“I’ve had some amazing, transformational experiences meditating,” an acquaintance recounted during an informal gathering. “Do you meditate?” she asked. All eyes turned to me. Loaded question.
Being steeped and trained in psychology, personal growth and non-conventional healing methods, I felt compelled to nod yes. The problem is there are probably as many types and definitions of meditations as there are types of ‘milk’ in the current food market (almond milk, anyone?) …not to mention there are individual variations of each form of meditation.
Wait – do I meditate?
What is Meditation?
Per my own definition, I have and do meditate. I previously thought there was only one valid form, and I wasn’t sure which kind this woman had referenced during our get-together. The only kind that seemed to matter was where you merge with the divine, experience crazy visions, and achieve vivid epiphanies.
I was convinced I’d had such a vision during a meditation once. After I described my experience to the course mentor to confirm I’d actually had a life-changing vision, she simply told me that I likely had not. I was just entertaining myself, she had informed me. Boo.
Miracles are Real
Isn’t this what meditation, other new age practices, and/or religious customs are supposed to eventually offer? Isn’t this what we hope and wait for? Some important dream that shakes us awake; an opportune, life-changing meeting with some stranger; a voice booming through during a morning yoga routine. Some answer that offers that break.
I once paid a lot of money to hear a famous author speak. I held her in such high regard and couldn’t believe I was going to meet her face-to- face. Following her presentation while waiting in a long line of other hopefuls, I eagerly awaited my turn to receive her message to me, her bit of wisdom written on the title page of her autographed book. I inched up. She greeted me warmly, opened the book to the title page, quickly scribbled something, and sent me on my way. Clutching the book to my chest, I ran to an empty seat in the corner of the room and flipped to the inscription.
“Seek the answers. They lie within.” Double boo.
We want someone to show us. To tell us. To do it for us. To get the results, often without doing the work. We say we want insights, but if we are really honest with ourselves, we really want success, money, notoriety, advantage, reward.
One of my most highly-acclaimed mentors, Caroline Myss, says, “Miracles are real. However, don't expect a miracle to do something you can or should do for yourself. Miracles are not for cowards but for brave and courageous people.”
When We Want Something More
Of course, there are other inner desires that prove to be more meaningful than a life of ease, fame and fortune, and we also can seek them through meditation practices. What are my hidden talents and gifts? How do I harness these skills and fully express them?
But the answers don’t come a-screaming.
They are quiet intuitions, whispers, hunches, callings. And more importantly, we can’t hear this good stuff until we clear the static. The static, the ‘mind chatter,’ conquers the quiet answers to protect ourselves from our own true identity. Ignoring those soft noises puts us at risk for relying on our ego’s input rather than determining what’s genuinely true.
If we want to know and hear, to create and bear our gifts to the world, we must address the static. We must quiet ourselves each evening and ask:
If a mansion is built on rocky foundation without leveling the ground, eventually the floors will sag and the walls will buckle. People are no different. We can’t build an inner spiritual empire while denying our rockiness, our shadows.
If we try to build atop our own rocky ground, we tumble into patterns of protecting, fearing, reacting. We build armor. We look outward; not to give, but to cautiously self-protect. Arms folded defensively against chests prevents true creation or expression—actions directed outward from within.
Knowing, accepting, and managing our shadows takes vigilance and discipline. As Caroline Myss once said, “You have to watch yourself like a hawk.” We must be willing to be rigorously honest with ourselves. To change our behaviors. To see what we do and what we need to do.
There are no short cuts.
These discoveries aren't always easy to find. That's where therapy and coaching boast their worth. A second, non-judgmental perspective is sometimes all it takes to lead you to your true self.
Call us today at 724-387-1650 to set up your appointment with one of our trusted, compassionate therapists or coaches.
Do you often feel burned and blindsided by others’ actions? Are you confused by why you sometimes feel too trustful, while at other times you feel too doubtful or guarded? Are your relationships superficial or short-lived – and is your business or personal life suffering as a result?
Not a lone week passes without a client uttering the “T” word in my office. Trust is crucial for building relationships and living a fulfilling, connected life. Being too trusting without discernment leads to chaotic relationships and disappointment, while not trusting others enough robs you of the joie de vivre and success. Read how to know if you have trust issues, and what to do about it.
1. You trust too easily. Have you ever met someone and thought, “Wow, that person is totally awesome! I can’t wait to jump on board with their plan/path/opportunity! I want to hang out with them now, tonight, tomorrow... forever!” Indeed, people that share our values and exude energy, compassion and motivation enthuse us. Be cautious, though: if you find yourself doling out too much trust, you may suffer from the rose-colored glasses syndrome. While positivity is good, optimism will blind you if you don’t peek over the tops of them specs once in a while. Many see the human race as ‘basically good’ (myself included). But don’t confuse potential with reality. Don’t rush acquaintances into your inner circle. Step into relationships with some degree of healthy skepticism. If it’s a good thing, it’s sustainable.
2. You feel walked on by others. As a result of viewing others with that pink tint of optimism, we place those people on a pedestal, establishing distance and creating a power disequilibrium. Disappointment is inevitable when we develop unrealistic expectations of that person on that perch. Our rosy goggles may hide warning signals about the reality of the person’s behaviors. In psychology, we call this the ‘confirmation bias.’ Your expectations can encourage you to interpret cues in a way that would confirm your beliefs about that person, disregarding cues that contradict your expectations. The end result? You feel duped.
3. You are suspicious of others’ motives. Feeling conned and misled may push you into a phase of total mistrust. Here, you are in protective mode and connect only superficially with others. While this is safe, it is not rewarding. This habit is commonplace for those who have suffered some significant personal violations such as abuse, trauma, or neglect. These incidents can spur a pattern of unbiased, overall mistrust. Those subjected to such problems often have lived in invalidating or dysfunctional environments, especially during vital periods of development. Extreme wrongdoings against the person who was victimized can lead the person to generalize this mistrust to all relationships and situations in their lives.
4. You don’t trust your intuition and judgment. After a while, vacillation between these two extremes—trust and mistrust—may make you dizzy. Perhaps you have never trusted your intuition with people. Your life experiences (especially in the early years) and how you coped with them (i.e. denial, minimizing, withdrawing) determine how well you trust yourself and how you learn to see the world. You may have grown up with your perceptions being discounted or dismissed in some way, diminishing your ability to trust those insights.
5. You think or act in extremes. When you lose your ability to trust your judgment and perceptions, you probably think in all-or-none terms. If you find yourself saying or thinking these words often, you are black-and-white thinker:
The Good News:
Be assured that trust issues can be broken, once and for all. Here are just a few tips:
- Diane Dean, RN-BC, LPC, CEG
Just before I wrote this, I took a nap. A two-hour nap. Mid-afternoon on a weekday. While completing this blog was at the top of my to-do list, I first showered despite plans to exercise later, I called my semi-retired mom who’s free to chat anytime, I checked Facebook for “new stories” six times. And although I vetoed it, I even considered swabbing out the inside of my ancient Keurig with cotton and soapy water. Seriously.
The million and a half views of Tim Urban’s most recent video on procrastination illustrates how many people are trying to overcome this productivity buster. In so many words, Tim says if you procrastinate, you're lazy. Maybe that's true. But I think there’s a bit more to it than that. Why else do we procrastinate finishing (or even starting) tasks?
1. We are overwhelmed.
At least once a year, I peek through my fingers at the stray tools, yard sale ‘gems’ and empty, crumpled boxes littering my garage, all of which leaves no room for my car. Every time, I ritually refuse to start organizing the collection of junk and ‘necessities’, and instead I retreat to the comfort of my couch.
“Not today,” I convince myself.
Feeling overwhelmed can arise for a number of reasons, including:
For many years I closed the garage door vowing to do the job the following week, only to repeat that promise for weeks on end. The mishap? I thought I had to do it all in one swoop. Sometimes we may also have grandiose expectations for the outcome of the project as well – like organizing and labeling each tool or container – that are too lofty for our natural strengths and tendencies.
Lack of resources or skills
We all have limitations. Organizing is really not my forte. I can’t identify half the tools, gadgets or cords in my garage, nor any of their uses. I don’t know how to erect a utility shelf, nor hang shelving on the wall to better organize. If I allow it, I can feel defeated before I even start.
We really don’t fear or dislike activities themselves, we dislike the emotions they bring (boredom, desire to do something easier or more exciting, sadness over sentimental items or stress about decisions to pitch or keep things). Dodging the task allows us to escape the emotions the task will bring.
2. We don’t really want what we say we do, or we don’t want it badly enough.
This is a very common reason for untouched task lists.
I’ve discussed ‘shoulds’ before (check out my blogs Can-Do Versus Want-To and 5 Steps to Victory in 2016!). Sometimes our task lists are filled with perceived obligations, such as paying bills and completing school papers. These closely do mimic ‘shoulds’, at least if we want to retain good credit and graduate college. Other ‘shoulds’, however, are disguised as necessary tasks, crafted from erroneous beliefs left floating in our subconscious.
For many years, I’d spent a good part of Saturday avoiding cleaning my house, only for dinnertime to arrive with the house chores still untouched. Although I like clean space, I personally abhor cleaning. Somehow I’d woven the societal belief that “moms should be domestic” into my mind. That false statement conflicted with my desire to do anything else but clean, keeping me miserable and immobile.
Lack of pain
We like an idea, but we don’t want the outcome badly enough to put in the amount of effort it takes to get the job done. Perhaps not completing the task or reaching a goal doesn't negatively affect us enough to boost motivation. Many people say they want to lose weight, yet they are not willing to invest the time to plan meals and exercise regularly nor the energy to forgo temptations. The desire is more of a wish or a hope than a commitment.
Lack of a vision
Sometimes we can’t see beyond the task. We forget to tie our efforts with our vision for what our efforts will bring. Having a vision – the ‘why’ of completion of your task – pulls you through the tough stuff while you work toward your desired outcome.
3. We are just plain pooped out.
At times, procrastination may have nothing to do with the task at hand. Instead, it comes as a result of being burned out from other things happening in life, such as poor health, overworking, a trying relationship, financial strain, or a combination of such. Thoughts, emotions, and physical vulnerabilities can consume enormous amounts of energy. Considering we only have some much energy to dedicate to each day, it's no wonder we put off some tasks to another day.
4. We are waiting for the motivation.
“When I have more energy, I’ll take a walk.”
Sound familiar? Many times we try to wait out our procrastination. Problem is that we could turn grey waiting for that motivation to round the corner. A research-supported concept called ‘behavioral activation‘ suggests that waiting to feel motivated in order to begin our task rarely works.
5. We are actually being productive...and we just don’t know it.
Some people are mental planners (yours truly), putting a lot of thoughtful preparation into a task well before physically tackling the task itself. For instance, while I typically buy gifts last minute, I often research and ponder the perfect gift for weeks. Same can go with project planning. Don’t discount this mental planning; you're still progressing towards your goal. You just need to decide when mental planning no longer offers progression.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Rest assured, while recognizing why you're procrastinating, you can overcome your procrastination by taking a few extra precautions.
1. Break down large tasks.
I eventually separated my garage into four areas and completed the entire task in four weeks, one area at a time. Your best bet? Attack and complete the smallest steps first, and actually quit (your reward) when you’ve reached your goal...don’t keep going.
2. Pair undesired with desired activities.
Reward yourself for finishing undesirable tasks. Just be certain it isn’t something that will sabotage your efforts (ie. rewarding with food for a weight loss goal).
If you just don’t like the task, tap into your problem-solving mode and find another way to get it done. Swap chores with other family members or roommates, or do what I did --- write a check. Once I unearthed my belief about needing to be domestic and chucked it, I eventually paid someone to clean my house, which freed up my Saturdays.
4. Identify and eliminate energy zappers.
Ask yourself what’s draining you. A relationship? A habit? A situation? Something from your past that needs reconciled? Limiting beliefs? Toxic emotions? Make a list. Eliminate your top three, one at a time, over three months.
5. Ask yourself why you want it.
Create a vision for the end result and keep the payoff in mind while you are completing what you committed to. If you find you really don’t want it (i.e., It’s a 'should'), let it go.
6. Get into action.
Instead of waiting for motivation, get active and watch the motivation follow. For instance, if you don’t feel like going to the gym, instead of planting your butt on your couch, make an agreement with yourself to put on your work-out clothes, get in your car, and drive half way there. Chances are good you’ll keep going.
7. Befriend your emotions.
Again, it is not the situations that we dislike, it’s the emotions that the situations bring. Emotions never kill anyone. Be willing to experience these emotions and approach.
All of these actions do take more effort than their counterpart – doing nothing. From this perspective, perhaps Tim Urban is right. The problem isn’t really that sink full of dishes or that messy closet (although there is something to be said about organized space creating an organized life). It’s the time and energy wasted on avoiding those tasks that could be better spent creating your dreams. Or when you procrastinate those very activities aligned with creating the life that you want. That’s the problem.
Or, as Pablo Picasso said, “Only put off to tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
Even with these tips on hand, sometimes it can be difficult to decide where to begin. If you're still struggling with finding the first step, give me a call at 724-387-1650. My coaching and counseling services specifically aim to help people obtain sustainable change! Contact our office to set up a free consultation.
- Diane Dean, RN-BC, LPC, CEG
I was floating on a ‘self-gratification’ binge following a difficult divorce when my trusted self-help guru burst my bubble:
“No one owes you anything. Not your mother. Not your spouse. Not your best friend. Not your employer. No one. Nothing,” she scolded.
My Mona Lisa smile melted into American Gothic-farmer serious. What?! Tell me it’s not so… Deserve is a dirty word. I learned this the hard way.
'Deserve' through Entitlement
Entitlement implies that we should get or have something. Why? According to whom? In our Western world we’re prone to thinking by cause and effect. For instance:
Entitlement creates distance and fosters suffering.
'Deserve' through Victimization
Deserve is victim language. It implies that someone is withholding something from you. In this case, ‘deserve’ is used on a more personal level:
'Deserve' as a victim implies there’s a problem, a deficit.
My hand sprung into the air before she had finished the question. “You want to take the lead on this, Diane?” my supervisor asked. My head jounced like a bobble head on the dash of a car navigating cobblestone. “Yes,” I affirmed. My voice was emphatic. But my stomach said otherwise. My ‘automatic yes-ness’ had prevailed. Yet. Again. Ugh.
A new year brings opportunity to determine the direction that the next few weeks or months will take. What remains crucial, however, is deciding what question is captaining the course.
The question “Can I do that?” often elicits an unequivocal “Yes!” if we are relatively capable, intelligent individuals. Yet, “Do I want to do that?” remains the far more vital question when it comes to building a fulfilling life.
So we must ask ourselves: What drives the direction of our course? When we make decisions from a place of ‘can do’, we are making decisions from a place of fear. Many of us have an (often subconscious) need to be seen as good, and a great desire to be liked. We may have developed the (also subconscious) belief that “I am not good enough,” or “I am incapable,” that keeps us trying to prove to ourselves and others that we indeed are adept. Building a life on a list of ‘cans’, however, keeps us distracted from our true purpose, not to mention encourages exhaustion and being unfocused.
Yes, there IS a time to challenge your limitations—push your limits, if you will, by consciously experimenting with pressing your perceived limitations. But not on a fear-based, need-driven whim.
Acting from a place of passion, or ‘want to’ keeps us piloting a path of creativity--developing what we really want, all while harboring faith that we are living our life with integrity, aligning our actions with our true callings and values.
As you resolve to live a more fulfilling life at the start of this year, ask yourself
NOT questions with victim language:
Ask the question, “What do I want?” then listen.
Ask the question, “Do I want to do this?” when tempted to say yes because you can.
In the interim? I personally have been considering investing in one of those trendy, cozy knitted body socks to keep my arms at my side during meetings that tempt me to extend my ‘goodwill’ by raising my hand to volunteer. Or perhaps I could try just holding my breath and counting to ten.
Have you set your New Year's resolutions yet? Are they goals you want to achieve, or tasks you "should" complete? Let yourself be heard in the comments below!
Diane Dean is a coach, counselor and business leader dedicated to supporting others to reach their fullest potential. She is the owner of Epiphany! Counseling and Wellness Center located in Murrysville, PA. Her passion is to support professionals to experience deep satisfaction and prosperity from their daily work and profound contentment in their personal lives, so they can truly capture the best of both worlds.