Friday, March 28, 2014

Win People Over!

As someone who communicates for a living, you’d think that I’d be really good at it.
But, while I’m effective at getting my message across in writing, I could definitely improve in other areas, if I want to get people on side.
That’s why I really liked “Adversaries into Allies” (premium members only) by Bob Burg. This book looks at how we can win people over with integrity and good manners.
As part of this, it highlights how better communication helps us build good relationships and avoid misunderstandings. I especially liked Burg’s advice on how to ask for clarification when we need to understand people’s needs more effectively.
There are many other tips and strategies on how to win people over in this book. Learn more about it in our premium members’ Book Insight.

Enjoying NOW!

© iStockphoto/AnsonLu
I’ve just spent a couple of hours picking up emails, checking social media, and organizing my busy schedule.
Earlier, during my commute, I reflected on the morning so far, I thought about the day ahead, and I planned my To-Do List.
Until recently, this describes the way I generally lived my life. It was rare that I took the time to focus on the present moment and appreciate what I was doing or experiencing… until I started practicing mindfulness (members only).
When we develop mindfulness, we stop thinking about the past or the future, and we focus on the here and now. Studies show that this habit helps us improve our physical and emotional health, our relationships at home and at work, and our career.
So, how do you practice mindfulness? Find out in our article.

Dealing With Angry People

Posted by James Manktelow 
© iStockphoto/AZ68
© iStockphoto/AZ68
None of us want to deal with angry people, and it’s upsetting to be the target of someone else’s fury – particularly if it isn’t justified!
This can lead us to reject the other person or get angry ourselves. Unfortunately, this can aggravate the situation, or, worse, leave us seeming to be the cause of the problem ourselves.
Read this article to learn how to deal with other people’s anger. This is an important life skill, and it’s one that you’ll often find useful.

From Products to Customers

It’s nothing new to say that businesses should focus more on their customers than their products. So, why did marketing professor Niraj Dawar write a book about this?
In this Expert Interview (premium members only), Dawar tells us that he was inspired to write his new book, “Tilt,” because he noticed that many companies were still “woefully product-centric,” despite their best intentions.
He talks through some fascinating case studies that illustrate what being customer-centric means in practice, and highlights how companies can use this approach to compete more effectively.
You can hear more of Niraj Dawar’s insights in our premium members’ interview.

Dealing With Sloppy Work

© iStockphoto/mcerovac
People can submit sloppy work for a number of reasons.
Perhaps they’re overloaded. Perhaps they have low ambition, and just don’t care. Maybe they dislike the task; or perhaps they have disengaged emotionally from their jobs.
When someone on your team produces sloppy work, it can quickly result in mistakes, miscalculations, and unhappy customers; and all of these can easily affect your team’s success in the long term.
This is why it’s so important deal with careless work promptly.

Stay Cool!

© iStockphoto/Cybermama
Anger is something that we all experience from time to time.
Controlled anger can sometimes help us to deal with situations more effectively – for example, it can motivate us to “right a wrong.”
However, uncontrolled anger causes all sorts of problems, especially at work.
This is why it’s so important to know when you’re getting angry, so that you can take steps to stay calm.

Humility – An Important Leadership Quality

 March 25, 2014
© iStockphoto/Professor25
Humility is an important human quality. But did you know that humility can help you be a better leader, too?
Jim Collins, an influential consultant and author, wrote about humility and leadership in his groundbreaking book, “From Good to Great.”
He found that, in the top-performing companies he identified, leaders had humility in abundance; they shared credit for success, and they were the first to accept blame for mistakes.
He then highlighted many other qualities that we need to possess if we want to be truly “great” leaders.

Get Ahead With Good Listening Skills

Posted by Tom Hallett March 21, 2014
© iStockphoto/AtnoYdur
© iStockphoto/AtnoYdur
When you’re a good listener, you pick up information quickly and accurately, you avoid misunderstandings and conflict, and you find it easy to build firm friendships with the people you work with.
Others feel comfortable coming to you with their ideas; and this means that you can work with them to solve key problems.
However, many people are lousy listeners! They let their attention drift, they form their answers before they’ve fully listened to the other person, and they ignore important nonverbal messages.

Making a Great First Impression

Getting off to a Good Start

It takes just a quick glance, maybe three seconds, for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time. In this short time, the other person forms an opinion about you based on your appearance, your body language, your demeanor, your mannerisms, and how you are dressed.
With every new encounter, you are evaluated and yet another person's impression of you is formed. These first impression can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making those first encounters extremely important, for they set the tone for all the relationships that follows.
So, whether they are in your career or social life, it's important to know how to create a good first impression. This article provides some useful tips to help you do this.

Be on Time

Someone you are meeting for the first time is not interested in your "good excuse" for running late. Plan to arrive a few minutes early. And allow flexibility for possible delays in traffic or taking a wrong turn. Arriving early is much better that arriving late, hands down, and is the first step in creating a great first impression.

Be Yourself, Be at Ease

If you are feeling uncomfortable and on edge, this can make the other person ill at ease and that's a sure way to create the wrong impression. If you are calm and confident, so the other person will feel more at ease, and so have a solid foundation for making that first impression a good one. See our section on relaxation techniques to find out how to calm that adrenaline!

Present Yourself Appropriately

Of course physical appearance matters. The person you are meeting for the first time does not know you and your appearance is usually the first clue he or she has to go on.
But it certainly does not mean you need to look like a model to create a strong and positive first impression. (Unless you are interviewing with your local model agency, of course!)
No. The key to a good impression is to present yourself appropriately.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and so the "picture" you first present says much about you to the person you are meeting. Is your appearance saying the right things to help create the right first impression?
Start with the way you dress. What is the appropriate dress for the meeting or occasion? In a business setting, what is the appropriate business attire? Suit, blazer, casual? And ask yourself what the person you'll be meeting is likely to wear – if your contact is in advertising or the music industry, a pinstripe business suit may not strike the right note!
For business and social meetings, appropriate dress also varies between countries and cultures, so it's something that you should pay particular attention to when in an unfamiliar setting or country. Make sure you know the traditions and norms.
And what about your grooming? Clean and tidy appearance is appropriate for most business and social occasions. A good haircut or shave. Clean and tidy clothes. Neat and tidy make up. Make sure your grooming is appropriate and helps make you feel "the part".
Appropriate dressing and grooming help make a good first impression and also help you feel "the part", and so feel more calm and confident. Add all of this up and you are well on your way to creating a good first impression.

A Word About Individuality

The good news is you can usually create a good impression without total conformity or losing your individuality. Yes, to make a good first impression you do need to "fit in" to some degree. But it all goes back to being appropriate for the situation. If in a business setting, wear appropriate business attire. If at a formal evening social event, wear appropriate evening attire. And express your individuality appropriately within that context.

A Winning Smile!

As the saying goes, "Smile and the world smiles too." So there's nothing like a smile to create a good first impression. A warm and confident smile will put both you and the other person at ease. So smiling is a winner when it comes to great first impressions. But don't go overboard with this – people who take this too far can seem insincere and smarmy, or can be seen to be "lightweights."

Be Open and Confident

When it comes to making the first impression, body language as well as appearance speaks much louder than words.
Use your body language to project appropriate confidence and self-assurance. Stand tall, smile (of course), make eye contact, greet with a firm handshake. All of this will help you project confidence and encourage both you and the other person to feel better at ease.
Almost everyone gets a little nervous when meeting someone for the first time, which can lead to nervous habits or sweaty palms. By being aware of your nervous habits, you can try to keep them in check. And controlling a nervous jitter or a nervous laugh will give you confidence and help the other person feel at ease. Again, see our section on relaxation techniques for help with this.

Small Talk Goes a Long Way

Conversations are based on verbal give and take. It may help you to prepare questions you have for the person you are meeting for the first time beforehand. Or, take a few minutes to learn something about the person you meet for the first time before you get together. For instance, does he play golf? Does she work with a local charitable foundation?
Is there anything that you know of that you have in common with the person you are meeting? If so, this can be a great way to open the conversation and to keep it flowing.

Be Positive

Your attitude shows through in everything you do. Project a positive attitude, even in the face of criticism or in the case of nervousness. Strive to learn from your meeting and to contribute appropriately, maintaining an upbeat manner and a smile.

Be Courteous and Attentive

It goes without saying that good manners and polite, attentive and courteous behavior help make a good first impression. In fact, anything less can ruin the one chance you have at making that first impression. So be on your best behavior!
One modern manner worth mentioning is "turn off your mobile phone". What first impression will you create if you are already speaking to someone other than the person you are meeting for the first time? Your new acquaintance deserves 100% of your attention. Anything less and you'll create a less than good first impression.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Effective Communication with Mindfulness

Have you ever had the experience while talking to someone where the person is really not listening to you? They act like they are but it is obvious that they aren’t. The ironic part is that they probably think they are communicating with you but on some level you just feel that you weren’t heard at all.
Communication is something we all engage in on a daily basis but due to the pace of our lives, conversations become just formalities. It is like when you go to the store and the cashier asks you: “how are you?” It’s as if she was on cruise control as opposed to really being interested in how you are doing.
Living mindfully isn’t limited to meditation, but can also be applied to effective communication in our daily interactions with other people. This article takes a look at 10 effective communication tips using the principles of mindfulness.

In my work as an attorney, eighty percent of cases I have seen in my career are a result of some form of misunderstanding and lack of effective communication. People agree to do something. They sign papers and start working on a project. Eventually, it turns out that each party heard something completely different.

Communication Truth: We Hear What We Want to Hear

Let’s say someone tells you that they will talk to you later. Well, what does later mean? Does it mean five minutes from now? Does it mean five hours or five days from now? Or is that a polite way to convey that they have no desire to ever talk to you again? The possibilities are endless
I was recently talking to a friend about a problem that I had. I poured my heart out to her and when it was her turn to talk, she just gave me her thoughts which were mainly about herself and totally missed the point of what I was saying. I realize that my friend had good intentions but she was just not listening.
My initial reaction was sadness because I did not see how she could have misunderstood what I was saying. I started to wonder if maybe I did not express myself clearly. However, as I thought about what she had told me, I realized that she was listening to me from the perspective of her views of the world without placing herself in my shoes.
My friend was trying to find something in her life that made her feel the same way without truly understanding what I was feeling. It was like she heard only one word and was only focused on that one word but not the context.
The whole interaction fascinated me. Of course, that was not the first time I have had such an experience with someone. However, it was the first time where all the pieces fell into place and I realized the importance of applying mindfulness into my own communication.

Communication vs. Mindfulness Communication

Mindfulness communication is a term that originates in Buddhist philosophy and became popular in the West due to the work of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. He is the person who is credited for introducing to the medical profession the concept that meditation helps people reduce stress and other physical ailments.
Mindfulness communication means to listen and speak with compassion, kindness and awareness. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, regular communication is defined as “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.”
As you notice in the above definition, there is no mention of compassion or kindness. If you watch any regular interaction between people, the form of communication will appear to fit the regular definition.
One person says one thing and the other person shares their thoughts. Most of the time, when someone is asked a question, they answer immediately. Not many seem to really think before speaking. In order to engage in effective communication using mindfulness, we have to listen mindfully and speak mindfully.

5 Tips to Listen with Mindfulness

1. Clear Your Head

When someone starts to talk to you, do your best to clear your head of any thoughts that are occupying your mind. Remove any sense of judgment about the person who is talking.
To listen to someone with a preconceived idea of who you think they are or what they are about to say, puts you at a disadvantage because you may miss what you could otherwise learn from the person who is talking.

2. Create a Safe Space

It is never easy for someone to open themselves up and tell you what is on their mind. If you really are attentive to what they are saying, it indirectly tells the other person that it is safe for them to be themselves with you.

3. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking to you, do not look at your feet or the ceiling or whatever else is surrounding you. Just look into the eyes of the person who is talking. It shows that you care and wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you?

4. Put Yourself In The Other Person’s Perspective

Experiences are relative; meaning people react and see things based on how they view the world. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is talking and try to see the world from that angle.
Back in 2004, I was working in an office where everyone was a big supporter of a certain political view. I thought they were crazy but when I tried to understand why they all supported it, I saw that they really were good people who thought that the political idea in question would protect them. I disagreed but that was okay. I saw why they thought the way that they did. It made working with them so much easier.

5. Don’t Assume

If the person who is talking says something that you do not understand or is not very clear, don’t assume a thing but ask them to clarify their statement. Many times people assume that the other person means one thing when in reality they could be talking about something totally different. There is nothing wrong with asking questions as long as you ask them with compassion.

5 Tips to Speak with Mindfulness

Photo by Nathiya Prathnadi

1. Think Before Speaking

When someone asks you a question, don’t just immediately start talking. Take at least ten to twenty seconds (or more) to think about the question and how you want to answer.
When I first started dating my husband, I used to get impatient when it would take him a long time to answer my questions but then I realized he was thinking about what to say and I wasn’t used to someone actually taking the time to ponder the question.
It touched me so much, I started to do the same and it is amazing how much people really appreciate it when you take their questions seriously.

2. Choose Your Words Consciously

Just because something makes sense to you does not mean it will make sense to the other person.
I have a friend who has a very strange sense of humor. Most of the time, it sounds like he is insulting you but in reality he is not. I don’t think he is aware of what he does and he is always amazed that people get mad at him or feel hurt after speaking to him.
Painful words can cause more damage than physical pain, so choose your words consciously and carefully. Not everyone is willing to give another person a second chance. A sentence uttered without thinking can cause a person to lose their job or end a relationship.

3. Speak Your Truth

Many times when we talk to someone, we like to give off a certain image. We want to appear as perfect as possible. We want the other person to like us and to think highly of us. Therefore, many people try too hard to be something they are not and they end up acting that way through a conversation.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to be yourself. That means speaking your truth. This does not mean you have to be rude or mean. You can speak your truth with compassion and kindness.
For example, I once met someone who was very critical of people who were vegans. The funny thing was that the person had no idea that I have been a vegan (vegetarian) for 21 years. I had two choices. I could either play along or tell the truth. I went ahead and told the guy the truth.
I was calm and told him that I understood his point of view. I went on and shared with him my thoughts on the issue. We ended up having a really great conversation and neither one of us ever had to raise our voice. No one likes to be lied to so don’t lie about who you are.

4. Mean What You Say

If when talking to someone, you tell them that you will send them a certain document by a certain date, do keep your word. You will earn a lot of respect when you follow through with your promises.
If you have no desire to talk to one person ever again, then do not say you will give them a call sometime. Whether it is in business or romance or with friends, keeping your word goes a long way. A Buddhist master once said to me, “word, thought and deed have to be one”. So don’t say you will do something when you really don’t intend to do it.

Parting Words: Effective Communication

As a former “Type A” personality, I was always on the go and never really had time to talk to people. I always needed to be somewhere else or to do something. I am very well aware that the above steps may seem too time consuming but if you want to be successful in whatever you do and if you want to have meaningful relationships, you need people. As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango”.
The only way to have people respect you is if you respect them and engaging in effective communication using mindfulness is one of the best methods to earn that respect.

Synchronicity – The Beauty of Coincidences

I missed Yoga this AM, as I thought it was Wednesday instead of Tuesday . . . a recent side effect of finding it hard to sleep and easy to wake up. The irony of all this is I sent the above quote streaming into Twitter space right before I rushed into an empty yoga room. Accident–the greatest of all inventors.
My newly gained, completely open hour gave me the opportunity to write this piece, spend more time in meditation, and just allow my day to flow as it is.
As I approached my 28th year last month, I’ve learned that mistakes, “accidents” and synchronicities are a recurring open door that provide us with an opportunity to address what really needs our attention. While a simple analogy, sometimes it is in the most ordinary moments of our day where there is wisdom to be found…even in missed yoga.

Perhaps I needed to slow down this morning, outside of the daily ritual I was accustomed to of being with my breath. And instead, get my head out of the clouds (a place where I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately) to be grounded and aware of my thoughts.
Perhaps I needed to break my wellness routine, just for one day, to take a different view of all the possibilities and elements that make up each morning. Perhaps the exploration of morning writing was more meaningful than late at night.
Or, perhaps, thinking it was the wrong day of the week just meant I needed to sleep more–according to my body–regardless of how excited my mind and spirit are, and how the two always want to be awake.
I’m a big believer in the concept of synchronicity, or as more commonly put, “everything happens for a reason.
According to Wikipedia, the definition of Synchronicity is:
The experience of two or more events that are apparently casually unrelated, occurring together, in a meaningful manner. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung in the 1920s.”
A favorite read of mine is Deepak Chopra‘s book on exploring how synchronistic events in our lives are never accidents or coincidences.
In The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, Deepak introduces the powerful concept of, what he coins, Synchrodestiny. He talks about how to transform your deepest desires and intentions into destiny; how to recognize the possibilities surrounding you; and how to create what you want with the clues that already exist. In this book, Deepak deepened my awareness of synchronicity with the science behind how fish swim:
The final stage of living synchrodestiny occurs when you become fully aware of the interrelatedness to all things, how each affects the next, how they are all “in synch” with one another. “In synch” is a coloquial of saying “in synchronicity,” which means in unison, as one.
Picture a school of fish swimming in one direction, and then in a flash, all the fish change direction. There is no leader giving directions.
The fish don’t think, “The fish in front of me turned left, so I should turn left.”
It all happens simultaneously. The synchronicity is choreographed by a great, pervasive intelligence that lies at the heart of nature, and is manifest in each of us through what we call the soul.
When we learn to live from the level of the soul, many things happen. We become aware of the exquisite patterns and synchronous rhythms that govern all life. We understand the lifetime of memories and experience that have molded us into the people we are today.
I would venture to guess that if Deepak was to complete Mark Twain’s quote, it would read something like this: “Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident—Or not at all.”
The bumps on our journey are the most powerful, transformational encounter. While these bumps may be disguised as interruptions, annoyances, something unplanned and unwanted in our day, there is meaning in its appearance.
Whether one believes in the concept of synchronicity or not, I invite you to approach the mishaps as gifts; the accidents as not so much of an accident; and the people we encounter as someone we can always learn and grow from.
The way you experience your day will shift. Moments will be full of discovery and fulfillment: the messages, the awareness, the blessings, and the abundance that are constantly surrounding us—in this very moment—will glow with significance.
I would like to believe that my accidentally missed yoga this morning allowed this synchronous piece to be created, so I could share a perspective changing concept with you: the universe is gracious and inviting in showing us the way, if we are open to recognizing its power.

Focus – How to Get It Done

When ever I find myself feeling frazzled by the distractions and never-ending list of to-dos, the answer to finding peace always come back to focus. “Focus, focus, focus!” my heart would say, while my mind is off racing in a hundred different directions.
Lately, when people ask me, “How are you?” my response has been “Busy”.
It’s true. I have been busy. Yet when I reflected deeper into why I’m busy, I discovered that I am mostly busy thinking about how busy I am.
I mean, yeah, I have a lot of tasks on my plate, but when I observed myself from a place of silent presence, I discovered that a huge amount of my time and energy was spent cycling through my list of growing to-do items in my head.

The end result is that I do get some stuff done, but not nearly as much as I could, if I freed up all this extra energy used in wasted thinking. If I was focused on the task without wasting energy and being overwhelmed, I’m sure that I would have had a better time doing it.
Can you relate? Isn’t it annoying how our brains do that?
Seriously, do you know anyone who’s not busy? I don’t. Even friends of mine who are on sabbaticals–people who are not working–seem to be busy. Doing what? I don’t know. Probably like me, they too are spending a lot of time thinking about being busy. :)
If you think about it logically, there really is no end to being busy. There are always things and unimportant-yet-urgent tasks we can add to the list to keep feeding into this loop of “insanity”.
The cycle of unproductive insanity caused by the illusion of “busy” can only be broken when we consciously and deliberately decide to put an end to it.

Personal Story

I started exploring into the topics of “busy” and “focus” recently after observing that I am not getting very much done in the form of results, both in my personal life and professional life. I’ve also observed that psychologically, I’ve been carrying this heavy feeling of uneasiness, because I am overwhelmed by all that I think I should be doing.
In my personal life, I am surrounded by clutter and disorganization. We moved into this house a year ago, and many moving boxes are still unpacked—ugly boxes in our closet, office, and the garage. Our guest bedroom has an entire wall stacked with boxes containing unknown objects of more “stuff”.
In a corner, I had stacked all the unused baby things my son has grown out of. My original intent was to list them for sale on “Craig’s List” (online classifieds), but I never got around to it. So for the past 6 months, every time I walk by and see the stash, it’ll add to the anxiety of “more tasks to do that I don’t have time for”.
In my professional life, I have created so many projects for myself that I am unable to focus on any one in particular. I’m dabbling in so may things, as a result, I’m not making very much progress in any one direction. Additionally, my focus is constantly being pulled away towards other shiny opportunities in the marketplace.
To avoid the pain of “not getting things done” and feeling overwhelmed, I found myself procrastinating, and purposely scattering my attention to unimportant actions that provided instant gratification and a way to escape from the illusions of this moment.
To distract myself–in between feeling overwhelmed with to-dos and taking a little action–I would browse random blogs, refresh facebook, and check email every 7 minutes.
Afterwards, I would feel bad for having wasted so much time doing unproductive things, that I’d work extra hard, and usually late into the night. This destructive cycle caused a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
This continued for a few weeks, until I finally hit a breaking point. In the problem solving article, I detailed the simple tool I used to regain clarity and perspective again. Through the baby steps I’ve taken in the past two weeks, I’ve had many personal breakthroughs and victories.

Focus Victory #1: “Craig’s List Stash”

On Saturday, I woke up and decided that I was putting an end to my “Craig’s List Stash” problem. I bounced out of bed, told my husband what I was up to, asked for his support, and got to work.
While he took care of our son, I put my imaginary blinders on (so I don’t get distracted) and focused on the task. In a matter of a few hours, I took photos of everything I wanted to sell, researched pricing, and put all the listings online.
By the time Sunday was here, every major item I had listed online was sold. I placed everything else unsold in a box to be donated.
It felt so good!

Focus Victory #2: Organizing My Office

Saturday evening, after my son was asleep, my project was to tackle my office, so that I can have a clean and organized space to think and work. Since this was the room I spent the most time in, it was important for me to feel peace and ease while being in here.
Instead of treating the task like an annoying hassle (what I used to do and end up dragging my feet to do it), I treated it like a gift for myself–gift of clarity—which motivated me to want to complete it. I felt determined, and gave myself an imaginary deadline, “One hour to get this place cleaned up!” I said.
I grabbed an empty box and moved everything from my desk surface to the box. I then picked up all the toys, books, and clothing off of the floor. In a matter of 10 minutes, I had a clean office space again.

The Power of Focus

In a similar fashion to the above two personal victories, I use the same steps to complete many of the to-do items I have spent many month cluttering my mind with. Tasks such as: getting all our light fixtures replaced (Jeremy did them), organize our closet, unpack moving boxes, de-cluttering the kitchen surfaces, moving forward with professional projects, etc.
The more I practiced these simple steps, the more I realized how much easier it was to just dive into focused action, instead of letting the thought rot in my head. I felt so liberated and empowered. I was no longer sitting around, waiting for the overwhelming thoughts to go away, I was doing something about it.
I learned how easy it was to hone-in my energy and just focus on one thing. Do that one thing with all my attention, and then it’ll be done! Simple. It’s all a matter of intention, decision, and discipline to follow through.

How to Get Things Done

I’ve distilled the steps I’ve been practicing to creating results into the following three steps.

1. Decision

Determination and commitment have power, and having them means that we’re not floating around like a flake.
If you just decide (decide right now) that you will do something, you will more likely take action. If you don’t make any decision, it will likely remain as a thought floating freely in your mind and it will continue to bother you.
Just decide to do one thing today, or decide that you will complete one simple thing this week.

2. Focus

Energy will go wherever we direct it. If we direct all our attention in one direction, progress will be made—this is the power of focus! If we direct our attention in a million directions, the energy given to each direction is so diffused and weak that no one direction will receive enough energy to proceed.
Think of it in another way. We’re on a lake, we want to cross the lake, and there are an unlimited number of boats next to the lake on our side of shore. If we took 2 boats, stuck each leg in a different boat, how long do you suppose it’ll take for us to get across the lake? A long time, right?
Similarly, if we took 4 boats, stuck each one of our arms and legs in a different boat, it would be impossible to cross the lake, right? The obvious answer is that it would be most efficient and effective to pick one boat, jump in it, and keep rowing until we get to the other side of the lake.
While this analogy seems obvious, this is essentially what we do in our lives. We live our lives trying to get across the lake using 4 boats, and we wonder why we can’t get anywhere, and we get frustrated.
No amount of frustration or feeling overwhelmed will make the 4 boats go away. The only solution is to pick one boat and start paddling. This is focus. Choosing one boat is focus. Choosing more than one boat is diffused awareness, and diffused awareness will take you nowhere.
Focused attention is the only way out.

3. Do It!

Once you’ve decided to do something, and decided that you will focus, the next step is to take action. Following our boat analogy above, taking action is the paddling step. Not taking action would be like sitting in a boat, and feeling anxious that you’re still not on the other side.
Once you start paddling, and if you keep focused on paddling, you will eventually get to the other side. Once you land on the other side, you’ll realize how easy it was to cross the lake, and you’ll likely wonder what took you so long in the past to simply: decide, focus and take action.
Getting results is easier than we think.

10 Tips on How To Focus

1. Set Boundaries

Decide in advance how much time you want to dedicate to doing something.
Personally, if I don’t set boundaries, such as “I will stop working at 5pm”, I will easily work until mid-night. Setting boundaries for myself tells my brain the urgency to focus, because my time is limited. By not doing so, I will waste a lot of time.

2. Do the Most Important Thing First

Similarly, I’ve created various rules for myself to better focus. Like the rule, “I won’t check email until I’ve written 500 words today, or I won’t check facebook until I’ve completed the day’s most important task.
This is effective, because not only am I setting boundaries, but also, prioritizing and making sure that tasks important to me always gets completed first.
Personally, if I check email or facebook first thing in the morning, it makes my brain feel scattered and unable to focus.

3. Block Out Sound

This might not be applicable to everyone. I’m pretty sensitive to sound and get easily distracted by random sounds. My solution is to block out noise, by wearing a noise-canceling headphone.

4. Remove Distractions

Clear off your desk where you work from clutter. Close browser tabs (especially the one with email). Turn off notifications. Turn off the phone. I’d even go as far as turning off the Internet for a period of time, to focus on offline work.
Commit to being distraction free for a set amount of time, during which you will only focus on one task. And once the time is up, reward yourself.

5. Create Motivation

Getting clear on your motivation to do things will greatly enhance your ability to focus and get things done. Make sure you know why you need the focus, and get clear on what will happen if you don’t focus.
Did you know that we are more motivated to avoid pain than we are to gain pleasure? So it might help to understand how painful it will be if you didn’t do something. This might be the push you need to focus and move ahead.
For example, when I was wanting to get out of the rat race, I was having a hard time to take action to create the kind of results that would allow me to quit my job. What motivated me most was visualizing an alternate reality where I was stuck in a job I hated for another 10 years.
That image truly scared me and gave me the motivation I needed to take massive action. This blog, for example, is the result of such a massive action. In my story, in less than 8 months of taking consistent focused action, I was able to quit my day job.
Alternatively, you can imagine what life will be like if you took massive action in one direction. Imagine your dream life. Visualize it. Make it real in your mind.

6. Do One Thing At A Time

Pick just one thing to focus on. At any one time, ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I can do out of my list?” Pick one and commit to yourself, “I will commit to focus on this for the next three months (or until it is done) and I will work on nothing else.

7. Create a Focus Ritual

We are creatures of habit. The more we do something, not only does it become easier, but also our brain knows to tune into it.
Writing, for example, requires tremendous focus. So I created a ritual around getting into the focused zone when I write. My ritual goes like this: I sit down with a hot cup of chai/tea/coffee, put on my headphones, turn on “Nawang Khechog” on the iPod, open a new Word document, and BAM, I’m in the zone!
This is a ritual I’ve created for myself over years of practice. The more I repeat my ritual (in the exact order of sequence), my brain is creating and strengthening neuro pathways to facilitate this, making it easier to arrive at the desired experience.
Go ahead and create a ritual where you will be focused. Take baby steps today, and watch it become easier over time.
The new ritual I am currently working on is to wake up early and write for 30 minutes every morning. (I’m still working on the how to wake up early part. *wink*)

8. Alone Time

If you are feeling overwhelmed and mentally cluttered. The best remedy is to take time out and reflect. It is important to do this alone, so you can connect with yourself, and learn to connect with the wisdom within you.
In spending quality alone time, learning, recharging and reflecting, you will gain clarity, understanding, and focus.
If you don’t know where to start, try the problem solving technique of “12 Answers”.
I also recommend meditation—a time where you can sit in silence, and become the silent observer of your mind’s turbulences.

9. Remember to Breath

As you go about your day, ask yourself, “Am I breathing?” then take a few deep breaths before continuing. Also ask yourself “Am I relaxed?” if the answer is “not really”, then stop for a second and take a deep breath.

10. Enjoy This Moment

After have written 150 in-depth articles on how to be happy, and how to live a good life here on TSN, my advice for you (and for myself) always comes back to this:
Enjoy this moment. This moment is all that we have. It is only in this moment that Life happens. Treasure it, bless it, thank it, and live it. Live it fully … regardless of what you’re doing.

The Building Blocks of a Good Life

Seeing a young child at play always makes me smile. Haven’t you looked at a young giggling face and felt joy, and maybe even a little envy? Wouldn’t it be great to recapture some of that childlike wonder and love of life again?
The truth is, the good life is closer than we think, as close as watching a child play.  But how can watching a child play show us how to live a good life?
Picture in your mind a toddler playing with blocks. They are caught up in the wonder of each block, all the different shapes and colors and sizes.
They take each one in their hand, turning it all around in wonder & joy. There are some blocks that will be their favorites, but if even a favorite one rolls under a couch they will soon let it go & keep playing with the others.

After examining the blocks they have been given, they start experimenting, stacking block upon block to make different creations. If one block doesn’t seem to fit, they just lay it down and reach for another.
When their little tower falls down, they might show a momentary grimace, but then they realize it just means they have the opportunity to build a bigger one. Once they see that all towers eventually fall over, they will knock over their creations themselves so that they can build new ones.
Finally, when it is naptime, they will take one last contented look at all they have done, and nod off to dream of taller, greater towers to come.
But what if it was different? What if the toddler, instead of playing with all the blocks before them, would only pick up the square ones? What if they became fixated on only one favorite block, gripping it so tightly they wouldn’t even build with the others? What if they wailed uncontrollably when one of their towers fell down? What if they became so fearful of a tower falling down, or losing their favorite block, that they stopped playing altogether?

Comparing Blocks to Our Life

How sad that would be. But isn’t that how we often approach life?
We are the children at play; we are all given a set of blocks of all different shapes and sizes. Some blocks we start out with have labels like beauty, strength, & intelligence. Other blocks we acquire, like reputation, wealth, & possessions. Finally, we have the building blocks of roles we play, like career, friend, spouse, & parent.
Each one of us has our own unique set of blocks in this playtime called life– but how do we play with them? Isn’t it easy to spend all our time looking at someone else’s blocks and wish we had them? To get angry when our carefully constructed tower falls down, or stay so fearful of our tower falling down that we stop building at all?
Worst of all, we can fixate so much on one block, like gaining wealth, or finding a soul mate, or being a good parent, that we forget that it’s only a block, one that just like all the others will be tucked back in the box at the end of the day.
Sometimes we even get so confused to think that we ARE the block. We can end up wrapping all our dreams & energy & self-esteem into our job or looks or relationship that we actually lose ourselves, our own identity, along the way.

Understanding Our Blocks – Road to the Good Life

We don’t have to be this way. We can learn from the little children in our midst. Take a step back, and write down a list of all your “blocks”– all the different roles you play in your life. Go ahead. Make a list. My list includes:
  • My body, (middle aged, slightly overweight & out of shape)
  • Intellectual (very)
  • Doctor
  • Friend
  • Writer
  • Spouse
  • Father
  • Geek (& hardcore Apple fan for 30 years)
  • Dry humor (hard “core”– core, Apple, didn’t you get that?) ;-)
  • Mentor, teacher
  • ENTP (my Myers-Briggs personality type)
All of these things are parts of my life–the blocks I get to play with–but they are not me. They are not the eternal core of my soul that will keep living when this few decades of playtime is over.
I need to take delight in all these blocks that God has given me: use them; try them out in different ways; discover everything I can about them. But I don’t need to worry about them or keep too tight a grip on them, for they are all temporary.

Shifting Perspectives

Take, for instance, my building block of being intellectual. That’s a great block, one that I’m thankful for and love to play with. But when I was younger I was too focused on it– I thought it was the only block I had.
As a result, I identified too closely with it– I thought everything I was or ever would be revolved around my intellect. I even let my thoughts focus on the fear of losing my intellect through dementia.
Because I almost exclusively identified with my intellect, I found it hard to relate to anyone except intellectually– it was uncomfortable to hug, difficult to express love, difficult to form emotional bonds at all. As a boy my hero was Mr. Spock, because he didn’t have such lower, mundane, primitive things like emotions.
Fortunately, I’ve learned that though my intellect is a very useful “block” that I enjoy using it’s NOT all there is to me. I am so much more than just my intellect!
And since I’ve learned to loosen my grip on my intellect block, I’ve grown so much as a person. I’ve learned to play with some of my other “blocks” like warmth, empathy & love, and building “towers” in my life that I never would have imagined as a younger man.
Another problem we all have is that of only playing with our favorite blocks. We see the especially shiny or big blocks, the ones that we seem especially good at or that seem really important, and we devote all our time to them.
We don’t think to try out some of the smaller blocks in our box, or ones that seem a little misshapen. For example, the woman who never sings because she knows others are better than her. Or the man who doesn’t try out the management position because he thinks others are better leaders than him. In both examples, they are holding back from playing with all their blocks.
But our all-wise Father wants us to play with all our blocks, experimenting with even the ones that don’t seem to be the “best.”
An example in my own life is my running. Yes, my physical prowess block is never going to win me a marathon, but it doesn’t have to. Just completing my first half marathon at age 45 was an amazing experience, but one that would have never happened if I had only stuck with the blocks that I thought were my best.
I firmly agree that we should invest in our strengths, but to live our lives focusing on only a few blocks, and not trying out all of them, severely limits the height and breadth of the “towers” that we can build.

Playing With Your Blocks

So now, in your mind’s eye, look at all your blocks in the play box of your life. Look at all of them– big and small; important and seemingly not so important. Is there a block that you are holding too tightly, for fear of loss?
Is there one block you’re too focused on, and have wrapped your whole identity up in? Or is there one you’ve not even taken out of the box, because you don’t think it’s good enough?
May I say this to you?
Be a wide-eyed child again! Be free! Be joyful! Play!
Live your life to the full, in freedom and joy playing with all your blocks, so that at the end of your playtime in this life, you and your Father can exchange contented smiles, knowing that you built some really cool towers with your blocks, and that all is well.

Prayer For Healing

Editor’s Note I am privileged to introduce Rahi to our TSN family. Rahi was my beloved yoga teacher during my 3 months stay in India, and had guided me to bliss on many occasions. To me, she is the embodiment of grace. The following was originally an email she had sent to me, which we edited to share with you here, along with a practical meditation that anyone can do at home. With love, -Tina
An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what's most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.~Thich Nhat Hanh
When I saw the horrific scenes of the terrible earthquake and the tsunami that have devastated Japan and its people, my first response was one of deep pain.
All that my family, friends and I could talk about, and keep seeing again and again were the ongoing pain-filled visuals that every TV channel around the world was beaming into every home.
Then came the emails, facebook postings, tweets, phone calls, etc….everyone was reaching out to every other person possible spreading the alarm and concern.
The cataclysmic events in Japan became personal because a dear student and now a fellow yoga teacher was living there. I was desperate to know that he and his family were safe.

I was anxious, restless and quite tense till I heard from him. His message was so calm, thanking me for my concern and informing me not to worry, as he and his fellow countrymen will weather this storm together as a nation.
Something about his calmness rubbed off on me and gave me a window of clarity. I went to my yoga den, sat down with a prayer for healing and started tapping on the acupressure points to calm myself and to lift me out of this downward spiral mode of thinking and feeling.
A few minutes into the tapping and I could visibly feel a change happening within me. And it is then that it occurred to me that I can sit in meditation and ‘send’ the vibrations of healing to Japan and all life forms affected by the devastation.
When I got up I felt the urge to call like-minded friends for a group meditation that evening. Six people turned up and surprisingly all were women! We sat in a circle. Each person placed their right hand—in a giving gesture (palm facing down)—onto the next person’s left hand, which by default was in the receiving gesture (palm facing up, like a bowl).
We started by inhaling freely and exhaling for 12 breaths. A deep calmness started happening within us. Then we visualized our beloved Earth in the center of the circle and focused on Japan and the Pacific region.
We visualized the pain and the enormous energy needed to bounce back to a semblance of normalcy. We started humming (“hmmm”) deeply and continuously for 21 minutes, allowing the vibrations of the heart centre to open up and radiate love, peace, compassion and healing.
When the humming stopped, the image within all of us changed to seeing the earth and Japan radiating joyful life. We held that vision in our hearts for a long time, feeling that something had been transformed. Then we ended with the beautiful Sanskrit chant of ”sarve bahvantu sukhina” which translate to “may peace, may happiness prevail”.
Every one of us in that group felt a deep, soft silence as a presence in that space…it was so compassionate, nurturing and all enveloping…as if the Divine Mother was wrapping us, Japan and the whole of Earth in Her loving arms.
The beauty is that, ever since that experience, whenever I continue to receive more information or visuals about the still occurring devastation, I no longer hook into the collective pain. Japan and the Earth seem to fall into my heart centre and I can feel a deep healing happening in me.
Why am I writing all this in such detail to you? I can give many reasons but the truth is I just feel impelled to do so.
Perhaps the learning is:
  • Don’t add to the collective pain by talking and thinking of all that horror being flashed on our screens.
  • Step aside, meditate and do your bit to raise the healing consciousness of humankind.
While help is pouring in from all corners of the world to rehabilitate the people of Japan, maybe, along with it, a different kind of help is needed to change the present vibrations.
Perhaps if a critical mass meditates, the energy generated can bring about positive changes that we cannot even conceive of?
Perhaps all this needs is to be communicated to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, so that in the coming days we can continue to maintain the healing momentum.

Prayer for Healing Through Meditation

If you felt resonated with the above story, try the following prayer for healing meditation—either as a group or as an individual in the comforts of your home.

1. Group Prayer for Healing Meditation

If you are gathered in a group of 3 or more people, sit in a circle. If you are a couple, sit across from each other. Make the ambience as soothing as possible. Optionally, you can light candles, or play soft calming music (example, sound of water flowing).
  1. Open your left hand, palm facing up. Place your left hand on your left knee comfortably.
  2. Take your right hand, palm facing down, place it, gently, on top of your neighbor’s left hand (the neighbor on your right side).
  3. Sit comfortably and focus on being relaxed. Close your eyes.
  4. Connect everyone’s breathing pattern so that they sync with the same patterns of inhale and exhale. Slowly go into deep breathing with the exhale being longer than inhale. Perhaps do this for 12 breaths so that all of you are in sync with one another.
  5. Visualize the earth in the center of this healing circle.
  6. As you inhale, feel you are taking in Cosmic energy. As you exhale, direct this energy to the earth and specifically to Japan. See the healing happening to the people and all other life forms affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
  7. If you can, hold this visualization for 21 minutes. If not, do it for the maximum time available and comfortable to the group.
  8. Place your palms together in front of your heart center in a prayer gesture (Anjali Mudra). Either say a prayer for healing that all of you know, or silently pray for deep peace and quick recovery to the Earth and to Japan.
  9. Give gratitude to Existence for giving you this great opportunity to be of service.
If you want, make a commitment to do this on a daily basis, as a group or on your own for the next 21 days (or how ever many days you want).

2. Individual Prayer for Healing Meditation

As an individual, you can create a space of love and healing through your own meditation. Similar to the group meditation, create a soothing and comfortable ambience where you can sit. Dim the light, and optionally, light a few candles.
  1. Sit quietly in a place that is calming.
  2. Relax both your hands. Place them naturally in whichever gesture that feels comfortable to you. For example, you can have both palms facing up, or place one hand on top of the other.
  3. Inhale and exhale deeply. Placing your entire focus on your breath.
  4. When you feel relaxed, take your awareness into the heart center (in the middle of your chest, next to your heart).
  5. As you inhale, visualize the cosmic energy and healing light entering your heart center. Feel your heart center opening up.
  6. As you exhale, direct the healing energy—light, love, compassion, and strength—to the earth, to Japan, to the Pacific region.
  7. Visualize yourself sitting in a circle among other healers doing the same thing. All of you sitting together in a ring, encircling the earth and sending healing to the planet.
  8. Hold this visualization for as long as you are comfortable. If you have a hard time visualizing, you can say the words and allow the meditation to happen.
  9. Finish the meditation by bringing your palms together in a prayer position, giving gratitude to Existence for choosing you to be a conduit in its service.
If you found the above meditation to be comforting and relaxing, make it a daily practice for the next 21 days (or how ever many days you would like).
The above prayer for healing meditation is not limited to the current Japan devastation. It can also be adopted to help heal other inner emotional pains you may want to alleviate.

Problem Solving Secrets

I recently discovered a simple technique for problem solving that I thought you guys would love. But before diving in to this effective problem solving process, let me tell you the background story.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with this feeling of unproductive frustration. Maybe you can relate: feeling like you should be doing something, but you feel stuck, somehow unable to take productive action towards some end goal.
My problem is that I feel like I have a million things to do; yet I am finding it difficult to make any real progress with any of my projects. As a result, a whole day can go by without me making any progress forward.
Each day, when I look up to see that it’s already 3pm, I’ll start to feel frustrated at myself. I’ll feel annoyed that I had allowed another fruitless day to pass. I’d kick myself mentally for having “wasted” another precious day, which doesn’t help to inspire me to productivity or happiness.

Today, I had one of these frustrating days. Actually this whole week has been like this.
It baffles me that after all this self-improvement training, I feel stuck. *smiles* I feel like something is holding me back from wanting to take action. It feels as if this invisible force is pulling at my leg.
As with any unproductive emotions, these uncomfortable feelings act as an alarm bell, alerting us that we need to examine our lives. It’s letting us know that there is something new to be learned.

Simple Technique for Problem Solving

The life lessons embedded in these problems, or opportunities of discomfort, usually turn out to be life transforming and empowering for our overall wellbeing. And so, I’ve learned to trust these alarm bells and to welcome the lessons they provide.
Instead of continuing to sit at my desk feeling frustrated and allowing myself to be engulfed in the emotion—which is what I did yesterday—I jumped up from my desk, stretched out my body, and asked myself the following question, “what do I need right now?
The answer came with simplistic ease. “To relax”, my inner voice replied.
I went over to my—big, comfy—reading chair, opened my Kindle and started reading a book that Nadia had recently sent me as a gift. The book is called, “The Architecture of All Abundance” by Lenedra Carroll.
It just so happened that I flipped to a section where the author was talking about a simple technique she called “The 12 What Elses”.
The concept was expressed with such eloquence, simplicity and playfulness.
Basically, if you feel that you are stuck with a problem, ask yourself a question about it and brainstorm 12 answers to that problem. You can take one of the answers, turn it into a question and drill it further with 12 more answers. Keep going until you have the answer you need to feel better or solves your problem.

Example 1: Problem Solving Co-Worker Issues

A coworker was rude to you this morning, which caused you to feel upset. You can address this unproductive feeling by asking, “What could have happened that triggered the person to be short tempered with me?” Now, come up with the first answer that comes to mind, and keep asking yourself “what else?” until you have 12 answers (or more).
Some possible answers could be: someone from her family died, she is not getting enough sleep, she had a fight with her spouse that morning, her son is ill, she is not feeling well, etc.
By examining the possible reasons why the co-worker may have been short tempered, you start to view the situation with more compassion and perspective. Feeling compassion and sympathy is much more healing than taking the situation personally and fuming in resentment.

Example 2: Problem Solving Personal Direction

You can ask yourself “what is it that I want?” and brainstorm 12 answers. You can then drill it further by taking one of the answers, convert it to another question, and find 12 more answers.
For example, if one of the answers from the first question was “I want to find love.” A possible follow up question is “Where can I find love?” By the time you brainstorm 12 answers, you may be surprised with what you’ll find or learn about yourself.

Why this Question and Answer Process is Powerful?

As simple and trivial as this problem solving technique may sound, the results can be pretty massive. This simple process (which anyone can easily do) has the potential to open your mind up to a whole new realm of possibilities.
This simple exercise can help to shift your state of focus away from a train of thought that is limiting, to one filled with possibilities. I have found that it will also give you more clarity.
When we have a lot of unexamined thoughts (and limiting beliefs), they end up swimming in our consciousness, taking up mental space and physical energy.
I heard a clever saying recently that said, “no thought lives in your head rent-free.” It’s kind of true, don’t you think?
These unexamined thoughts are unconsciously running around in our heads. They become mental clutter. They cloud our capacity to think clearly and our ability to work productively.
I think the power of this exercise is to ask important and insightful questions which we rarely examine, and to answer them honestly.
Remember to be playful and not so serious (and adult like) when we are doing this. You can write down silly answers if they come to mind. Being playful with the answering step allows us to relax, and more easily access our inner wisdom—this will open up a treasure chest of possibilities and self-understanding.

How I Used This Process to Solve My Problem

Armed with my hardbound sketchbook—which I use as a journal–and my favorite black pen, I tried out the “12 What Elses” which I now call “The 12 Answers”.
I took a few deep breaths, allowed myself to relax, and knew right away the question I wanted to ask. I wrote at the top of a clean page: “12 Answers”. Underneath this, I wrote the question.
What am I afraid of?
I knew this was the question I needed to examine. I knew that fear was what had caused me to feel confused and thus unable to proceed with my work. It was the mental block I needed to uncover and to better understand.
I wrote the numbers 1 to 12 down the page, one on each line. Then I wrote an answer on each line next to the number. The 12 answers came very quickly and effortlessly, so I continued listing as more answers came.
Here are my answers (in the order they arrived in my mind):
  1. Not having money
  2. Wasting time (after investing a lot of time and energy into something to find it a waste)
  3. Looking stupid
  4. Failing
  5. Not being liked
  6. Taking too much time to do things
  7. Dying
  8. Not being happy
  9. Someone else messing it up
  10. Making the wrong decision
  11. Not having security
  12. Missed opportunities
  13. Screwing up
  14. Making a bad investment
  15. Not having time to enjoy things that are important
  16. Pain
By the time I was done, here’s what I felt:
  1. Shocked that I came up with this list so quickly, and amazed that all this fear had been swimming in my mind. No wonder I couldn’t make any progress: too many conflicting thoughts.
  2. I felt horrible, like having this knot in my stomach.
  3. I felt relieved, despite the knot in my stomach. Relieved that my fears and conflicting thoughts are out on paper, and I can finally examine them and set myself free.
Wow, pretty cool huh?
After looking over the list of fears, it’s no wonder I was feeling uncertain, doubtful, cluttered and confused. I had too many mental roadblocks.
First, I wanted to feel better. To overcome the knot-in-stomach feeling, I wrote on a clean page, “What do I want?”
Here are my answers to “I want …”:
  1. Peace & Serenity
  2. Clarity
  3. Security
  4. Certainty
  5. Laughter
  6. Time to do as I please
  7. Purpose
  8. Children
  9. Family & Closeness
  10. To learn
  11. To help people
  12. Prayer + Gratitude
  13. Love
  14. Simplicity
  15. Relaxation
  16. Release of things that don’t serve me
  17. Sunshine
  18. Support
  19. Order + Organization
  20. To be Happy
Once again, I was shocked by how quickly, smoothly and easily the answers came. And right away, I felt better. I felt peaceful, happy and thankful.
Doing this triggered a spark and inspired me to ask more questions. It was like following my heart, and my heart knew the right questions to ask; my heart knew the answers I needed to unveil to be well again.
Some questions I continued asking includes: what do I want to do? What do I need to do? I can arrive at X goal by doing..?
I noticed that the shorter and more direct the question, the better. Instead of “Why is it that I seem to have such a hard time becoming an early riser?” change the question to “Why is it challenging to wake up early?” Remove the filler words and get to the point. This will make it easier for our brain to comprehend and answer.
I just simply followed my inner voice. As if it was gently holding my hand, my inner guidance gracefully led me to a place of inner serenity and clarity. From this place of stillness, I knew what I needed to do.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

I went back to each of the answers from “What am I afraid of?” and asked:
  1. Is this statement true?
  2. Where/what/who would I be if I didn’t have this belief?
  3. (optional) What’s the worse that could happen? And if so, so what?
These questions are a modification to the self-inquisitive technique inspired from Byron Katie.
This is just a basic template. In addition to the first two questions, I made up questions as I went along by following my intuition.
The point is to examine each fearful belief with a magnifying glass. To examine closely its validity and to bring conscious awareness to the falsehood of each statement.


For the statement “I am afraid of not having enough money” here are the questions I asked and the corresponding answers. Comments are in parenthesis.
Question: Is this statement true?
Answer: yes, it is true for me.
Question: Who would you be, if you didn’t believe this statement?
Answer: I would be relaxed and peaceful
(Here, I realized how silly holding on to this belief is. If I just released this belief, then I could be relaxed and peaceful. Interestingly, being peaceful is the first answer under “I want …”)
Question: What’s the worst that could happen?
Answer: The worst that could happen, is I don’t have enough money to be able to buy food, pay for our house, and support our family.
Question: Is this realistic?
Answer: No, it’s not realistic. The worst that could happen is we move to a smaller house. I cannot see it being a possibility that I will not have enough resources to pay for food. There is always some job I could do for money, always.
(Here, it is clear how invalid and unrealistic this statement is. I can’t believe I’ve held onto this fear for so long. By letting it go, I’ve just freed up much bundled energy.)

Problem Solving Through Questions and Answers

I felt so liberated after the exercise (or playing the game of “12 Answers”). I felt—surprisingly—energized, and very much empowered.
By invalidating these statements of limiting beliefs or ideas that may be holding us back, we relinquish the energy this mental statement held, and as a result, we reclaim our personal power to move in the direction we desire, without mental roadblocks.
I wrote this article a week ago, and over the next few days since initially writing this, I noticed more issues starting to rise, which is both annoying and liberating. Annoying, because I just want to be free from all this baggage. Liberating, because now I get to shine a bright light over them, and I can finally examine and releasing them.
I am continuously working on this process, as more fears and questions and unexamined beliefs pop up.
Asking the hard questions and answering them honestly takes courage, and a conscious decision to face the truth. Even though avoidance of a problem gives temporary illusions of relief, not examining all these questions swimming in our mind comes at a price: fear, confusion, uncertainty, and stagnation.
If you want clarity, purpose and lasting happiness? Ask yourself the hard questions. Ask yourself the questions you’ve been avoiding.
You’ll discover that you have the inner wisdom and extraordinary guidance to problem solve any issues from life’s emotional turbulences.
Give the 12-Answers a try; either with questions to a problem you want to solve or one of the questions I’ve used as examples. Share your discoveries with us in the comment section.
Two more questions I’ve recently examined, and found the answers empowering: Why is it hard for me to focus? Why is it that I can’t wake up early? Good times! :)

How to Wake Up Early

After reading last week’s article on problem solving, Tina casually mentioned wanting to wake up early. I felt inspired to write a piece on how to wake up early. For the past 4 months, I’ve been consistently waking up early—5am specifically. This article contain tips I’ve found helpful to become an early riser.
4:45 a.m. arrives and our bedroom becomes a full on symphony of battling alarms: my husband’s starts at 4:45, mine follows at 5:00, his chimes back in again at 5:00 (in unison with mine), and depending on the snooze capacity that day … we may even have one more finale at 5:15 a.m.
The coffee grinder is also programmed to go off at 5 a.m. The aroma and grinding sound of coffee beans travels all the way from the downstairs kitchen to our bedroom upstairs.

One year ago, this would have been an awful disturbance. One year ago, this would have been utter noise. One year ago, I would happily ignore any attempt of waking up early, curl back up in the cool bed sheets, and snuggle in that much more comfortably, knowing I could get away with sleeping in for a few more hours.
I was not a morning person, regardless of how much I tried to be.
Today, this has changed.
I am humbled and proud to be a recovering night owl with so much joy in waking up early well before sunrise. There is a certain bliss that comes from waking up to the darkness, right before the sun comes out.
There is a sense of peace and belonging in waking up before most of the world. There is an abundance of clarity and creativity that waits for me at 5 a.m. This routine of wellness-waking–as I like to call it–has brought tremendous energy and gratitude to each day.

How to Wake Up Early: 3 Keys

Here are three ways to transform you into a morning person, wake up well, and sustain the practice. The trick: In order to wake up early, it starts with the night before.

1. Prioritize

To shift from waking up two to three hours earlier means that you will have to prioritize tasks during the evening.
You may not be able to get everything done that you’re used to; however, the key to waking up early is to get to bed early.
So, prioritize the non-negotiable tasks—make a list of the recurring evening chores, rituals, must-dos—and let go of the others. This may mean sacrificing a favorite TV show—if you find this difficult—try to combine tasks, such as folding laundry while enjoying the TV show.

2. Disconnect & Prepare For Bed

Set a bedtime for yourself.
If your bedtime is 10 pm, attempt to disconnect from everything by 9 pm—TV, PC, phone, anything that requires your full energy—one full hour before lying down.
Then, take that last hour to make preparations for tomorrow morning: whether that is packing tomorrow’s lunch, picking out the gym clothes you’ll be wearing, organizing the calendar for tomorrow, or preparing the work outfit. Try to do as much during the evening to allow for ease of waking up hassle-free.

3. Sleep

We often compromise sleep, in order to squeeze in as much as we can in our day. Sustainability to the early morning “wellness waking” lies in the quality of sleep that you’re getting. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
I recently attended a presentation by Tony Schwartz, an expert on energy and productivity, and the CEO of The Energy Project. He states:
Physical energy is the foundation of all dimensions of energy, and sleep is the foundation of physical energy. There is no single behavior that more fundamentally influences our effectiveness in waking life.
Sleep deprivation takes a powerful toll on our health, our emotional well-being, and our cognitive functioning. Make getting 7-8 hours of sleep your highest priority. Sleep is often the first thing we’re willing to give up in an effort to get more done. Even small amounts of sleep deprivation make us vastly less efficient.

Motivation to Wake Up Early

The evening ritual smoothness determines whether or not the morning will work out as planned. So, ensure you’re prioritizing the non-negotiable tasks, disconnecting and preparing for tomorrow, and, most importantly, getting in at least 7 hours of sleep.
I believe that waking up early is–fundamentally– reliant on a healthy evening routine, consistent practice, and finding something desirable in the morning which can inspire you to jump out of bed.
You don’t necessarily have to get up to run 3 miles … or do yoga … or walk the dog; there are many other early morning possibilities that can kick-off your day with a state of wellness.

6 Things To Do In The Morning

Here are 6 ideas that you can start doing in the morning that will yield positive results on your overall wellbeing:

1. Journal

Wake up, find your favorite spot—whether in your home or at the local coffee shop—and write. There doesn’t need to be a theme. Simply relax and write: whatever is on your mind, let it flow onto the page.
There is clarity to be found in simply freefalling onto a piece of paper. This is a concept called “Morning Pages” by Julia Cameron—basically writing down on paper a stream of consciousness without editing, and doing so first thing in the morning.

2. Be Outside

The outdoors, whether a stroll around the block or to the park, can be incredibly nourishing to your senses and well-being.
Find your way to the front door and just take a stroll outside—zoom in on the way the sun feels on your body, the wind on your face, or the ground beneath your feet. Just be outside and allow nature to breathe with you.

3. Nourish your mind

The early morning is an optimal time to pick up a good book or read your favorite, refreshing blog (such as lovely TSN). It is a gift to you, your day and all the people you encounter by entering into the morning with a sense of mental, positive nourishment.

4. Nurture your body

Connect with the thing your body is asking for. Perhaps you have been sluggish and could benefit from a cardio workout to get your heart pumping. Perhaps, you have been overworked and could benefit from some yoga stretching.
Perhaps, your body feels soft to you and it’s time to tone up by hitting the weights at the gym. Nurture your body by giving what it is asking for.

5. Listen

Tune into your mood and feed it with music that is soothing. Listen to that uplifting podcast, the favorite song, or the energizing beat. Allow the music, the positive feelings, to accompany you on your morning journey.

6. Just Sit

Perhaps it may seem contradictory to wake up early to simply sit, but it truly can be a gift to the how the rest of your day unfolds.
I admire my husband’s ability to wake up at 4:45AM and just sit in silence for 15 minutes before he gets ready for work. I have witnessed such a shift in his ability to deal with the stresses in his day with much more ease.
By taking a few moments in the morning to first reach for your breath—instead of your cell phone or the morning paper—this will set the stage for calmness and clarity to follow.

The Greatest Tragedy: Time vs Money

Photo of Gala Darling

Editor’s Note I recently read a gem of a book called “The Millionaire Fastlane”. Despite feeling skeptical by its title, its phenomenal content surprised and delighted me. I’ll say more about the book at the end of this article. Until then, enjoy this article from the book’s author, sharing an important message for us all.
Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.~Michael Landon
Today I am confessing something big.
Not many men would disclose this information, but I will.
My two favorite movies are Titanic and The Notebook — yes, two perennial favorites among the ladies and unmentionable by my male counterparts.

How does a guy like me (who like any typical man, likes fast cars, horsepower, beer, sports, and pretty women) come to a conclusion that these movies deserve a spot in the DVD cabinet next to the usual suspects like The Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather?
While the love story in both is tearful, these movies highlight something that we tend to neglect in our lives … and, I believe, is the greatest tragedy of all humanity.
That tragedy?
The illusion that our time is richly abundant when in fact, it is deathly scarce.
In both plots, our protagonists come to this reality as life’s death clock ticks away. In The Notebook, our lovers would do anything for 5 sentient minutes together. Just 5 minutes and when they get it, they beg for time to stop.
In The Titanic, as the ship sinks and few lifeboats remain, Caledon Hockley, a wealthy steel industrialist bargains for his life with a ship’s officer and offers cash for a lifeboat seat only to be rebuked with a stiff certainty: “Your money can’t save you anymore that it can save me.”
Think about that statement for a moment. Your money can’t save you.
Think about how we tend to treat MONEY as more scare than our TIME.
Trust me, it isn’t and I don’t care how rich or poor you are.
On any given day, over $300 trillion dollars are exchanged in the world currency markets — that is $300,000,000,000,000. To give that perspective, you’d have to spend $1 million a day for 8,000 years to spend ONE DAY’S worth of trading value. Nearly 900 life spans!
And yet, the great theft of all humanity remains: People blissfully trade away their time (and their life) for money.
People camp-out on sidewalks for days at Wal-Mart hoping to get a $199 HDTV.
People stand in line for hours hoping to get a free bucket of chicken.
People drive hours to save pennies.
And of course, the worst soul-sucking exchange of them all … your job.
Yes, the good old selling of Monday through Friday for the paycheck of Saturday and Sunday. If you are working a job just to pay the bills (and NOT investing in a business system capable of spawning both free time and money) your return on investment (ROI) is a negative 60%.
That’s right.
A big minus 60%!
In other words, you give 5 days of bondage (doing things you wouldn’t normally do) in exchange for 2 days of freedom (however you spend your weekend.)
Give this exchange some perspective.
Suppose a friend approached you with this great new investment. You give your friend $5 on Monday and on Friday evening, he will give you $2 back. Again, that’s a negative 60% return on investment. Great deal? Of course not!
Then why-o-why in the world do people have no problem trading their time at the same exact dismal rate of return when in fact, it’s our time that is the scarce resource and not money? Time is like a primordial fuel — when it runs dry, no amount of cash can save you from the end. And sorry, there are no fill-up stations.
One of the many facts I drive home in my book, The Millionaire Fastlane is that you can always make more money and yet, you can’t really create more time beyond the confines of your own healthy mortality.
However the good news is this: You can manipulate your TIME ratio because your lifespan consists of two types of time: Indentured time (time earning money) and free time (time spend doing whatever your please). Since your mortality makes your total time finite, the only option to defy time is to transfer indentured time to free time.
In other words, wouldn’t it be great to have MORE FREE TIME and less INDENTURED TIME? So when it comes to our careers, our life, and our time, wouldn’t it be wise to invest in something that had the ability to create both MONEY and FREE TIME?
Such things exist in what I call “The Fastlane“, but it doesn’t come from 40 years of mindless frugality, jobs, 401(k)s, and other traditional guru-speak dictum. If you want to be wealthy in both free time and money, stop being indoctrinated by the mainstream financial gurus who treat time abundantly — a foolish lifetime trade that will more likely make you bankrupt in time, rather than rich in money.
Because in the end when your deathbed arrives, your dying wish won’t be for more money, it will be for more time…

Editor’s Note:

I (Tina) recently and accidentally came upon MJ’s book “The Millionaire Fastlane”. Despite my initial skepticism, I decided to give the book a chance, after seeing all the 5-star reviews on amazon. The result? I absolutely fell in love with the author’s unconventional message and unique perspective. I don’t say this lightly.
The book doesn’t teach you how to get-rich-quick, it doesn’t talk about how to save. It’s a highly practical book on mindset and contains a ton of wisdom and much needed peep talk. This will be one book that I’ll be giving my son, when he’s old enough, to learn about money and business.
If you (like me) want to expand or better understand financial consciousness—regardless of how much money you currently have— I highly recommend this book. If you want to transition from a corporate job to entrepreneurship, I highly recommend this book.
At Think Simple Now, (you know that) I am committed to finding and sharing the best messages and ideas I can find on living a phenomenal life. While making money isn’t the path to lasting peace and happiness; it is on everyone’s mind. As such, I feel that this book is a must read.