If your life experience is anything like mine you know that the opportunity and urge to compare lies latent at every turn. Every car that passes on the road, every swipe through a news feed, every semi-filled shopping cart navigating through the grocery aisle seems to be begging for an assessment. Crying out for an evaluation. And, most importantly, demanding of a final grade in the form of ‘better than’ or ‘worse than’.
While there may seem like a clear cut winner in the game of ‘whose is better’ we need to get real – this is a lose:lose scenario.
First of all – we are outrageously sloppy in these reckless comparisons.
Let’s imagine that instead of pitting my whole foods shopping cart contents against yours I am comparing two branches of a particular business and have to present this information to investors.
Oh, I know. Those are very different scenarios.
But what makes them so different?
For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the need for accuracy.
If I am just casually comparing two “objects” like your vanilla almond milk versus my organic coconut drink (or, more likely, insert: “relationships”, “journeys”, “lifestyles”) I don’t pay much attention to the accuracy of my assessment. Apparently I don’t hold myself to the same esteem as I do imaginary investors. All that’s at stake for me is my self-talk, my emotional state, my self worth… no big deal.
Can you believe how ridiculous that is? We’d never stand in a board room, unprepared, in our yoga pants and flip flops, look at a quick power point slide summarizing the profitability of two branches, shrug, point, and label one as “better”.
No way! We’d do the work.
And here is why comparisons are a nightmare – allow me to set the stage:
Hang with me in the board room for a minute. It’s empty. The presentation is not until tomorrow. Yoga pants are acceptable for approximately eighteen more hours. We have more than just a single power point slide – we have a conference table full of reports and data – everything we could ever want to know.
Branch A is making $100,000 in profit per year – Branch B is making $185,000 in profit per year – and tomorrow we will have to say something intelligent as to why that is.
Before we can call one “better”, we need to dig. We also need to level the playing field. We have to get those businesses to look as much alike as possible.
This process always reminds me of something I learned (and admittedly no longer use) pertaining to fractions. Remember when you had to find a common denominator before the fractions were even allowed in the same room as one another? Same thing. Quite literally we need to find common denominators everywhere!
I need to know if the branches are in the same market.
If not, are they in comparable markets? (if not I need to make adjustments to the data in attempt to level-set)
I need to know how they’re preforming against themselves during the same period in the prior year.
I need to know what that profit looks like broken down by month.
Is it on an incline or decline?
Where are the patterns?
What are the leading indicators? What are the lagging indicators? Are external factors impacting both branches to the same degree?
How long has each branch been operating?
And those questions are just skimming the surface.
Order a round of Venti Triple Cappuccinos – we could analyze data all night!
Now let’s go back to Whole Foods – or FaceBook – or wherever your comparison weak spots are… do you ask ANY questions to validate your “conclusions”?
Or are you busy telling yourself a story to support your careless estimations?
It is said that COMPARISON is the thief of JOY. I say #preach.
Do we apply any of the measures we take when looking at a business into the conversation when looking at something in our day to day lives? Do we assess ourselves vs. the version of ourselves we were a year ago? Do we pat ourselves on the back for our positive trends and learn from our declining trends? Do we make adjustments based on external factors? Do we ever attempt to level set!?
Here’s why you’re absolutely guaranteed to fail when comparing any aspect of yourself to another – there is literally no way to level-set human experience.
While I can apply facts, figures, percentages, formulas and equations to get those two branches into the closest state of accurate measurement, there is no way to do this for people, relationships, possessions, perceived lifestyle and/or perceived levels of ‘happiness’ because there is no one, absolute, shared reference point.
Even comparing something as trivial and low-risk as our favorite movies is arguably pointless because I have not seen all of the movies that you’ve ever seen – and vice versa. Our reference points are inherently different – in EVERY aspect of our lives.
This is why I argue that judgements are lazy.
We see something that, on the surface, appears better than the reality we know intimately.
It’s apples to oranges.
…And if it were just a waste of time that would be problem enough! However we know the effects of judgment and comparison run much deeper than efficiency. Our self-worth and self-esteem are impacted on a daily (maybe even hourly!) basis. NEEDLESSLY!
I am not suggesting we stop comparing tomorrow – that sounds like a fast track to disappointment because we’ve been playing this game our whole lives. What I’m suggesting we consider is this: How many questions do we ask before making a comparison or judgement? How much accuracy do we demand from ourselves? How much effort do we put into leveling the field?
With each new urge to judge simply consider: Am I SURE this is apples to apples?
The additional questions may slow us down to help us realize the error in our ways.
Comparison is a nightmare. Judgement is lazy. And if we demand accuracy we’d learn there’s no such thing anyway.
Limiting beliefs are sneaky little pests that can do some serious damage. They’re like the mental equivalent of termites. They can be hiding anywhere – in fact, I once found several in the last place I would’ve thought to look… my goals!?
This is a PSA. If it can happen to me it can happen to you. We need to find these suckers and exterminate them. Leave no thought unturned… even when casually daydreaming.
Manifesting a Plane
One day I was out on a “database drive” with a salesperson who reported to me. A “database drive” might be exactly what it sounds like but in case you’ve never been responsible for a sales territory I’ll explain: Imagine a road trip, except much less fun. You drive up and down the roads in your territory and with painstaking detail you record observations from each building you pass – what is the company name? How big does it look? How many cars in the parking lot? Etc.
I see the value in this activity but I’ll admit… my mind wanders. After about 20 minutes this pseudo road trip gets very old for me.
So I was on this drive with a salesperson – I was driving, she was taking notes, and I noticed a structure set back from the road with a sign that read “Airplane Hangar For Rent” with a phone number. Immediately I thought: Man, I am dreaming too small!
I imagined that somewhere there was a couple that woke up this morning and, as they were talking across the bedroom getting ready for their respective days, one said to the other “…and after that I’m going to check out a few airplane hangars.” I marveled that this was occurring in someone’s day. The term “Airplane Hangar Rental” was blended into someone’s otherwise normal dialogue. Wow.
Why wasn’t I trying to figure out how to get a plane? What was I setting goals about?
Whatever they were they suddenly seemed too small.
I had an epiphany during that database drive. I was setting goals and intentions and using my thoughts to manifest material things but my limiting beliefs were putting a cap on my goal setting itself. (Disclaimer – I do not think that material things are the path to happiness! I know the plane will not make me happy. But having a plane would still be pretty f*&%ing cool. Why not mentally ‘go there’?)
I understand the position that aiming low could be a byproduct of staying grounded in reality… but personally, I rather aim high than be grounded.
After that day I started to, very casually and in an unattached manner, think about hangar rentals – and other absurd/cool things that might come with owning a plane. I found it fun to visualize!
A few months later the topic of private planes came up in a conversation with girlfriends and, in an outer-body experience, I heard myself say (warning – this is embarrassing – but it happened) “I know! I decided the next man I date needs to have his own plane.”
(Insert the sound of a record scratching to a halt.)
W. T. F!?
How did that happen?
To give you some context, I am above average on the independent-woman spectrum. I have never relied on a man to buy me anything (well… that’s not entirely true. I asked my college boyfriend to buy me a bunny once… but that was a disaster for 11 different reasons and is truly the only example I can recall of a time where a man purchased more than a dinner on my behalf) but somehow an imaginary man found his way into my aim-high goal setting.
Why does that dude get the plane?! And why am I creating this?!
Time to exterminate that sh*t immediately.
Enter Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has been famously quoted as asking “How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next 6 months?”
I say “Right on! How can I?!”
Why do we place limits on how things come to us?
Why do we place limits on when they come?
I do this all the time. I write that I want to be earning X dollars by the time I am X age. But… like… WHY!?
Why the timeline?
Or, perhaps more importantly, what is that implication of that timeline?
If I personify my subconscious as a mini version of myself I can visualize her hearing the first part of the desire “I want to earn X dollars” and perking up! She grabs her mini running shoes and steels herself thinking ‘We have work to do!’ but then part two comes across her wavelength (or loudspeaker or however those things work) and she hears part two: “by age X” ‘Oh!’ she sighs ‘Jumped the gun! We have time. Let’s nap!”
I can’t help but wonder: Are we unnecessarily delaying our rewards by allowing our limiting beliefs a seat at the goal setting table?
Of course, they weren’t intentionally invited to the meeting – but have we made certain that they’re not around? Not in the walls? Not under the table? Not gnawing away on the legs of the very chair we’re seated in?
Here’s my recommendation and now-personal practice: Keep an open mind and unattached spirit in regards to how and when things come to you in general. Let the universe do her thing. But regularly double check your goal setting framework to ensure it’s structurally sound. Pay special attention to the language you use and investigate all time-related parameters. Don’t let your limiting beliefs delay, restrict, or diminish the full expression of your desires.
PEACE, LOVE, MANIFESTING & AIRPLANES (if that’s your thing).
I love goals. I love setting them. I love writing them down. I love talking about them, checking them off, re-reading them, exceeding them… I love it all.
I was 24 years-old when I very randomly got my hands on the audio version of Brian Tracy’s Ultimate Goals Program. It was a game changer. I had never heard of Brian Tracy before and his message blew my mind! (Despite the direction I am going to turn in here, I highly highly recommend reading or listening to this work. I can’t stress that enough!)
As a result of Tracy’s program, I started writing down my goals on a semi-regular basis and then eventually adopted his full blown recommendation of listing your goals in the positive, personal, present-tense every single day without exception. I did this for years.
The results never disappointed. It wasn’t uncommon for me to find a ‘goals notebook’ from several years back, open to a random page, and realize that nearly everything I had set my intentions on had either come to pass or was on track with almost frightening accuracy.
Naturally, I wanted to share this positive experience so I gifted both the audio and written version of this book to a handful of people. Get me started on the subject of Brian Tracy and/or goal setting and I will happily and enthusiastically talk your ear off. This is my comfort zone. I am happy here. I am certain of the power of goal setting.
So imagine my surprised when I was chatting with a group of girlfriends this week and I completely blanked when the subject of long-term goals and ‘lasting legacy’ came up! My brain short circuited. It wouldn’t compute.
I know there are things that I want to do in the next 10 years (for example) but I don’t know where I want to be 10 years from now. Or, oddly enough, maybe I realized that part of me wants to be in the same place I am today. (That’s a trip!)
In trying to mentally reconcile why I could no longer wrap my arms around this concept I recognized that I may have abandoned the idea of a ‘destination’ altogether. I don’t know when it happened but I suppose along the way between that first audiobook and today I acquired and blended different ideas about the world that have reshaped my once solid “10 Year Plan”.
Those ideas that I have collected include (but I’m sure are not limited to):
I no longer personally feel that there is a finite end. There’s an end to ‘earth school’ as Gary Zukav (author of “Seat of the Soul” among other works) calls it, but I don’t feel like I’m up against a deadline.
In the same manner that you do not have a finite amount of time to learn things in College, I don’t feel I have a timer placed on my ability to learn while in this ‘institution’. Sure, you may not pass the exam if you don’t learn the lesson by the end of the term, but life goes on. If it’s a lesson you need, it’ll present itself again. You’ll learn once you need to apply it. You’ll get there if you must.
I am sincerely working on adopting a mantra of “It Won’t Make Me Happy.” In order to enforce (and reinforce) the truth that if it is external, it is fleeting at best.
At one time I really wanted a Kayak. I wrote it down every day. I lived near the water. I thought it was unfathomably oppressive to live on the water and not own a Kayak. I finally got it. I think it was yellow. There was a particularly fun (sarcasm) incident where it repeatedly fell off the roof of my car. I used it a few times but never got it out of the harbor. I left the Kayak in New York when I moved. The fulfillment literally could not have been more fleeting. Goal accomplished. (And it’s not the kayaks fault. The examples are endless)
My Universe is occurring inside of me – and yours inside of you. Nothing I can ‘leave’ (in terms of legacy) will mean anything to you unless I can affect you to become more aligned with you because nothing outside of you And if my affecting you is about me and what I’ve affected… it has no value anyway. (I know, it’s trippy.)
Your universe is all about you. You don’t need me to ‘leave’ you anything.
When I think of 10 years from now I imagine that I’ll want the exact same things I want now. I believe I’ll also want these things in 9 years, 11 years, and tomorrow at 3:07pm.
The opportunity to be creative
To choose love
To show up
To feel productive
To do “the work”
To solve puzzles
To breathe deeply
To feel free
None (not one) of the words on that list ever landed on a ‘goals page’for me.
That’s not to say that they couldn’t! Or shouldn’t! Maybe I’ll take this new perspective right back to the habits I created at 25… it’s probably not a bad call!
But what the recent “10 Year Plan” conversation revealed to me is that I’ve found unexpected and deep appreciation for ‘goals’ that cannot be scratched out in a notebook or stored in a closet.
I don’t want to “get there” with any of the above these feelings or ideas.
I don’t want to solve the puzzles and then rest.
I don’t want to contribute and then retire.
I want to be present in those ways every day. If you ask me today, that feels like the ultimate achievement.
There is an annoying cliché (I’m sure you’ve heard it) that “Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life” and (begrudgingly) I can’t help but agree.
(Side note: I’m aware that I find clichés annoying because they’re overused. I am acutely aware that they’re overused because they’re so friggin tried and true.)
It’s simply not a destination for me anymore. I can no longer draw the map. I am throwing out my 10 Year Plan and trading it in for a daily internal/emotional inventory. I’ll continue to accomplish things along the way because it’s fun – and why not? Let’s test the limitlessness of manifestation! And no disrespect to the brilliant Brian Tracy as I suspect he learned this lesson long before I did – but I have a new Ultimate Goals Program – and it feels a lot like wholehearted living.
PEACE & LOVE.
Twice this week I have been asked about positive and negative thought patterns. “How do I think more positive thoughts?” “Why do I perseverate on the bad, annoying and negative things?” (BTW ‘perseverate’= her word, not mine. I thought it was an autocorrect situation until I received a follow-up text with the dictionary.com screen shot. Thank you. Always learning.)
Although this is a very broad question it is important and valid. While I think the best suggestions and recommendations on this topic can be individualized, the following is my attempt at some one-size-fits-most potential solutions. But first, some housekeeping:
Housekeeping item #1: It is so natural to have negative thoughts! Unfortunately, it’s as if our culture demands it. In my humble opinion (and this is all just that – my opinion) there is nothing wrong with you for having negative thoughts! Let me repeat: There is nothing wrong with you.
This is important to grasp this because if you’re dipping a toe into the pool of ‘maybe I want to consciously try to shift my thoughts to the positive’, things are going to get uglier before they get clearer. So make sure you’re not beating yourself up for having thoughts that do not serve your highest good. We all have them! Thinking this is a ‘problem’ will only give us an additional thought to shift later – so please, be kind to yourself!
Housekeeping item #2: Every thought holds an energy and there are only two choices – love, and fear. There is no neutral. What you perceive to be neutral is probably fear just ‘doin it’s thang’ to trick you into keeping it around.
In saying this I do not mean to suggest you’re always thinking about “romance” or “things that frighten you”. On the contrary “fear” thoughts come in the shape of: Worry, Jealousy, Lack, Anger, Bitterness, Resentment, Frustration, Stress, Anxiety, Desire, Gossip, Judgment – and so forth. Thoughts that are rooted in “love” present themselves as: Joy, Peace, Gratitude, Serenity, Service, Creativity, Courage, Tolerance, Abundance, Health, Vitality, Freedom, Oneness, Faith, Hope, etc.
Love or fear. That’s it. Keep that in mind for later.
Housekeeping item #3: BRAVO for asking the question of how to shift thoughts from negative/neutral to positive (from fear to love) because your thoughts shape the way you experience your life! So this subject has major implications and fantastic potential upside! This is work worth doing! Whatever you focus on (think about) EXPANDS and MANIFESTS – so let’s get rocking and make sure that you’re expanding, manifesting, and experiencing as much love & positivity as possible!
Before we can shift we must DISTINGUISH.
Distinction is powerful. Once you can distinguish something you are in the driver’s seat. If we want to control our thoughts we must first learn to really notice them. (I find creating a meditation or mindfulness practice the best way to equip yourself to do this – you can start with as little as 3 minutes per day and I have several posts on how to do this – but if that’s not your jam, I understand.)
To shift your thoughts you must develop enough self-disciple and self-awareness to be able to metaphorically stop a thought in its tracks, pick it up, examine it, and label it (honestly) as fear or love.
You’ll want to slip on your sleuth shoes and look for patterns. Are the negative thoughts/self-talk surrounding the same subject or subjects? Are they occurring at a particular time each day? If you’re serious about improving your state of mind I would carry a small notebook and jot down your observations. In business as in life, I am a steadfast proponent of “whatever we measure always improves.”
Once you’ve brought awareness to your patterns we can begin to try on some potential solutions.
3 Strategies to Consider for Shifting Self-Talk: Eliminate, Restructure, Override
It is possible that you’ll notice that your negative self-talk or thought patterns derive from a particular subject. If that’s the case you may want to put some serious thought into eliminating that subject matter from your life altogether.
Here’s an example from my own discovery: In developing a mindfulness practice and tuning into my thoughts I noticed that I had a lot of negative noise surrounding alcohol. If I woke up after a night of drinking my morning self-talk would be absolutely consumed with this conversation: “OK so I had two beers at that first bar… but we were there for at least two hours… so that was spaced out well… and then we had that bottle of wine at dinner which we probably split equally. How much did that bottle of wine cost? Oh and that shot. Right. Why do we ever take shots? But I think I feel fine. Right? Or am a little foggy? I wish I could tell. I really shouldn’t drink on weeknights…” This would go on for hours. Literally. Sometimes days. So finally I did the only thing I knew would stop that conversation for good – I eliminated alcohol.
I am NOT suggesting you stop drinking alcohol to produce more positive thoughts! I know plenty of people who can go to happy hour and NOT engage in this conversation with themselves the next morning. I am not one of them. All I am suggesting here is that by eliminating the subject matter of the energy draining conversation, the energy draining conversation seizes to exist.
Unfortunately, elimination may not always be possible. If your negative noise is produced by work or school (for example) and you’re not in the position to quit or make significant changes, you’ll need an alternative solution.
Chances are your negative thoughts are in one of two formats – either statements or leading questions.
I am going to take a page straight from Tony Robbins’ playbook here and suggest that if you cannot eliminate the thoughts you restructure them.
Negative statements are garbage. They are declarations that “This is the way life is. I have no control. I am a victim. I am a martyr.” Statements are a dead end. I picture your subconscious hearing them and, with a hopeless and deflated shrug, thinking ‘she wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true’. A negative declaration is like our sign to the subconscious that it’s cool to just roll over and play dead – and we can’t have that if we’re trying to build a positive life! We need our subconscious out there on the hunt for solutions on our behalf! And for this to occur we need to restructure and ask quality QUESTIONS!
Tony Robbins teaches that you only have a “problem” because you haven’t found a way to turn it into a quality question. Problems (and the negative self-talk associated with them) GO AWAY when you learn to reframe them.
“Quality” means that the question is structured without negative presuppositions. A negative declaration such as “this job totally sucks” does not get any better by reframing it as “why does this job totally suck?” – There’s a bit more heavy lifting involved.
Here are some of the questions that Tony suggests you ask:
- What’s great about this?
- What can I learn from this?
- What’s not perfect yet? (An example of a question with a positive presupposition)
- What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
- How can I make this enjoyable in the meantime?
Again, if you’re truly committed to doing the work and shifting your thoughts, I recommend pulling out that little notebook, copying down these suggested questions, and writing out as many answers to each as possible. Something powerful happens when you physically put pen to paper. It’s worth a shot!
In short: Restructure negative statements into quality questions because complaining will just bring you more stuff to complain about whereas asking the right questions will inevitably bring you SOLUTIONS.
This final recommendation requires little to no effort on your part aside from just doing it (and doing it consistently if you hope to experience results).
It is impossible to hold a fear-based thought and a love-based thought at the same time so if you recognize the time of day or circumstances that bring on your most fear-based thoughts, simply employ a system to override them. A good defense is the best offense.
Here’s another personal example: I am a morning person. I wake up 1.5-2 hours on average before I actually “have to”. Since I live alone this means I am usually awake 3-3.5 hours before I am engaging in dialogue with other humans. This also means that I expose myself to 3-3.5 hours of internal dialogue each and every morning. Luckily, through the strategies above and the one I am about to explain I have turned this time in a serious competitive advantage for myself – but it wasn’t always this way.
When I began this work for myself I noticed that the influx of my negative thoughts happened first thing in the morning – literally starting when I opened my eyes. I noticed I would start my day in a very reactive state of “What time is it? Did I sleep too late? Do I have enough time to get ready?” and that stressed-out chatter would accompany me right into the shower, shifting form to mental to-do lists and worry. Finally, my dialogue took an even nastier tone when I was doing all those girly morning things like blow-drying my hair, putting on make-up, etc. Welcome to the scene insecurity, vanity, jealousy – yuck, yuck and more yuck.
I made the life changing decision to override it all!
For me, this starts with very intentional thoughts first thing in the morning. I do not allow myself to worry about sleeping too much or too little or any of that. I wake up and firmly tell myself that “I am grateful. I have plenty of time. There is nothing to worry about.”
(Then I write in my 5MJ to further ingrain the feelings of gratitude but I’m not going to get into my entire morning routine here – remember, it’s a 2-hour ordeal.)
When it’s time to get ready I turn on my shower speaker and play a positive podcast* while I shower and get ready. (*I will include a list of my favorite podcasts at the conclusion of this post.)
This may sound simple (well, good, it is simple) but it’s been a game changer for me.
If I am feeding my mind with positive and productive information I simply do not have the time or opportunity to entertain fear-based thoughts. (OK, we can be real – can my mind slip and wander? Sure. But with positive content flowing in the background, it is so simple to course-correct. I would wager that 90% of my thoughts are positive and love-based while listening to valuable content.)
Notice where your negative thoughts congregate. Is it in the morning? On your ride to work? On your commute home? Fear-based thoughts tend to creep in when we’re alone which is an opportune time to put on valuable audio, feed your brain with productive content and start your ‘override’.
Your thoughts create your life so I believe there is no work more worthwhile than this! Distinguish, Eliminate, Restructure, Override, rinse & repeat.
PEACE, LOVE & POSITIVE THOUGHTS!
*My favorite positive podcasts are: The Tim Ferris Show, Wanderlust Speakeasy, Revisionist History, Action Catalyst Podcast, Beautiful Writers Podcast, & Smart People Podcast. When it comes to podcasts the options are endless but these are my personal faves. I have never heard any complaining or negativity on any of these shows which is what you need to adamantly avoid if you’re using a podcast for the purposes listed above!
When it comes to goal setting and (perhaps more importantly) goal attainment, Self-Talk (ST) runs the show!
Consider these ways to bring awareness to your Self-Talk and make sure it’s acting in your favor as your secret weapon instead of conspiring against you as your saboteur…
See if this resonates:
We want to set a new goal. Let’s call it an exercise routine because, well, almost everyone has been there. Let’s assume that we want to start an exercise routine because we’re hoping to see some kind of result – call it weight loss. So we decide that we will work out 4 days per week for 45 minutes per day. (*disclaimer – this is not a ‘how to set a goal to lose weight’ post… I definitely have thoughts on that too – but this is about our ST)
ST likes this goal because it’s not daily! She says: “Daily would be hard! Ugh we seriously hate exercise!”
This is what we want to bring awareness to! She’s at it already – telling us how hard this is going to be and we haven’t even begun!
So we wake up on Monday ready to start tackling our goal of 4x/week workouts. Maybe we achieve it on Monday! Maybe we even succeed week that first week… but at some point (fairly early on for most) we break a commitment to ourselves and ST starts saying things like:
“Well, I worked out Monday and Thursday… but now it’s the weekend… What day of the week does the week actually start on? Maybe I can work out Sunday and Monday and that’s kind of the same thing… 4 out of 8 days… that’s close to 4x/week… Ugh I knew this would be hard.”
She’s totally in the “push” position.
We have to push her to keep the commitment – to hit the goal – she’s definitely not our cheerleader. We have set her up for failure and as such she’s doing the same right back to us. No good.
So how do we make her our secret weapon?
Here is the often counter-intuitive answer:
We want to set a new goal – exercise – weight loss – you know the deal. Let’s start by thinking about something that would be a lay-up to accomplish but for whatever reason we’re not currently doing it. Maybe this is something we enjoy doing (for example, if you dig dancing maybe you commit to dancing to two songs every night before you brush your teeth) or maybe it’s something that’s so easy it would be hard not to stick to it (like 15 jumping jacks every morning). Something that makes ST say: “Well yeah, we can totally do that, but is it really going to help us lose weight?!”
Bingo. That’s where we want her! The first half of her statement is beautiful… don’t worry about the second half just yet.
Stick to the easy and/or enjoyable goal for a few weeks. If you’re Type-A like I am, make yourself a check list and make a mark each day to signify that you kept your commitment.
John C Maxwell famously said: “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
If you really want to conquer something, make it a habit! Make it a DAILY goal! It is exponentially easier to figure out how to fit in 15 minutes of “X” every day than it is to try to schedule 30 minutes of “X” every other day or 45 minutes of “X” every third day. The more “mental math” is involved, the more at risk you are of not following through.
(And to scientifically define “mental math”, it sounds like this: “What day is it? Wednesday? Did I do “X” Monday? Or was that Sunday? If I skip it today I could do twice as much…” No. No. No. That is awful. That is sabotage.)
So at “easy/enjoyable and daily” goals ST may be our ally, but how do we turn her into our secret weapon? Simple. It happens organically with momentum.
Because I am not a dance-before-teeth-brushing kind of girl, I’m going to run with the jumping jacks example…
Here’s our scenario. We commit to 15 jumping jacks every morning without exception. We tell all of our friends who might be with us in the mornings so that they expect this and encourage us.
(Oh. I don’t mean like friends around the office Keurig – although the more the merrier – I really mean the people who sometimes wake up next to us… our spouses, significant others, family members… or whatever else you’re into. Not judging. Just keep your commitments!)
We print out a Word template calendar and stick it on our fridge to track our victories… and then we rock and roll! This is so easy that we can’t NOT do it. Even if we have some crazy circumstance in the morning we can always knock out 15 JJs before bedtime and call it a win. With every successfully completed session of jumping our ST whispers a little “yes!” Each check mark on the calendar gets a “woohoo!” Sure, she may know this is easy but let her revel in it for a few weeks! Give her some EASY WINS!
Eventually she’ll bite the bullet and say: “You know… we can really do a little more than this. If we added 10 pushups to the 15 jumping jacks it wouldn’t take but a minute more…”
And now she’s in the PULL position!
Every goal is easier to attain when our ST is positive. Positive ST boosts our self-esteem and improves the way we feel – and the feeling of accomplishing is not much different than the accomplishing itself. It’s hard to have one without the other.
This can be applied to all facets of your life. From weight loss to business to literally anything you want to improve. Small incremental changes that seem too easy to matter lead to improved self-talk which will propel you to bigger changes AND improved self-concept.
THAT’S what happens when you take charge of your ST in relation to goal setting and put her to work for you!
I am certain there are as many effective meditiaons as there are meditators – and I see value in all of them. This post is meant to give specific and detailed instructions about the meditation that I personally began with as I understand/experience it. This is not to say this is the “only”, “right”, or even “best” place to start, but this is my personal recommendation based on the powerful and positive effects that I experienced firsthand. After trying several apps and techniques, I found that this was the best entry-point for me to start a consistent practice. Maybe this will be an effective entry-point for you too! It can’t hurt to try! If this isn’t your jam – don’t give up on creating your practice! Keep trying different methods until you find the right fit for you!
Oh! And if you haven’t yet done so I recommend reading my post: “Why I Sucked at Meditating (and why you probably do too)” before you get started. Hopefully it will help to dispel some common misconceptions and help you to understand that one of the critical keys to success is simply the commitment to show up.
Gan Puttee Kriya: The Kriya to Make the Impossible Possible
3ho.org has a comprehensive explanation on how to perform the meditation. They’re the experts so I recommend referencing this page for official ‘instructions’: 3HO: Making the Impossible Possible
Here is my less-than-expert, unofficial explanation on what it is and why it worked for me…
First and foremost I sincerely believe that the reason I had such a positive experience with this is that I committed to it for 40 days. As you will discover, this meditation involves “chanting” so keeping my 40 day commitment meant that I sometimes had to tell my friends/family/houseguests that I would need 11 minutes of time during our morning or evening to meditate and chant (= weird conversation). In some instances (when I wanted to avoid said weird conversation) it meant sneaking out of bed at obscure times to whisper the chant and complete the practice on a dark kitchen floor (for example). It meant building 11 more minutes into my morning routine and/or redistributing 11 minutes of my already “busy” day. (See my post “The Lie We’re (almost) All Telling” for my thoughts on this). https://deemullin.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/the-lie-were-almost-all-telling/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true
Suffice it to say, sticking to the 40 days wasn’t ‘easy’ for me either, but I remained committed. I mean, c’mon, 40 days it not that long.
Once I committed and set my intention to do this I created a “meditation space”. If you’re picturing a guest room filled with Buddha statues and silk pillows a la “Arabian Nights” you could not be more off base (although that sounds lovely.) My “meditation space” is a little corner of my living room to the left of my entertainment center where I sat each morning and lit incense in front of my vision board.
For the “Making the Impossible Possible” meditation I sat in “easy pose” – which is a very close cousin to what children call ‘Indian-style’. The meditation is supposed to be practiced with your eyes “9/10ths closed” staring down at the tip of your nose but most of the time (especially in the beginning) I’d notice that my eyes would naturally close. (9/10ths may be ‘ideal’ but I say whatever happens happens – if you’re showing up to meditate I wouldn’t beat yourself up too badly on what’s happening with your eyes.)
Then you begin chanting as you move your thumb to make contact with each of your fingers (pictured on the 3ho.org page). You repeat: SA, TA, NA, MA, RA, MA, DA, SA, SA, SAY, SO, HUNG.
In my past attempts to explain this process I have gotten to this point and have been hit with some silly objections. I have often heard that this string of sounds is “too hard to memorize”.
Let’s be real: If you’re weirded out by the chanting too much to try it, I get that – but don’t kid yourself about the difficulty of memorizing some sounds in order. It’s not hard. Even if you had to spend your entire first session reading (vs keeping the eyes partially or fully closed) you’d certainly have a firm grasp on it by day two.
Most commonly I think people are afraid that this will look and feel funny. It does! But it’s probably not as bad as you think and (for me) the rewards significantly outweigh the “risk” of looking and sounding strange.
The chanting really helped keep my hyperactive mind busy. When I would sit in silence (which I am able to do now that I have a practice, but was unable to ‘start’ with) the mental to-do list was never ending, incessant, and very distracting. I found it impossible to even dip a toe into the pool of “zen” while listening to my limiting self-talk reciting all the things I needed to accomplish in the day and not-so-subtlety pointing out that right now, at this very moment (the moment of meditation-attempt), I was doing precisely zero of the things on the list. Ugh. No Bueno.
The ‘silly’ chanting was a game changer. At first I was preoccupied with keeping the ‘sound-words’ in order. (It wasn’t hard to memorize but I found it required a beneficial amount of mental effort to keep it flowing). Once I had it down, the chant had a kind of calming effect. The sounds, the vibration, the meridians… I won’t attempt a scientific argument but I bought into the idea that the magic was happening.
Here is my video to show how ‘accessible’ this can be: Making the Impossible Possible (like a Type-A New Yorker)
Finding a meditation practice that worked for me was life changing. I invite and encourage you to try this for yourself! I promise – without a doubt – that if you commit to 40 days of this and honor your commitment, you’ll have life changing results as well!
Best of luck getting your practice started and if you try this method, let me know how it goes! I would love to hear about and celebrate all of the “impossibilities” that you’re able to make possible!
PEACE, LOVE & MINDFULNESS.
If you already have a solid meditation practice – Rock on! If you want to create a practice but haven’t been able to get started – READ on!
Here are the three things that tripped me up most when trying to create this valuable habit & how I overcame them:
- I was under the misconception that in order to “meditate” I needed to “clear my mind”
I am Type-A, self-diagnosed with more-than-a-touch of OCD, and I am most comfortable in fast paced environments – which makes me impatient.For me, I am fairly certain that “clearing my mind” is not something that is going to happen. Ever.
Setting a goal to ‘clear my mind’ was setting me up for failure.
But I thought that was how the whole meditating thing worked…?
So I failed at it, avoided it, and ultimately chalked it up as something better suited for a different kind of person – probably someone who surfs more and showers less than I do.
What I have now learned is that ‘clearing my mind’ is not the aim of mediation (not for me anyway).
At first I would sit in meditation and it wasn’t much different than sitting, well, not-in-meditation. My thoughts would come rapidly, my mind would wander, and nothing special seemed to be happening. (More on this ‘nothing special’-ness in point #2) As I have become more consistent in my practice I find that meditating doesn’t stop me from having thoughts but instead allows me to notice them.
I visualize this as if my thoughts were attached to clouds by a clothes pin. Each cloud passing through with its own individual clothes-pinned thought in tow. Once the thought comes into focus I have the choice to keep it hovering and explore it in more detail or to give it a gentle push and send it floating on its way. I mentally thank the non-productive thought-cloud for stopping by and ask it to please continue on its journey. No room for you here right now, negative thought. Peace out.
I have learned how to better distinguish my thoughts – both during meditation and in the ‘real world’. Once you can distinguish what something is you dramatically increase the control you have over it.
I am a firm believer that there are only two things that impact the way we experience life: our thoughts and our habits. This habit (meditating) offers me more control over my thoughts and, therefore, my LIFE.
I had to take the important step of changing my expectation to gain that control. Expecting to clear my thoughts would never have gotten me here. Expecting instead to notice my thoughts = game changer.
- I thought something was supposed to “happen”
The first time you exercise you do not instantly transform into perfect health.
The first time you make a positive change in a financial habit you are not instantly wealthy.
Why do we expect that the first time we meditate we’ll feel instantly zen? Or expect something to “happen”?
Sure it’s possible to feel more relaxed right away just like it’s possible to feel stronger after your first session back to the gym, but neither scenarios guarantee the corresponding sensation, and if you do feel something immediately that feeling is just the tip of the iceberg.
The game changing key for me here was to just stick with it. The commitment was critical.
I started with a 40 day commitment and all I required of myself was to just ‘show up’. Just show up and try every day for 40 days. Do not judge. Do not try to be perfect. Do not look for the “something” to “happen”.
My favorite quote on commitment and consistency is from Darren Hardy’s book “The Compound Effect”. In this particular paragraph Darren is expanding on a quote by Jim Rohn. I love this and I repeat it to myself often:
“What’s simple to do is also simple not to do. The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in the doing of simple things repeatedly and long enough to ignite the miracle of the Compound Effect. So, beware of neglecting the simple things that make the big things in your life possible. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not. Remember that; it will come in handy many times throughout life when faced with a difficult, tedious, or tough choice.”
This framework can (and should) be applied to basically everything in life and it was important for me to take this to my meditation pillow. I had to learn that the magic will “happen” if you keep showing up.
- I was pretty sure I didn’t have “time” to meditate
I have a standard-to-extensive morning ‘getting ready’ routine for a 30 something girl who likes hair and makeup. I have never once in my adult life had an experience of getting ready ‘too quickly’. I’ve never looked at my watch and thought – I’ll just sit on the couch for a few minutes and watch ___ (whatever adults watch – news? Not my cup of tea anyway but, you know.)
My point is it’s not like premeditation me was strategizing how to fill all of her extra time in the morning! I had a window of time in the morning and my morning routine filled that window exactly. Believe it or not there’s actually a term for this: Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law states that a task will expand so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Parkinson’s Law is part of the reason that nobody feels like they “have time” for anything, but it’s simply not true.
We have time for what we prioritize. We have time for what’s important to us.
This one is tricky with meditation because for us to bother to ‘make time’ (as if it’s something we manufacture) for it we have to believe it’s important.
Marianne Williamson frequently relates meditation to bathing. We bathe every morning because we find it unacceptable/inappropriate to go into a new day with yesterdays ‘dirt’ on our bodies. Once we realize the power and benefit or meditation we realize it’s equally unacceptable/inappropriate to go into a new day with yesterdays ‘dirt’ on our minds.
You wouldn’t forego showering or brushing your teeth in the morning and justify it by telling yourself you don’t have time. You’d take the task into consideration when planning your morning. You’d wake up at a time that would to allow you to get it all done.
I had (have) time. So do you.
If you’re looking to start a meditation practice (and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do!) try keeping these three points in mind:
- You do not have to ‘clear your mind’
- It’s working even if you don’t “feel” anything the first (or second, or third) time
- Commit to a time frame and stick to it
- Be easy with yourself – just commit to ‘showing up’ and let the rest flow naturally
- You have the time (as long as it’s important to you)
I have had many girlfriends tell me “Oh yeah, meditation, I’ve tried it a few times and it’s never worked.” My answer? “I could say the same thing about dating but it’s not going to stop me from trying again” 😉
PEACE, LOVE & MEDITATIVE MORNINGS