Thinking there is perfection is your first imperfection (the first of many)

i-can-t-keep-calm-i-m-a-perfectionistHi, my name is Alison and I am a perfectionist. Actually, let me rephrase that. I’m a recovering perfectionist. Take it from me, the road to recovery from perfectionism is a long and difficult one. Why is perfectionism such a problem that warrants recovery and repair? Does this not mean that I’m a high achiever on the healthy pursuit of excellence, destined for greatness?

Well my friends I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but perfectionism does not in any way resemble the healthy pursuit of anything. It is not healthy. Fullstop. It is actually quite harmful. Perfectionism can seem like a positive trait. It can make you seem smarter, more switched on or driven to succeed in life. Yes, often the perfectionist can present this way. But there is another side to perfectionism that is far less enticing, less rewarding and far more damaging.

Let me take you behind the scenes on some of the core beliefs behind this insidious trait. As a perfectionist:
1. You are motivated by the fear of failure or a sense of duty.
2. You feel driven to be number one, but your accomplishments, however great, never really satisfy you.
3. You feel you must earn your self-esteem. You think you must be very ‘special’ or intelligent or successful to be loved and accepted by others.
4. You are TERRIFIED by failure. If you do not achieve an important goal, you feel like a failure as a human being.
5. You think you must always be strong and in control of your emotions. You are reluctant to share vulnerable feelings like sadness, insecurity or anger with others. You believe they would think less of you.

Basically, perfectionism hampers success. It can lead you on a path towards depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis (defined as all the opportunities you have missed out on due to fear of putting anything out there that is imperfect).

These beliefs are incredibly negative and self-deprecating in nature and are inherently different to a healthy mental structure for screening and perceiving information. On the opposite end of the spectrum to perfectionism is the healthy pursuit of excellence, and this is where:
1. You are motivated by enthusiasm and you find the creative process exhilarating.
2. Your efforts give you feelings of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, even if you aren’t always ‘the greatest’.
3. You enjoy a sense of unconditional self-esteem. You do not feel you have to earn love and friendship by impressing people with your intelligence or your success.
4. You are not afraid to fail because you realise that no one can be successful all the time. Although failure is disappointing, you see it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
5. You’re not afraid of being vulnerable or sharing your feelings with people you care about. This makes you feel closer to them.

Brene Brown, a well known author of the bestseller, The Gifts of Imperfection, states that the journey towards letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embracing who you are starts with learning how to live a wholehearted life. Courage, compassion and connection, as the ‘gifts’ of imperfection, help you embrace your beautifully imperfect world and help you start to embrace worthiness. But don’t be fooled by these seemingly lofty ideas. The training in the use of these concepts involves practice. The art of repetition many times every single day. Not when you’ve gotten through your to-do list or when you have a spare few minutes (because let’s face it, you’re a perfectionist with a to-do list longer than you’re life span allows), but as a priority.

Here are some examples of how and what to practice.

1. Strive for a healthy outlook on life. Start and end each day with reading, watching or listening to something that inspires you.
2. Practice warmth and kindness towards yourself when you feel inadequate. Remember, imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders we are all in this together.
3. Tell yourself you are good enough just as you are. For example, at the start of your day say to yourself ‘Today, I’m going to believe that showing up is enough”.
4. Focus on forgiveness rather than bitterness. Be the ‘benefit’ finder rather than the ‘fault’ finder.
5. Work on stillness using mindfulness strategies at times when you feel vulnerable or fearful. By practicing mindfulness you will learn to roll with negative feelings so they stop having control over you. Your aim is not to be anxiety free, but to be anxiety aware.
6. Rather than being defensive, work on being open to suggestions. Embrace your flaws and learn to laugh at yourself by making your mistakes humorous and light-hearted.
7. When problems arise, focus on your sphere of influence. What is in your control to change? Move away from chronic worry that circles around in your head for days. Move into problem solving mode as quickly as you can.
8. Realise you can do one thing ‘perfect’ or many things well. Make a choice to let things go in order to increase your growth and learning.

It’s amazing how implementing such basic changes to your thinking and outlook can move you closer towards excellence from perfectionism. And if your perfectionistic brain thinks it’s not going to work so why bother, then I challenge you to challenge this faulty logic that keeps you stuck in ‘black and white’ or rigid thinking. For the richest, most beautiful and pleasing colour in the world my friends is ‘shades of grey’. That’s right. Shades of grey that go between the black and the white. This resembles flexibility and adaptability. By embracing flexibility, you have a chance to enjoy your life for what it is, in all its imperfect glory. In the words of Albert Einstein:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

So, I will keep going on my journey and I wish you all the best of luck on yours. Remember, we cannot cross the sea merely by staring at the water. Positive change is no accident. It comes from hard work, perseverance and a little bit of love.

References:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. 2010.

The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns. 1989.

The Pursuit of Perfect- How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by T. Ben-Shahar, 2009.

By: Alison Lenehan, Psychologist.

7 Secrets of the Mentally Strong

mental strength image
No one wants to be the toxic one. The draining one who exhausts all of their mental energy analysing the many different ways life has been unlucky or unkind to them. Or all the reasons they have to feel sorry for themselves. Let’s be real though, we have all probably found ourselves there on occasion, ultimately leading us down a path of damaging and self-defeating behaviours. But however strongly entrenched these negative patterns are, or however much we are hurting, we do not have to succumb to the allure of negativity, for overcoming misery and misfortune involves making a choice. An important choice. A choice that can remove the shackles keeping us trapped in a web of repeated failure, chronic guilt and pain. One that can help us foster enormous mental strength and acceptance of the person we are. Or the person we want to be.

Feeling mentally strong is not necessarily an automatic gift bestowed on those who easily see the glass as half full. It is a choice that requires cultivation every day (despite what life decides to throw at us). Cultivating this choice repeatedly time and time again creates a habit. And it takes time, patience and a whole lot of hard work to create a new habit (just think of how hard it is to create a habit around regular exercise, eating well or quitting smoking). The good news? Once the new habit is created, the rest is history and we are well on our way to living the life we want.

So how do we train ourselves to exude a ‘can do’ attitude? Well, let’s be real for a minute. Part of this depends on how determined and committed you are to changing. Try to adopt the following principles and evaluate how they make you feel. Chances are you’ll feel a little better. The important thing is to persist- changing negative thought patterns takes time and causes discomfort initially. But practicing these principles repeatedly is a massive step towards breaking out of the vicious cycle of pessimism and toxicity.

1. Realise that the only one who can make yourself feel good is you. People with good self-worth foster internal validation that functions completely independently from others’ opinions of them (the flipside is where you only value yourself when others do, placing an overemphasis and even desperation on the need to please others and be noticed). As the saying goes, ‘what others think of me is none of my business’. Move away from worrying what others think of you and an unhealthy NEED to be liked. If someone likes you, that’s a bonus. If they don’t, move on because someone else will.

2. Avoid comparing yourself with others (this comes from a place of being unsure of your worth). If you find yourself doing this compulsively, you are probably always coming off second best. And how can you foster a positive self-image when you always tell yourself you aren’t good enough?

3. Stop watching for signs of rejection from others and avoid acting based on a fear of getting hurt. If you are acting with this as a motivator then you are ultimately making some bad and self-destructive choices. Be relaxed and confident in the wonderful person you are with your unique gifts and qualities.
Someone can’t get inside and change your feelings of yourself without you letting them.

4. See that no one has a perfect life and is able to be happy all the time. Therefore, when challenges arise they should be viewed as problems needing solutions. Just focusing on the problem and the pain (or the ‘circle of concern’) drains your energy and you will quickly and easily become overwhelmed (and probably build up the problem to catastrophic proportions in the process). Instead, focus on your ‘circle of influence’, or what you can do to solve the problem. If the problem cannot be solved now (or ever), then choose to focus your energy on working at accepting what cannot be changed, thus freeing up your mental energy to change what you can in your life and not stressing on all those things you can’t. The two mantras of the depressed and anxious are the ‘If Onlys’ relating to all the hurt and regret of bad decisions made in the past and the ‘What If’s’ which are the myriad of negative and catastrophic possibilities for the future. These two mantras will only serve to make you unhappy, negative and ‘stuck’.

5. Recognise that the only one responsible (and to blame) for your choices is you. You are not that vulnerable child anymore and you are not the product of other people’s opinions of you (sure these things could contribute to who you have become up until this point but ultimately the job is yours now and into the future). Take your life into your own hands and try to not blame others for your own choices and mistakes. It takes someone with good self worth to admit they are wrong (when this is justified) and to take steps to acknowledge this and repair the relationship (even when the relationship needing repair is with yourself!). Being free of the pressure to please others allows you to take on what you want to and leave the stuff you don’t (could it be that simple?). In the famous words of Dr Seuss:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

6. Stay true to yourself by not fearing your uniqueness from others. For its this individual difference that makes you, you and not the person next to you. When we were children we could live disinhibited and free to play in whatever way we wanted. Then why can’t we accept all the facets of our character as adults? We all function best when we are slightly outside our comfort zones. So get outside of yours and take some calculated risks. It can be quite liberating when you do!

7. Leave others alone to steer their own lives as they see fit, not as you do. It takes a strong person to accept that others think differently to you and that’s ok. You can agree to disagree without sensing that as a personal threat. Others need to grow and learn from their own experiences just as you have. Let them do that and you will empower them in the process. Do not be the one who is a caretaker for someone because YOU have a need to feel valued (coming back to that unhealthy need for external validation). If you find yourself being the caretaker of another adult be warned: you risk not being appreciated. This comes from a view that your behaviour represents an attempt to control rather than to provide genuine support.

Even though we can’t control the adversities that happen to us in life, we can control what lens we choose to see our lives through. Good decision making starts with understanding how powerful our thought patterns are and how closely they dictate our actions. Positive begets positive. Negative begets negative. Approaching life using the above principles helps to create more positive experiences into our lives. This typifies mental strength. And builds our sense of self-worth.

Every moment is a place we’ve never been. Meet today with expectation, enthusiasm and surprise. It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined!

References

Taming the Black Dog, by Bev Aisbett
All of IT, by Bev Aisbett
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey

By: Alison Lenehan, Psychologist

Living with chronic pain

Sally (not her real name) walked slowly into my office and chose an upright, less comfortable chair. She took quite a while to find a comfortable posture and then looked at me with eyes that knows suffering. After the normal introductions I asked Sally how I can be of help. She started to speak and then, eyes brimming with tears, she continued to tell me about her struggle with her debilitating, excruciating and seemingly never ending chronic pain. It all started 18 months ago with a cycling accident and subsequent soft tissue injury to her back. The pain however never subsided and is in fact getting worse. Sally stopped cycling, spends a lot of time in her bed and had to resign from a job that she loved. “I am not even half the person I used to be” she said and “I am surprised my husband has not left me”

For most of us, our past experience of injury or surgery is that the pain fades away once we have recovered from the illness or the wound has healed. For people like Sally, who suffers from chronic pain, the pain just continues or just appeared out of the blue and is ongoing. In Australia three out of ten Australians have experienced chronic pain and twenty percent of us live with someone with chronic pain.

It is normal for people with chronic pain to experience a deep sense of loss of the old pain free self. Not knowing what sort of a day it will be makes it very difficult to plan ahead and hard to look forward to a holiday because of the knowledge that the pain will follow you there. It goes without saying that no one ever chooses to have chronic pain. One of the most challenging for us is to accept physical limitations and a body that is not functioning as it is supposed to.

Most people want their pain to be fixed. Many individuals try to fight the pain and believe that with enough tenacity they can break through the pain barrier. Unfortunately this mostly leads to aggravated pain and being worn out. Pain saps energy and all the willpower in the world will not make it go away. Ignoring pain only works in the short term. Chronic pain is tenacious in its ability to make itself known and will eventually be too much of a presence to ignore.

Chronic pain not only robs people of their sense of a wholesome self but often severely restricts their physical functioning and significantly impacts on their lifestyle. Remember Sally ?, her beloved bicycle lived in the shed and her memories of early morning rides with friends felt like a dream.

Living with chronic pain, really living, means that sufferers come to terms with the idea that despite the best efforts of the medical profession it is unlikely that their pain will go away in the foreseeable future. Accepting your pain does not mean that you are giving into it. It means that you adopt a stance of “it is what it is”. Instead of focusing on how badly you want the pain to stop, you accept the pain as is and find ways to continue living.

You need to find people who will take your condition seriously. Talk honestly about how you are feeling and obtain support for your actions to continue living. It may be a family member, your GP or someone at the many specialised pain management clinics (PMC’s) around Australia.

Psychologists are becoming increasingly more involved in helping people with chronic pain to live fulfilling lives. You will discover how to use Mindfulness to pay attention to your pain with inquisitiveness rather than judgement. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques will help you to develop a positive mindset and a Solutions Focused approach will help you to action your plans. Over time you will be able to increase the amount and quality of things you can do. This may be different from the things you did before but your life can be full of meaning and enjoyment again.

Sally discovered that as a person she is infinitely more than her pain. Being curious rather than judgemental about her pain helped her to discover that her pain varies in intensity throughout the day and with good planning and resources many tasks can be accomplished.

You don’t have to be pain free to really live!

Joe is a Clinical Psychologist at Alpha Psychology.  He has extensive experience in helping people to manage chronic pain.

Mental health treatment: 7 truths for the journey towards healing

I came across a pretty inspiring book the other day. The book, Beating Bipolar, by Blake Levine, was located during my search to help a client who seemed to be stuck processing her bipolar disorder diagnosis. Recalling his own story of his healing journey, Levine provides an impressive account of how he managed to turn his bipolar diagnosis into strength by guiding others with this illness as a professional life coach.

Bipolar disorder is a condition previously termed ‘manic depression’ because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood in between. Mania can involve racing thoughts and speech, irritability and little need for sleep that is not just a fleeting experience. Sometimes the person loses touch with reality and has episodes of psychosis involving hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there) or delusions (for e.g. the person believing he or she has superpowers). The combination of mania and depression can feel like a dangerous and destructive emotional rollercoaster.

Bipolar disorder, and in fact any mental illness, is described by Levine as a disease of choices. You can choose to take one path or another, and there will be many crossroads along the way. Ultimately, you have to choose whether you will stay stuck inside your own world of pain, or whether you are prepared to work towards emotional stability. This is your choice to make and no one can make it for you. As Levine notes, you cannot pop a pill and declare yourself well. Proper healing is not that simple. True, genuine healing is about being selective of how to live your life and adhering to those values.

In the process of exploring, learning and eventually accepting what it means to have a mental health condition, the book asks an individual to answer 7 truths. They are:

1. Accept or reject your illness. Any doctor or psychologist can give a diagnosis and tell you all about it, but you have to be the one to acknowledge it. And that takes an incredible amount of courage. Not for the sake of accepting a ‘label’ but rather in order to seek the correct treatment. By not being invested enough to take on the meaning of the diagnosis, chances are you will become stuck.

2. Accept or reject the work that comes with bipolar disorder (or your diagnosis). Life with a mental health condition can be so challenging that it appears insurmountable and unfair. It is true that maneuvering through substandard mental health units is devastating (and at times traumatising) for most people. However, being able to overcome the setbacks and learn from them, in order to continue to work towards emotional stability (and avoid inpatient mental health units in the process) creates an inner strength that will be able to see you through the lowest points of your life.

3. Accept or reject that you will most likely need medication. For bipolar, medication to tame the mania and lift the depression (and therefore bring increased emotional stability) can be highly effective. However, only if it is used consistently by sticking to the regime over time. Medication must be maintained even when you start to feel better. Finding the right combination takes time, persistence and patience (and close monitoring by your psychiatrist or treating doctor). Weight gain, a common side effect of medication, can throw extra challenges your way, however until emotional stability is achieved, attaining other goals will be futile.

4. Accept or reject that you’ll need therapy and peer support. Levine writes “We share many trials as bipolar individuals, but isolation may be the most profound among them. Feeling alone is a universal experience for people with any mental illness, particularly this one. Not surprisingly, there are many reasons for it. Perhaps you’re too embarrassed about your mood swings and the past damage linked to your illness that you don’t reach out to others. Or maybe you have too many bottled up feelings stemming from other personal baggage to connect easily. Whatever the driving force, working with a mental health professional will help you sort out your issues and learn to connect with people”.

5. Accept or reject that your family’s participation and role in your life and illness might have to be modified to suit your healing. Emotionally stable people have a support network. We all need one, no exceptions. If you have nourishing, strong bonds with your family members, they will play a crucial role in your healing. However, there could also be some family dynamics causing considerable pain and stress and you will be the one to decide whether you can rely on the people in your current network for the long haul. If there are things getting in the way of your connection with them then you will need to find and create a different type of support system. This need is critical for living life in a connected way.

6. Accept or reject that you have to change aspects of your lifestyle. The reality of the situation is this: your mental health condition and any medications you are on do not mix well with drinking and substance abuse. These both cloud your thinking and impair your decision making. If your moods are not regulated yet, they can be lethal. Even having a drink now and then should be discussed with your doctor. Abstinence or moderation combined with a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of sleep are part of living healthy with a mental health condition.

7. Accept or reject that Bipolar (or your diagnosis) isn’t an end; it’s a beginning. The choice is yours. Levine states that the knee jerk reaction to mental illness is to run, particularly if you feel there is nothing to be gained by fighting. But he states that every time we experience pain, we have a chance to see that our struggles in our lives are put here in order to teach us lessons and help us grow. You are stronger than you think, and as long as you have courage, you will face whatever comes your way. The payoff, according to Levine, is to have a life filled with the affirming 4 H’s:
Hope
Health
Happiness
Healing
Whatever your individual journey and constraints, to work towards wellness will allow you to master your illness and your life, and that has to be worth the fight. Staying balanced takes time, patience and unwavering commitment, however hopefully if you are up for the task you too can start the healing journey right now, without wasting another minute, by listening to, exploring and accepting some of these truths. I wish you wellness and great success in your quest for what we are all searching for in life: Hope, Health, Happiness and Healing.

Sources:
Beating Bipolar by Blake Levine
Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au

By: Alison Lenehan
Psychologist

The Givers and Takers in our lives:

The Givers and Takers. Are they different types of people, and are the outcomes in business the same?

By

Lyn Worsley,Clinical Psychologist

What is the differences for those who are successful?

What are the differences for those who are successful?

Researchers have recently discovered that there are three different types of people according to how they give or take from others. This is particularly evident in the business world and transferable to all parts of our lives.

Adam Grant (2013) researched a number of large companies and assessed the culture of people’s giving and taking styles.  He found three styles of giving and taking. He also assessed their success in business as well as in their personal lives.

Firstly he found there were the givers who give more than they take and feel guilty if someone returns a favour. Then there were the takers who were very good at networking with people in order to gain. Thirdly there are those who are the matchers who match what they give by expecting a return or they match what they take by giving back the same amount.

 Givers and takers choices:

Grant’s research revealed that in every successful person there are choices they make when they approach other people. The choices involve thinking about whether they should claim as much value as they can, or whether they contribute value to that person or whether they work out how much is owed for the service that is given. What was interesting is that Grant discovered there was a difference in how successful givers and takers were.  He found that the most successful people in business were the givers and the least successful people were also the givers, leaving the takers and matchers in the middle.

 Differences between successful givers and non-successful givers:

From the results of his first analysis Grant went to work out the differences between the successful givers and the not so successful givers and he found some very interesting results. There was a difference in how the successful givers gave. The successful givers had a style that genuinely sought the benefit of others. They were outward focussed, were excited about another’s success, and did not attribute the success to them-selves. Those who were the unsuccessful givers also looked outward however they gave because they felt obligated. They “should do this” etc. and they gave compulsively. This compulsive giving actually meant that they often gave inappropriately, or gave when it was not really all that helpful. So in essence the successful givers were more appropriate givers.

 Differences with Takers in business.

Grant discovered takers appeared to like to get more than they gave as they enjoyed a bargain. Takers also put their own interest ahead of others needs. Takers appeared to believe the world was a competitive, dog-eat-dog place and felt that to succeed they needed to be better than others. To prove their competence, takers self promote and made sure they got plenty of credit for their efforts. Takers were not cruel or cutthroat, but they were cautious and over protective. The dominant thought was “if I don’t look out for myself first, others will take advantage of me, and no one else will look out for me.”

A number of years ago, I remember distinctly talking to a businessman who said we can be nice and caring in our personal lives, but business is business. He told me that if you want to succeed you have to play the game. At the time it didn’t sit right with me but he appeared to be a very successful businessman, so I assumed that I must be wrong. He certainly told people he was successful and drove a nice car, and lived in a nice house.  A number of years later he poached staff from a reputable service company, rendering them insolvent. He had networked with the staff and led them to believe they would be a better off with him, rather than staying in the service company. Unfortunately a number of staff left their stable jobs, to find they were overworked and underpaid resulting in the severe burnout with two of the staff only 6 months later.

The costs of taking and giving:

If you are a taker, you help others strategically when the benefits to you outweigh the personal costs. If you are a giver, you might use a different cost benefit analysis, you help when ever the benefits to others exceeds the personal cost.   Alternatively you may help others without the thought of personal costs at all. Furthermore if you are a giver at work you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills ideas and connections with other people who can benefit from them.

The difference in business and personal lives:

According to a Yale Psychologist Margaret Clark, most people act like givers in close relationships. She notes that in marriage and friendships, we contribute whenever we can without keeping score but in the workplace, give and take becomes more complicated. Professionally, few of us act purely like givers or takers adopting a third style of relating. Matchers operate on the principal or fairness. When they help others they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you are a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your business relationships are governed by even exchanges of favours.

You might find that you shift from one reciprocity style to another as you change your work roles. You can act like a taker when you negotiate your salary, a giver when you mentor someone with less experience, and a matcher when you share with a colleague. But the research shows that at work, people develop a primary reciprocity style, which captures how they approach most people most of the time. What is interesting is that this style of relating can play as much a role in the success in business as hard work, talent and luck.

Studies of success:

Grant studied medical students, and found that those with the lowest grades and the highest grades were the givers.  He also researched sales people finding that the least productive salespeople had 25 percent higher giver scores, but so did the most productive salespeople who averaged 50 percent more annual revenue than the takers and matchers. His studies with engineers showed those who were least successful were the givers as they were more concerned about making sure they could help other which prevented them from completing their work on time, completing drawings and missing deadlines.  However, those engineers who were successful had the highest giving scores and were known for their quantity and quality in their work. These conflicting results demanded further analysis and Grant continued to investigate the personalities and motivations behind the givers and takers.

Grant found that there was a myth around givers, that they are nice and altruistic people. He noted that the givers at the top of the success ladder had goals for their own achievement, and they were as ambitious as the takers and matchers however they had a different way of pursuing the goals.

The differences are clearer when the successful giver wins, or achieves success. When takers win, there is usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. So you often see someone who is going well in business for a while and then they collapse. It is likely they are a matcher or a taker rather than a giver in business. These differences are very subtle.

In contrast when successful givers win, people tend to cheer on and support them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. The differences lie in how the giver success creates value instead of just claiming it.  It was also found in the research that those who were successful givers had taken longer to achieve the success than those who were takers, and when they achieved the success they maintained it because they had the supporters with them. So being a giver is not good for the 100 meter dash, but is valuable in a marathon.

Changes in our society of giving and taking:

Grant, as an organisational psychologist noted a number of changes that have occurred in the process of doing his research. He noted that in the 1980’s the percentage of people working in jobs that provided services to others was 50%, and that today, 80% of people are providing service sector work. He surmised that this would cause a shift in the expectations of the people you provide a service too. That is, since they are paying for more services they would expect a greater service (ie. if they are takers, they want more than they pay for and if they are matchers they will want a quality service)

This shift means that to succeed in business you will need to exceed the expectation of the general public.   So for a successful business, you want to have people working for you with a giver style of relating, can see the best interest of others and see the benefit for others outweighs their personal effort. Basically he notes that if we want to do well in business we need to employ people who are givers. However to employ successful givers we too, need to be givers and not takers.  The simple truth of this is that your business needs to work for the clients and serve the clients, and the measure of success for the business should be the gain for the client not the financial turnover.

 It comes all back to you:It is up to us

If you give first, and people are out there seeing the value of your work and come away with feelings of satisfaction and value added, they will hold onto that feeling and either pay it forward or let others know.

If you give in both your work and your personal lives, the success will be slow but will be evident in your life through the close connections you have and the readiness of others to learn from you. After all, when our lives have a positive impact on others, we see our significance and purpose in this world.

References:

Grant, A (2013).  Give and Take: A revolutionary approach to success. Weidenfeld             and Nicolson,  London UK

Clark, M.S. Mills, J. (1993).  The Difference between communal and exchange             relationships: What it is and is not. Personality and Social Psychology             Bulletin 19: (pp 684-691)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Challenge Your Internal Critic

loving self image
“I can never do anything right” . “I always say the dumbest things”. “Why am I so stupid?”. Have you ever said these things to yourself? If you’re like the rest of us, chances are you have. Often. However, if these thought patterns continue as a form of running commentary all day every day (meaning they are left virtually unattended), they have potentially damaged your sense of self. We get so used to these whisperings that we do not even notice they are there. So they shape our lives.

According to a type of psychotherapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), our mind is like a master storyteller continuously telling us stories. It is in a constant monologue with us from the second we wake until the second we go to sleep. In fact, even as we sleep our storyteller continues to tell its stories or replay memories (often painful ones). According to this approach, very little of what your ‘storyteller’ (your mind) tells you (via thoughts) is fact where there is a ‘true’ and ‘false’. Rather, the stories are opinions, judgements, criticisms, beliefs, assumptions, and ideals. They are simply a reflection of the way you see the world. And these stories can be changed. So, the mind creates a narrative based on interpretation. Once formed, this narrative is hard to dismantle.

A thought is just a thought. It is neither ‘you’ nor reality. It arises, lingers in consciousness for a relatively short while then fades. It is just a mental event that passes through the mind like clouds or weather patterns passing through the sky. We are always explaining the world to ourselves, and we react emotionally to these explanations rather than to the facts. All the feelings we feel are brought on not by the events in our lives, but rather the interpretation of these events.

We can be drawn into thinking our thoughts are true and they are us and we are them. Once we become them we can fall into ruminative brooding, basically going over and over an event in our minds, all the while pushing our emotional buttons and increasing our stress and anxiety levels, causing overwhelming demoralising feelings.

The ‘blueprint’ for how we treat ourselves was formed when we were children via the emotional availability of our parent or main caregiver . When an infant cries, the emotionally attuned parent attends to the infant. The process that ensues of soothing, reassurance and nurturance are all displays of ‘love’ that, when repeated hundreds of times per day, are critical to that infant’s identity development and sense of self.

So, why is it that the same person with the same ideals can be the nurturing, kind, positive support to their best friend when something goes wrong yet be the harsh, rude and stern internal critic to themself when they face the same type of experience? Do you treat yourself the way you would like others to treat you?

Try these 5 immediate ways to challenge your internal critic as outlined in The Happiness Trap (they’re so simple they may seem unrealistic, but they work):

1. Anytime you feel stressed, anxious or depressed ask yourself ‘what is my mind telling me now?’ Then ask yourself “Is this thought helpful? Does it make me the person I want to be?” If it is unhelpful, practice being more mindful of it using the techniques below.

2. When a distressing thought arises, repeat the thought in your head after inserting this phrase: “I’m having a thought that…”. When you practice this repeatedly you will find some distance being created as if you have ‘stepped back’ from the unpleasant thought.

3. Identify your mind’s favourite demoralising stories then give them names, such as ‘The Loser Story or the I’m Worthless Story. Then, when they pop up say ‘Ah yes, I recognise this familiar story’.

4. When a common self-critical thought comes into your head, defuse its hold on you by singing it to yourself to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Jingle Bells’ or another tune. As you practice this over time you will realise the thought is simply a collection of words, just like the lyrics of a song.

5. Remember, the story is the story. The story is NOT the event. Avoid holding on to these too tightly.

By practicing letting go of disparaging and demoralising thoughts, we are removing the shackles that keep us trapped in the prison of our own minds. Only then can we begin to learn how to observe the same respect for ourselves that we so readily offer others.

As the common Buddhist saying goes: “You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere”.

References and further reading:
The Happiness Trap, by Russ Harris.

The Mindful Way Through Depression. Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness, by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

By: Alison Lenehan
Psychologist, Alpha Psychology

Just “Be happy” ?

by May Lim
Registered Psychologist
Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre

 

happiness

When someone says to you “Be happy”, does this actually help you to feel happy?

I think it is much more helpful to think of and engage in activities that promote happiness and a positive wellbeing.

Helping others

Have you had that feeling of ‘good’ when you have given a helping hand to another person? Call it satisfaction, sense of pride, glee, contentment, delight or appreciation. Whatever it is, there is a positive experience when help is given to a need identified. It feels nice to know you are able to impact someone else’s moment in a helpful way that is genuine and sincere.

This may involve providing companionship to another person.
Helping with a practical task.
Asking someone “Are you okay?”
Showing generosity towards someone just because.
Being available, interested and attentive to someone needing support.
Connecting people to others who can help in a more specific way.
Giving a hug or two…or three
Doing that important task that nobody wants
Sharing what you have or know with others

Deliberate acts of kindness adds to the wellbeing of many…yourself included.

Being good at giving and accepting compliments

When you notice something you like, admire or respect about someone, tell them.

Perhaps someone you know has a new haircut that makes you do a double take. Maybe you are pleasantly surprised by a new attitude someone has developed. You may have just witnessed newfound courage in another being. Someone you know has completed a project that they worked tirelessly on. You have just tasted a home-cooked meal that is so.good.you.need.to.have.the.recipe.

There is nothing wrong with being quietly impressed but there is certainly something positive and pleasant that happens when you articulate this in the form of a compliment to the person you’re impressed by. Maybe it’s the look of their face when they light up; the smile they break into; hearing it’s their first experience of being complimented or even your experience of wanting the other person to know your positive thoughts about them.

How good are you at accepting compliments? When someone gives you praise, do you feel embarrassed; politely dismiss it; create distraction by automatically highlighting something less positive about yourself or even reverse the attention by pointing out a positive element about the other person?

When you are on the receiving end of a compliment, do well at accepting it.
It means someone has noticed something positive about you.

Be in the company of kind and optimistic people

Wherever and whenever possible, surround yourself with others who are kind to you. The way someone treats you will usually leave imprints on your wellbeing. When you experience kindness, it’s likely you will feel something positive whether it be happiness, encouragement, gratitude, care, pleasant surprise, feeling blessed or even a desire to reciprocate that kindness in return to others.

Gravitating towards optimistic attitudes also adds to one’s wellbeing. When you are in the company of people who are hopeful, encouraging and give more attention and weight to past, present and future positive events, your own attitude will usually see an increase in optimism too. Optimistic thinking can be contagious; it breeds hope especially through challenging times though it needs to be practiced and experienced continuously for it to stay. Therefore, keeping optimistic company will contribute to the growth and maintenance of your own optimism.

Do something you enjoy

It is no surprise that most people’s wellbeing and happiness are enhanced during holidays. No alarm clocks ringing at some ungodly hour. Work and school schedules can take their own holiday. All of a sudden, time seems to work in your favour more often than not. Thinking of each tomorrow brings greater feelings of anticipation, relaxation and joy.

The message being conveyed here is to carve out regular time for yourself to do something that you enjoy. This can take the shape of whatever brings you pleasure. Take that holiday, day-trip or one hour break that would do wonders for you. Bake that chocolate molten cake. Watch a funny YouTube video clip. Go for a jog listening to your favourite music. Play a game with your family. Spend the day in your pyjamas at home. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a picturesque view. Whatever it is, making a regular priority for things you enjoy can help to give you experiences of reward, respite, excitement, rejuvenation and change.

Grateful Reflection

If there’s time for eating, driving, showering or other aspects of your daily routine, consider setting aside time for grateful reflection. This is when you think of things you feel grateful for and reflect on their place in your life and its’ meaning for you. More importance should be placed on the quality of your reflection time rather than on its quantity. What aspects of your life give you a sense of gratitude? What are your positive qualities? Who are the people in your world you appreciate? What past, current and future events in your life contribute to any feelings of gratefulness you have? What are the highlights of your day/week/month? Who said something nice to you and what did they say? What are the things/experiences/people you have in your life but take for granted at times? What wishes and goals did you have in the past and eventually managed to fulfil?

Reflecting on such questions can create mental shifts and magnify areas of your life that you truly feel fortunate about.

Be forever young

Growing older can bring a multitude of blessings, some of which may include wisdom, growth and experience. There are aspects of youth that one can retain or revive at any age, perhaps with more meaning and added confidence as time passes.

Take chances in life. Change the scenery in your life if that is something you have been wanting.

“Dance like nobody’s watching”. Leave self-consciousness behind. Take that last slice of cake without any guilt. Live life the way you want it. Run your own race. Create your own happiness. Being different is completely fine.

Be curious. Continue your exploration and learning in any form you like. Ask questions. Read widely. Strike up conversation with people from different ages and backgrounds. Visit places old and new. Learn a new skill. Reminisce on fond memories from your past.

Have fun. Follow that urge to play on the playground and swing on that swing. Maybe it’s time to revive an old pastime. Laugh lots and out loud.

What will you do today to look after your happiness and wellbeing?

May Lim is a Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre.
Visit her site @maylim