360 into spring

Spring womanIt is Sunday and it’s spring. Life is good, and today is the perfect time to reconnect to nature and your surroundings. Here is a quick and easy, free pick-me-up that can bring a breath of fresh air to your life and a new lightness to your heart and soul.

You can shift your focus and expand your view with these simple steps…

  1. Step outside without planning to go anywhere!
  2. Close your eyes and inhale slowly and deeply.
  3. Exhale lazily like you have all day to do it.  End with an audible sigh, “Ahhhhh,” let your shoulders relax.
  4. Slowly open your eyes.
  5. Look up, look down and all around. Linger on what you see.
  6. Take in your world with new eyes. Squint to soft touch your surroundings. Tilt your head gently from left to right. Notice the colors, the scents, the sounds.
  7. Turn around slowly and then repeat the process.

Go for it! You deserve it! It may seem too simple or silly to work, but this 360 into spring can give you a new perspective and renew your purpose and awaken passion, especially if repeated daily. I’m stepping out for mine right now; I’m looking forward to the “Ahhhhh”!

 

 

 

Checking expectations

I am giving a presentation today to a wonderful group of Red Hat Ladies on my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the country of Macedonia where I served from 2006-09. As I was updating my presentation, I came across a post about living abroad I had written in 2013 when I was returning from another short assignment with the Peace Corps in Macedonia.

In the post I shared what I learned about checking my expectations with my luggage; today I am sharing excerpts from that post, along with some tips on letting go.

luggage-646311_960_720While living abroad I quickly learned that some of my richest and most rewarding moments were dependent on how well I adapted when things turned out differently than I expected, which led to an even more valuable lesson – to be truly happy abroad – it’s best to check your expectations with your luggage!

And, guess what? The amazing part of that lesson is it works just as well at home as it does abroad! Letting go of your expectations, is one of the keys to being truly happy – anywhere, anytime. When we let go of what we expect to happen and how we expect others to act and react, the happier and more fulfilling our lives become.

Expectations take-up a great deal of room in our hearts and in our heads and require loads of effort to maintain, which leaves very little space and energy for understanding, communication,  growth, and happiness.

Think about it.

How many times a day do you get frustrated with the actions or non-actions of yourself or others, because you expected yourself or others to act differently?

How many times in your life have you look backward or forward through a very narrow lens, shaped almost entirely by your expectations or the expectations of others? Did not meeting those expectations cause you pain or frustration?

travel-164574_960_720Wouldn’t it be nice to leave all that behind? To give yourself and those around you a break? To unpack your baggage?

Why not give yourself a free and totally unexpected gift by decreasing the expectations you have for yourself and others (past, present and future), which just might  be the gift that gives you more happiness!

A great way to get started is to simply become more aware of the expectations we place on ourselves and others.

  • Next time you feel frustrated or angry – check to see if you have any expectations that weren’t met.
  • Try to identify what your expectations were. Write them down, if you can.
  • Don’t bother at this point trying to determine whether or not you should have expected something, or if you deserve some type of behavior or pay-off. What is key, is becoming more aware of the role expectations play in your life and feelings.
  • Later when you are not in the throes of the situation, you can look at your expectations more objectively and determine if they have value to you and if you need to keep them around or not.
    • If you decide to let them go, next time they pop-up, smile at your brilliance and foresight for being prepared to deal with their arrival, and then breathe deeply and slowly before your react. Repeat as necessary, until your frustration fades and only your congratulatory smile remains.
    • If you decide that a particular expectation is valuable and worth keeping, then spend some time figuring out how to change your situation (on a small or large scale) to ensure your need is met. This process takes time, so be patient and be prepared to do some work, but please don’t beat up on yourself along the way. Just keep moving forward.

I know it isn’t easy to change ourselves or our expectations, but I also know you can do it. In fact, I expect you to!

Just kidding, the choice is yours.

Are you ready? Life could be better  . . . Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching

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Getting stronger than the tough stuff!

Lately, I have been talking with folks who are facing tremendous challenges and sadness such as illness, job loss, relationship troubles or the loss of a loved one. sad girl -517555_960_720

Their situations and their bravery made me think about the fact that when we are knee-deep in a crisis or dealing with sad times we don’t always have the time or the wherewithal to figure out we can do to get through the difficulties and sad times. Yet, if you are human, you have been through some type of hard times and did do something to get through them.

Even if you are thinking “Well, just barely,” you are still here, and now is a good time to review what worked for you then as a way of helping you now and in the future, and to give yourself credit for making it through!

Start by asking yourself, “What has worked for me in the past?” “What did I do to regain my footing, strengthen my resolve or help myself create a new perspective?”

  1. Did you reach out to friends?  This is a great way to start sorting through what is happening to you. Via phone, social media, face time.
  2. Did you reduce your outside commitments? Increase them?
  3. Did you make more time or less time for yourself? Were you able to key in on what you really needed or what really mattered to you?
  4. Did you try to refocus or better understand your worries or negative train of thoughts? (Rumination – rehashing negative thoughts primes your brain to release  stress hormones, getting too much of them is not a good thing.)
  5. Did you use music, movies, TV, reading or another method to relax? Which worked best for you? Least?  (I note in “My Courage Diet” how often I have used movies and music to make me feel better and ready for anything.)
  6. Did you try something new – even if only because the situation forced you to? (This is referred to as becoming a “reluctant hero”, like Hans Solo or Finn in Star Wars – they didn’t start out wanting to do good, but ended-up on the right path for them and others.) As an example, if a loved one was in the hospital or lost a job, did you take on new tasks or responsibilities to get through the hard times? Did those choices take you out of your comfort zone? What did you learn by doing that? Did you gain any new insights or skills? Have those choice away made your life better or you stronger?
  7. Did you simply grin and bear it or did you focus on comforting thoughts such as, “This too shall pass?”
  8. Did you under/over eat, drink or medicate? Did that help or hinder your situation? Would you want to repeat those patterns, if not, how would you change them?
  9. Did you exercise intentionally or by accident due to circumstances – change in schedule or environment, lack of transport, or increased activity?
  10. Did you meditate, breathe deeply, count to 10, take relaxing baths, light candles, connect to nature? (Any and all can be effective what matters is what worked for you.)

 “I am stronger than the tough stuff!”

I have created a free Wishful Thinking Works “I am stronger than the tough stuff!” sample to review and sheet for you to print and customize for yourself, so when a difficult situation arises you can pull it out to help you deal! Download as many copies as you need to list everything that you have done that works for you. Keep the list(s) around and add to them as you think of new activities, thoughts or quotes that helped you. Using the lists is a  form of resiliency, which  is a very good thing.

The key is to objectively review and write down how you got through the tough times using the benefit of hindsight and perspective.

As you start the process, it is human nature to think of all the things you did that didn’t work . . . Don’t beat up on yourself for anything you did, but also don’t make excuses. Simply review what you did and whether it helped or hindered your situation


Developing Resiliency

Resiliency “is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”

Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. Stress and adversity can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial worries, among others.[1] Resilience is not a rare ability; in reality, it is found in the average individual and it can be learned and developed by virtually anyone. Resilience should be considered a process, rather than a trait to be had.[2]

A common misapprehension is that resilient people are free from negative emotions or thoughts, remaining optimistic in most or all situations. To the contrary, resilient individuals have, through time, developed coping techniques that allow them to effectively and relatively easily navigate around or through crises.[3][4][5][6] In other words, people who demonstrate resilience are people with optimistic attitude and positive emotionality and are, by practice, able to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.[1]

Your life may never be exactly as it was before a traumatic or sad event or before other circumstances beyond your control entered it, but it can be good again, even great.  Developing resiliency will help you find your way until your path is clear again.  (Please note: I am not saying  losses are without pain, loss can be very painful. I am saying if you are still standing, sitting, kneeling or even crawling you got through them and somehow, someway you can do it again.)


Get your free Wishful Thinking Works “I am stronger than the tough stuff.” plan.

Creating a plan for coping in advance can reduce the shock and may help the pain pass more quickly.  The Wishful Thinking Works “I am stronger than the tough stuff.” sample and  sheet are an easy way to started. Click here for sample to review. Click here for blank for you to record what works for you.

Let me know how they work for you and please share any thoughts on what works for you when you are sad or facing difficulties. We can all learn from one another.

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and share the post with your friends!

Impossible dreams

IMG_1239I think I might have mentioned that my life caught-up with my dreams in the Peace Corps.

For me that means the “pinch-me” moments came back-to-back.

Such as, pinch me: I can’t believe I celebrated Easter in 2009 with folks I barely knew, eating lamb roasted on a spit, while sipping wine along the water on the Greek Isle of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, which is just south of the Adriatic Sea and an arm of the Mediterranean and I loved every minute of it!

I had an absolutely fantastic time for 5 days at a total cost of $250.  You see, there was a time when I truly believed I would never be on a Greek Island, and certainly not for only $250. (Travel booked in Europe is cheaper than you can ever imagine.)

Oh, I wanted to be on a Greek island; I just couldn’t figure out how it would happen.  Too expensive, too far, too many other places to go first, no time, etc., etc., etc.

IMG_1176

When a door closes . . .

I thought I had to have it all figured out for “it” to happen.

I was wrong.

And, you may be to, about your life and what is ahead.

You don’t have to have it all figured out. You just have to begin imagining what you do want.

That’s what wishful thinking is all about.

Maybe, just maybe, during this beautiful season of rebirth and renewal, you might want to take some time to dream some impossible dreams.

Don’t worry about the details.

We can work on those later.

wishyright

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Another way to meditate

b7f8c554b69c1c9a33e783d6c957ddbfIf you’ve been thinking about meditating, but haven’t started or if you are a looking for a way to bring more gratitude into your life, please check out this free gratitude film series by famed  director, producer, and cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg.

The Mentors Channel 21 Days of Gratitude series begins November 4th, and may be the best holiday gift you give yourself – and it’s free. By the time the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begins, you will be relaxed and ready to embrace the festivities from a brand new perspective.

Click here to enjoy one of the wonderful videos the series offers. It begins with a sweet message and is 6 minutes of pure pleasure and the perfect way to immerse yourself in feelings of gratitude. The series is designed to be enjoyed with your eyes open or closed, so it is perfect for meditating and gratitude newbies and a refreshing change for those comfortable with the practices.

For more information on this free series, click here. I’m sharing this information because I’m grateful it is available! Please take a moment to do the same with your friends and family via email or Facebook. Everyone can use a bit  of tranquility at this time of year!

Here’s more about the series from the Mentor Channel:

Embark on a never before traveled, journey into gratitude, through extraordinary audio and stunning video presentations . Listen to inspirational thoughts from our narrator and twenty one pre-eminent mentors, leading minds of industry, science, entertainment and spiritually. Keep your eyes open, as you enjoy dazzling images of nature that transport you to a magical place, or, with eyes closed, allow haunting melodies take you to a quiet place within . . .
  • An unorthodox, reliable way for anyone to meditate
  • Audio meditations enhanced with extraordinary visuals
  • Golden nuggets from world renowned mentors
  • Learn how to enhance every aspect of your life with gratitude
  • Heal and/or strengthen family bonds through gratitude
  • Discover your unique place in the universe
  • Begin to appreciate nature in a whole new way
  • Turn your dreams and desires into reality through the practice of gratitude

Enjoy! And remember to share the series with your family and friends.

Never underestimate the power of happiness . . .

International lecturer, author of the “Happiness Advantage”, and former Harvard instructor Shawn Achor recently shared the following research at the Commonwealth Bank’s two-day “Wired for Wonder” conference in Sydney, Australia. The figures are staggering, the research is interesting, and the impact amazing.

MH900448318Happiness matters.

“Ninety percent of our long-term level of happiness is . . . not based on the external world, but how your brain processes the external world,” Achor said. “If we could change that lens some incredible things could happen.”

“If you take four-year-old children, prime them to become more positive and have them put blocks of shapes together, it turns out the children in the positive category will put blocks together significantly faster than children in a negative/neutral category.”

IQ doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.

“If I know everyone’s IQ here in the room and I’m trying to predict your job successes, cross-industry, over the next five-year period, it turns out that IQ and technical skills are only responsible [for] and only predict 25 % of your job successes,” Achor told the conference.

The pattern has been observed again and again: “Happiness and optimism can be much better predictors of productivity than IQ and technical skills,” Achor said. According to research undertaken in the late 1990s, doctors who had been primed to be more positive were 19% faster and more accurate with coming up with a correct diagnosis and were more “intellectually flexible” when presented with a misdiagnosis.

Success and Happiness

MH900401133“… if you raise your levels of happiness, it turns out every single business and educational outcome improves. Our success rates rise dramatically. Raising success does not raise levels of happiness but raising levels of happiness dramatically increases your success rates.”

Before Happiness

Achor’s second book, “Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success” is due out in September, I’ll be sharing more info from it with you as soon as it’s available.

Have a great weekend, and make it even better by asking yourself each morning, what one thing can I do today to bring more joy into my life. . . and then do it!

How to Love More by Caring Less by Martha Beck

201107-omag-dont-care-1-600x411

Yesterday, while waiting to meet a friend for dinner I found myself at loose ends. I was hungry because I had skipped lunch, tired from a busy, but not very productive day, and I had been feeling generally out-of-sorts for a day or two. I’d stopped at the American Corner in Bitola, Macedonia, where I am currently stationed as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, to visit two of my friends working there, when I blurted out, “I’m bored!”

My exclamation surprised me. I’m seldom bored, and if I am, I’m even less likely to blurt it out  the way I just had and I was in the middle of my third and a pretty amazing Peace Corps assignment, what did I have to be bored about? After I laughed at myself for being so blunt, I walked over to the magazine shelf and grabbed three copies of “O” magazine. (American Corner’s are American information centers throughout the world; they’re mini-libraries, so they are well-stocked with English-language magazines, books and resource materials.) I opened the “O” with the cover that most appealed to me, and soon found myself absorbed in the open paragraphs of a Martha Beck article from a July 2011 issue.

My hunger and boredom faded as my interest grew, and I was soon laughing out loud as I read how Martha solved a coaching dilemma by blurting something out loud to a client.

As I read on, I realized there was a reason that I was where I was, reading Beck’s article. I’ve copied her article in it’s entirety, something I don’t often do, because it gave me a new perspective on a situation I’d been thinking a lot about lately and was likely the source of my ennui. Beck’s words helped me get over myself and realize there was a better way to handle the situation that was on my mind, and I thought her article was a great companion piece for the “Forgive” post I wrote a few days ago. I hope you enjoy it, too. (PS Beck’s article also let me find a way to work the word “ennui” into a post, which for me is a great boredom buster in and of itself! Oh, yes, and the one you may have to love unconditionally could be you!)

“How to Love More by Caring Less

How do you get your nearest and dearest to change their behavior? Simple: Stop giving a damn what they do, says Martha Beck.”

“Now my whole family is abusing me!” said Loretta, a client at a women’s resource center where I volunteered back in the ’90s. “If I leave my husband, it’ll just be out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

“Are you—” I cut myself off before finishing my thought, which was, “Are you crazy?” Just the week before, I’d participated in an intervention where Loretta’s family had urged her to leave her battering husband, Rex. Each person had expressed enormous love for and protectiveness toward Loretta. Now she thought they were all abusers? Huh?

“They’re just like Rex,” she said. “You saw it. They judge me. They criticize me. Nothing I do is enough for them.”

I opened my mouth, then closed it. Opened then closed it again. I kept that up for about a minute, like a perplexed goldfish, as I groped for the right thing to say. It killed me that Loretta was interpreting her family’s desire to rescue her as criticism and judgment. But even as I tried to come up with the kindest possible phrasing for “What the hell is wrong with you?” I knew my question would come across like a slap.

That’s when it dawned on me that Loretta had a point. No, her family wasn’t abusing her the way Rex did—and yet in its own way, their treatment of her must have felt like an attack. They weren’t accepting her as she was. They needed her to change. They raised their voices, made demands, pushed hard. And their intense negative emotions were triggering her fear and defensiveness.

It was in the midst of processing all this that I suddenly heard myself say, “Well, Loretta, I just love you. I don’t care what happens to you.”

The statement shocked me as it left my lips. But even as I mentally smacked myself upside the head, a funny thing happened: Loretta visibly relaxed. I could feel my own anxiety vanishing, too, leaving a quiet space in which I could treat Loretta kindly. It was true—I really didn’t care what happened to her. No matter what she did, I wouldn’t love her one bit less.

Since then I’ve found that loving without caring is a useful approach—I’d venture to say the best approach—in most relationships, especially families. If you think that’s coldhearted, think again. It may be time you let yourself love more by caring less.

Next: How does it work?
Detached Attachment

To care for someone can mean to adore them, feed them, tend their wounds. But care can also signify sorrow, as in “bowed down by cares.” Or anxiety, as in “Careful!” Or investment in an outcome, as in “Who cares?” The word love has no such range of meaning: It’s pure acceptance. Watching families like Loretta’s taught me that caring—with its shades of sadness, fear, and insistence on specific outcomes—is not love. In fact, when care appears, unconditional love often vanishes.

When my son was first diagnosed with Down syndrome, I cared so much that my fear for his future overshadowed my joy at his existence. Now that I couldn’t care less how many chromosomes the kid has, I can love him boundlessly. For you, loving without caring might mean staying calm when your sister gets divorced, or your dad starts smoking again, or your husband is laid off. You may think that in such situations not getting upset would be unloving. But consider: If you were physically injured, bleeding out, would you rather be with someone who screamed and swooned, or someone who stayed calm enough to improvise a tourniquet? Real healing, real love comes from people who are both totally committed to helping—and able to emotionally detach.

This is because, on an emotional level, our brains are designed to mirror one another. As a result, when we’re anxious and controlling, other people don’t respond with compliance; they reflect us by becoming—press the button when you get the right answer—anxious and controlling. Anger elicits anger, fear elicits fear, no matter how well meaning we may be. When Loretta’s family insisted she leave Rex, she insisted on staying. When I told her I loved her without caring what happened, she mirrored my relaxation. That’s when she began to request and absorb the advice I was now welcome to give.

Free to Be…Carefree

If you want to try loving without caring—and by now I hope you do—here’s how to get there. Just be sure to buckle up. This may be a bumpy ride.

1. Choose a Subject
Think of a person you love, but about whom you feel some level of anxiety, anger, or sadness.

2. Identify What This Person Must Change to Make You Happy
Think about how your loved one must alter herself or her behavior before you can be content. Complete the sentence below by filling in the name of your loved one, the thing(s) you want this person to change, and the way you’d feel if the change occurred:

If _______ would only _______, then I could feel _______.

3. Accept a Radical Reality
Now scratch out the first clause of the sentence you just wrote, so all that remains is:

I could feel _______.

That last sentence, oh best beloved, is the truth. It is the whole truth. Yes, your loved one’s cooperation would be lovely, but you don’t absolutely need it to experience any given emotional state. This is incredibly hard to accept—it would be so easy to feel good if others would just do what we want, right? Nevertheless, you can feel sane even if your crazy-making brother stays crazy. You can feel peaceful even if your daughter robs a bank. If Helen Keller could write, after growing up deaf and blind, “I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad,” then you can find a way to be happy even if your mother never does stop correcting your grammar.

Accepting that this is possible—that you can achieve a given emotional state even if a loved one doesn’t conform to your wishes—is the key step to loving without caring. I’m not saying that such acceptance will make you instantly content. Creating ways to be happy is your life’s work, a challenge that won’t end until you die. We’ll come back to that in a minute. For now, the goal is just to try believing, or merely hoping, that even if all your loved ones remain toxically insane forever, it’s still possible you’ll find opportunities to thrive and joys to embrace.

4. Shift Your Focus from Controlling Your Loved One’s Behavior to Creating Your Own Happiness
When I make this suggestion to my clients, they tend to take umbrage. “I always focus on creating my own happiness!” they insist. “That’s precisely why I’m trying to get my grandchildren to visit, and my cat to stop biting, and Justin Bieber to engage with me in a mutually rewarding exchange of personal e-mails!”

Best of luck with that. Because as AA or any other 12-step group will tell you, sanity begins the moment you admit you’re powerless over other people. This is the moment you become mentally free to start trying new ideas, building new relationships, experimenting to see what situations feel better than the hopeless deadlock of depending on change from someone you can’t control.

Again, this is a lifelong project, a game of “You’re getting warmer; you’re getting colder” that stops only when you do. But the focus shift that helps you stop caring is like a little dance (drop hope of changing significant other, embrace determination to find alternative sources of peace and joy, step-ball-change) that immediately, reliably diverts your energy toward happiness and unconditional love.

Next: What’s the payoff?
The Payoff

Once we’d established that I didn’t care what happened to Loretta, our work together finally became productive. In a follow-up family session, I had each relative tell all the others, “I love you unconditionally—I don’t care what happens to you.” We discussed ways in which each of them might begin creating personal happiness, regardless of Loretta’s actions. And as the focus shifted off her, Loretta felt less pressured, less harried, more respected. Smiles and hugs appeared in place of tension and tears.

Supported by her loving, uncaring family, Loretta eventually triumphed: She left Rex, got a job, and found a healthier mate. As you support your significant others, they may realize this same spectacular success. Or not. You can be happy either way, so what do you care? You have the freedom to live and let live, to love and let love. Granting yourself that freedom is one of the healthiest, most constructive things you can do for yourself and the people who matter to you. And if you disagree, I truly, respectfully, lovingly do not care.

Martha Beck is the author of six books, including Steering by Starlight (Rodale).

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