Friday, December 17, 2010

On Hiatus

Sorry readers, won't be posting any daily inspirations temporarily, until after New Year's at least. I'm in New York now, and hehe, I forgot to bring the book with me. =P

Anyhow, I hope you guys will have a blessed Christmas and a meaningful New Year. Do write out your New Year's resolutions (and share them with me). Hopefully, the daily postings I have written will give you some inspiration of what you want to do next year. =)

Aight, Merry Christmas peeps!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(65) Be Flexible with Changes in Your Plan

Once I get something in my mind (a plan), it can be tricky to let go of it and go with the flow. I was taught, and to some degree it's certainly true, that success, or successfully completing a project, requires perseverance. At the same time, however, inflexibility creates an enormous amount of inner stress and is often irritating and insensitive to other people.

I like to do the majority of my writing in the wee hours of the morning. I might have the goal, in this book for example, to complete one or two strategies before anyone else in the house wakes up. But what happens if my four-year-old wakes up early and walks upstairs to see me? My plans have certainly been altered, but how do I react? Or, I might have the goal to go out for a run before going to the office. What happens if I get an emergency call from my office and have to skip my run?

There are countless potential examples for all of us - times when our plans suddenly change, something we thought was going to take place doesn't, someone doesn't do what they said they would do, you make less money than you thought you would, someone changes your plan without your consent, you have less time than previously planned, something unexpected comes up - and on and on it goes. The question to ask yourself is, What's really important?

We use the excuse that it's natural to feel frustrated when our plans change. That depends, however, on what your priorities are. Is it more important to stick to some rigid writing schedule to be available to my four-year-old? Is missing a thirty-minute run worth getting upset over? The more general question is, "What's more important, getting what I want and keeping my plans, or learning to go with the flow?" Clearly, to become a more peaceful person, you must prioritize being flexible over rigidity most of the time (obviously there will be exceptions). I've also found it helpful to expect that a certain percentage of plans will change. If I make allowances in my mind for this inevitability, then when it happens, I can say, "Here is one of those inevitabilities."

You'll find that if you create the goal to become more flexible, some wonderful things will begin to happen. You'll feel more relaxed, yet you won't sacrifice any productivity. You may become even more productive, because you won't need to expend so much energy being upset and worried. I've learned to trust that I will keep my deadlines, achieve most of my goals, and honor my responsibilities despite the fact that I may have to alter my plans slightly (or even completely). Finally, the people around you will be more relaxed too. They won't feel like they have to walk around on eggshells if, by some chance, your plans have to change.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(64) Practice Being in the "Eye of the Storm"

The eye of the storm is that one specific spot in the center of a twister, hurricane, or tornado that is calm, almost isolated from the frenzy of activity. Everything around the center is violent and turbulent, but the center remains peaceful. How nice it would be if we too could be calm and serene in the midst of chaos - in the eye of the storm.

Surprisingly enough, it's much easier than you might imagine to be in the eye of a "human storm." What it takes is intention and practice. Suppose, for example, that you are going to a family gathering that is going to be chaotic. You can tell yourself that you are going to use the experience as an opportunity to remain calm. You can commit to being the one person in the room who is going to be an example of peace. You can practice breathing. You can practice listening. You can let others be right and enjoy the glory. The point is, you can do it, if you set your mind to it.

By starting out with harmless scenarios like family gatherings, cocktail parties, and birthday parties for children, you can build a track record and enjoy some success. You'll notice that by being in the eye of the storm, you will be more present-moment oriented. You'll enjoy yourself more than ever before. Once you have mastered harmless circumstances like these, you can practice on more difficult areas of life - dealing with conflict, hardship, or grief. If you start slowly, have some success, and keep practicing, pretty soon you'll know how to live in the eye of the storm.

Monday, December 13, 2010

(63) Count to Ten

When I was growing up my father used to count out loud to ten when he was angry with my sisters and me. It was a strategy he, and many other parents, used to cool down before deciding what to do next.

I've improved this strategy by incorporating the use of the breath. All you have to do is this: When you feel yourself getting angry, take a long, deep inhalation, and as you do, say the number one to yourself. Then, relax your entire body as you breathe out. Repeat the same process with number two, all the way through at least ten (if you're really angry, continue to twenty-five). What you are doing here is clearing your mind with a mini version of a meditation exercise. The combination of counting and breathing is so relaxing that it's almost impossible to remain angry once you are finished. The increased oxygen in your lungs and the time gap between the moment you became angry and the time you finished the exercise enables you to increase your perspective. It helps make "big stuff" look like "little stuff." The exercise is equally effective in working with stress, or frustration. Whenever you feel a little off, give it a try.

The truth is, this exercise is a wonderful way to spend a minute or two whether or not you're angry. I've incorporated this strategy into my daily life simply because it's relaxing and I enjoy it. Often, it helps me to keep from getting angry in the first place.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

(62) Do One Thing at a Time

The other day I was driving on the freeway and noticed a man who, while driving in the fast lane, was shaving, drinking a cup of coffee, and reading the newspaper! "Perfect," I thought to myself, as just that morning I was trying to think of an appropriate example to point out the craziness of our frenzied society.

How often do we try to do more than one thing at once? We have cordless phones that are supposed to make our lives easier, but in some respects, they make our lives more confusing. My wife and I were at our friend's home for dinner a while ago and noticed her talking on the phone while simultaneously answering the door, checking on dinner, and changing her daughter's diaper (after she washed her hands, of course)! Many of us have the same tendency when we're speaking to someone and our mind is somewhere else, or when we're doing three or four chores all at the same time.

When you do too many things at once, it's impossible to be present-moment oriented. Thus, you not only lose out on much of the potential enjoyment of what you are doing, but you also become far less focused and effective.

An interesting exercise is to block out periods of time where you commit to doing only one thing at a time. Whether you're washing dishes, talking on the phone, driving a car, playing with your child, talking to your spouse, or reading a magazine, try to focus only on that one thing. Be present in what you are doing. Concentrate. You'll notice two things beginning to happen.

First, you'll actually enjoy what you are doing, even something mundane like washing dishes, or cleaning out a closet. When you're focused, rather than distracted, it enables you to become absorbed and interested in your activity, whatever it might be.

Second, you'll be amazed at how quickly and efficiently you'll get things done. Since I've become more present-moment oriented, my skills have virtually increased in all aspects of my life - writing, reading, cleaning house, and speaking on the phone.

You can do the same thing. It all starts with your decision to do one thing at a time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

(61) Read Articles and Books with Entirely Different Points of View from Your Own and Try to Learn Something

Have you ever noticed that practically everything you read justifies and reinforces your own opinions and views on life? The same is true with our radio and television listening and viewing choices as well. In fact, on America's most popular radio talk show, callers often identify themselves as "ditto heads", meaning "I already agree with everything you say. Tell me more." Liberals, conservatives - we're all the same. We form opinions and then spend our entire lifetimes validating what we believe to be true. This rigidity is sad, because there is so much we can learn from points of view that are different from our own. It's also sad because the stubbornness it takes to keep our heart and mind closed to everything other than our own point of view creates a great deal of inner stress. A closed mind is always fighting to keep everything else at arm's length.

We forget that we're all equally convinced that our way of looking at the world is the only correct way. We forget that two people who disagree with one another can often use the identical examples to prove their own point of view - and both sides can be articulate and convincing.

Knowing this, we can either buckle down and get even more stubborn - or we can lighten up and try to learn something new! For just a few minutes a day - whatever your slant on life - try making a gentle effort to read articles and/or books with different points of view. You don't need to change your core beliefs or your deepest held positions. All you're doing is expanding your mind and opening your heart to new ideas. This new openness will reduce the stress it takes to keep other points of view away. In addition to being very interesting, this practice helps you to see the innocence in others as well as helping you become more patient. You'll become a more relaxed, philosophic person, because you'll begin to sense the logic in other points of view. My wife and I subscribe to both the most conservative as well as the most liberal news letters in America. I'd say that both have broadened our perspective of life.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

(60) Turn Your Melodrama into a Mellow-Drama

In a certain respect, this strategy is just another way of saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff." Many people live as if life were a melodrama - "an extravagantly theatrical play in which action and plot predominate." Sound familiar? In dramatic fashion, we blow things out of proportion, and make a big deal out of little things. We forget that life isn't as bad as we're making it out to be. We also forget that when we're blowing things out of proportion, we are the ones doing the blowing.

I've found that simply reminding myself that life doesn't have to be a soap opera is a powerful method of calming down. When I get too worked up or start taking myself too seriously (which happens more than I like to admit), I say to myself something like, "Here I go again. My soap opera is starting." Almost always, this takes the edge of my seriousness and helps me laugh at myself. Often, this simple reminder enables me to change the channel to a more peaceful station. My melodrama is transformed into a "mellow-drama."

If you've ever watched a soap opera, you've seen how the characters will take little things so seriously as to ruin their lives over them - someone says something to offend them, looks at them wrong, or flirts with their spouse. Their response is usually, "Oh my gosh. How could this happen to me?" Then they exacerbate the problem by talking to others about "how awful it is." They turn life into an emergency - a melodrama.

The next time you feel stressed out, experiment with this strategy - remind yourself that life isn't an emergency and turn your melodrama into a mellow-drama.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

(59) Adopt a Child Through the Mail

While I don't want to turn this book into an advertisement for service agencies, I do have to say that my experience of adopting children through the mail has been extremely positive. No, you don't actually adopt a child, but you do get to help one out while, at the same time, getting to know them. The experience has brought tremendous joy and satisfaction to my entire family. My six-year-old daughter has an adoptee, and has enjoyed and learned from the experience a great deal. My daughter and her pal regularly write to each other, and draw pictures that we hang up. They enjoy hearing about each other's lives.

Each month you contribute a very small amount of money to the agency in charge of helping the children. The money is used to help the children and their parents with the necessities of life, which makes sending the children to school and caring for their needs a little easier.

I think the reason we enjoy this type of giving so much is that it's interactive. So often, when you give to a charity, you have no way of knowing who you are helping. In this instance, you not only get to know who, but you have the privilege of getting to know them as well. Also, the regularity of the ongoing relationship remind you how fortunate you are to be in a position to help. For me and for many people that I know, this type of giving brings forth feelings of gratitude. There are so many fine agencies to choose from, but my personal favorite is Children, Inc, out of Richmond, Virginia, (800) 538-5381.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

(58) Relax

What does it mean to relax? Despite hearing this term thousands of times during the course of our lives, very few people have deeply considered what it's really about.

When you ask people (which I have done many times) what it means to relax, most people will answer in a way that suggests that relaxing is something you plan to do later - you do it on vacation, in a hammock, when you retire, or when you get everything done. This implies, of course, that most other times (the other 95 percent of your life) should be spent nervous, agitated, rushed, and frenzied. Very few actually come out and say so, but this is the obvious implication. Could this explain why so many of us operate as if life is one great big emergency? Most of us postpone relaxation until our "in basket" is empty. Of course it never is.

It's useful to think of relaxation as a quality of heart that you can access on a regular basis rather than something reserved for some other time. You can relax now. It's helpful to remember that relaxed people can still be superachievers and, in fact, that relaxation and creativity go hand in hand. When I'm feeling uptight, for example, I don't even try to write. But when I feel relaxed, my writing flows quickly and easily.

Being more relaxed involves training yourself to respond differently to the dramas of life - turning your melodrama into a mellow-drama. It comes, in part, from reminding yourself over and over again (with loving-kindness and patience) that you have a choice in how you respond to life. You can learn to relate to your thinking as well as your circumstances in new ways. With practice, making these choices will translate into a more relaxed self.

Friday, November 26, 2010

(57) Become a Less Aggressive Driver

Where do you get the most uptight? If you're like most people, driving in traffic is probably high on your list. To look at most major freeways these days, you'd think you were on a racetrack instead of a roadway.

There are three excellent reasons for becoming a less aggressive driver. First, when you are aggressive, you put yourself and everyone around you in extreme danger. Second, driving aggressively is extremely stressful. Your blood pressure goes up, your grip on the wheel tightens, your eyes are strained, and your thoughts are spinning out of control. Finally, you end up saving no time in getting to where you want to go.

Recently I was driving south from Oakland to San Jose. Traffic was heavy, but moving. I noticed an extremely aggressive and angry driver weaving in and out of the lanes, speeding up and slowing down. Clearly, he was in a hurry. For the most part I remained in the same lane for the entire forty-mile journey. I was listening to a new audiotape I had just purchased and day-dreaming along the way. I enjoyed the trip a great deal because driving gives me a chance to be alone. As I was exiting off the freeway, the aggressive driver came up behind me and raced on by. Without realizing it, I had actually arrived in San Joe ahead of him. All of his weaving, rapid acceleration, and putting families at risk had earned him nothing except perhaps some high blood pressure and a great deal of wear and tear on his vehicle. On average, he and I had driven at the same speed.

The same principle applies when you see drivers speeding past you so that they can beat you to the next stoplight. It simply doesn't pay to speed. This is especially true if you get a ticket and have to spend eight hours in traffic school. It will take you years of dangerous speeding to make up this time alone.

When you make the conscious decision to become a less aggressive driver, you begin using your time in the car to relax. Try to see your driving not only as a way of getting you somewhere, but as a chance to breathe and to reflect. Rather than tensing your muscles, see if you can relax them instead. I even have a few audiotapes that are specifically geared toward muscular relaxation. Sometimes I pop one in and listen. By the time I reach my destination I feel more relaxed than I did before getting into the car. During the course of your lifetime, you're probably going to spend a great deal of time driving. You can spend those moments being frustrated, or you can use them wisely. If you do the latter, you'll be a more relaxed person.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

(56) Be Grateful When You're Feeling Good and Graceful When You're Feeling Bad

The happiest person on earth isn't always happy. In fact, the happiest people all have their fair share of low moods, problems, disappointments, and heartache. Often the difference between a person who is happy and someone who is unhappy isn't how often they get low, or even how low they drop, but instead, it's what they do with their low moods. How do they relate to their unchanging feelings?

Most people have it backward. When they are feeling down, they roll up their sleeves and get to work. They take their low moods very seriously and try to figure out and analyze what's wrong. They try to force themselves out of their low state, which tends to compound the problem rather than solve it.

When you observe peaceful, relaxed people, you find that when they are feeling good, they are very grateful. They understand that both positive and negative feelings come and go, and that there will come a time when they won't be feeling so good. To happy people, this is okay, it's the way of things. They accept the inevitability of passing feelings. So, when they are feeling depressed, angry, or stressed out, they relate to these feelings with the same openness and wisdom. Rather than fight their feelings and panic simply because they are feeling bad, they accept their feelings, knowing that this too, shall pass. Rather than stumbling and fighting against their negative feelings, they are graceful in their acceptance of them. This allows them to come gently and gracefully out of negative feeling states into more positive states of mind.

One of the happiest people I know is someone who also gets quite low from time to time. The difference, it seems, is that he has become quite comfortable with his low moods. It's almost as though he doesn't really care because he knows that, in due time, he will be happy again. To him, it's no big deal.

The next time you're feeling bad, rather than fight it, try to relax. See if, instead of panicking, you can be graceful and calm. Know that if you don't fight your negative feelings, if you are graceful, they will pass away just as surely as the sun sets in the evening.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(55) Breathe Before You Speak

This simple strategy has had remarkable results for virtually everyone I know who has tried it. The almost immediate results include increased patience, added perspective, and, as a side benefit, more gratitude and respect for others.

The strategy itself is remarkably simple. It involves nothing more than pausing - breathing - after the person to whom you are speaking is finished. At first, the time gap between your voices may seem like an eternity - but in reality, it amounts to only a fraction of a second of actual time. You will get used to the power and beauty of breathing, and you will come to appreciate it as well. It will bring you closer to, and earn you more respect from, virtually everyone you come into contact with. You'll find that being listened to is one of the rarest and most treasured gifts you can offer. All it takes is attention and practice.

If you observe the conversations around you, you'll notice that, often, what many of us do is simply wait for our chance to speak. We're not really listening to the other person, but simply waiting for an opportunity to express our own view. We often complete other people's sentences, or say things like, "Yeah, yeah," or, "I know," very rapidly, urging them to hurry up so that we can have our turn. It seems that talking to one another is sometimes more like sparring back and forth like fighters or Ping-Pong balls than it is enjoying or learning from the conversation.

This harried form of communication encourages us to criticize points of view, overreact, misinterpret meaning, impute false motives, and form opinions, all before our fellow communicator is even finished speaking. No wonder we are often so annoyed, bothered, and irritated with one another. Sometimes, with our poor listening skills, it's a miracle that we have any friends at all!

I spent most of my life waiting for my turn to speak. If you're at all like me, you'll be pleasantly amazed at the softer reactions and looks of surprise as you let others completely finish their thought before you begin yours. Often, you will be allowing someone to feel listened to for the very first time. You will feel a sense of relief coming from the person to whom you are speaking - and a much calmer, less rushed feeling between the two of you. No need to worry that you won't get your turn to speak - you will. In fact, it will be more rewarding to speak because the person you are speaking to will pick up on your respect and patience and will begin to do the same.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(54) Understand the Statement, "Wherever You Go, There You Are"

This is the title of a super book by Jon Kabat-Zinn. As the title suggests, wherever you go, you take yourself with you! The significance of this statement is that it can teach you to stop constantly wishing you were somewhere else. We tend to believe that if we were somewhere else - on vacation, with another partner, in a different career, a different home, a different circumstance - somehow we would be happier and more content. We wouldn't!

The truth is, if you have destructive mental habits - if you get annoyed and bothered easily, if you feel angry and frustrated a great deal of the time, or if you're constantly wishing things were different, these identical tendencies will follow you, wherever you go. And the reverse is also true. If you are a generally happy person who rarely gets annoyed and bothered, then you can move from place to place, from person to person, with very little negative impact.

Someone once asked me, "What are the people like in California?" I asked him, "What are the people like in your home state?" He replied, "Selfish and greedy." I told him that he would probably find the people in California to be selfish and greedy.

Something wonderful begins to happen with the simple realization that life, like an automobile, is driven from the inside out, not the other way around. As you focus more on becoming more peaceful with where you are, rather than focusing on where you would rather be, you begin to find peace right now, in the present. Then, as you move around, try new things, and meet new people, you carry that sense of inner peace with you. It's absolutely true that "Wherever you go, there you are."

(53) See the Glass as Already Broken (and Everything Else Too)

This is a Buddhist teaching that I learned over twenty years ago. It has provided me, again and again, with greatly needed perspective to guide me toward my goal of a more accepting self.

The essence of this teaching is that all of life is in a constant state of change. Everything has a beginning and everything has an end. Every tree begins with a seed and will eventually transform back into the earth. Every rock is formed and every rock will vanish. In our modern world, this means that every car, every machine, every piece of clothing is created and all will wear out and crumble; it's only a matter of when. Our bodies are born and they will die. A glass is created and will eventually break.

There is peace to be found in this teaching. When you expect something to break, you're not surprised or disappointed when it does. Instead of becoming immobilized when something is destroyed, you feel grateful for the time you have had.

The easiest place to start is with the simple things, a glass of water, for example. Pull out your favorite drinking glass. Take a moment to look at and appreciate its beauty and all it does for you. Now, imagine that same glass as already broken, shattered all over the floor. Try to maintain the perspective that, in time, everything disintegrates and returns to its initial form.

Obviously, no one wants their favorite drinking glass, or anything else, to be broken. This philosophy is not a prescription for becoming passive or apathetic, but for making peace with the way things are. When your drinking glass does break, this philosophy allows you to maintain your perspective. Rather than thinking, "Oh my God," you'll find yourself thinking, "Ah, there it goes." Play with this awareness and you'll find yourself not only keeping your cool but appreciating life as never before.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(52) Search for the Grain of Truth in Other Opinions

If you enjoy learning as well as making other people happy, you'll love this idea.

Almost everyone feels that their own opinions are good ones, otherwise they wouldn't be sharing them with you. One of the destructive things that many of us do, however, is compare someone else's opinion to our own. And, when it doesn't fall in line with our belief, we either dismiss it or find fault with it. We feel smug, the other person feels diminished, and we learn nothing.

Almost every opinion has some merit, especially if we are looking for merit, rather than looking for errors. The next time someone offers you an opinion, rather than judge or criticize it, see if you can find a grain of truth in what the person is saying.

If you think about it, when you judge someone else or their opinion, it really doesn't say anything about the other person, but it says quite a bit on your need to be judgmental.

I still catch myself criticizing other points of view, but far less than I used to. All that changed was my intention to find the grain of truth in other positions. If you practice this simple strategy, some wonderful things will begin to happen: You'll begin to understand those you interact with, others will be drawn to your accepting and loving energy, your learning curve will be enhanced, and, perhaps most important, you'll feel much better about yourself.

Monday, November 15, 2010

(51) Just for Fun, Agree with Criticism Directed Toward You (Then Watch It Go Away)

So often we are immobilized by the slightest criticism. We treat it like an emergency, and defend ourselves as if we were in a battle. In truth, however, criticism is nothing more than an observation by another person about us, our actions, or the way we think about something, that doesn't match the vision we have of ourselves. Big deal!

When we react to criticism with a knee-jerk, defensive response, it hurts. We feel attacked, and we have a need to defend or to offer a counter-criticism. We fill our minds with angry or hurtful thoughts directed at ourselves or at the person who is being critical. All this reaction takes an enormous amount of mental energy.

An incredibly useful exercise is to agree with criticism directed toward you. I'm not talking about turning into a doormat or ruining your self-esteem by believing all negativity that comes in your direction. I'm only suggesting that there are many times when simply agreeing with criticism defuses the situation, satisfies a person's need to express a point of view, offers you a chance to learn something about yourself by seeing a grain of truth in another position, and, perhaps the most important, provides you an opportunity to remain calm.

One of the first times I consciously agreed with criticism directed toward me was many years ago when my wife said to me, “Sometimes you talk too much.” I remember feeling momentarily hurt before deciding to agree. I responded by saying “You're right, I do talk too much sometimes.” I discovered something that changed my life. In agreeing with her, I was able to see that she had a good point. I often do talk too much! What's more, my non-defensive helped her to relax. A few minutes later she said, “You know, you're sure easy to talk to.” I doubt she would have said that had I become angry at her observation. I've since learned that reacting to criticism never makes the criticism go away. In fact, negative reactions to criticism often convince the person doing the criticizing that they are accurate in their assessment of you.

Give this strategy a try. I think you'll discover that agreeing with an occasional criticism has more value than it costs.

(50) Write Down Your Five Most Stubborn Positions and See if You Can Soften Them

The first time I tried this strategy, I was so stubborn that I insisted I wasn't stubborn! Over time, as I have worked toward becoming a gentler person, I have found it far easier to see where I'm being stubborn.

Here are a few examples from my clients: "People who aren't stressed are lazy." "My way is the only way." "Men aren't good listeners." "Children are too much work." "People in business don't care about anything except money." You can see that the list itself is potentially endless. The point here isn't the specifics of what you are stubborn about but rather the fact that you hold on so tightly to any given idea you might have.

It doesn't make you weak to soften your positions. In fact, it makes you stronger. I have a male client who was adamant, to the point of being obnoxious about it, that his wife spent too much money. As he relaxed a little, and noticed his own rigidity, he discovered something that he's now a little embarrassed about, but laughs at. He found out that, in reality, he spent more discretionary money on himself than his wife spent on herself! His objectivity had become muddled by his own rigid belief.

As he has become wiser and gentler, his marriage has improved immensely. Rather than resenting his wife for something she wasn't even doing, he now appreciates her restraint. She, in turn, feels his new acceptance and appreciation and loves him more than ever.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

(49) Resist the Urge to Criticize

When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.

If you attend a gathering and listen to all the criticism that is typically levied against others, and then go home and consider how much good all that criticism actually does to make our world a better place, you'll probably come up with the same answer I do: Zero! It does no good. But that's not all. Being critical not only solves nothing; it contributes to the anger and distrust in our world. After all, none of us likes to be criticized. Our reaction to criticism is usually to become defensive and/or withdrawn. A person who feels attacked is likely to do one of two things: he will either retreat in fear or shame, or he will attach or lash out in anger. How many times have you criticized someone and had them respond by saying, "Thank you so much for pointing out my flaws. I really appreciate it"?

Criticism, like swearing, is actually nothing more than a bad habit. It's something that we get used to doing; we're familiar with how it feels. It keeps us busy and gives us something to talk about.

If, however, you take a moment to observe how you actually feel immediately after you criticize someone, you'll notice that you will feel a little deflated and ashamed, almost like you're the one who has been attacked. The reason this is true is that when we criticize, it's a statement to the world and to ourselves, "I have a need to be critical." This isn't something we are actually proud to admit.

The solution is to catch yourself in the act of being critical. Notice how often you do it and how bad it makes you feel. What I like to do is to turn it into a game. I still catch myself being critical, but as my need to criticize arises, I try to remember to say to myself, "There I go again." Hopefully, more often than not, I can turn my criticism into tolerance and respect.

(48) Remember that Everything Has God's Fingerprints on It

Rabbi Harold Kushner reminds us that everything that God has created is potentially holy. Our task as humans is to find that holiness in what appear to be unholy situations. He suggests that when we can learn to do this, we will have learned to nurture our souls. It's easy to see God's beauty in a beautiful sunrise, a snow-capped mountain, the smile of a healthy child, or in ocean waves crashing on a sandy beach. But can we learn to find holiness in seemingly ugly circumstances - difficult life lessons, a family tragedy, or a struggle for life?

When our life is filled with the desire to see the holiness in everyday things, something magical begins to happen. A feeling of peace emerges. We begin to see the nurturing aspects of daily living that were previously hidden to us. When we remember that everything has God's fingerprint on it, that alone makes it special. If we remember this spiritual fact while we are dealing with a difficult person or struggling to pay our bills, it broadens our perspective. It helps us to remember that God also created the person you are dealing with or that, despite your struggle to pay your bills, you are truly blessed to have all that you do.

Somewhere, in the back of your mind, try to remember that everything has God's fingerprints on it. The fact that we can't see the beauty in something doesn't suggest that it's not there. Rather, it suggests that we are not looking carefully enough or with a broad enough perspective to see it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

(47) Argue for Your Limitations, and They're Yours

Many people spend a great deal of energy arguing for their own limitations. "I can't do that," "I can't help it, I've always been that way," "I'll never have a loving relationship," and thousands of other negative and self-defeating statements.

Our minds are powerful instruments. When we decide that something is true or beyond our reach, it's very difficult to pierce through this self-created hurdle. When we argue for our position, it's nearly impossible. Suppose, for example, you tell yourself, "I can't write." You'll look for examples to prove your position. You'll remember your poor essays in high school, or recall how awkward you felt the last time you sat down to write a letter. You'll fill your head with limitations that will frighten you from. In order to become a writer or anything else, the first step is to silence your greatest critic - you.

I had a client who told me, "I'll never have a good relationship. I always screw them up." Sure enough, she was right. Whenever she met someone, she would, without even knowing it, look for reasons for her new partner to leave her. If she were late for a date, she would tell him, "I'm always late." If they had a disagreement, she would say, "I'm always getting into arguments." Sooner or later, she would convince him that she wasn't worthy of his love. Then she would say to herself, "See, it happens every time. I'll never have a good relationship."

She had to learn to stop expecting things to go wrong. She needed to "catch herself" in the act of arguing for her own limitations. When she started to say, "I always do that," she needed to instead say, "That's ridiculous. I don't always do anything."She had to see that arguing for her limitations was just a negative habit that could easily be replaced with a more positive habit. Today, she's doing much better. When she reverts to her old habit, she usually laughs at herself.

I have learned that when I argue for my own limitations, very seldom do I disappoint myself. I suspect the same is true for you.

(46) Every Day, Tell At Least One Person Something You Like, Admire, or Appreciate about Them

How often do you remember (or take the time) to tell other people how much you like, admire, or appreciate them? For many people, it's often not enough. In fact, when I ask people how often they receive heartfelt compliments from others, I hear answers like, "I can't remember the last time I received a compliment," "Hardly ever," and sadly, "I never receive them."

There are several reasons why we don't vocally let others know our positive feelings toward them. I've heard excuses like, "They don't need to hear me say that - they already know," and "I do admire her, but I'm too embarrassed to say anything." But when you ask the would-be recipient if he or she enjoys being given genuine compliments and positive feedback, the answer nine times out of ten is, "I love it." Whether your reason for not giving compliments on a regular basis is not knowing what to say, embarrassment, feeling that other people already know their strengths and don't need to be told, or simply not being in the habit of doing it, it's time for a change.

Telling someone something that you like, admire, or appreciate about them is a "random act of kindness." It takes almost no effort (once you get used to it), yet it pays enormous dividends. Many people spend their entire lifetimes wishing that other people would acknowledge them. They feel this especially about their parents, spouses, children, and friends. But even compliments from strangers feel good if they are genuine. Letting someone know how you feel about them also feels good to the person offering the compliment. It's a gesture of loving-kindness. It means that your thoughts are geared in a positive direction, your feelings are peaceful.

The other day I was in the grocery store and witnessed an incredible display of patience. The checkout clerk had just been chewed by an angry customer, clearly without good cause. Rather than being reactive, the clerk defused the anger by remaining calm. When it was my turn to pay for my groceries I said to her, "I'm so impressed at the way you handled that customer." She looked me right in the eye and said, "Thank you, sir. Do you know you are the first person ever to give me a compliment in this store?" It took less than two seconds to let her know, yet it was a highlight of her day, and of mine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

(45) Develop Your Own Helping Rituals

If you want your life to stand for peace and kindness, it's helpful to do kind, peaceful things. One of my favorite ways to do this is by developing my own helping rituals. These little acts of kindness are opportunities to be of service and reminders of how good it feels to be kind and helpful.

We live in a rural area of the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of what we see is beauty and nature. One of the exceptions to the beauty is the litter that some people throw out of their windows as they are driving on rural roads. One of the few drawbacks to living out in the boondocks is that public services, such as litter collection, are less available than they are closer to the city.

A helping ritual that I practice regularly with my two children is picking up litter in our surrounding area. We've become so accustomed to doing this that my daughters will often say to me in animated voices, "There's some litter, Daddy, stop the car!" And if we have time, we will often pull over and pick it up. It may seem strange, but we actually enjoy it. We pick up litter in parks, sidewalks, practically anywhere. Once I even saw a complete stranger picking up litter close to where we live. He smiled at me and said, "I saw you doing it, and it seemed like a good idea."

Picking up litter is only one of an endless supply of possible helping rituals. You might like holding the door open for people, visiting lonely elderly people in nursing homes, or shoveling snow off someone else's driveway. Think of something that seems effortless yet helpful. It's fun, personally rewarding, and sets a good example. Everyone wins.

(44) Understand Separate Realities

While we're on the subject of being interested in the way other people do things, let's take a moment to discuss separate realities.

If you have traveled to foreign countries or seen depictions of them in movies, you are aware of the vast differences among cultures. The principle of separate realities says that the differences among individuals is every bit as vast. Just as we wouldn't expect people of different cultures to see and do things as we would (in fact, we'd be disappointed if they did), this principle tells us that the individual differences in our ways of seeing the world prohibit this as well. It's not a matter of merely tolerating differences but of truly understanding and honoring the fact that it literally can't be any other way.

I have seen an understanding of this principle change lives. It can virtually eliminate quarrels. When we expect to see things differently, when we take it as a given that others will do things differently and react differently to the same stimuli, the compassion we have for ourselves and for others rises dramatically. The moment we expect otherwise, the potential for conflict exists.

I encourage you to explore deeply and respect the fact that we are all very different. When you do, the love you feel for others as well as the appreciation you have for your own uniqueness will increase.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nearer My God to Thee

1.Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

2.Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
yet in my dreams I'd be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

3.There let the way appear, steps unto heaven;
all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;
angels to beckon me
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

4.Then, with my waking thoughts bright with thy praise,
out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
so by my woes to be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

5.Or if, on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

(43) Become an Anthropologist

Anthropology is a science dealing with man and his origins. In this strategy, however, I'll conveniently redefine anthropology as "being interested, without judgment, in the way other people choose to live and behave." This strategy is geared toward developing your compassion, as well as a way of becoming more patient. Beyond that, however, being interested in the way other people act is a way of replacing judgments with loving-kindness. When you are genuinely curious about the way someone reacts or the way they feel about something, it's unlikely that you will also be annoyed. In this way, becoming an anthropologist is a way of becoming less frustrated by the actions of others.

When someone acts in a way that seems strange to you, rather than reacting in your usual way, such as, "I can't believe they would do that," instead say something to yourself like, "I see, that must be the way she sees things in her world. Very interesting." In order for this strategy to help you, you have to be genuine. There's a fine line between being "interested" and being arrogant, as if secretly you believe that your way is better.

Recently I was at a local shopping mall with my six-year-old daughter. A group of punk rockers walked by with orange spiked hair and tattoos covering much of their bodies. My daughter immediately asked me, "Daddy, why are they dressed up like that? Are they in costumes?" Years ago I would have felt very judgmental and frustrated about these young people - as if their way was wrong and my more conservative way was right. I would have blurted out some judgmental explanation to my daughter and passed along to her my judgmental views. Pretending to be an anthropologist, however, has changed my perspective a great deal; it's made me softer. I said to my daughter, "I'm not really sure, but it's interesting how different we all are, isn't it?" She said, "Yeah, but I like my own hair." Rather than focusing on the behavior and continuing to give it energy, we both dropped it and continued to enjoy our time together.

When you are interested in other perspectives, it doesn't imply, even slightly, that you're advocating it. I certainly wouldn't choose a punk rock lifestyle or suggest it to anyone else. At the same time, however, it's not really my place to judge it either. One of the cardinal rules of joyful living is that judging others takes a great deal of energy, and, without exception, pulls you away from where you want to be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

(42) Spend a Moment, Every Day, Thinking of Someone to Love

Earlier in this book I introduced the idea of spending a moment, each day, thinking of someone to thank. Another excellent source of gratitude and inner peace is to spend a moment, every day, thinking of someone to love. Remember the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away?" The love equivalent might read, "Thinking of someone to love each day keeps your resentment away."

I started consciously choosing to think of people to love when I realized how often I could get caught up in thinking about the opposite - people who irritate me. My mind would focus on negative or strange behavior, and within seconds I was filled with negativity. Once I made the conscious decision, however, to spend a moment each morning thinking of someone to love, my attention was redirected towards the positive, not only toward that one person, but in general throughout the day. I don't mean to suggest that I don't get irritated anymore, but without question it happens much less frequently than it used to. I credit this exercise with much of my improvement.

Every morning when I wake up, I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then I ask myself the question, "Who shall I send love to today?" Instantly, a picture of someone will pop into my mind - a family member, a friend, someone I work with, a neighbor, someone from my past, even a stranger I may have seen on the street. To me, it doesn't really matter who it is because the idea is to gear my mind toward love. Once the person to whom I'm directing the love is clear, I simply wish them a day filled with love. I might say to myself something like, "I hope you have a wonderful day filled with loving-kindness." When I finish, which is within seconds, I usually feel that my heart is ready to begin my day. In some mystical way that I can't explain, those few seconds stick with me for many hours. If you give this little exercise a try, I think that you'll find that your day is a little more peaceful.

Friday, November 5, 2010

(41) Avoid Weatherproofing

The idea of weatherproofing as it pertains to peaceful living is a metaphor to explain one of our most neurotic, ungrateful tendencies. It comes from a friend of mine, Dr. George Pransky.

Just as we can weatherproof a home for the winter by looking for cracks, leaks, and imperfections, we can also weatherproof our relationships, even our lives, by doing the very same thing. Essentially, weatherproofing means that you are on the careful lookout for what needs to be fixed or repaired. It's finding the cracks and flaws of life, and either trying to fix them, or at least point them out to others. Not only does this tendency alienate you from other people, it makes you feel bad too. It encourages you to think what's wrong with everything and everyone - what you don't like. So, rather than appreciating our relationships and our lives, weatherproofing encourages us to end up thinking that life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Nothing is ever good enough the way it is.

In our relationships, weatherproofing typically plays itself out like this: You meet someone and all is well. You are attracted to his or her appearance, personality, intellect, sense of humor, or some combination of these traits. Initially, you not only approve of your differences with this person, you actually appreciate them. You might even be attracted to the person, in part because of how different you are. You have different opinions, preferences, tastes, and priorities.

After a while, however, you begin to notice little quirks about your new partner (or friend, teacher, whoever), that you feel could be improved upon. You bring it to their attention. You might say, "You know, you sure have a tendency to be late." Or, "I've noticed you don't read very much." The point is, you've begun what inevitably turns into a way of life - looking for and thinking about what you don't like about someone, or something that isn't quite right.

Obviously, an occasional comment, constructive criticism, or helpful guidance isn't the cause for alarm. I have to say, however, that in the course of working with hundreds of couples over the years, I've met very few people who didn't feel that they were weatherproofed at times by their partner. Occasionally harmless comments have an insidious tendency to become a way of looking at life.

When you are weatherproofing another human being, it says nothing about them - but it does define you as someone who needs to be critical.

Whether you have a tendency to weatherproof your relationships, certain aspects of your life, or both, what you need to do is write off weatherproofing as a bad idea. As the habit creeps into your thinking, catch yourself and seal your lips. The less often you weatherproof your partner or your friends, the more you'll notice how super your life really is.

(40) When in Doubt about Whose Turn It Is to Take Out the Trash, Go Ahead and Take It Out

If we're not careful, it's easy to become resentful about all the responsibilities of daily living. Once, in a very low mood, I figured out that on an average day, I do over 1,000 different things. Of course, when I'm in a better mood, that number is significantly lower.

As I think about it, it's astounding to me how easy it is for me to remember all the chores that I do, as well as all the other responsibilities that I take care of. But, at the same time, it's easy for me to forget all the things that my wife does on a daily basis. How convenient!

It's really difficult to become a contented person if you're keeping score of all you do. Keeping track only discourages you by cluttering your mind with who's doing what, who's doing more, and so forth. If you want to know the truth about it, this is the epitome of "small stuff." It will bring you far more joy to your life to know that you have done your part and someone else in your family has one less thing to do, than it will to worry and fret over whose turn it is to take out the trash.

The strongest argument against this strategy is the concern that you'll be taken advantage of. This mistake is similar to believing it's important that you're right. Most of the time it's not important that you're right, and neither is it important if you take trash out a few more times than your spouse or housemate. Making things like garbage less relevant in your life will undoubtedly free up more time and energy for truly important things.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

(39) Practice Humility

Humility and inner peace go hand in hand. The less compelled you are to try to prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peaceful inside.

Proving yourself is a dangerous trap. It takes an enormous amount of energy to be continually pointing out your accomplishments, bragging, or trying to convince others of your worth as a human being. Bragging actually dilutes the positive feelings you receive from an accomplishment or something you are proud of. To make matters worse, the more you try to prove yourself, the more others will avoid you, talk behind your back about your insecure need to brag, and perhaps even resent you.

Ironically, however, the less you care about seeking approval, the more approval you seem to get. People are drawn to those with a quiet, inner confidence, people who don't need to make themselves look good, be "right" all the time, or steal the glory. Most people love a person who doesn't need to brag, a person who shares from his or her heart and not from his or her ego.

The way to develop genuine humility is to practice. It's nice because you will get immediate inner feedback in the way of calm, easy feelings. The next time you have an opportunity to brag, resist the temptation. I discussed this strategy with a client, and he shared the following story: He was with a group of friends a few days after he had been promoted at work. His friends didn't know it yet, but my client was chosen to be promoted instead of another friend of theirs. He was a little competitive with this person, and had the very strong temptation to sneak in the fact that he had been chosen and their other friend wasn't. He felt himself about ready to say something, when a little voice inside him said, "Stop! Don't do it!" He went ahead and shared with his friends, but didn't cross the line and turn the sharing into gloating. He never mentioned how their other friend didn't get promoted. He told me he couldn't remember ever feeling so calm and proud of himself. Later, when his friends did find out what had happened, they let him know that they were extremely impressed with his good judgment and humility. He received more positive feedback and attention from practicing humility - not less.

(38) Tell Three People (Today) How Much You Love Them

Author Stephen Levine asks the question, "If you had an hour to live and could make only phone call - who would you call, what would you say, and why are you waiting?" What a powerful message!

Who knows what we are waiting for? Perhaps we want to believe we will live forever, or that "someday" we will get around to telling the people we love how much we love them. Whatever the reasons, most of us simply wait too long.

As fate would have it, I'm writing this strategy on my grandmother's birthday. Later today, my father and I are driving out to visit her grave site. She died about two years ago. Before she passed away, it became obvious how important it was to her to let her family know how much she loved us all. It was a good reminder that there is no good reason to wait. Now is the time to let people know how much you care.

Ideally, you can tell someone in person, or over the phone. I wonder how many people have been on the receiving end of a phone call where the caller says, "I just called to tell you how much I love you!" You may be surprised that almost nothing in the world means so much to a person. How would you like to receive the same message?

If you're too shy to make such a phone call, write a heartfelt letter instead. Either way, you may find that as you get used to it, letting people know how much you love them will become a regular part of your life. It probably won't shock you to know that, if it does, you'll probably begin receiving more love as a result.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

(37) Choose Being Kind over Being Right

As I first introduced in strategy number 12, you are given many opportunities to choose between being kind, and being right. You have chances to point out to someone their mistakes, things they could or should have done differently, ways they can improve. You have chances to "correct" people, privately as well as in front of others. What all these opportunities amount to are chances to make someone else feel bad, and yourself feel bad in the process.

Without getting too psychoanalytical about it, the reason we are tempted to put others down, correct them, or show them how we're right and they're wrong is that our ego mistakenly believes that if we point out how someone else is wrong, we must be right, and therefore we will feel better.

In actuality, however, if you pay attention to the way you feel after you put someone down, you'll notice that you feel worse than before the put-down. Your heart, the compassionate part of you, knows that it's impossible to feel better at the expense of someone else.

Luckily, the opposite is true - when your goal is to build people up, to make them feel better, to share in their joy, you too reap the rewards of their positive feelings. The next time you have the chance to correct someone, even if their facts are a little off, resist the temptation. Instead, ask yourself, "What do I really want out of this interaction?" Chances are, what you want is a peaceful interaction where all parties leave feeling good. Each time you resist "being right," and instead choose kindness, you'll notice a peaceful feeling within.

Recently my wife and I were discussing a business idea that had turned out really well. I was talking about "my" idea, clearly taking credit for our success! Kris, in her usual loving manner, allowed me to have the glory. Later that day, I remembered that the idea was actually her idea, not mine. Whoops! When I called her to apologize, it was obvious to me that she cared more for my joy than she did her own need to take credit. She said that she enjoys seeing me happy and that it doesn't matter whose idea it was. (Do you see why she's so easy to love?)

Don't confuse this strategy with being a wimp, or not standing up for what you believe in. I'm not suggesting that it's not okay for you to be right - only that if you insist on being right, there is often a price to pay - your inner peace. In order to be a person filled with equanimity, you must choose kindness over being right, most of the time. The best place to start is with the next person you speak to.

(36) See the Innocence

For many people, one of the most frustrating aspects of life is not being able to understand other people's behavior. We see them as "guilty" instead of "innocent." It's tempting to focus on people's seemingly irrational behavior - their comments, actions, mean-spirited acts, selfish behavior - and get extremely frustrated. If we focus on behavior too much, it can seem like other people are making us miserable.

But as I once heard Wayne Dyer sarcastically suggest in a lecture, "Round up all the people who are making you miserable and bring them to me. I will treat them [as a counselor], and you'll get better!" Obviously, this is absurd. It's true that other people do weird things (who doesn't?), but we are the ones getting upset, so we are the ones who need to change. I'm not talking about accepting, ignoring, or advocating violence or any other deviant behavior. I'm merely talking about learning to be less bothered by the actions of people.

Seeing the innocence is a powerful tool for transformation that means when someone is acting in a way that we don't like, the best strategy for dealing with that person is to distance oneself from the behavior, to "look beyond it," so that we can see the innocence in where the behavior is coming from. Very often, this slight shift in our thinking immediately puts into a state of compassion.

Occasionally, I work with people who are pressuring me to hurry up. Often, their technique for getting me to hurry along is obnoxious, even insulting. If I focus on the words they use, the tone of their voices, and the urgency of their messages, I can get annoyed, even angry in my responses. I see them as "guilty." However, if I remember the urgency I feel when I'm in a hurry to do something, it allows me to see the innocence in their behavior. Underneath even the most annoying behavior is a frustrated person who is crying out for compassion.

The next time (and hopefully from now on), when someone acts in a strange way, look for the innocence in his behavior. If you're compassionate, it won't be hard to see. When you see the innocence, the same things that have always frustrated you no longer do. And when you're not frustrated by the actions of others, it's a lot easier to stay focused on the beauty of life.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

(35) Look Beyond Behavior

I dedicate this post to John Yoon, an amazing mentor, and more importantly, an amazing friend. =)


Have you ever heard yourself, or someone else say: "Don't mind John, he didn't know what he was doing?" If so, you have been exposed to the wisdom of "looking beyond behavior." If you have children, you know very well the importance of this simple act of forgiveness. If we all base our love on our children's behavior, it would often be difficult to love them at all. If love were based purely on behavior, then perhaps none of us would ever have been loved as a teenager!

Wouldn't it be nice if we could try to extend this same loving-kindness toward everyone we meet? Wouldn't we live in a more loving world if, when someone acted in a way that we didn't approve of, we could see their actions in a similar light as our teenagers' offbeat behavior?

This doesn't mean that we walk around with our heads in the sand, pretending that everything is always wonderful, allow others to "walk all over us," or that we excuse or approve of negative behavior. Instead, it simply means having the perspective to give others the benefit of the doubt. Know that when the postal clerk is moving slowly, he is probably having a bad day, or perhaps all of his days are bad. When your spouse or close friend snaps at you, try to understand that, beneath this isolated act, your loved one really wants to love you, and to feel loved by you. Looking beyond behavior is easier than you might think. Try it today, and you'll see and feel some nice results.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

(34) Practice Random Acts of Kindness

There has been a bumper sticker that has been out for some time now. You can see it on cars all across the nation (in fact, I have one on my own car). It says, "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty." I have no idea who thought of this idea, but I've never seen a more important message on a car in front of me. Practicing random kindness is an effective way to get in touch with the joy of giving without expecting anything in return. It's best practiced without letting anyone know what you are doing.

There are five toll bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area. A while back, some people began paying the tolls of the cars immediately behind them. The drivers would drive to the toll window, and pull out their dollar bill, only to be informed, "Your toll has been paid by the car ahead of you." This is an example of a spontaneous, random gift, something given without expectation of or demand for anything in return. You can imagine the impact that tiny gift had on the driver of the car! Perhaps it encouraged him to be a nicer person that day. Often a single act of kindness sets a series of kind acts in motion.

There is no prescription for how to practice random kindness. It comes from the heart. Your gift might be to pick up litter in your neighborhood, make an anonymous contribution to a charity, send some cash in an unmarked envelope to make someone experiencing financial distress breathe a little easier, save an animal by bringing it to an animal rescue agency, or get a volunteer position feeding hungry people at a church or shelter. You may want to do all these things, and more. The point is, giving is fun and it doesn't have to be expensive.

Perhaps the greatest reason to practice random kindness is that it brings great contentment into your life. Each act of kindness rewards you with positive feelings and reminds you of the important aspects of life - service, kindness, and love. If we all do our own part, pretty soon we will live in a nicer world.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

(33) Praise and Blame Are All the Same

One of the most unavoidable life lessons is having to deal with the disapproval of others. Praise and blame are all the same is a fancy way of reminding yourself of the old cliche that you'll never be able to please all the people all the time. Even in a landslide election victory in which a candidate secures 55 percent of the vote, he or she is left with 45 percent of the population that wishes someone else were the winner. Pretty humbling, isn't it?

Our approval rating from family, friends, and the people we work with isn't likely to be much higher. The truth is, everyone has their own set of ideas with which to evaluate life, and our ideas don't always match those of other people. For some reason, however, most of us struggle against this inevitable fact. We get angry, hurt, or otherwise frustrated when people reject our ideas, tell us no, or give us some other form of disapproval.

The sooner we accept the inevitable dilemma of not being able to win the approval of everyone we meet, the easier our lives will become. When you expect to be dished out your share of disapproval, instead of struggling against this fact, you'll develop a helpful perspective to assist your life journey. Rather than feeling reject by disapproval, you can remind yourself, "Here it is again. That's okay." You can learn to be pleasantly surprised, even grateful when you receive the approval you're hoping for.

I find that there are many days when I experience both praise and blame. Someone will hire me to speak and someone else won't want to; one phone call delivers good news, another announces a new issue to deal with. One of my children is happy with my behavior, the other struggles against it. Someone says what a nice guy I am, someone else thinks I'm selfish because I don't return his phone call. The back and forth, good and bad, approval and disapproval, is a part of everyone's life. I'm the first to admit that I always prefer approval over disapproval. The more content I've become, however, the less I depend on approval for my sense of well-being.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Life Is a Test. It Is Only a Test

This message was really timely. Yesterday I had the most incredibly 'bad' day. Almost every thing that happened did not work out in my favor. Yet, there were some golden moments. I was reminded that I have amazing friends and family members who are always there for me, and I'm ever so grateful for that. Truly, not everything works out the way you want it to. Yesterday was a good reminder. Life is truly a test. Only a test.


One of my favorite posters says, "Life is a test. It is only a test. Had this been a real life you would have been instructed where to go and what to do." Whenever I think of this humorous bit of wisdom, it reminds me to not take my life so seriously.

When you look at life and its many challenges as a test, or series of tests, you begin to see how each issue you face is an opportunity to grow, a chance to roll with the punches. Whether you're being bombarded with problems, responsibilities, even unsurmountable hurdles, when looked at as a test, you always have a chance to succeed, in the sense of rising above that which is challenging you. If, on the other hand, you see each new issue you face as a serious battle that must be won in order to survive, you're probably in for a very rocky journey. The only time you're likely to be happy is when everything else is working out just right. And we all know how often that happens.

As an experiment, see if you can apply this idea to something you are forced to deal with. Perhaps you have a difficult teenager or a demanding boss. See if you can redefine the issue you face from being a "problem" to being a test. Rather than struggling with your issue, see if there is something you can learn from it. Ask yourself, "Why is this issue in my life? What would it mean and what would be involved to rise above it? Could I possibly look at this issue any differently? Can I see it as a test of some kind?"

If you give this strategy a try you may be surprised at your changed response. For example, I used to struggle over a great deal over the issue of my perception of not having enough time. I would rush around trying to get everything done. I blamed my schedule, my family, my circumstances, and anything else I could think of for my plight. Then it dawned on me. If I wanted to be happy, my goal didn't necessarily have to be to organize my life perfectly so that I had more time, but rather to see whether I could get to the point where I felt it was okay that I couldn't get everything done that I felt I must. In other words, my real challenge was to see my struggle as a test. Seeing this issue as a test ultimately helped me to cope with one of my biggest frustrations. I still struggle now and then about my perceived lack of time, but less than I used to. It has become far more acceptable to me to accept things as they are.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

(31) Become Aware of Your Moods and Don't Allow Yourself to Be Fooled by the Low Ones

Your own moods can be extremely deceptive. They can, and probably do, trick you into believing that your life is far worse than it actually is. When you're in a good mood, life looks great. You have perspective, common sense, and wisdom. In good moods, things don't feel so hard, problems seem less formidable and easier to solve. When you're in a good mood, relationships seem to flow and communication is easy. If you are criticized, you take it in stride.

On the contrary, when you're in a bad mood, life looks unbearably serious and difficult. You have very little perspective. You take things personally and often misinterpret those around you, as you impute malignant motives into their actions.

Here's the catch: People don't realize their moods are always on the run. They think instead that their lives have suddenly become worse in the past day, or even the last hour. So, someone who is in a good mood in the morning might love his wife, his job, and his car. He is probably optimistic about his future and feels grateful about his past. But by late afternoon, if his mood is bad, he claims he hates his job, thinks of his wife as a nuisance, thinks his car is a junker, and believes he's going nowhere in his career. If you ask him about his childhood while he's in a low mood, he'll probably tell you it was extremely difficult. He will probably blame his parents for his current plight.

Such quick and drastic concerns may seem absurd, even funny - but we're all like that. In low moods we lose our perspective and everything seems urgent. We completely forget that when we are in a good mood, everything seems so much better. We experience the identical circumstances - who we are married to, where we work, the car we drive, our potential, our childhood - entirely differently, depending on our mood! When we are low, rather than blaming our mood as would be appropriate, we instead tend to feel that our whole life is wrong. It's almost as if we actually believe that our lives have fallen apart in the past hour or two.

The truth is, life is almost never as bad as it seems when you're in a low mood. Rather than staying stuck in a bad temper, convinced you are seeing life realistically, you can learn to question your judgment. Remind yourself, "Of course I'm feeling defensive [or angry, frustrated, stressed, depressed]; I'm in a bad mood. I always feel negative when I'm low." When you're in an ill mood, learn to pass it off as simply that: an unavoidable human condition that will pass with time, if you leave it alone.

A low mood is not the time to analyze your life. To do so is emotional suicide. If you have a legitimate problem, it will still be there when your state of mind improves. The trick is to be grateful for our good moods and graceful in our low moods - not taking them too seriously. The next time you feel low, for whatever reason, remind yourself, "This too shall pass." It will.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

(30) Choose Your Battles Wisely

"Choose your battles wisely" is a common phrase in parenting but is equally important in living a contented life. It suggests that life is filled with opportunities to choose between making a big deal out of something or simply letting it go, realizing it doesn't really matter. If you choose your battles wisely, you'll be far more effective in winning those that are truly important.

Certainly there will be times when you will want or need to argue, confront, or even fight for something you believe in. Many people, however, argue, confront, and fight over practically everything, turning their lives into a series of battles over relatively "small stuff." There is so much frustration in living this type of life that you lose track of what is truly relevant.

The tiniest disagreement or glitch in your plans can be made into a big deal if your goal (conscious or unconscious) is to have everything work out in your favor. In my book, this is nothing more than a prescription for unhappiness and frustration.

The truth is, life is rarely exactly the way we want it to be, and other people often don't act as we would like them to. Moment to moment, there are aspects of life that we like and other's that we don't. There are always going to be people who disagree with you, people who do things differently, and things that don't work out. If you fight against this principle of life, you'll spend most of your life fighting battles.

A more peaceful way to live is to decide consciously which battles are worth fighting and which are better left alone. If your primary goal isn't to have everything work out perfectly but instead to live a relatively stress-free life, you'll find that most battles pull you away from your most tranquil feelings. Is it really important that you prove to your spouse that you are right and she is wrong, or that you confront someone simply because it appears as though he or she has made a minor mistake? Does your preference of which restaurant or movie to go to matter enough to argue over it? Does a small scratch on your car really warrant a suit in a small claims court? Does the fact that your neighbor won't park his car on a different part of the street have to be discussed at your family dinner table? These and thousands of other small things are what many people spend their lives fighting about. Take a look at your own list. If it's like what mine used to be, you might want to reevaluate your priorities.

If you don't want to "sweat the small stuff," it's critical that you choose your battles wisely. If you do, there will come a day when you'll rarely feel the need to do battle at all.

Friday, October 22, 2010

(29) Become a Better Listener

I grew up believing I was a good listener. And although I have become a better listener than I was ten years ago, I have to admit I'm still only an adequate listener.

Effective listening is more than simply avoiding the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking or finishing their sentences. It's being content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for your chance to respond.

In some ways, the way we fail to listen is symbolic of the way we live. We often treat communication as if it were a race. It's almost like our goal is to have no time gaps between the conclusion of the sentence of the person we are speaking with and the beginning of our own. My wife and I were recently at a cafe having lunch, eavesdropping on the conversations around us. It seemed that no one was really listening to one another; instead they were taking turns not listening to one another. I asked my wife if I still did the same thing. With a smile on her face she said, "Only sometimes."

Slowing down your responses and becoming a better listener aids you in becoming a more peaceful person. It takes pressure away from you. If you think about it, you'll notice that it takes an enormous amount of energy and is very stressful to be sitting at the edge of your seat trying to guess what the person in front of you (or on the telephone) is going to say so that can fire back your response. But as you wait for the people you are communicating with to finish, as you simply listen more intently to what is being said, you'll feel that the pressure you feel is off. You'll immediately feel more relaxed, and so will the people you are talking to. They will feel safe in slowing down their own responses because they won't feel in competition with you for "airtime"! Not only will becoming a better listener make you a more patient person, it will also enhance the quality of your relationships. Everyone loves to talk to someone who truly listens to what they are saying.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

(28) Seek First to Understand

This is adopted from one of Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." Using this strategy is a shortcut to becoming a more content person (and you'll probably become more effective too).

Essentially, "seek first to understand" implies that you become more interested in understanding others and less in having other people understand you. It means mastering the idea that if you want quality, fulfilling communication that is nourishing to you and others, understanding others must come first. When you understand where people are coming from, what they are trying to say, what's important to them, and so forth, being understood flows naturally; it flows into place with virtually no effort. When you reverse this process, however (which is what most of us do most of the time), you are putting the cart before the horse. When you try to be understood before you understand, the effort you exert will be felt by you and the person or people you are trying to reach. Communication will break down, and you may end up with a battle of two egos.

I was working with a couple who had spent the first ten years of their marriage frustrated, arguing about their finances. He couldn't understand why she wanted to save every penny the earned, and she could not understand why he was such a spendthrift. Any rationale on either position had been lost in their joint frustration. While many problems are more complex than this couple's, their solutions were relatively simple. Neither person felt understood. They needed to learn to stop interrupting each other and to listen carefully. Rather than defending their own positions, each needed to seek first to understand. This is precisely what I got them to do. He learned that she was saving to avoid her parents' financial disasters. Essentially, she was frightened of being broke. She learned that he felt embarrassed that he wasn't able to "take care of her" as well as his father did his mother. Essentially, he wanted her to be proud of him. As each learned to understand the other, their frustration with each other was replaced by compassion. Today, they have a nice balance between spending and saving.

Seeking first to understand isn't about who's right or wrong; it is a philosophy of effective communication. When you practice this method you'll notice that the people you communicate with will feel listened to, heard, and understood. This will translate into better, more loving relationships.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

(27) Imagine the People in Your Life as Tiny Infants and as One-Hundred-Year-Old Adults

I learned this technique almost twenty years ago. It has proven to be extremely successful for releasing feelings of irritation toward other people.

Think of someone who truly irritates you, who makes you feel angry. Now, close your eyes and try to imagine this person as a tiny infant. See their tiny little features and their innocent little eyes. Know that babies can't help but make mistakes and each of us was, at one time, a little infant. Now, roll forward the clock one hundred years. See the same person as a very old person who is about to die. Look at their worn-out eyes and their soft smile, which suggests a bit of wisdom and the admission of mistakes made. Know that each one of us will be one hundred years old, alive or dead, before too many decades go by.

You can play with this technique and alter it many ways. It almost always provides the user with some needed perspective and compassion. If our goal is to become more peaceful and loving, we certainly don't want to harbor negativity toward others.

(26) Set Aside Quiet Time, Every Day

As I begin to write this strategy it's exactly 4:30 in the morning, my favorite time of the day. I still have at least an hour and a half before my wife and children get out of bed and the phone begins to ring; at least one hour before anyone can ask me to do anything. It's absolutely silent outside and I'm in complete solitude. There is something rejuvenating and peaceful about being alone and having some time to reflect, work, or simply enjoy the quiet.

I've been working in the stress management field for well over a decade. In that time I've met some extraordinary people. I can't think of a single person whom I would consider to be inwardly peaceful who doesn't carve out at least a little quiet time, every day. Whether it's ten minutes of meditation or yoga, spending a little time in nature, or locking the bathroom door and taking a ten-minute bath, quiet time to yourself is a vital part of life. Like spending time alone, it helps to balance the noise and confusion that infiltrate much of our day. Personally, when I set aside quiet time for myself, it makes the rest of the day seem manageable. When I don't, I really notice the difference.

There's a little ritual that I do that I've shared with many friends. Like many people, I drive to and from my office on a daily basis. On my way home from work, as I get close to my driveway, I pull my car over and stop. There is a nice spot where I can spend a minute or two looking at the view or closing my eyes and breathing. It slows me down and helps me feel centered and grateful. I've shared this strategy with dozens of people who used to complain about "having no time for quiet." They would speed into their driveways with the radio blaring in their ears. Now, with a simple shift in their actions, they enter their homes feeling much more relaxed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

(25) Smile at Strangers, Look into Their Eyes, and Say Hello

Have you ever noticed or thought about how little eye contact most of us have with strangers? Why? Are we afraid of them? What keeps us from opening our hearts to people we don't know?

I don't really know the answers to those questions, but I do know that there is virtually always a parallel between our attitude towards strangers and our overall level of happiness. In other words, it's unusual to find a person who walks around with with her head down, frowning and looking away from people, who is secretly a peaceful, joyful person.

I'm not suggesting it's better to be going outgoing than introverted, that you need to expend tons of energy trying to brighten others' days, or that you should pretend to be friendly. I am suggesting, however, that if you think of strangers as being a little more like you and treat them not only with kindness and respect but with smiles and eye contact as well, you'll probably notice some pretty nice changes in yourself. You'll begin to see that most people are just like you - most of them have families, people they love, troubles , concerns, likes, dislikes, fears and so forth. You'll also notice how nice and grateful people can be when you're the first one to reach out. When you see how similar we all are, you begin to see the innocence in all of us. In other words, even though we often mess up, most of us are doing the best how with the circumstances that surround us.

Along with seeing the innocence in people comes a profound feeling of inner peace.

Monday, October 18, 2010

(24) Spend a Moment Every Day Thinking of Someone to Thank

This simple strategy, which may take only a few seconds to complete, has long been one of the most important habits I have ever engaged in. I try to remember to start my day thinking of someone to thank. To me, gratitude and inner peace go hand in hand. The more genuinely grateful I feel for the gift of my life, the more peaceful I feel. Gratitude, then, is worthy of a little practice.

If you're anything like me, you probably have many people in your life to feel gratitude for: friends, family members, people from your past, teachers, gurus, people from work, someone who gave you a break, as well as countless others. You may want to thank a higher power for the gift of life itself, or for the beauty of nature.

As you think of people to be grateful for, remember that it can be anyone - someone who allowed you to merge with traffic, someone who held the door open for you, or a physician who saved your life. The point is to gear your attention toward gratitude, preferably first thing in the morning.

I learned a long time ago that it's easy to allow my mind to slip into various forms of negativity. When I do, the first thing that leaves me is my sense of gratitude. I begin to take the people in my life for granted, and the love that I often feel is replaced with resentment and frustration. What this exercise reminds me to do is to focus on the good in my life. Invariably as I think of one person to feel gratitude for, the image of another person pops into my head, then another and another. Pretty soon, I'm thinking of other things to be grateful for - my health, my children, my home, my career, the readers of my books, my freedom, and on and on it goes.

It may seem like an awfully simple suggestion, but it really works! If you wake up in the morning with gratitude on your mind, it's pretty difficult, in fact almost impossible , to feel anything but peace.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

(23) Experiment with Your Back Burner

Your back burner is an excellent tool for remembering a fact or bringing forth an insight. It's an almost effortless yet effective way of using your mind. when you might otherwise start feeling stressed out. Using your back burner means allowing your mind to solve a problem while you are busy doing something else, here in the present moment.

The back burner of your mind works in the same way as the back burner of a stove. While on low heat, the cooking process mixes, blends, and simmers the ingredients into a tasty meal. The way you prepared this meal was to throw the various ingredients into the pot, mix them up, and leave them alone. Often, the less you interfere, the better the result.

In much the same way, we can solve many of life's problems (serious and otherwise) if we feed the back burner of my mind with a list of problems, facts, and variables, and possible solutions. Just as when we make soup or a sauce, the thoughts and ideas we feed the back burner of our mind must be left alone to simmer properly.

Whether you are struggling to solve a problem or can't remember a person's name, your back burner is always available to help you. It puts our quieter, softer, and sometimes most intelligent source of thinking to work on issues that we have no immediate answer for. The back burner is not a prescription for denial or procrastination. In other words, while you do want to put your problems on your back burner, you don't want to turn the burner off. Instead, you want to gently hold the problem in your mind without actively analyzing it. This simple technique will help you solve many problems and will greatly reduce the stress and effort in your life.

(22) Repeat to Yourself, "Life Isn't an Emergency"

In some ways, this strategy epitomizes the central message of this book. Although some people believe otherwise, the truth is, life isn't an emergency.

I've had hundred of clients over the years who have all but neglected their families as well as their own dreams because of their propensity to believe that life is an emergency. They justify their neurotic behavior by believing that if they don't work eighty hours a week, they won't get everything done. Sometimes I remind them that when they die, their "in basket" won't be empty!

A client who is a homemaker and mother of three children recently said to me, "I just can't get the house cleaned up the way I like it before everyone leaves in the morning." She was so upset over her inability to be perfect that her doctor had prescribed her anti-anxiety medicine. She was acting (and feeling) like there was a gun pointed at her head and the sniper was demanding that every dish be put away and every towel folded - or else! Again, the silent assumption was, this is an emergency! The truth was, no one other than she had created the pressure she was experiencing.

I've never met anyone (myself included) who hasn't turned little things into great big emergencies. We take our own goals so seriously that we forget to have fun along the way, and we forget to cut ourselves some slack. We take simple preferences and turn them into conditions for our own happiness. Or, we beat ourselves up if we can't meet our self-created deadlines. The first step in becoming a more peaceful person is to have the humility to admit that, in most cases, you're creating your own emergencies. Life will usually go on if things don't go according to plan. It's helpful to keep reminding yourself and repeating the sentence, "Life isn't an emergency."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

(21) Imagine Yourself at Your Own Funeral

This strategy is a little scary for some people but universally effective at reminding us of what's most important in our lives.

When we look back on our lives, how many of us are going to be pleased at how uptight we are? Almost universally, when people look back on their lives while on their deathbed, they wish that their priorities had been quite different. With few exceptions, people wish they hadn't "sweat the small stuff" so much. Instead, they wish they had spent more time with the people and activities that they truly loved and less time worrying about aspects of life that, upon deeper examination, really don't matter all that much. Imagining yourself at your own funeral allows you to look back on your life while you still have the chance to make some important changes.

While it can be a little scary or painful, it's a good idea to consider your own death and, in the process, your life. Doing so will remind you of the kind of person you want to be and the priorities that are most important to you. If you're at all like me, you'll probably get a wake-up call that can be an excellent source of change.

Friday, October 15, 2010

(20) Once a Week, Write a Heartfelt Letter

This is an exercise that has helped to change many lives, assisting people in becoming more peaceful and more loving. Taking a few minutes each week to write a heartfelt letter does many things for you. Picking up a pen or typing on a keyboard slows you down long enough to remember the beautiful people in your life. The act of sitting down to write helps to fill your life with gratitude.

Once you decide to try this, you'll probably be amazed at how many people appear on your list. I had one client who said, "I probably don't have enough weeks left in my life to write everyone on my list." This may or may not be true for you, but chances are, there are a number of people in your life, or from your past, who are quite deserving of a friendly, heartfelt letter. Even if you don't have people in your life to whom you feel you can write, go ahead an write the letter to someone you don't know instead - perhaps to an author who may not even be living, whose works you admire. Or to a great inventor or thinker from the past or present. Part of the value of the letter is to gear your thinking toward gratitude. Writing the letter, even if it isn't sent, would do just that.

The purpose of your letter is very simple: to express love and gratitude. Don't worry if you're awkward at writing letters. This isn't a contest from the head but a gift from the heart. If you can't think of much to say, start with short little notes like, "Dear Jasmine. I woke up this morning thinking of how lucky I am to have a friend like you in my life. Thank you so much for being my friend. I am truly blessed, and I wish for you all the happiness and joy that life can bring. Love, Richard."

Not only does writing and sending a note like this focus your attention on what's right in your life, but the person receiving it, in all likelihood, be extremely touched and grateful. Often, this simple action starts a spiral of loving actions whereby the person receiving your letter may decide to do the same thing to someone else, or perhaps will act and feel more loving toward others. Write your first letter this week. I'll bet you'll be glad you did.

(19) Lower Your Tolerance to Stress

It seems that we have it backward in our society. We tend to look up to people who are under a great deal of stress, who can handle loads of stress, and those who are under a great deal of pressure. When someone says, "I've been working really hard," or "I'm really stressed out," we are taught to admire, even emulate their behavior. In my work as a stress consultant, I hear the proud words, "I have a very high tolerance to stress" almost every day. It probably won't come as a surprise that when these stressed-out people first arrive at my office, more often than not, what they are hoping for are strategies to raise their tolerance to stress even higher so they can handle even more!

Fortunately, there is an inviolable law in our emotional environment that goes something like this: Our current level of stress will be exactly that of our tolerance to stress. You'll notice that the people who say, "I can handle lots of stress" will always be under a great deal of it! So, if you teach people to raise their tolerance to stress, that's exactly what will happen. They will accept even more confusion and responsibility until again, their external level of stress matches that of their tolerance. Usually it takes a crisis of some kind to wake up a stressed-out person to their own craziness - a spouse leaves, a health issue emerges, a serious addiction takes over their life - something happens that jolts them into a search for a new kind of strategy.

It may seem strange, but if you were to enroll in the average stress management workshop, what you would probably learn is to raise your tolerance to stress. It seems that even stress consultants are stressed out!

What you want to start doing is noticing your stress early, before it gets out of hand. When you feel your mind moving too quickly, it's time to back off and regain your bearings. When your schedule is getting out of hand, it's a signal that it's time to slow down and reevaluate what's important rather than power through everything on the list. When you're feeling out of control and resentful of all you have to do, rather than roll up your sleeves and "get to it", a better strategy is to relax, take a few deep breaths, and go for a short walk. You'll find that when you catch yourself getting too stressed out - early, before it gets out of control - your stress will be like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill. When it's small, it's manageable and easy to control. Once it gathers momentum, however, it's difficult, if not impossible, to stop.

There's no need to worry that you won't get it all done. When your mind is clear and peaceful and your stress level is reduced, you'll be more effective and you'll have more fun. As you lower your tolerance to stress, you'll find that you have far less stress to handle, as well as creative ideas for handling the stress that's left over.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

(18) Allow Yourself to Be Bored

For many of us, our lives are so filled with stimuli, not to mention responsibilities, that it's almost impossible for us to sit still and do nothing, much less relax - even for a few minutes. A friend of mine said to me, "People are no longer human beings. We should be called human doings."

I was first exposed to the idea that occasional boredom can actually be good for me while studying with a therapist in La Conner, Washington, a tiny little town with very little "to do." After finishing our first day together, I asked my instructor, "What is there to do around here at night?" He responded by saying, "What I'd like you to do is allow yourself to be bored. Do nothing. This is part of your training." At first I thought he was kidding! "Why on earth would I choose to be bored?" I asked. He went on to explain that if you allow yourself to be bored, even for an hour - or less - and don't fight it, the feelings of boredom will be replaced with feelings of peace. And after a little practice, you'll learn to relax.

Much to my surprise, he was absolutely right. At first, I could barely stand it. I was so used to doing something every second that I really struggled to relax. But after a while I got used to it, and have long since learned to enjoy it. I'm not talking about hours of idle time or laziness, but simply learning the art of relaxing, of just "being," rather than "doing," for a few minutes each day. There isn't a specific technique other than to consciously do nothing. Just sit still, perhaps look out the window and notice your thoughts and feelings. At first you may get a little anxious, but each day it will get a little easier. The payback is tremendous.

Much of our anxiety and inner struggle stems from our busy, overactive minds always needing something to entertain them, something to focus on, and always wondering "What's next?" While we're eating dinner, we're wondering what's for dessert. While eating dessert, we ponder what we should do afterward. After that evening, it's " What should we do this weekend?" After we've been out, we walk into the house and immediately turn on the television, pick up the phone, open a book, or start cleaning. It's almost as though we're frightened at the thought of not having something to do, even for a minute.

The beauty of doing nothing is that it teaches you to clear your mind and relax. It allows your mind the freedom to "not know," for a brief period of time. Just like your body, your mind needs an occasional break from its hectic routine. When you allow your mind to take a break, it comes back stronger, sharper, more focused and creative.

When you allow yourself to be bored, it takes an enormous amount of pressure off you to be performing and doing something every second of every day. Now, when either of my two children says to me, "Daddy, I'm bored," I respond by saying, "Great! Be bored for a while. It's good for you." Once I say this, they always give up on the idea of me solving their problem. You probably never thought someone would actually suggest that you allow yourself to be bored. I guess there's a first for everything!