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Don’t Make Assumptions

Don’t Make Assumptions

 Today I want to share with you a part from the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. In it he shares the wisdom of the Toltec, an ancient wisdom that is most accurately described as a way of life, distinguished by the ready accessibility of happiness and love.

 

We all want happiness and love. When asking any parent, what they most want for their children, happiness is at or near the top of the list.

 

The concept of “Don’t make assumptions” helps us see the world in a different light. The author shows us just how pervasive our assumptions are by giving us an example. If we were transported 700 years into the past, with all our knowledge that we have today, it wouldn’t be long until we would be seen as someone to fear who needed to be eliminated. The same way we can imagine that a person from 700 years into the future would see our current distortions and find us backwards and our world full of lies that we are assuming is the truth.

 

The concept of “Don’t Make Assumptions” is particularly powerful in human interactions. We assume that others think the way we do. We assume that our spouse knows us so well that we don’t have to ask for what we want. We assume that our spouse wants to do what we want them to do for us.

 

None of us reads minds. It is best when we explicitly ask for what we want. The other person has the right to say yes or no, but we have the right to be heard. Open and frequent communication clears the air of misunderstandings, helps us understand where the other person is coming from, and endears us to one another. We have the opportunity to genuinely appreciate the other person or share how much something they did meant to us. It is said that what we praise we get more of.

 

So, have the courage to ask questions, get clarification rather than assuming what something meant and ask for what you want.

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Set a Goal and go after it

Set a Goal and go after it

Jack Canfield, world famous author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, has also written his enormously successful book “The Success Principles”. In it he shares with us the most important steps he has uncovered for becoming successful in any endeavor. He not only draws on his own experiences but he has taken seminars and workshops from many of the most successful people and has interviewed many others on how they have achieved their success. Jack has boiled down all this expertise into 64 of the most important success principles.

 

Today I want to share with you his principle “Just lean into it”. When we set a goal we may not know how we’ll achieve it or even what steps to take. We may not even know exactly how our goal will look when we achieve it. The important thing is to get started. Let me give you an example.

 

I grew up in Germany. When I was in 9th or 10th grade, I was struggling in my English class. I wanted to get better but I just didn’t know how. Then I came across a summer school program in England. I signed up and spent several weeks in England taking English classes and living with a British family. Being immersed in English for several weeks certainly helped but I still needed more. Then my path took a completely different turn.

 

Next I found out about a program to spend a year in America as a high school exchange student. I applied and eventually not only spent a year in America, but I stayed for life. I am now fluent in English, but when I first started on a quest to improve my English skills, I would have never expected to settle in America. I thought I was just after getting a better grade in my class.

 

Another example is the story of Martin Luther King Jr. When he started encouraging people to fight racial segregation, he undoubtedly could not have foreseen that less than 60 years later we would have a black president.

 

So what about you? What are your goals and how can you begin to take steps? How can you find out what other people have done to achieve what you want to achieve? Can you interview someone? Are there books or tapes available to teach you what you want to know? Can you take a course or do you need a degree? In the end you can learn all about it but just like riding a bike – you can’t learn it from reading a book. You need to take action. And that might be scary.

 

Reasons we might not be willing to take action towards our goals:

  • It never occurs to us
  • It’s inconvenient – we have to seek out information and make time to learn it
  • Fear of rejection – asking others for help or advice – we might get rejected
  • Fear of change – learning something new and taking action will mean change and that might be uncomfortable
  • Unwillingness to work hard – taking actions towards our goals means having to work extra in addition to what we already have to do on a daily basis. Many people are unwilling to put in the extra effort.

 

Look at this list. Is it worth giving up on your goals and dreams because of these reasons? I hope you make the choice to go after your dreams and goals. Ask yourself, “What is the next step I can take?” And then have the courage to take it.

 

One of the best ways I know to stay on track towards achieving your goals is to have a coach or at least an accountability partner. We often will do things for others that we won’t do for ourselves. Having someone to support you and hold you accountable may be just what you need to help you achieve your goals. Aren’t you worth it?

Anxiety and What to do Instead

Anxiety and What to do Instead

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

It can also describe a psychiatric condition, which is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. Medication is available to address this form of anxiety. This article does not address the psychiatric condition but instead addresses that worry and unease that we all feel at times.

There are several categories of anxiety.

1. About the past or the future.
This type of anxiety is about mentally leaving the present and dwelling on the past or the future. We can dwell on the past of what we could have done differently or how we could have avoided certain mistakes. Or how we could have done a better job of getting things done instead of procrastinating.

How often do you worry about the future whether it is next week or next year? Will we be able to take a vacation? Will the kids get good grades and be able to go to the college of their choice? Will there be enough money? Will we like the new neighbors that just moved in next door? Will we get along with the new employee? All these and many more anxiety provoking thoughts will resolve themselves in time. Worrying about them does nothing but rob us of peace of mind and joy in the present moment.

2. Confrontations and conversations.
I remember my mother thinking endlessly about what was said and how she might have said the wrong thing or something dumb. She would worry endlessly about her lack of communication skills. Most of the time this was a complete non-issue. Nobody paid much attention to how she expressed herself. It was all in her head.

Similarly we can fret endlessly about a difficult upcoming conversation. May be we want to ask our boss for a raise, or we have a performance review coming up. May be we are planning a confrontation with a friend who has hurt our feelings and we want to clear the air and let her know how it made us feel. We can fuss endlessly over what to say and how to say it, and chances are, in the end, it isn’t a big deal at all.

3. Duties and obligations of the day.
We can worry about all that needs to get done instead of focusing on the task at hand. Or we start one thing only to think of another task that needs to be done, start that one and after a day of starts and stops have nothing complete and a mess on our hands.

Enjoy the journey

So what shall we do instead? All through life we have goals and expectations. As we achieve certain goals, others come into view. It is easy to keep our eyes on the goal to the detriment of enjoying the present. Make time daily to appreciate the little things and have joy in your heart. Life is about the journey and we miss out on so much if we don’t play and put joy into every day. Create memories every day. Once the day is gone, the opportunity to appreciate and love the day is over. If a day is particularly stressful, just remember – this too shall pass.

And don’t despise the day where small things are happening. Everything starts small. Before we can walk or run we need to learn to crawl. When going to school, we start in first grade, not in high school. When learning to speak to groups we start with small groups and short speeches, before we are ever ready to talk for hours in front of hundreds of people. So enjoy the small first tentative steps in any new endeavor, not only the big successes that come later.

Making Love Relationships Work

Making Love Relationships Work

John Gottman, PhD is the expert on why marriages succeed or fail. He conducts his research in his “love lab” in Seattle. He has observed thousands of couples and with his research he has been able to predict with great accuracy which couples stay together and which marriages end in divorce.

 

First of all, there are four troublesome issues that cause a marriage to be unhappy. Gottman calls these the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They are, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal.

 

The first horseman is criticism. There may not appear to be much difference between complaining and criticizing. Complaints are an important part of a healthy relationship and allow for discussing differing expectations whereas criticizing involves attacking someone’s personality or character – rather than a specific behavior. An example of criticism is, “Why did you buy that – when you know we’re trying to save money? You always do things like that – you just don’t care.” Criticism is more global rather than something specific. Another example from Gottman’s book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” shows clearly the difference between a complaint and criticism.

  • Complaint: We don’t go out as much as I’d like to.
  • Criticism: You never take me anywhere.

 

The second horseman is contempt. Contempt is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. It stems from negative thoughts about your partner – you no longer have respect for your partner. Signs of contempt include name-calling, hostile humor, mockery and body language such as rolling your eyes.

 

The third horseman is defensiveness. When contempt enters the relationship, people feel attacked. Often they respond with defending themselves. The self-defense can take several different forms.

  • Denying responsibility (I didn’t do anything wrong.)
  • Making excuses (Blaming external circumstances)
  • Cross-complaining (Countering a complaint with an immediate complaint of your own, totally ignoring what your partner has said.)
  • Yes-butting (Agreeing with the complaint, but having a reason that outweighs the transgression.)
  • Repeating yourself (Continue to restate your position without attempting to understand the other’s point of view.)

 

The forth horseman is withdrawal. When defensiveness isn’t getting anywhere, one spouse will often turn to silence or physically remove himself from the room. But that doesn’t work either. Instead of being neutral, withdrawal conveys disapproval, icy distance and smugness. The message is that I am disengaging from any meaningful interaction with you. If this does not result in divorce it will result in living lonely parallel lives.

 

What can you do if any of these four horsemen have invaded your marriage? Here are several suggestions.

  • Calm down. When you feel your heart rate escalate during an argument, take a time out. When you are both calm, you can continue the conversation. But don’t just ignore the problem; make specific plans to continue the conversation.
  • Speak non-defensively. If you can learn to listen to your spouse without becoming defensive and without triggering defensiveness in your partner, it will do wonders for your relationship.
  • Validate. Try to see things from your spouse’s point of view. Tell her that you understand what she is saying. Acknowledge when you are wrong or apologize. When appropriate compliment your spouse. Sincere appreciation of what your spouse is doing goes a long way to maintain harmony in the home.

 

If you can keep the four horsemen out of your relationship and practice the above suggestions, you have come a long way towards making your relationship work. Additional resources are available at www.gottman.com

 

Seven steps to being highly confident

Seven steps to being highly confident

How you feel about yourself can affect how your day and your life goes. If you are feeling down about yourself, you exude that to others. People may give you a wide berth, since your negative energy is something they just don’t want to be around. So how can you be more positive and come across as confident?

Here are seven steps to a more confident you.

 

  1. Make a list of your strengths.

It doesn’t matter if there are people that are better than you. It only matters that you know it is a strength of yours. List everything you can think of: you know how to drive a car and ride a bicycle. You know how to use a computer, check your email, write documents using MS Word, create a spreadsheet, and make a PowerPoint presentation. You know how to buy groceries and put together a healthy meal. You know how to clean your home and do your laundry. May be you can paint, play a musical instrument or have other artistic talents. May be you are a good listener or problem solver. May be you are in a loving relationship. Think of your past successes. Make a list of all of it. Put it in a safe place where it won’t be discovered, maybe carry it with you, so you can give yourself a confidence boost any time you want one.

 

  1. Take care of yourself.

How you treat yourself is how others will treat you. Be kind to yourself. Have a routine that includes regular sufficient sleep, daily hygiene starting with a shower that wakes you up and refreshes you. Dress well. How you look has an effect on how you feel and how others perceive you. Make time for breakfast to start the day out right. Try to get some exercise every day, even if it is only a twenty-minute walk around the neighborhood. Try to eat moderate portion sizes and include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Consider meditating or yoga as a form of relaxation.

 

  1. Learn about your body language.

When you walk hold your head high and your shoulders straight (no slouching when you walk). When you are talking try to become aware of what facial expressions you are making and what your hands are doing. You could try and hold a pretend conversation in front of the mirror or ask a friend to give you feedback on your non-verbal communication. With practice you can project confidence instead of emotions such as nervousness, anxiety or boredom. Nothing portrays confidence as a relaxed stance, speaking loudly and clearly, and making eye contact.

 

  1. In conversation, learn to listen.

People love to talk to someone who is interested and who listens to what they have to say. Ask questions about things you genuinely want to know about and then listen. Look for the best in others and sincerely compliment them. When others ask you questions, learn to get to the point or tell a short interesting story that illustrates your point.

 

  1. Learn to handle rejection.

Rejection is an inevitable part of life. Realize that often rejection isn’t personal. If you are asking someone to get together for lunch and they say ‘no’, it may not have anything to do with you. They may already have plans or they are overcommitted and need the time to work on something. If you are asking someone to buy something from you, again a ‘no’ in all likelihood has nothing to do with you. They may have no need for what you have to sell, they may not have the money to buy what you have or any other number of reasons why they say ‘no’. Don’t take it personally. On the other hand, rejection may be personal. Try to accept that not everyone wants to spend time with you or buy from you. Find others who do want what you have or want to spend time with you.

 

  1. Learn public speaking.

Being confident when speaking in front of a group is a major coup. It can be learned. To learn more about that topic read my article from May 22, 2014, ‘Fear of Public Speaking? No Problem’ In fact I know of someone who was a stutterer but learned to speak in public without stuttering. You can overcome your fear of public speaking.

 

  1. Practice entering new environments.

Whether you start a new job or join a new group, entering a new environment can affect your confidence. Decide to be outgoing and introduce yourself to everyone you meet. Be sincerely interested in what others have to say and use your conversational skills. This is a chance to make a favorable first impression.

There are many steps you can take to build up your level of confidence. Pick one and stick with it for a while. Notice how your skills and confidence get a boost.

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How and Why to Forgive

How and Why to Forgive

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Forgiveness is something you can do whether the person you forgive is alive or not. Forgiveness is more about healing your heart than it is about the other person. And why should you forgive those who have harmed you? As Ann Landers often said, “hate is like an acid. It damages the vessel in which it is stored.” Below is a powerful story of forgiveness.

There are many stories of World War II Holocaust survivors who have been able to forgive their captors and tormentors. Here is one of those stories. It is the story of Corrie Ten Boom. Her family hid their Jewish neighbors in their home, were caught and sent to a concentration camp. She was the only survivor. After the war she traveled throughout Germany, giving talks on forgiveness. On one of those talks she came face-to-face with one of her cruel prison guards.

“I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.“

‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”.

 

Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Realize that the hatred you feel harms you and not your enemy. Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.
  2. Stop being the victim. The best revenge is to live a successful and happy life. Surviving the harm caused by another person has made you stronger.
  3. Make a list of the strengths you have gained from the negative experience.
  4. Think about the kind and selfless people who have helped you in your time of need and what example they set for you.
  5. Give yourself time to heal. Nurture yourself.
  6. Writing down your negative experience may help – get it out of your head and onto paper.
  7. Stop telling your negative story. Negativity is depressing.
  8. Wish your enemy well. This creates cognitive dissonance and eventually it can neutralize your feelings about the other person.

 

Additional Resource

For additional information on the forgiveness process and the benefits to the forgiver check out the book “Forgiveness is a Choice – A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope” by Robert Enright.

 

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Rest and Renew: the Power of Restorative Yoga

By Guest Blogger, Wendy Cullitan, In the Write Zone

Much has been written about the power of the mind/body connection. As a yoga practitioner for 20 years and yoga teacher for eight, I know there’s truth to the benefit of moving the body and breathing in specific ways to help calm what yogis call Chitta Vritti or mind chatter. This chatter is constant, even though we are often unaware of it.

Practicing yoga is one way to clear the mind and create more space within for creativity and productivity. As the saying goes, what “we pay attention to grows.” By participating in mindfulness activities, you can train your mind to shift from negative thoughts to positive ones, from fear to calm, from non-stop chatter to clarity.

Starting a yoga practice is easier said than done. That’s why I am sharing with you a simple, restorative yoga sequence to gently release tension in postures that allow the body to rest and revitalize.

You don’t need any special props, but if you have a yoga mat, use it; otherwise, dress comfortably and have two firm pillows and a timer nearby. Set up near a wall with

 

1. Begin in Child’s Pose.

Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. If you can’t sit on your heels, place a pillow (or two) between your heels and your bottom.

Hold that position for 2 minutes. Take deep inhalations (listen for the sound of your breath, feel your belly expand like a Buddha belly) followed by slightly longer exhalations to release toxins in your body. Notice where you are holding on to tension (lower back is common) and visualize your exhalations traveling there. Notice what happens. Continue this type of breathing awareness for the next two poses as well.

 

2. Next up is Reclining Butterfly/Supta Baddha Konasana

This classic restorative posture stretches the inner groin, thighs and knees. It also helps reduce stress, mild depression and cramps. Click Supta Baddha Konasana to view details on how to set up and plan to rest for 5 minutes.

 

3. Now move into Legs Up the Wall Pose/Viparita Karani.

In order to more easily get into this pose, start off sitting sideways next to the wall with your feet on the floor. Place one hand at your low back, lean back and pivot your legs up the wall. Once your legs are against the wall, press your forearms into the ground to help move your bottom as close to the wall as possible. Lay on your back with your legs resting up the wall. The benefits to this pose include reduced backache and headache and is a wonderful antidote to insomnia.

Legs up the wall pose can be combined with the other poses if you have more time or done on it’s own if you are short on time. 2014JUN05 legsuptheWallPose

At first, aim to hold Viparita Karani for 2-5 minutes and build up to 10 minutes or longer. As soon as the weight of your legs becomes too much, roll to your side in the fetal position and rest for 8 deep inhalations and exhalations before doing the next pose.

 

4. Finally, sweet Savasana!

Every yoga class ends with this quintessential posture that allows the body and mind time to integrate what has shifted internally. Lie on your back. Close your eyes. Turn your palms face up. Take one deep inhalation through your nose and a long exhalation with your mouth open and sigh. Repeat three times. Then, let go of the pattern of your breath. Let your thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky. This is your time to completely relax in a state of deep relaxation. Stay for 5-10 minutes.

This sequence can be followed whenever you need to unwind! Let me know what you think.

 

About the Author: Wendy L. Cullitan, principal of Wordsmith Communications, is an award-winning writer, editor and marketing consultant. She graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University. Wendy finds balance in her life through an avid yoga practice that began in 1995. Her personal self-discovery prompted her to become a yoga teacher in order to share this meaningful, life-affirming practice with others. Wendy loves spending time upside down — which is why you will find her in a headstand or handstand every day. You can reach her via email at wordsmithcomm@gmail.com, via her blog In the Write Zone or visit her website at www.wordsmith-communications.net.

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