Take in the Experience

I love to hike, and since I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I’m fortunate to get a large dose of natural scenic beauty on a regular basis.  My favorite hiking destinations are the ones that reward hikers for their effort with a commanding view and breathtaking scenery.  Starting early in the morning on a challenging hike to a much anticipated viewpoint is one of my favorite ways to spend a day.  The anticipation of the view and then finally seeing it with my own eyes is exhilarating.  For me, it’s one of those events that make me thankful to be alive.

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

One thing I’ve noticed about myself in recent years is that when I reach one of these viewpoints, I immediately begin taking pictures of the scene.  Depending on the view, I can easily take over 100 pictures in my attempt to capture the beautiful scene before me.  I don’t want to miss a single detail!

Inevitably, after several minutes at my feverish picture-taking pace, I begin to hear a voice inside of me saying, “Hey, enough pictures.  Just stop, and take in the experience.”

At that point I put the camera away and just take in the experience with all of my senses.  I literally feast my eyes on the scene before me, noticing shapes, colors, contrasts and myriad other details that I had missed while seeing it through the screen of a digital camera.  I listen to the whooshing sound of the wind as it blows through the tops of pine trees or across the face of a rock-exposed mountain.  I hear the unique sound that a river makes as water curls over a rock and collapses back on itself.  There are also the tactile feelings and fresh smells of the surrounding environment that make for a complete experience.  All of these things I would have missed, had I continued taking pictures.

Those hiking experiences always cause me to wonder what else I may be missing out on in my non-hiking life when I don’t stop and take in the experience.  Where am I busily rushing around, forgetting to stop and enjoy the surrounding environment, event, or people I’m with?  Hiking is good for me in that respect.  It provides me with a mental reset, a reminder to be mindful about taking in the experience, no matter what I’m doing.

What about you?  Are there areas of your life where your too busy “taking pictures” that you’re forgetting to stop and take in the experience?  Start becoming mindful about what you’re doing and who you’re with.  Decide now that although you’ll take some pictures along the way, you’ll also be sure to put the camera down and take in the experience as well.


How to Get Unstuck

Sometimes I get stuck.  Occasionally, I’ll have a goal I’m working toward, but then I find myself getting stalled out and not making minimal to zero progress for a few days or even weeks.  It’s frustrating! What I’ve discovered recently is that there is an actual force that keeps us from moving forward.  That force is called resistance.

Resistance is anything that distracts us and takes our mind and effort away from moving toward our goals.  Steven Pressfield field wrote a great book about resistance titled Do the Work.  I read this book last week and it was eye-opening to see the role resistance plays in my own life.  The biggest take-away from this book was to be aware of when resistance is blocking my efforts.  When I’m aware of the presence of resistance, I can recognize it for what it is and begin to take steps to push through.

Pushing through resistance is actually fun, as well as motivating, because when I do, it feels like I’m making real progress toward my goals.  The following are some ways you can push through resistance:

  • See the big picture.  Know where it is that you want your goals to take you and have a clear picture of what that looks like.
  • Know why you want to achieve your goal.  Are you frustrated by your current situation, or feel like you need to be doing something better suited to how you are geared?  Whatever the reason, be mindful of it.  Always know the why behind the goal.
  • Understand the cost of not taking action.  Know that nothing will change until you cause something to happen.  No action = no result!  Are you OK if nothing changes?
  • Determine what steps you can take today.  It doesn’t have to be a large step.  Even a small step in the right direction is still a step in the right direction.
  • Just do something!  Commit to taking action every day, whether you feel like it or not.
  • Be motivated by the progress.  After you’ve strung a few days of successful progress together, look back to see how far you’ve come.  Be motivated by the progress and commit that you will not break the chain of daily progress.  You are not required to do everything in a single day, just plan on doing something every day.

It’s now time to punch resistance in the face with clear vision and by taking action on a continual daily basis.  What are you waiting for?  All that separates you from your goal is a thin veil of resistance.  Start punching through today.


A Great Place for Having Ideas

One thing I really like about ideas is how they seem to come out of nowhere.  Think about it, one second your mind is empty, and the very next second, it produces this great new idea that was not in your possession the second before.  I’m amazed and marvel at the brain’s capacity to function like this.

I’m also amazed at the brain’s capacity to quickly forget a great idea.  I’ve often had a great thought and said to myself, “I’ll remember that later and … (insert whatever task I’d do with the idea).”  It makes sense at the time.  The idea is so clear and vivid at that moment, it seems extremely unlikely that I’ll forget what it is.  However, when “later” comes and I attempt to recall the idea, it’s gone.  How can I cause something to happen with a new idea I can’t even remember?  That’s so frustrating!

Earlier this week I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcast with guest David Allen, productivity expert and author of Getting Things Done.  In the podcast he was talking about getting things out of your head an on paper or in a computer.  Somewhere, anywhere other than keeping them in your head, because if you’re trying to remember something you’re using up brain capacity that could otherwise be used for thinking, or focusing on the task you’re currently engaged in.

He made a comment that really resonated with me:  “Your head is for having ideas, not holding them.”

That makes so much sense to me, and has proven true when I’ve applied this principle in my own life.  When I want to recall a fact, event, book I want to buy or read, or any other such piece of information, I’m far more likely to remember it if I get it out of my head and into some other medium like a notepad, application, calendar, or piece of software.  Once I have it out of my head and somewhere else, where I can get to it again, my mind is freed up from thinking (or worrying) about it and can focus on other, more important things.

Hearing David Allen’s quote has caused me to be extra mindful about getting things out of my head in order to turn my mind loose on what it’s better suited for, such as thinking and generating ideas, rather than simply using it for lower level tasks that a sticky note or calendar can perform much better.

Pay attention this week to ideas, thoughts, or events you have that you need to get out of your head and captured somewhere else.  When ideas occur, capture them immediately and develop a system so you can go back and spend some time with them later.  I suspect you’ll be amazed at the treasure your mind regularly produces.

A Routine Tune Up

I think routines we perform intentionally can be good things.  I mean really, who’s going to argue against the routine of saving and investing a portion of your earnings, or of exercising on a regular basis?  We intentionally establish and, almost automatically, execute these routines because we’re expecting a positive result from doing so.  However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t occasionally hold our routines up to examination.

It is important to regularly review our routines to make sure that they are still yielding the results we expect, otherwise, why should we continue following them?  For example, take exercising or going to the gym.  Sure, you may be working out several days a week, but are you still seeing the results you were striving for when you first began the routine?  You are repeatedly investing your time in the routine, right?  Are you getting the return you expect from the time you’ve invested?

Just because a routine is done for the right reason doesn’t mean that it is exempt from the need for review and scrutiny to see if changes need to be made.  Continuing to use the example of exercising, perhaps that routine needs to incorporate some new exercises or maybe some additional knowledge or perspective is needed from a coach, trainer, or book.  If we’re going to invest the time and effort into following a routine, shouldn’t we strive to get the best results possible?

Changing an established routine can be difficult when the routine has become comfortable and familiar.  The awkwardness of changing can cause us to revert back to the familiarity of our unproductive old routines. (I’m currently experiencing this struggle as I’m changing up my exercise routine and confronting the awkwardness and discomfort that goes with trying something new.)

What about you?  Are there currently some good routines in your life that could use a tune up?  Are you in a routine where you’re trying to cause something to happen, but not getting the results you want?  If so, here’s a simple process that might be helpful:

  1. Examine what parts of your routine require a tune up.
  2. Determine the specific changes needed that would improve your routine to the point you will achieve the results you desire.

As you face the awkwardness of changing up a familiar routine, keep the following 2 thoughts in mind to avoid slipping back into your old routine:

  1. Keep a clear picture of your end goal in mind.  What’s the reason behind the change you’re making?
  2. Remind yourself that if you’re going to maintain a good routine, you should expect to get the greatest return for the investment of your time.

But don’t stop there!  Continue to evaluate your routines on an ongoing basis to ensure you’re getting the return you expect.  As you make improvements to your routines, be on the lookout for the benefits and positive results that will follow.  They won’t be hard to find.

They’re Automatic

They’re unproductive, they come out of nowhere, and there seems to be an endless supply of them.  And, if you’re not careful, they’ll move in, get comfortable, and be your constant companion.

I’m talking about the negative thoughts that crop up in our minds.  They can be rather insidious, showing up with little notice and focusing our attention away from the good and productive things in life.  It’s scary to me how negative thoughts automatically appear.  All we have to do is let our guard down and they show up and begin to take root.  It underscores the importance of being constantly aware of the thoughts we’re thinking.

The best thing we can do to keep our thoughts in check is to be mindful of what we’re thinking throughout the day.  When we become aware of a negative thought we’re having, we need to cause something to happen and stop the thought and not give it another moment of our attention.  Some helpful ways I’ve found for flushing out a negative thought is to:

  • Replace it with a positive one
  • Say out loud, “I will not think like this!”
  • Pray

I’ve had plenty of experience using all 3 methods.

The longer we allow negative thoughts free reign in our minds, the longer we allow our minds to be poisoned by them.  What’s so dangerous about letting negative thoughts run free is that they will ultimately affect our thinking, which will affect our attitude, outlook and behavior.  Our minds are too valuable to let the decay of negative thought take hold.  Are minds should be guarded like the valuable treasures that they are.

Here’s a challenge for the next 7 days:  Pay attention to the thoughts you’re thinking and instantly squash any that are negative or self-defeating.  After the 7 days are up, continue for another 7 days.  Repeat this process so long as you have a pulse.

Take the challenge offered above and begin uprooting negative thoughts from your mind.  By removing negative thoughts, you’ll be setting the stage to for your mind to flourishing with productive thoughts; thoughts that can change your life for the better.

Do the Things That Are Easy to Do

We tend to think greatness and big achievements come from huge effort and doing things that are hard to do.  Actually, the effort and degree of difficulty it takes to achieve something significant is usually quite small… and easy.  More important than the degree of effort, is the consistency of the small effort that’s put forth doing the things that are easy to do.

Suppose we have a goal of losing 20lbs.  There is not Herculean effort you can make in one day that would enable you to lose those pounds.  Instead, what’s required is doing things that are easy to do, and then doing them on a consistent basis over a period of time, like eating smaller portions, drinking fewer sugary beverages, and getting your heart rate up every day.  These aren’t difficult things to do. In fact, they are rather easy!  What we need is to do them every day and we are practically guaranteed to see results, as long as we are consistent.

The results may not come not come right away.  In the beginning, it may not feel like your efforts are even making a difference.  However, if we consistently do these easy things, we will begin to see results.  Probably sooner than we think!

The problem is that these small things that are easy to do are also easy NOT to do.  It’s easy not to exercise.  It’s also easy not to have a glass of water, but to have a soda instead.  The truth is that you won’t really notice if you exercise or not… at least today.  However, after several months or years of drinking soda instead of water and failing to exercise, you will notice.

The point is that the things we need to do to cause something to happen that we desire in our lives, like lose weight, build wealth, start a business, or improve our relationships, are actually quite easy.  They just need to be done consistently over a period of time.

What easy things do you need to begin doing consistently over time in order to take your life in the direction you want to go?  What would you be able to achieve by doing so?

For more on this topic, I’d recommend reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.  The concept and principles are so simple and so effective.  We need only apply them to see significant results.

Unnecessary Roadblocks

I’m surprised at how easily I can unknowingly put limits on myself that rob me of the opportunity to engage in new life experiences.  For example, when someone presents me with an opportunity to try something new, or to take a course of action that is different from my normal mode of operation, occasionally, before I finish thinking about it, I hear my own voice telling the other person why it won’t work or why it’s a bad idea.  Sometimes this occurs seemingly automatic.  This is not a tendency that I want to take root and become a habit in my life.

Why do we put limits on ourselves lives this?  Living out of fear, playing it safe, or staying in our comfort zone is no way to live a vibrant, fulfilling life we desire.

I’m becoming very mindful of this tendency in my life.  So now,  when I recognize it, I immediately acknowledge it and purposely examine my response to determine if it is coming out of fear or a desire to stay within my comfort zone, versus a legitimate concern.  If it’s a legitimate concern, I act accordingly.  However, if I find I’m acting out of fear or complacency, I’ve begun asking myself what I’m afraid of, or why I’m so reluctant to say yes.  I also remind myself that I’m someone who likes to shake up the routine, and here is a great opportunity to do so.

I also realize that this tendency has caused me to miss out on some experiences I probably would have enjoyed.  As I look back, I’ve always been glad when I’ve gone against this tendency of putting unnecessary limits on myself.  And each time I do, my resolve becomes stronger to continue to do so in the future.

Is this a tendency you occasionally face?  If so, be on the lookout for it, so when it occurs, you can cause something to happen by stopping yourself from placing unnecessary roadblocks on your path to the abundant life.

Evaluating Our Routines

Routines are nice because they bring order, structure, and even comfort to our lives.  They help us achieve our goals like exercise or mastery of a particular topic by providing the daily discipline to move ahead in these areas.  Routines also come in the form of who we hang out with, the places we go, and what we do with our free time.  Much like habits, routines occur without a lot of thought on our part.  They happen almost automatically.  That’s a good thing when our routines move us in a positive direction.

Have you ever considered though, that perhaps your routines are holding you back?  Is there a goal you want to achieve that you just can’t get traction on?  Maybe you’re considering a life change, but can’t see exactly how you’ll make it happen.  Perhaps what is required is a change to one or more of your routines.

Several years ago I heard the comment that if you want to do something big or different with your life, your future is going to have to look completely different from your past.  This is absolutely true.  What we’ve done with our lives so far has brought us to where we are today.  However, if we aspire to do something different with our lives, it will undoubtedly require changing our routines, either by adding new ones or removing old routines that no longer add the value required to move ahead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we need to jettison all our current routines and start anew.  Some routines are good and should be kept because they bring satisfaction and joy to our lives.  However, in our pursuit to cause something to happen, we should evaluate those routines that no longer align with the direction we’ve charted and either adjust them so they can help take us where we want to go, or discontinue them.

What direction have you charted for your life?  What goals and aspirations are you currently pursuing?  Do you currently have any routines in your life that are a barrier, or make it difficult to move ahead with your goals?  If so, seriously examine your current routines and determine how they can be altered to better serve you, whether you should stop doing them, or if there are new routines you need to employ.

Changing our routines may seem like a tough thing to do, but it is crucial if we desire different outcomes than we are currently experiencing.  Be bold and spend some time this week honestly evaluating your current routines and any potential changes to them that may be required.  The achievement of your goals and the life you desire depends on it.