I listened to Mel Robbins on a TEDtalk the other day. She’s the author of “Stop Saying You’re Fine” and I am blown away at her style and her message.

When you have a thought, what do you do with it? Ok, that one.  What happened?  Did you think about it?  What did you do?

Take a minute and let’s go through that exercise again.  This time, go through the steps of your thought process to get to the conclusion that you just came up when I asked the question.

You might have to really look for the conclusion and trace back your steps very carefully, because what happened happens so fast, that it’s easy to miss.  So here we go, one more time.

When you have a thought, what do you do with it?

Take a minute and write down your conclusion to that question.  Did you respond with “I don’t know” or “What are you talking about” or “I guess I think about it.”

Whatever the conclusion, did you think about it or did the conclusion just come to you.  What you just experienced, whether you were aware of it or not, was your brain on auto-pilot.  Your brain processed the question, considered the outcomes and came to a conclusion so fast you might have only noticed the conclusion, if you noticed it at all.

You could have had a different reaction.  Your brain could have rejected the question.  If that happened, then consider that your auto-pilot response was to stop.  Maybe the stop was in the form of an internal dialogue.  Maybe you didn’t come to a conclusion, but were in a debate on the meaning of the question. That’s a stop.

Either way, did you notice your conscious involvement?  I don’t think so, at least not at first.  You have a mental reaction to every stimulus in your life.  You may or may not pay attention to it on a regular basis, but it is there.

Advertisers know this all too well.  Notice the messages that they send on every conceivable airway.  They create words, sounds and images to have your brain come to a conclusion on auto-pilot.  And what’s that conclusion?  Buy this, that or the other.

We are constantly bombarded with messages from various sources and as a result we are constantly making decisions on a daily basis that we may or may not be aware of why we are making that decision. The point is, that if you don’t pay attention to the thought process you engage in before you make a conclusion, you cannot be sure what caused you to come to that conclusion.

Most of us don’t take the time to examine our conclusions.  Why not?  Because the “case is closed” as my dad would say to end a discussion (usually about a conclusion he made that I didn’t want). The case is closed in your mind and therefore it is closed for your body and spirit too (they are along for the ride).  What happens when the case is closed? What’s the big deal?  Quite frankly, it’s not. This is the biggest “no big deal” phenomenon that there is in when it comes to being alive.  Our brain responds to stimulus all the time and that’s not a problem.  So, if it’s not a problem, why am I writing about this whole process?

Because, it is a problem and your life is suffering because of it.  Now, in your life, you are not suffering from truly life threatening stimulus.  There are no tigers roaming around, disease isn’t running rampant, food is in decent supply (let’s not discuss quality) and you probably aren’t thirsty right now.  You’re not suffering from your basic needs:  food, clothes and shelter.

But I’m going to assert that there is an area of your life that your needs are suffering.  It’s the needs we have beyond survival, but no less our needs.  You see, when you’re hungry, thirsty, tired or scared, your body responds with warning signals.  These signals are usually strong enough to catch our attention so that they are not ignored, and usually we don’t ignore them.

So let’s look at some feelings that many of my thousands of students have complained about in my management classes.  They feel stress, the bad kind.  Stress, anxiety and pressure cause pain in most people’s lives.  They struggle with these feelings because they want them to go away.  The same way that hunger goes away after a great meal. The problem with these kinds of struggles, is that we think that because we associate them to something emotional and ignore their physical origins.

What? My emotions have a physical origin?  Of course they do.  We’re emotional creatures and we need to embrace the relationship between our feelings and what occurs when we struggle.

I remember a quote from a sales meeting early in my career:
“God don’t play dirty tricks.”

That meant a lot to me at the time and I have also struggled with it my entire career.  You see, what the speaker was trying to do was encourage the audience to believe in themselves and their decision to be with that company.  He was trying to get the audience to refocus their faith on their inner vision of outward success.  He was trying to make the audience aware that if you have an idea, along with that idea is all the tools and resources to fulfill that idea.  What could be frustrating about that?

Well, I was full of ideas, but I wasn’t fulfilling them.  I got frustrated because I thought God was playing a dirty trick on me sometimes.  What I missed in that talk so many years ago, Mel Robbins enlightened me today.  You see, when you have an idea or a thought, in order to fulfill on that thought or idea you have to do something about that idea to make it a reality.

Her advice is to take action in 5 seconds or less.  Otherwise the inertia of inaction will become greater than the force required to take action.  I don’t know if the science behind that statement is true, but I do know that action is unlikely the longer from the idea or thought I pass.

So, what’s the one thing that you want this year?  Just this year, not for your lifetime, I want you to pick that thing you want more than any other thing in the world.  One thing.  Just one.  If you’re struggling with picking one thing, I understand.  But I also don’t care.  Pick one now (tick, tock, tick, tock, tick… time’s up).  That was five seconds… did you pick one thing?

If you didn’t pick, that’s something for you to more closely examine.  I assert that you struggle with clarity and focus in your life and that your results would be dramatically improved if you could decide that one thing. Most people don’t get what they want because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they won’t decide on what they want and defer to the enormous “everything.”

If you didn’t pick one thing that you wanted this year, here’s the other thing to note.  Your ability to choose that one thing won’t get any easier.  There is no amount of time that you will likely spend on this problem since you haven’t picked your one thing now.   The law of diminishing interest will take over and the distractions of life will start to overwhelm you and even if you don’t forget you will get trapped by something else, even more powerful than not remembering: settling.

Let’s say that you come back to the question of what you want and you start to struggle to make a decision, after all, nothing has really changed from now until then.  If you struggle now, you will struggle then and that’s just a law of life.  So here you are, back in the struggle to decide on one thing that you want.  In lieu of making a decision, you are even more likely to decide that you already have everything that you want and that you don’t need anything else in your life.   Another conclusion and another dream dead.

Don’t kid yourself any longer.  You have a desire for a reason.  It’s like your body telling you you are hungry.  That pain you feel is an inner drive to take action.  Not for food, but rather for action.  We are physical beings as much as intellect and spirituality.  We are designed to move through this world.

  • When you have a thought and you don’t move, you feel stuck.
  • You have a desire and you don’t move toward it you will feel frustrated.
  • If you have dreams you are not actively pursuing you will feel the stress of your dream fading away.

Stop telling yourself that everything in your “life is good.”  It’s a lie.  You are stressing out your body and mind and starving your soul of it’s dream.  You were put here for a reason and a purpose.  If you are not fulfilling that purpose you will feel pain.  Start telling the truth about your life the same way you would tell people that you are hungry, tired or thirsty.

When people ask how you’re doing, tell them:

  • “I could be working on my dream” or
  • “I’m frustrated that I haven’t taken any action on my business venture” or
  • “I’m lonely without a mate.”

What’s the worst that could happen?  Exactly.