Choosing Easy

Choosing Easy

I’m a big fan of synchronicities and love it when I notice them happening in my life.   Yesterday, I had the radio on and I was leisurely leafing through an old card file looking for a topic to write about for you today.   Four notes at the beginning of a song caught my ear and made me close my eyes, deeply relax, smile, and listen to what I knew was coming—a old, old favorite from Porgy & Bess, an early 20th century Broadway musical:  Summertime.

“Summertime, and the living is easy,” the lyrics go.  “Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.”

When the song finished, I opened my eyes and turned back to my card file.  The very next card I ran across had only seven words written on it:  “How easy can I let this be?”  I got the message from that synchronicity right away.

I don’t remember where I picked up the phrase.  But I do remember that the moment I first heard it  I knew it it was an important one, one of those phrases that can work magic in your life.  I was glad to find it again.  My do-list for the weekend was challenging and it was exactly what I needed to hear.

“How easy can I let this be?” 

Contrast that with “How am I going to get all this done?”   It’s like the difference between looking at a huge mountain you have to scale and letting yourself float on a warm, sun-kissed pool.

Asking yourself how easy you can let a task be reminds you that you have the power to relax into it, that you can choose the attitude you’ll take.  It gives you permission to allow yourself to be at ease.   It puts you—and not the situation–in command.  It nudges you to be present with the task at hand, to take it a step at a time.  And when you do that, almost anything becomes easy.  When you relax, your mind clears.  Time expands.  Tension disappears.  And suddenly you have complete confidence that you can do that tiny, very next thing.

I’ve used it to clear the way for myself in all kinds of situations—preparing for an interview, before giving a speech, when I had to take a test, when I had to confront somebody about something unpleasant, and like this weekend, when I was tempted to let myself be overwhelmed by all I had to do.  It’s a great tool to use when you have to do something new, something you don’t really know how to do yet.  I even used it on my way to the hospital once when I broke an arm, and it really did make the pain much easier to bear.  Not only that, but it stopped me from catastrophizing about how hard things were going to be without the use of my arm.

I took the index card from my box and propped it up on my bedside table to be a daily reminder for me for a while.  I’m working on that end-of-year challenge I mentioned a couple weeks ago, and letting it be easy is going to make it a lot more fun.

“How easy can I let this be?”   Try it out.  Let its magic work for you.

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The Amazing Power of Kindness

Unlikely Kindness

I’ve been doing some research on kindness. I figure it’s one of the best tools each of us has on hand to counter all the hostility in our current world. And I’ve learned some amazing things about it. For one thing, it’s contagious. Not only do both the giver of a kindness and the recipient feel its warmth, but all who witness it are touched and lifted by it, too, and tend to be kinder themselves.

Kindness produces all kinds of wonderful chemical reactions inside us. It give us a boost of happiness by stimulating serotonin. It eases pain. It also increases trust and generosity, strengths our immune systems, reduces stress, and slows down aging. It’s a kind of wonder drug, you might say.

Because a story can illustrate the effects of kindness better than a list of facts, I want to repeat a story I shared with my subcribers a little over a year ago. I call it . . .

The Tale of the Tattooed Biker

I created a mini-nightmare for myself this week. I drove off with my purse sitting atop my car, and by the time I discovered that I didn’t have it, it was long gone. Oh my. I sincerely wish that such a thing never happens to you! It took three days to remember everything that was in my wallet, besides cash—a debit card, credit cards, driver’s license, car registration, proof of insurance, AAA card, health insurance card, advance directives card . . . the list seemed to go on and on. Replacing all that stuff is not fun!

The good news is that most of it could be replaced with a phone call, and the rest with the submission of appropriate (and happily downloadable) forms.

A few irreplaceable personal items are gone, mementos of loved ones. But no one can take the memories.

I shared my tale of woe with one of my friends a couple days later. She told me she’d done the same thing one time. She was a single mom with two toddlers and had set her purse atop her car while she buckled them in their car seats and loaded the groceries she had just purchased in the car. She’d spent her last dollar on the food and was anxious about how she’d find money for gas to get to work the rest of the week.

She was almost home when reached for her purse to grab a tissue when she realized what she had done and broke into tears right then and there in despair. She drove to the local police station to report her lost purse, certain she’d never see it again.

To her astonishment, the police did have her purse! It was beat up, as if it had been run over. They said some gruff, dirty, tattooed biker had just brought it in. He told them to please tell her that he hadn’t taken anything from it and to ask her to call him. He had left his phone number.

Puzzled, she called him while the police listened in, afraid he might have extortion of some kind in mind. He said he was just returning from a charity run and had spotted the purse by the side of the road. He looked through it for ID but only saw the photos of two babies in the empty wallet and thought the woman who owned it must be having an awful day. He said he was sorry she had lost whatever else was in the purse, but he had brought it in just as he found it. Except for one thing.

My friend said, “One thing? What was that?”

“Look in the zippered pocket,” he said. She did as he asked and discovered a crisp $100 bill.

“I hope that helps a little,” he said. “I just wanted you to know that good things happen in life as well as the setbacks.”

The police officers on duty were as shocked as my friend. “Just goes to show you,” one of them said, “You really can’t judge a book by its cover.”

That was years ago, my friend said. And she never forgot the biker’s amazing kindness—or the lesson about judging people on the basis of stereotypes.

When I left the visit with my friend, I found a check from her in my pocket, along with her note saying “good things happen, too.”

You never know how much impact a kindness that you do will have on other lives. Each gesture of kindness ripples on and on.

I know the scruffy biker’s moment of generosity is still flowing outward. I’ll be looking for ways to pay it forward. And I hope by telling you about it, you’ll benefit from his kindness, too.

Pass it on.

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Upgrade Your Game: A Challenge

Challenge

One of the things coaches like to do every now and then is challenge their players to push their limits, to reach a bit higher than they think they can. It wakes something in the players. It makes them dip into their reservoirs of power to add an extra jolt to their game.

Earlier this week, I noticed that August is just around the corner, and I decided to issue myself a 122-Day Challenge to see what I could achieve in the remaining weeks of the year. And I gotta tell you, that flash of a decision pulled me right out of my summer doldrums. Life took on a whole new charge for me.

It was so inspiring that I wanted to share it with you. So let me offer you a 122-Day Challenge to see what you can accomplish between now and December 31st.

The Game Plan

Here’s the game plan: Take some time each day between now and August 1st to give some focused thought to five things you want to upgrade in your life. Pick things that you know would make a real difference in the overall quality of your life, things you have wanted to do but haven’t got around to doing.

You can probably pick five things right now; you do know what they are. Just ask yourself—sincerely, as if you were asking someone from whom you really wanted an answer—and see what comes up. If you’re stuck, consider how things are going in these life domains for some clues:

• Health
• Career
• Finances
• Relationship with Partner
• Family
• Friends
• Fun/Recreation
• Physical Environment
• Community
• Spirituality

After you have your five projects identified, put them in priority harder—the most important first. What would make the biggest difference? Start working on that one on August 1st, and keep at it all month or until you’ve successfully completed it. Start working on the next one September 1st, and so on.

Decide that you’re going to devote yourself to it ruthlessly—and to work on it with joy, because it’s going to impact your whole life in a beautifully positive way.

Tips for Success

To keep yourself motivated, try making a mental movie of yourself easily making progress. Give the movie a title, “Joey Cleans the Garage,” and see the title in big glowing letters. Imagine a soundtrack for it that captures how you’ll feel when you see the final result—something uplifting, maybe playful, or soothing, or energizing. I’ve used the original Star Wars theme in some of mine. It always makes me feel powerful and up to the task. Play your movie to yourself at night as you go to sleep, setting an intention to make progress on your selected task the next day. Even better, identify for yourself exactly what you’ll do and how you’ll do it, and play that as a scene in your movie.

Find your own pace. Do something, however small, every day. Use the days between now and August 1st to figure out where you’ll take the time. What will you give up? TV? Online time? Phone time? If you commute, use some of your travel time to think about your next steps. Think about it while you’re standing in line or waiting for an appointment. Let it become your personal glorious obsession.

I heard a neuroscientist today say that our brains actually change depending on where we focus our thoughts. We sensitize our amygdalas to be aware of positive experiences when we focus on positive thoughts. So think about your project as a wonderful opportunity to become more of the person you want to be, to actualize more of your potential.

Imagine how you’ll feel going into the New Year with five months of spectacular achievements under your belt. Imagine the momentum you’ll have created!

Up for it? You have nine days to prepare. Why not? Join me! And let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear what projects you choose and what progress you’re making. I’m going to finish writing a novel. And that’s just my August plan. I’ll give you a report in September to let you know how it worked out.

Wishing you the daring to accept!

 

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Speech and Freedom

Free Speech

On this 4th of July weekend, as we in the United States celebrate the day that marks the creation of our nation as a free and independent state, I want to talk with you about a movement in western culture that I believe threatens our ability, as humans, to flourish. And that threat is the threat to the first freedom named in our constitution, which prohibits any law that would diminish our freedom of speech.

It’s a complex situation that we’re in, risen from a multitude of causes. Whole books have been written about it, both on its causes and its potential effects. And I certainly have no solution. But I believe that it’s important to talk about issues that endanger us in order to spread awareness and to encourage others to give the matter some serious thought, to decide for themselves what’s healthy and good, and to take a stand.

The Problem

That last sentence kind of sums it up. We can only think about things that we can talk about, that we can put into words. The threat I’m talking about is a movement to silence all speech that contradicts the prevailing beliefs of a promoted group of people.

Sixty-seven years ago, in a message to Congress, then President Harry Truman stated the danger this way:

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

Today, it is not only governments that are passing laws about what may or may not be said, but growing segments of the populace itself who would stifle free speech. When we are no longer able freely to state our beliefs without fear of violent repercussions, we will degenerate into fearful silence. New ideas will die before they can be given birth in the public domain. Time-tested wisdom will be buried beneath the rubble of restriction. Truth will be shackled by the chains of a mandatory ideology. And we will no longer be free.

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation,” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

Let Us Not Offend

One of the contributors to the current movement to suppress free speech is, ironically, based in kindness, or at least in a superficial understanding of what it means to be kind. It’s the idea that people are fragile and easily wounded by unkind words. We must, such thinking goes, root out from our language any words that have the potential to hurt another human being.

Thus, we have a Canadian government proclaiming that words such as “mother,” “father,” “him,” and “her” must be replaced by “gender-neutral and inclusive” language in all school forms, websites, letters, and other communications.  We have a Florida University banning the words “Mom” and “Dad.” We have schools banning classic books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. and publishers hiring “sensitivity editors” to edit out potentially offensive viewpoints and words.  And to take it to another extreme, we now have a Canadian law dictating what words you must use in referring to a person’s self-identified gender identity—or face punishment.

What We’re Learning

What this “do not offend” dictum is teaching us is that we’re so vulnerable that “authorities” of one kind or another must step in to protect us. And furthermore, we’re increasingly lured into thinking that those who use insensitive language or hold opinions different from our own are enemies, and even enemy combatants, against whom we must fight with any means at our disposal. Blogs and social media urge readers to jail, torture, rape, and assassinate people with opposing political opinions. No opinion but mine must stand…because it hurts me.

What to Do Instead

If we’re going to save the right to free speech, the fundamental right on which all freedom depends, we need to oppose regulations against it, whether they’re imposed by governments or institutions. We need to begin proclaiming that we value hearing opposing opinions, that we’re robust enough to hear—and even thoughtfully consider—opposing points of view. We need to understand that people are made stronger by confronting dissent, not weakened by it. Life is tough, and we grow more resilient by facing challenges. We’re broadened by the richness of diverse opinions. We move nearer to Truth only by viewing it from different angles.

Free conversation allows us to negotiate our differences. It’s the only means we have to prevent authoritarianism, tyranny and war. “Not to speak one’s thoughts,” Euripides said, “is slavery.”

So on this weekend, when we find ourselves thinking about what it means to be free, let us declare ourselves to be free to express ourselves and to allow others to do the same. Unless every person is free to speak his or her truth, none will be.

 

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Positive Traits for Building Your Best Self

My Best Possible Self

Here’s a handy list of traits you can use to identify your best self, the you that you want to be in your relationships, in your work, in achieving your goals.

Play with them. Pick the ones that best describe you or the ones that represent the you that you want to be.

For more information about creating your Best Possible Self and the ways that it can serve you, see:

Lovable You: A Best-Self Inventory

Your Best Possible Self

Focused Intention: Remembering Your Best Self

Positive Traits List

Accepting

Appreciative

At Ease

Authentic

Aware

Bold

Calm

Capable

Caring

Centered

Cheerful

Compassionate

Confident

Conscientious

Courageous

Creative

Curious

Dependable

 

Dynamic

Efficient

Empathic

Energetic

Enthusiastic

Fearless

Generous

Grateful

Healthy

Honest

Inspired

Interested

Inventive

Joyful

Kind

Loving

Open

Optimistic

 

Organized

Patient

Persistent

Productive

Prompt

Proud

Relaxed

Resilient

Respectful

Responsible

Satisfied

Strong

Tactful

Tenacious

Thankful

Trustworthy

Truth-Seeking

Worthy

 

 

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