep listening. Start doing the things successful people do. The more you do these things the more you prepare yourself for success.

Nothing happens by itself.

:-)

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