Almost everything you do is driven by habits. We all have good, helpful habits and bad, or unhelpful, habits. You can think of your habits as the drivers getting you closer or further away from achieving what’s important to you. Habits are the foundation for major change in your life. That’s why it’s so important to understand if you’re cultivating helpful or unhelpful habits. To achieve your goals, you want to provide the best support and conditions that set you up to be successful. This happens by cultivating helpful habits that are directly aligned to those goals. And by eliminating any unhelpful habits that are slowing or blocking your progress.
How to Cultivate Helpful Habits
Bad habits are the saboteurs that make it harder to achieve what we desire. As mentioned earlier, helpful habits move you toward achieving your goals and desires, whereas unhelpful habits slow or block your progress. To increase your success when changing an unhelpful habit, it’s best to replace it with a new helpful habit. It may be as simple as making a small pivot. Like when you quit drinking soda you replace it with Zevia instead for a week or two, and gradually pivot again to water or herbal tea. Decide what you want to achieve and move toward that goal. It’s more effective than focusing on what you need to stop or get rid of which often creates more pressure and feelings of being deprived. Also, start small with new habits. If it feels too big you’ll either get stuck and never stop or quit after a few days. For example, if you want to begin a daily morning routine that includes journaling and prayer or meditation, start with 5 minutes per day, and gradually increase it by 1 minute each week. To increase your chances of success, create a process and track your results. Something as simple as placing a check mark on a calendar for every day you complete your morning meditation is helpful. Track your results for at least 8 – 12 weeks to evaluate your progress, make any adjustments and to ensure long-lasting results. Get leverage and support when working on your habits. Ask a friend or colleague to point out if you’re demonstrating a habit you’re trying to change, or to complement you when they see you sticking to your new habit. For instance, they can point out when you’re late to a meeting or if you’re on your phone and not listening when others are talking. Cultivating your habits using the above strategies will support positive results. More tips on cultivating habits for success can be found here.
Two Words that Help Change Your Mindset
Here’s a suggestion from one of my own coaches. Change the phrase “I can’t” to “I don’t” when in a situation where you have a hard time sticking to your helpful habit or goal. For instance, let’s say you have a healthy eating goal of limiting high carb processed foods like flour and sugar. You’re out to dinner and the bread basket arrives. Instead of saying or thinking, “I can’t have any bread”, say or think “I don’t eat bread, that’s not for me”. This subtle shift helps change your mindset. “I can’t” is very limiting, and puts you into a victim or less-than mindset which may blow up on you in the long-term. “I don’t” is empowering, you’re in charge, you’re taking responsibility and it’s your decision. You should be able to feel the difference in energy in these two statements. Where can you make this shift? Think of a few examples and commit to making this shift at the next opportunity.
Act with Intention: Cultivate Helpful Habits
This method of cultivating helpful habits works for creating helpful habits and for changing unhelpful habits. The key is to put intention into the helpful habits you want to create, and be as specific as possible by adding in a situation, time, and location. For instance, you’ll meditate each morning for 5 minutes in your bed immediately after waking up, at 6 a.m. Include how long, where, when and how frequently. Or another example is you’ll take a fun 20 minute walk around the block with your dogs after dinner on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For unhelpful habits, you make the trigger of that habit your situation, and then change how you respond. It’s a simple pivot toward what you want to achieve, like in the quitting soda example earlier. That response (having Zevia, water or tea when habitually reaching for a soda) becomes your new habit. Two more tips for cultivating helpful habits are: Make it fun. You’re more likely to stick with something you enjoy doing. For example, add your favorite music to your exercise routine or listen to your favorite books or podcast during your new walking routine. Be compassionate, kind and easy on yourself. You may slip up and that’s ok. Pay attention and stop any negative self-talk or harsh judgments, like “I knew you’d fail” or “you never stick with anything”. Instead, just refocus on the results your striving for, get excited about achieving them, and kindly say or think to yourself, “this slip is ok, you’re making great progress”. In the comments, please share one helpful habit you’ve successfully created this year and what goal it has helped you achieve. Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash
Let’s put a stop to your self-sabotage once and for all.
Do you want something in your life but can’t seem to attain it? Maybe it’s a goal, dream, or vision you have and yet, month after month, year after year, the time passes by and you’re no closer to achieving it.
Have you already realized you’re sabotaging yourself? Do you actually witness yourself about to do the opposite of what could make you fulfilled, yet you still take that unhelpful action.
Sometimes it feels out of control or like you’re not the one driving that behavior. That’s your subconscious keeping you from living your best life.
Or maybe you’ve rationalized that it’s ok to watch TV for 5 hours when you planned to work on your finances, organize your office and then go for a walk.
You tell yourself that you’ve had a long stressful week at work and you deserve to numb out while binge-watching a TV show. But this short-term ‘reward’ doesn’t support or help your long-term goals.
Dissonance and Cognitive Dissonance
Dissonance is the opposite of harmony. It’s the tension when two conflicting or disharmonious things are combined.
For instance, you say you want less stress in your life and began to see good results by meditating daily, yet now you don’t make it a priority and don’t take the time to meditate at all.
More specifically, cognitive dissonance is a theory in social psychology. It refers to the mental conflict that occurs when your behaviors and beliefs don’t align, like in the meditating example above. You believe and know meditating daily reduces your stress, but your behavior of no longer doing so doesn’t align with that belief.
This mental conflict, or cognitive dissonance, can cause you to feel uncomfortable, stressed, anxious, ashamed or guilty. And since you have an instinctive desire to avoid these types of feelings, you attempt to relieve it.
That’s where the self-sabotage comes in and can have a significant impact on how you think and behave, and the decisions and actions you take. You may get some temporary relief, but in the long-run it’s unhelpful and destructive.
For instance, you may ignore your doctor’s advice, blood test results or published research that causes dissonance. And you may explain things away or devalue them to continue in your pattern.
Years ago, one of my co-workers knew smoking cigarettes was cancer causing yet she explained that it was necessary to calm her nerves given her demanding role at work. She also justified her smoking habit by saying she was concerned about gaining weight if she quit, like she witnessed in her other family members and friends. We’ll believe and keep doing just about anything to relieve the discomfort.
Self-Sabotage: Your Saboteur at Work
You may believe that this sabotaging voice is trying to protect you from harm or that it’s really helping you in some way.
But self-sabotage really is you creating problems for yourself that interfere with your true goals.
It’s not some outside force creating havoc in your life. Realize this and take responsibility for you and your saboteur.
And understand that your saboteur wants you to maintain the status quo in your life.
These are examples of saboteur thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- You’re not good enough or I’m not good enough.
- You don’t deserve this or I don’t deserve this.
- They’re going to get upset with you.
- That’s too hard.
- I’ll never be successful at this or you’ll never be successful.
- I’ll do it tomorrow.
- It’s not okay to be wealthy/happy.
- It’s not safe to put yourself out there, they’ll criticize and judge you.
Listening to your saboteur is a choice you’re making so that you can feel differently. Pay attention to these thoughts or beliefs; noticing them is the first step in stopping your self-sabotage.
Additionally, expect the saboteur to get stronger whenever you begin to make positive changes in your life. Expect it and be ready for it. The action steps below can help.
Act with Intention: Identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage
The saboteur loses its power over us when we’re aware and can identify it, realize we have other options in that situation, and then consciously choose the action at that time that serves us best (gets us closer to our true goal).
Here are some actions to take to identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage. It takes practice and work, and consistency, and over time you’ll be back in control and seeing positive results.
- Identify your saboteur by answering these questions. Where are you sabotaging yourself? What does your saboteur often think or say? In your environment, either at work or at home, what self-sabotaging language is being used, by you or others? For instance, a new opportunity at work has come up. It would be a promotion for you and you’re excited to learn more about it. Then you feel a little apprehensive, even nervous or scared, and the following thought stream pops into your head “I’m not ready for this. What if I fail? It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected.”
- Next, you want to challenge and change those beliefs. Every time that thought, belief or language comes up, recognize it as your saboteur and change it. Then consciously choose a new thought and behavior that supports your long-term goals and wellbeing.
In the example above, you recognize those thoughts and beliefs for what they are. It’s your saboteur.
- Challenge “I’m not ready for this” with “Of course I’m ready, this is the perfect job for me.”
- Challenge “What if I fail?” with “What if I don’t fail? What if I don’t even try?”
- Challenge “It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected” with “This new role is part of my long-term career plans, I’m ready for it and I’ll do a fantastic job. If I don’t get selected now, they may consider me for other opportunities in the future because I pursued this role and they know I’m interested in my career growth.”
You may need to get some leverage involved in order to change that thought or behavior. To do that, ask yourself, “What is this costing me in terms of health, wellbeing, relationships, and success? How is this holding me back from my goals and dreams and the vision I see for myself?”
In the example above, the leverage could be envisioning yourself in 2 – 5 years in the future, in the same role, earning a similar salary, not being challenged or growing professionally or personally. How would that feel? What have you missed out on? What are you still tolerating? How does staying stagnant impact your wellbeing, relationships, your long-term goals and dreams?
If you’re struggling with achieving a particular goal, your saboteur could be at work. Sometimes you’re not even aware of it.
I challenge you to get really focused, act intentionally, identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage once and for all.
Leave a comment below when you start seeing the positive changes from stopping your self-sabotage. Share your success to encourage others.
of integrate is to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole.
Taking the time to integrate is to intentionally stop taking in more and to combine what you’ve already have for deeper growth and development. Once you integrate, you get to deeper levels of knowledge and fulfillment in your life.
For instance, if you love to learn new things, you may have a tendency to read more and more books, take more workshops and listen to more podcasts. It almost feels like an addiction at times. A friend or colleague recommends a new course or workshop and you sign up, take it, and quickly move on to the next one.
Many times you don’t gain much, in fact, you just consume and never implement what you’ve learned.
You never integrated it; you never took the material to a deeper level where it could make a significant impact in your career or in your life.
The Myth of More is Better
More is better is a myth. The constant strive for more in our culture prevents us from seeing and experiencing the true value of what we already have.
It supports the idea and feeling that wherever you are is not good enough, because more is always better.
It’s hard to be grateful and appreciate all that you have now when your focus is on getting more.
I’ve worked with people who were always focused on the next project or the next job, and never appreciated all they were experiencing in their current role. They missed the fulfilling things like the relationships they were building, the people they were helping and the new things they were learning.
The energy around more is better feels like a chase – a futile one. You’re chasing after things just to accumulate more. And once you have it, you’re dissatisfied and off to the next thing, and the next and the next.
And it’s not just physical things. We’re constantly absorbing more and more experiences, information and energy but without the time or opportunity to sort through it all.
Take the time to sort through it and you’ll begin to feel some significant improvements.
Why It’s Important to Integrate
The chase for more erodes your energy and your sense of fulfillment. Taking the time to integrate gives you your energy back. You begin to feel more in control and organized.
Taking the time to integrate helps to reduce the overwhelm, stress, and exhaustion you experience in your day to day life. If you’re feeling uncentered, off-balance or even fractured, it may be the signal that it’s time to integrate.
Act with Intention: Take Time to Integrate
Here are some suggestions to start taking intentional action around taking the time to integrate.
First off, slow down and realize if you’re in a “more is better” mindset and exhibiting behaviors like described above. When you notice this behavior or thought, change it to a more helpful behavior or thought. Simply saying “slow down” or “stop” can be enough to bring about some awareness.
It took some time to get here, but now I quickly recognize if I’m going down a ‘learning” rabbit hole. Any emails or suggestions for a new book, course, training program or free live event I either delete immediately or I scan it to see if it’ll be useful and put it on my “maybe later” list.
Taking time to integrate is more than just not taking more in. You want to intentionally integrate experiences and information as they occur or directly afterwards.
One good practice is to spend 5-10 minutes after a meeting or workshop to integrate your key takeaways. Things like what you learned, what you’d like to implement from the training, if anything. Better yet, take notes during it to include which things you’d like to test out and apply to your own life.
Additionally, take a break and stop taking more in – for days, weeks or months if needed. That means no new podcasts, books, workshops or courses during this time period.
During this break from consuming more info, data and things, sort through what you already have. This can be done by simply taking the time to think about things. Embrace daydreaming. Let you mind wander. Meditate. This is how your brain sorts and categorizes information.
A good question to ask is: Is this information useful for you and can you apply it to your life? If not, let it go.
If it’s useful, your next step is to take action and test it out. Apply it and experience this information.
Lastly, after testing it out review what you’ve learned through the application and experience of integrating it into your life. Are there any additional lessons or knowledge? Have your beliefs changed as a result?
Taking the time to integrate is the best way to become a more unified whole. You’ll find it brings new levels of understanding and wisdom, and you’ll feel more fulfilled in your life.
Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash
A helpful strategy for uncertain and uncomfortable times is to focus on growth. Just like how it’s best to focus on the solution to a problem rather than the problem itself, I’m suggesting you focus on how you’re growing and developing instead of how uncertain things are. Growth brings a sense of confidence, stability and security.
The next time you’re beginning to stress over a particular situation or challenge, ask yourself these questions, “How is this challenging time or situation causing me to grow?” and “What am I learning from this?”
Uncertainty is all around us
It’s a fact of life. Uncertainty always exists. We’re always dealing with the unknown, in positive or negative ways.
For instance, you’re about to start a new assignment at work. You have certain expectations but it’s with colleagues you’ve never worked directly with before. It could be the best work experience ever, or the most challenging that tests your ability and forces you to learn and grow.
Or even something as simple as a trip to the grocery store could be full of uncertainty. There could be traffic, road closures, or a traffic accident that prolongs the whole trip, or the store could be out of stock of the staples you need.
Finding and losing balance is necessary for growth
When we’re in the middle of uncertainty, we feel out of balance. Something feels off.
Some people feel excited, like the uncertainty of a vacation to a place you’ve never been. Other people may feel anxious or stressed in that same scenario.
Our journey here in life is about finding and losing balance, and that is necessary for you to grow and develop. This fact alone helps put things into perspective and provides a more productive way of dealing with life’s challenges.
Think about when you were a child unable to walk yet. You had no balance or coordination.
One day, you gained enough balance to stand. Next, you threw yourself off balance to take that first step. You got balance again, then with your next step, threw yourself off balance again. Eventually you mastered walking and moved on to the next thing you could learn.
Growth nurtures confidence, and propels us toward the next opportunity for continued development.
How the Covid-19 pandemic is causing growth
I tend to look for the positivity in things. I’m not making light of the illness, deaths, physical and financial loss, and breakdown of systems (healthcare, political, social, financial) that we’ve been experiencing for most of 2020. I acknowledge this Covid-19 global pandemic has been one of the most trying times in recent history.
In a recent conversation I could hear my friend’s jaw drop when I stated how this Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a lot of positive things.
In disbelief, she said, “Oh really? Like what?”
I see families spending more time together going on hikes and bike rides; non tech-savvy people “going” to church or other meetings via webmeeting and some even holding their own Zoom meetings who never even heard of Zoom 6 months earlier; people are reevaluating their careers and current roles and organizations given the response to this pandemic and what their own core values are.
I see a slower pace that allows for more reflection and meditation/prayer; more enjoyment of reflective hobbies like gardening, reading, walks, music, dance, yoga; less traffic and stress over hectic schedules and routines (like commuting business professionals who now have 1 to 3 extra hours in their day as they work from home). There’s also less pollution, less driving, less air traffic, less noise and less unnecessary shopping.
There’s an intentional slowing down to enjoy sunsets, full moons, comets, beautiful clouds, beautiful trees and gardens.
Most importantly is this sense of global community – we’re all in this together no matter where on this earth you reside.
This pandemic is certainly allowing us all to expand and grow. And an intentional focus on growth is helpful during this time.
The loss, death, illness, and breakdown of systems is putting you off balance. And the focus on growth can be that step toward creating balance again.
Act with Intention: focus on growth
If you struggle in tough times, when things seem to not go your way, here are some things to do.
1. Determine what you’re focused on. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself “what has my attention right now?” This helps you become more present with what it is so you can begin to address it.
2. Pay attention to your thoughts and language. I’ve heard people say things like “Things never work out for me” or “Why do I have so many problems”. These are limiting and unhelpful thoughts and language that once you’re aware of, you can change them in the moment. Read more about harnessing the power of your thoughts here.
3. Change limiting and unhelpful thoughts and language to statements of intention. Some people call them affirmations or incantations, but they are basically statements of intention to get your egoic and monkey mind to focus and learn a new way. It’s a way to set a new intention of how you want things to be.
You can state them aloud when one of your limiting unhelpful thoughts or statements come up. And you can build them into a daily practice where you review them each morning or 3 times a day. Keep a list in your phone for easy reference.
Some examples are: “I release everything that’s not serving my highest good”, “I know that this struggle is a normal part of life’s ups and downs, and it’s only temporary” and “This challenge is allowing me to grow and expand.” One of my favorites is “All I need is within me now.”
4. Lastly, ask helpful questions to focus on growth. The next time you’re beginning to stress over a particular situation or challenge, ask yourself these questions, “How is this challenging time or situation causing me to grow?” or “What am I learning from this?”
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Readiness is key in making a change. Are you ready?
Change can be a small step toward achieving a goal, a big change like starting a new job, or a giant leap like deciding to turn your world upside down in pursuit of a lifelong dream.
No matter the size and impact of the change, they all have one thing in common. You have to ready to make that change. If you’re not ready it’s not going to happen.
Are You Ready or Not?
No progress or inconsistent results may be a sign you’re not ready to change.
How is your progress toward achieving your goals this year? Do you have any goals with little to no progress toward achieving them?
For instance, maybe you do really well meditating for a month. But slowly the habit unravels to where you can’t seem to find the time to do it anymore.
Getting regular exercise is another goal people find challenging with limited results.Another goal people find challenging with limited results is getting regular exercise.
Another goal I see people struggle with is finishing work at a reasonable time, so you can intentionally spend some down time with family, friends or doing something fun that lights you up.
The Change Process
There is usually a progression we all go through when making changes.
First, you have to realize the need to make a change. If you don’t see something as a problem, there is no need to make a change. Let’s presume we’re past this step.
Next, you may recognize you have a problem but you’re in denial about the seriousness of not changing. It’s like the man who has a heart attack yet continues to prioritize his work above his health, taking work calls from the hospital bed. And later making no significant long-term lifestyle changes that would support his health.
Or you recognize the need to change, but you may get stuck in analysis paralysis. You’re weighing pros and cons, creating lists of things that may help, or changing your mind about whether it’s worth it to make a change. Maybe you’re just not sure how to proceed so you keep researching potential solutions and never settle on one to pursue. This can go on for weeks without taking any action.
It’s good to do research and find helpful options, just don’t get stuck spinning here.
Motivation is Key
Denial or analysis paralysis is where the readiness factor comes in. If you’re stuck, you may want to explore your motivation to change versus staying status quo.
What will it cost you if you don’t change? For example, if you continue to work long hours and on weekends and holidays, what is it costing you in your relationships, or in your health?
If you’re already working with a life coach, this could be a great exercise to do together. Once you get clear on your motivation, and are ready to take action toward making that change, having an alliance with your coach increases your likelihood of success.
If you stumble along the way or slip into old habits, your coach is there to offer support. She can help you adjust your goals and action steps to so you remain aligned with and on track to reach your goals.
Act with Intention: Take these steps now.
Here are some action steps to take if you’re not getting the results you want in your life.
1. Determine where things aren’t working. What goals do you have for yourself where you’re getting limited to no results? What’s it for you? Cleaning out your garage, getting regular exercise in, getting back to meditating every day, or intentionally working smarter so you can have more balance in your life?
2. Check your readiness. Are you in denial or still analyzing options to try? Are you ready to make that change?
3. Explore your motivation to change versus staying status quo. What will cost you if you don’t change? Write it down.
4. Take an intentional action step, try an option out – get some momentum going and stay consistent.
Photo by Artur Aldyrkhanov on Unsplash
You know what you want in your career and in each of the important areas of your life (finances, health, relationship, spirituality, etc.), yet you’re not seeing the desired results. Are you getting in your own way? If so, get out of your own way and get things done.
Does this sound familiar: “I set a goal on January 1, here we are halfway through the year and I’m no closer to achieving it.”
How do you get in your own way? This could be an extensive list, but to keep it short I’ll focus on two areas: 1. Energy drains and 2. Unmet or unacknowledged needs
One way you get in your own way of getting things done is by not managing your energy drains. Energy drains are the little or big things that tax your attention and energy.
They slow down your progress and prevent you from achieving your goals. Read more about what could be draining your energy and what to do about it here.
Unmet or Unacknowledged Needs
We all have needs and its okay to have them. Needs are a normal part of being human. It’s important to recognize if you’re not meeting those needs in a healthy or satisfying way, or you’re not even acknowledging them. You’re slowing down or stopping important things from getting done.
You’ve most likely learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in psychology class. It’s a five tiered hierarchy that’s typically shown as a pyramid. that suggests people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to more advanced psychological and self-fulfillment needs.
It’s helpful because it illustrates the various types of needs and reminds us that all humans have needs. It also stresses the importance of self-actualization needs at the top of the pyramid.
It includes physiological needs like food, water and sleep followed by safety and security needs like health and wellness, or a safe place to live. Social needs like family, romantic partner, and community come next, followed by esteem needs like appreciation and respect from others. Last are the self-actualization needs which are growing and developing to achieve your highest potential.
What are your needs?
Use these categories in the Maslow’s Hierarchy to think about and identify your needs. How are you meeting these needs? Can you find healthier ways to satisfy them? Are there any needs that you’re not fulfilling? Do you think it’s not okay to have these needs?
An example that comes to mind is the typical caretaker who puts everyone’s needs ahead of their own. My mother would work all day, and then go visit each of her parents (one lived at home, one was in a nursing home in another town) every evening after work and on the weekends.
On her way home she would do grocery shopping or pick up dinner for her husband and kids. She pushed her needs aside while everyone else’s needs were the priority.
Like my mother, many of us learn to pretend like we have it all together and can handle it all without help from anyone. Unfortunately, that’s how we get in our own way and prevent or delay the achievement of our biggest dreams and goals.
Another example is the person who hears they shouldn’t be boastful or act too proud as a child. Her needs for recognition and being valued are not satisfied. goes unmet as her achievements are not acknowledged.
Now as an adult, she’s often frustrated and feels disappointed when her efforts are not recognized at work. She feels incomplete and sometimes communicates all that she has done to anyone that will listen.
Oftentimes, this comes across as attention seeking or boasting by her colleagues and supervisor. She really wanted acknowledgement, but this isn’t the healthiest way to satisfy that need. She could find a healthier way.
Act with Intention: Take these steps now
First off, acknowledge that all humans have needs and its okay for you to have needs.
Then think about your needs and write down your top 3 needs right now. To help you create your list, review these categories of needs: security and certainty (safety and stability), significance (power, achievement and influence), love and connection (relationships, being listened to and connected to something greater than yourself/spiritual), and growth (learning, development and creativity).
Ask yourself for each of these 3 top needs, how are you meeting them?
Is it in a healthy or unhealthy way? What unhealthy ways are you going to let go of right now? What healthy ways of meeting those same needs are you going to create instead, not only in your career but in your life?
For example, let’s say one of your top needs is to feel safe and secure. Last year you earned a promotion at work and have an exciting and fulfilling new organization to lead. You felt secure in your role.
This year, because of outside circumstances everything is uncertain, especially your role. You put in even more hours and you’re working holidays and most weekends to feel secure in your position, putting your health and relationships at risk.
Perhaps a healthier way to fulfill your need for safety and security is to fulfill it outside of work since you don’t have direct control over the current work environment.
You can satisfy that need in your home environment or with your relationships. You can spend more quality time and get a sense of security and safety from those close beneficial connections you have with your family and friends. Experiencing their unconditional support for you and knowing they are there for you when you need them helps you feel safe and secure.
Remember, we all have needs and it’s critical for you to meet these needs in order to have a fulfilling career and life. So get out of your own way and get things done in healthier and more satisfying ways.
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash
A fear mindset could be the main cause of your stress
Your mindset is how you think and what you believe about yourself and your environment. It plays a critical role in how you cope with life’s challenges.
What you think determines what you believe, and what you believe influences what you experience in life. Thoughts shape your reality.
The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu wrote: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
If a majority of your thoughts are fear-based, you’ve got a fear mindset. It could be thoughts and even statements (your words) about fear of rejection, fear of failure, or fear that you’re not enough.
This fear mindset saps your energy. It keeps you in the predictable and comfortable, preventing you from challenging yourself to achieve your full potential.
Fear is a normal emotion and has its function. It serves as your natural response to possible threats to your physical or emotional safety.
Unfortunately, in our modern world this response can be misused, overused or chronic. (See my previous blog called Letting Go of Fear.)
Too much fear causes stress. A fear mindset is contracting, and exemplified in chronic tension, struggle and hardship. This unhelpful energy is energy you could be investing in growth, in achieving your dreams and desires.
People often give up on what they want because they believe that reaching their goal is beyond their abilities. They continue living in fear and settle into their lives, thinking they shouldn’t try at all.
Fear is part of the fixed mindset
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, writes about the power of mindset. She states that success is influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.
People with a fixed mindset – those who believe that abilities are fixed – are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset – those who believe that abilities can be learned and developed. Fear is part of this fixed mindset.
The most successful people have a growth mindset. They don’t freeze up or flee when fear shows up, they embrace it and leverage that fear into taking action. When faced with a setback, they try harder.
They keeping looking for solutions and trying new strategies. They adapt and grow.
What mindset do you have?
What are your predominant thoughts and actions? If they seem fear-based or fixed, there’s no need to worry. The best part about your mindset is that you can change it.
You can move from a fixed, fear mindset to a love-based, trust-based, growth mindset where you’re more likely to flourish. Trust and love drives out fear. They can’t exist at the same time.
Intentionally Expand and Grow – Take Action
Use one or more of these techniques to move from a fear mindset that’s causing your stress to a new mindset of trust and growth.
1. Watch your thoughts.
First off, pay attention to your thoughts and the words you use. Are you frequently telling yourself fearful or limiting things? Things like: “I’ll never be able to get that promotion, I’m not experienced enough.”; “I’m not smart enough to lead this project”; “What if I fail – will they fire me?”
2. Choose to adopt a new mindset. Change your limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Start by challenging your thoughts the next time you don’t do well on a task. For example, if your presentation at work didn’t go well, and you hear yourself thinking “I never do anything right”, “I’m not good at my job”, or “I’m such a failure”, stop and ask some prodding questions.
What is the evidence for and against your conclusion? You can create a list of all the times your presentations were successful and when you were great at your job in the past.
You could think of reasons why it didn’t go so well this time, rather than concluding you’re a failure. Did you get enough quality sleep?; did you plan and prepare enough?; are there other things going on in your life right now causing you to be off your game?
Answering these questions leads to the new mindset. Figure out what new beliefs are more supportive and adopt those beliefs. Your internal dialogue of “I’m such a failure” can change to “If I’m prepared and feeling well physically and emotionally, I’ll always succeed.”
Keep in mind, these new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel, and act.
3. See everything as an opportunity to grow and develop.
Another way to change your mindset is to see every situation and person you encounter as an opportunity for expansion and development. When challenging events happen, ask yourself: “How is this calling me to expand and grow?”, “What am I learning?”, or “How can I improve?”
This strategy works well if you have a demanding or controlling leader at work. You can switch the focus of being judged or criticized to how this is calling you to develop.
It could be as simple as witnessing their behavior and realizing you never want to treat others that way, or maybe it’s a challenge about developing a relationship with a difficult personality.
If you stay in a fear mindset, the stress of living every day in fear of disapproval or of doing something wrong can become toxic. You may become paralyzed from moving forward in attempt to protect yourself.
Changing your mindset to embrace the challenge and grow allows you to take back control in what feels like a powerless situation and live up to your potential.
4. Use the word yet
Adding yet to your inner dialogue may be enough to change your beliefs about yourself and what you’re able to do. It helps with motivation too.
You can change:
- “I can’t do this” to “I can’t do this yet”;
- “I’m not good at this” to “I’m not good at this yet”;
- “This doesn’t work” to “This doesn’t work yet”.
One last thing. Make sure after you change your thoughts you step into those new beliefs. Take an action step in that direction to support the new thought.
Changing the fear mindset that’s causing your stress will change your outcome and results. With a new mindset, you can transform your life and the lives of others.
Photo by Bram on Unsplash
Here’s the greatest advice ever – do what’s best for you.
Especially now as many parts of the world are slowly opening back up following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here in the U.S. we’re at the beginning stages and it’s bringing on another set of decision making and coping skills.
Some people are acting like nothing’s changed and have jumped right into the deep end of the pool. They are going to restaurants (if open and permissible), to the beach or to other crowded places, like bars. They wear no masks and aren’t concerned with staying 6 feet apart or washing their hands frequently.
Others are optimistically cautious and dipping their toe in, venturing out to a store for the first time in weeks, sometimes months. Proud of themselves that they are taking this big step.
They wear masks and gloves and do all the right things – staying 6 feet apart, minimizing exposure by shopping alone, going through the self-checkout and getting what they need and leaving as quickly as possible.
It feels best for them.
We’ve got more decisions to make now. There’s a constant push and pull of going too fast and not going fast enough.
Occasionally there’s pressure to socialize before you’re ready. Here’s an example: an acquaintance invited you to a 50th birthday party, where you can drive by in your car or venture into the driveway to celebrate (there are lots of creative social distancing party ideas here). Do you go? What will she think if you don’t participate? You may think, I barely know her, why is she inviting all these Facebook friends like me to do this at a time like this?
You may be conflicted when your neighbors ask you over for wine or dinner, yet you know they’ve been shopping every day for weeks just to get out of the house, ignoring the stay at home order. Are they carrying the virus? Will it be safe to be so close even for an hour or two? Even if you stay outside and 6 feet apart?
Or maybe you have a friend who wants to visit you after visiting her son who works in a healthcare facility where they’ve had cases of COVID-19. Do you visit with her outside only? What if she needs to use the bathroom during the visit – is that safe? How will that work?
Sometimes it’s a fine balance between wanting to please others, wanting to enjoy yourself (you miss socializing), and doing what you know is best for you.
Do What’s Best for You
The greatest advice during these times is to do what’s best for you.
Whether or not you’re in a high risk group for getting sick (or living with someone that is), you must do what makes you comfortable and don’t let pressure from others, self-doubt or feeling bad for saying no prevent you from taking care of yourself first.
No one is going to watch out for you so you must do what’s right for you – no matter what. It is that important.
Even if it’s hard to say no. Even if the whole neighborhood is gathering in street for a social distancing party and you don’t feel comfortable being around neighbors who you know have had visitors and service people in and out of their homes recently.
Learning to trust yourself and your decisions is a skillset worth cultivating. It gets easier with time and practice.
Paying attention to your body’s signals is one way to build your intuition. Some people call it a gut feeling; they may feel a tightness or knot in their gut when something doesn’t feel right for them. It’s their signal to say no.
Others really pay attention to their emotions and get curious. For example, maybe you’re feeling excited but also scared when your hair stylist calls now that she’s reopened and has an open spot for you.
You’re conflicted about going to get your haircut and colored – you know you’ll look and feel better, but how safe will you be?
You want to support your stylist who hasn’t been working in almost 2 months which makes you feel connected and supportive, yet you’re not willing to being in a confined space with her for 2 hours. The fear enters again.
Realize it’s perfectly normal to feel conflicted, and trust that you’ll make the best decision for yourself. Perhaps you followed the advice here about trusting your body’s signals (feelings and emotions), and decide to get your haircut but schedule it for 3 weeks from now.
That way, you figure your stylist has some time to work the kinks out and adjust to how she can best keep her customers safe. That helps reduce the fear you were feeling.
At the same time, you’ll be supporting her business and feeling excited about finally getting your hair done. The choice is still yours but you’re doing it on your terms, aligned to making you feel safe, connected and supportive.
Take Intentional Action
The next time you feel conflicted about how to proceed, follow the two steps here to get back to a centered place and do what’s best for you.
1. Slow down and notice that this decision is causing conflict in you; becoming aware is key.
As humans, many times we’re in automatic mode and don’t take the time to slow down. We react quickly without much thought.
This fast-paced world we live in doesn’t help. Taking a few deep breaths and intentionally slowing down does help.
And don’t be afraid to delay your decision – letting someone know you’ll get back to them tomorrow, and then sticking to that agreement, is very empowering. Saying “Let me sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow” works well.
2. Take responsibility and act in a way that’s aligned to what is best for you. Realizing that you are the creator, not the victim, of your life is a great core belief to have. In other words, you GET to decide, what a privilege.
And being clear about what’s best for you before you act is important. Build your instinctual power by practicing it on a regular basis.
A great time to get clarity for me is during or right after meditating. For most decisions, I spend a few minutes slowing down, getting centered and then trusting my instinct and decision. But for bigger choices or ones that I still feel confused about, during or after meditation the following morning is the solution.
So remember, always do what’s best for you. You’ll feel better, make better decisions and have more control as you continue to navigate the uncertainty in this journey ahead.
Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash
Everyone needs meditation, and this recent example is why.
Something felt off. I overslept the past two days due to poor quality sleep (seasonal allergies + a muscle pull in my neck) and I missed my morning meditation. I figured I’d have to time to get it in later in the day, but that didn’t happen.
Now that I reflect back on it, I felt less clear headed and energetic throughout these days. Was it the poor sleep, or missing my meditation practice? Most likely a combination of the two.
So this morning, I was determined to get back into my daily routine. I know from experience that meditation is a game changer for people.
I recommend it to all my clients and I’ve seen the phenomenal results that come from meditating regularly.
Personally, after two days of missing my meditation, it felt like coming home this morning. No racing thoughts, but instead peace of mind, tranquility, stillness, clarity – all the things that put a smile on my face during and after my practice.
I was floating afterwards and in a high energy, happy mood. So much so that my 14 year old dog picked up on it. This dog who now sleeps about 90% of the time, grabbed his toy and started chasing me around the house, poking me with his toy to get me to chase him back.
Our pets know energy better than we do, and he certainly was picking up on my high energy and was loving it.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been around for thousands of years and has numerous benefits. It triggers your body’s relaxation response to reduce stress and anxiety, lengthens your attention span, and is highly beneficial to your emotional wellbeing and for people struggling with addictive behaviors.
Meditation also increases self-awareness and emotional intelligence, two very important traits for professionals and leaders to help with relationships in the workplace and at home.
I was encouraged to start a meditation practice by numerous experts during a health crisis years ago. The root cause of my illness was eventually determined to be work-related stress.
I only wish I took that advice to meditate regularly sooner, I may not have suffered as long. If you experience a lot of stress or have unresolved health related issues, read more about the impact of stress and why you should care here.
A simple practice of a few minutes of meditating per day or in particular situation (before or after) can bring you a sense of calm during stress or help center and ground you when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
I know meditation on a regular basis works, I personally don’t need scientific proof to experience something and realize the benefits directly.
However, if scientific confirmation helps others become more open to the concept of meditation and gets them to start practicing it, then by all means, keep the research going.
There are plenty of scientific studies reporting that meditation helps relieve anxiety and depression, improve focus and attention, increase concentration, and improve overall psychological well-being.
Meditation has also been shown to produce favorable changes in the brain. In this Forbes article, 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain, several studies are cited showing how meditation preserves the aging brain, reduces activity in the “Me Center” or “monkey mind”, changes key areas of the brain that support learning and memory, improves concentration and attention, and reduces anxiety.
Are you convinced yet that everyone needs to meditate?
Take Purposeful Action: Start a Daily Practice
If you’re not mediating now, start a daily practice. If you don’t think you have time for it, start off with a 1 – 5 minute practice first thing in the morning.
Keep it simple. Find a space where you won’t be disturbed and sit comfortably.
Set a timer: I like the Insight Timer app available for iOS and Android.
Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. It may help to count your breaths (inhale: 1, 2, 3, 4, exhale: 1, 2, 3, 4).
As thoughts arise, observe them without judging, and let them go.
Try smiling to support a feeling of inner calm and joy. It gets easier with continued practice and when you start seeing the benefits.
After some regular practice and when you feel ready, slowly increase the time you meditate. If you start with 5 minutes per day, increase it to 6 or 7 minutes after a couple of weeks. You’ll know when you’re ready.
Some additional tips: play soft music to help you get in a relaxed mood, write down how you feel before and after, and if you keep a journal write directly after meditation. You may be pleasantly surprised by the content.
Lastly, if you feel fidgety or tense while meditating remind yourself that it’s a normal part of the process and a great reason to continue. Over time you’ll find that getting into a relaxed state comes easily and quickly.
Next thing you know, you’ll be buying a “heavily meditated” t-shirt to wear proudly in public.
Take Purposeful Action (For Current Meditators): Try Something New
If you already have a daily meditation practice, I’m sure you see its value and don’t need me to tell you to continue it.
I do want to encourage you to change it up or enhance your daily practice by adding different types of meditation every so often, like once a month or once every few weeks.
You can try a guided meditation on YouTube or one of the meditation apps, a mindfulness meditation, a group meditation experience, or a walking meditation.
Here’s one to try this weekend. Take a walk in a wooded area or other peaceful place out in nature for a walking meditation.
While walking, get centered and grounded by paying attention to your feet as they move, the strength in your legs, and the air easily flowing into and out of your lungs.
Then, bring your focus to all the beautiful things that surround you. Notice the birds, butterflies, and other wild life. Pay attention to the trees, the wind moving the leaves, and the warmth of the sun on your skin.
Be present with the whole experience. Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, no listening to music, books or podcasts during this walking meditation, and put your phone on do not disturb mode if it’s with you.
In the comments below, share the one benefit you want most from your daily meditation practice? Or, if you already meditate regularly, what’s the best benefit you’ve gotten from it? Please share to encourage others.
Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash