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 Reflection: On Self-Coaching and And Creating A purpose in Life

Daily Quote: “Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” Victor Frankl

When will the day come when the risk to stay stuck and unfulfilled are more painful  than creating a new you with a purpose for making a difference in life?

Reflection: Want to re-strategize your life’s purpose and future direction? Most of us are at a loss when it seems time to renew or create a new direction in life. The main reason we have difficulty in answering this critical question and getting stuck is our fear of the unknown; for example, what if I choose the wrong path and the consequences are terrible. Other questions can I afford to make a change, finding the courage to handle the risks and stopping our living on auto-pilot. What is required is a “structure” for creating our purpose and a “process” for motivating and committing to our new purpose and then sustaining constructive actions
to follow it.

This is what the “structure with process” self-coaching framework provides. You will learn to understand and use proven self-discovery tools and techniques to find your passion and craft your future pathway to your dreams. A mastery in self-coaching support and focuses thinking, attention and positive action by becoming more self-aware about your true strengths and skills, values, personality preferences, wants and needs skills, and even your fears and internal and external barriers to choice and self-direction. Power questions are a bnasis for starting the self-coaching process—Do you truly know who you are what you want in life. The answer will provide the “why” in life and Victor Frankl once said: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’…Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible…“By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system. I have termed this constitutive characteristic “the self-transcendence of human existence.” It denotes the fact that being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself–be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself–by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love–the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.”    Viktor E. FranklMan’s Search for Meaning

 

“Big Hairy Ass” Question for Monday

The only question you need to ask about life starts with this Big Hairy Ass  question:

What is the reason you are living? Victor Frankl challenges us about the meaning in life when he says: Survival for what?  Those who survived the ordeal of concentration camps in WWII created a future orientation rather than a self-center orientation. They created in their mind’s eye a future desire for re-connection with someone or something outside of themselves. This ability to find a mission outside of yourself is called Self-Transcendance and says is the secret for creating a meaningful purpose in life.

More questions for Self-Reflection:

I go to work each Monday at_________ because I want to______________.

Self Coaching Challenge

What is your professional vision and purpose________________________________________________

What do you need TO do in order to grow and develop as a leader________________________________

What do you want to focus on in your position and what motivates you in your present job___________________________________. 

 

Daily Quote and Reflections: What are your answers to the “big” questions about Living?

Quote:  “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freeoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance…Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” Viktor E. FranklMan’s Search for Meaning

Reflection: Why am I Living? Victor Frankl challenges us about the meaning in life when he says: Survival for what and What?  Those who survived the ordeal of concentration camps in WWII created a future orientation rather than a self-center orientation. They created in their minds eye a future desire for reconnection with someone or something outside of themselves. This ability to find a mission outside of yourself is called, Self-Transcendance and says is the secret for creating a meaningful purpose in life.

Self-Coaching Challenge : Over this weekend take a few moments of alone time to wrestle withe these questions and then capture your thinking in your Personal Learning Journal. Then build a plan to translate you thoughts and insights into concrete actions for living a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

 

Daily Quote and Reflection: Fulfillment vs Success?

Daily Quote:  “ Success is developed and measured by an external focus and fulfillment comes from the inside and is displayed on the outside.” Victor Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning

Reflection: 

This is my favorite book for examining many of my existential questions about life and provides many insights in to how create a purposeful legacy and meaning for living the life that I want to live. This book has made a difference in millions of people’s life and is rated as one of the top ten most influential books by readers in America. The reality and first hand experiences of  Viktor Frankl, a renown psychiatrist, has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for living a more meaningful and life. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he examines why some people collapse under these horrific circumstances and how others learn to cope and actual thrive in times of personal suffering or just day to day living?

In his coming to grips with the fact that we cannot avoid suffering in life but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose provides a basis for his  approach to therapy called logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”) holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud proclaimed, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Many times students and seminar participants have asked me to answer this question –What is the best way to guarantee success in their future life? Of course if you are a follower of this blog, you know that I don’t think it is helpful to give advice or reassurance to others on the way to live their life.  I am true believer when it comes to self- discovery and creating a personal vision or solutions to human problems. So in answering this type of question I usually reflect and direct them to an important process of answering a few questions for themselves.

So  the challenge I present to you, as your own coach, is to stop and take some reflective time over the next answer these questions:

1. How can you be sure that you will  be happy in your chosen career? 2. How can you be sure that your relationships with your spouse or partner or your  family become an enduring source of support and happiness? 3. What do you want your legacy to be?  Though the last question sounds a little dark because it projects you to the the end of your life, it’s not.  None of us are going to get out of this thing called life without dying and leaving some kind of footprints in the sand.

Daily Quote and Challenge: Choose Freedom and Mental Toughness over Being Stuck and Fearful –Victor Frankl

Daily Quote and Challenge: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms –to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor E. Frankl

Reflection: Frankl says to me choose freedom because it is the life blood of being human. Although choosing to be free will take courage (mental toughness) and the desire to live an inner directed life rather than being afraid or vulnerable to be who you are no matter the consequences. To reach your goal you must able to access your strengths and make a difference by being “mentally tough and doing the right at the right time for the right reason”. A structure for choosing freedom that I have found useful follows the Smart-step and Plus One process:

Smart-Steps: Plus One technique

1. Start by visualizing in your mind by thinking about what success looks like before you confront the situation or person.
2. Create the right attitude and state of mind. Rehearse the words to be communicated.
3. Keep your Cool and Confidence top of the mind by developing a calming and positive mantra like–  “ Yes, I can…( This helps by removing negative self-talk w/positive affirmations).
4. Develop and refine comfortable rituals and routine for relaxing before using the “caring confrontation”.

5. Remember: thinking is first than emotions take over. So think straight, accept & acknowledge feelings (I feel ok). Focus on what you need to do. Then, muster-up  the courage to ACT. Execute and stick with your decision. Choose freedom over intimidation or emotional abuse.

Challenge: Where are you “stuck” in life and instead of choosing to find a way through the difficult situation you deny there is a problem, or pretend things will magically change. Ask yourself why are you doing this? Reflect on how to create better alternatives for all involved. Then have the courage to act no matter how vulnerable you feel. Trust yourself and choose to be free.

Are Happiness and Meaning the Same? Learn the difference between Taking and Giving in Life.

My son Jeff sent me an insightful and powerful article “There is more to Live than being Happy” from The Atlantic on Victor Frankl and other researchers discussion on the difference between pursuing happiness and meaning in life. In essence, pursuing happiness is all about fulling your needs and wants the taking approach to living. So happiness is a more selfish approach to living. Living a life of meaning is all about pursuing giving and doing things beyond yourself. Meaning is selfless and includes suffering and not just happiness. Here is a brief summary from the article:

” In 1991, the Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man’s Search for Meaning as one of the top 10 most influential books in the United States. It has sold millions of copies worldwide. Now, over twenty years later, the book’s ethos — its emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self — seems to be at odds with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual happiness than in the search for meaning. “To the European,” Frankl wrote, “it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.'”

A recent Gallup survey, says happiness levels of Americans are at a four-year high — as is, it seems, the number of best-selling books with the word “happiness” in their titles. At this writing, Gallup also reports that nearly 60 percent all Americans today feel happy without a lot of stress or worry. On the other hand, according to the Center for Disease Control, about 4 out of 10 Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Forty percent either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose. Nearly a quarter of Americans feel neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. “It is the very pursuit of happiness,” Frankl knew, “that thwarts happiness.”

“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”

Many researchers now agree that the pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” –– we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.”

Don’t miss reading the rest of the article and some of my posts on thewick they are a must read for those wanting to understand how to live a more Constructive and Meaningful Life.