Monday, August 27, 2007

Useful Life Tips

Here are some great strategies I picked up that you may find helpful.

These tips present an overall strategy for coping and dealing with emotional conflicts. Inner tormoil can be created when a situtation occurs or you are about to make a decision and you are unsure, lack confidence, or are simply sad/angry/upset and are not sure how to improve your outlook.

To use this strategy follow each step in order, and ask yourself the 'critial thinking' questions assoicated. The 'root cause' of you problem likely revolves around one of the three items below (or some combination of these items). Continue to re-examine the questions until a plan is developed for resolution

1) Always be true to yourself

Remember when you were young, and someone told you about that little voice inside your head that tells you right from wrong.. (you know about the voice don't you?). Often times we find ourselves 'trapped' trying to figure out what is the "right" thing to do. We make seek advice from others and solicit opinions. (Sometimes, we get unsolicitied options as well). Although outside advice can be helpful (why else are you reading this). It is important never to fogot the little voice inside ourselfs. What it wants, what it believes is best, what it can live with.

You may find yourself sometimes arguing with your little voice. Trying to make excuses for why you "can't" or 'shouldn't do something. I can't stand the word "should" by the way, I think it needs expundged from our langauge, but I digress. Sometimes there is so much "noise" around us we can't even 'hear" what our inner voice is telling us. (or if you're like me there are so many voices, you don't know which one to listen too ;-))

Here are some strategies to re-discover your inner voice:

a) Sit in a quiet place alone. Pratice being by yourself, for 10-15 minutes alone each day without distractions. Ask yourself questions ("How do I feel about..." or just reflect on your day, or just try to clear you mind of distractions

b) Create a pro/con list. On a blank piece of paper right down your ideas "for" and "against" a certain decision or item you are trying to make. Often your inner voice will become clear as you are creating your list, or after you have created it, and take a look at what you've written. Important: make you list alone if you want to discover your own inner voice and elimate others

c) Imagine that you have made the decision (a). Walk yourself through the process, consider how you feel about it. Can you still look yourself in the mirror after making the decision. Are you beating yourself up about it. Are there things that maybe you hadn't considred. Sometimes you won't know these things until after you've made the decision, but then you can add it to you 'lessons learned about life' list for future reference.

One little "Test" -> When you are being true to yourself, you will find you are confident in your choice. You won't feel like you have to "defend" yourself. If other people question your decision you will find it easier to respond confidently and easily about your decision, without a hieightend emontional / stressfull state. You won't find yourself overly nervious or anxious. Often these feelings arise from not listenting to our inner voice, we are not being true to ourselves.

2) Communicate

Okay, so if we have decided we are being true to ourselfs. The next important question to ask ourselves would be: "Is there something missing communication/clarification that is causing me undue grief". Similar to being afriad of the dark, our minds can twist information to build a story that is bullsh... well let's just say less then accurate. One clue that there is a lack of communication is when we find ourselves going over a situation over and over in our minds and asking ourselves the question "Why did so and so do that, or Doesn't he realize when he did that it hurts me?", Perhaps we drift into the past and try to construct a reason why someone did something to us.

When this occurs, what is actually happening (normally), is that there is some lack of communication or clarification. We would like to say something to someone, or tell something to someone, but we have not. This is not to say we are holding in "telling someone off" and that we won't feel better until we do so. Rather, we have not constructed the words in an approperiate manner, or are holding off communicating our message, and again this causes an inner turmoil within us.

Key points to consider in communication:

To whom do I need to communicate this message? Am I requesting clarification of an event that had occured. Do I need to communicate my feelings to someone about something that is bother me? Am I avoiding communicating a message because I fear the consquences of the communication?

How do I frame the message? This is actually a 2 part question. In part a) we ask ourselves, what do we hope to accomplish by communicating the message, in part b) we ask ourselves, will this communication meet my goal?

A well framed message normally does the following:

1) Clarifies any mis-communication. Asks "when this event occured, was it your intention to.. [x]"

2) Explains feelings... When this event occured, I felt like....

3) States your pro-active approach for resolution: As I don't want to experiance this again, here's what I propose as my plan to cope with this issue...

In general, communication should not be aimed with the intent of modifying or changing the behavior of another. In a toxic environment your best defense is to remove yourself from the situation causing the issue. The only person you can be assured of changing is yourself..not others.

It is also important to note, that it is not necessarily the cast that you need to actually deliver the communication to a person. Sometimes, just the act of framing the conversation (writing it down). Allows your brain the ability to take a rest, and you can relax and stop thinking about things over and over. Sometimes actual communcation is not possible, reasonable, or even safe.

3) Take responsibility for your actions

In this area we may find ourselfs stuck in a "guilt loop". We may find ourselves replaying a situation over and over again, wishing we could change it, or asking why we reacted this way or that and wanting to fix it.

Every choice/decision we make will have consequences, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Often a mix of both good and bad. While it is important to reconize when we have made a mistake, it is equally important to admin "Oops, I screwed up" and develop a plan to move on with life. Everyone will make a mistake, and when this happens and we recognize it we can work on ways to improve in the future. However, if we are true to ourselves we can see, sitting around and mulling over the mistake solves nothing.

Making a bad decision is not to be equated with being a bad person. Otherwise we would all be "bad" people because everyone one of us has made a bad decision at one point on our life and will probably do so again in the future.

A big part of "taking responsibility" means choosing our response. We, as humans, have an amazing capacity to look at a situation and exercise our free will to choose our actions. Other animals act on instinct but we don't have to do this, we can choose to act differently then our instinct. This is not to say that we should hide our feelings or dis-regard them, rather we should recognize our feelings and accept them, we should recognize our instinct re-action and accept it. BUT we should also recognize that we can choose differently.

Another view of this is as follows:

1) The world acts on YOU -> This is the belief that things just 'HAPPEN' to you and there is nothing you can do about it. This belief subscribes you to the fact that you are not in control, that you are not responsible for your actions. Things happen and you re-act and there was no way to do otherwise.

2) YOU act on the world -> This is the definition of being responsible. With this philosophy you understand that things HAPPEN in the world, some of these things are in your control but many things are not. Nevertheless, you proactively choose your actions to a situation. You are in control, you have a plan and you are following your plan. You understand there will be obstacles, but you also have the confidence to know you can handle each new event as it happens and tackle it head on.

My favorite analogy was a story I read one time about a man at a carnival. This man had never before been on a roller coaster ride, and was trying to decide (get the courage) to go on. Armed with his trusty digital camera, he took snapshots from the ground of others riding on the roller coaster.

He noted, there were basically two types of people riding the coaster. Person A) held there arms out high and screamed in enjoyment as the roller coaster swished by, Person B) had an ongoing terrified look on their face the entire time. Person B often closed there eyes and it was obvious they could not wait for the ride to end.

The man thought to himself for a moment, and decided to board the roller coaster. He asked his wife to take a picture of him as he went by. She did this, and his picture was one of the excited passengers with his hands out wide and a huge smile on his face. When his wife asked him later what this was all about, he replied "Well, I figured I could either be a person A) and enjoy the experience or a person B) and be terrified. So I choose to be a person A) and I enjoyed every minute of it !!

Dislcaimer: I am not a pyschologist or any type of theripist. None of the advice I give be taken as an expert in the field. These are suggestions that were passed down to me (that I've modifed to fit my thinking), and I am passing them along in hopes they may help others

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