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soccer with Griffin and JuanThe photo to the right shows a highlight from our time with Juan, our Spanish exchange student (and Griffin’s surrogate big brother).

We rented a pontoon boat and spent a full day out on the gorgeous Lake Jocassee – jumping off cliffs, swimming under waterfalls, and playing football on a beach made from limestone (complete with little flecks of mica that made the sand and water glisten like gold)!

It was with heavy hearts that we took him to his drop-off to return to Spain. He wrote us a lovely letter before he left. His words captured our feelings exactly, “I’m so sad to leave but happy because I’ve known a great family that I hope to live with another time. Griffin has been like my brother that I’ve never had.”

I can’t believe we almost didn’t host him – you see, when we were presented with the opportunity we already had a busy summer planned and it didn’t seem possible.

But when we looked at what we really value – learning about new cultures, sure, but even more, challenging ourselves to embrace new opportunities to learn AND love more, it was a clear and absolute YES.

I talk about it all the time, but getting clear on your true values is the straightest path to happiness and success. Below I provide you with two GREAT opportunities to get even more clear.

First, this week’s feature article is all about a little something (the reticular activating system, or RAS) that makes a BIG impact in your life. You’ll want to read it carefully.

Second, take a look at free series of classes that my coach, Fabienne Fredrickson, is offering – in the P.S. below.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS for short) is a tiny part of the brain that has a huge job. It controls consciousness and acts as a filter.

You need that filter, by the way. At any given moment you have approximately 2 million bits of sensory information available to you.

You’re only capable of absorbing about 150 bits per second, though, so even though all the other bits are there, you literally don’t know it, because the RAS doesn’t let them in.

So you don’t actually perceive reality as much as your RAS “selectively sifts” what you perceive.

Think about walking through a crowded airport. It’s very noisy, people are talking, announcements are coming over the speaker system, and perhaps you’re focusing on your child, making sure he stays close.

You aren’t picking out any details about other conversations, or announcements, until you hear your name over the loudspeaker. You immediately focus your attention on that announcement, although you didn’t hear a word of what went before.

That’s your RAS at work – it has a subroutine that says ‘Pay attention if you hear my name.’

Your belief system is also controlled by the RAS. What makes your belief system so important is that your RAS is programmed not by your conscious mind but by your subconscious mind.

So a host of old messages, limiting thoughts and disempowering beliefs that have gotten into your subconscious are still there, controlling your RAS – and, by extension, controlling your perception of reality.

Worse than that, those old hurts and fears blind us to what our reality can become, closing off our ability to change and forcing us into futures that exactly mirror our pasts.

For example, if I believe that I can’t have what I really want, it is probably because when I was a child I was told many times by many adults that I couldn’t have what I wanted.

summer bucket listThe adults around me meant well, of course. They thought this was a lesson I needed to learn because our culture maintains that you can’t always get what you want (the Rolling Stones even wrote a song about it!). Problem is, this Very Important Lesson is simply not true.

That doesn’t matter to the RAS, though. Mine had been programmed to believe that if I really wanted something, there was a good chance I wouldn’t get it. Every time I didn’t get something I wanted, the RAS would make me conscious of that fact while filtering out evidence that didn’t fit my preconceived notion. Not getting what I wanted made me feel bad, and that bad feeling became just another bit of evidence that I was right.

In this way, negative emotions cause us to act in ways that once again reinforce our false programming.

Since the RAS acts as our “gatekeeper,” the first step toward sending it a new memo about its job is to figure out what instructions it has received before.

So think about it: What are the stressful thoughts that keep you up at night? Take a deep look at those thoughts, and most likely you’ll find that they come from an RAS working on faulty or outdated instructions. Once you see that, you’ll know better how to target your re-training efforts.

The good news is that, over time, information from your conscious mind filters into your subconscious. If you look for evidence that undermines your negative emotions and interpretations – and look for evidence that reinforces more positive ways of thinking and feeling—the RAS will eventually get the memo. This is why choosing “better-feeling” thoughts and affirmations (practices I’ve recommended in previous articles) help change our perceptions over the long run.

If you’ve had some resistance to using these tools in the past, I hope you’ll give them another chance now that you understand the brain mechanics behind them.

With new thoughts and beliefs everything changes. Negative emotions vanish. Opportunities appear that just weren’t present before, and it becomes far easier for us to accomplish whatever we want.

Our relationships with others (and with ourselves) improve, because our mindsets completely shift.

So how do you re-train your RAS? Your beliefs affect what you perceive, and what’s possible for you – and they are completely under your control.

Again, I think finding a better-feeling thought or affirmation that you repeat frequently to yourself is the best way to do this.

And affirmations are easy! You can find the perfect one for you simply by “turning around” your current stressful thought.

For example, if you believe that you don’t have enough time to do the things you really want to do, your affirmation would be “I have plenty of time to do the things I want to do.” (Or if that sounds too far-fetched, “I am creating plenty of time to do the things I want to do.”)

When you find an affirmation that works for you, you become happier and healthier in every sense. And while happiness is great, it doesn’t end there.

You become able to do things that you’ve never done before. You feel good and do good at the same time— and that is true success.

P.S. A month after I attended the Mindset Retreat last year I brought in over $10,000 in coaching revenue ($10,467 to be exact) – more income in one month than I had ever made before! I crossed a truly remarkable milestone: I had my first – but certainly not my last – 5-figure month!

One of the truly powerful lessons Fabienne teaches is to see money as a reflection of your values. Once I got that, I decided right then and there to tithe my income to Child Aid of Guatemala. I “saw” myself sending a check for at least $1,000 to help educate children, and I know that vision was a large part of the reason I reached my goal.

Fabienne is a truly masterful mindset teacher. She helps you break down the old thought patterns that are holding you back, and then she gives you new thought patterns that help you be your best self and get your gifts out into the world in a very big way. For that, and so much more, I can’t thank Fabienne enough!

The first class of Fabienne’s FREE online course is about “Dreaming a Bigger Dream.”

Find out more and register by clicking here.


Chinese Lanterns

The photo shows Griffin and Juan, a Spanish exchange student we’re hosting, before playing an epic soccer game.

We had never hosted a foreign student before, but when Juan’s program reached out to us and told us that Juan’s dream was to live the “American Lifestyle,” Griffin was adamant about helping him achieve his dream.

What he hadn’t anticipated is how much he would LOVE Juan. Every day he says, “Juan is so awesome. He’s the best big brother I could ever have.”

If you’ve been a reader since earlier this summer, you know that Griffin and I lived with a family in Guatemala and their son was like the best little brother he could ever have.

And the place where they all connected the best was with soccer – so I still maintain soccer (or football as it’s known in most of the world) is THE international language of friendship, or in Griffin’s case, brotherhood.

If you’ve been a reader for a while you know that making time to unplug and connect with friends and family is incredibly important to me.

For the last few years I’ve shared how I’ve managed to make that time by creating a “Summer Bucket List” – with lots of ways to enjoy special moments with loved ones, often for very little (or no) cost.

Sure, maybe you can’t spend most of the summer traveling to distant lands or hosting international visitors like I am (and it’s not like I do this every summer), but you can still be mindful of making the most out of the season anyway.

That’s why I’m happy to share this list again. I hope it will inspire you to enjoy more loving connection. And if you have your own list of favorites, please share them with me!

A few years ago I realized that what I really want from the summer is to have fun and make memories with my family and friends – and that’s how the “Summer Bucket List” was born.

summer bucket listBecause summer can go by SO fast, I use this list to make sure that we make the most of our time together. And to make sure that we know at the end of it that we did everything we set out to do.

In no particular order, here are the things that make up my family’s summer bucket list:

  1. Go camping. (Check!)
  2. Eat body weight in S’Mores. (Check!)
  3. Watch at least one sunset from start to finish. (Check!)
  4. Go berry picking. (Our blueberry bushes are just about ready for picking!)
  5. Make blueberry pancakes for dinner. (This will happen right after #4)
  6. Go fishing.
  7. Knock off work early on a weekday and watch a matinee in the movie theater. (Check!)
  8. Have a picnic at the park while listening to live music (Asheville hosts an awesome Shindig on the Green).
  9. Visit Griffin’s cousins in Ohio. (Check!)
  10. Play “perpetual” tag with neighborhood kids. (Check! So fun!!)
  11. Set up a Lemonade Stand.
  12. Go swimming in waterholes. (Check!)
  13. Go to an amusement park or carnival.
  14. Go to an Asheville Tourists (local baseball team) game.
  15. Make homemade ice cream.
  16. Have a sprinkler party.
  17. Watch fireworks. (Check!)
  18. Read from a novel every day. (So far so good!)

I finished Euphoria by Lily King earlier this summer and it was AMAZING! I’m now reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel The Buried Giant and enjoying its quiet, thoughtful story very much – perfect for a summer night when, at the end of a long, hot day, I’m ready to kick back and relax.

(Other books I’ve read and LOVED, if you’re looking for recommendations: The Fault in Our Stars, The Magicians and The Magician King, and The Goldfinch.)

What’s on your Summer Bucket List? I’d love to hear! Please share in the comments.

If you liked this post, I think you’ll enjoy the free weekly Special Delivery eZine. Just sign up here and it will be delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!

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