I’m currently trying to make some changes in my career—and travel a lot less—so I can spend more time with my family and explore new creative endeavors. I have no idea how this will work—and I hate that! Which means I’m now compulsively polling my friends: What do you think? Is this crazy? But there’s a fine line between asking for suggestions and desperately grasping for answers nobody else can offer.
Uncertainty makes us feel vulnerable, so we try to escape it any way we can. Sometimes we even settle for misinformation or bad news over not knowing. Have you ever ended up in an Internet rabbit hole of terror while waiting for test results?
Yet it really is possible to thrive amid uncertainty. It’s not about getting advice you can trust; it’s about faith and self-trust—believing that whatever happens, you’ll find a way through it. Without uncertainty, we’d never start a business or risk loving someone new. There are no guarantees when we step into the unknown. But these periods of discomfort can give rise to life’s most important adventures.
Pay attention to what makes you feel better (and worse).
The unknown can bring out the worst in us. When I’m deep in uncertainty about work, I can get impatient and snappy with the people who mean the most to me—and that feels terrible. I’ve learned that sleep, exercise and eating healthy make me more patient and calm.
Create an emotional clearing.
Fear tends to drown out our intuition, so it’s essential to carve out moments of quiet—time for meditation, prayer or just a long walk—to reconnect with our gut. I’m still learning to meditate (and it’s not going well), but you can bet that when I have a big talk coming up, I’m out walking near my house, rain or shine, listening for the sound of my inner voice.
Instead of begging everyone in your address book for answers, ask one or two loved ones to remind you that it’s normal to feel vulnerable when you’re in a period of change. As my husband often tells me, “It’s supposed to suck right now. Go walk!” Uncertainty is a necessary part of getting where we want to go.
In his book The Art of Uncertainty, Dennis Merritt Jones writes:
“Between a shaky world economy, increasing unemployment, and related issues, many today are being forced to come to the edge of uncertainty. Just like the baby sparrows, they find themselves leaning into the mystery that change brings, because they have no choice: It’s fly or die.”
For persons struggling with depression and anxiety — and for those of us who are highly sensitive — uncertainty is especially difficult. Forget about learning to fly. The uncertainty itself feels like death and can cripple our efforts to do anything during a time of transition.
I have been living in uncertainty, like many people, ever since December of 2008 when the economy plummeted and the creative fields — like architecture and publishing — took a hard blow, making it extremely difficult to feed a family. In that time, I think I have worked a total of 10 jobs — becoming everything from a defense contractor to a depression “expert.” I even thought about teaching high school morality. Now that’s desperate.
I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with uncertainty, but having lived in that terrain for almost five years now, I’m qualified to offer a few tips of how not to lose it when things are constantly changing.
1. Pay attention to your intention
I’m not a new-age guru. I don’t believe that you can visualize a check for $20,000 and find one in your mailbox the next day. Nor can you get on Oprah by believing you’ll be her next guest. (I tried both of those.) But I do recognize the wisdom in tuning into your intention because therein exists powerful energy that you can tap.
Awhile back I did Deepak Choprah’s exercise of recording my intentions and seeing how many of them actualized. I was surprised at the synchronicity between intention and events. Psychologist Elisha Goldstein writes in his book, The Now Effect: “Our intention is at the root of why we do anything and plays a fundamental role in helping us cultivate a life of happiness or unhappiness. If we set an intention for well-being and place it at the center of our life, we are more likely to be guided toward it.”
2. Tune into the body.
Psychologist Tamar Chansky, Ph.D. reminds us to listen to the body when we get anxious. If you understand why certain symptoms occur in the body – racing heart, dizziness, sweating, stomachaches – and repeat to yourself, “This is a false alarm,” you are less afraid, less panicked by the situation. Knowing that these symptoms are part of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) trying to protect you from danger – part of the primitive regions of the brain mobilizing the “flight-or-fight” response –the reaction becomes less about the situation and more about talking to your body about why it’s freaking out so that you can use the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to restore the body to normalcy, which, in my case, is still pretty panicky.
3. Imagine the worst.
I’m not sure you will find a psychologist to agree with me on this exercise, but it has always worked for me every time I do it. I simply envision what it would look like if my worst nightmare happened. What if my husband and I could not get any architecture gigs or writing assignments? What if we can’t pay for health care insurance and my heart malfunctions (I have a heart disorder)? What if we both come to a bone fide professional dead end? Then I move to my actions. I think about selling our house, moving into a small apartment, and working as a waitress somewhere or maybe as a barista at Starbucks. (If you work more than 20 hours, you get health care insurance.) I research health care insurance options for persons who make minimum wage. Under ObamaCare, my kids, at least, would be covered. I invariably come to the conclusion that we will be okay. All is okay. A huge adjustment. Yes. But we are getting to be pros at that. This exercise makes me fret less about the things that I think I must have and get back to the essentials—literally a warm meal on the table, even if it’s one a day.
I am comforted by the words of Charles Caleb Colton: “Times of general calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest fire.”
4. Describe, don’t judge.
In his book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, Steven Hayes, Ph.D. dedicates a few chapters to learning the language of your thoughts and feelings. Especially helpful to me is learning how to distinguish descriptions from evaluations.
Descriptions are “verbalizations linked to the directly observable aspects or features of objects or events.” Example: “I am feeling anxiety, and my heart is beating fast.” Descriptions are the primary attributes of an object or event. They don’t depend on a unique history. In other words, as Hayes, explain, they remain aspects of the event or object regardless of our interaction with them. Evaluations, on the other hand are secondary attributes that revolve around our interactions with objects, events, thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. They are our reactions to events or their aspects. Example: “This anxiety is unbearable.”
If we are feeling anxious about the uncertainty of our job, for example, we can tease apart the language of our thoughts and try to transform an evaluation, “I will be destroyed if I am fired,” to a description, “I am feeling anxious and my job is unstable.” By naming the emotion and the situation, we don’t necessarily have to assign an opinion. Without the opinion, we can process the object, event, etc. without hyperventilation.
5. Learn from fear.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face … You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” My body usually protests against that statement, but theoretically I concur with Eleanor. I sincerely believe the good stuff happens when we are afraid. If we go a lifetime without being scared, as Julia Sorel said, it means we aren’t taking enough chances.
Fear is rather benign in itself. It’s the emotions we attach to it that disable us. If we can confront our fear, or rather approach it as an important messenger, then we can benefit from its presence in our life. What is the fear saying to us? Why is it here? Did it bring roses or chocolate? According to Jones, this is an exercise of getting comfortable with being out of control, of learning to let go of the illusion of control — because we never really had it in the first place — and developing an inner knowing that everything will be okay.
reblogged from http://psychcentral.com/
I don’t know about you but the saying “The more you learn the less you know” feels pretty accurate. The more I learn the more I feel like things are a mystery to me. But, this doesn’t mean I feel less happy or secure.
As I learn to love the mystery of life I feel it is less necessary to come up with answers and more necessary to live the questions. The more I don’t need answers, the more my life becomes rich and beautiful and the more my gratitude for life increases.
It can be easy to think that if we have the answers then our life will change dramatically. We know this is not true though. We know that we have gotten all sorts of answers and still never seen changes in areas of our lives. So, it can’t just be about the answers, right?
Part of what makes life enjoyable and inspirational is being willing to be in the wonder of it all -the uncertainty—the fact that we will never be able to know for certain why things are the way they are.
Why do we make certain choices and not others? Why, just when we think we have it figured out, does the game yet again?
Somewhere along the line we pick up the false belief that things are supposed to be predictable and controllable and so we start to believe that. Then when things are not we feel frustrated, cheated, overwhelmed and even angry.
What if instead we adopted the belief that things are supposed to be just as they are –when they are good they are good when they are not they are not. What if we didn’t try to figure it out but instead tried to experience it? What would our lives be like then?
According to Adapt, “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.” To prove his point, Harford cites compelling examples innovation by trial-and-error from visionaries as varied as choreographer Twyla Tharp and US Forces Commander David Petraeus.
I interviewed Harford over email to dig deeper into the counter-intuitive lessons of Adapt. What follows is a series of key takeaways on the psychology of failure and adaptation, combining insights from our conversation and the book itself.
The Wrong Way To React To Failure
When it comes to failing, our egos are our own worst enemies. As soon as things start going wrong, our defense mechanisms kick in, tempting us to do what we can to save face. Yet, these very normal reactions — denial, chasing your losses, and hedonic editing — wreak havoc on our ability to adapt.
“It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to admit we’ve made a mistake and try to put it right. It requires you to challenge a status quo of your own making.”
Chasing your losses.
We’re so anxious not to “draw a line under a decision we regret” that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it. For example, poker players who’ve just lost some money are primed to make riskier bets than they’d normally take, in a hasty attempt to win the lost money back and “erase” the mistake.
When we engage in “hedonic editing,” we try to convince ourselves that the mistake doesn’t matter, bundling our losses with our gains or finding some way to reinterpret our failures as successes. We’re so anxious not to “draw a line under a decision we regret” that we end up causing still more damage while trying to erase it.
The Recipe for Successful Adaptation
At the crux of Adapt lies this conviction: In a complex world, we must use an adaptive, experimental approach to succeed. Harford argues, “the more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.” We can’t begin to predict whether our “great idea” will actually sink or swim once it’s out there.Harford outlines three principles for failing productively: You have to cast a wide net, “practice failing” in a safe space, and be primed to let go of your idea if you’ve missed the mark.
Try new things.
“Expose yourself to lots of different ideas and try lots of different approaches, on the grounds that failure is common.”
Experiment where failure is survivable.
“Look for experimental approaches where there’s lots to learn – projects with small downsides but bigger upsides. Too often we take on projects where the cost of failure is prohibitive, and just hope for the best.”
Recognize when you haven’t succeeded.
“The third principle is the easiest to state and the hardest to stick to: know when you’ve failed.” The more complex and elusive our problems are, the more effective trial and error becomes.
How To Recognize Failure
This is the hard part. We’ve been trained that “persistence pays off,” so it feels wrong to cut our losses and label an idea a failure. But if you’re truly self-aware and listening closely after a “release” of your idea, you can’t go wrong. Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.
“Above all, feedback is essential for determining which experiments have succeeded and which have failed. Get advice, not just from one person, but from several.” Some professions have build-in feedback: reviews if you’re in the arts, sales and analytics if you release a web product, comments if you’re a blogger. If the feedback is harsh, be objective, “take the venom out,” and dig out the real advice.
Remove emotions from the equation.
“It’s important to be dispassionate: forget whether you’re ahead or behind, and try to look at the likely costs and benefits of continuing from when you are.” Don’t get too attached to your plan.
“There’s nothing wrong with a plan, but remember Von Moltke’s famous dictum that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. The danger is a plan that seduces us into thinking failure is impossible and adaptation is unnecessary – a kind of ‘Titanic’ plan, unsinkable (until it hits the iceberg).” Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed.
Creating Safe Spaces to Fail
Twyla Tharp says, “The best failures are the private ones you commit in the confines of your own room, with no strangers watching.” She rises as 5:30 AM and videotapes herself freestyling for 3 hours each morning, happy if she extracts just 30 seconds of usable material from the whole tape. This is a great example of a “safe space to fail.” But many of us don’t have this luxury of time or freedom. So how do we create this space?
Practice disciplined pluralism.
Markets work by this process, encouraging the exploration of many new ideas as well as the ruthless weeding out of the ones that fall short. “Pluralism works because life is not worth living without new experiences.” Try a lot of things, and commit only to what’s working. Finding “a safe space to fail is a state of mind.”
Assuming that you don’t operate a nuclear power plant for a living, you can probably infuse a bit more freedom and flexibility into your workday. Give yourself permission to test out a few off-the-wall ideas mixed in with the by-the-book ideas.
Imitate the college experience.
“College is an amazing safe space to fail. We are experimenting with new friends, a new city, new hobbies and new ideas – and we’ll often mess up academically and socially as a result. But we know that as long as we don’t screw up too dramatically, we’ll finish college, graduate, and move on – that mix of risk and safety is intoxicating. Yet somehow as we grow older we lose it.”
Sarah Rapp writes for 99u, a creative resource for making ideas happen.
Failure is such a negative word that it seems strange to suggest that it can be a good thing. How many times have you looked back on your life, thought of mistakes you’ve made, and kicked yourself over them? I know I sure have. I have had many failures in my life. I have lost a job; I have mismanaged my money; and I have had trouble in relationships. But life goes on as it should.
You see many people allow failure to hold them back, when in reality failure can be a good thing! Fear of failure prevents many people from following their dreams or having a go at something new. Fear of failing is failure in itself because it holds back so many would-be success stories. I often remember what Zig Ziglar once said, “Failure is an event, not a person.” How profound is that?!
History has shown that the most successful exploits frequently came on the back of failure. Just think of Winston Churchill. He failed the sixth grade and was defeated in every single election for public office until he became Prime Minister at the young age of 62. Or, how about Albert Einstein. He did not speak until he was four years old, and couldn’t read until he was seven. His parents thought he was “sub-normal.” He was expelled from school and his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrip forever in foolish dreams.” You see where I am going with this. Failure is actually on our side. Failing allows us to grow, learn, and find new opportunities. Here is what I mean:
Don’t view failure as bad luck, instead look at each attempt to reach your goals as a triumph. There’s always something to learn, ways to grow, different viewpoints to see, and new opportunities waiting just around the corner. So get in and have a go. Fail fast and recover quickly to try again. Use every failure as an opportunity to learn and to grow as a person. Remember that every failure is like one step on the stairway to success. Above all else, remember this: If you never fail, you will never succeed.
reblogged from http://prairieecothrifter.com/
Are you one of those people who always wants to get it right? I am sometimes. Although less and less because I know it does not make me happy.
One sure fire way to be both happier and more successful is to embrace the mistakes –even to welcome them. Our mistakes are some of the riches parts of our lives. They inform us 10 fold what our successes do.
Expect things to go wrong. Even welcome them going wrong.
It is an inevitable part of everything that we do and every day of our lives. A huge block to our fulfillment and success is worrying about what might go wrong instead of strengthening our attitude.
In other words: How will you navigate the INEVITABLE challenges that will come your way?
A friend reminded me recently of the song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang –ok bear with me. Anyway, in this song they sing “from the ashes of disaster come the roses of success.” How might you be able to adopt this attitude for yourself? What would it take for you to be able to see your disasters as inevitable success coming down the road your way? How might this change your life?
Good fences make good neighbors, and nowhere is this more true than in your romantic relationship. But many people hide their stance on a subject, or at least soften it, to be more likable at the start of a new relationship.
“I like hanging out with your family every weekend.”
“Your vegetarianism is no problem for me. I hardly eat meat now anyway.”
“Sure, we can keep the lights off.”
Over time, it becomes too difficult to move that boundary back to where it feels right for you, whether you’re talking about how much time to spend with your in-laws or how much sex you want to have. And it’s confusing to your partner, who thought you liked things this way because you always went along with it before.
Perversely, you make your life less desirable in order to be more desirable to your partner.
Over the years, this can get messy and you might eventually complain that the love of your life doesn’t really know you at all. But if you aren’t stating your boundaries and desires up front, how could your beau know?
The Difference Between Walls and Fences
Walls are built to keep people out, figuratively and literally. You can’t see inside someone’s house unless they invite you in, and even within a home each room is blocked from view unless you enter it. When you hide something from someone, you are walling it off.
Fences, on the other hand, are built to maintain a peaceful coexistence with others. You can usually see right through a fence because it is simply a demarcation of the boundaries of your property. It’s a public statement on where you stand on issues.
Your fence keeps soul sucking people who would disrespect you on the outside. They will go find an unfenced property to do their damage, not willing to expend the effort to climb yours (soul suckers are nothing if not lazy).
Fences are also easily moved or enlarged when a property is expanded, unlike walls which mean a reconfiguration of the entire house.
Walls destroy a relationship. Fences make it stronger. Big difference.
How to Determine Your Boundaries
1: Know Where You Stand
The key to setting your boundaries lies first in identifying them yourself. If you don’t know what you want, how in the heck will anyone else? This is no time for guessing games, with yourself or with your mate. And be very, very careful of the “I don’t really care” mentality because in truth you really do, about everything. You just don’t care about making a fuss right now.
It’s important that people should know what you stand for. It’s equally important that they should know what you won’t stand for. ~ Mary H. Waldrip
So give a damn now and you won’t be damning your partner in the future. Think about how you really feel about every new situation or question and answer honestly and thoughtfully. Because what you say and do now determines what kind of life you’ll be living later.
2: Identify Boundary Breaches
Sometimes it takes a while for a message to sink in. It’s not usually because your one true love doesn’t care. Your partner just needs firm reminders of your boundaries. You can do this gently at first with a pretty white picket fence surrounded by flowers and escalate all the way up to barbed wire and electricity if you need to (though at that point it might just be better to ask them to move).
Everyone pushes a falling fence. ~ Chinese proverb
Demanding the respect you deserve takes diligence on your part. Again, most of the time this is a simple and clear reminder to people.
No, I don’t want to do that.
It’s not okay for you to talk to me this way.
You said you would do this and I depend on you to honor your word.
When you allow your boundaries to be breached again and again you’re telling the other person it’s okay to be late, to not follow through on their commitments, or to otherwise disregard your feelings. But when people know there are consequences – “I’ll wait for you for 10 minutes, but if you’re later than that I’ll leave without you” – they can no longer breach with impunity.
You cannot control the actions of others, but you can certainly control your own.
3: Survey your property
When you live a life of experience, your boundaries will change because you will. You’ll grow and evolve, and so will many of your preferences. It’s important to regularly survey your boundaries to make sure they still fit. Your requirements for intimacy, communication, social activity, exercise, education, and entertainment will evolve with life and circumstances, and you have to be clear with yourself and your partner when they do.
Read more by Betsy Talbot here
Continually poking at your own boundaries will make it easier to explain them to others. How to Establish Boundaries Know where you stand on the important issues. When you know for sure how you want to be treated, it makes it easier to clearly state this to another person. Begin by asking yourself every day if you’re okay with what’s going on around you. If not, why? If it’s not clear to you, it won’t be clear to your partner. State your boundaries along with a consequence. “I understand you are really frustrated at work right now, but I’m not okay with you taking it out on me when you get home. I’m not your enemy here. The next time it happens I’m going to suggest you burn it off at the gym and I’m going to leave the room.” You can’t control the other person’s actions, but you can control your response. Test your boundaries. As you evolve as a human, your priorities and feelings will change. It’s important to question yourself on a regular basis to make sure the beliefs and ideas you hold are still true. When your boundaries change, it’s time to move your fences and let your partner know. (more…)
Today I made an important decision. It may not seem important but as some one who wants to live connected to community, it was an important decision for me. I decided to delegate a work task so that I could go spend a weekend at the lake with my friends.
That seems like a no brainer right? The reality is many times it’s emotionally easier for me to choose work, a night curled up with a book, or good activities to really spending time with people. I have a wall in my life.
In the quest to have good boundaries, we can easily confuse what we think are boundaries in our life with what are actually walls that we have put up.
I spent years working in ministry and much of that time leading various teams. Anyone who leads, particularly in a ministry setting, knows that situations are bound to arise that will hurt you very deeply. Sometimes I have processed those hurts well and other times I have let them build up walls in my life. In my particular situation, I never had the same team two years in a row – for eleven years! That’s a lot of people coming in and out of your life.
I realized lately that I have a wall that tells me not to get invest too deeply in a group because next year it’ll require the emotional energy to start all over again. That’s a wall – it’s born out of past situations that were hard and it sets me up to protect myself in unhealthy ways.
So how do we know the difference between boundaries in walls in our lives? The difference can be subtle. I try to think of it in this way:
Boundaries help us define ourselves. They define who we are and who we are not. They help us move toward healthy relationships because we have a healthy sense of ourselves.
Walls on the other hand are built up to protect us. They are an unhealthy response to hurtful or emotionally exhausting situations. Ultimately they will move us away from healthy community in some way.
So I would encourage you to look at your boundaries and examine them. Are they a healthy boundary or a damaging wall. If it’s the latter, what steps can you take to break down the wall and move toward healthy community.
Kathryn Taylor is a non-profit consultant and blogger. Read more by Kathryn on her blog http://projectspace.in/work/project/katelive/
Plain and simple, the reason that we put up a defense is because we have been hurt by something similar to it before. In fact, research is showing that these past hurts stay lodged in our genetics and even get passed down the family line. Knowing what is safe and what is not safe is essential to our survival.
Unfortunately, it is also often in the way of our happiness.
I actually don’t recommend that anyone tear down all their walls. However, I think it is very important that we learn how to dismantle them or at very least build a door in them. So, what does this look like?
The number one way that you can create more intimacy is to foster an attitude of curiosity. It is so easy to assume that we know exactly what is going on, what someone’s intention or motivation is, what they were thinking, how it is supposed to affect us. As soon as we do this, we have left the present moment and we are making decisions out of all of our past experience.
To cultivate curiosity in your life and with others it is also important to cultivate trust. We need to be able to trust ourselves in order to be curious in our lives in general and we also need to establish trust with others in order to be able to be curious rather than guarded with them.
So many people don’t see the patterns that keep them stuck in their love life even when they are right in front of them. To discover what is truly in the way of your ideal partner coming into your life, you can look at other areas and how you relate to yourself and others that give a huge clue.
One place to start is with your relationship with yourself and others when doing personal development. Every workshop, teacher, coach or class you interact with is a reflection of you and how you do relationships. When I coach with someone personally, I actually get a feel for how others react to them in their love life. I can sense how they are acting with me and the process which gives me the insight to share with them HOW they are being so they can see where they are stuck.
If you don’t have a coach, here are some examples of how you do personal development and how it shows up in dating and relationships:
Solution: Design your ideal relationship (not the ideal persona of who you want to attract). Describe how you want to be treated, how you want to feel and how you want to live. Then, approach everything in life (your work, your friendships, your personal development process) as YOU want to be treated yourself. If you want a commitment, then commit to yourself, if you want someone to make an effort with you, then make an effort for yourself. As you make this shift in your mind and behavior, you will start to see others mirror back to you how you deserve to be treated.
You always get back what you put out. That is the law of karma. So, what will you put out today?
Debi Berndt and Dr. Robert Maldonado are the co-founders of Creative Love™, a personal development company that helps people attract, master and teach love. They’ve worked with thousands of singles across the world to find true love and their Creative Love™ Process is now taught in 13 different languages.Learn more here.