How many of us wrestle with own thoughts and our minds as we struggle to make sense of everyday life? We all do.

“If I can just figure this problem out. If I’m somehow smart enough, I will be able to get all the pieces to align and make sense, then I will be the master of my world.” We probably actually don’t say this part, but it’s something that high achievers particularly like to subconsciously believe that they’re in complete control and that through their intelligent thought, they will somehow bend the universe to their will.
I am coming to the conclusion that thought and intelligence, might only be a very small piece of the puzzle and at times might be more of a hindrance than the solution. Here are 3 contradictory quotes that I am meditating on.

“I think therefore, I am.”- René Descartes
“98% of all thought is repetitive and utterly useless.” Eckhart Tolle
“Your brain is good for two things: worrying about the future and replaying the past. It will do these things over and over… until those painful hurts become a part of your identity. ”-Richard Rohr

“I think, therefore, I am.” Rene Descartes is implying that the mind controls who we are, what we are, what we do, and make up our identity. This is hard to argue with. But then we get to Eckhart Tolle and Richard’s Rohr’s statements.

If “98% of all thought is repetitive and useless”, and the brain is primarily worried about the future and replaying the past. This would logically mean, who we are largely is outside of our control.
*If Thoughts=Self, but we don’t control thoughts, therefore we don’t control self.

That’s pretty humbling it it’s true. How many of us when brainstorming for solutions, literally find ourselves circling back to the same answers (even though we know they’re wrong). I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve written the same problems with the same answers down in my notebooks. We all do this.
Some of these teachers are implying that there is another part to the equation that goes beyond thought. The common misconception is that if we want our minds to work better, we need to activate all the parts of the brain. “IF the whole brain is functioning at a high level, we’ll think more clearly.” However, that’s most likely misguided. For us to have experience a higher performance level, we need to “quiet” and deactivate the parts of the brain that are responsible for that 98% of noise.

Contemplation, prayer, meditation, self-observation, flow, and many other names are used to describe this process. The process of quieting your mind and embracing the silence is an essential part that allows you to “step back” and become an observer to your own thought. It helps you to “see the forest, through the trees.” The Irony is this process is that you are actively becoming passive to your own ego and fully embracing the present moment.

There are many ways to reach these stages. Steven Kotler describes it as flow and that it can be achieved through sport, physical activity, and experiences. Have you ever played a sport and had real constructive rational thought? My guess is not, so much of your attention is focused on what you’re doing in the moment. You’re in the zone. You have flow. You’ve surrendered to the present. In surrendering to the present, your brain has diverted all of its energy to where it’s needed most and “quieted” the other parts. Your brain is utilizing all its energy on what it’s presently doing. This state of mind can feel almost “out of body” where time slows, space becomes blurred, and ultimate focus flows.

Meditation, Prayer, and Contemplation all do this as well. They might be uncomfortable at first, but once you push past all the worry about the future and the replaying of the past, you’ll be humbled and be in the present. This might be where you want to go for growth, beyond thought.

– Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
-Steven Kotler, The Rise of Superman

If you want to truly resolve conflict, we must go beyond justice and into forgiveness.

When evil or wrongdoing occurs, the cry for justice will rise up loudly. The desire for vengeance, retribution, and punishment to help with the hurt and pain that we feel. Justice is important because it holds people accountable for their actions, but we must go beyond justice and into forgiveness if we want to resolve a conflict.

Most of the ongoing conflicts in the troubled parts of the world are the result of an incapacity to forgive. These regions are stuck in cycles of “eye for eye” retribution that leaves everyone blind. This applies to our daily lives and personal conflicts as well.

Why is this?
Forgiveness is a WORK of mercy. The word work is intentionally included in the description, because it is hard. When we forgive, we bear the burden of the other party’s transgression against us.

“You wronged me. You hurt me. But instead of continuing the cycle of hurt, I am going to do the hard work to bear this burden in forgiveness, in order that we can move forward and resolve this conflict.”
What a heavy burden to bear. But only when someone has the strength to bear this burden, can conflict can be resolved.

*Based on the teachings of Catholic Bishop Barron.

The Triangle of Deep Relationships
The deepest relationships have a Triangle structure to them. At two points of the triangle, you will find two people. Most likely these two people like each other and care about each other. But that alone is not enough to build and deepen the bonds between them. What every meaningful relationship must have, is a “Transcendental 3rd”.
This means that there is a deep love of something that is shared by the two people.
“Love of God”
“Love of Country”
“Love of an Idea or Purpose”
“Love of an Activity (sport)”
“Love of Their Family”

Transcendental means it’s beyond the physical, it’s a shared idea, cause, feeling, something that is bigger than just the people in the relationship. The transcendental 3rd must be deeply meaningful to both people. Without this shared meaning, the relationship usually does not go beyond the surface and will have trouble withstanding difficulty.

Husbands and wives who actively practice their faith together, are significantly less likely to divorce. This is because their relationship is more than just two people, it includes “God” as their transcendental 3rd.

Shared suffering or hardship can be a transcendental 3rd. Soldiers who serve together are another great example. They build deep bonds over sacrifice, love of country, and through the hardship they endure together. Teammates in sports could be another example of this same situation, sacrificing for each other physically with a shared vision.

Ideas and causes can also a transcendental 3rd. If two people believe deeply in the same cause it ties them together and deepens their relationship. Whether the cause is right or wrong, people can be united in it. Charitable giving, Climate Change, Communism, are all examples of causes that have united people.

*Based on the ideas and writings of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Catholic Bishop Barron.

“Anxiety is unfocused fear.”-Dr. Arthur Brooks

Many report to having anxiety. They report trouble sleeping. Feeling exhausted physically and mentally. The number of people that are on anti-anxiety medication is mind blowing. Anxiety can take over our minds and bodies leaving us depleted and incapacitated.

Yet have we ever tried to identify the real source of our anxiety? When we feel anxiety, it’s often very ambiguous. We know we’re afraid, but it is difficult to identify the real reason. The brain craves certainty above all else. So when the future and the outcome are unknown, the brain goes into panic mode.
“The brain mistakes ambiguity for danger.”- Dr. Bill Anton

When feeling anxious, a powerful tactic is first to “Focus Your Fear”.
-Identify the fear.
-Name the fear.
-What is the real fear that is causing me to feel this way?

Strategic Tip: Put your fears into words through writing or speaking. Specifically writing stimulates a part of the brain that is associated with rational thought.

I feel anxious. Why?
Because cashflow is tight in the business and I don’t know what is going to happen. (source of fear)

If cashflow is tight in the business, what are some real possible scenarios? (and then what?)
Example 1: Our Rational brain: We have some sources of liquidity we can use to get us through this tough time. We could use X, Y,Z… If none of those are good, we could do strategy A, B, C….

Example 2: Our Emotional brain: The bank is going to close on us. We’ll have to layoff all our employees. We’re going to lose our house. My wife and kids will end up homeless. I’ll ruin my kids lives. They’ll hate me. We’ll lose everything. I’ll end up divorced. I will be a big disappointment to my parents and my kids. My life will be one big, wasted failure.

As crazy as Example 2 (emotional brain) sounds, this lives inside all of us. The unknown drives our brains crazy. It turns one unknown situation into an Armageddon that is going to completely destroy our lives RIGHT NOW! Guess what? The entire future is unknown, so the brain will continue to freak out forever, if we let it.

Focusing our fear brings clarity to what is real and unreal. It will quiet our mind. We’ll see that while we cannot know the outcome with certainty, it is very unlikely that the many terrible things in our minds will not come to pass. And if the bad things do happen, it will most likely not be nearly as bad as we imagine.

Practical Takeaway: When you’re feeling anxious, focus your fear. Identify it clearly by putting it into words, verbalizing or writing. This will automatically lead to rational, strategic thought.

In the midst of our fast-paced lives, the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, offers a serene retreat for holistic well-being. Beyond a mere stroll, it’s a mindful immersion in nature, backed by scientific evidence revealing numerous health benefits.

Scientific studies, such as those published in the Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, underline the stress-reducing effects of Shinrin Yoku. Forest environments, laden with phytoncides, have been linked to enhanced immune function, as highlighted in the latter study.

Moreover, forest bathing is a boon for mental health, with research from the Journal of Affective Disorders showcasing its potential to alleviate anxiety and depression. Another study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition suggests that time in nature, particularly forests, enhances cognitive function, fostering improved concentration and creativity.

As we navigate the demands of modern life, integrating Shinrin Yoku—whether in expansive forests or urban green spaces—invites a mindful connection with nature. This practice, rooted in simplicity, emerges as a profound means of revitalization, urging us to unplug and embrace the therapeutic embrace of the natural world.

The science of neuroplasticity emerges as a powerful ally, offering a roadmap for reimagining ourselves and unlocking potential. Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections, allows us to reshape our thoughts, behaviors, and ultimately, our identities.

One method to leverage neuroplasticity is through mindfulness practices. By cultivating present-moment awareness, we can rewire neural pathways associated with stress and negativity. Meditation and mindfulness exercises enhance neuroplasticity, fostering a positive mindset and reducing the impact of harmful thought patterns.

Another avenue for personal transformation is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This evidence-based approach targets maladaptive thoughts and behaviors, encouraging the formation of healthier neural connections. Engaging in activities that challenge our comfort zones and learning new skills also stimulates neuroplasticity, fostering adaptability and resilience.

Visualizing our ideal selves is a potent tool. The brain cannot distinguish between a vividly imagined experience and a real one. By consistently envisioning the person we aspire to be, we prompt neuroplastic changes that align with our desired identity.

The science of neuroplasticity invites us to become architects of our own evolution. Through mindfulness, cognitive interventions, experiential learning, and visualization, we can actively participate in the reimagining of ourselves sculpting a more resilient fulfilled version of who we are.

What pulls you away from the beauty of your soul? In The pursuit of wealth, chasing after relationships, or any other distractions, it’s crucial to ponder if these endeavors are truly worthwhile.

Money and relationships are undoubtedly significant aspects of life, but if they become consuming forces that distance you from the essence of your soul, it’s time for introspection. The constant chase for financial success or the pursuit of fleeting relationships might lead us down a path where the core of our being gets overshadowed.

Consider the moments when you find yourself immersed in the chaos of material pursuits. Are these endeavors aligning with your true self, or are they merely veiling the beauty within? It’s easy to get caught up in societal expectations and external pressures, losing sight of our authentic selves in the process.

Amidst the daily grind, allocating time for self-discovery and introspection is the key. Reconnecting with your values, and innermost desires can provide clarity. Evaluate whether the pursuits that consume your time and energy contribute positively to your well-being and soul.

Life is a delicate balance, and finding harmony between external ambitions and internal serenity is an ongoing journey.

By identifying and confronting our fears, we can break free from the confining courtyard of inhibition and pave the way for continued success. Here are three essential steps that will help guide you through the process of removing fear and empowering yourself to become your best.

I mentor a lot of young men and most of them are hungry to viewed by the world as successful. Today a young man asked the question, “How Do You Know When You Have Enough?” He was referring to financial and material success when he asked the question. But I believe perhaps we would all be better served if we make sure we’re measuring and defining success in the appropriate way.

I have a sister, who always compliments how successful I am because of some good business decisions I’ve made in the past. But she has been married to the same man since she was 19 years old (I won’t say her current age, but it’s a long marriage). She raised a wonderful family that loves and supports each other. From my point of view, she’s as successful as any person could ever be.

My friend, who has been a priest for over 50 years. He’s dedicated his life to God and helping mentor those seeking a closer relationship with God. Could your life be more successful than that?

Society tends to view success as wealth and power (fame, influence, ect). I think that’s very misguided. On my tombstone they won’t write, “Roy Terracina-A Great Businessman.” My true success will be how I touched the lives of many people, loved my family, and helped those I could.

Make sure you’re using the right scoreboard in measuring your life.

I’d like to present a set of intentional and mindful practices to add vibrancy and fulfillment to your week. Let’s break down and expand on each suggestion:

1. Set Weekly Goals:
On Sunday night, take a moment to reflect and identify three specific aspects of your mental and spiritual well-being that you would like to work on during the upcoming week. These could include improving emotional reactions, breaking patterned responses, or fostering positive thought patterns. Writing them down creates a tangible commitment to self-improvement.

2. Morning Focus Routine:
Start your Monday morning by revisiting the three goals you set the night before. Avoid the temptation to check your phone or engage in other distractions immediately. By prioritizing your mental and spiritual focus before diving into the day’s activities, you set a positive tone for the week.

3. Connect with Positive Influences:
Actively plan to spend time with positive individuals who uplift and inspire you. Consider turning these interactions into “movement dates” where you engage in physical activities together. Whether it’s a run, walk, gym session, or any other form of exercise, combining positive social interactions with movement enhances the overall experience and contributes to your well-being.

4. Design a Day to Give Back:
Dedicate a specific day to giving back and helping others in need. This intentional act of service not only benefits the recipients but also adds a sense of purpose and fulfillment to your own life. Plan how you will contribute to the well-being of others and make a conscious effort to follow through during the week.

5. Reflect and Express Gratitude:
Monday evening, take some time to reflect on the choices you made throughout the day. Express gratitude for the positive direction you chose and acknowledge the deliberate choices you made. This reflection helps reinforce positive behavior patterns, setting the stage for continued mindfulness and intentionality throughout the week.

By incorporating these practices into your weekly routine, you can transform tasks into vibrant opportunities for personal growth, connection, and service, ultimately adding color and meaning to your life.

Have a great week and remember to live well,