People often ask me, where do you begin on this life-long journey of success, and fulfillment. I know from personal experience on the Habit MasterTM path that the journey begins with service.
It starts with a burning desire to live a life that helps something or someone, a life that in some way improves the lot of others. And although this expression of service may come in different forms or be expressed in different ways it is the major driver for high level success and satisfaction.
Reflect for a moment on Luke Skywalker's ascent from boyhood to hero. It was purpose that evoked Luke's character as he progressed from a youth living with his Aunt and Uncle to the man who would save a Universe. In his ascent, Luke had to confront his doubts and fears and overcome his lesser habits to allow the seed of his soul its full expression.
And so it is with every Habit MasterTM who understands the way of wisdom that guides the journey. It is a passage from the mesmerization of the masses (a condition we are born into) to the realization of the infinite and immeasurable soul.
Further, the full flowering of strength for the journey happens in stages. So let's just look at stage one. What do you want?
As for myself, I think when I was younger I complained about my lot in life because one day a friend of mine said something that changed my perspective forever: “All I ever hear is what you don’t want in your life,” he said. “But you’ve never said what you do want.”
That evening I went home and thought about what my friend had said. “What do I want?” I wondered. So I made a list of what I did want. It was a very short list, but it was the best I could do at the time. It was the first time I had clearly stated a positive desire on paper. Looking back, I realize now that it was the beginning of my transformation. I wrote:
- I want to be the best that I can possibly be.
- I want to use my gifts and talents in whatever I do.
- I want to make a positive contribution to the lives of others.
Bingo! The third desire was the key that opened the door to all of the success and satisfaction that would ultimately follow in my life.
Even though I wasn't clear about what my gifts and talents were and even though the edges of my picture were not clearly defined, I had enough information to begin formulating an image. It was the beginning of a life transforming process and the clarification of my purpose, although I didn’t know it at the time.
So, as Covey said, "Begin with the end in mind."
- Even if it isn't fully clear, start wherever you are and write it down because writing it accelerates the process.
- And remember to include the contribution part (that could be to people or to science or music etc.).
There is a wonderful story about an experiment that was done many years ago. The experimenter put a batch of fleas into a jar and covered the jar with clear plastic kitchen wrap. In the first few hours the fleas would jump up and hit the plastic seal at the top of the jar.
Soon they discovered that if they jumped just short of the top, they wouldn't bang their heads against the plastic. So all of them happily jumped about an eighth of an inch short of the top. They were comfortable. They were happy.
A few days later the experimenter took the plastic seal off the top of the jar. The fleas never left the jar because they were now trained. They continued to jump an eighth of an inch short of the top because it had become a habit.
- Have we become like those fleas in the jar?
- Are we still afraid that we might bump our heads on the ceiling?
- Are we thinking there is a limit to how far we can go?
- Have we accepted the limited outcomes of the past as if they were true?
These limits fall within the overarching categories of assumptions, expectations, beliefs, and opinions. These manifest as a series of thought and behavioral patterns.
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Lack of confidence
How do you break the chain? It starts in the here and now. If you have a fear thought, do what you do with a child, change the subject. Replace the thought immediately with a thought or an image that brings you joy, peace, strength or confidence or any combination of these.
Remember, you cannot hold two thoughts in your mind at the same time. Dr. Irving Oyle calls the chemicals that flow through the body with fear 'anger juice'. He also coined the phrase 'joy juice' for the chemicals that accompany feelings of happiness.
I personally keep a picture of a loved one on my desk, and if anything of a lower nature creeps in, I immediately look at the picture and feel the feelings of love strength and warmth flowing through me. These positive feelings and thoughts usurp the space that the negative thought held and 'joy juice' flows through my brain and body.
Remember, you are not separate from the success you seek. As you hold positive thoughts and feelings, everything you do flows more smoothly, everyone you meet feels happier around you, the goals you wish to attain begin to rush towards you.
And then you realize that you are the success you seek. You create it with every thought, emotions and feeling that you hold in your mind and heart.
Try this experiment. In the morning, before you go to work, give yourself a shot of 'joy juice' by holding this thought; This is going to be a wonderful day because I am the success I seek. Then observe your interactions, the events that occur, the people that you meet throughout the day.
Have a great day and a wonderful week! And let me know how that works for you...
I have been on tour for 4 weeks now and I just arrived back in Honolulu on the 2nd and I fly home to Kona on the 6th.
It has been the most wonderful exhilarating trip. I have met and spoken to hundreds if not thousands of people. And everywhere I go people have shared their stories, their goals and their dreams with me. All are wanting to improve - to increase their contribution, move their leadership teams forward, find ways to utilize technology better.
Everywhere I go, the human beings I have the opportunity to be with have shared a desire to improve themselves and those with whom they live and work with.
So what is the one secret of the individuals who have stood out, the ones who have contributed to and created incredibly powerful positive changes in our world?
I have discovered it in the life stories of Lao Tzu, Rumi, Gandhi and so many more. And it is the secret behind all great men and women who have made a lasting contribution to life on earth.
First BE then DO
You are the ultimate creative artist, and the canvas you paint upon is the canvas of your life. All else follows. As we peel away the layers of opinions, judgments, and outmoded beliefs, we come to discover the fullness of who we are. We are remarkable, resplendent human beings with the power to transform our world by transforming ourselves and in the process discovering our own true nature.
So I invite you to take on the great work, the work of the artist who releases from the clay, a stunning form from the formless grey... and it is no other than the you that you were always meant to be.
Over the last 12 years I have criss-crossed Australia, and have now been on tour in Melbourne for over three weeks speaking to principals, vice principals/deputies, and educators, as well as parents. All of us want the best for our children. Tomorrow's leaders are the children living in our homes and the students sitting in our classrooms today.
Given the integrity bust we've seen in business and the political arena in the last few years, is there something we can do to assist our young people in becoming better leaders?
Can we help them develop honesty, empathy and service along with the development of their intellectual capacities? Can we help our young people make a positive contribution to society as they leave our homes and hallowed halls?
I have discovered that regardless of whether or not my students become "leaders", the attributes of great leaders can help them become successful, happy contributing members of society. After all, "What you focus your mind on, you begin to become".
Below are a set of simple questions and activities you can do with students to help them focus on positive attributes and make the connection between who they are and who they want to be. I have used this method very successfully with students in grades 2-11. There is really no limit to the study of the qualities and characteristics of great men and women down through time. To this day I read biographies and autobiographies of great men and women, people who have contributed to society in a positive way.
Lead the discussion with the following questions:
- What is a leader? What does leadership mean to you?
- Are there leaders in different fields such as sports, science, education, politics, business, math, dance, literature etc.?
- Do leaders in these different fields have something they can teach us about being successful and happy?
- Generate a list of leaders in different fields who have contributed to our society in a positive way (both past and present).
- What are some of the characteristics of great leaders, men and women that we respect? Discuss the idea that it takes a combination of IQ (intellectual qualities), EQ (emotional qualities), and SQ (social qualities) to be a successful leader. Pick some examples from the card to help students understand each area.
- What are the IQ , EQ and SQ traits that these different leaders exhibited?
Develop a running list of the traits your students come up with and keep it on flip charts in front of the classroom. Keep these traits front and center by integrating them into every class discussion that you can i.e. literature, history, science, art, sport and math. And of course add to them as you go along.
Check back in with me and leave your comments on how this activity is working for you and your future leaders.
Successful people aren't always the most brilliant. Successful people have learned the power of positive habits.
Habits can either hold us down or hold us up. Successful people have learned the secrets of the Habit Master. They have learned to harness habits that work in their favor, habits that move them toward higher levels of achievement and happiness.
Once again, I am reminded of oyster glue. It is thought to be the strongest glue in the world. Oysters can stick to the rocks even in the most tempestuous ocean storms. Nothing can pry them from their lodging, not wind, changing tides or even rip currents pulling with tremendous force.
At the deepest part of us we know that bad habits keep us stuck like oyster glue. But good habits keep us stuck like glue too. The difference is where those habits take us.
Good habits keep us on a positive path ever moving toward a higher level of success, satisfaction and happiness. Here's the first secret of becoming a habit master; don't go after the biggest apple on the tree. Pick the lowest hanging fruit, the easiest thing you can do now to move forward on your path. Start with something very easy!
Many years ago I wanted to develop a morning ritual of meditation and affirmations. I knew 3 things at the time:
- I knew that I needed to be gentle with myself because my inner child would rebel if I wasn't.
- I knew that it had to be a short morning ritual given that I had never done anything at all.
- I knew that the little kid in me would rebel if I didn't give myself a break.
I decided to do 7 minutes of silence and prayer in the morning. I picked 7 minutes because it pushed me past 5 and didn't stretch me to 10 when I wasn't ready to go there. So I set my timer daily except for weekends. I took weekends off to honor my inner child who didn't want to be chained to a ritual every single day.
This habit has served me greatly over the years. Over a 15 year time frame it naturally increased from 7 minutes to 45 and then settled back to about 20.
Here is the Habit Master's formula for success:
- Know thyself! These words written thousands of years ago on the temple of Delphi, still hold true. Know your strengths and weakness and don't brutalize your inner child!
- Pick the easiest habit that will help you and start with that one. I call it a 'winnable'. Choose something that will give you the easiest win.
- Reflect on the benefits this new habit will provide.
- Visualize yourself doing the thing you want to do or being the person you want to be.
- Set a target. (Mine was 7 minutes a day)
- Give yourself some slack. (mine was weekends off)
- Begin the process and tick it off on your calendar so you can visually see your progress over time.
- If you miss a day, don't let yourself get discouraged. Breathe deeply and cancel that thought. Then start again the next day.
Projects are amazing. I thoroughly enjoy them and have been doing large projects for nearly 35 years of my career. I've written books, designed and written a full curriculum, designed, delivered and filmed webinars. And over the years I've discovered 3 distinct phases to every major project.
Because I come from Kona where one of the most challenging triathlons in the world is held. And because I've have had triathletes stay at my home, I'll use their process as an example.
- Phase 1 - Preparation & Planning - In this phase, which is 1-4 years in the making, the triathletes
- Establish the goal
- Review their checklist
- Push themselves on the prelims to the race (running, cycling & swimming)
- Get vitamins, minerals and diet in perfect order
- Keep mental and emotional resiliency and balance
- Stay focused and keep a perfect energy/rest schedule
- Phase 2 - Activity & Action - This includes the 24 hours prior to the event and the event itself:
- Do a final bike check & deliver them to the start line
- Have a high carb diet the night before
- Prep the food and water they'll take on the race
- Get a good night's sleep
- Eat a perfectly balanced breakfast
- Show up at the start and run the race
- Phase 3 - Completion - This is the final phase of the event where their physical resources have run dry and their mind is screaming things like, "Why did I ever start this?" And, "This is stupid! I want to quit."
- Push through the 'wall' that they hit at approximately 80-85% of the event
- Manage the mind
- Put one foot in front of the other on the final run
- Keep on keeping on until they reach the finish line
Naturally, each project has different items to accomplish within the three phases. But every time I finish a project I remember that there's a fourth phase to the cycle of projects. I call it the 'project post-partum blues'. And it's really phase 4 of any project.
- Phase 4 - project post-partum blues is the anti-climatic empty feeling after the event is over. It feels like a big void and it also happens in life beyond projects: the birth of a child, the empty nest, hitting your weight-loss target, the end of a relationship, the passing of a loved one. The list could go on and on.
- A feeling of malaise or even depression
- Feeling lost or even alone in a bubble that no one else understands
- An excess of time (that was filled with things to do)
- I did it. It's done. So 'now what?'
- Lack of focus or priorities - drifting from one thing to another not knowing what to do next
However, if you've ever hit this phase you don't have to go through feeling as if something is wrong with you. I just hit one along with our team here at Elan. In other words, it's universal yet I only remembered it after we hit it again on our last two big projects.
There are two secrets to dealing with it. The first is to be aware that it's coming. The second is to be proactive. Plan for it!
- Celebrate your completion
- Throw a completion party
- Take a break and intentionally 'not do' for awhile
- Take time to focus on a hobby - play is good for the soul at this point!
- Take some 'time out' with friends and family
- Go on a vacation (short and sweet or long and luxurious)
After doing one or more of these, set a deadline for the start of your next project. Our Élan team will begin next week with a plan for our next project. Meanwhile everyone is celebrating with a little time off.
How do you experience project post-partum blues? What have you done to move through it?
Could questions be more powerful than answers? Is it possible that there are questions powerful enough to change the course of our lives forever? Are there questions that can shape or reshape our destiny?
I have found that the asking of potent questions is like the 'Thomas Edison Attitude'. Ask not once, but ask until the answer reveals itself - even if it takes a thousand times. By using the Thomas Edison Attitude certain questions have transformed me over the years.
At some point, I discovered that there is a gap between a question and its answer or answers and I had to be willing to enter that gap. I had to allow the tension (that arises between the question and its answer) to pull me forward towards a newly emerging me.
Below are some of the questions that I still live with and I invite you to join me in the process.
- How can I live my life in a way that it means more than a flash of momentary physical existence ?
- How can I more fully express my potential in a way that contributes to the lives of all those around me?
- What are my core values?
- Is my behavior in alignment with my values?
- Where are there gaps?
- What do I need to do to close the gaps?
I invite you to get a little notebook and enter the answers to these questions. Become a journalist, an archeologist on a dig, or a scientist exploring the wonder of your own life. Then track the answers to these questions in your log book with date and time of your entry.
Reflect and revisit these questions daily or whenever you can, and add to your log. (My little log book is on the right. The saying in the center reads, "Think of the world you carry within you." By Rainer Maria Rilke)
Make it easy! Make it fun! Make it fast! Five minutes a day will deliver a positive transformation in your life!
I teach programs in Leadership and I coach business and school leaders. But I've noticed that 'oyster glue' often gets in the way of people's goals, plans and intentions! To me, oyster glue represents the old habits, beliefs, anxieties and fears that stick in the subconscious mind. So what's the big deal?
The secret to all of this is that our subconscious mind runs our behavior. The conscious mind would like to think it runs the show but it doesn't. In every case, the subconscious mind will direct our behavior.
In fact, Dr. George Pratt in his book, Code to Joy, compares the conscious mind to a flea riding on the back of an elephant (the subconscious mind). If the flea (conscious mind) wants to go to the ocean, he says, and the elephant (subconscious mind) wants to go to the mountains, it's obvious where they'll end up. And the flea will have no choice about it!
Further, neuroscience tell us that the subconscious mind is a million times faster and a million times more powerful than the conscious mind. It takes over and reacts instantly to events and situations moving us into action or causing us to say something we may regret.
Our conscious mind may have a lot of desires for change:
- I want to lose weight
- I want to make more money
- I want to stop procrastinating
- I want to improve my leadership skills
- I want to improve my communication skills
But in the moment, as life happens, the subconscious programming from the past, will run our behavior. These are the old habits, beliefs, anxieties or lack of self-confidence stored deep in the recesses of the mind. Once one of these is triggered, the amygdala lights up and causes a cascading of cortisol or stress hormone into the system.
However, the pearl in the oyster is that the scientific laboratories around the world are giving us an in depth understanding of how the brain and body work together. This is like having a manual for your car. Through fMRI scanning we can see inside of the human brain as a person is thinking.
Plus, or maybe as a result, new books as well as tools and techniques are showing up every day. So how do we free ourselves from the 'oyster glue' in the subconscious mind so that we can be everything we want to be and do everything we'd like to do?
It does take self-work. So I thought I'd share some of my eclectic readings as well as the tools I use for my own development (after all you can't teach what you don't know or don't do). I invite you to look into any of them for yourself based on your interest areas and needs.
Oops! As I started to do this, I ended up with 40 books on the list. So I took out all of the business books and kept it to brain change books for success!
Here's the really short list of the books that have touched me:
- Jack Canfield - "The Success Principles"
- Eckart Tolle - "The Power of Now"
- Norman Doidge - "The Brain That Changes Itself"
- Andrew Newberg & Mark Robert Waldman - "How God Changes Your Brain"
- George Pratt, John David Mann, Peter Lambrou - "Code to Joy"
- Nick Ortner - "The Tapping Solution"
- Marvin Oka & Grant Soosalu - "mBraining - Using Your Multiple Brains To Do Cool Stuff"
Here's the really short list of tools and Techniques I use for clearing subconscious barriers (for myself and others) that arise in the day to day living of life:
- Breathing (and other) techniques from Yoga
- Byron Katie's "The Work"
- Dr. Roger Callahan - Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT
- Nick Ortner - Tapping
- The 5 Step Clearing Method
- Meditation and centering
- Self coaching questions
Although I cut both lists markedly, this should give you a good start. I would add my book Learning to Learn: How to Maximize Your Performance Potential to your list. If your lifestyle, your relationships, or leadership style is being cramped by 'oyster glue', you may want to check out some of the books & tools I've listed.
And I'd love to hear about you - your challenges, the things you're doing on your journey... as well as your use of any of the things I've shared.
The more I think about oyster glue, the more captivated I become. I first heard of it in a radio interview with a scientist at Purdue University.
He said he became awe-smacked one day when he was diving at high tide. As his body bobbed in the tumultuous waves, he looked over at a large undersea boulder and there, covering the face of it were hundreds of oysters. They were solidly glued to the rock and none of them moved even in the highest wave.
He was instantly convinced that oyster glue was the most powerful glue in the world and went back to the lab determined to study and try to reproduce it. He ended up getting the blessing of the head of the science department and he's been working to discover the secret of oyster glue ever since.
When I first heard this story I was in my car sitting as the light turned green, spellbound until a car's horn brought me back to reality.
My head was spinning in a metaphor. I saw that oyster glue was like old habits that keep us stuck to the old rocks or old behaviors that no longer fit our goals and dreams. Then I thought of the biggest habit I ever had to change. I was a procrastinator.
Few people believe me when I tell them that. After all I've written four books, and co-authored many more with some of the most successful people in the training industry. I've been in four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and written 13 curriculum books and an anti-bullying program.
Yet I was one of the biggest procrastinators ever. I could find any excuse for avoiding the hard stuff - like sitting down to write. I still have momentary flashbacks. I still love to play and that love can usurp my intention at any moment. At those times I have to remind myself of the training. It's back to basics to overcome procrastination:
- Write a list of everything you need to get done in the coming week or two. (This will get the sidetracks off your mind.)
- Set one clear and definite goal, the one that makes your heart sing - Write it down. (I have to write until it is very clear and it is exactly what I want.)
- Visualize the end result. See what you want as if you as if it is done, complete and accomplished in vivid color. Imagine that you can turn the dials on your TV. View it in High Definition on a 72" screen. Then step into it so you are in the vision. You and the vision are one.
- Hear it. Turn the audio up and hear people that you admire congratulating you on a job well done.
- Feel it. Feel the vibrancy of success. Feel it in your heart and in your entire body. Turn it up (HD) until your whole being feels excited, inspired and joyful at a job well done. (This floods the system with dopamine - the potent pleasure chemical that triggers the motivation and drive to change the habit.)
- Taste it. Make the vision so compelling that you can almost taste it. Smile and imagine yourself swallowing the smile till your entire body and mind light up with pleasure.
- Smell it. Imagine that you can smell your success. Inhale and breathe it into every pore in your body. Repeat this many times as you're visualizing.
Don't ever practice this when you're driving or doing something that requires focused attention. But there are so many moments in-between when we have a chance to the flash the vision back up on our inner screen. I find that the more that I do this, the more motivated I become. (That's the dopamine factor - I flood my brain and body with the pleasure chemical and it moves me to action.)
So what oyster stories do you have? What habits have you changed in your process? Or what are you working on now?
Please keep sharing. The stories I've heard from some of you so far have inspired me. Have you turned a great weakness around or overcome procrastination, and how did you do it? To leave a comment, simply visit the blog post page and scroll down to leave a message. Your email address will not be displayed.
You are not what you appear to be. You aren't even who your friends and family think you are. If you were, you'd be stuck in the past: yesterdays images replaying today like a movie you've experienced before.
Instead, consider this: you are a hero in the making. Let me define what I mean by this. To me a hero is anyone who lives the ordinary life in an extra-ordinary way. We've all heard that before. But I don't mean that as some superficial flippant phrase.
I mean it from the depths of my heart. It is the intention to live on the edge of yourself out where the unexplored you exists. It is the willingness to give life to something not yet born in yourself. It is the willingness to discover a new part of yourself every single day.
It is a whole hearted willingness to explore and stretch the preconceived mental and emotional boundaries that I have held for myself. Its the willingness to reignite the inner fire every day in order to become a better human being than I was yesterday.
Let me share about my dear friend Lovell Harris. Lovell was one of the young men that I mentored many years ago in my career. Lovell was born in Saint Louis Missouri and he was raised in the projects. At that time the projects in St. Louis Missouri were one square mile with 30,000 people living in tenement buildings.
Lovell lived in one of these tenement apartments. He was one of six boys. They lived with their mother, who was the only working adult in the family, her mother and his alcoholic father. I don't intend to share the whole story with you as it is in my book GPS for Success.
But the bottom line is this. Lovell said, "I had to decide that I wasn't just a black boy from the projects with an alcoholic father who beat me and called me stupid whenever he was drunk."
Lovell was clear that his birth was not his birthright. It was not what he was born to be. He refused to be conditioned, for the rest of his life, by his early years. He went on to a remarkable career as a speaker and trainer and now runs 3 companies of his own.
So where are the boundaries? Where are the limits? Who sets them? And who said so? You know who said so: the neural pathways in your brain that were laid years ago based on the opinions you accepted about yourself. These have now become habit. Don't let your habits hold you prisoner! Don't let your past determine your future!
Remember to remember who you are. You are not your habits. You do not have to act them out anymore. Do something different.
- You think you're shy? Reach out and say hello to someone. Don't think about it. Do it now.
- You think of yourself as sophisticated? Do something silly. Laugh at yourself.
- You're afraid to speak up? Speak up anyway.
- You want to interview for a new job and you think you'll fail? Do the interview for the job anyway. Don't think failure is about you. Failure is how we learn. You'll do a better interview when the next opportunity comes up.
This is Core Training for the Brain at it's optimum. It's not just about becoming more positive. It's about deciding who you want to be and then doing what you need to do to become that way.
Every new day provides a new opportunity. Stretch and transform yourself a little bit every day until one day you no longer recognize the you that you used to be. You have become the you that you wanted to be and maybe even more!
Have fun. Be joyful. Be happy. Give thanks, for life is good and so are you!