Dreams

There is nothing like dream to create the future. Utopia today, flesh and blood tomorrow.

– Victor Hugo

Yesterday I tried to share some of the excitement I felt for the activity I completed this evening. My assignment was to begin creating a compelling vision of the future by brainstorming about a perfect future. “What would I want for my life if I knew I could have it any way I wanted it? What would I go for if I knew I could not fail?” It was a ton of fun. After compiling the lists I assigned each item a timeline (in years) for completion. Then I wrote a short paragraph about the one item from the list that I would most enjoy to complete this year. I now have four items that I motivated to work towards throughout the next twelve months. This exercise is definitely going to be a part of my life moving forward. I decided to include selections from my lists so that you could learn a little about me and to add another layer of accountability to my goals. Now the whole of the internet knows what I am setting out to do with my life. For once, that idea is a good thing. Note: These goals are intentionally focused solely on me. My wife and I are going to do this activity together for our family and relationship.

Personal Development

  • Be able to read a Chinese newspaper (3)
  • Ace the military personal fitness test (1)
  • Play in the disc golf amateur world championships (3)
  • Live a healthy life style (1)
  • Become an avid reader (1)
  • Be honest in all my dealings (1)
  • Live with no Niagara Syndrome (5)
  • Have friends from varied backgrounds (2)

Honesty is the core of respectability and the foundation of a strong character. I owe it  to God and my family to be one hundred percent honest at all times. This will allow me to eliminate that source of negative emotion and energy from my life – leaving more of my personal resources for achieving other goals.

Career/Business

  • Be able to travel for vacation two or three times in a given year (2)
  • Own our dream home (15)
  • Have no stress about work when I am home (1)
  • Be debt free (10)
  • Learn about investing money (1)
  • Be able to pay fifty percent of our children’s college expenses (20)
  • Use my language skills at work (3)

It is very important to me to be able to focus on my family when i am home. I want to know that I am providing for my family well and that relaxing with them is okay. When I am home, I am home. Work will wait for the next day.

Toys/Adventure

  • Play disc golf in Europe ( 10)
  • Own a Land Rover (15)
  • Own a home with on at least ten acres (25)
  • Own a private disc golf course à la Flip City (30)
  • Finish in the top three at an A tier disc golf tournament (2 – are you sensing a theme?)
  • Ride my bike to a disc golf tournament at least eighty miles away (5)
  • Finish in the top three at any disc golf tournament (1)

I LOVE DISC GOLF!!! The more I improve, the more I enjoy the game. That being said, I have never performed particularly well in tournaments. Pushing myself to reach this goal will serve the dual purpose of increasing my skill and enjoyment.

Contribution

  • Help my children learn to love music (20)
  • Adopt a child from China (25)
  • Increase faith in the institution of marriage (3)
  • Live as energy efficient a life as I can (1)
  • Volunteer in the community (1)

Being a part of the community has always been a part of my vision for life. I want to be involved in making the world a better place and I believe that is best done in the home and local community. By making community involvement part of my lifestyle hopefully I can help my family and community at the same time.

What Did I Learn Today?

I learned that you need to accrue five hundred points from PDGA tournaments to qualify for the Amateur World Championships for a given year. (I never promised that the answers to these questions would be interesting.)

What Did I Contribute or Improve?

I improved the vision I have for my future. This has provided me with an increased focus and excitement about life.

What Did I Enjoy?

Brainstorming what my future will be like was much more fun than I thought it would be.

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Goals

For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.

– Moses 3:5

Short post today, I want to get a little sleep before watching the lunar eclipse which is scheduled to start in about thirty minutes.

I am very excited about tomorrow’s blog post. I have been reading some excellent things in Awaken the Giant Within and I can’t wait to share what I am learning. Tomorrow’s post is going to be all about dreams of what life could be like. Until I get my thoughts together and share my dreams, what are some of your dreams for life? Nothing is too silly or unrealistic.

What Did I Learn Today?

I learned that the overuse of antibiotics can begin to affect us right at birth. Here is the discussion from NPR that I listened to: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/14/302899093/modern-medicine-may-not-be-doing-your-microbiome-any-favors

What Did I Contribute or Improve?

I encouraged my wife to complete some of the last homework assignments that she has before she graduates.

What Did I Enjoy Today?

I enjoyed having dinner with my siblings and their spouses. Only ten days until I’ll be living one thousand miles away from them.

 

Metaphors are like…

All perception of truth is the detection of a analogy.

– Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday I promised thoughts about the power of words. I am ready to fulfill that promise.

My reading, both yesterday and today, was about how powerful words are. We use words to help us categorize the experiences that we have. To a large extent, these words define the experiences we have. For instance: ask individuals to describe a lecturer they have just heard from and you could easily garner answers as diverse as “boring” and “uplifting”. There was only one source of input for the experience (the lecturer) but the experiences the individuals had were very different. Words have meaning. By simply changing the words we use to describe a situation we can change the way we feel about it.

How many times have you said that you “hate” something? Do you really “feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward” that thing? What happens when you use the word “hate”? Even if you did not originally have hate-like feelings about something your emotions begin to match the meaning of the word. You now feel more intensely than originally. The opposite is also possible, by choosing to use more mild vocabulary you can temper emotions. I have had first hand experience with this concept. When I was still living at home with my family I would often get very angry. Disproportionately so. I found that I was using ridiculously strong words to describe my emotions. I began to make a concerted effort to calm my language. It had a powerful effect, it now takes quite a lot to make me feel angry. Whether or not you believe anything else I have written about is true, know that this idea absolutely works.

Another way of thinking about how words can affect emotions is to think about the idea of changing your attitude. If you are frustrated or depressed it is very likely that you would describe your current situation with words that express that. When you focus on changing your attitude what do you do? You look for different ways to “look at” the situation – you are looking for different words for your feelings. This is one of the things that excites me most about this particular part Awaken the Giant Within. It is giving me tools to achieve desired goals instead of trying to just “do it” through pure mental capacity.

Metaphors and idioms are even more powerful than single words in there ability to create images and stir emotions emotions. A recent commercial for 5-Hour Energy is a rather comical example.

The commercial is not much more than a steady stream of metaphor and common idioms. Even though I find the commercial humorous, I can not watch it without being affected emotionally by it. Who doesn’t want to “knock it out of the park”? Never mind that you don’t know what “it” is, don’t you want to hit it? So remember, be careful about how you describe things today. It will make more of an impact than you may think.

 

What Did I Learn Today?

I recognized how much I am loving my life right now. It’s mostly working outside during the day, then getting ready to move at night before I write, but it is wonderful.

What Did I Contribute or Improve?

Not really sure I did anything to improve myself today – other than continue to post which I guess is improving my writing ability. That seems a little like cheating though.

What Did I Enjoy?

I really enjoyed all the time I had for introspection at work today. I was basically alone with my thoughts for eight hours. It was very relaxing.

Words We Choose

Words form the thread from which we hang our experiences.
– Aldous Huxley

Words are truly amazing. They have the ability to conjure up images of far off places, or to remind us of a specific event. They act as filters for our brain as it sorts through the experiences we have every day.

I have a lot more to share about this, but I am exhausted (a carefully chosen word) from work today. On to my daily wrap-up.

What did I Learn Today?
I learned how to effectively use an edger. ( a device used to cut sod away from the sidewalks)
What did I contribute or improve?
I began work on my “about” page. I know that may seem like a small thing, but I really don’t like to write about myself and “how awesome” I am.
What did I Enjoy?
I enjoyed seeing my beautiful wife when I got home from work.

The Questions We Ask

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

 – Matthew 7:7

Today’s reading was primarily about asking questions as a way to concentrate or change our focus. The idea behind this is that to some extent all of our thinking is based on questions. What should I wear today? Am I hungry right now? Can I turn right before that car will hit me? One of the most interesting things Robbins wrote about was the ability our questions have to change what we are ignoring. Because our brains can only be consciously aware of a few things at a time they are constantly engaged in ignoring inputs that we think are unimportant.  A great example of this is that when you sleep in a new place for the first time you rarely sleep as well as you do in your own home. This is due to the fact that your brain is unsure which new stimuli (sounds, smells, noises) are important and which aren’t. Asking questions such as “what am I excited about in my life” or “what am I grateful about in my life” place your brain’s focus on those areas and consequently you ignore the opposite questions of “what is boring in my life” and “what do I wish wasn’t happening in my life”.

Thinking about the power that questions have eventually led me to what I think is one of the most basic questions – why. Whenever I hear the question “why” I am reminded that this is the question David Bednar links to the highest level of truth – doctrine.  One of my favorite quotes from Boyd K. Packer, a prominent member of my church, is that “The study of doctrines… will improve behavior quicker that a study of behavior will improve behavior…”. While this quote is focused on religion, it concisely states my beliefs on how important it is to be aware of the questions we ask ourselves. Remember from Belief Part 3 that doctrines answer the question why? If I am able to accurately recognize the answers I am getting – the doctrine or conviction – I can then reverse engineer the question that brought me to that point. If that question is not a productive one I can change it, thus changing my view of the problem and my behavior regarding it.

If we do not make an effort to monitor the questions we are asking ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, we will be prone to experiencing emotional Niagara Syndrome. I very strongly believe the quote at the beginning of this post, I know that in my life I am always able to find some answer to the questions I ask – even if that answer is ridiculous. If I ask how I can possibly accomplish everything I need to do in a day, the answer usually comes back that I can’t. If instead, I ask how I can most efficiently complete those same tasks I am immediately in a more positive state find that effective method.

I hope this post isn’t  too dry or theoretical. I don’t have any inspirational stories to go with many of the ideas I am writing about because they are still new ideas to me. I am implementing them into my life as you read this blog. Thanks for walking along this sometimes bumpy road with me.

What Have I Learned Today?

I was reminded of how wonderful it feels to sit down to a meal after hard work.

What did I contribute or improve?

I continued my study of how the word change is used in the Bible.

What did I enjoy?

I enjoyed getting my wife’s feedback on my last few blog posts.

Focus

The unexamined life is not worth living.

– Socrates

One of the main themes in my reading today was the power that focusing has over how we interpret events that we experience. The more vibrantly we render an image, or remember an event the more emotional power it will have. This is great if that occurrence is something worth remembering and incorporating into your life. If the incident is negative simply do the reverse – smudge the colors, interrupt the sounds, shrink the image until you can barely see it. Give it a try it really works.

I came across an awesome writing challenge today that dovetails quite nicely with my focus on… focus. The goal is to write a short story that is exactly fifty words long. I have never tried something like this before. Here it is:

Dead leaves cling desperately to branches. A gentle breeze exposes scarcely hidden dismay. The noise conjures images of a hundred pairs of knocking knees. It is out of place. This is a time for celebration. The world is no longer achromic and dreary – spring is here. Winter is dead.

What Did I Learn Today?

I learned about the power of focusing and ensuring that I am in the correct “state” for whatever activity I plan to begin.

What Did I Contribute or Improve?

I spent two hours tidying up outside our apartment. I’m not done yet, but boy are our stairs clean.

What Did I Enjoy?

I saw this vlog early this morning and ended up thinking about it all day. It has a great message.

Belief Part 3

All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

My blogs from the past two days have dealt with Anthony Robbins’ first two levels of belief. Those levels affect the decisions we make each day, but they are not the underlying reasons that truly dictate how we behave. That honor is reserved for our “convictions”.

Convictions are beliefs that have been reinforced so many times and with so much emotion that they are unshakable. A quote from Awaken the Giant Within describes it in this way, “A person with a conviction is… totally resistant to new input…”. We often see this a bad thing, we believe that people should be flexible in their beliefs and views. These convictions can be a powerful source of confidence and motivation. Many of the people who have changed the world were convinced that they could achieve things that no one else thought was possible.

An often used, but appropriate, example of this kind of conviction is the story of the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. Roger Bannister had a driving conviction that he was capable of running a mile faster than any man had before. At the time, there were doctors who believed that the human body was physically not capable of running a mile in such a short amount of time. It was simply impossible. Despite this fact Roger Bannister did in fact run a mile in less than four minutes. The most interesting part of higher story for me is what happened after Bannister’s achievement. By the end of that year thirty-seven other people had run a mile in under four minutes? Why had they not been capable of this before? Because their conviction that it was beyond their abilities limited them.

There are times, however, where such an unyielding belief can be detrimental. For instance, as long as I can remember, I have had two competing visions for how I would like to live my life. In the first, I work an average nine-to-five job and my family is happy. In the second, I am a very important person, doing some unspecified important work to dramatically change the way future of the world unfolds, and my family is happy. Until recently I had a strong conviction that the second vision was the “right” direction. There was no real logic behind it, but is was a solid, unshakable belief. It wasn’t until I fell of that Niagara Syndrome cliff that I really began to look at that vision and realize what was actually most important to me – that my family would be happy. What I did as a career paled in comparison to the desire that I be a good father, and the hope that my wife and daughter would always know that I loved them. Identifying that fact both refocused my life and provided me with intense satisfaction. I can now live my life according to my true convictions – I can do the things that will actually bring me joy.

Both David A. Bednar and Neil A. Maxwell observe that this level, “Doctrine” Bednar calls it, is home to relatively few beliefs. If we trace the roots of our actions as far back as we can possibly go, there will only be a few endings. These are the convictions Robbins talks about. An additional insight Bednar adds is that these things often answer the question of “why”. Why do I look for a job? To provide for my family. Why do I want to provide for my family? Because I love them. Why do I love them? Because they help give my life meaning? Why do they give my life meaning? Because I believe that a part of God’s plan for His children is that they create loving, compassionate families. This conviction is the real reason why I look for a job. Not for the job itself, but for that last ultimate reason.

Understanding the relative scarcity (by this definition) of my convictions and the power that these convictions exert in my life is incredibly empowering. Until a few weeks ago I had been living my life by simply making changes to my first level of belief. I changed my opinions or applications. I would try a different technique to get myself motivated for classes, or switch what I was studying all together, hoping that these changes would bring more purpose to my life – and for a while they would. Without addressing the underlying convictions – the doctrine of my life – it is no wonder that there was never any lasting change. I had never really  changed what I wanted. I still have ways to go in defining what I really want out of my life, but the simple recognition that my previous beliefs and convictions were not what I wanted has provided so much excitement that I am completely confident in my ability to complete that task.

What Have I Learned Today?

I learned that in is imperative that I reinforce a behavior I am striving to cultivate immediately after I do that behavior – at least initially.

What did I contribute or improve?

I helped my brother get set up for a python class he and I are taking together.

What did I enjoy?

Along the road to my brother’s apartment there is a row of trees that is just beginning to bud. They are amazing shades of pink and green – a combination I never would have assumed was so breathtaking.

Belief Part 2

Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.

– Confucius

I concluded my thoughts yesterday with the first type of belief identified by Anthony Robbins in Awaken the Giant Within. As part of that discussion I began to try to put words to what can only be called an epiphany that I had while writing. It was quite difficult last night, and I expect I will have similar a struggle tonight. I only hope that I can convey what is so clear to me in a way that will be of benefit to someone. I worry that because I can see what I want to write in such sharp focus that I will neglect to build the proper foundation for others to see it as well. But enough of bemoaning my fate as a “troubled writer” – although I don’t consider either of those titles appropriate for what and who I am – all that is left is to begin.

As I mentioned yesterday, the second kind of belief Robbins defines is termed “belief”. For Robbins these were originally opinions that have been repeatedly reinforced. Often the specific instances that strengthened the opinion have some kind of emotion associated with them. The stronger the emotions, the more a person will feel that the belief is in fact correct. This is important because individuals have enough faith in beliefs that they will begin to use them to make decisions about their lives should be lived. This definition of “belief” dovetails quite nicely with Neal A. Maxwell’s second type of truth.

These truths are “proximate and important truths” – they tell us about the universe in which we live. Much of the truth in this category has been discovered by using the scientific method. This category is filled with ideas and theories that enrich our lives and change the way we live. However, this group of truth is not perfect. A few short decades ago it was widely believed that smoking was good for one’s health. We now know that is not the case, but at that time the benefits of smoking could well have been put into this second category of truth. While there are times that we make mistakes, these truths have shown a consistent trend in a positive direction. Living by these truths can generally increase the quality of our lives.

David A. Bednar calls his second category “principles.” These are ideas that answer the question of “how”. For instance: how can I do well on my upcoming test, or how can I best provide for my family. Once again these are more substantial or important than the ideas I discussed in yesterday’s post. In conclusion let’s quickly examine the composite image I have tried to create for the second category of truth/belief. These are things that we have seen to be true, they are more permanent ideas than inconsequential facts, and they answer the questions of how.

Tomorrow I will finally finish this long-winded analysis by covering Robbins’ “convictions”, Maxwell’s “ultimate truths”, and Bednar’s “doctrines”.

Are these ideas making any sense? Let me know.

 

What have I learned today?

I learned it is important to not divide my life. My personal life should be the same as my public life.

What did I contribute or improve?

I spent some time (although not much) reviewing my Mandarin flashcards.

What did I enjoy?

I greatly enjoyed watching the first day of my church’s biannual general conference. Tomorrow is the last day, if you would like to know some of what I believe (and hear David A. Bednar speak) you can watch it here starting at 10:00 am MST.

Belief

We are what we think.
All that we are arises
With our thoughts.
With our thoughts,
We make our world.
– The Buddha

Yesterday’s post was not the greatest writing I have ever done. It was one of the most satisfying things that I have written though, because I didn’t let the lack of inspiration stop me. Today’s reading was more thought provoking – more ideas and fewer stories. The main topic was a further exploration of belief. The book defines “three categories of belief: opinions, beliefs, and convictions.” Opinions are the weakest of these beliefs, we generally believe that they are true but we can easily be convinced otherwise. The next level of belief is actually titled “belief.” These were originally opinions, however they are now supported by experiences, especially experiences that we associate with strong emotions. These evidences lead us to have a sense of certainty about our belief. When a belief has been reinforced enough it becomes a conviction, it is unquestioned by the person.

I found this three-tiered definition to be remarkably similar to Neal A. Maxwell’s discussion of truths in his article “The Disciple Scholar1” and to David A. Bednar’s method for separating spiritual truths into categories.  In the interest of my still developing writing muscles I am going to be limiting the remainder of this post to examining how Maxwell and Bednar’s first levels of truth correspond to Robbins’ “opinions”. The first level of truth Maxwell identifies is filled with “accurate descriptions of reality” such as the current temperature or the color of your car. While these types of truth can be interesting, they do not have any real value because they can change at any moment. This definition is not an exact fit with Robbins’ “opinions” but I believe it helps develop the idea. Bednar’s first level – what he calls “application” – really helps to finish the idea.  Applications are things that answer the question of “what.” For instance: “What was last known position of flight MH370?”  Taken together these varying definitions create a clearer image of  “opinion.” It is focused on the immediate – the mental equivalent of Trivial Pursuit- it holds many interesting things, but they are of little relevance to our existence and have a negligible impact on our behavior. Tomorrow I will continue on with the analysis how these three categorization methods relate to each other.

As a final thought, starting today and continuing indefinitely I am going to be answering these three questions at the end of each blog. The purpose of these questions is to help me remember to be focused on constant and never-ending improvement. Feel free to answer these questions in the comments if you wish. I found it to be a very interesting exercise.

What have I learned today?

I learned more about command line computer code as part of me endeavor to learn the Python programming language.

What did I contribute or improve?

Hopefully this blog is something that will affect someone in a positive way.

What did I enjoy?

I enjoyed spending time with a friend that my wife and I have not seen for several months. I also enjoyed cutting the grass for the first time this year.

 

1 Henry B. Eyring, ed., On Becoming a Disciple Scholar, p.1-23

More Reality?

The key thing to remember is that we don’t move away from real pain; we move away from what we believe will lead to pain.
– Anthony Robbins.

This post is really refusing to cooperate. Maybe he feels too much pressure to live up to the grand, flowing oratory of his older brothers. What if he has fewer words than them? Does that make him inferior? Perhaps he will not be able to muster the mental fortitude to venture into the realms of analogy, or to probe the definition and boundaries of reality. Unfortunately for the post, his vote does not matter. Whether or not he likes it, he is going to be written.

My reading today was largely a continuation on the theme I discussed yesterday. The new material is summed up quite nicely by the quote above – the true Platonic “form” of reality is much less important than what we perceive as reality. Whenever we are faced with a choice we fall back (generally unconsciously) to what Anthony Robbins calls our “belief systems”. At their most basic, these belief systems are the generalizations that we have made about what will bring us pleasure or cause us pain. They are the tracks that we can see heading back to where our little train came from. We try to make some prediction of what the future will bring us by examining the path that has brought us to our current location. Unfortunately this often leads us to incorrect conclusions about the path before us. It limits our view to only what will be if nothing is changed. I believe the main benefit of discussing what seems to be the same topic, from a different angle, is that it can allow us to determine where we acquired our opinions on what will bring us pleasure and pain.

As always, feel free to comment!