Tag Archives: Intention

4 Steps to Reversing the Brain’s Negativity Bias

19 Aug

“I can understand that memory must be selective, else it would choke on the glut of experience. What I cannot understand is why it selects what it does.”

~ Virginia Peterson

Looking back over the last 10 years or so of my life, I can’t say I’ve come full circle. I wouldn’t want to.  A decade ago I was on the fringes of a spiritual catastrophe. I was bitter, lost, demanding answers that I was not quite as willing to search for as I am now, and inexorably and painfully insecure. I was involved in a relationship wrought with delusions of escape. I was realizing that I had sacrificed far too much of who I was at my core to satisfy another person. But in the beginning I believed I was collecting the pieces of what had been broken years earlier.

At some point amidst the inner hell, as well as the external turmoil I was facing, I made a decision to BE different. I could no longer make so many concessions knowing and FEELING that I was compromising what mattered most to me. I was sick of being tormented by the push/pull nature of my thoughts and actions. I was exhausted from acting in ways that felt completely foreign to me to appease or please others.

I don’t think that what I describe is far from what many individuals experience in their lives. As a therapist I am trusted daily with the robust memories, day dreams, and emotions of those who have trusted me to provide a NEW experience for them so that they may develop the skill to do so themselves.

Often what I must teach them first is that our brains are bent toward negativity. They come to me with requests for learning how to be more positive, thinking less like a pessimist, and getting out of the “downer” mentality. I get it. I see it. I live it. And when I’m in it and notice it, I have to be active about changing it.

The negativity bias can be viewed as adaptive. The “bad” stuff in life, if we pause and let it sink in, gives us valuable information about the threats in our world and perhaps by focusing on it we can avoid future harm, right? Once bitten, twice shy? While negative experiences certainly have their place and can provide opportunities for learning, , they can also become pervasively harmful with too much emphasis placed on them, creating permanent long-term storage of negative memories. If you’re in therapy now and all you do is rehash your negative “stuff”, you’re not helping yourself.

On the flip side, while we can all attest to the great feelings we have when something positive occurs, how often are you dwelling on them? This weekend in Sam’s Club, I walked past the DirecTV salesman as I pushed my cart toward the familiar food aisles, and with a broad smile said, “Hi! How are you?!” like I knew him well. He gave me an upturned lip and said, “I’m living.”  First I thought, wow, they need to train their salesmen! Then I responded with, “What?! You’ve gotta be doing better than that!” A big grin spread across his face. Perhaps I provided him with a positive experience that he’ll remember later. Even better though would be him intentionally and deliberately sinking into it right then and there.

How many positive experiences go by do you think, that you don’t even notice?  I’ll answer this question for you– A LOT. Why? Because you don’t sit on them and let them sink in like you do with those experiences that hurt, get you angry, make you frustrated, or cause you to experience anxiety. Dwelling on an experience allows it to become a part of you. You permanently change the structure of your brain when you take the experience in, mull over it, wallow in it. Think about what this might mean for you if you applied it to positive experiences!

But reversing your brain’s negativity bias takes work! How often do you read in my blog about INTENTION, EFFORT, and DELIBERATENESS? Speaking of the brain, I hope these words have become etched into yours by now. They are power words that convey brain rewiring.

You can think of the work toward becoming more positive like installing new software on  your computer. There is no shortage of viruses that could infect your computer. They’re inevitable. But the virus protection software that you install can head off the pernicious effects of any threats much faster if it has been downloaded and is utilized regularly. So what can you do to begin the download?

Follow these 4 steps to reverse your brain’s negativity bias:

  1. Use positive experiences! You can do this in a number of ways. You might watch for them, be ready for them in your day to day life. You can think of something positive from the past, hold it in your mind’s eye, and rehash the experience. Over and over. Or you can imagine a positive experience that you’d like to have.  It’s important to remember that verbal thought passes through your brain quickly. It is not like emotion, housed in the deeper brain centers, that creates lasting structural changes. This means that the sensation of experience, the feeling that you derive from it (think in terms of a sense of connection, feeling loved and appreciated, or an intense sense of wonder or gratitude) must be dwelled upon.
  2. Play out the scene and using all your senses, make a movie out of it. Extend the experience in the space of time–make it last and make it as intense as possible.
  3.  Be intentional and deliberate about this. Don’t hope it will just “sink in” and happen. Actively create the space and time to do it and intend and feel it creating change within you.
  4.  Hold in your awareness a positive and negative experience together.  For example, in a moment that I experience a sense of appreciation by another, or I am told by a client that I have helped him to see his inner power and that he feels so much more confident, I might go back to an experience I had 10 years ago when I was told I could never get anything right. In this instance I would make the positive experience prominent so it envelopes the negative. Taking this one step further, I imagine it folding up the negative. The envelope of the positive opens up to let the negative out to dissipate and float away like dust in the wind.

I can look back at the last 10 years of my life and view them in a positive light and I can approach each day with an appreciation for the positive experiences ahead of me.  Will you do the same?



26 Jul

I hit the “send” button emphatically, hovering on the edge of my chair in anticipation of the reply. My freshly created “Beast Mode Workout” program went out into cyberspace, soon to land with a “BOOM POW!!” in the email inbox of one of my super-star training clients.  I couldn’t wait for her to review it.
Not only do I have the pleasure of designing mental workouts and training programs for my clients, but I get to challenge them in pushing their bodies too. I will sometimes give them a view into my personal workouts by posting a short video of me performing a novel, yet effective exercise done to inspire them to not just “go through the motions” when they are training. And it works!

I get messages expressing desire and  intensity. But in them, whether my clients see it or not, I see and an assessment of and reinvigoration of purpose!


Read it again!

They may be asking: What am I doing in my workouts? Am I app

roaching my session with the intensity I could be? Are my workouts worth the time I’m spending on them? Is what I put on the back burner to get to the gym worth suspending my for training session?

Lately, this phrase, “Beast Mode” has inundated the pages of the Team K Facebook group. I love it! It conveys POWER and ACTION!

It embodies a way of operating.

In it I hear INTENT.

In “beast” I see a rabid, wide-eyed, lunging, passionate animal.

In “mode”, a way, a manner, a discipline.

These two words combined are meaningful because they convey how each of us would, ideally, prefer to approach our lives–and our goals–with a rabid obsession. No more complacency. We’ve defined our purpose and we take the steps necessary to get there, right? Simple!!

Not quite.

How often do you find yourself asking, “Why can’t I seem to…” or saying “If only I could…” and experiencing that push-pull between competing interests or responsibilities?

In my recent telecourse, “Maintaining your Mindset for Competition…and LIFE” (available in MP3 format), one woman, after reviewing the quiz I had participants take to assess their mental toughness, stated, “I can be on point at work, concentrate well, focus, tune out the unn2cessary externals, bounce back quickly from setbacks, and stay motivated, but when it comes to competing…”  Replace the word “competing” with anything you’ve put some level of importance on in your own life, and I’m sure you can relate.

Beast mode was eluding her when it came down to the effort being implemented toward her competition-prep process.

Our discussion at that point took a turn to address the meaning of her competition goal. Perhaps it just was not as important. OR perhaps after a day where she is challenged in such a large capacity, her resolve is diminished in such a way that the time and energy it takes to prepare for her competition is too taxing. If you have experienced this tug of war between competing goals, I would encourage you to ask yourself some key questions. Remember my previous blog addressing the importance of critical thinking? Here is your chance to practice. The discomfort this person was feeling — the internal conflict — was her signal to take stock and engage in some internal dialogue.

  • How come you’re pursuing this goal?

  • When you’ve reached the goal, will you be able to say that it was worth it or will you have more than a fair share of regrets?

  • Were or ARE the sacrifices made in the pursuit of the goal worth it?

  • Are there aspects of your life that you want to develop further but are letting go of in an effort to achieve this goal? Is it worth it?

  • What are you gaining or do you hope to gain by working toward this goal?

  • What was your impetus for choosing this goal ?

You may end up discovering that the goal you have chosen was not well thought-out. You may even discover that the goal isn’t even your own! You may be pursuing something that someone else feels is important.

This brings me to my main point: BEAST MODE. Action AND contemplation. Movement melding with reflection.

Beast mode to me means a constant pursuit…but not of a specific outcome. It can mean the willing involvement and openness to opportunities to get to know yourself!

A goal that is important carries meaning, has an enduring purpose and has been deemed “worth it,” but even so, these aspects do not make it “easy.” Quite often it can feel downright arduous! But it gives you a reason to keep striving. Each time you learn a  new skill in the process, you become a more complex individual. You increase confidence in your ability to persevere, and you will desire to continue challenging yourself when difficulties arise and NEW skills have to be obtained to overcome them.

Beast mode means you understand that in order to grow, you have to be stretched past your current capabilities and you’re willing to go to great lengths……but only if the goal is worth it.

Beast mode is yours for the taking … IF you recognize how important it is and you’re willing to go from your comfort zone to your discomfort zone!

Reflect & Move from Hapless to Happy

10 Jun

Like glass, a pristine  mountain lake can shimmer with unadulterated calmness. Toss a pebble into its silent surface, and the ripples radiate from the point of impact. The waves loom large where the water was disrupted but dissipate as the distance extends. The space between each swell grows until the lake achieves its smooth, velvet texture once again.

This is you. Your life. But do you see it? Do you notice it? Do you reflect?

I know far too many people who are going through the motions of their lives. They go through the day to day, they work, they come home, they sit in front of the TV, they go to bed, and they start the process all over again the following morning. These are the same people who complain about being bored and uninspired and wonder what they are doing here. “What’s the point?” they may ask. They lack purpose, meaning, drive, and importantly, experience.

If this is you, and you are in that lost, confused, and depressed place of wondering “is there more?”, it’s time to reflect.

It’s time to look in the mirror, see the glassy stare, and then crack it. (Figuratively!)

If you want to change– if you want happiness–you have to throw a pebble into the pond.

You have to make waves, you have to act, and you have to do it with consciousness.

You must be deliberate, create opportunities for stepping out of your comfort zone, push past where you want to stop, and demand more from yourself than you think you’re capable of.

This isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s downright difficult if you’re unaccustomed to it. Scary even.

Think of the people who you know that demonstrate a sense of aliveness, an authenticity of spirit, a richness and depth of soul. Are their lives “easy”? Do they coast? Things handed to them without devotion to effort?  They may APPEAR to “have it easy”, but this is often not the case. That appearance is often due to the choices they make in their approach to life, in essence, how they perceive their circumstances. I’m betting the people you know who appear most happy are the most busy, most involved, most engaged, least bored, and most accomplished individuals in your circle. I’m also betting that they are the most joyful, despite AND BECAUSE OF their penchant focus on goal-driven behavior and toil toward improvement.

I use happy and joyful synonymously. I want to make sure you understand, however, that they are not the same as pleasure.  Here’s an example: I may not experience pleasure in the discomfort of dieting to get to 5% body fat for my competition. I don’t particularly like being hungry a lot of the time. I don’t relish in the participation of hypoglycemic cardio. The physical discomfort of the preparatory aspects of bodybuilding can be grueling. HOWEVER, I enjoy the mental and physical challenge it requires. I enjoy pushing myself past what I know others would crumble trying to do. I enjoy the assessment and strategy involved in the process and increasing my ability to tolerate pain.

Enjoyment and happiness comes from consciousness. It is a direct result of paying attention to the minutiae and taking an active role in deciding how to view it. Take two guys working in a factory. They are both assembly line workers. The job itself is repetitive. For eight hours they are engaged in the same movements, watching the same belt, the same parts, and standing in the same spot. One of the men wonders if there will ever be something more. He goes home each night and falls asleep in front of the tv with an empty six pack next to him. The other man, however, sets time goals for himself. He has exceeded productivity goals and acquired the praise of his superiors. He has signed up for some community college classes and will be taking those in the evening after work as he wants to advance in the company. He works hard. The schedule is demanding. But he feels confident and happy.

The second man….he didn’t just ASK. He moved to ACT. And he had to reflect in order to move forward.

So how do you go from hapless to happy? How do you enjoy life more? Turns out that research has teased out 8 factors found among individuals who express life happiness and enjoyment. Ready to begin taking control? My previous blog conveyed the importance of not expecting happiness to just happen. You must make an effort, which means not just letting your experiences be those that occur unattended to, but diving into what appears to be the most mundane of tasks.

Enjoyable experiences most often include the following:

1.  Tasks are appoached that we have a chance at completing (aka: realistic goals are set)

2. Concentration (we’re paying attention, not trying to multitask)

3. Clear goals are set, which aids in concentration (succinct, unambiguous, time-limited)

4. Immediate feedback is provided (can only happen when a goal is clear-cut and achievable)

5. The everyday toils and frustrations of life are removed (you must practice filtering them out) to be absorbed and involved in the task

6. The task allows for a sense of control to be obtained

7. Self-consciousness is removed (yet your sense of self grows stronger once the experience is over!)

8. Time disappears.

Ever lose yourself in an experience and wonder where the time went? That sense of flow and unencumbered productivity embodies the above principles, whether you realized it or not! But now that you know, you can create more of these opportunities!

Now go look in the  mirror! And that happiness? GO GET IT!

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