Tag Archive | Subconscious

For Big Change, Think Small

It’s the end of another year (how is that possible?). The time when we reflect on the past 365 days, take stock of where we are, and decide the path of our life moving forward. We make a list of things we want to change and create resolutions to get the job done. We start the year off with a bang moving full force in the new direction, and then boom… a different bang, we hit a wall. Everything we strive to accomplish with such passion slides to the side and we fall back into the routine of the behavior we know so well.

There’s a familiarity about the promises we make to ourselves each year. You can easily ask yourself: Didn’t I make those self-same promises last year? And maybe even the year before?

So why, if we are so determined to make change, do we fall short of our goals?

According to experts, one of the main reasons New Year’s resolutions are so hard to maintain is because the thing we want to change is a habit – behavior that comes from the subconscious part of our brain that is done automatically, without conscious thought.

Typical resolutions like eating healthy, quitting smoking or drinking, increasing physical activity, or spending more time with loved ones, are designed to change routines that have been around for many years. While it’s easy to assume that we should be able to willfully make long-term changes to established patterns, desire alone is usually not enough.

According to Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit, there is a three step loop that occurs: A cue or trigger, which tells your brain to go into automatic mode. The routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional. And the reward, which helps your brain determine if this loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic.

While wanting to change is the first step, experts say that the key to enacting lasting change is understanding the process and identifying your triggers. For example, if you want to quit smoking, you can quit cold turkey, but understanding what triggered your smoking will give you a greater chance of success. When you recognize what situations trigger your current habit – having a morning cup of coffee, stress, drinking alcohol, going out with friends, driving, etc. – you can create a positive habit that you are going to do instead.

So, when you wake in the morning and have coffee, instead of smoking, what will you do? If you’re stressed or out with friends, what will you do? Replace the old habit with a positive one. Be mindful and consistent. Create the new routine that results from the trigger and your brain learns the new reward.

Don’t try to change your life all at once. Some people decide that they are going to lose weight, exercise every day, quit smoking, get a new job, and spend more time with family. A complete overhaul will lead to overload and you will give up. Work on one habit at a time and take baby steps. Lean in gently. If you usually leave work at 7 pm and want to spend more time with family, go home at 6:30 pm for a few weeks or even months. Then gradually make it earlier. Once that becomes a new habit, work on something else.

Lasting change won’t happen overnight. But with mindfulness, determination, consistency, and patience, you can achieve any goal you desire. Remember for big change, think small. As Mark Twain said, “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”


Live It, Feel It, Believe It

Napoleon Hill once said, “We become what we think about.”

It’s that time of year again when we sit down, pen and paper in hand and make a list of all the things we resolve to change. When we create our list, we are motivated and sure that this will be the year that we will achieve our goals.

“This year I resolve to lose 20 lbs.” “I will stop smoking.” “I am going to exercise every day.” “I will eat healthy food.”

These are noble decisions and we start off with a bang. But sometimes life gets in the way, and our decisions become our burdens. We slip back into our old patterns and what we set out to accomplish gets pushed to the side. We then feel guilty for not being able to achieve our goals, and thoughts of failure set in.

The problem with our resolutions is that they are usually made in response to something negative, such as a bad habit, or poor physical condition, and it is difficult to change a negative into a positive without a strong commitment and determination. It is much easier to move toward something than away from something.

This year, instead of making your usual resolutions, why not try positive affirmations? An affirmation is a positive statement or declaration of the truth or existence of something. Affirmations psychologically condition through repetitive, consistent self-talk. By repeating a positive affirmation over and over, you train your subconscious mind to turn the thoughts into realities. Make affirmations about yourself that will reinforce your intentions and better prepare you to accomplish your goals.

For an affirmation to be effective, it needs to be in the present tense, positive, personal and specific. “I am capable of accomplishing any goal I set for myself,”  “I am feeling more peaceful every day,”  “I am learning from my mistakes,” “I eat healthy, nutritious food every day,” are examples of positive affirmations.

Here are a some tips on how to make affirmations:

Determine what you want to improve. Be clear about your goals. Figure out what’s important to you and get to the heart of what you want to create in your life.

Create statements. Put your ideas into a few simple statements that reflect what you want to create. Phrase the statements as if they are already true, not that you would like them to be true. Tell your mind that your desire is actually already the reality. You are programming your subconscious to believe the statements; you’re not trying to want something, you’re trying to make it so.  If you use words like “I will” or “I am going to,” then what you are really doing is postponing the attainment of your goal.

Keep the affirmation focused and realistic. Don’t stretch the idea too far. If you make it too unrealistic your “inner judge” will step in and negate the affirmations.

Keep it positive. Say what you want, not what you don’t want.

Repeat affirmations daily. Say affirmations out loud, in front of a mirror. Write them down and refer to them often. Keep them in a visible place.

My challenge to you is to think about your new year resolution as positive affirmations throughout the year. If you want to lose weight, create affirmations that support weight loss.  If you want to lose 20 pounds and you now weigh 150 pounds, say “I weigh 130 pounds.”  Supplement with affirmations such as “I enjoy eating healthy foods,” “I can sense when I am full and I stop eating,” or “I enjoy walking two miles three times per week.”

In addition, visualize the positive thoughts as if they are already happening. How will you look and feel after losing 20 lbs?  Live it. Feel it. Believe it. You will be surprised how quickly you bring about true change in your life using the power of affirmations.

Happy New Year!

You’re Amazing Just the Way You Are

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection. ~ Buddah

One recent evening, I was invited to be the keynote presenter for a divorce recovery group. As I was getting ready to go on, the moderator opened the event by playing the Bruno Mars hit, Just the Way You Are. As the song played in the background, she commented to the group that anyone would want to have that song sung to him/her by a loving admirer.

As I looked around the room, some attendees nodded in agreement, but written across the faces of others was a tearful longing for such an expression of love.

I agree that the words are beautiful and that most would desire to be involved with such a devoted partner, however, before we should want to hear those words from an outsider, we should be able to look in the mirror and recite those words to ourself.

Why do we feel the need to look externally for validation? Why can’t we find it within ourself to have a love affair with ourself. We are the one person we can always count on from cradle to grave. Why do we need someone else to tell us we’re beautiful in order to believe it?

If we don’t love ourself, how can we truly love another and participate in a mutually beneficial, healthy relationship? It’s time to stop looking outside and begin a love relationship with yourself. Once you do, one day should you hear those words from another, it will be the icing on the cake and not the cake, and you’ll believe them, own them, and treasure them.

Here’s my challenge to you, write the following words on a piece of paper and tape them on your bathroom mirror. Every morning when you wake up (after brushing your teeth) and every evening before you go to sleep (after brushing your teeth), look directly in the mirror… smile as big as you can… and recite the following:

When I see your face
There’s not a thing that I would change
Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are.
And when you smile
The whole world stops and stares for awhile
Cause… you’re amazing
Just the way you are.

Say it… hear it… believe it… Cause you’re amazing just the way you are!

The Black Hole

Have you ever experienced times when life seemed so hopeless that you felt like you were in a deep, dark hole and no matter how hard you tried or what you did, you couldn’t climb out?

I have. I have actually spent a great deal of time in my hole.

Being in that hole is the scariest feeling imaginable. The air is heavy and you feel all alone; there is no one to help plan an escape strategy or offer rescue assistance.

When I was in my hole, I cried and tried to scratch and claw my way out. I pitied myself for falling into the hole and was envious of everyone above ground. I prayed and prayed and when I didn’t get the answer “I” wanted, I yelled at God for abandoning me.

One day as I was expressing my dissatisfaction to God, I came across this:

I asked God for strength to achieve success, He made me weak so that I could humbly learn to obey.

I asked for health to do so many important things, He made me infirm so that I could do better things.

I asked for wealth so that I could be happy, He gave me poverty so that I could be wise.

I asked for power so that people could value me, He gave me weakness so that I could know my need for God.

I asked for a friend so that I would not have to live alone, He gave me a heart so that I could love all my neighbors.

I asked for things that would brighten up my life, I received life so that I could brighten up things.

I received nothing that I asked for, but I got all that I had hoped for. Almost in spite of myself, my humbled prayers were answered. I am the most richly rewarded of all.

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been missing the point. I spent so much time clawing my way out of the hole, searching for a ladder, that I didn’t see the rope that had been given to me. I realized that just because I wasn’t getting what I wanted, didn’t mean I wasn’t getting what I needed.

I had to reevaluate the way I viewed my situation and circumstance. Instead of being sad over my loss or broken relationships, I realized that there was something I needed to learn, which is why I had to go through a particular experience. Once I looked at the events in my life differently and accepted them as blessings and lessons, no matter how painful, and not as punishment or the result of being unloved or inferior, I was able to find peace and use what was given to me to climb out of my hole.

I still fall into my hole from time to time, but it is usually for a brief period of time and I now know the way out.

Wayne Dyer once said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

If you’re looking for a ladder to climb out of your hole, try changing your attitude and perception. Accept that you are being given a blessing for your growth and that everything is in perfect order according to a greater plan. You may just be amazed at what happens!

There Will Always Be An Invincible Summer Within

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus

Happy New Year!

As another new year begins, it is time for my first message of the year. I have spent hours pondering what I want this important message to be, as it sets the tone for the year ahead. As I reflected on 2011, and all the wonderful things that have happened to me, I realized that the message is simple: Even in the darkest moments of your life, there is strength within you (that you don’t even know exists) and, if you don’t give up and succumb to the negative feelings, you will realize that there is hope and that better times lie ahead.

For someone who is going through an extremely traumatic period in life, you may believe that I am preaching bull because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or because you believe that your life is over. While the life that you know may be over, or to be more correct, changed, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me…I know.

You see, up until recently, I lived a pretty charmed life. I had wonderful parents and a loving family. I got married immediately after graduating from college. We bought a nice home, had two kids and great friends. I was living the dream. Then from August 2010 until January 2011, in a period of five months, everything changed. Little did I know when I began my work about the importance of a positive attitude (which I always believed), that I would become the greatest student of the lessons. During those five months, my 23-year marriage fell apart, my mother and sister (my last remaining original family members) died, my dear friend lost her battle with brain cancer, and a trusted friend betrayed me. In those months, I lost almost everything that I knew. I lost my security. I felt alone and vulnerable. The life I knew no longer existed.

People often fall apart from experiencing any one of these events. For some reason, I experienced them all at once. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t knocked down. There were dark moments when I questioned whether I wanted to keep going. While deep down I knew I would never take my own life, there were moments when I thought about it.

Fortunately, due to my work, those really dark moments were fleeting. I became the student of the people I interviewed. I read the books, learned the lessons, and shared the wisdom. I spent much time thinking, writing, reflecting, and getting in touch with myself. Being an active participant in the process of healing saved my life. I learned the importance of a positive attitude and CHOSE to see the gifts and lessons being offered to me. I have found my inner strength and am learning how to count on ME and love ME!

Now when I look back over 2011, while there may be a twinge of sadness, the pain does not engulf me and I am able to say that many wonderful things have happened to me.

So, as 2012 begins, no matter what you are experiencing, always remember that change, resulting in pain and sadness, is inevitable. But if you embrace it, learn from it and grow with it, you will realize that you are strong and that there will always be an invincible summer within. Sometimes it’s just a bit more challenging to find …  but it’s always there.