Inspiration Posts

Finding Hope

Finding Hope

We all have those days that seem to run together with little joy and no real motivation to eat, sleep, work, and repeat. It can feel like being trapped in a cage with no way out.

Life has its ups and downs. We are invincible when we are up and sometimes destitute when things feel down. It doesn’t have to be this way. Our inner strength can see us through, but only if we have built it up. There is so much working against our inner strength muscle, and it can often feel easier to be the victim. There is a way out. The light at the end of the tunnel never goes dark, but our ability to see it sometimes stops working.

Here are some ideas for manifesting hope in our lives.

Turn off the news.

I have said it a thousand times, and I will say it one thousand more! Our parents and society tricked us into thinking we need to watch the news or read the paper. Just stop. Truth be told, you are likely only watching or reading information that supports your beliefs anyway. It is poison in small doses that numbs your ability to hope.

Let somebody know you are thinking about and care about them.

The best way to manifest hope is to offer hope. Giving hope costs you nothing. The fear is your brain saying, “What if they reject me or what will they think of me?” Send a simple text right now to someone you care about. “Hey ______, wanted to let you know I was thinking about you. I hope you are having an awesome day.” Do this every day, and it will change your life.

Get up and move.

Your cardiovascular system needs stress to remain effective. Get up and do something! Walk a few hundred feet, then a few hundred more, and before you know it, you walked a mile. Exercise triggers all types of positive hormones to release. Studies have shown that in many cases, exercise is more effective in treating depression than antidepressant medication. We were meant to move.

Surround yourself with positive people.

Get around people that are hopeful and believe a better future is possible. Positivity is infectious, and negativity is too. If you want to get out of the cage, it is important to get amongst those that roam free. Freedom is hope.

Write it out.

So many of our issues are trapped inside of us. We suppress our problems and unknowingly poison our bodies in the process. Journaling lets them out and helps us to express the feelings trapped inside. It is not the be-all, end-all but is a great way to begin to unlock the cage.

Sit with yourself.

Science has proven that meditation is an effective way to help manage emotions. The goal is release of the constant stress of thoughts. There has been no more effective tool for me to get my emotions in check. I was prone to road rage and childish outbursts while trying to assemble IKEA furniture. I have been practicing meditation for many years now, and my ability to manage my emotions is far better than ever before.

These six practices applied every day will transform your mental well-being. They have helped me reduce my anxiety, emotionally engage with family and friends, focus, and most importantly, enjoy life.

Confidence

Confidence

Confidence is an interesting feeling, an internal manifestation that we allow to be influenced by events that may or may not be in our control. The outcome of these events can impact our confidence positively or negatively with our permission.

One should recalibrate their confidence when they have not adequately prepared. Confidence in the absence of preparation is simply arrogance. Arrogance is ignorance and is too often mistaken for confidence. Arrogance is often born out of a lack of confidence in one’s ability, so the ego takes over to protect its vision of the person. Inside of each person, there is a struggle taking place. It is a struggle between reality and fantasy. Reality is who we are, and fantasy is the story we allow the ego to tell us about ourselves. When the gap between the two becomes too great, bad things begin to happen. When the ego takes over, we will do almost anything to protect the image of ourselves that it has created.

When we live in reality every day, we are more likely to make the changes necessary to get our lives back on track after a derailment. Making the changes and believing in the future is the start of rebuilding our confidence. Without confidence, we spend most of our time seeking validation from external sources – peers, social media, family, etc. I will tell you right now that I believe in you and your ability to figure things out, but my belief is pointless unless you believe in yourself. After a reality check, there are several actions to take and implement in your life that will immediately begin to rebuild your confidence.

Accept your reality.

Forgive yourself and others that have wronged you, and take action. These things alone will make all the difference for you. When we harbor anger, bury guilt, blame others, and deflect responsibility, there is no chance of regaining our confidence. If we accept, forgive, and take action, there is nothing that can stop us long term. It is really a recipe for life.

Start a routine.

Nothing can restore confidence and certainty faster than the discipline of a regular routine. When we know what is next and discipline ourselves to follow a routine, we create space. This space is where we begin to think, and thinking allows us to formulate a plan.  Plans, coupled with actions, build momentum. Momentum in the right direction builds confidence in our ability to change our current situation.

Hone your skills.

Take a class, read a book, listen to a podcast, learn a language. Skill development is another way to build confidence. Dan Sullivan refers to it as the confidence-competence loop. Increased competence can also lead to higher levels of external confidence in your ability. Competence leads to greater trust in your ability from others. While I am not a proponent of relying on external influences to impact your confidence, if the increase is from positive feedback, take it!

Get moving.

Exercise is an amazing confidence booster. Let’s face it; when you don’t feel well, you won’t do well. The discipline of making yourself do something you really don’t want to do is an easy way to build confidence. I recommend finding an accountability partner. Studies have shown that you are 83% more likely to show up when you have a partner counting on you. You can also hire a trainer because they want you to show up too.

Join a community.

Humans are communal creatures. When you are involved in a community that supports you, your confidence will continue to grow with their support. Community is also an opportunity to help others with your knowledge. A word of caution: don’t let your identity get tied up in the community. Community is excellent for validating our ideas and building our confidence, but we must stay grounded in our own reality. Some suggestions for communities include church, networking groups, workshops, seminars, or fitness groups.

Help others.

The fastest way to stop feeling sorry for yourself is to help someone else. The opportunities for contributing in a meaningful way to the lives of others are seemingly infinite. What are you passionate about? What are you willing to support? Who else do you know that is involved in helping others? Reach out and ask them for feedback. Often when we help others, we realize we don’t have it so bad. There is not much that’s better for the soul than the act of helping others.

Just these things can lift the fog of insecurity. From time to time, despair might creep in, but these tools can help overcome the temptation to give up. When your confidence is rocked, don’t shrivel up into a ball on the floor forever. Implement some or all of these suggestions, and your confidence will return stronger than before. Life is a series of tests and trials. The best strategy I am aware of for tackling and overcoming all is to prepare and believe. Always be growing your competence, and your confidence will always be accessible.

What is Your Plan – Part 2

What is Your Plan – Part 2

We have determined what we want our lives to represent, identified our core values, articulated a vision statement, and affirmed our mission. Let’s continue on to discovering our purpose and setting goals!

What is your purpose?

Think of the major components of the planning process this way:  your vision (imagination) is the target or the house on the hill; the mission (action) is what you do to bring the vision to reality, and the purpose (motivation) is why you do what you do! Your purpose is more of an emotional connection to your mission and vision. The purpose is why we serve and often the inspiration for getting us out of bed every morning. When we lose sight of our purpose, we tend to flounder in a fog of dissatisfaction and seek pleasure through other means such as social media, shopping, or any convenient distraction. Having a clear purpose is a component of living a meaningful life. Purpose motivates and inspires you to study your craft, to practice and eventually achieve mastery. After we have cultivated a clear purpose and are living it daily, life takes on an entirely new meaning fueled by a desire to serve and contribute.

My father was depressed for the better part of thirty years. Many years after his retirement, he began to make wooden pen holders for veterans. He started going to the VA every week to hand out his creations, thank the Vets, shake their hands and hear their stories. He found a purpose that makes his life meaningful and motivates him to get out of bed every morning. He has a service-oriented purpose that is icing on the cake because life is no longer all about him.

We have identified what we want our lives to represent and how we want to show up…Now what?

It is time to establish our goals.

Goals serve to advance us toward our vision. They allow us to execute our mission and expand our ability to serve our purpose. A life well-lived is growth oriented. When we look back one, five, or ten years, we want to see our progress. Too often in the human journey, we struggle to get comfortable. “When I get this or when I accomplished this, I will be content with my life.” Then we get the object of our desire only to realize that we are no more content than before we had it. Our lives are lived in the trenches, not on the mountain top. We are the most alive and engaged when we are struggling to grow into who we need to be to reach the next level, and there is always another level! It has been proven that people with written and regularly reviewed goals attain significantly higher degrees of happiness than those who do not.

List all your dreams on a sheet of paper. Ask yourself – Where do you want to live? Where do you want to work? How much do you want to earn? Who do you want to meet? Dream big and don’t settle for small dreams!

Write a few sentences describing why each goal is important for you to pursue and achieve. If your “why” is not strong enough, you will potentially lack the discipline necessary for its pursuit. What skills will you need to acquire in order to achieve this goal?

Keep yourself accountable by posting your goals in a place that you will see every day. You must review and set incremental goals to help you move closer to achieving your dreams. If you have a setback, recalibrate your goals to match the situation and continue the pursuit.

We are meant to be challenged because that is how we learn to live. Every living thing seeks growth. How tall will a tree grow? As tall as it can, of course.

 

What is Your Plan – Part 1

What is Your Plan – Part 1

There is a great deal to contemplate, decide, and execute when planning a family trip. What if we used the same framework, intentionality, and effort necessary for planning a vacation and used it in the planning of our lives? What if we made the same effort to visualize our future and defined the steps necessary to realize our desired future? In general, planning a vacation is fun and filled with anticipation. Planning our lives should be no different, and if your plan is in your head but not written out, it is not a plan, only a dream. Planning without pen and paper is easy, feels good, and will likely never come to fruition because it lacks commitment.

Planning for your life requires a great deal of mental energy and time. Unfortunately, we have a number of distractions that often prevent us from doing the deep work necessary for planning a life. It is overwhelming to keep up with the social feed, favorite shows, daily activities, and work! None of these distractions will help you to live a more intentional life.

Planning a life is very similar to planning your next vacation. Here are the steps:

Determine what your life will represent.

The best method I have come across for identifying what your life represented is to write your eulogy. Many people recoil when we first discuss this process of writing our eulogy. The journey to self-discovery begins with determining what you want your life to have represented. Writing our eulogy creates a clear vision of how we need to show up each day. Four simple questions answered intentionally can alter the course of a person’s life. Write your answers out in detail.

How will my family describe my life? 

How will my friends remember me? 

How will my coworkers remember me? 

Am I living these answers today or do I need to make some changes to begin living these answers?  

Detailing answers to these questions will offer great insight into how you need to be showing up in the world. The eulogy exercise is especially profound if you discover that how you are currently showing up in the relationships that matter most to you is not consistent with how you want to show up based on what you wrote. The final question in the exercise connects the future with the reality of the present by comparing who you are today with who you want to be at the end of your life. If you are not representing who you want to be in the future, what changes should you make to help you be more consistent with how you want to show up? Take a minute to identify three or four simple changes you could make in your life today to help ensure that you show up in a more meaningful way for those that matter most in your life.

Planning a life takes significantly more mental energy than planning a vacation. Quite simply, that is why most people don’t accept the responsibility or take on the challenge. It is hard work, and it often requires addressing some unpleasant realities. Can you be honest with yourself?

Identify your core values.

Define the qualities of character that will inspire you to show up each day representing the best version of you. Create a list of your core values (Integrity, Responsibility, Humor, Confidence, Flexibility, Mindfulness, Humility, etc.). To be the best possible version of ourselves, we first need to determine how we desire to show up in the world! Establishing our core values in our mind is equivalent to building a strong foundation for a house.

Articulate your vision statement.

A vision statement is your description of your life well lived. It is your view from the top of the mountain. A vision should certainly be aspirational but also always achievable. It should also be in alignment with the eulogy and core values that you developed earlier in the planning process. It should inspire you to show up as the best version of you. You will write it in the present tense because you are living it today (“I have”, or “I am”). Study after study has proven that the world seems to align itself to help people with a clear vision of their future. Make sure to use precise language to describe your vision. Where do you want to go? Your vision should take you there!

What is your mission?

The mission is the plan for getting to the top of the mountain. If the vision statement is the view from the top of the mountain, the mission is how you will get there. Your mission statement represents how you want to show up every day to live your best life and be the best version of you.

Here is my personal mission as an example: Put first my family, my friends and my spiritual beliefs in all my decisions without compromising the qualities of character most important to me (core values), while continually increasing my knowledge, improving my health, improving my community, improving my relationships and improving my country.

Parental Vision

Parental Vision

Each morning, I take a few minutes to write a paragraph about someone or something I am grateful for in my life. Recently, I wrote about how grateful I am to be a father. I asked myself how I could be a better father and what my children should expect of me. It occurred to me that I had not been intentional about the values and qualities of character I most desired to develop in my children. So I started writing and came up with 11 values and qualities that resonated with me. My reason for sharing these qualities with you is to inspire you to take the time to write down the qualities of character you most hope to inspire in your children. The next level is to intentionally role model those qualities every day for your children.

Unusual Kindness

I want my daughters to have a big heart and a strong desire to help others. I wish to inspire them to embody the essence of kindness and generosity toward others. I want their kindness to shine through in every action they take.

Self Confidence

I want my daughters to believe in themselves. I believe this to be especially important for girls. Society seems to be one big judgment machine, and without a strong sense of self, they can easily be crushed under its pressure. When they are confident in who they are, they will not obsess over others’ opinions but always seek the truth. This is my hope for them.

Persistence

Living a life that matters takes effort. Effort equals work. To create anything of value takes time and effort. Persistence is critical to value creation and maximum contribution.

Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is difficult because our ego gets in the way of an honest assessment. It requires that we point the finger at ourselves. We also call this self-awareness. A key question for them to be asking themselves is, “How am I showing up?”. Add kindness to this, and the question becomes, “How am I showing up for others?”.

Thrift

They should understand money and the importance of thrift in its use. Saving is way more important than spending. Others will most likely tease them about their strong desire to save, but they will stay the course. Thrift throughout life can help ensure their long-term independence and improve their ability to contribute at a higher level later in life!

Gratitude

I want them to begin each day with gratitude for what they have in their lives to help set their intention for the day. When we appreciate the blessings in our lives, it will help eliminate envy, jealousy, spite, discontent, greed, and other poisonous emotions. They should also give gratitude freely and understand that offering gratitude to others takes nothing from them and ultimately makes the world a better place.

Personal Growth

My hope for my daughters is that they have a strong desire to learn and grow. Ignorance is not bliss. Seeking wisdom each day will keep them progressing in their lives and allow them to avoid wasting countless hours on social media obsessing over others’ lives instead of focusing on bettering their own.

True Friendship

In true friendship, we demonstrate love, kindness, gratitude, and growth. I want my daughters to build their friendships on a strong foundation of mutual respect. Too often, we mistake friendship with “commiserationships,” which are built on a shallow foundation that often crumbles when challenged or when a disagreement arises. Run from commiserationships because they serve no one except the egos of those commiserating. Seek positive and meaningful friendships in all areas of your life.

Healthy Skepticism

I want my daughters to think on their own. They take in others’ words without rebuttal, process without judgment, and conclude on their own evaluation. Their actions and beliefs are the product of their own conclusion.

Personal Well-Being

To bring the most of who they are to the world, they should feel great mentally and physically. I want to teach them the importance of diet and exercise and moderation in all things. They should also be able to regulate their mental health through regular meditation and not obsessing over their thoughts. In other words, diminishing the ego by paying attention to their thoughts and recognizing that these are only thoughts and not necessarily reality. Our minds trick us far more frequently than people.

Happiness

I want my daughters to recognize that happiness is a choice independent of their circumstances. The pursuit of success at the expense of happiness will lead to depression and dissatisfaction. Success and happiness should be parallel paths through the journey of life.

 

My challenge to you right now is to grab a pen and paper. Write down the values and qualities of character you desire most to instill in your children, marriage, community, church, and friendships. If we are all more intentional with how we serve as parents, in our relationships, and in our communities, the world will be better for it!

See People – Part 2

See People – Part 2

Here are some ideas to consider when you are struggling to connect with people at home, at work, or in your community:

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Empathy is the foundation for the outward mindset. When we take the time to understand what another person is experiencing, our perspective of them can begin to shift. Understanding and perspective are fundamental to human connection. People with an outward mindset have high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ). The best definition I have found to describe EQ is as follows: “The capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions, to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.” Let’s break this definition down.

  • Perceiving emotion is about recognizing emotions that are arising in others and understanding their meaning. Understanding and detecting one’s emotional state is another crucial component of perceiving emotions. Developing the ability to recognize the feelings of others is an essential aspect of human connection. For example, people with autism are unable to pick up visual cues from another person that offers insight as to a person’s emotional state. The narcissist also struggles with picking up the emotional signals of others because they are so obsessed with their feelings and emotions. Perception of emotions is what makes using, understanding, and managing them possible.
  • Using Emotions (according to Wikipedia) is the ability to harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities, such as thinking and problem-solving. People with EQ will change activities depending on their moods to optimize performance.
  • Understanding emotions (according to Wikipedia) is the ability to comprehend emotion in language and to appreciate complicated relationships among emotions. People with high EQ are like emotional ninjas thanks to their ability to discern between various emotions.
  • Managing emotions involves having the ability to leverage positive or negative emotions to achieve the desired outcome.

The outward mindset is the ultimate expression of EQ. EQ makes it about the other person, as does the outward mindset.

Consider that they are just like you.

When we harness the power of humility, grace, emotional intelligence, forgiveness, and lead with pure intent, our relationships begin to flourish. Many people have intuitively discovered this truth. We are all fundamentally the same. Consider this: genetically, every person is made up of 99.9% of the same stuff. Our bodies are made up of over 3 billion base pairs, and 99.9% are the same amongst each and all of us. Why are we obsess our differences versus living in awe of the similarities? When I was in 8th grade, I had an opportunity to interview a neighbor of mine, Ernie Jones. He said, “We all put our pants on one leg at a time.” That phrase has stuck with me all of these years, yet I often catch myself obsessing over our differences versus living in wonder & awe of how much we are alike. We are all unique but yet mostly all the same. The person you are angry, disappointed, or frustrated with has dreams and aspirations just like you. They want to be appreciated, acknowledged, validated, and justified, just like you. To see people requires that we recognize that their hopes, dreams, and desires take nothing away from us. We should seek to serve them and enhance their lives in a way that helps them succeed. The outward mindset allows us to see people as people. It allows us to connect a deeper level with family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. The person on the sidewalk asking for spare change is just like us. They are a person with dreams and aspirations. The least we can do is recognize that they are human. Our enemies are human. Our competitors are human. Significant cultural differences make it difficult to acknowledge another person, but the outward mindset will establish humanity as the baseline for all of our interactions. The best way to begin to see people as people is to ask ourselves questions. Here are some questions to consider asking ourselves:

  • What are this person’s needs, fears, objectives, and challenges? When we acknowledge the needs, concerns, goals, and challenges of others, we begin to see our similarities versus our differences. Overcoming our selfish (inward) tendencies that lead us to focus on our differences is necessary for us to start seeing people as people. The inward mindset prevents us from experiencing the reality of others because acknowledging others might take away from us.
  • If you are becoming emotional about another person, ask yourself: From where are these emotions arising? Why am I feeling this way? The goal of this question is to help us determine what inside of us is causing our emotional distress. Emotional responses are almost always a result of our issues versus the issues of the other person. We see in others a reflection of ourselves, and we recoil in response. We make it about us. Anger is always about us. We project it onto others, but the reality is that it is still about us.
  • How is my heart? I realize this sounds soft, but the condition of the heart during our interactions with others will have a significant impact on how we express ourselves. If we are inwardly focused, our heart will likely be closed and self-serving. If we are outwardly focused, we are going to readily empathize with others and see them as people with needs, challenges, and objectives.

In every interaction, you are either building a relationship or eroding it. Seeing people as people requires attention and intention. You will need to offer your undivided attention to hear them and understand their needs.  You intentionally consider their objectives, challenges, and needs versus your objectives, challenges, and needs. How can I help this person, or how can I better serve this person? Seeing people as people is not weak, but a demonstration of our strength. To see takes nothing from us but adds or enhances our lives.

Who have you not been seeing because you have been focused on your needs, challenges, and objectives? How can you show up differently for that person and begin to heal the relationship?

Thanks to The Arbinger Institute for helping me learn to see people as people during The Outward Mindset Training.