Where to begin?

Everywhere you look you are confronted with many issues human beings face. You want to help but find it overwhelming; your help may only be just a drop in the ocean!

What to do and where to begin? There is no one answer, but one thing you don’t do is nothing!

You start by making a difference in your family, neighborhood, and community. Perhaps you are already involved in some charity work where you can put more energy.

To impact the world we need to start first in our own backyards, beginning with our family and then extending our reach to causes we are involved in within our neighborhood and our communities.

Tear up your Plan B

Jihae Shin, a researcher at the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania’s Katherine L. Milkman performed a series of studies that examined how having a backup plan impacts success.

One study group was offered rewards if they did well on a test at the first go-round. Researchers then told all other study groups that they’d have to create backup plans before taking the test, just in case they did not do well. The groups forced to develop backup plans ended up consistently performing worse on the tests than the group who were rewarded for doing well the first time.

The researchers concluded the simple act of thinking through your backup plan could subconsciously reduce your ability to succeed with your initial goal.

When you take the approach of jumping off the cliff backward, there is no going back to the cliff. This means your first and only aim is to land in the water alive so that you can successfully swim your way to your destiny.

People who take this approach are fully committed, and their subconscious mind allows them to dedicate all their energy to plan A rather than dividing their attention between plan A and plan B.

This does not mean becoming irresponsible and disregarding your familial or financial responsibilities. It means nurturing a mental state while you are working towards your goal where success is the only option. If things do not turn out the way you expect, you can reassess your options.

But during the relentless pursuit of your goal, there are no plan Bs.

(Excerpt from my latest book, SPARK: Journey From Success To Significance)

Live in “day-tight compartments”

In his wonderful book, ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’, Dale Carnegie shares a simple but great metaphor for living life in “day-tight compartments.”

Day-tight compartments, a term first coined by Sir William Osler, call for people to stay fully focused on the moment, on today. To be in control of only what is within the present “compartment,” not in the compartments behind you, far ahead of you, or even to the side of you.

By shifting your attention from the past, future, and any irrelevant concerns—all of which are out of your control—you will have more capacity to invest in the present moment. There is nothing else except the present moment. The present moment is where all the meaning lies and where all future possibility rests.

The Sufis say, “To grasp the present moment is to grasp eternity itself.” They believe that “you can plan for 100 years, but you don’t know what will happen the next second.” Life is indeed uncertain and unexpected, but we are the masters of this moment.

To be living and healthy today is a priceless gift to savor, cherish and celebrate.

Use this gift to make each day count. Live this moment intensely, passionately, and fully, for it will meet you but once. Make it the primary focus of your life. Plunge daringly into it.

Cultivate the beginner’s mind

As counterintuitive as it may sound, the first stage of Knowing is not knowing. Not knowing has a beauty of its own, a purity. By cultivating the beginner’s mind and being willing to “not know,” you allow the possibilities for Knowing to emerge.

So, what is the beginner’s mind? The beginner’s mind is an element of Zen practice that is motivated by an unbound awareness. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions, expectations, judgments, and prejudices.

A popular Zen Buddhism story tells us about an emperor, also a devout Buddhist, who invites a great Zen master to his palace to ask him deeper questions about Buddhism.

“What is the highest truth of the holy Buddhist doctrine?” the emperor asked.

“Vast emptiness … and not a trace of holiness,” the master replied.

“If there is no holiness,” the emperor said, “then who or what are you?” “I do not know,” the master replied.

Therefore, not knowing is not ignorance; not knowing is a state of innocence. There is neither knowledge nor ignorance; both have been transcended. The mind can be knowledgeable, and the mind can be ignorant.

Not knowing simply means a state of “no mind.” Knowledge and ignorance are only different in terms of the quantity of information, not in their qualities. However, tapping into a deep-seated Knowing transcends both knowledge and ignorance.

(Excerpt from my latest book, SPARK: Journey From Success To Significance)

Know the difference between Knowledge vs. Knowing

Knowing is different from knowledge. It is internal.

Knowledge can be acquired from reading, taking a class, or practical lessons at work. It is external. Knowing, on the other hand, is a certainty that comes from experience, contemplation, and reflection.

Knowledge is factual while knowing is experiential. Knowledge has utility in this world. It makes you more efficient, skillful, and resourceful, which may lead you to earn more. Knowing, meanwhile, is more elemental and innate. It’s like the way a flower knows how to open, a fish knows how to swim, a child in the mother’s womb knows how to grow, and you know how to breathe.

This is a totally different kind of intrinsic intelligence. But unlike Knowledge, Knowing is not acquired; it is natural.

Osho, the Indian mystic, describes how one can go on thinking and accumulating information, but also how pieces of information are nothing more than “paper boats” that will not help in an ocean voyage. If you remain on the shore and only discuss your voyage in theory, these paper boats seem like real boats.

But if you go on the voyage with paper boats, you will indeed drown. Only when you transcend the mind do you become “original.” However, to be “original” and present, you need to stop clinging to Knowledge.

Life’s outlook is transformed when you cooperate with the forces of life rather than oppose them. Knowing is about trusting life and accepting our existence, as is, now!

Practice daily gratitude

Research has found that when we express gratitude, the brain releases a surge of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in many vital functions.

This surge of dopamine gives you a natural high, increasing the experience and duration of positive emotions. In addition to increasing dopamine, gratitude has also been associated with increased serotonin production. Serotonin is often called “the happiness chemical” because it contributes to feelings of well-being, stabilizes our mood, and helps us feel more relaxed.

Practicing daily gratitude is an excellent way to foster resilience. Not only does it influence our brain to produce mood-enhancing hormones, but it also focuses our attention on the positive aspects of our life.

Whether we are grateful for our positive experiences, our talents and skills, our support network and community, or even our challenges and failures that have taught us something, gratitude allows us to see the good in all of life.

(Excerpt from my latest book, SPARK: Journey From Success To Significance)

Become inverse paranoid

W. Clement Stone was once described as “inverse paranoid.” He believed the Universe was conspiring in his favor rather than colluding to do him harm. He looked for an opportunity in everything that happened, whether good, bad, or neutral.

In simple terms, a paranoid person believes the world has the power to do them harm. So, an inverse paranoid individual believes the world is out there to enrich and empower him or her.

This attitude looks at every wound and sorrow as a blessing.

Rumi gives this lovely example: “Realize that you are a rock, a diamond if you will. Every rub and friction you experience is therefore not something you are trying to destroy. It is trying to polish. Trying to do better. Trying to smoothen the rough, to clear the unclear, to beautify, and to make you something that in the end is so elegant and magnificent that you are worth far beyond your weight in gold.”