Archive for the ‘decision making’ Category

5 Easy Steps for Making Life’s Lemons into Lemonade

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-summer-explosion-color-jumping-girl-beach-image30834709We all know the axiom, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” For sure, that’s sound advice but few of us actually know how to put the sweetness back into a situation once it’s gone sour.

One minute, life is going along just fine and then—calamity strikes. The kids aren’t paying attention, someone cuts you off in traffic, a co-worker undercuts you in front of the boss. You end up with a sour taste in your mouth, wishing you could get back to the sweet life.

It’s easier than you think. Here’s how to turn life’s lemons into lemonade in just five  steps.

Step 1: Look beyond the situation by asking, “What do I think this means?”

You see it’s not the situation itself that’s the problem. It’s the meaning you’re giving it.

Ponder this for a moment: could a problem be a problem, if you didn’t think it was? One man’s problem is another man’s opportunity. How are you making this situation a problem for yourself?

Find out what meaning you’re giving to the situation, because it’s the real source of the sour taste in your mouth.

Step 2:  Once you’ve identified the meaning you’ve assigned to the situation, challenge the meaning.

You can do this by asking, “Is this the only possible meaning this could have?”

Now, if you’re really being honest—and not just trying to be right—you’ll be quickly forced to acknowledge that, in a world of infinite possible meanings, your current meaning is vastly outnumbered.

Your current perspective is not the only one available to you, no matter how justified you feel in keeping your meaning. I know, it’s hard to let it go, so here’s a way to quell the arguments—realize that when you choose the meaning, you choose the feeling and behavior it generates.

Step 3: Pay attention to the feelings and behaviors that are generated when you give your “truth” to your original meaning.

Not very pleasant, right?

Notice that you’re giving your truth to this meaning, you’re not taking your truth from it. This truth is a relative truth, not an absolute one. I say relative, because in the whole of humanity, someone’s likely to see this situation differently than you do.

For instance: getting angry at your child because you’ve given your truth to the idea, “he/she doesn’t respect me,” might feel relatively true in the moment. However, asking yourself what else it might mean gives you an opportunity to look beyond the sour situation being created by your meaning.

You’ll have a better sense for whether or not your relative truth is helping or hindering the situation. Is your original meaning—and the anger and yelling it creates—helping or hindering your ability to communicate effectively with your child? Which bring us to step 4.

Step 4: Ask what you want to experience instead.

In other words, what result are you looking to bring about. Generally, this is the exact opposite of whatever emotion was being generated by the old meaning. This is where you transform anger into patience, frustration into understanding.

Step 5: Find a meaning that’s congruently aligned with a feeling and behavior you want to achieve.

You can do this by asking yourself, “What meaning could I give my truth to—one that would enable me to feel and behave differently?”

Your old meaning is no more true than this meaning. Remember that you’re the giver of truth.

What happens when you sincerely consider this as another possible meaning? However much you might want to reaffirm your old meaning, keep in mind—if you continue to choose it—you’ll be choosing the result it creates. Decide on a meaning that brings about the result you want.

For instance: Deciding that your child is over-tired, over-stimulated, or under-engaged is bound to bring about an entirely different approach to the ‘problem’ at hand. By redefining your meaning, you’ve redefined your resulting feelings and response.

So open up your lemonade stand, the people around you will suddenly like what you’re serving. You’ll find your situation is not so sour after all. In fact, it may get a whole lot sweeter right away.

 

 

Making Friends With The Enemy

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image23775237A few days ago, GrayBall, The Brain and I started the day out as enemies. No worries. It all turned out in the end. Here’s how it happened.

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.

P.S. Thanks to Connie Rae Andreas for developing the process I used above, called CoreTransformation.

 

The Ongoing Adventures of GrayBall-the-Brain ~ This episode: The Worried ‘Psychic’

Monday, February 13th, 2012

“I no longer question whether or not the future can be changed. I question whether or not the future exists as future. I think not.” (jc)

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want happiness and peace of mind. All living creatures want to be okay.

I think it’s built into the Big-Bang Blueprint.

Even people obsessed with acquiring objects are really trying to get something they believe is vital to their well-being. They just go about it very poorly because they think that having things is the secret to having peace.

It isn’t.

Of the many peculiar behaviors of GrayBall-the-Brain (the principal in our story, henceforth known as GrayBall for short, or Brain for shorter) the one I want to discuss is its tendency to compare, and to look for negative, scary things. It’s probably a survival mechanism. Had it been unable to distinguish between what’s helpful or harmful, none of us would be here.

But, when basic survival skills for GrayBall become obsessions of the mind, unhappiness becomes a lifestyle; a way of being.

That’s what happens when Brain compares what it desires to what it actually has. And thinking that it needs the object of its desire to be happy, GrayBall feels unhappy NOW, begins to worry, and becomes anxious about its future.

You know anyone like that?

I do. I have a friend who says she worries about everything.

Everything is a lot to be worried about,” I said.

I asked her to make a list.

She did. It really was everything.

Yikes!

And the last item was ‘worried about being worried.’ Kind of a tough spot she’s in, wouldn’t you say?

Strictly speaking, no one can be worried about everything because no one knows what everything is. So, we got to work and narrowed it down to specifics.

All the items on her revised list were of possible-scary-future events. And fear and worry are future dependent.

Nobody’s worried about what might happen in their past. The past is over.

And no one is worried about an event that occurred in their past–unless they’re thinking about how it might effect their future. See?

My friend, like many people, was focusing on the scary things that might happen; that could happen.

But what might happen–also might not happen. Almost anything could happen–but it also could not happen. And most things that could’ve happened–never did happen. (Think about that one.)

Anyway, I’m very worried about her. (ahem)

If you’re worried about future events–something that may or may not happen–you’re worried about something that isn’t real. 

Because the future doesn’t exist as a fact. It’s all made up.

And if it’s all made up, then there’s nothing to worry about.

Instead of planning for the best and being watchful for the unexpected, my young friend was absolutely certain of disaster. And that’s what she was afraid of.

But nothing on her list was real. GrayBall-the-Brain was playing psychic.

I said, “If you really can predict the future, you should become a professional psychic. You’d be rich, and worry number two would be gone.”

She asked me what she should do.

“About what? None of your problems are real.”

“You’re not helping, Jim!”

“There’s no answer to your question, because it’s not a real problem. You’re making it up.”

Her eyes went all squinty. “I’m not making it up! You’re not making any sense!”

“Then show me the facts as you know them for certain. Show me the evidence. Can you take a picture of your scary future? Can you hold it in your hands? If not, it isn’t real. It’s in your mind.”

“I’m going on the evidence of my past. A bad past means I’m going to have a bad future. That’s how I know.” (Read that bit again and see if you can spot the error in her thinking.)

“But the past is gone. It’s only a memory. Take a picture of how your past means your future. Show it to me. You can’t–because the meaning isn’t there! What you’re worried about isn’t real. It doesn’t exist because your future hasn’t happened yet. GrayBall is making up scary stories–and you believe them. That’s your real problem.”

“So what do I do?”

“Make up a better story with a happier future. Make up a possible future you’d like to have instead. Then plan and work toward that.”

“How do I do that?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll tell you how in Part II. In the meanwhile, I want you to consider something.”

“What, more PICTURES-OF-EVIDENCE?” She had taken a tone.

I went all zen-ish on her. “Anything that hasn’t happened yet can change,” I said. “But nothing can be changed before it has happened.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean? It’s like I’m talking to Yoda!”

“Yeah, well, think about it. It’ll mess with your mind.”

“Thanks, dweeb.”

 

Stay tuned for  “The Practical Approach to a Worry-Free Brain” coming next installment.

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Happiness: Life is a Bowl of Cherries But Make Mine Cheerios

Monday, October 24th, 2011

One morning several years back, I got an unintended lesson on the subject of choices and the pursuit of happiness.

It happened over breakfast, which is generally served up with a side of whatever book I happen to be reading at the moment.

This particular morning, I suddenly found myself laughing hard enough to blow cheerios out my nose.

This unexpected explosion of wisdom, laughter and cheerios was entirely the fault of Harvard Professor, Daniel Gilbert’s marvelous book, Stumbling on Happiness.

In it he serves up fascinating research on our continued, yet inane, belief in our ability to predict what will make us happy (or unhappy) in the future.

And he does so with a wit that – yes – could cause a reader to shoot cheerios out her nose.

Gilbert states that the pursuit of trying to predict in the now how we will feel about our decisions and choices in the future is a near impossible task.

And he points out a fundamental, but profoundly simple reason.  It’s because the “me” that will be evaluating those decisions in the future is a different “me” than the “me” I am in the now.

And you really can’t be where you aren’t yet.  So how can we accurately predict what we’ll like, love or – for that matter – even tolerate in the future?  We can’t.

And you don’t even need to project yourself ten years or even a month into the future to prove this to yourself.  All I had to do was remember a rather disastrous decision to change my hair color.

Hair Today and Gone Tomorrow

If you’re like me you probably spend a lot of time weighing all the options.

I honestly believe that if the weight of all my decisions were piled one on top of another, and decision-making was an Olympic sport, I’d have a gold medal hanging around my neck right now!

I had just spent weeks considering whether or not to even change my hair color.  Add to this – I was really, really, really looking forward to a change.  I thought I would feel happy.  Happy as in happy I did it.

But now here I was – my fanny in the hairdressers chair – lamenting, “What the hell were you (that would be the past me) thinking!”

The hair color I had imagined as stunning, before I sat down in the chair, wasn’t so very stunning to the future me, who now found herself paying for it.  I was another kind of stunned entirely!

And, as Gilbert aptly points out, this displeasure got served up with a heaping side of ungratefulness and moral outrage toward my past self  – just as an added bonus.

Making “Right Now” Decisions

So, the next time you’re agonizing over making the right decision, perhaps you might go a little easier on yourself.

After all, the you who’s hoping to get an ‘A’ in decision making is probably going to be using different criteria than the you who will be grading the merits of that very same choice.

So, perhaps rather than worrying about making the right decision, we should concentrate our efforts toward making a ‘right now’ decision.

If something doesn’t work out, we can always chalk it up to a Grand Learning.  Me?  I now know that the color of asphalt is best left for the pavement and not for the top of my head!

And if a happy life came from only making happy choices, then we should expect a world filled with an awful lot of unhappy campers out there.

Which, by the way, according to Gilbert turns out to be untrue.

But I won’t spoil the whole of the book.  Read it and weep with laughter . . . the cheerios are not a necessary part of the learning curve.

P.S.  Do not – repeat do not – miss the preface to this book. . . or read it, whichever you prefer.