5 Ways to Develop A Better Outlook

Life is amazing. But we forget.

We forget that we are surrounded by beauty, opportunity, adventure.

Stop and smell the roses!

Cliche’ advice that we tend to smile at and go right on living the same as before.

I’m busy.

We’re all busy. We’re all stressed (at one point or another). We all struggle. We all have disappointments, failures, setbacks. Some more than others, for sure. Even if we’re not currently facing challenges, we’ll manufacture some.

This is serious. Telling us to stop and smell the flowers seems almost insulting sometimes.

Nose in phone.

The world on your shoulders.

One foot on the gas. The other in the grave.

What roses? You don’t even notice they exist. But they do.

Put down the phone. There’s light. Or maybe it’s dark. But at least it’s real.

Shrug.

Use your feet to walk. Look up and notice. You’ll be surprised by where you can go.

I love my smartphone. I love binging on YouTube videos. Love to learn. Love to get attention. But Facebook had to go.

It was the first thing I would check upon waking. Last before bed.

I’ve always had a fear of missing out. Maybe because I’m the youngest child of 5 kids. The one that got left behind while the big kids went off and did stuff. Mom and Dad are up watching T.V. but I have to go to bed. Always missing out.

I developed a horrible pattern of insomnia as a kid that continues to this day. My brain is too active. Don’t want to shut down; I might miss something!

But I think this mindset has led to my near-obsession with social media. My friends are on there! What are they saying? Are they talking to me? Are they reacting to what I said?

Can’t…

…miss…

…out!

It’s not just me. Facebook is arguably the most popular website in the world. You don’t want to miss anything either. It’s no accident. Facebook uses powerful psychology to entice you to keep checking. That’s why I had to stop.

Cold turkey.

Done.

It’s a little like waking up from a dream. The things I notice. Things that were there all along. The roses that are being ignored.

This isn’t just about phones and Facebook. It’s about whatever’s looping through your mind.

I have few regrets. But now that my kids are older, one major regret I have is not being more present for them. Sure, I was home. Probably more than most dads. But I was always somewhere else. Worried about the bills that weren’t paid. Worried about my boss. Worried about my business. Worried about the landlord, the car repairs, the birthday gifts. Worried about the present dilemma and fantasizing about a future without these problems.

Meanwhile, baby girl is on my lap, watching Hercules for the hundredth time.

I look like I’m playing soccer on the beach with my little boy. But really I’m somewhere else. Dealing with “important” problems in my head. I should be working on something. I should be doing something. Well, enough of that. Dad has to go to work.

Very few regrets. But that’s definitely one.

It’s odd to me that we have to learn how to be present. But whatever the reasons, we do have to make an effort. We have to practice. Out-pilot is the default mode. We have to be intentional in order to be present.

A consistent daily meditation practice has many benefits, but for me, the most profound is waking up. Realizing just how much I haven’t been present. Seeing just how much we tend to miss.

Oh, look…

Roses.

Problems are there too. I see them. They keep creeping up to obscure my view. I sometimes run into walls. Roadblocks to happiness. But even then, being present and aware has tremendous value- seeing the challenges for what they are:

Temporary.

No more. No less.

While the obstacle may block your view- the flowers are still there. Just because you’re not noticing them, doesn’t mean they stop being fragrant.

I’m currently going through some heavy stuff. Financial challenges. Divorce. No home. No car. Soon no job. All my choices- but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

But I do have opportunities. I have meaningful relationships. I have a motorcycle and a warm place to sleep. I’m still having adventures.

 

It seems to me there is always a duality. A yin and a yang. An up and a down. A light in the dark. The trick is to be aware enough to see both at the same time.

Yes, I’m juggling more than I can keep track of right now. Working on too many things at once in a grand attempt to change my life for the better. But check it out- as hard as this change is, the roses are still there. Just being there. Waiting to be noticed.

On one hand, I’ve got all these problems I’m dealing with that are too numerous to get into here.

On the other hand, my life is an amazing adventure. In the midst of great challenge, I’ve managed to enjoy all this…

videotogif_2018.01.10_23.40.15

…and those are just some highlights!

 

I hate the term “delayed gratification”.

I get the concept. I understand that successful people have developed the capacity to delay rewards in favor of prolonged efforts to achieve great things. The concept is good on the surface, but I think there’s a better approach.

Instead of delaying gratification, what if we learn to be grateful in the presence of work? What if we are determined to succeed and build a better future, while we remain aware enough to see the amazing world we have here and now?

What could happen for us if we develop the skill of crafting a better life while remaining present in the joys that already surround us?

Develop the skill of living in the now.

We forget. Because it’s easy to.

Remember: Distraction is the default mode. Awareness takes practice. Here are some things I’ve been doing to build the skill:

1: Meditation. (Click here for a short intro)

Meditation is not as mysterious as many think. Look at it as training for your brain. Just like you can train your body to run longer distances, you can train your brain to be more aware and focussed for longer periods of time. It’s an exercise. Daily workouts can make a huge difference in how you perceive your world.

2: Journal: Gratitude, Affirmations, Vision, Next Steps.

Every morning, before I start any work, I journal about those 4 topics.

What/Who am I grateful for?

Who am I and what attributes am I developing?

What is my vision for my future?

What are the very next steps I should do today to get me closer to the vision?

3: Take a beautiful picture daily and share it.

This is almost a literal practice of stopping to smell the roses. We encounter beauty every day. We just need to learn to recognize it.

I’ve been using the @steepshot app to post at least a picture a day of beauty I encounter. I got this idea from a Tim Ferriss Podcast. He was discussing an interviewee who had developed the practice of taking a photo of a flower every day on his morning run. Just as a practice of recognizing the beauty that it present despite our stressors.

4: Social media fast.

This is a big topic that I intend on getting into through several posts. But as it pertains to being present…social media literally trains you to have a short attention span and ignore the world around you.

There is so much psychology that goes into this. Stay tuned. But if meditation is training for your brain to be more present, aware, and focused, social media is the anti-meditation.

Facebook is the fast-food, sugar-soda, chemical shit-storm to your meditation workout.

5: Be alone with no tech. Sit in a public place without looking at your phone. Try airplane mode.

The first thing I noticed when I gave up Facebook and disconnected my cell phone is how much of a habit it is to reach for it whenever there is a single idle second.

The second thing I noticed is when I’m in a public place I’m the only one that isn’t burying my face in a screen. ‘

I’m not a Luddite. I love technology. I still use my phone and laptop daily. But I now recognize that I’ve been trying to develop the skill of paying attention, and many of the “tools” we use are designed to train us into being unaware.

Yes. It really is that insidious. The people who develop these platforms are literally training us to be reactionary and crave the feedback, the ping, the flag.

If you would rather be the one who decides how your brain is trained, be willing to opt-out of their training program. It’s as easy as shutting it off.

I’m just learning as I go.

I’m no guru. I’ve not mastered the skill of being present and aware. But the above 5 habits are making a difference for me.

Maybe they’ll help you too.

 

I have a small favor to ask.

If I’ve touched a nerve or made you think, please consider sharing this. Someone you know might need it.

Thanks for being here.

Live All Your Life

 

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