What’s my role in this?

I’ve been reading a lot of books just recently. I read Seth Godin’s book, All Marketers Are Liars, and found it both entertaining and informative. Seth is irreverent, funny and delivers a good message. Fun read. I recommend Seth’s book highly.

During my search for a copy of Seth’s book through my local library system, I found another intriguing title mentioned and decided to ‘check it out’ to find out what it was all about; Bruce Lipton’s book, The Biology of Belief.

If you are at all interested in what motivates you (or other people) and why we function (as a species) the way we do, this book will fill you in. It does have some science in it but Lipton has a way of explaining things so even those who flunked science can grasp and understand his very plausible concepts. Good read. Can barely put it down!

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A Time to Remember – step 3

Today, I am contemplating the actions and consequences of those actions that occurred eight years ago.

I recall where I was and what I was doing but that seems to pale in comparison to what I was feeling. At first, I felt outrage and a horrendous sense of loss and despair. Then, I felt compassion and awe and inspiration as I watched the selfless acts of heroism and generosity flow from people all over this great nation of ours. The acts of kindness that poured in from across the globe touched me to my deepest places.

I am reminded of the basic goodness of humans inspite of the choices of a very few. I am reminded of the healing that comes from a simple act of forgiveness. Forgiveness – the one thing that can turn tragedy into growth, unity and healing. Forgiveness – the balm for a wounded nation.

Today, I practice forgiveness…

Step 2 – gratitude

I’m sitting here contemplating two recent posts I read this morning. One was on the Graduate Blogs page posted by Rhoda titled, “I’m too old for this!” http://blogs.uco.edu/graduate

This blog talked about dealing with an uncomfortable situation and how Rhoda handled it. Rhoda ended her blog this way:

“I left the computer lab feeling hassled and confused. However, I learned three important lessons. Stay tuned as I reveal the three important lessons I learnt.”

Needless to say, I’m definitely hooked into finding out what Rhoda learned from her unpleasant encounter.

The other post was about a friend’s experience in rural Maryland while driving to work on back roads. She encountered a small herd of cows wandering the road on their way to ‘somewhere’ as she sat patiently waiting for them to exit the road in search of their destination. Her comment went something like this:

“As their long tongues and big eyes stared at me, I had a strange desire for a hamburger! Thank you, Mr. Cow, for your deliciousness!”

What do these two posts have in common? Gratitude.

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Step 1 – changing from negative to positive

Yesterday, I wrote about Seth Godin’s post on positive and negative thinking. Today, I’m working on how to change my beliefs from negative to positive ones even during a crisis.

The technique I’m using today comes from a tip one of the speakers on PBS’s Fall Festival gave during her talk to women on post-menopausal issues. The technique is to think of something that pulls your heartstrings and makes you just ooh and aah and want to nurture that thing.

Some of the things that make me do that are baby animals, human babies and children. Yours may be seeing a beautiful sunset, reading an inspirational quote or poem or listening to music.

Whatever it is that gives you that sense of wanting to nurture and protect the thing you are oohing and aahing over is what you hold in mind. Now, keep thinking about it until you feel the release in your chest or heart area. When you feel that release, just notice how good your body feels and take a moment to savor the feeling. Each time you feel the tension return, recall the image of that special nurtured object and go through the process of allowing yourself to mentally ooh and aah again and savor that feeling of well-being.

Practicing this first step of changing your mind-set from tense to alert but relaxed and safe will help to set the stage for dealing with the demons you will face in a later step. For now, just continue to practice this mental act of nurturing all day. Then, extend the practice to each day as you awaken or face another stressor. Practicing and recalling the release and sense of safety and well-being is what we are after. Recall the exercise as often as possible whenever you are feeling stressed as well as when you need a little ‘lift’.

Each time you experience this release around the heart area and the feeling that spreads throughout your body of well-being and security, you are releasing powerful healing hormones from your brain and endocrine system. Our goal is to make this a habit to replace the habit of focusing on stressors that cause you to release fight/flight hormones. Those hormones can be harmful when your body experiences them over and over day after day. The healing hormones are actually the janitors and mothers that come in and sweep away the debris left by the stress-related hormones. And everybody can use a good cleanup by a loving mom.

Next step, find your treasure…

The Power of Positive Thought

Just read an amazing post by Seth Godin on his blog titled the “Problem with Positive Thinking”.

Seth says the problem with positive thinking that we don’t think positively more often because it’s harder to think positively than it is to think negatively.

Balloon Juice!

Can you tell I don’t agree with Seth’s premise? Seems to me this is like saying that smoking is just easier to do than not smoking. The logic behind the argument sounds correct but the statement is still based on a flawed assumption that one kind of thinking is more difficult than another because of human nature.

Negative thinking is a learned behavior and has become a habit through a great deal of reinforcement and practice. The pattern has been learned from an early age and is strongly reinforced by family, school and society at large. If the behavior is learned, it can be unlearned (B. F. Skinner and his operant conditioning model of learning theory).

But what really caught my attention was not the postulate that it is easier and more natural to think negatively, but a statement Seth made about the true power of positive thought and I quote,

“Give someone an easy math problem, watch them get it right and then they’ll do better on the ensuing standardized test than someone who just failed a difficult practice test.

No, positive thinking doesn’t allow you to do anything, but it’s been shown over and over again that it improves performance over negative thinking.

Stop a moment and think about that. The person who succeeds on a test question prior to taking a standardized test scores better than “someone who just failed a difficult practice test.

Why? The success and/or failure experience realigns the mind to a ‘set’ of parameters that determines the way it responds to events following the success and/or failure by triggering strong emotional memories of other failure or success events. This change in mind-set realigns the mind to that emotional memory which is based on a belief in probable outcomes.

If the mind has just experienced a success, it realigns with the ‘success set’ parameters and will be primed to use this mind-set to process and understand events until another major shift occurs in the mind-set. Keep in mind that there is a belief upon which any mind-set is based. The belief is probably that success is more plausible than not.

What determines a shift in mind-set? A shift in attention. This shift is preceded by a stimulus that is noticeably different from current ‘background noise’. Perhaps it’s a bright colored insect floating by or the color of the sky, or a startling sound. Anything different from the background noise can ‘grab’ our attention. But the shift occurs when that stimulus is associated with a strong emotion – either positive or negative in nature.

So, when I succeed in solving the easy math problem, I associate that success with other successes I’ve had and I feel more confident about solving the next problem. I believe that I can succeed. But, if I fail a difficult practice test, I then score below my own average score on that same standardized test because I believe I will fail. I’ve now shifted to a failure mind-set. I’m feeling unsure, mentally down about having just failed to answer a difficult question and a little fearful about my ability to solve other problems. Now, I’m more focused on my feelings of sadness, frustration and fear than I am on understanding and solving the next problem. My mind-set  is actually causing me to have a greater chance of failing.

In the first scenario, I’m feeling confident, comfortable and alert and expecting to succeed. In the second, I’m feeling fearful, uncomfortable and unsure of my ability to succeed so I am expecting to fail. I believe that my chance to succeed is lower than my chance to fail.

This leads me back to the positive thinking stuff. If I believe I can succeed, I will succeed more often than not. If I believe I will fail, I will fail more often than not.

So, what I really have to do is change my belief. How can I do that? This is fodder for another blog.