Month: January 2008

Why A Strong Foundation Is Essential To Growth (And How To Build One)

Businesses, relationships, or anything that you want to grow, or build, are based upon a foundation.  It is no different when it comes to trying to build your self, when you are seeking personal growth.

The foundation for anything is the core platform upon which everything else involved rests… if it fails, the rest will come crashing down as well.  If you want to avoid that, then it is essential that you understand what that foundation consists of, what strengthens it and what weakens it, so that you can ensure it is strong enough to support what you are building.

The foundation of a business will depend somewhat upon the business, although some things are common to all businesses, such as understanding what you’re truly selling, what your client wants, and similar things.  Relationships have a foundation built upon trust, shared experiences, and shared interests (whether you’re referring to romantic, friendly, or business).

Everything you do in your life, however, has another foundation, a layer beneath… your foundation for your self.  Everything in your life is affected by it, from the clothes you wear to the food you eat to the friends you make to the job (or business) from which you make money.  It is, essentially, a foundation for your other foundations.

When you think of it like that, you can see just how important it is that you not neglect it.  Still, the vast majority of people never really consciously attempt to build or strengthen their foundation of self.

If you have gotten this far, you have already taken the first step… the first step is to become aware of that very foundation.

Building A Strong Foundation

  1. Evaluate Your Foundation’s Current State

    The first thing that you need to do is determine the current state of your foundation.  You need a general picture of where you are before you begin working on it.

    Are you sick a lot?  Do you feel stressed out or overwhelmed often?  Do regularly feel drained, or even depressed?  Do you have sudden bursts of anger completely out of proportion to the situation?

    All of those are signs that your foundation has weakened.

  2. Begin At The Bottom

    When reinforcing a foundation, it’s essential to start at the bottom and build your way up… you don’t want a weakness beneath you to undo the work that you are doing.  The very bottom of the foundation for your self consists of four things, three physical and one mental/emotional/spiritual.

    The physical bases are your eating, your sleeping, and your activity level (not necessarily in that order).  If you make changes in any of those three things, you will see that change reflected in the others… if you improve your eating, you will tend to sleep better, and have more energy for your activities.  If you increase your activity (provided it’s not just before bed time), your body will actually change what it wants to consume to healthier products, and you will sleep better.  If you get the right amount of sleep (which may be more or less than you get now… some people tend to oversleep), that also changes which food your body wants and your energy levels.

    The foundational base that covers the rest of you (your mind, emotions, and spirit), is quiet time to yourself.  By quiet time, I mean time when you are not seeking things to do to distract you, when other people are not interrupting you, and in general, your mind is not needed for anything.  That allows the constant chatter and activity of your conscious mind to fade, allowing the rest of you to use some of your resources for whatever it is they need… mostly, in my experience, resting and healing.

  3. Eliminate Ongoing Actions That Weaken Your Foundation

    A major part of building a strong foundation has to be eliminating things that damage and weaken it.  Again, there are both physical and non-physical things that harm it, but this time the non-physical are limited to one part of you… your conscious mind.

    Physically, you can eliminate things like eating a lot of sugar or consuming a lot of caffeine.  You can also work on bad posture… the power of posture is extraordinarily under-rated.  You can eliminate bad sleeping habits, like random times for going to sleep, or too much mental stimulation late at night.

    There are many mental things that may need to be let go, too… things like blame (whether for yourself or others), anger, and guilt.  Most of all, you need to stop building more mental walls… those walls form the basis of your own personal prison, trapping in pain and draining your energy.

    These are not the only actions that might weaken your foundation, but they are a good target for a place to start.

  4. Begin Actions That Strengthen The Foundation

    There are actions that strengthen your foundation, as well, and they are mostly a mirror image of those that weaken it.  That is, instead of eliminating unhealthy food, you can add healthy food… you can establish good sleeping habits like a regular schedule, and consciously maintain the body language and posture that strengthens what you want to communicate.

    Mentally, the action that strengthens your foundation the most, by far, is tearing down the walls you have built up to keep others out and your self in.  Each wall you eliminate brings healing and reduces your overall burden of pain, giving you more energy for any other activity that you choose (including tearing down more walls).  You’ll also find your existing relationships growing stronger and new relationships forming easier as you eliminate the barriers that you have previously used to keep others away.

  5. Maintain Awareness

    Finally, in order to have a strong foundation, you have to maintain a certain level of awareness, so that you can eliminate any new habits that you pick up that weaken it, as well as find new actions to strengthen it.  You don’t have to be constantly vigilant (which will actually weaken it… you need your rest mentally as well as physically), but you do need to avoid letting it slip back to a subconscious level.

One of the great things about working on building a strong foundation is that the change is almost immediately noticeable, and builds quickly.  One of the bad things is that it’s easy to get comfortable with the fact that you have a strong foundation, and start slipping back into old habits (or forming new ones) that weaken it.

If you maintain your conscious awareness of it, though, you’re very likely to see major positive changes in your life.  This applies to nearly all areas… career, relationships, happiness, etc.  It also has a strong likelihood of making positive changes in a way you might not expect… other people who are around you are likely to see the change in you and begin to change in a positive way themselves.

On a personal note, I am currently rebuilding my own foundation… I had let myself go in many areas after my grandma (who I was close to) died, and I can feel the change in everything about me all day, every day.  It really is just amazing how fast and drastic the change can be.

PS – My birthday is coming up soon, and if you’re feeling in the giving mood, you can spread the word about this website, telling anyone you know who might be interested, and give me a present I’d really love:  1,000 subscribers!

 

How To Make Your Conscious Mind Stop Sabotaging You

Your conscious mind tries to pretend that it is all of you, that it is what defines you.  It isn’t… it’s just the part with the loudest voice, drowning out the rest.

Your conscious mind not only isn’t “you”, it doesn’t even follow your best interests.  It’s as likely to sabotage you as to help you, misleading you and telling you to do things that deeper down you know aren’t true.

It tells you things like you’re not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough.  It tells you not to try because you might fail.  It even tells you not to do something just because it might be hard.

It tells you these things over and over again, at a high mental volume, drowning out the rest of you, your body, emotions, and spirit.  Many times these other parts of you just give up and go along with your conscious mind because they can’t get a word in edgewise.

Fortunately, your conscious mind doesn’t have infinite energy, and you can use that against it.  One of the best ways do that by going to a place where it doesn’t have fresh input (a nice quiet place where everything is pretty much still, or at least has no call for your attention) and letting it talk itself out.  Eventually, with a lack of anything new to talk about, it winds down and pretty much shuts up.

It’s amazing how much of a relief it is to have your conscious mind shut up, so that the rest of you can actually communicate, like leaving a huge crowd that’s packed too tightly… you don’t even notice how much it affects you until you feel its absence.  All of a sudden the rest of you starts relaxing and letting go, freeing up resources for healing physically and emotionally.

Your spirit gets to rest and recharge, replenishing its energy.  Old mental wounds start closing and healing while your body cleans out the toxins it has built up.  If you’ve never been there before, or if it has been a long time, the difference can be absolutely amazing, making you wonder why in the world you waited so long.

There are other ways to get your conscious mind out of the way, to make it stop talking… they mostly involve strong focus, especially on something that you are passionate about.  Some people call that kind of focus being in the zone, or in the flow.  While you’re there, everything else just sort of fades away, keeping your conscious mind from receiving new input, like the quietness above.

You can also intentionally listen to one of the other parts of you, which has a similar effect… exercising makes you listen to your body, meditation and prayer can help you listen to your spirit, and loving contact can help you listen to your emotions.  Any of these things brings relief to all of you… pretty much anything that takes your conscious mind out of the picture allows the rest of you to rest, heal, and do what it needs to do.

The good thing is that you can train your conscious mind to be quieter, to listen more to the rest of you… the more you do any of the things listed above, the more you are training your consciousness to stop promoting itself at the expense of the whole.  Doing so generally results in improvements in all areas of your life, leading to a happier, more satisfied existence.

So, knowing that the things I mentioned (exercise, mediation and prayer, loving contact) are very general categories of things, do any of you have any specific practices that help more than others?  For me it’s definitely exercise (followed by a nice relaxing shower) and quiet time (which is sometimes the previously mentioned shower)… how about you?

Understanding The Conscious Mind’s Role In Happiness

The conscious mind is a funny thing… it’s essentially a filter for the world around you, allowing you to concentrate your resources on a much smaller piece of, well, everything.  In spite of this, your conscious mind fools itself into thinking that it IS the whole thing, all of you.

In reality, there are at least three other major pieces of who you are:  your spirit (or subconscious, for the more scientifically minded), your body, and your emotions.  All four pieces are intertwined… a shift in any of them can produce a noticeable effect in any, or all, of the others.

Of these four, your spirit and your mind (the conscious part of it) are the strongest, with the other two often being used to send messages between them.  When the spirit and mind are in disagreement, the other two can become chaotic, causing pain and distress.

You can see this when the path you are choosing to follow in any area of life conflicts with what it is that you really want.  That holds true for any area that you choose, from your relationship to your career.

When you move in a direction other than what you really want, at the deepest levels, it sucks up your energy… it’s like swimming against the tide:  you can do it, but it’s very draining, and eventually you run out of energy.  When you move in the direction of the current (your deepest self), however, it becomes very easy, freeing up that energy for whatever else needs it.

For example, if you have a job as a computer programmer, but what you really want to do is write fiction, that job will slowly drain you, even if you are very good at it, and well paid.  If, however, you were to find a job where you could write fiction, even if it didn’t pay as much, you would be considerably happier, with far more mental energy.

Relationships can work in the same way… if you are struggling and fighting to make your relationship be the way that your conscious mind says that it should be, it can leave you feeling very tired mentally.  If, on the other hand, you stop worrying about what it should be, and start focusing on, and expanding, the good parts of what it actually is, the speed with which your relationship and your mental state improve can be nothing short of amazing.

The drain of following your conscious mind when it conflicts with your spirit shows up in your body as stress and its bad effects, like headaches, stomach problems, and even just getting sick easier.  When it comes to emotions, you can recognize it by the balance of negative emotions to positive emotions… the more you fight your self, the more negative emotions you will experience.

The natural state of our emotions is positive.  It is only when we try to fight ourselves, to do something that we “should” do, instead of something that is right for us, that this positive emotional energy drains away, leaving room for negative feelings and, ultimately, no feelings at all.

It is both harder and easier than you might think to stop doing what you “should” do to focus on what is actually right for you.  It’s harder if you are like most people and have built up a habit over your entire lifetime of doing what you “should” do, and breaking a habit that strong is difficult… but it’s easier than you might think to maintain because you see and feel the difference so dramatically and so quickly.

So, three quick steps for bringing your conscious mind back into step with your deeper self, and thereby bringing more happiness:

  1. Figure Out Who You Are Beneath The Surface

    The first step is to figure out what part of what you’re doing is “should”.  In order to do that, you’re going to have to figure out who you really are, deep down… you might want to start by reading this article about being who you choose to be and this one about breaking down walls to let your deeper self out.

  2. Determine What You Really Want

    Once you figure out who you are, the next step is to figure out what it is that you really want to do, what it is that you are passionate about… your calling.

  3. Gather Your Courage And Take A Step On Your New Path

    Once you know what it is that you want, what fires up your passion, the next step is, well, to take a step along that path… but be careful that you don’t become too goal focused, or you can lose a lot of your fire.

Even after you make the choice to change, and start doing so, there may be points where start to slip back into the old way of doing things, worrying too much about should… that’s quite normal.  When you realize you’ve done so, just pick yourself back up and let should go again

PS – Thank you all for the time and attention you have given me… I know how valuable they are.  I really appreciate you spending the time to read my articles, and especially when you go through the trouble to let me know your thoughts, whether in the comments, by reviewing the article on StumbleUpon, or by email… thank you!

How To Get Beyond Feeling Empty Inside

How deeply inside is your true self, the way you really think and feel hiding?  Do you let others beneath the surface, or do you have carefully crafted walls to keep them out?  Do you let others form relationships with the real you, or just a persona?

A persona is a person that you pretend to be that is not really you, much like a spy in the movies, except for most people the persona consists of faking their personality, rather than their passport.

If you pretend that you are happy when you are not, because that’s the way you are “supposed to be”, that is part of a persona.  If you fake interest in something that you really couldn’t care less about, that is part of a persona.  If you dress or act a certain way just to “fit in”, that’s part of a persona as well.

Virtually everyone has a persona… most people have more than one.  They may have one for their spouse, one for their children, one for their friends, and one for their coworkers… or they may even have more than one for some of those categories, like different groups of friends, or boss versus peer.

Most people even have at least one persona for themselves, trying to fool even the one putting on the act.  And your conscious mind can be fooled… you can completely convince it that you are someone other than who you really are.  Your subconscious, on the other hand, cannot be fooled… it’s the one that is projecting the persona for your conscious mind.

These personas are intended for one thing, and one thing only… to keep the target from getting to the deeper part of who you are.  The deeper part of who you are is where you are vulnerable, without your customary mental armor.  It’s where you feel mental pain without the aid of a painkiller.

We see this part of us as the weak part, since it is vulnerable to pain.  Because we see it as weak, and because it is our instinct to protect our weak spots, we bury it under layers and layers of mental armor, walls upon walls to keep others out.  And then, because it is where we feel pain, we build walls to keep ourselves out, too.

That deep, vulnerable part of us, though, isn’t our source of weakness… it is our source of strength.  It is where the strength to live our ordinary, day to day lives originates.  It is where mental healing comes from… the pain that we feel is caused by the process of healing, just like muscles ache when you are healing from exercise.

When we wall it off, we stop the pain, at least somewhat, because we stop the healing… but the wound is still there, weakening us, draining our energy.  Each of these wounds that we wall off drains a little more of the energy we need to heal and to go on with life, until we reach the point where our strength is failing.

When we reach that point, we no longer have the strength to maintain all of those walls… so one or more of them is going to come crashing down, bringing forth the pain it was holding back, but also the healing that is the source of that pain.  Sometimes we just heal enough to rebuild the wall… other times we let that wall stay broken, and have a little energy back to get back to living.  Sometimes we can even take that lesson and turn it on our other walls, breaking them down and letting loose the pain and the healing.

And, unfortunately, sometimes people let the pain drain the last bit of their energy and lose themselves in insanity or death.

You don’t have to let things get to that point, though, the point of failure.  You can, instead, choose to take a good look at yourself, and choose parts of the persona you use on yourself to let go.  You can choose to face some of the pain that you have walled away, letting the pain and the healing wash over you.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing… you can choose to face the pain one piece at a time.  You can, if you choose, start with the smallest things first, or you may dive right in and start breaking down the oldest and thickest walls… the ones that hide the real, full power pain, the kind that leaves you feeling raw after it passes.

Each wall you break down, each pain that you face, brings hurt, yes, but healing also.  This healing is no more instantaneous than that of sore muscles after a hard work-out, though… you’re going to have to allow yourself time to rest, and not expect an instant transformation from the depths of pain and suffering to zen-like calm and enlightenment.  It takes time… you can notice a difference very quickly, but it will take some time, even up to years or decades, to overcome everything.

You have a choice, when you’re at that low point, of living in constant pain (and the negative emotions that come with it) that flares up at unpredictable times, causing chaos in your life, or opening yourself up to the pain directly and allowing the healing you have walled off with it to have its effect.

It’s a lot tougher choice than it might seem… you’ve mostly grown used to the way things are, and are comfortable with it, knowing what to expect, even if it is unpleasant.  The stuff that is buried behind walls, on the other hand, is less familiar and more scary, especially because what you DO know is that it is going to bring that dull, constant ache up into your consciousness, where it expands to its full self… you know the pain is there, and are likely uncertain of the healing, unless you have let things go, broken down your walls, before.

How do you do it?  How do you let go, and let the pain come, so that you can heal?  People can deal with things in different ways, but one thing that is almost always effective is internal quiet.  It has worked for me, and for everyone I know that has tried it… but some people I know have refused to do it because they are too afraid of the pain that they know will come.

Don’t be afraid… even though it hurts when you let it out, that pain is necessary to let the healing begin.  Gather your courage, and let go… oddly enough, letting go is how you become anchored.

4 Keys To Making Your Dreams Come True

Everyone has their own dreams… mine is to be supported by my writing.  Yours may be something completely different… it may be to travel the world, be a professional chef, or something else.  You probably even have more than one dream… I wouldn’t mind traveling the world, too.

There are a lot of individual steps to making your dream come true, of course, but those will vary depending upon what your specific dream happens to be.  There are four key components, however, that are part of making any dream come true.

These four things will help you to make your dream real, and will help you with most other aspects of your life at the same time.  They may come naturally to you, or you may have to work at adopting them, but once they become part of the way you approach the world, you will notice that things just start happening more easily.

So, on to the actual list…

How To Make Your Dreams Come True

  1. Sharing

    The first key is to share your dreams with others.  This helps to make it more real and more conscious for you, making you more likely to notice opportunities related to it.  It also helps to remind you that it is there, and that it is something you are working toward… so that you don’t let your dreams die.

    Besides helping you to be more conscious of it, sharing your dreams with someone can also make them feel included in that dream, making them far more likely to wantto help you achieve it.  It makes them feel that by helping you, they are helping something that they are part of succeed, like they have partial ownership.  How much more likely would that make you to help someone that you know?

    And just think, even if someone likes you for other reasons and would be more than willing to help you, they can only do so by accident if they don’t know what it is that you want.  When you do open up and share your dreams with them, they can actively do things to give you a helping hand.

  2. Networking

    Building on the first key, the second key is networking (and not the kind dealing with computers).  Networking refers to keeping in contact with people that you meet, people with whom you connect.  When you stay in contact, and check in on them from time to time, you keep that connection alive and you keep yourself in their thoughts, if something were to come up that they relate to you.

    For instance, with my particular dream, if I were to stay in contact with someone, and they happened to make friends with someone high up at a magazine or newspaper, they might suggest to that person that they read my articles, or even directly that they should consider having me write columns for their publication.  If I hadn’t stayed in contact, then that person likely wouldn’t have thought of me, and so that opportunity would never have come along.

    Here’s my confession:  This is my weak point.  I moved around a lot as a child, and I developed the habit of letting people go easily.  This is a place where putting some time and energy into changing myself would probably really pay off.

  3. Persistence

    The third key to making your dreams come true is persistence… most likely it will take a fair amount of time to make your really big dreams come true.  You will need to have the persistence to see you through until that time, persistence in sharing your dreams, networking, openness… and persistence in just continuing through life’s ongoing costs and opportunities until you make it through.

    Keep in mind, though, that there is a difference between persistence and stubbornness… don’t just keep doing something that doesn’t work without a reason to believe something will change.  Persistence is continuing in spite of obstacles, not just continuing blindly.

  4. Openness

    The final key is openness… being open to seeing opportunities that might take you in the general direction of your dreams, without being on the direct path.  This might be something like me going to a conference for authors and publishers, where I might meet someone who could eventually help me to get a deal to write a book, or a syndicated column.

    It might also be being open to making a friend somewhere that you might not ordinarily look for one… perhaps when you meet, in passing, a friend of a friend, or someone from your significant other’s family.  It might be that you are open to everyone, and are friendly to someone at a key moment in their life, and that person might eventually be the person who brings your dream to you.

    It might also be that you help someone achieve their own dream, without looking for anything in particular in return… just being open to whatever might come your way.

    Whatever life may throw your way, when you close up, you cut off opportunities for your dreams to come true.  It is natural to mentally curl up and try to protect the injured part of you, but that reaction is more often harmful than helpful over the long run.

If you can learn these things, or if they come naturally to you, you’ll likely find success in whatever it is that you do.  They don’t guarantee instant success, the instant fulfillment of all your dreams… they provide the tools to build the framework upon which success hangs, the ladder to your dreams.

It is relatively rare for someone to have all four of these attributes naturally… mostly you have at least one of the areas listed above where you are weak.  Fortunately, however, you can learn them, and make them part of who you are.  If you work at it hard enough and long enough, you can make them nearly as instinctive as someone who DOES have them naturally.

My weakness, as I said above, is networking… it simply doesn’t come naturally for me.  I’m working on it, and intend to keep working on it, but it’s something I have to consciously work on right now… hopefully I’m persistent enough to make it more natural.

What about you?  What’s your weakness?

How To Get Your Step-Son (Or Daughter) To Like You – Reader Questions

Question:

I’ve been divorced 5 years, and in that time my daughters have never liked any of the girls I’ve dated.  I have been dating my current girlfriend for a year, and we are getting serious, but they still won’t accept her.  Sometimes they are actually rude to her.

She is hesitant to take it to the “next level” because of my daughters.  What can I say to them to make them understand without them thinking that I’m putting her above them?

Answer:

Note – I’m going to answer a slightly different question, “How do I get my step-son (or daughter) to like me?”, because it’s a little more general use to my readers, and the solution is the same in both cases.

Introduction – Connections As The Basis Of Relationships

Relationships are all about connections… your connections to other people.  This is true regardless of your age, whether you’re an infant or approaching your 100th birthday.

These connections are in a constant state of change, growing stronger and weaker from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour.  In general, however, these changes are within a certain range… a little bit up here, a little bit down there, but all fairly consistent.

As time goes by, and these connections exist for a longer time, we start to rely on them, even to the point of basing our perception of how the world is on them.  The longer they are around, the more “that’s the way the world is” they become.

The Problem – Your Step-Son (Or Daughter) Blames You

So what happens when you introduce a new person into the mix and there is a sudden, and drastic change in those connections?  It feels like your whole world has come unanchored, spinning around with no sense of up or down… everything is in flux.

That’s not a comfortable state to be in regardless of whether you’re a child or an adult.  It’s very hard to quickly and easily accept this new person, and very easy to blame them and resent them for any disruption in your life, particularly anything bad.

Most of this happens at a subconscious level, however, and the people affected may not even know why they feel the way they do… they just know that they don’t like the “intruder” who caused all this chaos.

The Solution – How To Connect (And Get Them To Like You)

When you do know why, however (as you do now), it provides you with the opportunity to consciously work to make it better.  Happily, it’s actually actually even pretty easy to do, though not necessarily quick.

You can get started by establishing new patterns, new traditions, that involve all of you such as having a picnic every Sunday or eating dinner out each Friday as a family.  This allows you to establish new connections in the context of ones they already know, and also to start building shared experiences, which are key components of your connections to other people.

Once you have those connections established in regards to the whole family, you can work on building your own unique connection, one that is just between the two of you.  You do this, again, by building shared experiences… go somewhere together, just the two of you, and do something you both like, particularly if it’s something new to one or both of you.

Conclusion

The strength of your connection with someone is very strongly related to your shared experiences, and then with shared interests.  Shared interests are hard to improve, other than by being open… it’s quite difficult to make yourself truly interested in something if you aren’t that way from the beginning, except by being open to seeing it from a different angle where there might be something that is of interest to you.

Shared experiences, on the other hand, are very easy to build up… just do things together, and be focused on the moment while you’re doing them.  That last part is important… if you are thinking about what you are going to do afterward, or making a mental to-do list, then you’ll lose the majority of the benefit, and sometimes even turn it into a net negative.  So just relax, and enjoy your time together, getting to know each other and building a deeper connection.

PS – If you are in a situation similar to the actual reader who sent the question, all you have to do is apply this to your girlfriend (or boyfriend)… start doing things all together, and then encourage them to do things individually with your children, once the relationship seems comfortable enough.

 

How To Reach Your Potential – Break Down Your Walls

Who we are, or at least who we think we are, rests in large part upon the walls that we have built inside ourselves.  These walls are our self-defined limits, constraints on our own potential put that we inflict on ourselves.

We’re not really aware of that when we build them, though… we build them for other reasons, not even recognizing how much we are limiting ourselves.  Eventually we even forget that there is a wall that we built… we just perceive it as part of our natural environment, something that has always been there.

We build these walls to shelter our inner, vulnerable self.  We build them to provide safety, safety from pain, safety from risk.  We build them to keep others out, so that they can’t see our weaknesses.

Unfortunately, they don’t truly work the way we intend.  They block pain… but only from our conscious mind.  Our subconscious mind still feels it, and reacts to it… we just don’t know where that reaction originates.  Since we don’t know why we do something, we can’t control it… we can’t fix the cause if we don’t know what it is.

It does protect us from risk, but when building our walls we seldom consider the fact that reward is generally closely related to risk, meaning that if we experience no risk, we experience no reward.  If we did consider it, we might be less likely to build them… knowing that we are limiting our future potential.

Walls also keep others away… but they do so by walling your self off from the world.  As you build more walls, the part of the world that you can see keeps shrinking.  Eventually, if you build enough, you can’t see anything but your self… and that’s an awfully lonely place to be.

When people are in prison for a long time… they become “institutionalized”, used to walls around you all the time and strict limits on their potential.  When they get out, they are uncomfortable and disoriented.  The outside world is such a chaotic place, filled with so much activity.

Mental walls work the same way… you are, essentially, building your own prison.  As you spend more time in your prison, you become more comfortable with your limits, with your smaller version of the world, and the world outside your prison seems more and more scary.

That, in turn, makes you build your walls thicker and higher, to keep that world away.  Sometimes something comes along, or more to the point someone, that makes you open your walls a little bit.  You let them inside the outer walls of your prison, to continue our analogy, but you don’t let them past the visitor area.  This could be a spouse or child, or even a true friend.

If that person hurts you, which is essentially a given when you are around someone enough, that can reinforce your fear, and cause you to push them back outside your outer walls, which you then proceed to build yet higher.  This walls you in even further away from any opportunities in the outside world, in fear that they might turn out to bring pain.

Within your own prison, there is no parole, and you are serving a life sentence.  The only way out, long term, is to break down the walls that make up the prison.

This is a very uncomfortable thought for many, perhaps most, people.  That’s because they look at it as all or nothing… essentially you don’t change anything, or you have to let go of all your walls.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, if you attempt to do it that way, you’re very likely to fail to make your freedom permanent.  It’s like digging a tunnel to escape your prison… you may escape, but if they catch you, they’ll put you back inside, in a different cell, probably one that’s much harder to escape.

You can, however, break down your walls a little bit at a time.  You can make the conscious decision to tear down individual walls, releasing individual pains and fears.  When you release them, you’ll have to face them, but once you face them and accept them, they lose their power and depart.

As each wall crumbles, you grow stronger… less of your time and energy is spent maintaining your prison, which leaves more available for tearing down more walls, and reaching for outside opportunities.

That effect snowballs, too… as you break down each wall, it adds to the energy you have available to break down the next.  That makes it easier and easier to do… you build up momentum, and after a while you may find that some walls are falling apart on their own, without you even having to make a conscious effort.

The sense of openness and freedom that you experience as you do this can be both exhilarating and uncomfortable.  The strength of those feelings is directly related to how fast you’re moving in tearing down the walls… that’s why I recommend that you start slowly:  you can find a speed where the change is slow enough for you to handle.

Each wall that you break down is one less restriction on your self, one less limit to your potential.  Even very early in the process you can feel this, and it is often the motivation to continue.

There’s nothing like that first sight of the outside world, that moment when you can see just how much potential you really have.  It’s scary, exhilarating, and powerful, like the moment on a roller coaster when you’re just starting a free fall.

If it doesn’t scare you back inside your prison, though, the world is out there for you to conquer.

The Most Easily Forgotten Way To Get Closer

People are always looking for ways to get closer to their significant other, and there are a lot of ways available (see this article for example).  It’s a worthy goal… a close and loving relationship is one of the best things available in this life.

The funny thing is that one of the best, and most natural, ways to get closer is also one of the most easily forgotten: touching.  It’s amazing how much difference it makes… and how easy it is to let it slip away.

Touch, especially skin on skin, causes your body to release a hormone called oxytocin.  This hormone has been shown, in numerous studies, to be involved in bonding, trust, and possibly even generosity… all of which are, obviously, strong factors in how close your relationship is.

That’s the scientific explanation… but you don’t need the science to see the truth of it.  Simply looking back at the history of your own relationship can show you just how important touch is.

When you first start a new relationship, you touch all the time… holding hands, hugging, kissing, and more.  During this time, you are generally close and getting closer, to the point where you can’t imagine it any other way.

As your relationship matures, though, many things start to distract you from touching each other as much, especially if you have children (one parent running after them while the other cleans up behind them, or at least that’s the way it seems).  Then, as time goes by with less touch, you get used to it, and accept the greater distance as a natural part of your relationship.

Then, as yet more things come up, you start touching even less, sometimes even to the point where it feels funny when you do… sort of a “Wow, we’ve barely touched all day” feeling.  By this time, it’s easy to forget how much you used to touch, and to blame the distance on other things.

On the other hand, it’s really easy to turn that around, and get a clear reminder.  All you have to do to get closer is both choose to make it a priority to make sure that you touch a lot, all day.  It takes a few minutes, maybe even as much as an hour if it’s been long enough, but if you keep it up, you’ll feel yourself relaxing and opening up… which means that you can easily get closer.

Making the change long term is a bit harder, though… it takes constant conscious effort, at first, to make sure that you do, in fact, keep touching.  Without that constant attention and effort it is very easy to slip back into your old ways and lose the closeness that you are just starting to get back.  It can take a few weeks for you to adjust, and make touching a lot your normal way to be again.

Touching even has benefits in areas outside your relationship, including having less stress and even beginning to heal from old mental wounds.  Think about all the difficult and expensive ways people try to relieve stress, and then consider how easy it is to just touch your significant other.

So here’s the “secret” – if you want to get closer emotionally, get closer physically: go hold your sweetheart’s hand.

 

How To Save Your Marriage After An Affair – Reader Questions

This is the first article of a new feature of A Miracle A Day… every Friday I’ll write an article to answer a reader’s question.  This first time, I’m answering a question that has been asked of me a few times, most recently the day after I asked for questions for this article.

Question:
I have been married for a few years, and we have children together.  During the time we’ve been married, my husband had an affair.  We were separated, but not divorced, and he called me to apologize and say he wanted to try again.  After we got back together, he cheated on me again.  Since then, he has admitted to it, and told me he wanted to save our marriage.  He’s been a good husband since then, and I really love him, but it’s very hard to trust him.  His cheating on me has also decimated my self-worth, so that even though he tells me he loves me and that I’m beautiful, I have a hard time believing him.  I want to save my marriage… what can I do?

Answer: 
Your spouse is the one person that you should be able to trust over all others, so when they hurt you badly, and then do so again, it’s more devastating than nearly any other pain.  That leaves you with a lot of internal hurt that you’re going to need to heal before your relationship can really be strong again, although there’s no reason you can’t startworking on it while still working through your pain.

The first thing that you need to do is to start working on making yourself stronger.  You can start this process by finding a way to have a little time to yourself (no kids and no husband… maybe at night after they all are asleep) where you can take a step back, let things go, and be able to start from a place of more peace.  Once you’ve done that, you really need to figure out who you are, and who you want to be… a good place to start would be this article.

This lets you start working toward a good relationship from a place of strength, knowing who you are and who you want to be, being more whole.  A stronger knowledge and sense of self will help you to see your self, your husband, your relationship, and how those three things work together more clearly, ensuring that you have a strong foundation.

Now that you have started working on your self, you are ready to start working on your relationship.  The first thing you need to do is make sure that both of you really want to save your marriage… building a relationship on only one end makes it unbalanced, and it will collapse.  Still, with that being said, someone has to go first… and since you’re obviously interested in saving your marriage enough to be reading this article, that probably means you.

The process starts with a serious, deep conversation.  In order to have such a conversation, you need to be relatively certain you won’t be interrupted, which generally means finding a babysitter for the children, but it can work after they all go to bed, too.  In this conversation, you need to let it all come out… how you feel, why you feel that way, what you want, what you’re scared of, and what you dream of.  This can’t be one-sided, though… you both have to participate, or little will come of it.

After you have this conversation, you should both have a better idea of where you stand.  All of the problems should be out in the open, and each person should have somewhat of an idea of the amount of effort it is going to take to move forward and rebuild your relationship.

If you are both ready and willing to do what it takes, what you have to do is essentially start a new relationship.  That means getting to know each other all over again, building trust slowly, dating, etc., just like you were meeting for the first time.

As you are rebuilding your relationship, you need to deal with issues as they come up.  You can’t put it off, or bury it, or tell yourself it doesn’t matter… both of you have to take the time to actually deal with each and every issue that comes up between you.

At the same time, you need to make sure that you’re not being petty, just looking for negative things to bring up.  Your focus should be on the things you have in common, the positive things, the things that you love about each other… that doesn’t mean ignore negative things, because you do need to deal with even small issues as they come up so that they don’t pile up, but don’t go hunting for them.

The above doesn’t just apply to the rebuilding phase of your relationship, either… if you want to save your marriage, and keep it strong over the long haul, you need to continue to deal with issues as they come up and focus on the shared and positive things for the rest of your lives.

In addition to dealing with issues in the relationship as they come up, you need to help each other deal with issues that have nothing to do with your relationship, whatever mental wounds you have from your past, whether it’s before or after you got together.  Doing that helps to build trust, bring down walls, and get rid of background “pressure” that adds to the impact of small issues that arise day to day (like the straw that broke the camel’s back… if you have enough weight of “other” issues piled up on you, even small things can push you close to the breaking point).

Essentially, to save your marriage, you need to give up your old relationship, and the habits you formed in and around it, and build a new one.  That doesn’t mean forget about the old one, though… it means that you should learn from it, figure out what went wrong, and use that knowledge to make your new relationship stronger and more secure.

Saving your marriage, rebuilding your relationship… all of this starts with, and depends on, you working on yourself.  That doesn’t mean trying to become the perfect wife (or husband), it means figuring out who you are, what your passions are, and learning to trust yourself.  It also means freeing up your mental, spiritual, and emotional resources used up in avoiding pain from old mental wounds by facing them head-on.  Those resources then become available for more active pursuits, like, for instance, building a relationship.  A relationship requires commitment, energy, and attention from both sides… if all of your energy and attention is going to deal with your past issues, you’ll have none left to spend on your current relationships.

That’s the beginning… you’re now on your way.  You might also want to read some of the following articles, for more details on some of the things mentioned above:

http://www.amiracleaday.com/articles/2008/01/03/passions-hopes-and-dreams-making-the-impossible-possible
http://www.amiracleaday.com/articles/2007/12/17/change-your-framing-change-your-life
http://www.amiracleaday.com/articles/2007/12/10/building-your-relationship-one-piece-at-a-time-sharing-hopes-and-fears
http://www.amiracleaday.com/articles/2007/12/05/dont-let-your-mental-wounds-bleed-you-dry
http://www.amiracleaday.com/articles/2007/11/28/relationship-how-to-rebuilding-trust-in-your-marriage
http://www.amiracleaday.com/articles/2007/11/19/internal-quiet-where-emotional-healing-starts

 

7 Reasons Why It Helps YOU To Assume The Good Intentions Of Others

You have probably heard someone say before that you should give someone the benefit of the doubt, or as the title says, assume their good intentions.  Chances are pretty good that it was put in terms of helping them, giving them a second chance… just look at how the phrase starts:  “give someone”.

The truth is, however, that there are a lot of benefits to you when you assume the good intentions of others, too.  Some of it is internal, because you put up less walls (though that does leave you open to more emotional hurt, as well), and some of it is external… people remember when someone treats them well, and tend to return the favor.

What, specifically, are some of the benefits of assuming someone else’s good intentions?  I’m glad you asked… here is a list of a few of the many benefits of assuming good intentions:

Benefits Of Assuming The Good Intentions Of Others

  1. More Friends

    When you assume the good intentions of others, they notice it, even if it’s mostly subconscious.  This results in them being more open towards you, as well, which can easily lead to more friends.

    And, of course, being suspicious of the motives of other people can cause them to react negatively and push you away… resulting in the loss of opportunities for friendship.

  2. Better “Networking”

    Many of the same reasons for having more friends apply to this, as well, as does the actual fact of having more friends.  It also helps to make you the type of person that someone else would want to help, as well as the type that they would introduce to others and recommend to others.

  3. Better Relationships

    Trust is one of the most important (if not THE most important) factors in the strength of a relationship.  Assuming the good intentions of your significant other go a long way toward establishing and strengthening that trust.

    It also reduces the chances of being hurt (emotionally) accidentally, because you assume that they didn’t intend to hurt you… which reduces the sting considerably.

  4. Less Stress

    When you assume the good intentions of the people that you come into contact with, you avoid a lot of stress… you don’t worry about how to protect yourself from being hurt, you don’t worry as much about why they did this or that, and what it means about what they think about you, etc.  Basically you have less stress because you reduce your worry load considerably.

  5. More Help When You Need It

    Assuming good intentions also tends to make you treat people better, since you don’t consider them potential sources of hurt.  Since you don’t consider them in that light, it makes you far more open to helping them, more open to giving of yourself.

    The people you are around will notice that you’re that type of person, and will tend to respond in kind, sometimes even including asking their friends and associates to help you.  That adds up to a lot larger available pool of help.

  6. More Happiness

    This is pretty simple, and derives from many of the previous points: less stress, more friends, and better relationships all tend to bring more happiness into your life individually, let alone all taken together.  These three things also each strengthen the other, and being happier strengthens all three as well.

    It’s the opposite of a vicious cycle, a self-reinforcing positive loop.

  7. People Tend To Live Up To Your Expectations

    One other thing to remember, one that focuses more on the other person, is that people tend to live up to your expectations.  If you expect people to be bad, and to do things for bad reason, you’ll find that there actually is more of that in your life, especially from the people you’re around the most, like family.

    On the other hand, if you expect people to be good, and to do things for good reasons, you’re likely to find that there is more of that.

    Which of those would you prefer?

There are plenty more benefits, as well, but this should be a strong enough list to get anyone to give serious thought toward changing their outlook to include being more open to assuming people have good intentions.  The benefits simply far outweigh the possibility of getting hurt a bit more often.

One word of warning, though… you can’t take this to extremes, either.  If you see a stranger walking toward you with a knife or a gun in their hand, you might not want to assume their intentions are good.  The same may go for people that you know who consistently do show that they do things intentionally to hurt you (or others).  At some point you may want to take the energy that you’re investing in people who behave that way and spend it elsewhere… but don’t let those few people ruin your assumptions about others.

I’d love to read stories, if anyone has one, about how assuming the good intentions of others helped you… if you have one, please share it in comments.