12 May

Why bad things happen when you make assumptions

Assumptions… Everyone makes them, every day. They are automatic thoughts, clouding our judgements, and fueled by our inner language.

Assumptions are different than gut feelings. Whatever your subconscious, or your ID in Freud’s words, is trying to tell you, is what makes up our gut feelings. That little emotion you get when you first meet someone. Not the little voice, but the very first feeling, instinctively knowing whether someone is a good or a bad person.

Then that little voice inside your head, your assumptions, takes over. It’ll tell you why someone is a good or a bad person, or why the situation is good or bad for you. This little voice might sound like it’s wording your gut feeling, but it’s actually made up of values and morals you’ve learned from society, from your parents, and from the world around you.

We take this little voice for the truth, and follow its commands and suggestions. Does it tell you that people will laugh at you if you speak your mind? Or that your spouse was too friendly with the waiter so they must be flirting? Or that people will judge you when you go to the gym, so you stay at home instead?

Learning to distinguish our emotions from our thoughts, is an important factor in learning to see things for what they are. Not for what we think they are. Making assumptions does not always mean that it is the wrong assumption. Sometimes you might get lucky and assume right. But 95% of the time, making an assumption means that you have made up your mind and are not accepting other explanations. This in turn can lead to feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, stress, and so on. It can lead to fights and arguments, misunderstandings, and even divorce.

When you learn to put some space between you and your thoughts, you start seeing different possibilities, and create a different relationship with your thoughts. Instead of taking them for the truth, you start to see them for what they are. You stop assuming, start seeing the reality, and become aware of how your thoughts influence how you feel.

Next time you have a negative thought, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is my thought the absolute truth? For example, if you’re thinking that people will laugh at you when you go to the gym, is that the truth? No, it is more likely that everyone’s too busy focusing on their own workout and won’t notice you at all.
  2. How does this thought make me feel? What feelings are you holding on to? Notice any anger, resentment, feeling of guilt, or jealousy.
  3. How would things be different if I did not hold onto this thought? What are the possible benefits, alternate beliefs, or feasible alternatives that open up if you would not go along with your initial negative thought? 

Ready to give it a try?


12 Apr

How to make goals happen?

We all have goals. We want to be skinnier, be less anxious, be “normal”, have more money, etc… The list could go on and on. What is the one thing the above goals have in common? They’re HUGE! They are more like an ideal outcome.

Breaking a goal down into smaller sub-goals, not only makes them more achievable, but also helps you to stick to your goal. Procrastination and lack of motivation are two of the leading factors for people to give up or wander from their goals. And that’s a shame, as obtaining goals is tightly linked to feelings of self-worth and self-confidence.

First of all, motivation comes from within. You might be more motivated to go for a jog outside when the sun is shining, but the sun is not the motivator. The sun is a factor in making your jog less wet.

You might be more motivated to sticking to a diet plan if you see significant weight loss results, but weight loss is not the motivator. It’s a factor and a by-product of dieting.

Motivation comes from within…

Don’t wait for motivation to start moving you to achieving your goals. Start the forward movement, emotionally and with positive thoughts, and motivation will gladly join you.

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, how about setting those sub-goals. SMART goals are always an excellent way to get started. Make your goals

Specific.

Measurable.

Attainable.

Relevant.

Time Bound.

Imagine your goal is to spend more time with family and friends.

What do you need for this to happen?                   Contact them, call them, email them, text them

What do you need for that to happen?                  Grab the phone or computer and call/email them

What do you need for that to happen?                  Make time in my day

What do you need for that to happen?                  Plan it in and stick to it

Anyways, you get the point. The “What do you need for that to happen?” is a very powerful question, as it means you have to think about the steps to take in order for you to reach your goal. It is the first step in the SMART goal list (Specific).

Are the above sub-goals Measurable? I would say so. Writing down a time to call your best friend who lives in Vancouver and you haven’t spoken to in months, is a very measurable goal.

How about Attainable? In my opinion, the above sub-goals are small enough to get them done. This is also a personal matter, and you will know what feels good.

Relevant? They certainly are! Being in touch with family and friends is always relevant.

Time Bound? Yes! As I made a plan to make that phone call, there is a time-frame added to the goal.

Your turn 🙂


22 Feb

Why avoidance does not work

Ahhh, avoidance. That little sneaky thing we do, hoping it will help us cope with anxiety, a low mood, anger or any other upsetting emotion. Barely helping us to relieve things temporarily, only to hit us in the face even harder when it returns.

Does that sound familiar to you?

We live in such a fast-paced world. Everything needed to be done yesterday, and we have no time to spare for today. Who has time to be anxious or depressed? On the one hand, avoidance makes sense. Do you know the story behind the ostrich digging a hole in the sand so it can wiggle it’s head in there? Or the famous quote “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. Avoidance is everywhere, and society seems to go along with this strange concept.

On the other hand, avoidance does not make any sense at all. Imagine for one second, that there is a plate next to you. And on that plate is the most delicious, just out-of-the-oven brownie you have ever smelled. Now add an imaginary scoop of vanilla ice cream. Can you seen the ice cream melting as it touches the brownie?

Do you have a clear picture of this mouth-watering brownie?

Now try to ignore it. Forget we ever had such a picture in mind.

Difficult, if not nearly impossible right?

That’s exactly why avoidance of emotions and feelings does not work. It’s like having a screaming child next to you, and pretending you don’t hear it. “Pretending” being the key word here.

The opposite of “avoidance” is “acknowledgement”. Next time you feel yourself getting upset, or anxious, or sad, tell yourself “I’m feeling [replace with upsetting emotion], and that’s ok”. Becoming aware of how emotions and feelings affect you, is the number one ingredient to learning to cope with upsetting feelings. After you have acknowledge what made you upset, refocus your mind using a mindful reset tool.


08 Feb

Conquer Indecisiveness

You are in the mood for a snack, but what snack to choose? Chocolate, chips, something healthy like an apple, so many choices… And what about choosing a shampoo or a washing detergent, there are so many different kinds and they all claim something else. Which one to choose? Or how about planning a trip to a warm destination, is it going to be the Bahama’s, Dominican Republic or maybe somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Indecisiveness is something common amongst us nowadays, and in order to better understand this phenomenon I will break it down for you. First of all, before any decision is made, you will have to make a choice. In other words, you will have to know what you want. Then, after becoming aware of what it is you want, you choose on a plan of action, also known as a decision.

Kate has been offered a job overseas. This potentially new job is very well paid and means she will have to move to Europe and live there for an x amount of years. However, this also means that she will have to leave behind all her friends and family and start a new life in a new country and a new city where she does not know anyone. What will she do?

Kate is indecisive about her decision. Indecisiveness results when someone is not committing to the course of action that is in line with their choice. She is worried that it will be difficult for her to make new friends, she is worried that she might be overlooking a fact, and she is worried that she might miss opportunities closer to home is she accepts this job offer. In other words, Kate knows what she wants but the actions she takes do not go along with this choice.

Keeping in mind that we cannot foretell the future, unless you are a psychic which I am certainly not, there are no wrong decisions to be made. Whatever course of action we choose, every action, and therefore every decision, will have consequences. To help Kate resolve her indecisiveness, she uses this 5 step model to decide on her actions.

Step 1
Without thinking about the opinions of others, about possible negative consequences, and about what others expect of you, what is it you want? Make a choice
Kate has always wanted to travel and likes new adventures. She therefore chooses to take the job offer in Europe.

Step 2
Make a list of possible actions (decisions).
Kate’s list looks like this

  • Moving to a different country
  • Taking on a new job
  • Put house in Ontario up for sale
  • Buy a car in Europe

Step 3
What action are you engaging in now? Doing something and doing nothing are both decisions. Add this to your list.
Kate adds the following to her list

  • Staying at home
  • Meeting friends for lunch
  • Not experiencing a new culture 

Step 4
Take a look at the list you just made. What actions are in line with your decision?
For Kate, this means that her actions in Step 2 and two out of three actions in Step 3 are in line with the choice she made in Step 1.

Step 5
Now that you have made a choice about what you want to do, and thought of different decisions you can make, think about possible consequences and outcomes.
Kate has thought of the following consequences for her decisions

  • Moving to a different country means:
    • Meeting new people
    • Learning a new language
    • Traveling
  • Taking a new job means:
    • Meeting new people
    • Learning new skills

Making a life changing decision is not without stress. Whenever you step out of your comfort zone, you will experience a little stress. But ask yourself: If I don’t make a change, is this what I want? Make the choice consciously and then decide on the next step to take.