Posts tagged ‘positive’

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 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.

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April 13, 2012

Finding your Rhythm

When changing a habit or when adding a new activity to your lifestyle, it is helpful to find a time for this new habit/routine.  If we do not know where to place this new habit/routine into our schedule, it is very easy to forget to perform this activity. Once you habit becomes a part of your daily rhythm, it is a lot easier to maintain.

For my own “habit change challenge”, I found that that only way that I could be consistent with implementing my target habits was to find a regular place for them in my daily schedule. Since I have two young children, I found it was best to add my new activities during times of the day when my children are asleep. In the morning, I exercise, meditated and listen to positive meditation podcasts. At night, I blog, journal my successes and list the things for which I am grateful.  Having this structure in place has helped immensely. I have been waking up early and exercising for over a year. After exercising, I have just enough time to shower, get dressed, make lunch, eat breakfast, kiss the family goodbye and leave for work. I have found that I needed to meditate and perform my affirmations before my workout since it was better to have a slightly shorter workout than to miss the opportunity to perform these activities all together.

What works for you! Please share your ideas of ensuring that you have time for some positive time for yourself.

March 24, 2012

Events + Response = Outcome

One of the most influential equations that I have learned in my life has been:
E + R = O
For this equation;

  • E = Events
  • R = Your chosen response to an Event
  • O = The overall outcome

In the model, the “Event” is neutral. It is not “good” or “bad”, it is just a life circumstance. It is our Response to an event that will shape how we label or perceive the event in our minds. How we choose to Respond to an event directly effects the overall outcome.

For example, imagine you are a school-aged kid being called a name by one of your classmates. You choose to respond by calling the other kid a worse name. The outcome is that the other kid hits you.

Imagine this scenario with a different response. You are a school-aged kid being called a name by one of your classmates. You ignore the other kid and move to the other side of the playground to be with a group of your friends. The outcome is that you have moved on with your day without conflict.

Let us look at this equation from an “Influence versus Control” perspective

  • E = Events – These are things that you typically can’t control. You may be able to influence factors leading up to events, but the event would have happened without you. Life events can be the small events such as being cut off in traffic or misplacing your house keys to major life events such as your house burning down or losing a family member.
  • R = Response – This is where you have some control. You can choose your response. When a life event happens, you can remember that there are multiple ways to respond to any situation and you can practice taking the time needed to evaluate your response. Since your response has a strong influence on the outcome, it is important to take personal responsibility for your responses to all life events.
  • O = Outcomes- This is an areas where we have influence. If we react “positively” to a situation, we are more likely to experience a “positive” outcome.

The next time “life happens”, do your best to take the time to evaluate your response and observe how the outcome unfolds.

March 4, 2012

A Goal Setting Activity

Now that we are starting the third month of this year, there is a chance that we may have drifted away from our “New Year’s Resolutions”. We do not need to wait for a New Year to create or re-focus on our live goals.

One exercise that can help guide you towards moving forward towards your life goals involves a folded piece of paper.

One the left side of the paper, write “old” and on the right side of the paper write “new”. Under the “old” column, write down all the things that you want to move away from or all those things you do not want to experience any more.

On the right column of the paper, write the opposite concept to the items on the left side or what you want to move towards. For example, if the left side of the column listed “debt”, the right column would read “abundance”.

After you compete this exercise, tear the paper down the middle. Take the left side of the paper, crumple it up and ceremoniously throw it away. These are the things you are DONE with! On the right side, you have a list of things that you want to focus on.

The “old” and” new list exercise can be taken further.  For each habit that you want to change, write the attribute of what you want to change as well as the feelings that you want to move away from on the left/old column. As before, for each of these items, write the opposite of each word on the right/new column.

For example, if the habit that you want to change is to stop smoking, on the left column you may list:

– Short breath

– Increase chance of heart attack and stroke

– Bad breath

– Expensive habit

– Smelly clothes

-Fear of poor health


– Low energy

The right column for this list may look like:

– Deep healthy breathes

– Decreased chance of heart attack and stroke

– Clean breath

– Money saved!

– Clean smelling clothes

-Confidence of health

– Detachment

– High energy

Once you throw the left/old column/list away, you are left with a positive image of where you want to move forward. Think of it as a map, you want to move a way to a better place in your life. To do so, you need to know exactly where you are going. By creating this list, you see everything you want and the actions are up to you. If you want to get to the proverbial town of

“Deep health breaths”, we know we cannot get there by going through “Smoke in Lungs” Avenue.

Another powerful step to this exercise is to have some form of statement of feeling or a mental image of how you will feel to change a habit or reach a certain goal. For the example above, we may write, “I feel awesome breathing deeply and healthily every day!” and imagine a satisfied smile on our face as we take deep long relaxing breaths.

It is best to think of things in the positive since it is easier to visualize. Although our thoughts are words, each word has a mental picture attached. A frequent example of this is the phrase “don’t think of a penguin. The more I say, “don’t thank of a penguin”, the more likely you will have a mental image of a penguin. Saying, “I will not smoke” will lead to a mental picture of someone smoking and therefore a greater chance that you may choose the action of smoking. It would be better to say something like “I will take healthy breaths every day”.  When you write your scripts for each goal, it is best to find words that appeal to you.

May you find the time to reflect where you want to go and create your goals as a road map to get there.

February 29, 2012


If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

– Dali Lama

Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.

– Dali Lama

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” – Thomas Merton defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” I definitely agree that compassion incorporated the strong feeling to alleviate the suffering of others. However, I feel that compassion is much deeper than a “feeling of deep sympathy or sorrow”. Compassion is deeper that “pity” or sympathy alone. When we show compassion to another, we understand the other’s feelings as a part of the human condition. Compassion arises out of the awareness that all people have the possibility to experience the same range of human experience all human experiences and human emotions. Compassion allows understanding of another person’s perspective since we can imagine ourselves reacting to the situation in a similar manner. Compassion is the desire to relieve another’s suffering. We can demonstrate compassion when another person is experiencing great anger, frustration, as well as sadness and loss.

When you demonstrating compassion, you perceive yourself as an equal to the one you are demonstrating compassion for. For example, if we feel compassion for someone who is homeless and down on their luck, we understand that we too could be homeless and it a similar situation. When friends or family make poor decisions (such as engaging in addictive patterns), compassion allows us to see that we have the same possibility to make similar decisions. When we interact with other people compassionately, others are able to feel supported in a non-judgmental fashion. Others can feel our intention to alleviate their suffering.

Compassion can be seen as the emotional equivalent of “the Golden Rule”. As Karen Armstrong from has stated “Always treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself … Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you”. Compassion can be viewed as reacting to all others as if they are your self.

What are the benefits of compassion?

First, there are emerging studies that show that compassionate behavior and compassionate meditation are good for our health. In a study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, it was demonstrated that “individuals who engage in compassion meditation may benefit by reductions in inflammatory and behavioral responses to stress that have been linked to depression and a number of medical illnesses”(link) In another study of 59 women, it was found that those who demonstrated high levels of compassion for others were more receptive to social support, enabling them to better handle acute psychological stress and maintain overall well-being, according to psychologists at the University of Maine, University of California – Berkeley and University of California – San Francisco (link).

Second, compassion can help us influence the interactions that we have with others. When we choose a compassionate response when another person gets upset, we are more likely going to have a neutral or understanding response. By responding in this manner, we are more likely to be able to diffuse a potential conflict. Additionally, when we react to others compassionately, we are more likely to build rapport with that person.

Finally, the more compassionate we are, the more compassion we bring into the world. As Ghandi is often quoted “be the change you want to see in the world.” By being more compassionate, we model how to be compassionate and those who are within our zone of influence are more likely to respond compassionately to us.

The next time someone gets angry with you, resist the temptation to engage in a defensive response. Consider what circumstances brought the other person to get angry. Imagine how you would feel in a similar situation. Then focus on the intention of elevating the other person’s suffering. Your compassionate response is not only good for your own health, but it has the opportunity to strengthen your interpersonal relationships and help facilitate a more compassionate world.

Please share your comments on this topic! I am grateful for any insight you may have.

February 27, 2012

Forgiveness, it is within our Control

Many people view forgiveness as something that is important for another person to do for us. Many times we may hear ourselves and others request, “please forgive me” or state, “I can’t believe she will not forgive me”. The forgiveness of others is definitely not something that we can control. Although the forgiveness of others can help heal an aspect of a relationship, we can only control our own ability to forgive.

Forgiveness is an important habit /attribute for our own sense of wellbeing. Forgiveness allows us to “clear the slate” and let go of resentment and frustration. Forgiveness allows us to stop “holing on” to a perceived insult or injury.  Some people I know have stated that they are resistant to forgiving someone since they feel the act of forgiveness will encourage the other to continue engaging in wrongdoing. But forgiveness is for our own selves. It allows us to move on from a challenging situation. It allows us to dump the negative data set that we have been collecting and to change our emotional filter of continuing to gather data to reinforce our feelings of anger, resentment and contempt. Forgiveness is not forgetfulness. If someone has harmed us repeatedly in the past, we can forgive that person and let go of our emotional baggage while making the conscious decision of not letting that person hurt us again in the same way.

For example, there is one person that has been a part of my social circle for a long time. Many years ago, that person repeatedly spread gossip and rumors about me. Then, that person started rumors about other people that were close to me. Needless to say, this situation caused me a lot of anger, frustration and resentment. When I finally decided to forgive this person, my life got better. Now, when I run into this person, I no longer have a visceral emotional response. I am able to be cordial and no one in the room feels any tension. I do not actively seek out that person for validation or socialization nor have I forgotten this person’s tendency to spread rumors. What is important is that I have healed and I have moved on.

Resentment is a feeling that can cripple a relationship. Once we have started to resent someone, we typically hold onto the justification for that resentment. Forgiveness is the panacea for moving past our past resentments. Once we have forgiven that person, we can relive ourselves from the emotional baggage from that situation. This can help us objectively evaluate the situation or the relationship to determine if it continues to be beneficial to our personal interest.

Forgiveness can be valuable in situations where we know that we are the person that has made a mistake. If we know that we have made a mistake and that we are willing to do everything possible to move towards healing, forgiving ourselves can help us move forward. In this case, we can only hope that the other person can forgive us.

February 25, 2012

You Have A Voice!

Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing the prospect of looking at ourselves on video. She stated that she finds it interesting to watch herself on video. I replied that it kind of creeps me out when I watch myself on video. My wife replied, that our reaction to our videos may be reflective on how we viewed ourselves as speakers. My wife comes from the perspective that feels that typically what she has to say is interesting and important. I appear to come from the perspective of doubt that what I have to say may be interesting to others. Therefore, my wife is a more active and fluent speaker than myself for most topics. However, when I am fully confident of the topic of which I am speaking, I feel that I do a great job at expressing myself.

I realized from this conversation that I still need to acknowledge and overcome my unconscious programming. I know that at a conscious level that I am smart, articulate and respected in my feel. To overcome my subconscious thoughts, I need to re-write my story. I have interesting things to say! I am worthy of being heard!

In the movie “The King’s Speech”, there is a great scene where the King George VI is doubting the credentials of Lionel Logue, his speech therapist. In the movie to this point, King George VI was also greatly doubting himself on his ability to be King since public speaking was such a great challenge for him. On the eve of the King’s coronation, Lionel Logue sat on the thrown while King George was lost in doubt. When the King saw Lionel on the thrown, he told him to get out. Lionel refused and indicated that the King was not a King yet and why should Lionel listen to this duke who did not feel he was worthy of being a King? The King gathered confidence and strength with his articulation and stated clearly “because I have a voice!”

Each of us has a voice. Each of us can be prone to doubt. We are all best served when we do not let irrational fears or doubts hinder our voice.

We all have important things to say!

We are all worthy of being heard!

We may not all be Kings in the official sense, but we ALL have a VOICE!

We are all “Kings” of our own Kingdoms!

Thanks to all who have read and commented!