5 Rules For Living A Truly Rewarding Life…John Page Burton

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“Rule # 1 is life is hard and it’s unfair”! Growing up I lived next door to a cranky old man who shared “rule # 1” with me every time I mowed his lawn or shoveled his driveway. I routinely smiled and agreed with him out of fear that if I didn’t acknowledge his negativity he might withhold payment for my services. It has been estimated that 65% of our belief system is formed by the time we are eight years old. This “Doubting Thomas” could have left a negative imprint on my 10 year old psyche but I didn’t allow it! Even at a young age I held a belief that achieving anything of value would require hard work and a little bit of luck . All I had to do was look at my lawn mowing, snow removal and lemonade stand business’s to validate this belief.
All of us are governed by internal rules. Most of us established these rules at a young age. It is not uncommon to carry these rules into adulthood. For example, if we were betrayed by a parent(s) at an early age we may have adopted an internal rule that people can’t be trusted. Consequently, we go through life testing everyone’s allegiance. As children, some of us were caught in the wake of divorce. Because of this experience, many felt abandoned and established an internal rule that has kept them from getting “too close to others”  because after all, “they will end up leaving anyway”. The fear of abandonment has caused many of us to habitually test people’s loyalty and we may even adopt a philosophy of “I’ll leave you before you leave me”. These types of rigid internal rules have caused many of us to consistently “blow up” friendships as well as our most intimate of relationships. These types of internal rules not only stunt our personal and emotional growth but also leave us feeling lonely, sad and confused. But let’s not stay in such a negative mind space, instead let’s look at 5 rules that will allow us to live a truly rewarding life!
Rule # 1. Life is an adventure! Live it with passion and purpose! The key is to determine what we desire to achieve and then pursue it with laser focus. Living our lives to please others or taking an easy, comfortable route through life is surviving not thriving. We are never to old to begin a new chapter, sadly far too many closed the book in the prime of their life. CONTINUE TO DREAM BIG AND GO AFTER IT!
Rule # 2. Let go of EXPECTATIONS.  Our goal is to release our death grip on expectations. When we “expect” things to go exactly as we want them to we usually end up disappointed. I have a friend who has made a very long list of “exactly” what she is looking for in a man. Her list is so extensive and demanding that if Jesus Christ asked her out on a date he would end up getting the boot! The reality is that she desires to stay in her comfort zone and will find something wrong with every man she meets and will easily justify it by referring back to her ridiculous list of expectations.
Rule # 3. Trust your inner voice. In my experience, my inner voice is right 90% of the time. When we learn to trust our inner voice and make our decisions accordingly we have fewer regrets. I personally believe that our inner voice is the voice of our creator and I have become conditioned to rely on it. Every time we follow our inner voice and the outcome is positive (90% of the time) we have created a strong reference point for future decision making. When we are facing a tough decision, it is always a good idea to go somewhere quiet and simply listen. The answer can usually be found in our quiet moments.
Rule # 4. The past is a reference point, not a permanent resting place. As a life coach I experience the past on a daily basis. The vast majority of client discomfort involves their attachment to events from the past. It took me years to realize that there wasn’t a thing I could do to change the past. What I could do was change my relationship to it. I could use it as a reference point to help me make better decisions in the present moment. Re-living the past dampens our relationships and the overall experience of the present moment. If you are still enslaved to the past it may be time to seek outside help to determine what pleasure you are deriving from your tired old story.
Rule # 5. Show yourself some GRACE!  We learn through a process commonly referred to as trial and error. In my book, Wisdom Through Failure (2014) I provide countless examples of why failure plays such an important role in the development of our emotional intelligence. Many of us are relentless in our attacks on ourselves. “How could I have been so stupid”, “I should have used better judgement”, “I’m so fat”, “I look stupid in this dress”, “I can’t believe I fell for that guy”, the list of negative self talk is long. The key is to catch ourselves in “mid beat down” and re-phrase our speech. “I will certainly be wiser next time”, “I will keep a closer eye on my food plan”, “I will continue to live with an open heart”, “I look pretty darn good for a man in my mid fifties”. Many of us have become our own worst critic and it’s time to become our own best friend.
If your currently living life by these simple rules….GOOD FOR YOU! If you find yourself living a life that is far from what you know you are capable of, I would encourage you to begin incorporating these rules into your daily routine.  We all deserve to live a rich, rewarding life!
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

5 “NEEDS” That Stifle Our Personal & Professional Growth…John Page Burton

We all have needs. We need air, water and food to survive. Most of us have a need to feel safe, secure, loved and cared for.  I believe we can all agree that these are healthy needs. Unfortunately, not all of our needs are healthy. Many are destructive and can significantly stifle our personal and professional growth? Let’s take a closer look at 5 unhealthy needs and what we can do to create a shift.

1. The Need To Be Right. This need causes people to become argumentative, confrontational, condescending and vindictive. This need is Ego driven. The need to be right can be very polarizing in our personal and professional relationships. A person needing to be right struggles to consider any point of view that differs from than their own. Growth occurs when we become open and accepting of NEW and DIFFERENT beliefs, opinions and perspectives. It’s not as important to be right as it is to be respectful in our communication with others.

2. The Need For Constant Approval. This person expects to be acknowledged for everything they do. This juvenile, insecurity driven need is emotionally draining to spouses, friends, family members and co-workers. If you don’t acknowledge and shower them with praise they often become angry and resentful. Growth occurs when we learn to be humble. Our ACTIONS will always speak much louder than our words. We must learn to accept unsolicited praise, say thank you and move on. Nobody likes being around a person who “gloats” or demands acknowledgement.

3. The Need To Be Noticed. A person driven by this need is heavily influenced by appearances and is always in search of a new audience. They tend to base their self worth on material possessions and will go to great lengths to “flaunt their stuff”.  Characteristically, they are loud, boisterous communicators. They will do anything to grab the spotlight and they love to be seen as the “star of the show”. When they feel ignored, many will throw “adult temper tantrums” in a last ditch effort to satisfy their craving for attention. Growth occurs when we realize that substance is much sexier than stuff. People who crave notoriety tend to be seen as “show offs and braggarts”. People who exhibit humility and gratitude are generally seen as intelligent, trustworthy, responsible people.

4. The Need For Control. This need is fueled by insecurity and fear. Control is an avoidance strategy. At a subconscious level, the controller is simply avoiding their own self doubt and fear by focusing their energy on “fixing” and “manipulating” the people around them. Controllers are disappointed, frustrated and angry most of the time because rarely if ever do the people around them live up to their rigid expectations. “Control freaks” have a deep seated fear of being out of control and will do everything they can to control their environment. Growth occurs when we release our death grip on control, face our fears, embrace and accept failure, learn to delegate, appreciate that most people don’t desire to be “fixed” and commence on a dedicated journey toward self acceptance.

5. The Need To Be Needed. In my book Wisdom Through Failure, I refer to this need as “Helpful Harry Syndrome”. Helpful Harry routinely prioritizes the needs of others before his own. At first glance this seems to be a noble trait but in reality it is an avoidance strategy. Eventually, Helpful Harry becomes an angry giver as he comes to realize that many of his needs are not being met. The need to be needed does not encourage self sufficiency. In other words, “Helpful Harry’s” are teaching their children, spouses and employees to rely on others first. Growth occurs when we establish the habit of meeting our own needs before we focus on meeting the needs of others. With that being said, it is important to prioritize the needs of small children, those with disabilities and of course the elderly. We must encourage our adult children, spouses and employees to become problem solvers and doers. Admittedly, many may consider this a “self centered” approach, however, in the long term it will pay big dividends.

The beauty of personal growth is that ALL of us are a work in progress. It is VERY safe to say that none of us will ever achieve total mastery. We are human! Our goal is to recognize a familiar program when it begins to run and make an immediate shift toward our truth. With each shift we lay the foundation for our NEW REALITY.  As a wise man once said…SHIFT HAPPENS!

As Always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.
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The JOY of FAILURE…John Page Burton

Lets face it, most of us have a jaded relationship with failure. Many of us have experienced a love gone south, a business venture or career decision that didn’t go as planned or we may have even raised a child who chose to journey down a criminal path. Many of us have blamed ourselves for these “failures” and we have developed a negative self image as a result of them. When tough times happen (they will) it is our interpretation of the event that determines how we move forward. I recently wrote a book titled, Wisdom Through Failure. In this book I encourage my readers to first embrace and then establish a positive relationship with failure. This new relationship is essential for our mental health. Lets take a look at three ways we can find the positives (joy) from our perceived failures.

What was enjoyable about this experience? Looking back was it really all that bad? My intention is not to be a Pollyanna, however, ALL of us are capable of looking back and finding aspects of any experience that can put a smile on our face. By taking this approach we condition our mind to seek the positive in any given situation. For example, once upon a time I was in love with a girl. One day we got into a terrible fight and broke up. For weeks, I floated between the emotions of sadness, anger and guilt. I just couldn’t find anything positive about what “she had done to me”. (victim mindset) Twenty years later, it is easy to recall many fond memories of our time together. I needed to go through this “perceived failure/rejection” in order to become the person I am today. This experience allowed me to grow and it prepared me to meet the amazing women I now share my life with. Time can soften the hardest heart. Seek to find the positive aspects of the experience.

How did I grow from this experience? Who and where would I be if I had not gone through this? Like many, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting back on the things that I considered setbacks or outright failure. It is human nature to dwell on what we did “wrong ” and take for granted what we did “right”. Today, when I go through a rough spot, I tend to look for the lesson in the experience. What was I supposed to learn? When we seek to find the lesson, our setbacks and failures can be viewed from a more positive, conscious perspective.

Did this experience make me stronger? Anyone who has come out on the other side of a terminal illness will never look at their everyday challenges in the same way. Because of their near death experience, they now have an entirely different perspective. As survivors of the ultimate adversity, they now view setbacks and failures as mere bumps in the road. We don’t have to be an illness survivor to begin viewing our everyday challenges for what they really are….speed bumps. We can look back on a challenge, embrace the lesson, recognize that we are still standing and use this awareness to successfully navigate through future challenges. This is what I like to refer to as “personal power”.

If given a choice most of us would prefer to succeed at everything we do. Unfortunately this is not how it works. By implementing these three strategies we can re-frame any negative experience and truly begin finding the “joy” in our failure.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and perspective.

ONE RUG AT A TIME, A Dogs Journey To Inner Peace…John Page Burton

A year ago this month Diana and I adopted a dog from The Humane Society of The White Mountains. Our new “fur buddy” had been significantly abused and for Mr. Deeks (his new name) the world was an extremely dangerous place where the next kick, punch or worse could come at any moment. He had been found roaming the woods with his brother. Both dogs were extremely malnourished, scarred and understandably mistrusting of humans. Upon arriving at our home, Mr. Deeks instantly found a specific place in the living room that he deemed safe, curled up in a ball and spent the majority of his first week anchored to this “comfort zone”. We fed him by hand. A week later we adopted a companion for him, a little puppy who we named Kensi. From the moment Kensi arrived in our home she and Mr. Deeks hit it off and we can’t help but credit her whimsical nature for bringing out the “inner puppy” in Mr. Deeks.

This past weekend Diana and I paid a visit to our friends Tom and Judy. Our dogs love to interact with their dogs and it quickly becomes a circus atmosphere as all of the dogs are rescues, with each dog exhibiting their own unique set of challenges and triggers. For example, Mr. Deeks is very cautious when he encounters sliding glass patio doors. On Saturday morning, “the humans” and all of the other dogs were in the living room area, that is except for Mr. Deeks who was standing in front of the sliding glass patio door making a familiar squeaking sound that lets us know he is afraid. I encouraged him to come to me. Initially, he put one paw across the door frame and quickly pulled it back. This process went on for several minutes. I continued to encourage him. Eventually, he stuck his head and two paws through the door frame but quickly withdrew to the safety of the patio. I continued to speak words of encouragement to my buddy. A few minutes later the squeaking sounds began in earnest and much to my amazement Mr. Deeks was standing on the first of three throw rugs placed between the patio door and the opening to the living room. He looked at me and again “bolted back to the safety of the patio but this time he quickly returned to the first throw rug. With his squeaker in full force he reached his paw toward the second throw rug, closed his eyes and launched onto rug #2. By now all of “the humans” were cheering him on. He quickly bolted back to the safety of the patio. Kensi began making her own unique little squeaking sounds and before we knew what had happened Mr. Deeks was now standing on rug #3. This time instead of racing back to the patio he began to extend his paw across the door frame leading into the living room. After about 30 seconds, he bolted back to the safety of rug #2. Yes, I said rug #2. Deeks had established a new safety zone. Finally, he looked at all of his raving fans, turned his squeaker up full volume, closed his eyes and made a dead run for the couch. Mr. Deeks was safely in my lap. Cheers went up and his sister Kensi began licking his face. Mr. Deeks had just experienced a major BREAKTHROUGH in Tom and Judy’s living room. For the rest of our visit Mr. Deeks cruised around the house, stood in line for treats and bascially acted like he owned the place. His courage combined with a great deal of encouragement and acceptance from Kensi and “the humans” had led Mr. Deeks to finally leave his comfort zone and enter a brave new world of endless possibilities. He had built new muscles of courage.

How many of us “humans” live in a world of fear and doubt? Our life experiences have left us feeling frightened and alone. We don’t know who to trust and so we cling tightly to our comfort zones. Much like Mr. Deeks, we desire to expand our world and experience what lies on the other side of the “patio door” but we end up giving in to our fears and we return to the patio feeling even more frustrated and defeated. All of us can learn a great deal from the journey of Mr. Deeks. Here are a few of my takeaways from the BREAKTHROUGH I witnessed on Saturday.

*We ALL need a companion, someone who is there to pick us up when we are down. (They may not lick our face but we know they love us unconditionally and accept us for who and where we are) We ALL need to know that we have “raving fans”, people who cheer us on as we build our muscles of courage. IF YOU DO NOT NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW PLEASE FIND SOMEONE WHO DOES AND BE THIS PERSON FOR THEM.

*We are not our past. People can be cruel. They can do very unconscious things to us. We must show ourselves grace and keep moving toward the light. There a far more amazing, loving, caring, understanding, supportive people than there are cruel people. We must give ourselves permission to trust again, albeit one validation at a time. This is often a very slow process but one we must engage in if we desire to find inner peace. We must be willing to approach our desires and goals ONE RUG AT A TIME. Once we experience this BREAKTHROUGH our patio doors will never hold us hostage again. We now know what lies on the other side and IT IS GOOD!

*We must show grace to ourselves and others. Saturday was not the first attempt by Mr. Deeks to cross through a sliding glass patio door. Prior to Saturday he had never done it before. We have encouraged him to join us on our deck at both our mountain and city homes and although he has stood at the door and squeaked he has always retreated back to the safety of the living room couch. With every failed attempt we have shown him grace and let him know that the patio was his to enjoy as well as ours. We never placed him out there against his will because we knew that this would keep him from ever having a patio BREAKTHROUGH. We showed him grace and didn’t make him feel bad because he was afraid. This continued grace allowed him to finally experience his BREAKTHROUGH on Saturday.

We were ALL born into a different set of circumstances. None of us are any better than anyone else! We are ALL children of God who have traveled down different, sometimes painful paths. Our challenge is to live our lives in a manner that prioritizes grace and unconditional love. Strength doesn’t come from inflicting pain, strength is born from compassion. BTW….Since returning back to our mountain home, Mr. Deeks has routinely traveled back and forth through the sliding glass patio door and now spends much of his time lounging in a patio chair. Go figure, he has expanded his world!

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

FATE or CHOICES? You Must Decide…John Page Burton

FATE is a word that many of us use to describe events that we believe are out of our control. Many of us describe FATE with words like destiny or divine purpose. For example, some believe that FATE is why Will Smith is one of the highest paid actors in the world and why Will Smith is also currently serving a 10 year sentence in a state correctional facility. Has Will Smith’s life been shaped by FATE or by his CHOICES? I recently spent time with a person who is having significant health challenges. This person is at least 80 lbs over their ideal body weight and they seem to have little interest in diet or exercise. During our conversation they stated that it was simply “their FATE” to experience health problems. I couldn’t help but believe their health challenges were caused more by their CHOICES than by FATE and that they were using the concept of “FATE” as an avoidance strategy. So why does one person named Will Smith end up becoming a box office sensation while another Will Smith ends up serving a 10 year sentence for armed robbery? Was it FATE or was it the bi-product of their CHOICES?

I am a true believer in the “laws of attraction” and I have experienced the awesome power of manifestation on many occasions. In other words, what I have focused on has eventually become my reality. I also believe in the law of motion which says that we must keep moving toward where we desire to be. Our actions must be congruent with our intentions. In order for Will Smith to have become the box office sensation he is today, he first had to practice, master his craft, believe in his talents, move to California, go to countless auditions and finally accept the role of the Fresh Prince on the hit show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Will Smith made specific choices that delivered him a life of fame and fortune. The other Will Smith made a series of choices that delivered him a much different lifestyle.

Everyday we are presented with choices. Every choice comes with a potential consequence. If I choose to drink and drive there is a distinct possibility that I may cause harm to myself or others. If I smoke a pack of cigarettes every day, there is a reasonable possibility that I will have significant respiratory challenges later in life. If I eat a high fat diet there is a possibility I will develop heart disease. If I engage in an extra marital affair there is a possibility that my marriage may end. There is also a possibility that none of these choices will produce any adverse effects whatsoever, which brings us back to Fate.

FATE or CHOICES? You decide.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.