Maria Connolly, LPC

Category: Mindfulness

Mindfulness provides access to powerful inner resources so we can change the way we see and ultimately experience difficult situations. We’re empowered to participate in these situations – and interact with the world at large – as we work with what arises instead of trying to escape.

Overcoming Fear of Failure – One of the Most Valuable Lessons Learned in Life

This simple exercise in overcoming fear of failure is one of the most important life lessons you’ll learn, for it frees you to become the best YOU possible.“Failure is the foundation of success and the means by which it is achieved.” ~ Lao Tzu

One of the most common fears people have is fear of failure. Some even have a phobia about it called Atychiphobia. How do you feel about failure? Has it stopped you from trying to do something, even though you wanted to? Or do you view failure as a steppingstone to achieving better things? What value do you place on failure? Do you view it as a negative that’s taking away from your life or a positive that’s giving you a valuable gift? Just imagine how overcoming fear of failure will improve your quality of life.

The way you feel about and manage failure will profoundly influence your ability to achieve excellence. There are three key points to creating a positive view of failure:

  1. Redefine Failure. Failure is really a great teacher if you don’t let perfectionism get in the way. Perfectionism causes you to beats yourself up emotionally. Shame based emotions like these lower self-esteem and makes you want to give up.
  1. Have realistic expectations. Build your self-esteem by only demanding of yourself what you can realistically do. Don’t set yourself up for toxic emotions such as guilt or shame. They only make you feel less than deserving of success.
  1. Heal your thought patterns. Creative visualization and mental rehearsal will transform failure into opportunity and hope – the faith that things can be better. Stimulating hope is vital for being resilient and able to move through life gracefully.

Instant gratification is an enemy to success. Realistically, it takes anyone thousands of hours of work and education to achieve excellence and mastery. It takes time to hone your skills. The truth is there’s always going to be someone better or worse than you are. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself, not anyone else. The real question is, “How can you become a better version of YOU?”

Neuroscience shows that we all cycle through four stages between our thoughts and actions…

  • Thoughts are the triggers and catalysts.
  • They, in turn, elicit your emotions.
  • Emotions cause a chemical reaction in the brain.
  • These neurotransmitters and hormones produce a physiological response in your body that affects the quality of your performance, either beneficially or detrimentally.

This is where the power of visualization helps in overcoming the fear of failure. Remember – your brain can’t differentiate between what you visually imagine and what is really happening. Here’s a simple two-part visualization exercise to help you retrain your thoughts – the foundation of your actions – to be more positive…

The first part of the meditation exercise for overcoming the fear of failure.

  • First thing in the morning, sit quietly with your eyes closed so you can fully concentrate. Take three deep breathes. Think of something or someone that makes you feel heartfelt appreciation. Focus on this for a moment.
  • Next shift your thoughts to happy thoughts or prayers for someone else.
  • Now turn your focus back to the day ahead of you.
  • Identify the top three priorities for you today and their positive outcomes.
  • Visualize the ideal result you hope to achieve.
  • Open your eyes and proceed with your day.

The second part of the meditation exercise for overcoming the fear of failure.

  • At the end of the day take a few deep breaths.
  • Reflect on what happened during the day.
  • Acknowledge and feel good about the successes and fun you had. Express gratitude to the Universe or a higher power.
  • Now honestly acknowledge any setbacks. Take responsibility for it, but don’t wallow in it. Appreciate that you’re one step closer to realizing your goal. Express gratitude for this feedback and learn from it.
  • Tell yourself out loud, “I give myself permission not to be perfect.”
  • In your imagination, go back in time, and make believe you’re doing it over. Reframe it and change the scene as you imagine handling the situation better.

You can’t control everything that happens in life. But you can control how you think about it, how you interpret it, and the value you place on it. This exercise is a powerful tool that helps you do that more effectively. I would love to partner with you in your quest for excellence. Contact me and we can talk about what’s the next best step for you to take. And be sure to download your free copy of The 7-Point Wellness Assessment – Create Change Through Awareness. 

How to Get the Life You’ve Always Wanted

Get the life you’ve always wanted – learn this exercise that lets you extract value from every experience and gives you skills to make your dreams come trueDo you love your life so much that you greet each day with excitement and anticipation? Would you like to increase the quality of your life so that you do? How do you get the life you’ve always wanted?

We all experience set backs. The usual human response to being disappointed or afraid is to disconnect from your dream, telling yourself, “It’s not for me. It’s not meant to be.” Nevertheless, you have to be willing to risk failing and experience disappointment as you strive to achieve your goals. Otherwise, you won’t step out of your comfort zone because it seems too scary.

Raise your expectations back up to living life passionately. Continually strive for your peak experience that makes you happy and satisfied. Despite whatever challenges you face, you CAN get the life you’ve always wanted.

Positive results come from deliberate action. If you immediately apply the exercise I’m teaching you today, and you practice it daily, you’ll get results that will reinforce your beliefs that you CAN make your dreams come true. In turn, each win will be the foundation for new habits that eventually will create the life you’ve always wanted. You’ll see that you can learn to derive the maximum value from each experience.

The exercise that creates greater awareness and regulates your desires.

In full disclosure, I learned this wonderful exercise from Tony Robbins. For it to work, you must fully and actively participate. It can’t be just a reading exercise. The goal is to learn to rate all of your experiences as you use your power of thought and your sense of feeling.

Step 1: See how things really are. Be honest with yourself about your present situation.

Step 2: Be committed to finding value in everything you experience, even the hard things in life. Always ask yourself, “How can I make the most of this situation?”

Step 3: Learn to rate your desire.  Right now, select ONE item (try a piece of food) and focus on only it. On a scale of minus 10 (the most repulsive thing in the world) to plus 10 (I have to have it NOW!) where would you rate your desire for that thing? This targets a quality of feeling or sensation that you’re going to work on.

Step 4: Incrementally increase your desire by asking yourself the following questions

  • If my desire is at +4, what would make me want this at a higher level, say +6? Seriously. What thoughts and feelings will you have to concentrate on to make you want it a little bit more? Keep thinking about it and looking at it until your desire actually increases.
  • Now take it up a notch to desire level +8. What would make this item even more desirable to you? What do you have to think and feel to make it even more appealing?
  • Finally, take it all the way up to desire level +10. What did you feel and think to make it absolutely irresistible, so that you have to have it NOW?

It’s time to break that state of urgency, because we’re not done. Get up and walk away and think of something else until you can come back and continue.

Step 3: Incrementally decrease your desire by asking yourself the following questions…

What would make this item a little less desirable? What are you thinking and feeling to change your desires? Continue to work your way down the scale until your reach minus 10. Don’t give up until you feel repulsed by the object.

Step 4: Bring your desire level back up to the range of plus 4.

We all have different patterns of thinking. Some people use their imagination and add something to it to make it seem less desirable, like mentally adding salsa to that glass of red wine. Others change their focus and start thinking of consequences, like lying sick in a hospital bed because of eating the item. Others seek distractions.

Did you notice your pattern of thinking? When you create greater awareness around how YOU think and feel about any object or activity, you gain control over your desires. You’ll utilize patterns that work, and know when to interrupt patterns that don’t work.

You can create extraordinary experiences any time by consciously deciding how you want to think and feel before you engage in the activity. You learn to target a sensation, measure its desirability, and take conscious control of your emotional state by determining your pattern of thinking. Always ask yourself, “What is the quality of experience I want in this situation? What conditions must I create in myself, in other people, and in my environment to achieve it?”

Awareness gives you the freedom of choice and control over what you think and how you feel. You get to decide what everything means to you. To delve deeper into getting the life you’ve always wanted, please do these two things:

Feeling Trapped in Life? Master Your Inner Game to Free Yourself

If you’re feeling trapped in life, don’t give up, because you CAN free yourself by mastering your inner game, being focused and learning to trust yourself.“There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure in the outer game.” ~ Tim Gallwey

Do any of the following statements describe how you’re feeling right now?

  • I’m feeling stuck in a rut.
  • I feel trapped in my job.
  • I’m feeling trapped in a relationship.
  • No matter how hard I try nothing seems to go right.
  • I used to be really good at this, but now I just can’t make it work, so I end up trying too hard and second-guessing myself.
  • My fear of failure makes me default to “I can’t” before I even try.
  • I thought I was over that, but it keeps resurfacing again and again to gnaw at me.

The good news is…YOU don’t have to stay feeling trapped in life. You CAN free yourself from these negative mindsets and limiting beliefs. And while it does take some effort, it really isn’t that hard. Especially when you realize you already have the skills, you just need to make the connection between your two selves.

What do I mean by saying you need to connect your two selves in order to free yourself from feeling trapped in life?

Along my personal and professional journey, I discovered a book that helped me transform my inner environment to one that is more nurturing, supportive and all in all more conducive to learning and growing. It’s The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance. The core message of the book is that in tennis like anywhere else in life we usually play two games, an outer game with our opponent (self 1 – some people describe it as the body, which acts), and an inner game with ourselves (self 2 – some people describe it as the mind, which instructs).

We get into trouble when Self 2 (the mind) tries to tell Self 1 (the body) how to do something the latter already knows how to do. This disconnect spirals into second guessing yourself, trying too hard and feeling like a failure (In my opinion, the only failure is giving up. Nothing else is a failure. It’s simply a life lesson).

For example, when you learn to play tennis, your instructor tells you to “keep the eye on the ball” and your brain instinctively positions your arm and moderates your stroke speed to lob the ball back over the net. Later you forget this advice and start missing, so you think your form is off. To compensate, you swing harder or hold the racket differently, and it just makes it worse. Whereas, if you would go back to keeping your eye on the ball and let the brain do its thing, you’ll be better than ever.

We must quiet Self 1 (the body) and let Self 2 (the mind) do what it knows how to do. The best way to quiet the mind is not to tell it to shut up or force it or criticize it. What works best is learning to focus it. Focus means mindfully paying attention to only the aspects of a situation that are necessary to accomplish the task at hand. This requires that you become an observer of your own behavior.

There are four important steps to connecting your two selves:

Step 1: Observe in a non-judgmental way, simply seeing the situation as it is, rather than judging it to be good or bad. Being judgmental only leads to self-doubt and anxiety.

Step 2: Visualize your desired outcome.

Step 3: Trust yourself.

Step 4: Observe the outcome and results in a non-judgmental way. It’s neither right nor wrong. You did your best at this point and time, and that’s good enough.

Learn to be aware of your feelings and your body’s responses so you can overcome the self-doubt, nervousness, anxiety and lapses of concentration that keep you from performing at your best. Master athletes and business professionals know that they can’t win the outer game if they lose the inner one. They know the value of having someone coach them as they Master the Inner Game. If you’re ready to make the commitment to a richer experience in life, please contact me. I would love to partner with you as you learn to get out of your own way to let your best game emerge.

How Embodied Leadership Succeeds Where Other Leadership Styles Fail

There are many leadership styles, however when you learn the embodied leadership way you develop a congruent body-mind connection that gives inner strength.It’s commonly assumed that good leadership styles are mostly mind or personality based. Although it’s recognized that leaders should look the part too, being physically fit and well groomed. And some even give consideration to speech training and the way a person carries herself. But beyond that the body isn’t thought about much…

That’s a mistake because ultimately what’s inspiring is a leader’s presence and way of being.

An embodied leader is aware that planning and leading are definitely whole mind/body/spirit activities. And that’s what makes business leaders who have embodied leadership skills so different and more much effective.

Take for example a leader we’ll call Sarah.

She’s so busy she doesn’t have time for breakfast as she rushes off to meet her team. They greet her with demands that pull her in eight different directions. She tries to handle them all at once, while not giving any of them the attention they deserve. Oh, her frustration and stress levels are rising. She has deadlines to meet, so she cancels another lunch date with her best friend…again! She just hates putting her friend off like that, but she couldn’t have eaten a bite anyway.

The presentation scheduled this afternoon is making her sick to her stomach. And no, she can’t make it to the gym today. She’s must keep her doctor’s appointment because her blood pressure pills need to be adjusted and she want to talk with the doc about getting something for the anxiety and depression that’s closing in on her.

Everyone thinks she has it all together. That she’s so successful. She looks like a leader. Yet she’s falling apart inside. Something is drastically wrong. Her leadership style is impossible to maintain.

Are you starting to see that effective leadership styles requires that the body be completely congruent with the mind?

A successful leader must be able to intervene in his or her own physiological responses to stress and have the awareness to know which decisions are going to support the things that are really important in life.

Sarah, from the above story, wants to be calm and collected. She has every intention of reaching her goals for having a successful business, strong friendships and good health. Yet as stress is introduced, her body betrays her. Because she’s only thinking with her conscious mind of doing the things she know good leaders do, her body rebels, because it reverts back to patterns that have been formed by a lifetime of habits.

Your habits live not only in your memories, but in your tissues and cells. The body remembers. Embodied awareness lets you hear what your body is saying. It helps you watch yourself from an outside perspective. Then you can engage in practices that develop your ability to take more effective actions. In time, you develop a new muscle memory that lets you do things you couldn’t have done before, whether it’s being calm under crisis or being an assertive introvert.

Extreme stress can cause a mind/body disconnect that makes people act in crazy ways. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “She’s not herself today.” When stress triggers an interaction in our brain between the hypothalamus, which regulates hormones and the amygdala, which assigns emotional significance to an event, the fight or flight stress response takes over the conscious mind. Normally you wouldn’t scream, yell, shake, and cry, but the brain/body disconnect makes you behave in a way that’s foreign to you.

Let’s put it in another way…you may know you’re not supposed to run from a bear, but your legs don’t believe you. This is a really dangerous mind/body disconnect that gets you in trouble. Because the next thing you know you’re trying to outrun a bear…not a good idea!

So what can embodied leadership principles do for you that other leadership styles do not?

It supports you as you make slow and steady progress toward a strong awareness of your mind/body/spirit connection. Through mindfulness, centering, somatic exercises, breathing techniques, and NLP anchoring techniques you learn how to be present in the moment of stress in a relaxed, unattached way. It gives you time and the skills to slow down, be fully mindful so your actions truly reflect a peaceful state of mind. If you’d like to work with me as you master these skills, I’d be honored for you to contact me. We can set up a time to meet in person at my Ashland, Oregon office or via Skype.

 

The Wheel of Life – Seven Steps to Creating a Truly Balanced Lifestyle

Introducing The Neways Wheel of Life – Find Your Balance

Find your balance because "happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmnony." ~ Thomas Merton“It’s not enough to be busy; So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Work-Life Balance…can it really exist? There are millions of people searching for the answer to work-life balance. Since the issue of balance usually arises when one feels that something important is missing in life, this indicates that way too many people are unhappy. And shouldn’t it really be called Life-Work Balance anyway? Life is more important isn’t it?

If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you:

  1. How do you define balance in your life?
  2. What might it look like when your life is truly balanced?

Some people look at life-work balance as a three-legged stool that needs all three legs for balance – the legs represent their physical, mental and spiritual needs. Yet this seems to oversimplify it because within those three categories are so many areas of life. And for many people, balance involves feeling like they have TIME, but don’t we all have the same amount of time? So there’s something needed that’s much deeper than just having time.

No matter what your definition of balance is, achieving a feeling of harmonious peace and happiness is really a matter of both internal and external balance. 

If you’re internally balanced:

  • Your inner critic is in check and it operates more like a friendly coach.
  • You can methodically work on self-awareness – knowing yourself allows you to share the true you with others.
  • You have awareness of your values and always operating from them.
  • You check in periodically to make sure all inner parts are congruent and feel seen and listened to.
  • You have a balance between taking risks and stretching beyond comfort and pursuing what is quiet and familiar.

If you are externally balanced:

  • You will engage all areas of life (see The Wheel image below) that fit your lifestyle.
  • You surround yourself with social support.
  • You set boundaries.
  • You’re comfortable with saying, “NO”.

I’d like to share seven steps that you can take to achieve greater balance

  1. Define what balance is to you. Your definition will be uniquely yours.
  2. Identify your values by using percentages: 15% fun, 10% travel, 25% family…to see how much you require of each to be happy in an ideal world.
  3. Take care of basic needs: nutrition, water, sleep, exercise, vitamins and supplements.
  4. Regularly visit a supportive therapist, coach, or mentor.
  5. Make quality time for social contact.
  6. Block out “alone time” to be introspective, using mindfulness to get to know yourself more deeply – what your wants, needs, preferences, personality traits, and quirks are.
  7. Manage your energy not time! As the book, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, demonstrates, managing time is not the key. Instead, focusing on a balance of exertion and renewal helps youreach optimal performance.

Here is a tool for you to use in your quest for balance. It’s called The Neways Wheel of Life – Find Your Balance.

The Neways Wheel of Life Find Your Balance

Click here to get your downloadable, printable PDF copy of the Neways Wheel.

This Wheel of Life is designed to visually help you develop your own definition and vision of a balanced life. Each wedge represents critical aspects of life: Friends & Family, Healthy & Wellbeing, Love & Intimacy, Career, Personal Growth & Learning, Life Vision & Purpose – Spiritual Fulfillment, Fun & Leisure, and Physical Environment.

From 1 to 10 how would you rate your satisfaction in each area of the Wheel of Life? (Please print a copy of THE Wheel of Life and fill it in with where you are right now. Keep it handy and check your progress regularly.) You’ll find that your numbers will vary. And that’s a good thing. Obtaining a perfect 10 in all categories is not the goal. Balance is not static. It’s like riding a bicycle. You only remain balanced if you keep moving forward. Remember, it’s the journey that counts. We never truly get to the destination, because our definition and vision of balance changes as we change throughout the years!

No matter where you begin, all the sections of your life are interconnected, just like the wedges on the Wheel of Life. It’s simply a matter of what you want to focus on first. If you’re craving a more balanced lifestyle, it might be time to enlist the help of a life coach who can help you fully utilize your Wheel of Life. Contact me, because I would love to work with you!


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