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Recently I was in Reno, Nevada conducting a workshop.  On the morning of my departure I was feeling kind of heavy…thinking about things from my business, faith, family, a book to finish…so much to do; just a lot of things that were weighing on my heart and mind.

I decided to have breakfast at the hotel’s breakfast buffet.  There was amazing spread of breakfast items categorized by international genres.  And while I enjoy international foods, when it comes to breakfast I’m all about the Pancakes.  I love Pancakes.  Feeling the way I did, and admittedly a bit of self-pity, I didn’t want to eat healthy, but to rebel and splurge on pancakes.

In any event, I stood in front of the pancakes with an empty plate trying to decide which ones looked just right for consumption.  I was thinking, they all look kind of dry so maybe I should just have eggs.  But then, from the other side of the buffet, a giant, fresh, hot-off-the-grill Pancake appeared and was laid onto my plate.

I looked up and there stood the chef who gave me the big fluffy pancake; and with a big smile on her face she said, have a wonderful day sir.  Slightly startled, I smiled back and very kindly thanked her.

It was such a simple act of kindness, but sparked an immediate warm and happy feeling inside.  It was a Pancake Cocktail from God…a big smile, a warm wish, and a fresh fluffy pancake.

It sparked a happy feeling inside that I carried the rest of the day.  Even more, it sparked a chain reaction of acts of kindness.  Not only had my “cloud” lifted, but the whole day I found myself looking for opportunities to be kind to others.

I’d like to encourage you to go out today and offer a simple act of kindness.

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Visualize your dream…

When it comes to pursuing your dream or life’s work, creating a “vision” to guide you is very important. There are two ways that you can develop and use a “vision”: Crafting a vision statement in writing; and developing a vision in your mind’s eye-i.e., “visualization.”

A great spot to dream and visualize

Today, I’ll blog about the basic concept of a “vision.” In subsequent blog entries I’ll address how to craft a vision statement and also how to use visualization techniques. Both
will serve you in realizing your dream.

So in this context, what is a “vision?” You’ve may have heard of the term “a visionary leader.” This is often used to describe a leader who is able to essentially “see” in their mind what they want to achieve. It’s probably the hallmark of a great leader. There have been many leaders over the years that have this great distinction-everyone from America’s Founding Fathers who visualized America to be what it has become to Martin Luther King, Jr. who saw a society where people of all colors could live together in harmony. They all had great visions that also inspired and guided masses of people toward the realization of their vision.

You should know that being visionary is in fact a leadership quality and characteristic, but it is not exclusive to those we typically think of as leaders, i.e., business, religious, or social leaders. It also applies to you as the leader of your own life.

But let me ask: Are you in fact leading your life?

I’m not asking are you simply living and existing, but are you leading your life deliberately and intentionally toward an end state or vision? There is a wonderful metaphor that comes out of the Alice in Wonderland story when she meets the Cheshire cat. She comes to a fork in the road where he is perched in a tree. She asks, “Would you tell me which way I ought to go from here?” He replies, that depends on where you are going. “I don’t much care where,” Alice replied. Cheshire then says, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go, either way will get you there.”

A vision serves as an inner compass, always helping you to stay on course.

If you want to achieve your life’s dream, goals and aspirations, you are much more likely get there if you have a clear vision of the outcome-and the more crystal clear, the better. Stephen Covey says in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “to begin with the end in mind.”

So until next time, think about your life’s dream or goals and try to visualize it clearly.

Pursuing your dream, passion, career, or life’s work requires that you determine your own pace and speed—that is, in terms of how fast and hard you pursue it. And, the pace and speed much depends on the circumstance of your present life. It is important that you get a solid understanding and good perspective on this idea.

As an example, when I retired my career from the Air Force in 2000, I was 40 years old. I had the ill-conceived perception that I needed to hit the ground sprinting at full speed pursuing my dream. I felt this way because at this age I felt like the clock was ticking fast. I felt anxious, in my head almost running from task to task. Well it didn’t take long to figure out that pursuing my life’s work is not a fast sprint, but would be a long distance jog.

To strengthen the point, I’ll use the analogy of driving on the highway. In fact, I was thinking about this topic while in Europe and driving on the German autobahn. On the autobahn you have to be careful about the lane you occupy—particularly if it’s the left lane. If you are in the left lane and trying to hang with the “big dogs” you better be careful because they will run you over. Just last week I was driving toward Nurnberg in the left lane. I had gotten reasonably comfortable driving 100 mph in cruise mode. In doing so, I was passing the “slow” drivers doing 80 mph. And if I came upon one of those slow drivers in the left lane, I gave them a flash of my lights and over they moved. In doing so, you think you are one of the “big dogs.” Well, that was until one day I looked into my rear view mirror and saw a Mercedes approaching me at warp speed…I was like “what the heck!” and quickly moved over to the “slower” right lane. Well this guy passed me like I was standing still. I’m doing about 100…so he had to have been doing 130+. But that’s not even the good part of the story. Chime in next time for the rest of the story. 🙂

A lucky shot of Ferrari passing me on German Autobahn
A lucky shot of Ferrari passing me on German Autobahn

Find Your Spot to Reflect…

In my previous post I said in regards to taking time to reflect on your life that “you don’t have to sit at the top of a Tibetan mountainside in order to reflect…” to meditate or pray.  Okay…it helps, but it can be anywhere.  The point is to be as alone as possible–either literally or in your thoughts at the very least.  There are times that I have sat in a cafe with headphones listening to soft music and reflected on an issue or question.  I will say however, there is something special about being in nature.  It does create a mindset and peaceful feeling.  It has an thought-inspiring affect. Therefore, if you can find a peaceful place to be alone in nature, it does make a difference.

Yet again, you need not travel to some far off destination to find such a place.  It would be great to have the ocean or Swiss Alps at our beck and call but this is not a reality for many.

I want to share something with you.  I’m in Italy at the moment…but after landing in Germany a few days ago, I visited a friend, and I was amazed at what was pretty-much in his front yard.  If you walked out his front door and up the street a very short distance, this is what you see.

Otterberg, Germany

Otterberg, Germany

Pretty incredible.  He and I took several walks…we talked and solved the worlds problems.  I was amazed as to the inspiring affect it had on my. No question some, like my friends Dave  and Stef are blessed to have such beauty near their home that enables them to find peace and tranquility. But look around.  No matter where you live in the world, there are places to which you can get a similar affect.

Now go find yourself a spot where you can be alone and think about your life and your purpose  in life.  Find a place to walk or sit.  Find a place that you will spend more than a passing moment…somewhere that will allow your mind to wonder and find peace and calmness.

Lastly, I’ve learned that for people who live very busy and active lifestyles, it takes time to let your thoughts settle down.  So spend more than 30 minutes sitting alone.  If you do this on a regular basis and in the same place, your mind will recognize this as a place where it can calm down and allow your thoughts to be clearer.

Until next time…

Otterberg, Germany

Self-Examination

It was said that, “the number one shortcoming of human beings at the close of the 20th Century is that we lead unexamined lives.”

So many have not carefully shaped their life view through personal and serious search for the truth.  And I believe that this is becoming more and more difficult for many because of our very busy lives.  We all are running relentlessly from task-to-task throughout the days, weeks, and months of our lives rarely taking the time to think…about what it all means, about where we’re going, and about what our purpose is in our life and work.

Yet if you ask (or just observe), people are yearning for a greater understanding of their lives; we want purpose; we believe that life is more than moving from activity to activity.

Many great people have spoken about self-examination over the years.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  It’s a hard-core statement but Socrates believed that the purpose of life was to endeavor toward personal and spiritual growth.

The bible even spoke about this in Lamentations where it states, “Let us examine our ways and test them.”

The truth is we can’t discover our greater purpose, passion, or life’s work without self-examination. We can’t grow toward greater understanding of our true nature unless we take time to examine and reflect upon our life.   Life is to be discovered.

If you live a busy life, but intend to ”one day” slow down and live life more meaningful, think again.  Take a look around you and you’ll see that things are only getting faster. But as Gandhi said  and as you know, “There is more to life that increasing its speed.”  So now is the time.

So how do we conduct self-examination?  Well there are many ways, but here is a simple three-step process.

Step #1: Stop!  Make a decision and find the time to be alone.  You don’t have to sit at the top of a Tibetan mountainside with your legs “criss-cross applesauce” (as my girls use to say) in order to contemplate the meaning of life.  Keep it simple and practical.  Go find yourself a quiet place with pen and pad and start to ask very simple questions.

Step #2:  Step Back!  What I mean is that you have to get perspective…a different perspective, a new perspective.  With pen and paper in hand, begin by asking yourself questions-and write them down.  Remember you’re in self-discovery mode…think, talk to yourself, pray, meditate.  The answers will come.  You want to–yes–“contemplate” the meaning of life, your purpose, your passion, your interests, and skills, and etc.  It may not come in one sitting, but as the bible says, “seek and ye shall find.”  I can assure you, it will come to you in time.

Another note about perspective…conceptually, when I say step back, I also mean take the time to look ALL around.  I recall a time last winter when my wife–a very early riser and an avid morning walker-woke me up whispering, “Kevin, I know it’s really early, but you must go outside and see how the snow has fallen” (which is rare in Nashville, Tennessee area).  She continued, “it’s so beautiful and I want you to take a walk and enjoy the beauty before cars start moving and morning noise starts in.” Well slowly I moved, got dressed and went outside to take a walk.  And she was right it was so beautiful.  But a crazy thing happened to my view (internally and externally).  I started down the right side of the road and looking to the right at the snow covered earth and houses.  But all of the sudden I noticed all the telephone poles and wires…and it really distracted me.  I became almost annoyed at how it all ruined the view.  Well I got to the end of the cul-de-sac and as I turned around (now on the other side) I saw there were no poles or wires.  First, I immediately scolded myself for only seeing the distractions on the other side, and then I felt foolish realizing “okay, so the poles and wires are on one side, but perhaps I was looking the wrong way.”  If that all makes sense, I’m trying to say, when you are looking for something, beauty, passion, purpose, your dream, you may not see it at first, but look around.

Step #3:  As I initially mentioned in Step 2, after you stop and step back, you have to ask questions, simple but profound questions.  And you have to ask a lot of GOOD questions.  I ask audiences at my speaking events, “back in the day of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, what did they actually do?”  Well after a good discussion–and people suggesting a myriad of ideas such as, they contemplated life, searched for truth, and some would even say (jokingly), they sat around drinking wine and debating life–I would inform them, among the most important “things” that philosophers did was ask really good questions.  Discovery always starts with a question, be that an actual question or mere curiosity.  So in Step 3 I want to encourage you to ask questions, write them down, think about answers, and sometimes just let the questions linger in your mind, and let your mind (subconscious) work it out.

A few questions that you can ask about your purpose, passion, life works, or dream:

–  What am I really passionate about?

–  What charges or pumps me up?

–  When or where do I seem to feel the best about myself?

–  When Am I most happy?

–  What achievements am I proud of?

–  If money were not an issue, what would I most want to do with my life?

–  What do I care most deeply about?

Of course there are many more.  Just know that the idea at this point is to ask the questions and allow them to stew in your conscious and subconscious mind.  Also review them everyday if possible.  You have to trust that in doing so, in time the answers will come; because your conscious and subconscious mind will want to work this out.  Think about this on a practical level.  Have you ever been really curious about something?  What did you do?  Well, you were likely motivated to take action and investigate.  That’s your conscious mind and body in action.  Your subconscious mind is the same way, perhaps even more powerful.  It has a very natural inclination to resolve unanswered questions.  The key however, is to keep them fresh and among–or in front of–the many of dominate thoughts you have throughout your busy day and life.  You can do this by reviewing them as often as possible.

Until next time…

Great Place to think-Northern East Shore Oahu
Oahu Hawaii 2009

Helping Friends in the Gap

If friends are having difficulties these days you can help by helping them manage their “mind’s culture” (Perceptions/Attitude/Expectations).