Archive for 2011

16 nov

How to Be a Lean, Mean Thinking Machine

RenitaKalhorn“Watch out! Oh no, you’re gonna screw up, you’re gonna screw up, you’re gonna screw up.” That’s what’s usually going through my head during a piano performance…..right before I screw up.

Here’s what’s going through my head when I’m in the flow and playing my best:

Yep. When it comes to thinking, less is definitely better.

In the first few five or so years of life, our thoughts are simple and focused on the present moment: “I’m hungry.” “I’m sleepy.” “I want that toy.”

Once we’re adults, however, the average person, according to Dr. Eric Klinger of the University of Minnesota, Morris, has 2,000 – 3,000 thoughts a day — 60% of which are mental chaos — redundant and revolving around anxiety and worry. No wonder we feel stressed and overwhelmed. We’re thinking too much!

MIND OF CHAMPIONS

Champions, on the other hand, like children, do very little unnecessary thinking. They have approximately half as many thoughts — 1,100 to 1,300 thoughts per day – and they hold each thought longer.

Tired of the chaotic traffic inside your head? Here are three ways to ease the mental congestion:

  • Make a distinction between functional thinking and ego-driven commentary.“That’s hot, I won’t touch that again,” thinks the child. “This guy has a fast serve. I’ll swing quicker,” thinks the champion: These are functional thoughts. Most other observations — “What’s the matter with me?” “I‘m so stressed!” “How am I going to get this all done?” – serve no purpose and are pointless. .
  • Find a different thought. You can’t control or repress your thoughts. But you can decide which ones to hold on to. When I feel my head awhirl (or, more accurately, when I feel like a headless chicken), I find that one-word commands cut through the cacophony: “Focus.” “Quiet.” Or, “breathe.” (Yeah, pretty much like talking to a dog.)
  • Regulate with music. Although scientists are not yet sure how, numerous research studies have shown that listening to music brings order and structure to neural functioning and affects brain waves. The effects, not surprisingly, depend on the kind of music. Don Campbell, who wrote the Mozart Effect, says slower Baroque music, such as Bach, Handel, or Vivaldi, can create mentally stimulating environments for creativity and new innovations. Classical music, such as Haydn and Mozart, often improves concentration and memory when played in the background.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Renita Kalhorn on November 16th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No comments

28 oct

Be Friendly

RickHansonFriend or Foe?
The Practice:
Be friendly.
Why?

Friendliness is a down-to-earth approach to others that is welcoming and positive.

Think about a time when someone was friendly to you – maybe drawing you into a gathering, saying hello on the sidewalk, or smiling from across the room. How did that make you feel? Probably more included, comfortable, and at ease; safer; more open and warm-hearted.

When you are friendly to others, you offer them these same benefits. Plus you get rewarded yourself. Being friendly feels confident and happy, with a positive take on other people, moving toward the world instead of backing away from it. And it encourages others to be less guarded or reactive with you, since you’re answering the ancient question from millions of years of evolution – friend or foe? – with an open hand and heart.

In its own quiet way, ordinary friendliness takes a stand that is almost subversive these days: Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on October 28th, 2011 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,

25 oct

Let Go of Negative Comparison

MikeRobbinsNewI’m heading to my 15-year class reunion at Stanford this weekend. I’m excited to see some old friends, spend time on campus, and attend the various parties, sporting events, and fun stuff planned for the weekend. At the same time, I’m feeling quite anxious about the whole experience – knowing how easy it can be for me, especially in that environment, to get caught in a pattern of negative comparison.

As I looked through our 15-year reunion class book a few weeks ago (a book where fellow classmates submit a page with an update on their lives), I got a sick feeling in my stomach as the little voice in my head started saying things to me like, “Look how much more successful he is than you,” or “That person looks exactly the same as they did in school, they haven’t aged a bit…unlike you,” or “They seem to have things figured out, you clearly don’t,” and more.

Sadly, many of us spend and waste lots of time and energy comparing ourselves to others. Often times we end up feeling inferior to people based on our own self judgment and hyper criticalness. However, we also may find ourselves feeling superior to some of the people around us, based on certain aspects of our lives and careers we think are going well and/or the specific struggles of the people in our lives. Reunions (as well as things like Facebook, holiday letters, and more) can can often highlight or intensify this phenomenon.

This comparison game is almost always a trap because whether we feel “less than” someone else or “better than” another person, we’re stuck in a negative loop. This is the same coin – heads we “win” and think we’re better and tails we “lose” and think we’re worse. In addition to comparing ourselves to other people, we also compare ourselves to ourselves from the past (something I’ve been noticing as I get ready for this weekend’s reunion). One of the most negative thoughts and biggest fears that I allow to take away my power in life is, “I’m not as good as I used to be.”

All of this is an insatiable ego game that sets us up to lose. Comparison leads to jealousy, anxiety, judgment, criticism, separation, loneliness, and more. It’s normal for us to compare ourselves to others (and to our past selves) – especially given the nature of how most of us were raised and the competitive culture in which we live. However, negative comparison can have serious consequences on our self esteem, our relationships, our work, and our overall experience of life.

The irony is that almost everyone feels inferior in certain ways, and we often erroneously think that if we just made more money, lost some weight, had more friends, got a better job, moved into a nicer place, had more outward “success”, found the “perfect” partner (or changed our partner into that “perfect” person), or whatever – than these insecure and unhealthy feelings of inferior/superior comparison would simply go away. Not true.

How we can transform our negative comparison process into an experience of growth, connection, and self acceptance (and ultimately let it go) is by dealing with it directly and going to the source – us and how we relate to ourselves.

Here are some things you can do to unhook yourself from negative comparison:

1) Have empathy and compassion for yourself. When we notice we’re comparing ourselves to other people (or to our past self) and we start feeling either inferior or superior, it’s essential to have a deep sense of compassion and empathy for ourselves. Comparison almost always comes from a place of insecurity and fear, not of deficiency or mal-intent. Judging ourselves as “less than” someone else or judging ourselves for going into comparison mode in the first place (which many of us do once we become aware of our tendency to do this), doesn’t help. In fact, this judgment causes more harm and keeps us stuck in the negative pattern.

2) Use comparison as an opportunity to accept, appreciate, and love yourself. When negative comparison shows up, there is usually a lack of acceptance, appreciation, and love for ourselves. Instead of feeling bad about what we think is wrong with us or critical of ourselves for being judgmental, what if we took this as a cue to take care of and nurture ourselves in an authentic way? Comparison is a cry for us to accept and appreciate ourselves. If we listen to this important message and heed it, we can liberate ourselves from the negative pattern of comparison.

3) Be willing to admit your own jealousy. One of the best ways to release something is to admit it (i.e. “tell on yourself”). While this can be a little scary and vulnerable to do, when we have the courage to admit our own jealousy, we can own it in a way that is liberating to both us and other people. Acknowledging the fact that we feel jealous of another person’s success, talents, accomplishments, or qualities is a great way to let go of it and to remove the barrier we may feel with that person or experience. If you find yourself jealous of someone you don’t know (like a celebrity or just someone you haven’t met personally), you can acknowledge these feelings to someone close to you or even in a meditation with an image of that actual person.

4) Acknowledge the people you compare yourself to. Another great way to break through the negative impact of comparing ourselves to others is to reach out to them with some genuine appreciation. I am planning to do this all weekend at my reunion. The more excited we’re willing to get for other people’s success, talents, qualities, and experiences – the more likely we are to manifest positive feelings and outcomes in our own lives. There is not a finite amount of success or fulfillment – and when we acknowledge people we compare ourselves to, we remind ourselves that there is more than enough to go around and that we’re capable of experiencing and manifesting wonderful things in our own life as well.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Mike Robbins on October 25th, 2011 in General, Relationships | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,

23 oct

The Power of Empathy

MikeRobbinsNewI had a painful, but poignant phone conversation earlier this week with my wife Michelle. She shared some challenges with me in a vulnerable and passionate way. As I started to give her some of my “helpful advice” (as I often do – being a man, as well as an author, speaker, and coach, I’m fairly well trained at giving advice), she stopped me and said, “Can’t you just give me empathy for me? That’s what I really need right now. Once I feel your empathy, I can hear your feedback.”

Her comment stopped me in my tracks. I got defensive and began to justify myself – arguing that I did, indeed, have a lot of empathy and that she should be more open to my feedback. Needless to say, my defensiveness (and subsequent arrogance and self righteousness) didn’t help things, and the conversation got worse before it got better, which it eventually did.

Michelle’s feedback, however, registered with me at a very deep level. Although I “understand” the importance of empathy, teach it to others through my work, and have the capacity to experience and express a great deal of empathy with people around me, it’s sometimes difficult for me to have empathy for the people closest to me, including myself, especially recently. Maybe you can relate?

Empathy can be tricky, particularly when we have an emotional connection (or attachment) to the people or situation involved (which we almost always do). It’s also challenging to feel empathy when we feel threatened, stressed, or emotionally triggered (all of which we can experience a lot, especially with those who mean the most to us). And, empathy is sometimes misunderstood.

Empathy is NOT:
- Sympathy
- Pity
- Agreement
- Commiseration
- Endorsement

Simply put, empathy is getting into another person’s world and connecting with them both emotionally and compassionately. We don’t have to agree with them or fully understand them to be able to empathize. We don’t even need to be able to relate to what they are experiencing specifically (although that can help). We just need to be present, connect with them where they are, and acknowledge what they’re experiencing. Empathy for ourselves, while different contextually, actually functions the exact same way, simply turned inward.

The problem is that we often allow our egos, opinions, and judgments to get in the way of our ability to experience and express empathy. If I agree with someone completely, can totally relate to them, and see things exactly as they do, it’s quite easy for me to empathize with them.

However, if I don’t agree, can’t relate, have a very different take on the situation or actually think how they’re reacting to things is potentially harmful for them and others, it’s often very hard for me to be empathetic towards them and I also worry that my expression of empathy could come across as agreement or endorsement.

While it can be challenging, the power of empathy is essential to the health and success of our relationships and lives. It is a key element to our own emotional intelligence and well being. With the people closest to us, including ourselves, and the issues that mean the most to us, empathy is even more critical, but often more difficult for us to experience and express.

Here are a few things to remember and practice to enhance your capacity for empathy:

1) Ask yourself where empathy is missing. Take inventory of your life and relationships and notice where empathy may be wanted, needed, or simply missing. As you identify situations, relationships, and personal matters that could use an increased amount of empathy, make a commitment to yourself to bring less judgment and more compassion to them.

2) Reach out to people in your life. As you identify specific situations and relationships where you could bring more empathy, reach out to the people involved and let them know. There may be an apology to give, an acknowledgement to make, or simply an admission that you want to bring more empathy and compassion (and less judgment, advice, self righteousness, etc) to your relationship. Start working to do that with the most important people in your life.

3) Ask how people are feeling and really listen to what they say. One of the best ways we can express empathy towards others is through our curiosity and listening. When people feel heard, seen, and emotionally understood, they often relax, open up, and feel supported. Asking people how they truly feel, what’s really going on in their world, AND listening to how they respond (without judgment) are some of the best things we can do to express our empathy for the people around us.

All of these things also hold true with regard to having empathy and compassion for ourselves, which is essential in this process. Like most things in life, we can’t give away what we don’t already have ourselves. Self empathy is the foundation.

Everyone on the planet, including us, is almost always doing the very best they can in each moment. We’re all just dealing with the joy, pain, growth, challenge, and more of being human. Remembering this allows us to cut ourselves and others some loving slack, and engage in life, in our relationships, and with ourselves with a deep sense of respect, reverence, and, ultimately, empathy.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Mike Robbins on October 23rd, 2011 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,

22 oct

Have Compassion

RickHansonDo You Care?
The Practice:
Have compassion.
Why?

Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer – from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish – combined with feelings of sympathetic concern.

You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), groups of people (victims of crime, those displaced by a hurricane, refugee children), animals (your pet, livestock heading for the slaughterhouse), and yourself.

Compassion is not pity, agreement, or a waiving of your rights. You can have compassion for people who’ve wronged you while also insisting that they treat you better.

Compassion by itself opens your heart and nourishes people you care about. Those who receive your compassion are more likely to be patient, forgiving, and compassionate with you. Compassion reflects the wisdom that everything is related to everything else, and it naturally draws you into feeling more connected with all things. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on October 22nd, 2011 in Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,

17 oct

End Self-Sabotage and Get Everything You Want

WEJMDWhy is it that we are motivated to change, and we work hard at it, and yet we do not succeed at attaining our goals? It’s because we sabotage ourselves. We sabotage our best efforts. We procrastinate. We resist. We don’t follow direction. We don’t follow through. We allow ourselves to be distracted and derailed.

We sabotage ourselves in a variety of ways, such that we perpetually withhold from ourselves all the goodies the universe has to offer, blaming it all the while on bad luck or it being someone else’s fault, rather than acknowledging that we are the Prime Movers of our destiny, that we are responsible for the lack and limitations in our lives, and nobody else.

On a conscious level we want to win, but on a deep, unconscious level, we are filled with guilt, shame, self-condemnation, and self-loathing, such that, rather than believing that we are worthy of winning and deserving of abundance and success, we believe that we are sinners deserving of punishment, suffering and failure. All of this is below our conscious awareness.

Our subconscious mind, intent on manifesting what we believe about ourselves at a deeply-embedded, unconscious level, believes our own harsh judgments about ourselves, and punishes us for our “sins.” It does this by sabotaging our conscious efforts.

It generates resistance and roadblocks. It attracts inferior elements. It encourages miscommunication, chaos, and confusion. The end result is an external world that reflects our internal self-concept. The end result is our not getting what we want.

The only way to reverse this process, in order to generate success and prosperity, is to put an end to our guilt, shame and self-loathing by forgiving and loving ourselves. The only way to do this is to first forgive and love others. This is what Forgive To Win!’s Forgiveness Diet has been designed to accomplish.

The Forgiveness Diet is a structured program that trains our mind to engage in behaviors that will benefit us in the long run. More specifically, the Forgiveness Diet is a daily regimen of thoughts, actions and exercises devoted to extending unconditional forgiveness, acceptance, and love. It is a daily regimen of estimable acts of kindness and service to others.

When we have mastered the Forgiveness Diet, our subconscious mind will believe we are good enough and worthy of reward, at which point it will stop sabotaging our efforts and start constructing the synchronistic attraction of synergistic people and circumstances that will favor our prosperity and success in all realms.

The Forgiveness Diet is the ultimate prosperity principle!

The reason why many of us have difficulty believing this is true is because we’ve been trained to believe that nice guys finish last, that no good deed goes unpunished, and that love, kindness and forgiveness are for chumps and suckers.

Nothing could be further from the truth. These are self-destructive messages generated by our subconscious mind to support its self-sabotaging agenda to derail us from healing ourselves and attracting abundance into our lives.

Although it is obvious that many people who are loathsome, selfish, unloving and hurtful towards others have succeeded and prospered, for most of us who mean no harm to others, emulating people like that will not deliver us what we want.

If we repair ourselves by extending unconditional forgiveness, acceptance and love to everyone, under all circumstances, without exceptions, we can replace our self-loathing with self-loving, thereby putting an end to our self-sabotage, such that our subconscious mind works with us rather than against us to attract and manifest everything we’ve ever wanted.

The best part about the Forgiveness Diet is that we don’t need to understand it for it to work. We don’t even need to believe it. Additionally, we don’t need to gain any deep insights about ourselves in order to get results.

We just need to do it. We just need to implement a few basic behaviors and practices on a consistent basis until they become habits.

But don’t take my word for it. Take the Forgive To Win! 90-Day Challenge. Rather than rejecting the Forgiveness Diet as magical or wishful thinking without giving it a try, follow it rigorously for 90 days and find out for yourself what it has to offer.

Make the decision to put aside your skepticism, negativity, cynicism and doubt for 90 days in order to work the program as vigorously and as honestly as you possibly can.

What have you got to lose? What’s 90 days in the bigger scheme of things? What’s 90 days in the expanse and duration of your life? It’s nothing. So what if you spend 90 days being generous, esteeming others, and forgiving them their trespasses? What’s the downside? There really isn’t any.

If you decide after 90 days that the experience was not transformative and was a complete waste of time, which I guarantee won’t be the case, you will have the rest of your life to be angry, vengeful, withholding, thoughtless, selfish and self-centered, and to see where that gets you.

But if I’m right in encouraging you to devote a mere 90 days of your life to the Forgiveness Diet, you will greatly appreciate the experience you put yourself through, you will see fewer roadblocks and potholes appearing in your life, you will be happier, more productive, and more successful, and you will gladly continue to engage in the Forgiveness Diet program.

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If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on October 17th, 2011 in Career, Diet and Fitness, Health, Relationships, Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in , , , ,

07 oct

Feel Cared About

RickHansonWhen Have People Been Caring?
The Practice
Feel cared about.
Why?

Everyone knows what it’s like to care about someone. Remember being with a friend, a mate, a pet: you feel warmly connected, and want him or her not to suffer and to be happy.

On the other hand, you’ve probably had the sense, one time or another, of not being cared about. That you didn’t matter to another person, or to a group of people. Maybe they weren’t actively against you, but they sure weren’t for you.

As soon as you recall a time like that, it’s immediately clear why it’s important to feel cared about – which is to the heart what water is to your body.

Sometimes we feel embarrassed about our yearnings to be cared about. But they are completely normal – and deeply rooted in evolution. Love, broadly defined, has been the primary driver of the development of the brain over the last 80 million years.

Our ancestors – mammals, primates, hominids, and humans – survived and flourished and passed on their genes by learning to find good mates, bond with their young, draw males in to provide for children, create “the village it takes to raise a child” whose brain is quadrupling in size after birth and thus needs a long and vulnerable childhood, and team up with each other to compete with other bands for scarce resources.

In this context, being cared about was crucial to survival. Mammals, etc. that did not care about being cared about did not pass on their genes. No wonder you care about being cared about!

Studies show that feeling cared about buffers against stress, increases positive emotions, promotes resilience, and increases caring for others. Plus it feels darn good. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on October 7th, 2011 in Family, General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , ,

28 sep

Speak from the Heart

RickHansonWhat’s Your Heart Say?
The Practice
Speak from the heart.
Why?

One Christmas I hiked down into the Grand Canyon, whose bottom lay a vertical mile below the rim. Its walls were layered like a cake, and a foot-high stripe of red or gray rock indicated a million-plus years of erosion by the Colorado river. Think of water – so soft and gentle – gradually carving through the hardest stone to reveal great beauty. Sometimes what seems weakest is actually most powerful.

In the same way, speaking from an open heart can seem so vulnerable yet be the strongest move of all. Naming the truth – in particular the facts of one’s experience, which no one can disprove – with simplicity and sincerity, and without contentiousness or blame, has great moral force. You can see the effects writ small and large, from a child telling her parents “I feel bad when you fight” to the profound impact of people describing the atrocities they suffered in Kosovo or Rwanda.

I met recently with a man whose marriage is being smothered by the weight of everything unsaid. What’s unnamed is all normal-range stuff – like wishing his wife were less irritable with their children, and more affectionate with him – but there’s been a kind of fear about facing it, as if it could blow up the relationship. But not talking is what’s actually blowing up their relationship – and in fact, when people do communicate in a heartfelt way, it’s dignified and compelling, and it usually evokes support and open-heartedness from others.

How?

This week, look for one or more opportunities to speak from your heart. Pick a topic, a person, and a moment that’s likely to go well.

Before you talk:
· Ground yourself in good intentions. To discover and express the truth, whatever it is. To help yourself and the other person.

· Get a basic sense of what you want to say. Focus on your experience: thoughts, feelings, body sensations, wants, memories, images, the dynamic flow through awareness; it’s hard to argue with your experience, but easy to get into wrangles about situations, events, the past, or problem-solving.

· Be confident. Have faith in your sincerity, and in the truth itself. Recognize that others may not like what you have to say, but you have a right to say it without needing to justify it; and that saying it is probably good for your relationship.

When you speak:
· Take a breath and settle into your body.

· Recall being with people who care about you. (This will help deepen your sense of inner strength, and warm up the neural circuits of wholeheartedness.)

· Soften your throat, eyes, chest, and heart. Try to find a sense of goodwill, even compassion for the other person.

· Bring to mind what you want to say.

· Take another breath, and start speaking.

· Try to stay in touch with your experience as you express it. Don’t get into any sense of persuasion, justification, defensiveness, or problem-solving. (That’s for later, if at all.) Be direct and to the point; when people truly speak from the heart, they often say what needs to be said in a few minutes or less; it’s the “case” wrapped around the heart of the matter that takes all those extra words.

· Keep coming back to the essential point for you, whatever it is (especially if the other person gets reactive or tries to shift the topic). And feel free to disengage if the other person is just not ready to hear you; maybe another time would be better. “Success” here is not getting the other person to change, but you expressing yourself.

· As appropriate, open to and encourage the other person speaking from the heart, too.

And afterwards: know that whatever happened, you did a good thing. It’s brave and it’s hard (especially at first) to speak from the heart. But so necessary to make this world a better place.

* * *

Rick Hanson, PhD is a neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (in 21 languages) – and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s taught at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and in meditation centers in Europe, North America, and Australia. His work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Consumer Reports Health, and U.S. News and World Report. His blog – Just One Thing – has over 25,000 subscribers and suggests a simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart. If you wish, you can subscribe to Just One Thing here.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on September 28th, 2011 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , ,

23 sep

Will You Still Love Me If…

MikeRobbinsNewOver the past few months I’ve been looking at the phenomenon of approval seeking that exists in my life and my relationships. My mother’s death has brought up an intense mix of emotions and reflections. Like most people, my mom was a fundamental source of love for me, especially early in my life. As such, I learned various ways, from quite a young age, to gain her approval. Although this evolved over time and I outgrew certain aspects of approval seeking from my mom specifically, I realize now that I was much more attached to her approval, even as an adult, than I thought I was.

The irony is that this had very little to do with my mother herself. While she did have strong opinions, like most of us, and she and I dealt with our fair share of conflicts and challenges in our relationship, I never questioned her love, commitment, and loyalty to me. Much of the “conditionality” in our relationship (i.e. me thinking I had to be a certain way to be loved and accepted) was self imposed. As I’ve looked at this more deeply in the recent months, I realize this is also true in just about all of the relationships in my life – family, friends, clients, and more.

I read a great book a number of years ago written by my friend, mentor, and counselor of seventeen years, Chris Andersonn, called Will You Still Love Me if I Don’t Win? This book was written specifically for parents of young athletes, but has a much wider and broader message about both parenting and life – it’s really about how much pressure most of us feel as kids (and then throughout our lives) to perform for our parents and others.

This pressure to perform and to “live up to other people’s expectations” creates an enormous amount of stress in our lives. Clearly there are healthy expectations and positive forms of accountability that benefit us (i.e. when people around us expect excellence, integrity, kindness, success, and more which can, in fact, influence us in a positive way). However, more often than not, we place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to act, look, and “perform” in specific ways that we believe we “have” to in order to receive the love, acceptance, and approval we want (or sometimes feel we need) from others.

Consciously or unconsciously we tend to ask ourselves questions like, “Will you still love me if…”

- I tell you how I really feel
- I gain weight or my physical appearance changes
- I change jobs or careers
- I don’t succeed or produce specific results
- I disagree with you about important/sensitive stuff
- I don’t live up to your standards/expectations
- I want to alter or renegotiate the nature of our relationship

These and many other questions like them create an intense dynamic of pressure in our lives and relationships. And in many cases, like I’ve recently realized with my mom, we create most of this pressure ourselves. Often the place where unconditional love is lacking most significantly is within us. We have a tendency to be quite hard on ourselves and to have lots of conditions in place for our own approval. This demand for perfection is always a set up for a failure.

What if we let go of our conditions and just loved and accepted ourselves and others exactly the way we and they are right now? Acceptance isn’t about resignation, it’s about freedom, peace, and appreciation. When we practice unconditional love and acceptance it doesn’t mean that everything is “perfect” or that things can’t or won’t change in a positive way. However, love and acceptance are about appreciating the way things are and trusting that we and other people are “good enough”.

Seeking the approval of others is something most of us learn to do early in life and is actually a natural, normal, and healthy aspect of our growth as human beings. However, as we evolve, seeking approval not only becomes problematic, but can be quite damaging if we don’t consciously pay attention to it and ultimately alter it.

Here are three things you can do to loosen the grip of approval seeking:

Notice – Pay attention to your approval seeking tendencies. In what relationships and situations does this show up most often for you? Like most things in life, change starts with awareness, so noticing when, how, and what specifically it is that you do or say (in your head or out loud) in terms of seeking approval is the first step.

Share – Talk about this with the specific people in your life it impacts the most – your significant other, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your boss, your clients, and more. Because much of this stuff is self imposed, when we start talking about it we often realize that we’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, in many cases unnecessarily. In other cases there may be some unspoken dynamics in place that can be altered by having honest and vulnerable conversations. Either way, talking about it will almost always help alter things in a positive way.

Give To Yourself – Give yourself that which you are seeking, which in most cases is love and acceptance. The source of much of our pain and suffering, as well as our joy and happiness is us. So often we’re looking for others to give to us that which we need to give to ourselves. When we love and approve of ourselves, two important things happen. First of all, we become less needy of the approval of others. Second, because we are giving it to ourselves and aren’t as needy of it from others, we often get even more love and acceptance from those around us.

While this may seem simple and straight forward, it can be tricky for many of us as our patterns of approval seeking began before we had language and at a time in our lives that we can’t even access with conscious memory. As we do this important internal work, it’s essential that we’re gentle, kind, and compassionate with ourselves. And, when we remember that the love, acceptance, and approval we’re truly seeking is our own, we’re reminded that the answer is right inside of us, like it almost always is.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

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Posted by Mike Robbins on September 23rd, 2011 in General, Relationships, Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,

18 sep

Every No Gets Us Closer to a Yes

WEJMDConsider this example: Using a hypothetical number (since I am not aware of the statistics involved in car sales), let’s assume that for every 10 prospective customers that walk through the showroom door, one will be converted into a sale.

That being the case, a car salesman can expect to get a no from nine people before he closes a deal. Consequently, when he gets one no after another, there is no need for him to get depressed, anxious or angry. He doesn’t need to take it personally by interpreting it as a failure on his part. He doesn’t need to get discouraged or demoralized. He doesn’t need to perceive it as a setback or an obstacle. He doesn’t need to look at it as the universe giving him a hard time.

He simply needs to remind himself that it’s all part of the plan; that it’s all part of the law of averages; that every time he gets a no, he should actually be celebrating, because it brings him closer to the statistical number that equates to a yes.

Oftentimes, we get frustrated by things not happening on our timetable. Rather than seeing each “no” as one step closer to our goal, we interpret the “no” as a delay holding back our success. This speaks to our desire to control the universe so that it will do our bidding as we think it should and when we think it should.

The problem with this is that we can’t control the universe. People and circumstances that will eventually cooperate with us have their own timetable that we need to accept. Any attempt to manipulate and accelerate the process is oftentimes a mistake. It can lead us to either a burning bridge that could have been an appropriate path, or finding ourselves heading down a path that, in the long run, will prove to be a road to nowhere.

Acceptance & patience
It is better to accept that it takes time for people and circumstances to come together in a beneficial way for all concerned and to try not to force outcomes. Sometimes it’s best to accept the ebb and flow of things. Sometimes it’s best to not paddle furiously but rather to row our boat gently down the stream. Sometimes it’s best to let things happen at their own pace and have faith that when things don’t happen the way we think they should, it doesn’t mean that they never will.

Bottom line: We needn’t be afraid of rejection and failed efforts — take Thomas Edison, for example. Every time the universe said no to one of his attempts to invent the electric light bulb, he saw it as a help rather than a hindrance. He saw it as an opportunity to put aside an ineffectual approach he was taking so that he could redirect his attention to an alternative approach that might yield the success he was looking for. Every failed attempt brought him closer to success by enabling him to eliminate a wrong way so that he could eventually find the right way.

There is a right way for all of us, regardless of what goals we have set for ourselves. But we will not find it if we get derailed by perceived setbacks, obstacles, rejections, delays and outright failed attempts. Best that we be okay with every no we get and every failed attempt, seeing each as a positive stepping stone to our ultimate success.

Best we stay true to our vision. Best we stay confident and positive. Best we be flexible and stay open to alternative paths so as to modify and adapt our plan when necessary. Above all else, we don’t give up. We keep on trucking. We remind ourselves that it’s never over till it’s over.

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Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on September 18th, 2011 in Career | No comments Read related posts in , , , , ,