Self-Improvement – Conscious Manager – Online Magazine A holistic approach to self, business and life. Mon, 29 Jul 2019 12:33:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Get 1% Better Every Day: The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement Sat, 15 Aug 2015 13:48:55 +0000 axe

It’s happened to all of us.

You have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide you need to make changes in your life. Maybe you need to drop a few pounds (or more), want to pay off some debt, or desperately long to quit wasting time on the internet.

So you start planning and scheming.

You take to your journal and write out a bold strategy on how you’re going to tackle your quest for self-improvement. You set big, hairy SMART goals with firm deadlines. You download the apps and buy the gear that will help you reach your objectives.

You feel that telltale rush that comes with believing you’re turning over a new leaf, and indeed, the first few days go great. “This time,” you tell yourself, “this time is different.”

But then…

You had a long day at work, you just can’t make it to the gym, and by golly, eating an entire pizza would really make you feel better.

Or an unexpected expense comes up, and your bank account dips back into the red.

Or you decide you’ve been doing really well with being focused, so what’s a few minutes of aimless web surfing going to do?

Within a matter of days, your fiery ambition to change yourself is extinguished. That audacious, airtight plan in your journal? You don’t even look at it again because along with your goal to lose weight, your daily journaling goal has also met an untimely demise.

And so you’re back to where you started, only even worse off than before. Because now you’re not just an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man, you’re an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man who has failed at not being overweight, in debt, or easily distracted. The sting of failure can feel like an existential gut punch.

But time heals all wounds. Nature has — for better and worse — blessed us with terrible memories, so we forget how crappy we felt when we failed in our last attempt to radically improve ourselves.

Thus, six months later that itch to change yourself returns, and the whole scenario plays itself out again, like some Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich-infused version of Groundhog Day.

Getting Off the Roller Coaster of Personal Development

Our quest to become better often feels like a roller coaster ride with its proverbial ups and downs. By the time you’re headed down Self-Improvement Mountain for the twentieth time, you’re vomiting out the side of your cart in self-disgust, cursing yourself that you once again bought a ticket to ride.

Why are our attempts to better ourselves usually so uneven, and why do they so frequently end in failure? There are a few reasons:

Focusing on the big goal overwhelms us into inaction. It’s an article of faith in the world of personal development that you have to make big, Empire State goals. You don’t just want to dominate in your own life — you want to dominate the world.

And so you draw up plans for leaving behind the 99% of schmos out there, and becoming part of the extraordinary 1% — not necessarily as measured in pure wealth, but in passion, fitness, financial independence, and number of Machu Picchu pics in your Instagram feed.

But the enormity of your goals ends up overwhelming you into inaction. What we moderns call “stress” would be better termed “fear”; the physiological reaction is the same in both emotions. A big, audacious goal looks to the brain just like a saber-toothed tiger stalking us in the woods, and the idea of paying off $100K in student loan debt seems so impossible that it’s actually scary. And when our brain encounters scary, the old amygdala kicks into fight-flight-freeze mode, and you assume the position of deer-stuck-in-headlights.

Big, giant goals can be awe-inspiring. But like many awe-inspiring things — a lion, a black hole, the Grand Canyon — they can also swallow you whole.

We think a magic bullet will save us. Let’s say that we’re able to overcome the torpor-inducing effects of aiming for radical personal change, and we start taking action towards achieving our goals. As humans are wont to do, instead of just getting right to work doing the boring, mundane, time-tested things that will bring success, we typically start looking for “hacks” that will get us the results we want as fast as possible and with as little work as possible. We want that magic bullet that will allow us to hit our target right in the bulls-eye with just one shot.

The danger of looking for a magic bullet is that you end up spending all your time searching for it instead of actually doing the work that needs to be done. You scroll through countless blog articles on productivity, in hopes of discovering that one tip that will make you superhumanly efficient. You listen to podcast after podcast from people who earn their living telling people how to make money online, hoping one day you’ll hear an insight that will unlock your businesses’ potential, so you too can make your living online, telling other people how to make a living online. You research and find the perfect gratitude journal so you can be more zen.

propusThe insidious thing about searching for magic bullets is that you feel like you’re doing something to reach your goals when in fact you’re doing nothing. Magic bullet hunting is masturbatory self-improvement. All the pleasure, without the production of metaphorical progeny.

We stop doing the things that helped us improve in the first place. Okay. So let’s say you don’t let the bigness of your goal overwhelm you, and you’re not a chump magic bullet hunter either.

You get to work. Slowly but surely you start seeing results. You lose five pounds. You whittle $200 off your debt. You meditate for 20 minutes a day for a whole week.

You’re having success!

But in our personal backslapping, we would do well to heed Napoleon’s warning: “The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.”

There’s a tendency for folks to view self-improvement as a destination. They think that once you reach your goal, you’re done. You can take it easy. So when these folks start having some success and things start getting better in their lives, they stop doing the things that got them to that point. And so they start backsliding.

I fell into this trap when I was first trying to get a handle on my depression. I’d take some proactive steps to leash my black dog — meditate, write in my journal, get outside, etc. As soon as I started to feel better, I’d think, “Hey! I beat it this time! I’m cured!” So I let up. I stopped doing the things that helped me feel better in the first place. And of course, I went back to feeling terrible.

Self-improvement isn’t a destination. You’re never done. Even if you have some success, if you want to maintain it, you have to keep doing the things you were doing that got you that success in the first place.

The Kaizen Effect: Get 1% Better Each Day

“Little strokes fell great oaks.” –Benjamin Franklin

It’s time to get off the self-improvement roller coaster.

To do so, we’re going to embrace the philosophy of small, continuous improvement.

It’s called Kaizen. It sounds like a mystical Japanese philosophy passed down by wise, bearded sages who lived in secret caves.

The reality is that it was developed by Depression-era American business management theorists in order to build the arsenal of democracy that helped the U.S. win World War II. Instead of telling companies to make radical, drastic changes to their business infrastructure and processes, these management theorists exhorted them to make continuous improvements in small ways. A manual created by the U.S. government to help companies implement this business philosophy urged factory supervisors to “look for hundreds of small things you can improve. Don’t try to plan a whole new department layout — or go after a big installation of new equipment. There isn’t time for these major items. Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment.”

After America and its allies had defeated Japan and Germany with the weaponry produced by plants using the small, continuous improvement philosophy, America introduced the concept to Japanese factories to help revitalize their economy. The Japanese took to the idea of small, continual improvement right away and gave it a name: Kaizen — Japanese for continuous improvement.

While Japanese companies embraced this American idea of small, continuous improvement, American companies, in an act of collective amnesia, forgot all about it. Instead, “radical innovation” became the watchword in American business. Using Kaizen, Japanese auto companies like Toyota slowly but surely began to outperform American automakers during the 1970s and 1980s. In response, American companies started asking Japanese companies to teach them about a business philosophy American companies had originally taught the Japanese. Go figure.

Graphic inspired by The Slight Edge

Graphic inspired by The Slight Edge

While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives, and it’s the antidote to perpetual, puke-inducing rides on the self-improvement roller coaster.

Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want.

Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.

It might not seem like much, but those 1% improvements start compounding on each other. In the beginning, your improvements will be so small as to seem practically nonexistent. But gradually and ever so slowly, you’ll start to notice the improvements in your life. It may take months or even years, but the improvements will come if you just focus on consistently upping your game by 1%.

You’ll eventually reach a certain point with your personal development in which a 1% increase in improvement is equal to the same amount of improvement you experienced in the first few days combined. That’s sort of hard to get your mind around, because math. But think about it: 1% of 1 is just .01; 1% of 100 is 1. You’re maybe at a 1 right now, and will only be making tiny improvements for awhile. But stick with it. You’ll eventually reach that 100 level (and beyond) where you’ll be improving by a factor of 1 every day.

That’s the power of the compounding effect.

Why Kaizen Works

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.” —John Wooden

The Kaizen approach to self-improvement completely circumvents the unproductive ups and downs all too common to the quest. By breaking down big, overwhelming goals into super small, discrete pieces, Kaizen encourages action. The small successes you experience with your baby steps feed on each other and start building some momentum, which leads to taking bigger and bigger actions.

What’s more, one of the underlying assumptions of Kaizen is that there is no magic bullet that will suddenly make things better. Change comes through small, continuous improvement. Instead of wasting your time searching for the “one thing” that will change everything, Kaizen calmly directs your attention to the task at hand and offers this needed reminder: “You already know what you need to do. Get to work and find small ways to improve along the way.”

Finally, Kaizen isn’t a “one and done” approach to life. It’s a process of continual improvement. You’ll never “arrive” with Kaizen, so the temptation to rest on your laurels once you’ve seen a bit of improvement is reduced. The Kaizen mindset reminds you that all improvements must be maintained if you wish to secure your gains. As Rory Vaden says: “Success isn’t owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due every day.”

How to Implement Kaizen in Your Life

Ask yourself this question every single day: What’s one small thing I can start doing that would improve my life?

Then, start small. Like really small:

  • Want to start the exercise habit? Just do a single push-up as soon as you roll out of bed in the morning. The next morning, add another. And so on and so forth. In two months, you’ll be doing 60 push-ups in the morning. In a year’s time, you’ll be giving Charles Bronson a run for his money.
  • Want to establish a morning and evening routine? Start with the evening, and concentrate on the 10 minutes right before you go to bed. Plan what you’ll do during those 10 minutes — it can be as simple as brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, flossing for 1, and reading for 7 — and make it a habit. Every day, add 5 more intentional minutes until your whole evening becomes a satisfying routine. Then work on the morning.
  • Want to start journaling? Instead of making it a goal to write a page each day, just start off with writing for a minute. That’s it. You might only get a sentence or two down, but that’s okay. The next day, add a minute. In a month, you’ll be writing in your journal for 30 minutes if that’s something you want to do.
  • Want to start reading your scriptures more? Start with one.single.verse. Add another verse each day, until you’re reading a chapter a day.
  • Want to start meditating? Begin with a minute of breathing exercises. That’s it.
  • Want to lose weight? Cut out one sugary drink a day. Or cut your usual afternoon snack in half.

You get the idea. Think of the smallest step you can take that would move you incrementally towards your goal. Then try to make it even smaller.

When tackling big goals, it’s usually advised to only work on one goal at a time, but with the Kaizen approach, working on several things at once it entirely doable.

Try to do just 1% better than the day before. Start small and make your increases gradual. Avoid the temptation to get impatient and start rushing forward and taking bigger leaps. Take it slow, steady, and consistent.

Simply try to do a little bit better than you did the day before.

Yes, the improvements will be gradual. Some days you may not even notice your improvement and it will be tempting to abandon ship and try something else. But with Kaizen, Father Time is your ally. You’ve got to play the long game with your self-improvement — you have to develop what wrestling legend Dan Gable calls the “Patience of Change.”

As my buddy Mark Rippetoe would say, “Just do the program!”

Once you’re reached your goal, start a maintenance plan, and keep it up for the rest of your life. Lost enough weight? Keep up the manageable diet/exercise plan you’re on, indefinitely. Reached the point where you’re reading 30 minutes a day? Keep it up, and enjoy watching a library of read-books accumulate year after year.

Self-improvement isn’t a destination. It’s a process. It’s like shaving; even though you did it this morning, you’re still going to have to wake up and do it again tomorrow. The process never ends.

Give up on the idea that you’ll someday “arrive.” You’ll never arrive. Instead of focusing on the results of your effort to improve yourself, focus on the process. Joy in the journey, and all that jazz.

And remember this: If you want to maintain the improvement you’ve made, you have to keep doing the things that brought you that success in the first place. Don’t let your early success lull you into a false security, and allow yourself to slack off.

What About Setbacks?

Of course, you’ll encounter setbacks. Some days you may get worse by 1%. That’s okay. It’s just 1% worse. Forget about yesterday and concentrate on today. Get back into the saddle and start doing 1% better again.

Change is possible.

You can get better.

It just takes time and patience.

With small strokes, you shall surely fell great oaks.



The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Mauer

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Video: Gadadhar Pandit: “Stress Management for Work-Life Balance” Sun, 14 Sep 2014 05:02:25 +0000

Anxiety, insomnia, muscle tension, fatigue, high blood pressure, and anger are just some of the symptoms of stress. Stress not only affects our body, but also our behavior that can lead to social withdrawal. This presentation will explore the nature of our mind and the various factors in our lives that cause us stress. We will learn simple meditation techniques that can nourish the mind which will lead to increased focus, greater productivity, and improved relationships.

Pandit is an author, meditation teacher, inspirational speaker, and lecturer at Columbia University. He has spoken at a TEDx conference and has been featured on PBS, NPR, NY Times, and writes for the Huffington Post.

In his book, Urban Monk: Exploring Karma, Consciousness, and the Divine, Pandit writes about how he learned to deal with and overcome the loss of his family’s multi-million dollar fortunes that left him and his family with next to nothing.

Pandit uses his life experience and decades of in-depth studies to assist people in overcoming the various stress factors in their own lives. The medical field now knows that stress leads to anxiety, insomnia, muscle tension, high blood pressure, and anger. Pandit’s unique approach applies Eastern wisdom and meditation techniques to help the audience gain deeper insight into their mind and understand the reasons we becomes stressed, anxious, and angry.

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Why Failure Is Good for Success Fri, 17 May 2013 18:00:34 +0000 “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” --- Albert Einstein

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein

To achieve your personal best, to reach unparalleled heights, to make the impossible possible, you can’t fear failure, you must think big, and you have to push yourself. When we think of people with this mindset, we imagine the daredevils, the pioneers, the inventors, the explorers: They embrace failure as a necessary step to unprecedented success.

But you don’t have to walk a tightrope, climb Mount Everest or cure polio to employ this mindset in your own life. When the rewards of success are great, embracing possible failure is key to taking on a variety of challenges, whether you’re reinventing yourself by starting a new business or allowing yourself to trust another person to build a deeper relationship.

“To achieve any worthy goal, you must take risks,” says writer and speaker John C. Maxwell. In his book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, he points to the example of legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, who set several records and achieved many firsts in her lifetime, including being the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. Although her final flight proved fateful, Maxwell believes she knew the risk—and that the potential reward was worth it. “[Earhart’s] advice when it came to risk was simple and direct: ‘Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.’ ”

Easing Into a Fearless Mindset

“One of the biggest secrets to success is operating inside your strength zone but outside of your comfort zone,” Heath says. Although you might fail incredibly, you might succeed incredibly—and that’s why incredible risk and courage are requisite. Either way, you’ll learn more than ever about your strengths, talents and resolve, and you’ll strengthen your will for the next challenge.

If this sounds like dangerous territory, it can be. But there are ways to ease into this fearless mindset. The first is to consciously maintain a positive attitude so that, no matter what you encounter, you’ll be able to see the lessons of the experience and continue to push forward.

“It’s true that not everyone is positive by nature,” says Maxwell, who cites his father as someone who would describe himself as a negative person by nature. “Here’s how my dad changed his attitude. First he made a choice: He continually chooses to have a positive attitude. Second, he’s continually reading and listening to materials that bolster that attitude. For example, he’s read The Power of Positive Thinking many times. I didn’t get it at first, so once I asked him why. His response: ‘Son, I need to keep filling the tank so I can stay positive.’ ”

Heath recommends studying the failures and subsequent reactions of successful people and, within a business context, repeating such histories for others. “Reward them and applaud their efforts in front of the entire organization so everyone understands it is OK to fail. So employees say to themselves, ‘I see that Bill, the vice president of widgets, who the president adores, failed, and he is not only back at work, but he is driving a hot new sports car. I can fail and come to work the next day. Bill is proof of it.’ ”

Finally, Heath stays motivated by the thought that, “if I become complacent and don’t take risks, someone will notice what I am doing and improve upon my efforts over time, and put me out of work. You’ve got to keep finding better ways to run your life, or someone will take what you’ve accomplished, improve upon it, and be very pleased with the results. Keep moving forward or die.”

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Optimize your mind’s functions: 4 WE CAN Tue, 27 Nov 2012 19:15:12 +0000

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. — Buddha

Three functions of the mind are thinking, feeling and willing.

  1. We can optimize all three functions if we spiritualize them.
  2. We can enhance our thinking by thinking of the welfare of others and meaningful dialogues of wise, saintly personalities.
  3. We can enhance our feelings by feeling our spiritual nature and develop a giver heart.
  4. We can enhance our willing by desiring and doing what is favorable for our long-term benefit. And long-term means beyond this lifetime.

Written by Akrura

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Biased Assimilation Effect (Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide) Wed, 19 Sep 2012 16:59:59 +0000

Our initial convictions are more apt to be shaken if it’s not easy to dismiss the source as biased, confused, self-interested or simply mistaken.

IT is well known that when like-minded people get together, they tend to end up thinking a more extreme version of what they thought before they started to talk. The same kind of echo-chamber effect can happen as people get news from various media. Liberals viewing MSNBC or reading left-of-center blogs may well end up embracing liberal talking points even more firmly; conservative fans of Fox News may well react in similar fashion on the right.

The result can be a situation in which beliefs do not merely harden but migrate toward the extreme ends of the political spectrum. As current events in the Middle East demonstrate, discussions among like-minded people can ultimately produce violence.

The remedy for easing such polarization, here and abroad, may seem straightforward: provide balanced information to people of all sides. Surely, we might speculate, such information will correct falsehoods and promote mutual understanding. This, of course, has been a hope of countless dedicated journalists and public officials.

Unfortunately, evidence suggests that balanced presentations — in which competing arguments or positions are laid out side by side — may not help. At least when people begin with firmly held convictions, such an approach is likely to increase polarization rather than reduce it.

Indeed, that’s what a number of academic studies done over the last three decades have found. Such studies typically proceed in three stages. First, the experimenters assemble a group of people who have clear views on some controversial issue (such as capital punishment or sexual orientation). Second, the study subjects are provided with plausible arguments on both sides of the issue. And finally, the researchers test how attitudes have shifted as a result of exposure to balanced presentations.

You might expect that people’s views would soften and that divisions between groups would get smaller. That is not what usually happens. On the contrary, people’s original beliefs tend to harden and the original divisions typically get bigger. Balanced presentations can fuel unbalanced views.

What explains this? The answer is called “biased assimilation,” which means that people assimilate new information in a selective fashion. When people get information that supports what they initially thought, they give it considerable weight. When they get information that undermines their initial beliefs, they tend to dismiss it.

In this light, it is understandable that when people begin with opposing initial beliefs on, say, the death penalty, balanced information can heighten their initial disagreement. Those who tend to favor capital punishment credit the information that supports their original view and dismiss the opposing information. The same happens on the other side. As a result, divisions widen.

This natural human tendency explains why it’s so hard to dislodge false rumors and factual errors. Corrections can even be self-defeating, leading people to stronger commitment to their erroneous beliefs.

A few years ago, for example, both liberals and conservatives were provided with correct and apparently credible information showing that the George W. Bush administration was wrong to think that Iraq had an active unconventional weapons program. After receiving the correct information, conservatives became even more likely to believe that Iraq had such weapons and was seeking to develop more.

The news here is not encouraging. In the face of entrenched social divisions, there’s a risk that presentations that carefully explore both sides will be counterproductive. And when a group, responding to false information, becomes more strident, efforts to correct the record may make things worse.

Can anything be done? There is no simple term for the answer, so let’s make one up: surprising validators.

People tend to dismiss information that would falsify their convictions. But they may reconsider if the information comes from a source they cannot dismiss. People are most likely to find a source credible if they closely identify with it or begin in essential agreement with it. In such cases, their reaction is not, “how predictable and uninformative that someone like that would think something so evil and foolish,” but instead, “if someone like that disagrees with me, maybe I had better rethink.”

Our initial convictions are more apt to be shaken if it’s not easy to dismiss the source as biased, confused, self-interested or simply mistaken. This is one reason that seemingly irrelevant characteristics, like appearance, or taste in food and drink, can have a big impact on credibility. Such characteristics can suggest that the validators are in fact surprising — that they are “like” the people to whom they are speaking.

It follows that turncoats, real or apparent, can be immensely persuasive. If civil rights leaders oppose affirmative action, or if well-known climate change skeptics say that they were wrong, people are more likely to change their views.

Here, then, is a lesson for all those who provide information. What matters most may be not what is said, but who, exactly, is saying it.

Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at Harvard and the author of “Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide,” was until last month the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

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The Barking Dog of the False Ego Thu, 28 Jun 2012 08:25:39 +0000 Dog of Ego - false ego

One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. — G. K. Chesterton quotes

Our ego is one of the most intimidating and inscrutable realities we face in our lives. Countless philosophers, spiritualists, seekers and armchair prognosticators have tried to define its parameters and its meaning to our existence. We even have wonderful teachers — like my friends at Gita sutras– attempting to actualize and excavate the nature of our ego for our most positive spiritual benefit.

Some would also rather do away with the whole idea of the ego altogether, but according to the teachings of the bhakti-yoga tradition, that is not possible. The Bhagavad-gita and countless other wisdom teachings of the bhakti tradition teach us that we are eternally individual spirit souls, currently going through a materialistic bodily experience. We always have an ego, or existence as a unique, individual being, but what we have to watch out for is our “false ego.”

One of my teachers has explained the concept like this: We have two dogs in our heart. One is our actual ego, our reality as spirit soul, and one is the false ego, or our false identification with our temporary material body. Both dogs are barking to get our attention, and whichever one we pay attention to the most, or feed the most, becomes dominant in our consciousness. Or, as the Cherokee proverb says:

There is a battle of two wolves inside us all.
One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.
The wolf that wins? The one you feed.

Our false ego disguises itself as our best friend, when it is actually our greatest adversary in our spiritual journey. It is the voice in our consciousness which makes us think we must be the center of the universe, the repose of all prestige, and when we don’t get these accolades we react with all the violence of our envious, prideful, and greedy outbursts, ruining our relationships, communities, and hopes in our own search for the Divine.

At its essence, the false ego creates for us suffering, and according to the wisdom of the bhakti tradition, that is completely antithetical to our natural sense of being. As spirit souls, our substance is made of eternality (sat), knowledge (cit), and bliss (ananda), which is also the very same substance as God. Perhaps the greatest form of ananda we can experience is our direct loving relationship with God through His grace and mercy. How we gain access to this is defined by our practical understanding of our own ego-nature.

As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita:

If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditioned life by My grace. If, however, you do not work in such consciousness but act through false ego, not hearing Me, you will be lost. (Chapter 18, Verse 58)

Vedic scholar Bhurijana Dasa also explains the concept of the false ego very clearly in Surrender Unto Me, his commentary on the Gita:

The false ego … which is like a reflection of our true consciousness within matter, is the covering over the soul first supplied by material nature and is the juncture between our spiritual identity and our material existence. Any ego-identity in which we imagine ourselves the central figure is acceptable to our perverse consciousness.Thus the soul, constitutionally Krsna’s eternal servant — full of bliss, knowledge, and eternity — becomes attracted to the material atmosphere and conditioned by it. He is then strictly controlled by the modes of material nature and experiences the self as if it were made of temporary matter.

The juncture between our false ego and real ego is the juncture between how selfish and selfless we are in our everyday lives, both materially and spiritually. One way to see this is in relation to how we react to people’s suffering. When someone suffers, do we feed the dog of our false ego by taking pleasure at their suffering, especially if it is relation to some competitive aspect of our lives, like our career, or do we feed the dog of our true ego by taking their suffering into our own heart, and feeling it as if we were the one suffering. Do we respond with compassion or contempt? Do we step on them further or do we do what we humbly can to uplift them?

Gaining access to our real sense of ego means doing all we can to develop our selfless spiritual character. This is actually our natural self, yet to be selfless in this dog-eat-dog world seems so unnatural, because we choose to absorb ourselves in the schemes of our false ego. This is why spiritual life is such a serious endeavor. We must have an everyday practice, whether it is the chanting of God’s names, reading of holy scriptures, and service to our community and the less-fortunate, to help us excavate what is most dear and intimate to us, our real spiritual self.

Every moment of every day we are making a choice which dog to feed. Our spirituality begins and ends with our consciousness, so let us try to become more conscious of the very sense of self and identity we are developing in our lives together.

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Most Important Tasks Mon, 21 May 2012 19:55:21 +0000

"I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

If we are like most people today, we are overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time. As we struggle to catch up, new tasks and responsibilities keep rolling in, like the tides. Because of this, we will never be able to do everything we have to do. We will never catch up. We will always be behind in some of our tasks and responsibilities, and probably in many of them.

For this reason, and perhaps more than ever before, our ability to select our most important task at each moment, and then to get started on that task and to get it done quickly and well, will probably have more impact on our success than any other quality or skill we can develop.

An person who develops the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will run circles around a genius who talks a lot and makes wonderful plans but who gets very little done.

Written by:

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Who you are Mon, 17 Oct 2011 13:10:49 +0000 Who you are

God has given you one face, and you make yourself another. ~William Shakespeare

This is a part of an article I got from my friend Marshall Goldsmith, a famous executive coach:

One of our greatest challenges in changing behavior can be our self-limiting definitions of who we are. We send messages to ourselves like: “I just can’t speak in front of a group.” “I could never lead others.” “That just isn’t me!”

Figure out the role you would like to play in life. Outside of real physical or resource limitations (e.g., I cannot be a pro basketball player at age 58, no matter how much I try), what is holding you back?

We often think of our identity as fixed. It doesn’t have to be. For example, if we define ourselves by saying “I am a terrible listener,” we will create the reality that we become a terrible listener. And even worse – if someone says that we are a good listener, we won’t believe them. We will say to ourselves:

“That’s not the real me.”

When my clients describe self-limiting identities, such as being a poor listener, I ask them if they want to change. When they say they do, I assure them that they do not have incurable genetic defects that are stopping them from listening. Not only can they change their behavior-and become good listeners – they can change their definition of who they are.

Overcome the Obstacles in Your Mind

Who is the you that you want to become? Have you defined yourself in a way that limits your own potential?

In the same way that others changed not just their behavior but their definition of who they are, you can also change your definition of who you are and change your role in the world.

Figure out the role you would like to play in life. Outside of real physical or resource limitations (e.g., I cannot be a pro basketball player at age 58, no matter how much I try), what is holding you back?

You may not be able to overcome all of the obstacles in the world, but you can overcome the obstacles in your own mind!

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Do Something Every Day Sat, 23 Jul 2011 15:20:34 +0000

Action is the foundational key to all success. --- Pablo Picasso

Success is more likely if we work diligently on our goals every day.

1. Resolve today to pick up the pace in your life. Move faster from task to task. Walk quickly. Develop a higher tempo of activity.

2. Imagine you were going away tomorrow for a month and you had to get caught up on everything before you left. Work as hard and as fast as you do just before you leave for vacation.

3. Practice tight time planning. Imagine that you only had half the time available to get the job done and work with a sense of urgency all day long.

4. Continually ask for more responsibility, and when you get it, complete the task quickly and well. This one habit will continually open doors of opportunity for you.

Written by Akrura dasa Conscious Coaching

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Celebrating Another’s Success: An Antidote To Envy Thu, 14 Jul 2011 19:13:20 +0000 Envy - no!

“Envy consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed.” --- Bertrand Russell

“Always remember that envy gives the strength to excel!” These were my aunt’s parting remarks during the summer of 1986, as I boarded a train back to my hometown just before the start of a new school year. Even as a third grader, those words left a lasting impact on my consciousness.

Year after year, the medals piled up and the accolades filled several folders — one of the main driving forces behind it all was that one statement my aunt made. It gave me the strength to compete with the best and either equal or excel them. But along with it also came subtle, powerful and deeply imprinted “side-effects” that I only recently recognized were disempowering and distortive to my reality.

Envy is a universal experience. It pervades our culture — from schools to corporations to family life — but is rarely addressed openly or easily recognized. Rather, it masks itself under different, more palatable terms such as “competitive spirit” or “drive”.

In plain terms, it is best defined as an emotion that occurs when a person lacks another person’s perceived superior quality, achievement, or possession and desires to possess it, wishes that the other lacked it, or both.

Psychologists have suggested that envy can be classified into two types — malicious and benign. They claim that benign envy can be used as a positive motivational force in achieving one’s goals. However, there is a fine line between the two and often we quickly and unconsciously degenerate into the shadow side. In such situations, it can be easy to forgo everything — even close relationships — to acquire what we obsess over.

Dr. Richard Smith, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, states that much of the recent economic crisis may well have been fueled by runaway envy, as financiers competed to avoid the shame of being a “mere” millionaire.

The Bhagavata Purana, one of India’s classics on yoga and spiritual wisdom, describes envy or dvesha as the older brother of hatred or krodha. It states that envy corrodes all virtues — a poisonous venom that dries out all gratitude, love and compassion, so that others’ misfortune and downfall can taste like honey.

In 2005, while I was a student at Cornell University’s business school, my friend and classmate Vishal and I applied for a covetous position at a large investment bank. We were both excited about the prospect and exchanged ideas and information on our individual applications. Eventually, we both got selected to the final round of interviews.

Slowly, our mutual sharing and joy started to disappear. I started avoiding his phone calls. In class, we played subtle mind games. We would talk about the various deals in the financial markets simply to prove that each knew more than the other.

As the interview day approached, I started to lose sleep — not because of the interview, but the possibility that Vishal would get the job and I wouldn’t. Deep inside I feared that he was smarter than I was. Yet, I could not admit that to myself. To compensate I sat up all night practicing my interview questions to make sure I would ace them.

As fate would have it, Vishal got the offer and I did not. The pain of reality could not have been more bitter. As email congratulations flowed for Vishal, I could feel my heart pounding in rage and hatred. While having lunch at the atrium, I saw a relaxed Vishal happily chatting with friends. I interpreted that as him showing off and instinctively convinced myself that he was simply happy at my misery.

That evening as I sat with a few friends studying for a finance exam, I started to talk about how Vishal had deliberately not helped me with certain interview questions. Unconsciously, I began to assassinate his character. There were things about his past that he had shared with me in confidence that I started to make public. I felt “satisfied”.

As I walked back home, I felt that I had lost something deep inside. I tried to distract myself by watching a movie, but the feeling only got heavier. As I explored it further, I realized what had happened. It was hard to accept at first, but denying it felt like a bigger burden.

I realized that envy is the most unfortunate aspect of human nature. Not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his or her envy, but they also wish to inflict misfortune on others. Envy makes it hard to appreciate all of the good things we have receiving in the moment, because the one who envies is too busy worrying about how he or she is perceived. I resolved to put an end to this.

The next day, I approached Vishal and openly expressed my feelings to him. Tears filled my eyes as I sincerely apologized for my behavior. I told him that I truly felt that he was the better candidate to receive the offer. I felt the pain of the honest appreciation pass through every pore of my body.

To my surprise, Vishal was touched, which further humbled and embarrassed me. For the first time, I was able to appreciate his softhearted and forgiving nature. I felt grateful to have my friend back again.

The next day, I hosted a dinner at my house for Vishal and a few friends to celebrate his accomplishment. As I personally cooked and served everyone, I felt renewed, invigorated and cured of a chronic disease. I felt free.

That evening I understood the true purport of yet another statement from the Bhagavata Purana which states that envy is nothing but appreciation that is corrupted by a strong obsession to exclusively possess what we value. Envy results from a deep-seated desire to be the lord and master of all that we survey. It is the strongest weapon of the ego in its relentless pursuit for self-aggrandizement.

If we can strip away the desire to possess and control what we appreciate or value in others, we can experience the true beauty of the traits, recognizing that God and nature have given them to a particular individual for its best possible use.

Celebrating the success of another helps us recognize the qualifications of the individual who has been given certain gifts, and it helps us to be inspired by his or her qualities. Such celebration is the perfect antidote to the poison of envy.

Author: Ramnath Subramanian, CEO and President, The Bhakti Center

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