fear worry

Focus on What You Want

Like many, I have drastically cut down on my Facebook time. Most of what I see posted is based in fear, negativity, and attacking the “other.” No matter what your political or life views are, it is easy to see people of all types feeding into this fear. In fact, many of us are addicted to it. Fear appears to be a theme of our current human existence.

I read a great piece in Psychology Today about the true source of fear. In my previous writings based on the science I had read, a little part of the brain called the amygdala was responsible for fear. But Joseph E. LeDoux Ph.D., amygdala expert, makes an important distinction. He states that “[the amygdala] is responsible for detecting and responding to threats, and only contributes to feelings of fear indirectly.” Danger detection is one of the responsibilities of the brain’s amygdala. But fear is a conscious human action.  According to Dr. LeDoux, fear is the result of conscious attention, perception, memory, and arousal.

Bottom line, our unconscious brain keeps an eye out for danger to keep us safe. Our conscious brain is responsible for the feeling of fear we experience due to what we choose to focus on, how we perceive the situation, our memories of previous experiences, and the passion we instill into our thinking.

fear worryWe appear to live in the age of terror. We focus on it. We are afraid of attacks from other countries. We fear clowns which are appearing throughout the world. We fear what GMO food or environmental pollution will do. Big or little, our first reaction to situations is usually to focus on the fear of what will happen. Valid threats may exist, but we are not logically focused on solving the threats. Instead we consciously feed fear.

But is fear and negativity what we want in our lives?

If fear can be created through our conscious attention, perception, memory, and arousal, I propose that hope and freedom can be created the same way.

Attention:  We can see everything around us as a threat. We can perceive that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Or we can choose to see the world is evolving, bumpy as it may be, into a new age of love, acceptance, and compassion. Where are you focusing? What information are you bringing in? What news and news sources are you engaged with? Are you consuming death and mayhem, or the newest advancements and acts of kindness?

Perception:  Our reality is based on our perception. Two people at the same party can experience it differently based on their unique perceptions of the host, guests, food, and music. How are you perceiving the world around you? Do you have rose-colored glasses on or are you looking for issues and challenges? Can you look past the apparent pain and see how a circumstance may actually be a catapult for growth and advancement?

Memory:  Are you looking at circumstances cleanly or are you piling on your previous negative experiences? Think of animals who have been abused and then react to those who look like their previous abusers with fear and self-preserving aggression. Are you taking each circumstance at face value or looking at it through the lens of your past?

Arousal: The past few months have shown how fear stirs those to action as apparent in negative posts, protests, and anger. Another definition of arousal besides being stimulated to action is to awaken. Is now the time that you look past how you have been taught to view the world and awaken to your own world view? Is it time to stop buying into a society of fear and awaken to the possibility of a world of hope, peace, compassion, and kindness?

We consciously choose our experience. Are you creating fear or hope?

change transformation

Changes

This election was difficult on a lot of people. And we made it more difficult on ourselves. Instead of a civilized debate, we made the campaign into a sixth-grade playground with name calling and bullying – on both sides. The results of the election were a shock to half the country, resulting in teenage rebellion and fear – and yes, if the results were reversed, the same thing probably would have happened, just by the other half of our country.

America is a very young country. Our only civil war was a century and a half ago. Much is wrong with our political system and unfortunately, just like in our own lives, transformation is not an easy, smooth process. When something is not right in our lives, we often stay in discomfort for too long because we fear change and the unknown. Often it takes an outside force or for things to become absolutely unbearable before we step into change. Same with our country. But there are ways to make transformation easier – for our country and for ourselves.

change transformationFirst, love and pray, don’t fear or hate. Fear and hate only bring more fear and hatred. This does not get us anywhere. If you hate and attack your husband for not putting down the toilet seat, does this give him any motivation or encouragement to change his behavior? Hate makes the other afraid and victimized which triggers them to protect themselves through returned hate and aggression. Hate is an ugly circle that never ends. Hating something we view as evil is the same as hating something we view as good. Hate is hate. It does not change due to what is being hated. The result of hate is always the same – separation, fear, victimization, and pain – on both sides. We reap what we sow, and if we are sending out hate, we are feeling and experiencing hate too.

Our election has been a gift to help us learn to love.  When we love our enemy instead of hating them, we not only feel better but it provides a space for us to communicate and mend. Love does not mean excusing or acquiescing. Love means treating the other as a respected human being. Love means seeing past the surface and into underlying motivations. Love is accepting the other person for who they are and where they are. Love is a safe space. Love is where we can come together, discuss, and hope for the future.

Fear and worry are also a source of causing ourselves unnecessary pain. We don’t know the future and so more times than not we are worrying about something which will never come to fruition. Worrying about something which has not materialized is wasted emotional energy. Worrying places us into a state of fear. It causes us stress which clouds are mind and judgement. Worrying does not solve anything. All it does is bring us down.

Instead pray, meaning focusing on what you do want. When we fear or worry, our energy is being spent on what we do not want. And it is attracting these negative results to us. Instead focus on what you do want; the opposite of your fear. Years ago I worked with a teenager who was having issues with her parents. She was focused on how they might negatively act toward her. The result was her guard was up all the time which made her parents feel they had to fight to get through to her. When, instead, the daughter focused on how she wanted them to act and how she wanted their relationship to be, she relaxed. In her calm state, her parents were also able to be more peaceful and accepting, resulting in a better relationship for all.

Second, learn to communicate and listen. To come together and renovate America creating a new way of life, we need to be able to freely express our opinions, to do so without personal attacks, and to be open to listening to others’ thoughts. Kid President does a great job of explaining how to communicate even when we disagree. His advice is to treat people like people, to listen, to act not react, to state your opinion with love not hate, to accept our differences and differences of opinions, and to stop trying to win.

We are in a time of transformation. Transformation always comes with pain and discomfort. Think of childbirth. It is painful and messy to go through, but it is worth it in the end. This is a challenging time, but our most challenging times are the ones we have the most growth. What we need now is love, understanding and compassion. We have been given a chance to grow personally and as a country. This too shall pass if we can approach our challenges with love, communication, and a focus on our desired collective future.

Tropical Storm Newton

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall

This Sunday we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our adventure. A three-week drive across country then down the Baja coast culminated with us landing in Cabo San Lucas Mexico Labor Day weekend in 2015. Yesterday we reminisced about our trip and how much has changed this year. We showed gratitude for all we have experienced and the good friends we have made. We looked forward to the good the new year would bring us.

Today, Monday, we are prepping for a hurricane. Not sure how big it will be or how directly it will hit, but after an almost sleepless night, we started our preparation plans. Buying bottled water, canned food, and candles. Boarding windows. Keeping an eye on projections.

Tropical Storm NewtonFor a year we have listened to joyful, envious comments from our friends because we live in “paradise.” And yes, for almost twelve months now the weather has been amazing and our lives have been very good indeed.  But the truth is there is always a bit of darkness in any light. Things which are perfect today could be difficult tomorrow. Challenges will always exist. We all will have disappointments and loss. Good comes with bad. Yin comes with Yang.

Here are three things to remember when a little rain enters your life: Focus on the Good, Stick to the Facts, and Accept Change

Focus on the Good: Many times when the “bad” comes, we throw out all the good. We expect sunshine and rainbows every moment of our lives and when we have one setback, we often negate all the good that happened previously. It is an interesting mentality and part of our stress-related survival technique. We focus on the negative because that is what we need to battle for survival. This used to be important if the negative danger was a snake or a hungry tiger, but today this translates to negative personal attacks or fears of the future. Our focus on the negative is so strong, we need to actively refocus our minds to the good. If you have ever been through corporate training, you will remember how they recommend sandwiching constructive criticism within praise, otherwise all we hear is the criticism. In fact, teams with the best performance use a six to one ratio – positive comments to negative. It is much harder for us to hear and receive praise than criticism, so we need to have extra focus on the good. This is also true when we have difficulties in our lives. Our natural reaction is to focus on the bad when what we need to do is shift our thoughts to the good.

Stick to the Facts: To ride out the storms in our lives, it is important not to blow them out of proportion. How often are our fears more terrifying than the reality we experience? How often do we cause ourselves pain with horrible “what if” situations which never come true? When I woke up occasionally last night it was always with a thought about the storm – what it might do, how it might affect us, how big it could be, etc. However, until the storm is here, those questions can not be answered. Thinking about them only causes physiological stress in the body and cloudy thinking. Instead, I shifted to what I knew – what can we do to prepare, who do we need to contact, and what do we need to get done in the next hours. Positive action based in reality can help us move forward. Imagined fears keep us stuck and often drag us backward.

Accept Change: Our human minds like consistency and ease. We focus on it. We desire it. We become stressed without it. But the truth is life, nature, our human existence necessitates change. If we are not changing, we are not living. Be aware of when your mind becomes closed and fearful in light of change. Release your tight grip on trying to control life; you really can’t. Step into a mindset of acceptance. Notice shifts and changes. See what good it brings you. See what growth it is gifting you with. And if necessary, make changes yourself to ensure that the shift in your life benefits you.

transition

A Clean Start

Laptop computers are usually pretty quiet. A month or so ago, mine started to sound like it was chewing potato chips. Also when I picked it up, I could hear pieces of something falling inside the machine. It was time for a new computer.

When my pretty new blue computer arrived, I was excited. Then I was anxious. It wasn’t mine yet. It did not have my programs. It did not have my apps. It did not have all my documents and folders. As my old computer could stop working at any moment, I felt some pressure to get the new one up and running. If you have every done this, it is a little frustrating. Old programs were no longer available or compatible with my new computer. I had to buy, change or adapt from what I was used to using. Once everything was installed, I had to learn a new way of doing things. A new computer equals a new operating system. Tools were no longer where they used to be. Functions I used to love were now gone. New functions were confusing. The stress of change set in. What was, no longer is. Doing daily operations were no longer second nature but a challenge. I had to slow down. I needed to relearn. I had to accept that things were not what they used to be. I could no longer take for granted unconsciously instinctively using my computer. Every action now took thought and sometimes research.

transitionAs I learned through changing computers, to move through any transition it is necessary to learn how to release how things were, release the concept of business as usual, and release what is no longer important.

How Things Were: Once I upgraded to Windows 10, there was no going back. The system is similar but not exactly the same to what I had been using. As we move through our lives, change jobs, move cities, gain and lose friends, what is around us may be similar, but it is not the same. To move forward we need to let go of what was and embrace and accept what now is.

Business as Usual: Instead of being able to roll up my sleeves and begin working first thing in the morning, I had to install programs, find old files, or just get used to the way the new computer system worked. Business as usual did not exist, at least temporarily, while I adapted to a new way of being. When we make any change, there is much to learn mentally, physically, and emotionally to adjust to the new way of being. Whatever the change, it takes time to learn new things. When we are focused on learning, we are not doing, and that’s ok.

What Is No Longer Important: As I looked through all of the pdf’s I had downloaded on my old computer but never read and all the sites I saved but never re-visited, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information I had to transfer and then catch up on. Then I stopped. If I hadn’t found the time to review this information over the years, why did I think I was going to take the time now? I looked through everything I had saved and selectively transferred items over. In transition, it is not necessary to replicate the past but instead to clarify and vet what we want to bring into our future.

What transition are you experiencing right now? What about the past do you need to let go of? Do you need to slow down and minimize your expectations while you are in transition? What baggage from what was do you not want to bring with you into the new?

think or feel

Feeling into the Future

Every month I check in with the PowerPath Forecast to get a pulse on the world. I don’t know how they do it, but the forecast has an uncanny knack at identifying larger themes happening to us all. This information helps the work I do with my clients as well as helping me understand shifting politics and environmental issues.

This month’s forecast focuses on trusting our intuition and setting our own intentions/direction. This line really struck me, “Intuition is non-intellectual and helps us to “feel” into things instead of rationalize them. Remember that rationalization uses language from the past and past experiences, whereas intuition feels into the future.”

To me the power of this line means that relying solely on our intellect means we are stuck in the past. We look at what has happened to us in the past and are expecting the future to match what we experienced or witnessed before. Not only can this be a poor predictor, just think about the housing and tech bubbles which we assumed would continue to grow, but also begs the question, do you want to experience what you did in the past, or do you want something better?

think or feelIf every relationship you had in the past resulted in heartbreak, you may rationalize that your new relationship will end poorly. But is that what you want? And if you assume that the results will be the same, are you consciously or unconsciously taking the same actions ensuring the same results? Einstein said that “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” When we use our logic and rationalization we are repeating the past again and again, with no hopes at different results. Rationalization keeps us stuck in our old patterns. And our lizard brain loves it. Our lizard brains desire consistency, so logic and rationalization are wonderful. We can give “proof” of a trend or “predict” what will happen next.

The truth is, however, that our world is not consistent. In fact, it is very uncertain. The world we are in this moment is different than the one a minute ago because everything has changed. Life is fluid. The world is constantly evolving. Thinking it is consistent not only keeps us repeating our actions but also makes it difficult for us to adapt to the truth of a fluid unstable world. Feeling into the future is actually a more sound approach to an every changing world.

In a Harvard Business Review interview, Instinct Can Beat Analytical Thinking, psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer talks about how intuition and heuristic decision making is a better decision-maker in our uncertain world. He tells the story of a turkey who every day hears the farmer saying he is going to kill the turkey and yet every day the farmer feeds him. Using his rational decision-making over time, the turkey believes he can predict the future (being fed) based on the past. And then it is Thanksgiving. At the end of the article, Gerd also shares an experiment German psychologists conducted to show that intuition was not as reliable as logic and knowledge. The experiment showed the opposite. The intuition group predicted the outcome correctly 72% of the time where the knowledgeable groups scored in the 60’s.

Using our intuition is trendy in the New Age world, but Gerd talks about how intuition is used daily in business. “In the companies I’ve worked with, which are large international companies, about 50% of all decisions are at the end a gut decision.” Many important decisions are made through the gut, but people are afraid of admitting it because it is not as “sound” or at least as provable as data-made decisions. Going with our intuition or our gut, actually has some scientific support. Science is now calling our gut (our stomach) our “second brain” since it contains more neurons than either the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system and because it sends messages to the first brain in our head. The enteric nervous system (second brain) affects our mood and emotions. It is not the thinking rational mind, but our emotional mind. And sometimes that emotional mind can be more effective than our rational mind.

PhD psychology professor at Hope College and author of Intuition: It’s Powers and Perils, David G. Myers, says that “This kind of intuition isn’t mystical. It’s an automatic, intelligent response to situations we’ve previously learned about or experienced.” He sees intuition as the ability to make associations and recognize patterns allowing us to instinctively “know” what to do. The rational mind says, “A + B = C” where the intuitive mind focuses on how A, B and C are interrelated. Spiritually inspired or not, our intuition often has the information we need in a split-second and the right insight for many situations, even if we can’t consciously explain why.

How in tune are you with your gut? Do you receive hits of intuition? Do you have the courage to follow your intuition?  If you want to check out your own intuitive nature, try this simple test and then try out their tools for increasing your intuition. What I found interesting about the test was that it appears being more intuitive also means being more flexible, creative, and adaptable. Who couldn’t use more of that?

at Land's End

When Plan B is Not An Option

One of the first adventures we took in Mexico was to climb the mountain at Land’s End. Cabo San Lucas is at the bottom tip of the Baja Peninsula. A series of mountains and rock formations gently boarder the cape and separate the Mar de Cortez from the Pacific Ocean. At the top of the largest mountain is a cross. We heard one could climb to the top so we thought we would check it out.

at Land's EndAfter trial and error we found what we believed was the path to the top. For me it was definitely more of a climb than a hike. Tiny pebbles on larger rocks made for unstable surfaces. My little legs had to work hard to move from one landing to the next. It was a challenge, but we did it. We made it to the top and enjoyed the amazing panoramic views from above.

The climb up was challenging but exhilarating. I felt a sense of accomplishment at the top. But then I looked down. All the way down. I realized my journey was not over – I also needed to climb down the mountain. The path we took up seemed to disappear. The rocks I had used to pull myself up were now the launch pad to the next rock down which was not in sight. I got scared. I didn’t want to go down.

I looked for a Plan B.

Perhaps there was a ranger team which deals with rescues. Or maybe there was a helicopter that could pick me up from where I was. Or maybe my husband could carry me down on his back. Every Plan B I came up with became more and more ludicrous and impossible. The truth was there was no Plan B. I had no other option but to make it down the mountain on my own two feet.

Can’t say I was the model of calm and confidence on the way down. My slippery sandals were not meant for the terrain. My inexperience at climbing led me to bad choices. At points I was filled with fear. But I did it. I made it down safely. Not sure if I am in any hurry to head up the mountain again, but I now know I can make it up – and back down again.

Are you in a time of your life where Plan B is not an option? Is there a challenge in front of you that fear is stopping you from addressing? Are you stuck at the top of a mountain with no seeming way down? Times like these are gifts to show you the courage you have. Here are a few tips to help you face your challenge.

Release “What If”: As I headed down the mountain, I was hit with a flurry of “what ifs.” What if I fall? What if I misstep? What if I break my head open during the next move? The “what ifs” held me back and kept me stuck. Truth is none of the “what ifs” were real. They were just excuses to keep from moving forward. Releasing the “what ifs” gets us out of our heads so we can continue to progress.

Focus on the Next Step: When I stood at the top of the mountain and looked down at the tiny little people and boats at the bottom, the climb down appeared overwhelming and impossible. To give me the courage to move forward, I only looked at the next step or series of steps I had to take. By breaking the challenge into bite-sized chunks I was able to move forward.

Get Support: Fortunately my husband knew what he was doing and was willing to coach me. But I had to ask. If I got to a point where I didn’t know my next move, I could be stuck there forever. Again and again I asked my husband not only for the next foot landing or where to put my hands, but also to be there for me. At different points, I told him I was scared and needed his support to have the courage to move. Knowing I was not doing this alone was an immense source of inspiration.

As we look toward the New Year, review your plans, hurdles, and challenges. What is the big scary mountain you need to head down? What are the “what ifs” holding you back? Are you ready to have the courage to take the next baby step toward your achieving your challenge?

If you are looking for support during your challenge, join me in Mexico (no climbing involved) to focus on your goals and how to accomplish them or why not sign up for a 21 Day Kick Start to give you the motivation to make a change.