When I was teaching argumentative essay writing, my regular refrain to students was for them to ask themselves “Why do I believe what I believe?” Embedded in this one question are other relevant ones: “What caused me to believe this?” and “When did I begin to feel this way?”
These are important questions for us to reflect on routinely, but now they are especially imperative. Our world is changing – the environment and planet are under threat, the human race is facing a tenacious viral pandemic, and the inequitable, disenfranchising socio-economic-political status quo is no longer being tolerated.
Given the multifaceted challenges facing all beings on this planet, how we can evolve and adapt to a rapidly changing world?
Research shows that the human brain loves learning and is always ready for change; this is called brain plasticity. Being curious about and growing familiar with the attitudes, expectations, and ideas we have of ourselves and the world around us is the best preparation for change, increased resilience, and improved coping skills.
What are beliefs?
Beliefs are thoughts, attitudes, or opinions that we hold to be true. According to Suze Casey (developer of Belief Re-Patterning) beliefs are thoughts coupled with emotions that are habitually repeated and begin to feel like reality. These definitions show how problematic unquestioned beliefs or opinions can be. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living."
So in the quest to examine our lives, we question our beliefs to:
Our beliefs affects us emotionally, mentally, and physically. When we are in a funk and depressed, what we believe about ourselves and the world makes us sad and hopeless. When we are angry, every situation and person becomes aggravating and infuriating. When we are worried and anxious, everything becomes stressful and scary.
To improve our relationship with ourselves and others, and to live happier, fulfilled lives, we can ask ourselves
For us to create a future we envision for ourselves and other beings, we need to acknowledge that such self-exploration can be uncomfortable, but is absolutely necessary for discovering inner obstacles to our life goals.
At the same time, being kind and gentle with yourself is equally important. Remind yourself that this is an exploration and all revelations are learning and growth opportunities.
May your journey to greater self-knowledge be fulfilling and illuminating.
At the start of the shelter-in-place, the thought of enforced time at home may have made us feel like we would have all the time in the world.
But have you noticed how quickly the days and weeks are flying by?
Whether time is zooming by or dragging for you, according to the Stoic philosophers, it will be in our best interest to use this precious resource wisely.
Time cannot be regained or renewed, so we should be frugal with it.
This BBC Health article addresses how our perception of time is related to our creation of memories. If we aren’t experiencing memorable occasions like currently during lock-down with limited opportunity for them, then our sense of time is affected and consequently days and weeks tend to meld into each other.
Life is fleeting. At this time, when so many lives are being lost every single day, we can honor the time we have by truly making the most of every moment.
We experience fear when there’s a perceived threat which we have no control over. Our reaction is to diminish the threat or try to control it. But sometimes we overcompensate like using too much bleach on our hands to fight off the virus, and ending up at the doctor’s office with irritated skin, nasal passages, and eyes.
The complete disruption of our lives, the unpredictability of each day, and the constantly evolving discoveries about this virus are awakening fear and panic in and exacerbating anxiety for many people.
As you go through this difficult time ask yourself, “are my emotions and thinking serving me well?”
Becoming aware of our fear is an important first step. By acknowledging that we are afraid, we are then empowered to begin skillfully dealing with it. Below are some of the things we do have control over:
May you, your family, friends, and neighbors be free from fear and remain safe.
We are living through an unprecedented time upheaval and disruption to our routines and lives.
This can be stressful because so much is uncertain. Because we don’t have much control over how the situation is unfolding, this uncertainty can awaken fear. We begin to panic and worry for our own and our loved ones' safety, and about the future.
As we witness every day the worldwide intense suffering and pain wrought by this virus, it is imperative that we keep panic at bay and manage our fear and stress by falling back on our common humanity.
To better cope with the new demands being placed on us, we have to adjust how we think about this constantly evolving situation and all we are being asked to do and endure in the next few months. Being able to mentally reframe our situation in a healthy way will ensure our own and others’ well-being.
Here are some heartfelt gentle reminders:
And most importantly remember to practice compassion and kindness for yourself and others.
May you and all those around you remain healthy, rested and well.
Regret is something many of us experience at some point in life. Wishing we’d done things differently like remaining calm instead of getting angry, saving money that we spent, being quiet instead of speaking, taking risks, and the list goes on.
If regret is handled correctly, it can become a motivator for change. If it is mishandled, then regretting our past action or inaction can distort our idea of ourselves, so we become trapped in feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, fear, and indecision.
Remorse can be a stepping stone to freeing ourselves from past mistakes, missteps, and mishaps so we live from our healthier, happier self. Many people simply decide that they won’t live their lives regretting past actions, but choose instead to learn from their mistakes, and move their lives in a new direction.
So regret, contrition, or sorrow are workable and within our power to effect change in our behavior, thinking, and speech.
Here’s how to empower yourself:
Own the Regret. Take time to reflect, but not ruminate on the situation. With kindness for yourself and acceptance of our human failing, acknowledge your fault and then forgive yourself. Remind yourself that we are all just doing our best. No one is perfect and then let it go. Acceptance helps us grow.
Focus on Your Wishes. Instead of thinking “if only” or “what if I had…”, instead explore your feelings and wishes through journalling about the life and self you envision for yourself. Becoming clear about your life goals, your values, and ethics will help you live more in alignment with these heartfelt goals.
Make Amends. If you are able to, then apologize to the person you feel you’ve harmed. If she/he isn’t around anymore, then you can write a letter expressing your sadness and sorrow. To symbolically release the regret you could burn the letter. Think about ways you could atone for your regret by helping other people. For example, if you are regretting not helping your parents more then consider volunteering at an old age home.
Regret keeps us trapped in the past. Living happens in the present. By overcoming regret, we empower ourselves to reclaim our lives to live in the present moment and bring benefit to ourselves and those around us.
May you free yourself of the past and enjoy every moment this day presents you.
Last month my nephew died of a massive heart attack -- on his 31st birthday.
As shockingly tragic as his passing was, we take heart knowing his life had been well-lived: he lived and taught in Korea, traveled the world, embraced his creativity, connected with people, and fulfilled his purpose during his very brief lifetime.
How many of us can say that we are living full lives?
A lifetime may seem long but is lived day by day. The wise thing to do is seize the opportunity that every moment presents us.
A full and fulfilled life arises from living each day wholeheartedly.
If you are just beginning this journey, then choose one or two of the above suggestions to practice every day. Be gentle with yourself in this process.
May you live this day and every day with heartfelt joy and gratitude.
On KQED’s show Forum this week, they discussed the psychology of gift giving. One thing jumped out at me: gift giving is meant to strengthen relationships and is about being kind.
With the holiday season of giving and sharing upon us, we can use the opportunity to practice kindness.
Kindness is the attitude and behavior of being compassionate and selfless. Most simply it is being nice or sharing your best self with others.
Research shows that the gift of kindness is directly linked to the level of our happiness and contentment. Japanese studies showed that happy people were kinder, and that counting our acts of kindness actually led to more acts of gratitude and kindness.
The benefits of gifting kindness are:
So this season in addition to giving toys, gadgets, and goodies, we can share the following heartwarming gifts:
Mother Teresa said “we cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”
May your holiday season be filled with many acts of kindness and love for those around you.
The other day, I was at a checkout stand waiting to pay when I sneezed. The woman who was ahead of me and the cashier automatically said “bless you.” I suppose my lack of a response caused the woman to nervously say, “I don’t even know if I can say that anymore.” Her concerned expression made me feel sad for the loss of our common decency and connection simply as human beings to each other. I replied, “we can all use blessings.” The cashier and she chorused a relieved “Yes, we can.”
With Thanksgiving gatherings in a few days, how do we converse and remain caring and connected with our family members and those around us?
Connection happens quite easily when we express care for those around us. Expressing care is not only through our words but through our tone, facial expression, and body language, and in being interested in and showing empathy for the other person.
The first thing to determine is if you genuinely want to connect with the person/people with whom you disagree. Knowing the importance to you will guide your future conversations with him/her or them.
To bridge the gaps in our relationships, we can do the following:
Remember that conversations about controversial or concerning situations are as temporary as the situations themselves. That is to say that nothing lasts forever. Everything changes.
Prioritizing love, connection, and compassion during these gatherings will ease tension, and help you communicate more deeply with each other.
We have a lot to be thankful for, and reminding ourselves of the importance of the people in our lives is a good beginning point.
I was reflecting on the difference between egotism and self-confidence. It is easy to confuse the two, and even more difficult to develop a healthy balance of being confident, but not overly confident or cocky.
Egotism or arrogance is the habit of thinking oneself as being more important than others; of boasting, being self-absorbed, and conceited. An arrogant person neglects others' opinions and suggestions thus alienating them, and conversely overestimates his or her own abilities.
Whereas self-confidence is knowing oneself and trusting in one’s own judgments, beliefs, and capabilities in dealing with daily challenges and demands, and in one’s ability to succeed. Being confident attracts people and earns their trust.
The willingness to learn about oneself and one’s life is key to developing healthy self-confidence and trust. The most effective way of doing this is to reflect on experiences, thoughts, emotions and feelings, and to process and understand our reactions, actions, thoughts, and speech arising from these experiences.
One can also cultivate habits throughout the day to grow belief in oneself.
Habits to Boost Self-Confidence:
Growing self-confidence is a contradiction because it requires you to act as though you are already confident. So the only thing to do it is to begin acting the part.
May you have much success in your journey to a happier confident you.
,Sometimes no matter how much we try to meet our goals, we struggle to follow through and do what it takes to succeed. Something keeps us from success despite our goals being clearly defined and realistic.
Self-sabotage is the conflict between our logical clear thinking mind (the voice urging healthy eating and careful spending) and our subconscious emotionally driven mind (that indulges midnight snacking and frivolous purchases).
This self-destructive habit causes us to think and act in ways that derail us from our goals. It’s a self-protection mechanism that is rooted in fear of failing, succeeding, or being humiliated or rejected. Self-sabotage prevents us from taking action, fixing problems, changing behaviors, developing new habits, and living our dream life.
However because these behaviors become ingrained habits, we fail to recognize them as the culprits blocking us from success. So we overlook the destructiveness of actions like always being tardy, not organizing our schedule, or FOMO – fear of missing out - so we never commit to an action or invitation. Recognizable behaviors are procrastinating, drowning problems with substances, stress-eating, and self-injuring.
The following list will shine the spotlight on some of these self-limiting behaviours to help you become unstuck:
Repressing Thoughts & Emotions
We stuff our thoughts and feelings because we are ashamed of them, and fear that they make us into awful people. As long as we avoid and repress our feelings and thoughts, we’ll remain in fear of them.
To free yourself, begin to reflect on your life. Detachedly observe your behavior, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs, and examine them to understand which ones are helping and which are harming you in the pursuit of your goals. Acknowledge and process them with an attitude of interested curiosity to make them more workable.
We constantly judge and insult ourselves and don’t let go of past mistakes. This is the voice that is always warning us to hold off, rethink decisions, and saying we can’t do something. It traps us in inaction and indecision.
Notice when this mindset steps into the picture. Become intimately familiar with it so you can quickly replace its voice with a positive affirming one. A powerful antidote is to practise patience and kindness towards yourself.
We squander the time we do have believing we’ll have time later to do what we need. So we toss aside hours in which we can finish or chip away at a project by thinking it will be better to just start the next day when we have the whole day. Or we wait until the last minute to begin a project and then we aren’t able to present our best effort.
To change this habit, we can motivate ourselves by first doing something that energizes and calms our mind and then tackle the task at hand. Or you can set a mini deadline of 1 hour each day to work towards meeting your objective.
We don’t take action towards living our dream life because the time isn’t right, or we feel we don’t possess every skill necessary for success. Striving for perfection is an unattainable goal and will cause us to discard every opportunity that presents itself to us.
Reflect on your previous successes and then create a list of attainable goals. Begin with small easily achievable goals to boost your confidence. Think of all your strengths and skills and remind yourself they are responsible for your attainments. Remember too that you are in control of your actions, thoughts, beliefs and use these reflections to inspire you to take action that will move you in the right direction.
To overcome the habit of self-sabotage, it’s absolutely vital that you reflect on your life. Awareness of your underlying beliefs and motivations will reveal why and how you trip yourself up in your life. As you undertake this self-examination be kind to yourself and create a list of positive affirmations, mantras, or visualizations to encourage you. Then begin to change those behaviors, and situations that don’t support your goals. Make a plan of how you will proceed every day.
May you succeed in attaining your life goals