In my next series, I aim to share life experiences, the latest tools, and practices to develop a positive attitude and cultivate constructive thought habits.
A positive mindset is to use your intelligence and knowledge to set goals, manage pressures, and change the negative script to a promising one. The message is to recognize that positive thinking manifests ecstasy in our lives, boosts our health and well-being and shapes a valuable self-narrative.
In that spirit, knowing well that no one can keep upbeat all the time, here are positive mottos to live by in 100 words:
Self-acceptance. Live courageously.Express your thoughts clearly.Explore your ego. Break the habit of instant gratification with fulfilment. Have gratitude in your daily life. Step out of comfort zone and aim for growth.Cultivate resilience which is a formula for happiness.Work with your strengths to experience the state of flow.Give meaning to your life by helping others.Focus by being mindful.Choose to reflect and not to agonize.Smile and laugh and hug. Expect good sensibly. Be kind.Forgive.Move away from blame game & take responsibility.Emotions are data, use them wisely.Embrace the uncontrollable.Live purposefully.
Accepting all facets of yourself elevates you to a higher level of your being. When you recognize your weaknesses, you shift towards a mindset that thrives from a position of strength. Imagine in a job interview where you are focused on pointing out your best qualities, skill sets, and ambitions, and as soon as the question of listing your weaknesses is raised, you are quick to hush it up. How? Either by changing the subject swiftly or by expressing your enthusiasm to acquire the required skill.
Regardless of which response you choose, you have to realize that self-acceptance is free of any qualification. It happens when you are deeply connected to your true self, and you are aware that your passion, your inadequacies, your resolve, or shortcomings are part of you. Just by spicing up your self-perception with a little bit of encouragement and a mindset keen to learn from mistakes, you will stamp the sign of self-acceptance on your résumé. Without it, your mental state will suffer, and most probably, all the actions taken to improve the side effects will be less helpful.
In particular, if you feel anxious or stressed from a flaw in your character, all kinds of practices to reduce the unwanted emotions will be quick to fade from lack of self-acceptance. All the negative self-talk and thoughts will limit the gray matter in your brain region, which helps control your emotions and stress. The more you feel bad about yourself, more stress signals disrupt your emotional wellbeing.
How to strengthen self-acceptance
Reframe the negative criticism and change the narrative by refocusing on the positive aspects of yourself.
Control your state of mind by being self-aware. For instance, when you feel bitter, observe that your focus is evaluating your emotions based on your triggered feelings. This approach is misleading. Move away from how you think and assess the feeling based on your values before you react or retaliate.
Practice self-transcendence – Lack of self-acceptance is often beyond your conscious control. For example, the intentional process of forgiveness, whether oneself or another, has lots of roundabouts, water puddles, and intersections. The path is confusing since you can either choose the clear road so that you can keep going without wasting time or get to the other jammed packed lane, hampered by the gridlock, and be miserable. The first step is to accept that the two lanes exist side by side. The same acknowledgment should be extended to different facets of your character. In such a situation, self-transcendence is constructive. This positive trait aims to create awareness and unity with oneself, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety.
Taking a step to look inward and rely more on your values rather than identify your being with things outside of yourself reframes your self-perception. For instance, transcendental meditation or connecting at a deeper level by contribution to a venture or a community de-clutters your mind of unnecessary and negative energies. At the heart of all your practices, unity is your guide. Adhering to a higher purpose, confronting your fears, staying positive are the extensive attempts to reach self-acceptance.
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:
What separates us from other animals is the use of language. Animals do communicate in many different ways, through smell, dancing, or touching. What sets us apart is our verbal expression and, importantly, our ability to communicate clearly.
It is not always easy to communicate your thoughts, the use of words might be misunderstood, and our bodily gestures might be misread. We tend to say nothing and expect others to understand what we are thinking telepathically. We don’t get off our chest our concerns and blame or accuse others of indifference. We get annoyed, feel defensive, and respond in anger because we tend to ignore or hold on to things that we have not been able to voice with clarity, and the list goes on. Well, until we all evolve and become Professor X, it is to our best advantage to learn and hone our communication skills instead of reacting to our unvalidated assumptions.
Regardless of the concept and whether the conversation is personal, professional, or addressing an audience, the pillars to an intelligent and useful talk are based on:
Know your purpose
Know your intention
Know the meaning
Once you have wiped out the haziness through the process of exploration of your intention and how it all relates to you and your audience, make sure that you practice non-judgment. This attitude will reinforce your efforts to express your thoughts with common sense and gives you the wisdom that a broad spectrum of opinions exists. Be mindful that rational explanations or points of view will probably be presented and that they might be totally in contrast with what you believe.
Last but not least, cut through the noise, the unambiguity, and always ask yourself why you are engaging in a conversation. The magic of questioning your intention unconsciously appeals to your character’s smart, intelligent, and thoughtful part.
“I want it, and I want it now,” sounds familiar? Needless to say that it is tough to resist the badly behaving inner voice, which demands an instant reward. Like that piece of magnetic chocolate in the cupboard that somehow telepathically stimulates your tastes buds or browsing aimlessly the social media to get an update on your imaginary friends. Of course, not being able to resist comes with a bold headline, featured as “the lack of purpose and meaning.”
While the previous statement is a significant blockage, brain chemistry is enormously responsible for reinforcing the unproductive feeling, such as instant gratification. Once you experience joy, your brain is exposed to dopamine, and deliberately the brain encourages you to continue doing what made you feel good. This is called the dopamine reward circuit, which involves several parts of the brain and fortifies good feelings. Hence, unaware of the joy’s source, anything that triggers the gratification releases the chemicals, and the brain perceives it as a pleasure source.
Now that you know the brain’s basic physiology’s reward system, the next step is to consciously bridge the way for your present self to reach your future self by taking advantage of the feel-good chemicals ferrying in your neural pathways. Having said that, your goals and your future self need not only a vision board but, most notably, a philosophical vision to overcome procrastination or curb instant gratification. That vision, or you may call it inspiration, must be ingrained deep into your values and aligned with your temperament.
Make a list of your goals, your resources, your talents, your shortcomings, and your inadequacies. Don’t be shy jot down all the self-descriptive adjectives to see what you need to improve on and what you could solidly leverage to reach your aspirations.
Once you have the list in front of you, start an inner-dialogue and try to convince your present self why your goals are important.
Attach meaning to your goals by re-examining your intentions. At this stage, the philosophical vision becomes crystal clear.
Choose the most challenging goal. Why? Since you have to work super hard to reach it. As Pluto said: “Do one thing and do it well.”
In full awareness, accept that life is full of agony, traumas, sufferings, and delays.
Tap into your higher intelligence to embrace the benefits of delayed gratification. As humans, we can exert self-control. Make use of it, consider your promise to your future self, know your “why,” and avoid temptations.
Every day remind yourself of your intended goal so that you stay on course.
Be consistent, even if you feel miserable, put as much effort as possible since a fraction of the required work is better than none.
Staying motivated is not an easy task, so don’t wallow on it if you slip up. It happens, we all struggle, rather than giving in to your impulses again and falling into a vicious cycle, the best way out is to know that new habits take time. With patience, you can put your abilities to work to reach your goals.
It would be helpful if every time you act upon your impulsive ego, a holographic screen appears in front of your eyes, which would shed light on “why” and outlines the motive! Or, perhaps, you go through an out of body experience to watch how you are entrapped in heedless and primitive impulses, which impel you to be helpless and act irrationally. Possibly, in the future, with the help of technology, you will be able to materialize such visual awareness. Till then, you might as well resort to certain practices that will push you to another level of existence, far beyond hopeless confusion.
First of all, let’s reflect on the sense of ego; whether delving into Eastern philosophy or psychoanalysis, both recognize that uncontrolled and impulsive ego will lead to suffering.
Moving through different stages of ego to become the best version of yourself is not an easy path. The truth is that if you are lucky, life will sweep you through nasty havoc that will wound your self-identity and crush your image. A breakdown that can lead to a breakthrough by feeding the ideal self. Now, rising from the ashes is to take responsibility for your wellbeing. It starts with realizing that your thoughts are tainted by subjectivity and emotions since your mind has found security in the sense of belonging to the wrong structures, misinterpreted values, and egocentric pursuits.
While you are climbing up the spiral staircase of your spiritual evolution, I suggest you observe and question your motives, your triggers, contradictions, and practice the following transformational self-help:
Gain clarity by self-reflection and self-criticism – question your goal; if you feel uneasy about your reactions, cross-examine yourself to align your intent to your essence. Self-analysis is not about beating up oneself or agonizing but to understand the triggers, your role in the event, and blowing away the pollution so that the image of your intentions becomes sharp and transparent. The focus should be on you and not others.
See yourself from another perspective – use abstract thinking to match your motives to your best possible self. That entails imagining your future “Self” in unpleasant circumstances only when channeling your energy to shield your best version. By setting unwavering rules to be of service to all, however, is possible and live as a human, your future “Self” releases toxic struggles and replace the void with contentment.
Question the expectations – step back and reassess your approach and your expectations and how they connect to the problem. By re-evaluating the expectations, you will recognize the difference whether they are conventional & reactionary or wise and tolerant.
Remember, you cannot fill the bowl with water if it is turned upside down. To be fully alive is to be well-disposed to “Self” and others. The key is to question your motives every time the destructive “Self”/ “ego” appears. Taking a volunteering leap to an inspired “Self” means using your knowledge, patiently, and for good.Have grit, as the journey is bumpy, and evidently, the spiral staircase will not get more comfortable. You will fall back a few steps, and you will be aware of your limitations. However, regardless of the hardships, this time, with conviction and a humbled “ego,” you know how to get up quickly and how to wipe up the dust. Finally, as you go further, you realize that gratitude and generosity are your mental tools to serve and use your power to benefit others so that you act like an intelligent being.
Do you feel misunderstood, go through bitter self-recrimination, be confused about how you feel, cope with life challenges, or be distracted? Occasionally, we feel sad and display a lack of energy or vigor; however, gaining a deep understanding of the reasons behind the distress enables us to regulate our mood. The awareness allows us to remedy our feelings either through finding a solution or adopting a restorative method.
The problem arises when unknown anxiety, procrastination, fear, or an undigested disturbing experience pushes us to nihilism. When we cannot identify an accurate reason for the lingering inner conflicts, we tend to gravitate towards the negative path. This complication prevents us from gaining insight into what has triggered our despair, anxiety, or other impaired emotions. This is when self-help stops working, and you need a confidante, someone who patiently and supportively listens.
When your efforts and resources are ineffective and blindly steering the wheel, it’s time to establish a personal interaction that acts as a catalyst—a professional who can improve your wellbeing and resolve your worrisome behaviors and thoughts.
On this account, to learn more about how to deal with self-criticism, not to take offense, and develop a growth mindset, I had the opportunity to interview Krista Roesler M.A. RP, a registered psychotherapist and a professionally trained life coach at Psych Company located in Toronto:
Jupilings: Please tell us about your background and areas of expertise-
KW: I am a registered psychotherapist and a life coach. I have a masters degree in psychology and life coaching training from the Adler Institute/the University of Toronto. I work with individuals and couples on a wide range of issues from finding purpose in life and achieving dreams and goals to dealing with more severe mental health issues such as addiction, trauma, depression, etc. Please see the website for a more detailed list: www.psychcompany.com
Jupilings: In the context of living a meaningful & a mindful life, how can we distinguish between who we should be and whom we want to be-
KR: In the context of living a meaningful & a mindful life you can distinguish between who we should be and who we want to be by getting familiar with our values or what is really important us. Start by writing a list of all the things you feel like you should do, have to do, feel obligated to do or others told you to do. Now cross off everything you don’t want to do. Now start a 2nd list and of the things you actually want to do and try to get more of that in your life.
Jupilings: How to deal with self-criticism-
KR: One way to deal with self-criticism is to first become really aware of it by writing it down. Next, separate your self-criticism from your own voice. Tell your self that just because you are thinking these thoughts it doesn’t mean any of them are true. Explore and think about where the thoughts originated. Did you have a critical parent? Next, think about what you really need to hear to feel empowered? Do you need to hear that you can do it? Do you need to hear that you are smart enough or good enough?
Jupilings: How to become braver in life-
KR: You can become braver in life by trying and doing things that are out of your comfort zone or that you didn’t think you could. This will help build your confidence.
Jupilings: How not to take things personally-
KR: You can stop taking things personally by recognizing that it’s usually about someone else’s issues and not you. These issues might be that someone might have a bad day or be under stress for example.
Ask yourself if they are like this with everyone? If they are like this with others than it is not personal.
Be curious and wonder why that person might behave that way? If it’s a bully. Were they bullied at some point in their life and now bully others? Is it someone who is shy and that’s why they have trouble with eye contact, responding, talking? When you can try to understand why someone behaves a certain way you can free yourself from taking it personally.
Jupilings: What are your 5 golden tips to help us develop a growth mindset-
View all obstacles/challenges/criticism as a learning opportunity
Embrace imperfection, mistakes and failure
Enjoy the process of getting there and don’t hyper-focus on the end result
Learn from the mistakes of others
If you haven’t mastered something yet, allow time to practice and improvement.
Jupilings: We do negotiate with ourselves and others each and every day, what are the necessary traits that need to be nurtured to help us negotiate from a position of strength-
KR: Non-judging is one of the attitudinal foundations of mindfulness. Any tips or practice that will support our efforts to adopt a non-judgemental attitude.
A tip that will support our efforts to adopt a non-judgement attitude is to be more compassionate with yourself and others. A good way to do this is to think of someone you deeply care about and want to protect such as your child or best friend. Now ask yourself if you would ever say those thoughts to your best friend or child. If you wouldn’t think about what you would say to them instead and say that to yourself.
Jupilings: “If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool”. What are your tips to deal with our lack of understanding and to stay calm in unpleasant situations or being annoyed by people’s behaviours-
KR: A tip is to try to have empathy and to try to put yourself into that person’s shoes. Become curious about what made that person act or think that way. Remember we are all doing the best we can with where we are. Remind yourself of all the times in the past that you didn’t know any better and also acted like a “fool.”
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
KR: Setbacks are a normal part of life. I expect setbacks to happen. I factor the expectation that setbacks will occur into everything I do. It means whatever I want to do will just take a little longer and little more work to get there and that’s okay. That’s part of life.
Jupilings: What is your life motto-
KR: Action leads to success. Every little step forward will get me closer to where I want to be.
Have you recently sat down and unpacked your thoughts and asked yourself: what are the things you repeatedly do that keep you from reaching your potential?
Why this question? Because how you live your life matters. How you deal with your emotions matter. For most of your life, you acquire knowledge to have a point, to set goals, and lead a meaningful life. You probe into your conscious and allow your intelligence to guide you constructively. You tap into skills & capabilities nested in you due to your education, experience, and privileges in life with its triumph and setbacks.
If your perspective is that the world is in progress, you are a firm believer in growth and advancement. Indeed, this point of view starts with self-progress. A mindset that understands positive thinking is about emotional agility and not avoidance. We all hear disturbing news, and every day there is a painful event happening in one part of the world. However, the reality is that evolutionary progress is taking place, and we are moving forward.
So, next time your enthusiasm is ebbing away, or you feel stressed, sit down to investigate your inner feelings and thoughts. Make sure to remind yourself of the dynamic of your emotions and your ability to wean off the habit of instant gratification with mindfulness techniques. (You can refer to the mindfulness series to learn about the foundations of practice).
Few points to think about:
Recognize the emotions you are facing
Label them – Upset, fear, anger…
Understand that you can step out of the unpleasant situation to gain control and re-energize
Negotiate with yourself on how to express your feelings, whether is anger or worry, at the right time and in what dosage
Re-orient yourself. This process entails deciding to act in a way that is in harmony with your rational self & values.
Align your behavior with your goal and detach your intention from ego
Use your imagination for the best outcome.
It is crucial to control your emotions before taking any initiative as your best judgment is unavailable when you are boiling with anger or scared.
Remember that you choose a path of stagnation that will lead to depression or the sweet sake of manifesting yourself congruently with your potentials and powerful, capable self.
Are you feeling stressed out? Are you facing challenges? Are you having negative thoughts about how things are going? Do you have a poor body image that affects how you present yourself?
Next time you are riding on the negativity rollercoaster, notice the mindless chatter that is taking over your cognitive reasoning. Recognize that tension and anxiety are the sources that are stirring up the useless inner voice that signals destructive criticism. This negativity is unrealistic, and if it is not challenged, it will consume your health, your immune system and turn you into a self-absorbed toxic person who is unaware of the world around them. So be aware!
Introspection and shifting your mindset to a positive state can be achieved through myriads of ways. There are lots of self-help books, treatments, training, and the list goes on. However, it is possible to remedy the way we feel at any moment of the day! You can control the rush of negative thoughts and tensions in the heat of the moment by shifting your focus to your heart’s physiology.
Dr. Alan Watkins, a leadership expert, neuroscientist & CEO of Complete Coherence, explains that we can balance our emotions by controlling our breath. He further points out the connection between the optimum level of our performance and our physiology. Therefore, to reach our “A game,” we need to get a grip of our different psychological and physical layers:
Performance – To be at our best, we need to change our behavior.
Behaviour – To change our behavior, we have to change the way we think.
Thoughts – Our feelings influence our thoughts.
Feelings – Our feelings are the awareness of our emotions.
Emotions – Emotion is the energy in motion from all the streams of data,
Physiology – Streams of data produced by functions and mechanism within our body,
Therefore, in a stressful situation, practicing rhythmic and smooth breathing to regain a coherent heart rate pattern allows the flow of data in our body to function without a blockage. Due to our ancient survival instinct, our frontal lobe shuts off as the time intervals’ variation between the heartbeats increases. Once you master the smooth and rhythmic breathing, you have set the ground to gain control over the fabric of your mind. As a result, the mixed self-help efforts or developmental training exerted on those psychological layers will help you stay alert and energetic to give your best. Only with practice, in an anxious state, you can steer your heart rate variability to an ideal pace so that your brain regains its clarity. The emphasis should be to breathe in measured, regular, and smooth intervals to have a coherent heart rate pattern.
Now that you are aware of the connections and most importantly, you have the elixir of control, next time you are restless and on edge, you know precisely what to do: zoom out of the negative perception of your body or mind and zoom in to your heart and breathing rhythm.
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Featured image courtesy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the galaxy Marvin