No. 2: Correct your mind and the rest of life will fall into place

Lao Tse, one of the world’s greatest philosophers, said: “Correct your mind and the rest of life will fall into place.”

The “rest of life” means the health, wealth, and love that eludes most people. So, what’s the correction you need to make?

According to Lao Tse, it’s the shift from fear to inner peace, and 2,500 years later neuroscience has proven the ancient sage was right.

Research has established that the mental shift from stress and fear to inner peace resets your brain state to the calm, creativity, and optimism that predicts success in your endeavors.

People who have mastered the shift from fear to peace make few if any mistakes. They tend to stay out of trouble, instead of chronically struggling to get out of trouble.

As a result, their peaceful brains mobilize the intelligence (that stress hormones retard) to reach greater and greater heights.

“Seek peace,” Jesus said, “and all things shall be given to you.”

So, how do you make the inner shift to peace when the world around you seems to vibrate like Grand Central Station at rush hour?

Here’s a prescription from Lee Ufan, the great modern artist:

“Agitated, busy people. Stop and stand still for a moment. Look at the sky. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. If you do this, you will change and the world will come to life.”

You can begin simply by taking a one-minute timeout for peace.

  • Simply stop what you’re doing, resisting the compulsion to keep working, and step away from the busy-ness of the world for a moment.
  • Let go of what you were thinking and allow your mind and body to relax.
  • Take a deep breath and allow yourself to relax even more.
  • Let go of everything. Feel your brain relax as you let go.
  • No worries, no problems, no goals, no one to please, nothing to change or fix. Just you and the freedom to simply be yourself for a moment.
  • Take a slow, easy breath – and as you do – let your mind and heart open wide.
  • Allow peace to begin to emerge as your experience, all by itself.

Do this two or three time a day for a week and see if your life begins to fall into place.

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No. 3: Your Essential Worthiness is a Fact (meaning what you are is good enough)

Research over the last half century – beginning with Carl Rogers and Aaron Beck, and more recently with Yale’s David Rand – has revealed two essential facts about human beings that are enormously positive, which means they reveal something enormously positive about you personally.

Fact #1: The essence of your being is love, which means your basic nature, when functioning freely, is constructive and trustworthy. Love, in this sense, is not a romantic emotional state, but rather an exquisitely rational, coherent, and positive intelligence, guiding your life forward with subtle and ordered complexity toward the goals you are endeavoring to achieve.”[1]

Your essentially loving nature establishes your worth and belonging as a human being, meaning you are inherently golden exactly as you are right now, have been in the past, and are in the process of becoming. It’s the truth and science backs it up. The fact that your worth as a human being is inherent means it is always true. There are no conditions you need to meet, no prerequisites to qualify you, no hoops to jump through to earn it. Your worth is not earned; it’s given. Your successes and failures in life neither increase or decrease your worth. Whether you live in a penthouse on Fifth Avenue or under a freeway, you are worthy. Whether you are a tea-tootler or an alcoholic on a bar stool, at core you are golden. Whether you are the chief of police or a behind bars, you belong.

The research of Brene Brown found that there was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of self-worth and belonging from the people who struggle for it. The one and only variable is that people with a strong sense of self-worth believe they are worthy. They accept it as fact (which it is). Your unqualified acceptance of yourself as worthy is fundamentally all it takes to experience it.

Fact #2: There is one central motivating force in your basic nature that drives you to fulfill your potentialities. It is called the formative tendency, which directs you to express and activate all your talent and competences to enhance your life and reach your complete development as a person. A simple way of identifying the formative tendency in you is to make a list of qualities you experience when you are at your best, functioning at “the top of your game.” Simply list 10 words or short phrases that describe your experience when you’re in the flow, in the zone, running on all cylinders, making things happenThis will help you identify the experience of the directional force emanating from your essential nature.

The code for your essential nature is embedded in the very neurocircuitry of your brain, unwrapping to express the creative, curious, explorative, playful, constructive, peaceful, loving, joyful, compassionate, sharing, and cooperative forces within that move you forward toward self-actualization.

In short, what lives in you as you is not only powerful, it is beautiful. What you are is good enough, and all you have to do is to be it openly. So, if all this is true, and it is, then why do you struggle with shame and self-doubt?

Although you are by your very nature intrinsically worthy and forward moving, your inherent core of worth is so overlaid with layer after layer of negative thoughts, fears, and doubts as to feel nonexistent. Thus, your challenge in life is to remove the layers of fear and negative thinking so your intrinsic worth can emerge naturally. How do you accomplish that?

A Simple Practice to Accentuate Your Self-Worth

You can begin simply, by waking up each morning ahead of the morning rush to spend a few minutes to starting the day on a positive note that asserts your worth. Here’s how:

Follow your breathing and gradually relax into a feeling of peace and freedom. Feel your mind expand as you relax.

In this spacious state of mind, remind yourself that the essence of your being is inherently worthy, meaning you’re inherently golden, exactly as you are and are becoming, right here, right now. Remind yourself that your worth as a human being has no prerequisites. It’s simply true, in and of itself.

Next, take a moment to frame your day in a positive light. Begin by feeling appreciation for the gift of another day of life; another day to share with the people you love; another day to pursue your dreams.

Set your intention to have a great day, achieving meaningful results in all your endeavors. Equally, set the intention to succeed at sustaining a peaceful and positive attitude on the inside, regardless of what happens on the outside.

Research shows that people who believe in their intrinsic worth aren’t thwarted by shame-based thinking and self-doubt that says, I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not successful enough, etc. The research also shows that people who start the day mindfully experience more positive emotions during the day, exhibit more interest in their work, and are more likely to feel connected and supportive toward others, all of which predicts successful outcomes. They also sleep better that night. All this for devoting 5 minutes in the morning to a simple practice.

[1] Rogers, Carl. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (pp. 194-195). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1960.

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Wiring Your Brain for Happiness

We’re born to be happy. It’s the “Intel Inside” that the universe gifted us with, but most of us hold the false belief that happiness comes from the world through earning it, instead of an unconditional state of being within us. We’re programmed from the outset to believe that happiness is like this … if I make that sale or land that job or win that promotion or get out of debt or make that person see and do things my way, I’ll be happy. The older we get the more we see that this false belief is why we missed out on experiencing more joy and peace in our lives. It leads to a pathetic existence, constantly at the mercy of day to day events and the behavior of other people.
Believe it or not, happiness is our natural state … REALLY. The evidence for this fact is well established, but we’ve been bamboozled into believing happiness depends on our status and economics like money, jobs, things and other people. It’s a merry-go-round with little or no “merry” in it.
The cure that science prescribes is a spiritual one and, happily, it couldn’t be simpler. It’s being aware of the way we are reacting unhappily to the world around us and to understand our negativity as the unfortunate way society programmed our brain, wiring us for shame, inadequacy, anxiety and worry. It’s the way politics, corporations and other institutions endeavor to control us. Simply by becoming aware of these negative reactions without attempting to change them or judge the negativity and ourselves, allows the negativity to drop and for happiness to arise naturally by itself. Try it and see.

And one other thing: the research Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and others have established that happiness is what leads to success, not the other way around.

The Simple Cure to Fatigue and Burnout

Believing we have drained our brain is what drains our brain. Yet most people think that the exhaustion they feel at day’s end is caused by a hard day at work. Yet, if we look at it closely, for most of us the only physically taxing thing we probably did at work that day was walk in and out of the building from the parking lot and type on our keyboards. The rest of our exertion was primarily mental.

Is it possible that the two-pound wonder called the brain is able to expend most of our physical energy simply through thinking?

The answer is no. Sitting at your desk performing cognitive functions doesn’t take much energy. Our brain only needs 12 watts of energy to operate smoothly, which is one-fifth the energy it takes to light up your desk lamp. On top of that, the brain burns only 11 calories an hour, which is the equivalent of one minute of modest exertion on an exercise bike. Clearly, this is not enough to cause exhaustion.

Is it the difficulty of a mental task or the amount of time we concentrate on the task that leaves us exhausted?

Again, the answer is no. Mental fatigue is really not about the task. For example, millions of neurons connecting through a multitude of neural circuits are active when we follow a movie with a plot as complex as The Matrix, or read a book as intricate as War and Peace, or pondering our opponents next move in a chess or card game while planning our own. Yet we can focus on these complex activities for two hours straight and at the end feel stimulated by it.

So what exactly is causing the fatigue that can lead to burnout?

It’s our mental attitude. Research has found that if you believe a task is going to be difficult, it
will be. If you expect a meetingto drain your energy, it will. If the fear of failure overwhelms you, it’s likely to result in bad decisions that lead to failure. In short, we get what we expect to get. A chronically anxious, negative attitude repeatedly activates the stress response system. Stress hormones flood your system with adrenaline and cortisol, elevating heart rate, raising blood pressure, and debilitating the higher order brain function that generates the savvy, creative insight and optimism that solves problems. You’re more prone to emotional upsets, memory lapses, and mistakes. We human being generate all sorts of stress reactions purely in our heads, exciting wild emotions that send the mind and body into an uproar and leave us physically exhausted. More often than not, the driving force behind it isn’t our job or the task or even our boss. It is our attitude towards  people, tasks, and events.

Type A personalities, for example, are the highly competitive workaholics who tend to be overly-reactive and aggressive. Type-A’s face a much greater risk of cardiac death than the more peaceful Type-B’s. But it’s not hard work, a difficult challenge, or even long hours to blame for Type-A’s heart problems. It’s the stress from the hostile struggle their aggressive attitude generates.

Attitude is everything, even in those moments when you feel stressed and anxious. Shifting your perspective when you are afraid of failing to feeling excited in the challenge can make you less likely to burn out in a demanding job. A study in Germany found that professionals who were skilled at shifting their anxiety in this way were less likely to be  frustrated or drained by their work. In another study, students who viewed their stress as excitement reported less emotional exhaustion, did better on exams, and earned higher grades. A positive mindset provides an immunity to emotional exhaustion and predicts greater success with all our goals. A positive shift in attitude, when sustained over a few weeks, can literally rewire our brains for the Good Life.

The technical term for the way a change of mindset rewires our brain for greater success is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity has huge implications for business. Results of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people (APA 2005) have found that every key business outcome improves when people are emotionally positive.

  • People are 31% more productive, three times more creative, and a positive mindset increases sales by 37% (Lyubomirsky, 2005).
  • We are ten times more engaged with work (Achor, 2012), and prosocial in ways that achieve superior customer service (George, 1991), and facilitate teamwork that is highly collaborative. (Barsade, 2002).
  • In addition, a positive mindset fosters supportive relationships, which in turn predicts a longer and healthier life (Danner,2001), and lowers health care costs for companies (APA,2002).

The brain scans on the right show the difference in brain function when we’re positive and well-adjusted compared to when we’re stressed and depressed. Multiply the difference by 1000 and you have the loss in brain power in a company doing nothing to alleviate stress.


A Kit to Jump Start Your Mindset

It takes a specific practice to change our mindset. But if you build a practice and every day apply the simple steps are proven to change our attitude, with 4 to 6 weeks your brain’s emotional set point will reset to positive. My book The End of Stress helps you build the practice.  In the mean, click here for a starter kit that helps move in this direction.

 

New research finds that feeling fear eases it; repressing fear makes it worse

Research has found that repressing fear when it raises its ugly head is a typical strategy people use to manage fears, but it not only doesn’t work, it can actually increase fear to the point of overwhelming us.  When we get really scared, stress hormones pour into our brain locking us into the hyper-vigilant state of fear called fight, flight or freeze, which is an intense state of stress that harms our body. In addition, high stress is also “resource intensive,” meaning it shuts down higher brain functions to fuel the stress reaction, pulling power away from the  brain networks that amplify the IQ and creative insight to solve problems.

So what do we do when fear strikes, paralyzing us? It turns out to be simple, although not necessarily easy, but the more we develop this fear-busting skill, the easier it is to do.

  • Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and allow yourself to feel the fear.
  • Often, the process of allowing fear begins with not being afraid of being afraid.
  • Embrace your fear instead of resisting it, being mindful of your breath. If your fear swells, stay with your breath, breathing with the strong feeling.
  • Drop the frightening story your fear is inventing and and keep letting go of fearful thoughts as they arise. In short, don’t think, just feel.

Some people think that feeling difficult feelings will somehow destroy them, but it is quite the opposite. Things actually begin to calm down and your mental state gradually shifts from contracted to expansive; from painted into a tight corner to seeing new possibilities. Control shifts from the brain’s fear center to the higher brain. You are now able to face the problem and discern with greater clarity what to do about it.