To Engage, or Not to Engage: That is The Question


The worldAre you happy with things the way they are? Do you believe that things could be better?

Are you satisfied with the state of the nation? Are you pleased with how things go at work? Are you happy with today’s world? Are young people too brazen? Are old people too stubborn? Are politics BS? Is hell “other people”?

In this week’s blog post we examine some of our frustrations and sources of stress. As we’ll discuss, we have more power over the dysfunctional elements in our environment than we think.

To believe there is nothing that we can do to stave off the negative influences of the things that displease us is not only a fallacy, it also contributes to the issues we wish to dissolve.

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DeploreFrom noisy neighbors and aggressive drivers to global politics, each day we are exposed to a plethora of issues or circumstances that conjure feelings of disbelief and lead to outright frustration. Furthermore, things we find troublesome awaken our fears, discouragement or anger, contributing to our stress.

Some things bother us, plain and simple. And when they do, they cause emotional reactions. Those reactions, in turn, affect our ability to focus and operate at our best.

The question is: to what degree do we let things bother us, and how do we react when we become aware of it?

RUMITo whine; to deplore…

Our natural reaction is to disengage or dissociate from the things bothering us. When we see or hear about something with which we are displeased or are radically against, we keenly distance ourselves from the position that is contrary to our beliefs. We do that mostly to assert our individuality; we align ourselves with things and positions that we relate to. Much of this is controlled by our ego.

Sometimes we feel we can’t weigh in on the issues; that our opinions have no impact and we are unable to affect the outcome. We can then keep our discontentment bottled up and remain silent.

At other times, we voice our displeasure and are eager to point out the perceived errors in logic, efficiency, morality or justice. However, by speaking up to assert ourselves, we also fuel the debate, which never helps in the resolution of the problem. We judge and criticize, and by expressing our animosity, we accentuate the chasm separating one viewpoint over the other. It’s like a form of child’s play: how feverishly can we argue to have the last word.

Whether we voice our displeasure or remain silent, our disengagement and dissociation don’t move the issue toward a positive and constructive resolution. By whining too much and giving these issues more attention, we may actually cause them to propagate and escalate.

NegativeThe more negative energy we feed into something, the more it has energy to survive and perpetuate.

Even when we are silent about our displeasure or frustration, we feed that which we perceive to be wrong with more oxygen to live on. The issues get to us and preoccupy our minds, alter our attitudes, our belief systems, our decisions and our actions. This depletes our potential by way of the attitudes and thoughts we foster toward the things with which we are displeased or in disagreement.

Firstly, our potential is affected because of the time we squander thinking, listening or talking about these issues, and our attention is no longer allocated to engaging with the things we’d rather be doing, that can bring us satisfaction, or that could help in addressing the issues with which we have a problem.

Secondly, the negativity and resistance that we harbor toward that which we loathe also affect our disposition pertaining to other things. Sometimes directly: we get worked up and our ability to focus diminishes; sometimes indirectly: we become more cynical, feel that our thoughts or initiatives are inconsequential, and our sense of purpose spirals downward, all of which resulting in a diminished focus or effort to succeed at what we would really want to accomplish. It’s the cost of our passive-aggressiveness.

So, what is the alternative?

To engage; to thrive…

Positive MindChange begins within us, in our beliefs and attitudes.

  1. We can begin by not letting anything of which we disapprove interfere with our dispositions or thought processes, including the thought of disapproval itself; start by eliminating expressions like “I hate this…” or “I don’t like it when…” from your discourse (and your thoughts).
  2. We can view the things bothering us as not worthy of our consideration and time, even when others love to fuss over them.
  3. We can consider why an issue is really bothering us. Sometimes, the answer we find reveals more about ourselves (insecurities) and our biases (upbringing and prejudice) than about the issues.
  4. We can educate ourselves on the issues to understand how something that seems so wrong can actually come to be; start imagining how we’d rather have it be and how to get there.
  5. We can accept that there should be room for other views, choices and preferences than only ours. Our disinclination to embrace such things shouldn’t be a reason to be bothered by them and reject them. Learn to accept and co-exist.

Positive interactionsChange begins with us, in our interactions.

  1. We can choose not to participate in gossip and voice negative opinions.
  2. We can resist other people engaging us in discussions about frivolous things, especially things we feel negatively impact society or contain some sort of bias or prejudice.
  3. We can steer our dialogs and interactions toward subjects where positive and constructive energy can be added.
  4. We can encourage others to take a positive attitude toward things they seem displeased with, and challenge them to think of resolution rather than criticism or abolition.
  5. We can support others’ initiatives, even when they’re not “our thing”.

Way to goChange begins with us, in our choices.

  1. We can discipline ourselves in not spending time watching or discussing things we disapprove of, even when we think it’s only to make fun of it or to see how stupid it can really get.
  2. We can change our environment (including who we hang out with) to contain more of the issues and topics that we believe are of significance and have positive effects on our environment and the world.
  3. We can choose how we vote with our ballots and our wallets. How we express our principles and how we entertain ourselves is an opportunity to support the things we value.
  4. We can choose to be original (ourselves) and guide our choices from the heart, rather than by popular opinion or by fear of how others would perceive us because of our choices.

EngagementChange begins with us, in our actions and engagement.

No matter what our charter is or what we do in life, our actions can be directed toward effecting the change we desire in the world. Be it what we make or do, the opinions we cast, what we buy, or the philanthropic and charitable initiatives we support or start on our own, everything we do bears an influence and has consequences.

grand canyonCertainly, our engagement in doing and behaving in ways that we deem are right will tilt the scales of society only slightly. But think of it as the making of the Grand Canyon. Every single drop that passed through the brook, the river, then the gorge, contributed to creating one of the largest geological wonders of the world. Our actions are those drops. In addition, each drop that erodes further compels other drops to fall within the path that is previously carved. By our actions, we influence and lead others to adopt the attitudes and behaviors of which we wish there were more.

Positive ChoicesPassive-aggressive behavior isn’t the way to go. It poisons our souls, erodes our passion and turns us into hypocrites. Why choose this route for our lives, when we only have one life, and when we secretly wished we could become heroes? Choosing the right course doesn’t mean we’ll get the hero of the year award; it means that we can sensibly contribute in crafting the world in ways that we want it to be. Without getting the hero-award, we can still enjoy extraordinary lives.

sarcasmBut most importantly, we should never fall for sarcasm or cynicism because this prevents us from adopting the right behaviors and reacting positively. Doing the right thing is the only way to instill in us a greater sense of purpose and direction. It helps us build character, set the course for a brighter destiny and forge a legacy we can be proud of. When things seem desolate or pathetic, this is the way to brighten our path in achieving our personal success and happiness, and to contribute in making the world a better place for us and future generations.

better world

Thank you puppyThank you for reading and leaving your observations on the issue in the comment section below. Different points of view will help others get clarity on the question. Feel free to drop a question or suggest a topic that I may use for a future blog post in discussing the achievement of success and happiness and inspiring you to add “A Dash of Greatness” to your lives?

I wish you and yours much Success and Happiness, ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere in paperback and e-format and at http://www.OurXFactor.com.

Xavier Van de Lanotte

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it Count.

The text is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things.

Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions! Our X Factor guides us through an exciting, informative and enlightening journey, and shows us how to be GREAT!

We were all born ordinary people. Yet we can lead extraordinary lives!

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VICTORY! Do this, get that, and be HAPPY…


money cant buy“Money can’t buy happiness.” We’ve heard it before, and at this dawn of “mindfulness” era (yes, the world and our perspectives are changing), people are less and less inclined to argue this statement.

It remains, nonetheless, that we would like to believe that there are certain things that make us happy. Is it a fallacy to think so, or is it more commonly our figures of speech leading us to confusion about our true state of happiness?

Happy PharrelHello everyone, and welcome to my blog. My name is Xavier Van de Lanotte, strategy consultant, writer and speaker. My interest resides in “strategy” and “success and happiness”, which isn’t coincidental.

From my perspective, both subjects spawn from a same logical approach, which is about making sense out of what we, humans, do, whether it is to sustain our existence through our professions, or to manage other aspects of our lives. If a corporation creates customer value to rationalize its existence, then we, individually, rationalize our lives through our purpose. My focus is to help optimize the processes that lead to the achievement of the best possible outcomes for both, people and companies.

PurposeToday I’d like to examine what the “act” of “being happy” may, or may not entail, as it doesn’t always add up to what we believe it is, or, at least, the way we talk about it. Why should this matter to us? It matters if we care to have a greater awareness about ourselves and our environment and put what we do with our lives into proper perspective; i.e.: to have a deep understanding of our purpose and our process.

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Yard workPeople say the darnedest things sometimes. What they say may sound great or quaint and innocuous, sometimes even uplifting. Yet at a deeper level, does it make sense?

I’m retired, Xavier. I take care of my home and garden, and I visit with my grandchildren, and that makes me happy,” my always-jovial neighbor told me, recently.

At the end of a day at the office, I’m happy to get home and pour a glass of wine for me and my husband, and I cook a meal we enjoy at the table with our kids ,” I overheard a woman say at a cocktail party, two weeks ago.

MarriageGetting married! Soooo Happy…♥♥♥☺” a friend posted on Facebook, just this weekend, to share the news about her engagement.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids are my source of happiness…, I’d do anything for them. But this is my ‘me’ time I get to enjoy three times a week,” a member at my gym told me last month.

Man, I’m so happy! I’ve finally fixed up my boat and I’m taking it out to go fish on the bay with some friends, this weekend. You should come sometime,” an acquaintance told me, earlier this summer.

Money can't buy happinessMoney can’t buy happiness… but it helps,” is more often what we really hear people say.

All of these quotes sound marvelously exciting. They bring us joy. They help us get through the day. They illustrate all the wonderful things for which we are grateful. They testify to the fact that life offers more than the daily grind at the workplace and the headaches we put up with, day after day, year after year. And they remind us that we have others in our lives to love, to connect with, and to share things with, the good and the bad. It’s great! We could have been much worse off…

Fishing boatSadly enough, they are also indicative that something may be missing. There isn’t enough money (ever—LOL). We can’t spend all of our time with the grandchildren or the children—they have lives too. How much time of our year are we actually fishing in the bay with our friends, floating on our prized possession? Will the change in marital status really fill our lives with bliss? And aren’t we a bit too old to have moved into a fixer-upper, if our homes and gardens take up this much of our time in retirement?

At some point, we could admit that these wonderful things in our lives provide necessary breaks in the lives we live the rest of the time. And when we consider it this way, can we still say that we are truly happy? Can we be happy just part of the time; certain times of the day, certain periods of the year, or from the time we get engaged until sometime after our honeymoon is but a distant memory? Can our happiness really be contingent on our affections for other people, key events or achievements, or our possessions?

Pursuit of happinessI came across a thought-provoking post from a friend and coach this weekend that reads: “The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”

Well, if we removed all those wonderful actions or possessions from our lives, would we still be happy?

Why can’t we be happy without those things?

We should be Happy all of the Time, with or without those Things.

In a survey, the following question was asked: Which one of these brings you the most happiness?

  1. Helping others
  2. Following your dreams
  3. Making the world a better place
  4. Caring for loved ones

The answers to choose from are suggestive of the nature of the things we believe are embedded in our purpose. Each entails wonderful things to embrace, but none are sources of happiness, per se. However, the pursuit of our purpose can in fact be a source of happiness.

Actions, people or things cannot be sources of happiness, nor can their absence be sources of unhappiness. Happiness resides in our satisfaction with what we do with our lives; the fulfillment of a purpose, elaborate, humble, noble or commonplace it may be. If we do what is required to achieve that level of satisfaction, in effect, we choose to embrace our happiness.

Grand kidsWhile it is conceivable that owning a boat, fishing, raising kids and grandkids, getting married or caring for our homes is the single most important thing in our lives right now, it is unlikely that our purpose and principal reason for our entire existence can be reduced to that and that alone.

The concept—and feeling—of Happiness is profoundly rooted within our capacity to love and our ability to be at peace. But love and peace do not procure happiness; they are necessary ingredients of it. Only with the added fulfillment of our purpose can we embrace true happiness, through the knowledge that what we spend our time doing effectively satisfies the achievement of what we are supposed to do with our lives.

In reply to the survey question above, the answer choices are indivisible, from my perspective. No matter how I cut it, what I do in the fulfillment of my purpose, transpires in my achievement of all four objectives.

Four objectives

We can all think of our purpose in such fashion, as all things done, rooted in love and with the aspiration to be at peace, will result in the betterment of the world, will be of use and service to others, and will support our desire to care for our loved ones, materially, emotionally and spiritually.

To choose only one reply to the question of happiness, I must say: “2. Follow your Dream—Final answer.”

Follow your dreams

Thank you for sharing your answer to the survey question and providing your perspective about what makes you happy in a comment, below. Different suggestions will help others develop their view points. Also, please, think of this blog as my advertisement of what I do (my purpose) and let me know whether my marketing efforts (this being my Vth entry) are of value to you. How can I improve my posts to be of greater value and use to you, and inspire you to add “A Dash of Greatness” to your lives?

I wish you and yours much Success and Happiness, ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere in paperback and e-format and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.

cropped-xavier.jpg

Xavier Van de Lanotte, Author

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it Count.

It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things.

Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions! Our X Factor guides us through an exciting, informative and enlightening journey, and shows us how to be GREAT!

We were all born ordinary people. Yet we can lead extraordinary lives!

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“Non-Stop”… Life is


nonstop digitalOur lives are “non-stop flights” of which we determine the plans and are the captains.

Once we determine what is important to us, do we board the right planes and read from the right procedure manuals to ensure we get to the destiny of our choosing?

Watching the latest Liam Neeson movie, Non-Stop, granted me the opportunity to reflect on the concepts of essence and trust with respect to choosing our path in life.

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Attention GrabberIt happened again…., I was writing a blog entry when all of a sudden something else caught my attention and inspired me. I am very familiar with the topics I prepared for this blog. But when a new idea comes along, I start to work on it right away, such that it doesn’t evaporate into thin air. Besides, the focus of my book Our X Factor is on positive constructive principles. So, when I identify noteworthy situations told from a different perspective, I enjoy exploring them outside the framework of my work, such as in this blog.

Liam CalmLast night, I rented the latest movie with Liam Neeson, Non-Stop. However, I worked late; then, barely ten minutes after I popped the CD into the DVD player, I drifted off. I wasn’t expecting much because, although I’m a Neeson fan, his last few movies have been anticlimactic for me.

Wake upThis morning I got up early as I had some work to finish up and wanted to go ride my bicycle with a group leaving at 7:30AM . I decided to play the movie in the background, but as the action began and the plot thickened, I was drawn into it. I decided to watch the whole thing and went biking later, on my own.

NonstopIt was a winner, non-stop! Here’s the story of a guy that has everything pointed against him, yet he doesn’t let it faze him and perseveres in what he must do against all odds, and against 150 angry and frightened passengers. The plot of this situation became thought-provoking…

Yes, the New York-to-London flight, which I took on numerous occasions and was the setting for this movie, was a non-stop flight. Yes, once they were in the air and the suspense caught on, the unraveling of the plot was non-stop and so were the action and the rebounds in the storyline. Yes, as people began rallying against him, there were non-stop-attempts in trying to foil the man’s plan to save the plane and its passengers, and it got darn ugly—Non-Stop!

Liam DullBut the character impersonated by Liam , Bill Marks, an air-marshal, had quite a history to reveal and baggage he lugged around (and I’m not talking about his carry-on, his side arm, or the bottle of whiskey he smuggled on board the airplane). A bitter divorced, fired, alcoholic man and seemingly washed-up and unreliable guy, Bill Marks had also a heart-breaking story to tell about how he cowered at work while his five-year-old daughter was dying of leukemia at home, ten years prior to the telling of the events in the movie. (I admit, as a father, I choked back some tears at Bill’s gripping revelation of his agonizing fate.)

nonstop banner

During the movie, it occurred to me that people tend to be cynical and suspicious. We put more credence in stories that discredit others, than in stories about why they deserve to earn our trust.

trustWhy is that? Simply, it is easier for us NOT to take a risk on someone, than to live with the consequences of our fears coming true. As a society, we are mostly unforgiving and distrusting. We want there to be records about people and companies’ performance tracks we can rely on … and we seldom give others a second chance. How they look, what is said about them, where they live, who they hang out with and even the gossip about them is enough for us to raise our antennae. Our trust is hard to earn in part because we feel it would reflect negatively on us if we misguidedly grant it to someone seemingly not trustworthy and, if things turn out wrong, we would beat ourselves up for having “trusted” someone else—shifting blame; we do it, no matter how much we despise it.

better safe“It’s better to be safe than to be sorry,” can be construed as an attitude that masks our lack of taking accountability for our decisions. This approach, in fact, holds us back from exploring new opportunities and venturing away from the well-worn path. But face it; most of the wonderful and rewarding things that we will ever accomplish in our lives depend on the help and support of others. Hence, because we are reluctant to trust others about the fulfillment of our goals, we choose to forego many of the opportunities that come our way, and then are left with only regrets…., but we’re safe alright.

150 soulsYet in the movie, Bill Marks was the only possible salvation for those 150 passengers’ souls. As spectators, we saw this, but the passengers couldn’t. They were blinded by their fears and hid behind their inherent response not to trust—framing Bill for hijacking the plane helped foster their belief, granted. Yet had it not been for Bill’s resilience, they would all be dead because they chose to play it safe.

Later, as I left for my bike ride, a more profound thought dawned on me. Life is really non-stop

24-7We may compartmentalize our schedules all we want and believe that we complete certain things, or that some aspects of our lives and business are behind us; our lives and all that relates to them keep going 24/7 until it’s over, and we have reached the end. Our hearts tick and our lungs draw air, even if we are unaware of it most of the time. Our minds work all the time, even when we sleep. Our relationships run their course uninterrupted, even when we are not in the presence of others. The stock prices are constantly moving, whether or not we watch the ticker-tape. It’s five o’clock somewhere, but it’s also the other 23 times-of-day elsewhere. Time, as we have come to conveniently track it, is merely an illusion as life is a continuum, with successive sequences of before-and-after.

Above the stormNow let me tie this back to the main story and the more profound message in this post. Our lives continuously entail the things we undergo and many relationships on which depend the realizations of our goals. By the sheer unpredictable nature of things, we should expect turmoil every once in a while. Yet when we take stock in our lives and proactively pursue our goals, this equates to boarding a non-stop flight. In this analogy, the more we focus on our goals and important things we strive to achieve in life and the greater our ambitions, the bigger the plane we build for ourselves. As the plane—of which we become pilot—becomes bigger, it gains greater momentum, longer range, and more cargo hold.

Liam ActiveFrom that perspective, Bill Marks commands a very large non-stop plane (even though he doesn’t like flying—LOL). He built himself a large plane through his persistent and unwavering pursuit of goals, despite needing to put up with much, being let down often, and being challenged many times in his life. This reflects the quality of the grounded person Liam portrays as the lead character of this movie. When it came to stepping up to the plate, Bill would simply not let anything stand in the way of what needed to be done. The headwinds that he faced over the course of his life helped him build his resistance and his resolve. The distractions during his mission (the non-stop flight in the movie) could not knock him off course, or derail his determination about what he felt compelled to do.

If we want to be the heroes in the stories of our lives, it behooves us to build bigger planes on our non-stop flight-of-life. We must engage all the resources that are required and focus on what we need to do and do best. Judging other people or distrusting them isn’t really part of our vocation or our charter and leads us continuously on a flight of doubt, one where we don’t focus on expanding the momentum, range and cargo hold of our planes.

Large planeA big plane is hard to veer off course. When we make mistakes about trusting the wrong people, we experience some turbulence, but it won’t burn us to the ground. Only small planes are prone to storms or changes in atmospheric pressure and easily drop out of the sky. Small planeInstead of steering our lives at low altitudes through misty clouds on bumpy flight paths, we can focus on our goals, our ambition and our essence and build a larger plane to soar high above the clouds, reach much further destinations with greater comfort and fill our spacious cargo hold with a lifetime of achievements collected along the way.

Dare to dreamWhen it comes to trusting, we shouldn’t use lack of trust as an excuse to curtail our ambitions. We will get burned from time to time, for sure. But it won’t take us off-course as long as we trust our dreams, persist on our path and have faith in our goals. Our essence and determination establish the limits for each in building an adequate vessel to carry us to our destinations. To fare safely and carry with us the many precious things we collect along the way, it is entirely up to us to determine its size, its range and its flight plan.

Thank you for reading and for posting your personal comments on this topic, below.

Xavier Van de Lanotte

Xavier Van de Lanotte, Author of Our X Factor

Wishing you and yours much Success and Happiness ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it count. It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things. Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions. Our X Factor shows us how to be GREAT!

We are all different and also the same; born ordinary people. Yet we don’t have to live ordinary lives. Let’s lead extraordinary lives! My aim is to guide you along this exciting journey and, every so often with this blog, inspire you to add ‘A Dash of Greatness’ to your lives.

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You Only Live Twice


Steven Sotloff (1983-2014)

Steven Sotloff (1983-2014)

In memory of Steven Sotloff, Journalist, who was brutally and senselessly slain at age 31.

We fuss about a lot of things in our lives. Then, every so often, we are reminded what life is—or should be—about, and we find out that what is truly important is rarely what we worry about, but most often comprises the things about which we don’t think enough…

***I planned on blogging on a different subject this week, but as I was writing tonight, a newswire crossed my screen about today’s memorial services honoring Steven Sotloff, a neighbor in Pinecrest, FL, held at Beth Am, an establishment I am very familiar with, as is every parent in our community. God rest Steven’s soul. At the reading of the news brief, I decided to pull out a discussion item I tabled a few weeks ago, because something in the brief struck a chord; a quote from the last letters Steven wrote to his family: “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you have only one.”

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You Only Live TwiceI have always loved Nancy Sinatra, as well as her hit song and Sean Connery, and I am fascinated with Japan and Ian Fleming, who invented “Bond” and wrote the twelfth book of the series, titled “You Only Live Twice”, words that have captivated my imagination ever since I first heard them, when I was a teenager.

Nancy SinatraI remember, at age seventeen when I studied English as a foreign language, discussing philosophically with my dad the meaning behind the words of Nancy’s song. We thought it evoked the romantic and attractive notion that perhaps someday we discover something significant that gives our lives greater purpose and, as a result, pulls us in a direction we never imagined; a second life of sorts.

About a month ago, I was in the car with my oldest son, 19, who has been trying to make sense out of life and to reconcile what he would love to do with what he believes is achievable. Granted, he has put his sights on a rather difficult path to make a name for himself (producing electronic music and performing at major music festivals—Ultra perhaps), but he feels disheartened at the prospect of surmounting obstacles he believes are stacked against him from the start.

On the seldom occasions that I am in company of my children and can engage them in a conversation of substance, I love using allegories or metaphors to get my point across. It may not stick with them at first, but they remember the stories, and eventually the message reveals itself. Here is what I said.

Another Earth

We live in two worlds; a natural one and an artificial one. As such, we lead two separate and distinct lives; one that obeys the natural order of things and another that follows the artificial constructs that we created for our societies to thrive and sustain themselves.

Nature - edenIn the one world, things are simple and straightforward, also beautiful and able to stir us at our core. In this place we seek food, water and shelter to survive, things that are natural to sustain our lives and our essences, and each other to relate to one another, give our lives purpose, share with others, express our feelings and emotions and enjoy the pleasures of giving and loving.

ConfusionBut in the other world, things are complicated and ambiguous, also often opaque and filled with conflict and opposition. In that place we must constantly learn and adapt, trade, compromise and remain guarded, heed the consequences of our mistakes and plan for our futures, save, invest and protect, and always think of—and never break—the rules.

The first world operates under the common laws of nature, according to which the world, all of nature and we, humans, evolved. The second world functions as a result of the structures, rules and regulations that we, humans, invented and put in place.

FlawedNow, which stands the greatest chance to be flawed, in all logic: the world that naturally evolved and in which we can find and share everything that we may ever need, or the world that we created and in which we must hoard and divide, conquer and protect, rule and legislate, command and enforce, and maintain or restore balance by means of battles, conflicts, debates, uprisings, organizations, indoctrinations and stabilization measures, yet never really elevating ourselves from our societies’ deplorable state of inequity?

While the latter provides many of us—in the “civilized” world— with comfort and productivity to support many to live on earth with higher standards of living, greater wealth, and under a chimerical blanket of security and stability, it doesn’t contain those things that give our lives meaning and purpose, reasons to live and be happy, essence to express our relationships, or love and ideals we believe are more valuable than our own lives, as those reside exclusively with the former. In the artificial world we may find the means to survive, but in the natural world we find reasons to exist, to love and to live.

Comples structureMy allegory, however, isn’t complete without explaining why—if it is this simple and straightforward—we are not always conscious of this. Why do we spend more time worrying about work, our wealth, our capabilities, our standing in society and our possessions, than caring about the reasons for which we live, which belong to the natural world where things are simple? This lack of consciousness stems from being trapped, and from spending most time and energy living, in and for the artificial world.

Two livesThis suggests yet another split—dual—relationship; one I’ll reveal by quoting a passage inspired by the writing of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, and taken from the book Our X Factor: The Power to Achieve—Every Day—Success and Happiness.

Eckhart Tolle“Eckhart Tolle talks about the concept of relationships with ourselves, as if, he implies, there were two of us. In a way, for many of us there are: there is a self who is at peace, often dormant, and of whom we have little or no consciousness; and then, there is an ego, who is at the forefront, constantly filling our minds with thoughts, lingering in the past, projecting in the future, creating and defending positions that in all likelihood have little relevance or bearing on the achievement of our success and happiness in the present. Our thoughts are solely responsible for emphasizing mistakes and regrets from our pasts and compounding our fears that lie in uncertain futures. When we turn off those inner voices—the constant onereminiscing and calculating—we remove our ego from the equation and allow our inner selves to emerge and be fully conscious of the present moment, the now, the only moment that truly matters and in which we can act to fulfill our goals and enjoy our lives. We become one, again.”

Our X Factor, Chapter 7, page 75

Our artificial world serves a purpose, granted. It affords sustenance in relative comfort and safety to 7.1 billion humans, feat otherwise difficult to fathom. Yet, it doesn’t serve a purpose to life itself, which should be satisfying and rewarding for all, unless the things we do serve a higher purpose to the natural world. In other words, as long as we let our egos value our structures and institutions, our possessions and capabilities, our safety and comfort, our rules and regulations, our opinions and judgments and other fabrications of the artificial world above that for which we created it in the first place, then we haven’t addressed our higher purpose.

Perspective

We all possess two lives, as Steven Sotloff suggested, and the second one begins when we start leading purposeful and meaningful lives—our true lives. We realize that we have only one life when we perceive that the artificial world, in which we were trapped and about which we constantly worried, doesn’t offer much of a life and doesn’t contain the answers to the meaning of life, nor the essence of that which we love and for which we live.

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Wishing you and yours much Success and Happiness ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it count. It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things. Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions. Our X Factor shows us how to be GREAT!

We are all different and also the same; born ordinary people. Yet we don’t have to live ordinary lives. Let’s lead extraordinary lives! My aim is to guide you along this exciting journey and, every so often with this blog, inspire you to add ‘A Dash of Greatness’ to your lives.

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The Doggone Days of August…


We mostly think that our minds are our best weapon to deal with situations in our lives, about our jobs, with our families or in the community. But do we always know how to optimize the ways in which we operate our minds, and do we sometimes let our minds get in the way of achieving the better result?

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In most parts of the northern hemisphere, the month of August brings with it heat waves.

  • “Danged it’s HOT!”Summer heat

We sometimes wish for it to be winter, back when we cozied up under the blankets, trying to rid our bones of lingering chills. We dread the heat and can’t seem to get away from it. With added humidity, it only gets worse. Our clothes cling to our bodies, displaying patches of sweat and making us uncomfortable and self-conscious. Each breath we take seems like it comes out of a steam inhaler. We suffer sunburns and the sand or pavement at the beach or pool scorch the skin at the bottom of our feet, and we hop awkwardly to safety.

And we are parched!

No matter how we cut it, we can’t shake the discomfort. We can’t even think straight… it’s too hot.

But the heat isn’t the only thing contributing to our discomfort; our minds play their part in it as well.

It’s hot and our pores and veins dilate. We sweat profusely, feel damp, and moisture builds up in the most uncomfortable places. Our deodorants lost their fragrance and the shower-fresh pine, lavender or piña-colada scents of our body-wash vaporized hours ago…, and we may reek—or fear we do. We can’t wait to get back inside an air-conditioned space to dry and cool off. Our heads feel hot too and we fight our condition. Little by little we put up resistance to the idea of heat and we resent that the hot weather is getting the better of us.

Yet it shouldn’t.

RF DubaiRoger Federer is known for regularly training in Dubai, U.A.E., where temperatures rise to 110-115 degrees on an average July afternoon, with hardly any breeze of which to speak. Imagine for a moment if his focus were trained on resisting the heat, cooling off or returning to an air-conditioned space, or if he got upset because sweat drips into his eyes, he feels his racket slipping in his hand, believes the playing conditions aren’t optimal and that he can’t give it his best, or that he might be dehydrating, could suffer a heat stroke or will begin cramping after hitting balls at 100 mph for three straight hours in these burning temperatures. Well, these things could likely manifest by the sheer consequence of Roger’s mind becoming blinded by those things that challenge him in hitting his power shots with high degrees of accuracy, not to mention that these mind-distractions would divert his focus from the concentration he needs to make his accurate power-shots, which would further annoy him and exacerbate his frustration…, all because of the heat. They could…, yet they don’t.

  • “The heat is a mental thing. If you can’t deal with it, you throw in the towel,” says Roger Federer.

I have played many two-to-three-hour tennis games under the Southern Florida’s sweltering August-sun in the middle of the day and have observed both my opponents’ and my own reactions to it over the years: the heat is never a real problem until we mind it (short of deficiencies in our medical and fitness conditions, or the lack of hydration and protective measures against sun exposure). The simple mental observation that the heat is bothersome instantaneously transforms it into another opponent that we now must battle. But we battle this opponent with our mind, which now is suddenly less available to focus to our technique and strategy, as it is to pay attention to the offensive or defensive moves by our “real” opponent.

OpponentThe reality is this: that opponent only exists in our minds. Note, nonetheless, that the heat is real, but our attitude toward it turns it into a fierce and invincible opponent. That opponent consumes our energy, motivation and drive, otherwise needed to apply ourselves to what we intend to achieve in that moment—and that intent does not consist of changing the weather.

In life, we often find ourselves in situations where we invite an invincible opponent that turns whatever we do into something harder to accomplish. Indiscriminately, these opponents have one characteristic in common: we can’t control the way they behave—make them go away or make them yield their power over the ways they affect us and interfere with what we do. Yet, instead of ignoring them (accepting them for what they are), we invite them to be seated front-and-center in our heads and we let them rob us of the focus and attention our principal activity require from us.

traffic jamWe get upset with traffic; crazy or slow drivers and congestion. We are annoyed when we have to fill out paperwork before being admitted at a hospital ER unit. We are frustrated when there are long lines at the bank or post office, especially when five out of seven windows are closed, yet other bank or postal employees are gathered in another area, talking around the water cooler. We cringe when at the end of a long boring meeting someone asks the moderator a complicated question we believe doesn’t concern us, but requires an elaborate answer. We hate it when we believe we finally settle in our jobs and are then told that a re-organization will be announced next week and new procedures will be implemented. We steam when someone interrupts us from doing something very important—about  a trivial matter or just because they’re clueless—and even more so when it is always the same person doing this to us. And we are appalled and get angry when others show us disrespect, flick us the finger or insult us.

roadrageIt is nonetheless quite simple. You can’t control what other drivers do; however, you can choose to drive at a different time, take a different route or opt for public transportation, or you can also accept to go with the flow of traffic and remain calm and alert about the perils of the road. Hospitals come with paperwork and hassles about insurance—they don’t operate a charity and this isn’t Canada; sorry that you are in need of medical assistance, but remaining polite and cooperative with the staff is your best chance at receiving the help you need. Your urge to tell them how inefficient and, perhaps, inhumane the service is will not get you better or faster service—quite the contrary. I really don’t know why four bank employees are standing around the water cooler, but you can write a letter to the bank president or change banks if this occurs too often and you are dissatisfied by it—it is not your job to manage the bank’s resources and work ethic. However, being rude or showing signs of impatience will be noticed by the two employees serving customers and, as a result, they may not give you their respect and undivided attention when it’s your turn at the window. Any comments you feel compelled to share with them about the service will be unwelcome and further put the people helping you in an uncomfortable and defensive position. Perhaps they are just as infuriated about being the only ones doing work there. Smile—you’re almost out of here—and don’t forget to say “thank you.”

As we can see, there are always alternative actions that allow us to do better, given the situations we deal with, than by reacting of the sort to things we can’t change.

DoormatWhen it comes to dealing with, or witnessing people who are rude and insulting, you must know that what they say or think about you doesn’t make it so, and that how they behave is a reflection on them, not on you. Sure, it’s never pleasant to be called a ‘butt-wipe’ or a ‘doormat’ (or more colorful expressions of their choosing), but what is your issue with this, anyway? Is it just that they are not polite, or is it that they may be right? If it is the latter, you should be thankful, as now you learned something about yourself and you have a choice to do something about this. If it is the former, then it is clearly their issue to address—not yours; you are not their mother—and you are left with options to steer the interaction in a direction that will provide you with the best and most expeditious outcome, which could simply be to ignore the rudeness and insults as you proceed with your business, or to just walk away and find someone more helpful to your purpose. Seize those opportunities! If you don’t, expect more complications and emotional turmoil to ensue and recognize that you may never get to accomplish your objective.

insultHow other people behave or, sadly enough, seem to act irrationally at times, is something we want to be aware of—just as we need to be aware that when we are outside in the doggone days of August it is likely going to be a scorcher. But adverse circumstances we cannot do anything about is not something we need to concern ourselves with—even if they are painful to watch at times—as we focus on doing the things we are supposed to do. Why the world seems discombobulated and how we should address it is outside of this discussion and should not absorb our mental bandwidth when we need to focus on our task.

Mind you, these mental exercises to which we fall prey are none other than our egos gaining the upper hand. But our missions don’t require our egos to feel at peace, they require our rational thought processes to operate at their best. Furthermore, how we deal with our ego’s displeasure is again entirely a choice that we must make.

We can prepare ourselves to deal with any adverse circumstance, sometimes way ahead of when it will occur, as Roger does when he trains in Dubai, mostly to get accustomed to extreme playing conditions. And when unexpected circumstances appear during times that we are in the middle of something important, we can choose to focus on those incidences—and how much we dislike their occurrence—or we can ignore that they happened and keep our minds focused on our tasks, just as a tennis player would recoup from a slip, a fall, tripping over shoelaces, get blinded by the sun, be surprised by a weird bounce off the tape or if a distraction were caused within the audience.

control destiny

Getting angry or focusing on, and reacting to extraneous circumstances in a negative manner will never help us advance with our objectives. Using excuses and justifying things after the fact may help us feel better Things you can control(as in, us=our ego), but it will never help us retain and maximize our focus on the task at hand, and assist us to be, in that moment, the best that we can be.

Today, August is but a memory. But warm days are still ahead in our futures, and I encourage you to bear this in mind for next year. In the interim, I challenge you to become mindful of how you control your reactions to ensure that your mind is always keen and prepared to handle the situations that really matter to you.

Wishing you and yours much Success and Happiness ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, your potential, your success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.

Happy Labor Day, 2014, everyone!
Xavier Van de Lanotte, Author of Our X Factor: The Power to Achieve—Every Day—Success and Happiness.

Van-de-Lanotte_Xavier_6391_COVER_Ebook_iTunesWe all have an X factor…

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

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A Dash of Greatness–Welcome Day 1: A Great Life


I lead a great life! How about you?

Not every single day in my life has been perfect; far from it. But I consider I was gifted with something that helps me endure the hard times, as well as tremendously enjoy lapses of good times.

I’m not trying to brag, flaunt my superiority or make you feel uncomfortable when I state that I have a great life, while you may not feel the same about your life right now. I’m just an ordinary guy. However, what I wish to convey is that with the proper Greatness Smallestapproach, we can all lead great lives.

Greatness isn’t a birthright or the result of serendipity; it is conquered by means of our will.

Welcome to my first blog post on this board, hosted by WordPress. Nowadays, social media platforms and digital communication processes break down the barriers, making things, once hard to accomplish–often impossible, very easy to do. I’m grateful for living in our era, although, I didn’t always feel this way.

Emile ZolaWhen I was in my late teens, I wished I were born into the French Realism period, to rub elbows with characters issued from the imaginations of Flaubert, Stendhal, Balzac or Zola. I used to get lost in their novels and believed that, had I lived among them, I could have contributed in the forging of great new ideas of the times. Yes, in many ways I was also a Romantic…, be it a delusional one.

It seemed as though society in the 1970s and 1980s was stacked against someone like me, of modest upbringing and raised in an environment that didn’t inspire great ambition. It was difficult back then to voice opinions, to make a point, to state a different perspective or to make an impact on society. In the late 1960s, the working class united with young students who wanted to change Mai 68things to create a ‘better society.’ They took to the streets, literally broke up those streets to build barricades, and by means of Molotov cocktails defended themselves from the bludgeoning force of ‘peace officers,’ armed with clubs, guns and tear gas.

In contrast to the époque of those great writers of the 19th century, back then, I lived in an era of anonymity and irrelevance—a place where, when you don’t possess the means of forceful persuasion (money, name, status, reputation or affiliation) or don’t enjoy a fortuitous stroke of luck, your voice is easily and swiftly silenced. Social reform, along with the cold war, also gave Big brotherway to the rise of Big Brother, epitomized by both Governments’ increasing scrutiny of our every initiative, and the ruling Conglomerates, which corporations preponderantly seek growth, greater market control, more profits, and the obliteration of competitors and mavericks.

Yet, here I am today, publishing my ideas alongside millions of bloggers and people sharing content via social media at the touch of a few keys. I observe that some things worked out alright—or fell through the cracks—and am reminded, each 14th of July, that the French Realism grew above the ruins of the French Revolution.

Fact: Every era has its hallmark moments that spawn new opportunities for all, big and small. These days, the powers-that-be insinuate themselves in our lives differently, while the opportunities we enjoy are also different. However, to take advantage of these opportunities, we must adapt. We must not revolt, get angry, give up, resort to violence, segregate or separate, point fingers, condemn, eradicate or intimidate, but we must simply adapt. For if we don’t adapt, we stand no chance to be heard in the hope of someday making a meaningful and lasting difference.

Belgium

My original home town of Bruges

But why am I here? Ah, yes… my gift.

I was born the youngest of five—a little accident. My dad too was the youngest of a nest-full. As an infant and young boy in a rather large family with cousins nearing retirement age when I was barely in middle school, I was never afforded to say much. Yet I had so much to say…. I mostly just observed, listened and learned. I often wanted to refute their arguments for keeping me out of their discussions, but I lacked the means and opportunity to express this.

For the first sixteen years of my life, I remember feeling miserable… most of the time. But when my father retired from the company where he worked for twenty years, and decided to move to the South of France to open a business and spend his early-retirement years in a productive and entrepreneurial fashion, he and I became close. There were no more cousins or siblings to rival with; I enjoyed for a few years my dad’s total bandwidth.

You should know that when my father was sixteen, he wanted to become a philosophy professor. He certainly had the capacity and motivation for it. But his mother and older brothers decided he should become a lawyer. After only one year in law school, the German army shut down the universities in Belgium. My father then enlisted in the army. By the time he graduated as an officer, luck would have it, WWII was over and he continued serving his country in Africa, instead of returning to law school. Twelve years later, the Belgian Congo became independent and he was retired at age thirty four. Caring for a household of six, he wasn’t in a position to pursue his dream, and he went on to earn a living in the private sector.

Riviera

Eventually, in France, he became his own boss and I helped with the business. We had no TV. We talked a lot, discussed ideologies, history and philosophy, played chess often, went to the movies once a week and we read a lot—I the classics, he anything he could put his hands on, especially about history, science, art, the universe and, of course, philosophy. In my eyes, my dad’s personality had totally transformed, from a man that conservatively pursued a career out of sense of duty and necessity, to a man that took risks and thoroughly enjoyed every activity in which he engaged.

I, too, changed, in ways of confidence and curiosity. I began seeking answers. Surprisingly, I had less to say (but more to ask), though I retained the art of story-telling from my father. My assertiveness increased, and I began expressing my perspectives in ways that would help others, allowing me to forge my own path. I knew by then that my resolve was backed with the knowledge that I can always find a niche in which to contribute my unique perspective to guarantee my sustenance and livelihood. That knowledge of my perspective, at the core of my essence, I can never lose. In this resides my gift. All the rest seems circumstantial, because my greatest asset resides within me, and will for as long as I breathe.

I take pride in what my perspective represents. It is the most valuable thing I possess and control. With this in my arsenal, I explore life on my own terms and experience greatness. Yet it hinges on the understanding that my perspective is of value only because I learned to express it in ways that others can understand and benefit from it—to serve their goals. How could I possibly achieve greater success or contribute things of greater value than by sharing with others that which I believe is the most valuable thing that I possess? For other people to value what I do, I must value it. For other people to love what I do, I must love it. Certainly, I cannot offer others those things I know little about, that are not reflective of my perspectives, or in which I perceive little value, and expect them to value and love it. Sooner or later, the snake-oil salesman poisons his own value proposition.

Zig Ziglar says: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar Small

Well, we can’t really give everybody everything that they want, because we may not have it in our purview to do it for them. However, when provided the opportunity, we can share with them that which is most unique and special about us. It is achieved by doing for them the things we do with love and passion, which bestows great value onto the things we do. We gift them the pleasure of enjoying the quality and value resulting from the love we put into the things that we do. In this context, Zig is right. We can try to do all we want for others, but without love, there is little value.

We all have a unique perspective. As we become aware of it and learn to express it for the benefit of others, we open the doors to our greatness.

Our perspectives grow, mature, become more fascinating over time and enrich our lives, when we are mindful of them. They yield to discovery of new and compelling opportunities. Thirty years passed since my experience in France before I Papa smallerdiscovered what truly caused my dad to change. It came as a result of interpreting my perception at a deeper level. My father didn’t change because he was his own boss, or because he no longer felt constrained to work in a corporate environment to fulfill goals that weren’t his and follow processes he joked about, more often than not. No, my father changed because he was happy and because, from then on, he did everything with love and conviction, which led him to appreciate and enjoy his success.

After considering my own rat-race since leaving France, I began realizing something far greater—as if it were a gift that keeps on giving, of sort: how to Happy Me smallestarticulate and communicate the power concealed in our perspectives, for others to benefit from insights about their potential to achieve success and happiness every day and, lead rich and rewarding lives, develop great love for what they do, and turn the page on each day with the unmistakable sense of accomplishment and positive emotions—to inspire delight with the way the chapters of their lives unfold. After all, it is a choice.

Bookmark every day with success and happiness.

Our X Factor, a book I wrote and published, features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it count. It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

Today, I launch my blog—A Dash of Greatness—to inspire people about the prospects of leading fulfilled lives, which heightened awareness, development of potential and greater mindfulness provide with the guidance of Our X Factor. Going forward, this blog will elaborate on the subjects discussed in the book as well as address questions or topics the book may have left unanswered. I encourage everyone to set the bar for the quality and the enjoyment of their lives very high. Let’s be the best that we can be and live our lives to the fullest, in the fulfillment of our goals and dreams.

Chase your greatness

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things. Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions. Our X Factor shows how to be GREAT!

We are all different and also the same; born ordinary people. Yet we don’t have to live ordinary lives. Let’s lead extraordinary lives! My aim is to guide you along this exciting journey and, every so often with this blog, inspire you to add a ‘dash of greatness’ to your lives.

Xavier Van de Lanotte

Xavier Van de Lanotte, Author of Our X Factor

We all have an X factor...

We all have an X factor…

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