Sunday, December 19, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Thanks to my friend Kelly for posting this on Facebook:
"Now then everybody, please settle down, this is serious. Fun time is over, we have rats to tickle.
"Laughter, it seems, is a topic of scientific inquiry that is ripe to be taken very seriously. As explained in an article at PhysOrg, the act of laughter is universal and sounds pretty much the same across all of humanity, with no discernible difference in how it sounds to the ear as a result of differences in language or culture. And not only is laughter among the very first forms of communication that every single human being learns, laughter is not limited to people. Other primates are known to laugh. Additionally, and perhaps surprisingly, laughter is also demonstrated in dogs and rats.
"The common denominator in situations that cause someone to have a ha-ha moment seems to be interaction with others. According to scientists who investigate the causes and the effects of laughing, the primary basis for these strange, involuntary respiratory convulsions that we all do is a reaction to an event that we perceive and respond to as an experience shared with others.
"Laughing is not dependent on any one specific sense (as PhysOrg points out, “deaf people laugh without hearing, and people on cell phones laugh without seeing”), but arises from our interactions.
"“It’s joy, it’s positive engagement with life. It’s deeply social,” according to Bowling Green University psychologist Jaak Panksepp. Among Panksepp’s research activities is tickling his lab rats. It turns out that rats laugh in response to being tickled, and they just can’t seem to get enough of it. What we’re able to learn from what happens in the brains of rats during and after a good laugh provides insights into the results and benefits that we derive from laughter. These include biochemical responses that appear to serve as natural anti-depressants and anxiety reducers.
"However, when it comes time to apply for a grant to support laughter research, scientists are extra careful to make sure that they keep the “fun” out of funding. Northwestern University’s Jeffrey Burgdorf uses the term ‘positive emotional response’ in place of the word laughter in research study proposals to help ensure that he and his work are taken seriously."
by David Bois at Tonic
(Tonic is a digital media company dedicated to promoting the good that happens around the world each day. We share the stories of people and organizations that are making a difference by inspiring good in themselves and others.)
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
There is a huge opportunity to grow through a challenge – just ask first-year marathon runners. People who never thought they could run 0.2 miles (let alone 26.2) will tell you that by overcoming the challenge they set for themselves to simply finish the race, they feel more confident in their abilities to do a wide variety of other things. The same is true for athletes, artist, businesspeople, and anyone who puts him- or herself up to a challenge.
Facing a challenge will stretch you and help you find reserves inside of you that you didn’t know you had. And the challenge doesn’t have to be as epic as a marathon; it can simply be pushing yourself to stop eating candy in the late afternoon or to strike up a conversation with that good looking guy in your conversational French class.
Sometimes challenges come at us when we least expect them, and we can’t even see that they’re happening. We overlook opportunities to grow because we see them as “not my job” or “never going to happen.” Missing them is easy – but so is grabbing them before they pass. Catch yourself saying these three things, “I can’t,” “I should,” or “it’s hard,” and there’s a good chance you’re facing a challenge.
There is very little in this world that can’t be done given infinite resources, so there isn’t anything, in fact, that you can’t do. I can’t climb Mt. Everest, you say. Well, that’s not actually true. If you gave up your normal life, moved to Tibet, paid a boatload of money, and trained for the next several years, you could climb Mt. Everest. So it’s not the case that you can’t climb Mt. Everest, it’s that you are choosing not to give up your normal life, move to Tibet, pay a boatload of money and train for the next several years. (And I can’t say I blame you for that decision.)
Or rather, let’s say an attorney gives you a document as you’re walking out the door to lunch with an old friend. “I need a million copies of this document before you go,” she says, looking panicked and frazzled. You call your friend. “I can’t go to lunch today, I have to make a million copies.” Now, is it actually true that you can’t go to lunch? Are you physically incapable of leaving? No, of course not. You are simply choosing to stay to make the million copies – maybe because this attorney brought you breakfast this morning, or because she’s new here and has been under a lot of pressure, too, or simply because it’s your job. Whatever the reason, the truth is that you are choosing to skip lunch, so why not explain your behavior in terms of what you’re choosing instead of what you’re giving up? Using “I can’t” in your vocabulary turns you into a victim. Try replacing it with “I choose not to” and see what changes.
(Already, saying “I choose not to climb Mt. Everest” sounds pretty good.)
Just thinking about the things one should do is exhausting. There’s a dragging sense of obligation, leaving no room for fun around eating more vegetables, going to the gym, or cleaning your bathtub. But when you think of the things you want to do, the excitement comes back – feeling more fit and not being grossed out when you shower are more worth the effort it will take to make them happen.
When you’re being challenged, it’s easy to fall back into the habit of “shoulding.” This means thinking in terms of obligations and expectations, and not in terms of opportunities and fun. Let’s say your current challenge is getting to work on time. “I really should get up earlier,” you say to a supervisor. However, if that supervisor’s smart, he won’t expect to see you follow through with that until you start talking about what you want to do. “I want to get up earlier so I can read the paper and still get to work on time” is much more likely to yield results.
This is the biggest and easiest trap to fall into when you’re facing a challenge. Whatever it is – running a marathon or eating less candy – of course it’s hard! If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge. However, using that particular phrase, “it’s hard,” drains the situation of any motivation. It’s the king of cop outs.
What if, instead, you faced a difficult situation by saying “it’s a challenge”? The change in wording instantly makes the situation seem more doable – all kinds of people rise to challenges every day. Facing a challenge with the intention of growing increases your motivation to actually accomplish the task.
Let’s look again at the million copies scenario. Sure, it would be hard to make a million copies before lunch, but if you see it as a challenge, you cast it in a different light. There are more options, more choices, and you’ll see more results.
Winston Churchill, the master at facing enormous challenges, once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Since you get to choose how you see a situation, would you rather be a pessimist or an optimist?
Thursday, August 5, 2010
It's about your positivity ratio.
Think about the last 24 hours. And in the last 24 hours, have you felt any of the following:
You can have felt them a little, moderately, or a lot. (If you only felt them a little, don't count them in this round.)
Total up the number you've felt and put that number aside.
Now think about the last 24 hours again. Have you felt any of these?
Again, you can have felt these a little, moderately, or a lot. (With these, if you felt them a little, they count.)
Take your positive total, and divide it by your negative total. That's your positivity ratio.
The inventor of this test, Dr. Barabara Fredrickson, has research indicating that "a positivity ratio of 3 to 1 is a tipping point. This ratio divides those who merely get by in life from those who truly flourish."
But if you scored below 3-to-1, don't be surprised. More than 80% of U.S. adults fall short of the ideal 3-to-1 ratio. (I did, too, and I consider myself a highly positive person.) Instead of feeling guilt, shame, or stress over these results (because, watch out, you'll have to account for those tomorrow!) why not take interest in what you can do to up your ratio? Why not seek out a poem, a song, or a friend who inspires or amazes you?
You are in charge of where you put your attention. So when you catch yourself in a feeling of anger, frustration, or guilt, take some time to balance that out with some love, amusement, or gratitude. A simple way to approach this is through an exercise where you list five things you're grateful for -- like the comfort of your fluffiest pillow, the crispy, minty taste of your toothpaste, or the support of the people who love you -- and really sit in that gratitude as you move through your day. Similarly, sit down and list things that crack you up -- like the way your sister snorts when she laughs really hard, the way a muppet ends a joke by settling down into its neck, or that cute guy who is ninja funny -- and just sit with the enjoyment of that for a while.
Negative stuff will come and go, and I personally have a harder time keeping the negative feelings at bay than I do redirecting my attention onto the stuff that makes me happy. So this is a good exercise for me, too.
(And in just writing this post I've upped my hope, amusement, inspiration and gratitude quotients for today, so maybe tomorrow I'll have a 3-to-1!)
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I did what I could to help my client to see that focusing on the negative is only going to bring more negative (boooooooo!), and that focusing on the good is only going to bring more good (hooray!). One of the tactics we tried was imagining that she was living in a sci-fi world where goodness was dying out. And that she was one of the few people left who could cultivate and protect goodness. So any time she saw something with even the faintest tinge of good to it, it was her responsibility to take that goodness, plant it in a garden, and tend to it.
She lit up with this idea, recognizing that "goodness" was not a judgment about whether or not an achievement was reached or someone was "worthy" of being deemed good, but rather a quality that could inherently exist inside something -- a situation, a person, herself...
So I closed the session feeling like I had cultivated some good, once again proving to myself that I do an excellent job of living what I teach.
And then the next day came.
I found myself getting twitchy about not having heard back from a guy I am dating. And when I catch myself doing that, I immediately call my sister (my cucumber cheerleader) because I know she's good at easing my twitch.
And, without going into too much detail, do you know what I was doing? Focusing on all the negative, and completely disregarding the positive! With blinders on, I was zeroing in on all the things that seemed "wrong" to me, and paying absolutely no attention to the things that were there to inspire me or give me hope that he was, in fact, interested!
Boy did I feel like a dummy.
But instead of focusing on how stupid I felt about not catching myself doing something it was so easy for me to see my client doing, I looked at how awesome it was that a) I did catch myself doing it, and b) I called someone who could help me get back on my path.
Sure, I could use this experience to prove to myself that I'm a horrible coach and can't possibly offer anything of value since I can't live it myself, or I can recognize (and celebrate!) the fact that I'm human, that I'm living it, too, and that life happens moment to moment.
And every triumph is worth a celebration.
*the best way to cultivate good train karma? Focus on the times the train comes into the station right when you get there, and ignore the times you spend hours and hours waiting in the sauna for the train to finally come and then not be going to your borough. **
** I haven't gotten really good at this yet, obviously.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Below is a really fascinating video on what motivates people inside an organization to perform better. It talks about how money alone is not enough, and points to the ideas of autonomy and purpose as driving factors behind organizational behavior.
So how does this apply to you?
Friday, June 4, 2010
I was recently doing some research into graduate psychology programs and discovered that most of them require some form of undergraduate statistics. Now, I haven't studied stats since high school, so if I were interested in pursuing a masters in psychology (which I'm not sure I am, but stick with me on this) I'd have to go back to college and take undergrad statistics.
Ok, fine. Then I got to thinking about application deadlines and stuff. If, I told myself, I want to be able to consider grad school in the winter of 2011, I'd have to take stats... this summer! Otherwise, I'll have to take stats in the fall and apply in the spring for a fall of 2011 admission.
So I dragged my heels a bit, thinking:
- commencement just happened
- the summer session can't be starting just yet
- I probably have a week or two to get it together
- I'm not really sure I want to go to grad school anyway
- I'll look into it later
And when I called the registrar's office at Hunter, I discovered that the application deadline was... TOMORROW.
(This is where the persistence part kicks in.)
The registrar needs a copy of my transcript. (I haven't seen my transcript for 12 years.) I know there's a copy of it in my files at my parents' house so I call home to see if Dad can locate it in the attic. Twenty minutes of looking later, he can't, and I'm ready to give up.
"Kate, I'll go to New Haven to pick up a new copy for you, if you need me to."
Hope comes back. I call Yale for a transcript and they say that I should place the order, but they can't guarantee that it'll be ready by tomorrow. Hope fades again.
"Kate, you're willing to pay Hunter money, they'll probably find a way to accept it."
Hope comes back. I call them and find out the procedure -- they need a filled-out application, registration fee, and transcript before 3pm the next day. Hope fades. Until... I discover on their website that they'll accept a copy of my diploma. Which I know my mother can locate for me!
Hope returns, and I try to register for class and can't. Hope departs.
"Try going to the Registrar's office."
Hope returns, and I can register, but only with permission of the math department, who wants proof that I've taken math before -- and might require me to take a placement test. Hope skedaddles faster than a bug on fire.
But I persist, hope clinging to the edge of me like I'm a canyon. The math department? All they want is for me to tell them my AB Calc grade from nineteen mumbledy mumble.
This back and forth goes on and on, with hurdles and hoops and obstacles at every step of the way, and hope coming and going like junkies on a seesaw. Truth is, if it weren't for the moral support of my parents and my coach, I'd have quit before I even started.
My point in all of this is that it worked out in the end. The obstacles that seemed so looming and permanent were actually made of sawdust -- but I didn't know that until I blew on them. It took grit, a couple of lunch hours, asking for help from people I knew I could count on, and the willingness to persist in the face of adversity.
Needless to say, I'm 1/6 of the way through the course already. What are the odds of that?
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I was recently reading a post on the Sunday at Noon blog, in which matchmaker Marni Galison talks about how easy it is to fall into the trap of cutting off potential dates because they're not perfect. She says:
She goes on to encourage us to forgive each other for not being perfect, which might make dating a little bit easier. (See the whole article here.)
In most aspects of our lives, we can accept that the people we love are
flawed human beings but naturally we still love them anyway. Despite those
flaws, we recognize the qualities that make them the unique, wonderful people
they are and we cherish having them in our lives.
But for some reason, when it comes to dating, the minute we see that a new
love interest is less than perfect we rush to judgment. And often that judgment
is equivalent to the Spanish Inquisition – no one stands a chance from thereon
I'd like to take that action even one step further -- I'd like to encourage us to forgive ourselves for not being perfect. When we accept, embrace, and even revel in our own imperfections ("that's right, I can be needy sometimes!") we are likely to be more forgiving of perceived shortcomings in others.
One of the things I try to do to give myself perspective on perfection and the challenges that other people face is simple: I put myself in their shoes. Given their situations, backgrounds, friends, fears, needs, etc., how would I act? Would I be different? And if so, can I at least understand better why they are they way they are?
It's a carry-over from my acting days when I used to put on all those things on behalf of a character, and I find it expands my generosity and patience with others immensely. (Which can come in handy when one is dating...)
Thursday, May 20, 2010
"The study, conducted by Stanford University, belongs to a growing body of research showing that small amounts of social support, ranging from friends who encourage each other by email to occasional meetings with a fitness counselor, can produce large and lasting gains against one of America's biggest health problems—physical inactivity. Only 48% of Americans say they meet the federal recommendation for exercising half an hour most days of the week, and the actual percentage is believed to be much lower. Exercise researchers estimate that nearly all sedentary people at one time or another have resolved and failed to maintain exercise programs."
The story goes on to talk about how having accountability for her behavior led one woman to start an exercise program that, over time, just became a habit. And the results of the study showed that everyone who participated -- whether they had regular reminders or not -- was working out more often. However, those who were receiving calls from a live person had the longest-term success, almost doubling the time they spent exercising. "When you knew you were going to have to report back on what you had done, it motivated you," said one participant.
And this motivation is part of what coaching is all about. Creating a relationship that deepens accountability and responsibility. Working together to support you in your desire to change a habit -- something that you may not even be able to identify as a "habit" at the moment, especially if it just feels like "just the way things are" (or, more trickily, "just the way I am").
So, short of dropping me an email and signing up for a free sample session, what can you do? Well, there's a website called Habit Forge that will let you sign up for daily accountability emails. You simply tell the site what you want to achieve, check your email every day, answer the question "were you successful at achieving your goal?" and, if you answer YES for 21 days in a row, you go into "Monitoring Mode." A pretty painless way to give it a shot, no?
And it's free, so why not check it out? (And hey! A sample session is also free...)
Sunday, May 16, 2010
"Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." -- Oscar Wilde
"Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough." -- Josh Billings
"The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen." -- Frank Loyd Wright
"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" -- Will Rogers
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way..." – Goethe
"It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness." -- J.M. Barrie
"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." -- Christopher Reeve
And my favorites:
"The future has several names. For the weak, it is the impossible. For the fainthearted, it is the unknown. For the thoughtful and valiant, it is the ideal." -- Victor Hugo
("And for Michael J. Fox," said my office mate Fernando, "it's the thing you have to go back to.")
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
"It helps to think of your heart as a piece of steel. Not chocolate or flesh or crepe paper. A shiny ball of steel. Which has a breaking point. But have you ever seen steel forged? It's heated in a volcano hot furnace until it glows white. It's so hot, the hard steel is malleable. Then it's hammered and hammered and hammered. Smashed into shape. Two pieces are clobbered to form one whole piece and then the steel is dumped into water. Once it's cooled, it's as hard as... well, you know. I've had my heart broken many, many times. And each time, I ended up stronger. My furnace? A Pina Colada. Maybe some Patsy Cline. A new friend, if just for that moment."
(You can read the rest of the article here.)
It's easy to think that you're not up to a challenge, or that you've been hurt so badly that you'll never recover. But keeping this image of an invulnerable heart in your mind, remembering that no matter what you throw at it, it will only get stronger... well, it works for me.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
The Failure Is Not An Option perspective is a state of mind that can be extremely useful in helping us to keep moving forward no matter what setbacks come our way. But it can also do the EXACT OPPOSITE.
For those of us who were born (or raised) as perfectionists, or for those of us who overwhelm easily, the Failure Is Not An Option mentality can actually paralyze us before we even begin.
Because if we're trying something new, by definition, we're ATTEMPTING something we've never done before. And if we've never done it before (or if we currently suck at something that we're trying to improve at it) we don't know how to do it well yet. And expecting ourselves to be perfect at something we don't actually know how to do well yet can be A LOT of pressure.
Just imagine if you're teaching a baby to walk. Little Junior has started hoisting himself up to a standing position on the coffee table and looks JUST ABOUT ready to let go and take a step or two toward you. Now, imagine if your words to him were, "Okay, Kiddo, Failure Is NOT An Option --let go of the table and walk over to me. Don't screw up! And, whatever you do, you CAN'T fall down!"
Luckily, most children who are about to take their first steps are too young to even understand what you'd be talking about if you were to say that to them, yet, isn't that what we're saying to ourselves when we imagine that Failure Is Not An Option; that we have to perform perfectly?
Everyone knows that MOST children, on letting go of the table and lunging forward, trying to take a step will end up falling on their butt on the floor--if not during the first step, then during the second or the third--and even if they successfully walk, they are bound to fall again the minute they start adding speed, turns, or enthusiasm to the mix. Not to mention that most babies don't even know what they did to make themselves walk the first time they do it, since they're so surprised it worked, they don't always know how to repeat what they just did.
The step that the idea Failure Is Not An Option MISSES is that there IS no success or improvement without failure. Yes, occasionally, we may be lucky and the first time out trying something new. We do well (and label it "beginner's luck" not "beginner's solid and completely dependable talent"), but MOST of the time we WILL screw up, fail, fall, or, at the very least, have a type-o. And what's GOOD about that (Yes, it's good! I swear!!!!) is that THAT is how we learn to do better. We can't course-correct if we don't go OFF course first. We can't refine anything until we do it just a little bit wrong. And we can't learn what to do unless we become absolutely sure about what we DON'T want to do. It's all part of the same process that leads us to success. And to put the kind of pressure on ourselves that we're NOT ALLOWED to screw up is counter productive. How can we learn if we can't screw up?
If I had fallen as a baby learning to walk (which, believe me, I did!) does that mean I should have quit and never tried doing it again because I didn't do it perfectly the first time? Absolutely not. With that logic, I'd still be crying, flat on my diapered butt by the coffee table in our old apartment, never having learned to walk.
So maybe it's time I (and all of us) try on the idea that not only IS failure an option, it may even be a REQUIREMENT on the road to progress and success.
This week, if you're like me and get paralyzed by the idea thatFailure Is Not An Option I invite you to turn that idea on it's ear and see how much easier it may be for you to take strides forward if you let yourself see failure for the learning and improvement tool that it actually is!
About Rebecca Soulette, CFLC III ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Life Coach, Rebecca Soulette, CFLC III, is a senior level coach certified through the Fearless Living Institute. She is an expert in helping her clients to live the lives they were born to live. She is also the creator of http://www.lifebeyondcelebrity.com/ , where she helps celebrities and others in the public eye create balanced and fulfilling lives beyond their fame. Rebecca Soulette, CFLC III, also offers teleclasses, private 1:1 and group coaching. To help both celebrites and non-celebrities alike live the lives the were born to live. Learn more now at http://www.rebeccasoulette.com/ .
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
View Full Audio on WNYC
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I went to hear Michael Beckwith speak recently, and if you're not familiar with who he is, he's a non-denominational reverend who is more into god than any particular manifestation of him.
(He's also a better looking version of Milli or Vanilli, take your pick.)
(He's also a better looking version of Milli or Vanilli, take your pick.)
His topic was something like "Finding Your Soul's Purpose," and I went to listen because I'm feeling a little stuck these days. I was excited to hear what someone with a different (and famously motivating) perspective would have to say on the topic, except... well, he never really got around to talking about the topic.
Instead we were greeted with a number of things I didn't particularly care for in his presentation, including a ten minute segment from his "dance minister" who wore a gauzy dress and flailed herself around in front of a room of paying customers, and a twenty minute version of a song whose title I can only assume was "I'm So Grateful that I Just Can't Stop Singing -- in English or in Spanish -- I'll just Keep on Going Forever," but that's neither here nor there.
Despite my mounting frustration, I stayed and listened for whatever nugget I could take away, and what I got was this:
There is No Delay in the Universe.
Beckwith's argument was that the Universe is perfect. It's perfectly balanced energy, and we (each of us) occupy a perfectly balanced place in it. I am a Kate-shaped energy inside of a Kate-shaped hole in the universal energy. (Or something like that.) So if something in your life feels stalled or delayed, that's only your perspective on it. The Universe (he argued) knows nothing about delay. All it knows is that you don't yet have the skills or tools or support or energy or whatever you need to move on to the next level.
Now, while this is a little bit of a Super Mario Brothers interpretation of the Universe, I like it. I like the idea that the reason I feel stuck is that there's something I haven't learned or gotten or processed yet, and this lull, this slow-down, is an opportunity for me to catch up on whatever that is.
So if you're in a place where you feel stalled, trapped, stuck, or otherwise Not Moving, ask around and see if there's something you don't have or know yet that would help you move into your next chapter. You might just be surprised.
(Although if the Universe tells you to become a dance minister, I might not listen...)
Saturday, April 17, 2010
One of the important ideas to consider when working with the inner voice that’s judgmental of you is that your words can, in fact, create your future. So the more you say unpleasant things to yourself in your head (or even out loud) the more you’re narrowing your future and bringing about the behavior or “fact” that your saboteur is feeding you.
I'm not a huge fan of Henry Ford, but I agree with something he once said -- "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."
Our actions are created by our thought, and our thoughts are made up of words. So if you’re not really into the power of words, this article may not be for you – and I understand where you are. Before I tried changing the way I said things, I felt the way you do. "It's just WORDS, it's not like it makes a difference." All I can say now is try listening to yourself saying some of the following words and seeing how they impact you. I’m not you and can’t speak for you. But I do know that all of these things have helped me and my clients.
It can be so easy to ignore a negative thought or not even recognize it as negative. Part of the process of catching yourself saying something negative is to know what to listen for. That’s why I’ve come up with a list of words to help trigger your Observer Brain to let it know you’ve just had a negative thought. When you say the following words, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve said something mean, but there’s a pretty good chance that it’s not nice…
“Should”, “ought”, “must”, “have to,”
There are lots of words that assume rules and standards for behavior that do not exist in reality. They also imply a consequence for noncompliance, and often evoke guilt. For example, we may tell ourselves: “I should have lost five pounds by now.” or “I shouldn't eat cake and ice-cream”.
Who says? Challenge the rules and regulations you've enforced on yourself. Replace the words should, ought, or must with the words “could”, “will,” “may” and realize the gift of choices. Cake and ice-cream becomes much less powerful if we know we could, can, and will eat it if we want to.
There is very little in this world that you can’t do if you really put your mind to it. Thing of something you can’t do. And then I’ll tell you there’s a way you could do it, if you really wanted to. So telling yourself that you can’t do something is just an excuse. It’s also a gateway to a judgment. “I can’t do that, so that means I am _________”
Choose not to. Since you are all-capable, and there’s nothing you can’t do, there are certainly a large number of things on which you choose not to focus your energy. And that’s the difference – ‘can’t” becomes “I choose not to.”
Have you ever been to a hospital and noticed how the nurses talk about ‘discomfort’ instead of ‘pain’? This is generally done because ‘pain’ is a much more powerful word, and discussing your ‘pain’ level can actually make your experience of it more intense than if you’re discussing your ‘discomfort’ level.
Tone it down. In talking (to yourself and others) turning powerful negative words to more neutral ones can actually help turn down the emotionality your experience. Instead of using words like “hate” and “angry” (as in, “I hate traffic! It makes me so angry!”), you can use words like “don’t like” and “annoyed” (“I don’t like traffic; it makes me annoyed,” sounds much milder, doesn’t it?)
When you say something is hard, how does it feel inside your body? Try it. “My job is so hard.” “Losing weight is so hard.” “Finding an affordable apartment in
Some people are enlivened by this kind of obstacle to overcome. However, others (ahem, most of us) feel defeated by it. So watch out for anything that’s “hard.”
Challenge yourself. Instead, if something is difficult, consider it a challenge. Challenges are not only overcomable, but they can also be fun! Other words you can use to replace “hard” are “difficult,” “tricky,” or another adjective all together that better suits the situation.
If you find yourself talking in absolutes like always and never (or everybody and nobody), there’s a good chance you’re falling into a trap of your own making. “I always eat late at night” is more damning and permanent than “I seem to be eating at night a lot recently.”
Speak to the immediate truth. Are you in a place where you’re engaging in a behavior that makes you unhappy? Maybe you’re ignoring your dishes, being late to work, snapping at your roommate/partner – that doesn’t mean you always do it or never do the opposite. If you speak in terms of the immediate time frame, you give yourself more options for the future, and you’re not pinning your identity to a series of behaviors you happen to be engaging in right now, that may not, in fact, be what you always do.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
So how do you know when you’re talking negatively to yourself? One way is to feel it. Everyone is different and is going to feel his or her negative self-chatter in different ways, but for me, I get a tightening in my chest, and my shoulders start to slump. My throat tightens up, and my jaw gets tight. In general, my body feels like it’s stuck in paste or glue.
And I get super-frowny. Inside and out.
Take a minute to explore the physical sensations that accompany your version of self-chatter. If you can, find a partner (could be your roommate, spouse, mother, friend, trusted coworker), and share with him or her one of the good old standby negative thoughts you have. It doesn't matter how boring or regular the thought is (that you’re even worried that the thought is boring or normal is self-chatter!), just share it with that partner. As you say it, notice how you feel. If you don’t feel anything particular, say it again. Repeat it once and take a deep breath. Scan your body with your mind’s eye. Where is the tension? How is your breathing? What could be relaxed? If you’re still stuck, ask your partner what he or she sees happening in your body.
If you can't find a partner, try this exercise in the mirror. Watch your body as you say the nasty thought over and over again. If you don't see a difference in your body, try thinking about a positive thought (like that perfect sunset, or when you walked across a big stage to receive a diploma), and see how that impacts your body. Alternate between thoughts until you can feel or see a difference in your body.
Once you’ve got the feeling, jot down particulars about it so you know what to be on the lookout for later. The feelings may not always be this strong or the same combination of factors that you experiencing with your partner, but this is a good place to start in your noticing.
As you progress with this work and pay attention to yourself hearing your negative self-chatter, double check your body -- does the posture you assume when you hear yourself beating yourself up empower you? Or does it make you feel like you're stuck in paste, frowning on the inside as well as the outside?