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Posts Tagged ‘change’

Hidden Fees

In 2012, a Los Angeles restaurant owner discovered a neon light on his property that had been walled over but never disconnected.  After 77 years of uninterrupted use, it had amassed $17,000 in electric bills.

When I read this, it made me think:

  • What is walled up inside of me that continues to amass spiritual bills?
  • How do I disconnect the power?

No matter how much I meditate or spend quiet time replenishing my spirit, I have not been completely successful in turning off the power of a hidden element with its “red” emission.  Programmed into my psyche, behind a solid wall, is the continually running low-voltage current that quickly changes to high-voltage when I encounter certain triggers.

Unless you happen to be the one who sets me off, you’d likely never know this light exists.  The other day I mentioned that we all have a dark side.  My grandson said, “Not you Lala, you are always thinking about other people and trying to be fair.”  While I admit that this is true, and am grateful that he has that perception of me, I sometimes respond in unkind ways when I feel as though I’m being provoked.

Neon has no stable compounds, much like anger, often used as a protective mechanism to cover up fear, hurt or sadness.  I know that my sometimes automatic reactions are learned.  My father often had intense, emotional responses triggered by a variety of things.  If you happened to be the target, it left its mark.

I’ve done enough research to know that anger can be a useful emotion.  It’s a signal that something’s amiss.  So I will continue to take apart my wall, brick by brick, until I completely reveal the hidden circuits and hopefully rewire them.

A jackhammer does not work because it may demolish important circuitry.  A chisel allows for gradual revelation and the opportunity to really see what is beneath the surface.

Some chisel-like tools I’ve used to crack open my wall are:

Journaling – by writing about the basis of my anger, I can scrape away the insulation and examine the exposed wire.

Breathing – slow in and out breaths give me time to think about what is really happening.  I can experience my anger and own it.  I can think about how I want to respond.  Or if I just want to let this one go.

Listening – What is going on with the other person?  Is he/she really wanting to attack me?  Or is this fear or hurt disguised as an assault?

Neon is an inert element.  That’s what I want for my anger.  I want it to live in stillness.  I want it to be informative, not destructive.  I want it to be a catalyst for change and self-discovery.  I want to honor and respect it.  It is, after all, an important element of perfectly, imperfect me.

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I’ve discovered the best take-action. motivator  In my younger days, I used the “cleaning the oven” technique.  If I said to myself, “I really need to clean the oven,” (This was back in ancient times when we didn’t have self-cleaning ovens.)  I would do just about any other task to avoid putting my head in the oven.

But now, I have a much more exciting motivator.  Buy New Underwear!  This Spring I was once again faced with the daunting task of spring cleaning.  At this point, heck at any point, in my life, cleaning is not high on my desire-to-do-list.  But I do like our home to be clean.  Sooooo – I procrastinated and went shopping.

At the I-won’t-mention-the-name-of-the-store outlet, I was bedazzled by the underwear on display.  I chose a variety of colors and when I returned home, I realized that the first task was to clean out my underwear drawer to make room for the new items.  So out went the panties with stretched elastic, the bras that no longer fit on the third hook and some of the ‘mold me” undergarments that are supposed to make me ten pounds slimmer but only succeed in making me take twice as long to go to the bathroom.

I folded and arranged the new lingerie and looked at the drawer with bliss.  I could find everything.  It was all in neat stacks.  This moved me to the sock drawer, then to the closet and then to the rest of the bedroom.  Even under the bed!  I dusted, vacuumed, polished and organized.

That night you could feel how much cleaner the room was.  When I closed the blinds, there weren’t any particles floating in the air.  When I set my glassed on the nightstand, I didn’t create a tsunami of dust.  When I entered the walk-in closet, I could actually see the floor.

So that’s the secret my friends.  Want to get started on a project?  Buy new underwear!  Now for the rest of the house . . . .

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It’s the second week of January, and are you are still gung-ho about your resolutions? Or maybe you didn’t make any, so you are avoiding all those people who did and go on and on about how wonderful they are. And you resist saying, “I saw you eat that candy bar.”

The number one New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. Most of the people who make that vow abandon it by Valentine’s Day.

There are a variety of reasons why that happens:

  • Goal is too lofty – “I’m going to lose fifty pounds by March”
  • Goal isn’t maintainable – “I will eat only lettuce and drink only water for one month.”
  • Goal is constricting – “The only way to lose weight is to never eat any of the foods I love.”

There is plenty of information out there to guide you in being successful at sticking to your resolutions. And my role as a Coach would be very beneficial in that regard. But that’s not the purpose here. I want to give you some advice on what to do when you fall off the wagon, eat that brownie while hiding in the bathroom, or buy a gym membership, all the right clothes for exercise, and never use it.

If any of those or similar situations happen to you, give yourself some compassion. Practice Self-Kindness.  If your inner voice continually criticizes and berates you for making a mistake or not reaching your goal, you often end up in a negative cycle of self-sabotage.   You “throw out the baby with the bathwater” and resolve that next year will be different. Or make your mantra, “You fail at everything you try so why bother!”

If you eliminate harsh self-criticism and treat yourself as you would a good friend, you’ll come out a winner. We are usually kind to those we love when they mess up. We reassure them with respect and support and remind them that they are human. We encourage them to pick themselves up and try again. We counsel them. Yet we often deny ourselves this same compassion.

So when you find yourself in this place of self-degradation, take a self-compassion break. Here’s how:

Sit comfortably and place your hands on your heart

Breathe deeply in and out

Then speak these words or similar words in a warm and caring tone, out loud or silently. (If you are in the restroom at work, you may want to say them silently.)

This is a small detour from my goal

I will be kind to myself

I will give myself the compassion I need.

Repeat the words several times until you feel a sense of warmth and compassion emanating from you for you.

From this place, you can reevaluate your goal, rather than completely abandon it. Here are some things to think about.

Was it difficult to achieve? By breaking it down into smaller bites, it’s not as daunting.   Change one thing at a time. Use a smaller plate. Eat more slowly to recognize when you are full. Replace one unhealthy food you eat regularly with a healthy one.

Is there another variation easier to accomplish? Losing weight isn’t just about restricting what you eat. Perhaps starting to move more is a better start for you.

Is it your goal, or someone else’s?  Everywhere we turn we hear that we need to eat healthier and maintain a slim body. Any goal is more challenging if you are doing it for someone else. Your best chance of success is doing it for you. It may still benefit someone else, but you decide that you want to do this because you deserve: to be healthy, to have more money in the bank, to be happy.

Do you need additional support to achieve it? Make sure your support system includes people who will call you on your excuses. Remind you of all the reasons why you wanted to do this in the first place and all the benefit you will reap.

“I get by with a little help from a friend.”  Treat yourself as you would your best friend.

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Walking down the hallway to the pool at the YMCA, I realize I locked the key for my lock in the locker. This isn’t the first time I’ve created a lock problem for myself. Another time, I forgot the lock combination, which is why I now use a lock that opens with a key.

I’ve locked myself out of my car a few times (once, it was still running), out of my apartment (the landlord had to break in), and numerous accounts that need a password.

And while all of those situations caused me stress, what’s been most debilitating is locking myself out of fully enjoying food. It’s a self-imposed lock created as a result of our culture, the type of food I eat and not eating mindfully. I have and still do sometimes – overeat.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot of sweets. My parents didn’t allow us to eat much candy or drink soda. My mother cooked all our meals from scratch. It wasn’t until adulthood when processed foods, with that wonderful combination of sugar, fat and salt were mainstreamed, that I started to gain weight. I still remember the excitement of TV dinners! What I didn’t know, was that the processed food I ate and served to my family, was training my body and mind to want to eat more. I started mindlessly overeating.

By overeating, I mean eating all the time whether or not I am hungry and eating large quantities of food no matter how bad it might be for me. I’ve joked about how ice cream seems to call to me from the freezer. If I resist the temptation to eat it, I would think about it and think about it, until I finally give in and “to be good,” take a large spoonful of it and eat it standing in the kitchen. And then another and another. And tell myself, at least I didn’t eat a whole bowl!! This wasn’t because I am weak or lack will-power.

It’s because that ice cream triggers the reward system of my brain, stimulating it to want more and more. Eating foods that are a combination of sugar and fat, make food so powerful that it is hard to resist. Our brains become hardwired and tell us to eat as much of this stuff as we can get. Does that mean I am doomed to a life of overeating and feeling like food is the enemy? No, no, no.

Stayed tuned for part two. I will tell you how I began and am still working on reprogramming my brain so that food is now something I can enjoy without guilt or remorse. And the ice cream no longer beckons.

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Sometimes fear is not at an awareness level. It’s like those dust mites floating in the air. We don’t notice they are there until the light exposes them. You’re put in an unexpected position that makes you tremble, shake and panic: an intruder, a disaster or a loss. You manage to survive, and sometimes, looking back, you don’t even know how.

But there are also those fears that we are well aware of, so we avoid those situations: rock climbing, flying or public speaking. That fear can define us and we let it.

How we deal with fear can be transformational. Because it’s not what’s happening to you or what you’re experiencing that matters. It’s how you relate to it. In fearful situations, if you shift your focus to what you do have control over, you can reduce fear’s influence.

This is how I diminished fear’s impact in one area of my life – public speaking.

Shift perspective

For years I let my fear of public speaking influence and shape many of my actions and decisions.  Early on, I had decided that public speaking was not something that was possible – at least not for me.  So, the first step was to simply entertain the idea that it might be possible. To consider, ‘What if?’

By spending some time entertaining possibility, instead of being completely opposed to the idea, I could expand rather than contract. I could imagine “worst case scenarios” and better prepare and accept those “what ifs.”

Acknowledge fear

I want to grow and evolve and the fear of making a mistake or looking like a fool in front of people had such control over my life, it was standing in the way of my evolution. So I allowed it to show up every time I just thought about speaking to a group. I accepted it and became the observer. Acceptance and not judging fear as good or bad reduced its power.

Slowly the desire to expand and grow became more powerful than my usual response of avoidance. When faced with the choice to be conquered by fear, or to keep walking, fear can become a comrade of sorts. Almost like a friend who keeps me on my toes.

Get Help

This is an important part of the process. For every public speaker, there is a fan club behind the scenes. I had the help of fellow Toastmasters and actively enlisted friends and family members; people who were open to listening to my message, who gave me feedback and most importantly – who believed in, and celebrated me. They are all there with me, every time I speak.

Own your message

Believing in and committing to my message wholeheartedly, significantly increased my bravery. And accepting that there is no guarantee that I will not make a mistake or say something foolish because I am, after all, imperfect in a perfect way.

Knowing, deep in my bones that my message is an important one….that it has the power to inspire, motivate and induce positive change – if only in one other person – that’s where I tapped into a whole new source of power.

And may it be so for you!

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Rehearse.  Go through the motions even if you doubt yourself because sometimes you don’t really know what you are capable of until you try.  When I rehearse for a part in a play, I always rehearse in the shoes I will wear as that character.  Then I am in role from the bottom up. 

If you are going to dance – put on your dancing shoes.  If you are going to run – put on your running shoes.  You can begin by walking, but you’ll have the right shoes when you are ready to pick up the pace.

The more times you say out loud and put into action a new idea or behavior for you the more likely it will become second nature.  Don’t worry about being embarrassed if your partner or family catch you practicing in front of the bathroom mirror.

Enlist mentors so you can rehearse your ideas or presentations for them and get honest feedback and increased confidence.  Also let them know that you are ready for critique and will not be defensive.  This is the time for you to be open-minded and accepting.

And make sure they are positive people who will pump you up.  You don’t have to be famous to have a fan club.

Next up – A

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