I’m indebted to my good friend for this blog post. He was the one who bought this book for me as a gift on my birthday. He had told me how much he enjoyed it and so I looked forward to seeing what I could take from it. There are some major principles to be found in this book that will have a major impact on your life if you take the advice on board.
Principle 1: Control and cultivate positive thoughts at all times.
“Enlightened thinkers know that their thoughts form their world and the quality of one’s life comes down to the richness of one’s thoughts. If you want to live a more peaceful, meaningful life, you must think more peaceful, meaningful thoughts.” Pg 52
There are several quotes throughout the book that point to the power of the mind to create the world around you. This comes from the paradigm that your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. Therefore negative thoughts create a negative environment internally which creates negativity externally. One action point suggested is to replace any negative thought instantly with a positive one. I’ve found this to be challenge at times, but its getting easier and definitely helps with keeping things in perspective. A good example would be if I am fed up with a child in class, if I have a negative thought about that child, I then think about what good I could do for them if I maintain a positive attitude and focus only on helping them improve. I think the trick is to see the reality of the situation, but see it from a positive perspective. Kidding yourself with fake positivity doesn’t work.
Principle 2: Kaizen: Constant and never ending improvement.
“You practice the art of Kaizen by pushing yourself daily. Work hard to improve your mind and body. Nourish your spirit. Do the things you fear. …………………….. Do the things you have always wanted to do but tricked yourself into believing you were too old, too rich or too poor. Prepare to live a soaring, fully alive life. In the East they say that luck favours the prepared mind. I believe that life favours the prepared mind.” Pg 100
This is a powerful principle. It could be the most poignant within the whole book for me personally because it sums up beautifully the pursuit of personal development or progress in any area. We all long to improve and get better. This principle tells us that fear and doubt are the blockers of progress. If we are to truly progress, we must eliminate the bottleneck of fear that can stand in our way. I am now at war with my fears. I pick a fear, and will focus on trying my best to eliminate that fear from myself. For example, although I am a good singer, I developed a real fear of singing out and showing off my voice. I think that fear is linked to a host of other ideas such as fear of being humiliated in public, the fear of making a mistake in public and the fear of being rejected. What a list! To combat this, I am going to be singing the first dance song for my best friend’s wedding at the end of May. This will be in front of all my friends and family. Am I scared? Absolutely! But I now recognise that growth lies on the other side of fear. If we can master our fears and see them as obstacles to overcome, we can reach personal greatness far faster as nothing will be able to stop us.
Action point: Try to identify some of your fears and then go to work on eliminating them when you are ready. This is challenging and takes serious self-reflection but I believe the rewards are more than worth the initial effort.
“When you conquer your fears, you conquer your life.” Pg 101
Principle 3: The power of rituals.
“You sow a thought, you reap an action. Reap an action, you sow a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap a destiny.”
Robin invites us to start cultivating certain actions into our lives that will help to improve the quality of your life experience. They are all powerful ideas. The synergy of these rituals is what makes this a highly effective book. Each idea flows well into each other. So when you read them, you will see that it wouldn’t be as challenging to incorporate all of these ideas into your daily life as it might sound. For the sake of brevity, I will just list the rituals very briefly.
1: Solitude – silence and peace
2: Physicality – movement and breathing
3: Nourishment – live healthy foods
4: Life-long learning – commitment to reading
5: Personal reflection
6: Wake up early
7: Music – raise your spirits
8: Using mantras
9: Congruence – when intent and action match up.
10: Simplicity – “Reduce your needs…… unless you reduce your needs you will never be fulfilled.” Pg 135
Action point: If you are interested in taking on some of these ideas, then do an audit on yourself and see where your biggest gap lies. The chances are, that you will be partaking in some of these rituals anyway, but there may be something missing that might just complete your wellbeing jigsaw. For me, I had never tried mantras before and I have started trying to use these in quiet moments of reflection. One mantra suggested in the book to try is: “ I am more than I appear to be, all the world’s strength and power rests in me.” Pg 153.
Principle 4: Live with discipline.
This concept isn’t new to anyone and is so simple to say, but challenging to do. Mastering our will and doing things that are important but not urgent is the cornerstone of this principle. Learning to delay gratification and keep the bigger picture in mind is something that I battle with daily. Just half an hour before writing this, I had been tempted to watch the T.V for an hour or so instead of finishing my blog post. What is helping with this is my raised level of awareness about what I am doing and the consequences it might have. I judge the value of my choices much more than I used to and this helps to develop my discipline. I have a long way to go with this, but I can see improvements.
Principle 5: Value your time. It is all you really have.
“ The most important moment is now. Learn to live in it and savour it fully.”
Another powerful concept and one that is persistent in many books I have read recently is the importance of time and understanding how important it is. Sharma talks about the need to keep life simple in the aims and goals that you set for yourself. He also talks about having the courage to say no when it is appropriate and people are trying to take your time away from you in a way you don’t like. I have been guilty of this in the past and now make a conscious effort to speak out when I feel my time is being wasted either by a person or an activity. I also try to stay conscious of when I am wasting my own time. I have developed a little mantra for this that I say to myself. Make each day memorable. I try and make sure that within each day I search for the things that make that day unique and special. Today it was taking some children after school for football training. We all had a great time and the children are developing their skills. Watching one of the children charge through some nettles to get one of the balls back was a memorable moment for me and a painful one for him! It’s the little things that count. It doesn’t have to be a grand Hollywood moment every day.
Living for the day used to have connotations of recklessness for me, and for some that may be how they choose to interpret it. For me it means being engaged and connected to the world around you. Taking time and energy to fully invest yourself into whatever it is you are doing, and making sure your life is full of awesome memories. I live for the day when I play fight with my son, or take a moment to just breathe and take in my surroundings. I appreciate where I am and who I am with. Living for the day means mind body heart and spirit are awake and engaged. It is the best way to live.
“ Today is the day to live fully, not when you win the lottery or when you retire. Never put off living.” Pg 184
Action point: I have started a journal that I write in for five minutes at night before bed. This action alone is powerful in helping you to remember key moments and insights from the day. It allows you to also learn from the lessons that are staring you right in the face. Try it for 20 days and see what you can learn about yourself.
Principal 6: Serve the world.
This was a powerful insight for me. This quote sums it up and there isn’t much more to say beyond that as it is perfect:
“The quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution.”
I am proud of the blog I have created because I made a conscious choice to share my thoughts with others and give them new things to ponder and think about. In my own little way, I am sending out a message and it feels good to do that. Therefore the quality of my life feels better. There are so many ways we can do this in our day to day lives.
Action point: Think about what you can contribute to others that is of value. Contribution adds to your sense of belonging to the world and massively benefits those who receive your kindness.
These are the powerful ideas that I took from the book, but there are many more in there as well. I would invite anybody to read the book who is looking for a refreshing way to view the world and our place in it. I would also suggest that people who seem out of balance or overwhelmed give this book a try. It could help them to see that they need to take the time to care for themselves before they burn out and forget how to enjoy life.