Willpower is something that we tend to believe is a zero sum game. Some people are blessed with endless reserves of willpower and others just aren’t. This idea might comfort those of us who consider ourselves in the latter category. But, it is a dangerous belief to maintain. Willpower is critical to the success of our careers, relationships, and health. We can all learn how to improve this critical skill that produces benefits in all areas of our life.
Willpower is described in the research literature as self-discipline, self-control, or executive functioning. It refers to the ability to work towards a specific goal in spite of momentary alternatives that may seem more attractive. Self-discipline is more important than IQ in determining students’ final grades . In fact, being goal directed is one of the best predictors of major life success.
Setting goals and remaining focused long enough to achieve those goals is important for career success. Surprisingly, self-discipline shapes romantic relationships as well. A study revealed that people with low levels of self-control were more likely to select mates with high levels of self-control. It seems as if they are using relationships to compensate for limited self-control. Yet this type of romantic pairing puts extreme pressure and stress on the relationship. This is type of imbalance occurs in most codependent relationships. This is where one person assumes responsibility for the wellbeing of the other. These relationships generate high amounts of resentment and conflict. Over time, they weaken the functioning of both individuals as well as the relationship.
We can see that self-discipline is not an insignificant part of our lives. It influences our career, relationships, and health outcomes. Our ability to set and achieve our goals ultimately shapes our success and happiness in life. Now that we understand why willpower is important, let’s begin to describe what it is. More importantly, how we can increase it in our lives?
Research suggests that there is a strong biological component to will power. Specifically, willpower seems to be correlated with glucose levels in our bodies. When our glucose levels drop below the optimal range, our willpower weakens.
Glucose is the energy source that drives our willpower. Like other sources of energy, our supply of willpower is limited. We have our greatest amount of this energy in the morning which depletes as we go through the day. Every exercise of self-discipline, whether big or small, decreases the amount of energy available for the remaining activities.
In a laboratory experiment , researchers found that self-control activities reduced blood glucose levels. Researchers instructed participants to focus attention, regulate emotions, or suppress a thought. Although we may not think of these activities as hard work, they do require some level of self-control. Therefor they lower our energy reserves. This explains why you may feel tired after you’ve been concentrating. Or why you may desire a sugary snack after exercising restraint in a difficult conversation. In each of these situations, you are drawing upon your energy reserves.
In the same laboratory study, people who exercised self-control in the first phase of the research performed poorly in the second self-control task. Much like a withdrawal from your bank account, exercising self-control reduces your remaining balance. Each day is filled with many tasks requiring self-control. Thus, your ability to remain focused and disciplined on your goals decreases as you move through the day.
It’s no wonder you are unable to work out at the end of the day or that it takes you twice as long to read that report. There’s a reason why you blow up at your kids and spouse when you come home from work. You have depleted your self-discipline reserves. You literally do not have the energy to follow through on your goals.
Lack of follow through on your goals doesn’t mean that you’re hopelessly lazy. It also doesn’t mean that you’re really not invested in accomplishing your goal. Once you understand the science of willpower, you can better manage your energy reserves, increase your self-discipline, and improve your goal attainment.
Research reveals that increasing our levels of monitoring increases our success in self control. In a study college students were asked to perform one of three monitoring tasks: watch their posture, check their emotions, or track their food intake. Regardless of the tasks, the act of monitoring improved their ability to do another unrelated self-control task. All three monitoring groups performed better than the students without any monitoring activity. Thus, the act of monitoring itself seems to strengthen your self-discipline muscle.
Pick a goal and start monitoring your behavior related to that goal. Monitoring your behavior will improve your success rate. But the even better news is that it will also improve your success at all your other goals! You are actually increasing your capacity for self-discipline through any type of goal monitoring. As you strengthen this muscle, it will be able to work better for you in all areas of your life.
Taking a short 10-minute break is an excellent way to increase your energy reserves. This improves your capacity for self-discipline. We know that any type of self-control activity depletes your glucose energy reserves. Yet, a research study demonstrated that taking a 10-minute rest period restored the participants’ energy reserves to optimal levels. Another study showed similar results when participants performing a brief relaxation activity.
We can restore our capacity for self-control to optimal levels by managing our time after we have exercised self-discipline. Taking short breaks or practicing a relaxation activity are credits that we deposit into our energy bank account. They restore our energy after we’ve exercised self-control. Thus, they increase our capacity for self-discipline in the future.
This is why I encourage my clients to take 10-minute breaks during every hour of focused activity at work. It takes lots of energy to concentrate and a brief break will increase your ability to sustain concentration. A short break makes you both more productive and less tired at the end of the day.
Another way to make a deposit in your self-discipline reserves is to generate positive emotions. Positive emotions increase your energy levels and improve your capacity for self-control.
In a study researchers found that participants who experienced positive emotions improved their capacity for self-control. Participants were asked to perform some task of self-control. They were then assigned to one of four groups: positive mood, negative mood, neutral mood, or rest. Participants in the positive mood group watched a comedy video or received a surprise gift. Those in the negative mood group were given an activity to induce sadness. All groups should experience a depletion of self-control because they’ve performed a task requiring self-control. Yet, the positive mood group were as successful in the second task as the control group that had not completed the first task. The positive mood group was also more successful in the second self-control tasks than any of the other groups. This suggests that positive emotions actually increase and restore our self-discipline energy levels.
Use this knowledge to your advantage. Make sure that every day contains activities that make you feel good. Watch that funny you tube video. Read some pages of your favorite book. Chat with your favorite girlfriend on the phone. Too many times we deny ourselves these simple pleasures in life because we are just “too busy.” Yet these activities increase our productivity and improve our ability to meet our goals. The more we demand from ourselves, the more we need to make sure our days are filled with activities that generate positive emotions.
No not a glass of wine; grab an energy drink. We’ve learned that self-discipline has a biological component: glucose levels. Alcohol decreases glucose throughout the brain and body. No wonder it’s associated with such poor judgment and the inability to exercise self-control. Yet, there are many energy drinks that can restore our glucose levels. In a research study, participants who consumed a glucose drink between two self-control tasks showed no weakening of self-control in the second task. It seems that this glucose drink eliminated the usual impairment that occurs after exercising self-control. So the next time you exercised self-control, reward yourself with an energy drink to keep your momentum of success going.
You do not have to remain complacent with your current level of will power. Like the muscles in your body, your self-discipline muscle can be exercised in a way that strengthens your life. Practicing the techniques described above will improve your success at setting and achieving your goals. You will also reap the financial, emotional, health, and relationship rewards that come with improved self-discipline.
You owe it to yourself to start today. Please let me know if you’d like my support in your efforts to set and accomplish goals, increase your self-discipline, and improve your life. You can email me at [email protected] or call (505)66-FOCUS. Wishing you success in using self-discipline to create your life of bliss!
Love is the most powerful healing emotion. It has been described as a bio cognitive healing field that improves our health and well-being. Love is not just a feeling; it is a way of thinking about ourselves and others. Practicing the act of loving will increase our happiness, confidence, relationships, and health. This article describes how love improves our lives phsyically and emotionally. More importantly, it presents a tool to live a life of love; regardless of the problematic circumstances and people in our lives.
George Solomon’s research reveals that thoughts and emotions influence our immune system. Negative emotions narrow our focus to being more self-centered (i.e. “what’s bothering me”). While positive emotions expand our focus to a more inclusive and warm “we.” The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) reveals that positive emotions allow us to better remain focused in the face of set-backs and frustrations of life. These positive emotions also produce a direct impact on the functioning of our immune system.
Research on forgiveness shows that it decreases the physical damage that stress does to our body. We are much less likely to experience the physical wear and tear on our bodies in repose to life stressors when we cultivate positive emotions like love. Forgiveness is extending love to ourselves and others.
Dr. Mario Martinez, a leading PNI researcher, is so convinced of by the evidence of emotions impact on our health, he states our immune system operates according to a “moral code that favors love over fear and compassion over hatred.”
Self-compassion is a critical component of love. We can not give to others, what we do not already posses. So self-compassion becomes a core requirement for healthy relationships. But self-compassion is also required to help us reach our optimal health and our optimal levels of success in life.
Self-compassion produces positive mental health outcomes. A study published in the journal Body Image showed that people with higher levels of self-compassion are less likely to be depressed. They have lower rates of eating disorders and are less likely to experience body shame . Another study of college students showed that self-compassion served as a protective layer against academic burn-out. Under normal conditions that would produce burn-out, those students with higher levels of self-compassion didn’t experience the burn-out. Research also shows that self-compassion leads us to more healthy behaviors (e.g. healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleep habits, and stress management) which supports our long-term physical well-being.
Loving ourselves creates positive mental and physical health. Too often we try to improve our physical health or productivity by “shaming” ourselves into good behavior. We imagine that being a hard task master on ourselves will force us to get our act together and perform our best. Yet, research shows the exact opposite. We feel and perform our best when we practice loving ourselves on a daily basis.
It is easy to love people who are kind to us, but how do we love those who are not? How do we show love to the driver who cuts of off, the rude cashier, or family member who has just made a hurtful comment to us? We’ve already discussed how important love is to our health and well-being. As well as how critical love is in reshaping our relationships. So we can not allow our quality of life to be diminished by the action of others. We must learn to love at all times, especially when it’s difficult.
In their book Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels introduce us to powerful tools of visualization that help us to create a successful life. Often we think of ourselves as helpless and subject to our current feelings or circumstances. In the book Tools, we learn how we can actively create the (inner and outer) reality we seek.
These tools are built on a combined 60-years of psychoanalytic practice with hundreds of patients. The authors remind us that theses tools are not just cognitive exercises. The exercises position us to access the power of the spirit realm to strengthen and shape our daily life.
Personally, I’ve practiced the tools since reading the book and have found it very effective in restructuring my reality. I’d like to share with you the second tool (Active Love) to help you increase your capacity to live a life of love. Stutz and Michels describe the tool of active love as having three important components: concentration, transmission, and penetration. In the section below, I walk you through the three steps of the visualization of active love.
Get into a relaxed position, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply. Breathe so that your belly rises and falls with each breathe. Listen to your heart beating and the flow of your breath. Now visualize your heart soaking up all of the love that is around you. Your heart draws love to it like a magnet. As your heart attracts love it is growing larger and larger. Watch your heart grow in size and power with the fullness of love.
Now visualize your heart directing the full strength of its love outward like a laser beam. Your heart is pulsing a laser beam of love. The love flows in a steady and powerful stream from your heart.
Next visualize the person to whom you want to direct that love. It could be the cashier person who was rude to you, the family member who made the hurtful comment, or even the driver that cut you off on the road. Even if you have not seen the person’s face, make up a face for that person. Visualize them standing directly in front of you, facing you. If the object of your anger is an abstract idea (e.g. poverty, a nation, religion), visualize that entity as a person.
Visualize the pulsating beam of love emanating from your heart going directly to the heart of that person. Watch it pierce through their outer layers and penetrate to the deepest parts of them. Feel the point of contact and connection with that person. Feel you giving them a transfusion of love. This love comes from you, but does not start with you. This is the love you have freely received and you are sharing with this person.
Watch the laser beam of love fill their hearts. Watch it circulate throughout their entire body. Visualize it flowing from their heart to their head. Watch it flow into their arms, legs, fingers and toes. Every part of their body is washed in this flow of love. Now watch the flow of love completely envelop them in a bubble as they float off into distant space.
Open your eyes and notice how you feel. You have just given that person, and yourself, the gift of love. You have played an active role in promoting physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in our world. Love is the gift that keeps on giving. When you give away love, you wind up with more than when you began. Practicing the tool of active love increases the healing power of love that you experience.
Although this exercise only takes a few minutes, it produces substantial changes in us and in our world. Some of these changes happen immediately and some occur over a longer period of time. It is important for you to know that what you have done matters. Practicing active love is an important way of changing your life and changing your world.
Stutz & Michels encourage readers to be critical skeptics. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the power of the tool, it only matters that you use it. As you use the tool, you will see the changes produced in your own life. Ultimately, this is all the proof you need.
I urge you to commit to using the tool of active love this week. Use it whenever you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated. Practice active love whenever you experience feelings of anger, find yourself ruminating on past injustices, or are preparing to interact with difficult people. Whenever you want to promote healing and connection with another person use the active love tool.
Every day will present you with many opportunities to practice the tool of active love. Record your observations and reflections on this experiment in a journal each day. At the end of the week, you will have a written record of some of the immediate impact of the tool of love on your life.
Share below your reflections on practicing love on a daily basis and the difference you see it making. I’d personally like to thank you for supporting yourself and adding more light to this world. Thank you!
Being a person of action is important because it keeps us from being passive participants in life. When we commit to acting upon the world, we help to reshape ourselves and our world through our own efforts. Yet, not all action is equal.It is important to distinguish between fear based action and inspired action. Only inspired action will allow you to create the life your desire.
These two distinct types of action the produce different results in your life. Fear based action will drain your energy, alienate you from others, and undermine your health. Inspired action will produce the exact opposite effect in your life. It will provide you with more energy, connect you to yourself and others and promote your health and well-being.
So how can you tell which type of action is motivating you? I’ve identified three characteristics to help you distinguish inspired action from fear based action. Pause to ask yourself these questions, before you act. Your answer will reveal to you the true motivation for your behavior. The brief reflection will give you an opportunity to make a choice about the type of action you want in your life.
Is this ego-driven or purpose-driven? Are you performing this action because it will make you look good to others or because it is in line with your life purpose? Inspired action is any activity that expresses or advances your life purpose. It is action that you “have to” do because it is an expression of your most authentic self.
This is a question that only you can answer. The same action could be either ego driven or purpose driven. Consider for example, serving food to homeless families in a soup kitchen. That act of generosity could be driven by ego; an attempt to show to others what a good and moral person you are. The same activity could be an expression of your life purpose to eradicate suffering in the world. You are the only person who can answer this question about your behavior. Just remember to be honest and to use this question to reflect on all your actions, even the seemingly “noble” ones.
Is this motivated by fear or by love? This is a question, that only you can answer. Inspired action is always motivated by love. Dr. Martinez’s research reveals that emotions are bio-cognitive fields that can either be healing or destructive to our physical and emotional health. This means that the emotion motivating your action alters your physical and psychological state. Research on social intelligence helps us understand how these subtle emotional states are communicated to others with whom we interact.
Much like how we “catch colds” from interacting with others who have a particular bacteria or virus, we can “catch” emotions in the same manner. Emotions shape our cognitive understanding of the world and our physical health. Thus, it’s very important that we maintain our own emotional health so we don’t negatively impact others with our dis-ease.
Dr. Martinez argues that fear and love are mutually exclusive bio-cognitive states. Fear always produces damage to the immune system and love always repairs the damage and restores healthy functioning. So, the question of the emotion motivating our action, is not an esoteric one. Rather, the emotion motivating our action shapes our well-being and the well-being of those with whom we interact.
Will this action only benefit myself or will it benefit others as well? Inspired action is action that benefits ourselves as well as others. We do not need to see the world as mutually exclusive choice between our well-being and the well-being of others. Inspired action allows us to see how we can contribute to our own well-being and happiness by actions that benefit others. Happiness research reveals that activities which focus on doing good for others not only makes us happier, but makes us healthier as well. Researchers at UCLA distinguished between two types of happiness: happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life and happiness focused only on pleasure seeking and self-gratification. In their report to the National Academy of Sciences, they found that happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life promotes the gene expression of anti-viral and antibody genes. Happiness focused only on self-gratification had the opposite effect, suppressing the health of the immune system.
An important part of empowering yourself is taking the time to pause and reflect on what is important to you. As you become more clear on your life purpose and core values, you are able to evaluate your activities in light of this focus. Inspired action expresses your life purpose, is motivated by love, and places you in the service of others. This type of action strengthens your sense of meaning and feelings of connection in the world. These attributes are empirically proven to improve both your physical health and your happiness.
Inspired action is much like the Tao concept of “effortless action” (non-action). The process of being and flowing from one action to the next effortlessly, rather than imposing conscious action. Based on knowing yourself. It feels like you’re not doing anything except showing up and being who you are.
This is how inspired action puts you in your flow. You are no longer “making” yourself do things, you are simply “being”. That is more than enough. Your authentic presence brings the gifts of love, purpose, and healing to both you and others.
Inspired action is a choice. It is a choice that is always available to you at the moment you decide to act. Give yourself and our world the gift of your inspired action. Create a life that produces happiness and healing through your inspired action. Start today.
Share your moments of inspired action in the comment box below. How have you showed up and shared your authentic self with the world today? I am proud of your courageous commitment to be uniquely you and to share the gift of you with our world. Thank you!
How can effective time management help us support ourselves? Many of us are great supporters of other people. But, we have never thought about what it means to support ourselves. We are great supporters of our family and friends. Great advocates for the social issues we care about. We take pride in the myriad of ways we help others achieve their goals. So what does it mean to support yourself?
Supporting yourself involves the same activities we engage in to support others. Supporting yourself means developing your capacity to live your best life. It means directing your attention and resources in developing your potential to the fullest. This involves investing the time to needed to identify your life purpose. Then, focusing with laser like precision on expressing that purpose in your life. Effective time management enables you to create a life that supports you.
I have been obsessed with time management ever since I can remember. As a child I loved the book Cheaper By The Dozen. I was enthralled by the father who sought to do everything in the most efficient manner possible. This made sense to me because I knew that time was a limited resource.
Time is the great equalizer, in that we all are given the same 24 hrs in a day. How we spend those 24 hours determines how many days and how fulfilling the future days will be. I remember my father explaining to me that if our entire lives were compressed into a day, we would only be in school for a few hours. But, those few hours of the day would make the rest of the day more enjoyable. I’d have resources and freedom to pursue my inner desires. That seemed like a fair trade to me and I decided that suffering through a little bit of pain or boredom was a reasonable exchange for my future enjoyment.
I spent much of my time trying to find the most efficient way to manage my obligations. This would enable me to have the most enjoyment of the rest of my life. This approach to time management was limited in its effectiveness. As the tasks I had to do became longer and more complicated, the dreaded tasks still took many hours, weeks, months or years. Worse yet, I was setting myself up to live my life “later”, after I had completed X, Y, or Z tasks.
I know that I am not the only one who struggles with this approach to work and life. Many people are waiting for “the summer”, “the next promotion”, “retirement”, “marriage”, “children”, “an empty-nest”, ect until you feel free to “live your life”. Stop waiting. Now is the only time you have. Now is the perfect time to support yourself.
Completing the tasks in front of you and enjoying your life need not be mutually exclusive activities. You do not have to wait for “your turn” after you have finished all the tasks on everyone else’s list. You can structure your daily activities, and your life, so that you are productive AND filled with excitement and joy. The secret is learning how to manage your energy.
Many people mistakenly think that enhancing your capacity to be creative and productive is only about managing your time. While time management is important, managing your energy is a more effective means to enhancing your creativity and productivity. Managing your energy requires becoming more aware of your moment by moment energy levels and the life factors that influence them. As you become more aware of what influences your energy level, you can delegate energy draining activities and limit your exposure to energy draining people.
Like time, your energy is a valuable and limited resource. If you do not manage it well, you will find that there is no energy left for you to do the things that you want to do. You don’t have the energy left to write your book, exercise, socialize, ect. Even though these activities are important to you, you can’t find time to do them. At the end of the day, all you have energy for is vegging out on tv and dreaming about your future life. The future is when you believe that you will have the opportunity to live out your desires.
Unlike time, you can actually “create” more energy. By managing your activities well, you can plant seeds that will “grow” your energy levels. You do not have to settle for your current amount of energy. You can expand your energy reservoir by intentionally choosing energy expanding activities. This approach to life will enable you to get more done and feel better about yourself and your life in the process.
Below I discuss two actions will substantially expand your energy levels while improving your productivity and creativity. Implementing these actions, will help you to go to bed happier, having accomplished more in your day, sleep better, and wake up feeling more refreshed and excited about your day. This is how you support yourself. This is giving yourself what you need to live your best life now, not “someday when…”
I encourage you to practice these two actions daily. Make sure to track the changes you observe in yourself and your life as you do.
The definition of energy expanding activities is any thought or action that fills you with energy and joy as you take part. For obvious reasons, what counts as an energy expanding activity varies from person to person.
To identify your energy expanding activities, you can track your energy levels throughout the day. On a hourly basis, asses you energy level on a scale of 1-10. Notice, how the level increases or decreases throughout the day. Write down recent activities that you think might be associated with the changes in your energy level.
Try to identify at least 20 energy expanding activities of various forms. Some you can do with others, some you do alone, some cost money, so are free. You get the point. The goal is to have a variety of energy expanding activities that you can add to your day on a regular basis. You also want to have some that you can add “as needed” to help pull you up after an unexpected energy draining activity. Think of this as your emergency self-care kit.
Too often we blur the lines between these two types of activities. That is a serious drain on our energy level and a damage to our quality of life. But, when you distinguish the must list from the should list, you can manage your energy more effectively.
“Must list” is important because it helps you achieve what you truly want. It is connected to your life purpose and allows you to fulfill the personal goals you’ve set for yourself. If your goal is to be an Olympic swimmer, you must practice on a regular basis. But if it is your mother’s goal for you to be an Olympic swimmer (or get married, or move closer to home, ect), then the activities associated with this goal does not belong on your “must list.” These activities are examples of “shoulds”.
Shoulds are only important because they help you to conform to what others want you to do. When you find yourself saying “I should do…..” what you are actually communicating is that someone else wants this for you more than you want it for yourself. “I should exercise… study… go out more”. All these activities are things you think others expect from you. That is why doing them feels draining.
The best way to expand your energy and live a productive and creative life is to eliminate everything on your should list. Once you stop doing the things on your should list, you will have more time and energy for your musts. What?! Am I suggesting that you don’t exercise, study, or get out of your comfort zone? If you can not connect these activities to goals you find personally meaningful, your attempts to do them will be unsuccessful and draining.
Respect what creates energy for you and focus on deleting the things that drain your energy. Connect your regular activities to things that give you personal meaning. This produces a magical multiplication of hours in the day. You will get more accomplished in a day and feel happier doing it.
You do not have to wait for the future to start living the life you desire. Support yourself today. Restructure your activities around your purpose and watch your energy and joy grow!
You’ve been selected to have dinner with a very special person. This person is worthy of tremendous honor and respect. She is amazingly talented and an important contributor to our world. She is beautiful, both inside and out. How do you feel about this dinner? How will you behave? What will you say?
What if I told you that you will eat with this person every night? What if I told you that you have already eaten with her every night because that person is you?
Are you surprised? This is not a silly trick, it is absolutely true. You are an amazingly talented and beautiful person, worthy of great honor. Yet, many people ignore, disbelieve, or misunderstand this truth.
My goal is to remind you of the importance of honoring yourself. Honoring yourself is not arrogance and does not make you an egomaniac. Honoring yourself is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. Moreover, honoring yourself is critical for your physical and mental health.
First, honoring yourself means recognizing your worth and committing to meeting your own needs. There is a feedback loop between you and others. As you recognize that you are worthy of great care, you can be fully present in taking care of others and yourself. As you do, you are demonstrating a model of self-care for those you love as well.
Caring for yourself is not selfish and it is not mutually exclusive with caring for others. Rather, self-love is an integral aspect of loving others. They are two sides of the same coin. The entire moral code of Christianity is summarized in the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” I suggest that this moral commandment reflects a commitment to self-love and honor.
If you do not love yourself, what kind of love can you show for your neighbor? If you only love yourself, what kind of neighbor will you be? Self love that extends to others. Most importantly, healthy relationships, healthy communities, healthy societies are based on balanced expression of love.
Therefor, honor is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. People who honor themselves are healthier mentally and physically. They are more likely to be compassionate towards others. They are more socially responsible. In general, people who honor themselves are happier, healthier people.
In contrast to honor, shame reflects an understanding of the self as unworthy. Shame reflects a lack of honor, compassion, and respect for the self. Shame is different from guilt. Guilt suggest negative feelings about problematic behavior. Shame suggests negative feelings about oneself. Thus, shame is more globalized and not limited to specific behaviors.
Because guilt affirms your core value system, it is consistent with honoring yourself. It encourages you to make amends to repair the damage caused by violating your values. Guilt leads to positive behavioral outcomes and is considered a pro-social behavior. But, shame often leads to more destructive behavior directed against oneself and others. Prof. June P. Tangney, a leading expert in the study of shame and a professor of psychology at George Mason University, explains:
“Guilt is a useful emotion, It pushes people to repair the harm they did….But feelings of shame about oneself seem to motivate people more to want to hide, escape, deny or a lot of times to blame other people.”
In her research study published in the Journal Psychological Science, Dr. Tangney found that prisons who felt guilty were less likely to break the law again. Their guilt led them to refrain from future illegal behavior. This outcome was not seen in individuals returning from prison who did not show the evidence of guilt.
In another study of children, adolescents and adults, Dr. Tangney found a clear difference in the outcomes of guilt as compared to shame. Guilt led to constructive behaviors and shame led to destructive behaviors. Shame lead to anger, aggression (direct and indirect), self-hostility, and negative long-term consequences.
Although shame is clearly linked to a host of negative mental health outcomes, the damage does not stop there. Shame also damages our physical health. Subjects asked to write for 15 minutes on a shameful experience, showed physical inflammation. The researchers concluded that shame increased the inflammatory response of their immune system.
We know that shame is damaging to our physical and mental health. Yet, shame also damages our relationships with others and our relationship to ourselves. Shame is a manifestation of devaluing and disrespect for the self. Learning to honor the self is an antidote for shame. Honoring yourself promotes healing, vitality, and happiness.
Dr. Mario Martinez reminds us that positive emotional states improve our physical and mental health. The emotional states that have the greatest impact on our well-being are love, commitment, and loyalty. Dr. Martinez refers to these emotional states as “healing fields”. He teaches individuals how to cultivate these healing fields and promote optimum health.
Honor is an important healing field because it communicates love and respect for the self. Because our immune system operates according to a moral code, honor enhances the functioning of our immune system. Expressions of fear-based bio-emotional states produce visible damage in our physical bodies. Expressions of love-based bio-emotional states promote visible healing and regeneration in our bodies.
This relationship between honor, self-love, and physical healing is documented in the medical research by Dr. George F. Solomon. Dr. Solomon revealed that women who expressed righteous anger toward their abuser were less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, regardless of the presence of a genetic marker. The anger these women expressed was a logical and appropriate response to the violation of someone they loved and valued (themselves). Those women who were not able to connect with this righteous anger were more likely to develop a chronic illness. Thus, there seems to be a connection between protecting yourself emotionally and physically. In both cases the protection comes from a sense of self-love and value. This is an example of the healing field of honor.
When we honor ourselves, we love and protect ourselves on every level. On the cellular level, we promote healthy immune functioning to take care of our cells. When we honor ourselves, we care for our bodies with healthy nutrition and exercise. When we honor ourselves, we choose only to be in relationships with people who treat us with love and respect. Dr. Martinez reminds us that:
“We never abuse what we mindfully love.”
Practicing small and large acts of honoring yourself is a way of mindfully loving yourself. It communicates to you and others that you are to be loved and respected. It triggers the holistic healing fields that promote your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.
Here are simple, yet powerful ways, that you can practice showing honor to yourself. Remember, honor is a healing field. As you take part in the activities below, you promote your health and well-being on every level. You can honor yourself by:
When you honor yourself, you commit to meeting your needs rather than waiting on others or the circumstances of life to do so. Relying on others to meet your needs leads to feelings of disappointment and depletion. It also often creates conflicts in your relationship with others. The other person may feel inadequate or resentful that they are unable to meet your needs.
Yet, relying on yourself to meet your needs leads to feeling energized and confident. It also gives other people permission to do the same. When people see you loving yourself it inspires them to do the same. Charity begins at home. Give yourself the love and care you give to others. You are worthy of love and admiration.
Think about where you are currently feeling emotional dissatisfaction. List three emotional needs that are currently unmet. What would you need to feel satisfied? For each emotional need you identify, think of one way that you can give yourself the gift of meeting that need.
Honor rituals are important reminders to yourself that you are worthy of honor. You can create a series of habits that you do on a daily basis. The goal of these actions is to remind yourself that your are someone of tremendous value and worthy of great respect and honor.
For me, the rituals I create around the celebration of my birthday are important ways in which I honor myself. In next week’s blog post, I’ll describe in more detail how you can turn your birthday into a celebration honoring your life.
Yet, there are also simple daily actions you can take to honor yourself. For example, the Sanskrit greeting “Namaste” translates to “The light in me salutes the light in you.” What a wonderful daily reminder that you are worthy of honor. It also reminds you that every person you meet throughout the day is worthy of honor as well. What a double blessing!
I’d love to hear about your large and small honor rituals. Please share below how you remind yourself of your tremendous worth. Let our community know how you practice giving yourself the love and respect you deserve.
You do not have to wait for others to love, care for, and honor you. You can do that for yourself. Commit to honoring yourself by meeting your core emotional needs today.
Imagine….You’ve successfully completed that important task in half the time you expected. You now have the much desired extra time to spend with family and friends. You even have time to take a leisurely stroll through the park and soak up some rays. As the sun is beaming down on you, you smile at how proud you are of yourself and how you handled this challenge. You also notice that the knot in your stomach is gone and you no longer feel that pressure on your temples. This is your new life, now that you’ve finally conquered procrastination. Procrastination is a habit that many of us develop early in our life and this problematic behavior grows with us.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of procrastinate is “to be slow or late about doing something that should be done : to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etc.”
I used to proclaim that I did my best work through procrastination. I often waited for the night before to begin a paper assignment. I figured that since I still received an A, procrastination was actually helpful for me. As the length and challenges of my writing assignments increased, I quickly learned that this habit was a hindrance rather than a help. Once I became an educator, I realized that getting an A on a paper didn’t mean I was doing my best work. It only meant that my work was relatively better than my peers. Now I know that I did not submit my best work. The feedback from my teachers could have helped to make me an even better writer and thinker. As my academic career progressed, I learned that procrastination is costly. Procrastination created missed opportunities, lowered my productivity, and generated more stress.
Have you struggled with procrastination? Do you want to drop this negative habit from your life? Let me assure you, this is possible. Understanding procrastination and what it costs you, is a powerful motivator to stop it. In this article, I share a simple, but often overlooked technique to end procrastination for good.
I disagree with Merriam-Webster’s characterization of procrastination as laziness. Procrastination is not about being lazy; it is about avoiding a problem. Specifically, it is about avoiding unpleasant emotions. When we procrastinate, we are attempting to avoid negative emotions. These negative emotions are associated with that problematic task. Thus, procrastination is really driven by fear and anxiety.
The decision to put off writing that paper or completing that report until tomorrow is actually an attempt to manage uncomfortable emotions. Those emotions may be fear, embarrassment, insecurity, confusion, or anger. They are often associated with thoughts such as:
By avoiding the task, we avoid feeling these unpleasant emotions. Thus, procrastination serves us as an emotion management strategy. But, it is not an effective emotion management strategy. Procrastination often creates extra problems, as well as more stress, frustration, and discomfort.
In a long-term study of procrastination, researchers at Case Western University revealed that procrastination has short-term benefits but long-term problems. These researchers document that procrastinators have less stress than non-procrastinators in the short-term. Yet, in the long-term procrastinators show higher levels of stress, more mental illness, and lower academic performance. This data shows that procrastination is an emotion management strategy, albeit an ineffective one. While procrastination provides short-term relief from stress, it creates more long-term stress and lower performance.
Additional research shows that procrastinators have poorer health outcomes than non-procrastinators. Part of these poor health outcomes is because they procrastinate pro-health behaviors. Pro-health behaviors include activities like going to dental and medical check-ups. Even after controlling for check-ups and similar health maintenance activities, procrastinators show more stress and physical illnesses. Thus, procrastination itself seems to create physical health illnesses.
You can unblock and end procrastination for good. First, you must identify the fear that is causing this problematic behavior. Listen to the stories that play in your head when you think about performing the task. Identify the underlying fear. Is the fear the result of thinking that you’re not good enough and others will find you out?
Now that you’ve identified the source of your fear, here’s a way to manage these emotions. People frequently use meditation or mindfulness strategies to enhance one’s emotional intelligence and manage emotions. But I’d like to add a new, often overlooked, strategy to manage the emotions associated with procrastination. Best of all, you already have the tool you need in your kitchen or on your phone.
Make timers your best friend. Timers are especially useful for activities that are important but difficult to begin. Starting the task is often the most difficult part. This is because of fears and anxieties about how challenging the task will be. Starting is also difficult because of the uncomfortable feelings that we expect will arise within us as we perform that task.
As I’ve explained procrastination helps us avoid those uncomfortable feelings by avoiding the tasks. Unfortunately, avoiding important tasks limits our success. Procrastination creates more uncomfortable feelings when the things left undone create their own crisis. It also leads to disappointed in ourselves for not fulfilling our personal goals. Thankfully, something as simple as a timer can help us address this quandary.
By setting the timer we have a known ending point. For tasks that have high levels of anxiety, set the timer for short increments of time (2-5 mins). It is easy to convince ourselves that we can live with being uncomfortable for 5 mins. This allows us to begin, knowing that even if it is painful, it will not last long.
They key to the success of this method is allowing yourself to stop at the end of the timer. Beginning is the most difficult part. When the timer goes off, you often feel that it wasn’t as bad as expected. To maintain the integrity of the value of the timer exercise, it is important that you pause at the ringing of the timer. At this pause consider whether you want to continue or to save the rest of the task for the next assigned time. Either choice is a successful outcome.
The focus here is not on the completion of the task. Rather the goal is to build behaviors that will lead to the completion of the task. Minimizing the emotional discomfort and providing an element of choice are acts of self compassion and respect. Compassion and respect works in getting the cooperation of even the stubbornest toddler. You will find that it works on yourself as well. Everyone wants to be respected. We all want to know that our feelings and well being matter. The timer exercise enables you to communicate this compassion and respect to yourself. It also allows you to build the successful track record needed to extend the desired behavior.
The next time you notice yourself procrastinating, identify the source of the anxiety. Then use the timer system to manage your anxiety and get your tasks done!
I’d love to hear about your progress with using timers to manage anxiety. Please comment below. Also share other personal strategies to overcome procrastination.
“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.”
― Shannon L. Alder
When you understand your value and power, you develop boundaries to honor yourself and protect your freedom. Emotional boundaries in relationships aren’t a set of legalistic rules that constrain our freedom. Boundaries are the guardrails that protect our happiness and the security of our relationships.
If you are feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated, or resentful, chances are you need to strengthen your boundaries. Many people are still unclear about what it means to establish boundaries. They’re also unsure about why boundaries are important and how to do it properly. As you read on you will learn the answers to these questions. You will also gain a quick, easy method for setting healthy emotional boundaries. Protecting your boundaries will increase your level of happiness and satisfaction in your relationships.
Emotional boundaries are the psychological acceptance of the uniqueness, dignity, and freedom of each individual. Boundaries are what separate us from another person. We recognize that while we may love and strongly identify with another person, we are not the same. Thus, we do not have to feel or act the same.
Through establishing boundaries, we give ourselves and other people the freedom to be unique. People without emotional boundaries need conformity as a demonstration of love. These people often expect you to take responsibility for their emotional state and “fix” their problems. Neither of these interpretations of reality are true or possible. No two people can be exactly the same no matter how much they love each other. No person can fix the emotional state or manage the life of another. Lack of boundaries create unhealthy expectations and behaviors. These unreasonable expectations drain the life energy out of people and their relationships.
Women are particularly vulnerable to ignoring emotional boundaries. We are socialized to think of our identity as primarily determined by our relationships. There’s nothing wrong with valuing relationships. But, this value can easily morph into unhealthy thinking such as:
“I’m nothing without this relationship”
“I need to do all that I can to remain in this relationship. Even if it includes sacrificing my freedom, dignity and value.”
A subtler expression of unhealthy boundaries is the thought that:
“My biggest contribution to the world is that accomplishments of my child or partner. “
Such distorted thinking places tremendous pressure on your child or partner. You expect them to live out your dreams of success and accomplishment. It also robs them of the freedom to spend their time and energy discovering and living out their own life dreams.
Accepting responsibility for your emotions and behavior without taking responsibility for the feelings and actions of others is a healthy emotional boundary. Emotional boundaries also mean giving others the freedom to not like your feelings or choices. Boundaries are a core component of emotional intelligence. As such, they contribute to our health and happiness.
If you can not tolerate other’s disapproval of your feelings or choices or if you can not tolerate others possessing emotions and actions with which you disagree, you are in desperate need of setting emotional boundaries. The decision to not set healthy emotional boundaries damages you and your relationships.
People without emotional boundaries have a distorted view of their own power. They either understand themselves as completely powerless or all powerful.
People who understand themselves as powerless, play the victim role in their relationships. They rely on others to manage their life and emotions. This is because they consider themselves incapable of making their own dreams come true. Victims see the relationship as the source of their security and happiness. Thus, they seek to maintain the relationship and the other person’s favor at all cost. This promotes people pleasing behavior for the victim.
People pleasing sets unrealistic expectations that the victim will (or should) always agree with the martyr. Because the victim does not feel comfortable saying no, s/he often agrees to actions that are personally undesirable. Yet, the victim often does not follow through, or execute well. This inconsistency makes the victim appear even more helpless. The inconsistency is actually the victim’s ineffectual way of acting on his/her own desires.
These “victims” often associate themselves with “martyrs”. Martyrs have an over-inflated view of their own power. Martyrs take on the responsibility of managing their own life as well as the lives of the victim. They accept responsibility for the other person’s emotions and work diligently to “fix” the other person’s life. The martyr denies the victim the freedom to choose and feel differently. This seems appropriate to the martyr because the victim is “clearly” incapable of managing life. That’s why the victim needs to trust the martyr’s judgment over his/her own. The martyr is left feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of managing two people’s lives. S/he is also frustrated that the victim doesn’t just “go along” with the plan.
Both martyrs and victims eventually feel frustrated and resentful of the other person. This codependency prolongs the unhealthy relationship dynamic. It also promotes physical and psychological dis-ease in both parties.
The key to establishing healthy emotional boundaries is to embrace your own power. This is true for setting boundaries in leadership, marriage, parenting, and friendships.
People pleasing is giving away your own power. Playing the role of a martyr is accepting responsibility beyond the constraints of your personal power. As you embrace your personal power, you learn how to say no to things that do not honor you and your life purpose . You also learn the importance of saying yes to those that do.
There are only two things you need to do to establish healthy boundaries. First create the boundary. Second, give others the freedom not to like them. Many people give up their power out of fear or a misunderstanding of love. But, as you follow the steps below, you reclaim your power by setting healthy boundaries.
Real power comes from focusing on what’s important to you. To exercise control over your life, you must first see yourself as worthy. You need to see your uniqueness as something to be treasured. This perspective helps you to see the value of protecting your difference in the face of social pressures for conformity.
As you get clear on your unique contribution, your motivation for protecting that purpose increases. You recognize that this gift has been invested in you and needs to be advanced by you. Power is acknowledging what you have to offer to the world and behaving in a way that demonstrates your faith in yourself and your gifts. Learn to align your life 100% with what’s important to you.Embrace your ability to act
Real power is a process, not a destination. No one is completely helpless. There is always something that you can do for yourself. When you act in your own best interest, you feel and are powerful.
Power as a destination is understanding power as a finite object. It is something that you have and that can be taken from you. Power as a noun refers to differential amounts of power. Someone may have more or less power than you.
Yet, power as a process describes your capacity to act. Taken from the word Anglo-Norman French word “poeir” and the Latin word “posse”, power means “to be able”. This version of power is something that everyone has and can not be taken away. As you change your understanding of power, you immediately see that you always have the capacity to do something.
Whatever the situation, you can put your gifts into action toward accomplishing your goal. This is your power. As you act in your best interests, you increase your capacity to do so in the future. As long as you are alive, your power is there for you to use.
No one else has your gifts or unique combination of experiences. You show your power by embracing your gifts and sharing them with others. You have a role to play in this world that only you with your unique gifts and experiences can play. To downplay your power is to reject your gifts and your purpose in the world. Living out your purpose in the world means that you are willing to show up and embrace your unique contribution. No one else can take your place. If you don’t do it for you, it won’t be done.
The real measure of power is your ability to choose for yourself what’s important to you and ignore the rest. Owning and reclaiming your power means using your power to support your dreams, needs and wants.
Boundaries breathe life into broken relationships. Reclaim your power and individuality. Acknowledge and respect the power of others. Choosing to establish and maintain your boundaries will increase your happiness and relationship satisfaction.
Comment below your thoughts about boundaries, personal power, and healthy relationships. What shifts occur within you when you see power as the process of living into your gifts rather than a destination?
Are you looking to resolve relationship conflict and improve the quality of your relationship? Does it take longer than it should to get a task accomplished because the people you are working with don’t trust your intentions? Do you long to experience intimacy and connection in your current relationships? Practicing courageous conversations can address all these relationship problems allowing you to create the intimacy, trust, and cooperation necessary for quality relationships.
Relationships are an important determinate of the quality of our lives. The quality of our relationships predicts our health and mortality. The quality of our relationships with our co-workers determines our productivity and effectiveness. Thus, if we want to improve our health, career, and quality of life, we can begin by improving our relationships.
I’d like to share with you a secret to immediately improving all relationships in your life. You can use this technique to improve any relationship that is important to you. Your relationship with your children. Your romantic partner. Colleagues and business associates. Family and friends. Better yet, you can start this today and it’s totally free. Ready?
The best way to improve your relationship is to improve the quality of your conversations.
The quality of your conversations determine the quality of your relationship. Superficial and conflict-laden relationships are filled with small talk and one-sided conversations. There is little revealing and sharing of the true self because the person does not feel it is safe to do so. Cooperative relationships are built on trust and need openness and a willingness to truly see the other person. Emotional intelligence, vulnerability, and courage are necessary for effective communication. This is what I call a “courageous conversation”.
Courageous conversations build trust, cooperation, and intimacy within our relationships. Most people in our culture do not practice courageous conversations. But, this communication style is seen among great leaders and people who have high quality relationships. I’ve listed below the structure of a courageous conversation to help you practice this skill in your relationships.
Courageous conversations consist of five distinct parts. 4/5 of a courageous conversation involves listening to yourself and the other person. Only 1/5 of the conversation is actually about speaking. Too often we get this ratio backwards and focus more on speaking than listening. To have a conversation that really builds trust, intimacy, and cooperation, the primary focus needs to be listening.
A courageous conversation first begins with listening to yourself. What are the stories you believe about yourself, the other person, and the situation? Stories are our unique way of understanding the world around us and they included our assumptions, attitudes, biases, and beliefs. The stories we already believe about ourselves and the situation limit the possible outcomes. For example, believing that the other person is unreasonable and irrational, leads us to be defensive. That defensive posture closes off any possibility of cooperation and mutual benefit.
Recognizing the stories that we already hold allows us to shape them to our benefit. We can challenge the stories that are not serving us. We can also develop better stories that will create the opportunities for trust and connection that we seek.
Our emotions are a direct result of our thoughts. Thus, as we reshape our stories to be more in line with our relationship goals, our emotions will follow. But, it takes time to fully internalize our new stories. Meanwhile, our emotions can quickly become activated within the conversation.
Focus on becoming aware of your emotional state. Making sure that negative emotions do not hijack your goals for courageous conversations. Take responsibility for your feelings. Connect with your highest intention. Practice courage.
Recognize that you alone are responsible for your feelings. You choose how to respond to those feelings. The other person does not “make” you angry or happy. That is your choice.
Connecting with your highest intention focuses you on your goal of building trust. It prevents you from falling into a tit for tat banter. This is particularly important when you are feeling hurt, angry, and frustrated. At these times, ask yourself “What is the highest intention I have for this conversation, this relationship, this person?” Let that highest intention guide your behavior and not your temporary emotions.
Finally, managing your emotions requires practicing courage. We often avoid challenging conversations out of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of losing the person, fear that they will no longer think highly of us. You can not let fear determine your conversations, your relationships, or your life. Courage is action in the presence of your fear. You must speak up and engage in the conversation, even when you’re afraid to do so.
Listening is a powerful form of communication . As you listen, practice listening for the other person’s stories. What are their beliefs, assumptions, attitudes? Listening for the other person’s stories helps you better understand their feelings. It will also help you better predict how they might respond to your thoughts or requests.
Listening well also helps the other person to feel better. We all want to be heard and having someone truly listen to us is a great affirmation of our dignity and value.
You must become aware of your own emotions and learn how to manage them before you can effectively deal with the emotions of others. Managing your emotions and deep listening, equips you to effectively respond to the other person’s emotions. Remember to always be respectful, trustworthy, and curious in your response.
By being respectful, you affirm and protect the dignity of the other person. There is nothing that begins or hardens a conflict more than being disrespected.
Allow the person to share opinions that you don’t agree with or like. This demonstrates trustworthiness and openness. This communicates that you value the other person, their ideas and perspective.
Finally, responding to the other person’s emotions requires that you get curious. If someone is furious, get curious. What’s triggered their pain? What value was violated? Anger is a powerful signal of pain resulting from a violation of personal values. We are often so fixated on the anger that we forget to get curious about what’s generating the response.
The meaning of communication is not defined by what you are saying, but rather by what is being heard. Insights about that person’s stories help you to organize your communication. You can now frame your thoughts, questions, and request in a way that can be heard by that person.
In reflecting on how the person will listen, consider their stories and values. How can you connect your comments to their beliefs and values?
Also reflect on your responsibility in creating the current situation. You are not a helpless victim. Taking responsibility for your role creates new possibilities for the future. It also helps you to resist your ego’s desire to prove your righteousness or their wrongness.
Finally, reflect on your highest intention for that person, your relationship, and this conversation. Let that intention guide your thoughts, words, and responses. It may be helpful to write down key points in advance or practice the conversation.
Identify a specific person with whom you’d like to have a courageous conversation. Identify the goal of this conversation. This goal becomes your intention. Continually return to your intention throughout the conversation.
In the beginning, focus your intentions on understanding the other person. Don’t start with a goal of trying to tell them something or get them to do something for you. This will help to distinguish this conversation from the many others before. Previous conversations, when your focus has been on getting your point across, have alienated the other person. This is what has created the conflict and lack of trust you are experiencing now. Setting your intention to understand, lays the groundwork for a different relationship dynamic.
Consider the best time and place to have your courageous conversation. Do not start these conversations when you or the other person is feeling tired, hungry, or pressed for time. If possible, invite the other person for a walk.
Walking will help lower any tension associated with the conversation. It will also give you two a common visual perspective. Many times women assume that the best way to have a conversation is staring into each other’s eyes. But, an unbroken gaze is quite anxiety producing and intimidating. Consider how primates stare down each other to determine who is the alpha male. Walking provides a shared perspective. Each party has the freedom to start and stop eye contact as needed. You become a team rather than opponents.
Before you begin the courageous conversation, take time to reflect on your stories. Consider your stories about communication in general and about this person in particular. What are your assumptions, attitudes, and potential biases? Challenge the validity of your stories. Reflect on whether they are serving you. If needed, create new stories that are more helpful in promoting courageous conversations.
Consider what emotions may emerge for you in this courageous conversation. Identify the emotions and whether it will serve your intention. Consider ways to manage emotions that are inconsistent with your intention. How can you mitigate these negative emotions? How can you prevent them from subverting your intention in this conversation.
Now you have your strategy for implementing your courageous conversation. You have a plan for managing your emotions. You are ready to begin your courageous conversation. Remember to focus on your intention above all else.
Imagining yourself as a writer may help you in seeking to understand the other person’s story. Imagine you want to be able to represent this person accurately in a biography. What is his/her motivations? Points of pain or struggle? What is his/her desire in this current moment? Remember that the most important answers are rarely spoken so pay attention to body language and what is not said.
Equipped with this knowledge, you are now able to speak to their listening. You can communicate to them that you understand and support them and their goal. This is the most important point for you to communicate. If you are not in support of their most immediate goal, try to find a deeper goal that you can support.
If you can not support your teenager’s desire to spend all day playing video games, support the function that those games serve for the teen. Say something like,
“Friends are an important part of our lives. I understand that these people you meet online are valuable friends to you. I support your motivation to get and maintain quality friendships.”
This allows you to negotiate the strategy of developing friendships. You can now have that conversation without the conflict of your teen feeling misunderstood. Keep your intentions at the forefront of your consciousness.
When you take the time to practice having courageous conversations, great things happen. Remember, the quality of the conversations determine the quality of your relationships. Upgrade your conversations and your relationships today!
Let me know how practicing courageous conversations improves your relationships. If you need more support strengthening your relationships, sign up for my newsletter. It is filled with practical tips to help you improve your relationships and improve your life.
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