Category Archives: Challenge

Fear versus Freedom

By Amanda Love

If you live in fear, it is impossible to be free.  Fear can take many forms — fear of leaving a job you don’t like for a more challenging one, fear of voicing your opinions to a spouse that constantly argues with you, fear of being alone, fear of changing careers, fear of moving away from family and friends and starting over.

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My personal experience has been with a verbally abusive spouse.  I would wake up in the morning to his temper tantrums and go to sleep with them as well.  This went on for about fifteen years, until I looked in the mirror one day and realized I had no respect for myself.  I have a high love and belonging need and a low freedom need, which I pushed so low it was non-existent.

I was fearful of rocking the boat by leaving all at once.  My friend, who is also a therapist, advised me to “leave without leaving.”  Start by doing things that you love to do, seek new challenges for yourself, learn new things, she said.

I followed her advice and slowly became more of who I really am as a person.   I raised a puppy for a service dog organization, and took her everywhere I went, spreading the word about the wonders service dogs work.  When the dog was returned to me for a mild medical condition, she and I trained together to be a pet therapy team.  We volunteered at a nursing  home and a Read to the Dog Program at a New York City library.

I regained my self-respect.  I began writing a novel, a love story.  I became more confident in myself and when I finished the book I was able to stand up and end the marriage.  I recently moved to a different town on my native Long Island, and have conquered my fear of new situations by participating in community groups that I love.

I battle fear every day — and maybe you do too.  Challenge yourself by identifying what you are really afraid of, and try to reason with yourself that the fear is unfounded.   If you can’t do that by yourself, seek help from a trusted family member, friend  or a counselor.

The Blind Leading the Blind (and they all fall down)

by Mona Dunkin

You’ve heard the story of the blind men describing an elephant.  Each man was exposed to a different part of the elephant and each man described that part of the elephant in keeping with something he was familiar with.  The leg was ‘kinda like’ a tree. The tail was ‘kinda like’ a rope.  According to the poem by John Sykes, each of the blind men were “partly right, yet all of them were wrong.”

Blindness is equated with ignorance; not to be stupid, but something you don’t know. All we have in life is our experiences, beliefs, faith and encounters with things we don’t understand.  Everything we know comes through filters and when our filters are clogged that is just another form of darkness, or ignorance.

One only knows what one knows. Conversely, we don’t know what we don’t know.

In keeping with the Law of Attraction, the blind men married blind wives. The blind wives bought into the perception of the blind husbands. Whether it was genetic disposition or cultural hangover, the blind men and the blind wives produced blind children – and grandchildren who blindly bought into the ‘kinda-like-common-sense” concepts. They believed, bought into and passed on to future generations the distortion of what the elephant looked like and/or who he was.

All of us blindly carry cultural conditionings with us. Not that that is wrong, it’s just limiting.

Although we live in an expanding universe, our day-to-day exposure is mostly confined to the familiar.

perceptionOur comparing place is always working – whether to accurately interpret or to distort. It happens as we try to see what we want to see.  All of our senses bring experiences into our world. We believe what we believe until we believe something different. Or until we see differently.

All we can get from the real world (people, places, things) is information. Information itself is not the problem. How we handle it may be. Same information: one chooses anger, one chooses indifference and one chooses acceptance.  Whether it is a 6 or a 9 depends on one’s point of view. It’s nothing to go to war over.

The moral of this little tale is this. We may unknowingly damage our own health and limit our own happiness by blindly assuming what something (or someone) else is like.

The way we challenge our perceptions is through more information; outward as well as inward. Hearing another’s point of view as well as examining our own wisdom-heart for truth. Look into the mysteries of the universe. Adopt an air of curiosity with no judgment. Push self beyond limited boundaries. Find beauty in life and growth through difficult circumstances. Engage in an empty, hungry, patient outward gaze into the ordinary. And discover there is no such thing as an ordinary day.

New Pictures and New Developments

by Mona Dunkin

We think in pictures or symbols. If we don’t get the picture we don’t get the concept.

If I mention a car, your mind sees a car of some sort, even if it’s fuzzy. The longer we explore that subject, the clearer your mind-picture comes into focus.  More than likely, your own car would be your familiar point of reference or perhaps your dream car.

Unknowingly, we associate new stuff with familiar stuff. We also, unknowingly, self-assess whether to like, dislike or simply store it in our vast mind/body warehouse as additional information. For later recall.

Everything is created twice; first in the mind and then in reality. Your computer runs by an operating system and so does the mind. If you don’t like a TV program, you don’t even try to change the screen. Why not? The TV operating system is pre-programmed to bring in that program on that frequency.

Here is where reality sets in.  You cannot change what you do not have control over. You do not have control over the programming slated for that channel but you do have control over changing the channel. To change the picture on the TV screen you change the channel to another frequency.

Change is an Inside Job. Truth be told, we have limited ability to change anything outside our immediate scope. Goodness! It’s hard enough to change something within our self (i.e. attitudes, habits, prejudices).  When we work on self we have something we can work with. When working on someone or something outside our selves – especially without forethought and training – we may be jousting at windmills. Don Quixote’s selective vision of the real world contributed to his unhappy relationships and the fall from the rotor blade certainly curtailed his health.

Will Power = WALL. Even if you are using every ounce of will power that you can muster to change personal habits, attitudes or – alas – other people, it doesn’t compute. Why? Because the old operating system still has chocolate cake as the focal point.  You fall off the wagon and don’t understand why.

Adjust your mind-pictures and grow into them. This simple step promotes self from employee to Management.  From lackey to Taking Charge of Your Life™. And that is power. It’s real power because it’s empowering.  Once the light comes on, it is like a rogue grass seed pushing up through concrete to grow, blossom and bloom. That seed idea that seemed so impossible takes root and produces amazing results.

Yeah But!  I hear you; it’s the I-agree-but-I-don’t-agree-or-I-don’t-think-I-can.  Okay, here’s how:

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Stop whatever thought processes you have going through your head and – just for a minute – experience a different sort of reality. Get out of your head nonsense into a beautiful place. Through loving imagination, tune your TV-mind to your Discovery Channel. Tune in to pictures of adventures that you would love doing or being or creating. Whet an internal mental appetite for those things. Act on those new aptitudes and the old picture begins to fade as you become the new you.  You become energized by what you act like and feel like and look like and what life tastes like as you grow into the person living your dream.

What you think is what you become.  Picture it.

Levitation For Improved Mental Health & Happiness

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Do you know the expression “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” It suggests that when you are too close to the situation, it is difficult to see it as it is. Each person’s perception is biased and inaccurate from each individuals point of view alone.

canstockphoto0512675Have you ever noticed when you are in a difficult situation with someone, you frequently jump to conclusions because you are telling yourself a story about the situation and the other person? Although this process is human it just doesn’t help. In fact it often makes the situation worse.

Essentially you are looking at your own tree in the forest while the other is looking in the same forest but at a different tree. Or perhaps the other is looking at the same tree but from a different angle.

Here’s an idea from Buddhism that just might help. This process just might help you levitate above the situation to change your perspective. This suggestion is based on a brief YouTube interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. He was answering a teenager’s question where she stated she felt sad because her friends didn’t seem to like her. This is what he said:

Oh, that’s just a feeling. And this feeling is based on a misperception.

          Ask yourself, “What am I misperceiving? How can I perceive it differently?

Here’s the process:

Once you recognize that you are feeling sad, bad, angry, dissatisfied or any other uncomfortable or negative feeling STOP.

Tell yourself that this is just a feeling. Remind yourself that this feeling is based on a misperception (your own alone).

Now ask yourself what you might be misperceiving.

Ask yourself how you might perceive things differently

Essentially this process allows you to look down at the problem from a distance, a different point of view. With this change in position you may see how much of the problem is of your own making. You will get a new perspective on the issue. This may allow you to rectify your part of the problem.

Since I heard this simple process explained by Nhat Hanh I have been practicing this process regularly. I’m amazed how powerful and effective it is.

Give it a try. As you levitate over your current life’s challenges you just may  understand how much easier it becomes to improve your mental health and happiness by putting it in a new perspective.

Trapped In Your Past?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

The past is a funny thing. If it werent for our past, none of us would be who we are today. At the same time, we have no ability to change the past. Dont believe me? Try and change what you had for lunch yesterday. You might decide to change what youre going to have for lunch today based on your lunch experience of yesterday but no matter how hard you try, you cannot change what you ate yesterday. 

The past is only what you choose to remember if you even choose to remember it. And even when you choose to remember it, can you be sure your memory is correct and accurate? Ever go back to the home where you were raised and take a look at that big hill you use to sled down as a child? Ever been surprised at how little that big hill actually is? 

For some people, the act of remembering and memories seems to be a mysterious, lost category in their brains. There are more than a few people who complain that they have no memories from their childhood. For some of these people, they are convinced this indicates sad, bad and harmful experiences they are trying to repress or suppress (leftover legacy of Freudian thinking). 

canstockphoto13026221How can you know what you dont know? Your brain may very well be acting to protect you from painful memories. Its also possible your brain is busy helping you with more important things in the here and now rather than sorting through memories from your past. 

Today can be the day to change how you cultivate your relationship with your past to benefit your Mental Health & Happiness. Rather than focusing your thoughts on the painful, unhappy, hurtful experiences of yesterday, why not reflect on memories or stories that delight, inspire or lift your spirits?

Were you told stories from your past that reveal your unique qualities? In what ways were you special? Who were the people who found you amazing and worth celebrating? How did they do it? In what ways did the person you were in your past positively contribute to the person you are today? 

Amazingly humans have the unique ability to choose their thoughts. Perhaps you take this for granted because you can easily stop thinking about todays weather and begin thinking about your dinner menu or your vacation plans, or the color blue, or your age, or you painful knee. But make no mistake. This is your own personal magic!

If you find yourself feeling trapped in your painful past memories, change your thoughts and change your Mental Health & Happiness. You possess this magical power.

Practicing Happiness

By Charlotte, Whellen, NBCT, Basic Intensive Instructor
Murray High School

I teach at the first Glasser Quality public high school in the world, Murray High School.  Not only do I teach English, but I’m in charge of teaching Choice Theory to everyone in the school: staff, students and parents. I work constantly to improve my own skills at making use of Choice Theory in my life, and I can see a steady progression in my ability to connect with those I love and to achieve an inner happiness from successfully meeting my needs without hurting those around me.

That said, I get many opportunities to see where external control is still lingering in my thoughts.  For instance, this past Friday, at our weekly Community Meeting, we were introducing some new students who have joined us for the second half of the school year.  The staff requested everyone to get up and participate in some icebreakers and some connecting games.  Most students leapt up and immediately began to participate.  However, there were some resisting students, who just wanted to sit on the sidelines. Our wonderful PE teacher, who had organized the games, gently herded almost everyone into the fray and they got up and got involved.  There was a happy excitement in the gym as new and current students intermingled and began to connect.

I was participating, too, when I noticed one boy lying against the wall, propped up on his backpack, with his hoodie pulled down over his face, seemingly asleep.  I walked over to see if he was okay.  He told me he was having trouble readjusting his sleep schedule since our recent snow days off and that he would be fine if he could just sleep there a few minutes.

At this point, I had a choice to make, but I was not aware of my choices.  I just allowed myself to move into “external control mode” and reminded him that he had made a commitment to participate and that everyone else was doing that.  I encountered immediate resistance.  He began to argue with me that I should be flexible enough to let him do what he wanted to do.  I told him that if he didn’t want to do this and didn’t feel well, that was not a problem, but he’d need to go check in with the nurse and see if she’d let him nap for a few minutes on the bed in her office.  Not surprisingly, I encountered more resistance.  I, also became resistant.  I didn’t raise my voice, or get excited (thanks to my practice with Choice Theory), but I didn’t move away from external control.

Luckily, the student did not insist, but he grumbled that this isn’t what Murray was supposed to be about and packed his stuff up and stomped off.  I went back to the games and later spoke with our astute  principal, Ashby Kindler, about the situation.  She, in true Reality Therapy fashion, asked me a question — how much choice does a student have about getting involved in an activity?

Since then, many more questions along those lines have occurred to me:   Is there ever any room for someone to just feel like watching?  Is watching not participation at some level?  How is sending someone out for not participating helping them learn to participate?  Did my interaction with the young man bring me closer to him, or push us further apart?

Both the young man and I knew that this situation wasn’t what we wanted.  He was blaming me for the problem and I was blaming him.  You might argue, in a way, that we were both right — he should have participated and lived up to his commitment to be actively involved in community meetings and I should have avoided external control and trusted that with time and creating as many strong connections with him as possible, he would eventually make the choice to get involved on his own.

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However, I have often heard Dr. Glasser, in his inspiring talks, refer to our habit of “shoulding” on each other.  I don’t believe he invented that term, but he explained that if we tell someone what we think they should have done, or tell ourselves what we should have done, we are using external control on them (or on ourselves) and damaging our relationships.  He asserted that if we could just become aware of whenever we were using that word, we would soon be able to think of new ways to get what we need without the “shoulding,” and without pushing those we love and need away from us.

I have found this to be superb advice for maintaining my own personal happiness and I teach all my students about “shoulding,” which, of course, they love because it sounds very close to another phrase they  enjoy, but which isn’t necessarily school appropriate.

I have written an email to the young man today, explaining my thoughts since our interaction and thanking him for his willingness to engage me in a discussion about the principles of our school.  I didn’t mention his own commitment to participate in community meetings as a Murray student because I have learned, finally, that his choice in this regard is his own and the happiness of our school community depends upon our each deciding to learn more and more choice theory and choosing to practice using it in our daily lives.

Turn Your Complaints Inside Out

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Complaining is one of the deadly habits that can help destroy relationships, according to William Glasser. Most of us can quickly name the expert complainer in our own lives. Sadly, this is the person we try to avoid. And sometimes the complaining person is yourself whom it is impossible to avoid.

Quite simply stated, complaining is unattractive and detrimental to our mental health and happiness.

However, complaining is part of human nature. Why? Because our brain is set up that way. Here’s the bad news: our brain is hardwired to notice what is not right, or off, or a mismatch between what we want and what we perceive we’re getting in our world. This brain attribute is necessary for our survival. But this also means our brain notices almost everything that is wrong in the world, according to us. When we notice out loud it sounds like complaining.

Most of us occasionally comment about these mismatches, or differences. Some people comment and point this out a lot—ugh! (If you want to read a plethora of celebrations of complaints about these mismatches spend time reading Facebook posts.This is our present public forum where we complain and like the world as it should or should not be according to us — just as our brain is designed to do.)

If you spend any time on social media you may have noticed advice from some recent blogs regarding happiness. We are encouraged to stop complaining for twenty-four hours. Great idea! Great advice! However this is easier said than done. Our brain keeps getting in the way, noticing and pointing out all that’s wrong: the weather, the traffic, the temperature of our morning brew, our co-workers, our relatives, our neighbors, our politicians, and on and on and on it goes. And when we comment on all of these things, it comes out as complaining.

If today is the day you want to give up complaining for twenty-four hours to improve your Mental Health & Happiness, here are some tips to honor your brain and still succeed. When you notice what is wrong start asking yourself what you want instead of complaining about what is wrong.

It will sound like this “There are no more seats in this waiting room. I would like to sit down. I’ll sit on the floor.” or “There are no more seats in this waiting room. I would like to sit down but I’ll take this opportunity to stretch.”

Today, every time you notice something worth complaining about, start declaring what you want instead. Are you able to get what you want? Good for you. Are you able to change what you want instead? Does that help? Are you able to see the advantage or alternate payoff for getting something different from what you want? Does that help?

An additional strategy is giving thanks and being grateful for what you’ve noticed in the world, yourself and other people, even if your first impression is a complaint: (aim for a neutral tone and avoid a sarcasm)

I’m grateful for the traffic that will make me late for work.

I’m grateful for the package that has still not arrived in the mail.

I’m grateful that my co-worker is refusing to help me complete this project.

I’m grateful that my brother is not answering my calls, texts or messages. 

canstockphoto15119958Once you’ve declared your gratitude, let it go and move on. You may discover the gift, lesson or opportunity that was wrapped into the complaint as you perceived it. Or not. However declaring gratitude is much more attractive than complaining; attractive to other people as well as yourself.

When you start making these kinds of changes you may begin to get more of what you want instead of simply complaining. Amazingly, when you start interacting differently with your world of complaints you may actually begin to better understand and appreciate what you really want. Now that you have greater clarity you can act more effectively to get what you want. The result? Greater Mental Health & Happiness.

Here’s a word of caution. If you spend time complaining about other people, you still need to keep your focus on what you want, not simply focusing on how you want the other person to change. Instead of complaining, “I wish my child would stop whining. I want a child who doesn’t whine,” may sound like you’re following the advice offered here. See if you can go deeper though. If your child stopped whining and you got what you want, what would that be? Would you be engaged in a more pleasant interaction with your child? Do you want a happier atmosphere when completing a chore? Once you know what you want you can act accordingly. Start singing, smiling, offering compliments about the world, your child, yourself. Your child may still be whining. And still you can create a more pleasant atmosphere while you interact with your child lovingly, no matter how he or she is acting.

People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining — Stephan Hawking

“Tomorrow is another day,” Scarlett O’Hara

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

I recently went through the grueling process of purchasing a home. This is actually the fourth time in my life I’ve been lucky enough to be able to purchase a home. But this time was very different from the last.

I don’t know if the challenges this time were due to the size of the loan, the new parameters since the mortgage housing scandals that led to tighter and more rigorous standards, or the fact that there were multiple people applying for the loan. But I think Rumpelstiltskin had it easier when he changed straw into gold.

At two different times during this process the deal was declared officially dead.  The first time we were told we needed to bring more money to the table. Amazingly each of us who were involved in the deal were able to “find” more money. The deal was revived!

Miraculous! Phew, we were alive again.

Weeks later when we were just yards from the finish line the whole thing fell apart again!

Devastation.

canstockphoto13026221Dreams were dashed again only this time it felt worse. We had come so far, had overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, pushed, persevered, and worked really hard. And in one moment it all vanished!

But this second time I waited before I fell into the depths of despair.

This roller coaster ride had taught me some new lessons.  I was determined to put these new strategies into practice.

I had already used my time-tested and well used strategy of crossing and uncrossing my fingers. In fact I had used this so often I was beginning to develop callouses on my fingers.

This time I tried something I had only used a very few times in my life.

I gathered facts. I left out all emotional information surrounding the facts. I simply wanted the facts.

What I learned was that there was a chance that the deal could be completed. In six days we would have a definitive answer. In six days we would know if the deal was alive or dead.

This was the information I held onto. I did not wish or hope, worry, barter or demand. I simply repeated the factual information. Holding onto and repeatedly reviewing the facts kept me from soaring into wild hopes or falling into depths of despair. We would know the outcome, the results and the answers to what was presently unanswerable in six days or less.

Every time I found myself wondering, worrying, hoping or wishing, I went back and simply repeated the facts.

I also made a conscious choice to think about the whole deal less. I repeated the facts, and knew there were five more days, four more days, and so forth until I would have the final answer. And any time I found my mind wondering, worrying, or hoping I reminded myself to change my thinking to some other subject, topic or question.

I made a conscious decision to postpone my celebratory dance of joy, or my upset, anger and disappointment until I had facts to verify either reaction.

In the end we were able to celebrate, sing and dance with joy and offer prayers of thanks.

In addition, I learned a very important lesson for my Mental Health & Happiness. Gathering factual information rather than relying on my emotionally tainted information was a new, very helpful strategy. Using facts and data rather than impression, instincts and intuition alone keeps my well being intact as I experience my life’s speed bumps that upset my balance.

With this new strategy added to my other coping skills I believe I will handle the next of my life’s challenges with greater personal strength, wisdom and grace.

Re-Set Button

By Denise Daub

Every year during the spring and summer I spend time at our camp by the lake.  I think of my time up there as my “re-set”, the place I go to think, reflect, relax, catch up on my reading and most of all disconnect.  There is no internet and no TV, there isn’t much to do but take walks and kayak.  Unfortunately, it is far enough away that I can only visit a few times a year and only in the warmer weather so I only get to “re-set” a couple of times of year.

I have been thinking about that.. disconnecting only a few times a year… I don’t think that is enough… do you?

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How many times a year, month or week do you disconnect?  Do you ever disconnect?  Just about everyone has a cell phone today and you can always be reached.  Everyone has a computer and we now get news 24 hours a day.  Social media has replaced letters and conversation and we now know what all our friends and family are doing every second of the day.

I decided that I am not waiting until May to hit my next re-set button… I am going to shoot for one a month.  I know that is really not enough… but I need to start somewhere.  I know I have to do something different because by the time May rolls around, I am burned out.

How about you?  When are you going to hit your re-set button?

You Have to Age But; You Don’t Have to Rust or Rot*

By Jenny Lundak
WGI Faculy, Beachbody coach, artist,  windsurfer, and lifelong learner

Many people think of exercise and eating healthy as something you do to lose weight and look better. Many think of it as a sacrifice and a pain. I know I thought that way until I realized that exercise and eating good food gives me a much better quality of life now and as I get older.

You know the saying pay now or pay later? Well, you can pay attention to your fitness and nutrition now or you can pay attention to your illnesses, aches and pains later.

Look around you at the people in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. There is a huge difference in their quality of life. Some people move easily and have active, full lives. Others have limited mobility and are plagued with illnesses. Accidents and genes play a role in this. But lifestyle plays a major role and we have control of that.

There was a time I thought that the good life was eating what I wanted and taking it easy with a good book. In my early 40’s, I found myself 50 pounds overweight, in poor cardio vascular health with lots of aches,pains and no energy. So began my journey, first to lose weight, then to gain health.

At first it was all about giving up my favorite foods. Then it was about finding new healthier foods. And finally it became about being healthy and happy.

But it was very hard to eat well when I thought I was giving up the good stuff.

Luckily I married a very smart man who said the oddest things like, “There is no better treat than a good grapefruit.” You have got to be kidding! A grapefruit? Then I started thinking about how we decide what is a treat and what isn’t. In the United States anything that is good for you is not very desirable, and all the junk food is a treat. Who decided this? Do they get to make that decision for me? I set about changing how I think about foods.

Good fresh food is delicious. Sugar, fatty foods mess up my system. When I eat well I am not setting myself up to rot from the inside out. My reward is that I feel good. I feel well. I feel energetic.

canstockphoto2082282And what about rust? If I don’t move it, I lose it, or it just rusts. My body needs exercise to know I am not ready to give up and die yet. I need to send a signal, “I have things to do and places to be.”

Beyond that, I feel so good to be stronger and more fit in my 60’s than I was in my 40’s. I am limber. I can do push ups. I can walk, windsurf, and ride my bike. I can be a role model for my kids. It wasn’t quick and it isn’t always easy.

Now I ask myself, “What kind of quality of life do I want for myself going forward?”

It isn’t giving up anything but poor health, when I choose to eat fresh fruit and veggies. I don’t need to make myself exercise; I just choose to challenge myself to be stronger and more fit each year.

What about you? What do you want for yourself?

*You have to age, but you don’t have to rust or rot. I got the inspiration for my motto from a book called “Younger Next Year” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge M.D. It explains the science of aging and how we can reduce or eliminate many of the symptoms of what we have considered “normal” aging.