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27 Jan

The 1 Vital Key To Positive Personal Change.

At the beginning of every year, so many people set “resolutions” for the year ahead, hoping to create some, or massive personal change.

In a very insightful article by Ray Williams (published in Psychology Today), he mentioned that by the month of February, most people have started to backslide from their new year’s resolution.

He also quotes Professor Timothy Pychyl, who says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination.”

This may not surprise you, in western society, we could easily say that weight loss is the number one new year’s resolution.

Whether your goal is to lose weight, or to get a new job, or to improve your relationships, or to quit smoking, there is one vital key that can massively boost your chances of productive and positive change.

Here it is….

Get an Accountability Buddy. 

An accountability buddy is someone who will hold you accountable to take positive and productive action.

As a coach and mentor, I have seen first hand what an accountability buddy can do when it comes to creating productive and positive personal change.

Now, some people might take positive and productive action just to keep their accountability buddy happy. That is okay. As long as the work gets done.

Please allow me to share a personal example with you. I had a coaching client who was a Sales Executive, and was desperate to get back into reading books on sales. She used to read every day, and had dropped that habit. Now, her new goal was to read 15 pages from whichever book she was reading at the time, every morning before work.

My role was to hold her accountable.

Initially, my suggestion to her was “Send me an SMS (text message) after you have done your reading every morning”.

Then I realised, that may not cut it. Why? She may skim through 15 pages, just for her satisfaction, and then send an SMS.

So, I resorted to another technique which would hold her more accountable – “Call me every morning for a 2 minute chat, after you have read the 15 pages, and enlighten me on what you have learnt in those 15 pages”.

The shock on her face was obvious when she heard that. The very next day, she called, and did as I had requested.

Each day, she did the same thing until our coaching sessions ceased.

A friend of mine who is also a coach had a client who lived near a beach, and her goal was to go for a run at the beach each morning.

The coach requested “Call me when you get to the beach each morning”.

She was amazed at this request, and tried to make excuses – “Oh, I plan to go to the beach at 6:00 am. That may be too early to disturb you. You might be sleeping at the time”.

The coach responded with “I wake up at 5:00 am, and will be at the gym at 6:00 am. So, we will be exercising at the same time. I look forward to your phone call at 6:00 am tomorrow”.

Did she go for a run and call her coach in the mornings? You bet she did!

Let’s take it one step further – creating productive and positive personal change is of little use if it is not sustained.

Ask your accountability buddy to hold you accountable until that positive and productive personal change becomes part of your being. It enables you to become who you are, and others can see it in you!

You may have heard of someone who went on a weight loss program, lost a certain amount of weight, and was very pleased with the result. A few months later, they pack on the weight they had lost, and are back to square one.

This is not an uncommon occurrence.

Sustaining the personal change is as important as creating it.

In an article on entrepreneur.com, Stephanie Vozza mentioned “An Accountability Buddy Is Your Secret Weapon for Faster Growth”.

Although she is referencing that quote in a business sense, it is very pertinent to anyone in their personal life too.

My humble suggestion to you is to find an accountability partner who will be disciplined enough in holding you accountable to create positive and productive changes.

Right now, you might be thinking “Does he practise what he preaches?”  You bet I do! I have fellow mentors and coaches whom I reach out to when I need to get something major accomplished. Two months ago, a fellow coach was my accountability partner when I was working on the new website for my anti-bullying charity (www.beatbullyingwithconfidence.com)

Quote: “An accountability partner is able to perceive what you can’t see when blind spots and weaknesses block your vision. Charles Stanley

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can utilise an accountability partner in order to create and sustain productive and positive personal changes in your life.

Also, please reach out and be an accountability buddy to others around you! As the legendary Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Influencing you to your excellence,


PS: My Anti-Bullying Charity’s latest short video addresses a deeply serious issue (Adult Post Bullying Syndrome) – https://youtu.be/yl9FL47dVwI

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24 Jan


I’m happy to let you know about a new book from my dear friend, Madisyn Taylor, co-founder of DailyOM. It is a gentle and accessible step-by-step guide to moving from excessive reliance on medications to fundamentally healing yourself through four pillars of natural wellness.
Madisyn was plagued by depression and anxiety, suffering from chronic physical problems that left her desperate for solutions. Spending decades searching for answers, she first turned to the medical community, which put her on a rollercoaster course of numerous doctors, tests, and an unhealthy reliance on medications that left her numb and lifeless.

With her happiness and future on the line, she then made the decision to become unmedicated, reaching out to the natural, holistic health realm. And after years of practice and research, Madisyn developed an integrative wellness program that put her back in the driver’s seat of her health, and ultimately, her life.

Unmedicated is her thoughtful account of how she broke free from binding mental chains and physical ailments to be happy, healthy, and productive; it is also a guide for you to apply her practical techniques to your own healing journey. Madisyn offers a daily program of easy-to-follow actions based on four pillars that will build a lifelong foundation for health: clear your mind; strengthen your body; nurture your spirit; and find your tribe.

Whether you want to be happy and stay happy, find relief from depression and anxiety, or heal and create a healthy change, Unmedicated is a gentle, compassionate, and achievable path that empowers you to take back your life and live fully.

Here’s an excerpt:
“Learning to heal myself through natural means, I came to the profound realization that my healing path is a lifelong process. The motivation and desire to be happy and healthy in the most natural way possible stemmed from an authentic part of myself, and it is from this authenticity that real change lasts forever. I also came to discover that healing does not have to be expensive, dramatic, or complicated. Healing can be inexpensive, drama free, and simple.
By “simple” I do not mean easy; though I don’t consider my process difficult by any means, it does take dedication. Most people are looking for a quick fix, or a pill to make their life better, or the next fad diet, or a guru who will change their life forever. People look everywhere outside themselves in order to avoid facing the truth of what is inside. I want to tell you that there is power in simplicity and there is strength in building a foundation from within.
I am asking for your time and dedication to do the work. When you do this work and follow the practices, you are declaring to the Universe, “I want this; I am ready.” The Universe will respond in kind. It is in your actions that you speak volumes, and I will tell you from firsthand experience that this works. I teach a healing process involving your entire being-mind, body, and spirit.”
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29 Dec

The Difference Between Empathy And Sympathy.

Do you know the meaning of Empathy? How about the meaning of Sympathy?

Quite often Empathy and Sympathy are confused, or taken to have the same meaning.

Let’s discuss in detail what each word means. More importantly, we will explore how each word and its meaning can help you in communicating effectively with your loved ones, your colleagues, and your friends.

The Oxford dictionary defines sympathy as “Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” It comes from the Greek word “sumpatheia”.

Sympathy is acknowledging, not necessarily understanding the situation of the other person.

The same dictionary defines empathy as “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It also comes from the Greek word “empatheia.”

Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s position/place, and understanding/seeing what they are going through at the time.

Why is it important to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy?

Both are important in being able to relate to others effectively and in supporting others when they need guidance, help, understanding etc.

Let’s have a look at a real-life scenario in which you will benefit from understanding the difference between empathy and sympathy:

You have a friend who is being bullied at work. They tell you in detail all that they have endured. The feelings of frustration, sadness, and anger are obvious to you. Your friend has not specifically asked for any support or input. They are just expressing their feelings to you, and re-telling you their story of being bullied.

You start thinking about your friend, and your initial approach is to sympathise with them (feel sorry for them). You might say something along the lines of “I really feel sorry for you. Can’t believe this is happening. You poor thing!”

That approach makes your friend feel heard. It is clear that you see their pain, anger, and frustration. Hence, you feel sorry for them.

If you were to project empathy toward your friend, you will have a different approach. You might say “I can totally understand and see what you are going through by putting myself in your shoes. Goodness, this is so hard!”

Now, I am not insinuating that empathy is better than sympathy. They both have their place when dealing with others.

The key is to know when to use empathy, and when to use sympathy.

In the above mentioned example, empathy would be the more effective approach. It makes your friend feel understood. Being understood is far more empowering than being felt sorry for. When you make someone feel understood, you are more likely to support them in a way that they would prefer to be supported.

When you just feel sorry for someone, you run the risk of making them have self-pity. Self-pity (in most cases) is very dangerous, as it has the tendency to create/maintain a victim mentality.

Empathy is a very powerful communication tool because it allows us to be more human.

Let’s look at another scenario. Imagine a close friend of yours has just lost their pet dog, and is grieving deeply.

In this case, sympathy could be the more impactful initial approach.

Why? Sympathy will allow you to share their grief. It is said that grief is lessened when it is shared. You could easily say “I really feel for you. Please accept my sympathy”.

Sure, you could use empathy as well, by putting yourself in their shoes. Then, you will be better placed to support them in overcoming their grief.

In this situation, sympathy could be used to initially share their grief, and empathy could be used to support them in overcoming their grief.

Your goal should be to ascertain which one is best suited to every unique scenario. You must tailor your approach based on what has happened to the other party, and what they need from you.

In a professional capacity, sympathy and empathy could also be utilised together effectively. If you are the manager of a team of staff, and one of your staff has an issue that is affecting their performance, you could use sympathy to show emotion toward them. Then you could use empathy to put yourself in their shoes, and gain better ideas to support them productively.

Quote: “Sympathy and empathy often lead to each other”.  Dr Neel Burton

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can enhance your people skills by appropriately using empathy and sympathy.

Wishing you and your family a very safe and enjoyable Christmas!

Influencing you to your excellence,


PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (The Difference Between Bullying And Harassment) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42SsgdvTBLQ

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02 Dec

Love and Health

An excerpt from The Forgotten Art of Love

Guest post by Armin A. Zadeh, MD, PhD

Who better than a cardiologist to unpack the many dimensions of love, the emotion that has long been depicted as emanating from the heart?


A comprehensive, multifaceted exploration into the nature of love is precisely what Dr. Armin A. Zadeh, who is both a cardiologist and a professor at Johns Hopkins University, offers in his new book entitled The Forgotten Art of Love: What Love Means and Why It Matters.  We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.


# # #


Love not only helps us live more happily but also helps us live longer. Happy marriages are associated with better health, while tension in relationships increases stress and the risk of illness. An analysis of studies involving hundreds of thousands of people suggests that maintaining good social relationships is associated with lower mortality. Conversely, social isolation ranks among the most significant physical and lifestyle risk factors for mortality, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking.


This association does not prove causality: we can’t tell whether the boost to longevity comes from the relationship itself or from other factors associated with a relationship. For example, it is conceivable that being married contributes to better health by encouraging better diet or hygiene. It is also possible that healthier people or those with fewer unhealthy habits, such as drug or alcohol abuse, may be more likely to get married in the first place, thus skewing the analysis. Yet studies that controlled for these factors have shown similar results for lower mortality in happily married people.


On the other hand, unhappiness is associated with many types of organ dysfunction and disease. Even brief angry outbursts have now been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks. One study of immunity among socially isolated people showed that they had poorer immune function and greater stress levels than those with many social contacts.


In the extreme case, stress can lead to health crises. We have recently learned that acute emotional stress can lead to actual heart failure — a serious illness known as broken heart syndrome, which is now regularly identified in medical centers around the world. While the exact mechanisms leading to weakening of the heart muscle remain unclear, we know that high levels of certain stress hormones, which are released in response to a devastating breakup or personal loss, or extreme fear or anxiety, may trigger the syndrome. Fortunately, many patients recover after a few weeks.


A large body of evidence suggests that love has a direct effect on a vast array of biological functions. A loving relationship fosters the release of the hormone oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Oxytocin has a variety of purposes and is probably best known for its release after childbirth to foster bonding between mother and baby. Oxytocin is also implicated in attachment during relationships and many other human interactions. It has antidepressive effects that are being investigated for clinical use. Of particular interest is the discovery that oxytocin may decrease the levels of the hormone cortisol. Changes in cortisol levels are associated with sleep deprivation and physical and emotional stress, and cortisol has a well-known weakening effect on our immune system. It may, therefore, not be surprising that happy relationships are associated with lower rates of sickness.


Good emotional health leads to good physical health. And just as good physical health requires us to exercise, acquiring good emotional health also requires training. Emotional health “workouts” may include regular, conscious efforts to focus on love and relationships while deemphasizing material or career goals. As with physical exercise, it may take months or years of devoted practice to get into good emotional shape. This is because less healthy thinking patterns acquired early in life tend to be reinforced over years or even decades, making them difficult to reverse.


At any given moment we have the choice of allowing our thoughts and actions to be moved by impulses such as anger, frustration, jealousy, and boredom, or overcoming these impulses and acting out of love. If we choose love, we immediately feel a sensation of calm and peace, and things seem different. It works instantly and predictably. It is ironic that our society yearns for instant gratification and pursues various strategies for achieving instant wealth and fame — which essentially never work — while the immediate reward of a happy mind is instantly available to everybody but often not recognized.


Life is about balance. While we cannot control our genes or all the things that happen to us, we can help ourselves a lot by nurturing both our mind and our body and by placing a stronger emphasis on love. This undertaking requires focus and devotion, but the results are impressive. Devoting time to the art of love is a smart investment. Not only do we directly foster our own happiness, but we also support our health and chances of a longer, better life.


# # #


Armin A. Zadeh, MD, PhD, is the author of The Forgotten Art of Love. He is a professor at Johns Hopkins University with doctoral degrees in medicine and philosophy as well as a master’s degree in public health. As a cardiologist and a scientist, Dr. Zadeh knows, from first-hand experience, about the close relationship between heart disease and the state of the mind. Visit him online at www.theforgottenartoflove.com.


Excerpted from the book The Forgotten Art of Love: What Love Means and Why It Matters. Copyright ©2017 by Armin A. Zadeh. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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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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