What Gear Are You In?

If I asked you “What Gear You’re In,” you would probably say “overdrive,” if you even had time to talk.

But are you really?

We are all programmed to be competitive, it is in our nature. And therein lies the problem. In truth few people are as pressed as they think they are. Even fewer actually know what gear they are really in. Fewer still understand what gear they are comfortable in.

Let me guess, you probably spend your week trying to go as fast as possible. On the weekend you struggle to slow down so that you can relax without losing the momentum you built up during the week, and without losing your place in the never ending chain of emails; and no, it never ends.

So why struggle with yourself trying to make it work, when it simply wouln’t. Why not choose a different speed that works with you, your body, and your own Simple Truth? Yes, some people will never stop running – and, guess what. That is the speed they are comfortable in. Or perhaps they have never taken the time to even think about it. But if you are like me, you will probably wake up one day and ask yourself, what happened?

Early on, you probably jumped into a highly competitive field where work is a full contact sport. Only later did you realize that was not for you. Then you struggled to keep up or found another field that was a better fit with your natural demeanor. Maybe you migrated to the arts or an NGO thinking they were the key to that work/life balance you were looking for. Once in you realized the full contact nature of those jobs were simply hidden by the creative beauty or goodness they produced.

Don’t get me wrong, every field out there has a beautiful side to it and a competitive side to it. Yes, even yoga and meditation have those two sides. So take a step back. Do not just look at the field you want to work in, decide which side of that field is the best fit for your own Simple Truth.

If you would rather spend your time seeing the beauty that is behind every sport, every trade and every industry, simply look for it, it will be there. If instead you want to spend your time seeing the business behind the music, the films, the arts, it will be there too. It simply depends on where you focus your sights.

There was a German friend of mine, who, like me, loved sailing. After a particularly long day’s sail I remember asking him what he loved most about sailing. He looked me in the eye and said, in that very stern, German voice of his, “I don’t sail. I race. And I race to win.”

One act, sailing, but two very different mindsets. Two different lenses that each of us viewed the simple act of sailing through. We each saw the wind and the tides very differently. Neither of them right or wrong, just different vantage points.

He obsessed with each ripple on the water to maximize his advantage. I took a more leisurely approach, not worrying about speed of the moment as much as the overall course for the weekend. I cared more about enjoying the moment, the waves, and the conversation. He cared more about his speed in the here and now.

Which would be more right for you? Are you a racer, or a cruiser?

It’s important to know this. Because no matter what treadmill you are on, if it is set to the wrong speed you will wake up one day wondering what happened. You will either find yourself with a great house and a great car, but with the wrong friends and in the wrong relationship wondering where your life went, looking at those around you, envying what they have while asking yourself “why not me?” Instead of settling back, happy in all that you have.

Either way, be careful you do not spend your life chasing the wrong dream.

It’s not wrong to want a bigger house for your growing family. It’s not wrong to want more money so that you can give your kid a better education. It’s not even wrong to want a gorgeous apartment so that you have an oasis to retreat to, or a beach house to escape in. What is wrong is spending your life in pursuit of someone else’s dream; which, yes, can even include spending your money buying latest yoga mats and meditation pillows to remind your friends just how Zen you are.

So remember, it does not matter what direction you follow, just make sure whatever direction you pursue is in line with your own Simple Truth. Once you figure out what direction is right, then pursue your dreams with everything you have without harming those around you. That way you can stay your course, while still having what the Buddhists refer to as Right Mind and Right Action – a sure fire combination for success both for you and those around you.

I hope this helps,

Be well,

Jeff

Positivity Comes From Within

The negativity and suspicions that are your first response in most situations is a survival skill. It is a skill deeply rooted in your old brain – that part of the  brain that we share with cats and dogs, toads and even alligators. It is the fight or flight mechanism that has kept us alive and brought us to the top of the food-chain over the past few millennia.

It has worked wonderfully up until now. But in the 21st Century world we have created for ourselves, what once kept your ancestors alive is now holding you back from living the life you want to live, happily, positively, and productively.

The key to winning your life back is not to get bogged down in how to rewire your brain, but in how to hit the pause button; to help you overcome your old habits and begin the process of living your life, your way. Something we like to call Humanity 2.0.

Doing this is a lot easier than you may think. All you have to do is to work backward.

  • First, simply be aware of the way you respond to the world around you. Keep a journal for this if you need to, but do it. It can be as easy as emailing yourself from your mobile device, or as deeply rooted as stepping away and writing down your emotions to the triggers in your life.
    • Take note of the moments when you first start to feel defensive, or when you first feel as if you are being attacked. It may be during your commute, or by someone in your office. It can even be with someone you love and trust within your own family.
    • Make a note of what this feels like. Do you feel anger or frustration, even jealousy? It will probably include a brief adrenaline rush, as your amigdala pumps more adrenaline into your system, preparing you for what it thinks is a fight or flight situation.
  • Second, rather than responding immediately to the provocation, physically step away from the event and make a note of what just occurred.
  • Breathe deeply. As you settle into that breath feel yourself calm down and smile.
  • Third, when you have time return to your journal or re-read your emails in search of those things that sent you spiraling into your old habits of responding before having the chance to think. They may not be found in the events that happened, but in the way those events made you feel.
    • You will quickly find a connection between the incidences that set you off, your triggers, and the emotions they stirred up.
    • Your triggers may include a car that cut you off on your commute, or a person who cut in front of you as you walked down or the look on an associate while in a meeting at work.
    • Make note of your triggers, also make a note of how they made you feel. Your emotions are what connects the triggers within your brain, and are the key to creating a more positive response to the world around you.

Take note of the kind of events that your old brain recognizes as a threat. You cannot stop these events form happening, what you can do is train your brain how to respond to them in a way that you are comfortable with.

As you grow aware of your triggers, you can begin to avoid those situations where your triggers are more likely to be activated. You can also go further. You can train your brain to respond in a way that is more befitting of the world you now live in. You can even set your base reaction to be no reaction at all.

This frees up your mind so that instead of generating the negative thoughts of your ancestors, you can put a smile on your face as you seek out a more positive response to your situation.

You know, a more positive internal conversation like “I wonder what is wrong in that person’s life, that they feel it necessary to race in front of me,” or “what a shame they cannot enjoy this beautiful morning,” or “Look at the rain, how beautiful it is even when it comes in sideways.”
Get the idea?

Remember, you cannot change the world around you, but you can change how you respond to it, and that will make all the difference in your life. What you will notice is that at first it may seem impossible, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Even better, your positive responses will expand into other parts of your life.

Instead of reaching for food or alcohol as a temporary solution, you will begin to search for other, healthier solutions. You may start yoga or running to bring calm into your life. You may approach the person who carries your trigger and suggest a better way to handle situations. Or, you may simply smile as you ride the waves of your life with happiness, rather than suspicion, as the core to your new response mechanism.

Try this, and feel free to respond to let me know how it has worked for you.

Be well, and I hope this helps…

Jeff