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Rewire Your Brain by Taking in the Good and Savoring the Moment

Learn to mindfully rewire your brain by taking in the good instead of the negative. “Never pull away suddenly from a negative thought or experience. Stay with it until you are indifferent to it or until it turns beautiful. Look at it, love it, then let it go.” ~ Thaddeus Golas, Author

Have you noticed that you intensely remember a bad experience from years ago, but the pleasure you experienced last week is easily forgotten? This isn’t just a matter of long-term or short-term memory. Instead of taking in the good, our brains are hardwired to remember painful or bad experiences, as a way of protecting us from possible harm in the future. If we get anywhere close to repeating something disturbing, our brain sends us down the rabbit hole of negativity, to keep us safe.

The brain learns from our experiences and how we process or “file” them. Think about how you’ve been “filing” every experience in your life. If you’re like most people, you tend to see the bad in them, so your brain files them into one of your over-stuffed negative files, like your “Resentment File”, “Grudge File”, or “Self-Doubt File”. Some examples:

  • A confrontation with your spouse made you feel bad, so anytime disagreements arise, you get angry and defensive, because you don’t want to feel powerless again.
  • A snake scared you, so every time you see a snake your skin crawls.
  • Your neighbor, Stephanie, hurt your feelings, so every time her name is mentioned your brain retrieves resentful feelings.

Was there any good in these experiences? Probably. However, you didn’t see it or you resisted taking in the good. In all of these cases, your brain only retained a snapshot of negativity and erased the rest of the whole picture, which included a lot of good that could have brought you happiness.

Whereas, if you change the way you process your experiences and lean toward mindfully savoring the moment and taking in the good, you’re telling your brain to file them in your “Happiness File”, or “Gratitude File”, or “Love File”. Instead of automatically dumping each experience in one of your negative files, you’re teaching your brain to see, enjoy, and use the good.

          “Everything that is created begins in the mind.” ~ Ruth Fishel, Author

An effective way to rewire your brain is to use the H.E.A.L practice coined by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. In his book, “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence,” he explains a process for deliberately and mindfully taking in the good. Here’s how this acronym works:

Have a positive experience in real time or as a recent memory, like when Stephanie took care of your dog while you were away on vacation. Feel the good emotions that go with it – pleasure, contentment, joy, etc.

Enrich it. Stay 15 to 20 seconds with your positive thought with a broad, open body, mind and spirit. Enhance and expand that good feeling by experiencing what it feels like in your body. Do you feel light? Warm? Safe? Loved? What other pleasant sensation do you notice about the experience?

Absorb it. Mindfully let it sink into your body, mind and spirit. Breathe with it and stay soft and open.

Link positive and negative material. Briefly recall a negative experience that you want to rewire, like when Stephanie hurt your feelings. Bring forward the positive, enhanced, absorbed memory, while keeping the challenging moment in the back of your mind. Let the two mingle together, until the positive takes on more importance and then anchor this new resourceful state. The next time you talk with Stephanie, you’ll feel a profound shift within yourself, because you’ve made this transitional link.

As you practice savoring the moment and taking in the good every day, you can turn your experiences, into lasting inner strengths, such as resilience, balance, and self-compassion. Remember that practice involves using your new skill repeatedly. If you’d like guidance and accountability on your journey toward a more positive outlook, please contact me for an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to meet you!

Getting Through Hard Times and Coming Out Stronger

While getting through hard times can be very painful, there is one very important quality – hope - that will determine if you come out stronger in the end. “To be tested is good. The challenged life may be the best therapist.”—Gail Sheehy

“If just one more thing goes wrong, it’s going to send me over the edge! I’m at my breaking point! I can’t take anymore! I’m too discouraged and overwhelmed as it is.” Have you ever felt like that? If you struggle with maintaining an optimistic attitude, your coping mechanism may be to shut down. You’re not alone. Yet, you are lacking the one key ingredient that will make getting through hard times more rewarding.  

How can getting through hard times be rewarding?

Even though our lives are packed full of demands, we can face all of these, plus the uncertainties that loom on the horizon with optimism and courage, IF we tap into the inextinguishable power of hope.

Yes, there will be pain. However, optimism fuels hope, and hope fuels resiliency, which can see you through seemingly impossible situations. Looking past the challenge and shifting your focus to better times ahead, can change everything. As William J. Brennan, Jr., Former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, said:

“We must meet the challenge rather than wish it were not before us.”

When we accept the struggles and challenges of life as part of our education, then we’ll be able to get through the tough times more gracefully. Here are five ways you can mindfully practice hope during hard times…

1. Take care of your health. Our bodies and spirit run on the fuel we give it. Eating healthfully and getting a good night’s sleep can often restore your balance and give you a new and hopeful perspective. Also, be careful about what you’re feeding your mind and spirit. Reject negative talk, whether it’s coming from yourself or others. You deserve better than that!

2. Share your feelings. Recognize the emotional states that are keeping you trapped in despair; they might be pride, fear, or shame. These are common emotional triggers. Hope reassures you that your trusted loved ones will not reject you for being human.

3. Express gratitude. This goes beyond the mental exercise of keeping a gratitude journal to get your mind focused on what you do have. It’s an activity – out of your gratitude list, look for ways to build others up with “thank yous” and compliments. The more positive messages you send out, the more positivity comes back to you.

4. Give meaningfully to others. This can be as simple as taking your dog for a long walk every day in the park, so you can smile at everyone you encounter. The size of your goal doesn’t matter, as long as it feeds your sense of purpose and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

4. Take one step at a time. Hope, like an actual building, is built one brick at a time. Seeing the big picture can often overwhelm, so focus on the one thing you can do right now…and do it!

You’re tougher than you think. People have always survived; and some have even thrived, while getting through hard times. Why not ask those around you what inspires them to keep going? Also read or watch true life stories of courage that inspire you. I’d love to hear about the people who inspire you – please come over to my Facebook page and share what you’ve learned from their stories.

Remember that baby steps lead to transformation. If you’d like guidance and accountability in your quest for a more hopeful state, please contact me for an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). It’s easier when you have help.

Start Developing Your Leadership Presence Now!

Developing leadership presence, also called executive presence or professional presence, refers to how others perceive and accept you. The process of developing leadership presence starts long before you become a leader. “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” ~ Ray Kroc

Whether you call it leadership presence, executive presence, professional presence or boardroom presence, what you’re talking about is how others perceive and accept you. But the process of developing a leadership presence starts long before you actually take a leadership position. In order for others to see you as a leader, you must first see yourself as a leader.

Keep in mind that a leadership presence focuses on connecting and engaging with others authentically. Of course, you may feel unsure at times and doubt yourself. Everyone does. The authenticity comes from your motivation to bring something positive, inspiring, and valuable to your organization, team, or clients. When you take the focus off of yourself solely, you’ll be more at ease, which in turn puts others at ease and makes them more receptive to your leadership.

What are the most important steps for developing your leadership presence? As you go through the following list, you’ll see that each skill will add to your self-confidence initially, which translates into a greater leadership presence for all to see.

Physical presentation. The quality of your voice, your vocabulary, and the athletic fitness of your body are important aspects of developing your leadership presence. The more you train in each of these areas, the more control you’ll gain in all aspects of life.

Dress and grooming. Even if you work from home, dress the part. First impressions do matter. Hire a stylist, so you’re not wasting money on clothes that don’t fit the image you want to portray. You’re worth it!

Being well-read. When you’re interested in a lot of different topics, within your area of expertise and beyond, you’ll be able to engage with anyone you meet. Stay up with current events and watch the trends. That will give you a cutting-edge advantage.

Charismatic personality. With the right training, you can change any inherent trait or quality, so don’t settle by saying, “This is how I was born. I can’t help it.” You can master emotional competencies that leaders need, i.e., composure, courage, tenacity, or optimism.

Humility and vulnerability. These are must-have qualities, because people want to work with someone they can relate to. Being vulnerable is a sign of strength and is the quickest pathway to trust. As a caveat – leaders acquire a great amount of power, and it can be tempting to misuse it. If your focus is on helping others to shine, and you’re willing to show your humanity, then people will willingly follow you.

Relationship-building communication. Learn to speak in a way that makes people want to listen. The ability to deliver a clear, convincing and appealing message has extreme value. You can take voice lessons and presentation training to improve your voice quality. Not to be overlooked – active listening is a critical element to communication. Ask questions and listen attentively to understand and learn. Lean forward. Let people sense your interest in them as a person.

Deliver outcomes. As a leader, you are in charge and you have to make sure the right things happen at the right time. It takes strong decision-making skills, plus flexibility and energy to get others to deliver. You’ll need to give helpful and detailed feedback so your team knows what is expected of them.

What challenges you the most in your quest for a leadership presence? Please come over to my Facebook page and share your thoughts. Also, in September, my colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Master Skill Building for Habits to Support the Life You Really Want

When you focus on skill building for habits that serve you, rather than relying on willpower, you’ll finally be able to create the life you really want to live. “The future depends on what we do in the present.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

The Yo-Yo diet, a roller coaster of emotions, the ebb and flow of life are expressions we use to describe how life never happens in a straight line. We’re not robots, nor do we rely on instinct like animals do. We have to use our brains to plan, to choose, to decide, to act… Yet we often revert to unhealthy old behaviors rather than adopt new, healthier ones. Why is that?

When you try to do something that goes against your habitual behavior, you fight not only against your circumstances; you fight against yourself! But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. When you focus on skill building for habits that serve you rather than on changing solely by means of willpower, you’ll finally be able to create the life you really want to live.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, “40% to 45% of what we do every day is actually habit.” His studies led him to discover that every habit has three components. 1) The Cue – the trigger for the behavior; 2) The Behavior – what you do; and 3) The Reward – teaches your brain how to encode the pattern of behavior. Most people focus on the behavior, but it’s the cue and the reward that really determine why you practice a specific habit.

Do you want to reset your habits? It can be done through skill building. For habits to stick, they have to become your default state of being. Habits are automatic, naturally brain-friendly, learned behaviors. Yes, you’ve learned every habit you have.

That means you have the power to mindfully create any habit you want, if you learn the foundation of skill building for habits. Here are seven steps to make it happen…

  1. Identify one small action or thought you really want to embrace. Make it tiny and specific to increase your chances of success. For example, if you want to journal so you become more self-aware of the habits that are holding you back, your first step will be to buy a special journal and pen, and keep them with you.
  1. Choose an anchor behavior (The Cue) that triggers your new action. As soon as you experience a supportive action or self-limiting belief, jot in your journal a note, so you can explore it later in the day.
  1. Keep your new behavior (The Behavior) simple. Don’t over-complicate things or rush into trying to do too much. Every night, brew a cup of tea, sit in a designated spot and finish the entry in your journal.
  1. Create an environment conducive to success. If you habitually sit in front of the TV after dinner, don’t sit in that chair to journal. This helps break the cycle.
  1. Celebrate (The Reward). Don’t wait for some big milestone, before you celebrate. Each time you tell yourself you did a great job today, you release dopamine into your brain. This reward makes you want to replicate the behavior to experience that feeling again. If you have trouble talking nicely to yourself, be sure to enlist the help of a mentor, coach or friend who celebrates every win, no matter if they seem small. A win is a WIN!
  1. Rinse and repeat. Repetition is the mother of retention. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
  1. Assess and adjust. Even if a method worked for someone else, if it doesn’t work for you, try something different until you find a method that does work. Actively search for the best solution for YOU.

Over time, your new habit will be stored in your unconscious mind. It will become automatic and easy to do. No more fighting yourself to do what you really want! Baby steps lead to transformation. If you’d like guidance and accountability as you develop your skills for building new habits, please contact me and an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). It’s easier when you have help.

How to Get People to Do Something with the Training You Provide

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to teach someone something and they just don’t get it or take action on it. After all, the job of a leader is to get people to do something, not simply to know something. “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to teach someone something, and they just don’t get it or take action on it. After all, the job of a leader is to get people to do something, not simply to know something. You can get people to act by a variety of methods: demanding, coercing, guilting, shaming, pleading, motivating, inspiring, convincing, reasoning, tricking, etc. However, the best ways to get people to do something focus on helping them see outside the box – to think expansively about themselves, others, and the opportunities in front of them.

As a leader, it’s imperative that you know the challenges your team or clients face. (For the purposes of clarity, within this article, I’ll refer to those that you lead as your “followers”.)  Here are three common, but very critical, life and business skills that followers, especially Millenials and Gen Xers, need to improve today, plus suggestions on how you get them to see outside the box on each one…

1. Clear communication skills. Many people grow up in families plagued by communication gaps, so it’s not surprising that they lack communication skills as adults. People often imagine that they know what the other person means. Between the two extremes – droning on without revealing anything or speaking cryptically and leaving out critical information – there is a sweet spot of communicating with clarity and completeness of thought.

Help your followers see that clear communication stems from respect for others, acknowledging that everyone has something of value to offer. When they understand they have a common purpose, they’ll want to give all the relevant information others need to excel in their portion of the job.

 

2. Self-worth and self-motivation. People internalize too much – they confuse doing something with being something. As a result, they don’t trust themselves; they constantly wait for others to tell them what to do. Through your words and actions, you can intentionally plant seeds of growth that replace their limiting doubts. 

Help your followers develop mindfulness, so they can assess themselves accurately. Let them see that you believe in them. As you guide them from the sidelines, reinforce that each step forward is important. This will add to their self-confidence and self-trust.

 

3. Critical thinking. Critical or analytical thinking requires a person to slow down and gather information and then see its importance in relation to other information. It involves recognizing the cause and effect of a certain course of action. It takes a lot of effort to weed out irrelevant information and distill the important information into actionable and insightful recommendations.

Help your followers become more curious by encouraging them to have the self-discipline to dig deeply. They do this by asking “why?” over and over, until the subject is thoroughly understood. Make sure they ask “why?” from their own standpoint and also from an opposing viewpoint. This will help them become aware of any biases they might have.

 

These simple, but powerful, suggestions can help you get your followers to finally take action and do something with the training you give. Are you striving to improve your leadership skills? What challenges you the most? Please come over to my Facebook page and share your thoughts. Also, in September, my colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

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