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Traffic Lights, Choices and Consequences

Summary: “Think about the long-term consequences of your choices…before you make the choice.” 

Most traffic lights use a three-color system – red, yellow and green – in an attempt to control the flow of traffic through an intersection. Red, in this case, is the traffic light color that instructs moving vehicles to stop.

However, have you ever really thought about why most people stop at a red light? Does the color, in this case redness, make them stop? Does the light behind the red lens make them stop? How about the pole holding the traffic light, does it make drivers stop? It must not be any of these things; although all of these things are often present, the fact is, some drivers still do not stop.

So, in the end it is the driver’s choice to stop … or not. The red light is simply an external triggering event that prompts the driver to think about the consequences of stopping or not stopping and then make a choice. The red light has no inherent power or ability to stop anyone or anything.

Another factor that comes into play in this process of stopping people with a powerless red light has to do with the timing of the consequences. If you run a red light, the negative consequences can occur almost immediately. In other words, you might collide with a person going through the same intersection choosing to go on a green light.

I think several lessons are embedded in the “why stop at a red light” story. However, let’s focus on one aspect of this story – the timing of the consequences.

When the consequences are immediate, you are more likely to pay attention and factor them into your choice. For example, many people are fully aware of the almost certain negative consequences of smoking. However, it is most likely that they will not have to “pay the bill” for smoking in terms of the health consequences until some distant future date. So, they light up, have another cigarette, and don’t worry about it. What if every time they made a choice to smoke a cigarette, they knew it might be the tipping-point cigarette that would trigger cancer almost immediately? What if, like running a red light, they might immediately suffer significant negative consequences of smoking that particular cigarette?

Typically if someone asks you at the beginning of your day what you are going to do that day, you reply with a list of tasks, meetings and so forth and so on. Here’s another valid response: “Today I am going to make choices all day long.”

If you want to make better choices, personal or career, think about the consequences of each significant choice in terms of the red light analogy. What if the consequences of this choice occurred immediately? What if my choice caused a devastating car crash? Think about this when you choose what to eat, what to do with your time, what to do with your money, what to say to your spouse, children, coworkers and friends. And by the way…drive carefully!

Joyfully participate in life’s choices today…Chris

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Sifting – Chapter 11: Heroes and Heralds


This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 11: Heroes and Heralds


Bob: Sift, can you feel the heat from the fire?

Sift: Yes, Bob, I can feel anything you feel.

Bob: It’s not colder out there wherever you are?

Sift: I am not out there, Bob, I am inside you.

Bob: Oh, yeah, I forgot. Sift, this is a lot of information to absorb. Can I ask you some questions to clarify some of the things we have talked about?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Tell me a little about the hero’s journey. Who are you talking about when you use the word hero?

Sift: You are the hero we are talking about now.

Bob: Me? How can I be a hero? I haven’t done anything heroic.

Sift: Everyone is the hero of his or her own journey, and we are talking about your journey. Remember, this conversation was initiated by your question about the purpose of your life.

Bob: So everyone is the hero of his or her own life?

Sift: Everyone has the potential to be the hero of his or her own life. Another way to describe life is to call it an adventure or a journey. I didn’t use the term hero before, but as we discussed, you are most hero-like when you answer the call to your unique adventure and pursue the journey that aligns your life activities with that particular adventure. We also previously discussed that people are designed to be meaning-seeking creatures. Personal experiences give meaning to life. Therefore, people on a hero’s journey seek experiences that give their lives the most meaning. In any particular adventure, the hero is the person who is most active in the adventure, learns the most, and changes and grows the most. The journey is always seen through the eyes of the hero.

Bob: So, the hero could only be me if we are talking about my life, right?

Sift: Right.

Bob: I never really thought of myself as a hero.

Sift: Right now, you are not a hero.

Bob: What? It’s my life! Who else could be the hero of my life?

Sift: You must be on the journey – on the path. You must either know or genuinely be working toward discovering your unique call to adventure.

Bob: So who calls me? How do I find out about my call to adventure?

Sift: The hero is not the only participant in the hero’s journey. There are other archetypes you will encounter. For example, the herald is the archetype that typically communicates the call to adventure by issuing challenges or announcing the coming of a significant change.

Bob: What’s an archetype?

Sift: Archetypes are symbolic forms, or forces, that either assist you on your hero’s journey or redirect you, block you, or somehow test your resolve. Archetypes can be people, but they do not have to be people. In your case, the herald has shown up in your life for years in various forms. For example, your herald archetype has shown up as restlessness and various related forms of fear, anger, sadness, or even curiosity. Most recently, your herald morphed into the human form of a Mr. Dawson.

Bob: Ohhh! Ohhh! I get it now! So Mr. Dawson was my herald? The call from him was my call to adventure. It was an announcement that it was time for me to move on. Duhhh! The puzzle pieces are falling into place. Wow, this isn’t just abstract stuff; it’s reality. I’ve been ignoring other versions of the call to adventure for years, and the universe upped the ante on me! This is an example of the “disintegrating or dissolving under unusual circumstances” you mentioned earlier?

Sift: Yes, and that is not uncommon. It happens to most people. They ignore their heralds. Especially people who are very busy and easily get caught up in some of the illusions that society presents to them as important.

Bob: What are the consequences of missing all those signals?

Sift: In terms of the hero’s journey, missing or ignoring signals is referred to as the refusal of the call. That simply means that you were called to participate in a particular journey in life, and you made the choice to participate in other activities that are not in alignment with your calling. In terms of the consequences, they are fairly straightforward and predictable. Little misalignments lead to little struggles; significant misalignments lead to significant struggles. Short-term misalignments lead to short-term struggles; long-term misalignments lead to long-term struggles.

Bob: Most people do not know it, but I’ve been struggling for a long time. So, these heralds have been trying to contact me for a long time, right?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: So anything can be a herald – thoughts, experiences, sayings, people, or feelings?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Ah – some of the pieces of the puzzle are definitely falling in place for me. So struggles, fear, sadness, anger, and other such experiences, are indicators that it is time for a change – a new adventure? That’s what you were talking about earlier.

Sift: Yes, or it could also mean it is time for some sort of adjustment to your current adventure. The magnitude of the adjustment required, or change necessary, is usually in direct proportion to the frequency, intensity, and duration of your struggles. And when the struggles begin to negatively impact your life in a significant way, it is usually time for a significant adjustment. Once again, short-term, low-intensity struggles only require minor adjustments. Patterns of the struggles and emotions are more important than isolated events.

Bob: Tell me again how can you tell if you are on the right path and going in the right direction?

Sift: Remember, the frequency, intensity, and duration of emotions related to joyful experiences are indicators that you are on the right path going in the right direction. Overall, you feel a sense of well-being. You also feel grounded, centered, energized, and that you are fully engaged and joyfully participating in life.

Bob: Nobody else knows it, but I haven’t felt that way in quite a while. So what happens if you keep on refusing the call to a new adventure?

Sift: The consequences are very predictable. If you consistently refuse your call to adventure, one or both of the following things will typically happen: One, life dries up. Things in your life that were formerly important begin to lose their meaning and no longer hold your interest. Boredom, restlessness, procrastination, and similar feelings begin showing up and they remain present for longer periods of time. Some people try to medicate these feelings with food, alcohol, drugs, spending, accumulation of unneeded possessions, and other forms of excessive or self-defeating behavior. Sometimes, Mother Nature sends messages that it is time for a change in the form of headaches, insomnia, stomach problems, anxiety, heart problems, other illnesses, etc.  Two, the universe, or some mysterious force of the universe that you might now think of as an archetype, will, as you said, “up the ante” and disrupt your current life path. In other words, you get some sort of physical or symbolic kick in the seat of the pants that is designed to kick-start your true adventure – to get you back on the right path.

Bob: That’s why instead of getting promoted to head up the global project, I got fired, isn’t it?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: All that stuff about shutting down the U.S. operations because they needed to allocate capital resources to the emerging markets in China was a way of upping the ante for me, wasn’t it?

Sift: Yes. That particular event will serve as a call to adventure and opportunity for some, and the response to the ongoing refusal of the call for others. That’s the way the world works.

Bob: It looks as if the global company I worked for is no longer a part of my adventure, right?

Sift: Yes, it looks that way.

Bob: I need to think about all of this for a minute.

Sift: I understand. Take your time.


End Chapter 11

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Pay attention to signs that you are being called to a new adventure. 

  1. Why should you spend more time looking inside yourself for answers than looking outside?
  2. What experiences give your life the most meaning?
  3. With experiences, events, or feelings have served (or tried to serve) as heralds for you?
  4. What are the consequences of missing or ignoring your true calling?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Positive Mental Attitude

Summary: “Fake it until you become it!” 

Very few people will probably disagree with the idea that developing and maintaining a positive mental attitude is helpful in sports, business and life in general.

Having a positive mental attitude is, of course, no guarantee of success when so many other factors such as skill, effort and perhaps even a little luck so often come into play in any successful endeavor. So let’s not get all rah-rah and proclaim a positive mental attitude the solution to all problems – but let’s not take the opposing viewpoint and declare it a superficial characteristic of shallow people.

Life is often about simply playing the cards you are dealt the best you can. And a positive mental attitude can help you not only play the cards you are dealt better, it can also help you get a better hand in the future. People love a good “recovery from adversity” story and will go out of their way to give future breaks to those who play a bad hand well.

My main point today is not about whether or not you should try your best to maintain a positive attitude; it’s about how you can do it when you don’t feel so positive. Most people can maintain a great attitude when things are going well. How do you pull it off when things aren’t going so well?

I became interested in this topic when I watched a TED video by Harvard Business School professor and researcher Amy Cuddy. Her talk is titled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” (you can view her 21-minute talk here). Here’s what she said that intrigued me the most. Cuddy talked about the often heard quote, “Fake it ’til you make it” with a bit of a twist. Her advice was to “Fake it ’til you become it.” I like that quote much better.

Most people understand that what is going on inside a person’s head – their mental attitude – is usually revealed by external factors we collectively refer to as body language. Cuddy’s research supports the fact that body language is essentially a two-way street. In other words, if you can somehow get your body to fake the body language of a person with a positive mental attitude, it will eventually help you develop genuine positive feelings.

For example, clenching a pen or pencil between your teeth activates the same facial muscles that are involved in producing a genuine smile. This, in turn triggers internal events that actually make you feel more positive. Keep it up and you are no longer faking it, you actually become more positive. And by the way, a positive mental attitude can be highly contagious and influence those in your circle of influence – including those who can help you be more successful.

Cuddy has other interesting body language strategies. Whenever you feel a bit down, why not put a pen between your teeth and watch Cuddy’s talk?

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Sifting – 10: Signs it is Time

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 10: Signs it is Time

Bob: This may be a dumb question, but it’s on my mind right now: What exactly do you mean when you use the word called?

Sift: That is a good question, Bob. It simply means that some people feel a strong and often unexplainable desire to pursue a certain course of action in life.

Bob: You said “some people.” So, not all people are called to an adventure?

Sift: All humans on Earth exist to pursue their unique calling. It is just that some people are totally unaware of the concept of the call to adventure and never pause to think about such things. Others intuitively sense that something like the calling exists, but are not sure what it is all about or how to pursue it. Others are fully aware of the calling and the implications of pursuing or not pursuing it.

Bob: I think I fall in the first category. I’ve never given my call to adventure much thought. Are there other things like this I need to know about?

Sift: The call to adventure is one of the many stages of something often called “the hero’s journey.”

Bob: Hero’s journey? That sounds interesting. I want to know more about that, but first, tell me one more thing about the call to adventure. How do people know when they are being called to a new adventure?

Sift: There are many ways you can tell it is time for a new adventure. You can experience an ongoing pattern of restlessness. You can feel as is you have been there, done that with your current activities. You can find yourself inexplicably attracted to a curious element of some new adventure. You might feel a strong sense of resonance with some new experience. Maybe you just feel bored with life, or maybe your current world is disintegrating or dissolving under unusual circumstances. In general, you begin to feel as if your personal center of gravity has shifted. Your mind, your attention, or interests are being transferred to a new and different world or kind of experience.

Bob: Whoa! I’ve experienced almost all of those feelings recently. But let’s back up a minute. I’m going to put a few more logs on the fire, and then I want to know what else I need to know about this hero’s journey you mentioned a minute ago.

Sift: Okay, Bob. Take care of the fire and we will talk more as soon as you are ready.


End of Chapter 10


Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: All humans on Earth exist to pursue some sort of unique calling.

  1. How do you feel about this idea that we are all on Earth to pursue a unique calling?
  2. Have you ever experienced any ongoing patterns of restlessness in your life that motivated you to pursue a new adventure?
  3. Do you think you are currently pursuing your true calling?

 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Summary: “Learning to focus is a good thing…and yes, you can do it!” 

Some of my clients tell me they wonder if it’s even possible to get focused nowadays with the constant onslaught of life-distracting things and events. First of all, I think the realistic answer to this question falls in the category of Henry Ford’s famous statement, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” However, the correct answer for most of us is yes – it’s quite possible to get very focused, very quickly if you really need to do so.

Here’s why I believe this answer is correct. Just imagine you are driving down the road, thinking of all the things you have to do. Your mind is racing while thinking about this meeting and that meeting, this proposal and that proposal, this project and that project, the bills, the kids, and so forth and so on. Then suddenly you glance in the rearview mirror and see a police car pulling out from a side street with lights flashing. What are you focused on now and exactly how focused are you? Huh? And it doesn’t really matter if you are not doing anything wrong. You’re likely highly focused on everything and anything to do with the police car in the rearview mirror. Was I speeding? What is the speed limit here? Did I run a red light or stop sign? Did I remember to put the insurance card in the glove box? Did I renew the tag? Did I put that sticker on the tag? Do I need to pull over? And then the police officer goes around you and heads down the road after someone else. The alarm is called off. You can go back to your multi-worrying. The conclusion, if you reacted to the police officer like most people do, you can definitely focus if and when you need to do so.

Another good example is going to a movie. People who can’t sit still for ten minutes at work can sit through a two-hour movie and focus. In the case of a movie, the environment helps us focus. The key to concentration is minimizing distractions. That’s what the movie theater designers do. You sit in a comfortable chair, people are asked to turn off their phones, the room goes dark, and other potential distractions are minimized except for the big screen. And one more thing, the picture on the screen is in focus. What happens if the movie gets out of focus? People start yelling the word “focus” and insisting that the problem be corrected immediately. Unfortunately, things can be out of focus at work for days, months and years, and no one comments.

Yes, you can improve (or recover) your ability to focus. The police car example suggests that we focus better if we seriously consider the consequences of our situation. And the movie example suggests that you constantly look for ways to minimize distractions wherever you work on important projects. In earlier postings I made the statement that flow follows focus. And people who learn how to induce the flow state realize productive gains of up to 500%. Therefore, getting better at getting focused is a good use of your time. It’s a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

Sifting: Chapter 9: The Call to Adventure


This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 9: The Call to Adventure

Bob felt good about his conversation with Sift. However, he decided it was time to pay more attention to choosing his questions carefully and focusing on the big issues in life. He didn’t want to wake up from this dream and lose his connection with Sift. Or was this a dream? It sure felt real. He wasn’t ready to ask about that yet. If this was just a dream, that question might end it.

He wondered what he should ask next. A sudden flash of insight produced a series of questions. Bob sat back in his comfortable chair, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and relaxed.

Bob: Sift, are you there?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Do you answer questions for other people too?

Sift: Yes, I am available to assist anyone who wants to explore ideas they are curious about. Different people perceive me in different ways, if they notice me at all. However, I hear all their questions whether they realize I exist or not.

Bob: Do you keep up with how many people ask the same questions?

Sift: No, I do not “keep up with it,” as you say; but I am capable of knowing that information if it is necessary.

Bob: Okay, what question do people ask most often?

Sift: That would be: “What is the purpose of my life?” It is asked in many different ways; however, that is the essence of the question that is asked most often. For example, some people ask the question in other forms, such as: “What is the meaning of my life?” or “What should I be, or do, when I grow up?”

Bob: When they grow up? So, you get most questions from children?

Sift: Yes, I do. Because of the way most adults develop emotionally and intellectually, many humans tend to ask fewer and more superficial questions as they mature. Children, in general, are more curious and much better at asking questions in terms of both quantity and quality. However, I receive the question about “What should I be when I grow up?” from people of all ages. The frequency of this question is highest among people in their younger years and during their mid-life years.

Bob: Okay, here’s my next question: What is my life purpose?

Sift: Your ongoing purpose on Earth is to discover and pursue your unique call to adventure in this present moment. Having said that, I know you have additional questions about that statement. Which question do you want to address first?

Bob: You’re right, I have questions. What exactly do you mean by “adventure”?

Sift: An adventure, in this sense, is any experience that leads to personal growth. Personal growth is another process you are hardwired to pursue. You experience the most joyful aspects of life when you are participating in an adventure that is uniquely designed to utilize your unique strengths and promote your personal growth.

When I use the term adventure, I am actually referring to both the ongoing adventure that gives structure to the overall arc of your life and the sub-adventures that support and move you in the direction of your unique calling. Specific, or sub-adventures, can be long, short, physical, mental, spiritual, financial, educational, or any other form that you have the ability to perceive. As I mentioned, your entire time on Earth is an adventure. Your career, your education, each year, day, and moment of your life is a subset of that adventure. Your marriage is an adventure. Parenting is an adventure. Reading a book is an adventure. Asking me questions is an adventure. An adventure is any undertaking that involves some element of challenge and personal growth that is in alignment with your unique calling.

Bob: Let’s talk more about that. Are you saying everyone on Earth is called to pursue a unique adventure?

Sift: Yes, everyone has an overall adventure that is unique to them and serves to coordinate or organize all their sub-adventures. Your call to adventure can, and likely does, change at various points in your life. For example, the purpose of one adventure might be to prepare you for another higher-level adventure.

Bob: So your sub-adventures in life are designed to support your calling?

Sift: Yes, that’s the way things should work. However, that is not the way things do work with most people.

Bob: What do you mean?

Sift: Some people discover their true calling early in life. When this happens, they usually do a pretty good job of aligning their choices with their calling. For example, they choose friends, associates, life partners, educational opportunities, books, careers, and experiences that are in alignment with and support their calling. Others live more by default and choose somewhat random experiences that may or may not be in alignment with their calling. The beauty of this design process is that it gives you two paths to discovering your true calling in life.

Bob: What are the two paths?

Sift: One path involves experiencing an epiphany, or aha moment. For whatever reason, you just know it. That’s not the way most people discover their calling in life, but it can happen. Many people get quite frustrated when they can’t discover their calling in this manner. They see other people who clearly understand their purpose in life and wonder why they can’t somehow do the same. Ironically, in this mental state, when you are trying to force the issue, you are least likely to discover your unique calling. It is like trying to get a butterfly to land on your finger. You can’t force such a thing. You have to be still and attract the butterfly.

Bob: What’s the other path?

Sift: The other path – the more common path – is similar to putting together a puzzle, or opening a combination lock. When you put enough pieces of a puzzle together, at some point, you can pretty well determine what the finished puzzle will look like. And if you keep trying combinations of lock numbers long enough, the tumblers inside the lock eventually fall into place and the lock opens. So you pay attention to all your sub-adventures and treat them like pieces of a puzzle, especially in terms of the emotions they generate for you and whether or not they energize or drain you.

Bob: Why is that?

Sift: Joyful emotions that nurture your body, mind, and soul usually indicate you are on the right path in life. When sadness, anger, and fear are associated with your actions or inactions, it is usually an indication that you are deviating from your unique path in life. Likewise, you need to pay close attention to whether or not your choices are energizing or draining you. It’s really a fairly simple process.

Bob: So, if I haven’t had this grand epiphany about my unique calling in life, I need to focus on the emotional and energizing or draining consequences of my day-to-day choices. If I do that, I’ll eventually attract knowledge of my unique calling?

Sift: Yes, that is how it works.

Bob: So I don’t need to spend time thinking about what to do with the rest to my life as much as I need to spend time choosing what to do today and tomorrow and paying attention to the consequences of my choices?

Sift: It is fine to reflect on what to do with the rest of your life. It is actually a good idea to do so. However, it is probably more important to focus on your current choices. Your current choices create your life. They determine your life path, direction, and how the rest of your life will unfold. Every choice you make is like a piece of the puzzle or the combination lock we talked about earlier. Put enough choices in place and the tumblers will likely fall into place.

Bob: And then I will have an epiphany, or aha moment.

Sift: Yes, in those circumstances, it is highly likely that the tumblers will eventually fall in place for you.

Bob: This is pretty interesting. I’ve got a lot of questions about this, but I am not sure what to ask first.

Sift: Just relax, Bob. Take your time and think about it.


End Chapter 9

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Everyone on Earth is called to pursue a unique adventure. This adventure can change as your life unfolds.

  1. Why do you think young people and those at mid-life most often think about the purpose of life?
  2. What life adventures have contributed the most to your personal growth?
  3. Do you believe you are called to pursue a unique adventure while on Earth?
  4. What are some current puzzle pieces that might be clues to your next significant adventure in life?
  5. Where are your current choices taking you in life?
  6. Consider reading The Purpose of Your Life, Finding Your Place in the World Using Synchronicity, Intuition, and Uncommon Sense by Carol Adrienne


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Exploring Your Family Tapes

Summary: “The holidays are a good time to explore your family tapes.” 

After you go around the table during Thanksgiving dinner and talk about what you are thankful for, why not have a similar discussion about the psychological tapes that go along with being a member of your particular family.  Here’s an example of what I mean by psychological tapes.

When I was young, neighborhood friends and I would get together to play football, baseball or other games. Often we would play all day, and sometimes we would still be playing when dinnertime rolled around. Occasionally one of my friends would say, “Why don’t you eat dinner with me?” When this occurred, my nervous system kicked into full alert! I would morph into a zombie-like entity and reply in a monotone voice, “No-thank-you-I-cannot-do-that,” and go home. Hold that thought and fast-forward 40 years.

Several years ago, I was attending a training session with about 90 participants. The session ended at noon and I knew about a dozen of the participants were invited to attend a special luncheon with the speaker afterward. I was not one of the invitees. However, during the morning break I had an interesting conversation with the speaker. As a result of this conversation, he invited me to join them for the luncheon. The zombie-like entity suddenly reappeared and I robotically replied, “No-thank-you-I-cannot-do-that!” At the time, I was studying psychological behavior tapes. These are thought patterns that somehow get programmed into our psyche and strongly influence or control our behavior. I remembered from my studies that if you say ‘yes’ but really want to say ‘no,’ or say ‘no’ but really want to say ‘yes’ to a request, it probably means a psychological tape is influencing your behavior.

In this case, I really wanted to say ‘yes’ and go to lunch, but I had been programmed by my parents 40 years earlier to decline all unplanned invitations to dine. The main deterrent to accepting such an invitation was intense guilt. In the case of the playmate’s invitation, I was told that accepting such an invitation was totally inappropriate and I would, in effect, be taking food out of the mouth of my friend’s family members if I joined them for dinner when they were not really expecting me. I now understand that some families have the opposite tape and believe that when it comes to meals, the more the merrier. Not so in my family.

I bring this up now because however you choose to celebrate the holidays, there is a good chance you will spend some time interacting with relatives. Exploring family tapes is something to do at holiday gatherings. Understanding your traditional family tapes can help you understand and, if needed, alter some of your tapes. Simply recognizing that I had a “decline-all-last-minute-meal-invitations tape” and acknowledging that this was behavior I did not want to continue the rest of my life allowed me to rewrite this particular behavior tape. I’ll now happily accept last-minute invitations.

Here’s the deal on tapes. Some serve you well for your entire life. Some serve you well as children but not as adults. All families have tapes about money, religion, politics, education, marriage, parenting, careers, etc. You don’t really have to discuss them. Just sit around and observe your family members…you’ll see them in action.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Sifting – Chapter 8: More About Sift

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 8: More About Sift

Bob: Where have you been, Sift? Why haven’t I heard you before?

Sift: I’ve been wherever and whenever you have been. You didn’t hear me before because you were not tuned into my domain.

Bob: What do you mean, “Tuned into your domain?” What are you talking about? Are you saying my body or mind works like some sort of tuner?

Sift: Thinking of your mind as a tuner is a very good analogy to explain why you haven’t heard me before. Your tuner, or mind, was not tuned into the frequency of my voice before. I have been here all along; you just needed to tune in by adjusting your mental state in order to hear me. It is similar to tuning in to different stations located at different frequencies on your radio. The stations are there all the time, available and active. However, in order to hear a particular station, you must tune into the specific frequency of that station.

Bob: But my mind is not a tuner! I don’t have a knob, dial, or search button that allows me to adjust the frequency of my mind.

Sift: No, but you can tune your mind to different frequencies in many ways. Today, you used three techniques: stillness, quietness, and curiosity. In general, stillness and quietness helped you adjust to the higher frequencies where I exist. Your curiosity gave me permission to connect strongly with you and focus on how I can best help you.

Bob: What do you mean when you say stillness and quietness?

Sift: Interpret those terms literally. It is all very simple. You and I can only establish a good connection when you are in a state of serenity. When you are busy or in a noisy environment, our connection is extremely weak, so it is very difficult for us to communicate effectively. Also, when you are very busy and absolutely certain of things, the signal that allows us to communicate is almost non-existent. The signal grows stronger in direct proportion to your level of serenity and child-like curiosity. And I am only allowed to intervene and establish a strong connection with you when you invite me to do so. You invite me to intervene by asking the questions that are motivated by your curiosity. Think about it, the opposite of asking questions and being curious is the feeling of certainty. When you feel absolutely certain of things, the signal between us is so weak, we cannot effectively communicate.

Bob: Huh?

Sift: What did you not understand about what I said, Bob?

Bob: I understood everything you said. This is just weird! I’m not sure what to think about all of this.

Sift: In this situation, your uncertainty will serve you well. Ask questions, Bob. What do you want to know?

Bob: So, you are saying we are always connected and have always been connected?

Sift: Yes. In your case, it has not been unusual for you to ask questions. And I tried to communicate with you and answer them; however, for quite a few years, the connection between us has been very weak due to excessive noise and activity in your life. Remember our tuner analogy; all three conditions – stillness, quietness, and curiosity – must exist in order for us to establish a strong connection and effectively communicate. It is also important for you to understand that the stillness and quietness factors apply to both your external and internal world. We communicate most effectively when you are calm and in a calm, quiet environment.

It is all designed to be a very simple communication system. When you understand how it all works, I think you can also understand why so many people have difficulty tuning in. Speed, activity, and certainty are highly valued by most people in your circle of influence, as it is with most people in your society.

Bob: Why don’t you just knock some sense into people’s heads and get them to slow down and listen to you?

Sift: The overriding principle of free will does not allow me to do that. Remember, I must be invited in order to intervene. Also remember, I am a non-intimidating source of knowledge. I am both unable and unwilling to, as you say, “Knock some sense into people’s heads.”

Bob: Where are you right now? Where are you physically located?

Sift: We’ll have to continue using analogies to address that question. I am an internal source of knowledge, very similar to your feelings or emotions. Your emotions, such as joy, sadness, anger, fear, and affection, are your direct sources of knowledge. They are designed to give you ongoing guidance about the quality of your choices and actions. Most everything else you know came from an external source, such as a parent or teacher. Therefore, right now, I am inside you in the same place your emotions reside.

Bob: Are you in my stomach, my brain, my heart, my lungs, my liver, or what? Do you have some sort of an analogy to explain your physical location?

Sift: The answer to the first part of your question is yes, I am in all of those places. As for an analogy, say you put some sugar in your coffee and stir it thoroughly. After you finish, where is the sugar? You might say the sugar is located throughout the coffee, and the coffee and the sugar are for all practical purposes inseparable. The answer to the second part of your question is…

Bob: Sift, hold on! I’ll ask more about that later if we have time. You said I could ask questions about anything, so I want to stick with some of the more practical issues related to my life before we run out of time.

Sift: That’s fine. However, we will not run out of time. We may temporarily run out of stillness, quietness, or curiosity, but once you make a connection as strong as the one we are now enjoying, it typically gets easier to make such connections in the future.

Bob: What’s in this for you? Why are you spending all this time with me?

Sift: As a human, you are designed to be a meaning-seeking creature. It is in your DNA, or nature, as you say. Just as you must eat to satisfy your physical hunger, learning satisfies your intellectual hunger. Therefore, learning is like eating and knowledge is like food. The purpose of knowledge, in turn, is to help you more joyfully participate in life. The way I am rewarded would not be meaningful to you in your present form; however, I am rewarded in ways you cannot imagine when I appropriately assist you.

Bob: So you only get rewarded at the end of all of this?

Sift: There is no end of this. The process we are discussing is ongoing. I am rewarded immensely anytime you have an aha moment, or an epiphany. Since, as we discussed, I reside within your being and we are connected, we both feel the positive effects of any rewards that arise from your moments of profound understanding.

Bob: Do you feel the negative things I feel at times – the frustration, anxiety, restlessness, and sadness?

Sift: I know they are present and that you are feeling them, but no, I do not participate in those feelings with you. I operate at a frequency where such things no longer exist for me.

Bob: Once again, Sift, that sounds a bit weird! However, some interesting thoughts popped into my mind when you said that.

Sift: I know some of the things we are discussing must sound strange. Pay a lot of attention to words and thoughts that pop into your mind when you are thinking about the kinds of issues we are talking about now. They usually offer some great clues to the mysteries of life.

Bob: Sift, you know about the call from Mr. Dawson, don’t you?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Then you know that instead of being selected to head up the global project, I got fired?

Sift: Yes, is that not what you were asking about when you said, “What happened?”

Bob: Yes.

Sift: Do you still want to talk about that?

Bob: Yes, give me a minute. I want to think about something.

Sift: Okay, Bob, whenever you are ready.

End of Chapter 8


Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: The combination of stillness, quietness, and curiosity can activate some very interesting aspects of your mind. 

  1. Does it make common sense to you that excessive and sustained busyness can inhibit your ability to examine your life…and that stillness, quietness, and curiosity can help you examine your life?
  2. What are some advantages and disadvantages of the concept of “having free will?”
  3. Why do you think it is important that Sift points out that she is a “non-intimating source of knowledge?”
  4. What do you think it means to be a “meaning-seeking” creature? What are some of the consequences of ignoring this aspect of human nature?
  5. How can increasing your knowledge help you joyfully participate in life?
  6. Do you think Bob’s getting fired will end up as a positive, or a negative, event?
  7. Can you think of events in your life that you initially viewed as negative that eventually turned out to be positive?
  8. Consider reading this interesting article on busyness: Beware the Busy Manager 


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

Open post

Parenting – One Way to Handle Inappropriate Behavior

Summary: “The pen is mightier than the spanking” 

Years ago in a faraway land I managed a lot of people. Once upon a time a person who reported to me walked into my office and declared emphatically (not to be confused with asking) “I need to take the rest of the day off!!” I replied, “May I ask why?” She said, “I need to go home and spank my children!!” I said, “What was their crime…why do you feel the need to go home and spank them?” She replied, “They were hitting each other!!” I’ll pause my story here and let you think about this woman’s response to her children’s actions.

Is it logical to teach children not to hit each other, by hitting them? I’m not sure that is the best way to get your parenting point across. It is more likely that spanking the children, in this case, will reinforce the message that when you are frustrated with someone, a logical and acceptable response to your frustration is to hit them.

So, if you decide against the hitting-begets-hitting approach to disciplining your children, what is another viable option? One option is to get the assailants to produce a written report on “hitting your siblings.” For example, ask them to write all about hitting their brother or sister, challenge them to think through their behavior and get them to describe what it is like to be on the receiving end of such behavior. Keep reviewing the report and sending them back to their writing assignment until you think they get the point (related to the consequences of whatever crime they committed).

Maybe you think this is too lightweight an approach for serious parenting. All I can tell you is that my parents used this method on me and I haaaaaaattttteeeeed it!! Especially when my dad added his favorite trick of making me get up early before school to write a report on my offensive behavior. However, it did make me think about my transgression and usually prevented the repetition of at least that particular crime. By the way, I used this method on my children and they seemed to haaaaaaattttteeeee it!! Based on their words, voice tone and body language when I doled out their literary assignments, they definitely considered it to be a viable form of punishment. And based on a recent discussion with one of my now adult children, report-writing seems to have found it’s way into the lives of the next generation of adolescent transgressors.

If your main goal in situations such as this is to get your children to think about their actions and the consequences of their actions, this might be worth giving a try. Perhaps in the long run it will help your children joyfully participate in life. In the short-run, I suspect they will not think so.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

Open post

Sifting – Chapter 7: The Voice

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 7: The Voice

“Bob, it is time for you to see clearly.”

Bob distinctly heard a soothing female voice coming from somewhere in the room. He opened his eyes and looked around. Not only did he not see anyone in the room, he didn’t see anywhere anyone could hide. He thought it was probably the scotch and his imagination. He relaxed again and sank back into the chair.

“Bob, you asked a question about what happened.”

“Who said that?”

“My name is Sift.”

More than the disembodied voice surprised Bob at this point. Intellectually, he knew that his nervous system should be on full alert. It wasn’t. Instead, he somehow felt even more relaxed than before he heard the voice. He felt centered, grounded, and connected to something incredibly nurturing and peaceful. Rather than feeling anxious, he felt totally focused and relaxed.

Maybe this was just a dream. That’s it. Maybe he was really asleep. It felt like he was awake, but that’s how dreams always feel. They feel real. Since anything can happen in dreams, Bob decided to go with the flow and see where this dream would take him. Anyhow, he hadn’t felt this good in a long time and he didn’t really want to wake up. He decided to gently nurture this dream so it would last longer.

“Sift, are you an angel, or a ghost, or are you a real person?”

“Real. Yes, a person – not in the way you understand the term person. I am an entity available to assist you with learning.”

“An entity? What exactly does that mean?”

“I am a non-intimidating source of knowledge that resides in your inner world. My purpose is to intervene when it is appropriate and help you learn and isolate what is most important and useful to you.”

“Learn about what?”

“Things you are ready to learn, Bob. Things it is time for you to learn.”

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“No, by design I am not capable of being sarcastic. In order to accomplish my purpose, I am designed to be kind, gentle, empathetic, non-judgmental, helpful, patient, and infinitely accepting. I am unable to respond to your questions in any way other than in a genuine and truthful manner.”

“So I can ask you anything?”


This is one hell of a dream! Bob thought. Considering his current reality and the issues he faced in the near future, he wanted this dream to last much longer! He remembered that the best way to keep someone engaged in a conversation was to keep them talking about themselves. He decided he had a lot of questions for, and about, his mysterious friend, Sift.

End of Chapter 7

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Sift appears to somehow be a response to Bob’s curiosity. Perhaps she is a manifestation of the fact that one of the most valuable sources of wisdom is hidden in the last place most people look for it…in their inner world. People tend to favor looking in their outer world for answers to important life questions. Open your mind to Sift and listen to her statements very carefully.

  1. Who, or what, do you think Sift represents?
  2. How does Sift fit within the context of the hero’s journey?
  3. What do you think of the feelings Bob seemed to experience when he was communicating with Sift?
  4. Just think about these questions. You do not have to have answers to them? Hold them in your mind as you are further introduced to Sift.


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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