Archive | February, 2012

New Math: Subtraction can Add Years to your Life!

10 Feb

I love watching the late George Carlin‘s sketch about our Stuff where he describes how all of our stuff expands to fit into larger and larger areas.  No matter how much we upsize, we never seem to have the room we need.  Unless we have a garage sale or decide to downsize, many of us seem to collect until the day we die (and then others have to get rid of our “stuff”.)

I perused through Gail McMeekin’s The Power of Positive Choices: Adding and Subtracting Your Way to a Great Life yesterday where she describes the S in P O S I T I V E  C H O I C E S as the power of Subtraction.  It occurred to me that she is bang on with her assertion that the removal of unproductive factors from our life can be a positive thing.

That led me to ponder that human beings are not just “material” collectors, but also emotional collectors.  We collect people, experiences, and memories during our life – many of which we should have discarded long ago!  If we stopped to take an inventory of the intangible stuff we collect and store in our mental garages (our head), we would probably find a cache of garbage or things we no longer need.  Moreover, we might find things that actually work against us and no longer serve our best interests.

Maybe it is time for a mental garage sale – or even a run to the dump… I realize that I need to learn the new math: subtraction can add years to your life!

I started by taking inventory of my mental garage and here is what I found:

1.   A pile of Toxic Relationships.

For the past six years (I call December 2005 my awakening), I knew that I was hoarding this “pile”.  While it is not as big as it once was, it still resembled a stack of old clothes that no longer fit and served as reminders of times gone by.  These toxic relationships were not always toxic, in fact they involve people who once served a purpose in my life (I understand some of them); some resembled friends or colleagues, while others were family. Nonetheless, the relationships were not mutually beneficial and no longer fit what I could tolerate in my new self-loving life. Typically toxic relationships involve verbal abuse, manipulation, coercion, guilt or other unhealthy factor, or it is parasitic (one being lives off the energy or health of another.)  Regardless, a toxic relationship is at a minimum unhealthy, or even deadly (over time) to at least one of the parties. Unless the terms can be altered to become a healthy relationship, it is not worth maintaining.  In the same way that closet space can be better used for well-fitting new clothes, the space left by removing toxic relationships leaves room for new healthy ones.

 

2.      A wall of old horror movies.

It was not long after finding the toxic relationships that I noticed this emotional space-stealer! The once valuable cache contained hours of painful experience “replays” (from every possible camera angle) dating from childhood to the present.  While these served a temporary purpose while a lesson was being learned, today they are nothing more than cruel reminders of past negative events. The contents ran the gamut of pre-K pants-wetting, taunts of childhood bullies, pain of unrequited love, outbursts of hormonal girls, sports and academic disappointment, scoldings of disapproving parents, and physical and verbal assaults. Some of the actors were no longer even familiar, but reliving the pain was real.  Through the years a particular set may have served a purpose when I hoped to avoid similar screenplays, but realistically their value is mostly horrific. Moreover, by occupying valuable mental “wall space”, there is less real estate available for the happy movies.

Figuratively “tossing out” the wall of movies was empowering and refreshing.  While I realize that each experience taught me something, I do not need to relive them.  It is more important to note how the collection contributed into making me the strong, independent, self-reliant woman I am today.

 

3.      Bookcases of obsolete encyclopedia:

Don Miguel Ruiz talks about how we are “domesticated” with lies during childhood -intended to nurture us into submission as safety-minded, cooperative, giving (and over-giving), “civilized” adults. Many of the agreements we unwittingly entered as children no longer serve us, and need to be severed along with the “encyclopedias” from the past.  Agreements such as “children should be seen and not heard” and “strangers are dangerous” can become debilitating in adulthood unless we rid them from our psyche.  I found several encyclopedia series on my bookshelf – all long outdated – with focuses on religion, geography (now obsolete), and rule books promoting decades old opinions and sexist attitudes. I had no idea I stored so many “textbooks” because they all blended into the mental garage. As I unload them to the trash, I am amazed at the beauty of the wood grain and thrilled to see how much room is left for new beliefs and fresh ideas.

4.      Outdated survival provisions.

Even though I live in a state where we annually stockpile provisions (water, batteries, and canned goods), I was surprised to find a cache of outdated provisions in my psyche.  I found torn “sandbags” intended to keep watershed tears at bay should there be another flash flood (a divorce or death); expired “cans” of justification to feed anyone if they exploit my vulnerability (“you’re too sensitive” or “you shouldn’t feel that way”); an expired “fire extinguisher” to combat verbal abuse (gosh I wish I knew this was when I needed it!); and tins of emotional “mace” to ward off intruders who don’t respect my boundaries.  All of these were at one time fresh and necessary to provide security, but their utility has since passed and they all need to be ditched and possibly replenished.  Wow, I am amazed at the space these took up!

5.      Luggage filled with emotional “stuff”.

When I “travel” outside my comfort zone, I have a few prized bags that serve me well. When I glance around inside my head, I notice so many nearly new pieces of luggage that I might have used once or twice, filled with items that are doubles of what I already have. It is like having a mismatched set of sports bags, suitcases, and backpacks – all beautiful in their own right, but they are “extras” and take up space. As an idea collector, this luggage housed concepts from self-help books, motivational speakers, “gourmet” lifestyle magazines, all good in their own right, but together they create clutter and take up space.  A cluttered mental garage is as dangerous as a real life counterpart – and could be fire starter to a misguided spark.  I commit all these orphaned ideas to the garage sale.

 

Now that I realize how much space emotional subtraction can add – I am on a quest to declutter and clean out my mental garage.

Next on my agenda will be to do the same (again) in my physical environment.   This brings to mind the idea of The 100 Thing Challenge, but that’s the topic of a future post.

Does any of this make sense to you?

Have a great week!

Carol

Wisdom from Sam I am…

8 Feb

I don’t know if this happens to you, but once in a while a childhood story comes to mind with wisdom I never considered.  Today I read an article related to how we sabotage our or another’s dreams when we use the word “should” instead of “want” as in “I should do…” instead of “I want to do…”  It is a subtle difference but one that has an amazingly different results.

The word “should” casts judgment on an action or behavior whereas “want” suggests an openness.  I finished reading the article and was left with the encouragement to tell my inner critic to change its words from “should” to “want”.

That’s when I thought about the Dr. Suess story Green Eggs and Ham.. a childhood beginning reader of about 50 unique words written in the famous Dr. Suess rhyming style.  If you haven’t read the story or do not recall reading it, a refresher is in order:  the main character speaks in the first person and talks to a colleague or friend named “Sam I am”.  Sam I am is persistent in encouraging the story-teller to try a new dish he calls “Green Eggs and Ham” and through a series of creative rhymes finally persuades him to try the dish, whereby the story-teller ends up liking it and actually thanking Sam I am.

According to Wikipedia:

Green Eggs and Ham is a best-selling and critically acclaimed book by Dr. Seuss, first published on August 12, 1960. As of 2001, according to Publishers Weekly, it was the fourth-best-selling English-language children’s book (novel) of all time.

The wisdom that struck me today was the persuasive (and ultimately triumphant) technique used by Sam I am: it consisted of asking a series of “Would you, could you…” questions that allowed the narrator to respond in a non-defensive way.  By using open-ended “would you, could you…” instead of “you should…”, Sam I am established a mutually respectful dialog.

How often do we unconsciously close off communication using “should” instead of “would” or “could” and inject unwelcome judgment into what we consider encouraging words?

Consider the difference between:  “You should try…” and “Would you try” or “Could you try”.  At first glance, the differences are subtle, but the differences in response can be remarkable.

The former implies a duty or obligation on the part of the receiver and takes away the freedom of choice – something we may never have intended to do.  “Should” implies that there is a right way (and by implication a wrong way) to do things, the right way being whatever the questioner believes.  It implies that the listener “should” make a particular choice and does not leave options open.  How do YOU feel when someone tells you what to do without saying it directly?

Dr. Suess may or may not have intended to impart this wisdom on children, but may have hoped to suggest it subliminally on his adult readers.  Whatever the rationale, I appreciate the wisdom of Green Eggs and Ham.

As far as the Royal We (me, myself and I), we already appreciate that our Inner Critic learned this today and promises to use the word “Would” or “Could” or “I want” more often.  Removing the “Should” from its vocabulary is already having positive results.

Thank you, Dr. Suess!

Have a great week,

Carol

The Road to Hell is still paved with Good Intentions…

7 Feb

Have you heard the idiom:  “The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions”?  I grew up with it and today can digest it.  So often I see it in action:  good intentions without supporting actions really do not do any good.  Literally taken, people with good intentions (without action or whose actions contradict their words) do not make noble souls.

Our politicians and candidates are proof positive of people who are not accountable for their words. How often does an elected official (or TV ad-supported politician wannabe) feature advertising where they “say” what they will do if elected, then fail to deliver on their words? In this election year, we are bound to see a bounty of good intentions spouted daily.

True leaders follow-through on what they say!

While my father used to quote the subject line as a biblical truism, I forgot about it until this week when John Chappelear wrote a similar phrase in his Positive Thoughts blog:

“It’s Action not Intention… I judge myself by my thoughts but others judge me by my actions…”

If you reflect on this for a moment, what does it really mean?  If  judge ourselves by our intentions (our words), while others judge us by our actions, we had better be sure that our actions follow-up what we say!  We can have the best thoughts (and follow them up with words) that tell the world we intend to be kind, supportive, generous, virtuous, etc. — but if our actions are contradictory, our words mean nothing.  Actions speak louder than words!

Before we can judge others on their actions or lack thereof – or chide someone that his/her actions are contrary to what s/he says, we ought to take a look at our own behaviors.  Do I walk the talk?  Do I do what I say I will do?  Do my actions and behavior speak the same truth as I purport to think or say?  This can be an eye-opening experience, especially if you ask a trusted friend or confidante if this is true of you.  It may come as a surprise if your words say one thing as you do another!

This Valentine’s Day as you think about love, and life, (and if you are single like me the Hallmark commercial significance of Valentine’s Day), you may want to think about whether the expressions of love (through candy, flowers or food/meals) is consistent with how your beloved treats you all year.

If you are lucky enough to have a heavenly relationship with someone you love – AND their actions match their words of love, count your blessings!  Too often, this is not the case.  People generally say what they think is expected or that they think we want to hear, and their fall flat on the floor without action.

If everyone did their part to follow through with actions that match their (good) intentions, our world would be a better place, and there would be move love and truth for all.  AND, we could trust our friends, family, and even politicians to follow through with their intentions. Can you imagine a world like that?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Have a good week,

Carol

Can all our dreams come true?

6 Feb

Readers of this blog know that I adhere to don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” (search in the blog for past posts on this topic) and I found the following quote to be of special interest:

Our dreams overlap and we each dream a part of the entire dream, the dream of the planet, which is made by the projection of billions of dreams. – don Miguel Ruiz

While Ruiz talks about our reality being the manifestation and interpretation of our mind, and tells us that we are all always living in a world that our mind “dreams”, I consider that what we seek to become (traditionally thought of as our goals or our “dreams of the future”) are part of our personal dream.

Along these same lines is The Law of Attraction (what you wish will come true if you really believe it) which gained popularity as a book/CD/DVD called The Secret.

The basic premise of the Law of Attraction is this:  What you dream/envision/truly desire in your mind’s eye will manifest itself in your life – and all you have to do is put your goals out to the universe and watch them unfold before your very eyes.

So, my question is this:  if each of us individually has a dream for our life (love, prosperity, wisdom, health, etc) and we truly believe in it, what happens if these dreams collide or compete with those of others all vying for attention and fruition from the “universe”?

Is this hokey?  What do you think?  Can your mind manifest the future?  If I envision a future of my dream job/career, living in a place of great natural beauty, in fine health, and surrounded by wondrous people who accept me unconditionally – is yearning for it enough to make it come true? Call me cynical but I just do not understand how the billions of dreams in the world (with conflicting goals and often at odds with each other) can all come true.

What do you think?

Have a great week,

Carol

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