This was first published on KSL.com
We have all heard the saying "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." But for many, knowing this truth is not helping them change and react to life in a more positive way so they suffer less.
Many of us struggle to change the meanings and stories we apply to the situations in our lives. We keep having the same belief-thoughts and negative ideas that keep making us miserable. These go-to perspectives and beliefs are deeply ingrained, which makes them easy and natural to keep using. Stepping back from situations and choosing a different perspective is hard work.
Here are some things you can learn and do to shift your perspective and change your reactions to what life throws at you.
Nothing means anything
The events, situations or happenings of your life are the facts of your life. For example, someone cuts you off in traffic; your husband forgets your birthday; your child gets a bad grade in school; your mother-in-law says something negative about your parenting; you say the wrong thing and offend someone; your friend doesn't call you back all week; you don't get the promotion you wanted. Events like these happen all day, every day. It's important to understand that by themselves, they don't mean anything.
The problem — or negative feelings about these facts in your life — occurs when you immediately apply meaning or "a story" to the events. Whatever that meaning is, is what makes you miserable. In truth, you have the power to sit back and see what happened as just an actuality, without applying any meaning or story around it, or you can choose a story that serves you and is healthy.
There is an infinite number of reasons why something might happen, but you won't see the world of possibilities unless you first acknowledge that nothing means anything without you applying meaning to it. Every time something happens, sit back and say to yourself, "This doesn't mean anything. I must be careful about the meaning I apply to this. It could mean something very different than I think."
You give everything its meaning
Your perspective is everything. It creates how you think, feel and act around everything in your life. It's also important to understand that perspective is flimsy, loose and changeable. You can look at something from one angle and think it means one thing; but if you looked at it from another angle or perspective, it may look and feel totally different.
You have given everything all the meaning it has. You have either consciously or subconsciously applied ideas, assumptions and fears to each actuality, and it is these stories that cause your suffering.
Most of the stories you create come from your fears of failure and loss. You often apply meaning like "I am not good enough" to everything that happens, and this makes things feel more personal than they are. You might be quick to assume whatever happened was a shortcoming or fault in you, or you might have a belief like "I am not safe and can't trust others," which always makes things feel like someone else's fault. The trick is you have to take your thoughts less seriously.
Your thoughts don't mean anything
The subconscious belief-thoughts you adopted in childhood often determine the kind of stories you create. As a child, you might have experienced something that made you think "I am not loved," "I am not good enough," "I am not safe," or "I am not smart"; now you could be applying these belief-thoughts to every situation you encounter.
Watch for a pattern in your stories and see if they all end up in the same place. These could be thoughts like "people always let me down," "I am just not enough," "I am on my own," "no one cares," "people can't be trusted," and "I have to protect myself." The problem is these belief-thoughts are not facts; they are just story options, and there are always many other options that might serve you better.
Here is an exercise to help you find some of your ingrained belief-thoughts:
You are never upset for the reason you thinkYou think you are upset because of the actuality or event. Let's say your spouse said something negative about your cooking, for example. You think you are upset because of their rude, hurtful comment. But what is actually making you upset is the belief-thought that you aren't good enough, which is a belief you may have carried with you since childhood. If you didn't already have this belief-thought, you probably wouldn't be so upset by their comment. It is your belief-thoughts about yourself that drive the stories you apply.
This is not excusing your spouse nor their accountability for being rude, nor am I saying that you should accept and allow abusive behavior. My point is that in everyday situations like this, you will suffer less and give other people less power over you if you understood that you contribute to the problem with your thoughts. In other words, if you recognize that it's your thoughts about what happens that make you upset, you can change the story you are telling yourself and choose a perspective that serves you more.
For example, when your spouse says something negative about your cooking, you might choose a story that says you are bulletproof and what others think or say about your cooking doesn't change your value or diminish you in any way. With this perspective, you can let insults bounce off. You might also choose to address the problem with your spouse, but you will now do that from a strong, loving place — not a hurt, victim place. This will lead to a better conversation.
Everything is a lesson
After 20 years as a master life coach, I have found that my clients do better if they universally apply the belief-thought that everything that happens is a lesson showing up in their life to serve them in some way. This is not a provable fact, of course. There is no source for ultimate truth about why things happen, but we each must choose a belief-thought about the nature of our life journey. If we don't consciously choose one, we will subconsciously choose one.
Try playing with the belief-thought that the universe is on your side and constantly conspiring to serve and grow you. Choose to believe the universe uses everything that happens for your good, and every negative event can be a blessing in disguise to make you stronger, wiser or more loving.
Also, play with the belief that all humans have the same unchanging value and nothing can diminish you. This belief-thought will make you feel safer in the world and change your reactions to everything.
Changing your stories and meanings will take time and work, but you can start today by playing with these new beliefs and applying them to each situation. If you struggle with this because your childhood belief-thoughts are so strong and your reactions too fast when triggered, I recommend seeking a professional coach or counselor to help you shift your beliefs. This can make a huge difference faster than you think.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
My spouse and I read your article last week about understanding the fear behind our behavior, and it's really helping us see what's going on when we fight. But we both are prone to getting offended way too easily. People often disregard us or are disrespectful, and we both tend to be bothered and frustrated with a lot of people. This also means we are mad at each other a lot, too. I think maybe we need to learn how to let things go and not take things personally, but do you have any advice for doing that?
I have actually
Here are some common qualities of people who get offended too easily:
If this sounds like you, here are some things you can do to stop getting offended so often.
Trust the journey
Choose to see life as a classroom, and that the universe and you together are co-creating the perfect classroom journey for you every day.
This means the people who offend you today are perfect teachers, giving you a chance to grow, be more mature, or see your fears and work on them. When you trust your experiences are the perfect classroom for you, you aren't as offended by them. (Note: I am not talking about abuse here, just garden-variety slights that aren't degrading or abusive.)
You have probably married your perfect teacher, too. He or she will teach you by pushing all your buttons to bring your triggers to the surface so you can heal them. Trusting that your life is a classroom also makes you feel safer; it means life and the universe are on your side and their intention is to always serve you.
Trust your value
Choose to see all humans — including yourself — as having the same infinite value that isn't in question and doesn't change. This means we are all students in need of more education. When you see people this way, you can release the need for judgment and give them all permission to be a work in progress just like you.
Allow others to be different
Allow other people to react, behave, think and be wired differently than you are. They were raised differently and they haven't had your life experiences. Therefore, they have the right to function differently, too.
Give others the room to be the way they are without letting it take anything from you. You both have the same value no matter what, and you have the right to be where you are. Stop expecting everyone to think and act like you.
Learn something from this
If someone criticized you, could it be constructive and could you learn something from it? Life is a classroom and that is why you are here. What could you gain from this criticism if you chose not to take offense?
Flip the insult to see if it's still true
If someone has "disrespected you," write that on a piece of paper. Then write "I disrespect me" and ask yourself if it's still true.
If it is true, consider that your own disrespect of yourself might make you feel others are disrespecting you when they really aren't. Is there any chance the way you see yourself has been projected onto this other person? You do this more than you might think. If you don't like yourself, you will also project that and believe others don't like you either.
Double-check their intent
Ask yourself: Did this other person really intend to do me harm, insult or disregard me? Or is there any other meaning their actions could have? Usually, the other person was focused on their own issues and missed what they did or said completely.
If they didn't intend harm, is harm done that can't be let go? We hold onto intentional hurt because we believe it protects us, but unintentional hurt is best let go. Also, give the benefit of the doubt that that other person didn't mean to offend.
Let go of the need to be right
Sometimes it's OK to let another person think they are right even when they aren't. If it improves the relationship, why correct them? Choose your battles and try to allow others to do things their way as much as you can.
Forgiving is not pardoning bad behavior; it is changing the way you see the bad behavior so you can change the way you feel about it. It's about letting negative emotions and feelings go and trading them for peace and happiness. When you see an offense as a perfect classroom and the person as having the same value as you, and you choose to see growth and learning in it, it becomes much easier to forgive.
If this is hard for you, start a forgiveness practice journal and work on it daily. Choose an offense or a mistake you have made every day and process it to forgiveness. Choose the positive feelings you want to experience around this and practice choosing them.
Consider your options and possible outcomes
What is the outcome you will create if you choose to be offended or hurt by this? What kind of behavior will you exhibit in response? What will that create? Is this what you want?
What are some other options? What would you choose if you knew you were safe and good enough? What would a love-driven response look like? What would that create?
If you are still having trouble being offended often, consider working with a coach or counselor who can help you establish your own sense of safety in the world so you can feel more bulletproof. A professional who knows how to do this can help immensely.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
It doesn't matter what the cause of the trouble is. It could be long-term relationship issues, loneliness, health or financial problems, or anything else that doesn't have an easy solution and means long-term angst or pain. How do you cope, stay positive, move forward and make the best of these worst situations?
I was thinking about the answer to this question this week as I had the opportunity to ride up and down the Hiawatha Bike trail in Montana, which means riding through a train tunnel a mile and a half long. If you have never had this experience, I highly recommend it. You actually ride over numerous suspension bridges and through nine different train tunnels. This experience brought the idea of "light at the end of the tunnel" to life in a powerful way for me.
In these tunnels, you quickly lose sight of the end — there is literally no end in sight. It is pitch dark and all you can see is about 6 feet in front of you, as that is all your headlamp illuminates. There is nothing to reflect light off straight ahead, so all you can see is the ground in front of you.
There is also water dripping on you from above and mud splattering you from the front and rear tires. It can be disorienting and a bit scary. It's only the voices up ahead of you that assure you others are making it through this, and you can too.
This experience reminded me of some great ways to hang on, stay positive, and get through when things in life are dark:
Only focus on the present moment
I recently visited with a man who battles a nerve disease that causes constant and severe pain, and it will most likely continue for the rest of his life. He told me that if he tried to carry the weight of all the days, months and years of pain that he faces ahead, it would crush him. The trick is only to focus on what's right in front of you today.
Get through this hour or this 30 minutes with as much joy, laughter and grit as you can. Don't think about the days, months or years ahead. Stay present and be in the moment. It's just like me in the actual tunnel, where 6 feet was all I could see: I had to keep a laser focus on that small part because the rest of the darkness was overwhelming.
Whatever you are facing, take it one small moment at a time.
Choose joy as much as possible
Find the small blessing and beauty in each moment. Look for the positive in every single moment. Listen to music, watch the sunset, appreciate the things you do have. Choose joy over something in every moment you are alive.
Joy is a choice, it's not an experience. You have the power to find reasons for joy all the time.
You've heard the saying, "Things could always be worse." You might think of ways this is true.
Don't compare yourself with people who have it better than you do. That will only bring grief and loss. Instead, try comparing yourself with everyone you can think of who has it worse. This will help you spend your time in gratitude for what is right in your life.
You are certainly entitled to a full-blown pity party on occasion, but do not live there. Sit in the feelings of loss, unfairness, self-pity, anger or grief. Let yourself have the emotions that come, then decide that you aren't going to live there. You are going to focus on the blessings, small as they may be.
Find support and people who understand
It helps immensely to find people who have been in your shoes or are still there. They get what you are experiencing at a level no one else can. Seek these people out and befriend them. Start a support group and reach out to others who are suffering that you can help.
Choose to trust that there's purpose in your pain
We cannot prove this is true, but you cannot prove it isn't true either. The one thing I know is that people who choose to trust there is purpose in their experiences suffer less. It helps to think that at least this experience is benefiting them in some way, teaching them and making them stronger, wiser or more loving.
Viktor Frankl, a prisoner in the concentration camps during World War II, said, "In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning." I choose to believe that life is a classroom (not a test) and the purpose of everything is to grow us and teach us. I find that believing this as your meaning makes the hard parts feel a little easier. You will have to see if it works for you.
Choose to see everyone in their perfect classroom journey
Choose to believe that if others have life easier than you, there is a reason for that, too. Every single person is here to learn different lessons than you are, so their curriculum won't ever look like yours. Stop comparing. Decide to trust that others will get the hard parts of their lessons at a different time or in a different way, but everyone gets the perfect classroom for them.
I don't believe that God sent this trial to you though; I believe God created a universe to be our teacher and there are forces at work here that work with our choices to create the perfect classroom for each soul. But, again, I can't prove this is true. It is just a belief. I just find this belief helps.
Get some help from a coach or counselor
Find someone you connect with and feel safe with. Having someone to support you during this time makes a huge difference. Working with a professional who can help you process emotions in a healthy way, find coping strategies, and just listen makes all the difference in how you handle the rough stuff.
Distract yourself from the pain
Find activities that fill you up, bring you joy, or entertain and distract you from thinking about the problem. Don't ignore the problem, stuff your feelings and just watch Netflix to get through. Get help, find support, talk to a coach or counselor, and make sure you are learning and growing from the experience. Then, keep yourself busy doing things that bring you joy and fill you up as much as possible.
It's never fun to go through hard things or dark times, but these suggestions may help you get through those parts of life until the light at the end of the tunnel finally comes into view.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
Many of us were taught as children things like "make others happy," "be nice," "be unselfish," and "sacrificing yourself for other people is righteous." We were taught to be afraid of what others think of us and to avoid conflict at all costs.
Were you accidentally or intentionally taught these things as a child?
See if any of the following sound like you:
The following are suggestions for what you can do to start changing yourself to become more authentic and in control of your life.
Don't commit to anything on the spot
Make it your rule that you always say, "Can I check my calendar and get back to you?" Then step back and ask yourself, "Do I really want to do this, or am I saying 'yes' out of guilt, obligation or a fear of rejection or judgment?" If you can say "yes" because you truly want to do it, say "yes." If you are saying "yes" because of fear, you must say "no."
Practice saying 'no'
Look for every opportunity to get more comfortable with saying "no." You are not selfish or a bad person if you occasionally choose your own happiness and possibly disappoint others. Watch for opportunities to show kind assertiveness. Kindly say, "No, I don't want to do that right now. Thanks, though." Practice saying "no" with no explanation about why so the other person can't try to persuade you.
Try saying 'I don't' instead of 'I can't'
When some people hear the words "I can't," they become committed to changing your mind on that. They try to solve the problem for you so you can still do the thing they want you to do. But using the words "I don't" declares a firmer boundary.
Practice saying things like, "I don't have time for that," "I don't do those things," "I don't want to talk about that right now," or "That doesn't work for me." These phrases are more assertive and powerful, yet they can be said with a kind tone.
Learn how to be both strong and loving at the same time
Somewhere in childhood, many of us got the idea that you can either be strong (mean and selfish) or loving (weak and scared), but we can't be both. You will find your power and your courage when you realize you can do both at the same time. You can disagree, but do it with fearless, loving kindness.
I find the trick to finding this place lies in trusting there is nothing to fear. At the end of this interaction, you will still have the same value as every other person and your life will still be your perfect classroom. So, you are basically bulletproof. Focus on your loving kindness for the other person and respond with strength and love.
Learn the trick to strong boundaries
Everyone tells people pleasers to have strong boundaries, but how does one do that? I wrote a previous article on this topic you might want to read. I find the key to good boundaries is knowing what your priorities and values really are so you can say "no" to things that don't match up. If you haven't defined them, you don't know how to make good choices for yourself.
Define what your core priorities and values are
What is most important in your life? Sit down and make a list. You might value things like:
Give yourself permission to be you
It's OK to be different from others and have views they won't agree with. Have a unique style or way of being and do this from a place of trust that no judgment from others can change your value. Consciously choose to not worry about what others think of you. Their ideas have no power and don't mean or do anything.
Get more comfortable with conflict and anger
You may be so afraid of anger that you avoid conflict at all costs — and the costs can be high. To change this, you need a new official policy: "Conflict happens all the time, but it is nothing to fear."
Anger doesn't mean anything except that a human is having some emotions. Those emotions don't mean you aren't good enough or are unsafe. Anger is not something you need to fear.
You can get more comfortable with anger by slowly subjecting yourself to situations where people might get angry and practicing being OK and choosing to feel safe anyway. Do some things like sending back a meal that isn't cooked right, spending a long time at the ATM when people are waiting, saying "no" to someone, asking someone to stop doing something that is annoying you, or purposely not doing something you were asked to do.
Then you get to manage the ensuing conflict or anger with strength and love at the same time. Or instead of creating conflict, just watch out for natural opportunities to practice.
Practice putting your needs first
Putting your needs first may make you feel horribly selfish, but I promise you aren't. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it's wise and healthy. You should have an equal balance between giving to others and taking care of yourself.
Understand that avoiding conflict doesn't promote growth
Most of the growth in relationships happens in times of conflict. Those are the moments when we are asked to become more aware of our behavior, our words or our thinking. We have to stretch and put ourselves in the other person's shoes.
When you avoid all conflict, you avoid the best learning opportunities you are going to get. Try to see each conflict experience as being in your life to serve your growth. Don't avoid it. Jump in and see what you and the other person can learn and how you can become better.
Stop saying 'sorry'
People pleasers apologize way too much. Sometimes they come across as feeling sorry they exist and that their breathing causes any inconvenience to others. You deserve to exist and sometimes cause inconvenience to others, as they will do the same to you.
Your relationships should have give and take, and sometimes you will be the taker. Consciously watch for the desire to say "I'm sorry" and instead say "thank you" for their patience or accommodating you this time.
When you do something that really injures someone, still don't say "sorry." Asking "Could you forgive me?" is much more powerful and means more.
Find activities that increase your courage and confidence
I find that doing adventurous things, challenging myself and accomplishing goals helps me become mentally strong. Even lifting weights and being physically being strong helps me to feel more emotionally strong — there is a correlation between the two types of strength. Become stronger all the time.
Change your belief about your value
People pleasing is a deeply ingrained tendency that comes from a fear of not being good enough. Because you don't see yourself as enough, you believe you need approval from others to give you value. The biggest thing you can do to change this behavior is to choose to see all humans — including yourself — with the same infinite, unchanging value as everyone else. The more you see your value as unchangeable the less validation you should need from others.
Changing this will take practice, effort and time. The first step is recognizing you need to work on this and committing to the work.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Believing your own views are right is a troublesome tendency that we each must watch out for. It shows up as an overattachment to our own ideas and opinions and the tendency to see other perspectives as wrong.
When you get overattached to your opinion, you also tend to look for reinforcement confirming that you are right. It's called confirmation bias and you are drawn to shows, articles and books that confirm your current opinion over things that challenge it. You subconsciously seek this confirmation because it has a positive effect on your self-esteem.
Feeling like you are right doesn't actually increase your value; it just temporarily makes your ego feel better than other people whom you see as wrong.
If people struggle to see value in themselves, they often seek what I call "group self-esteem." They align themselves with a group of people who see themselves as superior to another group, and because they are a member of this superior group they get a little self-esteem boost.
The temporary benefits
But again, thinking you are right is only a temporary ego boost because being right doesn't actually give you more value than the people on the other side. Many people believe their ideas, opinions and beliefs do make them the "good guys" and more valuable than people with different views and beliefs. You can see this happening all around us.
People need to believe that their opinions make them better than others for two reasons:
1. They need the self-esteem boost that comes from feeling superior to others
This often happens when they don't get enough self-esteem from their appearance or performance. So, taking a strong stand on their views becomes their "thing" that sets them apart and makes them feel valuable. These people will talk about and share their views liberally because it reinforces their sense of value. They are overly committed to being right because it makes them feel better.
2. They get a sense of safety from their strong opinions and ideas
Feeling sure about their views gives them a sense of solid ground to stand on. Their opinions and views can make them feel in control and provide some stability. Beliefs can create our sense of security in the world; the problem is that when we rely too heavily on our opinions for security, we can become stubborn and stop learning, growing or experiencing people and ideas outside of those views.
There are some benefits to being overcommitted to being right, but there are also some troublesome consequences from being this way. Here are a few of them:
1. You only see life from your own perspective
You cannot help seeing the world through your own lens — a lens that was created from all your past experiences and knowledge. Yours is a very unique lens, too, because no other person on the planet will ever have your upbringing, your family, and your life experiences. You are literally the only one who can see life through your lens.
This is important to understand because your lens is also not accurate. It is all you know and can see, so it feels accurate, but it is — and will always be — just your perspective. There is an infinite number of other perspectives from which things look totally different. This is why any number of witnesses can watch the same event and see it very differently. This is why witness testimony can be unreliable. People always see the world through their skewed lens.
Recognizing this and understanding that all you can ever see is your own skewed opinion, perspective, and views means being open to honoring and respecting other people's right to see the world from their perspective. It is also all they can see, and from their perspective things will look very different from yours.
There is great wisdom and compassion to be gained when we step out of judgment and our need to be right and experience, listen to and learn from other people's perspectives. If you only watch your perspective's news program and read books that support what you already believe is the truth, you will miss out on the richness of the human experience and all its diversity.
2. You don't learn anything
A funny thing happens when you think you're right in your opinions and views: You stop asking questions and you stop learning. You subconsciously believe you know all there is to know, so you don't care what else is out there. It is only when you are willing to question what you know, and are truly open to being wrong, that you can learn. Wise people know that the more you learn, the more you understand you have more to learn.
There are always going to be more questions than answers. Being willing to question your views and knowledge makes you intelligent, a perpetual student, and ensures you're always growing. True wisdom is always questioning what you think you know.
3. You don't connect with people
If you are overly committed to your own opinions, you will miss opportunities to connect with other people — primarily because they won't share their perspectives with you. They can feel that you aren't open and don't provide a safe place to share, so they will keep their views to themselves.
There are billions of amazing humans out there with interesting stories and experiences, many that are beyond your ability to comprehend. Because you have never experienced life in their shoes, you don't know what they know. The more different they are from you, the harder it can be to cross the divide and connect with them; but when you do, you grow in incalculable ways.
This is why people say travel to faraway places changes you. Taking time to get to know people, who are vastly different from you and honoring and respecting their right to their views — even if their views bother or offend you — will help you gain compassion and wisdom. Spending all your time with people who agree with you gets you nowhere.
4. You don't experience love at the highest level
I personally believe — though I am open to being wrong about all of this — that differences are a perfect part of our life's journey because they stretch our ability to love others and ourselves. Differences trigger fears in us and push us out of our comfort zones. Think about some people in your life that you have a hard time loving or even liking. What are the differences that create these feelings? For some reason, your subconscious mind that has decided these behaviors in these people make them unworthy of love at some level.
The problem with letting these feelings go unchecked is that as long as you see their faults as making them unworthy of love, you will also see your own faults — though they may be different ones — as making you unworthy of love. You literally cannot love yourself except as you love your neighbor. If you stay in judgment of them, you will also stay in judgment of yourself. If you want to truly love and accept yourself, you must work on seeing every other human being as equal in value and worthy of compassion. You may never understand their perspective or behavior, but you know that's because you cannot see the world through their lens.
Being open to understanding and learning from other people takes you to a higher level of love and creates a wiser, more open and beautiful way of living. But you cannot get there if you are stuck in your need to be right about your current views.
Opinions vs. morals and values
I also want to say that opinions and views as I have addressed them in this article are different from your morals and values. Morals and values are beautiful choices you make about the rules you want to guide your behavior choices. They are still made from your perspective, but they are the consciously chosen systems to live by. What you want to avoid is pushing your value systems onto others — because they have the right to choose their own — and being closed off to changing your values as you grow and learn.
You could choose to stay open and question everything including your values, your views, and your opinions, and constantly measure them against love. There are so many dimensions to the human experience, and nothing is ever fully black and white, but love for yourself and other people may be a good measure in choosing values that create positive things in your life.
These are, of course, just my perspective and ideas, but I do like the results that are created in my life when I choose to see life as a classroom — purposefully designed to stretch my compassion and ability to love. I also appreciate the comments to my articles that challenge my ideas and premises and I am always open to being wrong.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
A woman recently asked me how she would know if she was out of balance and too critical of other people, or just a very observant and helpful person? I think you just have to ask the people around you and they would be happy to oblige on this one, but here are some signs that you might be overly critical and need to work on that.
Are you overly critical?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do people sometimes lie to you or avoid answering your questions?
If you are someone who is overly critical, the people in your life may not feel safe enough to tell you the truth. They might avoid talking to you at times, or lie to protect themselves from your judgment about what they are doing.
Do people get their feelings hurt when you are just trying to help them?
Overly critical people have a tendency to give unsolicited advice, which can feel more insulting than helpful. You might mean well when you point out what they did wrong or how they could improve, but to a person who battles with the fear of failure, it hurts. If your comments often make people angry or hurt their feelings, you may be overly critical.
Are you extremely opinionated and have a hard time not sharing your ideas?
People who are overly critical are often overly opinionated too. Can you let someone be wrong and not correct them? If not, this is a problem. Practice just listening and asking questions, without sharing your opinion at all. Bite your tongue and allow the conversation to go on without your ideas or input. This can be hard, but it shows maturity and wisdom.
Are you extremely observant?
Do you notice details that others miss? Many overly critical people are also told they are too observant. You might just naturally see what’s wrong before you see what’s right. This is a great skill in certain jobs or fields, but it can be rough in relationships.
Are you picky with high standards?
If you reload the dishwasher because it wasn’t done right, or remake beds because they still have wrinkles, or fix pillows every time you walk past the couch, you might be too particular and your standards might damage connection with others. Again, there are certain careers where being this picky would be a plus, but it can make people feel attacked.
Do you get really bent out of shape when things don’t go your way?
This might happen because you create a lot of expectations and then get attached to them. The truth is, life will rarely meet your expectations. Events rarely go off as planned, and people usually disappoint you. If you are fear-of-loss dominant — meaning you get triggered whenever life isn’t what you wanted it to be — you might be bothered and frustrated a lot, which can lead to criticism.
Do you find other people are quiet and have less to say around you?
People might have learned that communication with you isn’t safe. They may avoid your calls or have fewer comments in conversations. If you want people to speak their truth and be open with you, you have to create a safe place for them to do that.
How to make a change
If you answered yes to many of these questions, your subconscious tendency toward criticism might be a problem. Here are some tips for changing this behavior.
1. Allow people to disagree with you without threat of judgment or argument.
Let others know it’s OK if they don’t agree or don’t want to do it your way. Give them a safe space to tell you their truth without risk of conflict or correction.
2. Ask permission before giving advice.
Ask others, “Would you be open to a suggestion or some advice on how to do that, or would you rather I let you do it on your own?” Give them a safe place to say they aren’t open to advice on this. Whenever you share suggestions without asking permission to do so, it can come off as insulting to other people.
3. Practice not sharing your ideas.
Challenge yourself to sit through a whole conversation and only ask questions and listen with the intent to understand, without saying anything or sharing your ideas at all. Do this on a regular basis with the people you care about most. Even when you need to speak your mind, make sure you have thoroughly listened to their ideas first, and then ask permission before you speak.
4. Be observant without the need to speak about what you see.
Bite your tongue until it bleeds if need be, but let some people or things be wrong. Remember, they are on their own perfect journey, and God and the universe will help them learn what they need to know. You don’t have to do that job yourself.
5. Be less picky and more flexible.
Let the dishwasher be loaded wrong once in a while so you aren’t always making people feel inferior. Your high standards are fine for the work you do but shouldn’t be projected onto others. Having good relationships with people who feel safe with you is much more important.
6. Don’t get bent out of shape when things don’t go your way.
Trust the universe that it knows what it’s doing and however this event or situation goes, it is how it was supposed to go. There are reasons in play you don’t and won’t know anything about. Trust life to deliver what we all need, not what we want, so we can grow.
7. Become a better listener.
Notice how people light up when you are more interested in listening to them than you are in talking. They feel valued, cared about and important. The gift of validation and understanding can be the most loving gift you give to people in your life.
Personal growth happens when we start to consciously see our subconscious tendencies and make powerful choices to override our programming. The first step is awareness, then using choice to force ourselves towards better behavior. If we practice this new behavior enough, it starts to establish new subconscious pathways and our new behavior sticks. Be patient with yourself though, because this process takes time — and progress is more important than perfection.
You can do this.
In one of your recent articles, you said, "You can usually enforce boundaries in a kind way that won't lead to conflict." My question is, how do you do that? If I try to set a healthy boundary, say no, or do what’s best for me, other people don’t like it and it definitely leads to conflict. How to do it right?
A boundary is a rule to help you love and protect yourself. Boundaries protect you from a tendency to over-give and put others' needs before your own. Many of us struggle with this because it can feel terribly selfish to make our own needs important. But it’s not selfish at all; it’s wise. Wisdom says that you must care about yourself and other people equally or you will soon find yourself empty with nothing to give anyone.
One reason people sometimes get offended by your boundaries is that they feel you don’t care about them. If you can enforce your boundary in a way that makes them feel loved, this is less likely to happen. But, you must understand that the key to doing this is managing your own inner state.
Why your inner state matters
Your inner state matters because others can pick up on your energy, and that greatly influences their reactions to you. To keep things simple, I believe there are only two inner states you can be in (every moment of every day):
The procedure below will help you get into a Trust and Love state before you enforce a boundary. This will be something you must practice, though, because it has to be authentic. You cannot fake your inner state.
If you are defensive, scared of rejection, scared of conflict or scared of the other person’s reaction, they will likely feel your fear could lose respect for you. They might also fear threatened and think they have to defend themselves.
How to exhibit Trust and Love
The method of enforcing boundaries with love all rests on you not being scared to do it. When you show up fearless and loving at the same time, people tend to respect you for your strength and love and are more likely to honor your needs.
Follow these steps to enforce a boundary from a Trust and Love state:
Change isn't easy
If you have felt like a doormat in the past, you may have taught the people around you to expect you to have no needs. They might be so used to this that they will resist when you try to find a healthier balance. You may have to explain to them that you have been too codependent in the past and need to make some changes. While they might not like the changes, they’ll need to prepare for a new, more balanced you.
If you have been too controlling, critical or selfish in the past, you may need to apologize and promise to do better at honoring others' needs too. You may need to work on letting go of a feeling of loss (Fear state) when you don’t get your way. You should also practice trusting God and the universe that whatever you get is the perfect experience for you, like it or not.
If you are dealing with someone you feel is too controlling, opinionated or selfish and often feels mistreated, he or she will be one of the hardest people to enforce boundaries with. Their fear issues (of not having what they need) may prevent them from honoring your needs, no matter how lovingly you deliver them. These people, because they are overly selfish themselves, feel mistreated if you take care of yourself. You may need to explain why this hasn't been healthy for you and ask them to support you in making changes. If they can't respect your boundaries, accept the possibility that your relationship won't work.
Your lesson in dealing with these people is don’t be affected by their behavior or reaction to your boundaries. If they are going to feel mistreated or get upset, that is their choice; it is your choice not to be there with them. You can stay in a kind, strong, trust and love state, no matter how they respond. If they create conflict, excuse yourself from the conversation until they can discuss it respectfully. Keep working on steps one and two above and don’t let the other person scare you. You are safe even in dealing with conflict. It is just a lesson and your value isn’t affected by anything they do or say.
If a person is unable to honor your boundaries, or if you are still too scared to have any, your relationship with them isn't healthy and you might consider getting some professional help. An expert therapist or coach can give you the skills and tools you need to stay balanced in trust and love.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
When you get triggered by someone or something that makes you feel mistreated, taken from, insulted or unsafe, your body automatically shifts into a sympathetic nervous system response. This is the way your body prepares to flee or fight danger.
In this state, your vision narrows, your heartbeat rises, and your frontal lobe (the part of your brain that is logical, practical, wise, and mindful) shuts down. This happens, because you need all the energy your body has for fleeing.
The problem is that narrow vision and frontal lobe shutdown may have served our ancestors because their troubles were trying to chase and eat them. But today the things that make you feel scared or upset are often just people problems, arguments, or conflicts — all of which would go better if you used logical, practical and wise thinking.
When you are in a fight-or-flight state, your subconscious programming and stress — not your conscious brain — drive your behavior. You aren’t thinking clearly enough to make a thoughtful decision about your words or behavior. You are just reacting, and this type of reaction is not always wise or loving. You are more likely to say something stupid you will regret later.
It's my experience that when people get mad, upset or fearful, they also get selfish. This happens because they are afraid, and fear is all about you. Think about the last time your child did something wrong that made you freak out. Chances are you were feeling fear of failure as a parent and fear of loss around your child’s life and safety. In this place, you might have triggered your fight-or-flight response. This means your entire focus was on saying or doing anything that would make you feel better or safer.
As long as you are a fear-driven, fight-or-flight state, you can’t see anything but your own need to feel safe again. As a parent, you might, therefore, punish the child in whatever way makes you feel safer. You will completely miss what your child needs at this moment. This happens because your fear made you selfish.
You need to learn how to get your brain, logic, love and wisdom back before you respond to any situation or problem. Here is a procedure to follow that should help you avoid acting stupid or selfish when you are mad:
1. Call a timeout
Set up a rule with the people in your life who most often trigger you: Agree that if either of you calls a timeout, you both agree to stop talking and walk away, for about 10-15 minutes, so you can calm down and handle the conversation in a more balanced, logical and unemotional way. As soon as you can tell that you or the other person is getting unbalanced and upset, call a timeout. Use this time to do some of the suggestions below.
2. Do some diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing means taking slow, deep breaths and pushing your stomach out (as fat as you can) on every in-breath, and sucking in your stomach while you breathe out. Do this for 5 minutes or until you feel calmed down.
3. Focus on personal value and belief
Remember that your value is infinite and absolute. No one can diminish you. You are the same you, no matter what anyone says or does. Remember that your life is the perfect classroom journey for you and every experience is a perfect lesson.
4. See the equality
Make sure you see this other person as the same as you. They are also a work in progress, just like you. Don’t talk down to them or see them as wrong or bad. You might not have done what they did, but you have other faults.
5. Think of the other person
Can you see what the other person is afraid of? Are they afraid of loss or afraid they aren’t good enough? Understanding the fear driving them right now will tell you what they need. Are they tired, hungry or incapable of mature behavior because they haven’t had the opportunity to learn a better way? What has happened in their life, that affects their current behavior?
6. Develop a plan
What are some possible responses to this situation? Think of many, and write next to each option what you think the outcome of choosing that option would be. Figure out a fear-motivated attitude in each response, as well as a love-motivated attitude.
For example, if one option is not to say anything about the offense, a fear-based attitude would be to not bring it up because you are scared to do so. A love-motivated attitude might be to see the other person's fears and realize the offense isn’t about you, then just forgive them and let it go. Which would be healthier? Cross out all the fear-based options and choose a love-based response that feels healthy to you.
The next time you find yourself in a fight mode or feeling angry or upset, ask for a timeout to get balanced, calm and smarter before you continue. Then pull this article out and run through every step. Once you have done this a few times, it will start to be your go-to procedure for smart responding. Fighting smart (instead of emotional, selfish and stupid) will be a game-changer in all your relationships.
Still, you cannot control other people. Sometimes their fear keeps them in fight-or-flight mode, and you can't fix that. Giving them lots of validation and reassurance may help quiet their fear enough that you can have a productive conversation with them. However, if they are badly fear-triggered and can’t get themselves under control, or are abusive or mean, enforce a boundary and don’t communicate with them until they can do it respectfully.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
I went through a horrible divorce many years ago and it made me feel unwanted and unloved. I can’t seem to get past those feelings, and because of that I am not dating or trying to meet anyone. I think it’s a combination of being afraid, thinking I am not good enough, and being afraid of rejection. Is there anything I can do to get past those fears and move on?
There are some things you can do that would help you move forward and feel more courageous about dating. But before we get to that, I want to explain how our past experiences create beliefs, mental rules or policies that dictate our behavior in the future.
This process started when you were a small child and everything you saw or experienced created ideas and beliefs about who you are and how you fit in the world. But it's possible that many of these conclusions may not have been accurate.
It sounds like the divorce also prompted you to make some new beliefs about your value and relationships. You may have drawn conclusions that the rejection meant you aren’t good enough to deserve love. This isn’t a fact, though; it’s just a belief (or a subconscious policy or rule) you may have applied to the event.
The good news is while you can’t go back and change what happened, you can go back and change what it meant. This is where "time travel" comes in. You have the ability to visualize when you went through that experience and choose a different meaning around it. You can also change the beliefs it created.
To change the meaning of some of your past experiences, find some quiet time when you won't be interrupted and follow these steps:
1. Close your eyes and go back to the situation when you created these assumptions or beliefs about your value or your life. Sit in that place for a while and really feel the feelings that show up. What are the exact conclusions you drew at this time? How did you feel because of these conclusions? After you sit with that for a little while, stop and write the conclusions or beliefs down on paper. What meaning did you apply to the event?
2. Look at those beliefs and write down the ways those beliefs have served you or protected you. You may have held onto them because they served you in some way.
3. Now, think about what these beliefs have cost you. Write down all the damage they have done and how they have negatively affected your life.
4. Ask yourself, are these beliefs worth the cost or would you like to change them?
5. If you think your life would be better if you changed these limiting beliefs, what would you like to believe instead? How would you like to feel about yourself? How would you like to feel about your life?
6. If it would serve you to change these beliefs, try applying new meaning to the event in your past and choose new beliefs to draw from it.
Here's how to do this:
8. Take some time to write down how you are going to choose to feel and process present experiences in light of the new meanings around the past that you have chosen.
You may want to repeat this process a few times, because the more you do it the more you will internalize your new chosen beliefs. According to the neuroscientist, Beau Lotto, in his book Deviate, your brain doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. So, when you use visualization and process events in a more healthy way, you actually get the same benefits you would if you had really had the experience that way.
You may also have more courage to start dating if you choose to trust that your value is the same as everyone else’s, whether someone likes you or not, and trust in the universe that the right person will like you when the time is right.
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is a master life coach, speaker, and author of three books. Coach Kim offers help and resources that fit any budget. Learn more at www.claritypointcoaching.com and www.12shapes,com
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.