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.
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
This article was first published on KSL.com
I'm a social worker and am struggling to find the emotional energy to deal with the serious problems and people I deal with at work — and have anything left for my family at night. I feel run down, less confident and my patience with my family is running thin. I think I’m burned out. Do you have any advice since you are also dealing with people problems on a daily basis? How can I keep giving to others and not get so drained?
You are not alone on this one. To help me answer your question I called on Marette Monson, LCSW, an expert with “compassion fatigue.” This kind of serious burnout is a common problem with helping professionals of all types, including police officers, firefighters and therapists. Compassion fatigue also happens to individual citizens who are caregivers, parents or who have demanding church callings.
A 2009 survey by the American Psychological Association (Nursing and Health Sciences (2014), 16, 3–10.) reported that psychologists had depression at rates three times greater than the population they serve. Another study (Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, Vol. 23, No. 3, May 2010, 319_33) showed 100 percent of humanitarian aid workers reported symptoms of compassion fatigue. Health care workers, veterinarians and police officers had similar statistics. It is also difficult for helping professionals and caregivers to get help so they can continue to do the work they love. Most helping professionals face a stigma when or if they ask for help, and there are very few places in the community where they can go.
Monson has opened the Center for Counseling Excellence here in Utah, and it is one of the only places in the United States where helping professionals can go for compassion fatigue treatment. She learned the accelerated recovery technique (ARP) from the nation’s leading expert, Dr. Eric Gentry, who created it to help professionals and others struggling with burnout. The ARP is much more than just tips on self-care to prevent the problems. It is a method for treating those who are experiencing compassion fatigue and it helps them recover and get their energy and motivation back.
Susan Gleason, LCSW, who also suffered from compassion fatigue, said, “I want to make sure people know about compassion fatigue before they are right in the middle of it. When I was deep in compassion fatigue, I was losing weight, became horribly paranoid, and was acting in childish ways I would have never done in the past. I knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t know what to do about it. By then, it was so pervasive that I couldn’t have figured out how to get out of it on my own. It’s not just knowing about it, but also being able to prevent it from going too far. Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms right now, you need to be able to see it happening in yourself or other people, because they won’t be able to heal themselves.”
Here is a link to a compassion fatigue checklist from Gleason, which may help you understand the symptoms to watch for. Go through it and see if the symptoms sound familiar.
Then, here are some tips from Monson, Gleason and me for preventing and overcoming compassion fatigue:
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 life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This article was first published on KSL.com
I am, admittedly, a drama queen. I overreact to things and am even prone to temper tantrum-like behavior. I get offended easily and am almost always mad, sad or upset about something. What is wrong with me? Can you give me any advice that would help me not feel this way? I know these upset feelings are having a negative effect on my marriage, and I really want to change.
I’m going to give it to you straight if that’s OK. You are basically psychologically immature. You let your subconscious programing and your emotions drive. It’s not your fault though. You were probably never taught another way of being, and you have been doing the best you could with what you knew. You may have had a parent who was the same way (reactive, easily offended or emotionally defensive).
Some people were lucky enough to have psychologically mature parents who taught them how to think situations through accurately and logically, and talk about feelings in a respectful way, but I would guess you didn’t get that.
The good news is that you change and learn to handle your life with more wisdom, compassion and mindfulness, but it is going to take some work. I would also strongly suggest getting some professional help. A guide who knows how to get you there would make changing a lot easier.
Tal Ben-Shahar, an author and lecturer at Harvard University and the author of the book "Being Happy," says psychological maturity has three components.
Go through this process before you react to anything:
The path to eliminating the inner drama queen lies in seeing situations more accurately and learning to respond with more maturity, love, wisdom, honesty and compassion. It lies in learning to communicate better with more understanding and respect for yourself and others.
Even if you have never learned to do this, it’s not too late to change.
You can do it.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach and professional speaker on people skills.
This article was first published on KSL.COM
I read your article last week about processing emotions and choosing my inner state, but I’m really struggling with negative thinking and I think you underestimate how difficult some of us have it. My life has been so much more difficult than most people get, and my situation is frankly miserable and unfair. When I try to choose gratitude for what I do have or think positive, I can literally feel my subconscious mind resisting this whole idea. I’m not sure it’s possible for everyone to just choose to think positive. I find myself complaining about my situation quite often but I think that expressing how I feel helps me. Isn’t it good for us sometimes?
Expressing negative emotions can be healthy (some of the time) as long as it is part of your process to work through them and get to a better place. If you are constantly expressing your negative feelings though, without working through them, you are just complaining, which is giving more power and energy to the negative and making it bigger in your life. This doesn’t serve you.
The steps I gave you last week to process through emotions would serve you much more, but there could be another factor in play that is making it difficult for you to choose a positive outlook. You might be getting some quirky subconscious benefits from the negative state and you might not be ready to let those benefits go.
Let me give you some examples of how this happens. Someone who is holding onto feelings of anger or hate toward another person may be getting the benefit of staying distracted from their own feelings of inadequacy. By staying focused on anger toward another person, they don’t have to deal with their own faults. If they let go of their anger they would have to deal with their pain, so anger feels like a win.
People who are constantly dwelling in feelings of inadequacy or have low self-esteem often apologize a lot, worry about what others think and need to vocally explain every aspect of their behavior. At the subconscious level they may think this fear mindset protects them at some level, because it makes them very careful what they do and say. It might even make them more polite or gracious toward others so people will like them.
They could be afraid that thinking positively about themselves would make them selfish and less cautious. They may also see self-deprecation as humility and think it's righteous. This means that low self-esteem may make them feel better in some ways. The problem is that low self-esteem makes people see you as weak and lose respect for you. Loving strength and confidence are much more attractive.
Someone who is overburdened with work, who feels stressed out and exhausted all the time, may get all kinds of benefits from these negative feelings. They may subconsciously believe this state means they are working really hard (they may believe if you don’t feel this way you aren’t working hard enough). So, they get a sense of accomplishment or self-esteem from being stressed. Complaining about being overworked may also protect them at some level, discouraging others from asking anything more from them, or giving them an excuse to say no to anything they don’t want to do. They may also like the sympathy love they get from others, who feel sorry for them when they complain.
Sympathy love is a common benefit to being in a negative state and many of us learned to use this as children to get the attention or love we needed. You may subconsciously complain about life mostly for this reason. Why else would you need to voice your complaints out loud so often? Why not just feel this way on the inside and keep it to yourself?
If you find yourself complaining a lot about how unfair your life is, how difficult you have it, how awful you are, or how miserable you are, you must ask yourself these questions:
One other thing you mentioned was that your life is unfair and more difficult than most people get. I want you to see that you have placed a label on your experience, and just because you have chosen to do this doesn’t make it true.
Beliefs like these are only true in your life if you believe they are true. They are a perspective you have chosen, but you could just as easily choose a different perspective, one that might make you feel more grateful, loved, safe and blessed even in the very same circumstances.
When I was going through a difficult time in my life, I wasn’t very happy with people who gave me the very advice I’m giving you. I felt they needed to walk a mile in my shoes (and suffer like me) before they could know how impossible it was to be positive here.
Then I read about Viktor Frankl, who suffered through the concentration camps in World War II, lost everything and everyone he loved, and who (in much more miserable circumstances than mine) found the power to choose his attitude, to find meaning and purpose in his experiences and to choose love over fear, and I realized that if he could do it — I had no excuse.
Having said that, I also know it isn’t easy and it takes time and work. I usually work with a coaching client for 3 to 6 months to teach them how to process their experiences in a different way and learn how to choose their inner state, but I promise you can get there if you keep reading, learning and practicing.
Steven Richards, who wrote "Think Your Way to Success," said, “You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.”
I believe this is true. You can change the way your life is going! I see people do it every day. Just know that you are way more powerful than you realize and you can create change by changing your thinking.
You can do this.
This article was first published on KSL.COM
I am dealing with some tough challenges including a really difficult job, and the stress is taking a huge toll on my health. I am very discouraged and frustrated and I don’t see things changing anytime soon either. I just really wish I could control my stress level. Do you have any advice for me? Is there anything I can do to feel less buried?
It is a normal part of the human condition to feel stressed and burned out on occasion, and there are definitely things you can do to brighten your outlook, lessen your suffering and lower your stress level. You can do things like get more organized and plan your time better, but I suspect from reading your letter that your real issue isn't a time management issue as much as an attitude issue. I think you would benefit most from understanding human emotion at a different level.
One of the most amazing books ever written on dealing with human emotions (in my opinion) is "Letting Go: The pathway to Surrender," by Sir David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. a nationally renowned psychiatrist. Hawkins says, “The real source of stress is actually internal; it is not external as most people would like to believe. The readiness to react with fear, for instance, depends on how much fear is already present within … to the fearful person the world is a terrifying place. To the angry person the world is a chaos of frustration and vexation. To the guilty person it is a world of temptation and sin. What we are holding inside colors our world.”
In other words, we see the world as we are. Circumstances just give us a chance to express what we already have inside us, and most of us have a great deal of fear of failure and loss inside us. We learned this fear from our parents, who probably learned it from their parents, and it probably is driving your attitude toward problems like an autopilot in your subconscious mind.
What this means is your circumstances are not the real cause of your stress, fear and discouragement, your reactivity (the way you subconsciously react) to the circumstances is. You subconsciously react to life with fear and stress.
This is good news (not bad news) because it means you have power to change the way you react to circumstances. You can change yourself on the inside and that will change how you feel about your life on the outside, even if you can’t change the negative circumstances you are in.
The first step to changing how you feel is to understand human emotions in a different way and so you can process them more objectively. Dr. Hawkins created some fascinating charts on emotion and the levels of consciousness you should see. You can download my version of the levels of consciousness charts here.
These charts show that there are two main kinds of emotions. The first are fear-based negative emotions that produce unhappiness and suffering, and the second are trust- and love-based emotions that bring peace, joy and clarity. When you live on the lower end of the scale, you tend to have lower energy, poorer relationships and worse health. When you live on the higher end you tend to have more joy, more energy, better relationships and better health.
It is interesting to see the range of emotions laid out this way and it will help you to see all emotions as mindset options. It will also remind you that you are in control of your reactions. I keep these charts handy all the time to check myself on. Also remember that you may have a subconscious tendency towards a certain level of consciousness, but you can always consciously choose your way to another.
In a specific moment, you can step back from an emotion (like stress, anger or frustration) and look at it objectively and process the thinking behind it. When doing this focus more on the emotion though, than the thoughts. Thoughts are often illogical and can keep you going in circles. If you focus on resolving the emotion, like magic, all the negative thinking that came with it will disappear. Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, an emotion is worth a thousand thoughts.
I am going to teach you a simple procedure in this article you can use to help you process emotions, but first you might need to break what you are feeling down into small pieces. Hawkins says you sometimes experience a bunch of emotions at once (especially if we are dealing with a huge issue like the loss of a loved one or big life problems like divorce). If this is the case, you will want to process one small piece at a time. Start with one thing, like feeling that life isn’t fair or the feeling of being overburdened by work.
Dr. Hawkins also says you must watch out for the three ways you might subconsciously deal with emotions, if you don’t consciously choose to process them in a healthy way. They are to:
I recommend processing emotions in a healthy way using the procedure below.
This will be an ongoing work to master your subconscious tendencies, but you can get control of yourself and experience more peace, energy and love. Learning to do this might be the main lesson you are on the planet to learn. Just keep working on it. Keep the levels of consciousness charts handy and practice doing what you do today from a state of calm, safety and trust that things will work out.
You can do this.
This article was first published on KSL.COM
I have a tendency to let people guilt me into doing things I don’t want to do. My mother for instance. I can’t say no to her or maybe the problem is she won’t accept no. She always comes up with logic to counter everything I say. In the end, I always give in and do what she wants. I am just too nice? Do you have any advice for me?
Your problem is not that you are too nice. Your problem is that you are weak and afraid of what others think of you. This isn’t a “nice” problem, it's a fear problem. You are so afraid of looking bad, mean or selfish that you put other people’s wants and needs ahead of yours. You are overly selfless, and yes that’s a big problem.
When you consistently sacrifice yourself for others, everyone ends up happy and liking you, except yourself.
The problem is that most of you think you only have two choices when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do. Option one is to say NO and hurt or disappoint the other person, who then might think less of you (or think you are selfish) which is really terrifying to those of you who already fear you aren’t good enough. This option also feels like you are valuing yourself over the other person, which feels wrong.
Option two is to betray yourself (and value the other person more than yourself) and give the other person what they want. This option feels safer because even though you aren’t happy, you are at least assured the other person likes and approves of you. This option feels more righteous and loving, but at the same time it leaves you feeling taken from.
The good news is there is a third option (one that many people don’t know exists). Instead of being strong and selfish, or loving and weak, you can learn to be strong and loving at the same time. In this place you accurately value yourself and the other person the same amount. You can clearly see everyone's needs as worthy of being honored, yours and theirs. In this place you strike a healthy balance between standing up for yourself and honoring your needs, and sacrificing to serve, love or give to others. If you want to be emotionally happy and healthy you must have this balance.
If you don’t have a healthy balance between giving and receiving there will be problems in your relationships. You may start to resent the people you constantly sacrifice for and they will stop appreciating your sacrifices, because they will take them for granted. You will also have low self-esteem (if you are overly selfless) because you are constantly giving power to the idea that other people are more important than you.
In order to fix this tendency to betray yourself, you must embrace some new principles of truth around your value and life. Read the following often:
Principle 1: What other people think of me is irrelevant. I am the same me no matter what they think. Their opinion doesn't affect or change my value. I have the same infinite, absolute value whether they like me and my decisions or not. I do not need their approval. I just love them and myself where we are.
Principle 2: I teach people how to treat me by how I treat myself. I honor my own needs because I want other people to honor them. If I always put others' needs first, I am literally teaching them that my needs are not important. I believe all human beings have the same value and we are all equally important.
Principle 3: If I disrespect myself and allow people to push me around, they won’t respect me. Weakness is never respected. I may think my sacrifice and love will win their approval, but do I really want approval at the cost of respect? In the end, I will create what I feared. Even though I give them their way, they will think less of me anyway. If I make sure my own needs are met, people will respect me for it.
Principle 4: It is not selfish to take care of my own needs. The Bible says to love your neighbor “as” yourself, not “instead” of yourself. This means I am just as valuable and important as everyone else. When I honor my own needs I demonstrate to the world that all people deserve to be honored and respected. No one is more important than anyone else. My needs and wants should take precedence over others about half the time. This is not selfish, it’s healthy.
Principle 5: If I don’t love myself first, I am not really capable of giving love to others. If I don't value myself, I basically have an empty bucket, which makes me needy all the time. From this place I really have nothing to give others. When I give to others from this place, my gifts have strings attached because I need something (approval) back. From this place all my loving behavior is driven by my need to get validation. That is not love. Real love can only happen when I experience the same amount of love for myself as I feel toward the other person. When I love myself I can give from a full bucket and people will feel this and appreciate my gifts much more.
Using these principles of truth to guide you, I recommend that you redefine your boundaries and write some rules for yourself about when you are going to say YES and when you are going to say NO. Here is an example:
I give to others often, I also say NO to other people’s requests if doing what they want would:
— Make me resent them for asking
— Make me feel taken from
— Force me to miss something that’s important to me
— Push me over the edge of sanity.
This is the loving thing for all concerned. I do not need to hold fear around how others will feel when I say no. I know it is the right thing for me, and that is enough. I will tell them with love that I can’t do it (without having to explain why). In the end, they will respect me for my strength and love.
Taking the time to write on paper exactly how you are going to feel and behave the next time your mother tries to guilt you into giving in will really help. If she won't take your loving no for an answer, say, “Mom, is there anything else I could do to show you I love and respect you, if I can’t do this?” See if there is another way to show her you love her — something that works for you.
It is really hard when you have someone in your life who is overly selfish and doesn’t honor your needs, and there may be times you have to let her be mad at you and process her frustration. She is the one choosing to be bothered, and that isn't any of your business. Let her be mad without letting it affect your self-esteem. Remember that just because she is choosing to feel upset, doesn’t mean you were wrong to say NO. Her opinion and feelings don’t affect your value.
If you really struggle with this problem, I would highly recommend seeking out some professional help with fear and rebuilding self-esteem. It would make a big difference.
You can do this.
This article was first published on KSL.COM
I have some friends who complain constantly about their problems but get offended if I give them any advice on fixing what’s wrong. Do they just want to stay where they are? Should I just listen? Is that a good friend? Or is there anything else I can do to get them to listen to me and make changes? Maybe I’m giving advice the wrong way?
We all know people we would like to advice, change, or help, but we must handle these situations the right way or people will get offnded, turn a deaf ear or even passive aggressively dig further into their bad behavior.
To give advice the right way you must understand a few basic principles of human behavior. These principles will help you to understand why people react negatively to advice and how you can create a safe space for advice that won’t offend.
This is great information for parents, managers and leaders.
Principle 1: Remember everyone on the planet is battling a deep core fear of failure (a fear that they aren’t good enough), and this fear causes a great deal of pain.
We also have subconscious programs which encourage us to avoid anything that might trigger this fear. We are never excited about conversations around our need to change because they obviously mean we aren’t good enough now. The more subconscious fear of failure a person has, the less open they are to advice. This is unfortunate because they are the ones who need the advice most, but this is still how it works.
When people have good self-esteem they can handle feedback without pain or fear, but most people don’t have good self-esteem.
Principle 2: People will not be open to advice or changing themselves until they first feel fully accepted as they are right now.
If they don’t feel accepted now, they will insist on staying where they are until you do. Don’t be discouraged by this. You can fully accept someone as they are right now (even with behaviors you don’t like) and create a safe space where they will be more open to changing. You just have to focus on their intrinsic worth and remember it matters more than their current behavior. Never lose sight of the truth, that they are a one of a kind, irreplaceable being with the same value as you. Loving them unconditionally must come first. Once they feel your love they will be more open to your influence.
Principle 3: Listening to them and validating them — honoring and respecting their right to be who they are — is what most people need most.
Listening to someone validates their intrinsic worth. Listening without giving advice is a great gift and remember being an active listener is more than just nodding and repeating what they say. A good listener is also a good question-asker. You can often help someone figure out what they need to change on their own by just asking questions that help them look at the problem from different perspectives. The most powerful way to help another person is to empower them to help themselves.
Principle 4: The person to whom this challenge belongs — the one who is in the class — is the only one entitled to inspiration about his or her situation.
You may have been in a similar situation but that doesn’t mean your right answer is the right answer for them. They are the only one who will know which path is their perfect journey, so don’t forget this and presume to know better.
As a life coach, I have learned most people already know the answers to their problems, they just don’t trust themselves. They are hoping we will tell them what they already know to quiet their fears of being wrong. Don't let them use you as a crutch. It doesn't serve them. Keep asking questions about what they think and feel until they own their inner truth. This technique also leaves room for their inner guidance to direct them. All the answers they need God and the universe will provide. If they aren’t getting the answer yet, they may not be ready for it, or they may still have lessons to learn in this place.
When they are ready and if you are the right teacher for this lesson, you may feel prompted to share and give advice, but make sure you use the fifth principle first.
Principle 5: Always ask permission before you share your story, give advice, make suggestions or tell someone what you think.
This makes a person feel honored and respected, and it means they really are open to hear you. Never tell another person anything unless you have asked permission to go there first.
A permission question may sound like:
If they say no, respect that. Respecting how they feel this time will build a relationship of trust where they will be more likely to trust you next time. Parents, your teens will feel respected when you honor their "no" and they will respect you more back.
Principle 6: Use more "I" statements than "you" statements. People tend to get offended when you start with "you do this" or "you have a tendency to ..." It goes over much better when you say "I have found that when I …” Speak to what you personally know and feel instead of making statements about them.
Principle 7: Focus more on future behavior than past behavior. People get defensive and frustrated when you talk about their past bad behavior because they can’t change it. Instead, focus on their future behavior because that they have control over. “Would you consider in the future, moving forward, working on … ?” “Do you think moving forward it might help to … ?” Also notice how phrasing suggestions as questions delivers them in a softer way.
Principle 8: Base any advice you give on principles of truth. Here are some basic truths which help people to see themselves and their situation more accurately. Most people know these, but they forget them in times of crisis when they are emotional or scared.
You can do this.
This article was first published on KSL.com
I am so stressed out that I’m falling apart physically. I’m sick, tired, worried and grouchy most of the time. In this state, I’m not the greatest parent and my marriage is struggling. The problem is I can’t change my situation. I have to keep this job and I have to keep giving to my family. So how do I change my feelings, outlook and behavior when I’m stuck in this situation. My stress isn’t going anywhere, so how do I handle it better?
The Urban Dictionary defines burned-out as “What occurs when you overwork yourself into a state of limited mental acuity, depleted emotions and strength completely drained from your body.” You sound burned-out and running on empty. You cannot live for extended periods of time without serious negative effects on your body and spirit. You also can't show up for others when you have nothing to give.
Even though you can’t change the situation that is causing your stress, There are lots of things you can do that would make a huge difference and fill your emotional tank back up.
First, you must identify all the things in your life that are draining your tank:
Some people struggle with self-care because they associate it with being lazy, self-indulgent or selfish. It is very important you don’t think this way. Keeping your own tank full is not self-indulgent, it is wise. You also perform better with a full tank. You are more creative, effective, giving and powerful when you are filled up emotionally.
Self-care is not self-indulgent. It is a sign of self-respect.
If people in your life don’t get this, that is not your problem. Even if they are bothered. If they reset you for this, they probably need some self care too, but feel too guilty to take it.
Also, if you have given too much for too long, the people in your life may have grown accustomed to your giving all the time and they now take your sacrifices for granted. They expect you to give without ever taking care of you.
The only way to change this (so they appreciate you more) is to show them that you are valuable and take care of yourself. This may mean saying no and on occasion sacrificing their needs for yours. They may not like this at first, but they will respect you more in the end for doing it, I promise. (Though don't go overboard and become selfish either. You must find a healthy balance.)
Here are some signs that your emotional tank is running low and you need more self-care:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular coach and speaker.
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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.