Category Archives: Self-talk

Are You Done Yet?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

060117_areyoudoneyetWe’ve all been there. The moment you realize that you’re doing something that is not in your best interest — and then continue to do it, over and over again, sometimes for weeks, other times for years. Until one day you reach your breaking point and feel you have no other option than to make a radically different choice to end the unpleasantness you are experiencing. (Many times, this process is rather dramatic and can be also known as a breakdown, meltdown, burnout, depression or in some cases a mid-life crisis.)

If you are like most people, there is normally a huge time gap between having the awareness that what you are choosing/doing isn’t working for you, and acting to alter or stop it in order to create a future that is different from the past. And for most people, there really isn’t much in-between, it’s an all or nothing pattern: Do it until it becomes unbearable.

We are not always talking huge life issues either. It could be eating a food you know won’t agree with your belly, staying up late to watch one more episode of your new favorite show, being absorbed in your mobile device when you’re with loved ones, not expressing yourself, or staying in relationship with a toxic person or work team. The list of examples is endless.

The point is each day everyone makes a few choices that sabotage their desired outcomes. (Even the most awake, balanced people do this.) And each day you watch yourself over and over again make the same choices and have the same conversation in your head about it, “I can’t believe I ate that”, “I should have gone to bed earlier”, “Why did I keep my phone out for that”, “I wish I would have said that instead”, “I let him/her talk to me that way again”.

Then the next day, you do it all over again. Until you have a health issue, a resentment issue, a relationship issue, or until the work team dynamic becomes so bad you are driven to leave. What if it were possible to be “done” without high drama or need for drastic action? What if you could decide in advance what your breaking point is, so rather than being surprised when you reach it, you see it coming and even plan for its arrival?

What if it were as simple as asking yourself this powerful question: “Am I done yet?”

What if you could define that limit before you get there and ask yourself — what does being done look like? “I will continue to eat this until my cholesterol reaches a certain level”, “When I need 4 cups of coffee to wake up — that’s how I’ll know I stayed up too late”, “I will withhold my emotion only 100 more times”.

You know you are done when the unpleasantness of what you are experiencing is beyond tolerable. Most people fear being done, because they don’t know what’s next. The great news is that there are very few truly unique problems in this world and the odds are highly likely you are not alone being done with whatever it is you’re done with — a few conversations with others, and an internet search will likely turn up more resources to support you than feels possible. It’s like when you decide to buy a car, and then you start to see that car everywhere. When you’ve decided you’re done, resources will line your path.

A future that is different from the past starts with a single question: Are you done yet?

[Note: This post originally appeared in HuffPost]

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My New Trick Journey

By Dayna Lee Cohen, Customer Events Manager at Insights and Friend of Simple Intentions

Blog_NewTricks_Dayna_0427Old dogs are the best dogs. Puppies, like babies, get more attention, but it’s the old dogs who really embody the traits of what I love about the species; they are the most loyal, loving, and soulful…they are the sweetest and most comfortable.

I am an old dog. I initially shied away from attaching that moniker to myself, but it’s true. And when I think about the behaviors of old dogs, I realize they are my behaviors, and the aforementioned traits could also be applied to me. And that was pleasing to me.

For the first time in years, my mom spent the day at my house yesterday, and it was so wonderful to have her. She is a REALLY old dog and likely would not appreciate being called so. Part of the time yesterday was spent showing Mom new dog tricks – her dog, Zoe, has recently become a part of my family as Mom can no longer accommodate a pet where she’s living – and I have been working to teach Zoe new habits and behaviors.

I began my mindfulness journey at roughly the same time Zoe arrived in our household. Coincidentally, Zoe and I have both learned new tricks over the past few weeks.

Here are Zoe the Dog’s:
1. No pee or poop in the house
2. Sit
3. Speak
4. No licking (still working on this one)

And here are mine:
1. No electronics in the first hour upon awakening
2. Take time out of each day to have moments of fun and distraction
3. Acknowledge the positives – all of them, large and small
4. Be quiet sometimes (still working on this one)

I know you are wondering how to teach an old dog new tricks and it’s pretty simple, really – There are three key steps:
– Repetition
– Praise/acknowledgment
– Treats

The first two techniques remained the same for Zoe and me – it was the third step that had to be redefined to fit my life. There was never a chance I would reward myself with the Newman’s heart-shaped peanut butter dog treats Zoe loves so much, even if peanut butter is my Desert Island Food. And I was mindful to abstain from treating myself with human food as well – this was my NEW trick journey, after all.

So here is how I decided to treat myself:
– I treated myself with love
– I treated myself with peace
– I treated myself with second chances (and third & fourth…)
– I treated myself with time

By the way, Mom was amazed at all of Zoe’s new tricks, and when I actually contemplated the broad scope of my own altered behaviors (my new tricks), I was pretty in awe of mine as well!

It wasn’t always easy to remember my commitment on how to treat myself and initially I landed on the gaps (no one said it was easy to teach an old dog new tricks, did they?). However, I was able to recognize and replace my self-criticisms with facts and compassion.

One of the best factors that contributed to the success of my new tricks experiment was a trusted mentor and friend’s lack of judgement, and her largesse in holding me able to create and complete the best version of my desired behavior changes that I can manage in each moment and within my own circumstances.

I realized recently that treating myself in a meaningful way is a process, a “trick” if you will, that I will need to repeat over and over until it becomes something I naturally do without thinking – sort of like when my other dog, Moses, starts rolling over before I actually give the command. He already knows what to do – and someday soon, so will I.

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An Uncomfortable Conversation About Stress

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

WARNING: This content may be uncomfortable.

Just like balance, stress means different things to different people and stress impacts each person differently. What is stressful to you might not be stressful to your manager, coworkers, friends, or spouse. It is important to remember that when it comes to defining stress, everybody has their own idea of what is acceptable, tolerable, and comfortable. Before we talk about resolving stress when we experience it, it’s important to understand WHY we experience stress.

At its most basic, the answer is survival. Fight or flight. We want the ability to experience stress — it is what has kept us alive as a species. When we face danger, such as being chased by a wild animal, the body secretes into the bloodstream stress hormones (called adrenaline and made up of cortisol and a few other hormones), this initiates the body’s “fight or flight” response. This hormone cocktail causes a quick gust of energy, a burst of increased immunity, tunnel vision and tunnel hearing to help you move away from danger, and lower sensitivity to pain as not to distract you if you get hurt as you flee from the source of danger. After experiencing this flood of cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream, it’s important that the body and brain move to a relaxation response after the perceived threat has gone away so hormone levels can return to baseline. Research says it takes 40 to 60 minutes for this to happen.

If the body and brain don’t have the chance to relax then the body stays in a stress state because it perceives that danger is still near. When we were cave people, it was much easier to tell if a threat had moved away — the tiger was gone. In our modern world, many times the threat or cause of stress does not move away as quickly or in some cases at all, and our bodies and brains stay in a state of mild, persistent stress.

When the body doesn’t reach a rest state after a prolonged period of time, the result is a chronic stress state. Chronic stress can disrupt the immune system, sleep patterns, digestion, growth, and even reproduction. When the body feels perceived danger, it will prioritize its survival systems. Things like digesting lunch go to the bottom of the to-do list when the body thinks a tiger is going to attack.

As you are well aware, lots of things can cause modern day stress. The most common big stress triggers in life include moving, switching jobs, divorce, and death. Common situations that can lead to chronic stress states include unhealthy relationships, over-committing oneself, dysfunctional work teams, and unrealistic expectations of self and others.

Just as many people don’t know what balance means to them, the same is true for stress — many people are not clear on what causes them to feel stress in their daily lives. In my research, I’ve come to believe that most modern-day stress is linked to communication, or rather lack of it. And the topics we avoid talking about most often relate to our values. A lot of stress comes from the conversations we don’t have about our values with others as well as the conversations we avoid having with our selves. A great way to better understand what is driving your stress is to consider what conversations you are not having right now.

What stresses you out? Remember most modern day stress is linked to communication, specifically when we are hedging, when we’re not aware of how our complaints and criticisms are intermingled, and when we might be withholding to avoid feeling discomfort.

How do these situations make your body and mind feel? What symptoms let you know you are heading into the stress zone? For example, do you get stomach aches, skin rashes or headaches? Do you crave certain foods? We all have a stress “tell” — something our body does that sends a message to us to slow down and pay better attention.

What do you do to take care of yourself when you are feeling stressed? This is a big one as many people I work with haven’t considered how to intentionally care for themselves when they experience stress. We will all experience stress throughout our lives. But how do we want to manage it? Being active, time with friends and family, meditation, engaging in a hobby, being in nature — there is no wrong way to move yourself out of a stress state. Just know what ways feel right to you. The most important thing is to KNOW what is causing your stress, or what is likely to cause stress in the future so you can then nourish yourself when you encounter it. Know your answers and follow through.

As you reflect on your answers, begin to become aware of where your behaviors are supporting you and where they are sabotaging you. Notice the choices you make, notice when you feel in balance, notice when you feel out of balance. Then make the necessary shift.

[Note: This post originally appeared on Thrive Global]

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Maybe There’s Not a Reason for Everything

By Nicole Christie, Principal + Creative Director of NICO, Inc. and Friend of Simple Intentions

nicolechristie_notareasonforeverything_image

I want to believe things happen for a reason. I’m a hard-wired meaning-seeker, who’s spent an inordinate amount of time asking “Why?” And I’m a storyteller at heart, who wants life to flow like fiction, with a plot and a climax and a resolution that explains it all.

But even if things happen for a reason, it’s rarely—if ever—apparent in the moment. Sometimes when we look back, we can connect the dots—why a relationship didn’t work out, why we lost a job, why we didn’t get the house we swore was our dream home. Only then do we see how it positioned us to gain something else—hopefully something better that we didn’t even know we wanted. Or maybe it taught us something we needed to learn, like patience, assertiveness, or diligence.

And sometimes stuff just happens. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. There’s no lesson to learn, no virtue to gain. And it’s not necessarily cause-and-effect, though many of us like to believe we’re responsible for everything in our lives. When something good happens, we take credit for it—we worked hard, we’re kind, we’re aligned with our purpose. When something bad happens, we blame ourselves—we’re lazy, we’re stupid, we made bad choices. The appeal of this way of thinking is control: if we succeed, we steered the ship; if we failed, we can fix it.

That’s the problem with seeking meaning and reason. We can’t accept that life throws a mean curveball. That we’re not really in control. That the world is filled with things that will never make sense. All we can do is get up, get out, and keep going, no matter what this nonsensical life throws our way.

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Celebrating Disappointment

By Christopher Littlefield, Founder of Acknowledgment Works & Friend of Simple Intentions

A photo by Teddy Kelley. unsplash.com/photos/okavjRLgnjo

A few years ago, in the space of a week’s time, my wife found out that she did not get TWO jobs she was a finalist for. Wanting to support her, I bought flowers, made a make shift sign reading “Happy you did not get the job day!” and greeted her with cheering at the door when she arrived home. Yes, my intention was to be supportive and mitigate the potential after shock of the news, but the incident sparked a real question for me: Why don’t we celebrate when things don’t work out?

The immediate answer is obvious; it’s disappointing. Disappointment makes people feel like crap, so why would you celebrate it? But bear with me for a second as we explore the idea. If you think about it, many of the amazing experiences, lessons, and loves we currently cherish in our lives would not have been possible if everything had worked out as we planned. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my ex’s (well, some of them), but I am VERY thankful those relationships did not work out. If they had, I would not have met the love of my life; my wife, Maria.

For many of us it was the disappointment of not getting accepted to a school or program, losing a job, bombing a presentation, getting dumped, or being passed over for a promotion that was responsible for igniting our passion to pick up arms and fight for what we really wanted in life. It is those disappointments that often become the catalyst for the better things that happen in our lives.

So the next time something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, take a few minutes to stomp your feet, cry a little, shake your fist at the sky, but then find a friend and go celebrate because the door just opened for another amazing experience to be born.

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Know your facts — and opinions

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

In school, my son is learning the difference between fact and opinion. His worksheet has two columns: “Fact” and “Opinion.” The exercise is to fill each column with sentences appropriately expressing facts and opinions. Easy enough, right? “My puppy is adorable” goes under “Opinion.” “My puppy has a lot of energy” – an undisputable fact.

As adults, we believe we’ve mastered the elementary concept of fact v opinion. Why then, when it comes to particularly emotional thoughts, does our mastery sometimes elude us? Such thoughts as “I completely blew that presentation” or “I’m just not smart enough to ever get a promotion” somehow become certain facts in our emotional minds. Stuck in our brain’s negativity zone, they can’t penetrate the rational area of our brains where the “fact” and “opinion” columns are quite clear.

One secret of highly successful people is they consistently apply the fact v opinion lesson to their thoughts. They don’t get stuck in the negative zone, wallowing in pessimistic opinions of their performance or status on the team. Setbacks and hard times fuel their passion and drive. In short, they appropriately sort the facts from negative opinions and maintain a more positive, empowered outlook.

The lucky ones can do this sorting exercise mentally, seemingly effortlessly. For the rest of us, go ahead, create your own Fact and Opinion worksheet and pull it out the next time you find yourself filling your mental “fact” column with negative thoughts.

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The right way to talk to yourself

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

Thinking out loud is good for you. And carefully choosing your words when you self-talk can impact whether you walk away from the conversation feeling positive and in control, or mired in negative thoughts.

This is the topic explored in the article “The Voice of Reason,” in the May issue of Psychology Today. According to the article, which reports on the research of psychologist Ethan Kross, “how people conduct their inner monologues has an enormous effect on their success in life.”

Most importantly – and so simply – switching from using first person (“I need to stop procrastinating and write this blog post.”) to using your name (“Kim, stop procrastinating and write that blog post.”) provides a sort of psychological distance that lifts judgment and anxiety and frees the brain to not only complete a task, but also to do so more successfully.

The article explains what happens in the brain when we shift from using pronouns to first names, as well as details the research that led to the findings. For our purposes, we pulled out a few tips to help you make self-talk work for you.

  1. Think out loud. Especially for challenging tasks and situations, thinking out loud provides a level of concreteness to issues that helps put solutions within reach.
  2. Use an imaginary coach. Much as an imaginary friend fuels a child’s imagination, an imaginary coach with whom you discuss problems can provide the psychic space you need to uncover creative solutions.
  3. Self-talk in the third person. Particularly when preparing for a stressful event, Kross found that talking to yourself using your name rather than “I” or “me” dispels anxiety not only before the event, but afterward, too.
  4. Tackle a problem as if it was your friend’s issue. Consider how easy it is to advise your friends: You approach problems more objectively and with less attachment to an outcome. Such detachment applied to your own problems can likewise minimize anxiety and fear.
  5. Be precise in your self-direction. Before a big event, remind yourself – using your name – of the work you did to prepare, and tell yourself to be calm and exude confidence.
  6. Include positive affirmations in your self-talk. Tell yourself, “Jane, you are capable, smart and strong.” And give yourself a break; even if things don’t go perfectly, talking in third person provides a distance that softens the blow to your self-worth will helps you move on more quickly.
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