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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Well Do You Know Yourself?

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Know thyself.” ~ Socrates

Self-awareness is the cornerstone to transformation. If you do not understand yourself, how can you change?
One easy way to increase your self-awareness is to put yourself into an observational mode by watching how you usually react to people and situations. Bring your awareness into an observational mode by paying attention to your patterns of being and questioning your thoughts and behavior. You can then assess your behavior. Distinguish if the way you are acting is in alignment with who you desire to be. Do certain people seem to upset you or cause you to feel stressed? Discover what it is that you are thinking around them. Watch yourself and you will find out what situations push you into automatic reactions. Once you can recognize these situations, the mere fact of recognizing them brings a state of higher awareness. Then you will have the power to be however you choose to be instead of driving on impulse.
You may be surprised to find that when you come from a place of reaction, you are not in alignment with how you would choose to respond if you had given the situation a moment of thought. Once you have attained this watcher awareness, you will have the power to respond to life instead of operating with your automatic default reactions. Remember your A, B, Cs of responding to life: Awareness, Breathe, Choose. Then you can choose love over fear, peace over conflict, and happiness over despair.
Lesson :

Watching how you interact in the world raises your self-awareness.

Practice observing yourself. Learn to shift your awareness as necessary. When you are watching yourself, you are in a state of higher awareness. In this mode of consciousness, you will be open to new types of behavior as well as increasing self-awareness.

SELF AWARENESS EXERCISE: Become aware of what you say to people, how you say it, and why you say it.

*** Are you speaking just to fill the silence?
*** Do you try to steer the conversations back to you when someone is sharing something about themselves?
*** What emotion is projected with your words? (Kindness, sarcasm, curiosity, judgement, love, etc.)

*** Are you saying things that you think the other person wants you to say?

*** If you are sharing an opinion or a fact, are you projecting that you know better than them (being condescending).

The better you know yourself, and recognizing your patterns of communication, the more power you will have to practice shifting communications toward kindness, openness, and listening more than you speak. This will help eliminate drama and build better relationships.

Don’t judge your efforts. Any amount of attention you give to this practice will enhance your ability to move into higher awareness at will. Have fun with this exercise. You will learn things you never knew about yourself, I always do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Learning to Respond to Life in a Positive Way

“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” ~ Buddha

Now that you have become aware of the relationship between complaining and stress, you are ready to learn how to stop complaining and learn to respond to life in a different way. Most complaints are merely reactions that we have learned and practiced over a lifetime. We were never taught how to watch our thoughts. We never knew that there was a different way of looking at life.

The difference between reacting and acting is bringing awareness to the situation. This allows you to use your free will to respond any way you choose. When you react to a situation, you are most likely repeating patterns of behavior without thought to whether your reactions are appropriate for this new situation. You are literally re-acting, or acting again, the way you have acted before. When you respond with action to a situation, you are consciously aware of what you are thinking, saying, and doing.

When a stressful situation arises, unhappy people will automatically react with negative thoughts, most of which are resisting the reality of what is. If you are unaware of your thoughts, you have no control over your reactions to life. By taking a moment to be present, you will gain awareness of your thoughts, which will give you an opportunity to choose your response instead of just reacting to the situation. You will act with awareness instead of reacting.

Let’s look at an example of the typical unhappy person reacting to a flat tire. The tire blows. Ms. Grimm starts cursing. “I can’t believe this! Now I’m going to be late! This is terrible!” After she hurriedly scrambles to find the number for roadside assistance, she calls with aggravation in her voice. She will spend the time waiting, repeating negative thoughts of nonacceptance, feeling like a victim, and possibly even calling other people to express her irritation, spreading the seeds of misery. Then she will most likely repeat the story of this event multiple times throughout the day, each time becoming upset and feeling stressed.

Now let’s see how Ms. Chipper handles the same situation: The tire blows. “Darn!” (Slow, deep breathe.) “Well, I guess I’ll call roadside assistance. There’s nothing else I can do about it.” Keeps breathing deeply and slowly as she calmly calls for assistance. Then starts to think, Boy, am I thankful that I didn’t have an accident when the tire blew! Thank God! I’ll call work and let them know I’m going to be late. And now I can call a few people that I’ve been meaning to call while I wait. She might repeat this story but will definitely tell it without negative residual emotions.

You may have had the good fortune to witness the difference between an unhappy person and a happy person in a situation. The unhappy people are always stressing themselves out and have a hard time coping when unexpected things happen. The happy people are the ones who are calm and flow with life. The flat-tire incident is a relatively big event compared to the many smaller things that pass our way in any given day. Most of the time, the events that stress people out are very small.

Let’s look at another example of unchecked thoughts, this time with something small happening. Mr. Grimm is getting ready for work. He isn’t thinking about what he is doing and spills coffee on his shirt. Cursing, he starts to rush around. As he is hurrying, he is thinking how clumsy he was for spilling the coffee and how he is going to be late. These thoughts agitate him even more. While he is driving to work he’s still thinking about being late and not really focusing on the road. Each red light he stops at aggravates him more and more, which starts him thinking about how much he hates traffic and driving. By the time Mr. Grimm gets to work, he’s in a bad mood and is grumpy to everyone he passes on the way to his desk. He has a stressful morning because everything seems to bother him. He starts to think about how much he hates his job. By afternoon, he is feeling stressed and depressed.

Sometimes a tiny event can spiral into a bad mood or even a bad day. Mr. Grimm didn’t let the emotions process quickly and in a healthy manner. So he feels irritated while trying to find another shirt, thinking about how he’s going to be late, driving faster to work, and getting more irritated at every stop light. By the time he reaches work, a small spill on his shirt has become the trigger for ruining his mood for the morning. He is unaware why he is in a bad mood. He just thinks he is having a bad day.

Now, let’s look at an example of catching your thoughts in the same situation. Mr. Chipper is getting ready for work. He isn’t thinking about what he’s doing and spills coffee on his shirt. “Oops!” (Momentary irritation. Takes a slow, deep breath) “Guess I missed my mouth! (Chuckles.) “I’ll go change my shirt.” (Feels no residual irritation about this event.) Then he starts to think, Darn, I’m going to be late now. Mr. Chipper, recognizing his reaction as a negative thought process, starts to watch his thoughts. He knows what can happen if he lets them run amok. Instead of getting upset, he thinks about having an opportunity to slow down a bit and focus on the present moment. He takes an extra three minutes to change his shirt and leaves for work. He is still focused on the moment and what he is thinking about, so as he drives to work he doesn’t rush but enjoys the twenty-minute commute, singing to the music on the radio. He focuses on driving and singing. He happily greets everyone as he enters work and has a great day.

You can see from these very simplistic examples how one thought can trigger other thoughts and create a spiral of emotion. If you can catch your negative thoughts and change them toward something different, or just release them and move on with your day, you will be taking a huge step toward improving your life. These practices take time and effort, but the more you watch your thoughts, the easier it is to see them and not let them take over your emotions.

When we react to every slight irritation all day long, the stress builds inside us. By resisting the flow of life, we condemn ourselves into a life of aggravation. It doesn’t have to be that way! You can learn to respond to life in a different way.

Here is where you can use presence. When an unexpected event pops into your day, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. This is exactly the amount of time it takes to let the momentary irritation pass through you and to become present. It’s okay to feel the irritation, but let it flow quickly and then let it go.

If you have enough presence, you will be able to stop your train of thought about whatever is bothering you. These few seconds will allow you to inhibit your emotional impulse and evaluate the situation. If it is something that you have no control over, then instead of complaining, (either in your thoughts or out loud) switch your perspective to one of acceptance. You might even remind yourself that it isn’t worth getting upset over the issue.

In his book Emotional Intelligence, psychologist Daniel Goleman formulates the skills necessary for emotional well-being. He writes,

“Emotional intelligence consists of five skills: knowing what you’re thinking as you’re thinking it; handling your feelings so that distracting emotions don’t interfere with your ability to concentrate and learn; motivating yourself, including maintaining optimism and hope; having empathy; and social skills.”

When you can develop enough awareness to know what you are thinking, and thereby respond to life in a positive way, instead of reacting you are on your way to being an emotionally balanced person. If you can make a habit of this, you’ll notice a remarkable change in your life. As a matter of fact, if this is the only lesson you ever apply from this book, then you will have the tools to eliminate stress.

When we complain about life, people, traffic, weather, or life in general, we’re not only planting weeds in our garden, we are spreading seeds of misery into someone else’s garden. Stop aggravating yourself and everyone around you with complaints!


You can respond to life in a positive way. (Stop complaining.)

This week, make an effort to focus your attention on being present and choosing to act with awareness instead of reacting to all the little things that happen in a day. Really make an effort to stop complaining out loud. The negative thoughts will still arise in your mind, but if you have enough awareness to stop those negative thoughts from being spoken, then you are making progress. Eventually, with practice it will become easier and easier to let those negative thoughts flow through your mind before they grab your attention and irritate you.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Do You Love Yourself?

If you don't love and respect yourself, you are setting yourself up for heart ache, being used, and thoughts of self judgement.  Self love is not selfish.  Self love is fundamental to psychological well being.  It is the foundation of a loving heart.  If you do not love yourself, you will have a skewed vision of love, often seeking to fill the void you feel with someone else.

Don't confuse the desire to share your time and love with another, with the need to complete yourself or feel whole. When people convince themselves that they are incomplete with out being with another person they are deluding themselves into thinking that somehow another person can make them feel whole. No one can make you feel happy or whole. These are feelings that can only come from within your own heart. 

Sure, a new love will provide feelings of elation and a temporary feeling of fulfillment, but as the newness wears off in the relationship, so will the feeling of completeness, unless you have learned to love yourself. The void you may feel in your heart is because you haven't embraced your own perfection. LOVE YOURSELF FIRST, and then you will be offering a complete person with a whole heart to the relationship.

It can be challenging to overcome a lifetime of self judgement.  Be gentle with yourself.  I use a positive affirmation every morning to remind myself that, "I AM healthy, happy and whole."  Whenever I feel self doubt, I repeat this phrase a few times.  It may sound like it won't make a difference, but I assure you that it will.  Loving yourself first is a fundamental step to being happy.  


 Laura Barrette Shannon 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stop the Insanity

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." ~Albert Einstein

"Do you repeat unhealthy patterns expecting the outcome to be different "this time"? This is common in relationships, but this insanity can be seen in many parts of life. Take a few minutes to reflect upon your life. Do you see any unhealthy patterns? Awareness is the first step to breaking the cycle. Once you become conscious of how you are stuck in an unhealthy cycle of repetition you can take action to break free.

If you are repeating unhealthy patterns, you will have to change yourself in order to break the pattern. You can't change others, but when we change the way we interact with people, reset boundaries, or choose to move in a different direction, we successfully break the cycle of insanity. Relationships are like a dance. If you change your moves, the other person will follow suit or decide not to dance with you at all. Either way, it works out in your best interest.

Be gentil with yourself. Awareness is the the first step. Don't beat yourself up because you have been in a cycle of unhealthy patterns. You are human and we all face these issues in one way or another. Keep in mind that you have the power to do something different if you choose to break the pattern, but only you will know how and when to address the issue. Enjoy the journey, it's not about the destination. You are always perfect no matter what. Sometimes, we create a different version of our perfection to suit our own needs and self expression.

Laura Barrette Shannon ♥
author of Be Happy Now: Simple Steps to Enjoying Life