Life in a Straight Jacket

Fear is the evil and corroding thread that shoots through the fabric of our existence.

Fear is the evil and corroding thread that shoots through the fabric of our existence.

I was 7 years old, we were at my grandparent’s beach house on the Connecticut shoreline.  We would go for the entire summer; my family of eight and my grandparents, ten of us on the water.

Back in those days the leftover hippies were still around and would to come to the beach on their motorcycles; or “hogs” as they were called. Since our house was on the water, many of them parked near our house, along the beach. One day I was sitting on the front porch when the gang pulled up. I always loved when they came, I got to look at all the bikes and listen to their engines, nothing sounds quite like a well tuned motor.

On most days I would sit and watch, no one saying anything to me – but this day was different. A guy with long hair, tattoos, and a beard headed towards me.

“Hey, kid, would you mind keeping an eye on my bike while I go to the beach?” I was so excited, “Yes! I will” I responded quickly. Wow he asked me to watch his bike! I must be important and he must know how much I love motorcycles.

For the next four hours I either stood next to the bike or sat on the step watching. My mother came out a few times and tried to get me to come in for lunch, I said, “No way. I must keep an eye on the bike.” “Charlie you need to eat”, but I just kept telling her, “Not now.”  I thought doesn’t she get it? This dude asked me, that’s right, me, to watch his bike.

Four hours or so later as I am sitting on the step I noticed he was walking towards his bike so I jumped up and slowly walked towards him. As he approached I was excited for him to tell me how good I had done watching his bike; heck, I was really hoping he was going to offer to take me for a ride. None of that happened. The dude didn’t even look at me! He just threw his leg over the hog, grunted and jumped on the kick starter. The bike fired up and he drove away.

All I could think was, what did I do wrong? Why was he so mean? Doesn’t he know I did what he asked? I watched his bike for hours?

This was the beginning of my straight jacket, the first time I remember saying to myself “I am not good enough”. This was the birth of that evil thread of fear that would turn into my straight jacket.

Decisions based out of fear never turn out to be good ones. Unless of course you are standing on the edge of a tall building and fear is keeping you safe. No, I am talking about the fear that hold us back from reaching our full potential.

When did you put your straight jacket on? Better yet, when did you take it off? How do you keep it off?

Here is one method I use to keep fear in check. I ask myself is this real or imagined fear? Guess what? That’s right 99% are imagined, they haven’t even happened yet. Start unraveling your straight jacket and not giving into fear – you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Do You Focus On The Crack In The Cup?

Why do we focus on what is missing or wrong in life?

Is this a bad thing?     

Most people would say yes it is.

But that is not the reality of the situation; it is just a cracked coffee cup.

I will get to my point soon, but here me out first.

What happens if you do not mind filling your cup up half way and drinking from the side where there is no crack?

What if you have been drinking too much coffee and this is a great way to get you to only drink a half cup?

How about if it is a sentimental thing? My daughter gave me this cup on her first birthday and it says World’s Best Dad. She loves when I use the cup, there is no way I am throwing this cup away.

Only when I say to myself this coffee cup should not be this way a coffee cup without a crack would be better. Only when I add an adverse thought to myself does this become a conflict.

This is an example of how we might look at something, positive or negative.

And this applies to everything in our lives.

*Take a second to read this short Zen tale:

“There is an old farmer who has worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck”, they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

Do you see the point I am trying to make, nothing is a conflict in your life until, you make up your mind that it is.

Being diagnosed with Juvenile Macular Degeneration at age 9 along with 3 of my siblings was the beginning of my conflict, my cracked coffee cup. Maybe the crack would not have gone so deep if the Doctor told us there would be a pair of glasses that would fix the problem, but no he did not and by age 13 I was legally blind.

For years I focused on the problem and it got deeper and longer. Matter of fact I could not understand why my cup had to be the one with such a terrible crack in it.

Why Me? Why not Me?

Thankfully at age 21 I bought some crazy glue and fixed my crack. Well it certainly was not that easy, but it all started with waiving the white flag and asking for help. To this day I am amazed at what it took for me to get to that point and I do not want anyone to go through the years of suffering I did. Life today with legal blindness from my Macular Degeneration is not a curse it is an opportunity to be of service and share my success with those who are open to living a fulfilling life with the proper tools and training, it is possible.

See nothing is a conflict in your life until you make up your mind that it is. Yes there is a process that we all must go through until we can accept our adversity. This process can be fast or slow your choice. Thankfully today there is a lot of help and people that can show you the way.

The question is, do you want it? And are you willing to do the work?

Do you know what you want?

Are you willing to do the work?

vision-road-side-imagae

     Clear Vision

Do you know what you want?                    

Amazingly, most people don’t actually know what they want. I’ve been asking this question for many years to people and very few have answered, “Yes!”

I will ask, “What do you want?” and the response might be, “I don’t want to generate more credit card debt” or “I don’t want to always have no money at the end of the month,” possibly even, “I am sick of arguing with my spouse.”

It is easy for people to say what they don’t want and when I ask again, “Now can you tell me what you do want?” A common answer is, “I really have not thought about it” or “I don’t know”.

I remember the first time I was asked this question, and I responded with, “uh… to be a millionaire.” Yes, I too had never thought about what I really wanted; mostly because I did not know the power of a clear vision.

Here is how I became clearer and able to eventually design a clear vision for my life.

1.     Know what you don’t want.

2.    Choose what you want.

3.    Get crystal clear and remove all blocks.

4.    See it already accomplished.

5.    Take daily inspired action.

Areas to think about:

Relationships – maybe repair, remove, improve.

Finances – lower debt, make more money, ask for a raise.

Health – eat better, exercise, ideal body weight.

Fun – start having some, stop having so much.

Spiritual – Pray, meditate, walks in nature.

Begin to think about what areas of your life would you like to improve? Write them down, become clear on what you want and start with what is most important.

Studies have shown that writing down your goals, versus just thinking about them, you are more likely to reach them. Having goals and a clear vision is the only way to move forward in your life. Without goals, without knowing what you want, you will be stuck. Nothing will change.

Now, get out a piece of paper, a pen and start clarifying your vision so that next time you’re asked, “What do you want for your life” you will be able to answer definitively, “yes, do you?”

Your environments are messing you up!

You may be asking, “How?” Well, to understand that, lets start with
Messy Rooms
I was at a seminar and the host asked, “Do you walk around your house and notice all the things that irritate you? A stain on the carpet, a broken drawer, a box that has been sitting in your living room forever, or the messy spare room. Or do you think you don’t notice it and it doesn’t bother you?”

First thing I had to do was make a list of all the things in my home that irritated me. Well, that started the moment I walked into my garage each day. What a mess, I would think, “I have to clean this up someday, just not today.” Then, I walk into the basement to go upstairs, look at the carpeted stairs have stains on them, and think, “I wish my wife would clean those.”
But wait there is more: pretty much in every room of the house something could be fixed, painted, cleaned, or just thrown out.

This stuff is buried in your subconscious and secretly talks to you every day. My favorite discovery was that I was blaming others for not fixing, cleaning, and throwing away the stuff that irritated me.
With so much on our minds and so much coming at us daily, cleaning the clutter in our lives helps us focus on the things that really matter – passion projects, family, relaxation or whatever it is that means something to you.
I would walk into my office to work on an important article, speech, something that needed my focused attention, but my mind would be looking at everything that needed to be organized, fixed, and cleaned. That great idea I was just about to focus on was being interrupted by the clutter of my office – which was now cluttering my mind.
Solution? Move, get a dumpster, and buy a really small condo.
You could do that; or you could do what I did. Get a pad, go through each room and make a list of the things that irritate you. Do the inside and outside of the house.
Trust me it feels awesome just knowing that you are aware of the things that need your attention. Then, start taking action – one item at a time, one day at a time or even one weekend at a time.
Sure, some things may require you to hire someone or you might have to delegate or ask a friend/neighbor for help, do it.
Once we started, yes this was a family project at times, we felt great.
It was such a rewarding and awesome feeling, a sense of accomplishment, etc.
And for those of you who are thinking, “I don’t have the time.” Well, you have the same amount of time as everyone else – 24 hours each day – it is your choice on what you choose to do with it.
Don’t worry, Netflix will have the new season of that show you love soon and you can catch up. But, isn’t your time currently better spent getting rid of the clutter?
Really, instead of stepping over the box just pick it up and throw it out. Most of the things don’t take long and the reward is definitely worth the extra time.
After you get rid of the clutter, imagine how much more you will enjoy your home and your time in it; and think you can do this at work, your car, etc.

Am I alone on this or can you relate? I would love to hear some success stories on how you got rid of physical and psychological clutter in your life.

Is your vision blurry, like mine was?

Every day I wake up, open my eyes and the world is blurry. I have no detail vision. Thanks to Macular Degeneration, the part of my eye that is used to focus doesn’t work. blurry-eye-chart-image

For those of you who still use digital cameras – here is an example; when taking a picture it may be out of focus, however, press the shutter button half way and the subject becomes clear. My shutter button doesn’t work in my eyes.

How is your vision? Have you been to the eye doctor lately? Yes, you probably should go to the eye doctor; but, that is not what I am talking about.

How is your Vision of your life?

Don’t worry I am not going to get too deep here because that would take a heck of a lot more than a quick blog.

Let’s just look at the mornings, when you first wake up. Are you clear on the day ahead? Have you taken a few minutes to think about the next 24 hours? What does your day look like? Do you have meetings? Have you planned what you are eating today? When you think about the 24 hours ahead that is using vision, your mind’s eye.

For many years I could not engage my mind’s eye. I had a belief that because my eyes did not work something was wrong with me. A tiny disease in the back of my eye was controlling my life. And because of that it blocked me from seeing who I really am, my purpose, and all the opportunities around me.

I once read, “Life best lived, is life by design.” At first I could not relate to that. I thought it was for lucky people. But, day by day, week by week, I came out of my very small world and started to engage my vision. Then I read something that really got me thinking, “We see the world as we are, not as it is.” Hold on. What?
That is when amazing things started to happen. I basically went from being blind to having clear vision and I started designing my life, instead of letting life designing me.

Where are you blurry? Where in your life are you not getting the results you would like?

If it was as simple as going to the eye doctor and getting a new pair of glasses, well that would be nice, but it is not that easy.

Tomorrow morning, besides just waking up your body, wake up your mind’s eye and see yourself doing well, succeeding, and most importantly what you can do for others – amazing things will start to happen.

Fear – The Double Edge Sword

whether it is real or imagined

Fear – The Double Edge Sword double-edge-sword

Fear is an unpleasant feeling; it is perceived risk or danger – whether it is real or imagined.

Fear tells me I am not smart enough, says it is too late to change, says why bother you, aren’t going to do it right anyway, and the list goes on. Deciding to take action is the other side of fear. The side of fear that tells me “Don’t forget you must do this perfectly or else” and tells me to think of what they will think if it isn’t perfect. By the way, who are they? They are the imaginary grandstands of people just waiting to judge you.

What are your voices telling you? What is fear saying to you?

Are you thinking it is time to improve a part of your life? Time to get back to the gym, eat healthy, work on your relationships, save money, look for a new job, quit your job or start a business. Is your fear of failure stopping you? Are you afraid you won’t be perfect?

Our brains like to keep us safe. It says, “Hey, don’t move outside your familiar/comfort zone, stay right where you are.” We all have the voices, the fears, which have been working in your life for many years telling you the lie, “you can’t.” How the heck can we ever get ahead in life? How do we finally stop living in fear?

First things first – When fear crops up, notice what is going on. What is the perceived risk or danger?

Is it, “I am not smart enough to…”? What this is really saying, “I don’t know how to yet.” This may be true, but you can learn, you are smart enough to know that. Beyond being “smart” is having the courage to take the first step, to try, to start whatever it is you haven’t because fear has held you back.

Wow, just writing this I feel inspired and I am going to take a step forward. The funny thing is, the first step is the hardest of all, the second is easier, and as you move forward it becomes much easier.

Try this out for a while, I guarantee you will start getting the results you want.

P.S. If those pesky thoughts that keep you off track continue – yell at them, tell them to go away, I am now in charge and we are moving forward.

Now or When?

It is that time of year again. Everywhere you go you will hear people and businesses talking about New Year’s Resolutions. It’s great to see everyone stopping to assess and take stock of their goals, changes, relationships etc. What did you resolve? What do you want to improve? Who or what do you want to break away from? Who do you want to attract into your life? Is it a greater income that you seek? Or the perfect job? The perfect life?

Take a moment to think about this – why do we only focus on this during the calendar transition to the new year? Why do we only evaluate our personal inventory once a year? Let’s not forget that we, as humans, have the power of free will. And willpower is the single catalyst behind all change. Our brains are designed to keep us safe even if the manner in which we are choosing to live isn’t. Willpower will get you started on the correct path to change – but then your brain will take notice and use its power to give you excuses, negative self talk and doubt…..I can’t work out today because I went to bed really late last night/ I feel a cold coming on/I can skip a day/fill in your own excuse here.

Now or when? Instead of an annual evaluation, why don’t we assess our progress monthly or even weekly? We wouldn’t get off track as easily with a more frequent system of self check and balance. There are countless things we can do to ensure our success if we commit and frequently reevaluate.

Just recently I started a thirty day detox. Not a water or juice-style detox but an entire organic food one. I have been asked so many times why I would start this over the holidays instead of waiting until after the New Year. I tell them all that I don’t want to be a “When Person,” the kind of person who has great goals but scheduled for a non-specific time in the future that they label, “when it’s the right time.” I feel like “When” quickly turns into “Never” because it’s just so easy to find excuses and rationalize the decision not to take action. “When” never shows up at the perfect time, so let’s turn When into Now. I felt a little like people doubted me and seemed surprised that I wasn’t easily converted to their way of thinking.

Guess what? I made it through the holidays, detox and all. I attended numerous holiday parties with family and colleagues, celebrated Christmas and rang in the New Year. I was surrounded often by what most people would see as “temptation” during this social season – desserts, snacks, alcohol. Amazingly, I never really felt tempted. I had made a commitment to myself and was excited to achieve my results. I fully believed that nothing would taste as good as the accomplishment would feel. On January 2 when the holiday season officially “closed,” I felt energized and healthy. I didn’t look back with regrets and have to develop a plan to combat overindulgence. I just continued on with the plan I set in place weeks earlier with the confidence and satisfaction of knowing I was in my Now.

I am really excited about a new year and all its possibilities. But I am even more excited about today, the day I can take action. Now. Today is the first page in this chapter in your life. Make it a great story.

Where Has All the Gratitude Gone?

Smilegoes a long wayWith Thanksgiving right around the corner, November has become the month for gratitude. Sharing a great meal with family and friends is an ideal way to find some perspective and be thankful for all that we have been blessed with in life. In my line of work, I come across a great many people who, understandably, have trouble finding that perspective during the other 11 months of the year. For many, the reality of declining vision tends to cast a dark shadow on our thoughts. It is just so easy to get caught up in the sadness and self-pity of knowing things aren’t as they once were. Or to get preoccupied with the fear of the future, wondering whether your eyes will stabilize or continue to decline and how you will adjust to these changes.

I believe for all people, and especially for those suffering vision loss, it can be extremely challenging to focus on what’s good in life. My wish for everyone this season is to be able to take the spirit of Thanksgiving gratitude and carry it with you year round. When your mind is invaded with negativity, focus on all you have been blessed with. Set attainable goals. Pursue new hobbies. Touch base with a loved one. Do something for yourself. Or better yet, do something for someone else without expecting anything in return. And, most importantly, remind yourself that self-pity is a choice – a choice that always results in pain and suffering. When you are feeling particularly down, make a conscious effort to redirect your thoughts and activities to something rewarding and productive that will remind you of all you have been blessed with. Keep an eye out for opportunities to be of service for others, which will not only skyrocket your feelings of gratitude but it will fill you with inner happiness. A simple change in attitude can make you feel like it’s Thanksgiving all year round.

Blind with Clear Vision

Before my “official” diagnosis as a child, I knew my vision was poor. I knew I wasn’t seeing like the other kids at school, but never considered myself to be any worse off than they were. Then the day came that I was given the devastating news that I was being declared “legally blind” from juvenile macular degeneration. The words “legally blind” changed everything in my mind. This “official” documentation felt like I was being handed a prison sentence for life. Everything I “wouldn’t be able” to do was being presented to me. Driving was the one that ate at me the most, because every kid looks forward to that major milestone that signifies adulthood, freedom and overall awesomeness. Suddenly I was being told that I actually was worse off than my classmates, that I would never soar to the same heights they could. What would become of me? That’s the day fear overtook my mind and clouded my vision in corners that my actual eyesight couldn’t reach.

Over 35 years later, I can proudly declare that I have legal blindness…BUT I also have clear vision. Many of you have heard me say, “We don’t see with our eyes, we see with our brains.” Where does clear vision come from? Our thinking and visualizing. Fear is a form of blindness, it darkens the bright spots in our minds which prevents us from taking action to help ourselves. If you can’t see yourself overcoming whatever obstacle is currently blocking you in your life, then you have a “blind spot.” This blind spot is not caused by your eyes. There are easy ways to identify your own blind spots. Do you find yourself thinking “I can’t,” “I’ll never be able to,” “I’m bad at this,” etc? Those are just statements of justification hidden in these darkened blind spots.

I happen to know many fully sighted people who I consider blind, they stay stuck in the problem and focus on its magnitude rather than a solution. Learn to brighten the mental blind spots and your sight may actually prevail over someone who has perfect eyesight. By asking the right questions and seeing yourself overcoming obstacles that life throws at you – you will be able to move towards a solution. Once your vision is clear, the possibilities are endless.