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Posts Categorized: Problem Solving

How to Evaluate Which Habits Impact Your Behavior Negatively and Positively

As I mentioned in my previous post, habits affect everything we do. They are behaviors we keep in place because we get a benefit in some way.

But habits and behaviors have consequences. They might make us feel good in the moment but have a negative long-term cost.

To make habits work for you, it is important to know which ones keep you from maximizing your time and efforts.

For example, you may decide that this is a good time for you to go back to school and get an advanced degree or training. Before you do, it is helpful to know how you currently use your time and what you do on a regular basis.

  • What wasted time can be redirected?
  • What current habits would interfere with completing your course work?

Habits: Are They Working For or Against You?

Habits: Are They Working For or Against You?

We are creatures of habit. Habits are great because we don’t have to think about every move we make. It’s like being on auto pilot. But they can also keep us from achieving what we want in life.

We need to be aware of the habits that can help or hinder us. The next three posts will focus on understanding our habits and learning how we can replace them.

How did we choose the habits we have and what keeps them in place?

Connected to habits are behaviors of some kind. Behaviors continue because we get a payoff or reward that motivates us to keep doing what we are doing.

As behaviors are reinforced, they are repeated and soon become habitual. That reward comes either in the form of receiving something positive or removal of something we don’t want.

12 Positive Affirmations to Help Bridge Your Past with Your Future

12 Positive Affirmations to Help Bridge Your Past with Your Future | focuswithmarlene.com

Bridges are incredible feats of engineering and ingenuity, rising high above deep gorges, over rivers and large bodies of water. I am fascinated by the ingenuity required to design such lofty and expansive works that are both practical and majestic; a combination of beauty and strength.

I like to use the analogy of bridges because we are constructing them every day. They make connections between couples and families. They bridge the gap between our past and future and expand our possibilities as we move from one venture to another.

We’ve been thinking about the stories we create to define what we are going through. We learned that we can change the narrative to work for us instead of against us. Setbacks do happen. But we can turn them into opportunities.

Letters of Goodbye – Completing an Ending

Letters of Goodbye – Completing an Ending | focuswithmarlene.com

Traumatic events, whether they happened today or in the past, represent an ending of some kind. Something you valued was taken away.

Grieving is coming to terms with those losses. It is finding a way to reconcile unfortunate or tragic events. If we hurry from that ending before putting to rest emotional turmoil and unanswered questions, it can make it difficult to create a new beginning.

When I began this series on “Picking up the Pieces,” I asked you to consider the stories you tell and become aware of the narrative you use. The way we describe our circumstances can make a difference in completing an ending and beginning a new chapter in our lives.

Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves

Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves | focuswithmarlene.com

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.

 The chief drawback is what you are wolfing down is yourself.

 The skeleton at the feast is you.”

 Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York: Harper & Row, 1973)

Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). We take it as a moral imperative.

But it isn’t just Jesus that tells us how important forgiveness is; science confirms it as well. In fact, to not forgive is putting a slow death sentence on ourselves, as the theologian Frederick Buechner so aptly describes.

How to Change the Narrative When Your Emotions Are Holding You Hostage

How to Change the Narrative When Your Emotions Are Holding You Hostage | focuswithmarlene.com

The words we repeat over and over again have an emotional effect on us. They can hold us hostage to everything that is going wrong. When things go well, our stories are upbeat and hopeful. When life takes a downturn, so does our narrative. The focus shifts to what we lost and how miserable we feel.

Step out of the emotional arena, take a deep breath and think about the possibilities you have. Change your narrative from what you can’t do to what you can.
Here are seven ways you can change a pessimistic narrative to an optimistic one.

Become aware of what you say to yourself.

Unexpected catastrophes and setbacks due to illness or losses result in drastic changes. Our first reaction is feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

What Did You Learn?

Throughout our lives we are learning. When we were little, we learned by doing and experimenting: falling down, getting hurt and gradually discovering what not to do.

We learn from our parents what we should and shouldn’t do. But the learning that had the most influence is what we learned by observing. It’s not so much what is said – but what is lived.

Kids in school and teachers have a huge impact on our lives. There is a lot of social learning as well as book learning that happens during those school years. How am I treated by other kids? Am I accepted or rejected? Is it easy for me to make friends or am I excluded? And what do I have to do to be in that inner circle?

Later, learning takes us into more formal academic settings where we get our degrees before entering the rough and tumble life of the real world where jobs dictate what and how things should be done.

Throughout the years we will continue to gather information, taking classes that enhance our lives in some way.

Self Correcting

My husband and I were sailboat cruisers. We moved to the beautiful northern Washington area so we could take advantage of the wonderful cruising opportunities available in the San Juan Islands.

When you do any serious sailing or cruising it is important to learn the rules of the road, know where the shipping lanes are, what the different buoys mean, know how to chart a course and take into consideration prevailing winds, tides and currents. Without these basics you can easily get into trouble.

So it is in life. We need to learn what it means to be comfortable at the helm, where the rip tides are, how to avoid submerged but dangerous rocks and where the safe passages are located.

Preparation not only includes knowledge of the areas where we are sailing, but also preparation of the boat and ourselves.

There were times when we had charted a course, set the boat on its path and then were able to activate the automatic pilot – a self-steering apparatus which enabled you to take your hand off the wheel and allow the automatic pilot to take over. But you never left the area – you continued to monitor where you were going so in a moment’s notice you could resume control of the helm.

I know what I can’t do – But what can I do?

We had just built and moved into our new home and were in various stages of unpacking and trying to find a place to put things.

A vertebra in my lower back had been gradually deteriorating putting pressure on a sciatic nerve. Without warning, it could trigger a spasm in my left leg, culminating in a leg cramp that locked my entire leg in a rigid position. Once locked, I was unable to move it until it had run its course.

However, if given enough warning, I could alter the outcome of the spasm. If caught early enough, I

STOP!

The phone hasn’t stopped ringing – the kids are fighting again – the teacher called to schedule an emergency conference about your child’s schoolwork – your boss is uncompromising as the company instigates new policies, little time for training and additional workloads for everyone – you can’t afford to lose your job – nobody seems to care – and you are exhausted.

All you want is a quiet evening of peace and quiet, free from any more problems. And then the phone rings, and you cry, “Not another problem, Lord. I can’t take anymore.”

But this time the phone call is from your best friend, who patiently listens as you unload your frustrations. But when you hang up the phone, although some of the pressure has been lifted, you know it will begin again. You have asked God for strength, thanked Him for your special friend and the daily strength He gives you. But the problems are still there and you know you can’t continue like this.