What Are You Scared Of? Positive Vibes Series: Build Courage

Get up and show oomph! Be bold, be confident, thread your way through what people think of you, the obstacles, and everything that stirs up a weakness. Gird up your loins and get rid of your doubts and uncertainties.

Sounds familiar? Well, often, the voices in our head are loud enough to nudge us to take action. Still, we turn the volume down and list all the things that could go wrong and all the possible sufferings that can happen because we are afraid.

Aristotle (philosopher 384-322 B.C.) defines “fear as pain or disturbance due to a mental picture of some destructive or painful evil in the future.” Even though he indicates that wickedness and stupidity are evils, but they do not frighten us. Or we are not troubled by things that are a very long way off, such as death. What makes us anxious and fearful is when things have the power to harm and cause significant pain.

Fear is seen as an evolutionary necessity that can help notify a person whether they should proceed in their current direction or find another course to increase the likelihood of survival (Cannon, 1914; Ohman & Mineka, 2001). With this in mind, living a braver life is not to act naively, but to break down those potential problems and build a ladder to face the fears.

For instance, feeling anxious about air turbulence when flying is normal but refusing to travel is a debilitating and irrational fear. What constitutes courage is that you voluntarily take action to accomplish your goals when you have identified the potential problems. Being alert and being fully conscious that things might go wrong is to build the capacity to become braver in the face of challenges and setbacks.

In contrast to existing ideas that tell us to keep away from stress, you can leverage your anxiety and stress by rehearsing the tension and fear. Physical challenging experiences, contests, adventure activities are all character-forming pursuits that develop courage. Taking cold showers in the morning, a ritual that activates stress hormones which makes you think clearly, to engage in high-intensity workouts such as cycling, rock climbing, or running that help with your general health or intermittent fasting, are techniques based on the Stoic philosophy of self-denial that builds resilience against everyday stressors.

Now, in highly uncertain situations, evidently, you have no real control. By adopting a mindset that the only thing you have control over is your response, which is fostered by your values and attitudes towards life, you can transform the uncontrollable to manageable.

As Epictetus said: A Stoic “sage” never finds life intolerable, but sees in every challenge as an opportunity to test and improve oneself:

You should look to the faculties that you have, and say as you behold them, ‘Bring on me now, O Zeus, whatever difficulties you will, for I have the means and the resources granted to me by yourself to bring honour to myself through whatever may come to pass.’ (TD, Book One, Ch. 6, p. 18).

Featured image by Igor Morski

Interview With R.A. Leslie – Transformational Coach and Speaker

Maybe all you need right now is to help yourself. Perhaps you need to work on quieting the noise in your head, listen to the voice of your unconscious, and connect with your dreams and desires. Maybe the gap is so wide, and you are hanging on the edges of two cliffs while gravity pulls you down. You look up, scared to death, not knowing which edge to let go. The dreams, the desires, or the shadows? Maybe while you were expanding your horizons, striving to be the image of myths and protagonists in novels, you lost your voice. And now, you have no idea how to calm the chaos, how to heal your wounds, or how to re-connect with your true aspirations. Maybe you need to learn about your meta-narratives. Perhaps you need someone that cares, makes you comfortable, takes your hand, and sheds light on the gap so that you can rationally see where you are and what you need to know about your life purpose. Maybe it is time to reshape and “discover your dreams.”

Maybe you need a coach to find clarity. A coach that motivates you to move forward. A coach that guides you to a place that echoes “live up to your potential and never give up.”

R.A. Leslie, a transformational coach, and speaker believe that “Our lives begin with stories and dreams inside of us, waiting to be discovered and brought into the world.” Her creative coaching unveils your internal battles and shows you “how to change your message, your feelings, and your habits.”

Image courtesy of R.A. Leslie

Jupilings: How did you become a coach and why-

R.A.: I think of myself more as a lifestyle architect. Someone to reflect back to the client the answers they already have deep within and then help them design, shape, build and structure a life that defines who they truly are.

I started out quite simply and organically by doing workshops for children on believing in their dreams, which led to having healthy self-esteem. Then I went through a divorce and people began asking me to help them with their relationships and careers.

Jupilings: What are the most common challenges people face-

R.A.: People are challenged by love because oftentimes they have been raised with contradictory messages of what love is and is not from their caregivers. Often the romantic relationship is not necessarily love but a form of attachment and painful dysfunction. The other challenge they face is being happy in a career choice. The two themes are often linked to similar emotions and triggers. People struggle with both, often simultaneously.

Jupilings: When things get chaotic and complexity swirls in your life, how can you take back control of your life-

R.A.: The first step is to notice what is causing chaos. Typically it is a slow-building up of past choices. Then insulate yourself for a period of a few days. A long weekend away or even a few personal days away from work. Slowing yourself down is a short cut to resolutions. It always good to reflect on your life so you can see where the chaos has stemmed from and how to halt it. Turn off technology and sit with yourself in meditation. Make a list of what is not working in your life and see if you can ask yourself “why” and what you can do about it. Reach out to a good friend or your coach.

Jupilings: How to overcome the feeling of “I m not good enough or I don’t know enough” when you want to embark on a venture-

R.A.: To overcome the feeling of “I am not good enough, or I don’t know enough” it is best not to compare yourself with others. Realize that there really is no competition when you are original because you have your own unique way of self-expression. Your passion is your own and so are your dreams. They might look like the ideas and dreams of others but you are the only one who can express your vision of who you are and what you want to accomplish.

Sometimes we don’t know enough for a field we are interested in and we can always learn more. However, the experience is a wonderful teacher and provides us with knowledge so we can start from the point of experience and just know that we can always learn more about any given topic. It is “ok” to not know things sometimes. If we have stories to tell and life experiences to share—our insight into those experiences will carry us through any feelings of “not being good enough or not knowing enough.” Sometimes we just don’t need more information. (You are here because you are here you are already more than enough.)

Jupilings: Practical tips on how to switch off the negative thoughts-

R.A: This is not easy, but to be aware of the thought is the first tip. Then don’t give the negative thoughts energy and feeling. Dismiss it. Catch yourself when a negative thought comes and don’t invite them to loop into a cycle of more negative thoughts. Move on to a better feeling thought. This takes practice but it works!

Jupilings: Finding meaning versus happiness, what are your thoughts-

R.A.: When our lives have meaning it becomes a life of happiness. A life of happiness is a feeling of internal joy despite circumstances and outside influences and events. Meaning brings joy, does it not? Often times people associate happiness with externals, labels, images, and things, but that is not true happiness. When we look closely at meaning—it lasts. It is the kind of happiness that is mature. It is not ephemeral. There is deep joy in meaning. Definitely worth the quest.

Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-

R.A.: It depends on what the setback is. Sometimes we just need to pause, accept what we are presented with, in each moment and allow the setback to be there. It will pass with the right action and in time. Setbacks will teach us something about ourselves and others and then we need to do whatever we can to keep a positive, forward momentum going so we can continue to move in the right direction. Setbacks are a part of life. As we mature we understand that setbacks do not have to paralyze us. They are invitations that ask us important questions about where we are in our lives; what we are doing and why and how we will respond to challenges and crisis.

Jupilings: What is your life motto-

R.A.: My life motto? I have a few. One of my favorite ones is: be prepared. We may not get that opportunity of a lifetime but it is still better to be prepared just in case we do. Every day is an opportunity to succeed, to accomplish a goal, to begin something. Finish what you begin or don’t start it. My favorite motto is: Time is irrelevant but timing is everything. (I believe this is true.)

Stop Judging – Take Back Your Power! Foundation of Mindfulness #1

At times, we form an opinion or conclude, deliberately or otherwise, only to find out that the story in our head is polluted. By judging, we work hard to build a wall and to protect ourselves and live securely. The problem with this stance in life is that it often prevents us from making meaningful and genuine connections with oneself and others. Although judging is an instinct, you can be aware of it and control your impulses. When you adopt a mindful outlook, you embark on the intelligence and wisdom track. The non-judging approach is the protective gear that will support you against unsound decisions and irrational reactions in life. Releasing judgment is stepping over self-made barriers to see and grasp “things as they are.”

Todd Schorr Art
Todd Schorr Art

The myths and sensationalized stories are good examples of our preconceived judgments. Overall, the side effects of judgments such as fear or condemning bad and good categories in our mental descriptions create prejudices, biases, and stress. The habit of categorizing is useful for filing systems, but when it comes to our life relations and connections at times, it limits our perspective and growth.

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Todd Schorr Art

How to remove the obstructive judgemental attitude? 

  • Be mindful- Recognize the judgments that unfold whether you are performing a task or when you are in fight-flight mode. Observe how your mind describes the situation: as mundane, suspicious, energetic, or any other attribute that influences your behavior or reaction to that particular circumstance. For instance, to observe our judgemental mind, practice breathing. Set a time and start paying attention to your breath, and indeed, your oblivious mind will begin harassing you by labeling your practice as boring. Basically, the approach is not to suppress your judgment but to be aware of it.
  • Don’t take it personally – I remember that when our son started high-school, the amazing principal recommended that as the parents of young teenagers, do not take their withdrawn behavior and uncommunicative reactions personally. Instead, be continuously loving, caring, and have a set framework of rules. Don’t snoop; they will eventually talk to you and tell you all about their adventure but on their own time. It was great advice, one that kept the peace. Or, as adults, it happens that you will encounter disagreements. As long as you remember that the conflict is not about you, it helps to detach the “me” connection and give others the benefit of the doubt.
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    Todd Schorr Art
  • rame – This approach is about not changing the facts but having an open mind to recognize that people have different ways of doing things or different perspectives. Instead of getting angry or miserable, channel your energy to pause and reflect. The challenge is to dive underneath the anger, and your oxygen tank is your ability to reframe. With regular practice, the efforts to reframe a situation become a habit, immensely rewarding, especially when you encounter setbacks. Reframing a problematic situation or dire circumstance allows you to transform the problems into possibilities and remain healthy, composed with a positive mindset.

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    Todd Schorr Art
  • Self-reflection – As soon as you start judging, try to ask yourself whether you have had the same or similar behaviour.

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    Todd Schorr Art
  • Don’t blame yourself or others- As much as the blame game is an easy defense mechanism, indeed, it is unproductive and unpleasant. The tendency to distort our self-esteem with blame is inept. Instead, see things as they are, and break away from blaming yourself or others. Again reframe the situation, replace words such as should to could or losses to learning experiences to make a pathway for much better opportunities.
  • Be a friend to yourself – Connect with your strength, intelligence, and love yourself. Dismiss negative thoughts and destructive criticism. When you stop judging, you will distance yourself from gauging others and assume an impartial approach in life. One that helps with mastering your mind.
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Todd Schorr Art

Featured image by: Todd Schorr

Trust – Foundation of Mindfulness # 4

“In practising mindfulness, you are practising taking responsibility for being yourself and learning to listen to and trust your own being.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

In a world full of endless choices and challenges, self-doubt is the non-stop humming in the background. The overwhelming feeling from the incoming mixed messages in our head is confusing and debilitating, and exhausting. Feeling stuck or lost happens when our brain cannot make sense of the outside information or process the internal feeling associated with the new context.

Our capacity to feel confident and make decisions based on our authentic self is to shield our brain from the bombardment of mixed messages from the outside world and the numbing of our useless tweets in our head.

It is possible to learn how to trust yourself and start making decisions, yet; you have to accept that emotional vulnerability is part of the formula. Growth and transformation are not possible without the willingness to be exposed to discomfort and anxiety.

You can cultivate trust by shifting your attention from external and pointing it towards yourself. Paying attention to your emotions, experiences, and thoughts with a nonjudgmental attitude builds confidence in yourself and your potential. Gradually, you realize that all the incapacitating walls you have built over the years to defend yourself against challenges are not that daunting. As you learn to trust your inner resources, you grow confidence in your strength, and the threats weaken in whatever might come up.

Ways to increase self-trust

  • Be aware of your thoughts and feelings as much as you are focused on what you are doing – Whenever doubt creeps in, retreat, contemplate and identify the source of the emotions. Do not reject or judge your feelings; being uncertain means that you don’t have enough knowledge. This insight gives you the clarity to charge ahead and learn.
  • Be conscious of signals from your physical body, cravings, pain, or pleasure. As your body continues to perform its function, such as breathing or blood circulation, the concept of trust moves from perception to reality. An abstract idea manifests in the form of a physical system. This realization gives you no reason to doubt your capacity.
  • Make a list of all the qualities you like about yourself. Once you become aware of all your capabilities and virtues, you have created an intimate relationship with your trustworthy self. Rationally, when you are competent, reliable, and sincere, there is no reason not to trust yourself.
  • Recognize those poor choices you have made in the past that do not define your nor set in stone your path and destiny.
  •  Respect your feelings as much as you respect others.
  • Express your views and give input when you do have an opinion.

Like anything, you can establish an intellectual trust with yourself by setting the intention, paying attention and practice. For more information, please refer to mindfulness meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

 

 

How To become More Resilient – Leadership Skills

Nobody has a soul unscathed. As famously Nietzsche has stated:

“What does not kill you makes you stronger.”

Truth be told, it is not easy to be resilient in chaos or adversity; however, research has shown that it can be learned. Stretching our mental muscles and drawing on key questions raised by the great thinkers gives us a leg up to control our thoughts and surpass oneself through the spine-chilling maze of setbacks.

Mindfulness, martial arts, and behavior change are recommended; however, lasting success depends on self-reflection. Growth is fueled by practical wisdom and reasoned decision-making. So how to start the introspection to develop resilience?

Training the brain with philosophical counseling sessions to think clearly at infliction points in our ventures or life is absolutely necessary. The process of observing our minds and learning from different schools of thought empowers us to take charge and develop resilience in times of crisis. Like in a plane emergency, we curb the impulse to run for the door by knowing in advance the rules and follow the instructions responsibly. The guidance will shape our perceptions and expectations into awareness, and our behaviors will become more productive rather than reactionary. Ultimately, the self-examination and preparation lead to a disciplined mind that helps us leap over the fatigue caused by unprecedented events, discord, or even malicious situations.

 

Change Your Perception

“Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.”

Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote the statement, the adherent of stoic philosophy highlights how perception plays an important role in your responses. A terrifying event has the potential to be agonizing or not, for it all depends on your perception. Therefore, you have a choice to experience the unfavorable circumstances in dismay or learn the skills to build resilience.

As humans, we can exaggerate stressors, fret, and run things over and over in our heads to the uncontrollable point. However, if you can adopt a positive outlook and reframe disastrous to challenging, you will be able to deal with calamities, learn, grow, and move on. A positive change in your perception is not to ignore and distort the reality but to ensure that you have control over your state of mind and emotional response.

 

 

Outline Your Expectations

Preparing your mind to question the underlying intentions of your expectations produce a valuable outcome in adversity. Since, the correlation between a challenge, an expectation, the course of action and the end result depend on your disposition. This means that unsettled and implicit intentions, an obscure plan of action or a goal will generate unrealistic expectations leading to resentment. However, the integration of philosophical notions to clarify your intentions influences your response and helps you confront the negative. Meditating on great philosophical ideas to become resilient and recover from adversity breeds self-control. This state of mind nurtures a rational, optimistic outlook to strategically analyze and gain attribution of productive motives from a third-party perspective.

The more aware of your intentions and your experiences you become, the more you will be able to connect the two, and the more you will be able to create the experiences of your life consciously. This is the development of mastery. It is the creation of authentic power.- Gary Zukav

Manage Your Behaviour

“Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behaviour, not because they won or lost.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Sometimes, the end results are unfair, unreasonably, or wrongfully against you; however, the philosophical reflection will help you develop mental toughness. Ethically responding in the heat of battle sounds virtuous, yet, might not be practical as it is easier said than done! Although you choose to change your attitude or consciously assimilate a behavior and internalize to deal with the problem. Effectively stated by Epictetus on Walking the Walk:

 

Don’t declare yourself a philosopher or talk about all your principles; walk the walk instead. 

At dinner, don’t discourse on the proper way to eat. Just eat.

Here’s how Socrates did it: When someone asked Socrates to introduce him to a particular famous philosopher, he did it without thinking “I’m better.”

When the ignorant discuss deep matters, bite your tongue. Don’t vomit what
you haven’t chewed.

When you are told you’re ignorant and you manage to be unruffled, you know your practice is working.