Maria Connolly, LPC Facebook Facebook Facebook

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.

Alter Your Relationship with Time and Feel in Control Again!

If you feel like you’re always racing against the clock, pulled in a million different directions, alter your relationship with time and gain control again.“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” ~ Anthony Robbins

Does it seem like you’re always racing against the clock, being pulled in a million different directions at once? Those feelings cause many people to try multi-tasking, but that only splinters your attention further and you don’t get the satisfaction of doing your best for each project. It can make you feel out of control.

To restore harmony, sometimes all it takes is one simple change in your routine. For me, that means making my bed every morning. It sets the tone for the day and helps me develop discipline, which spills over into other areas of my life. Need another example?

I found a story online about an art director who settled only one issue in her life, which gave her back her control. It all began when she needed to dress for an office meeting. What should she wear? She pulled clothes out of her closet, first trying on this, then trying on that. You can relate, right? In a panicked state she made the wrong decision and felt paralyzed as she entered the meeting room late. She swore “never again” and promptly went out and bought an office outfit to last a year – 15 identical silk white shirts and a few black pants – a simple fix with a life-changing result.

It doesn’t take much to flip your relationship with time. Time is your friend. The time you get to spend on this Earth is your most precious gift. And just like a bank account, your time is limited, so learn to spend it wisely, in ways you won’t regret.

Of course, some of your life is governed by the clock – like getting up when the alarm goes off, getting to work on time, or honoring your various appointments. It’s good to have realistic schedules with blocked out times for important activities. That’s how you remain organized and highly productive.

However, if you have something scheduled for every moment of your time, it doesn’t allow time for mindful reflection or processing what has already happened.

“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” ~ Charles Richards

Remember that people at the end of their lives never say, “I regret that I didn’t spend more time at work” or, “I wish I’d spent more time worrying about what might happen”. In your own case, what do you imagine you’ll look back on and regret.

The good news is that if you begin living mindfully from this moment onward, you won’t have so many regrets. You can think of time in two ways:

1) A linear flow as the clock ticks away – this allows you to schedule your life in relation to others. When you feel pressured to work on someone else’s timeline, your state of mind can be adversely affected if you haven’t learned to regulate your emotions.

2) A rhythmic pattern that allows you to expand as needed toward excellence. When your mind is in a positive, relaxed state, you can perceive time as spiraling out from your intentional focus. In this state, time no longer controls you.

It’s beneficial to use both modalities of time. Be linear when you need to be and mindfully choose to unplug from that stream to experience time on your own terms. The more you turn on these natural, unpressured moments, the more mindful you can become of your intentions, your choices, your desires, and dreams. As a result, you’ll see that 90% of what comes your way doesn’t serve you. It’s okay to say “no” to honor your bigger “yes”.

The ultimate goal is to maintain an ever-present awareness of where the center of your attention is focused, avoiding distractions. If you’re new to centering yourself, don’t be discouraged that your thoughts drift away to something else. Practice rhythmic breathing as you focus on your center and it will become easier.

If you’re not sure what your next step should be, join me and my friend, Nando, at our Women in Leadership Retreat.  We’ll help you outline a plan of action that supports your big “yes”. Or feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.

Healing the Father Daughter Relationship: 5 Steps to Forging Healthy Friendships with Men

Learning to heal the father daughter relationship is vital because it influences your self image, emotional growth, mental health, decisions and attitudes. My relationship with my father was…well…it was very complicated. When I was really little I adored my dad. I thought he was the best. As I got older, I learned that my father could be difficult to be around. My new story as an adult is that my father did the best he could. But the truth is it took me a long time getting to a healthy perspective about our father daughter relationship.

While a mother has a great deal to do with nurturing and helping daughters discover who they are, the father daughter relationship is extremely important too. Why? Because fathers shape their daughters in the following ways:

  • our academic performance,
  • our career path and financial wellbeing,
  • our communication skills,
  • our self-esteem and confidence,
  • our body image and sense of self,
  • our behavior and attitudes,
  • our mental and emotional health,
  • our social traits,
  • who we are,
  • how we experience the world,
  • whether we feel safe or not,
  • how we handle stress,
  • how we relate with men platonically,
  • who we date,
  • how soon we have sex,
  • whether we have successful romantic relationships or not.

When a father actively engages in his daughter’s childhood, promoting her scholastic or athletic achievements, he encourages her self-reliance and assertiveness. As a result, she’s more likely to graduate from college and enter a higher paying, more demanding job. A close mentoring relationship with her father makes a girl feel secure and supported. There’s nothing she can’t do.

But what if that’s not the reality of your father daughter relationship? Maybe your father has been absent emotionally or physically. Does that mean you’re stuck with a lot of baggage that slows you down forever? By no means! You CAN move past it.

Firstly, it’s important to be aware of the kind of relationship you have had with your dad. Whether it was positive or not, acknowledge the hurt, loss, disappointment, yearning and longing for something different. By acknowledging your feelings, you can begin to grieve and become more at peace with what was. You can now turn things around by deliberately co-creating healthy relationships in your adult life.

“Slender at first, they quickly gather force
Growing in richness as they run their course;
Once started, they do not turn back again,
Rivers, and years and friendships with good men.”
~ Sanskrit poem ~

Five steps to begin healing the father daughter relationship…Healing the father daughter relationship is vital because it influences her self image, emotional growth, mental health, decisions and attitudes.

  1. Acknowledge the type of relationship you have had with your father.
  1. Be kind and compassionate toward your younger self that might still be hurting. Anger, numbness, indifference often hides a great amount of hurt that you might not want to feel, so create a safe space for you to process through these emotions mindfully. Never ever say, “I’m stupid for feeling this way”. You have a right to your feelings. Be patient with yourself as you sort through them.
  1. Allow yourself to grieve. Tell yourself that you deserved better, because you did! Mourn what you missed. But don’t get stuck in what should have been. Focus on learning to feel worthy of being loved, supported and cared for. Look for the positive things you did receive from your father. If nothing else, you are alive today because of him, so you can be grateful that you have the chance to use your life in a kinder, more expansive way.
  1. Look around you for healthy male role-models. Yes, they are out there often camouflaged as our co-workers, neighbors, or dear friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You have the chance to create your own supportive family of “fathers” and “brothers” to turn to for advice and help. However, be mindful of the boundaries they and their families are comfortable with. You can become a part of your male friend’s life without giving the appearance of “taking over” attention that should be given to his family and other friends.
  1. Deliberately surround yourself and co-create healthy friendships with the opposite sex. I understand that this might be challenging depending on the kind of beliefs and values you and your partner might have but I can’t recommend this one enough. Even though I have one of the most loving and supporting partners I could have ever asked for, I value my close friendship with other males.

As adults, we get to choose whom we want in our lives. A healthy mix of male and female friends adds richness and fullness to our experience. Your father daughter relationship is just one of the indicators of a life well lived. Take the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment to see how you’re doing as a whole. Click here to download your free copy

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.


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