Life Empowerment

Hundred Little Decisions: Training Ourselves at the Decision Point

“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” ~Tony Robbins

Over and over, throughout the day, we make the Hundred Little Decisions: to work on this, to check email, to go to this website, to respond to messages, to grab a bite to eat, to meditate or exercise or play basketball or have tea or watch a video or push into deep purpose.

The Hundred Little Decision shape our day. They determine whether we’ve had a day of focus and calm and meaningful work, or distraction and procrastination.

It turns out, we can train ourselves at the decision point. When we have one of the Hundred Little Decisions come up, we can train how we’d like to respond.

Do we want to go to distraction? To response mode? To comfort? To avoidance?

Or do we want to do something connected to our mission and purpose? To something more meaningful than our comfort?

Let’s look at how to train at the decision point.

Start with the Motivation

If the motivation for this training is, “Because it sounds good” or “So I can get more productive,” you probably won’t stick to it.

It has to mean more than that.

So ask yourself these questions — journal about them, if you want to get serious about the training (and if you don’t want to get serious, just skip the rest of this article):

  • Who do I care deeply about? Go beyond the obvious answer of your loved ones — who do you want to serve?

  • How do I normally respond at one of the Hundred Little Decisions? What’s my normal go-to exit, comfort, habitual pattern? Get clear on this.

  • How does this pattern affect me?

  • How does it affect the people I care about?

  • How powerful would it be for me and for them if I shifted this?

Make this something you give a shit about. Make it more meaningful than the thing you usually go to. Make it about something more than yourself.

Starting the Training

To start the training, we want to make it really simple. We want to get good at recognizing the decision point, and then interrupting our usual pattern, just for a moment.

So here’s what to do:

  1. Put notes to yourself all over the place, where you won’t miss them. Your phone’s lock screen, a note on your computer, reminders that will pop up, notes on your bedside stand and bathroom mirror, and so forth. You want to remember to notice.

  2. Throughout the day, see if you can notice the Hundred Little Decisions you make — when you’re deciding to switch to something new. You’re on one website, and you want to go to another. You’re done with one task, and you’re deciding what to do next. Over and over, notice these decision points.

  3. When you notice a decision point, have some kind of small thing you say to yourself, like, “Aha!” or “Breathe”. Whatever feels right. It should call attention to the decision point.

  4. At this moment, all you have to do is pause. Take 3 conscious breaths (being present with them). Notice your surroundings.

That’s all you have to do. Try it for a week. After you pause and notice, you can go ahead and do whatever you want to do. Maybe it’s watch a video on Youtube, maybe it’s respond to a text. It doesn’t matter. Just notice, pause and breathe.

You’re bringing awareness to the decision point, and interrupting your pattern just a little.

Deepen the Training

After a week of this practice, you’ll be better at it than before. You don’t have to be perfect, but better. You’ll get better and better each week as you practice. Give yourself at least a month to see some effects.

At this point, you want to deepen the practice:

  1. At the pause, after you take 3 conscious breaths and widen your view … ask yourself a question: “What am I being called to do right now?” (More on this in a moment.)

  2. Open your heart to the people you want to serve. To your mission and purpose (or to listening to what your purpose might be, if you haven’t found one yet). To serving something bigger than yourself — your family, your friends, your team, your community, anything.

  3. Now set an intention to serve them through this next task. It can still be an email or responding to a text, if it feels connected to your purpose.

So let’s talk about the question, “What am I being called to do right now?” There’s no right answer to this question, but it puts you in a frame of mind where you drop into your body to feel what feels right to you. But not what feels comfortable or pleasurable … what feels in service of something bigger.

For me, this simply means breathing, feeling the sensations in my body, and opening my mind to the question. Usually one thing comes up. I need to write. I need to respond to my community.

Whatever answer comes up, just trust it. Too often we go into indecision mode where we question ourselves and whether we’re doing the right thing. There’s no right thing. Trust what comes up for you and then commit to it. Be all in.

Continuing the Training

As you can see, after a week of this training, you’ll be much more aware of what you’re doing and when you’re deciding. You’ll become much more conscious at the decision point.

After two weeks, you’ll become much better at making more purposeful and conscious decisions. You won’t be as reactive or tied to your habitual patterns of comfort, avoidance, control and exiting.

You practice bringing more connection to your purpose to each task, so that they feel more meaningful.

This is when the magic begins. But you have to train first. Start today.

-AG


Why We Never Have Enough Time & What to Do About It

Everyone I know has this problem: there never seems to be enough time in the day for everything we need or want to do.

We have a pile of tasks and projects to do, endless messages and emails to respond to, and even if we work with focus and no distractions (that’s a huge “if”) … there’s not enough time.

Let’s say you happen to find time after work and on weekends, to do non-work stuff, like reading and exercise and meditating and learning new things and taking up a hobby … well, then you find that the time you create for this stuff is never enough, you have too much that you want to do and there’s still not enough time.

And that’s just the big things … in addition to all of that, there’s eating and sleeping and driving and showering, there’s using the bathroom and watching TV shows and keeping up with the news, there’s cleaning and other chores, washing the car and paying bills, grocery shopping and cooking, doing your taxes and registering your car. How does all of this get shoehorned into the small amount of time that we have for work and non-work tasks and activities?

There’s never enough time, and it freaking stresses us all out.

Why is this? What’s going on? And what the hell can we do about it?

The Cause of Not Enough Time

There is a fixed amount of time. It’s neither “enough” or “not enough” — it’s only our expectations that make it one way or another.

If we want to get more done than is possible in this fixed amount of time, we think it’s not enough, because it didn’t meet our expectation. If we are satisfied with how much we can do in the fixed amount of time, it’s enough time.

So it’s our expectations of how much we should get done in a day.

Where do these expectations come from? Our managers? Society? Our parents? Ourselves? Of course, the answer is all of the above. We’ve all created these agreements about how much we’re supposed to do, and the agreements are impossible to fulfill in the limited amount of time we have.

So the practice is to let go of the flawed agreements of how much we should get done.

And instead, learn to appreciate the time we actually do have, and appreciate each act we’re able to do within that time.

“Ya But … I Need to Get All That Done”

You might object: the endless list of things to get done still needs to be tackled!

Absolutely. Try this experiment for a week: make this list of things to do, prioritize them, block off time in your calendar for them. Now be absolutely disciplined and focused in each block, doing exactly what you planned. Adjust the blocks as you learn that you have forgotten eating and grocery shopping and the like. But after a week, you’ll have a much better idea of how much you can actually get done.

You will see that it’s much less than you hope you can do. We are overly optimistic about how much we can do in a day, in a week.

So if we get realistic, the actual amount of things we can do in a week is greatly reduced. We need to start with that realistic recognition. Let’s see how to use that to actually do stuff.

How to Get Stuff Done Then

Now we can work within that reality of fixed time and limited amount of things that can get done:

  1. First recognize the things that must get done. What on your list are things that have to get done no matter what? For example, you might list things like: showering, eating, sleeping, buying groceries, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, driving to work, taking the kids to school, etc. You might also have some non-negotiable work things: Monday meetings, daily calls, etc. How much time do these take? Calculate it the best you can. A good estimate is 8 hours of sleep, and then 4-7 hours of non-work things (depending on if you have family or other increased non-work obligations). Now how many non-negotiable work things do you have?

  2. Now recognize how much time you have left. Let’s say you have 8 hours of sleep, 4 hours of non-work non-negotiables, and 1.5 hours of work non-negotiables… that leaves you with 10.5 hours to allot each day. For some of you with more non-negotiables (both work & non-work), you might be down to 6 hours. Just find the number.

  3. Now ask, how can I best use that time? With the time you have to allot to your big pile of tasks and things you want to do and read and watch … how will you best use this time? There’s no right answer, but ask the question. For me, I spend a chunk of it writing, a chunk responding to people, a chunk working on one project, and a chunk taking care of admin tasks. Then I allocate time for meditating, walking, exercise, reading & studying, connecting with loved ones. Those are my priorities.

  4. Pick & block off. With this list of priorities, block off your time. You can get by without this, but it’s a way to budget your limited time. And protect the things you believe are most important. This is all you get, and you get to use it the best you can. That’s all you can do in that time!

  5. Now work & act with appreciation & focus. In each block, pour yourself into the act. Really be there with that task, because you’ve chosen to include it in your limited time, so it must be important. Appreciate this task, and appreciate the space you’ve cleared for it. (More in the next section.)

All of the above will be done imperfectly, of course. We’ll still try to fit in too much. But at least it will be more realistic, and over time, you can stop trying to cram so much into your time blocks. You’ll learn that you can’t get as much done in those blocks as you hope. But with practice, we can accept that this is enough.

Working with Appreciation & Focus

You’ll still want to cram more into the limited time you have — it’s our nature.

But it’s good to recognize that this stems from a lack of appreciation for the time we do have. It is enough. The time we have is a precious gift, and we can appreciate it just as it is, without needing it to be more.

So the secret is to work and act with appreciation and focus. Appreciate the spaces we have — we don’t have have many of these spaces — they’re precious and beautiful. Can you love them as they are?

Be fully with the task, without letting ourselves get sidetracked. It’s important enough to include in our limited day, so it’s important enough to give our full attention and devotion to.

Relax into each space, each task, each act, learning to love it just as it is. Not worrying about all we’re not doing, but instead appreciating what we are doing.

What a gift this task, this act, this moment is! I will devote myself to it fully, out of love.

-AG

Live on Purpose

“Our purpose here on earth: to manifest the very nature of our spirit, which is touched by the spirit of God.” ~Rumi

So often we live our lives drifting, getting by, trying to find comfort and pleasure, doing what we need to do, doing things out of habit, getting lost in the busywork, going through the motions, getting caught up in our thoughts, getting lost in distractions, trying to stick to something but then reverting to habitual patterns, dealing with one crisis after another, putting out fires and sweeping up messes, dealing tiredness and stress and depression and anxiety, trying to keep our heads above water, trying to make ends meet, falling behind and getting overwhelmed, struggling and not wanting to face our problems, getting mired in a pit of never ending tasks, losing our days and weeks because they all blend together.

This is the human condition, and it is beautiful.

But what would it be like to live with purpose? To have meaning in the work that we do, and to structure our lives with that purpose in mind, and with the most meaningful relationships and activities?

What would it be like to live on purpose?

To have intention to our actions, have a purpose to drive us, to put everything we have into everything we do?

The more we live on purpose and do our best in every single thing we do, the more meaningful our lives will be.

Let’s explore this idea of living on purpose.

Getting Clarity on Your Purpose

Not everyone is walking around saying, “Yep, I know exactly what my purpose is in life!” In fact, most people don’t ask the question, and if they do, they might not believe there is such a thing as purpose.

That’s because there isn’t inherently a purpose in our lives — we have to create it. If we don’t, our actions feel drifting and meaningless.

So how do we figure out that purpose? It’s a matter of creating an inquiry, and then listening. Then putting it into action. This is worth doing, by the way, even if you feel you have some idea of your purpose.

We’ll get to the inquiry in a moment, but this process looks like this:

  1. Start asking some questions (inquiry) that opens us to thinking about what is meaningful to us. See the next section. This is about opening to inquiry and seeing what comes up.

  2. Start listening. This is the part that many people skip — they might ask the questions but then not really feel they’re coming up with meaningful answers. That’s because we have to listen. In silence and solitude. So go out in nature, and walk in silence (no music or podcasts or audiobooks). Or sit in silence. Ask the questions below. Listen to what comes up. Listen some more. Ask some more. It’s like having a dialog with God — or the universe, or your inner consciousness. Ask and listen. Speak and see what comes out.

  3. Take action to get clarity. Many people make the mistake of thinking they need clarity before they can put it into action, but that’s actually the reverse of how it works. You get an idea but no real clarity — then you try it out and see how it works. Does it feel meaningful? Which parts of it scare you? What do you need to change in order to make it happen? You might find that it’s not for you and you need to try something else out. Or that something related to your original idea is actually closer to your purpose. It’s an exploration, and through this exploration you start to get some clarity.

This isn’t a one-off process, actually. It’s an ongoing one, of getting more and more clarity. So even if you think you are pretty close to your purpose, keep this process going. It might never end (I don’t know yet).

The Purpose Inquiry

There’s no right way to do this process of inquiry, except to turn toward the questions and the possibilities.

Some questions to start you in the process:

  • What people have you helped in your work made the work feel more meaningful than usual?

  • What people have problems that really speak to your heart, that move you to want to help?

  • What have you done in your life that felt most meaningful? (It doesn’t have to be around work.)

  • What books have you read, videos watched, audios listened, courses taken… that really lit you up?

  • When have you worked with people who really lit you up?

  • Who has inspired you the most? Who have you inspired?

Again, these are just to get you started. Ask questions like this that open you to feeling meaning, that open you to new ways of seeing things.

Then go out in silence and listen. Journal. Listen some more. Talk to yourself (or God or the universe). Then listen (to yourself, God or the universe). See what comes up. Then take action.

Living on Purpose

Once you have a little clarity (you don’t need very much), you can take some action.

Help one person.

Help another, then another.

Write about what you learned helping them.

Create something for someone.

Give that creation to a few others.

Launch something.

Be a part of something. Start something new.

Each day, ask what one thing you could do to live your purpose out.

Eventually, you start to have a bigger vision for what you can do with this purpose. Challenge yourself to make it even bigger.

Now bring that vision into your daily life:

  1. Bring your bigger vision into smaller steps until you have a purposeful task to do today.

  2. Structure your life so that you are creating the space for the purpose.

  3. Bring practices to your life that help you work with the habitual patterns that get in the way of purposeful work (patterns like procrastination, distraction, overcommitting, etc.).

  4. Structure your life to support this purposeful work — meditation, eating, fitness, reading to get you to the most clear, inspired place you can get to.

  5. Do every single activity the absolute best you can. This doesn’t mean exhausting yourself, but doing each thing with full intention and care, instead of “half” doing it as many of us are prone to doing.

If you can bring these five elements into your life, you are living on purpose.

“If you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz

-AG

The Art of Creating a Ritual for What Matters Most

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” ~Joseph Campbell

In this world where technology and consumerism have become our religion, we’ve largely lost something magical: the ability to elevate something into the realm of the sacred.

What we’ve lost is this idea that there is an element of the divine in the world. I’m an atheist and don’t believe in God, but I believe in the divinity of every living being, every object, every breath. These aren’t just ordinary things to be taken for granted, but ordinary things to be deeply appreciated.

And so I’d like to advocate for the idea of ritual.

We can lift an everyday act into the realm of the divine by turning it into a sacred ritual. What I’ve been trying to practice is the art of turning what matters most in my life into a ritual.

What would it be like if you turned what matters most in your life into a ritual? (Hint: if it’s in your life, it is important, as you’ve chosen to include it in your limited time.)

In the book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes in his chapter on the Fourth Agreement (“Always do your best”):

“ I make everything a ritual, and I always do my best. Taking a shower is a ritual for me, and with that action I tell my body how much I love it. I feel and enjoy the water on my body. I do my best to fulfill the needs of my body. I do my best to give to my body and to receive what my body gives to me.”

The ritual of taking a shower, then, becomes an act of appreciating the body you have, taking care of it, and fully loving it. It’s an act of devotion.

What would it be like to bring this art of devotion to everything that matters most in our lives?

The Elements of Ritual

So what would a ritual contain? It’s an art, so you can make it however you like. However, some elements to consider:

  • Create your environment: A ritual might have an altar, a temple, incense, etc. But your ritual doesn’t have to have these particular elements — the important thing is to consider what environment you’d like for this ritual, and how that environment will affect the practice. By taking care to create the environment, there’s an element of mindfulness and intention that is missing from most of our actions. An example might be to have flowers and music and sage as you do your yoga practice, or to eat dinner with phones off, a candle burning, and silence in the room.

  • Intention: As you start, set an intention for the ritual. What would you like to practice during this ritual? How do you want to show up? Set the intention, and then carry that intention throughout the ritual.

  • Bring presence: A key part of ritual is to be as fully present as you can. This is another element missing from most of our daily actions, but if we elevate something to ritual, it can increase our presence.

  • Deep appreciation: Ritual is about bringing full appreciation to the act. A daily shower ritual is appreciating your body for the miracle it is. Daily eating rituals is appreciating not only the nourishing food, but the people who put their life energy into growing, transporting and preparing the food. A daily writing ritual might be an appreciation of your connection to your reader. We often take things for granted — ritual brings the appreciation for life, the world, others and ourselves back into our lives.

  • Contemplation: Ritual can be a space for contemplating what’s important to you, what you are afraid of, what your aspirations are, and more. Again, this isn’t something we normally make space for, but what if we created that space?

  • Connection to aspiration: What do you want to create in the world? Who do you want to be? How would you like to show up, to shift yourself, to serve others? Ritual is a way to connect to these aspirations, so that we can be more resolved to live them.

  • Lift to sacredness: We take the ordinary things in our lives for granted, but what if we lifted the ordinary to sacredness? This doesn’t require a belief in God (though it can) … it’s imbuing a power into an action. The word “sacred” comes from the Latin “sacrāre,” which means to consecrate, to dedicate. That usually has holy connotations but can simply mean to be devoted to something that has power. What if we could see the mundane as powerfully sacred and magical?

  • Close in gratitude: A ritual has a closing, which might be simply gratitude for whatever you just did, how you practiced, or what you are devoted to. Give a small prayer of thanks to yourself, to the world.

These are some elements to consider — you don’t have to include all of them, and there are many others you can pull in from traditional rituals that range from the pagan and Druids to shamanic to Vedic and more.

Rituals to Consider

Any act that you do each day, that’s important to you, can be considered for something to turn into a ritual.

For example, some that I’ve been experimenting with:

  • Start of your day: How would you like to start your day? Can it be with intention, gratitude, reflection? With aspiration and appreciation? With meditation and quiet?

  • Getting ready: When you get yourself ready for the day, will it be a rushed affair, or one of slowing down, appreciating your body, taking care of yourself, loving yourself?

  • Writing or other work: Whether your work be writing or phone calls or building a house … you can elevate that to ritual by creating intention around it, appreciating what you’re creating, pouring yourself into the act, bringing mindfulness to it. How can you elevate it to ritual?

  • Email & messages: We normally just dive into checking email and messages, but what if it became a sacred ritual of connecting to others, of carefully considering issues, of crafting language? Can we elevate the act to one of deep presence and appreciation?

  • Eating: With eating, we can simply fuel our bodies and put food down our throats, phones or TVs distracting us … or we can elevate the eating to an act of nourishing and loving our bodies, connecting to others and the earth that has provided for us, connecting to loved ones’ hearts.

  • Exercise: We can rush through exercise, just trying to get it over with. Or we can bring it to the realm of the divine, letting it be an act of love for our bodies, an act of connection to our environment, an act of full presence and highest purpose.

  • Yoga: Is it just exercise and stretching, or can it be a ritual of full devotion and surrender, of practice of our highest selves?

  • Meditation: We can sit there, waiting for the final meditation bell to ring, or we can let it be a ritual of practice for what we’d like to train in. Or simply a ritual of full appreciation for the moment.

  • Sleep: Is sleep a matter of being on devices until we’re so tired we can’t check another thing on social media? Or a time when we reflect on our day, prepare for our time of rest, slow down and appreciate our lives?

I have to confess that I have not perfected the art of creating ritual for all of these things — I’m still learning, still experimenting. I have a lot of growth to do here. But when I do it, I’ve found it absolutely profound.

-AG

Move Towards Your Resistance

Our minds have the tendency to turn away and move away from what we’re fearing and resisting the most. We naturally don’t like pain, frustration, difficulty. So turning away and avoiding and putting off are protective acts.

And yet, this keeps us in our comfort zone. The path of growth is in the parts we’re resisting.

Each day, find the thing you’re resisting the most and move towards it.

I don’t mean that you should do something that’s actually unsafe. Jumping off a cliff to your death is not a good example of moving towards your resistance. Putting yourself in physical danger isn’t what I’m suggesting.

I’m inviting you to find the thing in your business or personal life that you know would be powerful for you, but that you’re resisting doing. Move towards that.

Turn toward it and look it in the face.

Move closer to the fear and let yourself feel it completely. Open your heart to it.

Let your love melt the resistance a little. Stay in it even if it doesn’t evaporate. Be courageous and fearless with it.

Do the thing you’re resisting the most. Do it bolder and louder than you are comfortable with. Do it with love, from a place of love. Do it long enough that you are no longer held back by it, and your relationship to it is transformed.

Find the joy and beauty in the middle of the resistance. Find gratitude in the midst of your fear. Find play in the midst of your burden.

You only need to focus on one small moment of it at a time, instead of the whole huge burden of it. You only need to open your heart for a moment. And then another, and another, but you don’t need to worry about all those others right now. Just this one moment.

Move closer to your resistance, open your heart to it, do it repeatedly, and see what happens. That’s my invitation to you.

-AG

Transforming Overwhelm & Burden to Something Powerful

How many of you have felt overwhelmed recently by everything you have to do?

How many of you have felt something you have to do — or everything you have to do — as a burden?

Many of us feel everything we have to do as burden, as overwhelm. It stems from how we look at the world: it’s hard, it’s difficulty to bear, and things are crashing down around us.

This is not said judgmentally, but with compassion — almost all of us see things this way. It feels like it’s programming that’s hardwired into us.

But it’s changeable. It starts by shifting how we see the world.

Instead of seeing the world as burden, can we see it as gift?

Instead of seeing the world as difficulty and struggle, can we see it as possibility and opportunity?

Instead of thinking we have too much to do, can we see the joy in each task? And see that a pile of tasks, then, is an abundance of joy and possibility?

Because yes, we have a huge amount of tasks to do, and we feel like we don’t have enough time to do them all. But we all have the same amount of time, and all we can do is one task at a time. There’s no way around this.

We can get better at choosing which tasks to do (prioritizing), but in the end there’s never any certainty that we’re doing the exact right tasks. We can expand our capabilities through automation, delegation and outsourcing, but experience tells us that even doing all of that, we still have too many tasks to do. The problem doesn’t go away with these kinds of tricks.

The amount of tasks isn’t the problem, because we’ll always have too many to do. The problem comes partly from overcommitting to too much, but even if we get better at that, we often still feel overwhelm and burden.

The only real solution is a change in mindset. To see everything we have to do as a gift, as possibility and opportunity, as an abundance of joy.

We can implement systems, get good at prioritizing, get more focused, outsource and delegate and simplify and commit to doing less … but in the end, burden and overwhelm won’t go away until we shift the mindset.

So here’s the practice:

  1. When you experiencing overwhelm, burden, or fear, pause and feel it. Let yourself be fully with it, experience it, feel it fully, and open up to it. Can you be curious about it? Can you find a way to love this feeling?

  2. See if you can see the tasks in front of you as a gift. You choose to do these because you want to. They are benefitting you and others. Do them with love, and be grateful for the gift of each one.

  3. See if you can see the possibility and opportunity in each one. What can be done with them? How are they more open and vast than you feel them to be?

  4. Can you experience the abundance of joy in your pile of tasks? If each one is a joyful gift, then isn’t there pure abundance in this pile? You can reach into the pile and pull out an opportunity for joy, growth, and giving your gift to the world.

Mindset shifts aren’t something we can just flip like a switch. They need to be consciously practiced. Can you see the possibilities in this practice?

-AG

How Shift Happens in Our Lives

There are a lot of us who would like to change something, but find it difficult to make that change. I’m here to share with you the fact that making a shift like this is absolutely possible, and share how that shift might happen.

Key Skills in Creating Shift

Here are the skills that will make shifts much more likely to happen:

  1. Recognizing what you need to change and then flipping the switch. We can fool ourselves about needing to change, for years. Instead, it’s a powerful skill to take a look at your life and see that you need to make a change. Often it shows up in others — they are constantly reacting negatively to our behavior, but perhaps we rationalize why they’re wrong. Often we know we need to change but don’t want to face it. The skill, then, is to get very honest with yourself and recognize that a change is needed, and then finding a way to flip the switch so that you’re committed and taking action.

  2. Starting and setting yourself up well. When you are ready to take action, get good at actually getting started. It doesn’t matter how you start — don’t get caught up in indecision and research. Instead, take action. But make one of your early actions be setting yourself up for future difficulties: set up accountability, tracking, motivation, so that when you falter, you’re more likely to stay in it or come back to it.

  3. Encouraging yourself when you’re discouraged. You will get discouraged or lose motivation at some point. Get good at encouraging yourself instead of discouraging yourself. This takes practice, but can be as simple as repeating, “You can do this!”

  4. See your rationalizations and get back on track instead. Similarly, there will be times when you’re rationalizing not doing it. You got off track, or there are things getting in the way. Get good at noticing your rationalizations and getting back on track. This is pretty much the same as the first skill at the top of this list, but applying it during the process instead of before the process starts.

  5. Starting again with a small step. Similarly to the above, really — just get started. Find the next small step and take action. Encourage yourself, over and over.

These skills obviously overlap, and you can practice them over and over again as you make a change. In this way, ever time you get sidetracked, demotivated, or struggle, it’s a great opportunity to practice the change.

-AG

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Embrace Groundlessness: When Everything Seems Out of Control

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” ~Pema Chodron

It’s a fundamental fact of human life that we want our lives to be under control — we develop plans, goals, routines, systems, tools, schedules, structure to our lives.

But while developing some structure is a very helpful thing for most of us … the truth is, there’s so much that we don’t control. Life is chaotic, out of control, shaky.

It’s what Pema Chodron calls “goundlessness” — the feeling of no solid ground under our feet. Other Buddhists might call it impermanence, which is a basic fact of life that we very often don’t want to accept. We don’t like groundlessness. We want the solid ground.

So what do we do when life feels out of control, groundless?

We open up to the groundlessness.

Normally, we seek ground: some kind of control or permanence. The routines and systems, the hardened opinions about how life should be and how others should act, the comfort foods and distractions, any kind of semblance of certainty and comfort. It’s why we procrastinate, put off healthy habits, get angry at others’ behavior, and feel so much anxiety.

What if, instead, we could embrace the groundlessness?

What if we didn’t have to run, but instead learned that it is a beautiful thing?

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The Fresh, Open Experience of Groundlessness

We normally think of the world around us, other people, and ourselves as solid things. But in fact, the things we think of as solid are just our ideas of them. The things themselves are constantly in flux. You also need to find someone (a mentor) to have deep intellectual conversations with to have a full potential growth.

Consider yourself:

  • You think you’re an individual person, separate from everything around you. But in fact, you breathe in the air around you, taking it in, and it becomes a part of you. What separates you from the breath of air you just took in?

  • You drink water and eat food that becomes a part of you, and that food was brought to you by others, the water was brought by a whole system of water distribution, a whole weather system before that. You are only existing because of everything around you. Where do you begin and everything else ends?

  • You, in turn, are helping to create the world around you, and others around you. They owe their existence, in part, to you. Where do you end and others begin?

  • In fact, we’re all just interrelated phenomena, constantly shifting, all interdependent, and the line between one thing and everything else is completely arbitrary, all in our minds.

OK, that might all seem intellectual. The idea is that nothing is as solid as we think, and everything is interconnected in such a way that we can’t really say that “this is this, and that is that.”

To take it to an experiential level, try this:

  1. Pause for a moment and take in everything around you in this moment. Notice all the objects, the space, the light, the sounds. Bring everything around you, yourself included, into your awareness.

  2. See everything as less than solid. Imagine that everything isn’t as solid as it seems. The air isn’t solid, it’s constantly flowing and changing — now imagine that everything else is similarly flowing and unsolid. Yourself included. Imagine that it’s all just one big sea of changing fluid matter.

  3. Experience the openness. If nothing is solid and permanent, then everything is changing and open. Feel this openness as a freedom, a freshness, an exhilarating vastness. Relax into this openness, and feel its beauty.

This is the openness of groundlessness. Nothing is solid, nothing is fixed, but this is the good news! Openness is unconstricted, free, peaceful, and gorgeous.

Learning to Find the Beauty in Groundlessness

So things seem out of control, uncertain, groundless — and it brings up anxiety in you. How can we work with this?

First, we can allow ourselves to feel the sensations of uncertainty in our body, as physical sensations. How does your fear, anxiety, frustration feel in your body (dropping the narrative or story about it, just feeling the feeling)? Being present with this is a wonderfully courageous first step.

Next, we can experience the groundlessness of the situation. Your life is up in the air — feel the openness of this, the freshness of this moment, the freedom of nothing being fixed. It’s a beautiful, delicious groundlessness.

Yes, you have some things to do — that’s the practical aspect of needing to get things done in your life. We’ll get to that in a second. But for now, just experience the beautiful freshness, freedom, vastness and openness of this groundless moment.

Relax into it. Appreciate its openness. See and feel it with fresh eyes, as if you’ve never experienced this particular open moment before (hint: you haven’t, no one has). Let yourself melt into this open groundlessness. Let yourself fall in love with it!

Then, from this place of openness and love … ask yourself what’s the most important thing I can do right now? What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself and others?

Take that next step, not out of anxiety or fear, but out of love.

Do it while experiencing the openness of the moment and your actions. Savor the freshness and freedom as you act.

This is the way of embracing groundlessness.

-AG

Retraining Deeply Ingrained Habits of Mindlessness

It’s hard enough to change a habit that you can physically see: going for a daily walk, sitting down to write, having a salad for lunch each day. These are easily seen, but can still be quite a challenge to instill in your life.

But what about habits of mindlessness, that you don’t even know you’re doing? Maybe you notice it later, maybe you never notice. How do you change those kinds of habits?

For myself, I have a number of mindless habits that I could focus on:

  • Judging other people

  • Sitting too long and getting distracted online

  • Comparing myself to others or judging myself

  • Shutting down into self-concern when someone is unhappy with me

  • Hiding things from others because I’m ashamed or afraid for them to know

Of course, these are just a handful that stand out. They’re deeply ingrained or established, because I’ve had them for a while now.

They are not a reason to beat myself up, or judge myself. There is nothing wrong with me for having these habits. And yet I can see how they’re unhelpful to my happiness, to my relationships, to the work I want to do in the world.

So it would be helpful to retrain these mindless habits.

How do we go about that?

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What to Know About Changing Mindless Habits

Before we start, it’s important to know that there are two big obstacles to changing these kinds of habits:

  1. They are deeply ingrained. You’ve been doing them for years — reinforcing them for years — and so you won’t just be able to flip a switch and change them in a day or a week. It could take months to retrain, and in some cases, longer — depending on how much focus you give this retraining, and how consistent you’re able to be.

  2. They are unconscious. If you don’t know you’re doing it, you can’t retrain it. It just keeps happening without you being able to do it. Without awareness, you’re powerless.

So it will likely be a messy process, with starts and stops, lots of “failures” that aren’t really failures if you’re using them to learn and grow your awareness. It can get discouraging, unless you look at every failure in this way, as a necessary step to becoming more aware, a necessary stepping stone to crossing this river.

A Retraining Method for Mindless Habits

With the above ideas in mind, here’s how we might retrain these mindless habits:

  1. Focus on just one habit. Look at my list of mindless habits above — these all seem like great candidates to take on immediately. So why not do them all at once, right? But it’s hard enough to be aware of just one of these habits — trying to be aware of several habits at once is like trying to pay attention to 5 televisions at once. I’d say it’s impossible. Pick just one — you can get to all of them eventually.

  2. Recognize the habit’s effects on you. Before you get started, reflect on how this habit affects you. Maybe just watch it for a few days and see how it affects your happiness, relationships, and the meaningful work you’re doing in the world. Start to get very clear on exactly what this habit does to your life, and all of the ripples it has on all parts of your life. Then get clear that you don’t want to keep doing this to yourself and others around you. You can’t afford it.

  3. Create a practice container to give it focus and create awareness. With focus on one habit and clarity about what it does, you can now set up your retraining practice dojo. Here’s the key: create a space where you become as aware as possible of the habit. For example, if I wanted to work on the “being judgmental of others” habit, I might have a practice hour each day where I walk around in public looking at people and noticing when I have the tendency to judge them. I’m actively watching for the habit. Maybe it’s just 30 minutes, or 5 minutes, depending on the habit. But it has a defined start and end, and I’m very deliberately practicing during this time. I can slowly expand it over time, or have multiple practice sessions a day, but it shouldn’t be all day long. Sometimes I might shrink it. The key is to try to be as aware as possible during this practice container.

  4. Imagine an alternative habit that would be more helpful. What would be a more helpful habit to do instead? For example, instead of judging people, I might try to look at them with compassionate eyes. Instead of eating mindlessly, I might try to fully savor each bite, pausing in between to ask if taking another bite would be a loving act or just mindless satisfying of cravings. Instead of sitting too long, I might have focused work sessions for 15 minutes, getting up and exercising or stretching in between. Instead of comparing myself or judging myself, I might see myself with loving eyes. Instead of shutting down when someone is unhappy with me, I might try to see their pain and what they’re going through. Instead of hiding things from others, I might be open and vulnerable about what I’ve been hiding. These are only examples — take a little time to imagine the habit you’d rather have.

  5. When you notice yourself doing the old habit, practice the new one instead. This one is obvious — during your practice session, if you notice yourself starting to do the old habit, do the new one instead, as deliberately and consciously as you can. Every single time, as consistently as possible. If you don’t do it consistently, just notice when you don’t, just increase awareness.

  6. Repeat many times. This one is obvious too — repeat it often, until it becomes easier and more natural and more and more automatic. Reinforce each time you do it by giving yourself a mental pat on the back — feeling good about this success, even if it’s not perfect. Take a moment to feel grateful for your effort.

  7. Then learn to do the new habit earlier. With some practice, you can learn to do the new habit much earlier in the process. For example, instead of judging someone and then switching to seeing them with compassion … I might look at someone and immediately try to see them with compassion, as soon as I see them. This takes a lot of awareness and practice, but it gets easier with time. You’re cutting out the old habit completely, so that the new one gets reinforced.

  8. Repeat many more times. Again, repeat this method as many times as it takes to become more and more automatic. You might add additional practice sessions. You can even try to catch yourself outside of the practice sessions, until it becomes really easy to be aware of this during the day.

  9. Important: see every mistake as a stepping stone to greater awareness. Remember that you’re not going to be perfect at this. It’s going to be messy. The old habit has been strengthened over years. Develop patience with yourself, understanding, compassion. Learn to encourage yourself when things are hard. And see every failure as information to use to get better and better.

This is the method. It works, I promise — I’ve changed some difficult habits this way, even if it took me longer than I’d care to admit. I’m still working with this method, in spurts and starts, in a very messy way. But shift happens. It can for you as well! I BELIEVE IN YOU!

-AG

Are We Headed in The Same Direction?

The story that he’s going to be talking about from this video was actually my story. I was the 19 y/o boy that was searching for answers on “why people do what they do?” and what can I do to understand their world instead of changing others my way.

ENJOY THIS VIDEO OF MY MENTOR!

-AG

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The Practice of Listening to Find Purpose

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” ~Rumi

Very often, our lives are so filled with busyness and distraction that we have no space to actually listen to what life is calling us to do.

Think about your day so far, and your day yesterday: how much of it was spent in busywork and distraction? Messaging, social media, videos and news, reading favorite websites, answering emails and doing errands, replying and reacting.

In the middle of this craziness, do we ever have space for silence? For creation, contemplation, reflection? And for a practice that I think we do too little of much of the time: listening.

The practice of listening is about creating a little space for silence, and then listening to what you need to do right now:

  • What have you committed to doing that you’re not doing?

  • Why is what you’re doing now important?

  • What do you need?

  • What do the people you care about need?

  • What are you being called on to do?

  • What would be the most impactful or meaningful thing you could do right now?

  • How do you want to spend the next month of your life?

  • What do you care most deeply about? Are you willing to commit yourself to it?

These are the kinds of questions to ask in this purposeful listening practice. But more important than the questions is how you listen:

  1. Create some space by taking a break from devices and busyness. Stop and get somewhere where you can have stillness — a walk in nature, dropping into sitting meditation, dropping into child’s pose on the floor, having a cup of tea, sitting out on your porch, finding a bench in a park.

  2. Now just find silence and stillness and ask a question. You can ask any of the questions above, or whatever feels important for you right now. One of my favorites is, “What am I being called to do right now?”

  3. Keep yourself in that stillness and silence, and listen for the answer. Breathe deeply. Feel how your body feels right now. And then listen to the answer that comes up for you. Your gut has an answer. Maybe it’s not the perfect answer, but it’s something to start with. Listen until you have clarity.

It’s that simple. Pause in a moment of stillness and silence. Ask a question. Listen for the answer. See, achieving goals is not what you get from it, it’s who you’ve become of the process of it. Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Fall in love with the path of deep healing. Fall in love with becoming the best version of yourself but with patience, with compassion and respect to your own journey. 

This can be used in all areas of your life: your relationships, your health, your finances, your work, your meaningful contribution to the world.

-AG