Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Based on a recommendation from an old friend, who also happens to be a psychologist and a successful entrepreneur, I read John Maxwell’s book Failing Forward this past week.  It was an interesting self-improvement book all the way through, but the one section that really caught my attention was about a social experiment based on research by G.R. Stephenson.  Here’s an excerpt:

Four monkeys were placed in a room that had a tall pole in the center.  Suspended from the top of that pole was a bunch of bananas.  One of the hungry monkeys started climbing the pole to get something to eat, but just as she reached out to grab a banana, she was sprayed with a torrent of cold water from a hose.  Squealing, she scampered back down the pole and abandoned her attempt to feed herself.  Each of the other three monkeys made similar attempts and each one was drenched with cold water.  After making several attempts, they all finally gave up.

The researchers then removed the water hose and one of the monkeys from the room and replaced her with a new monkey.  As the newcomer began to climb the pole, the other three grabbed her and pulled her down to the ground.  After trying to climb the pole several times and being dragged down by the others, she finally gave up and never attempted to climb the pole again.

The researchers continued to replace the original monkeys, one by one, and each time a new monkey was brought in the others would drag her down before she could reach the bananas.  In a short time, the room was filled with four monkeys who had never received a cold hosing.  None of them would climb the pole or allow other monkeys to climb the pole, and not one of them knew why.

Now, if it were possible to ask those monkeys why they wouldn’t climb the pole, or allow any other monkey to climb the pole, I bet they would say something like, “I don’t know.  That’s just how things are done around here.”

Does that sound at all familiar to you?  Do you ever catch yourself thinking about the difficult endeavors in life that you’re too scared to try, not because each task is impossible, but because you’ve never mindfully evaluated if there was a smarter way of achieving them?  How has social conditioning, old rumored problems, or just your own negative thinking about what is and isn’t possible for you held you back?

No doubt, one of the greatest challenges in life is being your best in a world that’s trying to keep you in line with everyone else.  And sometimes it really is our own thoughts that hold us back more than anything.

So with this in mind, it’s time to read or re-read our twenty most popular posts (based on the number of reader views, shares and comments) from this past year.  If you give them a chance, each one of these posts has the power to help free your mind and get you back on track to living at your maximum potential.

01. 20 Things to Remember When You Think You’re Not Good Enough Sometimes the hardest part of the journey is simply believing you’re worthy of the trip.  Sometimes the pressure coming from peers, family, work, and society in general is enough to make us feel completely broken inside.  If we don’t have the “right” job, relationship, lifestyle, and so forth, by a certain age or time-frame, we assume we’re just “not good enough.”  But that’s simply not true.

02. 12 Quiet Rituals of Enormously Successful Humans Truth be told, the result of enormous success is often pretty noisy – lots of people talking, writing and sharing stories about it.  The actual process of achieving enormous success, on the other hand, is far more discreet.  But it’s this process that happens quietly, behind-the-scenes, that makes all the difference in the world.  So… May your actions speak louder than your words.  May your life preach louder than your lips.  May your success be your noise in the end.

03. 25 Things You Need to Stop Wasting Time On A reader named Hope sent me an email that opened with, “The happiest moment of my life is still that split-second a year ago when, as I laid crushed under a 2000 pound car, I realized my husband and  9-year-old boy were out of the vehicle and absolutely OK.”  And in the remainder of her email she talks about how her family spends significantly more time together now, simply sharing stories, telling jokes, and appreciating each other’s company.  “The accident made us realize how much time we had been wasting every day on things that weren’t important, which prevented us from spending quality time with each other,” she said.  It’s hard to think about a story like Hope’s and not ask yourself:  “What do I need to stop wasting time on?”

04. 12 Toxic Behaviors that Push People Away From You Your behavior is a little thing that makes a big difference.  Let’s be honest though – we’ve all acted in toxic, damaging ways at one time or another.  None of us are immune to occasional toxic mood swings, but many people are more evolved, balanced and aware, and such occurrences happen only rarely in their lives.  Whether your toxic behavior is a common occurrence, or just a once in a blue moon phenomena, it’s critical for your long-term happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re behaving negatively, and consciously shift your mindset when necessary.

05. 10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon You know how you can hear something a hundred times in a hundred different ways before it finally gets through to you?  The ten truths in this post fall firmly into that category – life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago, and have been reminded of ever since, but for whatever reason, haven’t fully grasped.  This, my friends, is my attempt at helping all of us, myself included, “get it” and “remember it” once and for all… because the truth does not cease to exist when it is ignored.

06. 20 Hard Things You Need to Do to Be Happy There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  You have to do hard things to be happy in life.  The things no one else is doing.  The things that frighten you.  The things others can’t do for you.  The things that make you question how much longer you can hold on and push forward.  Why?  Because those are the things that define you.  Those are the things that make the difference between existing and living – between knowing the path and walking the path.

07. 16 Things Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and twice as capable as you have ever imagined.  It really only takes one idea, one second in time, one relationship, one dream, one leap of faith, to change everything, forever.  So hang in there.  Keep exercising your emotional strength.

08. 8 Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong Imagine all the wondrous things your mind might embrace if it weren’t wrapped so tightly around your struggles.  Always look at what you have, instead of what you have lost.  Because it’s not what the world takes away from you that counts; it’s what you do with what you have left.  Yes, sometimes life closes doors because it’s time to move forward.  And that’s a great thing because we often won’t move unless circumstances force us to.  When times are tough, remind yourself that no pain comes without a purpose.  Move on from what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you.

09. 6 Strong Signs it’s Time to Let Go You will never achieve what you are capable of if you are too attached to the things you’re supposed to let go of.  Many people believe holding on and hanging in there, infinitely, are signs of incredible strength.  But there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go, and then to actually do it.

10. 3 Questions that Will Free Your Mind and Turn Your Life Around It’s not the answers you get from others, but the questions you ask yourself that will help you grow stronger.  In fact, the simple questions you ask yourself on a daily basis will determine the type of person you become in the long run.

11. 7 Rituals You Should Steal from Extremely Creative People It’s often said that creativity can’t be contained.  That creative inspiration and ideas arise suddenly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we need them most.  And while that may be true for a specific idea, when you look at the broader picture, you realize that sustained creativity – having lots of creative ideas over time – doesn’t come from a flash of brilliance or a single moment of inspiration.  It comes from a consistent set of rituals that serve as the bedrock for getting remarkable things done.

12. 7 Things Happy, Healthy People Do Every Morning The morning is extremely important.  It is the foundation from which the day is built.  How you choose to spend your morning can be used to predict what kind of day you are going to have, and thus, what kind of life you are going to live.

13. 12 Things You Need to Remind Yourself of When You Wake Up We may not always love everything about our lives, but deep down we do love and appreciate the magic of life itself.  Some part of us believes that everything and anything is possible.  Sadly though, we don’t always believe these possibilities are within our reach, even when they are.  We choose to believe we are incapable of living our lives the way we want to live them, at our full potential.  We choose to accept our reality as others have told us it has to be.  Wake up!  We don’t have to do this to ourselves – none of us do.  We have a choice.  We don’t have to be complacent.  We don’t have to fall into line.  It’s time to remind yourself of a few key truths – right now and every morning hereafter.

14. 40 Regrets You Don’t Want to Have in 40 Years Stop wasting time regretting what you did a year ago.  Start doing what you have to do now so that in a year’s time you won’t regret what you did today.

15. 12 Promises You Should Make to Yourself and Keep Forever Life is not all rainbows and butterflies.  It can be tough sometimes.  And you’ve paid a heavy price to get this far, so the best option is to really make it count by moving forward from where you are.  Free yourself from the world’s negativity – from the sources of ignorance telling you what you can and cannot do – by promising to look ahead, to live ahead, and to get ahead.  In other words, start making positive promises to yourself!  When you become your own best friend, life is easier.

16. 8 Things You Should Never Give Up for a Relationship Being alone doesn’t mean you’re weak, it simply means you’re strong enough to wait for the right relationship.  We are reminded that unhealthy relationships restrict and impair, while healthy relationships bring freedom and life to our existence.  It’s important to remember the difference.  It’s important to remember what you should NEVER have to give up for a relationship.

17. 9 Good Signs You’re in the Right Relationship What do you think a “right relationship” should provide for the people in it?  Although the answer here is obviously subjective, in all relationships, romantic and platonic alike, there are some clear signs that things are going well.  In this post we take a look at some signs you’re in the “right relationship,” and corresponding tips that could potentially help you make a “wrong relationship” right.

18. 7 Important Life Lessons Everyone Learns the Hard Way In the midst of my sorrow after losing a loved one, I came to realize that the tragic loss taught me three important things.  First, the worst things can happen to the best people for no obvious reason at all.  Second, most people, even the ones you don’t think care, are genuinely good people who do care.  And finally, just as it is difficult to see all the opportunities life gives you until you’re looking back, it is virtually impossible to fully understand certain life circumstances until they actually happen to you.  It’s a variation of this final point that I explore in this post.

19. 40 Things I Want to Tell My Kids Before They’re Too Cool to Listen Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.  The same is true for adults too.  I wrote this list for my son, Mac, but these reminders are equally relevant to everyone, of all ages.

20. 29 Signs You’re Doing Just Fine (Even If It Doesn’t Feel Like It) Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to keep things in perspective and deal with them.  Rather than dwelling on what’s missing in your life, start looking at what you have.  This isn’t just about material possessions; it’s about all the goodness in your life.  When you focus on the abundance you already have, the negative feelings that come from lacking something else gradually fade from your conscious.  Living isn’t an easy thing to do, but it can be enjoyable when you start to see the good instead of focusing on the bad.

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