Enough

The topic of “enough” has been a recurring theme this week.  Whether it’s what we have, what we do, or what we are, there seems to be this sense that it’s never enough.  I would argue the contrary:  We have enough, we do enough, and we are enough.

I think the sense of “not enough” comes from our own unrealistic expectations.  The seeds of these expectations sprout from many sources, including:

  • Advertisements showing all the things we supposedly need, and lack, in order to be happy.
  • Unkind comments (intentional or otherwise) from people around to us.
  • Societal and cultural definitions of success.
  • Comparisons we make between our own worst experiences and someone else’s highlight reel.
  • Expectations placed on us by others or ourselves.

When we focus our thoughts on unmet expectations, how can we feel anything other than inadequate, or that we are missing something?  How could we possibly have the satisfied sense of enough?

Fortunately, we can change our perspective!  Instead of focusing on our unmet expectations we can choose to:

  • Appreciate and enjoy where we are right now.
  • Enjoy the process of improving, learning, and growing.
  • Remind ourselves of the abundance we do have in our lives and be thankful for it
  • Realize that someone out there (likely several people) would look at our situations and think that we have, do and are more than enough.

It’s important to have a desire to improve and strive to do and be our very best.  This pursuit is one of the great joys of life.  However, let’s be sure we’re not missing out on this joy by remembering that while we are striving to improve we are currently, and wonderfully enough.

Cultivating Good Ideas

I started this blog 153 weeks ago with the goal of consistently posting one entry per week.  So far, I haven’t missed a week yet!  What’s amazed me most about this journey is how every week I find a new idea to write about.

I like to post my entries on Saturday, but on Sunday, 6 days prior to posting, I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about.  It isn’t until I start going through my weekly routines of reading, having conversations with people, and listening to positive content that an idea for a topic pops into my mind.  These ideas burst onto the stage of my mind without any warning.  It’s an amazing process that I’ve really enjoyed over the past 153 weeks.

Ideas don’t just happen.  Whether it’s ideas for writing, planning, or myriad other forms of creation, I think there are certain disciplines we can practice to greatly increase our likelihood of coming up with good ideas.  Those disciplines include the following:

Expect that you can and will come up with good ideas

Henry Ford stated it well when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Pay attention how you talk to yourself regarding your ability to come up with ideas.  Instead of telling yourself you’re not good at coming up with ideas, change the internal dialog and state how capable you are of coming up with not just one, but several good ideas.

Consume positive content

Positive content, in the form of conversations, reading, podcasts, or any other method, is the fertilizer that helps grow new thoughts and ideas.  Your ideas will come out of whatever you have been putting into your mind, so be mindful of what you’re allowing in.

Set a deadline to come up with good ideas

For me, I imposed an artificial deadline of generating a blog post every week.  This created a sense of urgency that forced me to generate an idea.  So far it’s worked out well.

Practice cultivating good ideas

Every day, write down 10 good ideas on any topic.  It can be anything from ideas for generating extra money to titles for a make-believe TV show.  The objet here is to just get in the practice of generating ideas.  The more we do it, the better we can become at coming up with ideas.  James Altucher says that this is how you stretch your “idea muscle” and become and “idea machine”.

Set yourself up to be a generator of good ideas by following the steps above, or share some of your own ideas for generating ideas in the comments below.

Ideas are the starting point of all new adventures.  If you want to have a more adventurous life, you only need to start having more ideas.

The Secret Ingredient

I believe there is a not-so-secret ingredient to achieving results in any area of your life.  Before I share this not-so-secret ingredient, let’s first review the other necessary ingredients in the proven formula for achieving results:

Vision + Knowledge + ? = Results

The first 2 components of the formula make sense, right?  Without a vision of the result you want, it would be challenging to even know where to begin.  We must first know where we’re going (know the result we seek) before we can move toward its achievement.

Likewise, we must also possess the knowledge required to achieve the results we want.  A vision will only prove frustrating if we lack the requisite knowledge for its attainment.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is the secret ingredient you say I need in order to achieve results?”  The complete formula for achieving results is:

Vision + Knowledge + ACTION = Results

Does that secret ingredient leave you feeling dissatisfied?  Were you perhaps expecting something more exciting and grand?  The truth is, any results or success we seek only come through the disciplined and consistent application of action.  We’re not talking about action that fills our time and causes us to appear busy, but rather specific actions that move us closer to our desired results.

Very often, this is the step that trips people up.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we usually know the necessary action we should be taking to achieve the results we want.  We simply need to be courageous enough to take the action we already know we should.  We need to cause something to happen.

What results are you trying to achieve that could use a healthy dose of necessary action?  You probably already know what action you need to take.  So… when will you take it?  Today would be a good day to start.

Don’t delay.  Results await!

Swing for the Fence

Imagine you’re on a baseball team and it’s your turn to bat.  You’ve been practicing at the batting cage, and you’ve become quite good; not to mention, you enjoy batting.  Could you imagine saying to your coach, “You know what, Coach?  I don’t know if I’m ready for this.  What if I strike out?  I think I’ll skip my turn and go back to the comfort and security of the batting cage and let someone else bat instead.”

That would be ridiculous, right?  Who would do that?!

I would argue that we may be guilty of doing something similar when we doubt or play down our abilities in the face of opportunities that would grow and stretch us out of our comfort zone.

It’s easy to wish for opportunity, or even seek it out, in the comfort of the daily routine.  However, when an opportunity actually presents itself, we often begin doubting our abilities and whether we’re really capable of being successful.  We wonder if we are capable of rising to the challenge, or if maybe we’re really not as good as we, or others, might think.

It’s totally normal to have some doubts or be nervous about taking on a new and challenging opportunity.  However, what’s tragic is when we decide not to pursue an opportunity we’re capable of either out of fear of failing or because we doubt our own proven skills and ability.

I heard a quote recently that stated:

“In 20 years we won’t be disappointed by the things we did to; we’ll be most disappointed by the things we didn’t do.”

The next time you’re presented with an opportunity that will stretch you and your abilities, grab your bat, step up to the plate, and swing for the fence!  Take the risk.  Step out of your comfort zone and into the challenge, and give it your best shot.  And if you happen to fail, which you most likely will NOT, at least you’ll go down swinging.

Always remember: No Grand Slam home runs have ever been hit from the safety and security of the batting cage.

All I’ve got is a 5

Imagine you need change for a 10 dollar bill (USD).  You ask someone next to you if they have change for a 10, to which they reply, “All I’ve got is a 5”.  That’s not what you want to hear.  You want change for a 10, not a 5.  You may get frustrated or upset because the other person doesn’t have change for a 10, but the reality is, that the most this person can give you is a 5.

It can be like that in your relationships with those closest to you, especially with family.

Picture an interaction rating scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst possible interaction (yelling, fighting, abusive language, a lack of caring or interest in you) and 10 being the best interaction imaginable (kind words of love and affirmation, good spirited laughter, and an appreciation of your presence).

Now envision going to a family event where you’ll encounter a family member whose interactions usually come in around a 3 or 4, with the occasional rare 5.  Perhaps it’s a parent, a spouse, a child, sibling, or grandparent.  If this person is someone close to you, you may find yourself hoping, even expecting, that this time your interaction will be closer to a 9, maybe even a 10!  Perhaps this time, they’ll speak kindly to you and finally tell you how much they love and appreciate you.

This expectation is unfair to the person you are interacting with.  If, on their best day, they are only capable of giving you a level 5 interaction, and you’re expecting a 10, you are not only setting yourself up for disappointment, you are setting them up for failure.

Here’s something to try at your next family get-together this holiday season.  Instead of starting from the place of expecting a level 10 interaction, consider what the person is capable of offering, and adjust your expectations accordingly.  If the best they can offer is a 6, set your expectations at a 4 or 5.  They just might surprise you with a 6.  Wouldn’t it be better to be surprised by a 6 when you were expecting a 4, than to be disappointed by a 6, when you were expecting a 10 that was never going to happen?

It’s worth mentioning that if interactions are always on lower end of the scale, you should consider putting some healthy boundaries in place, which may involve drastically reducing, or even eliminating, your interactions with this person.

We can choose to have unrealistically high expectations of certain people and set ourselves up for disappointment, or we can lower our expectations to realistic levels that other person can achieve.

Just remember, we can never get change for a 10 from someone who only has a 5.

Does it Matter

Does it really matter whether or not we hold the door open for someone behind us?  What about saying “Thank you” to the grocery store clerk or letting the waiter at the restaurant know that we appreciate their service?  How about:

  • Scooting over on a crowded bus or subway so someone can sit it the seat next to you instead of stand?
  • Letting someone behind you in the checkout at the grocery store go in ahead of you, because they only have a couple of items?
  • Sending a thank you note to someone deserving?

What difference does it make if we do any of these things or not?  Are they even worth doing?  Does it even matter?  I’d say that it most certainly does matter

When we spend our days ignoring people we cross paths with, we can begin to see people only as objects that have little value beyond what they can do for us in the short-term.  The longer we do this, the easier it will be to become detached and disengaged from the people around us, willingly thwarting opportunities to connect with others and hear their ideas and perspectives.  Some of which may have been beneficial to us.  As a result, our world shrinks, becoming small and self-centered.  I certainly don’t want to live in a world where I’m the center.  What a small world that would be.

We also forfeit opportunities to brighten the world of those around us when we fail to acknowledge or encourage others who help us, provide a service, or who are just in close proximity to us.  That may not sound like a big deal, but I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t appreciate a kind word, an encouraging word, or a heart-felt thank you.  I know I do.  It makes me feel good and has a positive impact on my day.  I’ll bet it does for you too!  If we appreciate that, doesn’t it seem reasonable that those around us would appreciate it too?

When we say, “Thank you”, or offer encouragement, or give someone our place in line, we do the following:

  • Acknowledge their presence and worth
  • Let the know that we appreciate their contribution
  • Communicate to them that they matter as fellow human beings

We are fortunate that we can influence our world by how we acknowledge (or not) those around us.  We can ignore and dismiss others, leaving a cold impersonal wake behind us, or we can choose to acknowledge our fellow humans with a kind words or actions.

I love the quote from Gandhi that says, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  Have you ever thought that the world is becoming ruder, more isolated, more impersonal, more…?  If so, here’s your chance to put Gandhi’s quote into practice.  Begin acknowledging those around you with kind words or actions.  Try this for a week and see if it doesn’t brighten the world of those around you.  My guess is that it will begin to brighten your world as well.

Continue to Dream

What do you dream about?  A better question might be, “Are you still dreaming?”  When you envision your future, do you think of your dreams and all the possibilities that lie before you, or do you have thoughts about opportunities lost, time squandered, or the feeling that it’s too late to pursue your dreams?

 

Here some really great news:  there’s’ no such thing as being too old to dream!  We’re not required to jettison all our unrealized dreams when we reach a certain age.  Nor are we restricted from picking up new dreams after a certain birthday has passed.  We are free to dream and pursue those dreams as long as we have a pulse.  That is so encouraging and inspiring to me!  It’s encouraging because it reminds me that life is an adventure to be lived until our very last days, and inspiring because it causes me to realize that each of us should, at all times, have at least one dream that we are actively pursuing.

Dreams give purpose, excitement, and direction to our lives when we are actively thinking about and pursuing them.  The mere acts of having and pursuing our dreams make us interesting as people both to others and to ourselves.  How boring it would be to just drift along without any dreams or ambitions to help guide and direct our lives?

Perhaps you’ve had dreams at one time that you’ve neglected, or maybe you’ve never really given much thought to a dream you have buried inside of you.  If you’ve been distracted from your dreams, reconnect with them today.  If you don’t have any specific dreams, spend the next several days, or even weeks thinking about what you’d like to accomplish with your life.

Once you’ve reconnected with, or defined your dreams, think about them every day.  See yourself working toward your dream and ultimately achieving them.  Then, with this vision in mind, begin making progress every day toward the pursuit and fulfillment of those dreams.

Begin living an interesting life by identifying, visualizing, and finally pursing your dreams.  Today is the perfect time to start.

Who’s Going to Decide

We all have it, and we all have the ability to decide how we will spend it.  Although we can’t see it, its value is priceless and becomes more so the older we get.  The “it” I’m referring to, is time.

While we do, in fact, get to decide how we spend our time, most of us have several others who are more than eager to help us decide how our time should be spent, and their suggestions are usually focused on advancing their objectives instead of our own.

This doesn’t mean that all requests for our time are bad.  Some requests are welcomed and we’re more than eager to spend your time on it.  Other requests for our time we might not feel like committing to, but we want to support the cause or person asking, so we agree to give of our time.  And other requests neither interest nor benefit us, yet we’re still asked to give our time to it.

The biggest threat to our time is when we don’t have a decision process or priorities in place that help us determine how we’ll invest our time, and instead we simply agree to everyone’s request that comes along, leaving scarce little time for our own pursuits and well-being.

Don’t be afraid to place boundaries around your time.  Cause something to happen that ensures your time is protected by employing these or other boundaries around your time:

  •          Only allocate a specific amount of time, which you determine, to a request for your time.
  •          Decide in advance what causes you will or won’t support with your time.
  •          Decide how much of your time you’re willing to commit to others’ objectives.
  •          Know what’s important to you regarding the direction and goals you’ve set for your life and say “No” to those requests that don’t align.

Your time is a precious commodity. While it’s important, and fun, to spend your time helping and supporting others efforts, be mindful of how you’re spending (investing) your time to ensure that you are also moving closer to what you’ve defined as important in your own life.

Remember that our time is limited and we get to decide how to spend it, so spend it wisely!

How to Get Out of Prison

Would you ever volunteer to spend several years of your life in prison?  Think about that.  Would you voluntarily decide to sacrifice, say, 10 or more years of your current life for that of a prison inmate?  My answer to that question is, “Are you kidding me?!  Who in their right mind would do something as stupid as that?!”  However, I think that every day, many people voluntarily send themselves to a prison of frustration, despair and under achievement.  And it’s not a judge, jury, or court that sentences people to this prison.  What sends most people to the prison I describe is the conviction of their own thinking.

Just this week, I was talking with someone who was telling me how bad everything in their life was going.  During our conversation, they unknowingly gave me glimpses into their thinking through the language they chose to describe their situation.  It was negative and self-defeating and stripped them of any ability to change their current situation.  Their thinking had made them hopeless, and the more hopeless they became, the further their thinking deteriorated.

I left that conversation frustrated, because I knew that, although their situation was challenging, it wasn’t as insurmountable as their thinking made it out to be.  With some minor changes to their thinking, they could easily attain a more hopeful outlook, and even restore a degree of joy about life again.  Instead, they chose to extend the sentence they have placed on themselves by the thinking they continued to employ.

When the conversation was over, I felt like I had just left a prison after visiting an incarcerated inmate.  It was a heavy feeling, knowing that they could begin to free themselves from their self-imposed sentence by simply changing their thinking, but realizing that that wasn’t a choice they were going to make.

Is there any area in your life where you’ve sentenced yourself through the court of your own thinking?  What negative thoughts about people, situations, or circumstances are affecting you outlook in a negative way?  Give some thought to these questions this week.  When you discover an area where your thinking is imprisoning you, cause something to happen by determining alternative ways of thinking about the situation that improves your outlook and restores hope and confidence in the future.  (If you need a source to help you change your thinking for the better, I’d recommend reading the book of Proverbs.  It is filled with great wisdom and principles that will have a profound impact on your thinking.)

Don’t spend another day in a prison of your own negative thinking.  Decide today to improve your thinking and set yourself free.

It Doesn’t Define You

None of us enjoy when we inadvertently make ourselves look foolish.  Unfortunately, sometimes, it just happens.  When it does it makes us feel awkward and embarrassed ashamed.  For me, this usually occurs while asking a question, making a statement, or presenting something I believe to be fact that turns out not to be the case.  All of a sudden I realize how foolish the last thing I just said or did was and begin thinking, “Everyone here must think I’m’ a total idiot!”  This actually just happened to me earlier this week.

The truth is that this happens to all of us at one time or another.  It’s the risk we take when putting ourselves out there to interact and share our thoughts, ideas, and lives with other people.  When this occurs, it is imperative that we be mindful not to let the experience cause us to shrink back from being fully engaged in life.  Usually we want to pull back to avoid the risk of looking foolish again in the future.    That is the last things we should do!  As much as we may feel like disengage, it’s important not to let a single moment define us or negatively shape our behaviors moving forward.

I believe there are some more constructive things we can do, such as:

  • Realize that one embarrassing moment does not define you or diminish your value as a person.
  • Tell someone close to you that you trust and feel save with about your experience.
  • Look at the situation through the lens of humor.  Was it funny?  If so, give yourself permission to laugh at the situation; and at yourself.

If you really want to cause something to happen that will benefit others, try the following when an embarrassing moment happens to someone you know:

  •  Empathize with them.  Tell them you understand exactly how they feel.
  • Tell them about a time when you embarrassed yourself, or made yourself look foolish in front of other.  As you’re recounting the event, freely laugh at yourself, and let them know it’s ok for them to laugh along with you.
  • Here’s the best thing you can do for them:  Tell them you still think they’re great.  Let them know the event doesn’t define them in your eyes, or diminish their value to you by telling them:  “I still think you’re pretty great, special, cool, fantastic…” you get the idea.

Let’s not let one embarrassing moment keep us from being fully engaged in life.  We all have too much of ourselves to offer the world to keep it hidden away, for fear of looking foolish.

As long as we want to be engaged in life, we’re all going to experience moments where we may look foolish or not present our best selves.  It’s going to happen.

The only way to avoid it is by never sharing your thoughts or ideas with others, and that’s no way to live.  Instead, just remember that when it does occur, go easy on yourself.  The moment does not define you, and it will pass sooner than you realize.  And don’t forget to encourage others not to be too hard on themselves either.  They’ll appreciate your kind words and be encouraged by your example.