The Untapped Power of Gratitude


Everywhere you look today, voices shout at us that we need MORE.  More money, more leisure time, more stuff, more respect, more power.  Just more.  Perhaps you have felt the pressure that comes along with those voices.  There was once a familiar saying: “Keeping up with the Jones'” .  What no one tells you, however, is how exhausting doing that actually is.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints, I believe that all Truth is of God, and that we should look for it wherever we may.  In the past several years, I have been struck by the profound and beautiful truths to be found in the Buddhist faith.  One of these can be expressed in what they term the First Noble Truth: Suffering exists.  According to the Buddhist tradition suffering, or in the Pali tongue, dukkha, is the reason that Gautama Buddha began his journey toward Enlightenment.  And the attainment of such is the elimination of dukkha.  He is quoted as saying, “I teach only suffering and the elimination of suffering.”  So what do the Buddhists have to say about suffering and it’s causes?

One of the primary causes of suffering is clinging.  Now, much of the time, there is a great misunderstanding in the West regarding this teaching.  We say, well, what about love?  Isn’t that a form of clinging?  Are we not to love?  Absolutely not.  The teaching of suffering and clinging is inseparably tied to the teaching of impermanence or annica.  Impermanence is that things come and things go.  As the Wachowski brothers said in the Matrix films, “everything that has a beginning, has an end.”  Happiness, misery, pain, pleasure, joy, despair, anger, love.  All of these feelings come and go with varying lengths.  And it is not just feelings that are impermanent, but physical things, and thoughts as well.  The Buddhist way of thinking is that if things are going to be impermanent anyway, why try to cling to them as they leave?  You can’t stop it, and more importantly, as you try, you create suffering for yourself because you will fail.  The question then arises, should one just become cold and detached?  Again, the answer is no.  Buddhism does not teach detachment, simply non-clinging.  When happiness comes, experience it.  But do not tie your identity to it, nor chase it when it leaves.  The same with pain, and everything else that arises in your life.

So what is to be done?  One way to minimize the suffering caused by impermanence is by practicing gratitude.  When we look at all things in our life, both those we would traditionally consider “good” and those we would consider “bad”, as gifts, our ability to realize that we do not have to frantically chase things anymore increases.  The emotional stress that comes from “needing” and “clinging” melts away and we are free to experience whatever comes with equanimity.  Our agency also increases as we take more control and responsibility for those things which arise that we choose to participate in and those we allow to simply pass away.

Imagine for a minute, if you will, that in the past, you are of the personality type that relentlessly purchases the newest model iPhone as soon as it comes out.  As you adopt this philosophy, however, you realize that there is no need to deny yourself sleep the night before the release of the newest model to camp out in front of the store.  Nor is there need to parade your new purchase so that others can see how technologically savvy you are (and consequently, feel inadequate themselves).  Nor is there need to devote your attention to keeping your new purchase in pristine condition to “protect your investment”.  How much stress and worry and energy have you already saved by realizing that you can allow the impulse to purchase that newest model immediately to simply pass away?  Now imagine a situation in your life that is truly important.  Perhaps a friend is inconsiderate to you.  What kind of benefits do you think you would see from simply allowing your anger to “pass away”, deciding that you didn’t need to participate in that feeling?  What about the time your children are clamoring for your attention when there’s work to be done?  Can you see the benefit in noticing the opportunity and choosing to participate?  The choice is different, but ultimately, it is yours.  And both choices are a gift.  An opportunity for you to develop agency and use it to your benefit and that of others around you.

May I commend you to gratitude and a broadened perspective about choice and agency?  May each of us realize that we have it in us to choose to participate or not in all things, and that ability that God gives us is something to truly be grateful for, because it allows us to find true joy in this life.

– Josh Walles

The Mindful Life Coach

Posted in Life Design, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Meditation and Mindfulness

If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out Tad’s blog, they’re AWESOME.  Lots of useful content about Mindfulness and the how and the why of practicing it.

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How to Fail Properly


Ever felt like this guy?

That seems like kind of an odd subject for a post written by a guy that’s supposed to be helping people make personal goals and achieve them, doesn’t it?  Allow me to explain:

I made a statement in  my last post that went as follows:

In western culture, we have done a fantastic job of cultivating the belief that failure is bad and equates to the individual being bad.  Thus, no one wants to fail and when we do, we don’t know what to do about it.  One of the biggest disservices we do our children these days is not teaching them how to fail correctly.  Let’s face it, they are going to fail sometime.  It’s what happens afterwards that really matters.

I want to consider this idea with you for a brief minute.

In my observation of humanity, I have seen that there are three key factors in this concept that cause it to be so destructive.

  1. We do not understand that what we do and who we are as two separate concepts.
  2. We do not understand that failure (in many ways) is more helpful than success.
  3. We do not understand that our past experiences influence but do not determine our present reality.

Let’s look at these each in turn.


1. We do not understand that what we do and who we are as two separate concepts.

How many times have you watched someone do something they regret and then heard them say, “I’m sorry, that’s not me.  I don’t normally do things like that”?  It’s usually a subconscious reaction when we do – a response to something that horrifies us about ourselves.  But in that subconscious statement is a kernel of Truth, and we need to examine it.  The truth is, that isn’t you.  Not because you didn’t make a mistake or because you’re horrified by it, but because you are not your actions.  You are something else.  I want you to try something.  Pick up a pencil or other object near you, but as you do, turn your sight inward.  Notice the intention, notice the deliberate movement, your brain telling your arm and hand to move.  Notice the tactile sensation of the object you are picking up.  Now, what noticed these things?  Was it the intention?  Was it the movement?  Was it the sensation?  No.  It was something else.  It was something that had to actively participate to have those things brought into reality.  If that is the case, we cannot tie our actions to ourselves in any permanent sense other than that they were initiated by us.  Once we apply our will to thought creating action, it goes off on its own and does its thing.

What does this mean for us?  Perhaps in the past, we’ve done things we’re not proud of.  Perhaps we’ve done things that turned out to be colossal screw-ups.  The thing is, they are not attached to us anymore.  That does not mean that we should not analyze and learn from them, but that we shouldn’t self-identify with them.  The fact that some of your actions have failed in the past does not make you a failure.  Nothing makes you anything.  You’re just you.  Once you detach from those past experiences, what you’ll find is that the emotion of pain and sadness that accompanies them melts away.  You are left with a clear mind that can focus on what you are doing now and direct that with the best chance of success in your endeavor.  We’ll talk more about this in point #3.

2.  We do not understand that failure (in many ways) is more helpful than success.

As an engineer, I learned to love failure.  We are asked to come up with brilliant ideas all the time to solve all of the world’s problems.  As it happens, most of these ideas don’t work.  The process of trying them and failing, though is invaluable.  Thomas Edison, when working on his improvement of the light bulb (finding a filament that would be durable) experienced many failures.  After failing roughly many times, he was asked how he could continue in the face of such failure.  He said, in essence, “I have not failed, but have succeeded in finding many ways NOT to make a light bulb”.  He only needed to find one to achieve his goal.  In the process, he learned.  He learned what didn’t work, and I would venture to guess, why.  We can follow this kind of example.  When faced with failure, the key to success is to detach emotion from it.  Failure is not a commentary on us as human beings.  It is simply an objective result to an impulse.  It says, “what you tried didn’t work, try something else,” not, “you are worthless and a failure as a human being”.  See the difference?

3. We do not understand that our past experiences influence but do not determine our present reality.

One of the things that holds us back from becoming great and doing great things is our desire to cling to the past.  We look back and see our past successes and are afraid we will not be able to replicate them.  We look back and see our past failures and are afraid that we will not be able to escape them or that we will become defined by them.  We look back and see happiness that we cannot hold on to or sadness that we don’t know how to let go.  Our past, even though it no longer exists, is a powerful influence on our present.  The way to overcome this is to realize two important Truths.

a.) The past, once gone, no longer exists.  Thus, nothing can be done to affect it.

b.) The events of the past only have power over us that we give them.  The effects of the past may happen on their own and affect us, but we do not have to add to their power.

Once we understand these two things, we can use the past for what it is intended for: learning.  We can look back and learn what didn’t work and why.  The phrase is often used, “hindsight is 20/20”, meaning that we have a more clear view to the past because it is already gone and we can look at surrounding events more carefully.  This helps us understand the “why” of the effects of our choices.  Once we know that, future choices become more logical, easier, because we can draw upon heuristic.


So we see that failure is not something to avoid, but embrace.  Anything that helps us learn how to do things better is something we should seek out.  It is also not something that we should allow to color our self-image.  Such an image is and needs to be separate so that our failures can have the proper effect on our lives – as a teaching tool rather than a whipping stick.  Spend some effort to learn how to fail correctly.  Then, share the knowledge with someone else.  The world will be a better place when we stop letting our failures tell us who we are and start letting them teach us how to be what we can be.

– Josh Walles

the Mindful Life Coach

Posted in Life Coach, Life Design | 3 Comments

Article Review: 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy

I have been noticing more and more articles recently that have spoken to me as containing truth that I need to adopt.  I don’t know if it is just a proliferation of better journalism, or if I have somehow changed recently (I tend to suspect the latter).  Anyway, I will be adding a series on this website containing literature reviews (mostly articles, maybe a few books, and possibly other things)

I ran across an article yesterday in several places entitled 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy, by an unknown author.  Many of these points resonated very deeply with me as truths that I have either learned intimately very recently or have known for a long time and have never verbalized.  The following is the list, with my comments.  What amazed me is the interrelation of all of these ideas – the fact that they are not distinct, but blend together into a “whole” picture.  I hope you get as much out of them as I did.


1. Give up your need to always be right. I had a General Manager that said to this, you can either be right or dead right.  Others termed it “winning the battle to lose the war”.  What it really boils down to is perspective.  There will be an “after” to an event.  During that “after” do you really want to be the person that was willing to sacrifice everything to be right or do you want to be the person who was wise enough to sacrifice being “right” for whatever REALLY mattered to them?

2. Give up your need for control. Control is a funny thing.  The Buddhists have a concept called impermanence (in the Pali tongue, annica).  The idea is that everything has a beginning, an existence, and an end.  Once it has ended, that event never comes back.  A similar one may come along, but it is never “the same”.  This is true of thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, everything…  Think about that for a minute.  If everything we experience in this life really is impermanent, what is there to control?  And how much happier could you be if you give up trying to grasp at something that is going to play itself out no matter what you do.  This is not to say that we cannot enjoy things or participate in events while they are in existence   It means that we do not cling to them to try to get them to stay artificially.  That clinging is the root of all suffering.  (See also point number 14).

3. Give up on blame. This is an interesting one because it is as much about choice as it is about self-esteem.  The natural inclination for failure is to deflect, that is, to find an outside source.  This is so that we do not have to admit fault.  In western culture, we have done a fantastic job of cultivating the belief that failure is bad and equates to the individual being bad.  Thus, no one wants to fail and when we do, we don’t know what to do about it.  One of the biggest disservices we do our children these days is not teaching them how to fail correctly.  Let’s face it, they are going to fail sometime.  It’s what happens afterwards that really matters.

The other thing that blame is about is choice.  Blame says that choice was taken from us and placed in another’s hands.  This is contrary to natural law.  Natural Law (or Truth) is that choice is always ours.  It cannot be taken away, it must be given.  Jesus Christ is the perfect example of this, “…Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42).  Thus the premise relating to choice in blame is a fallacy, a lie that we tell ourselves to absolve us of responsibility for giving up our choice.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk. It is amazing how easy it is to fall into the trap of self-criticism.  We want so badly to blame someone, usually out of habit (see point number 3), that if we can’t find a good target elsewhere, we’ll blame ourselves rather than let go.  We all know it’s not productive to do so, but we do it anyway.  Why?  Because we are out of control and don’t understand the nature of such (see point number 2).  If you want to look at it as replacing negative self-talk with positive, you can, but I prefer the idea of thinking of it like a sports game.

Gil Fronsdal, a Buddhist teacher in California tells a story of a retreat he and some other teachers did.  During a break, they were congregated in a break room watching a football game.  A commercial set came on, for which one of the instructors, muted the television.  When the game eventually came back on, the instructor with the remote did not turn the sound back on (either intentionally or through forgetfulness).  What happened was that Gil was able to watch a portion of the game without commentary.  Amazingly enough, it was the same game.  His perspective on it was no longer “colored” by the commentators, however.  Self-talk is much like this.  Our minds are constantly narrating  our lives.  This commentary is shaped by many different sources, and is occasionally useful, but here’s the thing: the commentary is not the football game.  So too, our self-talk is not us.  We can choose to not listen.  When we do so, there is more time to focus on actually being who we’re going to be.  Doing what we’re going to do.  It’s amazing how much more productive we can be this way.

5. Give up your limiting beliefs You are a child of the Divine.  You have unlimited potential.  Why should you let yourself be weighed down by mere thoughts.  See, limiting beliefs stem from a preoccupation with the future.  If you tell yourself you can’t do something, it means that you have used our wonderful human talent of mental projection, looked into the future, and selected a possible outcome as likely.  The thing is, though, that all this is is a thought.  It doesn’t actually exist.  The only hold it has over you is the hold you choose (see point number 3) to allow it to.

6. Give up complaining. Complaining and Blame are very closely tied.  In general, blame is tied to a person, and complaining is tied to an idea.  Both of them are equally uneffective and for the same reasons.  Take back your choice and your self-worth.  Don’t be afraid of sub-optimal conditions.  Realize that there is a solution to everything.  Since that is the case, you don’t have to make up a solution, you just have to find it.

7. Give up the luxury of criticism. This is one that I struggle with sometimes.  To beat this one, I have to constantly remind myself that we are not our actions.  We are something else entirely.  This leads to the corollary that there is a difference between criticism and critique.  Criticism may discuss behavior/ideas but it includes a personal element.  There is some subjectivity.  Critique is totally objective.  Now, I have to fight first to remind myself of the good in people.  Once I have done that, giving criticism is much more difficult than critiquing someone.  The latter flows more naturally.

8. Give up your need to impress others. You have likely heard it said that self-worth comes from within, not without.  Our culture, however, makes this one hard to internalize.  May I humbly offer a way to start?  Pick something simple, a task that you have been meaning to do but have not made the time for.  Now accomplish it.  Make sure that the task is simple and easily accomplished.  You see, you did it right.  Good on you.  Now, do it again.  And again.  Pretty soon, the successes will be the majority of what you see (because you’ve designed it that way).  Now realize that you did not need outside approval to get it done.  So why do you need to impress others again?

9. Give up your resistance to change. I once worked for a company that had three rules we strived to live by.  The third of these was: If you don’t change the input, you can’t change the output.  There’s a very small book I’d recommend reading called Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson.  I know it’s a “business” book, but like all good Truths, it applies to a wide range of things.  The bottom line is this: change is going to happen, whether you want it to or not (annica, remember?).  You can learn how to deal with it, and yes, even thrive in it (and these are skills you can develop), or you can fret about it.  Which is going to bring you more joy?

10. Give up labels. I love the quote that the author uses: “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer.  There are reasons that stereotypes exist.  They can be useful in certain controlled circumstances.  However, if we allow stereotypes to take over the lens we use to view the world around us, we will miss an unbelievable amount of important things.  Look at things with fresh eyes.  Find the uniqueness and the sameness.  See things as they really are.

11. Give up on your fears. Fear is another interesting one.  Fear, like limiting beliefs, lives in the illusory future.  When I think about fear, I am always reminded of the passage from Frank Herbert’s Dune:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

The implication is that fear is simply a phantom.  It can pass through us and when it does, it does not leave anything behind.  Thus, there is nothing to actually be afraid of in the first place.

12. Give up your excuses. Excuses are, like blame, based in a fear of failure.  Like criticism and critique, excuses often deal with events, while blame deals with people.  The result, however, is the same.

13. Give up the past. I only slightly disagree with this.  The past HAS a use.  We need to be able to learn from the past.  The trick is not to live there.  In other words, let go of the preoccupation with past events enough to return to now.  Then use the things you have learned from evaluating the past to make better choices in the present.  This is often easier to do if you physically write down a list of things learned rather than keeping it inside your head (which has a tendency to run away on it’s own thought-tangents and keep you from now).

14. Give up attachment. Like the article implied, remember that attachment comes from a fear of the nature of impermanence.  Realize that things are going to pass away and that it’s OK.  Then use your choice in the now to increase the probability that events you want will happen in the future as a result of your actions.  The more you practice this, the higher that percentage will be.  This is what creates the self-perpetuating happiness that we call joy.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations. Expectation is a bum deal.  It assumes that you know the nature of what something is supposed to be like.  That’s the illusory future again.  Note that this is different than planning, in that there is clinging attached to a particular outcome whereas true planning is purely objective.  You cannot assume that you know the nature of the future, and thus expectations serve no purpose.  More practically, however, is the tendency that our expectations are idealized versions of reality and we hold them up as impossible-to-meet standards.  What, then happens when we fail?  Self-talk.


It’s important to continually examine our lives and look to see if our habits and behaviors are things that lead us to joy or away from it.  The great thing about this life is that every day is an opportunity to re-invent ourselves, that is, to start to become a different person.  It is NEVER too late to embrace happiness.  It all starts right now.  This is the essence of mindful living and why it brings such joy.  Take a look at your habits.  Do you see something that needs to change?  Great!  Start today to change it.  Don’t know how?  Get the resources that you need.  Perhaps I can help.  I’d love to talk to you about it in any case.  Be well.

– Josh Walles

the Mindful Life Coach

Posted in Article Review | 3 Comments

DEFINITION: Pleasure v. Happiness v. Joy


Have a nice day…


Those of you who have ever done something you enjoy will know the surge of emotion that it brings.  There is often anticipation leading up to the event, and then, when you are actually doing whatever it is, there is a rush of very good feelings.  Unfortunately, we often call this same set of feelings by different names and assume they mean the same things, when in fact, we should be differentiating.  When we fail to do so, we can fail to notice when our life is not on its optimal course.  Let me explain.

Doing things that we enjoy will ALWAYS bring us pleasure.   Pleasure, simply put, is our body’s way of telling us that we are meeting some basic need .  Abraham Maslow did a very good job illustrating what our potential human needs are in his hierarchy that he published in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation”.  The basic needs that pleasure accompanies are usually in one of the bottom three levels – Physiological, Safety, and Love/Belonging.



Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


The problem, however, is one of duration and alignment with Truth and Values.  What I mean by this is that if our current event is satisfying a need that is transient in nature (a bump in our terrain of truth), the pleasure is often what we term, “fleeting”.  That is, it’s gone as fast as it came.  We find such intense, but short-lived pleasure can be addicting and people will seek it out like a drug, going from one experience to another chasing that “high”.

Happiness is the next level of sensation and it is longer in duration.  It is accompanied by pleasure, but it is more.  It is the pleasure that comes from events that are based in correct Truths and accurate Values.  Happiness also accompanies the satisfying of basic needs, but these tend to be in one of the upper three levels – Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization.  Happiness is the 3-course meal to the Twinkie of pleasure.  It is not empty calories, but a satisfying feast.  Even that feast, however, has an end.  This leads us to our last definition:

Joy, is simply lasting happiness.  That is, when we organize our lives and create habits such that we continually (perhaps not all the time, but a majority of it) place ourselves in situations where our more complex needs are met, we create something approximating self-perpetuating happiness.  We have set the conditions where happiness is more likely to occur for us than not.  That consistent returning to a state of happiness (with accompanying pleasure) is joy.

The primary goal of a life coach should always be to increase the happiness and joy quotients in the life of our clients.  This begins with having an accurate understanding of Truth and Values, and then helping the client to align their lives and their choices with those Truths and Values.  Only then, can an environment of Joy be created and become a life-foundation.

Spend time figuring out what your deep needs are, and what satisfies those needs.  Then, construct your life in such a way that those activities are planned around and do not take a back seat  to the superficial demands of the moment.  Create your own Joy.

– Josh Walles

The Mindful Life Coach

Posted in Life Coach, Life Design, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Christian Meditation

Just ran across this post and thought I’d share as it fits very nicely with my own philosophy of Meditation in the life of a Christian.  Without further ado:

Give it a look and see if perhaps a change to your spiritual practice is in order…

– Josh Walles

The Mindful Life Coach

Posted in Meditation, Spirituality | 3 Comments

Living in the Past

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift, that’s why we call it the present.”
– Joan Rivers

I know someone that is obsessed with the past.  At times, they are so wrapped up in it that they miss opportunities in the present.  Mindfulness is about bringing our minds into the same timeframe as our bodies.  Our bodies are ALWAYS in the present.  They can’t be in multiple times simultaneously.  Our mind, however, can be stuck in the past, the present, or the future.  It is only when we bring our minds into contact with our bodies that we have the power to act skillfully.

When our minds are stuck in the future, we are most often worrying.  I am not talking about the process of planning for the future and then executing your plan.  That is healthy – looking forward to plan, then coming back to the present to act.  What I am talking about is the constant fretting that circumstances that have not even come into existence yet might affect us.

When our minds are stuck in the past, we are most often depressed.  I am not talking about the process of applying past learning to present events.  That is healthy.  What I am talking about is the constant dwelling on past accomplishments or disappointments so that either we are disappointed at our inability to reproduce the good in our past or angry that bad things happened to us.

Here is the key, though: none of that exists in the present.  The present, when our minds and our bodies are united there, is the only place we can ever accomplish anything.  It’s also the only place to work on becoming what we want to be.  This is the arena where Life Coaches work.  When we say that we are not therapists, one of the corollaries to this is that we do not work in the past or the future with our clients.  We help them work in the present, or at “worst” we help the client plan the future, THEN help them work in the present.  Ultimately, happiness and joy cannot be experienced in the future, and they cannot be found in the past.  They can only be cultivated in the present.  If you need some idea where to start:

natalie be here now


– Josh Walles

The Mindful Life Coach

Posted in Life Coach, Meditation | Leave a comment

DEFINITION: Truth and Values

Stephen R. Covey often used an analogy when teaching about these two concepts.  The analogy is so practical it always made perfect sense to me.  So without further ado I present, the value map:


Imagine for a moment that you wanted to plan a trip, say from Las Vegas to Chicago.  All of us can likely visualize the topology of the journey: out of the desert, over the Rocky Mountains, across the Great Plains, across the Mississippi River, and into the sprawling city of Chicago.  For those of us that have never made the journey, a useful item to have would be a map.  All the roads would be marked, gas stations labeled, rest stops noted, and hotels for spending the night highlighted.  You begin driving.  About 10 hours into the journey you are looking out the window and see a sign that says Boise, ID, 35 miles.  Setting the way back clock to Middle School, you remember that Idaho is nowhere near Illinois on the map.  Looking at your map, however, you followed it perfectly.  What happened?  The obvious answer is that you have the wrong map.

There are several observations that can be made from this example.

  1. While you may continue following the map perfectly, continuing on the course you are on will not take you from Las Vegas to Chicago.  You are heading North instead of West.  All of the effort and skillfulness you apply in doing so will not change this.
  2. The terrain that you are traversing will not shift to match your desire, no matter how much you may wish it to.  In other words, the earth between Las Vegas and Chicago today will be the same earth tomorrow, regardless of how badly you wished that the earth between Las Vegas and Boise were that earth.
  3. Once in Boise, even if you had the map from Las Vegas to Chicago, it would be useless to you.  You need a new map.  That map must both say that it is from Boise to Chicago AND be an accurate representation of the terrain between them.

The terrain of life represents truth.  Truth is unchanging.  Truth does not conform to our perception of it.  You may decide in your mind that the brick wall in the middle of the road that you are rushing toward in your brand new sports car is not really there, but that does not mean that when you arrive where it is, that insurance premium-altering things will not happen simply because you disbelieved.  The only sure ways to interface with truth is to conform to it or break yourself against it.  This is where values come into play.

Values are the roadmaps of our lives.  They guide us along the route we will take as we journey.  If they are based on truth, we are able to successfully navigate the twists and turns of life.  If not, we end up in Boise.  Values do NOT have to be based on truth.  For example, some in society would tell us that your image determines who you are.  This is not true, however.  Your image can determine how you are perceived, however, your values determine who you are because they guide your actions.  Tell me what a man does when no one is looking and I will tell you what he values.  Or, to quote the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”

This is where we get to the importance of understanding ourselves, and in particular, how we view the world.  If our core values are NOT based on truth (ie. are based on faulty assumptions), then our map will not lead us to our goal and we will be constantly frustrated as we try to accomplish things.  If, on the other hand, we use a map that is in alignment with the terrain of our lives and base our journey on that, we can progress toward whatever goal we choose.  One of the things that a Life Coach can help with is identifying the faulty assumptions in our value system so that, with some correction, our internal maps match the terrain of our lives.  Then, as we decide on a destination, they can help us to plot a course, know where we can find supplies like gas, food, and lodging along the way, and help us remain on the path during our journey.

How accurately does your map reflect the terrain of your life?  When was the last time you checked?

– Josh Walles

The Mindful Life Coach

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Faith.  The word alone carries so much baggage.  Those who identify as religious (at least, westerners) tend to wear it as a badge of honor.  Those that do not, often deem it an object worthy of derision.  But what exactly is faith?

The very first thing most people think of when they think of the word ‘faith’ is a trust in something that cannot be proven.  This is actually the most common reason that those who disparage faith do so.  Quite frankly, if this were what faith actually was, I would probably be among their number.  The next thing is almost always a conceptual belief in the unseen.  For Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ lives even though we can’t see Him, so we say we have faith.  We believe that we will go to heaven when we die even though we have no experience with it, so we say we have faith.  Most of the time this becomes the accepted definition of faith.

It is at this point that I have to disagree.  What such an attitude is called is quite simply belief.  We believe many things.  We believe that the sun will come up tomorrow.  We believe that preparation for emergencies is a good thing.  We believe that fiscal responsibility is something to be valued.  I can list all kinds of concepts in all arenas of life that we conceptually believe.  Many even have evidence that would push that belief into the realm of actual knowledge.  The real question is, so what?

Farmers believe that in order to harvest crops and sell them to earn a living, fields must first be furrowed and planted, then cared for with water and sunlight (and often pesticides or some other deterrent), then patiently waited for until it is time to actually do the harvesting.  At that time, there has to be a market for the crop, which requires making connections, and some business acumen.  What would happen, however, if the farmer believed/knew all of this (either from direct experience or from the experiences of those he knew personally) and then expected that without planting, watering, waiting, and all the other activity, that the harvest would just happen and his bank account would increase on it’s own?  Would it?

This, to me highlights the difference between belief/knowledge and true faith.  Faith is action on belief/knowledge.  We can certainly speak of faith in a religious context, but the concept applies much more broadly than that.  Faith is experiential.  It is about evidence based on action.  In the Book of Mormon, Alma teaches a great sermon on faith (Alma 32:27) in which he asks us to experiment with truth:

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” (emphasis added)

Experiment with life...

The Buddha put it another way in the Kalama Sutta:

“It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them.

Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.” (emphasis added)

In both of these sources, faith is the action that allows us to turn our belief into knowledge.  In like manner, we are often asked to do things or told that things are true by therapists, by doctors, by ecclesiastical leaders, even by lowly Life Coaches.  These things we should not simply accept as a belief.  It is imperative that we develop faith in these principles.  We must act, we must try them and see what kind of results that they produce.  Then we can look back and say that something is or is not a principle that we should be making a habit in our lives.  This knowing for ourselves is a powerful principle.  It means that we do not have to rely on external sources for our knowledge.  We can experiment and find out for ourselves.  That is what makes faith powerful.

– Josh Walles

The Mindful Life Coach

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Do we speak the same language?

In my time as an engineer, I have had the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life and with many different organizational backgrounds.  In doing so, one of the key things that I have found is that in order to communicate effectively, people need to be speaking the same language.  This ranges from the obvious difficulty of someone speaking only Mandarin communicating with someone speaking only French, to the more common difficulty of two people who both speak English, but who do not understand the same words to mean the same thing.  In several upcoming posts, I am going to discuss some definitions of words that come up frequently with me as I discuss people’s lives and difficulties with them.  Most of the time, these terms need to be clarified before the conversation can progress into the realm of the useful.  Putting them here, however, gets it all out of the way up front.  I’m a big fan of saving time in any way I can as you’ll find over time.  Be looking for the first one soon.

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