Strengths and Outcomes

JourneyLifeEDITDecember 30, 2015

4 Minute Read | 300 Words

We’ve all heard the saying: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And, it’s true, to reach a destination—any destination—we must first leave where we are.

To take this idea a step further, consider this: We could safely drive from New York to LA in the dark only seeing the 300 or 400 feet in front of us lit by the headlights.

In both cases it boils down to one word: START.

That is, we don’t need to see the end in order to begin. But we do need to begin in order to finish.

Right?

We can’t know all the details of our various journeys in life, so it’s important that this doesn’t prevent us from setting out. After all, it’s easy to get bogged down in all the “hows” of an idea and to forget that life generally unfolds when we allow it.

However, when we try to control every outcome and foresee every obstacle, we generally spend a lot of energy fretting over how we might resolve imaginary challenges.

Instead we can put that energy into preparing the way and creating opportunities in the present.

Our strengths have a lot to say about this idea, too. By identifying our gifts and focusing on them, we know that we can start from strength and grow stronger, as opposed to starting from “weakness” and hoping to end at strength. Which is a gamble.

When our perspectives are strengths based, we don’t need to focus on what is ten miles down the road because the value of what is right in front of us is seen clearly.

The strengths keep us present and prevent us from the discouraging thought of “how, how, how” because we are focused on the encouraging thought of “now, now, now”.

3 Questions

What is my next first step?

Do I focus on LA when I haven’t even left New York?

What is my ultimate dream for the coming year?

5 Minute Action

Make a list of ten goals you have for the coming year—anything from health and wellness goals to financial goals and relationships.

Find a glass jar and four rolls of pennies.

Dump three rolls into the jar and then add another 65 pennies from the fourth roll.

That gives you 365 pennies in the jar.

Tape your list of ten goals to the outside of the jar and take one penny out every day—starting on January 1st.

Allow the visual representation of time passing in shrinking penny-jar to motivate you.

As your penny count gets lower and lower your list should get shorter and shorter as you accomplish each goal.

Be Your Greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Returning to Basics

GuideBirdLifeEDIT

December 23, 2015

When we focus on what is going right instead of what is going wrong, our perspective changes and we are able to live fuller, more productive and satisfying lives.

This does not mean turning a blind eye to life’s challenges. No. Instead, it is a call to develop a greater awareness of one thing: our focus.

That means, when we pattern our thinking around strengths, we liberate ourselves from limiting, self-defeating beliefs and perspectives. Developing a strengths focus and mentality helps us sort through and prioritize which thoughts and actions contribute to our best self and which keep us static and locked in fear or indecision.

Difficult as it may be to consider, some of our ideas about the world are probably outdated and could use some revision. The strengths give us productive tools to reevaluate our lives and our thinking with. That’s because they provide a comprehensive language to use, one which describes concrete actions to take toward change.

It’s worth stating that, perhaps, at one point in our life certain views and beliefs were relevant, but not any longer. Our feelings of fear, lack, or insecurity, for example, are likely grounded in real and practical experiences, which are long over but still echoing in our lives today.

By focusing on our strengths, we are freeing ourselves to move forward in a spirit of competence, confidence, and positive momentum.

Living from our strengths develops an awareness that we don’t have to be anyone else because…we already are someone. The strengths teach us how to honor and love who we already are, first and foremost; and then, with that knowledge, we learn how to become more and more of that.

The model of “focusing on weaknesses” teaches us how to become less and less bad at things.

The model of “focusing on strengths” teaches us how to become more and more and better and better at things that we are already good at and strong in.

That, in itself, is greatness.

Three Questions

What does my happiness look like?

Am I happy?

What is one action that I could take today toward a greater and more complete happiness?

Action

Break out your phone and send three “just because” text messages to three people in your life. The messages can be short and sweet. A simple, “Hi. I was just thinking of you. I hope you are doing well!” will do.

Try it. See what happens.

Be it. Do it. Go.

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How to Start a Writing Practice that Produces Lasting Positive Change

DirectionLife1EDITDecember 21, 2015

 

The point of starting a writing practice is to explore your mind, your thinking, and your life in a new way.

Writing is one way to develop the brain and test its limits—the same way that athletes do cardio, train with weights, and eat with intention—variety is important. This is to say that writing is just one piece in an overall healthy brain. Other components include thinking, problem solving, working, playing, dreaming, imagining, exercise and nutrition.

In some ways, freewriting is the easiest way to challenge the brain because there is no right or wrong way to do it. All that is important is that it is done. So, allow your writing practice to surprise you. Don’t put any artificial limits or expectations on it.

That said, here are a few tips:

Start small and remove expectations.

Start small. Begin with 4-5 mins per day. This helps to develop the habit. It’s only 5 mins per day…that’s .00347% of one day! Starting small also creates an understanding that writing doesn’t “have” to be anything. Your writing practice should be a stress free and relaxed process.

Be consistent and commit to it.

Commit to 5 minuets a day for 30 days. If you are not impressed after a month, you can stop. No one is forcing any of this.

Use prompts.

Prompts give the mind a starting place, like a springboard into bigger ideas. Don’t restrict yourself to staying on the prompt, allow your thinking and your pen to wander. Oftentimes, your mind will stumble upon great truths.

Look below the surface for clues.

Our brains have comfort zones. These are ideas that they prefer to consider and return to time and time again. Good, bad, or ugly, our brains have a hard time letting go of some beliefs, even if they are unproductive to our overall vision of life. As you progress in your writing practice, it won’t take long to skim your entries and find patterns and habits in your thoughts. (This is also why it’s good to be consistent). Reviewing your work is a great way to identify possible obstacles present in your thinking that are holding you back from growing, changing, and evolving. Remember, it’s difficult to change what you don’t know is there. Freewriting brings a lot of ideas to the surface for examination—it can be surprising!

Questions Worth Asking: 50 Days Worth of Prompts

  1. What would my perfect day look like?
  2. What is my best quality?
  3. In what ways am I similar to how I was as a kid?
  4. What are the details of my dream house?
  5. Would I want to win the lottery? Why or why not?
  6. How is the world different today than it was 100 years ago?
  7. Why do we watch TV?
  8. What are five things that I like about myself?
  9. What are three ways that I add value to the lives of those around me?
  10. In what ways do I add value to the world at large?
  11. If I were offered a trip to explore Mars, would I go? What if it were only one way?
  12. Am I holding on to any grudges?
  13. What are the most important qualities in a friend?
  14. Who are my mentors, who do I look up to and why?
  15. What is the tone of my inner monologue?
  16. What is my general outlook on life?
  17. What are my core beliefs about why I am here?
  18. What types of messages do I repeat to myself throughout the day?
  19. What is the purpose of my life?
  20. What action can I take today to feel better about my life?
  21. What obstacles do I see in my way?
  22. What is my biggest fear?
  23. How do I cope with stress?
  24. What are five things that I would like to see more of in my life?
  25. What are some qualities in others that I admire?
  26. What is my adult version of playtime?
  27. Do I like to be alone? Why or why not?
  28. What does it mean to feel balanced?
  29. How old do I think I will live to be?
  30. What do I do with my freetime?
  31. How often do I use the phrase, “I should…”
  32. What are my favorite subjects to talk about with others?
  33. What types of things do I want to learn more about?
  34. What types of conversations make me cringe?
  35. What do I actively avoid talking about with others?
  36. What are five ways that I could practice better self-love and self-care?
  37. What action could I take before the day is over to practice one of the above?
  38. Who are my five heroes in life (people who I know personally)?
  39. Who are my five heroes in life (famous, historical, or otherwise)?
  40. What qualities do my heroes embody that I, too, would like to develop?
  41. If I were an animal, which one would I be and why?
  42. How is the modern world changing and what do I think about it?
  43. If I were on a desert island, what five objects would I bring and why?
  44. Will computers ever be smarter and more capable than humans?
  45. If aliens landed and asked me to show them around, where would I start?
  46. What is the most important (non-essential) activity in a person’s life?
  47. Have I been living from my strengths?
  48. Where do I see myself in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
  49. What is the meaning of life?
  50. If I were to get in a rocket ship and travel straight up, how far could I go? How far is up?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Differences

DifferencesLifeEDITDecember 18, 2016

Lots of things are easy to know logically but difficult to understand emotionally.

Take, for example, the fact that everyone is different.

It doesn’t take a PhD to understand that idea and to know that it’s true. Basically, no one is the same.

But, to accept it? To really, truly accept this fact and live in continued awareness of it? That is another question.

That is, can we really learn to accept others for who they are? What are the exceptions, if not?

It might sound crazy, but doesn’t this idea speak to the core of virtually all human-to-human challenges?

That is, the fact that others view the world differently can be a big problem for us at times.

This idea can be seen clearly in political and social contexts just by turning on the news. There generally isn’t just one right answer because there isn’t just one worldview.

The idea can be scaled back to its frustratingly simple explanation: Everyone is different.

True, that statement all by itself doesn’t get us very far.

However, when this idea is intermingled with all of our thoughts in every situation, we develop an awareness and an acceptance of others, which is invaluable. From there, we are less likely to be startled by differences and frustrated or turned-off by them.

Instead, we can say, “I already knew that. So, where shall we go from here?” and we can more easily create inroads to collaboration, compromises, and solutions.

Life probably isn’t about only being surrounded by people whom we agree with and who agree with us. If that were the case, innovation would be impractical. We would all agree and nothing would shift.

Instead, we seem encouraged at every turn to challenge our beliefs, test our mettle, adapt to changing landscapes, and thrive in virtual and literal unknowns.

Our strengths are our deepest qualities, which serve as inner beacons in this process. They are the fundamental elements of our core—they are concrete identifiers of who we are and how we view life. These qualities make us different and similar to others, in turns.

When we strive to see people as operating from this core, not out of spite or difficulty, but because it is who they are, it becomes easier to accept them as that: themselves.

Each strength is like a gear in a watch. Any good timepiece has multiple sprockets of various shapes and sizes, and no extra parts. Everything is there for a specific reason. One gear is not better than the other or more important, because each one contributes to the functioning of the whole.

That is the same with us and our strengths. We each have different shaped sprockets to add to the grand scheme. When we begin looking for how the differences in others can help us, as opposed to threaten us, then we are open to options and solutions that were previously unavailable.

Three Questions

What are the five most important qualities in a person?

What are five words that I hope people associate with me?—Kind, generous, loving, funny, etc.

What is the best memory from my life?

Action

Write a letter that you will never send.

Pick one person in your life and write them a greatness letter.

This is a letter that praises them to the fullest—let it be over-the-top and gushing. Tell them every wonderful thing that you have ever wanted to tell them. Let it all out.

Take the letter when you are done and seal it in an envelope.

You may chose to throw it away or recycle it or burn it. The point is to write a letter that has no restrictions, one where you are uninhibited and can say everything that your have ever wanted to say without worrying about how the person will receive it.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Strengths and Stagnation

WritingLife 2EDITDecember 16, 2015

When it comes to how our lives are going, we typically find what we are looking for.

That is, when we believe that we are thriving, we generally find reasons and evidence to support that.  When we believe we are struggling, we find proof of that belief, too.

The reality is usually somewhere in between—we meet success and challenges in turns.  That is natural.  But when we concentrate only on what is difficult, it can seem like we only struggle—and our success get washed-out.

When that happens, we get stuck feeling in a rut.  And the more we feel in a rut, the more we believe that we are in a rut.  And, so, this “reality” overtakes us.

Feelings, however, are not facts.

So, it matters where we direct our attention.  True, we must acknowledge life’s challenges, but to what extent?

The real magic happens when we shift our focus from the problem to the solution.  It takes practice, but it’s worth it every time.

When we become solution-minded we open ourselves to teachers and teachings that we never before would have noticed.

Consider the famous case of the delivery truck that was too tall and got stuck under a low bridge.  The municipal authorities called in all the experts to figure out what to do.  Architects and engineers figured that the bridge would need to be dismantled brick-by-brick to get the truck out.  It would be costly and time-intensive, but it was the only way to get the truck out without causing further damage to the bridge.

Or…so they thought.  In the commotion, a young boy and girl were trying to get the attention of the authorities, none of whom were interested in the ideas of children.  Finally, a worried and puzzled engineer stooped to patronize the children and hear about their “solution”.  He was shocked and delighted to hear them say, “Just let the air out of the tires and drive the truck forward.”

Voila!

The solutions to our problems are usually easier than we can believe.  But if we are caught up in the problem, it might be impossible to see that.

In a lot of cases, it really does depend on where we direct our focus.  By dwelling in the problem, it grows.  This is because the longer we spend looking at something, the more details we notice.  It’s like looking at a painting, which at first is just a simple landscape—but the longer we gaze upon it the more we notice: brush strokes, imperfections, careful nuances, new colors and shapes, and wear-and-tear on the canvas.

Our problems and our solutions can be just like that.  The more we focus on what’s wrong, the more wrong we find.  The more we focus on what the solution is, the more solutions we find.

The surest way out of a rut starts with our thinking and continues with how we talk about our lives.

If we are constantly saying that life is difficult, we will surely find evidence to support that belief.  If, instead, we acknowledge life’s challenges, but choose to use other language, we are likely to begin noticing different things.

Focusing on solutions might sound something like this, “I have options.  I am capable of change for the better.  Everyday I grow.  I add value to the world.”

Once we practice this enough, it becomes the new reality.  We begin looking for evidence of this truth as opposed to the old one.  It becomes our focus and we find ourselves dwelling in solutions, as opposed to problems.

Three Questions

Do I focus more on solutions than problems?

How do my feelings about my challenges affect my capacity to take action? (i.e. Am I so overwhelmed by them that I don’t know what to do first, so I do nothing?)

What would my life look like today, in this moment, right now, if someone waved a magic wand and removed all of my challenges?

(The answers to these questions are likely the real reasons why we want our problems gone.  It is probably a feeling that we are reaching for more than anything material—belonging, love, acceptance, comfort, peace, excitement.  We want to feel free or loved or relaxed or happy.)

Action

Have you truly named your rut?

Objective: Start a daily writing practice, which focuses on solutions.  Start small, but be consistent.

Time: Five mins/day

Action: Get specific and concrete about what is bugging you.

Get a fresh notebook and write for 5 mins a day in it.  Do it for ten days in a row.

  1. Right now I feel…
  1. One challenge I am facing in life is…
  1. I want to change this in order to feel…
  1. One action that I can take today would be…

Take your answers above and plug them into the following equation.

I want to feel more __3.__ and a challenge I am facing in feeling that way is ­­__2.__ .  A solution that I could start today would be __4.­__.

This exercise does a few things.  One, it names the challenge (so it can no longer have the power of mystery over you.)  Two, it identifies a reason for the shift, which is to feel a certain way.  And, three, is it breaks the challenge down into a specific action.  Let’s face it, challenges can be overwhelming when we try to tackle them all at once.  This process encourages a one-step-at-a-time attitude.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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