Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled Volume 1 by Zero Dean
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The power of focus

It’s no secret that whatever one chooses to focus on can not only make a significant impact on one’s own life, but it can have a significant impact on those one connects with as well.

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” — Marcus Aurelius

Focus on what you want to see more of, and you’re more likely to have it show up in your life. Focus on what you don’t want, and you’re more likely to have that show up in your life.

From positive to negative, from solutions to problems, “Energy flows where attention goes.” (Michael Beckwith)

It’s always wise to be mindful of what you choose to focus on.

Related:

How to reduce the size of your problems.

You may think, “If only I reach [this next phase of my life], then I won’t have to deal with these problems.” But the fact is, no matter where you are or how you live your life, you will always be challenged.

Just because you reach a certain level of success doesn’t mean all problems in your life disappear. They don’t. They simply evolve into whatever comes with that phase of your life and lifestyle.

How large or insurmountable the challenges in your life appear is in direct proportion to how well you learned to handle those that you previously encountered.

For example, dropping your ice-cream cone or spilling your milk seems like a serious problem as a child. Not so much to an adult. That’s because you’ve developed the skills necessary to handle such things without falling to pieces.

This can be said for all problems, not just childhood woes. It is through the problems that you overcome in life, that you develop the strength & skills necessary to handle whatever comes next. Contrast in your life is a good thing.

The trick to reducing how much challenges set you back in life is not in magically making them disappear. The trick is to develop the skills & discipline necessary to positively & productively handle whatever challenges come your way.

Complaining about problems — or actively resisting challenges — doesn’t diminish them. It is only through the action of facing them productively that does.

The faster you make that transition and adopt an “I can and will handle this” attitude the smaller your problems appear.

Don’t let what you can’t do stand in the way of what you can do.

Related:

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Help stamp out rampant complaining.

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The fact that you’ve probably never enjoyed listening to anyone else complain is a pretty solid sign that no one enjoys listening to you do it either.

Help stamp out rampant complaining.

Always focus on solutions and what is within your power to change.

Even just changing your message from, “This is a problem!” to “This is a problem and I want to fix it.” changes your tone, implies there is a real purpose for your message, and invites a discussion for solutions.

Related:

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‘If Plan A doesn’t work out…’

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If “Plan A” doesn’t work, don’t worry, you still have 25 letters left.

Not helpful!

The truth is, you don’t always get a 2nd chance, let alone a 3rd. But every mistake or failure provides valuable lessons to learn from.

  • Re-think where it went wrong
  • Seek help where you need it, and
  • Take everything you learned from the experience and use it to strategize a new plan for success.

What stress is caused by and why you should give a damn

There’s a message being spread all over social networks. It sounds something like this:

“Stress is caused by giving a f*ck.” or “The less you give a damn, the happier you will be.”

These statements are misleading, at best — and, at worst, simply false.

With regard to the first:

Stress is not caused by giving a f*ck. Stress is caused by trying to have power over things that are beyond your control. There’s a difference.

The act of saying “F*ck it, I don’t care!” is simply an acceptance that you are no longer going to try to change something that you couldn’t control anyway.

It’s not the caring that’s the problem, it’s a problem with misdirected focus and an emotional attachment to an outcome you had no power over.

It’s like worrying — the mental process of worrying about something accomplishes nothing.

“We have a saying in Tibet: If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.” — Dalai Lama

It is the same with trying to have power over things you cannot control. If you have no power over something, there is no use trying to control it.

To encourage people to not care about things is a step in the wrong direction. The world doesn’t need more people who don’t give a f*ck — or people who sit by and do nothing when they have a chance to make a positive difference. We already have those in abundance.

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” – Steve Maraboli

The fact is that a lack of caring, a lack of focus, a lack of priorities, and a lack of positive role models are reasons why the world is in the state that it’s in.

The world needs more people who do care — and care passionately about the things that matter. But by focusing only on the things that are within our power to change.

This is done, in part, by making a concerted effort to focus on solutions and progress and not in simply sharing problems and leaving them for someone else to take care of.

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” — Kahlil Gibran

To glorify an “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude is, in a way, a declaration that you will stand idly by and not give a damn when something happens in your life — or in the life of someone you care about — and when you have the power to make a positive difference, you will choose not to because, “Hey, [you] don’t give a f*ck!”, remember?

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” — Albert Einstein

“But I don’t mean it that way”, you say. And if you don’t, great.

But I am speaking specifically to these two self-contained statements (being glorified on the Internet) which seem to imply that giving a f*ck or a damn (about anything) is the problem:

  • “Stress is caused by giving a f*ck.”
  • “The less you give a damn, the happier you will be.”

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero DeanWe should not be encouraging ourselves or others not to care or give a damn.

We should resist becoming hard or bitter or creating the expectation in our children that the world is a cold and hostile one in which to live.

We should be encouraging people to care — and educating people on how to do so effectively — and teaching our children to be the change they wish to see in the world.

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” — L.R. Knost

We must learn to let go of those things we have no control over and focus on what we can do. Remember not let the things you can’t control stand in the way of what you can.

“Let go or be dragged.” — Zen Proverb

With regard to the second statement about not giving a damn:

It would be more accurate to say,

  • The less you fear what people think of you — or let it bother you – the happier you will be.
  • The less you compare yourself to others, the happier you will be.
  • The more you are your authentic self — and don’t seek the approval of others — the happier you will be.
  • The more you focus on the things you can control in your life (such as yourself and your emotions), and not trying to control the things you cannot (such as other people), the happier you will be.

Inner Peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.

To think that happiness comes from not caring about external factors is to confuse where happiness comes from — which is from within. As I’ve said before, don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.

“Happiness comes from within. It is not dependent on external things or on other people. You become vulnerable and can be easily hurt when your feelings of security and happiness depend on the behavior and actions of other people. Never give your power to anyone else.” — Brian L. Weiss

Simply not giving a damn about anything is a very blah and mundane way to live life. You can’t live life to the fullest without passion — and passion is caring.

“Happiness comes from within and is found in the present moment by making peace with the past and looking forward to the future.” — Doe Zantamata

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Related:

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Use your free time wisely

Everything you do today influences what you’ll do tomorrow — and over time, your entire life.

Use your free time wisely.

What you do in your free time determines what you’ll be doing when you don’t have a choice.

If you’re not using your free time to direct your life where you want it to go, don’t expect to arrive at your desired destination when the rest of your time is spent being told what to do by other people.

You can’t just wish for what you want to happen — you have to work for it. And that means taking action when you have the time.

If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” — Kevin Ngo

Balance in life is important — and taking time to simply relax and enjoy life is vital to maintaining that balance — so this is not to glorify “work”. This is only a reminder that it is important to be mindful of where you want to go in life and to take consistent steps forward if you want to have the pleasure of getting there.

Working towards your goals on a daily basis can be as simple as just reaffirming those goals (both short and long-term).

Since what you do today influences what you do tomorrow anyway, you might as well use the opportunity to influence your tomorrow in as positive & productive way as possible.

Go on, do something today that your future self will thank you for.

If you don’t build your own dream someone else will hire you to help build theirs.” — Tony Gaskins Jr.

Follow-up:

G+ comment: What do you mean when you don’t have a choice?

Zero:

Obviously we all have a choice to do or not do something at any time (although “results/consequences may vary”).

But I mean, we all have things we WANT to do. And we all have things we feel we HAVE to do.

If these two things are not one and the same, then what we do in our “free” time (when we feel we have a CHOICE) can have a drastic impact on those things that take on the “have to do” portions of our lives (those things we feel we don’t have a choice in).

“I have to make money to survive.”

Here’s a real world example:

Teenagers who spend all their free time smoking pot and playing video games will likely find themselves in a much different set of life circumstances (of things they “have to do”) than teenagers who spend their free time being proactive in various areas of their lives (educating themselves, learning new skills…).

Another example:

If someone loves photography, and would love to have a career in photography, but spends all their free time watching TV, then that will have an impact those things in life that they feel they have to do.

If someone loves photography and spends their free time honing their photography skills, then that will lead to a much greater likelihood that what they end up “having” to do is also something they WANT to do.

If you “have” to have a career, then it certainly makes sense to make it something you enjoy doing.

By being proactive and directing your life where you want it to go, you are presented with far more opportunities than if you simply go where life directs you.

Regardless of what society “says”, as independently thinking and acting individuals, we make choices every day that can either fall in line with what society suggests, or fall in line with what we truly want (if the two are not the same).

Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming.” — Alice Walker

Related:

What you do in your free time determines what you'll be doing when you don't have a choice.

The awesome power of asking yourself good questions.

“At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become.” — Leo Babauta

In yesterday’s post I talked about how changing “If only” statements into “How can I” questions creates a much more positive mindset that leaves one’s subconscious mind free to search for solutions (instead of creating a mental roadblock).

The manner is which one talks to one’s self is not only important in maintaining a positive attitude, when used correctly, it becomes a powerful tool. For example, how one forms questions they ask themselves can have a serious impact on the answers one gets in return. One of the reasons for this is because your subconscious mind doesn’t care what you ask. And it will automatically try to find that answer to your question. This is great. But because your subconscious mind is a bit like a robot, it also doesn’t care if the answer it provides you is (or isn’t) in your own best interest.

Whatever you choose to ask yourself, your subconscious mind will diligently seek an answer to your question. But because your subconscious mind is a bit like a robot, it also doesn’t care if the answer it provides you is (or isn’t) in your own best interest.

So if you ask it a question in the form of a negative, the answer you get will also be in the form of a negative…

Here are some extremes…

  • Why can’t I attract the love of my life?
  • Why can’t I stay in a long-term relationship?
  • Why don’t people think I’m funny?
  • Why don’t more people like me?

— and your subconscious mind will answer, “You can’t [do these things] because….”

Because you asked in the form of a negative, the answer you get back is also in the form of a negative.

If you like to beat yourself up or feel drained or powerless in the world, this is a great way to do it. (I don’t suggest that.)

Don’t be fooled, your question doesn’t have to have a “can’t” or a “don’t” in it to be negative.

For example:

  • Why am I always getting things wrong? (You are always getting things wrong because…)
  • Why do I keep falling for girls/guys that are bad for me? (You keep falling for people who are bad for you because…)
  • Heck, I even did it in a blog post: “Why am I not a better person?” (You are not a better person because…)

So if you want to avoid beating yourself up, pay closer attention to your thought process and take charge of it whenever you have a tendency to form a thought in the negative form vs. the positive. (You may recall that this is #1 of 12 ways to find encouragement, “train or retrain your brain”).

So when you are talking to yourself, always remember to ask yourself empowering questions in the form of a positive:

  • How can I improve areas in my life and get more things right? (You can improve areas in your life by…)
  • What can I do more of (or less of) to attract the love of my life? (You can attract the love of your life by…)
  • How do I attract the right girl/guy for me?
  • How can I be wicked funny like that Zero Dean fellow?
  • How can I become more likable like that dear, dear, friend of mine, Zero Dean?
  • What is Zero Dean’s phone number, because I feel like… whoops! Sorry.

Do you see the difference? Or more importantly, do you feel the difference?

Related:

“If only” is a roadblock on the highway of life.

A few words about “IF ONLY”…

“IF ONLY” …

  • If only — IT was easier.
  • If only — THEY were…

If you can’t control something, then focus on what you can control (which is how you think about it)

“IF ONLY” …

  • If only — I was stronger.
  • If only — I was more…

Adding the “*I*” is a step in the right direction because then you’re focusing on something you can control, but it’s still not a very effective way to approach a problem.

The issue still lies with “If only”. Ditch it.

You can ditch “If only” by asking yourself a question…

“How can I…?

Now you are not only putting yourself back in control, asking this question implies there is an answer to it.

And the fact that you are now thinking about a problem as if there is an answer to it provides you with a huge benefit — and that is it allows your subconscious mind to begin looking for a solution for you rather than be stuck with the belief that there isn’t one.

Come on, even Captain Jack Sparrow knows this…

“The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem.” — Captain Jack Sparrow

When you approach a problem in a way that implies you are powerless to address it, you create a mental roadblock and leave very little room for problem solving. When you approach a problem in a way that implies there is a solution to it, you open up a world of possibilities.

“If only” is a roadblock on the highway of life. “How can I…” is a roadblock breaker.

Use as needed.

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” — Bruce Lee

Ways to find encouragement: Make the best of what you have

Ways to find encouragement series:

Make the best of what you have.

Tell yourself you may not have the best there is, but you’re going to make the best of what you DO have. We often need far less than we think we do to achieve what we want.

We think we need the best gadgets, top-of-the-line thingamabobs, etc. before we get started. We often hold ourselves back waiting for just the right time for something — the perfect moment when everything is right.

But the fact is, we’d often get further faster if we started today and made the most of what we had. There will always be things we don’t have — waiting until we get all of them is often at the expense of making real progress towards where we want to be.

When we make the best of what we have, it allows us to make progress towards our goals, instead of waiting for that perfect moment that often doesn’t arrive. Progress is good. And that’s encouraging.

Related:

I don’t like pop-ups. But the fact is, they get people’s attention. And here’s the deal, I want your email address. But rather than put a form here that 99.9% of people ignore, I want to provide you with a link that tells you exactly why I want your email address.

I promise it’s not a waste of your time. But if you suspect it is, I get it. (I’ve been tricked before, too).