Personal Development Posts

Unconscious World

Unconscious World

The unconscious world is a world driven by external forces, where people act on impulse and desire. Are you unconscious? The disturbing aspect of unconsciousness is that we have difficulty seeing it for ourselves. Society has trained us to look outside of ourselves for validation and personal satisfaction. Doting parents condition their children to believe the world exists to serve them.
Unconscious people use the past as a justification for reprehensive behavior. All in the name of revenge and retribution. Why? Unconscious people don’t see other people as people. They see others as irrelevant or obstacles to getting what they want. These people are unaware of how their actions impact others because they don’t care.

Empathy

We live in a world filled with people that seem incapable of empathizing with another person. Either you are with them or against them, and there is no middle ground. Ignorance reigns supreme amongst the unconscious. Allow me to clarify; these can be smart people. They are just emotionally ignorant and lack any ability to empathize with an opinion that differs from theirs.

Unconscious people thrive on the polarization that allows them to express their emotions. Unconscious people are ripe with self-righteousness and demand unilateral solutions to their grievances. Anything less than exacting pain and discomfort on their enemies is unacceptable. On the other hand, they demand your compassion and understanding. The unconscious only advocate for their cause, and most of their cause is themselves. Revenge, envy, jealousy, anger, and hatred direct their energy.

Unconscious people are everywhere. They teach our children in school, make and enforce our laws, run businesses, sit in prisons, treat the sick, and share their ideas on social media and other outlets. How do I know? Because I am one of them. I get sucked up into the social narrative intended to facilitate unconscious acts.

The media wants you to remain unconscious so that your emotions direct your attention. They seek to continually stimulate your emotions under the guise of sharing information. The media is the de-facto head of the unconscious society. Politicians also want an unconscious society as they seek to increase their power. They want to be reelected and will tell the unconscious society what it wants to hear to stay in control. While in power, they advocate mainly on their own behalf claiming otherwise. Corporations also thrive in an unconscious society and its never-ending quest for validation. Luckily for corporations, the most natural path for validation is by shopping. Unconscious people try to spend their way to happiness. Happiness is not possible for unconscious people because they are externally focused. Real happiness is an internal manifestation.

Conscious Living

Conscious people have cultivated an ability to understand their feelings and emotions. They also understand how their responses to external stimuli can affect those over which they have influence. Validation isn’t important for them because they are at peace with who they are and are clear on what matters to them. Conscious people accept 100% responsibility for their actions. When they make a mistake, they are the first to raise their hand. They go out of their way to make it right because they are principle drivers versus emotional drivers.

People that wake up from their unconsciousness see the world as it is. They develop an awareness that helps them in every aspect of their lives. Conscious people develop genuine relationships based on truth and trust. They can create healthier relationships because they know themselves. They avoid running from reality or making up stories about their partner to validate their importance.

How do we transition from conscious to unconscious?

The overwhelming majority of society remains unconscious their entire lives. They grow up, marry, raise children, and die without ever realizing consciousness. Unconscious people tend to live conditional lives. Meaning their happiness is subject to certain conditions being met.

Choose Consciousness

The only way to achieve long-term happiness is through conscious living. Consciousness is so difficult because we have been conditioned by unconscious behavior in an unconscious world. We have developed a codependent relationship with all things, including relationships, work, politics, sports teams, and material stuff. Who we are is dependent on how others perceive us, how others treat us, who we know, what we do, and all that we possess. The reality is that none of the criteria we use to measure worth has a single thing to do with who we are. We run from who we are. Our society has trained us to believe that satisfying ourselves is selfish. We are expected to prove our worth through sacrifice. The expectation is that you delay your happiness in the service of society. The result is a world filled with misery.

Unconditional happiness is only possible by removing conditions on which we have previously based our happiness. The transition is incredibly difficult because we cling to our identity. That which defined us in the past must be cast aside once we wake up.

Consciousness is living in reality and accepting it as it is. I am not suggesting a passive approach to our existence. It is possible to be fully alive and engaged as a conscious person. Conscious people set goals and strive just as unconscious people do. The difference is they are not attached to the outcome of their efforts. The fact that they are not attached to the outcome allows them to enjoy the pursuit instead of suffering the results. Conscious people realize that they only control their own attitude, responses, efforts, and inputs. That is it—nothing more and nothing less.

Leadership and Parenting

Leadership and Parenting

Leadership and parenting have very similar definitions. Let’s take a look:

Tough Decisions

All decisions have consequences, but tough decisions have implications that impact lives beyond our own. Tough decisions involve others and likely will not be popular because they will require the near-term pain of change. Parents might decide to pull their child out of their current school and put them into a different learning environment. The reasons could be for academics or peer shifts. The easy answer is the status quo. No change. As a parent who wants to lead, the decision to change will be difficult. As a leader, the decision must be made to give the child their best chance for their future.

As a business example, let’s say there is a company division that has been underperforming. This division is no longer part of the core business, and efforts to get it on track have not worked out. The division employs 50 people whose families rely on the salaries, and it has been a significant part of the business for 30 years. The decision to exit the business preserves the core and will free up resources to invest in new products. The consequences are far-reaching.

Walk the Talk

As a leader and a parent, we are being watched. None of our actions will go unnoticed. As parents, we explain the importance of not consuming alcohol and driving, but we go to dinner, have a beer, and then drive the family home. This does not go unnoticed. Society is vigilant about sniffing out hypocrisy, and kids are particularly keen to calling it out.

You receive the bill for your dinner and, upon review, notice items are missing. These are the ultimate leadership moments because you can act with integrity or pretend you missed the error. Ultimate leadership is acting quickly to let the server know about the error. Your family is watching you, and this act will earn greater trust and teach them the importance of honesty, even if it costs you.

When you are a leader in your company and are alerted to an issue involving a customer, how will you respond? Will you be fair in your dealings or pursue the greatest advantage for your business? The employees are watching, and they know what is appropriate and what is not. Active in the best interest of all parties, and you will earn trust.

Extend Trust

Leadership and parenting require an extension of trust. We must first train them through instruction and example. We most often miss the need to instruct. As parents and leaders, we mistakenly think our example should be enough. This is a critical mistake because the instructor will offer the details necessary to understand the action’s nuances.

After employees and kids have instruction and example, it is essential to allow them to practice.  This requires the extension of trust. From an overnight stay with friends, to Spring break. From opening the store on their own, to managing the negotiation. The ultimate leadership is allowing the people we lead to operate on their own. As leaders, we must prepare them and then trust them to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.

Don’t Be Fooled

Recently, I had an experience at my church with a pastor I believed to be a strong leader. He had written books on leading or about other leaders he had experience within his life. He led the church for nearly forty years and built it to multiple campuses and 14,000 members. One day, he didn’t show up. It was abrupt and confusing. The campus pastors explained they were working on getting him back for a final sermon, but he refused. As church members, we were bewildered. It was like a parent leaving for work one morning and never coming home—no message or explanation. The children are left to speculate as to what has happened. It turns out, he left to start another family because the family he had built was not growing up as he desired. He decided to take his ball and leave. This is not how real leadership works. Let’s break this situation down further.

Tough Decisions – Do you remember when the Baltimore Colts left in the middle of the night to move to Indianapolis? That was an easy decision because it had the fewest consequences. Leaving a church membership high and dry without explanation was the easy decision and had the least consequences. This meant it was about him and not a leadership decision.

Walk the Talk – This pastor was always a straight shooter. He told us the right way to serve, and the wrong way to serve. When it was his turn to walk the talk, he walked without the talk. This was the most surprising aspect of his departure. No real explanation was offered to the thousands of members, not even a not on the door. Leaders won’t walk without helping to explain the situation.

Extend Trust – It must be difficult to build a large organization and maintain total control. Clearly, he did a great job of extending trust to others. His extension of trust allowed the church to grow beyond his expectations. Maybe his team began to take the lead on decisions that were not consistent with his desires. This could certainly cause frustration, but is he a figurehead or a leader? Leaders listen to the members and make tough decisions about the direction that is best for the organization. When the leader makes it about themselves, they have failed the organization.

Leadership & parenting – one and the same.

A Life Well-Lived

A Life Well-Lived

A life well-lived has the following components:

Vision

It all starts with a vision. The new house, new business, new relationships, and new career all begin with a vision. Unfortunately, for most, the vision fades as the work begins. Progress is slower than initially expected, or resistance to the new philosophy is greater than anticipated.

The best strategy for creating a vision is to write it out in detail. Capture exactly what it looks like when completed. What color are the shutters? How much revenue? How many lives will be touched? How will the business survive? What will be unique or create distinction? How long will it take? What will it feel like to bring the vision to life? Capture emotions, detailed images, impact, time frame, who, how, and what to help bring the vision to life. Break it up into subheadings, with each having a description of how they fit the bigger vision. Don’t underestimate the power of a clear vision. The biggest businesses, charitable organizations, personalities, countries, and communities, started with someone’s vision.

Intentional Growth

Ideally, our vision will require us to develop skills or a level of mastery we have not yet achieved. This is different than growth for the sake of growth or more for the sake of more. Intentional growth will allow us to deliver greater value. When we deliver greater value, we move closer to our vision. Humans are wired to deliver value in service. Unfortunately, the wires often get crossed and we look to get more from life. The question becomes, “what am I getting here?” This is a very difficult outlook and will take us further from our vision. The questions should be “what am I becoming here” and “is it helping me to progress toward my vision?”

Intentional growth is the development of skills required or necessary to help us progress toward our vision. When writing our vision, it is important to consider the person we will need to become in order to achieve these goals. What modality will you use to develop the skills? Will it be a class, book, seminar, mentor program, or coaching that helps to hone your skills? The technique or learning mode will vary depending on the skill you are developing, but having clarity is key to act and progress.

Meaningful Relationships

Humans are social creatures. Connection in community is our heritage. Again, we turn to vision as a tool to gain clarity about the relationships we desire to manifest in our lives. Ask yourself the following questions:

How will my relationships be with my family, friends, colleagues, and community?

How will I bring hope to their lives?

How will I lead them or be an example of how to show up?

What values will we hold and honor together?

How will we feel about each other?”

How will my relationships grow with time?

How will I honor them and show up for them? 

Health

People that don’t feel well, don’t do well. We need strength to carry the load. We need stamina to maintain the journey. We need mental clarity to stay focused. Health is a must for bringing our vision to life. We will feel better and think better as a result of consuming the proper foods. Get up and move. You don’t need to run a marathon, but how about taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Park far away from the door and walk. Healthy practices will give you the energy necessary to bring your vision to reality.

Rest

When we are in pursuit of more, it can be so difficult to stop. It has been discovered that one of the keys to breakthrough is stepping away from the pursuit. Taking time off to enjoy others, travel, relax, or otherwise do nothing is fundamental to facilitating greater creativity. Again we turn to vision. Plan your rest. Where will you be? Who will be with you? How will it feel? Retreat to silence as often as possible. Sip coffee on your porch and listen to the birds or the rain. Stop for a moment to contemplate your life. Be intentional in your rest and recreation, and your battery will retain its original capacity for your creativity to reach new heights.

 

The pursuit of your ideal life starts with a vision. We can create a vision for all aspects of our lives; family, relationships, work, health, and rest. A life lived-well will include growth and meaningful relationships. It will be in the quiet times that we assess our current situation to determine if we are on or off track. It is during the quiet times that we revise our vision or course correct. Why wouldn’t we be intentional about our lives?

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.