navigating life’s changes

Three Life-Changing Strategies

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Most of us, if not all of us, have wondered from time to time if there is a secret to life. We have thought, talked, read and listened to others wondering the same thing. This is what I’ve come up with.

Let’s start with smiling. A genuine smile is contagious and compelling and goes a long way toward relieving tension between people. When we smile we usually are happy. Even when we are not at our best, smiling has the potential to change our mood instantly. There is a scientific explanation behind this phenomenon.

Some time ago, when I was preparing a program on stress reduction, I came across an article on the science of smiling. It was one of those articles where the author was unknown. “Smiles, frowns, and grimaces were once seen simply as expressions of feelings. Increasingly, scientists are realizing that facial expressions precede feelings and play a role in generating them. How does this work? One theory suggests that when you use the “smile muscles” at the corners of your mouth, you change the direction of the blood flow inside your face in such a way that it causes the temperature of the blood to drop. This cooler blood enters the region of the brain known as the hypothalamus and causes the release of chemicals that can suppress pain and help a person to feel better. Cooling the blood may promote the release of endorphins, which, decreases pain and gives you a lift. In short, smiling instructs our brains to feel good.”

The implications are enormous. Increasingly medical science recognizes the effect that stress has on illness. Could smiling more be the key to health and wellness? The good news is that it doesn’t take anymore time.

I’ve written about this next strategy on several occasions and there is a chapter in my book, Dancing on the River that explores this concept in more detail. How you start your day sets the tone for the day. When you start your day with calmness and focus, there is a greater likelihood that your day will be less stressful. And the corollary is true—when you start your day anxious and in a hurry, you’ll hurry thru the rest of the day playing catch-up. You never do catch-up for what you are trying to catch is an illusion. At the end of the day, most of the work gets done, but you are exhausted because of the stress you felt throughout the day.

If you have been following the work that I do you know that I am a big believer in having a committed daily spiritual practice, which allows you to connect with your center. The exact form is up to you. There are two key words here—committed and practice. When you are committed to a daily practice, you’ll discover your center. When you don’t live from your center, the difficulties in your life seem much more challenging. It’s like driving your car without shock absorbers. Every bump in the road is magnified. Eventually all you see are imperfections. And that’s the way are lives are when we lose connection with our center. The other word is practice. You need to do it. Some days it’s easier than others. I have been practicing meditation and yoga for years, yet I still experience resistance to practicing on some mornings. But I do anyway and usually feel good afterwards.

The third insight is that life is cyclical. Just look at nature’s cycles. As I write this article in the middle of summer, I am fortunate to harvest all that I’ve planted. Nature keeps on giving fruit from the trees that have been here for many years. In the fall, the leaves fall listlessly to the ground; by winter the trees are barren. In the spring we plant the seeds anew and begin a new cycle.
That’s the way our own lives are. Our circumstances and moods change from time to time which contributes to the cyclical nature of our lives. Some years are smoother than others. As we know life is full of uncertainty. When we integrate these insights and practices just discussed into our lives, we are more apt to embrace the inevitable changes on life’s journey as opportunity, as adventure and as possibility.
So there you have it. Try it on. See what happens. Smile and laugh more—take time in the morning for your morning program and notice your stress levels decreasing.

Perhaps you already have a practice that works for you. You’re on your way. Keep practicing. Let’s have a discussion as to what works for you. If you haven’t yet begun, it’s not too late. If you are curious to find out how I can make a difference in your life both personally and professionally i invite you to contact me at 415.453.5016 or email me at mark@inspirepossibility.com. Be sure to visit my website at http://www.inspirepossibility.com. I can also design a program or training that will support your organization in creating and sustaining a more fulfilling and productive culture.

“At times our own light goes out, and is reignited by the spark of another person.”

Journey ON

Mark

Mark Susnow knows change. He is an executive-life coach, life-discovery guide and recognized thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. In his prior career, he was covered by the NY Times, Boston Globe, and Rolling Stone Magazine. He is the author of Dancing on the River:Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

Constant and Never-ending Improvement

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Life is a marathon. There are times in our lives when we struggle and times when we soar. The important thing to remember is that from all of our experiences we can learn. And from what we learn we can improve upon the quality of our lives.

Perhaps the most significant learning is that you always have room to have a better attitude. You can be more positive and yet not deny your current circumstances. When you get on the positive side of change,  you see clearly the challenges ahead not as obstacles, but as stimuli to achieve excellence.

At some point you begin see possibilities rather  problems. You smile for no reason and say to yourself, “Yes, I can.”  The quality of your life is determined by your attitude. When you’re positive, you’re usually  happy and optimistic. It might take a while but it’s the consistency that makes the difference. There is a Japanese expression, CANI, which is an acronym for  Constant and Never-ending Improvement. Take this on as a challenge and make it  fun. At the end of the day ask yourself, What did I learn today and how did that make me a better person?

JOURNEY ON

MARK

Please join me for the Journey On radio show. I am cohosting the show with my good friend Ralph Marston who publishes the Daily Motivator.  Http://www.blogtalkradio.com/journeyon

Mark Susnow, is an executive-life coach and recognized thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River: Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

 

Positive Side of Change—A Simple Technique for Changing your Thoughts

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Getting on the Positive Side of Change is an ongoing day to day challenge. If you have the right tools, you have a head start. In the last blog in this series, you were introduced to the power of gratitude.  It took me a while to get this concept. At first it seemed like I was sugar coating what was bothering me. And in spiritual circles you are taught to be grateful.

When we have a problem our tendency is to focus on it. At times that problem consumes us and we project into the future. If this problem continues  then what. Before we know it, we are in a bad mood and all we see are more problems.

By focusing on what you are grateful for, you shift the focus from what isn’t working in your life to what is. For example, instead of thinking about what you didn’t accomplish, think about what you did accomplish. Be grateful for that.

What I”m suggesting is that after meditation, focus on what you are grateful for.  Come up with at least ten different topics. You might want to begin with your health and the love in your life. When you think about it, there is love all around you. Be willing to receive it even though it might not be from a particular person. When you do this, it’s so liberating.

In that situation I express gratitude for the love that is in my life. If I would like more friends, I express gratitude for my ability to connect with others. If I would like more business, I express gratitude for my ability to attract clients to me. This little technique that is so powerful only takes about 30 seconds.

Remember what you focus on expands.  You attract to you what you think. I think you get the idea.

In the next few blogs, we’ll continue to focus on gratitude…this practice has changed my life.

ENJOY THE JOURNEY

MARK

Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

We Can Experience a Wholeness Beyond Words.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

At this time of year, many of us reflect upon our lives. Where are we at this point in our life? We look at our careers, our relationships and our sense of well-being. Unfortunately, too many of us reflect upon our goals and what we’ve achieved, rather than looking at our life in its totality. Do we smile? Do we laugh? Are we excited about our lives?

Quite often we see someone and they seem beautiful. But when we take a closer look and look at their individual features we notice the imperfections. At times that is all we see.

That way of perceiving others, quite often is our world view. We notice the imperfections rather than the beauty in our everyday lives.

We notice the imperfections in ourselves. We think about our failures and our disappointments.

We are much more than the individual parts. There is a wholeness in the way we relate to the world. That wholeness can’t be expressed in words or images. It is a feeling and energy that transcends physical form. It it a wholeness of being that we feel in every cell. We feel it when we live life at its fullest.

ENJOY THE JOURNEY

MARK

Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

THAT FIRST STEP

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

As a life coach I have heard almost every excuse that there is. The number one excuse is “Someday when the circumstances are different I’ll do it.” That someday has many variations of the same theme that use slightly different words. It might sound something like this:
When I graduate.
When the economy picks up.
When I meet the one.
When I get divorced.
When I get some money.
When I retire.
When I have more time

And it goes on. What do all of these excuses have in common? It is the belief that different circumstances that might occur in the future, will provide the missing link in our lives… but it doesn’t work that way because when that future arrives, there will be more excuses. They’re similar but slightly different. There will always be new variations on the same theme.

Putting off enjoyment of life and waiting to do what you really want to do is an unhealthy habit. There will always be reasons not to do something or to start something new. There is no virtue is sitting on the river bank and watching the river of life flow by without you.

You know what I’m getting at…you need to make a decision rather than making an excuse and decide whether you really want to do something. If you do, then come up with a plan. Then take the first step toward implementing that plan. It can be a little step. It’s like anything that you learn. That first step might be challenging at first but then it becomes second nature. But you have to work it to get there. And then you’re ready for the next level.

The only perfect time to get on the positive side of change is now.

ENJOY THE JOURNEY

MARK

Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE PURPOSE?

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Do you ever wonder about what your life purpose is? Most of us have at different times in our lives. I know I have especially in my formative years. I wanted to be a lawyer so that I could “make the world a better place.” My purpose was to change the world by fighting for social justice. When I graduated from law school, I put myself in situations so that I could be a player in effectuating that change at the sacrifice of financial reward. In truth it wasn’t really a sacrifice because I was committed to what I felt I was here to do.

In those days I lived very simply and my expenses were low. As long as I could pay my bills I wasn’t concerned because I was living my dream——what I was here to do.

Yes there were plenty of obstacles, but I didn’t seem them as obstacles. They were steps along the way that had to be dealt with to get where I wanted to go. There were also many challenges and disappointments along the way that over time strengthened me. But as we all have learned the river is constantly changing.

Some of the social issues that I was involved in rectified themselves and the focus of my law practice changed. It no longer fulfilled me. I started questioning the work I was doing and whether in the big picture it made a difference. At that point in my life, there was a divergence between my work and my life purpose.

When I began raising a family I questioned the value of what I was doing. When you experience new phases in your life, your sense of purpose also changes. I listened to the river and for the last twelve years have experienced a new phase. I began the work that I do now.

My purpose is inspiring others to feel more joy and fulfillment in their lives.

JOURNEY ON

MARK

Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

NAVIGATING THE SWIFTER CURRENTS OF LIFE

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Most of us would agree that life is changing faster than ever before. It’s a challenge and, at times, overwhelming trying to keep up with it all. The average person has six to eight careers. There are physiological changes and health challenges along the way and economic occurrences that affect most of us. Friendships change and the divorce rate is high.

We have to look deeper to find time-tested techniques and strategies that enable us to understand and embrace the unpredictable twists and turns that life, like rivers, inevitably brings.

In my writings I make frequent references to the river of life. Let me share with you the genesis of that metaphor. When I was 13, my Uncle Sam took me on a weeklong river rafting trip, sponsored by the Sierra Club on the Green River in Colorado. We flew in a little six-seat plane over the mountains and landed in a town near our campsite. Already an adventure for a 13 year old we drove over a rickety bridge to the river. On the second day of the trip as I was swimming along the side of the raft, I noticed the raft getting ahead of me. Then I heard the yells: “Get in the boat. Get in the boat.” But it was too late. As I swam against the current toward the boat, I heard more yells: “Stay in the center, stay in the center.” That’s what I tried to do as I was propelled through the rapids right behind the boat.

I made it through to the calm water and was able to relax for a second, until I noticed that the boat was still ahead of me and the next series of rapids was approaching. Quickly I grabbed the oar that my uncle extended and was pulled onto the boat as the boat went through the rapids again. On the return home, my uncle said something to me that I have never forgotten. “You will think about this trip later in life.” It wasn’t until many years later on a return trip to Colorado that I thought about the river experience. There, high on a mountaintop, I noticed a river flowing through a reddish-peaked canyon. I thought about my life and all of the changes and transitions that had occurred to get me to this place in my life, including the joys, triumphs, heartaches and disappointment.

Let ”the river” teach you what is necessary to navigate these waters and to make your journey fulfilling, adventurous and meaningful. There are eight principles and strategies that have been my guide and compass as I’ve navigated the swifter currents of life.

1. Find and live from your center. That was the message from the Green River and the last thing I heard before I went through the rapids. When you are centered and connected to your inner most being you are connected with the source of everything. Meditation enables me to connect with that center every day.

2. Develop the practice of gratitude. I was grateful for that oar. I was grateful that I got to experience the river in the way I did. And I am grateful for my life. We all have a lot to be grateful for. By expressing gratitude for some of the inner qualities that are most important to us such as the ability to love, to smile and to connect we cultivate a sense of how truly abundant we are.

3. Be curious. Think of your life as a river with its lessons, challenges and complexities. Being curious about how the changing nature of the river enables you to get to know and sense its many currents. As this knowing emerges, you’re more comfortable with not knowing where the river is taking you. In the process you become the person you’ve always wanted to be, fully present with life, and passionate about living.

4. Be prepared. I wore a life preserver on the river. When you are prepared you can relax and enjoy life more. Preparation involves taking care of your mind and body. It involves eating well and exercising. It involves being informed and being curious. It also involves working on yourself. Meditating in the morning before starting my day prepares me for whatever life throws my way.

5. Get out of your comfort zone. I could have stayed in the boat and played it safe but I was curious and adventurous. My comfort zone for me was my law practice and, as a result, my life for many years was on hold. Getting in the current and flow of life involves risk but that is what you need to do sometimes.

6. Learn to let go of resistance. Resistance is a constant struggle and makes you tired. At first I resisted the current of the river and tried to swim against it, back to the boat. But I became tired from the struggle. Then I let go and stayed in the center and enjoyed the adventure. When you allow yourself to flow with what is, there is a synchronicity in your life that seems magical.

7. Be willing to be connected. You can’t do it alone and why would you want to. We all want to feel that we belong and that we are loved. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable by honestly sharing who you are and what matters to you, you create a synergy that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. It is in that moment that you experience the magic of connecting with a kindred soul.

8. Embrace the great mystery. I am becoming increasingly more comfortable with not knowing the next step. And when it comes I enjoy taking it. The river is unpredictable and you can’t figure it out. Whether the waters are “still” or “raging” it is still the same river. You have to just flow with it and enjoy the adventure.

By the way when is your next river rafting trip?

Journey On

Mark

Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

BE GRATEFUL FOR THIS MOMENT

Friday, August 10th, 2012

How are you feeling in this moment? When someone asks us this question we tend to reflect upon our whole life and think about what concerns us. Quite often we answer this question from the perspective of how we are doing with the various challenges we face in our life.

What if just for today you answered that question from the perspective of this day only. We’re not projecting into the future or reflecting upon the past. Just this day how is it going for you?

Let’s take it one step further. In the last hour how are you doing. You know where I am going with this. How about now? In this moment what are you experiencing. When you let go of your thoughts about your life, which are judgments anyway, it’s amazing how much better you feel.

I have said it on many occasions. We get to choose. Choose happiness. Yes there will always be loose ends. That goes with being human. You can be complete and still have work to do.

Be grateful for your life. It’s the only life you have. Enjoy it and rejoice in it.

JOURNEY ON

MARK

Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

Transforming Life’s Difficulties into Positive Energy

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Many of us struggle with ways of thinking that limit what’s possible in our lives. There is a fine line between a limiting thought and a liberating one. Let’s explore how we can transform our limiting beliefs into ones of liberation and possibility.

It begins with objectively assessing the situation. What exactly occurred? It might be that we were disappointed by another, or that we had a setback in our career. Sometimes we see it coming; at other times we’re blindsided. In the beginning are the judgments. We create a story, quite often a story that we have told to ourselves on prior occasions. You might know the story. It goes something like this: ‘They betrayed me…it’s unfair…I should have known better…why didn’t I act to prevent it.’ In the moment we are incapable of seeing our patterns and tendencies that have contributed to this story. Whether we’re fearful or angry, the bottom line is that we’re not too happy. We project into the future and all we can see are obstacles and more problems. We don’t see a way out. What makes it worse is that quite often we feel too embarrassed to reach out.

But that’s what we must do. By reaching out we gain a perspective that we weren’t able to see before, especially if there are people in our lives whom we trust and respect. In that moment of disappointment, there is a seed of possibility being planted. Said in another way, “When one door closes, walk through the one that is open.” But unless your eyes are open, you won’t be able to see that door. There are three practices that can help you transcend your patterns and transform how you relate to these situations in the future.

The first is the practice of gratitude. When I first became aware of this practice in various spiritual circles, I didn’t have a clue as to how important it would become in my life. I was taught that expressing gratitude was the right thing to do. It was one of the qualities of being a thoughtful and caring person.

Its practical value wasn’t so obvious until I began to study and integrate it into my life. Dr Robert Emmons, PhD, University of California, Davis, and other gratitude researchers and social psychologists, found that grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotion, such as happiness, vitality and optimism. Focusing on what you are grateful for has an amazing ability to change how you are feeling in the moment. Being grateful includes being thankful and appreciating life. Grateful people see life as a blessing, as a gift. While it’s one thing to intellectually understand the benefits of practicing gratitude, it’s another to embody it. Some day you feel it more than others.

My practice has evolved over time. I express gratitude for the health of myself and my family, and the love that is in my life. A few years ago, I began expressing gratitude for the qualities and attributes that I possess that enrich my life. Until I made a conscious effort to notice these qualities, I didn’t realize how truly abundant I was. By taking just a few seconds to express gratitude for the qualities and attributes that you like about yourself, you expand your capacity to appreciate life.

Let’s go back to that original situation that we began our conversation with. Focusing on what you are grateful for begins to level the playing field. It makes it much easier to ‘accept what is,’ which is the second insight. I love Byron Katies work. In her first book, Loving What Is, she takes the reader through a four-stage process that essentially teaches one how to question their thoughts.

So often we judge what is going on in our lives. We think this is good or this is bad. With these thoughts come a myriad of emotions. When we learn to ‘accept what is,’ the sting of being disappointed lessens. She even goes further and suggests that rather than just ‘accepting what is,’ that we learn to ‘love it.’ It’s great if you’re able to embrace that and it’s also great to just accept it. You might think that by ‘accepting what is’ that you’ll lose that competitive edge that you think is necessary to survive in this world. I don’t think that will happen. The purpose of ‘accepting what is,’ is to help you deal with the stress and negative energy that is present in the moment, so that you can make better decisions as to how to move forward in your life.

Now we’re ready for the final insight, which is a natural outcome of acceptance. We’ve learned the value of being grateful for what life brings us and have learned the value of accepting what that is. By doing this, your load will seem much lighter. You’ll find that it’s much easier to choose your attitude, rather than letting the circumstances of your life dictate it. Happiness is a Choice.

Until you realize this, you’ll always try to achieve what I call “Fictional Perfection.” In this state you live in the land of ‘What if,’ which is near the land of ‘Only if.’ You know that place. ‘What if’ and ‘Only if’ are guaranteed to prevent you from being happy. They make what might happen in the future, in the land of “Fictional Perfection,” more important than what is happening in the moment. When you live in that land, you’ll continue to focus on the imperfections and see nothing else.

Regardless of what’s happening, be grateful for your life, it is a gift. Accept it and take what you’ve learned and move forward. After all it is your life. Smile and choose to be happy even with the loose ends. Enjoy the journey.

You know I love to hear from you. Please feel free to share this letter with those in your circle.

JOURNEY ON

MARK

Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.

THE IMPORTANCE OF NOT KNOWING

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

So you want to be perfect and not only please yourself but please others. You also want to avoid criticism. In fact you hate it. I don’t know anyone who likes it. So you hold back and keep some of your best ideas and profound insights a secret. It’s also true that you can learn from the feedback that people give you.

There is an essential you that is waiting to be expressed. It’s beautiful and endearing when its most authentic. Don’t let the fear of being criticized stop you from expressing that ‘you.’

It is also true that we don’t know everything and it’s OK to admit it. When I was a lawyer, it was expected that I had all of the answers. And it was even that way in the early days as a life coach.

Then there was that moment when I said, “I’m not sure.” It was followed by a “I don’t know.” Wow was that liberating. I even made those comments during a radio interview. I also followed those comments with “I’ll have to think about that.” And so I did. I’m much more comfortable with not knowing.

Admitting that you don’t know is the first step in learning something new. In fact quite often when writing an article, I’ll start with I’m not sure what I’m going to say. Out of that comes a body of knowledge that needed an opening for me to access it. “Not knowing” is the first step to knowledge.

JOURNEY ON

MARK

Mark Susnow, is an executive & life coach and thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River…Navigating Life’s Changes and Discover the Leader Within.


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