18 Practical Tips for Living the Golden Rule

“…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”, Leviticus 19:18

LOCATION: St. Pius V Church - Buena Park, CA

One of the few rules I try to live my life by, and fail every day trying, is the golden rule.

I love the simplicity of the Golden Rule, its tendency to make I interact with happier … and its tendency to make me happier as well.

It’s true: the rule of treating others as you would want to be treated in their place will ultimately lead to your own happiness.

Let’s say that you apply the Golden Rule in all of your interactions with other people, and you help your neighbors, you treat your family with kindness, you go the extra mile for your co-workers, you help a stranger in need.

Now, those actions will undoubtedly be good for the people you help and are kind to … but you’ll also notice a strange thing. People will treat you better too, certainly. Beyond that, though, you will find a growing satisfaction in yourself, a belief in yourself, a knowledge that you are a good person and a trust in yourself.

Those are not small dividends. They are huge. And for that reason — not even considering that our world will be a better place if more people live by this rule — I recommend you make the Golden Rule a focus of your actions, and try to live by it to the extent that you can.

I will admit that there are strong arguments against the “Golden Rule”, that there are exceptions and logic arguments that the Golden Rule, taken to extremes, falls apart. I’m not concerned about that stuff. The truth is, on a day-to-day basis, living by the Golden Rule will make you a better person, will make those around you happier, and will make the community you live in a better place.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some practical tips for living the Golden Rule in your daily life:

  1. Practice empathy. Make it a habit to try to place yourself in the shoes of another person. Any person. Loved ones, co-workers, people you meet on the street. Really try to understand, to the extent that you can, what it is like to be them, what they are going through, and why they do what they do.

  2. Practice compassion. Once you can understand another person, and feel what they’re going through, learn to want to end their suffering. And when you can, take even a small action to somehow ease their suffering in some way.

  3. How would you want to be treated? The Golden Rule doesn’t really mean that you should treat someone else exactly as you’d want them to treat you … it means that you should try to imagine how they want to be treated, and do that. So when you put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself how you think they want to be treated. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation. John F. Kennedy did that during the controversial days of de-segregation in the 1960s, asking white Americans to imagine being looked down upon and treated badly based only on the color of their skin. He asked them to imagine how they would want to be treated if they were in that situation, and act accordingly towards the blacks.

  4. Be friendly. When in doubt, follow this tip. It’s usually safe to be friendly towards others. Of course, there are times when others just don’t want someone acting friendly towards them, and you should be sensitive to that. You should also be friendly within the bounds of appropriateness. But who doesn’t like to feel welcome and wanted?

  5. Be helpful. This is probably one of the weaknesses of our society. Sure, there are many people who go out of their way to be helpful, and I applaud them. But in general there is a tendency to keep to yourself, and to ignore the problems of others. Don’t be blind to the needs and troubles of others. Look to help even before you’re asked.

  6. Be courteous in traffic. Another weakness of our society. There are few times when we are as selfish as when we’re driving. We don’t want to give up the right of way, we cut people off, we honk and curse. Perhaps it’s the isolation of the automobile. We certainly don’t act that rude in person, most of the time. So try to be courteous in traffic.

  7. Listen to others. Another weakness: we all want to talk, but very few of us want to listen. And yet, we all want to be listened to. So take the time to actually listen to another person, rather than just wait your turn to talk. It’ll also go a long way to helping you understand others.

  8. Overcome prejudice. We all have our prejudices, whether it’s based on skin color, attractiveness, height, age, gender … it’s human nature, I guess. But try to see each person as an individual human being, with different backgrounds and needs and dreams. And try to see the commonalities between you and that person, despite your differences.

  9. Stop criticism. We all have a tendency to criticize others, whether it’s people we know or people we see on television. However, ask yourself if you would like to be criticized in that person’s situation. The answer is almost always “no”. So hold back your criticism, and instead learn to interact with others in a positive way.

  10. Don’t control others. It’s also rare that people want to be controlled. Trust me. So don’t do it. This is a difficult thing, especially if we are conditioned to control people. But when you get the urge to control, put yourself in that person’s shoes. You would want freedom and autonomy and trust, wouldn’t you? Give that to others then.

  11. Be a child. The urge to control and criticize is especially strong when we are adults dealing with children. In some cases, it’s necessary, of course: you don’t want the child to hurt himself, for example. But in most cases, it’s not. Put yourself in the shoes of that child. Remember what it was like to be a child, and to be criticized and controlled. You probably didn’t like it. How would you want to be treated if you were that child?

  12. Send yourself a reminder. Email yourself a daily reminder (use Google Calendar or memotome.com, for example) to live your life by the Golden Rule, so you don’t forget.

  13. Post it on your wall or make it your home page. The Golden Rule makes a great mantra, and a great poster.

  14. Rise above retaliation. We have a tendency to strike back when we’re treated badly. This is natural. Resist that urge. The Golden Rule isn’t about retaliation. It’s about treating others well, despite how they treat you. Does that mean you should be a doormat? No … you have to assert your rights, of course, but you can do so in a way where you still treat others well and don’t strike back just because they treated you badly first. Remember Jesus’ wise (but difficult to follow) advice: turn the other cheek.

  15. Be the change. Gandhi famously told us to be the change we want to see in the world. Well, we often think of that quote as applying to grand changes, such as poverty and racism and violence. Well, sure, it does apply to those things … but it also applies on a much smaller scale: to all the small interactions between people. Do you want people to treat each other with more compassion and kindness? Then let it start with you. Even if the world doesn’t change, at least you have.

  16. Notice how it makes you feel. Notice how your actions affect others, especially when you start to treat them with kindness, compassion, respect, trust, love. But also notice the change in yourself. Do you feel better about yourself? Happier? More secure? More willing to trust others, now that you trust yourself? These changes come slowly and in small increments, but if you pay attention, you’ll see them.

  17. Say a prayer. There is a prayer on the Golden Rule, attributed to Eusebius of Caesarea, that would be worth saying once a day. It includes the following lines, among others: “May I gain no victory that harms me or my opponent.

    “May I reconcile friends who are mad at each other.
    May I, insofar as I can, give all necessary
    help to my friends and to all who are in need.
    May I never fail a friend in trouble.”

-AG

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” – Arnold Toynbee

LOCATION: Los Angeles Natural History Museum - Los Angeles, CA

Following your passion can be a tough thing. But figuring out what that passion is can be even more elusive.

I’m lucky — I’ve found my passion, and I’m living it. I can testify that it’s the most wonderful thing, to be able to make a living doing what you love.

And so, in this little guide, I’d like to help you get started figuring out what you’d love doing.

This will be the thing that will get you motivated to get out of bed in the morning, to cry out, “I’m alive! I’m feeling this, baby!”. And to scare your family members or anyone who happens to be in yelling distance as you do this.

This guide won’t be comprehensive, and it won’t find your passion for you. But it will help you in your journey to find it.

Here’s how.

1. What are you good at? Unless you’re just starting out in life, you have some skills or talent, shown some kind of aptitude. Even if you are just starting out, you might have shown some talent when you were young, even as young as elementary school. Have you always been a good writer, speaker, drawer, organizer, builder, teacher, friend? Have you been good at ideas, connecting people, gardening, selling? Give this some thought. Take at least 30 minutes, going over this question — often we forget about things we’ve done well. Think back, as far as you can, to jobs, projects, hobbies. This could be your passion. Or you may have several things. Start a list of potential candidates.

2. What excites you? It may be something at work — a little part of your job that gets you excited. It could be something you do outside of work — a hobby, a side job, something you do as a volunteer or a parent or a spouse or a friend. It could be something you haven’t done in awhile. Again, think about this for 30 minutes, or 15 at the least. If you don’t, you’re probably shortchanging yourself. Add any answers to your list.

3. What do you read about? What have you spent hours reading about online? What magazines do you look forward to reading? What blogs do you follow? What section of the bookstore do you usually peruse? There may be many topics here — add them to the list.

4. What have you secretly dreamed of? You might have some ridiculous dream job you’ve always wanted to do — to be a novelist, an artist, a designer, an architect, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a programmer. But some fear, some self-doubt, has held you back, has led you to dismiss this idea. Maybe there are several. Add them to the list — no matter how unrealistic.

5. Learn, ask, take notes. OK, you have a list. Pick one thing from the list that excites you most. This is your first candidate. Now read up on it, talk to people who’ve been successful in the field (through their blogs, if they have them, or email). Make a list of notes of things you need to learn, need to improve on, skills you want to master, people to talk to. Study up on it, but don’t make yourself wait too long before diving into the next step.

6. Experiment, try. Here’s where the learning really takes place. If you haven’t been already, start to do the thing you’ve chosen. Maybe you already are, in which case you might be able to skip to the next step or choose a second candidate to try out. But if you haven’t been, start now — just do it. It can be in the privacy of your own home, but as quickly as possible, make it public however you can. This motivates you to improve, it gets you feedback, and your reputation will improve as you do. Pay attention to how you feel doing it — is it something you look forward to, that gets you excited, that you love to share?

7. Narrow things down. I recommend that you pick 3-5 things from your list, if it’s longer than that, and do steps 5 & 6 with them. This could take month, or perhaps you’ve already learned about and tried them all out. So now here’s what you need to ask yourself: which gets you the most excited? Which of these can produce something that people will pay for or get excited about? Which can you see yourself doing for years (even if it’s not a traditional career path)? Pick one, or two at the most, and focus on that. You’re going to do the next three steps with it: banish your fears, find the time, and make it into a career if possible. If it doesn’t work out, you can try the next thing on your list — there’s no shame in giving something a shot and failing, because it’ll teach you valuable lessons that will help you to be successful in the next attempt.

8. Banish your fears. This is the biggest obstacle for most people – self-doubt and fear of failure. You’re going to face it and banish it. First, acknowledge it rather than ignoring or denying it. Second, write it down, to externalize it. Third, feel it, and be OK with having it. Fourth, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Usually it’s not catastrophic. Fifth, prepare yourself for doing it anyway, and then do it. Take small steps, as tiny as possible, and forget about what might happen — focus on what actually is happening, right now. And then celebrate your success, no matter how small.

9. Find the time. Don’t have the time to pursue this passion? Make the time, dammit! If this is a priority, you’ll make the time — rearrange your life until you have the time. This might mean waking earlier, or doing it after work or during lunch, or on weekends. It will probably mean canceling some commitments, simplifying your work routing or doing a lot of work in advance (like you’re going on a vacation). Do what it takes.

10. How to make a living doing it. This doesn’t happen overnight. You need to do something, get good at it, be passionate about it. This could take months or years, but if you’re having fun, that’s what’s most important. When you get to the point where someone would pay you for it, then you’re golden — there are many ways to make a living at that point, including doing freelance or consulting work, making information products such as ebooks, writing a blog and selling advertising. In fact, I recommend you do a blog if you’re not already — it’ll help solidify your thinking, build a reputation, find people who are interested in what you do, demonstrate your knowledge and passion.

I told you this wouldn’t be easy. It’ll require a lot of reflection and soul-searching, at first, then a lot of courage and learning and experimentation, and finally a lot of commitment.

But it’s all worth it — every second, every ounce of courage and effort. Because in the end, you’ll have something that will transform your life in so many ways, will give you that reason to jump out of bed, will make you happy no matter how much you make.

I hope you follow this guide and find success, because I wish on you nothing less than finding your true passion. Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. It will not only improve your life, and also it will improve the lives of all those around you.

-AG

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life

I had a younger lady asked me the other day and asked about figuring out what do do with her life.

She writes:

‘As a high-school student I’m constantly being reminded to figure out what to do with my life, what career I would like to have and so on. I definitely feel huge amounts of pressure when my teachers and parents tell me to figure out something now. I’m young and I don’t want to make a mistake and ruin my future. I know what I like and what my interests are but when I read about a job related to those interests I always feel as if I wouldn’t enjoy it and I don’t know why.’

What an extremely tough thing to figure out: what to do with your future! Now, I can’t really tell this young woman what to do, as her parents might not like that very much, but I can share what I’ve learned looking back on my life, and what I would tell my kids in the future.

Here’s what I’d say.

You can’t figure out the future. Even young people who have a plan (be a doctor, lawyer, research scientist, singer) don’t really know what will happen. If they have any certainty at all, they’re a bit deluded. Life doesn’t go according to plan, and while a few people might do exactly what they set out to do, you never know if you’re one of those. Other things come along to change you, to change your opportunities, to change the world. The jobs of working at Google, Amazon or Twitter, for example, didn’t exist when I was a teen-ager.

So if you can’t figure out the future, what do you do? Don’t focus on the future. Focus on what you can do right now that will be good no matter what the future brings. Make stuff. Build stuff. Learn skills. Go on adventures. Make friends. These things will help in any future.

Learn to be good with discomfort. One of the most important skills you can develop is being OK with some discomfort. The best things in life are often hard, and if you shy away from difficulty and discomfort, you’ll miss out. You’ll live a life of safety.

Learning is hard. Building something great is hard. Writing a book is hard. All are amazing.

If you get good at this, you can do anything. You can start a business, which you couldn’t if you’re afraid of discomfort, because starting a business is hard and uncomfortable.

How do you get good at this? Do things now that are uncomfortable and hard, on purpose. But start with small doses. Try exercising for a little bit, even if it’s hard, but just start with a few minutes of it, and increase a minute every few days or so. Try writing a blog or meditating every day. When you find yourself avoiding discomfort, push yourself just a little bit more (within limits of reason and safety of course).

Learn to be good with uncertainty. A related skill is thriving in uncertainty. Starting a business, for example, is an amazing thing to do … but if you’re afraid of uncertainty, you’ll skip it. You can’t know how things will turn out, and so if you need to know how things will turn out, you’ll avoid great projects, businesses, opportunities.

But if you can be OK with not knowing, you’ll be open to many more possibilities. If any opportunities comes along, just be ready to work your butt off and love every moment of it!

Overcome distraction and procrastination. All of this is useless if you can’t overcome the universal problems of distraction and procrastination. You might seize an opportunity because you’re good at uncertainty and discomfort, but then not make the most of it because you’re too busy on social media and watching TV.

Actually, distraction and procrastination are just ways of avoiding discomfort, so if you get good at discomfort you’re way ahead of most people. But there are some things you can practice.

Learn about your mind. Most people don’t realize that fear controls them. They don’t notice when they run to distraction, or rationalize doing things they told themselves they wouldn’t do. It’s hard to change mental habits because you don’t always see what’s going on in your head.

Learn about how your mind works, and you’ll be much better at all of this. The best ways: meditation and blogging. With meditation you watch your mind jumping around, running from discomfort, rationalizing. With blogging, you are forced to reflect on what you’ve been doing in life and what you’ve learned from it. It’s a great tool for self-growth, and I recommend it to every young person.

Make some money. I don’t think money is that important, but making money is difficult. You have to make someone believe in you enough to hire you or buy your products/service, which means you have to figure out why you’re worthy of someone believing in you. You have to become worthy. And you have to learn to communicate that to people so they’ll want to buy or hire you. Whether you’re selling cookies door-to-door or an app in the Apple store or trying to get a job as a cashier, you have to do this.

And you get better with practice.

I worked as a sales associate at a sports store when after high school, and those were valuable experiences for me.

(ProTip: save an emergency fund, then start investing your earnings in an index fund and watch it grow over your lifetime and also open a savings account and put it in a CD Certificate fund.)

Build something small. Most people fritter their time away on things that don’t matter, like TV, video games, social media, reading news. A year of that and you have nothing to show for it. But if you did a sketch every day, or started writing web app, or created a blog or a video channel that you update regularly, or started building a cookie business … at the end of a year you’ll have something great. And some new skills. Something you can point to and say, “I built that.” Which most people can’t do.

Start small, and build it every day if possible. It’s like putting your money in investments: it grows in value over time.

Become trustworthy. When someone hires a young person, the biggest fear is that the young person is not trustworthy. That they’ll come in late and lie about it and miss deadlines. Someone who has established a reputation over the years might be much more trusted, and more likely to be hired. Learn to be trustworthy by showing up on time, doing your best on every task, being honest, admitting mistakes but fixing them, trying your best to meet deadlines, being a good person.

If you do that, you’ll build a reputation and people will recommend you to others, which is the best way to get a job or investor.

Be ready for opportunities. If you do all of the above, or at least most of it, you’ll be amazing. You’ll be way, way ahead of pretty much every other person your age. And opportunities will come your way, if you have your eyes open: job opportunities, a chance to build something with someone, an idea for a startup that you can build yourself, a new thing to learn and turn into a business, the chance to submit your new screenplay.

These opportunities might come along, and you have to be ready to seize them. Take risks — that’s one of the advantages of being young. And if none come along, create your own.

Finally: The idea behind all of this is that you can’t know what you’re going to do with your life right now, because you don’t know who you’re going to be, what you’ll be able to do, what you’ll be passionate about, who you’ll meet, what opportunities will come up, or what the world will be like. But you do know this: if you are prepared, you can do anything you want.

Prepare yourself by learning about your mind, becoming trustworthy, building things, overcoming procrastination, getting good at discomfort and uncertainty.

You can put all this off and live a life of safety and boringness. Or you can start today, and see what life has to offer you.

Lastly, always remember to always keep aiming higher and pick a career that you will have the passion and fire every single day when you walk in that workplace. LOVE WHAT YOU, AND DO WHAT YOU LOVE!

-AG

The Transformative Power of the Gratitude Habit

There’s a small habit that I practice, that can turn difficult situations into much better ones — and it won’t surprise you. It’s the habit of gratitude.

This is such a simple habit, and it’s one that we often forget to practice. But when we do, it can transform our entire perspective, and with it our whole life.

Let me give you an example. About 10 years ago, I remember being caught in a rainstorm and being soaked, and also feeling generally stressed about being broke and hating my job and unhappy with my health. I was a bit depressed about it all, actually.

Then I decided to make a mental list of everything I was grateful for, right there in the rain. It was a long list, and while I can’t remember everything on it, some of the things I remember include:

  • I am healthy.

  • I can run.

  • I am alive.

  • I can love.

  • I am breathing.

  • I am employed.

  • I have loving family (parents, siblings, friends, and extended family) who I love dearly.

  • I can taste delicious food, smell flowers, see art, hear music. What miracles!

  • I am not starving, homeless, destitute, alone, destroyed by a natural disaster.

The list was probably 4-5 times as long, but you get the idea. The things I was taking for granted were now put front and center before me. The things I was feeling bad about didn’t go away, but they were put in perspective. They were blended with more powerful elements of my life into a mix that is ultimately true beauty and love.

Yes, there are bad things in my life, and it’s OK to feel bad about them. But it’s also important to remember the rest of my life, and to remember that even the bad things make life as complex and interesting as it is. Life would be boring without challenges!

The transformation of how I felt about my life, in that moment in the pouring rain, was really remarkable. All from making a simple list.

I’ve used this process hundreds of times since then, and it transforms everything:

  • When I’m feeling mad at someone, I can try to see what about them I’m grateful for.

  • When I procrastinate with a project, I can look at why I’m grateful to be able to work on that project.

  • When I get injured or sick, I can remember that I’m grateful just to be alive.

  • When I lose a good friend, I can grieve, but also be grateful for the time I had with them, and all that they gave me.

  • When something bad happens while traveling, I remember to be grateful for traveling at all, and that these challenges are what make the travel an adventure.

  • When someone doesn’t like what I do, and criticizes me, I can be grateful they care enough to even pay attention. Attention is a gift.

I’d like to make a small recommendation that could be powerful if you often forget to practice gratitude: start a small daily habit.

Just a few minutes per day of journaling, meditating on gratitude, or just thinking about what you’re grateful for in life. Do it every day, with a reminder, and see if it changes anything.

Don’t rush through it, don’t do it mindlessly, really try to feel gratitude for everything you list. Feel the amazingness of the things in your life!

-AG

Meditating in the Middle of Chaos

The wind and rain were swirling around me powerfully, as I sat in my mom’s tropical flower garden in Guam and meditated.

A tropical storm was passing close to Guam, where I’m living at the moment, and I decided to go out into the strong winds and torrential rain to meditate for at least a few minutes. Don’t worry, it was safe.

I actually stood in meditation, as sitting in a puddle of rainwater wasn’t that appealing to me. The water kissed my face, the wind rocked my body into a sway, and I practiced being present in the storm.

I was practicing stillness in the middle of chaos.

Of course, we don’t need to have an actual tropical storm (which turned into a supertyphoon after it passed us) to practice with chaos. It’s all around us, every day. Chaos is the uncertainty of our daily lives, the constant barrage of information and requests and tasks and messages we’re swarmed with, the uncertainty of the global stage and national politics, of our finances and global economy, of changing communities and our everchanging lives.

Chaos is all around us, and it can stress us out. It causes anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, procrastination, constant distraction, and the seeking of comforts like social media, food, shopping, games and more.

But what if we didn’t need to run to comfort or fear the chaos?

What if we could just be still, and find calmness and stillness with the uncertainty swirling around us?

A Joyful Practice in Chaos

So how can we practice mindfulness in the middle of chaos? How can we make it joyful?

For me, it looks something like this.

First, you give yourself space to be present with the chaos. I stood in the middle of the storm, because I was excited to see what it was like. I intentionally called it “meditating” because my intention was to be as present as possible with whatever happened. In your daily life, that might look like just stopping in the middle of your busy workday, at any moment, and dropping into the present moment so you can feel what the chaos feels like.

Second, you find the courage to be completely present with the felt experience of the chaos. In the storm, part of that was feeling the wind and rain on my skin, noticing the dramatic light that was filtering through the storm clouds, noticing the amazing tropical jungle in the small valley below me, and the movement of the trees and flowers surrounding me. But there was more than that: it was also the feeling of excitement in my chest, maybe a bit of uncertainty about whether something would fly and hit me on the head, which showed up as a small bit of fear radiating in my heart area. It was also the feeling of my body swaying, my leg muscles tensing, my chest expanding as I breathed. All of this is the felt experience of the moment. Not just my thoughts about it, but how it feels in my body. We can practice this in any moment.

Third, you relax into the chaos, and embrace it. Noticing how the chaos feels, you might notice any tension you have around it. For me, in the storm, there was tension around my safety (again, it was actually pretty safe), so I noticed this tension and relaxed those muscles. Relaxing my body, I let myself just surrender to it. Embrace it, as if it were an incredible gift. Again, we can practice this any moment. Right now, in fact, if you’d like to try it.

Fourth, you dance with it, joyfully. Once we relax around the chaos, and start to embrace it … we’re making friends with it. The uncertainty is no longer a thing to run from, or to resist, but is just a part of the experience of this moment. Of every moment. And so we can start to dance — let ourselves move through the chaos, in a loving, lovely, joyful way. What would it be like to play right now, in the middle of your uncertain life? What would it be like to be curious, and explore, like an adventurer? What would it be like to be grateful for this incredible moment of chaotic beauty? What would it be like to find the love, the openness, the swirling dancing musical movement in the middle of this storm?

We have the opportunity, every single day, even every moment, to be present with the storm of the world. To sit in stillness in the middle of the wind and downpour of life. We have the opportunity to be open to it, to dance with it, to even find the joy in the immense uncertainty that is our lives.

-AG

Commit yourself to your own magnificence.

There is no risk for you out here on the leading edge, ever. And when you come to understand the true nature of well-being in which you have come forth — then you can relax and begin to enjoy this magnificent adventure which is your creative life experience. We are not here to guide the specifics of that which you choose. You get to choose that, and you can’t get it wrong. We are here to assist you — only to assist you — in finding vibrational harmony with your desire; knowing that when you find vibrational harmony with your desire, you are, in this moment, an amazing being. 

Commit yourself to your own magnificence. Every time you look into a mirror, remind yourself that what stares back at you is not an every-changing body, but an invisibleness that is truly your highest self. Affirm: I’am love, I’am love, I’am worthy, I’am infinite, silently and out loud. Do this frequently so that it eventually becomes your inner mantra. This will help you abandon old patterns you’ve carried that have injured your personal relationship to the universe and all of the inherent beauty and perfection it holds. You will awaken to the incredible miracle that you are.

-AG

LOCATION: Tropical Hideaway (Adventureland) - Disneyland Resort, CA

Disneyland Resort: Star Wars Galaxy's Edge - Costume Reveal

So working for the mouse actually got a lot of perks, and this one was actually pretty cool. The Cast Activities department for the Disneyland Resort decided to create an event for all of the die hard Star Wars cast members to enjoy. I myself have never seen Star Wars, so I could care less, to be honest. However, the event was pretty cool.

They actually built a runway for the new costumes attire that was modeled by some of our great cast members including our Resort President - Josh D’Amaro and Resort Vice President - Kris Theiler.

-AG

Vast Mind: 3 Ways to Open Beyond the Self-Concern of Our Small Mind

Most of the time, we are caught up in what can be called “small mind”: the small world of self-concern, of wanting to get what we want and avoid what we don’t want.

This is the cause of our suffering — always running to distraction, procrastinating, caught up in worries and fears, worried about what people think of us, what we’re missing, what someone did to offend us, and so on.

It’s a small world we get trapped in, this worrying about ourselves all the time. And it leads to stress, anger, hurt, worry, fear, anxiety and distraction.

The antidote is Vast Mind — growing bigger than the small mind we have habitually become stuck in.

What is Vast Mind? It’s opening to something bigger than our self-concern, opening to the freshness of the moment.

Let’s imagine that there’s someone whose family member has said something insulting to them. They immediately get caught up in small mind, thinking about how they don’t deserve to be treated this way, that they’re a good person and that this person is always being inconsiderate. They are worried about themselves, and their world is very small and constricted.

What if instead, this person dropped their self-concern, and opened their awareness to something wider than themselves. The experienced the moment as pure experience, and suddenly everything is open and vast. They relax into this openness. They might notice that this other person, whom they love, is suffering in some way. They send this person compassion, and feel love for the person and this moment.

That’s the difference between small, constricted mind that’s full of suffering, and vast mind that’s open, fresh, unbounded, and full of love.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Here are three practices for growing from small mind to vast mind.

Practice 1: Ego-Dropping Meditation

A great place to start is by sitting in meditation and opening your awareness and dropping the boundaries between you and everything else. 

The idea is that we practice dropping into a relaxed, open awareness, and then start to relax any boundaries we have between ourselves and all that surrounds us. We drop the construct we’ve created that we call ourselves, and then there’ just sensation, just pure experience.

It’s a returning to wholeness. It’s a wonderful practice.

Practice 2: Radical Not-Knowing

Most of the time, we act as if we know exactly how things are. We don’t pay too much attention to this moment, because it’s boring to pay attention to the breath, body sensations, the sensations of everything around us, because we already know all about that!

But in fact, every moment is completely fresh, completely open, full of new possibilities to explore.

When we get stuck in small mind, we are in a narrow, constricted view of the world. And it’s a hardened view — I know what I want and I just want to get it. I know what I don’t like and I want to avoid it. It’s the hardened view of fundamentalism.

The practice of radical not-knowing is to act as if you’ve never experienced this before. Everything is completely new to you, with no preconceptions or labels.

You look around at everything as if you’ve never seen anything like this. It’s fresh, wondrous, breathtaking. There are no names for anything, just the pure experience.

Try walking around like that for a few minutes, and see what it’s like. Be open and curious.

What happens is that we become much more open to the vastness of experience. There is no, “I want this” or “I don’t want that.” It’s just, “This is the experience I’m having right now.”

This is pure boundless awareness, and it is vast.

Practice 3: Opening to Devotion to Others

When I notice that I’ve gotten caught up in my small mind, I try to think of people other than myself.

Opening myself up to the love I have for others gets me past my small mind, and into an openness. What would it be like to be completely devoted to other people? It’s a fresh experience, boundless and vast.

-AG

Why We Struggle to Make Time for Solitude

How often do you take time to go out for an hourlong walk? To just sit out in nature doing nothing but contemplating and enjoying the silence?

I’m sure there are a few of you who indulge in this luxury regularly, but most of us don’t make time for solitude on a daily basis.

For some, it’s too much of a luxury: the struggle of daily existence is too close to survival level to even think about an hour alone in nature.

But for many of us, the main reason is that our brain rationalizes staying busy. We are filled with uncertainty all day long, and that drives us to try to do more, to get control of everything, to cram more into our lives, to stay addicted to technology and distraction.

The main driver of our busyness and distraction is uncertainty.

Uncertainty is woven into every hour of our lives. We are uncertain about what we should do, who we are, whether we’re good enough, what is going to happen, what’s going on in the world, and how to deal with the overwhelmingness of life. We don’t often acknowledge it, but we feel uncertainty all day long.

To deal with that feeling of uncertainty, of the groundlessness of not having stability in our lives … we cling to comforts and distractions, we procrastinate and put off the habits we want to form, we are constantly busy and messaging and more. And if we get a little downtime, we will pick up our phones or jump onto our favorite video site to watch something.

The idea of being in solitude, of having quiet in our lives and time for contemplation, might seem nice to many of us. But when it comes time to actually do it, we cling to busyness because of our feeling of uncertainty. “I can’t because I have too much to do!” “Just one more email. Just one more video.”

And yet, this constant busyness and distraction is draining us. We are always on, always connected, always stimulated, always using energy.

What would it be like to disconnect every single day for an hour? To remove ourselves from TVs, books, devices, and just go out for a walk? To not be productive, but connected to nature?

We could use the downtime. We could use the time to let ourselves recharge and be replenished by nature. We could use the movement, the quietude that gives our brains a chance to rest, the space for contemplation and nothingness.

To do this, we have to stop letting the uncertainty rule our lives. It can be with us, a constant companion, and we can learn to be comfortable with it and even love it as it is. But it doesn’t have to drive us.

The way to shift this is to create the space for solitude, even just half an hour … and then make it happen. Watch your mind try to rationalize why you shouldn’t do it, or have an urge to put the solitude off for just a little longer. Then don’t give in to that urge, but instead go to the solitude and be with your urges, your rationalizations, your stress.

See what happens when you give these things some space. They air out. They calm down. And you get nourished by the space and life around you.

-AG

Connecting Your Work Tasks to Meaning

I’m really good at getting a lot of things done, taking action, piling up a buttload of completed tasks.

Action isn’t my problem — it’s making the tasks themselves feel more meaningful.

Do any of you have that problem, that your work just feels like busywork, not super meaningful?

By the way, if your problem is not taking action … here’s my action rules:

  1. Pick important things to work on

  2. Do only one of them at a time

  3. Set aside everything else and do only that one task

  4. Make it smaller so it’s easier to start

  5. Feel the joy of getting stuff done

And yes, getting stuff done is so much fun. But at the end of the day, you just churned through a whole bunch of things, and it doesn’t feel that meaningful. Sure, at least you didn’t just procrastinate all day, didn’t fritter the day away in distractions … but there’s more to life than just churning and being super busy.

Let’s talk instead about meaning.

The Joy of Meaningful Work

Not everyone has the luxury of doing meaningful work — maybe you have to work at a fast food restaurant just to buy groceries, for example. I get that. I’m incredibly lucky to have work that I find meaningful.

But it is one of the most incredible things I’ve been able to create in my life. Purposeful work. Work that feels like I’m doing something good in the world.

People in all kinds of fields have found meaningful work — it’s usually when you’ve done some good in the lives of others. Teachers who see a kid’s eyes light up when they do a science experiment or read a good story. Nurses who help someone who is in pain. Volunteers who help with a project that makes a community better. Writers who inform or delight or provoke. Mothers who help babies grow into wonderful people. A bus driver who keeps his students safe so they can learn. Scientists who are advancing human knowledge. Yoga teachers who bring a measure of inner peace to people’s mornings. A flower gardener whose product will make people’s homes happier. A counselor who helps someone deal with their grief or anxiety. A software engineer whose app empowers creators. An artist whose work gives people a new way of seeing the world. A personal trainer who helps her clients get healthier. A coach who helps his clients make breakthroughs in their lives.

And it’s my belief that anyone can find meaning in their work. Work in an office? Maybe it can feel meaningful to serve your team so that their work gets done easier, or so that the project they’re doing actually gets done. Maybe you help brighten people’s day with your positivity or sense of humor. Maybe you delight your customers with your service. Work as a janitor? Imagine not cleaning for a week and think about how miserable people would be — your work makes their lives better, even if they don’t realize it. A feeling of meaning can come even if the people benefitting don’t realize what you’ve done. Just knowing you’ve made lives better is a wonderful thing.

Meaning is anything that makes lives better — your own life included. If you are putting smiles on people’s faces, helping them find mindfulness, helping them make a living, making their jobs easier or their headaches smaller … you’re doing something meaningful.

Meaningful work is all around us, and it is deeply satisfying. Even joyful, if we can connect to that meaning instead of going through the motions.

Connecting Your Work Tasks to Meaning

It’s one thing to realize how meaningful your work is … and another to actually feel that meaning throughout the day.

The key tools to help you connect any task to meaning are these:

  1. The Pause. Before you start a task, pause. Then check in with yourself about why this is meaningful (see next two tools). If you’re in the middle of the task and you’ve gotten into Get It Done mode, pause. Check-in. If you’re moving through your day mindlessly, pause. Check-in again. Do this all day long — pause and check in. Then do the next things on this list.

  2. The Why. When you pause, check in and ask yourself why you’re doing this. Why is it meaningful? Whose life will be made better in some small way? For example, as I write this, I imagine one of you might feel that their work is a little more meaningful. Maybe two of you. That warms my heart (see next step). As I went to yoga class with my daughter this morning, it felt really meaningful to be bringing mindfulness and activity into her life. As I did a coaching call with someone today, it felt meaningful to support their incredible work in the world. As I did chinups with my son this afternoon, it felt meaningful to be bonding with him doing something active. Why does this matter to you? Why is this important enough to be in your life? Connect your task to this Why.

  3. The Heart. It’s one thing to intellectually know why you’re doing something, and to know in your head why it’s meaningful … but quite another to feel the meaning in your heart. When you think about someone’s life being made better, try to feel the pleasure of doing something good for them. How often do we let ourselves feel pleasure? Feel the love you have for them, in your heart. Feel the joy of putting a smile on their face or easing their burden. You don’t need them to know — but it’s a wonderful thing to do this for them.

It’s that simple. Pause. Check in with your Why. And feel the pleasure, the joy, the love, in your heart.

Keep coming back to that, and tell me your life isn’t better.

-AG

Guide to Spending Your Time Intentionally

Yesterday I was on a call with an old friend of mine, and she asked a question about how to spend her time more intentionally.

Her key insight for me was that a lot of people in the program (and I think many people reading this blog) would like to do the same thing.

How do we spend our days with more intentionality?

How do we stop from just going through it on autopilot, just running to distractions and busywork all the time, just getting through things? How do we keep from feeling overwhelmed and lost at sea? How do we change our habit of being too busy, never having time for the things we want to spend our life on?

The answer isn’t simple, but I’ve created a guide for spending your time intentionally, things that I’ve been implementing in my life.

Let’s walk through this guide step-by-step.

The Mindset of Not Enough Time

Before we get into practical steps, it’s important to address the mindset that many of us have, which just gets in the way:

  • That we don’t have enough time

  • That we’re too busy, or have too much on our plate

These are just stories that we have in our heads, and they’re not really true. We have enough time, and we’re not too busy. We just need to let go of those stories, those complaints about our time, and instead adopt a new mindset.

The mindset is that we have complete ownership over our time. This comes from Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap, where he tells us that we are the creators of our time.

When we complain that we don’t have enough time, we are avoiding taking ownership over an area in our lives. When we say, “I don’t have enough time for this activity,” we are really saying, “I don’t want to do it.”

Instead, we choose to do everything else, and then shirk taking responsibility for that.

What if we could drop our complaints, and take full ownership over our time? That means intentionally deciding how we want to spend the hours we have available.

What if we could be fully present and fully in love with the activities we choose to do? Instead of going through the motions, we show up fully, whole-heartedly?

Ask yourself where you are avoiding taking ownership of your time. Ask yourself how you can take full ownership of that area of your life.

Then ask how you can show up fully, not just doing the activity zombie-like, but with full presence.

Start Your Intentionality with Small Blocks

You’re not going to magically transform into a master of intentionality, spending every second of your day intentionally.

Instead, you’re going to pick a small block of time and practice. Then just two small blocks of time. And so on.

Let’s start with a couple questions:

  • What would be the most important and loving thing you could do with 30 minutes of your time each day?

  • If you could only do one thing today and be satisfied with that, what would it be?

You want to think of the one thing you could do that would change your life in some way: for me, it’s writing this post or creating a new course. For you, it might be meditation or starting that non-profit you’ve been wanting to start. Maybe you want to create videos or start a T-shirt business. Maybe it’s getting your finances in order.

Pick one activity that would make the most difference.

Then set up an intentional block of time at the beginning of each day, and spend it on this one activity. For example, if I want to write every day, I’ll set up a writing block of 30-60 minutes at the start of every day — before email and messaging and checking websites.

It could be a block devoted to starting your business, where you do different activities each day that move you closer to getting launched.

Now here are your intentional guidelines:

  1. Pause and decide beforehand what you’re going to do. Don’t just let yourself drift with the currents of your online world, but at least for these 30 minutes, have an intention.

  2. Know your Why. Why does this matter to you? Are you helping to serve another person, a group, the world? Is this a deeply loving act for yourself or others? Keep this Why in your heart as you move through the activity.

  3. Notice your tendency to rush through. Maybe you just want to get this done. That’s how most of us move through almost everything. That’s like when we sit down to meditate but are just trying to get to the end — an indicator of how we do every activity. What’s the point? This is why we feel so busy — because we’re rushing through everything we do, in a hurry to get to the next thing. Instead, try being fully with the activity.

  4. Try falling in love with the activity. Instead of going through the motions, what if you could be fully in love with this moment, with what’s in front of you, with the activity itself? With the opportunity to serve?

  5. Don’t let yourself be distracted. We have a mental habit of switching to other things, almost immediately after starting something. Instead, be a “Sacred No” to everything else (see next section), and be fully with this activity. Do nothing else.

Learn the Art of the Sacred “No”

One of my teachers taught me the term, “Be a Sacred No.” For me, that means that what we have chosen to do can become sacred, something we’re fully committed to … and then we can be a Sacred “No” to everything else that tries to interfere with that sacred space we’ve created.

Imagine that this 30 minutes you’ve set up for yourself at the beginning of your day is a sacred space — it is so important that you’ve created something very intentional instead of just letting it mix in with everything else you have to do. You carved out the time. You deliberated on your Why, and kept the love of those you serve in your heart.

You are fully devoted to this activity. You are deeply committed, like you’ve never committed to anything else in your life.

And when distractions come up, or someone asks you to have coffee during this time, or there are other demands on your attention … you become a Sacred “No” to all of that. So that you can be a Sacred “Yes” to what you are fully committed to.

Expanding Into an Intentional Day

Once you practice with one sacred block of time that you spend with intentionality … you might want to expand that slowly into the rest of your day. I recommend doing it one sacred block per week (blocks of 30-60 minutes).

Here’s what I suggest:

  • Put your tasks into categories. What are the things you want to spend your time on? For me, that might be creating content, answering messages and emails, doing various admin tasks, doing calls with coaching clients, and meeting or otherwise working with my team. I also have personal things like reading with my kids, meditating, exercising, and doing errands. Group the things you want to do into categories like this.

  • Prioritize the categories. Of your list of categories, which are the most important? Which are less important? This is important if you want to be intentional about your time. You are taking ownership of how you spend your time.

  • Put the most important ones first. If writing is your most important block of time, put that early in the day, before the other stuff. You’re more likely to do it if you put it first. What’s next most important? Put that second.

  • Batch the smaller ones later. If there are less important things that you still need to do during the day, batch them together and put them later in the day. For example, emails and admin tasks — put them all into one block, and have them in the afternoon. You can scan your email quickly earlier in the day, after your most important block, but don’t spend much time on it. This way your smaller tasks get done, but they don’t block your important ones.

  • Spend 5 minutes being intentional about your day. Take just 5 minutes at the beginning of each day to be intentional about how you want to spend your time. How do you want to block out the day? What are you avoiding? What is most important to you today? Can you take ownership and move into each activity with full devotion?

  • Review at the end of each day. Spend a couple minutes before you go to sleep reviewing how you did that day. Were you intentional? Did you take 5 minutes at the beginning of the day? Did you do the important things first? Did you do each activity with full intention, fully present, with the devotion for those you serve in your heart? How could you step up your intention and commitment even more? This is how you continue to move into intentionality over time.

The Joy of Letting Go

At the end of the day, you won’t get everything done on your task list. There will be a feeling of, “I can’t get everything done, I don’t have enough time.”

Actually, again, that’s just a story you tell yourself. In truth, it’s physically impossible to do every possible thing you could do. You only have one body, and so much time. So we have to decide how we spend our time, with intentionality. That’s taking ownership — you decide what to do with the time you’re given. Do you learn to surf or do you write a book? That’s your choice.

And so, accepting that we are choosing how to best spend our time, we can then accept that we have to let go of the rest. We can’t do everything. In fact, if we tried to do everything, we’d do everything poorly. We are owning the fact that we choose to do these things, to be fully there with them, and to do them as best we can, fully and with love.

Then we let go of the rest. We are a Sacred “No” to them, so that we can be a loving yes to what we’ve intentionally decided to spend our lives doing.

-AG