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Archive For December 23, 2015

Woah! 3 Surprising Ways You Can Ease into 2016

Woah! 3 Surprising Ways You Can Ease into 2016

In our culture, we have access to so much that we often lose sight of how luck we really are. We sacrifice our joy and we obscure our enjoyment along our quest to do or have more. We amass culture and commodities, yet, we have no time and sometimes no ability to appreciate them.

There are things that we can do to change this and these things are simpler than you’d expect.

1. Slooooow Things Down

    Symbolically, winter is the season of endings. Shorter days and colder weather – particularly in my New England hometown – drive people inward, both into their homes and into themselves.
    We can learn something from this.
    Over the holidays, it’s custom to run from event to event, over-spend on gifts, and wrap things up for the year. These customs leave no time for us to pause or reflect. Instead, we find ourselves repeating the same-old-same-old, year upon year. No where in the cycle of our year are we cued to pause and take stock. Yet, what would happen if we did stop to ask ourselves: “Am I doing what I want to do?”
    Taking time to reflect and gain perspective is an important part of our every day – and is an essential part of our every year.
    I invite you to try this out. Ask yourself: “What might be gained if I set aside some time in the next few weeks to pause and reflect?” “What is truly important to me?” And “What might happen if I made those things central to my plan for 2016?”

2. Pay Attention to What You Really Love

    Many years ago, I read a book about clearing clutter. It said: “If you don’t love it, get rid of it.” That made a lot of sense to me at the time and I have since applied this idea to my life over and over again.
    Clutter doesn’t just build up in our closets – it also builds up in our relationships, our work environments, and even in our heads and hearts. We have a lot of choice about the clutter that we let persist in our lives. However, we tend to act as if we don’t.
    So ask yourself: “Where is the clutter in my life?” “In which parts of my life am I squirreling away debris or sweeping things under the rug?” “Where am I just going through the motions?”
    If you don’t love it, maybe it’s time to let it go. Give yourself the gift of uncluttered head-space, heart-space and home-space.

3. Recognize that Trade-Offs Aren’t Such a Bad Thing

    In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown wrote that a person who is an “Essentialist” recognizes there are trade-offs in life, and so they make deliberate decisions. “Non-essentialists,” on the other hand, try to do it all. Because of this, they often miss out on more of what life has to offer.
    Those are some wise words.
    This tends to happen A LOT this time of year. Many of us try to shoehorn time with family and friends into a tight and frenzied holiday season. In our over-packed lives, we barely have space time for ourselves, never mind spare time for others. Because of this, we can end up feeling resentful about spending time with the people we truly want to see. If that’s not getting things backwards, I’m not sure what is.
    The hard truth for many of us is that we need to accept that we cannot do it all.
    When we accept this, we begin to look at our lives and decide what is MOST important to us and organize our priorities accordingly. Knowing our priorities helps us to make the best possible choices. And these are the choices that bring us to where we truly want to go.
    So ask yourself: What are you priorities for the upcoming year? How are you going to keep them at the front of your mind?
Why do I … ? Or, What’s Behind The “Crazy” Things We Do

Why do I … ? Or, What’s Behind The “Crazy” Things We Do

If you’re like most people, you’ve been in this situation: you’ve done something and only seconds later asked yourself, “Why the heck did I do that? I know better.” You’re then launched into the position of needing to figure out what you can do to rectify the situation.

There are many different ways we can assess what motivates our actions. For example, we can look at our behavior through a developmental lens or through a situational one.

This week, I’m going to look at how our behavior is rooted in our biology. And I’m going to take a specific look at three unique behaviors: shutting down, procrastinating, and tuning out.

Shutting Down

    Do you have a hard time staying present when people yell at you? Or do you freeze when you hear certain noises?
    In these moments, your Autonomic Nervous System (AWS) – the part of you that is responsible for the automatic process of your body – is taking over your show and acting on your behalf. A response like this is often the result of extreme or preverbal trauma.
    We commonly refer to this experience as “shutting down.” People “shut down” in this way because they’re over-loaded with stress, or they’ve gotten in an argument or they simply feel powerless.

What you can do about it: The first thing to know about “shutting down” is that you really can’t verbally or rationally explain why this behavior shows up. When this behavior presents itself in your life, you might not even have access to the traumatic memories that instilled this reflex. The easiest way to look at “shutting down” is to see it as a response initiated by the nervous system and not a response to a memory.

Procrastinating

    Can you find anything and everything to do besides what you most need to do? Do you wait until the last minute to begin important tasks?
    Evidence shows that procrastination is partly due to a maladaptation in your prefrontal cortex. Your prefrontal cortex is responsible for your executive functioning and governs tasks such as planning.
    While procrastination has a behavioral component to it – which is the habitual reinforcement of last-minute behavior – telling a procrastinator to just DO what needs to be done is like telling a depressed person just to cheer up. This approach never truly works because procrastination – like depression – has as much to do with one’s physiology as it does with their psychology.

What you can do about it: One of the easiest things you can do to help counter-act your tendency to procrastinate is to break your task down into small, easily accomplished steps. To support your progress, you can remove all distractions from your work environment, set and keep a consistent schedule, and monitor your mood.

Tuning out

    Do you zone out when your spouse is telling you something? Do you have trouble paying attention in meetings?
    This is often about more than a simple avoidance of things in your life that bother or bore you. It’s often about an adaptive process by which you tune out unchanging data. This means that if repetitive information keeps coming your way, you’re going to stop being aware of it. This can also happen if you steadily assume that the information you’re presented with is going to be repetitive, regardless of whether or not it actually is.

What you can do about it: Sometimes your lack of ability to see the newness around you is more about you than about the unchanging nature of your relationships. My advice here is for you to challenge yourself to approach your life – and all the people in it – with a sense of curiosity. Look for what you have not seen before.

The Power to Change the World Really Does Belong to You

The Power to Change the World Really Does Belong to You

It’s easy to feel disempowered when reading the news, driving down the street, or simply moving through life.  We read about the recent terrorist attack in Paris. We get stuck in traffic next to a driver who yells profanely at the person who cut him off. We find out that a family member became sick. And we slowly emotionally withdraw from the world around us.

Throughout our lives, we experience so many negative things that it can seem impossible that our actions could make a positive difference or have a lasting impact on this ever-changing world. We ask ourselves: how can one person change the world – how can I stop hatred, face adversity, and create social equity? When we don’t come up with an answer, we resign ourselves to the “fact” of negativity. We stop ourselves from seeking solution.

The hard truth is, though, that apathy is noxious. Giving up in the face of adversity leaves us feeling like a half a person.

Yet – as many brilliant leaders have shown us – you can’t fight your way to a better world. When we use anger and angst to resolve a problem we only create a new problem or compound the old one.

We need different tools to create the change we desire. These tools are love, truth and compassion. They make up a set of holistic and healing approaches to adversity that transforms the world around us. The best part is that these tools have always been with us.

I believe that the entire world benefits when you choose to build your life with these tools. Bringing love, compassion and truth to each situation you face takes practice, though. And this is why I developed my LifeWork Virtual Program – which offers weekly practices that help you cultivate awareness and develop skills that make your life easier and more rewarding.

These practices are instrumental in creating positive change in the world around us. For this week’s article, I’m going to talk about three of these practices today.

Love

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” Buddha

    Love is the most powerful, world-changing tool we have. I’m fully aware of how Pollyanna this sounds. My challenge to you, though, is: try it! Get your heart-broken, feel disrespected, lose something you really cherish and see how quickly you can move on from the negativity you feel into LOVE. It takes a high degree of awareness and sophistication to experience our negativity and move beyond it into a place of love. Anyone who has walked this path knows that this is the way of a REAL bad-ass.
    The first thing we need to do is cultivate love inside ourselves. To do this we need to hunt down the barriers to love that live within us more ferociously than we hunt down barriers to love in the world outside us.
    This does not mean that we turn hatred toward these parts of ourselves. It means we see them, accept them and let them go.

Truth

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Jesus Christ

    Truthfulness is a time-honored and respected trait. To be truthful is to be honest and trustworthy. It requires a commitment to speaking and acknowledging the truth, and to acting with integrity. When we have our truth we also have our respect and love.
    While philosophically there are many types of truth, the truth I’m talking about here has a dynamic holism that is much more easily experienced than written about.
    There is a paradox around truth, though, and it’s this:  truth does not make anything untrue. Whenever you negate something, there is a lie present. Truthfulness allows for multiple perspectives in a way that honors each of those perspectives.
    One very common example of this is that if you make yourself wrong you’re not living your truth – nor are you allowing others to live theirs.

Compassion

“No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother that which he desireth for himself.” Muhammad

    To be compassionate is to open your heart to the suffering of others. Compassion, to me, is a healing action. When we offer compassion to ourselves or others we are, in fact, healing ourselves or others. One of the best ways to practice compassion is to tend to our own pain and suffering. Without a doubt, one thing we gain from our own hardship is an ability to give love to others while they experience hardship of their own.
    Still, sometimes we might find ourselves feeling closed off or judgmental about others who are in a difficult spot. We can feel wronged and because of this feel justified in wanting understanding from the other person. When we do this, we withhold our compassion and do not give our understanding to the person we feel wronged us.
    If you want to have an impact on the world,  each time you feel wronged stop and take a moment to understand the other person’s perspective.

While none of these skills are easy, they are all quite simple and in the reach of every single one of us all the time. We don’t need to start a movement or become a politician to have an impact. We only need to focus on being a better person and sharing this with the world.

I will leave you with this quote from Rumi. “Listen with the ears of tolerance. See through the eyes of compassion. Speak with the Language of love.”