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Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.

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A Tale of Two Wolves

wolfWise men say that within our hearts are two wolves. One is the bad wolf. It is full of greed, laziness, fear, hatred, jealousy, rage, sorrow. All the negative emotions. The other is the good wolf. It is full of joy, love, kindness, forgiveness, peace of mind. All the positive emotions. Both wolves war against each other continuously in our hearts.

When asked which wolf is stronger, the wise men answer, “Whichever wolf you have been feeding.”

This is an adaptation of a Native American story and like most stories that survive through the ages, it is full of ancient wisdom.

Every day we make decisions. Most of these are small, inconsequential decisions, like what to eat for lunch. But on occasion, we are required to make a moral decision; a choice between right and wrong. Selfishness or selflessness. Cruelty or kindness. Jealousy or generosity. Deceit or honesty. And while we may think of ourselves as people of good character most of the time, that can change when we are put to the test. What is really within us is revealed under stress or duress. And whether or not we make the right decision in that split second, is based on which wolf is currently winning the fight in your heart.

And that is dependent on which wolf you have been feeding.

That’s from the opening chapter of my upcoming book, Feed The Good Wolf. Each chapter is about specific activities that you can incorporate into your daily life in order to build your character from the inside out.

Most people are overly concerned with their reputation rather than character. Spending time defending your reputation is like putting a fresh coat of paint on a house that you know is infested with termites. It might look pretty on the outside, but it is rotting and ready to fall down.

“A lot of people try to improve their lives by dealing with the external fruit. They are attempting to rectify their bad habits, bad attitudes, bad tempers, or negative and sour personalities. They’re dealing with the fruit of their lives, trying to change those things, and that is noble. But the truth is, unless they get to the root, they will never be able to change the fruit.” Joel Osteen.

You are not a victim of your character. You are not trapped with a certain personality or mindset. These are things that you can change. You can make a conscious choice to change the person you are at your very core.

And you do that by feeding the good wolf.

When your character is pure, you don’t need to expend effort to police your behavior.

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Eyes of Wonder

I was going to start posting previews of my upcoming book, but something unusual happened today that I feel warrants some reflection. I went swimming today for about fifteen minutes. The pool was crowded because the day was hot. Walked home, did some work on my computer, then put on my contact lenses. It had been about an hour since I left the chlorine bath that is a communal pool, and my lenses stung slightly as I put them in, but that’s happened to everyone who has ever worn contact lenses.

I left, got my coffee, found a table near the water at a nearby mall where I do most of my reading and writing, and proceeded to read and write. It was probably about two hours later that I noticed my eyes getting foggy. That is another of those common occurrences that my fellow contact wearing people are familiar with. Sometimes you just get some crud in your eyes and the lenses get blurry. Usually you can blink it out or rinse it out with tears. I kept working for about an hour and the weird haze over my eyes was a little bit too persistent.

I returned home, went to the bathroom immediately to remove my lenses. When I did, my eyes started burning. I tried dropping some lens solution unto both eyes, which burned more. I flushed my eyes with water which also burned my eyes. And worse, when I managed to stop tearing and keep my eyes open long enough to focus, I saw that my vision was still clouded over by that haze.

Ok. The problem is not with my contact lenses, there’s something wrong with my eyes. My best guess? Some kind of chemical reaction with crowded pool water and all-in-one lens solution and possibly the lady who lit up a cigarette next to me at the mall all add up to a layer of film over the corneas that obscures my vision. It actually feels similar to when I had to get my eyes dilated for an optometrist exam.

I figured this would eventually go away, so I went about my daily business. Fed my dog, fed myself, sent some emails. Vision still screwed up. Now I’m wondering at this point if I’ve somehow permanently scarred the surface of my eyes.

While feeding my fish I noticed something. Two lights reflecting off the surface of the fish tank are surrounded by two perfect, circular rainbows that create a figure 8 hovering in front of the tank. My guess is from some kind of oily film on my eyes; you’ve seen how oil floating in a puddle of water refracts light right?

By now it’s dark outside, I’m not sure if my eyes will ever heal, and bright lights have rainbow auras. I don’t know how most people would have reacted to that combination of factors, but the obvious thing for me to do: I went for a walk.

It was like walking through the land of Oz.

There was still the persistent fog. But every street light was like a giant double-layer, rainbow-colored dandelion. The brighter the light the more distinct the bands of color. Depending on the type of light, different colors of the spectrum were more prevalent. The streetlamps closest to my house were bright white lights that radiated wide blue cores then dimmed out to thin red bands. Down the street the lights have a more orange tint, so the spheres were predominantly orange with barely visible blue cores.

I noticed that lights needed to be bright enough for me to see the aura. A car drove past me and stepped on it’s brakes. The red tail lights brightened enough to pass that threshold and I actually recoiled backwards from the sudden sphere of red that appeared.

At a distant intersection, three cars waited. All of their headlights were close enough and bright enough to combine into a single giant rainbow sphere. When the giant glowing red ball disappeared and the giant glowing green ball appeared below it, the cars drove towards me. As they got closer, they separated into three separate, dimmer, rainbow orbs; each with a slight variation in hue and intensity.

The half moon changed in intensity depending on how bright it was through the cloud cover. Most of the time it had a pale blue aura, but occasionally would shine bright, creating a huge double rainbow that dwarfed any other man-made lights.

It was a dreamlike experience, exploring my neighborhood. The fog over my eyes combined with dazzling colors that no one else could see. Walking through my own secret fireworks display.

I can’t help but think that there is some kind of lesson to be learned here.

  • Something about always looking for wonder in the world around you.
  • Always seeing things in a new light.
  • Being willing to look at the world or your own neighborhood as if it were brand new.
  • Or most importantly seeking joy in the face of adversity.

I know I have a reputation for being positive, but even I have to admit that maybe I’m annoyingly positive when my first instinct when faced with the possibility of having permanently damaged my eyesight is “I think I’ll go see what the world looks like now.”

Anyway, it is now five hours later and my eyes still haven’t returned to normal. In the morning I may be visiting a doctor. I know I don’t sound worried, but as far as I can tell, the worst case scenario is I have fuzzy vision for the rest of my life. It is a little inconvenient, but I can still see well enough to read and type. And every night sky will be filled with rainbows.

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Halftime Report: How Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Going?

clockIt’s July 1st! The perfect time to take an assessment of how we are doing on our New Year’s resolutions. Did you make any at all? If you did, you have already separated yourself from 25% of the population. Do you still remember what they were? If so, you are probably ahead of another 25% of the population. If you can tell me today what your New Year’s resolution was for 2013, then you are ahead of the average person in the US even if you haven’t even started on them yet.

Before you pat yourself on the back too hard though, keep in mind:

  1. 51% is still a failing grade, and
  2. I just made up those numbers anyway

A lot of authors and speakers talk about looking forward towards your goals (I’m one of them). But we should also take some time to reflect on our past and on our journey. We can often get caught up in the busy-ness of being busy. When that happens we can get off-track and realize that our habits are no longer moving us towards our goal.

A personal trainer friend of mine became so focused on exercise that he neglected proper rest and recovery time. He would push himself to the point of injury (sprain, pulled muscle, stress fracture, etc…), then not allow proper time to heal before pushing himself again. He broke out of that habit when he realized that he had lost sight of his goal in the pursuit of the process. His goal was not to exercise, his goal was good physical health.

There is a young start-up company that I’ve been following on Twitter for quite a while now called Cirion Group. Here is a very simple tweet that they posted that made me stop and think:

“What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned this month?”

Even though I consider myself a lifelong student of personal growth, I didn’t have an answer to that question. That month I had read five books, listened to and attended several lectures. But that simple question stymied me and I told them as much. Here’s the rest of that exchange:

@ciriongroup To be honest, I’m a little disappointed I don’t have an answer to this off the top of my head…

@Matt_S_Law it’s an easy thing to overlook. It’s a great question to add to your calendar/reminder each month

The human creature is designed to achieve, the brain is designed as a goal-seeking mechanism, and we are happiest when we are in the process of fulfilling a worthwhile purpose. But it is easy to forget the “Why” of our activities when we get too focused on the “How.”

So I’m calling a brief time-out for everyone at the halfway point of this year to ask: How are your New Year’s resolutions going?

If you never made one, make one now.
If you haven’t started, then start now.
If you’ve kicked at it on occasion, make a definite commitment of time and energy towards achieving it now.
If you are that rare person that has been striving towards it non-stop since January 1st, then take a day off and ask yourself a few questions:

  • How is my progress? Am I seeing results or am I just doing a lot of activity that is not actually accomplishing anything?
  • How is my motivation? Am I still visualizing my goal on a daily basis? Is my daily activity drudgery or is it inspiration for me?
  • How is my life? Am I neglecting an important part of my life? My business, my family, my health?

Whatever your vision, goals and habit that you have or have not incorporated into your life prior to today, pause for a moment. Take some time to reflect. Take some time to replenish. Take some time to refocus. Do not lose sight of your vision amidst your daily activity; whether that is activity relevant to your goal or activity that is irrelevant to your goal.

So, one more time: How are your New Year’s resolutions going?