Never, Ever Settle for Normal. Unless You’re Driftwood.

Can I encourage you to never do something? Don’t make peace with the status quo. Ever. And never settle for normal. It will be the death of you and everything you care about. Normal is what everyone wants you to do. Normal is what society forces us to do. Your life is worth extraordinary value, so live that way. Be wild. Do something crazy that creates amazing experiences and builds memories that last a lifetime. You’re unique, you’re gifted, and you may not be able to walk on water but it’s a lot more fun swimming in the Mediterranean than looking at pictures of it. (By the way – that picture is me jumping into the Mediterranean!)img_2891

You are a wonder of creation. Scientists say the very chances of you even existing are about one in 400 trillion. This means that there is no one like you. You are incredibly unique with gifts, talents, and answers for the people on this planet that only you can deliver. You cannot afford to be stuck in a rut.

“Each human being is unique, each with their own qualities, instincts, forms of pleasure, and desire for adventure. However, society always imposes on us a collective ways of behaving, and people never stop to wonder why they should behave like that. They just accept it, the way typists accepted the fact that the QWERTY keyboard was the best possible one. Have you ever met anyone is your entire life who asked why the hands of a clock should go in one particular direction and not the other?” ~ Paulo Cuelho

Deep Change vs. Slow Death

Leadership expert and author Robert Quinn says that we are in one of two places in life, the place of deep change or slow death. We are either changing or shriveling up on the inside.

This is in agreement with the 2nd law of thermodynamics which states that all things lead to entropy – decay and disorder. It’s a natural system. It’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in our comfort zones, habits, normalcy, negativity and routine. We are either changing or dying, growing or decaying. It takes a strong, willful, and soulful choice to go against the flow and take a leap of faith into the land of the unknown. A phrase I love to describe this is, “Walking naked into the land of uncertainty.” Don’t worry, it’s not literal. Keep your clothes on. 🙂

Moving Our Family to Europe

I’ll preface this by saying that you probably don’t need to move, but you do need to change and do something different. Maybe something really big and completely out of the box. Get out of your comfort zone. Take risk, not simply for the sake of risk but out of the yearning to truly live for what matters most to you.

For my family that meant moving overseas, learning a new language and building an adventurous life filled with a calling, and the things and people we love. We lived in a wonderful community at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The beauty was indescribable and the weather was my favorite of any place in the world. We were there for 14 years. So many incredible friends and experiences that were simply magical. (more…)

Who You Are Is More Important than What You Do

 

Who are you? Many of us struggle to answer that simple question. The immediate response most give is to describe their job. “I’m an accountant,” “I work in the sales division of my company,” “I am a coach.” But that’s not the question. What we do is not who we are and it’s normal for people to get the two confused.

It takes time and commitment to do the deep work of really knowing who we are.

To become someone others believe in and in order to live with integrity, you must know the deeply held beliefs that drive you. What are the values, ideals and standards that make up the essence of who you are inside? When these things become clear, you will have the courage to live them. photo_man_suitandtie copy

Performance Driven vs. Principle Driven

A person who is performance driven is focused on results. It’s all about what they do and what they accomplish. How well they do on a task speaks to them about their value. For example, If I excel on a project (or for kids, if I excel at sports, school, music etc.), then everyone loves me and I get all kinds of positive attention. If I fail, or don’t do well, then it seems like others don’t value me as much. The internal message is that I am only as good as how I perform. People only care about me when I’m a winner so I become addicted to activity.

People in this category typically complain that their lives are out of balance, they don’t have time for anything and they are burned out. Their relationships are shallow and fractured. There is little margin for personal reflection and spiritual awareness and they cope by withdrawing or staying excessively busy and distracted. I know this type of person well because this is my propensity and it’s exactly where I found myself a few years ago. It was miserable.

I learned to value myself by results and performance as a child. Many of the messages we’ve come to believe get handed down to us from our childhood. Whether our caretakers knew it or not, they taught us how to value ourselves and those internal messages took deep root.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~ Plato

The truth is that we are all driven by results on some level. But how results affect a person who is centered on their principles (who I am) is much different. Results are simply what they do, it doesn’t define who they are.

When you are principle centered you have a deep sense of gratitude about your life and your gifts. Therefore you steward those gifts in the best way you can and you see them through your values (which you can learn more about here.) They shape you they don’t define you. Who you are is more important than what you do.
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Stop Short Changing Yourself and Create a Meaningful Life

5 things to do that make life beautiful

I’m wondering if you’re like many people I speak with who don’t have the kind of life they really want? What does it take to create a meaningful life? How do you focus on doing things that are important and meaningful to you?

According to a recent survey, only 33% of Americans feel happy, content and satisfied. I’m sure results are similar in Canada, Europe and other parts of the world.

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People feel trapped inside jobs they don’t like, too much time is spent on things they don’t care about, they aren’t living for what matters most, and they have almost lost hope that it will ever be any different. In short, they’ve thrown in the towel and have come to terms with being a ‘spoke in the wheel.’

Have you ever felt this way? First, I understand those thoughts can seem very real. But they are what I call, “victim speak.” Saying these kinds of words over and over is what gives negativity power in your life and makes you feel discouraged and hopeless. Victim speak occurs whenever you believe that someone or something is responsible for your unhappy state of affairs. For example, “I’m stuck in this awful job because I can’t get anyone else to hire me,” or, “I can never get ahead because I can barely bring in enough money to pay my bills,” “I can’t succeed because of the bad economy.”

There’s only 1 way to defeat this kind of negativity. Take your power back! Whenever you allow these thoughts into your mind, you give them power over your life and circumstances. Power to control what you think and who you are becoming. Taking your power back is acknowledging that although you may feel this way now, your have the power to reject those statements and do something IN THE PRESENT to create a more meaningful life. The kind of life that matters most to you.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from the most successful people I know on how to create change NOW and have more meaning in your life:

(1) Cast a HUGE vision for your life and do 1 thing everyday that gets you closer to it. (more…)

4 Things I’ve Learned Without a CAR for 1 Year

IMG_1619 copy2As a family we did one of the craziest things on the planet 1 year ago. We moved our family to Barcelona, Spain. It’s truly been the greatest adventure of our lives! Because we chose to live in the center of the city, we also decided to depend solely on public transportation. That means no car after 20 years of marriage!
Now, let me assure you this has its ups and downs. There were a number of reasons we decided to do this. One, we had a limited amount of money and we didn’t want to spend it on a car. So, survival! We had no idea how long we would be here and this seemed like the right thing to do.

Two, we live right in the center of the city. Parking is a nightmare and so is driving. This is an old city so there are a ton of one-way streets everywhere you go. We chose simplicity over convenience.

Now, by no means am I saying you should give up your car. And, I’m not writing a book about, “Being free from the tyranny of driving and car payments.” I just thought it would interest you to know what we’ve learned and how this has changed us. In the process, maybe the things we’ve learned could make a difference in your life too.

  1. Your Health Gets WAY Better

In the U.S. I barely walked anywhere. We drove our cars (5 of them) from the garage to work, practice, and life. We always looked for the nearest parking spot at Coscto and Walmart. We were trying to cut out walking every chance we could get!

Without a car, we average 6-7 miles of walking per day. What a perk! I’m in the best shape of my life thanks to not having a car. I’ll obviously need a car again, but walking is one new habit I will take with me wherever I live.

  1. It’s A Good Thing to Depend on Others

 I am fiercely independent by nature. I’ve had to be while growing up an only child from a broken home who lived in a new town almost every year. As an adult I learned that depending on people is risky. They will let you down, stab you in the back, lie, cheat and steal. I’m guilty of doing that to others in my weakness as well.

All these reasons lead me to believe that you cannot really rely on other people. Until you don’t have a car. In a foreign land where we had very few relationships, we were forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.

You know what I learned? There are many people who are more than willing to go out of their way to help when you ask. They are gracious and loving and that realization has changed me. It’s shown me that it’s ok to ask for help. In fact we need to ask for help sometimes because we need each other. No one is an island.

  1. Your Connection with Your Family Deepens

Without a car, our family has had more time together. We take public transport and walk the kids to their practices. Yes, sometimes this takes 40 minutes one way, but we have had some of the best interactions and conversations we’ve had in years. IMG_8678 copy

There is no replacement for quality time with the people you love. We’ve learned to slow down, enjoy being with each other and we’ve made the most of our very long walks together.

  1. You Have More Peace

I don’t think I’d realized what a nut I’d become. Getting in my car to rush to this thing, talking on the phone the whole way there, and stressed out about my car payments. And then there was trying to sell cars that cost me money to get rid of. Ugh!

I was caught in the consumerism that raised me and I was steeped in the stress it brought to my life. I was disconnected. I wasn’t engaged as I should have been with my friends and family and I was shriveling up on the inside. I was becoming less of myself not more of who I wanted to be.

Getting rid of some ‘stuff,’ including my cars, has helped me re-center my life on what really matters. I’m able to enjoy the blessings God has brought to me and fall in love again with the people who are around me.

Not having a car this past year hasn’t been a burden, it’s been a gift. I’ve learned to live for the people and the values that really matter and I think I’ve added a few extra years to my life!

Most of you have cars, and you should! But perhaps you can apply some of these lessons in your life, right where it is. My hope is that you will take a deep breath, be fully engaged and completely present in the lives of those you love and care about, and you will be free to live for the things that matter most to you deep inside. You really can discover new freedoms when you do unconventional things.

 

 

 

Making Meaning Out of Your Mess – 4 Things I Learned While Shipwrecked

How do you find meaning in the mess?

What do you do when life doesn’t go quite according to plan? After years of hard work and tedious effort, you reach a place you never thought you would be – tired, burned out, and unhappy.

That’s what happened to me.

The good news is that this is one of the greatest places in life to find yourself. I know it’s counter intuitive but it is true.

Why? Because it is the place to rebuild and resurrect. What I mean is this: when you come to the end of yourself all of your defenses and pretences are down. There’s not much left to protect. Somewhere deep inside, you’ve resolved that you must change because life isn’t going according to plan. You must transform into the real you that’s been hidden.photo_man_water_rainbow_copy

You become like the mythological Phoenix who has come to an end of itself and is ready to be reborn. There is nowhere else to go but to turn inward and to God – it’s a perfect time to rediscover your passions and the things that matter most. You are finally in a place where you have the courage to blow up the old wineskins of your life that use to work for you and make way for something beautiful and new. Something amazing rises from those ashes.

The psychological notion of this is the ‘death of the ego.’ Richard Rohr says, that we live out of our egos the first half of our lives and spend the second half learning to live without fear and pursue the things that really matter to us. Or, “When you get your, ‘Who am I?’, question right, all of your, ‘What should I do?’ questions tend to take care of themselves, as he writes in his book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

Are We Going About Life the Wrong Way?

The idea is that we spend much of the beginning of our lives trying to find ‘containers’ that help to answer critical questions we face in life. Who am I? Do I matter? How can I support myself? Who will go with me?

In this ‘first half of life,’ we spend most of our time doing our best to answer these questions and then placing boundaries around them because they have become our identity. We get stuck.

This was similar to my predicament. I absolutely loved what I did. What I didn’t realize is that too much of my identity was wrapped up in it. Tom the author, Tom the speaker, Tom the orphan advocate and justice guy. None of these things are wrong by any means, I had just allowed myself to put too much stock in them. And the truth was, I really didn’t want to be some of them. Traveling all over the place was conflicting with the time I needed to spend with my wife and family. I ignored those signs and the issues got bigger. I was trying to protect containers, not what was inside of them.

Whatever identity I had was actually good and it was true. But now its not because my life has changed, the seasons have changed and what stands in front of me has changed. I had to dig deep and find the courage to walk a road that I didn’t know and that would only be made by walking. (more…)

Creating a Life You Won’t Regret

How to always live with meaning and purpose

What is most important to you in life? After years have passed, will you have lived for what really mattered? Sadly, many people will ask these questions too late because they weren’t internally driven and they didn’t take the time to create a life they really wanted.  Our society has become one gigantic scare tactic against what really matters. And it can squeeze your true self and your true purpose right out the window. I am going to tell you how to make a very important personal change so you can live a life with no regrets. Making this change changed my life.

Everyone tells you what you have to do to be successful. You have to go to college when you graduate. You have to get a good paying job at a respectable company. You have to make friends with important people to catapult your career. You have to be popular and get tons of likes on Facebook. The list is endless. 
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The problem comes when we focus on what we “have to” do according to what other sources have said, and we lose track of the things that genuinely matter to us. We are no longer living our dreams, but someone else’s.

Are you Living the Life You Want?

All of these, “have to’s,” start to spin ridiculously out of control and most people find themselves doing things they don’t like with a life they really don’t want to be living. That’s why so many people are unhappy. In fact, 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work, according to a new report by the Conference Board, the New York-based nonprofit research group.

Yet, the path to happiness and fulfillment lies in our hands. According University of California PhD researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky states: “40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.”

But many won’t do what it takes to change. They choose ‘things’ over people – stuff over what’s really important. According to another research team who recently published their findings online in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences, materialistic people find it more difficult to be grateful for what they have, which causes them to become miserable. In other words, the more we get, the less fulfillment there is in our lives.

This is why living your values are so critical to your personal happiness and fulfillment. I spoke about this in some detail in this article and want to drill deeper into how it looks. I asked my readers what would help them from these posts and they said, “more examples,” so here it goes.

Creating a Successful Life on Your Terms

I went through a really amazing values discovery session with Jo Bell, one of my mentors. She helped me uncover the five values that were at the heart of every decision I made – they define who I am. They are: (1) Faith/spirituality, (2) Family, (3) Hope, (4) Freedom, and (5) Vulnerability.

These are so deeply engrained in me that I could sit down with you and talk about each of them for hours. I can define them for you and explain them in detail. We all have at least 5 values. If we start making decisions and living a life against those values, all kinds of turmoil will break out. Let me explain.

I experienced an incredibly painful time in my life a few years ago when my life became misaligned with my values. I was the CEO of an international non-profit that helped widows and orphans. It was amazing work that I really loved. But all of the travel began to adversely affect me and caused my family to suffer – and it caused me to suffer. I wasn’t myself. I became angry and irritable and when I was home, I just couldn’t relax and enjoy life. (more…)

Lacking Purpose and Motivation? You Don’t Know Your Values.

Values. After 20 years of executive coaching and being the CEO of a multi-million dollar non-profit, I am convinced of this truth: Most people struggle to achieve their life’s purpose – and lack motivation to do so – because they do not live their values. In fact most people don’t even know their values. This happened to me and it led to a severe case of burnout.

If I asked you to name the 5 most important values that direct every decision you make, could you do it? In other words – could you tell me, without hesitation, why you do what you do? If you can’t, you are not alone. photo_catholic_church_oldman copy

Whether you know it or not, you are directing your life by a specific set of values. But they may not be the values you want. Why? Because most of us adopt the values of our parents and the dominant values of our society. The values you internalized as a child remain with you through adulthood, according to Jim Taylor, PhD in this Psychology Today article.

This is true because many of our values were shaped before the age of 5. As a 5 year old child, you are incredibly vulnerable. You are learning about the world and you are receiving information about right and wrong, fear and safety, and a host of other important issues about life. You can’t even filter this information. What you see and experience shapes your values Those who grow up in abusive homes adopt different values than those raised in a more stable environment.

How about society? What do they teach us to value? Turn on the TV or open your internet browser. Sex, money, fame and body image. Those pursuits don’t seem to get people very far down the road towards their life’s purpose and what’s really important.

What about the values of our children and this generation? A recent research study reveals that one of their key values is materialism and money, but they are not very motivated to work for it. So, give me the money while I sit on my butt. You can read about it here. I’m not a child psychologist, but I don’t think that’s going to work. Could this be one of the reasons so many millennials are moving back in with their parents according to this Wall Street Journal article?

Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. — Parker Palmer

My son has recently been struggling with his purpose in life. He has spent a lot of time in his life focused around a certain sports activity – and he has been incredibly successful. He’s loved it and it has brought him a lot of joy. But lately, he has found himself losing his vision and passion for it. (more…)

The Truth about Grit and Why You Need to Develop Mental Toughness

I’ve discovered something that is one of the greatest contributors to people’s success. I am deep into the world of sports with my five kids – from ages 10 to 19. There’s barely a weekend that has gone by the last 15 years that we haven’t been to a tournament of some kind. We have walked through a ton of disappointment, failure, tears – championships and successes, but I have always wondered,  “Why are some athletes mentally stronger than others? Why do they stand out of from the crowd. How are they so good at overcoming failure? What sets them apart?” But this discovery isn’t limited to sports. It applies to the game of life. Some people succeed and overcome more regularly than others. They have a greater sense of purpose and they live a more meaningful life. Why? They possess something called grit. photo_kayak_grit_copy

In scientific studies this one characteristic has emerged again and again as a significant predictor of success. This extreme trait of self-discipline is known as, ‘mental toughness,’ or ‘grit.’ The people who learn this skill accomplish truly extraordinary things in life.

What’s interesting is that intelligence is only responsible for around 30% of people’s success. This dispels the myth that only the most gifted and talented succeed. This is good news for anyone who wants to succeed more often because if they excel in grit, there is a very high chance they can outperform those who don’t.

What is grit? According to Angela Duckworth, the researcher who discovered this personality trait, grit is, “Passion and perseverance for long term goals. It’s having stamina, sticking with your future, day in and day out.”

In her studies she discovered:

  • Ivy League undergraduate students who had more grit also had higher GPAs than their peers — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t as “smart.”
  • At the elite United States Military Academy, West Point, a cadet’s grit score was the best predictor of success in the rigorous summer training program known as “Beast Barracks.” Grit mattered more than intelligence, leadership ability or physical fitness.
  • When comparing two people who are the same age but have different levels of education, grit (and not intelligence) more accurately predicts which one will be better educated.
  • Competitors in the National Spelling Bee outperform their peers not because of IQ, but because of their grit and commitment to more consistent practice.

Understanding and applying grit and mental toughness will give anyone a huge competitive edge in a fractured world.

So what can you do to be different and make grit work for you? First, understand that your brain functions like a muscle. The more you utilize what I’m about to share with you, the sharper you can hone these skills. Building new neural pathways will take time, but once those connections in your brain are built, the results are powerful. You need to stick with it because it will take a little time to clear the cobwebs.

Here are three proven ways that will help you stand out from the crowd. (more…)

Stop Everything and Do This for Success in 2016

When you’ve had success, what did you do? When I look back at most of the significant successes I’ve had in life, I’ve discovered there’s a secret to the success. It’s likely something all of us have done every single time we’ve had a major win. You didn’t stumble on it and it wasn’t an accident. photo_success_go_get_it

I didn’t just decide I wanted to be an author and write a book one day. It didn’t magically appear. What did I do? I engaged one of the most powerful tools at my disposal as a human being. The people who have mastered this tool are the happiest and most successful people on our planet. They create their dreams and get to see them become reality. That tool is the power of vision. Vision is a source of hope, it tells us the impossible is possible, and when we focus on our vision we have the ability to completely transform our lives. And the best news is that we can cultivate and grow this gift.

I’ve created a 7 Step Process to Be Your Best in 2016 that will help you get the results you desire out of the next few months of this new year. Obviously, there are many factors to setting goals and achieving them. One of the most neglected factors is this – You will not be successful in achieving goals until you develop a positive mind. Negativity will kill every goal and every creative bone in your body. You have to learn how get rid of the negative patterns and replace them with positive ones. That’s one of the reasons I created this site. Positivity is your gateway to a new life, new relationships, loving yourself, and achieving your goals.  (more…)

The Joy of a Merry Christmas

Elements of Well-Being Theory

I’m sitting in a café in Barcelona surrounded by the sights and sounds of Christmas (this picture is my current view). I don’t know about you, but the Christmas holidays always push my buttons. I have good memories and bad memories of holidays gone by, but it’s always the bad ones that stick out in my mind. For me and most people the pull of the negative is simply stronger than the positive (that tendency is so powerful it has it’s own name – more on that later).

Regardless of what the holidays have been for you, I want to help you with what will be. There are simple things you can focus on this holiday season, and into the New Year, that will help you to be filled with more joy, peace, gratitude, hope and all the other warm, fuzzy words that describe who you want to be and what you want to feel. This is for me too. IMG_0205One of the reasons for our move to Europe this year is so my family and I could break the cycle of negativity and excess comfort we were experiencing and cultivate more of those “warm and fuzzy” traits in our lives.

I would like to describe our adventure through something called Well-Being Theory. Well-being theory is the idea that you and I can consistently sustain the kind of life we desire. Yes, it is about being happy, but I would say it goes way beyond simple happiness. (more…)