Birds of a Feather

Recently I attended a conference about how the brain forms new habits.  A fascinating topic that seems to be right on time for those of us who need to make some lifestyle changes but may have trouble staying on track and motivated.

The psychologist who was presenting new information about brain plasticity (meaning that the central nervous system is capable of changing in response to internal and external environmental messages), included some takeaway tips at the end,

One of them was a suggestion that when working on making a lifestyle change, it is important to surround yourself with people who are living in a similar way, or have achieved the goal to which you are aspiring.

A proverb dating back to the mid-sixteenth century said, “Birds of a feather flock together.”  It’s an adage that holds true today, and while they didn’t know the scientific reasons for it, it was a keen observation of human behavior.  Our brains are equipped with mirror cells, which act as an instantaneous aid in helping us mimic behavior. Like most things, this can be used for good or ill.

My three year old grand-daughter was demonstrating to me how she could run fast.  She made a point to hold her hands in a certain way, elbows bent, fingers all aligned.  I asked her mother where she had seen that, and was told that she had observed it on a work-out program that her mother uses.  Anna Grace is highly interested in running very fast, and she instantaneously mirrored the behavior of some athletes who were running fast.

We can apply these mirror cells in ways that are helpful to us.  And we can be aware of how we are also being influenced, probably unconsciously, by negative behaviors that we want to leave behind.

Did you know that your relationships are affecting the level of success that you are experiencing?  Do you know that the people whom you hang out with are greatly determining how you achieve in your given field and how much money you make?

It’s true.  Studies show that we tend to earn about the same amount of money that our friends and family members do. We also tend to have similar expectations regarding lifestyle and achievement.

There are certainly exceptions to this, and perhaps you know someone in a family that has been the family hero in exceeding everyone’s expectations.  However I’ll bet that the hero found someone or a group who modeled successful behaviors and helped make the necessary connections which enabled her/his success.

Are you also aware that your companions are influencing the way you think and therefore your mood?  Yesterday I was working with two different women who are dealing with this issue.  And they are in completely different ages and stages of life.  Lillian is a recently retired woman in her early 60′s who came to see me because she was depressed and dissatisfied with her life.  Terri is in her 20′s, working in her first “real” job.

Lillian recognized that someone who has been a long time friend is both demanding and draining of her time and energy.  In fact, lots of people in her life depend on Lillian for help and advice.  In making some decisions about what she intends for her new phase of life, she said that she needs some new friends who are positive and involved in activities that she would enjoy.

Terri, as a young adult, is grappling with a similar situation.  Most of her friends work 9-5, and their time off is spent partying and shopping.  Terri has some goals for buying her own house and someday going into business as a caterer.  She is recovering from a stint of careless shopping and credit card abuse and is working hard to pay off her debt.

So what might the company she keeps be influencing each of them?  Thinking, behavior and moods are contagious.  As humans we rather quickly adjust to what is going on around us and even behavior that would have been abhorrent to us becomes “normalized.”  I believe this occurs on an energetic level as well as a physical one.

That expression about someone “giving off a vibe” is more than new age or hippie speak.  The vibrational level that we experience as a living being, is transmitted and received by those around us.  Some people are more sensitive to this than others, but we are all affected whether we are aware of it or not.

I’m suggesting that you DO become aware of it and make conscious and intentional choices about who you hang out with.  If you have goals that you are seriously intending to meet, or a lifestyle change that you are intending to incorporate, then you must have some like-minded folks at your side.  We never make this journey alone.

 

Sorting Lead From Gold

 “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:  It is only
with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential
is invisible to the eye.”
~Antoine de Sainte-Exupery~

Fall is around the corner and wherever you live, you are probably aware of the changes that are underway.  Most of us in the developed world, ever more engaged in technology, may live in ways that seem disconnected from nature.  But of course we are not.

After all we are animals, and our lives are just as dependent and intertwined with the natural world as the migrating birds, butterflies and squirrels. The trees outside my window are beginning to drop their leaves, even though just a few of the outer branches have begun to change color.  They have served their purpose for the growing season, and are no longer needed.

There’s a clue in that for us I think.  Our lives have seasons of development and growth, as well as periods of rest and renewal.  What is valuable, necessary and useful in one season is not in another.  There are parallels in human life to those leaves which once were green, verdant and vital but then turn color and are dropped to the ground.

We may be tempted to hang onto them out of sentiment or not notice that they are no longer useful to us.  Sometimes we are oblivious to what is going on right under our very noses!  Or inside our minds and hearts, for that matter.  Practicing mindfulness will tune you in to the immediacy of your state of mind and how your body feels as well as what is going on around you.

When you do, you can ask yourself what is valuable to you right now and what is not.  It is important to ask yourself questions about what you want in your life and what kind of human being you intend to be.  After all we are always in the process of Becoming, as Carl Rogers, humanistic psychologist, put it.  And what was gold in your life 10 or 20 years ago might have turned to lead today.

Be discerning.  That is what the energy of fall is all about.  Assessing and clearing out is essential to the seasons of growth ahead.  And what we are shedding and discarding may take on new usefulness and form, just as it does in nature.  The dropped leaves become fertilizer for the plants and the tree’s growth in seasons to come.  The dropped acorns feed animals and become the seed of new generations of trees.

If the lead in your life is in the form of an old negative pattern of thought and behavior, it is possible to release and replace it.  You may quit making excuses for it and enjoy the gold of new patterns that will move you ahead in the life you desire.  If it takes the form of old clothing, papers, books or other possessions, you can donate or recycle them and others will benefit too.

As you proceed in your sorting, discarding and organizing, you will notice a renewed energy within you.  You will open up some space for being, thinking and creating.  New inspiration will come as well as new insight.  It’s okay to miss what is missing, although I doubt that you will grieve long.  You may feel the need for rest and renewal (just as nature does) while you appreciate the beauty and tune into the messages of what new gold your life requires.

A Map to Health And Success

 

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
~Carl Jung~


We live in a world where our attention is always in demand.  My email program has ads running at the top, on the sides, some of them moving and some flashing.  We are constantly checking our phones, looking to see who is calling or texting.  Reading new email messages that come in, searching for directions or looking for bargains and making restaurant reservations.  We are reading books or playing Angry Birds, listening to music or processing some kind of information nearly constantly.

The images that flash past us are a more rapid version of images that we are very familiar with from the movies, television and magazines.  With them we begin to piece together the “ideal” life.  Pictures of what we are supposed to look like, feel like, and what our lifestyles should be.

It may be the woman in the pencil skirt and jacket, holding a briefcase, hailing a cab on a busy city street. Or a man leading a business meeting in a corporate board room.  Then an image of both of them, handsome and beautiful, with the requisite 2.5 children and the golden retriever, relaxing in their beautifully appointed home.

Most of us have a nagging sense of uneasiness when we look at them.  Even though we have bought into the underlying message and are busily buying the products that ostensibly got them this ideal life.

The goals you have set for your life may be possibly heavily influenced by these messages and pictures.  Your notion of success, in other words, may possibly be dictated by all those bits of information streaming through your day.  Are you fully conscious of them?  Do you stop to ask what values they express?  Have you ever turned everything off and sat in the silence by yourself?

For some that is an outlandish and frightening idea.  On those occasions when I suggest it, I often get a reply that “Someone may be trying to contact me!”  Yes, Someone is.  Mother Culture is whispering in your ear.

The problem is not that you want to be a success.  After all, my work has been dedicated to helping people build happier lives by removing the impediments of beliefs and behaviors which are blocking them.  I’m enthusiastically all for success!  But you cannot find the answers to that from your Blackberry or Madison Avenue.  It’s not possible to find the perfect man/ woman/ child/ career/ bank account/ social group/ Jimmy Choo shoes that will fix it for you.

What I would like to say is that what determines your success has to begin with a deep understanding of who you are.  And this is an ongoing process that will continue throughout your life span.  In other words, it is never completed.  Until your life on earth is completed, and who knows?  Maybe not even then.

As Carl Jung points out, we must look inward (search our hearts) to see enough to take the journey ahead.  We must discover what matters most to us, what our passions are, what our strengths and our weaknesses are.  How have we created the life we already have?  And that means being brave enough to tolerate being in the shadows, feeling scared, vulnerable and uncertain.

The ego loves being certain, right and righteous!  In some sense, it’s much easier to avoid the “abyss” and endlessly look to those people and things that “should” make us happy and feel safe.  And when they don’t, criticizing and blaming them and going off to look for the “right” person or the next thing.

That is how many live their lives.  And certainly they have a right to do that.  Personally, I believe that while they avoid the “abyss” by avoiding the hard questions and the silence and space that is required to hear answers, the mysteries still await them.  And they will bumble around, running into walls until they must stop because their energies or bodies are exhausted.

I would like to invite you to do the work that is at times daunting, but ultimately inspiring, energizing and meaningful.  There are resources, people, tools and signs along the road that will point the way.  And you can develop your innate intuition; learn to listen to that still, small, voice to design your own success and the life that you desire.

 

Releasing Pain

Do you have any physical pain in your body on a regular basis?
If so, how do you think it limits your enjoyment of life and what would it be
like if it were gone?
I want to share a great resource with you today, something that if you’re in
any kind of pain right now, can dramatically change the quality of your life for the
better.
It’s a video on how you can use EFT Tapping right now to eliminate physical
pain.
If you experience any kind of pain in your body whether if be long term chronic
pain, pain from a recurring sports injury, or just a pain that popped up yesterday
then you need to watch this video.
It can give you rapid results in a way that you likely don’t even think is
possible right now.
Check it out, tap along, and see how your pain improves.  You’ll be glad
you did. :)     http://tinyurl.com3jzv52n

I know that if you’re in pain you’re likely willing to do anything to get out
of it and gain your freedom back.
The good news about tapping is that it’s easy to do and you can do it yourself
and see immediate results.
The results you’ll get from tapping along with this video will speak for themselves.
Enjoy the video and let me know what results you get. :)

If you know of anybody that is in physical pain please pass this resource on.
Having to deal with physical pain on a daily basis can be absolutely debilitating.
Finding a solution that eliminates it can give a person back their freedom to live
their life the way they want.
Just by passing this email along you may be giving somebody that freedom.
http:/tinyurl.com/3jzv52n

No News Is Good News

It was the news of the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand that started it.  Learning of the disaster rang a personal note because I have some virtual friends there running a company that I am affiliated with.  Thankfully they were safe, but the pictures they sent, as well as the ones in the news, told the story of their devastation and obvious distress.

After that came a string of stories from the uprisings in Africa and the Middle East, and the unimaginable disaster and losses in Japan.  On my way to book group, I turned on the radio and heard that we were bombing Libya to enforce a no-fly zone.  Capped off later with a story of young soldiers having a court-martial for killing civilians and posing with them as big game animals.  Have we lost our collective minds?!

My own mind is the only one I can do anything about, and by this time I noticed that I was clearly feeling gloomy and pessimistic.  Irritable and with low energy.  I was having trouble being productive and keeping focused.  No doubt about it, I was suffering from stress.

The meeting of the meditation circle couldn’t have been better timed.  As I sat and began to quiet myself, I wondered what I needed to do.  Later, it occurred to me that I needed to follow Dr. Andrew Weil’s sage advice and go on a news diet.   In fact, I would go on a news fast.

My next thought was, “Can I do it?”  After all, my radio comes on in the morning with Morning Edition on NPR.  And sometimes before going to bed I turn on local weather and news to see what the next day might bring.  My weekend mornings find me listening to Weekend Edition and if I’m not working in the evenings, to All Things Considered.  While I spare myself the drama and stories told in soundbites on TV network news,  I have to admit I am a news junkie.

And like any junkie, going cold turkey seemed tough and a tad unnerving.  And so, copping more advice from the recovery movement, I decided that I would just focus on abstaining from the news one day at a time.

On the first morning the house seemed too quiet, and so I dug out my collection of music which I rarely hear, and began playing them one by one.  That was enjoyable and since I like to listen while I write, very pleasant.  I came across a couple of discs that will have to go, so weeding them out and organizing them as I go will also fulfill a double purpose of clearing out clutter.

At the end of the first day, I was feeling better.  The next morning I decided to continue my news abstinence.  Today marks a full week of my news recovery.  My mood has improved, and my energy level and focus is much better.  At some point I am sure that I will listen to the news again.  But the experience of going on a news fast has made me more aware of how being inundated with bad news on a daily basis is stressful, and that stress certainly has a negative effect on body, mind and spirit.  It’s good to find a way to cope.

Imagine The Path Ahead

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.”     ~Stephen Covey~

There is something about the beginning of January that naturally encourages looking ahead.  Whether you a a person who deliberately plans for the year or not, most likely you have had at least one conversation about it by now.  If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you won’t be surprised to see that I have been asking my clients about this all week.

I admit it:  I am a Goals Missionary.  Or maybe a really annoying Think About Your Purpose in Life evangelist.  Almost everyone is at least polite in their responses.  I haven’t seen any actual eye rolling.  A few have firmly denied that they even want to go there with me.  Most will agree to spend part of our time talking about the possibilities for the year ahead and what they envision for themselves.  Rarely has anyone written it down.

Have you?  I want to suggest that there is a lot of power in the written word.  And I don’t mean it in the usual English major sense of that phrase.  I mean that the just the act of writing down what you want increases the ability to turn that desire into an intention.  And it greatly increases the chance that you will bring it into being.

By the same token, writing down your gratitude or appreciation is more effective than just ticking off the list in your mind.  And not surprisingly feeling grateful makes it much easier to manifest more positives in your life.

If you are willing to write down what you imagine to be your ideal life, and then to write down what elements you are noticing are already present and feel grateful for them, it becomes easier to stay tuned to those positives, rather than the dim disappointments of your past.

This certainly is not the full monty of goal setting.  But it is the spirit that will motivate you, elevate your mood and your optimism and will certainly lead to inspired action.  Try it and see if you don’t agree with me.  As always, I love your comments and everyone else benefits from your thoughts and experiences.

Jet Fuel for Your Goals

“In the universe there is an immeasurable, indescribable force which shamans call intent, and absolutely everything that exists in the entire cosmos is attached to intent by a connecting link.”         ~Carlos Castaneda

Now that fall is officially here, I am hearing from some folks that they are feeling the seasonal effects.  The high “fire” energy of summer is waning, and the more reflective “metal” energy is taking its place.  We feel the change in daylight and the cooling of temperatures that occurs in parts of the world.

And yet here we are in the last quarter of the year and we may also be feeling the pressure to get a lot of work done because the end of the year is fast approaching, and we may have miles to go before we meet the goals that we set.

What do you do when you feel some urgency for pushing toward your goals but are running out of gas?  If you have set goals, then reaching them must be important to you.  Try these steps:

  • Take pen in hand and ask yourself WHY you want to reach that goal.  Write what occurs to you.
  • If you journal, go back and find entries that pertain to reaching that goal.
  • Notice the emotions that fueled your desire in the first place.  What will it FEEL LIKE to have attained the goal?
  • Allow yourself to really FEEL the emotions of attaining that goal.  Don’t wait!  Practice feeling them now!
  • Set a clear INTENTION right now to achieve that goal.  This is very different than just WANTING something that the goal might offer.

For instance I may WANT to get out of debt.  I may be worried about the debt, complaining about how unfair it is that I have the debt, feeling hampered by the debt and deeply regretting incurring the debt.  I may be whining to beat the band, but not doing a thing about it except maybe daydreaming about winning the lottery.

But if I INTEND to get out of debt, something clearly is going to shift.  My emotions change.  My focus changes.  I am determined to do this, even if I don’t clearly know how to do it yet.  Instead of whining and being hopeless and helpless, if I affirm my intention, tools and helpers will begin to occur to me.  In turn my behaviors are going to change from spending mode to saving and paying my bills on time mode.  If I can practice feeling and affirming my intention every day, sooner or later I will accomplish that goal and be out of debt.

Whether we have personal goals, or business goals or relationship goals, we can fuel ourselves in reaching them by clarifying and affirming our intentions to do so.

Photo by Amy Rizzo 2010, All rights reserved