Tag Archives: positive thoughts

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 It Really Possible For Me To Change?

One day while having a conversation with my father who was in his late 60’s at the time we got into the subject of bad habits.  He complained about some bad habit he had, and expressed his dislike for it.  I told him that if he really disliked that habit he could always change it, and he could start today just taking baby steps.  His response was, “I’m too old to change. I am an old man set in his ways, and change is impossible for me.”

I happen to know that he was not alone in his thinking.  It is a commonly held belief that the older a person gets the harder it will be for them to change.  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” they say.  But I’d like to share with you that contrary to this widely held belief that people do not change, they do change and often in dramatic, life-altering ways. I say this with full confidence because not only have I witnessed it happen time and time again, I am a living testimony that creating positive change in our lives is totally possible.

The journey begins with a deep desire for growth and a sincere commitment to make bring it about. This desire and commitment become the fuel that carries us through the challenges that effecting change brings us. Change will definitely bring us challenges, and sometimes these challenges will be uncomfortable, even painful.  But this is natural and to be expected.  Even our bodies experience pain as we go through our physical growth. Nevertheless, we know that this pain is only temporary and a natural part of growing up.

If we want to effect real and lasting change, we need to take an honest look at ourselves.  We must be willing to look in the mirror and see all there is to see; that which we consider good as well as that which we consider bad.  Making an honest assessment of our qualities and motives will be the first working step towards bringing about positive change.

Steven Covey, in his critically acclaimed book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, states:

The inside-out approach to change means to start first with self; even more fundamental, to start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character and your motives.

Having assessed ourselves thoroughly, we must now identify the areas which we want to improve and how we want to improve them.  In order to do this we must take full responsibility for our lives and our current situation and not place the blame elsewhere.  This is not to say that we are to blame for everything that happened to us that let us to the place where we are today.  Perhaps things happened to us when we were young and felt powerless. A child cannot be blamed for his or parent’s neglect or poor parental skills or abusive behavior.  However, once the child grows up it will be of no benefit to him to continuously blame his parents for his behavior or current condition.  Sure, it often helps to understand where certain unwanted behaviors originated.  But once we become aware of patterns of behavior that we wish to change, it behooves us to take responsibility for our life from that point onward, and to begin taking the necessary steps to heal and bring about change.

We now need to assess what qualities are required to effect the desired change, and determine whether our values are in alignment with those qualities. We must do the important inner work of discovering who we are now, what matters to us, what we are passionate about and what we place value on. If, for instance, the change that we want to bring about will require more patience, more nurturing, etc. we need to determine if these are things that hold value for us. If not, we will not be successful in our quest.

Awareness is of utmost importance when effecting change, because it allows us to live our lives being fully conscious of our actions; this in turn allows us to free ourselves from reactive and self-defeating behavior and realize our personal best. Often we are operating in a sleep-like state.  While we may think that we are making conscious decisions, in reality our subconscious is the one running the show based on prerecorded programs playing in the back of our minds.

Try this as an exercise the next time you’re about to make an important decision.  Simply notice that chatty voice inside your head and hear what it’s telling you.  Is it telling you that you’re crazy to consider what you are thinking of doing? Does it remind you of how many times you’ve failed in the past and warns you that you will probably do so again?

That is the voice of your subconscious.  But understand that that voice is not your enemy nor is it out to sabotage you; it really does have your best interest at heart.  The tapes that it plays for you, believe it or not, are for your protection. These are the messages that your conscious mind allowed your subconscious to accept as true, so you can hardly blame your subconscious for playing them back to you.

When we have identified that an old program no longer serves us, it becomes incumbent upon us to begin taking steps to replace it.  Once we implant new, better and more beneficial programs in our subconscious, they will become the messages that get played back to us whenever we need to make decisions.  In this case our behavior will be positively influenced by the new programs, and we will find ourselves feeling and acting in more confident and courageous ways.

In the words of Stephen Covey:

Being proactive means that we are responsible for our own lives.  Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.  We can subordinate feelings to values.  We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.

Through inner-work we will be laying the foundation for a state of mind that will allow us to make lasting positive changes that will create a more meaningful, productive and happy life.  We will begin looking at life through new eyes, and this will allow us to view everything that happens as an opportunity for growth rather than as a roadblock.

Change is definitely possible, regardless of your age, gender, or past or present circumstances.  If you have a burning desire to bring about positive change in your life, and make the commitment to do it, you’ll inevitably succeed.  You’ll definitely need some guidance, so you should probably consider hiring a life coach to help you along the way.  You can certainly succeed without one, but having someone in your life who can provide some guidance, feedback, and encouragement when times get hard, has the potential to help you catapult your growth.  But it all begins with a decision; the decision to not let your past or present situation define you, and choosing instead to create your own destiny.

As famous philosopher and psychologist William James puts it:

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

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

I’d love to hear from you!

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The Secret To Stop Growing Old

Do you feel your age?  Or do you feel older than your age, much older perhaps? Do you feel tired and drained?  Whatever your age is I invite you to read on and discover what you are doing that could be causing you to grow old faster, and what you can do to stop it before it’s too late.

Take a short trip with me down memory lane and recall if you can a time in your childhood when you were truly happy.  A time when you didn’t have any cares or worries and you were just happy.  Try your best to bring back all the details of that memory. When was it? Where were you? What were you doing? Were you alone or were others there with you?

Now close your eyes and sit with this memory for a moment before reading on.

Did you enjoy it?  Did it make you feel good? Did you smile as you remembered? Did it make you feel happy? Did it make you feel young?

Now bring your awareness back to the present, and think about your life as it is now.  Do you feel old again? Did your smile fade away? What happened to that little child?  Does he/she still come out to play, carefree and full of energy, or has he/she grown scared of the world and taken refuge in a dark corner within the older you?  When was the last time you played and laughed like that child?  When was the last time you channeled your inner child, and truly allowed him or her to express him or herself?

Has it been long?  If so, I invite you to ask yourself the reason behind that.  Are you scared that that child will be hurt?  Have you become so overprotective of your inner child that you, yourself, are preventing him/her from coming out to play?

Or do you feel like you are so overwhelmed with “grown up responsibilities” that you have no time to play? It’s easy to postpone or do away with playing when we become so absorbed with our everyday lives.  After all, who has time to play when there are bills to be paid, mouths to be fed, responsibilities to be fulfilled…?

Or is it, perhaps, that you believe that adults are supposed to behave like adults, and not like immature little children?  Do you frown when you see grownups acting silly or just “having too much fun”? Or… are you secretly wishing that you could do the same?

I invite you to really ponder these questions and come up with some truthful answers, because your answers will reveal to you why it is that you feel as old as you feel.  At one point or another we all experienced that carefree child spirit.  We played pretend and absorbed ourselves in imaginary worlds that were filled with fantasy.  We built sand castles, we erected fortresses, we constructed spaceships and race cars, we fought pirates (or perhaps we were pirates); we engrossed ourselves in these activities so much that we lost track of time and space.  Those were good ol’ times weren’t they?

But at some point, somewhere down the line we were introduced to work and responsibility. We were told to stop dreaming and focus on reality. We were instructed, whether with words or by example, to start taking life more seriously, because after all, we weren’t children anymore.

Somehow we got the idea that growing up meant that we had to smile less and stress more; that we had to stop playing and focus all our energy on working; that we had to dream less and do more.

But is that really true?  Must we really bury that free-spirited child in order to live a fulfilling life? Wherever did we get that idea?  It is true that as we grow up, get jobs, get married, have children, our responsibilities increase and our free time decreases.  But where did we get the idea that we had to carry out our responsibilities without having any fun in the process? That we had to frown, be stressed, or be “serious” in order to show that we are mature grownups?  All of this has nothing to do with maturity.  Maturity is demonstrated by taking care of our responsibilities, not by how stressed or serious we are or look when we take care of them.

I believe that it is possible for us to let that inner child out to play again.  Not only is it possible, it is a must if we are to enjoy life to the fullest.  I know all of us are busier than we’d like and it’s difficult to find the time to involve ourselves in fun activities.  But this is precisely why we must make it a point to let our inner child come out to play as often as we can while we carry on with our grown up responsibilities.  Understand that I’m not talking about acting like a child while you’re in that important office meeting or taking that exam.  I’m talking about feeling like a child as often as you can, no matter what you’re doing. I’m talking about letting go of those inhibitions and letting that fun side of you really shine through.

You know the side I’m talking about. You have it. We all do.  But maybe we’re afraid that people will laugh at us or frown at us if we show it.  You know what?  Let them.  Let everyone else frown and think what they want.  Show them that it’s perfectly okay to feel young, to not take life so seriously, to be happy.

How do you go about it?

Next time you are around children pay attention to them.  See how uninhibited they are.  See how little they care about what the other children think.  See how happy they are as a result of it.  Then make it a point to be just like them.  Here are 10 suggestions to help you coax your inner child out of his or her hiding place:

  1. Next time you’re moving from one place to another, whether it’s going from one room to another in your house, or from one isle to the next in the supermarket, skip instead of walking.
  2. Next time you take out the trash pretend there is a hopscotch drawing on the floor and hop, hop, hop your way to the dumpster.
  3. Buy a coloring book and crayons or coloring pencils, or a sketch pad and sketching pencils and spend 5-10 minutes coloring or drawing while you wait for your laundry to be done.
  4. Surprise your child or spouse by tickling the heck out of them. Then dare them to do the same to you and run!
  5. When stepping out of the shower make funny faces or talk in funny voices in front of the mirror.
  6. Next time you pick up your kids from school ask them what they did in school that day. When they tell you what they did, say, “Sounds boring compared to what I did.” Then make up a fantasy about going to the moon, or fighting monsters, or having a sea adventure.
  7. Dance in place as you cook, do the laundry, or make a deposit at the ATM.
  8. Buy a bubble set and have fun making and popping bubbles at the park while you watch your children play.
  9. Put stickers or post-it notes on your face while doing paperwork or paying bills.
  10. Next time you’re cooking dinner wear a bowl on your head and pretend it’s a chef’s hat, then narrate what you’re cooking as if you were doing a cooking show.

Give these suggestions a try, or come up with your own! There are hundreds of ways to channel your inner child and have fun while taking care of your adult responsibilities.  Whatever you do, give yourself permission to be free, and smile as you’re doing it.  Not only will you be less stressed and have more fun, you’ll be stopping or even reversing the aging process.

This post was inspired by my lovely wife whose inner child is always inviting my inner child out to play, and who reminds me every day that, no matter how hectic our lives are, there is always time for laughter.

We don't stop playing because we grow old...  We grow old because we stop playing.

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Why Having A Magic Lamp Wouldn’t Make You Happy

magic lamp, wishes, dreams, Aladdin, dreams, goals

Imagine for a moment that you found Aladddin’s lamp. I know. Humor me. Imagine that one day you’re taking a relaxing stroll around your neighborhood and you suddenly spot something shiny hiding in the bushes.  At first you ignore it and dismiss it as something unimportant (perhaps an empty soda can?).

You continue stroll but a few moments later you can’t shake the feeling that you were meant to see that, whatever it was.  What if it was something important?  “I better make sure,” you think.  So you walk back to retrieve the shiny object and to your surprise you find yourself staring at what appears to be a magic lamp.  Could it be?  “Yeah, right.” You let out a sarcastic chuckle and laugh at yourself for thinking such a ridiculous thing. “Still… what if it is?”  You take an inconspicuous look around to make sure no one is looking, and carefully rub the sides of the lamp.

As soon as you do that, smoke starts oozing from the lamp and suddenly, out comes a genie who, to your amazement, utters those amazing words you’ve been waiting to hear all your life, “Your wish is my command.” He then tells you that he’s there to grant you all of your heart’s desires.  Not just 3 wishes, but all of them.

Now think for a moment. What would you ask for?  You’d probably ask for all the major things right away. Love, health, money, success, vacations to exotic locations, mansions, more money, more love, etc. etc. etc.  You would basically ask for all the things that you believe would make your life easy, happy, pain-free, and struggle-free.  You’d go wild, testing the waters to see if you would really be able to get all you want.

You’d then realize that you can ask not only for you but for everyone else around you.  So you’d become the biggest philanthropist, sharing your good fortune with everyone around you.  At some point, however, you’d start running out of things to ask for.  You’ve had all the vacations you could think of, helped everyone in the world (work with me here), have more money than you know what to do with, all the success and love you can imagine, all coming instantly to you without any amount of effort or struggle on your part.

How long could you live like this? Honestly. How long? A year? Ten years? Twenty?  How long would it be before you were bored out of your mind and were left feeling depressed and worthless?  How long would your mind be able to live without a challenge or a worthy goal?  How long before you felt like you were no better than an inanimate object that adds no value to anything?

Sooner or later you’d start looking for things to do, challenges to face, goals to pursue, problems to solve.  But you wouldn’t ask the genie to bring these to you, you’d want to go out and find them yourself.  We would all want to do this.  And do you know why?  Because that’s our nature.  We think that we want life to be a breeze; we think that we’d just as soon be without the worries, the pain, the suffering, the sorrow, the struggle.  From our vintage point, we’d trade our lives for the imaginary scenario I described above in a heartbeat. But how quickly we would tire of it.  We’d soon find out that a life like that is not much fun.  You probably know by now that the things we value the most are those that required some involvement or contribution from us, no matter how small; and the higher our contribution, the greater its value to us.

There is a lesson in all of this.  I’m not saying that life has to be difficult in order for it to be fun, exciting, exhilarating or rewarding.  What I’m saying is that life is not supposed to be pain or struggle free.  I’m saying that the pain, the struggle, the challenges and all the emotions associated with these things, the good and the bad, are what make the human life such a magnificent experience.

The true joy of living does not stem from never experiencing difficulties or struggles, but from overcoming them.  So don’t get all bummed out about how life may be right now.  It won’t stay that way forever.  In spite of what it seems like at times, there is perfect balance and order in the universe. The seemingly negative experiences we encounter are meant to help us become better versions of ourselves. Embrace the challenge and push forward with confidence.

Pain may be inevitable, but suffering is optional.

Decide today that you will suffer no more.  Decide today that you don’t need to wait to find Aladdin’s lamp to be happy.  Decide today that no matter what situations you encounter in life, you will make it your dominant intent to look for the good in them, for there is good to be found if we only look hard enough.  Decide today that you will take on every day with unshakable confidence, and the determination to feel good, to spread love, to experience joy in everything you do. Decide today that you will go after your goals and your dreams, and that you will enjoy and appreciate the ride as much as, if not more than, getting there.  Decide today to share your gifts with the world, which no one but you can share.  Decide today to leave your mark in this world.

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Remember This The Next Time You Feel Like You’ve Lost Your Way In Life

A few days ago I was driving to a store to which I had never been before located in a different city.  I wasn’t very familiar with the area where it was located so I plugged the address into my GPS, turned up the speaker volume and prepared to be navigated to my destination.

I was following directions as they were spoken to me and driving right along when I went into one of those autopilot moments and didn’t realize that my turn was coming up in less than 100 feet.

Unfortunately I was driving in the middle lane and there were cars on the lane next to me so there was no way I was going to be able to make my turn.  I had no choice but to continue driving straight.  Needless to say, I was frustrated.

I started beating on myself for getting distracted.  I should have been paying attention to the directions, what was I thinking?  If only I had been paying attention this would not have happened.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

In the meantime, my GPS went about its job and in a few seconds I heard it say, “Re-routing;” a few seconds later it said in its usual calm and matter-of-fact tone, “In 500 feet make a legal u-turn”.

I finally made it to my destination with no further incident (I was focused on the directions this time), but on my way back I had time to think about what had transpired earlier.  It occurred to me that while I was sitting in my car frustrated and beating on myself for not paying attention to the directions, my GPS simply re-calculated the route and continued guiding me towards my destination.

I then started thinking of how often this happens to us in everyday life, and how often we get distracted and stop listening to our internal GPS.  We all have one, you know. And if we know how to use it, it can help us get to our destination using the shortest route possible.  It can re-route us if we missed our turn or had to take a detour for whatever reason, and it can set us back on course.

But like an electronic GPS, we must make use of it in order for it to work.  Here are a few suggestions I thought of on how we can make the best use of our internal GPS.  I will compare each suggestion to an electronic GPS for illustration purposes:

We must use it
I’m sure you would agree that it would make no sense whatsoever to have a GPS in the car but not turn it on and not plug in the address, but expect it to direct us to our destination.  That would be illogical, wouldn’t it?  We know that in order for the electronic GPS to guide us to where we want to go we must  turn it on and plug in the address of our destination.

So it is with our internal GPS.  We must decide what we want to accomplish in life, what goals we want to achieve, what dreams we want to fulfill, and set them as our destination by thinking about them often and visualizing the end result, so that they become plugged into our internal GPS.

We must be clear
What would happen if instead of plugging in an exact address into our electronic GPS we entered a “general location?”  The GPS would still do its job of guiding us towards the general location, but it would not know how to get us to the exact place where we want to go, because it has no clarity.

Similarly, when we are unclear about where we want to go with our lives, or what specific goals we want to accomplish, our internal GPS will fail to guide us towards them.  It is not enough to have “a general idea” of where we want to go.  We must be clear about our goals so that our internal GPS can do its job of guiding us directly to them and not just in their general direction.

We must listen to it
The electronic GPS will do its job of guiding us towards our destination following the shortest route.  But this will not do us any good if we decide to do whatever we want to do anyways.  If the GPS says to turn right but instead we turn left, we may never get to our destination.  Or we may get there eventually, but it will take us longer.  For as long as the address is plugged in and the GPS is on, it will continue to try to re-route us to get us back on course using the shortest route, but if we don’t pay any attention to it and do what it’s telling us to do, it won’t do us any good.

Our internal GPS works the same way.  It is always on, but the trouble is we are not always listening to it.  We become distracted by our daily chores, or we just decide to do the opposite of what our internal GPS is telling us.  This will only cause unnecessary delays or keep us from reaching our goals altogether.

We must not panic
Imagine that as we are driving to our destination we missed our turn like I did that day, and since we missed our turn we blame and curse the GPS, and turn it off (yeah, that’ll teach it!).  I’m sure we can all agree that this is not the right thing to do.  We must remember that our GPS will kick right in and re-route us to get us back on course, so there is no need to panic.

Similarly, if we end up getting off course from our goals for whatever reason we must not blame our internal GPS and we must certainly not stop listening to it!  We must remember that it has the ability to re-route us and get back on track towards our goals.  That is the time to shut off all distractions and tune in to our internal GPS, paying close attention to it so that we can hear the “re-routing” cue.

Later on I will be talking more about our internal GPS, what it is and how we can use it, but for now see if you agree with my conclusion the next time you use your electronic one, and let me know what you think!

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How Our Thoughts Affect Our Reality

When I began my self-improvement journey several years ago I came across a book that inspired me and gave me much needed clarity about how to change my life for the better.  In my opinion this book is a must-have for anyone looking to understand how our thoughts affect our world and shape our reality.  It is written in plain English without the jargon commonly associated with the study of the mind, so it’s easy enough for anyone to understand.

I still revisit this book now and then because from time to time I need a reminder of how important it is to be mindful of what we entertain in our minds.   The book is a very short read, and it can be found in audio form as well.  The audio version of the book is less than an hour long, so I can easily listen to the entire recording in a day just driving to and from work.

The book I’m referring to is “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale.  There is great information in the entire book but there is one segment in particular that always grabs my attention for its truthfulness and simplicity.  The segment begins by stating this:

Let me tell you something which if you really understand it, will alter your life immediately…Here’s the key to success and the key to failure: We become what we think about.

The author then proceeds to explain exactly how this works, and gives the analogy of a situation that parallels the human mind using a farmer and fertile soil.  In his example, Earl asks us imagine that a farmer has a piece of fertile land in which he plants a seed of corn and a seed of poison.  The land, being impartial to what is being planted, will invariably return to the farmer exactly the “fruits” of what he has planted, a plant of corn and a plant of poison. He compares this fertile land to the human mind and the seeds to our thoughts because the mind – like the land – does not care what you plant in it; it will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant.

While it’s true that the mind is far more complex and mysterious than the land, the principle is the same.  Whether we plant thoughts (seeds) of success (corn) or thoughts (seeds) of failure (poison) the mind (land) will return to us exactly what we plant in it in the form of our experiences in all areas our lives such as work, family, love, finances, etc.

For me this was a wake-up call.  If this was true (and I had no reason to believe that it wasn’t) it meant that I needed to become aware of my thoughts throughout the day.  I needed to make sure that whatever thoughts I was entertaining were seeds that would produce the type of experiences I wanted to have in my life.

This proved to be easier said than done.  It was easy at the beginning of the day because I would start off with a clean slate and a positive attitude, but as I gradually got busy and distracted with my daily activities, I found myself repeating old thought patterns that were sure to produce unwanted results if left unattended.

At first I would get bummed up about it, because I thought that no matter how hard I tried I somehow managed to end up back at square one.  This would only cause me to feel more like a failure and, you guessed it, negative tapes to start playing again.

But I later learned that it is impossible to watch what we are thinking 24 hours a day (or however many hours we spend awake), so getting temporarily distracted was perfectly normal.  In fact, a recent study revealed that, astonishingly, humans are on autopilot nearly half of their waking hours!

Our mind is designed to jump on autopilot whenever possible in order to automate mundane tasks.  You do something long enough and it eventually becomes a habit, making it a task that you no longer have to think about.  If you’ve ever driven from one place to another and had no recollection of how you got there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I can certainly relate to that.  There were times when I suddenly realized I had arrived, and thanked God I was alive and prayed that I hadn’t committed any violations while driving.  Yikes!

Whenever I think of this I realize what a wonderful design the mind is.  I’m speechless when I think of all the intricate wiring and programs that are running to ensure that we follow all the traffic laws and make critical decisions almost unconsciously!  Of course this works to our advantage when our mind is engaged in something positive or uplifting, but it can just as well work against us when it’s engaged in something negative or undesirable.

But the good news is that we can change our thought habits just like we change any other habit: with repetition and persistence.  How do we know this?  Because that’s how our negative or pessimistic thinking became so natural to begin with.  It all started with thoughts that we entertained, then entertained some more, then recalled and entertained again, until now those thoughts just seem to naturally come to us on their own, and when we least expect it we find ourselves on a train to Looserville.

Like everything else, making a change in thought patterns takes practice and persistence, but it all begins with awareness.  If you’ve determined that you want to change the thought seeds that you’re planting in your mind, make it a point to become more aware of your thoughts throughout the day; whenever you catch yourself thinking less than favorable thoughts, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Instead, be glad that you caught yourself and reach for a better thought.

But if you are feeling a strong negative emotion associated with the thoughts you’re thinking, remember our river analogy from a previous post and make the jump gradually so that you don’t end up in the river.  With practice and persistence you’ll soon turn your new thought patters into a habit, and the less than desirable thoughts will fade away.

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The Stigma Associated With Sacrifice

Have you ever met a person who says “I’ve sacrificed xyz for xyz” with a smile on their face?  I haven’t.  I can usually tell by the tone of their voice or the look on their face that the feeling associated with their sacrifice is not a positive one, and I’m beginning to think it has something to do with the stigma associated with the word itself.

The dictionary defines sacrifice as:

An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.

That makes sense to me.  But why then do we have this somewhat negative emotion associated with it?  Shouldn’t the emotion elicited from the true recognition of the worthier cause be joy or something similar?

I thought about this, and realized that generally when I say that I’m making a sacrifice I may feel a somewhat negative emotion because I may be focused on what I’m losing or giving up rather than on the worthier cause; I may be, therefore, feeling the loss or absence of what I’m giving up instead of the joy of why I’m giving it up.

The stigma generally associated with sacrifice is one of loss, suffering, or going without. This in itself has the potential to create feelings of resentment or self-glorification.  I may consider myself a nobler person because I’ve made sacrifices.  Therefore, you must look upon me as a nobler person, too, and praise me for my ability to make such a sacrifice. On the other hand, if I‘m focused on my loss, and the worthier cause for which I gave up something ends up going south, the feeling of loss may turn to resentment.  “I sacrificed [fill in the blank] for this? What a waste!”

I’m sure not everyone views sacrifices this way, but my experience has been that when people (including me) speak of sacrifices, they generally do so with an almost sarcastic tone.   I’ve decided that I would like to change that about myself.  I would like to change my perspective so that when I sacrifice something for the sake of a worthier cause, I am so intently focused on the worthier cause itself that whatever it is that I’m giving up no longer even matters.

When parents work in order to earn money to support their family, aren’t they sacrificing something?  They certainly are. They are sacrificing family time, or fun time, or “me” time.  Yet we normally don’t call that a sacrifice.  Even parents themselves don’t call it a sacrifice.  Why? Because the focus is not on what they are giving up but on the worthier cause, taking care of their families.  No body even thinks of the time and energy that is being expended or given, because the focus is not on the loss, but on the gain that results from the loss.

These are the types of sacrifices that I’d like to make.  To others it may seem like I’m making a sacrifice, but to me it would simply feel like the most natural thing to do.  I want to get to the point where, having acknowledged and assimilated the worthier cause, the absence of what is being offered simply no longer matters.

How will I go about making this change?  I don’t know yet, but while I figure it out I’ll start by making it a point to change my perspective.  Perhaps that is all that is needed!

What does sacrifice mean to you?  What feelings have you experienced as a result of the sacrifices you’ve made?

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When Positive Affirmations Don’t Work

Positive thinking word cloud

Several years ago I was introduced to the use of affirmations as a way to overcome negative thoughts or behavior patterns.  I learned that I was to write out positive statements stating how I wanted to be or what I wanted to accomplish; they were supposed to be written in the first person and in the present tense.  I was then supposed to repeat these affirmations hundreds of times a day (or at least as often as possible) from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. While repeating them I was supposed to feel and behave as if the statements I was making were already true.

If you’re anything like me you know that this is easier said than done.  Remembering to do the affirmations throughout the day was a challenge of its own, but actually feeling as if the affirmations were already true was the real kicker.

When using affirmations such as “I have all the money I want and need” or “I have an abundance of money at my disposal,” acting as if they are already true does not come as easy as positive affirmation gurus make it sound, especially when your bank account is about to reach below zero temperatures, you are knee-deep in debt and are staring at a pile of bills, and your car is complaining that it doesn’t feel good and may need a trip to the car doctor.

I thought that making those positive affirmations was supposed to help me feel better and help me manifest my fondest desires, but instead they left me feeling like a deluded pathological liar.  Instead of raising my spirits they managed to heighten my awareness of my real situation, and this in turn made me feel angry, frustrated and hopeless.

I read and re-read the positive affirmation material to make sure I was doing it correctly.  I watched and re-watched the videos showing people who had used positive affirmations successfully.  Apparently I was doing everything right, yet this was not working for me for some reason.  There were many times when I thought that something must be wrong with me, because no matter how much I did this positive affirmation stuff I was not feeling any better, let alone “manifesting my fondest desires” like the gurus claimed to do.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I was, in fact, doing something wrong.  The emotional jump that I was trying to make from feeling hopeless to feeling awesome was far too great.  At first I thought I didn’t have enough momentum to make that big of a jump from one emotional state to the other, but then I realized that the issue was not the momentum, but the gap.

Allow me to illustrate.  Imagine that you are you are standing by a river and you want to get to the other side of it.  The side that you are standing on represents a very low emotional state such as hopelessness, and other side represents the ideal emotional state that you want to get to, such as joy, excitement or exhilaration.  The river is about 300 feet wide.  So to get to the other side you decide that you are going to take a few steps back to gain momentum, run as fast as you can and attempt to make it across the river in one big jump.  What do you think might happen?

Unless you have some form of secret superpower that allows you to make that big of a jump, you’ll likely end up in the river.   The distance between where you are and where you want to be is far too great and you’ll likely not make it dry.  That’s the equivalent of trying to instantly transition between two emotions that are so far apart from each other.

So I decided to modify my approach a little bit. Instead of trying to get to the other side of the river by attempting a single jump, I decided to make multiple smaller jumps by using the protruding rocks across the river.  Each of these rocks represents an emotion that is just slightly better than the emotion I’m currently standing on.  So I would jump from hopelessness to sadness, for instance, and stand there long enough to regain my posture.  This type of a jump would certainly be a lot easier to make, and it wouldn’t take a lot of effort.

“Wait a minute!” you might say. “There is nothing positive about sadness!”  But you’d be wrong.  Maybe in the big scheme of things sadness is not considered a positive emotion per se, but it certainly is less negative compared to hopelessnessAnd remember, we’re not making sadness the ultimate goal.  We’re simply using it as a stepping stone (pun intended) to make it across the river to the emotion that we really want.  We stand there just long enough to regain our posture and make sure we don’t slip, and then we make the next jump.

So we go from hopelessness to sadness, and from that to the next emotion that is just slightly better than sadness, and so on and so on, stepping from rock to rock until we get to the other side of the river.  You can see how this approach is much easier to implement and requires much less effort than trying to make it to the other side in a single jump.

I know what you may be thinking.  Wouldn’t moving from one negative emotion to another (even if it is less negative) only perpetuate those feelings?  And the answer is, not if you do it in the way I stated.  While it is true that you don’t want to wallow in negative emotions, you also don’t want to attempt to make a huge transition in one fell swoop because that is almost always guaranteed to fail, and then you will definitely continue to wallow in those negative emotions.  The trick is to keep your affirmations kind of real, so that the resistance created in your mind is small to none.  Rather than trying to deny how you really feel, you acknowledge the current emotion and play with your words just enough to move up to the next less negative emotion.

When I tried this approach, it made a world of difference.  It did take me longer to get there than if I had been able to do it in a single jump.  But the truth is that I never managed to do it in a single jump and I remained in that negative emotion longer; however, with this new approach, I was able to transition to my desired emotion every single time.  So overall, the “longer route” was definitely a shortcut for me.

Positive affirmations do work but some of us need a more gradual approach, and that’s perfectly okay.  If you have struggled with positive affirmations the way that I have, don’t give up just yet.  Give this approach a try first and let me know how it goes.  Also, if you have any suggestions of things that you’ve tried and have worked for you, please share in the comments below so other readers can benefit.  I’d love to hear from you!

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