Blog Archives

Reclaiming “Unlucky” Thirteen by Recognizing the Strength in Ourselves

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.

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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!

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Self-Discovery is Habit Forming

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.

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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!

Wait a minute…consider the power of silence

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.

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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!


Are the Costumes or Roles We Wear Wearing Us?

Pirates, black cats, princesses, and vampires to name just a few of the costumes you may have seen on “trick-or-treaters” at your door last week. On Halloween you probably saw costumes that were homemade, some that were handed down, and some that were newly purchased. These costumes may have been very special and gratified a child’s fondest wish, or been thrown together in haste. All of them came with the basic premise that they were to be worn just for a night. If they didn’t fit right, made moving around a challenge, or failed to elicit the expected response, it was a disappointment, but not a big deal. After all they could be rectified with a promise of something better for next year.

Not so for many of us and the roles we have taken to “wearing.” How many of us explore with any regularity the idea that these might not be an ideal fit? How often do we question the continuing appropriateness of roles that were handed down or taken on to make others’ lives easier?

Take a moment to examine one or two of the key roles in your life using the dress-up metaphor.  Perhaps there is a way to better tailor existing ones or choose something new in the hope that you might find something with a better fit.

  • At the beginning of a challenging day, does donning the “costume” of this role give you strength and confidence? Does it offer features that make you feel at ease and ready for action or does living this role make you feel you uncomfortable and inept?
  • When you look in the mirror while dressed for this role, does the reflection show you at your best? Do you see the real you or does the role require you to hide your true self behind a mask?
  • If you were to ask others how it is to be around you when you are in this role would they report that the interaction was a treat? Does your presence energize them and help them fulfill their own roles or would they perceive you as just going through the motions without a sense of vitality or integrity?

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If you look at your roles do you see someone else’s expectations or dreams? Do you see something that once seemed great but now doesn’t match who you are? Or do you see a version of Frankenstein – something crudely assembled from whatever was available rather than consciously composed to suit who you are? Think about how you might set about reinventing (or moving beyond) the roles you play with a little time in spent self-discovery.  Show yourself you matter by seeking a custom fit!

Embracing Surprise, Welcoming Change

Do you feel as if your life is following a predictable pattern, that you are in a rut of your own design? Does it seem that you are living on autopilot, not really noticing what is happening around you or even that there is a world beyond your usual routine?  Sometimes we get so caught up in what we think we know to be true and what we assume is necessary or valuable that we become blind to unexpected gifts and opportunities.

We can end up feeling tired and disconnected, not realizing that we have the capacity to renew our connections to the greater world – the world outside of our habitual beliefs and responses – and embrace the mystery that surrounds us.

What can we do to begin reorient our senses to the myriad of possibilities available? Give these simple suggestions a try.

  • Talk to someone whom you’ve never taken the time to get to know, strike up a conversation with a stranger, or approach someone who seems different from you
  • Ask your loved ones for their opinions on topics you’ve never examined before together
  • Eat something, wear something, or do something that is out of character for you just to see how it feels
  • Let others decide on a plan: take a back seat for a change, go along for the ride, see what unfolds
  • Challenge yourself to reflect and consider how you might do things differently the next time you face a recurring situation or task
  • Make a conscious effort to pay attention to what is happening around you and within you – what do you see and how are you feeling about it?

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Cultivate the attitude of wonder – be ready to be surprised. Take notice of your environment, both internally and externally. See how it shifts and changes and be willing to act accordingly instead of relying on your usual assumptions about how things should go or should be. Be open to change – try something small to connect to the many possibilities that could exist if they were only allowed entrance into your life!

Moving Forward With You By Our Side

To our old friends, familiar with our blogging spot, we thank you for being there and here; to our new friends, read on, you’ll soon understand!

When things change it can be exciting, but it can also feel a little scary. What’s out there? What’s beyond this? We are never assured of an answer even if we are excited about our new path and have carefully planned our route. Maturity is realizing that this uncertainty is okay and just a natural part of life. Taking a new road requires hope, faith, and trust.

But before we takeoff in a new direction, we want to honor our birthplace. We’ve been fortunate to have a home at the University of Minnesota and our stay has been splendid. We’ve been able to examine many aspects of self-discovery. We’ve been able to pose questions and propose strategies for achieving a greater measure of peace and contentment. We have shared books and other materials that touched our lives. We have enjoyed the journey and have grown along the way. We hope that you have, too.

Now, we’re moving forward. Happily, we have a new home base and will be reaching out to you monthly via this brand new website! We thank you for traveling with us since 2008 and we look forward to continuing the conversation here at our new site www.selfdiscoverydigest.com.

We invite you to enjoy past Self-Discovery Digest posts on the LearningLife site as you will still be able to access them there: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/learning/selfdiscovery/

The following are some thoughts that have crystallized for us over the past three years of blogging:

  • Life is endlessly fascinating.
  • People are generally good and are trying their best.
  • Letting go can be liberating – some situations are beyond personal control.
  • Power and fulfillment come from aligning who you are at your core with how you are in the world.
  • Healing and progress are always possible.

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Change is inevitable. Transformation is wonderful and yet anxiety provoking at the same time. Join us as we embrace this new direction. Partner with us as we grow and evolve – we wouldn’t want to blaze a new trail without you!

Elizabeth & Katherine
info@hirshworks.com