Changing Your Life

1225 Relax and Succeed - If you're not going anywhereWe’re all guilty of it. We want our lives to improve and we have these things that we know would help, but we just can’t get others to cooperate with our plans to improve our situation. Eventually though, we reach a maturity where we realise that they are thinking precisely the same thing about us.

This isn’t to say that our lives couldn’t be improved if others made the changes we’re suggesting, but the fact remains that you have a massive amount of control over yourself and you have little to no control over others, so you are far better to invest your energies in improving your life through things that you control, that can happen for sure versus things you don’t control and only might happen.

We all know that every single one of us has some habits that may be difficult for those around us. You have to have a personality, so we don’t want to remove any quality because on the other side of it will be something useful; like you’re pushy, but when leading is a crappy job the pushy person will still take it and save everyone else. But the point is to mature so that we can apply that ability when it is most useful and not the most damaging.

1225 Relax and Succeed -  To improve our livesPick your issue. It can be small, that’s fine. Maybe you tap your fingers too much, or you’re not polite, or you rush, or you won’t make decisions, or you’re a bully in meetings. Just stay conscious of that one thing for today and try to influence how often or how meaningful the impacts to others might be. And maybe if you do end up doing that thing you do, consider apologising.

Just this one bit of simple mindfulness will make a big difference to not only the other people around you, but more importantly it will also strengthen your mindfulness overall. You will also end the day feeling good about your successes in altering your behaviour. So ignore when your old self emerges and be happy when you adjust. This isn’t about where you are on some scale, it’s about taking you wherever you are and expanding your capacities.

Pick your issue, maybe leave a note or two to yourself or in your daily calendar, and then stay conscious of yourself. That awareness alone will pay additional dividends throughout your day, and who knows, someone might even notice. Enjoy!

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

March Kindness Month

882 Relax and Succeed - March Kindness MonthThe nature of the meditations this year meant that I couldn’t start March Kindness Month until today, but that still gives us plenty of time to practice the part of our personality that can make a real difference to us and the people we interact with. So get a friend or your classroom or your school on board and let’s use the rest of this month to make a real difference in the world.

You’ve had it happen–someone gives you a random and unexpected compliment. It sticks with you for days, or even longer. It’s so rare, and yet insults are not. Why would we choose to be angry or disappointed in others when we could feel compassionate and supportive? These are win-win or lose-lose scenarios so the choice should be obvious.

We think we need things to create happiness in our life. More respect, more money, more friends, more education–whatever. But in fact, it is the giving of respect, the contribution of money, behaving like a friend, or or offering to teach someone something are all excellent ways of feeling good. So why are we so bent on the world recognizing our pain instead of noticing and reacting to the opportunities around you?

882 Relax and Succeed - Do something good todayThis isn’t a moon and stars request. These are simple things. Holding doors for people with kids or packages or if they’re older. Offer directions to someone clearly lost. Being patient with someone learning their job, or your language. These are scary moments in people’s lives–we don’t need to compound them by adding pressure just to satisfy us.

Shift your awareness from your egocentric self and focus instead on those around you. Rather than pointing the flash-light of your consciousness at yourself and your own repetitive self-conversations, shine your light on someone else.

You think you need to change your life to enjoy it more, when in fact you would enjoy it more if you focused your energy on others. If you have enough to give then surely you have enough for yourself. You know that in a fundamental way, so the act of giving becomes one of reinforcement and resilience for the giver. The more you help others the stronger you feel.

882 Relax and Succeed - The smallest act of kindnessStop trying to elevate your ego. Enrich your soul instead. Connect with others knowing that you have the capacity to do enough to make a difference. Maybe it’s not a lot, but the act itself has value.

Give today. In random ways. Pay for the coffee behind you at the drive-thru. Hold a door for someone carrying things. Let someone else have the parking spot. Do a favour for a co-worker or friend. Look into volunteering to see if there’s something you would actually enjoy doing more than what you’re spending your time on now. It doesn’t really matter what it is you do. What matters if is if you do it.

Get out there. Make a difference. Add yourself to the section of humanity that has discovered the secret to enjoying one’s life–the simple recognition and sharing of our existing good-fortune. Go ahead and make some great days everyone. Starting now.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

The March Kindness Challenge

I know there’s normally an Other Perspectives on Monday but it’s the start of a month and while I kicked this off on the weekend, I wanted to give it an official start on the 631 Relax and Succeed - Yesterday I was cleverfirst workday of the month. Welcome to Relax and Succeed‘s March Kindness Challenge.

The readers that turn my work into verbs always do best. They’re not philosophically bantering ideas around, they’re looking for routes through the confusion. And so they very practically do what I suggest and then they write to me about the wonderful benefits that accrue when we make happiness a priority, and when we really do try to see that life is lived inside out, not outside in.

So what’s our verb for March? We have to stop trying to Succeed and we have to start Relaxing. We have to see the victory not as winning the game, but playing it at all. We must learn that our internal experience is the only life we’ll ever know, and so we’re far better off to be tuning that. And by tuning into kindness we guarantee ourselves a day filled with joy.

So: I know it’s a habit that will be hard to break at first. But that’s why we’re doing it. To make that barrier lower and lower until it’s not there at all. So 31 days (and if you start today, only 29!). 31 measly days. No negative comments about your appearance, your schedule, your children or parents, your spouse or lack of one, your job, boss or co-workers, your social life, your friends, other drivers, the weather, your health, your 631 Relax and Succeed - Sorry for the inconveniencehabits, your past…. none of it. No using words in your imagination to tell yourself a story about how disappointing any of those things are.

Yes, you’ll screw up. Yes your habits will—especially at the start—wreak havoc on your plans for positivism. You’ll catch yourself half an hour into a rant. But that does not mean you have failed that means you have succeeded. Because you noticed. This is not something you’ve historically paid attention to—and that’s entirely my point. Because if you did pay attention to it your life would instantly and easily be much better. Because what a surprise—when you actually prioritize happiness it turns out it’s not that hard to get.

So to make it easier to not slip back into bad habits,  instead you should be invested in paying more attention than ever to the good things in life. Focus on what’s in your consciousness. You want fewer criticisms, judgments, or complaints. Those are just crappy ways of asking for something when it would be better to just ask. Criticisms, judgments and complaints suck for you to think. They’re not nice-feeling thoughts for the thinker. But being openly aware feels good right away. And if you direct it with the 631 Relax and Succeed - People from a planet without flowersintention of noticing all that is beautiful about the world you will quickly come to see that a lot of this great big world is absolutely awesome and if you don’t believe me then you haven’t been paying enough attention.

Start noticing the daily kindnesses in this world. Start paying a lot of attention to how good people are to each other. Why would we have built a world where there’s a saying to good to be true but not one that’s too bad to be true? I’m happier than all of you and I’m likely dumber and poorer and more isolated, and for the last several weeks I’ve been in intense pain, but still I’m happier than virtually all of you. Why? Because I love being in pain and I love being over-booked because my friends need me? No, because that reminds me that I’m hardly ever in pain and that I have a lot of great friends that inspire me to help them with their goodness. The choice is mine how I see that. But I have to get serious about changing the way that I make that choice. It has to become conscious if I want it to work. I can’t go into a restaurant and blindly pick any meal/experience off the menu and expect to like it. I at least have to advocate enough for my own life that I’ll show enough involvement to actually look at the menu of thought choices and choose something that I think I at least have a hope of enjoying.

631 Relax and Succeed - The March Kindness ChallengeOkay, send this to your friends and get them on board too. Print off the March Kindness Challenge photo and put it up at work, or on your fridge or at your school. And do this seriously. Make your happiness something you actually prioritize. So if you hear a friend running someone else or their life or themselves down—stop them. Remind them that you think they’re amazing and that’s why you’re their friend, and that when they insult themselves they’re also insulting your good taste. Stop gossiping and start talking about how great everyone is. Start talking about the best thing you’ve seen someone do instead of the dumbest thing.

This isn’t rocket science. Think a nice thought, get a nice feeling. But that doesn’t happen by accident. And it doesn’t happen by coming here and reading this blog or taking my classes or meeting with me. I don’t change people they change themselves. Can I guide them? Yes I can and have and it works. But so will the March Kindness Challenge. Just do it.

No more critical, angry, sad, worried or judgmental thoughts about your life or the people and things in it. Instead, for March you’re going to sincerely dedicate yourself to being even kinder, more generous, and more patient and compassionate than you have been. Less time judging what you don’t like and more time noticing what you do like. Share your appreciations. Tell people you think they handled a situation well. Tell them you think they look great or that you’ve always liked their voice. Tell them. You love when you hear it so say it too. Say nice things to everyone.

631 Relax and Succeed - People tend to think thatThis really can make a huge difference. In a blog called Mission: Better World #1 I figured out that if just North Americans alone gave one more compliment per day than they do, that we would increase the total number of world compliments by 131 billion every year. And that’s just one small place. Imagine if the whole world was kind most of the day!?

Make a difference first to yourself and then to those around you. But get on board. Put up Post-It notes to remind you. Get your friends on board. Copy the March Kindness Challenge photo or go to the Relax and Succeed facebook page and share the challenge out of the Social Change photo album. Get as many people on board as you can. But stay on it yourself and you will change yourself. And, as Gandhi said, by changing yourself you will have changed the world as well.

I look forward to seeing your smile out there in the great big beautiful world. Until then, you have yourself the very best March ever. I love you.

peace. s

PS Don’t forget to share this!

Mission: Better World #1

Some people will hardly ever be cruel in their entire lifetime. A few will use cruelty a lot, as a tool. But I think we can all agree that only a sliver of any society would ever go so far as to say they’re actually in favour of cruelty–and most of those are politicians, not warriors. Likewise we all love the feeling of a genuine compliment—especially regarding something we feel particular proud of being good at. Usually things we worked really hard to master. So we can agree that no one wants to promote cruelty, but we can all agree that we would like to promote compliments. That sounds like an excellent place to start.

624 Relax and Succeed - Start where you areOkay are you ready? Here’s how this goes: when someone makes you really angry. Even really really angry—still, your limit is to be really mad, but you won’t dip down into cruelty. You’ll be mad at what they did, you will not exhibit cruelty toward that person. Actions are actions, people are people. No one wants more cruelty in the world so we each as individuals have to avoid encouraging or participating in it. Day by day, experience by experience, we develop a new habit.

What will make all of this easier is that we won’t just drop the cruelty and leave a gap that you can feel like some phantom limb. No, we fill your life with added awareness so you can watch people and situations to look for good reasons to give sincere compliments. Some people give lots of compliments every day and some never give any. But just think about this: let’s say each person in the US and Canada committed to giving just one sincere compliment a day. That’s it. Just one. In just those two places (but do it everywhere). One—I like your hat, or wow that is some nice guitar playing, or do you ever have a beautiful smile, or I want to thank you for your excellent work this month, or that’s the best service I’ve had in years! Just one. Just the US and Canada. That’s 350 million compliments a day or, put another way, that’s 131 billion compliments a year from two relatively small populations. That would absolutely make the world better. Can you imagine just listening to that? You would be hearing them all day!

Who’s in? It’s super simple. No cruelty—and if you read this blog you probably weren’t the cruel type anyway, so that might be surrendering one or a few chances every few years. And in return, if there’s 131 billion compliments being given out, in one year you’ll give out 365 compliments, but who knows how many 624 Relax and Succeed - The words of the tongue should haveyou might receive? You might surprise yourself. But what I love about this is that compliments not only feel great to get, they also feel awesome to give. So no matter what happens, we’re all guaranteed one more happy moment per day—365 per year—than we had before.

Now remember, these duties include intervening in whatever practical—but not cowardly—way with any cruelty you witness as well. And also if someone is having a day so bad that they can’t give out their compliment, you give it out for them. Or maybe think about taking up a collection and get the sad person a dozen compliments. As long as they’re sincere they will be healing.

This is written with my tongue half way in my cheek, but seriously. Why would any of us invest our short lifetimes in bitching about how crappy the world is and then go from that conversation to the bank where we then ream out the teller-in-training for wasting our day, like we spend it curing diseases anyway? Everybody’s got to learn. Compassion. The same thing we would want. Today at the bank the poor kid—who’s served me twice and done a great job—was literally shaking by the time I got to him. When I was done I just said, “Hey Carter, I know you’re new here and so I see you’re double checking all your work. I appreciate you doing that while you get your legs under you. It’s very responsible. Just what I like in my bankers.”

Don’t be careless with your compliments. Place them carefully and strategically. Get used to watching people less for how they affect you and more for just how they are. And if someone’s down, then maybe the compliment would get twice as much mileage for them. Win-win. Don’t forget small children and oddly enough, those closest to us. Even save a few for yourself.

624 Relax and Succeed- If you change yourselfBut seriously do this. Put up a post it note on your bathroom mirror with 31 numbers on it and give a compliment a day and cross one off for every day of the month. If you like it and want to give more compliments that’s awesome, but those are amatuer compliments. Only this one per day will count against your professional total. Don’t skip a day two years in a row and you are a Master Complimenter and you’re prepared to take on even the most promising apprentices.

All kidding aside, I’m seriously going to do this. And I seriously hope you not only join me, but I hope you all convince at least one other person to join you in this very rewarding endeavour. (If anyone sends in a list of their compliments I’ll post them in the comment section.) Maybe you’re at a university and you can get it going throughout your campus, or if you’re at a large company see if you can get it spread there. Or maybe your child can spearhead a plan to do this at their school. Just the few of us—and some of you are parents and you will be influencing your children—you will have an impact.

Today seems as good a day as any to start, so I will find a more personal one to give in a moment, but for now I will say that I think you’re an awesome person to want to participate in something that it would be so easy to dismiss and ridicule. It’s very much appreciated. Now let’s go change the world.

peace. s

Just for Today

181 Relax and Succeed - RelaxIf you live 85 years, you will live over 31,000 days. Take one of them and live it like you’re done. Live it like you’re finished. Like you’ve achieved all of your goals and that you can now relax. If you have a home that needs work, that’s okay because now you can afford the work. Imagine for a day that money is no object. You have more than you need. If you have kids they’re doing great and their future is very bright. In short, you are healthy, wealthy and wise and it’s lead to you being able to do anything you like.

So what do you do if there’s no need to go get this money or go get that person? If status isn’t an issue and ending debt or building wealth are taken care of, and you and the kids are already living out some healthy plan that’s leading to increases in fitness, what’s left? If your friends all think you’re funny and interesting and you don’t have enemies because people finally get you, then what now? If every single thing you’ve wanted was resolved, what would you do?

It seems like an easy question. Most people would guess they would relax; that they would do enjoyable things like sight-see, or take courses for fun, or learn how to paint or maybe learn another language. More time for sports, and to visit friends and family. Rather than trying to move forward in the world people would be trying to absorb the world. They would shift from doing things that would improve their situation to things that would be enjoyable or enriching to do. Can you see the important distinction?

In one life we strive. Much of what we undertake is designed to affect other people’s thoughts about us rather than having an affect on the actual moments of our existence. We are trying to be impressive to those around us through our words and actions and achievements. In the other life we are invested in experiences. We want to have rewarding and enriching experiences that expand our sense of self.

So one of these is all about other people and one is all about you. One is egotistical and focused on being recognized and credited, whereas the other presumes inclusion and it’s all about a kind of healthy selfishness—a desire to take life as an opportunity itself, and to spend it well. Again, it doesn’t want to be impressive, it wants to be enjoyable.

181 Relax and Succeed - Remember someone is happySo look at your day. Get meditative about it. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is connected to you enjoying your life, or if you need a big long story about how you’ll enjoy it at another time if you do this or that. You’re either living for your current experience or you’re trying to resolve something in your past or future, but if you’re in the latter group then you cannot truly relax because you’re not even focused on the time you’re alive within. Now is the only time you have. It is impossible to live an enlightened life if you’re not focused on The Now.

Get conscious. Start asking yourself why you’re doing the things you’re doing. Reassess. Just don’t tell yourself the same story and check off the same mental box and then continue blindly on. Really ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Is this or that truly more important than going and having fun with your spouse or your kids? If the world was going to end tomorrow, which one would you choose?

Try to live like you’re done today. Try to live like all of your striving is over and that you are loved and life is secure. And if you get flickers of what it would be like to live like that all of the time, then chase them. Capture and hold that feeling. Because that is the feeling of being alive in the Now. And that state of mind is, in the end, the only thing in life that can every really be achieved.

Have a wonderful day.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.