How to Turn Self-Doubt Into Self-Confidence (VIDEO)

Loved this quote I came across today…

When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”

I’m in a personal inquiry around playing a bigger game – and stepping up! It requires me to examine where and when I’m not playing a big enough game.

I received a letter of appreciation from a girl who lived in Australia thanking me for helping her find her way out of her eating disorder this week. I shared her story with my coach and she appreciated the story and acknowledged me for the work I’m doing to help people change their lives.

But, being a great coach she wasn’t done there.  She called me back and said, “You don’t realize you’re already an international leader of transformation [for eating disorders].   It’s time to step up and start playing a bigger game.”

Damn coaches.  They’re always right!!

As I started to take on the inquiry, “Ok, how do I start playing a bigger game?” it got me thinking of some things that I think directly relate to addictions like overeating, smoking or drinking.

Two key things keep us from taking massive action to make changes:

  1. Lack of certainty – when we feel uncertain, or worse believe something is hopeless, we take little action and get little results. Instead, when we believe – or have faith – that something is possible, perhaps something amazing is possible, we take much more or even massive action towards it.  Our certainty, our belief in possibility, naturally guides us into actions and the path towards the outcome we want.  If it’s overcoming an addiction, we must first believe it’s possible and then possible for us if we’re ever going to do anything to make changes.
  2. Lack of confidence – this is when we have thoughts of self-doubt or lack of belief in ourselves. I can relate to this one after living 20 years with an addiction.  When you get locked into the endless loop of addiction where you say you’re going to stop, slip up, try again and slip again eventually you stop having faith in yourself to keep your word.  Try having confidence when you can’t even trust yourself for one day.

The downward, self-fulfilling spiral of self-doubt can seem bottomless.  The negative momentum of not believing in yourself attracts more like it to you.  As your inner self-esteem begins to fade, the inner critic gets louder and more aggressive.  After years of this self-abuse you’re a mere fraction of the powerful woman you once were.  While to the world you can look accomplished and like you have your life together, inside you feel like a loser who’s both helpless and hopeless.

Yuck.  That feels horrible just to think about.

OK…OK. Let’s move on to solutions shall we?

As I’m in the process of looking for ways to personally build up my self-confidence I’ve been studying teachings and receiving coaching in this area and wanted to share some insights for your journey to greater confidence, too.

Ways to Regain Your Power and Overcome Self-Doubt:

  1. Take a Morale Inventory – I like the quote “know thyself” and this has been showing up a lot lately in my research. What a moral inventory could look like is finding 15-30 minutes to sit quietly alone somewhere while you take stock of your assets as a human being. You’re looking for any and all assets.  Give yourself credit for anything! Notice the qualities that make you a good human being.  The things you do, the way you treat people, your inner qualities that make up who you are.  Take the full 30 minutes if you can so you can to build a really long list.  Once you’ve completed your list, reflect on it like a 3rd  Pretend you’d just made this list of a person you really, really admire and then notice how great it feels to realize that person…is you!
  2. Celebrate Small Wins – with the addiction cycle and trying to quit, slipping back and trying again we feel like we just can’t get traction. Well, find an area of your life you do feel empowered in, maybe another small habit or something you’ve been procrastinating on, and make the change.  Look for easy wins. Don’t belittle the importance of this process.  When you set a goal, get it done and reflect on the win you’re re-training your brain to see you as a success. You begin to see yourself as a person who keeps their word and achieves what they set out to do.
  3. Make External Commitments and Keep Them – put yourself out there a few times for others and follow through. This, too, will show you that you CAN be trusted.  You are reliable and can commit and follow through on what you commit to.
  4. Stand Up for Yourself – whenever you have an opportunity to stand up for yourself or tell someone your position on something, even if they could disagree or be upset with it, do it. We didn’t come here to get along with everyone or to do everything other people want us to do.  It’s OUR choice how to live.  Stand up for what you want, need and will allow into your life.  This will fill your inner worthiness well.  Big time.
  5. Power Pose It – You’ve probably heard of the research that came out of Harvard years ago about how empowering it is for us to stand in a powerful pose for as little as two minutes. Standing like Wonder Woman, hands on our hips, head held high and breathing deeply can alter our emotional state of inner confidence quite dramatically actually.  Try it every day and you’ll begin to build that inner confidence momentum.
  6. Positive Self-talk – this one takes mindfulness, or at least a really good system of reminders. Throughout your day look for opportunities to praise, appreciate and talk kindly to yourself.  I have morning rituals where I say nice things to myself and about myself every day.  This stuff works.
  7. Attitude of Gratitude – you’ve probably heard this one, too. Living with a grateful and loving heart is huge for being in a high vibration.  Most of us are so focused on what’s wrong with us, the world and our lives that we don’t spend nearly as much time in appreciation.  It’s a practice.  Like push ups.  Try it for a week…
  8. Make a List of Your Accomplishments – either make a list of your wins in life, things you’ve done that you’re proud of, or each day make a list of 3 things you completed that day. As you begin to reflect each day on your accomplishments you will think you’re more successful. That will allow you to carry over that success muscle into the area you’re wanting a breakthrough in.

Which one of these will you take on this week?  And what if you took on one a week for a month how much farther along could you be in 30 days?

Remember, if you’re trying to overcome a bad habit or addiction, the two areas you may need to work on in order to really decide and commit are BELIEVING IT’S POSSIBLE and BELIEVING IN YOURSELF.  Once these two are in place you’re ready to step up and kick that habit for good!

I hope this has been helpful and I welcome your comments or questions.

In joy,

Polly

p.s. if you’d like to learn more about life coaching, complete this quick form to sign upfor your 30 minute complimentary coaching session. I’d love to work with you!

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POSSIBILITY THINKING: Overcoming Addictions and Bad Habits With The Power of Belief

Whether You Think You Can Or Think You Can't You're Right - Henry FordI was reminded yesterday after a coaching call with a client how important possibility thinking is in changing our lives.

When we believe we can change our lives, we can.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right.” – Henry Ford

I share in the video below how in 2005 I created a new belief in possibility; the idea that I could change and stop binge eating forever by seeing someone else change.

I said to myself, “If that person can change, I can, too.”

There’s a lot of scientific data that says that if we can see someone else do it we begin to believe we can.

I think this is what helps people in group settings like Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous (among other places) find the leverage they need to stop their addictions.
Where do you get your inspiration to change from?

I hope you’ll watch the video and learn how I went from resigned about a 20-year addiction to binge eating to believing in possibility again.

I’m so confident with possibility thinking, a decision and commitment to stop your addiction anyone can change.

Wishing you every success!

Polly

p.s. if you’d like to learn more about life coaching, complete this quick form to sign up for your 30 minute complimentary coaching session. I’d love to work with you!

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My New 30 Day Challenge!

I’ve been newly inspired to start a 30 Day Challenge by a dear friend of mine as we were out on a hike this morning.  My friend Jenevieve (Jen) is stepping into a 30 Day Challenge for herself where she’ll be working on self-care; putting her needs first in her mind, taking care of herself so she has more to give (her kids/loved ones) and serve people better.  She’s a dynamo and I’m so excited to be entering into this 30 day challenge with her.

I’m stepping up to my 30 Day Challenge which is to replace my negative self-talk and limiting beliefs that sound like, “I don’t know how to sell anything” or “I can’t sell anything.

Surround Yourself With People Who Have Dreams Desires and AmbitionBoth are bullshit and have been holding me back for decades and I’m saying ENOUGH!

 

As a lifelong habit hacker and teacher of how to replace bad habits with success habits I am so excited to take on this challenge!

I’ve been wanting to create my own products for years and have let these little limiting beliefs and thoughts that I created when I was six years old keep me playing small.

Not any more! 

My bad ass self is aware of what’s going on and is stepping up to turn all of this around. NOW.

Here’s how you can join us, share your support and get support in return:

  • JOIN ME! I would love it if you’d join me in my 30 Day Challenge by choosing an area of your life that you’re frustrated with or just aren’t seeing the results you want and know you need to change.  What’s that thing you need to do or what’s the area of your life that’s ready for a change now? Click and share it on my Facebook post NOW.
  • SUPPORT ME! – my commitment to my friend Jen (and now you!) is to post a video every day on Facebook of what I’m learning, my progress, and all of the insights I’m applying into my life. If you join me in this 30 day challenge, let’s support each other so share on my page what you’re learning and how you’re growing, too. Let’s have fun with it!
  • LET’S GO LIVE! – I’m planning to do a weekly live call on Facebook using Go Live (have you seen this in action?) I’ll do a Go Live every Friday through the end of the year.  The first one will be Friday, December 1st at 1:30pm PT (California)/4:30pm ET (New York).  Each week will be at a different time on Friday so like my Facebook page now and I’ll announce when they’ll be through Facebook each week.  I expect to do other Go Lives this month spontaneously because this challenge has me newly invigorated and wanting to take massive action…so expect surprises along the way – I am!

Life Will Change When You Become Committed to Your DreamsI invite your support and welcome you to play with me.  I really could use your love and encouragement and participation and want this to be fun!

I hope you’ll join the Facebook Go Lives, like the posts, chat and ask me questions or let me know how you’re doing on your challenge.  If you’re not following my page yet, here’s the link:

https://www.facebook.com/getbusythriving

Will you take a leap, too?

I hope so and let’s play!

With love light,

Polly

 

 

Interview With Fashion Model Nikki Dubose

Nikki Dubose Recovered Bulimic Anorexic InterviewI’ve been reading the recently released memoir of Nikki Dubose called Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.

I sense so much hope from this woman and her life’s message.  To read about what she’s been through and how she is starting to rebuild a happy life for herself is inspiring.

Nikki was a fashion model who landed the cover of coveted magazines such as Maxim and Vogue in the peak of her career.  While from the outside her photos portray a woman living the life many people dream of, beneath the surface she was dealing with severe depression, sexual abuse, anorexia, alcohol and drug abuse and much more.

The picture on these covers told a different story than what the hurt young girl on the inside was dealing with.

I had an opportunity to sit down and speak with Nikki about her memoir and ask her about her journey and life today.  To listen to our interview, click below:

Making a Decision

One thing that was very clear to me in reading Nikki’s memoir was there was a turning point, a decision point, when she very clearly made a choice to take her life in a new direction.  In reading and hearing Nikki during our interview relate how similar her mom’s life was to her own including the childhood abuse, the mental illness, eating disorder, and struggles with alcohol to the point that Nikki and her brother had an intervention with their mom to bring her back from the brink, it was clear the many obstacles Nikki faced growing up.

While I wish the story of Nikki’s mom had a happy ending, I’m afraid her mom lost her battle with alcoholism and eventually died when Nikki was in her early 20’s.  That moment, that painful moment when Nikki lost her mom, was her turning point.  It was a real wake up call to Nikki that if she kept going on with her life the way she was living she would no doubt have the same fateful and tragic ending as her mom did.

You Have the Power to Change How the Story EndsNikki decided in that moment to get help.  To take care of herself.  To start a new course.

She said during our interview that she could see the signs of how sick she was and if she didn’t do anything she would end up dead and she didn’t want that.  It was the first ever time she decided to love herself and take care of herself.

She decided she could mourn and grieve the loss of her mother, but not let it keep her from getting better. Instead, she got up and got help.

Nikki shares that while her modeling career was lucrative at times, she was also enjoying the high-flying lifestyle that comes with a modeling career and when she needed treatment she couldn’t afford the $500 a day that it can cost for in-patient treatment programs.  She realized she would have to go it on her own and do what she could with what she had.

Nikki took steps to find a recovery mentor who worked with her to go through a recovery bible.  She said the relationship with her recovery mentor and the support of her then-boyfriend really helped her along the way.

Courage to Keep Commitment

I found Nikki’s ability to decide to get support and help herself through recovery very courageous.  She was strong and not only walked away from a successful career – albeit one that was killing her and causing her a lot of suffering – even when she didn’t know what she was going to do next. She also had to know the road ahead wasn’t going to be easy with the internal demons she faced every day.

I asked her how she kept her commitment to her recovery and didn’t relapse or fall back into the throws of her many old habits.  On the one hand she said she didn’t feel very courageous.  She said she saw it as survival.  She said growing up in her family with all of the abuse and craziness she learned to do what she needed to do to stay alive.  Recovery and the processes she went through day in and day out were a survival response to what she felt was otherwise going to take her life.

It's Ok To Be Scared But You Have to Get Out There Open UpNikki also said that making the decision to help herself and sticking to it no matter what it looked like was key for her.  She said she clung to the idea, “I’m going to get better.  She tried different things including art therapy, journaling and said her newfound connection to God gave her inner strength when she said she couldn’t go on.  Have a listen to the recording to hear how important a factor she says God played in her recovery and how she leans on his support each and every day.

Recovery Rituals

I asked Nikki to share about any practices or rituals she engages in to keep herself on track and work her recovery.  She named a few and I’ll do my best to summarize them:

1)   Morning spiritual time – each morning before she gets out of bed she spends time listening to something to feed her soul.  She likes Joyce Meyer’s podcasts and has listened to them for years.  Before she starts her day with something like social media, she fills her mind with a dose of spiritual renewal. (Side note: here’s a link to my morning process if you’re interested)

2)   Prayer and Connecting with God – she prays a lot, turns things she can’t handle over to God and connects and communes with him throughout her day.  She said that she struggles daily and God has her back and helps her along the way when the darkness creeps up or she can’t handle things.

3)   Gratitude and Journaling – journaling was a wonderful way for her to get her emotions and stories out of her where they couldn’t torment her from within any longer.  She also practices lots and lots of gratitude for her life.

4)   Laughing – she realized that taking life so seriously wasn’t working out so well, so she’s decided to lightening up.  She surrounds herself carefully with people, places and things that make her feel good (including funny movies and uplifting music).  Her friends are a source of light and laughter for her and she only allows things into her environment that support who she is now.

Rebuilding a New Life

Nikki spent the majority of her life living into an identity that other people thought of her.  She took on the horrible things people said about her and to her and let that guide her down a dark and sad road that could have eventually killed her.

Today, Nikki still works on herself.  She’s guided by the love and strength she finds in God and knows that she couldn’t do it without his support.

I think she’s on the road to becoming a very inspiring woman and will touch many lives.  I see her spending the rest of her life helping many people because she had the courage to be vulnerable and share her shameful past.  She doesn’t let her past shame her, but instead it has become her foundation to build an amazing life with.  A life that I believe will touch, move and inspire many people along the way.

I hope you listen to the recording so you can hear her strength and softness.  Nikki never claims to have things all figured out and she admits to working on herself each day. But she is standing up for herself and taking steps to chart a new course for her future.  A future where her beautiful soul will shine on for many to see how you can overcome many of life’s dark challenges and stand tall and be happy.

Please share any feedback or questions for me or Nikki in the comments below.

Listeners can purchase Washed Away: From Darkness to Light through Outskirts PressAmazonBarnes and Noble, andGoogle Books. Soon it will also be available through Audible as well!

With love and light,

Polly

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The Happiness Advantage Principle #7 – Social Investment Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect

Principle #4 – Falling Up

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment (this post)


In this chapter on Principle #7 – Social Investment there was a combination of personal and professional evidence for where our happiness and performance at work come from. And it’s amazing!

Social Networks Are Crucial for a Happy Life

In this chapter Achor shares how very often people under stress or overwhelm go inward. They retreat and pull away from people; some in order to focus and some thinking they’ll do better on their own.

Achor says that, “The most successful people take the exact opposite approach. Instead of turning inward, they actually hold tighter to their social support…Not only are these people happier, but they are more productive, engaged, energetic, and resilient.

I love the study he notes in this chapter that he refers to as the Harvard Men study. It’s the longest running psychological study of all time and has followed 268 men from their entrance into college in the late 1930’s to today. Lots of data has been gathered in those 70+ years.

What shocked me –  and I absolutely adore – is the director for this study for the last 40 years summed up his findings in one word when asked by the magazine Atlantic Monthy…”Love – full stop.”

Wow.

L – O – V – E

That’s the answer…right there!

In fact, they said “70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world.

More WOW.

Read that again, please.

…our relationships with other people matter…more than anything else in the world.

If you’ve been on this planet for any time you’ve probably come to this conclusion yourself or had a hunch anyway. But this study has some profound conclusions about relationships, social bonds and social support.

Achor says, “When we have a community of people we can count on – spouse, family, friends, colleagues – we multiply our emotional, intellectual, and physical resources. We bounce back from setbacks faster, accomplish more, and feel a greater sense of purpose.

Wow and wow again.

I loved this chapter. It ties right in with what I have learned in my life and that is that we are love and we need love to thrive. The social interactions we encounter with friends and colleagues raise our happiness baseline permanently. Even simple water cooler chatter if it’s positive and friendly can improve our happiness and performance.

The Happiest 10% Among Us

There was a study conducted called “Very Happy People”. You know, those…outliers. The people on Facebook and Instagram who are constantly smiling and rejoicing with gratitude at how great their life is and what they love about the world.

Yeah, those people.

Well, in this study of the very happy people they found “there was one – and only one – characteristic that distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: the strength of their social relationships.

The more social support you have, the happier you are.”

Goodness!

Talk about a [success] formula right there!

If you get nothing else out of this book or my posts about this book, please do yourself a favor and make some friends or strengthen the bonds you have with those you already have. Invest time in your social support network. Make time for friends at the office, call or spend some time with your friends. And although the author doesn’t say it, I don’t think it matters one bit the number of social relationships you have as long as YOU think you have a lot of social support. This can mean a small intimate group of friends you know have your back and you adore or a larger circle you swim in of lots of acquaintances that brighten your day and help you feel connected to people.

Happy and Thriving Thanks to Social Connections

What’s fascinating as you read in The Happiness Advantage about the social support and connections that help us thrive and be happy is how fundamental it is. It’s part of our biological makeup even. We have an innate need to form social bonds. I remember reading about how babies who weren’t handled after birth have died. I don’t remember the studies or stats, but it was shocking to me how fundamental connection with other humans is to our well-being.

Achor reports, “When we make a positive social connection, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released into our bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus.” He talks about how people with fewer connections and interactions socially suffer poor heath and are more likely to suffer from depression.

This probably doesn’t come as a s surprise, but the impact is a lot bigger than I realized before and it can even extend the length of our lives.  Being a part of a breast cancer support group can actually double a woman’s life expectancy. Damn! Connect people, for heaven’s sake…connect! Connect!

Work Performance and Success Improved by Social Support

I won’t go too in depth like Achor does in this book because the purpose of the book is business based. Yet, allow me to share some valuable insights he shares in this chapter about work performance being boosted due to our social support system at the office.

“…over the long haul, employees with more of these interactions become protected from the negative effects of job strain.”

psychological resourcefulness” and…”employees can work for longer hours, with increased focus, and under more difficult conditions.

This sure sounds like what I experienced during the dot com boom days in Silicon Valley. People were like machines (and many still are) because the work environments were made so conducive to interacting and social connections. Just look at Google or any of the big companies that facilitate a lot of social interaction and fun in their work environments.

…individuals who invest in their social support systems are simply better equipped to thrive in even the most difficult circumstances, while those who withdraw rom the people around them effectively cut off every line of protection they have available, at the very moment they need them most.

“…social support is a prescription for happiness and an antidote to stress, it is also a prime contributor of achievement in the workplace.”

People we enjoy interacting with at work…”actually fuels individual innovation, creativity, and productivity.” Not to mention motivation and overall performance.

If you’ve ever stayed at a company and enjoyed your work environment I’d bet it had a lot to do with the people you worked with. Achor talked about how working with people we enjoy far outweighs status or bigger paychecks. People are more successful and self-motivated when they do work they enjoy…and do it with people they love doing it with.

He goes on to talk for quite a while about how valuable it is to have great interactions with our colleagues and managers. Great leaders should encourage social interactions in the office because it leads to greater payoffs. A study at IBM found something like every email contact a person had added $948 in revenue to the bottom line.

I’d like to sum it up with Achor’s statement, “all it takes, we have seen, is a commitment to frequent and positive social interaction.” Take that to the bank if you’re a business owner or manager!

I hope this chapter and the insights you’ve just learned about can help you in some way in your personal and work life. A simple prescription for happiness and thriving is really just spreading love and feeling the love as best you can. Invest in your social network, even when things seem busy or overwhelming. There is no greater predictor it appears to your longevity or well being that feeling connected to other people.

With love and light,

Polly

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The Happiness Advantage Principle #6 – 20 Second Rule Insight

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect

Principle #4 – Falling Up

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule (this post)

Principle #7 – Social Investment

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The sub title for this chapter is “How to Turn Bad Habits into Good Ones by Minimizing Barriers to Change.” I’ll explain a little later in the post what the 20 Second Rule is that Achor refers to in Principle #6 and how to incorporate it into your life. Let’s dive into this chapter from the beginning…

Habits as a Key to Success in Any Area of Life

If there’s anything that is a key to success in any area of life I’ve ever studied it’s having success habits. Highly successful people have found the practices, or rituals/routines, that support their effectiveness and they stick with them.  They’ve ensured success by making it a habit.

Achor explains that most often we know what we should do to be successful at behind healthy, for example, such as eating more vegetables, being active each day, reducing intake of toxins like caffeine, sugar and alcohol and getting enough rest. Knowing what we should do and actually doing those things are where the rubber meets the road and successful people get ahead because they DO those things (or don’t do non-helpful things). Successful people have mastered the game of thriving by introducing and sticking with rituals, or habits, that support their chosen path and not engaging in bad habits that take them off course.

This chapter is all about how to introduce good habits into our life and actually make them effective – or stick. The 20 Second Rule I’ll explain in a bit also defines how we can stop repeating bad habits we want to let go of once and for all.

Habits, Biology and Neuroassociations in Your Brain

I’d like to take a moment before we dive into biology and your brain and remind you that you are not the same person you were when you were born. Not only physically (as in every cell in your body is new about every 7 years) but also as the personality you consider yourself as “you.” You didn’t come into this world with the habits and behavior characteristics that you have today; be they a good listener, funny, a good learner or great athlete. All of those characteristics you established along the way and they make up who you are now.

I often have to remind clients of this during coaching sessions when they say things like, “That’s just the way I am” or “I’ve always done that” or “That’s my normal pattern.” Actually, the way you are you grew into; you developed these patterns over time. You just forgot that you picked these traits or habits up as you went. Now they’re just a part of who you consider yourself to be. But they weren’t always there and that means that you can in almost every case change them if you want.

Achor talks about one of his favorite early leaders in the field of psychology, William James. He taught at Harvard in the late 1800’s and published Principles of Psychology, a huge textbook for the field. Achor introduces in the book that James talked about “Humans are biologically prone to habit, and it is because we are ‘mere bundles of habits’ that we are able to automatically perform many of our daily tasks – from brushing our teeth first thing in the morning to setting the alarm before climbing into be at night.

I love the study of habits and I never knew about James’ work before reading it in Achor’s book. James referred to introducing habits as “daily strokes of effort” in that they’re routines or practices that are performed each day or consistently that create the habit. “A tendency to act,” he wrote, “only becomes effectively ingrained in us in proportion to the uninterrupted frequency with which the actions actually occur, and the brain ‘grows’ to their use.

What James was referring to were the web of neuroassociations that are created in the human brain when we interact with our environment. The brain is a survival mechanism designed over tens of thousands of years to survive and perpetuate the species by warning us about danger. (I think there’s a lot more going on here, but let’s keep this common story alive for now) The brain is designed to conserve energy and links up or creates short cuts (neuroassociations) in the brain wiring that tie things together so they can be recalled and repeated more quickly and efficiently. When we do an action once and get a good result the brain remembers it. If we do the same action ten times for ten days the brain is creating stronger and stronger associations. I want to add my hypothesis that adding an emotional charge to the result also impacts how quickly the brain engrains the behavior (momentum).

These neuroassociations are designed to serve us so we don’t have to remember the route to work each day when we pull out of the driveway or how to tie our shoes each time we get dressed. The brain also filters out things we don’t need and short cuts, or remembers, things we think we’ll need or will serve us in the future.

The more we perform a particular action, the more connections form between the corresponding neurons. (This is the origin of the common phrase ‘cells that fire together, wire together.’) The stronger this link, the faster the message can travel down the pathway. This is what makes the behavior seem second nature or automatic.”   Hence why clients say the things I mentioned earlier. They’ve forgotten they practiced this behavior and it just seems “normal” now.

These habits, or associations in our brain, can serve us tremendously.  For example, this is how athletes or skilled musicians become excellent in their field. The same thing that can make us a talented athlete or musician is the same mechanism that can create addictions or unwanted habits that drive us nuts and make us do things we don’t consciously believe we want to do.

New Habits and Why Willpower is Not Enough

So now you have the insight to know what is going on when you create a new habit. You now understand that you just need to practice to make it perfect – or permanent. Create a new morning ritual of exercise, or eating healthier or sitting down to write our novel each day. These things we know will make us more successful in moving towards what we want…so why do we so often fail at new resolutions or rituals?

One of the big reasons: Willpower. Or lack of it.

We often rely on sheer willpower to keep up the new habit we want to reinforce. I often picture creating a new habit as a way of turning a really big ocean liner in a new direction on the open ocean. It doesn’t turn on a dime – it’s more of a gradual change that occurs and pretty soon we’re on our new course. Changing habits can be like this and discipline is like the rudder and willpower is the energy that creates the course correction.

The challenge with relying on our willpower is that it is like an engine and requires fuel and when the tank gets depleted, we lose willpower and the ship (brain) goes back to its old course. This is when we might say things like, “I fell off the wagon” or “I gave in” or “The urge took over and I felt helpless to resist it.” I’ve said this to myself hundreds of times and hear it from my clients when willpower was what they’re relying on to make the change.

Let me explain a little of what I’ve learned about willpower and share what Achor conveys in the book as well. By the way, an excellent resource if you want to dive deeper into the study of willpower is the book Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal or watch her Google Talk or TED Talk on willpower. She does a great job of going into the details so check those out if you want more information.

As I said, willpower is like an engine which requires fuel to power it and it can be depleted and then we run out of willpower. Achor shares about experiments that were done related to willpower and in the end the researchers wrote, “many widely different forms of self-control draw on a common resource, or self-control strength, which is quite limited and hence can be depleted readily.” Think of it as a small bottle of water you have to last you all day. If you drink it up too fast, you’ll go thirst by afternoon.

This is often why we give in to our urges or old habits by the afternoon or evening. Too many people (and I was this way when I was bulimic) who come to me for coaching or write in about their story share how they wake up in the morning with the resolve to make this the last day and by the afternoon they’ve succumbed to that monster urge, bad habit or vice they’ve been trying so hard to resist. They’re mostly relying on willpower and don’t understand how it works.

As we’ve learned, the brain has created neuroassociations that wire old habits in place and it takes energy and resolve to steer the brain in a new direction. Willpower is one of the resources we can tap to put new habits into place to overcome the old patterns in our brain. You see, the brain wants to naturally follow the path of least resistance. It has already learned and stored the path of least resistance to success and it’s going to try to execute it whenever it sees an opportunity. As the author says, “the more often we succumb to this path, the more difficult it becomes to change directions.” This is why we feel the struggle to get out of bed once we’ve made a commitment to running in the morning or to not eat that sweet in the evening after dinner. We’re fighting homeostasis and inertia.

Achor says, “we are drawn – powerfully, magnetically – to those things that are easy, convenient, and habitual, and it is incredibly difficult to overcome this inertia.” I refer to this inertia like the grooves of an old vinyl record. The record spins round and round and it takes energy to pick up the needle and change to a new groove, a new song.

The same is true for telling a new story about our lives.

Whether we’re trying to change an old habit pattern or tell a new story about the way our lives are we have to pick up the needle and with intention and consistency move over to a new groove. Eventually that groove will feel normal, but in the beginning the old groove will be very easy to slip back into due to inertia.

[video here about grooves of the record/changing habit]

Activation Energy and the 20 Second Rule

To overcome our own inertia – or old habit patterns – that create the old path of least resistance we need to address a few other areas of our lives in order to create these new success habits.

The author shares a term used by a psychologist named Csikszentmihalyi called “activation energy”. Achor says “In physics, activation energy is the initial spark needed to catalyze a reaction. The same energy, both physical and mental, is needed of people to overcome inertia and kick-start a positive habit. Otherwise human nature takes us down the path of least resistance time and time again.

When looking at activation energy in new habit creation we’re addressing three areas including time, choices and mental and physical effort.

Time and mental/physical effort: This is where the 20 Second Rule comes in. Achor talked about how he wanted to learn to play the guitar and when he tried to get in the habit of playing it each night he failed at first. When he later stepped back and looked at his approach he realized that he wasn’t following the path of least resistance because he had stored his guitar in the closet down the hall and it was much easier to grab the remote and click on the TV each night instead. To turn this around he removed the batteries from the remote and moved them 20 seconds away from the chair and set up a stand next to his favorite chair where his guitar would sit. By doing this he had removed the 20 seconds it took to get the guitar out of the closet and added 20 seconds to turning the TV on at night.

Well, it worked.

He went from playing guitar a couple times in a month to nearly every day. He put his desired behavior or new habit on the path of least resistance and his old, undesirable habit on the path of more resistance.

Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.”

I call this setting ourselves up to win. Sounds super simple – and it is – but also super effective.

Choices: another area we want to realize we need to set ourselves up to win is in creating or eliminating choices. Going back to willpower, every time we have to tap our brain to make choices about doing or not doing something we’re tapping into our willpower account and depleting it.

Achor says, “the key to reducing choices is setting up and following a few simple rules.” For example if you want to create a habit of exercising each day then decide in advance the what, where and when. Don’t leave yourself with choices when you wake up like “Should I work out this morning or after work?” or “Should I play tennis or go for a run?” or “Do I want to work out for an hour or just 30 minutes today?Too many choices will deplete our willpower, so decide on these things in advance. I think this is why structured eating plans show good results for people with eating disorders. For me, in my race training I set up the entire schedule for 8-12 weeks before each race in advance so each week I already know what I need to do and I just need to determine what day I’ll complete what needs to get done.  I reduce the choices and decisions.

Achor added that, “rules are especially helpful during the first few days of a behavior-changing venture, when it’s easy to stray off course. Gradually, as the desired action becomes more habitual, we can become more flexible.”

I’ve seen clients who go the path of structured eating plans come off of them after a few weeks and some don’t have the willpower reserves enough so they stay with structured eating for 3-6 months until they feel solid in their addiction recovery.

How To Apply These Insights to Bulimia Recovery

I would be remiss as a bulimia recovery coach if I didn’t share some thoughts on how this information can help you if you’re struggling to stop binging and purging.

Let me start by asking you to consider “What if bulimia were just a bad habit?Would you feel more empowered that you could change your habit given what you’ve just read above? If this were true, could you stop looking at this thing called bulimia as if it were a “disorder “ or “disease” you have?   Instead, it’s a habit you created and habits can be changed (or better replaced).

Here are my insights for incorporating this information for recovering bulimics:

  1. Identify the activation energy – a habit is three things: 1) trigger or cue, 2) routine or ritual and 3) reward or payoff. Knowing what your triggers are and getting out ahead of them can be the first step to stopping the habit. Without the trigger – or having a new routine or ritual that increases the activation energy to start the routine or binge – can be one way to interrupt the old patterns. Make it harder to or avoid activating the triggers, put more time and/or effort in the way between the trigger and the routine. Remember the 20 second rule. This could look like not have trigger or binge related foods anywhere you could get to them easily.
  2. Reduce choices – keep your food resources stocked with foods you hate to binge on, but are good for you or consider a structured food plan to reduce the choices you have to make each day.
  3. Create rules – once you have identified the typical patterns that create the routine, come up with rules that can support you replacing the routine or avoiding it with new rules. Example: I had a coaching client who would get lonely each afternoon working away in her cubicle. When she needed a break from work she would go down to the cafeteria and was tempted by all of the sugary foods. Instead, she set an alarm each afternoon that reminded her to find a way to connect with someone before she felt lonely. Often all she had to do was walk down a few cubicles and connect with a co-worker or call a friend to feel better. I’ve had clients that just needed to take a 10 – 30 minute break from the busy-ness of their day to get horizontal or rest.  This can help recharge your willpower gas tank.
  4. Practice new habits in advance – a technique I work with my clients on is visual motor rehearsal. This is what Olympic athletes use to mentally rehearse or practice their sport when they’re not actually out training. The same technique can be used to prepare yourself for those stressful or triggering moments and rehearse a different pattern. Coming up with a new response to the mental monster who urges you to reach for the cookie or treat can be very effective in stopping the binge before it occurs.

As a final thought, remember that the key to creating habits is consistent or repeated practice of your new rituals until the new actions are the default, or new normal, for your brain. Once you’ve retrained your brain to act in a manner consistent with your new habit or behavior, you can be less alert (mindful) for the old patterns or habits coming up. Awareness, practice, repetition and rewards signal to the brain to keep doing things the way you want it to.

Remember, don’t beat yourself up if you have a slip. Get back on your path and keep going!

Change is yucky in the beginning,

messy in the middle and beautiful in the end.

Your brain will try to follow the old path of least resistance for a while so just keep at it.  Never stop believing you can do this.  Never ever.

Continue reading with Principle #7 – Social Investment

With love and light,

Polly

————————————-

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The Happiness Advantage Principle #5 – Zorro Circle Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect

Principle #4 – Falling Up

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle (this post)

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment

———-

I found this chapter and the concept behind Principle #5 The Zorro Circle pretty straightforward. The metaphor Achor uses about the Zorro Circle comes from the movie where as a student Zorro was guided by his teacher to work within a smaller circle during his training until he mastered what was right in front of him. The teacher drew a small circle around Zorro and told him to stay within it while he trained and learned to be a great swordsman. Eventually, Zorro mastered that area and then his teacher expanded the circle a little more and a little more until Zorro was a master swordsman second to none.

The Zorro Circle – Circle of Control

The idea Achor is conveying in this chapter is that when we can master or feel in control of the circle immediately around us, we feel confident and successful.

“One of the biggest drivers of success is the belief that our behavior matters; that we have control over our future. Yet, when our stresses and workloads seem to mount faster than our ability to keep up, feelings of control are often the first things to go, especially when we try to tackle too much at once. If, however, we first concentrate our efforts on small manageable goals, we regain the feelings of control so crucial to performance. By first limiting the scope of our efforts, then watching those efforts have the intended effect, we accumulate resources, knowledge, and confidence to expand the circle, gradually conquering a larger and larger area”.

When I read through this chapter it hit me how this relates to the coaching work I enjoy with clients. I refer to it as an empowered or disempowered state. When stress, overwhelm, and growing demands reduce our ability to feel we are in control we feel disempowered. We lose our connection to our higher thoughts, our conscious self and we become inactive, or worse, helpless.

With eating disorders (and addiction in general), it’s often about a momentum of disempowering thoughts that lead to helplessness in the face of life’s challenges. Some people say an addict’s inability to cope with life’s difficulties, emotions and upsets is because they have disordered thoughts. I challenge that and think it’s because we’ve allowed disempowering thoughts – be they internally initiated or externally influenced – to build momentum such that they dominate the airtime in our mind.  The majority of our thinking is focused on negative thoughts which create a negative or disempowered state.

I like how Achor’s book is focused on career and success because his concepts apply in these arenas very well.  They also apply very well in the world of behavior change, habits and addiction. He says, “Feeling that we are in control, that we are masters of our own fate at work and at home, is one of the strongest drivers of both well-being and performance….employees who feel they have high levels of control at the office are better at their jobs and report more job satisfaction”.

I can share in this idea as it relates to habit change or addiction recovery. People who feel in their power, or in control as Achor refers to it, are the ones who can guide the direction of the course of their life where they want to go. They can achieve the goals they set out to achieve – be they recovery, or business, or financial or relationship. All high achieving people I believe have a strong sense of their own power, they’re confident and feel in control of their destiny.

But how did they get this way? Ah, more on that in a minute.

Something crucial to report that Achor shares about the control factor in our lives is that, “…gains in productivity, happiness, and health have less to do with how much control we actually have and more with how much control we think we have. Remember how we experience the world is shaped largely by our mindset”. (more on this in Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage)

The good news insight is that we have control because we can control our thoughts. We can control the amount of control we think we have. Boy, that sounds confusing or like a game we play with ourselves. Yup, it kind of is a game.

As a student of mental empowerment I propose we look at this as a good thing. We can choose to empower or disempower, feel in control or out of control, feel confident or not from the inside out. That’s good news! Unless you don’t want to take responsibility for how you feel or be at cause in your thoughts, which some people fall into.  I call it sloppy thinking.

I’d like to add one final concept that Achor talks about regarding the ability to feel in control of our lives at home and work. He reported a study in the workplace on health and specifically coronary heart disease, “…researchers concluded that feeling a lack of control over pressure at work is as great a risk factor for heart disease as even high blood pressure”. Our feelings can have that great of an impact on our physical health!

Wow. I wish everyone knew how important our thoughts and focus are to our well being.  Looking at this data it reinforces the idea that we can impact our health with our thoughts.

The Dueling Brain: “The Thinker” and “The Jerk”

A lot of the material in my training workshops and with coaching clients is designed to remind them they have one brain but two minds. In this book Achor refers to the two aspects of ourselves (our two minds) as The Thinker and The Jerk. I haven’t heard them referred to in this way before, but I think those titles work well.

The Thinker is the higher conscious portion of your brain in touch with your goals, the future and is responsive to situations, not knee-jerk reactive. The Jerk would be your animal instinct mind and is always in survival mode and reactive from a fight-or-flight perspective, is focused on the now and not connected to what you most want long-term but instead in this moment.

I enjoyed how Achor introduced these two minds in with this chapter because it demonstrates a lot about how one kicks in (The Jerk) and seems to push the other (The Thinker) out of the way. When working with people with eating disorders, or any addiction for that matter, it’s often the case where we feel like our thoughts are in control (instead of us)…we can’t stop the cravings or our behavior and we have to “give in.” The Jerk mind is very tricky and quickly finds ways to conquer The Thinker’s rational mindset and takes us down a slippery slope we often regret or feel ashamed about.

As it relates to daily performance, Achor says, “…most of our daily challenges are better served by The Thinker, but unfortunately, when we’re feeling stressed or out of control, The Jerk tends to take over. This isn’t something that happens consciously. Instead, it’s biological. When we’re under pressure, the body starts to build up too much cortisol, the toxic chemical associated with stress. Once the stress has reached a critical point, even the smallest setback can trigger an amygdala response, essentially hitting the brain’s panic button…The Jerk overpowers The Thinker’s defenses, spurring us into action without conscious thought.”

If you’ve ever had an overwhelming urge, you acted upon it and later regretted it, you fell prey to this response. You could say, “The Jerk made me do it”. We’ve all been there.

I want to take a moment to share a few concepts that Tony Robbins shares in his workshops that I think would be beneficial to this distinction about the mind and stress.

Tony presents the idea of “1, 2 3 too many” which has to do with the way our brain can take in one, two or maybe three things but after that it’s pure overwhelm and shuts down. If you’ve ever tried to remember a few things someone tells you about, after the second you start to feel anxious and by the third you’ve probably given up and resigned that you’ll never remember all this. I find when I’m traveling if I start to get ideas from someone about great restaurants in a city or things to do, if I don’t immediately start writing them down after #2 I’ve lost them forever. Same idea with a to-do list or our goals. We get overwhelmed and stressed when we try to look at all of the things we have to do. Instead, we need to break it down or write them down (especially if it’s midnight and we can’t sleep because we’re mulling over and over in our mind).

I also want to share a part of Tony Robbin’s teachings about The Triad; our focus, the meaning we give it and our physiology create our state. If we’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed it’s because of (a) what we’re focused on and (b) the meaning we’re giving to the situation is disempowering or negative. If we tell ourselves that this thing that we’re experiencing is harmful, negative us or is bad for us, we’re creating stress in our lives. In those moments we need to remember to refocus (on something else) or tell a more empowered story to ourselves about what this means.

Here’s how that could look in real life: A bill arrives in the mail and you react with a “Crap! I’ll never get out of debt if these bills keep coming. How am I supposed to ever get ahead when all I do is pay bills every day!?”

What happened is you checked the mail and a bill was there. The emotional reaction, the story and the resulting feeling of stress about it was all conceived in your mind and probably gave you an emotional and physical response. Instead, if you perhaps were prepared in advance because you know bills arrive in the mail you said to yourself as you opened the mailbox, “sometimes I get bills and I’ve always been able to meet my obligations. I’m on top of things, I have a budget and a plan and I am working it.” Or, you could grab the mail, not read each envelope (shift your focus) and put the mail on the counter for review another time when you’re not already having a tough or challenging day.

[video here about the scale/story of debt]

Change your focus, change your life” – Tony Robbins

Telling yourself an empowering story about what a bill means can shift your entire emotional and physiological response to the piece of mail. It’s up to you. Takes practice, but if you get out ahead of it you can do it.

Managing Stress, Self-Awareness and Moving to Empowerment

“So how do we reclaim control from The Jerk and put it back into the hands of The Thinker? The answer is the Zorro Circle.”

This is a clever concept and I think Achor is correct. The two things he points out that can help us turn the tides on The Jerk involves two steps. The first step is to raise our level of self-awareness. Achor shares that, “Experiments show that when people are primed to feel high levels of distress, the quickest to recover are those who can identify how they are feeling and put those feelings into words.”

Self-awareness is crucial in any aspect of personal growth.  I agree with Achor if you’re working to be a better manager of stress and be more empowered then you  need to be highly self-aware.

Noticing and being able to identify when you feel bad or are building negative energy inside is a good tool for life. Everything is energy and energy (and emotions) tends to increase in momentum due to our focus. If we find ourselves frequently upset or stressed or in a negative vibration, it’s often because we didn’t catch our thoughts and emotional state early on in order to adjust our focus and thoughts before they got out of control.

Being highly self-aware of our vibration and energetic state is key to control or intentional creation in our lives. Self-awareness or awareness of self – energy, emotion, thought and attitude are the way we become creators of our life and less reactors to situations.  

The second step that Achor talks about is the Zorro Circle. What he means by this is to, “identify which aspects of the situation you have control over and which you don’t.” If you feel helpless, blame others or play victim to what’s happening in your life you’re going to feel disempowered.

In order to keep in an empowered state, first be more self-aware so your negative thoughts don’t get too much momentum and then focus on what you can control. In some areas of our life our locus of control may be small, so we then want to focus on the thing we have the most control over and that’s our mind. Our focus and meaning creating mind is ours to guide. If we tell a better story about the situation, one that empowers us, the resulting feelings we’ll have will keep us in an empowered state. From that empowered state so much more is possible.

Achor also gives advice to focus on the small things we can control and have small wins or successes that build upon each other. When we have wins, even small ones, we feel more confident and empowered. Building small wins upon one another is a great way to increase your confidence and feel an empowered state more of the time.

I’ve found that sometimes my biggest locus of control and empowerment can come from my physical strength and trainings and often carries over into other areas of my life. If I’m feeling like a badass when I’ve crushed a workout, I have a lot more confidence to make a new client call or approach a new situation. Your small wins don’t always have to be in the same area as where you’re perhaps feeling less control or disempowered. Take the win and leverage it.

From the book, “And as their circles started to expand, so did their results….The point: Small successes can add up to major achievements. All it takes is drawing that first circle in the sand.”

Final Thoughts on Principle #5 Zorro Circle

To summarize a few great quotes from this chapter:

  1. “Feeling that we are in control, that we are masters of our own fate at work and at home, is one of the strongest drivers of both well-being and performance.”
  2. “…gains in productivity, happiness, and health have less to do with how much control we actually have and more with how much control we think we have.”
  3. “Most of our daily challenges are better served by The Thinker, but unfortunately, when we’re feeling stressed or out of control, the Jerk tends to take over.”
  4. “When small stresses pile up over time, as they so often do in the workplace, it only takes a minor annoyance or irritation to lose control; in other words, to let the Jerk into the driver’s seat.”
  5. “The first goal we need to conquer – or circle we need to draw – is self-awareness.”
  6. “Once you’ve mastered the self-awareness circle, your next goal should be to identify which aspects of the situation you have control over and which you don’t.”
  7. “…self-awareness was a swift antidote for emotional hijacking…”
  8. “Small successes can add up to major achievements.”

Continue reading with Principle #6 – 20 Second Rule

With love and light,

Polly

————————————-

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The Happiness Advantage Principle #4 – Falling Up Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect

Principle #4 – Falling Up (this post)

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment

———-

The primary message in Principle #4 Falling Up relates in a lot of ways with the message of Principle #2 The Fulcrum and The Lever which had a lot to do with choosing a positive mindset. When we are aware and consciously choose to see the positive in any situation, we can have the most benefit and change the course of our future experiences.

In this chapter of Achor’s book he shares findings from studies about the setbacks, adversity and challenges we all face and how best to navigate our way to leveraging them to make our lives better.

Mental Mapping Our Way Out of Adversity

According to the author, “All human decisions involve this kind of mental mapping; they start with an ‘I am here’ point (the status quo), from which a variety of paths radiate outward, the number depending on the complexity of the decision, and the clarity of your thinking at the moment. The most successful decisions come when we are thinking clearly and creatively enough to recognize all the paths available to us, and accurately predict where that path will lead. The problem is when we are stressed or in crisis, many people miss the most important path of all: the path up.

Our minds can easily see when we face adversity or a setback that we can keep doing what we’ve done and keep getting what we’ve been getting in terms of results. The mind can also conceive of worse case scenarios where we could do something that would put us even worse off than we are now. These two paths are readily available and most can see these two and often choose the current path because it’s better than the worst case.

Yet, there is a third path and that is one that leads us to growth and a better future. Achor refers to this as “Falling Up”. Finding the path to a better future can be difficult to find during challenging times. When you have a negative physical diagnosis, hardship in your relationship, or you’ve lost your job seeing the bright side of things isn’t easy. But it is there!

Finding the silver lining – or having a growth moment – is when we really have an opportunity to rise above adversity and stand on the shoulders of the situation and make our lives even better because of it.  We are either defined by our circumstances or we define our circumstances.  We can give the adversity a negative meaning and allow it to drag us down or choose to remind ourselves of one of my favorite lines “everything happens for a reason and that reason is there to serve me.

Achor says that, “….when we feel helpless and hopeless, we stop believing such a path [up] even exists – so we don’t even bother to look for it….our ability to find the Third Path is the difference between those who are crippled by failure and those who rise above it.”

Failure As Growth

In a lot of books I’ve read and in talking with lots of entrepreneurs over the years there’s a common theme about risk. All business comes with some risk and therefore there could be failure. Failure to successful business owners isn’t the end of the road. It’s a part of the path. They accept and learn from failures, trying not to repeat them in the future.

This same idea can be applied to our lives. If we perceive of failure as growth, we are more likely to experience growth from the experience than to be taken down by it.

Achor writes, “however counterintuitive it may seem, psychologists actually recommend that we fair early and often.” It’s in the living through failure that we grow more confident in our abilities, we learn to figure things out and feel better and less afraid of failure in the future because we know we can do it.

Post-Traumatic Growth

One of my favorite parts of this chapter is when the author talks about studies that show people who have been through traumatic situations and are able to see the silver lining have better lives after the trauma.  We’ve all seen people who have lost limbs, eyesight or were severely burned and their resilience during and after the event is totally inspiring.

I heard the story of Turia Pitt, an ultra marathon runner who was caught in a brush fire during a race and received burns on nearly 70% of her body.  She’s now an inspirational speaker.  She lived through a hellish journey of 8 months in and out of the hospital for surgery to repair the damage the fires did to her body.

What’s often interesting to watch are people who come into the world with a seemingly normal set of circumstances and their lives spiral downward because they let events determine their life.  Then there are people like Turia who was a model, had a loving boyfriend and a life that seemed to be going well.  She has a horrible injury and she goes on to allow that experience to propel her into the atmosphere instead of curl back into nothing.  This is post traumatic growth.

Actor says, “Success is about more than simple resilience.  It’s about using that downward momentum to propel ourselves in the opposite direction.  It’s about capitalizing on setbacks and adversity to become even happier, even more motivated, and even more successful.  It’s not falling down, it’s falling up.”

To me, the way to have access in the challenging times to the path up is to practice conditioning our mind before those setbacks happen.  To create an underlying belief that supports the story “things are always working out for me.”

It’s the daily rituals and thought patterns that you choose that give you access to your path up, your potential growth when you experience adversity.  The momentum of thoughts can carry you through adversity and surf the waves of challenges or be swept under the current.  Positively reinforcing to yourself that you have good karma, are blessed or whatever you want to reinforce to yourself will allow you to see opportunity in adversity and experience post traumatic growth.

Learned Helplessness Is Just Conditioned Thoughts

Achor talks about how people have a setback in one area of their life – or even read about it like watching the news when they report the economy is doing poorly – they carry it over into other areas of their life.  It’s incredibly common for people to have a setback, shock or failure to fall into hopelessness and give up.  We think “why bother trying.”

This learned helplessness is like a cancer.  If we allow one setback, one failure to be the catalyst that teaches us to give up and that life’s not worth winning we’ll never succeed.

Sadly, the author reports that often people feel helpless in one area of their life, say finding a job, and they carry that over into other areas.  They think they’ll never find a life partner, or that they’ll never lose the weight, or they’ll never save money and on and on.  The downward spiral continues.

As we talked about in Principle #3 Tetris Effect, the impact we can have on the experience AND results in our lives is greatly impacted by the thoughts we think.  Our outlook and attitude can change our reality.  The same idea applies here in seeing opportunity out of adversity.  We can condition our mind to look for the opportunity, or silver lining, in the setback.

So how exactly do you do that, you ask? Practice.

I’ve had my share of adversity and setbacks in my day.  Debt, divorce, death…you name it.  I have set up my life and my daily rituals so that they create a positive and happy life.  That sets my baseline at a higher place than if I weren’t in the practice of neutral or negative thinking.  It’s a great way to live to begin.

Then, when adversity hits I’ve also trained myself through repetition to recall thoughts like “everything is always working out for me so what ever this looks like now I know it will turn out in the end…I just may not see it now.”  I also trained myself to ask in the face of a problem or setback “I wonder what’s trying to happen here?”  That idea I picked up along my path has served me so well over the years.  Whether I’m traveling and I hit some bumps in the journey, I’ve had car problems, relationship problems, client problems…all “problems” are merely opportunities we don’t yet see from the other side.

Change Your Explanatory Style – Tell a New Story

Achor tells of a study where researchers were baffled because there was a minority of people who seemed immune to feeling distressed or helpless after a setback.  They explained that these subjects had “a positive way of interpreting adversity – or what the researchers termed an optimistic ‘explanatory style’.”

The explanatory style is how we tell the story of our life.  Do we tell it with an optimistic or pessimistic outlook?  Do things always work out for us or is it “why does this always happen to me?”  It’s a choice and I believe it comes from our underlying beliefs which are just conditioned patterns of thought.

The story we tell ourselves about the way our life is – or adversity is – is the way we experience life.  If we can learn to condition ourselves to tell a good-feeling, empowering story when adversity comes up we can grow and even experience the post-traumatic growth talked about earlier.  To learn more about telling a new story, check out my post Tell a New Story & Create Your New Life.

Final Thoughts on Principle #4 Falling Up

This is a big chapter and a lot of great insights.  To recap and share a few additional points the author talks about, here’s a quickie summary:

  1. There are always three paths out of any situation – the same path, the negative path and the path up.
  2. Successful decisions about which path to choose are made when we are thinking clearly and creatively so we are sure to see all paths available to us.
  3. If we perceive failure as growth, then we will benefit from the failure and grow.
  4. Post-traumatic growth – growing out of adversity.  More than bouncing back, we bounce up!
  5. Psychologists recommend failing early and often.  We become more confident and learn how to figure things out better in future.
  6. Learned helplessness can be over learned when we begin to apply feeling helpless because of a setback to other areas of our lives.
  7. Having an optimistic, opportunistic mindset helps us see the growth in the loss, adversity or setback.
  8. We have the power to create the story, to give meaning to what happens in every situation.  Choose an empowering meaning!
  9. How we “explain the nature of past events has crucial impact on our happiness and future success.”
  10. Optimists see adversity as “local and temporary”.  They don’t think it will last forever and it doesn’t apply to other areas of their life.  Just that situation.
  11. “Our fear of consequences is always worse than the consequences themselves.”
  12. Falling up is using downward momentum to propel us upward.

Continue reading with Principle #5 – Zorro Circle

With love and light,

Polly

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The Happiness Advantage Principle #3 – Tetris Effect Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect (this post)

Principle #4 – Falling Up

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment

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Training Your Brain to Capitalize on Possibility

This is a slightly shorter chapter in the book, but no less important in terms of helping us improve our lives. As a student of habits, addiction and how to improve our lives by stopping things that no longer serve us I enjoyed this chapter.

I’m hoping you know what the game Tetris is and how addictive it can be for some gamers. My dad fell into this category playing hours of Tetris each day. He got pretty good at it!

In this chapter Achor talks about a few studies that show the effects of training or conditioning our minds. In one study people played hours of Tetris each day and they reported seeing Tetris-like patterns outside in the world like the cereal boxes on shelves at the store that they wanted to reorganize just like in the game.

The only thing I could think of that this could be helpful with is if you were a librarian or had messy kids and playing this helped them be better at straightening up their rooms.

The Positive Tetris Effect

As you may know, our minds are energy efficiency-seeking mechanisms. The mind is constantly editing or deleting information from the outside environment to filter our experience. There is so much information coming at us that if we had to take it all in we would be easily overwhelmed with data. Our minds have adapted over millions of years to filter – or edit out – what we have identified as being non-important to our survival.

Just like in the Tetris study, our minds can become conditioned to view the world in patterns. The brain is trying to conserve energy so it looks for signals from one thing that tells it what that thing is – often related to something else we’ve already experienced before it can relate to and categorize as harmful or helpful.

Here’s the good news about having a mind that sees things in patterns; we can train the mind to see what we want it to see. If I were to ask you to look around the room you’re in right now and look for everything that’s brown, brown, brown. Take a minute look around you – above, below, in front, behind. Everything that’s brown.

Now close your eyes and answer this….

Tell me everything in the room that’s red.

You’d have a harder time remembering things that were red because you had just sent your mind on a mission to find the brown in the room. It was filtering out the red and anything else that wasn’t brown.

Once you know this you can put this into practice to serve you! Instead of helping you see the brown or red, condition your mind to see opportunities and positive things in your environment. Our minds can become opportunity seeking mechanisms for us! Your mind can be conditioned to filter out the negative and help us be alert and see things that we choose to see.

Where attention goes, energy flows and results show.  If you can condition your mind to focus on the things you want to see grow or improve in your life, that is what the mind can help you do.

Training Your Brain to See Positive

I don’t know that I need to tell you that focusing on the positive in the world could be a good thing, but scientists have actually studied this and found that we gain access to three resources when we focus on the positive:

  1. Happiness
  2. Gratitude
  3. Optimism

The more you pick up on the positive around you, the better you’ll feel. In Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage – we learned that when you’re happier your performance at work goes up. In fact being happy trickles out and improves every area of your life. Being happy is a very good thing.

There are studies that have found that nothing improves your overall well being better than gratitude. As a student of Abraham Hicks I’m going to turn gratitude into appreciation (Abraham says gratitude is laced with some negative but appreciation is pure positive so let’s go with that, ok?).

Results show people who are consistently thankful are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving and have less depression, anxiety and loneliness.

Amen to that! Or should I say…thank you for that!

Building Momentum by Focusing On Positive

I’m pleased to report from my own experience and from the studies Achor shares that we can start to build momentum when we focus on the positive.  It takes practice, but it’s so worth it.

Actor talks about one method to begin practicing focusing on the positive by keeping a “Three Good Things” journal.  He explains it as a way to write down at the end of each day three good things that happened that day.  This forces your brain to pick up on the good things in your experience and filter out the rest.  It teaches the brain to look for brown or red, in my earlier exercise.

Many people now keep a gratitude journal where they write down their blessings each morning or night before bed.  I think this is a wonderful start. I’ve moved past this in my personal practice. In the work I teach I encourage people to start with a gratitude journal, but move on into being a person who IS thankful and appreciates things throughout the day. Start with a journal to get the habit and when you’re ready start off each day with the question “what’s awesome about today?” or “what can I appreciate or be thankful for?”  You get the idea. Set the course for your mind to look for good things and it will see them more and more often.

Just a reminder here; if you want to become a more thankful or appreciative person it takes focus and practice.  You’re creating a new habit and habits rely on consistency and repetition to allow the mind to engrain them.  Do these rituals every day for at least 30 days. Some of my coaching clients do them as rituals, fall off the wagon without reminders and then find their negative vibrations creep back in.  I’ve found it’s helpful to have reminders either on your calendar, phone alerts or the journal each night is a great fall back.

I hope you’ll play with this mind conditioning and see the benefits for yourself.  People I coach are sometimes amazed when they first try it how good it feels.

Quick Recap for Principle #3:

  • Negative Tetris Effect – when we focus on solving problems and finding things to fix (in our work, in others, or at home) we fall into a pattern of seeing negative or problems all around us.

 

  • Positive Tetris Effect – we can train our brain to focus on the positive. “…we see what we look for.”

Continue reading with Principle #4 – Falling Up

With love and light,

Polly

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The Happiness Advantage Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and The Lever Insights

This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!

Principle #1 – The Happiness Advantage

Principle #2 – The Fulcrum and the Lever (this post)

Principle #3 – The Tetris Effect

Principle #4 – Falling Up

Principle #5 – The Zorro Circle

Principle #6 – The 20 Second Rule

Principle #7 – Social Investment

———-

It makes sense when you read the story why the author titled this chapter and principle the fulcrum and the lever, but I think I would have called it “Your Thoughts Create Your Reality”. Ok, maybe that line is a bit overused, but it’s easier to get your mind around as a principle.

The sub-title of this chapter is “Changing Your Performance by Changing Your Mindset”. I think this is where I started really getting into this book because a lot of my behavior change and addiction recovery coaching comes down to shifting our mindset. Stopping old habits has a lot to do with undoing or replacing old patterns with new ones.

I’ll admit I studied this chapter a lot because I really wanted to best understand what the author was teaching under the metaphor of fulcrum and lever. I get what they are, but for some reason the way he described them in this chapter as two distinct areas of potential I had to ponder, question and relate to things I’ve studied and observed over the years. I think I finally got it and will do my best to convey this to you as clearly as possible.

The Archimedean Formula – Using Our Fulcrum and Lever Increases Our Possibility

If you’re familiar with the idea behind a fulcrum and lever (think a big stick or board wedged under a rock to lift something too heavy to lift with your own strength), you get that you can create a ton of energy potential – or work – with less effort than if you tried to apply your energy to it directly. You increase your power potential when you use the fulcrum and lever to your advantage.

Achor says that, “…our brains work in precisely the same way. Our power to maximize our potential is based on two important things: (1) the length of our lever – how much potential power and possibility we believe we have, and (2) the position of the fulcrum – the mindset with which we generate the power to change…simply put, by changing the fulcrum of our mindset and lengthening our lever of possibility, we change what is possible.”

I needed to double check a few definitions because mindset, paradigm, attitude and a few other words were beginning to come up for me and I wanted to clarify before moving ahead and hope this clarification helps you, too.

Mindset is defined as:

  • the established set of attitudes held by someone.
  • a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations.
  • an inclination or habit.

I’ve heard mindset described as the glasses through which we see our world. If your glasses (mindset) is rosey colored, you see the good in the world. If your glasses are muddled, then you see what’s wrong with the world…the problems. You’re likely to be called an optimist.

Achor says that the power to improve our possibility, our future, our life lies in our hands. We can move the fulcrum and the lever to better suit the future we want. We have the power to change. It’s not always easy, but what a wonderful thing to know!

Our beliefs are a magnet that create your realityAchor goes on to say, “In other words, ‘reality’ is merely our brain’s relative understanding of the world based on where and how we are observing it….we can change this perspective at any moment, and by doing so change our experience of the world around us…Essentially, our mindset and in turn our experience of the world, is never set in stone, but constantly in flux.”

Much of his chapters are filled with recounts of study after study that reinforces his points. I highly encourage you to read this book because the studies are not only sometimes entertaining, it’s absolutely shocking what they can teach us about how powerful our mind is. If I shared every story and study this would turn into a book but that’s why we have his book. I’m here to touch upon the highlights and the insights.  Let’s keep moving…

The Placebo Effect and Expectancy Theory – Why We Get What We Expect

There’s a great quote from Wayne Dyer that says, “Man does not get what he wants, he gets what he expects.” I believe the premise behind this has largely to do with energy and the law of attraction, but that’s for another post.

In this part of the chapter Achor shares several examples of studies that prove the placebo effect is very real. He reports, “an empirical review of placebo studies found that ‘Placebos are about 55-60% as effective as most active medications.”

Wow. Just wow.

I remember learning what the placebo effect was as a young student, but I’m seeing the impact of this data in a whole new perspective now that I am a life coach. Goes to show you the true power of our mind in shaping our reality.

One study Achor shared I found incredibly fascinating and surprising at the same time. In one experiment they took people allergic to poison ivy and brushed them with poison ivy and told them it was another type of leaf. Many participants didn’t break out. In another experiment they took people who thought they were allergic to poison ivy were brushed with a non-poison ivy leaf, but were told it was poison ivy and many of them broke out. They experienced a negative placebo effect.

How is that possible?

THAT is the power of our mind.

There are many examples in psychological studies that have proved that our mindset not only changes how we feel about an experience but can actually change the result of the experience. We break out in a rash even when we’re not rubbed with poison ivy.

What does all of this say about us and how can we use this information in our lives?

What this means is that if we can practice new mindsets, we can have a different outcomes and experiences in the world. If you want to apply this towards performance, then if you can shift the way you see how you perform (tell a new story) or the outcome you desire you can achieve better results. I’ve seen this many times in my own life and I’ll share just one example. See if you can relate…

My mom and I have had a rocky relationship most of my life. Hot and cold. Up and down. As I matured I realized I didn’t want to feel all of the lows, the downs, the negativity. I wanted to feel better in this relationship and I expect she did, too.

My mindset about my mom for most of my life was that she was angry and picked fights. I’m glad to say several years ago I had an ah-ha moment and realized she was being attacked or triggered by my dad when I was growing up. Most of her upset and fighting was in response to his behavior.

I practiced letting go of the idea that my mom was a “fight picker” and chose instead to see her as a kind, warm-hearted person. Not long after I changed my mindset and practiced new thoughts about her our relationship turned around so radically it was obvious to me that my mindset was the only thing getting in the way of us having a loving and connected relationship.

Now you…

Think for a moment about where in your life you are not seeing the results you want for yourself. Maybe in the area of love, finances, family, children, physical health, career, relaxation or freedom, creativity, etc.

What is your current mindset about that area?

What story do you tell yourself about “the way it is”?

Is it generally a positive or a negative perspective?

Does it serve you to look at that area through those glasses or could you perhaps shift your mindset to a brighter, more optimistic viewpoint?

If so, what would be a new story you could tell yourself in that area?

Achor says, “…our expectations create brain patterns that can be just as real as those created by events in the real world. In other words, the expectations of an event causes the same complex set of neurons to fire as though the event were actually taking place, triggering a cascade of events in the nervous system that leads to a whole host of real physical consequences…beliefs can actually change the concrete results of our efforts and our work.”

It really is important that we expect good things if we want good things to happen. In my coaching work I teach clients the Abraham Hicks method of “pre-paving”. In pre-paving we are having a mental rehearsal in advance of stepping into that experience.

Allow me to share an example. Before I go on stage or give a presentation I always take a few moments with my eyes closed to see the audience during the talk, really engaged and interested, asking questions or taking notes. I imagine them coming up to me afterwards and sharing what they learned, thanking me and telling me what they’re going to do when they get back into their lives. I take a few moments to practice the feeling of the experience during and after and it prepares my brain to help me deliver the talk that will create that outcome. I’ve had a lot of success with it and hope you’ll try it!

More than anything I’ve found that our beliefs, our expectations, about a situation or outcome will have more influence on the event than the work or steps we take in the activity itself. There are some great studies Achor shares in this chapter that reinforce this idea.

One of the common ways we see this is when people go on a diet or start an exercise routine but they’re not into it. They don’t expect to have good results (maybe because this is their 10th attempt) or they’re doing it to please someone in their lives and they limit their results again. Sadly, the results they get are the results they expected. “This stuff doesn’t work.”

Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believeIf you’re going into something, line up your energy and your mind with what you’re doing and see things turning out well. Practice expecting good things or don’t get started until you do. Otherwise, you’re investing way more energy for a way less result…or no result.

What you say to yourself about the way it is becomes your reality.

Now for a quick word of precaution:

Doing activities we enjoy can greatly enhance our performance in our work. However, if we do the activities we normally enjoy begrudgingly, feeling like we should be working or worse we tell ourselves “this isn’t helping” then those activities won’t have the positive impact on our performance. If you’re going to take time out at lunch to go for a bike ride, do yoga on a break or spend time with your family after dinner instead of checking emails you’ve got to line up with those choices or it won’t help your performance.

You’ve got to tell yourself the story that taking time out to relax, enjoy yourself and treat yourself well IS of benefit to other areas of your life. The inner conflict will kill off the benefit. Make up your mind doing things you enjoy makes you more creative, productive and happier will give you those results.

The author says, “when your brain conceives of family dinner or Sudoku or fantasy football or a phone call with a friend as a ‘waste of time,’ it won’t be able to reap its inherent benefits. But if you change the fulcrum so that you conceive of such free time as a chance to learn and practice new things, to recharge your batteries and connect with others, you’ll be able to leverage the power of that rest time and return stronger than before.”

The Lever of Possibility

I’m a big fan of possibility thinking and using our mind to set the course for our future, if you hadn’t noticed. I like in the book when Achor says, “the more you believe in your own ability to succeed, the more likely it is that you will…” and

“…studies show that simply believing we can bring about positive change in our lives increases motivation and job performance; that success, in essence, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.”

When we begin to work on our thoughts, to change our mindset and put on a new set of glasses, we not only have a better experience in the moment, but the outcome will be better than if we had not.

So how do we move the fulcrum? How do we adjust our lever of possibility?

A few ideas from the book include:

  • focus on the reasons you will succeed, rather than fail
  • remind yourself of the skills you bring to the table, rather than what you lack
  • recall a time you faced a similar (or challenging) circumstances in the past and things turned out well

When we focus on our strengths, our successes, what we’ve done well (how bad ass we are!), we improve our current performance and influence the outcome of our situation in the right direction.

You can use these practices for big and small tasks. Whether it’s an important presentation to a big client or making dinner for your new in-laws for the first time. It works!

The Process of Manifestation

The process of manifestation is how we turn thoughts into things.  It demonstrates how our beliefs create thoughts which lead to our feelings which we then take action from and get results from those actions. It is represented as

Beliefs –> Thoughts –> Feelings –>  Actions –> Results

If we want to have different results, we’ve got to change the underlying beliefs. The work that Achor is teaching us in shifting our mindset is much like working on our beliefs. Beliefs are just thoughts we keep thinking and eventually regard as true or normal.

But what if they weren’t normal? What if there was a new perspective we could take on outside of our “normal”? If we had a new perspective (move the lever) about how well we could perform in a situation, for example, what results could we create?

Tell a New Story

How much we do in life is based upon what we believe we can achieve.

Our lives are created in the language we use to tell the story of our life. When you relay a past experience to someone you choose your words to relay what you felt or experienced. Most often, once you come up with the words or language about that experience you use pretty much the same language and tell the same story.

Yet, what if the story could be told differently? What if we chose to see the situation from a different perspective? If there was another person in the story, could we tell the story incorporating what their experience was more than just our own? Would it make the story feel better to us?

If your fears and doubts about your future are laced with language that defeats you at every turn, how can you begin to study your story and refine the words or the entire story all together? What else could be possible? What’s another way of looking at and seeing the outcome we want with a different mindset?

Continue reading with Principle #3 – Tetris Effect

With love and light,

Polly

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If you resonate with this article, you may also enjoy receiving my newsletter with my personal updates and all the goodies I don’t share on my blog.

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