Gratitude Is The Start To A GREAT LIFE

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”  – Ann Frank

The goal of living a GREAT life daily is to start the day in Gratitude for all I have.  The GREAT life is a philosophy that is lived one day at a time.  Here is how it works for me.

I start my day being mindful of all that I am grateful for. Being grateful does not mean I think of all I love about my life. Being grateful is more of an inventory of all I have.  I’m grateful for a lot of things, my health, my home, my reliable (but not so cool) car.  I’m even grateful for the fact my life is not where I thought it would be at this age.  I’m 38, single, no kids, and financially I could be better! I’m grateful for the awareness. I’m grateful for the courage it take to look at my challenges (or problems) and know I can choose to accept it, or take action to changing it. Living a GREAT life means always choosing to take the path that will make my life better.

I once had a client tell me she could not think of anything to be grateful for in her life. She was convinced that there was nothing in her life that made it worth anything.  If you feel the same try this exercise.  Imaging lying in bed and waking from a deep sleep. You open your eyes and as your eyes focus you realize you are not at home in bed, but in the hospital. You don’t know how you got there of what happened. Imagine a doctor standing over you and saying to you “relax, you’ve been in an accident.” You respond, “what happened?” Imagine for a moment what is the worst thing the Doctor could say. Be grateful what you imagine is not what is happening to you. Can you find gratitude?

Try this exercise: Imagine your phone ringing in the middle of the night. Your gut tells you something is wrong, there’s been an accident. Imagine the call that would come in the middle of the night of news that someone you love has been in an accident and is no longer living.  Who is that person? What do they mean to you? Be grateful they are well. Better yet, call them and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. Tell them you love them.

Gratitude is a powerful tool to starting your day in perspective.  Life is beautiful, the GREAT life is more than you can image when you start the day being mindful of all that is in your life.

How To Be Beautiful

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross

I use to hate the man I saw in the mirror.  There was a time in my life where I lived as a shut in.  For years I isolated.  I threw towels over the mirrors in my home, I had blankets over the windows.  The house was dark and you couldn’t tell if it was night or day.  I slept all day and stayed  up all night.  I didn’t answer my phone or the door.  I pushed away everyone who loved me.  I spun into the depths of my worst thoughts about myself.  I ate, slept… I was deeply lonely, and my loneliness hurt, physically hurt.  I longed to be held and told everything would be OK.  When the pain of loneliness was so bad, I’d binge on food till the pain in my stomach masked the pain in my head.  If that didn’t work, I cut myself.  If that didn’t numb the pain, I’d take a handful of pain killers and alcohol then sleep a day or two and pray for a miracle that when I woke up something would be different.

My story of hitting bottom is long, and in several areas of my life the wreckage of my past haunts me.  But I don’t look back and wish it was different.  I don’t regret my past.  I don’t have any shame about the man I was in my addiction.  I don’t have shame about the man I was in my depression.  The pain, suffering, failure, defeat… it’s all a part of the man I’ve become.

I love who I am today.  The struggle, the challenges I’ve faced in my life shaped the man that I am.  I’ve lost well over 100 pounds from my top weight, I don’t drink or do drugs, and I have a respect for mental illness as a problem never to be taken lightly or treated by my own will.

When I look in the mirror today I’m sometimes surprised by how different I am.  When I look in the eyes of someone who’s been where I’ve been or someone who’s feeling like I’ve felt, I see beauty.  I see them in there vulnerability and they are beautiful.  I see myself…  I see a compassionate, sensitive, understanding, loving man.  I feel beautiful.

The secret to feeling beautiful… is feeling everything.  Feel shame, feel hurt, feel lonely, feel sadness, feel loss, feel defeat, feel suffering, feel vulnerable, then feel compassion, feel forgiveness, feel the courage to face your fears.  If you allow yourself the feelings, if you allow yourself help and support, I promise you will feel a beauty in yourself that will change the world around you.

Be Unreasonable…

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world.  The unreasonable one persists in  trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

I live my life with passion and at times I’m a bit idealistic… dare I say I’m a  bit naïve.  I believe in love; I believe in helping others; I believe that you can have the life you have always wanted; I believe a GREAT LIFE is possible for everyone.  I believe I can change the way we define the meaning of a great life.  Is that unreasonable?

I was never able to adapt to the world around me.  I tried.  I wore mask held on with glue that became my addictions.  The masks helped me fit in, helped me get by.  My mask that was most suffocating was the one that tried to please everyone.  The face that accepted the reasonable, predictable, mundane, and passionless.  I was reasonable, agreeable… I conformed to the world around me, and hated my life.

As I nurture my self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem I let go of my masks.  I allow myself to be seen.  I don’t need the masks today.  I don’t accept the limiting beliefs everyone finds reasonable, acceptable or tolerable.  I’m unreasonable!  For today, I try to adapt the world to me…

What you see is what you get.  I gave up my masks.  My word is all that I am.  I’m unreasonably honest.  I believe all progress depends on those who are unreasonably intolerant of a life full of predictability or expectation.   “All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  Being unreasonable depends on self-love that demands more than what we believe is possible.  Be unreasonable… love without fear, live without limits, dream bigger and FOCUS ON PROGRESS!!!  The GREAT LIFE is waiting.  Be unreasonable and don’t settle for less.

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

Keep Calm Life It’s a Wonderful

“The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

When I first got into a program of recovery to treat my addiction, I was told to find a sponsor (someone who will help me through the twelve step program) who has what I want.  Not long after being in the program and I found the person who helped save my life.  She had what I wanted.  She would share in meetings some pretty heavy issues she was working through, however she shared her struggle with a sense of peace and calm that I found inspiring.  More than anything, I know what I want in my daily pursuit of the vision for my life, I’m looking for peace and serenity.

Before I started my personal transformation, I had wild emotional swings.  I would blow up and unleash anger at anyone around me.  It caused me to sabotage job opportunities, friendships, and relationships with people I loved.  I couldn’t manage my emotions.  I could not keep calm to save my life.

For the last five years I’ve worked toward the goal of emotional serenity.  My emotions have never been so consistently even.  I’ve developed a practice to keep calm and to be mindful of how wonderful  my GREAT LIFE is.  I don’t swing from extreme joy to the depths of depression.  I feel a sense of peace and serenity I didn’t know was possible.

The greatest shift in my emotions is the result of starting my day in gratitude.  I am so blessed for the life I have.  Sure there is struggle but that’s no reason to lose my cool.  I learned to keep calm.  I’ve recently adopted a spiritual practice outside of my 12 step program which has amplified my level of calmness.  In fact, most of the time I’m happy.  I walk around with a constant smirk on my face… you know the kind of smirk when you know something nobody else knows.  I do know something most people don’t know… There is nothing you can pursue outside of the pursuit of peace and tranquility that will give you the peace you are looking for.

The best things in life can be accessed at any moment.  A shift in perspective, a sense of gratitude and thanks, the ability to reject negativity and the focus toward living a life filled with purpose can create a GREAT LIFE.  As you create a vision for your life and fill it with “cash and prizes,” start with the pursuit of peace, serenity, calmness, joy, and connection to something greater than you.  Every pursuit that follows will be taken with calmness because your life will be wonderful as it is.

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.

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.

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.

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 (, 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.

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.