Habits – they can work for you or against you. They can either be an asset or a deterrent. Over time, whatever we do on a continuous basis becomes a habit.
Our habits become a lifestyle.
But are you achieving your goals? And if not, why not? Have you considered how you currently spend your time and energy? Do you have good intentions, but fail to follow through?
So, how do we move from good intentions to productive habits?
We continue doing the things we do because we get some kind of reward. If our rewards are immediate and pleasurable they soon dominate our life and we don’t bother with long-term goals. We grab a bite to eat at the deli instead of fixing dinner at home. We are tired after work and spend time on social media or mindlessly play video games. We convince ourselves we deserve this downtime. However, it is easy to become addicted to doing whatever feels good at the moment.
Sometimes it seems no matter what we do there are lingering doubts, fears or anxieties that won’t go away. How should we respond?
Emotions give us valuable information. It is important to pay attention to them. They tell us to stop and think before acting. They warn of danger, tell us to be careful, and to tread lightly. We may experience a gut feeling that is telling us something isn’t quite right. Before dismissing your feelings, take time to assess the facts surrounding them.
What is your brain telling you
Our brain is wired to keep us safe and prepares us to fight, run or stay frozen in a matter of seconds when it senses danger. We need to pay attention to authentic doubts, fears, and anxieties. Stop and question. What is happening? Why am I concerned? Am I over-reacting, or should I investigate further?
Past experiences teach us to be cautious. What did I learn before that can help me make a better decision today? Is this an appropriate response to what I am currently facing? Unless we stop and consider thoughtfully, we can become so reactive that we turn every little thing into something bigger than what it is.
We are constantly communicating, whether on our cell phones, facebook page, twitter or socializing over a glass of wine. But are you aware that you are also constantly communicating with yourself?
From the time we wake up in the morning to when we go to sleep at night, there is an internal dialogue going on inside of us.
What are you saying to yourself? Are you hearing affirming words that encourage and motivate you? Or do you hear words that constantly sow seeds of doubt, misgivings, and fears?
Your Internal Critic
Each of us has an internal critic, some more aggressive than others. It tells us how bad we are, how incompetent and unreliable. You might hear things like, “you can’t win, you are not good enough, blah, blah, blah.” The critic’s job is to remind you of all the reasons why you can’t succeed, so don’t waste your time trying. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
An internal critic has been around a long time and simply keeps repeating messages it has taken from our past and put onto a continuous tape. The messages are always negative, pessimistic, demeaning and discouraging. This internal critic has been around a long time and it has nothing of value to tell you.
Doubts and Fears
It is normal to have doubts and fears. Like all emotions, they have a purpose and it is important to pay attention to them. They warn us to stop and investigate before going on. They keep us from making knee-jerk reactions.We need to be able to assess and evaluate the information they are giving us.
Not everyone will like what you do. Not everything you say will be received the way you intended it to. You will not get all the breaks – in fact, you may think you have been short-changed. Others get all the breaks – you get all the leftovers.
Success isn’t about what others think about you. It’s not about what you have or have not been given. It’s about what you do with what you have been given.
Too often, we blame everything or everyone, including ourselves for our perceived lack of success. When this becomes a solidified mindset, we become our own worst enemy.
The greatest roadblock to success in life is often ourselves.
When we play the blame game, we remain stuck. We dimish our capabilities to succeed. We focus on the reasons why we can’t, and then, give up as soon as the road gets tough.
Bridges. They are incredible feats of engineering and ingenuity. I am fascinated by how lofty and expansive they can be – rising above deep gorges and over wide rivers or bodies of water.
In our early days of cruising the San Juan Islands, my husband and I took our sailboat under one of those amazing bridges that spanned Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island. The beauty of the area had competition from the grandeur of the bridge that rose high above us. How were they able to build such a structure?
Later, visiting the area by car, we stopped at a lookout at the entrance to the bridge and read the history associated with it. Early settlers would take a small ferry boat to get from one island to the other until the 1930’s when construction began to build a permanent bridge. It remains a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of men and women able to construct something of such stature that could withstand extreme weather and support heavy loads.
You may have lost your spouse, your child or other beloved family member or friend. Sometimes, it happens with the normal progression of age.
Sometimes it is with the unexpected telephone call bearing bad news, or a spouse’s request for a divorce. It might be the loss of your job or the discovery that the symptoms of discomfort you have been having is due to cancer or other degenerative diseases.
Even though each loss is different in some way, there is a commonality between them; something of great importance has been taken away that had purpose and meaning to you.
How do we move past them? How do we rise above them? How do we grieve them?
There are many books on the market that talk about grief and loss. But grieving is more than just walking through the pain of sorrow in those early days and months. It is more than coming to terms with the unexpected and uncertainty about the future. It involves a transition from what was to what is now. It is answering the question, I knew who I was before, but who am I today?
Once upon a time, a package was delivered to a young woman. When she opened it, her eyes blazed and she became very angry. Although she was infuriated over receiving this parcel, nevertheless she picked it up and took it with her.
Soon other packages arrived and she had to get a larger bag to put them in so she could carry them.
Every morning she dutifully picked up her bag and took it with her wherever she went: on the bus to work and when she met the girls for coffee or a glass of wine. It went with her to family gatherings and remained on her back as she fixed meals, cleaned house and did the laundry. Every once in awhile, she would receive another unwelcome and unwanted package which she stuffed in the bag with the others. It began to get heavier and heavier.
There were moments when she laid her bag down – times when she went for a walk outdoors and enjoyed the beauty of trees and flowers or walked the beach where water gently lapped around her ankles. At such moments, she felt free and alive. She could enjoy the sun and the sweet pungent smells of earth or clean salt air.
Last week I suggested going back to your roots to complete old stories, heal old wounds and bring a new understanding to your life today.
While it can be painful, it is also very therapeutic.
Within your story of life there are many little stories, hidden like gems in the wall of your memory. They often get overlooked because we only see the vastness of boring, mediocre or unpleasant experiences.
Sit back in your easy chair and reflect for a moment on all the experiences you have had. Which ones were exciting? Which ones were humdrum or monotonous? Which ones would you flee from without a moment’s hesitation? Which ones would you love to go back, dig deeper and learn more?
Within the raw stories of our lives are life-altering moments; things that affected us profoundly but have been forgotten. There might have been “Ah-ha” moments or some “Ouch” moments when you learned a deeper truth about yourself, but then simply stashed it away in the closet of your mind. There are treasures waiting to be uncovered, dusted off and enjoyed.
If you wanted to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren that portrayed what life was like for you both growing up and as an adult, what would you say? What important and life changing events and people would be in your stories? What funny tales would you share? Just thinking about them makes you laugh out loud.
In putting together a speech I am giving this week to a group of writers on writing memoirs, I was reminded again on how important it is to take time, go back and explore our past. We have so many stories to tell – stories that only we can tell – in our voice and as we experienced them.
Writing your own story is powerful and gives voice to what you have lived – it allows you to be heard. Clarity comes as you begin to write. It is a way to gather your thoughts clearly and coherently to piece together all your experiences, re-examine events objectively, and come to terms with life altering change.
Reflecting and writing gives us the opportunity to grieve old losses, heal old wounds and put to rest difficult memories.
As you write, identify your strengths and abilities. It will help you gain a greater appreciation of yourself and others. When we can accept and celebrate all the parts of our life’s journey – the good, the bad and the ugly – we are able to integrate them into a new whole that has balance, grace and compassion.
We live in a time of rapid change. Adjusting to that change requires self-confidence in our ability to rise to the level of new demands. While technology can be helpful, it can also add to our stress levels as we try to adjust to the accelerating pace associated with rapid change.
It is a good time to ask yourself what things from your past have been helpful and how can I use them again? Our past influences the choices we make today. Taking time to reflect and explore our roots can help separate the negative from the positive.
What messages did you hear growing up? Were they hurtful or encouraging? How did the events and people in your past help “shape” and “mold” you into the person you are today? Reflection gives us the opportunity to consider how those growing up experiences continue to influence the choices we make today.
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