Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘comfort zones’

It’s All About the Energy!

Constantly expanding our comfort zone is important since it keeps our blood pumping and gives us a richer, more interesting perspective on life. Following this thought I watched my first Super Bowl game ever – and was astounded to watch how the energy of both the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots changed throughout the game. You could practically feel the energy radiating from the T.V. screen as first one team led and then the other. Since I am not an avid sports enthusiast and would have preferred to have both teams win I was really more interested in the energy thing than the actually score. I found myself talking to each team throughout the game and telling them to ‘buck up’ and ‘make it happen!’ It caused me to think about how obvious our energy is to others. People can actually feel it, regardless of what our face is saying and they act accordingly by either moving toward or away from us. Just think, it all starts by the energy we are choosing to give off.

When things are going well the positive energy just seems to flow. It seems that good things just keep happening as the Universe sends back to us more of what we are giving out. Likewise when we are down things seem to happen, one after another, that overwhelm us. If we find ourselves falling into catastrophic thinking or creating mini dramas tomorrow will surely be the same as today.

Obviously none of us are Super Bowl players but we constantly have our own challenges and opportunities to handle in our own game of life. How do we learn to look for the bright side, the probability of future success when our own energy seems to be at a low ebb.

When we inhale deeply and remember that everything happens for a purpose, that we will get through this and that there really are no mistakes in life it’s a good start. Regardless of our challenges when if we calm down and realize that we can either admit defeat or look for the silver lining behind every cloud that surrounds us it goes a long way in giving us the energy to face our tomorrows. Whatever we do to help keep perspective and realize any setback we experience is really temporary it helps us dig deeper and regain a more positive attitude.

Life is not a walk in the park. Each of us has chosen unique life lessons to overcome. Some of us might even wonder, from time to time, why we wrote so many challenges in our script and may look at others and think to ourselves that their life seems to be so much easier. Caution is advised here because when we look more closely it becomes obvious that all of us experience our fair amount of challenges and disappointments- albeit in different forms.

Life is a huge balancing act. But the good news is that each of us can create our own safety net which will give us greater security and confidence along the way. Those safety nets are created from individual threads which are formed each time we overcome a life challenge. Before we know we have learned to smile with confidence as we overcome another challenge because we realize that ‘All is as it Should Be.’

Have a great few days!

Who Has ‘Text Neck?’

A recent article in ‘The Week’ magazine entitled, ‘The Text Neck’ refers to an ‘epidemic’ that is worth becoming aware of – the craze of texting – which for some has devolved
into a dependency behavior. The latest research on the topic by back surgeons has concluded that those who are constantly looking down at their phones to text are subject to neck cramps, pinched nerves, herniated discs and even early degeneration of the spine especially in the younger generation.

The reason for the effect is quite logical when we think about how our bodies are designed. The normal head weighs between 10-12 pounds. Using computer modeling the researches found that when the head is angled or bowed at 60 degrees (looking down from an upright position to text for example) the strain on the neck increases to 60 pounds – about the weight of four bowling balls! Our bodies simply cannot support that weight over time.

For those who have become addicted to texting (yes – this has become a recognized addiction which has even been linked to increased depression) maybe it’s time to share this information with them. The data is in – permanent physical damage can happen when texting becomes habitual. Further, when we replace active engagement with other people to mere texting we lose our ability to read social cues or develop a stronger sense of self.

When someone creates a limited comfort zone around them using texting as the main way to communicate with the rest of the world they become less rather than more. Real communication cannot be reduced to a quirky three or four word response. Deeper, more engaged communication is critical for healthy family relationships as well as success in the work place. But how does someone develop the critical skills of active communication if they don’t practice them continuously in the real world setting?

Often we can observe families at restaurants or on the mall and the parents as well as the kids are not interacting with each other but are busy texting or playing a game on their phones. The opportunity for true human connection is lost as their fingers tap out their current abbreviated comment to someone – anyone – and they anxiously await a response.They seem to be saying to themselves … ‘I am important to someone out there – just watch and ‘they’ will respond to my latest comment.’ Their phone has become their ‘go to friend’ and they have become so dependent upon it that they can have a melt down if their battery is low. Really?

The benefit of this powerful technology cannot be downplayed. It has changed the world for the better. It can make us more efficient and effective when we need to communicate with someone quickly and even allows us to share something funny with a friend without interrupting them at the precise moment we send our text. However, like anything in life the question boils down to balance and moderation. If those two concepts sound a bit boring to you – think about living without them in your life. Not a pretty picture!

If each of us would consider these implications in our own lives and take the time to gently encourage our family members to consider them as well we would improve our ability to communicate authentically and see the deeper value in the human experience.

If you try to discuss these points with someone you care about who seems to have become addicted to texting and they refuse to listen or engage in the discussion you know you have hit a nerve. That can be a good thing if you don’t give up. After all, we know that sometimes a point needs to be repeated four or five times to get through to a reluctant learner. Don’t we owe it to those we truly care about to share information that would help them in the long run?

Have a great few days!

Change … Bring It On!

The only consistent thing we have in life is change. For those people who find change intimidating or uncomfortable hold on … you are in for the ride of your life! This ride is not one where you give the vendor a ticket and can choose to get off at a certain time. No… this is a non stop experience so we can either learn to accept, adapt and go with it or …well there really isn’t any other option other than stagnation. I’ll take change any time over that alternative!

Time goes by quickly and change has become so rapid that adapting our mental outlook to see the positives involved in change has become a true survival skill. Whether we are changing schools, jobs, houses or even relationships, at first there is a period of discomfort. Things are different – better maybe – but still different and that takes greater emotional energy from us. If you feel that you are already tapped out of energy it is time for an attitude adjustment. Trust me on this, looking at change from the perspective of growth makes all the difference.

We all have fond memories and connections to certain things in our lives. When those things change, momentarily we are thrown off our game. So what do we do with this discomfort? We can begin to take stock with gratefulness at all of the wonderful memories we have and realize they will always remain with us. Next we can look to the source of the latest change in our lives and determine how this latest change will help us grow as a person. Change may not be easy but don’t we eventually appreciate those things that force us out of our comfort zone? Well maybe not at first, of course. We don’t go around with a sign on our backs that says ‘Change…bring it on!’ Yet we become wiser, more seasoned travelers when we face change with eyes straight at it and our minds determined to make it work. It may take every once of what we have to move forward but is so worth it in the long run.

Now comes the hardest part – wrapping our hearts around the change. We may feel an actual loss inside us when life gives us a major change to contend with along the way. The stages of loss do exist and it is not uncommon to experience them even with a change that you have purposely chosen. It may be confusing and you might wonder to yourself, ‘What’s wrong with me? I chose this change and now I am worried or uncomfortable.’ Well, congratulations it just means that you are human after all! You may feel a loss of security, or comfort because you remember all of the good times associated with what once was in your life. You may even be reluctant to make the change thinking that nothing will ever take the place of what was … and guess what … you’re right. Nothing will ever be the same as what was but it will be different and eventually even better if you take a deep breath and believe that you can handle anything that life throws at you. You have evidence that you have done so in the past and you will do so again. If you wonder why your heart is not totally wrapped around the new and different I would suggest that it means your heart was in what was and that is a call for celebration. You gave a piece of your heart to what was and that’s a great thing. The amazing thing is that the capacity of our hearts to grow is never ending and it will embrace the new change overtime. Be gentle with yourself. Allow the sadness because it is real. Just remember not to allow yourself to remain stuck in the grief for a long period of time because you will be treading water not moving forward. Have faith in yourself and remember that as one door closes another one opens. Get ready to walk through it, head held high because you earned it!

You will look back in a couple of years and realize that life really is better in a host of ways now you have experienced the change. You will feel stronger, wiser and more self confident because you lived through another life challenge and lived to tell the tale.

Have a great few days!

It Takes Courage!

There have been many examples world wide of people who have demonstrated such courage in their lives and have changed the world for the better. Maya Angelou, one of these people, passed away this week. She not only changed herself but the world with her acts of courage. She said that courage is the most important virtue a person can possess because it relies on our ability to be consistent in our views of ourselves and others. It draws the line of what can be tolerated and what cannot. Deciding what constitutes our own ‘line in the sand’ involves many things especially courage.

Courage can be as simple as knowing when to speak up and when to sit down, when to lean in and when to lean back. When we think about the millions of times and events in our lives that require us to choose action or inaction it can be a bit overwhelming. What is stabling, however, is realizing that the golden thread of courage from our life experiences is woven into every fiber of our being and exists to help us know when and where to draw our own lines.

We may not all have the heady experiences of changing the world but we can change ourselves in significant ways by having the courage to grow and expand our own comfort zone and be a model to others.

Any change in our lives involves both fear and courage. Then why change, why rock the boat you might ask? When there is less meaning, security or excitement in what you are doing and you feel that tomorrow will just be a repeat of today a gentle nudge of dissatisfaction is beginning to encompass you. That’s your intuition telling you to change – to have the courage to believe in yourself and your own survival skills enough to do something about it. Muster up the courage to follow your own heart and turn the page, start the next chapter in your life. Everyone has insecurities about change. That’s called being human. It is how long we allow ourselves to stay stuck in the familiar, known as The Waiting Place, that can sap our enthusiasm for life. We have heard of people who say they wish they could do … (fill in the blank) but are waiting for the perfect time, the perfect opportunity, the perfect reason. Guess what? There is no such thing. Waiting is often just an excuse that allows the fears of the unknown, the future, to be manifested in us today. That fear keeps us locked into our familiar, maybe even predictable or restricting place in life.

How sad it would be to reflect back on our lives at 85 or so and think to ourselves, ‘If only I would have …’ Decide today to use your courage to expand your comfort zone and experience more of life. The issue may be big or small – it really doesn’t matter because each time you decide to be courageous enough to change something in your life you are putting another chit in your bucket of strength, fortitude and belief in yourself. Maybe it’s as simple as changing your route to work so you can see a new landscape, or volunteering for a non-profit or even deciding to retire after a lifetime of work. Whatever it is if you have been thinking about it, your intuition is telling you the time is right to do something.

Alan Cohen said it best, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new, but there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.

What can you do this week that involves change and takes courage? Do it, practice the feelings of risk (don’t worry it doesn’t last) and become stronger and more sure of yourself daily as your life expands and grows. When you become that 85 year old reflecting back on your life you can think to yourself, as a wise, knowing smile spreads across your face, ‘I didn’t just take up space, I lived life! I grabbed life by the horns and rode it for all it was worth!’ Yes, you may have a few bumps and bruises to prove it but nobody, I mean nobody, can take away the thrill of the experience and the feeling of confidence you gained on the journey.

Have a great few days!

Fear or Serenity?

This is part two of looking at the Serenity Prayer to discover the lesson in it for each one of us. If you missed the Wednesday blog which was part one please go to the archives on the right hand side of my website so you can get the frame of the discussion. The Serenity Prayer, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’ can change your life.

I had asked you to consider which approach is HARDER for you -accepting the things you cannot change or actually changing the things you can change in your life. Assuming you have decided which approach you have a tendency to avoid I would ask you now to ask yourself ‘Why’ five times. Seriously, with each answer ask yourself why this is true for you. Usually the fifth and final time you drill down in you thinking as to the ‘why’ the real ‘Aha’ happens.

If change is the hardest approach for you consider the following. Changing the things we can change involves both confidence and trust in ourselves. The thousands of messages we received and events we experienced as we were growing up made indelible marks on our lives. What are a few of the messages that you received that have ended up controlling your life? For instance, if you were raised in an atmosphere of fear with messages such as ‘Don’t do this or something bad could happen,’ the initial warning might have been for your physical safety. But when you constantly hear this message of fear over and over you begin to generalize it to your entire life. You may feel out of control when something new pops up that you didn’t expect. You might then find yourself getting angry, lashing out when something – anything upsets your apple cart. You might prefer to keep life as it is so you can ‘depend on it.’ Well – news flash – that’s not going to happen. The truth is that the more you try to control your life the more insecure you become since The Universe just has a way of throwing us curve balls.

Learning how to control our fears is more than a survival mechanism it is a cornerstone to developing serenity. Just think about all that you have worried about over the last two weeks and the time you devoted to imagining the worst thing that MIGHT happen. There is a saying that 99% of what we worry about never happens. I believe that to be true. If you let fear control your life the Universe will just continue to present you with lesson after lesson (each one getting more difficult along the way) until you begin to TRUST in yourself. Think about the things in your life that have been really, really tough – did you survive? Yes! Was is hard – absolutely! Did you learn from it? I’m willing to bet you did.

Fear is the most insidious of emotions. It robs you of the moments of joy in life and puts you in a constant state of nervous tension regarding what could go wrong next. It also causes you to refuse to change the things you could change in your life because it paralyzes you into inaction.

We all learned a certain degree of fear from our parents. My mother was consumed by fear. You name it and she was afraid. Growing up I had the choice to accept those unwarranted fears or think to myself, ‘What is the worst thing that could happen’ given a particular situation and followed this thought up with ‘Could I survive if it did happen?’ Practicing this mindset I slowly developed a confidence that allowed me to face – head on – the challenges in life knowing I would survive, I would make it and ultimately be stronger in the process. She was not wrong in pointing out things to be mindful of, but it was the degree to which she applied fear to her life that had the potential to negatively effect my ability to change the things I could change.

The good news is that we know more about the effects of fear now. We can change our mindset about change and decide to grab the next opportunity as it presents itself knowing we will survive. As we expand our comfort zone, our lives become richer, fuller and more enjoyable. We learn to seize the moment, control our fears of the new or unexpected and move forward in life. Inch by inch it’s a cinch!

The next blog will be looking at the issue of acceptance – accepting with grace and humility those things we truly cannot change in life and moving forward with peace.

Until then, have a great few days!

Seeing is Believing?

The idiom, ‘Seeing is believing,’ was first recorded in 1639 and interpreted to mean that concrete or physical evidence is convincing. Although we have heard this phrase hundreds of times it actually assumes that the new evidence presented will be accepted in our minds as truth and will broaden our understanding. Seeing and believing requires us to demonstrate an openness- a willingness – to set aside our previous assumptions- and let go of our need to control long enough to take in the new ‘evidence.’

That is a tall order for many – especially those ‘special’ people who just seem to feel that they have all the answers. When new information comes along if it doesn’t match their world view or their plan, oftentimes, they simply dismiss it regardless of any evidence to the contrary. They may continue to replay their old truths in their minds digging a deeper rut in their behavior and attitude. Problem is, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole!

When we are in the rut, dismissing new evidence and demanding control, the Universe just seems to step in and throw us a curve ball from time to time. We are left thinking to ourselves, but…. that’s not the way I planned, expected or wanted it to be. We have all been there and it isn’t easy, in fact, it’s down right hard work to adjust our attitude, eat a bit of humble pie, and move forward.

For those who, given new evidence, choose to accept and internalize it, they discover that flexibility, change and letting go of their stranglehold of control was an essential part of the process. They have chosen to deepen their understanding about themselves and life in general. The good news is these folks regroup, reboot and move forward in their journey. They are the learners, the positive beings that refuse to be daunted by the curve balls. They are the type of people to which we are naturally drawn. We feel energized, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future when we are with them.

A line in the Serenity Prayer is especially meaningful in this context, “…. grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Think about how you react to new information that just doesn’t fit into your existing comfort zone. Do you push it away with disbelief or draw the new information in and sift through the evidence searching for the golden nugget – the lesson – that has been presented.

Have a great few days!

Thresholds of Tolerance

Have you ever thought about your threshold of tolerance? Are you satisfied with it or does it inhibit you as a person? Do you become upset over inconsequential things in life? Think of someone you know who just seems to be able to cope with one life change after another and keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny. What causes these people to have higher thresholds of tolerance? What do they know that we don’t know?

We can easily recognize when a situation develops that causes us to reach a point in which we say to ourselves – this is too much! Once we reach this point we find ways to reduce the negative energy and stress about the circumstance by using our own unique coping mechanisms such as anger, emotional outbursts, withdrawal, depression, excessive drinking, talking, eating, exercising – the list of possible coping behaviors are too numerous to list. The problem is that many times these coping mechanisms simply make our situation worse as they become habitual and the cycle continues.

Our thresholds were created based on the unconscious beliefs we learned early in life. We adopt our own unique coping mechanism due to our family background and experiences. Many times fears, beliefs and limitations are modeled and transferred from generation to generation simply because ‘this is the way it was done’ in our early environment. Often we don’t take the time to evaluate the lack of logic behind them. Sadly, lower thresholds of tolerance can hold us back from growing, doing and becoming all that we would like to be.

When we step back and observe our own behavior we may see areas that we would like to change. It takes conscious effort to make a change. Make no mistake this can be hard work but I would ask you to consider if you are worth the effort. I think you are worth it and more! Knowing that any change, in itself, can cause us discomfort we need to work at it, one step at a time and not give up. If we rush back to our place of ‘safety’ what we feel as safe is frequently little more than another limiting factor in our lives.

The good news is that we can change and expand our threshold of tolerance if we so desire. It takes work to examine our life and accept the fact that in certain areas we are not as …. (fill in the blank) as we would like to be. Once we recognize something about ourselves that we would like to change the challenge to do something about it is simply that – a challenge – that can be met and overcome if we truly want it badly enough.

When we begin to live life more consciously by honestly evaluating our various responses to new or difficult situations we short circuit the automatic response mechanisms developed from our past. We find, at first, that new vistas may not be as comfortable as we would like but as we continue to force ourselves out of our comfort zones we open up new, exciting territories for living. We become more not less.

It takes honesty, courage and desire to heighten our threshold of tolerance but it’s so worth the effort!

Have a great few days!