LIVING A LIFE OF TRANSFORMATION

What Is “Transformation,” Really?

Transformation is not about attaining a spiritual standard. A righteous standard is given to us by Christ at the moment of salvation. It’s not about the impossible task of mimicking every action of Jesus. It is about recognizing the life of God within the believer and how to respond to the work of God’s Spirit within us.

When I say “eight marks” of the transformed life, I do not mean “steps.” They are not a process for self-actualization or a legalistic path to holiness. These are signposts of God’s intention, i.e., for Christ to be fully formed in us (Galatians 4:19). The goal is Christ Himself, and as church leaders it should be our goal as well—for ourselves and the ones we lead. Once our hearts are fully set on Christ, our lives will then reflect Him in how we live.

Each day, the believers in your church struggle with the contrast of who they were, who they are to be in Christ, and who they seem to be in their daily lives. Paul wrote to the Roman believers ensuring them that the Holy Spirit would continually work to fully form the image of Christ in them. So when I say “marks,” I mean the biblical indicators of the transformation that already occurred to bring about salvation and are also regularly occurring to develop the character and image of Christ within us (Romans 8:29 and Galatians 4).

This distinction between steps and marks is not a small clarification. It’s a critical distinction and leads down two very different paths. It might be characterized as the difference between what I am doing for God and what God is doing in me. Transformation is about God doing something in me—and me cooperating with Him.

Transformation is not like a cherry tree trying to change itself into an orange tree. It’s about a cherry tree trying to grow up into what it is meant to be—a cherry tree. As believers, we are not trying to become something we’re not. At conversion, we became new creations. Our ongoing transformation is therefore about living out in real time what has been secured for all time. As Paul said about the Corinthians, you used to be immoral (1 Corinthians 6:11), but you were washed! The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)! Christ lives within. Transformation is living by faith in Him within us (Galatians 2:20).

A Picture Of A Transformed Life

We’re not trying to conjure up transformation. It’s within us, and we are to “live toward” it. But in doing so, it helps to know what the transformed life looks like. So what does the transformed life look like?

My mind turns to Romans 12 to find a picture of a life transformed by God. Paul wrote eleven chapters of deep doctrine outlining the mystery of the gospel, and then, with Romans 12:1, he launches the early believers into a rapid-fire understanding of living out their spiritual transformation. This chapter displays eight marks that can serve as guideposts in directing believers toward a transformed life.

1. Surrender

Teach surrender rather than treaties. The first verse of Romans 12 tells us to be “a living sacrifice.” The problem with living sacrifices is that they squirm on the altar. We need to remind believers to utterly surrender to God’s plans, not strike a treaty for trading favors.

The lesson of surrender often begins with leaders. Whether as a pastor or in a different role of leadership, your life must be an example of living for God’s agenda first, allowing personal desires to fall away. The example of worship as a living sacrifice is where much of our transformation begins. As the leader, be the first to climb on the altar each week.

A transformed life is marked by willing surrender.

2. Renewal

Renew their thinking. In 12:2, the transformation is highlighted as an exercise of the mind. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that murder and adultery are committed internally long before acted upon externally. For believers to live out the change brought about by redemption, a spiritual mind is required.

How often has a member of your congregation or Bible study asked, “How can I know the will of God?” The simple solution is to give them the proper starting point—renewing their minds. As we point them toward the life of Jesus in particular and the Scriptures as a whole, their minds will come into alignment with the thoughts of God.

A transformed life is marked by renewed thinking.

3. Service

Help them embrace and activate their gifting. As Paul transitions from doctrine to practice, his thoughts jump quickly to how all are gifted to serve the church and Christ’s mission (vv. 3–8). But serving in the mission of God is too often understood as a “one size fits all” endeavor. And most believers do not feel as if they fit.

Living the transformed life means participating in the disciple-making process for others in the way God has personally called and equipped you. Empowering believers to serve in the place for which they were designed allows every Christian to aid in others’ transformation.

A transformed life is marked by humble service.

4. Love

Push love to the forefront. The word “love” is terribly abused in our language. Perhaps it is because we only have one word to refer to our love for a spouse, children, sports team, and pizza. The emphasis necessary for living out our transformation is to understand the purity involved with the Christian ideal of love (vv. 9–10). It is the love more associated with a hero’s death than a romantic comedy’s fairy tale ending.

For most of us, it is the removal of hypocrisy that must come first. And one of the most effective means to do this is by guiding believers into closer community with one another. As they are forced to honestly deal with one another’s lives, the character of Christ at work in them will force the choice between love of others and self-preservation. Ask them to look for ways to “outdo one another in showing honor” (v. 10). Love is essentially the choice to value the need of another rather than our own. Though simplistic as a definition, it becomes a manner of living that runs counter to the world.

Transformation shows up in many forms in believers’ lives, but love is one trait that Christ clearly said would distinguish our lives from the rest of the world.

A transformed life is marked by genuine love.

5. Diligence.

Help them be determined. The triplets of verse 11 say, “Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord.” It feels cliché and trite to say that the Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon. However, it is still true. The imagery throughout the Scriptures shows that God’s people must persist. In our culture, determination is rarely the norm.

Christians sometimes need help understanding how discipleship has much to do with delayed gratification. Over the summer, I traveled twice to Europe: once to do mission work with refugees, and once to speak to a group of missionary personnel from eight countries. In both instances, I appreciated the determination necessary to work in that region of the world. Ministry to refugees in Eastern Europe who have escaped from oppressive regimes is not quick work. It requires patience to win their trust and lead them toward Christ. Similarly, the work by leaders and pastors in Western Europe requires patience to crack through the irreligious cultures of places such as Belgium and Portugal. Rarely do they encounter people ready to accept any form of spirituality. It requires a determined spirit.

In the U.S., determination is still required. In a culture obsessed with instant-everything, fervency seems to be something best left to the Puritans of yesteryear. But someone changed by the gospel learns to persist. Transformation brings about a steadiness that eventually results in the internal fruit of maturity and the external fruit of new disciples.

A transformed life is marked by determined diligence.

6. Perspective

Show them the proper perspective. How you view life is how you will carry out ministry. Where verse 11 deals with persisting in service, verse 12 carries the impact of moving through difficulties. “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” These three statements all require the initiation of faith in our lives.

True gospel transformation requires faith. We believe that, through faith in God’s grace, one becomes a disciple of Christ. But faith does not have its ending point at the moment of conversion. Faith is required to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It is through the lens of faith that believers should see the work of God and their own lives. Knowing that we are often bruised by life, the perspective of faith allows us to see beyond present circumstances. In showing believers the life of faith, it must not only be painted as a hope for things to come in eternity. Faith is an active portion of how we view the current condition of life. It is the recognition within the community that life is difficult, but not impossible.

Living out transformation requires the perspective that “my” strength and ingenuity will never be sufficient. They were not sufficient to secure my soul for eternity, and they will not be able to get me through the years of this life. Faith is being convinced that God is there and He is for us. Maintaining a perspective of faith will keep believers in a state of reliance on Christ, and it is in this active reliance that living out our transformation is possible.

A transformed life is marked by a perspective of faith.

7. Community

Keep believers in community. The bulk of Romans 12 deals with how believers relate to one another. From verses 13-20, a model is given to us for remaining close to one another. The language of the passage points to the needs we have: sharing, hospitality, blessing, weeping, peace, hunger, thirst. Meeting these needs for one another is where transformation shows itself.

But for needs to be met, community must be valued. I live in a place called a community. It has geographic boundaries and a name. But I can promise you that we are not all in community with one another. The citizens of my community argue about how tax money is to be spent, in what order the roads should receive repair, and where the next school should be built. We are a community that is not often in community with one another.

But as a leader of believers, you have a unique opportunity. It is your place to bring together those who are individually transformed by the gospel, so they may share their lives. Though people show an inherent desire to be in community, they will often substitute proximity for relationships. In order to weep with someone (v. 15), you have to be more than physically near them. We must pursue transformation in order to take on the heart of Christ, who wept at the tomb of a friend. Community is the place that catalyzes change.

A transformed life is marked by living in community with believers.

8. Righteousness.

Model for them a life worthy of the gospel. The final verse of the chapter reads, “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good” (v. 21). Having served small, mid-sized, and large churches, I can sympathize with you that evil seems to hang around churches. In fact, it seems to have a particular fondness for church leaders. Evil tempts us, goads us, and mocks us. And in moments of weakness, we come close to throwing our hands up and walking away. But we do not, because Christ has done too much on our behalf.

The very nature we have been given is that of righteousness. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul taught that we had been given the ministry reconciliation because God “made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Our lives—both lived and in leading—should show that we are more interested in displaying Christ’s righteousness than gaining a transitory victory over someone’s ill will toward us. We are guaranteed righteousness, so don’t waste your life messing about with sin.

We are taught, “For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). The issue of “Can I be righteous?” is to be removed from the minds of the believers. Instead, our thought each day can be, “How will Christ’s righteousness be displayed in me?”

A transformed life is marked by righteousness.

Beginning Again

The marks of a transformed life are merely the signs of Christ’s presence in us. They are the witness of the Spirit’s work in our lives. When we see these marks, it is because God keeps His covenant to conform us to the image of His Son. It is the place many of us should return in how we lead the church.

It is a great privilege to walk in the midst of those given new life in Christ and see God’s constant work in their lives. As we lead the believers and churches entrusted into our care, let’s do so with the mindset that God is not hoping to initiate transformation, but that He has guaranteed it for His people. Leading people from keeping rules to enjoying Christ will once again deliver them toward His transformation.

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UNDERSTANDING THE POWER OF CREATIVITY

This is a very difficult and abstract topic. Even though it’s one we know well, there is no question the core aspects of this concept are difficult to grasp. Creativity is a foundational and highly celebrated part of our reality and a critical factor of many modern-day careers, passions and hobbies. Many of us desire and celebrate this phenomenon, but the foundational aspects can be elusive. How does one become creative? What is creativity, and how do we build the creative part of our mind? How do people find “flow”? Is it a natural gift or is it something that can be learned? I’m going to try to help you answer some of these questions.

As we wander into this abstract wonderland of thought, we need to prepare to deal with some rather grey areas. There are some aspects we will cover that can seem paradoxical, and discussing these facets in greater detail might help to progress our understanding. Even as I am writing this article I’ve quickly realized that there are very few words in the English language that act as suitable synonyms for the word “creativity”. I feel it’s safe to say the reason is because the topic itself is so hard to clearly define we have difficulty confining it into written form. So be ready for a heavy dose of this word we have made – it seems that I won’t be able to avoid using it over and over again.

It’s worth nothing that as a direct and independent topic of study, the concept of creativity as a whole effectively received no attention until somewhere around the 19th century! To me this gives the topic a great amount of importance. I feel It’s fascinating to think that a character trait we heavily rely on and applaud in others is one that we have somewhat failed to effectively convey to others in a helpful way. So this is my main motivation to write on this topic – there appears to be a need for more exploration.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you these will be your keys to creativity because it is something that relates to every person in their own unique way. What I’m going to tell you are the patterns and connections I’ve noticed that crossover between many fields that seem to give insights into the nature of creativity. There are many paths to inspiration and only you can figure which is the most natural for your current situation and interests. These are ways to think about your creative mind that may help you discover these paths.

Let’s try and remember a simple point – creativity is in everything! It is not just about painting, or making music, or inventing a new device. It is part of how people speak, in how they act, and how they live their everyday lives. It is in the mathematical, biological and chemical features found in the many forms of life all around us. It is the driving force in our modern world. The very act of reading these transmitted words on your screen is preceded by an impossibly huge collaboration of creativity using technology that not one of us will ever be able to fully comprehend. This is not simply a matter of becoming better in a certain artistry, it is a matter of taking the resources and thoughts present in your own life and using them to reach your full potential.

1) Am I Creative?

Many people seem to feel they are not “naturally creative”. What if your brain doesn’t automatically do things that people perceive as “creative”? Does that mean you cannot improve? Of course not! Creativity – exactly like any other mental function – can be developed. Just as it takes much time, effort and patience to build skill in a sport, an art form or any other activity – the creative mind is something that can be advanced and progressed over time. We must be careful to not have our perceptions of skill and development get skewed by our idea of “the naturals”. People often seem to lose their motivation to create when they wrongfully compare their skills as a beginner to those of someone who has been in a creative rhythm and environment for years, or to someone who has been blessed with a natural gift from the start.

It’s also easy to focus on where someone is and not how they got there, and it’s a mistake we make all too often. When we see the results of an inspired person we are not given a full glimpse into the complex sequence of events and influences that transpired before this creation took place, and thus we have only the results to ponder. Your mission will be to find and build your own complex sequence of events that will coalesce into something potent you can call your own. How do people do this? Everyone’s journey is different.The good news there are an endless amount of ways to grow your own creative potential.

In many ancient cultures such as Greece, India and China, people often lacked the concept of creativity, seeing art as a form of discovery and not creation. I tend to lean towards this field of thought. I believe being creative is about facilitating the most tuned, diverse and open version of your mind possible with the goal of tapping into a flow of making these discoveries. How do you find this flow? You can do it by curating your mind and environment over time. You must change it into one that is conducive to the creative flow.

2) Break Down The Process

Before we can talk about what makes people creative or how to build your own potential, we should probably first discuss exactly what it is we are talking about. How does creativity happen?

Creativity arises in the intersecting and merging of knowledge, thoughts and perspectives. It is a blanket word we use to try to explain the full gamut of an impossibly complex and abstract combination of influences and perspectives and progressions of our existence. It is the combination of all the things you’ve experienced and your current environment actively mixing with your immediate and conscious state of mind. The act of manifestation within your consciousness is a balancing act of your mental totality as it tries to merge with itself and evolve your inner associations and perspectives into something tangible. There are already a few concepts I’m aware of that describe similar phenomenon – such as Metacognition , Divergent Thinking, Lateral Thinking, and Conceptual Blending. I feel all of these concepts are analogous thought-ways to the structure of creative thought. They offer possible ways to define a few of the possible arrangements of thoughts that precede creative results.

This is why creativity itself is so difficult to pinpoint. It is a culmination of so many facets that the act of any one person fulfilling an idea is truly impossible to break down into a complete picture without full knowledge of this person’s entire experiential history and the chemical/biological contents of their brain. We are relegated to coming up with metaphors and more easily digestible ways to think about this complex subject. This really is a rather beautiful aspect about the process. The totality of the experience is always far beyond ourselves in a profound manner, no matter how much we might try to explain and understand. Highly popular creative types often seem to have trouble breaking down their process in detail, and it is obviously for good reason.

When we speak about creativity this way, it turns out it doesn’t actually exist in a tangible or definable form – it only exists because we perceive that it does. We see this complex collection to be something we call “creative”. We have given it a special and singular name because we have perceived the results of the phenomenon.

If we could for a second – let’s think of a mental creation as many pieces of a massive puzzle culminating into a complete picture. The knowledge, thoughts and perspectives in your brain are the millions of puzzle pieces that you’ve collected over time. Your active consciousness and will to search for ideas or find new pathways is the hand that moves the pieces. If you do not have a wide variety of puzzle pieces to move around, you will have trouble completing many full and complete pictures. Think of each piece of inspired writing, or human work of art as a piece of an infinitely expansive puzzle that can be assembled in an indefinite amount of ways.

This is why being a diverse person can be critical in striving to be effortless in your inspiration. When you form many bodies of knowledge therein lies exponential opportunities for these mental interactions. Each piece of existence, idea, inspired writing or human creation is a piece of an infinitely expansive puzzle that can be assembled in an indefinite amount of ways. All you need is to find a few of the right pieces….and they can be assembled into something brilliant. This is what many people have done throughout time to great success. The human mind is very much a mirror with the ability to reflect its surroundings in a unique way.

“The superior person uses his mind like a mirror: it accepts all, it reflects all. It receives, but it does not keep.” – Chuang Tzu

Many great artists and creators and intellectual minds from the past are simply the result of their favorite puzzle pieces arranged in a new way. They act as a mirror and reflect this new combination back to us. Some of them wear their influences on their sleeves, and others choose to conceal their sources and try to maintain the illusion. When society sees someone as brilliantly creative and inspired, they mistakenly attribute these things to this one person’s totality because it is a task beyond ourselves to look at the diverse amount of critical influences in play when a complex combination beyond our comprehension is formed that feels new and inspired.
Many great creative types intensely studied the people who inspired them. They didn’t simply find some kind of magical inner creativity that independently cultivated inside, it is almost always a process of learning and development.

This it the truly beautiful thing about the world we live in for someone interested in the creative path in this modern age. The life and ideas of the entire world are ready to apply in your creative journey. Think about where you are at this moment and the place in time you inhabit. Out of the entire history of the human race, none have ever come close to having the amount of resources available at your disposal. Besides the sheer size of our population, I believe this is the reason for the massive explosion that has happened in the creative fields. The world is reacting to itself in real-time and we all now equally have the opportunity to dive in and participate in growing our minds at an exponentially quickening pace.

I’m pretty sure this is what Picasso was talking about when he spoke his famous words – “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” He was talking about stealing the inspiration found within the work, the very source of the creation. It’s right there for us to take if only we figure out how to trace the lines back to the start.

3) Build Your Knowledge and Perspective

Your body of knowledge and your perspective is something you need to build every day, for it is the foundation of your creative mind and the source of your puzzle pieces. For some people, to be creative, they must learn to be creative. One of the core parts of learning to be creative is building these foundations in order to ensure the diversity of your thought processes.

“Your life is something you build every day. You must convince yourself that you have surpassed yesterday. And tomorrow you must feel that you have surpassed today. In this way there is no end to your mastery.” – Bushido, the Way of the Samurai

An important facet to diversifying perspective is constant and direct influence, change and re-adjustment to your mind. When the mind begins to settle in it’s knowledge and perspective it’s ability to grasp inspiration will begin to diminish. Finding new perspective can be a result of constantly forcing your mind into new territory and making it react to something different. This is not to simply say that you must change who you are as a person or anything to that effect – it is simply a matter of pulling your mind far enough in a certain direction that it becomes enriched by something that it can use. Something that fits with you and becomes a key to another door. You need to remember to be open to whatever new perspectives may offer. You are always in control of what you take and use from any source you encounter. This might be a concept that is familiar already – but if nothing else I’d like to stress it even more.

Studies show creativity is often linked to individuals who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and dissociative identity disorder (also known as multiple personality disorder). Why do I mention this? I feel one possible explanation behind these results could be very useful to our understanding. Because each of these mental conditions causes such drastic and divergent shifts in the individual’s perspective, it allows this person to create more diverse mental interactions. It is believed that these individuals are better at accessing both hemispheres than your average person, allowing them to develop these novel associations at a faster rate. There seems to be parallels to be found in the abilities of autistic people as well. They display traits that seem to show connections and collaborations between parts of the brain that are not typical in most people. Creative innovation seems to enjoy the cooperation between new parts of the brain. Building a mental diversity is a possible way to ensure these connections can begin to form.

Reading is one of the easiest and most accessible methods to bend and stretch your perspective. If you aspire to be an inspired person and you are not reading on a regular basis, you are sorely missing out on a great opportunity. There are many things that you will never experience unless you read them, and the world of genius authors at your disposal have an endless amount of inspired words that will grow your mind’s ability to collaborate with itself. Great books and writings are massive works of art in the form of written language that can become part of your own mental progression.

These can be the core thoughts that will stir your own mind. In a way, when we read, we are only reading what is already inside of ourselves. That is to say, the words that enter your brain are free of any true meaning until you apply your own thoughts and perceptions to them. The act of reading is actively engaging in that the way you receive and process the information is unique to yourself. The words leave so much room for the rest of your brain to create its own collaboration with the ideas on the page.

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

There are endless more ways of taking your mind to new places and in turn influencing your perspective. Websites like StumbleUpon.com specialize in doing nothing but helping you to steer your web browser into new territory. Learning a new skill or language, meditation, traveling, experiencing new artwork, isolation tanks and entheogens are just a few examples of perspective-shifting activities. Don’t discount sports – activities like martial arts that force your mind to learn new movements will also help build these unique neurological pathways. Mastering an activity will help even more. If you know someone who loves to read, ask them for their favorite authors. Read other people’s perspectives about things on an intelligent internet forum like Slashdot.

This underlying point here is very simple. The conscious act of pulling your mind into new territory often precedes the act of your mind manifesting something creative. I cannot tell you in which direction your motion of thought must take or what material will be most helpful for you, because this is something everyone must find for themselves. Just as an artist experiments with his artistic style and method, you must experiment with your knowledge and perspective.

This concludes the first part of my series! Next week we will discuss the concept of being unique and the role of patience. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments – I would love to hear from you all about your own experiences with creativity, and the things in life that have brought you drastic changes in perspective or knowledge.

20 WAYS TO DEAL WITH REGRETS

A) Ask yourself, “What am I doing TODAY?” Today is the day we care about. Where we can improve ourselves, help people. Move forwards. What are you doing today? This is a good mental discipline. WHEN Regret comes up about yesterday, ASK yourself, “What am I doing TODAY?” Practice this. Then practice it again.

B) The Daily Practice.

Ultimately, it has consistently been the only way I’ve been able to bounce back from events that caused me deep regret. Otherwise I sink into them. They bury me. In a book I have coming out in a few weeks I write about modifications to the Practice that have made it easier for me when I’ve been totally on the floor and unable to pick myself up.

C) Some parts of the Daily Practice need kick starting to work. I start with The Power of Negative Thinking. Or Nine Ways to Light Your Creativity ON Fire. The first post deals with how to build a discipline of labeling thoughts “useful” or “not useful.” You have a finite number of thoughts in life before you die. Might as well make as many of them as possible “useful”. This is hard. For me, it’s like telling myself to exercise every day when I spent the first 40 years of my life not exercising. Something I regret. “Not useful.”

D) Make friends. Make sure you don’t talk about your regrets with your friends. Are your friends trying to improve their lives? You can be inspired by them and they can be inspired by you.

E) Don’t judge people. The other day I wrote about a dinner I went to. I was surprised how many people wrote me disparaging the IQ of one of the people at the dinner, even though they didn’t know that person. In order to judge someone you don’t know you have to have a lot insecurity and ego. It’s hard to get rid of that insecurity. One way to do it is tonever judge people. Particularly people you don’t know. That’s a good way to practice not judging yourself.

F) Honesty. Honesty can lead to wealth. Being honest also helps you avoid denial about your regrets. Stop blaming others. It’s important to realize that both most things don’t workout AND most of the time, it’s your fault. I was often in denial about both of those things. They are both truths.

G) Laugh. Watch a funny movie. When I was going through a period of deep regret I watched the movie Superbad probably about 20 times in a row and I wish I could say I am exaggerating. That movie saved my life. Laughter reduces stress, brings you to Today. Leaves behind yesterday.

H) Deal with Failure. When I was a kid everyone told me I was a genius. Expectations were really high for me. It was extra hard for me to realize later on that I was far from it. Everyone had told my dad he was a genius also. When it came time for his regrets he couldn’t get over it. It sunk him like a bag of cement in the ocean and he never swam again. I’m always afraid to be like him. It’s OK to fail. Hey, what are you doing today?

I) Goodwill. Practice this: everyone you see on the street today — wish them well. Wish that they all make a lot of money and have a lot of health and that they are all having passionate sex with someone tonight. I never watched that movie The Secret but I imagine this is the real Secret: wish enough people goodwill and eventually good will happen to you.

J) Stop being brainwashed. A lot of my posts (don’t go to college, don’t own a home, abolish the presidency) are there because I like to think in opposites. Some people write me and say, “are you just trying to be sensational?” No! I’m trying not to be brainwashed all the time. I know that with 10,000 ad and media impressions hitting my eyes every day that I am constantly being brainwashed by the Zombie Recruitment Machine. Training your mind to think in opposites helps you avoid being brainwashed. This includes reducing the number of ad impressions and media impressions you see each day. Replace that time with time with friends. Or time sitting by yourself. The more brainwashing, the more regrets.

L) Should have, could have, would have. These are never useful phrases. Even when analyzing a situation that led to a regret (and it’s important to analyze your losses). Instead of saying, “I could have done X” (a regret) say, “Next time I’m in a similar situation, I’ll do X”. If you know you’re never going to be in a similar situation then no reason to do the analysis. Historical is hysterical. What are you doing Today!?

M) Don’t deal with Crappy People. I don’t care if you have to see them every day. At the dance. I see every girl but I don’t have to dance with every girl. Don’t dance with the crappy people. Always check yourself on each interaction — did I just dance with them? You don’t need them to like you. Who cares if crappy people like you?

N) Don’t drink. I know a girl who is filled with regrets. “Was I bad to my ex-husband?” “Did I eat too much?” “Did I miss this opportunity?” I asked her, “What did you do last night?” She tells me she hung out with people she’s constantly trashed to me in the past, she ate at the fanciest steakhouse in town, and she drank and had a hangover in the morning. I said, “can you stop doing that?” And she was honest and said, “I don’t think so.” That was one of the last times I spoke to her. I used to drink all night with her. I know what it’s like. She won’t be able to stop the regrets. People don’t usually give this as advice because it’s so built up into our culture to have a drink occasionally. Fine, have a drink occasionally. But the drug is a depressant, so just limit the number of depressants you put in your body.

O) List the positives. List all the good things that came out of the moments you regret. If I had never lost all my money a decade ago I never would’ve started other businesses, this blog, I never would’ve met all the amazing people I’ve met since. I never would’ve met Claudia. I never would’ve had the relationship with my daughters I have now. I probably wouldn’t be living right by the river, in relative peace.

P) Mourn. We often regret actions we’ve done that caused us to lose things that were important to us. In most traditions, there’s a mourning period when people die and then you are told to move on. So mourn for those things that were important to you. Mourn the money you lost or the people who left you. Pray that everything works out for the best. Give yourself a time period for mourning. Then move on.

Q) Look to your left and look to your right. When I was in school a common refrain used by professors was, “look to your left and look to your right. One of the people you just looked at is going to fail this class.” You can do the same here: look to your left and look to your right. Both people you just looked at have done things they later wished they could undo, have done things they deny in order to survive the pain, have done things that have cost them severely. Just acknowledging that helps you to deal with your own regrets. We’re all trying to be happy. We all have expecations that are probably too high. We all do stupid things along the way. It’s not the stupid things that makes us worse people, it’s how we deal with them afterwards. What are you doing today?

R) Sorry. Say “I’m sorry” when you can. It doesn’t matter if your apology is accepted. That’s the other person’s issue. But if you say you’re sorry, you’ve at least acknowledged that you’ve made a mistake and you’re ready to move on. If you regret something you did to yourself, say you’re sorry to yourself. Accept the apology. Try to be friends again with yourself.

S) Eat What You Kill. Reduce reliance on others. Even a boss or a job. Learning how to eat what you kill will reduce the things you will later regret. It will also force you to focus on what’s going on today instead of the past. Else you don’t eat.

T) Be passionate about your work. If you aren’t, then quit. Don’t blame the recession or the job market. Those are media myths. They aren’t about you.

 

7 WAYS TO MAKE LIFE CHANGING DECISIONS

Most people don’t know the profound effects of making decisions. Often times, we go through life oblivious to what thoughts we are thinking and what actions we are taking. Every single decision we make in our days shapes our current reality. It shapes who we are as a person because we habitually follow through with the decisions we make without even realizing it.

If you’re unhappy with the results in your life right now, making the effort to changing your decisions starting today will be the key to creating the person you want to be and the life you want to have in the future. Let’s talk about a few ways you can go about making life changing decisions.

1. Realize the power of decision making.

Before you start making a decision, you have to understand what a decision does. Any decision that you make causes a chain of events to happen. When you decide to pick up a cigarette to smoke it, that decision might result in you picking up another one later on to get that same high feeling. After a day, you may have gone through a pack without knowing it. But if you decide not to smoke that first cigarette and make a decision every five minutes to focus your attention somewhere else when you get that craving, after doing this for a week, your cravings will eventually subside and you will become smoke-free. But it comes down to making that very first decision of deciding whether or not to pick up that cigarette.

2. Go with your gut.

Often times, we take too much time to make a decision because we’re afraid of what’s going to happen. As a result of this, we go through things like careful planning, deep analysis, and pros and cons before deciding. This is a very time consuming process. Instead, learn to trust your gut instinct. For the most part, your first instinct is usually the one that is correct or the one that you truly wanted to go with. Even if you end up making a mistake, going with your gut still makes you a more confident decision maker compared to someone who takes all day to decide.

3. Carry your decision out.

When you make a decision, act on it. Commit to making a real decision. What’s a real decision? It’s when you decide on something, and that decision is carried out through action. It’s pointless to make a decision and have it played out in your head, but not doing anything about it. That’s the same as not making a decision at all. If you want to make real changes in life, you have to make it a habit to apply action with your decision until it’s completed. By going through this so many times, you will feel more confident with accomplishing the next decision that you have in mind.

4. Tell others about your decisions.

There’s something about telling other people what we’re going to do that makes us follow through. For example, for the longest time I’ve been trying to become an early riser and whenever I tried to use my own will power, waking up early without falling back asleep felt impossible. So what I did was I went to a forum and made the decision to tell people that I would wake up at 6 AM and stay up. Within two days, I was able to accomplish doing this because I felt a moral obligation to follow through with my words even though I failed the first time. Did people care? Probably not, but just the fact that there might be someone else out there seeing if you’re telling the truth will give you enough motivation to following through with your decision.

5. Learn from your past decisions.

Even after I failed to follow through my decision the first time when I told people I was going to wake up early and stay up, I didn’t give up. I basically asked myself, “What can I do this time to make it work tomorrow? The truth is you are going to mess up at times when it comes to making decisions and instead of beating yourself up over it, learn something from it. Ask yourself, what was good about the decision I made? What was bad about it? What can I learn from it so I can make a better decision next time? Remember, don’t put so much emphasis focusing on short term effects; instead focus on the long term effects.

6. Maintain a flexible approach.

I know this might sound counter-intuitive, but making a decision doesn’t mean that you can’t be open to other options. For example, let’s say you made the decision to lose ten pounds by next month through cardio. If something comes up, you don’t have to just do cardio. You can be open to losing weight through different methods of dieting as long as it helps you reach your goal in the end. Don’t be stubborn to seek out only one way of making a decision. Embrace any new knowledge that brings you closer to accomplishing your initial decision.

7. Have fun making decisions.

Finally, enjoy the process. I know decision-making might not be the most fun thing world to do, but when you do it often, it becomes a game of opportunity. You’ll learn a lot about yourself on the way, you’ll feel and become a lot more confident when you’re with yourself and around others, and making decisions will just become a lot easier after you do it so often that you won’t even think about it.

Anything you decide to do from this point on can have a profound effect later on. Opportunities are always waiting for you. Examine the decisions that you currently have in the day. Are there any that can be changed to improve your life in some way? Are there any decisions that you can make today that can create a better tomorrow?