Archive for the ‘how to’ Category
Balance. For most of us it’s the illusive butterfly of life. Most of us chase after it daily, never quite managing to catch up with it.
It’s a sign of the times we live in. With ever increasing demands of work, home, and play—not to mention our goals to keep up with everything while staying fit, eating healthy, keeping up with our social media contacts, and remembering to recycle—we hardly have time to catch our breath, never mind Balance.
We keep mental check lists and to dos, tally up our daily accomplishments, debit our credits for missed tasks and opportunities, and often fault ourselves for not taking more time for the important things that really matter. All the while, feeling that no matter how hard we’re running through life, we should be doing more. So it’s easy to understand why so many of us work so hard to finally find some balance—myself included.
But maybe balance isn’t something we can find. Perhaps, it’s not something we can capture or find. It’s not a constant state but a fleeting one.
Much like riding a bike requires us to make constant small adjustments while moving forward—creating a fluctuating state of balance that assists us in moving steady along—the journey through our day is also a balancing act. It demands small constant adjustments as well. So rather than finding balance, like some far off, seemingly unreachable destination, we’re constantly creating it. It’s not about Balance it’s about balancing. It’s how we navigate the journey through all the busyness. We just don’t notice it. It’s there all along, a silent passenger that accompanies us as we go about our day.
So here’s a radical suggestion. Rather than seeking balance, we should be seeking Rest. After all, even the 2014 top seated cyclist, Alberto Contador Velasco, needs to come to a stop once in a while—if only to pick up his newest trophy.
I know that it’s counter-intuitive to think that taking a time out from the balancing act, that we call our schedule, makes us more effective and productive, but the research proves it.
“A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.” Schwartz, Tony, Relax! You’ll Be More Productive, New York Times, February 9, 2013.
So here’s something worth adding to your to do list for the day: Rest. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling like your life comes suddenly into balance. Because, it seems that adding Rest to all the things that we’re already managing to balance throughout the day, might just be the best balancing act ever.
I was determined that I should buckle down and use my regularly scheduled block of time to finish editing my new book. Brain thought a day in the sunshine was a Much Better Idea.
Although I could hardly dispute that a sunny, comfortable 75 degree August day in Rochester was cause for celebration, my resolution to keep my self on track was too important to dismiss. I was conflicted. I had a part that wanted to do one thing and another part of me with an entirely different opinion. I see-sawed between the joy of being outdoors and the satisfaction of following through with a personal commitment to myself.
In the past, this would have started an argument between competing purposes. I would have labeled Brain’s attempts as a sabotage. I’ve since learned better. I’ve realized that GrayBall is sometimes a misguided friend.
Here’s how it all worked out in the end …
I assumed a positive intention and negotiated a truce. Here’s how I did that.
I began by asking Brain, “What’s the positive intention behind wanting to be outdoors?” Brain quickly responded by pointing out how lovely it would be to be in the sunshine and breathing in the fresh air.
So I asked, “And if I did spend time outdoors today, what would that get me?” To which Brain responded, “relaxation and enjoyment.” Well, I had to admit that that sounded pretty good to me. I wrote the answer down.
Then I thanked Brain for it’s positive intention and asked if it would be willing to help me understand it’s intention even better. It agreed; so I asked, “and if I had relaxation and enjoyment (it’s intention) what would that get me?” When Brain gave me the next answer, I wrote that one down too. Then I kept asking the same question of Brain, substituting each additional intention it gave me into the question, until Grey Ball ran out of answers.
When we finally arrived at “peace,” I asked GrayBall if there was anything more important than experiencing peace. To which it responded, “No.”
I next asked Brain, “Are you congruently creating peace by pulling my attention away from my project?” GrayBall had to admit that creating conflict, when what it wanted most of all was peace, was not congruent.
Having reached the end of that line of inquiry, I then asked Brain, “What’s the positive intention behind wanting to follow through with my personal commitment to finish the edit on my new book?” Brain—now eager to play along— answered that it would give me “a sense of accomplishment.” I couldn’t argue with that one either; so I quickly thanked Brain for wanting that for me. And I wrote it down and followed the same process of inquiry that I used the first time.
So I continued to ask, “and what would that get me?,” until GrayBall ran out of answers. Lo and behold, it’s highest intention for “us” was—one again—peace.
Now I asked GrayBall to notice that both choices were moving “us” toward the same intention. It said, “Yes.” So I asked it, “If we get to peace, then it really doesn’t matter how we get there, right?” Gray Ball was beginning to get the point.
So I next asked GrayBall to notice that peace was a state of being. In other words, it wasn’t a doing. It didn’t have to do anything to acquire it.
I directed it’s attention toward the fact that it could simply decide to “step into a state of being at peace and experience what that would be like to be there already.”
Once I could connect to the feeling of peace in my body, I asked it, “What happens when you begin in a state of peace as a way of approaching this project?” and “How would that affect your ability to complete this project more efficiently and effectively?”
By now, GrayBall was getting the point. Since it already had what it most wanted, it no longer felt the need to distract me away from my work. Finally I asked GrayBall whether it would be willing to maintain a sense of peace for me while I continued to craft a new intro to my book. Because—after all—that was it’s highest intention, right?
Gray Ball happily agreed. And it turned out to be a Very Sunny Day indeed.
So the next time you feel conflicted—when part of you wants this and another part of you wants that—ask your GrayBall what positive intention it has for you. You’re bound to be surprised how easy it is to make friends with the enemy.
I’m convinced – at least on some days – that without a whole cadre of anti-terrorism tactics in place, GrayBall would be burning and pillaging it’s way across the entire landscape of my future life right now. After all, it was an experience all too familiar from my younger years.
And I know that I’m not the only one. Admit it. You know who you are.
Do you have a potential or a possibility for the future, but . . .
Are you anxiously asking yourself “what if questions” about your future hopes and dreams?
If so, you’re being terrorized by the ‘world’s worst terrorist.”
What is it with GrayBall anyway?
Why is it – just when we should be feeling excited and passionate about all the possibilities in front of us – does it begin to terrorize us with thoughts of failures past, broken dreams and disappointments?
Well, chalk it up to GrayBall’s wonderful self-preservationist attitudes. It often thinks it’s under attack, and feels the need to defend itself against future failure.
GrayBall loves to lob bombs from the past and create all manner of chaos and mayhem into our soon-to-be future.
Have an upcoming presentation? You’ll suddenly remember the time in the 3rd grade when, in a panic, you forgot the only two lines you were required to remember for the school play.
Have a prospective first date? You’ll start to reflect on how badly your last relationship turned out.
Trying to land that new job? Rejections, rejections, rejections are all you can think about.
It’s hard to believe the future will turn out anything but badly.
How could it? As you’re inching ever closer to the inevitable doom of stepping on that landmine out in the future that GrayBall has so loving placed there.
Yep, I said lovingly.
Because Gray Ball really means well. That’s why it’s a bad terrorist. In fact, it’s the world’s worst. Because it’s trying to help us … not harm us.
It’s trying to protect us by helping us to pay attention to what might happen that we don’t want to have happen. But this is like trying to help you navigate a mine field by laying down more mines so you’ll remember they’re there. Kinda crazy, huh?
Here’s another reason GrayBall is the world’s worst terrorist: all the bombs are really duds. They don’t really exist. They’re memories from the past…. things we’ve already endured and lived through.
That alone should convince us that our ‘not yet successes’ in the future will turn out okay in the end … because they always do. We can learn, grow and evolve. You aren’t the 3rd grader who didn’t remember your lines, you’re an adult fully capable of stringing two sentences together, your past relationship taught you to stop trying to change people and look for someone who already possesses the qualities you’re looking for, and you’ve endured enough rejection to realize you’ll live to fight another day.
So while GrayBall is rooting around in the past for those duds to toss out into your future ask yourself, “What have I learned that will help me achieve my not-yet future success?”
And more importantly, GrayBall is simply a misguided friend. Not a foe. But, more on that later.
A few of you have asked where we’ve been these last few weeks (the blog has been blog-less). Well, we can finally tell you – we’ve been undercover, hard at work creating a free on-line video self-study course, “How to Survive a Mental Highjacking.”
In it, we’ve put together 7 of the very best, easy to learn techniques for how to maintain control during stressful times. The good news … you can grab it for free – as part of an incredible offer you won’t want to miss. The even better news … it’s only one in over $1,900 in FREE trauma support resources from PROJECT GIVE BACK, plus a chance to become eligible for over $6,400 in raffles.
You see, our friend and colleague, Michelle Rosenthal over at Heal My PTSD, encouraged nearly 50 of her colleagues and friends to celebrate the launch of her fabulous and inspirational book, “Before the World Intruded” by participating in what she’s calling “Project Give Back.” By simply purchasing her book – which by the way is priceless – you’ll gain instant access to an amazing array of free gifts and an opportunity to win some fabulous prizes.
I guess you could say Michelle has a lot of admirers and supporters. Here’s why …
As if offering inspiration, support and education on her blog and radio show weren’t enough, she’s now written a very candidly moving and poignant memoir chronicling her own journey from trauma to healing. Like many of the people she’s written this book for, Michelle endured years of struggle without knowing the cause. But finally understanding what had happened to her was just the first step. The story of her courage to move forward to find answers and how she came to heal herself will leave you inspired and moved to take action in your own life. More than a memoir, it’s serves as a testimony to anyone’s ability to not simply survive but to thrive in the face of adversity.
In a bid to reclaim her life and heal her soul Michele boldly left the world she knew in search of a self she could barely imagine. From New York City to South Florida she traveled on an odyssey that took her from the depths of despair to the heights of joy, from her kitchen floor to the dance floor, from a child frozen in helplessness to a woman who is powerful, courageous and free. In her transformation lie the seeds for anyone who wants to conquer the past and create the future. This transcendent book shows what can happen when you discover who you are and then choose who you most deeply want to be.
Advance praise for the book has been spectacular:
“Whenever I feel sad that I’ve finished a book, I know I’ve been transformed by its pages. Michele’s story is incredibly moving, and beautifully written. I’m a lover of words and her prose is rich, descriptive and fluid off the tongue.”
~Deborah Serani, PsyD, Author of Living with Depression: Why Biology and Biography Matter on the Path To Hope and Healing
Michele is a courageous heroine, but she’s also very accessible. She explores the darkest days of her life with a brave, open heart, tirelessly learning painful lessons, which she shares with an engaging vulnerability. When she finally dances into a life free of trauma, we dance alongside Michele happily. I loved her generosity and humanity in this important, beautiful book.
~ Priscilla Warner, author, Learning to Breathe – My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life
“Before the World Intruded is a transporting story of trauma and recovery. An addictively readable memoir that carries the reader along —from [the story of] a child’s exposure to a life-threatening illness, through years of post-traumatic stress, to a grown-up woman’s euphoric recovery. By the end of the book you will be crying and laughing at once, and applauding Michele Rosenthal for her courage.”
~Jessica Stern, Expert on trauma and terror, Author of Denial: A Memoir of Terror and Terror in the Name of God.
“The twenty-six year journey beautifully described in Before the World Intruded shows how deeply rooted trauma can become. Much can be learned by reading this book. Most importantly, Michele Rosenthal had the courage to seek an escape from the inescapable—and that is a choice that anyone afflicted with traumatic memories must make every day.”
~ Ron Ruden, MD, PhD, author, When the Past Is Always Present: Emotional Traumatization, Causes, and Cures
When asked why she wrote the book, Michele explains,
“The funny thing is, I didn’t set out to write this book. When I first began writing I was only trying to heal myself by being able to tell myself the story of what happened to me. Once I wrote out my trauma, however, it seemed only natural to chronicle my struggle to overcome it. By the time I reached the final part of the book, ‘Healing’, I had taken control of the project. I began to feel there was a purpose to telling my story. By then, I had met survivors of different traumas struggling with exactly the same issues I was. Through my connections and conversations with them I came to understand that we don’t heal in isolation, we heal in community. While we are individual in our traumas, we are incredibly universal in our post-trauma experience. There is enormous value in sharing our stories so that we all learn from each other to hope, believe and work toward lives free from the effects of the past.”
Here are 5 quick ways to get your happy on, regardless of the weather.
Set a Sunny Outlook
Your inner world directs your outer experience. Where the mind goes, the body follows and along with it the ability to quickly transform your mood.
Grey skies got you down?
Close your eyes and as vividly as possible imagine yourself in your favorite place in nature with the sun streaming down on your upturned face.
Picture a brilliant sun against a clear and cloudless blue sky, feel the heat on your skin and the light of the sun bright red behind your closed eyelids, hear all of nature alive with summer.
Relax into the warmth on your skin, smooth the muscles of your face, take a few deep breaths, smile and quietly notice, “when there is sun within, the sun is always out.”
Now open your eyes and notice how much brighter everything looks.
Move Your Body, Move Your Mind ~ Try Something New
Rather than going into hibernation this winter, give yourself a boost with the anticipatory thrill of the new.
If you’ve been promising yourself to try salsa dancing, indoor rock climbing, learn a new language, or join a book club, now is the perfect time of the year.
Although many of us try to beat the doldrums by pursuing passive activities such as surfing the net or checking out our Face Book page, research shows that after about 30 minutes they start sapping our energy.
Our brains love to be challenged. And novelty often sparks a feeling of natural vitality simply by engaging in new activities.
Something to keep in mind … one man’s mountain is another man’s public podium.
The more thrilling and challenging the activity is to you – and the bigger the perceived risk – the more likely it is to light up the reward centers of the brain. The riskier the behavior the more nature’s natural anti-depressant, dopamine, is produced in the brain.
Perhaps, for you, a course in public speaking is every bit as adventurous and risky as skiing down a mountain.
Volunteer Your Time or Do Random Acts of Kindness
Research has proven the adage, “It is better to give than to receive.”
It increases our general sense of well-being and may lead to a longer life, expressly when it is tied to altruism and service.
Never do we feel as good as when we are helping someone less fortunate than ourselves. Keep in mind, it’s best to mix it up a bit. Five small kindness spread out over the course of five days is more beneficial to your level of happiness than one big grand gesture.
On a more practical note, it may well help to control our tendency to imagine and then compare ourselves with others more fortunate than ourselves. It often serves to remind us to be more realistic in our views about how fortunate most of us truly are when we are helping others less fortunate than ourselves.
Pay Attention to All You Have to Be Grateful For
Being mindful of what we have to be grateful for helps us minimize the brain’s natural tendency to create what I call “a not quite satisfied set-point” in our lives, where things never seem quite good enough.
This set-point often results in us taking too many things for granted. Things that immediately become more valuable to us in their loss than they once were when we had them . . . a standard of living, a loved one, or our health.
So what if the sun isn’t shining today?
Instead of feeling grouchy, be grateful for the electricity to power a light, the loved one that forgets to turn it off, and the ability to get up and turn it off yourself.
If you’re afraid this might kill your ambition or drive, think again. Research shows that happy, satisfied people are more productive and successful in all areas of their life.
By noticing what you have with a “good enough for now, moving toward better” attitude, you can balance the gratitude you already feel with the drive and desire to have or experience more.
Rather than using unhappiness as a way to motivate yourself to be happy in the future, notice that gratitude can increase your sense of success and happiness right here in the now. By recognizing how much you already have it’s much easier to notice how much more you can create.
Watch Your Spending Habits
It’s not so much that we spend money, it’s what we spend it on that counts.
Buy yourself a different kind of ‘retail therapy’ this winter. Rather than shop for the latest gadget or new pair of shoes, go to the movies, take a short vacation, or host a party.
Research shows that people get more satisfaction purchasing experiences over things. So if you have to, go ahead and buy yourself that new outfit, just remember to make memories while you’re wearing it.
A Case For Never Picking Up Strangers
If we only get one body, then why do I sometimes feel like I’m walking around with two heads?
Of course I’m now at an age where I get to blame it on hormones.
But perhaps that’s just a convenient excuse for explaining why I keep forgetting where I left my keys only to realize minutes later where they are. Which just happens to be after I’ve already locked myself out of the house.
But if I’m really being honest, it’s because the busier I become, the behind-er I get. My mind is one step ahead of where I’m trying to go and I’m . . .
Overwhelmed and Stressed
Overwhelmed and her evil twin sister, Stressed, seductively lure you in.
One minute you’re going down life’s highway minding your own business. The next?
There they are – with their thumbs out asking for a free ride. There’s a reason Mom warns you to never pick up strangers.
Because just like some strange hitchhikers you’ve picked up and forgotten to drop off along the way, pretty soon you’re driving them around and they haven’t even paid a nickle for the gas.
Not only that, but the longer they hang around, the more entitled they feel to shout directions – in stereo – from the back seat, “Do this, do that, go here, go there – now, now, now!”
Suddenly “too much” meets “not enough.”
And, surprise: the “not enough” has nothing to do with time. You always have all the time there is. There’s nothing you can do to change “clock” time.
What I’m talking about is too much information and not enough “sorting criteria.” And this inevitably forces you onto the road where Sisters Overwhelm and Stressed are waiting to be picked up.
This is how it happens.
Let’s say you start out with a few things you need to get done. Each of them is important in its own way. So you put up a mental remember to do list.
Which is fine, if you only had a few things up there. But as life gets increasingly busier and busier?
Pretty soon your mental checklist is greater than your capacity to easily recall . . . which, in case you were curious, is around 5 to 9 “bits” of information at any one time.
So let’s say you’ve got about 20 To Dos on your list and 5 of them are about to go nuclear.
At this point, it’s no longer a remember to do list, it’s now become a remember to worry about this list. Your mind now tries to keep you on track by unconsciously bringing all those To Do’s to your attention (even if only for a millisecond in between other tasks).
The Proper Way to Eat an Elephant?
What started out as a simple remember to do list now occupies your mental airspace with ever increasing demands on you to not forget to do. Sisters Overwhelmed and Stressed have just jumped on board.
Because you’re focused on not forgetting, your mind becomes busy at trying to remember everything. Now by the time you think of the last remember to do, you’re already mentally circling back to the first. You’re suddenly in a roundabout.
You’re caught in an infinite loop, a Wheel of Worry, where the end of one thought is simply the beginning of another.
What’s even weirder? Once things start going round and round, you haven’t any way to prioritize your to dos, or to distinguish the big from the small. Everything is equally important and equally challenging. Cleaning crumbs out of the cutlery drawer is lumped together with finishing a client presentation.
You might try to ignore Sisters Overwhelm and Stress who are suddenly along for the ride on this Wheel of Worry, but they’re pretty much a case of the “elephant in the room.”
They’re loud, they smell, they take up too much room, and they’re hell to feed (not to mention the constant clean up).
Well Done and Always One Bite At a Time
But there’s a way to get out of this roundabout and drop the Sisters off at the nearest intersection.
First, you need to do a mental purge.
Here’s an easy way how.
Breaking all your “to dos” into smaller, individual, bite size tasks gives you a way to create sorting criteria. You’ll be able to evaluate and prioritize your way out of your mental roundabout in no time at all.
Simply grab a bunch of different colored index cards. Choose a color for each category (i.e., green for household, blue for business, etc.)
Now write each to do onto its own separate index card by category. Keep writing until you exhaust your supply of mental to dos. Don’t stop until you’ve mentally purged each and every one onto a card.
No matter how many to dos you have, eventually you’ll reach the end of your list. It’s no longer infinite.
Now take your cards and sort them according to category. Once you have your categories, each card within your category can be evaluated.
Can a bigger task be broken down into smaller steps?
If so, create individual cards that represent those smaller steps and clip them in a sequence to the back of your larger to do.
Once you’ve done this, organize your cards by:
Category and/or subject and
Priority (using a numbering system 1 through 10, ten being most important).
Make sure you’ve noted on each one:
The steps needed to accomplish each task, and
How much time you need to accomplish it.
From these, calendar the necessary time based on priority.
When I do this I find that I do indeed have enough time. I can get everything done . . . just not all at once.
I’ve soon left the Evil Sisters Overwhelm and Stress at the curb and I’m headed down the road again.
Cleaning crumbs out of the cutlery drawer doesn’t seem nearly as important or herculean an effort as it used to be. And my presentation is calendared into smaller, more manageable steps that I can easily finish in time.
Simply by breaking things down to their smallest elements, I suddenly find I have all the time I need to get everything I need to get done.
And since I’ve written it all down, I can relax. I can let my cards hold onto the information while my mind is free to focus on the task at hand.
Mom was right, never pick up strangers!