This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim Giles explains how to separate your self-worth from your stuff.
I live in a smaller old home in an area where lots of beautiful new large homes have popped up over the last several years. I generally love where we live and the people who live here, but I hate that I feel the nagging impulse to "keep up with the Joneses." I understand it's fear-based, that I'm wanting to feel like I'm just as good as those around me. But I'm hoping you can give some helpful advice to navigate this. It's hard when my kids have friends over and I perceive they aren't having as much fun because we don't have all of the fun "stuff" that they have. I know I shouldn't care, but I do. How do I explain to my kids that we don't have what others around us have and that it's OK? How can I teach them that their own worth isn't tied to stuff?
You need to teach your children where the belief that your value is tied to your appearance, performance and property comes from, and then, how to change it.
This belief actually stems from a simple, but foundational belief about human value and how it’s determined. This is a foundational belief that impacts how you see yourself and everyone around you, and it's critical to understand. Somewhere along the way you, as a child, might have gotten the idea from your parents and watching the other big people around you that human value can change. You started to believe it could go up and you could feel better than other people, and it could go down and you could feel less than other people.
This idea that human value can change also lead you to another negative belief — that some people have more value than other people. These two beliefs are wreaking havoc in your life and with your self-esteem, and they are also responsible for most of the problems on this planet. All of the terrorism, war, racism, discrimination, and even the political divide in our country are all at their core, caused by this idea that some people have more value or are more important than other people.
This is a belief that really needs to change.
Since we all believe human value can change, we also believe you can earn more value by looking good, doing well, or having nice things. We believe that good-looking, thin, tan people have more value than other less attractive, larger people. We believe people who live in big houses, make more money, or have more success, have more value than less successful people. But understand these are not facts or truths, they are just beliefs.
Let me clarify the difference. Truths can be proven and don’t change. Beliefs are just ideas that exist in our heads — they can’t be physically proven — and we can change them whenever we want to or whenever we learn something new. It’s important to understand the difference because every day you are basing your self-esteem on flimsy, though widely held, beliefs, which are not real and are not doing you any good.
This is also a system you can't beat. As long as you choose to believe human value can change and some people have more worth than other people, you will always be afraid you aren’t good enough. No matter how hard you try to improve your appearance, performance and property, you will always find people who have more or have it better. You will never win, nor feel good about yourself using this system.
So I recommend you choose a new system for determining the worth of human beings. I recommend you choose a system or belief that serves you and humanity more and makes you feel better about yourself, too. My suggestion is you adopt the belief that all human beings have the exact same intrinsic value and that value can’t change, no matter what they do or have.
Choose to separate your value from appearance, performance and property altogether, and base human value on something that doesn’t change, like your uniqueness. Anything on this planet that is a one-of-a-kind is extremely valuable, if not priceless. You are a one-of-a-kind, original, the only YOU there will ever be. You are irreplaceable and therefore of infinite, absolute worth — just like everyone else.
When you start to see human value as unchangeable and remind yourself and your children every day that property, performance and appearance don’t mean anything about your value, you will very quickly feel better. Because you are changing a foundational belief across the board applying to everyone, you will start to internalize it and also apply it to yourself. This is the beginning of real self-esteem.
Now, in order to make this powerful change work in your family, you also have to give up judgment of other people too. Every time you or a family member start to gossip or criticize another person, remember their mistakes or faults don’t change their value. If anyone mentions the fact that other people have larger homes, better clothes or more toys, simply remind them property doesn’t determine value and those people have the same value we do.
Making this belief sink in and take hold so you really believe it just takes time and repetition. The more you talk about it, the better — but it doesn’t change the reality that there may be less to do at your house.
I would focus on making sure there is good energy, safety and love for all people when they hang out at your house. Focus on the one thing you have to give, no matter your financial position: LOVE. Be the house where everyone feels valued and important. In the end, people care more about how you make them feel than how many toys you have.
You might also want to read this previous KSL.com article I wrote about that contains a parable about self-worth and houses.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a human behavior expert, author and speaker. Learn more at www.12shapes.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com Take the Survey and find out your relationship shape today.
My spouse has pointed out that I’m never happy where we are and I always wish we were further along and somewhere else. He says no matter what’s happening, I act like we are behind schedule in life and am frustrated. I can see it now that he has pointed it out and I don’t like this about myself. I’m always stressed, bothered and feel under pressure to get to the next level faster. I also feel like I didn’t make the right choices in the past and because of that, we are behind, too. I can see this makes me hard to live with at times, but I have no idea how to change it and actually be happy in the now when I honestly don’t like where we are now and do wish we were somewhere else. How can I be happy in the now and still work towards being where I want to be? How can I stop saying “I’ll be happy when…”? Any advice?
This is a great question and this is something we all struggle with at times. Here are six ways to change your perspective on where you are today so you feel more content:
1. Meditate to focus on the present
Imagine a timeline, mapping out your life, with a dot (on one spot) that represents today. Notice that everything behind that spot is in the past and you cannot change it. As matter of fact all of the time, choices and experiences to the left of the dot that brought you to where you are today, are set in stone because you cannot change the past. You also cannot change where you are today. That is a fixed point, which is a result of past choices over and gone.
2. Accept you are in control
Standing in that spot today recognize the only thing you have control over is your mindset and you have only two mindset options. You can be in fear and believe the past was wrong, that you are off track, and somewhere you shouldn’t be (which will make you miserable, stressed and sad), or you can choose to believe the past was your perfect classroom journey and it played out perfectly, as the universe delivered it, to help you learn perfect lessons you apparently needed (which will make you feel more content and in peace).
3. Choose a perspective
There is no way to prove either of these perspective options are truth. So, they are both just ideas, but you are required to choose one. If you don’t consciously choose one, you will subconsciously choose one, and it will probably be the fear mindset, which makes you miserable. If there is no provable truth around whether you are on track or off track, so you might as well choose a mindset that brings peace.
4. Focus on improving today
Now, look at everything in front of the dot. Starting right now, in this moment, and moving forward, you have the power to make choices and create different or better circumstances. This is where you get to focus on improving. This present moment is the only moment where you have any control or power. So, make sure, in every moment, you are choosing to be both content with the past (seeing it as your perfect classroom) and motivated to do your best with whatever is in your control, in this moment, to make the future better.
5. Don't focus on the past
Do not waste any time wishing you could change the past. That is a complete waste of your time and energy. It does not good and it distracts you from the good choices you could be making right now.
6. Make goals with a positive mindset
Set optimistic intentions on what you want to create in your future. Choose to believe wholeheartedly that this intended future is possible for you. Feel confident and peaceful around this happening, but don’t attach your happiness to it. You still must stay in trust that the universe knows what it’s doing. If the future you intended and hoped for is what is best for you (your education and growth) you will get it. If what you intend is not your perfect classroom journey, you won’t get it, but that will be OK because you will always get something that is better for you in the long run.
If you find yourself unbalanced (feeling grouchy, bothered or unsatisfied) around where you are now, you know immediately you are not trusting the universe nor using your power to choose your inner state in this moment. Quickly reclaim that power, be responsible for how you are feeling, and choose a positive mindset like gratitude for what is right, optimism about the future or trust in God. How content you feel right now, is totally up to how you are thinking about it and looking at it. Change your perspective and you can change how you feel.
You can do this.
I love your radio show. It is the only reason I am not completely a mess right now. I could use some help though on a specific challenge I am going through. I feel like I need some tools to deal with disappointment. My husband’s job sent us away to live in another country and I’m miserable. I do not like living here at all. I am really struggling as I hate everything about this experience. It has meant putting my education on hold and I’m totally out of my comfort zone. There was a job opening back home and I got so excited that we could move back, and then my husband didn’t get it, which has just shattered my mental well-being. How can I cope with all of this better?
Life can be miserable, disappointing and frustrating at times, but a part of our suffering over these disappointments may be self-inflicted. Even though you cannot change the situation, we believe you can change the way you see and experience it.
The answer to lessening your suffering lies in changing your perspective about the nature of life altogether. We are going to help you do that by recommending you adopt a new policy about the nature of life: It is what it is.
If it was supposed to be something else, it would be.
If you look at the universe and the planet we live on, you will see perfect order everywhere. Everything from the smallest insect to the largest planet in the galaxy — they do what they do, when they do it, for a reason. The entire universe is perfect order, beauty and purpose. Can you see that?
Do you really think your life is an exception? Is your life really a bunch of bad luck accidents that mean nothing and serve no purpose?
There is no way to know for sure. There is no absolute, provable truth on whether there is order in your journey or it’s all just random bad luck. This means you can choose a perspective for yourself.
You can choose to believe there is perfect order in the universe and everything happens for a reason.
With this mindset you will spend your time looking for the lessons and the blessings, instead of complaining about, resisting and regretting that things aren’t different. But you are also going to have to change your expectations, which are nothing but thoughts and illusions you make up and become overly attached to. They aren’t real. You must let go of your expectations so you can make peace with life as it is.
We recommend that you get some paper and write down all the expectations you had for your life (write every small thing you expected to be different than it is). Then tie that paper to a balloon and let it float away up into the sky and let those expectations all go.
Decide to embrace what your life is right now as perfect. This doesn’t mean you give up working to make things better, though. You can keep working on improving things and finding another job in the states, while at the same time understanding that you are where you are for a reason. There is some beautiful lesson you are meant to learn by being exactly where you are right now.
Here are four more things you can do to change how you feel about your life:
1. Accept responsibility for creating the expectation that your life should be different than it is. You created this illusion so you can uncreate it. Choose a mindset based in truth about the nature of the journey. This will produce less self-pity and suffering. Live in optimism that things will get better, but also in trust that what is — is perfect, for some reason.
2. Practice gratitude. If you are going to compare your life with other people’s — at least make sure you compare yourself with those who have less or have it worse than you, not just those who have more or better. There are plenty on both sides. Choose gratitude for what you do have and count your blessings daily.
3. Accept there is meaning and purpose behind every experience. See if you can list 10 positives that the hard situation in your life has created. Look for how your experience could be improving you. Choose to focus on being a better person.
4. Understand that your journey doesn’t define you or have any effect on your value.Your current experience is just a location on your journey. It is a class you were signed up for, but it doesn’t have any bearing on who you are or your value. We believe you aren't being punished with these experiences but you are being blessed by them. You just don’t know why or how yet.
5. Forgive life for disappointing you. You might want to write a letter and vent about your disappointments. Write that you aren’t happy, but you don’t want to live in bitterness, regret, rejection, resentment, judgment, criticism and pain any longer. Choose to embrace what is — and live in love, trust, acceptance, forgiveness and peace instead.
Every moment of every day you must consciously make this choice. Some days when things are rough we live five minutes at a time. Decide for the next five minutes you will accept your situation as a blessing and choose some form of joy. The anger and sadness might creep back in, but you have the power to choose again. As you practice this it gets easier and lasts longer.
We know it’s not easy, but it is that simple.
You can do it.
"I am a 29-year-old single man, living in Utah with no family and I am often lonely. I adopted a dog three years ago and she has helped me tremendously, but still at times I get down. What advice can you give to those that are looking to be able to enjoy life to the fullest without yearning to be in a relationship? What could I do to live a more mentally healthy life and turn off the empty feeling that without a relationship, my life isn’t good enough? I see your advice tends to be more towards couples, but I hope to hear your take on this."
The idea your life isn’t complete without a relationship is just belief. Even if your religion emphasizes marriage, the truth is that many people, besides you, don’t have families and are undertaking a solo journey.
There is no universal law that states "Happiness can only happen in a relationship and being by yourself is lonely or sad." That is not truth — it’s just a belief.
How you feel about every situation in your life is dependent on your beliefs and perspectives about it. You can tell yourself that being single is sad and be depressed every day, or you can tell yourself another story. You can choose a story that focuses on the upsides to the solo journey — and there are many.
There are pros and cons to being in a relationship, and there are pros and cons to being single. One is not necessarily better, easier or worse than the other.
You could choose a story about how wonderful it is to have freedom and time to take care of yourself and do things you like to do. You can always choose to focus on the positives. You could also choose to believe you have the exact same value as every other human being on the planet, in a relationship or out.
One life outlook can make you miserable and one can make you feel better. How do you want to live?
Here are 10 other ways to increase your happiness as a single person:
1. Stay away from media that depicts happy couples, families, romance and relationships and shows they all as blissful. It’s not reality. Being in a relationship is just as hard (or harder) than being alone. It just has a different set of challenges. Be realistic about how challenging relationships can be and appreciate the good parts of having some freedom and alone time.
2. Remember you aren’t really ever alone. There are people all around you. You may not have a romantic partner, but you have friends, co-workers, family and other humans you could put effort into spending time with. Make more friends and build your circle of support.
3. Start a bucket list. But don’t stop with 10 things. Write a list of at least 150 things you would like to do, see, learn, eat or experience before you die. With a list that long you will have to get started today making your life full, interesting and fulfilling.
4. Plan trips and travel alone or invite friends to join you. Getting out and seeing the world enriches your life in ways a stable relationship never could. One isn’t better or worse they are just different.
5. Join meet up groups and take classes. Learn new things, make new friends and take on passion projects or service opportunities.
6. Get more exercise. I often ask clients to imagine their family disappeared and they were all alone in the world, what would they be doing with their time. On the top of everyone’s list is more exercise. Those are the things you need to be doing now. Spend all the time you would be putting into a relationship, taking care of yourself.
7. Eat better, be healthy and make self-care a priority. Did you know singles are more likely to be fit and healthy than people in relationships? They eat better and get more exercise. One study showed singles gained an average of 14 or more pounds when they started a relationship and singles get more sleep too.
8. Focus on what you do have. Practice gratitude daily. See the magic and beauty in the small things of life.
9. Work on your home space and make it your own. Decorate and create a space where you love to be.
10. Remember that nothing lasts forever. Every chapter of your life changes eventually. When life is dark you can count on it — the next light chapter is coming because nothing lasts.
Claim your power to choose your attitude moment by moment each day. Choose joy, choose to focus on the good in your life and count the small blessings. Even if it means choosing joy for just five minutes at a time.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the human behavior experts behind www.12.shapes.com. They host a weekly Relationship Radio show
This was first published on KSL.COM
I just read your article on adult children rejecting the parent’s religion and I agree with what you’re saying, however, my heart is still hurting. I understand my pain is all about me and that I need to just love them, but I can’t help resenting my son and his wife for causing me this pain. He is my only son and I resent his wife taking him away from the way he was raised. I find myself resenting them and not wanting to hang out with them. I don’t want to feel this way, but my heart is so sad that there will not be baby blessings, baptisms and temple marriages for my grandchildren. I'm just not sure how to bridge the gap, stop grieving and feeling so emotional about it. Thank you for any thoughts on this.
First, we want you to choose a perspective about why we are on this planet. Most people feel we are on the planet to do two things: 1. Learn, grow and become the best version of ourselves we can be and 2. To love and serve others and try to make a difference in their lives. We find these two ideas are consistent with most religions and life philosophies.
If you think these two ideas feel like truth to you, you might consider seeing life as a classroom. This philosophy means that everything that shows up in your life is there for one primary reason — to help you learn to love at a higher level.
We believe this experience might be in your life for that very reason. It has the potential to stretch you out of your comfort zone and teach you to love, forgive and accept people when it’s harder to do. It’s easy to love and accept people that are the same as us, it’s much more challenging to love those who are different. It’s especially difficult if their choices trigger fear of loss in you.
We want to make sure you really understand what a “fear of loss experience” is, as we define it. We believe there are two simple core fears which cause most of our suffering.
The first is the fear of failure and you experience this whenever you feel you aren’t good enough, or get insulted or criticized. This fear causes suffering, insecurity, stress and sadness as it makes us feel inadequate. This fear is easier to understand since you experience it to some degree every day.
Fear of failure experiences give you wonderful opportunities for growth. They can help you practice not caring what others think of you, getting your self-esteem from your intrinsic value instead of your appearance, or trusting that all human beings have the same value.
Fear of loss is also a wonderful classroom opportunity for growth. Loss is triggered whenever this moment or event (that you didn’t want to happen) is taking away from the quality of your life. If you get stuck in traffic, on the way to a big meeting, and you hate to be late — you are having a loss experience.
You can feel loss whenever people mistreat you or take from you, but you can also experience loss when life itself doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. You can feel robbed by life when you don’t get blessings or experiences other people get. Whenever you find yourself in self-pity around what you have been dealt, you are having a loss experience.
This is the most important part of this article we want to make sure you get this point – Life isn’t fair and no one gets the journey they wanted. They get the journey that fosters their growth best.
If we always got what we wanted, we wouldn’t grow, and that’s the point of the whole thing. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to throw all your expectations about how your life should look out the window now.
Life is not going to meet your expectations. It’s going to be messy, ugly, painful and even embarrassing at times. It’s going to include some wins and some losses and sometimes it’s going to pull the rug out from under you completely. If you haven’t had those experiences yet, they are probably still coming.
We are not telling you this to scare you, because life is also going to be rich, wonderful, sweet, beautiful, amazing and thrilling too. The point is it’s going to surprise you and if you stay attached to your expectations, about how it should look at each stage, this is only going to create misery.
Instead, we recommend that you choose to trust the journey, the universe, or your higher power that it knows what it’s doing. Whatever interesting twist or turn your life has taken, that you didn’t see coming or didn’t want, it has a purpose for being here, and that purpose is always to serve you.
Having your son leave your religion is definitely not what you wanted, but it’s not as bad as a lot of other challenges you could be having. Talk to some people who have a child with cancer, or a child that died, or people who have a host of other awful challenges that life can throw at people. The truth is that you still have much more to be grateful for than you have loss.
Here are some things you can do to feel better about your situation:
You can see yourself as at risk of having your life ruined, being taken from, robbed or deprived if you want to, but it will only create suffering. Or you can play with seeing yourself as whole, blessed and well. You could actually believe you can’t be deprived because the whole universe is conspiring to bless and educate you all the time. If it is always for your benefit, it’s not a loss. From this place of wholeness, it is a lot easier to love others unconditionally and let go of the pain.
Play with it and see how you feel.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I wondered if you had any suggestions for making Valentine’s Day less painful, after just going through a divorce. I’m sure there are lots of singles out there who find this holiday a painful reminder about the fact they are alone. Maybe you could give us all some ways to make this week easier.
For many people this holiday is a Single Awareness Day, not a celebration of love. The important thing to remember is that your experience or the way you think and feel about this week is completely dependent on your perspective, and you can choose your perspective. A date of the calendar cannot make you feel alone or unwanted. It is your thoughts about the date that create your feelings and your thoughts are in your control.
The problem is that most of us are quite used to letting our subconscious programming (that comes from our past experiences) drive our perspective and how we feel. We think we can’t help feeling or thinking how we do, so we just accept whatever ideas or feelings show up.
The first step in changing how you feel about this week, is owning responsibility for your feelings and accepting that if you feel upset or sad, you are choosing to feel upset or sad. If you own the power to choose your thoughts, you have the power to change them.
But understand, there is nothing wrong with feeling upset or sad, lonely or discouraged. These feelings are part of the human experience and you may need to let yourself feel them and work through them. Just own that you don’t have to live there. You have the power to change your story around this day, anytime you want to.
There will be a subconscious story that shows up in your head automatically about Valentine’s Day. This subconscious story might be a fear-based victim story or one of self-pity or sadness. You can take some time to experience the story that shows up, but then ask yourself if this story is doing you or anyone else any good?
If it isn’t serving you, creating growth or joy, then you may want to create a better, more positive story. You have the power to do that. This day will be whatever you decide to make it according to the story you tell yourself. Here are some ideas that might help you create a more positive story:
1. Valentine’s Day is mostly a commercial occasion driven by stores that want sales. Keep that in mind.
2. Not having someone in your life right now does not affect your value as a person. At all. People in a relationship are not better than those without one.
3. Decide to see all human beings as having the same exact value, no matter what they do or what their relationship status is. Make this a principle of truth about all people, across the board, and you will feel it is the truth about yourself too.
4. Understand that nothing means anything until you apply meaning to it. The date on the calendar doesn’t mean anything. The fact you are single doesn’t mean anything. Choose not to apply meaning to meaningless things. If you choose to apply meaning that makes you more depressed and sad, that is your choice, but own the choice and be responsible for it.
5. You will create a story around the day, one way or another. If you don’t create a story consciously, you might create a fear-based one subconsciously. I recommend you choose to create one consciously and choose a story that serves you and makes you feel strong, loving, valuable and worthy.
6. Remember it’s not being single that is the problem, it’s what you tell yourself it means that you’re single on Valentine’s Day. Tell yourself it just means there is still something you are meant to learn right now that requires singleness to learn it. It’s not because you aren’t good looking or a catch, it’s not that no one likes you, it’s just not the right lesson for you right now.
7. Take some time to account for all the benefits of being single. Remind yourself why relationships are difficult and can be a struggle. It will help you stay grateful for the blessings about where you are. Gratitude for everything that is good in your life really helps.
8. Plan something fun to do on Valentine's. Get together with friends and create a positive experience.
9. Make the day about pampering yourself. The great part about being single is all the time you can devote to taking care of yourself. What do you need to do for you, to be your own Valentine? Treat yourself great.
10. Make the day about service. There are always people in need, who have it worse than you. When you focus your energy on serving others, you take the focus off you and you will feel terrific about yourself.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com. She is a relationship expert and a popular life coach and speaker.
This was first published on KSL.COM
Thank you for all your wonderful articles. I love them all and the idea that life is a classroom, not a test, has really helped me. I'm wondering what insight you have on the suffering and horrible circumstances some people get in life, by no fault of their own, while others seem to have a classroom that is so much easier. I struggle to see how some trials will ever be a lesson and serve us, when they seem to be just pointless misery with no hope for growth or recovery, like those with horrible mental illnesses. I can see that the people around these people may learn and grow, but what about the people who get these horrible classroom journeys? It really grieves me for people like this and I can’t imagine why God or the universe would want innocent people to suffer so pointlessly. All I can come up with is that might trust, that at some point, probably not in this life, God will make up for the injustices people face. But I wondered what you might say about this.
This is such a good question, one that many wise men, clergy and philosophers have tried to answer for thousands of year. And the truth is, there is no absolute knowable truth on it. It is a mystery of life why bad things happen to good people and why is life often so unfair.
Because there is no ultimate truth on this, you get to choose which, of all the perspective options, would work best in your life and make you the happiest. We are going to give you some of the most common perspective options and explain which ones we like best and why.
Here are some of your options on why life is unfair:
1. You can choose to believe life’s challenges happen randomly to random people, for no real reason.
Stuff just happens. If you choose this perspective, you could decide to learn and grow from whatever happens to you and use it to make you better, but the universe itself doesn’t have a purpose in mind, nor does it influence events.
One of my favorite books on this perspective is Harold Kushner’s book "When Bad Things Happen To Good People." He said, "I don’t know why one person gets sick, and another does not, but I can only assume that some natural laws, which we don’t understand are at work. I cannot believe that God 'sends' illness to a specific person for a specific reason. I don’t believe in a God who has a weekly quota of malignant tumors to distribute and consults His computer to find out who deserves one most or who could handle it best.
"'What did I do to deserve this?' is an understandable outcry from a sick and suffering person, but it is really the wrong question. Being sick or being healthy is not a matter of what God decides that we deserve. The better question is 'If this has happened to me, what do I do now, and who is there to help me do it?' It becomes much easier to take God seriously as the source of moral values if we don’t hold Him responsible for all the unfair things that happen in the world."
Now, this is not your only option, it is only one, but many people think this makes sense to them based on their spiritual beliefs. It does not offer much consolation or sense of purpose or meaning in events, but if you choose a positive attitude and make the most of whatever you get, you could still turn challenges into human achievements, you could also face life with some peace and purpose anyway.
2. You can choose to believe in predestination.
This is the theory that our lives are all planned out by a wise higher power, who knows in advance what we will each choose and has a custom classroom experience in mind (ahead of time) for each of us. This makes some people feel like there isn’t freedom or purpose though. If everything is already known ahead of time then what is the point of playing it out?
The positive part is that you could choose to trust a loving higher power that it knows what it’s doing and that in the end, all will be well because he or it is in charge. You will have to see how this option feels to you.
3. You could choose to believe that there is a loving higher power in charge, who has created a universe to be your classroom with forces that work with your choices, moment by moment, to create the perfect classroom journey for each of us.
This would mean there is no predestination, but complete freedom to choose your path, but the universe in its perfect wisdom uses all of our choices to create the exact perfect lessons or opportunities each soul needs to grow and learn (what they are meant to learn here).
This would mean there is both agency, freedom, and also purpose and meaning in everything that happens. Many who choose this philosophy (including Nicole and I) find that it creates a sense of safety in the world, no matter what horrible challenges come, we can trust there is a reason, and that reason is always to serve us. (Though often we have no idea what the reason is.)
This mindset motivates us to rise to the challenges that come and try to make something from them. It also means when bad things happen to good, innocent people, things that make no sense to us, we can still choose to trust that (though we can’t see or understand the purpose) there is one.
We are not going to tell you which of these options (or maybe there are still others you can think of) you should choose. We encourage you to try them on and see what feels the best or most peaceful to you.
We love the story of Viktor Frankl in his books, where he explains his search for answers to this question. He pondered whether he ended up in the concentration camps during World War II, because of random bad luck, or if there was meaning and purpose in his having been captured and dealt with the way he was.
As a psychotherapist, he spent a lot of time watching his mindset and reactions to his situation and pondering what he believed was truth about the predicament. He also decided, at the end of the day, there was no way to know for sure what truth is around this age-old question, and that left him with the choice to choose his perspective.
He tried all the options on though and found when he chose to believe there was purpose, meaning, and reason why things happened (even if he had no idea what that meaning was) he did better mentally. He felt more hope and more inspiration to rise and do something positive with the experience. He went on to write a book about his experience there called "Man’s Search for Meaning" that has been named one of the most influential books ever written, and in which you could read more about his story.
We have played with these options ourselves, and we have found that the idea of seeing life as a classroom and the universe as a wise teacher constantly conspiring to educate and grow us, and has brought comfort and peace to us when our lives have been unfair.
People often say, in the comments to these articles, something to the effect of, "These coaches surely have no idea how hard and painful life really is." I want to assure you that our journies have not been easy ones. Many might say we have had more than our fair share of problems and pains.
So we can say, from experience, when life’s challenges feel terribly unfair, it brings great peace if we choose to believe the universe has delivered this problem for the express purpose of making us better, stronger or more loving in some way (or to help those around us to do the same). When we choose option three, life feels better.
When terribly tragedy happens to people around us though, and we watch others suffer, I don’t think we should ever feel OK or peaceful about their suffering. We should feel pain and sorrow for and with them, it would be wrong not to.
Imagine how wrong it would be to justify their suffering saying, "Oh that’s their perfect classroom, they are fine and this is perfect for them." We are supposed to feel horrified at the suffering of others and have great sympathy for them, pray for them, reach out to help and offer compassion. I think this is why — we aren’t supposed to know the ultimate answer to your question. If we did, we may no longer mourn with those that mourn and feel their pain.
We encourage you to play with your options above and find the one that works best for you, while at the same time continue to hold onto the beautiful empathy you feel toward all those who struggle.
You can do this.
Master Life Coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham are human behavior experts, coaches and speakers. You can learn more about them at www.12shapes.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com. Make sure you see their two amazing books here.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, coaches Kim and Nicole share some ideas for coping with the hardest challenges of life.
I have a very serious illness that no one has ever heard of and I find it extremely devastating and lonely. What can someone like me, in my position, do? I've struggled with this for over 30 years and this is impossibly frustrating and miserable. You have no idea. Do you have any advice for dealing with this?
Many of life’s challenges are impossibly hard and painful. Many of these problems have no answers, solutions or remedies. They are painful and they are going to stay painful for a long time. In this situation, with no escape available, your options are limited. For the most part, all you can do is work on choosing your attitude and mindset inside the challenge.
Vivian Greene said it best: "Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain."
Here are eight suggestions to help you dance in the rain (and find joy and peace) despite an impossibly hard challenge:
1. Accept what is.
"It is your resistance to 'what is' that causes your suffering," Buddha said.(Read more about this concept here.) It is your wishing and wanting things to be different, that is the real cause of your pain. You have created, and attached your happiness to, expectations about how your life should look or feel. The problem is, life rarely meets our expectations, and more often it takes us in a direction we never saw coming.
So, now that you are here, how much time and energy are you going to waste wishing you were somewhere else? All this time and energy is wasted and it might be making you suffer more. You will suffer less, if you stop resisting and choose to accept this path as the right one for you. You are here for a reason and that reason is to serve you (read more below).
2. Trust there is order in the universe and purpose and meaning in everything.
Choose to see the universe as a wise teacher, who knows what it’s doing. Choose to see life as a classroom whose objective is your learning ad growth. This would mean every experience you have is here to facilitate learning and make you smarter, stronger, wiser or more loving in some way. This means things don’t happen to you, they always happen for you.
During times of intense suffering, it is difficult to believe your pain is here for a positive reason and I cannot prove to you it is (though you can’t prove it’s not, either). Choosing to trust there is a purpose in your pain, does make you suffer less. I first learned this from reading about Viktor Frankl, who during intense suffering in the concentration camps of World War II, found if he chose to believe there was meaning in his suffering (that it was here for a reason) he not only suffered less, but also felt motivated to rise and get through in the best possible way. He wrote: “Suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds meaning.”
If you choose to see the universe as a loving teacher that is on your side and working for you, not against you, and if you choose to believe every experience is therefore the perfect classroom journey for you — you will find more peace and joy in the difficulty. This might be one you have to play with and try before you believe me, but I promise it's truth.
3. Focus on this present moment only.
If you try to process the weight of all the coming years of loneliness or pain, it will crush you. It is too much, too scary and too discouraging. So set that weight down.
Focus only on this present moment or hour. Get through this hour choosing to be as positive and happy as possible. What can you do at this moment for yourself to relieve pain, create joy or just distract yourself?
You have great power in this moment to choose your mindset — it is actually the only time you have the power of choice at all. Use that power to choose loving feelings towards yourself and others. Choose gratitude and count your blessings. No matter how bad things are, there are still things to be grateful for. Choose to create a life of happiness, kindness, service, joy and fun, one moment at a time. Don't worry about what will or won't happen later at all.
4. Find a passion project.
During times suffering we can often find ourselves unproductive, stuck and useless. It helps if you can find a passion project of some kind that makes you feel fulfilled, productive, and accomplished. Even if it is just a journal or blog, a puzzle or a scrapbook. What could you do with your time instead of wallowing? Find something productive you can do.
5. Allow yourself limited pity party time.
It is natural during times of suffering and challenge to feel self-pity, sadness and grief. You should feel and experience these emotions, and not try to suppress them all the time. It is actually important you give yourself time to feel these feelings and have a good pity party or cry every once in a while, just don’t live there.
If you feel these emotions coming up today, give yourself a limited amount of time (like an hour or 30 minutes) to deep dive into the negative emotions and cry if you need to. Giving yourself this time is an important part of the lesson this experience is here to teach you. You will also find you actually feel better after a good cry. It gets some of the pain out so you always feel better after.
6. Lower your expectations.
When you are going through an impossibly hard experience at least half your brain power and energy are being used to process the trauma of the situation. This doesn’t leave you with enough bandwidth for all the other tasks or interests you usually do.
Go easy on yourself and expect less. Give yourself permission to have a messier house or get less done. Be realistic with the energy you have and say no to things you know will wipe you out. Give yourself permission to lower these expectations without any guilt.
7. Give up envy and wishing you had someone else’s life journey.
It is really easy to find yourself in a place of envy when your life is hard. It does seem unfair that other people get lives that seem easier than yours, but dwelling on this does you no good and in fact, will make you feel even worse.
Remember, their journey isn’t over yet and all of us will face some challenges sooner or later. Remember, this journey, though painful, is the right one for your soul, or you wouldn’t be here. Trust the universe knows what it’s doing and that growth is its purpose. There are amazing lessons, knowledge, and strength to be gained from your journey, and though you would rather not go through this or gain them, there will be a benefit down the road.
8. Use this experience and the unique knowledge (on the human condition and suffering) it is giving you, to bless the world in some way.
Your misery can often become your message. If you suffer with chronic illness you could show others how to cope in a positive way. If you are a single mother, you could help newly divorced women handle their new reality with more joy. If you lose a loved one, you can be a resource to others who are suffering grief. There is always a way to use what has happened to you to make a difference in the world.
At some level that is why I write this column every week. My journey has not been an easy one at all. I apparently signed up for many hard classes in the classroom of life, and have experienced suffering on almost every level. I tell you this only because using my challenges to help others, helps me. Most of these articles are full of practical ideas that I have really used to get me through my hard times. When you can make your suffering useful to someone else, it helps.
There is nothing I could write that would take away the pain of your suffering, but I do believe you can lessen it (at least to some degree) by using these eight ideas. Every day is another chance to practice the power of choice, choosing joy, peace, happiness and laughter, and you don’t have to do it perfectly, just keep making progress.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are master life coaches and the owners and founders of Claritypointcoaching.com and www.12shapes.com - They are sought after authors and speakers on human behavior and healthy relationships.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I was recently blindsided finding out that my spouse has cheated on me, something I never saw coming. This is the last straw though, in a long line of other problems with him and so I have decided on divorce, which I know is the right path for me. But I’m seriously heartbroken, angry and really devastated that he was unfaithful while I loved him so much. The pain of this betrayal is intense and I would love some advice for moving on and recovering from this kind of heartbreak.
The pain from betrayal is one of the roughest life experiences there is, and recovery is going to be a process and take some time. The most important thing is to be patient and kind to yourself and allow whatever emotions come up to be there. You will experience shock, anger, self-pity, shame, despair, sadness, and devastation, and these emotions will ebb and flow, coming in and out for a while.
There is no normal in trauma recovery, and the processing is different for everyone. Just don’t add any additional guilt or shame to it, by thinking you should be doing better at any point in time.
Here are some things you can do that will help you move forward:
1. Get the information and answers you need, because you do need to know what happened, how and when. Then, after you have these answers, cut off all contact, of any kind, with the other person.
Continuing contact, even through text or following them on social media, will add to the pain and can lengthen the recovery process. It is better to cut off all contact (as much as possible) and start getting used to not having them in your life. What they do now is none of your business and what you do isn’t theirs. Every time you open that door you are taking a step backward in moving on.
2. Don’t seek revenge.
It might seem like a good idea at first, but in the long run, you will be happier if you take the high road and be a person you are proud of.
3. Understand what is normal in dealing with betrayal and loss.
Searing emotional pain, exhaustion, sleeping too much, not being able to sleep, loss of appetite, comfort eating, anxiety attacks, brain fog, and even dizziness are all normal. Don’t worry this will pass (it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.) You will survive this and the pain won’t last.
4. Make your home or space fresh, new, more organized, or different or consider moving.
You need to reclaim your space as your own and remove anything that reminds you of your ex. You might repaint, rearrange furniture, clean out closets, sell your old stuff and buy new used stuff, anything to create a fresh, new feel and to move towards your new life.
5. Focus on self-care.
Put all the energy you used to put into loving them, into loving you. During this time, you need to give yourself permission to pamper yourself. Do things that fill you up and make you feel good and cared for. Plan time with friends, take bubble baths, get massages, take a vacation, exercise, eat healthy food, anything that is caring and compassionate towards yourself.
6. Make time for emotion processing journaling.
This can be the best therapy and it’s free. Spend time writing all your feelings and thoughts. There is a free worksheet of journaling topics at this link.
7. Make time to relax.
Your stress level is high at this time and meditation, yoga, listening to music, deep breathing, feeling the sun on your face, or enjoying nature will help.
8. If you must go back to work right away, create an imaginary room in your head.
All day when the sad, angry, grieving feelings show up, put them in the room and lock the door. Don’t deal with them now. Then each night, give yourself a specific amount of time to go into that room and feel them all. This might be a good time to journal too.
9. Start a long bucket list.
We recommend one that has at least 150 things on it. List out everywhere you would like to travel, everything you want to learn, every adventure, activity and person you would like to meet.
10. Take a break from your normal routine.
If you were ill or had a death in the family you would take some time off, but with emotional trauma, we don’t allow ourselves to have that. You are going through trauma and you may really need some time out of the rat race to recover.
Cut back to the bare essentials and don’t expect yourself to perform at normal standards. Your thinking will also be slower and you may have less bandwidth to deal with your life. That is normal and won’t last forever. Be patient with it.
11. When you are ready, create a new social life and get out there, have fun, go on adventures and create a life that is joyful and fun.
Find some new friends, look for meetup groups around things you are interested in, find fun things going on in your community and get out there.
12. Don’t jump back into dating too soon.
You are recovering from a major loss and will have some trust issues for a while. Give yourself time to get your balance, confidence and strength back before you’re ready to take on new relationships.
13. Find a support system of people who can help you process loss in a healthy way.
Beware of friends whose comments pull you further into despair or self-pity. Look for friends who validate you, but also help you to feel optimistic about the future.
14. Don’t use substances or food to deal with the pain.
Pain like this has to be processed and felt. If you numb out now, you are only delaying it. At some point, you will have to go through. It’s better to feel it now and move forward sooner.
15. Consider talking to a coach or counselor.
If the pain or despair gets too much reach out to a mental health professional or a coach who can give you skills and tools to process your way through.
There is no easy way through this, unfortunately, but doing these things will help. Know in the end nothing that happens can change your value. You have the same value as everyone else, no matter what.
Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about you either — this experience doesn’t define you or mean you are broken or not enough. It’s just a lesson and can end up serving you in some way if you choose to look for the positive.
Hang in there — you can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are master life coaches with 30 combined years experience in helping individuals and families create healthy relationships and learn the skills and tools to get through life.
I am in my 50s and have been on disability for three years. Part of my challenge is that I can't do anything physical. My yard is a disaster and is a constant reminder of just how worthless I am. My sweet little wife does everything, and I am so blessed to have her. She is not so lucky to have me. I have been on depression medicine for eight years so I should be fine, but I’m not. I have thoughts of suicide, at least weekly. My focus is gone and I am lost as to what I should do and who I even am. I was once a helper and a problem solver, people talked to me when they had problems to feel better. I don't know where that person is now. What can I do at this point to get my life back?
It sounds like you are feeling rather hopeless. The most important thing when going through times of hardship, illness, grief or depression is not to lose hope. You must hold onto belief around two things:
1) This experience is in your life for a reason, and that reason is to serve you in some way.
2) It will change, because no state lasts forever.
Victor Frankl’s book "Man’s Search for Meaning" has always helped me get through rough times, mostly because he has credibility with me when it comes to suffering. If he found the strength (both physically and mentally) to survive a concentration camp, torture and I’m sure horrible discouragement, then I can do it. Frankl said that “suffering ceases to be suffering in the moment it finds meaning.” What he meant was if you see every experience as here for a purpose, to serve your growth, it makes it at least count for something, which helps.
I would recommend you sit down with some paper and answer Frankl’s question to his fellow prisoners after the war, “Can you write down 10 positives this experience has created?”
When you can see the ways this might be making you stronger, wiser, kinder or more compassionate toward others, you will see life as a wise teacher trying to educate you, you will see this whole experience from a more positive perspective.
But when your challenge is one that most likely will last the rest of your life, I have another suggestion (and I have a health problem like this myself, so I know how discouraging it can be). In this situation you must focus on this hour or this day — and no more. If you try to carry the weight of all the coming years today, it will crush you. Don’t think about the long haul. Focus on getting through this hour as positively as you can and keep doing this every hour.
Claritypoint coach Kristena Eden interviewed an inmate from the Utah State Penitentiary recently to talk about hanging on to hope (since this is a place where life often feels hopeless). These are some other key principles that came to light.
1. Keep believing there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Allow room in your heart for dreaming about better times. It is easy to let our dreams go because we just feel they are impossible or we are not good enough to accomplish them. But take a look around your world today. All the amazing technology and the conveniences we now enjoy were at one time thought to be impossible. If you can dream, then you can hang onto hope.
2. Give sincere encouragement to others. This is a big one. Giving encouragement to others is one of the greatest ways to validate them and make them feel valued. You don’t have to agree with what they are choosing in their life, but a few minutes to just ask questions and listen to them can make a world of difference. When other people feel that you care about them, they feel better and you do to. Even when you can’t do much physically, as long as you can talk you can encourage others.
3. Replace destructive thoughts with positive ones. Your thoughts are the building blocks of your quality of life. Your thoughts become feelings, so you want to monitor your thinking and recognize when negative thoughts show up, you have the power and agency to embrace them or replace them. In my book "Choosing Clarity," I teach a four-step process for choosing trust and love in any moment.
4. Be an overcomer, not just a survivor. A survivor is still a victim, an overcomer is a victor who understands it was just a lesson and you were meant to get through. Overcomers don't complain about the hardship forever because they leave it in the past.
5. Focus on gratitude. It doesn’t matter how bad things seem, they could be worse. There are always things to be grateful for. Sometimes it’s things you are grateful you don’t have as much as for what you do have. Count your blessings (especially the small ones) every day and you can’t slide into hopelessness as much. There is a greatGratitude Worksheet on my website you ought to try.
6. Keep your confidence, you are meant to overcome this. You are not in this place to fail or be crushed. You are here to grow and meant to find solutions, courage and strength to get through. The answers you need are around you somewhere, but they may require work and effort to find and only when your lesson is done. For now stay solution focused and ask for help from every resource and person that shows up in your path. Greg Thredgold suffered with depression for 40 years before finding a solution and climbing out. He has written a wonderful book called the "Depression Miracle," where he explains many ways to stay positive and optimistic.
We also highly recommend finding a coach or counselor whose approach works for you. You may have to try a few to find the right one. Don’t give up if the first one doesn’t click. Stay optimistic, because pessimism doesn’t help.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be achieved without hope and confidence” — Helen Keller.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and is a life coach, speaker and people skills expert. Kristena Eden is a coach with www.corelivingessentials.com
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
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.