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

CAT | Muscles of Success

There are many fields I wish I had studied more in college. The brain is one of them. Of course, when I was in college, we knew about 1/10th of what we know today.

 

Aside from being an efficient chemical factory for producing hormones that affect happiness, pleasure, body control, and mood, the brain is a masterful collection of information systems and sub-systems. One of my favorite sub-systems is called the reticular activating system. The reticular formation is a set of interconnected nuclei that are located throughout the brain stem. The ascending reticular activating system (RAS) represents a series of connections made between the brain stem and the higher parts of the brain.

The RAS is an miraculous system for controlling habits and perceptions in humans. On one hand, it affects the way you see the world, filtering millions of stimuli into a few things you pay attention to. On the other hand, it reinforces behavior and beliefs. So, for example, we tend to filter out information that doesn’t fit our current beliefs. (This should help explain a great deal of the political discussion on Facebook.)

Here’s the coolest part as far as I’m concerned: the RAS does a lot of work automatically (controlling automated functions of the body, filtering information, helping your sleep, etc .), but it can also be manipulated by your intentions. And when that happens, your intentions can become magnified very powerfully. Here’s what I mean.

Every’s had the experience of buying a car and then seeing that car all over town. Those cars were always driving all over town: You just didn’t notice them because you didn’t care. You have to filter out virtually everything you’re exposed to or you would not be able to function. The RAS does that filtering. At the same time, you can choose to focus on specific things. You can tune into the color blue, or BMWs, or plastic ducks. Most of the time, these “choices” are unconscious. They just happen. But you can make conscious choices to focus on specific information.

Let’s try an example. You may have heard of the concept of block chain. Block chain is a cool new technology for creating secure transactions. It’s going to be widely used very soon. Many companies are investing in block chain. Say the words out loud: Block Chain.

There. I’ve told you almost nothing about block chain. But I’ve planted the seed in your consciousness. You’ve probably heard the phrase block chain before, but you have not paid attention to it unless there’s a reason to. Now, I’ve dragged it out of the background fog and into the forefront of your attention. Watch over the next 1-2 days and you will probably see or hear the phrase block chain. This phrase has been floating around, just outside your consciousness. Now it will become more visible for a short time.

“Short time” is key here. If you have no reason to pay attention to block chain, this raised consciousness will fade quickly – precisely because it has no value in your life.

Now consider something else. Perhaps you want to grow your business, lose weight, learn a new skill, get your garden into shape, or any other goal. If you take time to bring that goal into your conscious brain, the RAS will recognize that it has value for you . . . and begin focusing on it more and more. The RAS becomes an amplifier for your goals.

On more than one occasion, I’ve had a “great” business idea that flashed into my head. I took time to sit down, write out notes, make some drawings, and maybe even do some calculations. In other words, I focused very heavily on this idea for an hour or so. And guess what? All day the next day, it seems that every conversation helps promote that idea. People pop into my head that might be able to help me. The radio has a story about something that affect this. And so forth.

The point is: Once I choose to give an idea a certain amount of attention, the RAS helps me give it more and more attention.

Now, if you practice this regularly, your RAS will help you amplify your focus. But only for a short period of time . . . until you continually choose to focus more. If you keep focusing on the subject again and again, your RAS will renew it’s attention more and more. It’s a lot like cramming your way through on online course. You can ignore it for awhile and your brain will have no reason to put attention on it. But when you buckle down and study every day, your brain redoubles your efforts . . . and begins working on the problem in the background when your are not even aware that your brain is working on your behalf.

All success comes back to the concept of focus. In my book Relax Focus Succeed, I say that you get better at whatever you put your attention on. Other people have said things like, “Whatever you put your attention on expands.” That’s absolutely true. You can spend your days responding to the random stimuli of the universe, or you can choose to focus your attention – And your good friend the reticular activating system help you focus even more.

:-)

 

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One of the hardest things to do these days is to unplug. Technology keeps us so connected all the time that we never feel like we’re off work. This is particularly true with people who are self employed. And with people who work in big companies. And everybody else, too. :-)

Unplug

We have email on our phones, on our tablets, on our computers, and maybe even on our wrist watch. It’s literally everywhere. And our calendar is on most of those devices as well. And Facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever pop-up messaging apps you subscribe to.

It is very hard for some people to turn all that off – but you need to. A friend recently told me, “I need to be a lot less Pavlovian about work email, but I can’t help myself.”

It’s an addiction. And all that evening distraction has two primary characteristics: 1) It’s unproductive work, and 2) It robs you of the recovery time your brain needs to be productive the next day. You are using your “time off” from work being distracted by work!

I have a home office. Actually, two home offices. One is in the big front room where employees show up. The other is my study, where it’s just me. Those are my work areas. When I’m in other parts of the house, I’m “home.”

Many years ago, I started a routine of declaring, “I’m going home for the day” at about 6:00 PM. Then I stand up, turn off the lights, and leave my office to go home. I even do this when employees are sitting at their desks working. New employees find this humorous, until they realize I’m serious.

This is a great way to end your work day – even if you work at a “real” office. Here’s the whole end-of-day routine for me:

– Review tomorrow’s schedule. What is happening and when? Are there hard time commitments?

– Review email for the last time. Move it, delete it, answer it, flag it, etc. Close Outlook.

– Close all programs. Be done with all productive work for the day.

– Say “I’m going home for the day.”

I just read Deep Work by Cal Newport and he describes a very similar routine. It’s a great way to officially be done for the day. It’s a bit like plugging in your cell phone. You need to charge your personal batteries for the day. The routine also helps you check the box that says, “These things will get taken care of.” Just not tonight.

There’s lots of research (and common sense) showing that our energy levels, will power, and work quality are highest at the beginning of the day and lowest at the end of the day. So why keep trying to work when you’re low energy, low will power, and you’ll only spit out low quality work? You actually know that your work is lower quality, but you’re tempted to keep going.

Shut off. Power down. Play a video game. Read a book. Watch something stupid on TV. Listen to music. Enjoy your life. Recharge your batteries.

So many people tell themselves, “I can’t shut off.” But you can. You just have to do it, get used to it, and learn how to shut off. It really will improve your work if you take time to NOT work.

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

:-)

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I am a firm believer that you must control your schedule, your availability, and your communication. These things are absolutely essential to your productivity and success. If you don’t control these things, someone else will. Guaranteed!

The two most common questions I get are some variation of the following:

1) How do you accomplish so much? How do your produce so much? How do you get so many things done?

and

2) How come you never answer your phone? Are you ignoring me? Why don’t you answer text messages? Are you really offline or just pretending to be?

Some people are genuinely irritated that I am not available 24×7 to respond to tweets and text messages and emails. But here’s the key to success: 99.9% of the time, 99.9% of the people have no idea that I’m unavailable.

Perhaps the wisest thing I’ve heard in the last ten years comes from my friend Arlin Sorensen, who thinks he heard it from his dad:

“Don’t worry about what people think about you, because they probably don’t.” It’s so true. People don’t spend their time thinking about YOU. Sorry. In our nihilistic, social media-focused society, people might believe that the whole world is looking at them and waiting for them to Tweet out the next funny post. But it’s not true.

Essentially nothing on social media is productive for you. In fact, almost nothing in your life is productive. Most email is not. Most phone calls are not. All tweets are not. All of Facebook is not. Most YouTube is not. In fact, most of the Internet is not.

We fool ourselves into believing that these things are productive, but they’re not. At all. In fact, all of your productivity happens between these distractions. To become more productive (and less stressed), you need to decrease the length and frequency of distractions and increse the length and intensity of the productive periods in your day.

If you want to learn to unplug and become more productive, here are some tips. This is what I do so that I appear to be active to others, but I’m actually “off the grid” most of the time.

Step One: Commit to doing one thing at a time.

You cannot multitask (That’a a whole different topic, but trust me, you can’t.), but you CAN time slice. Time slicing simply means you do one thing and then another and then another. When you do this, you give all of your attention to one thing. This focused attention makes that one thing go faster.

Step Two: Determine the minimum number of times you need to do unproductive activities in a day.

For example, you might think you need to check email every five minutes but you really don’t. For most people, checking email once per hour is enough. You may even be able to check it first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before lunch, and once in the middle of the afternoon.

Facebook and other social media are the same way. You might only need to check them once an hour or less. In fact, if you’re perfectly honest, you don’t really need to check them much at all.

Step Three: Set a routine to cycle through each activity block.

This will help you identify a large block of time that can be spent on a single focused task.

I always remind people of the time they were in a meeting and couldn’t answer their phone. An hour later, they checked their text messages, checked their voicemail, checked their email, etc. And guess what? No one noticed that they were unavailable for an hour. The world kept spinning. There were no crises.

Here’s what I do on a daily basis to unplug as much as possible and yet appear to be online a lot. I simply make a list of things to do on a rotating basis. For me, this includes:

– Check email (Inbox, employees, clients, etc.)
– Check text messages
– Check Facebook. Interact.
– Check to see if I have anything scheduled
– Focus on the most important project I have

With rare exceptions, I simply rotate through this list all day long. Think of it as a cross between a pie chart and a clock. Allocate a time slice to each activity. Repeat all day long.

It is very important that you silence your phone, close Outlook (email), close Facebook, close everything except the one project you’re working on. What you’ll find is that email might take fifteen minutes at 8:00 AM, but it takes five minutes at 9:00 AM, and only one minute at 10:00 AM. Once you focus on this, you’ll realize that you really don’t get that many truly important messages in a day. The same is doubly true for voicemail and infinitely more true with social media.

The result is that your hourly period of productive labor grows from 30 minutes to 40 or 50. And once you realize that you can check email every other hour (along with text messages, etc.), your block of productive labor grows to an hour and fifty minutes. That’s enough time to dig deep into an important task and get a LOT of productive work done.

I know this sounds hard if you’ve programmed yourself to believe that busy work is real work. Once you realize that the world is divided into productive blocks and interruptive blocks, it becomes easier to focus on the productive.

Try it. I’d love to hear your feedback.

:-)

 

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I was reading a very old book by Seneca the Younger called On the Shortness of Life. Although it was written almost 2,000 years ago, it reads like a message for today.

Seneca talks about people spending all their time in foolish activities rather than leading their lives. When we look at our lives today we see the same thing. Instead of leading our lives, we spend too much time thinking about the future or the past.

The past is a powerful time waster. I’m not talking about reminiscing or remembering a particularly fun time. I’m talking about time spent dwelling on bad experiences, fears, embarrassing moments, and all the trivial things from days gone by.

You cannot change one minute of the past. It’s done. Baked. All you can do is waste precious time in the PRESENT reliving bad experiences from the past. You can re-write them and mis-remember them. Or you can relive the details in excruciating clarity. But you can’t DO anything about them.

The future is not quite as bad. We need to plan. But we don’t need to plan TOO MUCH. There’s a point at which we work so hard trying to get things perfect that we take no action at all. We need a healthy mix of planning and acting. The acting part is called living.

The thing about time is that it’s easy to waste. Most of us don’t place much value on time. But it passes at exactly the same pace for all of us. You can use it or you can waste it. Unfortunately, too many people use up too much of their time without a thought to how valuable it is.

You get exactly 1,440 minutes each day. The same as everyone else. The same as presidents and prime ministers; the same as actors and singers; the same as professors and teachers. Every one of us gets exactly the same allocation every day. How do you use your allocation?

Living? Planning to live – someday? Fretting on the past? Watching TV shows you can’t remember?

We all need to “recharge” our batteries and have downtime. But we also all need to take control of our lives and use our precious time wisely.

One of the guiding rules of my life is to work on the highest priority activities I can. From that follows a process of setting priorities. How important is giving the cat fresh water today? How important is meditating? Reading? Writing? Paying bills?

We are all very busy. Perhaps all overwhelmed at times.

And yet we let other people simply interrupt our day. The phone rings and we answer it. An email pops up and we read it. An instant message comes in and we stop whatever we’re doing and look at it. Someone walks into the office and we give them our attention.

I recommended to a coaching client last week that everyone in his office should keep an Interruption Log. Literally write down every time they were interrupted (by a beep, a tweet, a knock at the door, a message, a phone call, etc.). And then write down whether this interruption was high, medium, or low priority. In particular, was it higher or lower priority than the thing they were working on when the interruption occurred?

If you work from the perspective of priorities, you can always be working on one of the most important things that needs to be done. And when you do that intentionally, it becomes easier to resist interruption.

For example, talking to the sales person on the phone is almost never higher priority than anything else you can do in your day – personal or professional.

Live in today. Live in the now. And guard your precious time wisely. No one else will!

:-)

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I recently did a webinar about the most important rules you need to follow to create a successful business. Afterward, I received a note from someone who said he could not attend the webinar because he has to run after customer service tickets completely non-stop twelve hours a day. This is truly the worst-case scenario that Michael Gerber talks about in The E-Myth Revisited: He is working too hard IN his business to take time to work ON his business.

I made a quick five-minute video on this. Here it is:

Here’s the sad truth: If you are over-stressed and burnt out by a job YOU created, you’re in deep trouble. That is truly the road to poor health and possibly an early death from stroke or heart attack. I’m not exaggerating here. You have to build balance into your business and your life before it’s too late.

Two books are recommended. For the self-employed, The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber is an absolute must read. Learn to work ON your business and create a sustainable business model that can grow.

Think about it. If you are working so hard you can’t see straight and you can’t take off ONE hour to work on improving your business, then your business model is broken. It is not sustainable. And it is certainly not something that will allow you to grow your business. You can’t scale that. Hell, you can’t even execute the business you have. How could you possibly grow?

The second book, of course, is my own Relax Focus Succeed – A guide to balancing your persona and professional lives and being more successful in both. Balance is what it’s all about. Only with balance will you create a sustainable business that allows you to thrive as an individual.

Balance, like so many things, will never just happen by itself.

:-)

 

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Oct/16

4

Hang Out with Promiscuous Sneezers

My favorite Meetup every month is the Sacramento Speakers Meetup (See https://www.meetup.com/sacramentospeakersnetwork/). It’s a Meetup with more than 2,500 members, of whom 35-75 show up at any given meeting.

speakers

There are many reasons for this. First, I’ve been going to this Meetup for more than ten years, so I know lots of people

Second, the format is absolutely amazing. I’m not sure how my friend Stephanie Chandler (see http://nonfictionauthorsassociation.com/) came up with the format, but it’s truly genius. It starts with 30-second introductions. People are encouraged to promote their businesses, so they can encourage networking later.

Do the math. At 30 seconds per person, you actually use up maybe 35 or 40 seconds on average. So this part of the program takes about half an hour. Someone always tells a joke. People laugh. Someone else just started a business an gets a round of applause. Someone says something funny unintentionally and ever fourth person after that refers to it.

In other words, the group begins to develop rapport and comradery right from the start.

Next, there are short presentations by speakers who have signed up. One is ten minutes and the other is twenty. Each gets some feedback and coaching.

Finally, there’s the “Five minutes in the spotlight.” A card is picked from the bucket and an attendee gets to ask the rest of the group for help. For example:

  • How do I get attendees to my event?
  • What should I call the three levels of this program?
  • How do I get started with video to promote my event?
  • How do I get bookings with schools?
  • How do I attract more joint ventures?

This is the juicy fun part of the meeting. Even though there are usually only two or three opportunities for the “Five minutes in the spotlight,” this is where the entire crowd throws out recommendations, book titles, web resources, apps, and other resources. The goal is to help the person who asked for help. But in the meantime, everyone in the room is feverishly writing down the books and other resources that are mentioned.

 

If you haven’t read Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, you should!

Godin talks about how ideas spread like viruses. And certain people are “Promiscuous Sneezers” of ideas. In other words, they are people who casually say things like, “If you haven’t read this book, you should. It’s amazing.” And they do this a lot. All the time.

 

You should hang out with Promiscuous Sneezers for one simple reason: They will help you filter the world of overwhelming information. Promiscuous Sneezers are usually mavens with regard to the topics at which they excel. That means they’re well informed and spend both time and energy getting good at it. So when they casually throw you some advice, it’s probably worth taking!

I miss a lot of meetings of the Sacramento Speakers Network due to travel. But I always make it when I’m in town because it’s a room filled with really smart, motivated, Promiscuous Sneezers.

I hope you have a similar group where you live. If not, start one!

:-)

 

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Aug/16

16

Scheduling for Success

I recently posted a quick video on the subject of scheduling (using a calendar) vs. working from priorities. See my YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/karlpalachuk

I’m particularly interested in how you add things to your to-do list in order to be more successful. You might want to add one or more of the following activities:

– Daily quiet time
– Exercise
– Reading
– Writing / Journalling
– Studying a hobby or new skill

We are all super-busy these days. So how do you add something to your routine when you’re already so busy? I’m assuming that what you want here is to help build new habits.

If schedules help you build habits, then they’re excellent. If working on priorities help you build habits, then they’re excellent. For most people, I think attaching new habits to your existing schedule is the easiest way to make sure the new habits are exercised.

If you prefer to work on priorities rather than schedules, you’ll need to make the new habit a high enough priority so that it actually gets some attention. After all, it’s easier to add something to your calendar than to suddenly make it a higher priority than anything on your to-do list.

Whichever method you use, you have to overcome the societal influence that says you should put work above personal improvement. After all, we find it much easier to add work-related tasks to our over-full lists. For some reason, it seems more acceptable to add work to our list instead of things like reading or exercising.

The irony is that you need the non-work related tasks in order to recharge your batteries, maintain your health, and improve your skills. But instead, we fill up our already busy schedules with more “tasks” that may or may not contribute to our overall success.

I encourage you to spend time evaluating priorities – and then putting daily reflection high on the list. Make that the first thing you do every day and chances are very good that all the other priorities will fall in line much more easily.

:-)

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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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