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28 Nov

These Are The 8 Friends You Need To Be Happy In Life

View the book on Amazon here!

View Eric’s new book on Amazon here!

Guest post by Eric Barker.

Do your friends sometimes disappoint you? Ever feel like there is something missing in your relationships?  You’re not alone.

Tom Rath and the Gallup organization discovered something interesting: the vast majority of the time, no one pal offers you everything you need from your relationships.

Some of your friends are great listeners… but they’re not always there when you need them. Others are intensely loyal… but just not that great at helping you out of a jam. And so on.

We get different things from different friends. And sometimes even with a sizable group you’re still not getting all the things you want in order to feel truly supported in life. Kinda like how to be healthy you need the four different food groups — you can’t just eat cookies for every meal.

“Friendship” is a pretty vague word. You generally don’t even know everything you want from your relationships to feel whole — you just know something’s missing. There’s a gap.

So Rath and Gallup got to work. They surveyed over a thousand people to find out what the types of “vital friends” were — someone who if they vanished, your life satisfaction would noticeably decrease.

What did these types of friends offer? How do they round out your life? What are those things we all want from a group of friends to feel truly fulfilled?

Rath breaks down the results of their research in Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without.

It turns out there are 8 types of “vital friends.” Many of us don’t have all of them in our squad, and that’s why we often feel disappointed or like we’re not getting everything we need. (You have to collect all the different Pokemon to win at the game called life.)

So let’s break down the 8 and get the basics on what they are, learn where you might meet the ones that are missing, and find out how to strengthen your relationships with the ones you already have. We’ll also look at what you should do to be better at the role which you play in the lives of others.

Okay, time to get friendly…

1) The Builder

Just because you’re not in Little League anymore doesn’t mean you don’t need a coach. Someone who motivates you and encourages you to take it to the next level. That supportive friend who believes in your potential and won’t let you rest on your laurels.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

Builders are great motivators, always pushing you toward the finish line. They continually invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed — even if it means they have to go out on a limb for you. Builders are generous with their time as they help you see your strengths and use them productively. When you want to think about how you can do more of what you already do well, talk to a Builder. Much like the best coaches and managers, these are the friends who lead you to achieve more each day.
Lacking a Builder in your life? We all need that person who nudges you to be all that you can be. Start asking more people for advice, then vet based on who gives solid answers and supports you. Who checks in with you a week later to see how things are progressing? That’s your new Builder.

Want to make the Builder you have better? Tell them your goals and what you’re struggling with. Tell them you appreciate their support… and give them permission to nag you if you slack.

What if you’re a Builder? How can you be more helpful to your friends? Pay attention to what they’re up to and offer help. Check in with them if goals they said were important do a vanishing act. Some people need a supportive voice in order to follow through.

My friend Jodie is a Builder par excellence. I tend to only do things that interest or excite me. So my life can get a little unbalanced. (That is a tsunami-sized understatement, by the way.) When I neglect things that, oh, “keep me breathing” or “make life worth living,” Jodie offers reminders, support… and then nags me relentlessly. So I always do what she says…


(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here.)

Builders motivate you and keep you going. Who sings your praises to others?

2) The Champion

We all need a friend who isn’t afraid to break out the pom-poms and play cheerleader. Somebody who roots for you and describes you to others in a way that makes you blush.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

Champions stand up for you and what you believe in. They are the friends who sing your praises. Every day, this makes a difference in your life. Not only do they praise you in your presence, a Champion also “has your back” — and will stand up for you when you’re not around. They accept you for the person you are, even in the face of resistance. Champions are loyal friends with whom you can share things in confidence. They have a low tolerance for dishonesty. You can count on them to accept what you say, without judging, even when others do not. Champions are your best advocates. When you succeed, they are proud of you, and they share it with others. Champions thrive on your accomplishments and happiness.
Need a Champion in your life? Look for the people who are always praising others. They’re usually very humble and kind. So say hi.

Want to help your Champion help you? Regularly keep them abreast of what you’ve been doing and what your goals are. And don’t forget to thank them when their help pays off. Champions live for that.

If you’re a Champion, how can you improve? Ask your friends what they’ve been up to and how you can help. Think about different ways you can promote them. Maybe you’ve spread the word about their great work at the office — but have you ever complimented them in front of their spouse?

Luckily, I have Andy. Andy says things about me to other people that would make me want to meet me if I didn’t already know myself. And he does this for all his friends. I can tell you that they are all very lucky people. But Andy would just tell you how awesome they are.

(To learn the 3 secrets from neuroscience that will make you emotionally intelligent, click here.)

So maybe you have someone swinging pom-poms for you. But do you have that person to conspire with on that passion project?

3) The Collaborator

Who loves that same strange thing that you love? Who is that friend that the moment you see each other you roll up your sleeves and get to work on the next big caper?

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

A Collaborator is a friend with similar interests — the basis for many great friendships. You might share a passion for sports, hobbies, religion, work, politics, food, music, movies, or books. In many cases, you belong to the same groups or share affiliations. When you talk with a Collaborator, you’re on familiar ground, and this can serve as the foundation for a lasting relationship. Indeed, in those conversations, you often find that you have similar ambitions in work and life.
How do you find yourself a Collaborator? Let the people around you know more about your interests and see who else happens to be into cryptozoology or 19th century pre-existentialism. Attend events where fellow enthusiasts gather.

What’s a good way to encourage your current Collaborator? Send them articles about your mutual interest. Meet for coffee to discuss.

And what should you do to be a better Collaborator if you are one? Your mission, should you decide to accept it… Schedule a regular time to meet and work on your shared plan for Global Domination.

My buddy Mike is a grandmaster of all things visual. Mike and I don’t do stuff together — we make stuff together. When I said I wanted to send my publisher some ideas for my book’s cover, Mike fired up Photoshop. When I needed an author photo for said book, Mike’s the one who took it. And per my above recommendation, I really should set a regular time to meet with him…

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)

You have the Bonnie to your Clyde. Do you have the person you can call late at night when the worries get serious and you’re having a dark teatime of the soul?

4) The Companion

Simply put: a best friend. They won’t just help you move; they’ll help you move bodies. The person who will still be there when everyone else has very wisely run for cover.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

A Companion is always there for you, whatever the circumstances. You share a bond that is virtually unbreakable. When something big happens in your life — good or bad — this is one of the first people you call. At times, a true Companion will even sense where you are headed — your thoughts, feelings, and actions — before you know it yourself. Companions take pride in your relationship, and they will sacrifice for your benefit. They are the friends for whom you might literally put your life on the line. If you are searching for a friendship that can last a lifetime, look no further than a Companion.
How do you find a Companion? Think about which of your current friends you might want to have a deeper relationship with. Spend more time with them. Open up and be vulnerable.

How do you strengthen your relationship with a current Companion? Cut the small talk. Discuss the deep stuff in your life: your fears, your dreams, your future.

How can you be a better Companion? Create a safe place for your friend to discuss anything. And when times get tough, reach out. Don’t wait for them to ask for help.

Jason is my best friend. If there is anything in this life I should be envied for, it is that. He is the person who frequently says things like, “Eric, that thing you are about to do is insane, has little chance of success, and is illegal in most NATO countries. I know you’re going to do it anyway. If it works out, I will be thrilled for you. If it crashes and burns, call me no matter how late. I’m here for you.” And often I call. And he always picks up.

(To learn the 4 rituals from neuroscience that will make you happy, click here.)

Best friend acquired. But who is introducing you to new friends?

5) The Connector

No matter what the issue, they know somebody who can help. They make friends more often than most people make excuses. Even if they were locked in solitary confinement with no one to talk to, they’d end up best pals with the prison guard.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

A Connector is a bridge builder who helps you get what you want. Connectors get to know you — and then introduce you to others. These are the people you socialize with regularly. Friends who play the role of a Connector are always inviting you to lunch, dinner, drinks, and other gatherings where you can meet new people. This extends your network dramatically and gives you access to newfound resources. When you need something — a job, a doctor, a friend, or a date — a Connector points you in the right direction. They seem to “know everyone.”
What’s it take to add a great Connector to your life? Look for the people who know everybody in a given situation. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself — these folks obviously like to meet new people.

How do you best leverage your Connector? This one’s easy: just ask them for introductions.

If you’re a Connector, how can you better help your friends? Be proactive. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Think about who might be good for them to know and offer an introduction. Or just throw a party and get everybody talking to each other.

My buddy Gautam knows more fascinating people than I know people. Not only is he the subject of one of the stories in my book, he also introduced me to two other people whose stories I told in my book. While I was typing this, Gautam has made 6 new friends.

(To learn how to make friends as an adult, click here.)

So you know somebody who always knows somebody. But have you got a friend who just makes you feel great?

6) The Energizer

That fun friend. The person you’re always laughing around. The one who always knows the great place to go or the awesome thing to do.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

Energizers are your “fun friends” who always give you a boost. You have more positive moments when you are with these friends. Energizers are quick to pick you up when you’re down — and can make a good day great. They are always saying and doing things that make you feel better. Energizers have a remarkable ability to figure out what gets you going. When you are around these friends, you smile a lot more. You are more likely to laugh in the presence of an Energizer.
How can you find your own shiny, new Energizer? Look for the person who is the life of the party in any situation. Bask in their neon glow and introduce yourself.

Want to further energize your current Energizer? Let them know how much you appreciate their enthusiasm. Reciprocate the positivity.

Want to be a better Energizer? Just like with Connectors, be proactive. Look for those who are feeling down and work your magic.

My friend… Oh, crap. I don’t think I have an energizer. Well, that explains a lot. Better introduce myself to the life of the party, STAT…

(To learn an FBI behavior expert’s tips for getting people to like you, click here.)

So you have a friend who always keeps you smiling. But who is always introducing you to new ideas?

7) The Mind Opener

They send you interesting articles. They get you to question your assumptions. Talking to them makes your brain do things straight out of the dream sequences from “Inception.”

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

Mind Openers are the friends who expand your horizons and encourage you to embrace new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people. They challenge you to think in innovative ways and help you create positive change. Mind Openers know how to ask good questions, and this makes you more receptive to ideas. When you are around a Mind Opener, you are unguarded and express opinions aloud, especially controversial ones that you might not be comfortable sharing with other friends. These friends broaden your perspective on life and make you a better person.
How do you find someone who will open your mind? Share your ideas with more people. See who regularly offers new perspectives and invite them to crowbar your cranium.

What’s the best way to help your Mind Opener work on your noggin? Encourage them to play devil’s advocate with your ideas — and never shoot down their responses. Noodle on their suggestions for a while to fully explore them and to show respect.

What if you’re the Opener of Minds? Listen — and offer suggestions. Send friends ideas you have and stuff they should check out related to their interests.

My friend Nick never met an idea he couldn’t challenge. We go on absurdly long walks and he responds to everything I say with, “But what if…?” He always makes me think really hard.

I like him anyway.

(To learn more about how to be someone people love to talk to, click here.)

So you have someone to challenge you. But who helps you plan how to get to that next stage in life?

8) The Navigator

Sometimes it feels like you’re in Hell, Dante — and you are gonna need a Virgil. Sometimes they’re a mentor, sometimes they’re a sounding board, but they’re always your GPS system for when you don’t know which exit to take on the highway of life.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without:

Navigators are the friends who give you advice and keep you headed in the right direction. You go to them when you need guidance, and they talk through the pros and cons with you until you find an answer. In a difficult situation, you need a Navigator by your side. They help you see a positive future while keeping things grounded in reality. Any time you’re at a crossroads and need help making a decision, you can look to a Navigator. They help you know who you are — and who you are not. They are the ideal friends to share your goals and dreams with; when you do, you will continue to learn and grow.
Need to create a new Navigator in your life? Ask people around you about themselves. Find out more about what they’ve done and what challenges they’ve overcome. You’d be surprised how many have been in your shoes — or had an analogous experience that might offer insight.

Want your current Navigator to have improved GPS? Tell them when you’re facing big decisions. Share your goals and dreams. Ask them how they would go about getting from here to there.

As a Navigator, how can you help guide your pals? Again, be proactive. Offer help and advice where they’re struggling with an area you have expertise in.

This year would have been inconceivably harder without my friend Ryan Holiday. He’s offered guidance on releasing a book, what new projects to explore, and how to handle the big issues in life in a way that would make the ancient Stoics proud. He’s the only person I know who goes through more books than I do and, unlike me, his lips don’t move when he’s reading them.

(To learn the lazy way to an awesome life, click here.)

Okay, that’s a lot of different friends. Let’s round it all up…

Sum Up

These are the 8 friends you need to be happy in life:

  • The Builder: If you were a sports team, they’d be the “Coach.”
  • The Champion: Pom-poms not included.
  • The Collaborator: The unindicted co-conspirator.
  • The Companion: They’ll be at the police station at 3AM with bail money. Again.
  • The Connector: This is the friend you and I probably have in common.
  • The Energizer: (I’m currently taking applications.)
  • The Mind Opener: If they sent you this blog post, I’m flattered.
  • The Navigator: Like a high school guidance counselor, except useful.

Some of your friends may play multiple roles. And you might play different roles to different friends of yours. That’s fine.

To most of my friends, I’m a Mind Opener. But to others I’m a Collaborator or a Companion.(After 4 espressos I might be an Energizer.) Figure out what you are to your friends. And then make yourself a better one.

Find the roles that are missing in your group of friends and work on strengthening the relationships with the ones you have. It’s like a heist movie where you need a safecracker, a wheelman, a computer expert and the comic relief in order to pull off the job.

Life is hard enough. You’re gonna need love and support to make it through.

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11 Nov

Know What You are by What You Know

You can never know anything outside of yourself directly. Even when you think you know something outside, you really just know an interpretation of it within yourself. You gather information from outside and it gets interpreted within you and the only thing you ever know about the outside world is that internal interpretation.

For instance, when you are seeing something and you know its there, you are not actually seeing it directly. Light waves reflect off different objects, enter your eyes, get converted into neuro-signals that travel to your brain through the nerves, and get interpreted as images full of colors, brightness, etc. And the only thing you ever see are these interpreted images within you. You never see any of the objects outside of you directly. Because if you were able to see them directly, you would have probably seen a vast of ocean of particles and waves and not colors, etc. These colors don’t really exist. They are just internal interpretation of different wavelengths of light falling on your retina. If your eyes had the capability of detecting a different spectrum of light (like some animals do), you would have seen something quite different. Same thing happens when you are hearing or touching or smelling or tasting something. Information just enters through your various sense organs, get converted into neuro-signals according to the capability of these organs, travel to your brain and get interpreted variously. The sounds and sensations you experience don’t really exist. They are just internal interpretations of different neuro-signals generated by your eardrums, skin, nose, tongue, etc. The only thing you ever know about the outside world is this interpreted information within.

There are two important implications of this:

  1. You can know yourself and the interpreted information within yourself directly. You don’t need a way of gathering information about yourself and interpreting it to know yourself. Because, otherwise, such a process would go ad-infinitum and you would never be able to know anything.
  2. If a mechanism is required to gather information about something in order for you to know it, that something cannot be you. Because if it was you, you would have known it directly.

Let’s apply this understanding:

Since you need a way to gather information about the outside world and interpret it within yourself, you cannot be the outside world. This is easy to agree with. But now consider your own body. Information about your body is gathered through the peripheral nervous system and delivered to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All the pains, aches, itches, temperature and pressure sensations, etc. of the body that you feel are nothing but interpretation of information that reaches the central nervous system. Whatever you know about your body is through this information. If you were the body, you would have known it directly and there would have been no need for a mechanism to gather information in order to know it. Moreover, If you were the body, you would have known each and every little part and function of it directly. But that’s not the case either as you do not know things that are out of reach of the peripheral nervous system like the flowing blood, insides of your bones and many of the organs, etc. (unless of course you cut open the body and actually see them or touch them, which again is information gathered through the peripheral nervous system). This clearly indicates that you cannot be the body.

So are you the central nervous system? If you were the central nervous system i.e. the brain and spinal cord, you would have known yourself as slushy gray matter through which bio-electro-chemical signals keep whizzing from time to time. But that’s not the case. What you experience is a crisp clear world full for sights, sounds and sensations. Some of the experiences are gross and more tangible, and some are subtle and less tangible. The information gathered from the body and the outside world tends to result in a more gross experience and certain activities of the brain like thoughts, emotions, etc. tend to be more subtle. This indicates that you are not the central nervous system but something quite different.

You are actually that crisp clear part-less unbroken entity within which all the information gathered at the central nervous system gets interpreted. The term for it is consciousness. This consciousness and all the interpreted information within it, or the absence of interpretations while you are in deep sleep or in a state of trance, is all that you ever know directly. You do not know anything else directly.

Many people mistake it for the mind. The mind is a collection of thoughts, emotions, memories, desires, tendencies, etc. These are activities of the brain that are interpreted within consciousness as subtle sights, sounds and sensations. You are not anything that is being interpreted, you are that within which all of this is being interpreted and that is consciousness. The only thing you ever know directly is consciousness and within it you experience the various interpretations of information gathered from outside (brain, body and the world).

A very important point to note here is that its not your consciousness, you are the consciousness. Because if consciousness was something that was yours but it wasn’t you, you would have needed another way of gathering information from your consciousness and interpreting it within yourself – just like you have to gather information about your body and your brain. And this chain would have continued endlessly. But thankfully thats not the case and the buck stops at consciousness and that is what you actually are.

So what really is this consciousness? Where does it come from? Is it generated by the brain or is it something independent? How does information gathered by the brain appear within consciousness? If I am consciousness, why does it feel like I am a body-mind complex? Why does the consciousness seem to be attached to the body and mind? Does consciousness continue to exist after the body perishes? What benefit is it to me by knowing that I am consciousness?

If these and more such questions are occurring to you, you are on the right track to knowing what you really are. These questions are very important and there are very clear answers to all of them. My recent articles have dealt with some of them and can provide a good overall understanding. Please feel free to reach out to me (npabuwal at gmail) if you would like to know more. I ll gladly share further insights and references.

But here’s a brain-teaser to leave you with: If consciousness has this innate capability of creating appearances of various gross and subtle things within it and that is all you ever experience, what’s the need of a real external world? Why can’t the whole universe just be an appearance within a universal consciousness?

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/167379908570/know-what-you-are-by-what-you-know)

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09 Nov

The Wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita

Song Divine coverI’m very happy to announce that my new book is now available:  Song Divine: A New Lyrical Rendition of the Bhagavad Gita. Check it out at www.SongDivine.com. This book is very close to my heart. I have learned so much from the Bhagavad Gita. It contains everything we really need to know to live a purposeful, spiritual life filled with meaning.

I feel very fortunate that Swami Sarvadevananda, my teacher, and the head minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California (vedanta.org) wrote the foreword to Song Divine.

As a sneak peek of the book – please enjoy the Foreword by Swami Sarvadevananda:


The Bhagavad Gita is a holy book for all times, places and cultures. It doesn’t belong to one person, nor does it address any one group of people. It is a scripture for all the world and everyone in it, wherever they are in their spiritual quest.

The Bhagavad Gita has inspired many people with its powerful teachings and profound truths. It draws from the wisdom of the Upanishads, and wraps up all the essence of this wisdom as a practical guide to living. The deep spiritual lessons are as applicable in today’s modern world as they were back in the time of Krishna, more than 5,000 years ago.

It’s no wonder that the Bhagavad Gita, originally written in Sanskrit, is the second-most translated book in the world after the Bible. There are countless versions, in many different languages, and with a variety of commentaries on the verses. And now Lissa Coffey, or “Parama” as she is known to us here at the Vedanta Society, has brought us her own very special version of the Gita. This Gita is ideal for the western seeker in that the verses have rhythm, and they rhyme, making them very easy to both understand and memorize. Keeping the words of the Gita in the mind helps us to focus on what really matters in this life, and to remember the vital teachings that Krishna imparts to his friend Arjuna during their intense discussion on the battlefield.

The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata, a great epic filled with stories and philosophy. The Mahabharata contains 97,400 verses, while the Gita comes in at 700 verses. The Gita is said to be the spiritual core of the Mahabharata, expressing the same concepts in a much shorter narrative. Adi Sankaracharya, who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, was the first to recognize the greatness of the Bhagavad Gita, and wrote his wonderful commentary on it, thereby establishing the Gita as one of the fundamental texts of Vedanta.

The one theme that runs through the entire Bhagavad Gita is that the purpose of life is to realize our essential Being. In other words, to know and understand who we are, and why we are here on this earth. It may be called Enlightenment, Nirvana, Self-Realization, Awareness, Oneness – there are many different terms for this experience. But when we achieve it, we recognize that the experience, by any name, is the same for each of us.

I first met Lissa at the Vedanta Society in Santa Barbara. She quickly started attending our weekly Bhagavad Gita classes at the Hollywood Temple. Lissa, through her many books, has been able to bring some very big spiritual concepts to a mainstream audience by explaining them in a way that is easy to understand and also easy to apply to the modern day lifestyle. I’m very pleased that Lissa has embraced the Gita in this way, and I know that many more people will be blessed with Krishna’s valuable teachings because of her loving efforts in creating this book.

~Swami Sarvadevananda, Head Minister, The Vedanta Society of Southern California


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27 Oct

How To Replace An Unproductive Habit.

In the September,  I wrote about habits (how they are formed and how they can be replaced).

In that article, the emphasis was on the fact that a habit has to be replaced, not just removed.

In my coaching and mentoring career, there have been countless clients who wanted to give up an unproductive habit. My emphatic message to them was that they must look for ways to replace that habit.

If you are to get rid of a habit, please remember that a void will be formed.

The legendary Bob Proctor said “Nature abhors a vacuum. Once you give something up, something else will have to fill that void”.

This is so pertinent when it comes to replacing a habit.

Today, let’s discuss how you can replace a habit.

Here are four steps to replacing an unproductive habit:

  1. Come up with a productive habit – in an article in Psychology Today, Teri Goetz stated “Choose something to replace the unhealthy habit”. That could not be truer! If you are looking to drop a habit, you will be in a far better position to look for a new habit to replace the old habit with. Just getting rid of the old habit will not cut it. You have to come up with something new to replace the old habit. This is what I wrote in the previous article on habits – There was a Life Coaching client of mine whose goal was to quit smoking. He had a habit of having a cigarette every hour, on the hour while he was at work. He said that when he quits smoking, he will miss going outside his office like he used to when he smoked. I asked him how long it took him to smoke a cigarette. He replied “Four minutes approximately”. So, I asked him to go for a four minute walk around his office building, on the hour, every hour. His not so good habit had to be replaced.
  2. Look for the “spark” – what is it that causes you to engage in the unproductive habit? What sparks that action? Let me share a story with you. I had a coaching client in 2009, whose goal was to lose a number of kilograms in a number of months. He was on an appropriate diet, and was also engaging in regular exercise. At least twice a week, he would get side tracked, and do something that wasn’t congruent with his goal. He would walk past a bakery (on his way to work), and buy a rocky road slice! After consuming the rocky road slice, he would be consumed with regret. My suggestion to him was to identify that walking past the bakery “sparked” his action of buying and eating the rocky road slice. He decided to take another route, which didn’t have a bakery or a fast food shop. The same applies to productive habits. What sparks the actions of productive habits? I suggested to this client that if he gets prompted to buy food items from a shop that he walks past, he should purposely walk past a fruit and veggies shop. His goal was to increase his fruits and veggies intake. Identifying the spark is an integral part of the process.
  3. Find an accountability buddy – a study done at the University of Aberdeen found that people who found a new exercise partner were more likely to do more exercise. One of the most important lessons that I learnt while doing my coaching certification was that a coach should act as an accountability buddy to the client. You are more likely to respond productively if you are being held accountable for your actions. Find someone who will hold you accountable for your actions in dropping the unproductive habit, and in upholding the new/replacement habit. Ask this person to be firm (not harsh) in holding you accountable.
  4. Give yourself an appropriate reward – when you have sustained the new and productive habit, give yourself an appropriate reward. What does an appropriate reward mean? It is something that will be complimentary to, and/or congruent with your new productive habit. We often hear that people “reward” themselves after being disciplined for a set period of time eg. having a pizza and a can of soft drink for dinner after eating healthy all week. That is not what I am referring to. If you have been exercising hard and eating healthy all month, you could reward yourself with a fitness watch. The fitness watch will remind you of your goal, your hard work, and your progress. Celebrate your achievements, and reward yourself appropriately!

Quote: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  Jim Ryun

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can replace an unproductive habit with a productive one.

Influencing you to your excellence,

Ron Prasad (Author, Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Anti-Bullying Campaigner)

PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (Understand The Behaviour Of The Bully)- https://youtu.be/ePC9n2YnFT0

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29 Sep

The Radiance of Letting Go

Guest post by Mark S. Burrows

9781571747648We live in an over-informed but under-transformed society. Books and seminars abound to help us find our way in this technology-laden world. We are oversaturated with information. But what our heart yearns for is not this, but the path of change deepens our heart and quickens our mind. Here, easy solutions rarely offer real help.

One of the soul-guides from a distant age, Meister Eckhart (d. 1329), knew that the wellspring of happiness has to do with inner transformation. He described this often using a quite simple word: “Gelassenheit,” which we might render quite literally as letting-go-ness. Emptying our mind. Clearing the clutter. It is the power of releasing what binds us—to old habits that are not life-giving; to tired clichés about what we should have done; to ways of thinking that bind us and will not let us open ourselves to the deep source of life. Only when we empty ourselves of the demands that keep us off balance are we open enough to receive the source of light—which ever burns within us, whether we know it or not. The challenge is to let go, and find our way back to that still and vibrant center.

In a simple poem entitled “Ever Shining Light,” inspired by one of Eckhart’s sermons, I describe his invitation to come into this ever-burning light in this way:

Some days it seems the whole world

is tilting the wrong way; it might be up,

but I am somehow down, and right is

always somewhere else against my

wrong, and then You remind me that

within me burns an ever shining light

which no night or stumbling down

can ever fully dim or finally smite.

Yes, this light is always burning in our hearts. How do we find our way there? Not by doing, Eckhart reminds us, but by letting go of our need to organize, manage, direct. How do we do this? Ah, here’s the rub: by un-doing our compulsive need to be in control.

Today, clear out a space and time in your life to begin this practice. Begin simply. Reduce your expectations, which, after all, are one of the hurdles we often never get beyond. That “ever shining light” is still there, under all the layers of darkness and worry, of anger and unhappiness. It keeps on shining, whether we know it or not.

How do we find it? By emptying. Letting go of the clutter. Don’t try to “clean house.” Just sit where you are, and embrace the moment. Enjoy what it feels like to breathe deeply, and slowly—in, and out; in and out. Let your mind follow the movement of your chest as it expands and then contracts again. Try to breathe a bit more deeply than you normally do. Give yourself over to this rhythm. Enjoy the simple in-and-out of breath, the air replenishing your body moment by moment.

Don’t try to do this in the “right” way. The way you are practicing, just now, is, for now, right.

Read the words of this poem again, slowly. Yes, the world is in a messy state. And, yes, your own life is not what you might wish it to be. But it is what it is, and you are what you are—in this moment. The change comes, when it does, slowly. Incrementally. Like the sequence of your breath. Like the rhythm of day and night and day again.

The lights shines, yes, deep within you. Change comes to us when we let go. When we allow our breath to be our guide to inner stillness. For it is here that the change begins. How do we do this? Eckhart would put it this way: by un-doing. By letting go. By practicing being empty, still, without expectation of what could or should happen in our lives. Strangely, this is the path that opens us to a freedom that waits within us, like that ever shining light in our hearts, until we turn from what binds us and open to what promises to lighten our burden—and our path. Practicing letting-go is one way we learn to find that inner stillness that is always there, deep within us. Change? Yes, this is what we desire. But we must relinquish our notions of what this looks like, and begin with the simple truth of the light that is always shining in our soul. Always. Even now.

How much does this require of us? Not more information. And not greater demands. Rather, we must learn, day by day, moment by moment, to let go—more than we think we can. How much is enough? Eckhart reminds us that this path of inner change is not a project we can manage with goals, or hope to complete. It is a “wayless way,” as he liked to put it. An ongoing inner journey. One that frees us by degrees, as we seek to be the one being we were made to be: simple in our uncluttered soul. Radiant in our heart, despite the darkness that often hinders us.

How much should we risk letting go to enter into this journey of inner transformation? He put it this way, in a poem entitled “Even More”:

We should

know that no

one in this life

has learned

to let go who

could not


to let go

even more.

Mark S. Burrows


Mark S. Burrows is the author, with Jon Sweeney, of a newly released book, Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart: Meditations for the Restless Soul (Hampton Roads Publishing, 2017). A scholar of mysticism and a poet, he teaches theology and literature at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Germany. Well known as a speaker and retreat leader, his work has recently appeared in Arts, Poetry, The Southern Quarterly, Reunion: The Dallas Review, 91st Meridian, Almost Island, and Presence.

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27 Sep

Communication Intelligence.

The art of communicating intelligently is integral in any capacity, be it leadership, coaching, parenting, or teaching.
When our communication intelligence increases, we are in a better position to exchange ideas and information.

What is communication intelligence?

Have you heard of emotional intelligence?

According to Psychology Today, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.”

Communication intelligence is your capability to communicate effectively and diplomatically with others while considering their current state, their choice of words, and their intentions.

Now, this article will focus on one-on-one communication, rather than speaking to a group/audience.

During my Executive Coaching, Life Coaching, and Youth Mentoring career, the one invaluable lesson learnt was this – most people will respond according to the way you communicate with them. In other words, your communication patterns will impact their responses/reactions.

Here are 5 keys to Communication Intelligence:

  1. Curiosity – there is an old adage, “If you want to get to know others, get curious”. It is human nature – (most) people like to talk about themselves. If you are genuinely curious, you will be in a better position to communicate intelligently with others. Curiosity opens the door to the other person’s world. The better you know them, the better you can tailor your communication techniques for them. As a coach/mentor, I would ask questions and just listen quietly during the first half of the very first coaching/mentoring session. Getting to know the person better afforded me a two-step approach – first, understand them, and then, support them.
  2. Recognition – if a person stops conversing, or is uncomfortable at some point of the conversation, you must be able to recognise that there is something of concern. Let’s be clear – this is not insinuating that you need a degree in Psychology or Counselling in order to do this. Simple people skills will do the job. Ask the person simple questions like “What is on your mind right now?” ie. what are you thinking right now? Or, “What are your emotions telling you now?”  ie. how are you feeling now? These questions can lead to recognising their concern. While you may not be required to support the person in overcoming their concern, you will be in a better position to tailor your communication according to what they are thinking/feeling.
  3. Creative space – this is where the other party is afforded the time and space to think construct, and align their words. Silence is golden indeed when it comes to giving the person an opportunity to process the moment, and to respond accordingly. I have communicated with so many people who cannot stop talking. They do not provide that creative space to the other party. I used to be one of them! In my coaching/mentoring career, I learnt a technique that really helped. Here it is – when you feel/think that other party needs space, hold something (eg. a pen) in your hand, and remain silent. Once you know that it is time for you to speak, drop the pen. The pen in your hand is your cue to remain silent.
  4. Word selection – different words can mean different things to others. Tailor your words to make the other party comfortable. For example, a manager calling their subordinate for a “Performance Review” could be a bit daunting for the subordinate. If the manager used “Future Planning”, that could put the subordinate at ease. Words have the power to change people’s outlook. In your conversation, choose your words very wisely. Your words can decide the response from the other person. There is a quote from Joseph Telushkin –“Most people choose their clothes more carefully than they choose their words.”
  5. Context – where and when to say it are as important as how to say it. Speak in context, not out of it. Put things in perspective. For example, if you are speaking to your child about something they did today, keep it in today’s context. Refrain from bringing up something he/she did a month ago. When you keep things in context, the ability for the other party to process what is being said is made easier. Comprehend, not complicate should be your goal for the other party.

Quote: “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Tony Robbins

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can utilise communication intelligence in making a positive impact in the lives of others.

Influencing you to your excellence,


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11 Sep

The #1 Most Important Aspect to Master for True Inner Peace

By Radhika Vachani

Author of The Most Powerful Tool for Personal Transformation and Happiness



You experience your entire life through your mind. If your mind is not in order, if it is not a healthy place to live, nothing you do or achieve will ever make you happy nor give you the satisfaction you are looking for.

Human beings mostly operate from a very superficial layer of consciousness where the conceptual mind, driven by the ego and the senses, determines how you think, feel and act. This energy sphere is fraught with restlessness and chaos, as it is oriented in the physical world, which is volatile, impermanent and uncertain.

To live a more wholesome and meaningful life, you must learn to go beyond this layer and access deeper levels of consciousness, living in a more awakened state.

You have access to a vast amount of intelligence, creativity and wisdom within you—you just have-to learn how to access it.

The main way to do so is through training your mind to focus on your breath.

The breath is the most powerful tool for your personal transformation. It is the only aspect of you that takes place in the present, not in the past, nor the future. When you become aware of the breath multiple times throughout the day and breathe slowly, feeling each inhalation and exhalation, you start to transform your mind.

The mind is the root cause of all unhappiness, and with simple exercises practiced regularly, you can learn to relax and tame your mind, and transform yourself and your life experiences.

Here are three simple ways to become more mindful and to help train your mind to experience peace, each and every day:

  1. Start Early. Every morning, when you take a shower and/or brush your teeth, do this simple task with complete concentration. Every time your mind starts to wander off, you should be alert enough to recognize this and simply draw the mind back to the breath.
  2. Set Reminders. Download mindfulness bells onto your phone and set a timer for every hour, or less. When the bells go off, take a few moments to breathe consciously, feeling each breath. Do this about 5 times, breathing slowly. This helps move your mind away from its restless and chaotic state to become more present, mindful and alert.
  3. Just breathe. Spend 5 minutes or more every morning to sit quietly with yourself. Sit upright on a chair or in a cross-legged position in a quiet room. Close your eyes, and place your middle and index finger gently on your navel. Slowly inhale starting at the navel all the way to the upper palette of your mouth. Allow your abdomen to extend out as you do this, feeling your fingers extend out as well. Then slowly exhale as you draw your navel into the spine, feeling your fingers moving inwards towards the spine. Do this bout 5 times, and then come back to normal breathing. For the next few minutes, just feel the breath, training your mind to focus on the breath. Set a time for 5 minutes and increase the time as you get better at this.

When we are not mindful and alert, we get caught up in a mind that is constantly dreaming, distracted and chaotic. We are unable to be present to all that is occurring around us and within us, and as a result, life just passes us by. Yoga is a science of the here and now, and when we train our minds to focus on the breath, we are in fact training the mind to become more present and alert so that we can live our lives with fullness.



RADHIKA VACHANI is the author of Just Breathe: The Most Powerful Tool for Personal Transformation and Happiness. She is also a motivational speaker, yoga and holistic wellness expert, and the Founder of Yogacara Healing Arts in Mumbai, India (www.yogacara.in). Radhika also runs life-transforming retreats all over the world, in the Himalayas, Ladakh and at her Retreat Center outside of Mumbai in Alibaug. To learn more, visit www.yogacara.in  or connect with Radhika at radhika.vachani@yogacara.in and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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27 Aug

3 Common Mistakes When Providing Feedback.

In one of his recent articles, New York Times Best-Selling Author and Leadership Specialist, Dr Marshall Goldsmith spoke about feedback and feedforward.

I have considered Dr Goldsmith to be a virtual mentor for the past 6 years. His articles are always insightful. On a personal note, he has been very helpful to me whenever we have been in contact.

In that article, Dr Goldsmith mentioned that feedback is often necessary, while feedforward has to be forward-looking, positive, and non-judgmental.

In any managerial or coaching capacity, feedback is absolutely essential for growth. This is also pertinent to parents of children.

Here are 3 common feedback mistakes that can be made:

  1. Assuming that feedback has to be all negative.
  2. Telling the other party that constructive criticism will help them.
  3. Providing feedback based on the individual, not the behaviour.

Please ask yourself this question now – “Have I ever engaged in any of these while providing feedback in any capacity?”

I can put my hand on my heart, and say “Yes, I have”.

Let’s closely examine all 3 of the above so that we can create empowering, encouraging, and enlightening outcomes.

  1. Assuming that feedback has to be all negative – The simple truth is that feedback can focus on certain aspects that were not positive. That said, if the receiver has to be more receptive of change, they must be encouraged, not demotivated. One of my corporate training programs is a full day workshop called “How To Master 360 Degree Feedback”. We teach the SMS (Strength, Modification, Strength) model. This model emphasises the importance of providing encouraging feedback first, making a suggestion second, and finishing off with another piece of encouraging feedback. Let’s say that you are the coach of a junior football team. One of your players, Jenny hasn’t scored any goals in her past 6 matches. During the previous season, she was the second highest goal scorer for your team. This is how you could utilise the SMS model – “Jenny, the whole team really appreciates that you are the first to arrive and the last to leave when we have training on Wednesday night. You set up, you pack up, and you always help me with organising fruits for our players. (That was the first Strength). Jenny, the whole team would love to see your name on the scoreboard. Let’s give them what they want. From now onward, we will focus more on your shooting. Every training session, you and I will spend 15 minutes in which you will practise shooting for goal. (That was the Modification). You are attacking well, you create so many opportunities, and you are so capable of scoring more goals.  (That was the second Strength). This model leaves the receiver with something positive that can be used for improvement.
  2. Telling the other party that constructive criticism will help them – What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone criticises you? I bet it is something negative, right? Constructive criticism is an oxymoron. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “Constructive” as “Promoting improvement or development”. It defines “Criticism” as “The act of criticising usually unfavourably”. So, how can Promoting improvement or development” and “criticising unfavourably” be used simultaneously? If you are providing feedback, please realise that “constructing and criticising” at the same time does not, and will not work. Providing the receiver with something to improve on doesn’t work well if you are criticising the receiver. So, please remove “Constructive Criticism” from your vocabulary. It is not practical. It will not work. Replace it with “Productive Suggestions” or “Behaviour Reflection” or coin your own description of providing feedback and feedforward that is just constructive, not critical.
  3. Providing feedback based on the individual, not the behaviour – There is an African proverb which says “Examine what is said, and not who speaks.”  Sometimes the provider of feedback gets so caught up in examining the person that the feedback becomes about the person, and not the behaviour. Learn to separate the behaviour from the person. Remember (in most cases), we can provide support in changing the behaviour, not the person. As a coach/mentor, I can vouch for that. It is quite common for the provider of feedback to get personal with the receiver. This can lead up to bringing up negative events/instances from the past. The goal of the provider is to be feedforward focussed. Bringing up negative events/instances from the past will not be productive to the provider and to the receiver. When we analyse the behaviour, we are more likely to come up with productive suggestions for the individual. Once again, separate the behaviour from the person because the behaviour is not the holistic person. The behaviour is one aspect of the person. Help improve that aspect.

Quote: “Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.” Jim Trinka

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can provide feedback and feedforward that makes a productive impact on others.

Influencing you to your excellence,

Ron Prasad (Author, Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Anti-Bullying Campaigner)

PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (3 Tips For Empathic Listening) – https://youtu.be/q2_MAdVjEk4

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27 Jun

A Powerful Consideration When Influencing Others.

During my days as a Youth Mentor, there were many young people who needed support in either getting their life back on track or in achieving something they desired.

Some of the youth were very challenging to deal with, let alone provide support to, in a professional capacity. The key was to engage with them using empathy and compassion so that they opened up.

The Youth Mentor’s role was to guide them in taking productive action. There were two types of actions that they would take:

  1. Retrospective – doing something about what has happened in the past or has been happening until the present moment eg. giving up drugs.
  2. Prospective – doing something regarding the future eg. enrolling in a new tertiary education course.

Whether the action that they were looking for was retrospective or prospective, I would ask a thought provoking question that would make them think. Here’s that question:

“What’s at stake?”

The goal of that question was to make them realise (in simple words) what they’re messing with, and what/who is affected.

That said, it wasn’t so simple.

The one thing I realised was that every young person had their own frame of focus.

Let me explain….

They all focussed on either of the two:

  1. External frame of focus – How their actions will affect things/people outside of them eg. “If I give up drugs, I will do my parents proud”.
  2. Internal frame of focus – How their actions will affect them eg. “I would feel like an achiever when I become a qualified electrician”.

Most of these young people concentrated on only one frame of focus, and some of them on both. However, there was never anyone who concentrated on both frames of focus, equally. Each had a bias toward one.

Even in my Executive/Life Coaching career, I was yet to find a person who concentrated on both frames of focus equally.

Here are two examples of two young people, using a different frame of focus each.

First, there was Emilia – a vibrant and bubbly young lady whose goal was to master the art of speaking before an audience. It was an honour to mentor her in achieving this goal. When questioned about the impetus behind her goal, she said “I want to help the less fortunate, spread awareness about social justice issues, and be the voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves”. Did you notice how all her reasons are pointing toward an external frame of focus?
On a side note, you may not be surprised to learn that today, she is a very high achieving young woman who holds a highly regarded government position in which she is being of stellar service to society!

Then, there was Jeremiah – shy young man who was very quiet at the best of times. His mission was to be more confident in himself. When questioned about the impetus behind his goal, he said “I wish to feel better about myself. I want to know that I can have confidence when I need it. I need to be comfortable in my own skin”. Did you notice how all his reasons are pointing toward an internal frame of focus?

Think about this – when you wish to do something (regardless of whether it is for something retrospective or prospective) which frame of focus do you normally tune in to?

If you are in the profession of helping others, or in management, please pay particular attention to the frame of focus that the people you deal with use more of.

Your role is to provide them with clarity on how they can take action, based on their chosen frame of focus.

Sometimes you could highlight the other frame of focus, and how actions based on that frame of focus will be beneficial. For example, you are in management, and one of your subordinates is uncertain about doing an online course. All his/her colleagues are doing this course in order to enhance their chances of career progression. He/she says “There is not enough time. My project deadlines will not be met if I do this online course. My family will not like this. They know that I am already busy”. Your subordinate has an external frame of focus when it comes to this online course. He/she is looking at things outside of them.

You could support him/her with two separate approaches:

  1. Stay with the external frame of focus, and point out the positives eg. “Your immediate manager and your HR Manager will be very proud of you for completing this online course” or “If you ever decide to leave this organisation, this course will add more weight to your credentials, and potential employers will love that, won’t they?”
  2. Provide an internal frame of focus, and see how he/she responds. For example “How would you feel and how would you see yourself when you proudly hold that Certificate Of Completion in your hands?”

My suggestion to you is to play around with this concept, even for yourself. Give yourself both internal and external frames of focus when you are making a decision or looking at completing a task. Then, you will be better positioned to serve yourself and others.

Quote: “Shift your frame of reference. Realise that all you see around you, the reality we perceive, is a small stage upon which you act, and within it is an inner spaciousness that is infinite. Let’s now explore the infinite.” Alex Bennett

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can productively use internal and external frames of focus to support others and to support yourself.

Influencing you to your excellence,


PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (3 Tips For Parents) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbNmLNbcJg4&t=3s

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30 May

The Four Obstacles and How to Beat Them

By Randall Bell, Ph.D.

There are two great lies. The first is that it can’t happen to us. The second is that there is no hope. The truth is that it can happen to us. And the truth is that there is hope. We can change and transform ourselves through our choices. We choose not only what we do and say, but how we perceive the world and ourselves.

Disappointments are inevitable. As much as we may try to make life perfect, disappointments affect all people. It could be any one of the difficult Ds, such as disease, death, divorce, disability, drugs, defeat, or being dumped. Sometimes people directly cause these disappointments. Other times they come unexpectedly, apparently without any reason.

But in almost every case the solution is the same. Post-traumatic thrivers fail forward. They are resilient and come out stronger than before. What makes a person a post-traumatic thriver? There are four basic transformations that define post-traumatic thrivers.

So what are the four obstacles and how do we use them to transform?

From Complexity to Simplicity. Some problems are mind-bogglingly complex. We may find ourselves in a hopeless tangle, whether in business or family life. We may look at this mess and think that the solution will be just as messy. The opposite is true. Complex problems require simple solutions. Most of the time, our troubles are foundational. For example, many relationships or jobs fall apart because of an initial, foundational dishonesty or miscommunication.

The solution is to set aside time each day, preferably in the morning, for solitude and clear thinking. Put aside the smartphone, turn off the television and the computer, and connect with your gut and your conscience. All strong buildings sit on a solid foundation. Where is your foundation? Where does your mind go? Simplify things to their essential elements and let the dust settle. There is great wisdom inside all of us, if only we are willing to listen.

From Isolation to Connection. Any one of the difficult Ds can lead to isolation. Whether in business or our personal lives, we turn inwards, thinking that if we got ourselves into the mess in the first place, then we are the only ones who can solve it. However, we are social animals. Many of those situations that drive us to isolation and seem to require only our own thinking are solved by reconnecting with those around us. It is difficult to see ourselves and our circumstances truthfully if we shut ourselves off from others.

The solution is to connect. Even when things are going great, we call a friend or family member every day and exchange a few kind words. That way, when things get tough, we will have somebody to talk to. How are our relationships? Who can we rely on? Who can rely on us? Here we reach out to people in an authentic way and open ourselves to the wisdom of those people around us.

From Inertia to Action. When disappointments hit, we may feel useless and ineffective. Our confidence drops. We start hesitating. The longer this goes on, the more inertia we build up, until taking any action seems impossible. When we want to get in shape, we go to the gym on a schedule, not just when we want to be fit. We don’t just shower once in January and expect to stay clean for the remainder of the year. Likewise, when struggling, we need to stay in action.

The simple solution to this is to make your bed every morning. The point, of course, is not to have the bed made (though you will be thankful at night!). The point is to start the day in action. You will start the day having accomplished something, however small. If you managed to make your bed this morning, then what can’t you do? Here we tap into the wisdom of small but significant actions.

From Myopia to Imagination. Disappointments can often lead to regret, but they don’t have to. Much regret stems not from something that happened to us, but from how we responded. We rarely regret a natural disaster or a disease, but we may regret how to acted in those situations. Repeated disappointment from one of the difficult Ds can lead either to increasing narrow-mindedness (myopia) or greater awareness. Post-traumatic thrivers cultivate an active imagination. They have a broad sense of what is possible. They may even seem crazy at times.

The easiest habit to counter myopia and to cultivate a sense of timelessness and imagination is to keep a journal or a diary. We think of the big picture. We connect with that part that is, not the part that does. We think of the to be list, not the to do list. By keeping a record, we use time to create the timeless. We give ourselves permission to think big and set goals.

To make things happen, we need to know who and what we are dealing with. We replace each conflict with a new, effective habit. As Thoreau once wrote, “Simplify, simplify.”


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