Category Archives: self-evaluation

The need to understand cause and effect

Dr. Ken Larsen

When I entered Dental School in 1961 the dental profession was not able to meet the needs of our population.  Dental disease (tooth decay and gum disease) were progressing more rapidly than the ability of the profession to repair the damage.

The lightbulb came on as many of us started to think about, talk about and work toward understanding the causes of dental disease so we could get ahead of the problem by preventing the disease.  How many dentists does it take to treat a disease that has been prevented?

As a profession, we shifted our focus from chasing the effects of disease, to understanding and dealing with the causes.

People still suffered from dental disease, but more and more people began to understand that disease was optional, not inevitable. 

cause-effectThe key, of course, was to understand and control the causes of the disease.  This required new learning and changing behavior.

As you may have noticed, changing habitual behavior patterns is not easy.  Our efforts have largely paid off for those of our patients who accept their responsibility to learn to control the causes of their disease.

You may wonder why I’m talking about dental health in a blog about mental health.

Many of us are undergoing the shift from chasing mental illness to promoting mental health.  This involves working to understand what causes the loss of mental health and learning to change our behavior to follow more healthy patterns of living.

Some are telling us that changes in brain chemistry are what causes mental illness.  Some are looking more at the kinds of things we each can do to stay healthy, including learning and practicing more effective ways to live, love, and relate to one another. The research for the causes of mental diseases and illnesses continues.

However, the good news is that there is no need to wait in order to take immediate action and receive an immediate pay off for your personal Mental Health & Happiness.

Just like with your dental health, if you will accept personal responsibilities NOW by meeting your genetic needs for love, power, fun, freedom and safety, you will experience an immediate improvement in your Mental Health & Happiness.

Happily, there are now lots of ideas and suggestions to this end. Please read any and all of our blogs. Sign up and start receiving Mental Health & Happiness challenges for support and help. And there is even more readily available now on the world wide web.


Take Your Life Back

26 Ways To Take Your Life Back When You’re Broken

pensivewomanThere’s an old, outdated assumption that time heals all wounds. But I believe this to be untrue. In the words of Dr. Phil, “Time doesn’t change us. It’s what we do with that time that changes us.” We are all more than capable of taking control back into our own hands when life knocks us down. It’s just a matter of doing so deliberately. Of making changes that will move us forward. Of finding a way to progress with purpose, rather than simply letting life knock us around into whoever we will become next. When you’re feeling lost and disheartened with life, here are 26 simple methods of taking your power back.

Read more:

Going Beyond Our Beliefs

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.;  Director of Training, Aloha Foundation…

My whole life I have been limited by my own imagination. I mistakenly believed that what I could imagine was as good as it could get. I was convinced that my mind was showing me a future which was reality, not aware at all that it was my personal fantasy often based years of limited thinking and fear-based projection.

Not really understanding that has hindered me continually. When I think about a change in my life or aspiring to be more honest or thoughtful or loving, I need to realize that what I envision may have very little to do with the actual possibility of who I might become. If I let go of my own expectations and both trust the process and seek the advice of people who have what I want, I am much more likely to go beyond my expectations than if I assume they are real and finite.

This has played itself out in what I consider to be my personal mantra:  “ Show Up, Pay Attention, Tell the Truth and Release the Outcome.” Releasing the outcome is crucial in the process of personal change or we get to a place where we don’t see what is “there,” we only see what we expect to be “there.”


A friend of mine has been in AA for years, and as we talked about this idea, he related the story of a member he respected who always said, “If you keep coming to AA, your life will be more beautiful than you can imagine. And if you don’t believe that, please believe that I believe that.” He told me that speaker gave him something to think about, and allowed him to piggy-back on that member’s faith in ways he was not yet able to do himself. He went on to say that he had listened to speakers who talked about their connection with a higher power in ways he never could have imagined. They helped him break out of his rigid “religion-based” view of a higher power and break open a new “spiritual” view that he was able to work with and today is the foundation of his life.

I continue to look for people who can help me dream beyond my own dreams.  At some level, I need to remember that “If you want to be a man you need to see a man,” or “If I want to be loving, I need to see loving.” There are so many people who don’t realize that their greatest gift to the world is just showing up and being themselves; just showing up and being willing to live life in their own unique way. By seeing lives that surpass our own in areas in which we want to excel emotionally , we are all able to forge new awarenesses of the people we might become.

Thanks you to those of you who showed me the kind of courage I never thought existed; to those of you who showed me the faith I never believed attainable; and to those of you who showed me the kind of honesty I didn’t think was possible in the real world. When I see these things, I can no longer pretend they are simply ideals with no foundation. I see they are real and I am challenged and drawn toward those aspirations myself.

My AA friend said it his own way: “I have become someone I never thought I could because I saw people in real life who were sober the way I want to be sober. “It’s simple, he said. “If you want to be sober, you have to see sober.”



What’s my diagnosis?

By Bruce R Allen, MSW, LCSW

When something hurts, I want to know what it is all about.  I remember as a kid, hurting my arm and almost hoping the X-Ray would show that it was broken.  Certainly this would explain why it hurt so much. At least if it were diagnosed as broken, then somehow I could relax.  Most of us know this feeling.  Typically we want to know so we can more easily find a solution.

The problem with my aching arm was that I got no cast to fix it, nobody signed my cast, I got little sympathy, had no red badge of courage to show and was not excused from my chores.  Darn, if it had only been broken, think of the relief I would have had!

When we hurt, we do want the care and concern of others. And we may well want to be excused from some chores and responsibilities. That just seems right.


What happens when our diagnosis doesn’t offer any of this, but just implies that we need to eat better, exercise more and work harder.  The powerful relief of giving up, seeing ourselves as victim and giving in can draw us into a sense that our misery is actually our friend.

In the pursuit of joy and happiness, we look to better solutions. We can understand that our pain can be our wakeup call that we need to think more about how we want our lives to be.

Just as the pain of a burn tells us to move away from the flame, it also tells us to move toward something cooler.  Do we focus on the flame, or do we focus on how we can live so that our skin stays in cooler places?  Do we focus on the relief of the cast on a broken arm or consider how we can live in way that our bones don’t get broken?

Since we are gifted with the power to think about our thinking, we can notice when we spend our time focusing on the flame, or relaxing in the diagnosis of the broken arm. If we can notice how we are thinking and what we believe, then the dawning of choice arrives.


By Dr. Barnes Boffey

Pronouns are a very under-rated part of speech. Not only do they get to stand in for some very important people, but they are very significant clues to the climate and well-being of any community – an office, a home, a school or a team.

If you hear a great number of people using the word “Me” all the time, you can pretty much assume that the climate is one of self-centeredness and lack of focus on the welfare of others. If you hear a significant number of “You’s,” it is often a give–away to an environment where members are evaluating others and focusing on the actions of people rather than their own. People are looking outward rather than inward.  If “I” is the predominant pronoun, you will find a high level of personal responsibility and willingness to self-evaluate, but also a climate focused on individual rather than group achievement and a lot of thinking about each person’s power rather than the power of the community.

It seems to me that the most powerful pronouns I hope to hear in a community are “We” and “Us.” When these predominate, community members see themselves as connected to each other and part of a common experience. There is room for the individual, but also room for the community; people feel a balance between focusing on their own well-being and the welfare of others. A “We”  House or a “We” Office or an “Us” School are much healthier and nourishing places  than an “I” School, a “You” House or a “Me Office.”


This is not just theory. As powerful as it is in nurturing the people in the organization, it can also affect everything from program success to financial well-being. My organization, for example is currently involved in a capital campaign. Very often I hear my colleagues and seasonal employees speak of the campaign in a disconnected manner; there is a lot of reference to “They,” as in “I hope they make their goal.” (often referring to the Board of Trustees). We can pretty much assume the fund-raising will have difficulty and the community will be uninvolved except as spectators. A “They” Campaign isn’t very interesting or significant to most of the community, but a “We” campaign would feel very different and more enticing.

So listen up for a while and hear your community speak. You can get some great clues about who you are as a group that you may not even realize. By bringing that information to light, we can often change the energy and help everyone be more successful.

The Voice In Your Head

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

“What an idiot,” I complained out loud to myself while cooking for my family. “Luckily I am also charming, loving and willing to experiment with a new dish.”

All of this came out of my mouth automatically. I was not interested in having anyone else hear this monologue but me. You see, I have been attempting to change an old habit, an organized behavior. There is a voice in my head that admonishes, criticizes and belittles me when I make a mistake. Too often I listen to this voice that is putting me down and practicing one of the deadly habits that destroys relationships. The plan I’m not trying to cultivate instead has me shifting to my own out loud voice that encourages my efforts, complimenting me no matter the results!

sadwomanDo you know whose voice is in your head? You know the one I mean, the one that tells you “Be careful!” or “How selfish” or “That won’t work out.” This isn’t the voice that might be categorized as a hallucination. No, this is the voice that Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis, described as critical parent. Berne stated that we maintained different ego states, including critical parent. (TA is a type of therapy that has lost favor in the current psychological circles Berne’s work was an updated and more modern version of Freudian theory of ego states.)

The voice and words that you hear in your head are most likely the statements you heard as a child spoken by your parents, older siblings, teachers, coaches and other carers. Your parents may not have said or meant what the voice in your head is saying and meaning. But remember, you absorbed and incorporated these statements as a child, with a child’s comprehension and understanding. And that is what still sticks as the cautionary, criticizing, or admonishing voice in your head.

Yet, these are only thoughts and stories that you tell yourself. This is GREAT NEWS! You have the ability and chance to change these thoughts and stories! You have the power to switch the voice from critical, scolding, or belittling to supportive, encouraging and loving.

Before you can make the switch though, you first need to hear this voice and these statements. You may be attempting to avoid the pain of criticism by pushing the voice down, pretending to yourself that you don’t hear it. However, if this is a strategy you’re using you know you still hear the scolding even though you’re trying very hard to ignore it.

For your Mental Health & Happiness try a different, more effective strategy. As soon as you hear that cautioning or belittling voice say out loud, “I may be clumsy AND I’m beautiful and courageous as I step out into the world.” Obviously this particular statement won’t fit every situation. But take that voice out of your head, say the words out loud, then say other encouraging words that offer love, encouragement and support!

The more you practice, the more successful you will become. Amazingly what you may discover is that the voice in your head speaks less and less frequently. The loving, encouraging, praising voice begins to take over.

You have the ability to eliminate the deadly habits that are interfering with the relationship you have with yourself. Begin consistently practicing the connecting habits improving your self-esteem and self-love.

20 years’ experience or one year repeated 20 times?

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Self-evaluation is the key to Dr. Glasser’s approach to living a mentally healthy and happy life.  The focus of self-evaluation is enclosed in the questions:

  • What do you want?
  • Is what you’re doing working to get you what you want?

We’re all familiar with Einstein’s famous comment that the definition of insanity is repeating the same ineffective behavior over and over hoping for a different outcome.

This is where we ask ourselves if the past “x” number of years have been spent accumulating wisdom and life skills that help us get what we want?

Or have those years been spent repeating what doesn’t work and living in habits and beliefs that are not getting us what we want.

The common wisdom among those who practice Choice Theory is that if you’re not getting what you want, you can either change what you want, or change what you’re doing to get what you want, or both.

I like to think of life as a voyage.  As an amateur sailor, I’ve learned the importance of navigation.  The essence of navigation is to have a clear idea of where you want to go and a workable means to get there.  From time to time it’s not a bad idea to look back at the wake to see if we are sailing a straight course.  But we don’t get to where we want to be by looking back.

repeatingGetting our basic needs met is what we are steering for.  The choices we make provide the forward motion.  As with navigation at sea, it’s important to check our heading against our projected destination.  Is the course we have chosen going to get us to where we want to go?

In any voyage it is inevitable that mid-course corrections will need to be made.  That is a good thing.  We do the same thing in life on a daily basis.  If we stay aware of where we want to go, we can make the needed corrections when we see ourselves straying off course.

I wish you all “Bon voyage” in your journey.