Sometimes we find ourselves in a rut, feeling sluggish, bored and with too much time on our hands. Sometimes the opposite occurs and we feel like things are too busy, too rushed and too out of control. Yet what both these situations have in common is that change is needed. Even if we understand this intellectually, change can feel scary and intimidating. So how can we make change feel more comfortable and even fun? By starting small!
Here are a few simple ideas to get you going – the point is to step outside your usual patterns:
Spend a few minutes outside, even if the weather isn’t perfect, to refresh yourself and stimulate new thinking
If you always do the cooking, let a family member or a restaurant take over this duty; if you never cook, give it a try
Test out a new style that appeals to you but might be described as “too much” – too dressy, too attention-getting, too colorful, too young, etc. – release the judgment temporarily and give some aspect of it a try
Don’t say “yes” just because this is what you always do; say “no” when you can and want to say “no”
If you typically order a particular coffee, sandwich or entree, when you go out, pick something a little different
Give yourself permission to temporarily “unplug” as the messages will be there when you return
When you hear something that irritates you, remain quiet or change the subject instead of arguing; or, if you usually avoid sensitive topics, calmly share your point of view without, of course, expecting instant understanding or agreement
Ask a friend to think of something simple that she/he has always thought you should you try – a new walking trail, book, cuisine, etc. – and then help you get what you need to experience it
If you never listen to music, put the radio on, if you love TV, try a magazine, if you typically surround yourself with noise, try a little silence
Wear your hair differently; if it’s short, change where you part it, if it’s long, put it up or wear it down; see how it feels to do the opposite of what you typically do
Make someone’s day, pay a stranger a compliment instead of keeping your admiring thoughts to yourself
Request an opinion from someone who seems very different from you and see if you learn something unexpected
Take a break from needing to make your own or others’ actions “good” or “bad,” instead try to experience events without labeling them
Ask “why not?” instead of “why?”
Self-Discovery Tool Number 60
We tend to think that we need to do big things to bring about growth and yet growth comes from small steps as well as large ones. Get into the habit of making small changes, they are the foundation upon which big, long-lasting shifts can be built – give it a “small” try today!
When someone says, “I feel vulnerable” we typically assume that this is a negative state. We tend to associate vulnerability with weakness. A vulnerable person may come under attack – physically, emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually.
The paradox of vulnerability, though, is that unless we truly open ourselves to things that evoke fear – acknowledging areas of difficulty or ignorance – we may never be able to embrace fully our areas of strength and expertise. Power comes not from just seeing where we are gifted, but from also recognizing where we need to seek partnership, help, or advice from others. True authority comes from accepting ourselves as “learners” rather than trying to be all knowing or perfect.
When we can accept ourselves as vulnerable this can foster inner peace and greater self-confidence. We see that we don’t need to do it all on our own or have all the answers. Once we are freed from the shackles of perfectionism, we can focus our efforts on those areas where we can really make a difference. This is great for us, and the world, because we have more energy to invest in those areas where we can truly shine and develop. And perhaps just as critical, we feel empowered to take risks and build new talents because we are no longer burdened by the false belief that we have to do it “right” or not at all.
Here are a few thoughts on how you might begin to explore your vulnerability.
Take a class in something that takes you just a bit out of your comfort zone: square dancing, archery, foreign language, poetry, etc.
Volunteer for a group that will take you to a new neighborhood, environment or landscape
Ask someone with whom you share a significant age gap (older or younger) for their philosophy on trying new things
Share a problem with a friend who usually comes to you for advice
Answer the question “How are you?” with something more accurate and genuine than “Fine”
Self-Discovery Tool Number 59
How can we make a regular practice of exploring our vulnerability? How can having a deeper awareness of what we lack help us to take greater pride in our gifts and perhaps use them more wisely? Fear and vulnerability won’t go away, but seeing them as pathways to growth can help turn them from foes to friends!
It’s February again and with that comes Valentine’s Day and thoughts of finding that “special someone.” All of us want love, affection, and companionship and many of us hope that this will be the time when we find someone who can be “The One” for us. While this romantic notion is reinforced by our culture, it asks us to search outside ourselves for happiness. It limits our focus to an idealized future. We become preoccupied with how things could be when “Mr. or Ms. Right” arrives. We miss the potential for a variety of happy experiences in the present moment because we are too busy waiting for a specific sort of “romantic happiness” later.
How can you bring your awareness back to where you are today and therefore increase your opportunities for love and joy right now? As Deepak Chopra said to a woman who asked him how she could find her special someone, “Stop looking for the right one. Be the right one.”†
Here are some simple suggestions on how you might do just that:
Instead of searching for someone attractive, be attractive. Eat healthy food, exercise, get your hair cut or styled, try some new clothes, make your living and working spaces inviting, notice and appreciate the attractiveness of others.
Instead of searching for someone caring, be caring. Make the effort to reach out to people who might be lonely or are going through tough times, ask others how they are and then listen sincerely, do something simple that makes another person feel special.
Instead of searching for someone exciting, be exciting. Learn something new, try a new sport or activity, go somewhere you have never gone before, do something just for fun, question your patterned responses, challenge yourself to keep an open mind when experiencing unfamiliar ideas or people.
Instead of searching for someone successful, be successful. Do your job to the best of your ability, see your efforts as important regardless of whether your work is seen as glamorous, look for a new career if your job feels unfulfilling, don’t ever let your paycheck define your worth.
Bring power back to your present moment. Enjoy your life now. Be the attractive, caring, exciting, successful person you seek. Doing so will not only help you develop yourself, but it will also help you attract people with these same qualities.
Self-Discovery Tool Number 58
Stretch your concept of finding love. See that sincerely loving and enjoying yourself is the best way to find love with another. If you are looking for someone special, start by being that someone yourself!
†p. 69, The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Power of Your True Self, by D. Chopra, D. Ford, and M. Williamson (HarperCollins, 2010). www.theshadoweffect.com
We all have superstitious beliefs and one that is quite common is avoiding things that are associated with the number 13 (e.g., some buildings skip the 13th floor, some people stay at home on Friday the 13th). As we go into a whole year with the label 13, how about we make the most of it and work on changing our mindset from one of hoping for luck to one of having faith in ourselves? Let’s examine what this might look like.
Avoiding things means shrinking your world
Think about the energy it takes to avoid or ignore something. It’s pretty difficult, isn’t it? In addition, it tends to mean missing out on things as well as living in a state of anxiety. To expand your world, you need to consider how you choose your activities: are your choices based on fear or enthusiasm? Having faith in yourself can be as simple as channeling the energy you would have used in worrying over or avoiding something into actively seeking out a happier alternative.
Uncover the message behind your reluctance
We may be avoiding something for a valid reason, however there are times when our avoidance is simply a habit. To open yourself to experiencing more of life, you need to discover what lies behind your apprehension and how facing its cause could enhance your life. Beginning to notice where and when you tend to limit yourself can offer important insights. A first step in reversing those patterns can be as straightforward as asking yourself “why?” when you find yourself doing so.
Luck is what you make it
What some people call luck, others call being prepared to seize opportunities as they arise. To make your own luck, it helps to be open, flexible, and willing to examine your attitude toward the unexpected. Feeling lucky can be as simple as reframing the hurdles in life as interesting surprises, challenges to be explored, or chances to grow in maturity and wisdom.
Self-Discovery Tool 57
In 2013 how can we learn to recognize our capacity for courage and start to see the events that come our way – good or bad – as ultimately lucky? How can self-discovery help us get to the root of our superstitions and fears and start to let them go? Let’s reclaim 13 as fortunate, knowing that no matter the number on the calendar or the circumstance facing us, we can choose to make our own luck!
The holidays are here again and with them there often comes a sense of mixed blessings. We are happy to see loved ones and celebrate the season together by sharing special foods and gifts. At the same time, relationships are often complicated. Indeed, they can become even more stressful when time and logistics make it difficult to see every one of our loved ones, when financial constraints make gift-giving challenging, or when we struggle to put together the perfect holiday meal or find the perfect gift for someone whom we feel ill-equipped to impress.
Why do we get so crazy during the holidays? Why do we put such pressure on ourselves? Why do we succumb to pressure from others? In order to gain a different and more positive perspective, let’s reframe what’s less than ideal as an opportunity to grow and learn. Here are some simple examples of ways to do this:
Stressor: “Dad is criticizing me again, I’ll never measure up.”
Reframe: “It’s time for me to validate myself and not base my happiness on approval from others, even if they are family members.”
Stressor: “I can’t afford to buy my child the new gadget that everyone is talking about.”
Reframe: “I don’t need to accept everything advertisers are telling me. I am a better parent if I do not buy what I cannot afford.”
Stressor: “If I don’t have a date for the holiday party, I look pathetic compared to all my friends who are paired up.”
Reframe: “Going to the party unattached gives me a chance to talk to whomever I please and stay as little or as long as I like. Being single is not bad and I refuse to buy into that outdated myth.”
Stressor: “My neighbors’ homes are fancier and more decorated than mine, I should have done more to be festive.”
Reframe: “I decide what’s important and I don’t need to have the same priorities as others to be worthy.”
Stressor: “I can’t believe Aunt Betty gave me another ugly sweater when I always buy her something special.”
Reframe: “My appreciation of others is not dependent on the type of gifts I receive from them and I won’t give gifts if I cannot do so without undue expectations about how others will reciprocate.”
Self-Discovery Tool Number 56
Explore the gifts of mixed blessings. See the holidays as an opportunity to stretch, develop, and challenge yourself. Approach difficulties with a more constructive mindset and make the season – and your self-discovery – brighter!
The Self-Discovery Digest is four years old this month! We’d like to recognize this anniversary by inviting you, as we did in our first post, to examine how you describe who you are. In that first post, we encouraged you to craft a self-definition that went deeper than what might appear on your resumé or Facebook profile. To help you get to this richer sense of who you are, we proposed that you complete the statement “It is important to me that I am…”
Many of our personal characteristics such as those suggested in our first post – generous, playful, and forthright or responsible, kind, and efficient – might not change a much over time. However, life’s ups and downs typically cause us re-examine our self-concept to better capture and integrate who we are historically with who we are currently. Indeed, when we don’t make self-discovery an ongoing process, we can risk our lives being out of balance and find that we are not living in accord with the wisdom we’ve gained from experience. Moreover, updating our self-description to include the behaviors and attitudes we are working towards can help us grow into the person we aspire to be.
So, consider your self-definition with fresh eyes. Use the following questions to help you craft a response to the prompt “It is important to me that I am…” If you like, look back to who you were in 2008 (or some other meaningful date for you) and contrast it with who you have come to be since then. Think about how your life has evolved.
- What key relationships have shifted?
- What new goals do you have? Which existing goals are no longer a good fit?
- What key changes have occurred in your life: personal or professional?
- How have your priorities altered, where are you placing more (or less) emphasis?
- How can a redefinition of who you are encourage you to move from being defined by standards imposed by others to standards of your own design?
- What developmental accomplishments can be celebrated and where are your growing edges?
Self-Discovery Tool Number 55
Create a list of self-descriptors that say something important about who you are. Compare them to how you saw yourself in the past. What has changed, what has remained, and where do you seem to be going? Conduct a regular check-in of your self-definition to help promote and celebrate your growth. Recognize yourself beyond simple labels and re-commit to a more authentic and satisfying life!
*In case the link above doesn’t work, here is the URL
We tend to see the past as fixed. It’s over, it’s done, and there is nothing we can do about it. While this might be true in a material sense, by employing our imaginations, we can change our past to make it more uplifting and hopeful. In other words, we can “create backwards” and re-write history so that it is better, happier, and more in line with the wiser people we are today. In doing so, we can ease the pain of past missteps and disappointments and live a freer and more satisfying present. In addition, some scientific research indicates that the same parts of the brain involved in direct experience can also be activated when we imagine an experience. This has been interpreted to mean that to our minds there is no real difference between doing and imagining.* Further coaches of athletes, actors, and public speakers have long employed this technique to help their clients be more successful, so why not try it ourselves? We can craft a “new” foundation for our lives, making our roots healthier and therefore making our current lives more vibrant.
Here are some strategies to re-make your history:
1. Invent a happier childhood
If you did not have an idyllic childhood, or have had something that happened when you were young that still affects you now, paint a new picture for yourself. Mentally create a loving family or a different and much happier event to take the place of the painful one. See yourself enjoying the more caring people and more favorable circumstances; imagine yourself now as actually having grown up this way. Feel the strength that comes from this new past.
2. Re-do a conversation
If there is something you wish you’d said but didn’t or wish you hadn’t said but did, re-do that conversation in your mind. Hear yourself telling that person what he or she needed to know and revel in expressing what was left unspoken. Or, imagine exchanging the words too hastily spoken with kind ones, feeling relief that you chose to be gentle rather than rough. Whether the person with whom you imagine re-doing the conversation is living or dead, you can feel liberated by speaking this new authentic truth.
3. Make your choice the correct choice
Think about a choice you made that you feel was a mistake. Now imagine it was the only choice you could have made and therefore completely correct. How do you feel knowing there was nothing else you could have done? Adopting this point of view can make you feel more at ease, whereas agonizing over the past only keeps you miserable and stuck. Relish the energy you gain by letting go of your regrets.
4. Find the gift hiding in the sorrow
Think of a painful time in your life that still feels tender. What have you or could you learn from this experience? Perhaps you are wiser, more thoughtful or compassionate because of this experience. Perhaps you can now spot danger more readily and avoid it more effectively in the future. Perhaps you are less judgmental. The point is that most challenges offer opportunities for growth and self-discovery. See the good in the difficulty.
Self-Discovery Tool Number 54
Many of us could benefit from a rosier set of memories. Given that our minds may treat our imagined actions and our actual ones in the same way, why not free ourselves from needless suffering and re-envision our past? Just as we use our imaginations to work toward a brighter future, let’s use our imaginations to secure a personal history that better supports us today!
* Watch this TED talk to learn more about the idea that our imaginations and our actions activate similar brain areas: http://www.ted.com/talks/vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization.html
Once a habit is formed, it can run as if by magic whenever you encounter the cue that triggers it. Yet while we all bemoan our bad habits, we can fail to realize we also have good ones. Most of us don’t spend time exploring just what allows us to maintain those good habits successfully. Spend some time thinking about your good habits, how they fit into your life, and the ways in which they can be expressions of your best self.
1. Get clear on the rewards
Think about the habits that make you feel good. For example, if you regularly exercise, is it because you love the runner’s high, appreciate being able to carry groceries without straining, or enjoy the social time a Zumba® class provides? Knowing what makes you stick with an activity can offer insights into what might help you to craft a new habit or revive a flagging one.
2. Reinforce environmental cues
Discover which cues prompt these good habits. To return to the exercise example, is it seeing your packed bag of gear ready to go by the door or hearing the reminder sound on your smartphone that inspires you to get going? Knowing what prompts you to take part in healthy, constructive habits can help you structure your environment to make those cues more salient and powerful.
3. Build a support network
Use the valuable “human resources” available to you. Who encourages you to live positively and do things that are best for you? Identify those people that energize and motivate your best tendencies and commit to spending more time with them –when you need support but also when things are going well as preventative medicine.
4. Remove roadblocks
Finally, consider the habits themselves. If you have an exercise routine, what might stop you from following through: bad weather, family commitments, work stress? Knowing what can disrupt even your well-established habits can help you anticipate these derailers and uncover ways to keep them from interfering with your routines.
Self-Discovery Tool Number 53
Examine the workings of your good habits instead of just focusing on correcting the bad ones. Foster piece of mind and improve self-confidence by celebrating what’s good about your life and your routines. Develop a self-discovery habit. Get in touch with who you are and what engages you – delight in what you are already doing right!
What do bungee jumping, traveling to a foreign land, and asking for a date have in common? Depending on who you are, these particular examples may be too extreme, too mundane, or not directly relevant, but they all point to the potential for learning that comes with taking a risk. Whether or not you get the results you were seeking when you take a chance and step out of your ordinary routine, your perspective will have been expanded by the attempt.
So, how can we do a better job of viewing risk-taking as positive and energizing instead of scary or intimidating? And how do we shift our focus away from the outcome we expect or think we need and instead focus on and value the risk-taking journey for its own sake? Is there an attitude that we can adopt in order to appreciate more deeply the inherent gifts of embracing the unknown?
Here are some strategies to get you started:
- Practice saying, “I don’t know” when you aren’t versed in something rather than forcing yourself to come up with a response. See what insights emerge when you let go of needing to have all the answers.
- Adopt a growth mindset. See mistakes as opportunities for learning and development. Recognize how many times you have been able to learn in the last month and congratulate yourself on your progress.
- Ask “what if….” If you usually do things a certain way or in a specific order, purposely mix up your routine. See how diverging from the tried and true for an hour or a day can reinvigorate your life.
- Plunge in with childlike enthusiasm. If you think something might bring you joy, give yourself permission to do it just “because.” See how it feels to get started with only minimal expectations, preparation, or goals.
- Decide to keep an open mind. Allow yourself to change your mind, be wrong or simply pursue of a new point of view. Commit to acknowledging the uncertainty and ambiguity of life and discover what gifts this mental fluidity affords.
- Find humor in surprises. View the twists and turns of life as opportunities to take life – and yourself – less seriously. Look for the comedy in the unexpected and consider what about your challenges might also be funny.
As humans we prefer things to be all figured out and neatly ordered into instantly recognizable categories. This is a natural tendency. Yet when we limit ourselves to what we know and makes us feel comfortable, we can miss out on exciting and interesting opportunities that would allow us to expand our thinking and increase our wisdom.
Self-Discovery Tool 52
Embrace the unknown, look at things differently, and try something new. Refresh yourself through experimentation and ease up on the drive to be perfect. Be open. Be curious. See what amazing things life has in store when you take a risk. Although missteps are possible and successes are a terrific bonus, the true value of any risk is in the experience: life’s greatest teacher!
The Artist was jut released on DVD here in the US. It is an unusual film for the present day because for nearly its entire length you hear only the musical score – it is a silent film. This got us thinking about how we often make talking and doing a priority over silence and reflection.
Part of self-discovery is exploration. If we experiment with silence, we may be able to make space to notice the ways in which we are reacting out of patterned behavior. Often we are too attached to taking some immediate action or voicing a hastily conceived opinion. A moment of silence, for instance counting to ten when we are angry, can give us time to reflect on our reactions – not necessarily to make them wrong – but to give us a chance to examine them and then express those that are truly important to us in a way that is respectful to ourselves as well as the to the situation and the others involved.
Self-discovery is also about getting to the heart of things and identifying our core principles. Being silent can help here, too, because a quiet environment can encourage us to focus. If we turn off all of our devices, seek a spot without manmade background noises and soak in the stillness, we may be better able to get in touch with our values. Doing so can create an inner calm to match the outer one we’ve engineered.
Finally, part of self-discovery is accomplished in connecting with others. Communicating with others helps many of us get clarity on what we think through the sharing process. What can get lost, without some periods of quiet, is the chance to hear our inner voice. Indeed we may keep on talking in an effort to mute this voice and avoid the material it is urging us to recognize. Time spent in reflection can help us open up to these voices and to their input. When we don’t speak, we can listen.
Not acting immediately and instead allowing silence can give us space to test our assumptions about what is really happening within and without. This in turn helps us to uncover more of who we are and what we want. Then, when we do take action, the outcomes are more pleasurable and satisfying because they are in line with our true nature and what we hope to achieve.
Self-Discovery Tool 51
Wait a minute, take a breath, and then observe your internal and external environment. More often than not, what is happening does not require an instantaneous response and pausing will most likely strengthen and improve whatever action is taken. Enjoy the tranquility and potential benefits that a little time honoring silence provides!