All this month we are encouraging you to go deeper – to do more self-reflecting and challenge yourself to improve in your blind spots. As part of that quest, Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale shares five self-reflectors.
These are questions we must routinely ask ourselves to keep us on track and going in the right direction.
“AM I CHASING OR CHOOSING HAPPINESS TODAY?”
For many of us the pursuit of happiness becomes an addiction in and of itself. We get so busy trying to make life better that we forget how to enjoy it. We are so preoccupied with the pursuit that we don’t have time to be happy right now… “I can’t stop yet. Can’t relax yet! Can’t feel good yet!” Then, when we are so strongly hooked to the pursuit, we miss happiness when it shows up. We are literally M.I.A. Your life changes when you stop chasing happiness and you decide to be happy in this moment. Longitudinal happiness studies show that the best predictor of future happiness is current happiness. Your attitude towards now determines your capacity to enjoy the future.
Additional Resource: “Be Happy,” by Dr. Robert Holden.
“IS THAT REALLY TRUE?”
Thoughts land on you and I all day long. We have two options: we either believe them or we question them. We are not disturbed by things but by our view of them. We know from research that thoughts have a powerful effect on us. They effect our attitude, physiology, and our motivation to act. Our negative thoughts actually control our behavior; they can cause us to stutter, spill things, forget our lines, break out in a sweat, feel scared, and, taken to extreme, can paralyze or scare us to death.
• “Who Would You Be Without Your Story?” dialogue with Byron Katie
You may already heard about a man named Nick Sitzman, a strong young man who worked on a train crew. Nick had it all: good health, a beautiful wife and children, friends. But Nick had one major fault – he worried about everything and always feared the worse. One day, Nick was accidentally locked in a refrigerator boxcar after the rest of the crew had left the site. He panicked. He banged and yelled until his fists were bloody and his voice was horse but no one heard him. “I’ll freeze to death in here,” he feared. And wanting to let his family know exactly what had happened to him, Nick found a knife and etched these words on the floor of the boxcar. “These may be my last words. It’s so cold that my body is getting numb and I’ll just go to sleep.” The next morning the crew opened the doors of the boxcar and found Nick dead. The autopsy revealed that every physical sign of his body indicated that he had indeed frozen to death. Yet the refrigeration unit of the car was inoperative and turned off. The temperature inside the boxcar indicated 55 degrees. So – what happened here? Nick had killed himself by the power of his own fears
Suffering is optional. When we argue with what is, we suffer. When ever we experience a stressful feeling – from mild discomfort to tense rage or despair – there is indeed a specific thought causing that reaction whether we are conscious of it or not. The way to end the distress is to investigate the thinking behind the distressing belief.
“WHO DO I WANT TO BE HERE?”
In other words, be the kind of person you want to be not because of who “they” are, but because of who you are. Too often we give our power away; we fall short because we become victim to another’s behavior instead of being true to ourselves.
A client was recently rehearsing with me how she wanted to react one the day she would inevitably run into her former boyfriend – they broke up only weeks ago following a painful experience together; one that neither one of them would likely forget. On top of some behaviors she already regretted, she didn’t want to add any more. She has skillfully planned out her reaction, the words she’d like to say, a kind gesture of reassurance….all because she wants to be the kind of woman that she’s proud of. She is wise enough to know that this interaction will get back to family and friends and she wants to hold her head high; what we do today is often in someone’s else’s memory bank always – we are always writing history.
I am a firm believer in “fake it ‘till you make it.” A fellow therapist gave some interesting feedback to his grocer, Joe, recently. Everything about Joe – his demeanor, facial expressions, and body language spoke for him: Joe was depressed. As my friend stepped up to the counter he said, “Joe, what are you doing? You look younger!” At first Joe looked really puzzled; “I do??” My fellow psychologist said, “I’m serious, Joe. You look like you’ve taken 10 years off! Even your complexion looks younger and healthier. What are you doing?” Joe said, “You really think so, Doc?” “Yes, Joes, I mean look at yourself; you’re standing taller and straighter, and that smile on your face must be telling your brain to turn up all those good neurochemicals.” Joe followed the suggestion and stood straighter with a broad smile on his face. “Doc, you made my day…please come back more often!” This is a great example of “fake it ‘till you make it;” and Joe made it!
We need to be careful with our language; I also encourage clients to listen to CD’s with positive subliminal messages. Science has discovered that many of the hard wired connections appear to give the brain/mind a great deal of control over health, wellness, and longevity. I love anything that helps clients awaken their mind. I am beginning to see a distinct difference between those who meditate with positive subliminal messages and those who don’t. A marvelous resource comes from “Inner Talk” by Eldon Taylor who originated from Utah and the University of Utah. He provides a huge library from clients wanting to lose weight, end self-destructive patterns, and improve their personal power (check out his resource at www.innertalk.com).
“FROM WHOM DO I NEED TO OBTAIN FEEDBACK THIS WEEK?”
We are so afraid of feedback…and we often become defensive when it’s given. Jack Canfield, the co-creator of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” believes that this one single question he learned from a multibillionaire many years ago is the one main question that has radically changed his life. So what is this magical question that can improve the quality of every relationship you are in, every product you produce, every service you deliver, every meeting you conduct, every class you teach, and every transaction you enter into?
• “On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate the quality of our relationship during the last week?”
There are many variations to this question: On a scale of 1 -10, how would you rate the meeting we just had; me as a manager? me as a parent? this class? this meal? our sex life? this segment?
Any answer less than 10 has a follow-up question:
• “What would have made it a 10?”
This is where valuable information comes in; knowing that your partner is dissatisfied is not enough. Knowing the details of the relationship empowers you with the ammo to create a winning connection, product, or service.
Make it a weekly ritual; start tonight. When your partner comes home, ask him or her, “On a scale of 1 -10, how would you rate the quality of our relationship this past week?” They’ll be surprised by encourage them to give a rating. Your spouse may say, all right; I give our relationship a 7!” Your next question is, “What would it take to make it a 10?” Recently I worked with a couple who did this exercise. Her response was, “Our week would have been a 10 had you called me when you were going to be late coming home for dinner; I wait, wonder and worry where you are when I don’t hear from you. Please place your socks in the hamper and not by the end of the bed. Help me get the kids bathed without always having to ask for your help.”
The next most important step on the receiver’s end is to be open to the feedback. Many of us are afraid to ask for corrective feedback because we are afraid what we are going to hear. There is nothing to fear – the truth sets us free. We cannot fix what we don’t know is broken. We cannot fix the relationship or our performance without feedback.
The third part to this important exercise is to be grateful for the feedback without being defensive:
• “Thank you for caring enough to share that with me!”
Take whatever steps are necessary to improve the situation – including your own behavior.
“WHAT IF I MADE THIS EASIER?”
We are so ingrained to work hard; to not stop until the job is done! We think that if a job or task is difficult, somehow it is more noble or we are somehow better for it. Sometimes just this question alone helps me breathe deeper and think more simply; let’s make this easier to accomplish. After all, it was only my thoughts that told me, “this is so hard?” Asking myself, “What if I were to make this easier” breathes new life and an ease into the project, regardless is that project is throwing a party or writing an article. It changes my perspective.
An author once stood before a large audience and she could just hear that negative chatter box….”who do you think you are?” “What do you possible have to share with this educated group of women?” She took just a moment at the podium and stood there; then she reached up and pushed the left side of her brain and then the right side…and began talking. It was an exceptional presentation and seemed to positively affect the masses. One women came up to her afterwards and said, “I couldn’t help but notice that you pushed one side of your forehead and then the other…do you mind me asking you what that was about?” The author, Lisa Nichols said, “I was pressing the “Stop” button on my negative self-talk and the “Play” button on my powerful self-talk so I could give you my best!”
Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.