The Positive Focus Tool

We humans are almost never satisfied.  The moment we achieve something or acquire something or experience something, our mind wanders to the next biggest, newest, and shiniest thing.  This is called the hedonic treadmill. When we constantly want for more while losing track of what we already have in our lives, we cannot be happy or fulfilled.

1 month ago, 6 months ago, a year ago, etc. I was dreaming of accomplishing of what I’ve accomplished today.  Yet sometimes all I can think about is the future and goals and anything but the present.

A while ago I outlined a stoic tool called negative visualization which is a great way to LOVE what you already have.

I learned another useful tool a few months ago from a phenomenal business coach named Dan Sullivan called “The Positive Focus.”  This is a tool for reminding yourself of the things that you have accomplished so you can operate from a place of power rather than one of reactivity and weakness.

It’s very simple:

At the beginning of your day, a meeting, any new project, start out by writing down or verbalizing one to three things that you are proud of that has moved your towards your goals.  Yeah, no shit that’s actually it.  Try it for yourself and see.

Mindset Ceiling

Adee and I recently went to a business seminar and heard this great idea by one of the best business coaches in the world, Dan Sullivan.

He said that each one of us is operating at 100% capacity of our current mindset ceiling.  Lift the ceiling, and you will immediately improve.  This is a lifelong process.  I believe that we should be constantly searching for thoughts and beliefs that are holding us back from reaching our full potential.

The Art of Learning

I read a book called “The Art of Learning” a while back by Josh Waitzkin.  Josh was one of the greatest chess players of all time, a world champion Tai Chi artist, and now is one of the top performance psychologists for executives in the world.

Here is one of the biggest lessons I got from the book, and it applies to learning anything.   If you want to master a skill or an art, you should always be doing two things:

  1. Learn and master the basics. Practice the small things as a way of life, not as an end goal. Figure out what fundamentals you need to perfect in order to be good, and continue to practice them to become great.
  1. Always be pushing outside of your comfort zone, reading, listening, playing, testing out new theories, asking questions, etc. Push yourself down the path you want to go.  Or as my new friend Joe Polish says, surround yourself with people better than you and you will naturally be pulled up.

On one hand, practice the simple fundamentals to build and maintain a solid foundation.  On the other, push outside of your comfort zone to continue sharpening the spear.  It’s common for many of us to get stuck somewhere in the middle.

Relationship Lesson

When Michael and I argue or have any conflict we have different needs. Most times, I want to be touched and he wants space. Once we understood that about each other we started to learn (with the help of our mentor) how to go about resolving conflict more quickly.


It is completely unnatural for me to give him space. I want to hug him, hold him, and talk to him immediately until we have gotten through whatever it is. For him he finds it unnatural to touch me in those moments. He wants his space to clear his head, feel his emotions, and come back ready to clear the air. Neither approach is right or wrong – just different.


Because we love each other so much and want desperately to be the best versions of ourselves and satisfy the others needs we need to find a way to comfort the other. But what do you do when the comfort they are looking for conflicts with your own needs of comfort?


When Michael comes to me and touches me while I am upset I have to remember that this is the equivalent of him crawling out of the depths of hell to make me feel good. If I give him space, he needs to remember that it feels equally as uncomfortable and causes me the same pain as when he reaches out. With this in mind how do we find a common ground? How can we make it easier for the other to comfort us?


We celebrate the smallest progress.


The first time Michael tried this he reached over to me with the stiffest hand and patted me on the leg. It was the most awkward touch that was not anywhere close to the kind of touch that I was looking for. In that moment every part of my being wanted to stay upset and angry but the stronger part of me knew that this was so incredibly hard for him to do. If I rejected him in that moment of vulnerability, he would probably be terrified to ever try again. Instead I looked at him and thanked him for trying, praised him and let him know how grateful I was. Because of that he became more comfortable to try again and again and again until now he can come to me pull me into his arms and soften my mood just the way I like it (most times lol).


It might seem weird but we are all animals. We need to be conditioned too. When I was in University we worked with lab rats and taught them to push a lever to get a pellet of food. At first if the rat got close to the lever we let out the pellet, then when they touched the lever, and finally only when they pushed the lever down did they get the reward. Michael is much more handsome than the lab rat but him and I work just the same.




This principle can work with any behavior you are looking for. Praise the people you love for even the smallest of things to make them more comfortable doing the behaviors that don’t come naturally to them. If you want someone to work out more? Praise them for taking the stairs instead of the elevator, for going on a walk instead of driving, let them know how sexy their body is looking! Everyone wants to make others happy and proud so praise even the things that are not yet praiseworthy so eventually they will become so.

This one is personal.

Family is where you learn all of your habits good and bad.


Ever find that you have the same behavior present itself over and over again? Probably something you wish you didn’t do. For me two of the many have been feeling like I need to deal with conflict immediately and associating my volume with how right I am – the louder I am the more likely I am to “win.” Yours might be something completely different like completely withdrawing in the face of conflict, lying about certain things because you think it’s for the best, or not saying sorry and taking accountability for your part in an argument.


All of these habits were things you learned from the people you spent the most time with from ages 0 to 10 – usually your family. Those are the people that taught you how to love, accept love, argue, make up, have fun, and be happy. I am sure if you really think about it you can spot the same habit in them too. None of it is bad or wrong because they also taught you all your amazing habits but eventually you leave your house and start to develop relationships with people that learned differently than you did.


As you grow up and you see how other people live you realize that there are other ways you can do things that might serve you better. Dealing with conflict immediately leads me to act out of emotion and leaves no space for me to think logically. Once I saw someone take a moment, breath, and simply ask for some space I realized I could do that too. Every time I have done that I reach a faster and more peaceful conclusion. Does that mean I do it every time conflict occurs? Absolutely not. In fact sometimes I will even go the other direction and go cold and withdraw. However, the awareness and learning of other strategies that can replace my own bad habits has begun to create new patterns of behaviour for me. Now maybe in 2 out of every 10 conflicts I will stay calm, breathe, and not speak until I can be sure it is coming from a kind and authentic place. That is progress for me.


The biggest challenge of them all is to use your new found skills with the people who taught you the bad ones in the first place or with the people you are most vulnerable with (usually a spouse or best friend). Around my family the strongest manifestation of my bad habit will occur. Maybe this is because I know they love me unconditionally and will forgive me either way, or because this is the source of the habit. The sound of their voice, their physical presence, and their mannerisms are triggers. This is where it is the easiest to slip back in to old habits. There has not been a single time I have yelled, or reacted out of emotion and not regretted it. Every time I am embarrassed and shameful wishing I could go back in time and try it all over again. Now, I might be able to stay calm with friends, or new people I meet, but when it comes to my family or someone I can be vulnerable with like my husband I am presented with the greatest challenge of all.


I truly believe that if you can change your habits with your family or whoever you spent those early years with, you can change them for good. It is never too late to learn, grow, change, and most importantly say sorry. Hopefully they can join you in that journey and if not, your example will be strong enough to show them what’s possible for them too.

Push Your Parents

I started a new master’s program in Performance Psychology recently, and the first course was on adult development and aging.   In the class there were a few sections about the stereotypes of older adults such as “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” and everything related to retirement.

I was very interested since I have 4 grandparents over 70, and I also want to support my parents as best possible as they get older.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. The research on traditional retirement (work really hard until you’re 65 then just relax and do some traveling) as related to physical and mental health is pretty shitty. Life expectancy goes way down, disease and physical complications go up, depression goes way up, etc.
  2. A large reason that older adults become so dependent on others is due to societal beliefs. Caretakers (professionals and family members) praise them when they do what they are told and reprimand them when they try to do things on their own.
  3. The research shows that, at the age of retirement, older adults are especially interested in doing work that serves others.
  4. While they may take longer to make decisions, all the research shows that older adults are just as accurate as younger people in cognitive tasks.

In general, I learned that we need a serious overhaul in the way we think about, communicate with, and support older adults.

They want to grow and learn and be challenged just like everyone else.  They want to create value for others and do something meaningful just like everyone else.  They are as capable and eager to create value in people’s lives.

My biggest takeaways:

  1. We need to push our parents and other older adults to continue trying new things, or to continue learning and growing in what they are already doing. After retirement, this doesn’t mean they need to continue having a full-time job or new career, but they should be involved in some form of worthwhile project or discipline at all times.
  2. The “I’m too old to learn this piece of technology” excuse is complete bullshit. My grandma thought she’d never learn how to use the iPhone.  If we would have agreed with her, she would never be able to Facetime with us or see pictures of us. We patiently showed her how to use it again and again until she could use those  basic functions.

Push your parents and other loved ones to try and learn new things. Don’t accept bullshit excuses about being too old.  They’ll thank you for it later.

So You Want to Achieve a Goal?

Life is about growth. To me “the dream” is to wake up each day with purpose, a reason to be better. I recently learned a lesson from my mentor Annie Hyman Pratt that I think can relate to everything in life.


In our process of growth, learning, achievement, success, whatever it is, we always start somewhere and have an end goal, outcome, or vision. The starting point is A and the big outcome is B. When you start at A the range of acceptable behaviours is wide but the closer we get to B the narrower this becomes.


To make the point clearer I will use Basketball as an example. Starting at A is a young toddler just learning to play and at B this same player is playing in the NBA.


A young basketball player is praised for simply running in the appropriate offensive or defensive direction, or maybe just lining up in the right position. If they travel with the ball or don’t know how to dribble it’s acceptable. At that stage pretty much anything goes because its all about sparking that passion and making sure it’s fun!


Now, when you leave A and start moving towards B things become narrower. Now the basketball player needs to learn how to dribble the ball, shoot the ball, and pass to their teammates. This pattern continues as you get closer and closer to B. The closer you get to B the narrower the acceptable behaviour becomes. Eventually the player will need to understand strategy, offense, defense, and one day they will need to start attending practice. After that, off-court strength and conditioning becomes a factor. Then when you make it all the way to B your personal life is also under scrutiny.


You’ve gone from just moving in the right direction to becoming a star in the NBA.


If at any point you are unwilling to comply and adjust your behaviour to fit within the appropriate range, you are at a “choice point.” This is a point where you have to make a relatively simple choice. Being outside of the range and still achieving B is not an option, you cannot miss practice, stop working out, and still make it to the NBA. You choose to adjust or leave. Neither choice is better than the other.


This analogy can apply to every single goal. Whether you want to lose 50lbs (notice how the last 5 are always the most stubborn?), own a fortune 500 company, or make it to the Olympics. The closer you get the more you have to take into account. No one said achieving your goals would be easy.


The thing that I love most about this analogy is the hardest thing for most people to realize. Most people reach a choice point and want to go back to A. They want to go back to when it was acceptable to do those behaviours they are comfortable with. Maybe you want to be able to miss Basketball practice for a friend’s party, but it’s just not an option anymore. “But it used to be okay?!” The funny thing is that once you have left A – started playing more often, started losing weight, started your company, whatever it is – A is no longer an option, it truly doesn’t exist anymore.


You cannot go backwards, only forwards.

The Process

At times I focus too much on the end goal.

At times I just focus on achievements.

At times I compare myself to others.

I’ve noticed more and more lately that I’m happiest when I focus on my own effort and fall in love with the process of learning rather than being too tied to the outcome.

There will ALWAYS be more to achieve, and there will ALWAYS be someone out there doing something, maybe not your thing, bigger and better than you.  Focus on doing YOUR thing to the best of your ability, and fall in love with the process.

The Sacred and the Secular

When you first start dating someone that you really like every moment you are with them you feel connected and fully present. You aren’t distracted by texts and work and the ball game. Every moment with that person is sacred.

If you realize that you still really like them after months of getting to know every little quirk about them, then this is for you.

The deeper into relationships we go the more intertwined our lives become. We make plans together, sometimes really big plans. We get stuff together. Eventually we live together and share an apartment, split rent, pay bills together, etc. Then we may even get married and have kids.

All of these things require secular discussion, which basically means “that which is not sacred.”

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my relationship with Adee is to separate the sacred and the secular.

One of the sacred times for us is first thing in the morning and the last hour or two before bed. At one point, we were in the habit of talking about work, bills, etc. any time they popped into our heads (which is the natural tendency).

After a while we both felt a lack of connection and increased stress in general.

Once we learned about this concept we created rules to protect the sacred such as:

  • No talk of work, bills, or planning in the early morning or late night
  • No phones at the table while eating
  • No phones or talk of work while on a date or with friends (unless it comes up naturally in a conversation).

I encourage you to make your own rules to protect the sacred in your relationship. And follow them! Nothing is worse than making and breaking a commitment.

Letting Go of Resentments

Holding on to resentments is one of the most corrosive things you can do for your mental health.

When I hold on to resentments I’m doing so for a purpose.  The irrational thought is,”So and so has wronged me, and if I let go of this resentment then I let him/her off the hook.”

By holding on to these resentment I am “punishing” that person for wronging me.  But who is it really hurting?  Sure you can deny someone of your attention and friendship, but by “giving someone free rent in your head” YOU are the one that is really getting screwed.

I’ve held a resentment for years over a one-time event.  That means that for years I carried anger and discomfort around with me any time I thought of this person.  Not a very efficient way of dealing with emotions.

Through AA years ago I learned the absolute most effective way for dealing with resentments.  Try this out:

  1. Write down the name of the person, institution or idea.
  2. Write down objectively what they did to harm you.
  3. Write down what it affected – pride, self-esteem, finances, intimate relationships, friendships, etc.
  4. Write down your part in the situation.  This is the most important part. Sometimes my part is as simple as NOT saying something that I could have said to get what I wanted.  It could be something subtle or something blatant.  If you really feel like you had no part in it, keep thinking.

By stating and owning YOUR part in the situation, many times it will allow you to have even the slightest bit of compassion for the person.  If you’d have acted differently then maybe they would have to.

When we live with the belief that we are responsible for creating our own reality, we can live happy and free of resentment.