How to Grow the Brain and Learn to Love Learning–10 Life Principles

“Hold on to your own convictions, despite what society and other people want you to believe.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. Be more open and curious by embracing the goal of life-long “learning”. Learn something new everyday.
  2. Find Courage and Mental Toughness by embracing Vulnerability and Failure. Learn the lesson form screwing-up  and then show resilience by snapping back into action.
  3. Accept imperfection by building more competence and confidence through increased Self-Efficacy
  4. Feel Compassion: For Yourself and Others
  5. Except Uncertainty and change with more ease
  6. Express and show more gratitude and kindness toward others
  7. Physically Present yourself in a more assertive and positive manner
  8. Be more mindful and present in the “here and now”
  9. Play and Learn More: Take on learning challenges, try new things, be “gritty” and have fun!
  10. Give Trust away…






Weekly Quote and Growth Mindset Challenge

Weekly Quote for Growth Mindset: “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for…We can discover meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating good work or doing a deed for others; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone in a positive way; and (3) by the attitude we take toward life experiences and unavoidable suffering (learning).” Viktor Frankl

Coaching Challenge: Make your meaning by learning something new everyday and making the effort to do the best you can every moment by challenging yourself to overcome difficulties and learn the lessons provide you in every situation and every difficult interaction in life.

Daily Quote and Self-Coaching Challenge: Coping with Life Difficulties and Losses

A Self-Coaching “Smart-Step” approach to Coping with anxiety and difficult times

Daily Quote: ” When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”.–Viktor Frankl 

Through out life we will encounter good and bad times. With the rapid pace of living  we all experience change as a way of life. Some of us learn to roll with the punches and find ways to get through our daily ups and downs. Others get “stuck” and have a difficult time functioning at an acceptable level. And still others find themselves anxious or increasingly depressed over a problem, concern, or worry for a long time. So we all react differently to change and try to find individual ways to cope. In my experience with clients, I have found some ways that are more effective than others to cope and push try to relief. Below I will provide two Self-Coaching tools that provide a practical framework and a mental set for dealing with these personal obstacles to live a life of constructive action. I suggest you write them down in your personal journal or on a 3x 5 index card so that when you find yourself on the edge or overwhelmed with worry and  insecure thinking, you read these tips to get you through the difficult situations you find yourself in. If necessary, read them over and over again, mantra like.

1.) I will let life be what it is. I won’t “make stuff up” too upset my balance and positive outlook. Sure there are obstacles and inconveniences but no awfulness and shoulds’ in life. Try using positive self-talk like the following: This too shall pass…it could have been much worst…this is inconvenient and unexpected so consciously  STOP. Take a deep BREATH. SMILE and Move ON. 
Sometimes, when the phone rings and the voice or message at the other end knocks you for a loop, you may feel shock, out of control or overwhelmed with what life has just delivered you. And yet you need to keep going on because sometimes there are no solutions or answers to life’s difficulties. Rather than reading these events as “awful” and “unsolvable”, a more constructive approach to terrible news is to notice and accept how you are feeling, if sad, be sad; if you start to cry just cry; if angry; be angry and then redirect your attention to something more useful. For example, find a tissue to wipe your tears, if you are standing sit-down, go for a long slow walk etc. Redirection physically can be a powerful constructive act.  Just remember this event as just a moment in life–not good or bad, just life.  Mentally reject the inner voice that tells you this is awful and you can’ go on. Don’t fight the fear or focus on it;  just notice it and accept it. Acknowledge these events are real, unwanted and  inconvenient obstacles that just need to be handled the best way you know how. With heighten emotions and unclear thinking about loss and fear driven thinking your insecurity and confusion will rise and you may find yourself slowed downed–but this is event is not the end of life or awful! What feels to be hopeless and overwhelming is only an emotional flooding created by this unexpected circumstance. Keep in mind your tool to STOP. Breath. Smile. Keep Moving and trust yourself to handle this situation.

2. Not every problem has a solution, and sometimes you have to just keep going and accept that maybe or maybe not an answer or understanding will appear. 
In time, some problems can be solved or understood. On the other hand, some problems will never be solved and you need to learn to live with this uncertainty and ambiguity of not knowing. Unfortunately, this is not easy to do, but begins with clear and positive thinking (3-1 rule of positivity) not with doubts, fears and negative thoughts. It is your irrational demand for answers and certainty in dealing with life’s problems and ambiguities that generate irrational thoughts, fretting behavior and other unhealthy symptoms such as nervousness, losing control, anxiety and feeling sick.

As you practice these new mental sets,  it helps to remind yourself of the countless problems and worries that have come and gone in your life. How many problems have you solved? One thousand? Ten thousand? or Hundred thousand? Many times you have faced problems and figured-out, how to survive these difficulties  by re-framing, re-strategizing, or over just letting time take its course. Right? Trust yourself and be more gentle and self compassionate because life difficulties eventually become part of your biography and you move on. Remember you have more fuel in the tank than you think you do.

Living a Meaningful and Purposeful Life: 35 Things that I learned too Late

Maxims for Living a Meaningful Life
Mark W. Hardwick, Ph.D.

  1. Give away the credit demonstrates to others that you are a true leader.
  2. You must confront your problems and find solutions . Things do not get better by ignoring or denying they exist. As a matter of fact they get worst.
  3. Some problems have no solutions, so they just go on.
  4. Acceptance is not giving-in or caving. It is listening by using empathy to understand but not agreement.
  5. Lack of assertiveness has specific consequences to the quality of your life.
  6. To require that others respond to you as exactly as you want; means you give them control over you.
  7. “Finding” yourself is impossible but creating yourself is a worthwhile endeavor.
  8. Doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results is not only foolish it is a waste of precious energy and limited time.
  9. If you influence others to respond in the specific way that you want, and they do, you have rendered them dependent on you.
  10. Giving advice is only effective when you ask permission to give it. Permission is a powerful way to get listened too. Know one likes to be lectured too.
  11. Activity is not necessarily the same as productivity; doing is being efficient and does not equate with doing the right things first and foremost which is effectiveness.
  12. Assumptions are destructive in many cases because they can lead us down the wrong road and create misunderstandings.
  13. Suffering and pain is a decision that eats us up from the inside-out. Self-disclosure is a better way to go.
  14. Be aware of dogmatic statements that lead to self-centered and self-righteous behavior.
  15. You can be strong if you allow yourself to be trusting, open and vulnerable.
  16. The only thing constant is change. Often the hardest work is accepting the changes or transitions in life.
  17. The loss of curiosity and creativity is more destructive than risking and failure.
  18. The more you run away from something, the more apparent it becomes.
  19. We criticize and are sarcastic to prove that we do not posses the fault. Don’t confuse people say what you want to say clearly, concisely and directly.
  20. Caring confrontation is one way to heal disagreements.
  21. Only when you feel fully secure can you be aware of how afraid you were before.
  22. Fighting something engages it; accepting it clears the way to moving on.
  23. The answer always gives birth to and shapes the question. Only by listening to the answers can you finally give voice to the important question.
  24. Immature people can teach us the depth of superficial things.
  25. If you don’t change your direction, or know where you are going you are likely to end up just going where you are going and not know why.
  26. Asking why 5 times provides clarity to the reason you are doing what you are doing.
  27. Action is not the same as expectations. Judgment resides in the potential space between the two.
  28. Following the 3 to 1 rule of positivity creates more productive and healthier relationships
  29. It is a moment of liberation to know that your are responsible for your own attitude and choices in life.
  30. The thing that gets in the way of seeing something as it truly is is our pre-conceived picture of it.
  31. The most common thing that gets in the way of listening and understanding something, is your desire to talk.
  32. Fear, change and insecurity are are driven by vulnerability, low trust and lack of self-efficacy.
  33. Mistakes and failure are the best teachers if you are aware and observant in life.
  34. The past experience can be a powerful lesson if we are open to learn from what happened and what you need to do differently to get a better outcome.
  35. All you have to do is the next right thing. Sometimes it isn’t clear what the next right thing is, but you can almost always be clear as to what it isn’t.

Are Happiness and Meaning the Same? Learn the difference between Taking and Giving in Life.

My son Jeff sent me an insightful and powerful article “There is more to Live than being Happy” from The Atlantic on Victor Frankl and other researchers discussion on the difference between pursuing happiness and meaning in life. In essence, pursuing happiness is all about fulling your needs and wants the taking approach to living. So happiness is a more selfish approach to living. Living a life of meaning is all about pursuing giving and doing things beyond yourself. Meaning is selfless and includes suffering and not just happiness. Here is a brief summary from the article:

” In 1991, the Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man’s Search for Meaning as one of the top 10 most influential books in the United States. It has sold millions of copies worldwide. Now, over twenty years later, the book’s ethos — its emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self — seems to be at odds with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual happiness than in the search for meaning. “To the European,” Frankl wrote, “it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.'”

A recent Gallup survey, says happiness levels of Americans are at a four-year high — as is, it seems, the number of best-selling books with the word “happiness” in their titles. At this writing, Gallup also reports that nearly 60 percent all Americans today feel happy without a lot of stress or worry. On the other hand, according to the Center for Disease Control, about 4 out of 10 Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Forty percent either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose. Nearly a quarter of Americans feel neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. “It is the very pursuit of happiness,” Frankl knew, “that thwarts happiness.”

“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”

Many researchers now agree that the pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” –– we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.”

Don’t miss reading the rest of the article and some of my posts on thewick they are a must read for those wanting to understand how to live a more Constructive and Meaningful Life. 

Choosing One’s Way Meaningful Constructive Living Framework and Smart-Step Change Process

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor Frankl 

Constructive Living necessitates the elimination of self-sabotaging thinking and behavior. It requires more self-directed action and the creation of a meaningful life purpose and process.

The technique used to facilitate this transformation is what I call the Smart-Step Centering process. It is all about establishing a clear and meaningful purpose, confidence through positive self-talk and skill development through realistic practice, feedback and execution plans.

Smart-Steps framework is more manageable in developing positive behavior changes then a more general or holistic approach. Smart-Steps allow the client to focus on the goal and the process instead of judging performance (based on fears, false expectations and results). For example, process goals help people to focus on being in the moment and responding in a responsive way to others and their environment. It helps people turn shyness and nervousness energy into positive enthusiasm for interacting and understanding others. Here are some essential components of the Smart-Step Process as applied to interpersonal communication.

1.  Clarify and agree to an agenda and expectations for your time together. Start interaction by asking questions and listening to the other person. Show interest and sincere concern in hearing their story.

2. Monitor and Edit yourself. Sincerely listen and try to meet the other person’s need to share and be understood by not giving advice, judging their behavior or opinions.    Show them that you have their best interest at heart.

3. Soften your “connection”.  Be friendly and welcoming. Too much, too soon and too strong usually leads to suspicion and resistance from others.

4. Accept influence. A presentation succeeds to the extent that the presenter can accept influence from the audience members. Be responsive to audience comments or concerns. Be quick on your feet and flexible to show your care.

5.  Respect and Encourage candid dialogue. Understand how to become a better listener, give positive feedback, and mirror the other person’s gestures and body language. Learned to model the good habits and positive energy you would like others to show you.

7. Focus on the optimistic “POV”. Try to connect with and understand the other person’s view of the world. Interpersonal conversations work best when you are experienced as a caring and respectful listener So make at least three-five times as many positive statements as negative comments.

Once you understand the Smart-Step process you are on the road to significant personal change.  Process goals replace personal expectations and help performers focus on what is really important during a performance – being audience centered and in the moment. Being and living in the moment is critical to developing confidence. It means learning to trust, believe in yourself and developing a sense of being vulnerable and at risk. Trust is directly related to your ability to be open and is experienced as authentic by others. Make sure you leave a good first impression and this could turn-out to be the start of a life-long friendship.



Embracing Purpose and Passion in Life: Meaningful Constructive Living Framework

“Transforming and changing your life: There is a myth in change management theory that positive change in organizations, information technology systems or in one’s life mainly takes place from big ideas and 10 Sigma system and structure and method overhauls not by having a clear purpose and living by it.” Mark Hardwick

In Meaningful and Constructive Living philosophy I challenge the notion of “big” ideas and complete system re-makes as the answer to happiness. I am trying to share some ideas and confront our community of professionals to not only reassess the vision,  and goals for creating a more meaningful life directed by a strong and concise personal purpose in life. Rethinking our understanding of how to change from a life based on what is presented or based on activities into a meaningful and purposeful life takes small changes that can have big impact on our life’s journey.

The process of meaningful change requires self-awareness and dedicated reflection and observations from your life and others experience and then choosing constructive action to create meaning and purpose in life. What follows is the core of Meaningful Constructive Living:

  • MCL guides you in determining what you’re strengths are and helps you identify what you are passionate about, and how to keep these critical values, skills and passions front and center in your daily life.
  • How to create a family and work environments that reinforce your unique view of life
  • How to cultivate and maintain balance in important relationships and goals for living
  • Develop your imagination, problem solving, opportunity finding and decision-making life skills by overcoming interferences and barriers in day-to-day living.

In essence MCL is a process for living a life that reinforces your purpose and values in a way that creates a balanced and Meaningful and Constructive life. MCL provides the mindset, skillset and action steps for confronting life challenges and prospering by living in Smart-Step way.

My passion for life is grounded in learning, openness and curiosity and life’s purpose captured by this motto and commitment to “making meaning and purpose matter®”. For over 40 years now, I have led a search to pulled this experiential approach to live together into a coherent worldview that transform life from just activities build out of habits into a personal change model that is committed to respecting differences and appreciating the excitement that all we CAN COUNT ON IN LIFE IS CHANGE. Now it is time for me to share this worldview so as to help and facilitate others to think and act differently about the world around them. Through the “Process with Structure” approach and experiential tools such as Smart-Steps for change I hope to provide a learning environment for others personal growth and change. This is particularly evident by my belief that anything in life is possible if you are clear on your purpose and persistent in acting to fulfill them. I want to provide a new voice for the design and development of how to handle change and live a Meaningful and Constructive life.