What the heck is Psycho-Cybernetics?

What the heck is psycho-cybernetics?

I happened to pick up the book Psycho-Cybernetics 2000 by Maxwell Maltz Foundation and Bobbe Sommer a couple of months ago. It says on the cover that it has helped millions find greater self-esteem and fulfillment and the premise of the book is “by expanding your self-image you expand the limits of your talents and capabilities.” Bottom line is when you develop positive inner goals you will be able to create positive outer goals. It asserts you’ll never change your behavior until you change your self-image.

You may wonder why I read these books if my focus is on helping entrepreneurs. Shouldn’t I be more concerned about marketing, business plans, financials, etc? While those are all important to a business,what I’ve discovered is none of that matters if you can’t get past your own fears and self-limiting beliefs. That is why I spend so much time learning about how we think and exploring our mindset. The first step to creating a successful business is believing you can.

Much of what the book said resonated with me. As a coach, I think the most valuable part of my training was becoming aware of and questioning the validity of my own thoughts and beliefs. We tend to live with them as if they are unchangeable truths, when in fact, we can choose to change them at any time. But the problem is most of us are unaware of what we think and believe because they’ve become so ingrained and habitual. So we react instead of respond and get tripped up by our own negative thinking or as psycho-cybernetics would explain it, a poor self-image.

What does psycho-cybernetics mean anyway? Maltz believed the mind/body connection regulates our self-concept or image. Cybernetics, according to Wikipedia, is “an approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints and possibilities … Cybernetics is used when a system displays a closed signaling loop – a ‘circular causal’ relationship. The action in the system creates a change in the environment and that change is reflected in the system and triggers a system change.”

In English, cybernetics refers to an automatic guidance system. Maltz believed that our brain and nervous system function as a “servomechanism” or goal seeking device. According to Maltz, it is our self-image that determines whether we are successful or not. And what determines our self-image? Our thoughts and beliefs. We always act in a way that is consistent with our self-image.

Like computers (but so much more complex), our brains follow whatever directions we give it. We have a conscious and subconscious mind. Our conscious mind looks at its options and chooses the one it sees best. When it makes its choice, all other options are eliminated at that moment.

The subconscious mind will move in the direction and do whatever the conscious mind tells it.

Our experiences, upbringing, religion, socializing, schooling, etc have all played a huge part in creating our thoughts and beliefs. Through repetition, those thoughts and beliefs have become ingrained and habitualized in our subconscious. Problems in our self-image occur when we internalize negative thoughts and beliefs and we are unable to move beyond them. We think we are bad at math, hence any other options cease to exist so our subconscious mind follows orders – bad at math. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point.

Psycho-Cybernetics is about becoming aware of these habitual patterns of thought and self-limiting beliefs and reprogramming your brain for success.

Psycho-Cybernetics consists of six steps:

  1. Program yourself for success.
  2. Imagine your way to success
  3. Relax
  4. Set goals
  5. Use negative feedback for course correction
  6. Disinhibit your personality

Step one is about being aware of our thoughts. Are they serving or hindering us? Does the belief that you are bad at math serve you when you are trying to look at the financials of your business or do they hinder you, resulting in overspending, low margins, etc. Negative thoughts and beliefs equal negative outcomes.

Our thoughts and beliefs aren’t unchangeable truths. You have a choice. Your subconscious mind will follow whatever you choose, good or bad.

What do you do about those negative thoughts? Maltz offers CRAFT – you become aware and challenge the negative thoughts/ beliefs and replace them with positive ones –

  • Cancel the negative data (actually say “cancel” out loud),
  • Replace it with a positive thought,
  • Affirm your new image to yourself,
  • Focus on the image of a successful you and
  • Train yourself for lasting change (acting as if).

Visualization is also a powerful tool used in psycho-cybernetics. Our brain can’t distinguish between a real or imagined event. By visualizing a successful outcome, you are, in essence, training your brain. Athletes do it all the time with mental rehearsal. It’s the ol’ “fake-it-till-you-make-it” concept.

Programming yourself and imagining success is essentially bringing your thoughts and beliefs into your awareness and challenging those that aren’t serving you and creating a new vision of how you want to be, rewriting a new script, telling a different story, through visualization.

The next step is to learn to relax.The whole point of these books is to take control of your life and create it on your terms. Unfortunately, it can be hard to think clearly or creatively when we are stressed. We actually have three brains. One is our primitive brain – it operates strictly on instinct, one is for emotions and the neo-cortex is what gives us our distinct advantage over other primates. It’s all about higher reasoning and critical thinking. However, when we are stressed, our primitive brain takes over. We are in survival mode. We react, we’re operating on instinct. It overrides all critical thinking. There’s no time for that – we’re in danger.

Managing stress is imperative to being able to achieve our goals.

The key to a lot of modern day stress is to understand most situations are neutral. It is our response to it that creates stress. We also tend to take ownership of problems that aren’t ours. 

Can you depersonalize the situation? Mistakes or problems do not define you. Do not identify with your disappointments. There is a big difference between “I made a mistake” and “I am a failure”. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a failure.

What’s a guiding system without a target, right? Goals give us direction, otherwise we’ll just be drifting along like flotsam in a river, at the mercy of the current. It’s important to choose goals that are yours – not what your parents want, your spouse, your best friend, etc. (I specifically address the goal setting process in my book Stop Dreaming About Your Life and Start Living It). Goals force you to stretch outside of your comfort zone so take small steps. Give yourself time to grow into your goals. And while you should have a plan, remain flexible and take consistent action. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t get caught in the trap of “trying harder”. You didn’t make a mistake, it’s not you. Consider it feedback and do something different. Keep moving forward.

My take on psycho-cybernetics is when we quit buying into our negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs and replace them with positive, productive ones, we are on the path to achieving our goals.

 

 

 

 

3 Tools to take action on your goals

3 tools to take action on your goals

What percentage of people do you think achieve their New Year’s resolutions? 50%? 33%? 12%?

It’s actually 8%. I’m not surprised. We sincerely want to quit our bad habits, pursue our dreams and be our best selves, but when it’s time to work on our goals, why are we suddenly compelled to clean out the vegetable drawer – or is that just me? Our intentions are good but our follow through, well, sucks.

To make matters worse, when I set goals I think I have superhuman powers and put unrealistic demands on myself and my time – who needs sleep? I never questioned this approach and each time I felt like a failure because not only did I NOT reach my goal, I barely got started.

I thought I lacked discipline but the problem wasn’t me, the problem was my approach. I didn’t need iron-clad willpower, what I needed was a system that took me from planning to DOING. Action is the only way to build momentum and create new habits and I’ve discovered a few tools that helped me move through my fears and resistance to reach my goals.

But first, I’d like to talk about how our brain works. Our brains have 3 parts:

  • the primitive brain handles our survival instincts,
  • The limbic is our emotional brain and is used for building social bonds.
  • The neocortex is the thinking brain, used for logic and reasoning.

For goal-setting purposes, it’s important to know that when you experience fear or stress, the primitive brain is going to override the thinking brain. Every. Single. Time. It’s going to do everything in its power to alleviate that stress. My unrealistic plans triggered some fear and my primitive brain reacted, thus the overwhelming desire to clean the fridge. I needed a subtler approach so my brain worked for, not against me. The tools that work for me are: break it down, the 5 minute plan and low expectations.

1. Break it Down

In my previous process, to use a writing analogy, I tried to jump from never writing to a finished novel overnight. It’s like expecting a baby that just learned how to roll over to start running. I was depriving myself of the learning opportunities in all those little steps and the habits and confidence they built. I finally realized that achieving a goal means growing into it, one step at a time.

2. Commit to 5 Minutes

The 5 minute plan is a another great tool to overcome resistance. I actually thought I could work 3 hours a night, 5 nights a week and another 16 hours on the weekend to work on my goals, in addition to my full-time job and everything else life threw at me. And I wondered why I couldn’t get started! Then a coach suggested I turn it down a notch and start with 5 minutes. It seems counter-intuitive, What could I accomplish in 5 minutes? Never mind that I wasn’t accomplishing anything before

Here’s the thing, getting started is often the hardest part and 5 minutes is ridiculously easy and non-threatening (remember that primitive brain?), that it was easy to commit to. And if you know Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Five minutes is usually all I need to overcome inertia and get the ball rolling.

3. Lower Expectations

The final tool is lower your expectations. Now, I’m not saying lower your standards, always do your best. Just accept in the beginning your best might not be all that good. But in order to improve you have to practice. I read about a pottery teacher that did an experiment. He told one class that they would be graded on the quantity of pots they made. He told another their grades would be based on one pot. The class that was graded on quantity actually produced the best pots. Why? Practice! They were focused on the process while the one pot class was focused on the product. In the beginning quantity is more important than but will eventually lead to quality. It’s the process, all that practice that matters, not the product, which is just the end result. So quit worrying about how good it is.

Pursuing our goals is gratifying but the path is seldom easy. It’s good to have some tools that we can use that work with our brain to get us started as well as get us back on track if we slip into old habits when the novelty and excitement of our goal wears off. When you are having trouble getting started I challenge you to apply breaking things down, the 5 minute plan and lowering your expectations.

Mindset – the First Step to Success

Mindset - The First Step to Success

Everything we do is an attempt to control our lives and despite what you may think, we are not controlled by external, but by internal forces – what we think and believe. In other words, our mindset.

The definition of mindset is a “particular way of thinking, a person’s attitude or opinion about something, an inclination of habit”. Nowhere does it mention “truth” or “facts”. This is because your mindset is merely your way of thinking, your perspective, your habits of thought. It’s not reality, it’s your version of reality. In “The Four Agreements”, Don Miguel Ruiz refers to it as a dream. It isn’t carved in stone and set for life. You can choose to change it at any time, by reframing the meaning you give it, especially if it’s not serving you.

In my own struggles to create a career I love, I realize now that my biggest obstacle wasn’t my age, lack of the “proper” degree, money, time or any other excuse. My biggest obstacle was my mindset. You are what you think.

Mindset – 5 Qualities to Foster

When considering what goals to focus on,  examining your mindset is a good place to begin. Of course, your habits of thoughts and beliefs aren’t going to announce themselves, they operate subconsciously so this is not a one time exercise. You’ll need to bring a lot of awareness to your thoughts and question them.  Are they helping or hindering you – and weed out the ineffective ones. Five qualities of a constructive mindset are: self-acceptance, a belief in yourself, optimism, resourcefulness and curiosity.

Self-Acceptance

Self-acceptance is about living from your genuine voice, “to the truth of your inner being in all the ways that it speaks to you and live from it” as Helene G. Brenner Ph.D describes it. The problem a lot of women have, myself included, is too often we let other people’s opinions, desires and assumptions govern us. We find fault and constantly tell ourselves we are “not enough”. When we listen to our authentic voice we realize that we don’t have to fix, change or improve anything to be happy. There is no test to pass, conditions to meet or anything to prove in order to pursue the life we want.

Belief in Yourself

When you believe in yourself, you have the confidence and faith that you are capable of doing what you need to do. You believe you have control over your life and you accept the responsibility and consequences of your actions.

We all have varying degrees of confidence depending on our interests and experiences. I’m a confident public speaker but not so confident in my computer skills. Competence breeds confidence, the more practice you’ve had doing something, the more confident you will be.

Optimism

Being hopeful about the future is important. It doesn’t mean ignoring the harsh realities of life, it means you choose to remain confident things will work out. As Winston Churchill said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Resourcefulness

Being able to skillfully and imaginatively deal with difficult situations is a valuable skill. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. So many dreams have died a premature death, not because of a lack of money, but a lack of resourcefulness and creativity. They put all their eggs in one basket and hope it works. Successful people always have a plan B, C…Z, if needed. They don’t focus on the problem or the limitations. They focus on what they want and how they can accomplish it. It’s about making do with what you have, as the U.S. Marine Corp says – improvise, adapt and overcome.

Curiosity

Resourceful people are inquisitive. They want to learn about everything. They’ll take things apart to see how they work, ask lots of questions and like to explore and investigate. They have an open mind and are willing to see other perspectives. Avoid jumping to conclusions, making assumptions or value judgments. 

A good way to start cultivating a positive mindset is to first practice becoming aware of your thoughts and beliefs. Become aware of how a thought feels. When you think it, do you feel tense? Angry? If so, then challenge it. If it isn’t helping you, then it’s time to think differently.

Lies we tell ourselves

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Everyday we tell ourselves lies that limit our potential. Here are some of them:

1.”It’s not my fault”

If you are talking about the weather or another person’s actions, then you’re right. But we often say these words when we have been called out on our behavior. In his book, The 8th Habit, Stephen R. Covey talks about our birthrights and one of them is freedom of choice. We all have the power to choose and as a result, we need to take responsibility for our actions.

When you apologize for your words or actions, try to right a wrong, suffer the consequences, make amends, fix your mistakes, etc, not only do you have a chance to learn and grow, you release yourself from the pain and memory and can move on. You are able to take that failure and make it a win. When you play the blame game, you end up holding on to all that negative energy and carrying it with you, letting it eat at your confidence and self-esteem.

2. “I can’t…”

At 53 my chances of becoming a prima ballerina are slim but nothing is stopping me from taking ballet lessons, watching ballet, photographing dancers, creating a movie about ballet, hosting a fundraiser for the ballet or writing a book about it or in any other way expressing my love for ballet.

There are some things that aren’t realistic anymore but there is a difference between accepting reality and fighting for our limitations. Don’t let your age, circumstances or physical abilities define what you can and can’t do. Ask yourself “Why can’t I?” “What if I did?” Maybe you don’t want to…but that’s OK, you’re making a choice which is different than accepting defeat before you even tried.

3. Letting your past determine your future.

The beauty of being human is that we are capable of learning and growing. What happened 1, 5, 20 years ago is inconsequential to what we are capable of doing today. Ten years ago I said I hated running and totally sucked at it. But today I am a runner and I can run an 8 minute mile. I’m not going to win any awards but my vitals (i.e. pulse, blood pressure, etc) not to mention my physique, have changed over time due to my commitment to running. The choices we make determine our future. If we want our future to be different, we do so by making different choices. Personally, if I’m still the same person in ten years as I am today, I’ll be disappointed. Living in the past is not living.

4. Life’s a bitch.

This isn’t a lie because life can be a bitch at times. As I write this post, it is my brother’s birthday. He passed away almost 20 years ago, leaving behind a wife and two-year-old son. That sucks, because if you ever met my brother you’d be instantly struck by how fun-loving and optimistic he was. He got sick when he was visiting me and I remember saying how it sucked and his comment when his wife brought him a bowl of soup was “Yeah, but I’m being taken care of.’ He wasn’t focused on how sick he was, he was just so grateful for the love and care his wife gave him.

People are probably tired of me saying it but it’s true – you get what you focus on. If you’re going to focus on the misery in life, that’s all you’ll see. And how does that make you feel? Not so good, I bet.

Being hopeful about the future is important. It doesn’t mean ignoring the harsh realities of life, it means you choose to remain confident things will work out. As Winston Churchill said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Studies show optimists live longer, are healthier and more committed to and likely to achieve their goals. Dreaming about a better future motivates you to work towards it.

Personal control is one of the traits of happy people. When we feel we are in control of our life, we are happier, more productive and have more confidence. We can pursue our dreams and have a sense of purpose in our life, which gives us meaning and more fulfillment. Stop the lies, quit putting limitations on your life and take control of your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is it so hard to change?

Why is it so hard to change?Because you think your conscious mind is running the show.

Our brain is a complex and amazing organ. It has a built in survival mechanism, allows us to experience deep emotions, form social bonds and think, reason, analyze, and create.

The problem is we think the cognitive, rational, analytical part of our brain, the part we’re aware of, is in charge when in fact, it’s responsible for about 15% of our thoughts and actions. The other 85% is controlled by our subconscious – the part we aren’t aware of.

From the day we are born, our brains start building neural pathways. Because our brain values efficiency, when something is repeated, whether it be an action or a thought, these pathways become stronger and ingrained to the point we don’t even have to think about them anymore. That’s a good and bad thing.

It’s good for things like mastering a skill. Remember when you first learned how to drive and how awkward it was? If your experience was anything like mine, there was a lot of conscious effort as you tried to remember what you were suppose to do. Your actions were choppy, there was a lot of jerking when you turned, accelerated or braked. But after years of driving, our actions are smoother. I know how much room I need to ease into traffic. If a car cuts me off or swerves in front of me I react quickly. I don’t have to think “What should I do?” because I instinctively know what to do, I’ve done it thousands of times. I can predict what a lot of drivers will do around me before they even do it. I have my brain to thank for all of that.

Then there’s the down side. As we are growing up, we receive messages – from our family, friends, teachers and society in general. Some of these messages, if repeated enough, become internalized and we adopt as beliefs. Some work for us, some don’t.

My client, whom I’ll call Sarah, hired me because she wanted to start her own business. She had a viable idea and a good plan but couldn’t seem to make the leap. Instead, she kept taking dead end, low paying jobs she was overqualified for and hated. She was losing hope.

This wasn’t the first business she attempted to start. Any of her previous ideas could have worked but after the initial excitement of researching the business and coming up with a plan, she would hit an obstacle, procrastinate or just give up, believing she was too old or didn’t have the “right” credentials. It was a predictable pattern and she was frustrated. She yearned for something different but when she got to a certain point she always quit. It was a battle of wills – between her deeply conscious desire to have control over her own fate, to have the flexibility and variety that being her own boss would bring and choose exciting projects and work with people who inspired her – and her subconscious beliefs.

Her subconscious was winning. Sarah had a huge fear of rejection and as we explored the issue further, it turned out Sarah was constantly looking for someone to validate her worth. It was a driving force throughout her life, unbeknownst to her. Any rejection, off-hand remark, roll of the eyes or indifference, Sarah’s subconscious mind assumed were about her so it would rely on those deeply ingrained behaviors of the past and she’d retreat back to the safety of her comfort zone lest she be deemed unworthy.

Sarah believed her self-worth came from other people. It was outer-focused. She reflected back on her life and realized how this manifested in so many of her actions and interactions. She saw how it caused a lot of the conflicts she had with others and was the source of much of her unhappiness.

Sarah’s dream of owning her own business would (probably) never be realized until she could resolve the belief that she needed others to validate her worth. The biggest problem is we aren’t even aware of these subconscious thoughts so never bother to question them, even when they no longer serve us. We get caught up in a pattern of trying and then failing, creating an endless chain of disappointment.

So what can we do about it? I’ll address that in my next post.

The Intellectual vs. Emotional Mind

The Intellectual vs. Emotional MindIn a recent post, I talked about how I knew, intellectually, that I wasn’t a fraud, fake or a failure. I have accomplished a lot in my life. I graduated college, raised a phenomenal human being, mastered various skills, created tons of stuff with my own two hands, became a certified coach, formed some fabulous relationships, am a dedicated runner and yoga practitioner and have overcome an eating disorder, just to name a few. I have plenty of proof to know that I am a capable, intelligent, resourceful, compassionate and ever growing individual.

Intellectually, I know this, yet I still occasionally have feelings of doubt and inadequacy. Like I don’t have anything worthwhile to offer and will never be good enough. I turn into an emotional basket case.

It’s a battle between my intellectual and emotional selves.  Can you relate?

It’s no surprise that this battle is fought in our mind. There are actually 3 parts to our brain. The reptilian brain handles our vital biological functions such as breathing and pumping blood. It’s “largely unconscious, automatic and highly resistant to change”, according to Integrated Wellness Therapies article “The Role of Three Brains”. 

The limbic brain handles our emotions. It’s where we make value judgments that influence our behavior and form social bonds. It connects events with feelings. It is “active in situations that arouse fear, anger, frustration and pity.” It also operates mostly on a subconscious level.

The neocortex is our thinking brain (our intellectual self) and is responsible for abstract thought, imagination, higher reasoning and language.

These three separate parts of our brains don’t operate independently of each other, they are connected and the limbic and neocortex “influence each other via ongoing communication, linking emotions with thinking and voluntary action…Whilst we like to think of our neocortex or thinking brain as being the conscious decision maker, it is, in reality only selectively conscious. Psychologists generally agree that at best we are only 15% conscious of our emotions and behaviors. This means that even when we think we’re being rational and conscious, we’re largely being driven subconsciously by previous similar experiences and emotions.

Here’s the thing you need to know – “our subconscious brain is the ultimate decision maker. It always wins.” If it’s a matter of survival, our reptilian brain takes over – the fight or flight response. If it’s not a life-threatening situation, then emotional memories that have become ingrained, will triumph. The challenge, then, when making changes, is to overcome that emotional conditioning to create new habits or patterns of behavior. When we sabotage our efforts to change, it is our subconscious mind merely trying to keep the status quo.

Growing up, I believed that mistakes were bad and determined my worth so I played it safe. I gave in and reinforced my fear of rejection and feelings of inadequacy over the decades. I’ve taken jobs that I was overqualified for and settled for less than I was worth.

I grew up in a household that neither encouraged or modeled any type of risk. It was an environment rife with control and rewarded “good” behavior – doing what you were told and not questioning why. Looking back with some maturity, a fair amount of counseling and perspective, I now understand the dysfunctional dynamics and have compassion for what we all went through.

That’s all fine and dandy except it doesn’t change the fact that I’m now stuck with these subconscious emotional responses that no longer serve me and what I want to achieve.

As I strike out on my own, forging an unconventional path (at least compared to what I grew up in) and challenging my beliefs, I often find my intellectual and emotional minds at odds. I get caught up in the excitement of learning new things, the freedom of being the master and designer of my own life and helping others do the same but inevitably, like clockwork, my emotional side starts getting nervous and shaking things up because I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone.

It’s a pattern I’ve come to know over the decades. I’d get excited about doing something and would make all sorts of plans. I am a Master Planner. After some progress, I’d often lose interest. Sometimes it was legitimate, it just wasn’t my thing. More often, though, I had my first challenge and I was scared. Having taken the easy way out most of my life, I wasn’t emotionally prepared to handle it, so my brain kicked in and did what it does best.

After my divorce I realized that I had spent my life living in fear and decided to use this as a rebirth, if you will, to live my life in love. It’s an ongoing process which I liken to peeling an onion. Just when you think you’ve tackled one issue, you realize that you just scratched the surface and have to diligently be aware of your thoughts and habits, constantly reinforcing new ones to replace those that are counterproductive.

It’s a two step process really – being aware and questioning your thoughts and then taking SMALL steps outside of your comfort zone.

Awareness is probably the hardest part because most of our thoughts and behavior is reactive – that 85% of our brain that works subconsciously. And once you question a thought, belief or assumption, you have to replace and keep reinforcing it so it becomes the go-to response.

Taking it one small step at a time helps you ease into new behaviors, gain momentum and prevents the warning bells from going off in our brains, activating those old patterns. For instance, if you want to start an exercise routine after you’ve been a confirmed couch potato, telling yourself you’re going to go to the gym for an hour everyday is going to raise some red flags. Start small, maybe 5 minutes, or a walk after dinner. Grow into your goals slowly and you have a chance of achieving them rather than trying to strong arm your way to success.

It won’t be easy. You will have set backs. But you will also have triumphs. Show yourself some compassion, let your emotional mind know that you understand and just keep moving forward.

Don’t overthink – over do!

Don't Overthink - Over Do! Take action to get through resistanceIn my last session with my coach, I was in a funk and came to the realization that the problem was I was spending too much time analyzing it.

I am introspective by nature, so I spend a lot of time in my head. Most of the time it’s not a problem. I plan, dream, get ideas, find solutions, learn things and gain new insight but sometimes when I’m chugging along just fine – WHAM! – I hit a brick wall.

I feel like a pinball – my mind mentally bouncing around.  I’m unfocused, antsy and agitated. I fall into  Funkville (which is just the opposite of Funky Town). Once I rule out some obvious factors like hunger or need for sleep, I do what I normally do. I go inside my head.

This usually works. Sitting down with a pen and paper (or banging away on my laptop) and doing some stream of consciousness writing, I can often pinpoint what’s bothering me.

But sometimes my mind takes me into a dark place and the inner critic/demon/crazy lady, whatever you want to call it, comes out to play with a vengeance.

I happened to be in the middle of such an episode when I was talking to my coach. I was whining about how I was a fraud and a fake, comparing myself to others and generally whipping myself up into a full-blown tizzy.

I was suffering from a lack of belief in myself and I was trying to think my way out of it. But then it dawned on me, the way out wasn’t by thinking, but by doing!

When you suffer from a lack of faith/belief/confidence in yourself and your abilities, thinking only tends to exacerbate the problem. As I was talking to my coach, intellectually, I knew I wasn’t a fraud or a fake. I’ve accomplished a lot but I was having a problem shaking those damn little gremlins in my head telling me otherwise. Thinking wasn’t going to make them go away, in fact it had the opposite effect, it fed them. I had that “Aha!” moment when I realized I had to DO something. Anything.

I didn’t need motivation, I didn’t need confidence, I didn’t have to convince myself I wasn’t a fraud. I just had to ACT. So I looked at where my time would be best spent based on what I wanted to achieve and took the most logical small step to move me in that direction.

And the little voice in my head faded away as I concentrated on the next task at hand.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Get comfortable being uncomfortable - your ability to do so will make a huge differenceOne of the five truths about fear, according to Susan Jeffers in her book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway“, is the fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow. It’s part of change.

Humans are creatures of habit and most of us have settled nicely into couch potato status in our comfort zone. The problem with that is it’s a pretty boring spot, from my stand point. For me, a fulfilling life means growth and and meeting new challenges. This means risk, fear and a host of other possibilities that make me vulnerable. Will I embarrass or humiliate myself? Will I fail?

Maybe.

Then there’s the alternative – mediocrity, boredom, stagnation, resignation. A sure path to Regret-ville.

So if you hope to live a meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful life, one that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning, makes time fly, pushes you to the edge of frustration and then rewards you with joy, a sense of accomplishment and purpose, one that satisfies your mind, heart, body and spirit, you’re going to have to get used to being uncomfortable.

There’s a big benefit to facing our fears and stepping outside of our comfort zone. When we push through it helps reinforce our feelings of resourcefulness and resilience. Living with a constant feeling of dread makes us feel helpless and adds more stress than if we took the chance. Taking risks helps us to cultivate our power – power over our thoughts and beliefs – boosts our confidence and self-assurance that will spill out into all areas of our life. We feel like we have control, making us happier.

Exactly how does one become comfortable with discomfort?

Acknowledge your fears.

Get to the root of your fears. Look past the excuses (“I don’t have time”) and find out what’s really at the core. Take out a piece of paper and write down everything that could go wrong. What’s the worst case scenario?  What are the odds that it could actually happen? Bring those fears into the light, acknowledge and challenge them.

Preparation and practice.

Once you have your list and narrowed it down to concerns grounded in reality. Let’s say you have to give a speech, the microphone exploding is a possibility but not a probability. “Going blank” is, so what can you do to avoid that? You can do research, prepare notes, practice your speech, mediate beforehand to calm yourself or find some other pre-speech ritual or focus on a friendly face in the audience.

I’m still nervous getting up and talking in front of people and I’ve done it at least a 100 times. I’ll probably still get nervous after I’ve done it a 1000 times, but because of the preparation and practice I put in, I’m not paralyzed by it.

Focus on the positive

When we are out of our comfort zone, we tend to focus on the negatives – what if I can’t do it? What if I look foolish? What if I embarrass myself? What if other people hate it? What if I fail?

Instead, focus on the benefits – learning something new, getting a promotion, helping others, being healthier, having more energy to play with your kids, being in control of your life, conquering a fear.

One of my running routes has an uphill section that I dread. To make matters worse it is at the end of my run so I am already tired. But the minute I turn that corner I start saying my mantra “This will make me stronger”, over and over until I make it to the top of that hill. It doesn’t make it easier but it reminds me why I’m doing it.

Take small steps

If you decide to start exercising after decades of inactivity, don’t try to run a marathon or come up with ridiculous expectations of exercising for an hour a day because that’s a sure fire way to not accomplish anything (ask me how I know this…). Start small. Teeny tiny small. Like 5 minutes. Ease into it. Get up and do jumping jacks during a commercial break or take a walk after dinner. Getting started is often the hardest part so make it as non-threatening as possible.

Once you’ve started, then work on expanding your comfort zone, in small steps. When you notice yourself becoming uncomfortable (not unbearable mind you, uncomfortable), sit with it awhile. Don’t give in right away. You don’t think you could possibly do one more jumping jack? Do a couple more. And then do a couple more after that. Don’t quit on the first try. We are more resilient than we give ourselves credit. Stick with it for a little bit longer, notice the discomfort, acknowledge it but don’t give into it right away.

Change is an inevitable part of life, especially if you want to keep learning and growing. Making peace with discomfort is a skill and asset that will help you conquer just about anything.

 

 

 

 

Inner Peace according to Dr. Wayne Dyer

person-802075_1280Peace of mind. Isn’t it what we all want it?

I picked up Dr. Wayne Dyer’s 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace.

This book is exactly what I need. As an introvert I am always inside my head and sometimes it can cause me heartache. Let me summarize the 10 secrets:

1. Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.  In other words, don’t judge and don’t make your happiness or success dependent upon an attachment to any person, place or thing. You don’t let other people’s opinions or your things (or lack of) have any bearing on your worth.

2. Don’t die with your music in you. Follow your passion. Do what energizes and engages you.

3. You can’t give away what you don’t have. According to Dyer, the universe responds with the same energy we send out. It’s the law of attraction. We manifest everything in our life based on our energy levels. Some people mistakenly believe that if we just send out a list of wants out into the universe that they will magically be delivered to us. It doesn’t work that way, action on our part is required. And it goes deeper than just getting “things”, it’s about our attitude, thoughts and beliefs. We need to believe and practice what we want. If we want love, we need to not only love ourselves but be loving toward others.

4. Embrace silence. Find time to still your mind. Commune with nature. Our lives are too hectic and that hectic energy not only affects you but everyone around you.

5. Give up your personal history. You are not your past. You can’t change it, you can only learn from it. Get over it, take responsibility and move on and don’t let it define you.

6. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. Change your thoughts. You get what you focus on so focus on the positive – being more loving, more empathetic, more peaceful.

7. There are no justified resentments. First, remove blame, own your feelings whether you understand them or not. Second, respond with love, peace, joy, forgiveness and kindness instead of reacting from your ego (who is always getting you in trouble because it’s always a contest about who’s the best, brightest, smartest, etc).

8. Treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to be. It’s the “act as if” principle. What do you think a person who is a (insert what you want to be here – i.e. writer) does? For writer you might say that they write daily, they read a variety of things, they subscribe to trade journals, they belong to a writing group, they submit proposals to publishers, they accept rejection as part of the job and don’t take it personally. Then do it.

9.Treasure your divinity. Quit looking on the outside (externally) for your source of strength. It’s in you.

10. Wisdom is avoiding all things that weaken you. Everything you think either strengthens or weakens you. Dyer talks about power vs. force.  “Power urges you to live and perform at your own highest level” Force, explains Dyer is movement and for every action there is a reaction or counter force. Force is a negative energy and is associated with judgment, competition and control. Instead of choosing to “wipe out the competition”, a more peace-inducing thought would be to perform at your highest capacity and give it your best shot.

Got other ideas? Please comment and let me know.

Who’s in charge of your life?

superhero-534120_1280Chances are it isn’t you if you hear yourself saying “I should…”, are a constant clock watcher at work, spend way too much time surfing the internet or watching T.V or are bored, disengaged and generally “living for the weekend”.

That feeling that there must be more to life is a sure sign you aren’t running it.

Be the Creator of your life. Engage in it, don’t watch from the sidelines.

I’m an introvert. I spend a lot of time thinking. I am inside my head a lot, thinking about ideas, concepts, problems, solutions and what I’m going to eat at my next meal. I’ve recently taken action to move my life in a different direction. It was painful and scary but the right thing to do. Determined not to repeat the same mistakes and live in alignment with my passions, values and talents,  I decided to craft a personal philosophy. I hold creative thinking in high regard so I’ve used the word creativity as an acronym.

C – Childlike curiosity –  Invite your inner child out to play and have fun. Laugh. Question everything. “We’ve always done it this way” is lazy thinking. Change is going to happen, you can look at it as an exciting new adventure or let it run you over. Innovations don’t happen by following the status quo.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” – Dr. Suess.

R – Rules – Know them, but don’t be afraid to break them (legally, that is). Or better yet, invent some new ones. Or forget them all together.

“The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.” – Mark Twain

 

“Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.” Freidrich Nietzsche

 

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you” – The Golden Rule

E – Empathy – Before you jump to conclusions or judge someone, put yourself in their shoes. Be open to new ideas, new experiences, new cultures, new people. Get out of your own head and explore different perspectives.

A – Amateur – don’t be one. In Carl King’s book “So you’re a creative genius, now what?” he defines a pro, amateur and hobbyist. You want to either be a pro (you love what you do and work your butt off to create a viable career) or a hobbyist (not interested in money, does it for sheer joy of it). Don’t strive to be an amateur: a hobbyist who is half-heartedly trying to be a pro. As the great Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Amateurs fall in the “try” category.

T – Talents – Know yours and align yourself with them. Invest the majority of your time in them. Sure, it helps to beef up your weak areas but you’ll probably always just be mediocre and as a result, those are not the things that will bring you great joy. When you operate from your talents, tasks become easier and life in general becomes less of a struggle, and even, dare I say, a pleasure.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman.

I – Imitate – Growth (as a human being) is important for our mental well-being and learning facilitates  growth. How did we learn as children? We imitated others. There is a saying “Good writers borrow, great writers steal”. There is a reason that art students copy the masters, not to plagiarize them, but to learn from them. Let’s say you are a salesperson. Watch high producing salespeople in action. What are they doing? What are they saying? What aren’t they saying? What are they wearing? What are their mannerisms? Watch the faces of their prospects and see how they respond. Obviously, you can’t be that salesperson (writer, painter, drummer, etc) because we each have a unique set of skills, traits and talents. Find the essence of that great sales presentation, piece of art, poem, music, campaign, etc, learn from it and then put your spin on it

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” – Eartha Kitt

 

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” – Lloyd Alexander

V – Values – Figure out what your top 4-5 values are and use them as a guide for living your life. My top 5 values are: being connected, learning, design, have fun and appreciation. Funny thing, once I realized how much I valued appreciation (I wasn’t getting any), it dawned on me that I wasn’t being very appreciative of others. Since then, I have gone out of my way to make sure others know how much I appreciate them or what they’ve done. And wouldn’t you know, what goes around, comes around. Not only does identifying your values give you a filter in which to run every decision through, it helps you see your own behavior in a whole new light and when guided by those values, change is a lot easier.

I – Imagination – Use it. A lot.

“You see things; and  you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and  I say ‘Why not?’” – George Bernard Shaw

         

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” – Steven Covey

 

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

T- Thankfulness – Humans have a bias towards negativity. We overreact to the bad and undervalue the good.  We get what we focus on. If we focus on the negative stuff then that is all we’ll pay attention to. So to get ourselves out of the trap of negative thinking, we need to take time to give thanks for all the good that we have. It’s hard to do when you are chin deep in troubles but you can’t get yourself out of a negative situation with negative thinking.

“When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins

Y – Yin/Yang – Accept and embrace all of you. You’re a flawed being who can be silly, compassionate, petty, angry, sad, hurt, funny, ditzy, intelligent, thoughtful, loving and everything else inbetween. This doesn’t mean that you  give up trying to be a better person. It just means accept who you are right now.

What would you include in your personal philosophy?