Archive | May, 2013

Don’t Kill the Messenger!

31 May

At the conclusion of my workshop earlier this week one of the participants expressed concern about the utility of a particular tool I’d recommended. I gave everyone 10 different tools to begin putting into practice that would set them on a course toward navigating the barriers we so often trip over and give permission (not often consciously) to minimize our goal persistence.

The tip, BOYCOTT THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, suggests that we would do well to become more open to experiencing what life hands us, to pay attention, to slow down, and to savor.

Open to ExperienceBoycotting the zombie apocalypse means we aren’t operating in the misconstrued land of “ignorance is bliss.” No. In fact, deciding to disengage from the automatic pilot mode that so many of us move through our days with, gives us hope for a new level of authenticity and importantly, choosing goals that actually resonate with who we are.

So my workshop attendee’s concern went something like this: “Kori, I’m getting stuck in the part where you talk about letting yourself experience emotion. Like pain. I’m worried that if I let myself feel it, I’ll just wallow in it.”

She related her perceived tendency to stay steeped in emotion, as so many of us do. But not because we’re consciously making a decision to invite it in and acknowledge it… when we get overwhelmed by pain, it is more a function of believing the thoughts that we’ve constructed about the meaning of our pain. And often the thoughts are distorted and untrue.

It is our nature to feel coherent and integrated. You know when you feel uncomfortable– like something is awry. Our bodies signal us through symptoms like an increased heart rate, lack of concentration or focus, or fidgeting. Our thoughts can clue us in to how we might be experiencing a situation as well, for example, “you’ll never finish this project”, or “he’s very angry with you right now.” These thoughts give rise to feelings that manifest in our physical bodies and can cause a host of behaviors. When we’re in zombie land, we move impulsively. We react. If we can slow down when we recognize these cues, we can respond in a more coherent, integrated manner.

It’s not our nature to tend toward wallowing and staying in the center of discomfort- we want to feel like we’re well oiled and calibrated. The body strives toward equilibrium as well. However, if, for instance, my workshop participant grew up in an environment where by staying emotionally engaged and emotionally intense she received attention and nurturing, perhaps her concern is valid. There were positive consequences for her to remain in the emotionally volatile place, despite its being uncomfortable and disintegrating.  Now, in her adult life, such behavior is likely not so effective. She gets to learn a new way of being with her emotion, and still “using it”, but in a different manner.

The pain is the messenger. When we try to push it away versus inviting it in and acknowledging it, we in essence, tell ourselves that we’re unimportant and that our bodies are misguided and we can’t trust them. I read this equation that is helpful to remember: Pain x Resistance = Suffering

Listen and LearnIf we resist the pain, we kill the messenger…and the message. And the messenger can be delivering some astoundingly revelatory and insightful information to us….if we’re willing to listen.

We don’t have to wish for pain or not-so-comfortable experiences. What I am implying is that through the adoption of a more open nature and a boycotting of the zombie apocalypse, you will experience a wealth of benefits including: greater emotional regulation and resilience in the face of difficult circumstances; higher thresholds for experiencing threats or stress; viewing all experiences as opportunities for growth and learning; fewer inclinations toward awareness distracting activities like television, video games, or compulsive behaviors such as binge eating; and the adoption of goals that are not only personally meaningful and relevant, but the ability to pursue them with persistence.

So don’t kill the messenger. The messenger is your friend. And as Carl Rogers once said, “All the facts are friendly” (1961).

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D to the I to an E to a T!

27 May

In an effort to expand my limited ‘home-girl’ vocabulary (recall my recent post regarding “hot mess” and “do me a solid”) I’m starting this post with a WHOOP WHOOP, Give me a D to the I to an E to a T! Are we square? (I’m trying- be patient with me please).

Maybe that’s enough for a day…or a lifetime.

You get what it spells though.

Here’s the dealio: I’m giving you, on this Memorial Day, a bit of motivation to get off your butt and get moving. It doesn’t have to be exercise for your body, although that’s icing on the…”ahem….cake”. This exercise is specifically for your brain. I’m offering you a new take on “diet” that does not involve bacon tetris (urban dictionary is awesome).

D: De-fuse to lose

What does this mean? It means get a grip. A loose one. When people diet they tend to white-knuckle it. They hang on for dear life. “Dear God, protect me from the foods that most tempt me. Help me to stay away from what I most love. Give me the grace to turn down what gives me the most pleasure.” Give me a break! All of these statements not only embody a mistake in thinking that the foods you love have to be avoided in order to succeed, but also a FUSION based on emotion and an instant aversion to even want to embark on what could be looked at as a journey to better health.

By fusion I mean a lack of perspective-taking and an overly judgmental identification with the goal. DE-fusion means shifting out of negative, rigid, and absorbed by emotion that has you pinned down and feeling caged, to a useful, open, and flexible approach to your health goals.

And this brings me to the next step. Maybe you don’t even know what your goals are!

I: Identify your Goals

Okay, this may sound like a no-brainer. If you’re dieting the goal is to lose weight. Duh! (Okay, I think that’s a little old school, maybe 8th grade vocab– deal with it). But not so fast. There are few important factors to consider here: 1) While in the beginning, if you’re just setting out on your weight loss endeavor, focusing on the OUTCOME (losing weight) may be healthy, and even effective to increase your motivation. However, as you get into the planning (and research bears that this piece is in fact a mediating factor in the ability to meet a goal successfully– perhaps not surprising again, but it’s amazing how many individuals I work with don’t consider it until later in the game), it’s imperative that you consider focusing on the PROCESS. Each element of dieting can have its own specific goals  that you’re paying attention to, and these are the steps that will get you closer to the ultimate outcome.But if you aren’t intentionally monitoring the small steps in front of you, you’ll trip over them every time.

When identifying your goals, be sure to assess your motivations for them as well. Are they  extrinsic or intrinsic? Theories regarding self-determination used to classify motivation in a pretty black and white manner. We now know that there are many variables at play. With extrinsic motivation (what we usually think of as driven by external factors– we do it, in essence, to avoid contingencies or negative consequences (in this situation, “I’m dieting because my doctor told me to)–we know there are multiple levels. If you’re interested in a brief synopsis, refer to my podcast. But there is a continuum of integration of a goal such that you could be motivated initially by something outside of yourself, but move toward your behavior (i.e. scanning food labels, choosing healthy items when you go out to eat, limiting your intake of empty calories, exercising regularly, you  name it) being assessed as valuable at a core level, because you enjoy it, and you find it satisfying. At this end of the continuum, it is intrinsic and valued for the behavior itself.

E: Engage: Change your Environment or Change your Approach to it

You’ve got a couple different ways of managing your goals and the “barriers” that can present themselves along your path. You can respond, and this embodies a more flexible, adaptive, open, and connected way of navigating your world. Or you can react. You can choose to be impulsive, unaware, non-intentional, and operating on automatic pilot, letting the world run you, and likely becoming dissatisfied with your lack of control. It’s not fun to trip over yourself over and over again. So you can recognize that you have a choice in the matter. You can decide that whatever is in your way can be modified (i.e. your unsupportive partner may just be able to adopt a healthier eating pattern along with you) or you can change the way you approach it (i.e. recognizing that your goal is yours; your partner as the right to eat however he/she wants to).

T: Track Your Thoughts

Try it. Just like you’re writing your food down, start writing your thoughts down. The way you think guides your actions by way of how you feel, and I’m betting that sequence of events is often lost on you. Human nature is to avoid harm, attach to others, and approach rewards. We DO and often forget that it’s our thoughts that guide the movement toward these acts. Our thoughts lie to us and often take on a voice that doesn’t represent what we want to live or how we want to live. They are distorted, black and white, assumptive, and often very mean, lacking compassion, and just plain irrational. I challenge you to start noticing yours.

Now go forth and become weight loss wizards! Tune in tomorrow to my live, STREAMED workshop on 5:30pm CST from The Diet Doc’s home page- the topic: From Diet Disaster to Weight Loss Wizard: Your Top 10 Tools for Banishing Barriers

Holding Tension, Letting Go of the Battle Cry, and our 3 Ways of Meeting Challenges

19 May

Last week I upgraded my computer. As I sit here writing this blog I’m loving the sensitivity of the keys, the backlit board, the clarity of the screen. I’m thankful to have the ability to purchase such a nice piece of technology. Being a student right now, I also have the ability to purchase the Windows suite with all the programs I need at a discount. Ever the bargain hunter, I was on it. Only, I hit a couple snags along the way, and I ended up talking to at least 6 people from tech support, Microsoft sales, and a few who sounded like they were in Bangladesh…or at least far enough away that I had to, and reluctantly, ask them to repeat almost every word they uttered to me.

After the 3rd day passed and there was no resolution to my issue, I could feel myself seething. I was angry. Pissed in fact. My first interaction with sales had gone well, I thought. I purchased the program with relative ease, made sure I wrote down every bit of information the associate spelled out to me, and all I needed to do was click on the link in my confirmation email and download the program. Much to my dismay, it didn’t quite happen that way.

Reach

Reach

Despite no pressing need to have the program immediately, the tension inside of me rose. Every time I thought I’d take another step toward figuring out the problem, I’d end up blocking the door of my co-worker’s office almost shouting what sounded to me like questions…cries for help…vitriol spewing from my mouth. But he couldn’t help me. He had no clue what I had done, the process I was in, who I’d spoken to and what they’d said, or what I needed in the way of information.  As I rattled on and on about the problem, again,  my voice getting louder and louder, I suddenly understood where my anger was coming from. I had, in that moment of explaining (yes, I’ll call it that), just realized what was festering inside me. The tension that was growing wasn’t tension I was holding with care or curiosity. No. I was adamantly pushing back against it, fighting it, and it was an epic battle. I stopped cold, my last words trailing off, and my friend looking at me like, “You’re finished…?”

“I got it,” I said. “I just figured out why I’m so pissed off.” I paused, taking in a deep breath, expanding my lungs like I had needed to expand my mind 3 days ago.

“I feel used. Manipulated.” I said. “When I called the first time I told the guy exactly what problem I was having, and he said that he could definitely help me. I hadn’t called initially to purchase the program. I called to get help with another issue. I believed we had covered the problem. The steps we took gave me assurance we had. Then he asked if I wanted to go ahead and buy it, and I followed through. When I hung up and followed the steps he instructed me to take, I was taken straight back to the part of the process I initially called about. I was back at square one. I feel manipulated,” I repeated and walked away.

Eventually I figured out what I needed to do, and I did it with a different approach. After thinking through the entire incident, looking at the alternatives, it was pretty clear that I Tensionwas jumping to conclusions about this guy’s motives. What reason would he have to pull the wool over my eyes? When I could hold the tension with an expanded view, rather than instantly tensing and retracting, hardening with defensiveness, I could approach the problem in a new way. I could get less worked up, take the issue less personally, and experience less stress. Like a rubberband, I was stretched so tight and rigid, I was about to break. Had I spoken to that sales guy I’d have….probably hung up before I’d allow myself to say anything unkind. But it was that intensity that was so uncomfortable, and more importantly, that I didn’t appreciate seeing from myself.

Can you grow through the cracksWe all tend to meet our challenges in 3 different ways: Absorb, Attack, or Approach

When we feel uncomfortable, anxious, or in that place where we just want to abandon ourselves because it just seems too hard we can:

1.)    Let the feeling absorb us and align with it

We may hear ourselves say “Forget it. I’m not going to fight it anymore. It’s just the way it is….or the way I am.”

We just sink into the self-beliefs we’ve been accustomed to experiencing, as well as the emotions.

Essentially, however, our level of awareness in this case goes to sleep then and we’re steeped in the negative.

2. ) We can fight, claw, and resist the experience

You might hear yourself say, “No! I can’t do this! Prepare for battle, self; you will overcome!”

Or in the case of when  you notice a negative self-perception and that voice that says, “What the heck is wrong with you– you’re doing it again!” and you follow it up with “NO! Figure this out!”

As a consequence of adopting this strategy, however, now you’re just in fighting mode, armor on and dukes up, glued to the battle.

(This was me, obviously).

3. ) Neutral Noticing and Observing

You don’t get lost in it and you don’t push back against it. You ride its waves.

In addiction literature they call this “urge surging.” Previous posts of mind have addressed how to watch your thoughts like they are clouds surfing across the sky of your mind. Same premise. In this case you might hear yourself say, “Wow, there it is again. Pretty incredible how often that thought — or emotion– comes up for me. I’m noticing that old familiar tightness in my chest.”

I wasn’t the only one who suffered through my inability to hold my tension with care and curiosity, and these circumstances created for me a necessary reminder of the need to transcend the stress response. Perhaps it happened on a day when responsibilities were piled high. Maybe it was a day I’d gotten a terrible night of sleep. Either way, I’ve forgiven myself. But I’m certainly thankful for being able to see how the events of my life can be opportunities for stretching and growth vs hardening, armor, and a battle cry!

Tell Me If I’m Wrong…Because I Want to Be Right!!- Part 3

15 May

Optimal ExperienceThe concept of “flow” is a useful tool to describe how moving toward opportunities of dissonance (discomfort) as well as being among others whom we can trust to hold our tensions as we practice holding them ourselves, is necessary for developing a more complex self. The “absent” friend solidly reminded me of our necessary journey toward differentiation and self-understanding and sufficiency– complexity. Examining the flow experience, it is not surprising why we crave it. Described as optimal experience, it’s a suspension of space and time and captures the most cohesive of moments when our “I”s disappear, self-consciousness and critique vanishes, and the activity is purely engaged in for the experience itself. Yet, in order to achieve it, we have to move out of the hiding, numbing, oblivious, undifferentiated cocoons that we live in.

This weekend as I sat in the movie theater preparing for the cinematic adventure of Iron Man 3, my 3D glasses perched on the bridge of my nose, I leaned over to the friend on my left to say, “I feel like I need to put on my seat belt.” The objects in the trailers were sneaking up on me, flying past me, exploding before me, and I felt like I needed to prepare myself in some way…buckle in and put on my armor?  Achieving flow demands a removal of our armor, a movement away from the belief that we have to protect ourselves or prepare for battle, or approach life like a mine field.  (If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and you want to, don’t read this next sentence…) At the end of the movie, Robert Downey Jr. chose to remove the shrapnel from his chest, blow up every armored suit he had created, and live a more vulnerable, less fearful, more heart-centered life with his partner, and he stated, “We create our own demons.”

Epictetus agrees with him, “Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.”

And Marcus Aurelius, the great emperor, similarly wrote: “If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”

I believe in all of these statements.

Creative and UnlimitingAristotle stated long ago that more than anything else, we move toward what will make us happy. Perhaps we perceive that as comfort, as rightness, as the hope of something great in the future. Any way  you look at it, however, the impetus toward the pursuit of happiness is not firmly seated in the present moment. Protection and numbing of vulnerability is for fear of what might happen. Further, avoidance of conflict and striving only for who and what agrees with us or meets our expectations is created by way of what we have experienced in the past and distorting how others might perceive us in the future.  Flow, however, depends on this moment, right now. Flow is conditionally attached to a non-worrying, unselfconscious, effortless energy when information filtering into our awareness is congruent with our goals. If we do pause to assess our performance, the internal feedback is positive, and our sense of self is strengthened. Through these experiences our grit, our determination, our resilience, our behavioral persistence, and the balance between differentiation and integration are fortified.

On the other hand, without awareness, if we live on automatic pilot, should we decide that it’s just too hard to go through whatever effort is required to meet the demands of our goals or learn the skills necessary to become more proficient, or if we base our behavior on what everyone else thinks we should be or believe, we miss the possibilities of flow. Like the question I posed at the beginning, “how does this relate to what I already know?”, Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow– The Psychology of Optimal Experience, explains how the information we encounter is filtered according to its importance to the self. We can perceive it as threatening, supportive, or neutral to our goals, and with this assessment our behavior follows suit.

Do you know individuals who persist in the face of adversity? Just this morning I saw another woman on the news being put through her paces in the physical therapy department of her local hospital after losing her leg during the Boston bombings. “This is the hand I’ve  been dealt,” she said with a smile. Comfortable? Not even close. Painful, arduous, and demanding. And yet she uses that energy to move closer to what is meaningful to her. Is it “right” that she lost a limb in the attack? Is that question even worth asking? It makes sense that we would. Our bent toward rightness and avoidance of conflict started almost immediately. We were rewarded at home for following rules. We were punished for doing something “wrong.” In school we receive grades for completing assignments the “right” way or giving the “right” answers. Surprisingly enough, my dissertation work is even graded. How can you grade a student on the level of understanding and synthesis regarding theory and conceptualization of a study? It’s not black and white, and yet because we need certainty, grades persist. Even in our places of work we are rewarded for following protocol, for staying true to procedure. Of course, value exists in many regards when it concerns safety, however, when it is expected that individuals not think for themselves or develop a sense of autonomy and competence in regards to their unique skills and assets, creativity and innovation is thwarted.

Keith Sawyer, Washington University creativity researcher, has shown that individuals who work alone are more efficient at creating innovative ideas versus those who work in groups. Understanding our desire for acceptance and relatedness, this makes sense. However, in a group environment, where individuals are actively encouraged to throw out any idea, no matter how ignorant, mundane, corny, irrelevant, or insane, and when quantity is the goal, creativity spikes! If every individual has had a different experience in life, and they have interpreted it in a different way, and they are asking themselves, “how does this bite of information relate to what I already know?”, can you see how the possibilities expound? This wouldn’t happen if we were focused on avoiding vulnerability, worried about making mistakes, or taking risks!

Tell Me if I’m Wrong…Because I Want to be Right– Part 2

13 May

Listen and LookIn my previous post I posed this question:

In science, researchers seek out data than can disprove their hypotheses. Contradictory evidence shows them where their biases lie and signals how a new direction might need to be explored. They search for plausible rival explanations. Do you? Do you challenge your first thought and work at discovering alternatives that might prove you wrong?

Brene Brown, a social scientist, psychologist, and researcher at the University of Houston, calls this ‘showing up’ behavior, an act of vulnerability. In essence, it’s inviting in the discomfort that could ultimately prove to bolster your creativity, connection, and sense of belonging. Because to err is human, without the courage to experience failure, and to trust others to be with and hear our shame when we fail or make mistakes, we actively build a wall around the most basic psychological needs that determine our desire to be bold, to be resilient, to step into the arena, to show up even when we’re scared, and to keep trying despite numerous falls.

These needs include autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Take a few seconds to let these three words sink in, and recall the moments when in an effort to “fit in”, to feel accepted, to feel a part of the group, you’ve let go of your uniqueness. In essence, to enhance one need you’ve actively disengaged from another. I know that you feel the inner twinge that goes along with relinquishing what’s true to your core self though. Moving closer to one need does not demand that you leave the others behind. In fact, what we call those individuals who can intentionally create experiences in which they are both proactively indulging their desires to achieve uniqueness and authenticity, and demonstrate their core talents, virtues, and values outside of whether they are congruent with those of others and simultaneously dive into activities that connect, require empathy, and relate on a deeper level to others even if their views are discrepant, is differentiation. In other words, a person who is differentiated has the ability to  maintain a solid sense of self (i.e. non-negotiable values) within situations of stress and among relationships. Someone who lacks differentiation falls apart or becomes fractured when there is disagreement or when others feel or think in contradicting ways. But you can be so tied into who you are right now, feeling compelled to protect your self as a consequence of perceiving that a difference of opinion means you are “wrong”, that the ability to remain objective and unemotional disappears. Increasing differentiation requires a We do not see things as they are...defining of your principles and values– what makes you, you. Don’t mistake this, however, for “finding” a way and then rigidly clinging to it “because it’s who you are.” A rigidly differentiated person is inflexible, unyielding, and unwilling to explore how or why others believe differently. You might actually, through discovery, realize that what you’ve believed no longer resonates with you anymore, and through a process of filtering, you may redefine your principles or beliefs or “refine” them. Can you imagine how your life would change if you didn’t actively avoid others who might disagree with you?

In my final year of graduate school I wrote my thesis on differentiation and the first year of marriage. Care to guess why I was compelled to research this topic? I had never experience more internal and external conflict than during those 12 months after being married, and I needed to understand what was happening for me. What was this incoherent, chaotic, messy, craziness that had infiltrated what felt like every fiber of…me? I challenged myself during the next year to engage and disengage in new and often uncomfortable ways. I walked into the swamp land of mucky emotion, of tumultuous disagreements, and of quicksand-like consumption, and the whole time I actively pursued to discern what was mine and what was his and how I was well-practiced in entangling the two to the point that my heart-felt ripped to shreds. (Keep in mind that this feeling can be quite normal in relationships– you’re so close to a person that of course you’re going to feel a tremendous amount of emotion. But there is a very salient difference between a fractured, splintered, torn to pieces, completely disintegrated heart and one that has broken but is still open).

In my first year of marriage I was far, far from understanding myself or from understanding the foundation of who I was and how to weave my intricacies into the fabric of another life that I was to share. I had entered into the relationship initially because I was scared and uncertain and, just like I At any given moment...described at the beginning, desiring security and certainly. Well, I found it. This man not only had his life, but mine also, planned out for the next 50 years. As I embarked on the process of dissecting the words of my story– the one I had been telling, the one that had been told to me, the one I was currently writing, and the one I wanted to write–the lens I was looking through became clearer, the fog seemed to dissipate, and I experienced a sense of clarity. Comfortable? Not even close. But something in my spirit was recaptured despite it.

Brene Brown is the first to admit, and in doing so, reveals tremendous vulnerability, that she “doesn’t do vulnerability.” She has spent decades researching it, and still finds herself activity avoiding it. In her TED talk, she explains how it is not in her nature, but how the data she has collected on human connection, vulnerability, and shame has changed the way she “lives, loves, works, and parents.” I would argue that it’s not that she doesn’t do vulnerability– she recognizes and has shown through her research that we can’t avoid it  because it’s there, inherently, and we know when it’s there because we feel it–it’s that she doesn’t do it as well as she’d like to. Vulnerability is that “deer in the headlights”, “oh shit”, “what do I say?”, “how do I respond?”, “I can’t believe that just happened…I just want to hide” feeling.   You know it. We have all experienced it. So as Brene explains, it’s part of humanity. But many of us are great at– or think we’re helping ourselves by– numbing it. In my first year of marriage and in the years that preceded it, I numbed vulnerability, and in turn, anesthetized my heart.

In his inspiring book entitled Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer describes his experience of feeling “like a displaced person in my own land.” I recall vividly describing to a friend post-divorce how I had lost my self in the marriage and the immense and liberating grief and freedom I experienced when I listened to my heart and made the decision to move out of the land I had built with this person and set off on a  new, growth-oriented journey that would undoubtedly present more obstacles and scary detours, but opportunities that I would gladly unveil. I grieved for what I had lost and the time I had spent closing doors on my heart for four years, and I grieved out of gratitude for finally seeing my power to be courageous enough to open every door from that point forward. I don’t believe now that I had “lost” my self.  I believe that I’d not done the work to ever “find” my self in the first place.

Courage is what is takes...Palmer reminds his readers in the prelude of his book, after unabashedly yet carefully and humbly explaining his tendency toward depression and using his experience to create a meaningful foundation for describing how to nurture the essence of life, that the word heart stems from the Latin root cor, where the word courage comes from. When I read this the first time I had to pause. The familiar heavy, pressing intensity of emotion I feel in my chest when tears are planning their escape cued me to pay attention. “Listen,” my body reminded. Cor— when spoken, is the sound of me– the name my mom has called me since I was a little girl. Cor, as Palmer defines it, is where our emotions, intellect, intuition, intelligence, and the physical, relational, experiential, and imaginative aspects and centers of our lives converge to create the cores of who we are.  I had realized that my core was expanding. And retraction no longer seemed like a viable option if I was to engage in the “finding” of me. Even after the friend I had confided in said she no longer wanted to associate with me, the doors didn’t close. Comfortable? Not even close. And I still find myself wounded from what at the time I perceived as a rejection. But I was not fractured.

Tell me if I’m wrong…because I want to be right!!

12 May

“Kori, help!”Barriers to Change

“I don’t know what to do!”

“I’m having a tantrum…”

“I’m undecided and I don’t like it.”

“What is wrong with me that I feel this way?!”

Words I hear daily because we are neurobiologically wired to gravitate toward familiarity….certainty. Sameness is attractive, even desirable. Match.com profits on its system of matching like-minded individuals with one another. This works because the brain likes to take short-cuts toward what is comfortable.  Our minds take information from the universe and match it to a frame of reference– “what does this relate to that I already know?” it asks. In this manner, conflict is bypassed, incoherence is avoided, and discomfort and disintegration is circumvented. Phew! Thank goodness our brains know how to take the easy road! And thank goodness we can find people to befriend and hang out with that think just like we do.

Or…maybe not.

If we never challenge ourselves to expand the lenses we look through, and if we are surrounded only by those who agree with us, how do we learn? Our confirmation biasconfirmation bias may give us a feeling of sureness or help us to be confident we made the “right” decision, but it certainly isn’t synonymous with embodying a contemplative, creative, critical thinking, or authentic approach.

We may dislike conflict, after all, it creates entropy and requires a tremendous amount of energy and mental resources, however, without it we are far from complex individuals. We stagnate, we lack openness, and we become not only disheartened and disinterested, but we are dis-interesting! In a word, we’re “duds”! We’re the people standing on the outside of the arena, often unwilling to step inside and see what might happen.

if you are your authentic self, you have no competitionThink of the times you’ve avoided speaking up, taking a risk, admitting defeat, owning a mistake, or just being honest. Every instance in which we thwart our vulnerability we miss an opportunity to become courageous and complex. We lose the ability to become more whole and smother the light that wants to shine on our patterns of thought and behavior so we can learn about who we are and help others do the same.  We create obstacles that require short-cuts to be taken that can result in a fast decision, but they can also result in an unenlightened one.  At best, through avoidance we might avoid failure, but at worst we live an unengaged, uninspired, lack luster life without the possibility of experiencing the greatest triumphs.

In science, researchers seek out data than can disprove their hypotheses. Contradictory evidence shows them where their biases lie and signals how a new direction might need to be explored. They search for plausible rival explanations. Do you? Do you challenge your first thought and work at discovering alternatives that might prove you wrong?

be you, bravely

Tomorrow is a new day. How about you try on a new behavior– being real instead of being “right”.  See what happens.

(More to come on this topic, but please send me your thoughts and descriptions about the experiences in which you’ve challenged yourselves to do something out of your comfort zones).

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