Tag Archives: change your thoughts

How to Use The Power of Focus To Improve Your Life

focus, how to focus, focus on the positive

Focus is a powerful thing. When used correctly, it has the potential to help us get our life back in balance and have more objective perspectives of what is going on in our lives, which in turn allows us to take a step back and make better and more informed decisions.  When used incorrectly, however, focus has the potential to cause us to feel utterly out of balance and become subjective, which in turn causes us to make rushed, uneducated decisions or poor choices that we may later regret, not to mention causing us added stress and anxiety about what may be going on.

Let me give you an example:

Take a moment to quickly evaluate your life as a whole and rate your current situation using a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 means you are at your ideal, exactly where you want to be, and 1 means there is MUCH room for improvement.  Now fold a piece of paper in half, and on one half of it make a list of the good or positive things in your life as it is right now and on the other half make a list of what you consider bad or negative things that you would like to change or improve on.

Let’s say rated your current situation a 4.  On one side of the paper you would list what’s good about your life right now; these are the things that helped you to rate your situation at this number. You could add things like:

I have a home
I have a job
I am healthy
I have a family that loves me
I do make some money
I can pay most of my bills on time
etc…

On the other side of the paper you would list the bad or negative things currently going on in your life.  These are the things which, when changed or improved, would help you to rate your life a 9 or a 10. You could add things such as:

My relationship with (…) sucks
I have no savings in the bank
I am fat
My car is old and broken
I don’t have money to vacation
etc…

So, in this example, the positive side is a 4 (because that’s what you rated your current situation) and the negative side is a 6 (the difference in the 1-10 scale).  Now take a look at your paper with your lists side by side and read them again. How does it make you feel?  Do you still believe you rated your life accurately? If you did this exercise honestly, you’ll probably realize that your initial rating was lower than it should have been.  I’m also willing to bet that as you were doing the exercise you had an easier time coming up with things to write on the “negative” side of the paper than on the “positive” side.  This is because on a day-to-day basis we’re generally mostly thinking about what is lacking in our lives rather than on the blessings that we already have.  Our focus is mostly on what is missing, what is wrong, what is broken, what needs to be improved.

Imagine that your life is graphed on a line like this one. We’ll place an x on it to indicate your rating:

Balance1

Now we’ll turn this into a scale or a balance by adding a support under it like this:

Which way is the scale currently going to tilt? It’s pretty obvious, right? It will tilt towards the “bad” side like this:

But now we’ll add something to our diagram; we’ll add focus which, for the purpose of this illustration weighs a full 10.  If we add it to the “bad” side of the scale, we’re stuck. In spite of the good things that are going on in our lives, we’ll continue to feel like nothing is working, like everything is bad, like this is a hopeless situation, because our focus is on what’s wrong, missing, or broken in our lives.  When this happens, we may enter a state of despair, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, sorrow, etc., and we miss out on appreciating and enjoying the blessings that we do have.

But what would happen if we shifted that focus and placed it on the “good” side of the scale? What will happen is that even with the rating remaining at 4 we will have managed to tilt the scale in favor of what’s good in our lives, and here’s where we can truly shift our perspective.

Here’s where we can truly see and accept that, while there is plenty of room for improvement, our life is already good. Here’s where appreciation and gratitude can truly take place, because our focus is now on our blessings, on what is working and what is positive in our lives. We’re not denying that there is room for improvement; we’re simply focusing our attention on what is already working because that is what’s going to help us get even better so that our diagram looks like this:

What we focus on expands

What we focus on expands, and what we resist persists. Focusing our attention on what is “bad” in our lives and resisting it or fighting it will only cause it to increase and persist.  It’s like trying to get out of a hole by digging the hole deeper.  This is not an efficient way of going about improving our situation. A more efficient and effective way would be to focus on what is already working and then figuring out how we can do more of it or expand it to other areas of our lives.

I picked a very low rating as an example to demonstrate that even with such a low rating we can shift our focus and gain a better perspective.  No matter how bad we think our life situation is, there is definitely much good going on already and there are definitely many things that are working. So I invite you to add the weight and power of focus to all the good that is already going on in your life and see how much better you’ll instantly feel as a result of it. You will not regret it.

To your success!

JC.

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The Negative Side Of Positive Affirmations

positive affirmations, stay positive, remain positive

Positive affirmations can definitely be beneficial; they can assist us in feeling better, especially when we’re feeling down and in the dumps.  However, they also have the potential to pose a great danger to anyone working to manifest their desires; my goal in this article is to explain what this danger is and how we can avoid it so that it doesn’t get in the way of our manifestations.

This great danger is that positive affirmations, if not used carefully, will tend to disconnect us from our real emotions and launch us into a game of pretend that will ultimately be counterproductive to our manifestation efforts.  If you’ve read Greg’s book “Grow a Greater You,” you know that our emotions are a key element in playing the manifestation game successfully.  But as Greg states, the emotions in and of themselves are not enough; we must be completely connected to them. We must feel them and own them without masking them with other positive emotions, or pretending that they are not there.

Simply using positive affirmations when we’re feeling a negative emotion is like driving a car when the fuel gauge is pointing to “empty” and slapping a happy face sticker over the gauge to avoid seeing it.  While the happy face sticker will in fact prevent us from seeing the fuel gauge registering “empty” and will probably distract us little because we’re not looking at it, it’s not likely that we’ll make it to our destination because our car will eventually run out of gas.  We’ve only masked the situation; we haven’t really changed it.

According to Greg, it is during the times that we experience negative emotions that we have the greatest power and greatest opportunity to grow a greater version of us; this is where we can experience real growth, rather than pretending that we’ve grown.  And we do it by acknowledging and owning our emotions while at the same time telling the best feeling believable story that we can tell at the time.

The problem with just using positive affirmations is that every time we use them we become a little more disconnected from our emotions, and therefore we lose some of our power to grow, and we miss out on taking advantage of the growth opportunity that these situations present to us.

Generally, positive affirmations do help us to feel good in the moment, and that’s probably the reason why we keep using them.  However, positive thinking gurus commonly suggest an unrealistic way of using positive affirmations. Let’s take weight loss as an example.  Let’s say that we’re doing everything we can to lose the extra 20, 30, 50 lbs. We’re eating healthier and we’re moving more.  However, as it is often the case when we’re trying to lose weight, we may tend to dislike what we see when we look in the mirror, or get upset because we can’t fit into our clothes, or become disappointed if we find ourselves out of breath when going up a flight of stairs.

At this point, the positive thinking gurus recommend using affirmations such as “I have my ideal weight!” as a way to move away from the negative emotions and the negative thinking patterns.  They recommend saying this affirmation (or others like it) over and over dozens of times, in front of the mirror if possible, visualizing ourselves at our ideal weight and incorporating our emotions by feeling the feelings of being at our ideal weight.

The problem for some people – and I’ve experienced this myself – is that, while we may be able to make ourselves feel better in the moment, our subconscious has not accepted that statement as being true.  As I understand it, our subconscious says to us something like this:

“OK, I can see that you feel badly about your weight and you’re attempting to use this affirmation to change your situation. However, this affirmation goes completely against the belief you asked me to store in here for you as your truth, so I can’t let this one through.  There are tons of evidence to support your truth (your existing belief) that you do not have your ideal weight, and this evidence contradicts your current statement (affirmation).  However, your feeling better is our common goal, therefore I’ll allow you to feel better now while you repeat that affirmation to yourself; but know that I’m protecting your existing belief and I’ll soon bring it up again and point out the supporting evidence to you so that you don’t feel like you’re going crazy.”

Do you see what’s happened?  We have simply masked the situation with a story that was “too good to be true” so that we could make ourselves feel better in the moment. In other words, we’ve slapped a happy face sticker over the fuel gauge in our attempt to not look at the warning that our car is running on “E” but we haven’t really dealt with the real issue.

So what should we do instead?

The first thing we need to do is understand that emotions, no matter how negative they are or feel, are not bad.  Emotions are nothing more than a feedback mechanism to alert us of how aligned or misaligned our current beliefs are with our desires.  In other words, if my desire is to have my ideal body weight but my underlying beliefs regarding my weight are “I can’t have it; it’s very difficult if not impossible; I’ll never look good; everything I eat makes me fat; I don’t deserve to be thin or to look good; other people can but I can’t; if I so much as look at food I get fat”… or any variation of these beliefs, I will experience negative emotions in relation to my weight.  But as I said, this is not a bad thing. These emotions are my feedback mechanism telling me that it is time to upgrade my underlying beliefs!  Without this mechanism in place, how on earth would we know that there is an issue with our beliefs and that they need to be upgraded? We just wouldn’t know! Isn’t this a wonderful mechanism?  Isn’t this something to be grateful for? Sure it is!

It seems obvious then that our primary goal should not be to just make ourselves feel better in the moment, but to tackle the underlying limiting beliefs and upgrade them. And while many positive thinking gurus tell us that that is exactly what affirmations are supposed to do, the truth is that rarely do these limiting beliefs get upgraded by the use of positive affirmations alone; additionally, we have to remember that we run the risk of masking our beliefs and disconnecting from our true emotions, which in the long run will prove counterproductive to our growth efforts.

Another thing to remember is that the successful upgrading of our beliefs – as explained by Greg – takes place gradually.  So we have to be wise on the approach that we use to make sure that we don’t end up against a wall as in the example I gave above.

So how do we do it?

In a previous post I talked about my experience with positive affirmations and explained that the reason they don’t seem to work sometimes is because the jump we’re trying to make from where we are emotionally to where we want to be is just too great (read the full post here). Without knowing it, I had stumbled upon one of the key elements of Greg’s approach to upgrading our beliefs, and that is our gradual movement up the emotional scale; and the way we do that is by making statements owning our current emotions, and appending to these statements the best feeling believable story that we can muster up at the time.  I’ll repeat this because this is important:  we have to make statements where we own our current emotions and also add to these statements the best feeling believable story we can muster up at the moment.  Notice I did not say “add a good story,” because the best feeling believable story may not necessarily sound good.

As I mentioned in the post I referenced earlier, a better feeling believable story may cause us to move from depression to anger in the emotional scale. I’m sure we can all agree that anger is not necessarily a good emotion, but we can also agree that it is definitely a better emotion than depression.  So the statements that we make owning our current emotional state must include statements that help us to move up the emotional state gradually.  Sometimes this process may take a day or two, and sometimes it may take longer.  But however long it takes, we must be aware of our improved current emotional state and revise our statements to tell the best feeling believable story from our new vintage point. As we do this we’re going to the root of the issue (our beliefs) and making the necessary changes there.  Will we still feel good in the moment? Maybe, maybe not; but we will definitely feel better because 1. We’re owning our current emotions rather than denying them; and 2. We’re upgrading our emotions gradually so that slowly but surely we will be moving up the emotional scale.

I was of the mentality that as soon as I became aware of negative emotions I was supposed to do everything in my power to change them, since negative emotions would interfere with manifesting my desires.  Feeling any negative emotion sucks; it’s painful, and we don’t want to experience that pain.  I would therefore do what I had learned was the best thing to do in these cases: reach for my positive affirmations and repeat them over and over again in order to not feel that pain, but not realizing that all I was really doing was denying my true feelings and doing myself more harm than good.  Why? Because as a result of all the masking and denying, I’ve now had more difficulty connecting with my true emotions, which as I have already stated are the primary mechanism that alerts us when our beliefs need to be upgraded.  In other words, I’ve had to work extra hard to be able to identify my limiting beliefs.

I hope this revelation is as helpful to you as it has been for me.  If you have any input on this subject, or any questions or comments you would like to share, please do so in the comment box below, or email me directly at jc@effect180.com.

To your success!

JC

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Is Your Mind in a Constant State Of Emergency?

negative thinking, worry, fear, disaster, pain

In a previous post I mentioned that in my journey of self-discovery and self-improvement I came across the book Thoughts and Feelings by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning.  I learned a lot from this book, especially in the area of automatic thoughts and negative thinking patterns.  One of the negative thinking patterns that truly resonated with me was what the authors called “Catastrophizing,” which basically means turning any seemingly negative situation, no matter how small, into a major catastrophe in our minds.  For instance, not getting the job after an interview may mean that we will never find a job. When failing to make a sale, the salesman may conclude that he’s a failure.

People who catastrophize tend to use phrases that start with “What if…” and what follows these words is usually something negative and of an apocalyptic magnitude.  Here are some examples of everyday scenarios and some of the thoughts that may surface for a person who tends to catastrophize:

[While going for a night out] What if my house gets burglarized while I’m out?
[While driving on the freeway] What if I one of my tires blow up while I’m driving?
[When about to give a presentation] What if the entire audience hates me?
[When going into a tall building] What if there’s an earthquake while I’m in the building?
[When experiencing a headache] What if I have a brain tumor?
[Regarding our kids] What if my son starts using drugs?
[When watching a movie at the theater] What if there is a fire?
[When taking a flight] What if the plane malfunctions and crashes?
[When hearing of a couple who got divorced] What if it happens to me?
And the list goes on and on.

Now I’m sure many of us have experienced some form of automatic negative thoughts along these lines at some point or another, especially when something negative happened recently that may be related to the situation in which we are.  For instance, if we’re watching a movie at the theater and we suddenly recall that we heard in the news about a recent fire at a movie theater and recall hearing that there were many victims, the thought that it could happen to us may suddenly take a hold of us and cause a wave of panic to sweep over us.

This is normal and can usually go away with a bit of rationalizing; a person who does not tend to catastrophize will usually ask him or herself, “What are the odds that it could happen to me?” and this is usually enough to stop the negative thinking pattern and be able to enjoy the movie.

However, for a person who tends catastrophize it’s not as simple.  One catastrophic thought leads to another, the images in their minds become more and more vivid, and pretty soon they find themselves almost feeling as if the situation is already happening to them.  At this point it becomes practically impossible for them to enjoy the movie, and they may end up choosing to leave the theater because the uncomfortable feelings are just too strong to ignore.  As you can imagine, the level of stress and mental anguish that a person experiences as a result of these negative thinking patterns are very high.

So how can we deal with this?

Catastrophizing is a mental habit, and as such, the more we do it the stronger the habit becomes.  So the first thing we need to do is become aware of when we’re doing it.  This awareness will also be a tool in helping us stop the negative thinking pattern.

We also need to develop a plan action in advance.  If we know that we tend to catastrophize, we need to select a few techniques that we can use once we become aware of the negative thinking pattern.  Once technique I found extremely useful was asking myself the same question I was already asking (“What if …”) but in a positive way instead.  For instance, if my catastrophizing thought was, “What if my marriage fails?” I would switch it to, “What if my wife and I find a way to reconcile? What if everything turns out ok? What if everything is better tomorrow?” or something along those lines.  I would make it a point to replace every catastrophizing thought with 3-5 better feeling thoughts, and this usually did the trick.  Not only would I save myself unnecessary mental and physical stress, but I would also free my mind to consider better possibilities and see opportunities to improve my situation.

I used multiple positive “what if” questions in order to re-train or re-condition my mind to take this route instead of the one it was used to taking.  Remember, catastrophizing is a mental habit and like any other habit, the best way to get rid of it (in fact, some argue it’s the only way to get rid of it) is to replace it with another habit that serves us better. And just like anything else, the more we do it the stronger the new habit will become and the weaker the old habit will be.

The key here is to use better feeling thoughts that are believable to us, as opposed to positive but unrealistic thoughts that we don’t believe.  If I said to myself “Everything will be wonderful tomorrow!” not only would I be deluding myself but my mind would not accept it, and I would experience a different kind of stress caused by the conflict between my current reality and what I’m trying to make myself believe.

The magic of “What if” is that we open ourselves up to the possibility of something positive happening; we’re not forcing it and we’re not pretending it, we’re simply acknowledging the possibility of it.  Shifting our attention from the catastrophic thought to the possibility of something positive happening has the ability to help us feel more peaceful and at ease almost instantly.

Another good technique to use in conjunction with the “What if” technique is the rubber band method I shared with you in a previous post.  Wearing a rubber band around our wrist and snapping it lightly when we catch ourselves in the middle of a negative thought pattern can help snap us out of it, and then we can switch to using the “what if” technique described above to ease ourselves into better feeling thoughts.

Negative thinking patterns can be replaced with positive ones, but it takes patience, dedication and persistence.  If you find that you experience this negative pattern of catastrophizing, give this a try and let me know how it works for you.  Or if you have any other techniques that have worked for you, please feel free to share them in the comments box below.  I’d love to hear from you!

To your success!

JC

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Revealed! The Real Reason You’re Not Reaching Your Goals And What You Can Do About It

In a previous post I mentioned that I recently came across the works of Greg Kuhn, author of the “Why Quantum Physicists” series while looking for the missing piece of the manifestation puzzle.  As I continue to read his material I am getting a broader understanding of why using “the old approach” of causality (cause and effect) does not work for most people, which helps to explain why many people fail to manifest their goals, be they to lose weight, make more money, improve their relationships, get healthier, etc.

Have you ever bought into an advertisement for weight loss program or product that promised to help you lose all that excess fat in a relatively short period of time?  What about an advertisement or offer for a money-making program that promised to make you rich?  A pill or drug that promised to make you healthier?  We’re constantly being bombarded with ads that promise us a better life in one aspect or another, and we’re constantly buying into them.

Every single product that we buy, we buy it because we want to believe what the ads say. We want to believe that this pill will help us burn fat, that this exercise program will help us shed pounds, that this investment will help us make more money, that this cream will reverse aging and keep our skin looking young, that this hair product will give us shinier hair.  We hear the promise that it will deliver the results we want, and we hear testimonies of people for whom it has worked.  So we buy into it, and hope that it will deliver the same results for us.

We start the program/ regime / treatment usually hopeful and many times skeptical.  “I’ll give it a try,” – we say – “maybe this is the one.” Only to discover that in spite of all the hype about it and all the people for whom it seemed to work, it did not work for us. Then we conclude that either the makers of the product were lying or probably paid people to say that it works, or something must be wrong with us and that’s the reason it didn’t work for us.

But according to Greg, the problem is not in the product itself or in the makers of the product.  The problem is in our perception, and it is the context that we assign to the product or program that makes all the difference in the world.  The issue is that we have failed to believe that the product or program will actually work for us.  We wanted to believe it, but we failed to believe it, and as a result it did not work.

I was very skeptical of Greg’s explanation at first, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made.  I started looking back at all the things I had tried in the past, all the products and programs which I bought into, and analyzed my mental state at the time when I purchased them.  Some of these products or programs worked for me, and some of them didn’t, so my goal was to identify the difference in my mental state between the two groups.

To my surprise I discovered that the products I purchased with the intent of “giving it a try” did not work for me at all, while those that I was convinced would work for me did!  At the same time, I searched my memory archives for people who had not been successful using a product that had worked for me, and sure enough I recall them saying that they were going to “give it a go and see what happens.”  Subsequently, the product failed to deliver the desired results for them, even though it had worked for me.

What does this all mean?  The way I see it, it means that it really isn’t about the products or programs or ideas or plans or methods we use to reach our goals or accomplish anything. Rather, it is about our beliefs surrounding those things that will determine whether they will work for us or not.  In other words, all of these products, programs, plans, methods, have a placebo effect on us, and they will work for us only if we truly believe they will work.

This was a game changer for me.  This meant that I was going about it all wrong and that there was some internal work I needed to do prior to deciding whether I was going to buy into the next thing, whatever it was.  In a future post I will share with you what this work is, and how I’m going about it. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, do you have any comments or input you would like to share?  Please drop me a line in the comments box below or email me directly at jc@effect180.com.  I’d love to hear from you!

To your success!

JC

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How to Determine If You Should Keep Holding On To Your “Shoulds”

Not very long ago I felt very disappointed in myself.  There were several things that I knew I should be doing but wasn’t doing them, and this made me feel like a hopeless failure.  I had been carrying around those “shoulds” for several years and every time I thought about them I felt an immense amount of guilt and shame for not being strong enough, and for not using my will power to force myself to do the things I knew I should be doing.

I later learned that these “shoulds” are very damaging to our sense of self-worth because they make us feel incompetent and less-than; they give us the impression that we are wrong or that we are doing something wrong. They weigh us down just as if we were carrying actual weights tied around our neck and shoulders, and cause us to look down on ourselves and blame our lack of discipline or will-power.

One day I came across the book “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay. In one of the chapters Louise mentions an approach that she uses in her sessions with some of her clients.  This approach involves taking a close look at those “shoulds” we have carried around on our shoulders for years, and really assessing whether they should remain with us or be discarded once and for all.

Louise’s approach works as follows:

  1. Fold a piece of writing paper in half. On the first half make a list of all the “shoulds” that come to mind. Begin each sentence with “I should [fill in the blank].”  Really take the time to find all those “shoulds” you’ve been carrying around and bring them to the forefront of your mind, and write them down.
  2. On the second half of the paper, write “Why?” as the heading; now, for each “should” that you listed in step 1, write down the reason why you should be doing it. Don’t second guess your answers; simply write whatever first comes to mind.
  3. Now you are going to go down the list of your “shoulds” one more time, except this time instead of beginning your sentence with “I should [fill in the blank]” you are going to begin each sentence with “If I really wanted to, I could [fill in the blank].” Notice that this puts a whole new light on the matter.  See if you experience any difference in the way you feel when you state your “shoulds” as “coulds” instead. After each of these statements ask yourself this question. “Why haven’t I?” And answer it honestly.

This exercise was very revealing to me.  It allowed me to clearly see that many of the things that I was beating myself up for all those years weren’t even my idea to begin with. These were ideas that were put there by other people in my life who thought that I “should” do them.  And many of these I didn’t even really want to do!  I remembered how inferior I felt when a member of my family said I should “be smart like so and so who is younger than you and already bought a house.”  What a load of baloney! Anything that fell in this category I discarded immediately, and oh what a relief that was!

As Louise explains,

There are so many people who try to force themselves for years into a career they don’t even like only because their parents said they “should” become a dentist or a teacher.

If you have been carrying around a bunch of “shoulds” that have caused you to develop guilt, shame or low self-esteem, I encourage you to give Louise’s approach a try.  If you find out that these “shoulds” shouldn’t be part of your life, don’t carry them around any longer! Write them down on a separate piece of paper, ball it up and burn it. You’ll feel tremendous amount of relief once you let them go.  If you can’t get rid of a “should” for whatever reason (be sure it’s a valid one), then at least see if you can reframe it in a way that does not cause you to feel any negative feeling when you think of it. You’ll love yourself more in the process.

Do you have any input on the subject that you would like to share?  Drop me a line in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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Shattering the Illusion of Control

Holding a Crystal Ball

Before I began my self-improvement journey I used to think that I was in charge.  I used to believe that it was my job to be in control of making sure that my family was safe, that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table, and that the money I made was enough to take care of all our needs.  Boy was I mistaken!

I was the head of the household and the only person in my family getting paid for my work, so that did sort of place some responsibility on my shoulders.  Notice I did not say that I was the only person working; that would not have been true, because my wife did work and more so than me, she just didn’t get paid for it.  My job at least ended when I left the office, and I usually had nights and weekends free.  Her job as a mother and homemaker, however, didn’t allow for such privileges. She literally worked around the clock.

Back in those days I was confusing responsibility with outcome, and in my mind there seemed to be no distinction between the two, especially when it came to providing for my family.  You see, I believed that if I was not able to provide for my family, if I wasn’t able to take care of our needs, that would mean that I was a failure.

Back in those days I had a job that paid okay; not good but okay. Back then not only did I believe that this was probably the best I could do with my knowledge and experience, I also believed that there was no other job out there that would provide the flexibility I needed to be able to take care of my family.  The job provided a certain level of safety for me and my family, so even though I knew I wasn’t getting paid very well, I felt it necessary for me to stay in that job in order to remain in control of my family situation.

I also believed that I had to watch our expenses like a hawk in order to make sure we had enough money for rent, food, and other necessities, so I would often worry and stress greatly about our finances. Even when there was enough money to cover our need, I used to worry that we would overspend or that something would happen that would put us in the negative; after all, we were barely making it every month.  So I had to be vigilant and watchful of our expenses in order to remain in control of our finances.

These were just two of the many ways I worried and stressed for many years (and caused those around me to worry and stress) because I believed that I had control, and that it was my job to have control.  Once I began my self-improvement journey, however, I soon discovered that much of my worry and stress and my excessive need to have control was founded in fear.  Fear of becoming a failure; fear of not having enough; fear of not being enough.

My mentality was, “It is my job to ensure that my family is safe.”  But I could never be with them 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week.  I was at work or otherwise occupied in some task for many hours, and not with them, not watching over them, not protecting them, so who was in control during that time? Not me.

My mentality was, “It is my job to ensure that our needs are provided for, because if I don’t do it, who will?” But my health and my life were not guaranteed; I could have easily dropped dead or fallen ill at any point in time; who would have provided for our needs then? Who would have been in control then? Not me.

With a little analysis, my illusion of control was equally shattered in all other areas of my life in which I believed I had control.  I realized then that I wasn’t in control, and that the control I seemed to have was no more than an illusion created by me and the expectations I imposed on myself.  The reality was that my only job was to ensure that I did my best, and then the outcome would be taken care of just as it always was. My responsibility is not, and has never been, the outcome. My responsibility has always and only been my effort.  And this effort was not limited to me working hard at my job, but it included making sure that I changed and improved my thought patterns to allow me to see the resources and opportunities readily available to me.

When I realized this I felt tremendous relief.  It was like having a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. The effects were almost instant. I began to see and explore other possibilities that I didn’t even know existed.  I began to see life in a new light and to believe that better things were possible. My attitude and demeanor improved greatly and so did my health because I no longer carried the burden of results on my shoulders. I realized then that I no longer had to fear being enough, because my being enough was never measured by any external circumstance. In fact, being enough was a state that nothing or no one could take away.

Yes, I did get a better job, and not just one that paid better, but one that actually provided greater flexibility and better benefits for me and my family.  I now make it a point to share this with whoever will listen.  Whenever I hear someone speak of their worries it reminds me of the way I used to think back then. So I try to help them realize that they are enough just as they are, and that their only job is to focus on themselves putting their best effort forward. I encourage them to let go of the illusion and see and embrace the reality and the truth, because in the end, the truth will set them free.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Drop me a line in the comment box.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How To Find Out If Your Decoder Glasses Are Serving You Or Holding You Back

I love board games. They are an excellent way to spend time with family and friends while having a lot of fun.  But did you know that one board game in particular can help you improve your life almost instantly?  It did for me, and I’m about to share with you how it did that.

I’m talking about the game “Password.” Did you ever play it? It’s a fun game from the ’60s or ’70s in which the players try to guess a “secret” word based on minimal clues given by their opponents or by someone from their team.  The secret word is printed on a special card and is “encoded” by red and white squiggles that make the word appear invisible to the naked eye; however, when looked at through the special decoder glasses that are included in the game, the word is “magically” revealed.

After writing my post yesterday about the principle which states that we tend to experience more of what we focus on,  I suddenly realized the striking similarities between this board game and the game of life; our life.

Have you ever met or been around a person whose very aura feels negative to you? Someone who is constantly complaining or whining about how bad things are in his or her life?  People like these are generally unpleasant to be around because their attitude about life just seems to bring us down.

On the other hand, have you been around people who are the complete opposite?  These are people whose very presence just seems to brighten our day and make us feel better.  People in this category seem energetic and full of life and their attitude about life is always positive and uplifting.  You can’t help but smile in their presence.

What is the difference between these two types of people?  Some may claim that this was probably due to the conditions of their upbringing or how they were raised.  But that’s unlikely.  If the difference were due to their upbringing, siblings who were brought up in the same household would all have similar attitudes towards life and therefore similar auras; yet I know of several examples of such siblings who have grown up to have totally different attitudes and auras. A classic metaphor used to illustrate this phenomena is one about two siblings who were raised in the same household, yet one grew up to be a successful businessman while the other grew up to be a drunk bum.

When the drunk bum was asked about the reason behind his failure, he stated, “I come from a broken home and had a terrible childhood; as a result, my life has been filled with one misfortune after another.  This weakened me and broke my spirit, and that’s why I am where I am today.” When the successful businessman was asked about the reason behind his success, he replied, “I come from a broken home and had a terrible childhood; as a result, my life has been filled with one challenge after another; that made me stronger and more determined to succeed, and that’s why I am where I am today.”

As you can see, the two brothers had the exact same upbringing and were exposed to the same circumstances, yet they both attributed the reason behind their success or failure to the same thing.  What does this reveal to us?  To me, this story reveals that our individual life experiences are never based on our conditions or circumstances, but rather on the attitude towards them and the meaning that we assign to them.

You see, I believe that we all walk through life wearing permanent invisible decoder glasses just like the ones that are used in the board game, and all the experiences we encounter in our lifetime are those that we pick up or are able to read based on the lens that our glasses have.  This lens acts as a filter, and out of everything that life has to offer, we are only able to pick up or attract those experiences which match our filter.  That’s where our attention will be focused, and that is all that we’ll see.

I find this to be fascinating, because it means that at any given moment we have the power to change our life experience and remove what we don’t want to see simply by changing the lens in our decoder glasses, therefore shifting our focus to what we do want to see.

This is great news, because it means that while I may not have control over everything that happens in the world, I do have control over what I see and how I see it, and what I do with the information I receive.  Read again the metaphor of the two brothers and see if what I stated makes sense in their case.  The two brothers were exposed to the same situation and circumstances, but one of them was wearing decoder glasses that allowed him to see his life experiences as negative, and all he ever saw was the misfortunes that plagued his life, and eventually led him to ruin.  The other brother was wearing decoder glasses that allowed him to see the same life experiences as challenges that propelled him higher and higher in his path of success; all he saw were the positive qualities that each of those experiences helped him to develop, and which eventually led him to his great success.

The thing I’d like you to take away from today’s post is this: that which you consider good and that which you consider bad are both readily available to you everywhere.  There is an abundance of both types of experiences all around you. What you actually see and what you end up incorporating into your life experience will depend on the filter that you choose to look at the world with. You have that decision each and every day, every second of your life.

So I will close today by inviting you to analyze the lens of your decoder glasses.  Remember, we all are wearing these glasses, the only difference is the lens or filter that they have.  So I invite you to take some time to really ponder on this and determine if the lens that you’re wearing is serving you or if it’s holding you back from reaching your highest potential.  If you discover that you are wearing a lens that serves you, congratulations! Continue doing what you’re doing.  If not, what are you waiting for? Replace your lens immediately and begin your journey to a better, richer, more rewarding life today.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Drop me a line below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How To Instantly Improve Your Life Using This Simple Yet Effective Technique

One day while sitting at a coffee shop I overheard a conversation between two women who were sitting directly in front of me.  No, I was not eavesdropping, they just happened to be talking in a rather loud voice, and the coffee shop was small so the tables were pushed rather close together.  I heard one of the women say “Every time I make a little bit of money, something bad happens and I end up having to spend it right away.  I just don’t know what to do anymore! I just can’t seem to be able to save any money.  Just the other day we got our yearly bonus at work, and not 2 days later my car broke down and we had to use practically every penny of it on the repairs, which wasn’t much to begin with.”

I zoned out after that.  You see, a while ago I learned that engaging in conversations of a negative nature – complaining, whining, or just talking about everything that’s wrong with the world – has the potential to perpetuate the very situation we’re complaining about by the mere act of giving our attention to them, especially when there is nothing we can do about them.

I found this to be true in my life; I found that the more I complained about something, the more accentuated that something became, and the more of it I experienced!  For instance, I had a habit of dreading traffic. I often told people, “I can’t stand driving, and I especially hate sitting in traffic.”  But that wasn’t entirely true.  I’ve always found driving to be enjoyable, but I often got tense and anxious the moment I saw red tail lights on the road, especially if I was on my way to work or to an appointment.

The problem was that whenever I was on the road I often found myself stuck in traffic, and so slowly but surely the association became lodged in my subconscious: driving = stuck on traffic = ugh! I often complained to people at work about how bad traffic was in the morning. If I was meeting up with friends or colleagues I complained to them about how bad traffic was on my way there.  This habit became so engrained in me that my first thought when getting in the car usually was, “I hope there is no traffic.”  So what do you think I often encountered? You guessed it! Traffic, and plenty of it!

So when I learned that giving my attention to something tends to accentuate it in my experience, I decided to test it out.  I made it a point to not give my attention to this dreaded traffic, and focus instead on something else, something pleasant.  I made it a point to change my thought when getting in the car to something other than traffic.  For instance, I would take a deep breath and think, “What a gorgeous day today is!” Or, “I’ve never seen the sky so blue!” or anything else that was positive or uplifting.  The thought I chose had to be non-traffic related, because if the thought was related to traffic in any way, my focus would still be on traffic! So that would not work.  I also decided that driving was the perfect time to listen to some recorded self-improvement seminars or some uplifting or relaxing music.

Let me tell you. It wasn’t long before I started seeing a marked difference in my driving experience. Slowly I started noticing that I found much less traffic in my commute to wherever I was going, at whatever time of the day.  And even when there was traffic, it seemed to flow faster in whichever lanes I chose.

I then conducted an experiment to see if the opposite was also true; meaning that if I focused on something that I did want to see manifested in my life, would I experience more of it? To my amazement, my experiment brought about similar results. This was to me a clear indicator that the notion that whatever we focus on we’ll tend to see more of was completely accurate.

Since then I made it a point not to give my precious attention to anything I did not want to see manifested in my experience, and focus instead on those things that I did want to see more of; and I’ve had wonderful results.

That day that I was sitting at the coffee shop and overheard that woman complaining about her money situations, my mind suddenly took me back to when I learned about this principle.  She seemed upset and worried, which I understood completely. I had no reason to believe that things weren’t as she described them, so her feelings about her situation were perfectly reasonable.  But it occurred to me that if she were to shift her focus or take on a new perspective on her situation, she would feel much better about it.

You may be wondering, “But what is the use of feeling better about it, if the situation itself remains the same? Aren’t you just lying to yourself or being unrealistic?”  But I would ask you these questions: “What is the use of complaining about it, if the situation itself remains the same? Don’t you feel worse rattling on about how bad your situation is? If there is something you can do about the situation, do it and make it a point to expect the best outcome.  But if there is nothing you can do about it, wouldn’t you rather spare yourself this unnecessary added stress and worry?”

It’s something to think about isn’t it? A simple shift in perspective or refocusing of your attention can turn your attitude 180 degrees and do wonders for you, your health, your beliefs, and your expectations, which ultimately shape your reality.

If I were standing in this woman’s shoes, knowing what I know today I would shift my attention and alter my story by saying this instead:

“I am so grateful that my needs are so anticipated, that the money I will need for whatever situation that comes up is provided to me in advance.  I don’t even have to worry about “what ifs” because I have received an abundance of evidence that my needs will always be provided for. I have plenty of examples to support this truth; for instance, my car broke down just the other day and it required a lot of major repairs, but you know what? Not 2 days prior to that, almost the exact amount of money I was going to need was provided to me via my bonus at work and I did not have to spend a single dime out of pocket. How wonderful is that!”

Don’t you feel better about this woman’s situation just by reading that? Don’t you hear and feel the attitude of gratitude in those words?  Wouldn’t you rather live your life in a state of gratitude, trust and reliance that everything will turn out all right?

I will leave you with a quote that my wife shared with me which encompasses this message perfectly:

If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
~ Mary Engelbreit

Do you have any thoughts on this that you would like to share with me?  Leave me a comment below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How To Give Your Negative Thoughts a Knockout Punch

So far we’ve discussed some eye-opening facts about automatic negative thoughts and learned how they can twist our perception; we’ve also learned about the characteristics of automatic negative thoughts so that we can easily identify them.  It is now time to put into practice some techniques to help us stop these negative thoughts dead on their tracks.

Today I will be talking about a skill I learned from the book “Thoughts and Feelings – Taking Control of Your moods and your life” which the authors call “Thought-Stopping.”  So put on your boxing gloves and prepare to give those negative thoughts a knock-out punch!

Thought-Stopping

Thought stopping involves focusing our attention on the unwanted negative thoughts for a short period of time, then interrupting the train of thought abruptly by vocalizing the command “Stop!” or making a physical move to act as an “interruptor.”  It’s a very similar approach to the one used by Pavlov when conditioning his dogs to salivate upon hearing the ringing of a bell.

I used this method successfully whenever my mind was preoccupied with thoughts of excessive worry.  For instance, I used to stress excessively about our financial situation and whether we were going to make it to my next paycheck.  This caused me to be in a high level of stress and anxiety for most of my waking hours, and any sign of an unforeseen expense, however small, would set me off on a worry tangent.

Here’s how this technique works:

Preparation

  1. Take a piece of writing paper and fold it in half. At the top of the page write “Trigger Situation” as the heading for the first half, and “Negative Thoughts” as heading for the second half.
  2. On the section labeled “Trigger Situation,” briefly describe a scenario that typically causes you stress, worry or anxiety. A single sentence is preferred.  For instance, in my case I would write “Looking at my bank statement.”
  3. On the section labeled “Negative Thoughts” write down the thoughts that generally plague you regarding that situation. In my case I would write “We won’t be able to make it. I can’t believe money is running out so fast.  We won’t have money for groceries or even to put gas in the car, so how will I be able to get to work? If I can’t pay the rent we’ll be evicted and then where will we go?” As you write, allow any feelings or physical sensations to come up and cue in additional negative thoughts associated with this scenario.
  4. Now flip the page over to the blank side, and at the top of the page write “Positive Situation” as the heading for the first half, and “Positive Thoughts” as the heading for the second half.
  5. In the section labeled “Positive Situation” you are going to briefly describe a scenario or topic that you would like to focus on instead of the triggering situation. Again, a single short sentence is preferred.  It could be anything positive from a vacation, an achievement or award, a person you love, or even a pet.  The key here is that whatever you pick must not be related to the triggering situation at all.  You’ll be writing pleasant thoughts about something that brings you peace or pleasure.  In my case I love the beach especially at night because I find it very peaceful and relaxing, so I would write “sitting on the beach on a cool, full moon night.”
  6. Finally, in the section labeled “Positive Thoughts” you are going to write down some thoughts associated with the positive situation you chose. Just as you did with the “Negative Thoughts” write down some brief sentences about the situation that you find pleasurable or peaceful, and allow the positive feelings or sensations to come up and queue in additional thoughts as you write.  In my case I would write something like “I’m sitting barefoot on the beach, and feeling the cool sand between my toes; I feel the cool, refreshing ocean breeze gently brush my face; I close my eyes and I hear the soothing sound of the waves. I take in a deep breath and feel the salty scent of the ocean fill my lungs.”

The process

You are now ready to begin. Keep in mind that this technique requires you to set aside some time for the process, so that you can practice it while you are in a calm and stress-free state of mind.  It cannot be successfully learned while you are in the middle of stressful situations, and as you read through the process you’ll understand why.

When you are ready to begin follow these steps:

  1. Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for at least 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and relax your body completely.
  2. Now look at your paper and read silently the “Triggering Situation” and the “Negative Thoughts” you wrote about. As best as you can, focus on the thoughts and feelings that come up, taking in any sounds, scents, or sights from the scenario you described.
  3. Allow the scenario to become as vivid as possible and sit with it for a while until you feel like you are on an unstoppable train to worryland (or whatever emotion you feel as a result of the negative thought pattern).
  4. Once you’ve reached that obsessive-like state, shout “STOP!” very loudly, and mean it! To accentuate the effect snap your fingers, clap your hands loudly, or stomp your feet once.
  5. Immediately empty your mind of the unpleasant thoughts, flip the page over, and read the positive scenario and related positive thoughts you jotted down. Allow yourself to switch completely to the positive scenario and focus on it as much as possible, taking in all the pleasant sights, sounds, scents, and imagery from the scene; breathe slowly and deeply.  Do this for at least for 30 seconds.
  6. If the negative thoughts or feelings return before the end of the 30 seconds, shout “STOP!” again and focus on your positive scenario and positive thoughts.

Follow the above process until you are successfully able to stop the negative train of thought dead on its tracks when shouting “STOP!”  If you find that the positive scenery you’ve chosen is no longer strong enough to hold your attention, the authors recommend picking a different one.  It is important that the imagery you choose helps you to completely make the switch from the negative train of thought to a positive one.

As you can see, this technique does not involve resisting the negative thoughts; often, trying to resist a negative thought pattern can backfire and end up accentuating it or reinforcing it instead. This technique is about training or conditioning your brain to instantly (and eventually effortlessly) switch the focus to a different, unrelated positive thought pattern.

Advanced thought-stopping

Once you’ve succeeded in interrupting the negative thought pattern and refocusing on a positive one by shouting “STOP!” it is time to begin preparations to bringing this newly acquired skill into the real world.  Don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to yell “STOP!” and clap, stomp or snap your fingers in the middle of your next office meeting or while you’re standing in front of a bank teller making a withdrawal.  Imagine that!

What you’ll be doing is slowly modifying the technique, but you’ll be doing it in stages:

  1. Still in private, begin to interrupt the negative thought pattern by speaking the word “Stop” in a normal voice instead of shouting it.
  2. When you have succeeded in doing this, switch to just whispering “Stop.”
  3. Finally, don’t say anything at all, but instead think the word “Stop!” as if it was being shouted inside your mind. If you have difficulty accomplishing this, wear a loosely fitting rubber band around your wrist, and try thinking the word “Stop!” being shouted in your mind while at the same time snapping the rubber band just enough to feel the snap but not enough to cause you pain.

When you have succeeded in reaching level 3 above, you will be ready to bring this newly acquired skill into the real world without bringing attention to yourself.  The next time you find yourself in a situation that causes you stress, worry or anxiety, and you find your mind being plagued by obsessive negative thoughts, shout “Stop!” in your mind (and snap the rubber band if you need to) to interrupt the train of thought, and switch to your positive imagery.

Final words

Remember that this is a skill and every skill requires practice to master it.  If you’ve struggled with being able to stop or interrupt negative thought patterns, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Be patient with yourself and give yourself time.  It is likely that negative thoughts will return time and time again even after you’ve mastered this or any other thought-stopping technique.  The important thing is to condition your brain to make the switch as early on as possible and to focus on the positive imagery, so that in time the frequency of their occurrence will be greatly reduced.

Have you used this or any other technique to make the stop or replace negative thinking?  Please share with us.

I’d love to hear from you!

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How Negative Thinking Can Twist Your Reality And Ruin Your Life – Part 2

In my last post I talked about automatic negative thoughts being the reason behind our negative emotions, and explained that it is the meaning that we have attached to people, circumstances and events that trigger the automatic negative thinking cycle rather than the people, circumstances and events themselves.

Today we’ll be looking at ways to identify those negative thinking patterns as the first step towards stopping them and ultimately changing them.

Here are some characteristics of automatic negative thoughts to help you identify them.  As you read, try to see if you can relate to any of them:

  • Automatic negative thoughts often express themselves as one or two words which we already associate with some negative meaning, for instance, fear or loneliness. Sometimes they don’t express themselves as words at all, but rather as flashes or brief images, or even as memories of scents, sensations, taste, etc. I my case I experienced this in an intensified manner. The memory of a person who had broken my trust in the past was enough to put me in a bad mood, and that memory could be triggered by the mere mention of the person’s name.  All of a sudden my demeanor would change to the point that it was clearly discernible to those around me that something was bothering me.  This happened because the utterance of single word (the person’s name) triggered a series of automatic negative thoughts associated with that person breaking my trust.
  • Automatic negative thoughts are usually very believable to us; when they occur, we tend to grant them the same validity as the validity we ascribe to things we perceive with our senses such as the color or texture of an object. Basically, we think it therefore it must be true.
  • Automatic negative thoughts often involve words such as should or ought to, which imply a certain level of expectation whether from ourselves or from others. A person may think, “I should clean the house because it’s a mess.” This is a self-imposed expectation which, if not fulfilled, may result in negative emotions such as self-blame or feelings of failure or low self-esteem.  And while it’s true that some “shoulds” are valid, they happen so automatically that we tend to take them at face value without analyzing them or modifying them to fit the situation.
  • Automatic negative thoughts tend to exaggerate (or as the book “Thoughts and Feelings” calls it, “awfulize”) the situation. They tend to predict and expect the worst in everything. And while this may have its function in helping us prepare for worst-case scenarios, we must learn to keep these thoughts in the proper perspective as tools rather than as reality.
  • Automatic negative thoughts vary tremendously from the way we describe our circumstances or events to others. When speaking to others we tent to describe our situations in a cause and effect context; however, our self-talk about the same situation may include words of blame or guilt or detrimental predictions. For instance I could say to someone, “I’m feeling sad because I hurt your feelings.” But internally, my self-talk would be more like, “I’m a terrible person. I can’t believe I did it again.   What kind of a monster am I?”
  • Automatic negative thoughts are generally theme-based, especially in the case of chronic emotions. For instance, chronic anger may be caused by thoughts about deliberate hurtful words or behavior from others, and chronic anxiety may be caused by thoughts of danger or impending doom. I could see now that my chronic anger stemmed from my thoughts about other people looking to intentionally hurt me or take advantage of me in some way.

These are just a few of characteristics to help you identify automatic negative thoughts.  On my next post I will provide some tips on how to go about stopping the cycle before it spins out of control, and we’ll explore some techniques we can implement to change the direction of our thoughts.

Do you have any additional input on this subject that you’d like to share? If so, please do so in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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