How do you go about making things better in your life? How do you deal with your guilt, hurt and anger? How do you get past your excuses? What can you do to start moving through and letting go of past hurts, failures, and “stuff”? This week we will take a look at where you can start on your own or with your coach or therapist.
When you want to improve your life, where do you start? How do you go about it? Many clients have come to my office wanting to be out of the pain they are in and desiring to experience more happiness. They arrive with many different presenting problems and we always look at the superficial solutions to those symptoms. But there is always something underneath that we can discover which dictates their sabotage or repeated failures in life. It’s usually about their excuses. So, whether they come in for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or a relationship, we look at the underlying causes, the excuses, and the patterns that began in childhood which do not work so well in adulthood. So often we learn beliefs and behaviors when we are two, three, four or five years old that do not work quite the same when we are 30 or 40. This is the stuff of therapy.
For those of you who are reading this who are not in therapy and who do not wish at this time to begin such an adventure, I’d like to offer you some things which you can do on your own which will give you insight into your core beliefs and help you clear unfinished business of childhood and early adulthood. I also want to help you stop your excuses and start being successful in the areas you have avoided. I also want to help you forgive yourself and others and get onto the business of loving – loving yourself and loving others.
If you are in therapy, this will help you in working with your therapist. It may give you an outline for self-help work or you may pick and choose what you and your therapist think will help you with your particular issues and patterns. If you are in coaching, it will also help you to work with your coach on what you do to excuse and sabotage your success.
Where to start?
What makes you mad? What can’t you stand? What drains you or zaps your energy? What causes you pain? What are your guilty about? What would you like to change in your life? These questions about negative influences in your life or negative reactions should shed some light on where you can begin. Start journaling about these questions. You might separate them into items or issues or people or situations. When you are writing about them, just let your thoughts flow and your feelings get expressed. Be sure to indicate what happened, who did what (including yourself), who had less than respectable behavior? What did you do that was a mistake or wrong in some way? What did others do that was a mistake or wrong in your opinion? How did you feel or how were you affected by what happened? How do you think the other people involved may have felt? What good came from this? What good could come from this if you determined that it would? What action do you have to take to compost this experience and make it a learning experience in your life rather than a drain because of negative emotions? How will you take this action? When will you do it? Who will know about it? Who can give you recognition or praise about correcting this lesson in life?
Whenever you have a negative experience or something that has affected you in a negative way, try to identify your errors, the others’ errors and what you can do to correct it. Also identify the lesson in it for you. Find a way to become grateful for the experience and feel and express your gratitude. It might take you a couple months to get over the anger or hurt. It is important to get over it. It’s important for you to move past this place to a place of acceptance, understanding and even gratitude for having an opportunity to learn and grow.
Gratitude improves optimism, increases positive emotions, reduces stress and delivers many more positive results. All you need to do is think about your own things for which you are grateful, do it on a regular basis, and you will be happier.
Expressing our gratitude is an activity that increases our happiness levels by over 25%; gives us higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress; gives us better sleep quality and more energy; and it is one of the more effective ways of coping with disease, disability and even death. People who keep gratitude lists make progress toward completing important individual goals such as academic, interpersonal and health-based, according to research by Robert Emmons.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Establish a daily habit of recalling and writing ordinary events that happened to you today, the valuable people in your life and what they contribute to you. Spend the day looking for people, incidents, events, and qualities that you enjoy and that support your life. Look for the gifts, grace, benefits and good things in your life.
1. Think and recall throughout the day the good things happening…
2. Write at least three things of gratitude toward the end of the day.
Share Gratitude with your Family
1. Have your family share at dinner three things that happened to each of you that were good or things for which you are grateful
2. Have our children recall and speak gratitude when going to bed
3. Share gratitude blessings with your spouse at the end of the day
4. Make Thanksgiving a holiday of super big thanks all around the table
Write letters of gratitude
1. Write thank you notes for gifts, events and special thoughtful acts
2. Write letters of gratitude to people who have improved or touched your life – teachers, friends, family members, old friends, former spouses, etc.
3. Write birthday letters sharing about the person’s qualities and good acts
Think of ways you can see the challenges of life as a gift and then how you can express your gratitude.
We all have done things we don’t feel good about - things we wish we had not done. We also hold on to acts others do that have hurt or angered us. We have a choice to carry these burdens around with us or do what my favorite monk in literature did, “leave them at the river.” Let go of your guilt, judgements, hurts and anger. Do the loving act and forgive!
It is important to forgive yourself the mistakes you have made and the things you have done that have been most hurtful to others. By writing them you give yourself the gift of making your load lighter as you attempt to experience more happiness.
It is a good thing to forgive people who have done things that have been hurtful to you. It allows you to move on past that incident or wrong and be in present time without bitterness or anger in your heart. Forgiveness is for you, not the other person.
This is a simple exercise. Either take out your journal or sit at your computer and start writing:
1. These are things I have thought, said or done for which I want forgiveness or for which I want to forgive myself.
2. These are things others have said or done that I want to forgive, clearing me of all negative feelings.
After writing the items, say aloud you forgive yourself and you forgive others. Ask for forgiveness and imagine being your perfect spiritual or higher self, understanding, accepting and loving yourself. Imagine your parents doing the same. And sense the forgiveness of God or the creative force of the universe. Then again say aloud your forgive yourself and you forgive others who harmed you.
Sometimes it is important to share these things with your clergy, a therapist or a trusted friend. Receiving acceptance and feeling the caring or love of another makes it easier to move into forgiveness and let go of the negative feelings.
Life gets better and well being is strengthened when you regularly clear and forgive these actions of yours and others. Feeling gratitude after forgiveness helps solidify the release of negative emotions.
How do you make sense out of wanting to do something but not doing it? What can you do to get unstuck? How can you stop sabotaging your success? We all have goals and dreams we want to accomplish, but often we do not. Some people seem to just sail through with success after success! How do they do it?
Getting yourself unstuck requires motivation, a certain awareness, and discipline.
I have a dear friend who has wanted to write a story about his aunt for a couple of decades or so. After enough avoidance and busyness, focusing on other business ideas and even start-ups, he decided he had enough failure and wanted to see some success. He had to dig down to find his motivation - the joy of having his children and best friends think highly of him. Then he had to get his awareness up to his mind in 2009. He had failed at enough great ideas - just thinking and talking about them. Now he wanted to put a great idea into action. Finally finding enough self esteem and confidence, he started to write. And what a beautiful writer he is! Now it’s time for the discipline. Every weekend he is creating the time to write.
He finally got down to his negative core beliefs and worked trough the stages of change to take action. You’ll hear about the book when it is finished! Check back in about a year.
Look at some of the negative beliefs you have that are self-limiting or that sabotage your ability to be your very best. Sometimes we refer to these beliefs as negative self-talk or negative tapes in our heads. They are “gremlins”. These are the things we believe that hold us back or prevent us from being authentic and healthy. Some examples might be: I have to be perfect; I can’t make a mistake; I am not smart enough; I can’t do it; If I am successful I will have to be accountable; Money is the root of all evil; etc.
Find some of your self-defeating beliefs and write them. Using all the enthusiasm you have, write the opposite, motivating, positive belief about yourself. Spend the day thinking about and repeating inside your head these lovely affirmations of your authentic self. If you find the negative beliefs winning, keep working to prove the positive is true. Find the evidence and convince yourself of your greatness!
If you still have difficulties succeeding at your goals, do they line up with your values? If they do, read James Prochaska’s book, “Changing for Good” and get into the action stage to make your dreams come true.
When was the last time you received a truly lovely compliment? When was the last time you showed your appreciation in words to a loved one or a co-worker? The world needs more compliments, please start a positve pandemic…
Expressing positive things about another person is like giving them a gift. It says you recognize something special, unique or even just ordinary about them. By bringing it to their attention you are encouraging them to continue doing or being that positive way.
It is also important to tell them how it affects you. An example could go like this: “You called to tell me what you would like to do this evening. You are sensitive to my need to plan a little in advance and I appreciate that you are considering my preferences.”
Please give 3 compliments a day to anyone with whom you are living or spending a lot of time (spouse, children, co-workers, or friends).
Acts of kindness performed by all of us make the world a better place. It feels good to have someone let us in line at the grocery store or to have someone pickup the $20 bill we just dropped or, better yet, to have the waiter tell us of the $200 error we made in his tip. What are you doing to show your kindness to others? Giving and receiving, it feels so good!
Doing an act of kindness is one of the best things you can do for yourself and others. When you do something thoughtful or nice for another, the regard comes back to you in multiples. You help make a better world when you pick up trash that blows around your neighborhood. Your vacationing neighbor appreciates putting the newspapers and trash can out of site. The elderly woman at the doctor’s office is thankful for your holding the door and the elevator.
Your magnitude of loving and sense of happiness can grow exponentially if you do some acts of kindness as secrets. The secret act of giving can be enormously fun and fulfilling.
During the holidays we sometimes play “Secret Santa” to someone in the office and leave them small gifts like a special coffee from Starbucks or perform a small task without them knowing who is doing it. Why not be a Secret Pal all year long? I know a creative and big-hearted woman who secretly goes to a friend’s home and decorates the outside of it for every major holiday. She does it in the middle of the night so her friend never knows who the Secret Decorator is.
Take this challenge: do one act of kindness each work day this week, Monday through Friday.
If you are wanting to try another challenge, here it is: Select three things to do in the next month that are secrets from the receiver. Be a “Secret Pal” and do something for three different people where they cannot discover who you are. Good luck! Please share your stories with us if you’d like. We’d love to hear from you!