A Skeptic Begins to Believe

Our deepest beliefs run our lives, and often we’re not even aware of it or even what those beliefs are.

What’s more, we believe the things we believe because we choose to believe them. We often make our decisions to believe what we believe unconsciously, or at a young age.

And once we form beliefs about ourselves, other people, or the world around us, we often hold onto those beliefs for the rest of our lives. The problem with this is that these beliefs are often wrong.

I participated in a workshop last year in which the instructor said that each of us has three separate, powerful experiences between early childhood and young adulthood that profoundly influence our identity. This is true, the instructor said, regardless of upbringing, sex, class, culture, or any other factor, and there is absolutely no way to prevent it.

In other words, each of us has experiences early in our lives that we respond to by deciding to be a certain way from then on in order to protect ourselves or to prevent that sort of thing from happening again. We form our identities from singular experiences and we often don’t recognize that we’ve even done it.

The first experience, the instructor said, occurs roughly between the ages of four and six, and it’s a situation where we have the awareness that “something’s wrong.” The second experience usually occurs around the ages of 10 and 13, and it’s one where we have the feeling “I don’t belong.” The third experience occurs sometime in our late teens and it comes as a powerful sense that “I’m on my own.”

The instructor asked the participants to look for these experiences from their own lives, and invited a few of us to share at a microphone.

A lady in her late forties volunteered to share her “I don’t belong” experience. It occurred when she was just barely a teenager, on the first day she transferred to a new middle school. Her class was having an assembly that day. The class stood up to leave for the assembly and she stood up to go with them. The teacher said, “You stay here. This assembly is only for the smart kids.” All of the other students then left the room with the teacher.

The lady shared her sadness at having to spend the entire class period sitting alone with her head down at her desk in a darkened classroom, sobbing.

When the lady was done sharing her experience, the instructor asked, “Did you make a decision in that moment?” The lady said that she did indeed— that right then and there she decided that she was going to be smart. She then shared her subsequent stellar academic performance, the fact that she graduated from college with honors, then quickly ascended the corporate ladder while participating in a variety of charitable activities and raising a family.

I searched for the identity-forming experiences from my own life and was able to find them (though I’ll save those for a later blog post). I came away from that workshop believing that we do in fact forge entire aspects of our identities from what we might later look back on as small and simple occurrences.

Faith seems to be another area where we believe what we believe because we choose to believe it. I once heard a religious leader describe faith as “a choice, not a feeling.” I have thought on that for a long time, and I think it’s pretty remarkable. I also think it’s true.

The implications of this are huge. Huge because once you understand that you are the one who has chosen your identity, you understand that you can change it to be any way you wish. You are free to create your future from your future.

It’s also significant because what flows from our self-decided, core-level beliefs are 1) our THOUGHTS, which then give rise to 2) our EMOTIONS, which then lead to 3) our ACTIONS, which then yield 4) the RESULTS in our lives.

T. Harv Eker tells us, “If you want to change the fruits, you first have to change the roots. To change the visible, first you have to change the invisible.”

Now if only someone would only tell us how. Sounds like a topic for another blog post, doesn’t it?

What do you think about the idea that we form our identities from single events early in our lives? Do you agree? Can you find these areas in your own life?


The Two Hardest Things in the World

The two hardest things in the world are: 1) Living life in a way that allows you to hear the voice inside yourself that tells you what you ought to do and be in every moment, and 2) Having the strength, courage, discipline, and/or ability to follow that voice once you are able to hear it. 

Commonly we are sure about what we DON’T WANT, yet we are unable to clearly articulate exactly what it is that we DO WANT. The better we get at being able to hear our inner voice, and the more consistently we follow its guidance, the happier, healthier, and more satisfied we’ll be. 

The truth of this became clear to me a few years ago. On an early summer day I was making my daily commute on my motorcycle. I was cruising in an open lane of I-80 heading west. The sky, light with clouds and a soft breeze, merged with the hum of my Ducati’s engine and my wandering thoughts. My mind entered the sort of neutral state that occurs just before dropping into sleep, or during a long run. 

My reverie was interrupted by a sudden and perfect realization that I wanted a future vastly different from the present I was living. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, and I didn’t know precisely what changes I would make, but in that moment I resolved to consciously create a life in which I was fully alive.

 Since the day I made that commitment to myself on my motorcycle, countless good things have happened in my life. I found and married my soul mate. I started a company (Miller Inspiration) inside my family business that allows me to serve others by using my strengths, gifts and talents. I have traveled to the rainforest and for the first time understood that humans are a part of nature rather than apart from nature. I have witnessed the majesty of lions on the Serengeti and rhinos in the Ngorogoro Crater. I have found mentors and teachers who have contributed immeasurably to my growth and happiness. And though my life is far from perfect, it has never been better. 

I’ve learned that we don’t have to know exactly where we want our lives to end up- that we don’t have to be able to see the end from the beginning (though it’s great when we can). We just have to be sure we’re pointed in a good direction and strive to live so that we can hear the voice that tells us what we ought to do and be. And we have to have the courage to follow that voice when we hear it. That voice will grow stronger as we do.


Fitbit Makes Being Active Fun and Interesting

Fitbit makes devices that make being active fun and interesting. Its latest product, the Fitbit Force is worn as a watch, but it does so much more. Each day it tracks things like how many steps you take, the total distance you walk, how many calories you burn, how many minutes of intense activity you have, how many flights of stairs you climb and even how long and how well you sleep.

You can use it to track your weight and water consumption. It easily syncs with your smartphone and requires less than five minutes of setup. The battery lasts about five days on a charge. It vibrates and sends you a happy message on days you achieve the American Heart Association’s recommended 10,000 steps.

Wearing this device for just one week makes me think of Arthur C. Clarke’s words, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This thing might not be magic, but it’s pretty awesome.

Another awesome thing about Fitbit is that it makes tracking progress toward fitness goals easily measurable. It’s hard to manage what you don’t measure. Fitbit emails you a cool report that summarizes your activity each week. It’s interesting to see your activity quantified in this manner and delivered in report format.

The Fitbit Force is $130 and requires no subscription. That’s pretty cool too.

Fitbit, Google Glass, Samsung Galaxy Gear. 2014’s the year we’ll remember as the year wearable tech took off. And we were just a bit more fit because of it.


Does Your Life Have a Unique and Specific Purpose?

I have this theory that the most powerful, accomplished and happiest people are those that have the greatest clarity. Clarity about who they are, what they want, and what they believe. Clarity about what’s important to them and the reasons behind the things they do. Clarity about the purpose of their lives.   

For the first 35 years of my life, I didn’t believe that life had meaning. Unsurprisingly, I spent a good portion of those years in a pretty dark place. For a long time I didn’t understand my own emotions of loneliness and despair as signals that something in my life needed to change- and even once I grasped this, it took a while longer for me to understand that for something in my life to change, I had to be the one to change it. 

The pain of emptiness spurred me to search for meaning. In a conversation with a Rabbi, I came to believe that I have a unique and specific life purpose- that each of us does. I also came to believe that our purpose always involves serving others, and that our degree of happiness is in direct proportion to our ability to express our purpose. 

But I still didn’t have any idea what my purpose was, or even how to find it. I thought of words I’d heard attributed to Buddha, “Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” 

And I thought about George Bernard Shaw’s words, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 

Which left me to wonder, if our lives do have purpose, do we discover it or do we create it?