Outside Changes Start Within

Thinker“If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” -Unknown

If you look at your life and things are still the same as they’ve always been despite your efforts to change, there is a good reason. You are most likely trying to change the effect without changing the cause.

It’s like treating a cold with the typical over-the-counter cold medicine. It may relieve the symptoms for a while but the cold is still there. To make lasting changes in your life you must work on the root causes.

Henry David Thoreau, 19th century naturalist, wrote these words.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

Looking for love in all the wrong places

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to be miserable and unhappy no matter what? I know a woman who has been divorced several times. She goes from one relationship to another and always ends up getting hurt. The guy always turns out to be a dreadful twit.

I know a man who has had so many jobs I can’t even count them. He goes from one job to another and is never happy with where he is currently working. The standard reason he always gives for leaving his last job is because the boss was a big jerk.

There are other people who are never happy with where they are living. They are constantly on the move, looking for happiness and success in the next town.

The problem with these people is they are trying to solve their problems by changing the symptoms and not striking at the root of their problems.

Your mind creates the world you live in

So what is the root of their problems? In each case the roots are different but they all reside within the mind of the individual. The mind must change first. If your mind stays the same it will continue to produce the same results that you have always got. You can change your environment, your spouse, your job or your home but if your mind remains the same you will create the same problems over and over again.

Change your thoughts, change your world

So what can you do? You don’t want to go through life never being able to change yourself or your circumstances. The answer lies in you becoming aware of your thoughts. The creative force of your mind brought about the world you live in. You are responsible for your life through the thoughts that you entertain on a daily basis. You are the one placing limitations on yourself that are holding you back.

If you have the power to create a miserable world then it stands to reason that you have the power to create a happy world.

“Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bear bad fruits and man is his own gardener.” –James Allen

As ye sow, so shall ye reap

You are the master gardener of your thoughts. The fruit it produces is the life you live every day. You must guard every thought that enters your mind and determine if it should be there. You need to constantly entertain thoughts that invite positive and good into your life. You must be aware of all the negative influences that enter your life, be it the media, friends, music, or the internet and only allow those in that you invite.

You are the sower of the seeds your life. What are you sowing?

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Kill the Monster When It’s a Baby

Kill the monster when it's a baby.

I’m going to teach you about killing babies – monster babies that is. Let me explain. I was thinking about the idea that we don’t perform any act or do anything without thinking about it first. A thought has to enter our mind before we ever do anything. Sometimes we purposely think thoughts and other times we could be minding our own business and a thought will just pop into our head without our invitation. But the point being that you don’t act without first thinking about it. So if we can eliminate the thought in the first place then we will never perform the action.

Our negative or bad thoughts are like monsters. They begin small but tend to grow until they can nearly destroy us. It’s much easier to kill these monsters when they are babies than when they are fully grown.

The Plan

So here’s the plan. Think about the negative action or habit you want to get rid of. Then determine what negative thought or thoughts precede that action or habit. Then you take some money, say $50 or $100 and you go to the bank and you exchange it for one-dollar bills. Every day that you go the entire day without dwelling upon the negative thought – meaning every time the thought comes to you, and you immediately get rid of it, you take one dollar and put it into a jar or a bank or envelope. So, you have a stack of $1 bills and every day that you are successful you take one dollar and put it in your jar. The idea is that after five days of not dwelling on the chosen negative or bad thought then you should have five one-dollar bills in your jar.

Now, if you mess up one day and actually dwell upon the thought then you must give the money away. I’m not even talking about performing the negative act itself. I’m just talking about dwelling upon the thought. If you do that then you have failed for that day and then all the money you have in the jar you have to give away – either to charity or the beggar on the street or anybody – you must give it away.

Set a Goal

So you set yourself a goal, a small goal at first, say thirty days. You want to go thirty days and every time that you complete a day without dwelling on the negative thought then you add a dollar to your jar. Then after thirty days you can take that money and reward yourself and splurge and buy yourself anything you want. Now that’s not a lot of money but then the next goal will be sixty days. So you keep increasing your goal like that. The idea is to train your mind so that whenever the bad thoughts come into your mind, from whatever source, you immediately remove it, get rid of it.

The beauty of all of this is this: most people decide to stop a certain negative behavior or action when they’re almost in the middle of it and at that point it’s usually too late. It’s like you’ve slid down a slippery slope and your are sliding so fast and the slope is getting steeper that it’s almost impossible to stop and turn and climb back up. The idea is to stop yourself before you even get close to the edge of that slope – to deal with the problem when it’s easy. So the beauty of all this is that you never have to deal with this great and terrible temptation because you never even get to that point. I have seen this work with myself and it’s almost like magic.

You might say to yourself, “This could cost me a lot of money!” Yes, it could. But its much cheaper than going to counseling. Ask yourself how much its worth to you to be rid of this habit. I guarantee that if you put this plan in place you will be amazed at the results. It really does train your brain. So, go out and kill some babies – monster babies.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

What Are You Focusing On?

subconsciousI talked earlier about the concept of Threshold, of reaching a boiling point in your life, of hitting rock bottom and realizing you need to change. But after that, then what? Where do you go from there? Many people have reached that point and they say, “I’m going to make a change, I’m going to turn over a new leaf.” But, you know, they go to bed, they get up the next day, and life goes on and nothing really changes. Well, that’s a good point. Where do you go from there?

Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want

I think many times we focus on the bad habit or behavior that we want to change and that’s where our mind is, that’s where our attention is, that’s where the vision is, the pictures that we have in our mind. Now I’ll go back to the example of the person who overeats. You know they say, “I’ve got to change, I’ve got to go on a diet, I’ve got to quit eating the food.” They put all of their focus on not eating and they are constantly thinking about food, saying things to themselves like; “I can’t eat the chips and salsa. I can’t eat the chocolate cake in the fridge. I’ve got to count calories.” Their whole focus is all on food, and not eating the food.

Dominant thoughts

The problem is, the picture that you have in your mind when you’re in this mode is of food and your mind draws toward what you have pictures of in your head. Let me rephrase that, not your mind, but whatever pictures you have in your mind; that’s what you’re drawn towards. The person who wants to quit swearing for example, if he’s just constantly telling himself, “I’m not going to swear, I’m not going to swear.” The thoughts in his mind are all about swearing.
The focus can’t be on what it is your trying to stop. It’s got to be on the behavior you’re going to replace it with. So for the person who wants to change the way they look, their physical appearance, their health, they shouldn’t be focusing on not eating food. They should be focusing on what they’re going to look like in six months or a year down the road-what kind of lifestyle are they going to have? It’s got to be a lifestyle change.

“See” what you want

They can’t say, “I’m going to stop eating food for the next ten days” or “I’m going to stop eating until I’m down to a certain weight and then resume my regular lifestyle.” That’s not going to work. You’ve got to see in your mind who you’re going to become. And then once you decide what kind of life you’re going to lead, are you going to be a biker, a runner, are you going to get up and do aerobics, kick boxing, whatever it is, you need to see pictures of yourself in good health, pictures of yourself in your mind having the body, the physique that you want, looking the way you want and then move towards that picture.

Suddenly you start to make changes in your life because your current behavior is incompatible with the way you see yourself. You need to start looking, acting, walking, and talking like that person.

Now that is focusing on a small part of your entire self, your physical body. You can bring this up to even a higher level and see yourself as a completely different person, a person you have described and envisioned in every detail, the real “you” deep inside of you. You begin to change every aspect of your life. It all begins with what you are focusing your mind on on a regular basis. So be aware of your thoughts, be aware of the images and pictures you have in your mind because whatever your dominant thought is, that is what you will create in your life.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

We Hear What We Listen For

Alarm ClockGood morning! Today I want to talk about an interesting phenomenon that actually happened this morning. It has to do with your mind’s ability to block out what it’s not interested in and only let in what it is trained to let in.

What brought this up was what happened this morning when my alarm went off. I have to admit that I hit the snooze button and jumped back in bed to sleep for 10 more minutes. I actually set my alarm 10 minutes earlier than when I plan to get up. So I lay back in bed and slept a little longer. When my alarm went off again and when I woke up I noticed that my wife was already out of bed. She wasn’t there. She had already gotten up to go wake the boys so they could do their paper route.

I thought it was interesting that I didn’t hear her alarm at all. We both have alarm clocks. They are very similar. They each have a red digital readout and their alarms sound very similar. It’s that annoying beep beep beep sound that today’s alarm clocks typically make. The sounds of the two alarm clocks aren’t that different really. They aren’t exactly the same but very similar. I thought it was interesting that my mind, my brain, is trained to hear my alarm clock and not hers. Her alarm didn’t wake me up but mine did. I thought it was interesting that I hear mine but I don’t hear hers. How can that be?

It makes you wonder about what else in life we don’t see or hear because of what our minds have been trained to see or hear. There is a story I once heard that helps us understand this phenomenon.

WE HEAR WHAT WE LISTEN FOR

Two men were walking along a crowded sidewalk in a downtown business area. Suddenly one exclaimed: ‘Listen to the lovely sound of that cricket.’ But the other could not hear. He asked his companion how he could detect the sound of a cricket amid the din of people and traffic. The first man, who was a zoologist, had trained himself to listen to the voices of nature. But he didn’t explain. He simply took a coin out of his pocket and dropped it to the sidewalk, whereupon a dozen people began to look about them. ‘We hear,’ he said, ‘what we listen for.’ –Kermit L. Long, taken from ‘The Three Boxes of Life,’ by Richard Bolles

We hear what we listen for. What are our minds trained to hear? What are out eyes trained to see? What are we conscious of and what are we unconscious of? What are we paying attention to and what are we not paying attention to?

I have read many times about a function of the brain called the RAS. It stands for the Reticular Activating System. Basically it’s what filters things in our brain. It’s what determines what you notice and what you don’t notice. The example that’s usually given, and it’s a great example because many of us have experienced it, is when you purchase a new car. Suddenly you begin to see that car all around you. You never noticed those cars before but now that you own one it’s on your mind, it’s what’s important to you. It’s not that these cars didn’t exist before, it’s just that you didn’t notice them.

I remember years ago I re-roofed my house. I did it myself and it was a huge project for me to do. It was interesting that during the weeks I was involved in that project, everywhere I drove, I noticed roofs. I never noticed roofs before. But since I was heavily involved in it that’s what I noticed. I think I knew everybody’s roof in the neighborhood, what condition it was in and what color it was, because that’s what I paid attention to. To me that was very interesting that suddenly I paid attention to everybody’s roof.

The down side to this is that by focusing your attention on one thing, in reality you are deleting everything else that your mind and body it receiving inputs from – sights, smells, sounds. So what are you deleting in your life? Is it good or is it bad? I think it can be both ways. If your mind let everything in you would be overwhelmed by the amount of information that would be flowing into your brain. You have to have a way of filtering it so that only those things that are important to you really register and make a difference. But we have to be careful not to be so focused on things that other important things get deleted out of our awareness and out of our lives.

So my message for today is to be aware of what you’re not being aware of, pay attention to what you’re not paying attention to. Make sure that we’re not leaving out the important things in life that we should be paying attention to.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

The Price Tags of Life

PriceTags of Life

Price tags

Everything in this life has a price tag. It’s up to you to read it correctly and decide whether you want to invest in it or not. You are the one who does the buying and selling. There are no special bargains or half-off sales. You reap all the profit or loss. Nature never fails. It always has and always will reward you for your right choices and punish you for your wrong choices.

What I’m talking about are The Price Tags of Life. What this means is that everything we do, every habit that we have, every action we perform, has a price tag attached to it. If you think about it and examine your actions and habits closely you will discover what their price tags are. We need to examine the price tags of life and see what it really costs us to do the things that we do. After we count what it costs and add up what we gain and then strike a balance, we can see if we are coming out ahead or not.

Smoking Example

There are many different examples. Let’s look at smoking. Let’s suppose you smoke. To determine whether you should or shouldn’t you need to determine what it is costing you. You take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom. In the left column write down all the benefits that you gain by performing this habit. Then in the right column write down what doing this habit is costing you.

You could do this with any number of habits or behaviors. One would be getting up every day and running. One could be the improper use of drugs such as painkillers. It could be an addiction to pornography. You can take any of these things and examine them closely and write the benefits and the costs and strike a balance. It helps you see clearly the price you are paying for that particular action or habit. Then you can determine whether or not it’s worth it. Some may be obvious but it’s still good to look at it because we may not realize what it’s actually costing us.

Drug Abuse Example

For example, let’s suppose you were a person who uses painkillers improperly. So you would write on the left-hand side of the page the benefits of using the painkillers. The benefits may be that whenever you use painkillers it gives you a sense of wellbeing. It just makes you feel good all over. You feel calm inside. It takes away the pain, not only physically but emotionally. That’s what a painkiller does – it removes pain. Other benefits perhaps are when you don’t feel good or are tired or don’t feel like doing something you could take a painkiller and after a while you feel pretty good. I can’t think of any other benefits of taking painkillers but if there were more you could list them.

Now on the right side of the page you start writing down what it cost to use painkillers. First of all you jeopardize your health, knowing that the painkillers are not good for your body. They’re not good for your heart. Every time you indulge in this habit it is damaging your body. Of course there are the actual costs. Somehow or another you are either buying these painkillers or are obtaining them in some other illegal way. So you have the actual costs in money. Another cost would be the risk that you take because what you’re doing is illegal. So you’re taking a legal risk every time that you take these painkillers. Another cost is that it impairs your judgment. When you think you are thinking clearly and you think you are acting rationally you may not be because the painkillers are affecting your mental state. They are impairing your ability to reason. Another cost is that you’re putting yourself in danger when you drive a car or operate any equipment because your reaction time is impaired. Another cost is that after a while you need more of the painkillers to get the same effect. So you need something more or harder to get the same effect. It becomes an addiction and you need to increase the dosage. Another cost is that usually this kind of a habit is done in secret. Your children, your spouse and the other people around you don’t know because you go to great lengths to hide it and conceal it from them and you always have the worry of being found out. This costs you two things: one is the constant worry of being found out and two is the real cost of being found out and losing the trust and respect of those who are close to you – your loved ones, your children, your spouse, your friends.

As you go through this and add up the benefits and add up the costs and then strike a balance you can see if what you’re doing is really worth what it’s costing you. You may want to put a value or weight on each of the costs and benefits such as a scale from one to ten. Some costs may be small and some may be great. Same with the benefits, some are small in value and some are large. So put a value on it so you can more accurately see what your habit or behavior is costing you in relation to its benefits.

Exercise Example

You could do this same thing with exercising each day. The benefits would be increased health, more energy and stamina, living longer and so on. The costs would be that you have to get up early in the morning. It requires effort. It’s not enjoyable. It takes time. You list the costs and benefits and determine if it’s worth it.

Relationship Example

Another example would be a relationship that you’re in and what it’s costing you. I’ve worked with people who are in relationships that are very damaging to them, to their whole wellbeing, to their future, and yet they stay in that relationship. They give reasons like, “he’s such a good friend, he’s always there for me, he’s so understanding.” Yet this supposed good friend, this understanding friend, is using them and taking advantage of them and in some ways abusing them and yet they don’t see it. They see the small benefit they gain and yet they fail to see what it’s really costing them such as their future opportunities in life or their future happiness.

Pornography Example

Another example is when I work with individuals who have a problem with pornography. On the left side of the paper you list the benefits such as the ecstasy, the pleasure, the release of stress they get when they view pornography. Then you start adding up the costs on the right side such as the warping their sense of what a true, loving relationship should be. They risk their job. They risk going to jail if they are into child pornography. They risk losing the love and respect of their spouse, their children, their community or their church. They risk losing the things they hold dear as far as the spiritual aspects of their life such as their relationship with God, knowing that they are offending God and distancing themselves from Him. They risk affecting their ability to commune with their creator by indulging in these things that are clearly offensive to God. Other prices they pay are stealing time from work if they indulge at work. There is the cost of simply wasting hours and hours of time looking at pornography and wasting what you cold have accomplished with that time. Those are the prices you are pay.

Review the Price Tags Every Day

Once you have done this little exercise then read these two lists every night. Don’t just read it over but review and think about each item on the list. See what it’s costing you and determine in your mind if it’s worth it. Do this on a daily basis. I am aware of people who have done this and within three weeks have made startling changes. They experienced no more desire to indulge in their habit. By bringing to their mind every day what it was costing them they were able to make that mental adjustment. They gradually gained self-mastery over their habit.

So my message today is to examine your life and look at the things that you may be struggling with and examine the price tags attached to them. Count the costs and determine if the benefits are really worth it. You may be surprised what you find out. Resolutions seldom work. Promises to never do it again are rarely kept. But reading The Price Tags of Life can help you gain intelligent self –mastery and thus change the course of your life.

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

Overcoming Self-Criticism

Self-CriticismWhen you look in the mirror are you happy with who you see? If you are like most people you will tend to see your own faults over your qualities. It’s amazing how critical and judgmental we can be with ourselves. It can suck the vitality and energy out of our life if we are constantly chipping away at who we are. It’s like trying to blow up a balloon with a pin hole in it. It takes constant effort. Our incessant internal criticism and judgment deflates our self-esteem faster than we can fill it.

A certain amount of self-analysis is good and healthy. If not, we would never make any improvements in our lives. We need to examine ourselves from time to time and determine the areas we need to improve on. However, this can be overdone to the point of being hyper-critical and counter-productive. You become your own judge, jury and jailer.

What are the causes of Self-Criticism?

1. Comparing ourselves with others. We are great at putting ourselves down because we know ourselves the best. We are intimately and painfully aware of each of our faults. The trouble is, when we look at others we tend to see the polished and refined exterior and are unaware of the flaws and internal conflicts that they battle with each day. We tend to compare the worst in ourselves with the best in others. We can never win that game.

2. Unrealistic expectations of ourselves. It’s good to set goals and strive to make improvements in our lives. We should strive for excellence. However, some of us mistake perfection for excellence. When the goals we set are so high and out of reach for the average human being then we set ourselves up for failure.

3. Not realizing life is a process. Journeys are accomplished one step at a time. Bodies are grown one cell at a time. Buildings are built one brick at a time. These are all processes that are accomplished in a gradual, procedural way.

Imagine driving by a building under construction. What do you see? Half-built walls, pallets of bricks, scaffolding, unpainted surfaces, weeds and debris – it’s not a pretty sight. Imagine criticizing the building because of these flaws. That would be unreasonable because we know it isn’t finished yet. It’s under construction. Yet we fail to consider that our lives are not finished yet either. We are still under construction. Of course everything isn’t in perfect order yet. We are still in the middle of this process called “Life.”

What are the consequences of Self-Criticism?

1. Incorrect vision of ourselves. When we continually focus on our flaws and imperfections we get to the point of identifying ourselves as our flaws and imperfections. That’s who we become in our mind. Instead of thinking “I have a weight problem” we instead think “I’m fat.” It becomes who we are.

2. The “Why Try?” attitude. Since we identify ourselves with our defects and believe that’s who we are, then we feel like “what’s the use” in trying to change since that’s “just the way I am.” If you see yourself as a zebra then why try to change your stripes. It’s simply who you are.

3. Saps energy. It takes energy and effort to be constantly judging ourselves. Experiencing discouragement and disappointment in ourselves is like dragging around a heavy weight. It wears on you and drains your energy.

How can we overcome Self-Criticism?

1. Pay attention to what’s going on in your head. Make an effort throughout the day to be aware of how you talk to yourself in your mind. What are you saying?

“I’m such a loser”
“I’m so ugly”
“I never have enough money”
“I’m so fat”
“I’m such an idiot”

Be aware of these negative jabs at yourself and rein them in. Take control of your thoughts and shut down the negative ones.

2. Lower your unrealistic expectations. Give yourself a break. It’s okay if you’re not perfect. You’re not done yet. You’re still under construction as a person. I’m not talking about lowering your personal convictions or your personal moral standards – just your unrealistic expectations of yourself.

3. Focus on your good points. Start noticing what you are doing right. Focus on the positive things you accomplish every day. Make a list of all the things you are doing well and give yourself a pat on the back. Notice even small steps of forward progress.

T.S. Eliot wrote:

What is this self inside us, this silent observer,
Severe and speechless critic, who can terrorize us
And urge us on to futile activity
And in the end, judge us still more severely
For the errors into which his own reproaches drove us?

When you truly overcome self-criticism you free your mind and energy to move forward in your life. You are not stuck in Paralysis by Analysis. You become at peace with who you are and where you are headed. Remember, there is only one person in the world that you are compelled to live with – and that is with yourself. It’s best you both get along!

Thank you.

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson