Kung Fu Your Energy – Get Healthy with Open Awareness

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and CoachAs a kid, my sleeping imagination had no limits. My dreams were vibrant, colorful, moving, exciting, emotional, and physical. There were monsters, heroes, allies, and adventures. I could see, taste, touch, smell, and feel the twists and turns of events.  My unconscious mind was free to wander, explore, create, and fantasize.

The governor, censor, parental control, and filter of any sort was non-existent as far as I could tell.  In the morning, the sensations from the intensity of my dreams lingered for a moment, leaving me wondering about the truth of their reality.

Sometimes they scared me.  Sometimes they filled me with joy. Regardless of the theme, their dynamic, flowing, saturated richness left a lasting impression.

And then, KAPOW! Hello, reality. Time for school. That wild imagination was stifled. Even searching for animals and objects in the clouds seemed impossible.  What was happening??

You may have fallen prey to the same trap – even as a full grown adult.  Judgement. Expectations. Insecurity. Fear of failure. Preconceived notions. Ideas about how things should be done dominate. It was no longer about having fun with clouds, or dreaming.

Sure, having structure and frameworks help guide your actions and keep you on course. But what happens when staying the course leaves you stymied, stuck, limited, or confused?

Move with the dynamic interplay of people, circumstances, surroundings, and changing agendas, not against it. Allow room for imagination, change, flexibility, spontaneity, and dreaming. Kung Fu your energy.

Focus on movement, motion, and balance. Here is where you will find the perfect position of readiness. Practice open awareness. Observe your process without commitment to any judgement, expectations, or opinions. Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Embrace your Chi – it’s in your body.  This is the source of your energy and endurance.

The experts in Energy Psychology (the mind-body connection) state that black and white thinking, or all or nothing thinking, creates an impasse in the flowing, changing, expanding experience of the moment. It can stop the flow of emotional energy in your body making it nearly impossible to change unwanted feelings.  It can affect all ares of your life – relationships, physical and mental health, and overall well-being. Spoiler alert – it can be downright threatening to the life you want to live.

Not surprisingly, this chaotic stuck energy can be caused by trauma. But extreme reactions to unmet expectations, judgements, and perfectionism can be connected to this, too. While trauma is typically unavoidable, our opinions and ideas about things are very malleable. Be willing to examine and adjust them.  It allows the body’s flow of energy to continue, freeing our emotional growth, imagination, and coping resources.

Fluid thoughts are healthy thoughts. They are imaginative and open.  They are expansive, explorative, and expressive. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. Stop judging your thoughts and feelings. Instead, liberate your creative and tolerant mind. Speak kindly to yourself. Create wiggle room in your psyche through awareness, acceptance, and openness.  Refocus on your breath, your life force.

Release limiting beliefs. Release old messages.  Release ego. Release the inner critic who is masterful at self sabotage. Open your palm wide and unhand negativity, prejudice, and worst case scenarios. Embrace non-judgement. Embrace open awareness.  Embrace you in your entirety…

Back to the dreams and clouds – was that a mermaid, or a unicorn? Who were those heroes and allies? Keep dreaming – this time with your eyes open.

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Stuart Miles & njaj.

3 Ways to Make the Law of Attraction Work for You

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach


Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and CoachYou got the inside scoop on The Secret.

You know that horrible dream where you’re in class and its exam day but you forgot to attend school all semester? You’re in a panic because you’re not prepared!  Well, you might feel panic now as you realize The Secret, on its own, doesn’t work. The universe isn’t manifesting your dreams without a little kick.

The Law of Attraction isn’t enough.

Hello, universe! You practice the Law of Attraction everyday – wishing, meditating, praying.  But you’re intentions haven’t manifested!  Well, it’s not surprising. What the experts didn’t tell you is that the Law of Attraction is only part of the better-life-equation.

There is power in positive thinking.

That’s been proven. It helps to restructure our brain and trigger the flow of feel-good hormones. No one can argue that! A positive mindset helps everything you do.

Neuroscience studies show that it prompts your body to function in ways that keep you healthy. Positive Psychology shows that being engaged in positive ways creates a sense of well-being and happiness. Both are necessary for success.

Awesome, right? But – where is your Corvette, book deal, or beach house??  Why isn’t  the universe delivering your intentions? You have clarity.  You called in very specific requests. But no one’s answering!

1. It takes more than belief – The Law of Attraction requires your engagement.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Realistic anticipation. Planning. Action. Flexibility. There will be obstacles and pitfalls. Be ready for them. Troubleshoot. Problem solve. Adapt. Consider what could go wrong. Explore those possibilities and prepare.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” William Arthur Ward.

2. Stress keeps you moving forward.

Healthy stress keeps us motivated.  When we visualize our future selves with our goals attained, it feels good but it reduces the drive we need to persevere.  It’s necessary to know the details of exactly what you want and how you’ll feel when it’s manifested – but don’t get too comfortable in your future-self-perfect-life-fantasy. Use that uncomfortable edge to keep focused and choose an action everyday to inch closer to your dream.

“A man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” Hunter S. Thompson

3. The feeling is the reward.

Instead of focusing on the desired material, focus on the desired feeling. That thing you want might not bring you the feeling you want.

If you want happiness, focus on experiences and ideas that make you feel good. If love is what you want, focus your energy on gratitude for the loving people in your life and in the world. If freedom is what you want, notice when and with whom you can let your guard down and be yourself, completely. Brainstorm ways to manifest those situations and experiences.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach“There is no path to happiness; happiness is the path.” – Buddha

You have to believe to achieve.

The song, “When you wish upon a star” was written for Pinocchio.  Here are a few lyrics, “Makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires, Will come to you…Like a bolt out of the blue. Suddenly, it comes to you. When you wish upon a star, Your dreams come true…”

The sentiment is genuinely heart-warming.  But few can say they’ve received their heart’s desire by simply wishing.  Even Pinocchio earned his dream through acts of bravery, truth, and selflessness.

Now, back to class and the universe.  You’re not going to pass that exam, make Dean’s list, or get into grad school without preparation. That Corvette won’t manifest without realistic planning and actionable steps.  So get ready to actualize your dreams with the power of intention, persistence, and massive action. Go!

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Space by Stuart Miles, Choices by Renjith Krishnan, Countryside by Dan.

An Abundant Life – Embrace 2015 with a Ninja’s Focus

An Abundant LifeWhether you kicked metaphorical a** and took down names in 2014, or languished in distraction and misdirection, a fresh start for an abundant life is on the horizon.  In fact, that new opportunity is two days away!  Get ready for new beginnings and a new year.  Let go of the frustrations, pitfalls, or unexpected road blocks that occurred 2014.  If it was a good year, use your accomplishments – no matter how small or seemingly mundane – as fuel for a BREAKTHROUGH year in 2015.

EMBRACE intention.  BELIEVE that you can and will make steady gains toward a more fulfilled life.  Let go of anger, fear, and regret.  CHOOSE to focus on the good. Take your POWER back. CHANGE one thing today that will make tomorrow and next year better. START small but consistently.  Just start.  Use your ENERGY wisely.  Define WHO AND HOW you want to be.  DETERMINE your path.  ENJOY the journey.  If what Buddha said is true, “What you think, you become.”, then start thinking more positive and inspiring thoughts.

Here are a few thoughts that inspire me…

  1. Infuse life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope.  Make your own love. – Bradley Whitford
  2. Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.  – Og Mandino
  3. Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.  – Theodore Roosevelt
  4. Set your goals, write them down. Now you’re one step closer to achieving them.  – Richard Branson
  5. A jug fills drop by drop.  – Buddha
  6. Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.  – Thomas A. Edison
  7. It’s more fun to experience things when you don’t know what’s going to happen.  – Louis C. K.
  8. Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy.  Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.  – Tony Robbins
  9. You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.  – C.S. Lewis
  10. The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. – Carl Rogers

What now?  Start imagining a life that feels exciting, peaceful, and inspiring.  Grab a pen and jot down your ideas.  Uncensored.  Free associate all the things in life that you love. What do you notice?  What themes emerge?  Those are the people, things, and activities that bring you the most joy.  Make 2015 about that.  What one step can you take today to spark the forward trajectory? 

Welcome wonder, accomplishment, and uncertainty into your life.  Seek novelty.  It demands your attention and seemingly slows down time. It requires use of all five senses which result in a here and now experience.  This mindful attention influences your being. It develops a grounded and inspired baseline – you choose whether positive or negative. That experience sews the fabric of awareness and satisfaction. Use it to discover and actualize your best self.  You and your brain are more powerful than you realize.

In case you want more tips on how to live an abundant life, and set goals and see them through, you can find some here, and more here… If that’s not enough, here’s another one. Sign up for my FREE newsletter to receive a steady stream into your inbox here.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of StockImages at freedigitalphotos.net.

Personality Type:  Know Yourself

Personality type has its roots in a psychological theory dating back to the 1920’s. The Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung (1875-1961) known for his work on the psyche, ego, personal unconscious, collective unconscious, archetypes, and dream analysis also developed the enduring theory of personality types based on psychological opposites.  Jung and  Sigmund Freud collaborated from about 1907-1909 addressing Freud’s mission of making the unconscious conscious through the practice of psychoanalysis.

Jung’s personality theory explains normal differences between healthy people.  He concluded that these differences in behavior stem from inborn tendencies to use our minds in different ways and can be influenced by culture, family, and the environment. Each of us possesses all six characteristics he defined in his personality theory, but we favor one or the other of each opposite.  His personality typology has been so enduring that it has current practical applications in career, leadership, relationships, and learning today.  So what are the six opposites that in combination define eight different personality types according to Jung?  Furthermore, what is their purpose?  Let’s start with Introversion vs. Extraversion.

Energy:

Where do we get energy?  According to Jung, one aspect of personality called the “attitudes”, are the psychological opposites Introversion and Extraversion.  In Jung’s typology, he believed that individuals gain their energy either from internal reflection and subjective experience (introversion) or from the outside world of people and the environment (extraversion).  These opposites interact with the “functions” of personality in gathering information and making decisions.  Together, they create a dynamic individualized way of experiencing and interacting with the world.

Information:human resources image

How do we gather information?  The four dichotomous “functions” of personality are Sensing vs. Intuition, and Feeling vs. Thinking.  Sensing types tend to focus their attention on concrete information obtained from using all five senses – touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell.  Intuiting types tend to focus their information gathering on the big picture inferred from the five senses.   They tend to abstract information and use imagination and concepts.

Decisions:

How do we make decisions?  Those who prefer Feeling vs. Thinking tend to be compassionate and value driven. They tend to use their energy and information in ways that promote harmony and practice empathy, considering the feelings of others in decision making.   Those who prefer Thinking tend to be analytical and objective in making decisions.  They take a step back from the situation and evaluate the facts.

“The four functions are somewhat like the four points of the compass; they are just as arbitrary and just as indispensable. Nothing prevents our shifting the cardinal points as many degrees as we like in one direction or the other, or giving them different names…but the one thing I must confess: I would not for anything dispense with this compass on my psychological voyages of discovery.”C.G. Jung, Psychological Types

Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers made Jung’s personality theory their life’s work in developing the most widely studied and used assessment of personality type.  It is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  It is based on Jung’s eight patterns of personality type.  Briggs and Myers added another dimension to the theory to determine which of the opposites are dominant and also extraverted into the environment.  It is the Judging vs. Perceiving function.  It expanded the theory to 16 personality types, all of which explain the way we get energy, gather information, make decisions, and interact with the outside world.

Dealing with the outside world:Man shaking hand

People who prefer Judging tend to be structured, organized and plan ahead.  People who prefer Perceiving are more spontaneous, open ended, and comfortable with last minute changes. These combined with the other “functions” and “attitudes” determine which of the psychological processes is dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior – or are varying levels of consciousness and unconsciousness, and which is extraverted.  Together, they form the gestalt of the multi-faceted 16 types of personality.

ENTJ is an example of a personality type based on Jung’s theory and the MBTI assessment.  It means the “attitude” is Extraverted, the “functions” are “Intuiting” and “Thinking”, and the way one deals with the outside world is “Judging”. Jung emphasized that one type is not better or worse than another type.  It is different.  Understanding those differences benefits the user in many ways.

In plain terms, according to Isabel Briggs Myers, Introduction to Type, Sixth Edition, an ENTJ tends to be “frank, decisive, assume leadership readily.  Quickly see illogical and inefficient procedures and policies, develop and implement comprehensive systems to solve organizational problems.  Enjoy long-term planning and goal setting.  Usually well informed, well read, enjoy expanding their knowledge and passing it on to others. Forceful in presenting their ideas.”  

Knowing your type gives you the information you need to understand the way you interact with others and thus, the way others interact, too.  It sheds light on the best ways to listen, gather, share information, and accomplish your goals.  When enlightened with the knowledge of “what makes you tick”, you also gain insights into what makes others tick.  This is invaluable information across the roles you play at work, home, and in personal development.

Jung’s legacy continues on in corporate environments, marriage therapy, and life coaching – among those seeking to better understand and leverage their personality type. As a Certified MBTI Practitioner, I’ve witnessed the profound personal growth and positive change created through increased self awareness and acceptance discovered through this process.

 

 

“1st Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

“2nd Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

“3rd Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Empower Your Inner Goddess – Yoga and Coaching Beach Retreat

IMG_3592Stretch your body. Nourish your soul. Free your spirit.

Relax in the quiet seaside retreat of Kismet, Fire Island:

Join a small group of amazing women eager to find their center, build their energy, develop their passion, and empower their spirit.

Realign your body and mind:

Experience Beach Yoga, Coaching for Visualizing Your Ideal Self, De-cluttering Your Mind, Building Energy Sources, Improving Your Mind-Body-Emotion Connection, Embracing Empowering Beliefs, Sunset Yoga, Yoga Dance, Chakra Meditation and Relaxation Exercises. Leave the island feeling invigorated and ready to live an inspired, confident, and passionate life!

DSC_0029Our program features:

Fresh whole foods and juices.  Breakfast x2, Lunch x2, Dinner x2, and healthy snacks. Mealtimes are relaxed.  Enjoy healthy, balanced nutrition and the company of creative, inspired Retreat participants and instructors.

Fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing outside your window.  The two night stay is in a beautiful home 1.5 blocks from the beach.  The house features outdoor decks, bicycles, a grill, umbrellas and beach chairs.  Just bring your clothes, swim suit, and a yoga mat.

Kismet is an easy commute from Manhattan.

Take the LIRR from Penn Station to Bay Shore.  Walk or take a cab to the Kismet Ferry. If you’re driving, take the Long Island Expressway to Exit 53.  Follow the signs to Bay Shore.  Park your car in the LIRR lot for free and walk or cab it to the ferry.  It’s a lovely way to start the get away!

DSC_0052Call or email now to reserve your spot!

We are limited to 10 people.  This will fill up fast!  It is one weekend only from May 30, 2014 to June 1, 2014.  Click here to register now!

About Us:

Pamela Tinkham, LCSW, RYT is a Psychotherapist, Certified Yoga Instructor, and Reiki Master.  She has a Private Practice in Stamford, CT.  See more about Pam here: MindBodyFitnessLLC.com Heather Edwards, LMHC, BCC is a Psychotherapist, Board Certified Coach, and frequent contributor to Psychology Today.  She has a Private Practice in Manhattan, NY.  You are on her website right now!  Thanks for visiting!  🙂

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Yoga and Coaching Beach

Psychology Today – Easy Tips for Keeping New Years Resolutions

140772-141776This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards.  It is entitled, “Break Bad Habits”. 

It’s countdown time!  The new year marks a fresh start for new beginnings.   Be prepared on January 1 to state your New Year Resolutions and stick to them! If your plan is to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, save money, or build your career or social network, then get started on developing a system for success that will work for you.

Resolutions without specific plans usually get pushed to the wayside by the demands of everyday life. Come April, they’re already out the window and down the street! Be prepared to keep your New Year Resolutions in 2014 using these simple tips for seeing them through to 2015.

Be specific: Define the details of your goals and make them measurable. For example, if your goal to is lose weight, how much weight do you want to lose? By when? If your goal is to spend less money and start a savings, how much money do you want to save? Set a deadline. Make your goals attainable, but not too easy. Setting goals you CAN achieve will keep you motivated.  Making them too easy isn’t really a challenge. The point is to stretch yourself to a higher level of functioning.

Make your goals personal: Stay true to your values and purpose. Do your goals come from a desire for improvement that are tied to your personal belief system? What is most important to you? The more personally meaningful they are, the more likely you are to stick to them and be successful.

Get a partner: Having a workout or healthy eating partner can help keep you motivated and on track. Design a supportive environment. For example, if you know that junk food and soda are your weakness, remove them from your home and replace them with healthy snacks and seltzer water. Remember, it’s nearly impossible to quit a behavior without replacing it with a new one. Find healthy alternatives. Start a progress chart. Record daily and weekly change. Write an accountability blog which others may be following.  Join a weight loss group or get a trainer.  IMG_6963

Believe in yourself: Your goals have to be important to you. Does it motivate you? Is it a value of yours? Is it a high priority? Do you have a sense of urgency about it? Can you imagine yourself 6 months from now, or a year from now, having succeeded in your goal? What does that look like? How did you get there? Retrace your steps to determine what you did to be successful in your future self. Do you have support?  If you believe you can do it, you will!

Put your goals in writing: Write them down in an “I Statement”. Put them in a visible place. Own them! This will serve as a reminder and motivator every time you see your personal statement. For example, if career development is your goal, “I will find a networking group in my field of interest and join it by February 1. I will seek out courses and sign up for at least one new class or conference in my field of interest by February 1.”. Stick these notes on your refrigerator or on your desk, in a high traffic area in your home or office. Set reminders in your phone. Review your goals regularly.

Replace self sabotaging thoughts with a positive mantra: Be flexible. Remember that failures are only temporary setbacks and great motivators for change. It’s never too late to get back on track. Even if you haven’t met your goal by your deadline, remember this is a process that takes time. Don’t confuse the destiny with the path. The path is meant to be savored, too. Each step you take will get you closer, even if its not exactly on schedule.  Remember, YOU CAN DO IT.

Now you’re ready to ring in the new year with a plan for a new you! Write your goals down. Be specific. Do some soul searching to determine what’s most important to you. Tell your friends. Get a partner. Set reminders. Chart your progress. Be patient. If you need more support, get a Life Coach, Counselor, or expert in the life domain you’re focused on to help you succeed. Happy New Year and New YOU!

Psychology Today – Difficult Divorce? 6 ways to get unstuck.

136891-136917This article, “Difficult Divorce? 6 Ways to Get Unstuck. – Divorce can work out for the best.”, was originally published on November 19, 2013 by Mark Banschick, M.D. and Heather Edwards, LMHC in Psychology Today.  It addresses the basic feelings of grief, anger, and fear in divorce followed by self care and planning for a better life. Read further for tips on how to navigate this challenging life transition…

When entering into marital bliss, nobody plans to get divorced. In fact, it’s the farthest thing from mind. The union is meant to be forever – through sickness and health, better or worse, sicker or poorer. Until death do we part… Or do we?

In this guest blog, Heather Edwards, a New York based therapist and life coach, provides six basic tips for getting unstuck from the shifting winds of a divorce.

The decision to get a divorce is a difficult and life changing one. It often comes after years of unhappiness and unending conflict. When a couple finally resigns to the idea of going separate ways, it hurts. And, it only takes one to decide it’s over.

Divorce is a death of sorts, and can initiate a ripple effect beginning with the married couple, traveling their children and families. How does one cope with the massive loss and minimize the collateral damage caused by the parting of the ways? Use these tips to recognize the emotional components of divorce; then consider developing a plan to get yourself to a better place.

Grief: Divorce can feel so sad it hurts.

It’s not what you planned for yourself, nor your family. You’ve lost the future you were counting on and the person you thought would share it with you. This experience deserves time and attention to allow a natural, healthy grief process to unfold. Recognize your pain and work on it. Find time to cry, but also make room for your normal responsibilities. Grief counts, like a tsunami of unhappiness, but it passes and routine still demands. Children, a job, exercise and even the dog, require attention. Grief is part of life, but it need not take over your life.

“… a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – Carl Jung

Anger: It is a natural to feel anger as part of grief and loss.

You might feel angry at your spouse for all the reasons the marriage didn’t work out. You might even want revenge. Sometimes “getting even” or “punishing” the spouse plays out in the fight over assets or child custody. Acknowledge your anger but find a way to avoid destructive behaviors. Spending excessive time and energy on it can cause more pain and negatively affect you and your family. Identify the source of the anger and adjust your semantics or expectations to make room for acceptance.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Fear: Uncertainty is unnerving.

There’s probably a myriad of questions swirling in your head about your future. Talk to a mediator or a divorce attorney to gain the information you need to protect yourself and your children. Sometimes an ex spouse can be difficult or worse. Knowledge is empowering. Remember that things usually get better. This is not only an ending. It’s a new beginning. Divorce is a difficult transition that leads to better days and happier times. It’s your opportunity to create the life you want with new-found wisdom and strength. Search for what you have learned and how you have grown.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts

Develop a Plan: Try planning your new life with everyone’s best interests at heart.

Reach out to professionals with the tools and training required to help you make the best decisions possible. Mediators can be hired to create an “alternative dispute resolution” and help negotiate a settlement. Divorce attorneys can be hired to answer questions and legally execute details about assets and custody issues. Carefully consider your options.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” – Abraham Lincoln

Self Care: Continue to take care of precious cargo – You.

You need all the same rest, nutrition, exercise, and pampering as always! Go to the gym or take a yoga class. Eat healthy foods. Meet friends for lunch or after work. It’s crucial to feel good in order to continue managing all your normal responsibilities. Make an extra effort to carve out “me” time. Lean on your friends and family. It’s okay to ask for support and feedback about your changing life situation. If you need more support than they can provide – seek out a therapist, counselor, or coach.

Children First: If you have children, pay special attention to their emotions and needs.

Sometimes children feel responsible for the break up. Reassure them the divorce or separationis not their fault and that both parents love them very much. Don’t talk negatively with or about your spouse in front of them. Spend time playing and having fun with them. Their highest priorities are love and safety. And they need to see that you are safe and happy, too!

In the words of Muhammad Ali,

“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”

Take Home Message:

Although it seems your life has been turned upside down, now it’s more important than ever to take good care of yourself and your children. Find a healthy way to grieve so that you can attend to the normal responsibilities beckoning you. Find support, lean on friends, family, and professionals that can provide you with what’s needed to get through these tough times.

Yet, each day that passes gets you closer to the life you want to live. Imagine the long term positive outcomes that will result from your resilience during this transition. And, continue being the best you can be! Recapture your dignity. Your children will notice…and you will feel better.

Design Your Best Life

IMG_9273Each of us has a unique life story. We come from different families, places, and generations. Our circumstances effect and shape who we are and become. Personal experiences are part of us, wherever we go. We use our history to guide us through life. What’s familiar is comfortable and predictable. Sometimes though, it’s not the most helpful. How do we acknowledge and let go of the part of our life story that holds us back? How do we flourish, soothe, and celebrate our truly unique, special, and amazing potential?    Answer the following questions to help clarify your strengths, challenges, and life goals.  Begin to design your best life.

1. When do I shine?
There are times, situations, places, and environments where we shine! Notice when you feel your best, most confident, productive self. Fully absorb the gratifying feelings that happen in those moments. Look for opportunities to experience successes and prosperity more often. Spending a few minutes encoding positive feelings, sensory, and cognitive information can gradually change your brain structure.

Daniel J. Siegel describes this neuroplasticity of the brain in his book, “Interpersonal Neurobiology”.  By choosing to focus on the positive you are managing and regulating your neural firings.  The more you take in the good, the more naturally your brain will spontaneously notice it unfolding around you and reap the benefits of positivity.  Rick Hanson also talks about this in his book, “Buddha’s Brain – The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom.”.

2. What are my most difficult moments?
Certain circumstances or challenges seem overwhelming. They take us outside our comfort zone, back to a previous stressful time, and feel unfamiliar thus creating insecurity in our confidence and performance. Being faced with a seemingly impossible task can stop us in our tracks. Here are a few ways to address this situation.
– 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.
– Jump right in! This is a method that typically results in finding out your worst fears didn’t come true and were exaggerated.
– Ask yourself what you are saying to yourself (noticing your internal monologue) about those intimidating situations. Challenging those automatic thoughts by rating their validity on a scale of 1 – 100. Replace negative thoughts with positive, hopeful ones.
– Mindfully notice your body, breath, and surroundings. Breathe. Deliberately shift your attention between your immediate physical sensations and surrounding stimuli – smells, colors, lights, objects, people, temperature, etc.  In doing so, you can become more in control of bodily reactions that feel like panic.
– Notice the inner child holding onto fear in those moments of self doubt. What is he/she experiencing?  Soothe him/her.  Use your wisdom to inform and calm that inner part of yourself.

3. Who brings out the best in me?
Positive energy breeds positive energy. Laughter is contagious. Notice who you are with when you are feeling your best. The more time you spend with positive people in a loving environment, the better you will feel. Positive relationships are one of the elements of well-being in Positive Psychology, according to Martin Seligman. Well-being has been determined to be even 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.

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4. What old beliefs cause chaos?
New studies in neuroscience show that we are capable of achieving anything we want. The trick to this achievement is truly wanting to succeed and believing in yourself!  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 are demonstrating 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 or challenge, the better you will perform it over time. Each time you practice, you are strengthening the neural pathways responsible for 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. What do I want to get out of life?

You only live once. Make the most of it! Imagine your life as you want it to be. Notice your preferences, hobbies, interests, strengths, talents, and desires. Get started on setting clear, achievable goals. If at first they 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.  In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”.

Psychology Today – Getting Unstuck: Kick Starting Your Marriage

136048-136019This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards.
When your relationship needs repair…
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Time to Kick-Start Your Marriage:It’s easy to get caught up in work, childcare, managing your home, and keeping up with bills. The day to day realities of adult life can be draining, and under these pressures, any relationship can atrophy.

Marriage Has Positive & Negative Cycles:

Most couples go through it. Communication breaks down, sexual intimacy becomes an after-thought, fun is infrequent, and empathy is a strain. Sometimes conflict and arguing escalates, or for others, the marriage starts failing as the couple resorts to living parallel lives. Either way, the negative cycle has replaced the life enhancing positive cycle that couples find when they turn love into an action verb.

Since the “D” word was not in your vocabulary when you got married, how can you flex and rebuild that svelte marriage muscle?

In this guest blog, Heather Edwards, a New York based therapist and life coach, lays out five ways to build positive energy back into your relationship.

Have Fun:

It sounds like the easy answer, but it’s always a good place to start.

Consider the ways you used to enjoy each other’s company. You used to play together. What did you enjoy doing most? Was it going to a concert, park, or favorite restaurant? Maybe it was taking a bike ride, getting a massage together, or walking on the beach. Whatever the activity, make a commitment to one new action that brings energy into your relationship. If being together feels stifling for you, it probably feels the same way for your spouse or partner. Any activity that doesn’t have some level of enjoyment in it will eventually be one you want to rid from your life. The same applies to your marriage. So start breathing fresh air into it!

Self Awareness:

Be aware of your needs.

What needs are not being met by your partner?  Respect, encouragement, acceptance, and trust are a few needs that can feel compromised when marriages break down. These higher-level needs are sometimes masked by the day to day gripes, nagging or avoidant behavior that can become commonplace. Recognize your own negative behaviors as destructive, not constructive, and question what need is suffering underneath it. That’s probably what’s motivating your bad behavior, not just the dirty socks on the floor. Consider ways to constructively express yourself.

Ending a negative cycle begins when you see what you are doing to each other.

Communicate:

Your partner is not a mind reader, nor does he or she have a crystal ball that will enlighten him or her.

That means it is up to you to say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you want your message to be heard in a non-defensive way, then you need to verbalize your thoughts and feelings in a way that is not blaming, judging, nor critical. Blaming and judging can lead to defensiveness and stonewalling. Criticism can lead to contempt and resentment—and that’s the negative cycle.

If what you want to build is openness, strength, and mutual support, then change the way you communicate. Rather than focusing your attention on your partners actions, focus on your experience of it. Own your feelings. Simply state what you feel when certain behaviors occur. Clearly and calmly ask for what you want. State, “I feel ___, because ___, and I want ___”.

Empathy:

Now that you’re aware of your true feelings, needs, and wants, consider your spouse’s experience of this problem.

All relationships experience power struggles. And, you know you are in one if either you or your partner needs to win at all costs. You may not always agree, but you need not make him or her feel stupid or crazy. When it’s about winning an argument, you both lose.

Hear the feelings words he or she is using. Notice the body language and requests made. Imagine how it feels to express oneself in the manner he or she is using. Practice walking in their shoes.  Check it out. It’s okay to let your spouse know that you recognize their struggle and that it’s real and valid. After all, you’re in this together, trying to find a way to live your lives better.

Intimacy:

Intimacy can be the barometer, or measure of pressure and change, in a relationship. Have you noticed your intimacy changing as stress, conflict, and detachment rise? Well, it’s an easy indicator that something is suffering badly and needs your attention. Identify the troubled areas in your marriage and apply all of the above interventions to them. Make improving your sex life with your spouse a priority.

Oxytocin, a bonding hormone that is released during sex, will bring you closer and increase warm, loving feelings toward each other. Just do it! Set aside time to nurture yourselves in this way.

Have fun reconnecting with each other!

Jobs 101: The Ultimate Search Simplified

Brooklyn BridgeWe’ve all run full speed ahead in the hamster wheel of work-exhaustion and discontent, at times. Job dissatisfaction can bring you down and effect all areas of your life, if it is not addressed.  People often feel burned out and under-appreciated at work.   “I feel so disrespected.”, “I’m bored with my job and I deserve a promotion.”, “I’m overwhelmed, I don’t enjoy my work anymore.”, are pretty common expressions of burn out.  These are obvious indicators that it’s time for a career make-over.  If you put in the time, effort, and soul searching required, you can create the career you want!  It seems like a daunting task, but the alternative is not an option.  How does one turn that formidable rodent wheel of work exhaustion into the grand Ferris Wheel of job and life fulfillment?  Here are a few tips for re-defining your professional self and getting on your way to a purposeful and inspiring career.

Name Your Talents:

What are your special skills and strengths?  Everyone has strengths!  What are yours?  Notice the challenges and tasks that you enjoy.  Identify the activities that give you energy, and a sense of satisfaction.  Shift your focus to the responsibilities you savor.  What are the small successes within each of those that you’ve mastered? Use this information to develop the job description you want.  Consider industries in which those assets are valued and sought out.  “Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” – Benjamin Franklin.

Brainstorm:

Identify a few options.   Based on your answers to the previous questions, what can you do differently today?  Leverage your successes to ask for what you want.  Here are a few ideas for how to do so.  Talk to your boss about gaining more responsibility, or peruse the internal job postings in other departments. Consider starting your own business, or begin the task of updating your resume and exploring external options.  Perhaps your interests lie in a different industry altogether.  Whatever your direction, stay true to yourself.  The more you enjoy your job, the less it will feel like work!  “Use what talents you possess, the woods will be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” – Henry van Dyke.

Gather Information:

What do you need to know?  You’ve completed the first steps of career exploration.  Now that you’ve identified what’s important to you, search out industries and companies that match those preferences.  Make a list of your top five target organizations.  Begin researching their history, mission, and products.  Go to networking activities, such as industry conferences or business networking groups.  Speak with people in those businesses.  Do your homework to avoid jumping from the frying pan into the fire!

Training and Education:

Is there a certification or license that would push you over the next hurdle in your career?  Find out what is required to achieve it.  If you’re planning to pursue a different field, explore the education and credentialing requirements for those jobs.  Collect informational packets from professional schools and universities with programs in your area of interest.  Remember, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”, Lao Tzu.

Choose a Deadline:

This is a crucial factor in the process of self discovery and change.  Creating a deadline helps you stay on track in defining and aligning your path in career development.  It keeps the journey time limited, focused, and easier to manage by breaking down the steps into weekly, monthly, and/or annual goals.  What do you want to accomplish by the end of this week, this month, or this year?  Write it down.  Share your intentions with others.  Accountability to yourself and those you love will provide the structure and support necessary to follow through on your plans.New York City

Self Care:

Throughout the process, be good to yourself.  Job hunting and career development can be overwhelming!  Maintain life balance.  Establish healthy boundaries.  Spend time with friends, family, exercise, and have fun.  Be patient.  In the words of Buddha, “There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.” So continue to embrace and be grateful for the things you cherish.