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Weekend Getaway

“Be an explorer. The universe is filled with wonder and magical things.” – Flavia

I just got back from vacation with family.  It was just a weekend away, and I loved it.   I was on vacation with my Parents, brothers, their wives and my nephews.  This is our third family vacation together in my adult life.  Probably not a big deal to most, but we are not the kind of family that does stuff like this.  Yet miracles happen!  I want this blog to be proof of my commitment to living a GREAT LIFE.  I want to look back on these blogs and see my progress.

We took the train in from Williams, Arizona.  We all had a wonderful time.  I can’t help but think there isn’t much to say about living the GREAT LIFE.  So I’ll post a few pictures and say, the GREAT LIFE is experienced and the last couple of days are one’s I’ll never forget.

To all those who read this, I hope you have experienced the joy of traveling with family and friends that you love.  If you haven’t, I hope you will soon.  Best wishes.

traindavids family Grand Canyon

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The Edge Of A Cliff

“If you’re standing on the edge of a cliff a step forward is not a good thing.” Anonymous

The picture you see is of my feet taken some years ago at the Grand Canyon.  Just over five years ago when I started my journey to rebuild my life, I took the trip to visit, for me what I think of as, the whole I was in.  I sat and meditated and focused on my feet.  It’s easy for me to worry about the past or the future but I heard a friend say, that when she went on vacation she always took a picture of her feet to remind her of where she was and to stay present to “where my feet are.”  It makes me think of how important it is to always know where my feet are.

When I was new to recovery, I noticed a lot of old timers talk about how to work  program and sometimes I heard advice being thrown around.  Thankfully, nobody ever told me what to do or pushed me into something I wasn’t ready to do for myself.  When I finally got help for all my problems, I was standing on the edge of a cliff, and didn’t need anyone to push me over the edge.

When working with clients or with other addicts in recovery it is important for me to always be gentle in my approach.  When people come to a decision to change there life they sometimes look for the most extreme direction to get the fastest results.  I relate it to all the weight-loss and workout programs that promise transformation almost over night (i.e. P90x promises results in 90 days and Insanity promises results in 60!).  The quick fix is a solution to very few people.  With every disappointment we get closer to the edge, believing we won’t ever be able to change. Take note of where your feet are and focus on the direction you choose to step next.

My transformation has taken years!  One day at a time I focus on one foot in front of the other always taking a step toward a GREAT LIFE.  In five years I’m looking over the hole I was in… I’m grateful that the journey has been slow and every step of the way was my choice to move in the direction that’s gotten me here.

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If Not Now, Then When?

“Family means too much, friends are too valuable, and life is too short, to put-off sharing with people, how much they really mean to you, and pursuing whatever it is that makes you happy.” – Anonymous

I woke up this morning and headed to the gym.  While there I decided to check my Facebook page on my phone when I came across some upsetting news.  A friend from high school, Randy, passed away yesterday of a stroke.  He was my age, 38, and just had a newborn son just 3 weeks old and a two year old daughter.  I was shocked by the news and upset.  We graduated the same year and played on the water polo team together.  Like so many do, we drifted apart after high school but through Facebook, I was able to see his life and all his blessings.

Occasionally I log into Facebook and I see people I went to school with, and honestly, I admit I sometimes envy the lives that some of my friends have built for themselves.  They have beautiful families and a successful and most important they are surrounded by friends and family who love them.  I sometimes feel a little jealous, I’m ashamed to say.  Randy was one of those people.  He was someone I always admired.  He was smart, handsome, and a really good guy.  In high school I wished I was more like him and more recent I saw his life unfold online, and wished I had more of what he did.  When his baby was born just three weeks ago I was really happy for him.  He had the perfect family, I thought.  In a flash it’s over and we can only wonder, why?  He leaves behind a wife and two kids and I’m so sad for his family and can’t stop thinking about what a huge part he played in my life.

Why is it that only when tragedy strikes that we start thinking how precious life is?  I’m 38 years old, Ph.D. and not always smart enough to realize how short and precious life is.  I pass the time thinking there’s always tomorrow.  We all have those plans: I’ll get to it on Monday.  I’ll start next week.  I can wait till next month or next year.  And the time passes and we wonder where it went.  I’ve wait for the perfect conditions to live… to really live.  Since no time is ever perfect, I’ve let my time pass wasted.  I’m 38, single, and my business is struggling.  Instead of going out and changing my life, I waste the day checking on Facebook and envying the lives of people I know.  While I’m happy for them, tragedy reminds me I need to be happier for me.

I started this blog recently with that intention to be more mindful of how GREAT my LIFE is… Life is short, this I know, and I’m reminded sadly at the passing of my friend.  I don’t know how long I have left… nobody knows.  But I can be grateful for today… I can take some steps toward a GREAT LIFE.

If not now then when? Seriously, when?  There is no tomorrow… I don’t have another Monday or next month or next year… nobody does.  I only have today.  Will I live it like it were my last?  Will the people I love know how much I love them?  Will I stop being afraid and start living my life like I could die any day now?  Most days I’m very happy and optimistic.  I love my GREAT LIFE and I’m committed to it every day.  But will I leave this life in envy of the lives others lived or will I leave it having others envied me… or will I leave this life an inspiration that we can all live a GREAT LIFE one day at a time?  God I pray, may I have the courage to inspire others by letting go of shame, envy, and fear and move with purpose toward a GREAT LIFE?

Rest in peace, Randy.  I pray for your family and I pray Gods plan is bigger and better than we can imagine.

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GREAT Leaders

“I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.” – Scott Berkun

When you hear the words great leader, who comes to mind?  If you’re like me you think of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandi, Nelson Mandela, Franklin D Roosevelt, or Susan B. Anthony.  We think of people who inspire cultural and personal transformation.  They lead during times that challenged our humanity and made us better… stronger.  These are truly great leaders.

My interest is not in great leaders, I’m interested in GREAT Leaders.  GREAT Leaders are everyday individuals who inspire others and are inspired to be more, do more, and contribute more. Who are today’s GREAT Leaders?  You are! I’m talking to you!  I don’t care what your title is or what industry you work. You don’t care what your bank statement says, or what people think.  You care about making a difference.  You care about a cause.  Everyone has the capacity to be a GREAT Leader. GREAT Leaders are ordinary people who inspire extraordinary change and transformation.  They are GREAT fathers, GREAT mothers, GREAT friends, GREAT motivators, GREAT managers… GREAT people!

The first step to becoming a GREAT Leader is to believe you can be.  You must own the responsibility.  This is not a privilege or a right but an obligation to dedicate yourself to a plan that Mahatma Gandhi referred to as “becoming the change you wish to see in the world.”  GREAT LIFE daily is a blog dedicated to providing you with the insight and tools to becoming GREAT; a GREAT man, woman, Leader.  This site is not about theory, this is a solutions driven site with actionable steps.  This first step is the toughest.  Decide that you are dedicated to becoming GREAT and keep reading.

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Try Something New: My Kundalini Yoga Experience

“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” – Sharon Gannonaif

Have you ever tried yoga?  I’m not a yoga guy…or at lease never wanted to be one.  I’m a gym guy.  6-7 days a week until about two months ago when an exercise physiologist said to cut back to five days. I love the gym.  But, you can’t grow if you’re never willing to try something new.  A couple weeks ago I tried my first class in Kundalini yoga as part of a Mastering Your Relationships workshop with Mastin Kipp (relationship expert and all around awesome guy) and now… I think I’m a yoga guy!

I attended a class that included some Kundalini yoga from one of my favorite writers, speakers and now Kundalini yoga teacher Gabrielle Bernstein (gabbyb.tv, look her up… amazing work).  I could focus this whole blog with how much I love Gabby, but this is about yoga.  This was my third class of Kundlini Yoga.  Let me tell you, it is not easy.  I’m a big guy… a big strong guy at 6’1″ 230 pounds!  I am not flexible, and holding some of the yoga positions feels a little like torture!  During my first yoga class, I was thinking to myself, this is bullshit… It was uncomfortable, it hurt at times and I didn’t get it.  The next day, my body hurt, it was sore and it hurt to sit down.  It wasn’t what I expected, and I loved it!

I’m too new to Kundalini to understand or to speak about it.  What I want to talk about is how GREAT I feel.  I don’t understand it.  I’ve never felt this good after a gym workout.  I feel calm, centered, and lighter.  My face is relaxed and I have a constant slight smile.  I’m carrying no tension in my body, and I feel really loose.  This form of yoga focuses heavily on breathing (I don’t know if it’s any more than the others)… I never knew how focus on breathing can feel so healing.  I don’t know… I feel amazing.

Having said that, I want to tell you about the hurt and the fight my body goes through while holding the yoga positions.  Possibly the most difficult part is sitting cross legged with my shoulders back and a straight spine.  This is not a pose, this is just sitting!  I didn’t realize that I’m so use to comfortable chairs that my body is unable to hold itself up for any length of time.  My body seems to fight it’s natural state.  The remedy is to focus on breath, feel the discomfort and focus on breath.  When we work on the yoga exercises I feel lots of pain and discomfort and the solution is to focus on my breath.

For today I see the exercises a metaphor for life, focus on my breathing seems to be a solution for most of the discomfort I feel in my life.  Focus on my breath keeps me present… Focus on my breath allows me to pause before I say of do something stupid… Focus on my breath allows me to feel my feelings and step into gratitude and the start of a GREAT day.  If you’re thinking about trying something new to better yourself and you never tried Kundalini yoga, give it a try.  I hope your experience is a enlightening as mine.

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Commitment to Happiness

“Happiness isn’t getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” – Anonymous

There is a popular kind of negative thinking that we all do, “IF – THEN, or WHEN – Then” thinking.   It goes like this: “IF/WHEN I get (insert desire) THEN I’ll be (insert reward).  There is no difference between IF or WHEN just in the level of confidence that’s expressed.  “IF” suggests it might not happen and “WHEN” expresses certainty about whatever goal you’re thinking of.   I use to think that WHEN I get my dream job, THEN I’ll be happy.  Or WHEN I get the girl of my dreams, THEN I won’t feel lonely.  Almost without fail, IF/WHEN – THEN thinking never resulted in what I was hoping to get.  I got the education, the car, the job, had the money, and women and despite having all I wanted I was somehow miserable.  Getting what I wanted only resulted in wanting more.

Having had a number of experiences where getting what I want didn’t make me happy, I’ve learned that my day to day goal rarely have anything to do with getting something.  Rather I’ve learned to appreciate all that I have and focus my energy on the feelings I want to have without the “things” I think will make me happy.  My commitment to living a GREAT LIFE includes a commitment to happiness.  I heard Les Brown, motivational speaker (if you don’t know his work, look up any number of speeches online) say that when he wakes up every day committed to being happy.  I committed myself to living a GREAT LIFE partially inspired by Les Browns commitment to happiness.  Nothing makes me happier than thinking about my GREAT LIFE and more important is sharing all I’ve learned.

There is nothing more tragic than not seeing all there is to be grateful for.  A quote I think of asks the question “What if you woke up the next morning only with those things you were grateful for the day before?” Everyday I try to take inventory of all I’m grateful for.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dependent on things to make me happy.  If I lose it all, and sometimes I think I have, there is always more that can be lost and I’m grateful and very happy for all I have.

Happiness is wanting what you have.  I want all I have and I’m very grateful, happy, and blessed for each day I’m not blinded by IF/WHEN – THEN thinking.  I am committed to happiness.  I am committed to living a GREAT LIFE.

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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” – George Sheehan

I was in the park watching two brothers play.  The older brother was running with a ball and his little brother chased him.  The two were laughing but the look on the little brothers face had me mezmoried.  His concentration was on following his brothers each step.  He wasn’t trying to catch his brother or get the ball.  With each foot landing he looked focused on the pure joy of feeling his foot hit the ground.  He looked present and in each moment as it happened, he was happy and I was inspired.  He was doing what children do.  He was being himself.

As we grow older we sacrifice the joy of being present, and just being ourselves.  We put on masks to fit in.  We let go of who we are to live up to some expectation of who we should be.  But it’s never too late to become who we were meant to be.  It takes courage, vulnerability and commitment to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to find who you are and maybe return to childlike presence where each step we take is taken in pure joy of the moment.

Tonight I started a five week workshop with Mastin Kipp (author of thedailylove.com).  The workshop titled Mastering Your Relationships started with 30 minutes of Kundalini Yoga.  Why did I take the course?  I’ve been closed off to love for many years.  I believe I was meant to be a GREAT dad and husband.  I was also inspired to practice what I preach.  I never tried yoga and I loved it!  It was really hard!  My body is aching!  I got so much out of the course and have 4 more meetings where I’ll be challenged to practice the lessons.  I’m really uncomfortable.  I’m having to look at aspects of myself that I need to change.  I’m challenged to practice behavior that is outside of my comfort zone.

Some of you might think that isn’t being in our comfort zone returning to childlike feeling of being present?  I guess it could be.  Ask yourself, is your comfort zone a safe place from who you believe you need to be?  Do you leave work and become another person?  Do you worry about maintaining a certain image around some of your friends?  It may feel good to be isolated in our own home where we can finally just be yourself, but it’s amazing to feel like you can be yourself wherever you go.  The courage to push yourself outside of your comfort zone more often comes with the opportunity to fining greater adventures that make you uncomfortable.  Who might you be if you practice the courage to be who you were meant to?

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Let it Rain

“One already wet does not feel the rain.”  Turkish Proverb

I prepare these blogs the day before I post them.  It gives me an opportunity to be mindful of how I go about my day.  Perhaps the greatest gift of being able to write this blog is the daily practice of mindfulness of what it means to live a GREAT LIFE.  Today, I shared my story at a 12 step meeting.  Before walking into the building I sat in my car a little resentful and feeling like a failure.  I’m a little stressed about work opportunities that have dried up…  and for a moment wanted to blame my addiction and having to “waste” my time in meetings for my worry.  When I walked into the meeting hall I didn’t recognize anyone.  I smiled  at people but I felt disconnected and a little ashamed.  Not a minute after and the meeting secretary walked in and she was a friend.  She said she was happy to see me and excited to hear my story.  In that moment I knew I wasn’t alone.  When the meeting began I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy that caused my body to tingle.

I can’t describe how good it makes me feel to connect to the story of who I was and embrace who I’ve become.  I’m not perfect.  I’m happy… when I choose to be.  I may stress out about the day to day responsibilities we all have but that’s no reason to not be happy.  Business is slow and finances are tight, but there’s more to life.  My work is not who I am, my things are not who I am, the people I choose to spend my time with are not who I am.  I am happy.  I am blessed.  I am mindful of my GREAT LIFE.  I am not perfect and have no desire to be.

So I shared my story today.   The short version is, I was once a worthless, unlovable, waste of space and I wanted to not feel my hurt and shame and often I hoped I’d die… today, I am blessed, I am happy, and I live a GREAT LIFE in service to others.  What else can you say to inspire a bunch of addict?  It is the story I’ve heard hundreds of people tell over the years; it is the story that saved my life.  I hope my story serves to inspire you to commit your life to one of happiness and service.  What more is there to say?  I’m not perfect.  Sometimes I feel like a fraud, a failure…  Maybe that’s true.  Maybe I’ll never be good enough… for someone else’s standards.

The best I can do is be vulnerable, honest, and open.  There is no better feeling than the complete absence of shame that open honesty gives me.  Honesty and vulnerability clear the path for mindfulness.  In openly speaking my truth, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all I’ve become.  I know that, while at times I might feel like a failure, I am always as happy as I choose to be.  Today, after sharing my story, I am reminded that I am already wet, I may feel the rain but that’s no reason not to dance.

 

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Wisdom is Knowlege Articulated With Imagination…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein

I love the idea that imagination is more important that knowledge, and I find it most useful when I apply this to my life.  As a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology (it’s an applied area of psychology that usually focused on workplace psychology…), and an avid reader of self help and all things psychology related, I like to think I know human behavior.  This knowledge was the justification for trying to solve my own problems, diagnose myself, and create a forecast for what kind of life someone like me is capable of having.  I embraced knowledge and lived within it’s confines. Now that I’m set free, my imagination is causing me to question all I know.

While I feel betrayed by my knowledge I think devotion to one and not the other is a type of ignorance.   Ultimately what else does imagination and knowledge create but more questions.  Yet trying to figure it all out isn’t just impossible but it could drive a person crazy… at least this was my experience.  When I was in graduate school someone told me that people with a bachelors degree think they know everything; people with a masters degree don’t know anything; and people with a Ph.D. don’t know anything but they know neither does anybody else.  What a wonderful and terrifying experience to understand!  I think that knowledge creates is this understanding that what is true and what is possible is entirely up to the individual.  What is true and what is possible is my choice.

I think the more wise we become, knowledge is less important because what we know can only take us as far as where we know.  As we accept how small knowledge is compared to imagination, it leaves us with the wonder to explore what is truly possible.  Not just for us as individuals but for human experience.

I can honestly say from experience that knowledge without imagination is dangerous.  Let imagination guide the growth and development of your life and forget about what you think you know about yourself and the world around you.  Ultimately knowledge and imagination together create wisdom.   I strongly believe that wisdom is knowledge articulated with imagination so that it embraces the human experience and respects the individuals process of understanding. 

What I know only scratches the surface

Prayer

God, Show Me How I Can Be Of Service Today

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

In my work in a 12 step program of recovery we are taught the importance of being of service to others.  I’d say the cause of my addictions and all my suffering was the result of self-serving obsession.  I was driven by money, sex, power, prestige and nothing was ever enough.  I was miserable.  I coped with my misery with vices that became addictions. When I surrendered to a program and started to heal I was bombarded by people who were where I was and extended their help to me.  I am here today because of the love, support and service others gave to me.  I am blessed at the opportunity to be of service to others.

When I came up with the GREAT acronym (Gratitude, Recognize Negativity, Excitement, Action, and Thanks) I was doing volunteer service at a homeless shelter in Santa Monica.  The workshop was titled How to Have a GREAT Day.  I loved doing the workshop for that audience.  I was inspired by the optimism of my participants.  Every time I ended a workshop as the participants exited the classroom they would smile and tell me “Have a great day.”  I couldn’t help but think of how wonderful my day had been by being able to serve them.

Today my GREAT framework has evolved and is the basis for a book that I hope to get published.  It is the model that I use in my coaching work and hope it will be the platform to do speaking engagements and workshops.  The model had transformed my life.  Today the vision for my life is to share what I’ve learned with others.   In my vision I hope to change the meaning of the word GREAT.  I want to teach people how to be GREAT; how to be a GREAT leader; how to be a GREAT parent; how to be a GREAT friend.  I want to teach people how to have a GREAT day, and by doing this I want people to look back on a GREAT LIFE.  I want people to help others be GREAT.  Maybe one day people will know me as that GREAT guy… long after I’m gone I want a GREAT LIFE to help my Nephews children and God willing my children and grandchildren live a GREAT LIFE.

I love my life and don’t take any aspect of it for granted.  Yes it could be better.  I could be dating the love of my life, I could be earning more money, I could be living in the home of my dreams.  But is there anything better than being of service to others?  My life is a blessing and a miracle.  My life has meaning as long as there is someone I could offer my time, some advice, a shoulder to cry on, an encouraging word, or even just a smile.  Service has saved my life.  The service others have offered me, and in my finding purpose to my life in serving others.