Maria Connolly, LPC

Category: Fearless Mindset

Rather than thinking fear is an unpleasant emotion that signals danger, learn ways to cultivate a fearless mind so that when you feel fear you can embrace it as an opportunity to become fully aware of your surroundings and connect with you inner power to handle it.

Become Counterphobic — Get OUT of Your Comfort Zone and INTO Success

Fear is a natural and essential part of growth. When you become counterphobic, you can consciously choose to step out of your comfort zone and into success. “Take risks sometimes… It’s not normal. It’s not easy. But oftentimes, it’s very, very rewarding.” ~ Tony Dungy 

Become counterphobic? What does that mean? It’s your behavior and attitude in response to anxiety; instead of running away from the source of your overwhelming fear or anxiety, you actively seek it out, hoping to overcome it. It’s going counter to or against your natural inclination to stay in your comfort zone.

Your comfort zone is a place where you feel certainty and predictability, because you’re surrounded by what’s familiar. You’ve already mastered everything within the confines of this zone, so it feels cozy. But the downside is that there’s nothing to challenge you, nothing for you to learn, to conquer, to experience. Everyone has the potential to go further! Yet, if you allow your comfort zone to restrict you, you won’t reach your full potential, because you won’t be able to take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

What situations make you fearful? Public speaking? Marketing your business via in-person networking? Confrontational situations? Learning new skills? Putting yourself out there where everyone can see your vulnerabilities? Whatever your fear, you can become counterphobic and turn that fear into an opportunity.

Here are some suggestions:

Reject rationalization. A common reaction when you’re afraid is to minimize the benefit you’ll get if you participate. This gives you permission to give in to your anxiety and fear. You tell yourself dismissive statements like: “It’s not that important.” “I don’t need to do that, if I do this.” “I didn’t want to do that anyway.” These statements may be true, but they may be your way of avoiding the thing that makes you uncomfortable.

So ask yourself:  If you had zero anxiety about it, would you do it and benefit from it? If so, you’ve identified your fear. Now you can mindfully use my Tea Time Exercise to reassure all of your Parts that you’re safe and everything is alright. Then plot out the baby steps that will keep moving you toward your new intention or goal.  

Customize your approach. There is seldom only one way to accomplish something. If approaching it head-on scares you, circle around from the side and work up to it, step by step. Customizing your behavior like this makes you successful, while being true to yourself. It helps you take control and make it your own.

Embrace accountability. Progress happens when you measure the success of taking daily baby steps. It’s easy to get down on yourself, to talk yourself out of doing things outside your comfort zone. That’s when a coach or mentor can really help you to keep going despite the discomfort you feel. They help you see the situation and yourself through new eyes. They can point out adjustments, which will make you more effective.

Get real. We all tend to have certain habits or behaviors that we resort to when we feel uncomfortable. Upon closer examination you might discover that indulging in them is keeping you stuck in your comfort zone. For example, you might feel discomfort so you grab your go-to self-help tool — a book, a recording, a YouTube video of Tony Robbins. That sounds good. But if you don’t go and do what causes you discomfort, what good has the self-help tool done? In reality, it’s become a way for you to hide in your comfort zone.

Show insight and widen your perspective. Assuming you know everything or leaping to conclusions are ways we put our own slant on a situation, when there is no basis for those judgments. And we tend to use those assumptions to behave in a negative, limiting way that keeps us in our comfort zone. For example, you might be talking with a client who seems defiant and uncooperative. You proceed to tell yourself how you’ve failed to reach her and it would be best to cancel future appointments. What you don’t realize is that she had terrible personal news that threw her off balance and she needs you more than ever. Getting your wires crossed, you retreat back into your comfort zone, without inquiring and digging deeper into what could be a messy conversation.

Fear is a natural and essential part of growth. When we become counterphobic, we can consciously choose to step outside of our comfort zone. The next uncomfortable thing then becomes a little bit easier.

Make the brave decision that the time has come for you to take your first bold step toward the biggest future you have imagined, however far off the beaten and comfortable path that may take you. I invite you to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you become counterphobic so that you can lean into what makes you uncomfortable and achieve your full potential for success.

How to Build Confidence in Yourself and Others

As you fine tune your “dials” to become the person you aspire to be, you arrive at the balance where you know how to build confidence in yourself and others.“Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.” ~ Richard Kline

On the scale of timid to self-confident to arrogant, where do you usual show up? Do you wish you spoke up for yourself more? Have you ever fallen into the trap of putting others down so you feel better about yourself? Since we live in a very connected world, it’s important to know how to build confidence in yourself and others in a way that encourages rather than tears down.

How we feel about ourselves and how we treat others is all about constantly adjusting our “dials”. Turning this up; toning that down. Every new situation brings an opportunity to fine tune our “dials” until we become the person we aspire to be. Ultimately, you arrive at the balance of loving and respecting yourself and others. That balance produces self-confidence.

How can you achieve that balance? Here are my top 10 tips on how to build confidence in yourself and others…

1. Take care of yourself. No one will respect you, if you don’t respect yourself. For example, the way you dress, exercise, eat, drink, and speak tells whether you love yourself and others. Loving yourself doesn’t mean pampering yourself. It means doing all you can to improve your life.

2. Know your values and be true to yourself. Your decisions and your actions form your character. Practice being the best version of yourself. When you do something that’s really hard, you’ll be proud of yourself. At the same time, you won’t feel the need to control others. You’ll be able to allow them to grow at their own rate.

3. Believe in yourself. Don’t let the Debbie Downers stop you. Especially is this so, if one of those critical voices is in your own mind. Believe in what you’re trying to accomplish; believe in you. And then pay it forward by encouraging others to follow their dreams.

4. Cultivate a fearless mindset. Build a fire in your soul for developing the attitudes and habits that make you fearless. View everything you do as worthwhile. No matter what the job is, do it cheerfully. Appreciate “failures” as an opportunity to hone your strengths. When you feel like you can’t go on, gather your last ounce of courage and keep going. What you’re trying to accomplish is more important than the fear you feel. This mindset will keep you from judging or condemning others when they falter.

5. Keep your word. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. You’ll respect yourself and so will others. Action gives your words meaning. You’ll accomplish your goals and reinforce your self-worth. And others come to trust you.

6. Don’t worry what others think. While feedback is helpful, don’t let it define who you are. Thinking you’re smart or stupid just because someone says so isn’t real. Feedback is meant to be examined for nuggets of wisdom that apply to your life. If you think something can be done, then you will find a way to make it happen. In the process, strive to give helpful feedback to others.

7. Finish what you start. Life is full of distractions and procrastinations. Your self-confidence will sky-rocket each time you can say, “Done!” Others will be confident that they can depend on you.

8. Track your accomplishments. Too often, we forget what we’ve accomplished over the course of a year. Make a physical record of your achievements, no matter how small, so you can review them. This will really boost your self-confidence. And be quick to acknowledge and compliment others for everything they do. I love this quote from David Storey…

“Self-confidence is the memory of success.”

9. Learn new skills. Whether it’s for business, fitness, or recreation, learning and becoming good at something new is a great moral booster. Each time I put together a new program, push myself further at CrossFit or score in archery, I can feel my self-confidence growing. And I love inviting others to join me. We accomplish more together than I ever could by myself. Remember, you’ll accomplish big things if you take one baby step at a time.

10. Think future benefits, not instant gratification. Self-denial is part of life. We can’t have and do it all. You can’t go days without sleep and eating junk food and expect to be brilliant. Be strong enough to make the tough decisions and stick to the choices that get you closer to your dreams. Welcome immediate discomfort, by keeping your mind’s eye focused on the long-term gain for yourself and others.

Life is short. The more time you spend doing something you love, the less time you’ll have for stress and anxiety. Why not contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). Together, we can formulate a plan that enriches every day of your life.

12 Strengths of Mentally Strong People – How Many Do You Have?

It’s within your power to become one of the mentally strong people by mindfully making your best choices. Here are 12 mental strengths you can work on to become the best YOU possible.“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”– Arnold Schwarzenegger

Are you one of the mentally strong people? I think you are, because you’re interested in improving your life. That’s a sure sign of mental strength. Most people want to keep the status quo. Change takes too much effort. It’s too scary.

That doesn’t mean mentally strong people are superhuman. Mental strength isn’t about false bravado, acting tough, hiding feelings, or being inflexible. Mentally strong people aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. They know they’re strong enough to handle it, if people reject them or try to exploit them. Because what other people do is their responsibility. Your responsibility is how you choose to relate to events and people.

No matter how strong you are today, if you don’t use your mental strengths you will lose them. This applies to muscle as well as character. As you read the following list, why not take note of what strengths you’d like to work on next…

  1. Mentally strong people are comfortable in their own skin. While you want your loved ones to be happy, you won’t sacrifice your truth and lose your identity. Other people’s opinions will not keep you from what’s important for you.
  2. Mentally strong people give generously. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more you give, the more you get. But getting back is not your motivation for giving. Instead, you’re creating the world you want to live in. The more you give the better your world becomes.
  3. Mentally strong people say ‘no’ easily. We live in a world that preys on our fear of scarcity. Yet you’ve reasoned out what will serve you now and what will clutter up your life with unwanted commitments, unpaid credit debt, unused products, or dust-collecting items in your house.
  4. Mentally strong people are kind. Reciprocity is behind many acts of “kindness” – she invited me to dinner, so now I have to invite her to dinner. It takes strength to break out of that mold and become the one who goes beyond what’s expected and initiates kind acts, without expecting a certain outcome. It takes courage and self-confidence to put yourself out there and risk being rebuffed or unappreciated. But you do it anyway because that’s the kind of person you want to be.
  5. Mentally strong people think for themselves. As you gather more information, you may even change your mind dramatically. That doesn’t mean you’re wishy washy or easily influenced. Instead, it indicates you’re open to growth.
  6. Mentally strong people use weakness as opportunity. Weaknesses aren’t excuses for inactivity or for putting yourself down. They are springboards for taking positive action that corrects a situation, either through learning a new skill or delegating it to another, so you stay within your zone of genius.
  7. Mentally strong people are patient with themselves and others. Instead of demanding instant results or gratification, you know it takes time to create something you can be proud of, like reaching optimal wellness. Each new day is your friend. You hold onto your vision and keep working toward it, little by little. 
  8. Mentally strong people don’t go it alone. Surround yourself with a community of people who support you all the way. 
  9. Mentally strong people challenge themselves. Welcome it when something doesn’t work the first time. It’s an opportunity to grow outside your comfort zone.
  10. Mentally strong people regulate their emotions. Mindfully peel back the layers to identify your emotions and what causes them. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t judge yourself – invite that emotion to a Tea Time Exercise. If an emotional response no longer serves you, do the internal work to let it go. You’ll be able to behave in a productive manner, even when you’re upset.
  11. Mentally strong people keep their cool. Even under provocation, hold your tongue. Retaliation may be your first impulse, but it can create irreparable damage to your relationship, so you choose to forgive, let it go or wait for things to calm down before discussing it.
  12. Mentally strong people know when to stay or walk away. The key is not trying to win, but making it work. You have to be strong to work through the discomfort. Yet, when the other person refuses to work with you, act in harmony with your truth and be strong enough to leave, whether it’s an argument with a coworker or a toxic relationship.  

There were probably some strengths that you feel you’ve mastered and others that could use some work. That’s okay because there’s always room for improvement. I’d love to partner with you in your quest for excellence. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

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.

3 Emotional Triggers You Can Ride to Soar Through Tough Times

Do you feel stuck in life – hardwired with self-defeating negativity and doubt? In reality, you can use these emotions to trigger new, more useful thoughts that take you where you want to be in life. Discover three emotional triggers that let you retrain your brain, as you master whatever you want.“When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.” ~ Napoleon Hill

Eagles effortlessly soar for hours, because they instinctively look for updrafts and downdrafts that take them where they want to go. We have more than instinct on our side. Even if, at times, our emotional triggers sidetrack us, we can learn to actually use them to get back on track and create the life we want.

It’s true that many people get stuck, because they’re hardwired toward self-defeating negativity and doubt. Try as you might, it feels like you can’t turn those emotions off. If that’s true in your case, take heart. You can use these emotions to trigger new, more useful thoughts that will take you where you want to be.

Here are three emotional triggers that will let you navigate through difficulties and excel at whatever you want…

  1. Let negativity trigger your ability to look for the “updrafts” of positivity. We are hardwired to see what’s wrong, so we don’t get hurt. Our “gut” or intuition tells us when we’re in a life-threatening situation. Problems arise, however, when we get out of balance physically, mentally and spiritually, and we can become too sensitive, feeling like everything is a challenge or attack—even when that’s not the intention.

You can regain your balance, by learning to identify defensive feelings and practicing relaxation techniques that make you feel safe and grounded. Before speaking negatively of yourself or others, mindfully retrain yourself to think positive thoughts. It will change your feelings, thoughts, behaviors and even relationships. You absolutely do get what you focus on.

  1. Let the “down drafts” of pressure trigger your sense of wonder. Though it may sound cliché, life is a journey, not a destination. If you rigidly hold to a set destination or outcome, you’ll put so much pressure on yourself your performance will suffer. You’ll miss opportunities that let you grow or experience new joys and discoveries. Pressure to perform does create stress, but remember that you, and everyone else, are practicing human beings, not perfect human beings. Everyone is a work in progress.

You don’t have to have all the answers. Cultivate greater awareness so you see that life is full of opportunities to try something new, rather than tests. This will help you mindfully transform a moment of panic into one of empowerment. You just have to have the courage to move forward, stretch yourself and do your best. Practice acceptance, rather than judgment as you let whatever happens, happen. And when you feel discomfort, choose to do the thing that scares you the most.

  1. Let insecurities trigger empowerment. All throughout life we take leaps of faith, just like eagle chicks tumble out of the nest for their first flight. You can do and be whoever you want. Who you were as a child is not who you are today. Who you are now, is not who you will be a year from now.

Feeling insecure means you’ve discovered an area where you can learn something new. You can master anything, if you’re willing to put in the time. Each step forward empowers you to take the next step and then the next, until you’re soaring with the eagles.

It’s been scientifically proven that we can reshape our brains. Each thought and behavior wears a path in the brain. That’s why we can do so many things without thinking about them, like making dinner or driving a car. The amazing thing is that if you don’t like a thought or behavior, you can create a new path that eventually overwrites the previous path.

I’d love to partner with you on this exciting part of your life’s journey. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). 

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