Moving Beyond Your Mistakes

August 30, 2013 by  
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So how have you been coming along with the self-compassion and forgiving of self?  Shortly after I wrote last week’s post on that subject I was playing doubles tennis with friends when I heard my partner chastising herself over a flubbed shot.  It didn’t stop there, though. She went on to berate herself on her over all  play even going back to several previous points and into mistakes she’d made in the previous game.  Wow, and that was just what she was saying out loud for everyone to hear.  I’m pretty sure her internal dialog was even more severe.

Suddenly, at that moment, I realized I was doing a bit of that “self-criticizing and beating myself up on my missed shots and mistakes, only I was doing it “inside my head”.  Yes my ol’ chatterbox was sabotaging my tennis game too.  Recognizing that, I immediately forgave myself for such thoughts and quickly started playing much, much better and we went on to win the set.

Strangely most of us are tough on ourselves but generous on others. Every time my partner made a mistake I would immediately tell her “Hey, no problem. We’ll get the next point.” Of course my positive words of forgiveness and encouragement should also be the words and thoughts that she should be saying internally and externally.

As I mentioned last week, studies have shown that self-criticism and beating up on yourself when you make a mistake leads to more mistakes and forgiving yourself leads to more success.   Kelly McGonigal makes that point over and over in her great book “The Willpower Instinct”. When she mentions self-forgiveness while she’s teaching a class she says “the arguments start pouring in. You would think I had just suggested that the secret to more will power was throwing kittens in front of speeding buses.” The students generally say “If I forgive myself, I’ll just do it again.” or “My problem isn’t that I’m too hard on myself–my problem is that I’m not self-critical enough!” But again the research pretty much proves that the more we forgive ourselves the more success we will have in the future.

What research was done and how it was done has a bit to do with the so called “What the Hell” effect. Come back and read next week’s blog and I will lay that out for you.

Beating Yourself Up vs. Forgiving Yourself

August 23, 2013 by  
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My daughter Cammy teaches yoga and has persuaded me to go a number of times–and yes my creaky body certainly benefits from all that posing and stretching–but her comments to the class at the end of each session finally got through to my brain. I’ve been over the top surprised about what a powerful and life enhancing message she was delivering all this time and it had totally passed me by.

Her simple statements didn’t sink in until I was re-reading Kelly McGonigal’s wonderful book The Willpower Instinct. My daughter would end all of her yoga classes saying “Thank yourself for putting forth the effort to come today and please cultivate more and more compassion for yourself–don’t be hard on yourself.” I’ve always thought her words were pretty good advice but WOW have I made a great discovery that puts those words in a category much, much greater than just “good advice”. Let me explain.

Anyone that reads my blogs knows I am a huge advocate of setting lots of goals, and tough ones, for yourself. I preach that all the time to anyone who will listen. My big time discovery is that I realized that when I fell short of my goals I’d been doing exactly the wrong thing to myself, the very thing that hurts me and makes it even more difficult to reach new goals in the future. What I’ve been doing (and you probably have been doing the same thing) is this: When I fail or fall short of a goal I beat myself up mentally and I certainly don’t have any compassion for myself. I, like most people, think that if I forgive myself for falling short of my goal, I’ll just do it again. However, that is simply not true.

As it turns out, research done by two psychologists from Louisiana State University and Duke University show that it’s forgiveness of self, not guilt and beating yourself up that increases your accountability. I was shocked. I read this in McGonigal’s book where she goes on to say “These findings fly in the face of our instincts. How can this be, when so many of us have a strong intuition that self-criticism is the cornerstone of self-control, and self-compassion is a slippery slope to self-indulgence?” But in this case our instinct is dead wrong!

This very smart and well-spoken author also mentions that “One reason forgiveness helps people recover from mistakes is that it takes away the shame and pain of thinking about what happened. The what-the-hell effect is an attempt to escape the bad feelings that follow a setback. Without the guilt and self-criticism, there’s nothing to escape. This means it’s easier to reflect on how the failure happened, and less tempting to repeat it.”

Isn’t that fascinating? We’ll talk more on this subject next week but in the meantime try forgiving yourself daily for any failure or falling short of what you have set out for yourself. Take time to give yourself great dosages of compassion and, yes, it’s okay to love yourself and a lot. Talk to yourself and give praise and love like you would to a kid that you love.

Live in the Now: Be Free of the Past and the Future

August 16, 2013 by  
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I hope you had a chance to read last week’s blog and have been practicing keeping aware of every moment and accepting it for what it is. Now here are a few hints that can help anyone to live in the moment or in the right now more readily and constantly. At least they have helped me and I hope they can do the same thing for you.

1. Be free of unease. Make a conscious effort to monitor your thoughts and feelings by constantly asking “What is going on in my mind right now?” Halt any worrying questions about the past or the future.

2. See if in those monitored moments you can catch yourself complaining in speech or thought. If so, you are probably “playing the victim”. Calmly silence that kind of chatter.

3. Always remember that to complain is not accepting of “what is” and it’s usually something that is in the past or something you anticipate that will happen in the future. Either do something about your complaint or accept it.

4. As you move, as you play or as you work, do it totally in the great “right now” as if this one moment is all there is and all you want.

It’s interesting to note that many times, even when a person is engaged in an activity that is meant to be fun and enjoyable, it can be ruined or at least diminished by what the brain is doing or not doing. I’ve noticed for example, that many times when I am playing a tennis match–especially in a tournament–that the more I think about a bad shot that I just made or wonder if I might be able to win this particular game or set I find myself not enjoying this game that I play in order to have fun. Plus I notice that when I am having thoughts about the recent past (the bad shot) or the future (if I can win this game, set, or match) I usually don’t play near as well as I know that I can. So I am losing in two ways—first, I am no longer having fun and second, I end up losing the match. That’s pretty dumb, don’t you agree? And it doesn’t have to be that way, not if I just work on training my brain to live “in the now” and I mean that “right this moment now”!

It’s certainly ok and even fun to recall and reminisce over good and fun times of the past and it’s quite necessary to do some planning and goal setting for the future but the key is, don’t spend the majority of your time in those two places. For maximum peace of mind, pleasure, and feeling of fulfillment, spends most of your life in the great “right now”. Make “the now” the primary focus of your life.


Revisiting “Living in the Now”

August 9, 2013 by  
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If you’ve been reading my blog for a little while, then you know how much I believe we need to re-read books and other information even when we think we know it well. You will be surprised how many things you pick up that you didn’t the first time. Plus, we often really need a reminder to get us refocused on the things we learned the first time we read that great book or article. Or blog post.

This week I’d like to re-visit an old but very critical and important subject I’ve written about before, one that brings so very much life to your years, and even years to your life. It’s the simple but very difficult daily habit of “living in the present moment” or more simply put “living in the now”. Let me just summarize a few key points that may help you (and me!) “Live In The Now”.

No. 1 Constantly remind yourself to direct your “inner chatter”. Focus on what you are doing and feeling at the given moment. Even when you are just walking to the mailbox or standing in line, be there in your mind with each step and each breath and keep your thoughts present and positive.

No. 2 Accept whatever the present moment contains–good or bad. Of course if it’s bad and you can change it, do so. But if you can’t change it then accept it and try to do so as if you’d chosen it. Always work with it not against it. Make your circumstances your friend.

No. 3 Remove wanting and craving and you end suffering. The Buddha taught that the root of all suffering is to be found in a state of constant wanting and craving. If you think about it you can see that “wanting and craving” is certainly opposite or, at minimum, much removed from truly living in the “NOW”.

Next week, I’ll give you a few tips on how to make this process and state of being easier to achieve. In the meantime, just work on being aware and mindful of everything you do at every moment and every thought that goes through your mind. It takes practice but it can be done and it will make you happier to be in the very moment you have right now.

The Biggest Leap is the Small Step of Getting Started

August 2, 2013 by  
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Last week I spoke about the key to reaching your goals–taking small but regular steps towards what you want. The reason this works is because the small steps seem so do-able while the big leaps can feel overwhelmingly huge. Giving yourself just one small step at a time makes your tasks less daunting and you are more likely not just to start them but complete them!

For example, I apply this concept to my daily work outs to push myself to get them done. On the many days that I don’t want to climb on the stair master or put time in on the elliptical machine or go on a challenging mountain hike, I make a little deal with myself. I say, “Ok, since I am very tired or in the wrong mood I am only going to work out for just 5 or 10 minutes” Then, with only that minimal time to cover, I begin, knowing in the back of my mind that just “starting” is sometimes the very hardest part and knowing from experience that when I get to 5 or 10 minutes I will almost always just keep going.

This approach works for just about anything. I put myself in this mindset of just starting with a small goal to get myself going on my daily business tasks (especially since I really don’t have to work if I don’t want to), to the writing of this blog, or even working on a new book. Always keep in mind that just the “starting” can push you to make that big breakthrough on any project or goal that you have. Take that first step and you will see that the next steps follow more easily not to mention you will have the momentum of already working on it to keep you moving forward.

So what are you dreading doing today? Just set a small goal to get you started and see where that takes you. Daily small steps, daily small goals, even daily small acts of kindness and charity tend to compound and grow to be huge successes and can change your history, your life, make you famous or make you a fortune and even change, for the better, the history of the world. You’ll just never know what you can affect until you start!