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

CAT | Muscles of Success

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.

:-)

No tags

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.

:-)

No tags

Saturday morning: I woke up in lots of pain and had difficulty putting weight on my left foot.

Bow PoseSo I hydrated my body and went to Bikram Yoga: 90 minutes of strenuous yoga in a 100 degree room (38 celcius).

Why? Because that’s what I need to do.

 
I have a chronic disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s not what most people think of when they hear the word Arthritis. RA is an immune disease in which the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the body itself.

My disease is generally well managed, but from time to time I have a flare-up. When that happens, my joints become sore from inflammation. It also makes me very tired. Certain joints have a great deal of pain. The natural human reaction to this is to lie around, do nothing, and don’t move those joints!

In fact, that’s the worst thing you can do. First, you have to realize that there are many different kinds of “pain” in your body, and each kind of pain needs something different. Inflamation can cause pain, but moving your joints won’t cause damage. In fact, moving the joints will help prevent damange. It’s not the same as a pain from over-stressing a muscle.

Heat also helps the joints feel better. And yoga reduces inflamation. There’s more research about this all the time. So even though my workout was painful and exhausting, it’s what I need to do. In the long run, yoga helps me keep my disease in check.

This is the way with all good habits. At the moment, you might not want to do the thing you should. Or you might have great excuses not to (It’s raining; I only have a little time; I’m tired; etc.).

All good habits are like this.

I write when it’s time to write – whether I want to or not. I limit my night time activities so I can get up early, even if I miss some fun stuff. I limit my eating and drinking so my belly doesn’t grow too large. I spend within my limits even if I *really* want something.

In the moment of our greatest weakness, habits help us do the things we really should be doing. And the best part is, there’s nothing heroic about this. Once you have a good habit, the “default” action is to excercise that habit rather than break it. So doing the right thing is just a matter of doing what you do every day/week/month.

When was the last time one of your good habits helped you out on a bad day?

:-)

 

No tags

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!

No tags

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.

:-)

No tags

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.

sleeping-eyes_450My disease is very well under control after sixteen years, but I have been through long spells of exhaustion. And I still have to be careful not to over-exert myself.

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.

No tags

Your brain can't stopSo many people tell me things like

– I can’t meditate

– I can’t turn off my brain

– I can’t stop worrying

– I can’t stop thinking

– etc.

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.

:-)

No tags

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.

Robot meditatingSome 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.

Enjoy!

:-)

No tags

Feb/15

2

First, Second, Third Meditation

I’m a huge believer in “quiet time.” That is, sitting in a chair and taking in the universe without contributing my two cents.

It can be hard to get started with meditation, so let me recommend three easy “starter” meditation ideas. I call it Shut Up, Relax, and Pay Attention.

Digital Visualization Meditation1. Shut Up

This is the first step in any meditation. It consists of sitting quietly, closing your eyes, and simply quieting your mind. Do this for 30-60 seconds. With you eyes closed, notice the subtle sounds of your environment. The clock ticking. A bird outside. A distant car horn. Your heart.

Just listen. Take note of the sounds, but don’t focus on them. When thoughts enter your mind, gently pick them up and set them aside.

It’s quite amazing how three deep breaths can help you clear your mind (and lower your blood pressure).

2. Relax

A great beginning meditation is a relaxation exercise. I love audio meditations for this. You can buy CDs or download MP3s. There are hundreds of options out there. You’ll probably need to try a few before you find one that really works for you.

Relaxation exercises are great because you have a voice to focus on and a task to perform. Generally, you’re going to do a body scan from head to toe and relax your whole body. In longer exercises, you will then have a period of silence to just relax and feel your body relaxed. This might be three minutes, ten minutes, or even longer.

The best audio programs have relaxation exercises of various lengths. They are great for beginners – and you’ll come back to them from time to time even years after you start meditation.

3. Pay Attention

You’ve probably heard of “Mindfulness” meditation. It simply means to be aware – mindful – of what’s going on around you. Mindfulness can be as simple as the two exercises above or go very deeply into a complete awareness of your mind, your body, and your emotions.

We filter everything in our lives. Everything we see. Everything we hear. Everything we experience. Everything we touch.

Filtering our world is a kind of defense mechanism. You can’t focus on everything. You can’t take in all the sensory input or your brain would be overwhelmed. We don’t even pay attention to 1/1000th of what is in front of us. We can’t.

Mindfulness exercises are intended to help your brain to look at things just a little differently. For many people, the exercises consist in stepping out of yourself and trying to understand a different perspective about what’s going on.

Mindfulness exercises ask the question, “What’s actually going on here?” When you open your senses just a tiny bit, there’s a whole new world of experience. You’ll probably never achieve the ability to pay attention to 2/1000ths of what goes on in your world. But the journey from 1/1000 to 2/1000 is amazing.

Many people who meditate do mindfulness exercises every day for decades.

Adding even a little perspective to your world can be a very calming influence on your life.
Remember: You can’t meditate wrong. Relax. Enjoy. Keep at it.

:-)

No tags

Relaxed Girl At Peace Smelling A FlowerI have recently talked to several people who are trying to figure out how to get started with “quiet time” or meditation. So I thought I’d give you my recommendations. There are no hard, fast rules here, so relax and enjoy.

I plan to have several posts on this. So go slow and check back often. Your comments and questions are certainly welcome.

The first thing to keep in mind, if you are new to meditation, is that it’s a skill like anything else. If you haven’t done it before, you need to start somewhere. You need to learn how it feel to sit and do nothing. You need to learn how to listen and stop talking.

If you’re one of those people who always has the TV on, or the iPod, iPad, MP3 player, or some other device that requires you to have ear buds in your ears all the time, you will be particularly challenged.

 

Lesson one is: Be patient with yourself.

You may have heard people say “you can’t do it wrong.” That’s true if you are sincerely trying.

If you are really, truly trying meditation for the first time, I recommend you have get yourself a timer. It can be a kitchen timer or an app on your phone. Set it for one minute. I know that’s not much. But it will seem like forever if you haven’t experienced it before.

Simply sit quietly in a chair, relax, close your eyes, and wait for the minute to pass.

When the timer rings, be aware of your reaction to it. Do you say to yourself, “It’s about time!”? If you do, keep repeating the exercise every day for one minute.

When your reaction becomes “What? Already? I wonder if I set the timer wrong.” – then you are ready to set the timer for two minutes or even three.

 

Next time we’ll look inside your head and talk about some of those thoughts that come up in meditation.

Enjoy!

:-)

No tags

<< Latest posts

Older posts >>

Theme Design by devolux.nh2.me