Kai-zen or the art of making it happen

We’ve all had those moments, every once in awhile. We sit down, we start thinking and we take stock of our lives. And the conclusion we get to, is that it’s not going so great. We haven’t accomplished any of our goals, our dreams seem as distant as the day we conjured them up, we never lost that holiday weight, changed our diet, quit smoking and on and on and on… We start to feel like a failure, we get depressed, and that of course, demotivates us even more. So now, having taken a harsh look at our reality, we have even less desire or energy to do anything about it. We surrender to doom and gloom, we tell ourselves that nothing matters, nothing is worth the effort, why make plans and have dreams if nothing ever comes to be. And we go back to living day in and day out, telling ourselves that there’s no point to it all anyway, so why bother.

This time of the year is particularly bad. We’ve started the new year just a couple of months ago, filled with hopes and dreams and lofty ideas of the better life we’re going to live and the better person we are going to become. The slate has been wiped clean, we have a fresh start, and this time we are going to make those New Year’s resolutions stick. Except that life continues to happen the way it’s always happened. We work, we pay the bills, we take care of mundane everyday chores, and before you know it, it’s already March. And we’ve done nothing. We’ve changed nothing. Said taking of stock takes place and we conclude that we have failed, miserably, yet once again. And doom and gloom and depression set in.

But is it really so? Is it really that hard to make positive changes happen, to make dreams come true, to achieve goals and to reach new levels of knowing, being, doing, having? The sad truth is that we are our own worst enemies. We aim so high, that when we fall, we hurt like hell. And it is emotional hell where we find ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle. We have a negative experience, this hurts our confidence, this in turn lowers our self-esteem feeding the belief that we are good for nothing, which in turns stops us from realizing our full potential. Which leads to even worse results…and the cycle starts all over again, a downward spiral. Until one day when, if we are lucky to get there, we realize that life is not doing this to us, the universe is not punishing us, our deity is not squashing us down. Our lack of faith and optimism and courage have turned our worst fears into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The less we get from life, the less we want, and the less we want, the less we get. So we dig deep into that well of light, which by the way never dried up in the first place, and we shake off the blues, we pull ourselves up and we say to ourselves “No more will I be a victim of my own worst fears. No more will I let myself think of or want for myself less than I deserve”. We do that, and we get up and we march forth. If we’re lucky. Others get stuck in this bottomless pit for years, some even for life. For that’s what it does to you. It takes away your life. You’ve given yourself a life sentence.

So how do we get out? How do we change what appears to be almost unchangeable? Do we make a list of all the things we want to accomplish and throw ourselves at it, changing everything at once, turning our lives upside down overnight? Personally, I think that’s the surest way to fail at everything. Putting yourself on a different diet while hitting the gym five times a week might seem like the right way to go, but your body needs time to adjust to such major changes. And physical changes are not the only ones this applies to. Developing productive habits, changing our way of thinking, letting go of fears and painful memories – all of this takes time. It took you years to get yourself to where you are. And you cannot change overnight. Your body will cry, but worse than that, your mind will rebel. Your ego wants to run the show and it is not happy when you take control in your own hands. So you miss the gym once and then you miss it again and before you know it you stop going at all. What the heck, you’re not getting any thinner, are you? After all those weeks sweating and working out, no results to speak of. You slip in a burger or a doughnut, and soon you’re back to living on junk, since, let’s face it, you’re so miserable eating healthy. You sneak in a cigarette or two, telling yourself that you just need one now, because you’re having a bad day. And soon you’re back to a pack a day, because, let’s be honest, you gotta die someday anyway. And that dream that you know will take you six months to accomplish, three weeks later you’re not any closer, so why bother, nothing good ever happens to you anyway.

But there’s another way of doing things, a better way, tested and proven over centuries. The Japanese call it Kai-zen. Translated elaborately, it means ‘Constant daily incremental improvement’. It means taking one small thing about your life and doing it just a little better every day. And after a week or two, when this new way of doing it has become part of your daily life, take something else. And change it just a tiny bit, every day. And then tweak another, and another. On a daily basis it will feel like you’re changing nothing or at least not much. There will be no shock to the system, no turning your life upside down. But slowly, as the weeks and months pass by, you will have changed yourself and your life for the better. Because quantitative accumulations lead to quality improvements. Reducing a bad habit by 1% a day will see you be rid of it in a few months. Changing one ingredient of your daily meals every week will turn into healthier eating habits over time. Increasing your meditation time by one minute every few days will turn you into a Zen master in no time. Ok, maybe not. But you get my point. 😉

And above all, most of all, practice gratitude. If you are alive, even moderately healthy, if you have food on the table and a warm bed to sleep in, you are already wealthier than millions of people out there. Every day, take few minutes to go outside. Touch a tree, pick a flower, stand on your balcony for few minutes in the morning and listen to the birds in the trees. Watch the dance of the clouds across the sky. Find one thing, each day, to be grateful for. Realize how blessed you are to have been given the opportunity to experience this magic called Life. Cheer someone up and it will make YOU feel better. Give something away and it will make YOU feel abundant. Whatever you want or crave, give it away. And give yourself a pat on the back. You have made it this far. You have overcome obstacles, solved problems, found solutions. You have surmounted challenges and defeated pain. You have fought, and you have won, many times. You can, and you will, do and be and have anything you want. The trick is to want. To want it badly. To quote Napoleon Hill, “you have to have a burning desire” for anything you want. And you have to believe. Little by little, one day at the time, step into the light and make constant daily incremental improvements.



Money makes the world go round


It does! Seriously! Who could dare to deny it? This is a well-known fact. Irrespective of that, money remains the apple of discord for the majority of good souls around due to their conviction that money is somehow incompatible with goodness. Well, this is not much of a surprise since we’ve been taught from a very young age that money is bad. Money is evil! Wanting money is greedy! You’re not supposed to have money (let alone, want it) because money is wicked. Money spoils people, it brings out the very worst of them, making them greedy, arrogant, and selfish. Plus, you can’t have happiness and money at the same time. You have to choose. But why choose? Is it really that bad to have money? It brings such a pleasure, how could it be so bad?

Fact is, we love money. We all do. We love it because we know pretty well how sweet life tastes when you have it. Money gives you the freedom to be whoever and wherever you want. Wouldn’t you fancy that great car, or a trip around the world, or an incredible mansion to live in? Of course, you would. But only a few of us would admit how much they actually love money and how much they crave having it. That hypocritical attitude is mainly due to our upbringing. For some reason we were cradled with the concept that money is bad. And it’s bad because it spoils people. Makes them turn from good to bad. At least that’s the reasoning why you shouldn’t have money and how that contradicts to being a good person. I could add to that, however, that being good or bad has nothing to do with money. You could be spoiled even if you lived in humble circumstances. Analogically, you could be wealthy and help people in need, right? Right. In any case, you don’t have to live in scarcity. Why would you if you could avoid it? Universe is ever-listening and all-giving, why wouldn’t you take it? Give me one reason why you don’t deserve to have what you want. Alright, two reasons. 🙂

My point is that the expression of kindness and goodness greatly depends on your personality and not on wealth. And it’s not the same to give one buck for charity purposes if you have a hundred and give away the same amount if you only have two. So yes, money could assist you in spreading love one way or another and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong to enjoy money or want it. Money is means as any other. It could be used to create good or bad as any other tool we have at our disposal. The manner to use it exclusively depends on our own concept of money. So answer these questions. What is money for you? Do you believe you have enough of it? Would you use some more? And if yes, do you believe you’re bad because you want money? Do you consider this wrong? And the answer to the last two is “no”. There’s not even the slightest need to feel bad, greedy or guilty about wanting money. But if you feel that way, you should  consider altering your concept of money. What if you truly and deeply believed money is a good tool to provide you with happiness, positive emotions, and good experience? Money could indeed bring you some pleasure. Agree? Yes? So accept it. Stop fighting with yourself and you could  live in abundance. And if you feel gratitude for all that you already have, you’ll only get more. Transforming your very idea of what money really is could help you achieve that. Think of it this way, you already have everything you need at your disposal. You have all the tools to have everything you ever dreamed of and be as happy as you could be. Don’t worry about the how, Universe will take care of that. She always does, if only you are clear in what you want. Otherwise, you might get an awkward mixture of all the things you kinda wanted. To get back to the point, you can have anything you want. Anything. You just have to request it. How? Picture it. Visualize it. Feel it happening. Feel the emotion of already having what you’re craving. Let me tell you how it works. If you constantly repeat to yourself: “I want money. I want money. I want money.”, that’s exactly what you’re gonna get. Universe is gonna give you the “want”, i.e. you’ll experience penury. On the other hand, if you act like you already have enough money for everything you want, that’s what She’s gonna give you. Try visualizing yourself having lots of money. Imagine yourself buying all that you want, spending money, giving it away. Study, travel, enjoy life, do whatever you want. Imagine how happy that would make you feel and put as much emotion as you can into that picture. This is the key, you have to make it as emotional as possible, that’s all you need to see it materializing into your own reality. You could practice this type of visualization during meditation or just in quiet times when you’re on your own and no one and nothing would interrupt you. Try to gradually relax your body. Quiet your mind. Let go of any thoughts, don’t fight them, just gently let them go. And when you feel you’re calm enough, you could start the practice. Start seeing things exactly the way you want them to be. And then… just enjoy the abundance!

The end of the road

What if you knew you’d never see the sun again or see another bird? What if you never saw flowers, clouds, trees, or children? What if this was it, the very last day of your life, the end of the road? If you knew this was it, would you be happier to look at the blue skies or feel the wind on your face? Would that make you smile? And how would it feel if this was the last breath you take, the last sound you hear, the last time you touch your significant one, or feel their body next to yours? So if you knew there was no more of it, would that make you act differently? Would you benefit more from everything? And if you knew this was the last special moment you have, would you treasure it more? Do you really need to know something is going to end to appreciate it? Usually and as stupid as most of us are, yes. We tend to ignore things that we already have, looking high above at those we don’t. Or a bit to the left from where we stand now. Or to the right. Anywhere else but here. Yeah, right, the grass is always greener on the other side… Fact is, it ain’t. Your grass could be as green as you like for as long as you want it. But as long as you keep overlooking your blessings, instead of counting them, your grass will always look yellow and dry to you. Funny enough, somebody else surely prefers your grass to their own.

We’ve all been there at some point. We have shelter, warm bed, clothes to wear, food to eat, water to drink, family to love us, friends to support us, children to make us see the greatness of life (in the lack of children, pets also do). And even if something in the above listing is missing, we still have it. All. But what we do is complain of what we don’t have. It’s good to be ambitious, yes. By default, aspiring for more is good, because it helps you grow. Hypothetically. But real question here is do you need it? Do you really want a greener grass? Do you really want more? Could you go without it? And who draws the thin line between need and greed? If you can’t answer any of these questions or you can’t find your real reasons for wanting something, then you have a problem. Motivation is important. You should know when, why, or how you feel the need to have something else. To know when what you have is not enough anymore. For your desire could only be an illusion, right? And again, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Yet another cliché, but oh, so true. However, not necessarily a must. You could start counting all of your blessings now. Why wait for them to go to appreciate them? Why try to win something back, when you could try to keep it in the first place? Start by practicing gratitude. Gratitude and appreciation for everything present in your life, good and bad, whatever the case. Practicing gratitude at the close of each day is a fool-proof way to fill your heart with warmth and light. And be sure that, being so kindly thanked for all the efforts, Ms. Universe will keep giving and giving. And this is not some kind of a treat for you being a good boy/girl. It’s more a matter of creating your reality in line with your wishes. As I keep saying, your life is a product of your concept of it, or in other words, what you make of it. Rule is, if you want to have something in your life, give it to somebody else, be it money, love, compassion, etc. Universal logics is, since you give it away, then you must obviously have it, so that’s what Universe does – gives you plenty of it. Simple rule, huh? Yeah, it’s that simple.

So how would you feel, if you knew it was the last time you see someone? Would you tell them something else, something wiser, or hold them closer? Would you cherish your last moment together as sacred? And if it was the last kiss, the last hug, would you treasure it more? Just think, if you’re not given the chance to admit that you were wrong, would you play it nicer? Sometimes we tend to overreact, be rude or totally inconsiderate to others, because we somehow believe that we could always make it up. Some other time. Next time. But what if there’s no next time? What if you never see that person again, how would that feel? Think about that. There’s no need to wait for things to collapse to do something about it. There’s no need to wait for the apocalypse, so you start caring for environment. And there’s no need to hurt someone just because you could always apologize later. Maybe not. So be wise, for life is full of surprises.