Tag Archives: success

Resolutions Done Right

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Set GoalsThe end of the year is often a time of looking back.  What was great about the past year?  What didn’t work so well?  We often find ourselves performing a sort of audit on the past year so we can get a sense of closure prior to moving forward into the New Year.  Last week’s post, “Top 10 Posts of 2010” resulted from my reviewing all of the posts I had made to “The Healing Project” in 2010 and determining which ones represented my best work.

I conducted a similar audit on my life as a whole and came up with 15 serious personal and professional wins for the year (including regular blogging!), as well as three key areas of my life which didn’t go as well as I would have liked.  This audit created a firm foundation for my 2011 planning and I highly recommend that you do something similar.

New Year’s Resolutions

The start of a new year is generally a time when we look forward instead of backwards.  Many people set goals for the coming year, which are commonly referred to as “New Year’s Resolutions.”  While such resolutions get a bad rap from many people (often because they are typically broken within a few short weeks), I am a fan of designating areas to work on in one’s life.  In fact, this blog resulted from my wanting to change various areas of my life during 2010.

While my life is still a work in progress (as is the case for everyone), I have made excellent progress in healing various areas of my life since I set the intention to do so in early 2010.  I will be posting on my progress shortly as we approach the one-year milestone of “The Healing Project” on February 3, 2011. Stay tuned…

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Gratitude Revisited

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As this is the week of Thanksgiving, it seems apropos to revisit the important topic of gratitude.

I believe that gratitude is one of the critical ingredients for happiness!  When we are grateful for what we have, we are better able to live in the moment and enjoy our lives.

The Glass is Half Full!

No matter how many troubles we have at a given point in time, we can always find aspects of our lives that we appreciate and enjoy.   This “glass half-full” type of attitude can help us to embrace what’s right in our lives instead of lament that which we feel is wrong.

Some “Greatest Hits”

As this is a holiday week (and hence, there is more to do in less time…) and I have written quite a bit on the topic of gratitude in the past, I have decided to highlight a few of my past posts instead of creating all new content for this week.  The three posts which I have chosen to revisit all focus on the ever important topic of gratitude.  Please see the post summaries below and click on the post title to view that post in its entirety.

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite past posts.  As usual, your comments are welcomed!  I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s been said that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I believe it’s true!  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  In this post, I outline a few simple yet powerful practices to help us stay present to the many blessings in our lives.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  This post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I present an overview of the concept of the “missing tile syndrome,” as well as the three main ways for dealing with it.

This post was written at the halfway point of my year-long quest to heal my health and my life.  Since beginning “The Healing Project” on February 3, 2010, I have gained a number of powerful insights about myself and about life.  I summarized my insights in four categories:  gratitude, attitude, hope, and healing.  I expand upon each of these items and commit to continuing my healing project and sharing even more wins related to health, relationships and success moving forward.

Fear… Only a Thought

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“Fears are merely thoughts, and thoughts can be released.”
– Louise Hay

The quote above begins Chapter 4 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book,” the chapter which focuses on fearful emotions. Although I have been diligently working through all of the exercises in this book, I have decided to only post on those that are most impactful to me and which I feel will be most relevant to my readers.

In this post, I share some of the exercises from Chapter 4 and my responses, as well as some insights to use in your own journey to facing and overcoming fear.

The Price of Fear

Frightened WomanFear impacts all of us.  We let fear stop us from pursuing our dreams, speaking our minds, sharing our love, and fully living our lives. We experience fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of change, fear of the future, fear of intimacy, and even fear of success.  Some of us literally become paralyzed by our fears.

The chapter begins with a checklist of thirteen fear-related statements which express negative and limiting beliefs that hold us back in life. We are instructed to check the ones which feel true for us at present.  Even though a few of the statements were phrased in more extreme language than I would personally use, I checked those for which I felt heaviness in my chest upon reading the words:

  • Growing older frightens me.
  • I have difficulty expressing my feelings.
  • I can’t focus on anything.
  • I feel like a failure.
  • What if I have to endure a painful death?

Following the checklist are some empowering insights from Louise Hay on the subject of fear.  She states that “in any given situation, we have a choice between love and fear.” She follows by emphasizing that when you feel frightened, you are not loving and trusting yourself.

Fear is Not the Real Problem

Louise mentions the powerful book by Susan Jeffers, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” This book was published in 1987, but its message is equally as valid in 2010.  In a nutshell, Ms. Jeffers postulates that fear is not the real problem that people are experiencing.  The real issue, she states, is not the fear, but how we hold the fear. We can approach the fear from a position of power or a position of helplessness.  When we allow ourselves to feel the fear but take action anyway, we move from vulnerability to empowerment.

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.”
– Mark Twain

Acting In Spite of Fear

Acting in spite of fear requires both self-acceptance and letting go of the judgments of others. How often do we stop ourselves from taking action because we doubt ourselves or worry what others will think?  It is important to remember that everyone doubts themselves at times. Who is really sure that his actions are the right ones, and who can be certain that his actions will yield the desired results?

Those who are living the lives of their dreams are the ones who acted in spite of the worry and doubt. They are also the ones who, when they fail, pick themselves right up and try again.

Follow Your Own North Star

The happy and successful in the world do not waste needless time and energy worrying about what others think of them. They are guided by their own North Star and are willing to risk the rolling eyes and shaking heads of those who chastise them for choosing to follow the “road less traveled.”

Think of the people whom you admire.  Are they the ones who do what everyone else is doing, or are they the ones who march to the beat of their own drum?  The people who I admire are those who are self-aware, confident, and true to themselves and their dreams. They may not be rich or famous, but they are happy because they are living their own lives and are governed by possibility instead of fear.

Empowering Affirmations to Fight Fear

Another exercise in the “Fearful Emotions” chapter instructs us to list our greatest fears related to ten key areas of life, from career and family to health and death.  Following each fear, we are asked to create a positive corresponding affirmation to help counteract the fear. The area in which I am experiencing the most difficulty at present is health.  My deepest fear and empowering affirmation for my health are as follows:

Health Fear: I will continue to have a plethora of ongoing health issues and it will only worsen as I get older.
Health Affirmation:
I release my health problems and embrace my right to vibrant good health!

The above affirmation provides infinitely more possibility for my future than the corresponding fear. I was so energized by the affirmation that I have affixed it to both my computer and bathroom mirror so that I can subconsciously internalize my new belief throughout each day.

In Closing – Choosing the Positive

The chapter ends with a list of suggested affirmations to counter the destructive fears from the checklist in the first exercise. I end this post with my new empowering affirmations, as well as a few quotes I like on the topic of fear.  May we all “feel the fear and do it anyway!”

  • My age is perfect, and I enjoy each new moment. (replaces “Growing older frightens me.”)
  • It is safe to express my feelings. (replaces “I have difficulty expressing my feelings. “)
  • My inner vision is clear and unclouded. (replaces “I can’t focus on anything.”)
  • My life is a success. (replaces “I feel like a failure.”)
  • I will die peacefully and comfortably at the right time. (replaces “What if I have to endure a painful death?”)

Empowering Quotes on Fear:

The Tyranny of Shoulds

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We all have a voice inside of our heads which tries to tell us what to do, how to act, and who to be.   Sometimes this voice is productive, such as when it moves us out of inertia and into action. The voice can also help us to do the right thing, even when the right thing is not the easiest or fastest thing to do.  That is the positive side of the voice…

The Dark Side of Our Inner Voice

However, the voice can also be counterproductive or even destructive. It can be so ubiquitous in its presence that we are unable to experience even a moment of peace.  It can relentlessly order us to be productive in each and every moment, to always put the needs and wants of others above our own needs, and to prove our worthiness through action many times each day.

The dark side of the voice is where “should” often resides. Have you ever heard the expression, to “should” on yourself?  The mental imagery evoked is apropos in that this application of should is akin to showering ourselves with garbage (or worse…).

A War Within…

I’ve often spoken of the war inside of myself between the “Warden” and the “Unruly Child.” These two archetypes represent two distinct aspects of my personality.  The Unruly Child desires complete freedom and carte blanche to do whatever she wants in any given moment, even if that includes watching TV and eating bonbons (that’s what many people who know me think I do, anyway, since I haven’t had a “real job” in a number of years).   The Unruly Child doesn’t want to be told what to do by anyone, at any time.

On the flip side, there is the Warden… The Warden is like a drill sergeant. He (I always see the Warden as a man) orders me around continuously and won’t let me rest until there are no tasks left on my to-do list.  Of course, since no one ever really has a completed to-do list, there is no rest for the wicked – or the weary.

The Warden thrives on “shoulds” and believes that if I do not live a regimented existence, nothing will ever get done and all will be chaos.

When the Unruly Child is running the show, I am incredibly unproductive and I don’t feel very good about myself.  Deep down, we all want to get things done and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Just as children thrive on structure, so do adults.  However, the realm of the Warden is like structure on steroids.  While I may be industrious under the Warden’s regime, I am not happy and I definitely don’t feel free.

Struggling To Find a Happy Medium

For many years, I have vacillated between the chaotic world of the Unruly Child and the prison sentence of the Warden’s control.  I am still struggling to find a happy medium.  I envision the happy medium as a place where peace and productivity can co-exist and thrive together. My “healing product” is not just about healing my body; it’s also about transforming my soul.  One aspect of my inner healing has to do with releasing the “tyranny of the shoulds” and breaking the Warden’s stronghold that saps my vitality and aliveness.

Escaping the Tyranny – A Few Tips

How can we break the hold which “shoulds” have over us?

  • The “I Should…” exercise from Louise Hay which I wrote about in my last post is a good first step.   Sometimes increasing our awareness about the origin of our self-imposed musts can help us to either release or re-frame them.

We can also invent games to play with ourselves to at least place boundaries around our “shoulds.”

  • One thing I do is to select a maximum of three “most important tasks” (MITs) which I will need to complete on any given day. I learned this technique from “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta, a book which is focused on helping people to simplify their lives.  I’ve found that if I contain my obligations, I can achieve more of a sense of accomplishment from completion.
  • Another “game” I play with myself as a self-employed person is to make deals with myself. I think of something that the “Unruly Child” really wants to do, such as watch TV or read a magazine.  Instead of either doing that thing right away or postponing it until that mythical time when everything is done, I negotiate an agreement with the Warden.  If I spend a certain amount of time on a critical task or complete one of my MITs, I can watch a show or spend a predetermined time frame reading a magazine or surfing the internet.  It’s kind of like time off for good behavior…
  • Something else which has been helpful for me in achieving balance is to track my successes. I wrote about this in one of my earlier posts, “The Practice of Gratitude.”  Including a short list of the things I did well on any given day helps me to realize that despite my perfectionist protests to the contrary, I am getting a lot done and moving forward in my life.

Freedom Lives in the Center

We all have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves. We can be so quick to admonish ourselves for our failings while simultaneously neglecting to give ourselves credit for our successes.  I believe we all have a “Warden” inside of ourselves.  Freud called this facet of our personalities the Superego, but there are many other names for it.  I also feel that each of our personalities includes an “Unruly Child” of sorts (Freud’s concept of the Id).

Our power doesn’t rest in either of these personas.  Our power is seated within our Higher Selves, the part of us that desperately craves balance, fulfillment, and self-expression.

How can we access our Higher Self on a more regular basis? Well, that is a topic for a future post!  If you have any tips or suggestions, or if you would like to comment on what I’ve written in this post, I am open to feedback.  We can definitely help each other to escape the “tyranny of the shoulds” and move forward more freely and powerfully.

Hope, Inspiration, and “The Biggest Loser”

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I am a long-time fan of the reality show, “The Biggest Loser.”  I’ve watched all but one of its nine seasons and I frequently find myself in tears as I watch this truly inspiring show.  Last night, as I watched the penultimate episode of the ninth season, I was moved to write about my appreciation for this show I’ve come to love.

The four remaining contestants all went home for a month, where they trained to run a marathon while continuing to focus on losing weight to vie for the title of “The Biggest Loser” (and the accompanying quarter million dollar prize).  Two of the contestants were still close to a hundred pounds overweight when they left the Biggest Loser Ranch.  Yet, they all returned and finished the marathon!  The final two marathon finishers ran across the finish line hand in hand, and I bawled like a baby while watching this touching moment.

Moved to Tears

Why was I brought to tears last night?  Why am I brought to tears by this show virtually every week?  Because “The Biggest Loser” exemplifies the power of the human spirit, the power we all have within us to overcome our greatest challenges and triumph over adversity.  The shear fact that four individuals who were close to death’s door from the side effects of obesity only six months ago were able to finish a full marathon is inspiration at its best.

I have always been a champion of human change and an advocate of the sentiment that change is possible for all who seek it out.  Here were four people who had veered extremely far off the path of health and well-being.  I’m sure there were many people who knew them who had written them off as “lost causes.”  It wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to write off 31 year-old Michael, who tipped the scales at 526 pounds at the age of 31.  Likewise, who would have thought that 27 year-old Ashley, who smoked and drank heavily and weighed in at 374 pounds, would have turned her life around?  Yet, both of them did, as did their co-finalists Koli and Daris.

Lessons from “The Biggest Loser”

Why am I writing about “The Biggest Loser” in The Healing Project?  Well, some of you may feel that it’s too hard for you to change.  After all, you’ve been the way you are for many years and you may feel too far gone to turn it around.  You’re stuck in your ways and you feel little hope of becoming unstuck.

I know how that feels, as I’ve felt that way myself many times over the years.  I may not be obese, but I’ve certainly had my share of struggles around weight and food, plus I’ve grappled with a number of other addictive issues in my life.  Yet, as I watched those four formerly obese people cross the finish line after running a marathon, I was filled with hope and inspiration.  If they can overcome their challenges, why can’t I?  Why can’t all of us?

It may not be your goal to lose over a hundred pounds or run a marathon, but I’m guessing you have your own challenges that are equally as daunting.  I know that when I think about overcoming my laundry list of health issues, I feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  But if Michael, Ashley, Koli, and Daris can run a marathon, I can restore myself to full and vibrant health, as well as overcome the other challenges included in my healing project.

Be Inspired, Believe in Yourself!

Let yourselves be inspired!  Believe in yourselves. There is hope for all of us to heal all of our ailments within and without.  Let the chorus of “The Biggest Loser” theme song guide you…

“What have you done today to make you feel proud?”

Do one thing, however small, each day to inspire yourself, to move yourself forward toward your goals, and you will get there!

Compulsive Behaviors

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Last week, I wrote the post “Overspending,” about a recent shopping trip that resulted in my spending too much money and feeling that I had acted in a compulsive manner.  Although there were important lessons inherent in that individual experience, it also raised the issue of compulsive behavior in general.

This post is geared toward examining compulsive behavior, getting to the root of why we engage in such destructive actions, and looking at what we can do to begin to turn it around.

Compulsiveness Takes Many Forms…

I shared about my shopping and spending issues, but these are far from the only forms of compulsive behaviors with which I’ve struggled.  I’ve also engaged in compulsive overeating, dieting, and exercising, and spending too much time working or surfing the internet, among other things.   You may have grappled with similar issues, or you may have had problems with drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, or any number of other maladaptive behaviors.  It doesn’t matter which of these behaviors has plagued you, the problem is usually rooted in the same causes.

Years ago, I wanted to write a book called “It’s Not About the Food,” about eating disorders and compulsive overeating.  Unfortunately, someone else used this brilliant title before I could, but that won’t stop me from sharing my thoughts on the issue.  From my early teens until the very recent past, I struggled with pretty much every eating disorder which a person could have.  I was anorexic, bulimic, an obsessive exerciser, and a compulsive overeater.  I have been seriously underweight, overweight, and every weight in between, yet my pain was always the same.  It was never about the number on the scale or what I did or didn’t do around food.  It was always about something else, and the same is true for all other forms of compulsive behavior.

Escaping Pain

My overeating, under eating, shopping, and other compulsive behaviors have served both as coping mechanisms and means of escape from the pain which I was experiencing in my life.  As much pain as these behaviors caused me, and that pain has been intense, the pain which was being masked by my compulsivity was far greater.  There was something, or multiple things, which I just didn’t want to look at, so I ate, dieted, or shopped.  I would then lament my weight gain, food obsession, or credit card bills instead of dealing with what was really wrong in my life.

  • What was it that I didn’t want to feel?
  • What is it that you don’t want to feel that is being buried under your compulsive behaviors?

Getting to the Root of Things

While I can’t possibly know the answer for anyone else, I can share what I believe it was – and is – for me.  I have always felt like an outsider and as if I didn’t really “belong.”  I never felt like I was “good enough,” but I thought that if I could somehow be thin enough, maybe I would measure up.  Or I thought that if I could be pretty enough (which relates to the hair obsession which I shared in my last post, “Perspective and Appreciation”) or dress well enough, maybe I would fit in and be on par with others.  That was part of it…

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I’ve long struggled to achieve the societal vision of success in terms of my career.  While I know that I am intelligent and capable, I have experienced only limited financial success over the course of my working life.  I have difficulty maintaining a passion for a single occupation and thus have switched careers a number of times over the years.  Now, at age 43, I feel insecure at my current career status and feel that I should be much farther along the path of success at this point in my life.  While I think about this often, I frequently feel stuck and powerless, and I sometimes plummet into feelings of despair and hopelessness when I find that I don’t have the answers.

Comfortably Numb?

What do people do when they feel desperate and hopeless?  They often do whatever they can to numb those feelings, using whatever they have at their disposal at the time.  I don’t consciously think, “I feel bad, so I think I’ll go shopping and numb myself out,” but that is virtually what I do.  The shopping gives me a high that serves to mitigate the lows I was feeling about my career woes or whatever else was troubling me.  I know this is true because the items which I buy often sit in my closet for weeks or even months with the tags still on them.

If it really was about my being greedy or truly wanting certain items of clothing, wouldn’t I be rushing to wear them?  The feeling I get from shopping and buying clothes is similar to what I used to feel when I would eat a pile of sweets.   The pain is numbed and replaced with a high, and I have escaped my negative feelings, albeit only temporarily.   That pain returns shortly thereafter and the feelings of guilt and shame resulting from my compulsive behavior add insult to injury and I end up feeling much worse.  It’s a vicious cycle and a very difficult one to stop, but there is hope…

The Place of Power

I’ve often heard it said that the place of power is in the space between stimulus and response.  Most people merely react to what’s going on in their lives; they do what they have always done even when it doesn’t serve them.  There is virtually no gap between their feelings (stimulus) and their compulsive behavior (response).  A person feels bad, and then they eat, drink, or do something else to numb the pain.  But there is another way -and it starts with awareness…  The awareness of your compulsive behavior and what it is costing you is what creates a small space between your negative feelings and what has become an automatic reaction.  That small space is the seat of powerful action, as opposed to disempowered reaction.

An Example & Key Questions to Ask

An example can help to illustrate this important point… Let’s say that I just checked my email and have learned that I didn’t get a much hoped for work project.  I feel anxious and that anxiety leads to some serious worries about my future career prospects, as well as fears that I may never have a “successful career.”  Without even thinking about it, I walk to the kitchen and start riffling through the cupboards for something sweet to eat.  In the past, I would have stuffed my face with food until I felt numb, but this time, I pause. I ask myself these key questions:

  1. Am I physically hungry?
  2. What do I really need in this moment?
  3. What small step can I take to give myself what I really need?

The pause that I have taken has allowed me to act instead of react.  Even if I still choose to eat, I have removed the automatic nature of this behavior, which is what makes it compulsive.   The same questions can be asked when faced with other types of compulsive behavior.  Simply construct an alternate first question (i.e. “Do I really need that pair of shoes?”) to fit your specific behavior challenge and use the same second and third questions as above.

There is Hope!

I am not promising that you will eliminate your compulsive behavior overnight, but if you are able to pause and allow yourself to examine what’s really going on beneath the behavior, you are on the path toward healing.  It often takes time to overcome long-term behaviors which have served as effective (albeit self-destructive) coping mechanisms.  As I’ve revealed, I still struggle with shopping and spending too much money, but it happens less often and I can more readily “course-correct,” as I did last week.   I was able to realize what was going on, turn it around (by returning the unnecessary purchases) and learn from the experience.  That is my hope for you as well…

The Practice of Gratitude

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hand grasping star imageI want to briefly interrupt my discussion of Louise Hay’s Key Principles in order to share a personal practice that has made a big difference in my life.  I will return to the Key Principles in my next post…

I’ve often heard that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I don’t doubt that.  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  As  I look back on my life, I can see that even in my most difficult times, I still had a lot to be grateful for in my life.  I just had to look in the right place!  It’s all about focus and attitude, I’ve learned.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

To help me to stay aware of the many blessings in my life, I started to keep a Gratitude Journal a few years ago.  I confess that I haven’t always been consistent with this practice, but when I’ve maintained my Gratitude Journal, it’s helped me to be more positive and upbeat.  Here’s how it works…

On a daily or almost daily basis, I list three things in my life for which I am grateful. These can be big things or small things; there are no rules for what can be on the list.  I’ve found that it’s easy to think of the larger things, such as my wonderful husband, my cozy home, my cats, my vision, and my hearing.  The smaller things can be trickier to remember, yet those things also have a powerful impact in my life.  Here are some examples of some of the “small things” I’ve listed in my Gratitude Journal in recent entries:

  • I had an enjoyable walk with Mike along the water this evening.
  • The sun was out today after many, many rainy days in a row!
  • My kitties were curled up in the box on my desk all afternoon while I worked.
  • Our coffee grinder and coffee machine allow me to have delicious coffee every morning.
  • Class yesterday was both interesting and useful.

Add “Success” Entries to Your Journal

Since I have a tendency to be down on myself at times, I added a second component to my Gratitude Journal.  I also list three successes which I’ve achieved since my last journal entry.  As with the gratitude entries, it’s easy to remember our big wins, such as getting a job or a new client, completing a difficult project, or having a “crucial conversation” with a loved one.   But as we all know, such triumphs are not usually an everyday occurrence.  Yet we all have many small wins each and every day.  Noticing these wins can help us to become more present to the greatness which exists in each and every one of us.

In all honesty, I have to admit that sometimes I have to wrack my brain to come up with three successes for my Gratitude / Success Journal.   It is at these times that I really need to reflect upon what I have done well in the various areas of my life.  As with the gratitude entries, my success entries are often the “small things.”  Here are some recent examples of successes which I have recorded in my journal:

  • I got up and moving earlier this morning – was done exercising and getting ready by 10 am (I’m not a “morning person” – LOL)
  • I found a pair of jeans which fit well and are long enough for me!
  • I’ve been keeping me email in-box cleaned out and I’m not spending too much time on email.
  • I’m doing better at letting go of “should” and allowing myself to enjoy life (this is a BIG success!)
  • I ran errands and went to the gym yesterday despite not feeling like leaving the house.

How the Journal Helps…

My Gratitude/Success Journal helps me to be more present to all of the wonderful things in my life and to count my blessings instead of my problems.  It also helps me to be more aware of what I do well and to see how my small triumphs contribute to my life satisfaction and overall success.  Keeping this journal on a regular basis has led to my becoming a more positive person.

There is an additional use for my journal… When I am feeling particularly low on a given day, I look back at my journal entries for a reminder of my large and small blessings, as well as the ways in which I’ve succeeded in the various areas of my life.  This often provides the boost that I need to get out of victim mode and get back on track to being grateful and positive.

Stay tuned for two more posts about Louise Hay’s key principles.  Then we’ll move “full speed ahead” into the exercises in “You Can Heal Your Life.”  The Healing Project is ON!