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31 Oct

How to Have a Daring Conversation

An excerpt from Step into Your Moxie by Alexia Vernon

The word moxie has become synonymous with vigor, verve, pep, courage, nerve, aggressiveness, skill, and know-how, and the new book Step into Your Moxie: Amplify Your Voice, Visibility, and Influence in the World by speaking and leadership coach Alexia Vernon presents a soul-stirring call to action for women to speak up for themselves and the ideas and issues that matter most to them. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

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The key to having a daring conversation is giving yourself enough time to properly prepare for one — but not so much time that you never have it, or that by the time you have it, the person you are speaking with either has no idea what you are talking about or the situation that was such a big deal to us didn’t even register on her Richter scale. While time is subjective, and the ten to twenty minutes of sensation I feel before I speak may feel like twenty eternities in purgatory for someone who is brand-new to speaking, when it comes to a daring conversation, as a rule it’s best to have it within a week of deciding your organs could finally unstick themselves if you said something. And before you do, here is how you can set up yourself, and the other parties involved, for success.

 

The words that we use, from moment to moment, in a conversation where conflict could transpire (or has transpired) often determine whether things go difficult or daring. I recommend using the following words as often as possible:

Yes. My favorite agreement word. Ever. It makes someone instantly feel seen and heard. You can say “yes” after someone shares an idea, an opinion, or a feeling, but do refrain from saying “yes and” and then redirecting the conversation back to you. “Yes and” works great in comedy, but “yes” as a complete sentence usually works better in daring conversations.

Thank you. You can say “thank you” to someone for sharing where she is coming from, for being vulnerable, for telling you the truth, for helping you understand her perspective, or for acknowledging wrongdoing or committing to better behavior in the future.

What I want for us is… These words work great for communicating what you want from the conversation. Try not to use them to linguistically wrestle for power over someone but rather to propose something that the other person, no matter his or her perspective, likely wants too.

Tell me more. This phrase works whenever people are dropping into vulnerability and you want them to know you really want to hear what’s going on, even if it’s uncomfortable. Or, on the flip side, this short phrase is effective when you want to nudge people beyond surface talk so they can go to the source of what’s truly going on.

I’m sorry. This is a very appropriate response when you have truly done something wrong, you want to take responsibility for it, and even more important, you want to communicate what you will do differently moving forward. Sometimes you may be sorry for the way someone is feeling, or the way you unintentionally made her or him feel — even if you haven’t done anything super sorry-
worthy. Be clear on what you are sorry for, and state that. (Again, please don’t think I’m giving you a hall pass for giving your power away. The kind of “I’m sorry” I’m recommending here is different from the “I’m sorry” you use when you feel insecure or actually want someone else to apologize to you. “I’m sorry” must not be a quid pro quo.)

What do you need (from me) in order to move forward? When you brainstorm creative ways to play nicely together in the future, the ultimate expression of compassionate (and super vulnerable) power is to ask what someone else would like to see from you now and in the future. This question alone can resurrect a relationship from collapse, if and when safety has been created in a conversation and everyone is fully committed to a mutually beneficial outcome.

 

Words and Phrases That Keep Conversations Difficult

On the flip side, I recommend avoiding, at all costs, the following words and phrases, regardless of how entitled you feel to use them or how hooked into them you have been in the past. Why? Because they build a wall between you and the other party — and they are a direct flight back from the land of daring to the land of difficult:

A lot of yous (especially when the conversation is past-oriented). The word you often lands as an accusation and can trigger defensive and blaming behavior. Instead, strive to use the word we. Collective language, whether it’s about what’s happened in the past or what you are committing to in the future, keeps conversations daring.

That’s not what I… It’s easy to go all antagonized attack dog when someone misuses or misinterprets what you have said. Should this happen, calmly (and silently) note the misunderstanding to yourself. Somebody is not receiving the message you are intending to send. Instead of pulling out the claws and taking a bite, take a breath, and then use appropriate words and phrases from the preceding section to explain yourself again. The more uncomplicated you make your second attempt, the more likely it is that your message will be interpreted correctly.

That’s not my problem/responsibility (or that’s your problem/responsibility). Though this is an ugly cousin of the last phrase, I’m calling this one out separately. Because no matter whose problem or responsibility something is (or isn’t), stating this (even if you are entitled to), is like lighting a match by a gas line outside your house and wondering why you burned your entire neighborhood down.

[Something conciliatory] but… No more buts in high-stakes conversations! As we explored in chapter 4, a but negates everything that has come before it. And when you have one foot in a difficult conversation and the other in a daring one, this word can pull you back into the former faster than a preschooler can get her entire family sick during cold and flu season. (I may be wearing a face mask as I write this chapter. Trust the analogy. It’s as tight as my mask.)

[So-and-so] said… Please avoid gossip and triangulation. Leave third and fourth parties out. All that matters is what’s transpiring right now, between you and the other person or parties before you. If you need to address somebody else’s role in a situation, set up a separate time and a separate daring conversation for that.

 

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Alexia Vernon is the author of Step into Your Moxie. Branded a “Moxie Maven” by President Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement, she is a sought-after speaking and leadership coach who delivers transformational keynotes and corporate trainings for Fortune 500 companies and other professional groups and organizations, including the United Nations and TEDx. Visit her online at www.alexiavernon.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Step into Your Moxie: Amplify Your Voice, Visibility, and Influence in the World. Copyright ©2018 by Alexia Vernon. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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29 Sep

“WHICH GOD IS WHICH?”

“God has no religion.”

         ~Mahatma Gandhi

When most people think of God, they think of religion. But really, can God have a religion? Did God create religion? No…man did.

There are over 4,000 religions in the world today, according to Adherents an independent, non-religiously affiliated organization that monitors the number and size of the world’s religions. Adherents divides religions into churches, denominations, congregations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures and movements.

Nearly 75 percent of the world’s population practices one of the five most influential religions of the world: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

If non-religious people were classified as a group, they would be the world’s third largest group.

It’s human nature to believe that a chosen religion is superior because it’s, well, chosen. But lets think about who’s doing the choosing.

Most of us are born into a religion through a familial lineage. Some stay with the beliefs they are taught growing up and others either convert to another religion or drop out all together.

But why do we have religions in the first place? There are a lot of thoughts on that subject. Some feel that religion is a way to control large groups of people; others feel religion helps shape character and teaches morality. And then there are those that see religion as a path to God, Heaven, Eternal life etc.

If you study the early writings and philosophies of all religions, you find common themes. They all acknowledge that there is a creative, divine force of some sort. They all seem to have the goal of getting back to that divine place with The Divine Creator.

There’s a common rule across the board:

“All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” – CHRISTIANITY

 

 

 

 

 

“This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” HINDUISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.”  CONFUCIANISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” BUDDHISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” ISLAM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” JUDAISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” TAOISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.” ZOROASTRIANISM

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a religious person. I know that the path I have chosen to follow is sacred for me. It teaches and inspires me. It also tells me that I may not try to convert others away from their paths and on to mine. I must honor the walk and the dreams and the aspirations of my fellow brothers and sisters.

There is as much brilliance and vibrancy in religious traditions worldwide as there is in world music, art and literature. It’s fascinating to learn what inspires greatness in others.

So if you believe that your religion makes you a better person and I believe that my religion makes me a better person, why would either of us want to change the other?

 

 

 

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28 Aug

CONQUER CHANGE & WIN IN A NUTSHELL

conquer change and win bookGuest Post By Ralph Masengill
Want to be very successful? Here is a simple secret few take advantage of in their personal or business life. You will be a true winner only if you are:

1. Willing to take a calculated risk and endorse positive change on a regular basis.
2. Learning how change affects our emotions and our feelings.

Let’s take a short journey together.

What we are talking about is understanding the risk of change. Why is it so important that we know about and understand change? We humans, and there are no exceptions, are constantly involved in change. Change never stops. It is always constantly going on in us and around us. The truly successful men and women of the world have a good understanding of change and how you can manipulate change to your advantage. You cannot stop it, but you can control most change. You can always control the emotions that change causes in all of us.

Are you in a personal or business rut? In a rut, you have no control where that rut will take you. You have lost your freedom to act. To not change is to lose control of your future. To be in a rut is losing your freedom to control your life, business or both. Laurence J. Peter states that “A rut is a grave with the ends knocked out.” He is talking about life without understanding the importance of the affects that change has on all humans.

Mark Twain put it his way “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.” Many good people refuse to accept the risk and uncertainty that change always brings with it. They stay in a self-imposed rut. They force themselves to live in a stagnant prison of their own making. They have part of it right. There can be some security in a prison. I would name that prison Opportunity Lost. When it comes to change we really only have two choices. One is to embrace change with gusto. The second is to stay in a rut by refusing to admit that all change is constant, live in denial and because they made a bad choice end up losing their freedom to act. The solution is to simply agree to devote time and effort to understanding change and how it makes us feel.

Someone said, “Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain”. I believe the happiest and most successful people do not necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have. Choose Change. It is the path to true happiness and business success.

You and I are always undergoing continuous change intended or not. The exciting truth is the more we know about change, both positive and negative change, the more we can profit from change. If you want a more enjoyable and profitable personal and business life, you must have a solid understanding of what change is and how it makes us and the people we deal with feel. In other words, understanding change and how it makes all people feel will put you in a winning position in your life and your business.

If that is true and it is, what is change and how does it affect all of us on a continuous basis? After 40 years of study and research here is my definition of change:

All men and women regard all change both good and bad change with a feeling of loss (examples would be remorse or that pit of the stomach feeling) and that feeling of loss always creates some form of anger, anxiety or fear.

Understanding how change works can change your life for the better and give you a solid advantage. That is a guarantee. Here are some amazing facts about continuous change.

1. Most of us will not change until the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing.

2. You and I often prefer the security of known misery, to the supposed misery of unfamiliar insecurity.

3. Change is consistent, intended or not.

Number one on the list above was true for me in a big way. Until I learned how to handle continuous change and the feelings change had on my personality nothing seemed to get better. I seemed to be stuck in a continuous rut. Understanding continuous change turned my humdrum life around. Understanding change is not hard but you must work at it on a regular basis. Understanding change can be the one thing that can put you in the winner’s circle often. It did just that for me.

What do others say about change?

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” Carol Burnett

“Change your thoughts and you change your world”, Norman Vincent Peale

“Nothing endures but change.” Heraclitus (540BC – 480BC)

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending if you are willing to change.” Maria Robinson

On the Oprah Winfrey Show I heard an interview where Oprah was sharing with a guest about a dream she had where the children in her dream were asking her, “What can you teach me?” She said what she learned from that was, to look at every event in her life from that perspective. Then I realized as she was sharing, that is exactly what has made the difference in my own life in dealing with change. Now I welcome it knowing it leads to a greater understanding of my purpose on this planet. Dealing with both positive and negative change is a learning process that allows you and I to know what kind of emotions (feelings) continuous change will cause.

No one really likes dealing with change, no one. However we all like the results of positive change. We are never in pain because of change, only our resistance to change can cause us pain. Once you stop resisting what happens in your life and accept it the sooner you have the opportunity to feel less stress and set your business and your life up for even more success. For me it was one of those amazing “ah ha” moments where you are never the same after that. To truly be successful in any undertaking you must embrace positive change and the pain the resistance brings willingly and often.

We all take risk every day when we embrace positive change. Do we take a calculated risk or do we sometimes just roll the dice and just hope for the best? The former is not acting on opportunity; it is acting out of ignorance. I admit that in my younger days, I did more rolling of the dice than I want to talk about and I had to pay the price. I paid the price by losing time, money and happiness many times out of my own ignorance about change. One time I almost lost my business. All of us can and should learn from our mistakes. Mistakes can be a teacher. However, it is a very expensive and painful way to learn.

Charles Tremper puts it this way: “The first step in the calculated risk process is to acknowledge the reality of the risk. Denial is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning.” Executing a plan will involve change. Being willing to change is always a calculated risk that should be encouraged. For one thing it is where most business and personal success comes from in today’s world.

Many successful people have something to say about risk taking. Winston Churchill said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is the right direction.” Author and lecturer Earl Nightingale stated, “You can measure opportunity with the same yardstick that measures the risk involved. They go together.” I believe it is clear that all positive change requires calculated risk taking. Do your homework and success can be yours.

Is the opposite of risk, security? Some say it is. I believe those people are in error. Here is what Helen Keller had to say about security. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Former President Eisenhower said, “One can find outright security only in a prison. In order to be absolutely secure you must give up your individual freedoms.” Dennis Waitley in one of this lectures said, “Life is inherently risky. To become the success you want to be there is only one big risk you should avoid at all cost. That is the risk of doing nothing.” I personally believe total security is a myth. Understanding how change makes all of us feel makes the task less stressful and more fulfilling.

Without calculated risk and positive change there would be no United States of America and no free enterprise system. Our free enterprise system is based on planned change that requires risk that then creates an opportunity that can lead to a solid reward. Risk and change are things we should get up with gladly every morning. In order to succeed beyond even our most daring dreams we must be willing to accept calculated risk and change as a way of life.

We have all seen or read about a business that does well in a certain market while their competitor offering the same product or service flounders. Ms. Wilcox with her short poem tells us why. She nails it in two sentences. Please take a moment right now and re-read her poem.

First make sure you know how the market “winds” are blowing and then and only then set your business “sails” accordingly using positive change and taking the calculated risk that is always part of the package. Do that correctly and you can, with assurance reach your destination of enhanced sales and profit and/or a better life. You can then taste sweet success.

The first step is to know the direction of the market “winds”. Get this wrong and all your other efforts do not matter. Over the years I have been amazed how little time and money many spend on effective market research. Hunches do have their place in the business “sea”, but this first step is not one of them. Solid accurate market research is the capstone of any good business arch. You must react to the market. You must change in order to win. Get the market “winds” right and make the correct changes and you will take home the profit trophy.

Change is something you must do on a regular basis if you want to be successful in life or business. Resistance to change has always been a part of the human psyche. We must work hard not to resist positive change even though it is not our nature. The solution is simple but not easy. Learn all you can about change and how it makes us all feel and be willing to take a calculated risk. Knowing what to expect when you need to change will help you be all that you want be in this world. Work hard to see positive change as a friend and do not resist this widely misunderstood process. Positive change is just that, a positive. Embrace it and you have a great opportunity to succeed in your personal and business life above your present goals and dreams. Understanding change is well worth the effort required.

View Ralph Masengill’s website at www.masengill.com 

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27 Aug

1 Simple Key To Creating Influence

When I was the lead trainer of an organisation called Speak To Influence, we traveled the country, delivering staff training to medium/large companies.

We taught the attendees of our training sessions how to be influential while communicating (be it one-to-one communication or one-to-many).

While there are many experts on communication out there (and they all specialise in their unique messages), there is one common denominator when it comes to creating influence.

Many sales trainers will talk about this common denominator, and suggest that it be used in the sales process.

In delivering staff training on effective communication, we were very emphatic on this common denominator.

And here it is – share a story!

Why? It is part of human nature to hear stories and to share stories. Most of us loved hearing stories when we were kids. Story sharing is a big part of many indigenous cultures in the world eg. the Aboriginal culture in Australia.

International speaker and best-selling author, Sam Cawthorn calls it “Story Showing”, not “story telling”. He makes a very emphatic point that you must show how a story goes.

Stories make it realistic. You are more likely to be influential when you share a story that resonates with the person or the audience that you are connecting with.

Many memorable speeches in history have had stories in them. It is said that Barack Obama’s infamous speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention brought him to the spotlight. Political allegiance aside, let’s briefly look at that speech. He started with a story about his Kenyan goat herder father’s journey to a better life (coming to America). Then he said “My story is part of the larger American story”.  

While it is not expected of everyone reading this article to become a polished speaker like Mr Obama, there are several keys to sharing a story in order to be influential.

Here are 5 steps to effectively sharing stories and being influential:

  1. Set the scene – a story will be more impactful if you set the scene for what is to follow, and build anticipation for the listener(s). For example, instead of saying “I was once taking my son to a football game……”  you should say “In October, 2016, my  ten year old son and I were driving to a football game on a sunny Sunday morning”. Do you see how descriptive the second sentence is compared to the first one? Chances are, the listener(s) will start to imagine you and your ten year old son in the car on a sunny Sunday morning. Once they start imagining, they will pay more attention.
  2. Condense – you will make a greater impact with your story if you condense time, events, and conversations. For example, if you are telling the story about a challenging client with whom you had six meetings before he agreed to invest in your service, you should avoid saying “During our first meeting…….”, “Then, in our second meeting……” and so on. It is far more impactful to condense those events with “Over the course of six separate meetings, he asked numerous questions…..”  In doing so, you are maintaining the attention of your listener(s). Remember, the story is a support tool, not the entire content of your conversation/presentation.
  3. Be in it, don’t just narrate – including dialogue in your personal story is effective, easy, and gives you the opportunity to incorporate emotion in your communication. For example, instead of saying “When I told her that she had been recognised for her dedication, and had received a pay rise, she became emotional”, you should say “I looked at her in the eye, and said (pause) “Jenny, you have worked extremely passionately for this organisation. Here is your pay rise”.  By including dialogue your story becomes more realistic. If you ever read a kid’s story book, it is full of dialogue eg. “The elephant said to the deer “Come with me to the river for a drink””. Including dialogue personalises the story.
  4. Ask for their experience – this is when you bring them into your story. Whether you are communication one-on-one or one-to-many, asking them for their experience will help them make an emotional connection with you. A very effective question that Craig Valentine (World Champion Of Public Speaking) asks his audience is “Have you ever….” This question will make the listener(s) think about their life/experience. It makes them connect with your story, is very likely to help them put themselves into the situation that the story is describing.
  5. Call to action – at the end of the story, give a call to action to the listener(s). If your story was based on “How you can lose 5 kg in 10 weeks”, now is the time to give a call to action. The key here is to use a positive action-oriented statement. Negative-generating questions such as “You don’t want to be overweight for the rest of your life, do you?” should be kept out of your communication. A positive-generating question would be “Just like Rodney lost 5 kg in 10 weeks, what would it mean for you to do the same and enjoy a healthier, fitter, and active life?”  (Rodney in this case would have been someone you shared a story about).

As an anti-bullying campaigner, I deliver one hour presentations in front of up to 1,000 school kids. As the old adage in professional speaking goes – “If you can hold the attention of an audience full of kids, you can handle any audience”. How do I effectively engage with kids for that long? By sharing stories! Every five to ten minutes, I will share a real and applicable (to them) story.

Quote: “Give people a fact or an idea and you enlighten their minds; tell them a story and you touch their souls.”  Hasidic Proverb

I sincerely hope that you have gained insights into how you can improve your influence by sharing stories.

Influencing you to your excellence,
Ron

PS: My Anti-Bullying Charity’s latest short video addresses – “Another Tip For Kids Who Change Schools” – https://youtu.be/Iw2PLRTvQc4

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30 Jul

The Cost of Kindness

The world is in pain. We are feeling the effects of crisis on every level; we are suffering. In this condition, when we feel weak, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to fight, to lash out, to argue, accuse, bully, complain, and blame. But that only creates more suffering. And so it goes, and has been going, over centuries. But this doesn’t have to be the human condition. We have choices. And by now we really do need to know better, and choose differently.

 

Sometime around 30 BC Hillel said “If not now, when?” Now is the time that we need to dig deep within us, to find the courage and make the changes we need to make in order to survive. Indeed, our very survival is at stake. Our brothers and sisters are giving years of their lives, if not their very lives, in wars. Our children are killing themselves to escape being tormented by their peers for what are perceived to be their differences. The cost of war, economically and personally is horrendous. The cost of hate, violence, and intolerance is just as bad. We have to stop the bleeding, and we have to heal.

 

It doesn’t have to take an act of Congress to make a change. It only takes an act of kindness, or many little acts of kindness that all add up to getting our priorities straight. We need to shift from focusing on the material, on the “stuff” in life, and instead focus on people and relationships. We need to pay attention, to be receptive, to be honest and to show that we care. Kindness is a virtue that we need to cultivate and value. It is the salve for our wounds. It is the medicine for our dis-ease. We need to invest our time and energy into programs that promote kindness. This will pay off for us in the long run.

There are many organizations making a conscious effort to practice and promote kindness in our communities. One group is Big Brothers Big Sisters. Youth who are identified as “at-risk” are brought into the program and matched with a mentor. A Public/Private Ventures study shows that children matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, as compared to their peers, are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 52% less likely to skip school, and one-third less likely to hit someone. The financial cost to support a match is just $1m200 per year. Contrast that with the cost to incarcerate a youth in Juvenile Hall at $125,000 per year. Mentors in this program are volunteers, and most will tell you that as much as they see that the youth are getting out of the program, they feel that the benefits are mutual.

 

“Karuna” is a Sanskrit word that means “compassionate action.” It refers to any action that is taken to diminish the suffering of another. As we help others, as we extend kindness, we all benefit. By serving each other we are serving ourselves. “Metta” is a Pali word that means loving-kindness, benevolence, fellowship, goodwill, and friendliness. Metta is the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others. It is an attitude of altruism.

 

There is no cost to kindness. A smile, a word of thanks, a good deed, a friendly gesture — there is no cost to these things, and yet the benefits are priceless.

 

Ellen DeGeneres is now signing off her show with the statement: “Be kind to one another.” I heard that and was inspired. We all have to do our part. We need to be ever mindful that kindness must be practiced and demonstrated. To help with this I created “The Kindness Movement.” It’s a simple commitment of seven days of putting kindness into action. It costs nothing to join The Kindness Movement. And it is very likely that as the movement spreads the benefits will be far-reaching. The Internet holds that power, as it is an illustration of our interconnection.

We are all in this together. The time to recognize our connection to each other, and to be kind to one another, is at hand. It all starts right here, right now. Please join us in The Kindness Movement. Thank you for your kindness.

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23 Jul

New Day, New Decade: Setting Goals Around Desires

The year 2011 is now well under way. Not only is this a new year; it’s a new decade! We had our grand finale, wrapping up 2010 with the solstice and coinciding full moon and lunar eclipse, bringing change and a shift in energy. Then Jan. 4 welcomed a new moon, signaling new beginnings.

Many of us choose to set new year’s resolutions, goals that we work towards to better ourselves in one way or another. This is a good exercise, as it helps us to consider what we want for ourselves, and how we can take action to make things happen.

Of course, we can set goals at any time. Many people choose their birthdays to do this because it’s a time of reflection. You might also choose any new moon, or the beginning of any season. These are all natural times to invoke change.

We know the importance of setting goals, and we know how good it feels when we reach those goals. But at the same time, we need to remember that each step is an important part of the process. We need to recognize this and understand that we are moving forward. This will keep us invested in the long run. Breaking down “big” goals into more easily achievable steps is a good way to mark our progress. We are learning and growing every day.

We can learn a lot about ourselves by looking at our goals and our desires. There’s a reason why we want what we want. And we wouldn’t want it if it weren’t attainable. We learn and grow on the way to our goals.

Desire is our greatest motivator because it spurs us into action! Through action comes experience, achievement, accomplishment and many great things. We are busy fulfilling our desires everyday, and sometimes so easily that we aren’t even aware of what we are doing. So when setting your resolution or goal, look at your desires first. These are the steps you can take to get things going:

  1. Recognize that you have this desire. Label it. Define it. Know it.
  2. Evaluate the desire — do you really want it? What is it exactly that you really want? Explain it to yourself. Make sure that it makes sense to you and that you understand why you want this, and what it means to you to achieve this goal.
  3. Create an intention to fulfill the desire, to reach your goal. Make that commitment. Set this as a priority in your life.
  4. Release the desire to the universe — state your intention clearly. It’s a good idea to write it down and then burn the piece of paper, or file it away somewhere with the date on it.
  5. Give up any attachment to what happens. Just let it go, knowing anything can happen; the outcome is usually better than we ever could have anticipated. In spirit, there is no time or space. Be flexible, be open, and observe how things unfold.
  6. Let the universe handle the details — don’t try to control or manipulate how things occur. Rather than making demands, leave room to allow nature to take its course in whatever way, shape or form that might be. There’s always some reason behind everything that happens, so have a little faith that work is being done, even if you don’t see it. Know that creation and growth takes place every moment.
  7. Feel grateful, and express gratitude! Your emotions electrify the process.
  8. Be aware of things that happen that may help you to achieve your goal. There are no accidents, and no coincidences in life. When opportunities arise, be ready to embrace them.
  9. Celebrate every success and let it build your confidence and warm your heart. Continue to express gratitude all along the way.

Happy new day, happy new year, happy new decade!

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26 Jun

Facts vs Impressions.

An impression is simply a clue.

A fact is something that you believe (through information).

When was the last time you formed got an impression about someone or something that was not based on a fact?

When was the last time you based something on what you thought was a fact, and it turned out to be the exact opposite?

Impressions are formed.

A fact is received information.

Now, let’s break it down into a real life example:

Picture this, you are about to interview someone for a sales role. When you look at their résumé, they have all the qualifications, experience, and skills that would fulfill the requirements of the vacancy. You tell yourself “On paper, this candidate is ideal for this role”. You are basing that on the fact that is received ie. what is in front of you (the résumé).

When the candidate walks in, he does not say a word, he gives a very loose handshake, sits uptight, and does not make eye contact with you.

What will your first impression say about this candidate?  Is he still “ideal for this role?”

Can you see the difference between a fact and an impression?

So, here are three tips on how to handle facts and impressions together:

  1. Be open minded – The impression that you create about a person is always in your control. Yes, their behaviour or outward appearance will be the clue about forming an impression. That said, the final decision is yours. Being open minded means that you are not giving in to the facts alone, nor are you giving in to the impressions alone. You are being open to looking at both equally.
  2. Distinguish between the facts and the truth – The legendary Bob Proctor, (whom I consider to be the godfather of personal development) once said “Forget the facts, just give me the truth”. At this point, you may be wondering “What is the difference between a fact and the truth?”  Dr Matt Moody (Social Psychologist) wrote a very enlightening article on this subject. He said “The word “fact” is often used to mean “reality”—the way things ARE, the way the world IS. But then what word should represent the legal evidence that is used to mislead? In legal arenas, fact is often far from a truthful representation of reality.”  In the job interview example above, the fact was that the candidate had the right skills, qualifications, and experience for the role. The truth is that he was extremely nervous during the interview, and created a not-so-impressive first impression. How do you balance the two? Well, that will always remain subjective to your views, opinions, and preferences. That said, please see point number 3 below.
  3. Create a balanced view of the person – In an article by George Dieter (author of I-Power, The Freedom to Be Me), he states “When you observe what someone does or says, it triggers a response in you according to your experiences, values and expectation.”  Opinions are a projection of your values, not the other person’s. As challenging as it will be, do your best to not form an opinion about someone, based on a fact alone or an impression alone. Let me share an example with you. I volunteer as a kitchen hand at a mental health support centre. There are times when some of the attendees are rude, and on the odd occasion, physically abusive too. One day, an attendee who is battling a mental illness and a physical impairment started telling the kitchen volunteers to work faster and harder (by raising her voice). Clearly, she was very hungry. She had no idea about how hard we were working already. It could have been very easy for me to form an opinion about her and label her as “Rude” or “Ungrateful”. Then, I thought “This behaviour of hers is not a holistic view of her. There is more to her than just this behaviour.”  That supported me in forming a balanced view of that person. The fact was that she was very hungry. The impression was that she was rude. Creating a balanced view of her was a conscious choice, and enabled me to remain calm.

The above mentioned three points can be applied in:

  • Job interviews
  • Managing or supervising staff
  • Taking care of children
  • Doing community service work.

Quote: “It takes just a moment to judge someone, but a lifetime to understand them.” Tina Ng

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can handle facts and impressions in a balanced way.

Influencing you to your excellence,
Ron 

PS: My Anti-Bullying Charity’s latest short video addresses – “Duty Of Care” – https://youtu.be/fZN7vMp_IgE

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11 Jun

What’s Your Purpose? Much More Than Your Job

The Mayan Calendar comes to a close, and many predict the end of times. But I see that 2012 is a year that promises change, new beginnings, a shift in thinking. We are moving away from the information age, and moving towards an inspiration age. And as we are transitioning our behaviors from those of consumers to those of citizens, we are looking at what is really important in our lives and asking ourselves big questions — such as: What is my purpose in life?

“Dharma” is a Sanskrit word meaning “purpose.” Dharma actually has 16 different translations, one of which means teachings, or lessons. This seems appropriate because in many ways, our life’s purpose is our lesson, and vice-versa. We each come to feel at some point in our lives that there is something important for us to do, or learn, or experience. We understand that there has to be something more than just living day to day. Another meaning of dharma is truth. As we grow in awareness, we seek to know truth, that deeper meaning to life, and what it is all about. We seek our dharma, to fulfill our purpose, to somehow have our lives make sense in the context of everything that is going on in the world.

When we talk about “purpose” it is clear that we each have our individual purpose — a reason why we’re here on this planet in this specific place and time — and that’s up to each of us to figure out for ourselves. Our purpose is more than our vocation. We can experience our purpose in everything we do, and everywhere we go.

In the west, we think of yoga primarily as a form of exercise. Although physical postures make up one branch of this philosophy, yoga in general is so much more. The Sanskrit word “yoga” means to yoke, or to unite. The purpose of yoga is to experience the connection we have with the divine. In Vedanta there are four different yogas, or spiritual practices, to help us to accomplish this feeling of connection. The yogas can be practiced individually or in combination, as each one balances and strengthens the others. Each one is a kind of path to discovering our divinity. We can map out our own course using our particular interests and strengths, based on the direction that Vedanta provides us.

The four yoga paths could be thought of as bridges, bringing us from a limited understanding of who we think we are, to the greater understanding of who we really are. These paths help us to be aware of and express our purpose, our dharma, through love, work, knowledge and meditation. Yes, we can, and do, learn through each of these paths. However our personalities will guide us more toward one path or another, so that we can focus our attention and use the strengths we have to understand these spiritual concepts in a way that makes sense to us.

Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion. Bhakti is the love of all creation. It is about loving what is, without expectation. Through our relationships with people we can experience a greater awareness. There is a power, a positive energy that comes with love, that we can utilize for our spiritual growth. Vedanta explains that our love for others is unselfish and without motive when we can see the spirit within them. It is this spirit whom we truly love. So we can learn to look beyond the limiting qualities of the human to the transcendent qualities of the divine, and fully experience love heart to heart. Love is available to all of us, and it is an irresistible force! We spend our time, and emotions, developing a kind of bond with a person. Our energy goes into these connections, along with our emotions, our hopes and our human vulnerabilities. With Bhakti Yoga, we learn through our relationships, and through our primary relationship, which is with ourselves.

Karma Yoga is the path of work, or the path of service. This is work without attachment to the end result. Rather than working for a paycheck, it is performing the work we do as a spiritual offering. Karma Yoga teaches us that working merely for money, or promotions, or praise, leads us to disappointment, because we can never meet all of our expectations; it is never “enough.” However, working as a service to ourselves and to others allows us to experience spirit in everything we do. We are connected to our work, and the actions become effortless. We feel that God is working through us, and this gives us both energy and peace of mind. We learn to love what we do.

Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge. This is knowledge in the higher sense, knowing who we are, and being aware of our relationship, our connection, with God. Knowing is different than believing, it uses reasoning to help us shed the veil of illusion. Vedanta gives us tools to achieve this through affirmations that help to remind us of what is real, and to see the truth. Jnana Yoga teaches to become more discerning, recognizing the difference between what is temporary and what is eternal, so that we understand that we are pure, perfect and free.

We are all students, and we are all teachers. Our learning never ends. It is through this process of learning that we grow both intellectually and spiritually. We come to understand that the only thing we really take with us from this life experience is the wisdom that we garner. We learn to love what we learn and also the process of learning itself.

Raja Yoga is the path of meditation. By stilling the mind through meditation, we can experience more of our true selves. Raja Yoga explains that we need to settle down the mind, which is constantly stirred up with thoughts just as a lake is muddied through activity. When the lake settles down, the water becomes crystal clear, and so it is with our mind. This tranquil state of mind lets us think more clearly, and to see what is important in life. Through meditation we have direct experience of our connection with God. And Vedanta teaches us that we can integrate this experience into all aspects of our life. We don’t have to live in an ashram or renounce our worldly belongings. Our spiritual self is our true self and we can operate in society more effectively and efficiently when we understand this. We learn to love who we are.

There is wisdom to be gained from each of these paths. They all end up taking us to the same place, to the recognition of our union with the divine, to the discovery of our dharma, our purpose. The paths work in harmony with one another. We find that there are aspects of each path that we relate to. Yet quite often one of these paths will resonate with particular individuals more than the others. One will seem to offer a more clear direction, a more personal journey. All paths lead to the same destination. In Vedanta that destination is said to be an awareness of our union with the divine. We can see this as a deeper understanding of ourselves, and a greater wisdom that comes from experiencing our purpose. We learn to enjoy our lives, and embrace our dharma.

Take the quiz to determine your dharma, or purpose in life: What’s Your Dharma?

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on yoga, click here.

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07 May

Living a Balanced, Beautiful Life With Ayurveda

Imagine you’re outside by a beautiful lake, enjoying the perfection of your surroundings. You feel comfortable, relaxed, as if you are an important part of it all. You are so in tune that it is as if you can hear nature speaking to you.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan is thinking to itself, “How wonderful it is to be a swan. I can take my time. Life is serene. I am graceful and lovely. All is right with the world.”

And then you notice an eagle flying high overhead, and the eagle is thinking, “Ah, what a joy it is to be an eagle. I am strong and free. This is the life!”

A hummingbird flits past, and you can hear the hummingbird is thinking, “I’m having so much fun on this glorious day. There’s so much to see and do. I’m so glad I’m a hummingbird and can move easily to all the things I love.”

Everything in nature has a purpose. We’re all connected. Sitting amongst the trees and looking at the clear blue sky you know that you are an important part of this connection. You breathe deeply and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace.

Now, imagine you’re in that same place, same time. When you hear nature speaking to you, things are a bit different.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan thinks to itself, “Oh, my. Why am I stuck being a swan? I would so much rather be like that little hummingbird. I want to flit around like that! I feel so dumpy just floating here on this silly lake.”

Then the eagle flies overhead, and you read its thoughts, “Wow. Look at that swan down there. He’s got the good life. Why can’t I just hang out on the lake? Instead I’m up here working so hard. This isn’t fair. I’d rather be a swan.”

Then the hummingbird flits by and thinks, “Really? That eagle is so lucky. She’s way up there with a great vantage point. She can go so far without even flapping her wings. I’m down here pumping away a million beats a minute! Man, I want to be an eagle.”

Somehow, this second scenario just doesn’t make sense, does it? Because this is not how nature operates! And yet, this is exactly what we do as human beings all the time. We fight our own nature. We compare ourselves to one another. We think we need to always be thinner, more beautiful, more successful, more something, anything! When the truth is that we are inherently perfect. If we are carrying around excess weight or stress or feeling bad about ourselves, it is because we are out of balance, our lives are out of balance in one way or another. We can find that perfect state of balance and regain our strength and confidence and energy to be the best that we can be.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves, to be our healthiest and happiest body, mind and spirit, is to know who we are. Some of us are swans, some of us are eagles and some of us are hummingbirds. Each being is valid, each being has value and each being brings his or her unique gifts to the world. When we know ourselves, and our own nature, we allow the best of ourselves to shine through. Nature operates through us. So why are we fighting it?

Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old “science of life” from India. It explains the nature of everything in the universe. It teaches us how to live in harmony with nature, knowing the connections that we share. Ayurveda is all about balance, and this is something we are in dire need of today.

There are a lot of things that take us away from our state of balance. We are overstressed and overworked. We overeat and are overweight. We overexert ourselves and overspend so that we end up tired, hungry, in debt and living in a mess. Look at all the extra “stuff” we carry around with us. We need to lighten up! We need to shed the stress, the pounds, the debt and the distractions and focus on what is good for us, what serves us. Food is a huge part of all this. We use food to soothe our emotions and to fill up our tummies when we feel a lack in some part of our lives. We fall into habits, with food and otherwise, that we think are easy, and they become mindless and robotic so that we don’t see any other possibilities or potential for ourselves.

It’s time to get back to nature, to get back to basics, to get back into balance. And what better way than by turning to a practice that has been tried and true for all these centuries? Ayurveda is a “sister science” with yoga and meditation. As we experience the benefits of these practices in our lives we naturally want to learn more — and that’s where Ayurveda is positioned right now.

Twenty years ago or so here in the West, feng shui was a somewhat foreign concept — but now it’s a part of our everyday vernacular. If you haven’t heard of Ayurveda yet — now you have! And if you haven’t lived the Ayurveda lifestyle yet, I encourage you to try it now.

Lots more info in my new book: “The Perfect Balance Diet: 4 Weeks to a Lighter Body, Mind, Spirit & Space” and on my new website: perfectbalancediet.com

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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08 Apr

How We Can Help the Homeless

Getty Images/Flickr RF

Sometimes a day starts out like any other — and then something happens that stops you in your tracks. I had one of those days last week. Totally unexpected, and it left me changed. Here’s what happened:

After some meetings, I stopped by my local grocery store to pick up some food for dinner. This is something I’ve done hundreds of times. I’m so familiar with the layout, the people, I can buzz through and get what I need almost without thinking about it. I entered, turned the corner towards the produce department and came face to face with a woman. This woman was clearly out of place in this upscale market — on a hot summer day she was wearing a sweater and a coat, a knit hat, and sandals. Her clothes were dirty, and she was carrying several plastic bags. Our eyes met and I gave her a big smile. She smiled back, and to my surprise she said: “Lissa!” I turned back and she took a step towards me. “You’re Lissa, right?”

I did not recognize her at all. I asked her we knew each other and I never got a clear answer. She talked and talked, about various things, but nothing that helped me to figure out who she was. Although she didn’t say so, I could tell she was homeless. She hadn’t had a shower in a long time, and she acted a bit confused and scattered. It seemed that she needed a friend, and my heart went out to her. I tried to give her some money, but she refused — and after some time I told her I needed to go, but that I would feel better knowing she had some money. I tucked a twenty-dollar bill in her hand and she didn’t seem to notice. After following me through the store for a bit, she was gone.

On the drive home I kept going over the conversation in my head, trying to figure out if I knew this woman. She was about my age, and she could have been a mom at my kids’ school when they were little. She could have gone to my church. She could have been a neighbor at one time — after all, she was in my neighborhood. Although I showed her kindness and respect, I questioned what I could have done differently, how I might have been able to help her.

At my next stop I called Social Services to get some advice, and see if there was anything that they could do to help her. They basically told me that if this woman wanted their help that she would need to call, that there was nothing that they could do unless she reached out to them herself.

So I went home. And sent up a prayer of thanks that I had a home to go to. Whenever I count my blessings, or write down gratitudes, I include my home among the top of my list. Now I felt a new sense of deep compassion for those without a home. I wanted to help but didn’t know how. But I knew that somehow the answer would come. And it did.

The next morning as I was going through my email I followed a link that led me to a video someone posted explaining how he found a way to help the homeless by distributing backpacks. This guy and his friend filled backpacks with basic necessities: toothpaste, shampoo, a towel, socks, some food, and gave them to homeless people in their community. The video showed how much these backpacks were appreciated, and the recipients expressed how much this kindness meant to them.

I did a bit of research online and found that several others have done this same thing. They shared their stories, and ideas of what to put in the backpacks. Now I had my answer – now I had something tangible to do to help this woman, who saw herself as my friend, and for whom I had so much compassion.

I assembled my own list of items and headed out to the Goodwill store. One of the articles I read said that people who are homeless prefer backpacks that are a bit worn over brand new ones because new ones tend to get stolen. I bought several gently used backpacks and loaded up on scarves, hats and hoodies. Nothing that I bought was more than $5. Most items were around $2.

Then I went to the 99 Cent Store. My goal was to get 10 of each item on the list to fill 10 backpacks. This is what I ended up packing in each backpack:

BACKPACK BASICS

• A bar of soap
• Shampoo
• Comb/hairbrush
• Toothbrush and toothpaste
• Body/hand lotion
• Flashlight with batteries
• Socks
• Medium sized terrycloth towel
• Protein bar
• Box of raisins
• Jar of peanut butter and plastic spoon
• Bottle of water
• Toilet paper
• Notebook and pen

At the 99 Cent Store I was able to get everything really cheap — and these are full-sized bottles of shampoo and lotion! Then in each backpack I put a warm scarf, hat, hoodie or blanket that I got at the Goodwill. All in all it cost less than $16 per backpack. I put some of the smaller items in a zippered plastic bag. Other items that I would like to put in the backpacks as I find them or get them donated include: a manicure set, gift cards to grocery stores or restaurants like Subway, and bus tokens. These are small and could definitely fit in with everything else.

Basically I sorted everything out and went down an assembly line to fill up the backpacks. From beginning to end the whole process took less than half a day, including the shopping, and I ended up with 10 filled backpacks.

My plan is to keep some backpacks in my car, so that when I see someone who is homeless I can offer them one. I also went online to find out what resources are available to people who are homeless in our area and found a great place that both helps to prevent homelessness, and helps people who are homeless to get back on their feet with jobs and housing. I will be working with them to help distribute the backpacks to those most in need, and to help them in their efforts to keep their pantries stocked.

I have learned a lot from this experience and would like to share this information with you. Rather than giving money to panhandlers, support solutions by giving to organizations that are working to help the homeless on a daily basis. For every person that is visibly homeless, there are many more that are at risk of becoming homeless, or have been homeless at some point throughout the year. Preventing homelessness is cost-effective as well as morally compelling. It costs far less to prevent homelessness than to help a family that has already become homeless. Here are some additional ways we can all help:

• Find a local non-profit organization that serves the homeless and make a donation of money or items such non-perishable foods and hygiene products, or blankets, hats and socks. Bus passes are also appreciated so that people can get to job interviews, healthcare appointments and dinner sites.
• Share your strengths. You can give of your time and talents – organizations can help match your strengths with the needs in your community. There are many places that will welcome you as a volunteer.
• Conduct food drives for local food banks.
• Spread the word. Provide learning opportunities at your workplace or club to help others understand the most effective ways to assist the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, and to dispel misconceptions about homelessness.

We all share a home on this planet. We are all connected, and we’re here to help each other learn and grow. When one of us suffers, it affects each and every one of us in some way. I encourage you to do what you can to help those who are struggling with homelessness in your own area.

Making backpacks is one actionable step we can take. Reaching out to an organization that is already helping the homeless is another. You don’t have to do much. But I think we each have to do something if we really want things to change for the better for all of us.

I made a video that explains more about how to make the backpacks and distribute them, and to find resources in your area. You can see it here:
http://youtu.be/W5VPF-XTQ6Q

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