100 Ways to Motivate Yourself : Change Your Life Forever by Steve Chandler, chapter name 55-60: Make trouble work for you, Storm your own brain, Keep changing your voice, Embrace the new frontier, Upgrade your old habits, Paint your masterpiece today

55-60: Make trouble work for you, Storm your own brain, Keep changing your voice, Embrace the new frontier, Upgrade your old habits, Paint your masterpiece today

55. Make trouble work for you

One evening, many years ago, my then-14-year-old daughter Stephanie went for a walk with a friend, promising me she would be back home before 10 p.m. I didn't pay much attention to the clock until the 10 o'clock news ended and I realized that she hadn't come home yet. I started to get nervous and irritated. I began pacing the house, wondering what to do. At 11:30 I got in my car and started cruising the neighborhood looking for her. My thoughts were understandably anxious, part fear and part anger. Finally, at 11:45, I drove back past my own house and saw her silhouette in the window. She was home and safe.

But I kept driving. I realized that I was thinking completely pessimistically about the entire incident and I needed to keep thinking before I talked to her. As I drove along I observed all the pessimism I was wallowing in: "She doesn't respect me. She can't keep a promise. My rules and requests mean nothing. This is the tip of the iceberg. I'm going to have problems with her for the next four years at least. Who knows where she went and what she was doing? Were drugs involved?

Sex? Crime? I'm losing sleep over this. This is ruining my peace of mind and my life. Et cetera."

By recognizing how pessimistic my thoughts were, I was able to let the thoughts play completely out before taking a deep breath and telling myself, "Okay. That's one side of the argument. Now it's time to explore the other side." One of my favorite tricks for flipping my mind over to the optimistic side is to ask myself the question: "How can I use this?" How could I use this incident to improve my relationship with my daughter? How could I make my rules and requests more meaningful to us both? I began to build my case for optimism. I realized that great relationships are built by incidents like these. They are not built by theoretical conversations—but by difficult experiences and what we learn and gain from them.

So I decided to drive a little while longer and let her wait inside. I was sure that by now her sister had told her that I was out looking for her, so she was now the one pacing and anxious. Let her sweat a little, I thought, while I continue to think things through.

I continued to reflect upon my past relationship with Stephanie. One of the great aspects of it was Stephanie's honesty. She had always radiated a quiet and confident kind of serenity about life, and found it easy to be honest with her own feelings and honest with other people. Whenever there had been incidents with other children, teachers, or other parents involved in some misunderstanding, I could always count on Stephanie to tell me the truth. Asking her about what happened always saved me a lot of time.

As I drove the dark neighborhood I also ran through my happiest memories of Stephanie as a little girl, how much I loved her and how proud I was of her when I went to her concerts or talked to her teachers. I recalled the time in grade school when I embarrassed her by asking her principal if he would consider re-naming the school after her. (She had just won an academic award of some kind and I was intoxicated with pride.)

Finally my mind was completely won over to the optimistic side. "How can I use this?" gave me the idea that this incident could be made into something bigger than it seemed—a new commitment to each other to keep agreements and trust each other.

When I finally got home I could see that she was scared. She tried to blame the incident on her not having a watch. She wanted me to appreciate that, somehow, she was a victim of the whole incident. I listened patiently and then I told her I thought it was a much bigger deal than that. I talked about my relationship with her and how I had cherished her truthfulness throughout her childhood. I told her that I thought we might have lost all of that tonight. That we might have to figure a way to start over.

"It's not that big a deal," she protested. But I told her that I thought it was a very big deal, because it was all about our relationship and whether we were going to keep agreements with each other.

I told Stephanie I wanted her to be as happy as she could possibly be, and the only way I could really help that happen would be if we kept agreements with each other. I told her how scared I was, how angry I was, how her staying out had ruled out a good night's sleep for me. I asked her to try to understand. I talked about our life together when she was a little girl, and I reminded her how extraordinarily truthful she was. I mentioned a few incidents when she got in trouble but how I had gone right to her for the truth and always got it.

We talked for a long time that night, and she finally saw that coming home when she says she's coming home—indeed, doing what she says she's going to do—is a really "big deal." It's everything.

Since that incident and conversation, Stephanie has been extremely sensitive to keeping her word. If she goes out and promises to be back at a certain time, she takes along a watch or makes certain someone she's with has one. The "incident" that night is something neither of us will forget, because it got us clear on the idea of trust and agreements.

You could even say that it was a good thing.

We have heard of so many incidents where bad events in retrospect were strokes of great fortune. A person who broke her leg skiing met a doctor in the hospital, fell in love, married him, and had a happy relationship for life. Because most of us have experienced a number of these incidents, we're aware of the dynamic. What seems bad (like a broken leg) turns out unexpectedly great. We begin to see the truth that every problem carries a gift inside it.

By choosing to make use of seemingly bad events, you can access that gift much sooner. By asking yourself "How can I use this?" or "What might be good about this?" you can turn your life around on a dime.

56. Storm your own brain

The term "brainstorming" is now very well known in American business life.

I first learned it many years ago when I worked as a copywriter in an ad agency. Whenever we would get a new account our agency's president would get us all together to "brainstorm" for creative ideas for the client.

The main rules of the brainstorming session are 1) there are no stupid ideas—the more unreasonable the better—and 2) everyone must play. I have sometimes facilitated brainstorming sessions with business managers. We go around the table and each person puts out an idea and the facilitator writes it on the flip pad. We go around and around until all the reasonable ideas are exhausted and the unreasonable ideas start to flow. It is usually among the unreasonable ideas that something great is discovered. Brain-storming works so well because the usual restraints against stupidity are lifted. It's okay to be unreasonable and far out. What most people in business don't realize is that this powerful technique can be used by an individual, alone with himself or herself. I first discovered this while driving in my car a number of years ago listening to a motivational tape by Earl Nightingale. He talked about a system he had learned that worked wonders.

On the top of a piece of paper you put a problem you want solved or a goal you want reached. You then put numbers 1 through 20 on the paper and begin your brain-storming session. The rules are the same as with a group session. You have to list 20 ideas, and they don't have to be well thought out or even reasonable. Give yourself permission to flow. Your only objective is to have 20 ideas scrawled down within a certain short amount of time.

If you do this for a week, you will end up with 100 ideas! Are all of them usable? Of course not, but who cares? When you began the process you probably didn't have any usable ideas.

I have used this system myself over and over with really great results. It works so well because it relaxes the normal tensions against creative, outrageous thinking. It invites the right side of your brain to play along.

Recently a friend called for some advice about his career. He was in show business and had developed his act to the point where he was one of the top performers in the nation. His problem was marketing and self-promotion. That part of his career was lagging behind his talent. "What if I told you that there is someone who can give you 100 specific marketing ideas tailored to your precise career and audience?" I asked him. He was very interested.

"You, yourself are that person," I said.

I then told him about the list-of-20 self-storming technique I had personally been using for a number of years. He eagerly jotted down the rules of the game and got busy playing.

Two weeks later he called me very excited about the results. "I've got some really great marketing ideas right now, more than I've ever had in the past," he said. "Thanks."

Self-mentoring is the best mentoring you can get because your mentor knows you so well. And although it's often beneficial to get specific outside personal coaching, the best coaching teaches us to look within. A great mentor once said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you."

57. Keep changing your voice

There have been times when I have been told that I am lucky to have a good speaking voice. And some people are impressed that I rarely use a microphone in my seminars, even with hundreds of people in the audience.

People will conclude that I have been "blessed" with a powerful set of vocal cords. But it is not true. As I related in an earlier chapter, my voice used to be no better than a feeble monotone. That is, until I got motivated to change it. There were two instances that inspired my system for developing my voice. The first was a magazine interview I read many years ago about the actor Richard Burton (who had perhaps the most mesmerizing speaking voice of all time—listen to the Broadway recording of "Camelot" and hear him as King Arthur speak and "sing" his songs.) In the interview, Burton said that his voice was how he made his living, so he made certain that each morning while showering he sang a number of songs to keep his vocal cords strong and supple. Later, on a television talk show, actor Tony Randall told the host how he developed his trademark sing-song acting voice: "I took up opera," he said. "I found that singing opera did more for my stage voice than anything else I ever tried."

Those two interviews have stayed in my mind ever since, and I always carry a number of tapes and CDs in my car to sing along with. I crank them up good and loud (this is best done while driving alone) and sing at the top of my lungs. I make certain that I do this every day, even when I don't feel like singing. In the words of William James, there's another benefit: "We don't sing because we're happy, we're happy because we sing."

Prior to a major public speech, I'll often get to my location more than an hour ahead of time and then just drive around the neighborhood singing like a madman. (Sometimes I worry that my host client might drive by and spot me in my car singing along with Elvis and looking dangerously psychotic. But the benefits are worth that risk.) I find that when I drive and sing like that my breathing is better, my timing is better, and when I speak, my voice effortlessly fills the hall.

You might think, "I don't speak for a living." So such a weird practice might not be necessary for you. But we all speak. A pleasant, relaxed, and strong speaking voice is a priceless asset to anyone whose job involves communicating with other humans.

When referring to people whose speaking voices are pleasing to listen to, many people use words like "melodious" and "well-modulated." This is a good hint to tell if someone is complimenting a great speaking voice. You are not stuck with the voice you have now. Start singing, and soon you'll be creating the voice you'd like to have. The stronger your voice, the stronger your confidence and the stronger your confidence, the easier it is to motivate yourself.

58. Embrace the new frontier

Fortunately, for all of us, a new frontier is upon us. Because our nation, and world, has entered the information age, the old patterns for living are gone.

An article by business writer John Huey appeared in the June 27, 1994 edition of Fortune. In it, Huey observed, "Let's say you're going to a party, so you pull out some pocket change and buy a little greeting card that plays 'Happy Birthday' when it's opened. After the party, someone casually tosses the card into the trash, throwing away more computer power than existed in the entire world before 1950."

In the old paradigm, forged in the Industrial Age, we human beings became less and less useful and adventurous. We found lifelong employment in guaranteed jobs and did our jobs the same way until retirement. Then, once we reached retirement age, we became

thoroughly useless to society and lived lives dependent on the government, our relatives, or our own savings that we accumulated in our "useful" years.

Now, with the technological explosion and entry into the Information Age, employers are no longer as interested in our job histories as they used to be. They are now more interested in our current capabilities. One of the romantic appeals of the early Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett frontier days in our nation was the usefulness of individuals. If you were living out on the frontier, farming, cooking, and hunting, and you turned 65, it would never occur to anyone to ask you to "retire." We have finally come back to those days of honoring usefulness over age and status. For example, if my company is trying to enter the Chinese market to sell its software and you, at age 70, can speak fluent Chinese, know all about software, and have energy and a zest for success, how can I afford to ignore you?

Bill Gates of Microsoft has said, "Our company has only one asset—human imagination." If you took all of Microsoft's buildings, real estate, office hardware, physical assets—anything you can

touch—away from the company, where would it be? Almost exactly where it is now. Because in today's world a company's value is in it's thinking, not in its possessions.

This is great news for the individual—because usefulness is back in style. If you can cultivate your skills, keep learning new things, study computers, learn a foreign language, or become expert in a foreign culture and market—you can make yourself useful.

The great basketball coach John Wooden recommended that we live by this credo—especially apt for the new technological frontier: "Learn as

if you were to live forever. Live as if you were to die tomorrow."

Gone are the days when your employability depended primarily on your job history, your school ties, your connections, your family, or your seniority. Today your employability depends on one thing—your current skills. And those skills are completely under your control. This is the new frontier. And where we once entered retirement age nervous about the "wolves at our door," today, with a commitment to lifelong growth through learning, we can be as useful to the world community as we are motivated to be.

The more we learn about the future, the more motivated we become to be a valuable part of it.

59. Upgrade your old habits

Super motivation is much more difficult to achieve when we are held back mentally by bad habits. Trying to move toward the life we want while dragging along our bad habits was described in the Scottish rock group Del Amitri's song lyrics, "It's like driving with the brakes on, it's like swimming with your boots on..."

But here's the catch: Bad habits simply cannot be broken. Nor can they be gotten rid of. Ask the millions who continue to try. They always end up, in the words of Richard Brautigan, "trying to shovel mercury with a pitchfork," because our bad habits exist for good reasons. They're there to do something for us, even if that something ends up being self-destructive. Down deep, even a bad habit is trying to make us operate better.

People who smoke are trying, even through their addiction, to do something beneficial—perhaps to breathe deeply and relax. Such breathing is needed to balance stress, so their smoking is a way in which they are trying to make themselves better. Bad habits are like that—they are based on a perceived benefit. That's why they're so hard to just "get rid of."

That's why habits must be respected and understood before they can be transformed. What created the habit must be built upon, not killed. We must go to the beneficial impulse that drives the habit, and then expand on that to make the habit grow from something bad into something good.

Let's take drinking as an example. I've known people who used to be drunk all the time who are now sober all the time. How did they do it? Couldn't we just say that they just got rid of their drinking habit? Not really. Because, without exception, the recovered people I know replaced their drinking with something else.

Taking all of one's courage, relaxation, and spirituality from a bottle of alcohol is a very damaging habit. But to simply eliminate it leads to even worse problems: shakes, DTs, fear, dread, paranoia. A total void. People who join Alcoholics Anonymous, however, replace their "false courage"—once found in a bottle of alcohol—with real courage found in the meeting rooms of AA. The completely artificial sense of spirituality formerly found in a tumbler of spirits is replaced by the true and deeply personal spirituality found in working the 12-step program of enlightenment. The superficial but highly emotional relationships the alcoholic had made in his favorite bars are replaced by real friendships. Replacement is powerful because it works, and where bad habits are concerned it's the only thing that works. I've known people who quit smoking without intending to. They took up running, or some form of regular aerobic exercise, and soon the breathing and relaxation they were getting from the exercise made the smoking feel bad to their bodies. They quit smoking because they had introduced a replacement.

People who diet have the same experience. It isn't staying away from fattening food that works—it's introducing a regular diet of delicious, healthy food that works. It's replacement.

Subconsciously you don't think your bad habits are bad! And that's because they're filling a perceived need. So the way to strengthen yourself is to identify the need and honor it. Honor the need by replacing the current habit with one that is healthier and more effective. Replace one habit, and soon you'll be motivated to replace another.

60. Paint your masterpiece today

Think of your day as a blank artist's canvas.

If you go through your day passively accepting whatever other people and circumstances splatter on your canvas, you will more than likely see a mess where art could be.

If the mess troubles your sleep, your next new day will begin in a state of fatigue and mild confusion. From such a state, your canvas will be splattered all the more with shapes you don't like and colors you never chose.

Thinking of your day as a painter's canvas will allow you to be more conscious of what is happening to you when you flood your mind with nothing but Internet gossip, commercials on the radio, the latest murder trial, your spouse's criticisms, office politics, and pessimistic musical lyrics.

If you'll allow yourself to step back far enough to realize and truly see that your daily canvas is filling up with all these negative things, a certain freedom occurs. It's the freedom to choose something better.

The more conscious we are of our freedom to paint whatever we want on our canvas, the less we go through life as a victim of circumstances. Many of us aren't even aware of our own victim status. We read whatever's on the coffee table, listen to whatever's on the car radio, eat whatever's handy, scan whatever's on the Internet, talk to whomever calls us on the phone, and watch whatever's on the television—often too passive to even click the remote control.

We must be aware that we have it in us to change all that. We can paint our day our way. The best time management—or "day-painting" —course I ever took was taught by Dennis Deaton. His seminar's main point is that we can't manage time—we can only manage ourselves. "Clear the clutter from your mind," Deaton says, "and remove the obstacles to greater success."

While most time management courses feel like courses in engineering, Deaton has captured the spirit of the artist in his teaching. His prescriptions for managing your day all stem from goal-creation and living the visions you create.

Wake up and visualize your day as a blank canvas. Ask yourself, "Who's the artist today? Blind circumstance, or me? If I choose to be the artist, how do I want to paint my day?"