There is a saying, an old Taoist saying from Lao Tzu, ancient sage – “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. But that step requires a decision. Once a decision is made, it has the potential to be very powerful.
If you think of your life like a map, you are in one place but you want to be over there. What do you need to do to get over there? What is it that people want in this life? They want to be in good health – to be fit, to be at a good weight. They want the energy to do things they need to get things done. Strength – people want to be strong both mentally and physically right? How about peace? That’s nice to have. Happiness, confidence, self-esteem those are good things too. How about a job? People want a career – so they can have financial stability, advancement, freedom and success. We want to have positive relationships with others. Some seek a spiritual connection as well. They do so many things to get there but so few people end up at the desired place. So what do you have to do to get from point A to B?
The Decision to Show Up
The first thing you have to do is to make a decision to show up. That’s really the first thing you have to do to accomplish anything other than having made up your mind in the first place. It’s not enough just to decide. There is another quote by Woody Allen actually, “80% of success is showing up”. This is true. So a lot of people might be thinking I know this already but every day is a new challenge. How often do we do the opposite of what we need to do to get us in the direction we want to go? What want good health but then we find ourselves being lazy, eating poorly, eating just whatever’s convenient, eating whatever your palate tells you too rather than what your body needs, can’t get up in the morning to loosen up, get a little exercise in. Maybe you have a membership somewhere or a local gym. How about the park? It could be anything you like to do, to get that exercise in. But we have a lot of excuses.
It’s those excuses that can prevent us from ever getting to point B. So here is something you really need to stop and consider. What are your reasons for wanting to be at point B?
Knowing Your Reasons Why Inside and Out
You want to be healthy sure…but why? Think about it. Think of all the reasons behind wanting good health. Is it so you can enjoy a better quality of life? Is it so you can be around for your loved ones – maybe you have children? It would be nice to live long enough to see your children grow up and your partner grow old wouldn’t it? Whatever your reason, know it. Know it inside and out. That will become so important when you are tempted to veer off the path. And there will be many temptations. There will be so many reasons why not along the way that knowing all the why’s is critical.
So much of our decision making is unconscious. Why does that matter? It matters because conscious takes you to one place and unconscious decisions lead you elsewhere entirely. Unconscious decisions is what gets us lost. Makes us lose our way trying to get over there.
You don’t want to sweat and breathe heavy and half “kill” yourself exercising but you want to be at this place, this Point B, therefore you do. You don’t want chop up vegetables and spend more money on organic food but you want to be healthy and strong, and so you do anyway. You have to spend extra time rather than a quick purchase of fast food. Sure that may taste good, but you want to have good energy, you want to feel good right? So all of these are conscious decisions, and these type of decisions are also hard. If over here is the easy way, then why go the hard way? Why is it so hard to have these things? Because they take work, they take effort. But here’s a thing about that work…any work can be play. That’s where perspective comes in because it is all in how you choose to view it.
The hard way leads to easier life. Where are your every day decisions taking you? Are they leading you in the direction you want to go or the opposite? So many decisions made each day without any conscious thought. So what is unconscious thought? It’s the path by default. Whatever you do by habit, whatever you do by culture, whatever you do without thinking. It can be things you do simply because it is what you have learned from your parents or grandparents.
Fear of Failure
The path you take without conscious thought is seemingly without effort. But it does take a lot of effort anyway, doesn’t it? The effort is in the results – whatever you’re getting that you are not thrilled about. You might think there is nothing you can do but this is an opposite path. This is excuses. This is blame. This is anger. This is jealousy. Any negative emotion you think of, like fear, maybe you don’t try anything new because you’re afraid. But if you are so afraid of failure you’ll never learn anything new. Are you essentially the same person you were in grammar school or high school? Did you not grow because you’re afraid. It takes courage to do new things. It takes bravery to step up and keep getting knocked down – failing. When you try something new, anyone who’s ever been successful knows, failure is part of the journey. You accept it as part of the process. You fear and say, “Oh, no. I can’t do that.” Try this instead, you fail and think “Whoa! This is more challenging than I thought!” And you try again. That’s a different attitude, a different perspective isn’t it? And you then you are really showing up. You showed up to really do it. Be here, not over there in the land of unconscious behavior, decisions and results.
So you’re having a hard time in an exercise class, be it martial arts, aerobics, weight training…something that is making you really work. Muscles are burning, you’re breathing heavy, you want to stop. It takes a decision to keep going. If you are running on the treadmill, watching television, maybe with a fan blowing on you so you don’t sweat and your body is doing one thing and your mind something else – is not very effective. Sure, you’re getting the blood moving but there isn’t anything connected there. Your results go through the roof when your mind and your body, your body and your mind are working in unison or working together.
Think about it. You want to eat food that tastes good, maybe you eat while driving, you eat while working, you eat while watching television. It’s hard then to have a handle on how much you are actually eating. Then, when your body tells you it’s full you don’t listen. During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. A lot of people like the show, “The Biggest Loser” the show that typically features people who are 500-400 pounds. In one episode there was a 526-pound man and everyone else was over 400. Why? Could it be that, for at least for some of them, it is because they were never paying attention to what they were doing, what they were eating? All day long they eat but not necessarily when they are hungry. When we eat mindlessly, there is no connection, the mind and the body together eating.
So many things we do in our day to day lives where we are not truly present. We’re not showing up in our own lives. You know, you get together with somebody and there they are and there you are, and you’re mind is off there and they too, might be somewhere else. Your bodies are there but your minds are somewhere else. When your mind is in the present on what you are doing, this much better. Not just better, more enjoyable. And if your relationships are more enjoyable, you’re going to feel less stress. You’re going to feel more energy, more peace and more happiness. It goes together.
Deciding to be Happy
You know the old “Don’t think of a pink elephant”, now your mind is on the pink elephant. If you are told not to think of a “green car” you think of a green car. Why turn that around and use that to your advantage. Think about something that makes you happy like a laughing baby or a puppy wagging his tail, licking at your face. Half of the people might hate getting licked in the face and the rest love it – that’s perspective, right? Maybe it’d make some people happy but you got to think what makes you happy. When you feel miserable, think of something that makes you happy. You can watch a happy movie. You can listen to happy music. You can make a decision to be happy by thinking of a thought that’s better than the one you’re thinking that’s making you feel lousy. It’s a decision! So many people think, “I can’t. I can’t.” But that is why you suffer. That’s why life is hard. You don’t believe you have control. Conscious thinking and decision making or unconscious…which one do you choose?
This key, decision, is very powerful. This is the kind of thing that changes lives, moment by moment.
What are you interested in? Are you just following a path that other people say is better job or better money but it’s not something that you really want or it maybe even it’s something that makes you miserable? So you have a great, high-paying job, and you’re miserable. Is it better to have a low paying job and be happy? Which is better? You decide but they say now, 95% of disease is stress. How important is to be happy and peaceful? Only you can decide this for yourself. Do you want to go for the money? Do you risk dying of a heart attack maybe in your 50’s or 60’s.
We can’t predict the future but you have to know yourself which path is right for you. If you don’t know yourself, if you don’t listen to what your heart’s crying out for, how can you be happy? Isn’t this what suffering is? Listen to what your heart is telling you rather than following what you’re supposed to do, what you’re supposed to like, what’s supposed to be important. What is important to you and then decide to get on that path because that path takes you where you want to be. Where you want to be, not where anyone else says to be. Earlier on, there were things people want out of life that few can argue with. You want these things, it’s all good. Why not? But whatever it is you choose, fully engage.
Learning to Live up to Your Personal Ability
Let’s say you decide to take martial arts classes, to make any progress you have to show up consistently. You have to get in there and you have to work hard. Fully engage. If you’re practicing the technique being shown and you’re following a count but your mind is elsewhere as one example then what is the point. And then wonder why you’re frustrated, why you’re not making progress. You’re not supposed to come, just show up, and only your body is present. “They said I have to show up.” Yes, but you also need to make that decision to work hard and immerse yourself in what you are doing. Every moment you have to decide. If somebody is doing a sit up, a press, push up, anything, each one can be very hard. You can quit in the middle or you can push it out. That’s showing up 100%. You’re exercising 100%.
What’s too much? You need to recognize that too. But how many people quit short of their personal ability? You don’t know what you’re capable of until you push to that point. Martial arts classes are a great example, holding different stances, postures for periods of time can be very difficult. How few people ever have sat in the stances so long where the mind was so strong that the body gave out before time was up. You can’t fake that. You can fake it in front of someone who knows. You can fake yourself out. “Ugh, too hard.” You might be sitting there and it’s burning. “Ugh, I’m done. Too much.” Really, are you sure? There’s a point the muscles cannot go any further. If you’ve never had that experience then you have no idea what you’re capable of. You cut yourself short. You could be 40% of your best because your mind is weak. How does your mind get strong? By showing up consistently, 100% body and mind. Whatever you’re doing, really do that to the best of your ability. That’s what that’s about, to the best of your ability. Then you start to taste what you’re capable of. Very few people are willing to do the path because it’s hard to get what they really want. But you have to realize it’s a decision. It’s a conscious decision to find out. “I want this. It’s a decision. What do I need to do?
Life Choices – Where are they Taking You?
Do you have a job where you every day you complain? Do you go home to your family and tell them, “I’m miserable. I hate my job?” You’re paid for it. If you’re not happy then change! “I would love to..what would you love to do? “I would love to bake cakes for a living but I can’t make money doing that.” No? Nobody eats cake? Plenty of people out there making a lot of money making cakes. “Yeah, but they start…” They started just like you at one point, somewhere along the line, somebody made a decision. “This is what I’m going to do.”
They worked hard. They worked consistently. They figured out all the ins and outs and those are the most successful cake baking companies. That is just an example. What’s your dream? What do you want? And can you decide consistently everyday, a step toward that dream everyday. Each one of these steps, each one of these examples, you have to put yourself in that position. How do you respond? How you act? When you’re at work, are you the best employee you can be? Are you doing things that actually benefit the company? Makes the company better or you just hour-for-dollar person? You trade your life for money.
When you’re fully engaged, it is your life. The money is automatic. When the company knows you make that company better, you’re not the one they’re going to be firing when there are layoffs in tough times because the company won’t do well if they fire the people who produce. It’s all the extras. Are you an extra? All these percentages, high on employment, the companies have to go person to person. Who’s contributing most? They don’t want to get rid of good people. When things turn they want those people to help the turn. Are you that person? You decide to be. You decide everyday. You get up in the morning, you get to work. You show up there 100%. Your body is in the chair, you’re not just clocking in, “I’m here”, go make personal calls. “Oh, I’m working. I was clocked in. I was here.” Then one day you are told you are done. Is that day coming for you because you don’t appreciate what you have? Do you even know?
Pushing Past the Excuses
It’s all about making conscious decisions. What’s it like to work with you? When you have a bad day, does everybody else know? When you’re a little off, you’re a little depressed, something happened in your life, how many people do you bring down? Do you know? Or is it just a “Woe is me”, you’re going through life with the blinders on. All you see is what’s happening to you and you don’t even realize your impact on others. You’re having a bad day, make a decision. Have a better one. Stop making excuses – “This is a bad day.”
You can have as many bad days as you want because this is yours. It’s your day. How many do you want?
You want real confidence, you want real self-esteem, decide to be happy. In the moment when you feel lousy, in the moment when you feel lazy, push a little! Get started – do something. Do something to get you on the path you want to be on. But don’t forget, get to bed on time. We’re not talking about push, push, push. You need to recognize balance too. What’s my schedule like? Am I getting enough quality sleep?
What else impedes us from being where we want to be? Do you use others as your excuses? Maybe your past? Remember, if that’s what you’re thinking you’re not showing up in your present life. “I can’t do that because my father, my sister, my brothers did this to…” But that is not what’s happening now. That is hard for some people to hear, to recognize and accept. The idea that there is an alternative decision you can make rather than keep blaming, keep excusing, keep being mad – suffering. Are you the best brother, sister, husband, wife, son, daughter, father, mother, that you can be? Can you look at yourself in the eye, in the mirror, and say “Yes, I am” or “I could be better. How could I be better? I could be better this way. I can have a little more time this way.” And then you find a way to put that time in. You want to be happy? Put a little time with ourselves thinking sincerely “Am I the best -” whatever that question is for you. You fill in the blank. And then, “Am I willing to change that? Am I willing to figure out that map? What the right path is for me? So next time I’m looking in the mirror, it’s not perfect but it’s better than it was last time I asked.” That’s a nice feeling.
But if you sit there and think, “you know I should be a better father. My son needs more of my attention” and then six months go down the road and you’re thinking about that and “Ah, I should be a better father”, then it’s the same thing, over and over and over because maybe you fell asleep for six months, forgot about it, you went right back to the old patterns. If you recognize something, you can decide to change it. If you don’t treat your mother right, you don’t treat your father right, you recognize that, your wife, husband. Now you realize you could be a little better this way, that way. You recognize it, now, there’s no excuse. You recognize it, you need to change it. And sometimes when they’re complaining, telling you how you are, stop defending yourself. Try staying quiet and think about it.
Relationships – Deciding to Change
If people point out certain things about you, try taking it as constructive criticism. Why do we have to defend all the time? Ask, are they right? Can you just stop the judgment? Stop the anger. Breathe. Center. “Is it me? Hmmm.” If you only can blame yourself, that’s empowering because you can change yourself. But when you’re blaming others, you can’t change them.
You could yell at them all you want. You can hate them all you want but when has that ever worked? When has doing things deliberately to make them suffer ever improved the situation? Can you change your own behavior to get better results? Maybe if you start to get better results, you’ll begin to realize more issues that hold you back. We have to be able to do that. We have to be able to throw ourselves on that sword so to speak and laugh at ourselves and realize, “Yeah, I know why I’m like that. Ugh!” And try to change. A little bit but it’s a decision to get on a different path. You can’t get on Route 95 South and end up in California. It just doesn’t happen. That road doesn’t go there.
There’s another powerful way that helps you show up. It’s accountability. That’s a big part of awareness. But it has a lot to do with who has these things that you want. Are you spending most of time around the people who have what you don’t like and don’t want? You know if your friends you hang around would love life, they’re happy, have seemingly everything, and you’re miserable, you hate life, you feel like you don’t fit. That goes both ways. If you’re happy and you’re pursuing your loves and your passions, but the people you hang around with are miserable, hate life, complaining all the time then that doesn’t fit so well either. If that’s your family, you need to consider spending less time soaking up that negativity. But if you recognize the people you hang around with are the happy ones, luckier, seemingly, doing more what they love, laughing more than you. If you’re more stressed, if you have more suffering, maybe that is a good time to see what you can change.
There’s a reason why they feel that way. See, their path is taking them more towards these things that you see them enjoying. Your path is not. If you keep complaining, you keep blaming, you keep getting angry, trying to change everyone around you other than yourself. Then you’re wasting time, you’re going to suffer more. See, it’s easier to try to blame and change everybody else. It’s hard to change ourselves. It’s hard to admit to ourselves we’re wrong. It’s hard to admit to others we’re wrong. Can you imagine the person you argue with the most, maybe in your family, and you go up to them one day and just say “I’m sorry. It’s me.”? Likely you’d shock them and they would change if you consciously try to make that a real commitment too. “It was me. I’m the reason.”
How hard would that be? But who knows. Maybe that would change everything in that relationship. Taking the weight on yourself rather than giving it to someone else all the time. Because keep doing what you’ve always done.
There is a lot here to think about. Making decisions in your life from how you interact with others to figuring out what you really want in life and how to get there. Those moment by moment decisions make up your life. Make them conscious decisions and you’ll stand a much better chance of getting what you want out of your life.