Monthly Archives: October 2014

Thoughts as Boats

Thoughts are so common (60,000+ every single day) that most people it seems, don’t really notice them. They just zip in and out, in and out, in and out…incessantly. So what?


Well, our thoughts are accompanied by feelings, and these thoughts and feelings guide our actions, and our actions produce the results of our life. What human being do you know who is 100% pleased with the results in their life? How about you?


The really good news is that you have more say in the matter than you might have known. For many, the constant stream of thoughts and jolts of noticeable feelings is just the way it is. In fact, one’s thoughts and feelings can appear to be what life is all about. But who owns the thoughts and feelings? You do! They are distinctly inside of you and nobody else has your unique combination of them.


So how to use this information? Well, in order to change thoughts and feelings to work better on your behalf to produce more favorable life results, you first have to notice them. Thankfully we are blessed with a brain that has a pre-frontal lobe that is the center of self-awareness.


Try this little experiment: take just a few seconds to direct your brain to produce thoughts on a specific topic; let’s say colorful, wonderfully scented flowers in a lovely garden. Now, take notice of what your brain produces in thoughts, feelings, images, smells, and even body sensations. Good noticing! Now, ask your brain to shift its activity and imagine being in a warm kitchen on a chilly day where delicious fresh made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookies have just come out of the oven. What thoughts, feelings, images, smells and even body sensations arise now? Quite different I imagine. Now bring in some contrast and imagine being at an oily, smelly gas station. Or in an outhouse. Or…(make it up).


Do you notice how the higher you can actually shift your thoughts… at will. Powerful information that. At first, all this noticing and intentionally shifting can feel like a lot of work with lots of failure. But you know that the more you practice anything well and regularly, you usually get better at it. This is true for becoming more purposefully self-directing too.


Let’s go one more place with this. It is kind of obvious that positive inner thoughts and feelings are more likely to produce better outcomes than negative ones for you. So wouldn’t it be helpful to become more aware of the negative voices and shift them to positive ones?


Again there is good news. Let’s take one form of negative voice, the one that is self-judging. I’m not talking about analytically evaluating how you are doing. We’re talking about the kind of judgmental voice that says things about yourself like: "What a jerk!" "How dumb was that!" "I’ll never get that right!" Not very helpful are they. But the good news is this. When thoughts (and attendant low feelings) like this realize they are being observed (instead of just running their gerbil wheel of criticism), they actually disappear (at least for some moments – if they’ve been speaking for years, they will likely come back). But if you are ready for them with your self-focused awareness, they will eventually fade and finally disappear. Hard work but well worth your peace of mind. And peace of mind helps build your resilience.


A rather fun way of getting the hang of this Is something Dr. Daniel J. Siegel presents in his book "Mindsight". As you practice this self-awareness, imagine your negative thought/negative feeling to be a boat floating on your mental sea. Blow the boat any way you want. Have fun imagining the boat going up and down the waves Waves you want it to. And then, notice that while you are playing with the boat, that your negative thought/feeling has disappeared. If it returns, just notice that. Turn it into a floating boat again. Or have it be an elephant on a vast plain. Or perhaps you morph the negative thought/feeling into a bird soaring high above an interesting landscape. The more creative you are, and the more you enjoy your own creativity, the more likely that you will return to the practice again and again, slowly but surely reducing the negative voice(s) and calming your mental sea. This peace will allow you to more intentionally create the life that you choose. And that is one highly resilient life!


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The Pros and Cons of Boundaries – Part 1 of 2

Ever have someone say or ask something that seemed "way too personal" to you? Or, you are standing at a gathering and someone is a "close talker"; you take a step back and they then step forward, re-entering your "discomfort zone"? Boundaries at work.


First, what is a boundary? It is something that indicates bounds or limits; a line of separation or demarcation.


This subject of boundaries is a complex one. There are mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual boundaries. Who erects them? You? Others? When? Why? Some serve our current values and goals; and some don’t. Let’s start with those that work (well enough) for our higher good and that we personally are in charge of setting.


BOUNDARIES that Serve Us


Without (some) boundaries, there would be chaos. On the positive side, these barriers keep unwanted things out. For example, let’s say that you consciously desire a peaceful (mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual) life. Like tens of millions worldwide, you have been in the habit of watching the nightly news. Then one day you realize that the kind of news you are watching basically hasn’t changed in two decades. You have been taking in wars, murders, fires, "accidents", political scandals…visually and auditorally night after night after night. The names and faces change but the subjects, over and over, remain the same. And you finally realize the impact of these negative occurrences result in negative thoughts, feelings and body sensations within you each time you expose yourself to these human-related dynamics. This awareness is a choice point.


But choice points are not always easy. For instance, twenty years of nightly news is a strongly ingrained habit. You have programmed your brain to be wired to remind you to turn on Channel 8 at 6pm perhaps with your beverage of choice or even your dinner. In order to change that habit, you will need to reprogram your brain to do something different (hopefully, something more nurturing for your mental/emotional/physical bio-system). The brain likes to do what it is already wired to do; it’s simply easier. So you need a strong commitment to persevere in a new replacement habit for 21 to 90 days (the time it can take to physically rewire the brain’s  gray and white matter when it’s wired strongly to do something). You need to keep your goal in mind as the perseverance carrot (see the four step practice later in this book). Changing one’s current boundaries can be a tough assignments but worthwhile changes are worth the effort. The resulting strengthened resilience will serve you well.

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Values- Realizing, Prioritizing, Competing

The headline read "Markets Keep Eye on Hong Kong" The subtitle was: "Biggest fear: that protests spread to China, where economy is slowing."


What’s at issue here? Values! Values are that which we consider to be important. Values themselves are internal, within us. How we strategize to fulfill those values are external activities or things. An example of a value and ways to satisfy that value:


Value = "Security". At Bold New Directions, we say that (attitudinally at least) there are 18 ways to do anything, including strategies to fulfill our values. So what are various means to satisfy a value of "security"? A house, a job, a life partner, an alarm system, a monthly Social "Security" check, filling your car’s gas tank before a major winter storm hits, having some reserves in your bank account…and on and on and on.


But there is also a bit of messiness with values. Not all values are ranked the same (thankfully, we are in charge of prioritizing our personal values). But values can compete with each other; personal values, collective social values etc.


A simple example of personal values competing: perhaps you have a value of taste-satisfaction. One of 18 ways to satisfy that value is to eat sweets. But you also have a value of health. Eating a piece of chocolate cake while wanting to lose weight for health are values in competition.


Let’s go back to the initial headline:  

"Markets Keep Eye On Hong Kong". This refers to mass demonstrations by tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets of Hing Kong, day after day taking a stand for greater democracy. The value here is greater freedom of choice.


But there is a competing value (or strategy for satisfying values)…Stock Markets around the world are afraid that protesting for democracy will hurt China’s slowing economy. Seems like they’ve set up an either/or values competition – Democracy or Wealth.


While mass human values have a complexity beyond most of our abilities to solve, we can work more effectively with our own personal values. The first thing to celebrate is that we get to define our own values. The good news too is that we are in charge of prioritizing our own values. And thirdly, we have 18 ways of satisfying the values we’ve elected and ranked. Knowing that and owning that will eliminate any feeling of being a victim of your own choices. And they are all choices.


So if you have a value of "taste", own that value. And if you have a value of "health", own that value. And knowing there are 18 ways to satisfy any value, step back from seemingly competing strategy choices (that you’ve made; we get in choice ruts) and reassess what other strategies will work even better. Yes, a piece of chocolate cake is one way to satisfy taste but so is a smaller piece, or a sweet fruit, or… Both taste and health can be satisfied. It doesn’t have to be either/or.


Like all habits, changing strategies we’ve been using for a while to satisfy a value takes consciously choosing to do so. It then takes patient perseverance of new practices (and therefore neural rewiring) to make the change easier, more agreeable. But it is all possible. And again the good (not easy, but good) news is, you are in charge. When you take charge of this process, your resilience is that thankful beneficiary.



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The Power of Consistency

Dr Robert Cialdini is a master of Influence. And when we use influence positively, it contributes to our well-being and therefore our resilience. Consistency is one of Dr. Cialdini’s Six Principles of Ethical Influence.


A personal story involving consistency is this: in brief, I had a bumpy experience at a well known hotel chain. I made some extra efforts to influence a property manager to take actions to insure a better experience (on this topic) for others at his particular hotel. After a little extra encouragement, the manager wrote telling of his commitment to action.


I like to acknowledge such commitment to excellence and so I was emailing back that I would call the hotel chain’s Customer Care line to acknowledge him. It was 5:30am and I noticed that even as I was writing that as a promise, a lazier voice inside of me was already trying to wiggle out of the commitment ("You don’t have time Jim" "It’s really not that important is it!" "Who’s gonna know!"). Well, I’m going to know. Am I two-faced? What is my word worth? Do I really want to live with myself as liar?


Dr Cialdini’s vast research reveals that when people commit to something, especially things we value, we are likely to follow through. The commitment is even stronger when we say it out loud. And both Cialdini’s research and a 20 year study at Yale University confirm that when we write our commitment down, people are tremendously more certain to succeed.


So take a firm stand for doing what you say. And influence others to make their word overt (verbal and or written) on behalf of win-win commitments. The results are wonderfully powerful. And resilience gets a boost.

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