Why when things are going well do we focus on the bad stuff?  (And how to stop doing it!)

Last week was actually amazing, all things considering. I had 10 amazing success stories from my clients that I am working with. I ran a brilliant training. My Hedwig arrived in the post. Lead some powerful workshops and a few new exciting business opportunities are opening up for me. And yet here I am sitting amidst all of this success feeling all negative. Why? Because of a negative incident in a meeting.  In reality, the meeting wasn’t actually that bad. Only 10 % was negative, 10 % didn’t go the way I wanted it to, the rest was amazingly positive. So how can I in all of this success and abundance feel negative?

You must have felt this before. The negative remark of a friend about your clothes followed with the but you look perfect in anything, or the performance review where you boss makes just one suggestion for an improvement, or even the perfect evening in the restaurant interrupted by the loud, annoying couple sitting next to you. In these situations what do we remember? The negative.

It used to make me wonder and worry if I was just incapable of appreciating the good in life when this happened. However, throughout the years I discovered I am not alone. Everyone experiences this at some point, if not often in their life. Feeling negative, despite all of the positive good things around us or in our lives, is a relatively common experience. And the reason why we all have these experiences is simple. It is because we are human. We are designed that way.

If you have a tendency for detecting and dwelling on the negative, it’s no cause for alarm. In fact, you are simply a product of intelligent human design. (Or come from Jutland) Humans were designed to be keenly aware of negative circumstances and consequences as it helped our ancestors survive. It is part of our internal system that identifies danger and tries to protect us. Our biology tells us instinctively it is safer to be negative. Bad memories stick harder than good to protect us from creating the same situation again.  Which also makes it easier to understand why we tend to believe negative personal criticism above positive reinforcement. It is our bodies way of eliminating risks and keeping us alive.

Understandable albeit not always helpful. Over-focusing on negativity is as we all know destructive and often depressing. Ironically this self-preservation method can become really destructive if left to its own devices. And who wants to be negative. I would much rather be sitting here feeling the glow of my successes than wallowing in the other stuff.  So the challenge is how to stop doing it? Well, my opinion here differs from the traditional here. You can read hundreds, if not thousands of articles out there on how to stop being negative and be more positive. The majority of them are effective, but they also suppress the body’s natural, instinctual survival system that causes the negative emotions in the first place. Not healthy in my opinion. A bit like putting a handkerchief on a wound that needs stitches. A quick and not long lasting fix. I personally believe that we need this system our bodies have created to identify and survive danger. The trick I have found to stop being caught in the negativity spiral is to control it and consciously have it work for you. Instead of it controlling you and ultimately working against you.

If you like me have suddenly found yourself caught up focusing on the negative despite all the good going on around you try my method of working with your body’s survival system to find your way back to feeling positive again.

Identify:

Whatever caused the negative feeling is provoking one of you internal dramas. An internal drama is a behavioural response to a situation based on previous experience. It might be that you know exactly which drama is being set off. Or you may be responding unconsciously. In order to learn from your body’s auto survival system, you need to know why this particular situation sets of your internal drama. What is it that you feel unsafe about in this situation? Why does it affect you so strongly? In the example of the restaurant, it could be that the annoying couple sets off a drama related to a situation where peoples intrusive behaviour has affected you negatively in the past. Identifying how you feel “threatened” is half of the battle.

Perspective:

Now you need to step back and find out what is the teaching in this situation. What is your body trying to protect you from? How can you make sure you feel safe? It may be that you need to work with the internal drama.  It could simply be that you need to work out a strategy which allows you to feel comfortable in the situation.

For example in my meeting one of my observations made a person in a higher authority react explosively in anger.  Hours later I was still focusing on that rather than the other positive experiences in the same meeting. Unconsciously this was caused by an internal drama related to a previous job where I was fired and left in a financial mess. In essence, this meeting has in my unconscious threatened my ability to survive. The teaching was to recognised that the anger was not actually directed at me and my observations. Basically to not take on the responsibility of blame for someone else’s emotional. And to really realise that this was not threatening my existence. In Fact, I realised that the explosive emotion was showing the other person’s passion and commitment to solving the problem observed.

Action:

The next step is action. Our biological self- preservation response is actually calling us to action. Do something about this. Now if we immediately respond without processing we will be working from our fight or flight system. In the case of my meeting, I could have emailed the person after the meeting looking for positive reinforcement that they were not angry with me and apologising for making them angry. Putting myself into a position when I accepted blame. Making myself, in fact, more vulnerable. After identifying and gaining perspective I realised that the best course of action was to handle the problem at hand. To take responsibility for the solution, not the anger. I felt instantly safe. In control. Consequently, I felt happier.

Identifying your action and taking that action is one of the best ways to calm down your biological self- preservation system. Of course, when dealing with internal personal drams the actions may take longer than in my example. It may be that you need to process and accept previous traumas. This is itself a teaching of the situation.

Positivity boost

So once you have made yourself feel safe you will need a positivity boost to get you back on track. For me, gratitude practice works well. Writing a list of my blessings and the things I am grateful for immediately turns my thoughts to a positive cycle. Other people dance to music, meditate, train, play computer games, indulge in self-care or simply complete a simple task like washing up to get a feeling of success. Do something that will shift your thoughts into positive again.

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Your biological self- preservation system makes you focus on the negative for a reason. Just like a malware warning on your pc. By acknowledging its presence, identifying the issue. Then by processing, taking action and rebooting the pc of your mind you will function at optimal capacity. The more often you do this the less the negative will take over and deny you the peace, contentment and safety of recognising the positive in your life.

Have a great week <3

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Lifelessons101 – Are you stuck in a personal development burnout?

I love my life, I really do. I love my job, my home, my man. So it came as a shock when I realised I wasn’t feeling entirely satisfied with the way things are. Not only unsatisfied I felt drained of all energy and constantly tired, even though I am living close to my perfect life. I was perplexed! How could I not be feeling satisfied? Why am I so exhausted? My life is great. It simply didn’t make sense. I needed some objective perspective. So I contacted my amazing coach and mentor for help, and he came with a mind-blowing perspective. I am suffering from personal development burnout. And by burnout, I am not referring to the psychological condition caused by years of stress. I mean burned out by the effort of overworking yourself on the personal development path.

Apparently, personal development burnout is a thing and actually quite common. (Phew good to know I’m normal). Just as with any hobby its possible to go too far over the edge. Or worse make your development into a chore, which then initiates the shame cycle when you don’t do it. For me, my dissatisfaction was coming from a universal classic. I am not yet exactly where I want to be. The exhaustion is simply that in my quest to improve myself I have been pushing myself to my limits and beating myself up for not being where I want to be right now. That cycle of self-blame took my energy and because I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted all had become a chore.

Personal development burnout seems to be an integral part of the journey. As my coach said life can’t be perfect and blissful all the time. The burnout comes when you need to shift. To create a balance. To grow in a different way. It’s a level up on a computer game. The frustration before the prize. However, unlike in a computer game instead of pushing ourselves harder, personal development burnout creates the opportunity to let go.

If you relate to this, you’re not alone. I and many others get you.

While personal development can provide valuable resources to get you through some challenging times, if you find yourself falling into the impatient, frustration trap and cycle of guilt as I did then it’s time to recoup, reassess and change what you are doing so it works for you. After this is your personal growth no-one else’s. So it has to work for you.

Recovering from a burnout at it’s worst can take a long, long time. However, with the kind of personal development level up burnout, I am talking about it is possible to recover quickly if you consciously take actions. Here are the phases and actions I am working through to get me back on top in a healthy path of natural growth.

Phase 1: Stop reaching for whatever you have been reaching for

The first order of business is to interrupt the pattern. Once you stop the pattern of thoughts and feelings that got you to burn out, that’s when recovery begins.

Ask yourself:

  • What have I been obsessed with that feels unreachable?
  • What is my biggest fear if I stop reaching?
  • What would it look like to surrender?

The scariest thing about letting go is that you don’t know how the world will look afterwards. Allow this process to calm your nerves to letting go.

Phase 2: Acknowledge how far you have come

If you have got into this burnout you will have grown. Although you are feeling worn out there has been progression. Look at when you started your journey and write a list of your achievements since that time. Sometimes just seeing what you have done already will help to boost your energy levels.

Phase 3: Take a break

Now stop take a break. As soon as you can. Book a holiday or a few weeks off. Make your health priority number 1. You need to refuel and do some serious TLC work. Cancel social arrangements. I don’t give a damn about how people may feel let down you need a break. Getting into the guilt cycle is all about your ego. It’s your ego that wants to be recognised to get the prize. Right now you need to feed your soul not your ego Step away from social media. Read a book. Get a massage. Sit in your garden. Sleep. Train. Swim. Do what gives you energy and peace. At this stage you need to make your health your priority. Without you nothing works. Your body is your team and support system. So take care of you and your health.

And for at least 14 days do not think about your personal development or your goals. Just be you for a change. You are perfect as you are.

Phase 4: Clear out

One of the things that feeds the guilt factor is the constant bombardment of social media and in our inbox of all the things we could be doing to be better or have greater lives. I have found it incredibly refreshing to unsubscribe from 90% of the personal development newsletters I belonged to. My inbox is clearer and it is surprising how less pressured I feel. Have an electronic clear out and choose what influences you want in your life and what is suepurpulus. Do the same with the books. (All of us personal development junkies have a pile we haven’t read yet). Choose one. Just one and put the rest away.  Have a look at your daily and weekly habits. Which ones make you feel good. Which don’t. Guess what you are gonna do? That’s right get rid of all the ones that don’t make you feel good. Clearing out makes everything feel better and less pressured.

Phase 5: Appreciate your abundance

Gratitude is one of the simplest and most powerful tools we have. Being grateful makes us appreciate our here and now. And if you like me have been focusing on the end post, then you have forgotten to enjoy your journey here and now. Practise gratitude for your life at least once a week and appreciate the abundance of your now.

Phase 6: Listen to your inside voice

Make sure you are listening to you inside voice. It is there to guide you. One of the reasons burnout happens is because we don’t act on the signals our body is giving us. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Follow your gut feelings before you say yes. Your gut knows what you want better than your mind does. So for once let it lead you.

Phase 7: Refocus

As you begin to have more energy (as a constant presence, not just on intermittent days) you are ready to refocus your personal development ideas. Look at what you were doing. Remove anything that was either setting off your guilt complex, you I should be doing this voice and especially anything that drained you energetically. Be HONEST with yourself. Don’t keep practices because other people have told you they work or you need to do. Keep what works for you.

Now choose one, (Yes I said one), area of your personal development you would like to work on and honestly feel energetically able to commit to. (Again listen to your gut). Make this the priority for the next 6 months.  I would also recommend here trying something new. It can be an energy boost to use a new technique for personal growth after burnout.

Phase 8: Take baby steps forwards

You cannot jump from burnout back to full power. It doesn’t work like that. If you try and throw yourself into a massive lifestyle change all at once you will end right back at burnout. So take baby steps. Do one little thing each week, Then each day. Build up slowly and you will find it becomes manageable. Baby steps make us stronger.

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Give yourself time to recover from personal development burnout. At least 6- 8 months to work through the phases Burnout is a sign of not listening to yourself. It is the most important lesson we gain from this experience is to centralise and make ourselves important. There’s a fine line between self-improvement and personal development burnout. Allow your burnout to show you where that line is and learn how to keep your balance for healthier and stronger growth.

Have a happy weekend <3

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Appreciating the moment during your busyness – 2 simple tricks to help

Summer holidays are just around the corner. And if you are like me this month is packed solids with both work and social events. I can feel myself longing for the relative peace of my summer holidays already. Which although is perfectly natural, is also really sad. Just think about how many people are sitting around you at this moment who are wishing they were a month ahead in time and were not where they are right here and now. Thousands of us daydreaming a month of our lives away, every year.  A month of the year where the majority of the collective consciousness of humanity (at least in the western world) does not want to be where they are. Dreaming of the future not living in the present. What kind of unconscious impact does that create in our lives?

Frustration.

Dissatisfaction.

Restlessness.

Disempowerment.

By living in the future not the now we create a negative experience for ourselves in the here and now. Tolstoy said “ There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.”  And he was right. The only moment we can affect and be in control of is the here and now. When we wish for the future to be now we give all of our power away.  ANd our happiness.

Psychologist Matt Killingsworth—a happiness researcher has shown through his work that people who allow themselves to not be present actually report being 10% less happy than they were when they focused on the present—regardless of what they happened to be doing. And happiness begets all sorts of benefits—like improved health, productivity, creativity, and innovation. Who knew that wishing for that summer holiday to be right now was actually so damaging to you!

Not that I am saying don’t look forward to your holiday. Of course, you should. You deserve it. It is simply by keeping your thoughts on longings there you are missing out on the benefits of enjoying the here and now. Such as stronger emotional connections, powerful memories and personal satisfaction.  When we are present we can influence our experience. Life amplifies and strangely enough instead of having less we actually have a sense of having more time as time slows down.

A happier life with more time, peace and satisfaction – sign me up! I mean who doesn’t want that. And who of you reading just thought sounds great. Only I will have to start working on it next week/month/year because I have X, Y and Z to get through first. And that my friends, is the trap. That’s the thought path that will lead you an hour from now to wishing yourself away to July. Again. Being present takes a lot less energy than you would think. Small actions make big differences to your satisfaction.

And I have found two simple tricks to bring you into the present immediately.

Use your senses

The first is learning to work with your natural ally. Your Senses. When you pay attention to your five senses, you can’t listen to your internal reel. Our senses are so powerful that if we ally with them we become instantly focused on the moment we are in. They close down mental chatter by allowing your neurons to connect with what is in front of you rather than what is in your head.  I found that by taking time to connect with my senses t gave me a moment of calm. A feeling of being rooted and strong in myself and gave me the chance to check in with myself and my needs.

Try  it yourself with these simple steps:

  • Designate a specific time in your day to focus on what’s in front of you.
  • Bring your mind back each time it tries to sneak off. Just say, “No, I’m doing that right now. I’ll get back to worrying later.”
  • Ask yourself throughout the phase, “What do I hear, see, taste, feel, and smell?”

Anytime you feel disconnected from yourself and/or your family,  or find yourself wishing a month of your life away simply unplug and tune into what’s surrounds you. You’ll notice a huge difference in your mental energy and happiness.

Do one thing at a time

I was a multitasking junkie. I used to pride myself on my ability to do at least 6 things at once until I realised that multitasking is the real-life soul splitting experience of creating a Horcrux (See Harry Potter). As we divide our attention into so many small pieces we make a shadow copy of ourselves. A weaker and more vulnerable version. We get stretched too thinly. By doing one task well. By focusing on that task alone we gain time. You see time really is just a concept. If we are rushing around like a headless chicken trying to do everything we run ragged always playing catch up. The fact is if you fill your time too much, trying to do it all at once you feel rushed. Your sense of time distorts and becomes limited. Doing just one thing at a time allows you to use the time that is there without panic thus creating the illusion of having more time and at the same time life flows more easily.

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The ground-breaking research by Harvard Psychologist Matt Killingsworth (2010)found that 47% of the time we are not present in our lives. That’s almost half of our lives! Look forward to your holidays yes. But don’t waste your time wishing away your here and now. We all slip out of the moment occasionally. But by connecting with our senses we bring ourselves back to our root and by doing one thing at a time we give ourselves the gift of freeing our minds to enjoy the time that we have, influencing our experiences and empowering our lives.

HAve a beautiful week <3

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#lifelessons101- Are you having enough fun in your life?

Recently life has been getting to me and I have had no idea why. My business is great. My home (although probably needs a clean) is lovely, Mr T is wonderful, my friends are great. I am doing what I want to do, aligned with my life purpose and yet I felt unsatisfied. (And cross with myself for feeling that). Then I spent a wonderful day in Copenhagen alone doing some of the things I love. I got brunch, shopped and then had a wonderful trip to a Royal palace where I got to dance in an empty ballroom (well, the guard wasn’t there and I had it all to myself!) and spent the rest of the day in a tiara. It was lovely, spontaneous and fun.

And then it dawned on me. I am seriously missing fun in my life. In my hyper-focused goal-oriented life I had forgotten the key component. Fun. I had fallen into the Entrepreneur trap of existing. Existing isn’t about material needs. You may have a Ferrari in the driveway of your beautiful home overlooking a majestic view. It isn’t about family either. You may have a wonderful and loving family. It isn’t about health; you may be very fit. So what is Existing? It is an inner void – a lack of inner joy. For the most part, you are successful. Yet, you still feel like there should be more to life than this. And there should. Life should also be fun.

So me being me, and loving google-fu, I began to do a bit of research online. And I feel across Daniel Kahneman Ted Talk The riddle of Experience vs Memory, which reveals how our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. Teh “experiencing self” defines our happiness in the moment. Whereas the “remembering self” defines happiness in our memory. I realised that my remembering self could look over my life in the last year and remember that I have been happy in my abundant life. Yet at the same time due to the focus, I put into my work, by overly focusing on the goal posts of this year’s plans I was on a day to day basis experiencing more work than fun. No wonder I wasn’t feeling great, even when things are going to well.  And of course, if you don’t feed your “experiencing self” enough fun then your “remembering self” has nothing new to remember, resulting in frustration.

 

The irony is that society rather frowns on having fun when it is actually one of the most fundamentally important building bricks of a happy life. (Something society knows is incredibly important. Having fun balances the mundane activities such as paying the bills or cleaning the house. Fun produces happy hormones which in the face of adversity allow us to strengthen our resilience. And not in the least it makes us more productive. Think about school, the lessons you remember and learnt the most were the ones you enjoyed. Fun is essential to happiness and a balanced life.

Are you having enough fun in your life? And I am talking about real fun not the fake “fun” activities such as spending the holidays with your in-laws or the team building days. I am talking about real fun. The kind that makes you smile from ear to ear, your eyes light up and your belly hurt from laughing. Or even just the kind of fun that gives you a wonderful feeling of contentment with the world.  Research professor Brene Brown, Ph.D., writes in her best-selling book The Gifts of Imperfection, “A critically important component of wholehearted living is play… Play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest (but) spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.”

Is it really so difficult to have fun?

Well for some of us it is. I decided that enough is enough and I want to reclaim the fun in my life. To allow my experiencing self to have fun. Great plan! But how? I have currently little time and limited resources. A challenge to be met! A few hours later I had created a process to stop the anxiety attack of having fun. Consequently, I am feeling happier and healthier already. Not that every day is perfect. It’s just now that every day has some fun in it that I can experience in the now and remember happily after.

If you need to have some more fun in your life try my process, put it into action and within hours you will begin to feel the fun factor exploding into your life. A fabulous way to feel happier, enjoy your journey and love your life!

Find your smiles

Sit down with a notebook and list things you enjoy—anything from scratching your head to dancing in a palace. As you write down each item, consider doing that very thing later today or this week or this year. You’ll have different emotional reactions to each idea. One emotional reaction, in particular, will signal that your sense of fun has been awakened and is pointing the way to a joyful, meaningful life. Do that thing whatever it is as soon as you possibly can!

Remember fun through the eyes of a child

In your notebook, begin listing things you remember enjoying as a child. Pay particular attention to things that made you “lose time,” so that hours seemed to disappear in seconds. What absorbed you that completely? Look for patterns in this childhood fun. Choosing activities that fit this code will make you happier and more purposeful across the board.

Fun journal

Keeping a fun journal is a great way you remind you of the fun you are having in your life.

Every day jot down a brief list of your major activities. Give each experience a fun “score,” with zero meaning no fun and ten is the MOST FUN EVER! As the days go by, you’ll begin to see which activities and people yield the most fun—and you’ll be surprised

Make time for fun

Block out time for fun each week. It can be a day, an evening, or even a lunch hour, but you should set aside some time to do some of whatever you came up with as a pure fun activity. You don’t have to do it by yourself, but if you bring along family members or friends

Randomise your fun

Write down all your ideas for fun activities and put them in a hat. Pick out one and do it. Just go for it. Trust the randomness of the universe to give you an amazing time.

Have a spontaneous day

Set aside a day to be spontaneous. Wake up and ask yourself what you want to do (and hiding under the duvet or on the couch is a non option). Now go do that activity. When it’s done start again from the beginning. The rules of the day? Simply follow your heart and your instinct.

Create a new holiday

Why not create a National Girlfriends’ Getaway Day or mango eating day, or finger painting day? First, define what  the day means to you and then invite others to join in the fun!

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If I have inspired you then I would love you to return the favour by telling me how you are bringing more fun into your life! Together we can make our lives happier and each others

Have a weekend filled with fun <3

 

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