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Welcome pain as you make a change

Most of us know that we need to make changes in our lives. Change can enrich our lives or the lives of others. Change can also help you become a better and more effective person. The change may be relatively minor or it could be a major life change. Either way it is going to be painful.

Think about any major change to your life; graduation, marriage, job change, childbirth, moving, financial progress. Have any of these changes been easy and painless?

I have experienced several major changes in my life. All required me to experience pain as I went through the change.

I decided to change when;

  • I decided to leave a company I worked at for over 10 years.
  • My wife an I decided to buy the houses we have lived in.
  • We decided to get out of debt.

Changes happened to me when:

  • I had to confront a life threatening illness.
  • My wife and I found out we were having twins.
  • I was laid off from a job.

Each of these major changes were painful and difficult. Whether you make the decision to change or the change happens to you, making a change is about the same amount of pain either way.

There is significant pain in being self disciplined to make the change. What is painful is that you dont have anything pressing you to make the change except for your own motivation. It is difficult to keep yourself motivated when you are making the choice to change. Your natural tendency is to go back to follow the momentum of your normal life.

  • When I decided to leave the company I worked for, I struggled with staying in the position that was known to me and was comfortable. It was painful to leave and find another job.
  • With each house we purchased, we struggled with wanting to stay where we were comfortable and how we were going to afford it. It was painful realizing we were leaving our neighbors, family and the life we knew.
  • When we decided to get out of debt, it was painful leaving our old way of spending money. We had to keep our eye on the long term benefits we felt we would have by becoming and remaining debt free.

If you wait, pain will force you to make a change. Being forced to change is painful because you are not in control. There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and it feels like the change is happening to you rather than you happening to the change.

  • When I was confronted with a life threatening illness, many decisions were made for me. Sure I could have decided to not have the surgeries but are those really decisions? The physical pain of recovery was nothing compared to the pain of the uncertainty life.
  • When the doctor told us we were having twins, I struggled with how we were going to manage. I remember how much change was applied to our lives when we had our first child, now we had to deal with how to manage two at the same time.
  • When I was laid off, someone else decided it was time for me to change careers. It was painful because I worried about my ability to earn an income and wondered what I would do next.

Even though making a change is painful, I suggest making the change yourself when possible. Visualize the pain you will experience later if you dont make the change now. Make the visualization as real as possible. Write it down, record it on a video recorder, talk it through with a friend or family member. Then committ to making the change.

I have a few quotes that inspire me with this topic:

Not all change is positive growth but all positive growth requires change. Dan Miller

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I dont believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are people who look for the circumstances they want, and if they cant find them, make them. – George Bernard Shaw

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin

What changes have happened to you that you didnt have any control? What change are you considering right now? What could happen if you dont make the change?

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I’ll tell you what to do. It is your decision

We are told what to do at some point by just about everyone we know. Your boss tells you what to do, so do your parents, friends, spouse, family members, and even commercials. It can seem like you don’t have a choice in the matter. If someone who has authority over you tells you what to do, you had better do it or else. . .  . It is the “or else” that you should think about.

What would happen if you said no? What if you said yes but decided to do it a different way? Whatever you told to do, it is up to you do decide if you are going to do it. If you decide to do it, it is still up to you to decide how you are going to do it (their way or your way).

Making the decision may seem like an easy road. You may think that you can just do what you want. You must also consider the results of your decision. You have to live with the results of your actions. You will either benefit or suffer from these results. With decisions comes responsibility. Whatever you decide, you need to own the decision and the result.

When someone tells you to do something:

  • Decide what you are going to do. Determine the benefits and the consequences. If I decide to not do my project, I may be able to do what I want and have fun with my family but also risk missing my deadline or live with the burden and guilt of putting off my project. If I decide to do my project, I may miss having fun with my family now but will be able to have guilt free fun later after I meet my deadline and may be recognized for my good work.
  • If you decide to take action, take full ownership. Once you decide to take action, it is your total responsibility, even if you don’t get a good result. You may allow others to influence your decision but ultimately it is up to you to take the action.
  • If you decide not to take action, take full ownership. Once you decide to not take action, you need to be able to defend it to yourself and possibly others.
If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it. – Marcus Aurelius

What difficult decisions have you had to make? Read comments here or create your own comment below.

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I’m not accountable to anyone: Now what?

Successful people appear to have it all together. They make their own decisions, no one tells them what to do, they don’t make mistakes, they have it all figured out. This just simply is not true. In some form or fashion they have found a way to be accountable to someone else. What you don’t see is the behind the scenes accountability in their lives. Making yourself accountable is being accountable to someone else.

I’ve fallen in to this trap by trying to be self-sufficient. I’ve even told myself that if I was going to be truly successful, I shouldn’t need anyone’s help. I believed that being accountable to someone else just slowed down my flexibility to do what needed to be done. What I later discovered was that doing things without accountability really made me spin my wheels and accomplish less.

I’ve had this idea of writing a book for years. For the last several years I have said that, “this is the year I will write my book”. But year after year I really didnt accomplish much of anything. This year will be no different if I don’t drastically change course. That change of course had to do with accountability.

I started sharing my goals and plans with the people closest to me like my wife and kids. Along with a good friend of mine, I also established an accountability group. We meet weekly to hold each other’s feet to the fire to accomplish our goals. We have grown to three in the group now and in the process of adding another person. Our meeting basically includes:

  • Announce successes since last week. This is where we get to share with the group what we accomplished. Some weeks are better than others. I can always find one or two tasks that I can complete. Sometimes I finish these commitments just before we meet so I can have success to report. This weekly requirement makes me accomplish more than I would otherwise.
  • Ask for help. Sometimes members of the group can help. It’s okay if they can’t help sometimes. Just verbally announcing what I need help with is sometimes enough for me to understand what to do. If I wasn’t able to articulate what I need help with I wouldn’t be able to figure out where to seek help.
  • Announce plans to accomplish next week. This is where the rubber meets the road. I commit each week to the group what I will accomplish next week. This breaks up what I need to do into manageable weekly chunks. I am honest with obstacles that I see and I am forced to find a way past these obstacles.

Who can you be accountable to? Maybe it is your spouse, parents, or close friend. Maybe it is a partner, neighbor, or pastor. Whoever it is, ask them to help you be accountable. Without accountability it is too easy to justify putting off actions or moving a target date. Accountability can keep you motivated, identify solutions, and remain productive.

Who are you accountable to? What tasks do you keep postponing because no one is holding you accountable? Leave a comment here.

Second month of blogging

Two months ago I started posting blogs. As with the tradition I started after my first month of blogging, I thought I would publish a blog today to announce some highlights in the blog.

Thank you to my subscribers. I have increased to 21 subscribers to the blog site. Subscribers get an automated email as soon as the next blog post is published.

I post a blog three times a week. In May, 18 blog posts were published.

The site’s top five most popular posts were:

  1. Check your attitude: Its your responsibility
  2. What do you do? . . . in 60 seconds
  3. Are you following the crowd? Make a difference with your own path
  4. Cut the strings: why you need an internet based email
  5. People are watching you

The site now has ten categories (Accountability, Effectiveness, Evaluation, Motivation, Personal Development, Planning, Producing, Productivity, Relationships) and 198 tags.

The site’s busiest days was Monday, May 2. I have several improvements planned for June.

In addition to Facebook, I can also be followed now on Twitter.

Thank you for supporting the site and for your personal support of me. I hope you have a great week. Normal posting will resume on Friday.

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One month of blogging

One month ago I started my new blogging project. It has been a tremendous experience. I thought I would publish a short blog today to announce what has happened to the blog in the last month.

Let me first thank my subscribers. I have 13 followers that have chosen to subscribe to the blog site. Subscribing means that they get an automated email as soon as the next blog post is published.

I posted three times each week. In April, 13 blog posts were published. The site has received 37 comments by 10 readers. More people link to the site from Facebook than any other platform.

The site’s top five most popular posts were:

  1. Life is a test
  2. Keeping Momentum
  3. Hand me that rake: Tools for results
  4. Everything deteriorates
  5. Come clean: Turning a wrong in to a right and coming out ahead

The site now has seven categories (Accountability, Evaluation, Motivation, Personal Development, Planning, Producing, Relationships) and 103 tags (most commonly used are motivation, results, and success).

Not surprisingly, the site’s busiest day was my big launch day when I sent personalized emails to most everyone I know. I also announced on Facebook. The site’s second busiest day was the day after the announcement (also not surprising). So if I throw out those days statistically, the sites busiest day was Friday, April 22.

You will see a lot of improvements to the site in the coming month and year. In addition to Facebook, I can also be followed now on Twitter.

Thank you for supporting the site and for your personal support of me. I hope you have a great week. Normal posting will resume on Wednesday.

Does anything in April’s summary surprise you? What do you find most interesting? Read other people’s comments here or post your own comment.

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You are really weird.

Growing up, we are taught to fit in. Being the weird kid is a sure way to become separated from your peer group. We continue this belief as we get older. Most people stay in their comfortable lives not taking the risk to be different.

You aren’t going to do anything significant without moving out of your comfort zone. Most people pretty much do what they are expected to do. People don’t want to be different because it is perceived to be too risky.

Many businesses wonder why they grow to a certain level then stop growing. They are just like every other business. Nothing makes them stand out.

Hugh MacLeod is an artist and an author like no one else I know. He is famous for drawing cartoons on the back of business cards. His language can be a little strong, but that is what makes him weird. It is also what makes him memorable. He is knocking it out of the park because of who he is. His is selling his art for hundreds of dollars. When he wrote his first book “ignore everybody” it was an instant best seller because he had such a strong following. People like him because he is unapologeticly weird.

Another example is Lady Gaga and is certainly an example of someone who is very weird. She has created a brand for herself that is shock. It works for her because that is what gets you to first notice her. She is actually a very talented singer and musician. She skyrocketed to stardom because of her weirdness.

I’m not suggesting you use foul language like Hugh or dress like Saturn to get noticed. I am suggesting that you find something that is unique about you and expand it to the point of being weird. Ask yourself what makes you unique. What do people remember about you?

If you cant find how you are unique take time now to find it or determine how you will be different. No matter where you are in life. If you are a student, if you are just starting your career, if you have been in the same job for years, if you are retired, what do people say about you that makes you like no one else? If people arent talking about how you are different, they arent remembering you.

How will you be picked for a scholarship before someone else? How are you going to be promoted? How is someone going to select you or your business over all other businesses? Why would anyone be your friend?

This where I tell you how I have found success being unique? Well, just because I write about it doesn’t mean I have succeeded at it yet. It doesn’t mean that I don’t know what to do.

What I believe makes me unique is that I am a stereotypical professional looking white guy. I am also an introvert that loves speaking in front of groups of 5 or 6 or groups of hundreds. I wear a tie almost every day. I am emotional and really enjoy good chick flick movies. I enjoy going shopping (even if all I do is window shop). One of my favorite stores is Bed Bath and Beyond. I also play the Tuba.

Some people may call you strange. If so, do you really care? No question that they will remember you. When you are weird you are closer to being your authentic self. You are closer to enjoying what you do because you are able to be yourself.

“What is right for one soul may not be right for another. It may mean having to stand on your own and do something strange in the eyes of others.”
– Eileen Caddy

What makes you unique, unlike anyone else? What are you going to do to make yourself unique?

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What do you do? . . . in 60 seconds

When someone asks you “what do you do?” what do you tell them? Weve all been asked this question. People ask me “so what is your site about?” even more now as the sites readership increases. What has surprised me is how off guard I find myself. I have a fairly detailed “about” page on this web site but I find it hard to put that in to a short verbal description.

An elevator speech is a statement that lasts no more than a minute. It gives the listener a quick understanding about what you do. Keeping your “elevator speech” to no more than 60 seconds is a good idea not only because it is an average ride on an elevator, but also is the attention span of the person you are talking with. If you can’t grab your listener with a compelling message in less than 60 seconds, they will never remember you.

Last week I was at an event where I had an opportunity to meet a lot of other professionals. As clear as I am about my writing project, I really struggled with verbalizing what my writing was about when asked. I was able to practice several different versions, some felt right while others were . . . well . . . horrible.

So with this week’s experience I have been working on my elevator speech. I would love to hear from you on this subject. I could use your help.

  • What is your elevator speech?
    • What is important to include?
    • What is important to exclude?
  • If you don’t have an elevator speech, have you ever been caught off guard like I was?
  • If someone asked you what My Simple Inspiration is all about, what would you tell them?

If you have never commented this is a good time to comment. A lot of people will be helped by your thoughts and ideas (especially me). When writing a comment, you will be asked for your email and name but please know that this information stays with me.

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I can’t do that!: What you say when you say you can’t

How often do you hear someone (or yourself) say that they can’t do something? You will hear this most often from a child. But it isn’t so uncommon to hear this phrase from adults too. We are so used to hearing this phrase that it is accepted as a matter of fact. What are you saying when you say that you can’t?

You have probably heard people say that they can’t live without a certain level of income, cant lose weight, cant make friends, or cant learn a new language. Think about that for a minute. Really? It really cant be done?

Sometimes I will say that I can’t take the dog out in the morning because I don’t have time. What I am really saying is that I was not willing to get up early enough to make sure I had time to take the dog out before I leave. This is very popular at my house.

I have also said “I can’t” on bigger things. I said that, I can’t relocate my family to another city in another state (after growing up almost my entire life in one city). What I was really saying is that I am not willing to consider what it would take and what it would be like to move. That didnt last long. We love living in Richmond, Virginia now.

When I say “I can’t” it becomes an easy way to accept that am not willing to do the work.

To avoid accepting “I can’t”:

  • Recognize when you say that you can’t. Unlike other things that I say to myself that are true, most of the time saying “can’t” just is not true. Try to eliminate “can’t” from your vocabulary.
  • Replace can’t with the truth. Its okay to say that you are not willing but don’t lie to yourself and others by saying that you can’t. Find what you are really saying. Determine what it would take to do it. For example, I need to get up a little earlier so that I can take the dog out.
  • Make the difficult choice. Once you replace “can’t” with the truth, decide what you can do? You may decide that you are not willing and that is okay if it is true. However, in some cases you may decide that you could do something else, so why not do it? You may need to choose to turn down that job offer and go in a different career direction. You may need to reprioritize something in your life by giving up one thing so that you can spend more time doing another.

What are you telling yourself right now that you can’t do? If you tell the truth, what are you really saying? Write a comment here.

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Keeping Momentum

Sir Isaac Newton’s first law generally tells us that a moving object continues to move in the same direction with little additional effort. If the object is stopped, it tends to remain stopped. I am reminded of this when I go kayaking. Getting started takes a lot of energy but as long as I keep paddling each stroke become easier than the last because I am already moving forward. The same is true when you want to start something. Whether it is a task, project, regular exercise routine, eating right, reading, starting a business, selling, or waking up. Getting started is the hardest step to take.

This is an especially important concept for procrastinators (like me) to accept. A key to ending procrastination is to start doing something . . . anything. Even if it is committing to writing just one sentence for your research project or picking up one item to start cleaning your house. Once you start something it will be easier to keep going.

I exercise fairly regularly. When I am in the habit of exercising it is easy to motivate myself to exercise next time. I don’t want to lose the progress I have gained. When I get sick or if I let life get in my way and miss a few workouts, I tend to continue to find excuses to postpone exercising one more day, then one more day. Once I stop it is very hard start again.

To get started again:

  • Determine the smallest action necessary to get started. Make a commitment to yourself take that small action. Sometimes my small action is to pack my gym bag with exercise clothes. Now I can’t use the excuse that I don’t have my clothes packed.
  • Schedule small actions on your calendar. It may seem silly to schedule small tasks. Commit to taking that small action at the time you have scheduled it. Ninety five percent of the time I will accomplish a lot more than that.
  • When you have finally started, don’t stop. Determine the next small step. Dont expect to accomplish the entire task in one sitting. If you only accomplish that small task, just determine the next small step and schedule it for later. You may find yourself accomplishing several small steps in one sitting but when it is time to stop for now, determine that next small step. Zig Ziggler said, “People who never take step 1 never take step 2.”

What are you putting off right now? What is the smallest action to get started?

Right now I haven’t gotten started organizing my finances for the week and I haven’t determined my next blogging milestones. To get started, I will commit to scheduling time to at least download my bank transactions and listing some blogging milestones.

What are you having a hard time starting right now? What small action can you do to get started? If you are willing to share, add them to the comments below.

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Brain power: The king of pain

Your mind can be very powerful. It controls much more than you realize. I realized this a few years ago after several years of dealing with sporadic lower back pain. The pain seemingly appeared for no reason. In other words, I would get lower back pain without doing anything like pull a muscle. The pain just seemed to come from of nowhere.

One day I came across a report from John Stossel. He is the news reporter from ABC’s 20/20 and now on Fox News. In the report he described the same back pain I had. He came to realize that the pain came from mental stress. Every time he had significant stress, his back pain would return.

I was very skeptical. I started paying attention to my back pain and came to realize every time I had lower back pain, I could point to a significant stress in my life. So, I started paying attention to stress. Now when something particularly stressful is happening, I deal with that stress immediately. I have gone more than 3 years now without any significant back pain.

Now, I know there are people out there who have real medical conditions that cause back pain not related to stress. A few years ago, I had a herniated disc that ruptured in my neck and I had to have the disc removed. That was not stress related. I also have several relatives with significant degenerative back issues. I am not talking about medical back pain.

My point is that your mind can have a significant effect on your physical health. We all know the other health issues that can be created from stress. If you have health issues, consider that it could be related to stress in your life. So, relieve the stress.

To eliminate stress:

  1. Identify the stress. Determine what is causing your stress. Take the time to figure out what is wrong. Unless you can identify the source of your stress, you will never be able to do anything about it. Write it down if you have to so that you can remind yourself of the source of your stress.
    I started getting that old familiar sign from my back earlier this week. I identified that the stress was because I was behind in my blogging plan.
  2. Do something about your stress. The stress may be from outside forces, or may be self-inflicted. Either way, determine what you can do about the stress and fix it. Fix it now.
    I took action to catch up my blogging plan by converting my voice notes to actual drafts. Within an hour my back pain was gone.
  3. If you can’t do anything about your stress, accept it. Sometimes whatever is causing your stress is out of your control like gasoline prices. If it is, acknowledge it is out of your control. There is no reason to stress about something that you cant do anything about.

Lance Armstrong says, The real reward for pain is this: self-knowledge. My lower back pain has taught me a lot about myself. I have been able to better manage stress because of this biological barometer.

What are you stressed about? What effective ways have you found to deal with your stress?