Introducing your CAR

Does this scene sound familiar? It’s Monday morning—wait no—Sunday night, and you are already dreading going to work. You’ve already thought about that person who gets on your nerves, or that colleague who thinks he’s your manager, or that client who is never satisfied. You may have received awards, bonuses, promotions, but they aren’t enough anymore. You wonder why you’re still at the job and want to quit, but you don’t know what else you’d do.

If this is you or someone you know, read on.
(Actually, please read on anyway.)

The question is, why aren’t you motivated? What is keeping you from jumping out of bed Monday, or any day, excited about what lies ahead?
Today, I’d like to address some common barriers to motivation.

Self Determination Theory provides a simple, practical way to look at how we as human beings are motivated. It introduces the concept of our basic psychological need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. When these needs are met, we thrive because we are more effective and fulfilled. If one or more of these needs are not met, there can be significant negative consequences in some area of our lives.
Let’s look at each of these a bit more closely:

Competence—I got a great fortune in my fortune cookie a couple of weeks ago. It said, “Our purpose in life is not to get ahead of other people—but to get ahead of ourselves.” Are you satisfied with the quality of your work? Are you good at your job or are you just getting by? Sometimes, when good is good enough, we can ignore that calling to be great. If this rings true for you, maybe it’s time to take that online class, or get that additional certification. How about making a commitment to read for 30 minutes a day for self-improvement? Feeling competent gives you a sense of personal empowerment that does wonders for the quality of your work, and this will have a positive effect on other areas of your life as well.

Autonomy—How independent do you feel when doing your life’s work? Are you free to call the shots, or is someone else dictating what to do and how to do it? Are you able to exercise your mind and use your creativity, or has work become a drudgery, completely out of your control?

Relatedness—How connected do you feel with your work, and with the people around you or working alongside you? This can have a huge impact on how motivated you are to do the work. You definitely don’t have to be best friends, but a shared sense of purpose with those around you creates a special kind of synergy that makes everyone’s work more effective.

This weekend, hold these things in your heart. Remember your CAR—competence, autonomy, and relatedness, and how you can consciously optimize each of these things in order to reclaim your internal motivation and drive.

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The Sound of Silence

How to Recharge Your Superpower

Welcome to the last essay in our series on sound. It’s been a fantastic journey.
In “Good Vibrations” I introduced the importance of sound and vibration in our lives, and the concept of becoming consciously aware of your sound environment.
In “The Power of Sound”, I revealed 4 specific ways in which sound affects our physiology, psychology, cognition, and behavior.
“Immerse Yourself” was a powerful lesson on how to change your physiology using singing bowls, sounds of nature, and the awesome rhythm of drums.
“Get Your Mind Right” was a cool essay about the idea of entrainment, and how to induce different mental states by tuning your brainwaves to specific frequencies.
In “Dream On”, we explored that wonderful theta state of mind called “twilight” and how to expand it to gain insight and peace in your life.

Today, I’d like to discuss one of my all-time favorite sounds—silence.
Imagine how the negative space in a painting makes bright colors even more vivid, and isolation helps us appreciate the warmth of someone’s touch. Even the simplest of flavors brings so much pleasure after a prolonged period of fasting. Similarly, silence is essential to our enjoyment and appreciation of sound.
Sound is vibration and vibration is energy. Too often in our daily routines, we are subjected to that energy coming from unwanted sources. We unconsciously absorb this energy as well, becoming tired, stressed, and irritable, especially after a particularly taxing day. Coming home to household noises and stimulation from electronic devices can further deplete our energy. Being silent is therefore essential to recharging our energy source. It is when we finally focus inward, tuning into and intensifying our own unique vibration. It is here that we find meaning and receive clarity. It is here that we reclaim our superpowers.
Are you comfortable sitting in complete silence for ten minutes a day? Five minutes? Two minutes? Just setting an intention to make silence a priority and making space for it in your life will yield significant benefits.
Similarly, just as in the example of the painting, creating more negative space in your life may be in order. This may involve shortening your to-do lists, dropping or delegating some nonessential projects, and letting go of some activities that are no longer of benefit to you. This may mean seeing some people less often, while turning up the volume on some other relationships.
By doing this, the things that matter most to you will be come even more vibrant and meaningful in your life.
So take some time for silence today, and every day. You’ll be glad you did.

See you next week!

(Here’s a link to the trailer for the documentary “In Pursuit of Silence”.  Take a look. )


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The Curious Case of Mr. Jones

Two Powerful Thoughts that May Change Your Life

I was sitting in the hospital, finishing some patient notes from my early morning rounds when I was startled by the harsh sound of my hospital phone. I looked down at the caller ID, and saw the words “emergency department”.  Getting paged from the emergency room is like opening a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get. It could be anything from pneumonia, to a fractured hip, to a life-threatening blood infection. Frankly, there have been a lot of drug overdoses lately.

I answered the phone and heard, “I’ve got another one for you. He’s pretty sick”. He goes on to tell me about a patient my age, coming in with a severe case of thrush, fatigue, thirst, and frequent urination, all of which are common presenting signs of diabetes mellitus. The next piece of data sealed the diagnosis—the patient had a blood sugar of 900 (close to 9 times the normal accepted value). To give you a sense of the severity, patients in this condition are placed in intensive care and monitored closely, as their bodies have been thrown into a crisis state and things can go badly if not corrected early.

Mr. Jones was not who I expected him to be. Other than having bloodshot eyes and appearing exhausted, he just looked like the guy next door.  The big 6 1/2  ft guy next door. He smiled as I approached and greeted me warmly.  Then he told me he couldn’t talk because he had to pee again. So I handed him the urinal and stepped outside. When I came back in, we had a nice  easy chat about the sequence of events that led him there and how he had been feeling for the last couple of weeks. Mr. Jones works outside and it had been at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit  every day. Therefore he saw nothing alarming about the severe fatigue he had begun to experience right around this time.  Although he did drink a lot of water, he still felt it odd that he had developed an insatiable thirst that was actually interrupting his daily routine. He had also begun to notice some white lesions in his mouth, mainly on his tongue, which were becoming increasingly sore. He thought this was probably an allergic reaction to something, though he couldn’t figure out what he was allergic to. He was also feeling progressively weaker and weaker until he was physically unable to work. That is actually what led him to the hospital.

I moved on to asking about his family history. When I asked if anyone in his family had diabetes he surprised me by answering with a smile, “Yeah, everybody has it”. He went on to tell me that he was relieved to see that his blood sugar was only 900—his mom’s is usually at least 1250 when she gets admitted to the hospital. It was almost as if he was more pleased than shocked by this new diagnosis.  I made a mental note of this reaction with the hopes of exploring it later. I wrote the orders for him to be admitted to the ICU with insulin and plenty of fluids, and headed back upstairs.

Later that afternoon, I stopped by the ICU to make sure Mr. Jones was settled in and to see if his condition had improved. He was sitting up in bed watching a movie, seemingly unperturbed by the sequence of recent events. I took a seat and asked how he was feeling. Other than his mouth feeling sore, he told me, he felt fine. I told him that he seemed unusually comfortable with being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, especially considering how young he was.  This was his response to me,
“I knew I was going to get it. I really thought I would get it sooner. Diabetes runs in my family—we all have it. Some of my uncles have gotten legs cut off, and I have a cousin that went blind from it. I guess I’m headed that way too.”

We had a lengthy discussion, all of which I don’t have time to share here. However in the brief time we have remaining, I’d like to stop here to point out 2 powerful lessons we can learn from Mr. Jones:

1. The Power of Creative Visualization—Ever since Mr. Jones was a child, he was presented with illness as the norm. He watched as some of the most powerful people in his life spent time in hospitals, got limbs chopped off, came down with severe infections, lost their sight, and eventually died. This was his reality. Therefore when he envisioned his future, this was the model into which he projected himself.  This was the life he inadvertently chose—living life as a chronically ill adult, virtually powerless and at the mercy of this disease that he “inherited” from his ancestors. He was simply following his family’s legacy. When he became an adult, he remained unwittingly complicit in this programming.

Here’s my first point: (Finally! Yeah I know…) Although it is definitely the case that our unconscious minds, the true driving force behind our behaviors, are programmed from the time we land on this earth, we can now make a conscious choice to change this.  Sometimes the programming was so powerful that people never learn this important lesson. You can change your programming.  

2. The Power of Habit—Type 2 diabetes does tend to run in families. There is absolutely a genetic basis for this. You know what else tends to run in families even more strongly? HABITS.  Many people get what their parents got because they do what their parents did.  They take on the same behaviors. They eat the same foods, surround themselves with the same types of people, and have similar levels of physical and mental activity.  This is a type of inheritance that we often ignore in conversations about illness.

Here’s my second point: Make sure that you are consciously choosing your behaviors. If not, start now. The first step is always awareness. Simply choose to become more aware of how you make your choices. Are you choosing your behaviors, or have they been chosen for you?  This is extremely important because it affects not only the trajectory of your life, but that of your children lives as well. They are in trance, being programmed by your habits.
Savor that thought.

See you next week!

Cool Links:
Here’s a link to a blog post in which I give more detail about reprogramming your unconscious mind—

Here’s a link to an article my colleague Deepu George and I wrote in a publication of the American Psychological Association, reframing health behavior as a ritual honoring tradition—

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The One Simple Trick I Use to Get “Unstuck”

Have you ever had a day when you were busy from the time your feet hit the floor in the morning but you felt like you had accomplished nothing?

Have you ever had a day during which you may have done one or two significant things, and felt good about yourself for the rest of the day—or even the week?

These days, we have the “to-do” list down to a science.  There are tons of books on getting things done, creating the perfect to do list, effective time management, fitting more into your day, multi tasking, productivity, and organizing.   Set an agenda, make your list, work like hell all day to get everything done on that list.  Then come home exhausted and do it all again the next day.
In our culture, this is called “winning”.
But what are you doing and why are you doing it? You’ve been great at climbing to the top, but are you sure you’re on the right ladder?

In their book, You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought, Peter McWillams and John-Roger give two definitions that changed the way I look at productivity:

Efficiency—getting the job done right
Effectiveness—getting the right job done

Now of course these definitions are not perfect, but the message is clear. We can easily get so bogged down in trying to do things that we fail to realize why we are doing them.  Sometimes we become plagued by “shoulds” and “ought tos”.  At other times, we get caught up in trying to maintain an image in order to defend a false sense of self. There are many sources of this clutter.
We tend to accumulate this clutter in different areas of our lives, and this clutter often shows up on our lists. This can become a trigger for burnout, resentment, and feelings of defeat. For many, it can also become a source of depression.  In his book Let Your Life Speak, author Parker Palmer defines depression as “the ultimate state of disconnection—it deprives one of the relatedness that is the lifeline of every living being”.  Many enter this state of disconnectedness gradually, as we drift further away from our authentic selves.

My friend, it’s time to reconnect!

How often you reconnect determines how consistent you will be at accomplishing the things that are really important to you.
How do you know what’s really important to you?
Find your WHY.
What is the reason you’re here on this earth at this time?

Do any of these ring true for you?
“I’m a courageous warrior. I’m here to become a master at everything I set out to accomplish.”
“I’m a lover. I am here to give and to help others.”
“I’m a rebel. I’m here to interrupt the system and break all the rules.”
“I’m a dreamer. My goal in life is to find happiness and peace.”
…and on and on

You get the idea. All of these are completely legitimate ways of being. There’s some guiding principle that resonates with you on a visceral level. By reconnecting with your why and making plans from that space, everything you do becomes more authentic.  As discussed in “Declare Yourself”,  when you refocus your energy around your why, people and situations will appear to reinforce this energy. Conversely, things and people not aligned with this energy will fall away.

How do I reconnect with my why?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s one easy way to start. In “Dream On” I introduced the idea of connecting with your unconscious mind during your twilight state, the bridge between sleep and wakefulness. Each night as your last thought before bed, set an intention to reconnect with your why. Keep paper and pen next to you and write down everything you hear, see and feel when you awaken.  Do this for at least a week and you will start to see a shift. When you make it a regular practice, the results will be even more significant.  You will become more effective in everything—relationships, job, managing finances, having a fulfilling spiritual life, and meeting your health goals.  Please make sure to record all the positive changes you see. This can be done in many ways. If you feel like you don’t have time to formally “journal”, some quick voice memos on your phone work just fine.
Have fun with this.

See you next week!

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Has Your Doctor Told You?

Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure? If so, chances are you take at least one blood pressure medication.  Do you know what you are taking and how it works? Do you know what else it may be doing to your body? All too often when I meet a new patient and ask what […]

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Wait, no that’s not what I meant!  Everyone’s keeping their job (as far as I know). I’m talking about the blog. Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for supporting this blog. I appreciate every email, every comment and every suggestion. As is true of many healthy growing things, my message is evolving and so must […]

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