This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards. It is entitled, “5 Tips for Success”.
Everyone has a unique life story. Family traditions, religious beliefs, and cultural norms differ and converge in a myriad of ways across people and places. We embody our personal experiences and take them with us, wherever we go. We use our history as a road map through life. What’s familiar is comfortable and predictable. The downside is, it can keep us stuck in old patterns that hold us back.
What if you took the road less travelled? What if you could shed the part of your life story that is holding you back while developing those that propel you forward? Well, you can! Recalibrate the GPS. Follow these five secrets to creating the life you want.
1. Large and In Charge.
You can effect neural firings and change the structure of your brain! Daniel J. Siegel describes this neuroplasticity of the brain in his book, “Interpersonal Neurobiology”. By choosing to focus on positive experiences, you can manage and regulate your neural firings. The more you take in the good, the more naturally your brain will spontaneously notice it unfolding around you. You can reap the benefits of positivity that otherwise may have been overlooked. We’ve all heard the saying, “Smell the roses.”. Rick Hanson also talks about this in his book, “Buddha’s Brain – The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom.”.
Notice when you feel your best, most confident, prolific self. Fully absorb the gratifying feelings that happen in these moments. Look for opportunities to experience successes and accomplishment. Spend a few minutes each day encoding positive feelings. This can gradually improve and change your brain structure over time allowing you to build momentum toward goal fulfillment.
2. Bring on the Love.
Positive energy breeds positive energy. Laughter is contagious. The best therapy can be a hearty laugh with friends. Notice your company when you are feeling your best. The more time you spend with positive people in a supportive environment, the better you will feel. Positive relationships are one of the essential elements of well-being in Positive Psychology, according to Martin Seligman. Well-being is proven to be more fulfilling than happiness. It’s comprised of positive emotion (pleasure, ecstasy, comfort, etc), engagement (in an activity or moment), positive relationships, meaning (belonging and serving something larger than yourself), and accomplishment. Spend time with those you love and cherish. Participate in meaningful activities in which you are industrious.
3. Scared and Alone.
Certain circumstances and challenges seem overwhelming. They take us outside our familiar comfort zone or back to a previous stressful time. They can create insecurity and threaten our self esteem. Being faced with a seemingly impossible task can stop us in our tracks. Here are a few ways to accept the challenge and assert your new empowered self!
– Jump right in! This is a method that typically results in finding that your worst fears didn’t come true …and were likely exaggerated from the start.
– Take “baby steps” toward your goal and celebrate your progress every step of the way. This will reduce your fear gradually over time with each new successful experience.
– Challenge automatic negative thoughts by rating their validity on a scale of 1 – 100. Chances are they are pretty unrealistic and invalid. Replace them with rational thoughts.
– Mindfully notice your body and breath. Breathe slowly. Shift your attention between bodily sensations and the surrounding environment. In doing so, you can regulate physical reactions that feel like panic.
– Notice the inner child holding onto fear in moments of self doubt. Soothe him/her. Use your wisdom to inform and calm that inner part of yourself.
4. Goodbye, Chaos!
New studies in neuroscience show that we are capable of achieving anything we want. The trick to this achievement is truly wanting it and believing you can do it! We’re born with an amazing brain capable of learning and mastering more than we even understand. It’s not because we can’t achieve it, but because we don’t fully tap into our brain’s potential. Fears and anxieties might convince us that we can’t do math or we aren’t an artistic type. Brain studies demonstrate this to be untrue. Now more than ever, it’s evident that practice DOES make perfect! Tony Buzan talks about this in his book, “The Mind Map Book”. The more time you spend repeating the same exercise or thought pattern, the better you will perform it over time. With practice, you are strengthening the neural pathways responsible for mastering those thought and behavior patterns. So take a painting class or learn a new sport or language! If you believe you can do it, you will.
5. Hello, Dreams and Aspirations!
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”, Mae West. Make the most of your life! Imagine it as you want it to be. Notice what gives you energy. Get started on setting clear, achievable goals. If at first your goals seem too lofty, then break them down into smaller ones. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. Remember that everything is a process. If it’s worthwhile, it probably takes a lot of hard work and a steady dose of time. Practice patience and flexibility with yourself while holding true to taking forward steps.
Begin mindfully acknowledging your extraordinary individual strengths and nurture them. Notice your most challenging moments as opportunities for growth and empowerment and don’t shy away. Clarify your strengths, challenges, and life goals. Overcome those old habits that stifle you. Begin to design your best life. It’s never too late to start creating the life you want. In the words of John Cage, “Begin anywhere.”.
Choose the high road, the low road, or the one in the middle. Just be mindful of what works and what doesn’t. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to creating the life YOU want, but through mindfulness you can choose the actions that create positive change for YOU. Leave fear at the door. Embrace your future self. In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”.