Tools For Cutting Through The Crap
One of the things I always like to share with those who invite me to speak, or choose to work with me as a coach or psychologist, are specific tools for change… things we can actually do that will help us create the life we want. To that end, I want to offer two of those tools to you today with the hope that they will help you as well.
The first tool has to do with how we define ourselves. Unfortunately, many of us have grown up with negative messages about our worth and value, or with the belief that our worth is tied to what we accomplish. We are deemed “worthy,” or have value if we make good grades, please our parents, get in to the right school, get a good job etc. In psychology, this is what is call an “external locus of evaluation,” and can easily trigger fear of failure and/or set us up to feel “less than” if we fail to achieve these goals.
The alternative, and first “tool” is to start with clarity about who we are at our best, and then bring those valuable qualities and characteristics to what we do. I suggest that we do this by making a list of 20 qualities and characteristics of us at our best. If you are having trouble coming up with 20 positive statements about who you are (and many people do), feel free to ask those who know and love you.
To be clear, these aren’t just “affirmations.” I’m not suggesting you just say “I’m good enough, and smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” as “Stuart Smalley” did years ago on Saturday Night Live. While affirming our worth is better than affirming our lack of worth (or ruminating on our negative qualities), just trying to convince ourselves that we are “good enough” is likely to trigger another voice in our head that attempts to negate this perspective.
Instead, I suggest that we work from a list of our values, or the qualities and characteristics that are truly who we are at our best. Further, I suggest that we come up with at least 20 of these in order to overwhelm those old negative messages from the past and then read this list at least 3 times a day for two to four months, or until our brain begins to accept them as valuable and valid. For those wanting to know the science behind these suggestions, there is study published in the journal, “Psychological Science” (2005) entitled, “Affirmation of Personal Values Buffers Neuroendocrine and Psychological Stress Responses.” In other words, becoming clear about who we are at our best and bringing these qualities into our experience of life at least three times a day will begin to rewire our brain, and allow us to access these more effective ways of being as we create our experience of life.
The reading and practicing of these qualities is the second tool, and comes from the quote from Will Durant who says, “We are what we repeatedly do.” This means that we define ourselves based upon our habitual behaviors, or what we do again and again. Therefore, if we start the day clear about who we are at our best, and purposefully bring two or three of these qualities into the morning, the afternoon, and then the evening, we will be practicing going into life already in what I call “The Top of the Mind,” or the part of our brain where the best of who we are resides. This sort of clarity will not only maximize the potential that we will actually bring these qualities to life, it will minimize the tendency for the old middle and lower brain (the limbic system and brainstem) to use fear, worry, anxiety, or anger as the energies with which we attempt to be happy and successful.
As mentioned, these tools are part of a system or philosophy of life that I have been working on over the last thirty years that I call “Life from the Top of the Mind.” It’s what I have the pleasure of going around the world teaching to organizations and individuals wanting to have more influence in their life and the lives of others. If you would like to learn more about this system and these tools, I suggest that you contact me, because until we raise our awareness of the what, the why, and the how…figuring out what is getting in the way of our ability to create the life we want… learning why this is happening and how to go about the process of rewiring the brain and forming new habits, we will continue to be at the mercy of our past, our fears, and our old reactive brain.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill