Part 1 | How to Live in the Present Moment

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May 27, 2016

Like never before, we live in a time of instantaneousness.  Have a question?  Google it.  Want pizza?  Get it delivered.  Need to contact someone from a boat in the middle of a lake?  Text them.  Want to hear the b-sides from the debut release of an obscure mid-90’s band at 2:30 am on a Tuesday while you’re lying in bed?  Call it up on iTunes or Spotify.  Looking for a tutorial on underwater basket weaving?  Log on to YouTube.  Want to see what you’ll look like in 80 years?  There’s an app for that.

With all of this instantaneous access to virtually anything, we have fewer and fewer opportunities to practice just being.  That is, unless we create it, the occasion is rare to just sit and be present with what is as opposed to what else, what else, what else!  It’s not a “bad” thing.  Obviously, we all enjoy choices, opportunities, and abundance—three things that technology has delivered in spades—but, is there still a value in tuning in to the here-and-now?

The constant presence and the immediate availability of options and alternatives has produced a type of feeling that might be called instantity.  That is, instantaneousness + insanity = instantity.

Our ability to have our answers and needs met instantly has, perhaps, created a cultural climate that caters to impulses, rather than reflection.  This can produce a sensation of total overload.  An overwhelming feeling of “too many choices”.  Not only can this transform rapidly into FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but it can also result in abrupt and lasting stagnation, a feeling that translates to: “I don’t know which of these 10,000 things I want to do…so, I’ll do nothing at all.”

How is that even possible?  We might ask.  How is it that we have so many options that we resort to doing nothing?  It’s likely that, on some level, we have all experienced this.  Maybe we spend hours scrolling through social media watching other people do awesome things and we think, “I wish I was doing that.”  And then continue scrolling and sitting there.  Maybe we spend all weekend binging on Netflix thinking, “I should really be doing something else with my time.”  Only to look forward to doing it again next weekend.  Or, maybe we sit across from someone silently texting someone else who is a million miles away.  In all cases, it’s not “bad” to do these things, however, if we don’t leave room for anything else, and if we don’t actually get out and go for it—meaning, live our dreams, accomplish our goals, and make life happen—what are we really doing?

The first step is becoming aware of this dynamic.  We can ask: Am I really here right now?  Where is my mind?  Why is it elsewhere?  Would I rather be doing something else?  If so, why?  And, if I am not choosing to do that, why am I choosing to keep doing what I am doing?

That’s it, the first step, is recognition.  Learning how to work with this acknowledgment comes next…

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen

Part 3 | How To Make Positive Lasting Changes

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May 24, 2016

Stage Five: Practical Maintenance

Once we have taken the leap and implemented the change, it is wise to have a plan in place for sticking to it.  After the initial excitement and momentum wear off, it can be easy to lose steam.  We’ve all had the experience of diving into something full-tilt, only to burn-out, lose faith, or get impatient enough to quit.  Even if that has been our pattern in the past, it can be interrupted.

So, once we decide that we want to make a change lasting, the following five practices help in sticking to our guns.  It’s worth it.

The Five Ways that Change Sticks

  • Have a dedicated “Goals Notebook”. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. But, it is wise to make it exclusively for your goals.  In it, you can take notes, journal, or make a log of your activity.  However, the single most important action to take with your Goals Notebook is to write down the change or goal every day.  Don’t just look at it, actually write it down on the paper with a pen.  The very act of writing itself helps solidify the idea and the intent.  Writing by hand (not typing) activates a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), which helps ideas crystalize by acting as a filter to what should and should not be focused on.  By activating the RAS with the same goal, day after day, we are telling our brains, “This is important.  Help me focus on this.”
  • Take action on your goal every day. Not some days. Not on weekends or every other day.   Day.  To ensure that this happens, it is wise to schedule the change, write it down on a calendar (time/place), and make a concrete plan around it.  When your mind is aware in advance of a change or new habit, it begins to anticipate it and prepare for it.  If you plan on simply taking action when you “have time” or when you “feel like it”, you won’t do it.  And, if you do do it, you won’t be at your best—waiting until you have time, means that you are generally giving your goal the “scraps” of your schedule.  It means, essentially, prioritizing everything else before your goal before taking action toward change.  Schedule it, prepare for it, commit to it.  Do it.
  • Measure it. Ask yourself at the end of the day, “How did I do today?” And, “What action did I take?” and “Where can I improve tomorrow?”  Then, take a moment to write it down.  This reflection, too, activates your RAS, which will help crystalize the change, action, and strategy.
  • Share it. This may feel awkward at first, but try it. Tell everyone around you about the change that you are making.  Momentum and accountability can come from your social environment and it is a great (and time-tested) way of sticking with it.  It creates a system of reinforcement that will chirp-up when it’s needed the most.
  • Get a coach or a comrade. Find someone who is not connected to you socially, someone whom you can call and get outside perspective. Social media is a great tool for this.  Ask someone to check in with you each day on your progress.

(This section is modeled after Brendon Burchard’s video titled “How To Make Changes Stick”)

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen

 

 

Part 2 | How To Make Positive Lasting Changes

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May 19, 2016

Question: So, if we resist change for emotional and psychological reasons, usually related to “fear of the unknown”, how is it that we do, indeed, make changes?  What does it look like to take action?  What are the steps?

The answer, again, is not science.  However, there are four main stages that we all move through when we go from inaction to action.

The Four Stages of Change

Precontemplation.  This is the stage when we don’t even realize that something needs to shift, even though it is affecting our life in some undesirable way.  This can be a result of being being too busy or too stressed to notice, lacking understanding, knowledge, or awareness, or clinical denial.  We are often shaken out of this stage over time by other people, interventions (divine or otherwise) and by broadening our horizons and getting educated.

Contemplation.  Here we begin to become aware that something needs to change, even if we cannot name it, see it, or explain it.  At our core, we begin to realize that something is not where it should be and it is somehow limiting our potential and/or the expression of our fullest self.  Depending on the issue, some people will spend their entire life here.  This can be from an absence of resources, lack of knowledge and support as well as the emotions of pride, stubbornness, and fear.  However, when the fear of staying the same outweighs the pain of change, people will change.

Preparation.  Once we have sufficiently acknowledged that something needs to shift, we move toward this stage: Preparation.  Here, we begin to research and define what exactly needs to change.  We get specific and find ways of naming both what we are experiencing as well as what triggers this feeling/need.  Most importantly, we begin to make a plan.  When we do this, it is wise to move ahead and keep an open mind.  If we have been living a certain way and tolerating certain behaviors for years and years, we might experience new feelings of helplessness, anger, and overwhelm.  What is important is to focus on the very first step by asking ourselves, “What is one action that I can take now that will move me in the right direction?”

Action.  Now, we have overcome our denial, done our research and established the first step, we are now able to take a meaningful action.  Although we may want to change overnight, when we allow ourselves to make progress incrementally and learn by trial and error, we set ourselves up for success and lasting change.  The main component here is literally taking action—not thinking about it, not talking about it, but DOING it.  This will require some faith, some fear, some discomfort, and some letting-go…but when we’ve positioned our mind in the right place, we will know (in our gut) that it is worth it.  Once a change has been made, however, it generally requires ongoing attention until it becomes the “new normal”, which is why a fifth stage—Maintenance—is required.

Tune in next week for that!

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen

Part 1 | How To Make Positive Lasting Changes

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May 17, 2016

Question: Why do we resist change and why does making changes seem so difficult sometimes, even when we are unhappy?

The answer is not exactly mathematical but, in general, the mind resists changing for three specific reasons.

The first reason is that we are creatures of habit and we have a tendency repeat the same behaviors over and over again for so long that we think it is the only way.  In other words, we lose our ability to see that we can change or that something needs to change, because we (literally) cannot imagine an alternative.

The second reason that the mind resists change stems from our unchecked and deeply held (and usually self-limiting) beliefs.  Fear of failure is a big one here—that is, the thought that failing is exclusively bad.  So, many people chose to “play it safe” even when they are bored, unhappy, or feeling lifeless.  In their mind, those emotions in the present are better than that possibility of failure in the future.  So, they choose not to make changes.  Importantly, fear of success is also a HUGE reason that folks resist changes.  In a nutshell, becoming successful is a mentally stressful proposition for some people because moving up in the world means moving into the unknown.  And, all the toxic “what ifs” live in the world of the unknown.  While it is usually a subconscious decision, many people resist change because, for them, the familiarity of the present (however miserable it maybe) outweighs the unknowns of the future.

The third reason that folks resist making changes is because of the company that they keep.  Like crabs in a stove-pot who pull each other back into the water time after time—even as they cook—it can be very difficult to rise out of the situations that surround us and leave the comfort and security of those we know.  Making a change and evolving can mean literally—that is, physically—leaving a social group, yes.  But, more often than not, it means mentally and spiritually leaving behind the specific ideas, ideals, and perspectives of those around us.  When we begin to challenge the status quo, it is likely that we will be met with some push-back.  Change is difficult in this situation because it boils down to a basic lack of support as well as the absence of a shared vision and role-models, so it feels easier to just stay the same.

Have you been meaning to make a change?  What’s the challenge?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen

Part 2 | Strengths and How Change Occurs

IMG_9272May 12, 2016

BIG IDEAS

 Unusual as it may sound, change in the outerworld begins in the innerworld.  That is, what we think about, we create.

Specifically, what we think about most, we find the most of in our lives.  For example, if we begin constantly thinking about a certain type of car that we want, we suddenly see it on every street.  Parents-to-be report seeing pregnant women “everywhere,” when before it was only every once in a while.  Or, if we think someone is irritated with us, we will find evidence of it in how they interact with us—even if they are not miffed in the slightest, we will still “find” it.

Where we focus our mental energy matters because our dominant focus tells our mind what to look for.  In brief, what we focus on expands.

The thoughts that we think repeatedly condition us to expect, anticipate, and await certain events, scenarios, and exchanges.  When we think a thought enough times, we naturally (and unconsciously) begin to look for it.  After all, wouldn’t it be odd if we heard the same message over and over and over again and remained totally uninfluenced by it?  In this way, change occurs through repetition and our mind adjusts incrementally to accept certain things over time as normal and/or true.  Think about fashion trends.  At first, certain styles can seem absurd, but after months of seeing them everyday, they are just ordinary.  We get used to things.  We accept them.  We stop paying attention.  Our thoughts are like this.

So, how does this all relate to creating change?  There is that saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”  So, if our innerworld sculpts our outerworld by telling us what to look for; and, if our perceptions are crafted over time though repetition; if we want to change our lives, doesn’t it make sense that we must first change what thoughts we repeatedly think?

Okay, sounds great.  But, how do we do that?  We do that in two ways.  The first is by limiting what we actively and passively expose our minds to—garbage in garbage out…right?  This includes other people, the news, social media, and entertainment.  If it does not support the mindset that we are trying to cultivate, we must weed it out.  (If it cannot be eliminated, we are wise to do what we can to at least be aware of it and limit our exposure to it.)  The second way is to begin planting seeds-of-thought that we desire to be realities in our lives.  These are affirmations.  We can say, “I love feeling happy” and “I am grateful for all the joy in my life” even if we don’t necessarily feel that way in the moment.  And, through force of repetition, our mind will begin updating its “files” to notice more and more evidence that these ideas are true and all around us.  Our positive attitude will begin attracting more positive people and experiences into our lives because we are training our mind to notice them.

If this is uncomfortable, start with something concrete.  Try telling yourself, “There are tons of people with blonde hair in this town” and repeat it to yourself often.  Inevitably, your attention will be drawn to each and every blonde person who passes by.  In this case, your mind is not “creating” blonde-haired people, instead it is merely noticing what is always there.  You can do this with anything.

Change can occur when we tell ourselves specifically what we want to change and then begin the process of cultivating our thoughts to create an awareness of its presence.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Circle Photo

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.

Connect with him:

Email: zstrengthslife@gmail.com

Twitter: @zstrengthslife

Facebook: Zach Carlsen