Unfortunately there is no video this week. It's a pretty quick read though :-)
Do Holiday Gatherings Bring You Joy or Anxiety (or perhaps some of both)?
Spending time with family over the holidays can be great fun, but for some of us they can also be highly stressful and conflicting experiences.
Those who enjoy primarily harmonious experiences when spending time with your core and/or extended family members, that’s wonderful! Consider yourselves lucky. For there are others who dread such family events.
It could be one or both parents critiquing or judging your choices in life; it could be too much alcohol contributing to heated debates. It could be an ornery grandparent, or opinionated aunt or uncle. It could be a clash of parenting styles and/or lots of rowdy children on sugar highs seeing who can scream the loudest and then inviting everyone to witness their respective meltdowns once the sugar wears off.
It All Comes Down To Culture.
You see, each family has its own unique culture or way of interacting and doing things.
Once we’ve grown up, left our family home, and developed our own personal preferences and/or adopted the preferences of a significant other, we change.
While we may continue with some of the ways of our original family, we also create our own personal and relationship or family culture too.
What’s fascinating about this is that even though we evolve to develop our own way of doing things, for whatever reason, when we return to our family - especially when it’s in the same home in which we were raised, or when everyone in the family shows up - aspects of that original family culture can return as well.
Even though there are additional people such as significant others, spouses or children added to the mix, the strength of the original family culture can compel us to revert to a different version of ourselves. A version we might not particularly like either in ourselves or in others.
And it’s at this point where we can lose sight of our reason for being together in the first place; to celebrate the joy of the season.
Here are some examples: We revert to our 15 year-old self when one or both parents begin an inquisition about our life choices. Siblings might resort to their childhood dynamics and power struggles, even though they’re now well into adulthood. We may feel unheard, under appreciated and misunderstood, because some or all of our family doesn’t really understand who we are as adults, and tend to treat us the same way they always did, which we might have perceived as not all that great.
How To Have An Enjoyable Family Experience:
The purpose of today’s post isn’t to depress you though. Even though culture can have a strange pull on our psyches, that doesn’t mean we have to go along with it. There are a number of things you can do if you find yourself in this type of situation:
This might sound like a warning, but what it really means is that when you aware of the large influence culture can have on the way we are in certain situations you gain power over the situation. If you head into the gathering intentional about looking for and noticing the different family norms and dynamics, you can choose whether or not to engage instead of allowing them to automatically hook you.
Getting hooked is a sign that you aren’t paying attention and have lost your intentional edge. If you notice this happening, excuse yourself from the room, take a short break to breath deeply and recenter yourself. Return once you’ve shifted back into intentional awareness.
Another aspect of being aware is that if you can notice where friction usually occurs, you might be able to change your approach or response to reduce it. For example, I noticed my mother really liked to teach me things, yet I often perceived her attempts to teach as her telling me what to do, which I then resisted.
Once I recognized that she just wanted to share her knowledge with me, I began experimenting with ways in which she could do it. When I allowed her to teach as she desired, my resistance decreased and we got along wonderfully.
If you feel like your family doesn’t really know the person you are today, it’s likely others feel that way too. Asking genuine questions (not to gather fodder for later use in a joke or sarcastic remark) can open the door to some great conversations and potentially updated bonds with family members.
What can you take the time to understand about your parents, siblings or other members of your family?
Accept Others For Who They Are.
Acceptance does not mean agreement. This is important to understand, because it’s the confusion between acceptance and agreement that often leads to family rifts.
Let’s say your brother has a very different political perspective than you do, which has lead to heated arguments in the past. What if you accept that your brother is his own person, lives his life the way he believes is best, and that it’s okay that he has a different point-of-view?
This in no way suggests that you have to agree with his perspective, just that you recognize your differences.
This perspective can release the tension associated with judgment; when one person feels judged by another because they aren’t conforming to that person’s beliefs or ideals. Accepting that we’re all different can go a long way towards fire prevention.
From the need to control other’s experiences. Despite how much you may want to at times, you can’t control other people. It can be especially easy to fall into the control trap when you want others to react a certain way to something, such as a particular moment in a movie, or an experience you’ve tried to create.
Instead, focus on creating a great experience for yourself, and accept that others may or may not experience something similar. And if they don’t, too bad for them. Might sound harsh, but it is not your job to ensure other people’s happiness; it’s your job to ensure your own.
From the drama. The best way to break a pattern of behavior is to disconnect yourself from it. If you don’t engage, the pattern begins to collapse.
Others might try hard to hook you in, but if you refuse, there’s nothing they can do and eventually they’ll leave you out of it. That might not resolve conflict completely - if there are several others involved it can still occur - but at least you won’t be in the heart of it.
I put this one last because it’s the most important and often the most frequently forgotten approach.
Why do we care for these people? Why are we here to celebrate together? What is the true purpose behind this gathering?
Focusing on the reason behind our gathering, and what the people we're with mean to us can help to keep the mood positive, and conversations more congenial.
Speaking of Happy Holidays...
That’s it for 2016. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried any of these tips out and/or how they worked out for you.
A heartfelt THANK YOU for reading and/or watching my Mindset Monday series, and the warmest and best wishes to you and yours this holiday season. ~M
This week we have another video AND blog post. I wrote the blog post prior to recording the video, and while some of the information is mirrored in the video, there is also different information between the two so I encourage you to check them both out if you're able.
In addition, this week's video is longer than most have been. In fact, it's about twice as long coming in at just over 20 minutes. This is because I cover three specific topics and offer personal examples of what has worked for me. I wanted to make sure that you left this video (and/or blog) being able to document and pursue your own specific comfort desires, so you're no longer stalled by disruptive emotions (unless you want to be of course). Thanks for visiting! ~M
Mindset Monday blog: Cultivating Comfort.
When you're too busy to breathe...
Hectic was the name of the game today. Lots to do in what felt like the span of 10 minutes. It feels like everything I'm doing is at the last minute, with barely enough time to catch my breath let alone take a rest. And holidays will do that. Hustling and bustling to get things done, organized, purchased, wrapped, communicated, celebrated or concluded with little time left over to just be. Except just being, I suspect, is a crucial part of maintaining my sense of balance.
Honor yourself by cultivating comfort.
What I have found to be extremely beneficial during times of high stress and activity is to seek out solace. Solace, by definition, means those things that bring comfort or relief.
To me solace encompasses a wide berth. It can be anything from stealing a minute or two to savor that cup of coffee, to carving out time to read a great book, or watch an inspiring movie. It can also consist of talking to tried and true friends who know how to provide EXACTLY what I need when I need it.
I've written on solace before, but this time around I want to link it to a recent post (actually a Mindset Monday vlog) on Finding Your Joy. The two are actually quite similar, if joy brings you comfort or comfort results in joy as they do for me.
So for this week, I'm going to offer a couple of questions along with a few ideas to get you started in finding your solace, so if or when the need arises, you won't have to try too hard to move into action. Nothing is worse than needing solace and getting stuck in figuring out how to get it. So here goes.
How to cultivate comfort.
In Finding Your Joy, I suggested a super-simple way to getting there; figure out what brings you joy, and focus more on those things. Simplistic maybe, but also challenging in training your brain to focus on those things instead of the myriad distractions or dramas we regularly face.
For solace, I'm taking those questions one step further. Once you've figured out what brings you joy, the next step is to figure out your top five emotions that regularly create a desire for comfort.
For example, anger, frustration, sadness, emptiness, loneliness, disappointment, fear, and so on. I know this is sort of a bummer to ask you to think about, but if you can identify those top five emotions, you can then think about what tends to make you feel better when you're experiencing each one.
I'm a big fan of context, and believe that one thing won't bring comfort to all of our different emotions. I for, one, require very different things for anger and sadness, or when I'm feeling defeated. For anger, one of the best ways to comfort me is, strangely enough, super aggressive music. My top pic is Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine, or the first couple of Linkin Park albums.
If I listen to this music when I'm sad; however, it bums me out even more. Instead, getting myself out into nature is a great way to get myself back into optimism, as does writing. Writing allows me to detangle whatever is bugging me so I have more clarity and usually a clear path outta there.
When I feel defeated, a movie with a message of empowerment and/or triumph, or a lighthearted message about the good things in life can do wonders to get me into a place where I'm ready to get back in the game. Amelie is a great one for bringing back a sense of joy, and The Holiday is a great one for rising above one's barriers. Of course, there are a lot of other options out there, and that is why it's important to figure out what works best for YOU.
I could write more (and maybe will at some point in the future) about other remedies for different moods, but for now, I want to challenge you to do the following:
1. Figure out those top five emotions for which you typically require comfort and
2. Come up with at least three things for each emotion that you have found helpful in the past.
Be specific, if it's a certain book or a certain author that you gravitate to, write the title and/or the name down. If it's certain songs, list the band name or, at a minimum, the song title.
If you can, start a Pandora station (or whatever music source you use), or create a playlist and put it on your phone. If it's movies, see if you can find them available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Red Box, or wherever you typically source your movies if you don't own them.
When you need a micro comfort burst.
These tips are for those bigger emotions that have the potential to get in the way of your joy. But that's not the only way to find solace. The little things can also make a big difference in providing you with small but impactful comforts during a marathon or hectic day.
The best thing to do in these situations, when you have a Calgon moment, is to invoke your senses. Focus on your breathing. Pay attention to the individual sounds, or different colors in your environment. Change your location (depending on where you are), even if only slightly. If you can, close your eyes and try to empty your head. Go to the restroom. Wash your hands, paying attention to the sensation of the soap and then the water on your hands. Take a short walk, doing nothing more than noticing.
One of my daily solace routines is to brush my teeth. Yep, that's right. I have an electric toothbrush, so I don't really have to do much, so while the brush does its thing, I notice the sensation of the bristles on my teeth, the taste of the toothpaste, things like that. It works wonders in clearing my head.
Things to consider when seeking comfort from people.
Lastly, I'd like to talk about people. If you find yourself in need of comfort from others, making sure to reach out to the right person or people for the job is crucial. Just as there are certain things that help pull us out of certain moods, so too are there certain people who can help us better than others in certain situations.
For example, if I am feeling in need of support and uplifting, I have a friend for that (actually more than one - I'm lucky that way). If it's a great listener I seek - someone who will hear me, ask questions, but not necessarily offer their own perspectives or advice - some people in my life are better for that than others. If I know a swift kick in the pants is what will straighten me up, there are other people I'd go to for that. Get the picture?
In my experience, talking with the wrong person when in need of a specific form of comfort does nothing more than make my mood worse. And during busy times like the holiday season, I have neither the time nor the energy for that. I want whatever is the most effective way of getting me back in the saddle, whether a person, some music I can scream along (or cry) to, a personal dance contest, or talking with others. Basically, I want whatever I do to seek comfort to actually comfort me and bring me the solace I seek.
And so, my friends, that's what I've got for this week. I hope you are able to find your solace as we approach the height of holiday festivities. If you're interested in a few more words on the topic, check out these posts from last year:
The Art Of Clarification: Defining Your Solace
The Many Facets of Solace
Spreading The Word: Sharing Your Solace Needs With Others
4 Quick Tips For Providing Solace To Others
Designing Support For Our Change
Aligning Support For Our Change
It has been, and continues to be, a goal to put together a comprehensive guide to solace. Sadly, it's not done yet, but I hold out hope that as I continue to consider this concept, that one will emerge soon. ~M
This week - a video AND a blog.
This week I'm trying something a little different thanks to a suggestion made by my friend Bruce (thanks Bruce!): I'm posting both a video and a longer blog on the same topic.
The video highlights the same general concepts you'll find in the written blog, so if you have limited time, watch the video and you'll be just fine.
The blog; however, includes some additional information around how to detach from one of the bigger snags we can encounter when attempting to commit fully to something (this concept of full commitment will be explained in both the video and the blog, but what that snag is and how to detach from it will only be found in the blog).
The shoulds is a topic I've touched upon in the past, and if you're interested in reading my original blog post about this topic, you can find that here. What I've included this time around includes my updated thoughts about 'the shoulds', so even if you've read my earlier post, you're sure to gain some additional insights by reading the blog and/or watching this week's video.
Managing 'The Shoulds' and Overcoming The Commitment Snag
It’s the holiday season, a time of giving. Your good friend Jessica calls you Friday night and asks if you’d like to go shopping with her over the weekend. She’s had a rough year and told you she’s having a hard time making decisions around gifts because she’s just not in the mood to shop, and is hoping you’ll be able to offer her some focus and guidance.
You had been looking forward to one of the first free weekends you’ve had in months. No work, no sporting events for your kids, just two days of space and time to get one final breather in before the chaos of the holidays kicks into gear. What do you do?
Enter ‘The Shoulds’.
This scenario represents one of a gazillion potential situations where ‘the shoulds’ can enter the picture and take over our life.
In this situation, you really don’t want to go shopping and provide guidance, insights and focus for your friend. Instead, you’d rather stay home and relax. But is that a good enough reason to say no?
I say, yes, it is. And to some, this might sound like a really selfish answer. And, well, it is.
What Does It Mean To Be Selfish?
We each have our own definitions of certain words, especially loaded ones like the word selfish. For me, selfishness means to tend to one’s self.
This definition differs from many of the conventional definitions of the word. These other definitions, to me, demonstrate the amazing power of societal norms and how they can affect our mindset. Most definitions suggest that to be selfish means to care only for oneself, where I believe that it means that we take care to consider our needs as well as those of others.
I bring this up here because one of the best ways to practice my brand of selfishness is to exercise our freedom of choice. And there is no better place to do this than when having been hooked by the lure of ‘the shoulds’.
What Are The Shoulds?
The shoulds are when we feel compelled to do something we don’t want to do because of a sense of obligation or perceived expectation. I say ‘perceived’ expectation, because some times, that perception is self-created; meaning, the only one who expects a certain outcome is often ourselves.
Yes, sometimes certain people who hold a place of authority or power in our lives may actually expect a certain outcome. And it’s likely from those experiences that we began predicting such expectations in others when they never actually existed.
The problem with the shoulds and operating under a sense of obligation or expectation is that we give away our power. We say yes not because we want to, but because we don’t want to let others down. And then a multitude of other issues begin to emerge:
How to Minimize The Shoulds and Start Living Your Life.
The way to minimize the shoulds is incredibly simple:
It's about making the conscious choice.
Instead of feeling we should do something because it's some sort of expectation or obligation, we choose whether or not we want to do it.
If we choose to do something we're not completely jazzed about, we're committing to following through despite the fact that we're not that jazzed. If we choose not to do it, we do so with full awareness of the potential consequences and are willing to face them. The challenging part here is saying 'no.' More on this in a mo.
The hitch with making either choice is is that regardless of whether we’ve said yes or no, once we've made the choice we must commit fully.
Most of us commit, with some vague recognition that we either don't want to do something or aren't that into it but are doing it anyway. The problem with his is that we go into our choice half-assed instead of full-on.
Doing this keeps us in a purgatorial state where we're neither in nor out. When we do this our energy becomes divided and segmented and can be a). draining, b.) frustrating to us (when others try to convince us to change our minds when we've said no), or c.) frustrating to others (if we're in a situation where others would like our full presence).
It can also be counter-productive because we're either worn down by persistent people and ultimately change our minds (but not our level of commitment) or we're not performing at our best.
Some of this is sort of like multi-tasking but with perceived obligations. We might be doing one thing while thinking about doing another, and when we do that we've split ourselves in two (or more if there are more than one thing we're thinking about while doing the other thing).
That’s it! Fully commit! Easy peasy, right? Yeah. Not so much.
Full commitment is a really simple solution but not so simple to execute.
How To Reach Full Commitment.
What does it take to commit fully? Complete alignment.
And to get complete alignment we have to make a conscious decision to make the thing we've agreed to (that we don't really want to do) the top priority when we're doing it.
That means saying no to all of those nagging thoughts tugging at our attention, and reminding ourselves that this is what we’ve chosen to do above all else.
Just recognizing that these things are required is a big first step towards full commitment.
Another is to understand that the only real way out is through. Of the various ways we tend to receive thoughts and information, the one that may seem the most counter-intuitive is also usually the most effective.
How We Receive Information - you guessed it - Is Also A Choice.
There are typically three ways we respond to unwanted thoughts:
Sure it sounds easy enough, especially in the physical world, but how do we let unwanted thoughts pass through (or thoughts that we've deemed unwanted but represent something we desire)?
By acknowledging their existence, and then releasing them. This takes mental discipline both in shifting our preliminary reaction when we receive thoughts we don't want to have, or secretly do want but don't want to admit it, and in releasing them rather than letting them attach themselves to our larger thought processes (aka rather than dwelling on them).
This is something that can be practiced:
You might be asking why would we ever want this level of precision with our thinking process? Certainly splitting our attention isn't that big of a deal. The thing is, that when we split our attention we are also splitting our energy. And when we split our energy we expend it twice as fast (or maybe faster). We become mentally exhausted too. So if you're wondering why you're always so tired, this could be one of, or maybe THE reason.
All of this because we've gotten trapped in the shoulds, something we can be especially susceptible to during the holiday season, just as we are more susceptible to losing our joy.
Are the two related? Quite possibly, but I don't think exclusively. We can lose our joy for any number of reasons, but it's hard to stay in our joy when we're saying yes to things we really don't want to do and haven't fully committed to them, or saying no and then allowing our minds to be changed (it's different if you change your mind because you want to).
So even though full commitment may take a little practice if you are someone who hasn't done it in a while, it's certainly worth the effort if you want to feel aligned, and have more energy this holiday season.
But What About Jessica?
Going back to the scenario at the beginning of this post, am I saying that it’s best to say no to requests from needy friends when we’d rather do something else with our time?
What I am suggesting is that you put yourself in the driver’s seat by making intentional choices that you can fully commit to.
And if we change our minds? Well, that’s okay too, as long as we do so because we want to (and not because we were persuaded) and can fully commit to our new choice.
May your holidays be merry, intentional and bright!
Here are a couple of resources to help you on your way to living a should-free life:
Finding Your Joy.
Despite all of my work around mindset, a few weeks ago I encountered an interesting phenomenon.
I lost my joy.
This week's Mindset Monday describes what that was like and how it likely happened.
If you feel you have lost or are losing your joy, even if it's for a different reason, know that the quick and simple way I talk about to rediscover it can work for you, just as it has for me.
I'll be dedicating the month of December to various ways of finding our joy; something that is especially important at this time of year, when holiday cheer may be expected, but isn't always a given.
Stay tuned for a special (free) offer coming soon. Enjoy!
Are You Spinning A Yarn, or Entangled In It?
We all tell stories. Sometimes to inform, other times to entertain, always to communicate and connect with others.
"Nothing's wrong with that", you might say, and you'd be right.
Unless the stories you're telling are ones you've told over and over again about personal experiences that have shaped the person you are today. Even then, if those stories are empowering, then you're on the right track. But if the stories you're telling position you as a victim, then you run the risk of living in the past, keeping you entrenched in emotions and perspectives that no longer serve you today.
It's hard to improve and progress in your life when you're rooted in the past. And reliving those stories that were most traumatic or disempowering to you over and over again keep you in status quo thinking; a continuous feedback-loop where even when you want to make a positive change you're unable to do so because of the limiting beliefs that are regularly reinforced by reliving these counter-productive stories.
Interestingly, stories rooted in our past are figments of our imagination. Sure they happened, but it's very likely that in our reconstruction of the memory, we've unconsciously left certain pieces of information out or added new information that wasn't in the original experience.
If this is the case, why are we dwelling on the bad parts of our stories? It's time to take charge and focus on those parts that empower us, or on new stories all together.
Learn more in today's vlog with quick tips and applications that you can put to use right away around shifting our stories so they work for us.
Visit this link for some really interesting findings about the brain. This one was particularly fascinating about understanding memories.
For most of us, speaking comes freely. We don't even have to think about it. And there's the hitch. When we speak free from intention, meaning when we aren't thinking about the meaning our words can have, we can inadvertently create unintended consequences.
Our words have power, yet often our habits of speaking suggest we feel otherwise about ourselves. Even words we might otherwise think are harmless can indicate limiting beliefs about ourselves and our given situation.
Without intention our words tend to run negative and defeatist. Is this really what you want in your life? If not, why not make a shift to the positive?
This week's vlog offers some quick and easy ways to do just that. Enjoy!
In honor of Halloween, this week's Mindset Monday focuses on the very scary topic of removing our masks to show our true selves.
While this might seem like a pretty simple task, to do it at when it's safer to go with the flow can create a high level of vulnerability.
Yet, it is at those times when our unique selves most want to shine. This week we look at small steps you can take to begin to live in your truth.
If you've been watching local, national or global news, or staying up-to-date with politics, you might believe there's a lot to worry about.
And while there are a lot of things to be aware of and consider, to worry about them is counter-productive, weighing us down and sometimes resulting in a state of paralysis.
This week's Mindset Monday takes a look at Worry. What it is, why we do it, and how to shift it.
Take a look - the best it can do is help you stop worrying and start enjoying life right now; the worst it can do? Well, nothing. So no need to worry about the 10 minutes it takes to watch it. Enjoy!
Procrastination. We all do it. Most of us don't like it when it happens, and we beat ourselves up as a result, if the judgment of others hasn't taken care of that for us.
We've been taught to believe that procrastination is a bad thing, but is it really? Check out this week's Mindset Monday for a different perspective
If you have ever experienced the Mondays; waking up and dreading the day or week ahead, then this week's video blog is for you!
All it takes is a shift in mindset to get yourself into a more positive and joyful frame of mind. Quick tips on how to do that are included in the video.
If you view the video on a mobile device and find it hard to read the words in the presentation, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll be happy to send a PDF of the presentation your way.
Thanks for watching - Enjoy!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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