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!
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.
We often look for ways to improve their immune systems; protecting ourselves from being bed-ridden during flu season or or catching every bug that travels through our workplace.. Health food stores sell millions of dollars’ worth of supplements of Vitamin C and other vitamins known to improve your immune functioning. Yet, there’s an overlooked way to strengthen your immune system that is research proven to be effective and it’s FREE.
Emotions play a critical role in the functioning of our immune system in both positive and negative ways. Emotions has a significant impact on both our production of antibodies and our natural killer blood cells (NK cells) that serve as our first line of immune strength. Antibodies help to identify and attack foreign germs in our bodies. NK cells work to destroy tumor cells, disease tissue, bacteria as well as to help antibodies fight against infections in their early stages. In this article, I identify emotions that are known to impact our body’s production and operation of antibodies and/or NK cells. We can clearly see the dangerous emotions that weaken the immune system as well as 3 emotions we can practice as a daily boost to our immune system, naturally.
Anger raises our blood pressure, increases our heart beat, gives us headaches and compromises our cognitive function. But did you know that anger can also make it easier for you to get the flu? In a study published by the Journal of Advancement in Medicine, researchers asked people to recall either an angry situation or a loving situation. The participants who recalled an angry situation experienced significantly lower immune antibodies. Moreover, the decrease in antibodies cause by anger lasted for six hours. Anger suppresses the immune functioning long beyond the situation that made us angry has passed.
Social isolation and the feelings of loneliness that it produces also works to weaken the functioning of our immune systems. A research study found that infant monkeys caged alone and separate from their mothers generate fewer antibodies in response to viruses. The act of physical and social separate suppresses the power of the immune system, making us vulnerable to a host of minor and major diseases.
Anxiety also known as stress is a primary driver of many health problems, often operating by weakening the immune system. While a short dose of fear can produce a healthy, enhanced physical performance, sustained states of fear for one’s safety a security dramatically reduce the health of the immune system. In fact, the negative impact of social fear is even greater than the impact of physical deprivation on our immune system.
In a study reviewed by the Harvard School of Medicine, mice were put into a cage with a highly aggressive mouse two hours a day for six days and repeatedly threatened (but not injured) were twice as likely to die as other mice that were kept in tiny cages without food and water for long periods. The social stressor of fear is a even more powerful impact on immune functioning that the stressor of physical deprivation.
Emotions are produced by thoughts, but they are not isolated in your mind. Your emotional state triggers a cascade of physical reactions in your body. Every time you operate from feelings of anger, loneliness, and fear you are pouring waves of toxicity through your body, damaging your immune system and compromising your overall health. The good news is that the impact of our emotional state on the functioning of body goes in both the positive and negative direction.
We have the power to choose our emotional state. Much of our emotional state is a product not of what happens to us, but rather how we think about what happens to us. In a previous article, I review how we can replace the negative thinking that produces unhealthy responses with more positive thoughts that promote our physical and psychological well-being. As we practice creating positive, healthy emotional states for ourselves, we remove and repair the damage created by anxiety, loneliness, and fear. We can literally make ourselves healthier by intentionally cultivating the following emotional states in our daily lives. Click & Tweet!
Humor can be a great way to combat the damage created by created by anger and other negative emotions. Humor dramatically improves not only our psychological sense of well-being but our immune system as well. Humor curbs stress hormones and boost our NK cell production.
Injecting humor into our lives significantly improves the functioning of our immune system hours after the humorous event and days leading up to a humorous event. In a research study where men were told three days in advance that they were going to watch a funny video, they experienced a significantly lower drop in stress hormones (as compared to those men who were not anticipating the funny video). Moreover, 12 hours after watching a funny video, the research participants still had higher biological indicators of immunity than those who did not watch the video. Laughter is truly (long-acting) medicine.
You can significantly improve your immune system functioning and your overall physical health by injecting more humor into your day. Allow yourself “indulgences” of humor, like a funny 5min youtube clip or a funny movie. Too often when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, we remove these activities out of our lives because we “don’t have time” for such frivolous play. But there is nothing frivolous about humor. It is an essential part of a healthy life and will provide you with immediate and long-term benefits to your productivity and physical health. So go ahead and tell a funny joke. Improve your and someone else’s immune system today.
Humans are social creatures and have an inherent need for connection to maintain health and overall well-being. This positive impact of connection includes three dimensions: connection to self, connection to others, and connection to nature. While these three dimensions of connection are distinctive they are interrelated and connection in one area enhances and expands the capacity for connection in the others. Promoting our connectedness strengthens the functioning of our immune system. Click & Tweet!
Research shows a positive correlation between social connectedness and immune functioning. Individuals who have a network of social support produce more disease fighting NK cells than those who don’t. Scholars conclude that increasing social support might provide a “high natural immunity” to disease and infection. So take the time to connect with your family and friends and visit loved ones who are sick. These emotional bonds strengthen both your and their immune systems.
A number of other research studies have shown connecting with nature also enhances your immune functioning. A study that compared men taking 2 hour walks in parks or forest to men walking for the same amount of time in the city found that that visiting parks and forests raised the production of NK cells by 50%. Another study focused on women found the same effect and noted that the increase in NK cells lasted a week for those women who walked in nature. Practicing sensory walks in nature is a great way to boost our immune system and become more aware of our connections to the larger world.
Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and a member of the UCLA Cousins Center, and his colleagues have spent years studying the impact of happiness and other emotions on gene expression and physical health. They distinguish 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 antiviral and antibody genes. Happiness focused only on self-gratification had the opposite effect, suppressing the health of the immune system.
Happy people are healthier and live longer. Click & Tweet! Yet this relationship between happiness and positive health only exists for those individuals who cultivate happiness from a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life. These are people who are clear on their unique contribution to this world and have developed a life that reflects their personal truth.
Thankfully, we all can cultivate this kind of happiness. I’ve provided some free resources on my website (www.yourlifeinfocuscoach.com) to help you in cultivating a life of happiness that reflects and affirms your core values and life purpose. If you’d like more clarity on discovering your life purpose, sign up to receive my free Life Goals Planning Toolkit.
Wishing you a life filled with joy, connection, purpose, and health!
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Christie W. & C. Moore. 2005. “The impact of humor on patients with cancer.” Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing 9:211.
LiQ MK, Kobayashi M., Inagaki H., Katsumata M., Hirata Y., Shimizu T., Li YJ, Wakayama Y., Kawada T., Ohira T., Takayama N., Kagawa T., Mijazaki Y. 2008. “A forest bathing trip increase human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins in female subjects.” Journal of Biological Regulation Homeost Agents 22(1):44-55.
LiQ MK, Nakadai A., Inagaki H., Katsumata M., Shimiza T., Hirata Y., Hirata K., Miyazaki Y., Kagawa T., Koyama Y., Ohira T., Takayama N., Krensky AM, Kawada T. 2007. “Forest bathing enhances natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins.” International Journal of Pharmacology. 20(2):3-8.
Miyazaki T., Ishikawa T, Hirofumi I, Miki A, Wenner M, Fukunishi I, Kawamura N. 2003. “Relationship between perceived social support and immune function.” Stress and Health. 19(1):3-7.
Rein G., Atkinson M, and McCraty R. 1995. “The physiological effects of compassion and anger” Journal of Advancement in Medicine. 8(2).
So that’s my top ten list of inspirational quotes from Maya Angelou. I’d love to hear which quote inspires you the most or which one you’d like to add to this list.