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Knowing What You Can Change and What You Can’t Change




Knowing What You Can Change and What You Can’t Change

How can we focus more on what we can control in our lives.

Here’s a fun fact that should take some of the stress out of your day. Everyone you’ve ever met is an amateur at life. You’re not the only person here who has no clue what they’re doing because not one person alive has been through this before.

It’s the first run for all of us. There are no pros. Some people may appear to better at this thing called life, whatever it is, but they, just like you, and just like me, are only winging it.

We are all students in the game of life

Some people may have stumbled on better strategies for success or happiness, but more often than not, that kind of wisdom comes from a lifetime of painful mistakes. Sometimes it can be gleaned from years of studying philosophy and psychology to understand the world we find ourselves in, as well as the world within ourselves.I’m far from a professional at life, but years of studying ancient and contemporary wisdom as well assuffering through my share of mistakes with my eyes open, has given me some wisdom I feel compelled to share with my fellow amateurs.

The serenity affirmation

One of the most valuable pieces of wisdom that has been best expressed is a prayer. I’m far from religious, but the prayer is still familiar to me as it probably will be to you. It’s recited at every Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step program. It goes like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. An immense amount of wisdom condensed into a single sentence. The Serenity Prayer does not have to be a call to a deity but is perfectly effective as a call to oneself. Control and acceptance. What you can change and what you can’t. This is the key to creating a good life, being effective without undue stress in the areas you can do nothing about. The serenity in the prayer is the non-judgmental acceptance taught in eastern religions for centuries. The courage is the western self-determination that defines the American spirit. And the wisdom? Well that’s perhaps the hardest part. But let’s start by assuming everything is unchangeable and see what can be moved into the changeable category.

What can we control?

Most all adults have control over what they choose to do with their bodies, such as where to move them and when. And even people who that don’t (soldiers, prisoners, paraplegics), still have control over what they do with their minds. Every conscious person alive has voluntary control over where they choose to direct their attention. With practiced voluntary control over our attention we can gain voluntary control over our emotions and thus self-mastery.

Make no mistake, control over emotions doesn’t just improve your inner life, but profoundly improves the decisions you make in this world, big and small, that will compound to create a vastly different future than the one in which you let yourself be a slave to your impulses and had let your attention steer you instead of the other way around.So no matter where you are in life, there is at least this one thing you can do that will influence your future. Understanding this is essential to the wisdom to know the difference because it is the ground of our control and the insurance we have against feeling helpless and thus actually being helpless.

It’s all about what we focus on

So while we may have only limited control over things like how good looking we are, how rich we are, or how smart we are, every person can learn complete control over how much time they spend thinking about these shortcomings. And by doing so they create a synergy between courage and serenity. By summoning the courage to control where we direct our attention we can train ourselves in the art of acceptance.

So how do we use this power of attentional control to gain sway over our emotions and over our future? Well there’s three dimensions your awareness can be at any given time: the past, the present, and the future. Putting our attention on the past is necessary for remembering and learning, placing attention on the future is necessary for planning and imagining, and the present is where life actually takes place. The future and the past however can be breeding grounds for unhealthy emotions like fear and regret, but there are exercises we can do to instead turn all three attentional time zones into productive factories for positive emotions.

Generating positive emotions

To address unhealthy emotions about the past we can direct our attention towards gratitude and forgiveness. Being grateful about the good things in your past intensifies positive memories and forgiving past wrongs defuses the bitterness that makes life satisfaction impossible.

To improve your outlook towards the future, teach yourself to reframe your inner self-talk by stopping and paying attention to your thoughts when things go wrong. How we deal with adversity is something we’ve learned throughout our lives and it is the key to a can-do mindset and a successful life. It is the difference between those who believe they’re abilities are what they are for better or worse, and those who build on their abilities, day-after-day, month-after-month, and year-after-year. Disputing negative inner dialogue is in essence what is learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), one of the most popular forms of therapy today.

Make the most of your present moment

Finally, to maximize the present moment, take up mindfulness meditation to learn how to be in the present moment so you can savor it and so you can show up with your most full self in both your work life and family life. Spend less time alone and more time with people and in groups because we are social animals and our lives’ only make sense in relation to other people. Use your newfound mindfulness to practice vital engagement in all of your tasks and relationships.Savor the good things in life as they are happening, especially the small ones, because there are so many more of them.  Most importantly find a calling. Find an activity that puts you in a state of flow, whether it’s writing symphonies or cleaning floors, and find a way to make that activity your vocation, this is the true path to self-actualization because once you have a calling, a lot of other things, like money and recognition, suddenly don’t seem quite as important. Work becomes something you do for its own sake, and the material rewards are just icing on the cake. To turn a vocation into a calling however, you must find not only flow in the activity, but purpose as well. It’s not necessarily easy but finding something that aligns flow experiences with purpose or meaning, and also provides the material compensation to qualify as work is how we can become something akin to professionals at living life, even though it’s just our first run.

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Can You Receive A Compliment Without It Getting To Your Head?



a compliment (1)

Receiving compliments gracefully isn’t as easy as it should be for some people. How about you: are YOU ready for someone to give you a pat on the back? To be pushed to doing more? To have someone give you a supporting hand? To be picked up when you fall down?

Sure, we may think that’s what we want. But is it what we need to develop, to grow, and to get better?

If someone complimented you on every little improvement you made while learning a new skill, would you not start to feel a bit marginalized? That perhaps they didn’t really think you could do it? What about when you do something that seems pretty easy and everyone made it into a big deal?


Receiving Compliments When You Are Not Ready For It

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments

Developing new skills is never free of trouble. We all know the level of foundation that must be built to get from being a novice, before reaching greatness. In the learning process, we all know when we are in that frustrating stage of not being quite as good – but we know what we have to do to get there.

It’s in these moments that receiving compliments on your every action could minimize your efforts. That’s because if they truly knew you, people would be holding out for when you make that big, defining leap. 

As we overcome hurdles in our learning and development, friends, family members, and colleagues will know when the time is right to provide encouragement. They know that when that moment comes, those words will have the right amount of impact on you.

Think back to when you were growing up, playing some elaborate game. Perhaps you spent hours creating this game: building a fort, putting together things that the rest of your characters in the play could use. You pushed through despite the trials and problems.

It would have served absolutely no purpose for someone to congratulate you on every step (and misstep) along the way.  You would have lost your flow as you worked through the problem, constantly being interrupted – all while you were still trying to figure it out and understand where you needed to go.

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments


When Receiving Compliments Makes You Content with Present Achievements

You might never have finished if someone patted you on the back early in that moment, content in the knowledge that you “thought up” the idea and that was enough. If everyone was saying you did great simply for thinking up something new, would it have compelled you to stop?

Maybe. Perhaps you would have stopped with that compliment.

As a parent, you learn when to encourage your children. Usually, it’s not when they show up, and not when they do what kids around them are able to do as well. It’s when they push themselves to do more. When they pick themselves up and still lose, when they try something new for the first time, fall over and fail, not sure if they should do it again.

Those are the moments when kids should be receiving compliments – NOT when they have done the same thing over and over again, or when they didn’t try their best but won anyways.

Kids know this. They can feel it when people give false compliments or encouragement because they did something they’ve always done. But when it is something meaningful, something they have worked hard for, they know the encouragement will be there to help them.

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments

The reason you might not be receiving compliments or encouragement when you want to is because you haven’t earned them or don’t deserve them yet.

Maybe your coaches, leaders, parents, or other people who support you know you are not ready for it. Perhaps they need to see you making that next big leap in your growth and development.

Those compliments might not come today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. But look at those around you – the great people you have chosen to surround yourself with – and you’ll see that they are waiting to give you that push. They are waiting for you to make it happen.

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3 Ways to Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart




when your dreams are falling apart (1)

I truly believe that dreams must extend beyond wishes of self-improvement; that its goal should be to contribute to the world around you.

The heart is a fickle thing. Imagine how many amazing things wouldn’t have been accomplished if great minds simply stopped when they “didn’t feel like it”.

It’s human nature. I’m sure that during the course of over 300 bank rejections, Walt Disney had days when he felt like giving up. But he didn’t. He kept going. Why? It was because his dream went far beyond himself.

Here’s how YOU can keep going – even if it feels like your dreams are falling apart.


3 Ways to Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

1.) Remember The “Why”

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

Often times, I find that dreams extend far beyond the simple purpose of making one happy. For example, being a songwriter in and of itself does not make me feel happy and fulfilled. Imagine if my life’s work was to write songs that no one would ever hear. That doesn’t elicit any feelings of happiness or fulfillment (at least to me).

Seeing and hearing the healing effects that come from the songs I create for others to hear? Now you’re talking. Healing and helping others is the part of my dream that keeps it alive. It gives me purpose in this world that goes far beyond myself and my skills.

I’m reminded of the character Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Scrooge’s goal in life was to have money – and lots of it. He set aside love and relationships for that dream. The result of this life goal was a lonely, cold, bitter old man.

I won’t ruin the whole story for the very few of you that may not have heard it. In the end, Scrooge discovered that what brought him fulfillment and happiness were community and generosity.

So what is the “why” to your dream? How is your dream going to affect those around you? Get beyond yourself. As many have said, YOU are your biggest obstacle to success.


2.) Take Off The Rose-Colored Glasses

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

You know what I’m talking about. The “I’m going to make it big” and “I’m going to famous/rich/etc.” I hate to take a pointy realistic needle to your big ideas, but I’m doing it out of love. Here it is:

Your dream isn’t going to look exactly how you pictured it.

Take a minute to take that one in. Still here? Yes. Alive? Yes. Not Bleeding? No? Hurt a bit?

It’s OK. I know. I’ve been there. Dreams are vulnerable. We spend countless hours imagining what it would be like and how we will get there. But the truth is, in my experience, they have never turned out exactly how I have imagined. Why? We live in a world of people and circumstances that we can’t control.

Here is where the “why” comes in. The beautiful thing is that your works are a direct result of your heart’s intention…and what you put out into the world never comes back void. Here’s an example:

As a singer-songwriter, the common idea of making it big for my line of work is to have a hit song or perform in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden (I’m more inclined towards Red Rock Amphitheatre, but you get the picture).

Let’s say that I work and strive tirelessly to do everything I need to do to reach that goal. I release a song, I tour around the US, develop a large following, get on the radio, etc. Along the way, I hear stories of how this song has impacted the people who have heard it. Stories describing how it brought healing, encouragement, and hope.

To go further, what if I never even make it that far? What if circumstances happen and I can’t tour? What if everything “falls apart”? What if I end up playing at open mics for the rest of my life? What if it doesn’t happen in the next year? Two years?

Does that change the fact that my song helped heal and open the heart of a broken and depressed Vietnam Vet? Or how it helped encourage an author to keep going and writing? Or how my song started a conversation on how to look past the labels overshadowing soldiers and their families?

It’s all about your perspective of success, my friend. To me, because my “why” and my heart’s intention are to help people, those stories above are my version of success. It’s what keeps me going. If I get to Madison Square Garden (or Red Rocks), well that’s just icing on top of the cake.

Keep going on your dream. Make a plan, and in the words of .38 Special, “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” Roll with the punches and understand that even greater things can come when things don’t go according to your plan.


3.) Make Your Dream Your Job

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

No, I don’t mean quit your job and have no income while you work on your dream. That’s an entirely different article (and completely up to you). I’m talking about treating your dream like it is your job.

For example, if you completely failed at a presentation at work, would you just quit and not go the next day? No! You have a livelihood and an expectation to show up. So why quit on your dream at the first sign of failure?

Treat your dream like your job. Make a plan, show up every day, and understand that it may take a while to see any results. I know many songwriters who wrote hundreds of songs before they wrote a hit. However, they never would have reached it if they didn’t take that first step, made a commitment, and wrote 100 songs first.

Dreams don’t just happen. They take work. So go get started!

My best advice under this theme is check out the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It is by far the best resource I have discovered in my journey of living out my dream.

Here’s the deal. With every goal that I have set and achieved, I never sat at the end and thought to myself, “man, look at what I did”. Believe it or not, I was more overwhelmed with the thoughts of the journey that I had to take to get there – the good and the bad.

I would admire and laugh at the unexpected things that came. I would smile and enjoy the character it built, the person that I became in the process. In the end, the best thing about dreams and goals isn’t their achievement, but the journey that you take to get there.

Never forget that the dream in your heart was put there for a reason. You were made to make an impact on this world.

Enjoy the journey and never, ever give up. Keep going.

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