What Can Spirituality Do For You?

If the Buddha, Deepak Chopra or your favorite televangelist have not yet made the case to you on why you get more spiritual in your life, you’ve been missing out.  I talk a lot about what spirituality can do for you on my blog and today, on my guest post at Pick the Brain.

Spiritually tends to get swept up with far out characters, hokus-pokus practices, and bizarre beliefs. The spiritual people you know you in your life also may not be the best examples for wanting to live a spiritual life. Your hippie Uncle, fortune-telling ex-girlfriend and organic-fasting colleague (who fasts while breathing organic air) make you want to have nothing to do with spiritual people or a practice.

A good spiritual practice is one where you are able to discover your true nature and self. It’s the process of digging through your physical and emotional makeup and reaching the essence of who you are as a person.

To read more about 5 benefits of spirituality, visit my post at Pick the Brain.

What do you think – what else can spirituality do for you?

For my book about spirituality and resiliency in life, Is God Listening, click here. 

* Photo credit, Jennifer in Meditation, to www.adhiwus.com

How to be Happy, Instead of Right.

"All right bro - you do happy, I'll do right"

I work in the social justice movement which regularly requires community and political organizing. I help people make positive changes in their lives and often taken on special interests, powerful corporations, lobbyists and even government entities.

In order to do my work and empower others to make change in their lives, I spearhead campaigns to create change; organizing people around issues, motivating them to take action and inspiring them to persist until change is made.

During the organizing and change process, I deal with the very real dilemmas of questioning myself about the “rightness” of my positions. Am I on the right side of the law, the issue, the moral dilemma?

More often than not, I regularly believe I AM in fact right so that I can do my job more effectively – with passion and creativity to help the people that I’m working with, win.

Why wanting to be (always) right is a problem?

In organizing people around issues, I work with conviction of my beliefs.

Belief in the cause is critical to carrying out an effective campaign.

But always having or wanting to be right is a problem. A big problem.

Wanting to be always right means that you might be regularly avoiding reality and you cannot be as strategic about the work you’re doing. For example, if facts, circumstances or situations change and you’re still clutching onto your position or point of view, you may not be able to make the necessary changes to the circumstances.

Also, wanting to be right always spills into other areas of your life. It is extremely easy for the professional to become personal.  I spend so much of the work day believing that I’m right that I start thinking and believing I’m right in every other situation as well – talking to TSA security guards at airport, when talking to my accountant and to my psychic.

Finally, wanting to be always right could be stopping you from your own happiness.

How to be happy, without having to be right.

I was struggling with how to be right and be happy. Or maybe even how to accept the fact that I may not be right all the time.

Is being right and happy mutually exclusive? How do I reconcile these choices?

Luckily for me and for you, my friend Galen, has come to the rescue.  In her inspirational and practical book, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), Galen writes that in many instances, it was more important for her to be happy than to be right. She says it was “tough on my ego, but nourishing to my spirit.”

To be happy, instead of right, Galen suggests the following 7 ways:

1) Asking if there is even a right answer? There won’t be just one right answer in every instance. Being open to the possibility there may be more than one right answer in a situation is a start.

2) If there is a right answer, inquire if the right answer even matters. Galen tells us this story about how she let go of being right; resulting in her ego sulking and spirit smiling.

She recounts a work situation where, “someone was wondering about something that happens to be my area of expertise. When I offered the correct information, the speaker disagreed with me. I pressed. He pushed back. My ego knickers were in a knot. I was poised to pull out my expert status and crush all opposition, but I paused. The resolution of the issue was not relevant to the meeting topic.”

3) Pause and look deeply within. Galen suggests when we are filled with righteous indignation, to shine light on the sacred spaces within ourselves. Sit with those feelings that make us feel uncomfortable and breathe into it until our discomfort softens, our body relaxes and our mind clears.

4) Think beyond right and wrong. Pema Chondron, Galen points out, says “the concepts of problem and solution (in life) can keep us stuck in thinking that there is…a right way and a wrong way.” Chondron suggests another approach, one that focuses on “working with rather than struggling against”.

For example, how do you work with a problem or a set of circumstances instead of struggling against them? Working with doesn’t require you having to be right – it allows for changing your perspective when circumstances change. Struggling against, on the other hand, requires being set in your position and usually sticking to being right.

5) Reframe the issue. Galen uses her experience with tai chi to show how to make issues into nonissues in our lives. “Now when I find myself in conflict, I try to pause and explore the possibility of reframing the issue to avoid opposing sides. I have found this to be a powerful as well as a peaceful approach,” she writes.

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now

you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water

into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot,

it becomes the teapot. Be water, my friend.

–Bruce Lee

6) A quick cost-benefit analysis. How often do you analyze a situation to determine if it’s worth sticking to your beliefs and being right or is it better to be happy and bring happiness to others?

This approach requires self-reflection, awareness and a calculation. It requires us to step back from the situation and look at it from an objective perspective to determine what the real cost of being right is. Is being right less important in the situation than bringing happiness to others?

7) Be right when it is not ego-driven. This final point speaks most to me.

Galen suggests there can be situations when it is ok to be right. “The time is always right to do what is right,” said Martin Luther King. Galen suggests there are situations we must act based on integrity and courage for injustices in the world. We’ll know if this is the case when being right and acting on it would bring an underlying peace and joy in our actions.

Galen has really given me some good ways to think about being right and not having to be so all the time. And you know what’s the best part? This is only 1 of 10 other ways Galen highlights to bring happiness into  your life.

I don’t review books. Heck, I’ve never reviewed one yet but when I read Galen’s book, I thought she had basically written it for me. It was relevant and practical. And it made me happy!

Galen writes about giving up control, giving up judgment, being compassionate and being filled with gratitude but different than other books I’ve read.

Her writings are filled with inspiring and wisdom-filled stories and philosophies of other philosophers, inspirational writers and thinkers, intertwined with her personal life story. And infused with practicality and wrapped in humor.

I know I’m being right and happy when I recommend this book to you – go read it people and let me know what you think!

I was moved by this book to make a donation to the charity which Galen is donating all book proceeds to, the www.edwardscenter.org.  To purchase a copy of the book, visit: http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/p/the-happy-place-book.html

Now, your turn. Is it better to be right or happy? How do you stop being right all the time? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

10 Ways to Get Spiritual for the “Spiritual, Not Religious” crowd.

Are you for health but don’t have time to eat healthy?

A world-changer but waiting to retire from your corporate Wall Street job before changing the world?

An environmentalist who doesn’t recycle?

Or maybe even someone who is “spiritual, but not religious?”

Which leads us to the question of what the heck is the “spiritual but not religious”?

Multiple choice question. “Spiritual but not religious” means:

A) You’re super religious but don’t want others to know it

B) Non-religious but use this phrase as a way to be politically correct and be socially accepted

C) Kinda religious when it’s Christmas time or someone dies

D) Not religious but spiritual enough to believe that if all this religious crap was for real and you found yourself in hell, you’d use the “spiritual, not religious card” to escape a life in purgatory.

“Is spiritual, not religious” a lame excuse?

It has become socially acceptable to say “spiritual, not religious” when asked what our religious preferences are. It  also seems to be the politically correct thing to say.

With “spiritual, but not religious” we get to say that we’re connecting with ourselves, a higher power or God but not in any formal or scripture-based way. And we don’t really have to do ANYTHING to satisfy that label.

How do you end up becoming “spiritual, not religious?”

Did you grow up in a cult and get burnt out?

Did you grow up in a strict religious household where you were constantly warned about going to hell?

Did you grow up in a household where you were told to stay far away from God and march with your comrades when the revolution started?

Did you live a life of faith only to find a God who doesn’t listen to your prayers and continuously disappointed you?

Why get spiritual?

If you’re neither spiritual or religious, fine.

If you’re religious, all the power to you.

But if you’re the “spiritual, not religious crowd” I’m writing this for you. And asking you to get spiritual if in fact you consider yourself a spiritual person.

I’m asking you to get spiritual so —

1)    You spend a part of your day focusing on your inner self and being, as you discover who you really are – your essence.

2)    You’re able to deal with life’s problems and challenges better with inner strength and wisdom.

3)    You realize that spirituality is a part of your personal development practice which allows you to be a better person to yourself and others.

10 Ways To get Spiritual for those without money for church coffers, time to attend religious services or tolerance for doctrines and dogma.  

Let’s say you’re  hell-bent on staying as far away from any and every religion, prophet, guru and sacred text. Then, try one of these practices for a few minutes a day to get in touch with your inner spirituality.

Stop saying you’re spiritual and get spiritual by:

1)    Meditating for a few minutes every day. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing without trying to think about the world around. You’ll become more mindful of your breath and ultimately be able to observe your mind.

2)    Attend a yoga class. Yoga may feel like a pure physical exercise. Yoga is actually challenging your body and mind and helping you make the connection between the two.

3)    Listen to music which stirs your soul. I would just suggest doing this mindfully so you’re actually listening to the music instead of when you’re on the exercise bike, playing a game of Angry Birds on your  iPhone.

4)    Attend a gospel concert. Yes, they may be singing about God but you don’t have to ‘hallelujah’ about God.  A gospel choir sings about God but also about hope, strength, self-belief and overcoming challenges.

5)    Be silent. No, I don’t mean shut up as a spiritual practice. Oh, maybe I do. I say be silent and observe the silence. Embrace the silence. In the silence, you might even hear or find your inner self.

6)    Watch your favorite televangelist. And no, you don’t have to pick the one that’s asking you to send in $5,000 to save your soul.  TV preachers ain’t all bad and many preach about overcoming life challenges and finding your inner strength during life’s rough times.

7)    Take a hike. When you’re one with nature, you can’t help but think about nature and before you  know it, your connection with nature. Nature has a way of revealing your true self.

8)    Watch a sunset or sunrise. Sure, this sounds like a recipe for a romantic getaway but also a way to uplift your spirit and soul. Glorious sunrises and sunsets may make you even start seeking a higher power.

9)    Help someone. Yes, helping others can be a spiritual practice all by itself.  The act of giving selflessly to others  brings out your best and highest self. Helping a friend when they  are overwhelmed, a relative who is struggling or an elderly person with a chore will help you make you feel a spiritual connection.

10) Send love out into the world. Sending out love is something that my friend Wendy Irene regularly writes about on her blog. This may be a little hippie-ish sounding advice you heard when sitting around the campfire at Woodstock. When feeling afraid, overwhelmed or worried for yourself or someone else in your life, feel love and illuminate love for a  few minutes.

You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual. But if you think you’re a spiritual person or want to be more spiritually in tune, practice a little more spirituality in your life every day.

You’ll instantly feel the benefits of spiritual living; clarity, strength, compassion and connection.

For my book, Is God Listening?, about spirituality and resilience, click here

3 Sacred Paths to Living an Englightened Life (without sitting under a Boddhi tree)

How to achieve enlightenment?

A question that we usually ask ourselves in between watching reality TV and during the last 30 seconds before we fall asleep each day.

It’s a big life question and many religious texts and practices have tried to answer it.

You may find that different people answer this question in different ways – drugs and alcohol will definitely get you enlightened for a few hours. Fancy cars and big houses may make you believe that you’ve been enlightened. A local visit to your temple or church may feel like enlightenment is right around the corner.

But what if you want enlightenment right now? Ok…during this lifetime?

Don’t worry – this story doesn’t end with you spending a lifetime under a Boddhi tree in deep meditation. (Although that has worked for others in the past)

The Bhagavad Gita – no, that’s not what you had for lunch at Taj India buffet.

The sacred Hindu scripture, known as the Bhagavad Gita, provides 3 sacred paths to living an enlightened life. If you’re thinking the Bhagavad Gita was what you had for lunch at Taj India buffet last week, you’re sorely mistaken.

The Bhagavad Gita or “Sacred Song” is a Hindu epic that takes place in a mythical holy battlefield. Arjuna, a hero in this battle and a representation of every human soul who seeks guidance, strategizes how to fight his distant relatives on the battle-field.

This epic conversation between Arjuna (enlightenment-seeker – i.e. you) and the God Krishna takes up about 18 chapters of the Gita and is filled with pearls of wisdom about living and enlightenment.

No matter what you think about Hinduism or holy battles, the message of the Gita is universal.  The Gita offers up three paths of salvation and enlightenment that you can put in practice into your life today.

The way of action (Karma Yoga) – Karma here is not in the sense of ‘don’t cheat your neighbor today or someone’s going to show up and slash your car tires tomorrow.’ While surely that can happen, we are talking about Karma in the unselfish action sense.

It is a path that states that you should do your duty in life (studying, working, raising children) but not for external reasons; glory, fame, wealth or praise. You do your life’s work without any expectations of a return.

Karma yoga instructs against taking action for selfish personal gain and suggests enlightenment by working for work’s sake.

When you ignore the ‘fruits’ of your actions, you become less attached to expectations, achievements and results. You can work for the sake of work, which Krishna calls divine work, and a sure-bet towards enlightenment.

So, in a nutshell, carry out life’s duties without expectations or seeking rewards.

The Way of Knowledge (Jnana Yoga)

This is enlightenment through knowledge; reading of texts or learning from wise teachers. Ok, I’ll agree with you – you’re right – reading Vishnu’s Virtues is probably a form of Jnana Yoga. So is picking up a copy of my book, Is God Listening? 🙂

Not the strongest form and definitely not recommended by 9 out of 10 gurus, but it’s one way. And many of you are great Jnana yogis as you may consume your fair share of wisdom-filled blogs (including www.tinybuddha.com, www.everydaygyaan.com, http://evolvingbeings.com/), spiritual texts and even read brilliant realized tweets to achieve the realized state.

Other ways include reading holy scriptures, being guided by wise men and women, meditation and even yoga.

Way of Devotion (Bhakti Yoga) This is the way of devotion or faith. It is the way of love, dedication, faith and worship.

If you sing in joy and celebration of a higher power, you’re practicing bhakti yoga.

Same if you’re praising, worshipping, or reflecting upon the higher powers.

This is a practice of love and praise. Constant and fervorous worship.

5 thing you can do to reach enlightenment today.

The Bhagavad Gita offers 3 ways to start on your path to enlightenment.

You can start on the path to self-realization today.

You don’t even have to sit under a boddhi tree for awareness. Or move to the Himalayas or jump the palace gates like the Buddha.

You don’t need to hit rock bottom or end up in your life’s lowest point to start your path to enlightenment.

You don’t need a groom running away at the alter, house foreclosure or income tax audit to help you get to the point of seeking spiritual realization.

1. Start working for the sake of work without minding so much about the results, achievements or goals. Yes, Hindu wisdom would say live a goal-free life. You can have goals in life but don’t expect enlightenment through a constant achievement of goals.

2. Read, inquire, question, learn. Check out practices, books, knowledge and other spiritual paths to start on your own path towards enlightenment. Enlightenment won’t happen overnight but you can start on your path today.

3. Worship, pray, meditate and make a connection with the higher powers in the universe.Some sort of an active spiritual practice can help you start your path to enlightenment.

4. Be a better human. Who knows? Maybe ultimately being enlightened is really about realizing that there’s a higher power that governs the universe. If this is the case, that higher power must be everywhere including within every human. Is enlightenment simply realizing this and being kinder, more loving and compassionate towards others?

5. Attend a rafastarian concert and rock out to reggae music. If you think enlightenment is utter nonsense and have no desire to get started on any spiritual path, I dare you to attend a reggae concert and not come out spiritually enlightened.  Sure, it may be a temporary state of euphoria (until the smoke clears) but you’ll have a taste of what enlightenment could feel like.

Will you become an enlightened soul in a life-time?

* Thanks to the book Hinduism by Vasudha Narayanan which I referenced for parts of this post and madam3181 for the Buddha photo.

To learn more about my book on spirituality and resilience, Is God Listening, click here

The #1 Fear-Conquering Secret to Overcome ANY Life Situation or Challenge.

Are you terrified this table-flippng New Jersey housewife will become your neighbor?

As the cabin door opened, I felt the Central American humidity and a strong dose of fear strike me. “How am I ever going to survive this trip?” I thought to myself.

I’m not the most adventurous traveler, haven’t traveled on my own previously and never been in a country where I didn’t know the language well.

I was afraid of being kidnapped, of getting lost, of being robbed, of losing my plane ticket and my passport, of not being able to speak Spanish well enough on the street to find a place to eat and then starving to my death in hunger!

How was I going to make it through Costa Rica and Central America for the next few months?

My fears had instantly become real as the stewardess was rattling off welcome greetings in Spanish and passengers stood up ready to make a mad dash to the exit.

I feared my body ending up in one of these carriages if things had gone horribly wrong in Nicaragua. NO BUENO.

What are you afraid of?

Fear is that pesky internal talk within ourselves that makes us imagine the worst outcome, makes us doubt ourselves and prevents us from being our best selves. Regardless of real or make-belief, fear is crippling and damaging to each of our lives.

As my friend Caroline just wrote , fear of success and fear of failure keeps us right where we are in life without allowing us to move forward.

We are afraid of trying out something new and failing because we don’t want to look bad, fall on our face, be laughed at or be ridiculed. (And I’m not just talking about the first time I went skiing a couple years ago.)

We are also afraid of success because we fear change, alienation from people close to us and simply being our best selves.

When trying out something or taking on a new challenge, fear holds us back from excelling.

The best-kept secret to conquering fear.

I’ve found one of the best secrets to conquering fear is reflecting upon past similar successes when you conquered fear.

Remember that trip to Central America that terrified me?

I reflected upon the times I did travel by myself, the times that I was in an unfamiliar country (trips to India when I was younger) and other travel successes. I realized that I had successfully made it through each of those travel challenges and enjoyed myself (and lived to talk about them).

Naturally, my travel adventure was one of the best ones in my life.  It was a journey to self-discovery and overcoming my fears of travel.

Reflect on past success when facing uncertainty or the unknown (and when filled with self-doubt and fear)

In my travel fears, I had to reflect upon my past successes and ability to overcome my fears in past situations, to remind myself that I had overcome that fear before and will do so again.

Now, you may be afraid of doing something in your life. Before you take another step, do this:

1) Acknowledge the fear and why you’re scared of doing something. The first step to conquering fear is realizing you’re in fact scared of something.

2) Accept that the fear is real in that it’s holding you back but unreal that it’s likely the worst case scenario you’re imagining. Fear is usually a  trumped up feeling of inadequacy and a creation of your mind.

3) Whatever it is you are afraid of, look at and reflect upon those similar past events in your life. If you are afraid of starting a new career, look at how you achieved success in your past career. If you’re afraid of giving a speech, reflect upon all the positive speeches you’ve given. If you’re afraid of whipping up a gourmet meal for your mother-in-law and getting her approval, good luck!

4) Go forth with confidence. Know that you’ve done it well before and will do it well again. Use your previous success and ability to overcome challenges to help you conquer your fears!

Here are 12 additional fear-conquering strategies.

When was the last time you felt scared about something in your life? What do you do to overcome fear? 

How Life Taught Me to Embrace Change; a Tiny Buddha Guest Post

Change happens.

Change happens.

In small ways and big ones.

A small change is that I’m now back in the States after nearly four months of travel in Central America. I’m glad to be home after my travel adventure. While I loved every minute of my trip, coming home is a welcome change.

Big changes can be life-altering events; unexpected and sometimes traumatic. Some of the changes I talk about in my recent guest post on Tiny Buddha sure felt that way.

As unexpected and traumatic as change can be, change happens. We can’t do anything about stopping change. We either embrace change or get crushed by it.

It took me a few life lessons to embrace change but I think enough life shake-ups helped me come to terms with change and embrace it.

The lessons I learned about change through some of my life experiences were featured on the Tiny Buddha blog recently.

Here are 6 life lessons on embracing change, courtesy of Tiny Buddha. I’m grateful to Lori Deschene for the opportunity to post on Tiny Buddha and share my experiences with change.

What do you think? Have you mastered big life changes in your life? How did you do it? Please share in the comments below.

If you hate change, fight change or have no change to spare, enjoy some of my photos below of Nevada:

flowers from a Nevada garden
the beautiful Eastern Sierras
northern Nevada sunset

What do you think? Have you mastered big life changes in your life? How did you do it? Please share in the comments below.

5 Ways to Personally Deal with Tragedy. (Reflections after Oak Creek, Wisconsin)

A Sikh candlelight vigil, remembering the Wisconsin victims.

Tragedy can strike at any moment.

Even in the most sacred times – while you’re at the temple praying, in the midst of a divine moment. This can happen in the most sacred of places and the most public of places.

Which is exactly what happened in Wisconsin last week at the Oak Creek Sikh Gurdwara (temple). 6 people died tragically, left their families and loved ones behind and are being eulogized in funerals this week.

The tragedy, like the shootings in Colorado earlier this year, are profoundly sad, appear to be senseless and affects each one of us, no matter where we live and what religion we practice.

This is not a Sikh tragedy but a human one.

While I’m not Sikh by religion, I share a country of origin, India, where Sikhs hail from. I’ve found the people who practice the Sikh faith to be extremely devoted to their religion, peaceful, loving and kind.

Sikhs have gotten a bad rap, in America, because they wear turbans and have beards; characteristics of Osama bin Laden.

Why turbans? Not only is it one of the tenets of their religion, but as the Huffington post columnist recently pointed out, Sikh gurus instructed Sikhs to wear turbans to rebel against India’s caste system and to represent equality between poor and rich. The turban was encouraged to be worn by all classes of Sikhs to represent equality in God’s eyes.

It’s unknown why the lone gunman in Wisconsin unleashed this horrific act of violence against this devoted and peaceful community. But the tragedy has once again confronted us as a community, as a society and as individuals.

How do we personally deal with pain and suffering when tragedy strikes?

Here are 5 ways:

1) Reflect. When tragedy strikes, it’s easy to jump to conclusions, feed off stereotypes and hatred and take action we may regret later.

Instead, after a tragedy strikes, reflect. Reflect upon what happened, reflect upon your feelings and how the tragedy impacted you. Try to understand why you’re feeling the way you are.

Observe anger, the sadness and the other emotions the tragedy causes within you.

2) Gather and reach out. When tragedy struck in Wisconsin, Sikhs around the United States had vigils in many gurdwaras around the country. This was a time for communities to gather and meet each; to comfort each other and try to collectively understand what happened.

While you may want to reflect on the tragedy yourself, you may find it helpful to be with others and reflect as a group. You may feel like you’re less alone and feel a stronger support network. By reaching out to others, you’ll be help others more seriously affected by the tragedy to move forward.

Here are a couple photos of the the beautiful candlelight vigil and prayer I attended in San Jose, California where the community gathered and mourned together:

Lighting candles in remembrance.
In reflection
Community gathers for candlelight vigil.

3) Learn and understand. Tragedies present you with an opportunity for better learning and understanding.

Ask yourself what the tragedy means to you and your community?

Did the tragedy happen because of stereotypes, hatred, ignorance or some other reason?

What caused the tragedy and what can be done to avoid similar happenings in the future? Is it time to improve the cultural dialogue? Time to reach out and get to know our neighbors? Time to deal with mental health issues?

Learning and understanding from a tragedy is not only a healing process but can help make you and those affected even stronger than before and help your community avoid it in the future.

4) Help and give. When others are going through man-made or natural tragedies, we might want to sit home and mourn. It’s easier to watch television and empathize with the affected people than to actually do something.

Instead, see what you can do to help those impacted by the tragedy.

Ask yourself what you can do to help. Although tragedies seem to happen far away from us, they are not that far away. It probably happened in a community similar to yours with the same types of neighbors, same types of issues  and similar people.

What can you do to help others and give back? Can it be as simple as making a donation? Is it putting together a care package? Is it writing notes of support and reaching out to the victims?

Is it championing an issue or cause that the tragedy raised?

Doing something, anything, in the face of tragedy, is also a healing activity that can help you move on. Helping others by rebuilding a community or giving back allows you to take something sad and hopeless and make it positive, as Sikh community leader, Valerie Kaur, noted about the emerging generation of Sikh Americans in her recent Washingtong Post article.

5) Take time to heal. We don’t heal overnight. Healing takes time. Reflect, learn, understand and take time to heal when tragedy strikes – especially when it’s close to you or your community.

Don’t continuously reflect upon the tragedy and take a break from it if you’re able to. Try living as normally as possible, do things you love, meet up with friends and try to partake in your regular daily activities.

Also, let’s not kid ourselves, tragedies can have psychological and emotional impact. Some events can trigger emotional or psychological wounds especially if you’ve experienced something similar before.

If you need the help of a counselor or psychologist; seek it. Just talking to someone else about what happened may help you come to terms with the incident and help you move on.

What do you do when tragedy strikes? How have you dealt with tragedy in the past? How can we heal, reflect and move on with our lives? Please share in the comments below. 

10 Gold-Medal Winning Strategies You Can Use to Win at Life

All it took was Corn Flakes and 17 years of practice! (Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images for Kelloggs)

You’re standing up on that Olympic podium grinning like the champion you are.

Blowing kisses to your family, striking a pose for photographers and even texting the President of the United States.

“You killed it, son” he texts.

“Thanks for the support B. Great to see Michelle in the stands!” you text back.

As the national anthem starts playing, you couldn’t be prouder of your Olympic gold-medal. You worked your entire life for this moment and are now being recognized with 6 grams of gold and an offer to be on the cover of a Corn Flakes box.

10 gold-medal winning strategies for your life

You don’t have to be an gold-medal winning Olympian like Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin to win the game of life. This is especially relevant if you have no idea how to swim the butterfly, get on a pommel horse or have any other skill that will land you in the Olympic games.

Here are 10 observations that I made about these Olympians that we all can start implementing in our own lives today:

1. Have a strategy. Olympians, especially gold-medal winning ones don’t show up for the big day without a plan. They’ve got a strategy to win the day and the gold; almost every move is examined, discussed and planned ahead prior to game day.

You need a strategy as well to win at life. When setting goals or pursuing dreams, have a plan of where you’re going. Get friends, experts and advisors help you plan the journey so you know where you’re going and have the best strategy to get you there. If you don’t have a strategy, you may never get to your destination.

2. Play as a team. Olympians play as a team and credit their supporting cast for their success. And no, it’s not just in the team competitions. Even in individual competitions like swimming or running, there’s a whole cast of teammates, coaches, family members and others who are part of the athlete’s team.

Have a team in your own life – a close network of people who support you. Actively bring together, seek the counsel of and ask your supporting team for ideas, strategies and improvements  to help you live a better life. Those that are negative towards your or don’t support you should be kept at bay.

3. Keep pushing forward. Even after a tough loss in the pool or losing a basketball match in the early rounds, Olympians look ahead.

When Michael Phelps got out of the water after his first competition in the 400 IM, coming in fourth place, he told the irritating NBC reporter that he was off to a bad start with this race but wanted to put the race behind him and focus on the other races coming up.

You can’t simmer on your losses. When things go wrong, horribly wrong sometimes, you have regroup, reflect a bit on what went wrong and then forge ahead. On your path to a dream or goal, momentary defeats and losses are bound to happen. You have to keep your eye on the prize and move forward despite setbacks that may get in your way.

4. Go for the gold. Winning Olympians come into the games to win gold.

Several times, we’ve seen Olympic athletes disappointed, even unfairly devastated, for snagging a silver medal. This only means one thing – they came in looking for the top prize.

It’s good to have your eyes set on winning “the” prize. Don’t settle for second best – go for the gold. Having said that, do keep the next strategy in mind too.

5. Do your best. You can’t be the best every time. Sometimes, you’re going to lose. Ryan Lochte loses. Michael Phelps loses. Missy Franklin loses. Gabby Douglas…well, ok fine.

But many world-class athletes lose even when they are pursuing gold. You can go in desiring to win the game or top the competition but all you can be expected to do at the end of the day is to do your best.

If you do your best and live up to your potential, most of the times you win.

But not always. Be prepared to accept that your best may not always win the day and that’s ok!

6. Go hard until the end. Have you seen how many games, races or matches have gone down to the wire? I mean, even the U.S. men’s basketball team recently just won a game by a mere 5 points against Lithuania!  Which means they could have lost if they didn’t play their heart’s out for the last few minutes of the game.

You have to be persistent and determined and not just sporadically. Sometimes when the going gets tough, you must buckle down and push through even harder to accomplish your goals. It’s usually when you push through the most difficult part of the journey that you’ll break through.

When you feel like giving up, don’t! Go strong until the end.

7. Be prepared. Not only do those Boy Scouts love to be prepared but Olympians and world-class performers in any sport or venture arrive with copious preparation.

Olympians put in thousands of hours for a one minute or one hour activity, depending on their sport. Imagine spending thousands upon thousands of hours to win the hundred meter dash which is less than a 10 second race.

If you’re pursuing a goal or dream in life, or trying to become better in your profession or passion, you must be prepared. Preparation means practice, perfecting your craft and  dedication when you might want to give up.

Many times, the difference in winning is the person who showed up most prepared.

8. Don’t listen to the chatter. Many Olympians have an ability to tune out the chatter from analysts, sportscaster and the tabloids. While the news media and gossip-mongers are dissecting the lives and capabilities of the athletes, the athletes themselves have tuned out from all the chatter out there.

If you’re going to succeed, you have to be open to valid criticism and ideas for improvement from your inner circle. But you absolutely cannot listen to the haters, doubters and detractors in your life. You may not have paparazzi and the news media but your rumor-spreading, gossip-mongering friends and relatives need to stay out of your life.

Even if you can’t keep them out of your life, do your best to keep their inappropriate comments and criticisms at a distance.

9. Focus on your game. Olympians are 100% focused on their own game. In the individual events especially, they don’t appear to be competing against the competition. They go in focusing on what they need to do to win. They understand their strengths and weaknesses and have a strategy to do their best.

You cannot be bothered what the competition is doing. Sure, you can occasionally glance at the progress of your competitors in life but more often than not, it’s not going to be helpful. It might make you feel worse, dis-empowered or like you’re falling behind. No need to keep up with your peers; focus on your game.

10. Enjoy and be grateful. Why do Olympians look like they are having the time of their lives?

More than once, I’ve heard an Olympian say they’re going to go out there and have fun.

Have fun during one of the most high-pressure, gut-wrenching circumstances in their lives??

Apparently so. You need to enjoy the experience or the journey on your way to the destination. Only when you appreciate and enjoy the struggle to get through a crocodile-filled river can you truly enjoy the safety of having made it across.

When you’re enjoying yourself, you’re more relaxed and focused on achieving your goals. Remind yourself why you started on the journey in the first place and to slow down and enjoy the process.

Athletes are also always grateful for their accomplishments and thank their coach, their Mom, God and everyone in between. They know their efforts were their own but it took a village to make them into the gold-medal winning Olympian they are today.

Don’t forget to regularly show gratitude to those who are helping you achieve your goals and supporting your endeavors. Without them, you wouldn’t be as far along on your path as you are.

Do you agree with these life lessons I’ve picked up from the Olympians? Which ones resonate with you? What have I forgotten? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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How to manifest your heart’s desires without shaking down the universe like a mob boss.

Is the universe going to manifest me a pizza?

Are you a results-oriented person who is persistent about achieving your life’s goals and desires?

If you are, then do you demand the same kind of results from the universe around you?

It’s good to have personal desires and goals, and pursue them with a laser-like focus. That’s how many of us have been able to achieve success and results in our lives. But at the same time, we tend to be pushy or be overly-demanding of the universe around us.

I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve wanted a particular job in my life or some circumstance to work out the way I’ve wanted it to, the universe has met me with barriers and challenges.

When I pressure the universe into delivering the type of professional job I’ve wanted or the location where I’d like to do the job, the universe shrugs its shoulders and seems to hardly care. When I’ve expected my partner in a relationship to be a certain way or do something I had expected, the universe again has gleefully delivered the opposite or ignored me all together.

What is the universe? The universe around you is the all-pervading intelligent design that some call nature, God or simply the field of energy that surrounds everyday life. Similar to the laws of nature, the universe operates on its own set of rules and guidelines. Work against these rules and you’ll continually run into obstacles and challenges. If you embrace the universe, however, and live in sync with it, you’ll start manifesting all of your life’s desires.

I’ve found these 6 powerful ways to work with the universe which has allowed for favorable life events and positive manifestations in my life.

Here are 6 ways to allow life to unfold on the universe’s terms:

1) Let go. It’s perfectly acceptable to have reasonable expectations and goals for yourself, and make requests of the universe, but you CANNOT control how the universe manifests those expectations and goals in your life. You cannot micro-manage the universe or control the universe like an over-bearing boss or lover.

When you desire something, let the universe decide how it’s going to do its part and deliver it for you. If you want a particular job, for example, do your part and apply for it but contacting the office manager 12 times a day, becoming a stalker of the H.R. department and sending them flowers daily will usually not be appreciated and could invite the local cops to pay you a visit.

2) Stop demanding. You cannot shake down the universe like a mob boss demanding protection money. The universe doesn’t like to be threatened, cajoled or shaken down. Accept the fact that the universe will not do what you want, in exactly the way you want it to.

Don’t tell the universe that you ‘MUST’ have that particular job, or this particular boss, or that the office must be located on 24th street for you to take a job.

You can have desires and personal preferences of what you’d like from the universe but trying to demand results from the universe like a mob boss will likely result in your disappointment (and potentially a long solitary drive into the desert).

3) Be open to all possibilities. While you may have an expectation of something working out a particular way and personal goals of when that should happen, permit the universe to work its wonders.

You may want the job of your dreams and a safe and practical car to get you to work. Imagine if the universe delighted you with a safe and practical job which fits your career goals instead and delivered the car of your dreams into your life!

4) Allow the universe to lead. Like the waltz or Argentine tango, you must allow one person to lead the way when dancing. I’ve found that the universe prefers being the lead.Allow the universe to point you in the right direction, bring opportunities forward and guide you.

If you try to take the lead, the universe can break your leg or refuse to dance in the direction that you’d like to go. The universe is all-knowing, intelligent and knows what you want. It may not be how you’re used to dancing but why not allow it to lead you a better place?

5) Align with the universe. Your ability and power in all of this is your ability to align yourself with the universe. What do I mean by that?

Aligning with the universe means working in concert with the universe. Many spiritual and mindfulness practices can help you better connect and work in unison with the universe. In addition to the many benefits of mindfulness, awareness allows you to be in sync with the universe.

Being present and connected with yourself allows you to tap into the universal intelligence and see more favorable results in your life.

6) Trust. The universe is wise, loving and intelligent. Trusting the universe is as challenging as difficult as trusting ourselves. Trust in yourself to follow the intelligent design of the universe. More importantly, trust that the universe is all-knowing, intelligent and generous. Trust in the universe’s ability to deliver what you need in your life, when you need and how much of it you need..

The universe has no interest in being directed or controlled by you. While you can set your goals and visions for your life, keep your focus on your actions. Leave circumstances you can’t control and outside of your capabilities for the universe to handle.

When you learn to live in sync the universe and trust the universe to do its part, you’ll see all your dreams and goals manifest right in front of you.

Do you let the universe deliver or are you a mob-boss type who regularly threatens the universe? Let me know in the comments below. (If you enjoyed this article, please tweet or share this article on Facebook and with the universe)

How the student who refused to speak Spanish taught me the language of success.

Bro, I think we've had enough of your Spanish here.

In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time. Anthony J. D’Angelo.

Let’s say you’re trying to learn the Argentinian tango or trying to get your book published.

Imagine trying to become a world-famous Chef like Julia Childs. Or even Julie Powell for that matter, who spent everyday of a full year cooking up one of Julia Childs’s recipes.

Or pretend you’re on the run from the authorities and need to spend a few months in the Central Americas, let’s say Nicaragua for now, and are trying to learn Spanish.

How do you do something you’ve never done before and excel?

How do you get good at something? What’s the language for success?

As you know, I’m in the spiritually buzzing city of Granada, Nicaragua, learning Spanish.  I took 4 years of high school Spanish but like my French, oh, I’ve never learnt or spoken a word of French in my life!), my Spanish had become rusty. When I snuck into Nicaragua this past month, however, I’ve only spoken Spanish at home, at school, church, and to people on the street.

In fact, here I am with the Spanish school director (who refuses to publicly acknowledge I’m a student of the school):

Don't ever tell anyone you studied here.

The student who wouldn’t speak Spanish.

At Spanish school, I met a fellow-student who had visited Nicaragua several times now but she still didn’t speak Spanish much.  She’s understood everything people were saying to her but usually did not respond. I probed her a little bit trying to inquire why she didn’t want to speak the language.

She said that she didn’t want to look bad by speaking it wrong. She wanted to speak it perfectly, so would continue to think about each word and sentence and perfect conjugation before saying what she wanted to say.

I, on the other hand, was told by my Spanish teacher on the first day of class that I speak Spanish like a ‘directionless bird’ – without any reference to tenses, time or proper conjugation. I’m not trying to brag in any way here about my bird-like ability to speak Spanish but I have and continue to reach a level of proficiency that I can get my basic point across (no matter how bad it comes out) and carry on a conversation.

That’s when I realized the successful ingredient to speaking Spanish or being successful in anything in life.

1. The language to success is learnt by failure.

Instead of hiding from the language or something new, the best way to master it is to attack it. You have to jump in there and get your hands dirty (if cooking), your feet dirty (if playing soccer) or your mouth dirty when speaking Spanish (You know what I mean!).

You must persist in pursuing a new skill or habit you desire to master, and be prepared to do it wrongly, incorrectly and so bad that you’ll be laughed at!

2. Cuddle with AND embrace failure. And no I’m not suggesting you go to bed with that loser ex of yours:) Not only is it a good idea to fail and fail often but also FAIL BIG. Because the more you fail, the more you’re learning. Most people don’t like the idea of failing because they look bad or feel embarrassed. But the flip side of never failing is never learning and never growing.

If you’re trying to learn a new course, a new language, mastering becoming a ninja, trying to become a yoga instructor, then go out and fail. It’s the same way when we were learning to ride a bike or mastered our handwriting as kids. We didn’t just come out on the first time and excel at it. We continued to mess up, look bad, feel horrible, had our parents yell at our incompetence before we figured it out and mastered it.

3. Treat your failures as your building blocks to success. When you do fail and do fail big, treat those failures as the vault of your future success.

People think the more you fail, the more of a loser you are. What if instead, the more you fail means that the more you know how not to fail in the future. And if you fail a lot now then you can’t help but being successful at the skill you desire to master, the habit you desire to have or the business you desire to build.

So, I’m not going to tell you to go out and pursue success. No, my friend, I’ve learnt that the language to success is failing big and often. Falling flat on your face is a good thing.

My Spanish teachers hate me and are trying to ban me from coming back to the school because I speak the language horribly but I’m speaking it everyday, conversing with people and getting better.

The other day, I told the woman who tried to sell me a wallet that I wanted a $10 cordoba ($.50 US) discount because I didn’t want a plastic bag for the wallet. No, she didn’t give me a discount and no I didn’t buy the wallet but we both conversed without the dialogue turning too violent or her ripping me off.

Go on now – go FAIL at something. Keep failing your way to success.

Do you agree about failing being the recipe for success? Do you love to fail or do you embrace failing like a shark in an aquarium?

P.S. Can you do me a favor and share this article with the patrons at the pub you’re reading this post at? Or via social media, if easier. Cheers!