Want to Grow and Develop in the Face of Fear or Suffering ? Learn from the Sages and Modern Day Research

To be a growth orientated person is a skill that can be learned. It is the basic foundation that underlies what we mean when we speak of having a high IQ or EQ. When we develop the skill of a “Growth Mindset” we actually change the physical structure of the brain. This revelation is based on one of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the last twenty years: How we focus our attention shapes the structure of the brain. Neuroscience has also definitively shown that we can grow these new connections throughout our lives, not just in childhood.

Want to learn how to change personal habits and reach your goals for change even in difficult and painful circumstances?

Everywhere man is confronted with reality of fate, with the chance of achieving something through the challenge of conquering difficult situations and his own suffering. The solution for finding this “inner strength” to overcome present pain and suffering is to focus on better times in the future. For example, when  working as a psychiatrist to the inmates of concentration camps during WWII, Victor Frankl found that the single most important factor in cultivating the kind of “inner hold” that allowed men to survive was teaching them to “hold in the mind’s grip some future goal”. He cites Nietzsche’s, who wrote that “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,” and admonishes against generalization:

“ Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, “I have nothing to expect from life any more.” What sort of answer can one give to that”?

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned and challenged by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual from moment to moment in life.”

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus, it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are also very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by action. At other times it is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation (reflection) and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes man may be required simply to accept fate, to bear his cross. Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is always only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand.

Modern Day Research Support:

One modern way to learn how to handle the situation at hand is to understand and use the future planning tool “IF…Then” thinking and planning.

Well over hundred studies on achieving goals reviewed by  Gollwitzer and Paschal Sheeran research (file:///C:/Users/mark/Downloads/HP_Sheeran&Orbell(2000).pdf demonstrate how effective and efficient “if..then” plans are in facing  life challenges and overcoming tough decisions, obstacles of fear  and improving performance to keep on keeping on in the face of difficult situations like pain and suffering.

In a meta-analysis the researchers look at studies on preventative health screening, exercise, eating healthy and dieting, to negotiating and setting other life goals. They found that a person’s positive intention to perform a behavior is the key predictor for changing actual behavior and performance”.  The key elements of success were found to be –setting in advance (intentions) using IF…Then goals for taking specific actions to reach your goal. Remarkably they discovered that the use of “IF… Then” plans and focused intention can triple your chances for successful completion of personal change goals. The aim of the study was to look at the gap between setting intentions ( concept of implementation intentions) and actual behavior of woman coming for cancer screening. For example, they stated their goal of the study was address this problem using Gollwitzer’s (1993;Gollwitzer & Brandstatter, 1997) concept of implementation intentions. In particular, we examine whether intentions to attend for cervical screening that have been supplemented by implementation intentions specifying when, where, and how the appointment will be made improves the likelihood of attendance.

Self- Coaching Challenge: Try using the IF…Then intervention when trying to change habits or reach personal goals

 

Daily Quote and Self-Coaching Challenge: Think Straight and Develop Your Grit

Daily Quote: What you are thinking, what shapes your mind is in, is what makes the biggest difference of all.   Willie Mays

 Reflection:  

Your toughness and grit is made up of equal parts belief, persistence and deliberative practice and experience. The toughest opponent of all is the negativity and skeptic or sarcastic one inside your head.  Below see the  4 tips for overcoming negativity and build grit into your character and daily actions:

1. Believe it or not, passions grow out of your values. Make early, wise choices to value what (and who) is good, trustworthy, and praiseworthy.

2.Think straight, talk straight and do the straight or right thing to grow your character

3. Find a passion. Pick a hobby, own it: running, photography, juggling, tennis, writing, art and whatever. Get your 10,000 hours of perfect practice in early and change your life.

4.Don’t bother comparing yourself to others—this only leads to heartbreak, anger, and disappointment.

Self-Coaching Challenge: What’s the one thing you would do right now if you had more confidence? What are you going to do to gain more self-confidence?

 

Power of Self-Coaching: Frank Shorter’s Theory and Tips for Running

Frank Shorter, winner of the gold medal in the Olympic marathon in the 1972 Munich games and a silver medal in the Montreal games in 1976, put running on the map in the U.S. This great long-distance runner of all time discusses is theory of self-coaching. Here are a few comments from Shorter on how self-motivation and discipline are keys to success not just in running, but generally in living a more productive and fulfilling life style.

Frank Shorter shares his viewpoint and tips on the power of  self-coaching: ” My simple, basic theory involves running very easily—at what I call conversational pace—75-90 percent of the time. Integrate short, fast interval training at 5K race pace if you want to run faster. If you want to run a marathon, add a long run once a week working up to at least two hours (20 miles if you’re very serious). A clear outline of these training theories can be found in my book, Running for Peak Performance...I have coached myself.  I do not think of myself as that unusual. To me, it shows how we have lost sight of just how individual and independent athletic success ( or other successes) can be with just a little self-motivated focus. In a way, relying on yourself is a lost art…In a way I think of myself as a “sandlot” runner”.

Self- Coaching  Challenge: What in your life provides the passion, energy and focus that Frank Shorter found in running?

Daily Quote and Reflection: Learning Self- Control and Self-Mastery to Live a Life On Purpose

Daily Quote: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. Mark Twain

Reflection: All the “stars are aligned” and at that moment someone ask you this question–If you could get paid for something you really love and are skilled at doing it (master). What would you do? What is holding you back? How do you want to get started? What is your commitment level on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high)? What do you need to see or what has to happen for you to turn love and dream into action?

If you want to be really good at something, it’s going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone and a significant amount of practice and dedication, usually 10,000 hours, of practicing the right things known and accepting self-doubts and potentially bad things that happen in living a self-directed life. This is true as long as you want to continue to improve, or even maintain a high level of excellence. The reward is that being really good at something, called mastery, is earned through hard work and still can be immensely satisfying once accomplished. Watch this video on self-control which impacts the ability to mastery and personal  changes.

Here, then, are the seven keys to achieving mastery found to be most effective:

  1. Pursue what you love. Passion and conviction” are incredible motivators. They fuel dreams, focus, resilience, and perseverance.
  2. Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.
  3. Deliberative Practice.    Without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appear to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day.
  4. Seek expert coaching and feedback, in small steps and small doses. The clearer and more concise and focused the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments to your thinking and behavior . Too much feedback, given continuously can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, loss of confidence and interference with constructive learning.
  5. Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense practice not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also helps to embed concepts, behaviors and overall acceleration of learning. It’s also during rest that the right-side of the brain becomes more effective and dominate, which can lead to long-term memory gains and behavioral or creative breakthroughs.
  6. Establish practice leading to new behaviors and habits. Self-discipline and will power are difficult to access without training and practice.ResearcherRoy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of the right amount and kind of will power sustain dramatic personal change. The best way to insure you’ll take on new learning challenges and difficult tasks is to build rituals and new habits — specific, times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to waste energy thinking about them or forcing yourself to do things.
  7. Learn to accept life’s uncertainty, develop mental toughness, be resilient and learn to utilize relax and release techniques. In doing these actions you can access the right focus to live your life on purpose and with meaning.

Self-Challenge: What  are going to do so that you can do the thing you love to do in life? What does your plan look like? When are you going to start? How can the keys to self-mastery help you get where you want to go?

Daily Quote: The Mindset and Four critical skills of Mentally Tough people

Daily Quote: ” In terms of instilling the values of mental toughness and self-confidence focus, will power, good habits and perseverance are the skills that will sustain you through tough times and temporary discouragement. Mark W. Hardwick 

1.  MT people accept the past and learn from their mistakes

Mentally strong people don’t waste time ruminating on the past and wishing things could be different. They accept their past and learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad incidents or experiences. They don’t fantasize about the good old days. They focus on living in the “here and now” and making realistic and specific  plans for the future.

2. MT people are  life long learners. They accept responsibility for their choices and control what they can control. (short memories) Being MT means not dwelling on mistakes or bad decisions they just try not to repeat same mistake by moving on and doing better the next time a similar situation presents itself. They are life long learners.

3. MT people are change agents. They embrace change and uncertainty.  When doing things they remain open and flexible to changing their position or action at any moment to succeed at what they are doing. They don’t shy away from taking calculated risks.

Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.

4. MT people have a reality and optimistic Mind Set. They don’t waste time on energy on things they can’t control. They also have the ability to have a short memory when things go wrong. You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over line calls by opponents or fretting traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

Daily Quote, Reflection and Self-Coaching Challenge: Begin With the End In Mind…

Daily Quote: You must begin to think of yourself as the person you want to be. Dr. David Viscott

Reflection: Once I heard someone say the most powerful thing about accomplishing goals. This wise person who I became friends with when training for the Dallas Marathon said ” When it comes to finishing the race I mean the last 5 miles of the 26,2 mile challenge–Whether you think you can or think you can’t … Your Right”. I must say he was right. I found the last 10 miles one of the biggest achievements in my athletic life. There were so many times I wanted to stop  that I stopped counting. Both physically and mentally I keep running into barriers, like the 16th mile hill that seem like a mountain. As I walked up the hill I told a friend that I was going to finish this race if it was the last “fucking” thing I did. She laughed and that laugh remained a joyful motivator for the rest of the race. The one lesson I learned in fulfilling this running goal was to trust myself. I realized that my body (a knee I could barely stand on for the last 2 miles)and mind would let me know if I needed to quit. I now use this past success when facing difficult challenges and use what I learned about perseverance, practice and mental toughness to help achieve any new challenges or targets in my life. I learned the 5 C’s of trust. Commitment to a goal, Consistency and need for Practice, Camaraderie, Competitiveness with self and Caring.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Identify what you want to achieve in the area of your personal fitness? Be specific about what and how you will go about achieving your goal. Identify the end result you want to achieve. Focus on what past win can you use to motivate you to get going and stick with your plan even during times that are difficult. Good Luck and Keep Us posted on your goal and achievements. If you need help let me know. Coach Mark

Note ” Begin with the end in mind” from-Steven Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Successful People

Daily Quote and Reflection: Eliminating “Inner Kill” on Your Journey to Personal Growth

Daily Quote: “The art of dying and not knowing it. Inner Kill is not growing. Giving up on yourself. It’s taking the safe way. Always covering yourself instead of taking risks.It’s reacting. Not thinking. It’s giving up control of your life to whatever or whoever is around you. Inner Kill is the death of self-respect”. Dr. Richard Leider 

Reflection: Dr.Leider, CEO and Founder of the Inventure Group, in this essay and exercise on the Purpose Check-up challenges us to explore the concept of living on purpose and of “playing to win” in life. Dr. Leider wants us to stay attuned to and engaged in life. He challenges us to conduct a Purpose of Life Check-up just as we do a physical check-up. He calls this approach to giving-up on self-respect and your worth–Inner Kill. In living a life of Inner Kill we abandon any sense of worth and trying to figure out  who we really are or want to be. I believe our search for our identity is a way of staying engaged in life. We search out our inner demons and hopefully accept them along with our strengths and then make ourselves open to and visible in the external world. We do this by being conscious, courageous, truthful and vulnerable in our daily comings and goings in life. 

Self-Coaching Challenge: Dr. Leider has provided an excellent and insightful exercise for gaining more self-understanding of our own personal development in the Outer, Inner and spiritual aspects of our life called: the Purpose Check-up. I would recommend taking this check-up as you start to taking inventory of  how you have lived your life in 2013. This  challenge becomes our individual quest and individual journey. The essence of this new discovery is that the true self would much rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else’s. Don’t risk living a lie it is to risky and really unsatisfying. Most of our personal growth is a journey of self-awareness. Don’t let live pass you by. Stop sleep walking and start living a Purposeful and Meaningful life. 

Formula for Peak Performing: Self 3 (Hardiness and Resilient thinking)

Formula for Peak Performing : Physical + Mental (thinking /feelings) + constructive action = Self 3 (hardy-resilient-constructive action self)

Life cycle:  Stuck——————-Surviving—————————Growing/learning (Mental Toughness )——————Peaking ( Self 3- Active Performer)

None of this is very useful information unless you know what to do about it and how to use it to your benefit and create a better selves. Mental Toughness (MT) is a very broad and complex topic involving the brain, neurology and psychological research, but where I would recommend starting by learning what the “hardy-resilient ” personality is.

Self 3  is broken down into four separate characteristics: Self-awareness, focused attention, integrated discovery learning, commitment to a constructive plan of action. These characteristics of Self 3 are based in an existential theory of personality and is defined as a person’s basic stance towards his or her place in the world.  ( Frankl 1954, Kobasa 1979; Dr. Rock 2010).

1. Self-Awareness (SA) is the ability to know ones strengths and weakness through experiences in life. SA means being observant and growing from involvement in life activities by involving  oneself in, rather than standing by and watching life pass you by.  It means being in touch with our true make-up (strengths/weaknesses). People with high emotional intelligence know that life will end and have a generalized sense of purpose that allows them to identify with and engage in meaningful activities, persons, and events to bring pleasure and happiness to their lives.

2. Reality and Control are the elements that allow you to think, feel and act as if one is competent and influential in making a difference (self-efficacy), rather than helpless, in the face of many difficult and high pressured situations and experiences in life. They lean-in to life because there was a time when they did not exist .  Persons with perspective and balance in their lives do not naively expect to determine all events and outcomes but rather perceive themselves as being able to make a difference in the world through their exercise of imagination, knowledge, skill and choice.

3. Challenge is the tendency to believe that change rather than stability is normal in life and that changes are interesting occurrences to grow from  rather than threats to security. So far from being reckless adventurers, persons with challenge are rather individuals with an openness to new experiences and a tolerance of ambiguity that enables them to be flexible in the face of change.”

In sum, the greater your levels of SA, Learning (commitment, control and challenge) when faced with a stressful situation, the greater your chances of performing well and doing so without a negative impact on your mental and physical health.

The catch here, is that a high level of self-awareness must be involved in order to assess these characteristics within yourself. This is called “metaknowledge” and is the ability to think about the way in which you are thinking.

The next time you are faced with a high pressure, stressful situation, read through that list of the three hardiness factors and ask yourself to what degree do feel commitment, control and challenge. If you’re coming up low in any of those categories, try to stop and focus on what behaviors you can control and then make the necessary changes.

Stop Being a Wimp–Develop Mental Toughness and Mindfulness Mindset

Quote: ” Positive thinking and action for mindfulness —everywhere—all the time.” Dr. Brantley, Duke Integrative Medicine,
 

To be mentally tough is the ability to maintain clear focus, patience and determination to do your best in the face of challenging situations, stress, pressure and possible failure. It requires a person to have a clear vision of their goals and a plan to accomplish them. Generally, Mental Toughness (MT) is developed from experiencing adversity, disappointment and failure. Then learning to snapped back and try something different. When bad things happen you have the opportunity to reflect about the situation and choose what is most important to do “right now”.  Self-directed learning helps the learner to see and act on lessons that will make them stronger in the future.

Psychologists report that almost everyone can benefit from strengthening these snap back or resiliency skills , even those people we might consider paragons of mental toughness: army drill sergeants. The U.S. military is now implementing a resilience-building program, designed by a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, intended to make soldiers as rugged in mind as they are in body. This effort—one of the largest psychological interventions ever attempted—holds lessons for anyone who wants to strengthen their mental muscles.

Drill sergeants were chosen to receive the training because they’re in a position to teach the service members under their command, promoting a trickle down of psychological resilience. The program’s key message: Mental toughness comes from thinking like an optimist. “People who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local and changeable,” Penn positive psychology and happiness professor Martin Seligman, describing the intervention in a recent journal article. When such individuals encounter adversity, they think to themselves: “It’s going away quickly; it’s just this one situation, and I can do something about it.” Sergeants learn to analyze their beliefs and emotions about failure, and to avoid describing failure as permanent, pervasive and out of their control — all characterizations that undermine mental toughness.  Dr. Martin Seligman, whose work on “positive psychology” influenced Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, explains his stance that soldiers can enhance their mental toughness through optimistic thinking. By seeing situations as temporary—“It will go away soon”—or specific—“It’s just this once”—or changeable—“I can do something about it”—you can make it through adversity and perform optimally. The training also emphasizes how resisting negative thoughts such as “Maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a soldier” while expressing gratitude— “I made it farther than I did last time”—are part of the puzzle to building resilience and becoming mentally tough.

George Washington Carver wrote, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.

Another pillar of psychological fortitude is the ability to resist “catastrophic thinking” — the tendency to assume the worst. Seligman’s program offers examples drawn from army life: a sergeant stationed abroad doesn’t hear from his wife back home and concludes that she’s left him; a sergeant receives a negative performance evaluation from his commending officer and immediately thinks, “I won’t be recommended for promotion, and I don’t have what it takes to stay in the army.” Participants learn to fight back against such negative thoughts, challenging their accuracy and searching for a more positive spin — while also making sure to reflect and act on genuine concerns and problems.

Lastly, the drill sergeants in Seligman’s program are taught two capacities that might seem at odds with mental toughness: gratitude and generosity. Participants learn how to “hunt for the good stuff” — to look for and appreciate the ways in which they are fortunate. And they learn not to judge too hastily subordinates who themselves seem to lack grit. The participants are offered this scenario: “A soldier in your unit struggles to keep up during physical training and is dragging the rest of the day. His uniform looks sloppy and he makes a couple of mistakes during artillery practice. You think to yourself, ‘He’s a soup sandwich! He doesn’t have the stuff of a soldier.’” The sergeants are warned against over-generalizing about others based on a few pieces of information, and encouraged to cultivate strength in junior soldiers instead of rejecting those who don’t make the grade right away.

While evidence of the program’s effectiveness for soldiers heading into combat is still being gathered, it is hoped that enhancing resilience will help reduce the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide among service members and veterans, which has soared to record levels during the United States’ military engagement in and Afghanistan. The 10-day training session, which also focuses on building personal strengths and fostering positive relationships, can’t address every psychological issue that soldiers may face. But sergeants who graduate from the program return to drill practice with a new kind of mental set: a keen understanding of how to toughen the mind for the daily battle against adversity.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/04/19/can-you-instill-mental-toughness/#ixzz2QLs4R7Ze

In any job and profession you need to be motivated and prepared on many levels. People who need to be motivated typically may crumble when in training. It is the self-directed and  motivated who rise to the occasion when the days get long, and the nights get cold and wet.

The most important ability to have when serving your country or community is self motivation. To be honest with self motivation and determination, you can graduate any program and not be the fastest runner or swimmer, or the strongest and best athlete. However, if you do not have a foundation of fitness, even the most motivated can fail due to physical injury.

Implications for Daily Living

It is not any one’s job but yours to realize that your fitness level and your ability to perform under stress will one day be the difference between you or a loved one from living or dying.  If that does not motivate you to workout, then maybe you should consider a different occupation. Not being motivated to exercise happens in all of us. But turning that around and working out anyway is a daily dose of overcoming quitting and building mental toughness. Besides we all know that you will always feel better later in the day having exercised rather than skipping a workout.

Your whole life has to be built around these near daily experiences of waking up early and running or swimming before dawn in any weather or putting on a sweaty /​ nasty pair of football, hockey, or lacrosse pads for a second time during two a day practices. These experiences build mental toughness and you can tap into this NEVER QUIT attitude by remembering those days when you succeeded and performed at a high level.

Self-Coaching Challenge:

What are you committed to do become more mentally tough and hardy in your daily life. When will you start to life a more hardy life?

Part I: Overcome Public Speaking and Presentation Fears–James Earl Jones Story

“Be silent, or say something better than silence”.
Pythagoras 

“Proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style.” Jonathan Swift

Here is the story of a man who went from silence to absolute wonderful speaking style. This is the story  of  James Earl Jones journey of  courage, persistence and how facing his fear  of failure and rejection was turned into fame and excellence as a public speaker and performer –an excellent actor.

Many of us allow our fear of failure and humiliation to stop us from doing things in life. We have the abilities and skills but for some reason under pressure are overwhelmed by fear and thoughts of doubt. These buttons of anxiety are put in us by ourselves or others; these triggers when present stop us from performing at our best. All that has to happen is for us see or hear their voices and we stop trying and get stuck. For example, some speakers fall apart  when they experience criticism, a negative facial expression, or a less than positive opinion, and we give up before we even get started. We’re afraid of:

• the disapproving look of others because it means rejection
• the whispers and grins because they mean judgment, and
• the absence of support because it means abandonment

Let’s look at these three triggers in relationship to James Earl Jones story of failure to even try to speak or if he did stuttering was the result.

Abandonment
Little James Earl was scared. His father had left the family to become a prize-fighter and actor. His mother had left to earn money as a tailor. The Great Depression had stolen his family and he was about to lose the only life he had ever known. So he remained silent and mute for many of the early developmental years he lived with his adopted grandparents.

Rejection 
Through these early days of abandonment and harsh treatment from his grandparents he was afraid and traumatized  so as a defense he developed a stutter.

His first day of school was a disaster. His stuttering made his classmates laugh at him. It was the final straw for a frightened little boy. He closed his mouth and simply quit talking… for eight years!

James Earl was completely mute – with the exception of conversations he had with himself when he was all alone. He found solace in the written word – creating poetry to release the raging in his soul.

Judgment 
As is often the case, one person who saw beyond his limitations released James Earl from his self-imposed prison. That one person who believed in him was an English teacher who saw talent and potential in the silent 13-year-old. She pushed him beyond his fear by forcing him into public speaking – insisting he recite a poem in front of the class every day. Can’t you imagine his terror when he first stood in front of his classmates? What made him do it? Was it only the teacher’s insistence? No. It was a deep desire to break free from his prison and speak all the things that had sat silently in his heart during all those years. He chose to face and lean-in to the fear – and then recite his daily anyway!

Failure
He stuttered. He stammered. He endured the scornful looks of fellow students. He endured the laughing. But he continued to do it. He faced the fear and forced himself to speak. Day after day. Week after week. He hung onto the encouragement of the teacher who believed in him. And it worked. His stuttering became less.

Victory

He learned to control his voice. His victories made him look for more challenges. James Earl began to take acting lessons. His early lessons in perseverance and deliberative practice gave him the courage to push beyond the prejudices against black actors. He chose to take as many different types of roles as he could – stretching his limitations and refusing to let fear control him.

Lesson Learn
James Earl Jones is now known for his deep authoritative and penetrating voice. Perhaps you know him as the voice of Star War’s Darth Vader or as Mufasa in the Lion King. You see him almost daily on commercials. He has starred on Broadway and been in many movies. He has been the recipient of many distinguished honors and awards– the Tony, Emmy and many others.

People look at him today and see a confident actor with a deep, resonant voice. The next time you become nervous or fearful of presenting in front of others remember James Earl Jones because this may push to stretch your talents and successful performances.

My hypothesis of why James Earl Jones’ succeed in public speaking is that he chose to push beyond his fears or learned to accept these fears and just kept presenting. He chose to change the reality of a young boy who had lived in silence for eight years. He chose to face ridicule and humiliation in order to grow and develop into his full potential.

So many of us let our fears stop us. We’re afraid of how we will appear and what others will say and think about us. We’re afraid so we limit our development and possibilities for success. We exchange fear for failure. We don’t believe our fear can be conquered or just accepted. Fear will fade away in the face of  acceptance, deliberative practice, persistence and construction action.

So what does this tender and emotional story have to do with the rational world of business and you becoming a more effective speaker? In two words: acceptance and courage. If we can’t confront our fears of communicating with others we probably have no hope of being a successful leader. Many people make decisions about us every day by the way we do or don’t communicate. Neurological research shows that many—if not most—of our so-called rational decisions are actually driven by our emotions. So we tell a story if we want to communicate in a way that captures peoples’ curiosity and imagination, connects with them at a deeply emotional level, is persuasive and leads to the behaviors we desire. For years he refused to speak more than a few words at a time, even to his family. In school he pretended to be mute, and communicated only in writing. He began to express himself by writing poetry.
” In high school a sympathetic teacher named Donald Crouch saw through Jones’s insecurity. He challenged each student in the class to write a poem. Jones found inspiration in the citrus fruit the federal government had distributed in the area to relieve wartime shortages. When he turned in an “Ode to Grapefruit,” written in the epic meter of Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” the teacher pretended to believe that Jones could not have written the poem himself, and challenged him to prove it by reciting it front of the class. With his own verses committed to memory, Jones found he could speak without stuttering. Crouch encouraged Jones to compete in high-school debates and oratorical contests. One happy day in his senior year, he won both a public-speaking contest and a scholarship to the University of Michigan. “

Wow!!! What a story when was the last time you tackled a personal weakness and over came your fears?

 

Want to Overcome the 10,000 hour rule to be a Great Runner, Writer… ? Be Inspired By this Story

Daily Quote: ” The thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”  Malcolm Gladwell 

We all know about the 10,000 hour theory to mastery that Malcolm Gladwell made recently popular his book Outliers: The Story of Success. In brief the 10,000 hour rule states: that to become an expert or high performer in any field of endeavor, it merely takes 10.000 hours of deliberative practice and focus on the topic you are interested in mastering. Roughly calculated this means about 20 hours a week for 10 years. For most of us this news is not motivating, so I went looking for other secrets or examples Gladwell may have missed.  Of course to master something takes time, energy and experience. But what if we challenged all the assumptions that went into training regiments by figuring out better ways to learn and train. For example what can we learn from the Tarahumara Indians to help us run more efficiently and longer periods of time?

Don’t miss this youtube documentary on this amazing culture of runners in Mexico.

The Tarahumara – A Hidden Tribe of Superathletes Born to Run

Poem: Low Winter Sun by MW Hardwick

                                                                                                                        

lost my courage, my frame of reference, and my cool…                                                                                                                                                                                                   The Winter Sun appeared low and blurred my vision                                                                                                                                                                                                         And I turn my back to gain a sense of control…and looked-up again with my eyes wide open.

My vision was better but something haunted me                                                                                                                                                                                                                 and caused fear again –

Light pour in and with this light–my trembling increased… my vision diminished…

In this moment I took a deep breath, paused realizing I was face to face with the fear of loss.

Loss of who I was and where I was going                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Slowly losing my sense of certainty and stability…

For this fear lives in the shadow side of my passions.

It lives waiting for the right moment to pounce – Each night in a different space…

Looking for the moment to betray…Each night when light diminishes

I confront these demons…I confronted them.

For vision only re-appears when you are strong –

Such toughness is learned from confronting and caring…

And imaging a better place by dreaming of and finding.

A magical moment and spiritual place beyond fear…

This place where I can pause and feel serenity…

 And solitude of awareness…and embracing the fear.

Knowing I am not the only one battling for clear vision, security and fairness                                                                                         

To sustain me…sustain me … and inspire me.

On this journey and mystery called life…life…life…

Self-Coaching: Discover how to Stop Criticizing and Feeling Insecure through being more Self-Compassionate

Daily Quote: “If life is what we choose to make of it, then I will choose to forget losses and negativity and live a life full of possibility and abundance; high energy and exhilaration; happiness, and fulfillment.  I will choose to live a passionate, meaningful and inspired life based on doing the “best I can with what I have”. Mark W. Hardwick, Ph.D 

The relentless search for high self-esteem has become dogmatic with most psychologists and coaches. Our competitive culture tells us we need to be special, above average and be a winner in order to feel good about ourselves, but we can’t all be above average. There is always someone richer, more attractive, or successful than we are. And even when we do manage to feel self-esteem for one golden moment, we can’t hold on to it. Our sense of self-worth bounces around like a golf ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.

If you feel that you lack sufficient self-compassion or self-understanding, check in with yourself – are you criticizing yourself too much?  If so, stop and learn to be more gentle and forgiving of yourself.  Try to feel compassion for how difficult it is to be a fallible human being and imperfect in this extremely competitive society of ours.  Most of us live in cultures that do not emphasize self-compassion, quite the opposite.  We’re told that we’re being lazy and self-indulgent if we don’t harshly push and criticize ourselves.  We’re told that no matter how hard we try, our best just is not good enough. We become driven and stressed out individuals who are never satisfied with their life.  It’s time for something different.  We can all benefit by learning to be more forgiving and self-compassionate.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to self-esteem that many psychologists believe is a better and more effective path to happiness: self-compassion building into a sense of self-efficacy. The research of Dr. Kristin Neff and others strongly suggests that people who are more self-compassionate lead happier, healthier, more productive lives than those who are self-critical. Feelings of security and self-worth provided by self-compassion are highly stable. while self-esteem fluctuates depending on you latest success or failure. Self-compassion steps in precisely when we fall down, allowing us to get up and try again.

Dr. Neff helps readers understand that compassion isn’t only something that we should apply to others. Just as we are able to provide compassion for a good friend who was going through a difficult illness or loss or felt inadequate in some way, why not for ourselves? Many people believe that they need to be self-critical to motivate themselves, but in fact they just end up feeling anxious, incompetent and stressed. Dr. Neff’s research shows that far from encouraging self-indulgence, self-compassion helps us to see ourselves clearly and make needed changes because we care about ourselves and want to reach our full potential.

Her groundbreaking book Self-Compassion based on years of solid empirical research into human happiness and success  identifies how to let go of insecurity and constant, debilitating self-judgment and finally learn to be kind to themselves. This book provides practical exercises to support people who want to tackle the skill of self-compassion. Below I am posting some info from Dr. Neff to help you get started and if this info triggers your curosity and interest I would definitely invest a few bucks and buy it. This idea hof self-compassion has the power to change your life. First let’s get to an overview of what self-compassion is and how it differs from self-esteem. 

Definition of self-compassion

Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. “Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience…” 

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment? Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect? You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness and fallibility. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.

The three elements of self-compassion

Self-kindness. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.  Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism.  When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.

Common humanity.
 Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation – as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes.  All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect.  Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.  It also means recognizing that personal thoughts, feelings and actions are impacted by “external” factors such as parenting history, culture, genetic and environmental conditions, as well as the behavior and expectations of others.  Thich Nhat Hahn calls the intricate web of reciprocal cause and effect in which we are all imbedded “interbeing.”  Recognizing our essential interbeing allows us to be less judgmental about our personal failings. After all, if we had full control over our behavior, how many people would consciously choose to have anger issues, addiction issues, debilitating social anxiety, eating disorders, and so on?  Many aspects of ourselves and the circumstances of our lives are not of our choosing, but instead stem from innumerable factors (genetic and/or environmental) that we have little control over.  By recognizing our essential interdependence, therefore, failings and life difficulties do not have to be taken so personally, but can be acknowledged with non-judgmental compassion and understanding.

Mindfulness. Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.  This equilibrated stance stems from the process of relating personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering, thus putting our own situation into a larger perspective. It also stems from the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.  At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.

Self-compassion versus self-esteem

Although self-compassion may seem similar to self-esteem, they are different in many ways.  Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves. While there is little doubt that low self-esteem is problematic and often leads to depression and lack of motivation, trying to have higher self-esteem can also be problematic.  In modern Western culture, self-esteem is often based on how much we are different from others, how much we stand out or are special.  It is not okay to be average, we have to feel above average to feel good about ourselves.  This means that attempts to raise self-esteem may result in narcissistic, self-absorbed behavior, or lead us to put others down in order to feel better about ourselves.  We also tend to get angry and aggressive towards those who have said or done anything that potentially makes us feel bad about ourselves.  The need for high self-esteem may encourage us to ignore, distort or hide personal shortcomings so that we can’t see ourselves clearly and accurately.

Finally, our self-esteem is often contingent on our latest success or failure, meaning that our self-esteem fluctuates depending on ever-changing circumstances.

In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on). This means that with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself.  Self-compassion also allows for greater self-clarity, because personal failings can be acknowledged with kindness and do not need to be hidden. Moreover, self-compassion isn’t dependent on external circumstances, it’s always available – especially when you fall flat on your face!  Research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger”

Self-Coaching Challenge: Determine what you need to get started on understanding the power of self-compassion. Ask how could self-compassion increase your outlook on life and what implications does it have for you becoming a better leader? 

 

 

Want to Improve Mental Toughness and Reduce Stress–Learn the Habit of the Relaxation Response


“The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress… and the opposite of the fight or flight response.” Dr. Herbert Benson 

 

Other researchers define the relaxation response more generally. “The  body is no longer in perceived danger, and the autonomic nervous system functioning returns to normal. During this response, the body moves from a state of physiological arousal, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, slowed digestive functioning, decreased blood flow to the extremities, increased release of hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, and other responses preparing the body to fight or run, to a state of physiological relaxation, where blood pressure, heart rate, digestive functioning and hormonal levels return to their normal state. I f you suffer from chronic stress of arousal your body and mind are in a constant state of physiological arousal over perceived threats that are numerous and not life-threatening. The relaxation response can be induced through techniques such as relaxation, meditation and other stress-management techniques, found in a most helpful series of books by Dr. Jeffrey Brantley.

 

Self-Coaching Challenge:

Over the next 30 days make relaxation and mindfulness a part of your daily routine: Dr. Herbert Benson in his book The Stress Response provides the following tips for starting and combating destructive stress.

1.
Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

2.
Close your eyes.

3.
Deeply relax all your muscles,
beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face.
Keep them relaxed.

4.
Breathe through your nose.
Become aware of your breathing.
As you breathe out, say the word, “one”*,
silently to yourself. For example,
breathe in … out, “one”,- in .. out, “one”, etc.
Breathe easily and naturally.

5.
Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes,
at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.
Do not stand up for a few minutes.

6.
Do not worry about whether you are successful
in achieving a deep level of relaxation.
Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.
When distracting thoughts occur,
try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them
and return to repeating “one.”

With practice, the response should come with little effort.
Practice the technique once or twice daily,
but not within two hours after any meal,
since the digestive processes seem to interfere with
the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.

 

Why New Psychology Focuses on Happiness and Positive Emotions and Skills

Most of us are generally looking in the wrong places for achieving happiness in our life daily life. We don’t reach happiness by the accumulation of more material things or riches. Dr. Martin Seligman and his associates recent research says ” We can create happiness in our lives more easily by practicing certain behaviors”. These behaviors are summarized using the acronym PERMA:

Positive emotions – feeling good by doing good

Engagement – being completely absorbed in activities

Relationships – being authentically and respectful of others

Meaning – create a purposeful existence and a why for living

Achievement – a sense of accomplishment and success.

See TED talk: 

Poem–Courage To Be… by MW Hardwick

COURAGE TO BE…BY MW HARDWICK

to say and act on what you say you believe,

to stand up for what is right and fair, to face difficulties with openness and flexibility.

Leaving behind stubbornness ,
to be accountable and to hold others accountable,
to share ideas, information and resources,
to use caring confrontation when conflict arises,

And to never stop learning.             Never stop learning.

Never stop Learning.

To confront fear, pain, uncertainty, intimidation and injustice…

Leaving behind dogma and rigidity,

to act rightly in face of “moral” decisions and scandal, or discouragement.”

Have courage to take risks, and risk failure

to show heart felt compassionate and empathy,

And the wisdom to be humble…

to stand up and speak.

to endure setbacks and keep moving forward

And be brave…

Because life is dynamic, short

So stop look fear in the eye and do what you need to do.

Then, move on… move on…new experiences await you… await you…await you…