Tag Archives: positive habits

Want Spontaneity in Your Life? Act Intentionally!

Diligence is the mother of good luck. ~ Unknown

Remember that time something great happened to you completely unexpectedly? Maybe it was a cute meet, that moment when someone attractive happened to catch your eye and life went click. Or maybe it was that completely unexpected piece of business that made you a lot of money. Wouldn't it be great if life were always that fluky?

I have good news and bad news for you.

Want Spontaneity in Your Life? Act Intentionally!

GOOD NEWS: Most likely your life if much more serendipitous than you realize.

BAD NEWS: The more serendipitous your life is the less likely it is that wonderful, unexpected things like this will happen to you.

The less consciously you are pursuing the things you want in life the more your life is filled with spontaneity. Of course that does not mean that great things are happening to you all the time, only that whatever does happen, good or bad, is by chance. Like playing the lottery, the odds are long that you will get a life-changing payoff.

Recently I was chatting with a friend who told me the biggest client he landed in the last two years came out of nowhere. He had not prospected to get her business and had never spoken to her before she called him to say she wanted to work with him. Amazing right?

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Here is the rub. Over that two-year period my friend cold called 150 to 200 people per week. That is between 15,000 and 21,000 people! Think about how many NOs! he heard. If he had not faced all that rejection he would never have been well known enough to inspire this great client to call him. This is how life works:

The more you intentionally pursue success the more wonderfully serendipitous things will happen.

This is part of the risk-reward nature of life.

In The Richest Man in Babylon, Arkad says, "Men of action are favored by the Goddess of Good Luck." What does she find so alluring? Someone who knows what he wants and is working hard to get it.

So decide what you want, start working hard for it, and create a luckier life.

Question – What great thing happened to you seemingly out of the blue that was actually the result of hard work?

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How to Live Better with Less

Nostalgia for simpler times is undoubtedly a part of aging. Yet the burgeoning minimalist movement, which seems to be most active among people younger than me, indicates that on some level life today is uncomfortably complex. Talking about this with my running partner stirred a few thoughts. So picture this: It seems two rabbis were jogging down the street when . . .

How to Live Better with Less

Two weeks ago I said goodbye to beautiful Point Loma and rejoined civilian life. Notable changes include having to decide what to wear each morning, driving my daughter to and from school, and viewing brown grass out my bedroom window instead of the Pacific Ocean. But perhaps the biggest and most difficult to accept is living in our new house in Los Angeles. When I left active duty last year we found a gorgeous 1920’s Spanish bungalow with a separate finished garage that I used for my office and library. Suffice it to say I spent an hour sweeping up rat dropping in the garage of our new house.

Fact is we were fortunate to find it. Supply is short in our neighborhood. And our landlord is terrific (I’d say so even if he didn’t read my blog!) So when my running partner asked how my new house was I felt guilty for complaining about what was essentially a matter of aesthetics. Laughing, he reflected on the idea of

How quickly comforts become necessities

Slap forehead with heel of hand.

For eight months I lived in a hotel room, albeit ten feet from the ocean. Somehow I did without most of the comforts of home: just my navy uniforms, exercise clothes, one set of civvies, about 20 books, and rarely ate hot food. Yet life was enjoyable. I had no expectation of luxury because I was living away from my family on a military base.

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Back home on the weekends and now for good, my life seems drab, enhanced by neither an ocean view nor elegant architecture. Yet I am blessed to have a home that is much more comfortable than navy bachelor housing and pretty much any place I lived in as a kid. More importantly, I have my wonderful wife and precocious daughter and the blessing of comforts that are necessities.

Previously I wrote that managing expectations is a key component to happiness. Surrounded by the affluence and consumerist culture we enjoy in America it is easy to accustom yourself to accepting nothing less than the ideal. Yet the ideal is that unachievable Utopia that keeps you striving.

Happiness = Knowing which comforts are truly necessities

So I will better habituate to counting my blessings, fortunately with the help of the men with whom I have prayed for over 10 years. I will live with my priceless family and without an exquisite house. I will not become accustomed to comforts that are not necessities. And the next time my running partner asks me how I am doing the canvas of my life will be brightly painted.

Hmmmm, I wonder what I’d be writing about if instead of jogging, two rabbis went into a bar . . .

Question – How do you prevent yourself from becoming too expectant of comfort?

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How to Rid Yourself of Fearing Pain

The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you're in control of your life. If you don't, life controls you. – Tony Robbins

Do you like pain? I do not. It’s, well a pain. At best annoying and disagreeable, at worst deeply wounding – physically, emotionally, even spiritually - pain avoidance would seem to be the wisest path. People as intelligent as Aristotle and Ayn Rand advocated doing so. Why would anyone welcome physical soreness, heartache, or spiritual anguish? Why indeed.

How to Rid Yourself of Fearing Pain

For decades I avoided pain like the proverbial plague. Sometimes I passed up enjoyment and social engagement rather than risk experiencing pain. At the same time, I often wondered why my life never seemed to get anywhere. Serial relationships that never matured into marriage, business plateauing, an unfulfilled spiritual yearning: but another custom-tailored suit or handmade pair of shoes assuaged the loneliness and lack of satisfaction.

Then I got married and pain avoidance was no longer a practical strategy. Festering professional dissatisfaction and dislike of my physical state had to be resolved lest my glumness destroy the one area in which I was making progress. Creating a relationship with my wife was the imperative. Here is the truth:

Rarely does comfort impel growth or change

I began working on physical fitness. My diet had to change. No more dinners consisting of a dozen sourdough rolls and a pint of Haagen-Dazs washed down with a liter of Diet Caffeine-Free Coke. Caloric intake was reduced to 1500 a day, primarily whole-grain breakfast cereal, fresh fruit and vegetables, non-fat cottage cheese, salsa, a handful of tortilla chips, and water. After three months of hunger pains as my constant companion, I had lost almost 30 pounds.

I started exercising. One day about a year later I looked in the mirror after showering and realized I did not recognize the person staring back. Aching muscles had led to a physical state that I could be proud of. That is when I learned one of life’s fundamental rules:

Pain = Success

As painfully frightening as giving up my business was going to be, I hold to let go of it. With Melanie’s guidance, I became a Navy Rabbi. Many of you know what my life has been since then.

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What you probably do not know is that I continued to shy away from painful situations, and still do to this day. But ever more frequently I see such behavior for what it is: self-defeating. Living intentionally: physically, mentally, and spiritually means being reconciled to experiencing pain. Actually, it means more than that. Many times it must be sought, pursued like a precious elixir. When you drink it, not only are you out of your comfort zone, you are growing.

Remember the television show The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby? As he changed from Dr. Bruce Banner into the Hulk, transforming his body, you could see, hear, even feel his pain. And while this was just a TV show, the metaphor is apt.

While as I write this I cannot say that I always embrace pain, yet the thought of experiencing it intimidates me far less frequently than in the past. This process never ends.

If I could convince you of one thing that would help you be happier and live your life with greater intention it is the formula I wrote above:

Pain = Success

I urge you to think about this question and respond, even if it only to your spouse or yourself:

Question – In what area of life has avoiding pain blocked your personal growth? How will you confront it today?

Please comment on this question or ask another question below.

Why You Must Manage Expectations to Be Happy

If I just had [fill in the blank] I would be happy!

Maybe it is more money, the loss of a certain number of pounds, a spouse. In fact, when you look around, the people who are successful seem to have the things you lack. Would it surprise you to know that most of the happiest people I know have very little yet they are neither poor nor monks?

Why You Must Manage Expectations to Be Happy

Not long ago while visiting one of the submarines in my squadron I was asked by several of the chief petty officers to bring some perspective to a debate they were having. Concerned that morale among submariners was low, they wanted to do more for their sailors so as to improve it. They were flabbergasted to find that among surface fleet, aviation, and the Silent Service (a.k.a. submarines) their sailors’ morale was highest. Explaining that because they had low expectations about life underwater, their sailors managed their expectations accordingly.

As you might imagine, submariners have no Internet access, cellphone service, Facebook, or sunlight for that matter. For a six to seven month deployment, they can bring only clothes and personal gear that fit in a space about 6” x 30” x 72”. Can you imagine such a life? I read recently that people are so connected they check their cellphones 150 times a day. Talk about withdraw.

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Despite such deficiencies, submariners are happy not only in comparison to other sailors but in general. There is even a term for sailors whose morale is so low they seek to get out of submarines: going sad. They take pride in being happy notwithstanding such a Spartan environment.

You may be tempted to take away from this the idea that the basis of happiness is to live a simpler, less cluttered life. If that is your desire then you are right. But abstemiousness is not necessarily virtuous. It is possible to get a great deal of pleasure from things. Though I have had it for more than ten years, I still greatly enjoy driving my convertible BMW, especially along the coast.

Submariners have learned the two keys to being happy:


Living intentionally means managing your expectations: focus on your goals, believe you will achieve them, stake your happiness on your current situation. A positive outlook of being happy will help you accomplish more.

Question – How do you manage your expectation about life?

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How to Get Your Life Moving in All Areas

Living intentionally requires continual development of fitness in the physical, mental, and spiritual realms. While they overlap, each has it importance in living a balanced, resilient life. How can you tell if you are there?

How to Get Your Life Moving in All Areas

Benchmarks for Living Intentionally

Some indicators that your plan to live intentionally is working are:

  1. You sleep well
  2. Overall you feel good
  3. You have a positive outlook
  4. What people say and do does not bother you
  5. While you continue to strive you are content with life and the progress you are making

Like most worthwhile goals in life, pursuing an intentional, balanced life can be frustrating since the realms interact and overlap. You need to be like a symphony conductor working to harmonize not only the various sections of your orchestra, but the soloists too. At times, the percussion section will need all your attention and to a great extent the woodwinds and strings will have to play on their own. If you get sick and lose your job or your business declines, rebuilding your health and finances may have to take precedence over advancing your mental and spiritual fitness.

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Or, you may choose to focus intensely on strengthening your marriage. At such a time all other aspects of improving your spiritual fitness, as well as your physical and mental fitness, will be secondary. But eventually you will have to turn your attention back to them lest your orchestra starts playing out of sync or worse some of your musicians, your children or friends, abandon you.

Begin Where You Can See Your Life Moving Soonest

Where do you start? I recommend you begin with the physical realm. It is the easiest one in which to make an impact. Also, without health, financial well-being, and some leisure pursuits, it is difficult to focus on mental and spiritual growth.

Once you have developed the tools for moving your physical fitness in a positive direction, you can begin work on the additional tools you will need to improve your mental fitness. Likewise moving from the mental to the spiritual realm.

With all three realms you will need information so that you can determine what fitness is. You should write an integrated personal mission statement from which the rationale for each of your goals is drawn. The process is similar to writing a business mission statement. Finally, you will need to develop goals to pursue in each of the realms.

It is crucial that initially you do not inscribe your mission and goals in stone. As you begin to work on them you will find conflicts. As well, when you start moving in the direction your mission statement leads, you may find it is not exactly what you had in mind. Periodic, intentional reviews and revisions after an adequate testing period are crucial to successfully creating a holistic plan for living intentionally.

Over the next two weeks I will be writing about the most crucial tools you will need for achieving fitness in each of the three realms: physical | mental | spiritual. I think you will quickly see that there is a back and forth process in which you will have to engage as you move closer to your ideal self.

Here is the key: slow and steady progress. Begin with the physical realm, then proceed through the mental and spiritual realms until you are advancing on all three pillars. Now you are living intentionally.

Question – What aspect of personal development do you think is crucial to living intentionally?

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