Archive for the ‘negative emotions’ Category

Yesterday’s News

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image691204The story of our Now is eventually Yesterday’s News.

If we enacted even half of our mental patterns—the stuff we do in our heads—out in the real world, we would immediately see a kind of insanity taking place. Here’s one example of what I mean.

Imagine you’ve decided to get a ticket for a highly rated show. You go to considerable lengths to ensure your future experience. You camp out in line for hours, endure freezing weather, and then pay a small fortune for your ticket.

You’ve waited weeks for the big day to arrive, and finally it’s here!

Now, you drive through a snow storm, wait in another long line to get into the event, and endure the occasional rude person before finding your seat. You sit eagerly anticipating a wonderful show, only to discover it’s the worst experience you’ve ever had. Baahhh!

Okay, so you’re hugely disappointed—maybe even a little sad, betrayed, or angry—that THIS PRESENT MOMENT EXPERIENCE is not all that you want it to be. But eventually, not soon enough for you, the show ends. You leave the venue a little older, a little disappointed, but none the worse for wear.

I have a question. Would you—after all of this—eagerly buy a ticket to attend the same event again the next day? I’m imagining your answer is, “Of course not! Why would I go back? That would be almost masochistic!

That’s because no one in their right mind would willingly purchase a ticket to re-experience an unhappy event. And your old ticket will soon wind up in the trash—and out it will go—along with yesterday’s news.

But here’s where it get’s interesting.

Why then, upon leaving the event, do some of us feel immediately compelled to call or text our friends to tell them what a terrible experience we just had? Metaphorically speaking, buying a mental ticket to an unhappy event we only moments ago said we wouldn’t re-purchase a physical ticket to experience again? Clearly, we’re psychically reliving our misery, aren’t we?

And for some of us, for the next few days—maybe even months—we’ll repeatedly re-purchase a ticket by narrating the story of our unhappy experience.

It was the worst night ever! I can’t believe I wasted my time and money! I’ll never go to another show by that group again!

Blame it on GrayBall, The Brain. Our ongoing complaint is GrayBall’s desperate—and totally ineffective—attempt  to make right our past (this should never have happened to me) or defend our future (I’ll never let it happen again).

It fools us into believing that the solution to our unhappiness can be achieved in regurgitating our past—that somehow we can right the wrongs and avoid future failure. So, it takes yesterday’s news and writes today’s, and sometimes next week’s, headline with it.

You see, Brain likes to make up rules that the world should live by. That way it can know what’s going to happen next; it’s a survival thing. Unfortunately, Brain’s version of “how things should be” often conflict with the reality of “how things really are.”

Here’s GrayBall’s logic: “I had a rule for how this was supposed to be. It wasn’t fair that this should have happened to me. Therefore, I need to complain and get people to agree with my point of view. This way I can feel triumphant—as in, I win”—when someone agrees with my self-generated unhappiness. And, I need to reinforce my unhappiness so that I can avoid future unhappiness. After all, if  it happened once, it can happen again; and I wouldn’t like that one bit! Making myself unhappy is my way of reminding myself that I don’t want to be unhappy again.

Poor GrayBall! It can get so confused at times. It believes the only way it can feel “okay,” is to try to correct the past and/or make safe the future.

This is why, when we’ve had a bad experience, GrayBall encourages us to replay it over and over again in our mind. So, we repeat unhappy stories to ourselves and to anyone willing to listen. GrayBall’s reading yesterday’s news as though it were today.

GrayBall’s tricked us into believing that we can make ourselves feel better now and in the future with this crazy strategy. We keep on repurchasing tickets to bad memory shows we would never physically choose to attend again. Because we don’t question this mental habit, we never uncover the truth about how crazy it actually is.

Is this beginning to sound familar? It should. We all do it. We don’t realize we’re buying a mental ticket to unhappiness. By remembering and reciting an unhappy history, we’re reliving it. And GrayBall makes it all too easy to get caught up in our own stories. But nothing changes when you’re reliving it. It’s just the same old, same old—yesterday’s news.

But, take heart. Time doesn’t exist in the way GrayBall would have us believe. It’s simply a strategy that helps us measure the Great Unfolding of Life—in other words, change. There’s no Big Ben in the Universe’s Living Room ticking off the hours. The reality is that we’re carving up the Infinite Is-ness to accommodate our sense of personal history within it.

And—then again—even within our personal history, the past is gone and the future hasn’t happened yet. All we have is Now. And paradoxically, The Now is an eternal constant that is constantly changing. We are in fact on the edge of Creation. This moment—right now—has never in the history of Creation existed before. That is, of course, unless you get caught up in GrayBall’s version of Now, and imagine it’s still  yesterday!

So here’s an interesting perspective shift to consider.

Your What Is will soon become your What Was—a history you can’t change. And once it’s gone, you can only report from it, like yesterday’s news.

Try instead to learn from it. Your past experiences can become an opportunity to make new choices, develop new skills, assume new perspectives, and create new responses. Essentially, you get to rewrite the news of yesterday with a new story line. And that can give you a different kind of history that actually might be worth repeating.

So the next time you find yourself complaining about your past experiences, stop for a moment. Put down that paper and check the date. This moment is the only moment in time there actually is. Otherwise it’s yesterday’s news!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Three Thieves of Happiness

Monday, July 14th, 2014

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-theif-breaking-burglary-security-image23094233Do you want to be happy? It’s a simple question. Or is it?

One of my favorite reads over the last few years has been The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer.

Singer proposes that there is only one fundamental choice to make in life.

“The highest spiritual path is life itself. If you know how to live daily life, it all becomes a liberating experience. But first you have to approach life properly, or it can be very confusing. To begin with, you have to realize that you really only have one choice in this life, and it’s not about your career, whom you want to marry, or whether you want to seek God. People tend to burden themselves with so many choices. But, in the end, you can throw it all away and just make one basic, underlying decision: Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? It’s really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear.”

So what’s your answer to this essential question: Do you want to be happy? Yes or no?

Okay, I’m a great psychic. You answered, yes. Didn’t you?

But did you really? Or did you actually answer the question, “Do you want to be happy, when and if?” Because—for most of us—our answer to the first question is really a qualified yes—as in, yes, as long as certain conditions are met first.

And it’s these qualifications that I’ve come to think of as The Three Thieves of Happiness.

So I’ve put out a BOLO—police lingo for be on the lookout—for these three thieves, along with a way to keep them from breaking into your House of Happiness.

Thief #1 — Wait For It, It Won’t Happen Until

This thief has convinced you that you must wait for your happiness. You can’t be happy until you get that job, meet the partner of your dreams, get in shape, or win the lottery. The idea that your happiness has to wait for some future condition has crept in and stolen the happiness right out from underneath your nose.

Here’s how to keep this thief out of your House of Happiness:

Being content or grateful for what you have now is the best defense against this thief.  Even if you want something in your life to change, you can be happy while waiting for it.

Start by seeing the opportunity in your present condition. What you’re presently experiencing is a necessary part of the journey toward realizing your future dream. You can’t get there unless you travel the only road currently available to you.

It might be a little bumpy but it’s going to get you there, nevertheless. Even if you’re at the 50 mile marker on a 100 mile road, you’re on it. And once you arrive, your future dream will be there at the end of it. Just keep moving, and be grateful for the journey. If you haven’t arrived, yet, that doesn’t mean that you have to be unhappy the entire way there. You can choose to be happy. Say only, yes!

Thief # 2 — Only If and When

You’re holding out for a better world—The World According to Me. I’ll be happy only if and when my husband remembers flowers on our anniversary, the kids listen, drivers are courteous, and the current world politics are to my liking. You’re holding out for the world to conform with your rules—your personal preferences, opinions, and judgments.

This thief is the incessant and ludicrous idea that the world and all the people in it must meet all of your expectations of how things should be. You set yourself up with conditions which must be met before you’ll allow yourself to choose happiness. You’re using  your misery to prove a point.

Here’s how to keep this thief out of your House of Happiness:

It’s simple: Stop expecting life to unfold according to your set of shoulds. Anytime you’re unhappy, it’s because you have an expectation of life that it doesn’t have of itself. Saying something shouldn’t be the way it is, won’t change that it IS. Whether you like it or not, it is what it is. You’re being unhappy in an unhappy world doesn’t make it any less unhappy. To quote Dr. Switzer (a.k.a, my favorite comedian, Bob Newhart) , “STOP IT!” You can choose to be happy instead. Say only, yes!

Thief # 3 — The World’s Deadliest Belief (TWDB)

You unconsciously believe: “Other people, events and circumstances are the cause of how I think, feel and behave.”

If ever there was a Master Thief, this one has got to be it!

It doesn’t just steal from your House of Happiness, it pulls it up and takes it away—foundation and all. You can never go home again!

In giving your truth to TWDB, you give it permission to single-handedly steal your sense of control over the responses you have in life. Instead of consciously responding to life, you find yourself in a constant state of knee jerk reactions. This thief doesn’t need to steal your house, because you’re giving it away.

Here’s how to keep this thief from taking your House of Happiness:

Decide for yourself that no one and nothing has the power to make you think, feel or do anything, without your express permission. I finally got this one when a question rebounded in my brain, “who’s the jerk in knee-jerk?” And it was me.

I get that you might not like what’s happening or what other people say and do, but that’s not the cause of your unhappiness. It’s your interpretation—the meaning you’re making up about what it means about you or for you— that’s got your knickers in a twist. Find out what’s missing in your perspective or beliefs that—if you had it—would eliminate your upset.

Work on creating a solution out of the answer to that question and live from it and through it.

Be a chooser, not a loser. There’s no gain in giving away “your house.” Choose to make it burglar proof.

In short, make enduring happiness more important than any circumstance, event or anyone’s opinion and your life suddenly becomes unflaggingly happy.

The Three Thieves might not be happy, but you sure will!

 

 

 

 

The Best Balancing Act – Rest!

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-yellow-bicycle-image5523936Balance. For most of us it’s the illusive butterfly of life. We chase after it daily, never quite managing to catch up with it.

It’s a sign of the times we live in. With the 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, let alone 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 steadily along—the journey through our busy schedule 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 yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GrayBall, The Brain – a/k/a “The World’s Worst Terrorist”

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

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.

 

An Inspiring New Book and an Unbelievable Offer

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

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.”

To learn more about the book and get your own copy (plus almost $2,000 of free trauma support gifts), visit http://www.beforetheworldintruded.com between now and May 2nd.

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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Overwhelmed and Stressed

Monday, November 14th, 2011

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!

Why Losing Makes for Winners

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Okay, I’ll admit it.  When I was younger, I wouldn’t have believed it either.

After all, most of us grow up with the idea that winning is everything and losing is for . . . well . . .  Losers.

Is it any wonder then why we balk at the thought of accepting rejection as an integral part of our lives?

That sooner or later into every life a little rejection is bound to fall?

In fact, one could go so far as to say we downright reject rejection.  It certainly shouldn’t happen to us – but to the ‘other guy.’

And when it does?

It’s often met with a mixture of despair and fault finding.

This fault finding falls into two general equally crippling categories: it’s not my fault  – or – it’s all my fault, I shoulda, coulda.

The Deck Is Stacked Against Me  or How I Pulled the Unfair Card

An ego is a fragile thing and we (and the people who love us) are prone to defending it at all costs.  There’s a particular brand of fault finding we use to make failure and rejection less odious: the unfair card.

How many times, in the face of failure,  have you consoled yourself (or a friend) with the soothing balm of  “unfair and unjust” rewards.

As in: the reason they or you lost out was because someone else simply wasn’t smart enough to see your brilliance.  You are being treated unjustly, punitively or unfairly.   A/K/A: “I am an American Idol and someday you jealous so-and-sos are going to be sorry you didn’t give me a chance.”

Or as in, the odds were completely stacked against me and the game was rigged.  A/K/A: “It was political or nepotism or they wanted someone younger/older/taller/or with a different degree – and just what the heck could I have done about that?”

Then again it could be a series of  life circumstances that unfairly brought you down.  A/K/A: I was sick the day before, I didn’t have enough time, and  the planets weren’t aligned correctly.

I Shoulda, Coulda

But perhaps worst of all is when fault finding comes home to roost.  We believe failure and rejection have occurred because of our own inadequacies.

We have a chronic case of the “if-onlys.” A/K/A: “I shoulda, coulda . . . taken better care of my self, started my degree earlier, or consulted an astrologer.

We lament to ourselves and anyone willing to listen, :”if only, I had or if only I hadn’t” proclamations of guilt and remorse.  Which is generally met with the aforementioned balm of “unfair and unjust” rewards.

Not Unless I Know I Can Win

Is it any wonder then that we sometimes refuse to play if we might not win?

Or why when we do and don’t emerge a winner, we tell ourselves that we just weren’t good enough?

Irrefutable Proof

The good news for us?  All of  this flies in the face of what is statistically rational and irrefutable proof to the contrary.

This past April, Harvard – one of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning – held an open panel discussion entitled, “Reflections on Rejections: An Exploration of Resilience in the Face of Failure.’’ Intended to highlight the importance of mistakes, failures and rejection: the esteemed panel recounted their own and others setbacks in relation to the importance of their own personal and professional growth.

A humorous highlight of the conference was Professor of Statistics Xiao-Li Meng’s  intriguing 2 page Theorem entitled A (Hopefully) Well Accepted Statistical Theory of Rejection.

His Grand Theorem of Rejection?  “Statistically, you are rejected, and probabilistically, it is fair.”

In a nutshell, rejecting rejection might just make you the bigger loser than accepting the fact that in order to win you’re necessarily going to have to lose at something on your way to success.

You can download a PDF of Meng’s Theorem in it’s entirety here.