Archive for ‘Total Life Improvement’

June 17, 2012

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Woulda, Shoula, Coulda…. These three words seem so innocuous, but they can end up being so insidious. Just think of most of the instances that you have uttered these words to yourself. Were you reflecting on a lesson learned or just simmering in a pool of regret? I honestly admit that these words for me fall decidedly in the regret category.

Think of how you feel when others say these words to you. Are you feeling supported? Do you feel that the other person is trying to help you learn something? Or, do you tend to feel that the other person sounds “smug” or “superior”. Frankly, I do not personally recall a positive collegial conversation that involves the triad of Woulda, Shoula, Coulda.

It is my opinion that these three words have the capacity of anchoring in a past event. These words can be used to reflect on something that has the potential to be improved, but most of the time these words convey the sentiment “I screwed up” or “you totally blew it”. For our own internal dialogue, these three words can be replaced with the more powerful “I will”, “I want” and “I can”. By changing the verb tense towards the future, we change the focus from the past that we cannot change to the future that we can achieve by learning from the feedback of past events.

When interacting with others, I feel it is best to first consider if the other person wants feedback. Sometimes people will tell us stories with the hope that they will listen and validate our feelings. For the person with the hope of thoughtful validation, “Woulda, Shoula, Coulda” can generate a feeling of invalidation. If someone truly wants our feedback on a past event, it is a lot more helpful to describe the possible options and encourage them to choose the best option for themselves.

“From what you told me, you could have done this, that or the other. The consequence of this would be X, the consequence of that would be Y and the other would lead to Z. What do you think your best option would be”.

Since we cannot change the past, it is best to focus on what we can accomplish in the future. I hope you are able to leave “Woulda, Shoula, Coulda” where they belong, in the past.

June 7, 2012

Renouncing Resentment

Resentment: a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.

Personally, I have found little or no personal value benefit to the feeling of resentment. I have found that resentment is just longstanding anger that people cling to and feel justified in keeping this feeling of anger due to a perceived wrongdoing.

Imagine the last time you felt resentful towards a person or a course of action. Did you enjoy this feeling, or did you feel a great sense of dis-ease? Did your resentment lead to any positive actions? Did resentment lead to an argument?  Or does your resentment just simmer or boil inside of you?

Resentment is a feeling that is entirely related to how we chose to think and feel about a situation. There is no universal “cause and effect” since resentment is a chosen response.  For example, if someone tells you a joke and you choose to take offense or insult, you are choosing a resentful response. You could just as easily let it go. You are the one defining what “offensive” is. Even if the other person is stating the comment with the intent to offend, it is our choice to take offence.

Resentment can come out of our imagined intentions of others. We may interpret others actions as having the motive to make us feel bad. The majority of the time, other people act the way they are going to act without thinking about us. We are not the central character in their story, but since we are the central character in our own story we can view other people’s motivations as relating to our own.

Resentments can arise due to what we choose to believe about specific situations. I have the tendency to get resentful when interrupted frequently during a conversation. In my mind, I have constructed the belief that I have the right to complete a thought. When I am interrupted, I experience a feeling of “injustice” and I may start to feel “ill will” to the interjecting conversational partner. I know that I need to release this feeling of resentment. I know that the majority of the time there is no animosity from the person interrupting me and the other person is just engaging in his/her own conversational style. Even if the other person is intentionally being rude or argumentative, I can choose to avoid feelings of indignant displeasure.

Sometimes, resentment can arise based on how we define our own roles and the roles of others around us. At home, I occasionally feel resentful when my children make multiple demands regarding what I need to do for them. During these moments, I do not feel that it is fair that my children’s needs should come before my own needs. However, when I analyze this situation, I realize that my children are being developmentally appropriate by considering only their own needs. I also acknowledge that I have the choice of placing my needs, wants and desires before the needs (and requests for toys, games, fun stuff and money) from my children. Since I have composed an internal story that I am a “loving parent” that truly cares for my children, I strive to do everything possible to make sure that feel cared for. When I realize that I am the author of my own story and that I am in total control of the situation at hand, there is no reason for me to feel resentful.

 

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”

Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late

 

Strategies to Renounce Resentment

Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is just the act of letting it go. We can forgive the person that we feel has done us wrong and we can forgive ourselves for holding onto unproductive resentment.

A few years back, I harbored a lot of resentment towards a specific individual. I will call this person “Ire” to protect the “guilty”. I kept a long list of grievances against “Ire” that I “knew” were justified. After being miserable for a while, I realized that there was no action that I could take that would make the other person apologize or to make them offer restitution for their actions. The only thing that I had the power to do was to forgive them, and let go of all of my resentment. I still interact with this person in question. Without my emotional baggage, we can interact on a professional level. I have not forgotten the events, but I have forgiven the person for their actions.

Meditation

Meditation can be an effective strategy to let go of the internal dialogue justifying our resentments. By practicing meditation where we the focus is becoming unattached to our thoughts, it becomes easier to let go of thoughts and stories that we keep rattling around in our brains to justify our anger. Sometimes specific meditative practices are helpful as well. When I decided to forgive “Ire” for the multitudes of resentments, I found a specific Buddhist meditation helpful. For this meditation, you start your focus on the people that you love dearly. Then you reflect, “I wish ____ to be free from suffering, and the root of suffering”. After starting with the ones you love the most dearly, you repeat this intention to you close friends, then you repeat it for acquaintances, then finally you wish the people who for whom you harbor anger to be free from suffering, and the root of suffering.

Denounce your victimhood

One of the causes of our resentment is the perception that we are “victims”. In viewing ourselves as victims of the words and actions of other, we give away our personal power. Remember that you are the protagonist in your own story and that you have the power to choose how to respond to all life events.

Write your own story

Journal or write down how you want to feel in a given situation. If you are resentful about a situation where you have no control, record how you can change your emotional response or what lesson you have learned from the situation. It may also be helpful to re-write the life scenario where you are free from resentment. Imagine what it would feel like to let go of that resentment.

Affirmations

There are many affirmations already written about choosing forgiveness and letting go of resentment and anger. I have found that the podcast “My Thought Coach” by Stin has good audio affirmations on this topic. It is also very easy to write your own affirmations and review them every day. For example “I forgive all for every perceived hurt or injustice in my past. I choose to let go of anger and resentment and to learn for every life experience”.

Letters Never Sent

As symbolic exercise to release yourself from causes of resentment, you could write letters to the person that you feel has done you wrong. In these letters, the goal is to get your feelings about the situation on paper with the intent of letting these feelings go. Once you have finished with the letter, you can burn them ceremoniously or shred them into tiny pieces while thinking “I am done with this!”

 

Related Articles

How to Overcome Resentment

 

June 3, 2012

Beware the “Exception”

In life, every experience offers us a chance to learn. Even if a life experience appears to get in the way of following your chosen goals or pushes you off your desired life path, you can learn from these life experiences in order to move forward positively. In my own life, I realized that there are multiple factors that can interfere with a desired life outcome. I have learned that if I do not pay attention, I am “doomed” to repeat the same “mistake” or situation.

For me, one observable pattern that contributed to being pushed off my desired path is that of the first “exception” to a specific rule or new habit that I am trying to establish.

For example, when I started working on the goal of attaining an optimal body weight, I established a personal rule to stop eating after 8 PM. The habit of not eating after 8 PM is beneficial since one typically consumes all of the calories one needs before 8 PM. I noticed that any food that I consumed after 8 PM was just to fulfill a craving. For me, I typically crave for salty and fatty foods that contribute to elevated blood pressure as well as empty body fat building calories.

It would seem that not snacking after 8 PM would be easy to follow. Intellectually, I know that I am not truly hungry and that any snacking would get in the way of my health goals of attaining and maintaining an healthy body weight.

This easy to follow healthy habit was sabotaged by the first “exception”. The first exception happened on a challenging day where things did not appear to go as planned. I was experiencing stress due to a death in my spouse’s family. One of my children was feeling bullied by a girl at school. When I turned on the news, my feelings of unease were bolstered by stories of calamity and disaster worldwide. On this day, I choose to “treat myself” and started the first exception to my snacking rule. In my brain, I justified my behavior by telling myself that I have been working hard and I deserve some tasty snacks after the kids went to sleep. I also deserve to watch some TV, have a beer and munch on some tasty buttered popcorn. Before I knew it, I had reverted to a non-productive habit every night after the kids went to bed. I eased into the comfortable habit of snacking and watching TV instead of productive habits or activities such as writing, paying the bills, folding the laundry or attending do household responsibilities.

I understand that this is a rather tame example. However, this type of pattern exists in more significant habit change such as quitting smoking, getting away from substance abuse, or any other addictive habit pattern. An exception can break the rule. Once the rule is broken we can go back to old patterns of behavior.

The next time that you consider establishing a new habit, remember the dangers of taking that first step off the path. It is easier to just stay on the path than straying off your desired path and getting lost.

Related Articles

May 28, 2012

Other People’s Stories – 2

Welcome to the continuing saga of “Other People’s Stories”.

Since our last episode, I have had a few interesting conversations about this issue. I was informed that there was more to tell with regards to responding to complaints as well as co-dependency. I also realize that I did not cover other people’s expectations or the danger of continually comparing your life performance to the lives of others around you.

Problem Solving versus a Complaint Driven Life

Complaints are all around us. Every day we hear people complain about the weather or about some political issue. One main tactic to addressing life complaints is to consider if the complaint was just stated to “let off steam” or if the complaint was an indirect (or even direct) request for problem solving. Most of the time, it is easy to determine if someone is complaining to “let off steam” since this complaint focuses on their feelings and contains statements such as “well, whatcha going do?” If you have the feeling that the complaint is a request for problem solving, it would be valuable to run it through a few questions:

–       Is this something I have the influence to change?

–       Is this something that is important to me?

–       Is it my job or responsibility to change?

In my work, it is my professional responsibility to sift through other people’s complaints on a regular basis. When I am interacting with a staff member who is talking about a work issue that is negatively impacting their ability to perform his or her job, it is my professional responsibility to act on it. However, if someone is talking about an issue that I have no influence to change, I will listen compassionately and do my best to encourage the other person to consider their emotional response to that situation.

Co Dependent Directors

There are many co-dependents that do not see themselves as either “co-dependent” or as someone prioritizing someone else’s issues. Co-dependents can identify themselves, as caring are responsible people. One possible red flag for co-dependency is becoming a “director” of another person’s life. This is the tendency of setting situations up so that other people act or feel a certain way or expecting others to act or feel a certain way. If you constantly find yourself feeling a great feeling of dis-ease when someone is not feeling/acting the way you want, you may just be a co-dependent.

Other People’s Expectations

Remember, you are in control of your own character and your own life’s path. Own this responsibility! If we do not firmly take responsibility of our own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits or actions, we are prone to undue influence of other people’s expectations. The expectations that I am referring to are not the common social expectations that we are all subject to. I am talking about the expectations of others that lead us into action that we may not want. For example, if you know deeply that you are intrinsically an artist, but your father always though of you as a great candidate for medical school, you will most likely be fulfilled if you followed your true passion instead of donning the role of “doctor” to meet your dad’s expectations.

Healthy Comparison

There is an element of comparing yourselves to others that can serve a purpose. Most of the time the tendency of comparing ourselves to others in our peer group offers us a form of social feedback. However, once we establish a pattern of habitually comparing ourselves to others, we can lose our internal locus of control and begin to define ourselves by others’ around us. We are NOT the other people around us! We are our unique personality. If Johnny is better at basketball, that’s good for Johnny. We should not view ourselves as inferior if our performance at basketball is not as good as Johnny. If we are looking at our own performance, it is best if we measure our current performance versus our past performance. Otherwise, we are in danger of losing important aspects of our own identity.

It is wonderful to have other people in our lives. Other people can have a positive influence. It is beneficial to remember to remain in charge of our own identity and to be the best that we can be.

May 22, 2012

Social Stories

Social stories are en excellent example of the importance of our own internal narrative. “Social Stories” was developed by Carol Gray, a speech language pathologist to help children with autism how to learn social skills. Social stories are essentially scripts that teach the rules of how to engage in social situations. These stories work since the students review the stories on a daily basis so the social scripts become a part of their internal dialogue. The social stories are reviewed prior to the relevant event so the script can be practiced in a natural context. Families and teachers that use “Social Stories” report many success stories about how effective this strategy is in facilitating appropriate social skills.

If social scripting can work for people with Autism, it can work for us as well. We can write our own scripts on the beliefs, feelings and attititudes that we want to change. We can benefit from reading positive affirmations on a daily basis. We can reap rewards by writing and reviewing the goals that we wish to achieve. We can consciously change our perception of the present and change our internal dialogue as well.

 

May 21, 2012

What’s Your Story?

Most of us do not realize the power of our own internal story telling. We assume that our identity if fixed and we are just experience life as it comes to us. What we may not realize is the fact that how we choose to experience our life is influenced by many unconscious assumptions related to how we are “writing” our own story. Once we realize that we are authors of our own story, we are better able to guide the narrative of our lives.

Setting:
The setting is really just where you are in the moment. It is your specific location in time and place. The setting is just part of our story. It can have an influence on us, and our actions. Our current setting does not define us. Just because you may have lived in the same location for your entire life does not mean that that will always be the case. You can change your setting is you so desire. If you do not like a particular setting such as living with someone who gives you more frustration that affection, then you have the ability to leave. Our setting has an influence on us, but it does not control us.
Character:
You have control over the elements of your character. Your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits and attitudes guide your actions. How you frame your role in different situations will affect your response and possible outcomes to these events. The role of your character may change depending on the setting, how you view your involvement in the current “plot line” and in relation to the others around you. You may perceive your role as:
– the victim
– the hero
– the complex misunderstood character
– the comic foil
– the central character
– the social observer
– etc.
Remember, you are the one constructing the narrative in your own mind. How do you want to see yourself?
Plot:
We are in control of the perceiving meaning that we discern from our life’s events. However, we do not have control over many things that happen to us. Based on our beliefs of our role in our lives settings and routines, we will distill meaning from what happens to us.
If we see ourselves as the unfortunate victim of life events, the coffee that we accidentally spilled on ourselves on the way to that important job interview will be construed as a tragic element in a series of unfortunate events. We may proceed even further with our internal plot line by acting in some unfortunate subconscious way that leads to a nervous unflattering job interview that leads to losing the prospective new job.
When we see ourselves as the fortunate protagonist, the coffee spilled on our dress shirt will just be a minor obstacle to conquer. Our plucky character will find a napkin and soda water to clean the stain or even would use the incident as a humorous anecdote to start the job interview. Even if this perceived “champion” does not get the job, our internal dialogue will weave the story as just one step of many in the quest for optimal employment.
How we “write” our plot will control how will remember the event. When we tell stories about our lives at the end of the day, it is clear to the plot lines that we see ourselves in and the role our character plays.

In closing, I realize there is so much more to say about this topic. I want to give a shout out to Lem at  The Identity Specialist  (http://identityspecialist.net) and Karen Wan at Writing your destiny (http://writingyourdestiny.com) since they thing about these concepts as well.

Now go write yourself a good story!

May 18, 2012

Benefit of the Doubt

I have to admit that I have a sarcastic sense of humor. My ironic attempts at merriment frequently fall into the sar-chasm (the gap between the attempt at a

humoristic sarcastic common and the stoic perception of the recipient). More simply put, there are some people in life that do not appreciate a sardonic humoristic style. More simply put, sarcasm is not always funny. In fact, many people interpret sarcastic comments as possibly hostile or passive aggressive. However, I feel that if you know me fairly well personally, you would understand that the intent of these proposed humoristic barbs are meant to generate levity and not cynicism. That is why I typically reserve my more playful side for those who understand my intent. If you know me, I would hope that you would give me the benefit of the doubt regarding my intentions.

In many life situations, I believe that we would all want other people to give us the benefit of the doubt. Most people do not go out into the world with malicious intent. Most people are just living their lives and are tying to get their own needs met along the way. The majority of people in supermarket lines and driving in traffic are have no harmful intent. Therefore, we should always do our best to give other people the benefit of the doubt. In situations where another person’ actions could be explained by either innocuous or malevolent means, why not just assume the more positive explanation?

When we are interacting with our friends and we do something awkward, we would like them to give us the benefit of the doubt about our intent. If we make some off hand snide comment, we would hope that they would give us the benefit of the doubt and realize that there is no intent to hurt another’s feelings.

The next time I make some off color sarcastic quip, please give me the benefit of the doubt.

Related Articles

http://33percentmorefun.com/2012/04/23/the-benefit-of-the-doubt/

http://mzsunflower.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/4-things-you-cannot-recover/

May 13, 2012

“Surf Lessons”

Today my buddy and I surfed Windansea, one of the more noteworthy surf spots in San Diego. This place is known for its’ competitive local attitude. If you are not a decent surfer and if you are not familiar to the other guys in the lineup, you are prone to verbal insults or being “ganged up” on by the local crew. Why surf here? It is an awesome wave and it can be really fun.

A few years ago when I surfed this legendary surf break I did not feel worthy. I wiped out a couple of times and I felt out of place in the lineup. I also received some rancorous comments from the local surf crew. I left this session feeling inferior and depleted.

This morning was quite different. I have become a much better surfer in the last few years and I have total control of my board. My friend and I easily caught as much or more waves then the other guys in the lineup. All the interactions with my fellow surfers were positive. I felt worthy. I had an awesome day!

Between waves, I reflected on all of the life lessons that were applicable:

1) Accept feedback – When I last surfed Windansea, I was not “good enough”. At that time, I did not have the requisite skill to be in the lineup. It was beneficial to acknowledge that I needed to improve ability before going back.

2) Practice, Patience and Persistence will get you where you want to go. – If you want something, you need to put in the effort and have patience for your desired outcome. In the blogging world, it is best to keep writing to hone your craft, be persistent through times where you do not feel inspired and be patient for the possibility of an expanded readership.

3) Don’t Take Anything Personally – As Don Miguel Ruiz stated in “The Four Agreements”, “nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” There is always a chance that you are going to run into “grumpy” people in the community or in the surf lineup. Their attitude is their issue. Don’t make it yours.

4) Remember that you are in control of how to respond to every situation. –  As discussed yesterday, how we respond to the actions and reactions of others can affect how a situation can play out and can affect your emotional response.

5) Be here, now and “go with the flow”. – When you find something you truly enjoy, it is easier to live in the moment and feel the joy of the situation. Surfing does this for me.

Thank you for your patience for all of my surfing metaphors. Have a great day!

May 11, 2012

Don’t Be a “Grouch”!

 

There are people in our lives that appear to go out of their way to conversationally invalidate everything we say. When we discuss how to solve a complex problem with them, they will state the obstacle to every possible solution. When you remark on a sunny day, they will inform you of the harmful effects of UV radiation. When you remark on how the cloudy day is a perfect day to work outside without getting too hot, they will complain about the “gray gloom”. When you start to talk about a major problem in your life, instead of validating how you feel or see if there is anything to do to help you, this person will pat you on the back and tell you it will all be OK. When conversing with a constant contrarian, you will likely leave the interaction frustrated and depleted.

I have to acknowledge that I have my own inner “grouch”. This is the voice inside my head that can derail forward progress. My internal contrarian gives me a reason to stay in bed when I plan to wake up early and exercise. This subconscious naysayer provides me with ample reasons to downplay the compliments of others. It takes vigilance to keep this voice in check. I am glad that I have practiced the habit of reviewing my thoughts before they are spoken. Some times this inner curmudgeon presents its’ input during ordinary conversation. For example, a friend of mine informed me of the fun he had discovering an outstanding Mexican marketplace where you could find excellent traditional Mexican food at great prices. My inner killjoy wanted to inform him of the fact that my does not eat a lot Mexican food and that this place, that gave him a sense of satisfaction and pride, just wouldn’t work for me. Luckily my pre-frontal cortex kicked in and allowed me to evaluate my response. What value would I be adding to the conversation by dismissing the value of this new Market? My friend wanted to be validated for his excitement. He did not want to speak with a proverbial “wet blanket”.

One of the benefits of meditation or quiet reflection is that we can evaluate our inner dialogue in a detached manner. We can observe our thought patterns and notice the general feeling of our thoughts. When we realize that our thoughts are just a part of our identity and do not compromise the totality of our identity, we understand that we can control what we think and what we say. We know from experience that is annoying to speak with a constant contrarian. There is no benefit from being a contrarian ourselves.

April 29, 2012

Kreativ Blogger Award

I am very grateful to Currie Rose and to Holistic Me for nominating “Influence Versus Control” for the Kreativ Blogger Award! Currie has been very supportive of my little corner of the blogosphere. Currie has a great blog entitled “Based on a True Story”, which brings truth, humor, and a positive spirit. Holistic Me summarizes her own blog with the Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I definitely agree with Holistic Me’s philosophy that we “are responsible for our own health and our own well-being. “ I encourage you to stop by these blogs because they are awesome!

The Kreativ Blogger Award works in a similar way to a chain mail, in that if you are nominated, you then nominate seven other blogs for the award in order to accept.

To those I nominate (and for everyone else), here are the rules:

▪   Thank the nominating blogger and provide a link to that blog

▪   Spread the love by nominating seven other bloggers, including their links

▪   Tell your readers seven things they may not already know about you

So, here are seven things about me:

  1. I grew up in Berkeley California. The odd thing about growing up in Berkeley is that people can have a preconceived notion about what those crazy Bezerkley people. When growing up I loved all of the café’s in the Telegraph Avenue area. I also loved going to the original Peet’s coffee. Ummm, coffee.
  2. My mother was an Art History Librarian and UC Berkeley. She was in charge of the Italian collection. I know very little about art history.
  3. My father was a soil engineer. However, I did not end up being good at math.
  4. I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology at University of California at Davis. For the record, I did not get into Berkeley.
  5. After UC Davis, I spent about a year as a substitute teacher for special education classes. This experience was influential in my career decision of becoming an occupational therapist in school-based practice.
  6. I went to “The Ohio State University” for OT school. Spending a few years with actual winter makes me appreciate the weather that I currently experience in San Diego.
  7. I am in the process of writing a book. I started “Influence Versus Control” to encourage me to write on a regular basis.

And my nominees for the Kreativ Blogger Award are (in no particular order!):

  1. David Kanigan – Great thoughts, quotes and images about choosing a positive response.
  2. A leaf in springtime – Inspiring art and ideas
  3. Jay the Baker – A sweat dose of positivity daily
  4. Goss Coaching – Great advice on getting where you want to go in life.
  5. Looking at the Sky – Best described by the author: “My thought today is to keep moving forward.  Looking for new things to create.  Finding new ideas that inspire you to move forward and learn more.”
  6. Momentum of Joy – “Where spirituality meets reality”.
  7. A Kiss of Bliss – Positive art and great ideas. Well written and encouraging.

 

Thank you all!

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