I recently had an interesting discussion with a woman who sat next to me at a café in Montreal. She was reading a magazine and at one point, it dropped on the floor. When someone handed it to her I overheard them commenting: “Oh you’re reading The Economist. I like that magazine.” The woman replied, “Yes, it’s scary stuff.”
After a few minutes I said to her: “Sorry to bother you, but I’m curious about something. Why would you read something you describe as scary?”
She told me that she wants to stay informed, even if the news is scary. I told her my personal point of view, which is that I usually limit myself to the news headlines, since they usually give me all I need to know. Naturally, if a story really interests me, I will dig deeper, but I don’t want my peace of mind disrupted by reading in depth about bad news over which I have no real control.
As we discussed the ‘scary’ issues of the day, we spoke about gas prices and the transparency of the federal government, then the conversation turned to local and provincial government. The woman told me that although she is a lifelong Québec resident, she no longer feels welcome in the province because of certain policies of the provincial government.
After we discussed the policies a bit, I asked her where she was going to move. She told me she has no real plans to move, she just doesn’t feel welcome anymore. I asked her if she’d ever had any personal interactions with people that left her feeling unwelcome. She agreed that everyone is generally pleasant and easy to get along with, but for her, the fact that “they” could have voted for the current government carried more weight than how she is actually treated on a day-to-day basis.
This brings me back to my original question: Who defines your quality of life?
You always have a choice
One of the aims of my free online course, the Chooseday Challenge, is to help people understand that they always have a choice. While we can’t choose what others say or do, we can absolutely choose the meaning that we assign to their words and actions.
For example, the woman at the café could have chosen to give more weight to governmental policies OR she could have chosen to give more weight to how her fellow citizens actually treat her. She chose governmental policies and as a result doesn’t feel welcome in her homeland.
It’s an inside job
I also want to emphasize that we can each choose the impact that we allow external forces to have on our quality of life. Beyond choosing the meaning that we assign to the words and actions of others, we can always choose to limit our exposure to any negative external forces. That could mean choosing to limit your interactions with negative people such as co-workers, friends or family. It could mean changing jobs. Or letting go of unhealthy and/or dysfunctional relationships. And in the case of the woman in the café, it might include actually making a plan to move to a ‘more friendly’ area of the country. I can’t imagine choosing to stay in a place where you say that you feel like you are not welcome.
Claim ownership of your life
For many people, accepting that quality of life is an inside job is a very difficult pill to swallow. Perhaps they simply feel powerless at the hands of outside forces. Or they may just be incredibly hesitant to take on any personal responsibility for how they feel on a day-to-day basis. I understand that claiming ownership of your life can be a big and frightening step towards choosing the life you want, but I also know that it is the only surefire way to achieve peace of mind. Feeling like you’re at the mercy of outside forces keeps you in reaction mode and doesn’t allow any freedom for self-expression or creativity. It’s also a very slippery slope which can lead from feeling powerless to identifying yourself as a victim. And there is nothing more crippling that living in a mental state of victimhood.
From victim to victor
When we make a conscious decision to move out of reaction-mode and into action-mode, our lives really begin to shift dramatically. Let me be clear, it’s not that the outside world will necessarily change – but who we are in the context of the outside world will absolutely change.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with Gandhi’s quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. One thing I wish people would realize about that quote is that ‘be the change’ does not necessarily have to be about changing THE world – it can be about changing YOUR world.
It’s YOUR life. You only get one and it’s happening RIGHT NOW. Choose the Life You Want! It really is an inside job.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Problem with Having Good Taste, about the fact that many of us suffer from ambitions that outreach our ability. We want to do good things, but when we try – we find out that our skill levels just aren’t there yet.
And the key word is YET!
In the article, I embedded a video from radio host and producer Ira Glass. Ira discusses the fact most creative people start out with a gap between what they want to produce (because of their good taste and high standards) and what they’re actually capable of producing. I encourage you go to back and read that initial blog post, but first – watch this excellent short film that illustrates the sound bytes of that interview.
I know I’ve been threatening to write my second book for some time now. I believe that I discovered this short film today because the Universe knew I needed a reminder (aka: kick in the pants) to get to work! So stay tuned for the book and more.
What will you do with this information? Will you let it move you across your gap? Why not use the comments section below to publicly state what you’re committing to achieve? We’re all in this together!
As I said in the other article: “I’ll race you to the other side of the gap!”
Gail West is a Certified Coach Practitioner whose mission in life is “to bring peace, harmony, and knowledge of the universal laws of creation.”
On Friday, Feb 21, 2014 Gail is running a four hour course designed to help participants understand what results they’re getting in their lives, why they’re getting them and how to release the negative past. The tag line of the course is:
“The getting on with life and living happily ever after.”
The of the program is to help people become “consciously aware on purpose” and teaches profound techniques for co-creating your life.
The course will be held at the Ritz Carlton in Montreal, Quebec.
Imagine for a moment that you’re sitting on a bus or in a crowded waiting room when someone close by, with a very runny nose and sore-looking, red, watery eyes, starts coughing loudly and sneezing. They look and sound absolutely miserable. You suspect they have a bad cold, maybe even the flu. What would you do?
I imagine you wouldn’t rush to take the empty seat beside them. And I highly doubt that you’d choose to share their pen or drink from their water bottle. You’d likely want to keep your distance for fear of getting infected. Perhaps you’d wash your hands a little more thoroughly the next time you’re in the washroom. And I don’t think anyone would blame you at all.
So why don’t we treat negativity the same way?
Yes, from time to time we all get ‘infected’ with a dose of negativity. For most of us, it’s short lived and we’re able to combat it and get back on track. Some people have a prolonged bout and have a more difficult time shaking it. And then there are those who suffer from chronic negativity.
When you run into someone who is suffering from negativity, why would you choose to expose yourself to their ‘virus’? Why let their skewed attitude and perspective impact your happiness, confidence and optimism?
In my coaching practice, one of my favorite tools to use with clients is a personalized ‘script’ designed to combat the effects of years of negative thoughts, habits and beliefs. In addition to helping undo the damage of years of negative programming, it also acts as a safeguard for the present and future.
The Script is a vaccination against falling victim to negativity and self-doubt.
I like to think of it as a vaccination against falling victim to negativity and self-doubt. From news media, and gossip to the fears and doubts of people around us, we are constantly bombarded with negative messages. The script helps to guard us against internalizing any of this negativity and becoming infected ourselves.
The Buddha said: “What we think, we become.” So why not make a conscious decision to think positive, uplifting, loving and encouraging thoughts? The health of your body depends on the fuel you feed it and how you move it. Likewise, the health of your mind depends on the thoughts, habits and beliefs you choose to surround yourself with.
When I start working with a new coaching client, once they’ve stated their goal or objective, I always ask them those questions. I know – they’re big, bold, in-your-face questions; but they are important questions to ask early on.
The fact is, there’s no use choosing, hoping, dreaming, praying and working for something you don’t believe you’re worthy or deserving of having, being or achieving. If you don’t believe you’re worth it or if you don’t believe you deserve it, there’s not a coach in the world who can help you achieve and maintain it.
Generally, when I ask clients those questions, people fall into one of three groups.
The first group simply responds with something like: “Hell yes, I’m worthy of having it and deserve it!” (I love working with these people, because their attitude means they’re already halfway to having what they want.)
The second group usually responds more tentatively with something like: “Well, I think so.“
And the third group often seems shocked and confused by the question. Once they reflect on it, they usually respond in a hushed voice. Sometimes they’re truthful and tell me that they don’t believe they’re worth it or deserve it; and sometimes they lie and say that they do believe they’re worth it and deserve it.
Henry Ford famously said: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t — you’re right.”
The same holds true for your beliefs around worth and deserving. In my experience, it is very difficult for people to have, be or do something that they don’t believe they deserve and are worthy of having, being or doing. And if they DO manage to pull it off, it’s usually temporary.
If you’re feeling a sense of dread right now, because deep down you don’t feel 100% worthy or deserving – never fear, all is not lost. Part of what I do as a coach is to help people override any subconscious programming that holds them back. Then we move into reconditioning the self-talk so that it works in your favor, supporting you and moving you forward towards the achievement of your goals.
Our beliefs and attitudes are incredibly important in life. Believing that we’re worthy of love, success and happiness is a critical foundation when you set out to Choose The Life You Want.
Are you wondering: ‘how long does it take to create a new habit?’ Or perhaps you want to know: ‘what’s the best way to break a bad habit?’
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
I recently interviewed Charles Duhigg, author of the New York Times bestseller The Power of Habit. Charles is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times. I reached him at his office in Brooklyn.
In our interview, Charles explains the habit loop and how we can tap into the power of Cue – Routine – Reward. He also provides some strategies for successful New Year’s Resolutions.
Please enjoy (and share) the interview and feel free to add your habit tips in the comments section.
Listen to my interview with Charles Duhigg (recorded 19 December 2013)
In my role as a life coach, I am constantly helping people to get out of their comfort zones. In my role as a Certified Master Coach Trainer, I am constantly training coaches to help people to get out of their comfort zones. So I was very excited when I recently had an opportunity to work on my own comfort zone.
I recognized all of the tell-tale signs that I had fallen into the trap of being comfortable with my situation.
Feeling like you’re in a good groove
A slight gnawing feeling that there is more waiting for me
A nagging fear that the groove could develop into a rut before I know it.
So, I did what needed to be done. I voluntarily ventured out of my comfort zone. For two hours I put myself into a social situation that was outside of my normal scene and waited for the growth to kick in.
Instead, what kicked in was FEAR – with a capital F!
Within 10 minutes of walking into the situation, my stomach was in knots and I became aware of a voice in my head:
“I don’t belong here.”
“What was I thinking?”
“I have no business here.”
“This isn’t for me.”
“I should just be happy with what I have.”
I had the very strong urge to leave.
Thankfully, I recognized this fear and voice for what it is. Stephen Pressfield calls it The Resistance and its job is to keep me firmly where I am.
Getting outside of your comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable. And yes, it can trigger fears and insecurities. The trick is to recognize these for what they are – insidious voices in your head trying to keep you from becoming the person you know you can be. Trying to keep you from choosing the life you want. They try to pass themselves off as voices who care about you and want to keep you safe and secure, but they’re not. They are simply the personified resistance to your personal growth and expansion.
Safety and security has it’s place, but humans are pre-programmed to eventually leave that place and constantly strive for more. If we really required safety and security, we’d never leave the cradle. Learning to crawl and then taking your first tentatives steps exposes you to a world of potential dangers. Of course it also exposes you to a world of wondrous opportunities to learn and grow. It’s exactly the same when we become adults.
In my own situation, I fought the urge to flee and instead sat with the uncomfortable feelings. I turned my attention inward and listened carefully to the dialogue, looking for clues as to what I really needed to do. Soon, the answer became clear. I needed to keep moving forward – despite the discomfort. I need to leave the cradle once again. I realize that this means I risk falling and banging my knees and elbows, but I also realize that it will be worth it. It always is.
I’m not finished learning. I’m not finished growing. I must constantly choose the life I want.
Change happens. We all know that. Sometimes change happens in an instant.
A car crosses the centre line of the road.
The phone rings at 3 am and the police are on the other end of the line.
The doctor holds the results of your latest test and asks you to sit down and close the door.
In all three scenarios, lives are forever altered.
Other times, change happens so slowly and gradually that it’s almost imperceptable. It happens while you’re not paying attention. (I’m sure you know how to boil a frog, right?) That’s the sort of change I want to discuss today, because not paying attention can be painful.
No one gains 10 extra pounds overnight. We gain it one meal at a time. One snack at a time. One decision at a time. And it’s not that we’re constantly making bad decisions. But when there are more bad decisions than good ones, the scales start to tip, figuratively AND literally! We wake up one day and suddenly we need to use a different hole on our belt.
One day this past August, I found that I couldn’t put my belt on at all. No, it wasn’t that I had gained too much weight, I simply couldn’t get my hands behind my back to feed my belt through the belt loops without excruciating pain in my shoulders. I was very concerned because I never had problems like this before.
However, once I stopped to think about it, I realized that I had been noticing small, daily changes in my range of motion. I simply chalked them up to “stiffness” and kept going, telling myself: “Who has time to pay attention to stiffness in their shoulders when they have a busy life to lead?” But by mid-August the stiffness had turned into full-on pain whenever I tried to reach behind my back. A quick visit to the doctor confirmed that I had the beginnings of a rotator-cuff injury… in both shoulders.
“Why, oh why hadn’t I paid attention?”
Because I was telling myself that I was “too busy” to take a few minutes to stretch or to adjust my posture, I am now paying a much higher price. I am seeing a physiotherapist who is working with me to get my range of motion back and to heal the damaged tendons and ligaments.
And guess what she did at the end of our first session? She used a special tape to tape my back and shoulders. The tape itself doesn’t provide any special benefits – it’s simply there to serve as a constant reminder to keep my shoulders back and in the correct position. In other words, it’s there to help me pay attention!
Are there any areas of your life where you should be paying more attention? Think about your health, your finances, your relationships – are there any small signs that things are starting to slide out of balance? If so, I strongly advise you to start paying attention and making small changes.
“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Perhaps you have music in you. Have you always wanted to write a book? Or a screenplay? Paint a paining? Or a create killer new App?
We all have something to contribute to the world. And maybe it’s not just one thing – maybe it’s a collection of things. Maybe it’s a lifetime of things. Whether or not you act on any of this this will depend greatly on whether or not you believe that you have a duty to leave a legacy. And whether, as Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out, you refuse to wait until the timing is “perfect”.
Maybe your legacy is to create something physical – a bridge, a building, a book or a painting. Maybe your legacy is to create something that transcends time – music, great thoughts or ideas that change the future. Maybe your legacy is simply to leave your positive fingerprint on the generation that comes after you.
A legacy, by definition, is something that is bigger than it’s creator. It endures and it continues long after we’ve moved on from this earth.
So, what’s your legacy?
Whatever it is – DO IT! And DO IT NOW!
Let’s have no unsung songs. No unwritten books. Unpainted paintings. NO REGRETS!
Personal note: This summer, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, I was drawn to purchase a ukulele. I just kept seeing them everywhere and hearing about them, so I decided that I should at least explore this strange little instrument. I went to a music store and got the full rundown on all things ukulele from one of the staff. Two days later, I returned to the store and bought one.
Now you need to understand that although I have a great appreciation for music – I have never had any luck with actually making it. As a child I took guitar lessons which were frustrating and painful. In high school I tried my hand at singing onstage at a school variety show. All I can say about that experiment is THANK GOD it was before everyone had a video camera in their pocket!! But the ukulele was different. Only four strings, light, small and really easy to learn (see a TED talk from Josh Kaufman that backs me up on this.)
When my kids saw the ukulele they were super intrigued. My son wanted me to show him how to play. Within a single evening he could play seven songs! He declared that he wanted his own ukulele for his birthday which was just a few days away. So we went back to the music store and got a second one. And within a week we had returned for a third one so that my daughter could play too.
There is something so magical about the three of us all playing and singing the same song!
And last night, I was by myself and decided to look for more songs that I could learn. I remembered the old country songs that my father loved when I was a kid. A quick internet search and I was playing Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson songs that my dad used to sing to me as he bounced me on his knee. The next time my kids are with me – guess what songs I’m going to teach them?
My father died in 2000. My kids never got to meet him. And yet, thirteen years later, I am creating a link between my father and his grandkids through music. (Thanks for the legacy Dad! xo)
What about you? If you’re just not sure what you want to do – I recommend you check out my online course – Dreamstorming.
It’s a self-paced online course designed to help you get in touch with your true dreams. To discover and uncover the things that mean the most to you. It focused on six main areas:
Health & Fitness
Please – do yourself (and the world) a favour – don’t die with your music still inside of you!
Today I had a fantastic spontaneous conversation with a lovely older couple. (No, that’s not them in the photo, but it captures their energy nicely.) We only talked for 10 minutes, but I learned a lifetime of lessons!
I was in Montréal at Costco and had just got some food for lunch. The seating area was packed and there were no free tables. I spotted a table for four with an older man and women taking up two of the seats – sitting across from one another. I was by myself, so I ventured over and sat down beside the woman. They both sort of stiffened up as I sat down and then did their best to pretend there wasn’t a stranger sitting 12 inches away at their table. As I started to eat, I casually said: “Il est très occupé aujourd’hui, n’est-ce pas? ” To which the woman replied: “Our French isn’t very good.” So I repeated myself in English: “It’s really busy today, isn’t it?” Then after a minute of small-talk about the summer heat, our conversation took off.
Lesson: Nothing is awkward unless you make it awkward.
Take a chance and talk to someone new! Sit where you need to sit and make the best of it – who knows what might happen? Each busy elevator, bus or subway offers an opportunity to connect with someone new.
The conversation started with the man telling me about his son-in-law’s father who would eat two giant Costco hotdogs late in the afternoon and then go home to have a full supper. Not surprisingly, it was a short story that didn’t end well. We discussed health and lifestyle habits and their effects on longevity. That’s when the man told me that he is 88 years old. He introduced the woman as his wife and told me that she’s 77 years old.
Lesson: You’re allowed to tell a stranger your wife’s age, but only when she considers it a proud accomplishment, not a state secret.
The husband mentioned they were both living on pension income. He said that one day recently he’d done a quick calculation. “I figured that over the years I’d paid roughly $20,000 into the company pension plan. Since I retired, I’ve drawn over $200,000 out of the plan!”
Lesson: I don’t really have a lesson for this one – I just loved the look of glee on his face when he told me this.
They told me how physically active they’d always been. Curling, skating (this is Canada after all), swimming and working out at the YMCA. The husband told me that 12 years ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He sought treatment right away and was on the go again in no time. A year later, one of his workout buddies from the YMCA was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. The man told his friend: “I had the same thing – you’ll be fine!”, but his friend could only hear the word ‘CANCER’. “He died within the year – worried himself to death,” the man reported.
Lesson: This is a direct quote from the husband – “A positive outlook and attitude is the most important thing you can have in life.”
Yes, the couple are both physically active and in good shape, but they believe strongly that your attitudes and beliefs are just as important.
Since I was wearing short sleeves, I pulled up my right sleeve to show them my barcode tattoo. I explained how I came to have an expiry date and that I am currently thirteen years beyond that date. This kicked off the show-and-tell portion of the day, so the husband unbuttoned the top button of his shirt to show me the scar from his heart surgery and the wife pulled down the neck of her blouse to show me hers. I pulled down mine, to show them I have never had any surgery on my heart. Then we all took turns congratulating each other on doing such a good job of not dying yet!
Lesson: If you approach people from a place that is real, honest and genuine, it’s easy to connect with someone. (Please note: I can’t guarantee that they will show you their chest within 10 minutes!)
They husband told me that all of his friends are now dead. He said that it’s very rare that he meets someone who’s active in the community who is older than he is. Then he remembered one – a woman in their dart league is 93 year old. The wife told me that the 93-year old is a very good dart player and she still gardens and walks every day.
Lesson: Being physically active is important, but so is being socially active.
Finally, I pointed out one other factor that I believe contributes to their longevity. “You have each other,” I said. They looked tenderly at each other and smiled. “I guess we do,” said the husband.
Lesson: It’s good to be in love with your partner. It’s better to be in love
and best friends with your partner!
I have no doubt that this couple will keep on enjoying life and each other for years to come!
So? Which one was your favourite lesson and why? Leave a comment and let me know.
My name is Patrick Mathieu and I'm a speaker, author and coach. I developed The Power of Mortality™ and I've been featured in a full-length documentary film and appeared on numerous television and radio programs, including an hour-long interview with Dr. Oz on Oprah & Friends where we discussed my first book and my Mortality Manifesto.