Strengthen Your Values & Meaning (3 smart but uncomfortable angles)

Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?

Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of….These men are cowards.

Nihilism: the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.

Nihilism is a cop out and a coward’s way of confronting the their own existence. Now if you are reading a post like this then most likely you are not a nihilist. However, I would like to put out there that avoiding the big questions and leading an undisciplined life equates to the same thing.

Champion Dads do not walk through life without a compass. We believe in something higher, something better, something within ourselves that is undefeatable. For some, religion is their North Star. For others, deep moral principles are their guidance. In both cases, there is a highest value that directs everything in their life which provides meaning.

And this is what Be A Champion Dad is all about: Working at becoming the best version of ourselves that is possible.

Champion Dads work to become mentally stronger, healthier, and contented. Below are three uncomfortable (but smart) angles to think about to strengthen your moral compass and help identify more meaning in your life.

1. Seek out conflict in a healthy way. Your highest value really directs everything in your life. A sure fire way to build and strengthen your values is to have a healthy amount of conflict. Conflict will allow you to reaffirm all that you believe in, clean up the weak areas, and get stronger. By conflict, I mean seeking out and listening to opposing viewpoints. Listen not to win an argument but rather to understand. Good dialogue with conflict is just like working out. The more you do it the stronger you get. This can be very hard if you are not in control of what triggers you…but keep an open mind. You will be surprised how much you will grow when you seek to understand an opposing viewpoint. One of the best teachers in life is confronting what you are not.

2. Listen to personal shame. I know this one sounds a little weird but hear me out. I am against shaming others and I am against unnecessary personal shame. Yet, sometimes personal shame happens all by itself and in those moments listen. Usually what is happening is that your heart/mind is letting you know that you are not living up to your highest values. Listen, correct the situation, and move on. Everyone who holds high moral standards will feel some shame now and again. It’s ok, just learn from it and forgive yourself. A little internal shame teaches us and provides a nudge back on the right track.

3. Take into account all of your limitations. Guess what? You cannot be anything you put your mind to. None of us can. It is also impossible to be everything to everyone. This is just not how we are designed. However, you can take stock of all of your limitations. This will help you to understand where to grow and how to use the limitations to play to your strengths. I know my faults to a tee and knowing this I am able to avoid situations where they become a liability. Know yourself inside and out and be honest in your assessment. This is how meaningful growth is done.

So there it is. Don’t be a nihilist or act like one. Go out there work hard, stand for something and kick some butt!

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Jewel Mitchell via Unsplash

Balancing The Emotional Intellect

I think that it is a common thought to believe that we are solely autonomous and make most of our decisions logically. But if I was to state that this is not the case, that in fact, we are almost always guided emotionally…would you believe me?

I used to have a really hard time believing this but it is true. So, it ends up, I didn’t want to believe it because I feel that I am a person who has a pretty good handle on things. I like the thought of being rational and poker-faced. Since I hold these thoughts in high regard my logical mind creates stories to support this persona. But….emotions are the real driver. Emotions are subtle little ninjas that get the logical mind to justify just about anything it really wants while making you believe otherwise.

Test it out…next time you are justifying doing something that isn’t logical (frivolous purchase, ridiculous vacation, or having an extra drink, etc), the logical part of the brain is working hard to build a story to get you to fulfill the emotional request.

I mean, think about it! Watch an ad or commercial…they only appeal to the emotional center of the brain. Advertisements, programs, and commercials are just planting emotional seeds for you to act on at a later date. So, KILL YOUR TV! Hahaha…I will save that post for another time.

(Wait, do you want to know how easily a person can influence you??? All they have to do is appeal to the emotional part of your brain and validate your self-image…yeah…it is that easy.)

Everything that you experience in your life passes through the emotional hemisphere of the brain first. It has to get through this area before it can even get to the logical hemisphere. To complicate matters, a person cannot be in both hemispheres at the same time. This is why we have cliches:

“Never make an important decision when emotional” or

“Count to 10 before saying something out of anger”

So right now I am really working on balancing these two out. It is very important to feel our emotions and process them. Don’t bottle them up or they will figure out a way to escape (which usually results in a questionable behavior….watch your kids- they exemplify this as they figure the world out).

Also, it’s just as important to honor the logical part of the brain. Without learning how to get logical we will remain emotionally unregulated (cue up a child’s temper tantrum). The remedy to help bridge over to the logical brain:

PAUSE

Pausing allows us to exit the emotional part of the brain and enter into the logical part of the brain. If you can do this and build a habit around pausing you will become more regulated and in control. This is a great habit to work with your children on. Who wouldn’t love well behaved, emotionally competent child with good critical thinking skills??? Wait…we first need to lead the way for them to follow.

What is a good test to determine whether or not you should build a habit of pause? hhhhmmm…..Have you ever been instantly triggered into anger from a comment some idiot (you’ve never met) has posted on Facebook or Twitter? Of course…we all have.

Feel and process the emotions so you can bring in the logical. You can’t control how you feel but you can honor the emotions without immediately acting on them. Emotions are just sign posts in the mind; they pop up, we recognize, and then act accordingly with the new information.

Balance the emotional triggers with pause. This will lead to opening the gateway to logical control.

I mean…don’t we all want to be Jedi’s? I do.

Be well

-MJ

*Special thanks to Peggy Hoime and Jeanine Fitzgerald for the discussions around the power of pause. Great stuff that works!

Photo by Joshua Earle via Unsplash

Hey! Go Take a Hike!

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” Friedich Nietzsche

I have had a lot of stresses lately (professional, personal, and health-related). Yet when I think about my current situation it does not feel like a new thing. My daily struggles are a song that I have heard over and over again throughout my 44 years on this earth. It is nothing new. If hardship has not externally come into my life, my ego does a great job of creating mental baggage. I worry too much.

Mental baggage is heavy. For the most part, I cope with this stress quite well but occasionally I get paralyzed by it. A common theme about mental paralysis that I have noticed is that I feel that I have no control over the situation. It is hard to cope when my mind goes on strike and moves into a survival mode. Essentially, my coping gets lost at the point that the stresses feel stronger than my personal will power.

It is very important to exercise some measure of action even when we feel beaten down (whether externally or internally). Taking action is the first step in taking back control or the reigns and building momentum back to a wellness state.

This post is about the go-to environment that gets me unstuck every time…yes every time. As I think back over the last twenty-five years, there is a common background to the remedy: getting out into nature.

Pure and simple: NATURE.

Long grueling bike rides, hitting golf balls, fishing a stream, or going for all-day hikes…I am outside breathing in nature. Being outside for long periods of time allows my mind to settle and sort through all the baggage. Nature clears away of the excessive thoughts that I have and helps me return to the center of my being.

Nature is a sensory experience. It is the balm of the soul and the calmer of thoughts.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery- air, mountain, trees, people. I thought: this is what it is to be happy” -Sylvia Plath

Instead of me just blathering on about my experiences, here are some proven scientific facts about getting out into nature and what it does for you and your children:

  • Children and adults who play regularly outside have stronger mental acuity, concentration, and feelings of self-worth.
  • Children and adults also have a drastic decline in anxiety, depression, and obesity.
  • Children who spend a large amount of time in nature have far less behavioral issues.
  • Children develop stronger problem-solving skills, resiliency, confidence, and social skills.
  • The sounds of nature shift the nervous system into a relaxed state.
  • Those who live close to nature have reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and stress.
  • Nature is also associated with a reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death.
  • Spending time in nature (or outside) also drastically improves sleep duration and quality.

Take back control of your mental state by one of the easiest things you can do: Go outside and do something, anything. Now that spring is here I am going to make up reasons to get out more and build back up my resiliency.

“The mountains are calling and I must go” -John Muir

Be well

-MJ

*Resources used for the above bullet points came from: http://www.sciencedaily.com (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm), http://www.hyperbiotics.com (https://www.hyperbiotics.com/blogs/recent-articles/5-ways-spending-time-in-nature-benefits-your-health-and-your-gut), and http://www.itsallkidsplay.ca – Jean Orem.

Photo by Westboundry Photography- Chris Gil via Unsplash

Rituals: An Invitation For Purpose and Connectivity

I leaned over and dumped the bucket of balls on the dew covered grass. The strong scent of the cut lawn wafted through my nostrils stirring feelings of summer. As I stretched out with my pitching wedge in hands I felt my father’s voice whisper:

“Don’t forget to put some weight on your heels”

I smile, as shivers run up my spine and down my arms. I have grown used to this sensation when graced by the other side. I whisper back loud enough for my ears to hear but not loud enough to disturb the other golfers:

“Thank you. Alright Jake, let’s see what we got today.”

I take a deep breath while noticing how wonderful the sun feels on my face. It’s time to get to work and dust off the winter rust on my golf game. I am grateful for this time with my father, this moment, and the life I have been given.


Some people find their higher power by going to church. Others find it through tilling their garden or through exercise. For me, I often connect with the divine through the drudgery of hitting golf balls or working a stream fishing. Yet, no matter what a person is doing to invoke this state of mind they all have one thing in common: they are plugged into something greater than themselves.

The intro to this post recently happened. I found myself on a driving range experiencing a deep connection with the universe and with my father (who passed in 2017).

This is what ritual does for the individual. Ritual provides a passage from one state of mind to another and back again. It can provide glimpses of complete wholeness, contentment, and purpose.

Rituals are a symbolic action where we connect with our psyche or soul. A good ritual has meaning. Rituals carry the ability to suspend the intellect while allowing us to commune with higher power.

The brief suspension of intellect is key for me because I am always thinking and figuring things out. If I don’t suspend my intellect and go with the flow, I will not find that deep connection. The intellect is like a person who asks why a joke is funny…as soon as you start to explain it the joke is ruined.

In a world dominated by the intellect with quick knowledge/facts at our finger tips, I see a culture starving for the divine mystery. This mystery is our gateway to purpose and meaning.

What rituals do you have in life?

What are the things that you do that provides this deep connection?

How can you incorporate meaningful rituals for your kids or your family?

How do you connect with the divine?

Be well….I am off to the driving range…..

-MJ

Photo by Christoph Keil via Unsplash

Sacred Time: A Pillar For Mental Wellness

How many of us live a life of busy?  How many of us lead our days by giant to-do lists?  How many of us feel the weight of mental clutter that busy creates. 

How many of us have sacred time just dedicated to taking care of the self.  Sacred time so pure and important that you allow no one to disrupt it?

It you are part of the first line of questions chances are you are racing from one thing to the next.  Chances are you in a constant state of stress.  Coping as best you can while life keeps piling on more items to do, to worry about, to obsess about.

It is time for us to stop this pattern.  It is time for use to break free of the cluttered mind chasing the unattainable.  It is time for us to momentarily stop and gain better optics.

The cluttered mind if full of anxiety and discontent….but how to we evolve this?  Sacred space.  We must create personal sacred space that we hold in the highest regard.

A few years ago I stiff armed the world, life, my to-do list and made time for myself.  This time is in the morning for me.  I wake up at 4:30 every morning alive and (for the most part) ready to go.  When I wake at this time, I know that no one else is foolish enough to wake with me…so I have two hours of straight me time!  Over the course of the last two years I have discovered much:

1.       I can prep for the day and get all my ducks in a row.  It is amazing how getting everything ready (physically and mentally) can create a smooth flow to the day.  I am and feel prepared. Chance and luck favors the prepared mind.

2.       My mind is able to stop racing and slow down.  When my mind slows I can see things as they are instead of loaded with all of the urgency I have placed on them.  I am clear minded and can place the correct level of importance on each item. Sacred time allows deep connection with life to form and helps the mental traffic to slow.

3.       I can breathe and allow my little voice or intellectual mind to shut up.  Yes, if you are like me, it needs a break.  When this happens the wonderful world of mystery opens.  What do I mean by mystery?  Well, I could use words like enlightenment, higher power, connectivity just as easily.  When the beautiful sense of mystery takes hold in your heart again, where you can hear the call, wellness begins to shape. When the ego shuts up, we can begin to see the connectivity of all things.

4. I can actually feel and process out my emotions. I am realizing that when I feel and get into my emotions I can move through them and move on. Moving on is the key here because I used to either not feel or get stuck in it. Process and move on so you can open up to what the universe has in store for you. Sacred time allows you to hit the reset button and start with a clear heart and mind.

Push back against the world and stake a claim on your time!  To start, carve out a half hour…then build from there.  Turn off distraction.  This is not a time for TV, Phone, Tablet, Texting, Email.  This is quiet reflection time where you can be YOU and allow the ego to rest.  The brain will settle and clear itself.  This is a skill that needs to be practiced…just like everything else we learn to do.

At the end of the day there is nothing wrong with a busy life so long as we are busy about the right things.

I challenge you to give yourself space in your day. I think that if you do you will realize that life isn’t just a to-do list….IT IS FUN, EXCITING, AND AWESOME!

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Mārtiņš Zemlickis via Unsplash

A Few Thoughts To Chew On…

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending another two day training session with Jeanine Fitzgerald. Every time I attend one of these trainings on education & parenting I am amazed how strong my soul lights up. The distilled wisdom and the practical application of the material is phenomenal. So today, after clearing it with Jeanine, I am going to post some of my key notes that I took down (past and present).

These notes that I present below will not be unpacked. They are for you to connect with in your own way. These have come from various training days I have spent with her.

Hopefully some of these thoughts or raw notes will inspire you to take action, think about things in a new way, or just open your heart/mind.

*Note: In live training classes I am writing as fast as I can while trying to conceptualize the material. These notes are presented just as I was able to take them down.


Help others draw out their own wisdom. A person can’t get their wisdom from someone else. Only life experience can give this.

You cannot get the most out of someone where emotional safety is not present.

Change comes through a change in mindset. Lasting change happens through the heart which backs the mind.

Come to the moment as clean as you can so you can be there for how the moment needs you. Let go of your bias.

The best thing to do is whatever reaches the heart and mind of the child (person).

The two most important days of your life: The day you were born and the day you discover why. The why provides significance.

Fear must be faced. It is our job to give them the tools to face it.

We (and children) always will follow that which makes us feel significant.

Face your fears or they will blossom into anxiety or disorders. Anxiety turns into narcissism.

The goal is not for the parent to win but to teach the child to become better at who they already are.

Play for your children does not have a product…it is just a process. Immerse yourself/kids/families in nature.

Get connected with the heart. Don’t adultify the child…listen and encourage them to continue their story.

It is our job to see through the eyes of the child, not make the child see through ours.

The root of the challenge is found in their story. Let them tell it. Learn their story! This is where resiliency is found.

Behaviors are always an end product, while thoughts and emotions run current. Behavior is a symptom of an unsolved problem or unmet need. Stop talking about problems…shift the dialogue and talk about solutions.

You don’t want to give learning, you want to draw it out. Let them do the heavy lifting. Don’t take away their struggle as that is where learning is done.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Greg Rakozy via Unsplash

Resiliency : 3 steps to build it

Lately, life has been punching me in the ribs.  Everyday something else seems to be going wrong or happening to disrupt my plans.  My wife and I joke about how life is turning into just one damn thing after another.  But I smile and march forward anyway…to my contentment she is doing the same. 

We have developed a resiliency to the fluctuations of life.  We go forth, get hit, adjust, and move forward again (repeat, repeat, and repeat).  I am proud of this.  I love that we have developed this for our family.  However, it didn’t happen all by itself…we have been working at it for some time now. Yes, to make resiliency stick we have to work at it.

However, this was not always the case with me. I remember days where my mood reflected my present circumstance.  My attitude would shift with the wind on whether life seemed favorable or unfavorable.  Things would drag me down and I generally had a hard time recovering. I used to figuratively wander in my life this way…drifting through good days and bad while not being in control of any of it. But things have changed. Below I have outlined just a few key concepts that have helped me roll with the punches. These are things that are time tested and I use constantly.

Life isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows (yes, Troll reference).  Things are going to happen.  Over the last few weeks I have had several small inconveniences (car issues, work changes, plan changes, etc) and I have had a couple of big issues (health scares, kids sick, house on the market) as well.  Yet, today I woke up excited to get going with my life.  I am inspired and motivated to create the world I want to see out there.  I wish you the same vigor!

If you feel that you are in a wander phase right now, semi lost, don’t fret.  Below are three things I have put into play to take back control and build up my resiliency.  Having a strong resiliency is critical to weather the storms of life! Bonus thought: When you model these behaviors your kids will develop them as well.

1.  Don’t take life too personally. What??? If you think that sounds crazy then I may guess that this one will give you the most freedom. We all have our goals for the day but as soon as we step out that door we come in contact with other people (things) that have their own agendas. Long story short: We can only control ourselves and when we collide (interact) with others stuff happens. When we learn to go with the flow we give our life space to breathe and adjust.  Life is not out to get you.

2.  No longer worry about outcomes.  Another way to put this is to leave your expectations at the door. Expectations create anxiety and gears us to future thinking. Over investing in our expectations will lead us to habitual disappointment. Our job is to focus on doing the best that we can with what we have. The results will be as they may but at least we can be content and proud that we did all that we could. This like the one above provides peace of mind. We can control the effort but not the final score.

3. Take time to allow yourself to feel good about things. As humans we are geared to seek out the negative things so we can protect ourselves. It is really how we are wired. However, like all of our thoughts, negativity can become habitual and weigh us down. On the flip side of the coin, we can take a few minutes a day to feel good about things. It doesn’t even have to be a big thing either (ex. You just finished mowing the lawn…take a moment to relish in a job well done…feel it). By creating a habit of contented reflection, it enables our brain to seek out more of the good in things…momentum (neuroscience has my back on this).

To tie this one off I will say that I still need constant reminders to do these things. However, everyday I am getting better, stronger, and more resilient. It feels good to rebound and land on my feet.

Work to be adaptable, flexible, and RESILIENT! It is the best way to navigate the hectic life.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Ryan Tang via Unsplash