Could this be happening “for” you?

images“Why are all these bad things happening to me?”

Has this question every surfaced for you? 

Just as each calendar year has its seasons, which consist of various types of weather, so too do the seasons of life.  Regardless of economic or social status, each of us is guaranteed to have a season (or seasons) of struggle and hardship.  A season that may seem unfair or unjust, forcing us to ask the question I posed above.

If you’re in the middle of one of these seasons, I invite you to change the way you’re seeing your circumstances.  In the midst of hardship and struggle, our default response is often to give our power away.  In other words, we act as if we have absolutely no control in the situation.  This is only partially true.  While we certainly can’t control the circumstance, we will always possess the power to control our thoughts (or perception) about the circumstance.  This is the power of a lens change, or mindset change. 

Let’s go back to the question I posed above.  Can you see that it’s powerless in that all of the power is placed in the circumstances, or bad things?

What would happen if we changed this question to one of curiosity?  It might sound like this – “Could these things be happening for me?”  Now, instead of waving the white flag and surrendering to the power of the circumstances, we step firmly into the mental battlefield and take our power back.

Let me give you an example of someone who exemplifies this principle. 

Perhaps you’ve heard the name Anthony Robles.  One of the most decorated wrestlers in Arizona State history, Robles was born with only one leg.  One might say that he was born into a season of struggle and hardship. 

His wrestling journey began at a young age, often characterized by setbacks in the form of losses on the mat.  Over time, he came to realize that his disability could actually serve as a tremendous source of unique abilities.  For example, because of his low center of gravity, it was much easier for him to defend against an attack from an opposing wrestler.  He was also able to harness his incredible upper body strength to create several unique offensive moves, one of which had never been seen before in the world of wrestling. 

Now that his wrestling career is over, he continues to use his circumstance to empower others.  When you hear him speak, it’s clear that he doesn’t give an ounce of power to the fact that he only has one leg.  Instead, he speaks from a space of complete confidence that his physical condition didn’t happen to him, it happened for him.  In fact, had he surrendered to the powerless nature of the question I posed at the beginning of this article, we perhaps wouldn’t even know who Anthony Robles is.

Simply put, his journey began with an “anything is possible” mindset and it continues to fuel him today. 

I invite you to watch the following video, which will give you a much more intimate look into Anthony’s life.  Click here to watch.

P.S.  If you’re in the Phoenix area and would like to hear Anthony share his powerful story, I have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you.  He will be speaking on Monday, October 5 at 7:30 in Ahwatukee.  Please email me at if you’re interested in registering. 

Which wolf are you feeding?

imagesPerhaps you’ve heard of the phrase monkey mind?  Just as monkeys swing from branch to branch, our mind has a tendency to do the same thing, if we allow it to.  For example, a small worrisome thought may swing from branch to branch, eventually gaining enough momentum to become anxiety or panic. 

The antidote to monkey mind is something called mental management.  It’s an often overlooked skill that allows us to tame the monkeys in our mind, if you will.

One of my favorite stories, which is aptly titled Two Wolves, serves as a simple reminder of the power we all possess to manage our thoughts.

A Cherokee elder was teaching the children about life.  He said to them, “A terrible fight is going on inside me.  It is a fight between two wolves.  One is the wolf of joy, love, hope, kindness and compassion.  The other is the wolf of fear, anger, cynicism, indifference and greed.  The same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too.”  The children thought about it for a moment, and then one child asked, “Which wolf will win?”  The elder replied, “Whichever one you feed.”

You see, the way in which we feed the wolves is by the quality of our thinking.  Fear and anger don’t just appear out of nowhere.  They are influenced by the thoughts that precede them.  Simply put, if I’m consumed with fearful thoughts, I’m naturally going to feel a heightened sense of fear.  My thoughts are essentially feeding the fear.  Conversely, if I choose to focus on thoughts of gratitude, then it’s gratitude I will feed.

I know what you’re saying.  “I wish it were that easy.”

For what it’s worth, I spent a large part of my life feeding the negative wolf.  Over time, it simply became habitual and negative thinking ultimately became my default response.  I would often obsess over worst case scenario outcomes, which of course always fueled other worries.  Let’s just say that monkey mind was a fairly common experience for me.

Over the last several years, as I’ve made a commitment to teach mental management strategies to others, I’ve come to realize that it’s ultimately a choice.  No one is hardwired at birth to feed the negative wolf, but rather we are conditioned to do so over time.  Simply put, the more time we spend feeding the negative wolf (consciously or subconsciously), the more it will win.

I invite you to spend some time thinking about your thinking over the next few weeks.  I can almost guarantee you that you’ll find some habitual thoughts that you’ve had for years, which clearly aren’t feeding the positive wolf.  Once you’ve recognized the negative thought, practice replacing it with a new one.  It may seem difficult at first, but remember that sustainable change doesn’t happen overnight.  You’ve spent years thinking in certain ways, so the only way to accomplish change is to take the necessary baby steps.  This is the essence of mental management.

I believe in you.     

Are you ready for a mental cleanse?

untitledWhat do you think of when you hear the word cleanse?  

I’m guessing that your thoughts gravitate toward something nutrition related. 

A simple Google search for this word provides you with over 50 million links.  Sure enough, as I browsed through the first few pages, I found that each of the links either outlined a specific bodily cleanse program or provided information about the importance of detoxifying a certain part of our system (i.e. liver). 

I want to introduce you to a different kind of cleanse.  One that doesn’t get as much attention, but can have a profound impact on your well-being.  It’s called a mental cleanse.  You see, our minds are inundated with thousands and thousands of pieces of information (and images) every day.  Whether it’s emails, television shows, or Facebook posts, our brain often works overtime to absorb the enormity of information we’re exposed to.  Just as a food source may release various toxins in our body, the same is true for the mental sources mentioned above.  You don’t need to look very far to find potentially toxic information.  Whether it’s the inappropriate email a friend sends you or an angry rant you see on Facebook, mental toxins are everywhere.

This past week, I made a commitment to remove myself from Facebook for seven days.  I referred to it as The Seven Day Cleanse.  Pretty creative, huh? 

Quite honestly, I found myself forming a dangerous habit over the last several months of needing to read everyone’s posts throughout the entire day.  While there were many that were uplifting, there were an equal number that caused unwelcome emotions like frustration or disappointment.

Below are a few of my observations regarding my experience with this cleanse.

I’m more present with my family.

My wife sometimes refers to my cell phone as my pacemaker as it’s often attached to me in some manner.  During this cleanse, I’ve noticed that my phone has spent more time on the kitchen counter than it has in my hands.  I’ll still check my email occasionally, but the constant need to check Facebook is gone. 

I’m reading more from meaningful sources that are designed to enrich my mind.

When I made a commitment to remove myself from Facebook, I made another commitment to fill my mind with enriching content.  I’ve spent more time reading my Bible in the last week than I have in quite some time.  This wouldn’t of happened without the cleanse.

I’m not habitually reaching for my phone.

It seems like whenever there was a lull in the day, I’d reach for my phone and immediately check Facebook.  It had become kind of a knee-jerk reaction.  I’ve found that those quiet moments, void of any technology, are often the most meaningful and reflective.

So, what do you think?  Are you ready to take on a mental cleanse?  It doesn’t have to be Facebook.  You could make a commitment to turn off your television for five days, or stay off any other form of social media for an extended period of time.  Regardless of what you choose to do, take solace in the fact that your mind will thank you.

A mental cleanse.  It does a mind good. 

P.S.  Sorry for missing my blog last week.  I was in Oregon celebrating my Grandmother’s 95th birthday and ended up writing a personal blog to her (in the form of a card) for this wonderful occasion. 


It may be time to wash your windows.

photoAs many of you know, a central theme in my Lenses of Leadership program is the concept of a lens.  Unlike the lenses you may use to correct your eyesight (e.g. glasses or contacts), the lenses I’m referring to allow us to formulate thoughts and images through the use of a much different eye; our mind’s eye.  Simply put, your mind’s eye is not what you see, but rather how you see it.

In my book, Seriously, Dad?, I introduce the idea that your mind is like a machine.  In other words, your mind’s eye is constantly at work, making sense of the world around you.  Over time, the interpretations you assign to various events (e.g. rude people) become habitual, or part of the machinery.  Therefore, each time you encounter a rude person, you simply write them off as rude.  There isn’t a whole lot of thought involved in this process, because the mental machine has already been programmed to write them off.  Your lens is firmly entrenched.

It is my belief that the single most effective way to create positive change in your life is not by changing the people or things around you, but rather by changing the lens through which you see those things or people.  This process requires two critical steps: self-awareness and self-management. 

Self-awareness essentially means that you tune into the machine, or your inner dialogue.  Sadly, most people don’t spend much time thinking about the quality (and effectiveness) of their thinking.  Only when you are aware of the machinery, can you change it. 

Self-management is learning to change your lens in the event that your current perspective isn’t serving you.  I mentioned earlier that your mind is a machine.  Well, you happen to be the mechanic and therefore have the power to change the machinery.

Below is a story which outlines the importance of these two skills and the subsequent results if we don’t use them.

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.  The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.  “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly.  Perhaps she needs a better laundry soap.”  Her husband looks on, remaining silent.  Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments.  A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly.  I wonder who taught her this?”  The husband replies, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”  And so it is with life… What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which you look.

It’s clear that the woman in this story was making an assumption that the laundry was dirty.  There was no presence of self-awareness as she relied solely on her mental machinery, which is very good at making assumptions, by the way.  Only when her husband chose to clean the windows was she able to see the laundry in a new way.  This is precisely what happens when we choose to change our lens.

The person we’ve written off as rude is now seen as an individual who just wants someone to pay attention to him. 

The person who lashes out at you in anger is now seen as someone who is deeply hurt and doesn’t know how to express her emotions.

The bully at your child’s school is now seen as a boy or girl who simply needs a heavy dose of kindness.

I invite you to take an introspective look at your own life and ask a simple, yet powerful question…

Which areas of my life could benefit from a lens change, or a window washing?                 

Don’t think about the elephant!

clip-image0028Humor me for a minute as I set up the main idea of this blog.

Close your eyes for the next ten seconds and create an image in your mind of an enormous elephant wearing a pink tutu.  Don’t worry if you start laughing.  It’s liable to happen.

Okay, now that you have this image firmly ingrained in your mind’s eye, I want you to stop thinking about the elephant.  Just get it out of your head. 

Don’t you dare think of that elephant!  I want you to completely ignore it.

I’m guessing that by now you’re quite frustrated with the fact that the image of this silly elephant is still crystal clear in your mind.  What you just experienced is The Law of Resistance.  Simply put, the more you resist something, the more it persists.  You see, when I asked you not to think about the elephant, I was essentially inviting you to think about it even more. 

If you’re a parent, teacher, or coach, I’d like you to consider something.  Have you ever noticed that in an effort to squelch various behavior problems, you’ve relied on the quick fix nature of the words “Ignore it?” 

Your daughter complains about a sibling who is mistreating her and your response is, “Ignore it.”

One of your students is visibly upset about a mistake they made on a test and your response is, “Ignore it.”

As a former classroom teacher, I uttered these words on more occasions than I care to remember.  The most common occurrence was immediately following lunch recess.  It was quite customary for a handful of students to approach me with a laundry list of complaints about what others had said to them on the playground.  In order to expedite the process and calm the behaviors, I quickly squelched all of the complaining with a simple instruction – “Ignore it.”

Today, those words are not even a part of my vocabulary when I work with students, or with my own children.  The reason is quite simple.  Instructing another person to ignore something is akin to asking them to stop thinking about the elephant with a pink tutu. 

Put yourself in a child’s shoes for a moment.  Imagine that you’ve had a difficult day with a classmate and you’re overcome with sadness and despair.  As you explain the situation to your parent, coach, or teacher, their only advice is to ignore it.  So you do your best, but can’t help but notice that the sadness and despair are still present.  Over time, these emotions will obviously change, but the fact remains that you never really dealt with the problem.

I have an alternative approach I’d like to share with you.  Instead of encouraging a child to ignore it, ask them to explore it.  While ignoring something requires resistance, exploring something requires acceptance. 

Below is a scenario which will outline the difference between ignoring and exploring.

Jason is upset about the fact that he hasn’t achieved a perfect score on any of his spelling tests.  Conditioned to believe that he’s simply supposed to ignore his frustration, he seeks to find distractions that will keep his mind off of the spelling tests.  Much to his disappointment, he finds that nothing is able to rid his mind of the frustration.

After a few days, he courageously approaches his teacher and attempts to describe his feelings about the spelling test scores.  Surprisingly, his teacher acknowledges him for practicing self-awareness and says, “Let’s explore this.”  Not sure where he’s going with it, Jason nods his head in agreement and the exploration process begins. 

After a long discussion, Jason uncovers the realization that his own thinking is what’s preventing him from excelling on the tests.  He recognizes that after the first two tests, he made up his mind that something was wrong with him.  His own resistance, in the form of his thoughts, is precisely what caused his scores to stay the same.  As soon as he changes his inner dialogue, the scores improve. 

It is my sincere hope that this blog has given you a new perspective on the counterproductive nature of ignoring something.  I invite you to empower the young people in your life by helping them to explore the root of their problems.  The end result is a child who seeks to solve problems, not run away from them. 

P.S.  I apologize if you still have the image of the elephant in your mind.  Don’t ignore it, just explore it. 

Gold Medal Mindset

gold medalThe year was 1983.  I left the boys locker room and walked cautiously toward the small gym at Memorial Middle School, my mind flooded with thoughts of doubt and uncertainty.  My worst nightmare was about to become a reality.  Mrs. Fallis’ sixth grade gymnastics unit would culminate in a series of ability tests on various apparatus.  Staring me in the face as I entered the gym was the dreaded vault.  Equipped with a heavy dose of pessimism, I tried to collect my breath.  What followed were four words that had recently become a fixture in my internal dialogue – “I can’t do it.”  Not surprisingly, I failed miserably and my downward spiral of self-confidence quickly gained momentum.

Fast forward thirty two years and I find myself standing in front of a room full of gymnastics coaches, speaking to them about the importance of mental toughness in athletics.  The sixth grade boy who had cringed at the very thought of failure was now empowering coaches to be strong in the face of adversity.  To call it a full circle moment would be an understatement.

Just prior to my presentation, I listened to the owner of the gym, Olympic Gold Medalist Amanda Borden-Cochran, speak passionately about the importance of teaching life through gymnastics.  It was crystal clear that she was aware of the stark reality that only a small fraction of gymnasts would ever achieve gold medal status in the Olympics.  With this notion in mind, she articulated her mission to prepare her gymnasts for life beyond gymnastics.  A life that will drastically improve with the possession of a much different kind of gold medal; a Gold Medal Mindset

Below are five Gold Medal Mindset skills you can begin practicing today.

Don’t wait for your mood to change, create it. 

It’s easy to blame our mood on various circumstances (e.g. I’m upset because of him/her).  The fact is that our mood is influenced more by the quality of our thinking than it is our circumstances.  Think of each of your moods as energy.  Anger, jealousy, and disappointment are all forms of mental energy.  You have the power to change the energy by simply changing your thinking.  If you find yourself in a bad mood, try replacing your disempowering thoughts with thoughts of gratitude.  You can’t be angry and grateful at the same time. 

Always be better than you were the day before. 

Let’s face it.  The social mirror would have us believe that in order to be successful we must climb to a certain status on the proverbial totem pole.  We must have better scores, better looks, or better possessions in order to achieve success.  This is what we’re conditioned to believe.  It’s all a big lie.  The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.  You see, God gave each of us a unique obstacle course, designed to prepare us for our own journey.  What good does it do to look at someone else’s obstacle course?

Practice relentless optimism.

Contrary to what some may say, optimism is not simply adopting a Pollyanna approach to life.  Rather, it’s a relentless pursuit to find the most empowering thought in any given situation, all the while accepting what is.  We can’t just look at the weed in the yard and imagine it’s not there.  We must own the fact that the weed exists and work at removing the root of the problem, which in most cases is our ineffective thinking. 

Expect to win, but embrace your losses.

Believe it or not, there is a tremendous source of power in failure.  A Gold Medal Mindset expects success, but is also equipped to be strong in the face of adversity.  Failure is not final, it’s simply a result.  Look at the failure head on and seek to find the hidden lessons that are present in every failure.  There is no such thing as an overnight success.  Every road to success is paved with failure. 

Always maintain a growth mindset.

I mentioned before that the words “I can’t do it,” became a fixture in my internal dialogue.  What I failed to realize is that my fixed mindset was essentially stopping me dead in my tracks with regard to taking any future risks.  A growth mindset simply means that your success is not predicated on ingrained intellectual or academic abilities, but rather your ability to practice life skills such as resilience and grit.  When you catch yourself saying the words “I can’t,” I invite you to add one word to this statement – the word yet.  “I can’t” is permanent and implies finality.  “Yet” is temporary and implies possibility.      

A Gold Medal Mindset is within your reach.  I look forward to seeing you stand on the podium of success.  By the way, don’t worry about having to perform on the vault.  It’s not a prerequisite for a Gold Medal Mindset.  Thank goodness!

Why do I have to do this?

untitledIf you’re a parent reading this, it’s likely you’ll need a calculator to add up the number of times your child has asked the following question.

“Why do I have to do this?”

It’s also likely that you’ve responded to this question, perhaps more than you want to admit, by saying, “Because I said so.”

Unfortunately, through the eyes of a child, this answer often conveys a sense of authority or control.  What follows is a quest on the part of the child to push the very boundary you just created.  Ultimately, their goal is to push so hard that you’ll eventually relent and give up pushing back.

Can you relate?

I want to share a parenting tool that will shift the focus away from your power and place it firmly in the hands of your child.  It’s called finding the point in the pointless

Below is an excerpt from my book, Seriously, Dad?, which describes how a parent might introduce this strategy to his child.

Dad:  So, how did last week go?  What circumstances triggered negative thoughts for you?

Daughter:  The biggest one was when Mrs. Jones gave us a Pop Quiz in History class.  It was full of questions that no one could answer.  If you ask me, it was pointless.

Perfect.  Let’s use that as our example of a circumstance.  Just like the previous example of your friend saying something rude, I want you to know that the quiz itself wasn’t pointless.

Dad, how can you say it wasn’t pointless?  What kind of teacher gives a quiz over material we didn’t even discuss in class?

Trust me, I understand your frustration.  I’m just trying to point out that regardless of whether or not the quiz was fair, it was out of your control.  Would you agree?

Well yeah, I don’t get to decide what’s on the tests.

Exactly.  What you do get to decide is the lens you use with regard to the test.

Uh oh, it’s that MORE strategy isn’t it?  I know what you’re going to tell me.  Had I been able to monitor my thinking, I would have had a chance to own it, then replace it and that would have empowered me.  But what thought could I possibly think that would have helped me feel better in this situation?

How about, “I’m going to find the point in the pointless.”


Think about it.  If you would have looked for the point, you would not have given your power to the quiz or the teacher.  Maybe the point of the quiz was to teach you about overcoming challenges.  Clearly this was a challenge that you weren’t prepared for, so this experience will prepare you for a similar challenge in the future.

Dad, that sounds like that Positive Polly stuff again!

Let me ask you this, if I gave you a choice of feeling angry or curious right now, which would you choose?

Curious, for sure.  Being angry doesn’t feel very good.

Positive Polly or not, a lens of curiosity is much more effective.  There are always going to be circumstances that will push your buttons or be triggers for you.  I just want you to realize that you have the power to choose whether or not this will happen.  You control the button.

Back To School Mental Toolkit

untitledThe carpets are cleaned, the desks are meticulously polished, the pencils are sharpened, and the lockers (cubbies) are vacant, waiting to be occupied by a backpack full of contents.

The next few weeks (at least in the state of Arizona) mark the beginning of another school year.  A time when teachers return with a sense of hope and rejuvenation, following a much needed break from the controlled chaos of the previous school year. For students, however, this time of year can often be characterized by feelings of dread, worry, or even anxiety.  As they drag themselves out of bed on that first day, memories of sleeping in or the rotating schedule of sleepovers remain fresh in their minds.   

Near the top of the list, in terms of preparing students for a new school year, is the all-important supply list.  Each school is different, but the bulk of this list has remained constant for years.  Pencils, paper, notebooks, and folders are an absolute necessity for any student.  As parents frantically race through the Back To School aisles of Target or Walmart, looking to check off that final item on the list, there’s another list that lurks in the background.  I refer to it as the mental toolkit.  It’s not something you’ll find at a store, nor will your school provide you with a comprehensive list of mental tools.  This makes it even more difficult to obtain.

You see, as students arrive at school on the first day, armed with backpacks full of supplies, they also bring another backpack with them, which will play a much more important role in their academic and personal success – their mental backpack

Below is a list of three important tools that I encourage you share with your child prior to his first day of school. 

Tool 1 – Your mindset will determine the quality of your school year, NOT your classes, your teachers, or your peers. 

It’s almost certain that you will experience a series of difficult circumstances this school year.  Whether it’s a boring teacher whose monotone delivery lulls you into a nap-like state, or a demanding class that keeps you up into the wee hours of the morning, no student is immune to challenges.  If you’re looking for the easy route, you are more than welcome to complain about the challenge.  You can even blame the teacher for his/her boring delivery or make numerous excuses for your poor grade, but the fact remains that complaining, blaming, and excuses will never change anything.  Simply put, your circumstances don’t determine your levels of happiness.  The way you see your circumstances does.  I invite you to be curious about how these challenges can shape you for the future.  No one ever reached success without a series of struggles.  If you learn to embrace the struggle, the journey will be much more meaningful.

Tool 2 – Always be aware of your internal dialogue.  You can train your mind to be positive.

Here’s a little known fact that most students don’t even consider – you talk to yourself all the time.  Your mind is like a thinking machine, designed to help you make sense of the world.  As is the case with every human being, a portion of these thoughts are going to be negative.  I invite you to practice being aware of your thinking and when you notice a negative thought, simply replace it with a positive one.  Imagine each of your thoughts as either feeding the negative dog or the positive dog.  The more you feed the positive dog, the more positive you’ll be.  By the way, don’t expect your thoughts to change overnight.  Change happens over time. 

Tool 3 – Your success in life will not be based solely on your grade point average (school smarts), so spend some time developing your self-smarts as well.     

Unfortunately, there are often expectations for students to be perfect.  You might feel direct pressure from a teacher to perform well on a test, or indirect pressure from hearing the student announcements, highlighting the academic prowess of a select group of students.  While I certainly encourage you to perform to the best of your abilities, take solace in the fact that when you apply for a job, the employer will unlikely ask you for your eighth grade Algebra score.  While academic content is important, your ability to manage the way you think and the way you feel (self-smarts) is equally important.  Start by waking up each morning and saying to yourself, “Just as I have the power to choose my outfit for school today, I also possess the power to choose my attitude.  I’m going to make it a great day.”

If you commit to practicing these three tools throughout the year, I promise you it will be your best year ever.  

Happy School Year!


Top 5 Surefire Ways to Pursue Unhapiness

happiness-quotes-choice-quotes-Happiness-like-unhappiness-is-a-proactive-choice“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Every morning, as part of our daily classroom routine, my entire fifth grade class would stand up, face the flag, and recite the above passage from the Declaration of Independence.  Unfortunately, by the end of September, the words were barely recognizable and the monotone chorus was enough to put a roomful of roosters to sleep.  

Today, as I look back on this moment, I cringe at the missed opportunity to empower my students with the tools to make these words a reality, not just a formality.  

Thankfully, I spend a lot of time today talking about the pursuit of happiness.  In fact, I’ve written several blogs on this topic.  Click here to read one.    

Often in our pursuit to achieve something, it’s important to understand where NOT to go or what NOT to do.  Just as certain road signs inform us where NOT to go (i.e. no left turn) or what NOT to do (i.e. speed limits), so too do the road signs of life.  Having said this, I’d like to share my TOP 5 Surefire Ways to Pursue Unhappiness.

Complain.  Let’s face it.  If you and I wanted to, we could take part in the world’s largest Complaint-Fest, complete with some of the all-time greatest whiners.  It’s an easy thing to do.  Unfortunately, any time you complain, you’re essentially giving your happiness away to someone or something else. 

Run away from your problems.  When adversity shows up at your front door, the easiest thing to do is close the door and run the other way.  While this might very well be a quick-fix, temporary solution, the fact remains – wherever you go, there you are.  When you run away from adversity, you run away from happiness.

Compare yourself with others.  Comparing is always done in an up or down fashion.  In other words, you’ll never measure up to certain people (compare up), but will always be better than others (compare down).  Unfortunately, neither of these leads to happiness.  Comparing up leads to feelings of inferiority, while comparing down leads to a false sense of pride.  Happiness occurs when you measure yourself with who you were the previous day.  Be better than that person.     

Worry about things that haven’t happened yet.  If you allow it to, your mind will quickly transform worry into anxiety or despair.  As is the case with complaining, each time you worry, you essentially give your happiness to the thing you’re worrying about.  By the way, as you’ve probably heard, the majority of the things you worry about will never happen.  Spend your time in gratitude and be thankful for all of the great things that have already happened. 

Try to change others.  Whether your intentions are good or not, you’ll never be able to change another human being.  When it comes to other people, change is often conditional.  In other words, you want someone else to change so that your happiness levels will increase.  Sadly, this often backfires as the recipient of the change becomes defensive and pushes away.  The best way to change someone else is to change yourself first.  If you want people around you to be happy, then you need to choose happiness for yourself. 

I invite you to complete a personal inventory with regard to the five unhappiness strategies above.  If you recognize that one or more of them is something you do often, I encourage you to own it and move in the direction of authentic happiness.  By the way, authentic happiness will only occur when you make a commitment to do the opposite of what’s listed above.     


Life lessons at the Diamondbacks game

photo (2)Last Friday night, I had the opportunity to take my oldest daughter to her first Major League baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.  Little did I know that in the midst of watching a baseball game, she would learn a valuable lesson about a much more important game – the game of life

Midway through the fifth inning, or six handfuls of popcorn into the team wearing the white jersey’s turn to bat, depending on whose perspective you’re taking, the umpire made a questionable call at second base.  Up until this point, Emerson’s interest in the game was lukewarm at best.  However, when the collective “boos” rang out from the home crowd, it suddenly piqued her interest.  She quickly sat up and asked me, “Daddy, why are they booing?”  

“Well, the umpire decided to call the Diamondback runner out at second base, but the fans don’t think it should be an out.”

Ten minutes later, after a thorough review of the play (via instant replay), the umpire chose to uphold his call.  The boos reached an entirely new level.  A level that caused Emerson to cover her ears, almost immediately.   

Although the fans jeering seemed to subside with each successive inning, there were a handful of people behind us who weren’t about to stop.  Clearly concerned about their well-being, Emerson turned to me and asked a question that served as a beautiful teachable moment – “Dad, why can’t they just let it go?  That guy already called him out.”

Here’s how our conversation ensued.

“Great question!  In fact, I want you to look at the Diamondback players on the field.  Do you think they’re spending any time thinking about the questionable call?”

“Probably not.”

“Exactly, they don’t want to carry a bunch of negative energy into the rest of the game.  It would probably affect how they play, right?”

“Yeah, I just don’t understand why these people behind us can’t just let it go.”

“Well, they’re spending all of their time and energy trying to be right.  Their boos are a sign of letting the umpire know that he was wrong.  How do you think those people are feeling right now?”

“Probably angry.”

“Exactly.  Is anger an emotion you want to hold onto?”

“No, I want to let it go.”

“Emerson, you just learned one of the most valuable lessons about life.  Just as the umpire made a questionable call and it didn’t go the way the players wanted it to, you will always have things in the game of life that don’t go the way you want them to.  You can either give all of your power to what happened (the bad call), or you can focus your energy on choosing the most effective response to what happened (letting it go).  Learning to let it go is an effective response that will allow you to maintain confidence and hope throughout the rest of the game.  Just look at the players.  The reason they’re still hitting the ball and making plays is because they chose not to give their power to the umpire’s call.”

At this point, she gave me one of those – Dad, why do your conversations always have to be so deep - looks, but I think she got the point. 

Some people say that success is about what you know, while others say it’s about who you know.  I say it’s about how quickly you “let go.”

You see, mental toughness is a skill that transcends the game of baseball.  I truly believe that successful people, regardless of their profession, remain committed to staying mentally strong in the face of adversity.

I invite you a read an article I recently found, which outlines 13 things mentally strong people don’t do.  How are you shaping up with regard to these 13 things?  If the answer is “not very well,” it’s time to get back in the game – the game of life, that is.