Aiming Higher & Reaching Over Your Heart

They say you are drawn to what you value. What you think is really important in life. Your values lead you to the types of friends you associate with, the places you visit, the work you enjoy, who you fall in love with, what you do in your free time and all the other incredible things you do here on this big, crazy, beautiful planet.

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We don’t talk about the importance of having good values in school. We should, but we don’t.  Not yet anyway. 

I am thinking about my values a lot lately. What I use to value (having a lot of fun, making a lot of money, looking a certain way, etc) and what my values look like now. My values are changing quickly. The more I grow, the more my values change. 

The type of personality traits I now value. For me and for you.

1. Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full);

2. Intelligence (not just “smarts” but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning);

3. Work ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done);

4. Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel);

5. Self-awareness (an understanding of what makes you tick

6.  Integrity (a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgment).

This trait list inspired by this article about what Danny Meyer’s says to look for when hiring the right people.

Act II: Living a More Deliberate  and Intentional Life

Anytime I see anyone from high school whether in real life or on social media, they say they remember me as this carefree, fun loving girl with tons of energy. 

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While the life of the party might have served me well for all thing things that high school is about – partying, socializing and basically having a great time (at least that was my experience), those same traits led me down some very challenging and difficult paths.

Why?

Because I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I lived so “in the moment” that I never really stopped to seriously consider what I wanted to do with my life. So, I didn’t make any real decisions for myself. I just let things happenI just did whatever anyone else was doing. If it looked good and sounded like fun, I did it.  -Like going to the same college as my best friend – why not?  Choosing a career that allowed me to speak in front of many, many people and express my point of view. Of course. Eloping with the guy I met on the train –well okay? Having four children in the span of six years, because, well, who was thinking, planning or considering the responsibilities involved in raising four beautiful humans?

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Now, on the flip side, I have a very strong ability to keep on keeping on. Most likely a choice-supportive bias with a bit of ambiguity effect in place here. Resilient, persistent and stubborn to the point of stupidity, I made it through and by society’s standards with a decent amount of success.

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I built the career, raised the children, made the money, bought the house, went on the vacations and somehow even seemed to survive the roller coaster ride of being married and divorced to a bipolar manic depressive who was non-compliant with his medication and irrationally obsessed with traveling the country tripping his balls off while following the Grateful Dead.

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You see I made choices without really knowing myself and stuck to my cognitive biases and compromised so much of myself. It’s not like I feared anything, but more like I just kept going, without ever questioning. I was determined to starve before I was hungry.

Until now. Now I can be anywhere I want, doing anything I damn well feel. Which begs the question.

What does a life filled with intention look like for me? 

You see, the way I look at it – if I got this far not knowing what the hell I wanted, well can you just imagine when I do?

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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 

Henry David Thoreau.

 

Beautiful image of the woman with the dove coming out of her face.

Future Stress Reduction Made Simple and Why Your Having A Bad Day Already

 

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We can completely avoid being “blindsided” by problems.  Problems leave clues way before they become dilemmas.

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Problems present themselves first as small annoyances. The things that are bugging you that are tiny enough to just brush off and not big enough to make you care.

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There are so many clues right in front of our eyes but we may not want to look at them because, well, they can lead to an even more frightening thought. The future.

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I hate it when I notice a minuscule pesky problem and I say “oh, it will be okay.” Yeah, no it won’t. Grab it by the ass.

Sure I, on occasion, have just wanted to things to be okay, even if they weren’t. I even said to myself, as shit was going down, it’s okay. Sometimes I surrounded myself with people who loved to stay in the bubble of “okayness” rather than face the problem head-on. I don’t anymore.

It’s called living in denial.

We have immense power to cause both positive and negative outcomes in our lives. It starts by waking up to the truth. Small problems today grow into sucky stressful tomorrows. Address the problems now and save yourself the stress.

 

Surreal images by Eugenia Loli

 

Real but not True – a Mindset for Success

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If you suffer from even just an occasional attack of anxiety, worry or ruminating thoughts, this post has some very useful tips on how to stop the spin cycle of subcortical looping, ie. excessive, repeating thoughts of worry and fear. These are therapies and tips that I have been researching and trying on myself. They are not to replace professional medical guidance.

First, a few book quotes from  Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness

Worrying as a Way of Controlling the Future

The thoughts spinning around and around in our minds can be very convincing. We build elaborate scenarios of failure and chaos and believe them to be true. This may be very creative, but not conducive to happiness! Worry is a very real kind of mental suffering. I know because I come from a lineage of worriers myself. My mother used to joke that when she couldn’t think of anything to worry about, she’d really get worried. “It was my way of making sure I was taking care of things,” she says.

These are the thoughts that hold us back from doing the things that will bring us success. 

Phantom Problems

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Our minds can get stuck in worrying about phantom problems that we convince ourselves are real. As Mark Twain put it, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

Reasonable planning for the future can give us direction, but obsessing about what might go wrong puts us in a perpetual state of stress and rarely brings about positive results. 

The Problem with Chronic Worry is that it Solves Nothing and Causes Stress

“New solutions and fresh ways of seeing a problem do not typically come from worrying, especially chronic worry. Instead of coming up with solutions to these potential problems, worriers typically simply ruminate on the danger itself, immersing themselves in a low-key way in the dread associated with it while staying in the same rut of thought.” – Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence.

Read more Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

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Health Problems Associated with Obsessive Worry

Not only does worrying drain your energy, chronic worrying will eventually manifest into insomnia, sleep disorders, stomach problems, heart issues, binge eating, headaches, anxiety and depression. I personally have suffered through IBS and severe panic attacks and have been seeking guidance and help my whole life. However, I no longer want to feel this way.

Your Worry and Thoughts are Real, but Not True

So how do we wake ourselves up from the suffering of obsessive worry and anxiety?  Tara Brach, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of The Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (IMCW) suggests you shine some light on the worry by asking yourself a series of questions that begin with – What am I believing right now? Are you believing you will fail at something in the future? That something is wrong with you? That doom and gloom is right around the corner?

While the beliefs you have and those ruminating thoughts running your mind may feel very real they not necessarily true and they may be causing a very real physical effect on your body – like tightness, anxiety and fear.

Illusion exists because it’s not investigated.

As soon as you start questioning these thoughts and beliefs and shine a light of investigation on your fear-based loops you can begin to wake up out of their grip.

Question Your Beliefs

Shining the light of awareness on our worry really helps.  Byron Katie the founder of Byron Katie International (BKI), an organization that includes The School for the Work and Turnaround House in Ojai, California recommends we ask ourselves some powerful questions as we investigate the validity of our worry.

Take a moment to answer these questions. (Note, this is not a one time quick fix, in order to really do the work, these questions should be asked over and over again, it’s a practice.)

What am I believing right now?

Is it true? Do I really know that this is true?

What is it like to be living with this belief?  What does it feel like? Do I feel small? Contracted? Sad? Defeated?

How has this affected my life to be believing this?

How would I be if I didn’t believe this to be true?

These questions and post was inspired today by this amazing talk by Tara Brach. Click here to listen to more Releasing Limiting Beliefs   

Suggested Reading: True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

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Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

I am researching and studying the benefits of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Here are a few tips I have picked up a long the way. They have certainly helped me lighten up from the weighted suffering of worry.

Pause and Breathe

Mindfulness interrupts the tape loop by bringing us back to the moment so we can respond to what is actually happening right now. Mindfulness meditation shifts the mode adopted in response to thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness meditation involves a particular kind of attention and mental stance: deliberately, intentionally and non-judgementally paying attention to the present moment. Just one minute of mindful awareness can break the sub-cortical looping and rumination. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out. Just focus on that breath moving in and out of your body.

Look for Triggers

Triggers are warning signs and triggers for rumination include tiredness, inactivity and irritability. It is important to watch your mind and become aware of any of these emotions, which can lead to bouts of anxiety and obsessive worry. These can be counteracted by taking better care of yourself ie. plenty of rest, exercise and nutrition.

Get up and Move and maybe Join a Team

Cognitive behavior therapy has found that exercise and sports that are action focused and have us directly engaged in an experience can help release worry and rumination. Think yoga, tabata, tennis, skiing and team sports. Participating in sports that require your attention and engagement may really help you immerse in a sensory experience which will help you break the pattern of fear and worry.

Start a New Project

Shifting your activities from routine chores and obligations towards more self-fulfilling and absorbing activities will help you refocus your mind on something new. So will taking a more mindful approach to cleaning the house, running errands and folding the laundry.

Slow Down and Reduce the Rush

CBT therapists will encourage patients to slow things down while only focusing on one thing at a time. They will ask their patients to pace their activities without taking on too much which also may help  reduces the sense of “rushing around” and “being under pressure”.

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When we lighten up and let go of real but not true thoughts, we make room for more in our lives.

What have you tried that has helped? I’d love to learn more.