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Entries from December 2009

Why New Years’ Resolutions Fail and How to Make them Succeed

Thinking about making some New Year resolutions? Before you do, consider this: what you focus on expands. Focus on avoiding something (e.g. drinking, overeating, procrastinating) and you just might ensure its continued success. As an example, 98% of people dealing with stress tend to wake up at night ruminating about the thing that bothers them. It might be a fight with a child, an argument with a coworker, burgeoning mortgage bills, illness, or something else. It makes sense to focus on the problem. Yet, like the old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the problem will get the energy, which only serves to reinforce the rumination. They key is to focus on the opposing force of the problem-the solution.  

To illustrate, let’s use the example of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony, and lust). Numerous stories throughout time teach caution about succumbing to these behaviors. The message is reinforced to us at a young age by parents, teachers, books, and the media. For instance, recall Star Wars, episode 3, where Anakin Skywalker transforms into Darth Vader after allowing fear, envy, anger, and pride to mask his heart and intuition. In the episode, Yoda warns Anakin not to focus on the dark side of the force.

Like Darth Vader, human beings focus on the dark side of the force much of the time. I see it in myself, my friends, my family, and my clients. We fall of the bike of positive thinking and start ruminating on the negative and what we’re trying to avoid. Don’t believe me? Look at these top 13 New Year resolutions in the United States. The very first one is to lose weight with managing debt coming in second place. Both of these resolutions focus on the problem instead of the solution. Perhaps that’s why more than 68% of people will give up on their resolutions within the first two weeks.

People would be more successful if they focused on the light side of the force. Instead of making a resolution to lose weight, try making an intention to take care of your body with nourishing food, love and care. That love and care might consist of vitamins, exercise, deep breathing, emollient lotions, uplifting fragrances, plenty of water, and listening. Let your body speak to you about what it feels. A tummy ache might be a red flag that something is bothering you. Maybe putting up better boundaries and treating yourself with respect is needed. You may not hear this critical wisdom if you’re getting mad at your body for not fitting in your clothes.

Regarding managing your debt, can you tell this resolution focuses on lack? Treat your money with love, care and gratitude. Notice everything you have and how fortunate you are that you have the ability to pay for water, electricity, and things so often taken for granted. Debt begins to melt away (and never take hold in the first place) when we manage our money with gratitude. What happens is that people tend to focus on what they don’t have or how little money they or their partner is making, which leads to a vicious cycle of spending to feel better and then regretting. Stop the cycle by appreciating the joy that $1 gives you. The thrill of that hot shower. The warmth of the extra blanket on your bed. The comfort of the fuzzy slippers or soft socks. That is where the magic lives and abundance multiplies.

As for those seven deadly sins, try focusing on their complementary positives—the seven joys. Instead of avoiding greed, think of expanding how much you share. Instead of battling lust, try encouraging people’s soulful dreams. Instead of resisting anger, give yourself nourishing love. Instead of avoiding becoming a sloth (couch-potato syndrome), allow yourself to dance more. Instead of inhibiting your inner glutton, try releasing your inner artist and seek quality over quantity. Instead of hiding from your proud ego, focus on fostering unconditional self-acceptance. Finally, instead of detaining your green-eyed monster of envy, try re-focusing on gratitude in the moment. 

If you’ve gotten anything from this article, I hope it’s that attitude is everything. Please don’t beat yourself up. Take it one day at a time and keep readjusting your sights on the light. It will become natural over time. If you want help, you can try out my new texting tool for free. It’s www.InstantMotivator.com and is designed to help you stick to your positive goals. Type in ACAFreeTrial for your two-week free trial.

Happy 2010! May the next decade bring you joyous light, soulful meaning, loving relationships, and dreams that come true! 

How to Raise Your Child to Survive in Today’s Chaotic World

If you are a parent or have ever felt that emotions were something that could be destructive, please read on. This is perhaps the most important information I can share.

I received a comment about yesterday’s blog post, which triggered this response.  I addressed the concept of “fearmines” (fear buttons that trigger hidden emotional landmines). It may have been a bit oversimplified, but it was also right on target. Today, I’m going to get a little deeper and describe why hidden emotional landmines are actually at the heart of most of our problems today (crime, risky youth behaviors, depression, unemployment, divorce, greed, war) and how it all ties back into our emotional regulation system that was developed in infancy.  I’m also going to share what you can do to help your child develop a healthy emotional regulation system so that they can survive in today’s chaotic world.

Infants (and children) have brains and body systems that are not fully developed (e.g., nervous system, hormones, etc.). Because these systems are still in development, infants and children are extremely vulnerable and highly dependent. As such, babies and children rely on their parent/caregiver as an external system to regulate their care. In other words, imagine having half of a heart, half of a lung, half of a liver, half of a kidney, etc., etc, and needing another human being to compensate and basically act as the missing parts of the heart, liver, kidney, etc., etc. It’s more than co-dependence and completely needed for the child’s healthy growth. Just as the baby depended on the mother in the womb for survival and development, the infant and child STILL depends on the mother/caregiver after birth.

The emotional regulation system becomes disrupted when adequate care is not given to an infant and child. This includes ignoring a baby’s cries, telling them to shut up, or confusing their cries with something else (like shoving a pacifier in their mouth when they want their diaper changed). While we never respond to a baby perfectly 100% of the time, if the number of inadequate responses exceeds the adequate responses, then the baby forms a maladjusted emotional regulation system. This is also preverbal, so later in life some external stimuli can elicit an internal anxiety response that was felt as a baby but now doesn’t make sense for the grown adult to understand. Instead, they feel like something else takes over them (sometimes referred to as an emotional hijacking).

To recognize the symptoms of this disruption in an adult (or yourself) includes common responses like these: 

·                *Feeling like you can’t trust your emotions and that they can get out of control

·                *Denying that you have troublesome feelings

·                *Believing that relationships are not important or, conversely, never being able to be alone

·                *Always trying to be an ideal person that someone (or your parent) will love and finally approve

·                *Cutting off from others

·                *Constant relocating and/or job changes

·                *Battling or overpowering others and/or using others for your own gain

·                *Escaping through drinking, drug use, sexual addictions, food addictions, etc.

The challenge as parents is that we tend to fall back on our own unconscious learning and repeat the same behaviors with our children—which is how such patterns repeat themselves through the generations (generational transmission).

Not surprisingly these symptoms show up in society. Societal symptoms of maladjusted emotional systems form when enough people grow up without healthy emotional regulation systems (reinforcing the problem). Such societal symptoms may include:

·                *Focusing on external productivity over internal emotional states and healthy relationships (like over-focusing on what the child wants to be when they grow up; over-focusing on child’s grades in school; over-focusing on how much money someone makes, what kind of car they drive, etc., etc.)

·                *Chronic relationship disruption and emotional illness (which can be seen in rising divorce rates, escalating depression and other mental health related illnesses, increased crime, increased bullying behaviors, increased self-centeredness, decreased compassion and tolerance for emotion in others) 

A solution to this problem is to work on ourselves and form a new healthy emotional regulation system. Oftentimes, therapy does this because the therapist can sit with the person and affirm their feelings, allowing the person to fully feel their own feelings and then safely respond to them without judgment. This process helps to develop new neural networks of self-care (new emotional regulation systems). In addition, people can do this same thing for loved ones, join support groups, journal about feelings, obtain spiritual support, and do things that provide safe love and emotional healing. 

When the person is able to form a new healthy emotional regulation system, they are able to sit with their feelings (even the uncomfortable ones) and are more able to tolerate other people’s emotions. When that happens, they can also sit with their needy infants and children and better respond to their needs without anxiety, frustration or panic. 

Another symptom of a healthy emotional regulation system is relationship repair. Accepting that no one is perfect and conflict will arise is important to remember. The key is to be able to effectively repair your relationships after a disruption. The more immediate the repair, the more neural networks are formed in the healthy emotional regulation system.

As parents and people, it is critical to comprehend the extent that infants and children are dependent on us. We need to make them a priority and attend to them. This does not mean spoiling them with toys—it means being there, loving them, empathizing with their needs, and helping them to understand and attend to their emotions.

Children become out of control when we ignore them and get angry—putting them in time-outs when they aren’t developed enough to understand consequences. We also run into the trap of referring to punishment as “tough love” when we take away a privilege without taking the time to process our children’s feelings and fears and understanding what motivates them to engage in behaviors that may scare us.   

Finally, understanding that our societal values of productivity over relationships may actually be a symptom of inadequate infant/child care can help us to change the narratives that perpetuate infant/child/human emotional abuse. We are making strides in addressing emotional care as a society, but we’re not there yet. Perhaps the current economic problems, rising unemployment rates, risky behaviors in children (increasingly younger sexual promiscuity in children, “hook-ups”, self-abuse like cutting, bullying, school shootings, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide) will wake us up to the real war that we’re in—the war with ourselves and our own internal emotional regulation systems. Focusing on healing our internal war through love, compassion, empathy, healing, tolerance, awareness, and helping each other as a larger family (instead of isolated individuals in big houses) will surely help the next generations to develop healthy emotional regulation systems. Perhaps when that happens, global harmony (aka world peace) can actually be obtainable.

Secrets of How Successful Entrepreneurs Survive Fear

fear Behind every successful entrepreneur lay a field of hidden landmines riddled with fear (“fearmines”). Some were stepped on. Others lay dormant, under the surface, affecting the journey just the same. The key is to be aware of them, know where to step, and what to do when you step on one.

The first and most important thing to know is that EVERYONE has fear.

Successful entrepreneurs just know how to work with it. In fact, successful entrepreneurs were once unsuccessful—the difference is that they continued taking steps on their path in spite of the obstacles (the biggest being their own fears).

àStep one is to get comfortable with your fear and reassure yourself that it’s a natural part of your journey’s landscape.

Once you realize that you’re not alone and that fear is normal, you can then employ measures to avoid needlessly stepping on fearmines all the time.

Fearmines often look a little different. They tend to leave a little bump on the surface and can easily be seen IF you take the time to look. Once observed, you’ll recognize it as some old sensitive wound.

Maybe the wound was something your parents told you (“Get your head out of the clouds!” when you were daydreaming or coming up with new inventions.) Or perhaps it was from being ridiculed by your peers, the ones who insisted you’d never amount to anything and would be doomed to poverty.

àWhatever the wound, take time to recognize it so you can avoid stepping on it and repeating the damage (e.g. like when you repeat the damage by yelling at yourself “Get your head out of the clouds!” after you’ve experienced a let down).

Another common fearmine includes control. Being able to adapt to change and uncertainty is the prerequisite for succeeding as an entrepreneur. People who need a high degree of control will tend not to be as spontaneous, imaginative, flexible, and inventive. Usually they’re like this because of fear.

When we feel out of control and overwhelmed, we tend to take control. However, control is a tricky illusion. The irony is that our fear reaction tends to make us take control where we don’t have it and give up control where we do have it (with ourselves).

àTake stock of your feelings and recognize if fear is making you overcompensate with controlling and/or self-sabotaging behaviors.

A couple of common fearmines have been addressed, but what do you do when actually you step on one?

Failure (getting lost in the fear) is part of the process. Fully feeling the fear and moving through it builds your resilient muscles—and it’s exactly these muscles that make you thrive as an entrepreneur (and as an artist, as a human being, as a parent, as a soul). What counts is taking that deep breath and continuing on the journey knowing that unresolved issues will still be there, but you’ll be stronger the next time when you inevitably reach them again.

àRecognize and repair once you’ve stepped on a fearmine. Honor it. Feel the feelings.  Control your part and avoid overcompensating. Then get back up and keep going. 

By now you’re seeing the pattern that fear creates action (even if inaction)—actions which aren’t always healthy for our self-worth or our entrepreneurial ventures. Understanding how your personal fearmines influence your behavior and how best to compensate for them makes the difference. Knowing this is a normal process helps you to keep going. Recovering from a fearmine is the success. 

Remember that everyone has felt like a pretender and questioned their talent and venture. It’s fundamental human nature to seek understanding, desire approval, and dream of complete acceptance—and fear when we don’t have these things. To fear is human and to recover from it, divine. When treated properly, fear can propel us into depth, growth, and inventiveness beyond any of our perceived limitations.

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