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!”

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.

Continue reading

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.

Weekend results are in

I worked diligently on a few projects around the house and am feeling more than a little smug about having finished a few and started on others.

For starters, I used one of my two ladders to reach the fascia boards on the addon to my house and painted them. Next up, I painted and touched up the trim on the storage building and a couple of the window frames plus painted the front door jamb and painted the inside of my enclosed front porch, then did some furniture rearrangement and general cleanup.

I changed all the curtains in the patio room and the front porch, rearranged some of the items on my small patio. I now have a somewhat private place on my patio to sip my morning coffee and watch the honey bees collect nectar and pollen from the two Rose of Sharon bushes right off my patio.

I’m hoping the yard crew comes early this week since the recent rains have allowed the yard to ‘takeoff’ and grow like it was spring! There is rain in the forecast for Thurs or Friday so that’s why a visit from the yard crew early in the week would be quite helpful.

I now have a smallish pile of items ready to take to Goodwill but am sure this pile will grow over the week and will be more substantial by the end of this week.

I don’t fully comprehend the psychological dynamics that have kicked in here, but I’m feeling more energized and jazzed inspite of my exhaustion from the physical labor that caused me trouble sleeping on Saturday night. Must be something to do with new beginnings and closure. Anyway, the feeling is most gratifying.

I’m reading a book titled “4-Hour-Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. In it, Ferriss challenges us to shake up our ‘accepted but unchallenged’ beliefs about work and time. He’s at it again this morning on his blog. He has taken Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham City Jail and highlighted parts of it to help us overcome our current mindset and start to really question if our way of doing stuff is working for us or not. His blog concerned “How to Respond to Criticism”. I encourage you to take a trek over to his blog and read the entire article. The URL is:

No matter what belief I hold about my ‘status quo’, Ferriss rams right into it and challenges me to start asking if this is ‘good enough’ for me or if there might be a better way to see things. Perhaps, it’s for this reason that I feel so inspired to go even further with my home projects.

I broke through my apathy of self-talk that kept saying, “you’re a woman and women don’t do these things. Men do them.” Going ahead and redefining what activities I’m going to allow myself to do or try to do around the house has given me a sense of empowerment. There are things I can do. There are things I am not willing to ‘bone up’ on and will call in professional help. But, for the time being, I can overcome the excess stuff I’m storing in my garage and use this space for something that works better for me. All because I decided to question the belief that home improvement jobs are not a woman’s domain.

What beliefs are you hanging on to that are holding you back?

Our student worker must have lost his way

I’m finished with my training on WordPress and have begun our student worker on the online video training. He comes in from 12p-2pm and then from 3p-5pm. It’s now about 30 minutes past the time he’s usually here.

He either got lost or someone else in the office grabbed him up and set him to work on another project. He’s a really good kid and is very knowledgeable about Internet things.

Maybe, Monday will be a time I can get him back to the videos. He seems to really enjoy the training since he has no tests to take and the concepts are fun and familiar.

Ahhhh! He’s hear and back at it. Someone else had finally released him back to his training. Hooray!