Sunday, December 16, 2012

Re-Parenting and Play

Re-parenting is a term used by psychology people to describe the process of dealing with issues from  childhood by doing the things for yourself that your parents did not do. Words like trauma, abuse, neglect, dysfunction, and other fun terms are usually thrown around with re-parenting.

I take a different view of re-parenting.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hit Joy Head On: Gratitude and Joy Avoidance

I'm ready  Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (affiliate link) by Brene Brown. One fascinating section of her book discusses joy avoidance. Joy avoidance is the process people use to mitigate the vulnerability they feel when touched by pure joy. Brene uses the example of watching her children sleep. Just as she gets the lump in her throat because they are so beautiful and she loves them so much, her mind begins every worst case scenario of things that can go wrong in their lives. It's as if she feels so open in her joy that she is afraid of it. If something horrible happened to her kids it would crush her, so she tries to squash the joy in hopes of avoiding the possibility of pain.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ode to Marriage

I'm looking at my husband napping as I write this blog entry. I've been married for sixteen years. These days, that's a long time, but really, it seems like just days ago--a series of seconds and minutes and days we've been in proximity, experiencing the same things and comparing our feelings and reactions.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Be Liked or Be You?

I've spent a fair part of my life stepping back. Before I take a step or move towards a goal, I think about what how the people around me will take it. I hesitate to assert myself because I might hurt someone's feelings, and put aside goals because someone may not agree that my goal is worthwhile. It's not fun.

Lately I've stumbled onto a lot of writers who encourage being yourself.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Who Do You THINK You Are?

I work with a martial arts instructor on some basic exercises as part of my acupuncture practice. Today I was whining about how long I've been trying to 'get back' the level of fitness I once had.  I told him of my glory days of working out two hours a day. He said, "I can tell you're an athlete by the way you move. You just need to get your mind and body aligned to that goal."

I was startled. I've considered myself as fit or unfit at different times in my life, but even at my most buff, I did not think of myself as 'an athlete.' Athletes were people who won games, knew how to play soccer, and liked sports movies. I just used weight machines and did sit-ups. Then I looked honestly at my life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Three Points on Working Hard Without Even Trying

I read a fair number of blogs:The Art of Non-Conformity, UpMarket, Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and tons of others--ask in the comments if you want the list. All post content that emphasizes standing out from the crowd, living your own life, and resisting dependence on the ideas and manipulation of others. Lately I've been inspired by two different mantras that turn up on these sites: without hard work, you'll get nowhere, and  life is really not as hard as most people make it, so stop trying so hard.

I am very good at carrying two thoughts in my head at the same time, even if I can't carry a plate and a glass of lemonade three feet without spilling it. I've decided to make "work hard without even trying" it one of my mantras. Here are a few thoughts that percolated about it.

  1. Hard work, done correctly, is an enjoyable thing. Somewhere, way back in the depths of my primordial brain, I got the idea that working hard should hurt. The more the better. Surprisingly, I became not-so-very excited about working hard. It's not that I'm lazy. I just associated hard work as a very unpleasant means to the enjoyable end. When you decide to go into business for yourself (of just live a life involving conscious thought rather than following the crowd everywhere) this belief limits you. Hard work should be fun--maybe not every second, but the majority of the time. The enjoyment of reaching goals, tasting the fruits of your labors, and the simple process of doing something well all require hard work, but can be done with a smile on your face--if your goal and labor are toward the right things for you.
  2. Trying hard usually fails. Yoda said it--there is no try. I always hated "there is no try" because hyper-positivity irritates me. Since I've written a post on aggressive positivity, I may need to explain. Positivity says "I can do this, or I am intelligent enough to let it go and move on." Aggressive positivity says "I hate where I am right now, and it will take a while to get somewhere else. But I will not let it squash me. I can do this, or I am intelligent enough, etc." Hyper-positivity says "You can do anything, and if you fail I will slap you with a pithy saying to show you're a loser!" The people I knew who whipped out "there is no try" applied it to other people's problems.  I say "I'll try" when I'm afraid of failure. Saying "I will" implies you will keep doing until you reach your goal. So trying hard implies the possibility not of intelligent failure, where you realize you just had a bad idea, but of out-and-out, ugly, "I-give-up-on-my-life-dream-because-I'm-not-good-enough-for-it" kind of failure. So don't 'try hard'. Work hard at something great.
  3. Real hard work assumes thought. I picture someone trying hard as sloughing away at a task because she believes it should be done. I picture someone working hard as heading towards a goal. Hard work, the kind that is fun and rewarding, assumes you have thought through the path you have chosen. In Chrisitanity, we have the concept of 'counting the cost.' Jesus told his followers that He required 100% committment from them. Being like Him is non-negotiable. So He urged those considering it to look long and hard at their life. He offered them unlimited love, the miracle of forgiveness from sin, and the gift of eternal life--but the cost was giving up anything that got in the way. Living the life you love has a similar commitment. If you are willing to walk your path, and cut out anything that doesn't take you toward your destination, you will work hard. Before you start cutting things out of life, you need to think. So real hard work requires thoughtful consideration, so that when you give everything you have to a goal, you end up with something worth everything you have.
Working hard without trying has opened my eyes to a world of fulfillment. I still hop on the treadmill of "urgent but unimportant" work, but I catch myself quickly. Do you have places you want to go? Stop trying, and begin working hard!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Plan B

I live in awe of The Accomplishers--people who say, "in two weeks, I will clean out my closet; in two years, I will move into my new house; and in 10 years I will be married with 2.5 kids and a farm"--and it actually happens!

My life rarely rides such an orderly track. I say, "Over the next year I will overhaul my website and add a new emphasis on positive thinking." I map out a time frame to do it. I even get the notes for what I want to do with my website, with cute pictures and boxes of text. Then it gets complicated.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Getting Everyone to Like You All the Time

I hope you didn't click on a link to this article really thinking I could teach you how to become universally likeable. Sorry. There's far too much variety in the world for anyone to be attractive to everyone.

I worked for an engineering firm as a secretary while I was in school. I was constantly frustrated there because I could never anticipate what my employers wanted. Evidently my personality was as different from theirs as it is possible in a group of people without a serial killer or two in residence.  I could never figure out what they wanted in sales letters, reports, even in client interactions. I had worked in sales positions frequently before this post, and had always been well-loved and respected. I could not figure out how to both be a productive employee and get these strange engineer people to like me. Not surprisingly, I did not stay at the job long, but before I left I literally made myself sick trying to find a me that would fit into their world.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wanting What You Have

I am a recovering longer. Many people who know me will find this amusing, since I am shorter than most people. But by "longer," I mean I habitually long for things I don't have. In no particular order, right now I'm longing for cooler weather, health for my patients, a to-do list that gets checked off each day, more disposable income, a new car, to feel comfortable and close with all my talented friends, to finish my book, organize my home and office, and to buy new clothes. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Many of those things are worthy, or at least not bad goals. But reaching for them has not left me fulfilled and happy. Instead, this continual list of wants, needs, and "should-do's" leaves me ill at ease, and feeling I can never just let down and enjoy myself.

Somewhere deep in the ole noggin' I once decided that being comfortable with your here-and-now equates to not taking life seriously. So when I try to have fun, it must also serve some "useful" purpose. Meaning even my fun was a burden.

There is a song, Knee Deep in a River, and Dying of Thirst, about only appreciating what you have when it's gone. I didn't want to look back and see I was living that song.

So I decided to go radical. If cornered, I will readily admit that my life is pretty sweet. I work for myself, set my own hours, and have more control over my time than most people, even if I don't use that control as much as I'd like. I have a fine husband who understands me, appreciates my sense of humor, and likes having me around. He cooks for me! I live in a convenient place that is attractive to pull into at night, and have a short commute. What if instead of constantly trying to improve where I am in life, I start wanting what I have?

So I've been at it for about a week. Surprisingly, (or not, if you are wiser than me), I have:
  • slept better;
  • felt more equilibrium;
  • gotten several "to-do" projects I've been putting off done;
  • made more money; and
  • enjoyed my days more.
 I recommend gratitude all the time, to patients, my husband, friends, and anyone who will listen. I did not realized until this week, though, that I saw gratitude as a duty. "Better be thankful for food, or maybe you won't have any" is not really wanting what you have. It's trying to appease some angry god who in no way resembles the God I believe in.

Wanting what you have is real gratitude. It is also a choice. I was surprised to find I look at everything from the lens of how I can improve it. My poor husband has a checklist by his face in my mind, as does my cat, my office, my writing, my time management, any good deeds I perform--and raising the bar on my accomplishment is always a goal.

Last week I started the process of letting that go. This week, I am simply enjoying what is there. My husband is a blessing just as he is. My cat loves me more than anything else on earth. . .except fresh chicken, but I can live with that. My work is aimed at helping others, and I love doing it. And while I suppose doing good deeds because you feel they are expected is better than none at all, I am focusing on enjoying the ability to serve others rather than looking for the "goodest good deed" I can find to do.

It's a little scary to let so much pressure off myself. But it's also exhilarating! When I feel the need to beat myself up for something that isn't done, or done the way I want it, I simply pull back and remind myself, "This week we're trying out wanting what we have. This situation/interaction/experience is something we have. What can I do, or how can I think about, so that I want it?"

It's all part of my growing in aggressive positivity. Optimism creates zeal and joy, and zeal and joy are what I've sometimes been missing in my relentless pursuit of improvement. What I have in my life is positive, and focusing on those positives will allow them to grow. Please let me know in the comments what strategies you use to stay grateful and want what you have.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Aggressive Positivity

I don't know about you, but I sometimes struggle with negativity. I get a bad case of "nothing will ever go right again's" and it can ruin a day, suck the joy out of life, and leave me with no motivation to do anything at all. I'm working to make optimism my modus operandi. To that end, I've developed a philosophy of Aggressive Positivity--fighting negativity anytime it rears its ugly head. 

Below are some points to use in becoming aggressively positive. Before we get to that, let me say this. Optimism, or positivity, does not mean being a Pollyanna and refusing to acknowledge the things in your life that are wrong or negative. When you suffer a loss, or have anger, or sadness, or frustration, feeling those emotions is critical to processing them. The positive, or proactive response is to feel the uncomfortable (but not truly negative) emotion, and then focus your mind on the positive side of the situation. With practice, you can find the positive in anything, even if the actual experience is not good at all.
  1. Be positive. And be positive. And be positive. There is nothing that a positive attitude cannot improve--either in the situation or how you deal with the situation. In all things, look for the good. When you feel down, write what's bothering you, and then what can be good about it. If a loved one has died, make a list of anything positive--things you learned, experiences you loved, problems you are relieved of, or suffering that the person is freed from. If you are sick, list the people you've met from the illness that have been uplifting, of the new perspective you've gained, of the closeness you've built with family members that often comes with illness. You can choose positivity even in the most negative of circumstances.
  2. Fight the negative. You don't have to ignore negative things. You don't have to put on a smiley face when you want (or need) to cry. Processing emotions is a positive action. If you have a loss, cry for the loss. Go over the things you'll miss. But once you start to dwell on what's missing in your life, it is time for balance. Look for the positive. Especially if you have dealt with depression in the past, fight negativity as if you were at war. Negative thoughts damage your immune system, cause you to limit yourself, and leave you thinking small. Discouragement from negative thinking saps your energy, so it takes more work to do less. Any time you have a negative thought, counter it with a positive one, even for major life events. "I'm so lonely since I divorced" can become "I was willing to make a difficult decision. I will go to my friends and make new ones to get me through the transition. In the meantime I will enjoy the peace now that I'm not always arguing with my ex." It isn't easy to fight negative thinking and replace it with positive thinking, but those who expect great things from themselves don't always get to have an easy life--they have a great life!
  3. Know what you believe.  Do you have a philosophy of life? Do you believe good conquers evil, that you get out of life what you put in? Do you believe in God, in the importance of being kind, in sharing? Write down the major tenets of your beliefs. Now be sure you are living them. Positivity means freeing yourself to live by your beliefs instead of letting "real life" dictate what you do. What would you change if you had total freedom? Make that change a reality. I tremble a little even as I type this, because I have some big dreams and big things I want to transform in my own life. But the truth is you do have total freedom--you can choose to reorder your priorities, change you diet, your schedule, or how you respond to the difficult people in your life. The changes may not be comfortable, and some may take time to put in place, but you have the freedom to do it--do you have the courage? When you choose to look at life with a positive lens, living life according to your beliefs and  making changes that are good for you becomes simple. If you believe life works, then living life with integrity and purpose means you can't fail in the areas that really matter.
  4. Take care of yourself. Be as healthy as you can be, because positive, long-lasting accomplishment cannot happen in the face of self-destruction. Your life is a bigger project than any Olympic games. So be like an Olympic athlete--take your day-do-day routine seriously. Eat well--focus on really enjoying the good-quality food you eat as well as eating in moderation. Get enough rest. Most people don't get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation affects your ability to think, and predisposes you to a host of problems, including depression, lowered immune function, and clumsiness. Turn off constant exposure to violent programs, bitter conversation, or other llfe-sapping entertainments. You are a treasure--treat yourself with respect.
  5. Seriously find humor in everything.  Laughter is one of the cheapest and healthiest treats you can give yourself. It releases endorphins, can give your abdomen a workout, relieves stress, and causes a cascade of positive hormonal functions in the body. Regular laughter rewires your brain to seek joy. Find reasons to laugh as often as you can. When you can't find anything to laugh about, laugh anyway. If you are in the midst of loss, laughter may provoke tears, but that is also a natural energy release, and is healthy.
A positive outlook increases your enjoyment in life, improves your health, and greatly improves your ability to do the things you want to do. These five points will help you live a positive life doing the things you want to do and enjoying them! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Create Your Mind Culture

I have spent a lot of my life in worry mode. Worrying about money, worrying about what other people think of things I've done or haven't done, worrying about my career and health, and worrying about worrying so much. I got so much into a worry rut that I worried whenever I saw envelopes because they reminded me of bills! I was experiencing the wonders of neuroplasticity. (This post is inspired by Neuroplasticity: Healthy Shortcuts to a Happier Life, which has some great tips).

Neuroplasticity refers to the way the brain changes its functioning based on what you experience. When something scares you, your brain tries to protect you by cataloging what was happening when you experienced  the fear, and may trigger fearful feelings whenever something similar happens. Like my envelopes, sometimes something completely innocuous gets lodged in the brain as associated with a threat, causing extra worry. If you are having trouble with repeated worry, here are a three ways to train your brain to think happier thoughts:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Become Proactive and Do What Matters

Proactivity has been a much-used word in the past couple of decades. But it is more than a buzzword. To be proactive is to do the things you need to do to control your life rather than letting events control you.

Too many of us are figurative firefighters (FFFs). While I am thankful for the real firefighters, who put their lives on the line to help other people, FFFs spend their lives putting out fires that do not involve life and death. Like real fire fighters, the fires they fight often are due to carelessness; unlike those fighting real fires, the fires are often of their own making. The FFF does not have time to control life—life is a roller coaster of one pseudo-emergency after another, rushing to do whatever is most urgent. FFF’s use crisis management as their life strategy.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Planning A New Week

A new week starts tomorrow. Time to look over your goals, and decide what to do with today, tomorrow, and the next day. If you're like me, your weekly to-do list on Sunday rarely matches your check-off list at the end of the week. It seems like no matter how logical my plan, things come up. Planning a new week can be a frustrating task since I'm never sure how it will turn out.

The techie thing I want to do with my website hits wall after wall of technical difficulties. That to-do item goes from "30 minutes to add Twitter button" to "1 hour to look up how to undo wrong HTML coding" since I am not a web designer, just a do-it-yourselfer. Welcome-but-unexpected last minute clients mean re-arranging my schedule to accomodate them, and unexpected cancellations in my acupuncture practice open up time to write more. A whole day can be re-arranged if my energy is lower than expected. And please don't ask about packing my house to move!