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How to Be Quiet and Why You Must

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy.

You can catch the entire Recover You series here.

quiet

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Business is noisy. A typical day might involve dozens of conversations, meetings, decisions, tasks and insights.

Every thought, conscious or otherwise, roars through our heads like the intersection of trains headed into the station.

We get pretty good at muffling the noise, become almost use to it, but it takes its toll no matter what we think.

In fact, in response to dealing with the noise we often lose our ability to actually think, to consider the vision for the business, to make conscious decisions about the impact of every act.

One of the best ways to return our focus to things like purpose and vision is to practice being quiet long enough to turn down the noise.

This isn’t as easy at it might sound. Try this right now. Close your eyes and just sit for five minutes and see how noisy your brain is. Most people can’t do this for more than 30 seconds without beginning to fidget.

We’ve trained our brain to be on and that leads to constantly talking, considering what to do next and reaching for our phones whenever we have a down minute to fill.

I believe we need to retrain ourselves to be still or run the risk of losing touch with why we do what we do.

Here are some of the ways I’ve found to turn down the noise in my head.

Go analog

Set up an area in your office with crayons and paper and other crafty kind of materials and every now and then unplug and go draw, cut and paste while taking your mind off your to do list.

Journal

Get a big notebook or use any text editor and get in the habit of free flow journaling. When I first started doing this is was so goofy what spilled out of me, but I didn’t edit a word or judge what I wrote in any way and eventually it became an outlet for releasing thoughts that were somewhere rolling round blocking my intentions.

Meditate

I’ve written about this before and certainly many now agree on the benefits of a meditation practice. It’s hard for people to do I think because they believe it is supposed to be this path to enlightenment. If you put that kind of pressure on anything it won’t be enjoyable. Think about it as five or ten minutes a day to simply witness your thoughts and experience first-hand how noisy it is up there. Then you can take little steps.

Get outside

I am amazed at the healing power of nature. Every single one of us should get outside and lay on our backs in the grass and watch the white puffy clouds go by for about ten or fifteen minutes a day minimum. If you really want to experience the power of nature take a daylong hike or pitch a tent in a forest near a stream. The bigness of it all is one of the most quieting tonics available.

Sit and listen

Try this one for a little different perspective. Close your eyes and sit and listen to all the sounds near by. Don’t think anything just notice. Then slowly move your perception out farther and farther picking up sounds just outside, traffic maybe, and then a train off in the distance. See how far you can tune in. I don’t know why but this little exercise seems to open up pathways in my thinking and quite the noise that’s right around me.

Retreat

Of course the biggest, scariest and most awesome things you can do is lock yourself away for a weekend retreat with no computer, phone, TV or need to make any conversation at all. I realize this is pretty impractical for most, but what if you tried it for even half a day? I would write and read inspiring passages but mostly I would slow down and think about the things that really matter, the things I know I’m meant to do, the things I’m grateful for, the intentions I have for my business and my life.

It’s a shame in some ways that being quiet is so hard. Part of this is just the world we live in and part is self-inflicted. The good news is we still have the ability to dial it up and down as a choice in the infinite number of choices we get to make.

The Most Highly Achievable Business Resolution of All

Look, it’s the last day of 2012 and you are likely either thinking about what you’re gonna do to make next year better or you’re sick of hearing people talk about what you should do to make next year better.

Either way, the notion of resolutions has surely occurred at some level. But, here’s the deal, and we all know this by now, resolutions are a sucker’s game. The minute most of us make a resolution to change something, we’ve actually cemented any chance of actually doing it somewhere deep into a place nobody wants to go.

Resolutions

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Resolutions are made up of the stuff we kind of know we should do better, but have no real resolve to do – basically dooming ourselves to failure.

But there is a secret to success in the resolution business – aim lower. That’s right, lower your expectations to something highly achievable and you’ll never be disappointed again.

Here’s a list of highly achievable resolutions that I plan to adopt to get my new year started down the road to success. Feel free to steal any of these as you own.

  • I will spell check the red underlined words in my emails before I hit send
  • I will almost never Tweet while standing at a urinal
  • I will not try to sneak a souvenir snow globe on an International flight
  • I will never put a QR code on a highway billboard sign
  • I will ignore friend requests from high school classmates (unless they have become reality TV stars)
  • I will punch any form of communication with the word synergy in it in the face
  • I will not eat any food that is served in an airport (French fries of course don’t count as they are served in other places too)

Hopefully, my mild attempt at humor will still allow me to make my real point.

Don’t make resolutions, change your game entirely.

Raise your expectations. Expect more from everything. Expect more from yourself. Expect more from and for others. Expect greater results for your customers, personal growth for your staff and even expect more positive interaction with the people and things you currently find difficult.

That’s the real secret to success – simply expect more of it every day. This is perhaps the most highly achievable resolution of all.

Happy New Year!

How to Change Your Thoughts and Why You Must

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy.

Thinking dictates outcomes

photo credit: Mait Jüriado via photopin cc

You can read my overview Recover You post here.

Today I am going to talk about the role our relentless thoughts have on our outlook, habits, motivation, words, actions and outcomes.

Or, perhaps more importantly, how we have given over control of our thoughts to our past experiences and future desires.

Let me ask you something. As you were reading this, what else were you thinking about? What you have to do today, how foolish this notion sounds, why you never got around to asking for a higher price on your last sale?

Our thoughts are in constant motion, whether we choose to witness them or not.

Our mind is incredible. It is an absolute marvel of design, invention and cognition, but it doesn’t seem to care what we think. It merely plays with what we feed it and tells us how to act based on that alone.

There are entire fields of scientific research and practice dedicated to this idea so my point today is to simply suggest better ways to feed it in service of Recover You.

If you want to change your outcomes, you must change your thoughts.

But that’s easier said than done so the first step is to begin to recognize your thoughts, even as they happen unconsciously. By developing or regaining the art of mindfulness you can take the first step towards change.

There is a wonderful little book by Deepak Chopra called The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success that I recommend to everyone that asks.

In one of the first chapters Chopra talks about non-judgment and how our constant judging everything that happens around us as either good or bad influences how we react without thinking.

He proposes an exercise that has had a profound impact on me over the years and I suggest you give it a try.

Starting today, carve out a 15-minute period and consciously commit to foregoing any thought of judgment. Take a walk on a busy street while you monitor your thoughts and see how actively your mind want to make judgments about everything you see. For some people just keenly witnessing their thoughts for even fifteen minutes is incredibly mind-opening.

The goal is to increase this mindfulness to longer periods of time and forgo judgment during an entire hour of chunk of the day.

This is how you begin to regain making choices about how you interpret, filter and react to everything that occurs around you.

Every single action or reaction we make is a choice, but we’ve relinquished our ability to choose because we no longer think, we simply act.

Think about the last time someone cut you off in traffic. I don’t about you, but I can think of many times when this simple act made my blood pressure rise, turned me aggressive and made me angry for an extended period almost as though I had no choice but to react in that way. When you think about that, isn’t it amazing.

When we begin to regain our ability to stop judging and start thinking in ways that support who we really are we can move in the direction of fulfilling any dream we have.

If you’re following along with this Recover You thread I have three acts I would like to urge you to take to liberate your thoughts starting today.

  1. Make it a habit to spend at least 15 minutes a day witnessing your thoughts and calming any and all desire to judge things that occur.
  2. Start each day mentally combing over a list of the things you are most grateful for.
  3. Read Deepak Chopra’s 7 Spiritual Laws of Success several times