Turn On and Tune In!

20 Sep

“Kori it has been bad. Like really bad. I’ve done some things that are just super bad.” Could she use the word “bad” one more time?  My client’s words hung there as if to say, “I’m ready to reveal what’s been going on the last couple months that you haven’t heard from me”….but our time was up and I had to let her know that I very much wanted to hear it  but we’d need to couch it until our next session. I intuited that whatever ‘the bad‘ was, it would be like opening a can of worms, and they’d be squirming all over the place in no time. She was clearly needing to get it off her chest, the behaviors having created an uncomfortable dissonance within her.

Can you detect your emotions?

“I stopped thinking,” she said to me earlier in our session. “That’s obvious to me now, as we’re reviewing this consciousness strategy.”  I was presenting it to her and asking her to imagine herself in the context of her recent circumstances so she could sink into how she would use each step to become more directive in her approach, less impulsive, and more aware so that she wouldn’t crash and burn…again. Her pattern was to run herself into the ground, doing everything for everybody (with an underlying fear of being imperfect or looked upon unfavorably) and then having her own little meltdown. We needed to get her to a place where she was recognizing earlier how she was putting what was most important on the back burner and have her deliberately and consistently assessing where she was in space. A reorienting, so to speak. In order to do so, I was explaining how she would need to practice keeping her radar on all the time.

We all need an emotional navigation system.

I’ve likened this process to a navigation system. This past weekend when I was in Boston and had to get somewhere in a foreign place, I needed to plug in my destination and then follow a specific set of directions. I needed a map. I couldn’t get there without being present, aware, and deliberate in paying attention to where I was going. When I made an error halfway to my destination, the woman said to me, “rerouting”. She recognized I had taken a wrong turn, and she let me know. If I hadn’t been watching my phone though, if I’d been jamming away to some music and had let my attention wander elsewhere, I wouldn’t have known a change needed to be made.

Just like the navigation lady, our bodies tell us when we need to reroute or look ahead for upcoming turns. We may not have a blueprint or a map for getting from one place to another, but listening to our internal signals being transmitted can clue us in to taking a pause, pulling over to the side of the road, and reassessing our next step. We have an internal radar, but most people would rather keep it off. Flip the switch to autopilot and let things play out as they may. In some circumstances this may be just fine, but in others it can land us in some pretty precarious and less than optimal situations.

For a couple months, my client had her radar turned on and tuned in. Even during what she’d classify as one of the most stressful times in her life (finishing her masters degree, working full time, and managing contest preparation), she was calm, felt controlled and empowered, and rarely felt overwhelmed by life. I remember her saying to me, “I have more on my plate than I ever have, and it’s all just coming together.” The serenity in her tone was palpable.

When we reviewed what she was doing, she easily rattled off her strategy of implementing regular small self-awareness checks throughout the day to allow for a deliberate removal of whatever had stuck to her earlier (what I call the Magnet Mentality); staying present-focused and being in the moment; breaking down her responsibilities into small, management chunks; paying attention to her body’s cues signifying emotion, particularly anxiety, among others. But as the days waned on, she got too confident. She thought, “I’ve got it.” And she let the radar frequency dissipate.

I’ve created a quote before that resonates with many and ignites the fire in me to constantly strive for excellence. Not perfection. Excellence.

“The second you decide you have arrived is the second you’ve died.”

In other words, you must never let up. This does not mean you shouldn’t rest, it doesn’t convey that you can’t take a vacation or daydream or relax. It means that in order to continue growing, we must continue learning. We must be present and aware and we must think about our thoughts and their influence.

My client recognizes now how easily we can revert to old patterns of behavior. The only way to have them become automatic is to check that our radars are not only on but functioning well and tuned in to the appropriate frequency. More than new and optimal actions becoming automatic, however, it’s more a process of them being implemented with less perceived effort. The individuals I consult with who are working toward weight loss and regular exercise are reading food labels, tracking their food consumption, looking at online menus, weighing their food and looking it up to see what it contains in terms of protein, carbs, and fat—none of these behaviors come naturally. We weren’t born with an innate food intelligence.  They are having to be deliberate and think through every decision. Dieters who have maintained their weight even for a year say that the level of perceived effort it takes to do so is very high. As time passes though, the same behaviors are implemented but without the same feeling of difficulty. As long as I’ve been involved in the health industry and watching my diet, I still sometimes will think, “I just want to eat whatever” and can find myself slipping into not wanting to think anymore about what to do and how to do it. But getting back to it doesn’t require nearly as much “energy.”

To get to that place, it takes having a structure. What do I want to do and how will I get there? There will be re-directions all the time, but having your radar on will help you with the navigation.

Turn it on and tune it in. Here we go:

R.A.D.A.R.

Your Problem-Solving Approach

R: RECOGNIZE the signals your body is transmitting that convey emotion (signs and symptoms)

How do you know when you’re uncomfortable?

How does your mind & body tell you?

A: ACKNOWLEDGE

There is ‘something’ happening—what is it?

Say it out loud.

Approach it from a scientist’s perspective- -a place of inquiry.

D: DEFINE your experience.

What is this emotion and what got me here?

Identify your rules & cognitive distortions (errors in thinking that can lead to unrealistic beliefs).

A: ASSESS how you would like to proceed .

With the information you have, assess your best next step.

What is your intention?

Intention is only as meaningful as the action that follows.

R: REFLECT & REVISE  your decision.

Was it made with a present-focused approach?

Did you act in your best interest?

Did you achieve the desired results?

How did you do it?

What could have been different or more effective?

Engage in rational thinking– what was your motive?

Take what worked and restructure what didn’t.

My client is one of the smartest girls I know, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t require support and help with what is happening in her life. It’s great to have a plan, but sometimes it’s the implementation of it that feels impossible. As always, if you need help, I’m here.

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