Attitude Is Everything

I can’t overstate the importance of being able to maintain a positive attitude, but I’m the first one to admit that it’s not easy.

Wait to Worry

I used to worry. A lot. The more I fretted, the more proficient I became at it. Anxiety begets anxiety. I even worried that I worried too much! Ulcers might develop. My health could fail. My finances could deplete to pay the hospital bills.

A comedian once said, “I tried to drown my worries with gin, but my worries are equipped with flotation devices.” While not a drinker, I certainly could identify! My worries could swim, jump and pole vault!

To get some perspective, I visited a well known Dallas businessman, Fred Smith. Fred listened as I poured out my concerns and then said, “Vicki, you need to learn to wait to worry.”

As the words sank in, I asked Fred if he ever spent time fretting. (I was quite certain he wouldn’t admit it if he did. He was pretty full of testosterone–even at age 90.) To my surprise, he confessed that in years gone by he had been a top-notch worrier!

“I decided that I would wait to worry!” he explained. “I decided that I’d wait until I actually had a reason to worry–something that was happening, not just something that might happen–before I worried.”

“When I’m tempted to get alarmed,” he confided, “I tell myself, ‘Fred, you’ve got to wait to worry! Until you know differently, don’t worry.’ And I don’t. Waiting to worry helps me develop the habit of not worrying and that helps me not be tempted to worry.”

Fred possessed a quick mind and a gift for gab. As such, he became a captivating public speaker. “I frequently ask audiences what they were worried about this time last year. I get a lot of laughs,” he said, “because most people can’t remember. Then I ask if they have a current worry–you see nods from everybody. Then I remind them that the average worrier is 92% inefficient–only 8% of what we worry about ever comes true.”

Charles Spurgeon said it best. “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.”

Most of us want to be positive. It’s advantageous to possess a sunny outlook. Doors open to optimists. They make friends, earn respect, close sales, produce loyal clients, and others enjoy and want to be like them. The question is, how can we do that consistently?

Om Namah Shivay

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Finish Strong

Amazing Stories of Courage and Inspiration

You may find yourself at the end of the work day with one more thing that needs to get done. Do you leave it? Or do you choose to finish strong and complete the job? You may find yourself exhausted from the day and putting your children to bed. Do you skip their bedtime story or do you finish strong and complete your nightly tradition? At the end of the day, when you climb into bed, regardless of what happened during the day, when you choose to finish strong, you will rest easily knowing that you did everything you could to make the day its best.

Finish Strong – to me, two words that more clearly define a call to action than any other two words in the English language. I challenge you to find two words that more absolutely define a performance objective. The words “finish strong” are pervasively used in our culture, and they are a perfect example of how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When you combine “Finish” with “Strong” you create a powerful platform for action. It’s not uncommon for these words to flow from the mouths of athletes as they describe their goal in pre and post event interviews. The media uses these words to describe the performance of everything from the stock market to stock car racing. And lastly, for as long as man has documented history, the spirit of these words has existed.

The words Finish Strong have become a driving force in my life. For more than ten years, they have been my personal mantra for achieving excellence in – life, sport, and business. I have personally embraced the finish strong mindset in all aspects of my life. And, when faced with a challenge or adversity, I remind myself…

Regardless of what came before or of what has yet to come, what matters most right now is how I choose to respond to the challenge before me. Will I lie down or will I fight? The choice is mine and I choose to FINISH STRONG.

From this attitude, I have created a personal level of accountability for everything I do. I don’t always get the result I want. But in the times that I have had to lean on my commitment, I always felt a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing that I gave it all I had.

There is not a single person in the world who cannot benefit from adopting the Finish Strong mindset.

Here’s a quote that drives the spirit of Finish Strong home: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” —Anatole France

Om Namah Shivay

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The Secret of Happiness-4

A young man tells his mother he has fallen in love with a girl and wants to marry her.

“Just for fun, Mom,” he says, “I’ll bring over three girls and you’ll have to try and guess which one I’ll be marrying.”

And the next day, three beautiful women are sitting in front of his mother.

“Can you guess who will be my wife?” the son asks bubbling with excitement.

“The one on the right,” she replies in a blink.

“Oh my God! You’re amazing! How’d you know?”

“Cause…” she says nonchalantly, “I don’t like her.”

We don’t have to dislike something just because life is giving it to us. At times, playing a spectator, a nonjudgmental witness is all it takes to understand what direction we should take.

Our intrinsic nature propels us to discover our life’s meaning. When it comes to an inquisitive mind, discovery of meaning is the secret of happiness. You know, how there’s a release of energy and you laugh as soon as you understand a joke. So it is with life. You are set free the moment you get a grip on its meaning. Different things mean differently to different people. It’s a personal affair.

When you remain oblivious to the goodness, beauty and divinity in your life, or if you don’t selflessly devote a portion of your time to a cause, life is then forced to hand you the third perspective: suffering. It may come as acute boredom, deep sadness, severe depression or a wake-up call in the form of great personal loss. Whether you want to go with the first, second or third option, the choice is yours.

Himalayan lotuses don’t grow in fresh water ponds, they blossom in marshes. Emptiness or unhappiness is not a dysfunction of life. It’s not a malfunction of your mind. It simply means that life is telling you to reflect on yourself and your actions. It’s asking you that you no longer neglect your calling or that you find one. The seed of fragrance is the very basis of your existence. When stagnation arrives, the lotus of transformation is ready to bloom. All you have to do is not oppose it.

Go with the flow and see where life takes you. Let the seed sprout.

He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How…

Om Namah Shivay

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The Secret of Happiness-3

Service

The second way is to passionately give yourself to a cause. Devoting your body, mind and soul to serve a cause leads to a phenomenal expansion of individual consciousness. You will still have your down moments with everything else going around you, but you won’t feel your life is pointless. As soon as you take up a cause, you grow out of your limited and individual existence and step into a much larger play field. The baby bird has jumped out of the nest hoping to fly. It won’t fall flat on the ground. Precisely at the right moment, this bird will know how to flutter its wings. Nature will not let it die. Giving yourself to a cause forces you to reach the optimum level of your potential. Vedas call it rajas, mode of passion. You are full of energy when rajasic and can’t wait to get to work because your cause has given your life a meaning. Your cause breathes a new life into you awakening the spirit of service, transforming your negative emotions into a usable form of energy.

Suffering

By suffering I don’t mean that something terrible must happen in your life. Instead, anything that shakes us out of our illusions is suffering. Such incidents and experiences, while disconcerting, push us out of our comfort zone. They make us humble and more open to other perspectives. They impel us to reflect on our life, our choices and actions. You realize that what all you took for granted at one stage was actually a blessing. In this newfound wisdom and humility, you begin to look at life differently. The Vedic term is tamas, mode of ignorance. Ignorance leads to suffering. (Yes, it’s 100% true. For, suffering is not what happens to us but how we interpret it. An ignorant person can’t handle his or her loss in the same graceful manner an enlightened person would, for example.) In my view, ignorance is the chief cause of individual suffering and suffering is the seed of meaning. For Buddha too, it was the sight of suffering that melted him enough to quit royalty, don robes and embark on his journey.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Secret of Happiness-2

As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation.

I think Dr. Frankl nailed it. We must have a reason to be happy. Our possessions and people are reasons to be happy, to be grateful, but they are not long lasting reasons because they don’t really give a meaning to our life beyond a certain degree. No doubt, they bring color, variety, pleasures, even moments of happiness and fulfillment. Yet, it doesn’t mean that we are leading a meaningful life. Otherwise, hundreds of millions of people, materially comfortable, wouldn’t be fighting the demons of loneliness, sadness and depression.

Friedrich Nietzsche contended, “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.”

If you have a reason to get out of bed every morning, you will. If you’ve a reason to live, you will. If you’ve a reason to love, you will. If you’ve a reason to be happy, you’ll be happy. And reason boils down to one thing: meaning. If your life has meaning, if your relationships have meaning, you’ll be fulfilled naturally. Meaning is the only light that dispels the darkness of emptiness.

And there are three ways to find meaning in your life.

Goodness

Vedantic school has a famous phrase called Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Satyam is truth, Shivam divinity and Sundaram beauty. The moment you learn the art of seeing and appreciating the goodness in your life, you start to see the truth in its ways. You begin to see the divinity in everything life puts you through. You are inspired by the beauty of it all. The splendor, glory and miracle of every unfolding moment melts you from within, it gently forces you to see how goodness abounds your life. Blue sky, healthy body, a sound mind, green trees, vast oceans, everything is full of goodness. It’s a state of mind that can be consciously cultivated. Vedas call it sattva, mode of goodness. Goodness is synonymous to fulfillment. A sattvic mind (that is, mind full of goodness) is a tranquil mind. So, one way is to fill your mind with good thoughts. Or, make an effort to see the truth, divinity or beauty that exists in the present moment. Your life then takes on a whole new meaning.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Secret of Happiness-1

Dragging my feet from one day to the next, what am I really doing? This one question is unavoidable in the life of every reasonable person. Call it existential crisis, midlife crisis or whatever you like. If you have lived your life by the book, and did all that you could to help others and yourself, this phase is inevitable.

Every sane person, at some point in their life, is plagued by a persistent feeling of emptiness. Everything is there but nothing is, you feel. There is no real reason to be unhappy and yet happiness is nowhere to be found. I have wealth, family, freedom, status, I should be happy, you think but life still kind of feels pointless. As if the more we acquire the emptier we feel.

Not every rich man feels empty and not every poor man feels fulfilled though. Not all the time anyway. Happiness is a flirtatious partner. You can’t bet on its loyalty or stability. Often we think happiness exists in my dreamland, a place where everything (and everyone) will move according to me. And since, life will function the way I want, I won’t have to deal with feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger and so on. This is a lofty and an ignorant view.

A life devoid of challenges and conflicts is not necessarily a happy life, in fact, it is immensely boring and will eventually lead to intense sadness and a big void. Our struggles teach us, they shape us.

Quoting Dr. Victor Frankl, whose philosophy bears significant and direct influence on my views shared in this post:

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

Om Namah Shivay

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Why do Your Plans Fail?-2

3. You give up too soon

This is the most common problem. It is the number one cause, actually. It doesn’t matter what are you after, it won’t happen in an instant. It will take its due time. If a tree takes a hundred blows to fall, you can’t get to the hundredth blow from the word go. The first 99 blows are just as important. Without the first 99, there’s no 100.

How soon is too soon, you may ask? Well, when you give up without reaching the end goal, you’ve given up too soon. I’m not suggesting that you stick to unreasonable plans. Many a time people make wrong financial, professional or personal decisions, and it’s okay to accept that you made a mistake, make ammends and move on. But, for all other goals where you are not running out of resources, where you can reasonably put in a greater effort, especially personal development goals, don’t give up until you reach your destination. Take baby steps and keep taking them, one after another. Before you know it, you’ll have covered the whole nine yards.

4. You don’t listen

It’s one thing to be sure of your plans, it’s another altogether to think that you have the best plan. The former is confidence and the latter foolishness. Research has it that 95% of businesses shut down within their first year of operation. Most entrepreneurs are so in love with their businesses that they become blind to even right feedback. “My idea can’t be wrong, my decisions are sound. I’m too smart for these people around me.” This is how most of us (secretly) feel about ourselves and our plans.

Yes, yes, I know that those who succeed are the ones who trust their gut instinct. Go ahead, trust your instincts, but, trust me, it doesn’t harm to listen to the other person. At least, just listen. Once done, you can decide if you want to take up their feedback or not. Who knows, something good may come out of it. That said, you don’t have to listen to all forms of unsolicited advice, and you can certainly filter out those who are more interested in criticizing you than giving you an honest opinion. But, those who disagree with you after listening to you properly, hear them out. They mean well.

5. You don’t follow your discipline

If you observe successful people around you, in any sphere, you’ll discover that they don’t waste their time. They lead their life with a certain discipline. From the greatest leaders to the richest people, discipline is the hallmark of their life. Once you set a discipline, follow it. Your mind will give you numerous excuses to falter, to take it easy today, to do it tomorrow or to abandon your plan altogether. The only thing you have to do is to not listen to your mind. The more determined you are to follow your discipline, the less excuses your mind will come up with. And, once your mind realizes that you don’t waver, it stops complaining.

If you are hardworking and disciplined, if you are a good listener and can work without seeking attention, your success is as good as given.

Mulla Nasrudin’s wife convinced him to see a therapist for his stubborn nature and repeated failures. Fearing that Mulla may not open up, she secretly called the psychologist and briefed him in advance.

“I sense you suffer from self-fantasizing,” he said to Mulla in the first session.

“What is that?”

“It means you have a very high opinion about yourself.”

“That’s a load of crap,” Mulla said. “I actually think of myself much less than I really am.”

If within you and around you, you are in touch with reality, if you are true to yourself, your chances of seeing your plans materialize go up exponentially. Palaces of success are built on a truthful and sincere ground. One block at a time.

Your dreams may be unreal and that’s fine so long as your actions are real.

Om Namah Shivay

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