Most of us have tried time and again to reduce the amount of stress in our lives but somehow we end right back up where we started…anxious, frustrated and frazzled. The upside? Experiencing the pain of stress is a great motivator to find a viable solution to reduce and resolve it.
So where can we start to reach a lasting result? My advice is to focus on two things: 1) our approach to how we get things done and 2) the thought process driving our behaviors. Let me share how I brought this strategy to life earlier this week.
I first asked myself: “What are the most important things I need to get done this week to reduce the most amount of stress in my life?”
By approaching stress in this manner, I focused on identifying where I would achieve the greatest impact for my efforts. This allowed me to discern what was truly most important versus what’s was just urgent.
I immediately felt stress reduce as I created a strategy behind what I was looking to achieve and a created realistic to do list to fuel my vision for the week.
I realized that having a long list, more than 3-5 items, I was maintaining unrealistic expectations, which would only lead to disappointment and eventually resentment (stress).
As I accomplished my modest task list, I found the find the peace and joy we are all worthy of. What doesn’t get done today gets transferred to tomorrow.
The more I learn about the mind, the more I’m appreciating the power of visualization. It’s a technique I’ve used to help reprogram negative core beliefs and successfully “see” myself on the other side of any challenge or difficult situation.
Psychologically speaking, we can change our past. Visualizations have the power to restructure our memories so we can function better in our present lives.
Visualizations work because our unconscious minds do not believe in time. Meaning, things that happened when you were five are just as important and immediate as what happened yesterday.
Although a negative core belief may have been formed in our formative years, we can rely our brain’s uncanny ability to adapt to new thoughts, feelings and actions to improve our current status.
I start by thinking of who I am today versus who I want to be tomorrow. There is a certainly a gap in the middle. I visualize who I need to be in order to make it through my gap.
I’ll ask myself: What would my confident self do? Then, for example:
- He/She would choose courage over comfort
- He/She would exchange guilt for grace and fear for faith
- He/She would bring out the best in others
- He/She wouldn’t pretend they knew it all
- He/She would be calm, cool and collected
- He/She would be in touch with their body, mind and spirit
- He/She would use failure as a learning opportunity
- He/She would ask for forgiveness and forgive others
- He/She would do what they said when they said it
- He/She would lead by example and speak from experience
Then, I finish my list by saying: I am him. As you practice and start believing these statements, rewrite them starting each one with “I”. Review and rehearse these statements regularly and don’t be surprised when your actions start expressing your priorities.
Whether you have hard time saying no, have to walk on eggshells around someone or spend excessive energy trying to win someone’s affection or attention, people-pleasing is a tremendous waste of precious resources.
The question to ask yourself is: “If I can manage to get everyone (or this person) to like me…will I like myself any more? “
It can be harder to like yourself than it is to get someone else to like you. However, when you like yourself, you become less reliant on everyone joining your fan club.
So rather than wondering: “How do I get everyone to like me?” start asking: “What can I do to love and believe in myself?”
A few places to start:
- Read a book
- Take a yoga class
- Go for a massage
- Donate your time
- Get a good night’s rest
- Enjoy a mindful meditation
- Actively listen during conversations
- Take a long walk with a good friend
- Give someone the benefit of the doubt
- Tell someone how much you appreciate them
How you approach change determines whether you will achieve it. When helping my clients, I focus them on the prerequisites of change…the basics.
PRESENCE is about being “all in” on the change you desire. Aware of your thoughts, mindful of your emotions and placing intention behind your actions. The opposite of presence is absence.
TIME is needed to make your desired change. Meaning, you need to set aside time to make a focused behavior change. You’re either spending or investing your time towards making change.
EFFORT, believe it or not, is also required to become who it is you want to be. Remember, putting effort into anything demands that you love and believe in yourself, deeply value your worth and make yourself a priority. This is why things are easier said than done.
Minus presence, time and effort, change is nothing more than wishful thinking.
“I’m lazy.” “I’m my own biggest critic.” I’m a shopaholic.” “I’m a procrastinator.” “I’m a cardio junkie.” “I’m my own worst enemy.”
Tom Asacker says we’re in the Business of Belief…we make decisions consistent with what we believe. If we think we look good in black, that’s why our closet is full of it. This is all good and well unless the label is not in alignment with who we actually want to be.
The danger of negative labeling is:
- We justify the protective behavior: When we claim to be a procrastinator, waiting till the eleventh hour actually suits us.
- We relinquish accountability: It’s not our fault you’re behind the eight ball, we’re procrastinators.
- We reinforce the belief: “Whether you think you can or cannot, you’re right.” Henry Ford
When we label ourselves, you do business with our Gap—that space between where we are and where we want to be. It contains everything limiting us from reaching our full potential. When we find ourselves making excuses, justifying behaviors or placing blame, the Gap is at play.
Removing a label requires courage and the belief that we are worthy of our efforts.
While it’s common to address these objectives with physical tactics such as diet and exercise, I am seeing much better results by helping people balance their mindset.
When you possess an all-or-none approach to life, it’s an exhausting way to live because one extreme behavior can only be counterbalanced by another. That approach makes it’s very difficult to create sustainable change.
– Working out every day vs. not at all
– Eating clean vs. eating everything
– Getting to bed on time vs. anytime
– Being supportive to others vs. critical and judgmental
– Operating in action mode vs. passive living
We have to start becoming curious and asking what the middle ground looks like; not just from a behavioral aspect but more importantly from a mental one.
Once we realize our current strategy for enhancing our quality-of-life is skewed, it creates space for us to start thinking of a new way of engaging.
Albert Einstein says: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
The best method I’ve found for identifying any aspect of balanced living is to observe the extremes, which gives reference to the middle ground. Reach for the center and there you’ll find balance.
You get a bad report from the doctor…you vow to start living differently on Monday…things don’t go as you expected…you shame yourself for imperfection…you emotionally eat to numb the pain…you put on more weight and your sense of fear heightens.
Someone just joined your exercise class who’s in better shape…you start pushing hard to measure up…you get hurt trying to do what she did…now you’re seeing a physical therapist instead of taking class…you become depressed because you’re going nowhere fast.
You’re trying to gain the acceptance of someone…you expend lots of energy trying to be liked…you trade in who you are for who you think they want you to be…you start questioning yourself and become anxious…you resent the relationship because you never measured up.
The list goes on…and on…and on…and on.
The biggest problem I see is the mindset driving this behavior…our knee-jerk reaction is to become physical and tactical and immediately DO something about it. The outcome to this strategy? Our failure to plan is directly proportional to our lack of productivity – i.e. our results.
The alternative is to remain mental and strategic, becoming curious enough to ask difficult questions:
– Why have I allowed my life to spiral out of control to the point of a bad report?
– Why am I reducing my worth by comparing myself to someone else in class?
– If this person did like me, would I like myself any better?
At the end of the day, issues centered on a lack of worthiness are prevalent. The question I’ve become accustomed to asking myself is how do I love and believe in myself more today than I did yesterday?
I keep coming back to the same answers…which serve as proof that I am worthy of my efforts:
– Practice reflection
– Extend self-compassion
– Engage constructive behaviors
At some point, you’ve got to consider if living at the extremes is adding to you or taking from you. Is it time to consider what a more balanced approach looks like?
They worry if the change doesn’t happen quick enough, they will lose motivation, focus and/or their tenacity.
Fair point, although this stems from a lack of understanding that leads to poorly managed expectations and, therefore, an undesirable experience.
Nonetheless, when it comes to changes in physical appearance, the fact is, they are typically evolutionary in nature.
On the other hand, people love revolutionary changes because they are powerful and occur in a short period of time. They are instantly gratifying and are apparent enough to keep a hold of one’s time, attention and energy.
This is the type of change that happens in the mind first, when all of a sudden you find yourself thinking and behaving differently.
The problem is revolutionary changes occurring in the mind do not translate to revolutionary changes seen in the body.
When you take perfectionism and pair it with impatience and uncertainty, soon enough you’ll find a spirit that’s deflated and dissatisfied with any level of progress because “it’s never enough.”
My advice: focus on the revolution and be at peace with the evolution.
As a professional serving the health and wellness industry, trustworthy relationships with my clients lead to lots of sharing. But I’ve recently realized how many of my clients claim to make “good or bad” choices. That’s impossible! You can’t make a choice; you have choices but you make decisions. Good or bad is a whole other story — though that depends on your values and priorities.
I reassure them they have many choices to make on a daily basis but it’s their decisions that matter most. They can decide at any time to:
- Change or stay the same.
- Choose courage over comfort.
- Be instantly gratified or choose long-term satisfaction.
- Obey their rational or emotional mind.
- Say no to others or to themselves.
- Be present or absent from their lives.
- Spend time or invest time.
- Show up and give it their best or not.
- Get to the root or stay on the surface.
- Choose grace over guilt faith over fear.
It’s OK to have conflicting thoughts. It’s OK to have mixed emotions. Just know whichever decision you make is the choice that wins.