Discover the New You With No Limits

 

Why’d I do that? That was so dumb of me! There I go again, always ruining opportunities. What’s wrong with me?

These are the kinds of thoughts that bombard your mind daily. The voices in your head that follow you like a dark cloud, filling you with guilt, regret, and self-pity.

It’s no wonder you’re stressed.

Your mind tries to compensate for all this negative self-talk by giving you goals: I’ll always be on time. I’ll come to work prepared. I’ll exercise five days a week.

Then the instant you fall off track, you’re back to beating yourself up again.

“Why can’t I change?” you ask yourself. It seems like you’re always repeating the same bad habits, no matter how hard you try to get rid of them. You long for one of those makeovers like you see on TV, only this wouldn’t just be a weight-loss or wardrobe makeover. It would be a totally NEW YOU.

But the distance between yourself and the NEW YOU seems insurmountable.

It’s not just you who can’t change. You notice it in others as well. We all know people who keep getting involved in relationships that crash and burn, can’t keep a job, can’t hang onto their money.

It seems like as humans, we’re hardwired to resist change.

But is that really true?

Think back to when you were a child. Your life was an infinite horizon of possibilities. It seemed like every year you were transforming into someone new, taking on new roles. Not only did you become a new person outwardly, but inwardly you were adopting new worldviews and perceptions of yourself.

Unfortunately, the more life we experience, the more our perception of ourselves becomes fixed. That’s because habits start to take root and we lose sight of the infinite beingness that we so intuitively grasped as children.

If someone keeps telling you you’re a loser, eventually you’ll start to believe it.

In the same way, if you keep making the same poor choices—forgetting things, letting others take advantage of you, not following through on commitments—eventually you’ll equate these choices with your identity. Others will label you as “forgetful,” “a doormat,” or “unreliable,” further cementing your “identity.”

So it follows that if you want to break out of this cycle—the cycle of making bad decisions and beating yourself up about it—you’ll need to do something new.

Can you do something new?

I’m assuming you said yes.

First, you need to get rid of all the subconscious baggage that’s been weighing you down, preventing you from reaching higher plains of consciousness.

Think of all the things you’d like to change about yourself. Or, if you prefer to focus on specifics, think of the last time that you really disappointed yourself. Maybe it was today.

What kinds of feelings does it stir up? Guilt? Regret? Anger?

Don’t try to fight or suppress the feeling. Instead, invite it up. Say YES to it.

Now ask yourself: Would I let this feeling go?

Another way of saying it is, “Do I enjoy being angry at myself? Has it helped me to drop my bad habits? Has it helped me to change at all?”

It hasn’t, had it? Otherwise you’d already be doing it. In fact, all this thinking does is lock those negative perceptions into place. Each type you berate yourself, you’re setting that pattern in your mind.

Next ask yourself: Could I let this feeling go?

Maybe it feels like too much. That’s okay. Just let a little bit go.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Now let a little bit more go.

And a little bit more.

Now could you give yourself a little bit of approval? Not for any particular reason. Approval never hurt anyone.

And a little bit more?

And a little bit more?

How do you feel now? Lighter? More like change is possible?

When you get rid of all this negative baggage, what you’re doing is giving yourself a clean slate. A chance to start fresh. The best part is, you can wipe the slate clean and reinvent yourself any time you want!

You just have to decide that you’re ready to abandon the old patterns and limited beliefs…and give yourself permission to become the NEW YOU.

Would you like to accelerate this transformation and gain a set of tools to create a massive shift in your perspective of yourself?

Then join us at the Master Your Life Weekend from December 8-10 in Philadelphia. Bring a friend who has not attended a Live Class and you can go for FREE!

When you take charge of your mind and embrace the NEW YOU, anything is possible.

Learn more about The Release Technique here.

Afraid of pain? Here’s how to slap it in the face

Don’t we all dread a trip to the doctor? Getting poked and prodded and pressed and by lord knows what? Those are maintenance pains and we avoid them by staying healthy.

I, however, took pain avoidance to a whole new level.

Once, my dad’s friend told me how, during a softball game, a mis-thrown ball whacked his head and ruptured his eardrum. After that, I took caution at Little League practice, running the bases with my head ducked and hands covering my ears for extra protection.

More recently, while descending steep hiking trails, I’d scoot on my booty inch by inch, rather than risking a face plant (annoying my boyfriend to no end).

I decided I needed to get over this and joined a women’s kickboxing class. It’s been awesome—but because we’re hitting punching bags and not each other, it has done little to help me get over the pain hurdle.

Then I attended a class called Witch Kung Fu, hosted by Maja D’Aoust, a well known occult lecturer known as the White Witch of LA. The flyer mentioned, “You will get slapped,” and this triggered slight anxiety. No one likes to be slapped!!

Turns out, the slapping was invigorating, even, dare I say, fun!

Using Qigong techniques, the class teaches women how to take hits and prep themselves for uncomfortable physical contact.

A Qigong routine begins with a series of self-inflicted slaps, beginning on the crown of the head and working down your body. Used in Chinese medicine, it has many benefits such as increased circulation and clearing out negative mental energy. If you’re feeling lethargic, it’s also a great pick-me-up!

Here’s what I learned:

1) Pain is inevitable–instead of trying to avoid it, get prepared

At least with the doctor we get a warning before he sticks in the needle, but real life not so much. Pain can strike out of nowhere.

Playing a game of cat and mouse with pain, then, is an exercise in futility. Conversely, if you train your body to take the pain, you’re better equipped to handle it.

Qigong works to prepare your body for contact, toughening your skin so that slaps and punches lack the sting they normally would.

2) In a relaxed state, pain is easier to endure

Has the doctor ever told you, “Just relax?” Easier said than done, right?

Truth is, relaxing eases the tension in your body, which in turn reduces pain. It also relieves anxiety, leading to a calmer mental state. Rather than viewing the impending pain as a big, scary cloud ballooning on the horizon, you can take it like a whispering wind in stride.

Qigong uses breathing techniques to prep yourself, timing your exhales so you can take a blow to the gut or a punch in the back with more stoicism that you would under ordinary circumstances.

3) Pain management is a masterable skill just like anything else

After getting slapped in the face, my immediate reaction was, wow, that wasn’t so bad. And the more frequently you get slapped, the less it stings.

That’s why practicing Qigong every day will build up your tolerance to pain, physical or otherwise.

A rejection or an outburst of anger from another can feel like a slap in the face. And just like a slap, it can leave a mark.

The mark, however, is not a permanent one. In time it fades, and life goes on.

What about serious injury or trauma, though? Life-altering events that require hospitalization or cause lasting emotional distress?

There’s no easy answer, but the more we toughen our internal and external leather, so to speak, the easier it will be to endure the arrows life slings at us.

What I learned that day is that while we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control our response. Pain can hurt on the outside and the inside, but it can’t penetrate the deepest parts of us, those parts that define who we are.

What are some pain-avoidance tactics you have used? What steps will you take to confront the pain?

Developing courage, one conversation at a time

How committed are you to your values? Would you stand by them even if it meant losing your job or alienating you from your friends?

John F. Kennedy’s 1955 Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, tackles these questions through a series of narratives featuring eight senators who demonstrated courage in office.

While they differ widely across the ideological spectrum, one commonality is that they all put their reputations on the line, risking their careers—and in some cases their lives—to support unpopular measures. They did this not to be rebellious or contrarian, but to stay true to their principles.

For instance, Edmund G. Ross voted against the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, defying those in Congress who desperately wanted to oust Johnson. Even death threats from other senators, knowing Ross’s vote was the deciding one, didn’t deter him. On top of that, Ross despised Johnson! But he knew that voting in favor of impeachment would set a dangerous precedent where Congress could kick out any president based on flimsy evidence.

Of course, most of us don’t face these kinds of momentous decisions, ones where our lives and livelihoods are at stake. But the lessons in this book can apply to any situation.

As Kennedy writes: “To be courageous, these stories make clear, requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place and circumstance. It is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all. Politics merely furnishes one arena which imposes special tests of courage. In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience—the loss of friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men—each man must decide for himself the course he will follow.”

Have you ever avoided telling your friends about a song or movie you liked because you knew they would make fun of you? Or, after disclosing the name of the song/movie and then being ridiculed, meekly changed the subject rather than defending your choice?

Have you refrained from publicly expressing an unpopular opinion on a controversial subject for fear of being condemned by others?

I know I have.

While the Internet provides a forum for a diversity of voices, it’s also susceptible to group-think. It’s no coincident that you see the same jokes and phrases floating around Twitter and Facebook on any given day.

It’s more important than ever, then, to express what’s truly on your mind, even if it means dealing with the inevitable fallout.

Of course, sometimes it might be difficult to articulate (or know) what your authentic thoughts are when you are bombarded daily by inauthentic thoughts. These are times when it may be helpful to step away from the Internet and allow yourself the space to reflect.

Many of the senators in Profiles in Courage ended their careers as pariahs, with only their family (and sometimes not even that) for support. But they were at peace, knowing they had made their choices on their own terms and not anyone else’s.

When was the last time you held back from expressing your opinion? What steps have you taken to be bolder about speaking your mind?

Can instant gratification lead to long-term gains?

Does an ad’s claim that a product will help you achieve instant wealth/weight loss/happiness instantly make you skeptical?

In a seminar with copywriting legend Gene Schwartz, one attendee asked Gene this question. After all, his company was called Instant Improvement. Was his claim that a product yielded instant results a credible one?

To this Gene replied: “Almost anything that we do as publishers can be made instantaneous.” Applied to information products, this means the writer will identify a specific problem the reader has and then present a solution, thus helping the reader obtain instant gratification.

But this concept can be applied to just about anything.

Bob King, then of Phillips Publishing, added: “No one goes to, say, medical school and says, ‘Gee, what, I’m gonna work hard for ten years in school so I can be a doctor.’ Instead, you think about ‘Why do I do that today? Why am I doing that? I do it because it feels right to me today to do that.’ If it didn’t feel right, there’s no way you’d work in the dark for ten years. So I think that you’re constantly doing things that give you instant gratification.”

I had never heard “instant gratification” applied to choices we make not just because they feel good in the moment but also because they are right and necessary, choices that have an impact on our long-term well being.

Instead, I had long associated this phrase with wasteful actions—shopping on Amazon for hours, eating an entire cheesecake, reading about the latest developments on Brad and Angelina or Kylie Jenner’s lips—that give us temporary pleasure but derail us from our long-term goals.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, our culture tends to paint beneficial actions such as exercising, eating healthy, and building our business as necessarily grim and un-fun. “No pain, no gain.”

For writers, this mentality is especially true. We approach our writing sessions like punching in the timesheet, driven more by obligation than desire. As Hemingway supposedly said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

But must our daily writing rituals (or working out, etc.) be devoid of pleasure by default? Can’t we learn to find instant gratification in everything we do, even those things that are “good for us?”

Which got me to thinking—even though I had found an intrinsic motivation for writing, been better about writing on a regular basis, and experienced fulfillment in my sessions, many days still felt like a slog, filled by instances where I hated my story, was bored to death by my characters, and could not wait until my hour (the length of time I had designated as the minimal acceptable) of writing was up.

So I looked for ways to make it more fun. What I found was that giving these routines an order and structure, and continually reshaping the parameters, made it feel less like work and more like a game.

For instance:

1) Using Mind Mapping software to chart out character and plot developments (I resurrected many character/plot points from my notes that I’d forgotten about!)

2) Setting a timer for 15 minutes and setting a goal of 250 words (I didn’t always reach my goal, but I definitely wrote a lot more than I normally would have in that span of time)

3) Writing 100 sentences about my characters without pausing to think or second-guess myself (courtesy of “Outrunning the Critic” from The 3 A.M. Epiphany)

What I discovered from this experiment was that I began to enjoy these sessions more and take pleasure from the process, not just the end result. I also found that, ironically, I was way more productive.

Think of “good for you” actions, then, as your favorite milkshake. If it’s lacking flavor, just add a few ingredients and put the blender on a different setting. Instant gratification can bring instant (and beneficial) results.

The motivating factor

10:30 PM. You know you should be doing something productive, but instead you browse Amazon for black pleated chiffon midi skirts.

11:45. You’ve moved on to blue-light blocker computer glasses. It’s time to get to work now, but you’re tired. Starting it now would be a waste. Better to wait until the morning, when you’ll have more energy.

As you go to bed two hours later, something’s tugging at your mind, but you can’t pinpoint what it is. Shame? Guilt? Depression? It’s pretty small, though, whatever it is, so you choose to ignore it.

Morning arrives. After checking and replying to your urgent emails, then reading your not urgent ones, then re-reading ones you’ve already read because you weren’t paying attention the first time, you realize it’s time to get ready for work.

Around 6 PM, that feeling from last night returns, only now it’s stronger. You know you really should do that thing you were supposed to do last night, for real this time. You’ll make sure of it.

After dinner, you’re ready to get started.

Instead, though, you find yourself, as if on autopilot, clicking on Facebook, reading status updates of people you barely know.

“What’s wrong with me?” you think. “Why can’t I be more productive?”

Now the nagging feeling of guilt has turned to full-on self-loathing. “I’ll never amount to anything,” you think bitterly. And the cycle repeats.

Sound familiar?

Day after day, this would happen to me when it came to writing fiction. Not every day, though. For a while I’d get on a roll, where I did exactly what I knew I should be doing, for multiple days in a row. Then something would slip—one day I truly would be too busy to write—and it’d be back to Point A. My motivation depleted, I’d have to start all over again to rebuild it.

I hadn’t always struggled with motivation. In school, I was super-productive, often running on five hours or less of sleep a night to get everything done. This was true not only in high school, when I wasn’t distracted by social media and my Internet was too slow to warrant an appealing alternative to work, but also in college and grad school.

What had changed?

I’d always attributed it to the structure and deadlines that school provided me with. Post school, anything not work-related, that had no set schedule or deadline—namely, my fiction writing—had fallen to the wayside.

But then I dug a little deeper.

Was it really just the lack of structure? Or was something else missing?

And I realized that in school, my true motivating factor was not the deadline itself, but rather the fear of letting someone else down. Even in my writing workshops, where we didn’t receive grades for our work, I couldn’t stand the thought of turning in a subpar story that would be painful for my classmates and teacher to read, or worse, no story at all.

Now that nobody cared whether or not I turned in a story, the motivation factor was gone.

After all, literary magazines have deadlines, but unlike in a workshop, you don’t get a visceral, immediate reaction. It’s often months before you get any response at all, and when you do it’s only a simple yes or no, not a detailed analysis of your dialogue, pacing and character development.

So maybe it wasn’t that I was inherently lazy or unproductive or unmotivated.

Maybe I simply needed a new motivating factor, one that didn’t depend on the approval (or avoiding the disapproval) of others.

Of course, on a practical level, my mindset made no sense. Even the Stephen Kings and James Pattersons of the world, who do have readers who are super eager for their next book and will be disappointed if the book doesn’t live up to their expectations, were once non-famous, balancing fiction writing with their day jobs, and nobody cared if they stuck to a regular writing schedule or wrote something crappy that day. In order for me to get to that point, I’d have to go through that lonely phase where there was nobody to hold me accountable.

But in order to fuel myself to write everyday and look forward to it, I’d need something besides logic.

So my new motivating factor is to write in order to avoid the nagging sense of guilt that comes from not writing and to replace it with the surge of good feelings that come after my writing sessions, the sense of fulfillment and purpose I get from working toward my long-term goals. I’ve also found that starting as soon as I am able to, rather than delaying, helps create momentum and reduces the chance that I’ll find some excuse to get out of it.

So the next time you find yourself lacking motivation, ask yourself, “What fueled me in the past?” If the answer is no longer applicable to your current circumstances, then find one that will serve you in the present.

The start that stops

“It’s the start that stops most people.”

This quote applies to just about every situation.

Take jogging, for instance. Before I’ve even made it two blocks, I’m already gasping for air, sore in all sorts of places, ready to turn around and go home.

Or reading a book. Two pages in, and my patience is wearing thin. Can’t the author get to the good part already, the one that’s supposed to be “transformative” or “haunting” or “unlike anything you’ll read this year”?

But two hours into jogging, the euphoria sets in and although my body may be tired, the ache fades to the background like white noise.

Several hundred pages into Moby Dick or House of Leaves, I’ve broken through several dimensions and everything, even the air around me, feels somehow altered.

For those of us in creative endeavors (writing, acting, painting, etc.) or starting our own business, or both, the period of acclimation is more protracted and painful, the reward more distant—not mere hours or weeks, but months, even years.

Progress can be slower than the flow of traffic on a gridlocked freeway at 6 PM—in other words, non-existent.

Some days it feels like I’m actually moving backwards. I’ll look at what I’ve written that day and think, “Man, my fourth graders write better than that.”

But this idea of regression is largely illusory, and even if it were true, so what? Many millionaires, even billionaires, have experienced bankruptcy at some point in their life, a failed business venture. Just about every successful writer/actor/musician has had a flop, in many cases a mortifying one.

So did the flops and bankruptcies, the bad writing days, cancel out the successful ones? If we were to apply that same logic to other situations, why do the laundry? Why wash the dishes?

The truth is, meaningful progress always involves some degree of pain, frustration, even humiliation. As a kid, I didn’t get this. I watched all the Endless Summer movies, fantasized about being a pro surfer, rented a surfboard for the first time, got up, fell within two seconds, and decided surfing wasn’t for me. Besides, the movies didn’t show all the paddling to get to the waves, which was super annoying.

Since then, I have learned how to manage my expectations. Still, in my first graduate creative writing class, I wrote an “experimental” piece that was largely inspired by my newfound discovery that I could fit blocks of text into different shapes. I was hurt when my classmates seemed puzzled by my display of “abstract art.”

As I read more deeply and dedicated more hours to my writing, though, my stories went places I could have never imagined and writing, which was once painful (and can still be, when I’ve gotten “out of shape”), led to hypnotic states where the words took on a mind of their own, kind of like the way it feels like you’ll never get out of the traffic and suddenly you’re home.

So yes, the starting is always going to suck a bit, but that just makes the not stopping, the pushing through, all the more rewarding.

 

Exceeding expectations

Being an educator can be difficult, as there are so many circumstances you simply have no control over–a a student’s disposition, disabilities, learning environment, support system, etc. However, today was an encouraging one. First, a student who had been consistently a C student, at one point even failing math, is now making straight As. What makes the difference between then and now is not ability but attitude. He has discovered an intrinsic motivation that before was lacking and discovered that, in his words, “Not waiting until the last minute just makes everything easier.” Today, he asked me if his teacher would think it was weird if he asked for feedback on an assignment that wasn’t due for another two weeks. I replied, “No, I think your teacher would be thrilled.” It’s amazing to hear this from a 13-year-old, an age when abstract concepts such as work ethic and internal rewards are particularly difficult to grasp. Over the years I’ve heard the full spectrum of excuses from students, everything from “my dog is sick” to “my crab ate my homework” to (my personal favorite) “just a second, let me look for it”…shuffles through backpack pretending to look…”can’t find it, I’ll bring it next week?”…repeats same action next week. Not that these are bad kids–they’re all fantastic–and sometimes life does get in the way, even (and especially) for adults. But it’s encouraging and inspiring to see this type of turn-around in mindset from a student at an especially vulnerable age. Second, another student who has consistently lacked confidence, who states every comment as a question (“the answer is 4?”) and precedes every math problem with the statement, “I don’t know if I did this the right way,” today missed only 7 out of 47 questions on a (very difficult) timed math test, while previously she had missed nearly half the questions. Her score was better than even my very best math students! Third, a high-school student sent me two essays filled with so many fresh insights that they caused me to reflect on and reexamine my own life. None of these examples are meant to brag about my strengths as an educator. The kids did it themselves. What all of them show, though, is that anyone is capable of far exceeding expectations and making significant changes given the right attitude and opportunities.

Outrunning excuses

Yesterday I’d been planning to go for a hike. But one thing led to another and pretty soon I had less than an hour and a half until sundown. Since I don’t consider my hike complete until I get to the highest peak, which takes about two hours, I figured, “Why bother?” I’d just go the next day. But then I reconsidered–even just an hour is better than nothing, right? And maybe if I picked up my pace, did more jogging and less walking, took less breaks, I could still make it to the top. I did end up making it, and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful hikes I’d been on, as the setting sun cast the mountains in a red glow. I did end up getting caught in the dark before I’d made it home, but house lights and street lamps guided my path. The point of all this? Too often, we end up putting off something over and over because we think we don’t have enough time. This applies not only to exercise but creative pursuits like writing and making music and even just random items on our to-do lists. Even if you only have five minutes, at least do something. The only way we’ll fail to reach our goals is by doing nothing.