Psychological Freedom | The real definition of freedom and how to achieve yours TODAY...

FREEDOM is way overused in the mental health and coaching industries. It is often sold as the end all - be all of therapy or personal growth. In reality, though, it is only the beginning...

Personal freedom is the result of recognizing the false expectations we have believed all of our lives and taking ownership of the unnecessary pressure and stress we created for ourselves as a result of pursuing those expectations.

Once you understand that the expectations are made up, all pressure in your life is released. You don't have to do things a certain way. You have the opportunity to do whatever you want.

In this way, Freedom is not the end-goal. It is just the first step because achieving it offers you the opportunity to embrace it and subsequently do something with it. The opportunity to finally live life on your own terms

Are you ready to eliminate your own brutal expectations and achieve personal freedom?

Click this button to schedule your free breakthrough:

The Importance Of Accepting Yourself Before You Can Impact The World

It is common to prioritize focusing on others before yourself. The positive version of it is in acts of service, while the negative is when we believe what people say about us or worry about what people think about us.

Though the former is positive, neither actually draws any attention to oneself, the most important person.

In my third conversation with Collin Morris, creator of the ZION 2.0 podcast, we discuss why it is important to focus on yourself first before you can effectively serve others or the world beyond yourself as well as concepts of human development in modern society.

To learn more about Collin and listen to his awesome podcast, visit https://www.zionpod.me/

To hear my interview on Collin's podcast, click here: http://bit.ly/links-content

Don't forget to subscribe to my channel for a new video every week!

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Also, if you are ready to discuss the obstacles to your self-acceptance with me FOR FREE:

The One Mindset You Need To Handle Uncertainty | feat. Collin Morris, Part Two

How do you handle uncertainty?

Are you like so many others in the world who freak out, shy away, and simply cannot deal with uncertainty?

Fear of the unknown is such a well known fear for a reason. People cannot handle not knowing what might happen in the future. Unfortunately for those people, uncertainty is an unavoidable part of life. In fact, humans have a deep-rooted need for uncertainty because it brings them variety and new learning opportunities that help them grow.

So what if you could just embrace uncertainty, welcome it in your life as something you know won't go away? How could you do that?

All that and more in today's video, the second of a series of conversations with Collin Morris, creator of the super cool podcast and brand entitled ZION 2.0 in which he converses with guests of various backgrounds and expertises about the subjects of human development, psychology, and preparing for a successful future.

Collin embraced uncertainty in a big way when he decided to go full time with his brand. Along with so many others in the world, I can relate to this dramatic leap into the unknown.

To learn more about Collin and listen to his awesome podcast, visit https://www.zionpod.me/

To hear my interview on Collin's podcast, click here: http://bit.ly/links-content

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Are you ready to talk about your own fear of uncertainty and how you can face it in your life?

Click below to talk about it with me FOR FREE!

How To Be A Respected Expert While Continuing To Learn And Grow | with Collin Morris, Part One

Are you an expert?

Do you know any experts?

What might you be an expert in?

If you are an expert, how can you continue learning and stay an expert?

All that and more in today's video, the first of a series of conversations with Collin Morris, creator of the super cool podcast and brand entitled ZION 2.0 in which he converses with guests of various backgrounds - and expertises - about the subjects of human development, psychology, and preparing for a successful future.

Collin is the perfect example of an expert who never stops learning. I love every conversation I have with him, and I am excited for you all to learn from him as well.

To learn more about Collin and his podcast, visit https://www.zionpod.me/

To hear my interview on Collin's podcast, click here: http://bit.ly/links-content

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Also, if you are ready to talk about ways to use experts, learning, and conversation to free you from whatever obstacles you are facing in your life, click on this link and schedule your free session: http://bit.ly/links-content

How To Show Your Authentic Self: Visual Story

SPOILER ALERT: I talk about me in this video...and my beard. But mainly I talk about how your body language, facial expressions, and physical appearance (i.e. clothing) says a whole lot about you and how an interaction is going to go...even BEFORE you start talking to anyone.

It is called your Visual Story, and it is the first part of a concept called the Narrative Triad made of three components that, when aligned, allow you to be the most authentic and directed version of yourself.

What do you think of this topic?

What does your "visual story" say about you on a daily basis?

Share in the comments!

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Do you wonder what story you tell the world on a daily basis? Click the button at the top of this page to chat with me about your visual story, what it says about you, and how you can put your best impression forward...

Does Your Job Title Define Who You Are? Tips to stop relying on this identity...

How many people do you know settle for a job because they like the clarity about them that a job title provides? Job titles only say a fraction of who you are but so many of us hide behind them like a security cloak so that we can tell people what we are with ease.

The problem is that we then attach ourselves to that identity and rely so heavily on the label to define who we are and what we are all about that we simply blend in with everyone else.

As with everything, the underlying issue is fear. We are afraid of NOT BEING DEFINED. We crave definition so that we feel like we are something in this world or that we might be fulfilling society's definition of success.

It turns out you are so much more than your job title. If you want people to really know how powerful you are, tell them more about why you do the work you do instead of the title of that work.

Do you agree? Share your comments!

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Do you want to destroy your need for identity and allow your life's purpose to do the talking?

Click the BUTTON in the top right corner of this page to chat with me about who you think you are right now, and what you can do to create lasting self-confidence in who you REALLY are…

[VIDEO] The Two Kinds Of Home | In What Condition Is Your Internal Home?

Home is where is the heart is" is a common saying that you'll see on wall decor, but it has a deep double meaning.

Home can mean the physical geographical place in which you live or where you grew up, but a second kind of home is internal.  It is the consistent space of personal awareness and "personality" on which we can all fall back but also a place with which we all try to stay closely connected.

Whichever home is most important to you, it should always offer a sense of comfort and repose.

Homework questions:

  1. Imagine your internal home as a physical space. In what current condition is your emotional home?

  2. What comes to mind when someone asks "where is home?" How do you answer them? What thoughts immediately arise?

Share your answers in the comments!

Do you want to define and explore your internal home? Click the button below to chat with me about the state of your internal home and what you can do right now to strengthen it…

[VIDEO] Why Hope Is Harmful And Faith Is Fantastic

Hope is not a bad thing. It motivates people and it means people have something for which they are striving. But hope, unfortunately means that we give away our responsibility to make that thing happen. We hope that it will be granted to us in some way.

This is where faith comes in.

I do not mean faith in the religious sense; rather, I mean faith as a kind of hope that also includes self-trust and a level of self-confidence that the goal you pursue can be achieved with your participation.

Two questions:

1. What are you currently hoping for, or what have you hoped for recently?

2. What skills or talents or knowledge do you already have that could be employed toward reaching whatever it is that you have been hoping for?

Share your answers in the comments!

[VIDEO] What Is Self-Accountability And Why Is It Important?

This video is about accountability. Not just the kind we get from bosses or friends reminding us to get things done, but instead the accountability that we can create within ourselves any time we want and how to create it for yourself.

How do you stay accountable? What are ways that you get excited about a goal and remain excited to pursue that goal in the process?

Two questions to answer:

1. Why is your X goal even a goal? Why does it matter to you to achieve?

2. What needs to be in place while you pursue that goal to ensure that you remain motivated and excited to continue pursuing it? Is it a support system? A new time management tool? Maybe a competitive business partner to push you?

Think about a goal that you are clear about in your life - or a change you want to make - and share your answers to the above questions in the comments section!

"That Guy Is Insane!": How To Accept Your Own Feelings And Stop Judging Others

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Crazy is defined as “mentally deranged, especially presented in a wild or aggressive way.”

Deranged means “mad or insane”

(There is a loose overlap there because we can associate "mad" with presentations of wildness and aggression, so let us focus on Insane instead.)

Insane is defined as "in a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction, or seriously mentally ill."

Mmm okay, now we are getting somewhere. 


Just for fun, let us go back to the beginning and think of a common synonym to how we use the word Crazy:  Nuts. Nuts is defined as "insane". That is all. And that definition is presented online before any consideration of the plural form of the healthy food snack that grows on a plant. 


We have so distorted the use of the English language over the years that we use so many different terms to describe things that succeed more in producing drama about the subject than describing the subject as it is in basic terms for the audience to understand. 


Prime example: when we are describing something that was incredible, spectacular, or wonderful, we often use the word Unbelievable. Unbelievable is defined as "so great or extreme as to be difficult to believe" or "UNLIKELY TO BE TRUE". But if we just witnessed something that was great and we describe it in a way that means it is unlikely to be true, then we are lying to our audience. 


Sensitive Vocabulary


The words presented up top were chosen because by definition they are associated with mental illness but they have been used in modern vernacular to describe so many other things that their connection to mental health has been derailed. 


Consideration must be returned.


Now, I am not referring to when you say "Ahhh that movie was crazy!" or "that touchdown was insane" even though those are classic examples of the words' ubiquity. I am referring to when we use them to make a judgmental comment about another person who may seem like they are in a less fortunate situation than you are. 


Examples of this are "That guy is nuts..." or "Did you see her? She looked crazy!", used in such a way that assesses something about the way someone is. 


We take it upon ourselves to determine that person's identity...


Security blanket


So what is a judgment?


Other than bonding with your besties via bashing on someone else's behavior, the reason for judgments has a much more personal purpose.  Here is what happens:

  1. We witness somebody behaving in a way that we interpret as unusual, unfamiliar, or unexpected because it defies our overly routined template of daily life events

  2. We experience an emotional reaction to the unexpected event (perhaps fear, sadness, nervousness, or annoyance, maybe?) 

  3. Our emotional reaction is uncomfortable. 

  4. We look for someone / something outside of us on to whom / which we can displace our uncomfortable feelings. 

  5. We target the source of the unexpected event and create a story about that person to blame them for causing your discomfort. 


By projecting this judgment on to someone else's character, we suppress our real feelings and ignore our own pain. 


With each judgment, the suppression is strengthened and you get really good at ignoring your inner pain and pushing it out on to someone else. As a result, you get further and further away from your own emotional freedom...which leads to mental health issues. 


I cannot give you all the blame, though. It is a protective mechanism by which we can avoid pain. There is something basically evolutionary about that, but the benefit is short term. Just because you sweep the mess under the rug, it is still under the rug and it will eventually spill out.


The sad irony about judging others is that, in doing so, we identify what is "wrong" with someone or what needs to be "fixed" as a way to neglect what we are struggling with, even something that you have in common with those people you are judging.


Get over yourself


We all experience emotional discomfort throughout every day of the week. It is a guarantee. So why do we try so hard to cover it up from each other?


Why can't we team up on all of our pain and support each other instead of ostracizing those people who may actually know what you are going through?


Try it yourself, I dare you. 


Next time you experience some discomfort from someone else's unexpected behavior and you jump to judge their emotional / mental state, what are you feeling inside? 


Contact someone you trust and explain to them what just happened: the event + your emotional reaction.


See what they say. 


Based on their response, you will know if you can trust them with your honesty and emotional vulnerability...

Check Your Ego At The Door. We All Have Psychological Disorders...

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Whether or not you are a comic book fan, I am sure that you have heard of Batman and The Joker. 


I am a big fan, so I am extra excited for the stand-alone Joker movie that is coming out this fall. In the trailer for the new movie, there is a scene where the main character is writing jokes on a notepad. His handwriting starts to become more disorderly, more childlike. Instead of another joke, he proceeded to write this statement:

"The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don't."


Even with such increased awareness about mental health around the world, there is still such a huge stigma against it. Similar to the Joker's world, the experience of psychological disorder faces so much intolerance. We are stuck thinking that because someone is going through something that he or she has trouble dealing with or is experiencing life in a way that is not "common", that person is strange, somehow "lesser than", and unworthy of our compassion. 


The stigma shows its ugly head in two polarized situations:

  1. When someone's symptoms are publicly visible and make people feel uncomfortable 

  2. When someone's symptoms are not taken seriously and are brushed off 


In both cases, the individual undergoing psychological distress is not offered any support or, more importantly, any compassion.

Human Tendencies

They are not shown any compassion because we humans are uncomfortable with anything that is unusual and defies our normal, overly routined existence. 


We get trained to fear what we do not understand.

When we do not understand something, we find it strange.  Something that is strange is unpredictable. We are fearful of unpredictable things or people because we do not know enough about those things or people for us to trust them. This lack of trust builds a wall between you and the other person, blocking the possibility of you offering positive support. 


When that wall is up, we instead avoid the person altogether (#1) or we deflect the subject with detached responses like "It'll be okay" and "shake it off. You're allright" (#2). 

Biases are obstacles

If some kind of compassion is established for the individual experiencing psychological distress, the next factor that dissuades a lot of us from supporting the person is the fact that it requires effort and energy that we are not used to using. Taking dedicated time to sit with the person and be present for whatever they are experiencing or wish to talk about is not an everyday activity unless you work in the mental health industry. As such, it takes extra push for a lot of people to be that support person. 

This apprehension arises from our priorities. Priorities come from our biases.


When we feel like taking time to support someone that we had not scheduled into our day is arduous, it means that we would rather be doing something else. 


If the other person is a friend, do we only care about them so much that emotional support beyond day-to-day interactions is way beyond your role as a friend? 

Or do you care about this friend but you do not think mental health issues are real, valid, or serious enough to take the time to support?


We are all slaves to the biases we have learned over time, so you may very well have been taught at one point to avoid the topic of mental health issues, or to avoid your own when they arise, which informs how you deal with those of others. 

The Inconvenient Truth


Spoiler Alert: WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

All of us.

Everyone. 

We all do. 

I have.

You have.


We all experience versions of emotional distress all the time in daily life. 


Heavy sadness, grief, or shame = depression

Heightened stress or anxiety = panic

A tendency toward control and keeping things the way you want them = OCD


Ever done hard drugs? Congratulations, you distorted your reality, which is what people who experience schizophrenia go through. 


Emotional distress becomes a diagnosable experience that warrants treatment when it disrupts daily functioning - like inhibiting one's ability to go to work or take care of themselves - or when its presentation poses either a psychological or physical threat to the individual or other people. 


The Bottom Line

Severity of emotional distress varies throughout our lifetimes and is sparked by infinite kinds of triggers, but it is an unavoidable truth that we all experience what society deems as "mental health issues" all the time. 


We are all equally susceptible to such issues anytime, any day, anywhere.


Yes, YOU, the one who is uncomfortable with your mom's bipolar mood, or YOU who are so sick of listening to your friend complain about their anxiety attacks and stress.


You do not need to be the primary support for that person by sitting and listening all the time, but helping them get the support they need is just as impactful. 

All it takes is a little compassion.

When the time comes that you experience a more severe version of emotional distress and you want the support that others have asked of you, you are going to feel foolish for not giving them the compassion that you now wish to receive from them. 

We are all in the same boat together. We all have the same foundational chemistry in our brains that are wired to strive for emotional stability.

This modern world presents challenges to that stability all day long, so not a single one of us is more protected from the effects than anyone else. 

What have you recently felt emotional about?

How To Live In The Present To Achieve Success And Fulfillment

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Mindfulness practices, meditation, and yoga are so trendy right now that the phrase "living in the moment" has become ubiquitous. 


Whether it is someone's goal to live in the moment or someone thinks that they live in the moment and so are setting the intention to continue doing that, the phrase itself has already lost a lot of power by how commonly it is used. 


Here are some real world examples that are relevant to my work of "Living in the moment":


Even though entrepreneurs make long-term vision goals for their company, they often cannot actually plan for anything too far into the future because every day at work is filled with so many risks and so many dynamic challenges. Personally, I can only plan for MAYBE a month ahead of me. Maximum. That is it! The most important thing is what I am working on in the here and now. 


In traditional psychotherapy, the common conception is that you spend years and years talking to a therapist about your past and that is all. As a result, it is often forgotten that people go into therapy in hopes of addressing a very current problem and ameliorating it for the future. Though a good deal of time is spent talking about the past in therapy, a good therapist should always be able to loop it back to what is going on for the client right now in the present.


I could walk you through every single industry and make the same point:  It does not matter what you do, you are always in the present. In this moment. 


So where do people go astray? 


The Thinking Trap

In their thoughts. 


If people spend too much time thinking about their past or dwelling on a single event in their past, then their focus is distracted from what their body is doing in the present. This can lead to rumination and depression.


By the same token, if people spend too much time thinking and dwelling on what might come in the future, they get stuck in massive fear and the fear blocks any productivity in this moment. This can lead to anxiety and panic


The British philosopher Alan Watts talks about everything that happens occurs in the Now. The past is created by events that happened in a past version of the present. He says:


"Things are not explained by the past. Things are explained by what happens now, which creates the past." 


In this way there is a healthy consideration of the past in the present but only as a collection of relevant information to tell us about the present. We are not taught history in school in order to sit all day long thinking about something that happened hundreds of years ago. We learn history in order to affect what we may do in the present. 


Same goes for the future. Thinking too hard about something potential in the future does not serve anything unless we do something in the present to make it so.


The Perfect Balance

Everything that happens always happens in the present. I am writing this NOW. You will be reading it in your NOW. 


If you want something to be different in your life, change will not come on its own in the future, nor did you lose any opportunity to create change in the past. 


Tony Robbins coaches that "all change happens in an instant when we finally commit to making that change."  We can prepare all we want, and the preparation becomes the past. A lot of people deflect personal responsibility and wait for change to happen in the future, but it still will not happen until we choose to make it happen. 


The past is important to understanding who we are and why things are the way they are, and the future is important to have ambition and goals for which to strive, but the only thing that can be controlled and manipulated is the present. 


As a result, the most successful and fulfilled life is lived by striking the perfect balance between what you need to think about from the past and what ambition you have in the future as supportive data points to the experience you are having in the present. 


A client describes this as three friends in a car. The driver is the one living in the present, steering the whole experience onward, the friend in the passenger seat is looking ahead and navigating (informing the future destination) and the passenger in the back has a good view of what is behind the car when needed (looking back to certain events and experiences of the past). 


If the whole group of friends can work together to get the car where they want it to, then the present path for the driver to continue driving becomes easier, clearer, and free of obstacles.


In other words, use the future and the past in appropriate doses to support your success and fulfillment in the present. 


What are you working on right now in your life? 

Does one thing seem most important?

What about the past is relevant to that one thing?

What about the future that this one thing lead to / impact / connect with?

Entrepreneurs, Set Your Own Pace For Self-Care And Success

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The most common insecurity in the history of human existence is feeling "not good enough". It could be about a promotion, or a house, or a rewarding relationship, among a billion other options. This insecurity arose as a result of the natural evolutionary process of developing self-worth via interactions with other people. We must use the feedback received from others to learn how to behave in interactions and social settings. 


This creates a comparison dynamic, however, as a byproduct. You learn where you "rank" amongst your peers based on what you learn means what in social situations. At such a young age, it is difficult for a child to see past the comparison and practice radical self-acceptance instead of getting down on him or herself. 


It is normal, but it is sad. 


Because the seeds of so many of the most common and powerful insecurities are planted so early in childhood, it is difficult to be proactive about them. What is more, a lot of these insecurities do not truly show their ugly heads until adulthood. 


ENTREPRENEURSHIP EXAMPLE

I have witnessed many versions of the "not good enough" insecurity throughout my career working with so many different people. One striking example is most often seen working with entrepreneurs or those who wish to start their own brand of some kind.

It is the insecurity of Pace. 


In our modern world that is super saturated with information everywhere and immediately, business owners and starter uppers have a more and more difficult landscape into which they must thrust their branding, marketing, and mission to gain customers and build an audience. 


With so many new businesses starting up every day, two businesses with a very similar product may grow at very different speeds due to any number of resources and factors. As a result, enormous amounts of comparison occur within the entrepreneurial world, particularly with regard to the pace by which a company grows. When a business owner compares themselves to another company, it automatically creates a mental hierarchy, even if everything about the other company is different. 


That business owner then integrates the belief that they are somehow inferior, that they are doing something wrong, and that they must do something more to keep up with other companies. 


The root of this belief is that they are somehow behind some perceived pace. 

But that pace does not exist. 

There is no universal pace by which all business owners should make sure their operations are moving. All of the companies in the world are too different to generalize deadlines across the board that all companies must meet. 

THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR

Of course all businesses have their own deadlines and time constraints for different projects, but those deadlines are specific to each company. The most important factor that everyone must consider is their personal priorities. 


Many famous entrepreneurs espouse the lifestyle of 100 hour workweeks for years in order to get your first million dollars. Though that may have been true for them, what schedule do you personally find rewarding?  

What other factors in your life - family, relationship, kids, mortgage, travel - dictate the kind of schedule you can afford to maintain in your business? 

What pace would you like to set for yourself?

THE SNEAKY ASSASSIN

As I said, our insecurities are sneaky and do not often present themselves exactly as they are for many years. I started my business over four years ago, and I only just realized in the last year how insecure I was about my business' pace compared to other businesses. I too fell into the trap of comparing myself to other entrepreneurs, and I still do, but I am able to remind myself that their company is different from mine.


I am a different person dealing with different things. 


As well as I have dealt with the comparison, I still found myself trapped by the thought that I needed to be moving quicker than I was in order to be successful. I was stuck thinking that the lifestyle I was choosing - when to work out, how much sleep to get, when to travel - was somehow INCORRECT and that my priorities for self-care were somehow detrimental to my business...


Um...what?

So the only way to be successful is to be unhealthy? No, thanks. 


WHAT TO DO WITH THIS

I am just one entrepreneur out of millions. I prioritize my health, self-care, and activities differently than other entrepreneurs might. There may be generalizable best practices to build a business, but there is no right or wrong speed that must be maintained. 


Sprinting just to keep up with other runners in the race does not mean that you will win. 


There are too many other competitors in the race and you will burn out. Therefore, just look forward toward your own finish line. 

I am proud of the priorities I maintain in my life. I had to learn that for my business to be successful, it was not about a global pace that I had to keep up with. Instead, it is about how productive I can be in the time and at the pace I choose to work on my business. 


On your own or with your business partner, set a pace that is specific to: 

  1. your company's mission 

  2. your personal health priorities

  3. your unique definition of success 

How To Trust Yourself And Handle Any Stress In Your Life

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I have worked with many individuals diagnosed with OCD. The reason they come to me is not because I am an expert specialist in OCD, but because of the heightened levels of anxiety that inspire compulsive behaviors they use to quell that anxiety. 


See, OCD is about control. That is why I am not writing this article about OCD. I am writing it about anxiety and control. 


Everyone with OCD has their own set of behavioral responses to anxiety and a perceived lack of control over themselves or the events of their lives. Common behaviors are ritualistic, like aggressively washing one's hands a certain number of times before they can be considered clean, or counting steps on stairs to make sure they are mounted in a certain order. Others are more obsessive, such as overwhelmingly ruminative thoughts about how an activity, such as going to the grocery store or going out on a date, is going to go. These obsessive thoughts focus hard on the potential outcome - likely of it going poorly - that the individual talks themselves out of doing it at all because the idea of the event now seems utterly terrifying or even life-threatening. 


In any of these cases, the individual undergoes a process of experiencing anxiety and then seeking to ease the stress response with obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors  in hopes of taking back control of their feeling state and forcing a renewed homeostasis.


Beyond OCD


I see this same process occurring a lot for almost anybody, entrepreneurs all the way to married couples, many of whom do not come anywhere close to meeting diagnostic criteria for OCD. When I see it in my own clients, I dig deeper into what they are trying to control. The normal answer is: "my anxiety, duh..."


That is not true, though. Anxiety is another response to something. 

Anxiety occurs when your regular expectation of daily events is disrupted - uncertainty about a crush calling you back or suddenly being told that you have to give a speech in front of coworkers - or when you believe that you have either lost or will lose something. Both scenarios present a lack of control. 


Real Life Example


One of my clients was afraid that he would somehow lose or forget his ability to handle stressful situations when in a stressful situation, and that fear added to his anxiety about whatever the stressful situation was. In his case, his ability to deal with stressful situations was a cool combination of his creativity and independence, both of which he regularly used to be successful in his work as well. 


Because of this, he mentally held on to this combo of skills so tightly because he did not want to lose them when stress came along. The problem was that he unknowingly created more anxiety and tension by holding on so tightly in his mind, which was an attempt to prevent future stress. 

He held on so tightly to a shield in defense of a threat that was not there yet. 


In doing so, he was unable to be present at work or in his relationship. 


He was not trying to control his anxiety. He was trying to control his creativity and independence in order to fight the anxiety, but he ended up causing more. 


Use Your Imagination


One day I guided that client through a meditative visualization to address his excessive focus on control. He described his creativity / independence combo as a little gremlin that he had on a leash but which was bouncing all over the place, growling, and fighting against the leash all the time. This created tension and stress in my client because the attempt at control felt like a constant battle. 


In the visualization, I asked my client to imagine what the positive, opposite version of the gremlin would look like or behave like.

My client imagined a pudgy french bulldog...which was amazing. 


After we discussed the characteristics of the cute pudgy bulldog, I asked my client to reach down and take the leash off of the dog and throw the leash in a nearby garbage can. After he did so, I asked how the dog behaved. 


My client reported that the dog sniffed around, got a little far ahead on the sidewalk, scoped out a park real quick, even stepped into the street, but then wandered back to walk next to my client. In fact, any time it went out to explore, it always came back without being asked. There was no more battling. In its place there was trust between my client and the powerful parts of him that he wanted to make sure were not going to run away and be gone forever. Furthermore, the visualization proceeded to demonstrate that my client knew the bulldog would be safe even when it ran out into the street. 


What It All Means


Though this is an imaginative metaphor of transforming a gremlin into a bulldog, the fact remains that you cannot actually lose the characteristic about yourself or your life that you so wish to protect. It will not die unless you choose to change it. As a result, there is no need to hold on to a leash for dear life and miss out on enjoying all of the parts of your day during which you currently feel unnecessarily stressed. 


What about yourself are you trying to hold on to and protect?


What fun image comes to mind of what it looks like for you?

It does not have to be a bulldog, or an animal at all.

No matter what your imagination transforms your characteristic into, you must trust that it will be there for you at all times even if you are not holding on to it all the time. 


For those of you more literal than imaginative out there, think about this: THIS IS ALL HAPPENING INSIDE YOUR MIND, WHICH IS LITERALLY CONTAINED INSIDE OF YOUR SKULL. That means that this trait that you want to protect is actually already naturally protected and kept within reach inside you already. 


So relax, and throw away that leash. 

In What Cage Are You Trapped? A Roadmap For Mental And Emotional Freedom

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Nod your head if this sequence of events describes your daily life at all:

  1. You wake up in a bad mood or somewhat angry for whatever reason, maybe the mere fact that you have to get up.

  2. You go to work and do your job but you're not excited or super engaged. You just do it.

  3. You start to daydream about the vacation, job, or life in general that would make you feel happy again.

  4. Pressure on you increases because you are not productive while you are daydreaming...

  5. ...which increases your stress about your responsibilities 

  6. You go home and eat, drink, or watch netflix to hopefully numb out the stressful thoughts and feelings that you predict the next day will bring

  7. You wake up again the next morning even more bitter because the coping skills did not erase the stress. 

It becomes a vicious cycle as one day compounds on the day before and affects the next day in an endless loop of dissatisfaction and increasingly detailed daydreams of a different life. 

We all fall into cycles like these. 

Similar to how chaos in the universe eventually organized itself into a steady flow, human beings seek and then fall into cyclical patterns all the time even when we do not know it. Patterns create predictable routines for our brains to think "Okay cool, everything is organized" such that our survival is streamlined to the best extent possible. The problem is when we settle into patterns like the one above and call it "survival" when really it is disintegrating our souls and leaving us stressed, angry, restless, and unhappy.

How can your survival be streamlined if the routine you put yourself in is severely unhealthy? 

The above flow is just one example of someone's cycle. It happens to be an unfortunately common one. 

Identifying my clients' unique cycles was one of the first things I learned how to do when I entered this field. Not only did I learn how to identify them, but I would easily draw them out on a whiteboard in front of the client. 

Their minds would be blown because their brains would be illustrated in an simplified six-step circle. They say "if it's that simple, why does it feel so much bigger and intense and scary?"

And there is the segue to talk about the emotions associated with each step of the cycle.

THE CAGE

I refer to these cycles as cages because they are mental flows that we get trapped in, often without knowing it. 

We even often walk ourselves into our cages. But why do they exist? How do they come about?

Here is why: other than our brains' tendency to do what it can to streamline our survival and create consistent thought patterns, we are all taught different versions of a certain way that we "ought to" live life. Our parents, society, social media, and pop culture all love to teach us that one way of living will lead to success and happiness, but it is also an attempt to ensure that we stay in line with everyone else and do not veer off of their controlling course.

It is not their fault, of course. Their brains want the same consistency so they will teach what has seemed to work well in the past because why divert?

As what we are taught about life gets reinforced when we are little, the steps of the cycle - also known as the bars of your cage - are formed. 

THE EPIPHANY

Have you ever started to question the path of your life?

SPOILER ALERT: everyone does and, even though a lot of thought is put into it, very few people in the world do anything about it. 

Very few people in the world do anything about it because they have become comfortable in the cage that has become so familiar and routined for most of their lives. The idea of breaking out of the cage is far too uncertain and scary. 

That is for another article. Staying on point, you start questioning your life path because you realize that you have strengths, skills, and interests that pull you from the unquestioned routine you have been in for so long.

This pull creates the tension we feel between what we are doing and what we want to do. The stress of realizing that you are actually free and allowed to make a change. 

But what change do you want to make? 

These cages most often are seen in relationships and career, but they can happen in all sorts of other ways and times. 

THE FIRST STEP

My clients come to me most often presenting in two ways:

  1. the sensation of feeling "stuck" and conflicted

  2. some version of the phrase "I don't know what I am doing with my life."

So let's start with the simple question: IN WHAT AREA OF YOUR LIFE DO YOU FEEL STUCK? 

What part of your life causes you to feel angst, restlessness, and frustration on a regular basis?

About what aspect of your life do you feel most often tempted to complain?

Seeing our cages is a difficult process. If you are able to answer these questions, you will have taken the first step to identify yours. 

Get ready to change your life...if you want to...

How To Finally Eliminate Your Crushing Need To Be Perfect

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Okay, we are at that point of winter where the pressure of our "New Year's Resolutions" has faded and we are on the brink of spring. Even colder cities (like the one in which I reside) are starting to loosen their wintery grip and present some milder temperatures. 


Other than sharing the current weather conditions in Salt Lake City, this time of year is yet another point of transition in our long swing around the sun. This is the point during which kids start to think about the end of the school year, weekday warriors' cars take less than ten minutes to warm up, and parents start getting excited about spring cleaning.

Spring is the season of rebirth, affording the opportunity to start over, start fresh, and try new things that we had been thinking about or putting off through the gray of winter. 


In childhood, this was getting rid of excess junk in my house. As an adult, though, spring cleaning can look quite different. Many still take the opportunity to purge their house or closets and that is plenty for them, but people also get outside more and consider their physical health even more than when they set that New Year's Resolution to lose fifty pounds and stop eating Oreos. 


However one chooses to enact it, "Spring Cleaning" is often meant as a cleanse of some kind. There are a million juice and diet cleanses out there, but my job is not to comment on the physical cleansing. Instead, I am concerned with the psychological Spring Cleaning that many people feel forced to pursue. 


CLEANSE THE SOUL

Back when we humans first compare ourselves to others - um, when we are born? - we fall into the trap of social competition and develop a perfectionist pressure to be the healthiest, most successful, and got-it-all-together version of ourselves as we get older. After all, it is for your survival, right? It is just science. 


The problem is that the "got-it-all-together" benchmark for which we all strive is completely unrealistic...and impossible. 


This is why there is still such a dramatic misconception about meditation and mindfulness in western society. Even those athleisure influencers who have been doing bikram yoga and juice cleanses for years still fall prey to the thought that in both yoga and meditation one must be able to "clear out the mind" to achieve total peace. 


Then it does not happen.

Then they get nervous.

Then they try again.

It still does not work. 


Then they call themselves "hot messes" that they playfully need to "clean out". But when meditation and yoga do not seem to empty the mind, they begin to identify with the label of Hot Mess in a way that is like "Well, this is just how I am now" while internally there is panic that they have "failed" to "have it all together" and that they "do not know what to do with their lives". Unfortunately, they only succeed in creating a cage for themselves where they feel inadequate but try to present as successful as possible, which is a misalignment that requires a ton of extra energy, which is likely treated with more yoga and the cycle repeats itself... 

THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH

The goal to cleanse the mind or clean the hot mess in your head is a perfectionist ideal. 


We see other people presenting as having it all together and we think "oh no! I am a failure. Why can't I be like them?" and we set the ideal in our mind to at least present the same way. We present like we are perfect and happy because we have trouble figuring out how to actually wipe our brain slates clean and at least feel zen. 

SPOILER ALERT:  THERE IS NO HOW. IT CANNOT BE DONE.

Your brain is constantly working. All of life is energy and, like the Black Eyed Peas say, the energy never dies. Everything in the universe is chaos; not in the negatively connoted sense of turmoil but rather in the sense of turbulence and movement at all times. The energy organizes itself so that the chaos is directed to form things like bodies and weather, but the chaos never stops. 


In the context of your perfectionist hope to turn your brain off, you will not be able to. The energy will continue to flow. The truth about meditation is that its purpose is not to erase all thoughts from the chalkboard of your mind. Instead, it is to create a mindful and metaphysical detachment from your thoughts so that you can watch them flow by like they were dropped in a river. 


The British philosopher and zen buddhism professor Alan Watts says that trying to stop thinking is like "trying to make rough water smooth with a flat iron, and all that will do is stir it up. So, in the same way as a muddy, turbulent pool quiets itself when left alone, you have to know how to leave your mind alone." In psychoanalysis, this relates to offering yourself self-compassion in that you must not be so critical of your own thoughts. Even if you assign frustration or stress to a thought, it is still best to let that thought happen and witness it without acting to stomp it out. 


Proper meditation provides different energy, rejuvenation, and mindspace because the meditator surrendered their extra energy exertion to try and stop the thoughts. The unused energy is kept in storage.


THE EXPERIMENT

Try this for the next three days. 

  1. Identify the pressure you put on yourself for the sake of your mental health.  For example, "I need to figure my life out", "I need to clear my mind", "Oh my god I'm such a failure."

  1. Write whatever your pressure is down in a concise sentence. Be as specific as you can without feeling like it has to be perfect...

  2. Beneath it, write down the version of that statement that is just one level lower in intensity.  For example: "Oh my god I'm such a failure" ----> "Ugh, I am struggling so much with _______(specific "issue")"


Even though the new statement is not much more encouraging, the exercise of easing off the extreme perfectionist pressure frees up space to feel a more authentic version of the original emotion (such as sadness or fear) and even that tiny semantic adjustment draws you to slightly more humility and honesty with yourself, which closes the gap between the idealized "perfect" external presentation and your internal panic of inadequacy. 


Extra credit: If you want to go pro, keep repeating the activity with one original statement to see how deeply you can lower its pressure. See what happens...

A Case Of Need: How To Get Past Your Ego And Get The Help You Want

Think about the last thing you needed. I mean, really NEEDED. Like could not live without. 


What did you need?


How did you know that you needed it?


When did you know that you needed it? Was it a matter of desperation? Did you feel fear of missing something? Or of lacking? 


At what point does your survival instinct kick in and inspire you to do something about it?


Often human beings do not pursue something they need until they hit an absolute breaking point. When all alternatives are futile and the bullet is bitten to do something about it. Last week we discussed how one must get to a point of humility before they can have a breakthrough. The realization that they are not all knowing or all-powerful or perfect deflates their ego and opens space for the breakthrough connection to be made in the brain. 


But how do we know when that ego-check must occur? 


My personal opinion is that we all ought to be a little more humble all the time anyway, but the truth is that that moment of need comes at different times for everyone and everyone has very different sensitivities to need. Some freak out sooner and make a big deal of what they are missing, while others calmly recognize the need after a while and figure out how best to address it. 


People's egos get in the way of something that will help them survive. Stubbornness to go to the doctor, denial about emotional issues, even investment in something like food. 


In the mental health field, as a prime example, people's egos do not want to know that they need therapy or a certain kind of coaching so people develop arrogance about "how bad" their issues really are and try to deal with them on their own. How many people do you know who are in denial or make excuses to not get help that everyone knows they need? 


Here is a NEWS FLASH: ARROGANCE ARISES FROM INSECURITY. INSECURITY ARISES FROM A LIMITING BELIEF SYSTEM. A LIMITING BELIEF SYSTEM ARISES FROM FEAR.

The ego creates arrogance in order to protect you from opening up about your fears and insecurities. Your ego drank the Kool Aid that it is not a good idea to be vulnerable about that stuff. 


But I ask you now to open up about your fears to yourself. In the privacy of wherever you are reading this.

If you open up, what are you afraid of? 


What is the consequence of opening up?

If you can tell yourself what you are afraid of, deep down inside, you will have successfully identified the barrier between you and your evolution. The source of your fear is the wall between you and getting the help that you so desire deep down. 


Don't hold yourself back. It is your life, after all. 

A Reflection On Reflection, Part 2: The 6 Step Path To Your Breakthrough

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Have you ever watched a suspenseful movie in which some character, often a policeman, puts together a few clues that lead him to an epiphany? Whether or not that epiphany is conclusive or that epiphany leads him to connect even more clues into even more clarity about some other characters in the plot, the sudden connection provides the character with some ground breaking realization and a new perspective on the information he had been analyzing for a long time prior.


Once this realization occurs, it cannot be undone.

The epiphany cannot be unwound.

In fact, it takes an exorbitant amount of energy to reject, suppress, or forget the realization. It cuts through the character's ego and makes sense on the most internal level. Everything is aligned. 


If the character is a policeman, the plot often leads to an arrest but it also offers powerful humility for the policeman when he learns the weight of his clarity and how much he may not know about himself, life, or the world on a regular basis. 


This also plays out in movies with wild twist endings in which a character puts all the pieces together and the audience is afforded flashbacks to earlier scenes that explain the whopping reveal at the end. Our minds are blown just as much as that character's. 


After the movie concludes, we the audience cannot unlearn what we learned or forget the twisty truth that was unveiled at the end of the movie. This is why we have such a dramatically different perspective on the movie when we watch it a second time. We cannot NOT know the truth anymore. 


In fact, we see mind blowing movies multiple times because we want to pay attention to all of the scenes differently for clues that hint at the twist that we know is coming. It is like we watch a totally different movie every time and we continue to learn more details that reinforce the big realization. 


The Shift


How did the policeman, for example, finally piece the clues together and have that realization? 


A lot of breakthroughs seem to occur by chance but, as Louis Pasteur famously said, "Chance favors the prepared mind". The policeman must first prepare himself for the breakthrough by devoting himself to the work needed to get there. In his case it is commitment to his job and the specific case. 


The next step, though, is the most important.

The next step is the abandonment of at least some of the ego.

The policeman must get to a point where he is fed up, pissed off, and the words "giving up" float through his mind. He must ease off the throttle fighting the narcissistic wound of failure and anger in order to invite a little humility in to free up space in his mind. 


And that is the moment that he sees the picture on his desk that he needed to see. Or he saw the name that had not registered since the beginning of the investigation. And the heavens open. 


In the movie Prisoners, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, Gyllenhaal's character is a cop who gets so enraged at the fruitless investigation that he smashes all of the stuff on his desk and throws things around. Only when he slumped into his chair and felt the humility of helplessness fall over him did he see a certain photograph on the floor and put a few clues together that he had not connected before. 

The Locked Door


This is the same as with self-reflection. 


Millions of people want to learn something about themselves or change something about their lives but they remain in a state of arrogance thinking that it will sort itself out or that the solution to their case will magically arise. We do not know that we already have all the clues we need to unravel the mystery of who we are or what we want. Our ego sends arrogance to get in the way so as to avoid feeling incompetence or failure. 


But then we get fed up. We get pissed off. We go out and drink and complain to our friends that we are stuck on hamster wheels and everything is terrible. This is the anger of Jake Gyllenhaal's character, except so often we do not allow ourselves to get to a tipping point. We do not want to cause a scene. We still do not want to feel incompetent or learn that the life or career or relationship we have settled for is somehow unhealthy, which would mean that our choices have been somehow wrong. 


This is why so many of us remain at jobs we do not like and never get to the point of wanting to flip our desks over and storm out. 


Reflection requires humility. 


It requires the slightest bit of acceptance that we have been wrong. Like the policeman after staring at the clues for so long with too much arrogance that he will figure it all out, we must accept that we are not all-powerful. That we must learn as we go. 


The moment can occur anywhere: at home, at the bar, at the office, in rush hour traffic. That little bit of humility, when we finally let down our shoulders and step back from fighting ourselves for a moment, shows you the door to the most beautiful knowledge about yourself that will make sense of your past and empower your future. 


The Key 


Finding the door is not enough, of course. Especially with something as powerful as a life-changing realization or a clue that breaks a policeman's case, the door must come with a lock. Beyond his devotion to the solution, his experience of fed up anger and incompetence, and his newfound sliver of humility, the policeman must have a singular question that he is trying to answer. 


This singular question is the key that directs him to the breakthrough.


We all have a different question that unlocks the door and directs our introspection. Here are some examples:

  1. Why am I still at this job?

  2. Why am I such a loser?

  3. Why doesn't my girlfriend / boyfriend listen to me?

  4. Why can't I grow my business?

  5. Why am I so angry all the time?


They are curiosity questions that arise from an inner sense of helplessness, recognizing that we somehow feel trapped and do not know how to escape whatever our cage is. Despite the horrible feeling of helplessness, your unique question provides the unique key for your unique door through which you will find your breakthrough. 


Self-Assessment


What stage of this process are you in?

  1. Devotion to your daily routine?

  2. Ignorant arrogance?

  3. Fed up and pissed off?

  4. Helpless and sad?

  5. Humble and open?

  6. Breaking through to your epiphany?


No matter which stage you are in, what is your question?

What is the unique question about your daily life that your emotions inspire you to continually ask yourself?