31. Stop! Earlier we covered that one habit you should create today that would most beneficially change your life. Now, the question is: What one thing do you know you should stop doing? You might have more than one (I certainly have a few!). But what ONE thing do you know you just simply need to stop doing? It’s not serving you anymore (not that it ever did…). If you want to live with consistent happiness what MUST you stop doing?
You got it? Good. Write it down. Say it outloud. Whatever you gotta do.
Now STOP doing it. Now. Forever. The next time you feel the urge and you feel your habituated self pulling you so strongly toward that behavior. STOP. STOP. STOP. STOP. It might be helpful to replace that old behavior with a new, more positive one.
Say you tend to yell at people you love when you get stressed. Catch yourself doing it (there’s that Awareness again). Pause, then pick something new to do. Maybe smile, take a deep breath or two. Whatever it takes. But the bottom line is simple: pick that one thing you need to stop doing and stop doing it.
Shew. Good work. (This one’s gonna be tough…but do it!!)
32. Act “As If.” I recently read an amazing passage from Wayne Dyer's book, Real Magic. The way he described acting "as if" is genius. My rendition goes something like this: who do you want to be? What's your ideal? Are you enlightened? Are you in perfect physical shape?
Whatever it is, get that image. Then, on a moment-to-moment basis, ACT "AS IF" you already were that person...what would the enlightened being that you are do in this moment of tension? Perhaps breathe in, breathe out, gain perspective and maintain equanimity. Good. Then act like that enlightened person NOW.
How about that perfectly healthy person that you imagine. Good. What would (s)he do right now? What would they eat? How often would they exercise. Perfect. That's what you do now.
Act as if. Moment to moment to moment. And, sooner than you think you won't be acting anymore. How amazingly cool is that?
33. Regain Your Balance. Here’s an exercise I often use to capture the importance of having a clear intention to regain our balance:
Stand up. Put your arms straight out. Make sure you’re in an area that’s big enough so you can spin around. Alright. Now, spin. Give yourself a good 5-10-15 spins. Whatever it takes to get you a little off-balance. Alright. Now once you get there, I want you to stop spinning. Then, I want you to do two different things:
First, I want you to put your hands together like you’re praying and stare at your finger tips—it brings you back to balance AMAZINGLY quickly. Then, I want you to quick staring at your fingertips and instead I want you to look all around you—up, down, far away, to the right, to the left…just look everywhere. Notice how that makes you feel. If you’re like me, it probably makes you wanna barf.
For me, this is a perfect metaphor for having a clear intention in our life. When things get stressful (i.e., we’re “spun around”), we have a couple of options: we can look all around us to get a sense of perspective (which usually leads to more confusion/nausea); or, we can focus on what we know to be true, what our intention in life is, what the purpose of that experience is, etc.—that clarity brings us back to balance as quickly as staring at our fingertips.
So, the next time you’re spinning—have a clear intention: know that your highest intention is to grow as a more enlightened, loving, balanced, growth-oriented human being (or whatever it is for you) and come back to that to re-gain your balance.
Try it out! Methinks you’ll dig it.
34. Go Straight at Your Problems. There’s a great story in Paul Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress. It goes something like this: the main character experiences all kinds of challenges and tough situations on his metaphorical spiritual quest in life. The cool part is that he’s blessed with a shield. This shield miraculously protects him against everything in front of him. NOTHING can harm him as long as he approaches it head on. That magic shield works wonders—provided he goes straight at the challenge. If he runs away, he loses its magical powers.
I think that’s amazing. And, so true. Have you ever noticed that those “huge” problems you’ve had seemed to vanish the moment you took em head on? (I mean really head on not vacillating kinda sorta head on!) The things that really kick our ass are the ones we avoid. Lesson: don’t show em our ass! Take em head on. Trust in the powers of your shield.
What problem have you been running away from? Take it head on.
35. Serve. It’s so easy to spend all of our time asking what we can get out of a situation instead of what we can give. I don’t know about you, but I feel stress when I’m just focused on myself. The moment I get out of my own little set of fears/issues and start thinking about how I can serve and give to those around me, my stress seems to evaporate. Amazing.
Try it out. The next time you’re stressed, step back. See how you’re focused on yourself and you may not get what you wanted. Flip the situation around and see how you can give all of yourself to the situation. Irony here, of course, is that when you truly give yourself to the world, you’ll get more than you ever dreamt of in return.
36. Be the Change. What do you want to see in the world? More peace? More love? More kindness? According to Gandhi, the answer is simple: we must be the change we want to see.
You want world peace? Bless the person who cut you off and honked at you on your way to work. Wish them a safe journey instead of getting caught up in their anger and impatience.
You want more kindness? Smile at the person who might be frustrating you. Open the door for someone, pick up a piece of trash. BE kind.
Simple but not easy. Be the Change.
37. Fill Your Water Pot and Hit the Rock. Every great teacher will advise you to build habits and to consistently train yourself to do your best.
The Buddha says it so beautifully when he reminds us that: "Little by little a person becomes evil, as a water pot is filled by drops of water... Little by little a person becomes good, as a water pot is filled by drops of water."
I think the stonecutter is another perfect metaphor for the process of growing into our full potential. You may have heard the story:
A stonecutter hits a rock with his hammer. The stone splits.
The casual observer sees this and thinks, “Wow. That guy is really strong. I can’t believe he broke that huge rock with a single blow!”
The reality (obviously) is that the stonecutter had been hammering away at that rock for a long time. Many, many blows went into the rock before it finally split.
Most people see someone who has achieved some level of success--whether it’s enlightenment or celebrity status--and think, “Wow, they sure must be lucky.”
Obviously, the stonecutter isn’t strong enough to break a rock in one blow and no one is “lucky” enough to reach any level of excellence without an equally diligent and consistent effort.
So, hit the rock. Again. And again. And again. You will break the rock.
38. Be Consistent. One of my favorite lessons from training my body (and helping others train theirs) is the idea that you want to focus on consistency over intensity. It’s not about getting all fired up one day and going off at the gym for an hour and a half…and then waking up the next day unable to move!
It’s much much much much much better to just show up. Put in your 20 minutes, your 30 minutes, your 40 minutes. Whatever. Just do it consistently.
Aristotle made it pretty clear: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence (aka Areté) then, is not an act, but a habit."
This applies to all aspects of our life. Quite simply, we are what we consistently do.
Sure, it's a lot more fun to jump into the latest fad diet or hit the gym for an intense workout once a week or go to a motivational seminar or yoga retreat, but the question is not how intensely we get into any given workout or week of dieting or weekend of yoga...it's all about whether we have the self-mastery to do the things we know we should be doing consistently--moment to moment and week in and week out.
39. Be Inconsistent. So, now that we’re clear on how important consistency is, BE INCONSISTENT. :)
Well, at least be willing and able to be inconsistent. It’s so easy for us to get locked into a way of thinking or to maintain an opinion simply because we strongly felt a certain way at one point. But, my God! If you can’t break free and give yourself the power to change your mind, your job, your strategy, your relationships, whatever…you, uh, are kinda screwed.
Love Emerson’s comments on the subject: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. - 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' -- Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."
So, uh, do us all a favor and don’t be a hobgoblin, mmmmk?
40. Embrace Opposites. You know, yin and yang, light and dark, night and day, high tide, low tide, consistency, inconsistency. Stuff like that. Life is full of opposites. Learn to live in a state where you appreciate it and see that you simply can’t have light without dark; you can’t have a day without a night; can’t have a summer without a winter (well, I guess in California you can but you know what I mean!).
The more you appreciate this the less you’re gonna be taken way by your sadness, despair, hopelessness. Transcend it and you’re even more golden…