How I trained myself to be a human thermometer

One morning I jumped in the swimming pool and the words “eighty-four degrees” popped into my head. Somehow I knew, without a doubt in the world, that the temperature of the water that morning was 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Just to confirm my impression, I dropped my “Gator-mometer” into the water. Sure enough, 84 degrees. Over the next few days, then weeks, as the temperature in the pool fluctuated, I continued to “guess” the water temperature each time I jumped in. Without fail, with an accuracy of one degree Fahrenheit or less, I got it right every time.

I then realized  I had become something of a “human thermometer.” As long as the water temperature was comfortable for swimming or floating (roughly between 74 and 92 degrees), I was able to know what the temperature was just by immersing myself in the water.

I was not born with this ability. I trained myself to do it, entirely by accident.

Swimming is one of my favorite exercises. Each morning from late April through early October, I swim laps in my backyard pool. It’s a great way to exercise on a hot day without getting all hot and sweaty.

Because I’m curious about such things, I have always used a pool thermometer to measure the temperature of the pool whenever I get in. My particular thermometer has a rubber alligator attached to the top of it, to make it float. So I refer to it as my Gator-mometer.

Dependably checking my Gator-mometer every day, at a moment when I was immersed in the water, I ended up calibrating my body’s natural temperature-sensing mechanism to the Fahrenheit scale. It certainly wasn’t anything I “tried”  to do. I just took the measurement every day, and felt what it felt like. Then one day I jumped in and discovered that I could very accurately measure water temperature. A human thermometer.

I didn’t really develop any new fundamental ability. Every healthy person is able to sense warm and cold. What I did was connect those sensations to specific numbers. Over time, with daily reinforcement, it made me into The Amazing Human Thermometer. It certainly won’t get me a spot on “America’s Got Talent.” But it does earn me a little respect at the beach or at pool parties.

What’s most interesting to me is the way it came about. I did not try to learn how to be a human thermometer. Yet as a result of my consistent actions, day after day, it did indeed happen. And that made me wonder. What else am I training myself to do, or what other way am I training myself to be, that I don’t even realize?

We humans are highly adaptable creatures. We can train ourselves to do an amazingly wide variety of things. Useful things and hurtful things. Some of that training is intentional, but a whole lot of it is not. After all, you didn’t intentionally try to learn to talk or to walk, at least not on the level of awareness where you now spend most of your life. You just watched, and imitated, and persisted, and learned all sorts of skills.

So, what are you training yourself to do now, with the habits and assumptions, expectations and activities you engage in day after day? What skills and perspectives are you programming into your life that you don’t even realize?

I started writing The Daily Motivator back in 1995 because I understood the power of positive reinforcement on a daily basis. The messages are short and simple and not particularly earth shattering. One thing they are, though, is consistent. I take Sundays off, but other than that I have never missed a single day of writing a new, original daily message in nineteen years.

And you know what? They make a real difference for people. Not overnight, but over time. Because just like jumping in the pool and checking the thermometer, the messages give readers a dependably positive frame of reference to which they can return day after day after day.

You cannot possibly know all the ways you’re training and shaping and influencing your future self. What you can do, though, is make sure you keep your highest values, visions and dreams at the forefront of your awareness.

That’s what The Daily Motivator helps folks to do. And as most highly accomplished people know, it works.


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Get yourself to take action

How do you get yourself to take action now? Here are some powerful suggestions.

Focus intensely on the positive things that your action will accomplish. In your mind, visualize in great detail and richness what your actions will bring you. Whether it’s something you’re seeking to accomplish, or something you’re seeking to be rid of, visualize exactly how your life will be after the work is done. The more intensely you can imagine it, the better.

Focus on the negative things that will happen if you don’t take action. The only real reason you have for avoiding action is because you associate some kind of pain or discomfort with it. Even though taking that action could eventually bring you much pleasure and fulfillment, your desire to avoid near-term pain or discomfort can often be even stronger than your desire to create something pleasurable and fulfilling in the long term. The way around that dynamic is to associate something even more painful with not taking action. Instead of focusing on the relatively minor pain of taking action, focus instead on some major pain of not taking action (such as lifelong regret, for example).

Lay all your excuses out on the table and deal with them. Think of all the reasons you can come up with to not take action, and then destroy all those reasons with a single word. What’s that word? “But.” It is an enormously powerful word that you can use to obliterate every excuse you can come up with. Simply state the excuse, put the word “but” after it, and then finish the sentence.  For example, “I’m too tired to work on this tonight, BUT it will make a big positive difference in my presentation.” The word “but” will absolutely negate anything that comes before it. “I’ve never done this before, BUT I can learn.” Stick the word “but” in there and challenge yourself to finish the sentence. Go through each and every excuse, and rid yourself of them once and for all.

Fully feel your frustration with the way things are. Use the energy of that frustration to get you moving and to get you taking action to make things better. Frustration is your way of telling yourself, in no uncertain terms, that some changes must be made, that some kind of action must be taken. Unfortunately, frustration can be so painful that when you feel it you start looking for other places to direct your focus. You might complain for a few minutes (or hours, or days) and then move on to something else, without really resolving the issue. Yet just imagine what would happen if you were to dive completely into your frustration and feel it with your entire being. Consider letting that frustration run its whole course in your awareness, while you’re listening intently to everything it has to say. Even the most negative-feeling frustration can bring you powerful positive motivation. So feel that frustration fully, and let it compel you to immediately take positive, effective action.

Take the first small step. Don’t even concern yourself with committing to the whole project or course of action. Just do something very easy and very small. The point is to get a little momentum started. If you’re going to clean out your garage, for example, find one little thing that you can throw in the trash, and then do it. Once you take that small action, let yourself fully enjoy how great it feels. Then climb aboard the momentum train and let it help you keep the effort going.

Make it fun. Think of something that you consider to be fun. Does anyone have to talk you into doing it? Of course not. If it’s fun, then by very definition it’s something you would do without any coaxing. Realize that just about anything can be fun if you’ll think of it as fun and enjoyable. Find a way to make something fun, and not only will you want to do it; you’ll also be better at it. The best players enjoy the game. The best musicians have a love for music. The highest achievers enjoy the achievement. Do you detect a pattern here? Whatever you must do to achieve success, find a way to enjoy it. You can either do what you love, or love what you do. It doesn’t matter which. What matters is the “do” part. Taking the action is what brings success. Yes, you can struggle against your own desires, be miserable, and eventually accomplish your goal. But why? You’ll be far more effective and consistently successful when you enjoy doing the things that bring you success.

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Five ways to love what you do

When you get in the habit of loving whatever you’re doing, you can always be doing what you love. And when you’re doing what you love, you know you’ll be extremely effective at it. So how do you get yourself to love what you do in every moment, even if it’s something that you assume to be unpleasant?

1. Remind yourself what a joy and privilege it is to be living this magnificent, one-of-a-kind moment. The fact that you’re here to see the beauty and experience the possibilities is much more significant, in terms of the big picture, than whatever you happen to be doing. As such, whatever you’re doing becomes a component of an overall, overwhelmingly positive experience.

2. Remember why. Some way and somehow, you’ve chosen to be doing what you’re doing. That is, based on your priorities and goals and dreams, you have set yourself on a path that has led you directly to this moment. There’s a reason why you’re doing whatever you’re doing, and behind that reason is another reason. Follow the track of reasons back to the point where you can identify an intentional decision you made. Whatever you are doing, even if the task itself is unpleasant, is a part of something you have intentionally chosen. When you love that intention and all its resulting consequences, you can truly love what you’re doing.

3. Think of what a difference you’re making. Whatever you’re doing is making a difference in the world and in people’s lives. Think about that. You are having an influence. What you do truly matters. You are able to create value that never existed before. Maybe it’s tedious or messy or complicated or frustrating. Even so, it’s making a difference, and that is something in which you can find real satisfaction.

4. Relish the experience. At the very least, you’ll probably have a good story to tell. If what you’re doing requires a lot of mental focus, use the experience to take your thinking and concentration skills to a higher level, for that’s something that can serve you well for the rest of your life. If what you’re doing doesn’t require much mental focus, use the opportunity to let your thoughts richly wander to wherever you want them to go. There’s something about what you’re doing that you can enjoy. Latch on to that, turn on the enjoyment, love what you’re doing and make it great.

5. Or, do something else. If you can find no reason to love what you’re doing, then don’t do it. Unless you’re imprisoned or enslaved, you can choose what you do with your time. So quickly and enthusiastically move on to something else, something you can truly love, and some way in which you can create new value in every moment.

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Moving forward

Have you ever had this sensation when riding a train (or bus, for that matter)? You’re sitting in your seat on the train, looking out the window at another train that’s next to you. Both trains are standing still. Suddenly, you sense movement. You feel yourself moving backward. But in reality, you’re not. Your train continues to stand still. The reason you feel yourself moving backward is because the train next to you, the one you see out the window, has started to move forward. Yet it feels for all the world like you are moving, and the way you feel like you’re moving is backward.

Actually, in relation to the other train, you are moving backward. Motion, after all, is a relative thing. When you’re jetting along in an aircraft at 30,000 feet, you and the passenger next to you, along with your iPad and your cup of ginger ale, are zipping along at more than 500 miles per hour relative to the ground. However, those things in your immediate vicinity (the iPad, the other passenger, etc.) are moving right along with you, so they don’t seem to be moving at all.

The nature of a train is to move. That’s what it’s for. Yes, it has to stop to pick up and drop off passengers. However, its job is to be in motion. Life is the same way. By its very nature, life is always in motion. By its very definition, in fact. The way you can tell if something is alive, whether plant or animal, is to look for signs of movement and change. If it’s not moving or not growing, it’s not alive.

There are two fundamental choices in life. You can either move forward or you can move backward. Standing still and just staying where you are is not really an option. If you attempt to do that, you get left behind and you do in fact end up moving backward.

That doesn’t mean you must go along with every crazy “new and improved” thing that every person and organization does. What it does mean is that you must find a way to make positive progress on your own terms. Life is inherently dynamic and to full experience the best life has to offer, you must be dynamic too. If you attempt to just stay where you are, you’ll look out the window and feel yourself moving backward.

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If you feel like quitting

If you feel like quitting, that’s great. It means you’re intensely involved. Go ahead and feel like quitting. Just don’t actually do it. Instead, experience the power in that feeling. That’s your power. With it you can do amazing things. What a waste it would be to walk away from it.

Imagine feeling like quitting, and then not quitting. That’s what success feels like. You know that because you’ve done it before. You’ve felt it before. When you feel like quitting, and then you don’t, and then you break through and get the job done, and get it done very well, that is truly a great feeling. And when you feel like quitting, you’re almost there. There’s just one more step to go.

And what if you actually do quit? Then you feel freedom for a minute or two. After that, you feel regret forever.

Don’t fight the feeling when you feel like quitting. It will most assuredly fight back even stronger, turning your own strength against you. So here’s an idea. Choose to direct all that strength in your favor. Turn the tables on your feeling of feeling like quitting. Graciously welcome that feeling and then with a gleeful mischievousness, use its considerable power to get yourself going, stronger than ever. Get the last laugh. Get the value. Get the accomplishment. Get the fulfillment.

Feel like quitting, and then keep going. Truly meaningful success is right around the next corner.

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Five techniques for getting past resentment

What has your resentment done for you lately? What positive thing has it ever done for you? Probably absolutely nothing. The sooner you can let it go, the sooner you can move on to more productive and fulfilling things. Here are five methods for doing that.

1. Realize the folly of your resentment. It’s wasting your time. It’s using your energy. It’s casting a negative light on your relationships. It’s bringing unneeded negativity to your life and your world. And in return, it is not bringing you anything of value. Why would you want to hold on to it? There’s really not a good reason.

2. Challenge your resentment. Is it even true? Are you absolutely positive that the assumptions supporting your resentment are even still true in this moment? Can you prove it? And even if you can prove that your resentment is based on truth, so what? What does being right about it really get you? It’s certainly not worth all the negativity that your resentment brings into your life.

3. Experience it fully. Okay, go ahead and get it out of your system. Immerse yourself in the resentment. Feel it in all its glory. Once you’ve had your fill (and it shouldn’t take too long if you’re really feeling it intensely), then you can know that you’ve already gotten everything you could have possibly expected from it, and you can easily let it go.

4. Find a way to be truly thankful for whatever it is you resent. That may sound strange, but think about it. Let’s say you resent that some company you do business with is giving you lousy customer service or charging prices that are too high. How could you possibly be thankful for that? Look at it as a great opportunity to find an alternative—either buying from someone else or using some alternative product or service or doing without it completely. Your resentment brings to the surface the incongruities that exist between what you expect and what you are experiencing. That’s very valuable knowledge to have and to act upon.

5. Put whatever you resent into perspective. Compare it to the overall abundance in your life and see how truly trivial it is. Visualize it in your mind as a physical object, and then visualize it getting smaller and smaller as you move far beyond it. Then see it simply disappear completely. Realize how truly easy it is to let go of your resentment, and with that realization, just go ahead and really do let go.

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Escape the comfort of your doubts

How is it that your doubts can so effectively hold you back, and prevent you from fulfilling your best possibilities? It is because they provide a comfortable place for you to hide from those possibilities. Even though you desire to achieve, you know that the achievement will have a price, in effort, commitment and sacrifice. You also know that when you venture out to seek success, there is also the very real possibility of failure. So you conjure up some doubts that quickly turn into excuses, providing you with a way to stay comfortably where you are.

There are only a few ways out. One of them is pain. Eventually, what was once a comfortable retreat becomes a prison. If you continue to deny and avoid the opportunities to move forward, you will eventually find the situation so intolerable that you’ll do whatever is necessary to get yourself out of it. Unfortunately, by the time that happens you will have lost many of your best options.

Another way out is fear. Your doubts are already based, at least in part, on fear—fear of success, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, fear of appearing overly ambitious, and fear of the unknown. By embracing even more fearful fears, you can move beyond the original doubts. This is done by considering and focusing on all the bad things that could happen if you stay where you are. Once the fear of doing nothing is greater than the fear of taking action, you’ll be able to get yourself to take action. The problem is, when you’re constantly focused on what you don’t want, you’ll naturally tend to create those very things in your life. So although fear will get you moving, it will probably not take you where you wish to go.

The best way out of your comfort zone is with positive desire. Though it certainly requires some initiative on your part, the reward is well worth the effort. Within you is a vision of life at its very best. Within you is the desire to matter, the desire to truly make a difference, a desire to feel the sweet satisfaction of fulfilling your unique purpose. Reach in and touch that desire. Reach in and explore your dreams. Imagine, not only with your mind but also with your feelings, the experience of bringing those dreams to life. Remind yourself that it is completely reasonable and natural and good to envision the absolute best life for yourself, whatever your situation right now may be. Make your dreams so big that they completely overwhelm your doubts. Make your dreams so compelling and so continually present in your awareness that you cannot help but step up and step forward, day after day.

Escape the comfort of your doubts with life itself. Allow yourself to richly envision the best that life can be, and then really, truly live that life with everything you have. You may not always be comfortable, but then comfort is overrated. You may not always be comfortable, but you will make life great.

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The annoying hum

A few weeks ago, our 15-year-old pool pump and filter finally gave up the ghost. And to tell you the truth, I was relieved. The old equipment was loud, a 2-hour chore to clean every few weeks, and we had to run it 24 hours a day because when it was shut off for more than a few minutes, the pump would not prime on its own. Even though it was a major expense, the new state-of-the art energy-efficient pump and filter quickly got the pool water cleaner than it had ever been, and automatically shuts off at night, so we’re saving lots of electricity. It’s a snap to clean. And, it is wonderfully quiet. As I write this, I’m sitting outside, about 30 feet away from it and I absolutely cannot hear it running.

But a couple of days after it was installed, the pump suddenly got much, much louder. Actually, it wasn’t really louder when I was standing next to it. What happened was that it started sending an annoying, low-pitched hum throughout about half the house and most of the outside area around the pool. That, of course, was extremely disappointing. I could not figure out what had happened. The very knowledgeable and experienced guy who installed it told me it might get a little louder if the skimmer basket and trap basket became full of debris, so I cleaned both out completely. That seemed to help a little, but not really that much. The hum persisted and I was quite dismayed.

I tried gently nudging the equipment in the hopes that maybe I could stop the noise. I decided that perhaps the dry ground (we’re in the midst of a bad drought) might be transmitting the vibration of the pump to the house’s foundation, so I watered the grass real well around the equipment pad. That did not help at all.

I had been out to look at the equipment dozens of times, always focusing on the problem. In fact, the solution was extremely simple, and had been right in front of my eyes all along. But because I was so heavily invested in the problem itself, that annoying hum, I failed to look at the overall picture. Then, after a few days, I did finally step back to see what was happening.

It turns out there was a backwash pipe installed on the system, and that backwash pipe was resting against the downspout of the house’s gutter. The pipe was transferring the pump’s vibration to the hollow, metal gutter. That gutter was acting as a 25-foot-long acoustic amplifier, carrying the vibration up to the roof and all the way across the back of the house. The moment I pulled the backwash pipe away from the gutter, the annoying hum was completely gone.

I suddenly understood how blinded I had been to the obvious solution because I had been so annoyed and focused on the problem itself. The moment I backed away from the problem, and looked at the entire situation, it only took a few seconds to correct. Albert Einstein said, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created,” and never before have I had the truth of that quote so vividly demonstrated to me.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What difficult and annoying problems are you living with and complaining about, that have simple, elegant solutions that are right there, out in the open, to see?

Even though the problem whines (literally, in this case) for attention, it’s important to step back from it and to look at the whole situation. That’s when the positive possibilities will suddenly make themselves apparent.

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Don’t try… allow

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Let go of the negativity

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