Taming the Mind

“You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”
~Albert Einstein~

That quote of Einstein’s has always rung a bell with me. It just makes sense that whatever my mindset was that led me to make certain choices would need to be changed if I wanted to make a different choice. Or, which is more to the point, to clean up a problem that the choice had created.

The problem is that HOW to change your mind to see your way clearly to a better solution isn’t often easy.  The real difficulty becomes apparent when the unconscious mind with its old (sometimes self-defeating or limiting beliefs) teams up with the emotions and creates a real uproar. Imagine a toddler screaming at the top of his lungs while you are trying to make a decision. He may be saying:

Don’t try to get that job! You don’t know enough!
You’d better not ask her/him out!  They won’t like you!
Don’t even try to quit smoking! You’ll never be able to stick it out!
People in our family have never been able to make much money!

Especially when it comes to making life changes, our emotions, particularly FEAR, gets into high gear. And when you consider that different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions, and in a way, “speak different languages,” it seems like a miracle when we pull off meeting our goals.

No matter how stuck in a rut we are, there is comfort in repeating the familiar patterns. In some ways part of our brain functions like any other animal brain. Your dog knows what it means when you reach for the tennis ball on the closet shelf.  He knows just where his food dish is, and where he sleeps and what time of day you come home.

Although you may hate your job, you know how to handle it. Or you may be unhappy in a relationship, but it’s familiar and you know how to negotiate it. And although you are afraid of the consequences of smoking, the thought of going through the discomfort of quitting keeps you lighting up.

The more engrained the limiting belief and the more potent your fear or anger, etc. the more difficult it is to use that part of your brain which is great at imagining a new outcome or solving the problem. Fortunately we all have that rational pre-frontal cortex…the creative, conscious mind. But we have to calm the amygdale, center of emotions, in order to change the limiting beliefs and get to new solutions.

Fortunately there is a method you can use to calm your emotions, change your limiting beliefs and access creative solutions that will serve you. I have been using EFT or tapping for a number of years, and teach it to my coaching and psychotherapy clients. EFT is a scientifically proven acupressure technique that is self administered. It’s simple to do and calms the emotions and reduces stress. In other words, it’s a great way to tame the mind!

Here are some times you may want to consider using tapping:

When feeling very angry or disappointed in someone’s behavior.
When feeling overwhelmed with a big job or something new.
When procrastinating with any task.
When preparing to make a speech or presentation or public performance.
When you are having trouble forgiving yourself or someone else.

You may access information about EFT by clicking on the “Tapping Solutions” widget in the right column on this blog. You may also want to download the free eBook on the website, or order the movie that is featured there. If coaching for EFT interests you, you may contact me through the page at the top of the blog.  I also recommend a  Tapping Into Ultimate Success by Jack Canfield and Pamela Brunner.

I hope you will be empowered in finding solutions to tame your mind and to reach whatever goals you have in your life.

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Nursery School

“We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of these actions.”
― Stephen R. Covey

 

There is a game category on a popular NPR show called, “Things I would have learned in school if I had been paying attention.” It is sometimes disconcerting to hear answers to those questions which would seem to indicate that maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention.

My grand-daughter, Anna Grace, has begun her school career by attending a nursery school class for three-year-olds. It seems to me that the main purpose at that early age is to begin to tame the savage impulses and get the children to cooperate in a group. Not being the most compliant soul you ever met, she has had some lessons to learn, some more difficult than others.

The first was that her teacher frowned on her merrily racing away to the far corner of the playground when the class lined up to go inside from recess, and then dashing away as the teacher came after her in hot pursuit. (And since it was fall in the South, I’m sure it literally was hot pursuit). Another lesson was that it is not permissible to give a girl a shove, even if she did push you first. And it also isn’t okay to jump in line ahead of someone even when you say “excuse me” before you elbow them out of your way.

Her teachers use a method that I admire, which is to encourage the children to think about their actions and slow down the automatic impulses. They ask, “Do you think that was a good decision?” And the child has time to consider that they DID make a choice and what the outcome of that choice was. Tying together behavior and consequences…something that continues to be a life-long challenge for some.

The other day Anna Grace and her mom were going to take the dog out for his morning walk, and she wanted to bring Scout, a stuffed dog along. As they went through the neighborhood, Anna Grace asked to hold Mudslide, the greyhound’s leash. Her mom said that would be okay until they got to the end of the sidewalk and then she would take the leash back, because the street was nearby.

They proceeded to the end of the sidewalk, her mother took the leash back, and Anna Grace began to protest. She was clearly not ready to give up the leash. When her mother insisted, she started to cry and yell, and threw Scout down on the ground and stomped a few steps away.

Her mother (calmly), “Pick up Scout and come on.”

A.G. (yelling), “No, Mommy! I am so mad at you! YOU pick him up!”

Her mother scoops up Scout, Anna Grace and marches them and Mudslide back to the house and informs Anna Grace that she will have a time out. They get inside, Anna Grace still yelling, and she is deposited on the stairs in her time-out place to get herself collected.

Her mother asks, “Do you think that what you did out there was a good decision?”

Anna Grace (with renewed fury), “I am still so MAD at you Mommy!  I don’t WANT to make decisions!”

When I heard this story I chuckled but could understand her sentiments.  I don’t always like making decisions either. Or more to the point, I don’t like having to be accountable and deal with all the consequences of those decisions!

But one thing that I learned in school (and in the “School of Life”) is that we indeed are responsible for the consequences that we set in motion with our decisions, whether we thought about them in advance, or even intended them, or not.

And, like any three or four year old, most of those decisions are decided on the basis of our emotions. In many cases, our rational thinking is brought in later to justify or explain why we made that choice, after the fact. You can be sure that the red convertible being shown by the model in the mini skirt is not being purchased primarily for its fuel economy!

Or watch a home shopping channel for 15 minutes if you want to see the hypnotic emotional spell being cast over viewers who have their credit cards out to purchase items that suddenly they “need” but would never have thought of before sitting down to watch.

Everyone has likely had the experience of saying something in an argument that they later regret or felt embarrassed by. Who hasn’t regretted making a callous remark about someone or to someone who didn’t deserve the unkindness?

When we are stressed we are especially prone to make poor decisions. We are less likely to think things through, and more likely to strike out or act out on angry or desperate impulses. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are responsible and as such, need to make amends or clean up the mess.  And being human, we can have the grace to forgive someone else as well as ourselves.

Perhaps it is from the perspective of age that it occurred to me the other day that our lives are a sum total of the decisions that we have made. True, sometimes events happen to us that we cannot control. I’m not suggesting that we are to blame (ugly word, I think) for everything that happens. But even in those difficult or impossible to control circumstances and events, we go on making decisions about what to do and eventually, what those events mean to us.

Some people are amazingly resilient; they recover and live rich and full lives. Others become embittered or apathetic and give up or live reduced lives. Whichever path we choose, we ultimately are responsible for what we have made of the talents and resources we are given.

If you are not happy with yours, I recommend that you work on forgiveness and free yourself to change your life in ways that are meaningful and pleasing to you. After all, the choices really are in your hands.

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
~Stephen Covey~

Choosing Success

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

Do you know how many times in a day you say,” I have to…do such-and-such?”  Start paying attention to your choice of words, and you may be surprised to hear it coming out of your mouth.  For instance, I have to go to work; I have to go grocery shopping; I have to answer my email; I have to take the kids to the park or I have to get that project done.

There is an implicit stress and strain when you say “I have to.”  It implies that you have no choice in the matter and of course you do.  This has a lot of application in life.  From sun up to sun down we are engaged in either routine tasks that are a part of living, or we are hopefully intentionally working toward a goal of some kind that will enhance our life with enjoyment, making for better relationships, improving our health or abundance.

Even when you have undertaken a real challenge, your choice of words can help you.  Try changing your “I have to” into “I want to” or “I choose to.”  For instance if you are concerned about your fitness level, it is much less strained to say “I want to go for a walk this afternoon,” or “I’m choosing to go to the gym today.”

What you may notice is that you not only feel less stress, but you will lower your resistance as well.  We generally don’t like to be told what we have to do.  Even when the instructions are coming from ourselves.  As soon as we hear “I have to…” we immediately don’t want to.  So going for the walk becomes a contest of wills.

Take the softer approach and go with the desires of your heart.  There is a good reason you have chosen to do whatever the task is at hand.  Connect with your WHY and it will provide the natural fuel to carry you to your goal.  See the image of it completed, and notice the feelings of satisfaction, pride or peace that you experience.

What we pay attention to gets bigger.  This is a big secret that has been around forever, and one that you can make use of.  Being intentional about where we are going, and then paying regular attention to it makes all the difference between moving smoothly toward your destination, and having a big old fight with yourself that is fraught with stress and strain.  Start reminding yourself that you are choosing success and you will find the process much easier.

 

Showing Up for Success

 

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”
~Vince Lombardi~

 Margaret was obviously frustrated as she described her lack of progress toward her goal of reducing her weight by 25 pounds.  She had joined a program that she attended weekly, and after the first few weeks had enjoyed an impressive beginning.  But since then the numbers on the scale have fluctuated down and then up and down again.

She complained that she was beginning to think that the program didn’t work.  That maybe it was a waste of money, and even worse, maybe she was wasting her precious time.  Yes, she was sure that it was nutritionally sound, but all that focus on eating differently was a drag.  Maybe she should just accept that she was going to carry those extra 25 pounds around.  After all, there are plenty of people in worse shape than she is!

Looking past her frustration and discouragement for a moment, we explored what action steps she was taking and not taking toward her goal.  She was attending the meetings regularly.  On most days she was tracking her food intake.  She hadn’t gotten around to exercising because of her very full schedule. On some days when feeling really tired, she skipped using her plan at all, thinking she would “make up for it” the next day.

Ah those pesky action steps!  It is one thing to get inspired by an image or idea that sets us off in a new direction.  It’s a whole other thing to keep that inspiration alive, and to use it for fuel to take those entire little baby steps that carry us toward a goal.  It’s a challenge for some of us to consistently show up in order to meet success.

What I mean is really a question of commitment.  And at the risk of sounding too lofty, a question of integrity.  Margaret is a person that her friends, family and co-workers can count on.  If she tells someone she will hand out flyers at the PTA meeting, everyone knows she will be there.  If she has a project due at work, she will have it ready even if it means burning the midnight oil.  When she tells her husband or children that she will attend an event of theirs, they know she will be there.

Anyone who knows her would say she is a person of integrity.  This means that her beliefs, words and behavior all are aligned.  Once she commits to something for work or for someone else, she always shows up.

But does she commit to herself?  Does she keep her word to herself?  Does she make her own well-being a priority?  We could take a peek into her schedule to see the answer to that.  And other than attending her program meetings, the answer was no.  When it came to resting, exercising, having fun with her girlfriends (or even her husband), eating meals that helped her energy level and overall health, it was catch-as-catch-can.  It might happen, or more likely, it didn’t.

What’s up with that?!

It isn’t that the “program doesn’t work.”  Whatever goal you may set for yourself:  learning to play the guitar, decorating your living room, learning French, getting out of debt, running a marathon, improving a relationship that is suffering; it requires a commitment to yourself.  The baby steps, taken consistently will get you there, no doubt about it.  And you have to show up, making space in your busy life for it in order to achieve what you desire.  The question is, are you willing?

 

Eyes On the Prize

“You will go where you look.”
~Jay Stockwell~

 What do you suppose that driving a car, playing golf or tennis and meeting goals have in common?
One of the lucky circumstances of my life was that I was just of driving age when my family was traveling from the East Coast to the Midwest.  We made a number of trips to visit family and friends following a move from Kansas.  I was just 16 and eager to drive any time I could get my hands on the wheel.  My mother, being a tad anxious, was always happy to let my dad drive although she would relieve him on long trips.

So I was probably the happiest kid around when my dad asked if I wanted to drive.  We traveled the PA Turnpike and interstates across the country, and those long open stretches of road offered great training opportunities as well as happy memories for me.

(I do have to wonder how on earth he was able to relax and take a nap while his teenage daughter was maneuvering the family station wagon down the interstate!)

Passing tractor trailers was unnerving at first.  Not wanting to either hit the truck or overcompensate by straying from my lane, my white knuckles on the steering wheel were a dead giveaway for my anxiety.  He told me to stop looking at the truck.  Instead I should look way down the road in my lane, just where I wanted to go.

The car will go wherever your eyes are looking.

Later when I was learning to play tennis, softball, and taking golf (well, golf was really taking me, but that’s another story) I heard the same message.  Keep your eyes trained on the place that you want the ball to go.  Not that undesired place you are afraid it might go!

And this is what the driving and ball playing have in common with meeting the goals that you have set.  Keep your eyes (attention) focused on what you intend to accomplish.  Do not look at the obstacles that are in your way!  If you focus on the obstacles, you sure as heck will run into them!  It’s tempting and scary to get focused on what might go wrong, especially when the messages you or others are telling you are old messages that you have “inherited” and engrained from family or early school experiences.

You might make a visual reminder of your intended destination by finding a picture that represents it and posting that picture where you will see it often.  Use it as background on your computer or a picture that pops up when your phone rings.  Tape it up beside the bathroom mirror and smile at yourself when you look at it.  (Come on…who else is watching you?  Smiling is proven to help you feel better and is encouraging!)  Write the affirmation then read it aloud to yourself, or put it on a scrolling marquee on your desktop.

Then collect evidence that you are succeeding.  Give yourself credit for taking baby steps, because that is really the only way we get anywhere.  No leaping over tall buildings in a single bound is required.  For example if your goal is to be a good guitar player, the evidence you would write down at the end of the day would be that you practiced playing for 30 minutes.

Acknowledging your progress and keeping your eye on your goal will move you steadily forward, building your self confidence as well as your self esteem.

 

Clearing Out For Life Success

Do you consider yourself to be a student of life success?  Whether you have thought of yourself in exactly those terms, I suspect you are or you likely wouldn’t be reading this.  And if you are not yet training for success, I suggest you get started right away.

In clearing out files and shelves in my office, I came across some coaching material that I used several years ago.  As I read through it along with my notes, I felt some enthusiasm for an early step in developing life success strategies.  And that is to clear out the obstacles that are in your path, as well as remnants of the past and those things that clutter both your living space and your mind.

Let’s suppose that you have done some preliminary work of determining for yourself exactly what success would look like, feel like, be like in your own life.  That such a definition should fit you perfectly is vitally important.  How you define success will not be the same for your father or mother, your best friend, People Magazine or Donald Trump.  You need to come up with your own very clear picture or list.

Let’s further suppose that you have made an assessment of what you need in order to proceed.  You need to pack your own parachute, to borrow a phrase from the 1970’s. Do you need to take a course in order to be prepared?  Are you in need of some research? You need to know at least what your starting point will be and what you are going to need.  You may even be able to see what the first few steps will be.

Very soon you will encounter some resistance within yourself that may come up in the form of excuses, or fear that you will fail (or succeed!) Or you may be puzzled or frustrated by your procrastination.  Or you may discover that some old unfinished business really has to be completed before you can proceed.

This clearing out can take many forms.  So consider how to declutter the following:

  • Unfinished projects, both large and small.  If there is something laying around (or stuffed into a closet) that is your last great idea, either finish it now, delegate it to someone else who will enjoy doing it and be good at it, or pitch it out.  Even if it was a great idea, it has no value and will hamper your progress laying there as a reminder of what you didn’t get done.
  • Items that you have not used during the past 6 months.  If these things have value to someone else you can sell them or donate them or give them to someone you know will appreciate them.  If not, pitch them out.
  • Is there some physical checkup that you have not had done?  Is there a follow-up that you didn’t tend to?  Have you been to the dentist lately?  Were you intending to make some dietary change that you have avoided?  Do you need to make an appointment with a trainer in order to meet an old fitness goal?  Or is it time to finally call the acupuncturist for help with your back pain? Now is the time to put those routines or checks in place.
  • Do you have some untended relationship to care for?  How about that person you have said “Let’s get together for dinner sometime?”  Now is the time.  What about the thank you note you haven’t written?  Don’t worry…there is no statute of limitation on gratitude.  Is there some conflict that you walked away from that really needs to be addressed?  Do you need to make amends for something you said or did or neglected?
  • Is there someone that you need to forgive?  Perhaps even yourself?  Have you wasted time and energy looking into the rear view mirror feeling resentful and victimized?  Unresolved grief, anger and resentment form the heaviest rocks that you carry in your backpack.  For your own health, you must unload them!  Forgiveness is something that we do for our own sake, and if you don’t do this work, you really won’t get very far with your new life intentions.  Get help if you need it.
  • A financial inventory will tell you if there is anything that needs to be cleared up here.  Those who practice abundance principles say, “Money is energy.”  Really in quantum terms, everything is energy in some form or other.  Is your money/energy in short supply?  Do you owe anyone money?  Have you accumulated debt?  Do you know where your money is going every month (aka budget)?  Do you have a plan for your money (aka budget)?  Do you contribute money to causes you care about?  Are you saving money?  Are you investing it?
  • Does your self image match up with your picture of a successful life?  A quick inventory of beliefs that you learned from your “tribe,” especially as it pertains to your goals, may reveal some conflicts.  The person, whose life success strategies include starting his own business in mid-life, will have some contrary beliefs if he grew up in a family that valued “security” by working for the same company for 30 years.

As you can see, there are many types of unused or unfinished things that clutter our lives.  From the physical objects that are collecting dust in your rooms, to unfinished or outdated emotional business that distracts and preoccupies you, we must tend to clearing them away as we proceed.  You would be correct in thinking that this work is not once and done.  You will come back to it repeatedly just as surely as your kitchen or bathroom needs to be cleaned periodically.  The important thing is to assess what needs to be tended to, and to begin at once.  Don’t delay.  Your successful life depends on it!

 

maine coastline

 

 

Success and Independence

For those of you who live in the US, this is Independence Day.  Time for leaving work behind, hanging out with friends and family, picnics and fireworks and maybe even a parade.  For those who reside in Canada, Independence Day was celebrated on July 1, the first holiday of summer.

Although we celebrate the end of dominance by a foreign power, I think we might also think of what we need to be free of on a personal level.  Rather than being threatened by something or someone on the outside, for most of us the greater threat comes from within.

You know what I mean.  I’m talking about habits or attitudes that aren’t serving you well.  Time wasters such as television watching or addictive patterns that threaten your health and burn up time and money.  Or maybe you are having relationship problems that are hurtful or sapping your energy.  It might be a general pessimistic attitude or depression that has you stuck and frustrated.  And sometimes it’s a physical dis-ease that is slowing you down.  Even more often, you may have some deep beliefs that what you want isn’t possible, or that you don’t deserve it, or that people in your family just don’t have money/love/success.  And sometimes it’s the disbelief and negative opinions of others that you are buying into, that is in your way.

Any of these are obstacles to your personal progress and happiness.  And the end results of what all of us want is peace of mind and happiness isn’t it?  There is no limit to the ways we might take to get there, but we all have that in common.

You may get hung up on the idea that having the perfect partner, or the latest fashions, or the best car or house or income will be the magic key that fits into the lock to human happiness.  Lord knows that we are inundated with advertizing messages that give us that message.  But really, your deeper sense knows it isn’t so.

Help is at hand, and you must be willing to admit that you need help and then invest the time, money and energy in accepting it.  Dreaming is essential; after all if the Wright brothers hadn’t imagined themselves in flight, the triumph at Kitty Hawk would never have happened.  But they did more than dream.

They also worked hard, studied and learned more of what they didn’t understand.  And they set a goal…most likely any number of goals.  They coped with failed attempts, probably some personal conflicts (they were brothers after all), as well as lots of nay-sayers who thought that the idea of getting a heavy piece of machinery off the ground was just foolish, if not downright crazy!

And every great gain in human history is like this.  And every personal success story is like this.  What we deem as an “overnight success” is rarely if ever an accurate term.  If you care to ask, you will discover that that person has been working for months or years, keeping a dream alive with help from someone, lots of goals, large and small, and persistent work.  You can do it too.  You can free yourself of the obstacles that are in your path by keeping your eye on your goals, finding encouragement and help where you can (it’s all around you, really!) and taking it step by step.  Some day you will celebrate your own Personal Independence Day!