January is the month of new beginnings, new decisions, new choices. For many, the month of January, looking from the distance of December, feels like it’s going to be a fresh start, a blank page that will be filled with great choices we missed to make in the previous year. This time is going to be different. Right? But, with the year 2020 unfolding, it’s not uncommon that people struggle to keep up with their New Year’s resolutions. Somewhere along the way, they realize that sticking to their decisions is too difficult, or that those goals are not that important, or that “they just don’t feel like it”. What happens?
That strong urge for change that pushed us to make New Year’s resolutions – called motivation – faded away. This is not surprising – keeping high levels of motivation, in the long run, is tricky. Knowing a little bit more about how motivation works might help you achieve and keep your resolutions.
A Closer Look Into the Nature of Motivation
There are different definitions of motivation out there, but the majority basically boils down to this:
Motivation is a desire to act in pursuit of your goals. It pushes you to act, to behave in a certain way to get what you want or need.
You certainly felt this drive before, this urge to move and take action. It felt awesome, it pushed you toward reaching your goals, you felt energized and willing to engage – yes, in short, you felt motivated. But motivation is not easy to maintain. That initial spark fades away after some time and is, typically, not enough. That’s because motivation consists of three components:
- Activation – the initial decision to make things happen
- Persistence – the continued effort toward a goal despite the obstacles
- Intensity – how hard you work for your goal
Further, there are basically two types of motivation:
Extrinsic motivation comes from an external source – to get a reward or to avoid punishment.
Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside, from within us – we do something because we enjoy it.
Both types of motivation are important. However, it turns out that intrinsic motivation is more powerful.
What does this mean for you? Only knowing that something is good for you is not enough to push you to make a change; a considerable reward has to be in play. This can be something external, like social recognition, money, or approval for example, or internal, like a sense of purpose or the feeling of deep fulfilment that comes from acting in accordance with your core values. Ideally, both should be present, but even one can be enough to push you forward through all three above mentioned components of motivation.
Staying Motivated Throughout the Year – Action Plan
In terms of New Year’s resolutions, if you want them to stick, the first crucial step is to turn them from a wish/decision to a goal. But it’s not just any goal; to keep you motivated, your goal needs to be a certain way to enhance the energy you need to get to the destination:
- Optimally challenging – meaning you need to put the effort in, but it’s realistic and not too hard,
- Specific – meaning your energy is directed toward a particular outcome,
- Congruent with self – meaning your goal is in line with your values.
Once you have that set, you’ve established a strong foundation for working up toward the goal. Even if you slip up, it will be easier to bounce back from there.
Additionally, here are 4 additional hacks that can help you get and stay motivated throughout the year:
1. Find your why
Nothing drives us like a strong feeling of purpose. The question WHY we do something is crucial, and if the answer is in line with our personal values, it is a huge push forward. To find out what your personal core values are requires tapping into your deepest self and asking: “What kind of life do I want to live?”. If you can connect your work and goals to your core values, it becomes a powerful source of motivation.
2. Focus on who you want to become
People interpret situations and difficulties in accordance with how they perceive themselves, and choose actions that feel congruent with their identity. For example, if someone believes that they’re a “loser”, sometimes they will choose actions that will reinforce this belief, and not choose actions that are incongruent with this picture of themselves because “it’s not for people like me”.
Thus, for increasing motivation, it can be more effective to focus on the identity – who you want to become – than on the ability – what you want to achieve. If you want to, for example, start going to the gym more often, the reason: “Because I’m (becoming) an athlete/healthy/good looking person” might be more motivating than: “Because I need to exercise more/have a healthier lifestyle”.
3. Set small milestones
Sometimes, setting a goal can feel intimidating because it looks too big to achieve. A crucial thing to not crush your motivation down is to divide large tasks into small, manageable parts, and do one at a time. Your brain will get a hit of dopamine every time you tick one small task off of a list, which will keep you motivated.
4. “CHOOSE” instead of “MUST”
A slight shift in the language can make big changes in the mindset. Sometimes the things we’re not motivated to do and see as a chore are, if we stop and think about it, the things that we are grateful for. “I have to go to work” and “I get to go to work” sound very different, don’t they?
And don’t forget – motivation is not a one-time thing. It has to be reinforced day after day. As Zig Ziglar wisely said: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
How do you keep yourself motivated? Share it with us in the comments. Additionally, if you like this post, please be free to share it with your friends and family.
Happy new beginnings!
Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2020). Armstrong’s handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page Publishers.
Hockenbury, D. H., & Hockenbury, S. E. (2010). Discovering psychology. Macmillan.
Do you feel like the same situations keep happening to you over and over again? Do you keep attracting partners that don’t fulfill your needs or you face the same problems in different relationships? Are you struggling with the same stresses and conflicts at work, or you keep losing your jobs? It’s like you’re a magnet for people who hurt you, or embarrassing situations, or bullies at work, etc.
I am sure that, at least once in your life, you have said or thought something like: “Why this keeps happening to me all the time?”. And really, why? Is it some kind of a mystic cosmic power that brings these experiences to your life? Fortunately, psychology has a more realistic explanation to why you keep entering the same unpleasant situations all over again. Let’s explore what actually happens.
Frameworks You Live By
From the moment you are born, you are in a survival mode. During your childhood, your little mind is programmed to absorb everything that is happening around you in order to learn and adapt to your environment. You pull in the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideals of those around you. By interacting with your parents or primary caregivers, you form certain beliefs about yourself, other people, and life in general. These beliefs are the product of the way you interpreted behaviours of your important adults and how they treated your needs, as well as things they were telling you about other people, rules, and life in general.
Of course, not all parents are the same. Thus, some will be convinced that life is a fight, you are not allowed to make mistakes and need to be perfect in order to succeed or be loved and appreciated. For others, life will be a scary and dangerous place full of people waiting to hurt you, so you need to be careful who you trust and never let your guard down. Some will, on the other hand, believe that life is easy and fun, that people usually have good intentions and that, whatever you do, everything will be okay in the end.
These belief systems become the frameworks we live by. They are like colored glasses that affect how we see everything unfolding in our lives. More importantly, these beliefs direct our decision making, condition our behaviour and, ultimately, affect how others react to our behaviours and how they treat us.
Now, imagine a situation that you’re going to a party where you don’t know almost anyone.
Version 1: You’re afraid nobody will talk to you because believe you’re boring or not good with new people. Consequentially, you will probably feel self-conscious and anxious, and enter the party acting awkward, standoffish and not so friendly. As a result, people will not be encouraged to come to you and start a conversation, which will only, in turn, reinforce beliefs you already had.
Version 2: You strongly believe that you’re an interesting person and others will be open to meet you. You think: “This party is going to be great”. People will probably be drawn by your openness and outgoing attitude and come talk to you, which also proves you were right in your beliefs in the first place.
This effect is called a self-fulfilling prophecy, a term coined by famous sociologist, Robert Merton.
Merton noticed that sometimes a belief brings about consequences that cause reality to match the belief. He defined self-fulfilling prophecy as “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true” (Merton, 1968).
In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief or expectation that we hold about a future event that manifests because we hold it. Our expectations and predictions of what will happen impact our behaviour, which shapes how others see us and how they act toward us. In turn, they provide feedback we set ourselves to get in the first place, which serves to reinforce the original belief. Generally, this process is unintentional – we are not aware that our beliefs cause the consequences we expect or fear. And that’s exactly why it’s so difficult to tackle them down and start changing them.
Breaking the Cycle Can Be Hard…
Breaking the cycle of entering the same situations over and over again can be tricky, in the first place because we don’t see our fundamental beliefs as beliefs but as actual facts about the world. Subconsciously, it’s important for us to prove that our beliefs about how life works are “right” because it gives us a sense of security. If we “know” the rules by which the world functions, we feel like we can prepare and know what to expect. That’s why we filter information so they can fit our belief system. We rate experiences that are in line with our beliefs as an important “proof” that our frameworks are actually true, while we label those opposite to our frameworks as unimportant coincidences that won’t impact the way we see the world.
Over time, these patterns of thought and behaviour become our automatic response, a sort of a habitual reaction to circumstances. Researchers believe we have neural pathways in our brains that are reinforced by habit. The more you repeat the behaviour, the stronger your neural pathway for that behaviour becomes, and the easier it triggers the next time.
It’s like a forest dirt road – the more you walk on it, the more well-established it becomes. You have an automatic impulse to walk down that well-worn path, rather than on the grassy part. However, this dirt road often leads to the same destination. To break the cycle, you need to consciously resist the urge to stay on the road you know and start walking on the grass to a different direction. Over time, as you repeat taking the same route on the grass, another path will form and it will be easier to walk on.
One thing you can do to make the first step toward exiting the circle of “attracting” the same problems is to, for starters, let go of certainty. It’s important to understand that much of what you think you know about yourself, other people, and life, is more probably a belief and less probably a fact. It is a product of your upbringing and your past experiences. But the good news is that we can choose our beliefs and, therefore, change them.
You can start off by choosing a pattern that you want to break out of. Then, write down the past five times when it happened. List all the details about those situations – how did it happened, what led to it, why you think it happened. Now, try to find commonalities across these situations. In the end, try to find what part you play in these situations? Are there any behaviours that might have led you to the common outcome?
Here is a list of questions that might be helpful in discovering a pattern and your part in it:
- What keeps happening over and over again?
- How does it start?
- What happens next?
- And then what happens?
- How does it end?
- How do you feel after it ends? (John James, 1973)
This process is crucial for changing your patterns. It gives the opportunity to tackle down the reason you might have taken up a particular role and contributed to the outcome that keeps happening. From there, you can set up a goal – what you want to change and what results to get – and then map out a different path from the one you’re taking now.
It’s absolutely okay if you’re not able to identify the reason behind the same situations repeating in your life by yourself. A good therapist can help you figure out where you’re standing and how to proceed.
Please share your thoughts and experiences on the topic down below in the comments, it’s always amazing to hear it! Also, don’t forget to share this post on your social media.
Are you very critical of yourself? Do you often tend to focus on your negatives rather than your accomplishments? Are you often comparing yourself with others? Do you engage in negative self-talk? If you said yes to one or more statements above, you may have a low self-esteem.
Self-esteem refers to thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we have about ourselves. However, it is not something we are born with, so it is amenable to change. When we think negatively about ourselves, it lowers our self-esteem. How we feel and think about ourselves extends to how we look and behave. Having high self-esteem helps us overcome difficulties and obstacles with ease while having low self-esteem makes us focus on our weaknesses and mistakes setting us up for failure. An example of improving self-esteem would be a climbing tower that aims to make people feel more confident and positive about themselves when they are faced with challenges.
There are a myriad number of causes of low self-esteem. It could be due to difficult experiences in childhood, negative life events, past relationships, stress, negative thinking patterns, discrimination, loneliness, trauma or abuse.
However, no matter what the cause, its impact is the same. Low self-esteem leads to negative thinking which might, over time, even lead to mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Low self-esteem limits your career and social development.
Changing the way you think about yourself changes the way you feel about yourself.
So how do we go about increasing our self-esteem? Here are 5 easy tips:
1. Positive Self-talk
How you think about yourself marks the cornerstone of your self-esteem. If you constantly tell yourself you’re no good, you might start to believe it. Self-talk is your inner voice, your thoughts that you don’t say out loud. Negative self-talk makes you feel bad about yourself. It could be something like ‘I look fat in those jeans’, or ‘everyone thinks I am dumb’, or ‘everything is going wrong with my life, nothing is going to change’. These statements act to bring you down. Over time, you start to believe them as if they were true. This results in negative thinking which opens the door for further problems including mental disorders.
Ok, But How Do I Counter Negative Self-talk With Positive One?
In order to bring about change in your self-talk, the first step is to notice what you have been saying to yourself so far. Hear what your inner voice is saying. If needed, even write it down. Once you have started listening to your inner voice carefully, assess it.
- Are you engaging in more positive or negative self-talk?
- Are you keeping things in perspective?
- Is there actual evidence for what you’re thinking?
- Can you try to look at it differently?
- If a friend was in a similar situation, what would you say to him or her?
- Can you change the situation somehow to feel better about it?
Once you have monitored and assessed your self-talk, you need to change it. Counter negative thoughts with positive ones. Omit ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘ought’ from your self-talk. These words put unnecessary pressure on you to perform. Do a quick reality check when you encounter a negative thought. Assess the truth in the statement.
- Do you have evidence for the thought?
- What about the evidence against the thought?
- Are you jumping to conclusions, negative ones at that?
Try to look at alternative explanations for the situation.
- Can you try to look at the situation from a different perspective?
- How would an optimist look at this situation?
Put the situation into perspective. Look at the bright side.
- What best can come out of the situation?
- Will this matter in a years’ time? Five years’? Ten years’?
Jump into action mode. Make goals to counter the thinking.
- How do I solve this problem?
- Have I learned something from the situation?
- Will this learning help me in the future
2. Assertiveness Training
Oftentimes, it is others who bog us down. They say nasty, cruel things making us feel bad about ourselves. We believe their words which start resonating within and become our inner voice. This needs to change.
Being assertive means you value yourself and set clear boundaries. Here’s how to go about being assertive-
- Use ‘I’ statements. Say statements that start with ‘I’ such as ‘I think…’ or ‘I feel…’. Statements starting with ‘you’ are often misinterpreted leading to an argument or fight. Avoid saying statements that start with ‘you always…’ or ‘you never…’.
- Let go of guilt. Are you that person who wants to do everything for everyone and always wants to be there for everyone? Yes, this tip is especially for you. You can’t. You can’t do everything, you can’t be everywhere and you can’t please everyone. So stop feeling guilty when you can’t attend your child’s recital, can’t bake a cake for your husband’s birthday or couldn’t meet a friend who was in the city for only a day. You don’t have to do it all to be a better person. You already are one.
- Express your feelings. Be honest and tell others how you feel or what you want. Be clear, specific, honest and respectful. Focus on the real issue and say it out loud. For example, you might be cribbing about the towel on the floor but the real issue might be that you want your spouse to spend time with you. Say it loud clearly.
- Learn to say no. You aren’t being selfish when you’re saying no; you’re simply setting healthy limits. Identify your boundaries, be it physical, emotional or mental. Know how far you can go and tolerate. Stick to these boundaries and don’t let anyone transcend your limits.
- Agree to disagree. Having a different point of view doesn’t mean you are right and the other person is wrong. Talk it out. Respect the other person’s point of view. You might not agree with them but it doesn’t mean you are right in what you think. Be tolerant of other viewpoints.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
A great deal of low self-esteem comes from the fact that we compare ourselves with others who are better off than us. We don’t have that limo, that bungalow, that job or that petite figure. Social media sites heighten this social comparison where we nag our spouse about the fact that our colleague went on a vacation to a country miles away while we haven’t gone on one for so long.
Stop doing that! Stop comparing yourself to others. Compete against yourself. You don’t know that person, their life or what is it really like to be them. And even if you do, you are not that person. You have a different life and a different set of priorities. Compete with yourself on how you can better your grades, lose weight, get that salary package or simply eat healthy. Take a step ahead from where you were earlier; engage in a healthy competition with yourself instead.
4. Set realistic expectations
If you plan to lose 11 pounds in a week, you are setting yourself up for failure. Having unrealistic expectations makes you feel worse about yourself. Set realistic goals that are achievable. Setting expectations from others also set us up for failure. Wishing your spouse won’t criticize you might not work until you tell him or her so and make sure he or she works on it. Check your expectations if they keep disappointing you. There’s a chance you have set them too high.
5. Take a 2-minute break
Break from what, you ask? Break from putting yourself down. Take a 2-minute break to highlight your accomplishments and to appreciate yourself. Every day, set aside 2 minutes to ask yourself what 3 things you appreciate about yourself. It could be something you mean to your family, friends or colleagues or it could be a skill you are good at. These don’t have to be big things. Small but meaningful things work best. Write down these three things every day in a journal. An added benefit of this exercise is that you can go back and look through it when you are feeling low. This little break will help you put everything in perspective and rev your mood.
These tips work great when you actually get down to practicing them in real life. They will take some time and lots of practice, however. Don’t give up though. There’s sunshine at the end of the night. Keep trying and you will get there.
On the last note, I personally think you are awesome!
Jack Kornfield once said: “There is a place in everyone that yearns to love, that longs to be safe, that wants to treat others and ourselves with respect. Sometimes that place is buried underneath layers of fear, old wounds, and pain that we have used to protect ourselves from injury.”
The path to health and inner peace is often not a path of adding to something. It is the path of letting go. This is a main principle of healing – rather than chasing happiness we simply choose to let go of that which makes us unhappy.
Let Go – it means just as it says. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance an idea, a thing, an event or a particular time – it’s an invitation to make room for our future by letting go our past, at least a part of our past. We all have made mistakes and bad decisions. We all have ‘baggage’ from our pasts – painful relationships and old beliefs.
How do we let go of such things? Letting go does not mean ‘getting rid of’ or ‘throwing away’ or annihilating them. It is more like setting down and letting them be. A close friend to letting go is acceptance. Accepting people and situations for what they are. This means we lay them aside – put them down gently without any kind of aversion.
A breakup of a relationship can crush our joyful disposition and replace it with tearful despair. According to brain scientists, nearly 20 percent of us suffer from ‘complicated grief’; a biological occurrence that is actually rooted in our brain chemistry. It is a persistent sense of longing for someone we lost with romanticized memories.
When we break up with someone, words like ‘time heals all wounds’ might ring very hollow.
Losing a relationship can feel like a mini-death. We may find ourselves going through the process of grief:
Denial (‘It can’t be over’) – You are shocked and in denial. You don’t believe it is over and you hold out hope.
Anger (‘How could he/she do this to me?’) – Allowing ourselves to grieve – there is nothing wrong with having a good cry. We are free to express our feelings, but not drown in them.
Depression (‘No one will ever love me.’) – Don’t go down that road, there is nothing good down there! – Replace those thoughts with: ‘All pain passes eventually’. Yes, time will do its part. A cut on your skin will heal in time, but it hurts now. The same is true with an emotional wound. In the beginning, it hurts, but over time the pain passes.
We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. There are steps we can take to lessen the pain. At first, we need to stop the bleeding and soothe the pain. Finally, we need to keep our wound from becoming infected with bitterness.
Acceptance (‘I’m going to be all right’) – When this process is over, try to remember: Letting go opens you up to new possibilities. Everything about holding on is torturous and an exercise in suffering. When we let go, we give ourselves peace.
Past Resentments And Hurts
Sometimes our lives are like driving. Driving down the road of life, we all look through our windshields; we focus on where we are and where we want to go. But we also look at the rearview mirror to see where we’ve been and what has happened behind us. But, imagine driving our car looking only into that rearview mirror.
What do we think would happen? We can’t see the good things or the bad things that are in front of us. We can’t see where we are going, and finally, it’s not a safe way to drive, and even, seems ridiculous.
It’s the same way in life. Often times we drive down the road of life focusing only on the rearview mirror. We can get so focused on our past that we are barely able to move forward or to see what is in front of us.
In our mind’s rearview mirror is where we can feel resentments, mistakes, bad decisions, and hurts. But they are behind us. We need to be aware of our past mistakes, but we can’t dwell on them.
When someone wrongs us, it is only normal to feel a degree of wrath. When we have, or feel that we have, been wronged, we could become bitter. Constantly thinking about the episode could result in our having negative feelings about others. We might close up, isolating ourselves and showing little interest in others.
Our heart is like an heirloom bowl or vase. What would we do if it became soiled or stained? Would our immediate response be to throw it away? Not likely. We would probably put forth the effort to clean it carefully. In like fashion, we can work hard to get rid of any feelings of annoyance toward those who offended us. With our heart cleansed of negative thoughts, we want to enjoy again the close friendship that had seemed lost for good.
Physical injuries may range from minor cuts to deep wounds, and not all require the same degree of attention. It is similar to injured feelings—some wounds are deeper than others.
There is a saying that ‘you can measure a man by the size of the things it takes to upset him.’ How do we measure up in this regard?
Do we really need to make an issue over every minor bruise we suffer in our relationships with others? Minor irritations, slights, and annoyances are apart of life and do not necessarily require formal forgiveness.
Forgiveness, it seems, is much like money. It can be spent freely and mercifully on others or can be hoarded stingily for oneself.
Positive Impact of Forgiveness and Letting Go
Scientists have launched research that has begun to demonstrate that forgiveness and letting go can positively enhance emotional and even physical health. Forgiveness is not just a good social lubricant but also good medicine!
“In a study of more than 4,600,” says a report in The Gazette, researchers “found [that] the more hostile, frustrated and mean-spirited the personality” was, the more unhealthy the person’s lungs were. In fact, some of the harmful effects were even greater than those of a current smoker!
Dr. David R. Williams, said regarding his research: “We found a particularly strong relationship between forgiveness of others and mental health among middle-aged and older Americans.”
Negative Impact of Resentment
Resentment is a heavy burden to carry. When we harbor it, it consumes our thoughts, robs us of peace, and stifles our joy. The offender, at the same time, may go his way oblivious to our turmoil!
Dr. Hans Selye pointed out: “It is not the hated person or the frustrating boss who will get ulcers, hypertension, and heart disease. It is the one who hates or the one who permits himself to be frustrated.”
Researchers report that caustic emotions like bitterness and resentment are like rust that slowly corrodes the body of a car. The car’s outside may appear beautiful but under the paint a destructive process is taking place. When a person is unforgiving, the resulting conflict creates stress. Stress can lead to serious illnesses. Statistics indicated that two-thirds of the patients who went to a physician had symptoms caused by mental stress.
Dr. William S. Sadler wrote: “No one can appreciate so fully as a doctor the amazingly large percentage of human disease and suffering which is directly traceable to worry, fear, conflict.”
Forgiveness, on the contrary, brings psychological benefits including less stress, anxiety, and depression.
Forgiving others is not always easy. The pain can be immense, especially when a person has been grievously wronged. ‘How can I forgive someone who viciously betrayed and hurt me?’ some may even wonder.
Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University says that there are “very few people who understand what forgiveness is and how it works.”
What Forgiveness Really Is
The Toronto Star report defines forgiveness as:
a) “Recognizing we have been wronged“ – Forgiving others does not mean that we condone, minimize, or deny the offense what others have done to us. It does not mean that we have to approve of their wrong behavior or minimize the damage it does. Nor does it mean putting ourselves back into an abusive situation.
b) “Giving up all resulting resentment“ – At times it may simply involve letting go of the situation, realizing that harboring resentment will only add to our burden. Forgiving, though, does mean letting go of any resentment for such wrongs and maintaining our own peace. By dwelling on negative thoughts and mulling over how badly they have been treated, some people let the behavior of others rob them of happiness. Do we harbor feelings of resentment and bitterness when some injustice causes us pain? Do not let such thoughts control us! Refuse to become trapped in a web of bitterness and resentment. This can easily happen. If we allow our emotions to dominate us, the result may prove more damaging to us than the injustice itself. Ask ourselves: Must we remain in severe emotional turmoil, feeling intensely hurt and angry, until the matter is fully resolved?
c) “And eventually responding to the offending person with compassion and even love” – Waiting for an apology that never comes, we may only get more frustrated. In effect, we allow the offending person to control our emotions. So, letting go is not only for their benefit but also for our own, so that we may get on with our life. Forgiveness brings peace – not just peace with fellow humans but inner peace as well.
We may never completely put out of mind what was done, but we can forget in the sense that we do not hold it against the offender or bring the matter up again at some future time.
If someone else made mistakes, we might learn to forgive them or at least let go of the anger. But, when it comes to forgiving ourselves, we often struggle. That is because it is easier to forgive others. We all make mistakes, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that when we’re in the midst of them.
Perhaps we are overwhelmed by thoughts of past sins or mistakes that we have made. Some individuals continue to harbor guilt over sins for which they have actually been forgiven. We may feel guilty without really being guilty.
But, guilt is not a ‘useless’ emotion. Psychoanalyst Gaylin says: “Guilt is the emotion that shapes much of our goodness and generosity. It signals us when we have transgressed codes of behavior that we personally want to sustain. Feeling guilty informs us that we have failed our own ideals.”
Regret is a powerful emotion and our mind has a hard time distinguishing between true mistakes that we can learn from, and little blunders that are really just a part of everyday life. Beside this, forgiveness is often today confused with condoning or lack of accountability.
In order to let the past mistakes go, we must forgive ourselves officially.
Choose to see life as a classroom, not a testing center. We are all humans on intertwining roads to self-discovery, searching for a greater purpose. On our roads, we will inevitably make mistakes – every one of us.
Dr. Claire Weekes commented: “To let past guilt paralyze present action is destructive living.” Most of us hold on to past mistakes and let them affect our self-esteem for way too long. This is not healthy and does not serve anyone. Healthy psychology is to acknowledge a mistake and cope with it. There is value in being aware of our past mistakes, but we cannot focus on them.
We can try to do our best, but we will never be perfect – We live in a world with high-performance standards. People think they need to be perfect. To err is human. We’re always going to make mistakes. Accept that we may have made a wrong choice and then forgive ourselves.
Joretta L. Marshall, PhD points out that people often try to forgive themselves for the wrong things. According to Marshall, “people don’t have to forgive themselves for being who they are – for being human and making human mistakes. Forgiveness means being specific about what we did that needs forgiving.”
Letting go our mistakes is like a technique we use to correct a problem with our computer. It is as close as we come to a system-reset button – we lost the mistake, but not the data in the memory.
Many people have little sense of what it means to have love and acceptance for one’s self. This is not the self-centered love of the mythological Narcissus. It’s not being selfish – it’s being selfish not to love yourself. It is necessary to love yourself before you can love others.
Loving yourself is all about accepting your strengths and weaknesses and even going a step further by loving yourself the way you are. Modern psychology knows this. The great psychoanalytic theorist Donald Winnicot said, “Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real.“
Can we look in a mirror and love ourselves unconditionally? People often learn to love themselves based on the feedback they receive from others. But this is conditional, not unconditional, self-love; self -acceptance based upon external achievements.
But unconditional self-love is learning to accept and love the unlovable in you. Learn to be kind to yourself in situations where you usually have been harsh. When you are down, talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend and move from criticism to self-compassion.
Yes, we can find inner peace. Rather than turning our attention to the past, we must keep our eyes focused on what is yet ahead. Life is a choice – the bad experiences in our rearview mirror are meant to be valuable lessons. Although it is not wrong to meditate on the lessons we have learned from past experiences, we need to maintain a balanced, realistic view of the past.
Letting go is never complete unless people and relationships are transformed in the process. At some point, we reach a turning point. Something shifts – we feel less burdened, we have more energy. We live longer and have better health.
We live in exciting times. Wonderful events are happening now and more lie just ahead.
Jack Kornfiel: Meditation for Beginners, 2004, 2008, p.61
Six Keys to Personal Success – Awake!— 11/2008, p.7
www.ns.umich.edu/Releases/2001/Dec01/r121101a.html (Dr. David R. Williams)
www.seekingwellnesstogether.com/does-your-attitude-affect-your-wellness/ (Dr. Hans Selye)
forthright.antville.org/stories/782226/ (Dr. WilliamSadler)
forgivenessfoundationinternational.org/what-you-need-to-know/latest-discoveries/ (Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University)
wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2000488 (The Toronto Star)
nytimes.com/1983/11/29/science/guilt-or-why-it-s-good-to-feel-bad.html (Psychoanalyst Gaylin)
www.scribd.com/doc/168686686/Claire-weekes-hopeAndHelpForYourNerves-by-Kuryuka (Dr. Claire Weekes)
www.webmd.com/balance/features/learning-to-forgive-yourself (Joretta L. Marshall, PhD) Donald Winnicott, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, p.148
The year was 2005.
I was in my last year of my Bachelor’s program, meticulously spending hours checking my research data and putting the final touches on my thesis defense. Night after night, I found myself ruminating over having to present in front of my professors, not to mention mine in front of my peers. Ever since I could remember, public presentations, regardless of size or length, caused me grief. I mean, not your typical 11th hour jitters, but…blushing, shaking, nauseous stomach, cold sweats – you name it, I had it.
So, the day had come. I was to defend my thesis. Although most of the day felt like a blur, a few moments still stick with me. The first was feedback from one of my peers as we were standing in the halls practicing our scripts. I shared with my friends how nervous I was, feeling unable to control the physical and emotional reactions happening in my body. My friend, Susan*, turned to me and said, “…instead of telling yourself you’re nervous and scared, why don’t you say you’re excited!”. I listening, and thought to myself – “heck, I have nothing to lose!” So, minutes before my hour of fame, I said, “I’m excited”, “I’M excited”, “I’M EXCITED!”. I think after the 3rd excited, I was starting to feel it. The reaction kicked in! Then, before I knew it, I was done.
I think that’s the second part of my memories of my thesis. My accomplishment. I “felt the fear but did it anyway”. There’s no better feeling then working through a tough obstacle. Or, overcoming a fear.
I encourage you to feel inspired, to reach out for help if you need it, and to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (as Susan Jeffers would say).
Ashley J. Kreze
You maybe heard of more and more people letting go of physical possessions and becoming minimalists. But what does that minimalism thing even mean, and why would it be good for you, you ask?
First of all, let’s see what’s minimalism. Living minimalistic lifestyle means getting rid of all the clutter in our lives and keeping just the things we truly need. That way we’re making space for what’s really, honestly important to us. Minimalism helps people see what is that that adds the true value to their lives more clearly. Shortly, by clearing the clutter from life’s path, we’re making room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. Once you’ve decluttered your life, it doesn’t hurt to do some gentle cleaning afterwards just to properly do away with any unwanted mess. Clean up your floors with a wet dry vac and you will notice the change in your surroundings will have positive effects on your mood. Alright, so that partly answers your question: “Why would I get rid of my possessions?”. But there is more; here are some more ways you can benefit from minimalism:
1. Better Concentration and Focus
Neuroscientists at Princeton University found that people with disorganized desks had weaker performance on various mental tasks compared to participants with tidy desks. They explained that clutter makes your brain multitask, which interferes with your focus.
2. Increased Creativity
The same Princeton study found that clutter can interfere with your creative process, while clearing it makes more space for free imagination and creativeness.
3. Better Sleep
People who sleep in cluttered rooms often have trouble falling asleep and experience disturbances during their sleep, one study suggests.
4. Better Mood
Clutter sends your message that there is work to do, but also that you’re not having everything under control. Then, logically, it makes you stressed and lowers your self-esteem. Clearing clutter will help you avoid this.
5. Clearer Focus on Your Goals
Clearing clutter and keeping only necessary can help you understand what’s really important for you to be happy, and to focus on that.
All these benefits are sounding great, right? However, letting go of possessions, memories, or relationships can be a difficult task for most of us. Here is a good article on why it’s so hard for us to let go, and two ways to help you actually do it: http://mnmlist.com/how-to-let-go-of-possessions/
Ah yes. The birds are chirping, tulips are growing, and days are getting longer. We are officially in the season of Spring, and with all these changes taking place, I’m sure you feel the urge to clean up your relationships. Before you get the broom and sweep people off to the side, first recognize what is at hand… relationships with people (e.g., family, love, friends, business, etc.). We are social beings and, at the end of the day, the people in our lives provide us with happiness, satisfaction, and positivity. Try and identify what makes you uncomfortable now, and where you want to improve it.
Does your best friend put you down in front of other people? Does your partner reinforce your bad habits? You feel crummy after talking to that family member…but guilty if you don’t? You are incredibly bored, tired, and want out of your relationship? Do people put too many demands on you, making you feel like you must have all the answers and solutions in the world?
It’s understandable, we can all relate to some type of relationship like this in our lives. Here are 3 tips on how to “refresh” your relationships and to enjoy them more.
1. Air out the bad news and differences
Listen, communicate, and accept without judgment. When we take the time to effectively listen to someone and the concerns they are having they feel we genuinely care and are interested in what they have to say. By doing so, negative feelings will be less likely to be present and both parties will be heard. Remember to communicate without interrupting, and use “I” statements.
2. Open up and breathe in the winds of change
It’s easy to judge, or even to take those people in your life for granted. This Spring, try adjusting your sails and chart new waters with your relationships. Experiment with new ways of listening (i.e., put the cell phone away and listen attentively to words and body language). Open up to trying something new – remember that embracing minor discomforts makes you a stronger person.
3. Provide the necessary components for growth
As the trees bloom leaves, flowers stretch out of the garden, and the grass grows greener, you need to recognize that it takes two to tango and take personal responsibility for what you can do to enhance your relationship.
Whether you decide to embark on one or all of the above, I am confident you will be happy you did. Relationships need attentive care and attention – just like growing a garden. Here are two good questions to consider before doing too much ‘sweeping’: How is this relationship valuable to me? And what am I willing to do to retain its worth?
Every thought you think, every word you say is an affirmation. All of our self-talk or inner dialogue is a stream of affirmations. We are continually affirming subconsciously with our words and thoughts and this flow of affirmations is creating our life experience in every moment.
Our beliefs are just learned thought patterns that we have developed since childhood. Many of these work well for us, but others may now be working against us, they are dysfunctional and may be sabotaging us from achieving what we believe we want. Every affirmation we think or say is a reflection of our inner truth or beliefs. It is important to realize that many of these “inner truths” may not actually be true for us now. They may be based on invalid or inappropriate impressions we constructed as children which, if examined as an adult, can be exposed as inappropriate.
What are Positive Affirmations and Why They’re Good for You
“Positive Affirmations” are usually short positive statements that target specific subconscious set of beliefs. Here is just a small portion of what positive affirmations can do for you:
- Challenge and undermine negative beliefs
- Replace them with positive self-nurturing beliefs
- Force us to keep focused on our inner goals and reminds us to think consciously about our words and thoughts and to modify them to reflect our positive affirmation
- Challenge negative beliefs and start to stem the flow of negative thoughts and words that seek to validate them
- We become aware of our thoughts and words in everyday life, choosing to think and project a better self-image
I have time for myself in my busy schedule.
I’m ready to see my own life in new and exciting ways.
I’m grateful for my health.
I am thankful for all the good in my life.
I’m willing to let go of the past and heal.
I’m empowering and empowered.
I have the very best in my life.
I set healthy boundaries.