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December 10, 2021

We are all wonderful human beings trying to find our way. Today and every day we try to better understand the meaning of our lives. We long to discover our gifts and release them fully into the world, and we hope to find happiness, peace and strength along the way. For some of us, the key to these desires rings loud and clear, determining what we do and how we do it from moment to moment. For others, these deep-rooted needs are buried under the noise of daily life, under ego, under fear, under the pressures and norms we face in society.... and therefore they are rarely addressed.

In my own journey to self-actualization, I've watched dozens of amazing people - friends, course participants, live event attendees, etc. - as they've found their own path to happiness and self-actualization, and I've noticed many common themes. In all cases, the happiness they discover and gradually develop internally goes back to the realization of certain hard but fundamental truths about the nature of their lives in the present.

It seems that we are all here to realize these truths in our own way and in our own time. And when they come to full fruition, not only intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually as well, we are better able to find the happiness, peace and power we seek.

1. Everything you love and are familiar with is changing today.

Over the past decade, Marc and I have gradually worked with hundreds of course participants, coaching clients, and live event participants. In the process, we've discovered that the root cause of most human stress is simply our stubborn tendency to hold on to things. In short, we cling to the hope that things will go exactly the way we want them to, and when they don't, we complicate our lives to no end.

So how can we stop holding on?

By realizing that there is nothing at all that we can hold on to.

Most of the things we desperately want to hold on to as if they were real, solid, eternal fixtures in our lives don't actually exist. Or if they do exist in some form, they are changeable, fluid, impermanent, or just an idea in our heads.

Life becomes much easier when we understand this.

Imagine standing blindfolded in the middle of a large swimming pool, trying desperately to reach the edge of the pool that you think is near, but in reality is far away. Trying to reach for that imaginary edge stresses you out and tires you out as you swim aimlessly around trying to hold on to something that isn't there.

Now imagine that you stop, take a deep breath, and realize that there is nothing nearby to hold on to. Only water around you. You can keep trying to reach for something that doesn't exist... or you can accept that there is only water around you and relax and drift.

In Getting Back to Happy, Marc and I also take readers through the process of letting go.

And no, it's not easy. One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go - whether it's guilt, anger, love or loss. Change is never easy - you struggle to hold on, and you struggle to let go. But letting go is often the healthiest way forward. It frees you from toxic attachments from the past and paves the way to use the present as positively as possible.

You need to emotionally rid yourself of some of the things that once meant a lot to you so that you can leave the past and the pain associated with it behind.

2. 98% of the pain you feel today is of your own making because of your emotional attachments to the past.

When someone is working on themselves and changing for the better, it is unnecessary to keep bringing up their past. People can change and grow. You know this to be true.

But have you also given yourself a fair chance to change and grow?

Have you consciously detached yourself from everything that is behind you so that you can move forward again with grace?

If you're shaking your head now, you're not alone. I know exactly how you feel. I've experienced this myself, and I know dozens of people who are in the same boat. Sometimes we all fall victim to our attachments. And sometimes we don't even realize that we are blocking our own present blessings by holding on to the past. Do your best to realize this now....

Growth is painful. Change is painful. But ultimately, nothing is as painful as being stuck somewhere in the past.

Remember a powerful lesson .... An important truth:

You can have a heartbreaking story from the past without it dominating your present.

In the present moment, we all have some kind of pain: anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, regret, etc.

Notice this pain within you, observe it closely, and realize that it is caused by the story you have in your mind about an event in the past (either the recent past or the distant past). Your mind may insist that the pain you feel is caused by what happened (not the story in your head about it), but what happened in the past is NOT happening right now. It is past. It has passed. But the pain is still there because of the story you unconsciously told yourself about the past event.

Notice that "story" does not mean "made up story." It also does not mean "true story." The word "story" in the context of your self-assessment does not have to mean that it is true or false, positive or negative, or that it is a compelling judgment. It is simply a process that goes on in your mind:

You remember something that happened.

You unconsciously perceive yourself as a victim of that event.

The memory of what happened triggers a strong emotion in you.

So perceive what history you have without judging it and without judging yourself. It is natural to have a story; we all have stories. See yours for what it is. And see that it causes you pain. Then take a deep breath, and again....

Inner peace begins the moment you take those deep breaths and resolve not to allow the past to dominate your present feelings.

Have faith in the NOW.

3. Many things you would like to control today are better left unchecked.

Some things in life are worth changing and controlling. Most things are not.

Let that sink in for a moment.

"If you want to control the animals, give them a bigger pasture". Marc and I heard this quote a few years ago at a meditation retreat in a group discussion about the power of changing your attitude about the things you can't change or don't need to change.

I see "the animals" and their "greater pasture" as a form of letting go and allowing things to be the way they are. Instead of trying to tightly control something, loosen up and give it more space - a bigger pasture. The animals will be happier, roaming around and doing what they naturally do. And your needs will be met, too: you'll have more space to live in peace with the animals.

The same philosophy applies to many aspects of life: if you step back and let certain things happen, those things will happen on their own and your needs will be met as well. You will have less stress (and less to do) and more time and energy to work on the things that really matter and the things you can actually control - like your attitude about everything.

This form of letting go is not about giving up. It's about giving up any obsessive attachment to certain people, outcomes, and situations. It means showing up every day in your life with the intention of being your best self and doing the best you can without expecting life to go a certain way. It's about focusing on what's important and letting go of what's not.

The energy of someone striving to create something wonderful, coupled with this kind of dedication, is far more powerful and rewarding than that of someone determined to get results with a desperate "must-have" mentality. Surrender brings inner peace and joy, and lest we forget, our outer life is a reflection of our inner state.

So give back control by simply letting most things be.

4. Your time today is more priceless and fleeting than it feels.

This morning I was answering emails from our newest course participants when I came across an email from a student named Laura that immediately caught my attention. The subject line read:

"Your book gave me strength when I was dying."

The first paragraph of her email went on to say, "I just want to thank you for giving me hope, daily reminders, and the little tools I needed. When I was literally fighting for my life after emergency heart surgery, I read the copy of your new book you sent me during my hospital stay. During the hardest part of the recovery process, I tried to force myself to read for only five minutes at a time, because that was all the energy I had. But even in small doses, your words kept my spirits high and focused effectively when I needed them most. The daily ritual of reading your book was truly my lifeline at times. And believe it or not, the 50% chance of recovery I was given just a few months ago turned into 99.9% this morning when my doctors officially stated that my surgery and ongoing treatments were all incredibly successful."

That's freaking incredible! What a brave woman and an inspiring journey! And then she closed her email by saying, "I am so grateful to be able to use what you have taught me for my second chance at life."

Most importantly, her email reminds me that too many of us wait too long to live our best lives. We put off until tomorrow everything that is important to us. And before we know it, we're wondering, "How did it get so late so fast?" Or we just don't have as much time as we expected.

Don't let this happen to you.

Do as Laura did: make today the beginning of your second chance at life. Take time to find yourself. Take time to identify what you want and need. Take time to take risks. Take time to love, laugh, cry, learn and work for what you need. Life is shorter than it often seems.

Let this be your wake-up call to stop waiting.

What we do today defines us!

Tomorrow's progress is always enhanced by today's efforts, no matter how small.

Many wonderful little things can be accomplished in one day if you don't always put that day on tomorrow. Act positively and sow the right seeds in your life. Nature herself makes no distinction between the seeds she receives. She makes grow whatever is sown. That is how life works. Pay attention to the seeds you sow today because they will be the harvest you reap tomorrow.

Truth be told, one day there REALLY won't be a tomorrow! And this harsh reality must be respected. I was reminded of this today as I was talking with a 74-year-old course participant about the topic of regret, and she began our conversation by saying (I'm passing this along with my permission), "Why haven't I learned to accept and appreciate everything, and treat each day as if it were the last? Honestly, my biggest regret is how many times I believed in tomorrow." ... May we all heed her words and learn from them

Your turn...

If you feel like it, we'd love to hear from you.

Which of the above truths touches you most today?

Do you have anything else to say?

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